Europeans fleeing religious persecution or seeking better lives arrive on a foreign shore, defeat the local inhabitants, claim a manifest destiny to occupy their lands, dispossess the natives of their property, declare them second-class residents and herd them into reservations.
This thumbnail sketch of the colonization of North America also reflects the recent history and current state of affairs in Palestine, where Israel wages a continuing war of subjugation against its Arab neighbors – with the full support of the American government.
After the World War I, there were an estimated 575,000 Muslim Arabs, 85,000 Christian Arabs and 85,000 Jews in Palestine. They had been co-existing under Turkish occupation for centuries; they might have made a go of it without the meddling of the “enlightened” West.
But, during that war, while the area was still under Ottoman rule, England – a European country with no legitimate standing in the area — issued the Balfour Declaration stating its intention to impose a “national home for the Jewish people” upon Palestine. This encouraged European Jews to leave the particular bigotries in their home countries and emigrate to Palestine.
Following World War II, the influx of European Jews increased, and, in the words of our State Department: ”On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion, the head of the Jewish Agency, proclaimed the establishment of the State of Israel. U.S. President Harry S. Truman recognized the new nation on the same day.”
Writing in Salon, Matthew Rozsa noted then Secretary of State George Marshall’s opposition to this declaration “because he feared the political tension blowback from Arab nations.”
Instant and continuing enmity and distrust throughout the Arab world represent sufficient “blowback,“ but as Rozsa adds, Truman’s action “did very little to help the native Palestinians who were being persecuted or driven into exile.”
The persecution continues. Israeli army attacks are the most obvious, of course, but an oppressive dehumanization of Palestinians has been a constant tactic of the Israeli government.
At the first of the year, the public security minister for the “most violent and right-wing (government) in Israeli history,” according to JVP, “ordered police to tear down Palestinian flags wherever they are found in public,” according to Common Dream’s Wilkins. “This followed “protests in which tens of thousands of Israelis marched ‘together against fascism and apartheid.’”
In early February, the Associated Press reported: ”An ivory spoon dating back 2,700 years that was recently repatriated to the Palestinian Authority from the United States has sparked a dispute with Israel’s new far-right government over the cultural heritage in the occupied West Bank….
“Israel’s ultranationalist heritage minister has ordered officials to examine the legality of the U.S. government’s historic repatriation of the artifact to the Palestinians earlier this month, and is calling for annexing archaeology in the occupied West Bank.”
Annexing history as well as the present. There is a vicious consistency at play here though not as vicious as the continued attacks on Palestinians and massive retaliations against any Palestinian violence against Israelis.
It bears remembering, too, that former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin once led a terrorist organization and orchestrated the massacre of a Palestinian village. And never expressed remorse. Terrorists become freedom fighters if they succeed.
Americans should be familiar with the irresponsible over-reactions that Israel unleashes indiscriminately on Palestinians following attacks on Israelis. Attacking peaceful, uninvolved Indian camps to “avenge” attacks by other Indians elsewhere was a hallmark of our western expansion.
Israel’s existence is a fact. European guilt over millennia of anti-Semitism, European bigotry eager to see Jews move elsewhere and religious superstitions concerning a “Promised Land” were at the core of its outside support. But, it was established on the oldest of principles: invasion, conquest and the power to maintain its borders.
Truman’s one-sided approach to the Palestine question may prove to be the worst foreign policy decision ever made by a U.S. president. The fruits of this stupidity – perpetuated by succeeding administrations – poison the world to this day.
(Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party.)