In 2017, the British paper The Guardian published an article entitled, “Israel-Palestine: The Real Reason There’s Still No Peace.”1
I am familiar with the Guardian’s perennially unsympathetic coverage of Israel. So I was not surprised to learn from the author of this article that the absence of peace is entirely the fault of the Israelis.
The author argues that commentators have failed to identify the “true” cause for the failure of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations. That cause is Israeli rejectionism. The gist of the author’s argument is that the price to Israel of maintaining the status quo is smaller than the cost of entering into a peace agreement with the Palestinians.
I agree with the author that commentators have failed to acknowledge the true cause of the Israeli-Palestinian impasse. But that cause is not Israeli rejectionism. It is Jew hatred among Arabs.
Dynamics of the Conflict
According to the author of the Guardian article, in order to secure peace, the Israelis would have to withdraw from Judea and Samaria, the so-called “West Bank” or “occupied territories.” Costs to the Israelis would include the political upheaval and expense of removing thousands of Jewish “settlers” from land to be ceded to a Palestinian State. Israel might also face the violence that settler relocation would cause. Ceding the West Bank to a Palestinian state would reduce the Israeli army’s ability to maneuver in a future war. It would put a nix on current Israeli intelligence gathering, thereby increasing “security risks.” The author even makes the astonishing claim that an Israeli withdrawal would put an end to Israeli profiteering from extraction of Palestinian natural resources, including water. Israel would also lose profits from managing Palestinian customs payments and trade.
The last two claims are purely fanciful. Israel provides water to the Palestinian Authority; it does not extract water from it. And Israel effectively pays a big chunk of the Palestinians’ electricity bills. The notion that there is profit to be made from customs payments and that this leads Israel to prefer the status quo—-with its enormous security costs—-is laughable.
The author further argues that, in contrast to the Israelis’ rigid adherence to the status quo, the Palestinians (good guys that they are) have always hewed to a supposed “international consensus” that Israel should withdraw from East Jerusalem and the “occupied” territories.
In short, the Palestinians are reasonable and the Israelis are not.
Flaws in the Argument
The author of this anti-Israel hit piece conveniently omits a host of facts that would otherwise undermine his argument that Israel is the culpable party. For example, he fails to mention the numerous offers made to the Arabs—-starting with the British Peel Commission in 1937, followed by several Israeli offers—- that would have given them everything the author of this article claims they want: an independent state in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In every instance the Palestinians rejected these offers.
Palestinian leaders have always refused to acknowledge that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people; that Jews are a legitimate national group; and that Jews have a right to live in a Jewish state. Some of their leaders, speaking in Arabic to their own people, have acknowledged that a peace agreement with Israel is just the first step in a plan to rid the Middle East of Jews. Many or most Palestinians believe that in a few years “the Jews will be gone” and Arab educators and leaders encourage them in this belief.
Perhaps I am as guilty as the Guardian author of blaming just one side. But I have to ask, given the overwhelming evidence of Jew hatred among Arabs, why is this never cited as an impediment to peace and a problem to be addressed?
Anti-Semitism in the Arab World
Of all areas of the world, the Arab world is the most anti-Semitic. And the most anti-Semitic Arabs are Palestinians. According to an Anti-Defamation League Survey published in 2014, three-quarters of Arab adults agreed with a majority of eleven anti-Semitic statements, such as “Jews have too much power in international financial markets” and “Jews are responsible for most of the world’s wars.” 2
According to the Jerusalem Post, 92% of Iraqis hold negative views of Jews; 81% of Jordanians; 80% of those in the United Arab Emirates; and 74% in Saudi Arabia. Palestinians were the winners of this dubious contest: 93% of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza hold negative views of Jews.3 Arab media routinely publish anti-Semitic canards, including such claims as Jews use Arab children’s blood to bake bread, distribute poison candy to Arab children, and deliberately spread disease among Arabs. Many Arabs today believe that Jews were behind the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S. Cartoons and essays in the Arab press often depict Jews as monkeys, fleas and vampires.
How can any reasonable person ignore anti-Semitism among Arabs as at least one cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict?
Jews have lived among Arabs since the latter first arrived from the Arabian Peninsula in the seventh century. Most, if not all, Arab countries had sizeable and ancient Jewish populations until Jews were ethnically cleansed from the Arab world in the years after Israel’s founding. For much of this time Jews lived in peace with their Arab neighbors. But they lived as dhimmis, or second class citizens with limited rights. During this time Arabs looked down upon Jews and Christians. Islam played a central role in this view: Having failed to convert to an obviously superior Islamic faith that superseded these precursor religions, Jews and Christians were inferior. In some Arab countries Jews were consigned to impoverished and filthy slums, and this further cemented their status as inferiors. Arabs believed that Jews were weak and cowardly.
When Jews declared independence of Israel—-the first modern Jewish nation in the heart of the Arab world—-Arabs felt this as an affront to Islamic and Arab superiority. In 1948, when tiny Israel defeated the combined armies of five Arab countries, the Arab world was stunned. Repeated Arab invasions met the same result, solidifying Arab shame, anger and sense of injustice. The displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian refugees from their homes, merely added to these feelings, now pervasive across the Arab and Muslim world. These sentiments continue to this very day in the form of a reinvigorated Jew hatred.
I agree with the author of the Guardian article that today’s commentators have overlooked an obvious cause for the intractability of the conflict. But I believe that overlooked cause is Jew hatred among Arabs.
Anti-Semitism is deeply entrenched in Arab and Muslim cultures. Traditional Islamic beliefs underlie much of this phenomenon.
This was in evidence in a Reader’s Comment to a recent article about the plight of oppressed Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.4 In his comment about the Rohingya, the reader explained that he had spent time in Myanmar delivering medical aid to the Rohingya people:
The Muslims are famous for being kind to strangers and of course I was supplying free medical service, so I was treated well, but when I went there in 04 to administer polio vaccine they said I was a Jew and it was a Jewish plot to sterilize their women and they set the dogs on me.
Finally, the “Jewish” rumor got so intrenched [sic] that WHO [World Health Organization] had to fund the manufacture of the vaccine in Indonesia to pinch off the Jew thing. Ironically the vaccine IS a Jew thing because both Salk and Sabin [inventors of the Polio vaccine] were Jews.
I was surprised to learn that this reader had encountered a “Jewish conspiracy” theory and violent hostility in a remote region of the world where Jews are virtually unknown. It is unlikely that any of the Rohingya who set their dogs on this Jewish aid worker had ever before seen a Jew. How then, did they become anti-Semitic?
I can only guess that their religious leaders had taught them the ugly passages from the Koran in which Jews are depicted as evil and Muslims are admonished to seek out Jews and kill them. This attitude is not universal among Muslims, but neither is it atypical, especially outside the West. This anecdote is sad evidence of the organic link between Muslim belief and anti-Semitism, a link that is relevant to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
- Thrall, N. Israel-Palestine: The Real Reason There’s Still No Peace. The Guardian. May 16, 2017. Retrieved September 22, 2017 from: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/may/16/the-real-reason-the-israel-palestine-peace-process-always-fails
- Anti-Semitism in the Arab World. Wikipedia. Retrieved September 23, 2017 from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antisemitism_in_the_Arab_world
- Friedson, F. How Can Negotiators in the Israeli-Palestinian Talks Learn From Bahrain? Jerusalem Post. September 20, 2017. Retrieved September 23, 2017 from:
- Graham, D.A. Does Aung San Suu Kyi Still Deserve a Nobel Prize? The Atlantic. September 21, 2017. Retrieved September 24, 2017 from: