We in the West paid no attention to the massive injustice done to the Palestinian people in years after the founding of the Jewish state (May 15,1948). There were many reasons for this. The first was the widespread feeling that after the holocaust and suffering of European Jewry a homeland was owed to the Jewish people. The fact that it was in an area called Palestine populated for 12 centuries by largely Muslim citizens seemingly did not register. Then in 1967, 750,000 Palestinians were ethnically cleansed from their homes. These people who had nothing to do with the European massacre were made to pay the price. While few argued against finding a refuge for the war-torn Jews of Europe was necessary the idea of founding a state in the midst of the Arab world and displacing the indigenous population was a fundamental error.It is now only coming to be understood as a historical wrong.
In the post-war period the Arab countries of course were incensed at the Zionist coup but they were never any match for the powerful military of the new state, built up by largely American support. The two major wars led by Egypt ended in defeat and humiliation for Arabs of the Middle East. Often these countries were at each others throats and were never united enough to win the land back or demand the return of refugees despite the resolutions (242, 93) of the newly formed United Nations.It is now known despite the massive propaganda that Israel was never in at risk in being defeated. As Mordecai Bentov a member of the israeli government candidly admitted,”The entire story of the danger of extermination was invented in every detail exaggerated a posteriori to justify the annexation of of new Arab territory.”
The United States came out of World War ll as a colossus. It had 50% of the world’s wealth and only 6% of its population. Europe was in ruins and most importantly within the republic American Jews were formidable actors in the defense of Israel. The Arab voice in America was negligible. All US presidents from Truman on toed the Israeli line . The USA so accommodating to Jewish refugees showed no interest in alleviating Palestinian suffering. No people likes to be disappeared treated as the disposable flotsam and jetsam of history so the inevitable happened. Palestinians reached for the gun and resorted to terror like the Israelis had before them—kidnappings, hijackings and assassination. It had worked for the Zionists and they figured it would work for them.
On May 5,1974, 26 years to the day that Israel was declared a state, three fedayeen( guerillas), members of the Popular Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PDFLP) stormed a school in Ma’alot (formerly the Arab village of Tarchiha) on the Lebanese border. They wished to enact a prisoner exchange. Rather than wait for the 6 o’clock curfew the Israeli Defense Force stormed the school and in the chaos 16 young people were killed either by Palestinian grenades or Israeli bullets. The PDFLP spokesman later stated that no harm would come to them if the demands were met. American public opinion stoked by Israeli propaganda went wild. In Israel another picture unseen in in the west was seen. The IDF leader Moshe Dayan was attacked by the Ma’alot Council Chairman Eli ben Yaacov who screamed at him “You have made us the stepchildren of Israel—because most of us are from Morocco.” This was a reference to the well known discrimination against Jews from Arabic countries. The very next day the Israeli air force killed 52 civilians in a reprisal raid on an impoverished refugee camp. 36 American supplied Phantom jets had efficiently done their work.
The day before the Ma’alot disaster a young 25 year old Palestinian was interviewed in Beirut and he made the point of this article: I am a Palestinian and I am not concerned with world opinion including american which has done nothing for our very fair cause through more than 26 years. The world can respect you only when you are strong enough to stand in the face of the world and fight for your cause.
From then on until the work of the New Israeli Historians the Palestinians to our way of thinking were nothing but terrorists.. They had sprung seemingly full-blown out of Medusa’s head for no earthly rhyme or reason. One of the reasons we must have hope in Israel is that there have always been sterling Jews of conscience who understood at a deep level the historical plight of the Palestinian people..One of the many was Ya’acov Talmon(d.1980) the Polish-born a professor of Modern History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
In 1969 Talmon wrote a letter to the Minister of Information Yisrael Galili. Talmon noted that the Jewish national home had been imposed on the Arabs by the great power. He told the minister that he did not recognize “the Arabs of Palestine as a moral or legal entity in Palestine. Why should you therefore wonder when the Arabs or other describe you as colonizers and claim that they cannot reach and agreement with you because you do not recognize the principle of mutual respect but look only toward expansion…and I ask you in your capacity as Minister of Information what shall I answer the thinkers and educated people of other nations when they ask me why should not the Arabs join the ranks of freedom fighters when he hears the words of Galili?You deprive him of the right of his right to national existence and self-determination. When the British attempted to do the same to with you didn’t he Haganah, the Irgun and the Stern gang resort to terror and violence. Yes, Mr. Minister what do you expect my answer to be?”