I’m reading The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan and it has served as a catalyst for my own narrative on the recent history of Palestine. Each section in the book brings a new opinion, a new feeling. I am sympathetic to the Jews now, to the Arabs now. The tone is mostly objective, but we are looking through the eyes of one group at a time. Tolan uses rumor and propaganda carefully, as a tool to describe the mindset of each group in times of hysteria. Whether or not there was a slaughter of women and children at Deir Yassin is not an issue for debate in this context. The belief that it had happened is what contributed to the terror.
In the first chapter, I thought, “How tragic for the Arab. He returns as a stranger to his own home.” In the second chapter I thought, “Why are the British sticking their noses in?” In the third chapter I thought, “My god, even in Bulgaria the Jews are being rounded up like cattle.” Chapter four was particularly thought-provoking and will receive its due attention. I will delve into further chapters in future entries.
Firstly, several whys came into my mind, some I have provided answers to, and some I have not. Why did Palestinian Arabs not feel pity for the holocaust survivors flooding the country? Why did they greet them with mistrust? Why did the United States not allow Jewish immigration? Why, 30 years after declaring Palestine a “national home for the Jewish people” did Britain force ships of Jewish refugees to return to Germany? Why does the world not know that Jewish extremist groups were the first to use what we now call “terrorism?” Why did the UN assign 54.5% of Palestine to the Jewish minority, which constituted 1/3 of the population and owned 7% of the land?
My brief commentary on events:
In July of 1946, a Jewish militia called Irgun planted bombs in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, killing more than 80 people, mostly British soldiers. At that time, they were the desperate, enraged minority. They had not the resources or the political clout to achieve their goals diplomatically. They were essentially squatters who had nowhere else to go. This is exactly the position that the Palestinians, especially those in Gaza, are in now. The side with superior resources can afford to wait. Moral principles easily fold in the face of hunger and thirst.
After the UN decision, David Ben-Gurion, the leader of the dominant Jewish agency of the time, was not satisfied with the 55% Jewish majority in the Jewish partition. He argued that this would prevent total Jewish control in their territory. He said, “Such a composition does not provide a stable basis for a Jewish state. With such a composition, there cannot be absolute certainty that control will remain in the hands of the Jewish majority.” Whether morally right or wrong, he was factually correct. After the UN decision, Arabs were outraged and began attacking buses, but the Jewish militias were well-prepared and underestimated. They fought back. Both sides attacked villages, newspaper offices, hotels, and public streets.
Surrounding Arab countries immediately voiced their support for Palestine, especially King Abdullah of Transjordan, who had met secretly with Zionist leaders and agreed to let them keep their 54.5% while he absorbed the West Bank as part of his kingdom.
On June 11, 1948, a truce went into effect between Arabs and Jews but while Jordan and the Arabs were forced to comply, Jewish forces broke the embargo and smuggled in arms and ammunition. This left Arab forces at a severe disadvantage when fighting resumed. After the truce ended, neither side would settle for two states. That is, unless the two states were Israel and Transjordan. Ben Gurion was still not happy with his imperfect control of Jewish land (rival Jewish militias were fighting amongst themselves) and Palestinian people were not invited to participate in the discussion of their own future. The Arab League voted to continue fighting for Palestinian independence and designated Abdullah as the ironic leader of this effort.
King Abdullah continued to supply his forces for Palestinian resistance, but only enough to secure the West Bank as far Jerusalem, the jewel he had envisioned for his crown. Villages past this scrimmage line were abandoned to fight for themselves. On July 12, 1948, Yitzhak Rabin issued an order to expel residents of al-Ramle and Lydda (which are now Israeli villages called Ramla and Lod). His order stated, “The inhabitants of Lydda are to be expelled quickly without attention to age.” This is the same Yitzhak Rabin that in 1994 was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his involvement in the Oslo Accords, which officially recognized Palestine and gave it some authority over itself. The same Yitzhak Rabin that in 1995 was assassinated by a right-wing Israeli for these latter actions.
The story of King Abdullah and the West Bank brings to mind another story, one that is happening now, and reminds me why the study of history is imperative to the understanding of the present.
Iran is today’s Transjordan. As I said, in November of 1947 King Abdullah met secretly with Zionist leaders and agreed to expand only into Palestine, allowing Jews to keep the rest. Publicly, Jordan supported Palestinian independence. This seems exactly what Ahmadinejad is doing today: supplying arms to Hamas, but not good enough arms to actually win. Only good enough to keep both sides distracted. It was exactly what the US did in the 1980s: supplied weapons to Afghanistan to help them fight the Soviets, but only enough to keep Russia busy. Ahmadinejad is not stupid. He knows that when you have two enemies, you don’t fight them both. You get them to fight each other.
He is using the same strategy to keep the US busy in Iraq. In a post titled What's Happening Under the Table, Dr. Mohammed, a local blogger in Baghdad, wrote back in March:
Ahmedi Najad visited Karada and I'm sure he didn't like seeing the people shopping and walking safely in the streets because the last thing Iran wants is peace in Iraq for one simple reason because this will mean that USA have won and USA will be free to take care of Iran in addition to that they will gradually loose control over Iraq and the unlimited benefits they get from Iraq….at least that's what I'm thinking…Iran is one of the biggest beneficial of the situation in Iraq.
Last week’s bombing at a Gaza crossing began to alert international intelligence agencies that Iran is secretly funding the extremist militias in and around Gaza.
So the question is: who is Iran secretly in bed with? Ahmadinejad may not only be two-timing, he might be three-timing or four-timing. The question of how he is supplying arms to Iraqi militants is simple enough: they share a border. But how is he supplying arms to militants in Gaza? Egypt is the most likely candidate, given they share a border with Gaza, but Egypt is right now desperately pushing for a truce between Hamas and Israel due to the staggering number of penniless refugees crossing into Egypt daily. Israel currently has a siege on Gaza’s port, so how are these supplies entering Gaza and who stands to gain from it?