A new book documents the Palestinian campaign for statehood – and the big lie on which it is based.
Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Sol Stern, a contributing editor of City Journal, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and the author of the new book, A Century of Palestinian Rejectionism and Jew Hatred.
FP: Sol Stern, welcome to Frontpage Interview.
Congratulations on your new book.
The timing is very relevant. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has launched an international campaign to achieve recognition by the U.N. for an independent Palestinian state.
Tell us how your book approaches this upcoming event and the issues surrounding it.
Stern: My broadside shows how the Palestinian campaign for statehood is based on a historical big lie. The lie is that the Palestinian people were dispossessed by the new state of Israel in 1948 and that the current Israeli government is still preventing the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. I show that from the beginning of the conflict almost a century ago it was the Jews who were willing to compromise, to accept the so called “two state” solution, while the Palestinian leadership refused to even consider a sovereign Jewish state in the Muslim Middle East. Moreover, this rejection, which was backed by violence at every turn, was driven by Islamic doctrines of Jew hatred.
FP: Your thoughts on Abbas? His relationship with the truth? How much different is he from the leaders of Hamas?
Stern: The biggest liar of all is Mahmoud Abbas. Last May, Abbas published an op-ed article in the New York Times titled, “The Long Overdue Palestinian State,” in which he recounted his own “expulsion” by the Jews in 1948, at the age of 13. Abbas wrote that “shortly after” the U.N. General Assembly voted to partition the “Palestinian homeland” into two states in 1947, “Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state of Israel, and Arab armies intervened. War and further expulsions ensued.” Abbas claimed that he and his family were forced out of their home in the Galilean city of Safed and fled to Syria, where they “took up shelter in a canvas tent provided to all the arriving refugees.” For dramatic effect, the Times provided an illustration above Abbas’s article depicting a young boy standing next to his tent in the desert and gazing forlornly at the verdant hills of the Galilee just over the horizon.
Almost every word in the Abbas op-ed was a lie. The Arab Higher Committee (AHC) was the recognized representative of the Palestinian people at the time of the U.N. partition vote. The Zionists accepted the partition plan. The AHC and the Arab states rejected any proposal to share the land and vowed to drown the fledgling Jewish state in “rivers of blood.”
Following instructions from the AHC, Palestinian militias and volunteers from neighboring Arab countries began attacking Jewish settlements after the U.N. partition plan was announced in November, 1947. The irregular Arab units were ordered to take strategic strongholds and hold on until the expected invasion of Israel by regular Arab armies after the British withdrawal on May 14. What happened in Safed was typical of the bloody inter-communal warfare that soon convulsed the country. Elements of the Arab Liberation Army, the main Palestinian armed force, plus Jordanian irregular units, entered Safed’s Arab neighborhoods and began sporadic attacks on the Jewish quarter. Facing a full scale invasion of the Galilee by the Syrian and Jordanian regular armies, Jewish military commanders couldn’t afford to have armed Palestinian units behind their lines. On the night of May 8, reinforcements from the Palmach, the elite Jewish strike force, counterattacked and took the key Arab strongholds in the city. Almost immediately, Safed’s Arabs began streaming out toward the Syrian border. There were no expulsions of Arab civilians.
FP: Give us a glimpse of how your book exposes the big lies about the Palestinians, including the nakba myth.
Stern: One of the intriguing historical items in the book is that I use on-the-scene reporting by I.F Stone, who was in Israel in 1948, to show that Abbas’ account of the events in Safed is a complete fabrication. I don’t have the space to go into detail here on Stone’s reporting, but Frontpage readers would find it interesting that the lion of the old and new left, Izzy Stone, posthumously shows that the Palestinian nakba narrative is another big lie concocted to avoid having to own up to the failures and self-destructiveness of the Palestinians own leaders, from the days of Haj Amin al-Husseini to Mahmoud Abbas.
Let me just give you one little nugget from Stone’s 1948 reporting from Israel. In his book, This is Israel, Stone explained the Arab exodus as follows: “Ill-armed, outnumbered, however desperate their circumstances, the Jews stood fast. But the Palestinians ran away] First the wealthiest families went. While the Arab guerrillas were moving in, the Arab civilian population was moving out.”
FP: Tell us about Haj Amin al-Husseini, his legacy and what lessons must be learned from his violence and hate.
Stern: The Grand Mufti of Palestine, Haj Amin al-Husseini, was the supreme political leader of the Palestinian people from the early 1920s until several years after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. He was a Nazi, pure and simple. He spent the war years in Berlin and was the first non-German to whom Hitler revealed his plans for the Final Solution. Recent archival findings by three historians—Jeffrey Herf, Klaus-Michael Mallmann, and Martin Cuppers— provide the clearest picture to date of the fascist roots of violent twentieth-century Islamist movements, beginning with the World War II collaboration between the Nazis and Amin al-Husseini. The victorious Allies should have tried the mufti as a war criminal. Instead, he escaped to Egypt and formed a bloody-minded alliance with the founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hassan al-Banna. Al-Banna welcomed Husseini to Egypt and called him “the hero who challenged an empire and fought Zionism with the help of Hitler and Germany. Germany and Hitler are gone but Amin al-Husseini will continue the struggle.” The Nazis had a plan (in which Husseini would play a key role) for the physical destruction of the Jewish community in Palestine after Rommel’s expected victory at El-Alamein. Rommel’s defeat aborted the plan, but al-Banna’s Muslim Brotherhood fought side by side with the mufti’s cadres in the 1948 Arab and Palestinian war against Israel with the same goal of destruction in mind. The Muslim Brotherhood is alive and well today, with hundreds of thousands of followers in many parts of the world and coming closer to power in Egypt. In Gaza, the movement is called Hamas, and its charter mimes the World War II symbiosis between Nazi eliminationist anti-Semitism and radical Islamism.
The present Palestinian leadership has never repudiated al-Husseini’s legacy of Nazism and Jew hatred, so one must assume they find something positive in that legacy. Unfortunately, many liberal Jews and even Israelis shy away from linking al-Husseini to the Palestinian cause, lest they be accused of using the tragedy of the Holocaust to gain political advantage in the conflict with the Palestinians. I think this is a grave mistake, and I wish the Palestinians – who are constantly equating Zionism with Nazism -- were half as scrupulous.
FP: The Palestinians have been offered a state numerous times on many accommodating conditions. Why do they keep rejecting one if they (supposedly) want a state so much?
Stern: In the years before the 1948 war the Palestinians rejected a state simply because they didn’t want to acknowledge that the Jews also had a right to statehood, even on the tiniest little strip of Palestine – as the British offered in 1937. Since the establishment of Israel, the Palestinians have rejected every offer of a two state solution – from the Clinton parameters in 2000, to the offer by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in September 2008 – because accepting a state for themselves would have required giving up the Right of Return of the 1948 Palestinian refugees. This Mahmoud Abbas cannot do, because he cannot admit to the millions of refugees that they have been lied to by their own leaders for 60 years and that they are not going back to their homes in Jaffa, Haifa and to Mahmoud Abbas’ home town of Safed.
FP: What may result if the U.N. recognizes an independent Palestinian state?
Stern: Not much will happen from a legal point of view, except that the Palestinians will be able to press claims against Israel at the International Court of Justice. But this whole episode will surely inflame the situation on the ground. With Egypt’s descent into chaos and Turkey going steadily Islamist, and with Hamas itching for another war, we are headed for a very explosive situation. This could be the Guns of September in the Middle East, with any little confrontation along Israel’s borders providing a spark that turns into another conflagration, this time with devastating weaponry on both sides. The only question is what our feckless American President will do to honor America’s historic commitment to maintain Israel’s security. Obama’s record so far is not very promising.
FP: What do you hope your book will help achieve?
Stern: I hope this little book helps readers see through the lies about the conflict told by the Palestinian leaders and their liberal allies in the West. Other than the material about Mahmoud Abbas’ fabrications about his “expulsion” from Safed and the eyewitness testimony from Izzy Stone during the 1948 war, there isn’t much that is new in my essay. But I hope that by putting it all together in a concise historical narrative I can help arm pro-Israel Americans with the facts and arguments they will need to combat the hateful propaganda barrage coming from the UN in the coming weeks and months.
FP: Sol Stern, thank you for joining Frontpage Interview and thank you for writing this important book.
We encourage all of our readers to get a copy of A Century of Palestinian Rejectionism and Jew Hatred. Equip yourselves with the knowledge to confront the lies and fabrications that will soon be emanating out of the UN.!
To order the book, Click Here.