Some Quotes on the Israeli-Palestinian Disaster

I do not have a solution to the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians. That has baffled better minds than mine. I don’t think as my friend John Burgess did that it can be solved by paying the Palestinians to give up the so-called “right of return”.

I wanted to give you a few quotes on the subject to chew on. The first is from Moshe Dayan from an address published in 1969 by Ha’aretz:

We came to this country which was already populated by Arabs, and we are establishing a Hebrew, that is a Jewish state here. In considerable areas of the country we bought lands from the Arabs. Jewish villages were built in the place of Arab villages. You do not even know the names of these Arab villages, and I do not blame you, because these geography books no longer exist; not only do the books not exist, the Arab villages are not there either. Nahalal arose in the place of Mahalul, Gevat — in the place of Jibta, Sarid — in the place of Haneifs and Kefar Yehoshua — in the place of Tell Shaman. There is no one place built in this country that did not have a former Arab population.

The second is from Abdulaziz, founder of the modern Saudi state, from the first meeting between a Saudi head of state and an American:

After discussing the progress of the war, and expressing his confidence that Germany would be defeated, F.D.R. stated that he had a serious problem in which he desired the King’s advice and help; namely, the rescue and rehabilitation of the remnant of Jews in Central Europe who had suffered indescribable horrors at the hands of the Nazis: eviction, destruction of their homes, torture and mass-murder. He, F.D.R., felt a personal responsibility and indeed had committed himself to help solve this problem. What could the King suggest?

Ibn Saud’s reply was prompt and laconic: “Give them and their descendants the choicest lands and homes of the Germans who had oppressed them.” F.D.R. replied that the Jewish survivors have a sentimental desire to settle in Palestine and, quite understandably, would dread remaining in Germany where they might suffer again.

The King said that he had no doubt the Jews have good reason not to trust the Germans, but surely the Allies will destroy Nazi power forever and in their victory will be strong enough to protect Nazi victims. If the Allies do not expect firmly to control future German policy, why fight this costly war? He, Ibn Saud, could not conceive of leaving an enemy in a position to strike back after defeat.

In a few minutes, F.D.R. returned to the attack, saying that he counted on Arab hospitality and on the King’s help in solving the problem of Zionism, but the King repeated: “Make the enemy and the oppressor pay; that is how we Arabs wage war. Amends should be made by the criminal, not by the innocent bystander. What injury have Arabs done to the Jews of Europe? It is the ‘Christian’ Germans who stole their homes and lives. Let the Germans pay.” Once more, F.D.R. returned to the subject, complaining that the King had not helped him at all with his problem, but the King, having lost some patience, did not expound his views again, beyond stating (with a note of rony in his voice) that this over-solicitude for the Germans was incomprehensible to an uneducated bedouin with whom friends get more consideration than enemies. The King’s final remark on the subject was to the effect that it is Arab custom to distribute survivors and victims of battle among the victorious tribes in accordance with their number and their supplies of food and water. In the Allied camp there are fifty countries, among whom Palestine is small, land-poor and has already been assigned more than its quota of European refugees.

I encourage you to read the entirety of the monograph from which that passage was taken. I’ve linked to it before; it’s a fantastic primary source.

The third is from Harry Truman (same source):

Finally, Mr. Truman summed up his position with the utmost candor: “I’m sorry, gentlemen, but I have to answer to hundreds of thousands who are anxious for the success of Zionism; I do not have hundreds of thousands of Arabs among my constituents.

I am very sensitive to the charge of anti-Semitism. Some of my favorite relatives are Jewish. If anything I’m Semophilic. I am, however, skeptical that the U. S. should give full-throated support to a state in the Middle East insistent on maintaining its Jewishness (or being an Islamic state, for that matter). I don’t think we should support religious states at all.

7 comments… add one
  • Guarneri

    That’s informative, interesting and thought provoking. But it’s also irrelevant. Israel isn’t going anywhere. It’s akin to the US declaring it’s vacating and turning things back over to the native Americans.

    I don’t know wether we should provide quarter, half or full throated support. I do know that the propaganda foisted upon Americans should be ignored. (Unarmed, innocent Palestinians my ass).

    It may be an intractable problem given the strident nature of religious fervor. Israel isn’t going to commit national suicide.

  • The Palestinian leadership aren’t good guys. Neither is the Israeli leadership. IMO it’s a “wicked problem”. There is no solution. The best that can be accomplished is devising a process that leads to a modus vivendi. I’m skeptical that unconditional U. S. support for Israel advances that goal.

    Ashkenazi Jews, those displaced or emigrated from Europe and North America, comprise less than half of Israeli Jews. The majority are descendants of Jews displaced or emigrated from North Africa and the Middle East. I don’t think there is a home for them in Iran, Iraq, or Egypt. The Jews are in Israel to stay. Those are just the facts on the ground. Another fact on the ground is that Palestinians make a convenient way for MENA Arabs to express their anti-Westernism. Contrary to Pat Lang I think that Middle Eastern Arabs’ devotion to Al-Quds is greatly exaggerated.

    I think we might try negative reciprocity. We won’t support the Israelis if the Arab world (and Europe!) won’t support the Palestinians. That might provide incentives for reaching an accommodation.

  • PD Shaw

    The second group of quotes is interesting, but by that time, some portion of Palestine had been set aside as a Jewish homeland since the end of World War One as part of the partition if the Ottoman Empire. The lands of the Empire were being given to friends and allies of the victors. It’s not too different from the Arab way, except the British way is to try to shape conditions from afar to encourage the Palestinian Arabs and Jews to agree to boundaries themselves.

    The Sauds took the land that became Saudi Arabia by force, and didn’t ask for permission, though made small agreements on inconsequential borders once secure. The Jews didn’t ever get permission, so created Israel by force as well.

  • Guarneri

    I profess no deep understanding of the detailed history or a solution in pocket. My cut and slash analysis just deals with, as you say, the facts on the ground.

    Hard for me to imagine the cooperation envisioned in the negative reciprocity could ever be achieved, especially in that venue with its tribal history.

    My observation on attempts during my lifetime is that they have been as well thought out and effective as whip inflation now buttons……

  • CStanley

    I agree those sources are informative and thought provoking, but agree with the pushback other commenters have provided.

    Your position is based on opposition to the creation of Israel in 1948. You have good reasons for that and if we were discussing it at that juncture I might agree. At this point, 70 years have gone by. Israel’s government has not been without fault, to be sure, but I see that through the lens of an international community that supported the creation of their country (perhaps unwisely) but later refused to protect it from attempts at annihilation by its neighbors.

    There’s got to be some sort of corollary to the Pottery Barn rule here…the Allied countries and UN made Israel, in a way that led to its “breakage” by attack by Arab neighbors. There is a responsibility to support its reconstituted borders in suc a way that it can defend itself.

  • Modulo Myself

    Much of the solvable problems go back to the Oslo Accords. Arafat was looking to be relevant. Israel was trying to head off the Intifida. Clinton was going for his Nobel. But it was total bullshit. Arafat was a crook who had no real relationship with the Palestinian people and Israel had no intention of releasing their grip on the West Bank via settlements, and Jerusalem was always off the table.

  • Your position is based on opposition to the creation of Israel in 1948.

    Uh, no. I’m not opposed to the State of Israel or its creation. I’m opposed to the U. S.’s supporting it and, especially, I’m opposed to the U. S. going to war with Iran on Israel’s behalf.

    Israel was created the way most other countries were. They seized it from the previous owners. That’s the relevance of the first quote. They’re entitled to keep it as long as they can. That’s the relevance of the second quote. Opposition to the State of Israel was baked in from the beginning.

    Until the Six Day War the U. S. wasn’t Israel’s primary international patron. France was. Staking out a position as Israel’s champion does not further our national interests. It does further certain politicians’ interests. That’s the relevance of the third quote.

    How do these things all tie together? If the only reason that Israel exists is U. S. support, it probably shouldn’t exist. But I think the reason that Israel exists is that the Israelis want it to and, similarly, I think the right of self-defense allows them to defend themselves. It doesn’t entitle them to occupy a great swathe of the Middle East and it wouldn’t be in our interest or even the Israelis’ interest for them to do so.

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