IRRESPECTIVE OF WHICH SIDE of the conflict one stands, watching the latest tragedy unfold in Israel/Palestine is heart-breaking. Not the least distressing aspect of the renewed bloodshed is the antagonists’ reflexive defence of long held and deeply entrenched positions. On neither side is there the slightest evidence of new or original thinking. All we hear are the same slogans repeated over and over. But, if both sides insist on standing still, how can there be any movement?
This latest eruption of violence has, however, dramatically exposed the futility of the Palestinians’ uncompromising insistence on the so-called “Right of Return”. Ironically, it has been the actions of the Jews expelled from East Jerusalem in the Arab-Jewish war of 1948 that have revealed the sheer impracticality of this key Palestinian demand.
In demanding the return of the properties their parents and grandparents were forced to abandon in the face of the Jordanian Arab Legion’s successful defence of East Jerusalem in the year of the State of Israel’s birth, Jewish litigants are also demanding the eviction of Palestinian families who have lived in these properties for more than sixty years. Few on either side of this dispute would have been surprised to discover that the present occupants have not the slightest intention of abandoning them voluntarily. Indeed, it has been their resolute refusal to be dispossessed by the Israeli courts, and the mass Palestinian support their resistance has attracted, that set the scene for the latest confrontations.
It is unfortunate that among the Palestinian leadership there does not appear to be anyone with sufficient power to draw the obvious lesson. That the passion of the Palestinians threatened with eviction in East Jerusalem will be matched (if not exceeded) by the determination of the Israelis (and their descendants) who took control of the properties abandoned by Palestinians during the 1948 conflict, to stay exactly where they are.
To insist upon the Right of Return, is to insist upon the rolling back of history to 1948. Except, that simply amounts to demanding that the clock be wound back to a time when the State of Israel did not exist. In other words, the call for all those Palestinians uprooted by Israel’s birth (and their descendants) to be allowed to return to their houses, olive groves and farms, is a call for the dissolution of Israel itself.
If the rest of the world wants to know what a Palestinian attempt at dispossessing the Israeli people might look like, it has only to look at those anti-eviction protests in East Jerusalem, multiply them one-hundred-fold, and then imagine every Jewish protester armed to the teeth and wearing the uniform of the Israeli Defence Force, backed by artillery, tanks, helicopters, jets, and, ultimately, nuclear weapons.
There must be something in the water and the soil of the Holy Land that causes those who claim it for their own to lose all sense of strategic perspective. Today, it is the Palestinians who refuse to accept that against the State of Israel there can be no victory. Two thousand years ago, it was the Jewish people themselves. Or, more accurately, it was the nationalist extremists who refused to acknowledge the impossibility of extricating Judea from the Roman Empire. Again and again they rose in revolt. Again and again, the Romans crushed them in the most brutal and bloody fashion. Eventually, the day came when Rome decided that these stiff-necked Jews had rebelled once too often. They would have to go – but not before they witnessed the complete destruction of their temple and the re-naming of their country as “Syria Palaestina”.
Watching the desperate launchings of Palestinian rockets against Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, and the instant and devastating retaliation of the Israeli Air Force, it is hard not to be reminded of the hard-line Jewish nationalists who took refuge in the great Herodian palace-cum-fortress of Masada. They, too, were magical thinkers, convinced that they could escape the wrath of Vespasian’s legions, who, far below, were patiently constructing the ramp that would carry their siege-engines up and over the walls of Masada – to victory.
Surely, there are some Palestinians who, looking at the entirely predictable consequences of their political and military leaders’ intransigence, recall with trepidation the awful historical precedents associated with refusals to accept that the occupiers of one’s homeland cannot be defeated?
More importantly, perhaps, are there none who recall that the Romans did not disperse all the Jewish inhabitants of Syria Palaestina? Some remained. Over the centuries what used to be called Judea was occupied by Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Mamelukes, Franks, Ottomans and the British: the Jews who remained saw them come – and go – until, at length, the Zionists made a great hole in history, and Israel stepped through it.
Holed, or not, History has lessons to teach both the victors and the vanquished about the virtues of patience, and the changes wrought by time.
An optimistic prophet might tell of a mighty Mediterranean entrepot called Gaza City: the glittering prize of an enduring peace settlement between the Palestinian people and the State of Israel. Funded by Arab oil, protected by the United States and Europe, it would fast become a wonder of the twenty-first century world.
A pessimistic prophet might see the Al-Aqsa Mosque in flames and the Dome of the Rock in ruins. He might tell of Israel’s pitiless ethnic cleansing of the West Bank and the Great Jihad it inspired: of Arab and Turkish armies clashing with the IDF at Megiddo; of Pakistani rockets bearing nuclear warheads nearly all being blown out of the sky above Israel’s Iron Dome; and of Israeli jets, hot for vengeance, streaking eastward with their deadly nuclear payloads. He might speak of “The Samson Option” and the end of the world.
There are some who would not care – so long as the Israeli/Palestinian enemy was destroyed. And these are the most dangerous men and women ever to have set foot upon the rocks and stones of the land where David sang, and Jesus spoke, and Mohammed flew up to God. These enemies of compromise, these strangers to wisdom, would make of Israel/Palestine a radioactive desert – and call it peace.
This essay was originally posted on The Daily Blog of Thursday, 13 May 2021.
The only winners will be the hedge fund operators covertly backing it.
In the Balkans unresolved tribal disagreements go back hundreds of years - mostly based on religeous beliefs. Its thus not surprising that only half a century of disputes between the Jews and the Muslims has only just started warming up.
The most encouraging development is the recent warming between Israel and several Arab countries. This includes those Arab countries disowning Hamas and other extreme anti-Israel groups. This change might impose some sense in the area.
It shouldnt go without remembering that peace was imposed in the Balkans in the form of Tito. Sometimes it does take an iron fist (hopefully in a glove) to impose peace.
"Eventually, the day came when Rome decided that these stiff-necked Jews had rebelled once too often. They would have to go – but not before they witnessed the complete destruction of their temple and the re-naming of their country as “Syria Palaestina”.
"More importantly, perhaps, are there none who recall that the Romans did not disperse all the Jewish inhabitants of Syria Palaestina? Some remained. Over the centuries what used to be called Judea was occupied by Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Mamelukes, Franks, Ottomans and the British: the Jews who remained saw them come – and go – until, at length, the Zionists made a great hole in history, and Israel stepped through it."
You seem to suggest that Judea was the original land. Wrong. This was the land of the Canaanites, the Syrians. The Romans did "rename" Judea as far as the Jews were concerned, but the Syrians were there first, long before.
In writing the above you give shore up the myth that the Zionists claim is historical fact. It is at the basis of their claim to the land but it is not historically accurate.
The Jews arrived in Syria as nomads. They did not have a written language, and adopted the Aramaic language and alphabet from the Canaanites, for what was only a spoken language before, Hebrew.
Even the Gods mentioned in their book were borrowed.
" On neither side is there the slightest evidence of new or original thinking. "
This is very true. In which case why didn't you mention the lack of original thinking by Israelis? You see this is the problem with the press and the Middle East. We constantly hear about Palestinian intransigence in the face of Israeli aggression, but we never hear about the reverse.
There is no one in the present Israeli government who is capable of thinking long-term about this problem. They seem to think that this situation can go on forever, or that they can gradually ethnically cleanse Palestinians "from the river to the sea", pulling back whenever that public opinion gets too awkward.
The only Israeli Prime Minister who thought about this problem long-term albeit in a fairly limited way, was assassinated.
And now of course a two state solution is almost impossible without the withdrawal of illegal settlers which under this government especially is not going to happen, and I doubt if it will ever happen. So there is now a choice between allowing Palestinians some sort of second-class citizenship, because there are too many of them to vote, and pushing them out of greater Israel altogether. The first would be resisted by the Palestinian people I imagine, the second may indeed cause another Middle East war.
Comments on blog sites frequented by Jewish Israelis exemplify the limited thinking and knee-jerk reactions. "All they have to do is acknowledge Israel's existence (already done AFAIK) and stop killing Jewish Israelis." And presumably allow the constant confiscation of land, unequal judicial system, and submit to the occupation forces without resistance. Suspect that's not going to happen.
The US could possibly do something, particularly if it stops guaranteeing Israeli loans if it still does. But it's only influence is on Israel, because the Palestinians don't regard it as an honest broker – quite rightly.
Honestly, I can't see a solution to this, even if both sides adopt some new or original thinking. It's just a complete clusterfuck by now, a running sore which will go on for hundreds of years.
Something that stuck with me from something I read was the mention that the knee on neck subjugation of George Floyd used by the USA policeman is what Israeli troops use. Do they train USA cops or is it the other way.
Then in an interview a sweet feminine voice apparently Jewish, said that they just wanted to live in peace and be safe. Have Israelis given up any moral principles that they held prior to the Holocaust and now will use any means to achieve their ends, like Nazis did? They want to isolate themselves behind high walls, as all special people do, to keep 'undesirables' out and lob armaments at intruders. Or sting any that get too close - like wasps? And blame it on Hamas or? - they did it first - and don't want peace talks to be fruitful unless they get all they want.
One can pick holes in the Israeli approach to the Palestinians, but the reality is they are facing an intractable enemy fuelled by Islamic jihadist theology. None of this is helped by the Biden administration once again reinstating the lines of funding to the Palestinian enemies of Israel. Who’d have thought they would have used the money to purchase rockets in order to slaughter the Jews and the Polytheists?
What is different this time, is that young Arabs living in Israel have taken up the call to Jihad and begin what amounts to an internal civil war against their Jewish neighbours. This is unprecedented. An excellent overview of the situation is provided by author and journalist Melanie Phillips who is resident in Jerusalem in this 10m interview.
Good point about Right of Return and the possibility of Palestinian success against the Israeli state.
The Palestinians' have the deed of ownership ever in their hand though. Every Scottish clan, a sovereign power otherwise, desired that most from an otherwise powerless monarch. Only the Palestinians can give Israel legitimacy.
We informed otherwise despise Israel and regard Israel as the great sin of the Jews. As the Holocaust was of the Germans and the British Empire was of the English and the Scots. Whereforeunto, I regard the Irish as the only great people without major blood on their hand.
Of course Jews have always been the sharpest critics of Israel.
As leaders we have the key (take over TV). We just have to choose and sign off in te reo.
Send the worlds best leader and Christopher Harder?
Send John Campbell too.
Don't send me I'll just eat dates?
"Who’d have thought they would have used the money to purchase rockets in order to slaughter the Jews and the Polytheists?"
Citation? You make the statements as if they are actually factual Brendan, yet they are often complete bullshit. Or at the very least unprovable.
As Sumsuch has said, Jews are often the sharpest and I might say the most cogent critics of Israel.
God help us all, in amongst all the incomprehensible gabble, John Hurley is still bitching about a few words in Maori. For Christ's sake just tell is exactly what practical, nontrivial difficulties this causes for you? Speak now or forever hold thy peace.
Kia ora Chris
I cannot speak for the Palestinians or the Israelis, but I suspect that here you are making a point intended to go well beyond the Jewish/Palestinian conflict.
You are arguing a more general case for pragmatism, compromise, resignation and even surrender.
I accept the argument for pragmatism and compromise, even resignation, but never surrender of a just cause.
"Ka whawhai ahau tonu ake ake ake".
Suffering is unavoidable. Death is inevitable. But life is only worth living while we enjoy the same rights and respect as the next man or woman. Therefore, let us be willing to die in a good cause even if it seems to you a doomed cause.
I would add that defeatism is not always based on an objective understanding of the possible outcomes of conflict.
The State of Israel is good at winning wars but seemingly incapable of winning the peace, and it is only a state's ability to win the peace that can keep it secure in the longer term.
The British Empire and under it the Realm of New Zealand had, and has, a similarly effective war machine. But that will not save it in the coming times. To survive, the Realm would have to provide social equity and justice for all, a goal from which it is steadily departing rather than more closely approaching.
So we will continue to fight in our own cause even while you proclaim it as hopeless.
The militarily stronger party must learn the benefits of compromise. The weaker party know them only too well and need no further instruction.
The roots of the ongoing affray in Palestine originated in a letter that the British Foreign Secretary Lord Balfour wrote to Baron Rothschild in 1917. Known as the Balfour Declaration, it stated that the British government viewed with favour the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine. Balfour asked Rothschild to convey these sentiments to the Jewish Federation.
Contrary to the promises made to Sharif Hussein, ruler of the Hejaz, on the disposition of land following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, Britain and France reached a secret agreement that was ratified in 1916. Known as the Sykes-Picot agreement, it designated spheres of influence in Arabia. At the end of the war, Britain took control of Palestine and Iraq, France seized Syria and Lebanon.
Through the 1930s and 40s, the British mandate countered a Jewish campaign in Palestine launched by several hostile Jewish “Gangs.” In 1946 the ultra-right-wing nationalists underground, the Irgun, placed a bomb in the King David hotel in Jerusalem, killing 91 residents and injuring 46. The hotel housed the central offices of the British mandatory authority and the headquarters of the British military in Palestine and Jordan.
In 1947 the United Nations adopted a partition plan for Palestine, providing for the Jews and the Arabs. In 1948 the Jewish Agency declared independence for Israel, and the first Jewish-Arab war broke out.
Sharif Hussein of Mecca declined to sign the Versailles Treaty in 1920 because he could not put his name on a document that opened Palestine to the Jews and the dominance of a foreign power in Syria. In 1924 Britain tried again, but the negotiations came to nothing, and they then turned to Ibn Saud, who promptly seized the Hejaz.
In 1910, Winston Churchill, as First Lord of the Admiralty, shifted fuel for the Royal Navy from coal to oil. Oil then became a strategic commodity, and the search for an assured supply started. The spark that set the Middle East alight.
If I remember correctly, the Balfour declaration stated that Britain favoured the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine, but not at the expense of the local population.
'More importantly, perhaps, are there none who recall that the Romans did not disperse all the Jewish inhabitants of Syria Palaestina? Some remained. Over the centuries what used to be called Judea was occupied by Romans, Byzantines, Arabs, Mamelukes, Franks, Ottomans and the British: the Jews who remained saw them come – and go'
Most of the Jewish people that remained mixed with and were influenced by those that came latter. When the Romans adopted Christianity, many of the Jewish people in the Levant (like those throughout the Roman Mediterranean) adopted what had started as a Jewish sect. There remain Palestinian Christians. The Greek Byzantines became a major cultural influence. However, when the Arab invasion occurred most adopted Islam and took on the Arab cultural identity and language.
The descendants of the Jewish people that remained are being bombed by the decedents of the Jewish people that left. Indeed, genetic studies tie those that remained in the area as having greater genetic commonality with those that identified as Jewish at the time of Rome than those that identify now as Jewish.
Genetics is of course misleading when it comes to cultural identity, and no people have suffered more because of the misuse of genetics than the Jewish people. It is still worth noting though that the Palestinians are not Johnny-come-lately interlopers. They share the pre-roman history going back to the Canaanites, and can claim continuous occupation prior to 1948.
Geoff, I can't live with disrespect of me. Not possible. Things have to be done. If I stifle it it builds up poisons. Even my quiet, gentle, grandfather, as a principle, rejected impositions immediately. Not as good as him but I get round to it(and build up more poisons). Maori, Irish and Palestinians ever have the deed of legitimacy in their hands.
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