Thursday, September 16, 2010

Some lessons from Black September

From Al-Arabiya:
Jordan and the Palestinians have turned the page on the bloody clashes of "Black September" that kicked off exactly 40 years ago on Friday but fears still remain in the absence of regional peace.

Estimates of the numbers killed in the 10 months of fighting that finally saw Jordan's army drive Palestinian fighters out of the country range widely, between 2,000 and 30,000. Palestinians have revised down the toll to 3,000.

Following the Arab defeat in the 1967 Six-Day War, Yasser Arafat, who later became Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) chief, saw in Jordan an ideal location for military bases for around 40,000 fighters to attack the neighboring Jewish state.

But the power of the Palestinian armed groups developed into a state within a state.

On September 6, 1970, the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) hijacked three passenger planes, two of which landed in Azraq, east of the capital Amman. Three days later a fourth plane was hijacked, with 56 British and U.S.-Israelis citizens on board.

On September 17, Jordan's then king Hussein responded by ordering his army of 50,000 men to kick the Palestinian fighters out of the kingdom.

After 10 days of bloody fighting, during which Syria intervened to back the Palestinians, a ceasefire was signed in Cairo.

But the Palestinian armed groups got to stay in Jordan, and the fighting did not stop until Prime Minister Wasfi al-Tel drove the Palestinian fighters out of the country in July 1971.

Tel was assassinated four months later in Cairo by four members of the "Black September" organization.

Jordanians have few regrets about the king's decision, however, in a country where around half of its 6.2 million people are now of Palestinian origin.

"It was not only inevitable but also necessary. If we did not act the way we did, it would have served the purpose of Israel of creating a Palestinian state in Jordan," said Adnan Abu Odeh, a confidant of king Hussein of Palestinian origin and information minister at the time of the fighting.
Jordan today justifies killing thousands of Palestinian Arabs because it was for their own good - otherwise, they would not have a chance for a state, that they would have gotten had they won. Makes perfect sense.
Palestinian political analyst Hani al-Masri said there is now a "privileged relationship" between the two governments and two peoples because there is no longer a Palestinian desire to take over Jordan.
Now, it is true that the Palestinian Arab desire to take over Jordan lasted only that brief moment in time in the early 1970s.

There is a basic question, though: why exactly don't the Palestinian Arabs want at least parts of Jordan to be a part of their nation today? Before the British Mandate, it was simply known as "Eastern Palestine." If Palestinian Arabs are basing their national claims on their historic connection to Palestine, why would they voluntarily relinquish their claim to large swaths of their historic land?

That question gets starker in light of the history of the PLO. The original PLO charter from 1964 has a most enlightening section:

Article 24: This Organization does not exercise any territorial sovereignty over the West Bank in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, on the Gaza Strip or in the Himmah Area.
To any observer today, this should be considered an incredible statement. The original PLO charter explicitly excludes the West Bank, Gaza (as well as the part of British Mandate Palestine that was seized by Syria) - the very lands that they now insist must be theirs in their entirety!

How can this be? How could the Palestinian Arabs of 1964 had no desire whatsoever to "liberate" the lands occupied at that time by Jordan, Syria and Egypt? How can the position of the PLO in 1964 be considered consistent with the PLO of today, when at first glance they appear to have then wanted a negative image of what they demand now?

The answer is that the PLO has indeed been remarkably consistent in its desire from 1964 to today: they want whatever land Jews happen to be controlling (or perceived to be controlling) at the moment. Before 1967, that didn't include Eastern Palestine, the West Bank, or Gaza. Now, it just doesn't include Eastern Palestine. (Himmah is a tiny strip of land south of the Sea of Galilee that extended into the East Bank of the Jordan, I think that it is part of the area captured by Israel from Syria in 1967, and an area that Syria claims as its own.)

This is the historic truth that the world refuses to notice. The Palestinian Arab national movement never had anything to do with the desire to build a nation on the land known for millenia as "Palestine." Since it began in the early 20th century, it has always been a fundamentally negative movement meant to deprive Jews of their own national aspirations and self-determination - not to achieve independence for their people. This is the only way to understand why there isn't a single Palestinian Arab who is willing to stand up today and demand the Himmah area that is also claimed by Syria, or to demand their historic section of the East Bank. This is why they were so muted in their national aspirations before 1967 - when the Arab nations still seemed poised to destroy and divide up Israel between them, and that goal dovetailed nicely with their goal as well. This is why none of their leaders are willing to compromise on land or on east Jerusalem - which they happily allowed Jordan to control and ignore before 1967 without a single peep that this was "holy Palestinian land." This is why even the "moderate" Palestinian Arabs refuse to publish a map showing a state of Palestine that does not include all of Israel. It is the reason why todays Palestinian Arabs, by a huge majority, say that the conflict will never be over until Israel is destroyed.

And this is why any "peace agreement" is doomed to failure. The basic aspirations of the Palestinian Arabs will not be met by even a full state in the West Bank and Gaza. Any peace would be temporary and ethereal. The next stage for the ultimate destruction of Israel would commence at the very moment of the White House ceremony announcing an end to the conflict.

Maybe Salam Fayyad, with no history of terrorist ties, would be happy with a state in the West Bank and Gaza only - but he does not represent Fatah, Hamas or any other major faction, let alone the majority of Palestinian Arabs who live outside the territories. Perhaps a few other ultra-moderate Palestinian Arabs would accept a peace agreement and renounce claims to Israel proper. The overwhelming evidence, however, shows that they are the anomalies, not the mainstream. It is not an exaggeration to say that generations of Palestinian Arabs have been raised on a diet of revenge and hate. To pin peace hopes on wishful thinking that most Palestinian Arabs are like the very few moderates is a guarantee for much more bloodshed in the future.