It was a privilege to re-read and summarize a chapter in this book. I hope that I was able to capture the nature of the author that permeates the pages: a devoted humanitarian, but truth-seeker—uncommon today. Ms. Peters began her seven-year research out of sympathy for people called “Palestinian” but had the objectivity to ask and pursue the questions that led her to her conclusion that: both they and the object of their usurpation were victims of injustice by others who should have done better by both. Regardless, the Arab hard-pressed claims are in fact politically inspired myth, while Jewish claims are valid.
It is dispiriting to observe that, since Mrs. Peters’ book and the much-vaunted Peace Process (1993), the truth regarding Israel and her would-usurpers—necessary for any real “peace process”–has become ever-more-elusive. Maybe it’s time for a Truth Process.
NB The text below is my summary of Ms. Peters’ work, with a small proportion of verbatim content; as of that time (ca. 1984). I don’t agree with her on every account, but I’ve included those points as well.
From Time Immemorial also includes nine appendices and 120 pages of documentary and interview citations, plus an extensive bibliography. I stress this to demonstrate the length to which Ms. Peters went to examine all the evidence possible to arrive at her conclusions—contrary to her own predilections; the book had some detractors after the publication of the book in 1984 (!) who would rather follow a narrative rather than the evidence.—Yosi Derman
The “Palestinian problem” is often considered to be the linchpin to Middle East
peace. Britain has been a consistent purveyor of that argument, in 1980 proclaiming a “new” policy tagline, i.e. that “the Palestinian Question” must be resolved before peace reigns in that region. A British journalist commented that the media comprised many who were honest and strong skeptics, yet “…Just as water may eventually wear away stone, so Foreign Office arguments which are tirelessly expounded wear away doubts and scruples”.
In reality, however, “the “heart of the matter” is not Arab refugees or Palestinian refugees, etc..The Arab world would still have a problem with any attempt by the Jews to establish a state in the most remote, inhospitable backwater in the region. The same pattern would ultimately develop: Arabs would flock to the area for its economic opportunities, would claim that the Jews displaced them from their land “from time immemorial”; Jews must be denied even a sliver-state on their own Holy Land.
Because they cannot prevail militarily over Israel, Arabs are motivated to promote these claims to defeat the Jewish state on the diplomatic battlefield. They simply will not accept a dhimmi-state in their midst. All the myths (11 cited) conjured up to support their offensive are easily contradicted by hard fact (13 cited). For example, the notion that a coherent “Palestinian people” have been on the land for thousands of years is ridiculous in light of the actual facts: in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, itinerant Arab speakers wandered all over the Middle East to eke out a living, often fleeing the mostly desolate, often malarial, Holy Land. Only with the advent of Jewish economic development, did they began to in-migrate in search of subsistence.
The charge of Arab exclusion, assuming untrammeled Jewish settlement in the Holy Land, is refuted by the fact that Israel comprises only about one-quarter of “Palestine”; the other 75%, now Jordan, is populated exclusively by Arabs, judenrein by law. The demographic history of Western Palestine has been glanced over, no recognition of Britain’s severe restrictions on Jewish immigration while allowing uncontrolled entry to Arabs; and any Jewish settlement was on only a limited portion of the 25% allowed the Jewish state. Britain abandoned its own obligations as the Mandatory in favor of appeasing Arab “discontent”. Since, they were assumedly indigenous, Arab numbers were ignored and Jewish settlement severely curtailed thus allowing the “displacement” myth to flourish.
Traditionally, Arabs would go where the living was easier, not to “settle”–and would readily move elsewhere for the same reason. But unaccountably, UNWRA, counted them as “natives” or instant “refugees” though life in the camps was often better than elsewhere. Realistically, they were little more than itinerant workers, and in 1948, despite better living conditions in Jewish Palestine they fled largely at the behest of Arab leaders. This, though they were routinely excluded from citizenship in most Arab countries, even their own.
Young Arabs of today have no inkling of the tenuous relationship that their grandparents actually had with the land both in Arab countries and in Israel. And they won’t be taught it either, because it suits the political purposes of their Arab masters to keep them in camps and allow the hate from the their victimhood zeroed in on the Zionists who purportedly robbed them of their lands.
Young Jewish Israelis too are largely ignorant of the history of Arab peripatetic migrations, the severe limitations on Jewish immigration imposed by British authorities, and ongoing Arab violence pre- and post-1948. Consequently they have ambivalent feelings, often guilt, about Israel’s role in “Palestinian” suffering. They are propagandized by stories about the “occupation” and alleged victimhood of “three-or-four million Arab Palestinian excluded from their homeland inhabited by them since time immemorial”.
Arab propaganda has also peddled distorted numbers of Arab actual refugees. In fact, as of 1982 there were 1.5 million Jews and their children from Arab lands in Israel, near as many as Arabs, 1.9 million (likely inflated) said to be in UNRWA camps in that year, of whom minimally 1.25 million, 65% received refugee benefits but did not live in the camps. Furthermore, of those actually residing in the camps, many live, rent-free, near urban areas and work there.
Furthermore, the current number of Arab refugees and progeny who actually do live in camps all over the Middle East, 676,000, beggars the number of Jewish refugees from Arab lands in 1948, who in 1982 are estimated to be 1.5 with their descendants. And the number of Arab refugees truly living in camps is relatively small relative to an estimated 10 million refugees in the entire world, but they are the most resistant to solutions.
The United States Committee for Refugees estimates whether refugees can be “settled in place” or “resettled in a third country”, like so many other refugees. In the case of the 670,000 Arab refugees “in camps” it estimated that a “durable solution” was possible locally or in the Arab world, but that does not occur. (It did happen for many Vietnamese—some in Israel— Cambodians, etc.). In fact, many who work outside the camps find the rent-free accommodations, often permanent urban units, to be beneficial to their bottom-line.
It goes further: The same US Committee still counts Arab refugees as such in Jordan, Arab Palestine, where they are granted citizenship due to a “law of return”. As could be expected, however, Jewish refugees from Arab countries in Israel are not counted similarly.
All the foregoing is traditional operating procedure for Arab societies where leaders exploit the masses for their own benefit. What is new is the use of turnspeak (definition in Chapt. 9) in their armamentarium. Ironically, it was about 1984 that George Orwell foretold the phenomenon: “War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength”. In the Middle East, the Arab migrants and immigrants who unjustly displaced Jews from their National Home have rhetorically turned into victims: “displaced…excluded…from their homeland since time immemorial”. The Arabs are realistic enough to know that a wholesale slaughter of Jews would not sit well even in today’s world, and have turned to turnspeak to appear as victims only fighting for their national rights, instead of anti-semites who will not tolerate a dhimmi nation in their midst.
Some argue that even if Palestinian claims are based on a lie, they believe their own lie and that must be taken into account. But their claim is based upon a faux history and they it would stand to destroy another state. Certainly the veracity of such consequential historical claims should be scrutinized and vetted by a world that purports itself to be justice-seeking. Another Arab claim, that of “self-determination” (per Woodrow Wilson) as an inalienable right should be similarly examined. Historically, that concept has been applied to national groups distinct from their neighbors—which does not apply to “Palestinian” Arabs. And it has in practice been applied only where circumstances permit. English historian Alfred Cobban wrote, “In practice there can be no doubt about…the methods of the treaty makers at Paris. Practically every one, including Wilson himself, recognized that self-determination could only be applied with due regards to circumstances”. Even the Soviet Union, espousing rigorously the principle of self-determination, itself would never willingly part with the Baltic states, which undoubtedly would secede absent Soviet guns.
The Arab demands for a “secular democratic state” would likewise fall to honest scrutiny. Such an entity has never appeared in Arabic history or tradition, manifested by Muslim Arab Jew-hatred and persecution of other non-Muslims, and even heretodox Muslim sects. In the truly apartheid nature of Arab Islam lies the refusal of the Arabs to allow any Jewish settlements in the Sinai and the West Bank. More candid Arabs similarly put the lie to the notion of an “Arab mini-state” in the West Bank; rather the idea was seen as a first step to the destruction of Israel. If not so, why was an “ Arab mini-state” not declared between 1947 and 1967?
The lies and demands morph apace with their exposure by actual history and documentation. They ill-begotten whether presented as “nationalism” or “fighting for freedom”, or as an inevitability simply because the people are in Jewish Palestine and are violent. Nowhere else would the resettlement of refugees be seen as a reason for destroying any other state. Theodore Draper wrote, “There is something suspicious and ominous about a world which permits one rule for refugees from a Jewish state and another rule for refugees from all other kinds of states.”
Young Arabs are indoctrinated to believe the myths they are fed and their “dreams” may materialize only by the destruction of Israel. Refugees from Jordan do not flock to welcoming Jordan, their legitimate homeland, and that confers full citizenship. Nor do those stemming from Syria and Egypt return to their native soil. Furthermore, courtesy of the Arab League, their home countries excepting Jordan refuse to welcome them.
It would only too simple to declare that the previous Mandate for Palestine be divided according to its plan: A Jewish Palestine west of the Jordan River and an Arab one east of the Jordan. But this cannot occur because the lie won’t die, so it remains a non-starter.
Especially the young Arab Palestinian “refugees”, have their myth, dream and their identity and are unlikely to shed them soon.
But they cannot forever live by such falsehoods amongst the violence and bloodshed, cannot forever have the world on their side at the expense of the Jews they wish to usurp. Egypt and Sadat did after all find a modus operandi to make a sort of peace with Israel. This, despite all the history that passed before it and all the rejectionists in the Arab world. Indeed, there was an historical model: during Solomon’s reign (965-928) Egypt’s pharaoh had given his daughter in marriage to the Jewish king for good reasons of state. Would Syria not have benefited greatly from Israel’s irrigation expertise as part of rapprochement and the much-needed labor of Arab refugees?
Peacemaking is said to depend on the truth but even purportedly free nations seem to adhere to the turnspeak; through it the world community has created a breeding ground of violence. It hoped that solicitude for the refugees would keep the oil flowing westward. Thus, the wound was allowed to fester until it burst into terrorism, first led by the Grand Mufti and his Nazi friends, now led by the PLO’s Arafat. Now, the Arab world makes a false moral claim—instead of the required truth. It asserts that Israel must bear the guilt for the “refugees” since they, “…in1948 excluded the Arabs from their homeland since time immemorial”.
Arabs themselves sense the risibility of that claim. So, they created another, one of “Palestinian self-determination” based on a specious assertion that of “90% of Arab-naive and 9%-Jewish population,” in all of Palestine. Actually the number of Jewish refugees from Arab lands settled in a constricted portion of “Palestine” were equal in number to the Arabs there. An unusually candid Arab writer wrote, “Jews have absorbed the Jews who were expelled or forced from Arab states and the Arab states must, in their turn, settle the Palestinians [Arabs] within their borders and solve their problem.”
The west also glances over the fact that the Sephardic Israeli majority is comprised of Jews (and their subsequent offspring) who fled, or were evicted from, Arab lands. Problems arose from the fact that many are suspicious of Arabs and support a political hard line against the Arabs. As well, at the time that they arrived in a nascent Israel distracted by military demands they were offered relatively poor living conditions which eventuated in social problems. That the two refugee groups were almost equivalent in numbers is similarly largely ignored. And the Arab refugees continue to be exploited by their political masters, uneducated as to the facts of their status and indoctrinated to be hateful.
One must be concerned about both Palestinian peoples. We should not allow to continue the scapegoating of the Jewish state and its refugees, and the continued exploitation of the Arab refugees. The lure of Middle East oil prevents many from critically scrutinizing the propaganda. Many bi-partisan political leaders have forwarded a kind of Marshall-type plan for the Middle East, so that the Arab states’ need for development and technical assistance can be satisfied at the same time as the west’s need for oil. The US has funded UNWRA to the tune of a billion+ dollars over the the 31 years on behalf of what was to have been “temporary relief before resettlement”. Could not those funds be devoted to the above plan? Conditions are right for its success: the need for more manpower in Arab lands; foreign funds could be use for rehabilitation of Arab refugees; property left by the Jews in Arab lands would at least equal what the Arabs left behind. The exchange of populations is a fait accompli and acknowledgment of the exchange should be pressed on Arab countries. Arab countries will be asked to co-operate in exchange for western assistance. Once the facts of the situation would be recognized by the west, the notion of population exchange accepted, etc., the Arab states and jihadist cadres may realize that their propaganda no longer has much impact, and will accept a reasonable settlement. It would bring important benefits to the Arab nations, as well as to the erstwhile “refugees”.
However, thus far turnspeak has been a great success for the propagandists to keep the anti-Israel fire burning. As Zuheir Muhsein, a PLO leader explained in 1974 the nature of the proposed Palestinian state on the West Bank: “Our purpose is a democratic state in the whole of Palestine…A State in the occupied areas will not constitute an obstacle. The contrary is true—it will be a point of departure…This state will be the backbone of our struggle against Israel.”
Via violence and the oil-weapon the Arabs achieved severe limitation on Jewish immigration into Jewish Palestine that might have saved many Jewish lives during the Holocaust. Instead, the British Mandatory, abrogated its assigned mission to foster “thick settlement” in Jewish Palestine to order appease Arab displeasure. At the same time British functionaries cynically imported tens of thousands of Arabs to provide labor in place of the “missing” Jews. The result, as we have seen, was a disaster for all sides. And today, (ca.1984), the Arab goals are increasingly accepted by those who do not look beyond Arab propaganda and twisted rhetoric.
The British, throughout the Mandate followed a policy of appeasement towards the Arabs. It should now be clear that it has not in the end brought about anything like peace. They should rather have heeded Winston Churchill’s warning in 1939 that the results appeasement today will have to be rectified later at far greater cost and remorse.