Next week’s anniversary of the historic United Nations Partition Plan of November 29, 1947 (Resolution 181) should not only remind us that Palestinian rejectionism prevented the birth of a Palestinian state alongside Israel, but also that those who today advocate an uncompromising militancy are hawking the same damaged goods that have failed the Palestinians so miserably.
For the Jews of Mandatory Palestine, and for subsequent generations of Israelis, November 29 is the date the international community formally endorsed Jewish statehood. Many Jerusalem Post readers will have seen the original black and white newsreels or the colorful Hollywood remakes (in Exodus and Cast a Giant Shadow) of the 1947 vote on the United Nations Special Committee on Palestine (UNSCOP) partition proposal: The Jews of Mandatory Palestine glued to their radios listening to the live broadcast from Lake Success, earnestly marking down each country’s vote in the “yes,” “no” or “abstain” columns, and when the two-thirds majority is finally achieved, breaking out in spontaneous celebration, the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem filling up with jubilant hora dancers.
At the institution where the historic vote took place, November 29 is not a day of celebration. It has been officially designated the “International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People” with UN headquarters hosting an applicable annual exhibit, this year’s dedicated to “the wall illegally built in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.” In short, the anniversary of Resolution 181 has become an excuse for the UN to put on an anti-Israel event.
For the Palestinians, the resolution remains a source of much apprehension and misgiving. They find it difficult to justify to themselves and to the international community their opposition to the UN’s compromise proposal at what was a historic inflection point as the British Mandate was ending. At the same time, Palestinians consider the supermajority vote in favor of 181, and not necessarily their rejection of it, as begetting the painful defeats they suffered in 1947-48 and afterwards.
Furthermore, 74 years on, the Palestinian leadership continues to have a serious problem with the resolution’s legitimization of the Jewish people’s right to an independent sovereign state.
However, there is one element in 181 that Palestinians do like. They prefer the resolution’s proposed borders, which give a larger territory for a Palestinian state than the widely accepted 1967 lines.
PA President Mahmoud Abbas’s speech at the UN last September reflected these contradictions. He threatened the General Assembly with a Palestinian demand to return to 181’s frontiers, while not budging from his repeated statements that a Jewish state will never be acceptable to the Palestinians.
Unlike today, the then-Palestinian leadership did not try to cherry-pick from 181; its rejection of the UN’s 1947 two-state plan was total, and no aberration. A decade earlier the Palestinians came out against a more forthcoming British partition proposal (the Peel Commission Plan of 1937) that offered significantly more land, demonstrating a Palestinian single-mindedness that not only rejected consecutive two-state proposals but also opposed proposals for a binational solution.
In 1939 the Palestinian leadership opposed the British White Paper that promised an independent Palestine with a clear Arab majority on all the territory of the Mandate, and in 1947 the Palestinians were averse to the UNSCOP minority report that called for a single federated Arab-Jewish state.
Bottom line: The Palestinian leadership adopted an “all or nothing” approach antithetical to the possibility of compromise with the Jews, a synthesis of fanaticism and folly that produced the self-inflicted Nakba (“catastrophe”).
THERE IS a lesson here for all the militant “friends” of the Palestinians worldwide. Demonization of Israel, unequivocal backing of maximalist demands and fervent opposition to any concessions, does nothing to help the Palestinians. Such positions only support the perpetuation of the futile hardline approach that created the Nakba in the first place.
From Dublin to Durban to Detroit, those urging the Palestinians to remain steadfast and unbending, proclaiming their belief in ultimate victory, are peddling a lie. Every vector points in the opposite direction. With each passing year Israel is stronger; more powerful militarily, more influential diplomatically, more integrated regionally, more consequential economically, more sizable demographically and more advanced technologically.
There is no evidence that Palestinians will somehow be able to dictate terms, and by promoting a maximalist stance divorced from the strategic realities these “friends” are emboldening the intransigence that can only lead the Palestinian people to a political dead end.
Such an untenable position can have no logic unless the militants’ publicly professed solidarity with the Palestinians is merely a veil for the oldest of hatreds. Of course, charges of antisemitism often face a knee-jerk rejection, portrayed as an attempt to silence criticism of Israel. But to refute the connection between radical pro-Palestinianism and antisemitism is to disavow reality.
First, on the substantive level, anti-Zionist activists deny Jewish peoplehood and reject the Jews’ right to national self-determination. This while championing the very same right for others, the Palestinians. When you uphold a universal principle, but oppose it for the Jews, what is that called?
Second, there have been a series of documented cases where groups ostensibly established to support Palestinian rights have been exposed for being awash with antisemitic bigotry, Holocaust revisionism and Jewish conspiracy theories. David Collier’s 2017 report on the Scottish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign is but one of numerous such examples. This is not a new phenomenon. In his autobiographical Once Upon a Country, acclaimed Palestinian intellectual Sari Nusseibeh describes being in London on the eve of the 1967 Six Day War, searching for a pro-Palestinian event among what he perceived as being wall-to-wall British public support for Israel. When finally coming across such a meeting Nusseibeh discovers it is being hosted by neo-Nazis.
Finally, social scientists have found a clear statistical correlation between anti-Israel activism and antisemitism. When surveyed, hardcore pro-Palestinian activists are more likely than others to hold strong antisemitic prejudices, soft pro-Palestinian activists are more likely than others to be mild antisemites (see Jewish Policy Research’s 2017 “Antisemitism in contemporary Great Britain: A study of attitudes towards Jews and Israel”).
When it has been expressly demonstrated substantively, empirically and statistically, the radical Palestinian solidarity movement’s anti-Jewish bigotry is unmistakable, self-serving denials notwithstanding.
There was once a public affairs broadcast with the message that “friends don’t let friends drive drunk.” Real friends would not be encouraging the Palestinians to repeat the mistakes of November 29, 1947. Antisemites would have no such problem.
The writer was an adviser to the prime minister and is a senior visiting fellow at the INSS. Follow him at @AmbassadorMarkRegev on Facebook.