Could a present-day Hamas terrorist leader, such as Yahya Sinwar, become the President of a future United States of Palestine?
The hypothesis is not so incredible as one may think. Since the time of ancient Greece, history has been replete with examples of conquerors meeting the resistance of the conquered who employ the same tactics of belligerent abuse as their enemy. For this, they become described as terrorists.
The Holy Land is not lacking. Assyrians, Romans, Crusaders, Ottomans have all shared the role of oppressor of the indigenous people.
The British were unwilling guardians during the period of their Mandate of Palestine which commenced after WW1. They, too, met resistance from both Arabs who were in a large majority and from Jews who were relocating there under the scheme of Zionism.
To protect and promote Jewish interests, a paramilitary organization, Haganah, was formed. From this evolved a radical offshoot named Irgun which embarked on a series of operations, the best known of which were the bombing of the King David Hotel in July 1946 and the massacre of more than 100 Arab civilian villagers, including women and children, at Deir Yassin in April 1948.
Against the British military, they countered the arrest of their militants (and sentencing to death or long terms of imprisonment) by kidnapping soldiers and civilian personnel who were then exchanged for a commutation of sentence or release.
This culminated in July 1947 with the kidnapping, torture and execution by hanging of Clifford Martin and Mervyn Paice, both sergeants in the British Army Intelligence Corps. Their corpses were booby-trapped which resulted in their being blown to smithereens and the wounding of their comrades.
The Irgun was a closely-knit, disciplined body which never had more than 40 fulltime members. They were assisted by several thousand others who continued with their civilian work by day but became assassins and terrorists when called upon.
In 1942, Menachem Begin, then aged 29, was appointed as commander of this organization which was classified by the UN, British and US governments as terrorist and described by Albert Einstein as being “right wing, chauvinistic and fascist”.
However, in the huge fracas which followed WW2, Begin emerged as an influential politician and became Prime Minister of Israel, from June 1977 to October 1983, during which time he was awarded a Nobel Prize for Peace (jointly with Anwar Sadat, President of Egypt) and then authorized the bombing of the Osirak nuclear plant in Iraq.
Palestinian Arabs are descended from people who have inhabited the “Holy Land” for at least two millennia and are genetically linked with other semitic tribes such as Hebrews, Anatolian Turks, Lebanese and Egyptians. Within the frontiers of Israel, they constitute 20% of the population. If the territories of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem were re-united with Israel to create the former Mandated Palestine, the population would consist of 51% Arabs, 47% Jews and 2% others (2022 data). So, if a single state were created, governance and the appointment of a president would be in the hands of the Palestinians.
After 50 years of oppressive occupation, the alternative solution of two states working side by side without further bloodshed may seem desirable but is just pie in the sky, while a right-wing, ultraorthodox dominated government is intent upon the eventual creation of a Greater Israel and elimination of all citizens who are not Jews by Halachic law.
On the other hand, no Palestinian authority led by the ageing Abbas is going to agree to settlements and outposts remaining on its land, even if connected by private road and rail links to Israel.
This dilemma is doomed to continue in its blood-soaked history until the die-hards of conservative Zionism and the terrorists of Hamas are replaced, perhaps forcibly, by a multinational liberalism supported by the UN. We might then see a truly semitic President of Canaan.
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Roberto Cavaleiro first came to Portugal in 1982, acting as advisor to international investors. Current interests include animal welfare and writing opinion articles, especially with reference to environmental issues.