This letter is in response to Doron Lubinsky’s article, “Letter to the Editor: Israel-Palestine conflict,” published in Volume 109, Issue 12 of the Technique.
While reading through a recent opinion piece, “Letter to the Editor: Israel-Palestine Conflict,” I was astounded by the watered down version of the Arab-Israeli conflict and the biased historical narrative it presented.
Thus, I endeavor to provide a more accurate portrayal of the claims made therein. Before I begin, however, I’d like to preface by saying that any references to “Palestinians” or “Israelis” henceforth refer to the states’ respective government and military bodies, not to the civilians. This conflict has never been, and will never be, an excuse for acts of antisemitism or Islamophobia, nor is it antisemitic or Islamophobic to criticize the actions of either side.
One of the core arguments used to support why the state of Israel has a right to exist is that the land was promised to them by the Balfour Declaration. The Balfour Declaration, issued by the British government in 1917, falls in line with the results of the Sykes-Picot agreement, in which Britain and France (with consultation from Russia) divided up the corpse of the Ottoman empire between themselves — in other words, the division was not conducted by the original inhabitants of the land or the leaders those inhabitants chose to govern them. In short, Israel was promised this land through colonial legacy and thus uses it as justification for its further colonization.
It should be noted that the Hussein-McMahon letters, a series of letters between the emir of Mecca and the British high commissioner in Egypt, preceded this by approximately a year and made false promises of support for the independence of Arab states in return for Arab assistance with defeating the Ottoman empire. These letters prove that the British never saw the region as anything more than a tool to use for political gain. They flip-flopped, promising the land to whoever would provide the most benefit to them, which ended up being the Israelis.
To humor this argument, we may look to the text of the Balfour Declaration itself, which states:
“His Majesty’s Government view with favour the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people… it being clearly understood that nothing shall be done which may prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.”
This principle was already violated before Israeli statehood was ever declared through Plan Dalet, a Zionist military plan to take control of Palestine and establish an Israeli state. Plan Dalet called for the depopulation, invasion and destruction of “population centers” such as villages, towns and settlements. It also set up a government body to oversee the destruction of these population centers, repopulate the areas with Israeli civilians and bar Palestinians civilians from returning from their homes.
This is why when Lubinsky’s article states that the core of the Arab-Israeli conflict is Arab and Palestinian rejection of Jewish self-determination, it is a gross oversimplification of a conflict wrought with territorial disputes, different historical narratives, conflicting religious beliefs and flat-out brutality (disproportionately from the Israeli side).
This notion is easily rebutted by reviewing Israel’s occupational strategy — the forcible displacement of civilians, which is not the strategy of an innocent entity or one that is on the defensive.
When Plan Dalet was put into action, the effects were devastating. In a horrific event called the Nakba, 750,000 Palestinian civilians had been forcefully ousted from their homes, leaving behind their communities and everything they owned. 400 settlements were destroyed or occupied.
For the descendants of the 150,000 that remained in Palestine at that time, the terror hasn’t ended as they continue to endure increasing brutality from the apartheid state they live under.
The Israeli government carries out “massive seizures of Palestinian land and property, unlawful killings, forcible transfer, drastic movement restrictions and the denial of nationality and citizenship to Palestinian [civilians]… all components of a system which amounts to apartheid under international law” according to Amnesty International, which has prompted calls for investigation by the International Criminal Court.
Since 2008, this has injured 156,000 Palestinian civilians and killed 6,500 more, compared to the 6,000 injured Israeli civilians and their 300 dead from Palestinian retaliation.
No amount of death or destruction is acceptable, but if we’re examining who is trampling on whose civil rights — namely the right to life — there is a clear answer.
It has become evident that the Israeli definition of self-determination goes hand in hand with exterminating the previous inhabitants of the land in order to gain statehood. The article then takes care to describe how the Palestinians have rejected a two-state solution in 1948, 1967, 2001, 2008, as well as many other peace efforts, even after Israel has made concessions. This is done as a way to argue that Palestine is the main perpetrator of the conflict.
In 1948, the UN passed resolution 181, which partitioned Palestine into an Arabic state and an Jewish state. This was accepted by Israel but rejected by Palestine. However, when looking at the voting countries, it
becomes clear why.
The 33 affirmative votes were from countries all over the world except for the Middle East, while 9 out of 13 negative votes were from only the Middle East. The area’s fate was being decided largely by players from the Americas and Europe (in other words, outsiders), and it was unjust to ask those directly impacted to accept this.
In 1967, during the Six Day War, Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza, the Sinai and the Golan Heights. I am unsure as to what two-state solution the article is referring to here, for it was Israel
that walked away with more land.
In 2001, during both the Camp David Accords and the Taba Talks, no agreement was reached on either side,
not just the Palestinian side.
In 2008, the same story commenced with the Annapolis Conference and subsequent talks — no agreement was reached.
Therefore, to say that it is Palestine alone that is historically against a two-state solution is biased and inaccurate.
The solutions presented were either unfair to them and influenced by a biased voting room or extremely underdeveloped with no safeguards. To gain a holistic view of this point, we may turn to the Oslo Accords. The Oslo Accords were one of the only attempts at peace where both sides were adequately represented and one of the most comprehensive and recent.
They were a series of agreements between Israel and Palestine that established what was arguably the best and most feasible version of a two-state solution up to that point.
The fact of the matter remains that after the conclusion and signing of the Oslo Accords, Israel continued construction into East Jerusalem and the West Bank, implemented blockades in the West Bank and Gaza (which affected Palestinian economic affairs in a clear attempt to weaken them) and did not withdraw from parts of the West Bank and Gaza that they clearly agreed to do. In other words, they entirely ignored the results of the Oslo Accords and pushed on with their colonial agenda.
To be fair, the Palestinians did not exactly adhere to the Oslo Accords either, but the notion that it is entirely the fault of the Palestinians for not accepting the two-state solution while Israel was completely ready to
comply is not at all true.
To say that the Palestinian’s “obsession with destroying Israel” is what is fanning flames of conflict is akin to saying a gravely ill person’s immune system is “obsessed with destroying a virus.”
It is disrespectful to those affected by Israel’s apartheid regime, incorrect and ahistorical. It is Israel, backed by historically colonialist powers, that is obsessed with dissolving the Palestinians.
As Israel scours the area of any trace of Palestine’s existence, the Palestinians are forced to scramble to protect what little is left of their homeland.