The Questions Never Asked About Palestine
As the Palestinian-Arabs and their friends make their latest push for "Palestinian" statehood at the United Nations this week, once again the wrong questions are being asked, while the pertinent questions every reporter, activist, and foreign minister should be asking never arise.
Why do "Palestinians" need a state of their own? Who are these "stateless" people? What is their history? Where have they been for all of these years?
In the spirit of "you don't know what you don't know," here are some Hansel-and-Gretel-like bread crumbs to guide journalists and others to the questions they might ask:
Where does the name "Palestine" come from and who have been the people who've lived there? Of course, it was coined by the conquering Romans to add insult to injury to a Jewish nation they sought to obliterate. The Romans conquered the land, but there was always a remnant of Jewish people living there.
While throughout the ages the land was under control of various powers, none called themselves "Palestinian," and there was never a nation with that name. It was that Jewish remnant and those Jews who joined them over time who became the "Palestinians."
In modern times, the Ottoman Turks controlled this territory and, following World War I, the British (under the auspices of the League of Nations). In this period, there were many "Palestinian" institutions, though all of them were Jewish in character and membership. The most famous of these was, perhaps, the Palestine Post, which lives on today as the Jerusalem Post. There were Palestine orchestras and chess teams and the like. But the names of the players were Jewish, not Arab.
As Jewish nationalism in the region gained strength, the Arabs and Muslims committed massacre after massacre of Jews throughout Palestine.
Meanwhile, in 1922, the British took 78% of territory that was promised for a Jewish homeland by the World War I victors and the League of Nations and gave it to the Arabs. The outcome was the heretofore nonexistent Arab nation of Transjordan. Transjordan later became simply Jordan.
This should be the end of the story, as the land of Palestine was divided (though quite unfairly) and an Arab state was created out of the Jewish homeland. "Two states for two peoples."
Being handed 78% of a territory would satisfy most people -- if their true interest were a state of their own. Instead, over the past seven decades, what the world refuses to see is the desire by the Arabs to obliterate Jewish nationalism, and later the Jewish nation that was its culmination.
Violence and terrorism by the Arabs against Jews continued, and as the Arabs stepped up their pressure on the British and the League of Nations, in an attempt to appease the Arabs, the remaining 22% of the land left for the Jews was divided further. The Arabs again got the bigger portion. The Jews accepted the offer and, when the mandate expired, declared independence as the nation of Israel.
The Arabs declared war.
Though they were unable to defeat the Israelis, the Arabs did gain more territory. The Jordanians expanded into what they renamed "the West Bank" so as to erase the Jewish connection to Judea and Samaria (as those areas were called for millennia), while Egypt grabbed the Gaza Strip.
The Arabs who lived in those areas never cried out for independence or claimed to be oppressed, nor threatened to go to the United Nations. Why? Because they were part of, rather than distinct from, the Arab Nation.
Instead, there were incessant terror attacks. In 1964, the Arabs formed the "Palestine Liberation Organization" -- three years before Israel would gain control over the Gaza Strip and Judea and Samaria (aka "the West Bank"). So: what were the Arabs bent on liberating, and whom were they liberating it from? Did they demand a state from Egypt and Jordan? This is the same PLO that today controls the Palestinian Authority -- and has never renounced its appetite for all of what was once dubbed "Palestine."
It was only after Israel's miraculous victory in 1967 that "the West Bank" and "Gaza Strip" suddenly had relevance to their Arab inhabitants, and it was then that the Arab propaganda machine revved up. It eventually inverted much of the world's perception of the Middle East: transforming tiny Israel from its natural role of "David" against the massive Arab population and lands, to one of "Goliath" against the "stateless," "oppressed," and "occupied" "Palestinians." It made the notion of changing straw into gold seem like child's play. And it worked.
That the Palestinian-Arabs have spilled much innocent blood to get their "cause" out there -- murdered Olympics athletes, airline passengers, bus riders, diners -- seems to have faded from memory. But it was these headline-grabbing crimes that got them to the head of the line.
The lesson: crime pays. Terror works.
So, journalists, activists, and foreign ministers of the world: you still have time to ask yourselves and others these questions; still have time to prevent a great wrong from being done; still have time to save untold lives; still have time to avoid a terrible precedent; still have time to prevent the creation of another terrorist state. Will you?
Steve Feldman is executive director of the Greater Philadelphia District of the Zionist Organization of America and was a reporter for more than 20 years.