The Catch 22 of Israel-Palestine discourse

Jerusalem's Western Wall and Dome of the Rock (Photo by Sander Crombach on Unsplash via Jewish News)
Jerusalem's Western Wall and Dome of the Rock (Photo by Sander Crombach on Unsplash via Jewish News)

Soon after my recent debut blog for this site, I received a message from a friend and former colleague, saying “you’ve gone over to the dark side.”

Although I believe (and hope) his remark was intended to be humorous and ironic, it sub-consciously reveals an underlying reality about the current state of Israel-Palestine partisanship.

That is that all those who deny that Jews were primarily responsible for the Palestinian Refugee crisis and the Palestinian tragedy that was a consequence, are “wrong” and have “gone over to the dark side.” Furthermore, they must be right-wing because all good, kind, compassionate liberals “know” it was the fault of those “evil Zionists.”

Regrettably, therefore, that is now the Catch 22 of Middle-East discourse. If you reject the idea that the Palestinian tragedy was caused by “evil Zionists” (and in that narrative was also perpetuated by “evil Zionists”) you must be a hard-line, hard-hearted right-winger, so you don’t deserve to be heard and you and your views can be dismissed entirely…

How did that happen? How did we reach the point when the liberal-left believes it has exclusive ownership of the “truth” on Israel-Palestine? How did we reach the point where those who don’t share their views can be dismissed as “extremist” and/or “right-wing”?

We reached it because the Arab Lobby has successfully manipulated reality and injected its version of “truth” into the bloodstream of the liberal-left. As a result anyone who challenges that version must be not only without pity or compassion but clearly “wrong,” too. Thus all good, kind, compassionate people “know” that the “evil Zionists” were to blame. And they “know” because the enemies of the “evil Zionists” (currently standing at 50-plus Islamic or Muslim-majority nations) have been telling them so for more than 40 years.

In this Alice in Wonderland world, the lies about who was responsible for the plight of the Palestinians (and about who has deliberately perpetuated their wretchedness for political gain) have been so frequently repeated and so carefully nurtured, that the world is upside-down; lies have become “truth” while the real truth is buried in obfuscation.

The resulting fake narrative has become so deeply embedded in the collective conscience that those who challenge it must have “gone over to the dark side.”

But maybe they haven’t “gone over to the dark side.” Maybe they simply wish to look at the historical truth which is somewhat different from the toxic brew of poisonous lies and half-truths which have been so carefully-blended to create the myth of the “evil Zionists.”

Changing Left-liberal perceptions is tough but not impossible if we focus on the historical facts. To do this, we must ignore both the Jewish version of events (i.e. the Jewish narrative) and the Palestinian Arab version (the Palestinian narrative).

The key fact is that under the United Nations Partition Plan, Palestinian Arabs would have had their own state but rejected it. Historical records are not specific about their reasons but it is probably safe to assume Palestinian leaders anticipated having all of Palestine after the nascent Jewish state was defeated and the Jews limped back to Europe.

That offer and its rejection is the inconvenient truth that is consistently, deliberately omitted from most Arab and Palestinian narratives. Try to mention it in any discussion (especially on TV or radio) and it will be dismissed as “ancient history.” If a Palestinian spokesperson is compelled to concede this by, say, a knowledgeable or well-briefed presenter, he or she will invariably claim the proposed state would have been too small or without water or without access to the Mediterranean or had too little arable land. As the omission of this offer is fundamental to the Palestinian narrative, perhaps we should look at what was offered in 1947. A Palestinian state would have included the entire West Bank, the Jordan River, Jerusalem, a coastal plain on the Mediterranean (including a sea-port), and a significant chunk of the Galilee. The proposed Jewish State accepted, albeit reluctantly, by the Yishuv, would have comprised a narrow coastal strip on the Mediterranean, most of the Negev and the western Galilee. We know that neither side was especially happy with the proposed division. And we know there were “incidents” and conflict. In this, neither side was blameless.

But the vital nugget of truth is that the Palestinian people could have had a state and were not dispossessed or made stateless by “the evil Zionists”. While delving into history we should also note that the Arab and Palestinian leaders did not object to the grabbing of bits of Palestine by Arab States per se. No-one objected, for example, when Egypt grabbed the entire Gaza Strip, nor when Jordan grabbed the entire West Bank. So we are forced to conclude that they weren’t bothered by the idea of dispossessing the Palestinians. They just didn’t want a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.

I keep returning to this “ancient history” because the deliberate omission from the narrative of the offer of a viable Palestinian state is the cornerstone of a fictional account that deliberately sets out to demonise Israel because once Israel has been made to appear culpable for the Palestinian refugee crisis, then all the misfortunes which befall the Palestinians could be blamed on Israel. And then, with the right conditions in place (centuries of anti-Semitism, perhaps) that omission could be embellished, embroidered and amplified until it grew – like the grit in an oyster –into a polished, credible narrative in which Israel was not just plausibly “responsible” for the Palestinian tragedy but was the “evil Zionist aggressor.” And from then on, all of Israel’s actions were viewed through that distorted prism.

Israel’s culpability is even “plausible” to some Jews, a few of whom stay silent out of tribal loyalty though they probably feel uncomfortable at times – especially if they are Guardian readers.

Other Jews are vocal opponents of Israel believing, somewhat self-righteously that they “know” the “truth” and must speak out. In this category, I would place children’s author Michael Rosen, actor Miriam Margolyes and of course all those connected to Jews For Justice For Palestinians. It is entirely commendable that these Jews feel pity and compassion for the Palestinian people. I share their pity and compassion. The difference is that I know who caused the pain of the Palestinian people. They, on the other hand, have gulped the Kool-Aid and believe the fake narrative that places the blame on Israel.

In that sense, the Palestinian situation can be seen in terms of the old Jewish joke about the boy who murders both of his parents and pleads for mercy because he is “a poor orphan.” Several generations on, the boy’s descendants know only that their grandfather was “a poor orphan.” No-one has told them that he was an orphan because he killed his mother and his father.

And once you ignore how the boy became “a poor orphan,” it is easy to see how the omission was the gift that went on giving (to Israel’s enemies, that is).

About the Author
Jan Shure held senior editorial roles at the Jewis Chronicle for three decades. and previously served as deputy editor of the Jewish Observer. She is an author and freelance writer and wrote regularly for the Huffington Post until 2018. In 2012 she took a break from journalism to be a web entrepreneur..
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