July 31, 2006 - Jordan's Queen Noor appeared on Larry King's television program tonight. She said something one hears repeated like a mantra: the cause of the Arab/Israeli conflict and the reason it seems endless is "Israel's occupation of Arab lands."
Of all the lies told in the Middle East, this is the biggest. It is also easy to debunk. Thus it merits a column all its own.
First of all, Arab attempts to destroy Israel, through war and through terrorism, began much earlier, in fact since the day of Israel's birth. Those efforts have been ongoing and have only become more intense.
The "occupied territories" became occupied because Israel fought and won a defensive war instigated by Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Lebanon in June 1967. Clearly the Arab states wanted to destroy Israel before any Arab territories were "occupied."
Six years ago Israel withdrew from Lebanon. Hezbollah responded by lacing the border with close to 15,000 rockets of different types and using them on Israel's cities.
Last year Israel withdrew from Gaza. The Palestinians responded by using their complete control of Gaza to turn it into a base for repeated rocket fire on Israel's cities in the south.
Most Israelis do not want to be occupiers. Awareness has been increasing in Israel that the settlement program was a mistake. Israel's original reason for not immediately withdrawing from the territories was a concern that without a peace agreement, unilateral withdrawal would only restore the status quo ante, the same conditions that led to the war. But ever since the infamous 1967 Khartoum Conference, in which the Arab states flatly refused to negotiate with Israel after the Six Day War, Israel has not had a true partner for peace. The one exception was the treaty with Egypt and Israel's withdrawal from the Sinai, which proves that Israel is willing to trade land for peace if it can be reasonably reassured that peace will come.
But the message from the Palestinians has been not "land for peace" but "land for violence." After leaving Gaza, Israel was even making plans to withdraw from most of the West Bank. Then the Palestinians started using Gaza as a platform for shelling southern Israel. Instead of encouraging Israel's withdrawal plans and agreeing to negotiate, Hezbollah and the Palestinians have have made it impossible for Israel to withdraw any further without placing its major cities directly within missile range.
Their message to Israel is clear: If you "end the occupation" we will punish you severely. We regard territorial concessions not as steps toward peace but as signs of weakness. The more you withdraw and the less territory you occupy, the more painful we will make your lives.
"Occupation" is in fact a circumlocution meant to disguise the true agenda of the Arab rejectionists. When they use the word, they do not really mean what they want people to think they mean. For them, "occupation" means Israel's literal existence, since they consider all of Israel to be "occupied." "Resist the occupation" really means "destroy Israel." This becomes very clear when one examines how they speak to each other, rather than to foreigners for whom they have only contempt:
Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims.
- Hamas Charter, Article 28
Our primary assumption in our fight against Israel states that the Zionist entity is aggressive from its inception, and built on lands wrested from their owners, at the expense of the rights of the Muslim people. Therefore our struggle will end only when this entity is obliterated. We recognize no treaty with it, no cease fire, and no peace agreements, whether separate or consolidated.
- Hezbollah Program.
In its most recent election Israel chose Ehud Olmert's Kadima Party, whose platform was to continue Sharon's program of disengagement from Palestinian lands, extending it from Gaza to the West Bank. The Palestinians chose Hamas, whose charter also states: "The Prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews and kill them; until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! There is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him!"
Most Israelis would support further withdrawals if they could believe peace would result. But withdrawal from Gaza brought rockets flying into Sderot. They do not want to see rockets flying into Tel Aviv. It is time the Palestinians, for once, made a true gesture towards peace. Instead the rockets continue to fly and the incitement continues to flow.
Sderot is not a settlement. It is a city in southern Israel.
"We have decided to make Sderot a ghost town. We are not going to stop launching our rockets until they leave."
- Abu Ubeideh, Hamas spokesman. (Associated Press, "Israeli Critically Injured After Hamas Terrorists Fire Rockets at Sderot," June 11, 2006)
There is a term for that. It's called ethnic cleansing.
The real reason for the persistence of the conflict is the racist refusal to accept an independent non-Arab, non-Muslim presence anywhere in the Middle East. This was true in 1948. It is true today. Don't believe the Big Lie.
Peace with Realism