by Dr. Alex Grobman
If we examine the relationship between the British and the Arabs in Palestine during the period of the British Mandate, we see a pattern of appeasement that has shaped the way in which the Arabs deal with those who oppose them. Arabs insist on concessions as a sign of good faith in negotiations with others, even when the Arabs are at fault. When their demands are met, instead of being appreciative, the Arabs insist on more concessions, as if they were inalienable rights.
When Abu Mazen was elected, Israel released 500 convicted Arab terrorists in February 2005, but Hamas threatened that unless every prisoner was released, including murderers of Israelis, they would continue to ambush and murder Israeli troops. One terrorist warned an Arutz-7 TV reporter in Ramallah that Israel would have no “peace or security until all the [PA] prisoners are released.” So Israel agreed to release another 400 prisoners in the next three months.
The 39 terrorists deported for occupying, desecrating and threatening to blow up the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in 2002 are being returned to Arab-held territories in Judea and Samaria.
This method of dealing with Arab threats is typical of the way they have been handled in the past. For example, on May 1, 1921, Arabs in Palestine demonstrated their opposition to British immigration policies by attacking the Immigrants House in Jaffa. The ostensible cause of the riot was “an authorized demonstration” of Communist Jews celebrating May Day.
Moshe Mossek, director of Israel State Archives, observes that Arabs who worked at the Jaffa port registered their demand that no more Jews be allowed to enter the country. False rumors were spread--about Jews murdering Muslim men, women and children--exacerbating the tension, and the Arabs reacted by attacking Jewish settlements.
During the first two days, there were reports of 40 dead and 170 wounded. If the British Army hadn’t intervened, there might have been civil war. Sir Herbert Samuel, the first High Commissioner for Palestine, issued arrest and deportation orders for the Jewish Communist leaders and immigration continued even as the violence spread.
On May 6, 1921, as they gathered in Ramle to celebrate a Muslim festival, the Arabs threatened to attack Jews in the area, unless there was a public acknowledgement of the suspension of immigration to show they had won. In response, Samuel, via the District Governor, assured the crowd that there would be no more immigration for the foreseeable future. Empowered by their success, some people who came to celebrate attacked Jews anyway. The Zionists, on the other hand, told the British that the “victory of the Arabs will arouse in them the desire for still more and more and they will soon arise not only against the Jews, but also against the British rule, which they desire to rid themselves of.”
Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen, a non-Jewish Englishman who served as Chief Political Officer in Palestine, Syria and Transjordan and who was Military Adviser to the British Colonial Office, wrote in his diary of July 5, 1921… “The moment the Jaffa rioting broke out, [Sir Herbert Samuel] and his staff seem to be hypnotized by the danger, and everything was done to placate the Arabs. Immigration was stopped; elective assemblies were discussed, whereas what the Arab wanted was a good sound punishment for breaking the peace and killing Jews. The Arab is fast learning that he can intimidate a British Administration.”
The British soon decided to establish controls on immigration that would determine the applicant’s political preferences, his health and ability to integrate economically into the country. The overriding principle was “the inhabitants of Palestine will be satisfied that immigration is controlled and that numbers are only allowed to come to come in as the development of the country demands.” The Arabs rejected the criteria out of fear of the “political harm” that Jewish presence would inevitably “threaten Arab interests.”
Attacks against Jews in 1936 and 1937 prompted the Palestine Royal Peel Commission headed by Lord Earl Peel to conclude: “An irrepressible conflict has arisen between two national communities within the narrow bounds of one small country. There is no common ground between them. Their national aspirations are incompatible. The Arabs desire to revive the traditions of the Arab golden age. The Jews desire to show what they can achieve when restored to the land in which the Jewish nation was born. Neither of the two national ideals permits of combination in the service of a single State.”
In 1938, there were more attacks. Leopold Amery, a member of the Conservative Party and a former colonial secretary, said that the Arab campaign of terror and killings against Jews, the British and Arab moderates would continue. In a letter to Winston Churchill of January 11, 1938, he wrote that if the British had “any real courage…” they would “let it be known that every additional murder would mean an enlargement of the Jewish State. As it is, it looks…[like] a gradual acceptance of murder as the natural expression of political opposition, in fact as an argument whose reasonableness we end up acknowledging.”
The Arab rebellion in Palestine had caused the British to divert troops who were needed elsewhere. At the same time, Jews of Europe were in desperate need to find a safe haven. David Ben-Gurion had little faith that the British would change immigration policy. After all, he said, the British had “yielded to terror in Ireland, in India, in Egypt. How much more likely, then she is to yield when only Jews are concerned.” He was right. The Evian Conference of July 1938, ostensibly convened to find a solution to the European refugees seeking a refuge from the Nazis, failed in its mission. The delegates expressed much sympathy for the plight of the Jews, but Great Britain and the U.S. did not increase their quotas. The Dominican Republic was the only entity to offer a haven to thousands of Jews.
By April 1939, the British White Paper limited Jewish immigrants to Palestine to 75,000 for the next five years—throughout the Holocaust. At the end of that time, Arabs would decide whether to allow any further immigration. Leopold Amery accused the British of appeasement. “The White Paper,” he said, “is a direct invitation to the Arabs to continue to make trouble.”
The anti-British rebellion in Iraq in the early 1940s was designed to disrupt British communication lines and force their troops and ships to be diverted to the Middle East when they were needed elsewhere. Yet there were still members of the British Cabinet who believed in appeasing the Arabs by having the White Paper become British policy after the war.
After the U.N. declared Israel a state on May 15, 1948, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and Transjordan invaded the country in order to destroy it. Hal Lehrman pointed out that when an armistice was signed July 20, 1949, the U.S. asked Israel to surrender territory “which did not belong to them [her adversaries], which the U.N. never awarded them, and which they failed to capture during an attack costly to Israel in lives and property.” The U.S. also attempted to pressure Israel to take refugees.
The defeated Arab states insisted on indirect negotiations, and not face-to-face mediation favored by the Israelis. The UN’s Conciliation Commission (the PCC), established by the General Assembly on December 11, 1948 to facilitate a final settlement between the parties, sided with the Arabs. The policy of appeasement, Gilbert points out, was established long before Israel became a state, and it continues to this day.
The underlying problem was revealed by The Palestinian Arab Congress on October 6, 1924 in a report to the Permanent Mandates Commission of the League of Nations: “It is a gross error to believe that Arab and Jew may come to an understanding if only each of them exchanges his coat of extremism for another of moderation. When the principles underlying two movements do clash, it is futile to expect their meeting halfway.” As Colonel Richard Meinertzhagen observed, the Arabs learned early on how to manipulate the British. Americans, Europeans and Israelis have continued this policy of appeasement to the detriment of Israel. When Israel releases prisoners and cedes territory lost in an aggressive war, the Arabs see that as a sign of weakness.
Itamar Marcus of the Palestinian Media Watch reports that the “leadership of the PA has taught, and continues to teach, an ideology of virulent hatred of Jews and Israel that mandates the killing of Jews as a religious obligation. Even as the Palestinian Authority works to prevent a few hundred terrorists from attacking Jews and Israelis, it prepares hundreds of thousands more. As in Nazi Germany, there is an entire ‘culture of hatred’ in Palestinian society today, from textbooks to crossword puzzles, from day camps to TV music videos, calling for the murder of Jews, as Jews, as the end result.”
Lord Amery warned in 1938 that there would be “ a gradual acceptance of murder as the natural expression of political opposition, in fact as an argument whose reasonableness we end up acknowledging.” His advice was ignored then, and now it is the violent diplomacy of life in the Middle East.
Why are the Israelis appeasing the Arabs like the British before them? Perhaps it is because some of its leftist intellectuals feel guilty for living there.
In The Jewish State: The Struggle for Israel's Soul, David Hazony describes how the rejection of Israel’s right to exist is part of the legacy of Gershom Scholem, Martin Buber, Hannah Arendt and other German-Jewish intellectuals. He quotes Aharon Meged, an Israeli novelist who wrote a polemic, “The Israel Urge to Suicide,” wherein he charges them of attempting to destroy the state they believe was “conceived in sin.” The raison d’etre of the Jewish State “was wrong in principle, and the result was an entire culture of hatred against the Jewish state.”
Menahem Milson, professor of Arab literature at the Hebrew University, says Israelis repress the virulent plague of hatred that surrounds them because the goal of Zionism was to put an end to antisemitism. Jews came to Israel to escape antisemitism, and when they arrived there, they discovered it to be part of the historical landscape. Then, to save their own sanity after the Holocaust, they slipped into denial of the potent hatred surrounding them.
Refusal to accept this reality surfaced during the Oslo negotiations. Shimon Peres, then Foreign Minister, writes in his book The New Middle East, that while signing the Oslo Accords on the lawn of the White House, “I could almost sense the breeze of a fresh spring, and my imagination began to wander to the skies of our land that may have become brighter to the eyes of all people, agreeing and opposing. On the lawn, you could almost hear the heavy tread of boots leaving the stage after a hundred years of hostility. You could have listened to the gentle tiptoeing of new steps making a debut in the awaiting world of peace.”
He was deluding himself. Pretty words of peace were mouthed to the press in English, while in Arabic, the Palestine Authority called for the destruction of Israel in their media, schools and mosques. Jews were being murdered, but that did not change the Oslo optimism that blinded Israeli leaders. Milson says that if the Jewish intellectuals and politicians in Israel would concede the strength of the antisemitism poisoning the psyches of their Palestinian partners, it would become a problem because it would justify those who question Arab sincerity in the peace talks and would support those Israelis who refuse to surrender land.
The Americans and British have their own reason for appeasing the Arabs. Cheap oil. While there is much oil in other areas of the world, the cheapest oil comes from the Middle East, where Bush and other national leaders have a financial stake in the outcome.
President Bush’s decision to establish a Palestinian State sends a message that terrorism works. The Arab leaders have zero to lose by using human bombs to blow up Jewish women and children, and they have everything to gain. Soon Israel will be sliced into two pieces and begin to disintegrate, one dunam at a time. The children of Arab leaders are not involved. Their parents spared them so that the Arab streets would provide thousands of children as canon fodder instead—they taught their children to choose death and continuing war, but President Bush just doesn’t see it that way.