In the Israel-Palestine Debate, We Lose Sight of Israel's Generosity


For all 22 members of the Arab League, there is just one Jewish state. Israel is smaller than the size of New Jersey; more than one-fifth of its citizens are Arabs.

Arabs have enjoyed countries of their own for centuries. They have restricted their populations solely to believers of Islam, and have gotten away with it. Jews have enjoyed having one country for just 60 years. They have allowed any liberty-loving citizen to live within their borders, and still are criticized for it.

Last week, President Barack Obama gave a speech calling for Israel to return to  pre-1967 borders, giving the Palestinians their own state. This, in other words, was a message along the lines of: “Israel, we love you, but it’s time you get even smaller.”

Further down-sizing Israel’s already minuscule size is unnecessary and unfair. The Israelis are including Palestinians in their society, so why should the only Jewish state in the world further give way to a people who already have multiple representative governments throughout the region?

The issue of the Palestinian refugees from the 1948 war has been a central issue, and reveals something essential to this debate. Critics argue that Israel kicked out many Palestinians and now need to give them a place to live. These same critics, however, make no mention of the expulsion of nearly one million Jews from Arab countries in the mid-1900s.

Fellow PolicyMic columnist Manal Tellawi writes:

The Palestinian right to return to their homes in former Palestine was recognized in 1948 by the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194. Israel does not recognize the legitimacy of this resolution, which commands the Jewish state to allow for the return of Palestinian refugees expelled during the 1947-48 Arab-Israeli war. The Israeli military fired shells at the unarmed demonstrators, resulting in the deaths of at least 15 civilians and injuries of hundreds of others.


This non-violent activism has been met with hostility by Israeli forces and U.S. politicians, and largely ignored in the mainstream media. There are currently 9 million Palestinians refugees all over the world, most of whom are still living in intolerable conditions, like in refugee camps all over the Middle East. Over the past 27 years, Israel has revoked residency rights for an additional 140,000 Palestinians in the West Bank, effectively placing them in permanent exile.      

This act of “non-violent activism” was anything but. Protesters approached the Israeli border, throwing rocks and declaring that "This is war." The day had opened with an Israeli Arab driver plowing through crowds of people, killing one and injuring dozens, in what Israeli police called a terrorist attack. That does not sound like “non-violent activism” to me.

Tellawi also references the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194. While the resolution does call for the return of the Palestinian refugees, it only says it should take place at the earliest “practicable date.” With Palestinians refusing to recognize the Jewish state of Israel, that “practicable date” has not presented itself in the sixty-three years since Israel was created. How can you expect Israel to live alongside people who do not recognize their right to life?

Even so, following the 1948 war, Israel, in a measure of political good-will, invited the refugees back. According to The Continuum Political Encyclopedia of the Middle East, "Israel was willing to allow an agreed number of [refugees] to return (the figure of 100,000 was proposed) and to pay compensation for land and housing left behind .... The Arab states rejected Israel's arguments and proposals on both moral and political grounds.” 

The defining issue here is not the willingness of Israel to show compassion for refugees. The issue is simple: how can Israel rationally negotiate with a people that are not willing to live alongside them? And, more importantly, why is the freedom-devoted Israel – the compassionate country that offered the Palestinians their homes back – the constant source of condemnation?

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons