‘The Palestinians are victims of Israel….’ Discuss.

Published: 4 June 2007
Briefing Number 196

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Summary: In the Palestinian narrative of their own situation, they are victims of Israel .

They lost their country because of Israel .
They became refugees because of Israel .
They are “under occupation” because of Israel .
Gaza is in chaos because of Israel .
And everything else which they experience is blamed on Israel .

Israel is the wrongdoer. The Palestinians are the victims. This basic narrative has now become accepted as unquestioned fact in large sections of international public opinion.

This Briefing outlines why these claims are myths. The culture of victimhood blinds the Palestinians and many of those who support their cause, to the fact that they are primarily responsible for their own situation.

The culture of victimhood makes peace impossible to achieve.


“ Israel 's creation took away Palestine from the Palestinians…”

Reality: In 1947 the internationally supported UN Partition Plan proposed a viable state for the Palestinian Arabs, existing side by side with Israel . While the leaders of the future Jewish state accepted the plan, Arab leaders rejected it.

Israel 's creation did not “take away” Palestine . Arab leaders in 1947-8 refused to agree to the creation of a Palestinian Arab state.

“ Israel 's creation brought about the Palestinian refugee problem in 1948…..”

Reality: Arab aggression, not Israeli aggression, was the root cause of the Palestinian refugee problem. Arab opposition to Israel 's existence brought about the violence and war of 1947-8 which resulted in thousands of Palestinian Arabs becoming refugees. Of course, during the fighting, while many Palestinians left willingly, others were forcibly displaced. The argument rages as to how many Palestinian Arabs belong in each category.

But the basic fact is this: if the UN partition plan had been accepted by the Arabs, and the State of Israel had been allowed to live in peace at birth, there would have been no Palestinian refugees in the first place. It was not Israel 's creation that brought about the Palestinian refugee problem, but Arab rejection of the creation of Israel (and see Beyond Images Briefing 34).

“The Palestinians are the victims of Israel 's 40 year military occupation of the West Bank …”

Reality: Jordanian violence brought about Israel 's presence in the West Bank in 1967 (see Briefing 103), and Arab and Palestinian rejectionism have perpetuated that presence since then. Successive Israeli governments (since the early 1990s) have declared they seek territorial compromise and a two-state solution in the context of peace. It's Arab hostility to Israel which now prevents this from happening by negotiation.

The reason why the Palestinians have not achieved a West Bank state is not Israeli opposition to Palestinian statehood and human rights, but Palestinian opposition to Israeli statehood and human rights, supported by Iran and other rejectionist forces determined to thwart a two-state solution.

Israel 's presence in the territories is the consequence of Palestinian violence and rejectionism, not their cause. Most Israelis now accept that, however painful and traumatic it will be, Israel will need to withdraw physically from most the West Bank in the context of a durable peace.

“ Israel has caused the chaos in Gaza …..”

Reality: In 2005 Israel physically destroyed its own presence in Gaza . The Palestinians had an unprecedented opportunity to build up a mini-state after 2005, and benefit from a gigantic financial windfall which was promised by G8 countries and other members of the international community.

The Palestinians elected a Hamas leadership in January 2006 on an impossible programme of rejection and incitement towards Israel , which has since refused to budge, and has plunged Palestinian society into self-imposed international isolation.

The misery and chaos in Gaza are not due to the actions of Israel but to those of the Palestinian leadership.

Israel 's share of the responsibility: The same pattern recurs in many other areas. Thus: ‘The Palestinians are victims of the security fence and of the checkpoints' – even though each policy was in reality forced on a reluctant Israel by the Palestinians' own behaviour.

Of course, Israel must take responsibility for a measure of day-to-day Palestinian suffering, inconvenience and resentment. But the root cause of the Palestinians' situation is not Israel 's existence, or its actions. It is the policies and actions of Palestinian society and leadership, and their supporters around the world who demonise Israel , blame it in one-sided fashion for the misery of the Palestinian people, and do virtually nothing to encourage the Palestinians to acknowledge their responsibility for their own situation.

The culture of Palestinian victimhood is based on myths. It perpetuates the conflict, and makes peace impossible to achieve.