So, Palestine is back in the news again. One really has to ask the question why. That is, why do the Palestinians deserve a homeland?
In recent days, the UN Security Council passed a resolution whereby Israeli settlements in the West Bank were deemed to be illegal (i.e. occupied territories). I say “deemed to be” because the UN Security Council has no legal power to tell any sovereign nation what to do. If we’re going to play the “occupied territories” card, it would only be fair to first demand that China give Tibet its freedom back or that America return the country to the Native Americans. By definition, then, the West Bank, Tibet and America are all occupied territories. The West Bank arguably falls into this category because it was won as the result of a war… and the treaty that ended that war said that the West Bank now belonged to Israel. So, that should be the end of it, right?
Aside: The fake news is that an actual, sovereign nation of Palestine has never existed; not even in biblical times. Some scholars say that a Palestinian identity did not even become a reality until after 1948, with some saying as late as 1967. Ethnically, Palestinians are actually no different from other Arabs living throughout the Middle East.
However to understand the politics of the present, one has to know a little something about the politics of the past. At the conclusion of World War I, the former Ottoman Empire was carved up and a part of it was given the name Palestine. Arabs, Christians and Jews lived in Palestine at that time and they were all considered to be Palestinians. Palestine was governed by the British under what was called the British Mandate of Palestine. Part of Palestine would later be spun off and become the Arab state of Transjordan. In 1948, Transjordan (now called Jordan) and other Arab states invaded the remainder of Palestine (then called Mandatory Palestine). The trigger for the war was Israel’s declaration of independence. The resulting treaty that ended the war gave the West Bank to Transjordan with the remainder of Mandatory Palestine recognized as the Jewish state of Israel.
Those borders remained in place until the Six – Day War of 1967. That war was initiated by various Arab nations, including Jordan, who still did not recognize the creation of the state of Israel. At the conclusion of that war, Jordan ceded the West Bank to Israel. It’s interesting to note that The United Nations did not call for a homeland for the Palestinian Arabs at that time.
However today, some fifty years later, politicians have reinvented the issue of a separate Palestinian state. Never mind that the biggest minority population in the Middle East, the Kurds, still do not have a homeland of their own; never mind that an Arab nation (Jordan) was previously carved out of Palestine and could be used to provide for a Palestinian state; and never mind that the West Bank is, more or less, the biblical Jewish lands of Judea and Sumeria, the loss of which was the reason for a Jewish homeland in the first place.
Finally, and most importantly, never mind that the Palestinian Arabs still do not recognize Israel as a sovereign state as evidenced by their rejection of John Kerry’s recent two-state solution. In those circumstances, why would anyone want to create a Palestinian state which would be next door to a nation (Israel) that they, the Palestinians, do not recognize, a nation that they would like to wipe off the map? After all, that’s how we got the Arab-Israeli War of 1948 and the Six-Day War of 1967. So, you have to ask yourself if the real reason the politicians want to create a Palestinian homeland is to create a lasting peace or to start a war. Last I checked, no one makes money off of peace, only off of wars. Fake peace anyone?
“The truth is that Jordan is Palestine and Palestine is Jordan.” – King Hussein of Jordan
This post certainly isn’t Shakespeare. However, it is about a tragedy, a modern-day version. That is, politics rarely results in anything productive. Today, with all the backroom deals and secret handshakes, the world is upside down. As Shakespeare put it, there’s something rotten in the state of Denmark. That said, a little background is probably in order.
After World War I, the Ottoman Empire was carved up by the victors (the Western Powers). They took a magic marker to the map of the Middle East and completely redrew all the boundaries. As a result, countries like Syria and Iraq were created out of thin air.
Further, the British were given a mandate by the League of Nations to administer certain occupied territories in the Middle East which would be used, for among other things, to create a Jewish homeland. That mandate is referred to as the Palestine Mandate, with Palestine referring to what is now the combined areas of Israel, Jordan and the West Bank. The original term of Palestinian referred to anyone then living within the boundaries of this new territory of Palestine, including Christians and Jews.
Fast forward to 1967, at which time various Arab countries attacked Israel in what would become known as the Six-Day War. Those Arab countries, which included Jordan, were on the losing side of that war and as a result Jordan ceded to Israel those lands west of the Jordan River (the West Bank). To the victors go the spoils, or so they say. Ever since, there has been an international dialogue to have Israel give the West Bank to the Palestinians to create a new and separate Arab state.
Making a bad situation worse
Today, the world is stuck with the political deals that the Western Powers made with each other at the end of World War I. Unfortunately, there is no way to unwind what has already been done and moving forward with a reasonable solution has proved to be elusive. So, as world leaders answer the clarion call, it would be good to remember a few salient points:
- There has been a lot of discussion of returning the West Bank to the Palestinians, as if there ever was such a country. However, there has never been a country of Palestine – not in modern times and not even in ancient times. So, creating an Arab state for the Palestinians would not be a case of returning the West Bank to them, but rather it would be creating a Palestinian state for the very first time in history.
- The Palestinians are not the only group in the world without a homeland. There are significant minority populations in any number of countries who have never had their own homeland. For example, the largest minority population in the world is actually the Kurds (who also live in the Middle East). However, there has never been any talk of giving them a homeland.
- If Israel is forced to give up the West Bank, it could set a dangerous precedent. If that were to happen, who might be next? Is it possible that America might be asked to return the Southwestern United States (stretching all the way from California to Texas) back to Mexico, since it was acquired as a result of the U.S./Mexican War.
Unfortunately, a precedent such as this would likely have an unexpected ripple effect. So, is there a reason why the world is hell-bent to make a bad situation worse?
The run-up to WWWIII
Although the status quo is far more palatable to me than the solutions offered up so far, I do have a proposal that might end the stalemate. Actually, it wasn’t very difficult to come up with it either. That is, simply have Israel give the West Bank back to Jordan. Yes, the very same Jordan that the West Bank used to be a part of. Jordan is a pretty stable government and they can probably be counted on to keep the peace. Besides, a majority of the people currently residing in Jordan are actually Palestinians!
Despite its appeal, this proposal will no doubt fall on deaf ears. That’s because there is more money to be made from war than from peace. World War III anyone?
While we’re at it, let’s return North America (Canada and America) back to the Native Americans, have China return Tibet to the Tibetans and give North Korea back to South Korea. Who would like the task of breaking the news to Kim Jong-un?
“The truth is that Jordan is Palestine and Palestine is Jordan.”
– King Hussein of Jordan
So Nancy Pelosi is at it again, essentially stating that Hamas is a humanitarian organization. Way to go Nancy! John Kerry, for his part, has the backing of nearly all of the world’s major governments and yet has been ineffective in brokering a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. So the needless violence continues.
A series of maps of Palestine have been making the rounds recently with no serious explanation of the context as to how this area has changed over the years. Therefore, a little history lesson probably is required.
To begin with, the country of Palestine has never existed. Never. No kidding. The way that everyone talks about Palestine one would swear that Palestine was a real country, at least at some point in history; but no, Palestine has never been a country.
Palestine was the name given by Western powers to a large part of South Syria after the end of WWI, which ended with the defeat of the Ottoman Empire who ruled that area for the previous 600 years or so. As for the Palestinians, the word was then used to refer to all people residing in the general region of Palestine, regardless of religion or ethnicity (even Christians and Jews).
After World War I, the Ottoman Empire was carved into little pieces by world leaders. It was at that time that Iraq and Syria, for example, became nations for the first time. Don’t ask what gave them the authority to do that – more on that later. The League of Nations, a forerunner to the United Nations, mandated that a large area of the old Ottoman Empire would be set aside for a Jewish homeland. That area was given the name Palestine, and accordingly their action was referred to as the Palestine Mandate. Once that was accomplished, they then carved out three-fourths of Palestine to create a new Arab state. Of course politics being what it is, the new Arab nation called Transjordan (later renamed Jordan), was given to the Hashemite family (Saudis) to rule because they aided the British in fighting the Turks (Ottoman Empire). The Palestinians, who made up the vast majority of the people living in Jordan (and still do), were left out in the cold. Politics is wonderful, isn’t it?
Fast forward to 1967. In 1967, Israel was attacked by neighboring Arab states and at the conclusion of the Six-Day War took possession of certain parts of Jordan (generally known as the West Bank), among other lands. The United Nations has since declared that these are occupied territories. Again, what gives the United Nations the right to dictate to sovereign nations? Besides, down through history the winner of wars has always acquired so-called “occupied territories”. Otherwise by the same logic, California, New Mexico, Arizona and Texas are occupied territories because they were acquired by the U.S.A. as the result of their war with Mexico. So once again, politics rules the day.
The seeds of discontent in the Middle East were sown by politicians at the end of World War I and their meddling continues to this day through the United Nations, or otherwise (for example, the U.S. government provides substantial financial support to both Israel and Hamas). The truth is that, in politics, war benefits many people whereas peace does not. Because of their financial support provided to both Israeli and Hamas, don’t you think that the U.S. government could pretty much dictate terms of a Middle East peace if they wanted to? After all, they committed large numbers of troops to Iraq and Afghanistan to presumably bring stability to those countries. Why not to Palestine? Politics is why not.
So the next time you hear the call for a Palestinian homeland, just remember that for politicians it is just rhetoric – part of the process of continuing the conflict rather than ending it. After all, the Palestinians already have a homeland – it’s called Jordan.
“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”
– H. L. Mencken
With Palestine having been elevated to observer status by the United Nations, the issue of a Palestinian homeland seems to have moved to the back burner. Maybe, that was the idea all along. I’ve read a lot of other people’s opinions about the Israeli-Palestinian dispute, but in the end everything, on both sides, has been just so much highly-charged, emotional rhetoric. Everybody seems to have self-serving reasons behind their proposed solution.
At the risk of seeming biased myself, let me give my opinion on the matter as well. As a responsible parent I would never give the keys to the family car to my sixteen year old, especially if he said that he didn’t think that other drivers on the road had the same rights as him. So why then should anyone take the Palestinians seriously? Their only stated objective seems to be to drive the Jews into the sea. On that basis alone, I can’t see turning them loose in the family car let alone giving them their own homeland with all that that implies.
My angst has nothing to do with the issue of whether or not the Palestinians deserve a homeland. Rather, it’s about the world making a responsible decision with respect to this dispute. As a parent if I have two unruly children, I’m going to send them to their respective rooms so that hopefully they will cool off. The problem is that the Middle East is such a small area that this becomes problematic.
The United Nations Link
However, I have a much bigger bone to pick and it’s with the United Nations. If governments are corrupt, and we all know that they are, then the most corrupt bureaucracy in the world is the U.N. (e.g. their oil-for-food program). The U.N. has absolutely no jurisdiction over any sovereign nation and yet they are constantly trying to control the actions of world governments, including the United States. Recently, they have even had observers at U.S. elections and have asked for jurisdiction over U.S. territorial waters (the so-called Law of the Sea Treaty).
Well I, for one, don’t believe that the U.N. has any power to enforce a settlement in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I’m certainly concerned about the implications of setting such a precedent. For all I know, the U.N. might then want the U.S. to give back Texas and California to Mexico! As for the U.N. addressing human rights concerns, one would probably not start in Palestine. How about China or better yet the continual genocide in Africa? Of course, the U.N. has really no interest in addressing those issues.
The No-State Solution
Unfortunately, the best solution to this problem isn’t going to happen because of political concerns. That solution would be to go back to the pre-1967 borders, with the West Bank reverting back to Jordan and Gaza reverting back to Egypt. That would make the Arab world responsible for the Palestinian issue. Almost everybody is going to object, though, to this solution.
Many people are going to object because this solution doesn’t give a homeland to the Palestinians. My response to that objection is if the issue of a homeland is such an overriding issue, why haven’t we already given a homeland to much larger minority groups in the Middle East, namely, the Kurds and the Shiites. The Arab world, of course, will not embrace this solution either because they have little to no sympathy for their Palestinian brothers. So if the Arab world won’t take some responsibility for this issue, why should they expect the rest of the world to solve this problem for them?
An Historical Perspective
At the end of World War I, the Ottoman Empire had been defeated and Western world leaders took a magic marker to the map of the Middle East. When they were done, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and eventually Lebanon and Saudi Arabia, had become full-fledge countries (created out of thin air). The West was ultimately successful in installing pro-Western minority governments in all of those countries.
The ongoing conflict in the region today, including Arab Spring, is simply the result of Western colonialism dating from WW I. Even today, the West will not admit that they manipulate Middle Eastern governments in order to advance their own special interests in the area (primarily oil, although the region also has other geopolitical value to the West vis-a-vis Russia and China).
The Palestinian Homeland Solution
In my opinion, there actually is a way, though, to give the Palestinians a homeland and possibly solve this conflict. The solution would be to give Palestine back to the Palestinians. By that, I mean Jordan of course. As a matter of history, Palestine has never been a country. It was a region that was under the control of England after WW I and out of that territory both Israel and Jordan were formed.
Jordan, like the other Middle Eastern countries formed after WW I, has a minority government while the majority of its citizens are actually Palestinians. The country’s ruling family actually hails from the Arabian Peninsula and had never previously lived in the Jordan area. The official language of Jordan is Arabic, same as the Palestinians. Their religion is Islam – Sunni, the same as the Palestinians. What better way to correct 100 years of Western meddling than by giving Jordan to the Palestinians. By all rights, it’s probably theirs anyway.
So if the West was really serious about resolving this crisis, the solution in the final analysis is really pretty simple. However, world leaders have had the last 50 years to make this problem go away and they certainly have had the resources to implement any kind of possible solution. So why haven’t they? Could it be because it’s in Western interests to continue the conflict? Maybe peace was never the objective of peace talks. As Rahm Emanuel said, “You don’t ever want a crisis to go to waste”.
Recently the United Nations voted as to whether or not to recognize Palestine as a member state. The question that I have is not do the Palestinians deserve a homeland (of course they do) but on what basis the United Nations is addressing this at all. Why is the United Nations the arbiter of this issue? Who gave them the right?
Anyway, it’s a bit disingenuous of the U.N. to address the Palestinian issue before first addressing other more serious issues around the globe. The African continent, for example, has been in a constant state of upheaval for decades where the genocide of millions has become commonplace and apparently an accepted practice. More recently in Libya, the United Nations stood on the sidelines as NATO forces played a major role in the overthrow of that government. Politics does make strange bedfellows.
The old saying about war is that to the victor goes the spoils. But why is it okay to redraw country borders in certain situations but politically incorrect in others? If we are to interfere in the affairs of other countries, who gets to decide and on what basis? If we were being intellectually honest, wouldn’t we decide to give America back to the Indians? Even in the Middle East, there is a larger issue that has been completely ignored by world governments. The largest ethnic group without a homeland isn’t the Palestinians, it’s the Kurds and yet you never hear anyone suggest that they should get their own homeland. Therefore, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone that the Kurds can be slaughtered by the Turks and the Iraqis without the world community becoming offended.
But, back to the Palestinian issue. Around the time of World War I, the Ottoman Empire came to an end and the Middle East was broken up into pieces via a secret pact between England and France. As a result, an agreed-upon area was designated as being under British control and was then named Palestine. That area was significantly larger than what is now generally referred to as Palestine. Out of that larger area, three countries would eventually be formed, namely Jordan, Lebanon and Israel (some 20-30 years later). During the Six Day War of 1967, Israel was attacked by the forces of several Arab countries. As a result of that war, certain lands were ceded to Israel (to the victor go the spoils yet again). Certain of these lands (The West Bank), which were previously part of Jordan, are now the subject of the discussion about forming an independent Palestinian state.
As far as I’m concerned, it’s all a moot issue. The land has been under Israeli control for almost 50 years. It was land that Israel gained as the result of winning a war and needless to say a war that they didn’t start. What moral authority do we have to redraw the boundaries of Israel at this point in time? While we’re at it, why don’t we also redraw the boundaries between North and South Korea or how about between China and Taiwan. To be completely fair, shouldn’t we also give Texas and California back to Mexico?
You could say that we have arrived at this crossroads without a compass and now we intend to right the ship by draining the ocean. However, I would propose a much simpler solution to the dilemma. Simply give Palestine to the Palestinians. By that, I mean Jordan of course. You see Jordan made up the vast majority of the original Palestine and, in fact, Palestinians constitute a majority of people living in Jordan today. The country itself is ruled by an ethnic minority whose homeland actually hails from, of all places, Saudi Arabia.
However, I doubt that world leaders are truly interested in real peace in the region.. They created Israel to serve their own agenda and now they would like to destroy it (for the same reason). Maybe that’s what Rahm Emanuel meant when he said that you should never let a serious crisis go to waste. That’s exactly why the proposal for a Palestinian homeland will not go away and at the same time why there will likely never be a Palestinian state. We’ll be forever discussing the Palestine issue and the hatred on both sides will provide fuel for the chaos. Peace was never the objective of peace talks – chaos was.