Council on American Islamic Relations Los Angeles Executive Director Hussam Ayloush recently defended Hamas’ barbaric slaughter of 1,200 Jewish, Thai, Filipino, Bedouin and other men, women and children. He claimed Israel is “an occupier” that “does not have the right to defend itself.” He condemned Israel’s subsequent war in Gaza and said only Palestinians have “a right of self-defense.”
His assertions reflect language in the Palestinian Liberation Organization and Hamas Charters. Israel is an “imperialist, colonialist, racist, anti-human,” even “fascist” “colonizer,” they declare. The “Zionist entity” “occupies” Palestinian lands and denies Palestinians their “right to return” to their homes. The charters call for the “liberation of Palestine” through “resistance,” “armed struggle” and “self-defense.”
Mobs of students, faculty and fellow travelers flaunt their ignorance of morality and historic and modern reality by echoing these claims, justifying the Oct. 7 massacres, calling for a “global intifada” (violent uprising), and demanding the eradication of Israel and its non-Muslim inhabitants “from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea.
You have to wonder: How does a group of people achieve permanent “refugee” or “colonized victim” status with a “right of return” that no others have ever had? What constitutes a “legitimate right” of “resistance” or “self-defense?”
Particularly across the Europe-Asia-Middle East mega-continent, human history has been a saga of settlement, invasion, victory or defeat, continuation or disintegration, expansion or dispersion. Those who lost wars were annihilated, lost title to their land, accepted subservient status (dhimmi in Muslim countries), emigrated, melded into the victorious civilizations or otherwise adjusted.
Over their six-thousand-year history, including since arriving in “the Promised Land” that is now Israel over 3,600 years ago, Jews have played all these roles. They defeated the Amorites, Canaanites, Philistines and Jebusites, created the Kingdom of Israel, fell to Assyrians and Babylonians, lived under Persian and Greek rule, established the Hasmonean dynasty, and were slaughtered, enslaved and dispersed by the Romans in 70-133 AD (CE).
At no point, however, did they entirely disappear from the Promised Land. Indeed, Muhammad’s Muslim (imperialist, colonialist) empire hired Jews as administrators after the Arab army arrived in 636. Jewish fortunes ebbed and flowed under Christian, Mongol and 500-year Ottoman Turkish rule.
Antisemitism and pogroms brought Western European and Russian Jews to their ancestral land in the late 1800s. Theodore Herzl’s Zionism increased the purchase of agricultural and other land. Turkey’s loss to the Allies in World War I transferred ownership and control of the area from Ottoman Turks to Britain.
The Roman term Palestine had applied to the region for two millennia, but there was never a Palestinian state or empire. Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and other Middle Eastern countries emerged as independent nations from British-French-Russian rule over the Ottoman Empire before, during and after World War II – but no Palestinian nation. Palestinian ancestors were always citizens or subjects of ruling empires.
Jewish immigration and land purchases from local and absentee Arab landlords increased significantly between the world wars. The Holocaust and end of World War II brought surging Jewish immigration … and more conflicts. Land ownership in the pre-1947 British Mandate area that is now Israel was roughly 15% Arab, 9% Jewish and 76% public/Mandate land.
In 1948, despite Arab states’ opposition, the United Nations made Israel nationhood a reality. Local Arabs and five Arab countries declared war on the fledgling state. Some 700,000 Arabs fled, emigrated or were persuaded to leave Israel “temporarily” under hollow promises of victory over the Zionists. After the ’48 war, some 850,000 Jews were displaced, banned or banished (Hamas charter language) from Muslim countries across North Africa through the Middle East to Afghanistan; most of them settled in Israel.
The 1967 and 1973 wars between Arab countries and Israel also ended in Israeli victory and expansion. Two intifadas (1987-1993 and 2000-2005) brought many deaths on both sides but no gains for Palestinians. The war Hamas began from Gaza has been far more destructive.
Wars have consequences – now and throughout history. Assertions in charters or speeches do not change that; nor do they convey an “inalienable right” of return, even under some imagined “basic principles of human rights and international law” (Hamas Charter, Article 12). If a new Palestinian nation is created and recognized, there will be a right to return to that new nation – but not to Israel.
Imagine former German-speaking inhabitants asserting a right of return to lands that are now France, Poland and Russia. Hindus and Muslims returning to their prior homes in India and Pakistan. Berbers and other conquered, colonized people reclaiming their villages and pastures across the Maghreb in North Africa. Spain regaining Gibraltar from Britain. Turkey regaining Greece, Spain or its other Ottoman territories. China surrendering control over Tibet, or Russia over Crimea.
Imagine descendants of Celts and other ancient peoples across Britain and Europe demanding redress and return because their ancestors were subjugated by the ancestors of today’s British, French, Italian, Hungarian, Balkan and other nations. Descendants of the Mongols demanding the return of eastern Europe. Or Israelis demanding the return of Jewish Banu Qurayza lands near Medina.
The history of colonizers and colonized nations is long, complicated and ill-suited for assertions in self-serving charters. Perhaps Hamas’ elimination as a military and political power in Gaza will clarify that. Perhaps it will finally resolve the matter of Palestinians still being “refugees” 75 years after the ’48 war.
Columbia University defines “colonization” as “a system of oppression based on invasion and control that results in institutionalized inequality between the colonizer and the colonized.” That certainly describes the fate of countless nations and peoples, including those conquered, colonized and forcibly converted by Muhammad and his caliphs. It applies to European countries, Lenin and Stalin, and Islamists today in Nigeria and Sudan. It does not apply to Gaza, which Israel left in 2005 and Hamas has ruled since 2007.
Hamas and its allies nevertheless assert that “armed struggle” is required to “liberate Palestine” from Israeli “occupiers” (PLO Charter, Art. 9) … families, schools and mosques have a “national duty” to raise individual Palestinians “in an Arab revolutionary manner” (PLO Art. 7) … and Palestinians have “a legitimate right” to use “all means and methods” to “resist the occupation” and meet the “demands of self-defense” (PLO Art. 18; Hamas Arts. 25 and 39).
For decades, Hamas terrorized Israelis by firing thousands of rockets at civilian targets, bombing buses, cafes and bar mitzvahs, and shooting or stabbing parents and children. To claim this was “resistance” or “self-defense” is patently absurd. The calculated, barbaric October 7 massacres crossed the line of what any nation could ever permit.
Hamas terrorists gunned down hundreds of unarmed concertgoers; gang-raped and mutilated scores of women; soaked people in gasoline and burned them alive; beheaded babies or roasted them alive in ovens; cut a pregnant woman open, murdered her baby and butchered her; wiped out entire families as they begged for mercy; kidnapped 240 more – and then hid behind, among and under Gazan citizens, so that any Israeli efforts to root out Hamas terrorists will result in civilian deaths. Those are all war crimes.
Gaza has smart, capable people and miles of gorgeous Mediterranean coastline. It could be as magnificent and prosperous as the United Arab Emirates. Its people just need to reject Hamas, tear up the PLO and Hamas charters, install a proper government and build a genuine future for their children.
Paul Driessen, a resident of Fairfax, Va., is the author of books and articles on energy, environmental, climate and human rights issues.