In a hostile neighbourhood, Israel more than survives, it thrives
By Rodney Mazinter
Today, of the three Abrahamic faiths, there are 120 countries in which the majority of the population is Christian. There are 57 member states of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference. There is only one Jewish state, a tiny country, one-quarter of one percent of the landmass of the Arab world.
Israel is about the size of my country, South Africa’s premier game reserve – the Kruger National Park. Israel has done extraordinary things. It has absorbed immigrants from 103 countries, speaking 82 languages. It has turned a desolate landscape into a place of forests and fields. It has developed cutting-edge agricultural and medical techniques and created one of the world’s most advanced high-tech economies. It has produced great poets and novelists, dancers, artists and sculptors, symphony orchestras, universities, and research institutes. As of 2021, it has also won 13 Nobel Prizes, with nine of the ten Israeli laureates since 2002, having been for either chemistry or economics. A pulsating powerhouse across so many fields, Israel punches way above its weight.
Wherever in the world there is a humanitarian disaster, Israel, if permitted, is one of the first to send aid. It has shared its technologies with other developing countries. Under constant threat, it has sustained a vibrant democracy, a free press, and an independent judiciary.
On the day of its birth, Israel was attacked by the armies of five states – Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq. A country of a mere six hundred thousand people, many of whom were refugees or Holocaust survivors, faced the full force of nations whose population was 45 million.
Speaking of population displacement, at its founding – sometimes forgotten – is that at the same time some eight hundred thousand Jews were forced to leave Arab states, among them Iraq, Egypt, Yemen, Algeria, Lebanon, Syria, Morocco, Tunisia, and Libya. In many of them, they had lived for far longer than had the non-Jewish population of Palestine. The plight of the Arab and Jewish refugees was quite different. The Jewish refugees were absorbed immediately, most by Israel itself. The Arab refugees were denied citizenship by every Arab country except Jordan, to be used as pawns in the political battle against Israel.
The only nation ever to have offered the present Palestinians a state has been Israel. Prior to 1948, the Jews living in this region administered under the British Mandate were referred to as “Palestinians” and current The Jerusalem Post was called The Palestinian Post. Following Palestine renamed Israel in 1948, it was only in1964, that the term “Palestinian” was resurrected now referring to Arab residents with the growth of the pan-Arab movement.
Every Israeli offer, every withdrawal, every hint at concessions has been interpreted by the Arabs as a sign of weakness and a victory for terror and has led to yet greater terror. If every Israeli gesture towards its neighbours is taken as an invitation to violence, then peace becomes impossible, not because Israel does not seek it, but because simply and quite explicitly,Hamas and Hezbollah do not seek peace with Israel but instead – its destruction!
The Palestinians have blocked every Israeli move to establish peace:
- The Oslo Accords led to suicide bombings
- Israel’s withdrawal from Lebanon led to the Katyusha rocket attacks by Hezbollah.
- The 2005 withdrawal from Gaza led to the rise of power of Hamas and the sustained missile attacks on Sderot and surrounding towns
Israel has often been accused of being a threat to peace. It is an erroneous accusation! Of the many two state proposals between the Balfour Declaration and today – all crafted around compromise – the Jewish leadership accepted them all.
Although bitterly divided over the plan, the Zionist leadership nevertheless agreed in 1937 to the Peel Commission proposals. The Arabs on the other hand, opposed the partition plan and condemned it unanimously.
When the UN General Assembly voted on Resolution 181, adopting a plan to partition the British Mandate into two states -one Jewish, one Arab – the Jewish leadership agreed. Despite that the borders of the proposed state were far from what the Jewish side had hoped for and left the Jewish population without access to key areas of national historic and religious significance, the Jewish leadership nevertheless responded positively to the international proposal. In contrast, Resolution 181 was violently rejected by the local Arab population and the Arab States. A wave of attacks were launched against the Jewish population and when Israel declared its independence on May 14, 1948, five Arab armies invaded the new state the same night, seeking its annihilation.
David Ben Gurion had called for peace; the Arab response was war.
In 1967, after the Six Day War, Israel made an offer to return territories in exchange for peace. The offer was conveyed on 16 June 1967. Two months later, the Arab League, meeting in Khartoum, gave its reply – the ‘Three No’s’:
no to peace, no to negotiation, no to recognition.
In 1969, Golda Meir became Prime Minister. Her first announcement was a call to Israel’s neighbours to begin peace negotiations. Within three days, Egypt’s President Gamal Abdel Nasser delivered his rejection with the words: “There is no call holier than war.” In June 1969, Mrs Meir offered to go personally to Egypt to negotiate an agreement.
Between 1993 to 2001, during the Oslo Accords, Israel made its most generous offers yet, reaching the point at Taba of offering the Palestinians a state in all of Gaza, some 97% of the West Bank, with compensating border adjustments elsewhere, and with East Jerusalem as their capital. Again, the answer was ‘no’. Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi ambassador to the United States and an active participant in the talks, said in December 2000, “If Arafat does not accept what is available now, it won’t be a tragedy, it will be a crime”. No Arab country except Jordan offered citizenship to Palestinian refugees. The only nation ever to have offered the Palestinians a state has been Israel.
Every Israeli offer, every withdrawal, every hint at concessions has been interpreted by the Palestinians as a sign of weakness and a victory for terror and has led to yet greater terror. If every Israeli gesture towards its neighbours is taken as an invitation to violence, then peace becomes impossible, not because Israel does not seek it, but because, simply and quite explicitly, Hamas and Hezbollah do not seek peace with, but the destruction of, Israel.
Israel has taken a barren land and made it bloom again. It has taken Hebrew, an ancient language, and made it speak again. It has taken the West’s oldest faith and made it young again. It has taken a shattered nation and made it live again.
Not bad, I would say!
About the writer:
RODNEY MAZINTER, a Cape Town based writer, poet and author, who is involved in media activism on behalf of Israel. Past vice-chair of the South African Zionist Federation, Cape Council, he has held numerous leadership positions within a range of educational, sporting, secular and Jewish organisations. His novel “By A Mighty Hand” was favourably reviewed on Amazon. He has just finished writing the sequel called Ge’ula (Redemption).
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