Certain Arab/Islamic critics of Israel often speak of some deeply sinister Jewish migrations to “Palestine” after World War I, neglecting to mention that (1) there has been a large and continuous Jewish presence in the land for over 3,000 years; and (2) there has been a continuing Jewish majority in Jerusalem. Nor do these critics care to remember that after World War II, when the General Assembly proposed to partition Palestine, this offer followed an earlier (1922) and illegal partition by the British, which took back almost 80 percent of the land promised to the Jews by the Balfour Declaration. This land was then used to create the Arab state of Trans Jordan. (Which was renamed the Kingdom of Jordan after 1949.)
Who remembers today, that at the time of the 1947 partition vote in the United Nations, the Jews had already been unlawfully deprived of four-fifths of their lawful entitlement? Who understands today, that Israel was NOT created from a land that had belonged to so-called “Palestinians”? Who understands today, that the idea of “Palestinian” nationalism did not even arise until after 1967?
What are the true origins of protracted warfare between Israel and the Arabs? NO ONE, not even militant Arab leaders or anti-Zionist historians, can accept the concocted view that the 1948-49 conflict was a war of Jewish making. On February 16, 1948, the U.N. Palestine Commission reported to the Security Council: “Powerful Arab interests, both inside and outside Palestine, are defying the resolution of the General Assembly and are engaged in a deliberate effort to alter by force the settlement envisaged therein.”
The Arabs themselves deserve an “A” for honesty. They were entirely clear (and manifestly proud) in accepting responsibility for starting the genocidal war. Thus, Jamal Husseini informed the Security Council on April 16, 1948: “The representatives of the Jewish Agency told us yesterday they were not the attackers, that the Arabs had begun the fighting. We did not deny this. We told the whole world that we were going to fight.” As for the British commander of Jordan’s Arab Legion, John Bagot Glubb remarked candidly and prophetically: “Early in January, the first detachments of the Arab Liberation Army began to infiltrate into Palestine from Syria. Some came through Jordan and even through Amman…. They were, in reality, to strike the first blow in the ruin of the Arabs of Palestine.”
The current and always-imperiled State of Israel came into being on May 14, 1948. The five Arab armies of Egypt, Syria, Tran Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq immediately invaded the new microstate. Azzam Pasha, Secretary General of the Arab League, expressed their combined intention publicly: “This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.” In terms of international law, the Arab League thus spoke plainly of genocide. This is hardly surprising, especially in view of their open and warm cooperation with Hitler and the Axis against the Allies in World War II.
Israel’s critics prefer to maintain that the 1967 War was one of Israeli “aggression” rather than a war of Israeli self-defense and survival. Yet, on May 15, Israel’s Independence Day, Egyptian troops began moving into the Sinai, massing near the Israeli border. By May 18, Syrian troops, too, were preparing for battle along the Golan Heights, 3000 feet above the Galilee, from which they had been shelling Israel’s farms and villages for years. Egypt’s Nasser ordered the U.N. Emergency Force (UNEF), stationed in the Sinai since 1956, to withdraw, whereupon the Voice of the Arabs proclaimed, on May 18, 1967:
“As of today there no longer exists an international emergency force to protect Israel. We shall exercise patience no more. We shall not complain any more to the UN about Israel. The sole method we shall apply against Israel is total war, which will result in the extermination of Zionist existence.”
Again, the Arab side warrants an “A” for truthfulness. Two days later, an enthusiastic echo came from Hafez Assad, then Syria’s Defense Minister, who proclaimed: “Our forces are now entirely ready…to initiate the act of liberation itself, and to explode the Zionist presence in the Arab homeland…. The time has come to enter into a battle of annihilation.” President Abdur Rahman Aref of Iraq happily joined the chorus ofgenocidal threats: “The existence of Israel is an error which must be rectified. This is our opportunity to wipe out the ignominy, which has been with us since 1948. Our goal is clear – to wipe Israel off the map.” Sound familiar?
On June 4, Iraq formally joined the military alliance with Egypt, Jordan and Syria. The Damascus regime’s commitment to Final Solutions for Israel has been described by Ahmed S. Khalidi and Hussein Agha as stemming from “…an apparently strong conviction that the struggle with Israel is no mere political or territorial dispute, but rather a clash of destinies affecting the fate and future of the Middle East.” Moreover, Syria’s approach to Israel, say Khalidi and Agha, remains “bound up with the view that force, whether active or passive, is the final arbiter of the conflict with Israel and the ultimate guarantor of any settlement in the area.”
How, then, can Israel have been the aggressor in 1967, as the Arabs and their supporters continue to maintain? It hardly seems possible. The jurisprudential correctness of Israel’s essential resort to anticipatory self-defense was well established in customary international law.
International law is not a suicide pact. Israel could not have been expected to wait patiently for its own annihilation. Indeed, when the Government of Golda Meir decided not to exercise the lawful option of anticipatory self-defense in October 1973, when Egypt and Syria were preparing to launch yet another war of aggression against the Jewish State, Israel almost paid for it with collective disappearance.
Although Israel eventually prevailed against the Arab aggressors, it did so at a staggering cost in human life. The Yom Kippur War produced 2,326 deaths of Israeli soldiers, nearly 10,000 injuries and hundreds of prisoners. These costs to Israel were the direct results of A’man’s (Military Intelligence Branch) failure to predict the Arab attack, a failure known in Israel’s intelligence community as the Mechdal, a Hebrew term meaning “omission,” “nonperformance” or “neglect.”
The Arabs generally argue that Israel has no claim on Jerusalem beyond rules of power politics. Yet, Jerusalem has long been a Jewish city, and calling for an end to Israel’s sovereignty over an undivided Jerusalem is simply another call for an end to Israel. When, in 1947, the United Nations called for an international (U.N.-administered) city, it was not the Jews – but the Arabs – who refused. When the Jordanian army seized the Old City during its open war of aggression against Israel in 1948, it promptly desecrated all Jewish holy sites in the area, turned Jewish cemeteries and synagogues into urinals and murdered all Jews who remained on the Jordanian side of the 1948 armistice line.
Of course, Jordanian control over East Jerusalem from 1949 to 1967 was unacceptable under international law from the standpoints of both the Arab kingdom’s method of acquisition and its exceptionally brutal methods of occupation. Do Israeli and American Road Map supporters acknowledge these earlier violations of international law by the Kingdom of Jordan? If so, why are we currently planning to send large inventories of advanced American weapons to this very same Kingdom? Does Washington really believe that Amman has a progressive view of peace and reconciliation in the Middle East?
The statement that Jerusalem is holy to the three monotheistic religions is usually taken as self-evident. Yet, for Muslims – even for those who regard the city as theirs because of “presumed” Canaanite origins – it is not Jerusalem, but the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca, that is paramount. It is Mecca, not Jerusalem, to which Muslims must make pilgrimage. For Christians, Jerusalem contains some, but not all, of their holiest shrines. For Jews, all main holy sites are within the post-1967 Jerusalem municipal borders or in very close proximity.
Jews at prayer anywhere in the world face toward the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Muslims, even those praying on the Mount, face away from it, towards Mecca. When they pray on the Mount, Muslims have their backs toward the Dome of the Rock, while those praying in the Al-Aqsa mosque also look away from Jerusalem and toward Mecca. In the Jewish Holy Scriptures, Jerusalem is mentioned 656 times. Jerusalem’s well-being is central to all Jewish prayer. In the Koran, Jerusalem is never mentioned, not even once.
With the brief exception of the Crusader period, no conqueror of Jerusalem made the city a capital. Driven into exile by Nebuchadnezzar in 586 B.C.E., the Jews returned 50 years later and rebuilt Jerusalem as their capital. It was the capital of the Jews, again, under the Maccabees.
The rights of both Jews and Christians were openly trampled on by the Muslim conquerors of Jerusalem. Churches were made into mosques Slaughterhouses were deliberately established near Jewish places of worship. Mosques were built next to churches and synagogues so that their minarets could literally “overtower” them.
In the 2,554 years between 587 B.C.E. and 1967 C.E. Jerusalem was conquered more than 20 times and, as part of many empires, was ruled from different and distant capital cities. Only for the Jews (for more than 650 years), for the Crusaders (for 188 years) and for the State of Israel (since 1949) has Jerusalem served as a capital city.
The official maps of “Palestine” issued by the Palestine Authority (PA) shows the State of Palestine as comprising all of the West Bank (Judea/Samaria), all of Gaza, all of the State of Israel, and a slice of the Kingdom of Jordan. Additionally, it excludes any reference to a Jewish population, and lists holy sites of Christians and Muslims only. Initially, an official cartographer, Khalil Tufakji, was commissioned by the PA to design and to locate a proposed Capitol Building, which he drew to be located on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem, on top of an ancient Jewish cemetery.
(To be continued)
Copyright© The Jewish Press, December 7, 2007. All rights reserved
LOUIS RENÉ BERES (Ph.D., Princeton, 1971) lectures and publishes widely on Israeli and US counter-terrorism and nuclear security policies. Chair of Project Daniel, he is Strategic and Military Affairs columnist for The Jewish Press, and the author of ten major books dealing with international relations and international law.