You are here:   Reputations >  Overrated > Overrated: Mahmoud Abbas

 Illustration by David Smith

Mahmoud Abbas is the man who Britain, America and Europe think deserves to be the president of an independent state of Palestine — the establishment of which, they tell themselves, would end the Middle East impasse. 

To Western eyes Abbas, the Fatah-backed President of the Palestinian Authority, is a moderate. It is, however, simply astounding that he should be viewed in this way. It is even more astounding that Western liberals should endorse him and give him a free pass for his behaviour.

Both he and the Palestinian establishment he controls repeatedly say they will never accept Israel as a Jewish state. So his aim remains the destruction of Israel. He and his people repeatedly say that not one Jew would be allowed to live in Palestine. Such a state would therefore be a racist entity ethnically cleansed of Jews. 

Abbas has gone even further in making plain that his bigotry is directed not just at Israel. Considering the possibility that Nato forces might be brought in to police a settlement, Abbas declared: "I will not accept the presence of Jews in these forces."

Such bigotry is hardly surprising given that he earned the Soviet equivalent of a PhD in Moscow for a dissertation published in Arabic entitled "The Other Side: the Secret Relations between Nazism and the Leadership of the Zionist Movement" in which he claimed that the Holocaust didn't happen. 

He declared that the gas chambers were never used to murder Jews, and that at most 890,000 Jews were killed by the Nazis. This happened, he claimed, in part because the Zionists led a campaign of incitement against the Jews living under Nazi rule in order to fuel their exterminationand so bring about the victory of Zionism.

Not only does Abbas thus odiously deny the Holocaust, but he and his cronies also repeatedly deny the history of the Jewish people in their false claim that the Palestinians, rather than the Jews, were the authentic inhabitants of the land.

Despite mouthing platitudes in English about the aim of two states living side by side, when speaking in Arabic Abbas and Co deny Israel's right to exist at all. 

Although the Jews are the only people for whom Israel was ever their nation-state, the PA-controlled paper Al-Hayat al-Jadida stated earlier this year: "The Zionists must acknowledge publicly, in front of the world, that the Jews have no connection to the Palestinian Arab land." And last May (in a speech read by an adviser), Abbas scorned as a mere Israeli claim the 3,000-year old historical presence of the Jews in the Land of Israel-and asserted an entirely fictitious 9,000-year-old Palestinian presence dating back to 7000 BCE. Despite the fact that no such people as the Palestinians then existed, Abbas declared that this made them "the owners of history".

Abbas may look like a mild-mannered businessman but in fact he is steeped in terrorism. He has boasted of dispatching "fighters" to murder Israeli civilians during the terrorist intifada of 2000-05. And today he persists in glorifying the murder of Israeli innocents and showering honours upon their killers. 

Once again, he speaks out of both sides of his mouth in English and Arabic. In a recent interview with Israeli TV, he condemned the Palestinians' naming of a square after Dalal Mughrabi, the terrorist who perpetrated an atrocity in 1978 when nearly 40 Israeli civilians were burned alive in a hijacked bus.

However, when speaking to Palestinians in 2010, Abbas said: "Of course we want to name a square after her...We carried out a military action. Can I then later renounce all that we have done?"

Under Abbas, the PA regularly glorifies terrorists and turns them into role models. After the death of Amin al Hindi, a senior planner of the massacre of Israeli athletes in the 1972 Munich Olympics, Abbas personally attended the official red-carpet military funeral provided for him by the PA. 

He described another of the Munich terrorists, Muhammad Daoud Oudeh, as "a wonderful brother, companion, tough and stubborn, relentless fighter". And he does nothing to end the incitement to hatred and murder of Jews and Israelis promulgated in the educational materials, sermons and media under his control. 

This is not the behaviour of a moderate. This is a man who should be in a courtroom being prosecuted for mass murder. Yet this is the man to whom the West declares that Israel must make concessions so that he can plant a state of his own on its border, which the people around him make clear will be used as a springboard from which to destroy Israel.

The fact that Abbas has made no concessions is ignored. The fact that he demands an end to settlement building but nevertheless refused to negotiate while such building was frozen is ignored. The fact that he is a Jew-hater committed to ethnic cleansing and the destruction of a country is ignored. 

The West gives Abbas a free pass because they think there is no alternative solution to the one he proposes. But, appallingly, the solution that he represents risks being a final one.

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December 9th, 2011
10:12 AM
Darkman,Here goes,one last time (into the ether, if everyone else has already left!): Israel can indeed be defended sans propaganda - I could do it myself - but only its less grandiose claims & complaints. As yet you seem unwilling to try./ On the claim from ancient history, you misunderstand the burden of proof. If everyone claimed title to territory on such grounds, there'd be perpetual chaos & conflict. This is doubtless why no court recognises such a claim & states conduct their affairs without recourse to it. The burden's on Zionists to explain - why an exception for them? “BECAUSE” is all you've managed thus far./ On Mark Twain, if you truly wish to learn about Palestine, seek more reliable & comprehensive sources, as suggested./ The Zionists were willing to “share”. In immigrants, this is cheek. Some were indeed willing, to some small extent. Most gave it little thought. When they did, they were willing to allow “Arabs” in their Zionist state, but preferred “transfer” if it could be managed. From early on, they made no secret Palestine was to be their state and the “Arabs” could like it or lump it – strange notion of “sharing”./ Calling them “Arabs” because there's no “distinct historical nationality” is irrelevant to the self-determination the inhabitants of Palestine had a right to. Zionists think it lets them say they'd no collective rights. Not so. That some Palestinians deny the fact of Jewish presence & land purchase is no “fundamental stumbling block” any more than that many Zionists deny Palestinians collective rights./ The British made 2 promises: to act as trustee for the inhabitants & to facilitate a Jewish National Home thro' immigration. They could've anticipated this wouldn't work (many warned as much). I think it a fair summary that the British weren't averse to a Zionist state, & certainly wanted to encourage the Zionists, to counter the natives (traditional imperialist practice) & help control a region vital to the Empire. You find Palestinian violence difficult to understand. Yet Zionists resorted to violence when they felt the British an obstacle. On Palestinian violence, read the succession of reports by British officials (whose purpose was to establish what actually happened, to avoid a repeat). After the Palestinian uprising had been suppressed (with Zionists joining in, not just in self-defence – good training), Britain realised its policy endangered its hold on a region ever more vital with war imminent. So it changed its policy (the 1939 White Paper). The Zionists had cooperated with the British Army in the 1930s, and many Jewish citizens fought in WW2. This allowed a steady accumulation of arms to use against Britain (now an obstacle) & the locals (tho' some timely arms deals were also required). Any Palestinian military capability had been destroyed in the uprising. Britain did indeed arm its client, Jordan. Its preferred outcome, as evident from FO papers, was partition between Israel & Jordan along lines informally agreed by both before 1948. The Jordanian forces concentrated on securing the territory allocated them in the informal partition./ I think it useful not to blur the distinction between the civil war in Palestine in 1947-8 & the intervention of the neighbouring states. By May '48. Zionist forces were clearing territory not allocated them by UNSCOP, but integral to the maps they presented it as the bare minimum they could accept (ie all of what they finished up with). Intervention by Arab states could be characterised as coming to the (belated) defence of the Palestinians. It's astonishing to find here repeated the lie about refugees fleeing at the behest of neighbouring states or their own leaders. There is no evidence. Indeed, Haganah produced an assessment that ¾ of the refugees were impelled to flee by the actions of the Zionists, a conclusion confirmed by British officials. The archives of Haganah et al. preserve the logs of various brigades, and itemise their methods of summary execution, terror bombing, & credible threats. Benny Morris is revealing. When he was a “revisionist”, he chronicled the cleansing but, contra his own evidence, concluded it was all a happy accident of war. When he morphed into a Lieberman thug, he no longer pretended it was happy accident, but regretted that Ben Gurion hadn't finished the job. Then, yes, Israel did shoot anyone trying to return to their homes, & did expel “Arabs” when the opportunity arose, & did have contingency plans to expel them all (under cover of war was the hope)./ Care is needed about the UN's role. It has no authority to grant territory, but had assumed the role of trustee from the Mandate Power. The General Assembly voted (just) to recommend UNSCOP's proposal (if you want to learn how grubby diplomacy can get, read the accounts of how the vote was won). The General Assembly asked the Security Council to see how to implement it. The Zionists accepted, as international recognition that a Zionist state was allowable, but rejected any constraint on territory. (It's been said, had the Palestinians accepted it, the Zionists would've had to reject it – they couldn't countenance a Palestinian state on territory essential to the viability of their Zionist state.) The Palestinians rejected partition. With their rejection, the proposal lapsed, as the Security Council recognised. I find odd the argument that the Palestinians by the exercise of their right to self-determination in rejecting the dismemberment of their homeland should be considered thereby to have forfeited their right to self-determination. The UN remained responsible as trustee for the well-being of the citizens of Palestine & has failed utterly in its responsibility ever since./ It is disingenuous to imply that the expulsion of Jews from Arab states after 1948 has any bearing on the rights & wrongs of the expulsion of Palestinians in 1947-8./ To call conquest “defensive” gives no title to territory so acquired./ Jordan did indeed annexe the West Bank. No-one complained because it suited every state in the region and beyond to ignore the existence of its inhabitants as people with a right to a say in their fate. Yet even Jordan maintained the fiction that it held the territory only until Palestine was reconstituted./ My use of “ethnic cleansing” accords with its use by the US & international courts. It applies to the expulsion of Jews. It applies to the expulsion of Palestinians. I know of no principle justifies your application of it to one but not the other. You ask the standard question: if ethnic cleansing, then why 20% of Israelis now “Arab”? Of the 900k+ “Arabs”, 120k remained after the cleansing. Half were Bedouin scattered in the Negev (Israel's still trying to corral them in reservations). So in the densely populated areas, there were 60k, of whom 20k were internally displaced (soon to become the “present absent”, a priceless term expressive of Israel's legal illegality). Of the remaining 40k, many were Druze & some lived in places like Nazareth where the policies applied elsewhere were thought too provocative (might attract attention in the US)./ It was perfectly legal for Zionists to settle in Palestine under the Ottomans and the Mandate. It was perfectly legal under the Mandate to establish a Jewish National Home. It was not legal to demand or to take by force a sovereign Zionist state at the expense of the majority of the inhabitants. It's bizarre to say such a state imposed against the will of the majority is not at the their expense, even if you feel strongly that the reluctant majority were being civilised in the process (a traditional colonial trope). If anyone's “entitled to a stake” in Palestine, it's the people who lived there./ You baulk at the term “Palestine”, because there was “in history” no such “independent, sovereign nation”. Under the Mandate, the territory was called “Palestine”. Its inhabitants had a right to “Palestinian” citizenship (including immigrants of 2 years' residence). Britain as trustee signed international treaties in the name of Palestine. International courts recognised Palestine as an entity. Its status was indeed unclear, neither colony nor independent. Where sovereignty vested was ambiguous. A credible opinion's that it vested in the population but was temporarily held in trust (an opinion expressed by Zionists among others)./ You repeat your line on 1967. A look at the public record, & its interpretation by scholars, will show such black & white judgements unwarranted./ “Pragmatic” Zionists may well have been willing to share, but they were always the minority. Like the majority, they preferred as much land & as few “Arabs” as possible./ “Where did the Jews come from?” - intended as rhetorical, but nonetheless too complicated for a short answer. Ultimately, like all the rest of us, from Africa. What follows?/ You repeat what's been shown to be less than the whole truth (at best), that a resolution was available in 1947, 1967, and 2000. In '47, the “resolution” was for 66% of the population to surrender 54% of the land (including the best bits) at the behest of recent immigrants and their foreign sponsors (with the immigrants refusing to be bound by any agreement on borders). If you were on the receiving end of this “resolution” would you accept? In 1967, what was offered? - Allon's plan or Dayan's, which form the basis of Israeli strategy ever since: offer the Palestinians squalor on scraps of land left over after Israel's taken what it wants (with no legal authority but by military force). The PLO's recognised Israel. Hamas offers negotiations with Israel. Hizballah'll accept what the Palestinians agree with Israel. The Arab states've offered full recognition of Israel in return for a Palestinian state on 20% of Mandate Palestine. The Muslim states likewise. To repeat, Israel's a state like any other. Its enemies are willing to negotiate with it as such. It has nothing to lose by calling their bluff (if it does want peace more than land) - negotiate in good faith (not the “peace process” explicitly used to postpone resolution until annexation is complete).

December 8th, 2011
6:12 PM
Andy, thanks for the kind words. I have enjoyed this back 'n forth with you as well, but seeing as how we're basically going in circles here & repeating ourselves, I'll respectfully bow out.

December 7th, 2011
6:12 PM
Darkman The editors'll be getting fed up with us; and you're right I've had my say & you yours - but your comments are careful & considered, & invite a response. I'd be very interested in what you'd say to my objections - if I can produce them in the next day or so, and you've the patience to read them. (If not, thank you for the time you've already spent.)

December 5th, 2011
11:12 PM
Andy, likewise, Israel can be defended without the slur of "propaganda" being thrown at me. And just as I re-iterated that history gives Zionists greater claim to that land, you similarly re-iterated that it does not. So our circle goes 'round...yawn. Mark Twain might be known as a comic writer, but "The Innocents Abroad" is predominantly a travelogue with much "straight" observation, hence his remarking upon the Holy Land's overwhelming barrenness should not be casually disregarded. In fact, he was quite astonished at what the fabled "land of milk & honey" actually looked like. I'm don't know what you mean by "a variety of political entities of peoples who became identified as of the Jewish faith." The followers of Abraham were basically nomads, we they not? Not sure how the term "political entity" applies. Regardless, you say it has no bearing on any right to establish a modern-day Israel. Well, I say it does, for reasons already stated in previous posts. I don't want to spin the propaganda record's all down there for the readers. I reject the term "acquiesce" because the underlying connotation is that Zionists have no claim, therefore no right to ask anything of anyone. As I said before, even using modern, "even-handed", equal-claim status toward both parties, the fact is that the Zionists were willing to SHARE that land. They would rather have something rather than nothing, but even this was too much for the Arabs. (And yes, I use term "Arab" because the idea of "Palestinian" as a distinct, historical nationality did not exist prior to the re-birth (yes, that word) of Israel). Andy, if you reject the notion that Zionists even have the right to "share", or that the proposition of "sharing" is in itself wrong, then we're at an impasse, regardless of what arguments I put forward. I must say that I do give you much credit for acknowledging continuous Jewish presence in Israel & the purchase of land therein. However, when you say no one disputes this, you are very much mistaken. The accepted discourse on the Arab side is that both of these facts are compete falsehoods. You may dismiss this (a common Western conceit, ie: "we know it to be true, so on to the next issue"), but once again, by doing so you are completely ignoring a fundamental stumbling block toward any sort of peace. When successive generations of Arabs are taught that the Jews have no history there & "stole" the land, from where will any urge to compromise come forth? Would you? I contend that if the British did enable the fledging Zionist movement to some extent during the early part of their Mandate, they most certainly abandoned it during the 1930s. If they "aided & abetted" any party it was the Arab side; who do you think trained & led the Jordanian Arab Legion, the most elite fighting force in the area at that time? The British supplied weapons to them, while the Haganah had to smuggle in virtually everything they had. Palestinian violence was understandable? There were repeated massacres of Jews in Hebron starting in 1929. What threat did the tiny community there pose to the Arabs? How about the countless attacks against isolated moshavim & kibbutzim long before WW2? Jews & Arabs were in conflict in Jaffa, so what did the Jews do? They established their own town of Tel Aviv. Their answer wasn't to drive out the Arabs, it was to move away from them. Look at that non-violent response & tell me that Palestinian violence was "understandable." The early Zionists did not arrive in Israel armed, nor did they need to until (yet again) Arab rejectionism drove them to defend themselves. I didn't say the Palestinians declared war. The Arab nations declared war & the Arab Palestinians were, and are, part & parcel of the wider Arab nation. The expulsion of "hundreds of thousands" is one of the oldest, shop-worn canards in the Arab propaganda playbook. The Syrian PM at the time later admitted that the surrounding Arab nations held responsibility for creating the whole refugee "crisis," that they had exhorted the Arab Palestinians to evacuate & save their own lives. Did Israel later forcefully vacate border areas, to impede saboteurs from coming across? Yes, but not the mass expulsions you claim. I won't even mention the hundreds of thousands of Jews who truly were expelled from throughout the Middle East after 1948, but it looks like I just did. I find it confusing that you say resolution rests with the UN as successor to the Mandate, yet your previous post stated that the UN had no authority to create the '47 Partition Plan. Which is it? I'm not necessarily impressed by the quoting of Israeli sources, as post-Zionism is a thriving industry amongst a sorry lot who crave the imprimatur of "legitimacy" bestowed by so-called progressive Westerners. Unilateral declaration of independence? Only after being given the OK by the very same UN you claim has the onus to resolve the conflict. And, I must add, the Arabs were entitled to declare their independence as well....Palestine could've been birthed in 1947 & ALL THIS COULD HAVE BEEN AVOIDED. Military conquest? Only after the Arab nations invaded en masse. Territory won in a defensive war is not & can never be "occupied" regardless of how many biased & unworthy declarations by the UN & ICC you dig up. These are the same wretched debasers of "human rights" who can't determine whether genocide occurred in Darfur, but when Israel blows up a vacant Gazan building being used as a sniper's nest, the condemnation resolution is signed, sealed & delivered by end-of-day. Gimme a break! I challenge you to show me when the West Bank was ever deemed under "occupation" by Jordan. I challenge you to show me when there was ever a call for Jordan to evacuate & give the West Bank to the Palestinians. Was the term "West Bank" ever even used before Israel found itself in possession of it? Aint' it funny how land is only "occupied" when those damned Zionists get a hold of it? Your lazy use of "ethnic cleansing" only trivializes a word that's already been rendered hollow by knee-jerk appropriation. Israel's population is 20% Arab...why are there ANY left, if what you say is true? Meanwhile, the many hundreds of thousands of Jews that lived in Arab countries are gone. Why? 'Cause the Arab nations revoked their citizenship, stole their money, property, & kicked them out en masse. That's the "ethnic cleansing" no one ever talks about. Meanwhile, in evil Israel, Arabic is an official language! Some ethnic cleansing, eh? You say the Zionist project was in many ways perfectly legal, except in the claim of a state. So, the theory is OK, but not the application of it. That's a bit disingenuous on your part as you know the whole goal of Zionism was the re-birth of Israel. Proceeded at the expense of others? Zionists came, bought plots of empty, often unarable land & went to work (often with Arab labor, true). How was this at the expense of others? Did the Zionists prevent neighboring fellaheen from working their lands? No. Did Zionists attempt to destroy Arab towns & villages? No, they built their own, in co-existence. Sure, they were building towards an eventual state of Israel, but their willingness to share the land was evidenced by their behavior then & later acceptance of the Partition Plan. Hell, if anything the nascent nation-building of the Zionists benefitted the Arabs...modern health & sanitation practices; agricultural & irrigation advancements, transportation & construction development...all of these were introduced to them by Zionists. They brought a neglected outpost of decrepit & corrupt Ottoman rule into the 20th century, with benefits for both peoples. Like other countries, Israel may not have a "right" to exist, but if anyone is entitled to some stake there, it's the Jews returning home to a land the Arabs ignored & kept in 15th century bondage. And as for using the term "Palestine," I object to the notion that Israel has done this or that against "Palestine." You know very well there has never in history existed an independent, sovereign nation known as "Palestine." You're smart enough to know this term was introduced by the Romans as part of efforts to crush continual Jewish rebellion by erasing Jewish presence. The last sovereign nation in existence there was the Kingdom of Judea & before that the Kingdom of Israel. "Palestine" such as it became known, has been under foreign domination ever since & has never been an independent entity. If you insist on referring to Palestine as a distinct nation that was taken over by Israel, you must surely be consistent & refer to Jerusalem as Aelia Capitolina. Sorry to burden you with more Zionist propaganda, but the historical record has a nasty habit of getting in the way. The solution to the illegal/unjust actions by Israel has always been there....admit for once, just once, that the Jews have some claim to that land. That's the beginning of peace. Of course, if the Arabs hadn't attempted to destroy Israel in '67, none of these illegal/unjust activities would ever have occurred, but that is always conveniently forgotten. Pragmatic Zionists were happy enough to share the land, but that is always forgotten. I'm willing to state the Arabs also have a claim to that land....why cannot they make the same statement about the Jews? Why is their maximalist stance taken as unalterable gospel by those arbiters who presumably yearn for "peace"? I disagree that the past gives no "objective warrant" to Zionism...the history of Jews in ancient Israel is EXACTLY what gives modern Zionism its legitimacy. It's not like the Belgians who had no business in the Congo, or the French who had no business in Indochina; where did the Jews come from, for heaven's sake?! They've returned home to a sliver of land 1/10th of 1% of the Middle East. But that's too much for you, too much for the UN, too much for 300 million Arabs & 1 billion Muslims, with land from Atlantic to Pacific & all that damned oil wealth. The resolution of the conflict was there in '47, it was there in '67, it was there in '00. Every single time the Arabs say NO. The onus is not on Israel to reach a resolution; they've always desired to live in peace, on some part of the land. When the Arabs admit the Jews also have a claim, then real peace has a chance. Unfortunately, it will not happen as long as the predominant mindset (of which you are a part) continues to be one which believes Israel has no right to exist, at any time, in any form, anywhere in the so-called "Arab" Middle East. So this is the bottom line: I believe Zionism is justified & Israel has a right to exist as a homeland for the Jews, and you do not. End of story. I stand with a minority who've given the world great achievements in scientific, agricultural & technological realms while being in a state of war for 60 years & you stand with a majority who name public squares & summer camps after "brave" shaheeds who blow themselves up in pizzerias. Andy, I realize I have no "magic bullet" to persuade you of my arguments, but honestly, I'm not trying to persuade you. You've said your piece, I've said mine & the readers can decide for themselves.

December 1st, 2011
5:12 PM
Darkman If you're in thrall to Israeli propaganda, you say, I'm in the service of “the Arabs'”. I assure you Israel can be criticised without any need to refer to what “the Arabs” may say. (By the way, your usage - “the Arabs” - blurs important distinctions.) - My sources, for your tour of 1947, 1967, & 2000, were Israeli. You bridle at “in thrall”, and yet, lo – Mark Twain and a desert land! He's one of my favourite comic writers, but I recommend scholars (see eg Gudrun A History of Palestine for references). They can flesh out what was said by the envoys of the rabbis of Vienna (after the first Zionist congress) - “The bride is beautiful, but she's married to another man”./ I'm sorry as predicted you simply re-iterated (in capital letters) that history gives the Zionists the right to their state. Hazlitt sympathised with the sentiment – but pointed out it has no power over anyone not already Zionist. That the land was long ago home to a variety of political entities of peoples who became identified as of the Jewish faith has no bearing on any right to establish a Zionist state now (“re-establish” and “return” aren't self-evidently accurate - history is indeed important in such matters). I repeat: I'd like to know what reason Zionists can give for others to acquiesce in their project. What reason others need obey./ No-one disputes continuous Jewish presence in Palestine; nor immigration before the first Zionists (immigration within the previous 150 years that accounted for most of the Jews in Palestine by the late 1800s); nor that Zionists bought land (approx. 6% of the land of Palestine by 1948); nor that Zionists weren't the only immigrants (the Zionist economy attracted immigrants, who left when jobs dried up). None of this is to the point. Again, the right of the inhabitants to self-determination doesn't depend on ancient myth or history, Palestinian any more than Zionist (that the Israelites et al weren't aboriginal is no more to the point than that God gave them the land); nor does it depend on whether the inhabitants of the Arabian peninsula were nomads (the population of Palestine was in large part descended from the ancient Israelites et al); nor whether there were Arabs living in other lands (that there are Europeans across the continent is irrelevant to Scots insisting Scotland is their native land). None of this is to the point./ You say the British didn't let the Zionists in. That the Ottomans let some in doesn't mean the British didn't. Of the approx 600k Jewish inhabitants in 1947, the vast majority were (legal) immigrants to the Mandate. (Immigrants of 2 years residence had a right to citizenship.) I grant you diverge from the propaganda in calling Balfour's letter a “meaningless piece of paper”. Zionists, by contrast, insist their title to Palestine is the Mandate Treaty (which includes Balfour's words, interpreted in the context of the League of Nations Covenant). They have very good reasons for insisting (there's no other legal entitlement). There are very good reasons to think they're wrong – Britain did indeed give undertakings, but not to facilitate a Zionist state. (It undertook to act as trustee for the inhabitants, while facilitating a Jewish National Home, until such time as it deemed them ready for the independent exercise of self-determination.)/ No-one disputes Palestinian opposition to Zionist immigration often turned violent; as did opposition to imperialist rule. I've studied work on Zionist immigration by historians partial to the Zionist mainstream and others the periphery. There were sporadic efforts at cooperation with “the Arabs”, but mainly indifference at best & active hostility at worst. They made it clear they intended to make Palestine their state. They made it clear “the Arabs” could be hewers & carriers – or leave. The imperial power aided & abetted them. Was Palestinian violence to be condoned? - no. Understandable? - surely. Should Britain have done better as trustee? - surely. Come 1947, it's a stretch to say the Palestinians declared war. It is a stretch to say the attacks of Palestinian gangs justified the expulsion of hundreds of thousands & annexation of around 80% of Palestine./ You then revert to Khartoum. It's of little relevance to resolution of the conflict in Palestine, which is for the UN as successor to the Mandate Power. I think the Arab states' intransigence wrong & unrealistic (tho' there's less to it than meets the eye, as diplomacy continued). I also doubt any other state would've interpreted it any differently than Israel did. (Recent scholarship redresses the balance on 1967 by re-emphasising the failings & faults on the Arab side – nevertheless, your account implies an unwarranted acquittal of Israel - see Zeev Maoz on Israel's consistently aggressive actions thro' the 1960s)./ You say the land beyond the Green Line isn't “occupied”. This is a point Israel shouldn't push. It may think it has arguments for a border further East. There are better arguments for further West. Israel was established in Palestine by unilateral declaration of independence & military conquest. This, in modern times, is illegal. The recognition of Israel by other states doesn't nullify this illegality. It can be nullified only if its victims acquiesce, as arguably the Palestinians have thro' the PLO (assuming it their rightful representative) in recognising Israel. (It's another question whether they acquiesce in the annexation of all the land and expropriation of all their property.) But this justification, even if valid, does not apply to the West Bank, which is deemed by the Palestinians, & by all other states, international bodies, & courts of law, as unambiguously “occupied”. It's maudlin to complain that this is to say Israel's an illegal, immoral enterprise with no right to exist. The Zionist project was in many respects perfectly legal (tho' not its claim to a state nor its terrorism of the 30s-40s & ethnic cleansing of 47-8). It was arguably not moral in that it proceeded at the expense of others. No state has a “right” to exist (difficult to argue the US has a “right” given its origins). Israel exists like any other state. Its citizens have the same rights as the citizens of any other state. The actions of the state of Israel against the rest of the population of Palestine are illegal & manifestly unjust./ A final point: the present isn't a “vacuum” - it's what follows from what's gone before. What's gone before gives no objective warrant for the Zionist project, whatever the emotional fervour of those who invest in it. Whatever has gone before, the present is when Israel can reach a resolution of its conflict with the rest (the majority) of the Palestinian population.

November 30th, 2011
5:11 PM
Darkman, Thank you very much for your response. I would like to take the time in the next day or two to give it the consideration it deserves - because (as you will be surprised to hear) I think you are wrong on several points and would be genuinely interested in your response to my objections (if the editors of Standpoint have the patience). Thank you again. Andy

November 30th, 2011
12:11 AM
Andy, what can I say? If I'm in "thrall" to Israeli propaganda, then you're surely in the service of Arab propagandists. All of your main points have been refuted in my previous posts to, I feel like a broken record. A broken propaganda record, that is. You're gonna dismiss this all anyway, but what the hell.....What gives the Zionists a right to establish a state, a right to self-determination? It's not what the modern world considers politically expedient or relevant. IT'S THE VERY HISTORY YOU DISREGARD. That sliver of land was at one time the homeland of the Jews. It isn't the alien impant your modern, narrow context turns it into, on the contrary, Zionists have "re-established" their nation The Arab/Muslim world, product of a true imperialist enterprise, stretches from Morocco to Indonesia, yet a relatively tiny number of Jews wishing to return home after 2,000 years in exile is unacceptable to you? An ancient people wishes to return home to an area the size of New Jersey & this is one of the world's great injustices? Are you kidding me? I don't know what precedent there is for Israel's re-birth. Perhaps none; what does it even matter? There's always been a continous Jewish presence there (I know...propaganda!), &19th-century Zionists, who BOUGHT land from Turks & Arabs, were returning to a mostly de-populated, mostly unfertile wasteland, suffering from centuries of neglect under Ottoman rule (more propaganda, right? I guess Mark Twain was a Zionist shill, too). I would ask you this...the "Palestinian "narrative" also makes historical claims as its basis for self-determination. Why is it I've never heard any one disdain this? Why is only the "Zionist narrative" mocked for extending back into the "mists" of time? The Arabs as you very well know were a nomadic people, who moved throughout the area. I'm not disputing this. But as a distinct, unified mass of people under a defined leadership, this only came to pass well after what was left of Israel had been destroyed by the Romans. This is why history is important, because Arab propaganda posits that there NEVER was Jewish sovereignty there, nor that Jerusalem was EVER a Jewish city. YOU KNOW THIS IS A LIE & BY IGNORING THE INDISPUTABLE FACTS OF HISTORY YOU ARE PERPETUATING A LIE THAT SEEKS TO SEPARATE AN ANCIENT PEOPLE FROM THEIR ANCIENT LAND. Your foolish discarding of history makes any Zionist design whatsoever an illegal and immoral act. Quite a convenient foundation on which to base all your arguments; Arafat would be proud. Frankly, the Jews are more entitled to that land because it was theirs before the Arabs conquered it. If you want to "play that game" & plead for the Jebusites, Canaanites, Hittites, Edomites & Amalekites who battled with the ancient Hebrews, fine, dig them up, & give Canaan back to them. Of them all, only the damned Jews are still in existence as a continuous lineage of people with a connection to that spit of land. I never said the Arabs didn't have a right to live there. But they are the ones who rejected the Jews' returning, even before a two-state solution was ever put forward. Why are the Arabs, with all that land (even in 1900!), so damn greedy & maximalist that they couldn't even countenance a people returning to a tiny area that even the Koran mentions as given to them by Allah?.......Your grasp of history is lacking. Once again, for the readers...the British DID NOT "let them in," as modern Zionist settlement pre-dates WW1, thus precedes British control. Even the Balfour Declaration amounted to nothing more than a meaningless piece of paper, the British having hemmed, hawed, reneged & later opting to place quotas if not outright stem Jewish immigration into Palestine. You also seem ignorant of the many Arabs who were themselves recent 20th century immigrants, lured in, ironically, by opportunities & improved living standards created by Zionist settlement & enterprise. The Zionists established a state by military conquest? Who declared war on whom in 1948? Hell, the Arabs were attacking Jewish settlements & kibbutzim (on purchased land...propaganda!) way before the UN Partition Plan was even conceived! Of course Khartoum is of little relevance to you; another example of Arab intransigence, oh bother! The Arabs' recognition "proposal" demands Israel withdraw to the Green Line first & THEN they'll talk specifics. As if they deserve a pullback to lines that would've been in existence today but for their desire to destroy Israel (yet again) in June 1967. The whole point is moot anyway, because it's only misguided & foolish Western interlocutors who consider land beyond the Green Line "occupied." You don't want to believe it, but prepare yourself (here comes more Israeli propaganda)....the Arabs consider every inch of Israel occupied. So, as I explained to Hazlitt, even a withdrawal to the Green Line would not settle a damn thing. The Arabs have had multiple chances for a two-state solution & they don't want it. Ultimately, Israel has no right to exist, & the moral & intellectual succor provided by persons such as yourself encourages them to continue their true (ie: in Arabic, in the mosque, in the schools) rejectionist stance. But, really, what's the point here? I'm never going to convince you not to toss away history & you're never going to convince me to view this conflict in a modern-day vacuum. Regardless of how much you claim to seek "rational" debate (I don't agree with you, therefore I'm irrational---got it), I feel your bottom line is that Israel is an illegal, immoral enterprise, which has no right to exist. But 22 Arab countries are just fine, right?

November 29th, 2011
1:11 PM
For there to be any chance of a rational exchange I should have couched some points as questions: Why think that the Zionist version of ancient history (assuming it wholly and exhaustively accurate) should have any leverage in modern times on anyone not already Zionist in the matter of who has a right to self-determination and what states other states should recognise? I have only ever found it asserted, and, when questioned, asserted again ever more heatedly. What reason has anyone to allow that ancient history gives the Zionists a right to establish a state in Palestine against the wishes of its inhabitants? There is no law. There is no precedent. There is no custom and practice in diplomacy. What is there? (Another question: Why assume that the "Arabs" of Palestine all arrived in the 7th century or whenever as a consequence of an Arab invasion? As the example of Britain shows, invasion after invasion can add elements to the population without eliminating the existing population. Even the early Zionists acknowledged that the Palestinian "Arabs" may very well comprise largely direct descendants of the ancient Israelites. Why pretend that calling them all "Arabs" who arrived in the 7th century makes them any less entitled to live in Palestine? or Europeans of the Jewish faith any more entitled? - many English would feel less than happy if the Welsh reclaimed the territory of the ancient Britons.)

November 29th, 2011
11:11 AM
Darkman, You appear to believe that your assertions cannot be refuted. On UNSCOP and partition: It is not clear why two thirds of the population should have accepted a proposal by an international body without authority to dispose of territory to give 54% of the territory to one third of the population, mostly recent immigrants. It is fact that the Zionists accepted partition but did not consider themselves bound by its territorial constraints. They were happy to interpret the partition recommendation as international recognition that a Zionist state could come into being, but reserved the right to determine its territory for themselves. After 1967, Israel considered either negotiating with Jordan or keeping the West Bank while giving the Palestinians some form of partial autonomy (and embarking on creeping annexation - see Dayan's plan and Allon's plan). As I understand it, Israel did not get beyond half-hearted consultations with a few Palestinian representatives on the West Bank. The Palestinians were therefore not given the opportunity to express an opinion one way or the other on other peoples' plans for their future. Khartoum is of little relevance (although you might want to consider other interpretations of it - see Avi Shlaim, for example). As it happens the Arab League and all Muslim states have long since proposed full diplomatic recognition of Israel in return for a negotiated "two-state" resolution along the Green Line (which is grossly unjust to the Palestinians). On Camp David, you appear to be in thrall to the propaganda of Israel and its US allies. A subsequent Israeli government briefing paper set out what was actually offered - and it is little different from what a Lieberman would offer i.e little different from the annexation and cantonization that continues apace. As it happens, negotiations resumed at Taba. Both sides claim progress was made. Barak called a halt (NOT Arafat) because elections were imminent. On Hamas, you rely on its charter and its propaganda (and on Israel's propaganda). I prefer to take some account of the opinions of Israeli security service officials over the years on the frequent messages Hamas has conveyed on its terms for negotiation. ...Need I continue? There is certainly little in your subsequent stream of consciousness that merits consideration. However, I will reiterate what has been pointed out by others - the Zionists version of ancient history has absolutely no hold on anyone else. It has absolutely no bearing on international relations in modern times. The Zionists are in Palestine because Britain let them in as citizens of Palestine and because the Zionists subsequently established a state by military conquest and had their state recognised by other states. I should also inform you that there is no conceivable way in which the Palestinian people can be said to have "abrogated" their rights to self-determination by the refusal of such as the PLO to accept usurpation and conquest (however unrealistic such a refusal may be in terms of power politics). As it happens, the PLO has long since officially recognised Israel. Like previous contributors, I will leave your slavish adherance to Israeli propaganda on Oslo to one side - this account has long since become untenable (if only because of the historical record on what the Israelis said among themselves about their intentions). Far from impossible to refute, your assertions are impossible to sustain (by rational means). I expect to have no greater succes than previous contributors in trying to engage you in rational debate.

November 28th, 2011
11:11 PM
Hazlitt, Yep, a litany of myths, fictions & propaganda....which you cannot refute. But thanks for trying.

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