Monday, August 15, 2005

On the history of Israel

The following is a response to a post at the Rand-Discussion group at Yahoo Groups. The quotations are from the poster. I do not beleive them to be taken out of context.


Not sure what this post is doing on an Ayn Rand list, but I noticed several gross historical errors in this post. I hestiate to respond because I do not wish to engage in a debate on these issues (because they typically degenerate into something not worthy of discussion). Nonetheless, the errors were egregious enough that some statement needed to be made.

"So with America and its many powerful Jewish citizens behind it, a plan was created to hand over control of Palestinian land to Jews."

First, the Americans had very little involvment in the UN commission that recommended the partition. (The commission was constituted by: Australia, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, India, Iran, the Netherlands, Peru, Sweden, Uruguay and Yugoslavia) The US did work to create support for the partition in the general assembly vote, but it was hardly America's plan. Second, there was, no doubt, tremendous and vocal support from the American Jewish community for a Jewish state, but the Truman administration was more likely responding to general American support rather than some silly notion of powerful Jewish citizens behind the adminstration (according to some public opinions at the time 65% of American support the establishing of a Jewish state).

Most importantly, there was no plan "to hand over control of Palestinian land to Jews". Prior to Partition, Jews settled on land that was purchased or abandoned. The UN Partition planned called for a division of Palestine into two areas: Jewish and Arab. The partition was based on population. The areas that Jews got were the areas that Jews had a majority or ones that were largely unpopulated/unowned (60% of the Jewish Partition was the Negev desert). And the areas the Arabs were allocated were where Arabs had a majority. Most of the land that was turned over to the nascent Jewish state was land controled by the British Mandatory government and not owned by Arabs.

Hardly a plan to take land away from rightful owners.

"Not one in ten thousand today can tell you what the Palestines were given in return, myself included."

The UN Partition called for a partition into a Jewish and an Arab state. The Jews declared statehood when the Brits left and the partition begin. The Arabs declared war and invaded. So, what the Palestinians were given was the opportunity for an independent state of their own. The leaders of the Arab world chose instead to invade the Israeli state. I don't think any historical scholar believes that had the armies of Syria, Jordan and Egypt pushed the Jews out, that they would have set up an independent state for the Palestinian Arabs. It is more likely they would have divided up the area between the three of them. Evidence for this is the period between 1948 and 1967 when Jordan and Egypt controlled, respectively, the West Bank and Gaza (areas mostly alotted to Palestinian Arabs under the Partition) and did nothing to set up a Palestinian state, deal with refrugees, or establish Palestinian self-rule. (It is also telling that Palestinians didn't begin to call for their own state until after 1967 and these areas were controlled by Israel)

" Israel's troubles are thus partly due to the fact that they as a
nation originated as a UN resolution, and did not grow organically
through a political process that included the voice of indiginous

The state of Israel _did_ grow organically from the early 1900s until 1948. The institutions and organizations that become the State of Israel did not spring into existence on May 15, 1948, but had been developing and growing for decades. Moreover, the Arabs probably had more of a voice than Jews in the process through the other Arab countries in the UN general assembly.

"The US, particularly during the critical
Kissinger years, simply looked aside and gave Israel free reign,
peferring to stall any final settlement talks, allowing Israel more
time to crush insurgents. "

Anyone well versed in the history of US-Israel relations knows how untrue this statement is. The US has always used its close relationship with Israel to hold Israel back. The US was pivotal in getting Israel to give back the Sinai after the Suez War and the 6 Day War (in the US brokered peace treaty with Egypt in 1978). By analogy, giving the Sinai back to Egypt would have been like the US being forced to give Alaska back to the Russians during the height of the Cold War. (There is also a questionable insinuation here that Kissinger -- who's Jewish--played a role in letting Israel have "free reign")

"did it take 911 to make the United
States realize it must force Israel to relinquish its hold on the
occupied territories?"

This is not a historical inaccuracy per se, however, it is based on an incorrect assumption. The US is not forcing Israel out of Gaza. While the adminstration is vocally supporting the plan, it is my understanding that there are many in the adminstration and congress that are against the pullout. Morever, it is also my understanding that this has been an idea floating around Israeli policy circles for years and is largely a homegrown idea.

Also, wouldn't it make more sense, after 9/11, for the US to pressure Israel to stay in Gaza and the other disputed terrorities for the same reasons we are in Iraq: to destroy the centers of terrorist activities?

"[The Israel-Palestinian conflict] has directly lead to the present state of terrorist warfare."

The idea that somehow if Israel didn't exist, that the US wouldn't be under attack from Islamic terrorism is absurd. The Islamists do not hate and attack America(and the West) because of Israel. They hate Israel because it is part of the West. Al Qaeda rhetoric doesn't mention or where it does gives small mention to Israel before and after 9/11. Though sometimes Israel gets prominent place in rhetoric, the thrust of anti-American(Western) hostilities is because we are a symbol of individualism, secularism, and freedom. I suggest the following:

Personally, I have my doubts about the disengagement plan. I fear that the Palestinian Arabs will take this as a sign of weakness on the part of Israel and continue terrorism with renewed fervor.


1 comment:

Michelle Cohen said...

Good response. I don't think the poster deserved your detailed rebuttal of his claims, but the other members of that list can certainly benefit from an account of the historical facts.