In Response to: Divestment Debate [6]

It is so politically correct to express righteous indignation against Israel in its ongoing struggle with much of the Arab/Moslem world by placing the intellectual spotlight exclusively on “the West Bank and Gaza.” The fact of the matter is that, since the Sykes-Picot carving-up of much of the Middle East approximately a century ago, the vast majority of Arabs/Moslems considered any Jewish sovereignty in that part of the world as an unacceptable (colonialist) intrusion. (They wouldn’t allow that the “Promised Land” was promised to Abraham, and the people of Israel get in the way of their view.) Accordingly, they never were willing to give the Jews any sovereignty, and exercised every opportunity to snuff out the nascent Jewish state.

For a while, Israel was the David, struggling valiantly against the Arab/Moslem Goliath. This was particularly true in Israel’s War of Independence (1948) and the Six-Day War in 1967, when the Egyptian and Syrian armies massed on Israel’s southern and northern borders. There would be no “West Bank problem” if things had been left there. However, at the same time that Egypt’s air force was being wiped out on the ground, Jordan’s Hussein was persuaded to join the fray. The entire eastern border of Israel also was jeopardized. As it was, Israel survived and found itself astride a much greater area. Even then, the Arabs took the position of no discussions and no recognition.

Over time, Egypt made peace with Israel (in return, Israel gave back the entire Sinai – and gladly would have given Gaza also, but Egypt would not agree). Subsequently, Jordan shook off its claims to the “West Bank” – and later signed a peace agreement with Israel, basically alongside the Jordan River. 

This left Israel rubbing shoulders with, and having to worry about, substantial non-Israeli Arab populations to the east and southwest. Brilliantly, the entire conflict was redefined as Israel (now Goliath) against the “Palestinians.” What to do? 

Under UN Security Council Resolution 242, Israel is to withdraw from territories (not the territories) gained in the war. In numerous negotiations on two states for two peoples, Israel has been willing to withdraw from about 95 percent or even more of the territories in dispute in exchange for proper security arrangements, but the interlocutors never have been willing to recognize the Jewish state, insisting that Israel has to take in within its new borders millions of the descendants of the Palestinian refugees who fled around 1948.

Because it is understandably not prepared to be a bi-national state, Israel considers this a nonstarter. I humbly would like to suggest that viewing the context of the issue — and its complications — does not lead to the one-sided perspective of BDS proponents.