Editor's Note: In his presentation at a conference called “Jordan is Palestine” held nearly two years ago on the eve of the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, Salim Mansur discusses the Middle East stalemate. His remarks foreshadow the foreign policy of the People’s Party of Canada. Israel is Judea and Samaria reborn and “Jordan is Palestine.” It is time to respect historical truths.
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JORDAN IS PALESTINE By Salim Mansur Speech delivered at a conference in Jerusalem, October 18, 2017
The history of the fall out from the Balfour Declaration through to our time that has witnessed the barbarity of al Qaeda and the Islamic State is pretty well known and there is no need for me to repeat it. I want to make three points as they relate to the theme of this conference. I preface these points by the following observation that we all know, but we need reminding especially when it comes to Arabs and Muslims. In the summer of 1914 the Ottoman Empire, greatly reduced from what it once was at its peak and ailing as were the other European empires, in particular the Austro-Hungarian and the Czarist Russian empires, was still a token ally of Britain and France as it had been through much of the nineteenth century. The fateful decision of the Ottoman Turks to join forces with Germany and Austro-Hungary, precipitated by the Churchill “folly” of sequestering two Turkish naval vessels in English shipyards, brought about a chain of events that were unforeseen. If the Ottoman Turks had remained neutral, the history of the past century as it bears upon the Middle East would have been significantly different. So we need to keep in mind the “march of folly,” as in Barbara Tuchman’s apt phrase, is of our making, and in this case of the Ottoman Turks, Muslims and Arabs; and their continued failure or refusal to recognize their “folly” or worse in the making of their contemporary history has meant their continued self-mutilation from which there is no reprieve for them until unless they acknowledge their responsibility and accept its consequences. This is what their sacred book, the Qur’an, admonishes them: “God changes not the condition of a people unless they change what is in their hearts.” My first point is a corollary of my introductory remarks. Arabs for the past hundred years have constructed a fake history of “betrayal” and “occupation” resulting from the fall-out of World War I, and have lived a life of denial. Wars have consequences, and both victories and defeats come with a price. The defeat of the Ottoman Turks brought about the making of the modern Middle East by the victorious powers, Britain and France, gifting Arabs with states of their own, or to become “tribes with flags” in the words of the Egyptian diplomat Tahseen Bashir. In the rectangular area bounded by the eastern Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf and the two rivers Tigris and Euphrates there emerged 11 Arab states and statelets, and one Jewish state of Israel. The promise in the Balfour Declaration of a Jewish homeland established by diplomacy and under international law took time to be implemented, though not entirely nor even substantively as promised. This British promise of a Jewish homeland in historic Palestine was hemmed by the promises and commitments to Arabs, even though Arabs were not the only people in the region ruled by the Ottoman Turks. Empires are patchwork of military power, political intrigues, promises, bluffs, and trade-offs. The British were no different in their machinations as rulers of an empire than were the Ottoman Turks, or any people who have administered empires. In 1921 necessity and convenience required on the part of Britain, directed by the Colonial Office under Churchill, to divide the Palestine Mandate and in the land east of the River Jordan constituting nearly four-fifth of Palestine fabricate the Emirate of Transjordan as a gift for the Hashemite pretender Abdullah, son of Sharif Husayn of Mecca. Arabs remaining in the land west of River Jordan were not satisfied that an Arab state out of Palestine Mandate was created, and they continued to agitate and riot to deny that Britain fulfil what remained of her promise to Jews. In 1937, as Arab riots against Jews intensified, Britain offered yet again through the Peel Commission further concession to appease the Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin el-Husseini, and his mob of rioters by agreeing to partition Palestine a second time into two states, Arab and Jewish, only to have her offer repudiated by Arabs. Ten years later in November 1947 following another world war and the Holocaust, the Peel Commission’s offer was repackaged as the UN plan for two states, and once again Arabs refused to accept a Jewish state in their midst. In the meantime Jews, despite formidable obstacles went forward in the making of Israel. The war of 1967 resulted in Israel’s taking control of all of the area west of the River Jordan and in uniting the divided city of Jerusalem, an area that is barely one-half of one per cent of the total rectangular area distributed among 11 Arab states as gifts or rewards of Britain and France. In other words, Arab authorities presently rule more than ninety-nine per cent of the rectangular area once part of the Ottoman Empire. In the context of this indisputable record of the past century, the Arab and Muslim narrative of “occupation” as propagated by Palestinian Arabs and their supporters is an absurdity, and it is compounded by the absurdity that major powers in contemporary politics since the end of World War II have more or less adopted this fake narrative to appease Arab and Muslim opinion at the UN. My second point is this fake narrative of “occupation” has been turned into an all-purpose excuse by Arabs, and especially Palestinian Arabs who reside within Israel, for not taking any responsibility of their continued state of self-generated political and social disrepair despite the amount of international assistance provided to them. Indeed, this fake narrative of “occupation” enables the Palestinian-Arab leaders to live without accountability to anyone, a lucrative lifestyle that is provided for them by the international community. The flip side of the “occupation” narrative is denial of Jews and their rights, and this denial has rested on deriving fake legitimacy from a grossly perverted reading of Islam’s sacred text, the Qur’an. I leave aside here references made to the hadith literature, since much of it is fabrication. The result of denying Jews their rights based on perverting the Qur’an meant spreading Arab-Palestinian Jew-hatred across the Muslim world, while providing European anti-Semites with cover under which to keep simmering the oldest bigotry, on the excuse of supporting Palestinian-Arabs under so-called Israeli “occupation.” There can be no future of peace with justice for Arabs, Palestinians and Muslims in general, when they deny the rights of others, that of Jews in the holy land. In embracing nationalism as the basis of gaining independence from European colonial rule, it was incumbent on Muslims to recognize national rights of others among them, especially people of minority faith—for instance, of Jews in the case of their rights in historic Palestine—and through mutual recognition work together for just settlement where contending nationalisms collided. The pitfall the Mufti of Jerusalem and his people dug for Arabs and Muslims in denying the historic rights of Jews in Palestine was the extent to which they perverted Islam and violated the Qur’an, which bears witness to those rights. The wrong so done will continue to haunt them unless it is set right in accordance with the revelation of the Qur’an that Arabs and Muslims take as a matter of belief to be the Word of God. The Qur’an, as the scripture revealed to Muhammad, narrates the history of Jews to pagan Arabs for their edification. And there are several references in the Qur’an that speaks of Jews as guided, or directed, to reside in land described as holy, as in the following verse:
And when Moses said to his people, ‘O my people, remember God’s blessing upon you, when He appointed among you Prophets, and appointed you kings, and gave you Such as He had not given to any being. O my people, enter the Holy Land which God has prescribed for you, and turn not back in your traces, to turn about losers’ (v. 5:20).
“Jordan is Palestine” repudiates both the fake narrative of “occupation” and the denial of the rights of Jews in historic Palestine, or Judea and Samaria. “Jordan is Palestine” affirms what is the historical record and, consequently, will assist in emancipating Arabs, and then Muslims, to reconcile with Jews honourably, justly and in accordance with the respect with which Jews are addressed in the Qur’an as ahl al-kitab or “people of the Book.” Finally, my third point, “Jordan is Palestine” is the “elephant in the room” in the Middle East and in world politics, the denial of which by Arabs in the first place, and those in the UN who have gone along in accepting this Arab denial, has been the primary source of the Arab-Israeli and Muslim-Jewish conflicts in the region and beyond. There is a very simple precedent in contemporary history on how to correct the wrong of such denial of the “elephant in the room” and the terrible consequences that invariably follow as a result. I am referring here to the example of the United States in denial of the Chinese revolution culminating in 1949 and the subsequent non-recognition of the reality of Communist China by Americans in world politics. This politics of denial in Washington led to the American involvement in the Korean War; it is an involvement that still continues with the Korean peninsula divided, while the price of such involvement now haunts the region with escalating nuclear threats. It also led to the American involvement in the Vietnam War and the cost of that war for all directly or indirectly involved over a lengthy period. Historians will debate these issues for a long time to come, but what is not to be disputed is the misguided denial by American political leaders of both parties that could have been avoided. Eventually, President Nixon came to terms with mainland China and travelled to Beijing in 1972 to extend belated diplomatic recognition to Mao’s China. In Tuchman’s phrase the “march of folly” was ended, the page on a tragic history for Americans and others was turned, and the obvious question tormenting all who were affected by this denial that haunts them is, could it not have been avoided in the first place? The answer is, “of course”. But again, history reminds us over and over again that we refuse to learn from our past until we are forced to acknowledge simple truths by discarding our hubris. A hundred years after the Balfour Declaration, ninety-six years after Palestine east of the River Jordan was turned into an Arab state or kingdom of Jordan, eighty years after the Peel Commission, seventy years after the UN partition plan, it is long past the time to acknowledge the “elephant in the room” that “Jordan is Palestine.” The lesson of the United States misguided denial of China and its subsequent correction by President Nixon is a precedent that bears great relevance for the situation in historic Palestine, and President Trump can take a Nixon-like stride to do what is right in bringing the curtains down on a fake history with its attendant conflicts that has caused so much grief in this part of the world.
It is to the immense credit of Mudar Zahran, as a Palestinian-Jordanian leader, to announce to the world on behalf of his people that an Arab state in historic Palestine exists, that the Jewish state in Palestine was rightfully established under international law and in accordance with Jewish rights as expressed in Islam’s sacred text, the holy Qur’an, and that any further territorial claims on Jews and Israel by Arabs, Palestinians, and Muslims are unjust and indefensible. Jordan is Palestine, Israel is ancient Judea and Samaria re-born, Jerusalem is holy and deservingly the capital of the only Jewish state consistent with the historical record, and Arabs and Jews are people of two-degrees of separation as progenies of Ishmael and Isaac born to Abraham. Peace and justice is only a breath away if those who worship the God of Abraham have the courage to embrace and recognize each other for who they are. Shalom. Salam.