My mantra: There can be no meaningful and enduring peace without recognizing history as it really happened. There are several examples of former enemy countries reconciling and cases of former victims and perpetrators reconciling. In the case of Canada and Australia, the process for trying to right centuries’ old wrongs to the native peoples was/is called: TRUTH AND RECONCILIATION. First there is truth. Then and only then, there is reconciliation.
It seems that, while many people want Israel to reconcile with the Palestinian Arabs, they don’t want any truth to be told. When Israel talks about Jewish ties to the land, they raise the issue of Palestinian Arab ties to the land. There is no denying that there were individual Arabs living in this land for centuries nor that they have rights; however, the truth is that there never did exist a Palestinian nation or peoplehood before we Jews returned home, and many of those who now call themselves Palestinians did not claim that name until the 1960s or some even a lot more recently.That is a truth that needs to be recognized even as we recognize that there is now a community that defines itself as a Palestinian people.
Those who seek to equalize Jewish and Palestinian Arab ties to the land do not want to talk about the truth that the Arabs were colonizers of this and many other indigenous peoples’ lands, converting many of the inhabitants to Islam and trying to get rid of those who would not convert, a phenomenon that has recently been revived – the long-dead Zombie called Islamic State or Caliphate. Nor do they want to talk about the fact that among those who claimed Palestinian refugee status in 1948 are an unknown number of individuals who had migrated to the British Mandate of Palestine as late as 1946, as I showed in a previous blog post.
Not many want to accept the truth of Jewish rights, legal and ancestral, to parts of the West Bank, what we call Judea and Samaria, preferring to see us as occupiers. And they hammer us over the head with that term, occupation, over and over again until a sizeable proportion of our own people believe that to be true. A reading of history would show that, in fact, there are legal documents, that have never been rescinded, that declare our claim to sovereignty of the land in modern times, some of which we lost in previous wars by those who want us to disappear back into ancient history and then regained as they tried yet again to extinguish our flame.
Yes, Israel needs to acknowledge the truth of our own unethical behaviours in previous wars, in current hostilities, and in our interactions with Arabs in the Palestinian Authority. While we must accept responsibility for our mis-deeds, however, we need not accept the labels that are applied to us — occupiers, genocidal war criminals, human rights violators – as these are gross exaggerations that seek to undermine our rights, to force us to bow our heads in shame, to make us forget who we are and to deny our historical truths.
I am shocked and disappointed to find intelligent Israeli and non-Israeli Jews, many academics, who say history does not interest them as they are only concerned with our unethical and inhumane behaviours toward “Palestine” today. They accept the label ‘occupiers’ without thinking about the fact that that implies a version of the history about which they claim disinterest. So I would like to ask those who think historical truth is unimportant in resolving present-day conflicts: if Germany had denied the Holocaust, would we have reconciled with Germany? Would we have developed the good relationship we have with that country today? I doubt it.
I can imagine their come-back to that question: Can we expect reconciliation with the Palestinians if Israel does not accept responsibility for the occupation and our policy of ethnic cleansing and abuse toward them? Whether I answer this question in the positive or negative, I would have fallen into the trap of accepting the truth of the claim that Israel has a policy of ethnic cleansing and abuse and that there is an occupation. To determine the truth or falsehood of these points, we need to go to history. But those with whom I engaged in this discussion were not interested in any history that goes back farther than today, or yesterday’s news. End of discussion.
Nobody knows how the conflict between Israel and our neighbours will be resolved or what the will solution look like. I am curious.
And I do strongly believe that there can be no meaningful and unshakeable peace without TRUTH and reconciliation between our conflicting peoples. That means, learning the history that really happened and not the history that some would like us to believe, a history that is no more than fantasy to gain the upper hand in the realm of international politicking and public relations. When uncomfortable truths are accepted by all, then responsibility can be taken for past hurts and injuries and the path to reconciliation that will stand the test of time can be embarked upon.
Without that, the Middle East will be a ship of fools embarking on a voyage of the damned.