Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, takes his case for Palestinian statehood to the United Nations this week. It’s a matter of basic justice, Abbas will argue.
He will claim that the Palestinian people were dispossessed by the new state of Israel in 1948, which is still preventing the establishment of an independent Palestinian state.
But Abbas’ claim is based on a big lie, and justice cannot be built on a foundation of lies. Not only does Abbas lie about the origins of the conflict, but he has lately been lying about his own life story as one of those “dispossessed” Palestinians.
Last May, the Palestinian president published an op-ed article in The New York Times titled “The Long Overdue Palestinian State,” in which he recounted his own “expulsion” — at the age of 13 — from his hometown in Palestine.
Abbas wrote that “shortly after” the U.N. General Assembly voted to partition the “Palestinian homeland” into two states in 1947, “Zionist forces expelled Palestinian Arabs to ensure a decisive Jewish majority in the future state of Israel, and Arab armies intervened. War and further expulsions ensued.”
Abbas claimed he and his family were forced out of their home in the Galilean city of Safed and fled to Syria, where they “took up shelter in a canvas tent provided to all the arriving refugees.”
For dramatic effect, the Times provided an illustration above Abbas’ article depicting a young boy standing next to a tent in the desert and gazing forlornly at the verdant hills of Galilee just over the horizon.
What Abbas didn’t say was that the Zionists accepted the U.N. partition plan, while the Palestinians rejected it and vowed to drown the fledgling Jewish state in “rivers of blood.”
The fighting in Safed was typical of the bloody intercommunal warfare that soon convulsed the country. Elements of the Arab Liberation Army — the main Palestinian armed force — entered Safed’s Arab neighborhoods and began sporadic attacks on the Jewish quarter.
Facing a full-scale invasion of Galilee by the Syrian and Jordanian regular armies, Jewish military commanders sent reinforcements from the Palmach, the elite Jewish strike force. The Jews counterattacked and took the key Arab strongholds in the city.
Almost immediately, the city’s Arabs began streaming out toward the Syrian border. In Safed, there were no expulsions of Arab civilians by Israeli forces.
Abbas’s historical distortions (clearly not fact-checked by the Times) are at the very heart of the Palestinian narrative of dispossession and victimhood. They reflect the Palestinian leadership’s century-long refusal to accept a Jewish state.
That obstinate rejection, not the current Israeli government’s positions about borders or West Bank settlements, remains the No. 1 obstacle to peace in the Holy Land.
Last week, as he prepared for his statehood initiative at the U.N., the Palestinian president reaffirmed that the issue for the Palestinians is not the occupation of the West Bank, but the very creation of Israel.
In a New York Times report from the Palestinian capital of Ramallah, Abbas was quoted:
“Some Israelis complain that this is a unilateral move, but when you address 193 countries, that is not unilateral. We are going to complain that as Palestinians we have been under occupation for 63 years.”
The Times reporter didn’t bother commenting that the 63 years of “occupation” Abbas was complaining about goes back to 1948 and the original sin, for the Palestinians, of the creation of the modern state of Israel.
Resolving the Israel–Palestine conflict is tough enough; it becomes almost impossible when one side insists on lying about the conflict’s origins.
Sol Stern is a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and a contributing editor to City Journal.