The Cairo redux

A recent Reuters article penned by Samia Nakhoul on June 2 outlines a laundry list of reasons why Trump’s peace initiative is unfair to Arabs and doomed to failure.

However, Nakhoul skirts around a number of core issues which reveal the actual focus of her opinion piece.

Nakhoul starts by saying that the initiative is essentially “…a plan to finish off the Palestinian cause.”

For 71 years, and particularly after 1964, the unequivocal “Palestinian cause” has demonstrably been the dismantling of the Jewish State.

In 71 years since Israeli independence there has not been a single “Palestinian” peace initiative. There have, however, been continual calls for Israel’s destruction.

Nakhoul quotes an unnamed “Arab source’ as saying that the peace initiative will not “… give justice to the Palestinians.”

On the question of “justice” for “Palestinians”, it is worth noting that Nakhoul’s understanding of political justice includes Arab rule over Jerusalem, a right of return for 5 million “Palestinian” ”refugees” in perpetuity, and a standing Arab army within the borders of the additional Arab state he envisions.

Nakhoul continuously refers to the term “Palestinians” as if this entity exists historically. A cursory look through the history books will show that such an entity has never existed. It is true that for around 30 years, the term Palestinian referred to the Jewish inhabitants of the British Mandate Levant after the defeat of the Ottoman Turks.

It is also true that Palestinian bodies/organisations such as the Palestine Post, the Palestine Orchestra founded by Bronisław Huberman in 1936, and the United Palestine Appeal were in fact Jewish entities which became the Jerusalem Post and the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and the United Jewish Appeal as we know them today.

The same is true of the 1939 Palestine soccer team which played a series of games in Australia. That team consisted of player names like Ginzburg, Resnik, Werner, Viner and Liberman – an all-Jewish team of players who played for Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel.

For their part, Mandate Arabs of the time eschewed the term “Palestine” as being “Jewish” and “Zionist.” For them, they were Muslims first, and “Southern Syrians” second.

Undeterred, Nakhoul ignores the fact that there has never been an Arab OR Muslim nation, state, country or people called Palestine/inians. Indeed, until the founding of the Palestine Liberation Organization in Cairo in 1964, “Palestine” and “Palestinian” had no meaning for Mandate Arabs. As late as 1967, even the UN did not refer to the term “Palestinians” merely calling them “refugees” (Resolution 242 of November 22, 1967).

Even other Arab states did not recognise this political group (PLO) until the Rabat Summit of 1974. For the Mandate Arabs and for the PLO (or PA of today), “Palestine” was just a part of the “Arab Muslim national homeland” that had to be liberated from the “infidel” Jews. Nakhoul further finds no cognitive dissonance in the fact that Levantine Arabs called their homeland, “Jazirat al-Arab” or “Island of the Arabians”. This is quite understandable given that, in general, a people give their name to a country, and not vice-versa. And as a final offering on this point, I suggest that in order to be considered a separately identified people, those people would need a common culture, history, often language, etc. that is different from other people. Today’s “Palestinians” have none of those things; they are totally indistinguishable from any other Arab with the exception that their “history” goes back less than 60 years….

In other words, the name “Palestine” and many other specific features of the 1922 Palestine Mandate were too closely associated with Jews and Zionism to have offered much of an attraction for Muslim Arabs. The term was appropriated by Arafat in 1964 merely as a bridgehead to delegitimise the right of Jews to a Jewish state.

Nakhoul then quotes Robert Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy as saying that Trump’s peace initiative based on “positive economic proposals could be lost by the attempt to skirt around Palestinian rights.”

The casual reader might wonder what are “Palestinian rights” now that the veneer of Palestinianism has been peeled back to reveal what it is historically.

Those “rights” were enshrined in the 1947 U.N. General Assembly resolution recommending the partition of the territory of the national home for the Jewish people into two new independent states, the one Jewish and the other Arab. By refusing the recommendation and opting instead to declare war in May 1948, the Arabs lost any right to a “state” of their own determination by an definition of the laws of armed conflict. The Arabs of Palestine and their supporting neighbours then compounded their error with two further full scale wars in 1967 and 1973. There is no need to add anything further regarding “Palestinian rights” for an entity which has consistently demonstrated that they want not a homeland for what are today’s Israeli Arabs, but rather the destruction of a Jewish one.

In 2019 as in 1947, the issue is well summarised by Walter Russell Mead who stated:

“The real problem is exactly what it has been for sixty years: deeply rooted Palestinian opposition to a two-state solution. While many Palestinians are ready to accept that solution, many of those see it as only a temporary step on the road to a single, Palestinian state, and a very large group of Palestinians stands with the Hamas leadership in rejecting the legitimacy of Israel on any terms.”

 

The intentions and meaning of Donald Trump and the American peace plan remain in inverse proportion to meaning and intent of the declarations and actions of the Palestinians.

In the Middle East, more than anywhere else perhaps, blood begets blood, and the latest outright refusal of the PA and Hamas to consider peace and prosperity for their constituents in addition to a negotiated political settlement, is but another “NO” in the long line of Arab Muslim “nos”  in this 100 year war.

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