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www.capecodonline.com

The Sorrow of Truman

by Sean Gonsalves, The Cape Cod Times Tuesday, November 28, 2000

If you want to understand any conflict, you've got to look at its origins. Unfortunately, the public dialog in this country over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is carried on with little historical context.

The popular picture drawn for us by politicians, pundits and the press is "the standard Zionist position," to borrow a phrase from Jews for Justice in the Middle East, a Berkeley-based group of progressive Jewish brothers and sisters.

What is "the standard Zionist position"? In the late 19th century, Jews went to Palestine to reclaim their ancestral homeland. They bought land and began developing their own Jewish community. That settlement was met with increasing Arab hostility - an inevitable occurrence because of inherent anti-Semitism among Arabs.

Therefore, Israelis were forced to defend themselves as they continue to do right up until today. Sure, Israel is sometimes at fault in these occasional skirmishes, but the Palestinians are irrational "terrorists" whose grievances are not even worth considering, according to popular opinion.

If this view were correct, then a few things need to be explained. For starters, how about the words of David Ben-Gurion as quoted in "The Jewish Paradox" by Nahum Goldmann, former president of the World Jewish Congress: "Why should the Arabs make peace? If I was an Arab leader, I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, it's true, but 2000 years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we came here and stole their country. Why should they accept that?"

Now, it wasn't that long ago when one in three Jews were systematically murdered - not by Arabs, mind you, but by "Christians," . So it's easy to understand just how seriously Jewish brothers and sisters proclaim: "Never again." What decent soul would have a hard time empathizing with that?

Between 3000 and 1100 B.C., Canaanite civilization spanned modern-day Israel, the West Bank, Lebanon and portions of Jordan and Syria. Those who stayed in the hills of Jerusalem after the Roman expulsion of Jews in the second century A.D. were a mix of farmers, vineyard growers, pagans, Christian converts, Arab descendants, Persians, Samaritans, Greeks and old Canaanite tribes, according to historians Marcia Kunstel and Joseph Albright.

In the 7th century A.D., Arab invaders turned lots of natives into Muslim converts and the area was completely Arabized. Now, the extended Kingdoms of David and Solomon, which is what Zionists stake their land claims on, lasted for only about 73 years.

According to Ilene Beatty's "Arab and Jew in the Land of Canaan," even "if we allow independence to the entire life of the ancient Jewish kingdoms, from David's conquest of Canaan in 1000 B.C. to the wiping out of Judah in 586 B.C., we arrive at (only) a 414-year Jewish rule."

In contrast, the vast majority of the people in Palestine have been Arabic since the 7th century - that's over 1,300 years.

Much has been said about Arab promises to destroy Israel. Could that be related to what Zionist leader Ahad Ha'am was writing about as early as 1891? The Arabs, he said, "understand very well what we are doing and what we are aiming at."

Theodor Herzl, one of Zionism's founding fathers, elaborates: "We shall try to spirit the penniless (Arab) population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it any employment in our own country ... Both the process of expropriation and the removal of the poor must be carried out discreetly and circumspectly."

I don't see how there can be peace without justice. And I don't see how there can be justice without confronting the brutal facts. At the very least, shouldn't we be asking why Israel continues to violate, with impunity, numerous U.N. resolutions, fully supported by the United States, a nation that claims to be the moral exemplars and guardians of the "rule of law"?

Harry Truman had an answer to that question. "I am sorry gentlemen, but I have to answer to hundreds of thousands who are anxious for the success of Zionism," he said. "I do not have hundreds of thousands of Arabs among my constituents."

I'm sorry, too. To which sorrowful constituency do you belong?

Sean Gonsalves is a Cape Cod Times staff writer and syndicated columnist.

Copyright (c) 2000 Cape Cod Times


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