A new salvo has been fired by the anti-Israel side, with a couple of attractive young Palestinians responding to Danny Ayalon’s The Truth About The West Bank video, albeit over two years since the video was released.
Before responding to their actual arguments, I would like to point out they deal only with a very small portion of the Ayalon video, which I think is in itself quite telling.
As to the substance of their arguments…
The first young woman argues against Danny Ayalon’s contention there was no nation nor state of Palestine by claiming:
- “Palestine” was used to describe the area between the Mediterranean and Jordan river from as far back as 450BC
- It is ridiculous to claim palestinians do not exist since she – and others – actually do exist.
Both of these are straw man arguments.
Ayalon was not arguing there wasn’t a territory referred to as “Palestine.” This is accepted, as is the fact the region (named thus by the Greeks well after the Ancient Israelites inhabited it) has been controlled by numerous different peoples, including the ancient Israelites thousands of years before the Ottoman-Turks, then British, followed by the area being divided between the modern state of Israel, Egypt and Jordan. But never any nation of Palestinians, nor state of Palestine.
Ayalon correctly stated that the “West Bank” was captured from Jordan. This is a fact. Jordan controlled that area between 1948 (following the 1948 Arab-Israeli War) until Israel captured it in 1967. During that time, no “Palestinian nation” argued this “West Bank” belonged to them. In fact, when the PLO was formed in 1964 – three years prior to the Six Day War – it refrained from claiming these lands from Jordan and Egypt. Per article 24 of the Palestine National Charter:
This Organization does not exercise any territorial sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, on the Gaza Strip or in the Himmah Area. Its activities will be on the national popular level in the liberational, organizational, political and financial fields.
There is some controversy regarding when the idea of a “Palestinian nation” came about. Historian Bernard Lewis argues it was not as a Palestinian nation that the Arabs of Ottoman Palestine objected to Zionists, since the very concept of such a nation was unknown to the Arabs of the area at the time and did not come into being until very much later. Even the concept of Arab nationalism in the Arab provinces of the Ottoman Empire, “had not reached significant proportions before the outbreak of World War I.” Benny Morris argues that the Arabs in Palestine remained part of a larger pan-Islamist or pan-Arab national movement. Even the pro Palestinian historian Rashid Khalidi cautions against the efforts of some Palestinian nationalists to “anachronistically” read back into history a nationalist consciousness that is in fact “relatively modern.”
Then there’s that matter of the famous quote by PLO leader Zuheir Mohsen in 1977:
The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel for our Arab unity. In reality today there is no difference between Jordanians, Palestinians, Syrians and Lebanese. Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct “Palestinian people” to oppose Zionism. For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.
Ayalon does not argue in the video that Palestinians like the young women don’t exist. These young women clearly identify themselves as Palestinians, but their claim they date back as a distinct people to 450BC is disingenuous.
The next claim is that Israel started the Six Day War by striking Egypt in 1967. The young woman even brings the following quote from former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin as proof:
“In June 1967 we again had a choice. The Egyptian army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us. We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”
But interestingly, and tellingly, enough, she omits the very next words by Begin:
This was a war of self-defense in the noblest sense of the term. The government of national unity then established decided unanimously: We will take the initiative and attack the enemy, drive him back, and thus assure the security of Israel and the future of the nation.
Begin was claiming that Israel did have a choice whether or not to attack, but the considerations were very much tied to our survival. He was never claiming we had a choice to attack as part of some war of conquest, as the young lady is suggesting with her out-of-context Begin quote.
As historian and former Israeli ambassador to the USA Michael Oren has explained:
And going through the documents, both Israeli and Arab, I began to come across actual operational plans by the Egyptians to launch a surprise attack against Israel, an air and ground attack, on May 27th, 1967. ..It was the Israelis operating on a hunch, telling the Americans that really in the night between the 26th and the 27th, that they think that the Egyptians are going to move. The Americans, President Johnson, informed his counterpart in the Kremlin, Kosygin, who, in turn, sent his ambassador to wake up Nasser in the middle of the night and said, `Don’t you dare.’
Moreover there are Arab armies gathering on all of Israel’s border, not just on the Egyptian border–on the Jordanian border, which is Israel’s longest and most vulnerable, and then on the Syrian–army from the Golan Heights. And then there were Arab contingents arriving from 21 Arab states. So there was a tremendous sense of war frenzy in the Arab world. Israeli leaders were uniform in thinking that if they don’t act quickly and act first that the future survival of the state was indeed in jeopardy.
As to the claim that Ayalon’s depiction of “Arabs and Muslims as gun-toting fanatics firing shots in to the air, hell-bent on destroying Israel, or stupidly sitting smoking water pipes” are racist stereotypes, it is also dishonest. The Ayalon video aims to pithily answer certain arguments with simple graphics and representations. Consequently, it represents certain Arabs in certain ways. Those who were expressing genocidal desires against the Jewish State are depicted as “as gun-toting fanatics firing shots in to the air, hell-bent on destroying Israel.” The one “sitting smoking a water pipe” represents the Ottaman-Turks. According to Wikipedia, “Nargile was such an important Turkish custom that it even sparked a diplomatic crisis between France and the Ottoman Empire.” I do not see the problem with these depictions, which certainly do not aim to dehumanize the Arab and Muslim world in the same way as the Nazi propaganda to which the woman are referring. Incidentally, the women need not point as far back as 20th Century Europe; they can easily point to Palestinian society for these dehumanizing depictions of Jews. But they obviously don’t.
I think we are going to see more of this type of video, with young and attractive people making what sounds like ostensibly convincing arguments against Israel. It is part of the same charm offensive we are seeing even from the likes of Hamas. It is therefore incredibly important to be armed with the facts, because the battle is heating up.
Update: HuffPoMonitor has posted a much needed video response, partly based on the arguments I have made, but also with some additional ones.