In his “insecure nationalists” (Ha’aretz
April 6th) Tel Aviv University Law Prof. Meni (Menachem) Mautner criticizes the Knesset for enacting a law that will deny funding to bodies “that recognize Independence Day… as a day of mourning.”
Mautner attacks the “aberrant approach” of Zionists who present the conflict between Arabs and Jews from a “one-dimensional” Jewish angle, denying the Palestinian Arabs’ tragedy.
Forbidding the teaching of an “Arab narrative” in our schools because it considers the establishment of Israel a disaster is unfair and counterproductive, he avers. “The founding of the state entailed (sic) the destruction of Arab society in this country” and denying this makes the Zionist “narrative... sterile.”
To gain credence, Mautner recommends the Zionist story be told in a
manner “that pays heed to its complexity, and includes the Palestinian
In his “Politics and the English Language” George Orwell lamented the
politicians’ habit of perverting language by using “newspeak,” –
insinuating subversive meanings into seemingly innocuous words. “A
simple truth (is) mistaken for simplicity” Shakespeare called it.
By demanding that we embrace the Arab ‘narrative’ to show empathy toward
the Arabs, Mautner in effect asks that we endorse Arab lies about the
nature and consequences of the Arab-Jewish conflict.
Mautner is no innocent; he is a learned man. He must know that the Arab
claim that Jews stole “Palestinian lands” and that Jewish independence
“entailed” (sic) “the destruction of Palestinian Arab society,” are
The land which the Palestinian Arabs tried to grab in 1948 was land
given by The League of Nations in 1921 to the British as a mandate over
Palestine (including what is now Jordan) for the express purpose of
building a Jewish National Home.
In 1947 the UN recommended the partition of Palestine subject to
agreement between the Jews and Arabs. When the Arabs rejected the
partition recommendation it became null and void, and the primary legal
claim to the land reverted to the Jews, as it was under the Mandate.
Most of the land in the British Palestine Mandate was barren government
land taken over from the Ottoman Empire that had ruled it for centuries.
This is why it could be given by The League of Nations as a national
home for the Jews. It was given with Arab consent. A deal was struck
with Emir Feisal, who represented the Arabs at the 1922 San Remo Peace
Conference. In compensation for relinquishing a putative right to
Palestine, the Arabs were given over 99 percent of the former Ottoman
lands in The Middle East and North Africa.
Then they demanded the rest.
But “Palestine” was never legally Palestinian. There were no
Palestinians then, in fact, and those who later became such held title
to very little of the land, at most 5%.
The 7% of the mandatory land that was privately owned was either
occupied by cities and villages or belonged mostly to absentee
(non-“Palestinian”) landowners. They exploited dirt-poor Arab tenants to
work the land, and sold to Jews the barren, worthless parts of this
depopulated and empty country that Mark Twain described as “a prince of
The Jews charmed it back to life. The revival of Palestine by the Jews
attracted waves of immigrants from neighboring Arab countries. Most
Palestinians are their descendants When the Arab assault on the Jewish
community in 1948 failed to destroy the nascent state and kill its
inhabitants, they lost marginal Arab-owned lands on the periphery of
their habitat. But they claimed to have “lost” large chunks of Mandatory
government-owned land designated for a Jewish National Home, which they
had grabbed by force. It was not land they legally owned, privately or
communally. It was not their property, so no-one could “steal” it from
So much for the Big Lie that Jews stole “Palestinian lands.”
AS FOR the destruction of Arab society: During British rule, Palestinian
Arabs mostly expanded their settlement along the spine of the Judean
Hills from Nablus to Hebron. Protected by Arab armies and “volunteers”
from Jordan, Egypt, Syria and even Iraq and Saudi Arabia, it was barely
touched in the 1948 war.
The war raged at the Western fringes of these areas, around the smaller
cities of the plain like Ramle and Lod; and in the then-empty Negev and
sparsely populated Galilee, where the 1949 armistice lines were
eventually drawn. It was not at the heart of Arab habitation.
Therefore, despite massive flight from Haifa and Jaffa, and from smaller
cities and villages like Acre, Ashdod, Ashkelon and BeerSheba, most
Arab society was in fact not physically affected by Israel’s
At the same time – it is too often forgotten – hundreds of Jewish
communities in The Middle East, around the Persian Gulf and in North
Africa were assaulted by their Arab neighbors without provocation. They
were brutalized, murdered and evicted – more than a million souls, whose
forefathers had inhabited these countries for centuries before the
advent of Islam.
When bemoaning the Arab ‘tragedy,’ should not Prof. Mautner have
mentioned that it also ‘entailed’ an attempt by these Palestinian Arabs,
assisted by seven Arab armies, to destroy the fledgling Jewish state
and kill its citizens just because they were Jews? Should he not have
mentioned that this unprovoked attack was a major cause of “the Arab
tragedy”? The apparent hopelessness of achieving their “peace now”
fantasy has done something peculiar to the moral compass of Israel’s
self-styled ‘liberals.’ Otherwise, how could a top academic ask for
empathy for Arabs shortly after Arab terrorists butchered children in
Itamar? How could he castigate Jews for lack of empathy at the very hour
when Arabs, their leaders and their institutions revealed the depth of
their depravity by not really condemning the Itamar slaughter? How can
one explain Prof. Mautner’s insistence that we teach the lie that “the
creation of Israel was responsible for the destruction of Arab
when in fact the major reason Arab society is being destroyed is the
rule of oppression, terror and corruption imposed on it since the 1930s
by the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini and his heirs, Yasser
Arafat, Abu Mazen and their followers? It is not right that “Western,
and Israeli leftist enlightenment continue to disregard the dark side of
third-world societies… as if they are exempt from following universal
moral strictures.” Ari Shavit, himself a very enlightened pundit,
pleaded; Should the Arabs not be held accountable when they act
murderously, he asked.
But a group of top and famous officers and security personnel (ret.)
organized as “The Council for Peace and Security” does ignore “the dark
side” in the Arab camp, the murderous Arab intent, the wish to destroy
Israel. They keep demanding that Israel make more and more territorial
concessions in order to secure a questionable paper peace.
They do not explain why they failed to secure such a peace when they
were in charge; or why we must believe that after the failure of Oslo
and of the retreat from Gaza, which they fervently supported, more
territorial concession will not result merely in the irredentist use of
these territories as a base for inciting Arabs to murder Jews, and
eventually for attacking Israel.
Lenin called Western liberals “useful idiots” because they supported the
communist tyranny – as some on our Left supports an oppressive corrupt
Palestinian “authority” – because of their illusionary belief that
dictatorships can deliver freedom.
Celebrating a revolt against dictatorship on Passover is a caution
against such illusions. It is also a time to cleanse minds from the
crusts of misinformation and outdated notions that prevent us from
looking reality in the face, from realizing that Exodus from slavery to
freedom was never easy or cost-free; you cannot cross the red sea of
conflict on bridges made of lies and paper agreements.
The writer is director of the Israel Center for Social and Economic Progress.