by Kevin Gyllenberg



What is the Palestinian Problem?

In discussions on the Middle East we often read statements such as: "There can be no peace between Israel and the Arab nations without first solving the 'Palestinian Problem'". The Palestinian Problem has been defined as the failure of the Palestinian Arabs and the surrounding Arab countries to annihilate the Jewish State. So then, the solution to the Palestinian Problem according to that definition would be no less than the annihilation of Israel. Any political leader who advocates solving the Palestinian Problem, in essence is calling for the destruction of Israel. He usually does not say so in those terms, but that's the hidden meaning. To call for the creation of another Palestinian state, is only advocating one more step toward the solution of the "Palestinian Problem". Another Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria (misleadingly called "the West Bank"), is only one step towards the annihilation of Israel. The United States government does not want to solve the "Palestinian Problem" (meaning that they don't want to see an end to the Jewish State in the Middle East), they want to see all parties in the region coexist peacefully. Therefore, when they say they want to find a solution to the "Palestinian Problem", they are contradicting themselves.

But what do most Palestinians see as their problem? For many Palestinians the core grievance is the presence of a self-governing Jewish state in the midst of what had for centuries been the heartland of Moslem sovereignty. "Allah is great" is the cry of "Jihad": holy war to subjugate peoples who do not follow the teaching of Mohammed. True, there are non-Moslems caught up in nationalistic fervour against Israel, but the driving force is Islam, and the century-old struggle for control of the Middle East. In Jihad, the Palestinian Problem is not the grievances of individuals (although these add fuel), but rather, the very presence of a Jewish state. The solution to the Palestinian Problem, in this light, can be nothing short of the annihilation of the State of Israel.

How then does a Jewish Israeli define the "Palestinian Problem"? From the perspective of the average Jewish Israeli, the Palestinian Problem is the threat from a hostile group within their midst, from which has come a steady stream of violent attacks, from the beginning of Jewish settlement up through the forty years of statehood. For most, the Palestinian Problem is a security issue: how to distinguish law-abiding Arab Israelis from those who might plant bombs in buses and public places; how to stop Palestinian terrorists from infiltrating across the borders; how to prevent hijackings, protect Israeli athletes and diplomats abroad, etc.

For an Israeli Arab, the "Palestinian Problem" is something quite different. It is the problem of being a non-Jewish minority, in a Jewish state; of being part of the Arab world while being equally influenced by Jewish Israeli values, culture and coworkers; of struggling for a bigger share of economic and political power in Israel, while still identifying with the struggles of non-Israeli Palestinians for an independent State. The problem is, in essence, a search for identity.

When the United States government says it .desires to solve the "Palestinian Problem", the meaning is usually that it wants to see all parties in the region coexlst peacefully, resolving grievances through compromise. However, peaceful coexistence will obviously not solve the "Palestinian Problem" as defined by those intent on Islamic Jihad, nor will it solve the identity problems of Israeli Arabs.

What are the roots of the conflict?

Palestine had been under Arab sovereignty since the seventh century when it fell to the forces of "Jihad" sweeping in from the East. There were Jewish settlements in Palestine throughout the period of Arab rule, and beginning in the late 1800's an increasing number of European Jews, dreaming of a place safe from the persecutions of "Christian” Europe, migrated to Palestine. Also during the 1800's, there was a considerable influx of Arabs into Palestine, notably about 6000 deserters from the Egyptian army which came against the Turks in Palestine in 1831, followed by several thousand Egyptian settlers who established eight villages on the coastal plain, 500 military families who settled in 1841 and immigrants from Egypt in the 1880's who were attracted by work in the Jewish settlements. In addition, hundreds of Egyptian workers were brought in by the Belgian company that built the Jaffa-Jerusalem railway. In the 1920's the British brought in Syrian and Lebanese as well as thousands of Egyptians for various projects. Many of these workers settled. (Source: Moshe Aumann: "The Palestinians: Whence and When did they Come?" The Palestinian Problem.Ed., Andrew C. Kimmens. New York, 1989).

Following the First World War, the British were given a mandate by the League of Nations to administer Palestine (which then consisted of what is now Jordan and Israel). These areas had formerly been under Ottoman (Turkish) control. Prior to receiving this mandate, the British Government, by the Balfour Declaration of 1917, had already made known their intention of setting up a Jewish National Homeland in Palestine. Subsequently, however, due to pressure from various Arab groups, they began discouraging Jewish immigration to Palestine. In 1946, they set up the nation of Jordan with a majority of Palestinian citizens under the rule of an Iraqi ruler of the Hashemite family. This left only one-quarter of their mandated territory available for the promised Jewish homeland. In 1948, the British, again trying to appease the Arabs, partitioned once more what was left of the Jewish National Homeland in Palestine. This time, the Arabs, not wanting only half of the remainder, decided not to accept the partition, and immediately went to war against the decision that had been ratified by the United Nations as the Jewish National State. Subsequent military attempts by the Arab nations to annihilate the Jewish state occurred in 1956 (the Sinai War), 1967 (the Six Day War) and 1973 (the Yom Kippur War). Each attempt was repulsed by Israel, and resulted in further strategic areas coming under Israeli control.

What started the present Palestinian uprising?

In November of 1987, a terrorist infiltrated Israel on a motorized hanglider. He accidently stumbled onto a lightly guarded "Nahal" camp (Nahal is an army division dedicated to pioneering new civilian settlements in strategic areas). The terrorist killed seven soldiers before being killed himself. Up until this time the Palestinians had directed thelr terrorist activities against civiiians. The idea of terrorists successfully confronting Israeli soldiers was a boost to Arab pride. Soon organized attacks on military patrols, within Judea, Samaria and Gaza began.

How is the uprising carried out?

Initially, stones and molotov cocktails were the favored weapons due to their ready availability. There have also been a few incidents of attacks using firearms. Civilian traffic, including public buses, were also stoned. In July 1989, a civilian bus on the main highway from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was forced over a cliff by a Palestinian passenger from Gaza intent on "Jihad”. Fourteen Passengers were killed. Oil is applied to dangerous curves in the hope that vehicles would crash out of control. Agricultural produce upon Jewish farms was uprooted.

In addition, economic pressure was applied. Arabs who were working for Israeli companies were forced to strike by the inciters of the uprising. Swift reprisals were carried out against those who refused to comply, and against those who worked for the Israeli-organized public services in Judea, Samaria and Gaza (ie, agriculture, health, education, sanitation). Unofficial "Uprising Committees" were formed to take over these services. As of the Ninth of January 1991, 342 Palestinians suspected of informing the authorities of terrorist activity, were murdered by Arab hit squads or mobs. (Source: IDF Spokesman).

Tourism, the number one industry in Israel, was drastically affected. Ironically, the Arab shopkeepers of pilgrim centers such as Jerusalem and Bethlehem were those hardest hit. In addition, the uprising leadership called the shopkeepers to prolonged strikes. The majority were silently grateful to the IDF troops who "forced" them to open their shops during strikes. Moslem shopkeepers were well-compensated for their losses of revenue by Islamic groups abroad. The Christian minority had their first glimpse of what it might be like to live under a Moslem-dominated Palestinian state.

What is the Israeli Defence Force doing in response to the uprising?

It is instructive to compare the response of Jordan's King Hussein to the 1970 uprislng of Palestinians in his country. The protestors attempted to wrest control of the government from the Hashemite king. He did not use plastic bullets, tear gas or other crowd-control measures. Without fear of world opinion, he ordered his troops to open fire with live amunition, killing, according to Palestinian figures 30,000 and according to Jordanian figures 1,500 in two major clashes. (Compare this to less than 400 in the first year of continual provocation against Israeli forces). A large portion of the Palestinians fled Jordan to Lebanon where they terrorized the Arab inhabitants of the South for over ten years until the Christian (Marionite) villages were liberated by the Israeli army in 1982.

If Israeli troops had taken similar measures against the Palestinian uprising at its first outbreak, they could have quelled it in a number of hours. However, the Israeli national consciousness sets a high value on human life, and has attempted to develop non-Iethal means to deal with most attacks. Soldiers using inappropriate force to deal with a non life-threatening situation are brought to trial.

Day after day policing action by troops trained for combat, not civilian control, has been demoralizing. The Palestinian incitement of small children to be the attackers on Israeli troops, has compounded the distastefulness of such policing duty.

What does the PLO recognition of U.N. resolution 242 signify?

Some of the PLO's many factions are now willing to recognize the existence of a Jewish entity in the area originally granted by the U.N. partition of 1948. This bears little resemblance to today's Israel and the location of major centers of Jewish population.

However, the factions within the PLO that are willing to negotiate with Israel, are not strong enough to curb the more militant elements. This is clearly illustrated by the unwillingness of those paying lip-service to peaceful coexistence between Israel and a Palestinian State to remove the clause of the Palestine National Covenant (the PLO's constitution) which calls for the annihilation of the State of Israel. It is further indicated by the May 1990 terrorist attack against Tel Aviv beaches on a crowded holiday, organized by Arafat adviser and Palestine National Council member, Abu EI-Abbas.

What does the Bible have to say?

The Bible makes provision for Gentiles living within the land promised to the Jews. Those who chose to dwell in peace as fellow-citizens are free to dwell in their villages among the Jews and are to be treated the same as those born Jewish (Ezekiel 47:22,23).

And it will come about that you shall divide it [this land] by lot for an inheritance among yourselves and among the aliens who stay in your midst, who bring forth sons in your midst.
And they shall be to you as the native born among the sons of Israel; they shall be allotted an inheritance with you among the tribes of Israel.
And it will come about that in the tribe with which the alien stays, there you shall give him his inheritance, declares the Lord. (New American Standard Version).

The Biblical way is not dividing the land into a two-nation coexistence, nor is it to be a situation where the non-Jews live in a Jewish state as second-class citizens. It is a Jewish state which has the courage to grant the dignity of citizenship and full property rights to those non-Jews who choose to dwell with them.

Israel is paying the price for not having the courage to formally annex the territory in 1967. At that time building of a Palestinian indigenous infrastructure for local government would have been a simpler matter. Now, after 20 years of the ambiguity of military administration, the indigenous Palestinian leaders have been radicalized and have tied their fate to the PLO leadership abroad, while the young have hearts full of bitterness born of knowing nothing but the frustrations of Israeli bureaucracy which they are powerless to change.

While recognizing the Palestinian fears and frustrations which have contributed to the hatred that has burst out Into violence, we must also recognize that no lasting peace can be found outside of God's ways and purposes. We owe it to both sides to settle for nothing less than God's perfect plan.