Myths about Israel and Zionism – Gerald McDermott (Public Discourse-Witherspoon Institute)
(dailyalert.org, Nov. 28, 2014)
The United Nations partitioned Palestine in 1947, offering part to Jews and part to Arabs, with the intention that each part would become either a state or part of a state. What is commonly forgotten is that the part of Palestine allotted to Jews was home to a substantial Jewish majority – 538,000 Jews to 397,000 Arabs, according to official UN estimates.
Besides, the “Jewish national home,” mandated by the League of Nations in 1920, originally included what is now the state of Jordan. 80% of this was given to Arabs, in what was then called Trans-Jordan. The remaining 20% was divided in the 1947 partition, which means Jews received only 17.5% of what was originally designated to be theirs.
Jews were unhappy, because the land they were given did not include West Jerusalem, which had a Jewish majority, and because 60% of their portion was the Negev, an arid desert then thought to be useless. But they accepted the partition. The Arabs did not.
Jews did not rob poor Arab peasants of their land, as many of today’s critics suggest. By 1949, Britain had allocated 187,500 acres of cultivable land to Arabs and only 4,250 acres to Jews. So Jews were forced to pay exorbitant prices for arid land to wealthy, often absentee landlords – $1,000 per acre, when rich black soil in Iowa was getting $110 per acre.
Overall, the 1.3 million Arabs who live in Israel are the best-educated, healthiest, and best-fed Palestinians in the Middle East. The vast majority of this prosperity has come from citizenship or other participation in the Israeli state.
Those who support liberal democracy and religious freedom should remind themselves and others that claims for statehood ought to rest on historical fact – not fiction.
The writer is Professor of Religion at Roanoke College.
(Click on the article’s title to see the whole article…Ed.)