This is the first blog post I’ve written on the subject of the Israel-Palestine conflict. I’m writing it in response to a number of twitter conversations I’ve had over the last week with Palestinian supporters. This has relevance to business research as it shows how people who are obviously intelligent and reasoning can be so influenced by prejudice and false assumptions that they fail to see this as a blind spot. They are blind to what is mostly false propaganda and so continue to believe lies. The Israel-Palestine conflict is highly emotive but can serve as an example and metaphor for any area where people have firmly entrenched opinions. Such dogmatism leads to bad decisions that are based on fallacies – irrespective of whether it relates to the Middle-East or business.
Those who know me know that, although I support Israel, I also believe in the rights of the Palestinian people to fulfil their dreams and have their own Nation State. However this should not be at the expense of the Jewish people’s dream. The land now governed by the State of Israel was originally designated for two peoples, and the Palestinians have rights to govern themselves as much as Israelis have.
What has disturbed me has been the unquestioning faith of the anti-Israel proponents to their cause and the lies they use to justify this faith. Worse, they believe that these lies are totally true.
I stand by everything I wrote. I am not a liar and everything I said is verifiable.
was one comment. Yet this same person said that anti-Semitism also relates to Arabs, ignoring the proper definition of the word. He suggested that I check the “Miriam Webster” (sic) dictionary. Well here’s the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition:
Hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious, ethnic, or racial group.
No mention of Arabs here. The concise encyclopaedia entry after the dictionary definition does continue:
Hostility toward or discrimination against Jews as a religious group or “race.” Although the term anti-Semitism has wide currency, it is regarded by some as a misnomer, implying discrimination against all Semites, including Arabs and other peoples who are not the targets of anti-Semitism as it is usually understood….
This is quite clear – some people think that the term could apply to Arabs too, as Semitic peoples, and so the term is a misnomer (i.e. a wrong name or designation) and that Arabs are not the target of anti-Semitism.
This simple example demonstrates that even checking a dictionary entry can lead to a misinterpretation by somebody who has a prejudice.
Bible Stories & Ancient Languages
The other twitter conversation started innocently enough:
Abraham was from #Iraq ,Moses from #Egypt , Jesus from #Palestine, Golda Meier from #Russia and Herzl from #Hungry ,so who was “#Israeli”?
I responded, slightly flippantly:
#Palestine was the Roman name. Abe became #Israeli. Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, Solomon… Jesus: All #Israeli
to which came back:
Abe was a guest in the land of the Canaanite, Salomon has had a Phoenician mother and Jesus did not even speak Hebrew.
I pointed out that Solomon’s mother, Bathsheba, was not Phenician but was from King David’s own tribe i.e. was an Israelite, and that Aramaic was a Jewish language.
Although we do not know whether or not Jesus spoke Hebrew he would have spoken Aramaic – the language spoken in Israel/Palestine at the time. His last words, as recorded in Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34, are Aramaic. The language is used for a number of Jewish prayers (including the Kaddish prayer said by mourners) and the majority of the Talmud. It is feasible that Jesus also knew Hebrew based on some of the New Testament stories such as Luke 2:46-47 which relates that Jesus was in the Temple listening to the Rabbis’ teachings. This was the time when the Mishnah was being written – and the Mishnah is in Hebrew, implying that Jesus understood these teachings.
Despite the above, prejudices and inaccuracies started to come out – for example:
Aramaic is the old-Arabic-language. While today´s Israelis have re-invented the Hebrew-language in 1920
This is false on two counts. First, Aramaic is in a different branch of the Semitic language group to Arabic (the South Semitic group) – but in the same group as Hebrew (North West Semitic). Second, Hebrew was never re-invented – and certainly not in 1920. Eliezer Ben Yehuda who revived the Hebrew Language revived the language as a spoken, everyday language, in the 1880s – 1890s. Cecil Roth summed up Ben-Yehuda’s contribution to the Hebrew language: “Before Ben‑Yehuda, Jews could speak Hebrew; after him, they did.”
Even when I pointed this out, I got back the response:
Nevertheless Ben Yehuda invented it……
This suggests that Hebrew is a language like Esperanto – showing a prejudice that refuses to accept what should be common knowledge i.e. that Hebrew is the language of the Bible and most Jewish prayer and Rabbinic writings through the ages. It gives a flavour of the problems – and the ignorance.
The Ottoman Empire’s dissolution
Here are more tweets from the conversation:
In 1948 the UK left PALESTINE after being there 25 years as a mandate power….there was no “Israel” !!
To which I responded:
Independence Years: #Iraq 1932 #Lebanon 1943 #Jordan & #Syria 1946; #Israel 1948 #Palestine ?
Prior to 1917 no Iraq, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, either. All part of Ottoman empire. No real difference but years!
My point here is that although Israel was founded in 1948, the other nations were also new, formed out of the carved up Ottoman Empire, with Britain and France granted mandates by the League of Nations following the First World War. Each of the nations gained independence from the colonial powers in the years stated. None had existed as sovereign nations before – except, like Israel, in pre-History. All were thus the result of a European mind-set, that took maps and drew borders. The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was granted to an ally of Britain – Abdullah – as was the kingdom of Iraq, initially ruled by Abdullah’s brother, King Faisal. Iraq was drawn up by Winston Churchill in 1921 by using a ruler and a pencil and does not reflect the ethnicities or geographies of the area. Syria and Lebanon were ruled as French Mandates and were handled in a similar way to the British mandated territories.
The only difference between Israel and these other countries, is the majority peoples in the other countries were Arab. Not Iraqi, Palestinian or Syrian – but Arab. The majority religion was Islam. In contrast, Israel was Jewish.
The conversation continued:
So was also half of Europe being part of the Hapsburg empire and yet we have Romania,Poland Italy Hungry etc,,,,,,
This is, of course, correct – but doesn’t refute my statement. I agreed:
Agree. Geopolitics from 1850-1950 resulted in lots of national self-determination movements including Israel!
Jewish beliefs & Zionism
There then came nonsense trying to define what Jews are and falsifying Jewish history. (Non-Jews telling Jews who they are, and what they should believe is a classic anti-Semitic trope).
No sir !! there was never a “Jewish-nation” since the year 0070 !! it was invented by Zionists in Basel.
Zionism is simply a colonial-adventure with a Jewish artificial-flavour !!!
This, of course, completely ignores traditional Jewish belief and prayer. It ignores the fact that after every meal, religious Jews ask for Jerusalem to be rebuilt, and in each daily prayer they ask for a return to Zion (i.e. Israel) and an ingathering of the Jewish people there. This is not just in the prayers of Jews from Europe, but all Jews – irrespective of where they lived following the exile in the year 70. This exile is remembered in the Jewish calendar – with fast days, and even on joyous occasions such as weddings, where the breaking of a glass as the final act is to symbolise that we still remember the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and our subsequent loss of sovereignty and exile in the Holy Land. (It’s not – as the joke says – the last time that the man will be allowed to put his foot down!)
Population Exchanges & the Refugee Problem
I tried to move from history to a contemporary solution – without assigning blame for the Palestine-Israel problem:
Peace also means recognition of ALL Middle East refugees resulting from ’48 & ’67 wars. Jewish & Palestinian.
Majority of Israelis are now descendants of refugees from Arab countries forced out from their homes.
Back came more ignorance and prejudice:
There are no “Jewish-refugees”, there are rather Jewish-colonialists who came in carrying guns…….
I tried to correct this:
False. Jews forced out of Egypt, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon… Pre-1948 Baghdad was 1/3 Jewish. Now no Jews in Iraq
But got back the statement:
Arab-Jews were NEVER forced out , but rather tricked-out by Zionist-bombings of their own synagogues .
to which I responded:
False. The Farhud in Iraq http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Farhud Pogroms in Yemen http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1947_Aden_pogrom … 1840 Blood libel in Syria…
The fact that these were all before Israel’s establishment was ignored – perhaps the truth was too inconvenient, as the response was:
If there were no State of Israel those Jews would have remained in their own Arab-country !!
I pointed out that this was because the Jews from the Arab countries had no choice – as without Israel there was nowhere else for them to go easily. (Many did try to escape to France, the USA, Australia – but in the main there were quotas and restrictions, unlike for Israel).
Life for Jews in Arab lands was not as rosy as anti-Israel supporters would like us to believe. Non-Muslims (Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians) were tolerated but viewed as Dhimmis (i.e. second-class citizens). Although sometimes there was peaceful coexistence, generally this was because non-Muslims accepted that they had minimal rights. Post-1948 the situation Arab Jews found themselves in became intolerable with regular pogroms and attacks in almost all Arab nations – resulting in over a million refugees i.e. at least the same number as Palestinian refugees fleeing their homes in the aftermath of the 1948 and 1967 wars. (More recently, the position of the Christian minorities in many Arab countries has deteriorated – with murderous attacks in Egypt, Iraq and elsewhere). Israel gave Jews a chance to escape.
I didn’t mention in either conversation that the definition of a Palestinian refugee is unique. Usually refugees are long-standing residents of a country. The Arab Jewish refugees had lived in their countries for generations – many pre-dating Islam. In contrast, Palestinian refugees only had to have been living in the area since 1946. (UNRWA – the UN agency set up to help Palestinian refugees define Palestinian refugees as “people whose normal place of residence was Palestine between June 1946 and May 1948, who lost both their homes and means of livelihood as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli conflict.“).
The facts are that as Jews returned to what was then Palestine, they drained swamps (e.g. in the Hula Valley) and started farming the land in a way that had not been done for centuries. This increased the affluence of the area, and Arabs started moving in to take advantage of new work opportunities. Prior to the 1880s, the area was desolate – with subsistence farmers being the majority population, except for in a few towns. Jerusalem had a majority Jewish population, for example – ignored by anti-Israel advocates who even claim it is an Arab city. So, in reality, there was a population exchange – with Jews being forced from their ancestral homelands in Arab countries, and Arabs – many of whom (like Yasser Arafat) had not been born in Palestine – forced out of, or leaving, their homes too. Further, the Arab Jewish refugees and their descendants are now the majority of Israel’s population – and not the descendants of European Jews, as anti-Israel apologists try to claim.
The need for separation – Two States for Two Nations
Eventually of course, we got onto that canard of Israeli Apartheid. Whenever you point out that there is no Apartheid – and mention that there are Arab members of the Knesset, Arab judges, Arab military officers – in fact, Arabs in all aspects of Israeli public life the point is ignored. Instead, the fact that the West Bank Palestinians are not Israeli citizens and don’t wish to be makes Israel an Apartheid State, according to this view.
The true situation is that prior to the second Intifada, West Bank Palestinians had freedom of movement and work within Israel – although as non-citizens they did not have a vote. The only reason they are separated today is because they chose to attack and kill Israelis. The separation is for security reasons – and if there was a genuine peace there would be no need for such separation. Contrast this with Jordan and Saudi Arabia which have a policy to ban Jews living there or pre-Civil War Syria, where Assad’s Alawites held all the power. These more match the actual definition of apartheid – where ethnic and racial groups are kept separate.
I tried to end the conversation peacefully by pointing out:
There SHOULD be both Palestine & Israel. Needs to be 2 States. Both sides need to talk peace.
The following response shows the mind-set of the anti-Israel apologist – refusing to accept a fair, just and logical solution to the problem:
“2 states” means half of Palestine stolen forever !! One State would be secular-inclusive-Palestine
I pointed out that there is no truly bi-national State anywhere in the world that is stable. My correspondent tried to refute this by pointing out that Switzerland has a number of different groups living there – French, German, Italian and Romanche. However Switzerland is built on a canton system where each is essentially self-governing. Further, the Swiss nation hasn’t experienced decades of hatred. Another example – Belgium – is actually poor as the French and Flemish groups dislike each other would split if they could. Yet there is more in common culturally between these two groups than between Palestinians and Israelis.
I believe that if Israel and Palestine became separate States then one day the two could feasibly federate on a Swiss model if both peoples wanted it. However today, because of the enshrined hatred between the two peoples, there would be war which would lead to massacres – potentially by both sides.
I try to look at both sides and take into account both national narratives. Unless the Palestinian and anti-Israel side does the same then there will not be a peaceful and fair resolution of the problem. Instead there will be a continuation of the status quo which is good for neither side – or something far worse.
Whenever there is a conflict – or disagreement – it is important to understand both sides of the argument, and avoid bias. It is essential to check facts – and also the source of any information, in case there is bias there. Unless this is done, poor decisions and continuing problems are inevitable. This is as true in business as it is in Middle-East politics.