Happy Birthday, Palestine! Strike up the band. Ice the champagne. Run up the flag. Rally and cheer. Orate and pose for the cameras. Declare victory. Dance the night away. Sing another chorus of Baladi! Baladi! Better yet, gather ’round the campfire, and pass the finjan till dawn telling glorious stories of a past that never was.
Historical revisionism, it used to be called. The new name for it is counter-narrative. But the basic theme hasn’t changed: the mutability of the past, the flexibility of fact, the preference for what we wish had been over what was. Who says Arabs and Southerners have nothing in common? Our common allegiance to a Lost Cause — and the imagined past that goes with it — make us ideological kin.
So raise a toast to the Grand Mufti and a Judenrein future, when these interlopers will be gone, and their preposterous little state with them. Israelites in this day and age? Why haven’t they had the grace to disappear like the Jebusites and Amalekites and all those other extinct tribes? This living fossil called Israel should have vanished eons ago — and will once the State of Palestine finally supplants it. Praise the United Nations from whom all blessings flow! Or would if the UN still meant anything.
At last, millennially, a Palestinian state has been officially recognized by that august body, the UN General Assembly, that great gathering of every tinpot dictator with delusions of grandeur and every tyranny that specializes in murdering its own people.
I can’t recall offhand: Did Syria’s crumbling regime vote for this resolution, raising a bloody hand in its favor along with the representatives of those other great redoubts of democracy, the new same-old Russia and still Communist China? Why not? Everybody else seemed to vote for it; I lost count at something like 130 Yeas.
The president of this new state, or at least the remaining part of it on the West Bank that the newer Palestinian state in Gaza despises, called the UN vote a “birth certificate” for Palestine, whatever or just wherever it is.
It was a great show of support for the new state even if it was mainly show, since the birth certificate seems to come with a lot of small print. The kind that renders documents official but meaningless. For instance, the new “state” won’t have voting rights at the UN. As if anybody would notice another vote for the next lopsided resolution out of the General Assembly blaming Israel for all the troubles in the world, or declaring Zionism an international crime. (The only thing missing from such resolutions is complimentary yellow stars for the Israeli delegation.)
But do let’s celebrate this happy occasion. It’s always better to have a party than a war in the Middle East, and the last one was just concluded in almost record time — eight days of an air campaign over Gaza instead of a seven-day war that changed the whole face of the Middle East. Pass the finjan ’round and ’round. Have another bite of halvah. For this is an historic first, even if it does seem familiar. How many times now has a Palestinian state been declared to the customary sounds of gunfire? Didn’t Yasser Arafat do that in one of his flightier moments? Memory grows furtive.
Even the United Nations has recognized an Arab Palestine before. Lest we forget, the same resolution that recognized a Jewish state in 1947 also called for an Arab one. Partition, it was called then. But the Arabs weren’t having any of it, refusing to accept a state of their own. Why should they when they could easily drive the Jews into the sea, collect the spoils of a quick war, and not have to share?
The (very low) Arab Higher Committee urged Palestine‘s Arabs to get out of the way as seven Arab armies — or was it eight plus various militias? — invaded the nascent Jewish state. Go to Beirut or Amman for a few weeks was the advice, see the family, take it easy, then you can return not only to your houses and stores and lands but the Jews’, too. And the exodus proceeded.
Hence the Arab refugee problem that is still with us generations later, as the descendants of those who first fled Palestine/Israel still linger in camps on UN stipends. Why integrate these fellow Arabs into the surrounding sea of Arab states when they make such good propaganda?
Haifa’s storied mayor, Abba Hushi, took to the streets in a sound truck back in Israel‘s founding days pleading with his Arab constituents to stay, but in vain. Has any people been so badly served by its still split leadership as the Arabs of Palestine?
The best laid plans of mice and muftis often go awry. And there is still an Israel 65 year later and no Palestine except in abstract theory and UN resolutions, but I repeat myself.
Even before the UN, there was a two-state solution on the table, recommended by one international committee after another going back at least to the Peel Commission in 1937. While the Jews accepted the idea, despite the objections of their own hardliners, the Arabs never did. Rather than half a loaf, better nothing. Which is what the Arabs got — at their own insistence.
Each time the Arab states and their Palestinian pawns rejected compromise in favor of launching still another war or provocation or rocket barrage, Israel grew stronger, larger. Even as it sacrificed its finest in war after war. Its pleas for peace, mutual recognition and negotiations were met with No, No, No. (See the infamous Khartoum Resolutions, aka the Three No’s, after the Six Day War.)
How just a little history can spoil a beautiful moment like this, much like little Toto lifting a corner of the curtain of illusion and revealing the Great and Mighty Oz as another frightened little man with a megaphone, not unlike Mahmoud Abbas, great and mighty president of a Palestine that still isn’t after all these years.
Once again, hope wars with fear in the Middle East. Who knows, a new semi-state of Palestine, however vivisected and limited, might be willing to finally enter serious negotiations-without-preconditions with the Israelis. For the always swindled Arabs of Palestine now have a state to lose, or kind of one, in still another war. And may finally choose peace instead. Hope springs eternal. Especially for suckers.
A confession: I entertained the same futile hope when the Israelis withdrew from Gaza to make room for an Arab state there, and you can see how well that worked out. This new “state” could also be used as just another way to make war, giving it just enough status before every United Nations agency, the International Criminal Court, and everywhere else to make still more trouble.
Gone are the days when an American envoy to the UN like the late great Daniel Patrick Moynihan or Jeane Kirkpatrick or the still very much alive John Bolton could tell off the UN‘s collection of clowns and potentates. Today we’re represented by the Hon. Susan Rice, who can’t be taken any more seriously than the tales she told about Benghazi.
Any real hope for peace between Arabs and Jews lies with the semblance of negotiations now being mediated by Egypt’s new pharaoh who, despite mouthing the Muslim Brotherhood line, managed to turn an air war over Gaza and southern Israel into a cease-fire. And now, inshallah, he might even turn the cease-fire into a working arrangement that allows Gazans to import more food and clothing and construction materials — but not more long-range missiles from Iran’s mullahs, those sweethearts, who should soon have a nuke of their own if the world will just sleep on.
The only real hope for peace is just where it has always been: in the kind of negotiations without preconditions that this new “state” of Palestine still shuns.
Couldn’t we just talk?