About 15 years ago, Meyer Ben-Abraham wrote a widely circulated article entitled “Dear World, Sorry to Upset You”. It seems that every few years the world does get quite upset about Israel. As this is one of those times, I have taken the liberty of writing my own “Dear World” letter. I hope the world reads it, however reluctantly, and may even take some notice, however grudgingly. This is what I have to say to “Dear World” in March, 2002.
I get the impression that you are not too happy with Israel at the moment, what with so much violence and so many calls to end the “illegal occupation” of “Palestinian land”.
Dear World, the fact is that we are talking about a small piece of territory that has been the Jewish Holy Land from time immemorial. It is only the Jewish people for whom it was the Promised Land, only the Jewish people who have had a continuous presence there for millennia, only the Jewish people who can lay claim to being the indigenous inhabitants, only the Jewish people whose prophets walked the soil of the country and whose priests and Levites led the worship in the temple in Jerusalem.
Dear World, insofar as there was a historic Palestinian people it was the Jews. The Arab Palestinians never laid claim to that name until very recently. Different Arabic groups came there from Egypt, from across the Jordan and from other places. They had no one national identity, and what united them was hatred of Israel.
Dear World, Jews brought fertility and culture to the country as a result of Zionist inspiration. Arabs did not have the same enthusiasm for the land and attacked Jews violently for decades. The United Nations resolved to partition the land between the two peoples. The Jews were not enamoured of the plan but went along with it. The Arabs attacked and believed they could drive the Jews into the sea.
Dear World, it did not work. Israel came into being within narrow, difficult borders. Time after time the Arabs attacked, time after time the Israelis prevailed. It might still have been possible to share the land, but the Arabs wanted the Jews out completely.
Dear World, there was no illegal Israeli occupation of anyone’s territory. There was a war in 1967. Israel warned Arab nations to keep out. The advice went unheeded and Israel won. Wars that lead to territorial changes are commonplace. In international law Israel became the only nation with a legal claim to title over the West Bank. Yet Israel still offered territory for peace. In response the Arab League said at Khartoum, “No peace, no negotiation, no recognition, no compromise”.
Dear World, the Security Council, not a great friend of Israel, called for “Israel’s right to live in peace within secure and recognised boundaries”. Egypt’s President Sadat and Jordan’s King Hussein could live with that principle. Other Arab states may one day see the sense in following suit. In the meantime they weep crocodile tears for the Arab Palestinians but do nothing to improve their lot, economically, in health, education or quality of life.
Dear World, Israel tried to do deals with Yassir Arafat on behalf of the Arab Palestinians. Prime Minister Barak even offered over 95% of the land they claimed as well as shared sovereignty over Jerusalem. Whether the Israeli electorate would have supported him never became a question because Arafat could not say “yes”.
Dear World, a new intifada began, with a deadly new weapon – suicide bombers who respect no-one’s life, not even their own. They have done a lot of harm to Israeli citizens, but they have not broken Israel’s spirit, nor is there any chance they will. They are plain terrorists, and Israel, as any self-respecting nation would do, is determined to defend its people against them.
Dear World, the Arab Palestinians do not have it easy. They never did. Their own leaders found it to their advantage to keep their people suffering. It was and is a cynical exercise in attracting world support. Downtrodden underdogs, a people denied liberty, a state yearning to emerge – it’s a proven recipe, Dear World, for emotional manipulation.
Dear World, sorry to upset you, but Israel isn’t going to give in or go away. But, Dear World, Israel would prefer that Arab grandchildren and Jewish grandchildren could play in the same parks without fear or menace by the way. It does not really matter who started the fight or whose tears are saltier. But, Dear World, do both sides a favour, and do a favour to the cause of truth and peace: see the complexity of the situation and try to be helpful and constructive.
Dear World, the Israelis are here to stay. Israel is not going to let itself be annihilated. Israel could be such a blessing to the region if only the Arab nations and groups would see it as being to their advantage to be good neighbours. If they make it necessary to have a huge, ugly Berlin Wall between Israel and the others, there will presumably be a wall. But open frontiers would be nicer and easier for everyone.
Dear World, do the decent thing. If you can help, do so with all your heart and soul. If you can’t help, please don’t bother to remain tuned to the Middle East.