The rest of the show consisted mostly of Maher talking over his guests – the Arab ones anyway – and claiming that there really is no Israeli occupation of Palestine, that Palestinian rejectionism is to blame for statelessness, that Zionism is not a racist ideology, that Palestinians are better off under Israeli authority than under Arab rule, and that the forcible displacement and systematic ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people by Zionist colonialism and military expansion shouldn’t be a big deal considering that, in his view, there are plenty of other places for the indigenous people to resettle. “Here is Israel, this little bit of land,” Maher said, pointing to a map of the region. He continued,
“Here’s Syria. Here’s Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Egypt, Sudan, Libya. Look at all this. Now, the Arabs purport to be brothers, that’s what we always hear. It’s one Arab nation divided into falsely drawn countries by the colonial powers. If this whole bit of land are all brothers, how come at the time of the partition when they refused to share the land with Israel, and there was only 600,000 Palestinian refugees, how come they couldn’t find any home in this whole area?”
Later, when confronted by one of the panelists, a Palestinian student at Georgetown University whose family was forced out of its home and into a refugee camp in 1948, who asks how such displacement and aggression can be justified by Israeli apologists, Maher stepped in to explain, “Because your people were offered half the land, and you said no and chose to try to annihilate them, instead.”
Aside from Maher’s awkward understanding of international law, the rights of refugees, and complete disregard for the illegality and immorality of both the annexation of land by conquest and the forcible transfer or deportation of populations, he demonstrates a distinct lack of historical knowledge and perspective required to speak on this matter with authority. He seems to either forget or simply not care that Israel was established in 1948 on land that was already inhabited by an indigenous population. In 1947, despite representing no more than 30% of the total population of Palestine – a percentage reached only after decades of illegal mass immigration to the region – Jews were to be given 56% of the land for their own state as part of the UN Partition Plan, which was accepted only as a non-binding recommendation with a vote of 33 to 13 (and 10 abstentions) after much international bullying by both the US and Russia. As part of the Plan, the “Jewish” state was to be granted control of much of the best land, notably the fertile coastal plain and the hilly northeastern Galilee and Jerusalem was to be an internationally-administered city populated by an equal number of Jews and Palestinians.
While Maher is correct that the Jewish leadership at the time accepted the UN proposal (albeit reluctantly), the Zionist intention was never to live side-by-side an independent Palestinian state. As Israeli historian Benny Morris wrote, “large sections of Israeli society…were opposed to or extremely unhappy with partition and from early on viewed the [brewing 1948] war as an ideal opportunity to expand the new state’s borders beyond the UN-earmarked partition boundaries and at the expense of the Palestinians.” (Tikkun, March/April 1998.)
Zionist pioneers and Israel’s founding fathers were actually quite explicit in their goals. In 1937, before the horrors of Kristallnacht, Jewish pogroms and ghettos, and The Final Solution of Nazi-occupied Europe, Ben Gurion stated, “the boundaries of Zionist aspirations are the concern of the Jewish people and no external factor will be able to limit them,” and elaborated elsewhere that, “if we have to use force to guarantee our own right to settle in those places…then we have force at our disposal.”
The next year, Ben-Gurion, who would soon become Israel’s first Prime Minister, stated that “after we become a strong force, as a result of the creation of a state, we shall abolish partition and expand to the whole of Palestine… The state will only be a stage in the realization of Zionism and its task is to prepare the ground for our expansion into the whole of Palestine.”
A decade later, Ben-Gurion told Yoseph Weitz, director of the Land and Afforestation Department of the Jewish National Fund and head of the official Transfer Committee of 1948, “The war will give us land. The concept of ‘ours’ and ‘not ours’ are peace concepts, only, in war they lose their whole meaning.” This is the same Yosef Weitz who, in 1940, wrote in his diary, “It should be clear to us that there is no room in Palestine for these two peoples. No ‘development’ will bring us to our goal of independent nationhood in this small country. Without the Arabs, the land will become wide and spacious for us; with the Arabs, the land will remain sparse and cramped.”
In 1948, after Jewish authorities had agreed to the UN Partition Plan (which was never internationally accepted or legally implemented) and Israel had declared “independence” with total disregard for international law and the self-determination of Palestine’s native population, leader of the Zionist terrorist group Irgun and later Israel’s sixth Prime Minister, Menachem Begin chimed in, declaring, “The partition of the Homeland is illegal. It will never be recognized. The signature of institutions and individuals of the partition agreement is invalid. It will not bind the Jewish people. Jerusalem was and will forever be our capital. Eretz Israel [the Land of Israel] will be restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And forever.”
Maher expunges from his own truncated history lesson the fact that Israel achieved “legitimacy” with the backing of Western world powers and gained “independence” as a colonial state through violent transfer of the native inhabitants, systematic ethnic cleansing, and the massacres and intimidation of paramilitary death squads. Immediately after declaring its creation, Israeli militias fought a war of expansion and annexed an additional 22% of Arab land as its own.
Maher also declines to mention, probably due to his historical ignorance, that immediately following Israel’s unilateral declaration of independence in May 1948, the United Nations reassessed its approach to the partition of Palestine and appointed a mediator, Swedish diplomat Folke Bernadotte, to come up with new proposal while taking into account “the aspirations of the Jews, the political difficulties and differences of opinion of the Arab leaders, the strategic interests of Great Britain, the financial commitment of the United States and the Soviet Union, the outcome of the war, and finally the authority and prestige of the United Nations.” While Bernadotte’s second proposal was produced in consultation with British and American emissaries, then-President Harry Truman undermined its progress in the UN due to pre-election Zionist influence in the United States. On September 17, 1948, the day after the second proposal was presented to the UN, Bernadotte was assassinated in West Jerusalem by members of the Zionist terrorist organization Lehi (also known as The Stern Gang).
For the next 17 years, Palestinians in Israel were subject to martial law. In 1967, Israel launched a unilateral, unprovoked, preemptive strike on its Arab neighbors and militarily conquered the remaining 22% of Palestine. It has brutally occupied the entirety of historic Palestine ever since.
Later in the program, Maher stated his support for continued Israeli occupation and Jewish colonization of the West Bank due to his incorrect impression that area conquered in warfare becomes property of the victor. When asked about what Israel’s responsibilities actually are under international law, Maher quickly changed the subject and blamed the Palestinians for their own victimization.
Before signing off for the evening, Maher also made sure to claim that the Palestinian use of suicide bombing had more to do with religious dogma than desperate resistance to illegal Israeli occupation maintained by American money, weapons, and equipment. “There is a big difference in the religions [Judaism and Islam], come on, between this life and the other life,” he declared. “Muslims are a little more like the Catholics, ‘It’s gonna happen after you die.’ The Jews are more like, ‘Let’s make the deal now.'”