PORTLAND — William Slavick’s anti-Israel column (“Mideast peace process dead, Arabs rising … now what?,” Maine Voices, March 24) ignores the mistakes and hatred, much of it from the other side, that helped shape the Middle East conflict.

Slavick relates some history, but doesn’t mention that Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, the highest Muslim religious leader in British-ruled Palestine, and other Arab leaders openly supported the Nazis.

Husayni took refuge during World War II in Germany. One of the war’s consequences was a flood of Jewish refugees, mostly unable to go to other countries. Many reached Israel after 1947.

The United Nations’ resolution ending the British Mandate called for partitioning Palestine into an Arab state and a Jewish state. The Arabs rejected that, attacking the Israelis in 1947.

One consequence of every war is refugees. Historian Benny Morris, a Slavick favorite, reports that a general military order was soon issued, allowing commanders to destroy villages near roads/borders when deemed militarily necessary.

Arab forces blocked the road to Jerusalem; Israeli forces fought to reopen it. After defeating forces in Qastal on that road, Israelis did not destroy the village; Arab forces re-occupied and Israelis re-took it, after much more fighting.

Morris reports that this led to more frequent expulsion and destruction. The order was widely followed, but Arab populations were also left in place where there was less military risk. It was not wise for Israel to try to maintain, for so many years, the impression that its forces caused a much lower number of refugees.

Morris also reports that a significant percentage of people left their homes without Israeli coercion — not the impression that Slavick tries to create.

The Arab leadership made what was historically a big mistake — not talking with Israel for over 25 years, and also generally not resettling refugees. A negotiated peace could have dealt with the refugee issue.

Instead, refugee children were raised with anti-Israel statements in all their textbooks, even math. One consequence of perpetuating hatred and ignoring consequences is that things get worse.

Almost 10 years’ refusing to talk occurred after Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, reacting to acts of war by Egypt and Jordan.

During those 10 years, some Jewish settlements were established, and the momentum began for a movement that has opposed most accommodations with Arabs. This is not to blame Arabs for the settlement movement, but to point out another historic mistake.

Refugee camps became a breeding ground for terrorism, which over the years has largely targeted civilian (not military) targets. The recent Jerusalem bombing is one of a long string. It is shameful that Slavick’s piece appears so soon after that attack.

Slavick makes so many wild statements it is difficult to pick which ones to address in this small space. It is interesting that he criticizes the current Palestinian Authority as being “sellout-prone,” without mentioning that one source of hope in the region is the result of policies of Prime Minister Salam Fayyad.

He has promoted the growth of civil institutions, including normal police forces, thereby allowing the West Bank economy to grow and reduce the suffering about which Slavick complains.

I think “sellout-prone” refers to what the “Palestine Papers” revealed as discussions of possible territorial compromises (mostly from before 2010).

Is it wrong in the give-and-take of negotiations to put forth proposals, knowing that they are subject to approval by both sides of an entire package, and containing pieces that each side will have difficulty swallowing? Is that worse than perpetuating misery and violence?

Slavick fails to mention that when special envoy George Mitchell tried to get negotiations re-started, the PA stayed away until September 2010, in the last days of a 10-month settlement freeze. I understand that the two sides had different definitions of a freeze. If any criticism of the Obama administration’s handling of the situation is valid, it is that it should have been clearer to both sides as to what “freeze” meant.

Nevertheless, Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu had agreed to something, and was able to go forward, despite the misgivings of the settler movement (of which I am no fan). The PA should have seized the opportunity; its inaction only strengthened the hand of that movement.

I began with references to refugees, first the Jewish refugees from post-Nazi Europe, and then the Arab refugees from the war of 1947-49.

Both sides need to recognize each other’s painful pasts, and figure out a way to move on. It doesn’t help the process to shovel all blame onto Israel.

– Special to The Press Herald