Last Monday, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres issued a scathing statement regarding the 50th anniversary of the Six Day War, ignoring all of the historical context of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
Said Mr. Guterres, “This occupation has imposed a heavy humanitarian and development burden on the Palestinian people. Among them are generation after generation of Palestinians who have been compelled to grow up and live in ever more crowded refugee camps, many in abject poverty, and with little or no prospect of a better life for their children.”
This is as wrongheaded as it is one-sided, and Secretary General Guterres should know better. This is because prior to being elected Secretary General he served as the UN High Commissioner of Refugees.
In 1950, when the world was dealing with massive amounts of refugees displaced by World War II, the UN High Commission of Refugees (UNHCR) was born. At that time, the UNHCR had offered to deal with the Palestinian refugee issue. However, the Arab League rejected this offer because the mandate of UNHCR is to ensure that all refugees be assimilated into their host countries as quickly as possible, and offered a pathway towards jobs and citizenship.
The Arab League lacked the compassion to help their Palestinian brethren, and instead wanted to use the Palestinian refugee crisis as a thorn in the side of the Israelis.
This resulted in the formation of the only refugee organization devoted exclusively towards one group: The United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA). Throughout the decades, UNRWA has morphed away from its original humanitarian mission, and has taken on a decidedly political agenda.
The agenda is “the right of return” of Palestinians to their great-grandparents orchards and vineyards in Jaffa and Haifa, and it has as its foundation an implacable hatred of the Israeli and the Jew.
This mythology of “the right of return” is at the core of the resentment and frustration felt by young Palestinians.
What is actually needed is some reality therapy that Israel is here to stay.
This mythology has been perpetuated in UNRWA led schools, many of whose teachers are also on the payroll of Hamas, which only feeds upon the resentment and frustration of the Palestinian youth. If you take even a cursory look at the UNRWA textbooks, you will immediately notice that absent from them is any talk of a “two state solution.” The textbooks, murals on the school buildings, and lessons only talk about one state: “Palestine,” replacing all of Israel, as well as the glory and honor of “martyrdom.”
As Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “You’re entitled to your own opinion. But you’re not entitled to your own facts.”
The stubborn, inconvenient facts are that in 1937, the Arabs refused to accept the Peel Commission Plan, and in 1947, they refused to accept the UN Partition Plan, simply because these Plans meant that the Arabs would have to share the land with the Jews.
Another stubborn fact is that the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded in 1964, three years before the 1967 war. If the Israeli-Palestinian dispute resulted from territories gained in 1967, precisely what land was it that the PLO was trying to liberate?
Shortly after its defensive war of 1967, when Israel was attacked on all fronts, and conquered East Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria, the Sinai and the Golan Heights, the Israelis initially tried the “land for peace” formula.
In August of 1967, the Arab League met at Khartoum in the Sudan, and their offer was rebuffed with the famous 3 no’s: no end of conflict, no negotiation and no recognition of the State of Israel.
Again in 2000, at Camp David, Ehud Bark of Israel offered Yassir Arafat 94% to 96% of Judea and Samaria, shared sovereignty of the Temple Mount, or Harim al Sharrif, and a right of return for thousands of Palestinian refugees.
Arafat did not say “yes” and he did not say “no.” He simply walked away from the negotiating table. And his answer came in the form of a renewed intifada, where thousands of Israelis and Palestinians lost their lives.
Ehud Barak was only to be outdone by Ehud Olmert who, in 2008, offered Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas total control of the Temple Mount.
Again, the Palestinian leader walked away from the negotiating table without a response, and again the response came in a renewed intifada.
One must ask: How is one supposed to reach an agreement and rid oneself of “the Occupation,” even if one wanted to, if the other side will not deign to meet with you, let alone respond to your offers?
When Mr. Guterres assigns complete responsibility only to the Israelis for the loggerhead that the Palestinians and Israelis have reached, he is actually undermining the possibility of a true and genuine peace agreement.
And he is signaling to people all around the world that a way to obtain one’s ultimate objective is to use terrorism as a legitimate method of negotiation. And rather than meet face-to-face with the parties themselves and handle the dispute in a civilized demeanor, one can go to forums of international jurisdiction and demonize the other party.
However, something refreshing is underfoot in the US Congress. Under the auspices of Daniel Pipes and Gregg Roman of the Middle East Forum, there is a new initiative entitled the “Israel Victory Caucus.”
Chaired by Congressmen Ron DeSantis of Florida and Bill Johnson of Ohio, the caucus was “founded,” in Rep. Johnson’s words, “on one single, irrefutable principle. And that is first and foremost Israel has a fundamental right to exist and to defend herself. And that is not negotiable.”
What the caucus members believe is that these 24 years since the Oslo Accords were signed has been tragic for the Palestinians.
Tragic because Oslo encourages unrealistic fantasies and exploits the frustration of Palestinian youth, encouraging them to martyr themselves over a war that their great grandparents lost in 1948, 1967, and 1973.
This fascination with and encouragement of martyrdom is the worst sort of child abuse imaginable.
Oslo has been tragic for the Israelis because it makes them appear weak in the eyes of their enemies, and therefore makes them more vulnerable to attack, both during physical wars and in international forums.
Aside from that, too many people employ the language of “giving back land.” Who gives back something? Only a thief. This use of language therefore suggests that Israel does not have the moral high ground.
Oslo also been corrosive to the Israeli psyche because it imbues them with a sense of moral ambiguity, which impacts their commitment to the rightfulness of their cause. This self-doubt is detrimental in a region of the world where many people are hell-bent on the destruction of the Jewish State.
Oslo has been tragic for the United States, because in the eyes of the radical Islamist, America and Israel are inextricably linked, and a weakened Israel becomes a weakened America. Beyond that, it has sent the dangerous signal that certain terrorism to a certain people, (i.e. the Jews), is acceptable.
This weakens the moral clarity of our war against Islamist terrorism.
If the United States and the allies would have executed World War II with one hand tied behind their backs, many of us would not be around, and those who would be, would all be speaking German.
Only a clear Israeli victory would ever deter the threat of war recurring every few years.
Thanks to Obama and the nuclear deal, which has bequeathed Iran with hundreds of millions of dollars in unfrozen assets, plus over one billion dollars in a hostage swap, there are well 100,000 missiles staring down at Israel from Syria and Lebanon, as well as bases of Hezbollah, the IRGC, Hamas and ISIS.
This makes it all the more necessary to sow the intellectual groundwork for the next war, when Israel will be forced to take off its gloves, and do what it takes for it to survive.
It is about time that the Palestinians and the leftists in the intellectual community had some sorely needed reality therapy. And the Israel Victory Caucus is a welcome step in the right direction.
Sarah N. Stern is Founder and President of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, EMET, an unabashedly pro-Israel and pro-American think tank and policy institute in Washington, DC.