I think most people are pro-Palestinian inasmuch as it would be nice for the Palestinians to have their own country, though historically they have never had one. There was no real reason why the Arabs driven out during the Arab war in Israel in 1948 couldn’t have been assimilated into the neighbouring Muslim countries, just as the Jews who were expelled from Arab countries were assimilated into Israel at the same time.
It would be great if there were some way of creating a Palestinian homeland directly adjoining Israel, one that didn’t immediately start firing missiles into Israel the day after it was established. However, establishing a hostile state directly on Israel’s borders (Israel is only the size of Wales and so has very little time to react to incoming rockets) would leave Israel extremely vulnerable. There would have to be international assurances that any attack on Israel after the foundation of Palestine would be dealt with internationally and that the task of defending itself against the surrounding Muslim states would not be left to Israel alone. There is only one Jewish state in the world but 21 Muslim states (not including Palestine) and Israel wouldn’t be able to win such a war alone.
The Palestine that was overseen 80 years ago by Britain was far larger than it is now. However, Britain gave 80% of it to the Arabs to create Jordan. This immediately shrank what could be given to the Jews to make their own homeland to just 20% of the original Palestine. This remaining 20% was then split again in half: half was given to the Jews and half was given to the remaining Arabs. There was a majority of Jews in the Jewish part of Israel and the doctrine of self-determination was big at the time. This same docrine also saw the founding of Pakistan in the same year, yet I don’t hear many people complaining about this. Jews have always lived in Palestine and the Jews arriving from Europe bought the land from Arab landowners. No land was stolen so the Jews had every right to be there.
The Jews finished up with just 10% of the original area of Palestine. They weren’t happy about this but accepted it because they had no alternative. The Arabs didn’t accept it. They didn’t want any part of Palestine to be under Jewish rule. So they rejected the plan and the surrounding Muslim countries attacked Israel the day after it was founded. After 1 year of fighting and 1% of it’s population being killed, Israel won, against all odds. In retaliation, the surrounding Muslim countries expelled the Jews from their countries and confiscated their possessions. There were 800,000 of these. Israel took in most of these refugees.
The Arabs that had lived in the area allotted to Israel fled during the war. Most thought that they would return once the Muslim countries had won the war and driven the Jews into the sea. But they lost. Some Arabs stayed put during the war and they now make up the bulk of the present Arab Israeli population. Those that fled gathered in refugee camps on the borders of neighbouring Muslim countries and are now caught between an Israel that won’t let them back in, and Muslim countries that won’t let them become full citizens. For these people things must be bad, although they receive a lot of aid from the UN, more than any other group of people in the world. Much of this aid goes on buying weapons to attack Israel rather than improving the lives of Palestinians.
I can understand Israeli point of view. If the Jews that were expelled from neighbouring Muslim countries without any compensation could be taken in by Israel, why couldn’t the same happen to the Arab refugees? After all, it wasn’t Israel that started the war. But of course, it makes perfect sense for Jordan and Syria etc. to keep the refugee camps in existence since this represents a permanent accusation against Israel for not letting these people return. If these people were ever integrated into Arabic society as the expelled Jews were into Israel there would no longer be any international pressure upon Israel to ‘find a solution’ for them.
Anyway, what was originally 500,000 refugees is now, after several generations, over 4 million, which the international community supports with billions of dollars of aid every year. If Israel were to ever grant these people right of return, Jews would be in a minority in their own country and Israel would just become the 23rd Muslim state in the region and Jews would be driven out or leave of their own accord. Most Muslims simply don’t like Jews.
This is why a one state solution is not possible: Jews and Muslims can live with each other only if the Jews are in a majority and can maintain a secular democracy under which all its citizens, Muslims included, benefit (there are about one and a quarter million Muslims living in Israel with full rights that are far more extensive than those enjoyed by Muslims in Muslim countries. These latter tend towards dictatorships or theocracies, both of which make life hard for the populous, especially non-Muslims.
In short, only a two-state solution will work and the Palestinian state has to be one that doesn’t have Hamas or Hezbollah in charge; both groups have the destruction of Israel written into their charters, which is why Israel can’t negotiate with them. Israel can only negotiate with a partner that doesn’t want to destroy it. At the moment there is no such group in Palestine.
In 2000 Clinton put forward a deal that gave Yasser Arafat almost everything he had demanded. The prince of some neighbouring Muslim country who was part of the negotiations said it was a wonderful deal and warned Arafat that if he rejected it it would be a crime against his people.
Yet Arafat rejected it. As has been pointed out, ‘Arafat never missed on opportunity to miss an opportunity’. I suppose when you are head of an organisation that has explicitly stated that it wants to drive all Jews into the Mediterranean, then any kind of compromise will be the end of your political career.
But all is not lost for Arafat and friends. On American and western university campuses, in the Guardian and Independent newspapers and at the BBC there are movements by political activists to boycott and demonize all things Israeli. In reality I think there is often anti-Semitism lurking there, but that is not respectable, so this anti-Jewishness presents itself as anti-Zionism. And by eroding support for Israel within the international community, neighbouring Muslim countries gain an advantage. They just have to keep their own population poor and uneducated and blame the Jews for everything and thus create a steady stream of willing terrorists. If western TV then shows how angry and poor these young Arabs are the viewers forget to ask what the connection is between poverty, lack of education and Israel. Those dots are joined up for them by the BBC.
Nearly all of Israel’s possible negotiating partners have said that any deals and agreements made with Israel (one-state or two-state solutions) are really just the first step in the overall goal of eliminating the Jewish state altogether. One of the main Palestinian Authority officials said this recently on Arab TV, but he followed it up with, “But of course, we keep that to ourselves”.
Needless to say I find it abhorrent how readily western liberals are prepared to side with Muslim terrorists against a secular democratic state. All the things that liberals are supposed to stand for are represented by Israel alone in the Middle East, and yet this is the one country that young educated people are supposed to hate.
I recently read an interesting book on the history of liberalism and terror, the latter always having held a fascination for liberals. When the Nazis started flexing their muscles in Europe, there were groups of French socialists who were first anti-fascist but who then thought that Hitler couldn’t be completely crazy. Maybe he was a little bit right and perhaps the Jews were to blame after all for some of the problems in Europe and hey, Jews are Capitalists and we’re anti-Capitalists so maybe we can make a common cause with Hitler. Oh, here are the invading German soldiers now. Here’s our head socialist, a Jew. Please take him off to Auschwitz.
That is precisely what happened to Leon Blum, the Jewish leader of the French socialists.
I think extremists sometimes hold a fascination for liberals, simply because being a liberal can sometimes be a bit boring. But I also think there is strong dose of cowardice in all this. During WWII it was simply safer in some parts of occupied France to be anti-Jewish than anti-Fascist and I think today it is safer to be anti-Jewish (politely called anti-Israel) than anti-Islamist. No one is going to get their head chopped off or fire-bombed for writing anti-Jewish articles.
There are two sides to this story and the usual one we hear is of the poor Palestinians turfed off their land by the incoming Jews from Europe. Palestinians were displaced but only in the same way that Europeans are being displaced by immigrants from Muslims countries. Muslims are not ‘stealing our land’. In reality the legitimacy of the Jewish state is no more questionable than that of Pakistan or Slovakia (why was Slovakia allowed to break away from Czechoslovakia?) or Canada (why were people allowed to colonise it?).