Just when the bon ton is to blame Israeli “stubbornness” for the conflict, if we really want to understand it, and what’s impeding its solution, we should go back to its source, and no – it did not start in 1948, and certainly not in 1967
One cannot understand the story of World War II if started from the Allies invasion of Europe, or the beginning of the bombing of Dresden. The story of the Second World War has to be started when the book “Mein Kampf” was written by Hitler. The same way – you cannot understand the nature of the Arab-Israeli conflict if you start the story from 1967 or even 1948. The story of the Arab-Israeli conflict should be started well before 1920.
From 1881 to 1920 and indeed many years later there was no problem of “refugees”, no “territories” problem, no “occupation” or even land confiscation. Despite centuries of Muslim anti-Semitism toward Jews, the majority tended to believe that Jews and Muslims can live side by side in good neighborly relations. Naive Zionists believed that the Arabs will be happy with the progress and economic development, and other material benefits that will be brought by the fresh population that the mostly deserted land had no problem absorbing. Jews lived peacefully in ancient Jewish communities in many mixed cities in the Land of Israel, including Jerusalem, Hebron, Nablus, Jenin, Ramla, Acre, and even Gaza. Though there were quite a few attacks and harassment by the Arabs on Jewish settlements at the time, these were perceived as acts of robbery and violence, the result of internal security anarchy that prevailed during the Ottoman rule, and not a national conflict. All this began to change dramatically since 1920. All the events that occurred in that decade characterize the motifs of the conflict ever since.
Friends of the Great Powers, East Jerusalem and “balance”
In 1920, in the San Remo conference, the four Principal Allied Powers of World War I, were about to draw the borders of the Middle East – based on different and conflicting commitments given to various parties during the war, among them – the French in the “Sykes-Picot Agreement”, Sheriff Hussein the Hashemite dynasty founder in the “McMahon–Hussein Correspondence”, and Lord Lionel Rothschild as the representative of the Zionists in the “Balfour Declaration”. It is noteworthy that of the three, only the “Balfour Declaration” was public, official and legally approved by the British Cabinet.
But while the Emir Faisal, son of Sheriff Hussein, agreed that the Land of Israel (aka Palestine at that time) was not included in “McMahon–Hussein Correspondence”, there were serious contradictions between the “Sykes-Picot Agreement”, that was signed secretly, and “McMahon–Hussein Correspondence” that was not a formal agreement. According to the “Sykes-Picot Agreement”, Syria and Lebanon were to be handed to French rule. As a result of Faisal’s disappointment, as he was already declared king of all Syria, a guerrilla war erupted against the French. In one of the operations in this war, the Arabs attacked on March 1, 1920 (11th day of Adar) four Jewish communities in Galilee: Tel Hai (where Joseph Trumpeldor and other seven members were killed), Hamra, Kfar Giladi and Metula. One may ask, what did the Arabs who were fighting against French rule have against Jewish localities in Galilee? The answer which sounds familiar ever since with different versions was: the Jews were caught in their eyes as representatives of the colonial powers. Yes, today it’s called “Great Satan” and “Little Satan”, with the U.S. rather than France and Britain. So, ever since, while on the one hand Israelis are being attacked because they are friends of the great powers, on the other hand – these seemingly friends make their life difficult exactly from the opposite reason.
As a result of the rebellion suppression, and the French takeover of Syria, Emir Faisal lost his confidence in the promises of the British, and the Jews lost the only Arab recognition of their right to a national home in the Land of Israel. Not that it mattered much to the leaders of Israeli Arabs at the time, led by Haj Amin al-Husseini (who was about to be appointed as the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem). Similarly they were indifferent to the fact that the Balfour Declaration stated explicitly that “nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.
Their negativism towards Jews was sweeping and they expressed it by launching a pogrom against the Jews of East Jerusalem (who were not at all Zionists) – committed by inflamed mob upon completing the Nabi Musa procession on April 4, 1920. Six Jews were killed and about 200 injured in this pogrom. The British regime was helpless against this pogrom, but they had enough power to block the arrival of improvised defense forces led by Ze’ev Jabotinsky, from the west of the city.
After the pogrom, some of the initiators of the pogrom were prosecuted, including al-Husseini, and for “balance”, some of the defense officials, including Jabotinsky were also jailed. And you thought the “balance” between the terrorist perpetrators and the defenders is a new invention of Goldstone.
Regardless of these events, San Remo Conference approved the British Mandate over Palestine (i.e. the Land of Israel and Transjordan) that incorporated the Balfour Declaration. Thus international recognition has been given to the right of Jews to the Land of Israel.
Radicalization, extreme left, and “uncontrollable rage”
Following these events, while the Jews were content with their achievement of international recognition of the Balfour Declaration, Arabs radicalized their opposition following the above mentioned “balanced” British attitude and some other encouraging clues they received from the British Colonial Office officials (who were not pro-Zionists to say the least). Looks like Barack Obama has no copyright on radicalizing Arab positions trough the attitude to the Jewish leadership.
On May 1, 1921 there were two May Day demonstrations. One neat demonstration approved by the authorities, was organized by the Labor Party and was limited to several Jewish neighborhoods in Tel Aviv. The second one, a wild demonstration that was banned by the authorities, at the initiative of the Jewish-Arab Communist Party, who identified Zionism with capitalism, opposed the Jewish immigration that they considered bourgeois, while regarding the Arab riots as a socialist revolution of workers and farmers. The demonstration came from Jaffa, but moved toward the Jewish neighborhoods and ended in a violent collision with the Labor Party demonstration. British police had to intervene, and chased the demonstrators who fled back to Jaffa. The incident quickly degenerated to violence. Arab rioters attacked Jaffa border Jewish neighborhoods, including a massacre carried out in an immigrant hostel in the neighborhood of Ajami. 43 Jews were murdered in Jaffa area riots, including the writer J.H. Brenner and the poet Zvi Schatz, and 143 were injured.
Thus, the extreme left has begun playing the role of anti-Zionist instigator, which provides grounds for the pogroms against the Jews. There is nothing new under the sun. In retrospect it became clear that the “uncontrollable rage” of the crowd was planned in advance, and groups of Arab extremists armed with cold arms came to Jaffa in preparation from other cities. Violence spread soon to Petah Tikva, Hadera, Rehovot, Kfar Saba and Kfar Malal. Again, this has been typical to Arab riots worldwide till these days.
Eventually the British army had to intervene to stop the riots. These military measures, some anti-Zionism steps taken by the British following the events in order to appease the Arabs, and lowering the profile of the Zionists themselves, who decided to proceed carefully with the “acre here, and acre there” policy, brought several years of virtual silence. There were even quite a few in the Jewish community who deluded themselves that the danger had passed. In practice, the Arab public has been taken over by a nationalist populist religious leadership – led by the extremist Mufti Haj Amin Al-Husseini.
Economic peace and “al-Aqsa is in danger”
Unfortunately for the extremist leadership of the Arabs of Palestine, their flock rather enjoyed the reality on the ground. Development of the country brought material wellbeing for everyone. Landowners could sell high-priced land, peasants sold their produce and were living comfortably, and thousands of Arab employees found jobs with Jews. Ostensibly, the realization of the economic peace vision of Netanyahu and Ya’alon. But “The Arab Higher Committee”, founded by the Mufti, soon found a way to obstruct the region’s serenity.
On the Day of Atonement of September 28, 1928 the attendant of the prayers in the Western Wall set a portable screen for separating between men and women. The screen was removed immediately and brutally by the British authorities, but the incident has been fully exploited by the Mufti.
All mosques began immediately incitement under the false slogan so well know till these days – “al-Aqsa is in Danger.” Incitement to jihad began to give the results of increased incidents relating to the wall. On August 21, 1929 tensions led to the murder of a Jewish boy who mistakenly infiltrated an Arab courtyard during a game. Two days later, after the Friday sermons at the Temple Mount, it was a rush of crowds armed with clubs, knives and weapons on the Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem. 19 Jews were murdered, but the successful organization of improvised defense managed to prevent a graver massacre. This was not the fate of the Jews of Hebron. On Saturday, August 24, thousands of Arab rioters attacked the Jewish quarter in Hebron and killed with knives and axes 66 Jews, looted property, raped and abused the Jewish residents of Hebron. Disturbances spread to the entire country including Tel Aviv, Haifa, Acre, Safed, Hartuv, Kfar Uria, Hulda, Ekron, to Gaza, to Mishmar HaEmek, Geva, Beit Shean, Beit Alfa and Ein Zeitim. The Jewish communities in Nablus, Ramle, Jenin, Gaza and Acre were evacuated by the British. During the riots, 133 Jews were killed and 339 wounded.
The British brought the riots to stop, and put on trial few of the rioters, but no action was taken against the agitators and the Mufti continued in office.
At this point, someone might say – the Arabs feared that the Jews are planning to become the majority in the country. Well, what if so? Let’s think. These days many Muslims immigrate to France, buy homes and set up mosques. At least 10% of French citizens are already Muslims, and they do not hide their intention to become a majority. Does that give the French the right to kill them? The answer is obvious. And let’s not forget that France was owned by Catholic Frenchmen since the dawn of French history. Unlike the Muslims in the Land of Israel where they arrived only in the last few centuries with the conquering forces, and most of them immigrated during the same period as the Zionists did.
Palestinian Nazism and a planned genocide
Despite the reconciliation attempts by the British authorities, or probably because of them, the radicalization of the Arabs intensified. In 1936, severe riots broke out that lasted 3 years. These events occurred simultaneously with the rise of Nazism, and there is evidence that the Arab Revolt was funded by the government of Nazi Germany.
It began by attacking Jewish neighborhoods in Jaffa and the burning of houses, but soon the events expanded to the entire country. The expansion of the disorders to the whole country forced the British to suppress them by force. During these events more than 5,000 Arabs, 400 Jews and 200 British were killed. Only then after many gave their lives, in 1937 a warrant was issued against the main agitator Haj Amin al-Husseini and he fled the country to join his counterpart – the Nazis. Unfortunately, many of his successors were left behind and many of them and many even more militant are still in the area. Al-Husseini planned to return with the German forces in North Africa that were moving toward the land of Israel, to head an operation to exterminate the Jews in Israel. After the Second World War, Husseini was arrested in France as a war criminal, but he escaped before he was prosecuted, and returned to lead the Arab community during Israel War of Independence. His followers till this very day did not forsake his dream even as the World War has ended, and are still hoping to fulfill Hitlers’ plan, while still using his old anti-Semitic terminology. If you will, for the Jews in Israel WWII has not ended.
On November 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly by vote of 33 votes in favor, 13 against and 10 abstentions received a resolution on the establishment of two states in the Land of Israel. Supposedly this program had many shortcomings in terms of the Jewish community, and benefits to the Arabs. Arabs were to receive most of the inhabited area; they were given access to Jerusalem and better territorial contiguity. But the Arabs were not interested in the benefits the plan gave them. In fact, the leaders of the Arab population did not examine any of the advantages or disadvantages of the proposed division. The reaction was also not motivated out of fear that from now on Jews may take their land. On the contrary, there was no real reason to believe that the Jews will be able to stand against the Arabs, as they did not have yet any real force. Until then, the British quite effectively prevented significant accumulation of weapons by the Jewish community. The truth is that the content of the UN resolution did not interest them at all. They were convinced that there was no need to consider it or contemplate about the future. They were sure that they can just kill all the Jews and end the affair once and for all.
Attacks began immediately. A bus was attacked and five passengers were killed; masses of Arabs attacked the Jewish commercial center in Jerusalem and robbed it; car bomb destroyed the Jewish Agency building in Jerusalem and caused 12 deaths and 40 wounded; settlements were attacked, and the remote ones were put under siege; transportation routes were blocked, and so on.
Even before the British began to evacuate the country, irregular Arab forces started to infiltrate the Land of Israel to attack Jews. The Arabs were convinced that the British withdrawal would leave smoldering Jews’ ashes and rivers of blood. Meanwhile, the Arabs did not bother at all to set up their own statehood institutions or get organized. Extermination of the Jews was the essence of everything, and a state for themselves interested them as snow under the bridge.
Against all odds, and notwithstanding the military embargo that was enforced mainly by the U.S. and the U.K. against the embryonic Jewish state, the Jewish military underground managed to pull together its poor resources and got organized. While the initial battles left little doubt that this resistance will not end differently than that of the Warsaw mutiny, the troops brought about a turning point in the fighting. Soon the tables were turned, and the attackers have become victims, and communities that served as operation bases for Arab gangs, were occupied by the defending forces. As a result of their defeat in battle, gang members and their families had to flee to safer places, but others simply answered the call of Arab leaders, headed by Haj Amin al-Husseini, to temporarily evacuate their homes so as not to be harmed when the invading Arab armies will overrun the country. Some of them even refused to listen to their Jewish neighbors who urged them to stay.
Even then that the Jewish defense forces proved their merit against the irregular forces and gangs, the leaders of the Arabs had no doubt that the trained regular armies of five Arab states, equipped with tanks and planes, who have to face nothing but a collection of non-trained volunteers equipped with mostly improvised weapons, will be able to complete the work of exterminating the Jews in an instant. But again, the heroic stance of the Jewish community disrupted their plans. As a matter of fact, the entire world, and in particular the American State Department were surprised that against all their assessments, the Jews have survived. Once their plan to genocide the Jews has failed, the Arabs called the events of 1948 – Naqba.
It is noteworthy that in every battle in which the situation was reversed, that is, the reach of the Arabs had the upper hand, the battle ended in a total massacre of the Jews. This was the fate of 79 doctors, nurses and employees of University Hadassah convoy who were burned to death; of 39 Haifa refinery workers who were slain; of 11 unarmed fighters from Rishon Lezion who were captured, stripped of their clothes, and then cruelly abused and brutally murdered, and of the massacre of Kfar Etzion.
Analysts warn Israel not to turn this conflict into a religious one. As you can see they are too late. It’s almost a hundred years that this is a religious conflict, and beyond – this is a jihad driven by Muslim anti-Semitism from the teaching of Nazi Al-Husseini. Even in recent years, Israel has several times pulled out of areas it didn’t intend to occupy (e.g. Gaza and Southern Lebanon) in attempt to foster peace, only to find out that its enemies still have this genocidal urge, that won’t let them continue peacefully with their lives as long as there is a Jew to kill within range.
- Tel Hai Battle (1920)
- Arab Riots of the 1920s
- The Riots and Massacres of 1929
- The Hebron Scroll of blood
- Photographs from Hebron massacre
- The 1936 Riots
- Operation Atlas – Poisoning Tel-Aviv Residents
- Israel: Birth of a Nation
- Myths & Facts Online A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict
- The History of Israel – A Chronological Presentation