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Yitro: Gaza: Part V

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Part V

Jeff: Did you research and look into the arguments I presented in our last conversation?

Evelyn: Yes I did. And I even approached a Palestinian friend of mine and presented him all your arguments.

Jeff: And?

Evelyn: And he absolutely rejected them, stating that they were Zionist lies. Jews, he claims, invaded their land and displaced their population.

Jeff: And do you agree with him? I did after all cite facts and quotes that can be corroborated?

Evelyn: No I did not agree with him. Much of what you say I indeed found to be accurate. But, even if he goes too far to one extreme, and even if we were not to call them Palestinians, the fact remains that Arabs have been living in this region for centuries and have now effectively been displaced by millions of Jewish immigrants.

Jeff: Just a minute. You are wrong on both accounts. Arabs have not been living there for centuries. As I discussed earlier, from 1948-1967 Jordan and Egypt each pushed hundreds of thousands of their citizens to move to the West Bank and Gaza, such that by 1967 half of the people of Jordan lived in the West Bank who were not there in 1948.

And Jews have been living there for centuries. So though undoubtedly some Arabs were displaced, it was not by foreigners but by locals. You are making it sound that millions of Arabs lived in present-day Israel, and all the Jews there are immigrants. That’s simply not the case.

Evelyn: Are you saying that only Jews and not Arabs are indigenous to this region?!

Jeff: No, I am sure that some Arabs have ancestors that lived there. But not in the exaggerated populations that they suggest.

Evelyn: How can you say that? From the time of Islam’s birth in the 7th century the region was ruled by the Arab Caliphate (who conquered it from the Byzantines and ruled through the 11th century, when it was conquered by the Crusaders), and then, by the Ottoman Empire who controlled it from the 12th till the 20th century. During these many centuries the area was under Arab-Muslim rule. Jews lived there as well, but the dominant force was Arab-Muslim.

Jeff: Of course I am aware of that. But why don’t you read these accounts of the region’s desolation from travelers who left records of what they saw there.

“Nothing there (in Jerusalem) to be seen but a little of the old walls which is yet remaining and all the rest is grass, moss and weeds” (English pilgrim in 1590). “The country is in a considerable degree empty of inhabitants and therefore its greatest need is of a body of population” (British consul in 1857).

“There is not a solitary village throughout its whole extent (valley of Jezreel) – not for 30 miles in either direction… One may ride 10 miles hereabouts and not see 10 human beings. For the sort of solitude to make one dreary, come to Galilee… Nazareth is forlorn… Jericho lies a moldering ruin… Bethlehem and Bethany, in their poverty and humiliation… untenanted by any living creature… A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds… a silent, mournful expanse… a desolation… We never saw a human being on the whole route… Hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, those fast friends of a worthless soil, had almost deserted the country… Palestine sits in sackcloth and ashes… desolate and unlovely (Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad, 1867).

The restoration of the “desolate and unlovely” land began in the latter half of the 19th century with the first Jewish pioneers. Their labors created newer and better conditions and opportunities, which in turn attracted migrants from many parts of the Middle East, both Arabs and others.

Thus, most of the Arabs today are not indigenous to that region. It was only after the Jews changed deserts and swamps into a productive and thriving land that the Arabs migrated there. Before that time there were only approximately 120,000 Arabs in the entire region, including Jordan.

Evelyn: And Jews – how many Jews were there at the time?

Jeff: The Jewish population, on the other hand, always existed in Israel. Let’s not forget: Israel became a nation in 1312 BCE, two thousand years before the rise of Islam. From Biblical times, spanning back over three millennia, till this day, and even after the Temple was destroyed and the Jews were banished by the Romans in the 1st century, there always was a continuous Jewish presence in the land, essentially making the Jews indigenous to the region.

Indeed, from the times of Abraham throughout the ages Israel was always the “Promised Land” and remains a central force in Jewish life, with Jerusalem as its capital. Jews are obligated to live in Israel, and have always been emigrating to the land, both in the Middle Ages and later, and also before Islam was born. Jews pray facing East to Israel and Jerusalem; virtually every filled with their aspirations to return home to Israel.

Evelyn: Arabs feel the same. They feel that they too are children of Abraham, and have lived in the region from the beginning of time.

Jeff: But they add one critical caveat: They deny the right of Jews to the land of Israel. And they call for Israel’s destruction. I should add: Muslims pray with their backs toward Jerusalem.

Until after 1967 when they began clamoring for Jerusalem as their capital, Jerusalem has never been the capital of any Arab or Muslim entity.  Even when the Jordanians occupied Jerusalem, they never sought to make it their capital, and Arab leaders did not come to visit. Jerusalem is mentioned over 700 times in the Jewish Holy Scriptures, but not mentioned once in the Koran, and Mohammed never came to Jerusalem.

Jeff: I will tell you what I think is the root of the problem. The Arab/Muslim world does not accept the existence of Israel on religious grounds. Islam faith and theology dictate that the very existence of Israel under Jewish sovereignty is a desecration against G-d. G-d chose the Mohammed and Islam to conquer and transform the world. Mosques were intentionally built on Jewish and Christian holy sites, demonstrating G-d’s choice of Islam as the ultimate religion, after Judaism and Christianity failed. Read a bit of the Muslim theologian Sayyid Qutb on the subject.

If G-d doesn’t want the Jews to control the land, and wants that Muslims to rule, what possibly can you do to change that belief? How can one make peace with that?

Evelyn: You make peace with the moderates who are ready to compromise and recognize Israel, not with the religious extremists.

Jeff: And you know who is a moderate and who is an extremist? What would you say if you discovered that all Arabs/Muslims believe that Israel defiles their faith?

Evelyn: We live in a modern world, which is increasingly turning secular, not being run by religious extremes. And it is only this secular approach which will allow for

Jeff: So now you are dictating what Muslims should or should not believe? Just because you and so many others don’t find religion that important doesn’t mean that the entire Muslim world will embrace your views.

Evelyn: I didn’t say that religion is not important. It simply can’t be the force that dictates politics. We need a separation of church and state for us to co-exist. Freedom of religion, but not one that imposes religious beliefs on us all.

Jeff: And what do you do with the over one and a half billion Muslims who believe otherwise?

Evelyn: You encourage the moderates and not empower the radicals.

Jeff: This condescending attitude is what enrages so many Arabs/Muslims. They are offended by the Western World attempting to dictate its values to them. As if the West has it all figured out. The Muslim world actually sees the West as an equal partner in desecrating G-d’s choice of Islam over Christianity and Judaism. Which is why they always refer to the Crusader/Zionist aggression.

Frankly, I find Hamas more honest than the others in stating their position up front, and not hiding behind diplomatic smokescreens.

Evelyn: So what is your solution to the problem?

Jeff: If anything, one can argue that the Jewish leaders in Israel are to blame for not recognizing the religious issues at hand. Perhaps the Arab world would respect Israel if it showed spiritual leadership and instead of diluting the conflict in a secular context, actually addressed the theological forces at work.

Evelyn: Then we would have a full-blown religious war.

Jeff: No. Then we would have an honest discussion

Evelyn: And your solution?

Jeff: Even if I don’t have one, the facts remain the facts. One thing is definite: To live with myths is surely not the solution. I actually believe that the first step to a solution is a frank acknowledgment of all the issues, including the religious ones, to call a spade a spade and not allow this to become a propaganda battle driven by rhetoric and distortions.

Evelyn: I need to look into this. What you are saying is not consistent with the facts as I know them.

Jeff: Please research it exhaustively. But then get back to me. I would love to hear a refutation of what I am saying. And if you don’t get back to me, I shall assume that you could not contradict my arguments. So then please have the courtesy to at least acknowledge that.

Evelyn: Do I sound intellectually dishonest?

Jeff: No. On the contrary. I very much appreciated our dialogue. But since these issues have been intentionally distorted and misrepresented for so many years, it’s not surprising that so many intellectually honest people have been misled.

Evelyn: Nevertheless, we still need compassion for the Arabs living in the land.

Jeff: Yes we do. But they need to stop declaring war on Israel. Period.

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Yonason
11 years ago

Ethan Schapiras idea of a solution is akin to negotiating with the cancer. I havent gone through his whole VERY long piece, but a glance at his references shows at least some are from highly anti-Israel biased sources (BBC being one). When the Arabs come out of the stone age, then maybe it will be possible to talk with them, but never by negotiating away our G-d given right the our land.

Meira Lerman
11 years ago

Cancer (medical term: malignant neoplasm) is a class of diseases in which a group of cells display uncontrolled growth (division beyond the normal limits), invasion (intrusion on and destruction of adjacent tissues), and sometimes metastasis (spread to other locations in the body via lymph or blood).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cancer_cells
As we know, everything in this world has analogy in different dimensions. For example, you can find a huge article with a lot of references and links, but none of the cells, sorry, ideas, equipped with substantial citation, reveals truth.
Let’s look at the clothes that have no emperor:
“…but they were elected because the Palestinians were tired of the ineffective and corrupt leadership of Fatah, and wanted someone who would actually stand up for them and look out for their interests (and many feel that if elections were held in the West Bank today, then Hamas would win there as well).” Stand up for them or behind them, covering with their women and children to fire rockets to the opposite side?!
“… and the Israelis decide to punish them further by intentionally starving them. Hamas, not surprisingly, begins firing rockets at Israel in an attempt to get them to end the blockade.”
If, coming from abroad, weapon is considered bread for those people, than Israel defiantly has to open blockade and feed starving people.
What does a “good articles” mean?
-One that talks about “basic human rights for Palestinian”.
The answer is here:
http://www.aish.com/jewishissues/middleeast/A_Letter_to_60_Minutes.asp
“Not one Arab village in Israel or the Territories has a perimeter fence around it. Guards are not required at Arabic shops, cafes, restaurants, movie theaters, wedding halls or schools – either in Israel or in the Territories. Palestinians also do not need armed guards to accompany every school trip, youth movement hike or campout. They are not targets of terrorism.”

Let’s look at the last garment, sorry argument:
“As for the notion that the Palestinians claim of a national identity is some sort of trick to help them achieve Israels destruction… I dont really know how to respond to this fantasy (the only evidence of which is a 30 year old quote from a PLO member). The notion that these people have been struggling for a state for some 40 years, and as soon as they get one, theyre going to commit national suicide by launching a war against Israel that they couldnt possibly win, seems absurd to me.”
Real absurd is to have a discussion with such kind of opponents; it’s the same as to negotiate with cancer cells which have endless potency for their tail growth.

David Sabghir
11 years ago

You need to see compassion by the Muslims for Muslims. I have handled many asylum cases here in New York. It is asylum from fellow Muslims, not asylum from Christians or Jews.

Also, you could add the story told by a prominent Jewish leader? who reported that at a final Camp David meeting with Arafat, after something like 14 meetings, finally Clinton stood up to Arafat and told him that if he hears him deny that the Temple existed, the Temple where Yashka walked, he will terminate their meetings forthwith. I have this on tape somewhere, as told at City Hall on Yom Yerushalayim several years ago.

This reflects the distortion of reality that is common in the Arab world. It is tragic, but one can never have any peace with people who simply have no recognition of truth, let alone reality.

Good Shabbos.

David Sabghir

11 years ago

I have read Rabbbi Jacobsons books and
> followed his teachings for many years.
> I would like to add to the dialogue between Eveylyn and Jeff. Jeff has
> explained and supported his explanation of the lack of significant Arab
> presence in Palestine prior to Jewish immigration which began in the
> 1860s and accelerated in the 1880s, with the flight of Jews from the
> Russian pogroms. Evelyn investigated his facts and agreed they were
> accurate. I would like to connect the dots for Evelyn: under Ottoman rule,
> Muslims were not able to live, prosper, settle or even survive. Evelyn
> seems disconcerted or confused because she cites the fact that the Ottoman
> Empire was ruled by Muslims. I am curious, are you surprised by Europes
> feudal system whereby powerful and wealthy Christians exploited
> impoverished Christian serfs? Furthermore assuming that Muslims would
> have taken care of their own should be absolutely unsupportable in the
> face of the ongoing historical and present competition amongst Arabs and
> Muslims with different religious and geographic roots. Read Bernard Lewis
> many books on the history of the Arab and Muslim worlds. Here are the
> critical dots: Jewish immigration into Palestine in the late 1800s
> actually protected wandering refugees, Arab, Muslim, Christian, Greek and
> Russian Orthodox as well as migrants from dozens of nations. Why? Because
> Jews were literate, ethical, utopian, socialist oppressed Europeans who
> understood how to create civil society, believed in the collective more
> than the individual and tolerant of the stranger, the migrants who could
> for the first time in centuries live safely, protected from bandits,
> murdereers and usurious taxes, just by creating settlements next to the
> new Jewish settlements aned working with and for the Jewish farmers. The
> Jews were financed sufficiently to actually buy the land at ridiculously
> high prices since they were financed by the likes of the Rothschilds and
> other wealthy European Jews. Second dot: the Arabs from lands other than
> Palestine were rivals for domination of the inhabitants of Palestine,
> Arab, Christian, Jew and all the others: they fought over who should
> control tax collection primarily and secondarily who should have political
> control. When the Ottoman Empire began to collapse in the second decade of
> the 20th century the European powers were vying to carve up areas of
> influence for themselves, in the process they resorted to using all the
> tools at their disposal to curry favor with the various Arab tribes and
> leaders of the tribes; needless to say one of the more reliable tools they
> turned to was their own historical anti-Semitism which they injected into
> the political competition with their rivals. The Arabs and then the future
> Palestinians
> began to absorb anti-Semitic rhetoric, then ideology and ultimately
> propaganda. Eygpt under the influence of Britain and Germanys rivalry
> learned a great deal about how to use the Jews as convenient scapegoats to
> create unrest between the newly arrived and newly settled Arab
> immmigrants in Palestine and their neighbors the Jews. Both the Mufti of
> Jerusalem and Yasser Arafat were both Egytians and virulent anti-Semites,
> they were also the rivals/enemies of recently anointed (by the British)
> ruler of Trans-Jordan, who the Grand Mufti had assassinated for his
> attempting to forge good relations with the Jews. Final dots: why is it so
> difficult to hold accountable the Arab leaders who were and are
> responsible for the victimization of the displaced Arab populations? They
> are the ones directly responsible for displacing and preventing the former
> inabitants of Palestine from returning to their homes. It is their
> responsibility and it should be laid at their door steps. Also, Evelyn,
> are you as passionate about the 750,000 displaced Jews of the Middle East
> who were brutally killed, wounded, robbed and evicted from their homes and
> their homelands, where they had actually lived for centuries and millenia?
> Why are you not adding their plight into this dialogue with equal passion
> for their receiving a just and equitable solution to their eviction from
> their homes? There will not be peace until the Arabs decide to be
> moderate; as of now, the are not enough living moderates anywhere for
> Israel to make peace. Ive consistently been astounded at Israels
> willingness to give away land acquired in war from the attacking parties.
> Who does such a ridiculous thing without occupying the attackers until
> they fully and completely renounce their previously aggressive intentions:
> witness Americas Occupation of Japan and Germany including their complete
> disarming and de-militatization: that is the path to peace!

Ethan Schapira
11 years ago

Rabbi Jacobson- First off, let me say thank you for providing a forum for discussion on what is clearly a very emotionally charged and heavily debated issue. My mother has been sending me your e-mails, and as someone who has read, researched, and thought about these issues a great deal, I felt I should respond and add in my own thoughts. Please feel free to forward this to Evelyn, Jeff, and the people that were following their debates.

This essay is long, and has numerous links to articles on the internet. I have tried as much as possible to leave emotion out of my arguments (though I may not always succeed), and to rely on facts and logic, not only in my own writing, but in the articles I have cited. I encourage everyone to read it all the way through (including the cited articles, which are important) when they have the time. Anyone that wishes can feel free to respond to me via e-mail.

Allow me to start by saying that I have much love in my heart for Israel. I have close friends and family living there, and I myself lived there for six months in college, during which time I had many Israeli and Palestinian teachers and friends. I believe that although I am heavily critical of many Israeli policies and actions, I am far more supportive of Israel than those that blindly defend it and encourage Israel to go on carrying out self-destructive- and immoral- actions such as the continued occupation of the West Bank and the economic oppression of Gaza (not to mention its bombardment). I like to compare Israel to a friend with a drug problem- would you say you were supporting your friend if you encouraged him to continue his self-destructive behavior? Or would supporting him actually mean getting him to stop? This is the context within which I base all my views on this matter- my only goal is a peaceful and just solution that is fair to all groups of people in the region. For an interesting editorial that voices a similar pragmatic view, please click here:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/05/08/AR2008050801521_pf.html

Id like to also offer a quick side note regarding those who complain that Israel is unfairly singled out, while human rights violations or mistreatment of civilians goes un-criticized in places such as Iran or Burma (for example).

I cant speak for other people, but the reasons for my focus on Israel, rather than anywhere else, are numerous. First of all, I do not have any friends or relatives in Burma or Iran that are affected by what is going on there- I do have friends and relatives in Israel, as Im sure many American Jews do, so my stake in Israeli affairs is much higher than it is in say, Burmese affairs. Not to mention that as a Jew, my image is affected positively when Israel does something right, and negatively when it does something wrong, so I believe strongly in closely examining everything that Israel does. In addition, unlike Burma and Iran, Israel is constantly lauded and praised for its high level of morality. So when I see Israel doing something that I dont agree with, it seems worthy of pointing out. And lastly and perhaps most importantly- I dont much hold out hope that I personally can improve the situation in Iran or Burma. But since Israel is a democracy and is supported by America, I hope that it is one place where I might actually be able to affect things- even if on a small level- through open and honest dialogue.

When we look at the situation in Israel/Palestine today, I think the first thing that everyone needs to accept is that no matter what your views on Hamas, they were democratically elected in Gaza. They were not elected because all Palestinians hate Israelis and want to kill them, as Jeff seems to suggest, but they were elected because the Palestinians were tired of the ineffective and corrupt leadership of Fatah, and wanted someone who would actually stand up for them and look out for their interests (and many feel that if elections were held in the West Bank today, then Hamas would win there as well).

It should come as no surprise to anyone that Hamas now enjoys popular support among the Palestinians. After years of Israel refusing to negotiate with Fatah or take any steps towards halting settlement expansion or improving conditions for the Palestinians, it is entirely predictable that the Palestinians would eventually come to support a more extremist group. For an excellent analysis of this (from a Conservative source, no less), please click this link:

http://www.amconmag.com/article/2006/feb/27/00009/

Directly after this election, which was deemed free and fair by international observers, the Israelis imposed an economic blockade on the Gaza Strip to punish the Palestinians for the way they had voted. Lest anyone has any doubts about the punitive nature of this blockade, read this quote from Dov Weissglass, a top Israeli aide to Ehud Olmert: Its like an appointment with a dietician. The Palestinians will get a lot thinner, but wont die, the advisor joked in response to the announcement of the blockade. Shockingly, the Palestinians didnt seem to find this funny.

So here we have an already poor group of people living in miserable conditions, and the Israelis decide to punish them further by intentionally starving them. Hamas, not surprisingly, begins firing rockets at Israel in an attempt to get them to end the blockade. Please note that when I say not surprisingly here, I am neither promoting nor justifying the rocket fire- I am merely pointing out that it seems logical that Hamas might respond violently to a policy that is openly and admittedly designed to inflict starvation and suffering on its civilian population. Especially when the Israeli government imposing the blockade refuses to acknowledge or negotiate with Hamas in any way.

For a good article on the situation in Gaza, please click the link below:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jan/07/gaza-israel-palestine

How soon everyone seems to have forgotten that not long ago, it was the PLO that Israel refused to negotiate with because they were terrorists who denied Israels right to exist. Now the PLO (or their offshoot, Fatah) is the legitimate political organization which Israel backs. It is also somewhat ironic that throughout the 80s, Israel actually supported Hamas in the hopes that their religious nature would provide a counterweight to the growing support and power of the PLO, which was largely secular. For an article- from the same Conservative source as above- on how Israel helped to nurture and support Hamas in its early stages, click the link below.

http://www.amconmag.com/article/2007/feb/12/00017/

For those that hope for peace in this region, the good news is that history is filled with examples of para-military groups that gradually transitioned into legitimate, non-violent political parties. Some examples of groups that made this shift include the IRA, Nelson Mandelas ANC, and even the Fatah organization, which arose from the one-time-terrorist group the PLO- not to mention Israeli groups such as the Irgun and the Haganhah. That is not to suggest that all these groups are identical, but clearly for those that suggest that Hamas can never be anything but a terrorist organization, there is long line of historical precedents for these transformations from violent outfits into legitimate political entities.

Again- all of these groups started with violence, and then gradually as they achieved legitimacy and political gains, they got less and less violent as time went on. It happened with the PLO, and there is no reason to think it cant also happen with Hamas.

But Israel has to give Hamas a reason not to be violent- by acknowledging that Hamas members are the democratically elected representatives of the Palestinian people and negotiating with them. Stubbornly isolating them and refusing to deal with them- not to mention bombing every building or person associated with them- is simply not a valid approach, nor is it a productive one.

Hamas has repeatedly offered to extend a cease fire with Israel- even a long term one lasting for decades- if Israel will end this crippling blockade on Gaza, stop settlement expansion in the West Bank, and cease military operations on the West Bank and Gaza. Israel has not been willing to do this (for more, please click the link below).

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1059873.html

A poll last year revealed that 64% of the Israelis favored direct negotiations with Hamas. The Israeli citizens seem to understand what the Israeli government does not- there is no military solution to this conflict. You cannot simply drop enough bombs to make Hamas go away (for more, please click the link below).

http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/958473.html

If Israel ends the punitive blockade of Gaza and begins taking actual steps towards ending the military occupation of the West Bank and towards the formation of a viable Palestinian state, then you will see a reduction in violence, and I believe ultimately an end to the violence altogether. But this can only happen if Israel is willing to dismantle most of the settlements in the West Bank and give up control of that land. And for the last 40 years, Israel has not been willing to do that, choosing territorial expansion (through the settlements) over peace and security for the Israeli citizens (not to mention the Palestinians).

Jeff downplays the suffering the Palestinians have undergone under the Israeli occupation and the role that plays in this conflict. Having spent time in the Occupied Territories myself, it seems hard to imagine anyone not recognizing this as a critical component when analyzing this region. Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who knows a little something about seeing people in oppressed conditions, had this to say when he visited the occupied territories a few years ago (click the link below):

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/1957644.stm

An excellent website for learning the specifics of the numerous human rights violations that occur throughout the Occupied Territories is:

http://www.btselem.org/English/index.asp

BTselem is an Israeli organization that has been documenting what goes on in the region for the past 20 years.

For more on the treatment of the Palestinians living under Israeli control, I recommend going to Amnesty Internationals website, selecting Israel under the country drop-down menu on the right, and then clicking on any of the annual reports, which go back as far as 1995. Or just search throughout their website in general.

http://www.amnesty.org/

And let me preempt any claim of Amnesty Int. being anti-Semitic by pointing out that numerous criticisms of Palestinian human rights violations (and Palestinian terrorist acts) can also be found on the same Amnesty website (as well as the BTselem website).

Jeff desperately clings to the notion that Hamas wants to destroy Israel as a justification of Israels actions, but is this really the case? Look at this quote from a senior Hamas member from November 8th of last year, just three months ago:

Hamas administration Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told the members of the European delegation that in response to the conditions of the Quartet, one of which was recognition of the State of Israel, that Hamas would be willing to accept Israel within the 1967 borders.If Israel recognizes our rights as a people, we will be willing to institute a long-term cease fire [hudna]. In response to a question asked by the head of the British delegation regarding Hamass connections with Iran, Haniyeh said that Our ties with Iran are like those with other Muslim states. Does a besieged people that is waiting breathlessly for a ship to come from the sea want to throw the Jews into the ocean? Our conflict is not with the Jews; our problem is with the occupation.

For more from Ismail Haniyeh, read this editorial he printed in the Washington post a couple of years ago. You do not have to like him, or even agree with everything he says (I certainly do not). But while he is critical of Israel, ask yourself if this sounds like a man who is leading an organization that is committed to Israels destruction. To me he sounds like a man that simply wants justice for his people and an end to their suffering.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/10/AR2006071001108.html

Certainly the original charter of Hamas is disturbing. But in recent years, as they have gained political strength, Hamas has stepped back from that rhetoric, and now seems willing to eschew their original stated goal of Israels destruction and accept a two state solution. How can Jews say that a two-state solution will not work if they have not tried it at any time since gaining control of the West Bank and Gaza strip?

For another interesting editorial from a Hamas leader, in which he addresses the Hamas charter, and recognition of Israel, among other things, please click this link below.

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-marzook10jul10,0,1675308.story?coll=la-opinion-rightrail

On a personal note, I often wonder how many American Jews have ever actually met a Palestinian (not the Hamas members above, but an average citizen) and spoken with them, or at the least, read an article written by a Palestinian journalist or writer. If Jeff (or most Jewish Americans) took the time to do this, and listened to what Palestinians actually had to say, they may be quite shocked to find that most Palestinians have no desire to murder Jews. They simply desire what any group of people desires- they want to be able to work, go to school, and travel freely to visit friends and family- without being told by the Israelis when and where they can do so.

Theyd also like to be able to decide how much electricity they get to use, how much water they get to drink, and how much food they get to eat without the Israelis controlling their land and their resources. Theyd like to be able to travel from one predominantly Palestinian town to another without being stopped at a checkpoint and humiliated, or made to sit in the baking sun for hours at a time with no explanation. Theyd like to not be thrown in jail and detained for weeks or months without charges or legal representation. To me, these seem like reasonable desires- I would even go so far as to characterize them as basic human rights.

And to say that denying people access to food, water, electricity, legal rights, or medical care is done in the name of security is preposterous. Certain things may be done in the name of security- these are punitive actions, and do not come close to falling under that realm. Please click the link below for another take on this:

http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-sarraj14-2008dec14,0,3032033.story

Now, allow me to preemptively respond to some of the predictable responses. Yes, some Palestinians have committed horrible acts of terrorism in the past. Yes, some Arab nations have been guilty of exploiting the plight of the Palestinians for political gain without actually doing much to help them. Yes, some of the Palestinian leadership has been corrupt. And yes, the Palestinians may have been mistreated when the West Bank and Gaza were under Jordanian and Egyptian control.

But none of these things change the fact that right now (and for the past 40 years), these lands are under Israeli control (effectively including Gaza, despite the withdrawal), and so now it is Israel who is responsible for the treatment of the Palestinians- and they have not been treated well, to say the least. Until this changes, there will never be peace in this region. It is inevitable that keeping people under such conditions is going to lead to some violence, because no group would passively submit to such treatment.

Even Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, upon preparing to leave office a few months ago, said that Israel must give up most of the Palestinian territories it has occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, if it wants peace.

If we are determined to preserve the Jewish and democratic character of the state of Israel, we must inevitably relinquish, with great pain, parts of our homeland, and we must relinquish Arab neighbourhoods in Jerusalem, said Olmert.

Waiting unnecessarily to make a decision will change the delicate balance in the international community, which currently adheres to the notion of two states for two people with defined, agreed-upon, internationally recognized borders, he said.

Jeff mentions that no concessions the Israelis make will ever be enough. This statement is based on emotion, not fact, as I am pressed to find even a single meaningful concession the Israelis have made to the Palestinians over the past 40 years (the withdrawal from Gaza was essentially meaningless, as Israel still maintained control over its borders and resources, and Oslo was basically a joke) in the name of peace. Settlement expansion has gone on unimpeded, and the treatment of the Palestinians has not gotten any better.

Wait- I just thought of one real concession that Israel made, and it actually led to peace! But it wasnt to the Palestinians. In 1978, Israel gave the Sinai Peninsula, which it had gained control of during the 1967 War, back to Egypt and dismantled its settlements there. And what was the result? Peace for the last 30 years with Egypt! Imagine that- actual concessions leading to peace.

The truth of the matter is that most Israeli civilians are peace loving and innocent of any wrongdoing (though I will say that in Israel, as in America, there has been a disturbing shift to the right among the population over the last few years, as their government has been quite successful in playing up the threat of murderous Islamists in order to forward their agenda of avoiding peace negotiations. America has taught them well apparently- though in America the agenda was the invasion of Iraq. But I digress…). But their government over the years has pursued a series of one disastrous policy after another (continued settlement expansion in the West Bank, the economic siege of Gaza, refusal to negotiate with various incarnations of Palestinian leadership) that has cost many Israelis and Palestinians their lives.

And despite the claims of people like Jeff, most Palestinians are also innocent. But they too, have suffered from an ineffective (and often corrupt) government, and have been victimized by the punitive measures taken against the entire population as a result of the very small number of Palestinians that have resorted to terrorism.

Jeff keeps repeating in his arguments that the Palestinians call for the destruction of Israel. What is his basis for this claim, here in 2009? Where is his proof? I have yet to see a shred of evidence that supports the claim that the majority of Palestinians feel this way.

Jeff also talks about the other Arab nations, who apparently also all want to destroy Israel. Ignoring for a moment the fact that the last time Israel was attacked by an Arab nation was over 35 years ago, has Jeff ever heard of the Arab Peace Initiative, in which all the Arab nations agree to a normalization of relations with Israel in exchange for withdrawal from the Occupied Territories? Why didnt Israel jump on this opportunity? What possible explanation is there for this rejection of an offer of peace from all the Arab nations that are allegedly clamoring for Israels destruction? I believe the only viable explanation is the simple fact that Israel is not yet ready to part with the West Bank.

For the full text of the Arab Peace Initiative, please click the link below.

http://www.al-bab.com/arab/docs/league/peace02.htm

Jeffs claim that the Arabs regard all of Israel as occupied land, and thus wish for its total destruction, is completely unsubstantiated. Again- where is his proof? There may be a small group of extremists that think this way, but the vast majority of people, from the Israeli citizens, to the Palestinians, to the Arab nations, to the Fatah leadership, and even Hamas themselves, is willing to accept Israel within the pre 1967 borders in exchange for the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza strip..

The only evidence Jeff provides for his claim that the Palestinians- and all Arabs- want to destroy Israel is the Hamas charter. Not only does this charter not apply to anyone except for Hamas, but even Hamas themselves have stepped back from this extremist view and are willing to accept a two-state solution (and for those who point to the rockets as proof that Hamas is trying to destroy Israel, please refer back to the beginning of my paper for the facts behind the rocket attacks).

Even Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who is allegedly the new Hitler, admitted that he would accept a two-state solution if that was what the Palestinians wanted. I personally find Ahmadinejad to be a despicable figure, but that does not mean he is anything like Hitler, as a clarification of his comments reveals if you click on the link below and read through it carefully:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mahmoud_Ahmadinejad_and_Israel

Jeff meanwhile, provides little actual evidence, asides from quotes from Golda Meir and a Palestinian leader, both from over 30 years ago, to back up his positions, and this is the problem in a nutshell: This notion of Good Jew vs. Evil Arab is a fantasy left over from another era, and a tired one at that. Jeffs arguments are based almost entirely on emotion, and very little on fact. I challenge him- or anyone- to demonstrate that the Palestinians, or any modern Arab nation for that matter, are committed to Israels destruction. This is pure fantasy, and it allows Jews like Jeff to avoid admitting any responsibility on Israels part regarding both the suffering of the Palestinians and the perpetuation of this violent conflict.

As for the book Jeff cites in an attempt to provide some actual facts; all I can say is type in From Time Immemorial and hoax into google and see what comes up…

A detailed discussion of the circumstances surrounding Israels formation is beyond the scope of this paper. But I will provide one quote from none other than David Ben-Gurion himself that addresses the ludicrous claim that there were no Arabs living in the land allocated for the formation of Israel:

In a speech addressing the Central Committee of the Histadrut on December 30, 1947:
In the area allocated to the Jewish State there are not more than 520,000 Jews and about 350,000 non-Jews, mostly Arabs. Together with the Jews of Jerusalem, the total population of the Jewish State at the time of its establishment will be about one million, including almost 40% non-Jews. such a [population] composition does not provide a stable basis for a Jewish State. This [demographic] fact must be viewed in all its clarity and acuteness. With such a [population] composition, there cannot even be absolute certainty that control will remain in the hands of the Jewish majority…. There can be no stable and strong Jewish state so long as it has a Jewish majority of only 60%.

As to the steps the early Zionists took to remedy this demographic problem; for a painstakingly detailed historical look at the circumstances surrounding Israels formation based largely on declassified Israeli documents (by a respected Israeli historian), I recommend The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappe. It is upsetting to read, but it is an important piece of scholarship that sheds a lot of light on this issue.

Another excellent book for people who are actually interested in moving towards peace instead of falling back on hateful stereotypes is The Other Israel, which is a collection of essays by Israeli writers talking about the Occupation, its effects on the Palestinian people (and its effects on the young Israeli soldiers who are made to enforce it) and why the occupation needs to end for there to be peace.

There is a reasonable solution to this conflict, and it is one that both the majority of Israelis and the majority of Palestinians want. Israel needs to end the blockade on Gaza, which is starving and punishing the people, and negotiate with Hamas, who then, and only then, will have a reason to stop resorting to violence. And then Israel needs to start the withdrawal from the West Bank and give the Palestinians the dignity that comes with a viable state and control over their resources and lives. Only then will there be a peaceful resolution to this conflict.

As for the notion that the Palestinians claim of a national identity is some sort of trick to help them achieve Israels destruction… I dont really know how to respond to this fantasy (the only evidence of which is a 30 year old quote from a PLO member). The notion that these people have been struggling for a state for some 40 years, and as soon as they get one, theyre going to commit national suicide by launching a war against Israel that they couldnt possibly win, seems absurd to me.

But in the unlikely event that an actual country, rather than a rag tag group of militants, decides to launch a war against Israel (something that hasnt happened in 35 years), remember that Israel has one of the strongest militaries in the world, the firm backing of the USA, and a stockpile of nuclear weapons. They should be just fine.

Those that truly care about Israel should devote less time to clinging to outdated fantasies about the anti-Semitic, murderous nature of Arabs, and more time to forging an accurate understanding of the reasons behind the conflict there. For it is only through such understanding that we can ultimately hope to see a push in the direction of a lasting peace.

Sincerely,
Ethan Schapira

Rabbi Yossi Lew
11 years ago

Provocative. Beautiful. Wise. Great job! This ought to be published everywhere… Translated and distributed!
Yasher Koach and good Shabbos