Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Basic Facts About Israel

Vasko Kohlmayer
FrontPageMagazine.com | 1/26/2009
As operation Cast Lead slowly winds down in Gaza there are some important lessons to be learned. One of them is that some things never change and that every serious attempt by Israel to protect itself will be met with a wave of protests, condemnations and anti-Semitic antics. This time around was no exception. Among the highlights was a thirty thousand strong march in Paris and the burning of Israeli flags in Sweden. In Italy they burned the Star of David and carried posters of the flag disfigured with swastikas. In Athens protesters marched on the Israeli embassy, and in London 2,000 fought with police. That much of the world invariably sees any effort by Israel to secure its national survival as gratuitous aggression is a result of many years of unremitting propaganda. By now it has obscured the truth to such an extent that much of the public – including most of those who hold and voice strong opinions on the subject – are almost wholly ignorant of even the most basic facts behind the Middle Eastern conflict.

The central fact of its latest installment was that Hamas is a jihadist organization bent on the wholesale murder of the Jewish people and the destruction of the state of Israel, which it seeks to accomplish by means of violence and terror. Hamas’ goals and mode of operation are enshrined in its charter, which states that “Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims.” As to Hamas’ vision of the future, “Israel will rise and will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors.” And in regard to the possibility of peace, the charter declares:

“… the so-called peaceful solutions, and the international conferences to resolve the Palestinian problem, are all contrary to the beliefs of the Islamic Resistance Movement [Hamas].”

According to Hamas’ founding document, “there is no solution to the Palestinian problem except by Jihad. The initiatives, proposals and International Conferences are but a waste of time, an exercise in futility.”

In keeping with the above, Hamas has since its inception launched numerous suicide and mortar attacks which killed, maimed or injured thousands of Jews. Since September 2005 alone, Hamas and its associates fired well over 5000 rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip. The great hope of the “holy” warriors behind those attacks is to hit a densely populated spot and kill as many civilians as possible.

Hamas’ goals and actions get wide sympathy throughout the Arab world where many see Israel as the root of the region’s troubles. Their complaints paint Israel as some evil genie looming over the Middle East and spitefully interfering in the affairs of the Arab people. It is the Jewish presence, they say, that prevents the peaceful and prosperous development of that part of the world. Thus the only way to move forward is to do away with the Jewish state.

But the fact of the country’s sheer minuteness challenges the verity of such assertions. At just over 8300 square miles, Israel comprises less than one half of one percent of the Middle Eastern territory. The purported source of instability in that large area, Israel is in fact smaller than the state of New Jersey. Amazingly, one can drive across the country near its widest extent – from the shore of the Dead Sea to the Mediterranean on the other side – in just over 90 minutes. Being only 290 miles long, a modern fighter jet can cover the space between Israel’s two most distant points in less than 10 minutes.

Israel’s population of 7.3 million is smaller than that of Virginia. More than twenty percent – nearly 1.5 million – are Arabs while five percent is composed of other ethnic minorities. That means that there are 5.5 million Jews in Israel. That figure represents a miniscule portion of the overall population of the Middle East, which stands at some 230 million. In light of this, it is hard to believe that the tiny Jewish remnant is somehow responsible for all of the region’s problems.

Moreover, few of Israel’s critics realize that the Israeli Arabs enjoy more freedom and rights than do their brothers living in Arabic countries. To put it another way, the Jewish state treats its Arab citizens better than Arab regimes treat their own people. As full-fledged citizens, Israeli Arabs have the benefit of the same rights and privileges as their Jewish counterparts. They can practice whichever religion they choose, they can freely express their opinions and they can vote. Such is the equality that a number of Arabs have been elected to the Knesset, the Israel’s parliament.

Arabs, however, refuse to reciprocate in their homes countries. Saudi Arabia, for example, does not allow Israeli Jews to enter its territory. In other countries, merely being Jewish can put one in danger of life. In those Arab states where Jews are allowed to live, they usually do so as a discriminated minority.

This treatment is symptomatic of a mindset that sees Jews as intruders in that part of the world. The Arab claims notwithstanding, the fact is that Jews have a stronger claim to their land than almost any other national group has to theirs. They flourished and had a kingdom in Israel more than three thousand years ago and have maintained presence there ever since. There are, in fact, only two other national groups that have lived in their homelands for a comparable period of time – the Chinese and Indians (in India). All other peoples moved into their present territories long after the Jews had first settled in Israel. Even such seemingly long-established nations as the English, Germans or Italians are all newcomers by historical standards. All of them established themselves in their present location after the birth of Christ (a Jew), well over a millennium after Jews had made Israel their home. The same, of course, applies to Arabs who only began emerging as a presently recognizable people toward the dawn of the Common Era. And it was not until the seventh century AD that Arabs would make their way across the Jordan during the first Islamic expansion. By that time the Jews had lived in their land for well over sixteen hundred years.

The contention that Jews are intruders in the Middle East is one of the most absurd claims in political history, as Israel is without question the ancestral home of the Jewish people. They flourished and created a magnificent culture there long before the Arabs first invaded the region. By every reasonable standard – by their ancient roots, by their continuous presence as well as by virtue of being able to maintain a viable and prosperous state at present time – Jews are unquestionably entitled to their land. The fact that theirs is the only democratic, tolerant and modern society in that mostly dark and backward region is not to be glossed over either.

That Jews should not live in their homeland is not the only absurd assertion in the Middle Eastern conflict. Another one is that there is an authentic national group known as “Palestinians.” Even though it may come as a shock to many, historically there is no such people. Both the term and the “nation” which it is supposed to denote were first coined in the late 1960 for the purposes of political expediency. Those who are unaware of this may be interested in some historical background.

The name Palestine was first applied to the land by the Romans after they had defeated Jews in a war that ended in AD 126. The enraged Romans changed the country’s name in an effort to eradicate the memory of the defeated enemy after that protracted and bloody struggle. To add insult to injury, their choice of name was inspired by the Jews’ former mortal enemies – the Philistines. At the time the new designation was first used, however, the Philistines had already disappeared from history and were extinct as an ethnic group. But the label stuck which is why the region is sometimes referred to as Palestine.

Then in 1967 – almost 1800 years after the term Palæstina was first used – certain Arab refuges began calling themselves “Palestinians.” This was done in order to create the impression they were the descendants of an ancient people indigenous to that land. The whole premise was patently false, since the vast majority of those “Palestinians” were full-fledged Arabs, mostly from surrounding countries. They were Arab ethnically, they spoke the Arabic language, they had Arabic culture, and like most Arabs they practiced Islam. Until 1967 they identified and thought of themselves as Arabs, but in that year they suddenly metamorphosed into “Palestinians.” Prior to that time, they had never referred to themselves as such. Neither there has ever been in all of previous history any mention of a “Palestinian” nation.

The concept of a “Palestinian” nation is simply a modern fabrication and a highly disingenuous one at that. No one has defined its purposes better than Zuhair Muhsin, military commander of the PLO and member of the PLO Executive Council, who in March 1977 said:

"There are no differences between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. We are all part of one nation [the Arab nation]. It is only for political reasons that we carefully underline our 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".

Rather than being legitimate heirs to that ancient region, the so-called “Palestinians” are simply a weapon in the hands of those who want to take over the Jewish homeland. As the actions of Yasser Arafat, Hamas and other “Palestinian” groups make abundantly clear, establishing a Palestinian state is not what their struggle is really about. It is about killing Jews and destroying the state of Israel.

Many myths have been woven around the Middle Eastern conflict. The two that stand out the most are that Jews are intruders in their ancestral homeland and that there is a historic “Palestinians” nation. Those who condemn and march against Israel would do well to acquaint themselves with relevant facts. If they do so, they will realize how much of what they believe is lies and propaganda.

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