Palestine and Percentages

There are some things you can’t legitimately do with arguments, logically, historically and mathematically. These errors philosophers call fallacies. The pretence that Jordan is Palestine is based on a number of fallacies.

The first is that apples and pears can be compared. In fact different qualities cannot be compared as if they were commensurable quantities. The land on either side of the Jordan Rift Valley is not comparable. Palestine has always been much more closely settled than Jordan, which is progressively more arid the further east one goes. Taking the surface area of both and finding that most of `Palestine’ improperly so called lies in Jordan is simply a mathematical trick. The human geography of the two places is too diverse. The attachment of their respective populations to the soil cannot be interchanged. East is East and West is West. One cannot be subsumed in the other.

Repeating such a fallacy is not a valid argument. A fallacy remains a fallacy howsoever often you repeat it, just as a false computation remains incorrect however often you rehearse it.

The contention that Zionists accepted a modest portion of 'Greater Palestine' in 1947 is historically false. The partition plan envisaged the dispossession of the majority of the indigenous population from the majority of Palestine proper west of the Jordan. This was the reason the plan was rejected by Palestinians. It was utterly unacceptable, and had to be enforced at gunpoint. Today it is still held together at gunpoint, and will collapse the moment true peace breaks out.

Talk about Jordan as a Palestinian state damages Israel.
— Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Nov. 2011

Indeed the so called 'Jordanian option' beloved of the extreme ultra-Zionist hard right has been tried from 1948-1970 when Jordan ruled the West Bank, and comprehensively failed. To attempt to enforce it again would be to propose a second shotgun wedding between Palestinian and Bedouin Arabs, and bring on another Black September. The Hashemite dynasty since 1948 has always regarded itself as managing a fine demographic balance between populations which have always considered themselves distinct. No less an authority than Israeli Foreign Minister Lieberman stated in the Knesset on 14 November 2011 that 'Talk about Jordan as a Palestinian state damages Israel.' This is because Israel since its inception has looked to Jordan as a partner for stability in the region. Any displacement of Palestinians into Jordan would disrupt Jordan internally and the region as a whole. This is one reason why Jordan is reluctant to accept Palestinian refugees from Syria.

It is also not correct to simply assume that an ancient historical claim is ipso facto valid. If they were, Palestinian claims would trump Jewish claims. 'Palestine' means 'land of the Philistines' who predated the Jews in Palestine. Palestinian antecedents are well prior to Jewish. The Palestinian presence in the land does not date from the Arab invasion. But the real point is not that the Jews have no claim in Palestine, because of course they do. The point is that multiple claims, ethnic and religious, need to be reconciled in a land that is holy to three major religions and home too to many secular citizens of no religion. It is wrong to assume as Zionists do that any one claim trumps all others.

It is equally fallacious historically to refer to modern or ancient imperial administrations as points of reference, be they modern British or ancient Roman, to define territory. Why select the Romans for example. Alexander the Great conquered from the Balkans to India. Should everywhere between the Danube and the Indus therefore be ruled today from Macedonia? Contemporary factors have come into play which are entitled to prior consideration.

It is suggested that Palestinians are the only people to claim a right of return. This could not be more wrong. Israeli law enshrines a right of return to Jews from anywhere in the world. The Palestinians are only claiming parity and the honouring of UN Resolution 194. The Zionist fear here is that the recognition of a right of return to Palestinians would lead to the Palestinianisation of Palestine and the demographic end as a theocratic ethnocracy of the State of Israel. The solution lies in an evolution towards a multicultural society. Israel, passé Zionist paranoia, is faced with no worse a fate than Australia which, as Frank Lowy has acknowledged, could not have remained narrowly 'British' and flourish as it has. The fact of the matter is that the partition of Palestine has been a failure. Only if the exclusive character of the Israeli constitution is transcended can the democratisation of Israel and the resolution of the Palestinian problem take place. To misrepresent the twin prospects of peace and democracy as a sinister plot to throw the Israelis into the sea is nothing short of mischievous. Nor is it to serve the turn of Islamic fundamentalism. Rather it undermines all nationalist fundamentalisms.

By Dr David Faber, Adjunct Senior Lecturer, Flinders University, 2012.