Israel's single-minded dedication to statecraft left Palestinians behind

Israel's single-minded dedication to statecraft left Palestinians behind
Comment: From its inception, the founders of Israel stressed scientific progress as much as nation-building. Is it any wonder Israel has left Palestinians far behind, asks Abdul Latif al-Saadoun.
5 min read
14 May, 2015
The founding of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem was made a priority [Getty]

This year, as every year, Israel was ahead of the Arabs in marking its independence day, on 23 April, weeks ahead of the day Palestinians call the Nakba ["catastrophe"] on May 15, commemorating the same event. The peculiarities of the Jewish calendar mean they rarely coincide.

This is not the first time Israelis come first and Arabs second. For 67 years, our only preoccupation has been the marketing of illusions, self-deception, the concealment of facts and creating the illusion that we are victorious when in fact we have sustained innumerable defeats.

Israel's progress

Let us ask the historic question asked by Shakib Arslan - author of Our Decline - but let us phrase it differently: Why have we fallen behind while the Israelis have progressed?

Perhaps the "facts" recorded by a British officer who worked in Palestine during the British Mandate will help us find an answer.

In the Israeli mind, finding a 'national homeland' is equivalent to 'establishing a centre for scientific research'.

"An expedition from the World Zionist Organisation, which was led by Chaim Weizmann, came to Palestine to begin implementing the Balfour Declaration," he wrote.

"It included four activists, known for their dedication to serving the Zionist movement, and representatives of Jewish communities in western countries. It was entrusted with achieving two tasks simultaneously: to find a national homeland for the Jews and to establish a centre for scientific research. The organisation linked the two tasks because they were complementary."

Note that in this telling, finding a "national homeland" is equivalent to "establishing a centre for scientific research".

"The organisation took it upon itself to develop Jewish institutions in Palestine and to pave the way for an independent administration that would be the nucleus of a national homeland," the officer continued.

"They did so in coordination with the activities of British intelligence officers, who worked to spread allegations about injustices committed for centuries against the Jews in Europe and to call for atonement for those injustices by helping to create a national homeland for Jews.

"Representatives of the movement addressed a memorandum to the Paris Peace Conference, describing the Jews as strong and courageous and highly determined, while describing the Arabs as disunited, deceitful and influenced by the romanticism of the desert."

Note that the goal was to distort the image of the Arabs in the western mind and highlight a positive image of the Jews.

"In July of that year, Weizmann laid the foundation stone for the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as a step along the path of science and knowledge and as the beginning of a new era in Palestine."

Note the founding of the Hebrew University just months after the organisation's expedition began its work, and how this was heralded as the beginning of a new era.

"In 1920, Herbert Samuel arrived in Palestine as the first British high commissioner with the purpose of implementing the Balfour Declaration. This coincided with the formulation by the Jewish General Organisation of Workers (Histadrut) of a plan to bring Jewish immigrants to Palestine. The consultative council that Samuel established ratified legislation that provided for receiving new Jewish settlers at the rate of one thousand individuals per month."

Note that the Jewish immigration plan amounted to a demographic change throughout Palestine.

"Samuel worked to erase the historic name of Palestine and granted recognition to the Jewish name, Eretz Israel, or the Land of Israel. The name was written into official documents and on postal stamps."

That meant the birth of Israel's statehood. All that remained was to consecrate this officially, as happened in 1948.

Decades of delusion

We did not forget to repress all the voices that opposed us, because no voice should rise above the sound of the battle.

As for the Arabs, it took them decades to discover, following the tragedy of the expulsion of the Palestinians and the destruction of their villages by the Haganah, that they were facing an immediate and present danger.

At that point, they entered a war with the new state, but its outcome was already known. Arab radio stations were broadcasting news bulletins with headlines of "Victory belongs to the Arabs."

We only realised that this was a way of calling things by their opposite names when we matured and were able to tell the difference between victory and defeat.

Subsequently, our governments informed us that "Israel was an illegitimate child produced by adultery" and that the seven Arab states that fought the war were well-built and healthy. They have now increased in number to more than twenty, and we are waiting for them to reproduce further.

And so we coexisted with these authorised lies and the illusion of victory for 67 years - during which we did not cease to exploit the Palestinian cause.

We did not hesitate to wage our own wars under the slogan of "liberating Palestine". We invaded Kuwait to cross into Palestine, we entered Beirut to encircle Tel Aviv and we announced the birth of the state of "Israstine" to bring together the Arabs and Jews.

We did not forget to repress all the voices that opposed us, because no voice should rise above the sound of the battle.

We also did not forget to halt all development programmes so that we could buy enough arms for a hundred wars, and we claimed we were saving those arms for the decisive battle that we said would be "the mother of battles".

Then we discovered that our weapons were being sold as scrap metal on world markets.

After all that, do not ask: Why have the Israelis progressed, while we have fallen back?

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.

This is an edited translation from our Arabic website.