Category Archives: Facts
|Written by A. Kafel|
|Monday, 14 August 2006|
Friday, October 29, 1999
Following 70 years of intensive excavations in the Land of Israel, archaeologists have found out: The patriarchs’ acts are legendary, the Israelites did not sojourn in Egypt or make an exodus, they did not conquer the land. Neither is there any mention of the empire of David and Solomon, nor of the source of belief in the God of Israel. These facts have been known for years, but Israel is a stubborn people and nobody wants to hear about it
By Ze’ev Herzog
This is what archaeologists have learned from their excavations in the Land of Israel: the Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the 12 tribes of Israel. Perhaps even harder to swallow is the fact that the united monarchy of David and Solomon, which is described by the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal kingdom. And it will come as an unpleasant shock to many that the God of Israel, Jehovah, had a female consort and that the early Israelite religion adopted monotheism only in the waning period of the monarchy and not at Mount Sinai.Most of those who are engaged in scientific work in the interlocking spheres of the Bible, archaeology and the history of the Jewish people – and who once went into the field looking for proof to corroborate the Bible story – now agree that the historic events relating to the stages of the Jewish people’s emergence are radically different from what that story tells.
What follows is a short account of the brief history of archaeology, with the emphasis on the crises and the big bang, so to speak, of the past decade. The critical question of this archaeological revolution has not yet trickled down into public consciousness, but it cannot be ignored.
Inventing the Bible stories
The archaeology of Palestine developed as a science at a relatively late date, in the late 19th and early 20th century, in tandem with the archaeology of the imperial cultures of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome. Those resource-intensive powers were the first target of the researchers, who were looking for impressive evidence from the past, usually in the service of the big museums in London, Paris and Berlin. That stage effectively passed over Palestine, with its fragmented geographical diversity. The conditions in ancient Palestine were inhospitable for the development of an extensive kingdom, and certainly no showcase projects such as the Egyptian shrines or the Mesopotamian palaces could have been established there. In fact, the archaeology of Palestine was not engendered at the initiative of museums but sprang from religious motives.
The main push behind archaeological research in Palestine was the country’s relationship with the Holy Scriptures. The first excavators in Jericho and Shechem (Nablus) were biblical researchers who were looking for the remains of the cities cited in the Bible. Archaeology assumed momentum with the activity of William Foxwell Albright, who mastered the archeology, history and linguistics of the Land of Israel and the ancient Near East. Albright, an American whose father was a priest of Chilean descent, began excavating in Palestine in the 1920s. His declared approach was that archaeology was the principal scientific means to refute the critical claims against the historical veracity of the Bible stories, particularly those of the Wellhausen school in Germany.
The school of biblical criticism that developed in Germany beginning in the second half of the 19th century, of which Julian Wellhausen was a leading figure, challenged the historicity of the Bible stories and claimed that biblical historiography was formulated, and in large measure actually “invented,” during the Babylonian exile. Bible scholars, the Germans in particular, claimed that the history of the Hebrews, as a consecutive series of events beginning with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and proceeding through the move to Egypt, the enslavement and the exodus, and ending with the conquest of the land and the settlement of the tribes of Israel, was no more than a later reconstruction of events with a theological purpose.
Albright believed that the Bible is a historical document, which, although it had gone through several editing stages, nevertheless basically reflected the ancient reality. He was convinced that if the ancient remains of Palestine were uncovered, they would furnish unequivocal proof of the historical truth of the events relating to the Jewish people in its land.
The biblical archaeology that developed from Albright and his pupils brought about a series of extensive digs at the important biblical tells: Megiddo, Lachish, Gezer, Shechem (Nablus), Jericho, Jerusalem, Ai, Giveon, Beit She’an, Beit Shemesh, Hazor, Ta’anach and others. The way was straight and clear: every finding that was uncovered would contribute to the building of a harmonious picture of the past. The archaeologists, who enthusiastically adopted the biblical approach, set out on a quest to unearth the “biblical period”: the period of the patriarchs, the Canaanite cities that were destroyed by the Israelites as they conquered the land, the boundaries of the 12 tribes, the sites of the settlement period, characterized by “settlement pottery,” the “gates of Solomon” at Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer, “Solomon’s stables” (or Ahab’s), “King Solomon’s mines” at Timna – and there are some who are still hard at work and have found Mount Sinai (at Mount Karkoum in the Negev) or Joshua’s altar at Mount Ebal.
Patriarchal Age: The researchers found it difficult to reach agreement on which archaeological period matched the Patriarchal Age. When did Abraham, Isaac and Jacob live? When was the Cave of Machpelah (Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron) bought in order to serve as the burial place for the patriarchs and the matriarchs? According to the biblical chronology, Solomon built the Temple 480 years after the exodus from Egypt (1 Kings 6:1). To that we have to add 430 years of the stay in Egypt (Exodus 12:40) and the vast lifetimes of the patriarchs, producing a date in the 21th century BCE for Abraham’s move to Canaan.
However, no evidence has been unearthed that can sustain this chronology. Albright argued in the early 1960s in favor of assigning the wanderings of Abraham to the Middle Bronze Age (22nd-20th centuries BCE). However, Benjamin Mazar, the father of the Israeli branch of biblical archaeology, proposed identifying the historic background of the Patriarchal Age a thousand years later, in the 11th century BCE – which would place it in the “settlement period.” Others rejected the historicity of the stories and viewed them as ancestral legends that were told in the period of the Kingdom of Judea. In any event, the consensus began to break down.
The exodus from Egypt, the wanderings in the desert and Mount Sinai: The many Egyptian documents that we have make no mention of the Israelites’ presence in Egypt and are also silent about the events of the exodus. Many documents do mention the custom of nomadic shepherds to enter Egypt during periods of drought and hunger and to camp at the edges of the Nile Delta. However, this was not a solitary phenomenon: such events occurred frequently across thousands of years and were hardly exceptional.
Generations of researchers tried to locate Mount Sinai and the stations of the tribes in the desert. Despite these intensive efforts, not even one site has been found that can match the biblical account.
The potency of tradition has now led some researchers to “discover” Mount Sinai in the northern Hijaz or, as already mentioned, at Mount Karkoum in the Negev. These central events in the history of the Israelites are not corroborated in documents external to the Bible or in archaeological findings. Most historians today agree that at best, the stay in Egypt and the exodous occurred in a few families and that their private story was expanded and “nationalized” to fit the needs of theological ideology.
The conquest: One of the shaping events of the people of Israel in biblical historiography is the story of how the land was conquered from the Canaanites. Yet extremely serious difficulties have cropped up precisely in the attempts to locate the archaeological evidence for this story.
Repeated excavations by various expeditions at Jericho and Ai, the two cities whose conquest is described in the greatest detail in the Book of Joshua, have proved very disappointing. Despite the excavators’ efforts, it emerged that in the late part of the 13th century BCE, at the end of the Late Bronze Age, which is the agreed period for the conquest, there were no cities in either tell, and of course no walls that could have been toppled. Naturally, explanations were offered for these anomalies. Some claimed that the walls around Jericho were washed away by rain, while others suggested that earlier walls had been used; and, as for Ai, it was claimed that the original story actually referred to the conquest of nearby Beit El and was transferred to Ai by later redactors.
Biblical scholars suggested a quarter of a century ago that the conquest stories be viewed as etiological legends and no more. But as more and more sites were uncovered and it emerged that the places in question died out or were simply abandoned at different times, the conclusion was bolstered that there is no factual basis for the biblical story about the conquest by Israelite tribes in a military campaign led by Joshua.
The Canaanite cities: The Bible magnifies the strength and the fortifications of the Canaanite cities that were conquered by the Israelites: “great cities with walls sky-high” (Deuteronomy 9:1). In practice, all the sites that have been uncovered turned up remains of unfortified settlements, which in most cases consisted of a few structures or the ruler’s palace rather than a genuine city. The urban culture of Palestine in the Late Bronze Age disintegrated in a process that lasted hundreds of years and did not stem from military conquest. Moreover, the biblical description is inconsistent with the geopolitical reality in Palestine. Palestine was under Egyptian rule until the middle of the 12th century BCE. The Egyptians’ administrative centers were located in Gaza, Yaffo and Beit She’an. Egyptian findings have also been discovered in many locations on both sides of the Jordan River. This striking presence is not mentioned in the biblical account, and it is clear that it was unknown to the author and his editors.
The archaeological findings blatantly contradict the biblical picture: the Canaanite cities were not “great,” were not fortified and did not have “sky-high walls.” The heroism of the conquerors, the few versus the many and the assistance of the God who fought for his people are a theological reconstruction lacking any factual basis.
Origin of the Israelites: The fusion of the conclusions drawn from the episodes relating to the stages in which the people of Israel emerged gave rise to a discussion of the bedrock question: the identity of the Israelites. If there is no evidence for the exodus from Egypt and the desert journey, and if the story of the military conquest of fortified cities has been refuted by archaeology, who, then, were these Israelites? The archaeological findings did corroborate one important fact: in the early Iron Age (beginning some time after 1200 BCE), the stage that is identified with the “settlement period,” hundreds of small settlements were established in the area of the central hill region of the Land of Israel, inhabited by farmers who worked the land or raised sheep. If they did not come from Egypt, what is the origin of these settlers? Israel Finkelstein, professor of archaeology at Tel Aviv University, has proposed that these settlers were the pastoral shepherds who wandered in this hill area throughout the Late Bronze Age (graves of these people have been found, without settlements). According to his reconstruction, in the Late Bronze Age (which preceded the Iron Age) the shepherds maintained a barter economy of meat in exchange for grains with the inhabitants of the valleys. With the disintegration of the urban and agricultural system in the lowland, the nomads were forced to produce their own grains, and hence the incentive for fixed settlements arose.
The name “Israel” is mentioned in a single Egyptian document from the period of Merneptah, king of Egypt, dating from 1208 BCE: “Plundered is Canaan with every evil, Ascalon is taken, Gezer is seized, Yenoam has become as though it never was, Israel is desolated, its seed is not.” Merneptah refers to the country by its Canaanite name and mentions several cities of the kingdom, along with a non-urban ethnic group. According to this evidence, the term “Israel” was given to one of the population groups that resided in Canaan toward the end of the Late Bronze Age, apparently in the central hill region, in the area where the Kingdom of Israel would later be established.
The three cities of Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer, which are mentioned among Solomon’s construction enterprises, have been excavated extensively at the appropriate layers. Only about half of Hazor’s upper section was fortified, covering an area of only 30 dunams (7.5 acres), out of a total area of 700 dunams which was settled in the Bronze Age. At Gezer there was apparently only a citadel surrounded by a casematewall covering a small area, while Megiddo was not fortified with a wall.
The picture becomes even more complicated in the light of the excavations conducted in Jerusalem, the capital of the united monarchy. Large sections of the city have been excavated over the past 150 years. The digs have turned up impressive remnants of the cities from the Middle Bronze Age and from Iron Age II (the period of the Kingdom of Judea). No remains of buildings have been found from the period of the united monarchy (even according to the agreed chronology), only a few pottery shards. Given the preservation of the remains from earlier and later periods, it is clear that Jerusalem in the time of David and Solomon was a small city, perhaps with a small citadel for the king, but in any event it was not the capital of an empire as described in the Bible. This small chiefdom is the source of the “Beth David” title mentioned in later Aramean and Moabite inscriptions. The authors of the biblical account knew Jerusalem in the 8th century BCE, with its wall and the rich culture of which remains have been found in various parts of the city, and projected this picture back to the age of the united monarchy. Presumably Jerusalem acquired its central status after the destruction of Samaria, its northern rival, in 722 BCE.
The archaeological findings dovetail well with the conclusions of the critical school of biblical scholarship. David and Solomon were the rulers of tribal kingdoms that controlled small areas: the former in Hebron and the latter in Jerusalem. Concurrently, a separate kingdom began to form in the Samaria hills, which finds expression in the stories about Saul’s kingdom. Israel and Judea were from the outset two separate, independent kingdoms, and at times were in an adversarial relationship. Thus, the great united monarchy is an imaginary historiosophic creation, which was composed during the period of the Kingdom of Judea at the earliest. Perhaps the most decisive proof of this is the fact that we do not know the name of this kingdom.
Jehovah and his consort: How many gods, exactly, did Israel have? Together with the historical and political aspects, there are also doubts as to the credibility of the information about belief and worship. The question about the date at which monotheism was adopted by the kingdoms of Israel and Judea arose with the discovery of inscriptions in ancient Hebrew that mention a pair of gods: Jehovah and his Asherah. At two sites, Kuntiliet Ajrud in the southwestern part of the Negev hill region, and at Khirbet el-Kom in the Judea piedmont, Hebrew inscriptions have been found that mention “Jehovah and his Asherah,” “Jehovah Shomron and his Asherah, “Jehovah Teman and his Asherah.” The authors were familiar with a pair of gods, Jehovah and his consort Asherah, and send blessings in the couple’s name. These inscriptions, from the 8th century BCE, raise the possibility that monotheism, as a state religion, is actually an innovation of the period of the Kingdom of Judea, following the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel.
The archaeology of the Land of Israel is completing a process that amounts to a scientific revolution in its field. It is ready to confront the findings of biblical scholarship and of ancient history. But at the same time, we are witnessing a fascinating phenomenon in which all this is simply ignored by the Israeli public. Many of the findings mentioned here have been known for decades. The professional literature in the spheres of archaeology, Bible and the history of the Jewish people has addressed them in dozens of books and hundreds of articles. Even if not all the scholars accept the individual arguments that inform the examples I cited, the majority have adopted their main points.
Nevertheless, these revolutionary views are not penetrating the public consciousness. About a year ago, my colleague, the historian Prof. Nadav Ne’eman, published an article in the Culture and Literature section of Ha’aretz entitled “To Remove the Bible from the Jewish Bookshelf,” but there was no public outcry. Any attempt to question the reliability of the biblical descriptions is perceived as an attempt to undermine “our historic right to the land” and as shattering the myth of the nation that is renewing the ancient Kingdom of Israel. These symbolic elements constitute such a critical component of the construction of the Israeli identity that any attempt to call their veracity into question encounters hostility or silence. It is of some interest that such tendencies within the Israeli secular society go hand-in-hand with the outlook among educated Christian groups. I have found a similar hostility in reaction to lectures I have delivered abroad to groups of Christian bible lovers, though what upset them was the challenge to the foundations of their fundamentalist religious belief.
It turns out that part of Israeli society is ready to recognize the injustice that was done to the Arab inhabitants of the country and is willing to accept the principle of equal rights for women – but is not up to adopting the archaeological facts that shatter the biblical myth. The blow to the mythical foundations of the Israeli identity is apparently too threatening, and it is more convenient to turn a blind eye.
(c) copyright 1999 Ha’aretz. All Rights Reserved
|Last Updated ( Tuesday, 15 August 2006 )|
Background to the Israel-Palestine Crisis
by Stephen R. Shalom
Z magazine, May 2002
What are the modern origins of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?
During World War I, Britain made three different promises regarding historic Palestine. Arab leaders were assured that the land would become independent; in the Balfour declaration, Britain indicated its support for a Jewish national home in Palestine; and secretly Britain arranged with its allies to divide up Ottoman territory, with Palestine becoming part of the British empire. Historians have engaged in detailed exegesis of the relevant texts and maps, but the fundamental point is that Britain had no moral right to assign Palestine to anyone. By right Palestine belonged to its inhabitants.
In the late l9th century, anti-Semitism became especially virulent in Russia and re-emerged in France. Some Jews concluded that Jews would only be safe in a Jewish state and thus founded Zionism. Most Jews at the time rejected Zionism, preferring instead to address the problem of anti-Semitism through revolutionary or reformist politics or assimilation. For many orthodox Jews, especially the small Jewish community in Palestine, a Jewish state could only be established by God, not by humans. At first Zionists were willing to consider other sites for their Jewish state, but they eventually focused on Palestine for its biblical connections. The problem, however, was that although a Zionist slogan called Palestine “a land without people for a people without land,” the land was not empty.
Following World War I, Britain arranged for the League of Nations to make Palestine a British “mandate,” that is, a colony to be administered by Britain and prepared for independence. To help justify its rule over Arab land, Britain arranged that one of its duties as the mandatory power would be to promote a Jewish national home.
Who were the Jews who came to Palestine?
The early Zionist settlers were idealistic, often socialist, individuals, fleeing oppression. In this respect they were like the early American colonists. But also like the American colonists, many Zionists had racist attitudes toward the indigenous people and little regard for their well-being.
Some Zionists thought in terms of Arab-Jewish cooperation and a bi-national state, but many were determined to set up an exclusively Jewish state (though to avoid antagonizing the Palestinians, they decided to use the term Jewish “national home” rather than “state” until they were able to bring enough Jews to Palestine).
Jewish immigration to Palestine was relatively limited until the 1930s, when Hitler came to power. The U.S. and Europe closed their doors to immigration by desperate Jews, making Palestine one of the few options.
Who were the indigenous people of Palestine?
Pro-lsrael propaganda has argued that most Palestinians entered Palestine after 1917, drawn to the economic dynamism of the growing Jewish community, and thus have no rights to Palestine. This argument has been elaborated in Joan Peters’s widely promoted book, From Time lmmemorial. However, the book has been shown to be fraudulent and its claim false. The indigenous population was mostly Muslim, with a Christian and a smaller Jewish minority. As Zionists arrived from Europe, the Muslims and Christians began to adopt a distinctly Palestinian national identity.
How did Zionists acquire land in Palestine?
Some was acquired illegally and some was purchased from Arab landlords with funds provided by wealthy Jews in Europe. The legal purchases were often morally questionable as they sometimes involved buying land from absentee landlords and then throwing poor Arab peasants off the land. Land thus purchased became part of the Jewish National Fund, which specified that the land could never be sold or leased to Arabs. Even with these purchases, Jews owned only about 6 percent of the land by 1947.
Was Palestinian opposition to Zionism a result of anti-Semitism?
Anti-Semitism in the Arab world was generally far less severe than in Europe. Before the beginning of Zionist immigration, relations among the different religious groups in Palestine were relatively harmonious. There was Palestinian anti-Semitism, but no people will look favorably on another who enter one’s territory with the intention of setting up their own sovereign state. The expulsion of peasants from their land and the frequent Zionist refusal to employ Arabs exacerbated relations.
What was the impact of World War Il?
As war approached, Britain shrewdly calculated that they could afford to alienate Jews-who weren’t going to switch to Hitler’s side-but not Arabs, so they restricted Jewish immigration into Palestine. This was precisely when the need for sanctuary for Europe’s Jews was at its height. Many Jews smuggled their way into Palestine as the Western nations kept their borders closed to frantic refugees.
At war’s end, as the enormity of the Holocaust became evident, for the first time Zionism became a majority sentiment among world Jewry. Many U.S. Christians supported Zionism as a way to absolve their guilt for what had happened, without having to allow Jews into the United States. U.S. Zionists, who during the war had subordinated rescue efforts to their goal of establishing a Jewish state, argued that the Holocaust confirmed the need for a Jewish state: Had Israel existed in 1939, millions of Jews might have been saved. Actually, Palestine narrowly avoided being overrun by the Nazis, so Jews would have been far safer in the United States than in a Jewish Palestine.
During the war many Jews in Palestine joined the British army. By war’s end, the Jewish community in Palestine was well armed, well-organized, and determined to fight. The Palestinians were poorly armed, with feudal leaders. The Mufti of Jerusalem had been exiled by the British for supporting an Arab revolt in 1936-39 and had made his way to Berlin during the war where he aided Nazi propaganda. From the Zionist point of view, it was considered a plus to have the extremist Mufti as the Palestinians’ leader. As David Ben Gurion, leader of the Jewish community in Palestine and Israel’s first prime minister, advised in 1938, “rely on the Mufti.”
What were the various positions in 1947?
Both the Palestinians and the Zionists wanted the British out so they could establish an independent state. The Zionists, particularly a right-wing faction led by Menachem Begin, launched a terror campaign against Britain. London, impoverished by the war, announced that it was washing its hands of the problem and turning it over to the UN (though Britain had various covert plans for remaining in the region).
The Zionists declared that, having gone through one of the great catastrophes of modern history, the Jewish people were entitled to a state of their own, one into which they could gather Jewish refugees, still languishing in the displaced persons camps of Europe. The Zionist bottom line was a sovereign state with full control over immigration. The Palestinians argued that the calamity that befell European Jews was hardly their fault. If Jews were entitled to a state, why not carve it out of Germany? As it was, Palestine had more Jewish refugees than any other place in the world. Why should they bear the full burden of atoning for Europe’s sins’? They were willing to give full civil rights (though not national rights) to the Jewish minority in an independent Palestine, but they were not willing to give this minority the right to control immigration and bring in more of their co-religionists until they were a majority to take over the whole of Palestine.
A small left-wing minority among the Zionists called for a binational state in Palestine, where both peoples might live together, each with their national rights respected. This view had little support among Jews or Palestinians.
What did the UN do and why?
In November 1947, the UN General Assembly voted to partition Palestine into two independent states, a Jewish state and an Arab state, joined by an economic union, with Jerusalem internationalized.
In 1947 the UN had many fewer members than it does today. Most Third World nations were still colonies and thus not members. Nevertheless, the partition resolution passed because the Soviet Union and its allies voted in favor and because many small states were subject to improper pressure. For example, members of the U.S. Congress told the Philippines that it would not get U.S. economic aid unless it voted for partition. Moscow favored partition as a way to reduce British influence in the region; Israel was viewed as potentially less pro-Western than the dominant feudal monarchies.
Didn’t Palestinians have a chance for a state of their own in 1947, but they rejected it by going to war with Israel?
In 1947 Jews were only one-third of the population of Palestine and owned only 6 percent of the land. Yet the partition plan granted the Jewish state 55 percent of the total land area. The Arab state was to have an overwhelmingly Arab population, while the Jewish state would have almost as many Arabs as Jews. If it was unjust to force Jews to be a one-third minority in an Arab state, it was no more just to force Arabs to be an almost 50 percent minority in a Jewish state.
The Palestinians rejected partition. The Zionists accepted it, but in private Zionist leaders had more expansive goals. In 1938, during earlier partition proposals, Ben Gurion stated, “when we become a strong power after the establishment of the state, we will abolish partition and spread throughout all of Palestine.”
The Mufti called Palestinians to war against partition, but very few Palestinians responded. The “decisive majority” of Palestinians, confided Ben Gurion, “do not want to fight us.” The majority “accept the partition as a fait accompli,” reported a Zionist Arab affairs expert. The 1936-39 Arab revolt against the British had mass popular support, but the 1947-48 fighting between the Mufti’s followers and Zionist military forces did not.
But even if Palestinians were fully united in going to war against the partition plan, this can provide no moral justification for denying them their basic right of self-determination for over 50 years. This right is not a function of this or that agreement, but a basic right to which every person is entitled. (Israelis don’t lose their right to self-determination because their government violated countless UN cease-fire resolutions.)
Didn’t Israel achieve larger borders in 1948 as a result of a defensive war of independence?
Arab armies crossed the border on May 15, 1948, after Israel declared its independence. But this declaration came three and a half months before the date specified in the partition resolution. The U.S. had proposed a three-month truce on the condition that Israel postpone its declaration of independence. The Arab states accepted and Israel rejected, in part because it had worked out a secret deal with Jordan’s King Abdullah, whereby his Arab Legion would invade the Palestinian territory assigned to the Palestinian state and not interfere with the Jewish state. (Since Jordan was closely allied to Britain, the scheme also provided a way for London to maintain its position in the region.) The other Arab states invaded as much to thwart Abdullah’s designs as to defeat Israel.
Most of the fighting took place on territory that was to be part of the Palestinian state or the internationalized Jerusalem. Thus, Israel was primarily fighting not for its survival, but to expand its borders at the expense of the Palestinians. For most of the war, the Israelis actually held both a quantitative and qualitative military edge, apart from the fact that the Arab armies were uncoordinated and operating at cross purposes.
When the armistice agreements were signed in 1949, the Palestinian state had disappeared, its territory taken over by Israel and Jordan, with Egypt in control of the Gaza Strip. Jerusalem, which was to have been internationalized, was divided between Israeli and Jordanian control. Israel now held 78 percent of Palestine. Some 700,000 Palestinians had become refugees.
Why did Palestinians become refugees in 1948?
The Israeli government claims that Palestinians chose to leave Palestine voluntarily, instructed to do so via radio broadcasts from Arab leaders who wanted to clear a path for their armies. But radio broadcasts from the area were monitored by the British and American governments and no evidence of general orders to flee has ever been found. On the contrary, there are numerous instances of Arab leaders telling Palestinians to stay put, to keep their claim to the territory. People flee during wartime for a variety of reasons and that was certainly the case here. Some left because war zones are dangerous environments. Some because of Zionist atrocities-most dramatically at Deir Yassin where, in April 1948, 254 defenseless civilians were slaughtered. Some left in panic, aided by Zionist psychological warfare, which warned that Deir Yassin’s fate awaited others. Some were driven out at gunpoint, with killings to speed them on their way, as in the towns of Ramle and Lydda. In short, the Palestinians were subjected to ethnic cleansing similar to that seen in the Balkan wars of the 1990s.
There is no longer any serious doubt that many Palestinians were forcibly expelled. The exact numbers driven out versus those who panicked or sought safety is still contested, but what permits us to say that all were victims of ethnic cleansing is that Israeli officials refused to allow any of them to return. (In Kosovo, any ethnic Albanian refugee, whether he or she was forced out at gunpoint, panicked, or even left to make it easier for NATO to bomb, was entitled to return.) In Israel, Arab villages were bulldozed, citrus groves, lands, and property seized, and their owners and inhabitants prohibited from returning. Not only was the property of “absentee” Palestinians expropriated, but any Palestinians who moved from one place within Israel to another during the war were declared “present absentees” and their property expropriated as well.
Of the 860,000 Arabs who had lived in areas of Palestine that became Israel, only 133,000 remained. Some 470,000 moved into refugee camps on the West Bank (controlled by Jordan) or the Gaza Strip (administered by Egypt). The rest dispersed to Lebanon, Syria, and other countries.
Why did Israel expel the Palestinians?
In part to remove a potential fifth column. In part to obtain their property. In part to make room for more Jewish immigrants. But mostly because the notion of a Jewish state with a large non-Jewish minority was extremely awkward for Israeli leaders. Because Israel took over some territory intended for the Palestinian state, there had actually been an Arab majority living within the borders of Israel. Nor was the idea of expelling Palestinians something that just emerged in the 1948 war. In 1937, Ben Gurion had written to his son, “We will expel the Arabs and take their places…with the force at our disposal.”
How did the international community react?
In December 1948, the General Assembly passed Resolution 194, which declared that “refugees wishing to return to their homes and live in peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so” and that “compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return.” This same resolution was overwhelmingly adopted year after year. Israel repeatedly refused to carry out the terms of the resolution.
Did the Arab countries take steps to resettle the Palestinian refugees?
Only in Jordan were Palestinians eligible for citizenship. In Lebanon, the government feared that allowing Palestinians to become citizens would disturb the country’s delicate Christian-Muslim balance; in Egypt, the shortage of arable land led the government to confine the Palestinians to the Gaza Strip. It must be noted, however, that the Palestinians were reluctant to leave the camps if that would mean acquiescing in the loss of homes and property or giving up their right to return.
It is sometimes implied that the lack of assistance to Palestinians from Arab nations justifies Israel’s refusal to acknowledge and address the claims of the refugees. But if you harm someone, you are responsible for redressing that harm, regardless of whether the victim’s relatives are supportive.
Hasn’t there been a population exchange, with Jews from Arab lands coming to Israel and replacing the Palestinians?
This argument makes individual Palestinians responsible for the wrong-doing of Arab governments. Jews left Arab countries under various circumstances: some were forced out, some came voluntarily, some were recruited by Zionist officials. In Iraq, Jews feared that they might be harmed, a fear possibly helped along by some covert bombs placed by Zionist agents. But whatever the case, there are no moral grounds for punishing Palestinians (or denying them their due) because of how Jews were treated in the Arab world. If Italy were to abuse American citizens, this would not justify the United States harming or expelling Italian-Americans.
How were the Palestinians who remained within Israel treated?
Most Arabs lived in the border areas of Israel and, until 1966, these areas were all declared military security zones, which essentially meant that Palestinians were living under martial law conditions for nearly 20 years. After 1966, Arab citizens of Israel continued to be the victims of harsh discrimination: most of the country’s land is owned by the Jewish National Fund which prohibits its sale or lease to non-Jews; schools for Palestinians in Israel are, in the words of Human Rights Watch, “separate and unequal”; and government spending has been funneled so as to keep Arab villages underdeveloped. Thousands of Israeli Arabs live in villages declared “unrecognized” and hence ineligible for electricity or any other government services.
Following 1948, didn’t the Arab states continually try to destroy Israel?
After Israel’s victory in the 1948-49 war, there were several opportunities for peace. There was blame on all sides, but Israeli intransigence was surely a prime factor. In 1951, a UN peace plan was accepted by Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan, but rejected by Israel.
When Nasser came to power in Egypt, he made overtures to Israel that were rebuffed. When Nasser negotiated an end to British control of the Suez Canal zone, Israeli intelligence covertly arranged a bombing campaign of western targets in Egypt as a way to discourage British withdrawal. The plot was foiled, Egypt executed some of the plotters, and Israel responded with a major military attack on Gaza. In 1956, Israel joined with Britain and France in invading Egypt, drawing condemnation from the United States and the UN.
How were the Occupied Territories occupied?
In June 1967, Israel launched a war in which it seized all of Palestine (the West Bank including East Jerusalem from Jordan and the Gaza Strip from Egypt), along with the Sinai from Egypt and the Golan Heights from Syria. Large numbers of Palestinians, some living in cities, towns, and villages, and some in refugee camps, came under Israeli control. (In 2001, half the Palestinian population of the Occupied Territories lived in refugee camps. The Israeli conquest also sent a new wave of refugees from Palestine to surrounding countries.)
Israel’s supporters argue that although Israel fired the first shots in this war, it was a justified preventive war, given that Arab armies were mobilizing on Israel’s borders with murderous rhetoric. The rhetoric was indeed blood-curdling and many people around the world worried for Israel’s safety. But those who understood the military situation-in Tel Aviv and the Pentagon-knew that even if the Arabs struck first, Israel would prevail in any war. Nasser was looking for a way out and agreed to send his vice-president to Washington for negotiations. Israel attacked when it did in part because it rejected negotiations and the prospect of any face-saving compromise for Nasser. Menachem Begin, an enthusiastic supporter of this (and other) Israeli wars, was quite clear about the necessity of launching an attack. In June 1967, he said, Israel “had a choice.” Egyptian Army concentrations did not prove that Nasser was about to attack. “We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”
However, even if it were the case that the 1967 war was wholly defensive on Israel’s part, this cannot justify the continued rule over Palestinians. Sure, punish Egypt and Jordan-don’t give them back Gaza and the West Bank (which they had no right to in the first place, having joined with Israel in carving up the stillborn Palestinian state envisioned in the UN’s 1947 partition plan). But there is no basis for punishing the Palestinian population by forcing them to submit to foreign military occupation.
Israel immediately incorporated occupied East Jerusalem into Israel proper, announcing that Jerusalem was its united and eternal capital. It then began to establish settlements in the Occupied Territories in violation of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit a conquering power from settling its population on occupied territory. These settlements, placed in strategic locations throughout the West Bank and Gaza, were intended to “create facts” on the ground to make the occupation irreversible.
How did the international community respond to the Israeli occupation?
In November 1967, the UN Security Council unanimously passed resolution 242. The resolution emphasized “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war” and called for the “withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territory occupied in the recent conflict.” It also called for all countries in the region to end their state of war and to respect the right of each country “to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries. ”
Israel argued that because resolution 242 called for Israeli withdrawal from “territories,” rather than “the territories,” occupied in the recent conflict, it meant that Israel could keep some of them as a way to attain “secure” borders. The official French and Russian texts of the resolution include the definite article, but in any event U.S. officials told Arab delegates that it expected “virtually complete withdrawal” by Israel, and this was the view as well of Britain, France, and the USSR.
Palestinians objected to the resolution because it referred to them only in calling for “a just settlement to the refugee problem” rather than acknowledging their right to self-determination. By the mid-1970s, however, the international consensus-rejected by Israel and the United States-was expanded to include support for a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, perhaps with insignificant border adjustments.
How did the United States respond to the Israeli occupation?
Prior to the 1967 war, France, not the United States, was Israel’s chief weapons supplier. But now U.S. officials determined that Israel would be an extremely valuable ally in the Middle East and Washington became Israel’s principal military and diplomatic backer.
Why, given the U.S. concern for Mideast oil, was Washington supporting Israel? This assumes that the main conflict was Israel vs. the Arabs, rather than Israel and conservative, pro-Western Arab regimes vs. radical Arab nationalism.
Egypt and Syria had been champions of the latter, armed by the USSR, and threatening U.S. interests in the region. (On the eve of the 1967 war, for example, Egypt and Saudi Arabia were militarily backing opposite sides in a civil war in Yemen. Israel had plotted with Jordan against Palestinians in 1948, and in 1970 Israel was prepared to take Jordan’s side in a war against Palestinians and Syria.)
Diplomatically, the U.S. soon backed off the generally accepted interpretation of resolution 242, deciding that given Israel’s military dominance no negotiations were necessary except on Israel’s terms. When Secretary of State Rogers put forward a reasonable peace plan, President Nixon privately sent word to Israel that the U.S. wouldn’t press the proposal. When Anwar Sadat, Nasser’s successor, proposed a peace plan that included cutting his ties with Moscow, Washington decided he hadn’t groveled enough and ignored it. But after Egypt and Syria unsuccessfully went to war with Israel for the limited aim of regaining their lost territory, and Arab oil states called a limited oil embargo, Washington rethought its position. This led in 1979 to the Israeli-Egyptian Camp David Agreement under which Israel returned the Sinai to Egypt in return for peace and diplomatic relations. Egypt then joined Israel as a pillar of U.S. policy in the region and the two became the leading recipients of U.S. aid in the world.
What progress was made toward justice for Palestinians during the first two decades of the occupation?
The Palestine Liberation Organization was formed in 1964, but it was controlled by the Arab states until 1969, when Yasser Arafat became its leader. The PLO had many factions, advocating different tactics (some carried out hijackings) and different politics. At first the PLO took the position that Israel had no right to exist and that only Palestinians were entitled to national rights in Palestine. This was the mirror image of the official Israeli view-of both the right-wing Likud party and the Labor party-that there could be no recognition of the PLO under any circumstances, even if it renounced terrorism and recognized Israel, let alone of a Palestinian state anywhere in Palestine.
By 1976, however, the PLO view had come to accept the international consensus favoring a two-state solution. In January 1976 a resolution backed by the PLO, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and the Soviet Union was introduced in the Security Council incorporating this consensus. Washington vetoed the resolution.
The 1979 Camp David agreement established peace along the Egyptian-Israeli border, but it worsened the situation for Palestinians. With its southern border neutralized, Israel had a freer hand to invade Lebanon in 1982 (where the PLO was based) and to tighten its grip on the Occupied Territories.
What was the first Intifada?
Anger and frustration were growing in the Occupied Territories, fueled by Israeli repression, daily humiliations, and the establishment of sharply increasing numbers of Israeli settlements. In December 1987, Palestinians in Gaza launched an uprising, the Intifada, that quickly spread to the West Bank as well. The Intifada was locally organized and enjoyed mass support among the Palestinian population. Guns and knives were banned and the main political demand was for an independent Palestinian state coexisting with Israel.
Israel responded with great brutality, killing hundreds of Palestinians. Labor Party Defense Minister, Yitzhak Rabin, urged Israeli soldiers to break the bones of Palestinian demonstrators. PLO leader Khalil al-Wazir, who from Tunis had advised the rejection of arms, was assassinated (with Rabin’s approval); Israel was especially eager to repress Palestinian leaders who advocated a Palestinian state that would coexist with Israel. By 1989, the initial discipline of the uprising had faded, as a growing number of individual acts of violence by Palestinians took place. Hamas, an organization initially promoted by the Israelis as a counterweight to the PLO, also gained strength; it called for armed attacks to achieve an Islamic state in all of Palestine.
What were the Oslo Accords?
Arafat had severely weakened his credibility by his flirtation with Saddam Hussein following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. (The Iraqi leader had opportunistically tried to link his withdrawal from Kuwait to an Israeli withdrawal from the Occupied Territories.) Israel saw Arafat’s weakness as an opportunity. Better to deal with Arafat while he was weak, before Hamas gained too much influence. Let Arafat police the unruly Palestinians, while Israel would maintain its settlements and control over resources.
The Oslo agreement consisted of Letters of Mutual Recognition and a Declaration of Principles. In Arafat’s letter he recognized Israel’s right to exist, accepted various UN resolutions, renounced terrorism and armed struggle. Israeli Prime Minister Rabin in his letter agreed to recognize the PLO as the representative of the Palestine people and commence negotiations with it, but there was no Israeli recognition of the Palestinian right to a state.
The Declaration of Principles was signed on the White House lawn on September 13, 1993. In it, Israel agreed to redeploy its troops from the Gaza Strip and from the West Bank city of Jericho. These would be given self-governing status, except for the Israeli settlements in Gaza. A Palestinian Authority (PA) would be established, with a police force that would maintain internal order in areas from which Israeli forces withdrew. Left for future resolution in “permanent status” talks were all the critical and vexatious issues: Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, and borders. These talks were to commence by year three of the agreement.
In September 1995 an interim agreement-commonly called Oslo II-was signed. This divided the Occupied Territories into three zones, Area A, Area B, and Area C. (No mention was made of a fourth area: Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem.) In area A, the PA was given civil and security control but not sovereignty; in area B the PA would have civil control and the Israelis security control; and area C was wholly under Israeli control (these included the settlements, the network of connecting roads, and most of the valuable land and water resources of the West Bank). In March 2000, 17 percent of the West Bank was designated area A-where the vast majority of Palestinians lived-24 percent area B, and 59 percent area C. In the Gaza Strip, with a population of over a million Palestinians, 6,500 Israeli settlers lived in the 20 percent of the territory that made up area C. Palestinians thus were given limited autonomy-not sovereignty-over areas of dense population in the Gaza Strip and small, non-contiguous portions of the West Bank (there were 227 separate and disconnected enclaves), which meant that the PA was responsible chiefly for maintaining order over poor and angry Palestinians.
How did Israel respond to the Oslo Accords?
Whatever hopes Oslo may have inspired among the Palestinian population, most Israeli officials had an extremely restricted vision of where it would lead. In a speech in October 1995, Rabin declared that there would not be a return to the pre-1967 borders, Jerusalem would remain united and under exclusive Israeli sovereignty, and most of the settlements would remain under Israeli sovereignty. Rabin said he wanted the “entity” that Palestinians would get to be “less than a state.” Under Rabin, settlements were expanded and he began a massive program of road-building meant to link the settlements and carve up the West Bank. (These by-pass roads, built on confiscated Palestinian land and U.S.-funded, were for Israelis only.)
In 1995 Rabin was assassinated by a right-wing Israeli and he was succeeded as prime minister by Shimon Peres. But Peres, noted his adviser Yossi Beilin, had an even more limited view than Rabin, wanting any future Palestinian state to be located only in Gaza. Yossi Sarid, head of the moderate left Israeli party Meretz, said that Peres’s plan for the West Bank was “little different” from that of Ariel Sharon. Settlements and by-pass roads expanded further.
In May 1996, Likud’s Benjamin Netanyahu who was openly opposed to the Oslo accords was elected prime minister. Netanyahu reneged on most of the already agreed-on Israeli troop withdrawals from occupied territory, continued building settlements and roads, stepped up the policy of sealing off the Palestinian enclaves, and refused to begin the final status talks required by Oslo.
In 1999, Labor’s Ehud Barak won election as prime minister. Barak had been a hardliner, but he had also confessed that if he had been born a Palestinian he probably would have joined a terrorist organization-so his intentions were unclear. His policies, however, in his first year in office were more of the same: settlements grew at a more rapid pace than under Netanyahu, agreed-on troops withdrawals were not carried out, and land confiscations and economic closures continued. His proposed 2001 government budget increased the subsidies supporting settlements in the Occupied Territories.
What was the impact of the Oslo accords?
The number of Israeli settlers since Oslo (1993) grew from 110,000 to 195,000 in the West Bank and Gaza; in annexed East Jerusalem, the Jewish population rose from 22,000 to 170,000 – 30 new settlements were established and more than 18,000 new housing units for settlers were constructed. From 1994-2000, Israeli authorities confiscated 35,000 acres of Arab land for roads and settlements. Poverty increased, so that in mid-2000, more than one out of five Palestinians had consumption levels below $2.10 a day. According to CIA figures, at the end of 2000, unemployment stood at 40 percent. Israeli closure policies meant that Palestinians had less freedom of movement-from Gaza to the West Bank, to East Jerusalem, or from one Palestinian enclave to another-than they had before Oslo.
What was U.S. policy during this period?
The United States has been the major international backer of Israel for more than three decades. Since 1976 Israel has been the leading annual recipient of U.S. foreign aid and is the largest cumulative recipient since World War II. This doesn’t include all sorts of special financial and military benefits, such as the use of U.S. military assistance for research and development in the United States. Israel’s economy is not self-sufficient and relies on foreign assistance and borrowing. During the Oslo years, Washington gave Israel more than $3 billion per year in aid and $4 billion in FY 2000, the highest of any year except 1979. Of this aid, grant military aid was $1.8 billion a year since Oslo, and more than $3 billion in FY 2000, two-thirds higher than ever before.
Diplomatically, the U.S. retreated from various positions it had held for years. Since 1949, the U.S. had voted with the overwhelming majority of the General Assembly in calling for the right of return of Palestinian refugees. In 1994, the Clinton administration declared that because the refugee question was something to be resolved in the permanent status talks, the U.S. would no longer support the resolution. Likewise, although the U.S. had previously agreed with the rest of the world (and common sense) in considering East Jerusalem occupied territory, it now declared that Jerusalem’s status too was to be decided in the permanent status talks. On three occasions in 1995 and 1997, the Security Council considered draft resolutions critical of Israeli expropriations and settlements in East Jerusalem; Washington vetoed all three.
What happened at Camp David?
Permanent status talks between Israel and the Palestinians as called for by the Oslo agreement finally took place in July 2000 at Camp David, in the United States, with U.S. mediators. The standard view is that Barak made an exceedingly generous offer to Arafat, but Arafat rejected it, choosing violence instead.
A U.S. participant in the talks, Robert Malley, has challenged this view. Barak offered-but never in writing and never in detail; in fact, says, Malley, “strictly speaking, there never was an Israeli offer”-to give the Palestinians Israeli land equivalent to 1 percent of the West Bank (unspecified, but to be chosen by Israel) in return for 9 percent of the West Bank, which housed settlements, highways, and military bases effectively dividing the West Bank into separate regions. Thus, there would have been no meaningful independent Palestinian state, but a series of Bantustans, while all the best land and water aquifers would be in Israeli hands. Israel would also “temporarily” hold an additional 10 percent of West Bank land. (Given that Barak had not carried out the previous withdrawals to which Israel had committed, Palestinian skepticism regarding “temporary” Israeli occupation is not surprising.) It’s a myth, Malley wrote, that “Israel’s offer met most if not all of the Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations” and a myth as well that the “Palestinians made no concession of their own.” Some Israeli analysts made a similar assessment. For example, influential commentator Ze’ev Schiff wrote that, to Palestinians, “the prospect of being able to establish a viable state was fading right before their eyes. They were confronted with an intolerable set of options: to agree to the spreading occupation…or to set up wretched Bantustans or to launch an uprising.”
What caused the second Intifada?
On September 28, 2000 Ariel Sharon, then a member of Parliament, accompanied by a thousand-strong security force, paid a provocative visit approved by Barak to the Al Aqsa mosque site. The next day Barak sent another large force of police and soldiers to the area and, when the anticipated rock throwing by some Palestinians occurred, the police responded with lethal fire, killing four and wounding hundreds. Thus began the second Intifada.
The underlying cause was the tremendous frustration among the population of the Occupied Territories, who saw things getting worse under Oslo, whose hopes had been shattered, and whose patience after 33 years of occupation had reached the boiling point.
Who is Ariel Sharon?
Sharon was the commander of an Israeli force that massacred some 70 civilians in the Jordanian village of Qibya in 1953. He was Defense Minister in 1982, when Israel invaded Lebanon, causing the deaths of 17,000 civilians. In September 1982, Lebanese forces allied to Israel slaughtered hundreds of Palestinian non-combatants in the Sabra and Shitila refugee camps, a crime for which an Israeli commission found Sharon to bear indirect responsibility. As Housing Minister in various Israeli governments, Sharon vigorously promoted settlements in the Occupied Territories. In January 2001, he took office as prime minister.
How did Israel respond to this second Intifada?
Israeli security forces responded to Palestinian demonstrations with lethal force even though, as a UN investigation reported, at these demonstrations Israeli Defense Forces, “endured not a single serious casualty.” Some Palestinians proceeded to arm themselves, and the killing escalated, with deaths on both sides, though the victims were disproportionately Palestinians. In November 2001, there was a week-long lull in the fighting. Sharon then ordered the assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud Abu Hanoud, which, as predicted, led to a rash of terror bombings, which Sharon used to justify further assaults on the PA. By March 2002, Amnesty International reported that more than 1,000 Palestinians had been killed. “Israeli security services have killed Palestinians, including more than 200 children, unlawfully, by shelling and bombing residential areas, random or targeted shooting, especially near checkpoints and borders, by extrajudicial executions and during demonstrations.”
Palestinian suicide bombings have targeted civilians. Amnesty International commented: “These actions are shocking. Yet they can never justify the human rights violations and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions which, over the past 18 months, have been committed daily, hourly, even every minute, by the Israeli authorities against Palestinians. Israeli forces have consistently carried out killings when no lives were in danger.” Medical personnel have been attacked and ambulances, including those of the Red Cross, “have been consistently shot at.” Wounded people have been denied medical treatment. Israel has carried out targeted assassinations (sometimes the targets were probably connected to terrorism, sometimes not, but all of these extrajudicial executions have been condemned by human rights groups).
The Israeli government criticized Arafat for not cracking down harder on terrorists and then responded by attacking his security forces, who might have allowed him to crack down, and restricting him to his compound in Ramallah.
Israeli opinion became sharply polarized. At the same time that hundreds of military reservists declared their refusal to serve in the West Bank and Gaza, polls show 46 percent of Israelis favor forcibly expelling all Palestinians from the Occupied Territories.
What has U.S. policy been?
U. S. military, economic, and diplomatic support has made possible the Israeli repression of the previous year and a half. Much of the weaponry Israel has been using in its attacks on Palestinians was made in the United States (F-16s, attack helicopters, rockets, grenade launchers, Caterpillar bulldozers, airburst shells, M-40 ground launchers) or made in Israel with U.S. Department of Defense research and development funding (the Merkava tank).
On March 26, 2001, the Security Council considered a resolution to establish an international presence in the Occupied Territories as a way to prevent human rights violations. The United States vetoed the resolution. Because Israel did not want the U.S. to get involved diplomatically, Washington did not name a special envoy to the region, General Zinni, until November 2001, more than a year after the Intifada began. Bush met four times with Sharon during the Intifada, never with Arafat. In February 2002, Vice President Cheney declared that Israel could “hang” Arafat.
What caused the current crisis?
As the Arab League was meeting to endorse a Saudi peace proposal-recognition of Israel in return for full Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 borders-a Hamas suicide bomber struck. Sharon, no doubt fearing a groundswell of support for the Arab League position, responded with massive force, breaking into Arafat’s compound, confining him to several rooms. Then there were major invasions of all the Palestinian cities in the West Bank. There were many Palestinian casualties, though because Israel has kept reporters out, their extent is not known.
In the early days of Sharon’s offensive, Bush pointedly refused to criticize the Israeli action, reserving his condemnation for Arafat, who, surrounded in a few rooms, was said to not be doing enough to stop terrorism. As demonstrations in the Arab world, especially in pro-U.S. Jordan and Egypt, threatened to destabilize the entire region, Bush finally called on Israel to withdraw from the cities. Sharon, recognizing that the U.S. “demand” was not backed up by any threat of consequences, kept up his onslaught.
Is there a way out?
A solution along the lines of the international consensus-Israeli withdrawal from territories occupied in 1967, the establishment of an independent and viable Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with its capital in East Jerusalem-remains feasible. It needs only the backing of the United States and Israel.
The Arabs already have 22 states. Why do they need another one?
Not all Arabs are the same. That other Arabs may already have their right of self-determination does not take away from Palestinians’ basic rights. The fact that many Palestinians live in Jordan and have considerable influence and rights there doesn’t mean that the millions of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, or who were expelled from their homes and are in refugee camps, aren’t entitled to their rights-any more than the fact that there are a lot of Jews in the U.S., where they have considerable influence and rights, means that Israeli Jews should be packed off across the Atlantic.
How can terrorists be given a state?
If people whose independence movements use terrorism are not entitled to a state, then many current-day states would be illegitimate, not the least of them being Israel, whose independence struggle involved frequent terrorism against civilians.
Won’t an independent Palestinian state threaten Israeli security?
Conquerors frequently justify their conquests by claiming security needs. This was the reason Israel gave for years as to why it couldn’t return the Sinai to Egypt or pull out of Lebanon. Both of these were done, however, and Israel’s security was enhanced rather than harmed. True, the Oslo Accords, which turned over disconnected swatches of territory to Palestinian administration, may not have improved Israeli security. But as Shimon Peres, one of the architects of the Oslo agreement and Sharon’s current foreign minister acknowledged, Oslo was flawed from the start. “Today we discover that autonomy puts the Palestinians in a worse situation.” The second Intifada could have been avoided, Peres said, if the Palestinians had had a state from the outset. “We cannot keep three and a half million Palestinians under siege without income, oppressed, poor, densely populated, near starvation.”
Israel is the region’s only nuclear power. It is also the strongest military power in the Middle East. Surely it cannot need to occupy neighboring territory in order to achieve security. Nothing would better guarantee the Israeli people peace and security than pulling out of the Occupied Territories.
Isn’t the Palestinian demand for the right of return just a ploy to destroy Israel?
Allowing people who have been expelled from their homes the right to return is hardly an extreme demand. Obviously this can’t mean throwing out people who have been living in these homes for many years and would need to be carefully worked out. Both Palestinian officials and the Arab League have indicated that in their view the right of return should be implemented so as not to create a demographic problem for Israel. Of course, one could reasonably argue that an official Jewish state is problematic on basic democratic grounds. (Why should a Jew born in Brooklyn have the right to “return” to Israel while a Palestinian born in Haifa does not?) In any event, neither the Arab League nor Arafat have raised this objection.
Don’t Palestinians view their own state as the first step in eliminating Israel entirely?
Hamas and a few other, smaller political groups in Palestine object not just to the occupation but to the very existence of Israel. But the Hamas, et al., position is a distinctly minority sentiment among Palestinians, who are a largely secular community that has endorsed a two-state settlement. To be sure, Hamas has been growing in strength as a result of the inability of the Palestinian Authority to deliver a better life for Palestinians. If there were an independent Palestinian state, one can assume that Hamas would find far fewer volunteers for its suicide squads. It must be acknowledged, though, that the longer the mutual terror continues, the harder it will be to achieve long-term peace.
Is a two-state solution just?
There is broad international consensus on a two-state solution along the lines of the Saudi peace proposal. Such a solution is by no means ideal. Palestine is a small territory to be divided into two states; it forms a natural economic unit. An Israeli state that discriminates in favor of Jews and a Palestinian state that will probably be equally discriminatory will depart substantially from a just outcome. What’s needed is a single secular state that allows substantial autonomy to both national communities, something along the lines of the bi-national state proposed before 1948. This outcome, however, does not seem imminent. A two-state solution may be the temporary measure that will provide a modicum of justice and allow Jews and Palestinians to move peacefully forward to a more just future.
Stephen R. Shalom teaches political science at William Paterson University and is the author of Imperial Alibis (South End Press). A fully documented version of this article will be posted at www.zmag.org
–Moshe Dayan, addressing the Technion, Haifa (Haaretz, April 4th, 1969)
“Every school child knows that there is no such thing in history as a final arrangement — not with regard to the regime, not with regard to borders, and not with regard to international agreements.” — Ben Gurion, War Diaries, 12/03/1947 following Israel’s “acceptance” of the U.N. Partition of 11/29/1947 (Simha Flapan, “Birth of Israel,” p.13)
“The settlement of the Land of Israel is the essence of Zionism. Without settlement, we will not fulfill Zionism. It’s that simple.” — Yitzhak Shamir, Maariv, 02/21/1997.
“In strategic terms, the settlements (in Judea, Samaria, and Gaza) are of no importance.” What makes them important, he added, was that “they constitute an obstacle, an unsurmountable obstacle to the establishment of an independent Arab State west of the river Jordan.” –Binyamin Begin, (son of the late Menahem Begin and a prominent voice in the Likud party writing in 1991, Quoted on page 159 of Findley’s Deliberate Deceptions)
“Without them [the settlements] the IDF [Israeli Defense Force] would be a foreign army ruling a foreign population.” — Defense Minister Moshe Dayan (quoted in Geoffrey Aronson’s Settlements and the Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations, Institute for Palestinian Studies.)
“There is no such thing as a Palestinian people… It is not as if we came and threw them out and took their country. They didn’t exist.” — Golda Meir Statement to The Sunday Times, 15 June, 1969.
“How can we return the occupied territories? There is nobody to return them to.” — Golda Meir (quoted in Chapter 13 of The Zionist Connection II: What Price Peace by Alfred Lilienthal )
“We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our own country …. expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.” — Theodore Herzl (from Rafael Patai, Ed. The Complete Diaries of Theodore Herzl, Vol I)
“… it is the duty of the [Israeli] leadership to explain to the public a number of truths. One truth is that there is no Zionism, no settlement, and no Jewish state without evacuating Arabs, and without expropriating lands and their fencing off.” — Yesha’ayahu Ben-Porat, (Yedi’ot Aharonot 07/14/1972) responding to public controversy regarding the Israeli evictions of Palestinians in Rafah, Gaza, in 1972. (Cited in Nur Masalha’s “A Land Without A People” 1997, p.98)
Speaking about Zionism, and its effects on the indiginous Palestinians: (quotes from Alfred Lilienthal’s The Zionist Connection II: What Price Peace)
“We seem to have thought of everything — except the Arabs” — Judah Magnes
“If this be the Messiah, then I do not wish to see his coming” — Ahad Ha’am speaking of Zionism.
“I have learned that the state of Israel cannot be ruled in our generation without deceit and adventurism.” — Moshe Sharett, Israel’s first Foreign Minister and later a Prime Minister (p.51 Simha Flapan, “The Birth of Israel”, 1987).
“The very point of Labor’s Zionist program is to have as much land as possible and as few Arabs as possible!” –Yitzhak Navon (“moderate” ex-Israeli president and a leading labor party politician.) Cited on p.179 of Nur Masalha’s A Land without a People who cites Bernard Avishai’s The Tragedy of Zionism 1985 p.340.
David Ben-Gurion, prime-minister of the provisional government of Israel, speaking before the IMF general staff during the 1948 war
“[The Palestinians] are beasts walking on two legs.”
David Ben-Gurion, May 1948, to the General Staff.
From Ben-Gurion, A Biography, by Michael Ben-Zohar, Delacorte, New York 1978:
“We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population.”
Joseph Weitz, head of the Jewish Agency’s Colonization Department.
From Israel: an Apartheid State by Uri Davis, p.5:
“Everybody has to move, run and grab as many hilltops as they can to enlarge the settlements because everything we take now will stay ours… Everything we don’t grab will go to them.”
Theodore Herzl, founder of the World Zionist Organization, speaking of the Arabs of Palestine, “Complete Diaries,” June 12, 1895 entry.:
“Spirit the penniless population across the frontier by denying it employment… Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly.”
Rabbi Yitzhak Ginsburg, head of the Kever Yossev Yeshiva (school of Talmud) in Nablus stated:
“The blood of the Jewish people is loved by the Lord; it is therefore redder and their life is preferable.”
Yitzhak Ginsburg, “Five General Religious Duties Which Lie Behind the Act of the Saintly, Late Rabbi Baruch Goldstein, May his Blood be Avenged”:
“The killing by a Jew of a non-Jew, i.e. a Palestinian, is considered essentially a good deed, and Jews should therefore have no compunction about it.”
In 1923, radical Zionist Ze’ev Jabotinsky– spiritual father of not only of Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin but of Brooklyn Rabbi Meir Kahane– wrote:
the “sole way” for Jews to deal with Arabs in Palestine was through “total avoidance of all attempts to arrive at a settlement”-which Jabotinsky euphemistically termed the “iron wall” approach. Not coincidentally, a picture of Jabotinsky graces Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s desk. Source: The Village Voice, “Death Wish in the Holy Land,” Dec. 12, 2001.
The influential Israeli Rabbi Ovadia Yosef exclaimed during a sermon preceding the 2001 Passover holiday, :
“May the Holy Name visit retribution on the
Arab heads, and cause their seed to be lost, and annihilate them.” He added: “It is forbidden to have pity on them. We must give them missiles with relish, annihilate them. Evil ones, damnable ones.” — Source: Ha’aretz April 12, 2001.
Moshe Dayan, address to the Technion, Haifa, reported in Haaretz, April 4, 1969:
“We walked outside, Ben-Gurion accompanying us. Allon repeated his question, ‘What is to be done with the Palestinian population?’ Ben-Gurion waved his hand in a gesture which said ‘Drive them out!’”
David Ben Gurion, quoted in The Jewish Paradox, by Nahum Goldmann, Weidenfeld and Nicolson,
1978, p. 99:
“Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you because geography books no longer exist. Not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahlal arose in the place of Mahlul; Kibbutz Gvat in the place of Jibta; Kibbutz Sarid in the place of Huneifis; and Kefar Yehushua in the place of Tal al-Shuman. There is not a single place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.”
Menahim Begin, speech to the Knesset, quoted in Amnon Kapeliouk, ‘Begin and the “Beasts”‘, New Statesman, 25 June 1982:
“We must do everything to ensure they [the Palestinian refugees] never do return.”
Yitzhak Rabin, leaked censored version of Rabin memoirs, published in the New York Times, 23 October 1979. Rabin’s description of the conquest of Lydda, after the completion of Plan Dalet:
“We shall reduce the Arab population to a community of woodcutters and waiters.”
David Goldman wrote:
“We declare openly that the Arabs have no right to settle on even one centimeter of Eretz Israel… Force is all they do or ever will understand. We shall use the ultimate force until the Palestinians come crawling to us on all fours.”
Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir’s infamous quote:
“There is no such thing as a Palestinian.”
Ariel Sharon, Israeli Foreign Minister, addressing a meeting of militants from the extreme right-wing Tsomet Party, Agence France Presse, November 15, 1998:
“It is the duty of Israeli leaders to explain to public opinion, clearly and courageously, a certain number of facts that are forgotten with time. The first of these is that there is no Zionism, colonialization, or Jewish State without the eviction of the Arabs and the expropriation of their lands.”
Israel Koenig, “The Koenig Memorandum”:
“If I was an Arab leader I would never make [peace] with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country.”
Michael Ben-Yair, Attorney General of Israel, 1993-1996 (in Ha’aretz):
“The Intifada is the Palestinian’s people’s war of national liberation. We [Israel] enthusiastically chose to become a colonialist society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the Occupied Territories, engaging in theft and funding justification for all these activities.. we [Israel] established an apartheid regime.”
(In response to concerns raised by another cabinet member about Sharon’s ["the butcher of Beirut"] invasion and brutality in the West Bank.)
Last Updated ( Sunday, 20 August 2006 )