Sabri, Zuheir, and My Friend Jim
By Gerald A. Honigman
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
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.
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.