I make no attempts to hide my pro-Israel sympathy. There is no question to me that a state of Israel exists and has existed legitimately since 1948. Some weeks back a Varsity letter writer expressed the all-too popular view that Israel is responsible for the terrorism it experiences, because of its own “violent creation” in 1948. In particular, the Israeli massacre at Deir Yassim was given as a justification for what the country has suffered.
As someone who is pro-Israel, this is an unacceptably flawed outlook. The hard-line secular view I could take of Israel’s history is this: after most of the Jews were forcefully dispersed by the Romans, Israel was inhabited by the neighbouring peoples. The post-Israel name for that land was Palestine. It was, from its inception, either a territory or a province within a multitude of empires, from the Romans to the Ottomans. At the end of World War I, Palestine became a mandate of the British Empire, a position it occupied until 1948, when the British dumped the land on the United Nations.
At that time the land was partitioned by the latter organization into both Israel and Palestine to reflect the ethnic/religious divisions of the area. Neither side enjoyed any sovereignty because war broke out immediately, what those of us who are sympathetic to Israel call the War of Independence. This war ended with Israel establishing its sovereignty by fighting off six invading Arabic armies and their militant Palestinian supporters. What had been partitioned as Palestine now fell under the control of the Jordanians, a situation that remained until the 1967 Six-Day War.
When the invading armies seized Jewish villages and communes in 1948, the inhabitants were massacred, all part of the popular rallying cry of the then Arab leaders “to push them (the Jews) into the sea.”
With this background, I could say that since Palestine was never a country it therefore was never taken over.
I could say that because Jews continued to live there from the time of the dispersions (which got rid of most, but not all Jews in Israel) until 1948, they were legitimately reclaiming a land that was theirs and theirs alone.
But I don’t say that. I’m a moderate, and as a moderate I’d rather see both Israelis and Palestinians living peaceful and, if need be, separate lives. In order for this to happen, we must each accept our share of blame, or accept that we want the cycle to continue.
This commentary is a response to “Let’s talk about Palestine,” 28 February 2002.