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The Past and Future of the Israeli-Arab Conflict

February 16, 2009

Guest: Yousef Munayyer of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee

“There is room in Syria for us both.”
— King Faisal to Chaim Weizmann, 1919.

Faisal, King of Hejaz (Western Arabia), would later have sons rule Iraq and Transjordan. Weizmann would become the First President of Israel. The Faisal-Weizmann Agreement envisaged dividing the territories of the Ottoman Empire into the Jewish State of Palestine and the much larger Arab State to encompass what is today Syria, Iraq, Eastern Jordan and Arabia.

“The Day of Judgement will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.
— From the Hamas Charter

[This show was requested by a listener.]

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  • Josey Wales February 21, 2009 11:28 pm

    Stone Outlaw

    Don’t piss down my back
    and say it’s rainin’,
    I can see the chickenshit look
    of politico eyes,
    I still remember the dead
    long-since buried,

    there ain’t no forgettin’
    about bein’ maddog mean,
    my only explanation
    now, is to my maker,
    I no longer need an excuse
    for any man,

    I heed no talk worth doodly-squat,
    but my heart still runs deep
    for the comin’ of the Lord,
    and those who do his work,
    and by their works
    I will know them,

    and they will get my dire devotion
    unto the day I die,
    that is my holy alibi,
    for the cost of living
    and the sweet bye and bye,

    I reckon so,
    we all died a little in that damn war.

  • Mark February 19, 2009 12:02 pm

    I write this in response to a private letter. I invite the person who wrote that letter to post it here on this blog (but I don’t want to be presumptuous and post it here without permission).

    I think dialogue is always a good thing. Even when we disagree, it is important to know where people are coming from.

    In my humble opinion, the Case for Israel is virtually never made in the mainstream press, while the Arab case is pressed time and again virtually everywhere. In the United States, from CNN to the Washington Post, Hamas libels are widespread. Meanwhile, outside the United States, arguments about Israeli actions become once again an excuse for persecuting Jews (not that Christians or Muslims in Europe, Asia, or the Middle East ever really need an excuse for persecuting Jews….it’s de rigeur and has been for 2000 years…Witness Mumbai.)

    The person who wrote the letter pointed out that refugees were repatriated in Kosovo. He is absolutely right about that. But of course, it’s far easier to repatriate refugees within a year or less of their leaving their homes.

    It’s far harder 60 years later when the adult refugees from a land are at least 78 years old and their descendants have no memory of their former homes.

    I think back to the Jews who survived the Holocaust who wanted to go back to their homes in Poland but could not because their homes had been taken just five years earlier by the Polish Christians.

    Jews don’t ever want to live again under the “kindness of strangers.”

    Why not?

    Because for 2000 years, in every single area of the world outside North America, there has been far more cruelty than kindness. Jews have lived in the BEST of times as second class citizens (“dhimmi” in the Muslim world) and far more often treated to expulsions, pogroms, forced conversions, and mass murder. People forget that Jews could not live legally in Spain and Portugal from 1492 until 1975(!) and still cannot be citizens in Saudi Arabia or most of the Arab world today. People don’t know that the Iraqi Government allied with Hitler and took away all Jewish citizenship in 1950 while Egypt expelled virtually all of its ancient Jewish community wholesale. Syrian Jews today live in a ghetto and are viciously mistreated. And Arab mobs chant “Death to the Jews” worldwide, proclaiming the wisdom of Hitler’s ovens. Hamas teaches its minions to kill as many Jews as possible. And most Arab States spread teach vicious libels to children straight out of the textbooks of Hitler Youth.

    Because of the ordinary cruelty of Christians and Muslims towards Jews worldwide throughout history in virtually every country outside the United States (and even within the USA in many places until World War II), there have always been mass expulsions and mass murders of Jews and unfortunately there probably always will be. Witness the massive increase in antisemitism in Venezuela, Turkey, England and even the Netherlands that occurred just in the past few months.

    Without a Jewish State, the constantly expelled Jews who escape these periodic mass murders will have no place to go. This is the reason Zionism began. Which is why the One Arab State Solution = the Nazi Final Solution. Every time I hear One-State Solution, I think Final Solution.

    There can be 20 Arab States and 1 Jewish State living in peace.

    Or there can be 21 Arab States (including one more Arab State in Palestine) living in peace with 1 Jewish State.

    But if there are 21 Arab States and No Jewish State, there will be genocide. The Holocaust is not the first nor the second nor the twentieth time Christians and Muslims have tried to annihilate the Jewish People.

    No one to my knowledge has EVER tried to annihilate the Arab People. I know of many Arab genocides against others, including the one occurring right now in Sudan. But no one to my knowledge has ever challenged the right of Arabs or Arab States to Exist. I understand that Arabs don’t want to live under the “kindness of strangers” in a Jewish State, but ironically, Israel gives more democratic freedoms to its Arab minority than any Arab State gives to its Arab majorities! So Israel, while not perfect, is relatively kind to its Arabs, although where discrimination exists, I think we can all agree, it should be rooted out. Plus any Arab that does not want to live under Israeli rule can emigrate to one of the 20+ Arab States.

    In contrast, Jews without a Jewish State have literally nowhere to go (but gas chambers, I guess). I’m quite confident that nuclear war will occur before there is ever a “One-State Solution” with a majority Arab population once again forcing Jewish survival to depend on the “kindness of strangers.” Perhaps that is exactly what Iran is preparing for.

    I think it’s time to move on past the silliness of non-solutions and work toward a solution where all persecuted peoples have a place where they can live in safety and peace: for me, Jews and Kurds top the list (and their piece of territory in the Middle East would be larger than Israel). And don’t forget the persecuted Arab majorities that only live freely in one place in the Middle East: Israel. From the Bahai to the Druze, Arab minorities persecuted for their religion live in Israel and are strongly loyal to the Jewish State, the one state in the Middle East that lets them practice their religion without oppression.

    I’m not against another Arab State in Palestine, if that’s what the parties work out, as long as the fighting stops with secure and recognized boundaries and peace. But until Arabs accept that a Jewish State exists in Judaea and that a Jewish State will always exist now and forevermore, that it is not some Crusader kingdom filled with European Christians that will last a couple centuries, but a Jewish Judaea filled with people who have “come home” to the land that gave Jews their name. Until the “right of return” is accepted as monetary compensation for all Arab and Jewish refugees and their descendants (or I’d be willing to say “no descendants” if it makes things simpler). Until Arabs are willing to live with Gaza and 95+% of the West Bank and the outskirts of Jerusalem, the holiest city of the Jews, along with 100% of their holiest two cities of Mecca and Medina (no Jews or Christians allowed to live there!) and Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Syria, Jordan (East Palestine), Egypt, Libya, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Oman, Kuwait, Lebanon (even though this was supposed to be a state where Christians had rights too….some One-State solution that turned out to be!), Bahrain, Yemen, UAE, Qatar, Sudan, Mauritania, Somalia, Djibouti…..there will never be peace.

    In 1919, as I pointed out, there was 1 Arab State (that did not include Mecca or Medina) and No Jewish State. Today there are 20+ Arab States and 1 Jewish State. And even that Jewish State is too much for some Arabs.

    The Arab Dream has been realized. Today Arabs control vast swaths of territory 50% larger than the entire United States. And yet they dispute Jewish control over land smaller than New Jersey.

    Emir Feisal, the King of the Hejaz and Sharif of Mecca, felt differently in 1919 when there was only one small Arab state in part of Arabia outside Mecca and Medina. In order to get an Arab State throughout most of the vast Ottoman Empire, Feisal was more than willing to accept the Jews making their home in their ancient homeland of “Palestine”, a small portion of Ottoman territory. Arabs in Arabia. Jews in Judaea/Palestine. Jewish minorities in the Arab state respected. Arab minorities in the Jewish State respected.

    Faisal agreed with Chaim Weizmann as follows: (I have added [the Jewish State] in brackets. In 1919, it was understood that “Palestine” meant “the Jewish State”.)

    mindful of the racial kindship and ancient bonds existing between the Arabs and the Jewish people, and realising that the surest means of working out the consummation of their national aspirations, is through the closest possible, collaboration in the development of the Arab State and Palestine [the Jewish State]

    The Arab State and Palestine [the Jewish State] in all their relations and undertakings shall be controlled by the most cordial goodwill and understanding and to this end Arab and Jewish duly accredited agents shall be established and maintained in their respective territories.

    As you can see, in 1919, Palestine was the Jewish State. The Palestine National Fund was set up for Jews. The Palestine Post became the Jerusalem Post. The notion of “Palestinians” being exclusively Arab did not come until almost half a century later with the founding of the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1964. I always find it amazing how Arabs have usurped the name “Palestine” as their own. But no doubt, they have succeeded in this semantic war, quite a change from the 1960’s when Egypt and Syria formed the United Arab Republic and argued that the Arabs were one people, with no important difference or distinctions among them.

    My favorite letter by Emir Feisal is his letter in 1919 to the head of the Zionist Organization of America. I think it’s a beautiful letter and it emphasizes that BOTH Arabs AND Jews deserve national homes.

    March 3, 1919.

    DEAR MR. FRANKFURTER: I want to take this opportunity of my first contact with American Zionists to tell you what I have often been able to say to Dr. Weizmann is Arabia and Europe.

    We feel that the Arabs and Jews are cousins in race, having suffered similar oppressions at the hands of powers stronger than themselves, and by a happy coincidence have been able to take the first step towards the attainment of their national ideals together.

    The Arabs, especially the educated among us, look with the deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement. Our deputation here in Paris is fully acquainted with the proposals submitted yesterday by the Zionist Organization to the Peace Conference, and we regard them as moderate and proper. We will do our best, in so far as we are concerned, to help them through: we will wish the Jews a most hearty welcome home.

    With the chiefs of your movement, especially with Dr. Weizmann, we have had and continue to have the closest relations. He has been a great helper of our cause, and I hope the Arabs may soon be in a position to make the Jews some return for their kindness. We are working together for a reformed and revived Near East, and our two movements complete one another. The Jewish movement is national and not imperialist. Our movement is national and not imperialist, and there is room in Syria for us both. Indeed I think that neither can be a real success without the other.

    People less informed and less responsible than our leaders and yours, ignoring the need for cooperation of the Arabs and Zionists have been trying to exploit the local difficulties that must necessarily arise in Palestine in the early stages of our movements. Some of them have, I am afraid, misrepresented your aims to the Arab peasantry, and our aims to the Jewish peasantry, with the result that interested parties have been able to make capital out of what they call our differences.

    I wish to give you my firm conviction that these differences are not on questions of principle, but on matters of detail such as must inevitably occur in every contact of neighbouring peoples, and as are easily adjusted by mutual good will. Indeed nearly all of them will disappear with fuller knowledge.

    I look forward, and my people with me look forward, to a future in which we will help you and you will help us, so that the countries in which we are mutually interested may once again take their places in the community of civilised peoples of the world.

    Believe me,

    Yours sincerely,


    If only the British had just kept their end of the bargain….

    To quote Feisal, “there is room in Syria for us both. Indeed I think that neither can be a real success without the other.”

    So I say: end the violence. Set up two states. We may disagree on boundaries here and there but 90% of a loaf is better than none for both Arabs and Jews. And with good fences, in time, it makes for good neighbors.

    Peace to the Children of Abraham,


  • Mark February 19, 2009 11:57 am

    One of my listeners to this show expressed surprise at the Mass Expulsion of the Jews from Arab Lands.

    I always find it ironic that the number of Jews forced out of Arab countries or strongly encouraged to leave through riots, murder, and the denial of citizen rights was greater than the number of Arabs who left or were forced out of the new state of Israel in 1948.

    But of course we all know what happened next.

    The Jewish State accepted its persecuted brethren (who left behind lands that were four times the size of the entire state of Israel!) and made them citizens.
    The Arab States rejected their brethren and placed them into camps to become the “Palestinian refugees” of today.

    I know of no historical parallel to the shameful thing the Arab States did by refusing to assimilate the Arab refugees from Israel.

    Pakistan accepted tens of millions of Muslims from India and India accepted tens of millions from Hindus from Pakistan when those countries “divorced.” And Germany accepted millions of its “VolksDeutsch” refugees kicked out of Eastern Germany in lands that became Poland. But when a small Jewish State was created, only the Jews accepted Jewish refugees while the Arabs refused to accept Arab refugees as full and equal citizens/immigrants. In my view, this one fact alone is the source of 90% of the problem today. UN Resolution 242 refers to the “refugee problem” meaning both Arabs from the Jewish State AND Jews from the Arab States.

    I loved the solution that Yousef and I agreed on: reparations for BOTH Jewish refugees from Arab lands AND Arab refugees from Israel.

    I’m extremely confident that Israel would agree to this, just as I’m even more confident that the Arab States would refuse this, even though Saudi Arabia alone has more than enough money to pay off all Jewish claims in full.

    Some web sources:,7340,L-3553189,00.html

    And a bibliography from wikipedia:

    Avneri, Arieh (1984). Claim of Dispossession: Jewish Land-Settlement and the Arabs, 1878-1948. Transaction Publishers. ISBN 0-87855-964-7
    Cohen, Hayyim J. (1973). The Jews of the Middle East, 1860-1972 Jerusalem, Israel Universities Press. ISBN 0-470-16424-7
    Cohen, Mark (1995) Under Crescent and Cross, Princeton, Princeton University Press.
    De Felice, Renzo (1985). Jews in an Arab Land: Libya, 1835-1970. Austin, University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-74016-6
    Gat, Moshe (1997), The Jewish Exodus from Iraq, 1948-1951 Frank Cass.
    Gilbert, Sir Martin (1976). The Jews of Arab lands: Their history in maps. London. World Organisation of Jews from Arab Countries : Board of Deputies of British Jews. ISBN 0-9501329-5-0
    Gruen, George E. (1983) Tunisia’s Troubled Jewish Community (New York: American Jewish Committee, 1983)
    Harris, David A. (2001). In the Trenches: Selected Speeches and Writings of an American Jewish Activist, 1979-1999. KTAV Publishing House, Inc. ISBN 0-88125-693-5
    Levin, Itamar (2001). Locked Doors: The Seizure of Jewish Property in Arab Countries. Praeger/Greenwood. ISBN 0-275-97134-1
    Lewis, Bernard (1984). The Jews of Islam. Princeton. Princeton University Press. ISBN 0-691-00807-8
    Lewis, Bernard (1986). Semites and Anti-Semites: An Inquiry into Conflict and Prejudice, W. W. Norton & Co. ISBN 0-393-02314-1
    Nini, Yehuda (1992), The Jews of the Yemen 1800-1914. Harwood Academic Publishers. ISBN 3-7186-5041-X
    Pappe, Ilan (2004), A History of Modern Palestine One Land Two Peoples, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0 521 55632 5
    Rejwan, Nissim (1985) The Jews of Iraq: 3000 Years of History and Culture London. Weidenfeld and Nicolson. ISBN 0-297-78713-6
    Roumani, Maurice (1977). The Case of the Jews from Arab Countries: A Neglected Issue, Tel Aviv, World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries, 1977 and 1983
    Schulewitz, Malka Hillel. (2001). The Forgotten Millions: The Modern Jewish Exodus from Arab Lands. London. ISBN 0-8264-4764-3
    Schulze, Kristen (2001) The Jews of Lebanon: Between Coexistence and Conflict. Sussex. ISBN 1-902210-64-6
    Simon, Rachel (1992). Change Within Tradition Among Jewish Women in Libya, University of Washington Press. ISBN 0295971673
    Stearns, Peter N. Citation from The Encyclopedia of World History Sixth Edition, Peter N. Stearns (general editor), © 2001 The Houghton Mifflin Company, at
    Stillman, Norman (1975). Jews of Arab Lands a History and Source Book. Jewish Publication Society
    Stillman, Norman (2003). Jews of Arab Lands in Modern Times. Jewish Publication Society, Philadelphia. ISBN 0-8276-0370-3
    Zargari, Joseph (2005). The Forgotten Story of the Mizrachi Jews. Buffalo Public Interest Law Journal (Volume 23, 2004-2005).