Sunday, May 10, 2009

"From 1948 to 1967 they didn't ask for a state"

Doing some research on a book I'll be quoting in an upcoming post, I stumbled upon this review page. One of the reviewers says:

The author makes us aware of a similar problem today. While antizionists may imply that there is a huge Arab population that can live only on Jewish land, that's simply not the case. Katz explains that when Arabs controlled the entire West Bank from 1948 through 1967, not even allowing Jews to live there at all, there were no demands for a separate Arab state there.

I must confess the continued currency of this argument beats me. The Arabs in the West Bank (its proponents claim) did not ask for an independent state when they were ruled by the Jordanians, so why would they demand one now? The answer, of course, is that they're part of the World Conspiracy Against Israel And The Jewish People. They don't want to be free; only to kill Jews, or, at the very least, ethnically cleanse them from Israel.

Of course, this reasoning may catch off guard Western audiences to whom the only possible reason a people may ask for a state is the realization of their national aspirations. A Westerner thinks, for instance, of the Basques, who enjoy a high standard of living, freedom of movement and the right to receive schooling in Euskara, but are very frustrated to have to see the Spanish flag flying over their public buildings. Or the Scots people, who don't even have a separate language but long for a separate state all the same. If the Palestinians are like those people, they should be frustrated by any foreign flag being hoisted in the West Bank; therefore, if they reject the Israeli flag but accepted the Jordanian one, it must mean they're antisemitic.

A more sophisticated and enquiring audience, however, might ask if the flags are the only difference between Israeli and Jordanian occupation. And here's where the argument begins to crumble.

For one thing, the Jordanian occupiers were Arab. They had the same language, the same religion, the same customs as the occupied people. Foreign rule is likely to be far less tolerated if the rulers' way of life and values are perceived as widely different from the occupied people's.

But, fundamentally, the Jordanian occupation did not disrupt West Bank life to the same extent that the Israeli occupation has. Let us just ask:

  • Did the Jordanians steal privately-owned Palestinian land to build illegal settlements, outposts and roads?
  • Did the Jordanians burn down fields, poison wells, savagely beat up shepherds or uproot trees?
  • Did the Jordanians write "Death to the Palestinians" on the walls and tombstones of the West Bank?
  • Did the Jordanians stone schoolgirls on their way to school?
  • Did the Jordanian soldiers shoot holes in the Palestinians' water towers?
  • Did the Jordanians make Palestinian drivers wait for hours on end at checkpoints, far beyond what would be justified by security concerns?

If your answer to all these questions is no, you'll understand why the Palestinians want independence now but didn't yearn for it in 1966. It's not a question of sovereignty or peoplehood; it's just an understandable craving for normalcy. That is easy to grasp, and I'm puzzled that the Zionists have been able to peddle their argument for so long without these elementary questions being raised.

Which is connected, by the way, to why a Bantustan solution can never be accepted by the Palestinians. If they have to cross Israeli territory, or make an impossibly long detour, to go from Hebron to Jericho, any sense of a normal life will be lost. The belief that a Palestinian state with long wedges of Jewish settlements cutting deep into it is sustainable in the long term is purely dellusional, but unfortunately it's the underlying assumption behind all Israeli versions of the highly questionable concept of a two-state solution.


andrew r said...

This is one of those nebulous non-issues brought up to demonstrate the injustice of the two-state solution and signal their desire for one democratic state or expelling the Arabs, whichever you believe. Although Moshe Shemesh's The Palestinian Entity is a must-read for any one who really cares. Egypt was for a state in the remainder of Palestine, Jordan wasn't, this topic doesn't deserve a whole book but you have one by an Israeli intel officer/academic.

The obvious answer is that Jordan took in refugees. Israel made them refugees. And it did again in 1967.

It's also wonky to have us think there was a demand for a state after the six-day war. The PLO still focused on undoing Israel as a whole, not just liberating the occupied territories. Even now Palestinians are split on the two-state solution. Like you more or less said, the demand is really for the situation to get better.

I think the arguement about being occupied by similar people is pretty weak, though. The only case it ever applied is maybe the anschluss.

Gert said...

Andrew r:

"I think the arguement about being occupied by similar people is pretty weak, though."

I don't think it is. The 'similar' people (an awkward term, I feel) do not behave the same as a foreign occupying power, like Israel does in the West Bank (and used to do in Gaza). In the West Bank, Israel is creating lebensraum for its Zionist population and laying the foundations for a Greater Israel, possibly Arab-free (if they can get away with it).

andrew r said...

I know that wasn't the best terminology but it was late. However, I don't think there are too many real-world examples of people tolerating occupation because the occupier had the same customs and language. One popular example is Syria-Lebanon but that is pretty shallow, even worse when the Shia are cast as pro-Syrian and the Maronites as anti-Syrian.

It really depends on the circumstances. Austria accepted annexation by Germany, but they didn't try the same with Switzerland. Palestine was occupied by Egypt in the 1830's and that led to a revolt over conscription (originating from Nablus, no less). But when Jordan occupied the West Bank, there was an even worse occupation the other way. Also important to note is that Jordan did not allow arms to Palestinians.

What makes me reluctant to address the issue is that it's about the identity politics of Zionist victims. It's just another case of scrutinizing their victims from an abstract viewpoint. Any argument against the two state solution doesn't deserve more than 'okay, one state it is'.

Gert said...

Switzerland is a bad example: it's a quadrilingual country! I lived there for about a year: traveling through the different cantons you can see the culture change before your very eyes!

Most arguments made by Zionists against a state for the Palestinians fall into Gabriel Ash's 'They suck!' category, from his witty How to make the case for Israel and win guide to Hasbara, in four easy steps: We Rock! They Suck! You Suck! Everything Sucks!

andrew r said...

Eh, maybe it is. But you just know even the German-speaking Swiss wouldn't have it.

That reminds me. My letter to a local hasbara paper got two responses, and I should probably finish reading them now. *deep breath*

Yitzchak Goodman said...

There is also the main argument which proves that the South Korea should not reunite with North Korea under the loving care of Dear Leader Comrade Kim Jong Il: the "He sucks" argument.

Anonymous said...

"Which is connected, by the way, to why a Bantustan solution can never be accepted by the Palestinians."

Love it how silly british twits *decide* what is acceptable to the Palestinians in a negotiated solution. We'll just have to wait and see won't we. The armchair terrorists rant about the "injustice of the two state solution" which is transparent code for the destruction of Israel and the expulsion of the jews. Never happening. The whole point of Herzl was the need for an army to defend ourselves. No way we giving that up in the face of 500 million Arabs and other assorted Muslim freaks armed with apocalyptic weapons. Why? So that some argentine's shmuck's sense of "injustice" is placated? Ain't gonna happen. Better the status quo forever than that kind of "just peace"!

andrew r said...

"Love it how silly british twits *decide* what is acceptable to the Palestinians in a negotiated solution."

Except the passage you quote wasn't by a Brit. How did you make that slip up, I wonder.

andrew r said...

"The armchair terrorists rant about the "injustice of the two state solution""

Oh, this is quoting me above. Well, that particular sentence was referring to those who find it unjust because it deprives Israel of expansion. Depending on how its implemented, it may or may not be just.

You might want to read Michael Oren's latest article in Commentary Magazine. He rules out both a two and one -state solution, sticking to the "status quo" it seems. Where you people are going with this, I can't imagine.

Gert said...


Of course the Palestinians will never accept the Bantustan solution (do you understand what it means?)

You don't have to be British or anything else to understand that: to be human suffices.

tree said...

The biggest difference between the time that Jordan controlled the West Bank and now, when Israel controls the West Bank is that Jordan made every Palestinian living in the West Bank a citizen of Jordan with all the rights and privileges of citizenship. If Israel had granted the same rights to every Palestinian in the West Bank and treated them with full equality, then there would be no push for a separate Palestinian state. But Israel will never give them full citizenship status in Israel because that would mean that Jews would no longer be in the majority there, and could no longer privilege Jews to the detriment of non-Jews and remain a "democracy".

Anonymous said...

I know this is slightly past the time when most people are commenting, but I am just reading your excellent blog in detail!

We Scots do in fact have a separate language, like Euskara for the Basque people. It is called Gaelic. Also, there's a discussion about whether Scots itself is a separate language (it uses different grammatical structures from English).

Just to clarify the point, but please keep on keeping on :)

Medicine said...

They don't want to be free; only to kill Jews, or, at
the very least, ethnically cleanse them from Israel.

Unknown said...

To answer all your questions yes JORDAN did all those things,PALESTINIANS are the majority in Jordan and treated as a second class citizens and let me remind you a little matter of BLACK SEPTEMBER