Middle Israel: Undelivered speeches (3) (JERUSALEM POST) By AMOTZ ASA-EL 01/28/05)
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My fellow Palestinians
A hundred years have elapsed since an Arab first foresaw the historic
clash between us and the Jews, when he - Negib Azouri was his name -
wrote in his Le Reveail de la Nation Arabe that the Arab and Jewish
national movements "will have to fight each other until one of them
While in many ways prophetic, this assessment was also emblematic of
our tragedy, for Mr. Azouri was not a Palestinian. Rather, his pan-
Arabist zeal was part of a Lebanese Christian´s effort to be accepted
into the modern Arab mainstream, which of course was dominated by
Since then our cause has been hijacked, abused and all but destroyed
by a succession of self-appointed crusaders.
First, our founding leader, Haj Amin el-Husseini, led us to a
catastrophic confrontation with the British Empire. Not only did that
choice result in the mass hangings of Palestinian warriors, it also
enticed the Jews to start building an army. We never like thinking
about this, but it´s time this Palestinian leader told the
Palestinian people that when the Jews returned here it was not part
of a desire to engage in violence; they had had enough of that when
they lived among the Christians. Rather, they came here eager to
build, plant and create; had we not provoked them they would never
have built the army that ultimately killed so many of us.
Our next grand mistake came after World War II.
Tragically, not one among us understood what had happened to the
Jews, and what that had to mean for us. Had we been sober at the
time, we would have conceded that the great Jewish nation had just
been dealt the most severe blow any nation had ever been dealt by
another, and that the Jews would restore themselves in their
ancestral land no matter what the cost. Our refusal to acknowledge
that at the time - and in my personal case even decades later -
ultimately left us not only defeated on the battlefield, but also
dispossessed, displaced, and disenfranchised.
Just think about it: To avoid the infamous Nakba all we needed to do
was accept the UN partition resolution of 1947, not to mention the
much more generous Peel Commission proposal of 1937.
OUR NEXT catastrophe came the morning after the Nakba.
Blinded by the pan-Arab effort to fight on our behalf against the
young Jewish state, we abandoned our destiny to the devices of the
assorted generalissimos, princes and kinglings who had seized control
of the great Arab nation as the colonial era drew to a close.
Back in the 1930s and 1940s we mismanaged our diplomacy not only by
opposing Britain, but also by siding with Germany. And it wasn´t just
Haj Amin; From Rashid Ali who led a pro-Nazi coup in Iraq, through
his supporters in Syria who eventually established the Ba´ath Party,
to the young Gamal Abdel Nasser, who lamented the Reich´s defeat when
it happened, and Anwar Sadat who actually spied for the Nazis, the
Arab nation seemed all but determined to defy historical gravity.
Think about it: We backed the Germans when they were actually pushing
Jews to move to Palestine, and fought the British even when they were
fending the Jews off.
It was that kind of stupidity that continued to dominate our
diplomatic conduct in the coming years. Who forced us to choose the
Soviets as our allies during the Cold War? Nobody. We could have gone
with America and offered our nation a better life. But we always
insisted on defying the historical, political and economic rules of
gravity. That, of course, is how my predecessor later backed Saddam
Hussein, even at the horrible cost of a massive Palestinian expulsion
from Kuwait and a boycott by much of the world, including even our
Even after that, there was no stopping us from committing the most
incredibly absurd mistakes. We violated, in broad daylight, our
signed agreement to never again resort to violence in our dealings
with Israel; not only did we wage yet another futile war on the Jews,
we actually targeted their civilians; and not only did we kill so
many innocent and defenseless people, even babies in their mothers´
arms, we nurtured, glorified and systematically deployed suicides.
Moreover, we had lost not only the capacity, but even the pretence of
controlling our violence. My predecessor never privatized anything,
except one thing: violence. That one function, which civilized
societies are always careful to place in the hands of the state, we
abandoned to the devices of assorted clans, hoodlums and warlords.
LET´S FACE it - for the better part of a century, we had gone mad;
now the time has come to restore sanity.
I am on record for having realized long ago that our war was
impractical. Now I want to say more than that: It was also immoral.
It was immoral not only in its means, which so frequently involved
the deliberate murder of innocent people, but also in its aims, which
boiled down to a robbery-victims´ insistence that we deserved
everything and our adversaries nothing.
We were not robbed. The Jews are the ones who were robbed. First,
Christianity tried to rob their soul, then fascism tried to rob their
body, and then we tried to rob their land. It´s time we realized all
these efforts were equally criminal, pathological and doomed to fail.
Now we can become the wellspring not only of our own tribe´s renewal,
but of the entire Arab nation´s; we can become the source of
inspiration for a new generation of Arabs who will seek to be engaged
in rather than enraged by the world about them.
It´s been a century since old Negib Azouri predicted that Arab and
Jew were predestined to fight until one of the two prevailed. It´s
time to introduce a new century, one in which Arab and Jew give way,
reconcile, and cooperate - until both win.
Last in a three-part series (© 1995-2005, The Jerusalem Post 01/28/05)
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