The Arab world is fighting against an independent Palestinian state with its own citizens’ lives and the lives of its children. The Arab states rejected the UN vote of 1947, which would have created a Palestinian Arab state in half of the British Mandate of Palestine–bigger than anything they could ever have gotten since then. Between 1948 and 1967, when Jordan and Egypt ruled the Arab parts of Palestine, there was no movement for a Palestinian state. The cease-fire lines that were established in 1948 were recognized by one country in the whole world: Great Britain. Today, on the other hand, the pre-1967 lines are considered holy in most of the world.
Why are there settlements? Because in 1967 the Arab states, meeting in Sudan, unanimously voted for the Three No’s of Khartoum. Had they not done so, Israel would have been willing to cede most of the territories it had conquered during the Six-Day War. Since there was no hope of doing so, those who wanted to settle were allowed to go ahead with their plans.
In 2000 and 2001, Clinton negotiated a deal that would have given the Palestinians pretty much everything they could hope for. Arafat rejected the deal.
In 2005, Israel created and independent Palestinian mini-state in Gaza. Settlers were removed kicking and screaming. The Gazans responded by electing Hamas and launching rockets aimed at Israeli civilians.
When I visited Israel in 2009, I saw Arab women with headscarves strolling down Ben Yehuda Street in Jerusalem along with all the other Israelis and the tourists. I saw members of Hare Krishna singing and dancing along the beach in Tel Aviv. I saw copies of a Hebrew-language edition of the Falun Gong newspaper “Epoch Times.” Most impressive of all, I saw a vigil in Jerusalem–not Tel Aviv–after murders had taken place at a gay counseling center in Tel Aviv. There were people with yarmulkes at the vigil. And of course there were gay-pride flags.
Israel has an annual gay-pride parade not only in Tel Aviv but in Jerusalem. Israel drafts openly gay men and women into its armed forces. Nevertheless, gay-rights organizations all over the world are anti-Israel. Organizers of gay-pride parades in Canada and Spain announced before their parades that Israelis were not welcome to march.
Women are victims of honor murders everywhere in the Arab world. Israel, on the other hand, elected Golda Meir to be its Prime Minister before any other woman in the world who was not the wife (like Sirimavo Bandaranaike) or the daughter (like Indira Gandhi, daughter of Nehru) of a previous head of government had attained such a position. Despite this, feminists everywhere are anti-Israel.
Almost all of the so-called settlers live in East Jerusalem or its suburbs. The fight about settlements is a fight to retain East Jerusalem, including the Mount Scopus campus of the Hebrew University and Hadassah Hospital. Israel has made it clear time and time again that it is eager to withdraw from most of the West Bank. “But the 1967 borders are holy,” says the world.
Fighting for the 1967 borders is a way of fighting against the creation of a Palestinian state. After all, such a state would legitimize Israel’s existence. If the Palestinians wanted a state, they could have one tomorrow–the same state they could have had in 2001 at Taba.
The way to support the Palestinians—the only way—is to support Israel. The Arab world has done only one thing to help Palestinians: arm them. The Palestinians have been allowed to remain in refugee camps for an unprecedented 62 years. Israel, on the other hand, not only has Arab members of the Knesset and an Arab in its cabinet, but is the country where it is easiest for an Arab woman to become a doctor. In addition to Arab physicians, Israel has Arab musicians.
We all know what would happen to the Palestinians if there were no Israel. The neighboring states would subjugate them. It is true that at the moment, Jordan and Egypt are not interested in annexing Gaza and the West Bank. In the case of Egypt, it is because the government doesn’t want a violent minority in the country. In the case of Jordan, which already has a Palestinian majority, the government fears it would be overthrown. But if there were no Israel, the Palestinian issue would go away and the land would be fought over by Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia. What would happen to al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock? Rival groups of Muslims would blow them up—preferably at a moment when there were lots of worshipers within the buildings, just as they do in Iraq and Pakistan.
Nowadays, Arabs from anywhere in the world can choose to be treated in Israeli hospitals. Some of them agree to make the sacrifice of temporarily recognizing Israel in order to get medical treatment. Then they have to live with their moment of weakness for the rest of their lives.
It is easy to jump on the bandwagon. It is easy to condemn Israel for its real, its debatable, and its imagined moral failings. Doing so does not help anybody. It is merely an easy way to feel superior.
Only Israel can allow a Palestinian state to exist. It tried to do so in the past and failed. Its critics want it to keep on failing.
George Jochnowitz is a Professor Emeritus of Linguistics at the College of Staten Island, CUNY.