INDEX OF MYTHS:
(2005-2016 archives - CLICK HERE)
The West Bank economy is suffering because Israel is withholding Palestinian tax revenues.
Maintaining UNRWA is vital for the Palestinians’ future.
Designating Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group is “Islamophobic.”
Palestinians no longer object to the creation of Israel.
Israeli forces killed a pregnant Palestinian woman and her 14-month old daughter.
Palestine was heavily populated with Arabs before the Zionists arrived.
The Palestinian Authority places the welfare of the public over paying terrorists.
U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights violates UN Resolution 242.
The United States should not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
The “Great March of Return” has been successful.
U.S. sanctions are having no impact on Iran.
Palestine was always an Arab country.
Palestinians are indigenous to the area previously known as Palestine.
Israel denies Palestinians health care.
Expelling international monitors will lead to a massacre in Hebron.
A new segregated road proves Israel is like Afrikaner South Africa.
Palestinians have the right to sell land to Jews.
Airbnb’s decision to ban rentals in Jewish communities in the West Bank is not anti-Semitic.
The Palestinian public supports a two-state solution.
Threats of terrorism against Israel are restricted to Gaza.
Arab and Muslim states support the BDS campaign against normalizing relations with Israel. (November 1)
The Zionists were colonialist tools of Western imperialism. (October 24)
Israel has no right to detain BDS activists. (October 18)
The U.S. is punishing the Palestinians by cutting funds for East Jerusalem hospitals. (September 24)
The Trump administration closed the PLO office in Washington because it is pro-Israel. (September 17)
Netanyahu backtracked on Rabin’s positions regarding peace with the Palestinians. (September 6)
America's Arab allies routinely support U.S. positions at the U.N. (August 8)
The Nation State Law proves Israel is undemocratic and discriminates against Arabs. (July 27)
Obama was rightly angered by the State Department map of the West Bank. (July 19)
Israel is creating a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. (July 13)
LGBT Palestinians enjoy the same rights as Israelis. (June 28)
Gazan protestors should be entitled to return to their homes in "Palestine." (June 21)
Israel shoots protestors rather than using non-lethal riot control methods. (June 14)
Israelis have plenty of time to prepare for rocket attacks. (May 11)
Palestinians in Syria are given as much attention as those in Gaza. (May 3)
Israel occupies the West Bank. (April 25)
Hamas is not anti-Semitic. (April 13)
Israel's response to the Gaza protests is unreasonable. (April 5)
The Palestinian Authority has stopped payments to terrorists. (March 12)
All Israelis carry guns. (March 5)
Palestinians refuse to cooperate with Israeli security forces. (Februry 22)
Israel is attacking Syria without provocation. (February 16)
UNRWA has removed biased textbooks from its schools. (February 8)
Israel is illegally deporting African asylum seekers. (February 2)
Talking about Israel’s positive treatment of gays is
pinkwashing. (January 18)
Israel is unreasonably barring BDS supporters from Israel. (January 10)
The United States should not have recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. (December 8)
Israel is mistreating Palestinian children by detaining them. (December 1)
Hamas modified its position on Israel after reconciling with the Palestinian Authority. (October 26)
Palestinian reconciliation is a step toward peace. (October 19)
Israel denies health care and medical supplies to Gaza. (October 9)
Israel’s universities are complicit in the “occupation” and should be boycotted. (October 5)
Hamas Does not use Schools as Civilian Shields. (September 28)
The Iran Nuclear Agreement is Working. (September 20)
The Palestinians are descendants of the Canaanites. (August 8)
Anti-boycott legislation violates the First Amendment. (August 1)
Israel is violating the status quo at the Temple Mount by installing metal detectors. (July 21)
Does Israel Need Checkpoints? (July 6)
The Palestinian Authority ceased payments to Terrorists. (June 21)
Hamas has a new charter repudiating its goal to destroy Israel. (May 11)
The Palestinian Authority does not pay terrorists. (May 4)
Marwan Barghouti is a man of peace who should be released from prison. (April 28)
Palestinians believe in a two-state solution. (February 24)
Palestinian groups actually care about Palestinians, and are not just anti-Semitic. (February 24)
A Palestinian state will be democratic. (January 11)
A Palestinian state will be democratic.
One of the assumptions of supporters of the two-state solution in the West is that a Palestinian state will be democratic. Given that no democratic Arab states exist in the Middle East; it is illogical to believe a Palestinian state would be any different. All evidence to this point suggests that a Palestinian state would be yet another autocratic one that denies its people human and civil rights Americans take for granted. Worse, it is likely a Palestinian state will become an autocratic theocracy similar to Saudi Arabia or another radical Islamic regime modeled after Iran.
One need only observe the authoritarian rule of the “moderate” Mahmoud Abbas for a foreshadowing of things to come. Abbas was elected in 2005, but has repeatedly canceled elections, remaining in office more than a decade beyond the end of his term. Abbas does not allow freedom of speech, assembly, or religion. Critics of the regime are jailed or, in some cases, executed. Women’s rights are a slight improvement over those in Gaza, but honor killings and other abuses remain common and gays are persecuted based on Koranic prohibitions forbidding homosexuality.
Putting aside the threat of a radical Islamic state on Israel’s border, the threat to the liberties of Palestinians are also at stake if the Palestinians are allowed to create another Sharia-based state. Such an entity already exists in the Gaza Strip where Hamas rules according to its interpretation of Islam and already resembles Iran in its treatment of women and persecution of Christians.
Abbas is viewed as secular but has become radicalized over the years and openly parrots radical Islamists. In July 2014, for example, Abbas explicitly said the war with Israel is a “war for Allah,” a remark that set off renewed attacks by Palestinians against Jews in Jerusalem (Itamar Marcus, “Abbas Calls for ‘War for Allah,’” Palestinian Media Watch, July 27, 2014).
The world’s obsessive focus on Israeli settlements has allowed Abbas and the leaders of Hamas to oppress their people with impunity. Human rights organizations and Western governments have turned a blind eye to their abuses and, rather than hold them to account, they have been encouraged to continue their undemocratic behavior.
Those who believe in a two-state solution, and lament the possibility it has become less likely, should direct their criticism at the Palestinians’ growing radicalism, which threatens the well-being of their own people and the security of Israel.
Palestinian groups actually care about Palestinians, and are not just anti-Semitic.
People of good will on all sides of the political spectrum recognize the difficulties Palestinians experience living under Israeli rule, and many would like to see the establishment of a Palestinian state coexisting beside Israel.
Numerous proponents of Palestinian rights, however, are selective in their concern for the Palestinian people. The anti-Semitic BDS campaign advocates, along with many other sympathizers who cry crocodile tears for the Palestinians on campus and in the media, only care about Palestinian-Jewish interactions.
One longstanding example is the complete lack of interest in the treatment of Palestinians in refugee camps in Arab states. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have languished in camps in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria for decades. They remain in camps for one reason: the Arab states refuse to resettle them or grant them citizenship.
Ironically, at a time when Arab refugees are being welcomed around the world (albeit sometimes reluctantly by Western societies), Palestinian refugees remain unwanted in lands where they share the same language, religion and culture.
Why have Palestinians been treated so callously by their fellow Arabs?
One historical reason is that the Arab states wanted to keep the refugee issue on the agenda to embarrass Israel and induce international pressure on Israel to allow them to immigrate. The Arab hope was to flood Israel with hostile Palestinians who could act as a fifth-column weakening Israel from within. As the refugee population swelled to a population now exceeding five million, thanks to the absurd criteria of the UN Refugee Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), the Arabs expected the Jewish population to be exceeded by that of the Palestinians, effectively changing Israel into a Palestinian state.
For decades, the Arab goal was to destroy Israel and the Palestinians were used as pawns. That motivation has subsided in recent years after Egypt and Jordan signed peace treaties with Israel, and other Arab states began to recognize they share strategic interests with Israel.
Still, the Arab states would prefer to be rid of the Palestinians because they are held in low esteem (despised in some places), threaten local economies and are distrusted. You never hear advocates for the Palestinians complain, however, about the virtual incarceration of Palestinians in camps by Arab leaders.
Where are the campus protests over Lebanon’s treatment of Palestinians? According to UNRWA, they face a variety of employment restrictions, are denied social and civil rights, have no access to public social services and very limited access to public health or educational facilities.
Few of today’s students are old enough to remember when Kuwait expelled 300,000 Palestinians in retaliation for Palestinian support for Saddam Hussein’s aggression. Advocates for the Palestinians at the time were also silent.
Today, the situation for Palestinians may be worse than ever, not in the West Bank or Gaza, but in Syria. An estimated 560,000 Palestinians lived in Syria before the Syrian Civil War, accounting for roughly 3 percent of the population (
UNRWA: 560,000 Palestinian refugees affected in the Syria crises The Palestine Information Center, January 24, 2017). Over 337,000 live in refugee camps, the largest of which, Yarmouk, has been besieged by the forces of both ISIS and the Assad regime. Nearly 3,500 Palestinians have been killed in Syria (Khaled Abu Toameh, “The Other Palestinians” Gatestone Institute, August 31, 2016).
Most the estimated 450,000 Palestinians living in Syria are internally displaced, lacking access to even basic services and food. More than 120,000 Palestinians have fled Syria; an estimated 31,000 now live in Lebanon, another 16,000 live in Jordan, and many more seek refuge in Europe (UNRWA).
Two West Bank parties – the PFLP and the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party – have both given their support to the Assad regime even as 450 Palestinians were tortured to death by the Assad regime and 1,100 more were imprisoned (Mehdi Hasan, “The Palestinians of Yarmouk and the shameful silence when Israel is not to blame” The Guardian, April 12, 2015).
Meanwhile, more than 100,000 Palestinians from the territories work in Israel, where they enjoy equal workers’ rights with Israeli citizens. Thousands more work in the settlements that Palestinian advocates thousands of miles away revile. Palestinians in the West Bank enjoy a higher standard of living than most Arabs outside the oil-rich Gulf States, and all their brethren in the refugee camps. No Palestinians are being turned into refugees or killed as part of a deliberate campaign to eliminate them. In fact, in past peace talks, Israel expressed a willingness to accept as many as 100,000 refugees as part of a final settlement.
Israel alone is vilified for its treatment of the Palestinians. A global anti-Semitic BDS movement is intimidating artists who wish to visit and perform in Israel, seeking to deny Israelis or their supporters academic freedom and roiling campuses with disingenuous divestment resolutions. Activists engage in die-ins, build mock walls, and disrupt speakers who dare to speak positively about Israel.
Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians face deprivation, death and displacement in Syria and not a word of protest is heard from those who profess concern for the Palestinian people. No coalitions are mobilized, no demonstrations organized and no weeklong events scheduled to publicize the plight of the Palestinians in Syria.
Looking at the evidence, it appears that Palestinian lives are considered unimportant unless they are somehow intertwined with Jews. The selective outrage directed at Israel raises serious questions about the motives of many of the people who profess concern for the Palestinian people, and may explain why so many have joined the anti-Semitic campaign to delegitimize Israel.
Palestinians believe in a two-state solution.
While Palestinian leaders sometimes give lip-service to the idea of a two-state solution, they convey a very different message in word and deed. They also communicate what many believe to be their true goal – a single state of Palestine replacing Israel – through imagery. Take this map that appeared on the Palestinian Authority web site, which really communicates better than any words the Palestinian objective.
The President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, is also head of its dominant faction, Fatah. The word “Fatah” is a reverse acronym of the Arabic Harekat at-Tahrir al-Wataniyyeh al-Falastiniyyeh, meaning “conquest by means of jihad [Islamic holy war].” The Fatah flag features a grenade with crossed rifles superimposed on the map of Israel. This emphasizes the dedication of Fatah, along with the other “liberation” groups, to the “armed struggle” against Israel, which is a euphemism for terrorism against civilians.
It should be noted that Fatah is often referred to as “secular;” however, Fatah’s goal is similar to that of the radical Islamic Hamas organization in its devotion to jihad. This is a reminder that the conflict with Israel is less about land and politics and more about the refusal of Muslim extremists to accept a Jewish state. Not surprisingly, the “moderate” Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly refused to recognize Israel as a Jewish state or agree to a settlement that would result in a Palestinian state coexisting with the Jewish state of Israel.
Fatah is the largest faction of the PLO, which has its own unambiguous emblem:
To make sure that young Palestinians get the message, this is the emblem for the Fatah Youth Movement:
The Palestinian education system is committed to communicating to students of all ages that there is only one state from the Mediterranean Sea to the Jordan river – Palestine.
PA Minister of Education poses with map of
Palestine replacing Israel (February 2, 2017)
The Palestinian textbooks send a similar message to school children. It is difficult to find a book that has a map of Israel. Here are just two examples:
“Al-Tarbiyah al-Wataniyyah” (“National Education”)
3rd grade, page 49, academic year 2002-2003
“The Geography of Palestine”-
The two-state solution may provide the best opportunity for peace between Israelis and Palestinians, but the evidence suggests the Palestinians have a different goal in mind (Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center at the Center for Special Studies (C.S.S), Palestinian Media Watch).
Marwan Barghouti is a man of peace who should be released from prison.
The New York Times published an op-ed by Marwan Barghouti describing him as “a Palestinian leader and parliamentarian.” It was a description that provoked an uproar and was so misleading that the Times public editor apologized for the failure to fully identify the biography and credentials of the writer who she acknowledged “was given five consecutive life terms after being convicted in an Israeli criminal court of premeditated murder for his role in terrorist attacks that killed five people, along with other crimes” (Liz Spayd, “An Op-Ed Author Omits His Crimes, and The Times Does Too,” New York Times, April 18, 2017).
Barghouti had been out of the news before his op-ed explaining his call for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails to go on a hunger strike. Contrary to the Times’s characterization of Barghouti, his experience as a leader is limited to commanding a terrorist organization.
Barghouti was the commander of the Tanzim, a terrorist arm of the PLO directed by Yasser Arafat. He also coordinated the activities of these “nationalist forces” with those of the Islamist organizations. In 2004, an Israeli court found that he gave direct orders resulting in the deaths of five people:
- Yosef Habi (52, from Netanya), Eli Dahan (53, from Lod), and policeman Salim Barakat (33, from Yarka) were killed and many people were injured in an attack at the Seafood Market restaurant in Tel Aviv on March 5, 2002.
- Yoela Chen (45, from Giv’at Ze’ev) was murdered in an attack at a gas station near the entrance to Giv’at Ze’ev on January 15, 2002.
- The Greek monk Georgios Tsibouktzakis (36, from the St. George Monastery) was murdered in an attack on the road between Jerusalem and Ma’ale Adumim on June 12, 2001.
Barghouti also asked Arafat to approve payments to terrorists (Yossi Kuperwasser, “Who is Marwan Barghouti?” Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, April 19, 2017).
Though Palestinians often complain about Israeli military courts, suggesting they are unfair, Barghouti was convicted in a civilian court. He has served only 15 years of the five life sentences plus 40 years he was given by the court. He is not a political prisoner and has he been mistreated. One person who has seen his cell noted it is well lit and full of books, which helped him complete a Ph.D. in political science from prison (Reuven Ben-Shalom, “No Nelson Mandela,” Jerusalem Post, April 18, 2017).
During his incarceration, Barghouti has not been known for advocating prisoners’ rights; hence, the suspicion that his effort to mobilize a strike now has less to do with prison conditions and more to do with politics. Mahmoud Abbas is on his last legs and jockeying has begun to succeed him. Instead of appointing him to a senior post, Abbas has been taking steps to isolate Barghouti and his supporters within Fatah (Avi Issacharoff, “Marwan Barghouti’s great gamble,” Times of Israel, April 18, 2017).
Should the Palestinian Authority ever hold an election, something Abbas has put off for more than a decade to stay in power, it is conceivable that Barghouti could be elected president based on some polls, but the reliability of Palestinian polls is questionable given the lack of free speech in the PA. Moreover, his popularity is partly due to his status as a prisoner responsible for killing Jews, his immunity from charges of corruption because of his incarceration, and his inability to make any political decisions from jail that might upset voters. Though he has occasionally made statements suggesting he is interested in reaching a peace agreement with Israel, he has indicated no willingness to compromise on core issues such as refugees, settlements, borders or Jerusalem, making him no less intransigent than Abbas or his mentor Arafat.
The idea that Barghouti could become the unquestioned leader of the Palestinians and broker a peace treaty is merely hypothetical (fanciful may be a better word). Barghouti’s role in the murder of five Israelis and involvement in terrorism, however, is a fact. In the past, ignoring facts to engage in wishful thinking has not brought Israelis or Palestinians peace or security.
The Palestinian Authority does not pay terrorists.
Though the Palestinians have repeatedly pledged to end terrorism and incitement – Yasser Arafat’s renunciation of terror was a prerequisite to the Oslo negotiations – the Palestinian Authority provides generous financial payments to terrorists and their families, creating incentives to attack Israelis.
According to laws passed in 2004 and amended in 2013, Palestinians and Israeli Arabs who are convicted of terrorism are entitled to monthly stipends. Men who have served at least five years in Israeli jails, and women who served at least two, are entitled to these “salaries” for life. Those imprisoned for three to five years receive $570 per month. Someone sentenced to 30 years or more is entitled to $3,400 per month. The more heinous the crime, the more money a prisoner receives. The government also provides health insurance and tuition for prisoners as well as their spouses and children. Families of terrorists who have died or were wounded receive $1,560 plus monthly checks for at least $364. Members of PLO factions arrested outside of “Palestine” are also entitled to benefits. Israeli Arabs and Arab residents of Jerusalem receive bonuses.
Once released, prisoners are given priority for employment. Any male ex-prisoner incarcerated for 10 or more years, and female who served five years, is entitled to a position in the PA. All former prisoners’ social security and pension fees are paid according to the number of years they spent in jail. If their salary is lower than what they received in prison, the PA makes up the difference and, if a prisoner cannot be employed, they are still entitled to a monthly salary, disability payments and death benefits payable to their families (Douglas J. Feith & Sander Gerber, “The Department of Pay-for-Slay,” Commentary, March 15, 2017; Thane Rosenbaum, “Palestinians are rewarding terrorists. The U.S. should stop enabling them,” Washington Post, April 30, 2017).
The PA, which has been in dire financial straits, and is completely dependent on foreign aid for its survival, spends roughly $140 million for payments to terrorists who are in jail or have been released. In 2016, more than 32,500 martyrs’ families received payments of approximately $175 million. Thus, nearly 7 percent of the PA budget is dedicated to terrorism.
The United States and some European countries have realized they are underwriting this “pay-for-slay” policy and called on Mahmoud Abbas to cease these payments. Congress is considering legislation that would cut aid, now approximately $400 million annually, if the PA continues these payments. Abbas, however, not only refuses to halt the stipends to terrorists, he has increased the amount allotted to them and their families (Itamar Marcus, “PA defies US, will raise payments to Martyrs’ families,” Palestinian Media Watch, April 9, 2017; “Abbas will continue to pay Palestinian prisoners, PA minister says,” Times of Israel, April 29, 2017).
Peace and terrorism are incompatible. The incessant violence directed at Israeli citizens by Palestinians is the principal obstacle to ending the conflict. Israelis of all political stripes are unwilling to risk ceding territory to the Palestinians so long as they believe this will make them more insecure. They learned a painful lesson when all the Jews living in the Gaza Strip were evacuated and instead of peace they were bombarded with more than 10,000 rockets. So long as the Palestinian Authority continues to provide financial incentives for Palestinians to engage in terror, no one should expect Israel to withdraw from the West Bank. Some Palestinians may expect their brothers and sisters who have been imprisoned or died fighting to liberate “Palestine” to be compensated; however, they are only sabotaging their hopes for gaining independence.
By continuing to provide financial aid to the PA, Europe and the United States are subsidizing Palestinian terror and undermining their interest in ending the conflict.
An Israeli father of six was killed last night in cold blood by Palestinian terrorists. Hamas praises the killers and PA laws will provide them financial rewards. Look no further to why there is no peace.
—David M. Friedman (@USAmbIsrael) 10 January 2018
Hamas has a new charter repudiating its goal to destroy Israel.
Hamas announced on May 1, 2017, that it was adopting a new political policy document. Fawzi Barhoum, a Hamas spokesman in Gaza, said the group had to move beyond its original charter to achieve its goals. “The document gives us a chance to connect with the outside world,” he said. “To the world, our message is: Hamas is not radical. We are a pragmatic and civilized movement. We do not hate the Jews. We only fight who occupies our lands and kills our people” (Ian Fisher, “In Palestinian Power Struggle, Hamas Moderates Talk on Israel,” New York Times, May 1, 2017).
This new document, however, neither replaces the charter nor abrogates the group’s founding document calling for Israel's destruction, according senior Hamas official Mahmoud al-Zahar. This is clear from the supposedly significant reference to the idea of accepting the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Jerusalem based on the 1949 armistice line. The statement reiterates several times, however, that Hamas does not seek to liberate the West Bank, but all of Palestine from the river to the Sea (Points 2 and 20).
“When people say that Hamas has accepted the 1967 borders, like others, it is an offense to us,” Zahar said. “We have reaffirmed the unchanging, constant principles that we do not recognize Israel; we do not recognize the land occupied in 1948 as belonging to Israel; and we do not recognize that the people who came here [Jews] own this land.” Zahar said the reference to the 1967 borders “is a tactical step that does not harm the right of the Palestinians to all of the land of Palestine” (“Official Denies Hamas Has Softened Stance Toward Israel,” Reuters, May 10, 2017; Amad, March 28, 2017, translated by Palestinian Media Watch, April 21, 2017).
The statement also rejects any peace agreement with Israel and calls for ceasing the beneficial cooperative activities between Israelis and Palestinians made possible by the Oslo Accords (Point 21).
The document also repeatedly claims that “Palestine,” which includes Israel, has a special status as “an Arab Islamic land.” “Palestine,” however, has no special status in Islam or connection to Arabs living outside the area (Points 3, 7 and 10).
Though acknowledging the area as the birthplace of Jesus Christ, the statement makes no mention anywhere of a Jewish connection to the Land of Israel. Hamas also claims Jerusalem as the capital of “Palestine.” A state of Palestine has never existed and Jerusalem has never been the capital of any state other than Israel or the ancient Jewish kingdoms. The city has no special status for the Arabs and only the religious shrines are of significance to Muslims (Point 7).
The demand that Palestinian refugees be allowed to return to land that is now Israel is a nonstarter for negotiations. Even Palestinian negotiators have acknowledged this is an unreasonable demand (Points 12, 13, and 20).
In a clear effort to avoid being accused of anti-Semitism, the statement replaces many of the blatantly anti-Semitic references in the charter with euphemistic references to “Zionists” and specifically says it has no conflict with Jews. Hamas is aware, however, that most Zionists are Jews. Hamas also insists that only Palestinians have a right to self-determination. Denying the same right to the Jewish people is anti-Semitic (Points 14, 16 and 18).
The “moderation” of the new statement does not include a repudiation; on the contrary, Hamas doubles down by suggesting it has a divine right to engage in terrorism and that the entire Arab/Islamic world has an obligation to engage in a jihad against Israel (Points 15, 23, 25 and 26).
The statement’s references to tolerance and upholding human rights are laughable given the group’s persecution of Christians, gays and other Palestinians who do not accept its radical Islamic ideology (Points 8 and 17).
Hamas also rewrites history throughout the document as when it suggests anti-Semitism was purely a European phenomenon (Point 17). While their experience in Europe was different, and in many cases more severe, Jews in Arab and Muslim lands was frequently persecuted. Muslims created a special category of second-class treatment for Jews and Christians known as dhimmitude.
The notion that Hamas is moderating its positions is belied by the recent appointment of Yahya Sinwar, who “represents the most radical and extreme line of Hamas,” according to Kobi Michael, a former head of the Palestinian desk at Israel’s Ministry for Strategic Affairs (Isabel Kershner, “Hamas Appoints Hard-Line Militant as Gaza Leader,” New York Times, February 13, 2017).
Sinwar favors improving ties between Hamas and Iran and, while the statement talks about an interest in unifying the Palestinian people, Hamas has been arresting Fatah members in the Gaza Strip in its ongoing campaign to weaken Mahmoud Abbas and undermine the Palestinian Authority. The organization also remains active in the West Bank where its operatives seek to overthrow Abbas (“Fatah claims that Hamas arrested its members in Gaza,” Middle East Monitor, January 16, 2017; “Fatah-Hamas relations,” Palestinian Media Watch, Undated).
Even Fatah dismissed the new charter as “nothing new” (“Hamas’ political document has nothing new, says Fatah,” WAFA, May 2, 2017) and Yossi Kuperwasser, a retired Israeli brigadier general who led the army’s research arm, said, “Not even one mind” will be changed in Israel (“Nobody will be affected by this” (Ian Fisher, “In Palestinian Power Struggle, Hamas Moderates Talk on Israel,” New York Times, May 1, 2017).
The international community, apparently, the target of the new statement, should not change its policy of excluding Hamas from negotiations since the group deliberately reiterated positions that conflict with the conditions set for ending its pariah status: ceasing terror, recognizing Israel’s right to exist, and abiding by past Israeli-Palestinian agreements.
The Palestinian Authority Ceased Payments to Terrorists.
During their meeting in Bethlehem on May 23, 2017, President Donald Trump angrily accused Mahmoud Abbas of lying to him at their May 3 meeting in Washington, D.C., when the Palestinian Authority president insisted that the PA did not engage in incitement against Israelis and Jews. Trump was also furious about the PA’s “pay-for-slay” policy of providing salaries to convicted Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons and reiterated the demand he had made at the White House for Abbas to end the practice (Nathan Guttman, “How Payments To Terrorists Became An Issue At The Trump-Abbas Meeting,” Forward, May 4, 2017;Jack Moore, “Trump Raged At Palestinian Leader Mahmoud Abbas In Bethlehem Meeting: ‘You Lied To Me,’” Newsweek, May 29, 2017).
On June 13, 2017, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told senators that pressure from the president led the PA to change its policy. Palestinian officials, however, quickly denied Tillerson’s claim. “There is no end to the payments” of Palestinian prisoners, declared Issa Karake, head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs. “We reject ending the subsidies to the prisoners and families of martyrs. We will not apologize for it” (Dov Lieber, “Defying US, Palestinian official vows payments to terrorists will continue,” Times of Israel, June 14, 2017).
According to Karake, Abbas told Trump he would not “stop the allowances of the families of the prisoners and Martyrs (Shahids), and emphasized his absolute support for them (i.e., for the payments).” Other Palestinian officials made similar comments (Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik, “Did the PA lie to the US Secretary of State?” Palestinian Media Watch, June 14, 2017).
Following the Palestinian statements, Tillerson modified his testimony before a House committee on June 14, 2017, saying the United States was engaged in an “active discussion” on the payments and that “we’ve taken the position to the Palestinian Authority in a very unequivocal way.” Tillerson said he told the Palestinians, “You either take care of this yourself or someone else will take care of it for you” (Eric Cortellessa, “Tillerson waters down statement that Palestinians ‘changed policy’ of terror payments,” Times of Israel, June 14, 2017).
In a meeting with Palestinian officials on June 20, 2017, Trump’s envoy Jason Greenblatt reiterated the demand that the Palestinians cease payments to the so-called
Martyr’s Fund. A Palestinian official said the meeting did not go well and the request was rejected (
Kushner kicks off Mideast peace push with first solo visit, Associated Press, June 21, 2017).
Meanwhile, Congress is considering legislation, the Taylor Force Act, which would cut U.S. funding to the Palestinian Authority if it continues to provide monetary support to the families of those who commit acts of terror against Israelis and others.
Does Israel Need Checkpoints?
It is not unusual for nations to guard their borders and to establish checkpoints to prevent people from illegally entering their countries. The United States has checkpoints at its borders and airports, and as Americans saw on September 11, these are necessary but not foolproof security precautions.
In the case of Israel, the necessity for checkpoints has been created by the Palestinians. By pursuing a violent campaign of terror against Israel’s citizens, they have forced Israel to set up barriers to make it as difficult as possible for terrorists to enter Israel to carry out acts of violence. The checkpoints are an inconvenience to innocent Palestinians, but they save lives.
For example, on July 4, 2017, border police foiled a terror attack thanks to a checkpoint near East Jerusalem. A car was stopped after security forces noticed its front and rear license plates did not match. Six Palestinians lacking entry permits were detained after the vehicle was searched and a bag of knives, stun grenades and Molotov cocktail materials were found (Jacob Magid,
Border police say Jerusalem terror attack foiled at West Bank checkpoint Times of Israel, July 4, 2017).
The following are just a few other examples of how checkpoints prevent terrorism:
¦ On October 23, 2012, a nineteen-year-old Palestinian was caught at the Kalandiya check point with eight pipe bombs he was trying to bring into Jerusalem.
¦ On July 27, 2014, police stopped a suspicious vehicle at a checkpoint near Beitar Illit and discovered a large explosive device attached to gas cylinders inside the car.
¦ On June 29, 2015, a female soldier was stabbed at a checkpoint between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
¦ On May 10, 2016, an Israeli officer was seriously wounded by an explosive device at the Hizme checkpoint near Jerusalem. Five other explosives were found at the scene.
Barriers are not set up to humiliate Palestinians, but to ensure the safety of Israeli citizens. Frequently, when Israel has relaxed its policy and withdrawn checkpoints, Palestinian terrorists have taken advantage of the opportunity to launch new attacks on innocent Israelis.
Still, Israel has dismantled most of its unmanned checkpoints, reduced the number of manned checkpoints, and streamlined the entry process.
Israel is violating the status quo at the Temple Mount by installing metal detectors.
Since 1967, the Temple Mount has often been a flashpoint for violence. On July 14, 2017, two Israeli policemen were murdered by Israeli Arab terrorists at the entrance to the Temple Mount (Nir Hasson, Barak Ravid and Jack Khoury, “Two Israeli Police Officers Killed in Temple Mount Shooting, Another Wounded,” Haaretz, July 14, 2017). In response, Israel installed metal detectors. Subsequently, Muslim protestors attacked Israeli police trying to maintain order and to ensure the safety of all worshippers.
Critics of Israel’s actions apparently are unconcerned that the third holiest place in Islam, the al-Aqsa Mosque, is used as an arsenal for provocateurs. Most recently, the men who murdered the two Israeli police officers had an accomplice who brought their guns in a backpack onto the Temple Mount and left them in the al-Aqsa Mosque (Alexander Fulbright, “Police video shows how Friday’s terrorists got their guns onto Temple Mount,” Times of Israel, July 20, 2017).
Rather than see the metal detectors as a way of protecting Muslims and other visitors to the Temple Mount, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other Muslim leaders condemned Israel. The Jerusalem Wakf Islamic trust called on worshipers to refrain from entering the compound until the detectors are removed, and Abbas’s Fatah declared a “Day of Rage,” which was followed by clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces (Amos Harel, Jack Khoury and Barak Ravid, “Israeli Army, Shin Bet Urging Netanyahu to Relent on Temple Mount Metal Detectors,” Haaretz, July 19, 2017).
A similar uproar occurred when Israel and Jordan mutually agreed that video cameras should be installed on the Temple Mount in 2016 following several weeks of rioting prompted by Palestinian propaganda accusing Israel of endangering the al-Aqsa Mosque (Shlomo Cesana, “Surveillance cameras to be installed on Temple Mount,” Israel Hayom, March 6, 2016). Under pressure from the Palestinians, and threats to prevent their installation, Jordan reversed its position (Khaled Abu Toameh, “Jordan Abandons Plan To Install Cameras On Temple Mount,” Jerusalem Post, April 18, 2016).
The need for such measures has been proven by the frequent outbursts of violence, and the use of the Temple Mount as an arsenal.
Greater security is also an answer to the “al-Aqsa Mosque is in danger” libel Abbas periodically resurrects to provoke violence as it will prevent any extremists from threatening the area’s sanctity.
At a time when terrorism has made it commonplace for security checks at not only airports, but government buildings, shopping malls, stadiums and tourist attractions, it is difficult to fathom the logic behind opposing similar measures at the Temple Mount. Other holy sites, including the Vatican in Rome, the Buddhist pilgrimage site Bodh Gaya in India, and the Sikh Golden Temple in India, have security checks and cameras. Jews and other visitors to the Western Wall must go through scanners as well (Seth J. Frantzman, “From Mecca To Rome, How Do Other Countries Protect Their Holy Sites?” Jerusalem Post, July 19, 2017).
Metal detectors are inconveniences, especially in places where large crowds congregate such as the Temple Mount. Mecca has far more visitors, however, and that has not stopped the Saudis from installing surveillance cameras and issuing pilgrims electronic bracelets (“How Saudi Hajj pilgrim ‘e-bracelets’ work,” BBC, September 9, 2016). Metal detectors also screen visitors before they get to Mecca.
Israel may yet decide the threat of violence from protests outweighs the value of security measures, as it did when it went along with Jordan’s decision not to install security cameras on the Temple Mount. Such a decision would not change the legitimacy of taking the same type of steps to protect visitors and worshippers that are used at other holy sites around the world. Alas, this is the price terrorists have forced all of us to pay.
Anti-boycott legislation violates the First Amendment.
In response to the anti-Semitic boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign, bipartisan legislation has been introduced in Congress to expand the existing anti-boycott law on the books since 1977. The ACLU and others have falsely claimed the new legislation is a violation of the First Amendment that will criminalize criticism of Israel. As legal scholar Eugene Kontorovich has noted, “the ACLU’s position would make many U.S. sanctions against foreign countries (Iran, Russia, Cuba, etc.) unconstitutional” (Eugene Kontorovich, “Israel anti-boycott bill does not violate free speech,” Washington Post, July 27, 2017).
The Export Administration Act (EEA) was adopted during the Carter administration after the scope of the Arab boycott became clear to members of Congress. Hundreds of U.S. companies were being blacklisted for associations with Israel, and those wishing to do business with Arab countries were being asked to certify that they had no connections to Israel. The law prevents companies from cooperating with the boycott by refusing to do business with Israel or furnishing information about their relations with Israel. The Arab League boycott remains in place and the Office of Antiboycott Compliance continues to enforce the law and impose fines and other penalties when companies are found to have violated the law.
The EEA applies only to the Arab League boycott. The proposed Israel Anti-Boycott Act simply enhances this existing legislation by applying it to boycotts against Israel by any foreign government or international governmental organization. It also specifically opposes the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution of March 24, 2016, which urges countries to pressure companies to divest from, or break contracts with, Israel.
The legislation would also amend the Export-Import Bank Act of 1945 to include efforts to penalize or limit commercial relations with Israel as a reason for the bank to deny credit applications for the export of goods and services between the United States and foreign countries.
Nothing in the law prevents expressions of support for boycotts. Even the anti-Semitic divestment campaigns mounted on many college campuses would remain protected.
The Palestinians are descendants of the Canaanites.
Palestinian claims to be related to the Canaanites are a recent phenomenon and contrary to historical evidence. The Canaanites disappeared three millennia ago and, over the last two thousand years, there have been massive invasions (e.g., the Crusades), migrations, the plague, and other manmade or natural disasters that killed off most of the local people. The entire local population has been replaced many times over. During the British Mandate alone, more than 100,000 Arabs emigrated from neighboring countries and are today considered Palestinians.
Sherif Hussein, the guardian of the Islamic Holy Places in Arabia, said the Palestinians’ ancestors had only been in the area for one thousand years (Al-Qibla, March 23, 1918, quoted in Samuel Katz, Battleground-Fact and Fantasy in Palestine, NY: Bantam Books, 1977, p. 126). Even the Palestinians themselves have acknowledged their association with the region came long after the Jews. In testimony before the Anglo-American Committee in 1946, for example, they claimed a connection to Palestine of more than one thousand years, dating back no further than the conquest of Muhammad’s followers in the seventh century (British Government, “Report of the Anglo-American Committee of Enquiry, 1946, Part VI,” April 20, 1946).
In 2017, scientists examining DNA samples of the region's ancient and modern inhabitants found evidence that Lebanese Arabs, not Palestinians, are the most likely descendants of the Canaanites (Chris Graham, “Study shows ancient Canaanites survived divine call in Bible for them to be wiped out,” Telegraph, July 28, 2017).
Meanwhile, no serious historian questions the more than three-thousand-year-old Jewish connection to the land of Israel, or the modern Jewish people’s relation to the ancient Hebrews.
We know that some of those who live in our villages are Jews who converted to Islam after the Muslim conquests beginning in the 7th century, and most of us are the descendants of foreign workers who came to British Mandate of Palestine from the various Arab countries in the wake of the Zionist enterprise. By trying to trace our “ancestry” to the Canaanites, we lie to ourselves and demonstrate our silliness and self-deception to the world. And when we try to claim that Jesus was a Palestinian, we make ourselves an international laughing stock.
—Bassam Tawil, “Muslim Blood and Al-Aqsa,” Gatestone Institute, (October 31, 2015)
The Iran Nuclear Agreement is Working.
We definitely know that some aspects of the nuclear agreement have not worked. More ominous are the things that we do not know because of the failure of the supposedly “unprecedented” verification regime.
Critics warned that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was flawed; nevertheless, it was agreed to by the United States and its international partners. The most immediate sign of its failure was the increased bellicosity of Iran and the intensification of its efforts to destabilize its neighbors and establish a hegemonic Shiite sphere of influence that threatens Israel and our Arab allies. “The list of Iranian transgressions has increased dramatically since the date that the [nuclear deal] was signed,” said CIA director Mike Pompeo (Jenna Lifhits, “Cotton on Iran Nuclear Deal: ‘I Simply Do Not See How We Can Certify,’” Weekly Standard, September 18, 2017).
David Albright, President of the Institute for Science and International Security, testified in Congress:
On September 14, 2017, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said, “Iran is clearly in default of these expectations of the JCPOA,” adding that Iran’s actions are “threatening the security of those in the region as well as the United States itself” (Nick Wadhams, “Tillerson Says Iran ‘Clearly in Default’ of Nuclear Deal’s Terms,” Bloomberg, September 14, 2017).
Besides contravening the spirit, Iran has also violated the letter of the agreement. Supporters of the deal say the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has certified Iran’s compliance to prove that it is working. They neglect to mention, however, that the IAEA has found that Iran has committed several violations and only complied when caught. According to National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster, “the IAEA has identified, and we’ve identified some of these breaches that Iran has then corrected. But what does that tell you about Iranian behavior? They’re not just walking up to the line on the agreement. They’re crossing the line at times” (“General H.R. McMaster on global threats,” Fox News, September 17, 2017).
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano revealed in September 2017 that Russia is opposing the agency’s enforcement of one part of the JCPOA – Section T – which bans “activities which could contribute to the development of a nuclear explosive device,” such as using computer models that simulate a nuclear bomb, or designing multi-point, explosive detonation systems. The U.S. believes the IAEA is responsible for monitoring these activities and the failure to do so is a flaw in the agreement that inhibits the IAEA’s ability to verify Iran is not engaged in nuclear weapons research and development (Francois Murphy, “IAEA chief calls for clarity on disputed section of Iran nuclear deal,” Reuters, (September 26, 2017).
Albright notes that it is difficult to assess Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA because of “the excessive secrecy surrounding the implementation of the deal and its associated parallel arrangements” (David Albright, “House Subcommittee Testimony of David Albright on Assessing Iran Nuclear Deal,” Institute for Science and International Security, April 5, 2017). Nevertheless, his institute found several Iranian violations of the agreement, as well as cases where Tehran exploited loopholes in the deal to weaken its effectiveness. For example:
- Iran has twice had more than its heavy water limit of 130 metric tons inside Iran.
- Iran is likely operating advanced IR-6 centrifuges in excess of the limit allowed.
- The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran has sought sensitive nuclear-related materials and facilities beyond what it needs or should get.
- Iran is seeking to exploit a loophole in reactor restrictions, including work on naval propulsion reactors.
German intelligence has caught Iran seeking “products and scientific know-how for the field of developing weapons of mass destruction as well [as] missile technology” (Benjamin Weinthal, “Iran Still on the Hunt for Nuclear Weapons Technology Across Germany,” Weekly Standard, July 7, 2017). Additional intelligence reports from Germany indicated Iran attempted to buy nuclear technology illegally 32 times
that definitely or with high likelihood were undertaken for the benefit of proliferation programs (Benjamin Weinthal, “Iran attempted to buy nuclear technology illegally 32 times, German agency says,” Fox News, October 9, 2017).
Iran has also violated agreements related to the deal, notably, by its noncompliance with UNSC resolution 2231’s prohibition on conventional weapons sales and transfers and its prohibition on ballistic missile testing.
More important, negotiators accepted Iranian demands to cease investigation of its prior weapons research and, according to Iran, barred monitors from military sites despite the fact the JCPOA was described as giving the IAEA the right to visit any site in Iran, whether military or civilian (David Albright and Olli Heinonen, “Verifying Section T of the Iran Nuclear Deal: Iranian Military Site Access Essential to JCPOA Section T Verification,” Institute for Science and International Security, August 31, 2017). According to Israeli sources, within a few months of signing the JCPOA, the IAEA was given information regarding sites Iran had not reported as part of its nuclear program and where it was believed forbidden nuclear military research and development activity was being conducted. Few of the suspected sites were inspected because of Iran’s refusal to allow access and the IAEA’s unwillingness to confront Iran on the issue (Barak Ravid, “Israel: IAEA Received Info About Suspected Iranian Nuclear Sites but Didn't Inspect Many of Them,” Haaretz, September 17, 2017).
This is quite different from Obama’s promise of “unprecedented” inspections (Glenn Kessler, “President Obama’s claim of ‘unprecedented inspections’ in Iran,” Washington Post, February 6, 2014). Since the IAEA does not visit the sites where Iran is most likely engaged in prohibited activities, there is no way to know whether Iran is engaged in prohibited activities at those locations.
Setting aside the military installations that Iran has vowed never to permit IAEA inspectors to visit, the Iranians themselves have hinted at suspicious activities. The head of Iran’s nuclear program, for example, has said Iran has the capability to build advanced centrifuges on short notice. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Iran is fully prepared to return to the pre-JCPOA situation or even [to conditions] more robust than that if the U.S. reneges on its promises. Zarif added that Iranian scientists had been continuing work with advanced centrifuges (PressTV, March 21, 2017).
According to the Institute for Science and International Security, “The mass production of these centrifuges (or their components) would greatly expand Iran’s ability to sneak-out or breakout to nuclear weapons capability, or surge the size of its centrifuge program if the deal fails, or after key nuclear limitations end. If Salehi’s statement is true, Iran could have already stockpiled many advanced centrifuge components, associated raw materials, and the equipment necessary to operate a large number of advanced centrifuges” (David Albright and Olli Heinonen, “Is Iran Mass Producing Advanced Gas Centrifuge Components? Can we even know with the way the Iran deal has been structured and implemented so far?” Institute for Science and International Security, May 30, 2017).
The failure of the agreement to include Iranian sponsorship of terror, ballistic missile research and development, or aggression against its neighbors, combined with the release of billions of dollars in previously frozen funds, has allowed Iran to accelerate each of these activities. In September, for example, it was disclosed that Iran increased its support for the Hezbollah to $800 million a year and resumed payments of $60-70 million to Hamas (Anna Ahronheim, “Iran Pays $830 Million To Hezbollah,” Jerusalem Post, September 18, 2017).
Director of U.S. National Intelligence Daniel Coats testified during a U.S. Senate briefing on May 15, 2017, that despite the nuclear agreement Iran has been hard at work developing Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) technology. Coats stressed that the range and accuracy of Iranian missiles has steadily improved over time, and stated that the ICBMs would be Iran's “preferred method of delivering nuclear weapons, if it builds them.” The National Intelligence Director also suggested that “progress on Iran's space program could shorten a pathway to an ICBM because space launch vehicles use similar technologies” (Amanda Ulrich, “Iran ‘is still developing ballistic missiles that could carry nuclear warheads in violation of UN resolution,’” Daily Mail, May 12, 2017).
Obama acknowledged that Iran would have no prohibition on getting a weapon capabaility after the deal’s expiration while claiming only the deal “cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to the bomb” in the meantime (Roll Call, July 14, 2015). Even with all pathways cut off, he admitted “in year 13, 14, 15 [of the proposed deal], they [Iran] have advanced centrifuges that enrich uranium fairly rapidly, and at that point the breakout times would have shrunk almost down to zero (emphasis added)” (“Transcript: President Obama's Full NPR Interview On Iran Nuclear Deal,” NPR, April 7, 2015).
Iran says it can act much more quickly than Obama forecast. Iran’s nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi said in July 2017 that Iran could reactivate the reactor capable of producing plutonium for a bomb and ramp up enrichment of uranium to the pre-agreement level of 20% within five days (“Iran: Five days needed to ramp up uranium enrichment,” Al Jazeera, August 22, 2017; “Iranian Statements Underscore Weaknesses of Nuclear Deal,” The Tower, September 12, 2017).
Given the loopholes in the nuclear agreement, and the failure of the IAEA to inspect Iran’s military facilities, the organization cannot assure the world that Iran is not continuing its effort to build a nuclear bomb. We do know; however, Iran is violating the letter and spirit of the deal and has become a greater threat to the region and the world since the agreement was signed.
Hamas Does not use Schools as Civilian Shields.
During the war with the Palestinians (the “Al-Aqsa Intifada,”), and operations Cast Lead and Protective Edge, Hamas’s use of civilians as shields was well documented. Hamas, like its radical terrorist Hezbollah cousins in Lebanon, believe that civilians have a dual use in warfare with Israel: they discourage Israeli attacks and create an international public relations disaster for Israel if they are inadvertently killed. Men, women and children are considered expendable.
The most recent example of the strategy of using children as shields was revealed in June 2017 when the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) discovered a terror tunnel under two of its schools in the Gaza Strip (Ariane Mandell, “UNRWA discovers Hamas tunnel under Gaza schools,” Jerusalem Post, June 9, 2017). The report came as no surprise to Israeli officials who recalled finding weapons stored in UNRWA schools during the fighting in 2014 (“Weapons found in UNRWA school for third time in two weeks,” Jerusalem Post, July 30, 2014).
Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon said, “This tunnel verifies what we have always known, that the cruelty of Hamas knows no bounds as they use the children of Gaza as human shields. Instead of UN schools serving as centers of learning and education, Hamas has turned them into terror bases for attacks on Israel” (Ariane Mandell, “UNRWA discovers Hamas tunnel under Gaza schools,” Jerusalem Post, June 9, 2017).
Even a Saudi Arabian columnist lambasted Hamas for leading Gaza into a humanitarian disaster and threatening the lives of Palestinians “as it digs tunnels beneath schools, houses and hospitals” to take advantage of residents as “human shields” (Yasser Okbi and Maariv Hashavua, “Saudi newspaper: Hamas digging tunnels and endangering Gaza citizens,” Jerusalem Post, June 9, 2017).
A spokesperson for UNRWA said, “UNRWA condemns the existence of such tunnels in the strongest possible terms. It is unacceptable that students and staff are placed at risk in such a way.” Two months later, the agency announced the tunnel had been sealed (Tovah Lazaroff, “UNRWA closes Hamas tunnel detected under two of its Gaza schools,” Jerusalem Post, August 15, 2017).
Israel’s universities are complicit in the “occupation” and should be boycotted.
Israeli universities generally do not take positions on political issues related to the Palestinian issue, except for encouraging freedom of expression and promoting academic exchanges with universities in the territories. Individual faculty have their own personal opinions. All Israelis seek peace, but you can also find faculty with views associated with the extreme right and left and everything in between. Some are critics of various government policies and advocates for Palestinian rights and the establishment of a Palestinian state.
The anti-Semitic nature of the advocates of an academic boycott is exposed by their exclusive focus on Israeli universities. In many other countries, an argument can be made that universities support government policies that may be objectionable, through their research, acceptance of funding from the military and intelligence agencies, and silence in political controversies. Israeli institutions, however, are the only ones subject to an international boycott.
Ultimately, proponents of an academic boycott have no impact on Israeli government policy. They do potentially harm Israeli faculty who are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause by cutting them off from colleagues and inhibiting their research. The boycott also precludes dialogue, impedes interactions between Palestinian and Israeli scholars, fosters intolerance and interferes with positive relations between Israeli and Palestinian universities.
Al-Quds University President Sari Nusseibeh has opposed the campaign to boycott Israeli universities: “If we are to look at Israeli society,” he said, “it is within the academic community that we’ve had the most progressive pro-peace views and views that have come out in favor of seeing us as equals....If you want to punish any sector, this is the last one to approach” (Associated Press, June 18, 2006).
Earlier Al-Quds University and Hebrew University issued the following joint statement opposing the BDS campaign:
Israel denies health care and medical supplies to Gaza.
Despite Gaza being ruled by an organization, Hamas, dedicated to Israel’s destruction, and the threat of terrorist infiltration, about 20,000 Gazans enter Israel each month, mainly for medical treatment. One of those offered medical care was the daughter of Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. In addition, Israel trains hundreds of Palestinian doctors from Gaza (Nidal al-Mughrabi, “With healthcare faltering in Gaza, care in Israel is sought after,” Reuters, April 6, 2017; Marissa Newman, “Hamas leader’s daughter receives medical care in Israel,” Times of Israel, October 19, 2014).
In July 2017, however, the Gaza Strip’s Ministry of Health warned the lives of some 2,500 Palestinian patients were “in danger” because the Palestinian Authority (PA) stopped the transfer of patients from Gaza for treatment abroad. The ministry said the PA also halted the supply of medicine and medical equipment to the hospitals in Gaza (“Gaza: 2,500 patients ‘in danger’ with no access to medical care,” Middle East Monitor, July 5, 2017; Adam Rasgon, “PA has not sent medical shipments to Gaza for over three months,” Jerusalem Post, June 15, 2017; “Palestinian Authority slashes permits for sick Gazans: WHO,” AFP, August 9, 2017).
While Israel is often falsely accused of “collective punishment,” it is the PA that is using this practice against its own people. Palestinians in Gaza are being made to suffer as part of a power play by PA President Mahmoud Abbas who imposed several restrictions on Gaza, including asking Israel to reduce the supply of electricity, in an effort to force Hamas to give up power.
Palestinian reconciliation is a step toward peace.
The announcement that the leadership of the Palestinian Authority has signed a reconciliation agreement with Hamas to bring the Gaza Strip under the PA’s control is more likely to hamper efforts to achieve peace than to enhance them. Based on history, it is also uncertain whether the reconciliation will last as prior deals collapsed before they were implemented.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has wanted to resume responsibility for Gaza ever since Hamas seized power in what amounted to a coup in 2007. He did not have the power to do so, but a variety of factors made it possible for him to reach a deal with the help of the mediation of the Egyptian government.
Perhaps the most important variable has been the erosion of Hamas’s position in Gaza. Rather than hurt Israel, the group’s terror campaign only led to the worsening of the plight of Gazans. Israel’s military operations caused some suffering, but the inability of Hamas to govern and provide basic services has been more devastating to the public. Hamas won the last election because of the corruption of the Palestinian Authority and the group’s reputation for attending to the social welfare of the people. Ten years later, it has become apparent that Hamas is also corrupt – it siphons aid and resources for its fighters at the expense of the people – and unable to meet the basic needs of the people as unemployment has reached epidemic proportions and they literally cannot keep the lights on.
Besides alienating the public, Hamas has seen some of its overseas financial support dry up, though Iran continues to provide millions of dollars to prop it up. Egypt also has maintained a blockade on Gaza and taken measures to stop smuggling, which has been critical to Hamas’s ability to obtain supplies.
While its apparent weakness has been a motivating factor for Hamas to cede power, its long-term strategy should not be ignored. By giving up control over the administration of Gaza, Hamas turns that headache over to Abbas. It can now concentrate on its interest in taking control of the West Bank and its core mission of confronting Israel. Furthermore, according to the deal, the PA will send about 3,000 police to Gaza, but Hamas retains a force estimated at roughly 10 times that number, so it can reassert control at any time.
Egypt had its own reasons for pushing the parties to make a deal. The government is engaged in a daily battle with terrorists in Sinai and the Egyptians will expect Hamas to aid in the fight against them. President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi also wants to reassert Egypt’s role as the leader of the Arab world, a position it held for decades before losing influence following its peace agreement with Israel (Avi Isacharoff,
Fatah-Hamas unity: Rub your eyes in disbelief, Times of Israel, October 12, 2017; Moshe Arens.
Reconciliation in Gaza Provides Israel With an Opportunity, Haaretz, October 16, 2017).
Regarding the peace process, the Trump administration apparently supported the Egyptian mediation because it recognized that it could not formulate a peace plan that would exclude Gaza. Negotiations Abbas pursued in the past were also hindered by the fact that he represented only part of the Palestinian people [Amir Tibon.
Trump Administration Expresses Support for Historic Step in Palestinian Reconciliation, Haaretz, (October 2, 2017)].
The paradox of this agreement is that the Palestinians could never reach a peace deal while they were divided because Abbas was unable and unwilling to do so. By bringing Hamas into the government, Abbas has guaranteed he will not have to make the compromises necessary to achieve a two-state solution.
Hamas remains committed to the destruction of Israel and the agreement does not require the group to meet any of the conditions set by the United States and other Western nations for entering discussions with the organization. Hamas is expected to recognize Israel’s right to exist, cease terrorism and agree to abide by past agreements signed by Israel and the Palestinians. Worse, from a security standpoint, Hamas is not required to disarm, so it can continue to build up its arsenal of rockets, construct tunnels and engage in terror (Mohamed Nabil Helmy, “Fatah Commits to Resistance Arms, Says Use Exclusive to National Decision,” Asharq al-Awsat, October 12, 2017).
Israel has set a number of conditions for dealing with a new Palestinian government that includes Hamas:
- Hamas must recognize Israel and desist from terrorism, as per the Quartet conditions;
- Hamas must be disarmed;
- The two IDF soldiers’ bodies, and two Israeli civilians held hostage by Hamas, must be returned;
- The Palestinian Authority (PA) must prevent smuggling and exercise full security control in Gaza;
- The PA must continue to dismantle Hamas terror infrastructures in Judea and Samaria;
- Hamas must sever ties with Iran; and
- All funds and humanitarian equipment must flow through the PA to Gaza [Security Cabinet Decision, (October 17, 2017)]
Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar immediately rejected these demands, stating “no one in the world can disarm us” “Hamas rejects US demands to disarm and recognize Israel,” Middle East Eye, October 19, 2017).
The reconciliation agreement calls for elections, but Abbas has repeatedly cancelled them for a decade because he knew that he would lose. If he believes this remains true, it is unlikely that elections will be held and the deal will collapse. If elections are held and Hamas wins again, the chance for peace will be reduced to zero.
Hamas modified its position on Israel after reconciling with the Palestinian Authority.
Almost immediately after agreeing to reconcile with the Palestinian Authority, Hamas made clear its positions toward Israel have not changed. In a speech in Gaza, Yayha Sinwar, the leader of Hamas said, “Gone is the time in which Hamas discussed recognition of Israel. The discussion now is about when we will wipe out Israel” (Elior Levy, “Hamas leader Sinwar: Hamas will never recognize Israel,” Ynet, October 19, 2017).
Hamas Deputy Political Chief Saleh el-Arouri traveled to Iran, and declared that Hamas will never agree to lay down arms, recognize the Zionist regime of Israel or sever its ties with the Islamic Republic (“Hamas Never to Recognize Israel: Official,” Tasnim News Agency, October 24, 2017).
The meeting with Iranian leaders was significant because it was an indication that Hamas and Iran also have reconciled after a period of estrangement. Iran, which also regularly threatens to destroy Israel, is now one of the principal financial backers of the terrorist organization. By going to Iran shortly after the Trump administration’s renewed efforts to isolate Tehran, Hamas also exhibited its disdain for American interests.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s special Mideast envoy, Jason Greenblatt, made clear the administration position on peace negotiations including Hamas:
Israel is mistreating Palestinian children by detaining them.
In November 2017, ten Democratic members of Congress introduced legislation calling on the State Department to “prevent United States tax dollars from supporting the Israeli military's ongoing detention and mistreatment of Palestinian children” (
Resources on H.R. 4391, Congresswoman Betty McCollum). The legislation was apparently prompted because of lobbying by anti-Israel organizations disseminating misinformation produced in part by the Palestinian non-governmental organization Defense for Children International – Palestine (DCI-P).
It is true that Israel detains Palestinians who are under the age of 18. It is also true that these “children” are often involved in violent crimes and are recruited to engage in terrorism by their elders. As famed lawyer and human rights activist Alan Dershowitz noted, “children as young as 13 have stabbed Israelis with scissors, screwdrivers and knives with the aim of inflicting maximum harm” (Alan M. Dershowitz, “How Ten Dem (Dumb) Members of Congress Encourage the Use of Child Terrorists,” Gatestone Institute, November 23, 2017). In fact, shortly after the legislation was introduced a 16-year-old Palestinian hiding a gun was arrested at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron (Elisha Ben Kimon, “16-year-old Palestinian arrested at Cave of Patriarchs for hiding gun on his person,” Ynetnews, November 27, 2017).
Palestinian minors are most often arrested for stone throwing, which is sometimes treated by the press and Israel’s detractors as inconsequential. In many instances, however, stone throwing, especially directed at moving vehicles, has resulted in serious injuries and some fatalities (
The Deadly Reality of Palestinian Rock Throwing, IDF Blog, February 24, 2014). There are also numerous examples of Palestinian teens committing heinous crimes. For example:
- In July 2017, a 19-year-old Palestinian stabbed a father and two of his children to death, and seriously injured his wife, while they were eating their Shabbat dinner ( Gili Cohen/Yotam Berger/Jack Khoury,
Palestinian Stabs Three Israelis to Death During Family Meal in Settlement Home,Haaretz, July 22, 2017).
- In March 2011, two Palestinian cousins, ages 18 and 17, murdered five Israelis from the Fogel family in their beds, including children ages 11, 4 and three-months (Yair Altman.
Itamar massacre: Fogel family butchered while sleeping,YNet News, March 13, 2011).
According to the proposed legislation, Israel would be penalized for incarcerating these killers.
As is so often the case, a double standard is applied to Israel. There is no outcry over the Palestinian Authority’s jailing of children or the absence of the type of protections that Israeli law provides its prisoners. None of the members of Congress co-sponsoring the anti-Israel legislation expressed concern, for example, that one of the Palestinians who murdered the Fogels had served a five-year prison sentence while a teen for murdering a female cousin and burning her body. Nor is there any condemnation of the glorification of such killers as occurred on Palestinian television when the relatives of the Fogel family murderers praised the two cousins as “heroes” (Avi Issacharoff,
Palestinian TV Airs Show Praising Fogel Family Murderer, Haaretz, January 29, 2012). It is this reverence for the murder of Jews that encourages young Palestinians to engage in violence.
When Member of Knesset Anat Berko introduced legislation allowing imprisonment of terrorists as young as 12, she noted that there have been cases of suicide bombers who were even younger, and that “to those who are murdered with a knife in the heart it does not matter if the child is 12 or 15” (Alan M. Dershowitz, “How Ten Dem (Dumb) Members of Congress Encourage the Use of Child Terrorists,” Gatestone Institute,” November 23, 2017).
In an extensive rebuttal to charges made by DCI-P, the nonprofit watchdog NGO-Monitor noted many problems with their allegations regarding Israel’s treatment of Palestinian minors. For example, DCI-P claims that Palestinian minors’ confessions are coerced through torture, but their lawyers can introduce evidence to that effect, if they have any, to have the cases dismissed. Israel’s use of military courts to try juveniles is criticized, but they are the venue required by international law. DCI-P also condemns Israel for arresting some minors at night, but there is no prohibition on such actions, which are usually taken to minimize the possibility of violence. Moreover, “parents of a minor arrested at home are given a form that includes the nature of the suspicion for which the minor is being arrested, the intended place of interrogation, and contact numbers.” Children, like adults, are entitled to consult with counsel before being interrogated and the International Committee of the Red Cross facilitates family visits for Palestinian minors (
No Way to Represent a Child: Defense for Children International Palestine's Distortions of the Israeli Justice System, NGO Monitor, October 19, 2017).
It is also misleading to cite the number of juveniles in detention to suggest that Israel is engaged in violating human rights. The number is dependent on the crimes committed. During upsurges of violence, the number of Palestinians arrested rises. The figures also need to be placed in context. According to NGO-Monitor:
IDF statistics show that, since 2013, between 800-1,000 Palestinian minors are arrested annually in areas under Israeli control. Of those arrested, only 450-505 Palestinian minors are prosecuted. In other words, on average, out of a population of one million minors (according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics), less than 85 Palestinian minors are arrested each month, and less than half of them are actually prosecuted. In comparison, nearly 90,000 minors aged 10-17 were arrested in England and Wales between April 2015-March 2016, an average of approximately 7,500 each month. Adjusted for population, the rate of arrests of minors in England and Wales is 5.5 times higher than the West Bank,2 even though it is not in an armed conflict situation (
No Way to Represent a Child: Defense for Children International Palestine's Distortions of the Israeli Justice System, NGO Monitor, October 19, 2017).
The United States does not ban the imprisonment of minors for crimes, so why should Israel? Moreover, wouldn’t it provide an incentive for terrorists to recruit more children to engage in violence if they knew minors were immune from justice?
The United States should not have recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
“International law makes states the sole determinants of their own capital” (Avi Bell, “Flaw in U.S. Policy: Even PLO Recognizes Israel’s Right to West Jerusalem,” New York Jewish Week, June 17, 2015). Nevertheless, of the 190 nations with which America has diplomatic relations, Israel was the only one whose capital was not recognized by the U.S. government prior to President Donald Trump’s announcement on December 6, 2017. The president’s recognition of Jerusalem was a long overdue step, which actually came months after Russia announced its recognition of Israel’s capital (Raphael Ahren, “In curious first, Russia recognizes West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital,” Times of Israel, April 6, 2017).
President Trump also pledged to relocate the American embassy and will hopefully encourage other nations to follow suit. Today, the embassy, like all others, is in Tel Aviv, forty miles from Jerusalem. The United States does maintain a consulate in Jerusalem, however, that deals with Israeli Jews in Jerusalem and Palestinians in the territories. The office works independent of the embassy, reporting directly to Washington, and the consul general is not accredited to Israel. His residence is in West Jerusalem. A whole set of rules (e.g., marking the birthplace of Americans born in Jerusalem as Jerusalem rather than Israel) were established to do everything possible to avoid the appearance of U.S. legitimation of Israel’s capital. The United States not only refused to locate its embassy in Jerusalem, but also pressured others not to do so.
The president’s actions were also consistent with the will of Congress, which passed a resolution in 1990 declaring that “Jerusalem is and should remain the capital of the State of Israel” and “must remain an undivided city in which the rights of every ethnic and religious group are protected.” Trump also was following the law known as the Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995, which required the embassy to be moved to Jerusalem, but had been ignored by successive presidents who used a waiver in the legislation allowing them to postpone the move if they deemed it to be in the best interest of the United States.
Critics of the legislation and the president’s action made dire predictions of the Middle East going up in flames because outraged Muslims would violently protest the decision. They also insisted all hope for peace between Israel and the Palestinians would be dashed. The doomsayers are wrong.
It is true that much of the Muslim world was unhappy with the U.S. decision, but it did not erupt in violence. The Palestinians declared three “days of rage” and some violent protests, many staged for the benefit of journalists (Bassam Tawil, “The Real Palestinian Response to Trump's Jerusalem Speech,” Gatestone Institute, December 7, 2017), did occur; however, the reaction in the rest of the Middle East was muted. This was in part because most Arab leaders have reconciled themselves to the reality that Jerusalem is Israel’s capital. They also have no interest in upheaval in their countries, especially given their existing domestic problems and external threats from Iran and radical Islamists.
The recognition of Jerusalem did not harm the peace process because there was no process at the time of the announcement. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to enter negotiations with Israel for the last eight years. If anything, Trump’s decision may have enhanced the prospects for peace by making clear the United States believes that Jerusalem should remain unified under Israeli sovereignty and that Palestinian demands to have a capital in the heart of the city are unrealistic.
As the president said, U.S. recognition does not preclude the parties coming to an agreement on future borders, and Israel has proposed compromises in the past that would allow the Palestinians a capital in, for example, the Jerusalem suburb of Abu Dis where the Palestinians have already constructed a parliament building.
Israel is unreasonably barring BDS supporters from Israel.
Several organizations are upset that they were placed on a list of 20 groups that will be barred entry from Israel because of their involvement in the anti-Semitic boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign. The government action is portrayed by critics as somehow anti-Democratic and an effort to silence Israel’s critics.
The Interior Ministry has stated, however, that “the fact that an organization is anti-Israel or pro-Palestinian or has a critical agenda toward Israeli government policy, does not, in itself, constitute a reason to deny entry to Israel.” Groups that have been “blacklisted” are those the ministry says support “boycotts and their promotion, actively, continuously and continually.”
More specifically, “denial of entry for activists will be enforced whether they belong to one of the organizations or not, according to the following criteria: 1. Individuals with senior positions or significant roles in the organization, such as board chairman or board members. The definition of the offices in question will vary according to the character of each organization; 2. Key activists who take a consistent and continuous role to promote boycotts within the framework of prominent delegitimization organizations or independently; 3. Institutional officials, such as mayors, who promote such activities in an active and ongoing way; 4. People who arrive in Israel as ‘representatives of one of the prominent delegitimizing organizations. For example, an activist who arrives as a participant in a delegation from a prominent delegitimization organization.’” The ministry also says exceptions may be made for a variety of reasons, including humanitarian considerations (Noa Landau, “Israel’s BDS Blacklist, the Fine Print: Who Will Actually Be Denied Entry to Israel,” Haaretz, January 8, 2018).
Because it is Israel, the new visa regulations have attracted the media’s attention; however, every country has its own restrictions and bars entry to individuals who the government finds objectionable on political, criminal or security grounds.
Applicants for visas to the United States are asked several questions about their political views and activities. These include:
- Do you seek to engage in espionage, sabotage, export control violations, or any other illegal activity while in the United States?
- Do you seek to engage in terrorist activities while in the United States or have you ever engaged in terrorist activities?
- Are you a member or representative of a terrorist organization?
- Have you ever ordered, incited, committed, assisted, or otherwise participated in genocide?
- Have you ever committed, ordered, incited, assisted, or otherwise participated in torture?
- Have you committed, ordered, incited, assisted, or otherwise participated in extrajudicial killings, political killings, or other acts of violence?
- Have you, while serving as a government official, been responsible for or directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom?
The USA Patriot Act allows the Secretary of State to bar admission to the United States to “any alien whose entry or proposed activities in the United States the Secretary of State has reasonable grounds to believe would have potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences for the United States.” [https://2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2002/12182.htm]
The U.S. government has banned both individuals and members of groups who were convicted of crimes or were viewed as potential security threats. The list of people barred or excluded from the United States includes Irish politician Gerry Adams, British singers Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) and Boy George, Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona, and Austrian diplomat Kurt Waldheim.
Given that the 20 groups on the Israeli “blacklist” are involved in an international campaign to delegitimize Israel with the goal of isolating, if not destroying Israel, is it unreasonable for Israel to deny their leaders entry? Using America’s criteria, doesn’t the Israeli government have grounds to believe their proposed activities would have potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences?
Talking about Israel’s positive treatment of gays is
Israel is one of the most progressive countries in the world in terms of recognizing differences based on sexual orientation. Israeli law forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation.
In 2006, Israel hosted “Love Without Borders: WorldPride,” a weeklong event organized by LGBT activists from around the world. In 2012, Tel Aviv was named the World’s Best Gay City by participants in an international competition. The Israeli city garnered 43 percent of votes in the online survey, ranking it far above other, more famous places such as New York City, Sydney and San Francisco (
Tel Aviv named world's best gay city, YNet News, November 1, 2012).
By contrast, homosexuals are not protected in Arab and Muslim states, and they are often imprisoned and sometimes executed. In March 2016, for example, a top Hamas commander may have been executed because he was gay [Stuart Weiner.
Executed Hamas commander may have been accused of gay sex, Times of Israel, (March 2, 2016)]. In the Palestinian Authority, sodomy carries a jail term of three to 10 years and gay Palestinians have been known to flee to Israel for safety. In one case, a gay Palestinian seeking asylum in Israel told an Israeli court Palestinian police had arrested, tortured and beaten him because he is openly gay, that most of his family had disowned him, and that he had been warned never to return home (Philip Podoksly,
Gay Palestinian to court: Deport me and I’ll be killed, Times of Israel, May 25, 2012).
When supporters of Israel point out these facts, critics sometimes accuse them of “pinkwashing”; that is, ignoring Israel’s alleged mistreatment of Palestinians by talking about its good treatment of gays. These issues are entirely separate, however, and no one who discusses gay rights does so to distract from the controversial matters related to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
In 2016, the Italian gay rights organization Associazione Radicale Certi Diritti condemned the delegitimization of Israel by LGBT rights groups that use the term “pinkwashing.” The group said, “The alarming increase in political calls by LGBTI groups to boycott Israel diverts from the real battle these group should hold, i.e. the advocacy for the promotion of LGBTI rights among the Palestinian people.” The organization praised Israel for being the only state in the Middle East which protects LGBTI rights and condemned the Palestinian Authority and Hamas for not recognizing the rights of the LGTBI community (
Italian gay rights group rejects anti-Israel ‘pinkwashing’ accusation, Times of Israel, November 22, 2016).
Alan Dershowitz has noted this line of attack is a form of bigotry by people who “hate Israel more than they care about gay rights.” Anti-Semites, he says, believe “there must be something sinister at work if Jews do anything positive. The same is now true for the unthinking anti-Israel bigot.” He notes that Israelis who are most supportive of gay rights are typically also advocates of Palestinian rights. “Pinkwashing,” he concludes, “is an anti-Semitic canard” (Alan Dershowitz.
Berkeley's student newspaper refuses to publish my response to an anti-Semitic op-ed, so here it is, Washington Examiner, November 7, 2017).
Israel is illegally deporting African asylum seekers.
The United States and many European countries are struggling with the issue of immigration. Millions of people have fled areas of conflict, as well as poor countries, either in search of asylum or economic opportunities. Israel has confronted similar problems; however, a major difference is that it is a much smaller country with less capacity to absorb thousands of penniless refugees who entered the country illegally.
The largescale influx began in 2005 when thousands of refugees fleeing genocide in Darfur, war in southern Sudan, and deprivations in Eritrea began to sneak across the border in the Sinai Peninsula. Israel subsequently upgraded its border security, including a wall in 2017, while other routes for refugees to reach Europe became available, ending the migration.
The number of illegal immigrants in Israel today is estimated at 40,000 (Emanuel Navon,
Israel is not Deporting Refugees, Times of Israel, February 1, 2018). The Israeli government considers most of them economic refugees who are seeking jobs; otherwise, they might have stayed in Egypt rather than cross the border. “The state of Israel is too small and has its own problems,” according to Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked. “It cannot be used as the employment office of the African continent” (Emma Green,
African Deportations Are Creating a Religious Controversy in Israel, The Atlantic, January 30, 2018).
Israel has an obligation to protect people who flee “genocide, war, persecution, and slavery to dictatorial regimes.” Most Africans in Israel, however, do not meet these criteria. Israel does consider the Sudanese from Darfur a special case and have granted temporary resident status to 500 Darfur refugees and is processing others (Emanuel Navon,
Israel is not Deporting Refugees, Times of Israel, February 1, 2018).
After years of essentially looking the other way, the government has now decided it is time to act. “Last year, we deported approximately 4,000 and the major effort is to deport most of those who remain, who have infiltrated and are present in Israel illegally,” said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. The government is not planning to send the deportees to countries they fled or where they may be in danger. Reportedly, Israel reached a deal with an African country, believed to be Rwanda, to accept the returning migrants.
In a statement to the cabinet, Netanyahu explained:
First of all, we added approximately 45 positions in order to expedite asylum requests. Genuine refugees and their families will remain in Israel. We have no obligation to allow illegal labor migrants who are not refugees to remain here. They will be sent to another country. Second, international law and the decision of the High Court of Justice here in Israel, allow us to send illegal labor migrants beyond the borders of the state. Third, the designated country to which they are being sent has already absorbed 180,000 refugees under the aegis and supervision of the UN, because the UN considers it to be one of the safest countries in Africa (
PM Netanyahu's Remarks at the Start of the Cabinet Meeting, Prime Minister's Office, January 28, 2018).
Furthermore, according to Dr. Emmanuel Navon, “Israel is only expelling illegal immigrants who are single, and it has made clear that it will not expel families.” He also noted that other countries routinely expel illegal immigrants. In 2017, Germany expelled 80,000 (Emanuel Navon,
Israel is not Deporting Refugees, Times of Israel, February 1, 2018). Unlike Germany, Israel is a small country that does not have the same capacity to absorb large numbers of refugees.
No one should question Israel’s commitment to protecting people fleeing persecution. It was Israel, for example, which accepted Vietnamese boat people at a time when most other countries denied them refuge. Israel is also not acting against the Africans because they are black. Israel has proved through its rescue and absorption of Ethiopian Jews and other people of color that its immigration policy is color blind. Moreover, the Africans are not the only illegal immigrants who are deported; people from Europe, for example, are also sent back to their homes.
Still, the decision to deport the illegals is controversial. Given Jewish history, particularly the refusal of most countries to open their doors to Jews fleeing the Nazis, some Israelis believe the government should provide a haven for the Africans. Israel is acting in accordance with the law, but some argue the government has a moral obligation to show leniency and allow them to stay.
UNRWA has removed biased textbooks from its schools.
On January 16, 2018, the State Department notified the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) that the U.S. is withholding $65 million of a planned $125 million funding installment. The letter said that additional U.S. donations will be contingent on major changes by UNRWA (Matthew Lee.
The U.S. Has Cut Half of Its Aid to Palestinian Refugees Pending U.N. Reform, Time, January 17, 2018).
Critics have identified many problems associated with UNRWA, starting with its very existence as a separate entity from the UN agency responsible for assisting all other refugee populations. One frequently cited concern is UNRWA’s use of textbooks in its schools produced by the Palestinian Authority that indoctrinate students using material that is hostile to Israel, ahistorical and anti-Semitic.
In April 2017, UNRWA pledged to modify the curricula in its schools and remove materials that compromised the organization’s required political neutrality. For example, UNRWA said it would remove maps of Palestine from the river to the sea, a reference saying “Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Palestine,” and the terms “the occupation,” “occupation soldiers,” “the prisoners” and “the separation fence” from math or Arabic exercises.
Image from Palestinian website Alray.ps
The UNRWA decision came shortly after UN Watch released a study examining more than 40 Facebook pages operated by school teachers, principals, and other employees of UNRWA. “The examples of incitement in this report include UNRWA teachers and staffers celebrating the terrorist kidnapping of Israeli teenagers, cheering rockets being fired at Israeli civilian centers, endorsing various forms of violence, erasing Israel from the map, praising Hitler and posting his photo, and posting overtly anti-Semitic videos, caricatures, and statements” (
UNRWA school teachers post Holocaust-denying videos, celebrate Hitler, UN Watch, February 2, 2017).
The proposed changes in the UNRWA curricula were met with a storm of protest from the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, some UNRWA employees and Arab members of the Knesset. The PA Education Minister Sabri Saidam declared that Palestinians want “education that will create liberation” from the “occupation.” Knesset Member Ahmad Tibi said “it is the right of Palestinians under occupation to incite against it,” and Knesset member Hanin Al-Zo'abi insisted that “inciting against the occupation and its crimes is not just a right, but a human obligation.” Hamas’s Refugee Affairs division director, Dr. ‘Issam ‘Adwan, called the curriculum changes “a political crime” (C. Jacob.
UNRWA Working To Amend Curricula In Its West Bank And Gaza Schools; PA, Hamas Oppose This, MEMRI, April 6, 2017).
UNRWA appears to have caved into the demands of those defending the curricula. A few months after the UNRWA announcement, Aaron Groiss and Ronni Shaked examined 201 textbooks used in grades one to 12, 77 of which were published in 2016 and 2017 by the PA, and found them rife with extreme anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiments (Aaron Groiss and Ronni Shaked, “School books of the Palestinian Authority (PA): The Attitude to the Jews, to Israel and to Peace,” Simon Wiesenthal Center and the Middle East Forum, September 2017). Groiss and Shaked concluded that PA textbook attitudes toward Jews were “based on three fundamentals: “De-legtimization, demonization and indoctrination to violent struggle instead of peace.”
Groiss and Shaked found that textbooks suggest Jewish holy places in “Palestine,” such as the Western Wall, Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs are actually “Muslim holy places usurped by Jews.” The word “Israel” is almost completely absent, replaced by pejorative terms such as “Zionist occupation.” The Arab-Israeli conflict is referred to as “the Arab-Zionist conflict,” which the report says “signals an intensification of the nonrecognition attitude regarding Israel on the part of the Palestinian educators.”
One example of the demonization of Jews is found in a textbook description of the early Zionist pioneers. “The arrival of the Jewish throngs to Palestine continued until 1948 and their goal was taking over the Palestinian lands and then replacing the original inhabitants after their expulsion or extermination.”
While Palestinian officials often deny they engage in incitement, PA textbooks promote violence to liberate the disputed territories from the “occupation.” In addition to the West Bank, books also discuss liberating areas inside pre-1967 Israel, such as Haifa, Acre and Jaffa. One 2017 text describes a Molotov- cocktail attack on an Israeli civilian bus as a “barbecue party.” Another book glorifies the female terrorist who killed more than 30 civilians in an attack on another Israeli bus.
In a February 2018 update to the earlier study, Groiss reported that books used by UNRWA published by the PA since 2016, “are generally more radical than their predecessors.” The new books, for example, “omit the few references that existed in the older ones to the Jewish presence in the country in antiquity.”
The newer books also find ways to demonize Israel and Jews in subjects unrelated to the conflict, such as physics, chemistry, biology, and vocational education. Thus, for example, a physics discussion of sound waves states that “the Zionist occupation forces prohibit the call for prayer from the minarets of Al-Aqsa Mosque.” The importance of the human spine is demonstrated in biology with “the case of a boy who was severely injured by an object left in the field following ‘the Zionist aggression against Gaza’” (Arnon Grioss, Israel, Jews and Peace in the New PA Textbooks Used in UNRWA Schools Today – Final Study, Israelbehindthenews.com, February 2018).
The furor over changing the textbooks was understandable given the Palestinian leadership’s desire to infuse future generations with a hatred of Israel and a revisionist history of the region. UNRWA, however, has a legal and moral obligation to purge its schools of textbooks that promote the Palestinian political agenda and to instead provide students with accurate information that is devoid of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish bias.
Israel is attacking Syria without provocation.
On Saturday, February 10, 2018, Iran launched an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) from Syria, which violated Israeli sovereign airspace. The Israeli Air Force (IAF) dispatched an Apache attack helicopter to intercept the UAV and destroyed it.
“What we've known for a long time is now clear to everyone: Iran wants to establish a front in Syria that is aimed at harming Israel. We are not looking to escalate the situation, but we have abilities that we are not afraid to use,” said Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick, Head of the Northern Command (“Air Force strikes Iranian targets in Syria,” IDF, February 11, 2018).
The IAF subsequently destroyed the vehicle controlling the UAV located at the Syrian T-4 Airbase near Tadmor. “We carried out a wide-scale attack on the aerial defense system - radars, rockets, batteries, posts, and we performed a substantial strike, which as can be seen - they are trying to hide” said Brig. Gen. Amnon Ein Dar, Head of the Air Group in the IAF. The Israeli counterattack reportedly destroyed a significant portion of Assad’s long range SA-5 integrated air defense network outside Damascus (“‘More Israeli strikes against Iranian positions likely as Tehran seeks to destabilize region,’ says analyst,” Arab News, February 11, 2018).
During the attack, a Syrian surface-to-air missile shot down an F-16 fighter jet. The two pilots ejected and parachuted to safety in Israeli territory. One pilot was seriously injured, the other was lightly wounded.
Brig. Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser, former head of research at Military Intelligence, suggested Iran was testing Israel: “Iran is frustrated that Israel is preventing it from achieving the three goals it has set for itself: to transfer weapons of equal brevity to Hezbollah, to establish a wide array of military bases in Syria and to create a prolonged confrontation with Israel on the Golan Heights. In the first and second missions, they succeed far less than their expectations, and on the third mission they fail miserably” (Gilad Zwick, “Yossi Kuperwasser on the events in the north: ‘Israeli success, Tehran frustrated,” Meta, February 10, 2018).
As to suggestions Israel’s response was disproportionate, Reuven Ben-Shalom noted the action was “totally consistent with Israeli doctrine – if you target Israel you will be targeted back.” He added that Israel sent the Syrians and Iranians a message by its attack, that it had the ability to detect and intercept the UAV, that it had the intelligence to identify where it came from and who was controlling it, and that it had the capability to strike deep inside Syria (Reuven Ben-Shalom, “Questions Following A ‘Day Of Battle,’” Jerusalem Post, February 11, 2018).
In a statement, the IDF said it “will continue to operate against attempts to infiltrate Israeli airspace and will act with determination to prevent any violations of Israel’s sovereignty” (“White House: Israel Has Right to Defend Itself,” VOA News, February 11, 2018).
A White House statement said, “Israel is a staunch ally of the United States, and we support its right to defend itself from the Iranian-backed Syrian and militia forces in southern Syria” (“White House: Israel Has Right to Defend Itself,” VOA News, February 11, 2018). This position was reinforced by a Pentagon statement, “We share the concerns of many throughout the region over Iran’s destabilizing activities that threaten international peace and security, and we seek greater international resolve in countering Iran’s malign activities” (“‘More Israeli strikes against Iranian positions likely as Tehran seeks to destabilize region,’ says analyst,” Arab News, February 11, 2018).
Rather than escalate hostilities, both sides seemed determined not to do so. Israel, however, reiterated its concern that Iran is trying to establish air and naval bases inside Syria to provide arms to Hezbollah and to enhance its capability to launch attacks on Israel.
“This morning Iran brazenly violated Israel’s sovereignty. They dispatched an Iranian drone from Syrian territory into Israel,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “And this demonstrates that our warnings were 100 percent correct” (Judah Ari Gross, “IDF accuses Iran of setting up air base outside Syrian city of Palmyra,” Times of Israel, February 10, 2018).
Palestinians refuse to cooperate with Israeli security forces.
The leadership of the Palestinian Authority routinely criticizes Israel and has refused to engage in peace negotiations for nearly a decade. Nevertheless, quietly, behind the scenes, PA security forces cooperate with Israeli forces to maintain order and to prevent the escalation of violence.
On February 12, 2018, for example, two Israeli soldiers inadvertently drove into Jenin, a Palestinian city in the West Bank, and were surrounded by angry Palestinians who attacked their jeep with rocks and chairs. The windshield was shattered, and the female Israeli soldier’s hair was pulled, and her face was bloodied as the mob tried to get her weapon. PA Security forces came to their rescue and escorted them to safety (Anna Ahronheim and Adam Rasgon, “Liberman Praises Security Coordination With Palestinians,” Jerusalem Post, February 13, 2018).
More than 500 Israelis strayed into Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank in 2017 and were returned to Israel unharmed (Neri Zilber And Ghaith Al-Omari, “The Hush-Hush Deal That Keeps the Middle East From Exploding,” Daily Beast, February 12, 2018).
Following the safe return of the soldiers, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman praised the Palestinian security officials. “The Palestinian officers and the security coordination deserve a good word,” he said. “The Palestinians also understand that the security coordination is a mutual interest, which is why we work to preserve it” (Anna Ahronheim and Adam Rasgon, “Liberman Praises Security Coordination With Palestinians,” Jerusalem Post, February 13, 2018).
According to Zilber and Al-Omari, Israeli-Palestinian security coordination includes “dialogue and intelligence sharing; counterterrorism; deconfliction during Israeli military raids into PA-controlled areas of the West Bank; and riot control.”
Security cooperation is mutually beneficial because it helps Israel protect its citizens and reduces threats to the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank. Both sides, for example, have an interest in preventing Hamas from establishing a foothold that would allow it to launch terror attacks against Israel and menace its rivals in the ruling Fatah party.
Israel acts on its own when security forces believe it is necessary, but often coordinate their actions with the PA to ensure no misunderstandings occur. This has led some Palestinians to complain that the PA is “collaborating” with Israel.
The United States recognizes the value of Israeli-Palestinian security cooperation and has provided financial and logistical support for the Palestinians. “For over a decade a small mission led by a U.S. three-star general has been working out of the U.S. consulate in Jerusalem to help train, equip, and otherwise support Palestinian Authority forces,” according to Zilber and Al-Omari. In addition, they note, the CIA has run a separate program mentoring the PA’s intelligence services.
The PA, however, plays a double game, supporting the “armed struggle” while moderating the level of violence directed at Israelis to discourage any large-scale response. After the United States recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, for instance, the PA ensured that protests did not get out of hand, but, simultaneously, the PA incites violence through its media, the glorification of terrorists and its “pay-for-slay” policy of providing salaries to Palestinians in Israeli jails and the families of “martyrs.”
All Israelis carry guns.
The percentage of Israelis who own guns is very small and the restrictions on acquiring firearms strict. A total of 135,000 Israeli citizens are licensed to own guns, and more than one-quarter of those are employed in security-related jobs (Isabel Kershner, “Is Israel a model when it comes to guns, as Mike Huckabee says?” New York Times, February 20, 2018). The United States has one firearm per capita, the highest in the world; Israel is ranked 81st with .073 firearms per capita (Janet Rosenbaum,
Israel's gun laws can make the U.S. Safer too, New York Post, February 12, 2018).
Most Israeli men and women serve in the military, so they have been trained in the proper use of firearms. Still, they cannot get permits for their own weapons until they are 21. Those without military training must wait until they are 27. In addition to reaching a certain age, applicants for licenses must typically work in security-related fields or live in a dangerous area. Some farmers, tour guides and hunters are also eligible to own firearms. Applicants must go through a security check, take a course in shooting and gun safety and get a doctor to certify that they do not suffer from a mental illness and are not taking any medication that could impair alertness. Forty percent of all applications are rejected by the government (Janet Rosenbaum,
Israel's gun laws can make the U.S. Safer too, New York Post, February 12, 2018).
Once you receive a license, it is necessary to be certified by an instructor at a shooting range once a year and the permit must be renewed every three years. Permit holders are allowed to own only one handgun and limited to the purchase of 50 rounds of ammunition. Rifles and a larger number of bullets are only licensed to people, mostly in security-related jobs, who can prove a need for them. Gun owners are responsible for their weapons and can be prosecuted if it is lost or stolen, unless it can be proven the gun was taken from a locked safe (Yael Shahar,
Why school shootings don't happen in Israel, Haaretz, October 7, 2015).
The Palestinian Authority has stopped payments to terrorists.
During their meeting in Bethlehem on May 23, 2017, President Donald Trump told Mahmoud Abbas to end the PA’s “pay-for-slay” policy of providing salaries to convicted Palestinian terrorists in Israeli prisons, reiterating the demand he had made in their May 3 meeting at the White House (Nathan Guttman, “How Payments To Terrorists Became An Issue At The Trump-Abbas Meeting,” Forward, May 4, 2017;Jack Moore, “Trump Raged At Palestinian Leader Mahmoud Abbas In Bethlehem Meeting: ‘You Lied To Me,’” Newsweek, May 29, 2017).
According to Issa Karake, head of the Palestinian Committee of Prisoners’ Affairs, Abbas told Trump he would not “stop the allowances of the families of the prisoners and Martyrs (Shahids), and emphasized his absolute support for them (i.e., for the payments).” Other Palestinian officials made similar comments (Itamar Marcus and Nan Jacques Zilberdik, “Did the PA lie to the US Secretary of State?” Palestinian Media Watch, June 14, 2017).
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson subsequently told the Palestinians, “You either take care of this yourself or someone else will take care of it for you” (Eric Cortellessa, “Tillerson waters down statement that Palestinians ‘changed policy’ of terror payments,” Times of Israel, June 14, 2017). The message was reinforced by Trump’s envoy Jason Greenblatt in a meeting with Palestinian officials on June 20, 2017 (Kushner kicks off Mideast peace push with first solo visit, Associated Press, June 21, 2017).
Instead of ending the payments, however, the PA reportedly increased them in 2018 by nearly $56 million after distributing $347 million in 2017 (Lahav Harkov, “Palestinians Increase Payments To Terrorists To $403 Million,” Jerusalem Post, (March 6, 2018). Approximately 7 percent of the PA budget is dedicated to terrorism.
Angered by the Palestinians’ use of American tax dollars to fund terror attacks that have killed Americans as well as Israelis, Congress is considering legislation to cut U.S. funding to the Palestinian Authority if it continues the “pay-for-slay” policy. The Taylor Force Act, is named for Taylor Force an American Army veteran who was stabbed to death by a Palestinian terrorist in Jaffa. The bill was passed by the House in December 2017 and has bipartisan support in the Senate.
Israel's response to the Gaza protests is unreasonable.
In 2005, Israel withdrew every civilian and soldier from the Gaza Strip. From that point on, the Palestinians had the opportunity to build the infrastructure for a state. Instead, Hamas staged a coup, took over the area and devoted much of the available resources to building terror tunnels, rockets and other weapons at the expense of caring for the people.
In yet another example of neglecting the needs of the people, Hamas chose to once again use men, women and children as human shields for their violent activities. Thousands of people were bused by Hamas to the border fence with Israel to riot.
Israel was put in a no-win situation. If troops did nothing, terrorists could attack soldiers and place bombs along the fence, and the mob could cross into Israel and threaten the population. If Israel took measures to stop them, any injuries could be exploited for propaganda purposes. The Palestinians have learned over the years they may lose battles but can often win public sympathy by orchestrating photo ops and making up casualty statistics the media will unquestioningly repeat to tar Israel’s image and prompt Western nations to criticize Israel’s actions.
Hamas is pursuing this strategy again with its “Great March of Return.” The premise of what amounts to a mass effort to overrun Israel’s sovereign border is that the Jewish state has no right to exist and must be replaced by an Islamic state.
The Palestinians publicized the march as a peaceful protest, but it was not. According to Israeli defense officials Hamas fighters practiced breaching the fence, rushing IDF posts and abducting Israeli soldiers and civilians (“As IDF gears for protests near Gaza border, Hamas drills abduction scenarios,” Israel Hayom, April 11, 2018). As soon as the first demonstrations began, marchers threw rocks, Molotov cocktails, burning tires and other projectiles at Israeli soldiers. Mixed among the marchers were terrorists with more lethal weapons. In addition, while marchers tried to distract Israeli forces, other Hamas terrorists sought to infiltrate Israel and place bombs along the fence (Judah Ari Gross,
15 Gazans said killed, 1,100 hurt in clashes at massive border protest, Times of Israel, March 30, 2018). On May 14 alone, here is a sample of the threats Israeli forces had to neutralize (“IDF prepares to face more Palestinian rioting on Nakba Day,” Ynet, May 15, 2018):
- 12:58 p.m. - Bomb explodes.
- 1:15 p.m. - A terror cell sought to plant explosives by the border fence and opened fire at IDF forces.
- 1:30 p.m. - Fire opened at IDF forces.
- 1:45 p.m. - Fire opened at IDF forces by eight terrorists.
- 2:09pm - Three bombs explode.
- 2:53 p.m. - Five pipe bombs exploded.
- 3:10pm - Bomb explodes.
- 7:02 p.m. - Terrorists opened fire at IDF troops.
- 17 kites carrying flammable materials were flown from Gaza into Israel, causing fires in 23 locations.
No country would allow a mob of civilians backed by terrorists to storm its border. Israel responded with a combination of riot control measures aimed at minimizing civilian injuries and eliminating threats from Hamas fighters armed with knives, guns, bombs and other weapons. The IDF’s Arabic-language spokesman posted a photo a Palestinian protester who was shot at the Gaza border while holding a weapon. “Didn’t you say the march today was going to be non-violent and without weapons? Who are you trying to fool?” IDF spokesperson Avichay Adraee wrote on his Arabic Twitter page (@AvichayAdraee; Hagay HaCohen,
IDF Releases Images of Weapons Found After Friday Terrorist Attempt, Jerusalem Post, March 31, 2018).
Hamas claims to follow Islamic law but has no qualms about ignoring the tradition of keeping young children from a battlefield. A dignitary from the Al-Sawarka tribe in Gaza declared:
Gaza Tribal Dignitary on Hamas TV: We Shall Liberate Our Land with Martyrs, Women and Children, Take Down the Border with the Fingernails of Our Children,MEMRI, March 29, 2018).
One of the human shields was a seven-year-old girl who was returned to her family by IDF soldiers (Elior Levy,
IDF posts photo of Palestinian protester with weapon, YNet News, March 31, 2018).
Sadly, when people violently attack troops, injuries are inevitable. According to various reports, as many as 32 people were killed during the two days of rioting. At least 26 were terrorist operatives or identified with terrorist organizations. All but two were men between the ages of 19 and 45. The others were minors with estimated ages between 14 and 16 (Oded Granot,
Civilians as a human shield, Israel Hayom, April 1, 2018; Ben Caspit,
Israel's Gaza Nightmare, al-Monitor, April 2, 2018; Yonah Jeremy Bob, “Report: 80% Of Palestinians Killed In Gaza Border Crisis Were ‘Terrorists,’” Jerusalem Post, April 11, 2018). Hamas subsequently disclosed it paid $200-$500 to Palestinians who were wounded and $3,000 to the families of those killed (Adam Rasgon, “Ahead Of Fresh Standoff, Hamas Reveals Payouts To Injured Protesters,” Jerusalem Post, April 5, 2018).
Mahmoud Al-Habbash, Mahmoud Abbas’ Advisor on Islamic Affairs and Supreme Sharia Judge, accused Hamas of deliberately encouraging civilians to endanger themselves: “You Palestinians, our people, go and die so that we’ll go to the TV and media with strong declarations” (Itamar Marcus, “Hamas is sending civilians in Gaza to die for media coverage, says Abbas’ advisor,” Palestinian Media Watch, April 8, 2018). In another sermon, he said, “'The leadership in Gaza is having a good time…They gamble on the life of the young, when they have many agendas and wish to revive themselves with the blood of our people” (Yasser Okbi, “Abbas advisor: Return Marches gamble with the lives of women and children,” Jerusalem Post, April 28, 2018).
In addition to putting innocents directly in harm’s way, Hamas appears determined to damage the local environment and risk people’s lives in the process. Inciting the public to set tires on fire to create a smokescreen to allow terrorists to infiltrate Israel and attack soldiers is doubly dangerous. First, the fires create a false sense of security that protestors can riot with impunity and, second, they are extremely dangerous. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, “tire fires often become major hazardous incidents affecting entire communities—frequently requiring neighborhood evacuations and long, drawn-out fire extinguishing operations.” In addition to releasing toxic air pollutants, the oil from burnt tires seeps into the ground and harms the soil and pollutes the water (“Tire Fires,” EPA).
Protestors again approached the Gaza border on April 13. This time the turnout was considerably smaller, estimated at 10,000, and fewer rioted. One Palestinian was reported killed (Seth J. Frantzman, “Three weeks: How Gaza’s mass protests are failing to make an impact,” Jerusalem Post, April 14, 2018). Two days later, Palestinians flew a kite carrying a fire bomb over the border from Gaza into Israel, where it caused a small fire in an agricultural field outside Kibbutz Kissufim, a Jewish community near the Gaza Strip. Firefighters extinguished the blaze, preventing major damage. No injuries were reported.
On April 20, protestors returned for a fourth riot, but the number was again considerably smaller, estimated at 3,000. The IDF dropped leaflets warning Palestinians to stay away from the border fence, but many tried to breach the fence anyway. Others burned tires and again attempted to fly kites with incendiary devices over the border. Israeli forces responded with the usual riot control measures. Four Palestinians were killed, including a 15-year-old boy. The circumstances related to the boy’s death were being investigated (“IDF probing report, video of 15-year-old said killed in Gaza clashes,” Times of Israel, April 21, 2018).
Protests directed at the fence continued April 27. According to the New York Times, “Those assaulting it threw firebombs and rolled burning tires at the fence to try to melt it; at least some carried pistols, according to both the Israeli military and Palestinian witnesses” (Iyad Abuheweila and David M. Halbfinger, “Plan to Storm Fence Gets Bloody Preview in Gaza,” New York Times, April 27, 2018).
The sixth week of protests on May 4 were again marked by efforts by Palestinians to damage the border fence and cross into Israel. The IDF also reported that Palestinians crossed the border fence at one location and placed firebombs before returning to Gaza. Dozens of Palestinians also broke into the Kerem Shalom crossing, the main entry point for merchandise entering Gaza, and set fire to the gas pipeline that supplies fuel to the Strip. They did not get through to the Israeli side. The protestors caused millions of dollars in damage to the pipeline, which will worsen the economic plight of the people in Gaza. No fatalities were reported.
Protestors returned on May 11. Once again, some attempted to fly kites with incendiary devices into Israel to set fire to agricultural fields. To prevent these attacks, Israel began deploying drones to cut the strings of the kites. Amateur drone racers were also used to fly through the kites to shred them or down them with the help of fishhooks.
The Israel Air Force dropped leaflets over the Gaza Strip warning Palestinians not to approach the Israeli border on May 14, 2018, or take part in any violent activity aimed at damaging the border fence or harming the soldiers deployed along it.
A second leaflet accused the Islamist group of prioritizing the protests over the humanitarian needs of Gaza’s citizens:
Hamas planned to mobilize 100,000 people to attempt to break down the fence and attack Israeli communities. The group fell far short of its goal. An estimated 40,000 demonstrators threw stones at soldiers and burned tires on May 14 as the United States formally opened its embassy in Jerusalem. The IDF killed three terrorists who tried to plant an explosive device in the Rafah and the IAF launched multiple airstrikes at Hamas targets inside Gaza.
“I saw with my own eyes Hamas activists pushing people [including] women and children to the fence,” one soldier told the Jerusalem Post. Another said he saw one man pushed to the border in a wheelchair before he stood up and ran away (Anna Ahronheim, “Gaza Border Residents Speak To The ‘Post’ About The Tension In Air,” Jerusalem Post, May 16, 2018). An IDF official said, “Hamas placed many women at the front in an effort to make it difficult for us to deal with terror targets.” Hamas was also encouraging children and teenagers to cross the fence to steal IDF equipment.
Reporter Yonah Jeremy Bob described what he saw on May 14: “While there were nonviolent Palestinians demonstrating, thousands of Palestinians were also involved in more aggressive or hostile actions, and the numbers were so large that it was hard to imagine that most of them were not pawns” (Yonah Jeremy Bob, “To The Gaza Front And Back: Smoke, Fire, Tragedy And Calm,” Jerusalem Post, May 16, 2018).
During the protests Israeli forces captured several Palestinians attempting to cross the border from Gaza and learned details of Hamas tactics. For example, the Shin Bet discovered Hamas offers Palestinian families in the Gaza Strip $100 if all family members participate in the protests. All schools and higher education institutions in Gaza were closed and Hamas forced merchants to declare a general strike so Palestinians would not have other activities on the days of protests. Hamas provides transportation, tires to burn, Molotov cocktails and flaming kites. Hamas terrorists are forbidden to approach the fence so they will not be shot or apprehended by the security forces. They are only to advance if the fence is breached, in which case their assignment is to carry out terror attacks.
Apparently, Hamas was so confident they would succeed in breaching the fence on May 14, 2018, they sent messages via social media informing Palestinians their leaders would be giving victory speeches from Israeli communities – Ismail Haniyeh from Nahal Oz, Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Khalil al-Hayya in Kfar Aza and Nafed Azzam in Be’eri (“Israel TV: Confident Hamas planned victory rallies for its leaders inside Israel,” Times of Israel, May 19, 2018).
According to the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza, 124 Palestinians have died in all the riots, including 62 on May 14, the highest one day toll (“Uneasy Calm Falls Over Gaza After Israel Kills Scores at Protests,” New York Times, May 15, 2018; Declan Walsh and Isabel Kershner, “After Deadly Protests, Gazans Ask: What Was Accomplished?” New York Times, May 18, 2018). More than 3,500 have been wounded. A Hamas official, Salah Bardawil, said in an interview that 50 of the Gazans killed on May 14 were members of the terror group as were at least 50 percent of those who died before (Joshua Davidovich, “Hamas: 50 Gazans killed Monday were members of group,” Times of Israel, May 16, 2018). The Meir Amit center identified 32 of the 40 who died in the first four riots with terrorist organizations (“Analysis of the Identities of Gazans Killed During the ‘Great Return March,’” Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, April 25, 2018).
On May 24, 2018, Israel’s High Court of Justice declared the IDF’s rules of engagement were legal. The Jerusalem Post noted that “due to the high esteem in which the High Court is held overseas, the decision will make it more difficult for the International Criminal Court to declare the IDF’s conduct a violation of international law” (Yonah Jeremy Bob, “High Court Declares Idf Conduct On Gaza Border Legal,” Jerusalem Post, May 24, 2018).
Predictably, in an effort to win sympathy the Palestinians and their supporters claim Israel is engaged in a “massacre.” The number of casualties is not what defines a massacre, however, as Ron Ben-Yishai observed: “A massacre is a situation in which the helpless victims are completely under the mercy of the stronger side, as it kills them while they are unable to change their fate. But [the Gazans] had a choice – they could’ve not tried to breach the border fence, and then they wouldn’t have been killed.” He added, the people who were killed “were not defending their homes from an Israeli invasion, they were trying to invade Israel” (Ron Ben-Yishai, “Hamas’s march of folly,” Ynet, May 14, 2018).
A senior officer told Haaretz that snipers are only permitted to shoot at the legs of people approaching the border unless they have weapons and threaten Israelis’ lives. The officer said some of the deaths of Palestinians were unintentional, the result of a protester bending down, a sniper missing his target or a bullet ricocheting (Amos Harel, “Most Killings of Palestinians During Gaza Protests Unintentional, Senior Israeli Officer Says,” Haaretz, April 29, 2018).
The Egyptians were furious with the protests and blamed Hamas for the bloodshed. Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh was summoned urgently to Egyptian intelligence service headquarters in Cairo on May 14, 2018, where General Intelligence Service head Maj. Gen. Abbas Kamel told him “in no uncertain terms, that the blood of the dead was on his and Sinwar’s hands. They even showed him images of Hamas operatives paying teenagers to go die near the fence.”
The Egyptians “made it clear to him [Haniyeh] that the Hamas leadership will be held responsible for any more deaths in border riots. They told him history won’t forgive the Hamas leadership for such senseless deaths.” Kamel then demanded that Haniyeh “order his people to cease the border riot campaign immediately” (Daniel Siryoti, “Egypt rebukes Hamas leader over deaths in Gaza border riots,” Israel Hayom, May 16, 2018).
Israel also continued to do what it could to ameliorate suffering in Gaza. Despite Palestinian protestors setting fires and damaging the Kerem Shalom Crossing, Israel sent trucks loaded with medical supplies, food and diapers to Gaza on May 15. Palestinian officials allowed the delivery of medical supplies but sent back 14 trucks full of food and diapers (Judah Ari Gross, “Israel reopens Gaza crossing, but Palestinians turn back some trucks,” Times of Israel, May 15, 2018).
The Israeli public supported the actions of the military to defend the border. Despite the number of casualties, 71% of Israelis agreed the IDF’s open-fire policy during the clashes at the border is justified (Prof. Ephraim Yaar and Prof. Tamar Hermann, “The Peace Index: April 2018,” Israel Democracy Institute and Evans Program at the University of Tel-Aviv, May 2, 2018).
Palestinians, however, started to question the strategy of their leaders. “Nothing achieved,” Mohammed Haider told the New York TImes. “People are dead. They deceived us that we would breach the fence. But that didn’t happen” (Declan Walsh and Isabel Kershner, “After Deadly Protests, Gazans Ask: What Was Accomplished?” New York Times, May 18, 2018). “And Hamas is no closer to improving the lives of increasingly restless Gazans. The group lacks money to even pay public employees’ salaries or other expenses of governing” the Times journalists added.
As expected, the Palestinians and their supporters demanded that the UN scrutinize Israel’s actions and ignore the provocations by Hamas. The United States knew this would lead to a one-sided attack on Israel and blocked a draft UN Security Council statement calling for an investigation of the border clashes (
US blocks UN Security Council statement on Gaza violence, AFP, April 1, 2018). Another effort to to condemn Israel on and deploy an international security force in Gaza was mounted by the Palestinians with the help of Kuwait at the Security Council on May 20, 2018, which was also opposed by the United States and Israel.
Meanwhile, the UN Human Rights Council censured Israel for “the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force” and called for an independent investigation into the killing of rioters in the Gaza border clashes ( Itamar Eichner, “Israel, US attempt to block Security Council resolution on Gaza international force,” Ynet, May 20, 2018). The United States criticized the HRC resolution as did Israel. The Foreign Ministry said the HRC “once again has proven itself to be a body made up of a built-in anti-Israel majority, guided by hypocrisy and absurdity.” Israel said it would not cooperate with the inquiry that is not interested in the truth, “but rather to impair Israel’s right to self-defense, and to demonize the Jewish state” (“MFA response to the UNHRC resolution,” Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, May 18, 2018) ).
The march was also designed to send a message to the Palestinian Authority, which we learned from the “Palestinian Papers” was prepared to compromise on the demand that five million Palestinian refugees be given the opportunity to return to “their homes.” Palestinian negotiators know that Israel will never agree to allow millions of Palestinians who claim to be refugees to flood Israel. Hamas, however, insists the refugee issue is non-negotiable. “The [Palestinian] right of return is a national interest and no one in a position of authority will forgo it,” said Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh (Daniel Siryoti,
Hamas says disappointed by low turnout for Gaza border protest, Israel Hayom, April 1, 2018).
To further emphasize the uncompromising goal of Hamas, senior military leader Yahya Sinwar declared, “The March of Return will continue… until we remove this transient border.” The protests “mark the beginning of a new phase in the Palestinian national struggle on the road to liberation and ‘return’… Our people can’t give up one inch of the land of Palestine” (David Horowitz,
Just in case anybody forgot what Hamas’s ‘March of Return’ is really all about, Times of Israel, March 31, 2018).
Yossi Kuperwasser observed that “those people who claim they want to ‘return’ are not refugees. They are Palestinians living in Palestinian territory under a Palestinian government that denies them the ability to have a better life and better housing because of its commitment to the struggle against Zionism. Their grandparents left their homes 70 years ago in the context of a war, in which Arab armies expected to destroy the nascent Jewish State and bring the residents back to reap the spoils left behind by the Jews” (Yossi Kuperwasser, “The Conflict in Gaza: Three Ways to View It,” JCPA, May 14, 2018).
On April 27, Al-Aqsa TV aired footage of the “Fence Cutters’ Unit” in Gaza chanting: “Khaybar, Khaybar, oh Jews, the army of Muhammad has begun to return.” One of the members declared: “Today is the day of the march toward our occupied and robbed Palestinian lands. Today, we cut the Zionist enemy’s main barbed-wire fence on the Gaza border….today we shall enter our occupied lands, and ignite a revolution against the Zionist enemy, in order to proclaim, loud and clear, that this enemy is destined for perdition….We are about to liberate our blessed Palestinian land.” He then warned Jews living near the border, “Leave immediately, before it is too late! The Palestinian revolution will not cease until victory or martyrdom!” (“Members of Gaza ‘Fence Cutters' Unit" Proclaims: Victory or Martyrdom! - Scenes from Gaza ‘Return March,’” MEMRI, April 27, 2018).
As journalist Yossi Klein Halevi noted:
While Hamas says that its goal is to erase the border as part of its effort to destroy Israel, Israeli officials see protecting the border as essential to peace. “What we’re doing there in Gaza is something we have to do,” according to former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak. “Especially those who believe in having separation from the Palestinians, getting into a peace agreement, having borders – you have to make clear that borders are respected” (Michael Arnold and Saud Abu Ramadan, “In Gaza Camps, Palestinian Dream of Return Still Burns Bright,” Bloomberg, May 14, 2018).
And for anyone who doubts Hamas is motivated by Jew-hatred, Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV broadcast a sermon delivered in East Jabalya, Gaza, on March 30, 2018, in which the preacher said that the “blessed land” was being “trampled by the accursed descendants of apes and pigs, the remnants of the brutal, savage, and barbaric colonialism” (
Friday Sermon at Gaza "Return March": Our Blessed Land Is Being Trampled by the Accursed Descendants of Apes and Pigs, MEMRI, March 30, 2018).
In March 2018 alone, at least 23 Palestinians were killed in Syria, and 3,685 have died in the civil war; however, the media has never been interested in Arabs killing Palestinians (@KhaledAbuToameh). Instead, the media was drawn to the Palestinian narrative about the fighting in Gaza. Predictably, the press repeated Hamas claims about casualties and printed headlines which scrubbed Hamas from the conflict and created the impression the Israeli military was shooting peaceful protestors rather than rioters and terrorists. For example, a New York Times headline read, “Israeli military kills 15 Palestinians in Confrontations at Gaza Border.” Reuters went with “Israeli forces kill 16 Palestinians in Gaza border protests: Gaza medics.” The Los Angeles Times reported: “15 Palestinians reported killed by Israeli fire as Gaza border protest builds.” CNN ran with “Gaza protests: 17 Palestinians killed in confrontations with Israeli forces” (Erielle Davidson,
Western Media Scrub Mention Of Hamas From Headlines On Israeli Clash, The Federalist, April 3, 2018). These reports also fail to mention that the IDF is protecting approximately 4,000 Israelis living in communities in close proximity to the Gaza fence.
One other propaganda victory for Hamas was to put out a report that Israeli soldiers had killed an eight-month-old baby during the May 14 protests, which media around the world repeated. While it begged the question of what kind of parent would bring an infant to a riot, the publicity provoked a storm of criticism of the IDF. Ten days later, Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry removed the baby from the list of people it claimed were killed by Israeli troops. The ministry had claimed the baby died from teargas inhalation, but a doctor was later anonymously cited by the Associated Press as saying the infant had a pre-existing medical condition and that he did not believe teargas caused her death (Hazem Balousha in Gaza and Oliver Holmes, “Gaza ministry removes baby from list of people killed by Israeli army,” The Guardian, May 24, 2018).
The Palestinians also have become masters at staging photos. A blogger found an AFP photo, for example, which was published around the world showing four young men with a distressed looking Palestinian woman just in front of them. The caption attached to it in the Japan Times read: “Palestinian protesters hold hands to protect a girl from shots as they run for cover during clashes with Israeli security forces following a demonstration near the border with Israel, east of Khan Yunis, in the southern Gaza Strip on Saturday” (
Israel says it only shot at protesters charging Gaza border, Japan Times, April 1, 2018). The photographer posted a wider shot of the same scene on his website that raised questions about the veracity of the description. First, the Palestinians seem to be running in a nearly vacant area where 30,000 people were supposed to be protesting. Second, Israeli troops were nowhere to be seen. Third, it makes no sense that people allegedly running for their lives would hold hands. Fourth, one of the men appears to have a big smile on his face. And, finally, a small group of people are standing by calmly watching the five others seeking cover (Aussie Dave,
Pallywood of the Day: Damsel in Distress Edition, Israellycool, April 2, 2018).
The Palestinians have learned that truth does not matter. If they can get their version of a story out to the media first, the press will report it uncritically. In the unlikely event their lies are discovered, it will be too late because the story will already have been circulated. In this case, Hamas succeeded in creating the impression that Israeli soldiers were shooting at the backs of innocent Palestinians, and that image will remain imprinted on the minds of many readers.
According to the United Nations Human Rights office, which gets its information from the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza, 124 Palestinians have died in all the riots, including 62 on May 14, the highest one-day toll. More than 3,500 Palestinians have been wounded. A Hamas official, Salah Bardawil, said in an interview that 50 of the Gazans killed on May 14 were members of the terror group as were at least 50 percent of those who died before. The Meir Amit Intelligence the Terrorism Information Center identified at least 93 Palestinians who died in the riots as affiliated with terrorist organizations. That means at least two-thirds of those killed were known terrorists. Most of these fatalities were individuals associated with Hamas, highlighting the terrorist organization's crucial role in these protests (
Findings of the ITIC’s examination of the identity of Palestinians killed in the events of the “Great Return March,” The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, May 28, 2018).
Hamas is not anti-Semitic.
In 2017, Hamas issued a declaration of principles that said, “Hamas affirms that its conflict is with the Zionist project not with the Jews because of their religion.” The Hamas Covenant, as well as statements by the group’s leaders and preachers, however, makes clear the group’s animus toward the Jewish people and commitment to their destruction.
The introduction to the Hamas Covenant says:
Article 7 says “the Islamic Resistance Movement aspires to the realization of Allah’s promise, no matter how long that should take.” What is the promise?
Article 15 calls for a holy war against the Jews:
Article 32 says that Hamas is the “spearhead of the circle of struggle” with Islamic groups all over the Arab world preparing to fight “the warmongering Jews.”
Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV broadcast a sermon delivered in East Jabalya, Gaza, on March 30, 2018, in which the preacher said that the “blessed land” was being “trampled by the accursed descendants of apes and pigs, the remnants of the brutal, savage, and barbaric colonialism” ("Friday Sermon at Gaza "Return March": Our Blessed Land Is Being Trampled by the Accursed Descendants of Apes and Pigs," MEMRI, March 30, 2018).
The same station broadcast the following message from Hamas cofounder Mahmoud Zahar in 2010:
Hamas Leader Mahmoud Al-Zahhar Justifies Persecution of Jews in History and Declares That Jews "Are Headed to Annihilation"Al-Aqsa TV, November 5, 2010).
In 2017, Zahar said, “Removing the Jews from the land they occupied in 1948 is an immutable principle because it appears in the Book of Allah” (
Senior Hamas leader: Quran tells us to drive Jews out of Palestine’s entirety, Times of Israel, March 16, 2017).
Another Hamas official, Ahmad Bahr, appeared on the official Hamas television station in 2012 and said:
Hamas Official Ahmad Bahr Preaches for the Annihilation of Jews and Americans,Al-Aqsa TV, August 10, 2012).
This is the group behind the Gaza protests, not non-violent peace activists. Hamas is not interested in Palestinians “returning to their homes” or the establishment of a Palestinian state beside Israel; the radical Islamists are committed to the annihilation of the Jewish people.
occupies the West Bank.
In politics, words matter, and, unfortunately, the misuse of words applying to the Arab-Israeli conflict has shaped perceptions to Israel’s disadvantage. As in the case of the term “West Bank,” the word “occupation” has been hijacked by those who wish to paint Israel in the harshest possible light. It also gives apologists an excuse to describe terrorism as “resistance to occupation,” as if the women and children killed by suicide bombers in buses, pizzerias, and shopping malls were responsible for the plight of the Palestinians.
Given the negative connotation of an “occupier,” it is not surprising that Israel’s detractors use the word, or some variation, as many times as possible in their propaganda and when interviewed by the press. The more accurate description of the territories in Judea and Samaria, however, is “disputed” territories.
The hypocrisy of critics of Israel’s administration of the West Bank is compounded by the fact that other disputed territories around the world are not referred to as being occupied by the party that controls them. This is true, for example, of the hotly contested regions of Kashmir, Cyprus, and Tibet. Yet rarely does the international community make a fuss over these territories (Douglas Murray, “‘Occupied Territories’: What about Cyprus, Kashmir, Tibet?” Gatestone Institute, July 23, 2013).
Since at least the Carter administration, the United States bought into Palestinian propaganda labeling the territories as “occupied.” This was most egregiously applied to the State Department’s annual human rights report, which at one time was divided into separate documents on “Israel” and “Occupied Territories.” In 2000, State began publishing one report for “Israel and the occupied territories.” In 2018, the State Department finally corrected the error and the 2017 report was titled “Israel, Golan Heights, West Bank and Gaza.” State Department officials also said reports issued by other parts of the government no longer refer to the West Bank and Gaza as the “Occupied Territories” (Carol Morello, “State Department strikes reproductive rights, ‘Occupied Territories’ from human rights report,” Washington Post, April 20, 2018).
Occupation typically refers to foreign control of an area that was under the previous sovereignty of another state. In the case of the West Bank, there was no legitimate sovereign because the territory had been illegally occupied by Jordan from 1948 to 1967. Only two countries—Britain and Pakistan—recognized Jordan’s action. The Palestinians never demanded an end to Jordanian occupation and the creation of a Palestinian state.
It is also necessary to distinguish the acquisition of territory in a war of conquest as opposed to a war of self-defense. A nation that attacks another and then retains the territory it conquers is an occupier. One that gains territory in the course of defending itself is not in the same category. This is the situation with Israel, which specifically told King Hussein that if Jordan stayed out of the 1967 War, Israel would not fight against him. Hussein ignored the warning and attacked Israel. While fending off the assault, and driving out the invading Jordanian troops, Israel came to control the West Bank.
By rejecting Arab demands that Israel be required to withdraw from all the territories won in 1967, UN Security Council Resolution 242 acknowledged that Israel was entitled to claim at least part of these lands for new defensible borders.
Since Oslo, the case for tagging Israel as an occupying power has been further weakened by the fact that Israel transferred virtually all civilian authority in the West Bank to the Palestinian Authority. Israel retained the power to control its own external security and that of its citizens, but 98 percent of the Palestinian population in the West Bank, and 100 percent in Gaza, came under the PA’s authority. Israel has also withdrawn from approximately 40 percent of the West Bank and all of Gaza.
The extent to which Israel has been forced to maintain a military presence in the territories has been governed by the Palestinians’ unwillingness to end violence against Israel. The only way to resolve the dispute over the territories is for the Palestinians to negotiate a final settlement. Until now, the intransigence of the Palestinian Authority’s leadership has prevented the resumption of peace talks, which offer the only route to an agreement that will lead to a sustainable future for Israelis and Palestinians alike.
Palestinians in Syria are given as much attention as those in Gaza.
While the plight of Palestinians in the disputed territories regularly attracts media scrutiny, the press has shown little interest in the crisis for Palestinians in Syria. Similarly, organizations that feign interest in Palestinian welfare, including those on college campuses, focus their ire on Israel. It has become almost axiomatic that the misfortune of a Palestinian only merits attention if Israel can be blamed.
One media outlet that has given some attention to Syria’s treatment of Palestinians is Al Jazeera (see, for example, “UNRWA: 3,500 Palestinian refugees flee Syria’s Yarmouk camp,” Al Jazeera, April 28, 2018). The network reported that during the same time the world press was focused on Palestinian protests in Gaza, an estimated 3,500 Palestinians fled the Yarmouk refugee camp to escape attacks by Syrian forces and their allies. Chris Gunness, a spokesperson for UNRWA, said, “Many are sleeping in the streets and begging for medicine. There is almost no water or electricity. Their suffering is unimaginable.”
After four weeks of riots along the Gaza border, 124 Palestinians were killed, prompting frontpage headlines. The same news outlets had nothing to say, however, about the 31 Palestinians killed in one week during the same month in Syria.
On April 24, four days after Palestinians rioted for the fourth time at the Gaza border and the international media focused on the death of four Palestinians, Syrian and Russian warplanes dropped 55 barrels of dynamite during 220 airstrikes on the Yarmouk camp. This atrocity was committed without provoking a reaction from the international community, pro-Palestinian activists or even Palestinians themselves in the disputed territories (Khaled Abu Toameh, “220 Airstrikes on Palestinians; World Yawns,” Gatestone Institute, April 26, 2018).
Yarmouk was not the first Palestinian refugee camp attacked by Syria and its allies. For example, on June 30, 2016, Khan Eshieh in the Damascus area was bombarded and at least six residents, including a seven-year-old child, were killed when warplanes dropped bombs on civilian homes in the camp. Gunness said at least nine Palestinian refugees were killed in the area during fighting in June 2016. The camp’s population dropped from 20,000 to 14,000 and the remaining refugees faced a humanitarian crisis as the Assad regime was preventing medicine from entering the camp (Patrick Strickland & Dylan Collins, “Palestinian refugees killed in Syria's Khan Eshieh camp,” Al Jazeera, July 2, 2016).
The death toll during the entire civil war is at least 3,729 (including at least 465 women), with another 1,674 held by the Syrians and more than 300 missing.
Before the civil war began in March 2011, about 560,000 Palestinians were living in Syria. Of those, approximately 120,000 have fled to Europe; 31,000 to Lebanon, 17,000 to Jordan, 6,000 to Egypt, 8,000 to Turkey and 1,000 to the Gaza Strip.
We hear a lot about Palestinian children in the context of the conflict with Israel, but how many reports have you seen about the 13 Palestinian children killed in bombings near a government-run school in Sayyida Zainab on February 21, 2016 (“Q&A: Beyond Yarmouk, Palestinians in Syria need aid,” Al Jazeera, February 25, 2016)? Do you recall any outcry from pro-Palestinian activists?
The media has an obligation to shine a light on what is happening in Syria, as do supporters of the Palestinians if they are indeed concerned with their welfare. Instead of fighting each other and stoking violence against Israelis who want nothing more than to live in peace with them, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas should be demanding action to protect Palestinians in Syria.
The situation for Palestinians in Syria is extremely grave, which is one of many reasons why it is necessary for the international community to put an end to the slaughter of innocents by Bashar Assad’s regime and his Hezbollah, Iranian and Russian allies.
Israelis have plenty of time to prepare for rocket attacks.
Hamas has fired thousands of rockets into Israel from the Gaza Strip and continues to build up its arsenal. Hezbollah is believed to have more than 100,000 rockets pointed at Israel from various sites in Lebanon. In addition, Syrian, Hezbollah and Iranian forces have rockets that can target Israel from bases inside Syria. On May 10, 2018, Iran fired 20 rockets at Israel. Four were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile defense system and the others reportedly fell inside Syria. Israel has developed a sophisticated warning system to advise the population of a rocket attack; however, given the speed of missiles and Israel’s small size, the public has very little time to seek shelter.
This map, which is posted inside Israeli government buildings, indicates the estimated time after a code red alarm before a rocket lands in different locations in Israel. Dark green is 3 minutes, yellow 45 seconds, light red 15 seconds, dark red immediate.
Israel shoots protestors rather than using non-lethal riot control methods.
Israel faces a serious threat from thousands of Palestinians rioting along its border and threatening to overrun the fence surrounding Gaza to attack Israeli soldiers and civilians. No government would allow a mob to storm its border and threaten its citizens.
In response to these violent demonstrations, Israel is using a variety of riot control measures, but they all have limited effectiveness and do not allow soldiers to remain a safe distance from the rioters. For example, tear gas and rubber bullets have a range of less than 350 feet. Water cannons, “Skunk” water and sonic blasters (Adam Rawnsley, “‘The Scream’: Israel Blasts Protesters With Sonic Gun,” Wired, September 23, 2011) have a range of less than 200 feet (“What non-lethal anti-riot means does Israel have available for Gaza? Not much,” Elder of Zion, May 04, 2018).
If the Palestinians were peacefully protesting a short distance from the fence, not a single person would be injured. Sadly, that has not been the case in the last several weeks of violent demonstrations. Hamas seeks to kill or kidnap Israeli soldiers and attack civilians in nearby communities. Terrorists have tried to cut through the border fence, shot at Israeli soldiers, planted bombs, carried knives and axes, and flown kites and balloons with incendiary devices across the border.
Israel has repeatedly dropped leaflets and issued warnings making clear that anyone coming within roughly 1,000 feet of the fence would be viewed as a threat. Many protestors have ignored these warnings. Still, Israeli snipers are only permitted to shoot at the legs of people approaching the border unless they have weapons and threaten Israelis’ lives (Amos Harel, “Most Killings of Palestinians During Gaza Protests Unintentional, Senior Israeli Officer Says,” Haaretz, April 29, 2018).
Gazan protestors should be entitled to return to their homes in "Palestine."
According to the UN, more than 5.4 million Palestinians are refugees. Does Israel have any obligation to take in some or all of those people?
The current Israeli population is approximately 8.8 million, of which 6.6 million are Jews and 1.9 million are Arabs. If every Palestinian refugee were allowed to move to Israel, the population would exceed fourteen million, and the Jewish proportion would shrink from 75 percent to 47 percent. The Jews would be a minority in their own country, the very situation they fought to avoid in 1948, and which the UN expressly ruled out in deciding to partition Palestine.
The demand that the refugees be returned to Israeli territory must be rejected, because if that were to happen, there would be two Palestinian states and no state at all for the Jewish people.
—Amos Oz (Amos Oz, “Israel Partly at Fault,” Ynet News, March 29, 2007)
It is often forgotten that most Palestinians now live in historic Palestine, which is an area including Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Jordan. When Palestinians demand to return to “Palestine” they are referring not just to the area, but to the houses they lived in prior to 1948. These homes are either gone or inhabited now. Moreover, few of the people considered refugees by the UN lived in what is now Israel in 1948.
Even respected Palestinian leaders acknowledge that it is a mistake to insist that millions of refugees return to Israel. Palestinian intellectual Sari Nusseibeh, for example, said the refugees should be resettled in a future Palestinian state, “not in a way that would undermine the existence of the State of Israel as a predominantly Jewish state. Otherwise, what does a two-state solution mean?” (Sol Stern, “Mr. Abbas, Tear Down This Wall!” Jewish Ideas Daily, September 28, 2010) In leaked cables from the Palestinian negotiating team, PA president Mahmoud Abbas admitted this as well. “On numbers of refugees,” he said, “it is illogical to ask Israel to take 5 million, or indeed 1 million—that would mean the end of Israel.” (“Meeting Minutes: President Abbas Meeting with the Negotiations Support Unit” March 24, 2009)
This is exactly the point of the “Great March of Return” – to accomplish Hamas’s goal of destroying Israel.
In the context of a peace settlement, Israel has offered to accept some refugees, as David Ben-Gurion said he would do more than sixty years ago. In fact, there would be no refugee problem had the Arabs accepted his 1949 offer to allow 100,000 refugees to return in exchange for a comprehensive peace agreement (Terence Prittie, "Middle East Refugees," in Michael Curtis, et al., The Palestinians, NJ: Transaction Books, 1975, pp. 66-67). At that time, the number of refugees was about one-tenth the number the UN claims exist now. Like the Palestinian leadership today; however, the Arab leaders believed Israel would eventually be destroyed and the refugees could then have their old homes and those of the Jews.
If and when a Palestinian state is created, the refugees should be allowed to move there. Publicly, however, Abbas and Hamas demand that all refugees return to “Palestine,” which they consider all of Israel. Rather than absorb their own people, who even now they keep confined to refugee camps, the Palestinian leadership believes it can weaken, if not destroy Israel, by overwhelming the country with refugees.
LGBT Palestinians enjoy the same rights as Israelis.
On June 8, 2018, an estimated 250,000 people from around the world attended the annual Gay Pride Parade in Tel Aviv. Meanwhile, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority were harassing Palestinians associated with a television comedy about gay people in the Gaza Strip. Though the Gaza comedian responsible for the show, “Out of Focus,” apologized, the controversy has not gone away and some people want to punish those associated with the program for “insulting Arab and Islamic values” (Khaled Abu Toameh, “Palestinians: No Place for Gays,” Gatestone Institute, June 12, 2018).
This is just the latest example of the contrast in the treatment of gays in Israel and the Palestinian Authority.
Legally, gays are treated differently in the West Bank and Gaza; however, it is socially taboo to be openly gay in either place. In the West Bank, the Jordanian Penal Code has been in force since 1951, which does not outlaw homosexuality. Gaza, however operates under the British Mandate Criminal Code Ordinance of 1936, which criminalizes sexual acts “against the order of nature” and stipulates penalties of up to 10 years. It does allow, however, for “consensual sex between female same-sex couples.” In addition, “laws against ‘indecency’ are sometimes used, on an irregular and unpredictable basis, to criminalize same-sex acts” (“LGBT Rights in Palestine,” Equaldex, accessed June 27, 2018).
Dr. Nessia Shemer from Bar-Ilan University’s Middle Eastern history department noted that historically “Islamic jurists disagreed about the punishment homosexuals deserve. Some of them claim it must be the death penalty, while others say that’s not the case, and that one should distinguish between different circumstances.” Today, however, the most influential Islamic Sunni jurist, Qatar-based Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, maintains that the punishment for homosexuality should be death (Liza Rozovsky, “What It’s Like to Be Gay in Gaza: Meeting Israelis on Dating Apps, Evading Hamas and Plotting Escape,” Haaretz, (February 21, 2018).
M., a Palestinian psychologist living and working in Germany, told Haaretz Palestinian society’s negative attitude toward homosexuality is a product of the culture and ideas about masculinity. “Islam obviously plays a role,” says M., “but even people who are totally secular reject homosexuality” (Rozovsky). This point is reflected in a survey by Pew asking people in 39 different countries whether “society should accept homosexuality,” 93 percent of Palestinians said “no,” which ranked 31st, only slightly better than the 98 percent of Nigerians at the bottom of the rankings (“The Global Divide on Homosexuality,” Pew Research Center, June 4, 2013).
Some gay Palestinians have been killed by the authorities or by family members. In 2016, for example, Hamas commander Mahmoud Ishtiwi was tortured and killed after being accused, among other things, of being gay (Jack Moore, “Hamas Executes Prominent Commander After Accusations Of Gay Sex,” Newsweek, March 2, 2016).
Majd, a gay Palestinian man, from a village near Jenin admitted that coming out would be dangerous. “If my male relations knew, they would come and beat me or kill me,” he says. “My father couldn’t stand that his son is gay. My parents are religious and see homosexuality as a disease” (Nigel O’Connor, “Gay Palestinians Are Being Blackmailed Into Working As Informants,” Vice, February 19, 2013).
The PA offers no legal protection for LGBT people from discrimination or harassment. In fact, Palestinian authorities often do the harassing, including blackmailing gay men by threatening to reveal their secrets. Saif, a 20-year-old student living near Ramallah, for example, said that if it became known that he was gay, he could be murdered. The police keep files on him and other homosexuals to blackmail them into working as spies and informants. Saif said he heard “of guys being called at random and told to come into police stations, with threats their families would be told about their sexuality if they didn’t show up” (O’Connor).
In Gaza, Jamil, a 21-year-old student says, “Hamas is always on the lookout for gays and it monitors the social media.” Gay men do sometimes meet in public, “but they try not to be seen together at the same place more than once.” If they want to meet privately, they need to be sure no family members are around. He added that he doesn’t know any lesbians and suggests that it would be much harder for women in the Strip to engage in a same-sex relationship. “There are too many restrictions on girls, things that are controlling them,” he says. “Women don’t dare to talk about those things, even among themselves” (Rozovsky).
This is backed up by ASWAT, an organization of Palestinian gay women, which says Palestinian society “has no mercy for sexual diversity and/or any expression of ‘otherness’ away from the societal norms and the assigned roles that were formed for women. ... The Palestinian woman has no right to choose an identity other than the one enforced on her by the male figures in her family and surroundings” (“ASWAT – Palestinian Gay Women,” Mediterranean Women, (August 15, 2006).
Journalist Yossi Klein Halevi documented a number of particularly horrific cases of gays being mistreated during the rule of Yasser Arafat. One gay Palestinian was confined by police to a pit without food or water until he died. Another was imprisoned and “interrogators cut him with glass and poured toilet cleaner into his wounds.”
In another example, an American who moved to live with his Palestinian lover in the West Bank found a letter under their door from the Islamic court. It listed “the five forms of death prescribed by Islam for homosexuality, including stoning and burning.” They fled to Israel the same day and went into hiding because the Palestinian’s brothers threatened to kill him.”
Halevi learned the PA police forced a gay man “to stand in sewage water up to his neck, his head covered by a sack filled with feces, and then he was thrown into a dark cell infested with insects.” During one interrogation police stripped him and forced him to sit on a Coke bottle. He fled to Israel after he was released, fearing the police would kill him if he returned (Yossi Klein Halevi, “Refugee Status,” New Republic, August 19, 2002).
Gay Palestinians often seek refuge in Israel. Many say they would rather live under house arrest in Israel than at home (“Palestinian gays flee to Israel,” BBC, October 22, 2003). A gay Palestinian named Ali said he felt he had already been subject to discrimination as a Christian. He said that in Israel individuals have the “freedom to express [their] sex and take pride in it” (Alex Tehranian, “Gay Man Criticizes Palestinian Society,” The Hoya, October 22, 2004).
According to lawyer Shaul Gannon, from the Israeli LGBT organization Aguda, approximately “2,000 Palestinian homosexuals live in Tel Aviv at any one time” (Nigel O’Connor, “Gay Palestinians Are Being Blackmailed Into Working As Informants,” Vice, (February 19, 2013).
Palestinian political organizations do not advocate for LGBT rights; however, some organizations based in Israel attempt to aid LGBT Arabs and Palestinians. These include Jerusalem Open House, Black Laundry, and Aswat for women (“Palestine,” GlobalGayz.com, accessed June 27, 2018). Organizations outside the Middle East that campaign for Palestinian rights are also silent when it comes to the persecution of gays, preferring to accuse Israel of “pinkwashing.”
“Pinkwashing,” Alan Dershowitz has said, “is an anti-Semitic canard” (Alan Dershowitz, “Berkeley’s student newspaper refuses to publish my response to an anti-Semitic op-ed, so here it is,” Washington Examiner, November 7, 2017) and, in 2016, the Italian gay rights organization Associazione Radicale Certi Diritti condemned the delegitimization of Israel by LGBT rights groups that use the term “pinkwashing.” The group said, “The alarming increase in political calls by LGBTI groups to boycott Israel diverts from the real battle these group should hold, i.e., the advocacy for the promotion of LGBTI rights among the Palestinian people.” The organization praised Israel for being the only state in the Middle East which protects LGBTI rights and condemned the Palestinian Authority and Hamas for not recognizing the rights of the LGTBI community (“Italian gay rights group rejects anti-Israel ‘pinkwashing’ accusation,” Times of Israel, November 22, 2016).
Christopher Scott McCannell, a member of the advisory board of A Wider Bridge, a group that promotes connections between LGBT Americans and Israelis admitted, “Israel is not perfect, and Israel has much further to go to provide equality for all, but to say that Israel’s acceptance, recognition and freedom of LGBT citizens is somehow “pinkwashing” is trying to divert attention from the poor record for LGBT Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza” (Christopher Scott McCannell, “West Bank, Gaza no haven for LGBT Palestinians,” Washington Blade, July 9, 2015).
Israel’s treatment of gays is unique in the Middle East and a model for much of the world. Unlike the PA, workplace discrimination against gay people is outlawed; the Knesset has openly gay members; the Israel Defense Force has openly gay soldiers and officers; and the Supreme Court has ruled that gay couples are eligible for spousal and widower benefits. Israel has also signed the United Nations’ Gay Rights Protection Resolution (2011) and recognizes a domestic partnership of same-sex couples and foreign gay marriages. Surrogacy is legal and in vitro fertilization is paid for gay couples (Alina Dain Sharon, “Israel and Arab Countries Are Miles Apart on LGBT Rights,” Outward Magazine, accessed June 27, 2018; Myriam Miedzian, “Never mind the pinkwashing charge, and celebrate Israel,” Daily News, June 2, 2018).
Gay Palestinians are not the only ones who appreciate Israel’s tolerant attitude. The country’s reputation has made it a major destination for gay tourists. In fact, Tel Aviv was named the World’s Best Gay City in an online survey in 2012, finishing far ahead of more famous places such as New York City, Sydney and San Francisco (“Tel Aviv named world’s best gay city,” Ynet, November 1, 2012).
Israel is creating a humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
When Israel evacuated all Jewish citizens and removed all of its troops from the Gaza Strip in 2005, it was with the expectation that the Palestinian Authority (PA) would provide effective governance in the territory and that progress toward peace would follow. Moreover, Israel has always understood that Palestinian prosperity was important for creating incentives for ending the conflict. This is why, for example, Israel left behind greenhouses in Gaza that would have provided the Palestinians with a ready-made multi-million dollar export industry had they chosen not to destroy most of them and convert others to terrorist training bases.
Much of the suffering in Gaza today is caused by sanctions imposed by the PA. These include cutting the salaries and benefits of Gaza-based PA employees, resuming the collection of taxes, suspending social welfare assistance to thousands of families and forcing thousands of civil servants to retire. The PA also stopped paying Israel for electricity and fuel supplies resulting in rolling blackouts (Khaled Abu Toameh, “Hamas calls on PA government to lift sanctions or disband,” Times of Israel, February 13, 2018). Deputy Hamas leader in Gaza Khalil Al-Hayya said that sanctions imposed by the PA “represent a humanitarian and national crime” (“Hamas: Reconciliation starts with lifting PA sanctions on Gaza,” Middle East Monitor, July 3, 2018).
Abbas hopes the conditions will deteriorate to the point where the people will blame Hamas for their plight and revolt, allowing the PA to retake control of Gaza.
Despite continuing Qassam rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza following the disengagement, Israel has provided food, fuel, electricity, furniture, medical equipment and medicines, electronic appliances, building materials and other supplies to Gaza. Israel has also assisted the local economy by allowing goods produced inside Gaza, such as agricultural produce, textiles, and iron to be exported. Due to the ongoing protests that began with the “Great March of Return” and have escalated to rocket attacks and setting fires, Israel has temporarily closed the crossing to all goods but necessities.
Israel remains concerned that if conditions in Gaza do not improve, the prospect of a conflagration increase. Consequently, Israel and the United States have proposed a variety of approaches to help Gaza.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman, for example, proposed the construction of a special pier in Cyprus for cargo ships carrying goods destined for Gaza. Cyprus agreed provided all parties involved in the issue consent (“Cyprus to consent to port for Gaza on condition of agreement by all parties,” Xinhua, June 6, 2018).
In addition, Trump adviser Jared Kushner and envoy Jason Greenblatt have suggested initiatives that included “the provision of necessities such as electricity, desalination of drinking water, employment opportunities and revival of the industrial zone in the enclave” (“Qatari Envoy Says Hamas Indirect Contact With Israel to End Gaza Siege,” albawaba News, July 2, 2018).
The PA has rejected offers of help for Gaza, accusing Israel and the United States of engaging in a conspiracy aimed at “undermining the Palestinian national project, including the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state” (Khaled Abu Toameh, “Palestinian Authority Rejects Israeli, U.S. Ideas To Help Gaza,” Jerusalem Post, June 26, 2018).
Mahmoud Al-Aloul, the person mentioned as a possible successor to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said, “We don't want your flour and wheat; we don't want your humanitarian aid,” and later added, “We are prepared to starve, but we can’t, in return for resolving our humanitarian issues, give up Jerusalem and our basic rights” (Bassam Tawil, “Why Do Palestinian Leaders Oppose Helping Their People?” Gatestone Institute, July 12, 2018).
Fatah, led by Abbas, warned Hamas that discussing the Israeli and American proposals was tantamount to “betraying the cause, the land, Jerusalem and the al-Aqsa [Mosque].” Abbas has also reportedly protested Egypt’s decision to open the Rafah terminal allowing goods and people to flow between Gaza and Egypt (Abu Toameh).
Middle East scholar Bassam Tawil cites three reasons why Abbas opposes helping Palestinians in Gaza. First, prolonging the suffering of the Gazans creates a public relations nightmare for Israel, which is blamed for conditions in the Strip. Second, the PA is afraid Hamas will be strengthened because aid will give it more resources to build tunnels and rockets and acquire other weapons to attack Israel. Third, the money allows Hamas to circumvent the sanctions imposed by the PA and thereby frustrate Abbas’s desire to foment a revolt (Tawil).
Tawil concludes the PA’s position is clear: “You can give us as much money as you want, we will not change our stance toward Israel and we will not give up any of our demands.” Tawil says this sums up the Israeli-Palestinian conflict: “The Palestinians’ number one priority – the Palestinian leadership and the Palestinians in general – is destroying Israel. They would rather die than give up their dream of destroying Israel” (Tawil).
Obama was rightly angered by the State Department map of the West Bank.
In the July 9, 2018, issue of The New Yorker, Adam Entous argued that President Barack Obama decided to abstain on a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning settlements after seeing a State Department map showing that most of the West Bank was off limits to Palestinian development and filled with Jewish settlements and outposts (“The Maps of Israeli Settlements That Shocked Barack Obama”). This appears to be an example of how State Department Arabists sought to manipulate the president, as the map simply reflected the agreements reached by Israelis and Palestinians in the Oslo Accords that have been common knowledge for the last 23 years.
According to Entous, a senior State Department official named Frank Lowenstein discovered a map he had never seen before, which was surprising given that similar maps have been published for years. It was even more bizarre to read that “Lowenstein’s team” had to “do the math” to figure out that Israel controlled 60 percent of the West Bank when this was precisely the area agreed to in the Oslo negotiations referred to as Area C. This territory consists mainly of uninhabited desert, scattered Israeli settlements and a handful of settlement blocs. The other areas on the map Lowenstein found so scandalous were areas A and B. Israel withdrew completely from area A and ceded complete control over all civilian administration to the Palestinian Authority (PA). Area B encompasses Arab towns and villages where the PA has full civilian authority but shares security responsibility with Israel.
The State Department apparently added the notation regarding non-Jews outnumbering Jews between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River. It is unclear where the data comes from, but it is most likely from the PA whose numbers are known to be exaggerated. There has not been an impartial census conducted in the West Bank or Gaza, but Israel’s leading demographer, Sergio DellaPergola, has more recent data which estimates that roughly 6.9 million Jews live in Israel and the disputed territories compared to 6.5 million Arabs (Khaled Abu Toameh, “Palestinian census: 4.7 million in West Bank and Gaza Strip,” Times of Israel, March 28, 2018).
Interestingly, while the State Department was apparently alarmed that 385,900 settlers were living in Area C and Palestinian development there was limited (according to its “Territory Breakdown” map), there is no mention of the Palestinian population. If you believe the latest Palestinian data, Obama might have been shocked to learn the number of Palestinians (393,163) exceeds the Jewish population (Abu Toameh).
By distorting the data in a variety of maps, State Department officials convinced Obama that Israel was greatly expanding settlements to foreclose a two-state solution. Michael Koplow noted, however, that “the settlement growth taking place is overwhelmingly west of the security barrier and in the blocs that will be retained by Israel in a final agreement….In other words, the acceleration of the settler population is happening, but it is happening in the places that present the smallest problem for a two-state solution” (Michael J. Koplow, “About Those State Department Maps,” Israel Policy Forum, July 12, 2018).
The Nation State Law proves Israel is undemocratic and discriminates against Arabs.
On July 19, 2018, Israel adopted a new Basic Law: Israel – The Nation State of the Jewish People. The law provoked controversy inside and outside of Israel. After the vote, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said:
As Netanyahu said, this law codifies Israel’s status as the “national home of the Jewish people.” The law also declares Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, sets the Hebrew calendar as the state’s official calendar and confirms Shabbat and Jewish holidays as official days of rest while allowing non-Jews to determine their own rest days and holidays. It recognizes the current national flag as the official one, the menorah as the state’s symbol and Hatikvah as the national anthem. It also states that Israel will endeavor to ensure the safety of all Jews and “preserve the cultural, historical and religious legacy of the Jewish people among the Jewish diaspora.”
Some critics have suggested, the law should have included the word “equality.” For example, Amir Fuchs, Head of the Defending Democratic Values Program at the Israel Democracy Institute, said “it is difficult to understand why the authors of this bill insist not to include this important value” (Amir Fuchs, “The Nation State Bill Bias,” Israel Democracy Institute, July 10, 2018). Supporters of the law counter the existing Basic Law: Human Dignity and Liberty defines Israel’s democratic character, but the new law was needed because Israel’s Jewish character was not embedded in constitutional law. Moreover, Professor Gerald Steinberg of Bar-Ilan University notes that this law is only one part of a broad and detailed democratic map.
Does every U.S. law or constitutional amendment include the word democratic? (personal communication).
The law also enshrines the Zionist idea upon which the nation was founded, namely that Israel is a country established to fulfill the Jewish people’s “right to national self-determination.” Legal scholar Eugene Kontorovich notes that seven European states have similar “nationhood” constitutional provisions (Eugene Kontorovich, “Get Over It—Israel Is the Jewish State,” Wall Street Journal, July 20, 2018). Furthermore, no nation grants a right to self-determination to a minority within its borders; otherwise the Basques in Spain and Kurds in Turkey or Iraq would have their own states. This clause is also a response to Israel’s detractors, such as advocates of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, who assert this right belongs to the Palestinians and not the Jewish people.
Much of the criticism of the law focused on the establishment of Hebrew as Israel’s sole official language. Formerly Arabic was also an official state language (as was English). Any alteration of a long-established status quo is jarring; however, the recognition of Hebrew is consistent with the policies of other countries which give official status only to the majority language. The previous recognition of Arabic was a remnant of the British Mandatory period and does not reflect today’s reality in which 80% of Israelis, including most Arabs, speak Hebrew. The law specifically states that it “does not change the status given to the Arabic language before the basic law was created” in any other way. Hence, Arabic speakers are no more discriminated against than minorities in more than 100 countries that have a single national language. Incidentally, the de facto official language of the Palestinian Authority is Arabic.
Another clause that sparked controversy states that Israel will “encourage and promote” Jewish settlement around the country. The language was deliberately altered so as not to suggest this would lead to the creation of Jewish-only towns, however, some critics, feared it would be interpreted as if that was the intention. Indeed, Israel’s enemies interpreted it that way, arguing the law promotes segregation.
David Hazony, executive director of the Israel Innovation Fund, noted that some critics have interpreted this clause as promoting Jewish settlement in Judea and Samaria. While that may be the political goal of some of its supporters, Hazony said the “word being translated as ‘settlement’ is hityashvut, which to any Israeli ear refers more to the Galilee and the Negev and the history of building new Jewish communities a century ago across the country than it does to the West Bank” (David Hazony, “Everything You’ve Heard About Israel’s Nation State Bill Is Wrong,” Forward, July 23, 2018).
Kontorovich adds that this clause is consistent with the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine, which sought to “encourage . . . close settlement by Jews.” More important, he says it does not “prescribe or authorize any particular policies” unlike, for example, the state constitution of Hawaii, which Kontorovich notes “authorizes land policies to promote homesteading by ethnic Hawaiians, and provides preferential land policies for them.” Kontorovich adds that Israel’s Supreme Court has ruled that Arabs have a right to create residential communities in Israel that exclude Jews but Jews do not have the same right to exclude Arabs.
One indication of the double standard applied to Israel is that no international uproar followed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ declaration that not “a single Israeli” would be permitted to live in a Palestinian state (Noah Browning, “Abbas wants ‘not a single Israeli’ in future Palestinian state,” Reuters, July 29, 2013).).
The law did provoke negative reactions around the world and angered many non-Jews in Israel. This does not make it either undemocratic or discriminatory. Kontorovich explained:
In the case of the Nation State Law, members of Knesset voted by a 62-55 majority to approve the legislation. This is democracy in action. Still, like Americans, Israelis can challenge laws in court, and three Knesset members have already done so, one sign of the health of Israel’s democracy (Jonathan Lis and Noa Landau, “Israeli Minister Admits Nation-state Law Marginalizes ‘Druze Brothers,’” Haaretz, July 25, 2018). Another indication is the ability of Israelis to vote for new representatives who could revoke or alter the law if they can convince a majority of all Knesset members a change is warranted.
Even a critic of the law, IDI President Yohanan Plesner admitted the practical impact of the bill was currently merely “symbolic and educational.” He said it “won’t have immediate concrete implications.” IDI vice president Yuval Shani added, “It is not a game changer and has very little problematic implications….It won’t change how the country is run” (Gil Hoffman, “Israel Democracy Institute: Jewish Nation-State Law ‘not a game changer,’” Jerusalem Post, July 30, 2018).
America’s Arab allies routinely support U.S. positions at the U.N.
In 2017, 93 resolutions passed with a vote in the UN General Assembly, 19 of which were characterized as anti-Israel by the United States. Among the Arab states, Qatar and Saudi Arabia voted with the United States most often, just 25 percent of the time. As a group, the Arab states voted against the United States on 78 percent of the resolutions. Not surprisingly, Syria was at the bottom of the list, opposing the United States 85 percent of the time. More shocking, perhaps, was that Lebanon was nearly as bad (82 percent) despite the fact the United States continues to provide military aid to the country. Every Arab state, with the exception of Syria, voted less frequently with the U.S. in 2017 than they did in 2013.
By contrast, Israel has consistently been at or near the top of the list of America’s top UN allies. In 2017, Israel was far ahead of the pack, voting with the United States 94 percent of the time, followed by Micronesia with a coincidence rate of 72 percent. Major U.S. allies such as Canada (69 percent), Great Britain (60 percent), Australia (60 percent) and France (58 percent) lagged far behind (United States Department of State).
Netanyahu backtracked on Rabin’s positions regarding peace with the Palestinians.
On November 4, 2017, Israelis and all those who long for peace will mourn the twenty-second anniversary of the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. The role Rabin played in the defense of his country as a soldier, diplomat, and politician should never be forgotten. In 1993, he took the courageous step of recognizing the PLO and negotiating a peace agreement with Yasser Arafat that for a brief period offered hope for an end to the conflict. Alas, by reneging on the commitment to end terror and, instead, intensifying the murderous attacks on Israeli civilians, the Palestinians squandered yet another chance for achieving their stated goal of independence.
In fact, before his death, Rabin indicated he had lost faith in the peace process and was considering putting an end to Israeli concessions. According to his daughter Dalia, “Many people who were close to father told me that on the eve of the murder he considered stopping the Oslo process because of the terror that was running rampant in the streets and that Arafat wasn’t delivering the goods. Father, after all, wasn’t a blind man running forward without thought?.?.?.?After all he was someone for whom the security of the state was sacrosanct” (“Dalia Rabin: My Father Might Have Stopped Oslo,” IMRA, October 20, 2010).
Rabin was not naive and did not let his desire for peace blind him to the risks. Rabin’s clear-eyed realism has been forgotten, however, by many people who have mythologized Rabin’s role in the Oslo process, presenting him as so determined that it was only his death that prevented the implementation of a two-state solution to the conflict. By contrast, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is internationally vilified as someone who is uncompromising and uninterested in peace. Ironically, a closer examination reveals that their views were remarkably similar—with one notable exception—unlike Rabin, Netanyahu has accepted the eventual creation of a Palestinian state (Raphael Ahren, “While refusing to endorse two-state solution, Netanyahu says Israel won’t annex West Bank,” New York Times, February 16, 2017).
Netanyahu did continue the Oslo process until his defeat in the 1999 election. He agreed to the redeployment of Israeli forces in Hebron and the withdrawal from an additional 13 percent of the West Bank.
The best evidence of Rabin’s thinking at the time of his death was his final speech to the Knesset on October 5, 1995, just a month before he was murdered. Compare Rabin’s views with those of Netanyahu:
On a Palestinian State
Rabin: We view the permanent solution in the framework of [the] State of Israel, which will include most of the area of the land of Israel as it was under the rule of the British Mandate, and alongside it a Palestinian entity which will be a home to most of the Palestinian residents living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. We would like this to be an entity which is less than a state, and which will independently run the lives of the Palestinians under its authority.”
Netanyahu: “We want a peace that would end the conflict once and for all?.?.?.?I don’t support a one-state solution; I don’t believe that’s a solution at all; I support the vision of two states for two peoples” (Allyn Fisher-Ilan, “Netanyahu Renews Support for Two-State Solution with Palestinians,” Reuters, May 20, 2015).
The 1967 Lines
Netanyahu: “For there to be peace, the Palestinians will have to accept some basic realities—the first is that while Israel is prepared to make generous compromises for peace it cannot go back to the 1967 lines, because these lines are indefensible” (“Netanyahu Rejects Obama’s 1967 Border Proposal,” Fox News, May 20, 2011).
Control of the Jordan Valley
Rabin: “The security border of the State of Israel will be located in the Jordan Valley, in the broadest meaning of that term.”
Netanyahu: “Our strength is the guarantee for our existence and peace. We do not want an Iranian offshoot in Judea and Samaria. This requires a security border in the Jordan Valley, as Rabin said in his last speech” (Lahav Harkov, “Netanyahu: Border Must Remain in Jordan Valley – Like Rabin Said,” Jerusalem Post, October 16, 2013).
Rabin: “I want to remind you: we committed ourselves, that is, we came to an agreement, and committed ourselves before the Knesset, not to uproot a single settlement in the framework of the interim agreement, and not to hinder building for natural growth.”
Netanyahu: “I have no intention of evacuating any settlement or uprooting any Israelis” (Tovah Lazaroff, “Netanyahu: I won’t Evacuate Settlements,” Jerusalem Post, January 26, 2014).
Rabin: “United Jerusalem, which will include both Ma’ale Adumim and Givat Ze’ev” as the capital of Israel, under Israeli sovereignty, while preserving the rights of the members of the other faiths, Christianity and Islam, to freedom of access and freedom of worship in their holy places, according to the customs of their faiths.
Netanyahu: “We will keep Jerusalem united under Israeli authority” (Oren Lieberman, “Benjamin Netanyahu: Jerusalem Will Remain United City,” CNN, May 17, 2015); “Yitzhak Rabin Was Not the Blind Peace-Maker That Bubba Clinton Claims He Was,” The Lid, November 2, 2015).
Rabin took the peace process as far as he could under the circumstances he faced. Had he lived, he may have seen the process through to a successful conclusion, but his daughter’s remarks suggest that he did not believe peace could be achieved because of the unceasing Palestinian terrorism.
Netanyahu now faces more grave dangers and yet has been willing to go even further than Rabin in accepting Palestinian independence. That is a significant concession that the Palestinians have ignored. Worse, as they did during the Oslo period, they seem determined to prove through acts of violence that they are not interested in ending the conflict.
The Trump administration closed the PLO office in Washington because it is pro-Israel.
The PLO mission in Washington was a source of controversy since it opened in 1994 during the period of exhilaration that followed the signing of the Oslo agreement. While the justification for allowing the PLO an office was to facilitate the continuation of peace talks, many people questioned the wisdom of having a diplomatic outpost for a terrorist organization in America’s capital. Those questions grew louder in recent years as the Palestinians thumbed their noses at successive U.S. presidents, became increasingly recalcitrant, culminating in their refusal to communicate with the Trump administration, and consciously violating the will of Congress.
Therefore, when the administration announced on September 10, 2018, plans to close the PLO office, it should have come as no surprise to the Palestinians. In 2015, during the Obama administration, Congress required the Secretary of State to certify that the PLO wasn’t trying to use the International Criminal Court (ICC) against Israel. The Palestinians ignored the implicit warning, joined the court and filed several complaints against Israel and Israeli official without suffering any negative consequences from the United States (see for example, Marlise Simons, “Palestinians deliver accusations of Israeli war crimes to International Criminal Court,” Orange County Register, June 25, 2015; “French lawyer files complaint against Israel at ICC,” France24, July 25, 2014; John Reed, “Palestinians join ICC in politically charged move,” Financial Times, April 1, 2015).
In announcing the shutdown, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said:
The Wall Street Journal editors wrote, “Long-term indulgence of the PLO’s recalcitrance has had the effect of allowing a toxic and reflexive anti-Israel sentiment to build in international institutions, not least among academics and students on U.S. campuses.”
While the Palestinians have tried to portray the decision as an effort to blackmail them into giving up their demands, the Journal noted, “The point of all this isn’t to be vindictive but to show Mr. Abbas and the PLO that they can't continue to underwrite anti-Semitic textbooks and anti-Israel terrorism without consequences. If the Palestinians want to be treated with the respect of a peace partner, they have to first show a desire for peace” (Editorial Board, “Shutting Down the PLO,” Wall Street Journal, September 10, 2018).
Michael Oren, a Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Office and former ambassador to the United States, applauded the administration for enforcing the law. “In contrast to previous administrations that would reward the Palestinians for abandoning the negotiations with Israel,” he said, “President Trump is forcing the Palestinians to pay a price. As we have seen in the past – giving gifts to the Palestinians only keeps them away from the peace talks, and now the Americans are punishing them in order to make them return to the table” (Gil Hoffman, “Michael Oren: Trump Decision Advances Peace,” Jerusalem Post, September 12, 2018).
The U.S. is punishing the Palestinians by cutting funds for East Jerusalem hospitals.
The United States is a generous country, and has been especially big-hearted when it comes to lavishing financial aid on the Palestinians. Money has been provided for humanitarian reasons and also to encourage the Palestinians to make peace with Israel.
While the funds have served the first goal, it has failed entirely in the second. Worse, the Palestinians have thumbed their noses at the United States by consistently taking actions opposed by not just this administration but past ones as well. They have also undermined American policy in the region and promoted terrorism that has led to the murder of American citizens.
The United States is not obligated to financially support the Palestinians and the Trump administration has decided American taxpayers should no longer be expected to underwrite Palestinian intransigence and misbehavior. It is in this context that the administration cutoff funds for hospitals in East Jerusalem.
In response to criticism, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert noted the Palestinian Authority is responsible for paying the hospital bills of Palestinians receiving treatment in those hospitals. The PA refused to pay and the U.S. helped cover their debts. Now, she said, the PA could pay them without U.S. assistance if they shifted their priorities and used money now going to pay terrorists in Israeli jails and families of “martyrs” for hospital expenses.
She also pointed out that while the Palestinians were complaining about the U.S. decision, the PA and Hamas were also praising the killer of an American citizen (State Department, September 20, 2018). U.S. Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt called it “outrageous” that the family of Khalil Yusef Ali Jabarin, the terrorist who murdered 45-year-old Ari Fuld on September 16, 2018, would receive a monthly stipend of about $400 for the next three years as a result of the PA’s “pay-for-slay” policy (Jerusalem Post, September 20, 2018).
Israel has no right to detain BDS activists.
The detention at Ben-Gurion Airport of an American student over her alleged support for anti-Israel boycott efforts attracted widespread media attention and criticism. The case of Lara Alqasem involves questions of both law and wisdom.
When it comes to the law, Israel’s position is on solid ground and consistent with the behavior of other countries, including the United States, which place restrictions on who may cross their borders. Applicants for visas to the United States are asked several questions about their political views and activities. These include:
- Do you seek to engage in espionage, sabotage, export control violations, or any other illegal activity while in the United States?
- Do you seek to engage in terrorist activities while in the United States or have you ever engaged in terrorist activities?
- Are you a member or representative of a terrorist organization?
- Have you ever ordered, incited, committed, assisted, or otherwise participated in genocide?
- Have you ever committed, ordered, incited, assisted, or otherwise participated in torture?
- Have you committed, ordered, incited, assisted, or otherwise participated in extrajudicial killings, political killings, or other acts of violence?
- Have you, while serving as a government official, been responsible for or directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom?
The USA Patriot Act allows the Secretary of State to bar admission to the United States to “any alien whose entry or proposed activities in the United States the Secretary of State has reasonable grounds to believe would have potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences for the United States.”
The U.S. government has banned both individuals and members of groups who were convicted of crimes or were viewed as potential security threats. The list of people barred or excluded from the United States includes Irish politician Gerry Adams, British singers Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) and Boy George, Argentine soccer star Diego Maradona, and Austrian diplomat Kurt Waldheim.
Israel’s Interior Ministry explained at the time the policy was implemented that denial of entry would be based on several criteria: 1. Individuals with senior positions or significant roles in organizations calling for a boycott of Israel, such as board chairman or board members; 2. Key activists who take a consistent and continuous role to promote boycotts within the framework of prominent delegitimization organizations or independently; 3. Institutional officials, such as mayors, who promote such activities in an active and ongoing way; 4. People who arrive in Israel as ‘representatives of one of the prominent delegitimizing organizations. For example, an activist who arrives as a participant in a delegation from a prominent delegitimization organization’”(Haaretz, January 8, 2018).
Alqasem, a 22-year-old American, who has Palestinian grandparents, was given a visa to study at Hebrew University in Israel before it became known that she had been involved with Students for Justice in Palestine, an organization that promotes the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement on American college campuses. After learning of the connection, she was detained at Ben-Gurion Airport and the government planned to deport her. She appealed the deportation order to the Tel Aviv District Court.
The judge, Erez Yekuel, found that there was “no disputing” that from 2014-17 Alqasem was a member of an organization that called to boycott Israel, and for two years was the president of its Florida campus chapter, and that the organization allegedly urged the “boycott of Israeli society” and expressed support for those who carried out activities to harm Israel. He found contradictions in her testimony and evidence she tried to hide her activities by erasing her social media history.
In rejecting her appeal, Yekuel said that the government’s entry ban was in accordance with the law and that “any self-respecting state defends its own interests and those of its citizens, and has the right to fight against the actions of a boycott… as well as any attacks on its image” (Times of Israel, October 12, 2018).
Meanwhile, critics doubted the wisdom of deporting Alqasem. Hebrew University, for example, came to her defense:
Others argued that Aqasem posed no threat to Israel and that the way she was being treated undermined Israel’s image as a tolerant society (See, for example, Zev Chafets, Bloomberg, October 10, 2018).
After appealing to the Supreme Court, Alqasem was allowed to remain in Israel until the justices ruled on her case. On October 18, 2018, the court ruled she could stay. Judge Neal Hendel said that her determination to stay and study in Israel was not consistent “with the charge that the plaintiff is a covert boycott activist who is likely to take advantage of her stay in Israel to advance the BDS movement.” The court’s ruling did not challenge the legality of the law, only its application in the Alqasem case. The government also has the option of appealing the ruling and asking for it to be heard by an expanded panel of judges (JTA, October 18, 2018).
While critics pointed to Alqasem’s detention as evidence Israel is not a democracy, the process proved just the opposite. As Jerusalem Post news editor Lahav Harkov observed, “Instead of being thrown right back onto a plane, Alqasem was able to appeal her way up to the High Court and have her case be heard.” Moreover, she noted, “The court disregarded constitutional arguments against the BDS ban, upholding the law but saying the government was exercising it in the wrong way.” This, she concluded, “is exactly the role of judicial oversight in a democracy: to make sure that those with the power to implement and enforce the law do so, without crossing into authoritarianism. Israeli democracy passed that test” (Jerusalem Post, October 19, 2018).
The Zionists were colonialist tools of Western imperialism.
The Palestinians and some of their supporters portray the conflict with Israel and Zionism as an anti-colonialist struggle rather than a clash of rival nationalistic movements. “According to the rules of postcolonial discourse,” historian Alexander Yakobson notes, “the Palestinians are in the right by definition and are never responsible for anything.” Moreover, he observes, the “anti-colonialist blindness” created an imprudent expectation that Israel would “crumble from within” since “this wasn’t a real people and a real nation-state, but some ‘invented’ artificial entity” (Alexander Yakobson, “If Zionism Were Colonial It Would Have Ended Long Ago,” Haaretz, October 20, 2018).
Characterizing Israel and Zionism in this way reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of colonialism, which means living by exploiting others. “But what could be further from colonialism,” Professor Yehoshafat Harkabi has written, “than the idealism of city-dwelling Jews who strive to become farmers and laborers and to live by their own work?” (Yehoshafat Harkabi, Palestinians and Israel, Jerusalem: Keter, 1974, p. 6).
Moreover, as British historian Paul Johnson noted, Zionists were hardly tools of imperialists given the powers’ general opposition to their cause. “Everywhere in the West, the foreign offices, defense ministries and big business were against the Zionists” (Paul Johnson, Modern Times: The World from the Twenties to the Nineties, NY: Harper & Row, 1983, p. 485).
Emir Faisal saw the Zionist movement as a companion to the Arab nationalist movement, fighting against imperialism, as he explained in a letter to Harvard law professor and future Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter on March 3, 1919, one day after Chaim Weizmann presented the Zionist case to the Paris conference. Faisal wrote:
The Arabs, especially the educated among us, look with deepest sympathy on the Zionist movement?.?.?.?We will wish the Jews a hearty welcome home?.?.?.?We are working together for a reformed and revised Near East and our two movements complete one another. The Jewish movement is nationalist and not imperialist. And there is room in Syria for us both. Indeed, I think that neither can be a real success without the other (Naomi Comay, Arabs Speak Frankly on the Arab-Israeli Conflict, Printing Miracle Ltd., 2005, p. 8, emphasis added).
In the 1940s, the Jewish underground movements waged an anticolonial war against the British. The Arabs, meanwhile, were concerned primarily with fighting the Jews rather than expelling the British imperialists.
The view of Israel as colonialist predated the capture of the disputed territories in 1967; hence, the proponents of this idea fuel Israeli fears that “withdrawal from the territories will only result in a continuation of the anti-colonialist struggle to be waged mere kilometers from Ben-Gurion airport” (Yakobson).
The unwillingness to accept the validity of Zionism; that is, the Jewish people are a nation entitled to self-determination in their homeland, Israel, is the root of the conflict. The perpetuation of the colonialist myth ensures its continuation.
Arab and Muslim states support the BDS campaign against normalizing relations with Israel.
Because the “normalization of Israel – normalizing the abnormal – is a malicious and subversive process that works to cover up injustice and colonize the most intimate parts of the oppressed: their mind” (PACBI, October 31, 2011).
Though the boycotters claim the anti-normalization campaign has widespread support in the Middle East, the truth is their calls have been ignored and Arab and Muslim states are increasing their contacts with Israel. BDS proponents admitted, for example, that 20 percent of the Arab and Islamic countries have diplomatic relations with Israel. “Nine Arab countries possess full diplomatic ties…while six others who are experiencing lower-scale relations with Israel,” the BDS global campaign admitted in a report entitled “The reality of normalisation in the Arab and Islamic world” (Middle East Monitor, October 30, 2018).
When Turkey approved an agreement to normalize relations with Israel in 2016, for example, BDS proponents complained and were ignored (BNC, August 31, 2016). Even though relations have become strained since then, Turkey does not support their campaign.
Even more dramatic has been the improvement in ties between Israel and the Gulf states. Israeli officials have met openly with Saudi officials in recent years and it is no secret the two countries have been working together against the regional threat posed by Iran. In October 2018, an Arab news site reported Israel sold sophisticated spy systems to Saudi Arabia and there were also reports the Saudis purchased Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system to counter Houthi missile attacks from Yemen (Jerusalem Post, October 28, 2018).
On October 26, 2018, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited Oman at the invitation of the country’s leader Sultan Qaboos bin Said. A joint statement issued by Jerusalem and Muscat said the two leaders discussed “ways to advance the peace process in the Middle East as well as several matters of joint interest regarding the achievement of peace and stability in the Middle East” (Times of Israel, October 26, 2018). Speaking at the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ 2018 Manama Dialogue the following day, Omani Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah said: “Let me tell you something I am saying for the first time. Israel is one of the countries in the region, and all of us understand and know this….history tells us that the Torah emerged in the Middle East, and that the prophets of the Israelites were from the Middle East. In Islamic history, there were Jews – even in Medina (MEMRI, October 27, 2018).
After Netanyahu’s visit to Oman, it was reported that Bahrain was secretly holding talks with Israel to establish open relations between the two countries in advance of a visit by the prime minister to Manama (Middle East Monitor, October 29, 2018). Bahraini King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa has expressed opposition to the Arab states’ boycott of Israel and allowed a delegation of Bahrainis to visit Jerusalem in 2017 bringing a message of peace from the king (Middle East Monitor, October 29, 2018).
Also in October, Miri Regev, Israel’s culture and sports minister paid the first state visit by an Israeli official to Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the Muslim world’s third largest house of worship, after mosques in Mecca and Medina. During her trip to the UAE, Regev also witnessed a milestone when Israel’s national anthem was played after Sagi Muki won a gold medal in the international judo tournament held in the capital. Coincidentally, an Israeli gymnastics delegation was in Qatar for the beginning of the world championships being held in Doha (Times of Israel, October 29, 2018). Shortly after Regev’s visit, Israel’s communications minister, Ayoub Kara, visited Dubai for a telecommunications conference (AAJ News, October 31, 2018).
As one Arab journalist observed, “The nonchalant reactions of the Arab public and media over the Omani announcement that they received Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Muscat illustrates how much the region has changed from what it was in the past.” Abdulrahman al-Rashed added that “Israeli activity has exceeded political meetings and delved into other areas like economics and sports and is repeating this in a number of Arab countries.” He concluded Israeli-Arab ties will no longer be taboo. “The Arab culture of rejecting relations and normalization with Israel is deeply rooted and still alive,” he acknowledged, “but what’s new is that it is no longer the engine moving the policies of Arab governments” (Al Arabiya, October 28, 2018).
Threats of terrorism against Israel are restricted to Gaza.
One of the three prerequisites to Israel’s recognition of the PLO and subsequent peace negotiations was that the Palestinians cease all terrorism against Israel. Yet, almost from the day Yasser Arafat sent this promise to Yitzhak Rabin in 1993, assaults have continued. The heinous attacks conducted in the 1990s sabotaged the Oslo process and the second intifada, combined with the terror and rocket attacks following Israel’s disengagement from Gaza, convinced most Israelis further territorial concessions would endanger their security.
Since the first Oslo agreement in September 1993, more than 1,600 Israelis have been murdered by Palestinian terrorists. While it is true that cooperation between the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Israeli security services has contributed to foiling many attacks, Israel maintains that it could not be as effective if it did not also have a presence in the West Bank, and freedom to act against terrorist groups in the PA.
This is apparent from statistics released by the Shin Bet in November 2018 (Times of Israel, November 6, 2018). In the last year, Israeli intelligence thwarted 480 Palestinian terror attacks as well as 590 potential “lone wolf” assaults. Officials warned that violence and attempted attacks have been increasing.
While attention is focused on the activities of Hamas in Gaza, the organization is also active in the West Bank where the Shin Bet arrested 219 Hamas cells. The group plans attacks against Israel and seeks to seize control of the PA from Fatah. It is the threat to Mahmoud Abbas posed by Hamas, not concern for Israeli security, that is the principal motivation for Palestinians to engage in counterterrorism work with Israel.
The Palestinian public supports a two-state solution.
Though the international community continues to insist that a two-state solution is the only way to end the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, the Palestinian public has a different opinion. This is one reason why Mahmoud Abbas has felt no urgency to negotiate with Israel and why Israelis do not believe they have a peace partner.
According to a poll taken October 13-15, 2018, by An-Najah National University, nearly 60 percent of Palestinians reject “the creation of a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders as a final solution for the Palestinian cause.” This option, pursued by Abbas at the UN, is a non-starter with Israel.
The formulation that Israelis have accepted in past negotiations is the creation of a demilitarized Palestinian state (Yitzhak Rabin said “entity” rather than state) based on the 1967 borders with some land swaps. If Palestinians don’t like the idea of a state in the entire area of the disputed territories, it is not surprising that nearly three-quarters are unwilling to accept less territory with some land exchange.
Some Palestinians, including leaders of the BDS movement, have advocated a one-state solution. The public, however, overwhelmingly (79 percent) objects to the creation of “a binational state for both Arabs and Jews.”
In addition to rejecting peace options, nearly four out of ten Palestinians support “an armed intifada” in what the question called the “Palestinian territories.” Given that Palestinians consider all of Israel part of those territories, the response could be an ominous portent of future terror attacks.
The bottom line is that most Palestinians have no interest in reaching a peace agreement. They are not even satisfied with the maximalist demands of the current leadership for a state based on the 1967 borders (more accurately the 1949 armistice lines). These attitudes are stoked by incessant Palestinian Authority incitement against Israel, the publication of maps that replace Israel with Palestine and the indoctrination of Palestinians from an early age that the Jews stole their land and they will one day get it all back.
Airbnb’s decision to ban rentals in Jewish communities in the West Bank is not anti-Semitic.
On November 19, 2018, Airbnb announced that it intends to remove approximately 200 rental properties located in the West Bank from its listings. Airbnb’s decision is blatantly anti-Semitic.
First, it singles out Jewish homeowners as the only people who are denied the opportunity to list their homes in the disputed territories.
“We concluded that we should remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians,” Airbnb said. “Our hope is that someday sooner rather than later, a framework is put in place where the entire global community is aligned so there will be a resolution to this historic conflict and a clear path forward for everybody to follow” (“Countering Airbnb,” Jerusalem Post, (November 22, 2018).
The premise is false and based on the specious Palestinian narrative that Jews living in the West Bank are the “core of the dispute,” thereby ignoring the religious, historical, political, and psychological factors that preceded the building of the first settlement and continue to impact the conflict. Moreover, if Airbnb was really concerned with the “core” issue, it is Palestinian homeowners who would be banned because of Palestinian rejectionism.
Second, the company is applying a double-standard in the way it treats Jews that is not used in any other region of the world. Airbnb lists homes in other disputed territories and areas of political conflict. These include the Western Sahara, northern Cypress, Tibet, and Kashmir. According to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, “Applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation” is anti-Semitic.
Third, the company ignores the reality on the ground. As Professor Eugene Kontorovich noted, “Israeli cities in the West Bank are open to any lawful resident of Israel, including Arabs. By contrast, any Jew who enters the West Bank’s Palestinian towns risks his life” (Eugene Kontorovich, “Airbnb’s Anti-Israel Hypocrisy, Wall Street Journal, November 25, 2018).
Fourth, this is an example of blaming the innocent. If Airbnb objects to Israel’s policy toward the disputed territories, it should address its concerns to the government and not punish Jews who are legally living in those areas and providing a service that supports the local economy.
While the owners of Airbnb may not be anti-Semites, they have chosen to side with the advocates of the anti-Semitic boycott campaign aimed at destroying the state of Israel. They should be aware that this is the BDS goal, not peace, not a two-state solution, and not any resolution to the conflict that envisions the continuing existence of Israel.
Palestinians have the right to sell land to Jews.
In 1996, the Palestinian Authority (PA) Mufti, Ikremah Sabri, issued a fatwa (religious decree), banning the sale of Arab and Muslim property to Jews. Anyone who violated the order was to be killed. At least seven land dealers were killed that year. Six years later, the head of the PA’s General Intelligence Service in the West Bank, General Tawfik Tirawi, admitted his men were responsible for the murders (Jerusalem Post, August 19, 2002).
On May 5, 1997, Palestinian Authority Justice Minister Freih Abu Middein announced that the death penalty would be imposed on anyone convicted of ceding “one inch” to Israel. Later that month, two Arab land dealers were killed. PA officials denied any involvement in the killings. A year later, another Palestinian suspected of selling land to Jews was murdered. The PA has also arrested suspected land dealers for violating the Jordanian law (in force in the West Bank), which prohibits the sale of land to foreigners (State Department. Human Rights Report for the Occupied Territories, 1997, 1998).
During the Palestinian War, few, if any Palestinians tried to sell land to Jews, but the prohibition remained in effect. After the war, the persecutions began again. In April 2006, Muhammad Abu al-Hawa was tortured and murdered for allegedly selling an apartment building in Jerusalem to Jews. Since the Mufti forbade Muslims accused of selling land to Jews from being buried in a Muslim cemetery, al-Hawa was laid to rest in a makeshift cemetery on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho (Caroline Glick, "Why is Muhammad Abu al-Hawa dead?" Jerusalem Post, April 18, 2006).
In April 2009, the Chief Islamic Judge of the Palestinian Authority, Tayseer Rajab Tamimi, issued another warning against selling homes or properties to Jews. Sheikh Tamimi reiterated that those who violated the ban, including those who rented to Jews and real estate agents and middlemen facilitating transactions, would be accused of high treason and face the death penalty. Later that month, a Palestinian Authority military court found a Palestinian man guilty of selling land to Jews and sentenced him to death by hanging (Khaled Abu Toameh, “PA: Death penalty for those who sell land to Jews,” Jerusalem Post, April 1, 2009).
In 2014, PA President Mahmoud Abbas “instituted life imprisonment with forced labor for the clandestine transfer, leasing or selling of lands to a hostile country or its citizens (Official PA TV, October 21, 2014, translated by Palestine Media Watch). A few years later, the PA Mufti called the selling of land to non-Muslims “heresy” and “a traitor against Allah” who must be “excommunicated” (Donia Al-Watan, July 10, 2018, translated by Palestine Media Watch).
In 2018, Ahmed Salame was killed, authorities believe, because he sold land in the West Bank to Jews (Jack Khoury, “Police Suspect Palestinian Murdered in Israeli Arab Town for Selling Land to Settlers,” Haaretz, (December 8, 2018). The same year, a Palestinian holding U.S. citizenship was arrested by the PA for allegedly selling real estate in East Jerusalem to Jews. He was sentenced to life in prison and forced labor. U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman said Isaam Akel’s “suspected ‘crime’ is selling land to a Jew….Akel’s incarceration is antithetical to the values of the US & to all who advocate the cause of peaceful coexistence. We demand his immediate release” (“U.S. demands Palestinians release citizen held for selling land to settlers,” Axios, November 28, 2018). The PA ultimately gave in to U.S. pressure and released Akel in January 2019 (Nir Hasson and Jack Khoury, “Palestinian-American Sentenced to Life for Selling Land to Jews Released,” Haaretz, January 18, 2019).
A new segregated road proves Israel is like Afrikaner South Africa.
Many of Israel’s detractors look for any opportunity to compare Israel’s government to the Afrikaner regime that once ruled South Africa. Thus, it is not surprising that many of them jumped on reports of a “segregated highway” opening in the West Bank, which, in their minds justified linking the two countries (Ilan Ben Zion, “Israel opens West Bank highway with segregated lanes for Israelis, Palestinians, AP, January 10, 2019). As with other such efforts, however, the comparison is flawed.
Critics ignore that South Africa practiced segregation based on race: whites sought to dominate the nonwhite population, especially the indigenous black population, and discriminated against people of color in the political, legal, and economic sectors.
The Palestinian people do not constitute a race nor are they discriminated against within Israel. In the disputed territories, nearly all Palestinians are governed by the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, which determine most of their rights. The restrictions on Palestinians’ freedom of movement are based on security not racial grounds. This is the case with Route 4370 that is the subject of the current accusations.
All of the major arteries, including the main north-south highway extending from northern Samaria to southern Judea, are open to both Israeli and Palestinian motorists. It is true that a physical barrier divides the new road along a three-mile stretch east of Jerusalem, but this is purely for security reasons and does not prevent Palestinians from using the highway.
What is the security justification for this division?
As with the security fence, checkpoints and other security measures, Palestinian terror has forced Israel to adopt policies to protect its citizens. On shared roads, Israelis have been shot at and stoned. Some victims have died of their injuries. Coincidentally, shortly after the road opened, several Palestinian youths were arrested for throwing Molotov cocktails at a main road in East Jerusalem (“Palestinian youths throw firebombs in East Jerusalem; 1 shot by police,” Times of Israel, (January 24, 2019).
In perhaps the worst case, a suicide bomber drove a van loaded with explosives into a public bus traveling to a resort in the Gaza Strip in 1995. Seven Israeli soldiers were killed along with Alisa Flatow, a 20-year-old American college student who was on her way to beach (James Dao, “Judgment for Terrorism Is $248 Million,” New York Times, March 12, 1998).
Only Palestinians who are not citizens of Israel are restricted to one side of the road; Israeli Arabs use the same lanes as all non-Arab citizens. There is no differentiation based on race, religion or ethnicity. Neither Israelis nor Palestinians are a race and skin color does not determine who drives on either side of the road. The same is true for religion – Muslims and Christians are permitted on both sides. Similarly, Israelis and Palestinians from different ethnic backgrounds are not barred from the road (Stephen M. Flatow, “The ‘apartheid’ wall that isn’t,” JNS, January 14, 2019).
It is not unusual for countries to treat citizens and non-citizens differently, especially when it comes to travel. At many ports of entry, for example, lines are divided between passport holders who are citizens and those who are visitors.
This distinction has no resemblance to the racist policies in South Africa.
Moreover, the new road benefits Palestinians who are not citizens by reducing the travel time between Bethlehem and Ramallah. Josh Hasten notes that it also “allows them to travel from north of Jerusalem towards Palestinian towns to the east and south of the city without having to stop at any Israeli checkpoints” (Josh Hasten, “Israeli and Palestinian drivers celebrate new road, as critics accuse Israel of ‘apartheid,’” JNS, January 18, 2019).
Expelling international monitors will lead to a massacre in Hebron.
In an article entitled, “Palestinians in Hebron Could Now Face Another Massacre,” Muhammad Shehada criticized Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision not to renew the mandate for the observers of the Temporary International Presence in the City of Hebron (TIPH) and suggested Palestinians living in Hebron would now be in danger (Muhammad Shehada, “Palestinians in Hebron Could Now Face Another Massacre, Haaretz, February 7, 2019). This is a hysterical reaction to the legitimate action taken by the Israeli government.
The creation of the TIPH followed the killing of 29 Palestinian worshippers in the Ibrahimi Mosque/ Cave of Machpelah by Baruch Goldstein in 1994. Israel and the PLO signed an agreement a few weeks later to create the TIPH to promote stability in Hebron. The observer force was never supposed to be permanent, hence the name, and Israel was given the option of renewing its mandate every six months. Israel was under no obligation to allow the observers to remain in Hebron indefinitely and Netanyahu’s action was backed by the United States, which blocked a proposed UN Security Council statement criticizing his decision (“U.S. Blocks UN Resolution Denouncing Israeli Expulsion of Hebron Monitoring Group,” Reuters, February 7, 2019).
A spokesman for the State Department noted: “The 1997 agreement on the temporary international presence in the city of Hebron clearly states that the consent of both the Israelis and the Palestinians is required in order to extend the mandate and presence of the TIPH. Furthermore, Oslo II and Hebron Protocol of 1997 also stated that the agreement from both sides was necessary for that to continue” (State Department, February 7, 2019).
TIPH was long opposed by settler leaders and right-wing lawmakers who believed the observers had a pro-Palestinian bias and interfered with the lives of Jewish residents. The TIPH provoked criticism in Israel during the summer of 2018 when a video showed a member of the TIPH slapping a Jewish boy across the face and a security camera caught another observer slashing the tires of an Israeli settler (“US blocks UN move to condemn Israel’s decision to shut Hebron monitor mission,” Times of Israel, February 7, 2019).
Fewer than 1,000 Jews live in the city compared to 200,000 Palestinians. The relationship between Jews and Palestinians in the city is often tense, but rarely violent. The massacre perpetrated by Goldstein was an aberration and condemned by the government. Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin declared: “We say to this horrible man and those like him: you are a shame on Zionism and an embarrassment to Judaism” (Matt Plen, “Baruch Goldstein, “The perpetrator of the Hebron massacre is both vilified and celebrated,” My Jewish Learning).
The government paid compensation to Goldstein’s victims and enacted a number of measures to combat extremism, including arresting followers of Meir Kahane, criminalizing the Kach movement (to which Goldstein belonged), forbidding certain Israeli settlers from entering Palestinian towns, and demanding that those settlers turn in their army-issued rifles (Clyde Haberman, “West Bank Massacre; Israel Eases Curfew In Territories; Ensuing Riots Deepen Pessimism,” New York Times, March 3, 1994).
Nothing like Goldstein’s atrocity has happened in Israel before or since. By contrast, the Palestinian Authority and Hamas incite, sponsor and often direct terror against Israelis. The murderers are glorified by having schools, sporting events and streets named for them. Those in jail receive salaries to reward them for their atrocities.
It also worth recalling that Jews were forced out of Hebron, a city that had a Jewish presence dating to biblical times, by an Arab massacre in 1929 in which 67 Jews were killed. Following the 1948 War, Jews were prevented from returning during the Jordanian occupation; they were allowed to return after Israel took control of the city in the 1967 War.
Palestinians in Hebron are in no added danger without the TIPH. As in other cities under Israeli control in the West Bank, the IDF is responsible for security and will do everything possible to prevent violence.
Israel denies Palestinians health care.
Israel routinely allows thousands of Palestinians to enter Israel for its world-class health care despite frequent efforts by terrorists to exploit Israel’s goodwill.
In 2005, for example, Wafa Samir Ibrahim Bas was arrested attempting to smuggle an explosives belt through the Erez crossing. Bas had been admitted on humanitarian grounds to Soroka Medical Center in Beer Sheva several months earlier for treatment of massive burns she received in a cooking accident. After her arrest, she admitted that the Fatah al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade had instructed her to use her personal medical authorization documents to enter into Israel to carry out a suicide attack (Uri Dan, “Undie-Cover Bomber – Woman Thwarted Near Israeli Hosp,” New York Post, June 21, 2005).
During Operation Cast Lead, Hamas set up a hospital for the exclusive use of its fighters, and supplied the facility by stealing medical supplies entering Gaza from aid organizations (Yaakov Katz, “Hamas Opens Hospital For Gunmen,” Jerusalem Post, January 6, 2009). Israel set up a medical facility just outside the Gaza Strip during Operation Protective Edge, and allowed many Palestinians to receive urgent care they could not have found in Gaza or other parts of the Arab world. This was just another way that Israel made every effort to protect the Palestinian civilian population without getting any international recognition for its efforts. During that conflagration Hamas built its military command center underneath Shifa Hospital (ironically, built by Israel for the safety of the Gazan population) so it could be used as a shield against Israeli attacks.
In 2018, more than 20,000 permits were granted to Palestinians living in West Bank to enter Israel and receive treatment or support a patient who was receiving treatment. This was an increase of 3,000 over the previous year.
Of the 6,000 Palestinian cancer patients from Judea and Samaria, 1,200 were treated in a hospital in Israel. More than 200 Palestinians – including 112 children – received bone marrow transplants (Maayan Jaffe-Hoffman, “Palestinians Get More Medical Treatment Permits In Israel In 2018 – Report,” Jerusalem Post, February 12, 2019).
The Palestinians also benefit from the opportunity to train with Israeli physicians. Palestinian doctors, for example, are paired with professionals from Hadassah University Medical Center.
Israel’s health care is so good that even Israel’s most uncompromising enemies set aside their animus for the sake of getting family members the help they need. Shockingly, leaders of Hamas, who spend their time devising terror attacks against Israel and are committed to its destruction, look to Israel when their families are sick. For example, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh‘s brother-in-law was treated for a cardiac problem, his mother-in-law went to Jerusalem for treatment and one of his daughters was admitted to Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv. The previous year, one of Haniyeh‘s granddaughters was treated in Israel (Hamas leader's daughter received medical treatment in Israel: sources,” Reuters, October 19, 2014). The sister of another senior Hamas leader, Mousa Abu Marzouk, was also treated in Israel for cancer (Nati Gabbay, “Senior Hamas official Marzouk's sister hospitalized in Israel,” Jerusalem Post, November 3, 2014).
More regular access to advanced medical care is only one of many benefits the Palestinians could derive from peace with Israel.
Palestinians are indigenous to the area previously known as Palestine.
In an effort to prove they are indigenous, and were in the land before the Jews, Palestinians often speciously claim to be related to the Canaanites. There is no evidence for this claim. The Arabs are not native to “Palestine”; they are aboriginal to Arabia.
In testimony before the Anglo-American Committee in 1946, the Palestinian Arab delegation claimed a connection to Palestine of more than one thousand years, dating back no further than the conquest of Muhammad’s followers in the seventh century. Most of the people who now call themselves Palestinians are descendants of Arabs who came to Palestine much more recently because of World War I, famine, disease, expulsion by the Turks and the attraction of the social and economic conditions created by the Jewish community.
In July 1921, Hasan Shukri, the mayor of Haifa and president of the Muslim National Associations, sent a telegram to the British government in response to a delegation of Palestinians that went to London to prevent the implementation of the Balfour Declaration. Shukri wrote:
In 1915, approximately 590,000 Muslim and Christian Arabs lived in Palestine. According to the 1922 census, that number increased to 643,000. During the British mandate, Jewish immigration was restricted by quotas while Arabs faced no impediments. Hence, the Jewish population increased by 470,000 between World War I and World War II, while the non-Jewish population rose by 588,000 – 120 percent (Dov Friedlander and Calvin Goldscheider, The Population of Israel, NY: Columbia Press, 1979, p. 30; Arieh Avneri, The Claim of Dispossession, (Tel Aviv: Hidekel Press, 1984, p. 254).
This rapid growth of the Arab population was a result of several factors. One was immigration from neighboring states — constituting 37 percent of the total immigration to pre-state Israel — by Arabs who wanted to take advantage of the higher standard of living the Jews had made possible (Moshe Aumann, “Land Ownership in Palestine 1880–1948,” in Michael Curtis, et al., The Palestinians, New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Books, 1975, p. 38).
The Arab population also grew because of the improved living conditions created by the Jews as they drained malarial swamps and brought improved sanitation and health care to the region. Thus, for example, the Muslim infant mortality rate fell from 201 per thousand in 1925 to 94 per thousand in 1945, and life expectancy rose from 37 years in 1926 to 49 in 1943 (Avneri, p. 264; Aharon Cohen, Israel and the Arab World, NY: Funk and Wagnalls, 1970, p. 60).
The Arab population increased the most in cities where large Jewish populations had created new economic opportunities. From 1922– 1947, the non- Jewish population increased 290 percent in Haifa, 131 percent in Jerusalem, and 158 percent in Jaffa. The growth in Arab towns was more modest: 42 percent in Nablus, 78 percent in Jenin, and 37 percent in Bethlehem (Avneri, pp. 254–55).
The Palestinians can indeed claim a connection to the area of Palestine, but they are not indigenous, and their presence does not predate that of the Jewish people who can trace their history in the land back more than 3,000 years.
We know that some of those who live in our villages are Jews who converted to Islam after the Muslim conquests beginning in the 7th century, and most of us are the descendants of foreign workers who came to British Mandate of Palestine from the various Arab countries in the wake of the Zionist enterprise. By trying to trace our “ancestry” to the Canaanites, we lie to ourselves and demonstrate our silliness and self- deception to the world. And when we try to claim that Jesus was a Palestinian, we make ourselves an international laughing stock. — Bassam Tawil, “Muslim Blood and Al- Aqsa,” Gatestone Institute, October 31, 2015)
Palestine was always an Arab country.
The term “Palestine” is believed to be derived from the Philistines, an Aegean people who, in the twelfth century BCE, settled along the Mediterranean coastal plain — now Israel and the Gaza Strip. In the second century CE, after crushing the last Jewish revolt, the Romans first applied the name Palaestina to Judea (the southern portion of what is now commonly called the West Bank) in an attempt to minimize Jewish identification with the Land of Israel. The Arabic word Filastin is derived from this Latin name (Yehoshua Porath, The Emergence of the Palestinian-Arab National Movement, 1918–1929, London: Frank Cass, 1974, p. 4).
The Hebrews entered the Land of Israel about 1300 BCE, living under a tribal confederation until being united under the first monarch, King Saul. The second king, David, established Jerusalem as the capital around 1000 BCE. David’s son, Solomon, built the Temple soon thereafter and consolidated the military, administrative, and religious functions of the kingdom. The nation was divided under Solomon’s son, with the northern kingdom (Israel) lasting until 722 BCE, when the Assyrians destroyed it, and the southern kingdom (Judah) surviving until the Babylonian conquest in 586 BCE. The Jewish people enjoyed brief periods of sovereignty afterward until most Jews were finally driven from their homeland in 135 CE.
Jewish independence in the Land of Israel lasted for more than four hundred years. This is much longer than Americans have enjoyed independence in what has become known as the United States (Max Dimont, Jews, God, and History, NY: Signet, 1962, pp. 49–53). In fact, if not for foreign conquerors, Israel would be more than three thousand years old today.
The boundaries of Palestine changed over the centuries. While a Roman province, it was attached to Syria. In the medieval period, Filastin was a subdistrict of Syria (the land of Sham in Arabic). The Crusaders established the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem, which ultimately extended from north of Beirut to the Sinai Desert, and along both sides of the Jordan River. The area was then referred to as the Holy Land.
According to the eminent historian Bernard Lewis, Jews never used the name Filastin or Palestine, referring to the area from the time of the Exodus as Eretz Israel. Muslims stopped using either name after reconquering the land from the Crusaders. Saladin, the Mamluks and the Ottomans subsequently divided the area into subdistricts.
Lewis observed that the name Palestine became popular in the Christian world around the time of the Renaissance. After becoming the common designation in Europe, the name spread to Arabic-speaking Christians. In 1911, an Arab Christian edited a newspaper in Palestine called Filastin.
“Palestine became the official name of a definite territory for the first time since the early Middle Ages,” according to Lewis, only after the creation of the British mandate (Bernard Lewis, “On the History and Geography of a Name,” The International History Review, Vol. 2, No. 1, January 1980, pp. 1-12).
Following the defeat of the Turks in World War I, France and Britain carved up the Ottoman Empire and set the boundaries for Palestine. For example, Palestine initially included both sides of the Jordan River until Churchill arbitrarily severed more than three-fourths of the area to create Transjordan. In addition, part of the Golan Heights was transferred from Palestine to Syria.
Palestine was never an exclusively Arab country, although Arabic gradually became the language of most of the population after the Muslim invasions of the seventh century. No independent Arab or Palestinian state ever existed in Palestine. When the distinguished Arab- American historian, Princeton University professor Philip Hitti, testified against partition before the Anglo-American Committee in 1946, he said, “There is no such thing as ‘Palestine’ in history, absolutely not” (Moshe Kohn, “The Arabs’ ‘Lie’ of the Land,” Jerusalem Post, October 18, 1991).
Prior to partition, Palestinian Arabs did not view themselves as having a separate identity. They usually identified themselves by their clans and villages. When the First Congress of Muslim-Christian Associations met in Jerusalem in February 1919 to choose Palestinian representatives for the Paris Peace Conference, they adopted the following resolution:
We consider Palestine as part of Arab Syria, as it has never been separated from it at any time. We are connected with it by national, religious, linguistic, natural, economic, and geographical bonds (Randall Price, Fast Facts on the Middle East Conflict, Harvest House Publishers: 2003, p. 25).
Similarly, the King-Crane Commission found that Christian and Muslim Arabs opposed any plan to create a country called “Palestine,” because it was viewed as recognition of Zionist claims (Allen Z. Hertz, “Aboriginal Rights of the Jewish People,” American Thinker, October 30, 2011).
In 1937, a local Arab leader, Auni Bey Abdul Hadi, told the Peel Commission, which ultimately suggested the partition of Palestine: “There is no such country as Palestine! ‘Palestine’ is a term the Zionists invented! There is no Palestine in the Bible. Our country was for centuries part of Syria” (Kohn).
The representative of the Arab Higher Committee to the United Nations echoed this view in a statement to the General Assembly in May 1947, which said Palestine was part of the Province of Syria and the Arabs of Palestine did not comprise a separate political entity. A few years later, Ahmed Shuqeiri, later the chairman of the PLO, told the Security Council: “It is common knowledge that Palestine is nothing but southern Syria” (Avner Yaniv, PLO, (Jerusalem: Israel Universities Study Group of Middle Eastern Affairs, August 1974, p. 5).
Palestinian Arab nationalism is largely a post–World War I phenomenon that did not become a significant political movement until after the Six- Day War. For the duration of the Jordanian occupation of the West Bank and Egyptian control of the Gaza Strip, Palestinian nationalists were silent about their desire for an independent state. In fact, the PLO was created by the Arab League to advance the interests of Arab governments interested in driving the Jews into the sea, not to create a Palestinian state.
Today, the Palestinian people have international recognition and claim the right to self- determination; however, their definition of Palestine does not comport with the historical borders. Rhetorically, at least, their current leaders no longer claim that Palestine is part of Syria or demand the territory now under Jordanian rule. They are now only interested in areas claimed by the Jewish people, stretching from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea, encompassing what is now Israel, Gaza, and Judea and Samaria. In the short-run, they have demanded the creation of a state based on the 1949 Armistice Lines with East Jerusalem as its capital as the first stage toward the liberation of all of “Palestine.”
U.S. sanctions are having no impact on Iran.
Prior to President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA), critics argued that U.S. sanctions against Iran would not be effective unless the other signatories to the agreement went along. Doomsayers said unilateral sanctions would not hurt Iran because other countries would work around them. While the critics were correct in predicting no other country would join the U.S. in reimposing sanctions (ignoring punitive measures EU countries took following attempted Iranian terror attacks on their soil), they were wrong about the impact of American sanctions.
The United States has imposed sanctions on multiple Iranian companies and individuals and made clear to other countries that their companies would be subject to sanctions if they do not comply with U.S. rules prohibiting trade with Iran. Though European countries supporting the JCPOA have sought ways around the sanctions, companies fearing being cut off from the U.S. banking system and markets have complied. The following is just a sample of the impact of the U.S. policy:
- The top two shipping container carriers, 2M partners MSC and Maersk Line, announced they are reviewing their plans in Iran due to the changing situation (The Maritime Executive, May 14, 2018). French shipping group CMA CGM later announced it was pulling out of Iran (Reuters, July 7, 2018).
- Hyundai and Mazda cancelled their contracts with an Iranian automaker (BBC Persian, June 11, 2018).
- Airbus reportedly cancelled its deal to provide aircraft to Iran (AFP, June 16, 2018).
- Korean contractor Daelim has cancelled a $2 billion contract to modernize a refinery in the Iranian city of Esfahan (Global Construction Review, June 4, 2018).
- Hyundai Heavy Industries, the world’s largest shipyard was supposed to deliver container ships to an Iranian shipping company starting in April 2018, but has yet to deliver a single vessel (Korea Times, June 13, 2018).
- PSA, owner of the French carmaker Peugeot, said it had begun to suspend its joint ventures in Iran (Financial Times-UK, June 4, 2018).
- South Korea, one of Iran’s main customers in Asia, will not load any Iranian crude and condensate in July, halting all shipments for the first time in six years (Reuters, July 5, 2018).
- British renewable energy investor Quercus said it will halt the construction of a nearly $600 million solar power plant in Iran due to recently imposed U.S. sanctions on Tehran (Reuters, August 14, 2018).
- Deutsche Telekom and Deutsche Bahn, two state-owned German companies, along with car manufacturer Daimler and mechanical engineering company Herrenknecht, announced their withdrawal from Iran because of U.S. sanctions (PressTV, August 16, 2018).
- The Dutch airline KLM said it was cancelling flights to Iran after September 22, 2018. Subsequently, British Airways and Air France said they would suspend service to Iran (New York Times, August 23, 2018).
- Volkswagen AG agreed to comply with sanctions on Iran and end almost all of its business in the country. Other German companies, Adidas AG, and Daimler AG, have also said they will scale back or abandon their activities in Iran (Bloomberg, September 19, 2018).
Even before U.S. sanctions went into full effect, they were having an impact on Iran’s economy. Iran’s currency, the rial, has been in a freefall compared with the dollar, making imports more expensive and forcing Iran’s manufacturers and exporters to cut production and cancel contracts. In 2013, it cost 30,000 rials to buy $1; in September 2018, a dollar cost 150,000 (New York Times, September 5, 2018).
In another sign that sanctions are having a devastating impact on the Iranian economy, the Islamic Republic News Agency admitted that 70% of factories, workshops and mines in the country have shut down or gone bankrupt (Middle East Monitor, October 25, 2018). Unemployment is running at 12.1%, with three million Iranians unable to find jobs. The International Monetary Fund has forecast that Iran’s economy will contract by 1.5% this year and by 3.6% in 2019 due to dwindling oil revenues and a September report from the Iranian parliament warned that rising unemployment could threaten the nation’s stability (Reuters, November 24, 2018). A World bank forecast was even gloomier, predicting minus 3.7% economic growth and a 31.2% inflation rate (Radio Farda, January 9, 2019).
On the 40th anniversary of its revolution, Gallup reported that “for the first time in a decade, a majority of Iranians (57%) say economic conditions in their communities are getting worse and a record 34% rate their lives poorly enough to be considered ‘suffering’” (Gallup, February 12, 2019).
One of the major concerns of critics of the withdrawal from the JCPOA was that oil prices would skyrocket if Iranian oil was taken off the market due to U.S. sanctions. Instead, in the first week following the imposition of sanctions, the price declined. Brent crude prices fell more than 20 percent from their four-year peak of $86.74 in early October 2018 to a three-year low of $55.69 on November 13 (Wall Street Journal, November 13, and 14, 2018). In March 2019, it had risen to around $65 (Nasdaq, March 8, 2019), still well below its earlier high. One reason for the moderate changes is that OPEC and Russian crude production has been increasing, more than offsetting losses from Iran.
Iran complained in February 2019 that European nations have not responded to its offers to sell them crude oil despite having U.S. waivers. “We have called them many times, but they do not return our calls,” said Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh, apparently referring to Greece and Italy, which were among eight nations granted waivers to import Iranian oil. (AP, February 5, 2019). He also disclosed that Russia had purchased shares of an Indian oil refinery, but, New Delhi, despite being exempted by Washington, does not allow the Russians to buy Iranian oil for the refinery. Taiwan is also on the list of the exempted countries, but it has stopped buying Iranian oil (Radio Farda, February 7, 2019).
Iran’s oil supply will be further restricted after May when the U.S. removes exemptions given to eight countries. U.S. Special Representative for Iran, Brian Hook, said, “The November  waivers were designed to prevent a spike in oil prices, and it appears that there will be enough oil supply to satisfy demand this year.” He added the U.S. would not offer exemptions for “oil or anything else,” adding that the U.S. aims to “get to zero imports to Iranian crude as quickly as possible” (Radio Farda, February 7, 2019).
The “Great March of Return” has been successful.
It has now been more than a year since Palestinians began the “Great March of Return” protests. They were originally planned as a six-week non-violent campaign by Palestinians demonstrating at the Gaza border fence with Israel to express their desire to return to the lands they claimed their ancestors had lost or been driven from. Gaza journalist and activist Ahmed Abu Ratima first thought of the idea, wondering “what would happen if 200,000 peaceful protesters broke through the barbed wire...raised the Palestinian flag and pitched tents a few kilometers into our own occupied territory” (Enas Fares Ghannam, “Despite Israel’s threats of violence, Gaza protesters have peaceful dream,” Mondoweiss, March 29, 2018).
The protest was planned for Fridays beginning on “Land Day” on March 30, 2018, and ending on May 15, when Palestinians commemorate what they refer to as the Nakba, the “catastrophe” of Israel becoming an independent state. Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine endorsed the march and sought to co-opt the protests to serve their own interests.
Whatever Ratima’s initial intent, Hamas hijacked the protests and instigated violent confrontations with Israelis stationed at the border. The terrorists hoped to use the riots as cover to infiltrate Israel, kidnap soldiers and civilians, and murder Jews living in nearby communities.
Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar declared, “The March of Return will continue… until we remove this transient border.” The protests “mark the beginning of a new phase in the Palestinian national struggle on the road to liberation and ‘return’… Our people can’t give up one inch of the land of Palestine” (Khaled Abu Toameh, “Hamas head Sinwar says Gaza protests will continue until border is erased,” Times of Israel, March 30, 2018).
In July 2018, Fathi Hamad, a member of the Hamas politburo, praised the “peaceful protests,” while also making this statement:
O Muslims, wherever you find a Zionist Jew, you must kill him because that is an expression of your solidarity with the al-Aqsa Mosque and an expression of your solidarity with… your Jerusalem, your Palestine and… your people (Adam Rasgon, “Hamas official urges killing all Zionist Jews, praises ‘peaceful’ Gaza protests,” Times of Israel, July 26, 2018).
After a year of protests, the Palestinians failed to win support for their demand to be given the homes belonging to Israelis; they failed to infiltrate Israel and wreak havoc; they failed to win international sympathy and they failed to end the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt.
During the course of the year, this is what they did accomplish:
- Launched 1,300 rockets and missiles on Friday or Saturday “immediately after mass violent riots.”
- Threw stones, marbles, ball bearings, grenades and improvised explosive devices at soldiers.
- Planted mines and booby-trapped explosive devices along the border fence.
- Launched thousands of aerial incendiary devices that caused 2,000 separate fires, which burnt more than 8,500 acres of land, including approximately 3,200 acres of nature reserves and 2,700 acres of forest.
- Burned tires.
- Sabotaged security infrastructure of the border fence.
- Briefly infiltrated southern Israel before being captured or killed.
- Conducted military exercises, including training for infiltration and abduction scenarios, which would be executed if terrorists succeeded in getting past the security infrastructure and forces (Anna Ahronheim, “IDF Probe Of Gaza Riots Reveals Nearly 1,500 Rockets Fired Since March 30,” Jerusalem Post, February 28, 2019).
Rather than help the people of Gaza, who lack jobs and basic resources, Hamas diverted funds to building weapons and tunnels. The group exploits their people’s desperation by paying them to protest and busing them to the fence to serve as human shields (Adam Rasgon, “Ahead Of Fresh Standoff, Hamas Reveals Payouts To Injured Protesters,” Jerusalem Post, April 5, 2018).
“I saw with my own eyes Hamas activists pushing people [including] women and children to the fence,” one soldier told the Jerusalem Post. Another said he saw one man pushed to the border in a wheelchair before he stood up and ran away (Anna Ahronheim, “Gaza border residents speak to the ‘Post’ about the tension in air,” Jerusalem Post, May 16, 2018). An IDF official said, “Hamas placed many women at the front in an effort to make it difficult for us to deal with terror targets” (Anna Ahronheim, “‘Unprecedented’ violence in Gaza leaves 58 Palestinians dead, thousands wounded,” Jerusalem Post, May 14, 2018). In one case, a seven-year-old girl was used as a shield, but was unharmed and returned to her family by IDF soldiers (Judah Ari Gross, “IDF: Hamas cynically sent 7-year-old girl to breach Gaza border,” Times of Israel, March 30, 2018).
Tragically, 187 Palestinians were killed over 42 weeks in these “peaceful” protests – 150 (80%) of them were affiliated with Hamas or with other terrorist organizations (The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, January 21, 2019). On the worst day of violence – May 14, 2018 – 62 Palestinians were killed. A Hamas official admitted that 50 were members of the terror group (Judah Ari Gross, “Hamas official: 50 of the 62 Gazans killed in border violence were our members,” Times of Israel, May 16, 2018).
Israel, nevertheless, is condemned for defending its border and its citizens. America’s UN Ambassador, Nikki Haley, pointed out the hypocrisy of the criticism:
Think about it. If there were tens of thousands of people looking to attack your border fence, and you had a terrorist group providing guidance on how best to kill innocent civilians inside your country once the border fence was broken, what would you do? What would the United States do? What would any country do? (Ambassador Nikki Haley, “Remarks at the Christians United for Israel Annual Summit,” Washington, DC, July 23, 2018)
The biggest casualty of the protests is the prospect for peace. As journalist Yossi Klein Halevi noted:
The March of Return is an explicit negation of a two-state solution, with a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza coexisting beside Israel. If Palestinians living in Gaza—a part of Palestine, under Hamas rule—still see themselves as refugees intent on “returning” to the Jewish state, then the only concession that can satisfy their aspirations is Israel’s national suicide. The real message of the protests is that the conflict is not about undoing the consequences of 1967, when the West Bank and Gaza came under Israeli rule in the Six-Day War, but about overturning 1948—when Israel was born….the goal is the creation of a Palestinian state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, erasing Israel (Yossi Klein Halevi, “Israelis, Palestinians and the Necessary Injustice of Partition,” Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2018).
The riots have made the Israeli public more skeptical of peace talks. By their actions, the Palestinians have sent a message that Israel cannot expect peace in exchange for land. If unremitting violence is the consequence of evacuating every soldier and settler from Gaza, what incentive do Israelis have to withdraw from any additional territory, especially in the West Bank, where terrorists would be closer to the country’s industrial and population centers?
The United States should not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
On March 21, 2019, President Donald Trump announced in a tweet: “After 52 years it is time for the United States to fully recognize Israel’s Sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which is of critical strategic and security importance to the State of Israel and Regional Stability!” (@realDonaldTrump). He made it official on March 25 following a meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (Jordan Fabian, “Trump announces US recognition of Israeli claim on Golan Heights,” The Hill, March 25, 2019).
The area in question is a 500-square-mile territory wedged between northeast Israel and southwest Syria. The Golan – rising from four hundred to seventeen hundred feet in the western section bordering on pre-1967 Israel – overlooks the Hula Valley, Israel’s richest agricultural area. From the western Golan it is only about 60 miles – without major terrain obstacles – to Haifa, Acre, and Israel’s industrial heartland.
What all the media and experts have ignored in the discussion of the Golan is the fact that the modern nation of Syria was only sovereign over the area from the end of the French mandate in 1946 until Israel captured the Heights in the 1967 Six-Day War. Do the math: Syria held the Golan for 21 years compared to the 52 years it has been under Israel’s control (38 since it annex the territory in 1981). In that time, the Jewish population has grown to exceed that of the Arabs and the area has become a tourist, recreation and agricultural center.
Israel negotiated with the Syrians, most recently in 2011, in hope of reaching an agreement to permanently secure the peace. The Syrians demanded that Israel completely withdraw from the entire Golan Heights before even discussing what Syria might do in return. President Hafez Assad and his son Bashar never expressed any willingness to make peace even if Israel met this demand. Israel was equally adamant that it would not give up any territory without knowing what Syria was prepared to concede, and insisted that Assad provide security guarantees and agree to normalize relations.
Most Israelis have consistently opposed giving up the Golan. In 2009, for example, after Prime Minister Ehud Olmert engaged in unsuccessful talks, 63 percent of Israelis opposed returning the Golan in exchange for peace (Ben Sales, “The Golan Heights, explained,” JTA, March 21, 2019). Due to the widespread opposition, Israel’s leaders adopted a law in 1999 requiring a national referendum to approve any agreement.
Before the civil war, Syria supported and provided a haven for numerous terrorist groups that attacked Israel from Lebanon and other countries. These include the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine (DFLP); the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), Hezbollah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC). The Syrian government was careful, however, not to launch attacks from its own territory. Assad was deterred by an IDF presence within artillery range of Damascus, which kept the Golan quiet since 1974, with the exception of a few cross-border attacks that spilled over during the Syrian civil war. The internecine war forced Assad to focus on survival and retaking most of his country from ISIS and the rebels rather than on the long-lost Golan.
Israel’s unwillingness to give up the Golan looks even more prescient today as fighters from Iran, Hezbollah, and ISIS have fought a war that is so destructive Syria may never be reconstituted as a single nation with its previous borders. Each of those parties pose a risk to Israel, especially Iran, which seeks to build bases in Syria from which it could launch attacks against Israel. Hezbollah has also attempted to establish a beachhead near the Golan to add to the threat they already present from Lebanon. Syria under Assad or a future leader will also be a threat in the absence of a peace agreement.
Trump’s announcement was welcomed by Israelis across the political spectrum and the Wall Street Journal noted, “Recognizing the Golan sends a message to Russia, Syria’s patron, that the U.S. recognizes that the civil war has changed Syrian reality. There is no returning to a nonexistent status quo ante” (The Editorial Board, “Israel’s Golan Heights,” Wall Street Journal, March 21, 2019).
Not surprisingly, the usual Arabists and anti-Israel commentators are predicting a cataclysm, just as they did following Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocation of the embassy (Mark Landler and Edward Wong, “In Golan Heights, Trump Bolsters Israel’s Netanyahu but Risks Roiling Middle East,” New York Times, March 21, 2019). Rather than rise up in anger, however, the Arab and Muslim world reacted mostly with resignation, given that the city has been Israel’s capital since 1948. Similarly, the response to the Golan announcement was a collective shrug
Of course Syria and its Iranian and Russian defenders condemned the decision. The head of the Arab League made a perfunctory statement criticizing the United States and the European Union, predictably, said it would not change its position (Sune Engel Rasmussen, “Trump’s Golan Heights Endorsement Draws Ire From Friends and Foes,” Wall Street Journal, March 22, 2019).
There was no immediate explosion in response to the U.S. decision. Most of the Arab world is prepared to accept the obvious – Israel has controlled the area for decades and has no intention of withdrawing for the foreseeable future, if ever. Several Arab states are more interested in allying with Israel against Iran than condemning it over the Golan. They also have no interest in helping Bashar Assad, whose rule they sought to undermine for the last eight years (Ben Hubbard, “The Golan Heights Was Once an Arab Rallying Cry. Not Anymore,” New York Times, March 22, 2019).
U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights violates UN Resolution 242.
Opponents of President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights have argued it violates UN Resolution 242 (E.g., “Indyk: ‘Like it or not, Golan Heights are Syrian,’” Arutz Sheva, March 25, 2019). That resolution long ago lost its relevance and it is only trotted out when convenient to criticize Israel. Having already annexed the Golan, the issue was already moot.
Still, for argument’s sake, let’s look at what 242 says.
The first point addressed by the resolution is the “inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.” Some people read 242 as though it ends here and the case for requiring a total Israeli withdrawal from the territories is proven. On the contrary, the reference clearly applies only to an offensive war. If not, the resolution would provide an incentive for aggression. If one country attacks another, and the defender repels the attack and acquires territory in the process, the former interpretation would require the defender to return the land it captured. Thus, aggressors would have little to lose because they would be insured against the main consequence of defeat. As legal scholar Alan Dershowitz observed, “No country in history has ever given back to a sworn enemy, militarily essential territory that has been captured in a defensive war” (Alan M. Dershowitz, “Trump Is Right about the Golan Heights,” Gatestone Institute, March 30, 2019).
Resolution 242 calls for the “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” Note the authors deliberately rejected the Arabs’ call for the resolution to require Israel to evacuate “all” the territories. The British ambassador who drafted the resolution, Lord Caradon, explained the rationale, “It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967, because those positions were undesirable and artificial” (Beirut Daily Star, June 12, 1974).
Moreover, since Israel withdrew from 94% of the territories when it gave up the Sinai, the Gaza Strip, and portions of the West Bank, it has already partially, if not wholly, fulfilled its obligation under 242.
The resolution’s reference to withdrawal from territory is linked to the second unambiguous clause calling for “termination of all claims or states of belligerency” and the recognition that “every State in the area” has the “right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.” Israel has no obligation to withdraw from any part of the Golan in the absence of a peace accord with Syria.
Nevertheless, Israel repeatedly attempted to negotiate a peace agreement, which included offers to withdraw from parts of the Golan after annexing the territory. The leaders of Syria, however, refused to normalize relations under any circumstances. Israel’s annexation, and U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty, does not preclude a territorial compromise from being reached if a future Syrian leader agrees to end all belligerency and the Israeli people are convinced the benefits outweigh the risks.
The bottom line is that Resolution 242 does not preclude Israel from annexing the Golan Heights. U.S. recognition acknowledges this fact.
The Palestinian Authority places the welfare of the public over paying terrorists.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) regularly complains about its budget woes, which are due to its nearly total reliance on foreign assistance, rampant corruption and misguided expenditures. Financial concerns do not affect its determination to pay salaries and stipends to terrorists and their families, however, despite the adverse impact on the lives of Palestinians who are not terrorists.
Since April 2017, the PA has drastically reduced civil servants’ salaries, cut electricity to residents, and limited medical services and funds in Gaza (Hind Khoudary, “Gaza’s breadwinners defiant in the face of Palestinian Authority salary cuts,” Middle East Eye, February 20, 2019). On February 21, 2019, salaries of civil servant in the West Bank were also cut. The PA announced the measures would not apply to salaries “paid to pensioners and families of martyrs” (“Palestinians to cut civil servant salaries after Israeli tax freeze,” France24, February 21, 2019),
In addition to decimating the wages of Palestinians, the PA has decided to punish the people further by denying them medical treatment in Israel. The excuse is that Israel has refused to turn over tax revenues the PA is owed and, therefore, by some odd logic the PA decided not to pay for thousands of Palestinians to receive world-class health care from Israeli doctors (Maurice Hirsch and Itamar Marcus, “PA prioritizes salaries to terrorists over medical care for Palestinians,” Palestinian Media Watch, March 31, 2019).
The money is being withheld because Israeli law stipulates it must deduct the amount the PA spends on terrorist salaries – $138 million – from the Palestinian tax revenues it collects. The U.S. has also stopped funding the PA because of its “pay-to-slay” program. Payments from both Israel and the United States would resume if the PA stopped providing its scarce funds to encourage terrorism.
Mahmoud Abbas has repeatedly said; however, he has no intention of eliminating the incentives to violence (e.g., “Abbas Keeps on Defying U.S., Says PA Will Fund “Pay to Slay” Program Until Last Penny,” The Tower, July 25, 2018) even at the expense of the health and welfare of Palestinians who prefer to live normal lives rather than kill Jews.
Palestine was heavily populated with Arabs before the Zionists arrived.
For many centuries, Palestine was a sparsely populated, poorly cultivated, and widely neglected expanse of eroded hills, sandy deserts, and malarial marshes. This was Mark Twain’s description when he visited in 1867:
A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but is given over wholly to weeds—a silent mournful expanse?.?.?.?A desolation is here that not even imagination can grace with the pomp of life and action?.?.?.?We never saw a human being on the whole route?.?.?.?There was hardly a tree or a shrub anywhere. Even the olive and the cactus, those fast friends of the worthless soil, had almost deserted the country (Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (London, 1881).
As late as 1880, the American consul in Jerusalem reported the area was continuing its historic decline. “The population and wealth of Palestine has not increased during the last forty years,” he said (Melvin Urofsky, American Zionism from Herzl to the Holocaust (Bison Books: 1995), p. 29).
Take a look at some of the photos from the late 19th and early 20th century to see the desolation Twain talked about (click on photos to enlarge):
Deir Yassin and the road
Dung Gate Old City Jerusalem
Photo Sources: The British Library Endangered Archives Collection; Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division; Lenny Ben-David
The Palestine Royal Commission report quotes an account of the Maritime Plain in 1913:
The road leading from Gaza to the north was only a summer track suitable for transport by camels and carts?.?.?.?no orange groves, orchards or vineyards were to be seen until one reached [the Jewish village of] Yabna [Yavne?.?.?.?Houses were all of mud. No windows were anywhere to be seen?.?.?.?The ploughs used were of wood?.?.?.?The yields were very poor?.?.?.?The sanitary conditions in the village were horrible. Schools did not exist?.?.?.?The western part, towards the sea, was almost a desert?.?.?.?The villages in this area were few and thinly populated. Many ruins of villages were scattered over the area, as owing to the prevalence of malaria, many villages were deserted by their inhabitants (Palestine Royal Commission Report, p. 233).
At the time Twain visited, the population of Palestine was less than 300,000. By 1918, it doubled to 660,000 but the percentage of Jews, about 8 percent, stayed the same (Israel in the Middle East: Documents and Readings on Society, Politics, and Foreign Relations, Pre-1948 to the Present, Ed. by Itamar Rabinovich and Jehuda Reinharz, Brandeis University Press, Waltham, Mass., 2008, pp. 571-572). The British would later say during the Mandate period, when the population was just over one million (it reached about 1.8 million by the end), that the land was reaching its absorptive capacity and; therefore, Jewish immigration should be restricted. Consider that “Palestine” – which included what is now Israel, the West Bank and Jordan – has a population today of more than 20 million.
Israeli forces killed a pregnant Palestinian woman and her 14-month old daughter.
It has become an all too often occurrence; Palestinians accuse Israel of an atrocity and the media unquestioningly accepts their account and parrots it with banner headlines. The latest example occurred while Israel was responding to the nearly 700 rockets fired by Palestinian terrorists during the weekend of May 4-6, 2019. The Palestinians falsely claimed a pregnant woman and her 14-month old daughter were killed in the Israeli bombardment.
The report came from the Gaza Health Ministry, an arm of Hamas, which disseminates casualty reports to the media that are often found to be misleading or inaccurate. Typically, journalists make no effort to confirm the information and often discount or ignore Israel’s side of the story. In this latest example, Israel was blamed in many headlines for the deaths:
Sky News: “Pregnant Palestinian woman and baby killed in Gaza violence” (Sky News, May 6, 2019)
Independent: “Mother and baby killed as Israel hits Gaza with airstrikes” (Zamira Rahim, Independent, May 5, 2019)
Chicago Tribune (story from AP): “Under heavy rocket fire from Gaza, Israeli reprisals kill 6, including pregnant mother and her baby” (Fares Akram, Chicago Tribune, (May 4, 2019)
“250 rockets fired from Gaza at Israel; 1-year-old child among those killed in retaliatory airstrikes,” (CNN, May 4, 2019)
AP sent out photos of the dead child with captions that said, “Gaza’s Health Ministry says a Palestinian infant was killed when Israeli aircraft hit near their house. Abu Arar, 14-month-old, died immediately and her pregnant relative died later, the ministry added” (“AP Amends Captions: Israel Denied Responsibility For Baby, Woman’s Deaths,” CAMERA, May 5, 2019).
Other outlets included the specious claim in their news reports. For example, the New York Times reported, “Four Palestinians — including one militant, another man, a pregnant woman and her young daughter — were killed in Israeli strikes on Saturday, according to Gaza Health Ministry officials” (Isabel Kershner, “Gaza Militants Fire 250 Rockets, and Israel Responds With Airstrikes,” New York Times, (May 4, 2019). Kershner apparently did not ask for the IDF’s response but quoted its denial on Twitter. Notice also the Times insists on referring to terrorists who attack Israel as “militants.”
After reporting on May 4 the Hamas version, CNN acknowledged a day later, “There is a dispute over the cause of the deaths of one of the infants and one of the pregnant women – Gaza health officials say both died in an Israeli airstrike, while the Israeli military says they were killed when a militant rocket misfired on launch” (Andrew Carey,” More than 20 reported dead in Gaza, 4 in Israel after hail of rockets and airstrikes,” CNN, May 5, 2019) This story did not correct the inaccuracy or undo the damage of the original story, which was also reported on air.
Much of the media paid little attention to Israel’s side of the story or corrected their reporting after the IDF stated: “Today we can say with certainty, after looking into the event, that they were killed as a result of an explosion of combustible materials during the activation of a Hamas explosive device” (“Israeli Army: Pregnant Gazan and Infant Were Killed by Hamas Explosives,” Haaretz, May 5, 2019).
One of the groups responsible for the bombardment of Israel, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), later admitted the baby died when a “rocket of the resistance exploded inside the family’s home due to a technical failure, and prematurely exploded….There is no doubt that the baby’s death has nothing to do with the enemy’s planes.” The message posted on social media was later deleted. PIJ also reportedly offered to recognize the baby as a “martyr” and pay the family of the victims to keep quiet about the circumstances surrounding their deaths (“Palestinian Islamic Jihad Admits Pregnant Woman, Baby Killed in Friendly Fire,” The Tower, May 7, 2019).
Palestinians no longer object to the creation of Israel.
To achieve peace, the Palestinians must affirm Israel’s right to exist in peace and security. How, then, does one interpret Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas’s description of the establishment of Israel as an unprecedented historic injustice and his vow to never accept it? (Efraim Karsh, The Tail Wags the Dog: International Politics and the Middle East, London: Bloomsbury, 2015, p. 151).
The word “nakba” was coined by Syrian historian Constantin Zureiq to describe the consequences of the 1948 War. Writing in his 1948 book, The Meaning of the Disaster, Zureiq said, “The defeat of the Arabs in Palestine is not a small downfall – naksa … It is a catastrophe – nakba – in every sense of the word.”
Zureiq also wrote, “Seven Arab countries declare war on Zionism in Palestine….Seven countries go to war to abolish the partition and to defeat Zionism, and quickly leave the battle after losing much of the land of Palestine – and even the part that was given to the Arabs in the Partition Plan.”
“When the battle broke out,” Zureiq wrote, “our public diplomacy began to speak of our imaginary victories, to put the Arab public to sleep and talk of the ability to overcome and win easily – until the nakba happened.”
He also distinguished between the Zionists and the Arabs to explain the war’s outcome. “Zionism is deeply implanted in Western life, while we are far from it…They live in the present and look to the future, while we are drugged-up dreaming of a magnificent past.”
He concluded, “We must admit our mistakes…and recognize the extent of our responsibility for the disaster that is our lot.” (Salman Masalha, “The 1948 war through Arab eyes,” Haaretz, March 10, 2017).
Their responsibility began with the refusal to accept the partition resolution in 1947 (not to mention their rejection of the 1937 Peel Plan that would have given them a much larger state). Had they done so, the State of Palestine would celebrate its 72nd birthday in November.
Palestinians are understandably bitter about their history over these last seven decades, but we are constantly told that what they object to is the “occupation” of the territories Israel captured in 1967. If that is true, then why isn’t their Nakba Day celebrated each June on the anniversary of the Arab defeat in the Six-Day War?
The reason is that the Palestinians consider the creation of Israel the original sin, and their focus on that event is indicative of their refusal to reconcile themselves with the Jewish State.
As long as the Palestinians treat Israel’s creation as a catastrophe on a par with the Holocaust, the prospects for coexistence will remain bleak.
Designating Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group is “Islamophobic.”
The Trump administration is reportedly considering designating the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group allowing it to impose economic and travel sanctions on companies and individuals who interact with the group (John Rossomando, “Brotherhood Designation Requires a Chapter-Based Approach,” IPT News, May 30, 2019).
The decision has nothing to do with an irrational fear of Muslims as some critics suggest (see, for example, Christopher Mathias and Akbar Shahid Ahmed, “Trump Wants To Hurt The Muslim Brotherhood. American Muslims Could Pay The Price,” HuffPost, May 1, 2019). It is based on the violent activities of extremists who threaten the interests of the United States and some of its allies. By designating the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization it would be joining Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates, all Islamic countries, which have already done so (Bradley Martin, “CAIR Report Conflates Anti-Muslim Bigotry with Opposition to Islamism,” The Daily Wire, May 22, 2019).
Trump’s decision also reportedly is in response to a request from Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. The Brotherhood was founded by Hassan al Banna in Egypt in 1928 and seeks to rule the country (and briefly did after it won the 2012 election) according to Sharia law. More broadly al Banna “called for the religious reformation of individual Muslims, the progressive moral purification of Muslim societies and their eventual political unification in a Caliphate under sharia law” (“Muslim Brotherhood Review: Main Findings,” Ordered by the House of Commons, December 17, 2015).
Sir John Jenkins noted in the House of Commons report on the Brotherhood that al Banna “accepted the political utility of violence, and the Brotherhood conducted attacks, including political assassinations and attempted assassinations against Egyptian state targets and both British and Jewish interests during his lifetime.”
Later, the Brotherhood’s leading ideologue, Sayyid Qutb, advocated “the use of extreme violence in the pursuit of the perfect Islamic society.” He believed “jihad was neither solely spiritual nor defensive” and viewed Muslims who did not share his beliefs infidels or apostates. Jenkins wrote, “Many contemporary Islamic states were regarded as ‘UnIslamic’; confrontation with their ‘unjust’ rulers was legitimate and inevitable.”
Today, Brotherhood militias fight side-by-side with Al-Qaeda forces in Syria, Libya and Yemen (Bradley Martin). Hamas is considered a branch of the Brotherhood and receives funding from the group, which also defends Hamas attacks against Israel. Jenkins also noted that “senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood routinely use virulent, anti-Semitic language.”
Contrary to claims that the Brotherhood has eschewed violence and seeks only peaceful change, Jenkins concluded:
Critics of designating the Brotherhood as a terrorist organization argue that it has non-violent elements and political parties that are recognized in the Arab/Muslim world. Some also warn that our relations with some of those countries may suffer. Opponents also suggest designating the movement could lead to making similar determinations for political reasons.
A number of steps have to be taken before making the decision:
The decision will not be made to target American Muslims or “demonize Islam,” as claimed by former Council on American-Islamic Relations legal director Arsalan Iftikhar (Arsalan Iftikhar, “Calling the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group would make all Muslims scapegoats,” Washington Post, May 6, 2019). “Whether the United States designates the Brotherhood as a whole, or limits actions to target its violent branches, criminal law and the threshold for prosecution won't change,” noted John Rossomando. “Random American Muslims – and even Muslims who support the Brotherhood’s ideals – cannot be targeted with criminal violations. The line is material support – aid in the form of money, supplies or services – provided to the designated entity.”
Maintaining UNRWA is vital for the Palestinians’ future.
A great international hue and cry followed the Trump administration’s announcement the U.S. would no longer fund the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNWRA) because it is an “irredeemably flawed operation.” Historically, the United States was the organization’s biggest funder – in 2017, the U.S. covered nearly one-third of the agency’s budget of $1.1 billion. Angered by the Palestinians’ refusal to restart peace talks with Israel, however, the administration cut its contribution in early 2018 from $364 million to $60 million before ceasing payments altogether (F. Brinley Bruton and Dan De Luce, “Trump administration eliminates funding to United Nations’ Palestinian refugee agency,” NBC News, (August 31, 2018).
Over its nearly 70-year history, the agency has perpetuated Palestinian misery, its camps have served as incubators for terrorism, and its welfare program has reinforced the delusion that more than five million refugees from UNRWA phony list will return to “their homes.”
This was never UNRWA’s purpose.
UNRWA was set up to serve Palestinians who fled or, in rare cases, were forced from their homes after the creation of Israel in 1948. No one expected the refugee problem to persist after the 1948 War. John Blandford Jr., the director of UNRWA, wrote in his report on November 29, 1951, that he expected the Arab governments to assume responsibility for relief by July 1952. He also stressed the need to end relief operations: “Sustained relief operations inevitably contain the germ of human deterioration” (Joseph Schechtman, The Refugee in the World, NY: A. S. Barnes and Co., 1963, p. 184).
In 1952, UNRWA set up a fund of $200 million to provide homes and jobs for the refugees, but it went untouched. UNWRA’s supporters envisioned that direct relief would be almost completely replaced by public works, with the remaining assistance provided by the Arab governments. By the mid-1950s, it was evident neither the refugees nor the Arab states were prepared to cooperate on the large-scale development projects originally foreseen by the Agency as a means of alleviating the Palestinians’ situation. The Arab governments, and some of the refugees themselves, were unwilling to contribute to any plan that could be interpreted as fostering resettlement.
Although demographic figures indicated ample room for settlement existed in Syria, Damascus refused to accept any refugees, except those who might refuse repatriation. Syria also declined to resettle eighty-five thousand refugees in 1952–54, though it had been offered international funds to pay for the project. Iraq was also expected to accept many refugees but proved unwilling. Likewise, Lebanon insisted it had no room for the Palestinians.
Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip and its more than two hundred thousand inhabitants, but refused to allow the Palestinians into Egypt or permit them to move elsewhere. Saudi Arabian radio compared Egypt’s treatment of Palestinians in Gaza to Hitler’s rule in occupied Europe (Isi Leibler, The Case for Israel, Australia: The Globe Press, 1972, p. 48).
Meanwhile, Jordan was the only Arab country to welcome the Palestinians and grant some citizenship (Gazans were excluded). King Abdullah considered the Palestinian Arabs and Jordanians one people. By 1950, he annexed the West Bank and forbade the use of the term Palestine in official documents (“Speech to Parliament—April 24, 1950,” Abdallah, 16–17; Aaron Miller, The Arab States and the Palestine Question, Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1986, p. 29). In 2004, however, Jordan began revoking the citizenship of Palestinians who do not have the Israeli permits that are necessary to reside in the West Bank (Khaled Abu Toameh, “Amman Revoking Palestinians Citizenship,” Jerusalem Post, July 20, 2009).
In succeeding years Arab governments frequently offered jobs, housing, land, and other benefits to Arabs and non-Arabs, excluding Palestinians. For example, Saudi Arabia chose not to use unemployed Palestinian refugees to alleviate its labor shortage in the late 1970s and early 1980s; instead, thousands of South Koreans and other Asians were recruited to fill jobs.
The situation grew even worse in the wake of the 1991 Gulf War. Kuwait, which employed large numbers of Palestinians but denied them citizenship, expelled more than 300,000 Palestinians. “If people pose a security threat, as a sovereign country we have the right to exclude anyone we don’t want,” said Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States Saud Nasir al-Sabah (Jerusalem Report, June 27, 1991). This expulsion drew no media attention, provoked no UN resolutions condemning Kuwait, and was ignored by pro-Palestinian activists.
The Arab States do not want to solve the refugee problem. They want to keep it as an open sore, as an affront to the United Nations and as a weapon against Israel. Arab leaders don’t give a damn whether the refugees live or die.
—Sir Alexander Galloway,
former head of UNRWA in Jordan – April 1952
(Alexander H. Joffe and Asaf Romirowsky, “A Tale of Two Galloways: Notes on the Early History of UNRWA and Zionist Historiography,” Middle Eastern Studies, September 2010)
Palestinian refugees in Lebanon do not have social and civil rights, are prevented from owning property, and have very limited access to public health or educational facilities. The majority relies entirely on UNRWA for education, health, and social services. Considered foreigners, Palestinian refugees are prohibited by law from working in more than seventy trades and professions. Most are restricted to manual and clerical work and have sometimes been the target of violence by Lebanese Christian militias and Hezbollah (UNRWA Report of the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, January 1–31, 2007).
The Palestinian refugees held the UN responsible for ameliorating their condition; nevertheless, many Palestinians were unhappy with the treatment they were receiving from their Arab brethren. Some, like Palestinian nationalist Musa Alami were incredulous: “It is shameful that the Arab governments should prevent the Arab refugees from working in their countries and shut the doors in their faces and imprison them in camps” (Musa Alami, "The Lesson of Palestine," Middle East Journal, October 1949, p. 386.). Most refugees, however, focused their discontentment on “the Zionists,” whom they blamed for their predicament rather than the vanquished Arab armies.
Meanwhile, it is important to understand what Palestinians mean when they demand to return to “their homes.”
First, a tiny fraction of today’s refugees lived in what is now Israel and their homes were either destroyed or taken over by Jews or Arabs who chose to stay and live in a Jewish state rather than flee in anticipation that state would be destroyed.
Second, most Palestinians are already home; they live in the area that constituted Palestine prior to the partition and creation of Transjordan.
Third, Palestinians believe the refugees are a weapon to destroy Israel. They believe there are more than five million refugees and, combined with the nearly two million Palestinians already living in Israel, what once was Israel would become a Palestinian state with an Arab majority.
Fourth, the Palestinians are so confident of this outcome, they have given little thought, and made no effort, to welcoming refugees into a future state in the West Bank and Gaza. They prefer a two Palestinian state solution in which one state used to be Israel and the other is in West Bank and Gaza.
I briefly visited the Balata refugee camp with its 20,000 residents. The camp is inside the West Bank city of Nablus—that is, within the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority (PA)….?Balata’s children, like the children in similar camps in Gaza and neighboring Arab countries, are nurtured on the myth that someday soon they will return in triumph to their ancestors’ homes by the Mediterranean Sea. While awaiting redemption, Balata’s residents are prohibited, by the Palestinian Authority, from building homes outside the camp’s official boundaries.
—Sol Stern, “Mr. Abbas, Tear Down This Wall!” Jewish Ideas Daily,
(September 28, 2010)
Perhaps the international community is beginning to recognize the error of propping up UNRWA. Swiss Foreign Affairs Minister Ignazio Cassis argued in 2018 that the agency is an obstacle to peace and has interfered with the integration of Palestinians in Jordanian and Lebanese societies. He argued that those remaining wards of UNRWA continue to believe in a fantasy that they can one day return home.
“It is unrealistic that all of them can fulfil this dream. Yet the UNRWA keeps this dream alive,” Cassis said. “It supplies the ammunition to continue the conflict. By supporting the UNRWA, we keep the conflict alive. It’s a perverse logic.”
Harkening back to the original postwar vision of the UN, Cassis argued the refugees should be integrated among their fellow Arabs in the countries where they now live. Instead of UNRWA schools and hospitals, he suggested that Switzerland support facilities to promote the Palestinians’ absorption (“Minister: ‘UN aid agency is part of the problem in the Middle East,’” SWI swissinfo.ch, May 17, 2018).
The West Bank economy is suffering because Israel is withholding Palestinian tax revenues.
Israeli law stipulates it must deduct the amount the Palestinian Authority spends on terrorist salaries through its “pay-to-slay” program from the Palestinian tax revenues it collects. The total, $138 million, does have a negative impact on the Palestinian economy, but the fault ultimately lies with the Palestinian leadership. If the PA stopped paying terrorists, it would have $138 million from its existing budget to devote to the economy in addition to the amount Israel would release. That’s $276 million to help the cash-strapped economy.
The West Bank economy suffers from more endemic problems, especially corruption. In June 2019, for example, it was disclosed that while salaries of other workers were being cut, the Palestinian Cabinet secretly gave itself a 67 percent pay increase in 2017. “Coming during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, a time of high expenses for struggling families, the report renewed outrage among Palestinians who have long seen their leadership as out of touch and rife with corruption,” according to Mohammed Daraghmeh (Mohammed Daraghmeh, “A secret pay raise by Cabinet angers Palestinian public, AP, June 4, 2019).
The monthly salaries for Cabinet ministers, which were made retroactive to 2014, increased from $3,000 to $5,000, and the prime minister’s salary was raised to $6,000. By comparison, most Palestinians who are fortunate enough to have a job earn $700-$1,000 a month.
Daraghmeh reported that ministers who live outside the PA’s headquarters in Ramallah were given $10,000 a year to rent a house there. Those already living in the city were given a similar amount. They receive other perks such as compensation for personal drivers and international travel expenses.
Public outrage prompted Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh to suspend the pay raises.
These revelations were new, but more than 80 percent of Palestinians already believed their leaders were corrupt according to polls. Distrust dates to the days of Yasser Arafat when, for example, he diverted approximately $900 million of international aid into his own personal bank accounts.
Still, more questions have been raised about what else the leadership is hiding. “I think this is just the tip of the iceberg of corruption in the Palestinian Authority, considering that we couldn’t have access to more important information,” Majdi Abu Zeid, a researcher at the anti-corruption watchdog group Aman, told Daraghmeh.
 In 1959, for example, Israel complained that two countries (Liberia was one) moved their embassies from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv in response to US pressure. In 2002, Congress passed a law that said that American citizens who wished to do so could have “Israel” listed as their birthplace on US passports. The State Department, however, refused to do so. The parents of Menachem Binyamin Zivotofsky, an American citizen born in Jerusalem, sued the State Department to force the government to enforce the law. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which held that the president has an exclusive power of recognition, and, therefore, Congress may not require the State Department to indicate in passports that Jerusalem is part of Israel. “Dismayed: U.S. Court Refuses to Enforce U.S. Law Granting Jerusalem-Born U.S. Citizens Right to Have ‘Israel’ Listed on Official Documents,” Zionist Organization of America (July 15, 2009); instruction from the Department of State to all diplomatic posts, February 20, 1959, in FRUS, 1958–60, vol. 13, 147; memorandum of conversation, March 9, 1959, in FRUS, 1958–60, vol. 13, 151–52; “Supreme Court Strikes Down ‘Born in Jerusalem’ Passport Law,” Associated Press (June 8, 2015).