Clearing our minds of hametz

It is time to clear our minds of misinformation and outdated notions and realize Exodus from slavery to freedom was never easy or cost-free.

Moses (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
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 tragedy...”
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 sheer fabrications.
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 desolation.”
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 them.
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 Independence.
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 society...”
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.