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The Cultural-Historical Debate behind the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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It is so mistakenly common to refer to the “Middle East conflict” as the “Arab-Israeli conflict.” In fact, in the Middle East there are so many wars, quarrels, conflicts and violence, representing perhaps the pick of world regions. The Arab-Israeli conflict is only one of them and the less lethal. This is one of the important facts to understand.

However, it has a “bad reputation” of the highest media attention. Why? Because the Palestinians have the best public relations machinery, perhaps ever in history, and they have succeeded to bring their case to the core of world attention at the expense of so many severer cases in the Middle East, let alone in the world.    

It is a common belief that the “Arab-Israeli conflict” is a conflict of two peoples fighting over the same piece of land and therefore it is one of nationalism. However, this belief stems from misunderstanding that leads to misperceptions, since the framework is more complicated. This conflict has many facets and dimensions. It is basically religious-cultural, a Muslim-Jewish conflict, which is Islam vs. Judaism; it is cloaked in political-ideological dimension, which is Arab nationalism vs. Jewish Zionism; and it is manifested as a territorial-national one, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

It is highly difficult for Westerners to internalize the real issues of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. On the face of it, the objective is to find the formula of conflict resolution, by bridging the gaps between the attitudes of the parties; or at best to settle the issues down as a sort of conflict management. However, after so many years of negotiations, mediations, academic and political proposals, only little progress has been achieved, and amazingly there is still hope that a political arrangement, a magic formula to its solution, can be worked out.

Now there is the next round. The Israeli government and the Palestinian National Authority have agreed to engage in direct peace talks. However, neither side has expressed any enthusiasm or hopes to find a resolution. They just wish to satisfy the US administration, to show willingness to gather around for talks, to be on the diplomatic track because the US wants them to do so, but not to end the talks by peace treaty. Peace talks are the American solution, which gives the US the appearance of seeking a solution to settle the Israeli-Palestinian problem. The comings and goings of American diplomats, the occasional photo op with leaders give legitimacy, status and standing. The US produces another pyrotechnical exposition which leads to nowhere. Talks do not solve the issues, but give the impression of progressing forward, thus, they become an end in itself and not the means to achieve peace.

Specifically, there are crucial constraints: first, there is no united, accepted, recognized Palestinian leadership, which can carry out the burdens of the resolution and impose it on the Palestinian society. Arafat had it but he did not want to. Abu Mazen has not the ability to achieve it and he does not want it. Second, any agreement with Abu Mazen, a weak and un-authoritative leader, is not acceptable by Hamas and other groups. Third, the Palestinians want it all and no less than all. They have never come to any compromise and they still do not recognize Israel as a nation deserving a statehood in this territory.

Under these circumstances any agreement could not bring a resolution but perhaps exacerbates the Palestinian situation, which will drip and intensify the hostilities against Israel. One of the main reasons is that whatever they do, all the atrocities they perform, and their stubborn refusal is hailed with applauses and consent by the international community, mainly Europe, with donations of billions of dollars.

Under these circumstances, why should they change their attitudes and policies? They win big time, and they have all the patience (Sabr) and steadfastness (Sumud) waiting for Israel’s collapse. The billions of dollars given to them by the international community, really at the expense of those who really need it, empower the Palestinians to continue on the road of stubbornness and extremism, with good life and high standard of living compare to at least 80 states around the world and one billion of people, including many in the Arab and Muslim states. Most of the money donated goes to corruption of the political elite and to terrorism.

All that one has to do to realize this situation, is to visit the Palestinians’ towns and villages, to see the comparatively high standard of living and then to travel to most of African, Asian and South-American states for comparison. All these, bearing in mind that the Palestinians get the flow of money from outside, being defined as wretched miserable people under Israel’s occupation and apartheid.

Very few people around the world really know the situation: 94-96 percent of the Palestinians are not, are absolutely not under Israel’s “occupation” or “control.” They live under their own people control and leadership in Gaza and the Palestinian Authority. Indeed, Israel control part of the territory, but very small part of Palestinians. Most of the Palestinians live their own life under their government and regimes, without any Israel’s interference or control. Moreover, had they stop terrorism and violence, and had they proceed with Oslo Accords, they would already have most of the territory, except of very few territories under dispute.                      

Why so little progress has been achieved? The so many failures of the past have occurred because of profound divergences in the interests and the objectives. The failure is based on the international understanding that the main issues of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict are three: a) recognized borders acceptable by the parties; b) the ‘right of return’ of the Palestinian refugees; and c) Jerusalem issue. However, these are the symptoms, the by-product of the real issue, which is the recognition of Israel as a Jewish Zionist sovereign state. Here, the Palestinians’ refusal is total.  

This is the utmost important issue, and the refusal of the Palestinians to recognize it is the chief reason why the conflict is still here with us. Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen), a Holocaust denier and abhor extremist, who nevertheless is considered moderate, has reiterated this view for so many times: “I will never recognize Israel as the state and the Jewish people as a nation.” Time and again he declares that the peace talks are not the goal, but just another stage in the Palestinian attempt to undermine Israel’s legitimacy as a state and present it as a “racist, apartheid state.”

The strategy of denial of the Jewish character of Israel is manifested in the conception that Israel should, in fact, become a bi-national state, or a State of all its Nationals, but never a Jewish state, living beside a Palestinian state, clean of Jews. This in fact the Palestinian formula to what they call “the States Solution.” The immediate end-result would be two Palestinian states, with perhaps a Jewish minority in one of them; and in the not far away future, three Palestinian states, after Jordan becomes Palestinian, out of demography and security weakness in the absence of Israel’s support.

Therefore, he who wishes to solve the conflict must start here. Only after recognizing Israel as a Jewish Zionist state and then the solemn declaration of the Palestinians to end of all sorts of hostilities, and agreeing to peaceful means of living together; only then, the other issues of borders, refugees, and Jerusalem are to be negotiated and decided upon.

The issue of recognition is conspicuous by analyzing contemporary Palestinian politics with its two main strategies: The first, the secular one, which is national-territorial, elaborated by PLO-Fath; the second, the religious one, which is religious-cultural, elaborated by Hamas. However, both approaches are similar in their total demand to obliterating the State of Israel as a Jewish Zionist state. Both wish to establish the Palestinian State on the entire territory “from the Sea to the River;” and both resist any possibility of Jewish existence as a nation entitled to a state. They only differ in the tactics and the means to achieve it, and as of the future status of the Palestinian state, being religious or secular, although not exactly in the Western terms.

These two attitudes are exemplified by a clear ideology of genocide and politicide, in the Palestinian National Covenant and the Hamas Charter.

The Palestinian National Covenant states:

Palestine is the homeland of the Palestinian Arab people (Article 1). The Arab Palestinian people is the only legitimate owner of his land, and will determine himself politically only after the total liberation of his land according to its will and decision (Article 3). Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. Thus it is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase. The Palestinians assert their absolute determination and firm resolution to continue their armed struggle for the total liberation of Palestine (Article 9).

The liberation of Palestine means to repel the Zionist and imperialist aggression, and aims at the elimination of Zionism from Palestine in its entirety (Article 15). The partition of Palestine in 1947 and the establishment of the state of Israel in 1948 are entirely illegal (Article 19). The Balfour Declaration [1917], the Mandate for Palestine [1919], and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void. Claims of historical or religious ties of the Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history. Judaism, being only a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own. They are only citizens of the states to which they belong (Article 20).

The Palestinian people, expressing himself by the armed revolution, reject all solutions which are substitutes for the total liberation of Palestine (Article 21). The liberation of Palestine will totally destroy the Zionist presence and by that will contribute to the establishment of peace (Article 22).

Hamas Charter, contrary to Fath-PLO covenant, seeks not a ‘Palestinian state,’ but an ‘Islamic Ummah,’ according to the Muslim Brotherhood’s ideology. The Charter opens with a quote from the Qur’an (3:10): “You [Islamic nation] are the best nation that hath been raised up unto mankind,” and declares the following:

Israel will exist until Islam will obliterate it… It strives to raise the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine, for under the wing of Islam followers of all religions can coexist in security and safety where their lives, possessions and rights are concerned. In the absence of Islam, strife will be rife, oppression spreads, evil prevails and schisms and wars will break out (Article 6).

The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the links in the chain of the struggle against the Zionist invaders. It includes the struggle of the Muslim Brotherhood in the 1948 war and all Jihad operations… The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the and kill the Jews, and when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees, the stones and trees will say O Muslims, O the servants of Allah, there is a Jew hiding behind me, come and kill him (Article 7).

Allah is its target, the Prophet is its model, the Qur’an its constitution: Jihad is its path and death for the sake of Allah is the loftiest of its wishes (Article 8).

The land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf (endowment) until Judgment Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings and presidents, neither any organization nor all of them, be they Palestinian or Arab, possess the right to deny that. Palestine in its entirety belongs only to the Palestinians. This is the law governing the Islamic Shari’ah (article 11).

Nothing is more significant or deeper than Jihad against the Zionist enemy. Resisting and quelling the enemy become the individual duty of every Muslim, male or female. Abusing any part of Palestine is tantamount to abuse part of the religion [which means death]. There is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad to eliminate the Zionist invasion. Initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors (Article 13). It is the utmost necessary to instill the spirit of Jihad in the heart of the Muslim nation (Article 15).

The Islamic Resistance Movement is a humanistic movement. It takes care of human rights and is guided by Islamic tolerance when dealing with the followers of other religions. It does not antagonize anyone of them, except if it is antagonized by it or stands in its way to hamper its moves and waste its efforts. Under the wing of Islam, it is possible for the followers of the three religions – Islam, Christianity and Judaism – to coexist in peace and quiet with each other. Peace and quiet would not be possible except under the wing of Islam (Article 31).

He who wishes even to begin understanding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict must start here, with the ideology of annihilation, with the Palestinian Mein Kampf towards Israel. Moreover, after reading these documents, and listening-watching-reading the so many thousands declarations of the Palestinian leaders, the conclusion is clear: the issue is not the ‘occupation,’ the 1967 borders, but Israel’s existence. There is no mentioning of the ‘1967 occupation’ at all, but the ‘1948 occupation.’ It is Israel’s entity at any part of that area that matters; it is the total refusal to accept Israeli legitimacy and to make peace with Israel in any borders.

This is perhaps the biggest fallacy all outside parties share. When the Palestinians say ‘Israeli occupation,’ it is not the 1967 occupation, but the 1948 occupation; and it is not the 1967 borders even not the 1947 borders. The word ‘occupation’ serves as a code-word for the Palestinians the channel world politics and good people to support their case, without really knowing their real objectives.

This is perhaps the greatest deceit in modern time: when the Palestinians murder and massacre Israelis by inhuman terrorism, it is not because of the “occupation” of 1967 border. Arab harsh terrorism against Jews began from the 1920’s; and it is not because of the “settlements,” since the violent objection against Jewish immigration and settlements began even before 1920’s. The so-called 1967 occupied territories have no relevance to the conclusion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It is just another problem in a large set of complex issues which firstly must be focused on the recognition of Israel as a state and as a nation.

This is the Palestinian ideology of annihilation. The chief means is incitement and hatred. It is the supreme utmost strategy; the operational code in which it is executed and perpetuated. This is an ocean-deep, so atavistic and inhuman, a highly venomous loath toward everything Israel and Jews represent, manifested in all spheres of life. Children and youth learn to hate before everything else in life, and this is what motivates their ways of thinking and activities. This is a full-fledged industry, a monstrous phenomenon we are even unable to comprehend.

Although in the Qur’an there is the recognition of the Jewish ownership and sole rights on the Land of Israel, called “the Holy Land” (al-Ard al-Muqaddasah); “the Blessed Land” (al-Ard al-Mubarakah); the “Land of the Jews” (Ard Bani-Isra’il), and although on other passages it is declared that the Jews are Allah’s chosen people (2:47; 44:32; 45:16), Palestinian ideology still promotes genocide and Politicide objectives. Killing Jews serves as a prerequisite to religious redemption, for the sake of humanity at large. Palestine’s blessing is linked to the destruction of Israel that opens the doors to Heaven.

The fanatic exaggerated lies are inconceivable to human mind, and reiterated thousands of times. Khaled Mash`al, Hamas political bureau chairman:

“What the State of Israel has done to the Palestinian people is ten times worse than what the Nazis did to the Jews… The Zionist holocaust of the Palestinian people and the peoples of the Arab-Muslim nation is being carried out in full view, and no one can deny it or claim that it has been exaggerated…”

In a sermon on official Palestinian Authority TV the cleric preached:

The Jews, the enemies of Allah and of His Messenger, enemies of humanity in general, and of Palestinians in particular… The Jews are the Jews. Even if donkeys would cease to bray, dogs cease to bark, wolves cease to howl and snakes to bite, the Jews would not cease to harbor hatred towards Muslims… The Prophet says: ‘You shall fight the Jews and kill them all.

In a Friday sermon on al-Aqsa TV:

We will redeem Palestine with our souls, with our blood, with our sons, with what is most dear to us until it is entirely liberated and purified. The only way to liberate it is through Jihad for the sake of Allah. Jihad today is an individual duty, incumbent upon each and every Muslim man and woman.

Believe it or not, these declarations are not only the least extreme. The industry of hatred is fed even exacerbated by the industry of lies, and both produce an unprecedented volume of violence that brings de-humanization of the Jews. Violence does not and cannot exist by itself; it is invariably intertwined with the lie. The main aspect of hate industry is the educational system.

Anti-Semitism, the denial of the Jewish state’s right to exist, and martyrdom are constant staples on PA TV and other media devices. All cultural and social life are directed to stigmatize the phenomena. The Palestinians have targeted their education and media socialization and indoctrination toward the de-legitimization of Israel and de-humanization of the Jews, to prepare the ground of yet another “final solution.”

The main Palestinian strategy is to turn the historical-political reality upside down, by twisting the well-documented facts of history and by re-inventing a wholly new fabricated history. The lies they present are so detached from reality, are so disconnected from any human logic, and that is why they exactly are accepted. When one reiterates absurdity after total absurdity, people begin to believe it has some truths. Hitler, Goebbels, and Lenin have proven this; the Palestinians practice it so successfully.

The Palestinians claim the ridiculous absurdity that their ancestors were the seven peoples of Canaan and the Philistines. Going along, since the Palestinians are their descendants, they preceded the Jews in their right to the territory. Moreover, in Palestinians’ perspective, the Jews today have no connection to the Jews of the past, which were disappeared historically. Contemporary Jews are religious groups of imposters who are not the real Jews, but rather part of the Zionist plot to gain control of the Palestinians homeland.

Here is the exponent of Zaid Nabulsi review in Saudi paper:

All Zionist archaeologists have failed — after digging up every conceivable corner of Palestine for the last 62 years — to come up with a single credible Jewish teapot or tablespoon… digging. Two years ago, Israeli professor Shlomo Sand argued, with meticulous scholarship in his earth-shattering book, ‘The Invention of the Jewish People,’ that the claim that the Jews of today are the ethnic offspring of the Biblical Jews is yet another Zionist myth, because all records tell us that the current Jews are the descendants of Khazar tribes who converted to Judaism, and have no genetic link whatsoever to the Jews who lived in Palestine during Roman times… the Romans apparently never exiled anybody of the Jews. Sand demolishes the myth of the Kingdoms of David and Solomon by proving they are pure legends that never existed.

Israel is indeed under vicious assault of pseudo-history by the Palestinians who are assisted by pseudo-historians, many of them anti-Semite Jews, to invent new “history,” to rewrite some of the most widely-accepted truths of history. This is not only pseudo-historic revisionism or denial of well accepted truths, but clearly Nazi-Fascist claims, falsifying, twisting and distorting the history of the Land of Israel and the Jews.

Psychological factors operate to manipulate views and attitudes, and to create mantras that do not necessarily reflect either the historical record or applicable international law. Language becomes an important tool both in falsifying events and in perpetuating beliefs based on narratives that do not accurately reflect history. Psychological manipulation is operated for political purposes. Colonialism has become the major theme in de-legitimizing and de-humanizing Israel, charged as a ‘settler-colonialist’ state. The notion of ‘settler’ dismisses any historical or biblical connection of the Jews to the Land of Israel, hence, the importance of denial of Jewish rights. These charges are rooted in cognitive denial of any Jewish connection to Palestine. The mechanism of dissonance reduction is most central by arguing that Jews do not constitute a national entity and cannot have legitimate rights to what was known as Palestine. Corresponding with article 20 of their Covenant, the Palestinians claim that since Jews are members of a religion and not a nation, any nationalistic aspirations based on a specific territory are invalid.

Historically, ‘Palestine’ has never been a territorial-cultural and political unit and it had no special geographic or political role for the last 2000 years. The name in Arabic, “Filastin,” has no historical cultural connotations or any etymological meaning. “Palestine” has even no meaning in Greek, Latin, or English. In the New English Bible, the Latin name Palaestina denote Philistia as in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament, the word does not occur at all. The only language it comes from is Hebrew, denoting the southern coastal region of the Land of Israel called “Pleshet”. Yet, it has now taken on the wholesale myth that could fill volumes of vitriolic and venomous propaganda that has become a virtual religion in itself.

The historical truths are clear: first, there has never been a sovereign Arab state in Palestine, after the Jewish Diaspora, 1900 years ago, until the establishment of the State of Israel; second, nor did a Palestinian people, distinct from other Arabs, appear during 1,375 years of Muslim hegemony in Palestine under Arab, Muslim and Ottoman rule; third, Jerusalem has never been an Arab or Muslim capital, even not an important city during the entire history of Islamic rule. Only twice in Jerusalem’s history has it served as a national capital: during the first Jewish kingdoms of David and Solomon (1013-933 B.C.) and the Second Temple period; and now as the capital of the State of Israel.

After the end of the second Jewish revolt in 135, the Roman ruler, Herod Agrippa, decided to rename the territory from “Provincia Judaea” to ‘Provincia Syria Palaestina’. The name was derived from the Philistines, a non-Semitic, Indo-European people from the Aegean islands. Later on the region was split into “Palaestina Prima,” consisted of Judea, Samaria and east and southern part of the Jordan valley; “Palaestina Secunda,” consist of the Galilee, the Golan and the northern part of the Jordan river; and “Palaestina Tertia,” extended over southern Transjordan, the Negev and Sinai desert. The Roman renamed Jerusalem as “Aelia Capitolina”.

The Arab invasion of the Middle East from 632, culminated in the conquest of the country in 634 and Jerusalem in 638. Palaestina Prima became Jund Filastin, the military district of Palaestina, administered from Lydda and Ramla; Palaestina Secunda including Western Galilee, became Jund al-Urdun, and was administered from Tiberias. These Arabic names were a direct borrowing from the Greco-Roman terms, but because Arabic has no “p” sound in its language “Palaestina” became “Filastin).” The Arab division of the country, like the Roman, was not vertical between east and west, but horizontal, with Filastin in the south and Urdun in the north.

The word ‘Palestine’ was reborn in the 20th century by the British, together with “Filastin” in Arabic, and “Palestina (E.I.: initials standing for Eretz-Israel)” in Hebrew. However, In contrast to the Jews, the Arab inhabitants avoided using the Arabic name Filastin, but the name “Arabs” or “Syrians.” The Peel Report had clearly noticed: “the Arabs had always regarded Palestine as included in Syria.” This was the official position of the Palestinian and Arab leadership during the 1940’s. In 1945, the renowned historian Philip Hitti vehemently claimed before the Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry in January 11, 1946: “There is no such thing as Palestine in history, absolutely not.” As late as 1956, Ahmad Shuqeiry, while addressing the United Nations Security Council, has put it: ‘it is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but southern Syria’. Even the UN Resolution 242 of November 1967 mentions only “Arab refugees,” not “Palestinian refugees,” or a “Palestinian people.”

What do all these mean? One can only imagine if Hadrian had never changed the name from Judea to Palaestina, so this unique name wouldn’t have ever existed. In that case would we be hearing of “a Judean Arab people” striving to establish “a Judean Arab land”? The British could have chosen the name “The Holy Land” or “The Land of Israel” or other name. In that case, again, there could have been no “Palestine” as a territory and no “Palestinians” as a nation. To make it more absurd: what if Hadrian or the British had changed the name to “Jupiter?” In that case, would we be hearing of a “Jupiterian Arab people” fighting to liberate their “Jupiterian Arab land”?

Without entering polemical argumentation, from any known scientific historical perspectives, can one trace evidence to a land called Palestine? Can one show when and where it was founded and who were its leaders? Can one delineate its borders, its major cities and capital? Can one record its society, economy, currency, and political settings? Indeed, there is none of all these. There is no language known as Palestinian, or even specific Arabic accent; there is no distinct Palestinian culture; there are no records in history of Palestinian life; there are no archaeological sites and monuments. Indeed, there has never been a land known as “Palestine” governed by distinct “Palestinians.”

This does not deny at all the idea there is a Palestinian people today striving to establish a Palestinian state. Nationalism and political identity are evolving terms. However, these are brand new terms, only from the 1950’s, and mainly after 1967 war. For that, there is no need to twist and to rape history, unless one wishes to deny other’s legitimate rights. From here stems the most important question: what do the Palestinians really want?

What about Jews’ legal rights? Israel’s political rights and sovereignty over the mandated territory called ‘Palestine’ were favored under International Law. In 1917 Lord Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary, issued his famous ‘Declaration,’ with the consent of the cabinet. In 1920, the Ottoman Empire in Article 95 of the Treaty of Sevres, granted its sovereignty in the Middle East, which had been undisputed for 400 years, to Great Britain. In 1920 San Remo convention, the Allies adopted Lord Balfour’s declaration as its policy, called ‘The British Mandate,’ that became International Law. The 1922 Palestine Mandate specifically refers to the “historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine,” and called for the Jewish people to begin “reconstituting of their national home.” In 1924, the British Mandate became the domestic law of England and the US. The UN continued with this policy, according to article 80 of its Charter. So, Israel emerged from the British Mandate with the support of the League of Nations, and recognition of the UN.

Furthermore, 99% of the lands captured from the Ottomans in the Middle East and the North Africa was allocated to the Arabs. Only 1% was given to the Jews under the British mandate. After Churchill gave Transjordan to Abdullah, the Arabs and Muslims had 99.77% of the lands, and the Jews only one quarter of one percent. These figures expose the whole reality of the Middle East.

The assertion that Israel came into existence on the basis of injustice done to the Palestinian nation proceeds on gross errors and lies: to claim that the Palestinian nation was displaced by Israel, when no such entity existed at that time is playing with the facts of history and twisting it. To argue that Israel took areas belonging to a Palestinian political entity in the Six Day War is a gross lie, since there was no Palestinian sovereignty on any territory. The fact is that in the 1967 war, Israel conquered militarily areas of mandatory Palestine which had been occupied by Jordan, which annexed the ‘West Bank;’ and Egypt, which retained the Mandatory system in Gaza.

After the failure of the Arab states in 1948 war, frontiers for the Jewish state were determined in negotiations with the Arab states, which appropriated the Palestinian issue to themselves. All armistice agreements were conducted and signed by the Arab states. No mention of the ‘Palestinians’ as a people and ‘Palestine’ as a territory. The fact is that UN Resolution 194, of December 11, 1948, refers mainly to conciliation regime between Israel and the Arab states, and only in Article 11 does it relate to the ‘refugee problem’ in general terms. If this means Palestinians, it no less means Jewish refugees from Arab states.

The allegations that Israel was established by the European colonialism, is cynical, ironical and aberration of the truth. It is exactly the Arab States that deserve their nationalities to the decisions of the European powers, including the delineating of their entire borders. Moreover, to accuse Israel of being the product of European colonialism, while the history of the Arabs and Islam is the pure form of imperialism, colonialism and occupation, is again twisting the truth. The Middle East was mainly Christian before it was occupied by Islam; Egypt was Pharaonic; Iran was Sassanid; Lebanon was Phoenician; Turkey was Christian; North Africa was Berber; Afghanistan was Christian; Pakistan was Buddhist. They all and many other countries were harshly occupied and viciously colonized by the Arabs and Islam. While European colonialism demised, Arab-Islamic colonialism thrives and expanding.      

The refugee Issue

The Palestinians initiated a highly successful propaganda campaign that Israel occupies the land belonging solely to them, uprooted its nation and scattered them out of their land. The Palestinian Nakbah has become a myth, the lost paradise, and thus the utmost specter. However, the original political use of the Nakbah was in 1920, when the local Arabs vehemently objected the separation of the territory from Syria.

The Palestinian national narrative depicts the creation of the State of Israel in 1948 as the original sin, routinely equated with the Jewish Holocaust, and its remedy is turning the clock back to 1948. All Palestinian refugees, not just those still alive from 1948, but their millions of descendants, would be allowed to return to their homes. By that, this would entail the ending of the Jewish Zionist state.

The Palestinian issue is not a problem of refugees, since only a small minority of them live in camps, and the socioeconomic data and the living standards show clearly that their situation not only resembles hundreds of millions of inhabitants of Third World countries, but in many ways the Palestinian economy and social situation is much better than at least one hundred states, including some Arab states.

The Palestinian issue is not the problem of a people uprooted from its land, since most of the Palestinians live in the land of ‘Mandatory Palestine,’ in area less than the distance between New York and Philadelphia. Small part of them still resides in refugee camps only because some still hope of the destruction of the State of Israel.

The Palestinian issue is not a problem of a society that was scattered from its human environment, since almost all Palestinians live and reside in an Arabic speaking society and culture, among their own society. It is absolutely clear that the total majority of the so-called Palestinian refugees are in no sense true refugees, according to world standards and social-economic reality.

In the past ninety years, more than 130 million refugees around the world, mainly from Europe and Asia, of which 640,000 were Palestinians – only one half of one percent of world refugees. This is the correct proportion. Of all the millions of people who became refugees, the only ones who still count themselves as refugees and who live at the expense of the nations of the world are the Palestinians. Over 90% of the refugees in the world have been rehabilitated, residing in the places where they resettled. The enormous donations to the Palestinians are unfortunately earmarked mainly for corruption and terrorism. Those who are in need in Asia and Africa receive nothing. The poverty, misery and wretchedness are really there, mainly in Africa, but only the Palestinians get the world’s political, social and financial attention. The Palestinians live off the world’s charity at the expense of those who are truly in need of that charity.

One example of the so many of this tragedy is sufficed to illuminate the sick situation, and it comes precisely from a Muslim state: Pakistan. In August 2010 there were huge areas flooded in Pakistan, causing at least twenty million refugees without any means of living. It was defined by the UN “the greatest humanitarian disaster.” However, except of lip service declarations, including the UN Secretary General calling the world to donate money, the UN itself did nothing to treat these miserable refugees as compare to what the Palestinians get regularly. The same situation occurred in 2009, where two millions of Pakistanis run away from their homes in Swat region taken by the Taliban, without even water to drink, but with the same pattern of the UN: doing nothing. The UN High Commissioner, Antonio Guterres, described the displacement crisis as “one of the most dramatic in recent times,” but except of these high words UNHCR did very little to assist and sustain them.

There are almost hundred countries in the world whose economic and social situation is much more severe than that of the Palestinians, Arab states included, with no attention let alone assistance of the world. The Palestinian GNP in year 2000 was 1600 US$, higher than Arab states and most of the Third World Countries. Concerning the contemporary so-called humanitarian situation in Gaza, it is higher than those state that cry out to sent aid flotilla, like Turkey, Iran and Lebanon. The GNH (Gross National Happiness) of the Palestinians is higher than most Arab states, including Turkey, and almost all Third World countries.

More illuminating and disturbing data give proportion to the Palestinian situation: a) at any given moment there are 15 to 25 million refugees living ‘outside of their border’ according to UN definition, without food and shelter, in conditions far direr than the Palestinians; b) there are almost two hundred national-ethnic peoples in the world begging desperately for statehood, who do not wish to gain their independence at the cost of ruining other nation; c) one third of world population drink polluted water, most of them drink water that endanger their health, and every minute 8000 children die solely from drinking polluted water; d) one quarter of world populations have no toilets at home and use holes in a field; e) there are 240 million slave-children around the world, including many from Muslim countries; f) there are, according to UNICEF and the International Woman Research, 51 million child-brides, all from Islamic countries, most of them are sexually harassed and beaten regularly, including one hundred million mutilated women.

The Palestinians are not included in this long poor miserable list.

There are three categories of refugees, according to the United Nations: refugees from all over the world; Palestinian refugees; and Jews refugees — with a totally different treatment. The first category is the United Nations High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR), which deals with refugees from all over the world, with the aim to give them a basic treatment, and to find quick and safe shelter for them, so that they are integrated or settled down as soon as possible. Those refugees are discouraged to remain refugees and to quickly find other accommodation alternatives. The budget allocated of UNHCR is 1.5 billion US$, with 6300 working personnel.

The second category is the Palestinian refugees. They are a special, privileged class. There is a special, separate UN agency, the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA), whose principal duty is to perpetuate their status as refugees forever; to prevent any attempt to settle them down; to provide them, their children and the next generations to come special humanitarian social, economic, and welfare treatment. From 640 thousand refugees in 1948, UNRWA supports now more than five million so-called Palestinian refugees. For that, it is the largest organization of the UN’s, with more than 28 thousand working personnel, 90 percent of them are Palestinians, and 1.1 billion US$ budget.

Under the humanitarian cover, UNRWA acts as a political organ, a giant pressure group for perpetuating the Palestinian refugee’s situation. Its activity is counterproductive in terms of the possibility of resolving the Palestinian refugee problem, by relegating them to a state of passivity and dependency. Yet it is much worse. All educational system and schools run by UNRWA actively serve as greenhouses for praising terrorism as a source of hideous hatred and demonism against Israel and the Jews, and active bases of terrorism instruction and operations. The money donated by the Western states that defines Hamas and other groups as terrorist organizations goes to terrorism; the food supply serve Hamas activity; its warehouses stores weapons; and its workers drive terrorists and weapons with the cars and ambulances of UNRWA. Taken the huge money pour upon them, there is absolutely no motivation of the Palestinians to handle the issue and to recover out of the refugee status.          

The third category is the Jews. Nobody took care about them after the Second World War, and nobody even knows there was a Jewish refugee problem. After the establishment of the State of Israel, a million of Jews became refugees in many Arab lands, and had to leave their houses and huge property in Arab countries and to flee to Israel, where they have been fully absorbed. None of these Jewish refugees were helped by the United Nations. All were set¬tled long ago in their new environments, without being parasites of the world.

The following examples put the Palestinian refugees in perspective:

In April 2004, the UN General Assembly decided that it is impossible to implement the rights of the two hundred thousand Greeks and the fifty thousand Turks to return to their homes in partitioned Cyprus, because “the new reality which has been created” must be taken into consideration. However, this stand of the UN is totally different concerning the Palestinian refugees.

Following World War II, 11 million Germans were expelled from their homes in the Sudetenland, in Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary and Romania, and were force-marched to Germany. Two million died on the way, but the others were absorbed in Germany. In 2004, few of them were seeking to return to their homes, not demanding to dissolve the country from which they were deported; not demanding to replace it; and not demanding money compensation. In August 2004, the German government determined they have no right of return even no reparation. However, the attitude of Germany and the EU towards the Palestinian refugees is totally different.  

In 1968, the British Government exiled 5,000 of the residents of the Island of Diego Garcia, for the purpose of constructing an American air base. In 2003, the exiled residents demand to return to their homes in the island. Their demand was rejected by the British High Court of Justice that ruled out that the residents have neither the right to return nor to receive compensations. However, the British stand toward the Palestinian refugee problem is different.    

Now the question is that out of all the misery and suffering in the world, and year 2010 is notoriously known of huge disasters culminating in tragedies almost everywhere, the world is busy with the false detached “humanitarian situation in Gaza” and the need of “rescue flotillas” for the Palestinians? Why the world is silent while there are more than a billion poor and miserable starving and dying people around the world, the Palestinians continue to receive billions of dollars yearly? This immoral and unjustified flow money continues even when the donating countries and the UN clearly know that large part of it goes to produce terrorism against Israel and increased corruption among the Palestinians.

Why the Kurds, 25 million people living in the same Middle East, have no state of their own and nobody cares about their situation? Why the Christians, the original population in most of the Arab states, have become extinct species and nobody cares about their miserable fate, while the Palestinians are treated and sustained as if they are the last and only people with denied national aspirations?

The Issue of Jerusalem

The Palestinian propaganda declares: Jerusalem has no sanctity whatsoever for the Jews; the Jewish Temple was in Nablus and not in Jerusalem; the Western Wall is part of the Wall of al-Aqsa Mosque, and the whole area of Jerusalem exclusively belongs to the Palestinians, and no stone in it has any connection to the Jews. Al-Quds University posts a History of Jerusalem in which the Jewish narrative is a ‘myth’; that King David, whose very existence is questioned, was probably part of an idealized community of “Israelites” that had no connection to Jerusalem; that those “Israelites” never experienced an exodus from Egypt, a story appropriated from a Canaanite legend; that Joshua’s conquest never took place; that Solomon’s Temple was actually a center of pagan worship; and that the Western Wall was part of a Roman fortress. In the al-Quds history of Palestine, Jews are not mentioned.

`Abd al-Rahim Barkat, of the Islamic Movement in Israel:

The imaginary tale regarding the Temple of Jerusalem is a lie, a crime, and the most enormous forgery in history… the existence of the Holy Temple is not based on any historical or archeological testimony and simply does not exist except in the minds of the Jews. Jerusalem in its entirety belongs to the Muslims and Jews have no relationship whatsoever to that city.

Dr. Hassan Khadir, founder of the al-Quds Encyclopedia:

The Jewish connection to this site is a recent one, began in the 16th century. It is not ancient like the roots of the Islamic connection. The Jewish connection to this site is a fabricated one. The true name of the Western Wall is the al-Buraq, named after Muhammad’s horse which was tied to the wall. Who would have believed that the Israelis would arrive 1400 years later, conquer Jerusalem, and make this wall into their special place of worship.

PLO official, Dr. Ghazi Hussein:

Israel has been perpetrating against the Palestinian crimes far worse than those committed by Nazi Germany. The Judaization of al-Haram al-Ibrahimi [the Cave of the Jewish Patriarchs in Hebron] and the Bilal bin Rabbah mosque [Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem], and the claim to build the false Jewish temple and to Judaize the al-Aqsa mosque prove the Jewish ethnic cleansing policy.

This sheer distorted scientific and twisted history is answered in details: Jerusalem is not mentioned in the Qur’an, the Hadeeth and the Seerah. Never in history had Jerusalem occupied a place of importance in Islam, even as a religious site. It was never considered to be a holy city and no religious institutions were established there, and never became a regional or national capital in Muslim history. The ‘awakening’ of the Palestinians is purely political, against the State of Israel, with the objective to de-legitimize its existence and to refute its legal claims.

The Land of Israel was conquered by the Muslims in 634 CE by `Umar bin-Khattab, but the Muslims did not bother to conquer Jerusalem until four years later. That is certainly an indication of the importance of Jerusalem as far as Islam is concerned. Had Jerusalem been of any real significance, it certainly would have been conquered earlier.

When the invading Muslims entered Jerusalem, they signed a Dhimma (a capitulation for security) agreement with the Christians and left it. `Umar Bin al-Khattab did not recognize any special significance of Jerusalem, and decided to make Caesarea the capital of the region. If the al-Aqsa mosque indeed was located on the Temple Mount, could we imagine that he would belittle it and deny the validity of its source in the Qur’an? If it had any religious, even political importance could we imagine how the Muslims treated Jerusalem for generations?

If Jerusalem was important to the Umayyads, why they made Damascus the capital of their dynasty and not Jerusalem? And if it was important to Islam after the Crusaders built their “kingdom of Jerusalem,” why the Muslims did not do anything to materialize Jerusalem’s importance? And if Jerusalem was important during the 400 years of Ottoman rule, why science and politics know nothing of this?

Apparently the Muslims did not think of any importance, as they called Jerusalem “Iliyas,” the Arabized form of the Latin “Aelia”. Afterwards, the city was called Bayt al-Maqdis, from the Hebrew Beit ha-Mikdash. From the 10th century, the Muslims used a shortened version of al-Quds (the Hebrew word of Kodesh, holy).

The only reference in the Qur’an regularly employed by Muslims is the first verse in Surat Bani Isra’il, 17:1 as if al-Aqsa located in Jerusalem:

Glory to (Allah) who took his servant for a journey by night from the sacred Mosque to the farthest Mosque, whose precincts we did bless…

This verse, Isra’, is connected to Mi’ragh verses, that describe how Muhammad had visions at night in which he hovers with the Angel Gabriel through the seven worlds while riding on the horse al-Buraq and returns to Mecca the same night. On his way he meets the prophets: Adam, St. John and Jesus, Joseph, Idris, Aaron, Moses and Abraham.

Flying horses, flying dragons and gods able to fly, were common myths centuries before Muhammad. The whole story may have been influenced by the story of the prophet Elijah who flew into heaven in a burning chariot pulled by horses. Long before Elijah story, Moses ascended Mount Sinai and received the two tablets of the Ten Commandments. In other words, the story of Muhammad has its source in the Hebrew Bible. He intended to reach heaven in order to behold Allah. There was nothing else, surely not Jerusalem.

Moreover, the territory of the Land of Israel could not be called “al-Aqsa,” which means the far-away land, since its geographical proximity to Arabia. The Land of Israel is called in the Qur’an al-Ard al-Adna, the “nearby land,” closest to Mecca and Medina. However, an interesting approach is given by the Egyptian, Ahmad Muhammad `Arafa. He claims that Muhammad’s night journey refers to the Hijrah of the prophet from Mecca to Medina. The journey was not to Jerusalem but to Medina. The word Isra’ in Arabic that appears in the Qur’an means “to move secretly from a dangerous location to a safe place.” In that way the prophet obeyed the instructions of Allah to the effect that Mecca was dangerous, his enemies were plotting to kill him, and he was to escape secretly at night to Medina. Muhammad’s praise for Allah, referred to demonstrate the importance of the event for Mohammad.

The Caliph `Abd al-Malik (685-705) built the Dome of the Rock, in 691, as to elevate and sanctify Jerusalem, since the Umayyads could not reach Mecca for the pilgrimage. His son, al-Walid, constructed the mosque called al-Aqsa on the ruins of the Jewish Temple Mount in 715. The “Praise of Jerusalem” literature (Fada’il al-Quds), that emerged for political reasons during the Umayyad dynasty, disappeared, and a new contradictory literature appeared that belittled the importance of the city. The Hanbali exegete, Taqi ad-Din Ahmad ibn Taymiyyah (1263–1328), is identified with this trend: directing prayer toward Bayt al-Maqdis was nullified, being an apostasy (Irtidad). In 1016 the Dome of the Rock collapsed and no one bothered to restore it as a holy site of worship. Jerusalem once more fell into awe of neglect and oblivion. Damascus, Cairo, Constantinople and other centers were considered to be of much higher religious significance than Jerusalem.

Jerusalem was forgotten until the 20th century. It was “revealed” from the second half of 1920’s, by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini; then by King Abdallah of Transjordan; and culminated with Yasser Arafat. all of them prove the historical rule: Jerusalem is important in Islam only from its political role, when others control it, and to enhance political ambitions and identification.

Why the Palestinian Propaganda Succeeds?

Now, the question is why the Palestinians succeed in their propaganda full of uncorroborated and unsubstantiated facts as to divert world public opinion from reality? The answer lies in the following syndromes:

The first is the Ignorance-Disinformation Syndrome (IDS). Most of the people, even those who have constant information of the situation, are not acquainted enough and do not know the details and the characteristics of the conflict, mainly because of cultural barriers. One cannot avoid detecting the incredible amount of ignorance regarding the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, so, when one pours highly concentrated disinformation to the ignorant, the success is surely his.

Disputes about opinions and views when the facts are known is understandable; different views in describing facts are reasonable, since history is not an exact science; even Rashomon of telling different stories is acceptable. But, the fact is that so much disinformation has been poured so many years and by so many educated and intelligent people, is amazing. Distortions, misconceptions, and unadulterated lies are common, so that it became the whole truth.

Why do the Palestinians twist the reality? It is because they know their case is weak and unconvincing; because this is a cultural syndrome proven in Islamic history when relating to the other; because this is the message of the Qur’an that for the promotion of Islamic interests cheating and deceiving are permitted, and mainly because they wish not a compromised solution, but want it all. Why do they continue lying? Because they have solid proofs that their lies succeed, and world public opinion, leaders and the media, do not condemn them. James Baldwin, the American author has put this syndrome as follows:

It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have.

This is the reason why Goethe had reiterated the idea:

There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.

This is why Alan Dershowitz has put it so succinctly:

When the best are accused being the worst, you have to look at the accusers.

To make the situation even more complicated, there is the Mirror Image Syndrome (MIS), the twisted psychological behavioral and conceptual lenses through which we look into the situation and interpret it. This is perhaps our most lethal enemy, proven through historical research by Barbara Tuchman; through psychological research by Norman Dixon and through surprise attacks and misconceptions research. We analyze the situation and relate to our enemy through our own values and conceptions. However, what if our enemy is different from us culturally and conceptually? What if he is devoted to achieve his goals by all means we do not even appreciate politically and understand culturally? What if we play Checkmate while he plays Sheshbesh?

Moreover, the situation is exacerbated by the Aggressiveness-Victimhood as against Political Correct Syndrome (AVPCS). That means, understanding the ramifications of Arab-Islamic cultural phenomenon of victimhood as against Western politically correct approach. The Western trauma of politically correct of not to offend the other and to act according to fashion goes exactly with the Muslim demand of honor and not to be offended, being a supremacist religion. The Arab-Muslims raise to unprecedented extremes their sensibilities; they immediately declare they are offended almost on every realm and every issue in day by day life. This situation, in its turn, deepens Western politically correct approach, and that process end with capitulation and apologies.

Whatever they do; no matter how aggressive is their behavior; how deep and horrible the atrocious violence they exhibit — from Arab-Muslim perspective, they are always the innocent victims who only defend their honor, their life and their land. This is a very well-known syndrome of the Arab-Islamic cultural trait of crying out and complaint (I`rad Baka’- Shaqa’), which is exemplified by the Arab saying: Darabni wa-Baka, Sabaqani wa-Shtaka (he hit me and cried out, he overtook me and grumbled). Add to this the Judeo-Christian guilt remorse, of internalizing the guilt, and the Arab-Islamic cultural syndrome of externalizing the guilt, and the result is clear: Arab Muslims win the situation, and Western civilization capitulates.

However, the most important is the leading scientific culture syndrome of the ‘post’ era, of ‘post imperialism’, ‘post modernism,’ ‘post colonialism,’ and relativism. This has become the new ideology, the god of new Western scientific era. Pascal Bruckner has called the Western intelligentsia’s new form as “tyranny of guilt,” a self-effacement of Western masochism that forbids any critical inquiry into the historical narratives of national movements granted the sanctified status of “oppressed.” The Nakbah narrative cannot even be challenged. This is the horrible legacy of Edward Said’s atrocious approach of Orientalism, which was criticized harshly, among many others, by Bernard Lewis and Ibn Warraq. This approach has become a highly sophisticated grand strategy built on the foundations laid down by Said: all you have to win over is to disqualify, to invalidate and to delegitimize the other, whatever the circumstances, the situation and reality are. This one-sided totality, this black and white absoluteness, is one of the conspicuous cultural traits of Islam.

The dire situation inherited from Said’s legacy is that contemporary Western research of the Middle East and Islam suffers from fear and dictation, out of post-colonial and guilt remorse and inferiority complex. According to this, one must accept the Middle East as is and must absolutely refrain of any judgment (but unfortunately and so tragically not Africa and Third World countries; only the Middle East!). This means that only the post-modernists, and of course Arabs and Muslims, hold the pure true academic indisputable knowledge of that field. Anyone who dares criticizing Arabs and Islam is being immediately accused outright as racist, colonialist and Islamophobe.

These are the basic reasons for the successful Palestinian’s propaganda of twisting reality and winning world public opinion’s stand. Of course, there is room for criticism on all sides. No one is solely righteous and no one is totally guilty of the situation. However, there is hardly such a case in which history has been so thoroughly written upside down and facts have been so profoundly manipulated as by the Palestinians. One day historians will devote in-depth many volumes studies of how did the Palestinians succeed in fooling so many people in such a long time, without the entire world standing up and crying out: enough is enough. Indeed, one can safely say: you can fool most of the people all the time; you can fool all the people most of the time; but you cannot fool all the people all the time – unless you are the Palestinians.

Summary

The Palestinians should look into the mirror and honestly ask: why there is no Palestinian state today? Is it Israel’s refusal, or their leadership’s obstinacy demanding ‘all or nothing,’ and out of inter-Arab rivalries? The Palestinians could have established their state according to UN partition plan of November 1947 (decision 181), with a bigger territory than Israel. The Arabs could have conclude peace with Israel after 1948, instead of armistice agreements and establish a state for the Palestinians on the West Bank and Gaza, as most of contemporary plans are aimed to. However, unfortunately, both the Palestinian leadership and Arab states declined. The real question is whether the Palestinians are ready to establish a state on the 1967 borders, and to recognize Israel’s legitimacy by declaring the end of hostilities. Unfortunately, all indicators are clear, they do not, and they still believe they can achieve it all.

One of the main reasons for their stubbornness is the political support, almost blindly and totally, they get from the international system, mainly from Europe and the UN. The international community has emboldened them into believing that Israel can be delegitimized and weakened through international pressure. All the Palestinians need is to hold out long enough for achieving their ultimate goal. This situation of putting their case above most of world issues, as if their case is solved all other issues coming from the Middle East, including the Islamic immigration, are solved, is disastrous for the world; counter-productive for the Palestinians; and lethal to the existence of Israel.

The Arab-Israeli conflict is and has always been based on Palestinian and Arab opposition to Jewish statehood. There is mainly one cause to the continuation of this conflict, which is buried beneath an avalanche of media coverage and politicians’ declarations designed to obfuscate and confuse reality — the refusal to come to terms with Israel’s existence as a Jewish Zionist state. Indeed, this conflict is not about the right of self-determination of the “Palestinian,” but rather it is about Jewish self-determination; it is not about Israel’s stubbornness and rejection of a “Palestinian state,” but rather about Arab and Palestinian stubborn rejection of Jewish statehood; it is not about Israel’s refusal to compromise, the Egyptian and Jordanian peace treaties clearly prove it, but about the Palestinian leadership’s refusal to compromise and to recognize the legitimacy of the State of Israel.

Under these circumstances, it is unreasonable to anticipate a change in the Palestinian and Islamic behavior towards Israel, unless their leaderships decide to change their policies, methods, textbooks and verbal messages. The education for hatred for Jews and for Israel lies at the root of the issues. The Nazi and Japanese analogy is most instructive. As long as racism and militarism was the basis of Nazi and Japanese society, both could not enter the modern democratic world. The Allied powers, headed by the US, understood that the military defeat is not enough, and imposed a radical change on Nazi and Japanese societal values, education and politics. Germany and Japan were forced to abandon their ancient tradition of nationalistic racism and militarism and to embrace an open system of democracy. Only then were they able to become democratic and technologically advanced nations. This must be applicable, first and foremost to the Palestinians, who are spoiled by the blind international support (and to the Muslims at large concerning the West).  

Professor Fuad Ajami, of John’s Hopkins University, clearly has stated: an accommodation with Israel is imperative, but the Palestinian leaders still demanding to have it all, ‘from the river to the sea.’ The Arab states have compounded the Palestinian radicalism, granted them everything and nothing at the same time, and there was thus no need for the Palestinians to moderation and realism. The Palestinians should know better, aside from a handful of the most messianic Israelis and Europeans, there is a recognition that the Palestinians must come to term with reason and live in peace with Israel, or to drop off the history.  

In his the Missing Peace, the American Diplomat, Dennis Ross, noticed the salient fact that for the Arabs, any Israeli withdrawal and relinquishment is not enough. The revolutionary change is yet to come for the Arab world to recognize Israeli needs, let alone its existence. It is not enough to sit at the negotiation table and to talk peace and yet to maintain a different atmosphere in the streets, in the media and politics. Without a real change in Arab-Islamic political culture, it is highly doubtful that the Middle East is on the path of change towards peace. On the contrary, it is still a huge barrier to peace, as much as to democracy and civil rights. The Middle East, Ross concludes, is going backwards and not progressing, with a continued militancy of Islamism. This is of course, exactly the case of the Palestinians.

Western public opinion is ignorant of the so pervasive cultural behavior of Arab-Islamic dualism. The reason is that one of the main aspects is dualism in language. The Palestinian Authority preaches peace in English and incites war in Arabic. The contradiction between what it says in English to the Western audience and what it says in Arabic is overwhelming. As Steven Simpson has put it, the fact is that the Palestinians and the Muslims at large still point to these hateful verses in the Qur’an, should give us a pause to consider if there can ever be true peace between Muslims and Jews. In the religious and cultural context, let alone the national territorial rivalry, the Palestinians cannot accept a Jewish state, and the big question under these circumstances, is it likely that true peace will reign in the Land of Israel?

Where did the name Palestine come from?

The Philistines were not native to Israel, in fact, as their name implies, they came from somewhere from the Greek Islands, most likely Crete. Obviously, they did not speak Arabic and they were not Semitic like Jews and Arabs. That is why the Romans chose to eradicate the name Judea by implementing foreign outside name.

From the fifth century BCE, the Greeks called the eastern coast of the Mediterranean “Philistine Syria” using the Greek language form of the name. In the year135, after putting down the Bar Kochba revolt, the second major Jewish revolt against Rome, the Emperor Hadrian wanted to wipe out the name of the Roman “Provincia Judaea” and so renamed it “Provincia Syria Palaestina”,

Therefore, if any, the Jews are the Palestinians, NOT anybody else.

“The British chose to call the land they mandated Palestine, and very later the local Arabs who picked it up as their supposed ancient name, though they couldn’t even pronounce it correctly and turned it into Filastin.”

So where did these so called “Palestinians” come from?

On March 31, 1977, the Dutch newspaper Trouw published an interview with P.L.O. executive committee member Zahir Muhsein. In which he said he said:

“The Palestinian people does not exist. The creation of a Palestinian state is only a means for continuing our struggle against the state of Israel… Only for political and tactical reasons do we speak today about the existence of a Palestinian people, since Arab national interests demand that we posit the existence of a distinct “Palestinian people” to oppose Zionism.

For tactical reasons, Jordan, which is a sovereign state with defined borders, cannot raise claims to Haifa and Jaffa, while as a Palestinian, I can undoubtedly demand Haifa, Jaffa, Beer-Sheva and Jerusalem. However, the moment we reclaim our right to all of Palestine, we will not wait even a minute to unite Palestine and Jordan.”

Can the Muslims claim the land through Ishmael?

Some people including many Muslims stake a claim for the Arabs through the line of Ishmael, the son of Abraham and his wife’s Egyptian servant Hagaar. The thinking is that if God promised Abraham that his family would be a blessing to the whole earth and that anyone who blessed them would be blessed and those who cursed them would be cursed, that must include the children of Ishmael who in fact was Abraham’s first son. That theory does make sense using man’s logic. The truth is that God made an executive decision to separate the children of Yitsak (Isaac) from the Children of Ishmael. It doesn’t sound fair does it? But who are we to question the Wisdom of the Almighty? Take a look at Genesis 17:18-21.

So God, Himself, refused to give the Abrahamic Blessing to Ishmael and the Arabs. Muslims have their own story of this covenant. They believe that Ishmael received the Covenant. They also claim that it was Ishmael who was taken and almost sacrificed by Abraham on Mount Moriah, later to be called the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem. But remember one thing, the Bible was written thousands of years before Mohammed was born and he and the other Muslims scribes took the parts of the Bible and other books that they liked and changed the parts they did not like in the seventh and eighth centuries.

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Middle East

From ‘Decisive Storm’ to Secret Talks: The Journey of Saudi Conquest of Yemen

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In the last days of the spring of 2015, Saudi generals were sitting around a V-shaped table in front of a newly appointed defense minister, dwelling on the answer to the rise of Houthi rebels in Yemen which had critically threatened the security of the southern border. For decades, Saudi Arabia has been known for its wise and cagey foreign policy, often following the lead of Washington, in any regional or global military conflict but this time was different.

When the 29-year-old defense minister, Muhammad bin Salman, ordered, “Send in the F-15s,” it shocked all of them. Despite having spent only eight months heading the armies of the kingdom, he was about to shape an aggressive or rather reckless foreign policy of one of the most resourceful and conservative countries in the world.

The Unresolved Conflict

After six years of war in Yemen, 233,000 lives have been ravaged of which more than 3,000 were children, 3.3 million have been displaced from their homes, 24 million Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian support, while 16.2 million Yemenis are on the verge of food insecurity. Now, Saudi Arabia is finally looking for a way out.

“We want the guns to fall completely silent,” remarked Prince Faisal bin Farhan, the Saudi foreign minister, in March, laying out the Yemen Peace Initiative. The Houthis rejected the plan as it imparted “nothing new” according to them. “We expected that Saudi Arabia would announce an end to the blockade,” stated the Houthis’ chief negotiator, Mohammad Abdulsalam, to Reuters.

Riyadh had severed diplomatic ties with Tehran in January 2016 after the Saudi embassy was stormed by the protestors angry at the execution of Sheikh Nimr, a top Shia cleric from Saudi Arabia’s eastern province—a region known for being marginalized on the sectarian basis.

Saudi Arabia and Iran held the first official talks, brokered by the Iraqi government, in Baghdad on 9th April. The Baghdad talks canvassed the Yemen conflict as well as the political and economical instability of Lebanon to evaluate whether both countries can reach a common understanding of the situation.

The Zaidiyyah Imamate

Coming to the Yemen conflict, the rugged Yemeni mountains known for their finest coffee growing regions have a thousand-year-long history of the rule of Zaidiyyah imamate carved on them.

The Zaydism Shia sect is rooted in the unsuccessful rebellion of Zayd bin Ali, the grandson of Husayn bin Ali – the direct descendent of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) – against the Umayyad Caliphate in 740AD. Zaidiyyah’s theology differs from Iran’s Twelver Shiism and Ismaili branches in being far more tolerant towards early Islamic caliphs and in set qualifications for an imam to be a ruler.

The Creation of the Yemen Arab Republic

The imamate resisted the Romans and Ottomans to some extent for centuries but a revolution was brewing and the imams provided the catalyst themselves. Amid 1930’s modernism, Yemeni Imam Yahya Hamid al-Din stepped up from his conservative policy of not allowing foreign travel and authorized around forty boys to study abroad. He envisioned them as his “Famous Forty”—leaders of politics, military, and administration.

Until 1959, several hundred boys had gone through advanced studies from Iraq, Egypt, and Europe but they had envisioned something else. They laid the foundation of a progressive republican movement marked with several attempted coups and the assassination of Imam Yahya (1948) till 1962 when the last imam, al-Badr, was deposed by the revolutionary movement. This led to the emergence of the Yemen Arab Republic (YAR) with Abdullah Sallal as its leader and after that, Yemen was never the same.

Tracing the Root of the Saudi-Yemen Conflict

Al Saud had troubling relations with the imamate since Saudi Arabia had emerged as a kingdom in 1932. “Who is this Bedouin coming to challenge my family’s 900-year rule?” stated Imam Yahya once, which erupted the 1934 war between Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and ended up in the Treaty of Taif. The treaty demarcated the border and granted Jizan, Asir, and Najran to Saudi Arabia after the kingdom’s victory.

The Saudis then cultivated alliances within the bordering Yemeni tribes to erect a makeshift buffer zone during the 1960s civil war in Zaydi Imamate. Al Saud sided with Yemeni loyalists when the republican government tossed away the Treaty of Taif in 1962 and Egypt lined up 70,000 troops to assist the republic against Imam Badr’s guerrilla opposition.

Throughout the 70s and 80s, North and South Yemen struggled for coexistence and peace with continuous border clashes, including a bloody civil war in the South, which John Kifner aptly referred to as MassacrewithTea, that cost thousands of souls. Eventually, after 20 years of political and military turmoil, South Yemen’s Ali Salim al-Baidh joined with the North’s Ali Abdullah Saleh to sign the unification agreement of the two states on November 30, 1989.

Yet, while Ali Abdullah Salih was being declared as the president of a unified Yemen and the country was facing an economic collapse, something worse was brewing in the heights of northern Yemen.

The Houthis and the Saudi Construct

Feeling his unique sect threatened by the Saudi-funded proselytization through Salafist preachers, Hussein Badr Eddin al-Houthi, a Zaydi scholar from Maran range established a seemingly political and revivalist movement, Ansar Allah (Supporters of God)to preserve the Zaidiyyah sect, followed by 40% of the Yemeni population, which turned into an aggressive armed insurgency in no time.

The point is that the current regional discord has centuries-old bad blood embedded in its roots. The Houthi movement, their substantial public support, and their military successes must be deconstructed from the local perspective, along with the regional one, to reach a better understanding of the conflict.

The Saudi-led coalition has been portraying Houthis just as an Iranian proxy, which is far from reality. In their annual policy paper, the Middle East Institute of Washington D.C stated that the current civil war of Yemen is entrenched in widespread public resentment over political marginalization, a paralyzed economy, and a corrupt and failed state.

Where Saudi Arabia’s policy of sectarian expansionism across the borderlands made the descendants of Zaidiyah Imamate, ousted from a centuries-long rule, feel more vulnerable, discrimination for Shia sects by Abdullah Saleh’s regime and corrupt practices tossed Yemen into a cycle of political upheaval and violence—all of which had nothing to with Iran.

The Houthis took arms against the Yemeni government six times from 2004-2010, a chapter remembered as the Saada Wars, long before Tehran came into the picture.

Civil War in Yemen

In the wake of the 2011 Arab Spring, the Houthi leader, Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, called countrywide demonstrations to end Saleh’s 33-year rule but after Saleh resigned and declared his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, the head of state in exchange of immunity, hopes rose for peace. However, Hadi, shockingly, stepped down in January 2015 and fled the country after the National Dialogue Conference failed to agree on the division of Yemen in the UN-backed transitional process and the Houthis stormed the Presidential Palace.

After the Houthis took over Sanaa in February 2015, Jamal Benomar, the UN special envoy for Yemen, went straight to Riyadh, which highlights Saudis’ concerns over the matter. On March 26, 2015, the Saudi-led coalition launched Operation Decisive Storm, with Saudi jets targeting the military compounds around the capital overnight.

The tactical inabilities of the coalition air force manifested to reality when three days later, Saudi warplanes accidentally bombed a refugee camp killing at least 40 and injuring 200. It was the beginning of one of the most horrible bombing campaigns, a disaster from a civilian and military perspective.

As civilian casualties mounted, the United States, concerned by the human cost of the conflict, urged Saudi Arabia to reach a negotiating position as soon as possible. Riyadh ended Operation Decisive Storm on 21 April, claiming the achievements, and rolled out Operation Renewal of Hope. But the truth was, the Saudis failed to deliver a considerable blow to the Houthis’ hold of the capital.

In May and June, the first reports came of mortar and Scud missile attacks by Houthis across the Saudi border. The Houthis proved tenacious and provoked Riyadh for a ground invasion, which worked out disastrously for the Saudi-led coalition. Saudi Arabia, UAE, Egypt, Sudan, and others had deployed hundreds of ground troops by the end of the year.

Although they spawned some temporary gains in forcing the Houthis out of key southern provinces, like the vital Aden seaport in July, Zinjibar, and Al-And Airbase in August, the Houthis also inflicted heavy casualties to the coalition. In just one Houthi missile attack on a weapon depot in Marib in September 2015, 45 Emirati and Five Bahraini troops were killed.

The Kuwait Talks: A Failed Attempt at Resolving the Conflict

After a year into the war with no end in sight, reports came in March 2016 of the first Houthi delegation’s visit to Saudi Arabia, led by Mohammed Abdel-Salam, the Houthis’ senior advisor and spokesperson.

Two weeks later, the UN envoy for Yemen, Mr. Ould Cheikh Ahmed, stated that talks will circumvent the withdrawal and disarmament of militias and inclusive political dialogue. Kuwait’s emir and legendary peacemaker, late Sheikh Sabah, mediated talks between the delegations of the Houthis, Abdullah Saleh, and ousted president Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, who had returned to coalition controlled Aden in September 2015. Riyadh kept its distance from the Kuwait talks held in April  2016.

“Saudi Arabia seeks through the Kuwait talks to exonerate itself from its aggression against Yemen and to portray said aggression as a civil Yemeni war,” accused Yahya Saleh, a former general and Saleh’s nephew, after the Kuwait talks struck a stalemate over Houthis demanding a new consensual transitional regime while Hadi’s delegation insisted on a return to the current government, an out and out surrender for Houthis.

The peace talks were formally suspended in August 2016 when Houthis announced a new ten-member governing body to replace the interim Supreme Revolutionary Council, which had run the country since February 2015. The unilateral move was immediately denounced by Saudi Arabia and the United Nations. “Houthis, as well as their supporters, are making the search for a peaceful solution more difficult,” declared the statement issued by the group of G18 ambassadors of nations that backed the UN peace talks while tens of thousands of Houthi supporters rallied through Saana to show their support for the Houthis.

In all of this, a frangible ceasefire was held throughout the year with occasional skirmishes. In October 2016, a coalition double airstrike cremated a crowded funeral hall, killing around 140 mourners, adding to the domestic and international pressure on the US to review the billion dollars arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition.

Previously, The Guardian had concluded that each one in three Saudi strikes hit civilian targets but the coalition kept sweeping all of this under the rug. The Houthis also left no stone unturned to kill any hopes of negotiations when in March 2017, a Pro-Houthi court sentenced President Hadi and six other top officials to death in absentia for high treason. This was followed by the Burkan missile attack on Mecca in July 2017, although the Houthis claimed that it was aimed at the King Fahad airbase.

The United States’ Endless Support of Saudi Arabia

In August 2017, the Middle East Eye reported an email leak between UAE’s ambassador to Washington, Yousef Al Otaiba, and a former high-level US diplomat, Martin Indyk, which revealed that the kingdom’s de-facto ruler, Muhammad bin Salman, wanted out of Yemen but Riyadh could not withdraw without ensuring the cross-border security.

On the other hand, in a striking development, the Houthi-Saleh split went real in December 2017 amid Saleh’s attempt to switch sides with the coalition and turned up in Houthis killing the former president of Yemen, who had been the sole ruler for more than three decades.

As 2018 unfolded, the international criticism for Saudi intervention and Washington’s role in the Yemeni chapter of war crimes plummeted. Houthis were no angels either as a UNHCR report published in Aug ‘18 noted coalition hitting civilian targets, it also documented blanket use of force on the civilian population in Houthi controlled areas.

“The group of experts is concerned by the alleged use by the Houthi­-Saleh forces of weapons with wide-area effect in a situation of urban warfare.” stated the report. It also stated that the Houthis were hitting women and children through shelling and snipers in their homes, fetching water at local wells, or traveling to seek medical attention.

On August 18, another coalition strike annihilated 40 boys, aged from six to eleven, in their school bus. As Bellingcat traced back the Mk-82 bomb, approved by the US Department of State, used in the attack to Lockheed Martin, it added to the criticism of the US’s unconditional support to the Saudi regime.

In June 2018, the Yemeni National Army backed by a Saudi-led alliance had launched an offensive to recapture the northwestern port city of Hodeidah, a significant economic hub and fourth-largest city. After six months of intense fighting, both parties agreed to a truce, total withdrawal from Hodeidah, and a “mutual understanding” in Taiz.

Blaming Iran

In January 2019, the Council of Foreign Relations and the Italian Institute of International Political Studies had listed Yemen in the Top Conflict Watch of the year. As Houthis scaled up their military capabilities, shooting down US MQ-9 reaper drone with Iranian assistance—according to CENTCOM—reports came of UAE pulling out from Aden, amid intensified tensions between the US and Iran in the Persian Gulf.

On September 14, 2019, at 3:31 to 3:42 am in morning, the heart of Saudi Arabia’s oil industry and the world’s largest oil processing facilities, Abqaiq and Khurais Oil fields in eastern Saudi Arabia, were attacked by Houthi drones, shutting down half of the kingdom’s crude output.

Despite the Houthis’ taking credit for the attack and the UN’s claims regarding the Houthis acquiring long-range drones (1200-1500km) capable of hitting Riyadh, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi, the United States and Saudi Arabia asserted that the attack hadn’t stemmed from Yemen. Instead, Iran was directly behind the “unprecedented attack on the world’s energy supply,” tweeted the US Secretary of State at that time, Mike Pompeo.

Tehran immediately refuted all such accusations. Despite this continuous rhetoric, US President Donald Trump’s statements had hinted that Washington would avoid any additional escalation with Iran which would have doomed global energy supplies further down the hill while markets hadn’t recovered from the previous attacks on Saudi facilities.

The Saudi-Emirati Rivalry in Yemen

On the other hand in a dramatic twist, the civil war turned multi-layered when the UAE-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC) separatists seized Aden’s control from coalition-supported government forces. Few days after a joint statement was released from both Saudi and Emirati foreign ministers urging for peace talks between the Yemeni government and southern separatists, the UAE struck Hadi’s forces to aid southern separatists, killing 30 Yemeni troops as per Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

In November 2019, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia successfully struck the Riyadh agreement, between the southern separatists and the Yemeni government, which entailed power-sharing in cabinet and the military withdrawal of all forces from Aden, Abyan, and Shabwah. The landmark deal granted the absolute authority of southern Yemen to Saudi Arabia. Later in the same month, Reuters reported indirect talks in Oman between Saudi Arabia and the Houthis.

In January 2020, the Houthis claimed to seize 1,500 square miles of territory in Al-Jawf and the Marib governorate, and in March, they successfully captured the strategic city of Al Hazm. “Control of the capital of Al-Jawf could totally change the course of the war. The Houthis are changing the balance in their favor,” Majed al-Madhaji, executive director of Sanaa Centre, deciphered the situation to AFP. 

Bethan McKernan, The Guardian’s Middle East correspondent reported the same that Saudi-Emirati tussle had been dragging the conflict as Riyadh was already back channeling with Houthis through Oman while the UAE was pressing the attacks to keep the Saudi-backed Islah faction in check.

The One-sided Agreement

In April 2020, in light of the proposal sent by UN Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths, the coalition announced a unilateral ceasefire amid the globally surging COVID-19 pandemic, although the coalition forces kept violating the ceasefire with at least 106 airstrikes in just a week.

The Houthis had already called it a “ploy”, demanding the lifting of air and naval blockade of Yemen which had been depriving the population of food and medicines. It seemed like the international pressure on the coalition, and the financial strain on Al Saud was dealing with, had not gone unnoticed by those controlling most of northern Yemen.

The Houthis had released their own proposal which Elana DeLozier from the Washington Institute narrated as a “wish list”, as it had thrown all the responsibility of ceasefire on the coalition with demands of demilitarization of borders and above all, war compensations and salaries in northern Yemen for a decade, but all were non-starters for Riyadh.

The Saudis kept extending the one-sided ceasefire but things only got worse. The STC separatists withdrew from the Riyadh agreement six months after signing, announcing the establishment of self-rule in southern Yemen. The Saudi-backed Yemeni government immediately denounced the declaration while the Houthis were claiming to “liberate” 95% of the Al-Jawf governorate; this left only the Marib province in the north under the control of Hadi’s forces.

The Houthis were keenly observing and seizing the fruits of coalition infighting. Separatists moved to redirect the revenues from ports, free zones, and an oil refinery to the STC accounts as reports surfaced of the Yemeni government attacking the separatists in Zinjibar, the capital of Abyan province.

A week later, the STC president, Aidarous al-Zubaidi, landed in Riyadh to talk over the deadlock that persisted between supposedly anti-Houthi allies. The Yemeni government and STC separatists agreed to a ceasefire to begin peace talks in June 2020. In December 2020 while a freshly established cabinet of coalition-backed government arrived in Yemen after agreeing to equal power-sharing, two blasts shook Aden International Airport. With cabinet members remaining safe, 22—with most being aid workers—were killed in this fatal attack.

Coalition’s Failure in Yemen

“Incompetence, lack of unified leadership, and the absence of a military strategy by the Yemeni government and the Saudi-led coalition played into the hands of the Houthis,” stated Nadwa Al-Dawsari from the Middle East Institute. Local tribes lacked the medium-range surface-to-air ballistic missiles and other advanced weaponry on which Houthis built their tactical achievements.

The Houthi combat units constituted 20, or even fewer men, and three trucks for higher mobility to counter the constant aerial surveillance by coalition UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and the US satellites. According to Jamestown Foundation, disregard for meritocracy and skills, the weary chain of commands, and persisting corruption in Yemeni government forces due to Saudi black-cheque strategy laid the ground for coalition failures. While perpetual imprecise bombings cost thousands of civilian lives and the worst humanitarian crisis due to the air and naval blockade, the public resentment against the coalition fueled.

In the aftermath of King Abdullah’s death in January 2015, his brother Salman bin Abdulaziz ascended to rule but being 79 with speculations of dementia and Parkinson’s enabled his most ambitious son, Muhammad bin Salman, to rise as a de facto ruler of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Reportedly he is named “little general” behind his back due to his craving for respect from Washington and turning down his advisers who predicted a catastrophic outcome from an all-out Yemeni offensive, including former foreign minister Saud al-Faisal. Saudi military failure in Yemen hatched from a “panicked reaction of an inexperienced prince with too much to prove” rather than from his desire to check Iranian influence and rescue Yemen, wrote Sophia Dingli, a lecturer in international relations from the University of Hull.

Besides all this, Washington has also altered its course with Joe Biden in the Oval Office. “The war in Yemen must end,” stated President Biden in his first significant foreign policy speech. A week later, the state department repealed the Houthis’ status of Specially Designated Global Terrorist Organization(SDGT) and Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) enacted a day before Donald Trump left the Oval Office.

Saltana Begum, the Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) advocacy manager in Yemen, voiced that at that time “We had famine warnings where 16 million people – that’s one in two Yemenis – were close to starvation.”

Setting Terms for Peace

In June this year, the Saudi-led coalition even ceased the air raids temporarily for “preparing the political ground for a peace process in Yemen,” remarked the coalition spokesperson Turki al-Malki. The gesture came as efforts ramped up for a political settlement. The US Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking had visited Riyadh in the same month where he met several government officials along with UN Envoy Martin Griffiths.

Saudi and Houthi camps have been reportedly close to a ceasefire deal. The Houthis want the end of the blockade “without impossible conditions” before a “comprehensive ceasefire”, stated Houthi’s chief negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam. As promising as it all might seem, and although Oman has been an excellent mediator with its impartial and carefully measured foreign policy, there are still a lot of bridges to cross and compromises to be made from both sides for a mutually beneficial post-war arrangement.

The Saudis would not just demand guarantees on border security from Oman and Iran but also a check to Iranian influence and even that won’t cater to the grievances of anti-Houthi factions battling alongside coalition forces. So, the peace process has to be inclusive for sustainable accords.

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Turkey’s Destruction of Cultural Heritage in Cyprus, Turkey, Artsakh

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The Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin of the Armenian Apostolic Church has recently hosted a conference on international religious freedom and peace with the blessings of His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians.

Tasoula Hadjitofi, the founding president of the Walk of Truth, was one of the invited guests. She spoke about genocide and her own experience in Cyprus, warning of Turkey’s religious freedom violations. Hadjitofi also called for joint legal actions against continued ethnic cleansing and destruction of Christian cultural heritage in Cyprus, Turkey, Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) and other places by the Turkish government and its regional allies including Azerbaijan.

During the two-day conference, access to places of worship in war and conflict zones, the protection of religious and ethnic minorities, and preservation of cultural heritage were among the topics addressed by many distinguished speakers.  The conference paid particular attention to the situation of historic Armenian monasteries, churches, monuments, and archeological sites in parts of Nagorno-Karabakh that have been under Azeri occupation since the 2020 violent war unleashed by Azerbaijan.

Hadjitofi presented about the situation of Cyprus, sharing her recent visit to the Cypriot city of Famagusta (Varoshia), making historic parallels between the de-Christianisation of Asia Minor, Cyprus and Nagorno-Karabakh by Turkey, and its allies such as Azerbaijan. See Hadjitofi’s full speech here.

Author of the book, The Icon Hunter, Hadjitofi spoke with passion about her recent visit to the ghost city of Famagusta, occupied by Turkey since 1974. Her visit coincided with the 47th anniversary of the occupation. She was accompanied by journalist Tim Neshintov of Spiegel and photographer Julien Busch as she made several attempts to visit her home and pray at her church of Timios Stavrou (Holy Cross).

Hadjitofi explained how her own human rights and religious freedoms, alongside the rights of tens of thousands of Cypriots, were violated when Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan illegally entered her country and prayed at the newly erected mosque in her own occupied town whereas she was kneeling down in the street to pray to her icon in front of her violated Christian church. In comparison, her church was looted, mistreated and vandalized by the occupying forces.  

Hadjitofi reminded the audience of the historic facts concerning Turks discriminating against Christian Greeks, Armenians, and Assyrians. They also massacred these communities or expelled them from the Ottoman Empire and the modern Republic of Turkey, a process of widespread persecution which culminated in the 1913-23 Christian genocide. Hadjitofi then linked those genocidal actions with what Erdogan is doing today to the Kurds in Syria, and the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh by supporting Turkey’s wealthy friends such as the government of Azerbaijan.  She also noted that during her recent visit to her hometown of Famagusta, a delegation from Azerbaijan referred to Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus as “Turkish land” and a “part of Greater Turkey”. This is yet another sign of Turkish-Azeri historic revisionism, and their relentless efforts for the Turkification of non-Turkish geography.

Hadjitofi called for a series of legal actions against Turkey and its allies, reminding Armenians that although they signed the Rome Statute for the International Criminal Court (ICC), they have not ratified it. She noted that it must be the priority of Armenians if they want to seek justice. Azerbaijan and Turkey, however, neither signed or ratified the Rome Statute.

During her speech Hadjitofi also emphasized the need for unity amongst all Christians and other faiths against any evil or criminal act of destroying places of worship or evidence of their historical existence anywhere in the world. 

In line with this call, the Republic of Armenia instituted proceedings against the Republic of Azerbaijan before the International Court of Justice, the principal judicial organ of the United Nations, with regard to violations of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).

In its application, Armenia stated that “[f]or decades, Azerbaijan has subjected Armenians to racial discrimination” and that, “[a]s a result of this State-sponsored policy of Armenian hatred, Armenians have been subjected to systemic discrimination, mass killings, torture and other abuse”.

Hadjitofi said that “Armenia’s lawsuit against the government of Azerbaijan is a positive move in the right direction and more legal actions should be taken against governments that systematically violate human rights and cultural heritage. I’m also in the process of meeting members of the Armenian diaspora in Athens, London, and Nicosia to discuss further joint legal actions. But the most urgent action that Armenia should take is the ratification of Rome Statute of the ICC,” she added.

Other speakers at the conference included representatives of the main Christian denominations, renowned scholars and experts from around the globe, all of whom discussed issues related to international religious freedom and the preservation of the world’s spiritual, cultural and historical heritage.

Baroness Cox, a Member of the UK House of Lords and a prominent human rights advocate, was among the participants. She has actively defended the rights of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia through her parliamentary, charity and advocacy work.

Meanwhile, the organizing committee of the conference adopted a joint communiqué, saying, in part:

” We re-affirm the principles of the right to freedom of religion or belief, as articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and subsequent international and regional human rights treaties. We claim this right, equally, for all people, of any faith or none, and regardless of nation, history or political circumstances – including for those Armenian prisoners of war still illegally held in captivity by Azerbaijan, for whose swift release and repatriation we appeal and pray, and for the people of Artsakh/Nagorno-Karabakh whose rights to free and peaceful assembly and association necessarily implicate the sacred character of human life.”

On September 11, the delegates of the conference were received by the President of Armenia, Armen Sarkissian, in his palace in Yerevan where they were thanked. The guests also visited the Armenian Genocide Memorial-Museum (Tsitsernakaberd), where Hadjitofi was interviewed on Armenian national TV. She said:

“I read about the Armenian Genocide and I am glad that more countries recognize it as such but I am disappointed that politicians do not condemn actions of Turkey and its allies in their anti Christian attitude towards Cyprus and Nagorno-Karabakh. I see an interconnection between the genocide and the adopted politics of Azerbaijan, when the ethnic cleansing takes place, when cultural heritage is destroyed, gradually the traces of the people once living there are eliminated and that is genocide”. 

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After 10 years of war in Syria, siege tactics still threaten civilians

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The future for Syria’s people is “increasingly bleak”, UN-appointed rights experts said on Tuesday, highlighting escalating conflict in several areas of the war-ravaged country, a return to siege tactics and popular demonstrations linked to the plummeting economy.

According to the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria, the country is not safe for refugees to return to, after a decade of war.

The panel’s findings come amid an uptick in violence in the northwest, northeast and south of the country, where the Commissioners highlighted the chilling return of besiegement against civilian populations by pro-Government forces.

“The parties to the conflict continue to perpetrate war crimes and crimes against humanity and infringing the basic human rights of Syrians,” said head of the Commission of Inquiry, Paulo Pinheiro. “The war on Syrian civilians continues, and it is difficult for them to find security or safe haven.”

Scandal of Al Hol’s children

Professor Pinheiro also described as “scandalous” the fact that many thousands of non-Syrian children born to former IS fighters continue to be held in detention in dreadful conditions in Syria’s north-east.

“Most foreign children remain deprived of their liberty since their home countries refuse to repatriate them,” he told journalists, on the sidelines of the 48th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

“We have the most ratified convention in the world, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, is completely forgotten. And democratic States that are prepared to abide to this Convention they neglect the obligations of this Convention in what is happening in Al Hol and other camps and prison places.”

Some 40,000 children continue to be held in camps including Al Hol. Nearly half are Iraqi and 7,800 are from nearly 60 other countries who refuse to repatriate them, according to the Commission of Inquiry report, which covers the period from 1 July 2020 to 30 June 2021. 

Blockades and bombardment

The rights experts also condemned a siege by pro-Government forces on the town of Dar’a Al-Balad, the birthplace of the uprising in 2011, along with “siege-like tactics” in Quineitra and Rif Damascus governorates.

“Three years after the suffering that the Commission documented in eastern Ghouta, another tragedy has been unfolding before our eyes in Dar’a Al-Balad,” said Commissioner Hanny Megally, in reference to the siege of eastern Ghouta which lasted more than five years – and which the commissioners previously labelled “barbaric and medieval”.

In addition to the dangers posed by heavy artillery shelling, tens of thousands of civilians trapped inside Dar’a Al-Balad had insufficient access to food and health care, forcing many to flee, the Commissioners said.

Living in fear

In the Afrin and Ra’s al-Ayn regions of Aleppo, the Commissioners described how people lived in fear of car bombs “that are frequently detonated in crowded civilian areas”, targeting markets and busy streets.

At least 243 women, men and children have been killed in seven such attacks over the 12-month reporting period, they said, adding that the real toll is likely to be considerably higher.

Indiscriminate shelling has also continued, including on 12 June when munitions struck multiple locations in Afrin city in northwest Syria, killing and injuring many and destroying parts of al-Shifa hospital.

Insecurity in areas under the control of the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northeast Syria has also deteriorated, according to the Commission of Inquiry, with increased attacks by extremist “remnants” and conflict with Turkish forces.

Division remains

The Commissioners noted that although President Assad controls about 70 per cent of the territory and 40 per cent of the pre-war population, there seems to be “no moves to unite the country or seek reconciliation. On the contrary.”

Despite a welcome drop in the level of violence compared with previous years, the Commission of Inquiry highlighted the dangers that continue to be faced by non-combatants

The senior rights experts also highlighted mounting discontent and protests amongst the population, impacted by fuel shortages and food insecurity, which has increased by 50 per cent in a year, to 12.4 million, citing UNFPA data.

“The hardships that Syrians are facing, particularly in the areas where the Government is back in control, are beginning to show in terms of protests by Syrians who have been loyal to the State,” said Mr. Megally. They are now saying, ‘Ten years of conflict, our lives are getting worse rather than getting better, when do we see an end to this?’”

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