A recently released 10-minute video dubbed “The Israel-Palestine Conflict: A Brief, Simple History,” by left-wing news site Vox presents a misleading narrative of the relevant history. Misunderstandings forwarded and reinforced by the video occur via both commission of inaccurate statements and omission of relevant context.
Below are its most arresting problems.
Palestine Has Never Been A State, Let Alone A Nation
The video’s very title pushes the falsehood that Palestine constitutes, or used to constitute, a nation and/or state in conflict with Israel and the Zionist movement prior to the Jewish state’s official reestablishment in 1948.
Describing Israel, Gaza, and the disputed territories of the West Bank as “the region we now call Israel/Palestine,” the video again presents a false impression of Palestine as a contemporary nation and/or state, albeit in limbo in both dimensions.
Unmentioned is the breadth of British territorial control of the region, with the entirety of the land of today’s Jordan being under British administration as a part of Mandatory Palestine. Transjordan composed about 80% of the land of Mandatory Palestine. It subsequently became Jordan.
Also falsely claimed is that a “distinct national identity” was being formed by “Palestinians” during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. While nationalism was one of the defining ideologies and among the most important social forces affecting change Europe in the 19th century, it did not take hold in the Middle East until decades later in the 20th century. Meanwhile, Jews in Europe were being colored by the rise of nationalism across the continent, playing a role in fueling the growth of modern Zionism.
Palestine referred to a region, not a state or nationality. Contemporary historical revisionism and politics – as are on display in the video – have sought to change this.
The British Mandate For Palestine Was Much Larger Than Depicted
When mentioning the British Mandate for Palestine, the video shows an older map of the Middle East’s territories adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea, with yellow highlighting over the land of today’s Israel, Gaza, and disputed territories in the West Bank. Unmentioned, however, is that the British Mandate for Palestine following the First World War included a mandate for administering the land of today’s Jordan.
Within this region, then known as Transjordan and subsequently becoming Jordan, were Arabs virtually indistinguishable from those west of the Jordan River.
What the video doesn’t show you is that the lands composing today’s Israel, Gaza, and disputed territories in the West Bank compose about 20% of the land controlled by the British Empire under the Mandate for Palestine and Transjordan Memorandum.
The impression made on the audience would be different if seeing that a proto-nation of Arabs who would eventually self-identify as “Palestinians” lived and continue to live in the land of today’s Jordan.
Given that 80% of Jordan’s subjects self-identify as “Palestinians”, does the narrative of “Palestinian statelessness” change?
Jewish Migration To Palestine Did Not Magically Erupt Into Violence Between Jews And Arabs
The video’s narrative leads one to believe that Jewish migration to Palestine spontaneously led to conflict, with “both sides committing acts of violence.” This is akin to describing an individual defending himself from another’s aggression as “both sides committing acts of violence.”
Omitting the genesis of the violence – Arab intransigence towards Jewish settlement – misleads the audience. Given the absence of necessary context, the audience is led to conclude that both Jews and Arabs were moral equivalents in the waging of violence between the two groups during this time.
Frustrated by Jewish settlement, certain Arabs engaged in mass murder terrorist attacks against Jews in the region in the decades leading up to 1948. Jewish groups organized self-defence outfits such as the Stern Gang, Irgun, as well as the Haganah and its subsidiary Palmach arose in response.
Virtually Non-Existent “European Colonialism” In The Arab World Is Invoked
“But Arabs throughout the region saw the U.N. Plan as just more European colonialism trying to steal their land,” claims the video.
Colonialism is predicated on the large numbers of colonial settlers moving to a foreign land. Aside from colonialism in North Africa – primarily by the French in Algeria – from the previous century, virtually none took place in the Arab World post-1918. East of the Mediterranean saw virtually no colonies established for British, French, or Russian settlers via the Sykes-Picot Agreement. By the early 20th century, European colonial endeavors were already in retreat and many were in their death throes. The collapsed Ottoman Empire’s territorial control of the Middle East and North Africa falling into European control was not met with further colonialism.
The video seems to conflate imperialism and colonialism, which are not interchangeable or synonymous, while invoking the left-wing bogeyman of European colonialism as a stultifying force of Arab social development.
Attributing Arab rejectionism of the 1947 iteration of the U.N. Partition Plan (which sought to divide the remaining territory of Mandatory Palestine following the cleavage of Transjordan under British control into two new states: one Jewish and one Arab) to perceptions of grievance with virtually non-existent European colonialism of the Arab World is seemingly an attempt to justify Arab recalcitrance.
The Video Seeks To Retroactively Legitimize The 1947 Partition Plan
The video points out that Israel’s control of territory following its War of Independence ending in 1949 went beyond was proposed by the 1947 iteration of the U.N. Partition Plan. Israel is therefore framed as having encroached beyond its legitimate borders, as if lawful and moral war waged by a state in self-defense must be territorially contained within tentative borders delineated by a proposal rejected by its enemies.
As if a mulligan can be called following the conclusion of a war, the same baseline for borders is used by “Palestinians” and the broader Muslim World – as well as successive American administrations – as a starting point for negotiations towards the “two-state solution.”
Often referred to as “1967 borders,” Israel’s frontiers remained relatively constant between 1949 and 1967, after which Israel secured adjacent territories. Aside from not coming into being in 1967 and not being borders, the term is apt.
Given that the proposal was rejected and met with war by intransigent Arabs committed to destroying nascent Israel, one cannot turn back the clock and then return to Go without collecting $200.
“Occupation” Is Incessantly Invoked With Double Standards
The term “occupation” has a very specific definition as per International Humanitarian Law. In order for territory to lawfully be considered under occupation, it must legitimately belong to a sovereign state while being under the control of another.
Given the British Empire’s withdrawal of claims to lands across the 1949 Armistice Lines – often misleadingly described as the “1967 borders” – which state(s) is/are the lawful sovereign(s) of Gaza and the disputed territories of the West Bank? Does Gaza belong to Egypt? Does the West Bank beyond Jerusalem’s new borders belong to Jordan? Or do they belong to a non-existent “Palestinian” state?
The false implication is that Palestine is a yet-to-be actualized with legitimate claims of sovereignty over the aforementioned territories.
Between 1949 and 1967, Egypt controlled Gaza and Jordan controlled the entirety of the West Bank (all land west of the Jordan River up to the 1949 Armistice Line on Israel’s eastern front). Yet this control is not deemed as “occupation” by the video. Perhaps “occupation” is only invoked when Israel – or Jewish – territorial control is exercised in the region.
PLO Stands For Palestine Liberation Organization, Not Palestinian Liberation Organization
While correcting this error may seem pedantic to the uninitiated, it is significant as it speaks to an important distinction between Palestine as a region and “Palestinians” as a people. Do “Palestinians” constitute a distinct national identity entitled to self-determination and independence via a nation-state of their own?
It also relates the original vision of the PLO, which viewed Arabs of Palestine as part of a broader Arab nation across the Middle East and North Africa in accordance with the perspective of Pan-Arabism, which is incompatible with contemporary claims of “Palestinian” nationhood.
“Palestinian” nationalism was at least in part conceived in PLO consultations with the Soviet Union, which advised the terrorist organization to frame itself as liberating a nation rather than simply a region for the purposes of more effective political messaging and internal agitprop.
The Infographics Depicting Settlement Distribution Patterns Are Misleading
The term “settler” as used by Vox describes a Jewish person living across the 1949 Armistice Lines in either Gaza or The West Bank. While acknowledging that Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005, including dismantling Jewish settlements and evicting its settlers, the video does not make clear that more than half of the total “settlers” across what is described as “occupied Palestinian territory” live in Jerusalem.
While Vox considers “East Jerusalem” to be a part of “occupied Palestinian territory,” Israel annexed “East Jerusalem” and and some areas adjacent to it following the Six Day War of 1967. Of the nearly 800,000 “settlers” mentioned by the video, over 400,000 of them live in Jerusalem.
The infographics of the video, however, imply a wide and even geographical distribution of settlers across what it describes as “occupied Palestinian territory” in the West Bank.
Hamas Is Simply A “Violent Extremist Group”
Describing Hamas as a “hard-line” group rising up in opposition to “Palestinian” perceptions of the PLO as too conciliatory towards Israel, the video neglects to mention its Islamist orientation.
Neglecting this core characteristic of Hamas is akin to describing ISIS as “not Islamic.”
Also claimed by the video is that religion has little to do with the conflict, despite the Islamic undercurrent formulating the foundation of widespread grievance towards Israel and Jews by Muslims given the global population of nearly 1.6 billion Muslims worldwide.
Brushing aside religious aspects of this conflict, particularly in examining Islamism among “Palestinians,” is not conducive to its understanding.
The Israeli Right-Wing Is Portrayed As The Equivalent Of Islamic Terrorists
“Extremists on both sides can use violence to derail peace, and keep a permanent conflict going as they seek the other side’s total destruction. That’s a dynamic that’s been around ever since [the 1990s],” claims the video, in an attempt to present hostility towards a singular vision of “peace” based upon Israeli territorial surrender as equivalent among both Jews and Arabs.
No mention is made of the permeation of “Palestinian” culture with anti-Semitism and historical revisionism.
Also ignored is “Palestinian” educational curriculum for children and youth – which is largely subsidized by Western states – which pushes hatred of Jews while heralding mass murdering terrorists as Islamic martyrs.
The video attempts to draw moral equivalence between Israelis and “Palestinians.”
Terrorism From Gaza Is Virtually Unmentioned
Stating that Israel has placed Gaza under a “suffocating blockade,” the video neglects to mention that restrictions on the flow of people and goods into and out of Gaza were implemented as a response to missiles, rockets, mortars, shootings, and other forms of terrorism targeting Jews coming out of Gaza.
Also unmentioned is the construction of underground tunnels from Gaza into Israel.
The video also presents security barriers in and around Israel’s eastern frontier as simply purposed for “controlling Palestinian movement,” omitting their necessity in and success towards preventing terrorist attacks against Jews and other Israelis. The audience is left to believe that there is a masochistic element to their construction to hurt Arabs without cause.
The Video Displays Arrogant Certainty In Future Predictions
“Everyone agrees that things as they are now can’t last much longer. Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians is too unstable to last, and that, unless something dramatic changes, whatever happens next will be much worse.”
While the narrative of Israel’s impending collapse gets older every decade, the hubris on display with this statement is not uncommon among those hostile towards Israel and Zionism. The conventional wisdom being parroted here is that the unsustainability of the status quo will usher in Israel’s demise should its inertia not be reversed.
In other words, the video’s producers present themselves as genuinely concerned for Israel’s well-being, extending a good faith warning to Israel.
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