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Palestinians Caused Their Own 'Nakba'

May 22, 2008 By:
Barry Rubin
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It's become fashionable to match the celebration of Israel's founding (part of the media can't even admit that Israelis are celebrating) with Palestinians' marking of their 1948nakba, or "catastrophe."

Yet whose fault is it that they didn't use those six decades constructively? And who killed the independent Palestinian state alongside Israel that was part of the partition plan?

Answer: The Arab states and Palestinian leadership themselves.

The key point is that in rejecting partition, in demanding everything and starting a war it could not win, the Arab side ensured endless conflict, the Palestinian-refugee issue and no Palestine.

Or in the words of Gen. John Glubb, commander of Jordan's army in 1948: "The politicians, the demagogues, the press and the mob were in charge. ... Warnings went unheeded. Doubters were denounced as traitors."

The British tried to help the Arabs win; the Americans to assist them in finding a last-minute way out; and the Jews were ready to have a Palestinian state alongside Israel if their neighbors had accepted it.

If the Arab side had agreed to partition, the Jewish leadership would have accepted the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state. Many Jewish leaders were desperate to get a state at all; they lacked confidence that they would win the war, and knew that they could not buck an international consensus.

Why, then, did the Arab side, and especially the Palestinian leadership, reject partition and trigger a 60-year-long crisis that was a disaster for their people?

There are four basic reasons:

· Palestinian leader Amin al-Husseini, the mufti of Jerusalem, was a man who thought like Hamas. Fresh from his stay in Berlin, where he had cooperated with Adolf Hitler, he wanted to destroy Jews and could not envision compromise.

· Pressure from radical forces and public opinion made it unthinkable, or suicidal, for Arab regimes not to go along with all-out war even when they feared the worst.

· Arab states competed for influence, seeing the future Palestine either as their satellite or a place where they could seize land for themselves.

· Finally, they thought they would win easily. Even the moderate Jordanian King Abdullah said, "It does not matter how many there are. We will sweep them into the sea!" Syria's prime minister warned that the Arabs would "teach the treacherous Jews an unforgettable lesson."

The leader of Syria's client guerrilla force, Fawzi al-Kaukji, bragged: "We will murder, wreck and ruin everything standing in our way, be it English, American or Jewish." He said that the holy war would be won not through weapons, but through self-sacrificing Arab fighters.

Sixty years later, radical Arab nationalists and Islamists frequently make the same claim.

Neither during the conflict nor after their defeat did Arab regimes help create an independent Palestinian state on parts of the country they controlled. Egypt held the Gaza Strip; Jordan annexed the West Bank.

This rejection of peace made the conflict last until now. The continuation of these policies today by much of the Palestinian leadership could make it last another century.

Yet 60 years later, the Arab side has the chutzpah to complain --and a good part of the Western-media echo -- that they were Israel's victims in 1948.

At that time, the Arab side made no secret of the fact that the Jews were the underdog, and everyone knew what happened to underdogs. As Arab League Secretary General Abd al-Rahman Azzam stated: "This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre."

What slogan were Palestinian schoolchildren told to chant at the "Nakba Day" demonstrations organized by the Palestinian Authority this year? Why, "Palestine is all ours!" of course, the same slogan as in 1948.

Sadly, the main complaint of Palestinians today is still not so much that they are Israel's victims, but that Israel hasn't been theirs, Azzam-style.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs Center.

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