Israel's Initial Premises
What we are watching in the Mideast is a civilizational war being played out in a local arena. The Israelis and the Arabs operate from completely different worldviews and premises. If one accepts either side, then one usually accepts the premises of the side. The discerning must aim for the root problem.
Anyone who goes to Israel Hayom, Arutz Sheva, or the Times of Israel would have a good idea of the Israeli side and premises. All three have a right-wing Israeli slant, often using stilted language to make their case. Arutz Sheva, in particular, goes so far in its language as to refer to teenage stone-throwers as "terrorists" – a bit over the top, even though the activity is dangerous and illegal. I know of no other Israeli media which goes that far.
All three start from the premise that Israel has a right to be in the land, and those who oppose Israeli claims, by definition, are "terrorists" and "anti-semites." If one accepts their premise, then the vocabulary follows as night follows day. Arutz Sheva has gone so far as to describe price-tag attacks by Jewish vigilantes as possible Arab hoaxes, refusing to concede that once in a while a Jew might be wrong. Give no quarter.
If one then goes to the Electronic Intifada, Mondoweiss, or the Spanish-language UGEP , one will see the polished views of anti-Israel supporters. They do not accept that Israel has a right to be in the land. They view the Palestinians as the indigenous people and see Israel as a colonial structure whose state has to be eradicated. They are not in agreement regarding what should follow with those Jews who remain after the Israeli state is defeated, but they all agree that the Jewish state must be dismantled.
They also use stilted language. Israel is referred to as "terroristic." The Gazans are now "freedom fighters." Their vocabulary follows as night follows day, also based on their initial premises.
It is impossible to read these sites without realizing that most of the posters are sincere. Their logic is not failing. What is failing is their initial premises from which the logic flows.
The reason Israel is losing the propaganda war – except in America, Canada, and Australia – is because the world does not deal with the root of the problem, and Israel answers with legal arguments that are weak responses to valid observations. American, Canadian, and Australian support stems from the Christian nature of much of the electorate in these societies, not legalities. Where this Christian worldview is not extant, Zionist logic, especially when confined to European declarations, will often fail.
The classic case is the Zionist appeal to the San Remo Document, which set up the Palestinian mandate as a homeland for the Jews, and the prior Balfour Declaration, as their justification. Many Zionist apologists like to cite San Remo as Israel's legal foundation.
This argument fails because many people do not equate legality with morality; they see the Europeans as imposing their will on the Arabs, and worse yet, Arabs who had allied with the British during the war against the Turks. The Arabs see San Remo as a betrayal by their Western allies, without moral standing.
[D]uring World War I, [the later Mufti of Jerusalem] al-Husayni helped a British officer recruit 2,000 Arabs for the last stages of the war effort against the Ottomans, believing that once Palestine was liberated it would become part of an Arab state.
As much as British MP George Galloway is crazy, and detestable, he is logical enough to smash the San Remo/Balfour Declaration argument with one sentence. In the following link to a video, Galloway demolished an earnest Jewish caller trying to defend Zionism, who, sadly, in the end concedes the argument. " What right did Britain have to grant you [the Jews] somebody else's country?"
Despicable though Galloway is, he comes much closer to the initial premise of the debate than the usual Zionist apology, which tends to start at the Balfour Declaration in 1917.
The historian Joan Peters in From Time Immemorial goes back to trace the immigration patterns of Arabs to Palestine around 1900, with the contested claim that the Palestinian Arabs are recent just arrivals, most only appearing after 1880. True, Peters avoids the San Remo/Balfour Declaration trap, but she does not explain why an Arab family in the land for 67 years (1880-1947), enough time to raise two native-born generations, has less right than Jewish settlers, most of whom arrived after 1920. If 1880 is taken as the cutoff point for legitimate rights, half of us Americans would not be citizens.
Peters goes farther back than San Remo, but errors in her book have discredited her. Her foundational premise is even called into question. She may have exaggerated Arab immigration into the land.
But even if we put together all the cases [Peters] cites, one cannot escape the conclusion that most of the growth of the Palestinian Arab community resulted from a process of natural increase.
The media Arabists are quick to pounce on Peters's work as shabby.
The brutal fact is that the Arabs, as nutty, violent, and vicious as they are, have fairly good arguments in their corner to make their claim to Palestine, and to make the counter-claim that Jews set up a colonial society. Even the Zionists admitted that there was a colonial aspect to Zionism.
The left, and the Arabists, latch on to these, and hence we have two sides that talk right past each other. To win the Arabist over to the Israeli side will not work, since he does not accept the Zionist premises.
Ze'ev Jabotinksy, the founder of right-wing Zionism, avoids all the legal wranglings with a perforce declaration:
[E]ither Zionism is moral and just ,or it is immoral and unjust. But that is a question that we should have settled before we became Zionists. Actually we have settled that question, and in the affirmative.
He does not care whether San Remo is right or not, or whether the Arabs have been in the land 60 years or 600. Ultimately, he wrote The Iron Wall to exhort his fellow Jews to stop using ridiculous arguments that the Arab can see through as false. Jabotinsky's premise is that Zionism is prima facie right, no matter what.
Zionist colonisation must either stop, or else proceed regardless of the native population.
… That is our Arab policy; not what we should be, but what it actually is, whether we admit it or not. What need, otherwise, of the Balfour Declaration? Or of the Mandate?
Jabotinsky did not mince words. He did not deny an Arab presence in the land for centuries. He just did not see it as a primary issue.
We cannot offer any adequate compensation to the Palestinian Arabs in return for Palestine. And therefore, there is no likelihood of any voluntary agreement being reached. So that all those who regard such an agreement as a condition sine qua non for Zionism may as well say "non" and withdraw from Zionism.
The Arabs are winning the propaganda war because initial premises are ignored, not because the Arabs are consummate liars. The fact is that if one does not accept a Jewish right to the land, then every other Zionist argument falls apart. The Balfour Declaration and San Remo were based on a Jewish right to the land and are not moral arguments, but merely a legal declaration of prior Jewish rights. But those rights were not created by Balfour or San Remo, and ultimately appeals to those documents will fail, as George Galloway has shown.
To appeal to these legalisms, rather than the initial premise, will lose the propaganda war.
Stick to initial premises.
Mike Konrad is the pen name of an American who is not Jewish, Latin, or Arab. He runs a website, http://latinarabia.com, where he discusses the subculture of Arabs in Latin America. He wishes his Spanish were better.