WHERE DID WE GO WRONG?
by Naim Dangoor
Israel is accused of occupying Arab land, and of
persecuting and oppressing Palestinian Arabs. What
are the facts?
Since 1948, a hundred new nations came into being
and are now living in peace and security, while
the Jewish State remains a festering sore. Where
did we go wrong?
Forget about the Balfour Declaration which became
a dead letter soon after it received the smudged
signature of its author. Forget about political
Zionism which managed to uproot the Jews of Europe
and of Arab countries but failed to completely re-possess
our ancient homeland.
To understand and evaluate the Arab-Jewish problem
of the last eighty years, we must realise that it
is not simply a conflict between Israelis and Palestinians
as, unfortunately it has been narrowed down to become.
In fact, it is a wider, regional problem. But Israel
has managed to drive herself into a corner, allowing
the Arabs to proclaim, "what is ours is ours,
and what is yours is also ours".
With the dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire in
the First World War, the Arabs were given all the
benefits in the region.
In particular, Iraq was not entirely Arab, but
was given over to Arab rule to the exclusion of
the other nationalities, especially the Jews and
Turkey ruled the Middle-East for 401 years under
a successful millet system of autonomous communities
which was changed over arbitrarily to a number of
nation States to suit the ambitions of the imperialists'
Alarmed by the news that Iraq was going to be given
to Arab rule, the Jews of Iraq petitioned to become
British subjects. But the petition was turned down.
The Jews based their claim on the fact that their
country had been conquered by British troops and
that they were actually at that moment Turkish subjects
under British control; and that therefore the British
had no moral right to force them to accept a new
nationality, unless they so desired it. They were
eventually appeased by the personal influence of
the High Commissioner and by his assurance that
ample guarantees would be afforded them by the British
Government against any form of local tyranny. In
the space of 30 years, after discrimination and
persecution, the ancient and distinguished Jewish
community of Iraq were faced with a bleak future
and welcomed the opportunity to get out of Iraq
It is a fact of history that the Moslem conquest
of Iraq in 637, and indeed of Palestine and Syria
in 638, were carried out at the invitation, and
was only possible with the help of the large Jewish
communities in these countries.
For 2,500 years the Jews had a prominent position
in Iraq, a thousand years before the Arab invasion,
a position which was maintained throughout the Persian,
the Abbasid, the Mongol and the Ottoman Empires.
For all that period of twenty five centuries the
head of the Jewish community in Iraq was the Exchequer
of the Empire ... a position which continued to
the early years of modern Iraq in that the Minister
of Finance and pillar of the government was Sir
When Miss Bell once asked the Iraqi Prime Minister
Abdul Rahman a[-Naqib a certain question about Iraq,
he replied, "I don't deal in politics; please
ask Sasson Effendi" (who was present).
The last Ottoman report on the Vilayet of Baghdad
gave the number of Jews as 80,000 out of a total
population of 202,000, which also included Moslems,
Christians and Kurds.
Under the self-determination principle, Ottoman
Jews in Iraq, Syria and Palestine, should have been
allocated at least 20,000 square miles, which is
greater than the total area of Israel and the so-called
Trans-Jordan was part of the Palestine Mandate
and its separation in 1921 should have been regarded
as the national home of the Palestinian Arabs, who
with Zionist money went over and bought lands cheap
there and prospered.
In the early twenties, Jews and Arabs were considered
natural allies. Thus when King Feisal made an official
visit to the Jewish Community in Baghdad in 1924
he asked (my grandfather), Chief Rabbi Hakham Ezra
Dangoor, if the Jews of Iraq were Zionists. To the
satisfaction of Feisal, my grandfather replied...
"We are all Zionists since we pray three times
a day for the return to Zion".
Where do we go from here?
Israel frittered away all the gains of the Six
Day War. That was the time to finalise the Palestinian
It seems to me that there can no longer be a negotiated
settlement with Arafat that the Jews could afford
to make and the Arabs would accept in the long run.
There can only be an imposed settlement on the
basis that Israel would cover the whole of Palestine,
West of the River Jordan, and the Arabs including
Israeli Arabs who now call themselves Palestinians
in Israel, should be given autonomy of people, but
not of land based on the Ottoman millet system,
which in fact is what the Albanians are now demanding
in Yugoslavia. Arafat, is of the Husseini family,
which is of Albanian origin, a nephew of Amin Husseini,
the notorious Mufti of Jerusalem who met Hitler
in November 1941, when he assured him of Arab support
for Germany in return for not letting Jews get out
of Europe which also suited British policy with
regard to Jewish immigration to Palestine.
Palestinians often ask why should they suffer for
what Hitler did to the Jews. The answer is that
they played an important part in the Holocaust.
The principle of land for peace must apply to Syria.
She must give away the whole Golan for the sake
of peace with Israel.
There is no room for a separate Palestinian state.
Israel should apply the Biblical Jubilee fifty
year system all over the country to ensure that
the land of Israel shall remain forever in the hands
of the Jewish people.
Arabs have proved themselves unable and unwilling
to live at peace with Israel.
Ashkenazim should not be afraid to put forward
the right of Jews from Arab countries, to support
Jewish claims in the region, especially in the important
matter of the exchange of populations.
The problem of the Middle-East is regional. We
only ignore that to our peril.
The exile to Babylonia was to demonstrate that
the Middle-East is one region. There can be no peace
in Israel unless Iraq is pacified. Like a good teacher,
history will keep repeating itself until the lesson
is learned. Saddam has rebuilt Babylon and is training
an army to liberate Palestine. Why are we waiting?
Other points to consider:
At the Cairo Conference of March 1921, Sasson Heskel
questioned the wisdom of bringing Emir Feisal from
the Hijaz to rule Iraq. However, Winston Churchill
assured him that the government in Iraq will remain
under British guidance and safeguard for Jewish
and other minorities.
Palestine has often been termed the twice promised
land. Once to the Jews under the Balfour Declaration,
and once to the Arabs by Macmahon's letter to Sherif
Hussein in 1915 promising independence of Arabia
with certain reservations in return for the Arab
revolt against the Turks. Palestine was crucial
for the promise to the Jews but insignificant in
the promise to Hussein. Moreover, some historians
point out that the vaunted Arab revolt took place
only in the mind of Lawrence of Arabia. In fact,
Emir Feisal met Dr Chaim Weizmann and wrote to him
welcoming the Jewish desire to return to their ancient
homeland in Palestine.