Step one: Who actually has a better claim to the land?
The Israelis are in Israel, where for some reason many people do not want them to be. Why is this so? It is necessary to remember that at this point in history there are only two groups of people who currently want the land. Because of this, the question becomes whose claim is stronger, the Israelis’ or the Palestinians’. The answer is the Israelis’. The Israelis are in Israel, where they transformed a useless area into the best desert agriculture in the world. No other civilization has a greater claim to this area. The Israelis’ holiest sites are there, but Islam, the religion of the Palestinians, has their most holy sites in Saudi Arabia. The Israelis are in Israel where no one else wanted to be, as demonstrated by the fact that practically no one wanted to keep their land when the Israelis asked to buy it. They are there on a plot of land smaller than some Texas ranches, where they created a hundred billion dollar economy, while constantly at war. Why should the Israelis have to move? They who have developed the land, they who have offered to share it, they who legally own it. Why should they move, when the only other people who want the land don’t even own it and never have? The answer is that they shouldn’t. The Israelis should own Israel, it is that simple.
Palestinians often imply that their civilization was flourishing before the Israelis destroyed it. Yet, in 1867, Mark Twain took a trip to the area now known as Israel and described the land as, “A desolate country whose soil is rich enough but is given over wholly to weeds. A silent, mournful expanse. We never saw a human being on the whole route. There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country.”
Too long ago? Perhaps the Palestinians developed the land later? In 1913 The Palestinian Royal Commission said about the land, “The road leading from Gaza to the north was only a summer track, suitable for transport by camels or carts. No orange groves, orchards or vineyards were to be seen…. Houses were mud. Schools did not exist. The western part toward the sea was almost a desert. The villages in this area were few and thinly populated. Many villages were deserted by their inhabitants.” Does this seem as if the Palestinians were a thriving civilization?
Now, here’s a modern day description of Israel According to the Denmark Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “The high level of development within the agricultural sector is also the result of … farmers, scientists, extension advisers and agriculture-related industries. The famous Sheri tomato… is the result of an Israeli development… Research and development within the agricultural sector in Israel is highly stimulated by the lack for natural resources. Environmental concerns and availability and cost of human labor are also elements that call for development and new technology in Israel…. The development of greenhouse technology enable an average of 300 tons of tomatoes per hectare per season, four times the yields of open fields… Israel has the highest cotton yields per land unit in the world …[which is]drip irrigated with Israeli made equipment.” The land is no longer barren or desolate. These three examples demonstrate that the claim that Palestine was flourishing before the Israelis took over, is totally baseless.
Because of the dates from when the quotes were given, it is easy to see that the people living in modern day Israel before the Israelis were doing nothing to improve the cultivation. In effect, the people lived there for many years and did nothing then the Israelis came and produced an agricultural success, and suddenly the Palestinians demanded their land back. At the very least, from a fairness point, the Israelis don’t deserve to have their work and labor stolen from them. But the Palestinians argue that the Israelis stole the land in the first place, which is an unfounded claim.
Israel did not steal the land. The land was given to them by the British, bought, and slightly enlarged during defensive wars. Well what if the British stole the land? As this can go on for a while, here is a brief history of the region. First of all, if one goes strictly by “who was there first” it was the Canaanites, who, as shown by the archaeological evidence, no longer exist. After the Canaanites, it was the Jews of Judah, who do still exist and are now the Israelis, and after that, the Babylonians, The Persians, The Greeks, The Jews (again), The Romans, The Byzantines, The Arabs of Arabia, The Umayyad Caliphate, and so on until you come to the most recent Ottomans and British, neither of whom want the land back. You cannot simply say that the short time that the Arabs ruled Israel is any more legitimate than any of the other nations’ claims. Since the Arabs conquered the land by force, and were removed from it by force (not by the Israelis), it seems that they have no more claim than the Jews, who were actually there longer and have been there throughout the whole complicated mess of ownerships. Keep in mind, the time that the land was taken by and from the Arabs was over 1500 years ago. This parcel of land has had many owners, similar to other existing countries. It is apparent that the Israelis didn’t steal the land from any nation, and furthermore, they did not steal it from any inhabitants. Since it wasn’t stolen, it is legitimately owned by the Israelis.
From the onset of World War I, some of the land was owned by people who weren’t living on it, and who were instead living in a variety of other Middle Eastern areas. The people who were actually living on the land were 80% destitute peasants, Bedouins, and nomads. All the same, the Jews were respectful and courteously decided to buy only uninhabited land. They looked for ill-used, swampy, uncultivated, and deserted land to add to their future state. After attaining such land was no longer possible, they sought out willing Arabs who gladly sold their land for more than fair prices. Despite the fact that the land had been legally bought and paid for, in the early 1930’s Lewis French inspected the scene and ended up offering new land to any of the newly “homeless” natives. After checking into the legality of the land claims, French ended up accepting 600 Arabs that qualified to be given new land, and of those only 100 accepted. Even after all of this, Arabs (not calling themselves Palestinians) began attacking Jews. The British looked into this and reported that, “much of the land now carrying orange groves was sand dunes or swamp and uncultivated when purchased…there was at the time of the earlier sales little evidence that the owners possessed either the resources or training needed to develop the land.” Since most of the Arab malcontent was said to be due to orange grove thievery, the claims fell apart. Later, in 1938, Israelis were still buying worthless land, now at ten times the cost per acre of fruitful soil. Arab rebels were still complaining, and still not calling themselves Palestinians. Today’s land was basically attained from (excluding disputed territories):
- 45,000 acres acquired from the British Mandate
- 30,000 acres bought from various churches
- 387,500 acres purchased from Arabs. Land records show that from 1880 to 1948, 73 percent of Jewish plots were purchased from Arab wealthy landowners, not poor peasants. Leaders of the Arab nationalists’ movement, mayors of Jerusalem, Gaza and Jaffa and the father of past PLO chairman Ahmed Shuqeiri sold land to Jews. Even King Abdullah was in the game.
The land was bought. The few displaced people were offered new land. Israel was ready to claim its independence, and to welcome any of the few remaining Arab inhabitants into the new country. All should be said and done, when, for some reason unintelligible to anyone besides themselves, the Arab countries declared war.
One of these reasons couldn’t have been to create a Palestinian state, because the Jews begged the Palestinians to stay, and the Palestinians were not yet making any kind of appeal for a homeland. Though even if they were, the Palestinians could have had a homeland. In fact, they have been offered a homeland at several points in time. In 1937 a Peel Commission partition plan was discussed, which would have given Israel a small part of Galilee and a tiny strip along the coast, practically nothing. Arab Nations unanimously rejected the Peel Commission plan, and didn’t comply with the United Nations partition plan either.
The United Nations Partition Plan (UN Resolution 121) voted on November 29, 1947 to divide the British territory named Palestine into two states, one Arab and one Jewish. The two states would be roughly equal in size and resources, would cooperate on major economic issues, and share currency, roads and government services. The Jews accepted the plan. The Palestinian Arabs refused it and made themselves refugees by voluntarily leaving their land and amassing in the area that is now the West Bank and Gaza. Before the Israelis won the land in the 1967 war, Gaza was owned by Egypt and the West Bank was owned by Jordan. There was still no Palestine to speak of. Now the world looks at Israel as the occupier, whereas, Jordan still occupies so-called Palestinian land and isn’t deemed an occupier. So if all that the Palestinians want is a homeland, why don’t they go ask Jordan for one, seeing as 65% of Jordan is already Palestinian?
The Palestinians have no particular reason for choosing Israel to complain to with demands for land, they don’t have their main religious sites there, nor do they have any great historical significance in that area. With so much land in the Middle East, why the need to own an additional few acres, and why only Israel’s? It is because they don’t want a homeland, they just want Israel to not have one. To quote the comedian Dennis Miller, “Think of all the Arab countries as a football field, and Israel as a pack of matches sitting in the middle of it.” Israel has offered many peace deals handing over their share of the matches; however, none of them has come to fruition. The Israelis moved to Israel and bought awful land for ridiculous prices and then developed it into an agricultural miracle. When the Israelis were offered land, even if it wasn’t ideal, the accepted it. The Palestinians need to learn that beggars can’t be choosers; if they really want a country, maybe they should do as Israel did and take what is being and has been offered. Maybe they should quit complaining about poverty levels and start doing something about them. Israel did. Israel has more right to the land, and despite this, they are willing to share it. The Israelis created Israel. Why should they abandon it?
Step two: Feasible Solutions
An element of practicality has to be applied to the situation. The Israelis are never going to gain all of Israel, whether or not they have more right. So, look at this briefly from an imagined (yet based on true accounts) Palestinian’s view.
I wake up, not really wanting to wake up, but waking up anyway. I turn on the lights, yawning, and walk to the bathroom to brush my teeth. I run water over my tooth brush. My eyes snap open. There is no water and there are no lights. I sigh, knowing that my power and water have been cut off. Again. I hurry now, trying to get ready for school, and then realizes it doesn’t matter anyway, because I’m not allowed to leave my house today. Damn Israelis.
These sob stories are usually true. The Palestinians are oppressed, and for what could arguably be seen as a good reason (the end of suicide bombings). Yet, oppressing people, however justified, is never going to solve anything. So, what can be done? Well, not very much, truth be told, but there are some possible solutions.
The Palestinian/ Israeli conflict is a heated one, with no end in sight. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that there won’t be an end to this conflict, at least in the next few decades. One of the main reasons it isn’t going to end anytime soon is that both sides hate each other, and have hated each other for the last half century. However, the situation can improve, and maybe lead to an eventual peace.
The conflict began in the first half of the nineteenth century (and I know I’m reiterating, but origins are of quintessential importance) , when Jews began calling for a homeland. In 1937 the Peel Commission plan was discussed, which would have given Israel a small part of Galilee and a tiny strip along the coast, practically nothing (UN.org). Arab Nations unanimously rejected the Peel Commission plan, and didn’t comply with the United Nations Partition Plan either. The United Nations Partition Plan (UN Resolution 121) voted to divide the British territory named Palestine into two states, one Arab and one Jewish. The Jews accepted the plan. The Palestinian Arabs refused it and made themselves refugees by voluntarily leaving their land and amassing in the area that is now the West Bank and Gaza. Before the Israelis won the land in the defensive 1967 war, Egypt owned Gaza and Jordan owned the West Bank. And so the current setup arose. The Arabs had left Palestine to camp on the border, sure that their neighbors would drive the Jews out. A few stayed, and they joined Israeli society. The ones who did not began launching rockets at Israel. The Israelis responded by invading Gaza and the West Bank. The Palestinians, infuriated and trying to free themselves, launched more bombs. The Israelis tightened their hold. The Palestinians retaliated, and so on and so forth. Ug.
In 2005, Israel removed all settlers and troops from Gaza, and Palestinian leaders agreed to try and decrease terrorism and hatred. Mahmoud al-Zahar, one of the Palestinian leaders who had promised to try to end the terrorism said that he remains devoted to the elimination of the state of Israel altogether. (San Francisco Chronicle) The other leaders had similar views. All supported the indoctrination camps, the main way that Hamas, a leading terrorist organization, spreads hate. At the indoctrination camps, Hamas gives kids free food, shelter, and lessons in suicide bombing. These camps are not secret, they are open summer camps. By 2007, at least 3000 rockets had been fired at Israel from Gaza. In response to the rockets coming over their border, and the Palestinian government over looking it, Israelis finally responded by firing two missiles at the town from which the rockets were being launched. 21 innocent Palestinian civilians died that day, because bombers would purposefully launch rockets out of populated areas. Palestinian terrorists use civilians as shields, and this simply ups casualty rates.
Another problem is financial; Israel has been able to cut Palestinian power and water because they supply it. Israel supplies 60% (BBC) of Gaza’s electricity, and they are threatening to stop supplying it the next time a rocket surpasses the border. Gaza isn’t happy, but also won’t stop the rockets. The world community says that Israel is responsible for the health of the people from Gaza, as they still control their borders. Israelis argue that they aren’t going to provide the means for their own demise.
A further problem is that of the Palestinian civil war. Hamas and Fatah are vying for power, and Israel is trying to deal with both of them, at once, though they often have wildly differing opinions. To top that off, the land positioning itself is hard to cope with. The West Bank is on the east side of Israel, and Gaza is to the west. This puts Israel between what it sees as two hostile powers.
Now, I’m not going to say this is all someone’s fault. Throwing blame around and trying to prove someone innocent is not going to solve the problem. The only reason the history is even necessary is to understand the situation. So whether England, Israel, the Palestinians, or a rapid monkey from Mars is the ultimate cause of the problem, obviously, something is not working. Retaliation after retaliation is never going to lead to peace. But what will? Israelis can not be expected to trust the people who are bombing them enough to leave them alone completely, and Palestinians can not be expected to deal with water and power cuts, refugee camps, and long waits to get from one point to another, due to check points. The Israelis are not likely to remove the checkpoints, as they’ve cut down the rates of suicide bombings. The answer is not unilateral land for peace treaties, as historically, those have failed. Dennis Ross recommends small steps. He thinks that if Israel were to make the checkpoints faster to get through, perhaps by giving them to private companies, and if the Palestinians were to end the indoctrination camps, progress could begin to start. He says that this will help both sides see that the other is trying. I’m firmly in favor of this plan, as it’s the only logical one around. Giving the Israelis all of the land that they bought and paid for, and sending the Palestinians off to Jordan, already over half Palestinian, while it might be fair, is not going to happen. Driving all the Israelis into the sea isn’t going to happen, either, no matter how much they might deserve it. The only option is to hope, hope that small steps work like nothing else has, and hope that younger generations, free of propaganda, will be able to come together and bring peace. I’m skeptical. But hey, I’d be so happy if they proved me wrong.
Anti Defamation League, 2002.
“AGRICULTURE AND AGRO-TECHNOLOGY.” Ministry of Foreign Affaris Denmark. 30 Nov. 2006. Ministry of Foreign Affairs Denmark Embassy of Denmark, Tel Aviv. 11 Jan. 2007 <http://www.ambtelaviv.um.dk/en/menu/CommercialServices/MarketOpportunities/SectorAnalysis/FoedevarerLandbrugOgFiskeri/Agriculture/>.
Auster, Lawrence. “How Strong is the Arab Claim to Palestine?” FrontPageMagazine. 30 Aug. 2004. 11 Jan. 2007 <http://www.frontpagemag.com/Articles/ReadArticle.asp?ID=14858>.
Bard, Mitchell G. Myths and Facts: A Guide to the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Chevy Chase: American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise, 2006.
Gold, Dore. “Jerusalem Issue Brief.” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs. 26 Aug. 2005. Institute for Contemporary Affairs. 11 Jan. 2007 <http://www.jcpa.org/brief/brief005-3.htm>.
Inhofe, Senator James M. “Memorable Speeches and Letters.” Israel Net Daily. 1 Apr. 2002. 11 Jan. 2007 <http://www.israelnetdaily.com/index.php?menu_option=speeches&speech=5>.
Shusteff, Boris. “A Second Palestine.” Freeman Center for Strategic Studies. 1995. Freeman Center for Strategic Studies. 11 Jan. 2007 <http://www.freeman.org/m_online/jun98/shusteff.htm>.