יום שלישי, יולי 04, 2006

My case for Israel - Part III

Aaaand we're back! After way too long a break I can now share a (fairly) coherent third part to my historical-political defense of my homeland. I am still bothered that the existence of Israel needs to be justified and I am tempted to say "It's here so just deal with it." But that would not be productive for folks who are convinced of it's illegitimacy. So let's continue.

In Parts I & II, I hope I have covered the following points:
An internal justification of why Jews might think that Israel should exist from both a Religious and Nationalistic point of view.
A brief history of the region from ~2000BCE until ~1850CE

What I'll try and cover here is the political history that led up to the establishment of a Jewish state in the Middle East. I think we'll be able to see the processes that led to the establishment of the state and I hope to show that the state of Israel was created with both the legal and moral assent of (much of) the world.

History from 1870-1917. This is gonna be a chunk.

Capt. Albert Dreyfus - This guy was the poster child for post emancipation attempts at assimilation. He was 3rd generation removed from Judaism as a religion, and a 3rd generation Frenchman. His family had excellent social standing and he was a high ranking and well respected officer. The accusation, trial, imprisonment, and acquittal are all things you can read about on your own but it is worth noting that he was so passionate in his love for France that when he was publicly stripped of his rank and led off to prison he still shouted "Viva La'France!"

Theodor Herzl (May 2, 1860 – July 3, 1904) - An Austrian Jewish journalist who became the founder of modern political Zionism. After being sent to cover the Dreyfus trial he realized assimilation could never work. Jews could never live safely in a country not their own. To be safe and secure we needed our own bit of land. This would also have the benefit of (just maybe) being accepted in the world community. We would be a nation like all other nations - with a land.

His book "Der Judenstat" (or the idea within) was marketed to the European powers as a solution to their "Jewish Problem". Hertzl had a vision of a landed nation and finally, acceptance into the world community. The European powers who were supporting him saw a way to rid their countries of Jews who they didn't want anyway.

In 1897, together with Nathan Birnbaum, Herzl planned the first Zionist Congress in Basel.

This is what was agreed on during the congress:

Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Eretz-Israel secured under public law. The following idea were put forth as a path towards this goal

  • The promotion by appropriate means of the settlement in Eretz-Israel of Jewish farmers, artisans, and manufacturers.
  • The organization and uniting of the whole of Jewry by means of appropriate institutions, both local and international, in accordance with the laws of each country.
  • The strengthening and fostering of Jewish national sentiment and national consciousness.
  • Preparatory steps toward obtaining the consent of governments, where necessary, in order to reach the goals of Zionism.
The government in charge at that time was the Turkish. The initial strategy was to obtain permission of the Ottoman Sultan Abd-ul-Hamid II to allow systematic Jewish settlement in Palestine. Also, the good offices of the German Emperor, Wilhelm II, were sought, but nothing came of that. Instead the World Zionist Organization (WZO) pursued a strategy of building a homeland through persistent small-scale immigration, and the founding of such bodies as the Jewish National Fund in 1901 and the Anglo-Palestine Bank in 1903.

The Uganda Plan and the Land of Israel: (This paragraph is somewhat of a sidelight, feel free to skip it.)
Before 1917 some Zionist leaders took seriously proposals for Jewish homelands in places other than Palestine. Herzl's "Der Judenstaat" argued for a Jewish state in either Palestine, "our ever-memorable historic home", or Argentina, "one of the most fertile countries in the world". In 1903 British cabinet ministers suggested the British Uganda Program - land for a Jewish state in "Uganda" (what today is Kenya). Herzl initially rejected the idea, preferring Palestine, but after the April 1903 Kishinev pogrom Herzl proposed to the 6th Zionist Congress to investigate the offer as a temporary measure for Russian Jews in danger. Notwithstanding its emergency and temporary nature, the proposal still proved very divisive, and there was widespread opposition to the plan including a walkout led by the Russian Jewish delegation to the Congress. Nevertheless, a majority voted to establish a committee for the investigation of the possibility, and it was not dismissed until the 7th Zionist Congress in 1905.

The Balfour Declaration of 1917 and the creation of the British Mandate.
The first modern geopolitical entity in this area was the British Mandate for Palestine. Before the end of World War I, our region was part of the Ottoman Empire. The British defeated the Turkish forces in 1917 and occupied the area. The land was administered by the British for the remainder of the war.

The United Kingdom was granted control by the Versailles Peace Conference (which established the League of Nations in 1919) and appointed Herbert Samuel as its first "High Commissioner in Palestine". During World War I the British had made two promises regarding territory in the Middle East. Britain had promised the local Arabs, through Lawrence of Arabia, independence for a united Arab country covering most of the Arab Middle East, in exchange for their supporting the British; and Britain had promised to create and foster a Jewish national home in a letter by British Foreign Secretary Arthur James Balfour, to Lord Walter Rothschild for transmission to the Zionist Federation. The letter stated the position, agreed at a British Cabinet meeting on October 31, 1917, that the British government supported Zionist plans for a Jewish "national home" in Palestine

In 1920 at the Conference of San Remo, Italy, the League of Nations granted the British and the French "mandates" or temporary colonial administration, over former Ottoman "Vilayets" - provinces south of present day Turkey. The two powers drew arbitrary borders and created three Arab countries: Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon that exist to this day. Out of what had been known as "southern Syria," the British created an area it officially called "Palestine" in English. This territory at this time included all of what would later become the State of Israel, the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, a part of the Golan Heights, and the Kingdom of Jordan.

In June 1922 the League of Nations passed the Palestine Mandate. The Palestine Mandate was an explicit document regarding Britain's responsibilities and powers of administration in Palestine and included the tasks of "secur[ing] the establishment of the Jewish national home", and "safeguarding the civil and religious rights of all the inhabitants of Palestine".

In defining Britain's obligations as Mandate power the document even copied the text of the Balfour Declaration concerning the establishment of a Jewish homeland:

"His Majesty's Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, and will use their best endeavours to facilitate the achievement of this object, it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country."

In this area known as British Mandate Palestine (today Israel (including 1967 gains) and Jordan), at the time the mandate came into effect, the population consisted of approximately 638,000 Muslims, 93,400 Jews and 81,400 Christians. The area of the mandate was 118,000 square kilometers or 45,000 square miles.

British Rule 1917-1948
In 1922, Churchill's First White Paper separated 91,000 square kilometers of the Mandate from Palestine and created Jordan. The British did not allow Jews to live in Jordan. The southern part of the Mandate – the desert of the Negev – was closed by the British to Jewish settlement. The area was inhabited by 15,000 roaming Bedouins, and had no Jewish or Arab settlements in it.

In 1923, Britain ceded the Golan Heights (1,176 square kilometers) to the French Mandate of Syria. Jews were also barred from living in these areas. Jewish settlers on the Golan abandoned their homes and relocated inside the reduced area of the British Mandate.

October 1939 - The Second White Paper shows the first attempt at British disengagement from the "Jewish national home" provision of both Lord Balfor and the League of Nations mandate. This White Paper set limits on Jewish immigration to the area.

The Mandate wears thin:
As the mandate wore on the British began to question the wisdom of controlling the area. Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and the leader of the Arabs in Mandatory Palestine, encouraged rebellion against the British and attacks on the growing Jewish population many times during the Mandate. In response, Jewish underground groups were formed. The impetus was two fold: in part to protect the Jewish communities who were being attacked by Al-Husseini's gangs, and in part to prepare for the day that there would be a state that would have to defend itself. While some of the Jewish underground groups worked with the British and hoped to attain their ends through political means, there were some who attacked British interests in the hope of "driving them out".

Under the leadership of Haj Amin al-Husseini, the local Arabs attacked the growing Jewish population many times during the Mandate. These sporadic attacks began with the so-called "Hurani Riots" of 1921. In 1929, the Jewish community of Hebron was attacked and driven out with the loss of 60 lives. {A side note: When someone mentions the words "Hebron Massicer", do you think of the 29 Arabs killed in 1994 or the 60 Jews killed in 1929?} An increase in Jewish immigration followed the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Arabs held general strikes and riots from 1936 to 1939, targeting both the British and the Jews. They proudly called this: "The Great Uprising".

The British responded to the Arab and Jewish opposition in a number of ways. They kept their distance from the attacks on the Jewish communities, only getting involved when forced to. This is seen clearest in the British attitude towards the caravans of food, people, and supplies in and around Jerusalem. The hills around the main road to the capitol provided staging grounds for Fawzi Al-Qawuqji's bandits. The British, in their hat-tip towards claiming that the road was open, would zip a solitary armored car along the route every couple of days but would not escort caravans up to the besieged city. Many of these incidents (of British action or inaction) have been recorded from many different perspectives and with different accounts of the facts. I feel only God Himself knows the truth.

UN involvement, visits, and recommendations 1947-1948:
Regardless of which side was striking first, second, or third, it became clear that the mandate would not survive. In May 1947 UNSCOP (UN Special Commission On Palestine) was dispatched with it's members from states uninvolved in the region on a fact-finding mission. Upon return the possibilities and facts were presented to the UN and the recommendation for to partition Mandatory Palestine.

November 29, 1947 - UN resolution 181 detailed what became known as the Partition plan.
The resolution called for a three-way partition of Mandatory Palestine into a Jewish State, an Arab State and a small internationally administered zone including the religiously significant towns Jerusalem and Bethlehem. The land was divided between the two states largely according to where there was a significant Jewish or Arab population. The vision was of two states, each with about 3 large "chunks" of land, connected by international roadways. The theory was agreed upon and a commission was created to work out the details before the end of the British mandate in the area.

It must have been one hell of a commission to sit in on. Among the problems that arose: No-one wanted to be the "international-administrators" of that zone. Also, the Arabs (both the local population and the neighboring states) made it clear that they would never accept the presence of ANY Jewish population in the region.

War. November 1947 - March 1949.
There is no chance I can cover this. The short of it: The British Mandate ended on Friday, May 14th, 1948. The British left the "locals" to their own devices and in the hands of UN Res 181. That same day David Ben-Gurion declared Israel an independent state. The State of Israel was quickly recognized by the Soviet Union, the United States, and many other countries. He did not declare borders because he knew that borders would only be defined by what could be held or gained in the coming war.

The following day the war began.

Over the first few days armies from 7 countries and groups of local irregular fighters attacked. The numbers of Jewish fighters at the outset of the war is clearly tallied in Ben-Gurion's journals. Historians differ on the number of Arab troops sent against the new state. Taking the low estimates of the Arab armies strength we find the two sides evenly matched at about 30,000 soldiers on May 15, 1948.

Israel: 29,677

Egypt: 10,000
Iraq: 5,000
Syria: 2,500-5,000
Transjordan: 6,000-12,000
Lebanon: 1,000
Saudi: 800-1,200
An unknown number of Yemeni troops
Arab Liberation Army (led by Fawzi Al-Qawuqji) 3,500-6,000

The flip side of this was the weaponry and financial support the Arab armies had far outstripped the resources of the Jews. Also, the Arab armies were exactly that - armies. The Jewish army was mostly a group of survivors from European DP camps with no military training and often without even a common language. Anecdotal evidence for my statements is everywhere - feel free to ask questions and I will try to share some of the background.

The fighting continued through the fall of the Jewish Quarter in Jerusalem's old city, the besiegement of Jerusalem, the Egyptian advance to Ashdod, the battles over Safad, Latrun, Nazreth... the list goes on. A cease-fire for 3 weeks in the summer (June 11 - July 8, 1948) saved besieged Jerusalem from starvation and, by resupplying the Israeli Army, turned the tide in their favor.

At the end of the truce Count Folke Bernadotte presented a new partition plan that would give the Galilee to the Jews and the Negev to the Arabs, both sides rejected the plan. On July 8, against the protests of King Abdallah of Jordan, Arab forces resumed warfare, thus re-starting the fighting.

A second truce was called on July 18, 1948 and the fighting ended. Interestingly there were no peace agreements but only agreements to cease hostilities.

Each battle is a story in itself. Each person who died, on both sides, should be mourned. As in all wars, wrongs were committed on both sides and errors of judgment led to needless death. When I take a step back and see the war as a whole, I see 7 independent countries joining forces to kill what they saw as an unwelcome intruder. I see the hand of God in countless places and I see a country that was able to justify the trust shown by the UN member states. Not that I believe that might makes right but sometimes you need to show that you have the will and the ability to protect yourself.

Post-War and summary
78 years of nation-building, beginning in 1870, culminated in the reestablishment of the Jewish State.

Israel's international "birth certificate" was validated by the promise of the Bible; uninterrupted Jewish settlement from the time of Joshua onward; the Balfour Declaration of 1917; the League of Nations Mandate, which incorporated the Balfour Declaration; the United Nations partition resolution of 1947; Israel's admission to the UN in 1949; the recognition of Israel by most other states

Abba Eban said:
“Nobody does Israel any service by proclaiming its 'right to exist.'

Israel's right to exist, like that of the United States, Saudi Arabia and 152 other states, is axiomatic and unreserved. Israel's legitimacy is not suspended in midair awaiting acknowledgment....

There is certainly no other state, big or small, young or old, that would consider mere recognition of its 'right to exist' a favor, or a negotiable concession.”

When approached by a student at Harvard in 1968 who attacked Zionism, Dr. Martin Luther King responded: "When people criticize Zionists, they mean Jews. You're talking anti-semitism."

This concludes part three of our series:
The Pessoptimist Saeed, the Donkey, & the Israeli Big Man.
The Jingoist Shaheed, the Canine, & the Island of Man

And a happy 4th to my American friends!


At 12:33 אחה״צ, Blogger Elizabeth said...

The main thing I notice here is a conspicuous lack of sources.

You neglect to mention the displacement of 750,000 native Arab Palestinians during the war.

Where are the borders of Israel? Please tell me. Or are you still waiting for the next war? How many wars must you have before you figure out where your borders are?

At 6:15 לפנה״צ, Blogger YS said...

I am happy to source any fact I have quoted. Please let me know what you feel is problamatic and I will back it up.

As to borders:
With the 2nd ceace fire, lines were drawn with Jordan. The border with Egypt took a bit longer to set. Off hand I don't know about the norther border.

Regardless, in '67 Israel was attacked and in the war that followed, new borders were set. When I am more awake I will be happy to cite precedent for a countrys borders changing as the result of a defensive war.

Please tell me: What do you see as the legitamate borders of Israel? Are there any borders that would be acceptable or should we all pick up and leave?

At 9:34 לפנה״צ, Blogger Elizabeth said...

The internationally recognized border is the Green Line. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you don't actually live behind the Green Line. Thus you thumb your nose at international law and international opinion.

At 11:49 אחה״צ, Blogger YS said...

As I've said before, where I live is irrelavent. To the best of my abilities, I've kept my gender, location, and nationality to myself. On the 'net, no one knows if you're a dog.

As to "The internationally recognized border is the Green Line., part of me wishes it were so. Honestly, I'm not sure if the international community does recognize even the 1949 Armestis lines as borders.

I quote from the Jordanian-Israeli agreement: "... no provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims, and positions of either Party hereto in the peaceful settlement of the Palestine questions, the provisions of this Agreement being dictated exclusively by military considerations" (Art. II.2)
"The Armistice Demarcation Lines defined in articles V and VI of this Agreement are agreed upon by the Parties without prejudice to future territorial settlements or boundary lines or to claims of either Party relating thereto." (Art. VI.9)

In plain english: "For the moment, these are convenient cease-fire lines but we hold no obligation towards them."

You do have a good point that the Israeli govt. did not declare "borders" per se. They did propose the armestis lines as borders at the Lausanne Conference but as you know, no resolution was reached there.

In closing: do you truly belive that if Israel would return to the pre-'67 lines, none of it's neighboring countries would attack anymore? I ask this with zero sarcasm or malice - do you really think that such a retreat would bring peace and harmony to our region?

At 5:59 לפנה״צ, Blogger Elizabeth said...

Yes, I do. Because it would be enforced by the United Nations. No one could really object to it because the Palestinians have already said they would agree to it.

Of course, the borders issue does not resolve the refugee issue. That would also have to be resolved.

You have the classic paranoid, "they're all out to destroy us" view that so many Jews have. It's sad. It leads to a belief that there's nothing to do but try to kill the Arabs or beat them into submission, which of course is impossible and absurd.


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