The tragedy of Palestine
July 12, 2002
Though Jewish, I have to sympathize with the plight of the Palestinian people. Thousands of Palestinians live miserably in refugee camps, their economy has collapsed, their casualties keep mounting in their endless war with Israel, and they still lack an independent state of their own.
Recently, President Bush said that neither peace nor justice would be possible for the Palestinian people until the PLO leadership has undergone fundamental changes. The record of the PLO leadership bears him out – the long history of Palestinian leadership is one of repeated and failed wars.
The PLO’s war with Israel is only the beginning of the self-inflicted calamities that have followed their leadership. The PLO warred with Jordan in 1970, with Lebanon in 1975, and with Syria in 1976. Each war ended in sickening Palestinian losses. Arafat and his army have brought disorder and disaster wherever they have settled, the price being paid by the Palestinian people
In 1948 (when six Arab nations attacked Israel), Jordan captured the West Bank of Palestine, and the Palestinians became a numerical majority in Jordan. Jordan, unique among the Arab nations, accepted the Palestinians as citizens, and gave them important posts in Jordan’s government.
In 1967, the West Bank changed hands to Israel, when Israel defeated Egypt, Jordan and Syria. (Egypt had blockaded Israel from the Red Sea, an act of war by international law.)
The PLO created within Jordan a state within a state, easily obtaining arms and money from other Arab states to organize raids against Israel. After 1967, Jordan’s late King Hussein decided on a truce with Israel, and he attempted to stop these raids. He ordered the PLO and its allies to withdraw their armed forces from Jordan.
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The PLO, with Arafat as its chief, then shifted from fighting Israel to overthrowing King Hussein.
In September 1970, a full scale, bitterly fought civil war broke out between the PLO and the Jordanian Army. Though Syria sent 200 tanks to aid the PLO, the PLO and the Syrians were badly beaten by Hussein’s army. The PLO still calls this disaster “Black September.”
Following the PLO debacle of September 1970, Lebanon became their principal refuge. Roughly one person in 10 in Lebanon had become a Palestinian.
Lebanon was then a prosperous Arab country with a large Christian minority. To maintain peace, the Lebanese rulers guaranteed that political power must be divided equally, or almost equally between the Moslems and Christians. The Lebanese army and police put a lid on religious violence and prevented clashes with Israel.
The highly radicalized PLO soon acquired arms to train their militia in their refugee camps. They fought the Lebanese government in order to replace it with a left-dominated, pro-PLO state. The PLO broke the precarious truce between the Moslems and Christians and raided Israel to break Lebanon’s truce with its southern neighbor.
In turn, the Phalangist Party, a Christian right-wing organization, fought to maintain the traditional rights of the Christians and vengefully attacked the Palestinian refugee camps.
So in 1975-76, the once peaceful and prosperous Lebanon descended into one of the most ferocious civil wars in modern history. The economy collapsed, and from 1975 on about 150,000 Lebanese died for no gains whatsoever – and the Palestinian people were much worse off than before. The civil war was basically ended in November 1976, when Syrian troops moved into Lebanon.
Syria was frightened by the PLO’s attempt to take over the Lebanese government. Syria then backed the cause of the Christians and in the summer of 1976 sent 20,000 troops into Lebanon to fight the PLO and to end the civil war. Lebanon has become essentially a Syrian province since then.
Arafat and the leaders of the PLO present themselves as freedom fighters, seeking justice for an oppressed people that suffer only from Israeli aggression.
In fact, they have caused immeasurable harm to their own people, and have made peaceful compromise impossible with Israel. As far back as 1948, the then-Palestinian leaders refused the offer of the Israeli parliament to recognize a Palestinian Arab State. In the year 2000, the PLO rejected the offer by Israeli Premier Barak to cede major territory to the Palestinians and to recognize their state.
Arafat and the PLO are locked into a culture of no compromise, a culture of war, and a culture of death that they teach even to their small children.
Without a fundamental change in the PLO leadership, there is no end in sight to their endless war with Israel and to the suffering of the Palestinian people. That is the tragedy of the Palestinians.