Saturday, April 13, 2013

On the Irony of History

I re-read today this historic document,  the Peel Commission Report (July 1937), to the League of Nations, when one sentence distinguished itself to me:

Considering what the possibility of finding a refuge in Palestine means to thousands of suffering Jews, is the loss occasioned by Partition, great as it would be, more than Arab generosity can bear?

The map on the right illustrates the proposed boundaries and size of the Jewish state that the Commission proposed back in 1937. (Compare with this map)

Let me repeat: The statement was written in 1937, when the world was beginning to get wise to what was being planned for the Jews, but even so, the report can only imagine "thousands" of suffering Jews getting a lease on life if permitted to immigrate to Palestine.

The Arabs of Palestine, though addressed with the most explicit plea in the report for showing "generosity" to the persecuted Jews of Europe, existentially threatened, did not for a second consider this possibility and continued to mount their pressure on the British to seal the borders. When there was hardly a country in the world open to accept Jewish refugees fleeing from Hitler's ominous programmes, Mandate Palestine, which had been commissioned with the provision of a safe haven for Jews, chose to close ranks with the Arabs and seal the borders, against the Jews.

The only place that would have welcomed these refugees and could have saved hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives, joined the rest of the world's complicity in these crimes.

20 years later  Ben-Gurion wrote: 

"Had partition [referring to the Peel Commission partition plan] been carried out, the history of our people would have been different and six million Jews in Europe would not have been killed—most of them would be in Israel". 

Today, the staple Palestinian argument is that they had no responsibility whatsoever for what happened to the Jews. But they did. They bear at least the same responsibility as as every country that ever refused to accept Jews who were looking to get out of Europe.

The Grand Mufti's special relationship with Hitler is another aspect of Arab complicity in the annihilation of the Jews:

As German political scientist Matthias Kuntzel chronicled in his work ... the Muslim Brotherhood, which spawned the PLO's Fatah as well as al-Qaida, Hamas and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, owes much of its ideological success and pseudo-philosophical roots to Nazism."

"In the 1930s, the mufti of Jerusalem, Amin el-Husseini, rigorously courted the Nazis. When, in 1936, he launched his terror war against the Jewish Yishuv in the British controlled Palestine Mandate, he repeatedly asked the Nazis for financial backing, which began arriving in 1937." "From 1936-39 Husseini's terror army murdered 415 Jews. In later years, Husseini noted that were it not for Nazi money, his onslaught would have been defeated in 1937. His movement was imbued with Nazism. His men saluted one another with Nazi salutes and members of his youth movement sported Hitler Youth uniforms."

With this history as a model, the Palestinian Foundational documents which call for the destruction of Israel make a lot of sense. They were not conceived out of the blue, a reaction to the Six-Day-War and occupation, but were the natural denouement that began in 1920, premises taken to their logical conclusions.

The Palestinian narrative likes to attribute the establishment of the Jewish State in 1947 to Western guilt over the Holocaust, an expiation of which turned the Palestinian Arabs into a sort of totally innocent sacrificial lamb. But here is the Peel Commission Report, the Jewish acceptance and the Arab rejection, telling us a different kind of story.

It tells us that Britain reneged on its international commitment to the League of Nation's mandate principles,
that there was full awareness of the evil brewing up in Europe against the Jews,
that there was a formal, international plea addressed to the Arabs to allow a very small part of the territory originally promised to the Jews as a safe haven for persecuted European refugees,
that there was never the slightest indication that Arabs ever considered the implications of such a total and implacable rejection, despite the clear and shrill warnings,
that the most important Palestinian Arab leader spent the war years as Hitler's guest, and helping him wherever he could in liquidating Jews.

It also tells us that Arabs' rejection of the Peel Commission plea for partition yielded favourable fruits for them: 6 millions Jews exterminated and none who would ever be able to set foot in the land of their ancestors.

Imagine the re-doubled rage when it turned out that the Jews were not giving up on their existence or their rights in the land of the Jews. 

Imagine the rage when it turned out that the Jews could actually fight to keep that land and win!

Imagine the rage when it turned out that the Jews, far from being a broken up, intimidated and traumatized people, turned out to have the stamina, the will, the intelligence, to build a state where other Jews could now find refuge and no longer need be the supplicants for a right given freely to anyone else: the right for a free, decent, and dignified life in their own country.

Will the Arabs ever learn that anger makes you stupid? That compromise is not a dirty word? That human rights are indivisible, and that what goes around comes around?


At 12:36 PM EDT, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent post.

If you need a fiction break, try "Greenmantle" by John Buchan, the fictional version of Peter Hopkirk's "Like Hidden Fire".
Both draw the linkage between Germany inciting the muslim part of the British Empire during WW1, setting the stage for the next phase of muslim alliance with Nazi Germany.


At 5:20 PM EDT, Anonymous Brian Goldfarb said...

Never mind fiction, try (especially for non-Israelis) Benny Morris "1948: The First Arab-Israeli War". Tells the story well, and is from an Israeli historian who's moved from the 'New Historian' camp to a more "centrist" position.

For a shorthand version, try my review of the book here:

Of course, those like the "angry arab" are far from interested in facts: fiction is their line. It's far more comforting thatn facing reality.

At 8:38 PM EDT, Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

Hi Brian: I read your review and the discussion that followed. There was some doubt there about the quote from Benny Morris. I can translate that segment for you, if it is relevant.

At 7:39 PM EDT, Anonymous Brian Goldfarb said...

Sorry, contentious, you've lost me. What quote from Benny Morris. I note that the book was originally written in English (he was born and started his education in England) and that's the version I reviewed. It's only just appeared (or so I understand, and am ready to be corrected) in Hebrew.

So, anything I got wrong, please correct me.

At 6:40 PM EDT, Blogger The Contentious Centrist said...

There seemed to be some doubt in the comments about the Hebrew source in this interview:


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