By Scott Richman and Larry Grossman
We’ve all played the popular arcade game Pac-Man, in which the eponymous character must eat up all the others, one by one, in order to win. If you have been on a Metro-North Railroad station recently, you’ve probably seen a large ad sponsored by The Committee for Peace in Israel and Palestine suggesting something similar — except that while Pac-Man is a game, the ad pretends to be factual.
I’m referring to the ad that presents four maps of Israel and the West Bank, dated from 1946 through 2010. In the first, almost all the area is shaded and called “Palestinian Land.” There are only a few white spaces denoted “Jewish Land.” Each successive map depicts shrinkage of the shaded space and an enlargement of the white, suggesting that the Jewish – and, beginning in 1949, Israeli-Pac-Man has ravenously gobbled up the Palestinian land. The final map shows an overwhelmingly white area with just a few shaded Palestinian enclaves. And then, in bold letters, we read that “4.7 Million Palestinians are Classified by the U.N. as Refugees.”
One would never know from the ad that the area shown on the maps was the homeland of Judaism and the Jewish people; that Jews have lived there for more than 3,000 years; and that those exiled from the land never stopped praying to return there. Similarly, the ad makes no mention of the 1917 Balfour Declaration, whereby Great Britain promised the nascent Zionist movement a Jewish “national home” there, a pledge that became part of international law when endorsed by the League of Nations.
And the ad is discreetly silent about why the Palestinians have lost land. It’s not due to Israeli aggression. Rather, the Palestinian leadership has consistently refused to compromise and allow any Jewish sovereignty, of whatever size, in the land. Enlargement of Jewish territorial holdings has come in defensive wars fought reluctantly in order to stay alive. In 1947, the U.N. proposed partition into Arab and Jewish states. The Jews accepted the decision and created the State of Israel; the Arab states invaded and lost, and the cease-fire lines of 1949 enlarged Israel’s borders. Again in 1967, the Arab world threatened Israel with destruction. In an act of war, Egypt blockaded the Strait of Tiran, Israel’s only water route to Asia and much of Africa. Despite Israeli pleas to King Hussein to stay out, Jordan threw in its lot with Egypt and Syria, and in the six-day Arab defeat, lost the West Bank.
In vain, Israel has attempted for years to reach agreement with the Palestinians, just as it did with Egypt and Jordan, so that a Palestinian state could be created that lives side-by-side in peace with Israel. Even today, the Palestinian Authority refuses to sit down with Israeli negotiators unless endless demands are met in advance. And, by the way, here’s another thing the ad conveniently ignores: More than 2 million Arabs are Israeli citizens, with equal rights.
And what of those 4.7 million Palestinian refugees? The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights defines a refugee as someone who flees his or her country to escape danger or persecution. Roughly 850,000 Palestinians were refugees of the 1948 war that led to Israeli independence, of whom some 30,000 are alive today. The 4.7 million claim comes from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Set up to deal specifically with Palestinian refugees, it decided to include all the descendents of the real refugees. In an Orwellian twist, by 2050, when there are no more authentic Palestinian refugees, that 4.7 million is expected to rise to 15 million — and the U.S. taxpayer will keep shouldering a good chunk of the cost of their upkeep.
But the absurdity of the situation does not stop there. Unlike the U.N. High Commissioner, whose office tries to resettle refugees, UNRWA cynically keeps theirs suffering in camps so they can be used to threaten Israel with destruction through exercise of “the right of return,” whereby the millions of “refugees” would inundate the state and erase its Jewish majority.
Contrast this with the Jews who were forced out of their homes in Arab countries when the State of Israel was declared, and whose numbers roughly approximated those of the Palestinian refugees. Who even heard about them? They were quietly resettled, either in Israel or elsewhere.
So next time you ride Metro-North, bear in mind that while Pac-Man may be fun, it’s not necessarily a reliable guide to events in the Middle East.
Scott Richman is director of American Jewish Committee/Westchester, an office of the global Jewish advocacy organization based in New York.
Larry Grossman is the American Jewish Committee director of publications.
This article first appeared in the Journal News, a Gannet newspaper in Westchester, New York
This ad sponsored by the Committee for Peace in Israel and Palestine recently appeared on Metro-North railroad stations.