Rethink. Reconsider. Reevaluate.
This pamphlet addresses some of the “hot topics” of the ongoing discussion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In order to engage in productive discussion some common facts must be established and considered. These are facts that are often purposefully ignored by one-sided critics.
Jewish Land Acquisition There has been a continuous Jewish presence in what is now Israel and the West Bank since the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 C.E., with larger communities based in in Jerusalem and Hebron (excluding 1948-1967). Furthermore, the early pioneers who immigrated to Israel during the First Aliyah in 1882, bought unwanted land from Palestinian noblemen. They were sold un-arable land, that weren’t conducive to farming. With years of hard work they made the dessert bloom, and transformed the wastelands into successful agricultural settlements. In 1967, Abdel Nasser’s pan-Arab movement, once again, threatened Israel with annihilation, and rather than allow that to occur, the IDF preemptively bombed the Egyptian airfields and obliterated much of their air force. Within hours, Israel had won air supremacy, and turned the tide of the war. Despite Israel’s quick victory over Nasser’s Egypt, Nasser urged President Assad of Syria, and King Hussein of Jordan, to join the campaign to annihilate Israel. After Jordan bombarded West Jerusalem with artillery shells, Israel had no choice but to invade East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Immediately following the 1967 war, Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank was completely legitimate. It was a result of the Arab world’s goal: to push Israel into the sea. Before the Six Day War, Fadayeen, Arab state-sanctioned terrorists, frequently infiltrated Israel proper from the Sinai Peninsula and from the West Bank and indiscriminately killed Israeli civilians. Israel cannot categorically return to the 1949 armistice lines; those borders were untenable. Abba Iban, former Israeli foreign minister, famously called them “Auschwitz borders.” In any final status agreement, Israel must have defensible borders.
The Palestinian Refugee Issue Benny Morris, a historian, who by no means reinforces the classical Israeli narrative, recognizes that anywhere from 200,000-300,000 Palestinians, out of 750,000-900,0007b, were encouraged by Trans Jordan to flee their homes so the fledgling Jewish state could be quickly destroyed1. Solely blaming Israel for the Palestinian Refugee issue is unreasonable. It is true that there were cases like that of Ramle, where Palestinians were forcibly removed by Israeli forces. To make amends, Israeli leaders have offered financial compensation in several peace proposals. It should also be noted that after the foundation of Israel in 1948, a Jewish refugee problem also emerged. 800,000 Jews fled from Arab Countries due to intolerable anti-Semitism and/or expulsion. The “Occupation” of East Jerusalem According to B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights NGO, since 1967, Israel’s “primary goal in Jerusalem has been to create a demographic and geographic situation that will thwart any future attempt to challenge Israeli sovereignty over the city.” This is an unreasonable claim, for two reasons. First, there has been a Jewish majority in the Old City of Jerusalem since 18632. Second, since the unification of Jerusalem in 1967 “Arab building has outpaced Jewish building3.” According to the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, “Municipal tax records show that since 1967 the number of Arab-owned residences in the city has grown at a faster rate than the number of Jewish-owned residences. Aerial photographs taken of the same areas in 1968 and 1995 corroborate this expansion and disprove assertions that Israel has prevented Arabs from building in the city4.” 7b United Nations Report, A/1367/Rev. 1. October 1950
http://unispal.un.org/unispal.nsf/b792301807650d6685256cef0073cb80/93037e3b939746de8525610200567883?OpenDocument 1 Dershowitz, Alan. The Case for Israel. United States, John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2003, Pg. 80 2
Gold, Dore. Ben-Gurion’s legacy on Jerusalem under assault. http://www.jpost.com/Opinion/Op-EdContributors/Article.aspx?id=189564 3 Arab Building in Jerusalem: 1967-1997. http://www.camera.org/index.asp?x_context=20&x_article=397 4 Ibid.
The Israeli Blockade of Gaza In explaining the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip, some critics fail to mention two important facts: 1. Israel imposed the blockade in response to thousands of Qassam rockets fired by Hamas and other terrorist organizations including Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Brigade. The rockets were aimed toward Israeli population centers in southern Israel. 2. The economic blockade of Gaza was imposed by both Israel and Egypt. Egypt has even started building a wall along the Philadelphia corridor, the Egyptian border with Gaza, to combat the smuggling of rockets and missiles into Gaza. The blockade isn’t an Israeli one but an multinational one aimed at the leadership of Hamas, an internationally recognized terrorist organization. The Security Barrier Some critics misrepresent the facts of the security barrier. The barrier was built during the height of the Second Intifada, or, as some people refer to it, the Al-Aqsa intifada, to prevent Palestinian terrorists from entering Israel to carry out attacks against Israeli citizens. The purpose of the barrier was not to prevent Palestinians in the West Bank from entering Israel. Like any democratic country, Israel has the right to protect its citizens. The barrier has been instrumental in reducing the number of terrorist attacks in Israel proper. Since the barrier was built in 2002, the number of terrorist attacks in Israel proper has decreased by 90%5. In the same period, the number of Israeli civilians killed in Palestinian terror has decreased by 7580%6. Even Abdallah Ramadan Shala, the leader of Islamic Jihad, a recognized terrorist organization, acknowledged on November 11th, 2006 on Al-Manar TV, that the Separation Barrier poses significant obstacles to terrorist operatives wishing to terrorize Israeli civilians in Israeli proper7. 5
Ibid. Jewish Virtual Library. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Peace/fence.html 7 Ibid. 6
The Correlation Between Israeli Occupation of the West Bank and Terrorism The Israeli occupation of the West Bank is clearly an important issue that must be resolved in any final status agreement. However, the root cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not the occupation. The Palestinian Liberation Organization was established in 1964, three years before the occupation started, and its stated goal was to eliminate the Zionist entity. The claim that occupation, alone, causes terrorism is an oversimplification. The Saudi Peace Initiative The Saudi Peace Initiative, proposed by current Saudi King Abdullah, calls for Israel to withdraw to 1949 armistice line, and in return the entire Arab world will normalize relations with the Jewish state. This initiative insists on the Palestinian right to return, which would flood Israel Proper with 3.7 million Palestinian refugees8. In essence, the Arab League’s peace proposal doesn’t allow a Jewish state to live side by side with a Palestinian one. Rather it forces Israel to become a binational state bordering a Palestinian state with 1967 borders. This proposal blatantly stifles the Jewish right to self-determination. The Palestinian Liberation Organization recognized Israel’s right to exist in 1993 but has never recognized Israel as a Jewish state. No Israeli leader can accept a peace proposal that imperils the Jewish character of Israel. In any final status agreement, Israel’s Jewish character must be maintained, by ensuring a Jewish majority. There are numerous Christian and Muslim states, why allow this initiative to deny a Jewish one?
Jewish Virtual Library. http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Peace/arabplan1.html
Israel Government’s Peace Offer to the Palestinian Authority in 2000 According to Dennis Ross, an envoy for the Clinton administration to the Middle East (and now for the Obama administration), who was present at the 2000 Camp David negotiations, Arafat was offered the entire Gaza Strip, parts of East Jerusalem, 97 percent of the West Bank, and $30 billion in compensation to the Palestinian refugees9. Instead of offering a counterproposal, Arafat rejected the offer and responded with the Second Intifada, an uprising of terror. Even Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia recognized that Arafat’s intransigence was entirely to blame for the failed peace talks. As Bandar warned Arafat, “If we lose this opportunity, it is not going to be a tragedy, it is going to be a crime.”10 In 2000, Barak offered more than any other Israeli Prime Minister until that time.
*The above maps were taken from Ross, Dennis. The Missing Peace: The Inside Story of the Fight for Middle East Peace. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2004. 9
Dershowitz, Alan. The Case for Israel. United States, John Wiley & Sons, Inc, 2003, Pg. 119 Walsh, Emily. “The Prince”, The New Yorker, March 24th 2003
Israel Government’s Peace Proposal in 2008 According to Aluf Benn, a commentator for the Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz, in 2008 Olmert offered the Palestian Authority over 93 percent of the West Bank, while Israel would annex the remaining 6.3 percent of the West Bank and would swap land to compensate the Palestian Authority11. The deal also would have provided a safe-passage route between the West Bank and Gaza. Like the Clinton parameters, the Holy Basin would be under international supervision, and Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem would remain in Israel while Arab-populated settlements would become part of Palestinian East Jerusalem. Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian authority rejected the generous proposal. Although, no map was presented to the Palestinian Authority, the following map, published by Ha’aretz, is a visual representation of Olmert’s proposal.
Natan Sharansky’s “Three D” Test Like any other democratic country, Israel isn’t immune to criticism, so criticism of the country can be perfectly legitimate. However, there is a distinction between constructive criticism and bigotry. According to Natan Sharansky, a leading Israeli politician, when critics demonize Israel as an apartheid, racist state; hold it to a double standard; and delegitimize its right to exist, their critiques are no longer constructive and border on anti-Semitism12. No academic has contributed more to the delegitimization of Israel than Noam Chomsky. His categorical condemnation of Israel fails Sharansky’s “Three D” test, and should not be regarded as a legitimate form of criticism. Those who believe in two states—a Jewish state and Palestinian state living side by side in peace and security—should categorically condemn blanket and ineffective criticism of Israel as espoused by Chomsky and others. Critics like Chomsky who think that Hamas’ policies are more conducive to peace than both Israel’s and America’s policies13 are not promoting a just and fair dialogue. They are promoting unattainable goals that serve only to alienate Israel—and with it , any prospects for peace.
Sharansky, Natan. The Case for Democracy. New York, New York, Pubic Affairs, 2004, Pg. 224 Memri T.V. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vD8Eghw1Bik
Brought to you by the Brandeis Zionist alliance
BZA's pamphlets discussing hot topics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Fall semester 2010.