Recently, the Monitor caught a debate between a man from a Muslim advocacy organization and a fairly prominent Jewish communal figure. The subject was the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the argument was a rout: the man from the Muslim group won without expending much effort.
He won because he spelled out his positions in articulate, methodical fashion, while his pro-Israel opponent was defensive and shockingly short on facts.
The program was only one instance of a disturbingly common phenomenon: inexplicably passive pro-Israel debaters coming off second best in a public forum. And it’s not as if the facts backing Israel aren’t accessible on countless websites and in books such as Mitchell G. Bard’s comprehensive Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israel Conflict (the entire text of which can be found online at www.JewishVirtualLibrary.org).
Here is how Bard, in a few cogent paragraphs, dispatches the myth that “Palestine was always an Arab country”:
No independent Arab or Palestinian state ever existed in Palestine. When the distinguished Arab-American historian, Princeton University Prof. Philip Hitti, testified against partition before the Anglo-American Committee in 1946, he said: “There is no such thing as ‘Palestine’ in history, absolutely not.” Prior to partition, Palestinian Arabs did not view themselves as having a separate identity. When the First Congress of Muslim-Christian Associations met in Jerusalem in February 1919 to choose Palestinian representatives for the Paris Peace Conference, the following resolution was adopted: “We consider Palestine as part of Arab Syria, as it has never been separated from it at any time…. ”
In 1937, a local Arab leader, Auni Bey Abdul-Hadi, told the Peel Commission, which ultimately suggested the partition of Palestine: “There is no such country [as Palestine]! ‘Palestine’ is a term the Zionists invented!…. Our country was for centuries part of Syria.”
The representative of the Arab Higher Committee to the United Nations submitted a statement to the General Assembly in May 1947 that said, “Palestine was part of the Province of Syria” and that, “politically, the Arabs of Palestine were not independent in the sense of forming a separate political entity.”
A few years later, Ahmed Shuqeiri, later the chairman of the PLO, [said]: “It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but southern Syria.”
A little research – on the Internet or at a good public library – will yield a rich harvest of facts and quotes buttressing Israel’s case and highlighting Palestinian dishonesty and double talk.
From a 1972 interview of Yasir Arafat by the late Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci, here is all one needs to know about the shifting nature of Palestinian claims: Fallaci: But what does Palestine mean…. The Turks were here, before the British Mandate and Israel. So what are the geographical borders of Palestine?
Arafat :…. From an Arab point of view, one doesn’t speak of borders; Palestine is a small dot in the great Arabic ocean. And our nation is the Arab one, it is a nation extending from the Atlantic to the Red Sea and beyond….
Later in the interview Arafat reiterated, “I repeat that borders have no importance. Arab unity is important, that’s all.”
And then there are all the statements by Palestinian leaders, usually delivered in Arabic to Arab audiences, in the aftermath of the 1993 Oslo Accords. A personal favorite: Arafat, still enjoying the world’s adulation for his heroic peacemaking efforts, addressing Arab diplomats Stockholm on January 30, 1996, just a few months after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin: “We Palestinians will take over everything, including all of Jerusalem…. You understand that we plan to eliminate the state of Israel and establish a purely Palestinian state…. I have no use for Jews, they are and remain Jews.”
Four years later, Israel was still negotiating with Arafat, and Ehud Barak was prepared to make concessions that Rabin’s widow, Leah, said would have her husband “certainly turning in his grave.” Arafat rejected those concessions and launched the Second Intifada in September 2000.
This is but a tiny sampling of the vast quantities of ammunition available to pro-Israel debaters. Why then do most of them invariably come across as sniveling Milquetoasts?