After 1948, when five Arab armies were defeated in their avowed “War of Extermination” against the greatly outnumbered nascent Jewish State, Jordan illegally occupied Judea and Samaria, the West Bank, and Egypt controlled Gaza. But Israel had successfully defended its right to sovereign statehood.
In 1967, after again defeating three Arab armies in a war of self-defense and gaining control of the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights, Israel offered to return territory it had won in exchange for peace agreements with its neighbors. The Arab League responded with their Khartoum Resolution: “No peace with Israel, no negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel.” Once again, no “Two-State Solution”.
During the nineteen years in which Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and Gaza were under complete Arab control, there was no agitation or effort to establish a Palestinian state. But to enhance their appeal to Western public opinion, the Arabs of Mandate Palestine waived their traditional self-identification as “Arabs”, that is members of the Arab Nation, and described themselves as “Palestinians”.
“There are no differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. We are all part of one nation. It is only for political reasons that we carefully underline our Palestinian identity, because it is in the interest of the Arabs to encourage a separate Palestinian identity…Yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity is there only for tactical reasons.”
(Zuheir Mohsen, head of military operations for the PLO and a member of its Supreme Council as interviewed by James Dorsey in the Dutch daily Trouw, March 31, 1977.) (Emphasis supplied)
In 1974, after another Arab defeat, the nine-year old P.L.O., at its Twelfth National Convention, adopted “The Strategy of Stages”. This was designed to create an impression of “moderation” – primarily for Western consumption – by agreeing to set up a Palestinian Arab state in any West Bank and Gaza territory vacated by Israel as Stage I, without recognizing the State of Israel. Stage II, was to be resumption and intensification of the “armed struggle” from the greatly enhanced power base, which would ensure the destruction of Israel and allow Arabs to take the rest of Palestine in Stage III.
At the same time, the P.L.O. began advancing a narrative according to which “Arab people were engaged in farming and building, spreading culture throughout the land for thousands of years, setting an example in the practice of freedom of worship, acting as faithful guardians of the holy places of all religions.” (Arafat’s speech in the U.N., N.Y.Times, 11/11/74)
It is hard to imagine a description that stands in harsher contrast to the facts. For while archeological evidence suggests that Palestine possessed one of the largest populations and most varied economies in its history during the sixth century, the Arab invasion of the seventh century inaugurated a period of over a thousand years, where except for brief breathing spells, Palestine settled into a period of deep decline punctuated by periodic massacres of its remaining population.
(As late as 1867, on his visit to Palestine, Mark Twain wrote of “A silent mournful expanse…a desolation…not even imagination can grace…never saw a human being on the whole route (from Jerusalem to Tabor)…even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.” Innocents Abroad)
The plain fact, documented in a wide range of unimpeachable sources, is that the regeneration of Palestine, the growth of its population and economy, came only after an increasing and consistent flow of Jews had begun returning in the last decades of the 19th century. And after them came Arabs from Transjordan, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Egypt, the Sudan, Iraq and even far away Yemen, seeking a share in Palestine’s emerging prosperity. It is estimated that at least 300,000 Arabs migrated into Palestine during the period of the Mandate.
*Dr. Arnold M. Soloway, President Emeritus and Founder of the Center for Near East Policy Research, earned a Doctorate degree in Economics at Harvard University in 1952, taught on its faculty until 1960, and was elected Chairman of the Graduate Society Council in 1982. Following his 1952 analysis of Boston’s financial problems, he was asked to and did serve on the Mayor’s Committee on Boston’s Finances from 1953-1957. From 1961-62 he served as Special Advisor on Fiscal Affairs to Governor John A. Volpe. From 1964-1966 he was Special Consultant to the (U.S.) Economic Development Administration. From 1974-1979 he was Director-at-Large, National Bureau of Economic Research. In 1978-79 he served as Chairman, Mayor’s Special Commission on Boston Public Housing. He was principal author of Truth and Peace in the Middle East, Friendly House, New York, 1971 and The Role of Arab Political Culture and History in the Conflict with Israel, Center for Near East Policy Research, April 1985.