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Prisoners of the past as the Palestine-Israel conflict hits 60 years
By Ray Hanania — Arabs and Jews share one trait: They master the art of selectively remembering the past, especially the tragedies. For Jews, it is the Holocaust. For Palestinians, it is “al-Nakba,” an Arab word for “the catastrophe.” But the biggest problem has always been the manner in which each side has championed their suffering while ignoring their own guilt. Jews mastered the art of public relations and communications, while Arabs mastered emotion, anger and hate. In more than 60 years, little has changed.
In 1948, the United Nations, driven by pro-Jewish governments in the West, partition mandated Palestine into “two states.” The Partition was a ridiculous map of six segments crisscrossed in a checkerboard. The map was designed to create a “Jewish State” with as many Jews as possible within its border, giving the Arabs what was left.
But, there were so many Arabs living in Palestine that Jews in the “Jewish State” were still a minority. Fortunately Palestine’s Jews, war broke out, something they helped start but the Arabs accommodated.
In fighting, Jewish forces expanded their control to include most of the area set aside to be the “Arab State” including Jerusalem, designated to be an “International City.”
The State of Israel was declared at midnight on May 14, 1948 as the British army fled. Israel’s leaders recognized they had a serious problem. The majority of people in Israel at that time were not Jews, but Christian and Muslim Arabs.
The Arabs rejected the partition saying they wanted one state for all people, while Jews embraced the partition but rejected the idea that they couldn’t have more.
The real fallacy of Israel’s history is the assertion the conflict began when the Arab Armies rejected Israel’s creation and attacked. The conflict began long before as Jewish forces attacked Arab villages forcing non-Jews to leave.
It was the official policy of the pre-state Israel government to force as many non-Jews out of the new state as possible, attacking Arab villages inside their state and in the Arab State. More than 750,000 Arabs fled as the conflict erupted around them. Jewish forces captured 10 major Arab cities located in the proposed Arab State.
When May 14, 1948 arrived, the Arab armies moved in trying but failing to capture major Jewish villages. The Israeli military was better armed and trained. In the months before Israel’s creation, the Jewish forces received huge support Europe driven by European guilt over the fact that the Holocaust was caused as much by Nazi hatred as it was the complicity of European anti-Semitism.
But by helping Europe’s Jews to take over Arab Palestine in 1948, many of the countries like Britain, France, Russian and even the United States were able to trade away their anti-Semitic guilt. During the Holocaust, those countries turned away Jewish refugees from Nazi persecution, and helped cause the Holocaust by their indifference to the Jews.
Yet the Palestinians were the ones who paid the price.
Anti-Semitism exists in the Arab World although the Arabs pretend it doesn’t. Although the Arab and Islamic World always treated Jews and Christians better than others, the fact remained that Islam viewed itself as the dominant religion and the “tolerance” was only there when Jews and Christians accepted their subservient roles in the Arab and Muslim World.
That’s Jews could upset this by defeating the Arabs was intolerable.
Since 1948, the situation has only worsened. Jews and Israelis refuse to recognize their own crimes in Palestine, denying such massacres as Deir Yassin, in which two of its future prime ministers engaged in terrorism, murdering women and children.
Both Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, two of Palestine’s first terrorists, bragged about the Deir Yassin massacre and their goal to frighten Arabs to flee. Deir Yassin was located in the Arab State.
Over the years, Israelis admitted in memoirs their goal was to force the Arabs to leave to strengthen the Jewish majority. Based on the original partition plan, the Jewish State had more non-Jews than Jews. That worsened as Israel captured more land in the Arab areas.
Had Israel not forcibly evicted Christian and Muslim Arabs, Israel’s population would have been 75 percent non-Jewish.
The contrast between the two sides is the model for the continued conflict. Israelis celebrate success in denial, claiming to want compromise but always taking more. The Israelis say they want peace, but continue to build settlements, expropriate Palestinian lands and kill civilians along with militants.
Israelis celebrate their achievements, while ignoring their own crimes while the Arab World fixates on tragedy.
Despite legitimate issues and events, the “al-Nakba” also disguises Arab failures. It exploits frustration and turns anger into hatred. It blinds Arabs from recognizing their own failed “leadership,” leaders by oppressing their people rather than lead by accountability. Arabs who challenge this failure are ostracized and called traitors. Free speech in the Arab world means you can denounce Israel, but don’t question Arab failure.
Palestinians wallow in a surreal world of growing anger and self-pity. Their commemorations this year shun reality and never address the necessity of compromise.
The “al Nakba” thrives in cultural and political arrogance. Palestinians refuse to recognize their own failings or that their violence fuels the “catastrophe.” Failed Arab leadership helped create Israel.
Rather than deal with reality, the Palestinians live in the past. It is easier to hate than to concede. In Arab culture, compromise is seen as surrender and defeat.
They prefer the imprisonment of the occupation to the freedom of compromise. They push Palestinian refugees, who have grown through four generations and two major wars from 750,000 to more than 5 million, to believe squalor is honorable. They have turned the unachievable “Right of Return” into “Rejection of Reality.”
The most successful industry rising from this tragedy (besides oil) is the “industry of exploitation.” Thousands of Arab organizations feed off Palestinian suffering and the certainty that the rejection of compromise prevents the conflict from ending. If the conflict were to end, they would all be out of jobs.
What Palestinians and Israelis need is what we have never had: Arabs who rise above emotion and stand up to terrorism, and Israelis who embrace real compromise.
(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist, author and radio talk show host based in Chicago. He can be reached at
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Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at www.ArabNews.com, and at www.TheArabDailyNews.com, www.TheDailyHookah.com and at SuburbanChicagoland.com. He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper, YNetNews.com, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.
Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.
His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.
The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website www.SuburbanChicagoland.com, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.
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