Saturday, January 22nd | 20 Shevat 5782

May 15, 2018 8:15 am

Why Israel and the Palestinians Are Different

avatar by Yisrael Medad /


Palestinian rioters in eastern Jerusalem near the Old City protest Israel’s Temple Mount metal detectors following Friday prayers on July 21, 2017. Photo: Yonatan Sindel / Flash90. — The Los Angeles Times recently published an op-ed by Yossi Klein Halevi wherein he expressed the following ruminations on the Arab war against Israel and Zionism:

Each side will need to honor the other’s narrative. … Israelis acknowledging the shattering of the Palestinian people and the destruction of their homeland … the Arab world acknowledging the shattering of ancient Jewish diasporas in the Middle East … each must acknowledge the sacrifice of the other.

As a follower of Ze’ev Jabotinsky, I would like to postulate a slightly different position even as I accept what is at the base of Yossi’s thoughts above. In his two-part essay, “The Iron Wall and the Ethics of the Iron Wall,” which appeared in late 1923 — and which I am sure Yossi is quite well acquainted with — Jabotinsky dealt with these issues.

Here are some extracts (but please read it all):

I am reputed to be an enemy of the Arabs, who wants to have them ejected from Palestine and so forth. It is not true. … [I]t is quite another question whether it is always possible to realize a peaceful aim by peaceful means. For the answer to this question does not depend on our attitude to the Arabs, but entirely on the attitude of the Arabs to us and to Zionism. … [I]t is utterly impossible to obtain the voluntary consent of the Palestine Arabs for converting “Palestine” from an Arab country into a country with a Jewish majority.

The shattering that Yossi notes assuredly occurred, but only because Arabs refused a partition plan in 1937 and another in 1947. The Zionist movement, admittedly excluding the Jabotinsky camp, accepted that compromise. Until the Palestinians admit their diplomatic errors, there can be no parallelism, which Yossi thinks can serve a palliative function.

In fact, ignoring the proper demand for one side to admit to its mistakes — and we have many, too many, on our side who do that (Zochrot, Gush Shalom, Gideon Levy, Amira Hass, and the rest of the Haaretz crew) — simply allows the Palestinians to live in a historical fantasy. Even the concept of naqba (“catastrophe”) has been perverted. As originally meant by Qustantin Zurayq, who coined the term, it meant the Arabs’ failure to confront the Zionists successfully. It was Zurayq who accused the Arabs of “a primitive, static mentality,” not the Zionists. If Arabs did not achieve “a fundamental transformation in their way of life,” he wrote, they would not “repel the Zionist danger.”

If their victimization role is not eliminated, there will be no diplomatic success.

Jabotinsky wrote:

Our Peace-mongers are trying to persuade us that the Arabs are either fools, whom we can deceive by masking our real aims, or that they are corrupt and can be bribed to abandon to us their claim to priority in Palestine in return for cultural and economic advantages. … They feel at least the same instinctive jealous love of Palestine as the old Aztecs felt for ancient Mexico and the Sioux for their rolling Prairies. To imagine, as our Arabophiles do, that they will voluntarily consent to the realization of Zionism in return for the moral and material conveniences which the Jewish colonist brings with him is a childish notion, which has at bottom a kind of contempt for the Arab people.

Jabotinsky and his genuine followers do grant respect to the Arab residents of the region of Palestine, that is, Eretz Yisrael. There are very few Israelis who wish to do to them what the Palestinians have done and wish to do to us.

We view the Arabs’ physical threat as a danger, whereas their concept of danger is existential and therefore only a complete negation of Jewish national identity — our religion, culture, history, and all that is Zionism — will satisfy “Palestinianism.”

In the end, Jabotinsky concluded with a practical realization:

We cannot offer any adequate compensation to the Palestinian Arabs in return for Palestine. And therefore, there is no likelihood of any voluntary agreement being reached.

In order to achieve peace, I would suggest moderates and left-wing progressives demand that the Palestinians admit their own contributions to the dismal state of the relationship between Arabs and Jews.

Yisrael Medad is an American-born Israeli journalist and author.

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