But What Can I Do About the Crisis Facing Israel and the Jewish People?
By Rachel Neuwirth
More and more people have been saying to me, "I realize that Jews are facing a major crisis in Israel, here in America, in Europe, and everywhere in the world. But what can I do about it? I am just one person. Vast forces are threatening Israel. Can I stop anti-Israelism and anti-Judaism on my own? I feel helpless in the face of the vast forces that are arrayed against us."
These are natural and normal human feelings. I have felt them at times myself. The confluence of international forces that has gathered against the Jewish people and faith, including the spiritual and intellectual fifth column amongst us, is indeed a formidable adversary. Nevertheless, there are things we can do if we are willing to work together to protect our rights and stand up to the massive defamation campaign waged against us.
One very important thing that all of us can do is to counter the endless lies and distortions of Israel's history and character that appear in the press, mass media, on the Internet, and even in scholarly journals. These distortions and outright falsehoods are a major reason why Israel is in such deep trouble, and in danger of "going under." Because the entire world has been led to believe an inaccurate, grossly distorted "narrative" of the conflict, the government of Israel feels it has no choice but to make concessions to the demands of its enemies, in order to appease world opinion. But these concessions imperil Israel's existence.
Each of us can help to correct this appalling situation by acting immediately, whenever we encounter such a distortion in the press or mass media, to correct it with a letter to the editor or news manager. We can also actively monitor the mass media on the Internet in order to locate as many distortions as we can and correct them. Further, we can speak up to counter distortions in public lectures and meetings about the Arab-Israel conflict, and even in private conversations. All of this requires work and time, but it really does help. Each of us should devote as much time and energy to these tasks as we possibly can.
But in order to counter the endless flow of lies and distortions about Israel, we must first learn what the true facts of Israel's history are. Before we can answer the chorus of unfair criticisms leveled against Israel and her supporters in the United States and elsewhere, we must first educate ourselves.
What are the facts about the conflict over "Palestine" that Arab and other anti-Israel propagandists have distorted, misrepresented and covered up? The following are some, although by no means all, of the most important ones:
The Israelis are not colonialists or alien "settlers" in the Land of Israel with no past connection or relationship to the country; on the contrary, we Jews have lived in Israel for at least 3,200 years if not longer. This is far longer than most peoples have lived in their present national homelands. Our two glorious temples, wonders of the ancient world, were there for a thousand years. King David's kingdom endured for more than four hundred years; later, there was the independent Jewish state of the Maccabees. Jews had lived in the Land of Israel in large numbers for at least 1,800 years before the Arabs conquered it in 635 C.E. Moreover, while hundreds of thousands of Jews were expelled from their land or put to death in it by foreign conquerors, there have been at least some Jews living there almost continuously for 3,200 years.
There has never been a distinctive "Palestinian" Arab people or an Arab "Palestine" state or nation; while it is true that some Arabs have lived in the Land of Israel for many centuries, they have never been ethnically or culturally distinct or different from the Arabs who live in other lands, including the original Arab homeland, the Arabian Peninsula. The Jews, however, are a people who originated in the Land of Israel and never had any other national homeland.
During over a thousand years of Muslim rule, "Palestine" was rarely the name even of an administrative district, let alone a nation. Arabs referred to the entire land that now comprises Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel and the "occupied territories" as "al-Shams" (Syria), which they regarded as one country.
While the Land of Israel, also called "Palestine" by Romans and Europeans, was densely populated in ancient times, its population steadily declined during over 1,000 years of Muslim rule. In the nineteenth century, Israel/Palestine was very thinly settled. There was very little agriculture, and extensive abandoned and uninhabited "waste" lands. Most of the population, such as it was, lived in dire poverty. Brigandage was such an established and accepted way of life that it was impossible to travel on the roads without the payment of large bribes to the leading men of each village along the way. The roads themselves were no more than unpaved footpaths. Villages fought wars with each other. Nomadic Bedouin tribes frequently raided villages and even larger towns. The inhabitants of the few larger towns (there were no real cities) had to cower behind thick walls and locked gates every night for security.
The Arab population of Israel/Palestine only began to grow in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, at the same time that Jews began to resettle the land. Jewish immigrants brought with them modernized agriculture, including the growing of oranges, which had been previously unknown; a market for Arab agricultural goods; employment at Jewish farms and factories; modern hospitals and medicine that saved thousands of Arab lives; the draining of swamps that had caused thousands of deaths from malaria and other insect-born diseases; and vastly expanded Arab education funded by Jewish taxes.
The Arab population of Palestine has grown extensively, from under 500,000 in 1891 to over 3,600,000 today, partly because of increased life expectancy brought about by the economic and scientific progress introduced by Jewish immigrants/settlers, but also in part because of extensive immigration to Palestine from many Arab countries.
As a result, many of the Arabs who call themselves, or who are called by other Arabs "Palestinians," have ancestors who originated in Egypt, Syria, what are now Saudi Arabia, the Sudan and other Arab countries. These Arab countries ought rightfully to give these "Palestinians" citizenship, but refuse to do so.
The Arabs, including and especially the Palestinian Arabs, have been the aggressors throughout the nearly 100 years of the Arab-Israel conflict. This "one long war" began with the communal violence that convulsed Palestine between 1920 and 1948, even before Israel was founded.
Palestinian and other Arabs organized and carried out massive pogroms against the Jews of Palestine in 1920, 1921 and 1929, waged a sustained terrorist campaign against them from 1936 through 1939, and a full-scale jihad against them in 1947-48. Thousands of Palestinian terrorist/guerillas, the regular armies of six Arab states, and "volunteers" from throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds all participated in this aggressive war. Before the 1947-48 Arab attack against the Palestinian/Israeli Jews there had been few if any displaced Palestinian Arabs. The Palestinian Arabs were not innocent bystanders in the war that made them refugees. They initiated the war in which some, although not all, of them fled from parts of Israel in 1948. They killed over two thousand Jews in that war. The six invading Arab states killed over 4,300 more Jews.
The Israelis defended themselves as best they could against these unprovoked attacks. But they did not expel the Palestinian Arabs. Many Arab leaders as well as ordinary Palestinian Arabs have admitted that Arab leaders urged the Arabs living in Palestine to flee, promising them that Arab armies would soon defeat the Jews and allow them to return to their homes. Despite this bad advice, many Palestinian Arabs never left Israel, and became Israeli citizens, with full rights of citizenship. Today there are over one million Arab citizens and residents of Israel -- more than there were in 1947, before Israel was established.
Following this first major Arab-Israel war, the Arab states induced the United Nations to keep the Palestinian Arabs refugees and their descendants in "refugee camps" (actually segregated towns) for generations. All of the Arab states except Jordan denied the Palestinian Arabs citizenship and equal rights. Arab governments and the refugee camp administrations taught the Palestinians that it was their Arab duty to wage war against Israel in order to gain back the homes in what is now Israel where (some) of their ancestors had lived before 1948. This segregation and indoctrination of the Palestinian refugees, as well as their descendants to the third, fourth and all later generations, is the true origin of Palestinian terrorism, not Israeli "oppression" or "occupation."
Also following the Arab-Israel war of 1947-49, the Arab nations refused to sign peace treaties with Israel, sponsored Palestinian Arab terrorist raids into Israel in which hundreds of Israelis were killed, and waged war by economic boycott and propaganda as well. Last but not least, Egypt waged war by blockading Israeli shipping in the Suez Canal and in the Gulf of Aqaba (also called the Gulf of Eilat by Israelis). These acts of war severely damaged the Israeli economy in addition to causing widespread loss of life and injury to Israel's citizens.
Palestinian Arab terrorist attacks on, and raids into, Israel have been continuous since 1949. Whatever reprisal raids and counterterrorist operations Israel has conducted over these years against the Palestinian terrorists have been reluctant responses to aggression against Israeli civilians and soldiers--not deliberate attacks on Arab civilians, as Arab spokesman and much of the press in the West have misrepresented them.
Israel only "occupied" the so-called "occupied territories" in 1967 as a necessary act of self-defense, in response to a whole series of acts of aggression by the Arab world: two and a half years of Palestinian Arab terrorist raids sponsored by Syria; decades of Syrian shelling of Israeli border villages from artillery positions on the Golan Heights, the forced removal of United Nations peacekeepers from the Sinai by Egypt's President Nasser: a reinstatement of the Egyptian blockade of Israeli shipping in the Gulf of Eilat/Aqaba: the mobilization of the Egyptian, Syrian and Jordanian armies along Israel's three borders, and public declarations of war on Israel by Egypt's Nasser, the government of Syria and other Arab regimes. Israel "occupied" these territories only as a means of forestalling the publicly proclaimed, imminent Arab invasion, and to stop the Jordanian shelling of Israeli Jerusalem. This Jordanian barrage had killed 17 Israelis and wounded many more before Israel moved to occupy the "West Bank," (more accurately known as Judea and Samaria).
Israel has now withdrawn from 90% of the territories that it occupied in 1967, including all of the Sinai Peninsula and the Gaza region, large parts of Judea and Samaria (the "West Bank"), and part of the Golan Heights. But these very substantial concessions have failed to persuade the Arab world to make peace with Israel.
All of the other Arab-Israeli wars were also initiated or heavily provoked by Arab states, usually working in tandem with the Palestinian Arab terrorist groups whom they sponsored. Egypt forced a war with Israel in 1956 by sponsoring Palestinian terrorist raids deep into Israeli territory for more than two years, and by blockading Israeli shipping in the Suez Canal and Gulf of Aqaba. In 1973, Egypt and Syria launched an unprovoked surprise attack on Israel on the holiest day of the Jewish year, Yom Kippur (the timing was surely no coincidence). Israel invaded Lebanon in 1981 only after years of Palestinian Arab terrorist attacks originating in that country; Israel withdrew completely from Lebanon in 2000, but was forced in 2006 to deal with renewed terrorist attacks into its territory from Lebanon -this time, by a Lebanese, not a Palestinian, terrorist organization, Hezbollah. Israel quickly withdrew from Lebanon again following a ceasefire.
Jewish settlements established since 1967 outside the pre-Six Day War ceasefire lines are not "illegal." The League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, issued in 1922 with the unanimous support of the League member states and with the additional support of the United States (although it was not a member of the League), requires that the administration of Palestine "shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage, in co-operation with the Jewish agency . . . close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes" (article 6). The International Court of Justice has ruled in a similar case (that of Southwest Africa) that the Mandate documents issued by the League of Nations remain international law, even though the League itself was disbanded in 1946, and its responsibilities transferred to the United Nations. The United Nations Charter (Article 80) states that the "rights of peoples" in the League of Nations Mandate documents remain in force, as well as the documents themselves.
The Israel "occupation" of Judea, Samaria, and Gaza is also legal according to international law, for three reasons: 1) Israel only occupied these territories in a defensive war; 2) her enemies continue to wage an aggressive war of terror from these territories, requiring a continued Israel military presence in them for self-defense. 3) Israel has a better title to these territories than any other nation, since the League of Nations Mandate document for Palestine, which has never been rescinded, specifies that the administration of these territories "shall be responsible for placing the country under such political, administrative and economic conditions as will secure the establishment of the Jewish national home," The British Mandatory power ceased when the State of Israel was born but the rights of the Jewish people to the land remain intact, since they are a "sacred trust of civilization," as defined by the Covenant of the League of Nations, Art. 22. These permanent rights are enshrined in the Trusteeship Chapter of the UN Charter [Chapter XII, Art. 80]
There are many, many additional salient facts about the conflict that supporters of Israel should learn in order to combat the campaign of defamation and slander waged against her throughout the world. Here we have had space only to summarize a few of the most important points. But learning even these few important facts makes a useful start for those who wish to be activists in correcting the lies and distortions about Israel's history and character. They make important "talking points" for responding to these lies and distortions, whether in the mass media, on the Internet, at lectures and public meetings, or in private conversations.
We need to remember Benjamin Franklin's observation during the American Revolution: "if we don't hang together, then most assuredly we shall hang separately." We Americans, whether Jewish, Christian and even Muslim, cannot separate our own freedom and security from that of Israel.
John Landau contributed to this article.
Documentation: For the history of the Palestinian refugee problem, as well as good general introductions to the history of the Arab-Israel dispute, see Big Lies: Demolishing The Myths of the Propaganda War Against Israel by David Meir-Levi, Introduction by David Horowitz, and Arab and Jewish Refugees - The Contrast, by Eli E. Hertz For see Carta's Historical Atlas of Israel, the Jewish History Atlas, by Martin Gilbert, present the long and continuous history of the Jewish habitation of Israel/Palestine in clear, easy-to-follow language with visual aids. Also very helpful for this purpose is " Israel 's Story in Maps," produced by www.Israelinsider.com. For the condition of Palestine under Islamic rule before Jewish resettlement, see Joan Peters, From Time Immemorial, also Arnold Blumberg, Zion Before Zionism 1838-1880, and Saul S. Friedman, Land of Dust: Palestine at the Turn of the Century, Ms. Peters' book also contains documentation of the extensive Arab immigration to Palestine that went on at the same time as the Jewish resettlement. For the history of the Arab-Israel wars and Arab terrorism in Palestine, the best source is Neaten Lorch, One Long War: Arab versus Jew Since 1920, also excellent on this subject is Martin Gilbert, The Arab-Israeli Conflict: Its History in Maps. Another book by Netanel Lorch, The Edge of the Sword: Israel's War of Independence 1947-49, gives the best account of the Palestinian and other Arab aggression in which the Palestinian Arab refugee "exodus" occurred. Also useful guides to these events are Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, O Jerusalem; and Jon and David Kimche, Both Sides of the Hill, also published also under the alternative title A Clash of Destinies. For the legality of the Israeli settlements in Judea, Samaria and Gaza and the legality of the Israeli administration of these areas, see Eli E. Hertz, "This land is My Land: Mandate for Palestine; The Legal Aspects of Jewish Rights; and Eugene V. Rostow, "Resolved: are the Settlements Legal?"
Professor Meir-Levi's pamphlet Big Lies can be downloaded from the www.frontpage.com web site, and can also be ordered in "hard copy" from that site. All of Mr. Eli E. Hertz's articles can all be downloaded from his www.mythsandfacts.org web site. Eugene V. Rostow's article can be found on the http://middleeastfacts.org web site and elsewhere on the web; it was originally published in the Oct. 21, 1991 issue of The New Republic. " Israel 's Story in Maps," is available for downloading on the www.Israelinsider.com web site, and can also be ordered on DVD. Carta's Historical Atlas of Israel can be ordered from eisenbrauns.com, TomFolio.com, Biblio-com, and Israel-catalog.com. Martin Gilbert's Jewish History Atlas and The Arab-Israeli Conflict: Its History in Maps can be ordered from Amazon.com. Joan Peters' From Time Immemorial can be ordered from http://shop.wnd.com/store, www.eretzyisroel.org, amazon.com, and other sites on the web. Professor Blumberg's Zion Before Zionism 1838-1880 can be ordered from amazon.com and antiqbook.com. Professor Friedman's Land of Dust can be obtained from www.Nowandtherebooks.com. Netanel Lorch's books One Long War and The Edge of the Sword can be ordered from Amazon.com and antiqbook.com. Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre's O Jerusalem are available through amazon.com and centuryone.com. Jon and David Kimche's Both Sides of the Hill can be ordered through amazon.com, AmericanaExchange.com, BookNet.com, and alibris.com.
Pro-Israel activists wishing to counter the constant misrepresentations of Israel's history and actions should obtain, and read, as many of these or similar books and articles as possible.