Sat, Nov 20, 2010 | shmuelkatz.com | By Shmuel Katz
Battleground: Fact and Fantasy in Palestine
Guarantees Of Peace
This article is the tenth (and last) chapter from the book “Battleground: Fact and Fantasy in Palestine” written by Shmuel Katz. Yesterday, we published the ninth chapter: After The Yom Kippur War. These articles are part of a series of facts, fantasy and myths concerning Israel, Palestinians and the Middle East. For all the chapters of the book, click Here.
About the book: “A fully documented, dramatic history of the events which shaped the Middle East. Every key problem in the Arab-Israel conflict, every decision is carefully analyzed, from the questionable policies of Britain in 1948 to how the Palestinian refugee problem began. The territory won in the war of 1967, and the terrorist war of attrition is discussed.” (From the intro at ShmuelKatz website). To view the entire book online, go to Shmuelkatz.com. To buy the book, go to Afsi.org.
Peace will not come as long as the powers abet Arab visions of a paradise on earth, encourage them in their hopes of destroying and inheriting Israel, and equip them with the instruments for the undertaking. The prospect of peace will appear on the horizon when the Arab leaders realize that they cannot change the present geopolitical reality by force and that no one else will change it for them.
Then the Arabs will begin to look inward. They will discover that what they lack is not more territory – certainly not the territory of the single Jewish homeland, set geographically in the vast mosaic of their eighteen states. They will discover that their urgent need is to break with the backwardness and the stagnation of their society, to free themselves from the deadening hold of their military rulers, to launch a great reform for the education of their peoples so that they may master the scientific and technological realities of the twentieth century, and to exploit those realities for their social and economic betterment. This road to peace between Israel and the Arabs seems to be long and difficult. It is the only road.
Every student of Arab society, every honest Arabist, knows that this is the truth. All who are not merely looking selfishly to exploit the Arab’s weakness for their own ends, or to use them as a whip with which to beat the Jews, should not be afraid to publish the truth abroad and sow its seed among the Arab peoples themselves.
Israel will thus be able for the first time face freely and directly the question of the relations between the Jewish majority and the Arab minority only when her borders are established in rational security – on the Golan Heights, on the Jordan River, and in Sinai.
Coexistence between ethnic groups in one political unit is not the happiest state in creation. Mankind has not, however, yet discovered the formula that will make selfgovernment possible for every group of people. Destiny has so far seen to it that 10 percent of the world’s people live as minorities. For a group to live as a minority does not in itself involve special hardship. Life for a minority becomes hard, and even tragic, only when it is discriminated against, when it is ill-treated, and when it lives only as a minority, with nowhere a national territory of its own. Such an example, in varying degrees of severity, is the state of the Basques in Spain, of the Kurds in Iraq and Syria, of the Ibo in Nigeria. such was the case, before 1948, of the Jews throughout the world.
On the other hand, there is hardly a large people of which a part does not live in some other people’s state. Even for a minority concentrated just across a border, the joy of life may be only comparative. Its members, however, have the alternative of leaving, of going to their own state.
The Arabs are in this respect an extraordinarily favored people. No other people in the world harbor so many clear-cut ethnic and religious minorities, making up probably more than one quarter of the population of all the Arab states together. Among them are the Kurds, the Nilotic Negroes, the Berbers of the Maghreb, (Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia) each speaking a non-Arabic language; the non-Moslem Arabic-speaking Druze in Syria, the Christian Copts in Egypt, and the Maronites in Lebanon, who claim descent from the ancient Phoenicians. Indeed, nearly all these populations – just like the Jews of Iraq, North Africa, and Yemen – lived in their countries before the Arabs came.
The Arabs in their states have accommodated themselves enthusiastically to this universally sanctified phenomenon. Some seventy million Arabs live as majorities and rule over their minorities, sometimes discriminating against them moderately, sometimes exercising brutal repression, everywhere without embarrassment. It would be absurd, even grotesque, to suggest that there is something wrong, unjust, or immoral in the remaining million living as a minority.
The inevitability of this ultimate and normal relationship was clear from the outset of the modem Zionist enterprise. It was given noteworthy formulation in measured terms by Herbert (later Lord) Samuel in a speech in the London Opera House on November 2, 1919:
No responsible Zionist leader has suggested the immediate establishment of a complete and purely Jewish state in Palestine….The policy propounded before the Peace Conference, to which the Zionist leaders unshakably adhere is the promotion of Jewish immigration and of Jewish land settlement….in order that the country might become in time a fully self-governing Commonwealth under the auspices of an established Jewish majority.
Nevertheless the Arab leaders’ antagonism inspired, organized, and financed by the British authority, drove, the harassed Zionist leaders (though they knew how contrived was the character and how unrealistic the pretensions of the Arab national movement) to make concessions in the hope of appeasing them. This Policy caused the great dispute between the Zionist schools of, Weizmann and Jabotinsky. Weizmann’s ideas prevailed.
One concession after another was proposed to the Arabs. In the early 1930s the Zionists finally offered them a measure of political recognition which, had it been accepted, would have jeopardized the very foundations of Jewish independence. The offer consisted of parity – constitutional equality regardless of majority and minority. In case of disagreement, the decisive vote was to be cast by the British government, which the Zionist leaders continued to trust. No reasoned reply was ever made to this offer; it died in the flames of the pan-Arab attack of 1936.
Later, in 1937, the Zionst leaders agreed, again for the sake of peace, to share out the country, dividing what remained of the original Mandated territory of Palestine after Eastern Palestine had been given to the Arabs by the British. They accepted as a basis the partition scheme proposed by the British Royal Commission. The proposed Jewish miniature state would have been highly indefensible. The Arab leaders rejected the plan out of hand, and the British government buried it.
A third major effort at accommodation was made in 1947. The Jewish underground having compelled the British to relinquish their hold on Palestine, the Zionist leaders once again announced their willingness to accept a scheme of partition as a means of putting an end to the conflict. The Zionist leaders accepted the United Nations’ partition proposal, which included a ludicrously vulnerable Jewish state. They persuaded themselves once more that a heavy sacrifice would win the heart of the Arabs.
That continuing illusion was drowned, and Jewish acceptance of the Compromise was nullified, in the bloodshed and destruction let loose in reply by the Arabs of Palestine and then by the Arab League invaders. The Zionist leaders now governing the infant state, still refrained from driving home the, military advantage gained during the latter phase of the fighting. Though they might have restored the whole of western Palestine, they again accepted a compromise that left Palestine partitioned and Israel with improved but still strategically weak frontiers. Israel signed the Armistice Agreements with the Arab governments, who over the years breached their clauses one by one.
Never throughout those years did any movement arise among the Arabs of Judea and Samaria for making peace with Israel in the cramped lines of the 1949 Armistice. They identified themselves with the idea of eliminating Israel; and in May 1967, there were among them outbursts of joyful participation in the general pan-Arab festival of belligerent exhilaration.
At that time, too, as throughout their short modern history, the Arabs of western Palestine were following a lead given them by others. The concept of these Arabs as a national entity capable of independence, of independent thought and action, has remained baseless. It is no accident nor the result of any overwhelming pressure, that they did not establish a state of their own even when it was offered them on a platter by the United Nations. They passed over the opportunity a second time in 1949, when the war against Israel was over, the Armistice was signed, and the Arab army of Transjordan was occupying Judea and Samaria.
Nor did they express any desire for independence or take any action to achieve it in the nineteen years that followed, They made no move when Abdallah formally announced the annexation of Judea and Samaria to his kingdom, which he now renamed Jordan. They became “Jordanians” or even “West Bankers” without a murmur, even when they learned that the annexation had angered the other Arab states and that it had been given recognition, in the whole world, only by Great Britain and, Pakistan. The same spirit, or absence of spirit, moved them in refusing to serve as a base and to provide aid and comfort for what was proclaimed as “their” movement of “liberation from the Israeli occupation.” The swift success of the Israeli authorities in thwarting the Fatah’s attempt in 1967′to establish a base in Samaria and then in Judea was not due only to Israeli brainwork and efficiency. Indeed, if relations between the Jews and the “conquered” Arab population were reasonably relaxed for nine years, this was due in no small measure to the absence of any militant or indeed any warm local “Palestine” nationalist fervor. They do not love Israel. But it was only when Yasser Arafat was lifted to the crest of the international wave and Israel was assigned the image of a defeated people that a section, even then a small minority, of the Arab population noisily and violently proclaimed its adherence to the cause of the PLO.
But that cause is still nothing but pan-Arabism, of the Arab nations fighting to annex Israel to the Arab world (just as the PLO was equipped and directed to assist in the Islamization of Lebanon). The Arabs of Palestine did not and do not thereby become a nation. They were and have remained a fragment of the large Arab people. They lack the inner desire, the spiritual cement, and the concentrated passion of a nation. Though their number has grown in the past half-century, they have not developed a specific national character. Their personal attachment moreover, is still not to the country, but rather to a family, to a clan, to a village, or a city. In this they do not differ from 1918, when T. E. Lawrence, discovered the situation for himself.
There is truth in the repeated observation that the modern history of the Arabs of Palestine is a tragedy. They have consistently been used as pawns in the power game. Originally the British sponsored and created the pan-Arab movement, which battened on the Palestine question as its only source of life. Latterly pan-Arabs, Russians, French, British, all have incited the Palestine Arabs to reach out for the unreasonable and unattainable. If, by some mischance, the objective of the Arab states and the Soviet Union were achieved and Israel were forced back to the Armistice lines of 1949, the tragedy of the Arabs in Judea and Samaria would be perpetuated and, under the new circumstances, multiplied.
The one certain outcome of an Israeli withdrawal and surrender of territory is that the Arabs of Judea and Samaria would not become an independent political unit. Judea and Samaria would become the main base and the central battlefield for the final attack on Israel – an Israel forced to fight for her very life against the massed forces of the Arab states (though now no doubt all dressed in a uniform marked “Palestinian”. For the inhabitants of Judea and Samaria, there would then be no escape from death and destruction – what ever the military outcome.
Should the ‘final’ blow at Israel be postponed, the Palestinian Arabs would be subjected at once to a power struggle just as in Lebanon, only more complex and more violent. Not only the various groups now collectively called PLO – Fatah, Es Saiqa, and the others – but their hitherto sponsoring governments of the states bordering on Palestine–Egypt and Syria and Saudi Arabia, not to mention Jordan – would now bring on a bloodbath more gruesome than in Lebanon.
On the other hand, even those Israelis who, pliant to international pressures or chary of a large Arab minority, speak of a physical Israeli withdrawal will not agree to an Arab military presence on the west side of Jordan. Even the most forgiving, the most forgetful, and the most short-sighted among them, insist that the security of Israel can be ensured only by an Israeli military presence on the Jordan.
Only when they grasp these realities will the Arabs of Palestine be able to see an end to their anomalous condition. They will then realize that the restoration of the unity of Palestine under Israeli auspices, at once a development of historic justice and a vital necessity for Israel’s security – indeed, for her existence – holds out for them also the only hope of achieving political as well as cultural self-expression. Their political status will be that of a national minority, but they will be able to live in civic equality and in free communication with the major centers of Arabic life and culture. And in peace.
That this is a sober assessment will be evident from the history and character of Zionism. It is, after all, the values of Zionism that have been poured into the bloodstream of Israel. Three quarters of a century after its foundation, it is possible to see in perspective the weight and depth of purpose of the modem Zionist Movement for the Jewish people and its effect on the Arabs now living in Palestine.
The twentieth century has seen no movement more revolutionary than Zionism, none more progressive or more humane. Its mistakes in performance have often been grave, and the Jewish people has itself paid the fall price. The success of Zionism has been partial and late. The six million Jews of Europe whom Zionism did not save from annihilation are the everlasting witnesses to failure. Yet the tragedy of the Holocaust itself emphasizes the magnitude of the upheaval that Zionism has wrought in the Jewish people and of its impact on the world.
Zionism was one of the impossible movements. At every stage of its progress, struggling for Jewish independence, it faced what seemed impossible odds, and it was regularly written off by a chorus of respectable realists and established intellectuals. After he published A Jewish State in 1895, Theodor Herzl is said to have called on Dr. Max Nordau to determine whether in fact, as Herzl’s whole personal milieu insisted, he was clinically insane. Twenty years earlier, at the height of the tension over the Eastern Question, when political thinkers in Britain and in Europe were receptive to the idea of Jewish restoration in Palestine and all were sharply conscious of the desolation and the emptiness of the country, neither Disraeli nor Bismarck would have thought Herzl insane. Indeed, an energetic Zionist political initiative at that time might have brought the idea to germination in the deliberations of the Congress of Berlin.
No Herzl materialized in 1878, however. When he did, the international political circumstances as well as the cultural climate were radically different. In the
circumstances of the tail end of the century, Herzl’s idea was rationally and fashionably disposed of as utopia.
With the means at its disposal and in the settled order of the world, the revolution the Zionist Organization sought to achieve must indeed have seemed incredible. It aimed, after all, at more than a change in the status of an almost derelict piece of territory in the Ottoman Empire. It even envisaged the solution of a problem that had plagued and become embedded in world society for many hundreds of years – the transformation of a people dispersed throughout the nations, everywhere treated with contempt, everywhere subjected to a hatred which, imbibed by children with their very mothers milk, could not be eradicated The vast majority of Jews lived in poverty and in a misery lightened only by their own spiritual resources, their intense belief in God, and in the ultimate return to Zion. The victims of sharp economic discrimination,, they were at best protected like serfs by their overlords. Driven off the land by the ban of centuries, barred from particular professions in various countries, some of them at best found a place in the nebulous middle-world between producer and consumer.
Generation after generation in Europe had its own experience of violence against Jews, of organized sudden slaughter and rape and destruction. The Jews in many countries became history’s most famous scapegoat for the failings of governments, an outlet and a target for the anger and frustrations of their peoples. “Beat the Jews and save Russia!” was a wondrously effective formula for relieving public grievance, and it was paraphrased and adapted in many other countries. One Russian two-syllabled word-pogrom illustrated the status and the condition of the Jews in exile. Pogrom means a mass attack on Jews sponsored or permitted by the authorities. Throughout the nations, Jewish life became a cheap commodity – not only for those who killed, but also in the eyes of those who merely watched; even, sometimes, in twisted reflex, in the souls of the victims themselves.
From pity as the highest emotion through bare tolerance through unadorned intolerance and discrimination to pogrom – that was the natural range of the climate in which most of our grandfathers lived, as did many of our parents and some of our own generation. From that almost universal order, there was neither relief nor appeal. Herzl was a Western Jew. It was not in barbaric feudalistic Russia, with its Pale of Settlement which determined where a Jew might live and where he might not, that he became sharply conscious of the Jewish plight. It was in democratic, revolutionary France, when Jews could reside wherever they pleased, yet where each of them, because he was a Jew, could be treated like Dreyfus.
The Zionist Organization thus set out to reverse what had been for centuries a fixed feature of the human scene – the existence of a helpless, vulnerable minority – and to restore the human right of the Jews, not only to live, but even to live as equal citizens of the world. The only way this rescue could, be achieved was by restoring the Jews’ national independence.
That was only Zionism’s first task. It set out to revive the mutual flow of vitality between the people and its native soil, to restructure completely its abnormal, lopsided social pyramid; and it envisaged the Jew achieving self-expression as himself, not as an emaciated, or exaggerated imitation of the people among whom he lived, and not merely in twisted reaction to their contempt.
The Zionist solution would in the result free the peoples of the world of a source, of the degeneration and self-abasement – which discrimination brings about in those that discriminate and which persecution breeds in those that persecute. Anti-Semitism. could be and was often lethal for its intended victim; it was certainly dangerous to the peoples that practiced it.
The world did not rush to help the Zionist reformers. Most anti-Semites were not exhilarated by the prospect of their own unemployment. The Zionist revolution was achieved by the Jewish people alone. With minor exceptions, it was not until after the “utopia” had become a fact, and the Jews had a state, that the Zionist undertaking, as a “developing” country, qualified for material aid from other than Jewish sources.
By the time the Jewish state was established, and when the political revolution signaled fifty-three years earlier by Herzl had been thus consummated, the Zionist Movement had essentially effected its social revolution as well. In spite of a variety of social and political backgrounds (and were internal political differences), and in spite of foreign rule, the Jews of Palestine lived a full national life, as ordered, comprehensive, and effervescent as any democratic people in the world. Its economic structure, built up on a progressive agriculture and a developing industry, belonged entirely to the twentieth century, even to its difficulties, its anomalies, and its imperfections.
Now Zionism took on a new social dimension. In the circumstances of the birth of the Jewish state, its immediate function was that of a refuge. Into it flowed primarily the remnant of the Jews of Europe – the survivors of the Nazi extermination camps–and the majority of the Jews fleeing from the Arab states.
The country of Palestine is very poor in natural resources. By the end of 1951, the 650,000 Jews who had made up the population of Israel at its birth in 1948 had absorbed 690,000 Jewish immigrants. Little housing was available; there was not enough food or clothing; the existing services, for years retarded by a hostile British administration, were inadequate even to the earlier population. The overwhelming majority of the newcomers, whether from the Nazi camps or the Arab countries, were penniless; many of them were ill. Most of them were unskilled, large numbers were untaught in any modem sense and therefore for years could add very little to the productive capacity of the economy. The Jews of the world provided generous financial help and lightened the burden. Yet given the gigantic pressure of numbers in so short a time, every two Jews in Israel certainly had to carry one newcomer. These statistics have come to be mentioned as a commonplace, or drowned in the noise of Arab fantasies of the Arab “refugee problem.” Their significance may be made clear by imagining that the United States, wealthy and abundant, with its population of over 200 million, were to absorb seventy million penniless newcomers a year for three or four years.
That was only the beginning. For hundreds of thousands of newcomers from the Arab states – some medieval, an backward – the State of Israel has been a school, very often the first school. It provided these newcomers with the rudiments of a formal education which the country of their birth denied them. It. provided many of them with their first awareness of public hygiene, of sanitation, of civic pride and responsibility, of democracy. A vast investment of money and energy and love has been and continues to be made in a backbreaking effort to overcome the yawning cultural gap between them and their fellow citizens, average products of Western education.
The undertaking is far from consummated. The ills of centuries will be eradicated only slowly. The final closing of the gap may not come about for a whole generation or even two. Errors in judgment and planning, blunders in execution, are not lacking. The unsolved areas of social inequality and sheer economic deprivation are painfully visible. The human stresses and strains and frictions, are in connstant evidence in Israel. Yet even today, in its state of becoming, Israel compares reasonably well in the world’s social and economic scale, with the most progressive of the nations.
Some revolutions of our time have achieved political status for peoples, others have improved the economic lot of the individual. Which of them can compare with the profound and varied achievements of Zionism? It brought independence to a uniquely dispersed, downtrodden, decimated people; it rebuilt its social structure from the foundations; it changed the life and the lot of the individual, freeing him from discrimination and contempt, often from hunger and the threat of death, endemic or immediate. In the process of building its society, and in spite of a constant state of either war or siege, it has protected the democratic freedoms. A lively parliamentary democracy (with an abundance of political parties) and a free and critical press preside over the process.
What revolution of our time can compare with Zionism? The Soviet revolt, whose price of revolution was the murder of millions and the exile of millions more to suffer neardeath in “correctional” labor camps in the freezing Arctic north? Russia, where after fifty years and more of the revolution to establish egalitarianism – material inequalities, especially between rulers and ruled, between professionals and workers, between preachers and the preached-at, are accepted as facts of life? Where favorites of the regime may buy even imported luxuries in declared exclusive shops, while the mass of, the people spend hours every day in long queues for the bare necessities of food? Where totalitarian regimentation, protected by a ubiquitous secret police, has remained the self understood and unchanging character of society? Where every newspaper is a government product and every line in it, like every radio or television broadcast, tells the people only what the government has decided is good for them to know? Where dissenters are jailed as felons or locked up as lunatics?
Where then? In the countries of Eastern Europe, which were forced to follow willy-nilly in the footsteps of the Soviet Union, chaining their economies and their social order to Moscow’s chariot? Or perhaps the Arab states, where every bloody military putsch is labeled “revolution” to justify the unchanging totalitarianism of the “revolutionaries” and to obscure the unalleviated poverty and the political powerlessness of the mass of their people?
Zionism, existing to solve the uniquely complex problem of one people, could not by definition, and did not, aim at a universal revolution. Yet its ultimate success can bring many benefits to the whole vast area and the many peoples surrounding the Jewish homeland. It has been a truly humanist revolution, unequaled in our time. Though its humanist principle may sometimes be too sentimental, it has been a large factor in the Zionist attitude and in the policies it has tried to pursue toward the non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine.
The physical reacquisition of land from the handful, of existing inhabitants presented no moral problem of choice for the Zionists. It was one of the great myths of Arab propaganda elements in the period of the Mandate, that the Arab farmers of Palestine had been dispossessed or rendered landless. In fact, every square inch of land acquired from the Arabs was paid for. The British government, largely ignoring its obligation under the Mandate to place state lands at the disposal of the Zionists, enabled the Arabs to establish a virtual sales monopoly. Britain actually gave away large tracts of land to the Arabs, including absentee landlords in Egypt and Syria. These Arabs then sold to the Zionists. Of all the lands acquired by the Zionists, only 9 percent were by concession from the government. The sellers exploited to the full the heaven-sent conjunction of an eager buyer and a closed market. The prices rose consistently and finally reached exorbitant dimensions. In 1944, Jews were paying Arab sellers $1,100 an acre for arid or semiarid land that had lain fallow for centuries. At the same time, rich black soil in the State of Iowa in the United States was selling for one-tenth that price.
Altogether, 27 percent of the land purchased by the Jews came from fellahin owners themselves. The remainder, usually unworked land, was bought, from absentee landlords in Syria or Lebanon or in Palestine itself, whose families had bought it from the Turkish Sultan for a song. When, in response to Arab propaganda – disseminated or financed in most cases by the very landlords who had made fortunes selling the land – the British called for individual claims of dispossession, they discovered that even the handful whose claims they validated (as having been “sold” by the Arab landlord) were given and accepted other land or, at their own preference, financial compensation. When the State of Israel was established, 70 percent of all her land was not in private ownership but was a part of precisely the land which the British were to have made available to the Zionists. The Mandate government had, of course, inherited it from the Ottoman regime.
Jewish immigration and development brought no harm to the individual Arab resident. Further, the new settlers rapidly became famous for their tremendous beneficial impact on the social and economic life of the Arab community. Moreover, they reversed the trend of Arab migration. Instead of the traditional exodus of Arabs, Zionism brought about a large Arab immigration. Arabs within the country also moved in to the areas which, previously swamp or desert, the Zionists had transformed into blooming farms, or which, out of nondescript villages, the Zionists had made into the flourishing cities. As a result of modern health and sanitation methods introduced by the Jews, the Arab death rate dropped steeply; Jewish methods in agriculture adopted by the Arabs increased their yield out of all recognition. The standard of living of the Arabs soared beyond anything known in the Middle East.
The Zionist revolution thus had the effect of improving considerably the lot also of the non-Jewish population of Palestine as well as large numbers of incoming Arabs who had no connection with Palestine at all.
With Israel’s victory in the Six Day War, the Arab population of Judea and Samaria came under her control. The Arabs’ notions about the Zionist had been fed for nearly twenty years by their own educational system and propaganda, embellished by a famously vivid imagination. Their views on the natural behavior of a conqueror were shaped by their knowledge of Arab practice in such cases – even against fellow Arabs –and by the fate they themselves had had in mind for the Jews of a defeated Israel.
There were some with a particularly guilty conscience. The Arabs of Hebron had in 1929 carried out a house-to-house slaughter of the Jewish community of completely defenseless and unsuspecting Talmud students and their families. Altogether, they knew perfectly well the reckoning of blood and tears that had accumulated from their repeated aggressions before and since 1948. Moreover, half of Israel’s population, half her armed forces, originated in the Arab countries – in families, therefore, who had been persecuted, hounded, and finally robbed of their possessions before being driven out to find refuge in Israel. They had a special reckoning of their own, which they might be expected to settle.
Viewed thus, the Arabs of Judea and Samaria, by their own standards, had reason to fear the arrival of the Israeli Army in their towns and villages. This was no doubt the reason for the apparently inexplicable flight, of some 200,000 Arabs in the first days and weeks, after the end of the Six Day War.
These notions also explain and provide the raw material for the fantastic tales of oppression, murder, rape, and destruction which Arab propaganda has disseminated lavishly and indiscriminately against Israel since the Six Day War. They represent a reasonable picture of what the Arabs would have done had they won. In fact, nothing happened. The Israeli soldiers, when they arrived, apart from insuring security arrangements, left the population alone.
There has probably been no more benevolent occupation than the Israeli government of the Arab population of Judea and Samaria and Gaza. There have inevitably been punitive measures to put a stop to disturbances of the peace and to acts of violence.
In May 1976, in the wake of the Arab states’ triumphant induction of the ‘Palestine Liberation Organization’ into the halls of international intercourse, and with Israel visibly hard-pressed, from without by a United States seeking Arab favor and from within by economic and social problems, young Arabs, long subject to persistent and exhilarant incitement did indeed riot in the towns of Judea and Samaria. Stone throwing crowds threatened heavily outnumbered Israeli security forces. In these clashes, one Arab was killed on each of a number of successive days. The event of an Arab being killed by Israeli security forces was so unusual that each single death evoked headlines, for example, in The New York Times. Thus, on a day when that newspaper buried the killing in one day alone in Lebanon, of 150 people and the wounding of 600 in two casual lines in the depths of a story from Beirut, it published a headline on its front page, and repeated it over four columns on an inside page, announcing: “Israeli Soldiers Kill Arab Youth on West Bank.”
But in the nine years of Israeli rule, there has not been one execution. A handful of Arabs have been kept in administrative detention. In some cases, where an Arab has preached violence against Israel, he has been banished across the Jordan, where he is of course free to continue to preach and even to practice violence. The most serious punishment meted out to those who have given shelter to terrorists has been the destruction of their houses after due warning.
That sums up the measures taken by the Israeli government to preserve law and order in the areas she governs. Where in the history of our times has there been such another occupation over a frankly hostile conquered population?
That is not all. The Israeli government has also gone to great lengths, probably unprecedented in the history of military occupations, both to create an easy and relaxed relationship with the people and to improve their lot. From the beginning, it established the principle of not interfering with the tenor and manner of fife of the Arab population, with only two exceptions. First it insisted on the correction or replacement of school texts containing political propaganda–that is, the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic demonology and crude justifications of genocide with which the textbooks abounded. The second exception consisted in a considerable expenditure of money and effort and expertise to improve the economic condition of the population. Special teams were sent to instruct Arabic farmers in modem methods and the use of modem equipment in agriculture. Loans were granted for the erection of new industrial plants and the extension and improvement of existing plants.
Israel has opened vocational training centers to raise as many young Arabs as possible out of the rut of unskilled work. Moreover, she opened the gates to Arab workers from Judea, Samaria, and Gaza. By 1972, forty thousand workers from their towns and villages traveled to work every morning to Israeli building sites and factories. In addition to buying a part of their agricultural crop herself, Israel, in spite of the hostile activities against her beyond the Jordan, allows the Arabs in western Palestine to send their products for sale across the river.
The result has been the elimination of unemployment, both among the “regular” population and among the refugees still living in camps – most of the latter in the Gaza area, where they had been kept deliberately in squalor and idleness by the Egyptians. A sharp in the standard of living has followed and a widening of the economic horizons of the whole Arabic community in western Palestine.
The Israeli government has been at special pains to ensure the maintenance of the cultural and even the social links of the Arabs of Palestine with other parts of the Arab nation. In spite of the Arabs’ failure to honor the cease fire of terrorist infiltration and attempts at infiltration, of the campaign of incitement, Israel kept open the bridges across the Jordan. She permits Arabs to cross those bridges and visit their relatives and friends across the Jordan. She allows Arabic students to go abroad to study at Cairo and other Arab universities. Every year, at the summer holiday season, thousands of people from the Arab states cross the Jordan to visit relatives in Judea and Samaria.
Gradually, too, the Israeli government extended the travel facilities of these visitors. In the summers of 1971 and 1972, large numbers of Arabs from various Arab states at war with Israel, as well as from Samaria and Judea, could be found enjoying themselves on the holiday beaches of Israel. An Arab writer, Atallah Mansour, has drily described this summer influx as “taking a vacation in the Zionist hell.”
The Arabs of Judea and Samaria and the Gaza district have been able, in the years since the Six Day War, to discover also how life has been for the Arabs who were citizens of Israel in the years between 1949 and the Six Day War.
The people of Israel in 1949 owed the Arab community nothing. Except for a minority, they had identified themselves with the forces aiming at Israel’s destruction. They had withdrawn from Israel in order to clear the field for the convenience of the invaders from the Arab states. Nevertheless, a comparatively large number were allowed to return in the years after 1949, to reunite families or for other compassionate reasons. They were, of course, treated with some suspicion. The dangers of a fifth column were ever present groups or nuclei of groups of active enemies of Israel were indeed uncovered from time to time. The areas with concentrated Arab populations in the northern part of the Country continued to be governed by a military administration, and Arab citizens had to obtain permits to travel out of those areas.
Though the Arab states continued to prepare for Israel’s destruction and her Arab citizens were subjected to the daily incitement of a dozen radio stations, these security restrictions were gradually relaxed. It was discovered that the dangers had become minimal. An increasingly alert Jewish public opinion persuaded the government in 1964 to abolish the military regime.
The relations between the Jewish state and its minority of Arabs reached a turning point in May and June 1967. One of the most striking phenomena of the days before and during the Six Day War was the behavior of those. Arabs. Exposed to the confident exhilaration of leaders in Cairo, in Baghdad, in Amman, in Beirut, and in Damascus, conveyed to them day, after day for three weeks on radio and on television, promising early and swift fulfillment of the dream of the destruction of Israel, they did not lift a finger to help in its consummation. There was not one subversive move, not one act of sabotage. Some undoubtedly hoped that Nasser’s bellicosity would be vindicated. The majority was clearly not at all sure it wanted to see Israel defeated. Certainly hostility to Israel was not strong enough to move any Arab to bold action.
For the truth is, that though slow, their integration into Israel’s society was and is proceeding. Problems remain that cannot be solved in the span of half a generation and while the Arab states as such persist in their war against Israel. Absolute equality is still ruled out. The young Arab of seventeen, unlike his Jewish and Druze fellow citizens, is not called upon to serve in the Israeli Army – though in this, too, there have been some exceptions. The Arabs’ share in the public services is growing. As the beneficent effects of Israel’s education system spread, the Arab share in higher education grows. They enjoy, moreover, an unexampled economic prosperity. Their birthrate, aided by the state’s health and welfare services, is among the highest in the world, 50 percent higher than that in Judea and Samaria (in 1970, 4.6 per 1000, as compared to 3.1).
There is, however, a much more significant truth that the Arabs in Israel have been able to learn from close contact with the Jews. Notwithstanding bitter, or sour, Jewish memories going back to 1948 and 1936 and 1929 and 1920, in spite even of Jewish attitudes of present caution toward them, as part of the Arab people still at war with Israel, there is no semblance of a climate of hatred toward them. There never has been. Zionism, with its intense fervor and programmatic intent, has preached a positive Jewish patriotism; it has fostered love of the Jewish people, love of the country – it has never preached hatred. The student of the vast Zionist literature of the past fifty years will be hard put to find any such teaching, even In the days of greatest crisis. Zionism has consistently inculcated a striving for relaxed relations with the Arabs.
How to achieve such relations has indeed been the subject of historic disagreement and continuing debate. Conflicting political attitudes toward the Arabs ever since 1920 have not affected an almost universal liberalism, on the proper status of the individual Arab citizen. Zeev Jabotinsky, who opposed the efforts of the official Zionist leaders to appease the Arabs by making far-reaching concessions of rights or territory, and who insisted that the first essential step to understanding with the Arabs was to make absolutely clear the Zionist purpose of full independence in the whole of the homeland, urged at every opportunity the fullness of civic rights for the Arab citizens. He foretold a happy and prosperous coexistence of Jews and Christians and Moslems in the Jewish state he dreamed of. It was he who proposed that in the future Jewish state the Deputy Prime Minister should be an Arab.
He saw this outcome as feasible in a Jewish state living in peace. In the Jewish state as it emerged, plagued by war or by the threat of war throughout its existence, the Arab minority has yet from the outset easily exercised its full civic rights, there have been Arab members in every Knesset, and now, since 1971, an Arab Deputy Minister sits in the government.
All this the Arab of Judea and Samaria, even of Gaza, has by now been able to hear and see. His own briefer experience of the application of Zionist values does not contradict the experience of his fellow Arabs in Israel. While the air of the world resounded with the uncontrolled fabrications of Arab, Soviet, and other simply anti-Semitic propagandists, describing in detail the alleged ills of the Arabs of Judea and Samaria, those Arabs themselves have been shedding many of the prejudices induced by their anti-Israel education.
As each of them goes to his familiar work in the morning – now often to a Jewish place of employment across the old Armistice lines – and as he goes back to his home in the evening, and ponders the changes actually wrought in his life since rule from Amman was replaced with rule from Jerusalem (or more directly by the local military governor), he can find only tangible material improvement and a broadening of horizons for himself and for his children. At first, no doubt unbelieving, he has gradually began to grasp that such improvement and broadening, and indeed his welfare, have in fact become a function of the Zionist state.
Zionism was not born to further the welfare of anybody but the Jewish people, still largely dispersed. It carries a burden unequaled in this troubled world from absorbing, year after year, large numbers of penniless newcomers from the various comers of the exile, to completing the social and economic transformation within the homeland. It cannot, and will not, give up its historic heritage, nor can it surrender the territorial conditions of its security. But, whatever the Arab sins and ills of the past, the existence of a large Arab community in the country is a reality, no less than the right and reality of the Jewish peoples control of its only homeland. The innate humanism of Zionism, and its still powerful revolutionary drive, can take this reality in its stride.
We would like to thank ShmuelKatz.com for providing us with the material for this article. This article is republished with the permission of David Isaac, e-Editor of ShmuelKatz.com. For republishing rights please contact David Isaac directly at David_Isaac@ShmuelKatz.com.
About the author,
Shmuel “Mooki” Katz, born Samuel Katz (9 December 1914 – 9 May 2008) was an Israeli writer, member of the first Knesset, publisher, historian and journalist. He is also known for his research on Jewish leader Ze’ev Jabotinsky.
Katz was born in 1914 in South Africa, and in 1930 he joined the Betar movement. In 1936 he immigrated to Mandate Palestine and joined the Irgun. In 1939 he was sent to London by Ze’ev Jabotinsky to speak on issues concerning Palestine. While there he founded the revisionist publication “The Jewish Standard” and was its editor, 1939–1941, and in 1945. In 1946 Katz returned to Mandate Palestine and joined the HQ of the Irgun where he was active in the aspect of foreign relations. He was one of the seven members of the high command of the Irgun, as well as a spokesman of the organization.
In 1948 Katz assisted in the bringing of the ship, Altalena to the shores of Israel. Shmuel Katz was one of the founders of the Herut political party and served as one of its members in the First Knesset. In 1951 he left politics and managed the Karni book publishing firm. He was co-founder of The Land of Israel Movement in 1967, and in 1971 he helped to create Americans for a Safe Israel.
In 1977 Katz became “Adviser to the Prime Minister of Information Abroad” to Menachem Begin. He accompanied Begin on two trips to Washington and was asked to explain some points to President Jimmy Carter. He quit this task on January 5, 1978 because of differences with the Cabinet over peace proposals with Egypt. He refused the high prestige post of UN ambassador. Katz was then active with the Tehiya party for some years and later with Herut – The National Movement after it split away from the ruling Likud. He also has written for the Daily Express and The Jerusalem Post. (source: wikipedia and shmuelkatz.com)