Arabs to Palestinians: Grow Up

Youssef Ibrahim, the kind of Arab journalist one does not often find, writes a (perhaps wish-informed) summary of the reaction of the Arab press to the latest conflicts between the Palestinians and the Israelis.

Dear Brethren, the War With Israel Is Over

BY YOUSSEF IBRAHIM
July 7, 2006

As Israel enters the third week of an incursion into the same Gaza Strip it voluntarily evacuated a few months ago, a sense of reality among Arabs is spreading through commentary by Arab pundits, letters to the editor, and political talk shows on Arabic-language TV networks. The new views are stunning both in their maturity and in their realism. The best way I can think of to convey them is in the form of a letter to the Palestinian Arabs from their Arab friends:

Dear Palestinian Arab brethren:

The war with Israel is over.

You have lost. Surrender and negotiate to secure a future for your children.

We, your Arab brothers, may say until we are blue in the face that we stand by you, but the wise among you and most of us know that we are moving on, away from the tired old idea of the Palestinian Arab cause and the “eternal struggle” with Israel.

Dear friends, you and your leaders have wasted three generations trying to fight for Palestine, but the truth is the Palestine you could have had in 1948 is much bigger than the one you could have had in 1967, which in turn is much bigger than what you may have to settle for now or in another 10 years. Struggle means less land and more misery and utter loneliness.

At the moment, brothers, you would be lucky to secure a semblance of a state in that Gaza Strip into which you have all crowded, and a small part of the West Bank of the Jordan. It isn’t going to get better. Time is running out even for this much land, so here are some facts, figures, and sound advice, friends.

You hold keys, which you drag out for television interviews, to houses that do not exist or are inhabited by Israelis who have no intention of leaving Jaffa, Haifa, Tel Aviv, or West Jerusalem. You shoot old guns at modern Israeli tanks and American-made fighter jets, doing virtually no harm to Israel while bringing the wrath of its mighty army down upon you. You fire ridiculously inept Kassam rockets that cause little destruction and delude yourselves into thinking this is a war of liberation. Your government, your social institutions, your schools, and your economy are all in ruins.

Your young people are growing up illiterate, ill, and bent on rites of death and suicide, while you, in effect, are living on the kindness of foreigners, including America and the United Nations. Every day your officials must beg for your daily bread, dependent on relief trucks that carry food and medicine into the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, while your criminal Muslim fundamentalist Hamas government continues to fan the flames of a war it can neither fight nor hope to win.

In other words, brothers, you are down, out, and alone in a burnt-out landscape that is shrinking by the day.

What kind of struggle is this? Is it worth waging at all? More important, what kind of miserable future does it portend for your children, the fourth or fifth generation of the Arab world’s have-nots?

We, your Arab brothers, have moved on.

Those of us who have oil money are busy accumulating wealth and building housing, luxury developments, state-of-the-art universities and schools, and new highways and byways. Those of us who share borders with Israel, such as Egypt and Jordan, have signed a peace treaty with it and are not going to war for you any time soon. Those of us who are far away, in places like North Africa and Iraq, frankly could not care less about what happens to you.

Only Syria continues to feed your fantasies that someday it will join you in liberating Palestine, even though a huge chunk of its territory, the entire Golan Heights, was taken by Israel in 1967 and annexed. The Syrians, my friends, will gladly fight down to the last Palestinian Arab.

Before you got stuck with this Hamas crowd, another cheating, conniving, leader of yours,Yasser Arafat, sold you a rotten bill of goods — more pain, greater corruption, and millions stolen by his relatives — while your children played in the sewers of Gaza.

The war is over. Why not let a new future begin?

The reason that I say this is perhaps a bit of “wishful thinking” is that, however true for some voices, is not exactly an accurate depiction of a current Palestinian isolation. In addition to the Syrians and the Iranians (granted, not Arabs, but Muslims), and all the voices of global Jihad and the Islamist’s dream of a world under Sharia, there are the usual enablers in the West — the conspiracist, anti-American, “third-worldist” left that hungers to demonize Israel and broadcast the victimization of the Palestinians as a war drum, and a European press which can’t help but jump on the bandwagon.

But let’s say there is a population of the Arab intelligentsia that does think this way, that really has changed its mind on this issue. I think the least they could do for the Palestinians, rather than treat them like pathetic loosers, is to apologize to them for the long years that they encouraged them to behave in such self-destructive ways, the ways that Arab intellectuals and political leaders participated (even drove) the formation of a Palestinian identity around victimization (to the point of imprisoning them in concentration ["refugee"] camps), and making the Palestinians the victim sacrificed on the altar of Arab pride.

Then maybe the Palestinians wouldn’t feel so alone and betrayed on the one hand, and these enlightened Arabs could start their chastizement of Palestinian irredentism with a mea culpa, on the other. Then the criticism might be more palatable, and attractive enough to encourage like-minded Palestinian leaders to resist the siren song of the Islamist death cult of which they are the “nation of priests.” That strikes me as a more promising path to a flourishing and democratic Arab world.

9 Responses to Arabs to Palestinians: Grow Up

  1. Lynne T says:

    RL:

    Have you checked out the Iraq-the-Model blogsite lately?

    One of the two brothers who blogs on the site covered a thread on the Guardian’s comments-are-free site’s Arab language forum. He noted that out of 30 Iraqis (living in and outside of Iraq) who commented on Hamas’s latest attack on Israel, that the reactions were 10:1 against Hamas, if not altogether supportive of Israel.

    He offers some interesting insights as to why: “we in Iraq are evolving politically faster than we are doing when it comes to economy, security, etc. that we are even ahead of countries like Egypt or Kuwait in holding real elections and having a permanent constitution and fair representation of all the segments of the people.” and “But what really makes me feel optimistic about this new Iraqi way of thinking is that it shows how Iraqis are beginning to distinguish between terrorism and rightful acts of resistance not only in Iraq but also on a global level and are showing decreasing tolerance for extremism and this in my opinion is what builds peace in the region or any given region of this world.”

  2. Eliyahu says:

    Richard,
    I checked out your link above re the so-called 3rd-worldist left. As far as I am concerned, there is very little genuine Left left in the world today. Most of today’s Left is –in my not so humble opinion– manipulated by well financed agencies, foundations, etc., that deploy state of the art psychological warfare techniques. One of the inventions of the anti-Israel psywar experts was “the palestinian people,” which you as a medievalist know never existed in history, although there was always a population [of varied origins] in the country which the Arabs/Muslims did NOT call “palestine.” That P-name was a Western name from the beginning, even if we go back to Herodotus. See what Felix Abel, the French Catholic historian of the Land of Israel said on the origin of the name “palestine.” Victor Berard and Guy LeStrange said more or less the same. The Arabs in the Land of Israel did not call themselves “palestinians” before Israel was reestablished, nor did they even recognize a country named “palestine” [nor Filastin, an Arab name used only for what the Romans/Byzantines had called "palaestina prima", which was used in any case only before the Crusades]. Nor was there any Mamluk or Ottoman district or vilayet with borders even roughtly like those of the “palestine” entity set up by the San Remo Conference in 1920 to embody the Jewish National Home. But nonetheless the “palestinian people” notion has been extremely successful as a weapon of psywar against Israel and the Jews, albeit it was invented after 1948.

  3. RL says:

    t0 Lynne: this is really good news indeed. thanks for the tip. there’s also a piece on arab blogging that i’ll post on shortly.

  4. RL says:

    to Eliyahu:
    I am fully aware of the data you bring and the point you are making. the palestinians are not os much the creation of the left, as the creation of an Arab strategy to “regain their honor” by sacrificing the people who were in the area to their irredentist total war. while the earliest uses of palestine by arabs date to the early 20th century, it’s fairly widely agreed by people who are not ideologues that the arab self-identification as palestinian in the West Bank and Gaza Strip date to post-1967, that is to the time the inhabitants of the area realized that they had been betrayed and abandoned by their boastful, impotent, and ill-willed Arab allies. (think of it: at Khartoum in 1967 the Arab league refused to negotiate for the freedom from Israeli occupation of over 2 millions fellow arabs. that’s honorable?)

    where the “left” comes in here is by adopting the “palestinian victim narrative” hook line and sinker, and making it so “politically correct” that anyone who dared to question the existence of a palestinian people was immediately demonized as a racist blah blah blah. hence the retrospective vilification of Golda Meir for her remark in the early period of palestinian self-invention “What palestinian people?”

    i think many leftists thought they were doing the palestinian people a favor in siding with them. unfortunately so much of palestinian self-identity — for all their justified anger at the Arabs — took on most of the characteristics assigned to them by the Arabs: victims, haters of israel who must be blamed for the victimization, self-destructive, etc.

    so the Arabs hate the Palestinians for being the toxic time-bomb that they made them (but was supposed to explode in israel’s face not theirs) and the Palestinians hate the Arabs for treating them so badly, and they get together by blaming israel. dysfunctional? just look at the arab world today.

  5. A.D. says:

    Last year when we all saw Israel pull out of Gaza, did we all know the following? 1) Israelis were paid between $100,000 and $300,000 to relocate. 2) Those that did not do so were moved by force. 3) At the same time the settlements were expanding in the West Bank. 4) The settlements are illegal and the United Nations told Israel to leave the occupied territories several years ago. Israel has yet to comply. Fast forward to June 2006. Could the facts below possibly have provoked the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier? Could these facts be acts of terrorism also? In these cases, “might is right” and this is the saddest thing of all.

    Nablus-Ma’an-The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) reported that the following Palestinian casualties during June 2006:

    Israeli forces killed 51 Palestinians including 12 children. 27 of these people were assassinated, 6 were women, one was a journalist and one was a female teacher.

    320 Palestinians were injured, including 75 children, 36 women, 9 medical staff workers and 6 security force members.

    250 people were detained by Israeli Forces.

    10 houses were used as military stations and 8 more were demolished.

    255 olive trees were uprooted and 1495 acres of land was confiscated to build Israeli settlements and the separation wall.

    The PLO said that the high number of casualties clearly reflects Israeli intentions to destroy the Palestinian people and their political system. The PLO statement said that Israel has never been able to hide its wish to prevent the functioning of the Palestinian Authority(PA) organizations and institutions, which was the reason for the complete siege on the entire Palestinian population.

  6. Lynne T says:

    RL:

    It’s more of a chicken-and-egg argument as to from whence the “Palestinian” Arab identity actually sprung. I can still remember a famous episode of the late British comedian Tony Hancock’s radio show in the 1950s: The Blood Donor, where, Hancock talks about giving money to “Arab refugees” and not “Palestinians refugees”.

    Much was also made by Romania’s former top intelligence officer who defected to the west about how much the Soviet Union and its satellites helped to cultivate Arafat and his leadership. This included Ho Chi Mihn’s advice to Arafat to play his hand as one of “human rights” for a “displaced people”, and not a question of reclaiming land for Islam, which was probably what drove Arafat in the first place, having become a member of the Muslim Brotherhood in his university days in Cairo.

    Had Arafat initially presented himself on the world stage as a jihad warrior for Allah, as he did on his return from exile, I don’t think the “Left” would have been so quick to embrace him as a socialist/nationalist merely seeking redress for his disposessed people.

  7. Solomon2 says:

    How can the Palis discuss change when any such discussion leads to the accusation “Collaborator!” and subsequent execution?

  8. RL says:

    Dear AD
    thanks for your post. as you may or may not know, what you have articulated below is a good example of what i’ve called the PCP. i’ll respond below to show you where i think this paradigm makes critical errors in both judgment and analysis. i hope you’ll answer.

    Last year when we all saw Israel pull out of Gaza, did we all know the following? 1) Israelis were paid between $100,000 and $300,000 to relocate. 2) Those that did not do so were moved by force. 3) At the same time the settlements were expanding in the West Bank. 4) The settlements are illegal and the United Nations told Israel to leave the occupied territories several years ago. Israel has yet to comply.

    let me take them one by one:
    1) i’m not at all certain of the first figures ($100K is very high as a minimum, $300K high as a maximum — do you have any source for these figures? in any case, i don’t see how this is relevant.
    2) many israelis are really angry with the govt for how it has treated this population which, to this day remains in limbo, but again i don’t see the relevance.
    3) this is a convenient complaint vaguely stated. it’s not like those settlements were in high gear of expansion, or that they somehow offset the gaza withdrawal. if they had been, the israelis would have moved all 8000 over into the West Bank…
    4) this last point is a) hardly something that you “did not know.” first of all, it’s not a “fact” but an opinion, and really demands a deeply partisan view of the conflict to be stated with the confidence and boldness with which you state it (ie, a “fact”). and given the rather partisan nature of your discourse, my guess is that you had adopted this long before last summer.

    [just to be perfectly clear on this. my position on the settlements is a) there is no reason why jews shd not be allowed to live in these areas, rich with jewish history, even if it’s a palestinian state; b) the notion that the settlements have to go in order to create a palestinian state is an inadmissable concession to palestinian intolerance accepting as a non-negotiable claim that the Palestinians are either incapable of or unwilling to protect the rights of jewish citizens; so anyone who insists that israel treat its arabs as equal citizens but that the palestinians can demand a judenrein palestine is not a fair-minded person; and c) anyone who believes that the settlements are either the cause of the conflict, or that getting rid of the settlements will solve the conflict is making fundamental category errors (based on the PCP). on the contrary, in my opinion it will just intensify arab irredentism (as did the disengagement from gaza), according to JP.]

    as long as we’re talking about illegal international behavior that has contributed to the problem long before the “settlements” ever existed, it’s definitely illegal for the Arab countries not to recognize israel which was created legally by the UN. but the UN is not telling them to recognize israel. (nor do you seem interested in making that point).

    why not the UN? because israel has one vote and 1.5 protectors in the UN and the Arabs have 22 countries/votes and lots of (stupid) allies (like the europeans). that’s why the UN spends more of its time unbalancing and perpetuating the conflict in the ME than any other issue (some really pressing like Darfur). anyone who can cite the UN as a serious source of opinion is either very naive, or partisan. can’t you see travesties of fairness when you see them?

    Fast forward to June 2006. Could the facts below [you mean "above"?] possibly have provoked the kidnapping of the Israeli soldier?

    now here’s where i scratch my head in confusion. your first two points seem entirely irrelevant (what do the palestinians know or care about what israel does with its “refugees”), the third is minor, and the last a well established propaganda point that has made its way into the mainstream. i don’t see how these “facts” provoke the kidnapping a year later? and do they also provoke the qassam attacks? what’s your logic?

    Could these facts be acts of terrorism also? In these cases, “might is right” and this is the saddest thing of all.

    huh? terrorism in my book is targeting civilians. none of the things mentioned (certainly not forcing your population to evacuate from areas that are contested) even remotely constitutes terrorism. if you can call expanding the settlements terrorism, then we don’t share the same vocabulary (or moral value system). this sounds like chomsky after 9-11 — america’s the worst terrorist.

    as for your lament over the victory of “might is right”, i can’t take it too seriously. there is no group on the planet today that has taken a more explicit position on “might makes right” than the palestinians. they constantly demand the impossible (israel should commit suicide) and then go to war in the most vicious way — even when they can’t win. and you seem determined to parrot their claims which justify their resort to violence. so please, save the laments for when you’re ready to tell the palestinians and other arabs and jihadis that might does not make right, and that until they’re ready to adhere to those principles at least minimally (eg by renouncing attacks on civilians… ie terrorism), that they cannot look to you for moral support.

    Nablus-Ma’an-The Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) reported that the following Palestinian casualties during June 2006:

    Israeli forces killed 51 Palestinians including 12 children. 27 of these people were assassinated, 6 were women, one was a journalist and one was a female teacher.

    320 Palestinians were injured, including 75 children, 36 women, 9 medical staff workers and 6 security force members.

    250 people were detained by Israeli Forces.

    10 houses were used as military stations and 8 more were demolished.

    255 olive trees were uprooted and 1495 acres of land was confiscated to build Israeli settlements and the separation wall.

    this is a classic litany from PA sources. most of these statistics — esp those on casualties and their cause — are not reliable. they come from sources who are documented as systematically misrepresenting casualties and blaming israel for deaths caused by palestinians. if you want to take them as serious you may, but i don’t think you show much discrimination and surely you can’t expect me to take them seriously.

    the israelis never wanted to build that wall. it was a response to suicide terrorism. as long as the palestinians can’t control their terrorism (real terrorism, not metaphorical), then i don’t think they can legitimately complain about damage. relatively speaking, the wall is a very mild response to suicide terrorism. i don’t imagine americans, or any europeans showing that level of forbearance if they suffered what the israelis do.

    i suspect that you think the israelis deserve it. no one does. not even the palestinians. but by the twisted and deeply blood- vengeance mindedness of the arab and muslim world right now, the israelis do deserve this, and the statistics they trot out are intended to justify it to their own people and drag along sympathetic if misled progressives like yourselves. (correct me if i misread you.) but by their standards (and chomsky’s and said’s) it’s not just the israelis that deserve this, it’s every infidel (including “moderate” and lax muslims) who deserve death and intimidation by terror. when you jump on the bandwagon, parrot palestinian propaganda, and express your indignation, you help the most belligerent and violent groups in the conflict… the people who really do believe that might makes right and jihadi conquest proves that allah is the true god.

    The PLO said that the high number of casualties clearly reflects Israeli intentions to destroy the Palestinian people and their political system. The PLO statement said that Israel has never been able to hide its wish to prevent the functioning of the Palestinian Authority(PA) organizations and institutions, which was the reason for the complete siege on the entire Palestinian population.

    Wow. and you agree? if the israelis wanted to destroy the palestinian people can you explain to me why their numbers continue to grow? why under israel “occupation” from 1967-1987 the standard of living among palestinians rose above those of jordan, egypt and syria? this is pure paranoid libel — the israelis want to exterminate us (when it is we who have systematically declared our desire to exterminate them). don’t you think you should think twice before parotting it?

    as for the destruction of PA institutions and organizations, it’s the Israelis who helped set them up. it’s when they realized that these institutions were being used to prepare genocide, they got hostile. no one thought that destroying nazi institutions was attempting to destroy the german people.

    i confess to confusion. i really don’t understand your thinking, even tho i’ve tried to address some of it. it seems so riddled with contradictions. do you care?

  9. RL says:

    response to Lynne T.,
    i agree with you. the PLO is a classic demopathic argument masquerading as a human-rights movement of national liberation, and had almost none of the real elements of such a movement (like the proto-state institutions that show a genuine desire for national self-determination, rather than the cultivation of violence in the service of a larger imperialist project interested primarily in claiming land (all of it).

    the reasons that the left went for the palestinian pretence hook line and sinker is a very interesting issue — why are the left, who pride themselves on being nobody’s fools, such dupes to such obvious misrepresentations?

    but it’s much more than just the left. i know deeply religious (not particularly zionist) jews who just assume that the PLO is a secular organization.

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