Why there are Palestinians

Yaakov Lozowick has written a fascinating report on a newly declassified transcript of the Israeli cabinet’s discussion about what to do with the captured territory immediately after the Six Days War.

Something he said struck me:

Sometime in the 1980s the general perception of the conflict changed. No longer seen as Arab rejection of a Jewish State, the conflict was understood as a conflict between Israel and the Palestinians, which the Arab world would maintain only until the two central protagonists reached an accommodation. Since the Israelis and Palestinians have not yet reached accommodation this proposition has never been tested, a fact which contributes to its explanatory power. 1967, however, was before the 1980s, and participants and observers the world over saw the conflict as an Arab-Jewish conflict, with the local Arabs playing a subordinate role; they were not generally referred to as Palestinians.

I know this is hard to believe, but it’s true.

Yesterday I fantasized about how the world would relate to Israel if there were no Palestinians. My answer was “not all that differently.” Not only would non-Palestinian-related geopolitical issues like Turkish neo-Ottomanism and Iran’s ‘tomorrow the world’ attitude still create conflict, but there is that old regret in Europe that maybe the idea of allowing a Jewish state was an overreaction to the mess of WWII. And in the Arab world — where Palestinians are only valued as victims of Israel and treated badly in any other context — Jewish sovereignty has always been seen as a crime against Allah.

Suddenly, sometime after the 1973 war and succeeding oil price spike, there was an explosion of concern for the Palestinians. The UN has since then established what seem like dozens of agencies and functionaries relating to their ‘plight’, despite the fact that Arab citizens of Israel and those “under occupation” have fared much better economically and have more individual freedom than Arabs anywhere else in the Middle East. This has become even more clear as the great majority of Arabs in the territories are now ruled by Hamas or the corrupt Palestinian Authority (PA).

This is a point, incidentally, which many miss: very few Palestinians who are not Israeli citizens live under Israeli administration any more. Oh, there is still a blockade of Gaza which prevents weapons and explosives from arriving by sea, but the Egyptian border is essentially open, and Israel does not interfere with deliveries of food, gas and other staples across its land border. And while the PA doesn’t have full sovereignty in Judea and Samaria — the IDF enters Palestinian areas from time to time to arrest wanted terrorists — the PA does govern the day-to-day lives of the residents, often to their great unhappiness.

In other words, the ‘yoke of occupation’ under which the Palestinians are groaning these days is more or less whatever security measures are necessary to prevent them from killing Israelis.

Nevertheless, we have the aforementioned UN functions, the numerous NGOs supported by the European Union, the massive Human Rights industry and of course all of the student groups, academic champions and ad hoc organizations concerned with the condition of the Palestinians.

Why is this?

The centrality of the Palestinians in the political life of the world today is not accidental. And in order to understand it, I want to do the opposite thought experiment to the one I did yesterday:

Let’s imagine that all the Israelis disappeared tomorrow. What would happen?

After the initial candy distribution and ceremonial firing of rifles in various directions, Hamas, unrestrained by the IDF, would quickly swallow up the PLO. Unrepentant Fatah-ists would be tossed off tall buildings, and the long-awaited Islamic Republic of Palestine would be declared.

But then what? Would mutual enemies Iran, Turkey and Egypt — all of which support Hamas today — continue to do so? Or would Egypt grab what it could, Syria retake the Golan, Hizballah invade the Galilee, maybe even Jordan try to get Jerusalem back?

Europe and the US, after some lip service to decry the violence, would quickly lose interest. Perhaps the New Ottomans would try to step into the power vacuum. The one thing that would almost certainly not happen would be the development of a stable Palestinian state:

  • Because the Palestinians do not have institutions, only militias.
  • Because they don’t have an economy, only international donors.
  • Because they don’t have a national consciousness, only tribal loyalties.
  • Because nobody, not the UN, not the Arabs, not even the Palestinian leadership itself, cares about the actual Palestinians.

The “Palestinian people” are useful for one and only one reason, as a weapon against the Jewish state. And their prominence, their 15 minutes of fame on the world stage, was granted to them by the Arab and European enemies of Israel, who would take it away in a moment once their function was performed.

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3 Responses to “Why there are Palestinians”

  1. Robman says:

    Superb column, Vic. Among your best.

    I would add one more point, which is tangetial to yours: In your latter thought experiment, another outcome would be that the Arabs, “Palestinians”, and other assorted Moslems would be every bit as poor, miserable, and oppressed as they were before. Israel’s disappearance would make not one iota of difference in their lives (well, maybe they’d even be more hungry, as I’ll bet Israeli food finds it’s way to many of her neighbor’s tables).

    I often have made this point over the years in various e-mail debates, letters to the editor, and so on…’If Israel “won”, I ask, what would everybody else actually “lose”?? Would Israel’s defeat/dismantlement lead to one more job in Cairo, one more school in Damascus, one more hospital bed in Amman? No, the Arab and other Moslem governments would still be contolled like puppets by their medieval clerical class, or would be outright murderous dictatorships like Iraq under Saddam. In real terms, it would help no one at all.’

    Ahhh, the neuseating Western political culture of today…the best media, college professors, and politicians petrodollars can buy. Disgusting beyond words…disgusting beyond words…

  2. Shalom Freedman says:

    This is a powerful and persuasive piece.
    I would like to pick up one point regarding the actual condition of Israeli control in Gaza and Judea and Samaria. The world and especially its Israel haters go and on about the ‘occupation’. But as this article rightly shows the more accurate picture is one in which certain limitations are placed on the Palestinians for security reasons, but that they have civil control in the most populated Arab parts of the areas under question.
    If Israel and its supporters could somehow expose ‘the occupation myth’ it would be a great service in helping others understand the true situation on the ground.

  3. mrzee says:

    The “occupation” ended with the signing of the Oslo Accords. The Israeli presence in Judea and Samaria was agreed to by the PA until a final status agreement is reached and in fact is required under the accords for security purposes in Area B and Area C.

    Barry Rubin had this to say:

    “And everyone likes to forget that the Israeli presence has been accepted by the PA itself in a number of agreements beginning with the Israel-PLO Oslo accord of 1993. Almost everything Israel does on the West Bank takes place in the context of things the PA has agreed to happen.

    This may sound counterintuitive but it is quite true and it is a point that needs emphasizing. By its own free agreement the PLO and PA accepted the existence of settlements in the West Bank until a peace agreement was signed. It is thus hypocritical to argue that the settlements are there in some “illegal” manner or against the will of the Palestinians. Detailed maps were agreed to by none other than Yasir Arafat and his then advisor, now head of the PA and PLO, Mahmoud Abbas about precisely which sections of the territory Israel would govern during the interim period.”


    It is just further proof that negotiations and signed agreements with the palestinians are completely worthless.