I’ve been doing some posting in a discussion group, and like watching the main stream media news, I have been astonished at what I see. For one thing, it really is true, there are people that literally believe that every word uttered on Fox News is the truth. I have a hard time understanding that, but I strongly suspect that when people commit themselves to an ideology, they have to adapt their world view to match it word for word. It’s pretty much the exact same thing with people who literally believe that every word in the Bible is true. I suspect such people also get a tremendous satisfaction out of knowing that they have a “higher understanding” that everyone else, they certainly have no problem seeing anyone who disagrees with them as stupid or worse.
And while their are a few leftists who swear by Mao and NPR, there’s nothing like the legions of rightists swearing by Fox and the Bible. I’ve never heard a liberal claim that every word on NPR is the gospel truth, far from it. In fact as far as I can tell, the typical liberal/progressive makes at least some effort to rely on multiple sources for their news and information. Not that it matters, when debating with a Fox News believer anything that contradicts Fox News “must” be a lie. Sometimes I wished that I believed in some font of knowledge so much that I always knew the answer to every question by consulting it. Shudder, OK, bad joke. No, no, I don’t, I like being able to change my mind when confronted with logical evidence and reasonable argument thank you.
So, the gentle reader is no doubt wondering, how am I going to get to Palestine from here? Well, after debating the Palestine situation with these same people, I’m pretty sure the “Israel can do no wrong” crowd is a subset of the Fox News believers, or maybe overlap would be a better word. Still, I thought I’d look into the creation of the state of Israel and the war with its Arab neighbours to see just what happened in 1948.
The standard narrative is that little Israel declared independence, its Arab neighbours rushed in armies to “drive Israel into the sea,” and were beaten off by the plucky Israelis. And the 750,000 Palestinians that fled from areas that Israel controlled at the end of the fighting, why, they had fled because the Arab governments had told them too! Israelis were the good guys struggling to establish a homeland, Arabs were vile monsters bent on genocide, what’s not to understand? Well, like all successful propaganda, it does contain major elements of truth. It also contains some severe distortions and omissions.
One of the biggest ones is about the Arab armies rushing into Palestine to drive the Israelis into the sea. While Arab governments said all sorts of things about driving Israel into the sea, they actually only sent a tiny handful of troops and virtually no money or supplies. They promised the Palestinians they would help them, but never actually delivered on hardly any of it, and instead egged the Palestinians on from the sidelines, while doing nothing. Gee, Arab governments can be self serving and hypocritical too, who knew? The point is that the threat to Israel was wildly exaggerated during and after the war. The Israelis were never in any real danger of being driven into the sea, and from the beginning were better armed and organized than their Palestinian counterparts. And by the time the fighting was over, the Israelis had captured the lion’s share of Palestine. It should be noted that the western governments also acted shamefully, they basically stood by and did nothing while the war was raging.
Secondly, and more importantly, what about those 750,000 Palestinians that fled? Yes, some of them in at least a few cases fled because an Arab commander told them to clear out. Many of them fled, especially the well to do ones, because there was a war going on and they could flee. And many of them were indeed “ethnically cleansed,” fleeing because Israeli forces chased them out of their homes and villages at gunpoint. This was especially the case after the massacre at Deir Yassin, where 100 some villagers were killed when Israeli forces captured the village. The extent of the killings was exaggerated at the time, but it certainly contributed to Palestinian fears that it might be better to flee before Israelis captured their towns and villages.
In any event, when the fighting was over, the Israelis immediately made sure that virtually none of the Palestinians who had fled could return. Um, these people were the legal residents and legal property owners of the towns and villages they had fled from. It’s perfectly understandable that people would flee while a war is raging, but that doesn’t magically mean they no longer own their homes and properties. And this is the great crime and lie that Israel is founded upon, they confiscated the homes and properties of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians after the war, and refused to either compensate them or allow them to return home … because of their religion.
The last point I would make is that the so called “historic” enmity between Jews and Arabs started at this time. Before the war Jews and Arabs had lived together all over the middle east, in fact the Jewish community in Baghdad was over 100,000 people. And sadly most of these people were also forced to flee around this time or shortly afterwards. There’s not any question that there was plenty of terrorism and threats made by Arabs and Palestinians, my point is that neither side is guiltless. There was Israeli terrorism and ethnic cleansing involved in the creation of the state of Israel, it’s not a black and white thing. And frankly every government on the planet either did nothing before and during the war, or actively contributed to the violence. Governments, what are they good for anyhow?
Lastly, even if one accepts 100% the “Israelis were all good and peaceful, and what violence they committed in 1948 was forced on them by their hate filled violent Arab neighbours,” that has little bearing on the current situation and the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. That however is a topic for another blog.
(The above image is being used legally: Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts, and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled “GNU Free Documentation License“. Credit: User:Doron It’s the ruins of the Palestinian village of Suba that was depopulated and destroyed in 1948. Yes, in some cases the victorious Israelis destroyed Palestinian homes and villages to prevent anyone from returning. A process that sadly continues to this day in the occupied territories.)