Timor Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta delivered a speech today to the UN Human Rights Council, with this closing:
The Palestinian tragedy began to unfold with the persecution of Jews in Europe, culminating with the Holocaust and the creation in 1949 of the State of Israel. And 60 years later the only people who are still paying for the legacies of a war and a Holocaust not of their making are the Palestinians.
For those in Palestine who have endured all forms of abuse but have refused to answer violence with violence, we bow to them. To those who out of desperation and anger have opted for violence, we urge them to learn with Mahatma Gandhi that there is a greater power than katiuska [sic] rockets and suicide bombings, and that is the power of non-violence. Civil disobedience and non-violence, more than rockets, will emotionally tire out the mighty Israeli army and wake up the conscience of the Israeli society to this abominable situation.
And Palestine will be free. And Israel will be free and finally at peace with itself.
On the one hand, one should welcome any time a developing-world head of state steps to the microphone at a UN forum to tell the Palestinians to practice non-violence — that violence is a dead end.
On the other hand, it is time to object to the litany of UN speeches that distort reality, deny history and inflame passions.
What exactly is the “Palestinian tragedy” that “began to unfold” with the immigration of Jews to Palestine in the early 20th century? It enormously boosted the local economy, attracting thousands of Arabs from nearby countries. Health care and agriculture improved dramatically. Appreciating the value in a partnership between Arabs and Jews that would lead to increased development and prosperity in the region, Emir Faisal signed an accord welcoming the Zionist movement.
It is true that a portion of the Palestinian Arabs who were ruled for 400 years by the Ottoman Turks, and briefly by the British, were about to see that rule handed over to a nascent Jewish state, and that, with extremists fanning the flames, this became seen as an affront to their honour. This does not, however, qualify as a human rights tragedy.
Moreover, to say that the Palestinians are “paying for the legacies” of the Holocaust is not only an unfortunate and irrelevant linkage that can have unintended inflammatory effects, it is an inversion of history.
Let us recall that during World War II, the Palestinian leadership in the form of the Mufti Haj Amin Al-Husseini openly sided with Nazi Germany over the allies, enthusiastically supported Hitler and even began preparing to help carry out his genocide against the Jews. In July 1945, Husseini was indicted for war crimes by the Yugoslavian government, but he managed to escape justice.
Second, the stateless condition of Palestinians today cannnot be a “legacy” of the Holocaust when only two years after the Holocaust the United Nations offered the Palestinians their own independent Arab state. They and their Arab brethren flatly rejected the UN, and instead launched a war against the nascent Jewish state.
The Arabs lost. Israel survived. Jordan and Egypt then occupied the areas designated for a Palestinian Arab state. Israel absorbed hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from Arab lands. By contrast, Palestinian refugees from the war were kept in a state of misery in neighboring Arab states, as political pawns to sustain an international grievance against Israel.
In other words, if not for Palestinian rejectionism, irredentism and never-failing-to-miss-an-opportunity-to-miss-an-opportunityism, they would now be celebrating the 62nd anniversary of their Palestinian Arab state, in which all refugees would have long ago been absorbed.
That this has not happened is indeed a tragedy. But it is one of their own making. And such political and moral blunders by the Palestinians should not be excused by irrelevant references to Hitler’s murder of six million Jews.