Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Book Review: The Palestinian Right to Israel

The accusation that Israel has colonialist roots because of its connection to the British Mandate is ironic, since most of the Arab states owe their origins to the entry and domination of the European powers. Prior to World War I, the Arab states of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan did not exist, but were only districts of the Ottoman Empire, under different names. They became states as a result of European intervention, with the British putting the Hashemite family in power in two of these countries.

Saudi Arabia and the smaller Gulf states, meanwhile, emerged from treaties that their leaders signed with Britain. By means of those treaties, the British recognized the legitimacy of local Arab families to rule what became states like Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar. A similar British treaty with the al-Saud family in 1915 set the stage for the eventual emergence of Saudi Arabia in 1932.
Dore Gold, Historical Fiction: Israel is not a colonialist state, The New Republic

I found this aspect of the history of the modern history of the Middle East fascinating for the simple reason that it is so often overlooked--and distorted.

And that is one of the reasons I enjoyed Prof. Alex Grobman's new book, The Palestinian Right To Israel. Dr. Grobman is a historian who is also the author of Nations United: How The Global Body Undermines Israel And The US, as well as Battling For Souls: The Vaad Hatzala Rescue Committee in Post-War Europe, and Denying History: Who Says the Holocaust Never Happened and Why Do They Say It?

Grobman provides an overview in the first chapter, An Uninterrupted Jewish Presence--documenting the history of Jewish communities in the land even after the destruction of the Second Commonwealth by the Roman Empire in 70CE.

He then continues with:
  • Chapter 2: Palestinine: A Twice-Promised Land--rebutting Arab claims that the British government promised then-Palestine to them.

  • Chapter 3: Arabs Resort To Violence--tracing the Arab response to the Balfour Declaration and Jewish immigration, and especially the British response, which unfortunately established the precedent for how the West has responded to Arab violence till today.

  • Chapter 4: Arab Activities During World War II--describing how the Arabs attempted to sabotage the Allied cause.

  • Chapter 5: The Jewish Contributions to the Allied Cause During WWI And WWII--describing how the Jewish community in then-Palestine consistently aided the Allied cause, with over 26,000 Jews joining the British armed forces during the war, in contrast to the Grand Mufti who encouraged Muslims to join the Nazi army. Grobman notes:
    Contrasting the Yishuv's role with that of the Arabs provides a historical perspective on the conflict that is often omitted.
  • Chapter 6: Israel's Right To Exist--examining the ongoing attempts by the Arabs to refute the uninterrupted connection of the Jews to Israel

  • Conclusion: The Eternal Bond Between Jews And The Land Of Israel
Prof. Grobman's book is well document--not only in terms of the footnotes, but also in the resources he marshals to support his points.

For example, in dealing with the above-mentioned "colonial roots" of the Arab world, Grobman quotes:

  • Lord Robert Cecil, Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs, who believed the Arabs had no basis for refusing to accept the Balfour Declaration, since recognizing the right of the Jews to their national homeland was
    part of the terms on which the Arab State was brought into existence. (p. 44)
  • Lord Arthur James Balfour:
    I hope they will remember that it is we who desire in Mesopotamia [Iraq] to prepare the way for the future of a self-governing, autonomous Arab State, and I hope that, remembering all that, they will not grudge that small notch--for it is no more than that geographically, whatever it may be historically--that small notch in what is now Arab territories being given to the people who for all these hundreds of years have been separated from it. (p. 44)
  • Monsieur Pierre Ortis, Chairman of the Permanent Mandates Commission:
    Was not consent to the establishment of a Jewish National Home in Palestine the price--and a relatively small one--which the Arabs paid for the liberation of lands extending from the Red Sea to the borders of Cilicia on the one hand, Iran and the Mediterranean on the other, for the independence they were not winning or had already won, none of which they would ever have gained on their own efforts, and for all of which they had to thank the Allied Posers and particularly the British forces in the Near East. (p. 160)
  • Chaim Weizmann:
    Gentlemen, whatever you have got out of the last war, you owe to our arms and to our sacrifices; whatever you have got out of this war, you equally owe to us. It would have been otherwise if Hitler had won the war! (p. 162)
As Grobman sums up:
[T]he Arabs emerged from World War II with at least two kingdoms, four republics, six seats in the U.N. and one in the Security Council. Weizmann questioned whether this was commensurate with what the Arabs contributed during the war. How many fatalities did they sustain? To what degree did they suffer? (p. 162)
I highly recommend The Palestinian Right To Israel both for its unique approach to understanding the issue of 'rights' to Israel and for the resources it places at the disposal of the serious reader.

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