Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: From The Immemorial

Israeli-Palestinian conflict from time immemorial
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Never before has the international community invested so much effort and such a large sum of money in any other cause than to solving Israeli-Palestinian conflict. World and local wars, genocides, and persecutions of millions of people haven’t drawn as much attention as the immemorial “Palestinian issue.”

 
The UN set a separate Palestinian agenda, which has more resources and three times more personnel than the UN refugee service tasked with the service of all other refugees around the world. It has also coined its own definition of refugee. Solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a flagship goal of all American presidents. The number of UN resolutions related to this subject is at a record high. Engagement in finding a solution paves the way to becoming a Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

 
Some people doubt if any of the efforts made have brought us any closer to establishing peace in the Middle East. On the contrary, some say that peace is further away than ever before, dividing the blame between the Jewish community, Israel, and the complexity of the issue. Up to the last minute, President Obama tried to earn merit and justify his Nobel Peace Prize. However, it looks like after the last presidency, the heated conflict is even muddier than before.

 
The new American president promises a radical change in approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some prophesize a catastrophe, others are leaning toward a measured optimism.

 
The status quo resembles a vicious circle with no way out in sight. While searching through various works of analysis and speculative analyses, I found an article published two years ago and written by NadavShragai about the American journalist and researcher Joan Peters a few weeks after her death. Shragai was a member of the staff of the daily Israeli newspaper Haaretz which he left in 2009 after 26 years of working there. Exploring the basis of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the potential solutions, the Israeli newspaper “Israel Hayom” reran his article about Joan Peters.


Joan Peters, who died in January 2015, would be 80 this year. Her book From Time Immemorial – originally released in 1984 — is still being reprinted. It not only maintains its relevance, but also, paradoxically, gains accuracy every year. The first appearance of the book caused uproar. She was attacked with fury by offended scholars like Noam Chomsky, Edward Said, Norman Finkelstein and dozens of others. Emotional invectives labeling her useless, worthless and deceitful were thrown in her direction. At the same time, professional historians like Barbara W. Tuchmanspokein her defence.
Peters hit the soft spot of human rights “activists,” or so-called propagators of politically influenced historical truth, showing that the beginnings of the conflict between the Arabs and the Israelis in Palestine were presented in a one-sided narration which blatantly contradicts the historical documents.

 

The route to a discovery that the widely accepted reality is misrepresented began in the trenches with whistle-blowers signaling the false narrative. Joan Peters was a well-known TV journalist. She was considered an authority so knowledgeable about the Middle East that she was an advisor in the Carter administration. One day she signed a contract to write a book about Palestinian refugees. After taking a hefty advance payment, she began her research. The expectations of the publisher were apparent; the better Joan Peters was getting to know the source material, the more evident were the conclusions. However, they were contradictory to her former opinions and to the expectations of the publisher.

 

As a result, Peters gave the advance back and continued her research. After seven years of studying archives in depth, in 1984 she published a book entitled From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict Over Palestine.

 

The year 1984 wasn’t as dark as imagined by George Orwell in 1948. Observers, however, noted a slight resemblance to Animal Farm. The book by Joan Peters hasn’t changed the course of the world. Today, it belongs to the collection of the obligatory books for those who look for answers, wanting to know, “how it all happened” and “why it happened the way it did.”
Beginning her research, Peters found out that the UN defines the conditions classifying Palestinians as refugees much differently from those in other conflicted regions of the world.

 

Joan Peters proved that many Palestinian refugees weren’t long-time citizens of Palestine, but economic migrants who were temporarily staying in the region where Israel was later formed.

 

According to Nadav Shragai, from the time the book was published, dozens of other scholars followed suit, fully confirming the conclusions. However, Peters was the first to bring the documents to public notice.
Questioning the flagship narrative of the left, Peters was under attack. Both the Western and the Israeli left was outraged, feverishly trying to prove her wrong by searching for any loose ends. Robert St. John, an American writer and journalist, an author of 23 books (many on the subject of the Middle East), summed up all the attempts to discredit Peters: “it is a book for everybody who places importance on facts and logic and not on propaganda and irrationality.”


The title of Joan Peters’ book relates to the tradition of defining a refugee by the UN. It states that an immigrant is a person who, as a result of war, enemy action, or exile is forced to leave a place that was their homestead for a long-established period of time.

The UN changed this definition for the benefit of Palestinians and only Palestinians. Now anybody, who prior to 1948, lived for at least two years in the region where later Israel was formed is recognized as a refugee.

 

After visiting Palestine, Mark Twain wrote about the uninhabited and poor region, ruined by a chaotic economy run by the Ottomans. Joan Peters divided the region of the British Mandate of Palestine into three parts. In the first, where there were no Jewish settlers, the Arab community increased between 1893 and 1947 by 116%. In the second, where there were onlya few scattered Jewish settlements, the increase of the Arab community rose by 185%. In the third region, where the Jewish population was the strongest, the number of the Arab citizens increased from 92,000 in 1893 to 462,000 in 1947,showing an increase of 400%.

 

The conclusion was clear. The high numbers of the Palestinian refugees from 1948 weren’t living in that region for a substantial amount of time. They were newly resettled economic migrants from the neighbouring countries.

 

The author was working for months in the London Public Record Office digging through stacks of dusty files. She searched through Syrian, Egyptian and British documents that were unclassified by the officials of the British Mandate, showing that the British administration was fully aware of the scope of the illegal Arab immigration to Palestine. They were turning a blind eye to the illegal inflow of people from Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt. At the same time, the administration was uncompromisingly fighting back the Jewish illegal immigration and limiting legal Jewish immigration.

 

Joan Peters was engaged in the American human rights movement with the Afro-American issue at its core. As she concluded in one of her last interviews, looking from a distance when she lacked knowledge and through the prism of a dominant media narrative, she was searching for any analogy between Israel and racism in the American South.

“With time I realized how funny and wrong this analogy was. If there were any analogies, they were between blacks and Jewish community in Palestine. Jewish were the citizens of Israel for ages…” she wrote.

In the foreword of the Hebrew edition of the book, published in 1988, she wrote:

 

“I am not affiliated with any party. My goal was to light up some facts and its relations that were hidden before for me and leaving this book in the hands of those who made the same mistakes as I did.”
Palestinians are trying to convince the world that Jesus was Palestinian, and they are directly descended from the Canaanites; that in Jerusalem there was no Jewish temple. These stories have found a lot of support among activists affiliated with movements such as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. But also with prime ministers and presidents and highly sophisticated diplomats, becoming a dominant narrative of the UN or the British Labour Party and obviously among the recipients of this dominant media narrative.

 

The overwhelming majority of Palestinians consider the narrative of deportation and occupation to be “divine.” The ideas that they themselves could have immigrated to that region are treated as a blasphemy. However, rarely and in passing they admit to knowing exactly how the occurrences really unravelled.

 

Writing about the book by Joan Peters, NadavShragai recalls the statement of Fathi Hamada, the Hamas’ Minister of Internal Affairs. During the fights with Israel in March 2012 Hamada called Egypt for support, stating that half of the inhabitants of Gaza are Egyptians and the other half are Saudis.

 

Below, footage of the statement:

There are many similar statements. Perhaps, one of the more notable ones is the proclamation of the Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee member, Zahir Muhsein for a Dutch newspaper “Trouw”:

 

“’The Palestinian people do not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct ‘Palestinian people’ to oppose Zionism. For practical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa. While as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.“

(Source: James Dorsey, „WijzijnalleenPalestijn om politiekereden”, Trouw, March 31st 1977.

 

It has been 40 years since that statement, and today in fact many people identify as Palestinians. Maybe their Palestinian identification is even stronger than that of Iraqis and Syrians whose affiliation with a nation appeared to be much weaker than the relationship with a religion and clan.

 

Having a Palestinian identity doesn’t however fully embrace the agenda to fight for the rights and assets of Palestine. In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict Palestinians are treated like tools, like dogs of war to combat Israel. Palestinian elites, either of the Palestinian National Authority or the Gaza Strip, hardly ever request that Palestinian immigrants be granted citizenship or even elementary human rights in Arab countries. Arab help for Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank is not focused on building democratic institutions, infrastructure and economy. It is solely directed at supporting the fight against Israel.

 

Just a month ago on 7 February 2017 the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Palestinian National Authority and leader in “negotiating peace”, Nabil Shaath, said in an interview for ON TV that in the year 2000 the King of Saudi Arabia (back then an heir to the throne) gave Palestinians half a million dollars and convinced the Arab League to donate an additional half a million dollars to support the intifada.

 

That form of help to sustain the “Palestinian identity” comes not only from Arab nations. The agenda is also supported by Iran and Turkey. Palestinians are the victims of the politics of Arab nations, Iran, Turkey and all other “saints,” including the Pope and the UN. The biggest tragedy is that every new generation of Palestinians is brought up to be murderers. The Palestinians seeking peace are killed by their own people and ignored by the West. The problem is that supporting “president” Abbas and Hamas’ rallies continually empower the narrative which from the very beginning is based on a lie.

 

Is there a chance to change the paradigm of the approach to the “Palestinian issue?” For those who don’t wish to participate in this charade, along with reading the book of Joan Peters, it is worth it to search for peaceful Palestinians, and the people who feel sympathy for this miserable nation, who – similarly to Joan Peters bothered to check the facts.

Big politics happens over our heads. We are expected to partake in a lie, which we can reject.

 

Andrzej Koraszewski

PS
In January and February of 2017 a poll was conducted among the Arabs inhabiting the West Bank and Gaza. They were asked about their national identity. The study of 1199 randomly selected people was conducted by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Center (a group of Palestinian scientists and journalists active from 1988).

The poll concludes that 52.5% of the respondents define themselves as “mainly Palestinians,” 21.7% said they were Muslim and for 8.2% the most important was Arab identity. The remaining 4.5% were undecided.

The same study showed a high level of mistrust towards the governing body of the Palestinian National Authority and Hamas. That kind of study doesn’t formulate specific conclusions, but nevertheless proves that after dealing for decades with the “Palestinian conflict,” a Palestinian identity exists. We can talk about giving birth to the Palestinian nation.

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