The Israeli Palestinian conflict is perhaps the most complex political issue of our time. Many have resorted to simply blaming one side or the other. But if we take the time to understand the history and correct our misconceptions, a potential path forward for the Palestinians begins to emerge.
So let’s start by trying to get the story straight, and clear up 10 of the biggest misconceptions out there.
Misconception #1: Israel Illegally Stole Land from the Palestinians
Did Israel illegally steal land from the Palestinians? In 1947, the UN voted to give land to both the Jews and the Palestinians. The Jews accepted their partition and legally formed the State of Israel. The Palestinians rejected their partition and attacked. Even after losing the war, the Arabs still had most of the land from the UN rule.
Misconception #2: Israel’s Surrounding Arab Nations want a Palestinian State
Do the Arab nations that surround Israel actually want to create a Palestinian state? After the War of Independence, the West Bank and Gaza, were controlled by Jordan and Egypt for 19 years. During that span, those governments never established a Palestinian state. Instead, they kept the land for their own.
Misconception #3: The Arab Nations Want to Solve the Refugee Crisis
Do the Arab nations want to solve the refugee crisis? Palestinians have settled in Arab nations throughout the Middle East. These nations could solve the crisis immediately by granting refugees, equal rights. Instead they refuse to let them vote on land, or even study in public schools. Ironically, the only country to grant them full citizenship rights, is Israel. Israel even absorbed 156,000 Arabs, after the 1948 War. And even today, Arabs hold seats in the Israeli government and Israeli Supreme Court.
Misconception #4: UN Efforts Help Solve the Palestinian Refugee Crisis
Is the UN helping to solve the Palestinian refugee crisis? The UN did step in to provide assistance to the Palestinian refugees. However, instead of using their existing agency that helps resettle refugee populations around the world, the UN created UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency). Founded in 1949, UNRWA labels every Palestinian as a refugee, until a Palestinian state is formed within the borders of Israel. This makes it more difficult for Palestinians to thrive in their host countries and locks them into perpetual refugee status. This status passes on to their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Therefore, the refugee population swelled from 500,000 in 1949 to nearly 5 million today, as conditions worsen the international aid.
Misconception #5: The Solution is More Money
Is the solution more money? Western nations have given the Palestinians much financial aid. Even taking inflation into account, Palestinians have been given 25 times more money per person than Europe was given to rebuild after World War Two. Where’s the stable economy? Where’s the improved infrastructure? That money could have helped, but it was given to some leaders who had a different agenda.
Misconception #6: Forming a Palestinian State is the Primary Goal
Is forming a Palestinian state is the primary goal of top Palestinian leaders? All of this international aid did go to help these one man suffering Yasser Arafat. After his death, accountants hired by Arafat’s own family discovered secret investments worth more than $1 billion that income stream would be threatened if a new state was formed, which gives leaders like Arafat, or Mahmoud Abbas for that matter of billion plus reasons to never actually sign a peace treaty.
Misconception #7: Israel Has a True Peace Partner
Does Israel have a true peace partner? In the year 2000 desperate for resolution, the Israelis elected prime minister Edmund Burke, with a mandate to make peace with the Palestinians Ronk offered Yasser Arafat 94% of the lands he demanded except Jerusalem Arafat flatly refused, President Clinton blamed the failure of the best chance at peace in 60 years, squarely on Yasser Arafat.
Misconception #8: Israel Simply Needs to Give Up Land for Peace
Does Israel just need to give up land for peace? The last time Israel tried this was in 2005. They forced 1,000’s of Jewish settlers, out of Gaza, and in exchange, the Palestinian leaders promised peace, but when the Israelis, doubt, Palestinians voted Hamas. Yes, they elected a terrorist organization. Since taking power, Hamas has fired more than 10,000 rockets into Israel.
Misconception #9: Most Palestinians Want Lasting Peace with Israel
Do most Palestinians want a lasting peace with Israel? Some Palestinians do, but they are a minority. For 60 years Palestinian educational leaders have fed their children, a steady diet of idolizing suicide bombers and celebrating the death right in the classroom.
Misconception #10: Giving the Palestinians a State is the Only Solution
There is an idea that giving the Palestinians, a state, now is the only solution to their suffering. This has been the only approach tried for the last 60 years. These are people we’re talking about. Waiting until they have a state to give them equal rights has only made things worse. Currently, Israel is the only nation to grant full rights to the Palestinians within their borders. By granting them equal rights in every nation where they live, we could immediately increase the quality of life for every Palestinian.
These misconceptions have concealed potential solutions. When we take time to clear up confusion and face reality, we begin to uncover the truth. And that’s when real progress towards justice can begin.
Calev Myers is the founder of the Jerusalem Institute of Justice (JIJ), a human rights group in Israel. He finished a degree at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and joined the Israel Bar Association as a licensed lawyer after having immigrated to Israel from the United States in 1992. He founded JIJ in 2004 as non-profit organization that takes on cases of religious persecution, and advances freedom of conscience and civil justice in Israel.