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Said says it is unfair that Jews are “allowed” sovereignty while
Palestinians are not. Both had it in the 1947 U.N. resolution that divided the
mandate territory into two states.148
Some chances lost cannot be regained.
Upon what are the “rights” of nations based? Can nations roll back history
and correct their mistakes? France would have had more forces at Waterloo,
Russia would have retained her pre-World War I borders, Israel might not
have rebelled in 132 C.E., and no Palestinian entity would have existed in
the first place.
Some modern states reemerged after occupation. Some were
reestablished by international pressure, like Poland after World War II. No
one can stop the Palestinians trying to form a state; but there is no inherent
right of sovereignty, and Said has nobody to blame but the Palestinians for
blowing it in 1948.
Said claims that Arabs and Israelis have no military option but to
coexist peacefully. The Arabs have lost every war with Israel and only
acquiescence to ostensible Western values prevents Israel from running the
Palestinians out of the territories—much as Jordan drove them out, killing
several thousand in the process. That hardly aroused the Arab world, which
treated the slaughter as a brotherly misunderstanding. In fact, the Arabs
worry about conflicts only when non-Muslims—Israelis, Serbs, Russians—
confront Muslims. Intra-Arab massacres do not trouble them.
Said claims that since Palestine was already inhabited in 1948, the
creation of Israel displaced the Palestinians, when in fact the territory was
only sparsely inhabited with ample space for many more people. The
present Palestinian population is several times the combined Jewish and
Arab population in the 1940s. The Palestinians asked the British
administration to stop the influx of Jewish refugees fleeing European
persecution. Though neither the Jews nor the Arabs got a hearing from the
British, the Palestinians got the British to use their usual strategy of
The Arabs never demanded a Palestinian state. The British promised the Jews
both banks of the Jordan, and that promise was reiterated in WWII. The
Palestinians received the newly created state of Jordan plus part of the territory
previously allocated to Jews.
supporting the weaker side in the balance of power, and Britain sided first
with the Jews, then with the Arabs, intermittently. When the British sided
with the Arabs—often enough, since the Jews were stronger—the mandate
officials restricted Jewish immigration.
Said claims that Palestinian courts operate without witnesses or
defense representation or press coverage because of pressures from Israel
and the United States. How so? Both Israel and the United States have due
process for every citizen. Palestinian state-security courts, on the other
hand, are modeled on the judicial establishment of the former Soviet Union.
The book changes the meaning of words to prove any given point.
Said claims that the Israeli invasion of Lebanon was not about her northern
border but was launched to defeat the Palestine Liberation Organization.
But the border problem was due specifically to the P.L.O. shelling Israeli
towns from the safety of Lebanon. So, no, the Lebanese war was not
defensive in the narrow sense of repelling invasion, but, yes, it was
defensive since it answered aggression.
The author uses that approach time and again. He says Israel is the
only Middle East power with an offensive air force and nuclear ability.
How about Egypt? Egypt is in Africa, and not a Middle East power, even
though it is a major force there. Syria and Saudi Arabia each have large
attack air fleets. Said mentions Israel’s offensive air capabilities to label her
the aggressor. Yet Israel’s offensive air forces are used for defense, since
Israel lacks depth of defense and cannot conduct war on her territory. Israeli
aircraft must be able to operate in enemy territory and are therefore long-
range, high-speed, maneuverable bombers, normally considered offensive.
Israel needs few interceptors, because her pilots usually best their
opponents ten to one.
Said says Israel is the only Middle Eastern country “totally
supported by [the] world’s only superpower.” No regional country gets
more important American support than Arab Kuwait and Saudi Arabia,
which the United States protects and has fought for. The United States
intervened through Israel on behalf of Jordan when Syria threatened it.
There is considerable military flow between the United States and Egypt.
The United States–Israeli relationship is not so special as is commonly
thought. Until only few years ago, Arab countries received immense
support from another world superpower. The U.S.S.R. built civil
infrastructure and supplied weapons to Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and the P.L.O.
Arabs are no orphans facing Uncle Sam’s Jewish nephew.
Said tries to show there is no difference between bulldozing and
bombing. The inhabitants of Jewish towns on the Lebanese border know all
about shelling, which is very different from bulldozing. When Said says,
“recently evicted Palestinian family,” he means the household of a terrorist.
“Palestinians under curfew” are the inhabitants of a settlement where riots
or terrorist activity broke out. “Young men and women who languish in
Israeli jails” are members or active supporters of illegal militant
Samson Blinded: A Machiavellian Perspective on the Middle East Conflict
organizations. “Killed in massacres” is meaningless, since the only people
Israel kills in Palestine are rioters, terrorists, or civilians nearby them. Said
protests that Palestinians are “deprived of the right to resist occupational
policies.” There is no such right. Furthermore, a strange occupation that is:
Israel subsidizes the Palestinian Authority with medical and other services,
jobs, and all but free speech, all the while tolerating violent demonstrations
Said compares Palestine to Bosnia, though he admits that, while
there were massacres in Bosnia, there have been none in Palestine. He says
something like a massacre is taking place daily in Palestine. In fact, a house
is demolished occasionally or a few people are exiled, but Israel shows little
cruelty in response to terrorist acts. According to Said, Israel destroys about
five hundred buildings annually, takes one square mile of land, exiles about
a thousand people, less than a tenth of a percent of the population. Said
admits that even the Palestinians do not take it as persecution.
Said presents contradictory figures elsewhere. In the peak year
1997, Israel demolished only two hundred houses which hosted known
terrorists. In fact, Israel has carried out only about eighteen hundred
demolitions in twenty years. The large queue of demolition orders not
carried out yet shows the legalism of the procedure. Israelis are not the
bulldozer maniacs Said portrays.
He calls Israeli concern with security “remorseless obsession, . . .
exaggerated.” By common standards of military conflict, Israel’s security
measures are tolerant and clearly inadequate, as the continuous Muslim
guerrilla warfare shows.
Said’s blames the British penal code of 1936 for “punishing
Palestinian resistance.” What was that “resistance”? Gangs of Palestinian
criminals roamed the country, murdering Jews and burning their settlements
and fields in what became the largest massacre of Jews in Palestine since
135 C.E., more than in the first crusade. Said evidently condones that
Some issues Said attributes to Israeli ill will stem from objective
difficulties. He says Israel does not give Arab peasants enough water. In
fact they have a lot more water under Israeli rule than they had in 1948.
Further, nobody in the area has enough water. The exploding Arab
population and increased cultivation put pressure on the water supply.
While the Jews use conservation technology, the Arabs use much less
advanced, less efficient irrigation schemes. There is simply not enough
water to go around. Instead of blaming Israel, the Arabs should study
In Said’s view, Britain fostered Zionism. Tell that to the Jews the
British killed in Palestine or to the tens of thousands of refugees held in the
camps, prohibited from entering Palestine to avoid upsetting the Arabs.
Britain played the balance of power policy, helping the weaker side,
sometimes the Jews, more frequently the Arabs, historical allies against
France and Turkey.
The book puzzlingly claims that the Arab armies did not mean to
destroy Israel in 1948—yet that was their stated objective. The fact that the
Jordanian army stopped the aggression on the West Bank in the face of
fierce Jewish resistance and agreed to a secret separate settlement does not
change the original objective. The Jews stopped the Arab armies, not some
limited Arab agenda. What could a “limited war” have been, anyway? The
Jews claimed only the territory the United Nations assigned them, no more,
and the Arabs meant to destroy even that.
Said writes that after 1948 “every major leader sued for peace but
was rejected by Ben Gurion.” Yet fifty-five years later, most Arabs
categorically reject peace with Israel. Arab leaders turned against Sadat
when he signed a peace treaty with Israel. Said notes the futile attempts of
several realistic Arab leaders, notably of Egypt and Jordan, to convince
their people to normalize relations with Israel, yet sympathizes with Arab
rejection of normalization.
Note Said’s assertion that Israel has upped its demands on the
Palestinians. What of continuous Israeli concessions to Palestinians since
the negotiations with Egypt in 1970s? From a categorical rejection of any
Palestinian self-determination whatsoever, Israel conceded their autonomy,
then a state of ever-increasing size. Israel tolerated endless Palestinian
terrorism. While some years back, Palestinian terrorism would have led to
invasion and exile, now it brings on further concessions and negotiations.
Said says that nowhere else in the world must people struggle for a
license to build a house on their own property, an assertion that contradicts
his claim that Arabs cannot own land. In fact, any civilized country requires
building permits. That is not perhaps the kind of freedom Palestinians
enjoyed in their primitive villages before 1948, but that is how a state
works. Jews and Arabs get the same building permits, and Israeli
government ignores massive illegal construction in Arab villages.
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