Archive for March, 2008
An Arab student declares:
“I learned about Zionism
through Mein Kampf”
By Ralph Dobrin
Ralph Dobrin is the author of “How to Avoid Armageddon”
To order the book click: www.amazon.com type: how to avoid Armageddon
The writer (center) with two activists with whom he debated the Israel-Arab conflict.
While strolling in the center of Oxford, England on a frosty morning a few weeks ago, I spotted two young men at an information stand, bedecked with a large Palestinian flag and laden with lots of propaganda material. I walked towards them and they smiled at me eagerly, offering a pamphlet entitled: “Palestine – the basic facts.”
I stood by their stand and began reading. “I’m sure you’ll find this information very interesting,” said one of them – a genial young Arab wearing a red keffiah. His companion, a Malaysian offered me some more pamphlets. Well written, attractively designed and printed in color, the pamphlets explained how Israel was solely responsible for the Middle East conflict and Arab suffering. There was no mention whatsoever of the countless attacks on Jews by Arabs for almost ninety years. Neither were the pan-Arab invasions on Israel mentioned. Many of the statistics quoted were grossly inflated, many of the statements false. A clear impression was given of Israel as a totally unjust and unlawful entity, composed of newly-arrived interlopers from Europe with no connection to the Land, brutally uprooting and killing innocent Arabs living there for many centuries.
Anyone not fully conversant with the background and the present situation could easily become moved to join in the struggle against Israel and give all the support they could to help the Palestinians.
“This is indeed very interesting,” I said, adding: “Both of you and I share the same wish.”
They looked at me in anticipation.
“What we share is an interest in the well-being of the Palestinians,” I said.
They beamed at me, until I announced: “I am an Israeli!”
“I’m from Jerusalem.”
Impassive expressions greeted this admission. I continued: “I think that you are both good fellows. You’re very concerned about other people, otherwise you wouldn’t be standing here in the freezing cold. Isn’t that so?”
They nodded warily.
“If I said to you that the Arab refugee problem is a very serious issue, would you be able to agree with me?” I asked.
The Arab nodded.
I continued: “And the people in Gaza must be suffering terribly. Isn’t that so?”
“It’s all because of Israel,” said one of them.
“Should the people of Gaza, Judea and Samaria be given their independence?” I queried.
“The people of Palestine must have independence,” one of them said firmly.
I could have informed them that on at least three occasions in the last 60 years the Arabs of the region were offered independence, but that each time Israel’s right to exist was rejected and war was chosen. But I decided to leave this line for later. I wanted to deal with other preliminaries first. Also I realized that the time for this discussion would probably be very limited.
“So, tell me something,” I asked. “How did this whole terrible conflict between Israel and the Arabs start?”
The Malyasian, who had told me that he was a law student, began to speak. He uttered two words, “Israel is …” Then he just shrugged his shoulders and looked at his companion.
I turned to the young Arab. “Surely you must know how the conflict started?”
He thought for a moment and said: “I read in Mein Kampf that the Zionists want to control the world!”
Amazing! A student in Oxford quoting Hitler, albeit incorrectly, about Zionists!
“I have heard that Mein Kampf is a very popular book in the Arab world,” I said.
He nodded. I continued, “I am pretty sure that you are both honorable men and that you are concerned about the truth. Isn’t that so?” For a moment they looked a little puzzled. I added: “The truth – that is important for you, isn’t it?” They nodded.
I proceeded: “Well, if you want to know the truth about Jews, then Mein Kampf is the worst source possible. Hitler was a terrible liar and he hated people – especially Jews. And surely you know that his demagoguery brought dreadful catastrophe to his country and to the whole of Europe.”
They both just stared at me. Clearly, they weren’t great talkers. Maybe because English wasn’t their mother language, although, they were fluent. They allowed me to continue. “If you really want to know how the conflict started, then you should look for neutral sources on the subject. Try to find material that is as objective as possible. We are in Oxford, and that means that you have access to some of the finest libraries in the world.”
I flipped the pages of one of the pamphlets and continued: “If you are serious about helping the Palestinians then you must find out what really happened all these years. Isn’t that so?”
To my surprise they both nodded. So, I began to explain as briefly as I could, the situation from my own perspective. “Please, don’t automatically believe what I say to you and don’t reject it immediately. Just consider it. Then check it out – not in your Arab sources and not in Jewish sources. Look it up in a neutral source like the Encyclopedia Britannica or Wikipedia.”
People were milling around, but no one joined our discussion. I was pleased because I wanted the full attention of my new acquaintances. Also there would be less need for them to automatically reject everything I said if no one else was listening.
I proceeded: “The Arabs are one of the largest nations on earth, isn’t that so?”
“Maybe,” said the Arab.
“There are over 200 million,” I said. “Egypt alone has about 80 million. Not many other nations are that big. Also, you hold the second largest geographical area – from the Atlantic Ocean to the Persian Gulf. That’s even more than China, the USA or Canada. Only Russia is larger. Look at the map, and while you’re looking see if you can find Israel. Also, you are one of the wealthiest nations on earth with all those enormous oil reserves.”
The Malaysian agreed. I continued, “And Israel is one of the tiniest nations in the world – both in terms of population and in geographical size.”
One of them shot back: “Yes, that’s why Israel keeps taking more territory!”
I shook my head. “There are about six million Jews in Israel. It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever for a tiny nation to want a permanent state of hostility with such a huge nation. Every sane Israeli yearns for peace. But we are not prepared to commit national suicide.”
“I don’t believe what you are saying!” said the Malaysian.
“So why did Israel return the Sinai Peninsula to Egypt in 1981 – for the third time?”
Neither of the two men knew what I was talking about.
“And why did the Israeli army and all the Jewish settlers leave the whole of the Gaza Strip two years ago? And why, oh why, the moment this happened, did the Arabs of Gaza burn down the synagogues and began shooting rockets into the towns and villages in Israel. Why?”
“Because you’ve still got all those settlers in the West Bank,” said the Palestinian. “That’s why.”
I replied: “Why shouldn’t Jews be allowed to live where they lived thousands of years ago?”
“They came from Europe and chased the Palestinians from their land,” was the answer. “And anyway, your tanks and planes are killing Palestinians in Gaza every day.”
PALESTINE WAS ONCE A LARGE COUNTRY
I could feel that we were going over the same old arguments that have been rehashed thousands of times. “You killed our people so we retaliate.” So I changed tack. “Did you know that Palestine was once a fairly large country?” I asked.
A puzzled frown: “What do you mean?”
“Well, until 1917, Turkey had ruled most of the Middle East for hundreds of years. That included Palestine, which also included most of what today is the Kingdom of Jordan.”
This was news for them. “Don’t take my word for it,” I said. “Check it out. If you don’t have time to go to one of Oxford’s libraries, just look it up on the internet.” I continued: “In the First World War, the British defeated Turkey and was given a temporary mandate to administer parts of the Middle East, including Palestine.”
“Yes, they made promises to the Arabs which they didn’t keep,” was the immediate response.
“They also helped create automony or independence for half the Arab world, together with the French,” I said. “That’s how now you’ve now got an independent Syria and Lebanon as well as the states in the Arabian Peninsula. That’s how Mesopotamia became Iraq.”
This was more new information for the two lads. I pressed on: “And, as you said, promises were made to the Arabs. One result of those promises was the Kingdom of Jordan, which was in fact created from three-quarters of what was then called Palestine.”
Judging by the blank expressions this too, was news. But they allowed me to continue. “Later, in 1947 the United Nations voted to partition the remaining quarter of what had once been Palestine – about half for an independent Arab state, and the rest would make up an independent Jewish state. Surely this was a fair solution for the Arabs. In other words seven-eighths of Palestine for the Arabs and the remaining one-eighth for the Jews. This was in fact a proportion that reflected the reality when Jordan was created 25 years earlier.”
“And now we see the beginning of the Palestine tragedy,” I continued. “The Arabs didn’t accept this. They were not prepared to let the Jews have any independent area anywhere in the region, no matter how small. So there was a war. Isn’t that so?”
They just stood there with blank expressions.
I said, “It became your Nakba.” The Palestinian seemed to like the fact that I knew the Arabic word for catasrophe. “But,” I continued, “It wasn’t supposed to be a catastrophe for the Arabs. It was supposed to be the utter destruction of a new state, and the end of the Jewish people living in it.”
I looked at the two young men for a moment, waiting for them to respond. But didn’t so I continued: “The Jews of Israel had no alternative but to win that war otherwise we would have been utterly destroyed. We would have been slaughtered. This was being promised by your leaders. But the Arabs didn’t win. Instead you ended up with refugees who are still without a state to this day. And the pattern keeps repeating itself all the time. Arabs attack Jews in Israel. Jews do what is natural. They defend themselves. Arabs suffer and keep suffering. And it’s all so completely unnecessary.”
I could have told them about the Jewish refugees from Arab lands. I could have mentioned the numerous killings of Jews in Jerusalem, Hebron, Safad and other parts of the country, long before the Jews had weapons or an independent state bloody attacks instigated over and over again by manipulative Arab religious and militant leaders, using falsehood and demagoguery. But I thought that these two young men had received plenty of information to mull over. We hadn’t even touched on the Islamic religious aspect or suicide bombers.
I waved the pamphlets they had given me. “By the way, you should check out whether this stuff even comes close to the truth or whether it’s full of falsehood. You are honest, honorable young men and you owe it to yourselves and the people you care about to deal with truth and oppose falsehood. Isn’t that so?”
They nodded. I concluded. “The only way for Arabs to end their suffering is by stopping the attacks on Israel, and trying to learn what really happened in the past and what is happening now. To come to grips with the truth. They might even get that independence, that istiklal, which they were offered in 1948 when they tried to destroy Israel.”
I shook their hands and wished them well. Unfortunately my stay in Oxford was too brief to meet with them again or to confront their other colleagues and leaders. I cannot say whether I caused a change in their anti-Israel activities. At least they had an opportunity to hear another side, probably far more in line with fact than the dangerous fiction on which they have been nurtured.
This can be a model for all who are concerned with the situation and who encounter such propaganda stands. You can see more articles on the subject as well as the importance of integrity in this blog or at www.israelandtruth.orgRalph Dobrin is the author of “How to Avoid Armageddon” To order the book click: www.amazon.com type: how to avoid Armageddon