BDS, Suha Arafat, and some Jewish history

Small deluded groups of leftist opinion formers in western countries (e.g. the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign) continue in their efforts to discredit Israel and to institute boycott, disinvestment and sanctions against the country. Meanwhile, Jordanian-born Suha Arafat (born in Jerusalem under the Jordanian administration, and widow of deceased Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat, who was born in Egypt) has instead stated that the time had come for the region’s Arabs to recognise the state of Israel, and that armed struggle to eliminate the Jewish state’s existence was no longer plausible.

Arafat has said that Arabs had to ‘clearly express […] recognition of Israel’. Further, she said that ‘no one can doubt its existence’. What she did not however say was whether or not she thought Israel had a RIGHT to exist… only that it DOES exist. The remarks had come on the tenth anniversary of her husband’s death last November 2014.

She had also expressed dismay at Hamas, and how the terror group had attacked Fatah leaders and buildings after its takeover of the Gaza Strip. Further, she said that Hamas was ruining the futures of Gaza youth, and committing ‘genocide’ upon its own people. The Hamas-generation has grown up with violence, without education, and with emigration as their only hope. She hoped that Hamas would finally understand that it should work towards peace.

While Arafat’s input was a milestone, Israeli officials speak about the need for Palestinians to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. Doing so would recognise the state’s long-term sovereignty and permanence.

Israelis have a number of reasons for demanding their country be recognised as their national homeland. For the Jews, Palestinian recognition of the State of Israel as the national homeland of the Jews means the end of the conflict. They want to be sure that a Palestinian state bordering on Israel is the Palestinians’ final demand and that they accept the fact of Israel’s existence.

In some ways too the deluded European and North American BDS-ers also need to accept that fact of Israel’s existence, and to acknowledge that the State of Israel is simply not going to melt away. Boycotting Israel, whose agencies, institutions, universities, and laboratories have been responsible for so many Nobel Prizes and the creation of stunning advances for the good of us all, will not reduce Israeli academic nor military excellence. In boycotting Israel, the people likely to suffer most will be the thousands of Palestinian breadwinners who currently work in Israel’s factories and fields, both in Israel itself and in the West Bank.

The deluded also have to accept some historical facts, study a bit of Jewish history, and research with a great more depth the origin of the ‘Palestinians’ to whom they offer succour.

Firstly, in spite of the ancient Assyrian, Babylonian, and Roman exiles endured by many Jews of the region, Jews have nevertheless had a continuous presence there for thousands of years (particularly in Jerusalem, Safed and Tiberias). Indeed, Jewish history and Jews themselves have a presence in the Holy Koran as well as in the Old and New Testaments.

Secondly, it was the Romans who first applied the name Palestine (Palestina) to the region around 70AD – around the time that they destroyed the Jewish Temple in the renamed Aelia Capitolina (Jerusalem) – but it was not at that time a home to the Arabs whose universe at this point was still the Arabian Peninsula. Neither was Palestine a name that the later Ottomans would adopt, as their own imperial system used the ‘vilayet’ and ‘sanjak’ administrative system. They knew the region as composed of the Vilayet of Beirut, the Vilayet of Syria and the Mutasarrifate of Jerusalem or Sanjak of Jerusalem. European Christians (i.e. the Church of Rome) however would continue to use the Roman name of Palestine… hence our modern attachment to the name.

Thirdly, the Arab ancestors of today’s Moslems in the region only swept in during the 7th century AD and with the imperialist expansion of Islam. Fast forward to the 20th century and to the British presence in ‘Palestine’ (the name of the region applied by the Romans, but ignored by the Ottomans), reference was always made to the Moslem ‘Arabs’ and to the ‘Palestinian’ Jews… the Palestinians were the Jews, the ‘Arabs’ were the Moslems (indeed, the anti-Israeli BDS-er need only refer to English language newspapers of the period to read this for themselves). Then, post-1948, and right through to the Six Day 1967 and the Yom Kippur 1972 and a bit afterwards, references were always to the Jewish-Arab conflict, never to the Jewish-Palestinian conflict.

Fourthly, not all of the diverse Arab populations of Judea, Samaria and Gaza have lived in these areas for the many generations and the many centuries that many voices urge us to believe. Either they came with invading armies, or were imported as cheap labour by the Turks and British, or wanted to profit from the economic advances made by the Jews who had been returning to rebuild their homeland since the 18th century (returning to an empty and barren landscape). Others fled to Palestine from neighbouring Arab countries. While these same voices mock the dual-passport-holding modern Israeli, they ignore the dual-passport-holding Arabs of Judea, Samaria and Gaza many of whom have relatives in Israel, some in Jordan, some in Lebanon, some in Egypt, some in Europe and North America.

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