Eretz Israel is our unforgettable historic homeland...The Jews who will it shall achieve their State...And whatever we attempt there for our own benefit will redound mightily and beneficially to the good of all mankind. (Theodor Herzl, DerJudenstaat, 1896)

We offer peace and amity to all the neighbouring states and their peoples, and invite them to cooperate with the independent Jewish nation for the common good of all. The State of Israel is ready to contribute its full share to the peaceful progress and development of the Middle East.
(From Proclamation of the State of Israel, 5 Iyar 5708; 14 May 1948)

With a liberal democratic political system operating under the rule of law, a flourishing market economy producing technological innovation to the benefit of the wider world, and a population as educated and cultured as anywhere in Europe or North America, Israel is a normal Western country with a right to be treated as such in the community of nations.... For the global jihad, Israel may be the first objective. But it will not be the last. (Friends of Israel Initiative)

Thursday 9 September 2010

From the River to the Sea – Public Opinion in Palestine

During August, AWRAD (Arab World for Research and Development) polled Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza regarding their thoughts on a peace agreement with Israel.  The entire poll, which makes fascinating reading, can be seen on the organisation's website, but here are a few of the questions and responses, which will give you the flavour:

 "With regards to the final status of Palestine and Israel please indicate which of the following you consider to be Essential, Desirable, Acceptable, Tolerable or Unacceptable as part of a peace agreement"
Historic Palestine – from the Jordan River to the sea as a national homeland for Palestinians – Essential, 78.2%; Two state solution – two states for two peoples: Israel and Palestine according to UN resolutions – Essential, 17.7%; One joint state – a state in which Israelis and Palestinians are equal citizens between the Jordan River and the sea. – Essential, 9.6%
“With regards to refugees please indicate which of the following options you consider to be Essential, Desirable, Acceptable, Tolerable or Unacceptable as part of a peace agreement”
Right of Return and Compensation – Essential, 85.7%
"With regards to Jerusalem please indicate which of the following options you consider to be Essential, Desirable, Acceptable, Tolerable or Unacceptable as part of a peace agreement"
All of Jerusalem (East and West) should remain in Palestine – Essential, 84.1%
"With regards to Holy sites please indicate which of the following options you consider to be Essential, Desirable, Acceptable, Tolerable or Unacceptable as part of a peace agreement"
East Jerusalem, including holy sites, under Palestinian sovereignty –  Essential, 82.0%

In short, the majority of respondents – like the groupies of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign here in the West, with their chant of “Palestine shall be Free, from the River to the Sea”, want almost all of Eretz Israel and are none too bothered about the rights and status of the Jews within it.

It was a brilliant piece of rebranding on the part of Arafat and cohorts – that decision back in the 1960s to define themselves as Palestinians. It implied a traditional sense of peoplehood and an ownership of the land of Palestine (as the Romans had rebranded Judea) stretching back eons. Never mind that the Arabs of Eretz Israel were not a national entity, that they sojourned on land that belonged to the Turks and were not a sovereign people, that many of them had arrived in Eretz Israel from elsewhere in the region to seek work from Jews making a barren land bountiful. No, never mind those inconvenient though salient facts. The term conveyed the opposite impression, and was a fantastic (in both senses) public relations coup. It’s certainly managed to hoodwink the gullible and those who either won’t learn history or who for reasons best known to themselves refuse to face true facts.

One afternoon last week I logged off from my computer and went for a nice long walk in the sun. It was a “scorcher” of a day, and most people who could get away from work were crowding the nearby beaches and parks. Not so the shrill and fanatical little all-female coven of local Palestine Solidarity Campaign “peace activists” (yeah, right), who in the sweltering heat were at their town-centre post as usual mid-week in and mid-week out, with their Palestinian flags and tee-shirts emblazoned with the Palestinian colours and their printed signs calling for an end to the siege on Gaza. As I passed, a new sign, huge and handmade, pinned alongside their trestle table bearing collecting tins for the convoy – the “mother of all flotillas” – due to leave for Gaza shortly, caught my beady Zionist eye. In large untidy black capitals on a blood-red background it asked, as if accusing both Israel and the world in general, “Whatever happened to Palestine?” I got closer, and saw those familiar maps – that set of four that does yeoman service to the mendacious Palestine Solidarity Campaign and other Israel-demonising organisations – distorting history and depicting the Israelis as ruthless, heartless, lawless land-stealers. And there were the leaflets, which speak of Zionism as a European colonial enterprise.  The true facts of Jewish attachment to the land of Israel are invisible.

That the resettlement of Jews in their ancient homeland has a long history is encapsulated in this letter (printed in the Jewish Chronicle, 16 June 1854) from Rabbi Joseph Schwarz. He had lived in Jerusalem since 1841, being one of the thousands of Jews living in the four sacred cities of the ancient homeland. Such cities, for example Judaism’s second most holy city Hebron, now the largest city in the West Bank, had an unbroken Jewish presence dating back possibly to Biblical, and certainly to medieval, times:

“[T] he land of Israel has been a place of refuge to us in many a trouble, and when the Inquisition of Spain induced the king and queen of Castile, Ferdinand and Isabella, to expel the Jews from the Iberian Peninsula, followed, as they soon were, by the King of Portugal, thousands turned their steps to the shores of Palestine, and became the founders of the Portuguese congregations still existing there, and they carried with them as to other parts of Turkey, the language of Spain, which still continues in the vernacular tongue [Ladino]. By degrees other emigrants from Africa, Poland and Germany joined them, and all clung with a holy devotion, amidst every suffering, to the place of the sepulchres of their fathers, a land endeared to every son.”

And not only that. Before the advent of the Jewish agricultural communities in the nineteenth century the land was sparsely populated and underworked. Wrote Schwarz:

“It is not now, as formerly, that the whole land is covered with villages and towns, and every foot of land rendered productive by the industry of man; for the far larger number of towns are totally destroyed, and the land is waste: there are no inhabitants to cultivate it. The terraces on the hills, which produced food in abundance, have been washed away by the winter rains, since the industry of the husbandman has ceased to guard them against destruction; and what land is still productive lies fallow, because of the wandering Bedouin, who loves to reap where he has not sown. Commerce is scarcely known; navigation is not attended to; the mechanic arts are not needed in a country where the inhabitants have few wants as the roving Arabs who now dwell there; wherefore, with all their efforts, it is almost impossible for the few Israelites, who chiefly dwell at Jerusalem, Hebron, Zafed and Tiberias to obtain a livelihood.”

There are many old accounts, by both Jews and Christians, of the sparsity of the population of the Holy Land in the nineteenth century and of the land’s sad decay – and from time to time I’ll include some, making their long-dead authors “guest bloggers”, so to speak.


  1. I have shared this post at The Astute Bloggers.

  2. Robert Fisk, in The Independent, 7 Sept (online) has a great article entitled "The crimewave that shames the world" about honour killings. It's an outstanding and courageous piece - credit where it's due, although I'm normally no fan of Mr Fisk - and includes this passage:
    'And so it goes on. Three men in Amman stabbing their 40-year-old divorced sister 15 times last year for taking a lover; a Jordanian man charged with stabbing to death his daughter, 22, with a sword because she was pregnant outside wedlock. Many of the Jordanian families were originally Palestinian. Nine months ago, a Palestinian stabbed his married sister to death because of her "bad behaviour". But last month, the Amman criminal court sentenced another sister-killer to 10 years in prison, rejecting his claim of an "honour" killing – but only because there were no witnesses to his claim that she had committed adultery.
    In "Palestine" itself, Human Rights Watch has long blamed the Palestinian police and justice system for the near-total failure to protect women in Gaza and the West Bank from "honour" killings. Take, for example, the 17-year-old girl who was strangled by her older brother in 2005 for becoming pregnant – by her own father.
    He was present during her murder. She had earlier reported her father to the police. They neither arrested nor interrogated him. In the same year, masked Hamas gunmen shot dead a 20-year-old, Yusra Azzami, for "immoral behaviour" as she spent a day out with her fiancée. Azzami was a Hamas member, her husband-to-be a member of Fatah. Hamas tried to apologise and called the dead woman a "martyr" – to the outrage of her family. Yet only last year, long after Hamas won the Palestinian elections and took over the Gaza Strip, a Gaza man was detained for bludgeoning his daughter to death with an iron chain because he discovered she owned a mobile phone on which he feared she was talking to a man outside the family. He was later released.'


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