Unfortunately, they were followed by an article by Daniel May, a past Director of JStreet U, essentially saying that Israel’s occupation policy is responsible for BLM’s platform. While nearly every paragraph of May’s deserves criticism, in particular his parroting of Haaretz‘s lies, I’d like to focus on his original sin. In the final paragraph, May writes:
Palestine will never advance so long as Jews deny the cost of Zionism. The Jewish nation’s independence was won only through the dispossession of another nation.
Everything in the case against “the Occupation” stems from the accusation the Jewish sovereignty was won by dispossessing another nation. From the dispossession narrative comes the “right to resist” which justifies Palestinian terror and, with such actions being justified, delegitimizes Israel’s countermeasures. Hence we see the one-sided description from JStreet and their ilk.
To understand dispossession as it pertains to the “Palestinians,” consider a counterfactual from American history. Suppose that when the Pilgrims came to Massachusetts (for simplicity, I will be using present-day names for places), the population of Indian tribes native to Massachusetts was small. However, just before then, a handful of tribes from Quebec had started migrating to Massachusetts and accelerated during the Pilgrims’ lifetimes. Subsequently, the Pilgrims’ descendants stopped the inflow from Quebec and imposed population controls on the Indian population in Massachusetts, affecting the Quebec tribes because they were the larger presence. Would such an action constitute dispossession for the Quebec tribes? Such is the case with the Palestinians.
While it is true that Arabs were the majority of the population of the southwest Levant before the advent of Zionism, it does not follow that all non-Jewish population change was the result of natural growth. In the decades before the first Aliyah, the Ottomans started moving population from other parts of its empire to the southwest Levant. A larger impetus for immigration was the economic development created by the Zionists. The result is that as the Jewish population rose due to Zionist immigration, so did the Arab population due to Arab immigration. Neither the Ottomans nor the British attempted to document how many Arabs thus entered Palestine. Thus, we have no reliable numbers for how many entered or what percentage of those claiming to be Palestinian have actual ties to the southwest Levant from before the first Aliyah. Thus, the dispossession narrative claims that denying sovereignty to immigrants from Arabia and Egypt is dispossessing those immigrants.
A larger flaw in the dispossession narrative is common accounts miss in how the conflict started, where “how the conflict started” means what changed from when there was relative calm. An example of the politically correct understanding of what changed between then and now comes from Vox’s explanation of the conflict from back in January. According to the narrator of that clip, prior to 1870, the population was mostly Muslim and Christian with a small Jewish minority. Feathers were ruffled as Zionism, responding to issues in Europe, sent a large influx of European Jews to Palestine, fundamentally changing the nature of the land to those who had been living there previously.
The facts included in that narrative are accurate, however, it excludes other facts which are critical to understanding what changed. As mentioned above, one of those facts is Arab immigration. However, there is also the matter of relations between Jews and Muslims prior to the advent of Zionism. To understand this, it is necessary to go back to the 1830’s when the Ottoman Empire sought European help to reclaim Palestine from Egypt. The condition for that help was an end to enforcing the Pact of Umar. After the Ottoman Empire regained Palestine, the Christians went about their lives ignoring the restrictions of the Pact, confident that Europe had their backs if the Ottomans would seek to impose consequences while the Jews voluntarily submitted because they had no major power backers.
The Muslims thus loved the Jews because they gave the deference due to the master faith while hating the Christians for spurning the deference with impunity. A few decades later, Zionism introduced European and other Jews to the southwest Levant. The European Jews brought with them the ideals of the Enlightenment, ideals which they felt Europe failed to uphold towards them, and thus refused to abide by the humiliation engendered by the Pact. With that, any warm feelings the Muslims had for the Jews evaporated.
While not all Arabs, or even all Muslim Arabs, in the Levant valued having the Jews display “proper deference” over economic opportunities, that began to change after the British appointed Amin al-Husseini as mufti of Jerusalem. Husseini used that position as a platform from which to promulgate that not doing so was treason to the Muslim umma, which combined with the honor-shame culture of the Arab world led to positions we see today.
The important takeaway is what George Orwell taught decades ago,
“He who controls the past controls the future.”
If we ignore insinuations that Israel was created through the dispossession of the Palestinians, then we are ceding control of the past to the post-Zionists and the Palestinianists, and therefore we cede to them the future, that is the litany of “Occupation” perpetuating the dispossession from a century ago.