Today I attended a lecture at Sydney University by Ambassador Izzat Abdulhadi who is the head of the general delegation of Palestinians to Australia. All that basically means is that he is the representative of Abu Mazen to Australia (specifically Australasia).
He presented a brief summary of the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians and talked about ways in which peace could come about. Before I go into detail about what he discussed and proposed, I want to say that that he presented the Palestinian cause quite well even though he made a few key mistakes in his facts which I will go through.
1. He believes that the Palestinians are the indigenous people to that area.
The sources that I will be using will be primary (probably all) from The Jewish Virtual Library (JVL). This source references all of its own sources which you can check yourself if you doubt what has been written. Interestingly, I can answer this myself. During a discussion in one of my lecture (Jewish Thought, Civilisation and Culture) we discussed the Palestinian claim to the land now known as Israel. We found that they mostly originated from the Philistines, a group of pagans that almost exclusively lived in an area now known as the Gaza Strip. There is no record of them living in now what is known as Modern Israel. JVL also has information on this subject.
Palestinian claims to be related to the Canaanites are a recent phenomenon and contrary to historical evidence. The Canaanites disappeared from the face of the earth three millennia ago, and no one knows if any of their descendants survived or, if they did, who they would be.
Sherif Hussein, the guardian of the Islamic Holy Places in Arabia, said the Palestinians’ ancestors had only been in the area for 1,000 years.9 Even the Palestinians themselves have acknowledged their association with the region came long after the Jews. In testimony before the Anglo-American Committee in 1946, for example, they claimed a connection to Palestine of more than 1,000 years, dating back no further than the conquest of Muhammad’s followers in the 7th century.10 And that claim is also dubious. Over the last 2,000 years, there have been massive invasions that killed off most of the local people (e.g., the Crusades), migrations, the plague, and other manmade or natural disasters. The entire local population was replaced many times over. During the British mandate alone, more than 100,000 Arabs emigrated from neighboring countries and are today considered Palestinians.
By contrast, no serious historian questions the more than 3,000-year-old Jewish connection to the Land of Israel, or the modern Jewish people’s relation to the ancient Hebrews.
2. He believes that Israel was a colonial project created in order to serve the super powers at the time, namely the UK and US.
Once again this is false as many of the resources that should have been available to help Jews resettle in Palestine/Israel were actually closed to them. Indeed, many Jews hated the imperialistic presence of the British and actually fought and died trying to drive them out of Palestine.
Moreover, as British historian Paul Johnson noted, Zionists were hardly tools of imperialists given the powers’ general opposition to their cause. “Everywhere in the West, the foreign offices, defense ministries and big business were against the Zionists.”29
Emir Faisal also saw the Zionist movement as a companion to the Arab nationalist movement, fighting against imperialism, as he explained in a letter to Harvard law professor and future Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter on March 3, 1919, one day after Chaim Weizmann presented the Zionist case to the Paris conference. Faisal wrote:
The Arabs, especially the educated among us, look with deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement….We will wish the Jews a hearty welcome home….We are working together for a reformed and revised Near East and our two movements complete one another. The Jewish movement is nationalist and not imperialist. And there is room in Syria for us both. Indeed, I think that neither can be a real success without the other (emphasis added).30
“Our settlers do not come here as do the colonists from the Occident to have natives do their work for them; they themselves set their shoulders to the plow and they spend their strength and their blood to make the land fruitful. But it is not only for ourselves that we desire its fertility. The Jewish farmers have begun to teach their brothers, the Arab farmers, to cultivate the land more intensively; we desire to teach them further: together with them we want to cultivate the land — to ‘serve’ it, as the Hebrew has it. The more fertile this soil becomes, the more space there will be for us and for them. We have no desire to dispossess them: we want to live with them. We do not want to dominate them: we want to serve with them…..”
— Martin Buber31
In the 1940s, the Jewish underground movements waged an anti-colonial war against the British. The Arabs, meanwhile, were concerned primarily with fighting the Jews rather than expelling the British imperialists.
3. He believes that the 2nd Intifada was caused by Ariel Sharon’s visit to the Temple Mount.
This, frankly, is just crap. Regardless of whether it caused it or not (and it didn’t), an Israeli, Jewish Prime Minister should be able to visit the most holy site in Judaism without fear of being attacked. In fact it was Arafat’s intention all along for the violence to break out. The JVL explains the incident quite thoroughly; once again all these sources are listed at the bottom of the website for you to browse.
Imad Faluji, the Palestinian Authority Communications Minister, admitted months after Sharon’s visit that the violence had been planned in July, far in advance of Sharon’s “provocation.” “It [the uprising] had been planned since Chairman Arafat’s return from Camp David, when he turned the tables on the former U.S. president and rejected the American conditions.”18
“The Sharon visit did not cause the ‘Al-Aksa Intifada.’”
— Conclusion of the Mitchell Report, (May 4, 2001)19
The violence started before Sharon’s September 28, 2000, visit to the Temple Mount. The day before, for example, an Israeli soldier was killed at the Netzarim Junction. The next day in the West Bank city of Kalkilya, a Palestinian police officer working with Israeli police on a joint patrol opened fire and killed his Israeli counterpart.
Official Palestinian Authority media exhorted the Palestinians to violence. On September 29, the Voice of Palestine, the PA’s official radio station sent out calls “to all Palestinians to come and defend the al-Aksa mosque.” The PA closed its schools and bused Palestinian students to the Temple Mount to participate in the organised riots.
Just prior to Rosh Hashanah (September 30), the Jewish New Year, when hundreds of Israelis were worshipping at the Western Wall, thousands of Arabs began throwing bricks and rocks at Israeli police and Jewish worshippers. Rioting then spread to towns and villages throughout Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Internal Security Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami permitted Sharon to go to the Temple Mount – Judaism’s holiest place – only after calling Palestinian security chief Jabril Rajoub and receiving his assurance that if Sharon did not enter the mosques, no problems would arise. The need to protect Sharon arose when Rajoub later said that the Palestinian police would do nothing to prevent violence during the visit.
Sharon did not attempt to enter any mosques and his 34 minute visit to the Temple Mount was conducted during normal hours when the area is open to tourists. Palestinian youths — eventually numbering around 1,500 — shouted slogans in an attempt to inflame the situation. Some 1,500 Israeli police were present at the scene to forestall violence.
4. He believes that the settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem are a barrier to the peace process.
This line has been used by many an opponent to Israel, and once again is just not true. Just off the cuff I can rebuff that argument. Why, if the settlements were a barrier to peace, was there no peace before there were settlements? The settlement of the West Bank only happened AFTER the 6 day war. Why did the Arabs launch a war against Israel (Egypt blockading the straits of Tiran was an act of war) before there were settlements? The answer of course was that the settlements were never a barrier to the peace process.
Settlements have never been an obstacle to peace.
- From 1949-67, when Jews were forbidden to live on the West Bank, the Arabs refused to make peace with Israel.
- From 1967-77, the Labor Party established only a few strategic settlements in the territories, yet the Arabs were unwilling to negotiate peace with Israel.
- In 1977, months after a Likud government committed to greater settlement activity took power, Egyptian President Sadat went to Jerusalem and later signed a peace treaty with Israel. Incidentally, Israeli settlements existed in the Sinai and those were removed as part of the agreement with Egypt.
- One year later, Israel froze settlement building for three months, hoping the gesture would entice other Arabs to join the Camp David peace process. But none would.
- In 1994, Jordan signed a peace agreement with Israel and settlements were not an issue. If anything, the number of Jews living in the territories was growing.
- Between June 1992 and June 1996, under Labor-led governments, the Jewish population in the territories grew by approximately 50 percent. This rapid growth did not prevent the Palestinians from signing the Oslo accords in September 1993 or the Oslo 2 agreement in September 1995.
- In 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered to dismantle dozens of settlement, but the Palestinians still would not agree to end the conflict.
Settlement activity may be a stimulus to peace because it forced the Palestinians and other Arabs to reconsider the view that time is on their side. References are frequently made in Arabic writings to how long it took to expel the Crusaders and how it might take a similar length of time to do the same to the Zionists. The growth in the Jewish population in the territories forced the Arabs to question this tenet. “The Palestinians now realize,” said Bethlehem Mayor Elias Freij, “that time is now on the side of Israel, which can build settlements and create facts, and that the only way out of this dilemma is face-to-face negotiations.”3
The disposition of settlements is a matter for the final status negotiations. The question of where the final border will be between Israel and a Palestinian entity will likely be influenced by the distribution of these Jewish towns. Israel wants to incorporate as many settlers as possible within its borders while the Palestinians want to expel all Jews from the territory they control.
If Israel withdraws toward the 1967 border unilaterally, or as part of a political settlement, many settlers will face one or more options: remain in the territories, expulsion from their homes, or voluntary resettlement in Israel. The impediment to peace is not the existence of those settlements, it is the Palestinians’ unwillingness to accept a state next to Israel instead of one replacing Israel.
Those were the main points that were discussed. Ambassador Abdulhadi did go into detail about the refugee issue saying that at the very least there needed to be some compensation (which I agreed with) and at most a a symbolic resettlement of maybe 100K Palestinians into Israel which I reject. At the end the Ambassador took questions from the audience, many of them were quite good, my question (which I didn’t get around to asking was this:
“You talked about Israel taking down the Wall and checkpoints in the West Bank yet these security measures have stopped at least 80% of terrorist attack into Israel. Why should Israel take down these measures if it is going to be attacked by the terrorists?”
Interestingly enough I actually managed to talk to him for about 15 minutes by myself and raised that point and his response was that if Israel did take down these measure and withdrew to the ’67 borders then negotiations for a viable Palestinian state and peace would be able to proceed. I rejected that saying that we had already offered a similar deal in 2000 at Camp David and we were turned down without a counter offer by Arafat. His response was that Arafat was weak and couldn’t take this offer because he was facing too much opposition from within.