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Tony Klug’s Middle East Solution Ignores History
[Fri, 24 Oct 2008 12:33:12 -0600]

Tony Klug’s Middle East Solution Ignores History


By Dr. Richard L. Benkin


I have no doubt that Tony Klug (whose “Two States for Two peoples” was published on this web site) is very knowledgeable about the Middle East.  I have no doubt he is sincere in his analysis.  And I have no doubt that he believes he is respecting the rights of all the peoples in the region.


Unfortunately, what has become the accepted Middle East narrative in Europe and among only certain groups has been singularly unable to “get inside” the Jewish psyche and historical experience in the Middle East.  That is not a moot point, as the same analysts devote a seemingly endless stream of words to Palestinian sentiments.  Yet, about the only concession to Jewish concerns from analysts like Mr. Klug is the belief that their proffered solution is as good as it gets—and is as good as it should get for the Jews.


This disconnect is most glaring in Mr. Klug’s rather glib statement that “Even Hamas has indicated its preparedness to do a deal based on the post-1967 borders.”  The only “deal” that Hamas is prepared to make with Israel is a temporary and strategic one.  It has made that clear time and again, as it continues to state that it never will recognize the legitimacy of the Jewish state of Israel.  Any “deal” is a stop gap until circumstances make Israel’s destruction possible—and it has said so.  For Israel or any other entity to enter into an agreement with any group committed to its destruction is absurd.  As a Jew, I am acutely aware of our history in Europe and the Arab world of being less than legitimate citizens.  For those same national groups to require Israel—the world’s only Jewish state—to accept that position on the world stage, smacks of an attempt to resurrect our pariah status.  When will they learn to take seriously the words of aggressors seriously?


The 1967 War changed the Middle East equation in a critical way.  Prior to that year, the Arab world’s stated and unabashed goal was Israel’s destruction; that is, the “little” Israel of pre-1967, an area that has nothing to do with what people like Mr. Klug today call “the occupation.”  No Arab nation acknowledged the legitimacy of a Jewish state.  Most of them persecuted their own Jewish population terribly, whose only salvation was to leave for the area’s one state where that would not happen:  Israel.  At least two of them—Saudi Arabia and Jordan—still outlaw Jewish settlement or citizenship within their borders.  Could Mr. Klug imagine if Israel outlawed Muslim citizenship within its borders?


Then, in 1967, multiple Arab states went on a war footing and vowed to destroy Israel and “drive the Jews into the sea.”  Most of the world assumed that armed conflict would ensue and Israel would be destroyed.  There had been a UN buffer force in the Sinai since 1956, and Egypt unilaterally expelled it.  Although the demand contravened every international convention and agreement, the UN acquiesced.  Egyptian President Nasser saw that the Arabs would face no international resistance if they moved against Israel.  He massed his troops on the Israeli border and then committed a formal act of war by blockading vital Israeli shipping lanes.  International conventions and every nation on earth recognize a blockade as an act of war.  Israel decided to act before it was overrun by soldiers sworn to its destruction; and it did so even though US President Johnson told its leaders that they would have to do so without US aid.  In the meantime, Israeli diplomats and officials, including General Moshe Dayan who would become the hero of the Six-Day War, begged King Hussein and the Jordanians to stay out of the war.  The Jordanians did not listen; neither did the Syrians, Egyptians, Iraqis, Saudis, Tunisians, Sudanese, Moroccans, or Algerians.  They all sent troops against the tiny Jewish state.


Yet, the BBC link that Mr. Klug provides for us speaks only of an Israeli “pre-emptive attack on Egypt that drew Syria and Jordan into a regional war.”  It does not mention the acts of war Egypt committed, nor the general consensus that Israel has no chance against the Arab invaders.  Again we see the moral disparity.  The world accepted that an Arab victory would mean Israel’s destruction, but no one ever suggested that Israel would destroy these Arab countries if it prevailed.  It is also disingenuous if not outright dishonest for the BBC to allege that the attack “drew” the Syrians and Jordanians into a regional war.  They had been saber-rattling for months and went to war despite Israeli pleas not to do so.  But again, as with Mr. Klug’s piece, the Jewish narrative of this history is ignored.  Who was the victim here?  Who was the oppressed?  Who was looking to destroy a nation associated with a particular religion?  Not Israel!


When the UN partitioned Palestine in 1947, creating an Arab and a Jewish state, the only Middle Eastern group that accepted it was Israel; Arabs would have no part of any Jewish state.  That there could have been a Palestinian Arab state since 1947 is ignored by the standard Euro-centric narrative, as is the fact that its impediment was not Israel but the Arabs (including the Palestinians).  Moreover, to accept the fanciful notion that the Arab world would be content with Mr. Klug’s two-state solution again requires that we ignore ample historical evidence to the contrary. 


The 1967 War changed the narrative.  Unable to exterminate the Jewish state and finding that it did not resonate in European capitals, Arabs now spoke only of “the occupation.”  This shift meant that their stated goal was not to eliminate Israel but instead to “reclaim” lands lost in the war; specifically, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Old City of Jerusalem.  These claims, however, did not signal a change of heart but only a change of tactics.  First of all, the boundaries of the areas themselves were artificial.  They did not represent any meaningful demarcation but only the 1948 armistice lines drawn on the basis of troop placements at the close of Israel’s War of Independence.  That war, by the way, occurred because every Arab nation rejected the fledgling Jewish state and invaded en masse to destroy it.  No one predicted an Israeli victory over several Arab militaries; but that is what happened.  The armistice lines were never recognized by anyone in or outside of the region as an international border.  Additionally, once they were set, the occupying Arabs began expelling the Jews and Jewish institutions in those territories.  They were most active in Jerusalem and its environs where they destroyed ancient synagogues and houses of study, uprooted ancient cemeteries and—as with the revered Mount of Olives cemetery—used the Jewish headstones to pave their latrines.  Just to be clear, Israel did not expel its Muslim or Arab population, but the world remained silent at the Arabs’ new mini-holocaust not many years after the one in Europe.


The disingenuous nature of Arab claims that they would make peace with an Israel behind these old armistice lines was on full display between 1948 and 1967.  From that time forward, the Palestinians could have had their state on the West Bank and Gaza with Jerusalem as its capital were it not under occupation—by Jordan (West Bank and Jerusalem) and Egypt (Gaza).  If indeed that is what the Palestinians wanted for a state, they would have demanded it from those two Arab countries.  Instead, they vowed to destroy Israel, which held not a square foot of what they now call the extent of their territorial demands.  Neither Egypt nor Jordan offered to give up these territories for a Palestinian state because that simply is not what the Arabs want.  Those who insist on it are hoping against hope that some international body will prevail upon all nations and groups to let Israel be.


There are those, however, who would allege that the West Bank et. al. are ancestral Arab lands regardless of how they have been defined more recently.  Let us, then, take a look at Hebron, the West Bank city that is home to the Cave of the Patriarchs, which is holy to both Jews and Muslims.  Judaism’s second holiest site, Hebron had a continuous Jewish presence from Biblical times until 1929.  It was the first parcel of land purchased by the Patriarch Abraham; it was King David’s first capital.  Then in 1929, the Arabs engaged in a massive pogrom and either killed or expelled Hebron’s entire Jewish population.  It was only after 1967 that Jews began to reclaim some of that ancient territory.   Many have told of seeing mezzuzot (a religious marker Jews place on their doorposts) still extant on several buildings.  They report coming a few years later and finding the mezzuzot gone, but they could still see their outline on the doorposts.  When they returned another time, they found that the entire doorpost had been replaced or painted over to hide the Jewish presence.  In Mr. Klug’s two-state solution, Hebron would be out of bounds to Jews; the likely reality is that—as before 1967—Jews would be barred from praying at the holy site.  I wonder.  At what point do they say the statute of limitations ran out for the Jews and the Arabs’ ethnic cleansing of them in Hebron became an accepted and acceptable fact?

Dr. Richard L. Benkin, an American Jew and independent human rights activist, secured the release of Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury from imprisonment and torture and ahs continued to defend him against attacks from both government functionaries and others.  He also is working with others in Bangladesh to stop anti-religious persecution.  Currently, Dr. Benkin is also leading an effort to defend Bangladeshi Hindus both in Bangladesh and India.  He is a correspondent for Weekly Blitz and Amador Shomoy and writes for numerous journals internationally.




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