Sunday 8 October 2023

Israel must decisively defeat its enemies


The coverage of a major story like the Hamas attack on Israel is marred by two things. Prejudice and ignorance.

Israel is treated by its opponents, Hamas, the Islamic world in general, the far Left, Irish Republicans, the BBC etc, etc unlike any other country. This is the prejudice.

There is minimal knowledge and a lack of a fair understanding of the process by which Israel came to be a state and the events that followed this. The history is freely available, but few know it. This is the ignorance.

In 1900 there was no state called Palestine. Indeed, much of the present-day map of the Middle East had yet to be drawn. There was no Lebanon, no Syria, nor Iraq and no Jordan as well as no Israel.

Jewish people began to migrate to what is now called Israel from the late 19th century onwards. Many were motivated by Zionism.

But it is crucial to realise that the justification of the existence of the state of Israel does not depend on agreeing with Zionism.

Some Israelis might think that Israel is theirs because God gave them the land from Dan to Beersheba. That is a matter of theology. This may have been the motivation for many Jewish people migrating to Israel. But Israel exists because of historical and political circumstances.

The Ottoman Empire collapsed after World War One and Britain and France drew the map of the Middle East. Britain controlled Mandatory Palestine from 1920 to 1948.

After the Second World War enough Jewish people had migrated to Mandatory Palestine for the United Nations to decide to partition Mandatory Palestine into a Jewish state (Israel) and a Muslim state (Palestine).

You cannot oppose Jewish migration to the Middle East while you or your family have migrated to Europe. That is prejudice.

At this point in 1948 the Arab world united with the Palestinians to try to annihilate Israel. They lost.

After the war there was no Palestinian state. The Gaza strip was ruled by Egypt and the West Bank was ruled by Jordan.

Many Palestinians were displaced due to the war in 1948 and due to the partition of Mandate Palestine.

But it is important to put this into the context of post World War Two border changes. Between 1944 and 1950 between 12 to 14 million Germans were displaced from their homes in Eastern Europe. Between 500,000 and 2.5 million died.  

Ten to twenty million people were displaced by the partition of India in 1947 and there were between 200,000 and 2 million deaths.

The borders of the world are massively different from what they were in 1900. Many new states arose from empires. One of them was Israel. It arose because of demographic change due to migration. There were in 1948 sufficient Jewish people to justify a state called Israel and sufficient to defend it.

You don’t have to agree with Zionism to support Israel, though of course Jewish people have the right to believe in it if they wish.

Compare and contrast what happened to other populations who were displaced after World War Two. There were between 40 and 60 million displaced people. How many of them or their descendants are still in refugee camps? The only people anywhere who are still in refugee camps are Palestinians who were displaced by the war of 1948. Everyone else made a new life for themselves.

Imagine if on the border between India and Pakistan there were refugee Hindus who had lost their homes in what is now Pakistan. Imagine if periodically they attacked Pakistan with rockets and then randomly assaulted, abducted, raped and murdered Pakistani civilians. How would Pakistan respond?

It would attack with everything it had and not one person living in Bute House would say it was wrong for it to do so.

It would have been dreadful for Hindus to have lost their homes and jobs in Pakistan, but almost no one today thinks about refugees from Pakistan from the time of partition. The reason is that they are not refugees. They accepted the loss of their homes and made new lives in India or elsewhere.

Since 1948 the Arab world has periodically united particularly in 1967 and 1973 to try to annihilate Israel. On each occasion Israel has won and gained control over the West Bank, Gaza and Golan Heights in 1967. But Israel took none of these places from a state called Palestine. It took them from Jordan, Egypt and Syria.

In war it has been normal throughout history for the winning side to gain territory. But somehow it is different when it is Israel. This too is prejudice.

Since the failure of military action against Israel the focus of Palestinian resistance has moved towards terrorism and irregular war.

The root of the problem is that neither the West Bank nor the Gaza Strip are viable as a state. Even if you could form a state from them tomorrow it would depend on either Israel or foreign aid.

If Palestinians were to recognise the state of Israel as a permanently Jewish state, there might be a chance for peaceful cooperation with Gaza and the West Bank for the mutual benefit of everyone. But Palestinians rejected their best chance of peace in 2000 and in 2008 and instead chose to terrorism only this time of the Jihadist variety. They still want to annihilate Israel. How do you make peace with someone who wants all Jews in Israel to die?

It would have been better by far if Palestinians displaced by war in 1948 had been integrated into the Arab world. There is minimal distinction between a Jordanian and a Palestinian either linguistically, culturally or religiously. Neither had a country in 1900.

But it does not look as if Palestinians in Gaza want peace. They seem to be desperate people caught in a tiny strip of land without much opportunity and without much hope. It has grown from a population of around 60,000 in 1948 to 2.3 million. It breeds babies and terrorism, but produces nothing you could sell.

Yesterday’s scenes will have shocked Israel to the core. It is like 1973 all over again though on a smaller scale. No Western country would accept such an attack and nor should Israel.

At some point Israel needs to think about how to permanently solve the problem. It isn’t enough to continually defeat the Arab world in war only to endure terrorism and insurgency forever.

Any reasonable historical assessment shows that Israel has both the right to exist and the right to defend itself. It also has the right to do whatever is necessary to prevent such atrocities as happened yesterday happening ever again. It must decisively defeat its enemies.

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