Are Palestinian Moslem Arabs Given Unique International Status?

Security Council Resolution 2334 has singled out Israeli communities built post 1967 in the disputed territories as “the settlement enterprise”, and referred to it as the central obstacle to peace in the Middle East. Not the disintegration of Tunisia and Libya nor the turmoil in Egypt and Iraq, nor continual murderous incitement of the Palestinian Authority, not the violent organized anti-Israel bias of the European Left or even the jihad/genocide activity of the Islamic State forces

No, the violence and lack of peace in the Middle East is solely due to the desire of Jewish Israelis to return to their historic homeland in the disputed territories. Evidently international amnesia has occurred so lands acquired by Israel in 1967 and referred to as “disputed territories” in UN Resolution 242 are now termed “occupied” in UN Resolution 2334. Under international law, the disputed territories that were under Jordanian jurisdiction from 1948 until 1967, and were never sovereign territory of any state since the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, cannot therefore be considered “occupied”. Those lands were never part of any sovereign state post 1918; Jordan did not annex those lands post 1948, nor was citizenship granted to Arabs who fled there after the fighting in the 1948 War.

Simply put, there is no other disputed territory in the world that has never known independent sovereignty that is known internationally as “occupied” – except land currently under the sovereignty of the State of Israel. Gershon Baskin stated earlier this year that the most difficult issue between Israelis and Palestinians is one of narrative.  But narrative unfortunately no longer has anything to do with facts – only personal narrative as Michel Foucault theorized, revolutionizing history when he stated there were no facts, but only personal narrative.

But to cite just one horrific example of false narrative, the Palestinian Authority called American veteran Taylor Force an Israeli settler! Despite the fact that the 29-year-old U.S. citizen killed in the March 2016 terrorist attack in Jaffa was identified as an American student tourist, he was called a settler to justify his murder! And there was no uproar in the European press or by the Obama administration — because the Palestinian narrative about settlers and occupation is accepted as true fact, not opinion.

Another completely false narrative was the foundation for the UNESCO Executive Board vote on April 28 2016 and again in 2017. That vote denies any relationship with Jews or Judaism to the Temple Mount, calling it only by the Islamic term Haram al-Sharif. The resolution denies the validity of the texts in the Bible, New Testament and Koran. Indeed the Koran itself explicitly grants Jewish people rights in the Holy Land.

However, to cite Daniel Moynihan, ‘everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts’.  The current garbled Palestinian narrative about occupation is opinion, not fact. There was no Palestinian entity before 1948. Just as territories of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires in Europe were subdivided into separate states, so too were Ottoman Empire territories divided in the Middle East region. Transferred to the control of the British Mandate in 1918, these lands were subsequently divided by the United Nations into three parts: 67% of Palestinian Mandate territory east of the Jordan River became the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the Zionist State of Israel was given 18% of the British Palestinian Mandate, and rest reserved for Arab residents who had come to this area pre-1948.

But the UN Security Council Res. 2334 categorically states, that the UN “will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to occupied Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations.” Thus the demand is on Israel to return to the 1949 armistice lines which were never considered a recognized border.

The European Union and the USA Obama administration called all Jewish communities built after 1967 “illegal settlements on occupied lands”, including neighborhoods in post 67 Jerusalem.  But according to the Turkish census of 1875, Jews then already constituted a majority of the population of Jerusalem and by 1905 comprised two-thirds of its residents – a reality that remained true until 1949. But no distinction was made in this UN Resolution for the ancient Jewish community in Jerusalem’s Old City which has had an overwhelming majority of Jewish residents for centuries. Indeed, Jewish Old City homes were illegally occupied by Hebron Arab families in 1949 who moved in as squatters – those Moslem Arabs should be termed “illegal settlers”, not the Jewish community reconstituted in 1967 that under no definition can be called “occupied”.

Resolution 2334 made no distinction for the Silwan neighborhood established by Yemenite Jews in 1885, called Shiloach. Violently expelled by the British in the 1930’s due to Arab violence, their homes are now being returned to Jews as well as the ancient synagogue located there. Nor did the Resolution distinguish between the lands of the Nvei Yaakov community, empty lands bought by American Mizrachi Women in 1924.

Never mind that the vacant land now known as Gilo was purchased before World War I by a group of young Jewish lawyers, including Dov Yosef ( later one of David Ben Gurion’s advisors). When the land was taken back from the Jordanians in 1967, it was returned to its owners. Suddenly Gilo, an integral part of Jerusalem proper for almost one hundred years, is considered a Jewish settlement on occupied land. This resolution is clearly based on distorted short-sided narrative – that is neither based on fact nor any historical reality.

If we turn to the rest of the Palestinian Mandate, we can use the statistics of the Encyclopedia Britannica of 1910 that gives the population figure that year as 60,000, of whom 40,000 were Jews. Jewish land purchases were made from absentee owners in the Jezreel Valley, which in 1897 belonged to two people, one being the Turkish Sultan.

Statistics published in the Palestine Royal Commission Report (p. 279) indicate a remarkable phenomenon: Palestine, heretofore an area of Arab emigration, only became a focus of Arab immigration after World War I due to Jewish development that created attractive new work opportunities. The Report has no precise totals on Arab immigration figures between the two World Wars, but estimates vary between 60,000 and 100,000. ( I am indebted to the Gatestone Institute for this information.)

Even Gaza, never a primary location for Zionist settlement had at least two small longstanding Jewish communities, Gaza City and Kfar Darom, established during the British mandate (1917-1948) period and re-established after 1967.  Both Jews and Arabs, evacuated from Gaza by the Ottoman army during WWI, returned afterwards. Jewish residents left only in 1949 – does that make all Arabs who settled on Kfar Darom land “illegal settlers?”

Altogether, the non-Jewish element in Palestine’s population (not including Bedouin) expanded between 1922 and 1929 by more than 75 per cent. Those Arabs should be considered “illegal settlers” by virtue of the same rules being applied to Jewish Israelis. Thus, very few Palestinian Arabs have a long historical tie to this land, except in their politicized false narrative.

During World War II, the Arab population continued to increase as attested by UNRWA Review Information Paper No. 6 (September 1962) which states that   considerable movement of people is known to have occurred, particularly during the Second World War. While Arab population in predominantly Arab towns rose only slightly (if at all) between the two World Wars, the Arab population in Jewish cities in Palestine shot up at this time, far beyond the rate of natural increase: Jerusalem reported an increase of 97 per cent; Jaffa had an increase of 134 per cent; and Haifa had a Arab population explosion of 216 per cent.

So how did 20,000 Arab residents in 1910 explode into supposed 600,000 Arab refugees in 1948? What distorted statistics are being used to explain this unrealistic figure that has multiplied into third and fourth generation refugees in order to justify a huge inflated UNWRA budget? No other refugees in the world have ever been maintained into the third and fourth generations – certainly not those supported by the UN nor any other organization.

Indeed, in 1967, 200,000 Jews & 66,000 Arabs lived in Jerusalem. In 2016, Jerusalem had 870,000 residents, of whom 37% are Arab. How many Moslem Arabs in Jerusalem could be called illegal settlers, using the terms applied to Jewish individuals?

Is every community a settlement? Typically defined as a place hitherto un-inhabited, where people establish a community, it is sometimes defined as a community constructed on land to which occupants have no legal claim.

Either use the dictionary term “settler or occupied land” to everyone equally regardless of race or religion, or stop using the term altogether – as it is a biased racist discriminatory term that only harms prospects of a true peace and understanding in the Middle East.

About the Author
Frieda Horwitz was born in Milwaukee, WI and made aliya in 1983 from Boston. She has a BA from Barnard College, NYC, an MA from Brandeis in Contemporary Jewish Studies, and studies in a PhD program in International Relations and Middle Eastern Studies. She lives in Jerusalem, has worked as a professional in the non-profit arena in education and social welfare and is a board member of several Israeli amutot.
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