Marta González Isidoro
Journalist and Political Scientist
On January 3, 1919, within the framework of the Paris Conference, Haim Weizmann, on behalf of the World Zionist Organization, and Emir Faisal Ibn al Hussein al Hashemi, representing the Arab Kingdom of the Hijaz, signed an Agreement of mutual recognition on the basis of shared ties and racial affinity, assuming that the way to realize the national aspirations of both peoples (Arabs and Jews) should be cooperation, goodwill and mutual trust. “We feel that the Arabs and the Jews are cousins in race, have suffered similar oppression at the hands of powers more powerful than themselves, and by a happy coincidence, have been able to take together the first step towards the achievement of their national ideals,” wrote the eldest son of the Sherif of Mecca and future king of Iraq and Syria to the American representative of the Zionist delegation to the aforementioned Paris Conference, Felix Frankfurten. In the same letter, Faisal Ibn al Hussein acknowledged the historical and religious bond of the Jews with their ancestral land, while expressing his concern for the ideological consequences of fundamentalist movements that were already beginning to emerge and that, yesterday as today, fuel the tactical agitation of a violence that will take on the character of cyclical popular rebellions: “We Arabs, especially those who have been educated among us, look upon the Zionist movement with the deepest sympathy. We shall give the Jews a heartfelt welcome home…People less informed and less responsible than our leaders and yours, ignoring the need for cooperation between Arabs and Zionists, have tried to exploit the local difficulties which will necessarily arise in Palestine in the early phase of our movements”.
The Ottoman Empire had disintegrated, France and Great Britain were dividing up its remnants in the Middle East and the multiple identities that aspired to be nations sought their legitimacy within the International Treaties promoted by the recently created League of Nations. Palestine, the ancient land of Israel, was the name that the British had given to their Mandate in the Middle East (which also included Transjordan and Mesopotamia) and which, on the basis of the Balfour Declaration (November 2, 1917), which would initiate the legal process, would give birth to the future State of Israel in a part of that Mandate adjudicated as the Jewish National Home. A declaration issued by the British government with the consent and approval of its allies and the support of the rest of the international community at the time, at a time when Arab nationalism aspires to unity on the basis of a common language, culture and heritage, and Palestine is a geographical entity without political autonomy or its own national identity yet. In fact, the Palestinians are the Arabs and the Jews of the territory, subjected to British legislation while the Anglo-Saxon power arbitrates the way in which the creation of the State of Palestine-Eretz Israel (Jewish), whose basic constitutional document and in accordance with International Law is the San Remo Resolution of April 25, 1920, which grants legal rights – political, civil and collective – to the Jews in Palestine and to the Arabs in the territories of Mesopotamia (today Iraq), Syria and Lebanon. The policy of rejection of Jewish immigration and free settlement, influenced by the profound cultural differences between the two peoples, imposed a static logic that interpreted any small Jewish autonomy as a violation of the Arabs’ social rights. As Arabs in neighboring countries gained their independence, Palestinian Arabs felt abandoned. Distorted politics trumped the logic of coexistence and development, and Arab pressure materialized in a sequence that today, likewise, alternately follows the cycle of violence and diplomacy.
History is not always as we would like it to be, and rarely as we are told. It must be understood in context, especially when the weight of the past rewrites the present and conditions the future. In the analysis of conflicts there is usually an emotional component that transcends the objectivity of reality and data, and in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict ideological sensitivity transcends reason. Few issues on the international stage and in the history of international conflicts garner as much political and media attention and have as much significance in the emotional subconscious as this conflict that is so misunderstood despite the sources and the numerous historiographies, and in which the competing narratives are but a reflection of the various fractures that run through Israel and the entire region from the Mediterranean. Not all conflicts are a source of growth, as the Transformation Theory of conflict asserts. The malleability of identities, in a regional environment where narratives respond to concepts embedded in deep culture, eventually impose their objectives through violence. In the end, myths and historical interpretations respond to an ideological and political need that academic circles and the media are responsible for legitimizing. It assumes the centrality of a region and the exceptionality of a monolithic narrative in which there are two antagonistic actors who focus their personal and collective experiences on events that keep them trapped in the chains of the past.
The Shoah and Nakba narratives embody the Security dilemma of a fearful nation on the one hand, and the need to rewrite the history and reality of what was the past in order to adapt it to the current national construction on the other. Since the events of 1948, denying the legitimacy of the State of Israel, Jewish nationalism (Zionism) is interpreted as an expression of European colonialism – foreign immigrants who came to usurp the Holy Places -, making the construction of a common history impossible and centralizing the Palestinian discourse in a victimhood that has as its axis the demand for the “right of return”, the main obstacle to a genuine peace solution between the two communities. The perception that it is impossible to reach peace shows us to what extent the deliberate bias prevents us from recognizing whether we are faced with a merely material territorial conflict or a construct of opposing and interwoven narratives that feed back on each other thanks to the interference of local, regional and international third parties.
Looking to the past to try to find bridges is no longer possible. In the absence of a culture of peace, the international community must stop being indulgent with a Palestinian society that celebrates death and squanders enormous resources on the corruption of its leaders. The regional option, very limited, passes through Egypt, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. Only when the International Institutions, with the UN at the head, really understand the roots of Palestinian violence, leave behind their biases about Israel, distinguish terrorism from civilian victims and dismantle organizations that constantly sabotage any progress, such as UNRWA, will the possibility of a process of recognition and peace open up. Because poisoned narratives affect a population that deserves to hold on to the winds of change blowing in the Middle East.
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