There is no doubt that there is real suffering among the Palestinians living in Gaza and the West Bank (which is actually ancient Judea and Samaria). The question is who, precisely, is most responsible for their suffering?
Certainly, Israel is far from blameless in its treatment of the Palestinians, and it helps no one when we overlook or whitewash Israel’s failings, as some Christian Zionists are prone to do.
But is Israel primarily responsible for the difficult living conditions faced by the Palestinians today? Absolutely not. The blame lays squarely at the feet of the Palestinian leadership.
Consider that in 1936, Haj Amin Husseini, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, later a collaborator with Hitler and the father of many of today’s radical Islamic movements, had this to say about living in peace with the neighboring Jews: “There is no place in Palestine for two races. The Jews left Palestine 2,000 year ago, let them go to other parts of the world, where there are wide vacant places.”
In contrast, in 1937, David Ben Gurion, later to be Israel’s first Prime Minister, said, “We do not wish and do not need to expel Arabs and take their place. All our aspiration is built on the assumption – proven throughout all our activity in the Land of Israel – that there is enough room in the country for ourselves and the Arabs.”
Ten years later, when the U.N. had proposed separate states for the Jews and the Arabs, Golda Meir said, “We are happy and ready for what lies ahead. Our hands are extended in peace to our neighbors. Both States can live in peace with one another and cooperate for the welfare of their inhabitants.”
And Ben Gurion invited the Arabs living in what would be the new state of Israel to remain among them as partners (which many of them did, and they have grown from 200,000 then to 1.6 million today): “If the Arab citizen will feel at home in our state . . . if the state will help him in a truthful and dedicated way to reach the economic, social, and cultural level of the Jewish community, then Arab distrust will accordingly subside and a bridge will be built to a Semitic, Jewish-Arab alliance.”
In stark contrast, Azzam Pasha, Secretary of the Arab League, would have none of it, calling instead for an all-out war against Israel: “It will be a war of annihilation. It will be a momentous massacre in history that will be talked about like the massacres of the Mongols or the Crusades.”
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.