The Real Issue in the Gaza Fighting

February 1, 2009 by Dr. Richard L. Benkin  
Filed under Guest column

israelchildAs people worldwide choose up sides to cheer for in the current Gaza fighting, few recognize what the real issue is, and fewer of them are willing to admit it. Distilled to its most essential ingredient, the Middle East conflict is and always was about Israel. Everything else is window dressing. Ever since Jewish halutzim (or pioneers) began reclaiming their ancient homeland and a renewed Jewish state became a reality, the official position of almost every Arab government and entity has been that a Jewish state of any size and location in the Middle East is unacceptable. That same position has been repeated ad nauseum from almost every mosque in the world; certainly every mosque in the Middle East. If many people in the world today cite blatantly anti-Jewish Quran verses as basic to Islam, you can blame those Imams who scream them out week after week at their Friday sermons. The fact that they are broadcast on official Arab government television and are never denounced by Islamic leaders and scholars only reinforces that notion in the minds of many.

It’s not about “the occupation,” unless one considers everything “from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea occupied. And it never was. Nor is it about the aspirations of a people called Palestinian. And it never was. If it was about the West Bank and Gaza, there could have been Palestinian state on both pieces of land—and with Jerusalem as its capital—any time between 1948 and 1967. Both were occupied territory, but the “occupiers” were Arabs: Jordan controlled the West Bank and Jerusalem; and Egypt ran Gaza. In 1950, Jordan even annexed the entire territory. Why those who claimed outrage when Israel annexed Jerusalem but were silent about Jordan’s much larger annexation is no mystery if one understands the basic goals of the anti-Israel jihad. So when the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) was founded in 1964, it was not Israel but Jordan and Egypt that were the obstacles to a Palestinian state. Yet, the terror group’s charter did not mention the West Bank or Jordan; nor did the organization target its occupiers, Jordan and Egypt. Its enemy was Israel not because of “the occupation” but because its goal always has been to take over pre-1967 Israel. In fact, Article 24 of the PLO Charter states, “This Organization does not exercise any territorial sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, [or] on the Gaza Strip.” That PLO’s first leader, Ahmed Shukairy told the UN Security Council on May 31, 1956, “It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but Southern Syria.” Moreover, neither the PLO nor Fatah, which became the PLO’s major component and was founded in the 1950s, expressed any interest in Jerusalem. The PLO Charter did not even call for a Palestinian state until after the 1967 Six-Day War, when it was amended to demand a Palestinian state on the entire land of Israel.

The occupation is a smoke screen of recent vision; a device, a tactic. Even in the original partition of Palestine, the UN offered the Arabs a Palestinian state comprised of the West Bank, Gaza, and some of pre-1967 Israel. The Partition plan also internationalized Jerusalem. Yet, all of the Arabs rejected it because it left some territory for a Jewish state; and tiny Israel accepted it even though its territory was non-contiguous and far less than called for in the UN mandate.
In 2000, Israel offered the Palestinians 96 percent of the West Bank, pre-Israeli territory to make up for the other four percent, Gaza,and East Jerusalem. They turned it down and launched the “second intifada” as their response. The latter day claim by Arafat apologists that the offer was one of “Bantustans” does not even pass the test of elementary logic. Not even the great Jewish physicist (and Zionist) Albert Einstein could have figured out how to turn 96 percent of anything into a series of disconnected and unviable islands.

Given what they were offered, what more could the Arabs want that would leave any viable Jewishstate of Israel? Those fellow travelers who blithely go from one Arab territorial demand to another need to ask themselves that question. Do they think the Arabs will lay down their arms if Israel quits the West Bank and Gaza? No, well perhaps if Israel cedes Jerusalem, too. By the way, when Arabs occupied Jerusalem, Jews were not allowed to pray at their holiest religious site, the Western Wall of the Temple Mount. Yet, since Israel has had hegemony over Jerusalem, Muslim worship at the Mount’s Al Aqsa has been so vibrant that the Muslims have had to build an annex to it within the Temple Mount. Okay, so Israel leaves the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem, and gives up any right to pray at its holiest religious sites. Oh that’s right, what about the “right of return”? (And of course, there is no consideration for the even greater number of Jews who were expelled from Arab lands since 1948 and are now the majority citizens of Israel.) But Israel at Camp David and elsewhere has even agreed to take a limited number of Palestinian refugees, just not enough to destroy Israel as a Jewish state. And as a result, the Arabs fight on; the anti-Israel war continues.

Israel has offered the West Bank and Gaza to the Arabs at least three times since 1967, even begged King Hussein not to join the 1967 War because they did not even want the territories until the King made it necessary for their security. And just after the war, when Israel offered to give it all back in exchange for peace, they were met with the three infamous Arab No’s of the Khartoum conference: “No peace with Israel; no recognition of Israel; no negotiations with Israel.”

When will the supporters of the Arabs’ anti-Israel jihad conflict finally admit that they do not find the Jewish state of Israel legitimate and would prefer it to be gone; wiped from the map in lock step with Mahmoud Ahmedinejad; that they treat the world’s only Jewish state differently than they do any other state on the planet. And that is anti-Semitism.

Lesson One on the Middle East: It’s not about “the occupation.” It’s not about the Palestinians. Both were later additions to the political narrative. The conflict is and always has been between those who believe that a Jewish state in the region is legitimate and those who do not. If you want to test that conclusion, come up with a workable solution that would bring real and enduring peace to the Middle East—including an end to terrorism by Hamas, Hezbollah, and their state sponsors—that leaves a viable Jewish state of Israel. Go ahead. I dare you.

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