Israel and Creation Myths
This week marks the 66th anniversary of one of the more celebrated events in modern Jewish history: The United Nations General Assembly decision to partition the British Mandate of Palestine into two independent states – one Jewish and the other Arab, adopted Nov. 29, 1947.
The Arab world with one voice bitterly condemned what was called “the Partition Plan” and threatened to destroy the Jewish State if it was declared. In fact, the Arab side did not wait until that date, sixth months later, but attacked Jewish Palestine the following day, launching what Israelis call the War of Independence and the Palestinians call the “Naqba” (the catastrophe), what Arabs see as their dispossession and loss of patrimony.
Ever since then, shifting coalitions of Arab and non-Arab forces, have waged continuous war against Israel, both on and off the battlefield. No less relentless has been the propaganda war. This propaganda war, supported by some Americans and Europeans, includes attempts to distort and obfuscate the historical record regarding Israel’s founding.
One of these tactics is to attempt to propagate “creation myths” intended to give the false impression that Israel is an artificial entity wrongfully imposed by outside powers on a unfairly victimized Arab population.
Below four of these myths are discussed:
Myth No. 1: The UN created Israel.
The UN is an international organization of nation-states created by treaty shortly after World War II, with the primary purpose to prevent war. It has two main governing bodies, the General Assembly and the Security Council. Most of the authority rests with the Security Council, the only body that can create binding obligations for member states. The General Assembly can only make recommendations or general policy declarations.
In May 1947, the British government announced it would end its 30-year rule over Palestine and requested the UN decide its future. On Nov. 29, 1947, the General Assembly passed Resolution 181 , the Partition Plan. Res. 181 was a suggestion. It had no binding force. The Arab side rejected the resolution and, as mentioned above, launched a war of annihilation against Jewish Palestine, and then Israel.
The Security Council could have supported the General Assembly with its own resolution and sent forces to keep the peace, but it did not. No nation, or group of nations or any UN organ took steps of any kind to prevent or punish the Arab aggression. Indeed, when the armies of five Arab nations invaded the newly established State of Israel, they flagrantly violated the UN Charter, which forbids wars of aggression, but the Security Council still did nothing.
In the end, no nation or group of nations took any concrete political or military steps to stop the Arab armies. No foreign army came to Israel’s defense, not in 1948 and not ever.
Myth No. 2: The US created Israel.
President Truman was in office in 1947 and 1948. He was personally sympathetic with plight of Jewish Holocaust survivors (see further discussion below), but his Secretary of State favored adopting the same Pro-Arab stance the British government had adopted. So, while the US supported partition (at least at first) and became the first nation to extend formal recognition to the new government of Israel, it refused to extend any assistance and, in fact, imposed a facially neutral arms embargo on all of the warring parties. The embargo, however, favored the Arab side as it received all the arms it needed from the British or other handy sources. Contrary to what many people think, the US did not become Israel’s chief supporter and military supplier until after the 1967 Six Day War.
The only world power willing to aid Israel is one that may surprise some readers: the Soviet Union, which allowed its satellite state, Czechoslovakia, to sell desperately needed arms to Israel. While Stalin was no Judophile, to put it mildly, he saw the real politik advantage to helping Israel beat back its Arab allies, which it was only able to partially do after months of long and bitter fighting. Britain, a Soviet rival, thereby suffered loss of prestige and influence in the Arab world. (Only a few short years later, Britain and the Soviet Union would be on opposite sides of the Arab-Israeli conflict, with the Soviets backing the Arabs and Britain backing Israel.)
In the end, Israel created itself, as did the US and as many other nations, through the ultimate exercise of a popular will seeking self-determination and, especially, self-preservation against the Arab onslaught. No outside power can take credit-or blame-for Israel’s existence.
Myth No. 3: Israel was created as a result of or in compensation for the Holocaust.
This is a particularly oft-repeated myth by Israel’s enemies, e.g. Iran’s Ahmadinejad, in order to negate the truth that the State of Israel is a natural, organic result of a national group exercising its will. The Holocaust and its aftermath certainly played a catalytic role, in that it galvanized the Jewish people, both inside and outside of Palestine, to unite, organize and rebel against British rule to achieve independence, and this, in no small part, to provide a refuge for the tens of thousands of survivors trapped in Displaced Persons Camps. The existence of these camps also created a certain amount of sympathy in Europe and the US, especially in light of the reluctance of any government to take in large numbers of these refugees. Beyond that, the Holocaust played no role in Israel’s founding. In fact, the number of Holocaust survivors who actually made it to either Palestine or Israel were but a fraction of the number of Jewish immigrants (olim) who arrived both before and after the founding of the State.
As already explained, it is simply untrue that any nations or group of nations “imposed” the Israeli state at all, whether due to the Holocaust or for any other reason.
Myth No. 4: Israel could not exist but for the lands and property stolen from dispossessed Arabs in 1948.
This one is such a whopper that even smarter Arab propagandists know better than to repeat it. But given how much ignorance and misinformation is spread about Israel, especially on the Internet, it needs addressing. First, the underlying premise, that the Jews willfully and maliciously dispossessed the entire Arab population, is false at many levels. A significant portion (about one third) of Palestine’s Arabs were dispossessed but as result of a war their side started. A detailed analysis of the causes of Arab dispossession is beyond the scope of this article. It will just be noted that fighters on both sides committed atrocities and civilians on both sides suffered terribly, including losing their homes. The suffering that was caused, however, is largely the fault of the Arab side that launched and perpetuated the war, as it continued to do long after 1948. Blaming Israel for the Palestinian “Naqba” is a classic case of blaming the victim for the bad outcome incurred by the would-be victimizer whose evil designs are thwarted.
But assuming, for the sake of argument only, that Israel was to blame, this myth would still be a lie because it ignores the basic fact that those parts of Palestine that became “The State of Israel” were developed mostly by the Jews who lived there. Jews founded Tel Aviv, most of Haifa, and Western Jerusalem and hundreds of smaller towns and villages long before 1948. Yes, the Israelis did acquire and use abandoned Arab property and even built a few villages over abandoned Arab villages, but these made up a tiny percent of privately owned Jewish property, or state lands acquired through independence.
Had there been no war, there would have been no dispossession, and yet, there still would have been a thriving Jewish State in former Palestine. Arab property was neither coveted nor needed before the war, although occasionally it was plundered and appropriated afterward. (But the same is true for thousands of Jewish homes and property that ended up in Arab-controlled Palestinian areas, i.e, the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, not to mention the millions of Jews plundered in Arab countries in revenge for the “Naqba.”)
To conclude, many currently existing nation-states, besides the US, “willed” themselves into existence often by throwing off the rule of a foreign power (e.g. Greece, India, Pakistan) or were born out civil war (e.g., South Korea, Eritrea). Israel is no different, and has no less of a right to exist than any of those nations. And all of the claims that somehow Israel is an artificial entity with no right to exist is just a myth.
The world has been sorely remiss in remaining silent in or acquiescing to the blatant lies the anti-Israel forces spread. The issue is not simply historical accuracy and fairness. Palestinian Arab hatred, intransigence and violence is fueled by this false narrative of Israel’s illegitimacy. Peace will only be possible when Palestinian leadership and its supporters are forced to confront and acknowledge the truth: The Palestinian Naqba was self inflicted. It’s time for Palestinians to own up to that fact, to put an end to their “righteous” warfare, and for them to live in peace with their Israeli neighbors.