Victor Davis Hanson Private Papers

Israel’s Worst Enemy: Lies and Myths

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine 

The Washington Post reports that some members of Secretary of State John Kerry’s senior staff think it’s time to say “enough” of Kerry’s futile and delusional attempts to broker peace between the Israelis and Arabs and implement the “two-

Templar1307 via Flickr

Templar1307 via Flickr

state solution.” That’s a revelation one would think the chief diplomat of the greatest power in history would have experienced decades ago. Since the failed 1993 Oslo Accords, it has been obvious to all except the duplicitous, the ignorant, and the Jew-hater that the Arabs do not want a “Palestinian state living in peace side-by-side with Israel,” something they could have had many times in the past. On the contrary, as they serially prove in word and deed, they want Israel destroyed.

As Caroline Glick documents in her new book The Israeli Solution, the “two-state solution” is a diplomatic chimera for the West, and a tactic for revanchist Arabs who cannot achieve their eliminationist aims by military means. But the “Palestinian state” is merely one of many myths, half-truths, and outright lies that befuddle Western diplomats and leaders, and put the security and possibly the existence of Israel at risk.

First there is the canard that Israel is somehow an illegitimate state, a neo-imperialist outpost that Westerners created to protect their economic and geopolitical interests. In this popular myth, invading Jewish colonists “stole” the land and ethnically cleansed the region of its true possessors, the indigenous “Palestinian people.” This crime was repeated after 1967 Six Day War, when Israel seized the “West Bank,” occupying it as a colonial power and subjecting its inhabitants to a brutally discriminatory regime. The continuing power of this lie can be seen in the frequent comparison of Israel to apartheid South Africa. And this false historical analogy in turn drives the “Boycott, Divest, and Sanctions” movement, which is attempting to make Israel even more of a pariah state in order to duplicate the success of those tactics in dismantling white rule in South Africa.

Every dimension of this narrative is false. The state of Israel came into being by the same legitimate process that created the other new states in the region, the consequence of the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire after World War I. Consistent with the traditional practice of victorious states, the Allied powers France and England created Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Jordan, and of course Israel, to consolidate and protect their national interests. This legitimate right to rewrite the map may have been badly done and shortsighted––regions containing many different sects and ethnic groups were bad candidates for becoming a nation-state, as the history of Iraq and Lebanon proves, while prime candidates for nationhood like the Kurds were left out. But the right to do so was bestowed by the Allied victory and the Central Powers’ loss, the time-honored wages of starting a war and losing it. Likewise in Europe, the Austro-Hungarian Empire was dismantled, and the new states of Austria, Hungary, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia were created. And arch-aggressor Germany was punished with a substantial loss of territory, leaving some 10 million Germans stranded outside the fatherland. Israel’s title to its country is as legitimate as Jordan’s, Syria’s and Lebanon’s.

Then there is the melodrama of the “displacement” of the “Palestinians,” who have been condemned to live as stateless “refugees” because of Israel’s aggression. This narrative of course ignores the fact that most of the Arabs fleeing Palestine left voluntarily, the first wave, mainly the Arab elite, beginning in November 1947 with the U.N. vote for partition. At the time it was clear to observers that most of the Arabs chose to flee their supposed ancestral homeland. In September 1948 Time magazine, no friend of Israel, wrote, “There is but little doubt that the most potent of the factors [explaining the Arab flight] were the announcements made over the air by the Arab Higher Committee urging the Arabs to quit.” These were followed in 1948 by 300,000 others, who either were avoiding the conflict, or were induced by the Arab Higher Committee with the promise that after victory they could return and find, as Arab League Secretary-General Azza Pasham said in May 1948, “that all the millions the Jews had spent on land and economic development would be easy booty, for it would be a simple matter to throw Jews into the Mediterranean.” Indeed, the withdrawal of Israelis from Gaza in 2005 confirmed the prediction that failed in 1948. The Gaza greenhouse industry, which American Jewish donors purchased for $14 million and gave to the Palestinian Authority in order to help Gaza’s economy, was instead destroyed by looters.

But from a historical perspective, it is irrelevant how the Arabs became refugees. When in 1922 the Greeks lost their war they fought against the Turks in order to regain their sovereignty over lands their ancestors had lived in for nearly 3000 years, 1.5 million Greeks were transferred out of Turkey in exchange for half a million Turks from Europe. After World War II, 12 million Germans either fled or were driven from Eastern Europe, with at least half a million dying. In both cases, whether justly or not, the wages of starting a war and losing included the displacement of the losers. Yet only in the case of the Palestinian Arabs has this perennial cost of aggression been reversed, and those who prevailed in a war they didn’t start been demonized for the suffering of refugees created by the aggression of their ethnic and religious fellows.

In still another historical anomaly, in no other conflict have refugees failed to be integrated into countries with which they share an ethnic, religious, and cultural identity. Most of the some 800,000 Jews, for example, driven from lands like Egypt and Iraq in which their ancestors had lived for centuries, were welcomed into Israel, which footed the bill for their maintenance and integration into society. The Arab states, on the other hand, kept their brother Arabs and Muslims in squalid camps that have evolved into squalid cities, their keep paid for by the United Nations Relief Works Agency, the only U.N. agency dedicated to only one group of refugees. Thus the international community has enabled the revanchist policy of the Arab states, as Alexander Galloway, head of the UNRWA, said in 1952: “It is perfectly clear that the Arab nations do not want to solve the Arab refugee problem. They want to keep it an open sore, as an affront against the United Nations, and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders don’t give a damn whether the refugees live or die.”

This brings us to the chief myth: that there exists a distinct Palestinian “people,” the original possessors of the land who have been unjustly denied a national homeland. In the quotes above notice that no Arab ever refers to these people as “Palestinians,” but as “Arabs,” which is what most of them are, sharing the same religion, language, and culture of their Arab neighbors in Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria. In fact, as Sha’i ben-Tekoa documents in hisbook Phantom Nation, the first U.N. resolution referencing “Palestinians” instead of  “Arabs” occurred 3 years after the Six Day War, marking international recognition of a “Palestinian people” and nation as yet another Arab tactic in gaining support in the West by exploiting an idea alien to traditional Islam. Before then “Palestinian” was a geographical designation, more typically applied to Jews. Numerous quotations from Arab leaders reveal not a single reference to a Palestinian people, but numerous one identifying the inhabitants of the geographical entity Palestine as “Arabs.”

For example, in 1937, Arab Higher Committee Secretary Auni Abdel Hadi said, “There is no such country as Palestine. ‘Palestine’ is a country the Zionists invented. ‘Palestine’ is alien to us.” The Christian Arab George Antonius, author of the influential The Arab Awakening, told David Ben-Gurion, “There was no natural barrier between Palestine and Syria and there was no difference between their inhabitants.” Later in his book he defined Syria as including Lebanon, Palestine, and Jordan. In testimony to the U.N. in 1947, the Arab Higher Committee said, “Politically the Arabs of Palestine are not independent in the sense of forming a separate political identity.” Thirty years later Farouk Kaddoumi, then head of the PLO Political Department, toldNewsweek, “Jordanians and Palestinians are considered by the PLO as one people.” After the Six-Day War a member of the Executive Council of the PLO, Zouhair Muhsin, was even more explicit: “There are no differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. We are all part of one nation. It is only for political reasons that we carefully underline our Palestinian identity… Yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity serves only tactical purposes. The founding of a Palestinian state is a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel.”

Such examples can be multiplied, which makes all the talk of a separate Palestinian “people” deserving of their own nation nothing but propaganda supported by a bogus history that claims the Arabs who came to Palestine in the 7th century A.D as conquerors and occupiers, or later as migrant workers and immigrants, are the “indigenous” inhabitants descended from Biblical peoples like the Canaanites or the shadowy Jebusites––a claim unsupported by any written or archaeological evidence. Meanwhile, of course, abundant evidence exists showing that the Jews have continuously inhabited the region since 1300 B.C. Once more the logic of history is turned on its head, with the descendants of the original inhabitants deemed alien invaders, while the descendants of conquerors and occupiers are sanctified as victims.

Such an inversion is worthy of Orwell’s 1984. Yet these lies and myths––and there are many more–– have shaped and defined the conflict between Israel and the Arabs, and set the parameters of diplomatic solutions. But we should heed the Biblical injunction about the liberating power of truth. And the truth is, for a century fanatics filled with genocidal hatred have violently and viciously attacked a liberal-democratic nation legitimately established in the ancient homeland of its people. Until our diplomacy and foreign relations in the region are predicated on this truth, the “two-state solution” will continue to be a dangerous farce.

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About victorhanson

Victor Davis Hanson is the Martin and Illie Anderson Senior Fellow in Residence in Classics and Military History at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, a professor of Classics Emeritus at California State University, Fresno, and a nationally syndicated columnist for Tribune Media Services. He is also the Wayne & Marcia Buske Distinguished Fellow in History, Hillsdale College, where he teaches each fall semester courses in military history and classical culture. He recently published an historical novel The End of Sparta (2012), a realistic retelling of Epaminondas invasion and liberation of Spartan-control Messenia. In The Father of Us All (2011), he collected earlier essays on warfare ancient and modern. His upcoming history The Savior Generals(2013) analyzes how five generals in the history of the West changed the course of battles against all odds. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2007 and the Bradley Prize in 2008. Hanson, who was the fifth successive generation to live in the same house on his family’s farm, was a full-time orchard and vineyard grower from 1980-1984, before joining the nearby CSU Fresno campus in 1984 to initiate a classical languages program. In 1991, he was awarded an American Philological Association Excellence in Teaching Award, which is given yearly to the country’s top undergraduate teachers of Greek and Latin. Hanson has been a National Endowment for the Humanities fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford, California (1992-93), a visiting professor of classics at Stanford University (1991-92), a recipient of the Eric Breindel Award for opinion journalism (2002), an Alexander Onassis Fellow (2001), and was named alumnus of the year of the University of California, Santa Cruz (2002). He was also the visiting Shifrin Professor of Military History at the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland (2002-3). He received the Manhattan Institute’s Wriston Lectureship in 2004, and the 2006 Nimitz Lectureship in Military History at UC Berkeley in 2006. Hanson is the author of hundreds of articles, book reviews, scholarly papers, and newspaper editorials on matters ranging from ancient Greek, agrarian and military history to foreign affairs, domestic politics, and contemporary culture. He has written or edited 17 books, including Warfare and Agriculture in Classical Greece (1983; paperback ed. University of California Press, 1998); The Western Way of War (Alfred Knopf, 1989; 2d paperback ed. University of California Press, 2000); Hoplites: The Ancient Greek Battle Experience (Routledge, 1991; paperback., 1992); The Other Greeks: The Family Farm and the Agrarian Roots of Western Civilization(Free Press, 1995; 2nd paperback ed., University of California Press, 2000);Fields without Dreams: Defending the Agrarian Idea (Free Press, 1996; paperback, Touchstone, 1997; The Bay Area Book reviewers Non-fiction winner for 1996); The Land Was Everything: Letters from an American Farmer (Free Press, 2000; a Los Angeles Times Notable book of the year); The Wars of the Ancient Greeks (Cassell, 1999; paperback, 2001); The Soul of Battle (Free Press, 1999, paperback, Anchor/Vintage, 2000); Carnage and Culture (Doubleday, 2001; Anchor/Vintage, 2002; a New York Times bestseller); An Autumn of War (Anchor/Vintage, 2002); Mexifornia: A State of Becoming (Encounter, 2003),Ripples of Battle (Doubleday, 2003), and Between War and Peace (Random House, 2004). A War Like No Other: How the Athenians and Spartans Fought the Peloponnesian War, was published by Random House in October 2005. It was named one of the New York Times Notable 100 Books of 2006. Hanson coauthored, with John Heath, Who Killed Homer? The Demise of Classical Education and the Recovery of Greek Wisdom (Free Press, 1998; paperback, Encounter Press, 2000); with Bruce Thornton and John Heath, Bonfire of the Humanities (ISI Books, 2001); and with Heather MacDonald, and Steven Malanga, The Immigration Solution: A Better Plan Than Today’s (Ivan Dee 2007). He edited a collection of essays on ancient warfare, Makers of Ancient Strategy (Princeton University Press, 2010). Hanson has written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, International Herald Tribune, New York Post, National Review, Washington Times, Commentary, The Washington Post, Claremont Review of Books, American Heritage, New Criterion, Policy Review, Wilson Quarterly, Weekly Standard, Daily Telegraph, and has been interviewed often on National Public Radio, PBS Newshour, Fox News, CNN, and C-Span’s Book TV and In-Depth. He serves on the editorial board of the Military History Quarterly, and City Journal. Since 2001, Hanson has written a weekly column for National Review Online, and in 2004, began his weekly syndicated column for Tribune Media Services. In 2006, he also began thrice-weekly blog for Pajamas Media, Works and Days. Hanson was educated at the University of California, Santa Cruz (BA, Classics, 1975, ‘highest honors’ Classics, ‘college honors’, Cowell College), the American School of Classical Studies, Athens (regular member, 1978-79) and received his Ph.D. in Classics from Stanford University in 1980. He divides his time between his forty-acre tree and vine farm near Selma, California, where he was born in 1953, and the Stanford campus.

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