December 12, 2016 · 9:11 pm
Blog 329 December 12, 2016
The first Palestinian I became acquainted with was a tour guide named Simeon who was amazingly knowledgeable about the Holy Land and the Middle East. After the political tensions elevated, Simeon disappeared. My next most intense involvement was a Palestinian woman becoming a relative. That’s when I learned more than I ever wanted to know. She had grown up in a nomad’s tent and once worked for the Jordanian secret service. That’s where you can get the real inside information. (name is withheld for security reasons).
Most Westerners are either violently opposed to or enthusiastically for the Palestinian people, but actually know little about them. It’s worthwhile to update ourselves periodically. Where did they come from?
Legal historian Assaf Likhovski states that the Palestinian identity originated in the early decades of the 20th century. Many were nomadic people or local residences. They had drifted in from across the Arabic world looking for work. Some Palestinians wanted self-government in the face of fears that Zionism would lead to a Jewish state and the dispossession of the Arab majority. Local newspapers in a limited way used the term “Palestinian” to refer to the nationalist concept of a Palestinian people until the exodus of World War I. After the creation of the State of Israel and the massive Arabic exoduses , Palestinian came to signify not only origin, but also a shared past and future in the form of a desire for a Palestinian state. Modern Palestinian identity now claims to encompass the heritage of all ages from biblical times up to the Ottoman period. The origin of the idea of a national consciousness as Palestinians is debated by scholars, but the idea is basically recent. Today’s Palestinians are basically, Arabs.
The day after Israel was declared a nation (by the approval of the United Nations), the Arab world descended on Israel and war followed. Arabs ran to leave the country and set in motion the land division that exists today.
Founded in 1964, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) became an umbrella organization for groups that wanted to represent the Palestinian people before the international community. The Palestinian National Authority, officially established as a result of the Oslo Accords, is an interim administrative body nominally responsible for governance in Palestinian population centers in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Under Yasser Arafat, secular Palestinian nationalism was grouped together under the umbrella of the PLO whose constituent organizations include Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, groups who at that time believed that political violence was the only way to “liberate” Palestine. The result became a continuing state of war with suicide bombers, rocket attacks, and the murder of civilians.
In the next blog, we will explore the impact of these changes on the everyday people on the streets in the West Band and Gaza. The story remains gripping.
January 26, 2013 · 7:00 am
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu used the Shabbat Torah portion of scripture to explain why it would be foolish to leap into a peace agreement with the Palestinians that would include far reaching concessions. The scripture lesson from Exodus said, “a new king arose from Egypt who did not know Joseph.” Referring to the dramatic changes in Egypt, the Prime Minister noted that the same result could come with the Palestinian Authority. He recognized that Hamas could take control over the PA just as it did in gaining control of Gaza. Unless the diplomatic processes are handled responsibility and wisely, a third Iranian terror base could result as it now does in Gaza and southern Lebanon. He concluded, “peace can only be achieved when security is guaranteed.”
During the Bible study, Yair Netanyahu, the prime minister’s son, asked about archeological evidence of the Israelites’ sojourn in Egypt. Benjamin Netanyahu responded that the Shiloah inscription still resides in Turkey. This stone tablet dates back to the 8th century B.C. E. when the construction of Hezekiah’s Tunnel brought water from the Gihon Spring to the Shiloah pool. The Turks still have not responded to the Prime Minister’s request to return this tablet to Israel.
I have walked through that water tunnel and seen the place on the wall where the stone plate once hung. At that point, the tunnel takes an abrupt perpendicular turn to avoid digging under King David’s grave. That trek through knee high water proved to be one of those unforgettable moments that stays with one forever.
However, Netanyahu’s comments are worth noting. Back in early December, Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal addressed a crowd in Gaza City crowd and vowed that his movement would not give up one inch of the land or any part of it. He declared that Palestine extended from the sea to the Jordan, from the north to the south. He said, “Palestine was, still is, and will always be Arab and Islamic. Palestine belongs to us and to no one else.” He made Netanyahu’s point for him.
Obviously, Hamas also has designs on the Palestinian Authority’s position of leadership. The Fatah organization that Yasser Arafat once controlled remains in Mahaal’s gun sights.
At this time, the PA is on the verge of bankruptcy. In retaliation for breaking away from the peace negotiation process and going to the United Nations, Israel has withheld moneys formerly paid to the PA. Donor countries who told the PA they would stand behind them have not kept their promises. It appears this situation could be a fatal blow to the Palestinian economy. An appeal from the PA cabinet to Arab countries has been made, but nothing has happened to date.
The Prime Minister’s reluctance to leap into a quick agreement has been certified by the actions of Israel’s enemies. The entire Middle East remains in serious turmoil. Egypt that was once in a positive relationship with Israel is in transition as well. Israel must insist that its enemies accept its right to exist and promise to cease hostilities. If not, the likes of Hamas chief Khaled Mahaal will take the day and serious confrontations and military action will follow.