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The roots of the tragic template of Palestinian Arab terror

“Top Story” With Jonathan Tobin and guest Oren Kessler, Ep. 86

The recent surge in Palestinian terrorism illustrates how commonplace the murder of Jews remains. But according to JNS editor-in-chief Jonathan Tobin, part of the problem is the way we regard the history of the conflict.

While the international media seems to be ignorant of everything that happened before last week, the Palestinians still seem intent on trying to erase all events of the past century, says Tobin. Meanwhile, Jews and Israelis are still confused about what conclusions to draw from events, especially since the minimum demands of each side—for the Jews, a Jewish state, and for the Palestinian Arabs, no Jewish state—are irreconcilable.

That, continues Tobin, is the context in which the recent terrorist murders of Jews—and a Jewish riot in reaction to those crimes—must be understood.

Tobin is joined by historian Oren Kessler, the author of the new book Palestine 1936: The Great Revolt and the Roots of the Middle East Conflict. The book explores a topic that has been largely neglected by historians—namely, the way Jews and Arabs contended for control of what was then the British Mandate for Palestine, providing insights into the way the same battles continue to be fought today.

As Kessler explains, the Great Revolt helped solidify a separate Palestinian Arab identity. It was also the first time their national movement made a concerted effort to prevent the Jews from securing their foothold in the country. Their economic boycott and terror campaign secured real political gains in terms of the first proposal for partition of the country and convincing the British to curtail Jewish immigration, and foreclosing the possibility of a Jewish state in the infamous 1939 White Paper.

But ironically, the outcome of the violence and the infighting between hardliners led by Haj Amin al-Husseini, the Mufti of Jerusalem, and his more moderate opponents exhausted the Arabs. It also had the effect of galvanizing Jewish efforts at self-defense and creating a separate economy, both of which largely made the successful outcome of the 1948 War of Independence a decade later a foregone conclusion.

He also explains that the events of the 1930s should help inform our understanding of the recent history of the conflict. The achievements of Israel have more than vindicated the predictions of Zionist leaders David Ben-Gurion and Vladimir Jabotinsky. But the pro-Nazi Mufti not only “left his stamp on Palestinian discourse” to this day; there are also clear parallels between the Great Revolt and the Second Intifada, which had a similarly disastrous impact on Palestinian life and political prospects. The “tragic template” of Palestinian Arab violence against the Jews and themselves was set in the 1930s.

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