Readers Write: Jews were in Israel before the Palestinians


James Ansel writing in the Island News April 22 writes dispassionately but disingenuously in regard to BDS not being anti-Semitic in intent. The U.S. State Department defines anti-Semitism as the intent to deny the Jewish people a right of self-determination in their historic homeland.

The State of Israel emerged as a result of Jews returning to their homeland, a pioneering spirit, draining of swampland and settling in barren and desert areas, scientific and agricultural advances, a steady laying of infra-structure during the Ottoman Period and the British Mandate, decades of international diplomacy, land purchase from those who had title, and eventually consensus and international approval in the UN world forum in 1948.

The land of Israel is a land whose indigenous people are not the Palestinians, but rather the Jewish people, descendants of Judaens and Israelite tribes that inhabited the land for 1,300 years prior to expulsion two millennia ago by the Romans. They have yearned for it in prayer, and attempted to inhabit it over centuries since. To deny the nation state of the Jewish people in their historic homeland is anti-Semitism. And that is precisely the objective of the leaders of BDS, who make no secret of their desire to dismantle Israel as a Jewish state and ensconce Palestinians there from sea to sea.

Who exactly are the Palestinians? Some 10 percent may have been there for several centuries. But the vast majority are an amalgam of Arab peoples from all corners of the Ottoman Empire — Syria, Libya, Egypt, Iraq and elsewhere who came in during the last years of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century. They arrived during the British Mandate of Palestine in the interwar period in the teens, 20s and 30s in search of gainful employment, helping to lay the infrastructure of an incipient nation: the State of Israel.

In 1870, Mark Twain came to an essentially barren land. But by the 1930s and ’40s the Arab population had ballooned well beyond what would have been possible by reproduction. The Arab population skyrocketed not in the Arab villages and cities but in and around the Jewish development. This occurred while Jewish emigration was being blocked by the British. Robert F. Kennedy reported about this in 1947 in the Boston Herald.

The Jews of Tel Aviv were proud of the fact that 500,000 Arab workers from all over the Levant found their way to mandate Palestine because of the expansion factories, of urban areas, and the laying of pipe, electrical grid, roadwork, and train track. At every turn in the development of the State of Israel its leaders expressed an interest in helping the Arab sector  — not in eclipsing it — to facilitate its own autonomy not dispossessing it.

Regarding the claim that Ansel makes that the Palestinians were “innocent of the Holocaust,” the foremost leader of Palestinian nationalism that began in earnest only in 1920 was Haj Amin Husseini, a rabid anti-Semite who was an ally of Hitlerand lived in Berlin for several years. In his desire for Pan Arabism (at the time he wasn’t interested in ruling only Palestinian Arabs) Husseini recruited Algerian, Tunisian and Bosnian Muslims in the thousands to fight for the Third Reich.

In exchange he received a promise from Heinrich Himmler, who orchestrated the mass extermination of Jews, that no Jewish children could be deported to the Holy Land because they would “grow up to be Jewish adults.” (He brags about this in his own memoirs.) Some think that it was in the wake of talks with the Mufti of Jerusalem Husseini that the Nazis decided at Wannasee that extermination of the Jews was the only way they could be removed from Europe.

Of course, this is not to say that there weren’t more reasonable voices among the Palestinians. Some argued for accommodation with the Zionist state in exchange for their own autonomy and statehood. However, the rejectionist anti-Semitic leadership of the Palestinians intimidated by imprisonment, brutality and assassination those that counseled moderation. Husseini was known for his brutality and the murder of his opponents. This trend has continued from the time Husseini was eclipsed by PLO Chairman Yasser Arafat.

In 1967, for instance, when PM Levi Eshkol sent a delegation to the clans of the West Bank to offer the Arabs their autonomy after capturing the land from Jordan, many replied they would like to do so, but if they did they would get a bullet in the head. Sadly this remains the trend with Hamas and with Abbas and Fatah as well. The moderates fear for their lives. The rejectionists call the shots. And instead of lifting a finger to improve the lives of their people, these corrupt leaders aggrandize both wealth and power.

Regarding the so called “offensive assault” of the Israelis in 1967, that is sheer nonsense. The author clearly wants to establish that this was not a defensive war the Israelis fought, and therefore there is no international legal sanction of “to the victor goes the spoils.” However, Ansel misleads the reader. Firing the first shot does not an aggressor make.

Egyptian President Gamal Nasser had declared publicly for months that his intent was to exterminate the nation of Israel and drive it into the sea. He had kicked out the UN peacekeepers in the Sinai disengagement line, had blocked Israeli shipping through the straits of Tiran. His armies amassed at the border ready for invasion. It was then that Israel made a pre-emptive strike. It was also then that Israel pleaded with Jordan not to intervene, but when three others nation’s forces attacked, Israel counterattacked and took possession of Judae and Samaria, i.e. the West Bank of the Jordan, East Jerusalem included, and the Golan Heights from Syria.

As far as U.S.  foreign policy is concerned, AIPAC’s role is to advocate for the best interests of the State of Israel. It does so on a much smaller budget than lobbyists representing the Arab States do. Its role is to maximize good relations between the two countries, encourage bipartisan support of Israel and try to assure Israel’s qualitative military edge. This is because if hostile Palestinians, Iran and other malignant actors would put their weapons away and negotiate, there would be a political arrangement and peace would be at hand. The six efforts of various governments of Israel in 1947, 1967, 1993, 2000, and 2005, 2008 attest to Israel’s effort to find a peaceful solution. However, if Israel put down its weapons, it would be wiped off the face of the earth.

Ian Silverman



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