By the 1920’s, radical Muslim leaders like Haj Amin Al-Husseini, later a confidant of Adolph Hitler, were organizing intifadas against the Jewish population, with many Jewish lives lost. And what helped fuel Al-Husseini’s Jew-hatred was the anti-Jewish sentiment found in the Koran and early Muslim traditions. Post-1948 Jew-hatred simply built on centuries of Islamic anti-Semitism.
3. Jewish refugees fleeing from Muslim and Arab countries were absorbed by Israel after 1948; Arab refugees fleeing from Israel after 1948 were not absorbed by Muslim and Arab countries. Despite the fact that the Muslim nations surrounding Israel are 650 times the size of this tiny state, they made no effort to absorb the approximately 600,000 Arab refugees who fled Israel in 1948 when war was declared on Israel by five neighboring Arab nations.
To this day, these refugees are not welcomed by other Arab states. As expressed more than 20 years ago by Ralph Galloway, former head of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, “The Arab States do want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as an affront to the United Nations and as a weapon against Israel.” Yet Israel absorbed roughly 800,000 Jewish refugees that had to flee from Muslim nations after 1948.
4. Only one side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is truly committed to peaceful co-existence. It is often stated that if the Palestinians put down their weapons, there would be no more war but if the Israelis put down their weapons, there would be no more Israel. This is not to say that all Palestinians are warmongers and all Israelis are doves. But the vast majority of Israelis are not driven by a radical ideology that calls for the extermination of their Arab neighbors, nor are they teaching their children songs about the virtues of religious martyrdom.
Israel does not relish spending a major portion of its budget on defense, nor does it relish sending its sons and daughters into military service. It simply will not surrender Jerusalem, its historic and religious capital, and it will not commit regional suicide by retreating to indefensible borders. In return it simply asks the Palestinians to say, “We embrace your right to exist.”
5. The current uprisings throughout the Muslim and Arab world today remind us that Israel cannot fairly be blamed for all the tension and conflicts in the region. The nation of Israel is obviously not faultless in the current conflict, but it is ludicrous to think that without the presence of this supposed evil nation in the Middle East, all would be well. There have been constant disputes between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, and in 1980, Abd Alhalim Khaddam, then Syria’s Foreign Minister, admitted, “If we look at a map of the Arab Homeland, we can hardly find two countries without conflict. . . . We can hardly find two countries which are not either in a state of war or on the road to war.”
Certainly, there are many obstacles that stand in the way of a true peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, and the road ahead is fraught with uncertainty, but it would be a good starting point if we replaced myths and emotional arguments with facts.
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.