SIR – Everyone, including Israel, is upset at the killing of 59 persons in Gaza (‘Killing of protestors totally unjustified,’ May 26th) and that is why Israel dropped leaflets everywhere in Gaza warning people not to listen to Hamas and to stay away from the border fence and then tried (unsuccessfully, because of the winds) dispersing the crowds with tear gas.
Yet, everyone agrees that if 40,000 people approached their country’s border with hostile and violent intent (remember, the Hamas charter calls for the ‘annihilation’ of Israel), armed with explosives and wire cutters and with the declared aim of breaking through and killing or kidnapping its citizens, they would have done exactly the same. The fact that, by their own admission, 53 of the 59 dead are Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists only corroborates the point that this was an aggressive and violent riot and far from the ‘peaceful’ protest, suggested by Noel Harrington (letters, May 26th)
Harrington’s other ill-informed point about Israel ‘taking’ Palestinian lands is simply incorrect: Firstly, there has never been a Palestinian entity, country or people. The name ‘Palestina’ was given to the land by the Romans (in an effort to eradicate its Jewish memory) and named after the Philistines, not Palestinians.
Secondly, when Jews began to return to their ancestral home, in the second half of the 19th century, the land was empty and barren. This is attested to by every visiting writer of that period (Mark Twain, Pierre Loti, Rev Samuel Manning, Arthur Penryn Stanley, etc) and corroborated by the Ottoman empire’s population census.
It was Jewish industry and enterprise and the generous social conditions they created, which attracted Arabs from the whole region to flood into the land in search of jobs and opportunities. Thus, the Encyclopaedia Britannica of 1911 finds the population of Palestine composed of 50 different languages and origins.
Thirdly, the Ottoman empire and later the British Mandate had well-organised land laws (which endure to this day). Any land Jews settled on was bought not stolen.
Fourthly, when in the 20th century, the Grand Mufti (an ally of Hitler) began stirring the Arabs to violence against Jews, the Peel Commission offered to create two states so that predominantly Arab areas would form a Palestinian Arab state (for the first time in history) and those predominantly Jewish, a Jewish state – the ‘two-states’ solution. The Jews accepted the plan, but the Mufti and the Arab leaders refused it.
The UN made a similar offer in 1947 and the Arabs refused and chose instead to invade the tiny Jewish state on the day of its birth in 1948. After the war in 1967 (a third war Israel had to fight for survival, and incidentally, long before there was an occupation or settlements), Israel offered to return the captured territories in exchange for peace.
This too was refused. Why? Because the Palestinian Arabs do not want a state alongside Israel, but one in place of Israel.
Israel is a most reluctant occupier and has no territorial ambitions.
If only the Palestinians made genuine peace, Israel would cease its occupation )just as it did with Egypt, when Egypt made its peace) and they will have a state, peace and prosperity.
Is that asking too much?