Friday, May 05, 2006

A Clash of Civilations or A Clash of Imperialisms?

Excellent interview at Front Page Mag with Efraim Karsh by Jamie Glazov

Here's a taste....but read it all here.


FP: What really lies behind the Arabs’ rejection of the Jewish state? For some reason I have a feeling it has very little to do with concern for the Palestinians.

Karsh: It is easier to unite people through a common hatred than through a shared loyalty, hence anti-Zionism has always been the core principle of pan-Arab solidarity. As early as 1945 the senior British official in Egypt was reporting back to London that the only thing holding the newly formed Arab League together was shared opposition to Zionism. However, you are correct to assume that the Arab states have never had any real stake in the “liberation of Palestine.”

Consider, for example, the pan-Arab invasion of the newly proclaimed state of Israel in 1948. This, on its face, was a shining demonstration of solidarity with the Palestinian people. But the invasion had far less to do with winning independence for the indigenous population than with the desire of the Arab regimes for territorial aggrandizement. Transjordan’s King Abdullah wanted to incorporate substantial parts of mandatory Palestine into the greater Syrian empire he coveted; Egypt wanted to prevent that eventuality by laying its hands on southern Palestine. Syria and Lebanon sought to annex the Galilee, while Iraq viewed the 1948 war as a stepping stone in its long-standing ambition to bring the entire Fertile Crescent under its rule. Had the Jewish state lost the war, its territory would not have fallen to the Palestinians but would have been divided among the invading Arab forces.

At a secret meeting in September 1947 between Zionist officials and Abdel Rahman Azzam, secretary-general of the Arab League, the latter warned the Jews of Arab efforts: “We succeeded in expelling the Crusaders, but lost Spain and Persia, and may lose Palestine.” In other words, he rejected a Jewish right to statehood not from concern for the national rights of the Palestinian Arabs but from the desire to fend off a perceived encroachment on the pan-Arab patrimony.

The eminent Arab-American historian Philip Hitti described the common Arab view to an Anglo-American commission of inquiry in 1946: “There is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not.” A similar view was voiced by the Jerusalem newspaper al-Wahda (Unity), mouthpiece of the Arab Higher Committee, the effective “government” of the Palestinian Arabs, which in the summer of 1947 advocated the incorporation of Palestine (and Transjordan) into “Greater Syria.” So did Fawzi Qauqji, commander of the pan-Arab force that invaded Palestine in early 1948. He expressed the hope that the UN partition resolution of November 1947 “will oblige the Arab states to put aside their differences and will prepare the way for a greater Arab nation.”

During the decades following the 1948 war, the Arab states manipulated the Palestinian national cause to their own ends. Neither Egypt nor Jordan allowed Palestinian self-determination in the parts of Palestine they had occupied during the 1948 war (respectively, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip). Palestinian refugees were kept in squalid camps for decades as a means of whipping Israel and stirring pan-Arab sentiments. “The Palestinians are useful to the Arab states as they are,” Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser candidly responded to an inquiring Western reporter in 1956. “We will always see that they do not become too powerful.” As late as 1974, Syria’s Hafiz Assad referred to Palestine as being “not only a part of the Arab homeland but a basic part of southern Syria”; there is no evidence to suggest that he had changed his mind by the time of his death on June 10, 2000.

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