Recently, French president Nicolas Sarkozy came out with some surprisingly harsh statements against Israel while concomitantly expressing strong support for the justness of a Palestinian state. Moreover, the French leader even claimed "the Palestinians have been waiting for a state they deserve for 60 years now." Since many people in the world unquestionably believe that this claim is based upon historical facts and truths, I have written the following open letter to Sarkozy in order to debunk this historical falsehood.
Dear Mr. Sarkozy,
As part of your recent outburst against Israel in which you termed Abbas a "statesman" for his supposed willingness to come to the negotiating table as opposed to Netanyahu whom you described as being someone that "never fails to disappoint us," you added a most interesting line. While discussing your support for the creation of a Palestinian state you justified your stand by stating that "the Palestinians have been waiting for a state they deserve for 60 years now".
I hate to burst your bubble but not everyone agrees with that sentence or the implicit accusation that Israel is to blame for not helping the Palestinians attain statehood. History, in fact, seems to say otherwise.
As I'm sure you know, following World War 1 and the breakup of the Ottoman Empire the Middle East was divided up by the great powers of the day. While most of the territory in the region was given to the Arabs for the creation of several new countries, one area, via the Mandate for Palestine, was set aside to be the national home for the Jewish people. Based upon the recognition of Jewish historical rights in Palestine, the mandate charged the British with facilitating the creation of a Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan River. However, despite the fact that the mandate was a legally binding document that was conferred at the San Remo Conference and approved by the League of Nations, the British disregarded their responsibility and in an act of duplicity transferred roughly 80% of Palestine to the Arabs for the creation of Transjordan, the forerunner of Jordan.
Moreover, even on the roughly 20% of Palestine that was left for the creation of a Jewish state, the British continued to betray the role that was assigned to them. Rather than permitting Jews to easily settle in Palestine they actually limited the amount of Jewish immigration, even during the dark years of the Nazis, while simultaneously allowing the influx of large amounts of Arabs from the surrounding countries. Not surprisingly years of such injustice by the British only increased the tension between Jews and Arabs, so much so that in 1947 an offer was made to partition the country. The Jews accepted, even though this was only a tiny portion of the original area that had been promised them while the Arabs refused. In other words Mr. Sarkozy, roughly sixty years ago the Arabs, not yet called the Palestinians as that name only came into vogue two decades later, rejected a state on land that legally had been granted to the Jews! So do you still believe that the Arabs deserve a state on more or less the same land they rejected sixty years ago?
Then, as I'm sure you know, when Israel declared a state in May of 1948 the surrounding Arab countries immediately attacked them. During the ensuing war, which the new State of Israel surprisingly won, roughly half a million Arabs lost their homes; some fled from fear, some fled to make room for the Arab armies to wipe out the Jews, and some were forcibly removed by Israel. Although the loss of one's home during a time of war is truly tragic, unfortunately that's what happens during a war. As I'm sure you know it happened in much greater numbers in Europe during the same decade. However perhaps less well known is that as a result of the events in Israel, approximately 700,000 Sephardic Jews were forcibly removed from the Arab countries where they had been living for many generations.
Nevertheless, while the war in Israel created both Jewish and Arab refugees, there is a major difference. While the Jewish refugees managed to resettle, as do all refugees, the Arabs never resettled. Moreover, as a result of the unique definition employed by UNRWA to define who is a Palestinian refugee, something that is different from that used to define any other refugee in the world, the number of Palestinian refugees has been greatly bloated. Still worse however is that rather than solving the problem years ago and resettling the Arabs, UNRWA has simply maintained the situation and thus perpetuated the humanitarian crisis.
Of course UNRWA is not alone to blame for this, as the Arab countries have also been making cynical use of the Palestinian issue for years. Rather than granting citizenship to the UNRWA-defined refugees who reside in their countries and in doing so close the issue once and for all, it's been far more important for Arab rulers to keep these people stuck in refugee camps in order to keep the Arab-Israeli conflict alive. This policy of course has been wildly successful as the conflict continues on and on. However, do you honestly believe Mr. Sarkozy that Israel should pay the price for either this cynical Arab treatment of the Palestinians or for the damage done by UNRWA?
Returning to the 1948 war, one result of the conflict was that Jordan occupied Judea and Samaria. This move of course was clearly illegal since this land legally belonged to the Jewish people for the creation of a Jewish state. Of particular importance is that during the nineteen years that Jordan ruled Judea and Samaria and even part of Jerusalem, where, by the way, they managed to destroy nearly sixty synagogues in the Old City of Jerusalem, for the most part no one spoke about creating a Palestinian state. So the question is, if the Palestinian Arabs were waiting for a state, as you claim Mr. Sarkozy, why didn't they and their supporters speak up when Judea and Samaria was under Jordanian control?
Finally, even if you say let's not talk about what happened years ago but let's look at the present generation, that’s fine with me. Let's talk about what happened eleven years ago when Prime Minister Barak offered the Arabs more than 95% of Judea-Samaria-Gaza and even part of Jerusalem. What happened then Mr. Sarkozy? You got it, the Arabs once again said no.
In light of the above and in light of a century of endless hostility towards the Jewish people, to say that for sixty years the Palestinians have been waiting for a state they deserve is a somewhat dubious, if not false, claim. Moreover, to imply that Israel is to blame for this supposed injustice and therefore should pay by relinquishing more land for the creation of an Arab state that will undoubtedly pose a threat to the very existence of Israel is nothing short of ludicrous.
Yoel Meltzer is a freelance writer living in Jerusalem. His personal blog is http://yoelmeltzer.com.