Were the Jews unwilling to share Palestine?

[A] territory once full of Arabs emerged from a war (a) essentially emptied of its original residents and (b) made impossible for Palestinians to return to. Both the ideological and organisational preparations for the Zionist effort to win Palestine, as well as the military strategy adopted, envisioned taking over territory, and filling it with new inhabitants.

– Edward Said 1

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Overview of the truth

From the birth of Zionism its followers have longed to share the land and live peacefully with their Arab neighbours. They sought only to establish a state where Jews formed a demographic majority, but even in those areas the Arabs were expected to remain. In contrast, the goal of the Arab leadership has always been to prevent the establishment of a Jewish state and to transfer the Jews out of their historic home – making the land Judenrein.

We will bring three proofs of Jewish willingness to share the land.

  • Jewish peaceful intentions were always met by Arab violence.
  • Israel is a shared land, 20% of the population are Arab.
  • Israel have made huge sacrifices to live in peace

Read this article to better understand the Jewish position on the right to return for the 1948 refugees.

Jewish peaceful intentions were met with Arab violence

From the very beginning of the Zionist movement its adherents described a Jewish state that would protect the rights of Arabs and other minorities living within its borders.

Palestine must be built up without violating the legitimate interests of the Arabs – not a hair of their heads shall be touched

– Chaim Weizmann, the first President of Israel, addressing the Fourteenth Zionist Congress in Vienna, 1925

Sadly, the Arab leadership and many of their followers did not share these noble intentions. From the beginning of the 20th century Arabs began reacting violently to Zionists that had settled in Israel, which at this stage were largely impoverished farmers that had collectively purchased small holdings. By 1908 thirteen Jews had been murdered in violent Arab attacks.2 As more Jews arrived Arab resentment to Jewish immigration grew and on the 27 February 1920 Arab nationalists held a demonstration attracting over a thousand protesters who bore banners with slogans like “Stop Zionist Immigration” and “Our Country For Us”. 3

Two months later following advice from a British Colonel, 4 Palestinian leader, Haj Amin al-Husseini, instructed the Arabs to escalate their violence. At a mass religious gathering in Jerusalem 60-70,000 Muslims changed the slogan from “Stop Immigration” to “Death to Jews”.

nebi-musa-procession
Muslim protesters at the Nebi Musa procession.

But this time the protesters didn’t just hold banners, thousands broke into a riot attack, raping and in some cases killing Jews whenever they chanced upon them. In total five Jews were murdered and dozens more injured. 5 Haj Amin was arrested by the British for instigating the riot, but he apparently “escaped” from British custody to Jordan and was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in absentia. But a year later, he had been pardoned by the British and appointed to the position of Grand Mufti of Jerusalem.

A few days after his appointment, the British High Commissioner met with Haj Amin and was assured “that the influences of his family and himself would be devoted to tranquility.” 6 Three weeks later, the Mufti instigated further riots in Jaffa and Petah Tikvah which left 47 Jews dead.

jaffa-riots-1921
1921 Jaffa Riots

Rioting and looting were rampant throughout Palestine, but in 1929 events took a sinister turn and Arabs massacred Jews throughout the land. In total 133 Jews were murdered and a further 339 injured. 7 One of the more infamous attacks took place in Hebron, where 10% of the Jewish community was slaughtered (67 men, women and children were slaughtered). 8 Hebron was the oldest Jewish place in the world, it was first purchased by Abraham in biblical times and had been continuously populated by Jews (with the exception of 1099 – 1260 when the Crusaders expelled them).

The assault was well planned and its aim was well defined: the elimination of the Jewish settlement of Hebron. The rioters did not spare women, children, or the aged; the British gave passive assent. Sixty-seven were killed, 60 wounded, the community was destroyed, synagogues razed, and Torah scrolls burned.

– Encyclopedia Judaica

Despite the fact that Jews had been living in Gaza and Hebron for centuries, following these riots, in an attempt to appease Arabs and quell violence the British forced the Jews to leave both the Gaza strip and Hebron.

jewish-victim-of-hebron-massacre
Jewish victim of the Hebron Massacre

As the years went on the Jewish community sustained attack after attack. Between 1936-1939 during the “Arab revolt”, a nationalist uprising by Palestinian Arabs against British rule, the Arabs killed hundreds more Jews. Yet it was during this revolt of barbaric ferocity that the future first Prime Minister of Israel, David Ben Gurion wrote:

We do not wish, we do not need to expel the Arabs and take their place. All our aspirations are built upon the assumption — proven throughout all our activity in the Land — that there is enough room in the country for ourselves and the Arabs.

– David Ben-Gurion, in a letter to his son Amos, 5 October 1937

But the Zionists peaceful intentions and willingness to share the land were overlooked by Haj Amin who continued with his vociferously violent rhetoric.

Kill the Jews wherever you find them. This pleases God, history and religion

– Grand Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, quoted in “Myths and facts 1982; a Concise Record of the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Leonard J. Davis and M. Decter, p199″, 1944

In 1947 the international community voted that partitioning the region into two separate nations was the only way to end the violence. In 1948, desperate for peace, the Jews accepted this partition and in doing so agreed to share the land with the Arabs. The Arabs responded by trying to seize all of the land for themselves and in an attempt to drive the Jews into the sea – eight Arab armies invaded Israel.

Many Arabs became Israeli citizens

In the lead up and during the 1948 war approximately 600,000 Arabs fled the region9 that had been earmarked as the Jewish state, but thousands remained encouraged by the peaceful words of the Zionist leaders:

In the Jewish State, Jews will not have any right that is denied to Arabs, Greeks, or Armenians, if they are residents and citizens of the the State. Every citizen, Jewish, Arab or any other will be eligible to be elected to be president, prime minister, a justice of the high court or any other government office, important or minor… We will need to concern ourselves with health and education, development and all the other services for Arab villages, no less than for those Jewish villages.

– David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel, a 1947 address to the JNF

In total 160,000 Arabs remained in Israel amounting to 20% of the population.10 Just as Ben-Gurion had promised these Arabs were granted full Israeli citizenship and total equality, which they have retained to this day. Sadly the same was not true for Jews that remained in the Jordanian occupied West Bank, the West Bank Jews were expelled and their holy places destroyed. The same was true for Jews living throughout the Arab world where approximately one million Jews were expelled or forced to flee from the Arab countries in the years that followed.

Today more than one million Arabs live as free and equal citizens in Israel. They were 20% of the population in 1948 and today they remain 20%, this stands as a testament to the Zionist’s willingness to share the land with their Arab neighbours. Sadly the same is not true for the Arabs, who have expelled or forced out 94% of the Jews that once lived in their nations.

The numerous Jewish peace efforts

Since declaring independence Israel has come under continuous attack from its Arab neighbours who seek its total annihilation.

In the 1967 six day war, Egypt began massing its troops in the Sinai Peninsula which borders Israel. Gamel Abdel Nasser, the President of Egypt, then declared “Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel”. 11 Not willing to wait for its destruction, Israel preemptively struck the Egyptian military positions taking control of the entire Sinai Peninsula (while simultaneously defeating an Arab force made up of five Arab armies on several fronts). Realising that if it returned the land the conflict would have been for nothing, Israel held on to Sinai and declared it would only return the land when Egypt recognised Israel’s right to exist and agreed to live in peace.

The Sinai was oil rich and three times the size of Israel, which would give any state a strong incentive to hold on to the land (very few nations give up land won in defensive battles). But Israel was not interested in capitalising on its victory or expanding its borders and following years of negotiations Egypt agreed to Israel’s terms. The zionists abandoned their settlements, evacuated their citizens and returned the entire peninsula to Egypt. Proving Israel is willing to share the land with the Arabs.

A similar deal was struck with Jordan, but unfortunately the same has not happened with the Palestinians as no such peace agreement has ever been agreed. One of the most famous examples of huge self-sacrifice on the Israeli side was the Camp David and Taba talks in 1993, when Prime Minister Ehud Barak shocked the world by offering the Palestinians virtually everything they had demanded.12

  • Israel offered the Palestinians a state
  • Israel agreed to Jerusalem being the capital of this state
  • Israel agreed to handing over control of the holiest Jewish site, the Temple Mount, to the Palestinians
  • Israel agreed that the Palestinian state would consist of approximately 95 percent of the West Bank and all of the Gaza Strip
  • Despite correctly blaming the Arabs for the 1948 Palestinian refugee problem, Israel offered $30 billion in compensation to them.

Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia, who was serving as an intermediary between the two parties, urged Arafat to “take this deal.” Could you ever get “a better deal”? he asked. Noticing that Arafat was wavering Bandar issued a stern warning: “I hope you remember, sir, what I told you. If we lose this opportunity, it is going to be a crime”. The warning fell on deaf ears and Arafat rejected this phenomenal offer – Prince Bandar went on to describe the decision as “a crime against the Palestinians—in fact, against the entire region”.12

A decade later in 2005 it was another Israeli Prime Minister making huge sacrifices, this time Ariel Sharon had decided to pull Israel out of the Gaza Strip handing complete control of the region to the Palestinian National Authority. This should have been a stepping stepping stone to peace, but instead the Palestinians used this new autonomy to launch thousands of rockets into Israel from Gaza.

Israel has made continuous efforts for peace, giving up 90% of the territory it captured in defensive wars. All it needs is a partner on the other side willing to make the same compromises. Tragically, to date, no such partner has been found amongst the Palestinians.

Find out more about Israel efforts for peace.

Summary

  • Jewish peaceful intentions were always met by Arab violence.
    • Arab states launched three major wars against Israel with the explicit objective of driving the Jews into the sea
    • Before Israel declared independence the Arabs of Mandatory Palestine waged a campaign of extreme violence against agricultural Jews
    • Almost every major Zionist leader has stated that the rights of Arabs living in the region that became Israel should be protected
  • Israel is a shared land, 20% of the population are Arab.
    • The Arabs that remained in Israel were granted full citizenship and total equality
    • Hebrew and Arabic are the official languages of Israel and all road signs, food labels, messages published or posted by the government must also be translated into Literary Arabic.
    • Arabs, like any other citizen are entitled to free education
    • Arabs, like any other citizen are entitled to health care
    • Arabs, like any other citizen have the right to vote or run for office
  • Israel have made huge sacrifices to live in peace
    • Israel has exchanged 75% of the territory it once held for peace (90% of the land it had captured in defensive wars)
    • Israel offered the Palestinians a state in 95% of the West Bank and all the Gaza Strip, with its capital in Jerusalem and a $30 billion compensation packet for the Arab refugees that left in 48.

Learn more about how Israel was created

Sources

1. “The Question of Palestine”, Edward Said, p101
2. “Righteous Victims”, Benny Morris, p54
3. “The British in Palestine: The Mandatory Government and the Arab-Jewish Conflict, 1917-29”, Wasserstein, p59-60
4. In “La Question de Palestine, p506-512, Henry Laurens, records that Chaim Weizmann and British army Lieutenant Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen, reported that Haj Amin al-Husseini had been put up to inciting the riot by British Field-marshal Allenby’s Chief of Staff, Colonel Bertie Harry Waters-Taylor, who had told him “he had a great opportunity at Easter to show the world…that Zionism was unpopular not only with the Palestine Administration but in Whitehall and if disturbances of sufficient violence occurred in Jerusalem at Easter, both General Bols [Chief Administrator in Palestine, 1919-20] and General Allenby [Commander of Egyptian Force, 1917-19, then High Commissioner of Egypt] would advocate the abandonment of the Jewish Home. Waters-Taylor explained that freedom could only be attained through violence.”
5. “One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate”, Tom Segev, p127-144
6. “The Iron Cage: The Story of the Palestinian Struggle for Statehood”, Rashid Khalidi, p60
7. Arab Discontent, BBC
8. “One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate”, Tom Segev, p324
9. “Palestine Betrayed”, Efraim Karsh
10. Terence Prittie, “Middle East Refugees,” cited in Michael Curtis, et al, The Palestinians, (NJ: Transaction Books, 1975), p. 52.
11. Gamal Abdel Nasser, President of Egypt, in a statement to Arab Trade Unionists, 26 May 1967
12. “The Case For Israel”, Alan Dershowitz, p8-9