Sabri, Zuheir, and My Friend Jim

By Gerald A. Honigman

January marked the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. While others were tragically murdered there and elsewhere by the Nazis as well, Jews were marked for total extermination. Indeed, one of every three Jews alive at that time fell victim to the Final Solution.

Months earlier, with both Holocaust Memorial and Israel Independence Days fast approaching, I was reminded of a incident which exposed a lingering problem that just wouldn’t go away.

Since Auschwitz, the world has become fairly adept–with some notable exceptions (including the former Palestinian Arab Prime Minister, Mahmoud Abbas, and much of the "Arab" world)–at sympathy for dead Jews. Indeed, many showed up to commemorate that anniversary.

It’s empathy for live ones that’s still the problem…

An intelligent and caring non-Jewish colleague and I had been discussing events in the Middle East. For the sake of my friend’s privacy, let’s call him "Jim." It was after one of the Arabs’ latest acts of "heroism"…another civilian bus blown up, more innocents incinerated, maimed, etc. Among Jim’s many attributes, he’s also a history buff.

After our discussion, Jim was honest with me: "You know, I like you, Jerry, so that’s why I listened to you…..otherwise your passion would have turned me off."

G_d bless Jim. Why, he has even taught students about the Holocaust…..but ouch, anyway! And within this episode lies the much bigger problem.

How is it that the Gentile world–especially the intelligent and caring portion of it–does not understand the passion of a people who not long ago were turned into lampshades and soap simply for being who they are? How is it that the two thousand-year existence of this people, since it dared take on the mighty Roman conqueror for its freedom, is apparently unknown or brushed aside by far too many others having the same conversation that Jim and I were having the other day? But, back to the Middle East…

Ze’ev Vladimir Jabotinsky, the no-nonsense realist and patron saint of the Likud, perhaps said it best when he spoke of appetite versus desperation and need.

Love him or hate him, Jabotinsky was honest. And unlike many of his starry-eyed Zionist colleagues almost a century ago, he saw the true nature of the conflict between Arab and Jew in the Middle East.

Leo Pinsker spoke of the need for the "autoemancipation" of the Jews, the perpetual, unwanted guest–never host–ghost people, even before the harsh realities of a supposedly enlightened France opened Theodore Herzl’s eyes. The Dreyfus Affair would soon lead Herzl, the father of modern political Zionism, to write Der Judenstat….The Jewish State. Jabotinsky, likewise, understood all of this as well when he spoke of the Jewish condition both during the pre-and mandatory period for Palestine.

He knew that Arabs also had rights in the region, but when he spoke of this, he expressed it in terms of appetite versus desperation. It was understandable that Arabs, who remembered their own proud, conquering, and caliphal imperial past (imperialism is evidently only a nasty word when non-Arabs so indulge), should want to return to those days of dominance and glory after the collapse of their own rival successor, the over four centuries old Ottoman Turkish Empire.

That Arabs would want to make Palestine their 6th, 7th, or 8th state (today no. #23) made perfect sense to Jabotinsky. But Jews didn’t have this luxury. For them, the familiar pattern of millennial existence– most lately and violently manifested in the pogroms of Eastern Europe and Russia and hints of what was yet to come in Germany–added desperation and necessity to the quest for the rebirth of their own sole state. And while the frightened mellahs of dhimmi Jewish existence in the Arab/Muslim world experienced no "Holocaust" per se, their experience over the ages was also not without memories of massacres, forced conversions, subjugation, humiliation, and existence as kelbi yahudi "Jew dogs" of their neighbors.

While it is true that the suicide/homicide bomber who today deliberately kills innocents also does this out of "passion" and "desperation," Jabotinsky saw the difference…something that too many others today still don’t–or won’t– see. There was no need for this situation to have arisen among the Arabs.

There are those today who like to make the argument, "if Jews can have a state, why not Palestinians?" For some, this is simply an honest slip of ignorance. But for far too many others–academics included–it represents something far worse, for they know better. While I won’t get into argument over whether a distinct Palestinian Arab nationalism exists today, it certainly didn’t exist before the rise of modern political Zionism. In fact, the former arose specifically to negate the latter. There’s volumes of evidence to support this. Virtually all the writings of politically conscious Arabs on the eve of the collapse of the Ottoman Turkish Empire spoke of a greater Syrian Arab or Pan Arab identity. The "Palestinians" were the Jews.

When the Middle East and North Africa were being divided after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire after World War I, the hopes and dreams of many diverse subject peoples were once again reawakened. Britain’s Sir Mark Sykes, America’s President Woodrow Wilson, and others fueled the fires with talk of self determination for those populations. Arabs made out very well in the long term aftermath. Unfortunately, they refused to grant anyone else even the right to think in such terms in what they declared to be "purely Arab patrimony"… be they Kurd, Jew, Berber, black African Sudanese, or whomever..

Since Muhammad and successor imperial Arab armies had also once conquered much of the region (occupying and settling much of it), they saw themselves as the sole legitimate heirs to the Turks. We’re still living with the results of this mindset today. The majority Berbers’ language and culture have been largely "outlawed" in North Africa. A reading of the Kurdish nationalist Ismet Cherif Vanly’s book, The Syrian ‘Mein Kampf’ Against the Kurds (Amsterdam 1968), is instructive as well. Two million Black African Sudanese have been killed, maimed, enslaved, etc. resisting this forced Arabization, and nothing further needs to be said regarding similar attitudes Arabs have had regarding the mere thought of kelbi yahudi Jews–half of whom were refugees themselves from Arab/Muslim lands–having any such political rights in the Dar al-Islam.

None other than the eminent Arab historian, Philip Hitti, had this to say about the matter in his History of the Arabs: "This bipartite (Arab) division of the world into an abode of peace and an abode of war finds parallel in the communistic theory of Soviet Russia."

Yet the problem is even worse than it first appears. Berbers and Kurds, for example, had largely been converted to Islam. It turns out that that was still not enough. Those same Arabs who propagandize today about "racist Zionists" saw/see themselves as the only fit rulers in the region….even over fellow, but non-Arab, Muslims. This attitude helped to lead to the Abbasid Revolution and the uprising of the non-Arab (particularly Iranian) Mawali populations centuries earlier. And it had subsequent implications for the largely ethnic divide between Sunni and Shia Islam as well.

When, in 1922, the British divided the original land of the Mandate for Palestine they received on April 25, 1920 so that all of the territory east of the Jordan River was excluded from the Jews (an act Emir Abdullah attributed to Allah in his memoirs) — 80% of the total area– a story has it that Jabotinsky remained silent. Many, including the British, expected "otherwise," to say the least. Later, when he was asked why he did not speak up after Colonial Secretary Churchill’s machinations, he explained that he wanted to prove the same point that Ehud Barak’s offer at Camp David and Taba seventy-eight years later did: It didn’t matter to Arabs how big a Jewish State was. Any Israel, regardless of size, would not be tolerated. Arabs refused a much-truncated Jewish State after their acquisition of Transjordan in 1922 the same way Arafat insisted that a 9-mile wide Israel, left in peace, was still too much to ask for. Abbas and his fellow Arafatians offer, instead, in their own videotaped words, an updated version of the "peace of the Quraysh," the pagan tribe the Muslim Prophet, Muhammad, made a temporary truce–a hudna– with until he gained the strength to deal the final blow.

While it’s been stated over and over a thousand times, it needs to be said yet again. The passion of the Arab homicide bomber was born because Arabs used their own people as pawns in a political game to deny Jews a tiny sliver of the rights so fervently demanded for themselves. It’s not a matter of Jews wanting to deny "stateless Palestinians" a nation, yet that is often how Israel’s detractors portray the situation. In their attempt to create their 23rd state–on the ashes of Israel–Arabs came to realize that it would make better press to speak in terms of creating a state for "stateless Palestinians" than calling for the creation of a 22nd or 23rd Arab state at the expense of the one of the Jews.

Listen to Zuheir Mohsein, official with the PLO’s military wing and Executive Council, in his interview with the Dutch newspaper, Trouw, on 3/31/77:

" There are no differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians, etc…It is only for political reasons that we now carefully underline Palestinian identity….this serves only a tactical purpose…a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel."

In contrast, the passion of the Jew grew out of millennia of exile, massacres, forced conversions, demonization, dehumanization, ghettoization, expulsions, inquisitions, blood libels, existence as kelbi yahudi and/or "deicide people," the Holocaust, and–as Pinsker eloquently put it in the late 19th century–his status as perpetual stranger in someone else’s land.

My zealousness has also grown out of all these differences.

I get no pleasure when an Arab child is killed. But all of this was truly unnecessary. And the Arab child is not deliberately targeted as his Jewish counterparts are, but is a victim of his own murderous brethren using him as a human shield–a direct violation, by the way, of the Perfidy Clause of the Geneva Conventions.

My passion grows with every pizzeria, teen club, bus, Passover Seder, Bar Mitzvah, and such that is attacked, the victims being killed or disfigured and maimed for life. It is the passion born of the heads of Jewish children deliberately smashed beyond recognition, their blood smeared on the walls of caves where their Arab abductors took them, a generation after Nazis took sadistic pleasure in doing likewise to Jewish infants in front of the eyes of their mothers before sending the latter to the gas chambers. It is the passion born of Arab public displays of fabricated Jewish body parts hanging from ceilings to commemorate such heroic deeds as the pizza parlor disembowelments and incineration. And it is the passion born of the silence of that same United Nations regarding all of this while it is so quick to condemn Israel for the measures it’s forced to take to survive.

So, Jim, I plead guilty. No one will ever claim that I have been ambiguous about any of these issues. And, I must admit, I find it amazing (probably worse) that intelligent and caring people don’t "get it." It’s simply called self-preservation. Or, are Jews not allowed this?

Many in the non-Jewish world don’t want to be reminded of such things because, inevitably, it leads to soul-searching about the role much of the Gentile world had in paving the long and tortured road to Auschwitz over the ages–something, understandably, it would rather not do. It’s much better for one’s own sanity to virtually portray Hitler or Eichmann as alien Martians than to see them as simply the logical, updated byproducts of centuries of violent and indoctrinated Jew-hatred.

Fair and just plans have repeatedly been offered to–and rejected by–Arabs to solve the Arab-Israeli conflict. And it’s necessary to place the very core issue of Arab refugees itself into a much broader perspective.

Hundreds of millions of people became refugees over the last two centuries….many resulting from the partition of the Indian subcontinent into Muslim Pakistan and Hindu India at the same time a similar partition was planned for Arabs and Jews in Palestine. There would have been no Arab refugees had they accepted the 1947 U.N. partition of the 20% of the land left into a Jewish and another Arab state, the latter having already received the lion’s share of the land with the creation of Transjordan in 1922.

Arabs rejected the partition and invaded a newborn, miniscule Israel instead from the surrounding countries…hence the Arab refugees. Before this, Arabs came pouring into Palestine–due to the economic development by the Jews–from all over the Arab world, but especially from Egypt and Syria…Arab settlers building Arab settlements in the land. Scores of thousands were recorded, in just a brief period of time, by the League of Nations Permanent Mandates Commission, coming in from Syria alone.

Regarding the one half of Israel’s Jewish population who were refugees themselves from Arab/Muslim lands, here’s what Sabri Jiryis, Palestinian Arab researcher at the Institute for Palestinian Studies in Beirut, had to say about this in the publication, Al-Nahar, on 5/15/75:

"This is hardly the place to describe how the Jews of Arab states were driven out…how they were shamefully deported to Israel after their property had been confiscated…actually, therefore, what happened was only a kind of ‘population and property exchange,’ and each party must bear the consequences."

President Bush, in his official April 2004 response to Prime Minister Sharon’s Gaza Plan, addressed the refugee issue nicely: Israel would not be required to commit national suicide by absorbing the descendants of real or alleged Arab refugees. Now, if the State Department doesn’t muddy the waters with Foggy doublespeak in an attempt to emasculate the potential for good this statement can bring about by requiring the Arabs to dismiss their pipedream of Israel being delivered up to them on a silver platter a la Czechoslovakia 1938, real progress towards peace might actually become possible.

Unfortunately, Arafat’s "moderate " successor, Mahmoud Abbas, while dressed in a coat and tie and a practitioner of the sugar-coated word, still has such ultimate plans in mind and openly ran for office on a platform calling for Israel’s destruction…but "by other means." His recent deployment of police in Gaza to ward off a major Israeli offensive in response to the latest Arab atrocity–committed under his watch–must thus be understood within this broader context as well.

Arabs could have had their additional state decades ago. The sad reality, however, is that poll after poll taken amongst them still show that even if Israel caved in to virtually all of their demands regarding the disputed territories, as in Jabotinsky’s day, it still would not make a difference in terms of their acceptance of the sole Jewish State. It would simply turn Arafat’s "peace of the Quraysh" into reality.