Every now and then, the rumor arises that I have a Palestinian wife. Some of my kin were highly amused by a debate on that subject that was being conducted by letters to the editor in their local paper recently.
Apparently, it does not occur to anyone simply to ask me. As a matter of fact, I don’t have a wife. I’m a widower, and the one wife I had was a sweet Midwestern girl of Methodist, German and Swedish extraction. I don’t have a Palestinian mistress or girlfriend. I don’t even have a Palestinian bowling pal.
The recurring Palestinian wife rumor, I believe, is a result of some people finding it impossible to believe that an American would have any sympathy for the Palestinian people without an ulterior motive. That is a credit to the effectiveness of the Israeli propaganda machine, which has, for more than 50 years, stereotyped Palestinians as a wild, violent people. It is a stereotype helped greatly by the news media, which rarely reports in depth on anything foreign, and by Hollywood, where lately the venerable Nazi has been replaced as the chief villain by the Arab terrorist.
Actually, Palestinians are a gentle people. If you get to know some and hear their side of the story, you will feel sympathy for them, too, unless you have a flint heart. The Palestinians were run over by history. I know that various ethnic groups in the United States fiercely contend for the title of victim, but the Palestinians had it imposed on them.
There was nothing they could do when the Ottoman Empire absorbed their land. There was nothing they could do when the British Empire took their land away from the Ottoman Turks at the end of World War I. There was nothing they could do when the British Empire created the Palestine Mandate. There was nothing they could do when the British Cabinet, for reasons historians still argue about, decided Palestine would make a nice national home for European Jews when and if the British Empire ever decided to give up its occupation of Palestine.
That it did in 1947, after considerable encouragement by Jewish terrorist organizations — the Irgun, led by Menachem Begin, and the Stern Gang, led by Yitzhak Shamir. Yes, Jews used terrorist tactics against the British occupation, and now Palestinians are using terrorist tactics against the Israeli occupation.
In 1948, about 700,000 Palestinians were made refugees and then told they could not return to their homes. Their homes, land and businesses were eventually confiscated. In 1967, Israel seized the West Bank and East Jerusalem from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria and the Gaza Strip from Egypt. These are now the "occupied territories." The state of Israel has no legal claim to even 1 square inch of any of this territory, but with the backing of the United States it has been able to tell the rest of the world to go stuff it.
Palestinians appreciate the irony of the fact that the United States went to war allegedly to get Albanian refugees back into Kosovo and went to war twice against Iraq allegedly to enforce United Nations resolutions. Of course, we’ve done nothing for the return of the Palestinian refugees, and we’ve ignored the fact that Israel is in open defiance of more than 60 United Nations resolutions. We’ve also ignored the fact that Israel is the only country in the Middle East that really does have weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear bombs.
For us, it’s all about domestic politics. I’ve never heard of a Palestinian donor invited to spend the night in the Lincoln Bedroom.
All Americans should feel a great deal of sympathy for the younger generations of both Palestinians and Israeli Jews. These young people were born into a conflict started by people long dead or now in their dotage. The issue is simple: It’s land. Both sides are dying over land. Unless some outside power forces an agreement on them, they will go on dying, generation after generation after generation.
You don’t need a Palestinian wife to feel sympathy for these people. All you need is to know the facts. Learn the truth, and you will feel sympathy for Palestinians — but not very proud of American Middle East policy, which is a continuing failure driven by greed and cowardice on the part of American politicians. The hypocrisy of it has poisoned our image around the world.
Note: Charley Reese is on medical leave. Until he returns, we will be running "The Best of Charley Reese."
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years.