It’s a huge relief to realize that US Secretary of State John Kerry doesn’t share the postmodern contempt for history. Or at least so it seems, because when it suits him, Kerry resorts to instructive historical perspectives. Wowed by his superior wisdom, in all its wondrous and infinite manifestations, we’re humbly thankful for the cogent connections he makes.
Just last week he intimated that Israelis have become insufferable nudniks by harping on what evidently cramps his style – that tedious demand that the Arabs recognize the fundamental legitimacy of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
“It’s a mistake for some people,” he told the House Foreign Relations Committee without naming names, “to be raising it again and again as the critical decider of their attitude toward the possibility of a state, and peace, and we’ve obviously made that clear.”
Besides, what nameless Israelis obstructively dwell upon is anyway old hat, which is where Kerry’s esteemed history- steeped acumen comes in: “‘Jewish state’ was resolved in 1947 in Resolution 181 where there are more than 40-30 mentions of ‘Jewish state.’” That settles it then. All done and dusted.
Once again, Kerry’s incisive intellect homed in on history’s essential core, the crux of the matter that eludes lesser minds. Indeed UN General Assembly Resolution 181 of November 29, 1947, is the vital touchstone.
Nonetheless, there’s just one niggling little question that must be put to Kerry: Did the Arabs accept Resolution 181?
Getting them to bloody belatedly agree to Resolution 181 is what the demand for recognition of Israel as a Jewish state is all about. Accepting the resolution and accepting the Jewish state are one and the same – synonyms, for all intents and purposes.
It may be inconsiderate of Israel’s incurable nudniks to hinder Kerry’s grand design for self-aggrandizement, but the 40 or so mentions of the Jewish state in that nearly 67-year-old resolution don’t absolve Ramallah figurehead Mahmoud Abbas of the need to accept the legitimacy of Jewish self-determination right here – in our homeland (to which he fantastically but significantly denies that we even have a smidge of a historic connection). It doesn’t absolve him because for him and his people, Resolution 181 is a dead letter. They had never accepted its legitimacy.
The Palestinians’ refusal to recognize the Jewish state’s legitimacy means that they reserve for themselves the right to Arabize the de facto body politic known provisionally as Israel by overrunning it with millions of so-called refugees.
In other words, rather than be accepted as rightfully a Jewish state, Israel is regarded as at best a multinational temporary entity and a candidate for impending Arabization. It wouldn’t be left in peace unless it submits meekly to said Arabization and the eradication of its Jewishness.
This is a surefire recipe for perpetuating the conflict (albeit by mutating means) rather than ending it, as presumed pursuers of peace would ostensibly wish to do. The refusal to accept the Jewish state’s legitimacy is tantamount to affirming a lasting Arab aspiration to obliterate the Jewish state, hot on the heels of an arrangement that would falsely parade as peace.
Unmitigated Arab opposition to Jewish statehood was what to begin with made Resolution 181 such a categorical non-starter.
For those who forget, Resolution 181 divided the tiny tract left over from the Jewish National Home (as mandated under still legally-binding League of Nations decrees) after Britain had earlier torn off most of it (nearly 80 percent) to form an Arab state for that hitherto never heard of nation – Transjordan. Adding insult to injury, synthetic Transjordan (today’s Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan) was awarded outright, as a personal gift, to a Hashemite clan princeling from Hejaz (today’s Saudi Arabia). This imperialistic scam constituted the first partition of Palestine.
Afterwards, in 1947, Resolution 181 earmarked 46% of the remaining 20% to another (the second) Arab state in original Palestine. Only 54% of the residual 20% of the Jewish National Home was then assigned to that oft-mentioned Jewish state. It was a terrifying crazy-quilt of petite patches connected by indefensible slender roadways, all scarily exposed and vulnerable.
According to resolution 181, the minuscule Jewish state was to comprise three non-contiguous slivers, the largest of which included the Arava, eastern Negev and the Negev’s far south (down to then-nonexistent Eilat). Most of the moonscape terrain wasn’t arable and was certainly unsuitable for large-scale urban habitation.
Another bit was wedged in the eastern Galilee around Lake Kinneret (the Sea of Galilee). The most densely populated mini-slice was an unimaginably narrow noodle along the Mediterranean, where most Jews congregated and which was chillingly susceptible to harm. Within it was enclosed the Arab enclave of Jaffa, while Jewish Nahariya was left outside the Jewish state.
Jerusalem and Bethlehem were to form a “corpus separatum,” an international zone, this notwithstanding the fact that Jerusalem irrefutably had an overwhelming Jewish majority going back at least to the beginning of the 19th century (there were no censuses beforehand). But organized Christianity couldn’t abide the perceived theological affront of Jewish dominion in the Holy City.
Untenable and implausible though this hodgepodge partition was, Jewish multitudes rejoiced in the streets. At that point it didn’t matter how nightmarish and absurd the disjointed territorial splinters allocated to them were.
What mattered was that for the first time in 2,000 years Jewish self-determination – if even on a ridiculously diminutive and fragile geographical fragment – appeared increasingly attainable, despite instant Arab denunciation of any compromise whatsoever with any Jewish collective.
In the immediate wake of Resolution 181, nudnik Jews energetically forged ahead with practical preparations for independence (alas, against omniscient American advice, including that of Kerry’s renowned predecessor George Marshall who seethed against the notion of Jewish statehood – naturally for the Jews’ own good).
Concomitantly, the Arabs on their own side forged ahead with military preparations to demolish Resolution 181 and destroy the Jewish state as soon as its establishment was proclaimed.
These conflicting reactions to Resolution 181 encapsulate the ongoing conflict. To be sure, that conflict wasn’t triggered by the resolution. It long predated it and, moreover, it was never about a Palestinian state. There would have been no strife were such a state the ultimate objective of the Arab world. A Palestinian Arab state could have been declared independent directly subsequent to Resolution 181 – together with Israel in 1948 – but no Arab would hear of it.
The popular Arab distortion nowadays is to claim that all regional misery resulted wantonly out of the blue from Israel’s birth. Everything which led up to that turning point is assiduously ignored. Tendentious rewriters of history prefer we forget that the conflict didn’t break out in 1948 but reached its culmination then.
Israel’s independence did formally begin in 1948, but its struggle didn’t. The Arabs already brutally opposed the Jewish community which existed in this country pre- World War II and which was ripe for statehood before the Holocaust. The “Great Arab Revolt” of 1936-39 – fomented by the still-revered Haj Amin al-Husseini and financed by Nazi Germany – delayed Jewish independence.
Forgotten quite expediently are recurrent pre-1948 massacres by Arabs shouting, “Itbach el-Yahud” (“Slaughter the Jews”), denial of asylum to Jews fleeing the Holocaust and, not least, active and avid Arab collaboration with Nazi Germany.
The declared aim of the war which the entire Arab world launched against newborn Israel, three years post-Holocaust, was to thwart Resolution 181 and complete Hitler’s unfinished mission. Not only was there no attempt to camouflage this genocidal goal, it was broadcast boastfully for all to hear and be intimidated.
On Israel’s first day, Arab League secretary- general Abdul-Rahman Azzam Pasha articulated Arab priorities. Sending forth seven Arab armies to wipe out the “Zionist entity,” he declared: “This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the Crusades.” The Arab agenda and intentions were unambiguous. Renascent Israel’s citizens harbored no misconceptions.
That was the concerted Arab response to Resolution 181. But, alas, the mass-murder spree that Azzam envisioned didn’t go to plan primarily because nudnik Jews, clinging tenaciously to their Jewish state, didn’t cooperatively go to the slaughter. For this we’re unforgiven to this day. The Arabs blame us for their nakba – catastrophe – their loaded term for our survival.
It’s, therefore, inherently dishonest to deny that the feud is and always was about the creation and continued existence of the Jewish state.
That’s why it still massively matters that the Palestinians, whose raison d’être remains to replace us and extinguish Jewish sovereignty by one means or another, recognize the Jewish right to statehood in the Land of Israel. That would translate to desisting from the continuous campaign to extinguish Jewish sovereignty by one means or another.
The Palestinians and the entire Arab/ Muslim realm demand strategic sacrifices of Israel that plainly jeopardize its survival. What Israel demands in return is that the war against it cease. That can only happen when the initial pretext for the war is retracted. Since Israel was attacked because the very notion of a Jewish state was anathema to its Arab neighbors, discontinuing the state of war must start with recognition of the legitimacy of a Jewish state.
All Israel asks is that the Arabs finally subscribe to Resolution 181, which they violently violated merely because it provided for a Jewish state. That Jewish state became the Arab casus belli. The Jewish state still is the casus belli.
Had it not been the casus belli, there’d be merit to Kerry’s contention that those numerous mentions of a Jewish state in Resolution 181 amply suffice. Had our purported peace partners reconciled themselves to said resolution and were absolutely fine with it, surely no problem would arise. No unresolved issues. No cause for kerfuffle.
But that’s not how it is.
Peace cannot be achieved before the malignant characterization of Jewish statehood as a casus belli is recanted convincingly and comprehensively once and for all.
We would respectfully expect Kerry and his boss Barack Obama to concede that this is not too much to ask when presumably making peace.www.sarahhonig.com
Debunking the Bull, Sarah Honig’s book, was recently published by Gefen.
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