A few weeks ago, many people in the Arab world heard a name, Joshua Teitelbaum, an Israeli senior fellow at the Dayan Center for Middle Eastern Studies and the Goldman visiting associate professor at Stanford’s Center on Democracy and the Rule of Law. Ironically, it is the Arabs who made him famous.
He penned a book about the region. In the beginning, many refused to translate the book into Arabic because of his nationality. However, the book reportedly got translated. The question is: Do the Arabs really know Israel? Most likely the answer is no. The reason for that is we don’t read their literature but most Israeli scholars and politicians read everything written in the Arab world. The Arabs are not known for heavy and extensive reading, let alone reading Israeli literature or translating it.
Since 1948 it is not considered appropriate to read or translate a book written by an Israeli author that could help us understand Israel. Interestingly, in case of falling ill it is fine to use a cure discovered by an Israeli scientist. So, what happened on May 14, 1948?
It was the day when the state of Israel emerged on the world map. Do we know the rest of the story? No. We don’t know the entire story because we are wont of dealing with events with emotions. One day after the United Nations mandate (May 15), a long and bloody conflict broke out and after the dust settled, the Arabs called it Nakba or the Day of Catastrophe. It was a defeat but the Arabs chose to call it a catastrophe. Many Palestinians were displaced from their homeland and were promised that they would return to their homes soon. Despite the passage of over six decades, the promise has yet to be delivered. The thousands of Palestinians who fled their homes have turned into millions.
The question now is what if those Palestinians had accepted the mandate and decided to live side by side with the Israelis? I ask the readers to please note that I am just asking a question. So, would the fate of the Palestinians be the same? The reason I am asking is that we read reports that the Palestinian refugees are not allowed fleeing the atrocities in Syria and seeking refuge in Lebanon. That is double the agony.
There are many facts that were not clear to the Palestinians on May 15, 1948. Many of them didn’t have to flee their homes. It is said that it was the Mufti (Hussini) who encouraged them to flee. At the end of the day, the Mufti wasn’t a popular figure in the West or in then USSR because of his stand on the Nazis. And yes, it is true that many Palestinians were attacked and murdered but on that day it was chaos and all sides were fighting each other. On that day, Israel didn’t have a fully organized IDF so they wanted to disarm the Irgun and when refused, the IDF attacked one of their ships. In other words there was havoc but the Palestinians could have had acted more wisely.
As time passed, the Palestinians were promised to return to their homes but 66 years later with many wars and loss of human lives, the conflict continues. Since May 15, 1948 till 1967, the Palestinians and all Arab nations insisted that either all lands or no peace. In the course, the Palestinians were used, abused and misled even by their own leaders. Palestinians’ agony became a moneymaking machine for some of the Palestinian elite. Many Arab and non-Arab countries extended financial aid but the average Palestinian received nothing from the aid. Many of the Palestinian leaders will not go to a nearby refugee camp in Syria or Lebanon to see the living standard but they travel thousands of miles to stay in the best hotels in foreign capitals.
Nowadays, the peace negotiations are at a standstill with no light at the end of the tunnel. And if the Palestinian refugee situation is not resolved then there will be no solution to this conflict. Let us get real and think straight. How can the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank accommodate the millions of Palestinians from the refugee camps? And even if full peace is achieved and the two-state solution is accepted, how are we going to relocate millions of refugees back to theirs’ or their grandfathers’ towns and villages? The Palestinian-Israeli conflict could have been resolved on May 15, 1948 by either accepting the United Nations mandate or by absorbing the thousands of Palestinian refugees into the Arab world. Tomorrow, it is May 15, 2014 and we are not only back to square one but we are far away from it. And finally, I tell the Palestinians, don’t fool yourself. No one has ever felt your pain. Just look at what some regimes in the Arab world are doing to their own people. If they don’t care about their own people’s pain, then what will make them care about your pain? In the past, the Palestinians had better chances for peace but they never read the fine prints or between the lines.