Dr. Martin Sherman, founder and CEO of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies, is one of Israel’s foremost strategic policy analysts and a strong supporter of an independent Jewish state with an undivided capital in Jerusalem.
After watching Israeli leaders blunder through one policy mistake after the other and make concession after concession to Israel’s mortal enemies, Dr.Sherman is convinced that the Israeli government needs a major change of attitude. He expressed his concerns with this subtle but scathing critique of Israeli policy:
“For all those who genuinely desire a cessation to the violence and bloodshed, a fundamental reassessment of the validity of the conventional wisdom adopted so far is sorely needed.”
Israel is a nation in crisis, confronted by a world that is becoming increasingly hostile to the very concept of a Jewish state. The good people of our world hoped and prayed that the human race gained a measure of wisdom after the shame of the Holocaust, but sadly, we are facing the ugly realization that Jew hate is beginning to make a frightening comeback in the 21st century and much of that hatred is wrapped in an unreasoning desire to destroy the nation of Israel.
There was a time when Israel had the blessings of the free nations of the world, but today many of those same nations manage only tepid support for the Jewish State, while their diplomats and leaders mumble in private that re-establishing Israel in 1948 was the worst mistake of the 20th century. They bemoan the plight of the Palestinians, revive ancient blood libels that caused the slaughter of countless Jews and blame Israel for the world’s problems, while ignoring centuries of persecution and murder of the Jewish people and decades of terror attacks against Israel.
World leaders like Sarkozy and Obama insult Israel’s Prime Minister behind his back and refuse to hold President Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority or the homicidal Hamas terrorists in Gaza responsible for their complete unwillingness to recognize Israel as the nation of the Jewish people and begin honest peace negotiations. The West needs Arab oil more than they need Israel and now that the crimes of Adolph Hitler and 1900 years of Jewish suffering are once again fading from the collective memory of humanity, Israel is largely on her own.
As Israel struggles to maintain her legitimacy in the face of constant hostility, Dr. Martin Sherman is one of the few public figures willing to speak about the Jewish state without pulling punches or hiding his opinions behind a clever facade of political mumbo jumbo. Dr. Sherman has only one goal and that is the survival of Israel.
Join us now as The Inquisitr presents Part One of our revealing interview with Dr. Martin Sherman.
Wolff Bachner: Dr. Sherman, it is a pleasure to welcome you to The Inquisitr.
Why is Israel held to an unattainable and highly biased standard of behavior, while so many other nations get a free pass to butcher their citizens by the thousands and invade neighboring countries?
The recent mantra among Europeans and liberal Americans is “I don’t hate Jews, but I hate Israel’.” Do you feel the criticism of Israel is based on legitimate political issues or is the constant bashing of Israel a new form of Jew hate?
Dr. Sherman: Let me answer your questions in two parts:
(a) On the one hand – yes! Definitely, I do think it is starkly obvious that Israel is being held to deplorable double-standards that indisputably reflect the existence of widespread Judeophobia.
(b) On the other hand, I am convinced that, to a considerable degree, it has been Israel’s action (or inaction) in responding to this loathsome phenomenon that has allowed it to grow and to reach disturbing dimensions we see today
With regard to the first part on my answer:
There is little doubt in my mind that while legitimate criticism can be leveled at Israel, and that not all such criticism can be dismissed as “anti-Semitism” or “Judeophobia” (the term I feel is more accurate), the enduring and unmistakable application of iniquitous double standards to whatever the Jewish state does—or does not do—make anti-Semitism/Judeophobia an increasingly plausible explanation.
This is something I have tried to underscore in the past— for example, challenging the rationale as to why, the military operations conducted by the IDF in Gaza on the one hand, and actions of NATO forces in say Kosovo on the other should be judged by disparate criteria—see here and here.
After all, in Kosovo, high-altitude (some would say, indiscriminate) bombing by NATO, including the use of cluster bombs, inflicted hundreds of civilian Serbian casualties in hospitals, old age homes, market-places, passenger trains on bridges, buses cut in half while crossing ravines, and convoys of refugees fleeing the fighting. Moreover, it should be remembered that all this took place in a military campaign during which not a single civilian in any NATO nation was ever threatened by Serbian action—which contrasts starkly with the situation in Israel, where Israeli citizens are threatened continually from Gaza.
Indeed, very similar queries could be raised as to NATO operations in Afghanistan where military action was undertaken in response to a single terror attack on a single NATO member. Although reliable figures are difficult to come by, estimates of civilian deaths caused directly by NATO military action since 2001 are in the range of 12,000-15,000, with additional indirect fatalities estimated at up to 20,000. (Significantly, relative to its population size, the number of fatalities incurred by the US in the 9/11 attack, which were the justification of the Afghanistan operation, would be equivalent to the fatalities Israel incurred in only two of the almost 200 suicide bomber attacks it suffered during the last Intifada. In fact the official Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimate of 1190 fatalities in Israel due to Palestinian terror between 2000 and 2005 alone would be equivalent to over 50,000 (!!) in the US.)
Regrettably, this application of these grossly discriminatory double standards is not something confined to Israel’s non-Jewish detractors. Many of Israel’s most damaging critics on this score are Jewish.
I once challenged Peter Beinart (Temple Beth Am Los Angeles June 21, 2010) to explain the blatant double standards in the way he assesses Israel’s behavior. His rather glib – and unoriginal – response was to claim that while Israel was “far morally superior to North Korea, Syria Libya and Iran”, these were not relevant criteria he would expect from a Jewish state, and that he should not have to “compromise [his expectations from Israel] just because North Korea is worse”.
Of course this is a response that must be summarily dismissed. For it is not only in comparison to the tyrannies in Tehran and Tripoli and the dictatorships in Damascus and the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) that Israel is being held to double standards.
For as I pointed out previously, widely divergent criteria are used to judge the actions of Israel and those of the leading democratic countries that comprise NATO as the cases of the Balkans and Afghanistan clearly indicate.
So to summarize the first part of my answer: Yes, part of the biased bile directed against Israel can most credibly be ascribed to Judeophobic impulses that conflate anti-Israel sentiments with anti-Jewish ones.
However, moving onto the second part of my answer:
While some of the animosity towards Israel can certainly be attributed to visceral hate of Jews and all things Jewish this is only part of the story. Much of the anti-Israel sentiment prevalent in the international arena is a product of incompetence and impotence of Israel’s public diplomacy and the vigor (or lack thereof ) in how it presents its case to the world.
The failure of Israel to defend its image—never mind, advance—its image abroad has given its detractors virtually free hand in attacking it and in undermining its international legitimacy. This has the inevitable result of allowing the animosity towards Israel to grow unchecked, leaving its supporters abandoned without adequate arguments to defend it – or themselves – against the unfounded defamation and slander.
This diplomatic debacle is in fact a grave dereliction of duty by the Jewish state and its official organs. For it has not only made it far more difficult to publicly support, defend and identify with Israel and Zionism. It has made it considerably more dangerous.
Indeed, Israel’s anemic efforts to explain its policies and the constraints and imperatives that mold it –reflected, among other things, by the miserly budgets it allots its public diplomacy–are putting Jewish communities across the world increasingly at risk. For through their association with Israel, they have become surrogate targets for the anger the distorted portrayal of the country has aroused among numerous sectors across the globe.
This situation was rather caustically, but aptly, diagnosed by the very eloquent British columnist Melanie Philips, a staunch supporter of Israel, who in a brilliant but scathing interview on Israeli TV, scolded: “Israel has made itself defenseless…Israel has vacated the battlefield of ideas…”
So to summarize the second part of my answer: While there is undoubtedly a kernel of chronic Judeophobia that goes into forging anti-Israel sentiment in international forums, Israel has not only done little to curb this deplorable malaise, but has actually facilitated much of its rapid spread by eschewing a robust and assertive defense of its rights, and of the policies necessary to defend those rights.
Wolff Bachner: As one of Israel’s foremost strategic policy analysts, what do you think Israel should do to fight the constant de-legitimization she is facing from the Palestinians, the United Nations, the European Union and the Obama Administration?
Is there any point in Israel remaining in the United Nations?
Dr. Sherman: While I would certainly agree as to the virulent anti-Israel animus that pervades the UN and many of its associated institutions and organizations such as the absurd UNHRC (UNHuman Rights Council), Israel’s beleaguerment at the UN and elsewhere such as the EU cannot be seen as disconnected to what I began to discuss in answer to your previous question – Israel’s abysmal performance in its public diplomacy efforts.
I think the question should be reversed. Rather than asking what the point is in Israel remaining in the UN, one might ask what would be gained by leaving it?
Indeed, such a measure likely comprises no more than a somewhat hollow declarative gesture of defiance with little material benefits accruing in its wake,
Such a move would hardly reduce Israel’s isolation, moderate the criticism of it and its policy, or prevent punitive action being taken against it. Indeed, quite the opposite might be true. It might be portrayed as a victory for Israel’s enemies in succeeding in driving it out of the fold of the “community of nations” and turning it into a pariah state.
So, I believe that withdrawal from the UN would in fact constitute a strategic surrender and an admission by Israel that the Truth cannot triumph over Falsehood. Rather than cut and run Israel should stand its ground and fight back—with far greater vigor and resources than has been the case until now.
Remember the UN has comprised an important podium for Israeli leaders to put their case. Benjamin Netanyahu has delivered several impressive addresses – which of course did not convince the UN delegates present, but because of the venue, received massive international coverage.
We should also not forget that Israel has had some victories at the UN – The Obama-administration’s reluctant veto of the anti-settlement resolution in Feb. 2011. Likewise, the Palestinians failed to muster sufficient support in the Security Council for its unilateral bid for statehood in Nov. of the same year.
Then there is the issue of membership in the numerous UN affiliated specialist organizations which engage in variety of important activities ranging from maritime safety and planning and development of international air transport, through the protection of intellectual property and the promotion of tourism, to the coordination of postal policies, and meteorological, climatological, hydrological and geophysical research.
All of these provide useful frameworks for Israeli experts, beneficial cooperation, information and networking, which could be jeopardized by abandoning the UN.
Moreover, Israel has seen hostile initiatives thwarted in these agencies, for example a Qatari initiative to relocate the headquarters of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the triennial conference from Montreal to Dohar (the Qatari capital), reportedly in an attempt to embarrass Canada for the pro-Israel policies of its Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, were convincingly foiled.
Recently, even the EU berated the biased bile of United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) special rapporteur Richard Falk, denouncing as inaccurate and biased a report against Israel which he delivered to the body in Geneva earlier this month (June). It issued a strong statement, lamenting that:
“The EU continues to regret the unbalanced mandate of the Special Rapporteur and is also concerned that parts of the report include political considerations. In the past, the EU emphasized that future reports should be based on a more factual and legal analysis, and we regret to see no genuine progress in that direction.”
In addition, The United States Ambassador to the UNHRC Eileen Donahoe called for Falk’s resignation.
So while I would not wish in any way to understate the gravity of Israel’s international position, there are several rays of light that not only should not be disregarded but should be considered indicators that much can be done with sufficient resolve, resources resourcefulness.
In conclusion, I would caution that the choice of optimal responses toward the pervasive hostility wards Israel in various international forums, including the UN, should not be assessed on the basis of the current state of affairs which in large measure is the consequences of Israel’s own actions (or lack thereof) and its anemic and apologetic defense of itself and its policies. Rather than abandoning international arenas, the conclusion should be that Israel requires a far more robust performance in presenting its case and its constraints in those arenas—not because such a performance will convert the participants to become pro-Israel, but to use the podiums they provide to reach a wider external audience, who otherwise will not be exposed to Israel’s side of events.
Wolff Bachner: Since Israel evicted the Jordanian Army from Jerusalem and re-united the city in 1967, Jerusalem has been the official capital of Israel, yet not one single nation is willing to locate their Embassy in Jerusalem.
Should all nations with an Embassy in Tel Aviv be required to move their Embassy to Jerusalem? How should Israel deal with any nation that refuses to locate their Embassy in Jerusalem?
Dr. Sherman: Jerusalem of course has great emotive, historical and symbolic significance for the Jewish people, and thus often discussed as if it were a separate issue from the other territorial issues in dispute. This is of course understandable from emotional and faith-based viewpoint, but tends to “tunnel vision” politically and strategically.
For it is not possible to ensure the future development and security of the city without securing its environs. It is thus impossible to decouple the issue of Jerusalem from the wider territorial context.
Ironically, one of the first people to articulate this was none other than the arch-Oslowian architect, Shimon Peres. In a programmatic book entitled “Tomorrow is now”, published in 1977, he urged Israel:
“to create a continuous stretch of new settlements; to bolster Jerusalem and the surrounding hills, from the north, from the east, and from the south and from the west, by means of the establishment of townships, suburbs and villages – Ma’ale Edumin, Ofra, Gilo, Bet-El, Givon, and IDF camps and Nahal [IDF] outposts – to ensure that the capital and its flanks are secured, and underpinned by urban and rural settlements. These settlements will be connected to the coastal plain and Jordan Valley by new lateral axis roads”
If Israel were more robust in pressing its territorial claims to the entire area of Judea and Samaria its retention of a united Jerusalem would be a natural corollary. Sadly, Israel’s anemic ambivalent stance on the former undermines its positions on the latter.
However, Jerusalem has not always been totally shunned by the international diplomatic community. Up until the passing of UNSC resolution 478 in 1980, condemning Israel’s attempted annexation of East Jerusalem, 13 countries Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El-Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, the Netherlands, Panama, Uruguay and Venezuela had their embassies in Jerusalem,. Costa Rica and El Salvador moved theirs back to Jerusalem in 1984. Costa Rica moved its embassy back to Tel Aviv in 2006 followed by El Salvador a few weeks later.
Senior diplomats from Costa Rica with whom I spoke, expressed a little disappointment and surprise at the Israeli attitude towards them, and hinted that Israel had not been overly resolute in trying to dissuade them to relocate their diplomatic missions to Tel Aviv.
Moreover, the US legislature has also repeatedly called for the recognition of an undivided Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and relocation of the American Embassy to the city.
Numerous resolutions have been passed including those sponsored or co-sponsored by Vice President Joe Biden have called for both the unity of the city under Israeli rule and for the transfer of its embassy to Jerusalem.
For example, Resolution S.CON.RES.113 (June 18, 1992) co-sponsored by Sen. Joseph R Biden Jr. (D-Delaware) declares:
“Whereas in 1990, the US Senate and House of Representatives overwhelmingly declared that Jerusalem, the capital of Israel, “must remain an undivided city”… therefore, be it – Resolved by the Senate (the House of Representatives concurring) That the Congress… strongly believes that Jerusalem must remain an undivided city in which the religious rights of every ethnic and religious group are protected as they have been by Israel during the past twenty-five years; and calls upon the President and the Secretary of State to issue an unequivocal statement in support of these principles.”
Likewise, Section. 212 of the “Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 2002 and 2003,” relating to “United States policy with respect to Jerusalem as the capital of Israel,” sponsored by Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Delaware), cosponsor of the 1995 Jerusalem Embassy Act stipulates that:
“Congress maintains its commitment to relocating the United States Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and urges the President, pursuant to the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995… to immediately begin the process of relocating the United States Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem…. None of the funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act may be available for the publication of any official government document which lists countries and their capital cities unless the publication identifies Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. [My emphasis]“
Significantly the cited Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 was also cosponsored by Joe Biden. In it, it specifically states:
“The Congress makes the following findings:
… Each sovereign nation, under international law and custom, may designate its own capital.
… STATEMENT OF THE POLICY OF THE UNITED STATES.-
(1) Jerusalem should remain an undivided city in which the rights of every ethnic and religious group are protected;
(2) Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel; and
(3) the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999.”
Regrettably, Israel has done little to mobilize pressure for the implementation of these resolutions and has chosen to allow pro-Arab pressures to determine US policy on this issue.
Paradoxically, the recent decision of the EU to impose sanctions on all Israeli activities beyond the pre-1967 lines has underscored the weakness of the Israeli Jerusalem policy.
For by implication, even the EU, who has never been suspected of an overly warm attitude towards Israel, acknowledges the legitimacy of Israeli presence in West Jerusalem lying within those lines. Therefore, even if one is willing to accept that the fate of East Jerusalem should be decided in a future peace agreement, there seems no reason to resign ourselves to the refusal of foreign nations to locate their embassies in the western part of the city—which allegedly they see as an undiluted part of the Israel—whatever the outcome of any envisaged peace pact.
In conclusion, although it is probably realistic to expect Israel to be able to coerce foreign countries to relocate their embassies to Jerusalem, I feel Israel has been far too reticent in pressing its claims both for recognition of a united Jerusalem as the nation’s capital and as the site for foreign embassies. But even given the lack of foreign recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the eastern portions of the city, there is no excuse for not insisting that countries who conduct diplomatic relations with it locate their embassies in its declared capital.
Wolff Bachner: In a recent Interview I conducted for The Inquisitr with your colleague, Adina Kutnicki, she made the following statement about the importance of an undivided Jerusalem to the Jewish people:
“As to Jerusalem, the heart and soul of Zion, whither it goes, so too does the fate of Israel, as well as the Jewish people. It is inconceivable that Israel would survive without Jerusalem intact, and dare I suggest, there would be little reason left for its existence, sans an intact eternal capital.”
What legal or moral justification does the State of Israel have to claim sovereignty over the entire city of Jerusalem?
Do you think a future Israeli leader may disregard the wishes of the people of Israel and make a unilateral decision to divide Jerusalem?
Dr. Sherman: As I stated previously, Jerusalem has unique significance historically, spiritually and symbolically for Israel and the Jewish people which provide them with claims far stronger than those that can be made by any other party.
In my view any thought of re-division of the city is inconceivable and unjustifiable by any criterion.
In the contemporary context of course the moral justification of Israel sovereignty over the entire city is clear. After all, this was achieved by victory in a defensive war, prior to which Jews were not only barred from the eastern parts of the city. but many Jewish sites under the previous Jordanian regime were destroyed and defiled, in stark contrast to the scrupulous preservation of religious freedom and access to religious sites under Israeli administration.
With regard to the legal aspect, I believe the question of political legitimacy is far more important than the formal legality. There are a plethora of competing and conflicting legal opinions regarding the status of Jerusalem, each reflecting, and rooted in a given political perspective.
Israel needs to adopt a clear unequivocal political position on Jerusalem, unambiguously laying out moral and historical foundations for the legitimacy of its unique, and unassailable claim to the entire city, and conveying its resolute refusal to negotiate any division of sovereignty over it. Once this is done the appropriate legal opinion to reflect this will be found and the “legalistics” of the situation will fall into place.
However, as I mentioned earlier, I believe it is an error to look at Jerusalem in separation from the larger area of Judea and Samaria. After all, we should remember that the idea of dividing Jerusalem is invariably raised as part of a wider policy involving withdrawing from other areas. It is therefore crucial to discredit the idea of territorial withdrawal in general, to forestall pressures for the division of Jerusalem.
You ask: “Do you think a future Israeli leader may disregard the wishes of the people of Israel and make a unilateral decision to divide Jerusalem?”
While perhaps no leader would make a unilateral decision to divide Jerusalem (outside the framework of a negotiated accord), I have no doubt that there would be leaders who would certainly be prepared to divide it as part of a “negotiated settlement”. Indeed, Ehud Olmert explicitly declared his willingness to do so. Given the recent capitulations by Netanyahu, I am far from confident that he will not also eventually agree to a division of the city under US and international pressure, backed—indeed even spurred on by vocal domestic Left-wing elements
Sadly, with Netanyahu’s capitulation to Kerry’s latest pressures, experience, has (once again) proven that the People of Israel can no longer rely on the Government of Israel to preserve the long-term national and strategic interests of the country.
The crucial question now is whether the nation will be able to produce the kind of leadership with the appropriate political will, the intellectual depth and the ideological commitment necessary to successfully address the daunting challenges that must be met in the rapidly approaching future.
Wolff Bachner: The United Nations has strict guidelines for the establishment of a nation, including the formation of a single government with effective control over the territory in question, clearly defined borders, the ability to provide all necessary public institutions and services, adequate critical infrastructure including power, water and transportation, a self sufficient economy that is not entirely dependent on foreign aid and acceptance of the Universal Declaration of Human rights.
Wouldn’t the creation of a Palestinian state that fails to meet all the basic requirements for statehood only increase the suffering of the Palestinians?
Dr. Sherman: The entire Palestinian claim for statehood is based on a fallacious and fraudulent narrative, openly admitted to be deliberately deceptive and duplicitous by the Palestinians themselves, which makes its acceptance by Israel–and its allies, alleged or otherwise—staggeringly inexplicable. Indeed, it was none other than Prof Amnon Rubinstein, Israel Prize laureate for Law and who served as Minister of Education for the far-Left Meretz Party who stated:
“Of all the Palestinian lies there is no lie greater or more crushing than that which calls for the establishment of a separate Palestinian state in the West Bank… Not since the time of Dr. Goebbels [Nazi Gemany's propaganda minister ] has there been a case in which continual repetition of a lie has born such great fruits….”
From “Palestinian Lies”, in Ha’aretz, July 1976.
In an article titled “UN-nation; un-nation; non-nation; anti-nation” (Sept. 16, 2011), I likened the move to establish a Palestinian state to an attempt at “political alchemy ” – i.e. an endeavor to conjure up a substantive political construct out of mere political myth; an attempt to produce a nation when the elements of nationhood do not exist; an effort to construct a state when the constructs of statehood are absent.
In the article I elaborate on the myths that underlie the Palestinian narrative and hence the mendacious claim for statehood that arises from it:
The Myth of Palestinian Peoplehood:
Senior Palestinian leaders have openly admitted—consistently and continually—that Palestinians are not a distinctly separate people identifiably different from others in the Arab world. For example on March 14, 1977, Farouk Kadoumi, head of the PLO Political Department, told Newsweek: “… Jordanians and Palestinians are considered by the PLO as one people”.
This statement parallels almost exactly the position expressed two weeks later by the former head of the PLO’s Military Department and Executive Council member Zuheir Muhsin who declared: There are no differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. We are all part of one nation. (Dutch daily, Trouw, March 31, 1977).
It was Jordan’s King Hussein who underscored that the emergence of collective Palestinian identity was merely a ploy to counter Jewish claims to territory considered “Arab”. At the Arab League meeting in Amman in November 1987, he stated:”The appearance of the Palestinian national personality comes as an answer to Israel’s claim that Palestine is Jewish”
This, of course, necessarily implies that the “Palestinian personality” is devoid of an independent existence, a fictional derivative, fabricated only to counteract Jewish territorial claims. Indeed, without Jewish claims there would be no Palestinian personality.
The Myth of Palestinian Nationhood:
But not only do the Palestinians admit that they are not an identifiably discrete sociological entity i.e. a people,they also concede that as a political unit, i.e. a nation, their demands/aspirations are neither genuine nor permanent.
Thus previously mentioned Zuheir Muhsin candidly confesses:
“It is only for political reasons that we carefully under-line our Palestinian identity, because it is in the interest of the Arabs to encourage a separate Palestinian identity. Yes, the existence of a separate Palestinian identity serves only tactical purposes.The founding of a Palestinian state is a new tool in the continuing battle against Israel [sic].”
Doesn’t get much more explicit than that!
Indeed the Palestinians not only affirm that their national demands are bogus, but that they are also only a temporary instrumental ruse. In the current National Covenant they declare:
“The Palestinian people are a part of the Arab Nation…[and] believe in Arab unity…however, they must, at the present stage of their struggle, safeguard their Palestinian identity and develop their consciousness of that identity…”
So how are we to avoid concluding that at a later stage there will be no need to preserve their identity or develop consciousness thereof? How are we to avoid concluding that Palestinian identity is merely a short-term ruse to achieve a political goal of annulling the “illegal 1947 partition of Palestine” (i.e. Israel).
Indeed, what other nation explicitly proclaim that the need for their identity is merely a temporary hoax to further other goals. The Greeks? The Italians? The Japanese?
Indeed as the late King Hussein once declared:
“The appearance of the Palestinian national personality comes as an answer to Israel’s claim that Palestine is Jewish”.
The Myth of Palestinian Homeland:
Article 16 of the original version of the Palestinian National Covenant sets out the desire of the people of Palestine “who look forward to…restoring the legitimate situation to Palestine, establishing peace and security in its territory, and enabling its people to exercise national sovereignty..”
However, since the Covenant was adopted in 1964, well before Israel “occupied” a square inch of the “West Bank” or Gaza, the question is precisely what is meant by “its territory” in which the Palestinians were “looking forward… to exercise national sovereignty”. Indeed in Article 24, they state specifically what this territory did not include, and where they were not seeking to exercise “national sovereignty”. In it they explicitly proclaim that they do not desire to “exercise any territorial sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, [or] on the Gaza Strip…”
From this we learn two stunning facts!
Not only did the Palestinians not claim the “West Bank” and Gaza as part of their homeland but they also specifically excluded them from it.!!
Moreover, they explicitly acknowledged—and accepted—that the “West Bank” belonged to another sovereign entity, the Hashemite Kingdom!
There is thus not the slightest resemblance – indeed not even one square inch of overlap—between the territory envisaged/claimed by the Palestinians as their “homeland” when they first formulated their national aspirations and the “homeland” allegedly envisaged/claimed today.
Indeed the two visions of “homeland” territories are mutually exclusive!
Accordingly, it would seem that geographical contours of Jewish rule is far more central in defining the location of the Palestinian “homeland” than any “collective historical memory”. For the Palestinians only incorporated the “West Bank” (and Gaza) in their territorial claims when it came under Israeli control—clearly vindicating the view that the concept “Palestinian-ness” is a fabricated construct, merely conjured up, as admitted above by King Hussein, to further the Arab quest to repudiate “Jewishness”.
The Myth of Palestinian Statelessness:
One of the major themes that is played upon to invoke great sympathy for the Palestinian cause—and corresponding wrath at Israel—is that they are a “stateless” people. But this condition of “stateless” is not a result of Israeli malfeasance but of Arab malevolence.
For the Palestinians are stateless because the Arabs have either stripped them of citizenship they already had, or precluded them from acquiring citizenship they desired.
In the “West Bank” for example, up until 1988, all Palestinians—including the refugees—held Jordanian citizenship. This was then annulled by King Hussein, when he relinquished his claim to this territory. This abrupt and brusque measure was described by Anis F. Kassim, a prominent Palestinian legal expert, in the following terms:”…more than 1.5 million Palestinians went to bed on 31 July 1988 as Jordanian citizens, and woke up on 1 August 1988 as stateless persons”.
But Palestinians have also been prohibited from acquiring citizenship of their countries of residence in the Arab world, where they have lived for over half a century. The Arab League has instructed its members to deny citizenship to Palestinian Arabs resident within their frontiers “to avoid dissolution of their identity and protect their right to return to their homeland”. Thus Arab League spokesman Hisham Youssef conceded in an 2004-interview to the Los Angeles Times that Palestinians in the Arab world live”in very bad conditions,” but reiterated that this official policy is meant “to preserve their Palestinian identity” which apparently is incapable of independent existence without external coercion. With breathtaking arrogance and callousness, he went on to assert that
“If every Palestinian who sought refuge in a certain country was integrated and accommodated into that country, there won’t be any reason for them to return to Palestine”.
Clearly then the “state of stateless” for millions of Palestinians is a direct consequence of Arab malice and can only be obviated by addressing that malice…
The Palestinians as a non-nation…and an anti-nation:
One could hardly find more resounding renunciation of Palestinian nationhood than the one provided by former Arab MK Azmi Bishara, who fled Israel to avoid investigation on alleged acts treason during the 2007 Lebanon War. On a 1994 Channel 2 program he astounded his Israeli co-participants with the following assertion:
“Well, I don’t think there is a Palestinian nation at all. I think there is an Arab nation. I always thought so…I do not think there is a Palestinian nation. I think it’s a colonialist invention – Palestinian nation. When were there any Palestinians? Where did it come from?”
Indeed, when? Indeed, where?
But not only do the Palestinian lack the fundamental elements to qualify them as a “nation”, they in fact exhibit qualities that make them the antithesis of a “nation”. For their efforts as a collective are being channeled far less towards an endeavor to achieve national sovereignty for themselves, and far more towards an endeavor to annul the national sovereignty of others.
In this regard the Palestinians could not only be dubbed a non-nation but an anti-nation.
The Troubling After Thought:
In the light of all these readily available facts, the troubling question Israeli citizens must ask themselves—and their leaders—is why they have been totally ignored in the formulation of Israel’s foreign policy. Why has Israel been so inarticulate and impotent in presenting its case and feeble in rebuffing the diplomatic assault against it?
This is a grave dereliction of duty that has put the nation of Israel in a position of mortal peril.
Biography of Dr. Martin Sherman:
Dr. Martin Sherman was born in South Africa and has lived in Israel since 1971. He served for seven years in operational capacities in the Israeli Defense Establishment and he was a Ministerial Adviser to Yitzhak Shamir’s government.
Dr. Sherman lectured for 20 years at Tel Aviv University in Political Science, International Relations and Strategic Studies. He holds several university degrees: a B.Sc. (Physics and Geology), an MBA (Finance), and a PhD in political science and international relations. He was the first academic director of the internationally renowned Herzliya Conference and is the author of two books and numerous articles and policy papers on a wide range of political, diplomatic and security issues.
To read more of Dr. Sherman’s important articles, be sure to visit the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies and www.martinsherman.net. Dr. Sherman’s regular Friday column in The Jerusalem Post, aptly titled “Into the Fray,” may be accessed here.
Wolff Bachner would like to thank Adina Kutnicki for her editorial assistance and inspiration on this project.