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Israel surrounded by the Arabs
- They believe they have the right to a pinprick of land by G.B.J. Hiltermann, a Dutch political commentator and historian (1914-2000); from “Collected Notes from Journeys and Home” - 1974 Published by Europese Publiciteits Maatschappij E.P.M. - Amsterdam
On 12th October 1969, in his Sunday radio programme “De toestand in de wereld” (The World Situation), which attracts a great many listeners, Hiltermann called the national daily ‘de Volkskrant’ “frankly antisemitic – or at least anti-Israel”. The newspaper sued him for libel. After the newspaper had lost a preliminary summary procedure, during an ordinary court case it was decided that Hiltermann had to withdraw his allegation, which he did publicly. At the newspaper’s request the Raad voor de Journalistiek (Netherlands Press Council) dealt with the case again but after a year of deliberations declared the complaint groundless. Hiltermann’s comment on this was “The most prepared, the most qualified, the only truly expert institute, the Press Council, took my side.” (1) In 1974, after the Yom Kippur War of October 1973, he commented on the affair in his series of publications “Verzamelde Notities” (Collected Notes), in which the born Catholic Hiltermann took a sublime look at the history of the birth of the modern state of Israel. It is this that draws our attention. (In order to make it more readable, parts omitted from this considerably abbreviated text are not indicated.)
1 – Why did the newspaper rush to the law?
The court cases that de Volkskrant initiated against me in 1969 touch on some fundamental questions with regard to Israel’s right to existence and the nature of antisemitism. It all started – to recall the beginning – when, during a radio programme, I dared to express my astonishment regarding the slovenly, partial and sometimes frankly wrong reporting in de Volkskrant regarding events in the Near East (about the war of attrition being waged against Israel by Egypt and the PLO). A report of this kind in the newspaper’s Saturday edition caused me to make the following remark in my radio programme on Sunday morning: “…that de Volkskrant has become the plaintiff for Communism to
-2such a extent that this Catholic newspaper has become frankly antisemitic – or at least anti-Israel – and on this point provides information that is entirely false…” The reaction of this originally Roman Catholic newspaper was remarkable. It took no offence at the accusation of being pro-Communism. The accusation that it was providing its readers with false information left it cold. It objected only to the accusation of being “antisemitic”. And that despite the inseparable addition of “or at least anti-Israel”. And the most remarkable thing was that the newspaper immediately ran to all available judges. Why did the newspaper rush to the law? Newspapers seldom call on the aid of the courts. Daily newspapers – and other mass media – generally see to their own affairs. Certainly when it comes to mutual differences. The remarkable thing – the characteristic – of the mass media is that they can turn to one another and attack one another in full publicity – coram populo. The verdict is spoken by a jury of hundreds of thousands of readers and listeners. A manufacturer of washing powder, who cannot directly defend himself against what a newspaper or radio programme says about him, seeks out a judge. Why then should a newspaper with a reasonable readership turn against a speaker on the radio with a considerable number of listeners via the narrow hearing apparatus and mouthpiece of a trial? If de Volkskrant had challenged me to a polemic in which I should either prove the truth of my statement or explain it, I would not have hesitated to recognise that I did not intend to qualify the newspaper as ‘antisemitic in the Hitlerian sense of the word’. With my inseparable characterisation of “antisemitic, at least anti-Israel” I meant that the newspaper gave reason to seriously suspect it of antisemitic feelings, and if that could not be proven or if it could be shown to be far from the truth, then at least it had an exorbitantly hostile attitude towards Israel. It seems advisable to me to use a separate qualification for the criminal antisemitism of a Hitler, and not to oblige ourselves to ban the word antisemitism because of the memory of concentration camps and gas chambers. If we were not allowed to use the word any longer then we would in fact be protecting the antisemitism that still exists. We would force opponents to use euphemisms. We would hardly be able to expose it any more. It is thus more sensible to assume that not everyone who uses the term antisemitism means the pathological, criminal, rabid destruction of Jews as practised by Adolf Hitler and Julius Streicher. There is another form of antisemitism. There are people, as Professor Philip Kohnstamm (among others) wrote in his magnificent analysis “The psychology of antisemitism”, of them who do not like Jews. Some frankly proclaim it. There are those for whom the Jewish accent is unpleasant or who object to the Jewish appearance and sometimes even the Jewish way of doing things – or whatever. This is permitted – or at least not forbidden. But anyone who thinks that way“doesn’t like them and is against the Jews, is already an antisemite, one whom we should be allowed so to name without being punished for doing so”. That does not, however, mean that he is accused of criminal and active antisemitism, nor even that he strives to limit Jewish influence in society. However no polemics took place. Only the small group of those who read the court proceedings took cognisance of my remarks following on some statements made by my opponents. There is then – to start with – the “Israel is a state like any other” theory. Why should it not be permitted to express criticism of Israel? Why should we have to handle Israel with kid gloves? Israel is, after all – and wants to be – a normal state. I would suggest that this first – apparently undeniable – simplification is not valid in general, because there is no such thing as a normal state. Every state is a piece of regulated society. With civil servants, and therefore bureaucrats, awkward customs officials, disagreeable policemen, terrible taxes and so on… But if we are talking about essentials, every state is
-3– still – a sacrosanct institution and even its name carries strong emotional overtones. Almost all states are the highest individual collective expression of illusions and longings, of the potential and history of its people. When he speaks of “La France” a Frenchman thinks of something different than does an American talking about “the States”.
2 – Israel is not a state like any other
Every state somewhat resembles an artwork. States can inspire people to hefty outpourings – and still can. No wonder that Providence was long considered the only founder of states. A state cannot be compared with an association representing the interests of its members. Secular states do not exist, at least not for long. This applies all the more so to Israel. For more than one reason! The first is that this is an exceptional nation. The Jewish people are not the only ones who have managed for centuries to remain in existence without having their own state. That is also the case with the Basques, the Druses, the Kurds – and perhaps we should also reckon the Armenians and Lithuanians in this group. However, none of these peoples were scattered. Only the Jewish people were scattered all over the world – as a people in time, as the Spanish diplomat Salvador de Madariaga once said – and yet succeeded to maintain its special characteristics and properties. Moreover the Jewish people have made a fundamental contribution to the foundation of the culture in which we still live. The Christian faith, Christian ethics and the history of Christian churches and their influence on the affairs of the European cultural area cannot be understood without knowledge of the Jewish contribution to the emergence of Christianity. Even now, when Christian beliefs and Christian ethics are undergoing a thorough process of reappraisal, a study of the spiritual contribution of the Jewish people as the basis of our civilization is required. Unlike other nations, the Jews also continue to produce thinkers who contribute to our spiritual wealth. Their theological researchers further explored the antiquity of their religion, which has strongly marked our culture. Old scrolls, found in the Holy Land, which our eyes also focus on if we want to reflect on the origins of our culture, have further enriched our understanding. Jews have continued to make important contributions to new philosophies – along the lines of Hasidism and through Martin Buber and Henri Bergson, to the personalism and existentialism of our era. It is characteristic of the Jewish talent, the Jewish-Dutch scientist Henri Prague has said in a convincing presentation, to make a direct link between the individual self and the greatness of the universe, whether it be God, another person or a thing. The Jews have always excelled in making this direct relationship. Which is why its people are a people unlike any other and their state too, an aspect that was again stressed during the last world war. But much more startling than what happened then, we should call the creation of the state of Israel, witnessing to an unimaginable will to live and to the vitality of that ancient and persecuted people, that always focused on mental activity with a vitality that we can only perceive in primitives, freeing itself from the ruins of the Second World War and turning the state of Israel into a viable entity. We can therefore safely say: Israel too is a state. But that does not mean it is a state like any other! In the same sense, on October 21st 1969 there was a headline to an editorial in the liberal daily the Nieuwe Rotterdamse Courant: “A State with a background”. With a background indeed.
3 - The official Arab position: Israel must be destroyed
An important point in the Israeli problem is that here the maxim audi et alterem partem – let us also hear the other side – is to be fully respected. Undoubtedly, after the Second World War the Dutch showed little interest in the Arab world. Nor did the Arabs make it
-4any easier for us. Their states supplied little information. Access was made difficult for travellers. Representatives of the mass media, radio and television, were often denied access, or their work was made impossible. The old links faded. The number of Arab experts in this country decreased. No more candidates came forward for the Leiden University chair that the Orientalist Snouck Hurgronje had made world famous and no more candidates applied for administrative positions in the Muslim Dutch East Indies. From their midst our diplomatic representative in Jeddah was usually chosen to oversee the welfare of thousands of pilgrims annually going from Indonesia to Mecca. The Arabs and we are estranged. Both have failed. To the disadvantage of both parties. This has undoubtedly influenced our attitude towards the Israeli-Arab conflict. Not, however, as regards the main concern. Whoever says that we have little investigated the position of the other party suggests that many have succumbed to an excessive affection for Israel, many of them inspired by feelings of admiration, pity and guilt. Thus it would also be that the reasonable convictions of the Arabs deserve our attention. The reasoning may seem logical, but it makes it – wrongly – appear that an Arab position has always existed with regard to Israel. As if there were an Israeli view to which an Arab view could be compared! And that it would be Israel’s contempt for the Arab position, that would make a solution to the dispute difficult to find. Until the Yom Kippur war of October 1973 this was certainly not the case (Hiltermann wrote in 1974). For the Arab position until the last round of the war was simple and absolute: “We do not want Israel!” Whenever someone accepts Israel’s existence as a fact, his understanding of that Arab position becomes impossible. The state of Israel must be destroyed – that was the official position. At the summit of Arab leaders in Khartoum, after the defeat of the Arabs in the Six Day War in 1967, that point of view was again deliberately and emphatically reiterated. Thrice NO – no recognition, no negotiations, no peace – was once again the Arab policy. Only briefly, during the last months of the life of the Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser (who died in September 1970), did it seem as if at least two Arab countries, the United Arab Republic and Jordan, were willing to accept the ‘fact’ of Israel’s existence. But then no shape was given to this apparent willingness. Reluctantly, the position of Khartoum during the Geneva conference, immediately following the Yom Kippur war, was somewhat abandoned, indicating a possibility of a reversal (2).
4 - Not Germany but Russia, gave impetus to the aliyah
Nevertheless, showing understanding for the Arab position up to the end of 1973 also meant showing understanding for the view that Israel as a nation cannot and should not exist. Therefore many, willing to support the Arab case, spread views on the creation of Israel that take away the latter’s simple right to exist. One of these was Isaac Deutscher, a British journalist with a Polish-Jewish background and inventor of the parable of the jump from a burning house into someone else’s garden, thereby breaking your neighbour’s leg! This parable suggests that Israel owes its existence to the criminal antisemitism of Adolf Hitler and that the Jews jumped from the burning Nazi house into an Arab garden, which they took by force from the original owner. Superficial listeners, unaware of Israel's history, may see this story as believable. I have to disappoint them. It is not even a simplification that has some leeway: it is an outright falsification in violation of the actual historical developments. For it was not the German antisemites, who called themselves National Socialists, that gave the impetus leading to the creation of a Jewish settlement in Israel, nor were they the ones who set in motion the proclamation of a Jewish state. No, it was Israel’s current mortal enemies, the Russians, who caused the Jewish colony that is now Israel to come into existence. The pogroms in Russia from 18811884, looked upon by the civilised world with horror and dismay, caused many Jews to
-5decide to devote their lives to finding a better home for the persecuted people. Leading Russian advocates for Jewish assimilation, such as the famous physician Leon Pinsker in Odessa, deeply affected by the pogroms, saw the futility of their struggle for emancipation. From the Russia of the Tsars the first settlers turned back to the land of their ancestors, to the Promised Land, in what is called the aliyah (ascent, immigration).
The leap from the burning house or the jump from a sinking ship
“How is it possible to not embrace Zionism?” they ask, “if one recognises the State of Israel as an historic necessity?” wrote Isaac Deutscher in 1954: «« What a Difficult and painful question to answer! From a burning or sinking ship people jump no matter where – on to a lifeboat, a raft, or a float. The jumping is for them an ‘historic necessity’, and the raft is in a sense the basis of their whole existence. But does it follow that the jumping should be made into a programme, or that one should take a raft-State as the basis of a political orientation? »» After the Six-Day War of 1967 Deutscher demanded that Israel withdraw from the Occupied Territories (the Sinai, the Gaza Strip, Golan, Judea and Samaria). In an interview given to the New Left Review on the second Friday after the war, he stated: «« A man once jumped from the top floor of a burning house in which many members of his family had already perished. He managed to save his life; but as he was falling he hit a person standing down below and broke that person's legs and arms. The jumping man had no choice; yet to the man with the broken limbs he was the cause of his misfortune. (…) You will, I am sure, recognise yourselves – I said to my Israeli audience, the remnants of European Jewry in Israel – in the man who jumped from the blazing house. The other character represents, of course, the Palestine Arabs, more than a million of them, who have lost their lands and their homes. They are resentful; they gaze from across the frontiers on their old native places; they raid you stealthily and swear revenge. You punch and kick them mercilessly; you have shown that you know how to do it. But what is the sense of it? And what is the prospect? The responsibility for the tragedy of European Jews, for Auschwitz, Majdanek, and the slaughters in the ghetto, rests entirely on our own western bourgeois ‘civilization’, of which Nazism was the legitimate, even though degenerate, offspring. Yet it was the Arabs who were made to pay the price for the crimes the West committed towards the Jews. They are still made to pay it, for the ‘guilty conscience’ of the West is, of course, pro-Israeli and anti-Arab. And how easily Israel had allowed itself to be bribed and fooled by the false ‘conscience money’. »» (3)
So no jumping from a burning house and not into anyone’s garden. Only after much hesitation was it decided to build the Jewish house in Palestine, which was still under Turkish rule, and at the time generally regarded as part of Syria. That would not have been decided at the time, had it not been shown that Palestine was virtually depopulated. Around the year 1850 the land had less than 200,000 inhabitants. In the Negev Desert wandering nomads and robbers undertook raids in the surrounding area. Reliable information on this subject – from non-Jewish sources – can be found, inter alia, in a report of the United States Consul T.G. Wilson of October 1881. Returning from a reconnaissance trip he reported that the plains were empty and neglected. In Jaffa no more than a hundred poverty-stricken families survived in huts together with their cattle. In his “Recollections of Travels in the East” (1830), John Carnet describes the inhabitants of Palestine as fearful and apathetic primitives (barbarians). The agricultural population suffered from malaria and the eye disease trachoma. In 1850 Haifa, the country’s second largest city after Jerusalem, had about four thousand inhabitants. This information can be found in the book “Palestine Land of Promise” by Walter Clay Lowdermilk (1944) (4), and it is repeated in “Israel” (1949) by Jozeph Milkman (5).
-6So it was not in someone else’s garden, but in an almost deserted region that the settlers came. After having been eroded by the felling of trees, it was abandoned by the large landowners. This ravaged area seemed so unpromising that the Jewish agency often argued against settlement in Palestine, because the colonists, it was thought, would perhaps not be able to make the wasted lands fruitful once more.
5 - Do not jump into someone else’s land
Is Palestine an Arab region? – what is more: is it a ‘sacred’ Arab region? It is difficult to condemn someone else’s declaration that a particular place is sacred. The so-called Holy Land is undoubtedly a holy place for the Jews. The significance of Jerusalem for Christendom is less, but it exists nonetheless. Why the Arabs called the city “the noble sanctuary” (al-Quds al-Sharif) is more difficult for us to understand. In my opinion the holiest places of Islam are in the Hijaz (Western Arabia). I can understand that the seats of the dynasties of the great caliphs are revered. But the Arab inclination towards Jerusalem seems frankly a bit odd to me - unless the country is revered as the home of the Jewish holy prophets because they are thought to have announced the revelation of Mohammed. But that is not exclusive: as the home of the prophets the land is holy for all of us. Why it is assumed that precisely from Jerusalem Mohammed ascended to heaven on a stairway of light is not easy for me to accept. But I have no right to reject this view. However I do think that I can conclude that the linking of Islam to Jerusalem should not be valued any more highly than that of Jews or Christians to that city, so that internationalisation of the holy places should be sought as a solution. Furthermore, I find it difficult to speak with much conviction of someone else’s garden and Arab land, because if you wish to go back further in history, even though the Hebrews did not inhabit the land from the time of the creation of the earth, they did live there long before the flood of Arabs arrived there in the 7th and 8th centuries AD. And Jews have always lived there since then: continuously since classical times there were Jewish colonies in Jaffa, Haifa and Jerusalem. So no wild leap into a neglected garden. Until 1948, only by purchasing did land come into Jewish hands. Not an inch was forcibly taken from the owners. Thus there may be no feelings of resentment among the Arabs because of this. How this all went is comprehensively and credibly set down in Joseph Klausner’s biography of Menahem Ussishkin, the great man of the Jewish National Fund (another leader who did not quit Hitler’s Third Reich, but left Russia), the son of the wealthy merchant Reb Moshe Ussishkin Zevi, who initially lived in Dubrowna in Belarus, then in Moscow and through years of pogroms was moved to Zionism. During 1920 Ussishkin began negotiating the purchase of the Jezreel Valley in Palestine. This consisted partly of swamps, where malaria mosquitoes ruled. The price was much higher than for the same land in Southern California. (6) Unacceptably high many thought, but Ussishkin managed to persuade his friends to buy. No price is too high for this holy land, he argued. Moreover, we will rehabilitate the land and then it will be worth the price. That is what happened. (7) The influx of Jews incited some Palestinians to return and it attracted many Arab settlers, because the Jewish immigrants brought activity. (8) Prosperity increased. Years later, after the establishment of Israel, the Palestinian refugees strongly condemned these land transactions. Their anger rightly focused more on the Arab sellers (who were often rich people from Lebanon) rather than on the Jewish buyers.
6 - An Arab ‘state’ of Palestine has never existed
Not with a leap, not into anyone else’s house, very definitely not into anyone else’s state. An Arab state of Palestine did not exist and, indeed, has never existed, not even under a
-7different name. The reason for this is that the Arabs were so late in amalgamating to form nations. In the course of their history they did not feel the urge to found nations as we know them. Their prophet Muhammad did not do that, nor did his immediate successors, who served as an example for what followed later. During the Ottoman or Turkish rule, administrative circles did form with some central authority but no nations in the modern Western sense. The current Arab nations are young formations arising from Western initiatives. Most date from the twentieth century. The Arabs were given the opportunity – after having been liberated from Turkish rule – provided that a period of British, French, Italian or Spanish colonisation preceded the formation of the state. As for the land of Palestine, for the part now called Israel, it was only possible to turn it into a state once the former Turkish province ceased to be under British mandate. The horrible tragedy of the non-Jewish inhabitants of the land of Israel is that they failed to assess the importance of the events. At the crucial moment they refused to participate in the new state because Jews were involved “though not taking any initiative themselves” …thereby failing to realise that they were missing their opportunity. In 1947 and ‘48 the non-Jewish inhabitants of Palestine rejected outright the mixed Jewish-Arab state, which some of their leaders were to desire so ardently a quarter of a century later. (9) Can we say that the Palestinians are to a certain extent right in rejecting the Jewish role in the formation of the state? Were they not saddled with Jewish fellow inhabitants because during World War I Balfour had promised the formation of a Jewish national home in Palestine, thus buying the support of international Jewry in the war with the Central Powers? I think that such an argument reverses the facts. The Jews did not go to Palestine because of the Balfour Declaration, though that declaration was made possible and useful because the Jews had already been returning to Palestine for a long time. Jews who had been returning to the old country since the late nineteenth century took part in the formation of a Palestinian state. The Palestinians were given ample time to reflect on it, because the formation of the state took place at snail’s pace. After the First World War Britain used its promise to the Jews as a pretext for governing Palestine by mandate. Britain was expected to monitor the implementation of that promise, but does not seem to have kept itself very busy. (10) After World War II, to be exact on January 18, 1947, the British government announced that it could find no formula for peaceful coexistence of the Jewish part and what was called by way of convenience the Arab part. Britain saw no way of decolonising the colonised area – that is, of getting rid of its Jewish settlements.
7 - The Arab rejection of the partition plan was the real cause
Since England withdrew on April 28th 1947, it became the task of the United Nations to solve the Palestine puzzle. At that time the UN enjoyed great authority. The hope of the civilised world was fixed on it. After the rough war years, when injustice and arbitrariness ruled, the General Assembly was looked up to with great reverence as the global forum of representatives of peoples believing in law and reason and peace. The United Nations itself was not one to come up with false promises. The organisation set up an independent commission to draw up a report. The commission visited Palestine, including Jordan, and expressed its findings and recommendations in Geneva. The majority concluded that it had to divide Palestine between Jews and Arabs. A minority proposed a federal solution. The Palestinian Arabs had boycotted the work of the commission and wanted to know nothing of its final recommendations. The commission’s plan to partition Palestine was ratified by the United Nations after many deliberations. It was on the agenda from October to late November 1947. Finally came the historic decision. On
-8November 29th 1947, the General Assembly of the United Nations approved the plan with a two-thirds majority. This meant that the most authoritative body, the most representative body in international politics, had at the time voted for a division, and thus for the establishment of a Jewish state and also for the establishment of another Arab populated area. There we see how the moment could have come for the creation of what is now widely advocated: a Jewish state and an Arab state, whether federal or not. The response of the Arabs: No! I believe the Palestinian non-Jews left unused a momentous occasion in the history of humankind – at least as far as they were concerned. Thus if the idea of creating a home in Palestine was a reaction to the Russian pogroms, the emergence of Israel was not the answer to the German gas chambers “but to the Arab rejection of the partition plan of the United Nations”. And whereas on November 29th 1947 the United Nations took their major decision, on 14th May 1948 – less than six months later – David Ben Gurion proclaimed the Declaration of Independence for the new republic called Israel. It was the Arabs themselves who, by their uncooperative and aggressive reaction, gave the final push to the creation of the republic of Israel. The new nation, known as Israel, was accepted by the world. Eleven minutes after the proclamation, President Truman approved the country de facto and not 48 hours would elapse before the Soviet Union – even de jure – recognised Israel. The new state joined the United Nations. In December 1948 five of the eleven members of the Security Council (France, Britain, Canada, Belgium and China) abstained when Israel submitted its membership application; Syria voted against. In March 1949 the Council recommended acceptance; only Egypt was still against. England submitted a blank vote because Israel had made no promises about the fate of the Arab refugees and an international status for Jerusalem. In May 1949 a two-thirds majority of the General Assembly admitted Israel as the 59th member of the UN. Nevertheless the Arab world continued to deny the existence of the new country. Only a quarter of a century later, from a few utterances of prominent Arab leaders at the conference in Geneva already referred to, could it be inferred that the Arab world is perhaps willing to resign itself to the existence of ‘the fact of Israel’.
8 - The Palestinian refugee problem
Today (wrote Hiltermann in 1974) it has not become any easier to make acceptable arrangements for the Palestinian non-Jews, in particular for the refugees. That problem has since been overgrown by myths. Let me first state that a number of Arabs had begun to leave the mandate area before 1947. These included the wealthy landowners and the well-to-do. At the time the Arab world was – and is also largely still – very elitist and has a capitalist structure. Many, afraid of what would happen when England ceded the mandate, took off of their own accord, without being encouraged to do so by anyone else. This exodus swelled into a mass flight following the decision of the General Assembly to partition the country. The emerging clashes between Jewish security organizations, vigilante groups, gangs and their Arab opponents, resulted in 1948 in a joint attack on the new state by the armies of the surrounding Arab countries. When the UN ordered a ceasefire, the parties accepted and the ceasefire lines became the borders of Israel; but groups of displaced people found themselves outside the Arab region. There is still a fierce debate over the question of who is responsible – and therefore responsible for the fate of the hundreds of thousands of refugees. On the Israeli side it has been suggested that Arab radio broadcasts encouraged these people to leave the field of war only to return after it was purified of the Jews. I do not think this discussion is quite relevant because – I believe – that it is not decisive which radio station or what authority caused the refugees to flee. Just like the tens of thousands who, in 1940, fled to France
-9from the Netherlands and Belgium to escape Hitler’s armies, the Arabs were not given a diktat or marching orders to pack their bags. No less than refugees in Europe they attempted to escape in terror from the war. It was not the one advising them to flee who can be held responsible for their fate but rather those practising violence. It was the war that the Arabs were fleeing from. It is certain who initiated the struggle in 1948: not the Israelis but the Arab Leage countries. What is certain is that at the time the BBC Radio quoted the Secretary-General of the Arab League at a press conference in Cairo as follows: “This will be a genocidal war and a great slaughter, which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.” Exaggerated language of course. But what could the simple Arab population think other than that a horrible time was about to come? From descriptions by BBC correspondent Erskine Childers (11), who sympathises with the Arabs, it appears that there were 650,000 refugees, and that is definitely the maximum. The lowest estimate is 300,000. Which means that initially there were no more refugees than there are people living in a large Dutch city. In theory it would have been extremely easy to collect them together and to set them down somewhere else, but in practice things were different. It is matter of abstract theory. To the outside world all Arabs feel like brothers and show mutual solidarity. Internally, things are different, because the fabric of their societies consists of families, clans, tribes and a few nations. Brethren from elsewhere are not easily incorporated into these structures. This is true not only for those displaced from Palestine. Thus the poor devils from Yemen are welcome to join their affluent brethren in Kuwait – as guest workers, but nothing more. Palestinian refugees are therefore not absorbed into the neighbouring and sparsely populated Arab commonwealth. Rather they have obtained a higher profile in their dispersion. Yet, it must be said, they have gained a place in the Arab world. It is incorrect to say that it is the Israelis who have created their problem: the Arabs themselves have done it. There was also a counter-current that was silently taken up in Israel. When it was stated in no uncertain terms that the Jewish communities were no longer welcome in the Arab host countries where they had been staying until then, an even larger number of Palestinian refugees fled to Israel, an aspect that is usually ignored. (12) It may be a good thing – in order to bury that garden myth once and for all – to think on the following: the entire ArabMuslim population has 112 million people. That is a generous estimate, if the criterion ‘Arab’ is readily accepted also for mixed peoples because they were represented at a meeting such as that held in Khartoum. This multitude possesses 11.6 million square kilometres. That is a huge expanse – more than 280 times the size of the Netherlands and more than 500 times that of Israel. On this vast plain, 2.5 million, 20% of world Jewry, ask for a piece of land the size of a postage stamp. The Jews in the world are a mere particle. They believe they have the right to a pinhead of space…
- 10 -
Remark by Luns: On the map at the beginning of this article and the one above part of Israel is coloured differently. That is actually Israel’s heartland, covering Judea and Samaria, generally indicated by the misleading term “West Bank”. This area was occupied in the 1948 War of Independence by the Jordanian army and remained so until 1967 when, consequent on the Six Day War, it was once again united with the rest of Israel (then too the military-strategic Golan Heights were annexed, see movie “Israel's Critical Security Needs for a Viable Peace”). Led by Glubb Pasha, an Englishman who was actually named John Bagot, in 1948 Jewish inhabitants were expelled with brute force from the biblical Judea and Samaria. Jewish cemeteries were desecrated and synagogues were destroyed or violated by using them as stables or chicken coops, and even as toilets. Between 1948 and 1967 Jordan did little or nothing to develop these areas. Section 6 of the Jordanian Constitution explicitly stated: “Any person, except a Jew, can be a Jordanian citizen and can live in the Jordanian controlled areas”. Judea and Samaria, when occupied by Jordan, were thus off limits to Jews! There was, however, some Arab occupation. It was also the case that large areas were accessible to military personnel only.
- 11 What many do not know is that the large influx of settlers did not take place until between 1974 and 2000, something that played no role when Hiltermann wrote his piece. During this period an estimated 400,000 Arabs from Syria and Jordan moved here, often on only a tourist visa. If it turned out that the social conditions and wages were much better than at home, they decided to stay. The Jews returned after 1967, first to Hebron, where the Jewish community was massacred in 1929, and also to the places around Gush Etzion, which the Arab Legion had destroyed in 1948. It was only after 1973 that the Jewish pioneers began to settle in the deserted areas of Samaria, Benjamin and Jordan Valley, while the incoming Arabs went elsewhere. In 2010 about 1.3 million Islamic Arabs lived in Judea and Samaria as well as 400,000 Jews and an estimated 60,000 Christians.
Notes written by Hubert Luns / April 2009
The case against Jaffe Vink, a trial against Hiltermann (1) In 2008, a similar trial took place because of the imminent publication of a satirical letter “Balkenende’s Secret Speech”. It contained an alleged speech given by Dutch Prime Minister Balkenende during a secret meeting with thirty prominent figures of his party, in which a comparison was drawn between Islam and Christianity and in which Islam was qualified as a problem. This caused the Prime Minister to take out an injunction against Opinio, with the Dutch State demanding on pain of fines the withdrawal of the text and the publication of a rectification. The judge ruled that the article, written by editor Jaffe Vink, was obviously an invention designed to caricature the (lack of) controversy and to act as a provocation. The judgement stated literally: “In so far as this is a critical treatment of Mr. Balkenende, it is something that he, as Prime Minister and leader of the Christian Democrat party, will have to put up with”. At the time, one of the employees of Opinio was the well-known politician Ayaan Hirsi Ali. (See article: “The End of the Balkenende Era”). The Rabat conference had not yet been held (2) When Hiltermann wrote his piece, the Rabat Conference in October 1974 between the Arab leaders had not yet taken place. In the final communiqué of this conference the moderate position was buried and the old argument was reiterated: that the conflict would continue until Israel’s destruction was achieved. (3) Source: “The Non-Jewish Jew and other essays” by Isaac Deutscher - Oxford University Press, London # 1968 (pp. 112, 136-37). Lowdermilk’s round trip in 1938 en 1939 (4) In 1938 and 1939, Walter C. Lowdermilk, an assistant chief of the US Soil Conservation Service, made an 18-month tour of Western Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East to study problems of soil erosion and land use. The research was done by his organisation at the request of a congressional committee. The main objective was to gain information in the interest of soil conservation in the United States. “Palestine, Land of Promise” expresses Lowdermilk’s personal point of view and not necessarily that of the US Soil Conservation Service (published by Victor Gollancz Ltd, London – 1944; references pp. 60-61, 114). Jozeph Melkman, an important author (5) Jozeph Melkman, a Dutchman, changed his name to Joseph Michman after settling in Israel. In 1957 he was elected chairman of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Remembrance Institute. He died in early 2009. His son, Professor Dan Michman was made chief historian of the Israel Finkler Institute for Holocaust Research in 1983. The land was sold for exorbitant prices (6) Ibid Lowdermilk p. 112: «« The Royal Commission Report points out that Jews, because of the pressure of (Jewish) refugee needs, pay far more than the land is actually worth. I found that
- 12 they paid three or four times what similar plots cost in Syria and much more than the same type of land would sell for in Southern California (in the US). »» The land was once more proposed to in marriage (7) As Henk Poot, a Dutch preacher and worker with “Christians for Israel”, expressed it: “The land came to life once again. Nature bloomed and the birds came back. The land was once more proposed to in marriage by the sons and daughters of Israel!” The activity attracted Arabs (8) Ibid Lowdermilk p. 110: «« The cost of living in Palestine is somewhat higher than in neighbouring countries, about 8 to 10 % above that in Syria, and 12 to 15 % above that in Iraq. Since wages in Palestine are more than double those in Syria and three times as high as those in Iraq, Palestinian Arabs obviously enjoy a much higher standard of living. »» The lack of will on the part of the Arabs to sue for peace (9) The situation as expressed after the 1993 Oslo Accords and the accompanying Road Map turned into a fiasco. Which proves that the Arab attitude has not changed, not even 35 years after the 1974 Rabat summit. Every gesture on the part of Israel to achieve peace, such as the transfer of the Gaza Strip in 2005, is met with a lack of will on the part of others. How Transjordan was withdrawn from the Mandate (10) In July 1922, the League of Nations entrusted Great Britain with the Palestine Mandate, recognizing “the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine”. Jews and Arabs were commonly called the inhabitants of Palestine at the time, to be treated irrespective of race and religion. In the Mandate no distinction was made between what are now Palestine and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The whole region was called Palestine and treated as one, at least in the mind of readers of the resolution, of which article 5 states: “The Mandatory (Great Britain) shall be responsible for seeing that no Palestine territory shall be ceded or leased to, or in any way placed under the control of, the Government of any foreign Power.” Three months later, in a move to retain control over the Suez Canal, Britain and France agreed on a deal with the Hashemite family and King Fuad of the newly independent state of Egypt. As a result, the territories east of the river Jordan were ceded, called Transjordan, which comprised 77% of the original Mandate, and also the Golan Heights. It was a backroom deal and the League of Nations just rubber-stamped it in an apparent contradiction of its own resolution. Childers, a renowned commentator (11) In the 1960s Erskine Barton Childers was working for the BBC in both radio and television. His broadcasts for the famous BBC World Service ranged on varying topics from the Suez Crisis and Palestine of 1956 to the John F. Kennedy assassination in 1963. The Suez Canal and Palestine issues would later form the basis of his often-quoted writings. He was seen as one of the important writers in the West to challenge the view that the Palestinian refugees of the 1948 war fled their homes because of Arab evacuation orders. (See “The Transformation of Palestine” by Erskine B. Childers - Northwestern University Press, Evanston # 1971, pp. 165-202). The Jewish exodus from the Arab countries (12) From 1948 until the early 1970s about 860,000 Jews left their homes in Arab countries, where they had stayed for many generations and where they felt at home. A total of 260,000 reached Israel in the period between 1948 and 1951, and thereafter a further 600,000. The Jews of Egypt and Libya were expelled, while those of Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and North Africa had to leave because of a coordinated effort by the Arab governments to create physical and political hardship. The exodus was the result of a deliberate policy on the part of the Arab League. Most were forced to abandon all their belongings without compensation. The World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries (WOJAC) estimates the size of Jewish-owned real estate left behind in Arab countries at 100,000 square kilometres, or more than four times the size of the State of Israel.
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