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The “Palestinian People” And How They Grew

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Editor’s note: This is the third part of a four-part series. Part 1 is here and part 2 is here.

Of all the “peoples” who have presented to the world their claims to peoplehood, and some from that also lay claim to a right to statehood —  from the Tibetans, to the Basques, to the Bretons, to the Kurds, to the Berbers, to the Ibos of Nigeria (who tried in the Biafra War to defend their independent state of Biafra) — it is the “Palestinian people” who have been most single-minded and successful. Of course they’ve had a lot of help. Public relations firms were hired by the rich Arabs to help turn the “Arab refugees” into “Palestinian refugees,” to plant the notion of the “Palestinian people” in the international consciousness, and to burnish the “Palestinian” image, a neat trick given the repulsive appearance of their leader, Yassir Arafat. Twenty-two states of the Arab League did their best to promote the “Palestinian people”; so, too, did the thirty-five non-Arab Muslim members of the O.I.C., the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. Many an international forum held in the last several decades has also included ritual denunciations of Israel, and of some aspect of its treatment, in peace or in war, of the “Palestinian people,” whatever the putative topic — Treatment of Women, Abuse of the Child, the Fate of the Family, Water Resources, World Health — at international forums. As Ambassador Nikki Haley keeps indignantly charging, the U.N. and its ancillary organizations, such as the Commission on Human Rights, spend an incredible amount of time focused on Israel. More than half of the resolutions passed by the U.N. Human Rights Commission have dealt with criticizing Israel and its supposed mistreatment of the “Palestinian people.” This was especially noticeable during the Gaza War. Never mind that Colonel Richard Kemp, the former Commander of British Forces in Afghanistan, has said that Israel “did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.” As a result of this fixation on Israel at the U.N., which is only one aspect of the diplomatic Jihad against the Jewish state, other issues of great moment are often ignored, and the cost to those who never get a hearing because the “Palestinians” and their supporters have monopolized so much of the attention of so many international organizations, has been great.

Yet the concept of a “Palestinian people” is suspect. First, there is the matter of the recent origin of the “Palestinian people.” Prior to 1948, the word “Palestinian” was always applied to the Jewish inhabitants of Mandatory Palestine (which was entrusted to Great Britain, as Mandatory Authority, solely for “the establishment of the Jewish National Home” by facilitating Jewish immigration and “close Jewish settlement on the land”). The Arabs did not, at that point, appropriate the word “Palestinian” for themselves. Indeed, in the records of the United Nations, beginning in 1948 and right through to a few months after the Six-Day War, when tens of thousands of pages were devoted to the Arab-Israeli dispute, not a single Arab spokesman, diplomat, or head of state appears to have ever used the phrase “Palestinian people.”

The defeat suffered by the Arabs in the Six-Day War of June 1967 changed that. The Arabs recognized after that disaster that they could not, for now, defeat Israel militarily. They would instead have to engage patiently in a propaganda war to pressure Israel into yielding the territory it had won in the recent conflict, before again going in for the kill. The Arabs understood that the conflict had to be redefined to make it more palatable to the outside world. “War is deceit,” said Muhammad, and “Allah is the best of the deceivers” (Qur’an 3:54, 8:30). The Arabs took that to heart.

They had made constant threats to “exterminate the Jews,” but the Jews and their state were still there, and Israel had won still more territory. Azzam Pasha (Secretary-General of the Arab League in 1948), had in October 1947 written that if there were to be a war with the Jews (i.e., if the Jews went ahead and insisted on declaring their independent state, which would trigger hostilities), then it would surely be “a war of extermination and momentous massacre which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacre and the Crusades.” Twenty years later, on May 16 ,1967, Gamal Abdel Nasser promised in a radio speech to hysterical Cairenes that “the existence of Israel has continued too long…. The peak hour has come. The battle has come in which we shall destroy Israel,” and a day later repeated the threat: “All Egypt is now prepared to plunge into total war which will put an end to Israel.” And then came the great defeat, that led to Nasser’s early death, and the beginning of another chapter in the unending war of Muslim Arabs against the Infidel state of Israel. That chapter begins in the months following the Six-Day War, as Arab spokesmen reworked their pitch: now they muted their desire and duty to destroy Israel (no more talk of “extermination,” or “momentous massacres” or “putting an end to Israel”), and instead proclaimed their struggle for the “legitimate rights” (who could object to “legitimate rights”?) of the “Palestinian people” — a people who came into factitious existence only in order to create a twenty-third Arab state, in order ultimately to deprive another people, a real and long-suffering people, the Jews, of the only nation-state that they have ever had.

The Arabs might at any time, from 1949 to 1967, have given the “Palestinian people” a state on the “West Bank.” But they didn’t, because at the time there was no “Palestinian people.” They  hadn’t yet been invented, for the Arabs didn’t yet see the propagandistic need. Or they might have fully integrated the Arab refugees who had fled to Arab lands. There was money, there was land, there was a need for manpower in the Arab states. But the Arab states wanted, for  political reasons, to keep the “Arab refugee” crisis from being solved. They want to keep the pressure on Israel to take them all back, as a fifth column in the making. As Elfan Rees, the Advisor on Refugees to the World Council of Churches, wrote in 1957:

“I hold the view that, political issues aside, the Arab refugee problem is by far the easiest post-war refugee problem to solve by integration. By faith, language, race and by social organisation they are indistinguishable from their fellows of their host countries. There is room for them in Syria and Iraq. There is a developing demand for the kind of manpower they represent. More unusually still, there is the money to make this integration possible. The United Nations General Assembly, five years ago, donated a sum of $200,000,000 to provide, and here I quote the phrase “homes and jobs” for the Arab refugees. That money remains unspent, not because these tragic people are strangers in a strange land — because they are not, not because there is no room for them to be established — because there is, but simply for political reasons.”

Remember that phrase: “By faith, language, race and by social organisation they are indistinguishable from their fellows of their host countries.” Ten years later, every outlet of Arab and Muslim propaganda would be enlisted to convince the world that the “Arab refugees” and the Arabs who remained in Israel, and in the territories won by Israel in the Six-Day War, were a unique people, quite distinguishable from their fellow Arabs, and deserving of a state of their own. And the Arabs who, in the war for the minds of men, exploited the “Palestinian people’ on behalf of the Jihad against Israel, were off and running.

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