Around our troubled planet, constructing an apartment for a Jewish family in a vibrant veteran Jewish neighborhood – an indivisible part and parcel of the Jewish state’s capital – is decried as an unpardonable a sin against all the kind-heartedness and fair-mindedness that the international community purports to effuse.
This isn’t just the clichéd consensus of conformist correspondents and stale statesmen overseas. Sunshine friends too can’t resist the warm ambiance of group-think.
Irish filmmaker Nicky Larkin, for example, was feted here for his seemingly maverick pro-Israel stance. But now he finds that “increasingly difficult” because he “can’t accept the expansion of settlements on land the international community considers illegal, under the Fourth Geneva Convention.” In an op-ed for The Irish Independent, he just about equates settlement with suicide-bombing.
His indignation is predicated on the fact that “the UN Security Council, the UN general Assembly, the International Red Cross, and the International Court of Justice all agree the expansion of settlements is illegal. Even John Kerry, US Secretary of State, said so.”
The world is against us, ergo the world must be right and we must be wrong.
The same likely applies to springing heinous murderers duly convicted by Israel’s ultra-liberal judiciary. In the eyes of presumably enlightened world opinion this is considered proper, progressive and peace-promoting.
Obviously the whole world can’t be wrong, even if sanctimonious self-appointed judges from other lands regard the shedding of Jewish blood as not entirely reprehensible. With a smidge of insincerity, Jewish misfortune can be blamed on the Jews.
Simultaneously, any embodiments of perceived Jewish vitality inevitably give rise to revulsion and vehemence that – admit it or not – appear exclusively reserved for Jews.
Cheering the release of barbaric butchers while censuring Jewish viability are interconnected offshoots of the same premise – old and well-worn but still axiomatic throughout the Arab realm. The underlying principle is that the Jews of Israel are foreign transplants – infidel interlopers who have no right to be here.
Precisely the same logic underpins the synthetic squawk about Jewish construction beyond the artificial 1949 armistice lines (fraudulently marketed abroad as the recognized, fixed and immutable borders of the Palestinian state – albeit one that has never existed). While Jewish construction predictably shatters world calm, the same cannot be said about Arab construction, even when wholly illegal and on a massive scale well inside sovereign Israel, within those hallowed armistice lines.
The world says so and the world must be right.
How come? Because Jews have no rights here and hence their natural development is automatically castigated as aggressive illegitimate expansion. Arabs, in contrast, portray themselves as the subjugated indigenous masses and as such possess every right to expand and even to overrun Israel proper with millions of belligerent self-styled refugees.
This is the crux of the dispute and why recognizing Israel as a Jewish state – as distinct from an ethnically amorphous de facto entity awaiting Arabization – is so fundamental. Everything began from and still revolves around the thorny issue of our very presence in this part of the globe.
It didn’t begin today, nor with Kerry’s appointment, nor with Barack Obama’s election or reelection. It didn’t begin in the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel’s lasting transgression was its successful self-defense. It didn’t even begin in the 1947-49 War of Independence in which newborn Israel – despite the concerted efforts of the entire Arab world – avoided annihilation.
What fuelled all the wars and all the clashes is older and deeper.
Without historical context there can be no real understanding of existential issues – certainly not of essential continuities. That’s why those who seek to obfuscate and skew do their utmost to erase telltale crucial perspectives and present whatever they focus upon as cogent isolated concerns.
A glaring case in point is the fixation on Israeli settlements – whether a collection of makeshift shacks on a stony hill in the middle of a barren nowhere or entire populous Jewish quarters of Jerusalem.
The real issue is a layer far beneath surface palaver. It’s a layer which Arabs implicitly understand, which some Jews pretend (or prefer) not to understand and which perfidious Europe and America’s Obama administration disingenuously deny.
Settlements are mere transitory pretexts, alleged irritants which in fact conceal a far darker underside.
Obama, Kerry et al hint at it when they admonish against creating “new facts on the ground” ahead of the deal they proclaim they’re about to concoct – in nine mere months. Peace is feasible providing Israelis effectively stay inanimate and refrain from altering reality beyond the 1949 non-border. Otherwise they jeopardize Obama’s magic remedy to all that ails the region but which thus far eluded cure by lesser healers. His unspoken apparent assumption is that whatever betokens Israeli/Jewish life perforce undermines harmony and bliss.
This has been the Arab subtext since the very advent of Zionism, though at different intervals the casus belli assumed different façades. In all instances – way before Israel’s birth or “Israeli occupation” – the pro forma grievance was that Jews were “changing facts on the ground,” just as now.
On occasion, as currently, the outcry centered on settlements, or more specifically on land purchases. (Jews weren’t always accused of robbing Arab land. Sometimes their crime was buying stretches of wasteland at monstrously inflated prices). At times it was immigration.
Often, it was both, as in the days of the infamous White Paper, published by Britain just months before the outbreak of WWII, when the Holocaust was about to be kick-started. Germany’s Jews were already shorn of citizenship and stateless. Hitler’s threats were well recorded, shouted in the world’s face and hardly kept a secret.
But the world didn’t care and the world can’t be wrong.
Besides its draconian curbs on Jewish land ownership, the Neville Chamberlain government’s White Paper, also set a limit of 10,000 Jewish immigrants annually for a five-year period. It niggardly allowed an additional 25,000 quota for the entire five years to cope with “refugee emergencies.” Any post-1944 Jewish immigration would necessitate Arab permission.
It must be recalled that Jews were at the time fleeing in all directions away from Hitler’s hell. The White Paper encompassed all the goodwill the never-erring world could reluctantly muster, lest “changes on the ground” occur that would rile Nazi-sympathizing Arabs in and around the Jewish homeland.
The fault wasn’t Britain’s alone. Obama’s then-predecessor was fully complicit. Franklin Roosevelt unreservedly shared the predispositions of his European counterparts. Similarly, Obama isn’t the sole pro-Arab western leader today. He’s unreservedly in tune with kindred European Union pompous pontificators.
The unholy prewar mindset is fully revived. The world is against us again.
In his day, Hitler tauntingly invited the world’s democracies to take his Jews, if they were so fretful about them. He knew that for all their half-hearted rhetoric, these countries wouldn’t accept his provocative challenge. After 1938’s Anschluss, their representatives met in Evian-les-Bains, on Lake Geneva’s French shore, to decide what to do with Nazism desperate victims, pounding on their gates in search of asylum. Nobody even called them Jews, lest this incur the fuehrer’s wrath.
It turned into a barefaced Jew-rejection fest. The whole world was against us but did that make it right?
Britain bristled at any suggestion of admitting Jews into the land mandated to it as the Jewish National Home. Progenitors of today’s Palestinian terrorists made sure endangered Jews wouldn’t be sheltered and His Majesty’s government appeasingly assented.
The vast empty spaces of Canada, Australia and New Zealand were likewise off-bounds. American humanitarianism consisted of tossing the undesirable hot potato into the international arena, because Jewish refugees weren’t wanted in the Land of the Free either (i.e. the St. Louis episode).
Indeed FDR toyed with the notion of shipping German Jews off to Ethiopia or Central Africa. The UK favored the jungles of Venezuela or Central America. Others changed direction northwards. Instead of exposing Berlin’s urbane Jews to the rigors of the tropics, they opined that the Siberian arctic might be a preferable hardship.
The competition was on: who’ll suggest a more remote and less-hospitable exile in which to dump those whom the British Foreign Office shamelessly labeled “unwanted Jews.” The motivation wasn’t much more beneficent than Hitler’s initial choice of Madagascar.
Yet during that time, immigration into the British mandated Jewish National Home hadn’t stopped. Only Jewish immigration was impeded. Arab immigration continued unhindered.
Itinerant Arab laborers streamed here from the entire Arabic-speaking world – from the Maghreb to Mesopotamia. Jews turned the wilderness into a habitable domain. Arabs drifted in to reap the benefits. But nobody objected. Arabs were counted as natives. The UN actually recognized as “Palestinian” any Arabs who sojourned here two years prior to 1948.
Much of the Arab population on Israel’s Coastal Plain is originally Egyptian and arrived with British acquiescence. Hence, the Mandate-era recorded population explosion in some Arab villages ranged quite unnaturally between 200% to a whopping 1,040%, according to Prof. Moshe Prawer’s research into Arab migration here from Lebanon, Syria, Egypt, etc.
The Brits and world opinion didn’t oppose the Arab influx for “changing facts on the ground,” possibly because liberal Jews didn’t riot.
The bugbear that once was aliya is today called settlement. But intrinsically the two are one and the same – antagonism toward Jewish presence. Jewish population increase is anathema, as is any habitat for Jews; if both are curtailed then Jewish existence is undercut. That was and still remains the Arab endgame aspiration.
Even a total freeze of all Jewish construction in forbidden territories won’t satisfy Israel’s supposed peace-partners, just as the British White Paper proved insufficient for their 1939 forebears.
The ultimate White Paper goal was the creation of a single state with power-sharing according to the proportion of Arabs to Jews as would exist in 1949. Restrictions on Jewish immigration would preclude any “changes on the ground” until then – like the changes Obama/Kerry aim to forestall nowadays.
Yet back in 1939, the Arab Higher Committee rejected said White Paper, demanding “a complete and final prohibition” on all Jewish immigration and unequivocal absolute repudiation of the Jewish National Home.
Translated into today’s diplomatic parlance, this is equivalent to “the unconditional end to all settlement activity” and the refusal to recognize the right of a Jewish state to exist.
What was is what is and it never was about settlements. It still isn’t – the wholesale hypocrisy of a hostile world notwithstanding.