The Origin of the Palestine-Israel Conflict

By H, Richard | Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, December 1998 | Go to article overview

The Origin of the Palestine-Israel Conflict


H, Richard, Washington Report on Middle East Affairs


The Origin of the Palestine-Israel Conflict

-- Theodor Herzl, founder of modern Zionism.

By now Theodor Herzl's written pledge to early fellow Zionists to "spirit" the indigenous Palestinian Arab population "across the border" "while denying it any employment in our own country" is fairly well known to those interested in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. The reason it is not known at all to the general American public, however, is that it is a documented admission that Palestine was not "a land without people for a people without land," as depicted in an early Zionist recruiting slogan, and also that the earliest Zionist challenge was not to "make the desert bloom" but in fact to dispossess the Palestinian population of one of the most fertile areas of the Middle East in order to replace it with Jewish inhabitants.

It also explains why the Jewish National Fund, which has been in existence longer than the Israeli government, attaches to all land that passes through its hands restrictive covenants forbidding any non-Jew to live, work, or even spend the night on that land. This covenanted restriction now applies to some 90 percent of Israel inside its pre- 1967 border, the so-called "Green Line."

The quotation cited above, and dozens of others leading to the same conclusions, are contained in a 32-page booklet issued by Jews for Justice in the Middle East, P.O. Box 14561, Berkeley, CA 94712. It is a comprehensive overview of the history of the dispossession of the Palestinians, but it is short enough to be read easily at one sitting.

The organization explains on the front cover that "the Palestinians have a real grievance: their homeland for over a thousand years was taken, without their consent and mostly by force, during the creation of the state of Israel. And all subsequent crimes -- on both sides -- inevitably follow from this original injustice."

Such conclusions are confirmed in this quotation by pioneer Zionist writer Ahad Ha'am from the booklet's section entitled "Early History of the Region":

"Serfs they [the Jews] were in the lands of the Diaspora, and suddenly they find themselves in freedom [in Palestine]; and this change has awakened in them an inclination to despotism. They treat the Arabs with hostility and cruelty, deprive them of their fights, offend them without cause, and even boast of these deeds; and nobody among us opposes this despicable and dangerous inclination."

This description, which could be applied to the present-day inhabitants of the West Bank Jewish "settlements" just as readily as Ahad Ha'am applied it to the Jewish settlers in Palestine early in the 20th century, is the kind of quote I, as a long-time student of the Palestinian dispossession, discover, copy, and misplace regularly. Now it will be a little easier to find in a small booklet comprised largely of such quotations, many familiar but others from very recent sources including Israel's new crop of revisionist historians who are quietly rewriting and replacing the accepted (and untruthful) version of Israel's history taught in Israeli schools and also in Jewish day schools in the U.S., and reflected in the American mainstream media and in the remarkably sketchy (and generally inaccurate) references to Israeli history in U.S. social studies textbooks.

Consider, and treasure, some of the following gems from among the dozens of quotations gathered and carefully presented in chronologically prepared sections. In its section on "The British Mandate Period, 1920-1948" the booklet cites the author of the infamous Balfour Declaration of November 1917, which called for establishment of a Jewish homeland in the British Mandate of Palestine, "it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious fights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine." This World War I British government statement, which was inconsistent with solemn pledges made to the Arabs during the same period, was almost certainly related to the services of European or American Zionists in facilitating the entry the previous April of the United States into World War I on Britain's side. …

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