Alex Rose

History Can never be Erased

In his well known September 2000 book, “The Iron Wall, Israel and the Arab World”, Avi Shlaim, hardly, “A right-wing fascist”, surprisingly sings the praise of Ze’ev Jabotinsky. Early on he remarks, “A voluntary agreement between us and the Arabs of Palestine is inconceivable now or in the foreseeable future.” This was because they regarded their country as their national homeland and wanted to remain its sole owners.

“Settlement can thus develop under the protection of a force that is not dependent on the local population, behind an iron wall which they will be powerless to break down.” Jabotinsky recognized that, “We must either suspend our settlement efforts or continue them without paying attention to the mood of the natives.”

On the 29th November 1947, the General Assembly of the United Nations passed its historic Resolution 181 in favor of the partition of Palestine. It laid down  a timetable for the establishment of a Jewish state and an Arab state linked by economic union, and an international regime for Jerusalem.

News of the UN vote was greeted by Jews everywhere with jubilation and rejoicing. “But the followers of Ze’ev Jabotinsky in the Irgun and the Stern Gang did not join in the general celebrations.” A day after the UN vote, Menachem Begin, the commander of the Irgun, proclaimed the credo of the underground fighters:’ The partition of Palestine is illegal. It will never be recognized—Jerusalem was and will forever be our capital. Eretz Israel will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And forever.”

The deterrent power, or in Jabotinsky’s language “the iron wall.” was intended to convince the Arabs that they would not be able to get rid of the sovereign Jewish presence  in the Land of Israel, even if they could not bring themselves to recognize  the justice of the Jewish claim to its homeland.”

Jabotinsky certainly regarded an iron wall as essential for attaining the Palestinian goal of statehood, but he also recognized the need for negotiation on Palestinian national rights once, Jewish statehood had been secured.

“Arens recalled the article written in 1923 by Ze’ev Jabotinsky in which he said that negotiations must be carried on with the Arabs, leading to an agreement with them but only after an ”iron wall’ had been built. Ze’ev Jabotinsky was the first major Zionist leader to acknowledge that the Palestinians were a nation and that they could not be expected to renounce voluntarily their right to national self-determination. ”

Following Egyptian Prime Minister Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem on Nov. 19-21, 1977, Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin attended a political committee meeting on January 17, 1978 in Jerusalem which included the newly appointed Egyptian Foreign Minister, Muhammad Ibrahim Kamel. At a key stage, the truculent Begin retorted, “The Arabs have enjoyed self-determination in twenty-one Arab countries for a very long time. Is it too much for Israel to have one country among twenty-one? NO, I declare in my loudest voice, NO to withdrawal to the 1967 lines, NO to self-determination for the terrorists.”

US Secretary of State Alexander Haig , “was one of the few people who thought that Begin did not suffer from a ‘Holocaust complex’ was himself a victim of Israel’s war in Lebanon. After seventy-five days of heavy fighting, the PLO was banished from its stronghold in Lebanon to the periphery of the Arab world, a good deal more than forty kilometers from Israel’s border. Begin was pleased with the outcome and announced that Operation Peace for Galilee had achieved most of its objectives.”

Following the massacre of several hundred Palestinian refugees by Christian Phalangists, Begin heard of this atrocity on the BBC. His reaction to the reported outcry was, “Goyim [non-Jews] are killing goyim, and the whole world is trying to hang Jews for the crime.”  On 28 August 1983, Menachem Begin announced to his cabinet his intention of resigning from his post of prime minister and retiring from political life. The Likud’s Central Committee elected Yitzhak Shamir to succeed Begin. In terms of outlook and ideology —the difference between Shamir and Begin was not all that great. Both were disciples of Ze’Ev Jabotinsky. Both were dedicated to the Land of Israel.”

“The rise to power of Binyamin Netanyahu marked a break with the pragmatism that characterized Labor’s approach toward the Arab world and the reassertion of an ideological hard line that had its roots in Revisionist Zionism. Netanyahu hailed from a prominent and fiercely nationalist Revisionist Zionist family. His farther Benzion, was a historian of Spanish Jewry, an advisor to Ze’ev Jabotinsky, and editor of the Revisionist’s daily newspaper, Ha-Yarden.

Towards the Palestinians, Netanyahu showed hatred and bitter animosity, which contrasted sharply with Jabotinsky’s ‘courteous indifference’. Jabotinsky wanted to live and let live; Netanyahu wanted to dominate.

Binyamin Netanyahu was elected leader of the Likud in March 1993. “In a major interview with Ha’aretz , Netanyahu restated his deterministic worldview and his conviction that Israel was doomed to live by the sword.—-The conflict would end only when the entire Arab world became convinced that Israel was a fait accompli.—Military might is a condition for peace. Only a strong deterrent profile can preserve and stabilize peace.—-He was as uncompromising in his opposition  to Palestinian statehood as Yitzhak Shamir and Menachem Begin had been.

Daniel Pipes, “Nothing Abides” surfaced on 2015. Chapter 4 addresses “The Year the Arabs Discovered Palestine [1989]”.

In January 1920, the notion of Palestine hardly existed; by December of that critical year, it had been born. Studying what happened in 1920 offers insight into the most widely supported, but possibly the least successful nationalist cause of the past century.

Pipes sectionalizes his paper into 6 segments. [1] No Historic Muslim Concept of Palestine [2] The British Creation of Palestine [3] Early 1920: The Heyday of Pan-Syrianism [4] Palestinian-Syrian Tensions [5] Late 1920: The Rise of Palestinian Nationalism [6] Amin al-Huseini. [6] Conclusion.

[1]Theorists spun grandiose plans for their favorite nation. But no one imagined a Palestinian nation, and for good reason. Palestine has always been a Jewish and Christian concept, meaningless and alien to Muslims. As the historian Bernard Lewis writes, for Muslims the name ‘Filastin’ had never meant more than an administrative sub-district and [after the Crusades] it had been forgotten even in that limited sense.

[2] Muslim distaste for the notion of Palestine was evident in April 1920, when the British authorities carved out a Palestinian entity; they responded with extreme suspicion, seeing the delineation of this territory as a victory for the Zionists. It is to be overemphasized that Palestine was brought into existence by British imperial authorities, and not by Arabs.

[3] Gertrude Bell, a knowledgeable British observer, wrote in 1907 that ‘Syria is merely a geographical term corresponding to no national sentiment in the breasts of the inhabitants.

[4] Two indisputable facts: until July 1920, the Palestinian goal was to join in a union with Syria, while the aspiration of an independent Palestinian state, barely existed. Matters changed quickly in the next few months.

[5] Syrian and Palestinian leaders, who both had an interest in Prince Faisal’s success, effectively minimized their differences until July 1920.

[6] Palestinian leaders came to recognize that they were on their own against the British and Zionists. From that point on, they sought to establish an autonomous  Arab government  In Palestine which would  be ruled by themselves, not by politicians in Damascus. Herein lay the origins of Palestinian nationalism.

[7] Amin al-Husseini became mufti of Jerusalem in 1921, president of the Supreme Muslim Council in 1922, and president of the Arab higher Committee in 1936.Each of these positions gave him new power: by the mid-1930s he had become the outstanding political leader of the Palestinians, the symbol and the bulwark of Palestinian nationalism. Daniel Pipes omits a significant amount of this evil man’s history. He was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for incitement implicated as a leader of the 1920 Nebi Musa riots, but was pardoned by the British. In 1921, the Jewish British High Commissioner Herbert Samuel appointed him Grand Mufti of Jerusalem. On meeting Adolf Hitler, he requested backing for  Arab independence. During WW2, he helped the Nazis recruit Bosnian Muslims for the Waffen-SS.

[8 The logic of need caused Palestinian nationalism to flourish, and it became a popular cause.



About the Author
Alex Rose was born in South Africa in 1935 and lived there until departing for the US in 1977 where he spent 26 years. He is an engineering consultant. For 18 years he was employed by Westinghouse until age 60 whereupon he became self-employed. He was also formerly on the Executive of Americans for a Safe Israel and a founding member of CAMERA, New York (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America and today one of the largest media monitoring organizations concerned with accuracy and balanced reporting on Israel). In 2003 he and his wife made Aliyah to Israel and presently reside in Ashkelon.