Seventy years ago today, the United Nations Special Committee on
Palestine (UNSCOP) introduced a detailed proposal to the UN General Assembly
for the partition of Palestine into a Jewish and an Arab state, approved less
than three months later by a vote of 33 to 13. Not for the last time, however,
a concerted international effort to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict
foundered on the shoals of Arab rejectionism.
Arab Muslims roundly condemned
UN partition — and more broadly the very principle of a Jewish state anywhere
in Palestine — striving instead for complete victory.
Arabs acted according to their tradition, refusing compromise with inferiors.
For over a millennium, Islamic empires had spread by the sword from Arabia
across the Middle East and North Africa to much of Europe and as far east as
India. God bestowed upon Muslims a right — no, a duty — to dominateDar al-Islam(the house of Islam) forevermore. Not only did Jews,
long a subservient and despised minority in Dar al-Islam,
lack the right to have an independent state in Palestine, but the Arab
residents of Palestine had no right to concede it to them.
The Arabs in Palestine thought
that the Jews could not and would not stand up to them, and they acted on that
well-established cultural principle. However, the thousand-year-old conditions
were not achieved this time around. The Jews they faced were not adhimma,
and they did not cower. Against the odds, and with little outside help, they
fought and won. Again and again.
maintaining their uncompromising rejection of any Jewish state in the Holy
Land, the Arabs eventually abandoned their triumphalist rhetoric in favor of a
more useful narrative. In this retelling, Israel is responsible for seven
decades of mayhem, not the victim of unremitting hostility. That role would now
be played by the Arab residents of Palestine, now called “Palestinians” —
indeed, they would be forced to play it by the refusal of Arab states to
naturalize, or even provide humane accommodations, to the so-called “refugees.”
Arab states marshalled their
collective influence to sell this narrative to the rest of the world, with much
success. Most Europeans and their governments, including the European Union,
and many Americans risk apoplexy in their violent denunciations of Israel,
while tripping over themselves offering sympathy and money to the Palestinians.
The United Nations has established a complex bureaucracy devoted solely to
narrative has received a particularly warm reception in the academic world, where Western
imperialism, rationalized by disparaging “Orientalist” stereotypes of Middle
Easterners, is seen as the single greatest cause of the region’s ills.
Of course, blaming all
Palestinian problems on Israel makes even less sense than attributing the
Arab-Islamic world’s economic, political, and cultural decline in recent
centuries to relatively brief and limited Western interventions.
Though the narrative has grown
more and more fantastical over the years, its acceptance remains disturbingly
widespread. In the end, of course, the Palestinian victimization narrative
hurts Palestinians by obscuring the actual sources of their misery — their
failed supremacist ideology, despotic and corrupt leaders, and irrational hate of
Jews — preventing the emergence of genuine solutions to a tragic, festering