During August, AWRAD (Arab World for Research and Development) polled Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza regarding their thoughts on a peace agreement with Israel. The entire poll, which makes fascinating reading, can be seen on the organisation's website, but here are a few of the questions and responses, which will give you the flavour:
"With regards to the final status of Palestine and Israel please indicate which of the following you consider to be Essential, Desirable, Acceptable, Tolerable or Unacceptable as part of a peace agreement"
Historic Palestine – from the Jordan River to the sea as a national homeland for Palestinians – Essential, 78.2%; Two state solution – two states for two peoples: Israel and Palestine according to UN resolutions – Essential, 17.7%; One joint state – a state in which Israelis and Palestinians are equal citizens between the Jordan River and the sea. – Essential, 9.6%
“With regards to refugees please indicate which of the following options you consider to be Essential, Desirable, Acceptable, Tolerable or Unacceptable as part of a peace agreement”
Right of Return and Compensation – Essential, 85.7%
"With regards to Jerusalem please indicate which of the following options you consider to be Essential, Desirable, Acceptable, Tolerable or Unacceptable as part of a peace agreement"
All of Jerusalem (East and West) should remain in Palestine – Essential, 84.1%
"With regards to Holy sites please indicate which of the following options you consider to be Essential, Desirable, Acceptable, Tolerable or Unacceptable as part of a peace agreement"
East Jerusalem, including holy sites, under Palestinian sovereignty – Essential, 82.0%
In short, the majority of respondents – like the groupies of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign here in the West, with their chant of “Palestine shall be Free, from the River to the Sea”, want almost all of Eretz Israel and are none too bothered about the rights and status of the Jews within it.
One afternoon last week I logged off from my computer and went for a nice long walk in the sun. It was a “scorcher” of a day, and most people who could get away from work were crowding the nearby beaches and parks. Not so the shrill and fanatical little all-female coven of local Palestine Solidarity Campaign “peace activists” (yeah, right), who in the sweltering heat were at their town-centre post as usual mid-week in and mid-week out, with their Palestinian flags and tee-shirts emblazoned with the Palestinian colours and their printed signs calling for an end to the siege on Gaza. As I passed, a new sign, huge and handmade, pinned alongside their trestle table bearing collecting tins for the convoy – the “mother of all flotillas” – due to leave for Gaza shortly, caught my beady Zionist eye. In large untidy black capitals on a blood-red background it asked, as if accusing both Israel and the world in general, “Whatever happened to Palestine?” I got closer, and saw those familiar maps – that set of four that does yeoman service to the mendacious Palestine Solidarity Campaign and other Israel-demonising organisations – distorting history and depicting the Israelis as ruthless, heartless, lawless land-stealers. And there were the leaflets, which speak of Zionism as a European colonial enterprise. The true facts of Jewish attachment to the land of Israel are invisible.
That the resettlement of Jews in their ancient homeland has a long history is encapsulated in this letter (printed in the Jewish Chronicle, 16 June 1854) from Rabbi Joseph Schwarz. He had lived in Jerusalem since 1841, being one of the thousands of Jews living in the four sacred cities of the ancient homeland. Such cities, for example Judaism’s second most holy city Hebron, now the largest city in the West Bank, had an unbroken Jewish presence dating back possibly to Biblical, and certainly to medieval, times:
“[T] he land of Israel has been a place of refuge to us in many a trouble, and when the Inquisition of Spain induced the king and queen of Castile, Ferdinand and Isabella, to expel the Jews from the Iberian Peninsula, followed, as they soon were, by the King of Portugal, thousands turned their steps to the shores of Palestine, and became the founders of the Portuguese congregations still existing there, and they carried with them as to other parts of Turkey, the language of Spain, which still continues in the vernacular tongue [Ladino]. By degrees other emigrants from Africa, Poland and Germany joined them, and all clung with a holy devotion, amidst every suffering, to the place of the sepulchres of their fathers, a land endeared to every son.”
And not only that. Before the advent of the Jewish agricultural communities in the nineteenth century the land was sparsely populated and underworked. Wrote Schwarz:
“It is not now, as formerly, that the whole land is covered with villages and towns, and every foot of land rendered productive by the industry of man; for the far larger number of towns are totally destroyed, and the land is waste: there are no inhabitants to cultivate it. The terraces on the hills, which produced food in abundance, have been washed away by the winter rains, since the industry of the husbandman has ceased to guard them against destruction; and what land is still productive lies fallow, because of the wandering Bedouin, who loves to reap where he has not sown. Commerce is scarcely known; navigation is not attended to; the mechanic arts are not needed in a country where the inhabitants have few wants as the roving Arabs who now dwell there; wherefore, with all their efforts, it is almost impossible for the few Israelites, who chiefly dwell at Jerusalem, Hebron, Zafed and Tiberias to obtain a livelihood.”
There are many old accounts, by both Jews and Christians, of the sparsity of the population of the Holy Land in the nineteenth century and of the land’s sad decay – and from time to time I’ll include some, making their long-dead authors “guest bloggers”, so to speak.
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