Robert Werdine has written an excellent piece chronicling the events surrounding Israel’s War of Independence, which resulted in the State of Israel and what Palestinians refer to as the Nakba. The facts are indisputable and for those of you who haven’t read his piece the bottom line is we won a war of annihilation thrust upon us. Had the Arab/Palestinian forces won that conflict there is little doubt that the Jews remaining in the country would at best have been forced out.
His final paragraph is indicative of the way that many Israelis and supporters of Israel around the world feel and is worth quoting in full;
“Having rejected diplomacy and compromise, the Arabs sought the arbitration of force; it was to be a war of annihilation. Ever since the announcement of the partition in November 1947, they sought to destroy the nascent Jewish state, failed, suffered catastrophe and defeat in the process, and, as usual, blamed everyone but themselves, and still do. The nakba was indeed needlessly self-inflicted by them, and the refugees and their descendants have paid a horrific price for their unpardonable folly and intransigence. They still do.”
Of course this entire point is both true and utterly irrelevant. So far as many Palestinians are concerned they are the victims of a great injustice perpetrated upon them by Israel and they aren’t going to suddenly decide that the truth is otherwise. We live with the Palestinians, we live amongst them and they live amongst us. It is Palestinians who are building our settlements in the West Bank, it is Palestinians who are the reason that Israel is the source of controversy all around the world. If we want to do somethign about that then the answer lies with Palestinians and an army of Alan Dershowitz’s isn’t going to be able to take the key of our acceptance around the world away from them.
Time and again I am astounded to meet a professional advocate for Israel who will reel off a list of truly incredible accomplishments made by Israel only to end by asking how it’s possible that after achieving all of these things the world still seems to hate us. Some argue that simple Jew hatred is the reason, others that the UN is utterly controlled by the enemies of the state and that Europe hasn’t changed in the last half century.
The truth is that no amount of achievements will make the rest of the world love us. Just as true is the fact that we shouldn’t be running around looking for the approval of the rest of the world in everything that we do.The reason that we are hated around the world, or at best viewed with ambivalence is because we are occupying the Palestinian people.
Learning about how we took on the whole Arab world and won in spite of the odds 65 years ago, is all well and good but for people looking for serious solutions to serious problems saying that Palestinians are essentially caught up in their own blood lust isn’t going to bring us the international acceptance that we crave.
The Palestinian leadership has done itself no favours, over the years they have made cataclysmic blunders and will probably continue to do so. That doesn’t absolve us of our own responsibilities. If we want not to be the object of the passions of students on university campuses in the West, if we want to be viewed as a legitimate state within the world and see embassies move to Jerusalem and have the city of God accepted as our capital then we are going to have to figure out a way to move forwards and let the Palestinians figure their path out for themselves.
The country that our fathers and grandfathers built is the strongest in the region. We are the powerhouse with a military that makes our enemies tremble in fear. We are the country that simply cannot be beaten on the battlefield. So how is it possible that we are so scared of a people who don’t even have an army? I don’t blame anyone who argues that leaving the West Bank would create another Gaza situation with missiles being fired from Palestinian territory but for crying out loud we need to do something to move our country away from this quagmire and that means taking brave, bold measures, like giving Palestinians the chance to govern themselves.
Now is the time to engage with Palestinians and to do it in more than a smarmy “lets grab a coffee, we’re in the same building” nonsense. If the Palestinians want preconditions so give them their preconditions, they’re not asking for anything that hasn’t already been promised to them during Oslo and preconditions are just that, they are not the end of the talks they are the beginning. We don’t have forever to make this happen and it’s time we realised that we have a military that is actually capable of protecting us should things go wrong. Instead of living in fear of what might happen we should remember that the IDF retook Palestinian areas of the West Bank during Defensive Shield with relative ease and can do it again should things go wrong. It is worth working towards the end of hostilities now rather than waiting for yet another Intifada or another violent event before trying to figure out a way forward.
We are a strong, proud nation, too strong to pretend that we are unable to make any moves towards peace on our own, too strong to be beaten by extremist attitudes compelling us to turn away from the negotiating table. Instead of telling ourselves how great we are and how awful Palestinians are we should be insisting on talks and forcing the door to the negotiating table open once again.
I send my thanks very much to Robert Werdine for telling us where we were 6 decades ago but I am far more concerned about where we are now and am more interested in creating a glorious future than living in the past.