Wed, Nov 17, 2010 | shmuelkatz.com | By Shmuel Katz
Battleground: Fact and Fantasy in Palestine
The Cause Of The Conflict
This article is the seventh chapter from the book “Battleground: Fact and Fantasy in Palestine” written by Shmuel Katz. Yesterday, we published the sixth chapter: A Garland Of Myths. In the next few days, we will publish the rest of the chapters from this book as 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.
The nature of the Arab purpose in Palestine was illumined, was indeed dramatized, by the clash between the terrorist organizations and the Jordanian government that began September 1970. Not an ideological confrontation nor the result of a difference of opinion on the proper fate of Israel, the clash between them was over power and authority. What the Fatah demanded was, in fact, a sharing of power and authority in Jordan. The smaller, so-called left-wing organizations led by George Habash and Naif Huwatma called for a complete change of regime – that is, for Palestinian control in Jordan. In those parts of Jordan which adjoined the border with Israel, they demanded complete autonomy; throughout the rest of the country, they demanded a measure of exemption from the laws of the land for the members of their organizations. Hussein and his ministers were prepared to go – indeed, they did go – a long way to meet these demands. The conflict came over the extent of agreement in the heat of the battle, the Palestinians involuntarily abandoned the posture to which their propaganda had for years accustomed the world. Exposed suddenly was the cynical imposture of the plea of homelessness by which hearts in so many countries had been touched. Are authority, power, autonomy – demanded as a right and, to a degree, even granted – the lineaments of “homeless people” struggling for a homeland? Do they reflect the status of a liberation movement merely enjoying the hospitality of a foreign state? The truth is – and every Arab knows it – that the Fatah does not look on Jordan as a foreign state at all, but as its home, and its members feel completely at home in it. They behave “as though they owned the place” – because they feel that they do, in fact, own it.
Transjordan, the territory of the present Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, is historically and geographically a part of Palestine. It was the nearly empty three-quarters of the territory originally entrusted to Britain expressly for the Jewish restoration; the territory had, moreover, been liberated from the Turks with the help of Jewish forces. This widely forgotten fact and the existence instead of the Arab state of Jordan underlines the myth of the Palestine Arabs as a “deprived people” driven out of their homeland. Whatever the Palestine Arabs may lack, it is not a homeland; whoever has been deprived, it is not the Arabs.
The encounter in Jordan uncovered only a small part of the not at all secret fact of the Arabs’ territorial affinities. It was even more rudely exposed in the confrontation in the Lebanese republic. Though the Arabs do not claim Lebanon as a part of Palestine, in Lebanon the Fatah troops behaved exactly as they had behaved in Jordan. Throughout the country, dotted with their information and recruiting offices, they assumed the right of exemption from the ordinary civic regulations and restraints of the constituted Lebanese authority. They took over refugee camps, turned them into bases, and set up checkposts on the highways. In the southern zone, bordering on Israel, they demanded and seized autonomous control. Their rule was so comprehensive that some newspaper correspondents promptly labeled the area Fatahland. It was from here that they fired their mortars across the border into Israel’s northernmost villages.
For many months Lebanon, divided into two camps, was in a state of perpetual crisis that almost completely paralyzed its government. The Lebanese (even the lukewarm Christians) were prepared to, and did, go far to meet the Fatah demands. But even the fervent Mloslem supporters of the Fatah declined to overstep the limits beyond which lay anarchy. In the end, an uneasy compromise was worked out. In the south it was, indeed, enforced willy-nilly by the regular daily appearance of Israeli Army patrols, whom the terrorists on the whole left severely alone. Under this protection, the Arab villagers who had earlier fled now came back and resumed their ordered life.
In Lebanon, too, it was only the exaggeration, the excessive appetite, of the terrorist organizations that forced the clash. The principle was not in dispute: The Fatah had rights, the Fatah could feel at home; as Arabs, Lebanon belonged to them as well.
A glaring, and tragic, illustration of the Arabs’ loose territorial affinities was provided by a largely disregarded aspect of the “refugee” problem. After all has been said of the pressures that were exerted and the panic that was induced by their leaders in 1948, something uncanny remains in the picture of a community, rural as well as urban, not under any physical pressure – even, as in Haifa, asked to remain – nevertheless removing itself, men, women, and children leaving home and farm and business, leaving village and town, to go into a self-imposed exile. The ease of it, its smoothness, is remarkable.
There was no steadfast refusal to leave, as would be encountered in most of the world, certainly from farmers, from people attached to their soil. They went into exile in cold blood, even before there was any fighting. And expecting fighting, they left their fate in the hands of foreign soldiers. It was not a question of evacuating noncombatants; here everybody left, including some 95 percent of the men of military age. A pregnant description of this phenomenon is contained in the London Times of June 7, 1948, in a dispatch from its correspondent in Amman.
“Syria, Lebanon, Transjordan and even Iraq were filled with fugitives from Palestine, many of them young men of military age still carrying arms…. The cafes and hotel lobbies continued to be filled with young effendis whose idea was that though something must be done it should be done by somebody else. Some of them had spent a week or so at the front and on the strength of this they felt entitled to return to less dangerous climes.”
Were they all cowards? Were they all stupid? They were neither. They did not, indeed, think long; they decided quickly. It was not difficult to decide – because they did not see the invaders from the Arab states as foreign soldiers, nor their own destination as an exile. They considered the move as being to another part of the Arab world, to another place where Arabic was spoken, to a place where they would find their own people, often their own relatives. To move from Acre to Beirut, from Akir to Nablus, was like an American moving from Cincinnati to Detroit or from Trenton to Boston. In all fairness, it must be added that not all the Arabs went into exile. Some 100,000 declined to move. Their presumed hatred of Jews and their sense of belonging to a large Arab people and territory apparently did not outweigh their love for their homes. These are the Arabs who despite inevitable early difficulties, prospered and multiplied in Israel, numbering by 1967 (together with returnees permitted by the Israeli government) some 350,000 souls, with the highest birthrate in the world.
The phenomenon of exodus was given a new dimension in 1967. When the Six Day War was over, without any pressures or promises from any side, when there was not even the hint or rumor of a threat to the safety of life or property, some 200,000 Arabs in Judea and Samaria packed their belongings and crossed the Jordan. Day after day, the caravans of trucks and buses and private cars drove down to the approaches to the river. Because the Allenby Bridge was still a collapsed mass of iron and masonry, the crossing had to be improvised. The long queues waited patiently for their turn to cross. Scores of local and foreign newspaper correspondents, photographers, and a sprinkling of unofficial visitors mingled and talked with them while they waited. Three weeks after the war, I was able to visit the area. I watched the progress of the evacuees to the bridge. I asked a well-dressed young man where he came from and why he was leaving. He explained that, as an employee of the Jordanian government stationed at Bethlehem, he bad been instructed to report to Amman. Once across the river, the Arabs were interviewed by foreign newspapermen. There everyone who told his story claimed to have been driven out by the Jews. No less significantly, between 1949 and 1967, when the Jordanian Arab king ruled peacefully in Judea and Samaria, some 400,000 Arabs packed their belongings and left for other parts of the “Arab world.” Today, large numbers of Palestinian Arabs are living and working as ordinary citizens in Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Algeria, Libya, and especially prosperous Kuwait. All these countries are home to them. There are, of course, cultural differences; even the spoken language has its local idiosyncrasies as does the English of London, Yorkshire, or Scotland, or the American in New York, Connecticut, or Texas.
The “Palestinian” movement and the “Palestinian” nation were still, in 1972, no more than a myth. The Arabs of Palestine, like all the other Arabs, have been taught to see as their territory the vast expanse between the Persian Gulf on the east and the African Atlantic coast on the west. To the north it borders on Turkey; to the south its Asian boundary is where the Arab peninsula meets the Indian Ocean, and its African frontiers are marked by a line running through the heart of the continent, beginning with the northern border of Uganda to the east and ending with the northern border of Senegal to the west. The existence of a non-Arab state in the center of “his” territory is offensive to the Arab, who has been taught to see it as incomprehensible except in terms of a rampant imperialism. That is the emotional foundation of the Arabs’ attitude. Israel’s existence is therefore out of the question; the new state must disappear. The status and future of the Arabs living in Palestine is essentially a secondary matter, to be settled later, or fought over, among the Arabs themselves. For the time being, the resources of the Arab world must be concentrated on camouflaging the reason for Israel’s liquidation as a solution to a human problem – the problem of “homeless” Palestinians. The Egyptian journal Al-Musswar in December 1968 admitted frankly:
“The expulsion of our brothers from their homes should not cause us any anxiety, especially as they were driven into Arab countries….The masses of the Palestinian people are only the advance-guard of the Arab nation….a plan for rousing world opinion in stages, as it would not be able to understand or accept a war by a hundred million Arabs against a small state.”
Such is the core of the confrontation between Israel and the Arab people. It stares out, moreover, beyond the sleight of hand of Arab propaganda. The campaign against Israel is conducted, after all, by the whole Arab world. Every one of the Arab states is involved and makes its greater or lesser contribution. At the least, each state cooperates in the economic boycott, in the diplomatic offensive, in the propaganda campaign. What quarrel with Israel has Kuwait on the Persian Gulf, or Sudan in the heart of Africa, or Morocco on the Atlantic Coast? What quarrel, indeed, have Egypt, Syria, and Iraq?
The Arab states are, furthermore, divided among themselves on a number of important problems. The interests of the oil-bearing states conflict with those that have no oil, the rich with the poor, the puritanical Moslem states with the more permissive. Needless to say, the Arab governments, like other governments, are not altruistic. A glance at their ruling classes suggests that, in the matter of concern for others, the Arabs are below rather than above average. They are model members in a world where the rule, perhaps inevitable, is for every nation to look out for itself and to pursue its own selfish interest. It is not to help the Palestine Arabs that the Arab states pursue their militant purpose toward Israel.
“If the Arabs could agree on nothing else,” wrote one of their great friends, a British officer who served in the Jordanian Arab Legion, “they could at least agree that Israel as a State must be extinguished. Israel delenda est.” Such has been the theme ever since the Arab leaders began to see the Arab Empire as a tangible aim. In May 1946, when the Jewish state was still only a “threat,” a meeting at Inshass in Egypt of leaders of the Arab states declared: “The problem of Palestine is not the problem only of the Arabs of Palestine, but of all the Arabs.”
Since the Jewish state was established, Arab political and ideological literature has been filled with a mass of semantic variations on the theme.
“When Palestine is injured,” said Abdel Nasser in 1953, “each one of us is injured in his feelings and in his homeland.”
Eight years later, the outlook had not changed. “The Palestine problem,” said Nasser in 1961, “has never been the problem of the Palestinians alone. The whole Arab nation is involved.”
At its conference in October 1966, the Syrian ruling Ba’ath Party went to the heart of the Arab purpose:
“The existence of Israel in the heart of the Arab homeland constitutes the main base dividing the eastern part from the western part of the Arab nation.”
Nasser stated it more pointedly on February 2, 1965, at the Festival of Unity:
“The meaning of Arab unity is the liquidation of Israel.”
The conflict, then, shorn of legend and fiction, is between the “Arab nation,” which possesses eighteen states embracing an area of thirteen million square kilometers, and the Jewish people, claiming the right to its single historic homeland, whose territory even today, after the Six Day War, constitutes less than 1 percent of the territories ruled and dominated by the Arabs. That is the moral issue in the clash between Arabs and Jews. On the one hand is the hunger of the Jewish people for national independence and physical security in its homeland, a land it has brought back to life. On the other hand is the huge, unsentimental appetite of the Arab people for the unbroken continuity of a vast empire and for the unique status of a nation which, itself dominating minority populations of millions, arrogantly and violently refuses to accept that status for one small segment of its people.
The ambitions of British imperialists, aiming at their own domination of the Fertile Crescent through Arab puppet states, first aroused the idea of a reborn empire in Arab minds as a serious and practical political proposition. Their aid and patient support estabshed the nucleus of the modern Arab Empire. After they had conceived and established the Arab League in 1945, the British tended and nurtured it for years thereafter. They first envisaged Palestine as a fall partner in that empire, its Jewish population being given minority status as envisaged in the British government’s White Paper of 1939. No less important, the British persuaded the Arabs that this plan was feasible. They looked forward to a tangible reward for their friendship. Later, however, the strategic attractions and commercial opportunities of the Arab states drew the attention of other nations, and Britain had to content herself with only a part of the Arabs’ favors.
This change flowed from a development which even the most powerful Arab imagination bad not conceived. It was precisely in this period that new, unprecedentedly large discoveries of oil were made in the soil of a number of the Arab states. Their economic importance and potential increased overnight. Tremendous impact was now added to their relations in the international area, and especially with the great powers, who are the chief exploiters of the oil. The Arabs became a power in the world.
For many hundreds of years, the Arab states had played no part in world affairs. (Few of them had played any part even in the conduct of their own affairs.) Outside the sheikhdoms of Arabia itself, which pursued the slow tempo of life in the wide spaces and played out their desert rivalries, there simply were no Arab affairs. Nor was there any hunger or striving for their revival. The Arabs warmed themselves and were contented with memories of past glory. Characteristically, they tended to magnify that glory; their imagination expanded the 120 years of the purely Arab Empire in the seventh and eighth centuries and fused them with the following three centuries of an empire ruled by Moslems, who spoke and wrote Arabic but, like Saladin, were not Arabs and became Arabs only in the nostalgic retrospection of later centuries. Nevertheless, the Arabs have genuine memories of glory, of military achievements that were the wonder of their age, of the wide sowing of their language and their faith over vast areas of the earth, of the glittering imperial splendor of Damascus and Baghdad, of a cultural contribution that enriched and dazzled medieval European scholarship.
For a thousand years they lived on that glory. In a prolonged and continuous stagnation, they ceased not only to rule, but also to achieve, to create, to build, to strive. Far from reviving past glories, they sank into a lethargy that brought them into the twentieth century as one of the most backward, most immobile of peoples. Students of Arabic history and culture, especially those well-disposed to the Arabs, cite the characteristics responsible for that lethargy.
“The Arab is preoccupied with his past,” writes the Arab sociologist Sania Hamady. “The pleasant memories of its glory serve as a refuge from the painful reality of the present” (p. 217).
The roots of this condition are deep. As the scholars point out, lethargy and stagnation are conditioned by Islamic principles of predestination and fatalism. Nor are there reasonable prospects of a change.
“It is not an exaggeration to say that after so many centuries of immobility the process of agriculture, industry, exchange and learning had become little more than automatic, and had resulted in a species of atrophy that rendered those engaged in them all but incapable of changing their methods or outlook in the slightest degree…. It is incapacity rather than unwillingness to learn that characterizes Arab society.”
The Arab leaders who themselves enjoyed a modern education may have been conscious of the stagnation and backwardness of their society. They were nevertheless not equipped, they were indeed helpless, to effect any of the apparently revolutionary changes that alone might raise their people to the cultural and technical levels of our age.
Yet now, suddenly, they found themselves with little effort possessed of independence, controlling states with enormous resources and vast territories important in global strategy, ruling over millions of non-Arab minorities. Now, too, they were courted by the great powers of the world. By a little effort of their imagination they saw themselves bridging the black gap of the centuries, winning the recognition of the previously supercilious Western world. Suddenly they could see themselves accepted, with no further cultural effort, as instant full partners in the complex culture of the twentiethcentury world, just as they had shared in the building of its foundations during the Middle Ages.
The power of the Arabs’ imagination is such that they soon forgot that there had been a gap at all. They soon saw unfolding behind them one continuous stretch of centuries of glory and of Arab life dominant throughout the whole area conquered by the ancient Arabic Empire in Asia and Africa. The facts of history between the eighth and the twentieth centuries ceased to exist; and the prospect they induced themselves to see was a direct continuation of what had existed 1000 years ago and more.
From the very outset of the new imperial phase, however, that prospect was scarred by one intrusion: Zionism, striving for the Jewish restoration of Palestine. The member states of the Arab League, which was formed in 1945 to supply the beginnings of coordinated modem Arabic power, were led by the British to believe that the prospect of a Jewish state in Palestine had been finally erased by the White Paper of 1939. Accordingly, they announced their acceptance of the White Paper – which also recognized the rights of the Jews to minority existence. They were accorded an immediate earnest of British loyalty to the compact: That same year the British, efficiently and unceremoniously, finally forced the French out of Syria. The Arabs looked forward to the equally effective end to snuffing out of the Jewish restoration in Palestine.
The refusal of the Jews to submit to the British dictate, their underground struggle which, to the Arabs’ surprise and dismay, resulted in the relinquishment of British power in Palestine, consequently ruled out the transfer of sovereignty (which the British did not legally possess) to the Arabs. Encouraged, and armed, by the British, the Arabs rejected even the partition compromise of 1947, rejecting Zionist pleas for cooperation. If they were to eliminate the Zionists and to prevent the rebirth of the Jewish state, they had not themselves to go to war, under strikingly favorable circumstances.
Then, precisely at the beginning of the new and so promisingly brilliant era in Arab nationalism, at the very rebirth of the empire, the Arab states suffered one of the greatest shocks in all Arab history. In May 1948, they launched the war against the embryonic Jewish state with considerable reason for confidence. The total Jewish population numbered no more than 650,000. Israel’s armed force had for the most part had no more than partisan training. She had no air force at all. She had just passed through years of strain and tension and a bitter struggle with the British. When the invasion by the Arab states opened, she had been under guerrilla attack for six months by Palestinian Arabs and by advance units from the armies of Syria, Iraq, and Jordan, aided in a hundred ways by the stiff ubiquitous British. (The British civilian administration evacuated by May 14, 1948. The British Army began to organize its evacuation well after that date, completing the process on August 1.) While the British had opened the land frontiers so that men and arms could pour in from the neighboring Arab countries, they had refused to open a port for the Jews as recommended by the United Nations; and they maintained their blockade in the Mediterranean to prevent any reinforcements from reaching Israel. The United States had announced an embargo and enforced it strictly, so that the Jews were deprived of that source as well.
In addition to these advantages, the Arabs were given massive material support by the British government, which openly provided arms and ammunition for the war (and turned aside criticism at the United Nations that Britain was aiding aggressive invasion by the claim that the State of Israel did not legally exist and could not therefore be invaded). The Arabs further enjoyed expert British leadership; the Transjordanian Arab Legion was officered by British soldiers. Unknown to the world at the time, the British co-operated in planning at least some phases of the war. On January 15, 1948 – the day a new treaty with Iraq was signed at Portsmouth – the British Foreign Minister, Ernest Bevin, reached an agreement with the Iraqi leaders, Prime Minister Saleh Jabr, Foreign Minister Fadil el Jamali, and the elder statesman, then President of the Senate, Nuri el Said. By this agreement, the British undertook to speed up the supply of weapons and ammunition ordered from the British government and to supply automatic weapons sufficient for “50,000 policemen.” The purpose was to arm the Palestinian Arab fighters to enable them to participate in the liberation of Palestine. A third point in the agreement was that Iraqi forces would enter every area evacuated by British troops in the whole of Palestine, so that a Jewish state would not be formed. So much for Iraq. Six weeks later, Bevin, at an interview with the Prime Minister of Transjordan attended by General Glubb (the Commander of the Arab Legion), approved the plan of Transjordan to do her share in frustrating the partition plan by invading and occupying the area allotted in the United Nations resolution to the establishment of an Arab state. Superiority in numbers, overwhelming superiority in arms and ammunition, the eager and substantial help of a major world power, a strategy based on a converging movement on three fronts against a Jewish force largely untrained, poorly armed, and defending a small but densely populated coastal strip – these were surely enough to assure victory and even the slaughter that Arab leaders openly promised.
There was a further reason for the Arabs’ confidence: They were convinced of their superiority over the Jews as a fighting nation. Had not the Arabs conquered half the world? True, that had happened 1,300 years earlier, since which time they had distinguished themselves at best in minor in-fighting among rival Bedouin tribes and in the Laurentian tactic of arriving after the battle to claim the victory. They had no difficulty, however, in projecting their seventh-century martial excellence as an abiding fact in the twentieth. Whoever reads the predictions of the Arabs in 1956, after they had suffered one defeat, and their even more bloodcurdling predictions of victory and destruction in May 1967, after they had suffered two defeats, will recognize the uninhibited, unlimited, early certainty of the Arab states in May 1948 that they were about to win a stunning, historic victory, and that within a few weeks, or even days, Jewish hopes would be in ruins and Palestine would be inexorably enfolded in the embrace of the reborn Arab Empire.
1948 has entered Arab history as the year of the catastrophe. The Arab states were saved from complete rout by political considerations: the submission by the novitiate Israeli government to British and United States pressures. Thus, Transjordan remained in possession of most of the area allotted in the United Nations resolution to the Arab states (Samaria, Judea, and eastern Jerusalem), while Egypt occupied the Gaza district. Israel, however, was not only not obliterated, she improved substantially upon the collapsible borders of the UN resolution of 1947 and emerged from the conflict with the high prestige of courage and resource in the face of overwhelming odds. Moreover, some 400,000 Arab residents of the area lost their homes.
Soon the shock and the shame gave way to the search for scapegoats and for excuses.
“The Arab,” notes an Arab writer, “is reluctant to assume responsibility for his personal or national misfortunes, and he is inclined to put the entire blame upon the shoulders of others. The Arab is fascinated with criticism – of the foreigner, of fellow-countrymen, of leaders, of followers, always of ‘the other,’ seldom of oneself.”
There is a cultural reason for this habit. Hamadi explains:
“As a result of his determinist orientation, the Arab finds a good excuse to relegate his responsibility to external forces. He attributes the ills of his society, his mistakes and failures, either to fate, to the devil or to imperialism” (p. 187).
Thus, as time went by, the material aid and the diplomatic support and military cooperation which their British allies had given the Arabs in the war of 1948 and the loaded American neutrality – which together nearly insured the Arabs’ objective of annihilation – were translated through Arabic literature into a Zionist invasion aided by British and American imperialism. Some such far-reaching explanation of their failure was necessary to the Arabs for another important historical reason. It was unacceptable that the brave, the resourceful, the chivalrous, the lionhearted Arabs (of the seventh century) should be defeated by, of all peoples, the Jews – the lowly, the contemptible, whom they, the Arabs, had long since condemned to death. The Arabs knew the Jews in Palestine historically as a minority oppressed, or at least discriminated against, since the seventh century. The Jews under Moslem rule were second-class citizens. Social regulations and prohibitions singled them out. They were subject to special taxes. They were, of course, not alone – all non-Moslems were so treated. But in the eyes of the Moslems, the Jews in Palestine lived always in the image of a defeated people, in the daily shadow of their defeat in 70 and 135 C.E. The Christians, inferior though they were, had in their background a world of states, of power. The Jews had nothing; they wore outcasts over large areas of the Christian world as well. Even when the Arab was himself ill-treated or humiliated in Moslem non-Arab society, he saw the Jew as one grade below him. The confrontation with the Jews in British-controlled Palestine had no doubt amended this attitude, yet now to be defeated in the open battlefield, at such an historic moment and in such favorable circumstances, by the Jews – that was an overwhelming blow to Arab pride.
The State of Israel, as the instrument of the Arabs’ defeat and what they described as their dishonor, thus became the focus of all their frustrations, of all their hatreds, and of a hunger for vengeance which, by force of a combination of circumstances, grew fiercer and deeper with time. Honor and pride could be restored only by the disappearance of Israel. Again, then, Israel delenda est.
The continuing enhancement of the Arabs’ international stature only increased the frustration. This, after all, was the era of colonial disengagement. The Dutch, the Belgian, the French, and the British Empires were disintegrating. Asia and Africa became a checkerboard of independent states, most of them established with little or no struggle. One Arabic-speaking country after another became independent. From seven states at the United Nations in 1948, the Arabs grow to a bloc of eighteen by 1972. The Arab states, though their average illiteracy rate is among the highest in the world, have perhaps more influence at the United Nations than any other group of nations.
The years have, moreover, seen a steep increase in oil wealth. While normally a people labors for years to achieve minor improvements in the national income and the standard of living, some of the Arab states have overnight joined the richest countries in the world in terms of per capita wealth. The ease with which their wealth and influence – and in most cases their political independence – were accomplished led them all the more to think of 1948 as an unhappy accident for which the “imperialists” were responsible. When the time came, they decided, the Israelis could be beaten and with ease “driven into the sea.”
A great new force helped to bolster Arab hopes of victory and annihilation. The Soviet Union, by its steady stream of arms to Egypt, Syria, and Iraq, and by unstinting political support, replaced Britain as the big brother of Arabism.
The Arabs’ rejection of the Jewish state in any form was deepened and sharpened by another development. Though subjective and contrived, it held a momentous and ugly significance. As though to harden themselves and their people against any weakening of resolve, against any tendency to come to rational terms with Israel as an existing fact, the Arab intellectuals and leaders evolved a comprehensive creed, an ideology of hatred, to justify the physical destruction of the Jewish state, even the extermination of its people.
Little heed has been paid to this phenomenon outside the Arab states, even by the prospective victim herself. Just as the program outlined in Hitler’s Mein Kampf was largely ignored and his prescription for the “solution of the Jewish problem” dismissed as the rantings of an unbalanced mind, so presumably has the stated purpose of the Arabs been treated as too incredible to be taken seriously, despite the frequency and the unanimity with which it is expressed in speech and in writing. As much of it as has been translated has apparently been assumed to be fringe literature. Nothing could be further from the truth.
This literature consists of hundreds of books published since 1948 in Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, in addition to thousands of articles. They range from the vulgar and the primitive to the sophisticated and pseudo-scholarly. Their theme is that the liquidation of Israel is not only a political necessity, but also a moral imperative; that Israel and its people – indeed, the Jewish people as a whole – are by their very nature evil; that it is thus not only desirable, but even permissible, to destroy them. This doctrine has been compounded by a large measure of old-fashioned anti-Semitism. In comprehensiveness and absence of restraint, the Arab demonology probably goes farther even than the worst excesses by the German Nazis heralding their “final solution” of the Jewish problem.
There were cases after 1948 where Arabs with a Western education were compelled to admit that, if Egypt was governing Gaza – which was certainly not part of Egypt – and if the government of Transjordan was governing eastern Jerusalem – which was not part of Transjordan – it did indeed seem to be the Arab states that had invaded western Palestine. Yet the Arab attack, they claimed, was an act of self-defense. For the establishment of the Jewish state was as such an act of aggression against the Arab people. Israel was established in order to destroy Arab nationalism. This was a constant theme with Abdel Nasser.
“We all know,” he said, for example, on May 14, 1956, the eighth anniversary of the birth of Israel, “why Israel was established. Not only to set up a National Home, but to be one of the factors in liquidating Arab nationalism.”
Any Arab attack on Israel was therefore an act of self-defense, any act by Israel to defend herself against attack was a new act of Zionist aggression. Consequently, when Israel retaliated against Arab sabotage and murder across the Armistice lines, it was Israel that had committed a breach of the Armistice Agreement. Moreover, every achievement by Israel that strengthens her or improves living conditions in the state is considered an act of aggression against the Arab people – the opening of the new Knesset building in 1966 was one such act of aggression. Any act of friendship toward Israel by any state or individual is a hostile act toward the Arab people.
The charge of aggression by existence, however, was only the opening of the Arabs’ black charter. The next phase was the charge of further aggression by expansion. A considerable literature thus developed on Israel’s plans to expand at the expense of the Arab states. A Syrian Ba’ath Party Conference resolution in October 1966 declared that Israel
“serves as a solid base for attack, to secure the interests both of imperialism in the zone and of the reactionary regimes….threatening constantly to swallow other portions of the Arab homeland and to destroy their Arab qualities.”
The forces at the disposal of Zionism through out the world are capable, once they strike roots in Palestine, of threatening all the Arab countries and to be a frightening and constant danger to their lives. The means employed by the Zionist forces for growing and expanding will put the Arab world at their mercy, paralyze its vitality and prevent its progress and improvement in the scale of civilization – if the Arab is allowed to continue to exist at all.
It is thus an accepted belief throughout the Arab world that there is a map on the wall of the Knesset in Israel delineating the borders of Israel in accordance with the divine promise in the Bible: from the Euphrates to the river of Egypt.
The charge of expansionism was, however, not in itself enough. It was elaborated to read that it is not the desire for expansion that motivates Israel, but sheer hatred of the Arab people. Israel seeks to destroy their unity, she is the enemy of their liberation, their independence, their progress.
“Israel has an abiding hatred of all that we do for our advancement,” wrote one Arab author, “because our advancement spells death to Israel.”
Distributed throughout Arabic literature is a substantial list of activities pursued by Israel to this end. Israel is said to have interfered in various international negotiations to prevent the grant of loans and other forms of aid to Arab countries, in order to keep them backward. Again, Israel has been fighting Arab culture. In order to minimize and distort Arab achievements and capacities, Israel executed a comprehensive plan for installing Israeli lecturers in American universities to teach the Arabic language and culture. This was done in such a way as to bring the Arabs into contempt. In Africa – so the Africans are told – Israel has distributed falsified copies of the Koran and of various Christian writings.
Inevitably, considerable competition reigned among Arab writers and politicians in the composition of frightening descriptions of the state of the Arab minority living in Israel. Israel was depicted as enforcing a brutal oppressive rule over the Arabs, depriving them of all civil rights, even preventing them from making a living. Arabs in Israel, the story continues, had no recourse to civil courts, being tried only by military courts. Their lands and their water for irrigation were taken from them. There was not a single Arab among the 35,000 civil servants. They were prevented from opening their own schools, where their children could be taught Arabic. They were prevented from celebrating their holidays. Special taxes were imposed on them. As for religion, they were simply prevented from going to their mosques. Moslem (and Christian) holy places were constantly under “attack” by the Israeli authorities.
Now the onslaught deepened. It was not only in relation to the Arabs that Israel was portrayed pejoratively. The people of Israel were said to be inherently evil. They were frustrated by failure, and as a form of compensation, they let the army rule them. They were cowards, quaking even during times of quiet at every sign of progress in the Arab countries. In battle they ran away at the very sight of the brave Arab fighter. Their victories in war were won for them by the imperialists.
The Israelis were corrupt. The government, the army, and the police, all cooperated with smugglers, thieves, drug peddlers, and white-slave traffickers. In fact, there was no government in Israel to speak of; the country was headed by a number of criminal gangs who had become a ruling class.
Yet the vilification of Israel and of its people was only a part, perhaps the smaller part, of the incredible demonic structure built around its image. The Arabs made a comprehensive effort to create around the Jewish people as a whole an atmosphere of hatred and contempt intended to smooth the path, when it becomes physically possible, to their extirpation.
At first the Arabs applied practical anti-Jewish measures: They extended their economic boycott of Israel to Jews as such everywhere. In the Arab states, trade with American companies, for example, is conditional on their owners, managers, and employees sent to serve in the Arab country being non-Jews. In at least one case, under pressure from the Libyan government, an oil company stopped using on its ships Swedish safety matches carrying a trademark similar to the Star of David.
The leaders of Arab thought gathered up all the well-worn and some long-forgotten themes of Western Christian horror stories about the Jews and added whatever was available in the Koran and other Moslem writings as well as pearls of their own wisdom and presented the finished brew as “well-known” facts. Throughout all these writings runs the common theme that all Jews are the lowest, most contemptible people in creation. They are arrogant, domineering, and cunning; they are treacherous and cowardly; they are mercenary and wanton; they are liars and swindlers. They used to destroy states from within by Communist subversion; though now, since the Arab alliance with Soviet Russia, they destroy them as capitalists and colonialists by lending money to governments at exorbitant interest. They hate each other and everybody else. They are parasites who hate hard work, which is why there are no Jewish farmers. They think of themselves as the Chosen People and interpret this as the right to commit any crime with impunity.
Their Bible is an immoral book, being an emanation of the Jewish spirit, which is intrinsically evil. The Talmud is no less immoral. By it the Jew, who is forbidden to steal, is yet permitted to steal from non-Jews; forbidden to commit adultery, he is permitted to take his neighbor’s wife if the neighbor is not Jewish; forbidden to kill, he may yet kill a non-Jew.
This demonology gone berserk was further provided with frequent supporting quotations from Western anti-Semitic sources, such as Hitler or Rosenberg in Germany, Leese or Jordan in England; from ancient Moslem sources; sometimes, in imitation of the sophisticated Western anti-Semites, even from Jewish sources. On the foundations thus laid, the Arabs proceeded, exactly as had the Nazis, to level the accusations of specific contemporary evil against the Jewish people which, in Europe, led logically to the “final solution” of the gas chambers. Thus (borrowing from the Nazis), they charged the Jews specifically with having corrupted the pure Moslem and Christian society in Palestine by bringing prostitution to the country. They borrowed from old Moslem literature to charge them with practicing witchcraft to achieve their ends. Borrowing once again from Western sources, they held the Jews, the eternal enemies of humanity, responsible also for two world wars.
The list is long; nothing is omitted. The Arabs do not hesitate to draw on the lowest depths of twentieth-century anti-Semitic incitement. They became the revivers of the blood libel. The accusation that the Jews use the blood of non-Jewish children for religious purposes, usually on the Passover, is disseminated as historic truth over a substantial range of Arabic literature since 1948. Everything that was ever written by European haters of the Jews in order to provoke pogroms, and by the Christian anti- Semites who, to the same end, introduced the blood libel into the Ottoman Empire in the nineteenth century, is now reproduced by the Arabs. A book designed to indoctrinate the blood libel was published under the authority of the Egyptian government in 1962.
Further, the Arabs having committed themselves to the purpose of annihilation, exploited the most notorious of all the Christian anti-Semitic fabrications: the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which has long been a central pillar of the vast edifice of anti-Semitic indoctrination. More than any other book in the first half of the twentieth century, the Protocols provided the ideological justification for the physical destruction of the Jewish people. It was employed in Tsarist Russian anti-Semitism, it was one of the textbooks of German Nazism, and it has been called the “father of the Holocaust.” The Protocols were taken up by the Arab leaders of thought as a major weapon in their campaign to prepare the ground once again for the extermination of the Jewish people. No fewer than seven Arabic translations of the full text were published between 1949 and 1967. Harkabi lists five additional books containing precis of the Protocols and thirty-three in which the Protocols are quoted with approval.
Imperceptibly, as though it were self-understood, even this most comprehensive of anti-Semitic libels has been woven into the official “doctrine” of the Arab governments. The Prime Minister of Iraq, in an official letter sent on his behalf by the head of his secretariat, expressed his appreciation to the translator of one of the Arabic editions of the Protocols in 1967. More significantly, Abdel Nasser called the Protocols to the attention of a visiting Indian writer, assuring him that it “proved beyond any shadow of doubt that three hundred Zionists control the destinies of Europe.” To insure total and most fruitful insemination of their doctrine, the Arab leaders then compiled a curriculum of hatred for use by their children. The anti-Israel and anti-Jewish catalog became a basic element in the study of history in the schools, which began with teaching “ancient Jewish history” to ten-year-olds in the fourth grade. It was also injected, more subtly and insidiously, into subjects completely unrelated to political or national affairs. Geography, grammar, literary readings, arithmetic, both in the classroom and in hundreds of textbooks, inculcated the theme of the Zionist or the Jew as the embodiment of evil, the ultimate bogeyman, the proper object for “killing” or “destroying.”
Arab children are taught the blood libel. In 1962, the Egyptian government produced for use in the schools a reprint of an old text on the blood libel, Talmudic Human Sacrifices. The new edition contains an up-to-date foreword by Abdel Oati Jalal, which states:
“The Talmud believes that the Jews are made of different material from the rest of mankind, those who do not share the beliefs of the Jews being animals devoid of sense or they are servants and chattels of the Jews…Their wise men laid it down that there is no law but their own desire, and no doctrine but their own lust. They commanded their people to bring harm to the other peoples, to kill their children, suck their blood, and take away their wealth.”
This book, like others on the same theme, recounts the story of a number of the blood libels in history and presents them to the children of Egypt as proven truth. Nor did the education authorities overlook the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. This is taught to Arab teenagers as a factual work, a Jewish admission of the conspiracy to dominate the world.
Under the auspices of the state, the new generation of Arabs is brought up to hate, despise, and fear the Jews; to believe not only that it is right and proper for every good and self-respecting Arab to fight the Jewish state, but that it is just and desirable and even vital to destroy it; that it is necessary not only to destroy Israel, but also to treat its inhabitants like an evil growth that must be extirpated.
The annihilation of Israel and of its people is thus not merely a convenient political objective. It has become a self-understood purpose demanded by the Arab future no less than by Arab history, by Arab honor and pride no less than by Arab pragmatic interest. It has become basic to all Arab thinking, and it is not kept secret. No Arab politician and with the exception of one or two notable exiles – no Arab intellectual has expressed contradictory opinions.
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)