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Online Exclusives Archive (2005-2012)

“The Palestinian Authority held a free, democratic election in 2005.”
“Israel is building the security fence as part of a land grab to control the West Bank and prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.”
“The demographic threat to Israel posed by Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza is overrated and therefore Israel need not make territorial compromises.”
“Israel is killing Palestinians with radiation spy machines.”
“Unlike other Arab women, Palestinian women are not killed for dishonoring their families.”
“Israel has moved the border so it will not withdraw completely from the Gaza Strip.”
“Hamas should be permitted to participate in Palestinian Authority elections.”
“Israel's disengagement from Gaza was a victory for terror.”
“Israel is obstructing Palestinian elections.”
“Academic freedom means any criticism of Israel is permissible in a university.”
“The Palestinian Authority held a democratic election and Israel and the rest of the world must accept that Hamas was the victor.”
“Israel is digging under the Al-Aksa mosque and intends to destroy it.”
“Israel is responsible for disparaging cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.”
“The Palestinians have maintained a truce and ceased terror operations against Israel.”
“The PA is entitled to international aid because Hamas was democratically elected and the Palestinian people should not be made to suffer because Israel doesn’t like the election outcome.”
“Saudi Arabia has ended its boycott of Israel.”
“Israel is knowingly desecrating a Muslim holy place in Jerusalem by building a museum on top of a cemetery.”
“Hamas is a threat only to Israel.”
“Palestinians have the right to sell land to Jews.”
“Israel has no justification for withholding tax monies due to the Palestinian Authority.”
“If Israel ends the occupation, there will be peace.”
“Israel deliberately targets Lebanese civilians.”
“Israel should exchange Arab prisoners for soldiers kidnaped by Hamas and Hizballah.”
“The media is fairly and accurately covering the war in Lebanon.”
“Israeli forces deliberately targeted civilians during the war instigated by Hizballah.”
“A unity Palestinian government will reinvigorate the peace process.”
“Saudi Arabia has proposed a new formula for a comprehensive peace.”
“A new report proves Israeli settlements are built on Palestinian land.”
“The overwhelming majority of casualties in the war with Hizballah were civilians.”
“Abbas is helpless to stop the terrorists.”
“Israel is obstructing progress toward a Palestinian state.”
“Israeli Arabs are unpatriotic.”
“Women are not recruited to become suicide bombers.”
“Palestinian terrorist groups are committed to a cease-fire.”
“Israel is damaging the Temple Mount and threatening Islamic shrines.”
“Palestinians are moderating their views toward Israel.”
“The Arab peace initiative reflects the Arab states’ acceptance of Israel.”
“Israel is denying health care to Palestinians.”
“The Hamas takeover of Gaza poses no threat to Christians.”
“Lebanon has abided by UN Resolution 1701 and poses no direct threat to Israel.”
“Israel is once again expelling Arabs from Palestine.”
“The ‘occupation’ has sapped Israel's morale as reflected by the decline in Israelis willing to serve in the IDF.”
“Israel has nothing to fear from a nuclear Iran.”
“Israel’s presumed nuclear capability is stoking an arms race.”
“Iran’s nuclear program threatens only Israel.”
“No state in the world connects its national identity to a religious identity.”
“Arab participation in the Annapolis conference signaled a new attitude toward Israel.”
“Palestinians prefer to live in a Palestinian state.”
“Israel and the Palestinians agree a future Palestinian state will have an army.”
“Gaza settlers’ greenhouses have bolstered the PA economy.”
“The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is Israel's fault.”
“Israel's actions in Gaza were disproportionate and unprovoked.”
“Israel's enemies must recognize the Jewish state's right to exist.”
“Palestinians are driven to terror by poverty and desperation.”
“Israel must negotiate with Hamas.”
“Mahmoud Abbas has rooted out the corruption in the Palestinian Authority .”
“Hizbollah is a resistance movement whose only interest is fighting Israel.”
“Palestinian terrorist groups agreed to a cease-fire to advance the peace process.”
“Olmert's resignation means the end of peace talks with the Palestinians.”
“Arabs cannot vote in Israel.”
“Israel is intolerant of homosexuality.”
“Hamas will not break a ceasefire.”
“Arab states' sincerity in promoting their peace initiative is reflected in their positions in international forums.”
“Charles Freeman was the right choice for chair of the National Intelligence Council and the Israel lobby was responsible for his not being appointed.”
“Arab states support Iran.”
“Netanyahu is not an advocate for peace.”
“The United States missed an opportunity to address the issue of global racism in its non-participation in Durban II.”
“Abbas is ready to accept a Jewish state in the framework of a two-state solution.”
“Khaled Meshaal seeks peace, not the destruction of Israel.”
“The pope’s trip to Israel shows that issues between Israel and the Vatican have been resolved.”
“Obama and Netanyahu have irreconcilable visions of peace.”
“Netanyahu's government refuses to honor past agreements on settlements.”
“There is urgency to resolve the Palestinian-Israel conflict.”
“Palestinian leaders are committed to peace.”
“Fatah's Sixth Congress proved the party's rejuvenated committment to peace.”
“Saudi Arabia is on the path to normalizing relations with Israel.”
“The Goldstone Report proves Israel is guilty of war crimes in Gaza.”
“In exchange for a settlement freeze, Arab states are offering overflight rights as a peace gesture to Israel.”
“Jews were responsible for the defeat of Egypt's candidate for UNESCO.”
“The enemies of Israel will not misuse the Goldstone Report.”
“Amnesty's water report fairly portrays Israel.”
“The threat Hizbollah poses to Israel has diminished.”
“Syria is ready for peace with Israel.”
“Settlements are an obstacle to negotiations.”
“Egypt's blockade of Gaza has provoked international criticism.”
“George Mitchell threatened Israel.”
“The U.S. is maintaining Israel's qualitative edge.”
“The Israelis and the Palestinians share equal blame in creating recent obstacles to peace.”
“Israel is an apartheid state.”
“Israel’s Inclusion of Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs as Jewish Heritage Sites is an attack on Palestinian sovereignty and Islam.”
“The re-dedication of the Hurva Synagogue is an affront to Palestinians.”
“The Palestinian Authority promotes a culture of tolerance and peace.”
“The flotilla bound for Gaza was on a humanitarian mission.”
“The naval blockade of Gaza does not affect Hamas and only hurts innocent civilians.”
“UNIFIL has kept the peace in southern Lebanon.”
“Palestinian Authority leaders have a mandate from the people to pursue peace.”
“Ending the moratorium on settlement construction is designed to torpedo peace negotiations.”
“Renewed settlement construction in the West Bank proves Israel is uninterested in peace.”
“Israel has instituted a racist loyalty oath requiring immigrants to pledge allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state.”
“The Palestinians can pressure Israel into negotiating on their terms by unilaterally declaring statehood."
“Israel cannot be both a democratic state and a Jewish state.
“The UN helps preserve Jewish holy sites in the Palestinian Territories.
“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is a moderate interested in compromise.”
“Israel is the only country in the Middle East that feels threatened by Iran's nuclear ambitions.”
"Saudi Arabia is an ally of the West in the war on terror."
“The viability of a future Palestinian state is severely hampered by the continued construction of Israeli settlements."

“Israel illegally demolished a Palestinian national landmark in East Jerusalem."
“Israel is required by international law to supply goods and services to Gaza - its blockade is collective punishment."
“Israel must accept the demand of Palestinian refugees to 'return' in order for there to be peace."
“The Egyptian revolution has no impact on Israel's security.”
“Turmoil in Egypt is a result of the failure to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”
“America's veto of a UN Security Council resolution condemning settlements undermined peace talks.”
“American media coverage of Israel is proportional with coverage given to the rest of the Middle East.”
“'Israel Apartheid Week' promotes peace.”
“Palestinian terrorism is a byproduct of the 'cycle of violence' perpetuated by Israel.”
“Israel unnecessarily maintains checkpoints to control and humiliate the Palestinians.”
“Rockets shot from Gaza at southern Israel do not cause enough damage to justify military retaliation .”
“Justice Goldstone remains convinced that Israel committed war crimes documented in the Goldstone Report.”
“The Iron Dome Missile Defense System negates the need for Israel to engage in military operations against Hamas in Gaza
“The targeted assassination of terrorist leaders is a counterproductive military strategy
“Hamas-Fatah reconciliation paves the way to peace negotiations with Israel.”
“Israel unjustly responded with violence to the protests of Nakba day.”
“Israel must withdraw to the June 4, 1967 boundaries.”
"Gaza does not receive necessary humaitarian supplies due to Israel's blockade.&l's blockade."

"Palestinian protestors staged non-violents demonstrations on the Israeli-Syrian border."
"The 'Flotilla 2' is intended solely to relieve the humanitarian crisis in Gaza."
"The United Nations repudiated the claim that Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza is legal."
"A Unilateral Declaration of Independence is the Palestinians’ only avenue to advance the Peace Process."
"Palestinian leaders claim that the future Palestinian state will welcome Jews and Israelis."

"Mahmoud Abbas is working toward reaching peace with Israel."
"Due to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel's economy has been suffering."
- "Gaza does not receive necessary humaitarian supplies due to Israel's blockade."
- "The 'Flotilla 2' is intended solely to relieve the humanitarian crisis in Gaza."
- "The United Nations repudiated the claim that Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza is legal."
- "A Unilateral Declaration of Independence is the Palestinians’ only avenue to advance the Peace Process."
- "Palestinian leaders claim that the future Palestinian state will welcome Jews and Israelis."
- "Mahmoud Abbas is working toward reaching peace with Israel."
- "Time is not on Iran's side vis-a-vis its acquiring the atomic bomb."
- "Due to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel's economy has been suffering."
- "Of the Palestinian prisoners released in the Shalit deal, most who have spoken out say they will renounce terror."
- "Israel's proposed rebuilding of the Mugrabi Gate leading to the Temple Mount is an act of religious war."
- "The Palestinian leadership wants to normalize ties with Israel."
- "The Palestinians agreed to negotiate with Israel without preconditions."
- "Palestinians terrorism is no longer a threat to Israel."
- "Israel no longer faces any threats from Gaza."
- "The rights of Palestinian women are protected in the Palestinian Authority."
- "Palestinians are talking about peace with Israelis in Jordan."
- "Terrorism against Jews is limited to attacks in Israel and the Palestinian territories."
- "Israeli democracy is threatened and Americans need to speak out to save it."
- "Iran is the only Muslim nation in the Middle East seeking to develop nuclear technology."
- "Women do not have equal rights in Israel."
- "Israel's policy of targeted killings is immoral and counterproductive."
- "Israel does not support humanitarian development and sustainablity in the Palestinian territories."
- "Israel is whitewashing history to promote the judaization of Jerusalem."
- "The State Department knows the capital of Israel."
- "Israeli policy has caused an exodus of Christians from the West Bank."
- "The United States is committed to ensuring a complete halt to the Iranian nuclear program."
- "Israel's new unity government reduces the prospect for continued peace negotiations with the Palestinians."
- "Palestinians no longer object to the creation of Israel."
- "Mahmoud Abbas has rooted out corruption from the Palestinian Authority."
- "The rise of Islamists in Egypt's government does not pose a strategic threat to Israel."
- "The Palestinian Authority promotes a culture of tolerance and peace toward Israel."
- "Egyptian-Israeli security cooperation is at it weakest point in years."
- "Israel is culpable in the 2003 death of American activist Rachel Corrie."
- "Intelligence about Iran's nuclear program may be as faulty as the information about Iraq's."
- "We will know when Iran has a bomb and can take action at that time."
- "Iran should be allowed a nuclear weapon since Israel has one."
- "Anti-Semitism is on the decline around the world."
- "Iran does not believe it can win a nuclear war."
- "Iran wants to control its nuclear stockpile and would never give a bomb or nuclear material to terrorists."
- "We are seeing accurate media coverage from Gaza."
- "Israel is deliberately targeting the media."
- "Israel's war in Gaza was immoral because more Palestinians died than Israelis."
- "The Israeli construction plan called the E1 project threatens the two-state solution and the contiguity of a future Palestinian state."
- "Israeli policies are obstructing peace."
- "If Iran has a bomb, it can be deterred the way the U.S. deterred the Soviet Union."

MYTH

“The Palestinian Authority held a free, democratic election in 2005.” top

FACT

Elections are not synonymous with democracy. Several Arab countries hold elections, including Egypt and Syria, but they have only one candidate, and there is no doubt about the outcome. The dictators are always reelected with nearly 100 percent of the vote. In those nations, no one seriously claims the elections are democratic.

In the case of the Palestinian Authority (PA) elections held in January 2005, the standards were higher. These were advertised as an example of democracy and, compared to other Arab states, the voting was a considerable advancement toward free elections.

Still, the election could hardly be called competitive as the outcome was never in doubt. Seven candidates ran for president, but the only question was the size of Mahmoud Abbas’ margin of victory. He won with 62.3 percent of the vote. His nearest challenger was Mustafa Barghouti with 19.8 percent.1

The election had a much lower turnout than expected (62 percent), and supporters of the Islamic terrorist organizations largely boycotted the vote, as did Arabs living in east Jerusalem. Thus, Abbas was conservatively estimated by al-Jazeera to have received the support of only about one-third of the eligible voters.2

The election process went smoothly and, despite Palestinian predictions of Israeli interference, international observers reported that Palestinians were not obstructed by Israel from participating in the election. In fact, Palestinian and Israeli officials were said to have worked well together to facilitate voting.3

“Free elections can only take place in societies in which people are free to express their opinions without fear.”

Natan Sharansky4

Immediately after the election, however, 46 officials from the PA Central Election Committee resigned, confirming suspicions of voting irregularities and fraud. The Committee had come under pressure from Abbas’ staff to extend the vote by an additional two hours and to allow non-registered voters to cast ballots to guarantee a larger turnout and improve Abbas’ chance of a “landslide” victory.

The day of the election, gunmen stormed the Committee offices to demand that Palestinians who were not registered be allowed to vote. The deputy chairman of the Committee, Ammar Dwaik, said he “was personally threatened and pressured” and confirmed that some voters were able to remove from their thumbs the ink that was supposed to prevent double voting.5

While Abbas is now seen as a legitimately elected leader by most Palestinians and the international community, the PA has no history of democratic institutions, so it remains in doubt whether the various terrorist groups will also accept his leadership, and whether the security services will enforce the president’s will.

Natan Sharansky observed that “It is important that these elections took place, because it important that the new leadership comes, or will come, not through violence. That can be the beginning of the process of democracy.”6 To move closer to true democracy, Abbas will also have to remove his predecessor’s restrictions on the freedoms of speech, religion, assembly, and the press. Then perhaps the next election will be truly free and democratic.

MYTH

“Israel is building the security fence as part of a land grab to control the West Bank and prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.” top

FACT

The purpose of the security fence is the prevention of terror. Its route has been carefully plotted to maximize the security it provides to the citizens of Israel and minimize the inconvenience and harm to Palestinians. The route of the fence must take into account topography, population density, and threat assessment of each area. To be effective in protecting the maximum number of Israelis, it also must incorporate the largest communities in the West Bank.

After the Israeli Supreme Court ruled the government had to more carefully balance security concerns and harm to the Palestinians, the route of the fence was adjusted to run closer to the “Green Line.” When completed, the fence will now incorporate just 7 percent of the West Bank — less than 160 square miles — on its “Israeli side,” while 2,100 square miles will be on the “Palestinian side.”

If and when the Palestinians decide to negotiate an end to the conflict, the fence may be torn down or moved. Even without any change, a Palestinian state could now theoretically be created in 93 percent of the West Bank (and the PA will control 100 percent of the Gaza Strip after the disengagement is complete). This is very close to the 97 percent Israel offered to the Palestinians at Camp David in 2000, which means that while other difficult issues remain to be resolved, the territorial aspect of the dispute will be reduced to a negotiation over roughly 90 square miles.

MYTH

“The demographic threat to Israel posed by Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza is overrated and therefore Israel need not make territorial compromises.” top

FACT

A study was recently published that suggested the assumption that Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza pose a demographic threat to Israel has been exaggerated because the actual population in the territories is significantly lower than what is reported by Palestinian Authority (PA) officials. According to a study by a team of independent researchers, the 2004 Palestinian-Arab population was closer to 2.4 million than to the 3.8 million cited by the PA.7

The independent study comes up with its figures largely by deconstructing PA statistics, but Israel's leading demographer, Professor Sergio DellaPergola of Hebrew University, has challenged the result, saying his estimate of 3.4 million Palestinians is based on Israeli data (the CIA estimates the population for the West Bank and Gaza at 3.6 million). According to DellaPergola, 4.7 million Arabs now live between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River out of a total of 10,263,000. The Jewish proportion of this total is 51 percent. DellaPergola argues that because of the higher rate of birth in the Arab community, they have the demographic momentum, and that by 2020, the proportion of Jews is likely to drop to 47 percent and could fall to 37 percent by 2050.8

Even if the new study is more accurate, it only has a minimal impact on the demographic reality. According to Israeli census figures, the population of Israel today is approximately 6.8 million. If we add the 2.4 million Arabs the new study says live in the territories, the total population from the river to the sea would be 9.2 million (including about 1.3 million Israeli Arabs). The Jewish population is roughly 5.2 million or 57 percent, slightly better than DellaPergola’s estimate of 51 percent.

These overall statistics also distort the debate over the disengagement from Gaza where the demographic picture is crystal clear. According to the new study, the Arab population there is more than 1.07. The Jewish population, according to the State Department, prior to the evacuation was 7,500, which means the the percentage of Jews in Gaza was a fraction of 1 percent.

The independent study focuses solely on discrediting the PA statistics and does not address the crucial issue of future trends, which DellaPergola shows are clearly in the Arabs’ favor. The new report argues that the growth rates in Israel and the territories have been lower than previously forecast (though they use figures for only the last four years), but even the new figures show that the growth rate for the Arabs remains higher than that of the Jews, so the proportion of Jews should continue to decline.

Recent data from the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics suggests the situation may be even worse. The Bureau said that the proportion of Jews within the current borders of Israel is expected to decline from the present figure of 78 percent to 70 percent in 2025 because of the higher birth rate among Israeli Arabs. According to Industry and Trade Ministry data released in March 2007, Jewish women in Israel on average have 2.69 children each and give birth to the first at age 30. Muslim women have an average of four children and give birth to the first at age 27.9

Many proponents of territorial compromise argue that these demographic trends make it impossible for Israel to remain both a Jewish and democratic state if it holds onto the West Bank and Gaza. If a majority of the population of Israel, or even a significant minority, were non-Jews, then the Jewish character of the state would likely change. In fact, the new report states that “As in 1967, Israel faces a very real issue on the status of a large minority population in the West Bank and Gaza” (emphasis in the original). Extremists have suggested that non-Jews could be prohibited from voting, but this would make the state undemocratic. Since no Israeli leader – even those labeled as right-wing fanatics who dream of “Greater Israel” – have found a way to square this circle, Israel has never annexed the West Bank and Gaza. And now one of those “hardliners,” Ariel Sharon, was moved by the demographic reality to initiate the disengagement plan.

Many people argue that it is impossible to predict the future, and that most past projections were proven inaccurate. Earlier doomsday predictions were upset by large influxes of immigrants, and many Israelis still believe this will be their demographic salvation. After more than one million Jews from the former Soviet Union arrived in the 1990s, this view was temporarily vindicated, however, there only about 8 million Jews in the entire world outside Israel, and a large number would have to decide to move to Israel to offset the demographic trend. This is especially unlikely given that roughly 75 percent of the Jews outside Israel live in the United States from which very few emigrate.

The demographic issue is still only one variable in the Israeli political calculus related to territorial compromise. The other principal concerns are whether Israel can have greater peace and security without controlling some or all of the territories. That is a matter of great debate within Israel. For now, the majority of Israelis have come to the conclusion that withdrawal from Gaza and part of Samaria is in Israel’s best interest.

MYTH

“Israel is killing Palestinians with radiation spy machines.” top

FACT

Nazi propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels was the master of the “big lie” tactic in which a lie, no matter how outrageous, is repeated often enough that it will eventually be accepted as truth. It is a propaganda tool the Palestinians have repeatedly tried to use to tar Israel. Past examples have included specious claims that Israel “massacred” 500 people at Jenin,10 infects Palestinians with the AIDS virus,11 and drops poison candy for children in Gaza from airplanes.12

The latest calumny from the Palestinians is the claim that Israel is using a “radial spy machine” at checkpoints, and that the device killed a 55-year-old Palestinian woman.13The charge is apparently related to the Palestinian Authority’s decision to close a checkpoint on their side of the border in Gaza to protest Israel’s use of advanced radio-wave machines for searching Palestinian travelers.14

The device is the SafeView Millimeter Wave Radar, an American-made portal system that uses millimeter a safe wave holographic technology to screen travelers from Egypt for weapons and explosives. Unlike metal detectors, this system is capable of detecting virtually any man-made object, regardless of the type of material, by transmitting ultra-high frequency, low-powered radio frequency waves as people pass through the portal. The waves penetrate clothing and reflect off of the person’s skin and any items being carried. A sensor array captures the reflected waves and uses a desktop computer to analyze the information and produce a high-resolution, 3-D image from the signals.15

Since the allegation is coming from the official Palestinian media, it represents a violation of the Palestinian Authority’s commitment to end incitement against Israel.

MYTH

“Unlike other Arab women, Palestinian women are not killed for dishonoring their families.” top

FACT

Maher Shakirat learned that one of his sisters was thrown out of the house by her husband for an alleged affair. Shakirat strangled his sister, who was eight months pregnant, and forced two other sisters he accused of covering up the affair to drink bleach. One of those was badly injured but escaped, but the third sister was also strangled by her brother.

Palestinian women who bring dishonor to their families may be punished by male family members. The punishments may range from ostracism and abandonment to physical abuse to murder. “Honor killings” may be carried out for instances of rape, infidelity, flirting or any other action seen as disgracing the family. By killing the woman, the family’s name in the community is restored.

Women are usually not allowed to defend themselves; they are considered “minors” under the authority of male relatives, and may be killed based on a family member’s suspicions. An allegation of misbehavior is sufficient to defile a man’s or family’s honor and justify the killing of the woman. Men who carry out these murders in the Palestinian Authority typically go unpunished or receive a maximum of six months in prison.16

Because these crimes often go unreported, it is difficult to determine the actual number of victims in honor killings, but the Palestinian Authority’s women’s affairs ministry reported that 20 women were murdered in honor killings in 2005, 15 survived murder attempts, and approximately 50 committed suicide, often under coercion, for shaming the family.17

According to a June 2005 poll, 24% of Palestinians said that if a family discovered that one of its daughters was involved in a case of family disgrace (e.g., adultery), the family should kill the daughter to remove the disgrace.18

MYTH

“Israel has moved the border so it will not withdraw completely from the Gaza Strip.” top

FACT

Mohammed Dahlan, the Palestinian Authority’s Minister of Civil Affairs, has claimed that Israel moved the northern border of the Gaza Strip about 1.2 miles, and that Israel's disengagement will not be complete unless it withdraws to the 1949 armistice lines.19 By suggesting that Israel is holding onto a piece of Gaza, the Palestinians are threatening to create a Shebaa Farms issue that could undercut the prospects for peace created by Israel's courageous decision to evacuate all its citizens and soldiers from the area.

Substantively, Dahlan’s claim is inaccurate. The border of Gaza was originally determined during the 1949 Rhodes Armistice negotiations with Egypt. A year later, Israel agreed to move the border southeast, creating a bulge in the southern part of the Gaza Strip. In exchange, Egypt redrew the border in the north, moving it more than a mile southwest. According to Israel's National Security Council chief, Giora Eiland, the border was reconfirmed in the Oslo accords.20 Today, Netiv Ha’asara, a community of 125 families, many of which were evacuated from settlements in the Sinai as part of the peace treaty with Egypt, is located in the area Dahlan wants included in Gaza.

In the case of Shebaa Farms, the Lebanese terrorist group, Hizballah, has speciously maintained that Israel did not fully withdraw from Lebanon, despite the UN's verification that it has, and used Israel’s presence in the Shebaa Farms area as the pretext for continuing its terror campaign against Israel. If the Palestinians adopt a similar policy toward the sliver of land they claim to be part of Gaza to perpetuate their image as victims, and to try to win propaganda points by claiming to still be under “occupation,” they will once again demonstrate that they never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

If the Palestinians continue terrorist attacks against Israel, and make claims to additional territory, rather than focusing on state-building within Gaza and meeting their road map obligations, Israel will have little interest in pursuing negotiations regarding the West Bank.

MYTH

“Hamas should be permitted to participate in Palestinian Authority elections.” top

FACT

The second Oslo agreement (Oslo II) between Israel and the Palestinian Authority prohibits the “nomination of any candidates, parties or coalitions” that “commit or advocate racism” or “pursue the implementation of their aims by unlawful or non-democratic means” (Annex II, Article II).21 Under this agreement, Hamas, a terrorist organization responsible for the deaths of thousands of Israelis and Palestinians alike, cannot legally participate in Palestinian national elections. The Covenant of Hamas says nothing about democracy or elections. It does say that when “enemies (the Jews) usurp some Islamic lands, Jihad becomes a duty binding on all Muslims. In order to face the usurpation of Palestine by the Jews, we have no escape from raising the banner of Jihad.”

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has warned that Israel will not cooperate with the Palestinian Authority during elections if candidates from Hamas are allowed to participate. “An armed organization doesn't become democratic once they participate in the election,” Sharon said.22

Yossi Beilin, the leader of the Meretz-Yahad Party, and one of the architects of the Oslo accords, said that recognizing Hamas as a legitimate political entity “is a gross violation of the Israeli-Palestinian interim agreement,” and that in the global struggle against terrorism, “it would be surprising indeed if Israel, paradoxically, were to acquiesce in the legitimization of a terrorist organization under its very nose.”23

The United States has left it up to the Palestinians to decide who can participate in the Palestinian Legislative Council; however, National Security Council spokesperson Frederick L. Jones II said the U.S. would never have diplomatic relations with candidates from a terrorist organization.“We do not believe that a democratic state can be built when parties or candidates seek power not through the ballot box but through terrorist activity,” Jones said.”24

MYTH

“Israel's disengagement from Gaza was a victory for terror.” top

FACT

Israel's disengagement from the Gaza Strip and northern West Bank was applauded by the international community as an important and painful step toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Even the United Nations, which rarely has anything positive to say about Israel, praised the “determination and political courage” shown by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon25 in implementing the disengagement plan peacefully and successfully.

In an effort to bolster their standing with the Palestinian public, groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad claim it was their terror campaign that forced Israel to withdraw.26 In fact, the terrorist groups did nothing but bring death and destruction to the people of Israel and their fellow Palestinians. Israel was not driven from the territories, it made a calculated decision to leave based on its own interests.

The 8,000 civilians who lived in Gaza were viewed by the terrorists as targets, and Israel had to devote a great deal of its human and material resources to protect these innocent people. In addition, Sharon agreed with those who concluded it would make no sense for Israel to hold on to an area with a Palestinian population exceeding one million. By withdrawing, Israel's security has been enhanced, and the Palestinians have been given the opportunity to govern themselves and demonstrate whether they are able and willing to create a democratic society that can coexist with Israel.

At the time of the disengagement, Israel had dramatically reduced the level of terror, and the security fence around Gaza had a nearly perfect record of preventing the infiltration of suicide bombers. Israeli forces had severely damaged the terrorist infrastructure and killed or jailed most of the leaders of the major terror groups. The disengagement took place after Israel won the Palestinian War the Palestinian Authority had instigated in 2000, and the withdrawal took place from a position of strength, not weakness.

Palestinian extremists can claim whatever they want, but even they know the truth. As Zakariya Zubeidi, the leader of the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade terrorist group observed, “Not only was the intifada a failure, but we are a total failure. We achieved nothing in 50 years of struggle; we've achieved only our survival.”27

And the Palestinian people are not fooled by the rhetoric of the terrorists, as is evident by this comment by Mohammed Ahmed Moussa, a grocer in Jabaliya, who said, “Let's be frank. If Israel didn't want to leave Gaza, no one could have forced them out. Those who claim the rockets and attacks made them leave are kidding themselves.”28

MYTH

“Israel is obstructing Palestinian elections.” top

FACT

Israel is a democracy and believes in free elections as the best means of insuring representative government. Consequently, Israel has been supportive of the idea of democratic elections in the Palestinian Authority. In the 2005 presidential election, international observers reported that Israel made no effort to impede the vote. To the contrary, it took a number of measures to facilitate the election.

Similarly, Israel has no intention of interfering in the upcoming legislative elections in the PA. While there is some dispute about whether and how Palestinians living in Jerusalem may participate, a similar issue was resolved before the last election.

The Jerusalem issue, however, is being used as a smokescreen by the Palestinians to obscure their internal divisions. Palestinian officials have been talking for months about delaying the elections scheduled for January 25 because of chaos and disorder throughout the PA, and because of fears that they will lose power and that Hamas will take seats from the dominant Fatah party.

Many Palestinians also legitimately fear the election will not be fair. With just three weeks to go before the election, the Palestinian election commission resigned because the commissioners said Prime Minister Ahmed Korei was interfering with their work. After the last election, 46 officials from the PA Central Election Committee resigned to protest voting irregularities and fraud.

The problem for the PA today is not any Israeli interference in their affairs, it is the Wild West climate that now dominates the Gaza Strip and much of the West Bank. So long as the PA is unable to insure the safety of its residents, it will be unable to hold a free democratic election.

MYTH

“Academic freedom means any criticism of Israel is permissible in a university.” top

FACT

The one place in America where anti-Semitism is still tolerated is in the university, where “academic freedom” is often used as a cover to sanction anti-Israel teachings and forums that are anti-Semitic.

In an address on the subject of academic freedom, Columbia President Lee Bollinger quoted from a report that described a professor as someone whom “‘no fair-minded person’ would even suspect of speaking other than as ‘shaped or restricted by the judgement . . . of professional scholars.’” He also spoke about the need for faculty to “resist the allure of certitude, the temptation to use the podium as an ideological platform, to indoctrinate a captive audience, to play favorites with the like-minded, and silence the others.”

Many faculty, however, do not resist temptation; rather, they embrace their position as an ideological platform. Those who abuse their rights, and insist they can say what they want, hypocritically denounce others who exercise their right to criticize them. To suggest that a professor’s views are inappropriate, or their scholarship is faulty, is to risk being tarred with the charge of McCarthyism.

Legality is not the issue in evaluating the anti-Israel, sometimes anti-Semitic speeches and teachings of faculty and speakers on campus. No one questions that freedom of speech allows individuals to express their views. The issue is whether this type of speech should be given the cover of “academic” freedom, and granted legitimacy by the university through funding, publicity or use of facilities.

For the last several years, for example, an anti-Semitic forum has been held at different universities by the Palestine Solidarity Movement (PSM). In 2004, the conference was held at Duke University. Organizers were asked to sign an innocuous statement before the event calling for a civil debate that would “condemn the murder of innocent civilians,” “support a two-state solution” and “recognize the difference between disagreement and hate speech,” but refused to do so. By hosting a group that could not bring itself to object to the murder of Jews, Duke gave their views legitimacy and tarnished the university’s academic reputation. The 2006 PSM conference is being held at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

It is sometimes suggested critics seek to stifle legitimate criticism of Israel. There is a clear distinction, however, between criticism of Israeli policy, which you can read in any Israeli newspaper, and anti-Semitism, in which the attacks against Israel challenge its right to exist, or single Israel out among all other nations for special treatment, as in the case of the PSM’s call for the end to Israeli “occupation” in all of Palestine and divestment from Israel.

A related question is whether the presentations are in any way academic or scholarly. Few people would claim that a conference in which anti-black, anti-gay, or anti-woman sentiments were expressed would be protected by academic freedom, and yet that is the shield used to permit attacks on the Jewish people.

 

“Palestine means Palestine in its entirety - from the [Mediterranean] Sea to the [Jordan] River, from Ras Al-Naqura to Rafah. We cannot give up a single inch of it. Therefore, we will not recognize the Israeli enemy's [right] to a single inch.”

— Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar29

MYTH

“The Palestinian Authority held a democratic election and Israel and the rest of the world must accept that Hamas was the victor.” top

FACT

Winston Churchill said that “Democracy is the worst form of government except for all those others that have been tried.” It was a step forward, then, for the authoritarian Palestinian Authority to hold elections that by all accounts were conducted fairly. Nevertheless, so long as the Palestinian people continue to be denied by their leaders the freedoms of speech, religion, assembly and the press, the election cannot be considered truly free and democratic.

While democratic outcomes are preferable to the alternatives, the rest of the world is not obligated to have a relationship with elected leaders whose policies and views are dangerous. Adolf Hitler was elected by the German people, but few people would suggest today that the rest of the world should have ignored his genocidal views and treated him as an equal just because he emerged from a democratic process. Similarly, the current Iranian president was elected and is still widely viewed as a pariah because of his threats to destroy Israel and to pursue nuclear weapons in defiance of the rest of the world.

The Palestinian people chose to elect members of an organization whose avowed purpose is the destruction of Israel by violent means. Hamas is recognized throughout the world as a terrorist organization. Since the election, Hamas leaders have reaffirmed their commitment to the Hamas covenant calling for the liberation of all of Palestine and they have made clear it they have no intention of disarming.

Israel now has on its borders a quasi government run by people who oppose negotiations and compromise. Hamas can now take over all of the security services and weapons that have previously been given by Israel and others to the Palestinian Authority to keep the peace. The institutions that were bound by agreements to stop the violence, confiscate illegal weapons, end smuggling and cease incitement are now controlled by the very people most responsible for terror, gun running, and the use of the media and schools to demonize Israel and Jews.

Most of the world understands that Hamas is not a partner for peace and that it is a terrorist group that threatens the stability of the region. The United States and other countries rightly have said that it must recognize Israel and renounce terror before any diplomatic or economic support can be given to the PA. Of course, we went through a similar exercise in 1993 when similar demands were made of the PLO. Yasser Arafat made the necessary commitments in a letter to then Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, but he never matched the words with deeds. The world will be wise not to make the same mistake with Hamas.

“Palestinians need to understand that the exercise of self-government carries consequences. For too long, the international community has failed to extract a price for the Palestinian recourse to terror. That failure has not brought peace, but far worse it has produced the "Palestine" we have now: destitute, savage against both Israelis and moderate Arabs, and, so far, incapable of managing its internal affairs peacefully and competently. By refusing to render Hamas respectable, the U.S. and Israel aren't punishing the Palestinians. They're educating them.”

— Wall Street Journal30

MYTH

“Israel is digging under the Al-Aksa mosque and intends to destroy it.” top

FACT

The Palestinians and other Muslims routinely accuse Israel of threatening their holy places in Jerusalem and have discovered that this is a good way to provoke local violence and international condemnation. The tactic goes back to the 1920s when the Mufti of Jerusalem made similar charges that provoked widespread rioting. The latest example of using this method of incitement (which violates the road map and Oslo agreements) came when Sheikh Mohammad Hussein, the director of the Al-Aksa Foundation, accused Israel of excavating under the Temple Mount with the intention of destroying the Al-Aksa mosque.31

As in the past, the charge is a total fabrication. The most recent construction involved the development of a new visitors center built around new findings excavated near the Western Wall. Discoveries at the new site include a ritual bath from the period of the second Jewish Temple, destroyed in 70 C.E., and a wall archaeologists say dates to the first Jewish Temple, destroyed in 586 B.C.E.32 The work was done in the already tunnel area that has now been open to tourists for several years. It is not underneath the Temple Mount and nowhere near the Al-Aksa mosque. What really bothers the sheikh is that the center will “show a fabricated heritage that might help them to deceive foreign visitors into believing Jerusalem as a historical place of the Jews....” 33

Israel denied the accusations, but official government denials rarely satisfy those who are ready to believe any libel emanating from the Palestinian Authority. In this case, however, UPI reporter Joshua Brilliant attended the Foundation press conference during which a misleading film was shown purporting to prove the charges. Brilliant independently investigated the tunnel and found no evidence of any excavation in the direction of the mosque. A Hamas website nevertheless said that a synagogue was under the mosque and “We will spill blood and offer souls in defense of the mosque.”34

MYTH

“Israel is responsible for disparaging cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad.” top

FACT

Iran’s Supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei claimed that the cartoons first published in Denmark, which have sparked widespread Muslim protests, were part of a “conspiracy by Zionists who were angry because of the victory of Hamas.”35

Sometimes the myths propagated by Arabs and Muslims are so outrageous and ridiculous that it would seem to be a waste of time to respond. This is one of those instances. Unfortunately, history has proven that one cannot underestimate the capacity of people to believe even the most absurd charges when they are applied to Israel. After all, large numbers of Muslims still believe that Israel was responsible for the atrocities committed on 9/11.

The cartoons, of course, haven’t anything to do with Israel. They were solicited by a Danish publication, Jyllands-Posten, and have subsequently been reprinted widely. In fact, one blogger posted images from an Egyptian newspaper that published the cartoons.36Khamenei’s conspiracy theory also has a minor flaw — the cartoons were published in September 2005, six months before the Palestinian election.

In a juvenile and bizarre effort to retaliate for what they consider an affront to Islam, Iran is now soliciting cartoons lampooning the Holocaust. This really is nothing new as Iran and other Muslim nations routinely publish vile anti-Semitic cartoons in their state-controlled media. Sensitivity and tolerance are a one-way street in those countries.

MYTH

“The Palestinians have maintained a truce and ceased terror operations against Israel.” top

FACT

The number of successful Palestinian terrorist attacks has fallen dramatically in the last several months. This is not because of any actions on the part of the Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority continues to refuse to fulfill its road map obligation to stop violence, dismantle terrorist infrastructures, and confiscate illegal weapons. The decline in violence is due primarily to the efficiency of Israel’s security forces and the presence of the security fence. It has little to do with a supposed cease-fire during which there has been no lull in the effort to murder Israelis.

Prior to construction of the security fence, the Palestinians carried out 73 suicide bomb attacks that killed 293 Israelis. Even with the fence only about one-third completed, it has helped significantly reduce the carnage. Since construction began in July 2003, 11 suicide attacks have been launched that killed 54 people. In 2005, only seven suicide attacks were successful, which has taken terror against Israelis off the radar of the international media and given the perception that all is quiet. The reality is far different.

According to the Shin Bet, a total of 2,990 attacks were launched against Israel during 2005 following that January’s truce announcement by Islamic Jihad, the Popular Resistance Committees, and Fatah’s Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades. Each month, Israel has more than 70 terror alerts.37

To give just a few examples of the ongoing terror campaign:

• On February 2, 2006, soldiers prevented two Palestinian teenagers from smuggling 12 pipe bombs through a checkpoint. The next day two Palestinian teenagers were captured carrying explosive belts.38

• On February 19, 2006, border police arrested three Palestinians from Bethlehem on their way to carry out a suicide bombing in Jerusalem. That same morning, two Palestinians attempted to place a bomb near the southern Gaza security fence.39

• On February 20, 2006, the Shin Bet chief revealed that the IDF uncovered a launcher and eight mortar shells in Bethlehem, which were planned to be fired at the Jerusalem neighborhood of Gilo.40

• On February 21, 2006, an IDF force found a large bomb factory in Nablus.41

• Since Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, Palestinians have continued to fire rockets into Israel on an almost daily basis (more than 450 have hit Israel in less than six months42), and increasingly threatened strategic targets, such as the power station in Ashkelon.

• Smuggling of weapons has accelerated in the Gaza Strip. The head of the Shin Bet reported that the number of rifles smuggled each month has increased from 200-300 to 3,000 since disengagement, and that the Palestinians have also smuggled in anti-aircraft missiles and tons of explosives.43

Israel may have won the Palestinian War started by the Palestinian Authority in September 2000, but that does not mean that it has ended all terror threats. Cease-fires and truces mean little when those who declare them continue to arm themselves for the next battle, and their comrades continue to wage war.

The situation is likely to grow more dangerous now that the security forces responsible for enforcing the law in the Palestinian Authority will be infiltrated and probably controlled by the terrorists from Hamas who have made no secret since the Palestinian election that they are committed to their covenant’s call for the destruction of Israel. Moreover, the Palestinian people continue to support terrorism according to the latest poll, which found that 56% of Palestinians support suicide bombing operations against Israeli civilians.44

MYTH

“The PA is entitled to international aid because Hamas was democratically elected and the Palestinian people should not be made to suffer because Israel doesn’t like the election outcome.” top

FACT

Billions of dollars of aid have flowed to the Palestinian Authority (PA) over the last 13 years despite the fact that most of it was siphoned off by corrupt officials and very little has actually reached the people. Now the PA is led by a party that pledged to fight corruption, but it also promises to continue to use terror as a means of achieving the objective of destroying Israel. Why does anyone believe the United States or any other country has an obligation to underwrite terrorism and programs for genocide?

The New York Times noted:

 

America cannot bankroll a Hamas government that preaches and practices terrorism, denies that Israel has any right to exist, and refuses to abide by peace agreements signed by previous Palestinian governments....the United States would make a resounding diplomatic and moral point by cutting off aid. It would demonstrate in the clearest possible terms that the American people are not prepared to support governments, elected or unelected, that proclaim the annihilation of other nations as their goal and embrace terrorism as an acceptable tactic for achieving it.

It is true that the PA has financial problems, but that is not the rest of the world’s responsibility. Had the PA not misspent the billions it had received already from international donors, it would not be in this predicament. Moreover, as the Times editorialized, “Continuing United States subsidies while Hamas is in power will not move the region one step closer to a fair and sustainable peace.”

The Times and others are wrong in suggesting that Israel be pressured to pay tax and customs funds to the PA. These are funds that Israel agreed to pay as part of the Oslo agreements, which the PA has not fulfilled, and Hamas says it does not accept. Moreover, what government would give money to an authority that is calling for its destruction? Can you imagine the Israeli prime minister speaking to his Hamas counterpart: “We are very upset that you say that you are committed to destroying our nation, and we’re disturbed that you are launching terrorist attacks against us each day, but here’s the money we owe you. Don’t spend it all on one suicide bomb.”

The Palestinian people aren’t going to starve. Even if the United States, Israel, and other Western nations were threatening to withhold all aid until Hamas either is driven from power or completely reforms and renounces its covenant, Iran and other nations will provide the minimum required to sustain the Palestinians, a group which already receives substantially more aid than far needier populations around the globe. And the United States and others are not even talking about cutting off all aid; they all say they will continue to provide humanitarian funds.

The Palestinian people will blame the world for their predicament, as they have for the last 58 years, but perhaps a cutoff of some aid will be the consequence that finally teaches them the lesson that the path to statehood requires them to make a different choice – peace over violence.

MYTH

“Saudi Arabia has ended its boycott of Israel.” top

FACT

In late 2005, Saudi Arabia was required to cease its boycott of Israel as a condition of joining the World Trade Organization (WTO). After initially saying that it would do so, the government subsequently announced it would maintain its first-degree boycott of Israeli products. The government said it agreed to lift the second and third degree boycott in accordance with an earlier Gulf Cooperation Council decision rather than the demands of the WTO.46

Saudi Arabia continues, however, to prohibit entry to products made in Israel or to foreign-made goods containing Israeli components and hosted a major international conference aimed at promoting the boycott in Jidda in March 2006. The Organization for the Islamic Conference’s (OIC) Islamic Office for the Boycott of Israel is based in Jidda and the head of the office is a former Saudi diplomat.47

In hearings in February 2006 before the Senate Finance Committee, U.S. trade representative Rob Portman insisted that the Saudis “have a responsibility to treat Israel as any other member of the WTO” and added that the U.S. had received assurance “they will abide by their WTO commitments.”48

While the Saudis were presenting themselves in the media as peacemakers in early 2007 by resurrecting their 2002 peace plan, the government continued to bar entry to products manufactured in Israel or to foreign-made goods containing Israeli components.48a This is in addition to the ongoing political boycott whereby Saudi officials refuse to meet with Israelis. The Saudi behavior is inconsistent with their rhetoric and raises questions about the sincerity of their peace proposals and whether a government that has reneged on its promise to the WTO to end the boycott can be trusted to fulfill commitments to peace with Israel.

MYTH

Israel is knowingly desecrating a Muslim holy place in Jerusalem by building a museum on top of a cemetery.top

FACT

An offshoot of the Islamic Movement in Israel petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court to halt the the Simon Wiesenthal Center from constructing a new Museum of Tolerance in the center of Jerusalem. The petitioners, from a group called “the Al-Aqsa Corporation,” claim the museum is being built on part of an ancient cemetery where 20,000 soldiers from Saladin's army are buried, and want the area recognized as an Islamic waqf. This would give them exclusive rights to any decisions regarding use of the land. This claim is very controversial because it would in effect place a Muslim enclave in the heart of West Jersualem.

Over forty years ago, an Islamic court ruled that the land was no longer sacred and could be used for construction or other purposes. Even four decades before that ruling, in 1922, the infamous Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin al-Husseini, built a luxurious hotel on part of the land. The Mufti ruled that construction was possible if the tombs were removed and reburied in another place, and he made plans to build a Muslim university on the same tract of land.49

The cemetery has been abandoned for well over a century and, in 1964, an Islamic court ruled that its status was mundaras (erased), meaning that its holiness had expired. Muslim scholars and religious leaders have allowed the “recycling” of cemeteries that have not been used for more than a generation. The Islamic Movement, however, sees the dispute as an opportunity to claim part of Jerusalem as a Muslim enclave.

The Israel Antiquities Authority has been especially careful in removing remains found at the site for reburial. The Wiesenthal Center has also offered to re-inter all of the remains in the part of the cemetery that still exists, and plans to renovate and fence off the area.

MYTH

Hamas is a threat only to Israel.top

FACT

While attention is correctly focused on the threat Hamas poses to Israel because of its commitment to the destruction of the Jewish State, and its active involvement in terrorism to accomplish that goal, the radical Islamic organization also is viewed as a grave danger to the stability of Jordan.

The Jordanians have no illusions about Hamas and, in late April 2006, arrested several members of the organization it suspected of planning a terrorist attack against senior members of the government on orders from Hamas leaders in Damascus.50 This followed an earlier threat uncovered when Jordanian officials learned that Hamas had smuggled weapons, including bombs and rockets, into the kingdom. That discovery led Jordan to cancel a planned visit by Palestinian Foreign Minister Mahmoud Zahar of Hamas.51

Tensions between Hamas and Jordan are nothing new. In 1998, the government warned leaders of the Islamic resistance movement in Jordan to refrain from making statements inciting violence or obstructing the Palestinian-Israeli Wye River peace deal that had just been signed. The admonition came after a Hamas bomb attack on an Israeli school bus in the Gaza Strip, and a statement by the Hamas politburo chief in Amman, Khalid Mashal, condemning the Wye agreement and vowing to continue the war against Israel.52

In 1999, five commercial offices in Amman registered under the names of Hamas leaders were closed, several of its members were detained and arrest warrants were issued for several Hamas leaders. On September 22, 1999, Khalid Mashal, Ibrahim Ghousheh, Mousa Abu Marzook, Sami Khater and Izzat Rasheq were arrested after returning from a trip to Tehran. Marzook, who held a Yemeni passport, was deported. Mashal, Khater, Rasheq and Ghousheh, all Jordanian citizens, were given the choice of being tried for membership in an illegal organization or leaving Jordan. Ultimately, the four men were deported to Qatar.53

Jordanian officials were growing increasingly worried about the close ties that Hamas was developing with the radical Muslim Brotherhood and the group’s close ties with Iran and Syria. Computer files confiscated from the Hamas offices contained sensitive information about the kingdom and Jordanian figures, records indicating that around $70 million had been transferred to Hamas from abroad over the previous five years, and the locations of arms and explosives caches around the kingdom.54

Subsequently, Hamas became an “illegal and non-Jordanian” organization whose presence was no longer tolerated.55

MYTH

“Palestinians have the right to sell land to Jews.top

FACT

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.56

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.57

During the Palestinian War, few, if any Palestinians tried to sell land to Jews, but the prohibition remained in effect. Now that the war is over, the persecutions have begun again. In April 2006, Muhammad Abu al-Hawa was tortured and murdered because allegedly sold an apartment building in Israel’s capital city 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.58

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. 58a 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.58b

“There are no words to adequately condemn the despicable attack in Tel Aviv. Not only because it is contrary to the interests of the Palestinian people...[but] because of the philosophy that is behind it....A racist philosophy that is based on the cruel principle of killing Jews because they are Jews.”

— Colunnist Nazir Majali 59

 

“Hamas faced its first concrete choice this week between its ambition to govern the West Bank and Gaza and its extremist commitment to terrorism -- and it chose to side with the suicide bombers. The sickening Passover attack at a Tel Aviv restaurant Monday, which killed nine Israelis and injured dozens, was carried out by Islamic Jihad, an Iranian-backed extremist group that refuses to observe the shaky cease-fire Hamas has followed for more than a year. Yet, though the attack violated its own policy and undermined its interests, several of Hamas's spokesmen quickly defended it. The result was to put the Palestinian government on record as an outlaw and to raise dangerously the chances of a major new outbreak of Middle East violence.”

Washington Post 60

 

MYTH

“Israel has no justification for withholding tax monies due to the Palestinian Authority.” top

FACT

Under the Oslo interim agreement, Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza are in a customs union administered by the Israeli government. Israel collects a duty on any foreign imports destined for the West Bank and Gaza as welll as a value added tax on goods and services from Israel destined for the Palestinian territories.

At the beginning of 2001, Israel decided to withhold more than $50 million in taxes it owed to the Palestinian Authority (PA) in response to the ongoing violence. U.S. officials, and others, pressured Israel to transfer the money because of the PA's dire financial straits and inability to pay many of its bills. Israel recognized that its action was harsh, but believed it was necessary to demonstrate to the Palestinians that the inability or unwillingness to stop the violence had a cost. Israel must use whatever leverage it can to protect its citizens and this economic sanction was a milder response than a military one.

While Israel's action was blamed for the sorry state of the Palestinian economy, the truth was the Arab countries suspended the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars, collected as donations, meant for the PA. The justification for the Arab states' action was their concern that the funds would be embezzled and encourage further corruption in the PA.61 For example, a Kuwaiti newspaper reported that Yasser Arafat stole more than $5 million in foreign aid intended for needy Palestinians.62

In July 2002, Israel agreed to transfer some of the tax revenues to the Palestinians as a confidence-building measure after Palestinian violence subsided, and an agreement was reached to set up a committee of U.S. representatives to oversee the transaction.63 Israel subsequently began to forward the taxes it collected to the PA, after deducting the amount owed for electricity and water bills that many Palestinians refused to pay Israeli utilities.

Case Study

The speaker of the Palestinian legislative council, and later Prime Minister, Ahmed Korei, suddenly vacated the villa he built for $1.5 million in Jericho after President Bush raised the issue of PA corruption. A sign on the door was posted that said the villa had become a welfare institution for the relatives of Palestinians killed in terror attacks.64

Following the election of Hamas in 2006, Israel again began to withhold tax revenue on the grounds that it had no obligation to help finance a government that was calling for its destruction. Furthermore, Israel argued that the agreement to remit these taxes to the PA was part of the Oslo accords that Hamas explicitly said it would not honor. The United States, the European Union and other countries also froze funding because Hamas is a terrorist group that does not recognize Israel as a country.

While Israel wants to deny Hamas the resources it needs to wage a terrorist war, the government does not want to harm the Palestinian people and therefore agreed in May 2006 to release tax revenues for humanitarian purposes, such as medicine and health needs.65

MYTH

“If Israel ends the occupation, there will be peace.” top

FACT

The mantra of the Palestinians and their supporters since 1967 has been “end the occupation.” The assumption underlying this slogan is that peace will follow the end of Israel’s “occupation.” The equally popular slogan among critics of Israeli policy has been that it should “trade land for peace.” Again, the premise being that it is simply Israel’s presence on land claimed by the Palestinians that is the impediment to peace.

The experience in Gaza has offered a stark case study of the disingenuousness of these slogans. When Israel announced the plan to evacuate Gaza, rather than cheer the unilateral end to the occupation, the Palestinians denounced disengagement and refused for months to cooperate or to take measures to ease the transition. If the Palestinians’ fervent desire was really to end Israeli control over their lives, why didn’t they cheer the disengagement and do everything possible to make it a success?

Israel has withdrawn from every inch of Gaza; not a single Israeli soldier or civilian remains. The evacuation came at great emotional and financial cost. And what has the end of “the occupation” brought Israel? Has it received peace in exchange for the land? No, to the contrary, the Palestinian answer to meeting their demands has not been quiet, but a barrage of rocket fire. Since September 12, 2005, 770 Kassam rockets have been fired, more than 100 since the weekend of June 10, 2006.66

Fortunately, these rockets are relatively inaccurate and have caused minimal death and destruction, but that is beside the point. What nation would hold its fire if its population was under daily attack from missiles? The ongoing rocket fire disrupts the lives of Israelis, traumatizes the children, and amounts to an act of war.

It has been a testament to Israel’s restraint that it has not mounted a large-scale military operation to this point to end the threat to its citizens. The Palestinian Authority has ceased to exist in Gaza; now it is simply a wild west outpost for terrorist factions to fight for power and provoke Israel. Time is running out for the Palestinian leadership to exert control or face the consequences.

Slogans are good for bumper stickers and sound bites, but they are irrelevant to the future of Israel and its neighbors. Israelis have repeatedly shown a desire for peace, and a willingness to make painful sacrifices, but nothing they do will end the conflict. The escalation of violence not only has occurred following Israel’s evacuation of Gaza but after the Israeli Prime Minister expressed his intention to withdraw from virtually the entire West Bank. Peace will be possible only when the Palestinians and other Muslims and Arabs demonstrate by their deeds their willingness to live beside a Jewish state.

“I extend my hand in peace to Mahmoud Abbas, elected President of the Palestinian Authority. On behalf of the State of Israel, we are willing to negotiate with a Palestinian Authority.”

— Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Speech to Congress67


If we are to look at Israeli society, 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.

Al-Quds University President Sari Nusseibeh on academic boycotts of Israel 68


“The responsibility for this escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict rests with the Palestinians who have yet again turned their backs on peace. Rather than take the withdrawal of Israel from Gaza as an opportunity to build a future for their children, they instead refused to relinquish their embrace of a culture of hate and death.”

— Editorial, Chicago Sun Times69


“When Cpl. Gilad Shalit was abducted by the military wing of Mr. Haniyeh's Hamas movement last weekend, his administration faced a choice. It could behave like a civilized government — and work to free the hostage — or align itself with a terrorist operation. It chose the latter. Hamas government officials endorsed the militants' demand that Israel release Palestinian prisoners it has legally arrested in exchange for a soldier who was attacked while guarding Israeli territory. Hamas justified this position by citing the terrorist movement Hizballah, which has extracted prisoners from Israel in exchange for hostages, as well as governments that exchange POWs in wartime. Fair enough. But if Hamas wants to be equated with Hizballah or define itself as at war with Israel, then Israel has every right to try to destroy the Islamic movement's military capacity, to capture its leaders...and to topple its government. Isn't that what happens in war?”

— Editorial, Washington Post 70

 

MYTH

“Israel deliberately targets Lebanese civilians.” top

FACT

Israel does not target civilians. Israel has no claim to Lebanese territory and no dispute with the people or government of Lebanon. Israel’s enemy is Hizballah, a terrorist organization that has been launching unprovoked attacks against Israelis since Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000.

It is one of the horrible consequences of war that civilians die. In Lebanon, Israel has gone to great lengths to avoid harming civilians. What other army drops leaflets telling civilians to leave an area, thereby giving away the element of surprise, in the interest of protecting innocents?

Let the critics of Israel’s campaign explain how they would respond to a barrage of more than 1,400 rockets on their cities. How would they stop the rockets without hurting any noncombatants when the rockets are being fired from civilian neighborhoods rather than military bases?

Meanwhile, look carefully at the television pictures of the destruction in places such as Beirut. While the commentary by reporters often suggests Israel has bombed targets indiscriminately, what is remarkable is how precise the attacks actually have been. Frequently you see only a single building or a couple of structures damaged while the rest of the area is untouched. Israel could have easily leveled entire neighborhoods, but it did not.

Listen carefully as well. When reporters go to neighborhoods in Lebanon they are being guided by men from Hizballah who show them only what they want the reporters to see and tell them what Hizballah wants them to hear. The Hizballah terrorist says the building was a civilian residence, but the reporter has no way of knowing what was in the buildings, whether it was a rocket workshop, a hiding place for katyushas, the home of a Hizballah leader, or a command center. In fact, he doesn’t even know if the Israel was responsible for the destruction that he is shown. Does it make any sense that Israel would pick out a single residence in a Beirut neighborhood to bomb for no reason?

And notice too that the only people around are from Hizballah. The civilians are gone, so when the Hizballah terrorist tells the reporter they have to keep moving because the Israelis might strike, he knows that he and his fellow terrorists are the only targets.

Tragically, many civilians have died, but history has shown that the terrorists are very good at fabricating statistics. At one point, it was reported that something like 300 civilians had been killed and only one member of Hizballah. Does it seem plausible that in all of Israel’s attacks it only managed to kill one terrorist? Is everyone a civilian that the Lebanese claim is a civilian?

In war, mistakes are sometimes made. In some cases, troops kill each other in friendly fire incidents. In others, civilians die, as was the case when the United States killed 48 people at a wedding during fighting in Afghanistan. No one seriously believed the United States bombers had targeted people celebrating a marriage and no one should believe Israel has any reason to target trucks of food and medicine as the Lebanese president has alleged, or any other purely civilian target.

Besides the ethical and moral restraints, Israel has very good political reasons not to hurt noncombatants. Israeli officials know that a mistake leading to a large number of civilian casualties will hurt their image and provoke greater demands that they cease-fire before accomplishing their military objectives. An Israeli pilot openly admitted this consideration:

 

It’s strange how the focus in these missions is not to succeed, hit the target precisely, but rather – not to make any mistakes. The message is clear all the way from the Squadron commander to the last pilot. One mistake can jeopardize the whole war, like Kfar-Kana, in one of the last operations in Lebanon, where artillery bombarded a refugee camp, killing over 100 people, which resulted in international pressure that halted the operation. Hitting the target is expected, no misses are acceptable.71

The main reasons Lebanese civilians are in danger have nothing to do with Israel. First, the Lebanese government failed to fulfill its obligation under UN Security Council Resolution 1559 to disarm Hizballah and deploy its army in southern Lebanon. Second, Hizballah has so little regard for civilians that it purposely bases its weapons and fighters in their homes and neighborhoods where they will be put at risk. Third, the civilians themselves have allowed Hizballah to create a state within Lebanon and to carry out terrorist attacks. Finally, if Hizballah had not attacked Israel, not a single Lebanese civilian would have been hurt. If Hizballah returns the soldiers it kidnaped and disarms, not one more civilian will die.

“The criticism that Israeli attacks aimed at Hezbollah are disproportionate is lazy and facile in several ways, especially in implying a moral relativism between the two sides that does not exist. This is not the contest between misguided equals that many in the West seem to see. One is the region’s lone democracy, which for much of its existence has faced a very real existential threat and would like, if possible, to live in peace with its neighbours. The other is a terrorist organization, bent on preventing such a future. ”

— Editorial, London Times72

 

MYTH

“Israel should exchange Arab prisoners for soldiers kidnapped by Hamas and Hizballah.” top

FACT

The fighting that broke out between Israel and Hamas in Gaza, and Israel and Hizballah in Lebanon in 2006, was provoked by longstanding threats by the terrorist organizations against Israel’s civilian population. The final straw that stimulated Israel’s military campaign was the kidnapping of three soldiers. The kidnappers demanded that Israel release prisoners in exchange for the soldiers they were holding.

The people in Israeli jails are there because they were involved in terrorist activities and many committed heinous crimes. In an effort to win greater sympathy for their gambit, Hamas asked for the release of women and children, giving the impression that housewives and toddlers were being unfairly imprisoned. Out of the 109 women and 313 juveniles then in prison, 64 women and 91 juveniles “have blood on their hands.” Palestinian prisoners under the age of 18 threw Molotov cocktails, transported weapons and associated with terrorist organizations. The women planned suicide attacks, prepared bombs and assisted suicide bombers; they also attacked Israeli soldiers and joined terrorist organizations. Ahlan Tanimi, for example, brought the bomb that murdered 16 in the Sbarro pizza restaurant in Jerusalem. Kahira Sa’adi drove a terrorist to King George Avenue, where he blew up three people. Hanady Jaradats killed 21 in the Maxim restaurant in Haifa.73

The focus of Hizballah’s demand was the release of Samir Kuntar. He was captured in 1979 and tried and convicted for the murder of Danny Haran and his 4-year-old daughter Einat, and for killing two Israeli policemen. Upon taking them hostage, Kuntar shot the father dead at close range in front of his daughter. He then smashed the girl’s head, killing her. He was sentenced to multiple life terms, amounting to 542 years in prison.73a

It is true that Israel has exchanged prisoners for soldiers in the past, often in lopsided trades of dozens of prisoners for a handful of Israelis. Sometimes the Israelis have already been killed and the nation is just trying to retrieve the bodies of its soldiers. These cases demonstrated how much Israel values the lives of its citizens, and reflect the IDF policy of leaving no soldier — dead or alive — on the battlefield.

This sense of obligation explains the deal struck on July 16, 2008 in which Israel agreed to trade Samir Kuntar, along with five other Lebanese militants, in return for the bodies of its fallen soldiers, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev, both killed after being kidnapped by Hizballah, and information regarding missing Israeli airman Ron Arad, who disappeared when his jet went down over Lebanon in 1986. The report on Arad contained no new information and said Hizballah did not know what happened to Arad, but they believe he is dead.

Meanwhile, Kuntar, the murderer, was given a hero’s welcome in Beirut and his release was praised by Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas.

The decision to make the trade was a painful and difficult one for Israel. The idea of releasing prisoners like Kuntar is odious to Israelis. Moreover, prisoner exchanges are dangerous because they increase the risk that the terrorists will see kidnapping as a weapon to use repeatedly to force Israel to make concessions. It also lessens the terrorists’ incentive to keep hostages alive.

The latest prisoner exchange has emboldened Hamas to increase its demands for the return of kidnapped soldier Gilad Shalit. “We have to take advantage of this to release our prisoners,” said Gaza strongman Mahmoud Zahar.73b

MYTH

“The media is fairly and accurately covering the war in Lebanon.” top

FACT

During the last war in Lebanon, disinformation was the norm and Israel’s enemies learned that they could disseminate lies that the media would not investigate, that they could exaggerate Israeli actions, and that reporters could be manipulated by controlling their access. This pattern is now repeating itself in coverage of Israel’s war with Hizballah terrorists.

Reporters covering the war from Lebanon have been particularly egregious in revealing their own biases based, it seems, on having been based in the country and developing sympathies for their subjects. More serious, however, has been the way some of these correspondents have allowed themselves to be used by Hizballah. In the first Lebanon war, the PLO threatened reporters and made favorable coverage the price of access. Hizballah learned from their example and now influences much of what reporters can see and say.

CNN’s Nic Robertson, for example, was taken to an area of Beirut and told that the rubble of buildings was a result of Israeli air strikes on civilian targets. He repeated the allegation as fact. He had no way of knowing what was in the buildings, whether it was a rocket workshop, a hiding place for katyushas, the home of a Hizballah leader, or a command center. In fact, he didn’t even know if Israel was responsible for the destruction that he was shown.

Robertson later admitted that his report had been influenced by his Hizballah guide. He acknowledged that he had been told what to film and where. “They designated the places that we went to, and we certainly didn’t have time to go into the houses or lift up the rubble to see what was underneath.” Robertson said Hizballah controls south Beirut. “You don’t get in there without their permission. We didn’t have enough time to see if perhaps there was somebody there who was, you know, a taxi driver by day, and a Hizballah fighter by night.” Unlike what he said on air during his guided reports, Robertson told CNN’s Reliable Sources, “there's no doubt that the bombs there are hitting Hizballah facilities.”74

Robertson’s CNN colleague, Anderson Cooper, is one of the journalists who has been consistently fair and balanced. He also has not hesitated to point out Hizballah's mendacity. He said the group was “just making things up,” and gave as one example a tour he was given in which Hizballah had lined up some ambulances. They were told to turn on their sirens and then the ambulances drove off as if they were picking up wounded civilians when, in fact, they were simply going back and forth.75

Time Magazine contributor Christopher Albritton made clear that reporters understand the rules of the game. “To the south, along the curve of the coast, Hizballah is launching Katyushas, but I’m loath to say too much about them. The Party of God has a copy of every journalist’s passport, and they’ve already hassled a number of us and threatened one.”76

Under no duress whatsoever, the Washington Post’s Thomas Ricks made perhaps the most outrageous charge of the war when he claimed that Israel is intentionally leaving Hizballah launchers intact because having Israeli civilians killed helps Israel in the public relations war.77

Israel’s image is also being tarred by suggestions that it is targeting Lebanese Christian areas, intimating that Israel is killing innocent Christians and is not restricting its attacks to the Shiite Muslims of Hizballah. CNN reported, for example, an Israeli strike “on the edge of the city’s mostly Christian eastern district” that killed 10 people. In the next paragraph, however, the report says Israel hit “a building near a mosque” (emphasis added)78

Photographs can be especially powerful, but they can also be misleading or outright fakes. In the last Lebanon war, for example, the Washington Post published a photograph (August 2, 1982) of a baby that appeared to have lost both its arms. The UPI caption said that the seven-month-old had been severely burned when an Israeli jet accidentally hit a Christian residential area. The photo and the caption, however, were inaccurate. The baby did not lose its arms, and the burns the child suffered were the result of a PLO attack on East Beirut.

A similarly dramatic photo of a baby pulled from the rubble of a building in Qana that appeared on front pages around the world is now being challenged as a fake.79 One of the photographers involved, Adnan Hajj, was discovered to have doctored at least two photographs, one of which was changed to show more and darker smoke rising from buildings in Beirut bombed by Israel, and the other changed the image of an Israeli jet so it showed three flares being discharged instead of one. Reuters admitted the photos had been changed, suspended the photographer, and removed all of his photographs from its database.80 This incident should make editors and viewers alike suspicious of images being disseminated by freelance Arab photographers and videographers who are engaging in propaganda rather than photo-journalism.

It is also conceivable that some of the scenes that reporters are being shown have been staged. It is difficult to prove without access to the raw footage of the photographers, but anyone who doubts that this is part of the strategy of Israel’s enemies need only look at the examples of Palestinians choreographing events in the territories documented on The Second Draft web site.

Reporters in Lebanon also continue to exaggerate the destruction in Beirut and elsewhere by showing tight shots of buildings hit in Israeli air strikes and rebroadcasting the same images repeatedly. “You would think Beirut has begun to resemble Dresden and Hamburg in the aftermath of Second World War air raids,” observed former Sunday Telegraph correspondent Tom Gross. But, Gross notes, “a careful look at aerial satellite photos of the areas targeted by Israel in Beirut shows that certain specific buildings housing Hizballah command centers in the city’s southern suburbs have been singled out. Most of the rest of Beirut, apart from strategic sites such as airport runways used to ferry Hizballah weapons in and out of Lebanon, has been left pretty much untouched.”81

Qana was also an example of how the press immediately reports whatever statistics they are fed by Lebanese officials. Again, we learned in the last war that these figures are usually inflated and the press rarely bothers to verify them. Front page stories around the world said that 57 civilians were killed when Israel bombed a building it believed to be empty. While still tragic, the actual casualty figure was only 28. Moreover, most accounts failed to mention the building was in an area where 150 rocket attacks on Israel had originated.

While an Israeli strike that killed UN observers drew headlines, little attention was given to reports that Hizballah was using the UN posts as shields. A Canadian soldier with UNIFIL, for example, reported that his team could observe “most of the Hizballah static positions in and around our patrol base” and noted that Israeli ordnance that fell near the base was not a result of deliberate targeting, but “has rather been due to tactical necessity.”82

Over the years, the Arabs have learned one sure-fire way to get media attention is to scream “massacre” when Israelis are in the neighborhood. On August 7, news outlets repeated Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora’s claim that Israel had committed a “massacre” by killing 40 people in an air raid on the village of Houla. Later, it was learned that one person had died.83 Throughout the fighting Siniora’s statements to the media have suggested that Israel has unique weaponry that only hits civilians and never terrorists.

Turning momentarily away from the carnage of war, some reporters have suggested that Israeli attacks have created environmental problems in Lebanon. Meanwhile, little attention has been devoted to the ecological damage caused by fires sparked by Katyusha rockets that have destroyed 16,500 acres of forests and grazing fields.

The press is also spending a great deal of time talking to Lebanese civilians and their relatives in the United States and highlighting the difficult conditions they are enduring. This is no doubt the case since they are living in a war zone; however, the media has spent almost no time talking to the Israelis living under the constant threat of rocket attacks. Few reporters have gone into the bomb shelters to interview the frightened Israeli families. No one seems interested in how the relatives of Israelis in the United States feel about their loved ones living under siege.

Similarly, initial reports focused on the Americans living in Lebanon while no one seems interested in the 120,000 North Americans living in Israel. It is terrible that tourists and students had to be evacuated from Lebanon, but what about those same groups in Israel? How many reporters talked to the hundreds of students on summer tours and programs in Israel, many of whom were in the north when the violence escalated? While the complications of leaving the country may not be as severe as in Lebanon, it is still very difficult to arrange a quick exit from Israel, and many American parents are in a state of panic worrying about their family and friends in Israel.

Here are some facts that the media has neglected:

  • Two million Israelis are now living under threat of rockets, including approximately 700,000 Israeli Arabs.
  • Altogether, more than 300,000 Israelis have been displaced from their homes.
  • Fifteen percent of the entire Israeli population is living in bomb shelters.
  • Approximately 5,500 homes have been damaged by Hizballah rockets.
  • Israel’s tourist industry, which had finally started to recover from the Palestinian War, is again being devastated.
  • Towns that are home to important sites of the three major religions have come under fire, including Tiberias, Nazareth and Safed.

Wars are never easy to cover, and each side of a conflict wants to make its case through the media. A responsible press, however, does not repeat whatever it hears, it first makes every effort to insure the accuracy of its reporting. That is the standard expected of journalists covering the war between Israel and Hizballah.

MYTH

“Israeli forces deliberately targeted civilians during the war instigated by Hizballah.” top

FACT

Three weeks after the beginning of the war initiated by Hizballah on July 12, 2006, Human Rights Watch (HRW) issued a report that charged Israel with indiscriminate attacks against civilians in Lebanon.”84 Nothing in the report was based on first-hand knowledge of HRW; rather it was gathered from interviews with “eye-witnesses and survivors” of Israeli strikes who “told HRW that neither Hizballah fighters nor other legitimate military targets were in the area that the IDF attacked.” The HRW staff added for emphasis that they did not see “any signs of military activity in the area[s] attacked, such as trenches, destroyed rocket launchers, other military equipment, or dead or wounded fighters.”

If the investigators did not find evidence of Hizballah’s presence at bomb sites, it does not necessarily follow that the terrorists had not been there since it is possible that any weapons, documents or bodies were removed before HRW arrived on the scene. As Joshua Muravchik observed, “There was no dependable method by which HRW could assess the veracity of what it was told by the ‘witnesses,’ many of whom were in areas where the population was sympathetic to, or intimidated by Hizballah. Indeed, there was no means by which it could be sure that they were not Hizballah cadres, since members of the group do not ordinarily wear uniforms or display identity badges.”85

HRW also has no evidence for the scurrilous accusation that civilians were “deliberately” killed. Unless the investigators are mind readers, they could not divine Israeli intentions. Moreover, it is easy to find a great deal of evidence to show the efforts Israel made to avoid harming noncombatants, such as the dropping of leaflets to warn civilians to evacuate locations before they were attacked, the pinpoint attacks of buildings in neighborhoods that could more easily have been carpet-bombed, and the reports of Israeli pilots and others who withheld fire because of the presence of civilians in target areas.

When challenged about the group’s methods, HRW director Kenneth Roth said, essentially, trust me. Anyone watching TV, however, saw the images of rockets being fired from civilian areas, and the photos of weapons and armed men in what should have been peaceful neighborhoods. Numerous witnesses also told reporters very different stories than those reported by HRW, giving examples of weapons caches in mosques and fighters using UN troops as shields.86 HRW had no trouble accepting the word of the Lebanese people it interviewed, but gave no credence to evidence presented by Israel, such as weapons captured in fighting in civilian areas or videos showing the deployment and launching of rockets from areas that were attacked.

Two days after the release of their report on Israel, and while being subjected to serious criticism for having double standards, a relatively short statement (7 pages compared to 51 on Lebanon) was released by HRW.87 Rockets had already been falling on Israel for three weeks before Roth managed to call on Hizballah’s to stop its attacks and declare that “Lobbing rockets blindly into civilian areas is without doubt a war crime.” Even in this report documenting strikes on Israeli hospitals, educational institutions, businesses and civilian homes, HRW couldn’t resist reiterating its charges against Israel.

The decision by HRW to treat Israel as the main culprit in this war also entailed a studied refusal to make basic moral and legal distinctions. The group did not differentiate between Hizballah’s action in initiating the conflict and Israel's reaction in self-defense, nor between Hizballah’s openly announced and deliberate targeting of civilians and Israel’s efforts to avoid civilian casualties by, for example, appealing to Lebanese civilians to evacuate areas it intended to attack (and thereby giving up the element of surprise and increasing the risk to its own troops).

Most remarkably, HRW did not take note of the contrasting goals of the combatants. One of Hizballah’s declared aims is to destroy Israel, while Israel's goal was to survive and to protect its citizens. HRW justifies this self-imposed moral blindness on the grounds that its touchstone is law, not morality.

The spurious allegations made by HRW, as well as similar ones published by Amnesty International, were further undermined by a report issued in November 2006 by the Intelligence and Terrorism Center at the Israeli Center for Special Studies. This publication provides extensive documentation and photographic evidence of “Hizballah’s consistent pattern of intentionally placing its fighters and weapons among civilians.” It also shows that Hizballah was “well aware of the civilian casualties that would ensue” from this activity.

MYTH

“A unity Palestinian government will reinvigorate the peace process.” top

FACT

Israel has been hoping since the death of Yasser Arafat that a Palestinian leader who would emerge with the vision and courage to pursue peace negotiations. The hope was that Mahmoud Abbas was that leader, however, he has proven over the last two years to be unable to control the Palestinian Authority, and he is therefore incapable of negotiating any agreement that Israelis could expect to be implemented.

The election of Hamas to power further undermined the position of Abbas, and worsened the overall situation of the Palestinians as the international community has withheld most of its financial and political support for the PA unless and until Hamas agrees to recognize Israel, end its campaign of terror and agree to fulfill past agreements signed with Israel. Though Abbas has repeatedly offered to form a unity government with Hamas, and said that it was prepared to meet those conditions, Hamas has adamantly refused to do so.

As recently as September 21, 2006, Abbas told the UN General Assembly that a Hamas-Fatah government would recognize Israel. Hamas denied this, however, and Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh reiterated his opposition to recognizing Israel’s right to exist and reasserted the Palestinians’ intention to continue their “resistance.” Haniyeh also urged moderate Arab countries not to support U.S. policy just as Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was meeting in Egypt with Arab allies in an effort to revive the road map.88

The only way that a unity Palestinian government can become a partner for peace is if the Hamas half of the government effectively ceases to reflect the core values of the organization expressed in its covenant, which calls for Israel’s destruction.

For now, the Palestinians cannot even make peace among themselves. Fatah’s al-Aksa Martyrs Brigades threatened to kill all of Hamas’ leaders, including Haniyeh, and 11 Palestinians were killed and more than 150 were wounded in battles between the rival Palestinian groups.89 In addition to either instigating the violence or being unable to stop it, Abbas has also failed to secure the release of the Israeli soldier still being held by Hamas. None of these developments inspire confidence that an Abbas-led government, unified or not, can advance the peace process.

MYTH

“Saudi Arabia has proposed a new formula for a comprehensive peace.” top

FACT

In an effort to jumpstart the peace process, Saudi Arabia has resurrected the idea of negotiating with Israel on the basis of a formula outlined by then Crown Prince Abdullah in 2002. Abdullah’s ideas were revised and adopted by the Arab League as a peace initiative that offered Israel “normal relations” in exchange for a withdrawal to the 1967 borders and resolution of the Palestinian refugee issue.

In response to the renewed discussion of the plan in March 2007, Prime Minister Olmert expressed a willingness to talk about the Saudi initiative. When the plan was brought up a few months earlier, Olmert reportedly met secretly with a member of the Saudi royal family.90 More recently, Israel tried to persuade the Saudis to modify the plan’s position on the refugees to make it more palatable, but the Palestinians objected to any changes.

For the plan to have any chance of serving as a starting point for negotiations, the Saudis and other Arab League members will have to negotiate directly with Israel. In 2002, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said he would go the Arab League summit to discuss the plan, but he was not invited. The Saudis were also been invited to Jerusalem to discuss their proposal, but they rejected this idea as well.

As it is, this initiative is nothing more than a restatement of the Arab interpretation of UN Resolution 242. The problem is that 242 does not say what the Saudi plan demands of Israel. The resolution calls on Israel to withdraw from territories occupied during the war, not “all” the territories in exchange for peace.

In addition, Resolution 242 also says that every state has the right to live within “secure and recognizable boundaries,” which all military analysts have understood to mean the 1967 borders with modifications to satisfy Israel’s security requirements. Moreover, Israel is under no obligation to withdraw before the Arabs agree to live in peace.

The Arab plan calls for Israel to withdraw from the Golan Heights. The Israeli government has offered to withdraw from most, if not all of the Golan in exchange for a peace agreement; however, Syrian President Bashar Assad has so far been unwilling to negotiate at all with Israel.

The demand that Israel withdraw from “the remaining occupied Lebanese territories in the south of Lebanon” is at odds with the UN conclusion that Israel has completely fulfilled its obligation to withdraw from Lebanese territory.

The Arab initiative calls for a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem based on the nonbinding UN General Assembly Resolution 194. Today, the UNRWA says that 4.3. million Palestinians are refugees. The current population of Israel is approximately 7 million, 5 million of whom are Jews. If the Palestinians all returned, the population would exceed 10 million and the proportion of Jews and Palestinian Arabs would be roughly 60-40. Given the higher Arab birth rate, Israel would soon cease to be a Jewish state and would de facto become a second Palestinian state (along with the one expected to be created on the West Bank and Gaza Strip). This suicidal formula has been rejected by Israel since the end of the 1948 war and is totally unacceptable to all Israelis today. Israel does, however, recognize a right for all the refugees to live in a future Palestinian state.

Israel has agreed to allow some Palestinian refugees to live in Israel on a humanitarian basis, and as part of family reunification. Thousands have returned already this way. In the past, Israel has repeatedly expressed a willingness to accept as many as 100,000 refugees as part of a resolution of the issue. In fact, one government report said that Israel accepted 140,000 refugees in the decade following the Oslo agreement of 1993.91

The refugee issue was not part of Abdullah’s original proposal and was added at the summit under pressure from other delegations. Also, it is important to note that Resolution 242 says nothing about the Palestinians and the reference to refugees can also be applied to the Jews who fled and were driven from their homes in Arab countries. Another change from Abdullah’s previously stated vision was a retreat from a promise of full normalization of relations with Israel to an even vaguer pledge of “normal relations.”

The Arab demand that Israel accept the establishment of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as its capital has been part of the negotiations since Oslo. Israel’s leaders, including Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, have accepted the idea of creating a Palestinian state in part of those territories, and Israel has even offered compromises on the status of Jerusalem, but the Palestinians have rejected them all.

It is also worth noting that most of the Arab League nations have no reason not to be at peace with Israel now. Israel holds none of their territory and is more than willing to make peace with the members of the League. Several members of the League had already begun to normalize relations with Israel before the latest outbreak of violence, and their principal critic was Saudi Arabia.

MYTH

“A report proves Israeli settlements are built on Palestinian land.” top

FACT

A report disseminated by Peace Now charged that “Palestinians privately own nearly 40% of the land on which the settlements have been built.”92 This sensational allegation, however, is not supported by any evidence and was subsequently undermined by data released by the government. The Peace Now study stated as fact data that it admitted was leaked to the organization by a government official. When asked to produce any of the data to backup the claims, the coauthor of the study said he could not do so and that it was up to the Israeli government to release the information. The result is that the organization has put an inflammatory allegation out before the public without presenting any documentation to back it up.

Without giving readers any information to evaluate the report’s accuracy and reliability, it is impossible to verify the conclusions. If the data was made available, it is likely that arguments would be made about the ownership of the land. As Steve Erlanger noted in the New York Times, “The definitions of private and state land are complicated, given different administrations of the West Bank going back to the Ottoman Empire, the British mandate, Jordan and now Israel. During the Ottoman Empire, only small areas of the West Bank were registered to specific owners, and often villagers would hold land in common to avoid taxes. The British began a more formal land registry based on land use, taxation or house ownership that continued through the Jordanian period.”93

Palestinians can and often do challenge Israeli land seizures in court. In fact, the Peace Now report reviews the case of Elon More in which Palestinians petitioned the Israeli High Court of Justice and the justices prevented private land from being seized for the establishment of a settlement. Often, however, the Palestinians cannot prove ownership of land they claim. Moreover, while Peace Now makes a distinction, the Palestinians do not see any difference between the West Bank and Israel proper, which they also claim was stolen and belongs to them.

The Civil Administration, from which the data was leaked, also challenged the report’s accuracy, noting that much of the land believed to be privately held was actually state land. The government agency also said it carries out “an in-depth reexamination of the status of the land in order to ensure that no harm comes to or use is made of privately held Palestinian land for the needs of Israeli settlement.”94

Not surprisingly, the Times put the incendiary story on the front page, but, as has become typical of the “Paper of Record’s” shabby reporting, Erlanger failed to verify the information. He said only that the paper “spoke to the person who received it from the Civil Administration official.” So Erlanger did not see the original documents and did not get a second source, as journalistic ethics require, to verify unsubstantiated claims put out by a partisan organization.

Several months later, the government released data that cast the entire Peace Now report in doubt. One of the findings the original report sensationalized was that 86 percent of the largest Israeli community in the West Bank, Ma’ale Adumim, was built on private Palestinian land. The government data, however, showed that only 0.5 percent of the settlement is on private land. The response of the Peace Now study’s author was to blame the military for not releasing the data earlier.94a

At one level, the accuracy of the report is irrelevant. The authors’ primary interest was in tarring the Israeli government, and that goal was aided by the Times, which cooperated by publishing the story in advance of the report’s official release, before anyone could respond and without checking its veracity. Furthermore, even if the data would have shown that 100% of the land belonged to Jews, it would not have mattered because Peace Now believes, despite nearly 60 years of evidence to the contrary (including the recent disengagement from Gaza), that settlements are the obstacle to peace.

Every Israeli wants “peace now,” but it will not be achieved by trying to embarrass the government. Even if data is eventually released to substantiate some or all of the claims in the Peace Now report, it will not change the dynamics of the region; Hamas, Hizballah and Iran will be no more likely to accept a Jewish state in the Middle East. It will not even have much impact on the settlements as the tens of thousands of Jews living in the larger consensus settlements such as Ma’ale Adumim and Ariel, whose land is alleged to belong in part to Palestinians, will not be evacuated. If Palestinian claims could be proven, at worst, Israel would be expected to compensate the landowners, as it has in the past, and it will deservedly receive a black eye. Most people, however, will also understand that the situation that exists in the West Bank has always been first and foremost the result of the decision of Jordan to attack Israel in 1967 and has persisted because of the refusal of any Palestinian leader to trade peace for land.

“It's easy enough for global leaders to issue flowery appeals for action on the Middle East or to imply that progress would be possible if only the United States used its leverage with Israel. The stubborn reality is that there can be no movement toward peace until a Palestinian leadership appears that is ready to accept a two-state soluiton.”

— Editorial, Washington Post 95

MYTH

“The overwhelming majority of casualties in the war with Hizballah were civilians.” top

FACT

Throughout the 2006 war with Hizballah, the media reported casualty totals offered by Lebanese officials as facts with no apparent effort to verify them. When the number of Hizballah terrorists killed was mentioned at all, it was invariably with a qualifier such as “Israel says” or “Israel claims.” The evidence suggests, however, that it is likely that half or more of the casualties were not innocent civilians, but Hizballah fighters.

According to Lebanon’s Higher Relief Council, the total number of Lebanese who died in the war was 1,191.96 No distinctions are made between civilians and terrorists. Press reports usually ignored the fact that it was in Hizballah and the Lebanese government’s interest to exaggerate the number of civilian casualties to blacken the image of Israel and support their contention that Israeli attacks were disproportionate and indiscriminate. Simultaneously, Hizballah sought to conceal its casualties to enhance its prestige and make propagandistic claims about the damage it was inflicting on Israel while suffering few losses of its own.

The truth did dribble out, though it was largely ignored. For example, the Daily Telegraph reported: “Lebanese officials estimate that up to 500 fighters have been killed in the past three weeks of hostilities with Israel, and another 1,500 injured. Lebanese officials have also disclosed that many of Hizballah’s wounded are being treated in hospitals in Syria to conceal the true extent of the casualties. ‘Hizballah is desperate to conceal its casualties because it wants to give the impression that it is winning its war,’ said a senior security official. ‘People might reach a very different conclusion if they knew the true extent of Hizballah’s casualties.’”97 The Kuwait Times quoted a report that said Hizballah “buried more than 700 fighters so far, with many more to go.”98 Military expert John Keegan said Hizballah losses might have been as high as 1,000 out of a total strength of 5,000.99

These sources are consistent with information provided by Israel. Maj. Gen. Yaakov Amidror, a former senior officer in Israeli military intelligence, said “Israel identified 440 dead guerillas by name and address, and experience shows that Israeli figures are half to two-thirds of the enemy’s real casualties. Therefore, Amidror estimated, Hizballah’s real death toll might be as high as 700.”100 A subsequent report three weeks later said that Israel had identified the names of 532 dead Hizballah terrorists and estimated at least 200 others had been killed.101

These reports suggest that at a minimum, roughly half the casualties in the war were combatants. It is more likely the figure approaches 60 percent, which would mean the majority of dead were terrorists. This reinforces the Israeli position that it did indeed inflict heavy losses on Hizballah and that the civilian casualties were not a result of deliberate or indiscriminate attacks. Tragically, many civilians were killed, but as Israel has also shown, many of them died because they were used as human shields. Of course, there would have been zero casualties if Hizballah had not attacked Israel and kidnaped its soldiers (who have still not been returned or visited by the Red Cross).

The major difficulty is that the Palestinians don't accept Israel's right to exist.”

— British Prime Minister Tony Blair102

What is urgently needed is decisive steps by the U.S. and its allies to counter the extremists and to force them to pay a price for their aggression. Passage of a UN sanctions resolution against Iran cannot be put off any longer. The Security Council should also be prodded to investigate whether Damascus has respected its resolutions calling for Hizballah's disarmament and an end to Syrian weapons trafficking. ‘Realism’ in the Middle East means understanding that Syria and Iran won't stop waging war against the U.S. and its allies unless they are given reasons to fear they might lose.”

Washington Post editorial 103

We offered the Syrians peace four times, including withdrawing from the Golan Heights, and it didn’t happen four times. It's true that this was during the days of his father Hafez, but now he has to prove that this is what he wants. A statesman is examined according to his deeds, not according to his declarations.”

— Shimon Peres104

MYTH

“Abbas is helpless to stop the terrorists.” top

FACT

The media has helped create the misperception that the Palestinian Authority (PA) cannot dismantle the terrorist network in its midst because of the strength and popularity of the radical Islamic Palestinian terrorist groups.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad are not huge armed forces. Together, the armed wings of both organizations total fewer than 5,000 men. By contrast, the PA has 45,000 people in a variety of police, intelligence, and security forces.105 Not only does the PA have overwhelming superiority of manpower and firepower, it also has the intelligence assets to find most, if not all of the terrorists.

Given the disparity of forces, the Jerusalem Post’s Palestinian affairs correspondent, Khaled Abu Toameh, asked “Why then, doesn’t [PA President Mahmoud] Abbas simply order thousands of his policemen to deploy along the border with Israel to halt the Kassam attacks? How come he hasn’t even made the slightest effort to stop the smuggling of tons of explosives from Egypt into the Gaza Strip?”106

Toameh answers the questions himself. “Abbas lacks the will — not the ability — to take harsh decisions. In fact, he appears comfortable with the image of a weak leader low on funds and resources.”

Despite the suffering the terrorists have brought them, the Palestinian public has not called for an end to the violence. No equivalent to Israel’s Peace Now movement has emerged.

Still, on an individual basis, it is possible for Palestinians to say no to terror. When the suicide bombing recruiter phoned the wife of former Hamas leader Abdel Aziz al-Rantisi to ask if her son was available for an operation, she turned him down.107

In other countries, including Israel (where they helped prompt a withdrawal from Lebanon), mothers have often helped stimulate positive change. When enough Palestinian mothers stand up to the terror recruiters, and to their political leaders, and say that they will no longer allow their children to be used as bombs, the prospects for peace will improve. So long as they prefer their children to be martyrs rather than doctors, bombers rather than scholars, and murderers rather than lawyers, the violence will persist, young Palestinians will continue to die needlessly and peace will remain a dream.

MYTH

“Israel is obstructing progress toward a Palestinian state.” top

FACT

Newspaper headlines in mid-January 2007 said it all: “Palestinian Opposes Provisional State” (New York Times, January 14) and “Abbas Rejects ‘Temporary Borders’ for Palestine” (Washington Post, January15). Israel once again offered to move the peace process forward and advanced ideas to allow the Palestinians to achieve independence before the thorniest issues are resolved, but Mahmoud Abbas, following in the footsteps of his mentor Yasser Arafat, chose to prove again the Palestinian penchant for never missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

Abbas not only rejected the chance for peace and interim statehood, he declared his continued support for violence against Israel. Speaking at the 42nd anniversary of the founding of Fatah on January 11, 2007, in Ramallah, Abbas said, “Let a thousand flowers bloom, and let our rifles, all our rifles, all our rifles, be aimed at the Occupation.” Paying tribute to Arafat, Abbas continued, “I say to the master of the martyrs your sons will continue your march. I say to you, your lion cubs will continue this struggle, this battle until a Palestinian state is established on the land of Palestine with Jerusalem as its capital.”

Abbas also used the type of anti-Semitic rhetoric normally associated with Hamas. While criticizing Israeli counter-terror operations, he said, “The sons of Israel are mentioned as those who are corrupting humanity on earth.”108

At the very moment when the United States, Israel and Europe are trying to strengthen his position against Hamas in the belief that he will act to stop terror, Abbas was condoning attacks against Israel. Just days before Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice arrived to ask him to fulfill his commitments under the road map for peace, Abbas announced he supported the very actions the road map calls for him to stop. This is the familiar tactic of Palestinians who pretend to be moderates in English for the Western press and then express their true feelings in Arabic to the Palestinian public.

The priority for Abbas today is not peace or improving the lives of the Palestinian people that he is responsible for as president of the Palestinian Authority. Abbas is now just trying to survive. To do so, he must unify the factions fighting for dominance. Since he is unwilling to confront his opponents militarily, he hopes to cajole them to cease their mutiny against him by playing the Israel card. He is asking for unity to fight against their common enemy – Israel. Simultaneously, he seeks the means to stay in power from the West by presenting himself as the only alternative to Hamas. And it is working because he is being armed and financed even as he continues to allow the attacks against Israel to continue.

The Palestinians’ latest rejection of an offer for statehood can now be added to the long list of missed opportunities starting as far back as 1937. Will the Palestinian people ever choose a leader who will put their interests first and choose prosperity over power, peace over violence and the future over the past?

MYTH

“Israeli Arabs are unpatriotic.” top

FACT

While Jimmy Carter and other critics of Israel attempt to paint the country as intolerant and discriminatory toward Arabs based on their ill-informed and distorted views of both the past and present, Israeli Arabs themselves have a very high opinion of their country. According to a new poll released in January 2007109, 82 percent of Israeli Arabs said it is “better to be a citizen of my country than others.” By comparison, 90 percent of Americans agreed with the statement and 88 percent of Israeli Jews.

In addition, 77 percent of Israeli Arabs agreed “my country is better than others,” which was only slightly less than the 83 percent of Australians and 79 percent of Canadians and Americans who felt the same way. Interestingly, the figure for Israeli Arabs was 11 points higher than that for Jews.

While almost everyone in the survey from Ireland and the United States said they were proud to be a citizen of their country, 83 percent of Israeli Jews said they were proud and 44 percent of Israeli Arabs. Another 27 percent of Israeli Arabs said they were willing to fight for their country, an increase from 22 percent in 2000. While still well below the overwhelming 94 percent of Israeli Jews who are prepared to fight (Finland was second with 83 percent and the U.S. third with 63 percent), it is significant that more than one-quarter of Israeli Arabs, who are exempt from military service, are still prepared to defend their nation.

Analyzing the survey data it is clear why Israeli Arabs are adamant about remaining citizens of Israel and express no desire to be part of a Palestinian state. The results also illustrate why Palestinian Arabs in the territories express a high regard for Israel in polls. They see how their fellow Arabs are treated and the type of society Israel has built and wish to emulate it.

It is too bad the Jimmy Carters of the world do not see Israel the way its citizens – Jewish and non-Jewish – view their nation. If they did, they’d recognize that Israeli society can serve as a model, albeit an imperfect one, for the values they espouse.

MYTH

“Women are not recruited to become suicide bombers.” top

FACT

In the perverse world of Islamic fanaticism, women who become suicide bombers are viewed as noble and heroic feminists acting out the collective desire of Muslim women to defeat the enemies of Islam. These women, however, are usually pawns of psychotic men who do not have the courage to kill themselves and who instead prey on the vulnerabilities of women who have often already been victimized by the norms of Muslim society.

Hamas leader Ahmad Yassin ruled that women should not become suicide bombers because it was more important for them to “ensure the nation’s existence” by reproducing. He nevertheless approved suicide actions by women who stained their family honor. In one case, for example, a married mother of two small children requested Yassin’s permission to carry out an attack after her relationship with a lover became known.

The first female suicide bomber was Wafa Idris, who blew herself up in Jerusalem on January 27, 2002. Idris was 25 years-old and had been divorced after failing to have children. “Her status as a divorced and barren woman, and her return as a dependent to her parents’ home where she became an economic burden, put her in what is a dead end situation in a patriarchal society,” explained Ben-Gurion University Professor Mira Tzoreff.110 Idris believed the way out of her inferior status was by becoming a martyr.

Roughly 70 women have followed in her footsteps, though only eight succeeded in blowing themselves up. These are not uneducated women; more than one-fifth, for example, had more than a high school education.111 Tzoreff notes that women who are childless, divorced, and “unbetrothable” are targets of recruiters. Some younger women are seduced by terrorists and then are blackmailed if they become pregnant. Those who do not become pregnant are still viewed as having shamed themselves and their families by having violated the society’s norms regarding modesty. They are then offered the opportunity to redeem themselves by dying for the terrorists’ cause.

It is not only the young, however, who can be turned into murderers. In what the National Post called a “new low,” even by the standards of Palestinian terrorists, a woman thought to be over 60 with more than 40 grandchildren was recruited by Hamas to attack Israeli soldiers in Gaza. The Post editorialized that the good news was that the woman didn’t kill anyone but herself, but the bad news was that “there are Muslims on this earth who think Allah wants them to turn grandmothers into walking bombs.”112

MYTH

Palestinian terrorist groups are committed to a cease-fire.” top

FACT

In November 2006, Israel and the Palestinian factions in Gaza announced a cease-fire following an agreement reached between Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian factions. As part of the agreement the Palestinians had agreed to stop Qassam rocket fire, suicide bombings and the digging of tunnels.113

Despite the cease-fire, Qassam rockets continue to be launched frequently into Israeli territory and tunnels are dug along the border with Egypt. Such a tunnel provided the opportunity to conduct a deadly suicide bombing attack in Eilat on January 29, 2007 , which took the life of three innocent people.

Two Palestinian groups, Islamic Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades (the military wing of PA Chairman Mahmoud AbbasFatah faction), claimed joint responsibility for the attack. A spokesman for the ruling Hamas movement praised the bombing, a sentiment echoed by a senior Islamic Jihad leader, who called the attack “a natural response to the continued crimes by the Zionist enemy.” According to Israel Radio, Abbas condemned the suicide bombing, adding that he was opposed to all attacks that harm civilians.114 Such condemnations were criticized in the past by militants within its own party.115

This latest attack and the Palestinian response follows an all too familiar pattern. The PA proclaims a cease-fire and the leadership presents itself as a force of moderation. Simultaneously, those same leaders either look the other way or actively encourage terrorist attacks. Once an atrocity occurs, some Palestinians condemn the attacks, including those who have the power to prevent them, and others openly praise them.

The implication for Israel is clear: Palestinian leaders cannot be trusted to keep agreements or to prevent violence. And it should come as no surprise given the long history of such behavior, which is also reflected in the actions of the Palestinians among themselves. Fatah and Hamas agreed to stop fighting each other after weeks of bloody clashes, but the internal truce was almost immediately broken and the groups continue to engage in a civil war.

MYTH

“Israel is damaging the Temple Mount and threatening Islamic shrines.” top

FACT

“We denounce this blatant act of provocation and the complete disregard for the sanctity of the holy mosque. This act will ignite the feelings of Muslims all over the world and is in fact a retrogressive step in the efforts to achieve peace in the region.”116 This statement from the Malaysian Foreign Minister refers to the Israeli excavation and plan for construction at the site of the Mugrabi ramp in the Old City of Jerusalem and serves as a call to action and incitement rather than as a warning of a concerned observer.

In February 2004, the Mugrabi ramp, which provided access to the Temple Mount, collapsed as a result of numerous natural disasters. The Jerusalem Municipal Authority approved the building of a permanent bridge to replace the wooden structure that was built as a temporary entry. The commencement of an archeological dig, required by law to salvage any artifacts in the area before construction begins, has been met with outrage and violence from the Islamic world, which claims that Israel’s actions are meant to destroy Islam’s third holiest site to replace it with the Third Temple.

A four-member team from UNESCO found that the construction and excavation at the Mugrabi ramp site, located 50 yards from the Temple Mount, was being conducted with complete transparency and poses no danger to the Temple Mount or to the Al-Aksa mosque.116a Israel has a record of safeguarding the holy places of Christians and Muslims and has no interest in the destruction of the Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism. In contrast, the Muslim Waqf, which has been in control of the Temple Mount since 1967, banned the Israel Antiquities Authority from the area in 2000 to conduct illegal construction on an underground mosque. In the process, the Waqf dumped 13,000 tons of dirt containing artifacts from the First and Second Temple period in Municipal garbage dumps, rendering many of the ruins useless.

Muslim leaders are expressing outrage over the excavation and construction in an effort to unite the Palestinians against Israel and to distract from internal Palestinian factional tensions. The Palestinians have a long history of using false accusations of Jewish threats to Muslim holy sites to rally the Muslim population, going as far back as the riots of the 1920’s. Riots today echo the Western Wall tunnel riots of 1996 when Israel was also falsely accused of endangering Muslim shrines by opening an additional exit to the already existing tunnels. The tunnel exit was a significant distance from any Muslim holy places and posed no danger whatsover to the Temple Mount. The exit actually facilitated the use of the tunnels and helped make them a popular archeological park.117

The media and international organizations have served to perpetuate these false accusations by reporting on conflicting “claims” rather than by accurately reporting the facts, which contradict the rumors.

MYTH

“Palestinians are moderating their views toward Israel.” top

FACT

It is often suggested that the Palestinians have moderated their views toward Israel. When it is pointed out that groups such as Hamas (a partner in the Palestinian Authority government) openly advocate the destruction of Israel, as the group’s spokesman did on March 12, 2007,118 their position is often dismissed as mere rhetoric. The Palestinian people, we are told, are prepared to live in peace with Israel. Surveys of Palestinian public opinion, however, consistently present a very different picture. Large majorities of Palestinians repeatedly tell pollsters they support terror and oppose a two-state solution. In February 2007, for example, Near East Consulting (NEC)119 found that 70% of Palestinians support a one-state solution and 75% said Israel is not a peace partner. Though 70% did support a peace settlement with Israel, 75% said Israel has no right to exist and another 51% agreed that Hamas should maintain its position on the elimination of Israel.

Even more alarming are the signs that young Palestinians are more militant than their elders. On the question of whether Hamas should continue to seek the elimination of Israel, for example, 66% of Palestinians 18-21 agreed and an overwhelming majority of 90% said Israel has no right to exist.

Given the steady diet of anti-Israel propaganda in the Palestinian Authority media and educational system, these results are not surprising and reinforce Israel’s longstanding view that incitement through those channels is having a significant negative impact on Palestinian attitudes toward Jews and Israel and hurting the prospects for peace. These results are sobering for anyone who believes that Israeli concessions will end the conflict or that a new generation of Palestinian leaders will be any more willing to accept Israel than their predecessors.

MYTH

“The Arab peace initiative reflects the Arab states’ acceptance of Israel.” top

FACT

Imagine if one day someone who has always despised you let it be known through a third party that they were willing to be your friend. But first you had to meet some conditions and, if you didn’t, your enemy would try to kill you. How seriously would you take your adversary’s offer of friendship?

This is similar to the position Israel finds itself in following the Arab League’s reiteration of its “peace plan.” Israel has made clear that it is prepared to negotiate with the Arab states on the basis of the plan, but that many of their demands, such as the withdrawal from all territory captured in 1967 and the acceptance of a “right of return” for Palestinian refugees, are unacceptable.

If the Arab proponents of the plan were sincere, the response should be that they are prepared to sit down with Israel’s leaders and discuss how to overcome the disagreements. But this has not been the Arab response. Rather than accept an Israeli invitation to come to Jerusalem to negotiate or exploit the willingness of Israel’s leaders to go to an Arab capital for talks, the Arabs have told Israel it must accept the plan or face the threat of war. Here are a few examples:

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal, said: “If Israel refuses, that means it doesn’t want peace and it places everything back into the hands of fate. They will be putting their future not in the hands of the peacemakers but in the hands of the lords of war.”120

The Syrian information minister, Muhsen Bilal, declared: “If Israel rejects the Arab League peace proposal, resistance will be the only way to liberate the Golan Heights.”121

The secretary general of the Gulf Cooperation Council, Abdulrahman al-Attiya said that Israel should respond expeditiously to the Arab peace initiative because the Arabs are in no mood to wait interminably.122

Make peace on our terms or else. Is this the rhetoric you would expect from leaders who have moderated their views and want to seek an accommodation with Israel?

Peace plans are not worth the paper they are printed on if the proponents continue to talk about war and pursue policies such as supporting terrorists, arming radical Muslims, inciting their populations with anti-Semitic propaganda and enforcing boycotts that promote conflict. Progress toward real peace requires the Arab states to show by words and deeds that they are committed to finding a formula for coexisting with Israel. The only ultimatum should be that if the first efforts to reach an understanding do not succeed, they will try and try again.

MYTH

“Israel is denying health care to Palestinians.” top

FACT

The Palestinian Authority’s ongoing inability and unwillingness to prevent terror attacks against Israel has required the imposition of security measures to prevent most Palestinians from entering the country. Still, Israel has remained open to Palestinians in need of medical assistance.

Contrary to frequent Palestinian claims that Israel prevents Arabs from obtaining health care, the Civil Administration in the West Bank receives and grants thousands of requests by Palestinians to visit Israeli hospitals where they are treated by some of the finest medical professionals in the world. In 2006 alone, 81,000 Palestinians were given permits to enter Israel for health reasons, an increase of 61 percent from 2005. According to the Health Coordinator responsible for responding to requests, 90 percent of the applications for permits are approved.123

In addition to providing direct care to Palestinians from the territories, Israel is also training Palestinian health care workers. Courses have been offered since 2000 and since then 200 Palestinians have taken part, including Marwan Baqer, who heads of team of ambulance workers in Gaza. Baqer was invited to participate in a course in emergency medicine. “It is excellent that people from the Palestinian territories come to participate in an Israeli course.” He added that when he returned to Gaza he would say he “learned something good.”

One of the Israeli physicians on the board of Physicians for Human Rights’, the group sponsoring the course, observed, “We have a common enemy – disease.”124

Israel is committed to providing health care for anyone in need, including not only Palestinians but sometimes Arabs from countries still at war with Israel. This concern for the individual, and willingness to cooperate with Palestinians in the field of medicine, offers hope that Israelis and Palestinians will find more common ground in the future.

MYTH

“The Hamas takeover of Gaza poses no threat to Christians.” top

FACT

On June 14, 2007, the Rosary Sisters School and Latin Church in the Gaza Strip were ransacked, burned and looted by Hamas gunmen who used rocket-propelled grenades to storm the buildings. Father Manuel Musalam, leader of the Latin community in Gaza, expressed outrage that copies of the Bible were burned, crosses destroyed and computers and other equipment stolen.125

“I expect our Christian neighbors to understand the new Hamas rule means real changes. They must be ready for Islamic rule if they want to live in peace in Gaza,” said Sheik Abu Saqer, leader of Jihadia Salafiya, an Islamic outreach movement that recently announced the opening of a “military wing” to enforce Muslim law in Gaza. The application of Islamic law, he said, includes a prohibition on alcohol and a requirement that women be covered at all times while in public.126

Critics of Israel who express concern for Christians, such as former president Jimmy Carter and columnist Robert Novak, have consistently ignored the persistent discrimination and abuse of Christians by Muslims throughout the Middle East and especially by Palestinian Muslims. It is therefore not surprising that they are once again silent as Christians come under attack in the Gaza Strip as Hamas begins to impose its extreme Islamic views on all the people now living under its control.

The Christian position throughout the territories has always been precarious, which is why most have fled the Palestinian Authority. In Gaza only about 2,000 Christians live among more than one million Muslims and they are now seeking international protection and many are planning to leave.

MYTH

“Lebanon has abided by UN Resolution 1701 and poses no direct threat to Israel.” top

FACT

On August 11, 2006, the UN Security Council adopted Resolution 1701 in response to the Israel-Hizballah war. The resolution called upon the Lebanese government “to secure its borders and other entry points to prevent the entry in Lebanon without its consent of arms and related materials.”

In May 2007, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon established the Lebanon Independent Border Assessment Team (LIBAT) to evaluate Lebanon’s compliance with Resolution 1701. The committee concluded that “The performance of the (Lebanese inspection) agencies in stopping ongoing arms smuggling, which is generally accepted as a fact, can only be described as not up to what can be expected.”127

The committee discovered widespread corruption amongst Lebanese border police and described the ease by which missiles and militants can sneak across the Syrian-Lebanese border. The report illustrated the United Nations’ skepticism of Lebanese attempts to end the flow of illegal arms into Lebanon when it said “one would have expected that an occasional seizure of arms…would have taken place. If by nothing else, then by pure chance. This lack of performance is worrying.”128

Lebanon’s failure to implement Resolution 1701 poses a direct threat to Israel and to Lebanese stability. Since last summer’s war, large amounts of weapons (including rockets capable of striking as far south as Tel Aviv and southern Israel), have been smuggled into Lebanon from Syria and Iran. Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah has declared openly that Hizballah will not disarm so long as Israel remains a threat. He also claims to have tens of thousands of rockets ready to fire at Israel (Israeli military estimates place the number at 20,000).129  The smuggling and stockpiling of weapons by Hebollah, with the complicity of Lebanese border officials, also threatens the pro-Western Lebanese government. If the UN does not take steps to insure the implementation of its resolution, the risk of renewed violence between Israel and Hizballah will grow, as will the possibility of a takeover of Lebanon by Hizballah.

MYTH

“Israel is once again expelling Arabs from Palestine.” top

FACT

Palestinians are fleeing in droves of their own volition. Israel is not forcing any of them to leave.

Today, Palestinians have the opportunity to build the infrastructure of a democratic state in the Palestinian Authority. They control all of the Gaza Strip and the population centers of the West Bank, but have squandered the chance by engaging in fratricide and terror. Palestinians are voting with their feet, however, and tens of thousands have left, or are now trying to emigrate. According to Palestinian sources, as many as 80,000 people have departed the territories since the Palestinian War began in September 2000, and a study by Bir Zeit University found that 32 percent of Palestinians, and 44 percent of young Palestinians, would emigrate if they could.130

Undoubtedly, Israel’s measures to curtail terrorism – roadblocks, military operations, closures – have created hardships for Palestinians, but this does not explain why so many people would abandon their homeland. In fact, many Palestinians have moved to Israel because they would rather live in a democracy than a theocratic mobocracy. This is especially true for Arabs living near Jerusalem who have chosen the “hell in Jerusalem over paradise in the PA.”131

Palestinian officials have become so alarmed that the PA’s mufti issued a fatwa [religious decree] forbidding Muslims to leave.132

MYTH

“The ‘occupation’ has sapped Israel's morale as reflected by the decline in Israelis willing to serve in the IDF.” top

FACT

The Israeli government released figures showing that 25 percent of potential male draftees do not serve in the Israel Defense Forces. This reflects an increase from 12.1 percent in 1980. As political scientist Stuart Cohen noted, however, these figures are misleading and do not reflect the ongoing commitment to service of Israel’s youth.133

The principal reason the number of draftees has declined, Cohen relates, is that the number of ultra-Orthodox males granted deferments has grown dramatically, as this population nearly tripled from 3.7 percent of all potential recruits to 11 percent. Of the remaining 14 percent of non-Orthodox Jews, 9 percent either reside abroad or are rejected because they have a criminal record or are physically incapable of serving. This means that the percentage of Israeli “draft dodgers” who actively seek to avoid service for any reason is only 5 percent.

It is more striking that the overwhelming majority of Israelis serve their country despite often having to carry out unpleasant duties. In wartime, moreover, Israelis respond to the call to service in even greater numbers than required. For example, in 2002, during the Palestinian War, more than 100 percent of the reserves showed up to join their units during Operation Defensive Shield, which means many who had been excused reported for duty,. The same phenomenon occurred in the 2006 war with Hizballah, where certain units were ready to be operational in less than 24 hours and soldiers who were not called up volunteered to defend their country.

MYTH

“Israel has nothing to fear from a nuclear Iran.” top

FACT

Some argue Iran would never launch a nuclear attack against Israel because no Muslim leader would risk an Israeli counterstrike that might destroy them. This theory doesn’t hold up, however, if the Iranian leaders believe there will be destruction anyway at the end of time. What matters, Bernard Lewis observed, is that infidels go to hell and believers go to heaven. Lewis quotes a passage from Ayatollah Khomeini cited in an 11th grade Iranian schoolbook, “I am decisively announcing to the whole world that if the world-devourers [the infidel powers] wish to stand against our religion, we will stand against the whole world and will not cease until the annihilation of all of them. Either we all become free, or we will go to the greater freedom, which is martyrdom. Either we shake one another’s hands in joy at the victory of Islam in the world, or all of us will turn to eternal life and martyrdom. In both cases, victory and success are ours.”134

Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, believes the most important task of the Iranian Revolution was to prepare the way for the return of the Twelfth Imam, who disappeared in 874, bringing an end to Muhammad’s lineage. This imam, the Mahdi or “divinely guided one,” Shiites believe, will return in an apocalyptic battle in which the forces of righteousness will defeat the forces of evil and bring about a new era in which Shi’a Islam ultimately becomes the dominant religion throughout the world. The Shiites have been waiting patiently for the Twelfth Imam for more than a thousand years, but Ahmadinejad may believe he can now hasten the return through a nuclear war. It is this apocalyptic world view, Lewis notes, that distinguishes Iran from other governments with nuclear weapons.

There are those who think that Iran would never use such weapons against Israel because innocent Muslims would be killed as well, but Ayatollah Ali Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, Ahmadinejad’s predecessor, explicitly said he wasn’t concerned about fallout from an attack on Israel. “If a day comes when the world of Islam is duly equipped with the arms Israel has in possession,” he said, “the strategy of colonialism would face a stalemate because application of an atomic bomb would not leave any thing in Israel but the same thing would just produce damages in the Muslim world.” As one Iranian commentator noted, Rafsanjani apparently wasn't concerned that the destruction of the Jewish State would also result in the mass murder of Palestinians as well.135

Iran will not have to use nuclear weapons to influence events in the region. By possessing a nuclear capability, the Iranians can deter Israel or any other nation from attacking Iran or its allies. When Hizballah attacked Israel in 2006, for example, a nuclear Iran could have threatened retaliation against Tel Aviv if Israeli forces bombed Beirut. The mere threat of using nuclear weapons would be sufficient to drive Israelis into shelters and could cripple the economy. Will immigrants want to come to a country that lives in the shadow of annihilation? Will companies want to do business under those conditions? Will Israelis be willing to live under a nuclear cloud?

If you were the prime minister of Israel, could you afford to take the risk of allowing Iran to acquire nuclear weapons?

MYTH

“Israel’s presumed nuclear capability is stoking an arms race.” top

FACT

Israel is widely believed to have developed a nuclear weapon in the late 1960s. Despite U.S. fears at the time that this would provoke a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, this did not happen. Now, however, it appears many nations are interested in pursuing a nuclear capability, but it is in response to what they see as the danger posed by Iran’s nuclear program, not Israel’s.

The only Muslim nation that currently has a nuclear capability is Pakistan. The decision by Pakistan to build the “Islamic bomb” had nothing to do with Israel; it was a response to the development of the bomb by its neighbor and rival India.

Iran began its secret development of nuclear weapons nearly two decades ago, but that decision was also unrelated to Israel. Iran’s principal concern was to counterbalance what Iranians viewed as the dangerous nuclear ambitions of their rival in Baghdad. Israel had long been Iran’s ally and even the paranoid mullahs in Tehran knew Israel had no hostile intentions toward the Islamic Republic. Iran is now determined to build a bomb to achieve regional domination over the Arab states.

The focus on the belligerent rhetoric of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has led many to wrongly assume that he is the driving force behind the Iranian nuclear effort, but the program was initiated long before his election. For Iranians, the drive for a bomb is a function of their nationalistic belief that they have just as much right to nuclear weapons as any other nation, so it is a mistake to believe that a difference of opinion exists between pro-Western Iranians in the opposition and the Islamists currently in power.

Some Arab leaders, notably Saddam Hussein and Muammar Qaddafi, may have believed that the only way they could ultimately achieve their goal of destroying Israel, given their belief in Israel’s nuclear arsenal, was to have bombs of their own, but neither leader seemed primarily motivated by Israel’s capability. Hussein knew he had little to fear from Israel and was more interested in developing a weapon that would give him an advantage over Iran and help establish Iraq as a regional power. The same is true for Libya, which was for many years interested in a nuclear weapon because its megalomaniacal leader believed it would make his country a superpower.

In recent months, as tensions with Iran have escalated, several Arab countries suddenly announced their interest in nuclear power. Like the Iranians, they all publicly claim their interest is solely in the peaceful purpose of electrical generation. After more than 30 years of living with Israel’s assumed arsenal, Jordan, Egypt, Yemen, Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, the UAE and Saudi Arabia did not suddenly decide they needed nuclear energy.136 Since Jordan and Egypt have peace treaties with Israel and the other Arab states have no dispute with Israel, their motivation is more likely to have come from the fear of a nuclear Iran.

If Iran’s nuclear program is not stopped, it is clear the arms race in the Middle East will be on and the proliferation of nuclear weapons will become a far more serious danger.

MYTH

“Iran’s nuclear program threatens only Israel.” top

FACT

Israel is not alone in its concern about Iran’s nuclear weapons program. In fact, the nations most worried about Iran are its immediate neighbors who have no doubts about the hegemonic ambitions of the radical Islamists in Tehran.

Former Bahraini army chief of staff Sheikh Maj.-Gen. Khalifa ibn Ahmad al-Khalifa said Iran stirs trouble in many Gulf nations. “[Iran] is like an octopus – it is rummaging around in Iraq, Kuwait, Lebanon, Gaza and Bahrain,” al-Khalifa proclaimed.136a The Crown Prince of Bahrain was the first Gulf leader to explicitly accuse Iran of lying about its weapons program. “While they don’t have the bomb yet, they are developing it, or the capability for it,” Salman bin Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa said.137

At least 12 Arab countries have either announced new plans to explore atomic energy or revived pre-existing nuclear programs between February 2006 and January 2007 (Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey, Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Libya, & the GCC) in response to Iran’s nuclear program, according to a report released by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS).

The trend continued in 2008 as many Middle Eastern countries sought to strengthen their nuclear cooperation with other Western nations, such as the United States, Russia and France. Both Saudi Arabia and UAE signed nuclear cooperation accords with the United States, and Russia and Egypt have laid the groundwork for Russia to join a tender for Egypt’s first civilian nuclear power station.

Kuwait, Bahrain, Libya, Algeria, Morocco, and Jordan announced plans to build nuclear plants as well. Even Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the Arab world announced plans to purchase a nuclear reactor.

Iran’s neighbors have good reason to worry.

In October 2007, a senior Iranian general said that suicide bombers were ready to strike at targets throughout the Gulf “if necessary.” The threat was aimed at Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Earlier in 2007, a close associate of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad resurrected an old claim on Bahrain as Iran’s 14th province, which Bahrain’s foreign minister said “touched on the legitimacy of our country.” The effect of Iran’s saber rattling, Giles Whittell wrote, “is especially chilling in Bahrain as the only Sunni-led country with a Shia majority that is not at war or on the brink of war.”138

European leaders also clearly see Iran as a threat to their interests. French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said, for example, “Iran is trying to acquire a nuclear bomb. I say to the French, it’s unacceptable.” France has indeed recently signed a nuclear framework agreement with the UAE.

Similarly, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stated, “I’m emphatically in favor of solving the problem through negotiations, but we also need to be ready to impose further sanctions if Iran does not give ground.”139

Great Britain’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown proclaimed, “We are absolutely clear that we are ready, and will push for, further sanctions against Iran....We will work through the United Nations to achieve this. We are prepared also to have tougher European sanctions. We want to make it clear that we do not support the nuclear ambitions of that country.”140

President George W. Bush has been even more emphatic, “I've told people that, if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon.”141

“But the true realism is that Iran is a menace — potentially a great one — and that its Revolutionary Guard is engaged in the dirty business of killing Americans and others. The fact that the Bush administration says so does not make it otherwise. The Senate's resolution [to label the al-Quds Force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization] was a necessary step toward tightening sanctions on Iran — a way to avoid war, not the overture to one.”

Washington Post Columnist Richard Cohen 142

The international concern that has prompted a series of UN resolutions and ongoing condemnation of Iranian behavior has nothing to do with Israel. Most of the world understands that a nuclear Iran poses a direct threat to countries inside and outside the Middle East, raises the specter of nuclear terrorism, increases the prospects for regional instability, and promote proliferation. Israel’s detractors, such as professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer, portray Israel and the “Israeli lobby” as campaigning for military action against Iran. In fact, Israel and its supporters have been the most outspoken in their desire to see tough measures implemented to stop Iran’s nuclear weapons program to avoid war.

MYTH

No state in the world connects its national identity to a religious identity.” top

FACT

Just as the parties were preparing for peace talks in Annapolis, the Palestine Authority’s chief negotiator, Saeb Erekat, said the Palestinians would not recognize Israel as a Jewish state. This latest effort by a Palestinian official to delegitimize Israel was accompanied by Erekat’s startling statement that “no state in the world connects its national identity to a religious identity.”143

Apparently Erekat has not read the draft constitution for the future state he envisions in Palestine or the PA’s Basic Law, which declare Islam the state religion of Palestine. He also conveniently overlooks the following nations that have established Islam as their state religion: Afghanistan, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Brunei, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Maldives, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Yemen, United Arab Emirates.

Nations with predominantly Muslim populations are not the only ones to link their national and religious identity. These nations constitutionally recognize Christianity or Catholicism as their state religion: Argentina, Armenia, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Denmark, El Salvador, Finland, Greece, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Malta, Monaco, Norway and the United Kingdom. Bhutan and Cambodia are officially Buddhist nations.144

Israel has no official state religion. Freedom of worship is guaranteed to all. It is, however, the homeland of the Jewish people and was established and recognized internationally as a Jewish state by the United Nations in the partition resolution.

MYTH

Arab participation in the Annapolis conference signaled a new attitude toward Israel.” top

FACT

As most analysts expected, no substantive agreements came out of the conference convened by the United States in Annapolis, MD, on November 27, 2007, to discuss Arab-Israeli peace. Optimists did hope, however, that by attending the conference Arab states might finally signal their recognition of Israel and begin a process of normalizing relations. That, too, did not happen. Instead, most Arab participants reinforced their rejectionist policies and demonstrated that simply gathering around a conference table will not make them less intransigent.

Israel’s Foreign Minister, Tzipi Livni, reiterated Israel’s interest in a two-state solution with the Palestinians and in peace with the entire Arab world. She also talked about Israel’s willingness to compromise:

We are not trying to establish facts on the ground through settlements and we are willing to pay a heavy price in terms of territory for peace. We do not want to control the Palestinians or to dictate their lives. We do not want our children, as soldiers, to stand at checkpoints and screen civilians, and we do not want your children’s childhood pictures to be our children, as soldiers, putting their parents through a security check. We have no hidden agenda. Not so long ago, we decided on disengagement. We left Gaza, we dismantled settlements, we withdrew our army, we took risks with the understanding that Gaza will not be the last step. We want to take the next steps through agreement.It is clear to us that in order to carry out change, we will have to give up parts of Israel.

Substantively, none of the Arab delegates showed any interest in compromise. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas did not back down from the traditional irredentist demands of Yasser Arafat. The Syrian Foreign Minister rejected the idea that giving up the Golan Heights would be a painful compromise for Israel and reiterated Syria’s longstanding position that Israel must evacuate the Golan before Damascus would even consider peace. The Lebanese representative also said nothing about peace, but demanded Israel withdraw not only from the disputed Shebaa Farms region but also a new area never contested before.

The biggest disappointment may have once again been the Saudis, whose participation was treated as a major achievement by the U.S. State Department. A Saudi diplomat told non-Israeli reporters (he wouldn’t speak to Israelis) Israel could not expect normalization of relations until it reached an agreement with the Palestinians. The Saudi Foreign Minister repeated Arab maximalist demands regarding settlements and the return of Palestinian refugees.145

Livni also pointed out how the Arab delegates had missed an important opportunity to show they had changed their attitudes:

I have heard some say that Israel should not expect a handshake, and I will not ask for one. But let us imagine what might happen if the worst possible scenario occurs and there is a handshake between an Israeli leader and an Arab leader whose country has no diplomatic relations with Israel, and that handshake is broadcast around the world.Then the extremists in the Palestinian Authority will understand that the fact that Abu Mazen, Salam Fayyad and Abu Ala are meeting with Israelis and conducting peace talks is not a betrayal of these principles but rather a process that is supported by the Arab world.

Alas, Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal said he would not shake hands with the Israelis and the Saudis went so far as to request that they be allowed to enter through a different door than the Israelis. Livni sought meetings with some of the participants from countries that do not have diplomatic relations with Israel; they all refused. Dutch European Affairs Minister Frans Timmermans said the Arab delegates “shun her like she is Count Dracula’s younger sister.”146

Instead of a psychological breakthrough, the conference once again illustrated the difficulty of achieving progress toward peace so long as most of the Arab leaders refuse to even acknowledge their Israeli counterparts’ existence, let alone the right of a Jewish state to exist in their midst.

MYTH

“Palestinians prefer to live in a Palestinian state.” top

FACT

Most Palestinians currently living inside Israel’s borders say they would prefer to live in Israel rather than a Palestinian state. In fact, 62% of Israeli Arabs prefer to remain Israeli citizens rather than become citizens of a future Palestinian state.147 Israeli Arabs sometimes say they prefer the hell of Israel to the paradise of Palestine because they know that, despite its faults, Israel is still a democratic state that offers them freedom of speech, assembly, religion, and the press, and respects human rights in general and women’s rights and gay rights in particular, all rights they would be denied under Palestinian rule.

Residents of East Jerusalem began voting with their feet when politicians began discussing the possibility of dividing Jerusalem prior to the Annapolis Conference in 2007. Only about 12,000 East Jerusalemites had applied for citizenship since 1967 (out of some 250,000), but 3,000 new applications flooded Israel’s Ministry of Interior in the four months prior to the meeting.148

With the peace talks resuming after years of stagnation, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians accustomed to the social and economic freedoms in Israel see themselves at risk of losing their rights. For the Palestinians of the Ras Hamis and Shuafat refugee camps, which are a part of Jerusalem, but would most likely fall on the side of Jerusalem apportioned to the Palestinian Authority in any future peace agreement, the preference for staying in Israel is clear. They plan to take advantage of their status as Israeli permanent residents, which allows them freedom of movement, and move to a city well within Israel’s borders and legal jurisdiction. “If they put a border here, we’ll move to Haifa and Tel Aviv. You’ll have fifty thousand people who live here leaving East Jerusalem in minutes,” declared Jamil Sanduqa, head of the refugee camp’s local council.149

Many of the 250,000 East Jerusalemites depend heavily on Israel for jobs, health care, and unemployment insurance. They do not foresee having the same opportunities or benefits under the Palestinian Authority. Palestinians living in Israel want to live normal lives and earn a living to help their family and don’t want to be involved with extremists. “I don’t want to raise my children on throwing stones, or on Hamas,” Sanduqa said.150

One of the proposals for moving toward a two-state solution is a land swap. The idea is that Israel would evacuate most of the West Bank but keep the large settlement blocs that are home to approximately 170,000 Jews. This area is estimated to be 3-5 percent of the West Bank. Israel has proposed a land swap of a similar amount of territory now within Israel. One idea is to shift the border so the 45,000 residents of Umm el-Fahm, plus an additional 150,000 Israeli Arabs who sit on 200 square miles of land just northeast of the West Bank, would be a part of a future Palestinian state. The Palestinians swap citizenship; Israel exchanges land. In theory, it’s a win-win situation where everyone gets to be citizens of their own nation. But the Israeli Arabs in these towns, especially Umm el-Fahm, the largest Muslim Israeli Arab city in Israel, are vehemently opposed to being part of the deal.

“We wish to express our sharp opposition to any initiative taken by the State of Israel and the Palestinian Authority with regard to our civil, political and human rights,” the heads of the Arab regional councils and cities wrote to Prime Minister Olmert and his cabinet members in response to the land swap proposal. “…We wish to make it clear that as citizens of the State of Israel since 1948-1949…the proposed moving of borders will deprive us of these human rights and tear apart the social and economic ties that have been constructed on the basis of a long and difficult struggle.”

One of the first to sign the letter to Prime Minister Olmert was Sheikh Hasham Abed Elrahman, Umm el-Fahm Mayor and head of the Wadi Ara Forum of Arab and Jewish Mayors. He wrote, “I cannot argue with feelings. I can tell you that we want to work together with the Jewish majority for the betterment of all of Israel. Religiously, politically and socially, we want to remain part of the State of Israel.”151

Not only do few Palestinians want to move to “Palestine,” many Palestinians now living in the Palestinian Authority would emigrate if they could. According to a December 2007 survey, 34 percent of the residents would like to leave.152

MYTH

“Israel and the Palestinians agree a future Palestinian state will have an army.” top

FACT

Israel has always regarded the creation of a Palestinian state as a threat to its security. This remains true today, but most Israelis believe the best chance for coexistence with the Palestinians is to negotiate an agreement whereby a demilitarized state is created in the Gaza Strip and most of the West Bank.

Given the damage and terror caused by the rockets Palestinians are firing daily from Gaza, it should not be surprising that Israelis worry about the possibility of a Palestinian military force with missiles, artillery, tanks, warships or fighter planes. Long before the two-state solution became popular, discussions about the creation of a Palestinian state envisioned that it would be demilitarized to minimize the risk of an Israeli withdrawal.153 Jordan is equally concerned that a Palestinian army that could turn in its direction.

Following the Annapolis conference, Palestinian officials denounced the idea that their future state should have any limits placed on it. “The Palestinian Authority rejects talk about a demilitarized Palestinian state,” a senior PA official told the Jerusalem Post.154

While the focus of the negotiations, and media coverage of them, has been on the familiar issues of settlements, refugees and Jerusalem, it is the issue of whether the Palestinian state will be permitted to create an army that could threaten its neighbors that may yet turn into the major obstacle to an agreement.

MYTH

“Gaza settlers’ greenhouses have bolstered the PA economy.” top

FACT

On the eve of Israel’s disengagement from the Gaza Strip in August 2005, Middle East envoy James Wolfensohn brokered a deal to purchase greenhouses built by Jewish settlers in the hope of providing employment and export income to the Palestinian people and boost the fledgling economy. Wolfensohn and a number of other donors, including several American Jews, bought the greenhouses, which averaged more than $75 million in total crop output annually, and gave them to the Palestinian Authority.155

Almost immediately after Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, many greenhouses were ransacked and looted. In September 2005, looters in Neve Dekalim, the largest Jewish settlement in Gaza, walked away with irrigation hoses, water pumps, and plastic sheeting, often while Palestinian policemen watched.156

Despite pleas from the Palestinian Prime Minister to leave the structures intact, the security situation around the greenhouses worsened. In 2006, roving gunmen destroyed greenhouses in the former settlement of Morag, and dozens of armed militiamen ransacked more than 50 acres of greenhouse space in the former settlement of Gush Katif.157 Witnesses said the militants used bulldozers to demolish the buildings’ frames, and then destroyed or stole whatever equipment they could find inside, including irrigation computers.158

The Palestinian Company for Economic Development, the organization in charge of running the greenhouses, complained that hundreds of greenhouses and other agricultural installations were destroyed. In an appeal to the Palestinian Authority leadership, the company said, “These greenhouses and other installations and projects provide a source of income for over 4,500 families. We are very disturbed by the recurring attacks and thefts. Such actions jeopardize the largest agricultural project carried by the Palestinian Authority after the Israeli withdrawal.”159

In addition to rendering the greenhouses useless for their intended purpose of building up the PA economy, Hamas has also established terrorist training centers on some of the lands of the evacuated settlements. Abu Abdullah, a senior member of Hamas’ military wing, said the two former settlements of Eli Sinai and Dagit are now advanced training zones.160

Nearly 70% of the greenhouses have been completely destroyed, most recently by Palestinians who dismantled some of the remaining greenhouses to sell to Egyptians after the Gaza-Egypt border was breached in January 2008.161 The treatment of the greenhouses is an example of how, contrary to Palestinian propaganda blaming Israel, the economic troubles in the Gaza Strip are largely self-inflicted.

MYTH

“The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is Israel’s fault.” top

FACT

Life in the Gaza Strip is difficult, and many Palestinians are suffering deprivations because the international community has imposed a boycott against Hamas since it seized control in a violent coup. Hamas, however, has attempted to blame Israel for the situation it created by its ongoing terrorist campaign against Israeli citizens, refusal to recognize the Jewish state and daily bombardment of innocent Israeli civilians with lethal explosive rockets. Cynically, Hamas is using innocent Gazans in an effort to manipulate public opinion.

The most recent example of this and Hamas’ manipulation of the international media was the protest conducted on “peace boats” off the coast of the Gaza shore. Lauren Booth, sister-in-law of Middle East Envoy and Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, arrived in Gaza on one of these “peace boats” and proclaimed that Gaza is “the largest concentration camp in the world today” and a “humanitarian crisis on the scale of Darfur.”161a

Although all of her fellow protestors eventually left Gaza on the same boats they arrived in, Booth decided to remain behind. Although having been offered opportunities to leave, Booth declined, and she was later photographed at a well-stocked grocery shop inside the world’s “largest concentration camp.” (To view the photo, click here.). During her month-long stay in the Gaza Strip campaigning for human rights, Booth did not once mention the name of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Schalit.

Earlier this year, Palestinians announced they would form a human chain, mostly women and children, to highlight Israel’s refusal to allow the free movement of goods until the rocket fire ceases. That propaganda ploy backfired, however, when only a few thousand people participated instead of the 50,000 or more Hamas said it was mobilizing.162

Hamas’ propaganda efforts have been more successful in the past. In January, pictures released by foreign news agencies showed a meeting of the Hamas-led government lit by candlelight, suggesting Israel had deprived Gaza of power.  Meanwhile, sunshine can be seen streaming through the window curtains since the meeting was actually held at one o’clock in the afternoon. Other pictures depict protests in the streets; masses of Palestinians march down Gaza sidewalks, each one holding a lit candle for the world to see the desperateness of a society living without electricity and running water. Yet, a streetlight shines in the background. 

According to Arabic Daily Asharq Al-Awsat, Hamas thrives at the expensive of the people, paying about 18,000 militants nearly 16 million dollars a month to carry out their dirty work. “So how can there be talk of lifting the Gaza siege and relieving the distress of its people, while Hamas concentrates all its efforts on recruiting and providing for its thousands of fighters. It is clear that Hamas’ priority is to look after its militants, at the expense of Gaza’s people and their suffering!” exclaimed columnist Tariq Alhomayed.162a

As part of their effort to promote the Palestinian image of victimhood, Hamas forced businesses to close in Gaza. A top Palestinian Authority official recently accused Hamas of ordering owners of bakeries to keep their businesses closed for the second day running to keep up the ruse of an imminent crisis in the Gaza Strip. “Hamas is preventing people from buying bread,” he said. “They want to deepen the crisis so as to serve their own interests.” 

The official also said that, contrary to Hamas’s claims, there is enough fuel and flour to keep the bakeries in the Gaza Strip operating for another two months. “Hamas members have stolen most of the fuel in the Gaza Strip to fill their vehicles,” he said.163 

Shlomo Dror, a spokesman for Israel’s Defense Ministry, reiterated the PA official’s remarks. Gaza has enough fuel, he said, and he accused Palestinian officials of trying to create the impression of a crisis that did not exist. In fact, at one point after Israel initially decided to reduce fuel supplies to the Strip, the Israeli fuel company Dor offered the Palestinian distribution companies shipments of gasoline, which they refused.164

Less than a week later, the PA Health Ministry accused Hamas of stealing fuel and medicine stockpiles from hospitals in the Gaza Strip. The PA Health Ministry sent these provisions into the territory after the initial fuel cuts, but Hamas used the fuel instead for cars belonging to senior officials.165

Furthermore, in addition to the fuel it receives from Israel to power its electrical plant, Gaza gets about two-thirds of its electricity directly from Israel. Israeli officials said that supply would not be affected. In fact, 70 percent of the fuel Israel supplies to Gaza was still flowing into the territory during the border closings, but Hamas still ordered the power plant in Gaza to turn off its turbines.166

“If they shut it down, it’s not because of a fuel shortage,“ Dror said. “The power plant shutdown,” he explained, “would not be comfortable, but it’s not a humanitarian crisis.” 167 Most of Gaza’s electricity comes from Israel and Egypt. Very little is supplied by the Gaza plant.

Of course, Hamas officials do not have to worry about the impact of even these modest power cuts. Ahmed Youssef, an adviser to the Hamas foreign ministry said that when the lights go out during a dinner party with foreign guests, Hamas can call the power company and have them turned back on.168

The press has consistently exaggerated and misreported the situation in Gaza. For instance, the Boston Globe ran an op-ed on January 26, 2008, claiming, “Gaza daily requires 680,000 tons of flour to feed its population,” and that “Israel had cut this to 90 tons per day by November 2007, a reduction of 99 percent.”169 According to both a 2007 UN document and the Palestinian Ministry of Economy, however, flour consumption needed daily in the Gaza Strip falls somewhere between 350 to 450 tons, nowhere near the gross miscalculation of 680,000.  At 680,000 tons daily, and at a total population of nearly 1.5 million people, the Boston Globe is claiming that each Gazan needs almost half a ton of flour every day. The newspaper did run a correction shortly thereafter by simply amending the “tons” to “pounds,” a measurement that no one in the international community would use.170 

In addition, the breaking down of the security fence along Gaza’s border with Egypt was another propaganda coup for Hamas. As tens of thousands of Palestinians flocked into Sinai, aid officials estimated that the supposedly penniless residents of Gaza spent more than $100 million on goods in the first few days after the border breach.171  

Hamas has no shortage of funds. Senior officials have been caught at the border carrying suitcases with millions of dollars; many other cash deliveries have undoubtedly been smuggled in undetected. The terror group ensures that their officials and soldiers are well-fed and housed, while the rest of the population suffer for the benefit of the television cameras. 

In May 2006, Hamas political leader Khaled Meshaal made clear that he is not interested in medicine or other humanitarian supplies.  “We ask all the people in surrounding Arab countries, the Muslim world and everyone who wants to support us to send weapons, money and men,” Meshaal said).172  Rather then spend money on food and medicine for the people of Gaza, Hamas buys weapons on the black market and the smuggling of arms into Gaza continues unabated. 

Hamas has gone so far as to block shipments of food. In July 2007, for example, Hamas prevented more than 60 truckloads of Israeli fruit and vegetables from arriving in Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing.173

MYTH

“Israel's actions in Gaza were disproportionate and unprovoked.” top

FACT

Israel's military operation in Gaza was a response to the unceasing indiscriminate rocket attacks by Hamas terrorists that have targeted the civilian population centers of southern Israel. Between January 9 and March 1, 2008, at least 231 rockets have rained down on Israeli kindergartens, schools, parks and homes.174

Initially, the Gaza terrorists could only terrorize nearby Jewish communities such as the town of Sderot (population 19,400) with their lethal rockets because the Qassam’s range was 4.3 miles. Hamas has been determined, however, to threaten more innocent Israeli lives. Hamas subsequently developed longer range projectiles and also smuggled in through Egypt more sophisticated weapons supplied by Iran and others. The upgraded Qassams  now have a range of 7.5 miles. More ominously, Hamas has acquired deadly and accurate Iranian-made Grad rockets, which have nearly doubled the reach of the Qassams.175 The Grad rockets are now threatening  the Israeli port city of Ashkelon (population 108,600).176 Hamas is expected to continue to improve the range and lethality of its arsenal and to  be capable of producing their own Grad-type rockets by the end of the year.177

The men, women and children who live within range of the rockets go about their lives in a perpetual state of trauma and fear. Imagine for a moment how it must be to live under those conditions. Perhaps you are a student, commuting to the university, as Roni Yechiah, a 47-year-old father of four was doing on February 27, 2008. Roni was sitting in his car in the parking lot of Sapir College on the outskirts of Sderot when the "Color Red" alarm sounded, indicating a rocket strike was moments away. A rocket struck nearby and  Roni suffered mortal shrapnel wounds.178

He is only one of many Israelis who have been killed or maimed by the barrages from Gaza. Brothers Osher and Remi Twito were on their way to the bank on the evening of February 9, 2008, when the "Color Red" alarm sounded. They dove for cover, but there simply was not enough time. The rocket landed almost on top of the boys. Remi took shrapnel in both his legs. His little brother, Osher, who aspired to play professional soccer one day, had his left leg amputated below the knee.179

Thousands of families have been made to live in fear. The most ordinary tasks, like driving to school or walking to the bank, cannot be completed without putting one's life at risk. Terror has seized these communities —communities of teachers, students, parents and children.

The decision to take military action in Gaza was not made lightly. Israeli leaders were forced to choose one of two evils: either sit by and allow Hamas to besiege  southern Israel with rockets or to take action to stop the terror. Israel's Operation Warm Winter, began February 29 and ended March 3, 2008. It involved air strikes on Hamas power centers and military bunkers (often hidden in Palestinian population centers, as well as ground operations. As in past conflicts with the Palestinians, Israeli infantry engaged Hamas militants in close, urban warfare for the purpose of limiting the civilian death toll, often putting themselves at greater risk to do so.180 While Hamas militants used the Jabalya refugee camp as a shield, Israeli soldiers endeavored to disarm and arrest militants with non-lethal force.181

Hamas is deeply entrenched in Gaza and has made no secret that its long-term objective is the destruction of Israel. Shortly after Israeli troops withdrew, the terror attacks resumed, with three Grad rockets striking Ashkelon, one hitting an apartment building and another a kindergarten playground.182 Israel will undoubtedly continue to engage in military operations until its civilian population is safe, a policy that would certainly be followed by any other government facing similar threats.

MYTH

“Israel’s enemies must recognize the Jewish state’s right to exist.” top

FACT

Whenever Israel has been asked to negotiate with one of its enemies, one condition that is often presented is that Israel’s right to exist be recognized. When, for example, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin agreed to lift the longtime ban on negotiations with the PLO, Yasser Arafat was first required to write a letter renouncing terrorism and recognizing Israel’s right to exist. Israel subsequently began what came to be known as the Oslo peace process. Of course, it turned out the “recognition” was largely meaningless as Arafat continued to support violence aimed at undermining Israel’s existence.

Since the Hamas takeover of Gaza, some people, including Israeli and American officials, have conditioned talks with that terrorist group on its recognition of Israel. As in the case of the PLO, such a statement would mean little without corresponding deeds. To date, Hamas has explicitly said it has no intention of ever recognizing Israel’s right to exist and has repeatedly said it is committed to Israel’s destruction.

Even Mahmoud Abbas, who is often referred to as a “moderate,” has made clear that he does not recognize Israel as a Jewish state.198 This has not deterred Israeli officials from negotiating with him because they understand that Israel’s future depends on their ability to reach an agreement with the Palestinians and other neighbors that ensures Israel’s security whether the Arabs or Muslims acknowledge the Jews’ right to statehood or not.

Most people have forgotten Abba Eban’s wise admonition made more than 25 years ago:  “Nobody does Israel any service by proclaiming its ‘right to exist.’ Israel’s right to exist, like that of the United States, Saudi Arabia and 152 other states, is axiomatic and unreserved. Israel’s legitimacy is not suspended in midair awaiting acknowledgement....There is certainly no other state, big or small, young or old, that would consider mere recognition of its ‘right to exist’ a favor, or a negotiable concession.”199

MYTH

“Palestinians are driven to terror by poverty and desperation.” top

FACT

The situation many Palestinians find themselves in is unfortunate and often quite severe. Many live in poverty, see the future as hopeless, and are unhappy with the way they are treated by Israelis. None of these are excuses for engaging in terrorism. In fact, many of the terrorists are not poor, desperate people at all. The world’s most wanted terrorist, Osama bin Laden, for example, is a Saudi millionaire.

In the most recent attack at the Merkaz Harav yeshiva in Jerusalem on March 6, 2008, in which eight seminary students were brutally gunned down and another 15 wounded, the perpetrator, Ala Abu Dhaim, was not poor or desperate. He was engaged to be married, he came from a family that is financially comfortable, and was employed by the yeshiva as a driver. Dhaim also was not suffering under “occupation.” In fact, as a resident of the East Jerusalem village of Jabel Mukaber, which lies within Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries, he was entitled to all the same social and welfare benefits as Israeli citizens.

The stereotype that Palestinians turn to terrorism out of desperation is simply untrue. “There is no clear profile of someone who hates Israel and the Jewish people. They come in every shape and from every culture. Demonstrators, rioters and stone throwers do tend to be younger, unmarried males. But there’s a big difference between the young men who participate in those types of disturbances and terrorists,” remarked Aryeh Amit, former Jerusalem District Police Chief.200

A report by the National Bureau of Economic Research concluded, “economic conditions and education are largely unrelated to participation in, and support for, terrorism.” The researchers said the outbreak of violence in the region that began in 2000 could not be blamed on deteriorating economic conditions because there is no connection between terrorism and economic depression. Furthermore, the authors found that support for violent action against Israel, including suicide bombing, does not vary much according to social background.201

For example, the cousin of one of the two Palestinian suicide bombers who blew themselves up on a pedestrian mall in Jerusalem in 2001, killing 10 people between the ages of 14 and 21, remarked candidly, “These two were not deprived of anything.”202

Amnesty International published a study that condemned all attacks by Palestinians against Israeli civilians and said that no Israeli action justified them. According to the report, “The attacks against civilians by Palestinian armed groups are widespread, systematic and in pursuit of an explicit policy to attack civilians. They therefore constitute crimes against humanity under international law.”203

Terrorism is not Israel’s fault. It is not the result of “occupation.” And it certainly is not the only response available to the Palestinians’ discontentment. Palestinians have an option for improving their situation, namely negotiations. But under the current Hamas regime, this is adamantly rejected. The Palestinians could also choose the nonviolent path emphasized by Martin Luther King or Gandhi. Unfortunately, they choose to pursue a war of terror instead of a process for peace. Israel has proven time and again a willingness to trade land for peace, but it can never concede land for terror.

“The use of suicide bombing is entirely unacceptable. Nothing can justify this. ”

— UN Special Representative for the protection of children in armed conflict, Under Secretary-General Olara Otunnu204

MYTH

“Israel must negotiate with Hamas.” top

FACT

Hamas controls the Gaza Strip and, therefore, some people, including knowledgeable Israelis, argue that Israel must negotiate with the terror group. No one seriously believes that Hamas is interested in any lasting peace with Israel, but the advocates for negotiations believe it may be possible to reach a ceasefire agreement in which Hamas promises to stop firing rockets into Israel and Israel ceases its military operations against the group in Gaza. A byproduct of such an agreement is hoped to be a prisoner exchange that would lead to the release of Gilad Shalit who was kidnapped by Hamas 21 months ago.

Israel has not pursued this strategy for a number of reasons. First, Hamas has given little indication it is prepared to end its terror campaign. On the contrary, its spokesmen continue to make belligerent statements. On March 28, for example, Hamas leader Khalil al-Haya, declared: “The Zionist enemy doesn’t have a vision of peace. Only force... fighting and holy war works with [Israel].”205 Hamas also remains committed to its covenant that calls for the destruction of Israel.

From Israel’s perspective, a ceasefire would be exploited by Hamas to build up its forces. Without Israeli counter-terror operations, the group will be free to continue to smuggle in weapons and money from Iran and elsewhere, and to develop longer range missiles capable of striking Israeli population centers. In exchange for a short-term respite in attacks, many Israelis fear they will be allowing Hamas to become a far more dangerous adversary in the future.

It is often said that you don’t make peace with your friends, you make peace with your enemies, but this assumes the enemy you are negotiating with is not committed to your destruction. Golda Meir said it best when she explained the conflict had nothing to do with territory. “We’re the only people in the world where our neighbors openly announce they just won’t have us here,” she observed. “And they will not give up fighting and they will not give up war as long as we remain alive. Here....They say we must be dead. And we say we want to be alive. Between life and death, I don’t know of a compromise.”

MYTH

“Mahmoud Abbas has rooted out the corruption in the Palestinian Authority .” top

FACT

In a June 2002 speech outlining a vision for Middle East peace, United States President George W. Bush said, “Today, the Palestinian people live in economic stagnation, made worse by official corruption. A Palestinian state will require a vibrant economy, where honest enterprise is encouraged by honest government....If Palestinians embrace democracy, confront corruption and firmly reject terror, they can count on American support for the creation of a provisional state of Palestine.”

Despite failing on all these counts, the United States continues to support the Palestinians, though their failure to meet former President Bush’s as well as current President Obama's expectations explains their current predicament and the stagnated peace process.

The Palestinian Authority’s record on rejecting terror is clear - they have done no such thing. While the PA often publicly condemns terrorism, internally it continues to support and even encourage violence against Israel.

Even more glaring than its failure to stop terrorism, however, has been the PA’s failure to confront and stamp out corruption. Less than a year after Bush’s speech, the IMF reported that former PA Chairman Yasser Arafat had diverted approximately $900 million of international aid into his own personal bank accounts. The revelation helped show why the Palestinian people had seen very little improvement in their standard of living despite international contributions to the PA of more than $6 billion.

While the international community continued to focus on the peace process, Palestinians in the territories became more and more concerned with the affect of widespread corruption in their government and its main political party, Fatah. Their true sentiment finally became apparent to the West when general elections in 2006 led to Hamas assuming control of the Palestinian legislature.

Since then, the Palestinian Authority has taken minor steps to promote more honest and transparent government - placing Western-educated economist Salam Fayyad as PA Prime Minister and establishing an Anti-Corruption Commission in 2010 - however the situation is still bad and a series of scandals that emerged in 2008 and another in 2012 are once again provoking outrage.

In 2008, former Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei (Abu Alaa) was accused by the PA ambassador to Romania of depositing $3 million of PLO funds into his personal bank account. Rouhi Fattouh, one of Abbas’ advisers and the former speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, was caught by Israeli customs officials using his Israeli-issued VIP pass to smuggle thousands of cellular phones from Jordan into the West Bank.208 In addition, another crony of Yasser Arafat, Khaled Salam, was investigated after PA officials learned he planned to invest $600 million in a tourist project in Jordan. Furthermore, officials in the Palestinian Ministry of Health were suspected of working with doctors and pharmacists to smuggle expired medicine into the West Bank. Some of these medications are believed responsible for the death of Palestinian patients.

In 2012, Mohammed Rashid, a shadowy financial adviser of the late Arafat, was reported to be the subject of the highest profile investigation of the Palestinian Anti-Corruption Commission for suspicion that he transfered millions of dollars out of the Palestinian Investment Fund and setting up fake companies to embezzle the money. Rashid had left the West Bank following Arafat's death in 2004 and has since been moving between countries while the Palestinian Authority is supposedly working with Interpol to secure his capture.208a

This series of ongoing scandals create serious problems for Israel as well as American peace efforts. The disaffection with Abbas threatens to further strengthen Hamas at a time when Israelis are increasingly concerned that Abbas is losing control of the West Bank and seeking to solidy his power by reconciling with the terror organization. This would reduce the prospects for peace and increase the probability of war. The ongoing corruption also undermines confidence in the Palestinians’ ability to create a viable governing authority.

President Bush had the correct formula for peace in 2002. The Palestinians have now had nearly a decade years to fulfill his vision. Their inability or unwillingness to do so is the principal reason they have not achieved their goal of statehood and the conflict with Israel has continued.

MYTH

“Hizbollah is a resistance movement whose only interest is fighting Israel.” top

FACT

Hizbollah, backed by Iran and Syria, has been building up its forces since its establishment in the early 1980s with the intent of eventually establishing an Islamic government in Lebanon and across the Arab world. After provoking a war with Israel in the summer of 2006, and bringing ruin to much of the country, Hizbollah set out to undermine the pro-Western government of Prime Minister Fouad Siniora.

When their demand for a national unity government and veto power was rebuffed in late 2006, Hizbollah (and Amal Party) representatives resigned from their cabinet posts and carried out protests again Siniora’s government. For months, Hizbollah supporters conducted demonstrations in Beirut and prevented pro-Western, anti-Syrian members of the Lebanese legislature from electing a new president who would not be loyal to Syria or sympathetic to Hizbollah’s agenda. Other anti-Syrian legislators were assassinated, presumably by Syrian agents or supporters, to reduce the number of potential votes against Hizbollah’s (and Syria’s) preferred candidate.

In a bid to gain power, armed Hizbollah militiamen stormed Beirut on May 9 and took control of the western part of the capital. Fierce street battles ensued between the armed gunmen and Sunnis loyal to the U.S.-backed government. At least 67 people died over the course of five days of intense fighting.

The staged coup came shortly after the Lebanese government shut down Hizbollah’s private telephone network, as well as firing the airport security chief for alleged ties to the organization. The two measures sparked the bloodiest confrontations since the civil war ended in 1990. In response, Hizbollah spiritual leader Sheik Hassan Nasrallah proclaimed, “We have said before that we will cut off the hand that targets the weapons of the resistance.”209

The two moves aimed at reigning in Hizbollah backfired. After Hizbollah threatened further violence, the Lebanese government rescinded both measures on May 15 in what was viewed as a victory for the terrorist organization.

The veto was a major triumph for Hizbollah and their supporters, effectively allowing them to nix any legislation they oppose. In addition, the Syrian-backed opposition party received 11 seats in the Cabinet. A new election law was also adopted that divides Lebanon into smaller-sized districts that will redistribute power in favor of the allies of Iran and Syria.210

Siniora also gave up enforcing the UN resolutions requiring Hizbollah to be disarmed. This insures the group will continue to act as a state within the state and destabilize the country and also allows the terrorists to remain a threat to Israel.

The general population was not fooled by the rhetoric of Hizbollah officials and recognized the group was interested in dominating the country rather than resisting the non-existent Israeli occupation. “Hizbollah are liars; they are despicable,” said Nawal al-Meouchi, an innocent bystander to the sectarian violence. “They said they would never turn their arms on the Lebanese, but they have.”211

MYTH

“Palestinian terrorist groups agreed to a cease-fire to advance the peace process.” top

FACT

In an effort to stop the nearly daily onslaught of rockets from Gaza, Israeli officials have discussed the possibility of a cease-fire with the Hamas terrorists bombarding the Israeli civilian population. Egypt and others have also tried to mediate a cessation of terror that would allow Israel to end its counterterror measures. Rather than agree to a simple cease-fire, however, Hamas, has engaged in verbal gymnastics to suggest it will adopt a policy that will, at best, offer a temporary respite while the organization continues to build up its arsenal to pursue its long-term goal of destroying Israel.

The latest example of this Hamas tactic is the proposal in May 2008 to accept a “tahdiyah,” or period of calm. Earlier, in June 2003, Islamic Jihad and Hamas agreed to a hudna in response to demands from then Palestinian Authority prime minister Mahmoud Abbas to stop their attacks on Israel so he could fulfill his obligations under the Middle East road map. The agreement was interpreted in the Western media as the declaration of a cease-fire, which was hailed as a step forward in the peace process. Violence continued after the supposed cease-fire, however, and Israeli intelligence found evidence the Palestinians exploited the situation to reorganize their forces. They recruited suicide bombers, increased the rate of production of Qassam rockets, and sought to extend their range. Over the last five years since the declaration of the hudna, attacks on Israel increased and Hamas succeeded in smuggling in more weapons with longer ranges.

While any cessation of violence against Israeli civilians is to be welcomed, it is important to understand the cease-fire the radical Islamic groups are contemplating in the Muslim context.

The media and some political leaders portray a hudna as a truce or a cease-fire designed to bring peace. Though the term hudna does refer to a temporary cession of hostilities, it has historically been used as a tactic aimed at allowing the party declaring the hudna to regroup while tricking an enemy into lowering its guard. When the hudna expires, the party that declared it is stronger and the enemy weaker. The term comes from the story of the Muslim conquest of Mecca. Instead of a rapid victory, Muhammad made a ten-year treaty with the Kuraysh tribe. In 628 AD, after only two years of the ten-year treaty, Muhammad and his forces concluded that the Kuraysh were too weak to resist. The Muslims broke the treaty and took over all of Mecca without opposition.212

A modern-day hudna is not a form of compromise, rather it is a tactical tool to gain a military advantage. Hamas has used it no fewer than 10 times in 10 years.213

The hudna declared by Islamic terrorist organizations in 2003 was no different. The Hamas charter openly rejects the notion of a peaceful solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and the group did not change its views. On the contrary, Hamas spokesmen said they would not give up their weapons, that they would continue to resist “illegal occupation,” and that they believed the “violent awakenening from a few weeks or months of quiet” will “reaffirm Palestinians’ belief in the intifada as the only option for them.”214 Even the hudna declaration asserted “the legitimate right to resist the occupation as a strategic option until the end of the Zionist occupation of our homeland and until we achieve all our national rights.” Hamas contends that all of Israel is occupied territory.215 This is why Secretary of State Colin Powell called Hamas an “enemy of peace” just before the hudna was declared, and said “the entire international community must speak out strongly against the activities of Hamas.”216

Israel understandably fears a repeat of the earlier experience.

Hamas officials, meanwhile, made clear that an agreement will not change the group’s policy. “The confrontation with the [Israeli] occupation will continue despite the talk about a tahdiyah [calm],” said Osama Hamdan, Hamas’s representative in Lebanon. “As far as Hamas is concerned, all options remain open,” he added.217

Whether the Palestinian terrorist groups are sincere in their declaration of a cease-fire is irrelevant to the fulfillment of the Palestinians’ road map obligations. The road map explicitly calls on Abbas to do more than just achieve a cessation of hostilities; he is obligated to disarm the terrorists and dismantle the terrorist infrastructure.

MYTH

“Olmert’s resignation means the end of peace talks with the Palestinians.” top

FACT

Ehud Olmert’s decision to resign as prime minister will naturally cause a delay in negotiations with the Palestinians as Israel’s democratic process works toward the creation of a new government. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni won the Kadima Party primary and has now been asked to form a government. Livni has been the lead negotiator for nearly a year and has developed a very good working relationship with her Palestinian interlocutors. If Livni forms a government, she can be expected to quickly return to the talks with the Palestinians. If she is unable to do so, elections will be called and the campaign will indeed preoccupy Israeli leaders.

This is the nature of democracy. American leaders are also distracted by the presidential campaign, but everyone knows once it is over, the new administration will turn its attention to the Middle East. After Israeli elections, the new prime minister will also return to the bargaining table.

The outline of a future agreement has long been on the table and it has been further refined in recent months according to details of the negotiations leaked to the Israeli press. It should come as a surprise to no one that the security fence is likely to become a de facto border with the major settlement blocs inside the fence. The settlements outside the fence would be evacuated and legislation is already before the Knesset that would pay settlers living west of the fence $305,000 each to leave voluntarily.218 Whether this bill passes or not, the message is clear that the intention is to dismantle most settlements and compensate their residents.

Israel has proposed a land swap that would result in the Palestinians receiving an area of land equivalent to what Israel annexes. According to the details in the press, Israel would annex 7 percent of the West Bank and, in return, cede 5.5 percent of the Negev and an area equivalent to the other 1.5 percent for a passageway connecting the Gaza Strip and West Bank. This proposal is very similar to what the Palestinians were offered in negotiations between President Clinton, Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat in 2000. Arafat rejected the “Clinton parameters,” but many Palestinians subsequently lamented the lost opportunity for statehood.

The negotiations have been very detailed with Israel, for example, as both sides have discussed security arrangements such as demilitarization (Israel wants but the Palestinians reject), warning stations and deployments in the Jordan Valley. Israel has also offered to allow 1,500-2,000 Palestinians to move to Israel each year for 10 years. The Palestinians want the total figure to be 100,000, a figure Israel may yet approve as it was the number David Ben-Gurion said he would allow after the 1948 war (and well over 100,000 have been allowed into Israel since 1993).

The question of Jerusalem remains one of the most controversial, but the contours of an agreement have also been around for some time and there is reportedly an understanding that the Jewish neighborhoods would be part of Israel and the Arab neighborhoods Palestine and some interim arrangement over the holy areas of the Old City.219

Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the opposition, has different ideas about what a final agreement would look like with the Palestinians. If he were to win a future election, as current polls project, the details of an agreement are likely to change, but he is no less committed to pursuing peace with the Palestinians.

MYTH

“Jerusalem Arabs cannot vote in Israel.” top

FACT

On November 11, 2008, Nir Barkat was elected mayor of Jerusalem. Not participating in the mayoral election, once again, was Jerusalem's Arab population. As permanent residents of the city, Jerusalem's Arabs are entitled to vote in municipal elections, although the overwhelming majority of the Arab population boycott these elections.

Since 1967, various Palestinian Authority associations (now run both by Fatah and Hamas) have demanded that the Jerusalem Arabs refrain from voting in these elections. According to these groups, any voting in Israeli government elections on the part of the Arabs will signify their approval of the Israeli “occupation” of what they claim is Palestinian territory. East Jerusalem, of course, is one of these highly contested areas. In the days leading up to the 2008 election, Hamas and Fatah leaders again threatened any Arab who might consider going to the polls.

In addition to voting, Palestinians in Jerusalem may run for office. Zohir Hamden, an Arab from the village of Sur Baher, intended on running for mayor of Jerusalem but withdrew his candidacy one month before the election and became candidate Arcadi Gaydamak’s advisor on East Jerusalem issues.

Fouad Suleiman, another Jerusalem Arab resident, joined the Meretz Party for the city's election. His personal platform focused on improving education and general living conditions in East Jerusalem.

Pressure is also exerted by Palestinians in the territories to discourage Arabs running for office. In a similar municipal election in 1998, “The Lobby for Human Rights in Jerusalem” - made up of nine private Palestinian agencies - decried Arab candidates' participation in the election. In a published letter they wrote:

“The candidacy of and the support for the “Arab List” violates all international law and norms, and seriously undermines the prospects for a successful struggle of the Palestinian people to liberate their capital Jerusalem.”220

The boycott of this election shows, yet again, that Jerusalem's Arab population is cutting off their nose to spite their collective face. Indeed, if Palestinians do not express their right to vote in municipal elections, and especially if they do not support their own Arab candidates, how can they expect to influence policy in Israel? Israel and the Palestinians cannot come to a real peace agreement if the Palestinians are prohibited by their own leaders from exercising a basic human right – the  right to vote.

MYTH

“Israel is intolerant of homosexuality.” top

FACT

Until 2007, Israel was the only country in the Middle East and all of Asia to protect homosexuals under its anti-discrimination law. It is still the only country in the Middle East to do so. Israel, Turkey, Cyprus and Jordan are the only nations in the region where homosexuality is not expressly illegal. In other Middle Eastern nations, homosexuals are prosecuted under the law and persecuted by their neighbors.

Abusive treatment of gays in Arab and Muslim societies abounds, leading many Palestinian homosexuals to seek refuge in Israel’s cosmopolitan cities like Tel Aviv, which hosted its 10th Annual Pride Parade in 2008.  A young gay Palestinian named Tarek provided the details for one such story of abuse in the May 2003 issue of the Gay & Lesbian Review Worldwide.  Upon suspicion of his homosexuality, Tarek was sentenced to a reeducation camp, run by Muslim clerics under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority, where he was tortured for two months.221

In regards to gay rights, Israel is even more progressive than the United States and some European countries. In 1992, Israel passed a law preventing discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation. In contrast to the United States military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, openly gay Israelis can serve in the Israeli Defense Forces. In 2006, Israel became the only nation in the Middle East and Asia to formally recognize same-sex marriages performed in other countries.222 Because civil marriages are not legal in Israel for heterosexual or same-sex couples, (individuals must be married religiously by a rabbi, imam or priest), gay marriages, like other civil unions, are not performed in Israel. Israelis can also legally adopt the children of their same-sex partner. Foreign partners of gay Israeli citizens are granted residency permits in Israel and same-sex partners are eligible for spousal benefits, pensions and tax exemptions.

Israel’s record for LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) rights is also likely to improve with the passing of new legislation by the 18th Knesset.  Only a few minutes into its opening session on February 23, 2009, first-term Meretz MK Nitzan Horovitz submitted a bill for the legalization of civil marriages and divorces in Israel.  The first openly gay member of the Knesset, Horovitz explained in a written statement that the bill would provide every Israeli with the right to choose between a religious or civil marriage and a religious or civil divorce.223

“Let Obama — or anyone else — be a Zionist; let America — or anyone else — be the custodian of Israeli interests in the region; nonetheless, Israel should not be our greatest concern, nor should Palestine be our be-all and end-all. For even if Israel disappeared entirely, and we had a new Palestinian state from the [Jordan] river to the [Mediterranean] sea to add to the list of Arab states, the situation would still remain the same....”

Turki Al-Hamad224

MYTH

“Hamas will not break a ceasefire.” top

FACT

Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s military incursion into Gaza for the purpose of ending Hamasrocket attacks on Israeli civilians, ended with a unilateral ceasefire declaration by Israel on January 18, 2009.  The same day, a Hamas spokesperson announced the militant group would halt fire for a week in order for Israeli forces to withdraw from the Gaza Strip.225

Only a few hours following both unilateral ceasefire declarations, Hamas fired at least 18 rockets into Israel.226 After a retaliatory air strike, Israel continued to withdraw its troops, as promised, a process that was complete within four days.  Since January 18, Hamas has continued to rearm itself via smuggling tunnels on the Gaza-Egypt border and deliberately target Israel’s civilian population in ongoing attacks.  This continued violence includes over 100 rocket and mortar shell attacks on Israel, in addition to multiple IED detonations and attacks on IDF border guards.227

On March 2, 2009, at least 10 rockets were fired into southern Israel and exploded in a schoolyard in Ashkelon. This attack came a day after 7 rockets struck Sderot and prompted the Israeli government to file an official complaint with the United Nations over the unceasing rocket fire threatening the lives of innocent citizens.228

Despite once again being under siege, Israel continues to deliver increasing amounts of humanitarian aid to Gaza.  Since the end of Operation Cast Lead, over 127,431 tons of food and medical supplies and over 12,275,900 liters of fuel have been delivered to the Gaza Strip.229

MYTH

“Arab states’ sincerity in promoting their peace initiative is reflected in their positions in international forums.” top

FACT

The Arab states have renewed their call for Israel to accept the Arab League peace initiative. When it was originally proposed, their sincerity was called into question when the principal sponsors, the Saudis, and others refused Israeli invitations to negotiate. Since then, the Saudis have remained unwilling to go to Jerusalem or to invite the Israeli prime minister to Riyadh to demonstrate a genuine interest in peace. In addition, the Arab states have continued their historic campaign to delegitimize Israel in international forums such as the UN General Assembly and Human Rights Council. The latest example of their insincerity is the Arab states’ active participation in the Durban Review Conference, scheduled for April 2009.

This second round of the Durban process has already begun to take the shape of its predecessor in its anti-Israel rhetoric through draft resolutions presented for discussion by the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and to be voted on at the conference.230 Proposed draft resolutions include injecting the text with critical references to Israel as an occupying power that carries out racist and discriminatory policies that are a “contemporary form of apartheid.”231

As it has become clear that Durban II will be a repetition of the anti-Semitic hate fest of Durban I, Israel, Canada and Italy have announced they will not attend the meeting. President Obama sent representatives to the meeting of the coordinating committee, but they also withdrew in disgust after they concluded the planners were determined to turn the conference into a mockery of its purported purpose. The Obama administration announced that it would not participate in Durban II unless the text of the 2001 Durban Declaration and Program of Action is revised to “not single out any one country or conflict, nor embrace the troubling concept of ‘defamation of religion’.”232 Meanwhile, officials from several European nations announced they are also considering withdrawing from the conference.233

Durban II is another test of the honesty of the Saudis and other Arabs promoting their peace initiative. They cannot claim to be interested in peace while engaging in an effort to delegitimize Israel. To be taken seriously, they must immediately take the steps outlined by the Obama administration to strip away the irrelevant and the anti-Israel elements of the Durban program and embrace the stated goal of the conference to fight racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance. Otherwise, the Arab League initiative can be dismissed as nothing more than what most people suspected, a public relations stunt concocted by the Saudis to divert attention from their role as state sponsors of terror and the fact that 15 of the perpetrators of 9/11 were Saudi citizens.

MYTH

“Charles Freeman was the right choice for chair of the National Intelligence Council and the Israel lobby was responsible for his not being appointed.” top

FACT

Imagine if a former U.S. ambassador to Pakistan served for years on the board of a Pakistani funded think tank, sang the praises of the dictatorial junta in Islamabad, served as a consultant for a company doing business in China and defended that country’s human rights abuses while also routinely making disparaging remarks about India. Would it be a surprise if opposition arose to that person’s appointment to a sensitive U.S. government intelligence post?

A similar situation arose when a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Charles Freeman, was appointed chair of the National Intelligence Council and, not surprisingly, provoked opposition from a wide range of people, including several members of Congress who called for a review of Freeman’s ties to foreign governments.

Since retiring from the Foreign Service, Freeman has been an outspoken defender of the apartheid regime in Saudi Arabia, extolling the virtues of “Abdullah the Great,” the Saudi autocrat, while running the Saudi supported Middle East Policy Council in Washington, D.C. Freeman has also been well-known for his strident criticism of Israel and the U.S.-Israel relationship.234

While many of his defenders argued that he was being targeted because Freeman had the courage to speak out against Israel, many of his harshest critics were far more concerned with his statements and activities related to China. Freeman served on the advisory board of the Chinese-government-owned entity Chinese National Offshore Oil Co. This affiliation and his comments regarding the Tiananmen Square massacre are what elicited serious objections to his appointment by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. In a 2005 public e-mail, Freeman wrote about the massacre, “[T]he truly unforgivable mistake of the Chinese authorities was the failure to intervene on a timely basis to nip the demonstrations in the bud…. In this optic, the Politburo’s response to the mob scene at ‘Tian’anmen’ stands as a monument to overly cautious behavior on the part of the leadership, not as an example of rash action.”235

After withdrawing his name from consideration, Freeman was quick to blame the Israeli lobby for derailing his appointment, a charge the Washington Post called a “grotesque libel.”236 In fact, the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee never took a formal position on Freeman’s appointment and numerous members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats, questioned whether someone who “headed a Saudi-funded Middle East advocacy group in Washington and served on the advisory board of a state-owned Chinese oil company” was the right choice to the chairmanship responsible for reviewing intelligence agencies’ analysis and preparing intelligence reports for the new administration.237 In fact, in his explanation for why he opposed Freeman’s appointment, Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA) did not even mention Israel.238

In a scathing editorial, the Washington Post also rejected Freeman’s contention that American policy is somehow dictated by Israeli leaders. “That will certainly be news to Israel’s ‘ruling faction,’ which in the past few years alone has seen the U.S. government promote a Palestinian election that it opposed; refuse it weapons it might have used for an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities; and adopt a policy of direct negotiations with a regime that denies the Holocaust and that promises to wipe Israel off the map. Two Israeli governments have been forced from office since the early 1990s after open clashes with Washington over matters such as settlement construction in the occupied territories.” The Post noted that Freeman and “like-minded conspiracy theorists” ignore such facts.239

The Post also rejected Freeman’s claim that Americans cannot discuss “Israel’s nefarious influence,” noting that “several of his allies have made themselves famous (and advanced their careers) by making such charges -- and no doubt Mr. Freeman himself will now win plenty of admiring attention. Crackpot tirades such as his have always had an eager audience here and around the world. The real question is why an administration that says it aims to depoliticize U.S. intelligence estimates would have chosen such a man to oversee them.”240

MYTH

“Arab states support Iran.” top

FACT

Arab states have joined with most of the world in condemning the Iranian drive to produce a nuclear weapon. They understand that a nuclear-armed Iran would be a grave threat to their security. Even now, Iran is threatening its neighbors and provoking outrage in the Arab world.

In recent weeks, Iran’s Arab neighbors have accused it of threatening the sovereignty and independence of the Kingdom of Bahrain and territories of the United Arab Emirates, “issuing provocative statements against Arab states,” and interfering in the affairs of the Palestinians, Iraq and Morocco.241

In statements challenging Bahrain’s sovereignty, Iranian officials recently renewed claims that the kingdom was actually a part of the Persian Empire. At the same time, Iran reasserted its authority over three islands of the United Arab Emirates that it forcibly seized in the early 1970s and continues to occupy. While joint sovereignty was maintained between Iran and the UAE over the Abu Musa and Greater and Lesser Tunbs islands until 1994, Iran significantly increased its military capabilities on Abu Musa, stationed Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps soldiers there, and expelled foreign workers in attempts to assert full control of the island.  The United Nations General Assembly, the Arab League, and the Arab Parliamentary Union have all affirmed their support for the UAE and have made clear that Iran illegally occupies the islands.242

Reactions to the statements challenging Bahrain’s sovereignty and the UAE’s rightful administration of its islands rippled throughout the Middle East. Arab parliamentarians warned Iran that its assertions “harm the fraternal relations and common interests between Iran and the Arab States, and that the recurrence of such statements and irresponsible allegations undermine confidence between the peoples and lead to instability in the region.”243

Arab League Deputy Secretary-General Ahmad Bin Hali angrily denounced Iran’s claims to Bahrain. He also called Iran’s interference in Palestinian affairs unjustified and said that the Arab countries would not allow Iranian influence in Iraq during the war-torn country’s fragile period of rebuilding. He also said that Iran had not been invited to attend the upcoming Arab League summit in Doha.244

Morocco went even further, severing diplomatic relations with Iran in response to the inflammatory statements concerning Bahrain and hostile activity by Iranians inside Morocco. Morocco’s foreign ministry accused the Iranian diplomatic mission in Rabat of interfering in the internal affairs of the kingdom and attempting to spread Shi’a Islam in the nation where 99 percent of the population is Sunni Muslims. The foreign ministry said that since King Mohammed VI is Morocco’s official religious leader, proselytizing to convert Sunni Muslims is an attack on the monarchy.245

Fear of Iran has grown, especially as Arab states have become more skeptical that the international community will succeed in preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Consequently, Saudi Foreign Minister Sa’oud Al-Fei’sal has called for the development of a joint Arab strategy to deal with the “Iranian challenge.”246

MYTH

“Netanyahu is not an advocate for peace.” top

FACT

Before even taking office, Benjamin Netanyahu is being caricatured as a right-wing extremist uninterested in peace when, in fact, he is a proven peacemaker who carried out the last large-scale Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and negotiated with even his sworn enemy Yasser Arafat. It was no surprise that Netanyahu staked out tough positions during his election campaign, emphasizing his commitment to Israel’s security, but after being chosen to serve as prime minister he also pledged his government a “partner for peace.”247

When Netanyahu became prime minister the first time, he also was vilified by the media and Arab leaders; yet, he entered talks with Arafat and agreed to withdraw Israeli troops from Hebron. Both leaders signed the Protocol Concerning the Redeployment in Hebron on January 17, 1997, turning over to Palestinian jurisdiction more than 80 percent of the city of Hebron with the promise of further redeployment from the West Bank in the coming weeks.248 Here was the “right-wing” prime minister agreeing to give up territory in a city with a long Jewish religious and political history in the hope of achieving peace.

This same opponent of peace signed the Wye River Memorandum on October 23, 1998, at the White House. Netanyahu agreed to turn over another 13 percent of the remaining territory under full Israeli control to the Palestinians in return for their pledge to outlaw and combat terrorist organizations, prohibit illegal weapons and prevent weapons smuggling, and prevent incitement of violence and terrorism. Netanyahu’s government also agreed to resume permanent status negotiations.249 Unfortunately, the Palestinians once again failed to fulfill their promise to end terror and sabotaged the plan for additional Israeli redeployments.

Today, the political climate is very different. The Palestinians are in disarray. The Palestinian Authority is split, with Hamas terrorists controlling Gaza and Fatah clinging to power in the West Bank. The nominal president of the PA is considered a reasonable person who simply is impotent to negotiate or implement an agreement. In addition, Israelis are in no mood to make territorial compromises after seeing how the complete evacuation of Gaza brought them more terror rather than peace. Until the Palestinians demonstrate they are committed to peace, few Israelis are prepared to give up territory the Palestinians may use to launch rockets at Tel Aviv, Jerusalem or Ben-Gurion Airport.

In this context, Netanyahu is advocating that the next steps in the peace process focus on improving the lives of the Palestinians. He believes that by strengthening the Palestinian economy and promoting rapid growth, the average Palestinian civilian will have a greater stake in coexistence.250 While critics seeking to discredit Netanyahu suggest he is trying to avoid political concessions, Netanyahu has made clear this is not the case. “The economic track is not a substitute for political negotiations, it’s a complement to it,” he explained. “If we have a strong Israeli-Palestinian economic relationship, that’s a strong foundation for peace.”251 He has also told international leaders that the Palestinians should have the rights to govern themselves as long as they do not threaten Israel252 and at the Knesset’s commemoration of the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty, Netanyahu reaffirmed this commitment. “The government I am about to form will do all in its power to reach peace with our neighbor. … Every one of our neighbors who will be ready for peace will find our hands outstretched before them.”253

MYTH

“The United States missed an opportunity to address the issue of global racism by boycotting Durban II.” top

FACT

Prior to the Durban II Conference, U.S. President Barack Obama explained, “I would love to be involved in a useful conference that addressed continuing issues of racism and discrimination around the globe.” The U.S., however, decided to join Israel, Poland, the Netherlands, Italy, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand in boycotting the conference when language in the draft final communiqué of the conference equated Zionism with racism. President Obama described such anti-Israel language as “hypocritical and counterproductive.”254

By the close of the first day of the second U.N. anti-racism conference, it was already clear Durban II would not be the productive conference President Obama envisioned. Following fastidiously in its 2001 predecessor’s footsteps, hopes for an honest discussion on global racism at the U.N. forum disappeared with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech on the opening day of the conference. Ahmadinejad described Israel as having established a “totally racist government” and as “the most cruel and repressive” racist regime. Echoing the vitriolic attacks on Israel from the 2001 Durban Conference, Ahmadinejad declared, “It is time the ideal of Zionism, which is the paragon of racism, be broken.”255

Ahmadinejad’s inflammatory statements provoked doznes of western diplomats to walk out during the speech. It also led the Czech Republic, which currently holds the EU rotating presidency, to join the countries boycotting the conference.256

Even the normally ambivalent U.N. Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, criticized Ahmadinejad’s misuse of the conference platform “to accuse, divide and even incite,” essentially the exact opposite of the what the conference was intended to achieve.257

Just as Israel’s deputy minister of foreign affairs Daniel Ayalon correctly predicted, “Durban II, like its predecessor, will go down in infamy and will massively deviate from its original purpose.”258

MYTH

“Abbas is ready to accept a Jewish state in the framework of a two-state solution.” top

FACT

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas demands Palestinian statehood and an Israeli commitment to a two-state solution, but recently reiterated his longstanding, extremist position denying Israel comparable legitimacy. "I say this clearly,” Abbas told a conference in Ramallah, “I do not accept the Jewish State, call it what you will…”259 His refusal to recognize the fundamental Jewish character of the State of Israel is just one of many barriers that Abbas has erected along the road to peace.

In 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert extended a peace proposal to Abbas that would create two nation-states. Under the plan Israel would have withdrawn from almost the entire West Bank and partitioned Jerusalem on a demographic basis. Abbas rejected the offer.260

Abbas also continues to insist on a “right of return” for Palestinian refugees, a position no Israeli leader will accept. Even respected Palestinians, such as the head of Al-Quds University, Sari Nusseibeh, believe his position is unrealistic.261

As recently as 2005, when campaigning for the Palestinian Authority presidency, the “moderate” Abbas held a flag of the Al Aqsa Martyrs’ Bridgade (a U.S.-designated terrorist group) and referred to Israel as the “Zionist enemy.”262 A few days later, after winning the election, Abbas dedicated his victory to the “shahids [martyrs] and prisoners” and his “brother shahid Yasser Arafat.”263

Israel’s leaders remain committed to peace, but after Palestinians have repeatedly rejected offers that would have allowed them to establish a state, it should be clear to all that the biggest obstacle to a two-state solution is the leadership of the Palestinians and their more than 60-year refusal to live with a Jewish state.

“The 'Jewish state.' What is a 'Jewish state?' We call it, the 'State of Israel'. You can call yourselves whatever you want. But I will not accept it. And I say this on a live broadcast... It's not my job to define it, to provide a definition for the state and what it contains. You can call yourselves the Zionist Republic, the Hebrew, the National, the Socialist [Republic] call it whatever you like. I don't care.”

— Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas 264

 

MYTH

“Khaled Meshaal seeks peace, not the destruction of Israel.” top

FACT

In an interview with the New York Times, Khaled Meshaal, leader of Hamas, said the terrorist group was seeking the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, based on the 1967 boundaries. When asked about establishing peace with Israel, he stated the ultimate goal was a 10 year ceasefire, but he still would not commit to peace.265 Despite this apparent overture, when pressed about Hamas’ charter which cites the anti-Semitic tome The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, and calls for the destruction of Israel, he simply suggests people ignore what amounts to the group’s constitution.266

In the time-tested practice once regularly employed by Yasser Arafat of saying one thing to Western audiences and something entirely different to people in the Middle East, Meshaal delivered a speech on May 27 , 2008, at Tehran University entitled, “The Decline of the Zionist Regime,” during which he said, “We will never recognize Israel or cease to fight for our land.”267

Though he has slightly tempered his remarks for Western media, Meshaal will not publicly deny that he works for the destruction of Israel, whether it comes today or 10 years from now. Though now it appears he is posturing to gain support from the West, as recently as December 2008, he stated on al-Jazeera that “Allah made a laughingstock of America” and “[the] world will change, submitting to the Arab Islamic will, Allah willing.”268

Since splitting from the Palestinian Authority and staging a violent takeover in Gaza in the summer of 2007, Hamas under Meshaal has worked tirelessly to subvert the efforts of the Palestinian Authority and Israel to reach a peace agreement. In that time, under the direction of Meshaal, thousands of rockets have been fired from the Gaza Strip into civilian neighborhoods of Israel. Today, Hamas is not even willing to make peace with his fellow Palestinians, let alone the Israelis.

MYTH

“The pope’s trip to Israel shows that issues between Israel and the Vatican have been resolved.” top

FACT

The Catholic Church has had a difficult relationship with the Zionist idea since the early 20th century when Theodor Herzl sought the support of Pope Pius X for a Jewish homeland and was told by the pontiff that “the Jews did not acknowledge our Lord and thus we cannot recognize the Jewish people. Hence, if you go to Palestine, and if the Jewish people settle there, our churches and our priests will be ready to baptize you all.”269

In 1947, the Vatican voted in favor of UN General Assembly Resolution 181 to partition Palestine; however, it did not officially recognize Israel until 1993. Since then, the Catholic Church has taken strides to improve its relationship with the Jewish state, including signing a diplomatic treaty and exchanging ambassadors with Israel.270

In 2000, Pope John Paul II visited the Holy Land and Pope Benedict XVI’s trip to Israel was meant to follow a similar path to foster interfaith dialogue and improve Vatican-Israel relations. Unfortunately, a series of missteps by the pope have shown that past wounds are far from healed.

Pope Benedict XVI was born in Germany and has said he reluctantly became a member of the Hitler Youth during World War II (a Vatican spokesman denied this during the tour and had to issue a retraction after it was pointed out that Benedict admitted it in his autobiography). This personal background made his May 11, 2009, visit to Israel’s Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial especially poignant. Though his address condemned Holocaust denial and anti-Semitism, many Israelis expected him to go further. Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, the Chairman of Yad Vashem, expressed his disappointment following the speech, “Something was missing.  There was no mention of the Germans or the Nazis who participated in the butchery, nor a word of regret.” Though the pope referred to the millions of innocent victims, he did not specifically mention the 6 million Jewish victims.271

The role of the Catholic Church during the Holocaust has long been a contentious issue for Israel and the Vatican. At Yad Vashem, there is a plaque criticizing Pius XII, who was pope from 1939 to 1958, for not doing more to save the Jews of Europe during the Holocaust. The Vatican continues to limit access to archives that might shed further light on the actions of Pius. Furthermore, in 2008, Pope Benedict announced his intention to beatify Pius XII, a high religious honor of the Church that is the last step before sainthood.272 This decision angered some Jews as did his announcement in January 2009, that he was lifting the excommunication of Bishop Richard Williamson, a Holocaust denier who believes that Jews are bent on world domination.273

Israelis hoped that the pope’s visit to Israeli sites and meetings with Israeli officials would be accompanied by positive statements about Israel’s quest for peace and some recognition of the ongoing dangers it faces. Benedict, however, reserved his more political remarks for his tour of Palestinian areas. Speaking to a crowd in Bethlehem, for example, Pope Benedict XVI reasserted the policy of the Vatican on Palestinian statehood. While declaring their rights to a sovereign homeland, the pope lamented Palestinian losses suffered in Gaza. He told a crowd in Manger Square, “Please be assured of my solidarity with you in the immense work of rebuilding which now lies ahead and my prayers that the embargo will soon be lifted.” Though he urged Palestinian youth to resist the temptation to resort to terrorism, he did not condemn Hamas for its acts of terror against Israel that made the embargo on the Gaza Strip essential to halting weapons smugglers and provoked Operation Cast Lead.274

The Palestinians also took full advantage of the propaganda value of the pope’s appearances in the West Bank. Mahmoud Abbas, for example, used the pope’s speech in Bethlehem as an opportunity to criticize Israel’s security fence, labeling it an “apartheid wall”.275 Later, on a visit to a Palestinian refugee camp, the pontiff was photographed in front of one of the few sections of the fence that is actually a wall and lamented that it symbolized the “stalemate” in relations between Israel and the Palestinians. He expressed his wish that the wall would come down soon so that “the people of Palestine… will at last be able to enjoy the peace, freedom and stability that have eluded [them] for so long.”276

In addition to ignoring the Palestinian violence that killed more than 800 Israelis and prompted the building of the security barrier, the pope was also silent with regard to the ongoing persecution of Christians throughout the Middle East and especially within the Palestinian Authority. This was another missed opportunity for the pope to show concern for the plight of his followers.

The decision of Pope Benedict XVI to make a pilgrimage to Israel was a welcome one and did show the distance the Vatican has traveled in the century that has passed since Herzl’s visit to Rome. The acts of commission and omission during the pope’s trip indicated, however, that there is still some distance to go before Israel will have the respect it deserves from the Holy See.

MYTH

“Obama and Netanyahu have irreconcilable visions of peace.” top

FACT

Meeting in Washington in May 2009, President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu  reaffirmed their commitments to seeking a comprehensive Middle East peace.  What may not have been expected, however, is just how alike the leaders’ priorities and agendas are in achieving that goal.

In their public remarks, Netanyahu and Obama elucidated their shared visions of negotiations, security, Israeli national sovereignty, and Palestinian self-governance.277 Netanyahu expressed his desire to move forward in negotiations and live in peace with the Palestinians whom Israel “want[s] to govern themselves.” Obama declared that in his Middle East policies “Israel’s security is paramount.” He called for steps to be taken that would assure Israel’s security by halting terrorist attacks and also facilitate the creation of an independent Palestinian state.278

Obama and Netanyahu also agreed on the importance of collaboration with Arab nations to attain peace. Obama called on Arab states to be “more supportive and bolder in seeking potential normalization with Israel,” a message he said he would deliver to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak when he met with them. Both leaders also emphasized the importance of involving Arab nations in dealing with the regional threat posed by Iran.279

The issue of a nuclear Iran was Netanyahu’s top priority in his discussions with Obama. The president said he recognized that a nuclear-armed Iran posed a threat not only to Israel, but also to the rest of the international community. Netanyahu described an Iran with nuclear military capabilities as “the worst danger we face,” a threat to Israel’s existence, U.S. interests worldwide, and moderate Arab regimes of the Middle East.  Obama reiterated his commitment to engaging Iran in an effort to change its policy. He gave no timetable for how long he would pursue this course, but left no doubt that he was committed to preventing Iran from developing a nuclear arsenal.280

Netanyahu has been in office for less time than Obama and has not yet publicly announced positions on many contentious issues, including ones raised by the president. For example, Obama expressed concern over Israeli settlement policy, but the issue has long been a point of contention between the United States and Israel. Netanyahu has not yet announced what his policy will be toward existing or new settlements.

Obama also called on Israel to open the border crossing of the Gaza Strip, which was closed by Netanyahu’s predecessor in response to years of rocket attacks and weapons smuggling. Again, Netanyahu has not yet stated whether he is prepared to loosen restrictions on Gaza and the president’s position was undermined the following day by yet another rocket fired from Gaza into Israel, which landed in the backyard of a home in Sderot and injured an Israeli woman.281

Following his meeting, Obama expressed confidence in Netanyahu’s leadership. “I’m confident that he’s going to seize this moment. And the United States is going to do everything we can to be constructive, effective partners in this process,” Obama said. Echoing these sentiments, Netanyahu said, “We share the same goals and we face the same threats. The common goal is peace. Everybody in Israel, as in the United States, wants peace.”282

MYTH

“Netanyahu’s government refuses to honor past agreements on settlements.” top

FACT

Though he did not respond for the press to President Obama’s call for Israel to halt settlement expansion during their meeting in Washington DC on May 18, Prime Minister Netanyahu has since acted on his commitment to honor the agreements reached by previous administrations.

One of the conditions of the 2003 Road Map was that all unauthorized Israeli settlements established after March 2001 be dismantled.  In accordance with the agreement, reached between the Ariel Sharon government and the United States, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that 26 illegal outposts would be evacuated.283  Netanyahu also informed the U.S. leadership of his commitment to remove the illegal West Bank outposts and not build any new settlements.  Three days after his meeting with Obama, police forces demolished a Jewish outpost in Samaria called Maoz Esther, the first settlement to be dismantled under Netanyahu’s newly formed government.284  Israel’s Defense Ministry also began delivering delimiting orders to ten additional illegal outposts, an action required by Israeli law before outposts can be cleared.285

Another member of Netanyahu’s cabinet calling for ratification of the three-phase road map to peace, that has a clearly stated goal of Palestinian statehood, is Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. During an interview before he was sworn in, Lieberman told Haaretz that Israel had undertaken obligations under the road map and that those obligations would be honored. He criticized previous Israeli administrations for not acting on those commitments and dismantling settlements and removing roadblocks.  Elaborating on these obligations, he said, “Unlike others, we will carry out everything that is in writing, and there will be no contradiction between what we say and what we mean, but we will stick to the phased nature of the road map.”286

Netanyahu has also expressed his interest in adhering to agreements reached with the Bush administration whereby Israel was permitted to accomodate natural growth in existing settlements, such as expanding the size of a family’s home within the boundaries of the community. Another understanding with the Bush administration was that Israel would be allowed to continue construction in consensus settlements that are expected to become a part of Israel at the end of negotiations.287

In addition to the issue of settlements, Netanyahu’s government is honoring previously agreed upon documents in its commitment to reengaging the Palestinians in negotiations without preconditions. At his public meeting with President Obama at the White House, Netanyahu expressed this commitment, “I share with you very much the desire to move the peace process forward. And I want to start peace negotiations with the Palestinians immediately.”288

MYTH

“There is urgency to resolve the Palestinian-Israel conflict.” top

FACT

President Barak Obama has said the Palestinian-Israeli conflict “is a critical issue to deal with, in part because it is in the United States’ interest to achieve peace; that the absence of peace between Palestinians and Israelis is a impediment to a whole host of other areas of increased cooperation and more stable security for people in the region, as well as the United States.”289

It may be argued that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is urgent for the United States if you believe that the conflict is really an impediment to Arab cooperation on the Iranian nuclear issue. The evidence, however, is that the Arab states have never seriously cared about the Palestinians and that they have their own self-interest in seeing Iran’s nuclear ambitions thwarted, an issue which has nothing to do with the Palestinian question.

The parties also do not see any urgency. In fact, in September 2008, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas turned down then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s sweeping offer for Palestinian statehood that would have given the Palestinians 98.1% of the West Bank and allowed thousands of Palestinians to return to Israel.290 Yet, Abbas turned down the offer, claiming there were “gaps,”291 and failed to offer a viable counteroffer.

Following his May 2009 meeting with President Obama, Abbas also made clear the Palestinians are in no hurry to negotiate with Israel, let alone make any concessions. He expressed the view that Obama’s opposition to Israeli settlements would eventually bring down the Netanyahu government and he was content to put off any peace talks until Netanyahu is out of office. Jackson Diehl wrote in The Washington Post that “Abbas and his team…plan to sit back and watch while U.S. pressure slowly squeezes the Israeli prime minister from office. ‘It will take a couple of years,’ one official breezily predicted.”292 Until then, Abbas stated, “in the West Bank we have a good reality… we are having a good life”293.

This statement contrasts starkly with the typical image projected by the PA and the media of the Palestinians as an impoverished, suffering people. Abbas also left no doubt that the Palestinian leadership feels no urgency for a resumption of the peace process. Abbas told Obama, “There’s just about nothing you can do.”294

Israelis also see no urgency. While the Israeli public and prime minister are committed to peace with the Palestinians they are very cognizant of the Palestinians’ obstinate position. Furthermore, Israelis see no chance of reaching an agreement with the Palestinians so long as their leadership remains splintered with Hamas controlling the Gaza Strip and the West Bank barely controlled by the unpopular and politically weak Abbas.

Israelis also need confidence building time to recover from fighting three wars in the last nine years that have cost more than 1,200 Israeli lives and forced parts of the country to live in a state of almost constant anxiety as a result of years of rocket bombardments. Indeed, during Obama’s meeting with Abbas, the president told the Palestinian president that the Israelis have good reason to be concerned about security.295 The American president should therefore understand that now is not the time for a rush to diplomacy and that the first priority should be creating a sense of security in Israel.

“Peace now” is not just a slogan, it is what every Israeli wants. President Obama should be applauded for sharing this desire and wanting to make it a reality; however, the conditions in the region will have to radically improve before it will be possible to achieve the goal Americans and Israelis share.

MYTH

“Palestinian leaders are committed to peace.” top

FACT

On June 14, 2009, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for negotiations with the Palestinians to resume without preconditions. He also described his vision of peace as one between two sovereign nations living side-by-side. To achieve this two-state solution, he said, the Palestinians must recognize the State of Israel and accept a demilitarized state.296

Following Netanyahu’s speech, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs issued a statement praising Netanyahu’s remarks, “The President is committed to two states, a Jewish state of Israel and an independent Palestine, in the historic homeland of both peoples. He believes this solution can and must ensure both Israel's security and the fulfillment of the Palestinians' legitimate aspirations for a viable state, and he welcomes Prime Minister Netanyahu's endorsement of that goal.”297

The response of the Palestinian leadership to Netanyahu’s invitation to revive the peace process, however, was hostile. Chief Palestinian Authority negotiator, Saeb Erekat, called on the Arab countries to suspend the Arab peace initiative. Multiple spokesmen for PA President Mahmoud Abbas called on the international community to isolate Netanyahu for what they describe as his “sabotage” of the peace process, and PA officials in Ramallah warned of a new round of violence and a new intifada.298 This followed Abbas’s earlier remarks suggesting that he was prepared to wait for years, until he believed Netanyahu was forced from office, before resuming negotiations with Israel.299

MYTH

“Fatah's Sixth Congress expressed the party's commitment to peace.” top

FACT

In August 2009, Fatah’s Sixth Congress convened in the West Bank to redraft the party’s political program. Though its leaders highlighted for the Western media Fatah’s interest in peace, the irredentist positions expressed during the conference illustrated why Israelis feel Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ political party is not a partner in peace. 

For example, in a policy speech at the conference, Abbas said, “Although peace is our choice, we reserve the right to resistance,” using a term that encompassed armed confrontation in addition to non-violent protests. Elaborating on Abbas’ stance, senior Fatah official Jibril Rajoub explained that armed struggle remained a tool at the Palestinians’ disposal and that Fatah would not abandon it as an option.300 Azzam al-Ahmad, another senior Fatah leader, said, “We have the right to practice all forms of national struggle. We are in the phase of national liberation and we have the right to use all means in the fight to end the occupation until we establish the state.”301

Pamphlets from the conference also repeatedly stressed that resistance in all its forms is a legitimate right of the Palestinians. These pamphlets included images of Fatah leaders carrying weapons and included poetry and narratives glorifying martyrdom in the fight against Israel.302
Fatah sentiments on resorting to violence against Israel were also echoed in the new draft of its political program, which left open the option of “armed struggle” and a unilateral declaration of Palestinian statehood should negotiations fail or remain stalemated.303 The program also rejected the recognition of Israel as a Jewish state.304 Conference participants also refused to revise the party’s charter, written by Yasser Arafat, which calls for the destruction of the Jewish state and armed struggle “until the Zionist entity is wiped out.”305

MYTH

“Saudi Arabia is on the path to normalizing relations with Israel.” top

FACT

In spite of efforts by the Obama Administration to push Saudi Arabia to open up to Israel diplomatically, the oil-rich nation has in fact further distanced itself from the Jewish State. Recently, Saudi Arabia has been pushing the Arab League to more strongly enforce its boycott of Israel. Between 2006 and 2008, Saudi Arabia increased the number of boycott-related and restrictive trade-practice requests it sent to American companies by 76 percent.306 These are requests in which Saudi Arabia asks foreign suppliers to ensure that no goods or parts of the goods exported to the kingdom are manufactured in Israel. Though it is illegal for U.S. companies to comply with these requests and to not report them, the IRS estimates that 55 percent of reported requests concluded with some type of boycott agreement.307

Saudi Arabia has a long history of discriminatory activities against Americans as well as Israelis. In addition to blacklisting U.S. companies, the Saudis also objected to Jews entering the country to work for American companies or to serve with U.S. forces in the kingdom. As far back as the 1950s, Congress introduced legislation to bar aid to Saudi Arabia if it discriminated against Americans on the basis of religion. President Kennedy complained about the inability of American Jews, including members of Congress, to obtain visas.

The American public was not aware of the extent of the Arab boycott until 1970 when Senator Frank Church released a list of 1,500 American firms on the Saudi blacklist. At the time, the Pentagon and State Department were enabling the Saudis, justifying the discrimination of U.S. citizens as necessary to conform to the laws and traditions of Saudi Arabia. Imagine U.S. officials justifying the discrimination of blacks in South Africa because it was consistent with apartheid laws and customs.

Finally, in the 1970s, Congress took action and stood up for American principles and outlawed compliance by American companies with the boycott, despite threats from the Saudis and others of dire consequences, which never came to pass.

While most Arab states no longer enforce the boycott, the Saudis have maintained it is legitimate.

In 2005, the United States supported Saudi Arabia’s entry into the World Trade Organization on the condition it end its boycott of Israel. The Saudi Kingdom agreed, but once it gained entry, reneged on its part of the deal and is  now in violation of WTO regulations  prohibiting its members from operating trade embargoes or boycotts.308 In 2006, the House of Representatives passed a resolution condemning Saudi Arabia for failing to end its boycott of Israel after its admission into the WTO.

As the Obama Administration attempts to encourage the parties in the Middle East to take steps toward peace, it might start with insisting that Saudi Arabia live up to the promises it made in the past to end its discriminatory practices.

MYTH

“The Goldstone Report proves Israel is guilty of war crimes in Gaza.” top

FACT

The Goldstone Commission was created to investigate alleged war crimes during the conflict between Israel and Hamas during Israel’s Operation Cast Lead in Gaza in December 2008/January 2009. No one was surprised when the Commission issued a report highly critical of Israel given that it was created by the UN Human Rights Council, an organization long ago discredited for its obsessive and biased focus on Israel, and that one of the Commission members, Christine Chinkin, had previously accused Israel of war crimes.309

Following the report’s release, Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, said, “The mandate was unbalanced, one-sided and unacceptable… The weight of the report is something like 85% oriented towards very specific and harsh condemnation and conclusions related to Israel and very lightly treats without great specificity Hamas’ terrorism and its own atrocities.”310

The four-person panel, led by Judge Richard Goldstone, based virtually all of its 575-page report on unverified accounts by Palestinians and NGOs. The Goldstone Commission fixated on Israel’s incursion into Gaza while failing to adequately address the provocation – three years of Hamas rocket bombardment of Israeli towns and villages – that led to the Israeli operation. The Israeli government did not cooperate with the Commission because of its one-sided mandate that presumed Israel was guilty of war crimes.311 During the Commission’s five-month investigation, a handful of Israelis were allowed a few hours to testify about Hamas terror attacks. Photos taken while an Israeli described their ordeal show Richard Goldstone taking a nap.312

While ignoring journalistic accounts of the activities of Hamas, the Commission relied on critical reports of Israeli actions by groups such as Human Rights Watch (HRW), which had already been disputed. HRW, in particular, has been discredited by revelations that it has tried to raise money from Saudi Arabia by touting its history of anti-Israel reportage and that its “senior military expert,” Marc Garlasco, is a collector of Nazi memorabilia.313

When interviewing Gazans, the Commission was chaperoned by Hamas officials.313a Hence, it was not surprising that investigators made little effort to investigate Hamas activities before or during Operation Cast Lead. It was equally unremarkable for the commission to then report that it found no evidence that Hamas fired rockets from civilian homes, that terrorists hid among the civilian population, fired mortars, anti-tank missiles and machine guns into Palestinian villages when IDF forces were in proximity, or that they seized and booby-trapped Palestinian civilian houses to ambush IDF soldiers. In fact, the report refers to Hamas “police” as civilians, absolving them of terrorist rocket attacks against Israeli civilians and their illegal actions in Gaza during the conflict.314 This directly contradicts the ample photos, video and reports by journalists that depict Hamas militants participating in all of these illegal activities.315

Hamas viewed the Commission’s investigation as an opportunity to score propaganda points against Israel and it is therefore not surprising that members interviewed by the commission would fabricate stories to support accusations against Israel. For example, Hamas official Mouteeh al-Silawi stated that he was giving a sermon in a mosque filled with Palestinian civilians seeking refuge. Al-Silawi claimed that no Hamas militants were inside the mosque or in its vicinity, and that the IDF attacked civilians inside the mosque. Palestinian sources, however, identified all of the casualties at the mosque and they turned out to all be Hamas operatives.316

The Goldstone Report is rife with inaccuracies, mischaracterizations and falsehoods, which do nothing to better the lives of Palestinians living under the rule of Hamas in Gaza or deter Hamas from targeting Israeli civilians. The report makes no mention of Hamas’ illegal activities in Gaza, such as using human shields and utilizing mosques, hospitals and schools as bases of operation, and downplays the firing of rockets at Israeli civilians. By not holding Hamas accountable for targeting Israeli civilians, the report essentially legitimizes terrorism and criminalizes self-defense.

Israel does not need outsiders to tell it how to defend itself or how to investigate the actions of its military. The people of Israel expect their soldiers to uphold the highest moral standards and they demand that allegations of misconduct be promptly and thoroughly probed even when the results may be embarrassing. The war in Gaza was no exception. Israel has already examined various charges, and taken action against soldiers who acted inappropriately, and will continue to do so without intervention by parties with political agendas who start with the premise that Israelis are guilty and then set out to prove it.

MYTH

“In exchange for a settlement freeze, Arab states are offering overflight rights as a peace gesture to Israel.” top

FACT

News reports have suggested that U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell has received assurances from some Arab leaders that in exchange for an Israeli settlement freeze they will agree to allow Israel the right to overfly their countries.317 So far, however, no Arab leader has publicly said they are prepared to take this step and the Saudis have once again led the rejectionists in making clear they will not allow overflights.

Even if such a deal were achieved, it is difficult to interpret this as a significant step toward peace that warrants Israel making new concessions and taking further risks. The Arabs are giving up little by allowing Israel to fly 30,000 feet over their countries. Yes, Israel would benefit by having shorter distances to fly and save money on fuel, but this is trivial in the context of the peace process. If Arab leaders were serious about peace, they would begin to take the following steps:

  • Publicly acknowledge Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish state in the Middle East.
  • Put Israel on maps of the Middle East.
  • End anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incitement in the media and schools.
  • Encourage exchanges of scientists, artists and athletes.
  • Cease efforts to condemn and delegitimize Israel at the UN and UN agencies.
  • Expel all terrorist groups (this especially applies to Syria, which promised the Bush Administration it would close all headquarters of terrorist groups in Damascus) and cease political and financial support for Hamas, Hezbollah and other terrorist entities.
  • End the Arab boycott.
  • Sell oil to Israel.
  • Allow people traveling with Israeli stamps in their passports to enter Arab countries.
  • Permit direct flights between Israel and Arab countries and allow Israelis to visit.
  • Allow Israel to open trade offices and/or interests sections in Arab countries.
  • Visit Israel and engage in face-to-face talks to discuss all issues of mutual interest and concern.
  • Open trade offices and/or interests sections in Israel.
  • Sign formal peace agreements and begin normal relations in all spheres.

Given that Israel occupies no territory claimed by another country, except Syria (Lebanon claims Israel holds a small strip of land that Israel says belongs to Syria), there is no reason why most Arab states should withhold any or all of these steps if they are truly interested in peace. If the Arab states want to continue to foster the illusion they care about the Palestinians, they could at least take the more modest of these steps now and offer to take more in exchange for Israeli gestures to the Palestinians. No one, however, should take seriously Arab overtures that are only made privately, offer only trivial concessions and first require Israeli capitulation to their demands.

MYTH

“Jews were responsible for the defeat of Egypt's candidate for UNESCO.” top

FACT

Egypt’s Minister of Culture, Farouk Hosni, lost a close election for the leadership role of UNESCO (The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in September 2009 and immediately blamed the Jews for his loss. Hosni had been a controversial candidate from the outset because of his past accusation that Israel  stole Egyptian culture, his opposion to the creation of a Jewish antiquities and culture museum in Cairo318, and his call to burn Israeli books found in Egyptian libraries.319

Despite his radical anti-Israel views (Egypt, after all, has a peace treaty with Israel), Hosni was heavily favored to win the UNESCO election, due largely to the support of members of the Arab League, the Organization of African Unity (which were pressured by Egypt), and the Organization of the Islamic Conference – all organizations whose member-nations have poor track records on human rights and less-than-progressive perspectives on cultural diversity.320

Despite Hosni's record, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made an agreement with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in May 2009 not to oppose Hosni’s election.321 Many other organizations and individuals from across the globe did condemn the Egyptian. For example, French philosopher Bernard Henri-Lévy, French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel issued a joint statement in which they declared that the election of Hosni to UNESCO would constitute a “shipwreck,” that the organization “should spare itself the shame of electing such a leader,” and that “Mr. Farouk Hosni is the opposite of a man of peace, dialogue and culture, [he] is a dangerous man, and inciter of hearts and minds.”322 The Simon Wiesenthal Center called the possible election of Hosni “a major threat to the very values of UNESCO.” The journalism watch-dog organization, Reporters Without Borders, also condemned Hosni’s possible appointment, stating “This minister of [Egyptian President] Hosni Mubarak has been one of the main actors of censorship in Egypt, unfailingly trying to control press freedom as well as citizens’ freedom of information.”323 An article in the September/October 2009 issue of Foreign Policy referred to Hosni’s impending election as “scandalous.”324

Hosni’s defeat was not only a function of opposition to his hostile attitude toward Israeli culture but it was also a result of the support for the candidacy of the eventual winner, Irina Bokova, a career diplomat from Bulgaria who had previously served as her nation’s Foreign Minister and Ambassador to France.325 Jews did not have any votes in the election. The outcome was decided by 31 nations that supported Bokova over Hosni, including Spain and Italy who changed their votes after learning about Hosni's role in protecting the perpetrators of the terrorist attack on the Achille Lauro in 1985.326

After the democratic process was over, Hosni validated the concerns of those who voted against him by blaming his defeat on a vast Jewish conspiracy, buoyed by the United States, Eastern Europe and Japan. He subsequently declared his intention to “launch a culture war against Israel.”327

MYTH

“The enemies of Israel will not misuse the Goldstone Report.” top

FACT

When the Goldstone Commission released its one-sided report, blaming Israel for war crimes in Gaza, the United States and many other nations denounced it for what it was: an irresponsible and extremely biased report that blames Israel while forgiving the terrorist violence waged against Israeli civilians by Hamas.

The UN Human Rights Council (HRC) wasted no time in weaponizing the Goldstone Report. The HRC was not slated to convene again this year, but met in a special session to endorse the Goldstone Report. By a vote of 25-6, the UN Human Rights Council endorsed the report and recommended that other UN groups follow its recommendations, including the UN Security Council, by referring war crime prosecutions to the International Criminal Court if Israel fails to investigate the war crimes proffered by the Goldstone Commission.328

The resolution was opposed by the United States, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Slovakia and Ukraine. Eleven additional nations abstained while another five withheld their vote completely. Even South African judge Richard Goldstone, primary author of the troubled Goldstone Report stated his displeasure with the HRC’s resolution, stating “There is not a single phrase condemning Hamas, as we have done in the report.”329

The  HRC, whose membership includes serial human rights violators such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and China, has a demonstrated obsession with Israel-bashing. The council has held six special sessions on Israel alone. For all the world’s other nations, it has held a combined total of four.330 The council ignored testimony from experts such as Col. Richard Kemp, former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, who stated that “During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defense Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.”331 This expert testimony fell on deaf ears, as the council had only intended to issue a resolution attacking Israel, as it has done in 80% of all the resolutions it has passed in its entire history.332

It was the intention of the HRC to pass a resolution that at a minimum, would damage Israel’s image with the possible result of having Israelis charged with war crimes at The Hague.

Israel’s supposed peace partner, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who is committed by the Oslo Accords not to engage in acts of incitement against Israel, is leading the public campaign to stigmatize Israel and criminalize its self-defense measures and thereby driving a stake further through the heart of the peace process that President Obama has tried to resuscitate with the assent of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.333 By caving to pressure from Hamas and flaunting this sensational resolution, Abbas continues to demonstrate why so many are concerned that the Palestinian leadership does not yet have the courage or vision to lead the Palestinian people to a lasting, secure and equitable peace with Israel.

MYTH

“Amnesty's water report fairly portrays Israel.” top

FACT

Amnesty International released a report in October 2009 condemning Israel’s water-usage policy in the West Bank. Before the report’s release, the Israeli Water Authority offered to issue a report or presentation to Amnesty, but was refused.334 Given the unwillingness to hear Israel’s side, as well as it’s now long history of anti-Israel animus, it was not surprising the report was an error-filled, one-sided critique that accused Israel of using a disproportionately large amount of the region’s water resources while leaving little for the Palestinians.

Over the years, Israelis have drastically decreased the amount of water they use while Palestinian consumption has increased. Before 1967, Israel’s water usage was approximately 500 cubic meters per person per year. Today, it is 70% less at 149 cubic meters per person per year. In that time, Palestinian water consumption has increased from 86 to 105 cubic meters per person per year.335 The report is laden with errors as well. For example, it claims Palestinian villages in the vicinity of Jerusalem, such as Beit Ula, are not connected to a water system. In fact, Beit Ula has been connected to the Palestinian water network of the Palestinian Water Authority since 1974.336

Palestinians accuse Israel of stealing their water, despite the fact that the majority of Israel's water comes from within the pre-1967 armistice lines. Also forgotten is that Palestinian agriculture flourished after 1967 because Israelis introduced drip irrigation and other modern agricultural techniques. Prior to 1967, of the 430 Palestinian towns and villages in the West Bank, 50 had access to running water. By 1992, an influx of capital and infrastructure from Israel had increased the number to 260.337

Year after year, the Israeli Water Authority has delivered more water per year to the Palestinians than the amounts agreed upon in the Oslo Accords. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has threatened the water security of both themselves and the Israelis by digging 250 illegal wells and refusing to purify sewage water in violation of the Oslo Accords, instead dumping sewage into West Bank streams, causing massive pollution and threatening the lives of everyone.338 Palestinian mismanagement has already destroyed the aquifer in Gaza, making the water undrinkable. The Palestinian Authority has received billions of dollars in international aid and large sums of money were earmarked for the Palestinians to build sewage treatment plants, but not a single facility has been constructed. This violates the commitment made in the Oslo Declaration of Principles for Cooperation on Water-Related Matters that states that water projects be environmentally sound. There are currently five sewage treatment plants located in the West Bank. Of these, the Palestinian Authority has only managed to keep one functioning. The Palestinian population in the West Bank exceeds 2 million. The one plant the Palestinian Authority has managed to keep functioning has the capacity to service 50,000 people - a huge disparity. In light of the Palestinian Authority's inability to serve its own people's water needs, one can understand Israel's reluctance to share more precious water resources.339 Still, Israel has offered to supply Palestinians with desalinated water but, due to political posturing, Palestinian leaders have refused.340

The issue of water in the Middle East is a serious issue for both the Palestinians and Israelis – one not easily resolved, and was therefore reserved for negotiation among the other final-status issues. The Amnesty Report does little to explain the complexities of the problem, but rather opportunistically and unproductively shovels mud on Israel. It is perhaps no coincidence that the release of the report coincides with the start of a speaking tour on U.S. university campuses entitled “Israel’s Control of Water as a Tool of Apartheid and a Means of Ethnic Cleansing,” organized by the Palestinian Cultural Academic Boycott of Israel movement.341

It is ironic that Amnesty would choose to focus on the issue of water, as it is an issue on which Palestinians and Israelis have demonstrated a tremendous amount of cooperation. In 2001, for example, Israel and the Palestinian Authority issued a joint statement declaring their shared intention to “keep the water infrastructure out of the cycle of violence.” When Israel disengaged from Gaza in 2005, Israel left the Palestinians all of the water treatment utilities they had built for Israeli settlements in the Gaza Strip.342 As recently as 2007, Israeli and Palestinian municipalities released a joint memorandum declaring their shared interest in protecting water resources.

MYTH

“The threat Hizbollah poses to Israel has diminished.” top

FACT

Despite the relative calm Israel has experienced along its northern border in 2009, the Lebanon-based terrorist organization Hizbollah has made significant advances in its ability to terrorize and threaten the Jewish State. With support from Iran, Hizbollah has built up its arsenal to surpass the capability it had during the Lebanon War of 2006. The terrorist organization has stockpiled an estimated 40,000 rockets near the Israeli border.343 In the past, these terrorists used Katyusha rockets to lay siege to Israel’s north; Hizbollah now has missiles capable of reaching up to 300 kilometers into Israel, putting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem well within rocket range.344

On November 5, 2009, the Israeli Navy intercepted the Antiguan cargo ship Francop, en route to the Syrian port of Latakia, carrying more than 3,000 rockets. The rockets, bound for Hizbollah arsenals, were found in crates disguised as civilian cargo labeled IRISL (Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines).345 The weaponry aboard included 9,000 mortar shells, thousands of 107-mm. Katyusha rockets that have a range of 15 kilometers, some 600 Russian-made 122-mm. rockets with a 40-km. range and hundreds of thousands of Kalashnikov bullets.346 Syria and Iran have conspired to arm Hizbollah for years and they have now been caught red-handed in violation of UN Security Council Resolutions 1747 and 1701, which strictly prohibit Iran  from exporting or trading any form of weaponry.347

While this ship was stopped, it is unknown how many other shipments have gone undetected. Deputy Israeli Navy Commander, Rear Admiral Roni Ben-Yehuda stated that though the seizure stopped hundreds of tons of weapons from reaching Hizbollah, it only represented “a drop in the bucket” of what Iran and Syria manage to smuggle to the Hizbollah terrorists.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated the threat succinctly: “Whoever still needed indisputable proof that Iran continues to send weapons to terror organizations got it today in a clear and unequivocal manner. Iran sends these weapons to terror organizations in order to hit Israeli cities and kill civilians.”348

MYTH

“Syria is ready for peace with Israel.” top

FACT

In November 2009, after meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that he would meet Syrian President Bashar Assad for direct negotiations, anywhere, anytime, without preconditions to discuss a permanent peace treaty between Israel and Syria. Assad, after meeting with Sarkozy two days later, flatly rejected Netanyahu’s offer and half-heartedly countered with the possibility of restarting indirect negotiations through Turkey.349

This was vintage Assad. Typically, he meets with world leaders who praise him for privately expressing an interest in peace before he publicly declares he has no intention of negotiating with Israel. This pattern actually began with Assad’s father as early as the mid-1970s when President Carter met with Hafez Assad and extolled his virtues only to recall later in his memoirs that Assad subsequently did everything he could to sabotage his peace efforts. In those years, Israel was reluctant to offer any concessions on the Golan Heights, but starting with Yitzhak Rabin in the early 1990s, successive Israeli prime ministers have offered to withdraw from the area in exchange for peace.

In 2008, under Ehud Olmert, Israel engaged in what originally were secret talks moderated by Turkey. Though progress was reportedly made, Assad undercut the talks by tying Israel-Palestinian peace to a Syrian deal.350

The basic terms of a treaty have been established over these last two decades, but finalization of the deal has been prevented by Assad’s position that Israel must return the Golan to Syria as a precondition of negotiations and his unwillingness to commit to the full normalization of relations after Israel’s withdrawal.351

Meanwhile, even as he tells Western leaders he wants peace, he continues to work with Iran to arm Hizballah with guns and rockets and to host in Damascus a variety of terror groups whom he had promised Secretary of State Powell he would expel.

Israel would very much like peace with Syria as it would not only ensure that border remains quiet but would pave the way for negotiations with Lebanon. Israel’s commitment to peace is evident in the risk it is prepared to take in leaving the strategically valuable Golan Heights. Syria is long overdue in reciprocating with concessions through direct talks.

MYTH

“Settlements are an obstacle to negotiations.” top

FACT

Today, the Palestinian leadership propagates the myth that settlements are an obstacle to peace negotiations, and that all settlement construction must cease before negotiations can resume. This has never been true in the history of Arab-Israeli peace negotiations. Israel captured and settled Sinai and did not agree to remove settlements there in advance of negotiations with Egypt. After Egypt agreed to a peace treaty, Israel evacuated the Settlers from Sinai. Israel did not have to change its policies regarding settlements to achieve peace with Jordan. Once King Hussein agreed to normalize relations, however, Israel made territorial and other concessions in exchange for peace.

When Israel and the Palestinians began their secret talks in Oslo, the PLO did so without first demanding a settlement freeze. The ensuing Oslo peace process was also conducted without a settlement freeze. In fact, the Palestinians continued to negotiate through 2008 without ever making a freeze a condition of talks.

So what do the Palestinians hope to accomplish by demanding that Israel freeze all construction not only in the West Bank, but also in their capital, Jerusalem?

Apparently they still hold out hope that the United States and the international community will force Israel to capitulate to all their demands without requiring them to end the conflict with Israel and to agree to a compromise that would lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state that incorporates less than 100 percent of the West Bank and Jerusalem.

The future of Jewish communities in the West Bank is a key issue for Israel and the Palestinians. Because of its sensitivity, it is considered a “final-status issue,” meaning that it needs to be resolved at the end of negotiations not in advance of them.

Moreover, just as the evacuation of Gaza served as a demonstration that it is a myth to suggest that settlements and “occupation” are the obstacle to peace, there is also a historical precedent that disproves the Obama administration’s notation that a settlement freeze will encourage Palestinians to negotiate peace. During the Camp David peace process, Menachem Begin agreed to a three-month settlement freeze in response to Jimmy Carter’s Obama-like belief that settlements were the obstacle to resolving the Palestinian issue. Like Mahmoud Abbas, Yasser Arafat also maligned the Israeli concession and the Palestinians refused to discuss Begin’s proposal for autonomy. It was a catastrophic mistake.

Had the Palestinians accepted autonomy, there is little doubt they would have a state today. In addition, at the time of Camp David, only about 12,000 Jews lived in the West Bank. Because of their intransigence in the last three decades, they have remained stateless while the Jewish population has grown to nearly 300,000.

This unwillingness of the Palestinian Authority to restart negotiations because of settlement construction represents a new tactic to avoid making the tough decisions and sacrifices that will come with any final-status agreement. Some Palestinians believe time is on their side and that their population growth will eventually overwhelm Israel. So far, however, demography has worked against them as the Jewish settler population has grown and, by their own admission, made it more difficult to create a state in all the territory they claim. This situation will only grow worse if Abbas does not take advantage of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s declaration of a 10-month freeze on settlement construction.

“I hope that this decision will help launch meaningful negotiations to reach a historic peace agreement that would finally end the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians,” Netanyahu said.352

By launching this unprecedented moratorium on settlement construction, Israel has removed the Palestinians’ latest excuse for avoiding negotiations. It would be yet another, in a long record of squandered opportunities if Abbas did not immediately return to the table and negotiate a lasting and equitable peace on behalf of his people.

MYTH

Egypt’s blockade of Gaza has provoked international criticism.” top

FACT

Though critics have insisted the international boycott of Hamas is really an Israeli crime against Palestinian civilians in Gaza, Egypt has strongly supported Israel’s efforts to prevent Hamas from obtaining weapons and goods from which the terrorist organization can manufacture rockets to fire at Israeli cities. In fact, Egypt is in the process of building a wall to seal part of the area and prevent smuggling through tunnels under the border. These tunnels are used to bring in weapons and advanced rockets from Iran, which are capable of striking deeper and more accurately into Israel. Palestinian smugglers reap huge profits smuggling weapons, as an assault rifle purchased in Egypt for less than $200 will sell in Gaza for as much as $1,200.353

The Islamic Research Council of Al-Azhar University in Egypt, the voice of Sunni Islam, has publicly supported Egypt’s attempts to destroy the smuggling tunnels that run between the Gaza Strip and Egypt. “It is one of Egypt’s legitimate rights to place a barrier that prevents the harm from the tunnels under Rafah, which are used to smuggle drugs and other (contraband) that threaten Egypt’s stability,” the Council said. “Those who oppose building this wall are violating the commands of Islamic Law.”354

Israelis support Egypt's effort to seal the border and inhibit the ability of Hamas to build up its arsenal. It also has not escaped their notice that international detractors who were so outraged by their construction of a security barrier, and efforts to prevent terror from Gaza, have nothing to say about Egypt’s actions.

MYTH

George Mitchell threatened Israel.” top

FACT

In an interview with Charlie Rose on January 6, 2010, US Middle East Envoy George Mitchell hypothetically explained how the United States can withhold loan guarantees from Israel as a means of applying pressure. He said this in response to a question about what sticks the U.S. could use to try to bring about peace. Mitchell noted this was an option that had been utilized by previous presidents (actually, only George H.W. Bush used the guarantees as a stick), but emphasized the Obama Administration planned a different tactic. “We think the way to approach this is to try and persuade the parties what is in their self interests,” said Mitchell. “And we think we are making progress in that regard, and we are going to continue in that effort and we think the way to do that is to get them into negotiations.”355

During the interview, Mitchell lauded Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s unprecedented 10-month moratorium on new settlement construction in the West Bank.356 With U.S. support, Israel has made significant overtures toward the Palestinian Authority in an effort to restart negotiations. Both the U.S. and Israel are prepared to begin immediately. The hold-up continues to be the Palestinians, who recently insisted on a laundry list of impossible preconditions to resuming negotiations. These unreasonable demands include a complete construction freeze everywhere beyond the Green Line (which includes Israel’s capital, Jerusalem), a starting point of Ehud Olmert’s last offer (which they rejected despite being offered 94% of the West Bank, plus a land swap, passage to a Mediterranean port and Gaza, international control of the Old City and joint control of East Jerusalem), a commitment to withdrawal to the 1949 armistice lines, and a return of the refugees, a refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and a finalization of an agreement within two years.357

While the United States and Israel march in lock-step toward the resumption of peace talks, it is the Palestinian Authority that obstructs a peace agreement by making impossible demands of Israel instead of deliberating with Israelis over the contentious issues. George Mitchell and the Obama Administration have come to recognize that the principal obstacles to a peace agreement are the Palestinian and Arab leaders who have rejected all their carrots.

MYTH

The U.S. is maintaining Israel's qualitative edge.” top

FACT

Beginning with the 1968 Phantom jet sale, the United States adopted a policy of assuring that Israel would have a qualitative military edge over its neighbors. Ten years later that edge began to erode with the decision of Jimmy Carter to sell advanced fighter planes to Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Since that time, even as the United States has continued to provide Israel with advanced weaponry, its advantage has diminished as successive presidents sold increasingly sophisticated systems to Arab states.

Israel has not objected to the sale of arms to Egypt since the Camp David Accords, but the quantity and quality of those sales has become increasingly alarming given that Egypt has consistently directed its war games toward Israel and that President Hosni Mubarak is now in his eighties with no clear successor. While the prospects of a radical change in Egypt’s policy toward Israel is currently viewed as unlikely, it cannot be discounted and therefore makes the continued arming of an Egyptian military that faces no external threats a matter of concern.

While Egypt has signed a peace treaty with Israel, Saudi Arabia has not. For years, the U.S. secretly armed the Saudis and then began to openly provide the kingdom with more and better weapons. Starting with the 1981 sale of AWACS radar planes, the Saudis began to acquire some of America’s most sophisticated weapons sales while at the same time buying advanced systems from countries such as Britain and France.

For years the sales to the Saudis were justified on the grounds that they needed them to defend themselves against the Soviet Union. As Henry Kissinger noted, however, it was hypocritical to suggest that the arms could be effective against the Red Army but pose no threat to Israel.358

After 9/11, new sales were rationalized as necessities for fighting the war on terror even though the principal threat against the kingdom was internal and F-15s and other advanced weapons were useless against al-Qaida. Still, the Bush Administration agreed to the sale of even more advanced F-15 fighter-bombers and laser-guided “smart-bombs”, advanced anti-ship missiles and electronic hardware for aircraft for Saudi Arabia, as well as Egypt and the United Arab Emirates.359 Few people seriously believe these weapons are needed or would be effective in deterring any external threats. In fact, it was the Saudis’ impotence, even after acquiring billions of dollars of arms, that necessitated U.S. forces coming to their rescue in 1991. More recently, arms sales have been made on the pretext of strengthening the Arab states against Iran, which, like Iraq, would have little trouble overrunning its neighbors in the absence of American troops.

The trend has been alarming for a number of years and has now reached a point where Israel is seeking new assurances from the United States that the commitment to Israel’s qualitative edge remains intact. In September 2009, Defense Minister Ehud Barak  visited Washington to discuss the situation and U.S. National Security Advisor James Jones met with Israeli officials in Jerusalem in January 2010 to talk about ensuring Israel’s qualitative edge over its Arab neighbors.

Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, said that once Israel brought the matter up, the Obama Administration took immediate steps to correct the problem. “They said they are going to deal with this matter and ensure that the qualitative edge of the IDF is preserved,” stated Oren. “Since then we have embarked on a dialogue [on preserving the IDF’s qualitative edge].”360

MYTH

The Israelis and Palestinians share equal blame in creating recent obstacles to peace.” top

FACT

In a January 2010 interview with Time, President Obama described his frustrations with the rate of progress in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He said political conditions in both the Israeli and Palestinian governments made it difficult to pursue peace, and that both sides have contributed to stalling of meaningful negotiations. On the Palestinian side, he referred to “Hamas looking over [Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’] shoulder,” and “an environment generally within the Arab world that feels impatient with any process.”361 The Israelis, Obama observed, “showed a willingness to make some modifications in their policies, [but] they still found it very hard to move with any bold gestures.”362

In an effort to show balance, President Obama offered a severely distorted reality of the impediments to the peace process. First, he ignored the history preceding his election and the repeated offers of statehood the Palestinians turned down as recently as the year before. He also downplayed the achievements and steps Israel has taken for peace, including the implementation of a moratorium on settlement construction, the removal of checkpoints and the easing of restrictions on Palestinians in the West Bank. Meanwhile, ignoring all evidence to the contrary, Obama suggested Abbas is interested in peace but excused his obstinance as a result of daunting conditions.

Throughout the year, Netanyahu reiterated his desire to return to negotiations without preconditions, but Abbas has done nothing but stonewall Israel and the United States, refusing to participate in any negotiation until a list of unreasonable preconditions were met.363 In fact, the same week Obama gave his interview, his envoy George Mitchell was meeting with the two leaders. Netanyahu again said that he was prepared to begin talks immediately while Abbas refused to drop his demands.364

Obama began the year pressuring one side, Israel, and that failed to bring the Palestinians or other Arab states to the negotiating table. Now, acknowledging the failure to make progress toward peace, he is blaming both sides rather than admitting his policy was a failure and that it is the Arab leaders who are obstructing the effort to negotiate an agreement the Israeli and Palestinian people seek to end the conflict.

MYTH

Israel is an apartheid state.” top

FACT

Even before the State of Israel was established, Jewish leaders consciously sought to avoid the creation of a segregated society. 

Since the United Nations Conference on Racism in August of 2001, anti-Semites and racists have tried to delegitimize Israel by calling it an apartheid state. Their hope is that this false equation will tar Israel and encourage measures similar to those used against South Africa, such as sanctions and divestment, to be applied to Israel.

The comparison is malicious and insults the South Africans who suffered under apartheid.

The term “apartheid” refers to the official government policy of racial segregation formerly practiced in South Africa. The 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.

  • Whites and nonwhites lived in separate regions of the country.
  • Nonwhites were prohibited from running businesses or professional practices in the white areas without permits.
  • Nonwhites had separate amenities (i.e. beaches, buses, schools, benches, drinking fountains, restrooms).
  • Nonwhites received inferior education, medical care, and other public services.
  • Though they were the overwhelming majority of the population, nonwhites could not vote or become citizens.

By contrast, Israel’s Declaration of Independence called upon the Arab inhabitants of Israel to “participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.”

The 156,000 Arabs within Israel’s borders in 1948 were given citizenship in the new State of Israel. Today, this Arab minority comprises 20% of the population.

It is illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of race and Arab citizens of Israel are represented in all walks of Israeli life. Arabs have served in senior diplomatic and government positions and an Arab currently serves on the Supreme Court.

Israeli Arabs have formed their own political parties and won representation in the Knesset. Arabs are also members of the major Israeli parties. Twelve non-Jews (10 Arabs, two Druze) are members of the Seventeenth Knesset.

Laws dictated where nonwhites could live, work, and travel in South Africa, and the government imprisoned and sometimes killed those who protested against its policies. By contrast, Israel allows freedom of movement, assembly and speech. Some of the government’s harshest critics are Israeli Arabs in the Knesset.

Arab students and professors study, research, and teach at Israeli universities. At Haifa University, the target of British advocates of an academic boycott against Israel, 20 percent of the students are Arabs.

Israeli society is not perfect — discrimination and unfairness exist there as it does in every other country. These differences, however, are nothing like the horrors of the apartheid system. Moreover, when inequalities are identified, minorities in Israel have the right to seek redress through the government and the courts, and progress toward equality has been made over the years.

The situation of Palestinians in the territories is different. While many Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip dispute Israel’s right to exist, nonwhites did not seek the destruction of South Africa, only of the apartheid regime.

Unlike South Africa, where restrictions were racially motivated, Israel is forced by incessant Palestinian terrorism to take actions, such as building checkpoints and the security fence, to protect its citizens. Israel has consistently demonstrated a willingness, however, to ease restrictions when violence subsides.

Beyond limits placed on their ability to attack Israel, roughly 98% of the Palestinians in the territories are governed by the rules of the Palestinian Authority, which do not permit freedom of speech, religion, assembly or other rights taken for granted by Westerners — and guaranteed in Israel.

If Israel were to give Palestinians full citizenship, it would mean the territories had been annexed and the possibility of the creation of a Palestinian state foreclosed. No Israeli government has been prepared to take that step. Instead, Israel seeks a two-state solution predicated on a Palestinian willingness to live in peace.

The clearest refutation of the calumny against Israel comes from the Palestinians themselves. When asked what governments they admire most, more than 80 percent of Palestinians consistently choose Israel because they can see up close the thriving democracy in Israel, and the rights the Arab citizens enjoy there.

“We do not want to create a situation like that which exists in South Africa, where the whites are the owners and rulers, and the blacks are the workers. If we do not do all kinds of work, easy and hard, skilled and unskilled, if we become merely landlords, then this will not be our homeland.”

— David Ben Gurion


“The Israeli regime is not Apartheid. It is a unique case of Democracy.”

—Chief Mangosuthu Buthelezi, South African Interior Minister

MYTH

Israel’s Inclusion of Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs as Jewish Heritage Sites is an attack on Palestinian sovereignty and Islam.” top

FACT

In February 2010, Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Cabinet moved to include Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs in a list of about 150 sites that have significant historical or religious significance for the Jewish people that Israel plans to renovate and preserve in a $107 million project.365 Rachel’s Tomb, located in Bethlehem, and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, are both sites that are also revered by Muslims and Christians.

When the announcement was made, Palestinian Authority leaders cried foul, claiming this was an attempt by Israel to subvert the peace process and steal Palestinian heritage. Hamas strongman Ismail Haniyeh called for another intifada and claimed the project “aims to erase our identity, alter our Islamic monuments and steal our history.”366

As has so often been the case, Israel’s “peace partners” first reaction to any Israeli policy is not to talk but to talk of new war, as PA President Mahmoud Abbas stated that this was Netanyahu's plan to “wreck international efforts at returning to (peace) talks.”367 It is also typical for the Palestinians to object to Israel reminding anyone of the significance of places they prefer to erase from Jewish history.

Netanyahu’s office released a statement that “Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs are burial sites dating from more than 3,500 years ago of Israel’s forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the nation’s foremothers, Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel – and are worthy of preservation and renovation.”368

Countering the propaganda that this was some right-wing measure to undermine peace Nobel Peace Prize Winner and Israeli President Shimon Peres stated that “Israel plans to invest significant amounts in infrastructure that will increase the accessibility of holy sites to all worshippers. By doing so it aims to honor and allow freedom of worship to all, irrespective of their faith, and protect the holy sites. There is no violation of Muslim or Christian religious rights in any holy place.”369

Israel’s only intention in undergoing this expensive renovation of these sites is preserve them, so they may be visited for many years to come. Given the disrespect accorded Jewish holy sites by the Palestinians, it is all the more important to undertake these measures now since most peace plans have envisioned these shrines will ultimately be within the borders of a future Palestinian state.

MYTH

The re-dedication of the Hurva Synagogue is an affront to Palestinians.” top

FACT

On March 14, 2010, The Hurva Synagogue in the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem was re-dedicated. Palestinians used the occasion as a pretext to stir tensions and claim that Israel has designs on the Temple Mount, intends to destroy the Al-Aqsa Mosque and rebuild the ancient Jewish Temple. The incitement provoked violent protests in which Palestinians burned tires and threw rocks in East Jerusalem.370 Lies about Jewish threats to the Temple Mount go back nearly a century and are a proven tactic for rallying Arabs throughout the region against Israel.

U.S. State Department Spokesperson PJ Crowley immediately responded to this latest fabrication: “We are deeply disturbed by statements made by several Palestinian officials mischaracterizing the event in question, which can only serve to heighten the tensions we see. And we call upon Palestinian officials to put an end to such incitement.”371

The Hurva Synagogue was first built in 1701 by Rabbi Judah the Pious and his followers after the previous Ashkenazi synagogue of Jerusalem fell into disrepair. After Rabbi Judah died, the congregation was unable to pay their Muslim creditors, who burned down the Synagogue. It was rebuilt between the years of 1855 and 1864 with support from Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Shklov (a disciple of the Gaon of Vilna), Britain, Austria, Sir Moses Montefiore, the Rothschilds and Jewish communities from around the world. It even had the support of the Ottoman Empire, as its chief architect, Assad Effendi, was commissioned to design the building. The Hurva Synagogue stood until May 1948, when it was packed with explosives and blown up by the Jordanian army.372

The Hurva Synagogue is a house of worship that dates back 300 years. It is not even within sight of the Temple Mount so the renovation had no impact on Muslim shrines. Its re-dedication is a proud moment for Jewish people around the world and should not be twisted by Israel’s detractors into yet another anti-Semitic blood libel meant to prevent peace.

MYTH

The Palestinian Authority promotes a culture of tolerance and peace.” top

FACT

While stoking anti-Israel sentiment in Europe and America by claiming Israelis have no interest in peace, Palestinian leaders promote and embrace a culture of violence in the West Bank and Gaza. The naming of a square after terrorist Dalal Mughrabi, who murdered 37 Israeli civilians (including one American photographer Gail Rubin), made headlines in January 2010, however it represents but one example of a dark cultural trend of Palestinian leadership glorifying terrorists and acts of murder. When confronted about the naming of Mughrabi Square, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas unconscionably compared it to the Israelis naming a road after an Israeli victim of terror.373

Palestinian leaders regularly honor individuals who have died while committing acts of terror against Israeli civilians. Since December 2009, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salam Fayyad has visited the families of no less than five terrorists responsible for the murder or attempted murder of Israelis.374 Mahmoud Abbas has unabashedly glorified terrorism. In December 2009, he threw Dalal Mughrabi a memorial birthday party and has supported her veneration among Palestinians.375 On March 6, 2010, Abbas promoted terrorist mastermind Mahmoud Damra to the rank of Major-General. Damra planned terrorist attacks that left scores of Israelis and three Americans dead and has been serving a prison sentence in Israel since 2006.376

On April 7, 2010, the Palestinian Authority announced it would name its presidential offices in Ramallah after Hamas’ most notorious bomb-maker, Yahya Ayyash – a man whose bombs murdered hundreds  of Israeli men, women and children, before he was brought to justice by Israeli security forces.377

The glorification of terrorists is part of the culture of violence in the Palestinian Territories and a form of incitement that violates agreements signed by the Palestinians. More troubling is the impact these expressions of hatred for Jews and Israelis must be having on Palestinian youth. Imagine being taught that the way to achieve acclaim is not by statesmanship or making contributions to the betterment of humanity through science or the arts, but through the murder of innocents. How is a lasting peace plausible when Palestinian children are taught to glorify death this way?

"All these reports about [the Palestinian Authority] recognizing Israel are false. It's all media nonsense. We don't ask other factions to recognize Israel because we in Fatah have never recognized Israel ... [Fatah] will never relinquish the armed struggle no matter how long the occupation continues."

— Rafik Natsheh, Palestinian Authority Minister/Chairman Fatah Disciplinary Court 377a

 

MYTH

The flotilla bound for Gaza was on a humanitarian mission.” top

FACT

Israel and Egypt have imposed an embargo on the importation of weapons and certain dual-use items into the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, Israel has allowed regular convoys of humanitarian supplies into Gaza, provided Palestinians access to medical care, continued to provide most of Gaza’s electricity, and transferred funds for the ongoing activity of international organizations and to pay the salaries of Palestinian Authority workers. Photos that appeared in a Palestinian newspaper showed bustling marketplaces full of consumer goods and fruits and vegetables.378

Hamas has nevertheless allied with various critics of Israel to promote the idea of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza for the purpose of embarrassing Israel and stimulating international pressure on Jerusalem to end its blockade. The latest provocation involved the mobilization of a flotilla of ships, which was advertised as an aid mission, but behaved in a manner that showed their true interest was to achieve a propaganda victory through a public confrontation with Israeli forces.

In the days before the ships left Turkey, the Israeli government informed the organizers of the mission that they would not be allowed to enter Gaza because it was a closed military zone. They were told that they would be welcome to dock in the Israeli port city of Ashdod where, after inspection to ensure no weapons or prohibited articles were included in the cargo, the goods would be handed over to the UN for delivery to Palestinians in Gaza. The organizers of the mission refused. They made clear that this mission was not about delivering aid, but was in fact a political demonstration to “break the siege on Gaza.”379

One of the organizations that organized this “humanitarian mission” is a radical Islamic, Turkish organization called IHH. This organization has publicly supported al-Qaeda and has ties to Hamas, the terrorist organization that has taken control of the Gaza Strip, calls for the destruction of Israel, and launched thousands of rockets and mortars onto Israeli civilians.

When six ships approached Israeli waters off the coast of Gaza in the early hours of May 31, 2010, Israeli naval forces met them in international waters. The ships were again told that they would not be allowed to sail to Gaza. If they attempted to continue on their course, they were informed they would be boarded and redirected to Ashdod.

When confronted with the Israeli naval blockade, five of the six ships complied and sailed on to Ashdod after being boarded by Israeli naval personnel. As an Israeli journalist witnessed, and videos confirmed, when Israeli naval personnel boarded the Mavi Marmara, however, they were ambushed by passengers on deck, wielding clubs, bats, pipes, and knives.380 The naval forces that boarded the ship, carrying non-lethal paintball guns as their primary weapons, were savagely beaten. Though they were carrying live-ammunition handguns as their secondary weapons, they were instructed not to use them, unless met with deadly force. The passengers wrestled one of the Naval commandos to the ground, stripped him of his handgun and threw him over the side, where he landed on a lower deck, 30 feet below, and suffered serious head trauma. At this point the commandos asked for permission to open fire if attacked. They fired on passengers who attacked them, some of whom had handguns that they had taken from commandos. One passenger opened fire with a rifle. Only after 30 minutes of melee and gunfire was exchanged, were the Israelis able to get to the bridge and take control of the ship.381 Nine passengers were killed in the fighting and seven Israeli soldiers were wounded.

It is clear the purpose of this mission was not to deliver goods to Gaza, but rather to initiate a violent confrontation with Israel. As the flotilla left Turkey, the passengers chanted songs about reaching martyrdom and the murder of Jews.382 On May 27, Greta Berlin, a spokesperson for the flotilla stated that “this mission is not about delivering humanitarian supplies, it is about breaking Israel’s siege.”383 Israeli soldiers found crates of weapons aboard that ship from which passengers armed themselves in preparation of Israelis coming aboard.

Israel’s soldiers sought to avoid a confrontation from the outset by offering to take the aid from the ships and make sure it reached the Palestinians. They also took every precaution to try to avoid violence and none transpired on five of the six ships; it was only in response to being attacked and their own lives put in danger that the soldiers responded with live fire. Tragically, lives were lost, but this could have been easily avoided if the passengers had not attempted to lynch Israel’s soldiers. Whether Israel could have handled the situation differently, or been better prepared for an ambush, were questions raised by Israelis immediately after the incident. There is no doubt, however, about the necessity of preventing Hamas from obtaining weapons through unfettered access to the Gaza Strip.

If a flotilla of ships from a foreign nation showed up on America’s shores with humanitarian aid for impoverished Americans, it would not be allowed to simply land anywhere it wanted and unload its cargo. The ships would probably also be stopped by the U.S. Navy and its cargo certainly inspected. Israel has even greater justification for its  naval embargo, as Israel and Hamas are in an ongoing state of conflict. International law provides for the right to impose and enforce an embargo and to do so, if necessary, from international waters.384 Smugglers have often tried to bring weapons to Hamas by way of the sea and Israel has the right to prevent this. The embargo is literally a matter of life and death for Israel, whose citizens endured three years of rocket and mortar attacks which originated in Gaza, perpetrated by Hamas.

“If Hamas were in Canada, America would have a tougher blockade than Israel has. ”

— Rep. Barney Frank385

MYTH

The naval blockade of Gaza does not affect Hamas and only hurts innocent civilians.” top

FACT

Since the incident aboard the Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010, in which nine passengers were killed after attacking a boarding party of Israeli naval commandos, Israel has come under increasing international pressure to lift its naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. Despite the furor, all the regional players continue to support the policy of preventing Hamas’ ability to import goods, and potentially weapons, without restriction. In June 2010, Yuval Diskin, head of the Shin Bet, stated that lifting the blockade would endanger Israel, giving Hamas a new route by which to smuggle weapons. By Diskin’s estimate, Hamas has already stockpiled 5,000 rockets. An end to the blockade would give Iran an open door through which it could send Hamas additional weapons, including rockets with greater range and accuracy. Hamas already has the capability of reaching the suburbs of Tel Aviv;  an end to the blockade would give  Iran the opportunity to deliver rockets that could place Israel’s population centers in jeopardy.386

Egypt is equally committed to the blockade. Egypt shares a six-mile border with Gaza and has significantly stepped up its efforts to prevent the smuggling of weapons and money headed to Hamas. Egypt’s efforts are beginning to have a serious effect on Hamas. While domestic goods are smuggled easily through the tunnels under the border, Iran and other supporters of Hamas have had difficulty smuggling money to Hamas’ strongmen, creating a cash-flow crisis for the terrorist organization. Hamas has begun to levy additional taxes on the Palestinians of Gaza, creating some pushback from Palestinians and driving a wedge further between the interests of the people of Gaza and the Hamas leadership.387

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas voiced his support of the blockade to U.S. President Barack Obama when they met at the White House on June 9, 2010. Abbas stated that lifting the blockade would give Hamas access to more weaponry. Though he supported the idea of an increase in the types of goods Israel allowed into Gaza, he advocated making changes to Israel’s policy slowly, so that it could not be interpreted as a victory for Hamas.388

Israel has said all along it does not want to punish the people of Gaza and has been gradually loosening the restrictions on what it permits into the area. The government has indicated it intends to provide even more assistance in the future.

Israel’s government announced it will investigate why five ships were peacefully brought to Ashdod and their cargo unloaded and forwarded to Gaza while one ship’s passengers provoked a confrontation. Meanwhile, the unfortunate events at sea did not change any of the facts on the ground and should not be allowed to trigger a knee-jerk reversal of a policy that is saving Israeli lives. The necessity of the blockade was obvious shortly after the uproar over the flotilla when Hamas launched a series of rockets into Israel. Hamas remains an Islamic terrorist organization, backed by Iran, which is less interested in the creation of a Palestinian state than the destruction of a Jewish one.

MYTH

UNIFIL has kept the peace in southern Lebanon.” top

FACT

In 1978, the United Nations Security Council ratified Resolutions 425 and 426, which simultaneously called upon Israel to withdraw from Lebanese territory and created a UN force “for the purpose of confirming the withdrawal of Israeli forces, restoring international peace and security and assisting the Government of Lebanon in ensuring the return of its effective authority in the area.”389

The UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) has now been stationed in southern Lebanon since 1978. Since its arrival, UNIFIL’s mission has been threefold: prevent attacks on Israel, support the established Lebanese government and, lastly, to keep peace, an objectively difficult task in the fractious region that has been dominated in the past by terrorist organizations and paramilitary forces such as the PLO, the Southern Lebanon Army and Hezbollah. For most of its history, UNIFIL has either failed to prevent conflict or has stood by silently as terrorists have built up arsenals that enabled them to start or renew violent attacks against Israel. Under UNIFIL’s “watchful” eye, southern Lebanon has served as the staging ground for terrorist attacks on Israel which have provoked two wars each of which could have been averted if the peacekeepers had done their job.

After the 2006 war provoked by Hezbollah attacks on Israel and the abduction of three of its soldiers, UNIFIL’s failure became clear to everyone. Rather than abandon the idea of a toothless international force to keep the peace, however, the UN decided to employ a similar force with a slightly expanded mandate.  In passing UN Security Council Resolution 1701, the UN called for a larger UNIFIL contingent of up to 15,000 troops.390 Once again, Israel was promised that its security would be enhanced. U.S. officials said Lebanon would require a “robust” force to prevent Hezbollah from reestablishing itself near Israel’s border and to prevent the terrorists from being rearmed by Syria and Iran.391 The UN also reasserted its insistence that Hezbollah be disarmed and the only force with weapons should be the official Lebanese Army.

Four years later, it is again apparent UNIFIL is not only failing in its mission but may actually be doing precisely the opposite of peacekeeping by enabling Hezbollah to become an even greater threat to the stability of both Lebanon and Israel than it was before 2006. In fact, Hezbollah is currently better armed and more equipped than ever before. In October 2009, Israeli intelligence forces estimated that Hezbollah had stockpiled between 40,000 and 80,000 rockets and missiles for use against Israel.392 In April 2010, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates stated that “Syria and Iran are providing Hezbollah with so many rockets that they are at a point where they have more missiles than most governments in the world.”393 UNIFIL has operated so ineptly that the situation in southern Lebanon is more dangerous and explosive than it has ever been. Under its watch, Hezbollah grew from a small and battered terrorist organization into a military force that has co-opted the Lebanese government and poses a growing  threat to Israel.

UNIFIL has proven itself so tragically inept and it is even incapable of policing the local civilian population. On July 3, 2010, a French patrol of UNIFIL peacekeepers were disarmed by local villagers armed only with rocks, sticks and eggs.394 This apparently is not an uncommon occurrence in Lebanon. If a UN peacekeeping force cannot defend itself from a pack of local villagers weilding nothing more potent than sticks and rocks, how can we expect it to fair against the best armed terrorist organization in the world?

MYTH

Palestinian Authority leaders have a mandate from the people to pursue peace.” top

FACT

President Mahmoud Abbas’ term as President of the Palestinian Authority expired in January 2009. Elections have not been held since Hamas forcibly took over the Gaza Strip in 2007. Salaam Fayyad has an even more dubious claim to his job as Prime Minister. Fayyad’s Third Way Party won only two parliamentary seats in the 2006 elections which has now reduced to one since his other party member, Hanan Ashrawi, left the party.  Fayyad was appointed to the position under heavy pressure from the United States and Europe because he was viewed as a moderate and a reformer.395 Even as he has taken steps to make the PA more fiscally responsible and begun to build the infrastructure for a state, Fayyad has remained more popular abroad than among his own constituenets, the Palestinian people. This fact was reflected by a poll in January 2010 that gave him only 8% of the vote in a hypothetical run for Palestinian Authority President.396

Abbas, on the other hand, does not even have the support of the governing body of his own party. The PLO Executive Committee (which itself is comprised of 18 un-elected but influential political players) gathered to approve Abbas' direct negotiations with Israel yet only nine members of the committee showed up for the meeting- well short of the 12 required by the PLO constitution to approve of Abbas’ participation.397 Additionally, no public record exists of Abbas receiving approval to negotiate from Fatah, the dominant faction in the PLO, whose central council is viewed with heightened suspicion by Palestinians after a 2009 election left it packed with Abbas supporters.398

The legitimacy of the PA negotiators is further weakened by the fact that Hamas controls the Gaza Strip, home to about 40 percent of the Palestinians in the territories. Hamas, meanwhile, has made no secret of its opposition to any compromise with Israel or any acceptance of its right to exist.

These questions of legitimacy make it difficult for Israeli negotiators who seek to reach a compromise with the Palestinians but have to feel confident that such an agreement can be enforced on the ground. In addition to doubts about the support Abbas has from the Palestinian people, Israelis also worry about his ability to fulfill the terms of any deal he might sign. He cannot guarantee peace so long as he has no control of the Gaza Strip; moreover, the terrorist attacks carried out in the West Bank during the Washington summit raised significant doubts about his control over the area in which he is supposed to have authority.

Despite these concerns with Abbas’ willingness and ability to reach and enforce a deal, Israel is negotiating with him in good faith with the hope that achieving an agreement might enable him to win the support that he now lacks of the Palestinian people .

MYTH

Ending the moratorium on settlement construction is designed to torpedo peace negotiations.” top

FACT

Contrary to claims that a settlement freeze is required for Israel-Palestinian talks, a moratorium on construction has never before been a precondition for  peace talks.  When Israel and the Palestinians began their secret talks in Oslo in 1992, the PLO did so without first demanding a settlement freeze.  The ensuing Oslo peace process was also conducted without a settlement freeze.  In fact, Palestinian leaders negotiated with Israel through 2008 without ever making a construction freeze a pre-condition for talks.

The 10-month construction freeze imposed by Benjamin Netanyahu in November 2009 was in place for nearly nine months before Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas finally agreed to sit down with Netanyahu, Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to discuss  the terms of negotiation.  Just before the expiration of the freeze,  the Palestinians warned  they would walk out of the talks if construction resumed.399

 Abbas apparently wants to set up Israel as the cause of any breakdown in talks. He may also hope the Obama administration is so determined to achieve peace that it will pressure Israel to impose new restrictions on settlements without the Palestinians having to make any concessions. In fact, the Palestinians act as though showing up for negotiations is a major compromise.

The settlements were never before an obstacle to negotiations and need not be one now. Refusing to talk will not hurt Israel; in fact, it will only lead to the growth of settlements and delay steps toward Palestinian independence.

MYTH

Renewed settlement construction in the West Bank proves Israel is uninterested in peace.” top

FACT

The empirical evidence of the last six decades has shown that settlements are not an obstacle to peace; nevertheless, Israel has responded to American calls for moratoriums in the hope of enticing the Palestinians to agree to peace.  

Most people have forgotten that Menachem Begin agreed to a three-month settlement freeze during the Camp David negotiations because Jimmy Carter mistakenly believed this would convince the Palestinians to discuss the proposal to give them autonomy.  Had they agreed, the Palestinians would have likely stopped the growth of settlements at a time when the population in the territories was about 6,000. The Palestinians, instead, rejected the idea and refused to talk to Israel for more than a decade during which time the settlement population grew to more than 100,000. By contrast, when Egypt agreed to peace with Israel all of the settlements in Sinai were evacuated.

The Oslo accords signed by the Palestinians did not require Israel to stop building settlements. The Palestinians continued to negotiate even as Israel expanded the communities in the territories. In fact, settlements were not an impediment to talks until President Obama demanded that Israel freeze construction.  

Unwittingly, the president undermined his objective of promoting peace talks by setting a condition that the Palestinians themselves had never imposed. In fact, just a year earlier, the Palestinians were in direct talks with then-Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, though they eventually also rejected his proposal to create a Palestinian state in nearly 93% of the West Bank.400 Once Obama made settlements the issue, it was impossible for the Palestinians to be less demanding than the United States.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu ultimately agreed in November 2009 to a 10-month settlement freeze with the expectation that the Palestinians would immediately sit down to negotiate. Instead, the Palestinians refused to enter talks for the first nine months of the freeze. It was only when the moratorium was about to expire, and the Palestinians were afraid to refuse the invitation of President Obama to a peace summit, that they agreed to participate in bilateral negotiations. Before the talks even began, however, the Palestinians threatened to walk out if Israel resumed building in the West Bank or Jerusalem.

Israel had made clear from the outset that the moratorium would last for only 10 months. Now Israel is being pressured to extend the freeze to keep the Palestinians from walking out, but this essentially gives them the power to blackmail Israel indefinitely. If Israel gives in to pressure and extends the freeze for, say, two months, then what is to keep the Palestinians from renewing their threat at that time? The tactic will allow them to prevent Israel from providing for the needs of its citizens without ever conceding anything. By rewarding Palestinian intransigence, the belief is reinforced that Israel can be coerced to capitulate to their demands, a delusion that damages the prospects for peace.

MYTH

Israel has instituted a racist loyalty oath requiring immigrants to pledge allegiance to Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state.” top

FACT

In October 2010, the Israeli cabinet proposed the adoption of an oath of allegiance for new immigrants who wish to settle in the country. If adopted, all those seeking to become naturalized citizens- both Jews and non-Jews- will have to explicitly pledge an oath of allegiance to the State of Israel as a “Jewish and democratic state” while also promising to “honor the laws of the state.”401 No changes to existing laws have been implemented as yet and since the idea of requiring an oath with such language is controversial in Israel it is likely to be revised during the deliberative process in the Knesset. The new oath may not even be approved at all because the characterization and recognition of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state is already deeply embedded in the country's 1948 Declaration of Independence, 1992 “Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty” and, as Hebrew University law professor Ruth Gavison notes, in the "understanding of most of the people who live [in Israel]".402

Although the proposed law instructs immigrants to officially declare and recognize Israel as a Jewish state, it does not stipulate a requirement for being Jewish in order to receive citizenship.  Israel has never put restrictions on what religion its citizens choose to follow and assures freedom of religion within Israel as a matter of law.403 Moreover, the oath will not affect current Israeli citizens or those who acquire Israeli citizenship through birth, thus allaying many fears within Israel’s various Arab communities that their children would have to pledge allegiance to a “Jewish state.”   

Syrian President Assad as well as Arab members of Israel’s parliament have suggested the oath is a “fascist act” and cements Israel as a “racist country.”404 In truth, the expectation that immigrants swear an oath to their new homeland is not unusual; check, for example, the requirements of citizenship in the U.S. and other Western countries.

Consider also the preamble to the Palestinian Basic Law, as well as the Hamas Charter, which both assert that Palestine is part of the “Arab world” and that “Islam is its official religion.”405  Standing in stark contrast to the broad ranging religious freedoms granted to all citizens in Israel, non-Muslims are not accorded equal rights in the Palestinian Authority or any other Muslim country in the Middle East.

From its inception Israel has been a Jewish state without compromising the rights and freedoms of its citizens, regardless of ethnicity or religion. The proposed oath will ensure that any immigrant who voluntarily chooses to move to Israel in the future will understand the essential connection between the Jewish people and the State of Israel. The oath has not yet been instituted into law and, in the end, the decision on whether it is necessary or desirable will be determined through the democratic processes of Israel's government.

"It is not wise or right to say that the proposal is fascist or anti-democratic. It is not.... The law may be an indication of an undesirable process, but the labels of 'antidemocratic' and 'fascist' are not helpful."

—Ruth Gavison, Hebrew University 406



"We expect anyone wishing to become an Israeli citizen to recognize Israel as the Jewish nation state and a democratic state... The State of Israel was not established as 'just another state'- it was founded as the sovereign state of the Jewish people in their historic homeland; and as a democratic nation, whose citizens, Jews and non-Jews, enjoy full civil equality."

—Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister407

MYTH

The Palestinians can pressure Israel to neogtiate on their terms by unilaterally declaring statehood.” top

FACT

Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad announced in early 2010 his intention to declare an independent Palestinian state in the summer of 2011 irrespective of whether or not a peace agreement is signed with Israel. Angered by Israel’s unwillingness to capitulate to demands for an extended settlement moratorium, the Palestinian Authority is now threatening to seek recognition by the UN of a Palestinian state based on the 1949 armistice lines (i.e., the pre-1967 frontier).408  While some nations have expressed a willingness to support such a move, the United States does not and remains committed to a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.409  Moreover, without US backing it is unlikely a Palestinian state would receive international recognition.

A unilateral declaration of statehood would be more likely to harden Israeli attitudes than to encourage concessions.  Such a move would demonstrate the Palestinians are not prepared to end the conflict and would actually force Israel to take measures that would ensure the security of its citizens.  For example, instead of evacuating the settlements- a foreseen outcome of peace talks- Israel would have to fortify these communities and defend them, as the Jews living there, as citizens of Israel, would remain the responsibility of the state.

Likewise, without an agreement on security matters, the Israeli Defense Forces would remain in place in the West Bank to defend the country.  If a terror attack or any other threat to Israeli security were to emanate from the newly declared state, Israel would be justified to retaliate and to take whatever other measures are required for its self-defense.  Furthermore, Israel would have no incentive to make any concessions on other issues, such as water, or to negotiate any change in the status of Jerusalem, which would remain the undivided capital of Israel regardless of any Palestinian declarations.  Israel would in fact be within its own rights to prevent Palestinians, who would be foreign nationals, from entering any part of Israel, including Jerusalem, without proper documentation.

Additionally, international recognition of “Palestine” is not an assurance.410  Some nations may be reluctant to grant recognition because of the precedent it would set for other people aspiring for independence.  When Kosovo pulled away from Serbia in 2008, for example, neither China nor Russia supported the Kosovar independence because of fears that their approval might pave the way for Tibet and Chechnya to pursue a similar strategy.411  Other countries, especially the United States and the United Kingdom, may also oppose recognition because it would suggest they are unable to resolve the conflict through negotiations which would damage their state-building credibility.

Rather than end the conflict, the goal of negotiations, unilateral actions by the Palestinians could exacerbate and prolong a dispute that has already gone on far too long.

"There is no substitute for face-to-face discussion and, ultimately, for an agreement that leads to a just and lasting peace That is the only path that will lead to the fulfillment of the Palestinian national aspirations and the necessary outcome of two states for two peoples.... Nor is it viable to build the institutions of a future state without the negotiations that will ultimately create it."

—Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State412

MYTH

Israel cannot be both a democratic state and a Jewish state.” top

FACT

The uproar over Israel’s proposed loyalty oath for new immigrants has sparked renewed debate over whether Israel’s insistence on being a “Jewish state” violates the principles of western democracy.  Critics claim that by identifying the country with Jewish symbols, such as the Star of David or menorah, having its national anthem relate to the Jewish yearning for a “return to Zion” and granting Jews automatic citizenship through the Law of Return, Israel is verging on theocratic ideals and rudely affronts its non-Jewish citizens.  Israel is not a theocracy, however; it is governed by the rule of law as drafted by a democratically elected parliament and enforced by a highly praised judicial system

Israeli law adheres to many Jewish religious customs and is largely informed by Jewish values, but this structure makes it no different than other democracies that shape themselves around Christian or Islamic traditions.  The Greek constitution outlines the country as an Eastern Orthodox state; Christian crosses don the flags of Switzerland, Sweden and Finland; the monarchs of the UK, Norway and Denmark head their respective national churches. 413  In addition, Ireland has a law allowing immigrants of “Irish descent or Irish associations” to be exempt from ordinary naturalization rules while Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany and a number of other democratic states also have precedents strikingly similar to Israel's Law of Return. No one, though, claims that these countries cannot be democratic while also maintaining strong connections with their national heritage and religious core.

Israel is the prototypical “ethnic democracy”, wherein Jews account for a majority of the population, but its democratic foundation grants all faiths freedom of worship, protects the rights of minorities and allows non-Jews the right to run for government offices and fully participate in political processes.414 Israeli law also grants freedom of the press and freedom to assemble for all citizens, thrives off of open political debate and welcomes immigrants without racial discrimination. In fact, Israel is the largest per-capita immigrant-absorbing nation in the world with citizens hailing from more than 100 different countries and representing more than six distinct ethnic and religious groups.415

At its core, democracy is “rule of the people, by the people, for the people”, and it is therefore understandable that democracy would look slightly different as the shared history, culture and traditions of people differ from one country to the next.  Just as Arabs, Turks or Japanese people, Jews have the right to self-determination in their own sovereign state.  Israel is that sovereign homeland of the Jewish people and it is also democratic, tenets that are not inherently oxymoronic or contradictory.

"In accordance with the resolutions of the United Nations, the State of Israel is a Jewish state. In accordance with the basic principles on which it was established, the State of Israel is a democracy. There is no contradiction between Israel's character as a Jewish state and its character as a democracy. The existence of a Jewish state does not contravene democratic values, nor does it in any way infringe on the principle of freedom or the principle of civic equality."

— "The Kinneret Agreement", The Committee for National Responsibility 469

 

MYTH

The UN helps preserve Jewish holy sites located in the Palestinian territories.” top

FACT

In a move derided as “absurd” by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) voted overwhelmingly to officially declare Hebron’s Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem as Palestinian mosques- with no mention of the sites’ significance to the Jewish people.  In late October, the UNESCO executive board approved five politically-charged decisions about holy sites in Israel and the Palestinian territories and, in a vote of 44 to 1 with 12 abstentions, affirmed these two specific sites as “an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territories and that any unilateral action by the Israel authorities is to be considered a violation of international law.”416  By completely ignoring thousands of years of Jewish legacy and heritage, the United Nations has proven once again that it is a hostage of the anti-Israel voting bloc and makes decisions based on politics rather than facts.

The decision by the UN body in charge of preserving and protecting the world’s historical sites comes as a delight to the Palestinians who themselves refuse to acknowledge the Jewish people’s connection with the land of Israel.  Earlier this year, when Netanyahu’s cabinet decided to include the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb on a planned ‘Jewish Heritage Trail,’ both the Palestinian Authority and Hamas cried foul and claimed the decision aimed “to erase [Palestinian] identity, alter Islamic monuments and steal [Palestinian] history.”417  Robert Serry, the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East, noted at the time that he “was concerned over this proclamation” since those sites “are on Palestinian territory and bear importance not only to Judaism but in Islam as well.”418

While the Israeli plan was meant simply to ensure that the connection between the Jewish people and their biblical holy sites would be maintained, the UN’s recent decision blatantly disregards and attempts to erase Jewish claims to the areas.  Unlike their earlier response to Israel’s announcement, neither Serry nor any UNESCO official made a statement regarding the sites’ dual significance to Islam and Judaism.

This is not the first time the UN has shown disregard for the heritage of the Jewish people. In 2000, the UN failed to condemn the Palestinians for destroying and desecrating two Jewish holy sites - Joseph’s Tomb in Nablus and the “Shalom al-Israel” synagogue in Jericho – yet adopted a resolution denouncing Israel for its archeological digs in East Jerusalem and the Temple Mount.419

Whether one is in favor of Jewish settlements in the disputed territories or not, it is an undeniable fact that this geographical area was the cradle of Jewish biblical history.  The UN decision has reinforced the view that it acts with bias and malice toward Israel and, therefore, has no constructive role to play in promoting Middle East peace.

"The attempt to separate the nation of Israel from its cultural heritage is absurd... If the places where the fathers and mothers of the Jewish nation- Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Leah and Rachel- are buried some 4,000 years ago, are not part of the Jewish heritage, then what is? It is unfortunate that an organization that was established with the goal of promoting the cultural preservation of historical sites around the world, is attempting to uproot the connection between the nation of Israel and its cultural heritage."

—Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister 420


"It is deeply troubling that UNESCO allowed itself to be manipulated by ignoring Jewish and Islamic tradition and buying into the new Palestinian claim from 1996 that Rachel’s Tomb should be named for Muhammad’s slave, Bilal ibn Ribah, who was buried in Damascus."

—Dore Gold, Former Israeli Ambassador to the UN 421

MYTH

“Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is a moderate interested in compromise.” top

FACT

The definition of “moderate” is relative. Compared to Hamas, Hizbullah and Ahmadinejad, for example, Abbas can be viewed as a moderate since he explicitly negotiates with Israel. Abbas, however, has expressed no true willingness to compromise on any substantive issue, balks at true peace efforts and vehemently spews anti-Israel rhetoric that has significantly hampered the peace process in the past.

In November 2010, Abbas spoke at the sixth annual memorial service for Yasser Arafat and definitively announced that he will continue to tow the hard line agenda of his mentor and predecessor.422 Arafat, the Palestinian leader who died in 2004, is considered one of the fathers of Palestinian terrorism.   Abbas is holding to Arafat’s policies of declaring Jerusalem the capital of Palestine; requiring Israeli withdrawal from all settlements; demanding the full right of return for Palestinian refugees and their descendants; and refusing to acknowledge the Jewish character of the State of IsraelAbbas also publicly glorifies Palestinian martyrs and allows Holocaust denial to spread in official Palestinian sources.

On the issue of Jerusalem, Abbas maintains that the city will be the capital of a future Palestinian state. “At the Camp David summit, the Palestinian leadership rejected an Israeli proposal to share sovereignty,” he said in 2005, “We continue to reject this offer. We cannot compromise on Jerusalem.”423 In an interview with the Washington Post in 2007, Abbas declared, “I have always said that East Jerusalem is an occupied territory. We have to restore it.”424 Again in 2010, he said that “the Arab city of Jerusalem, including its holy sites, is an integral part” of the future Palestinian state.425

On the subject of Israel’s 2005 disengagement from Gaza, Abbas insisted that “The withdrawal from Gaza must only be part of other withdrawals…. Israel must pull out of all Palestinian lands occupied in 1967.”426 He reiterated again in a letter to Presidents Obama and Medvedev in 2010 that “the shortest way to peace is ending the Israeli occupation of all territory… including Jerusalem, occupied Syrian Arab Golan Heights and the remaining Lebanese territories.”427 Abbas refuses to acknowledge Israeli security concerns that would stem from a complete withdrawl and is categorically opposed to land-swap deals to allay those fears.

With regards to the Palestinian refugeesright of return”, Abbas has been staunch in his view that he will not compromise.428  According to Abbas, there are 4.7 million Palestinians refugees to whom the right of return must be conferred.  “We will never forget the rights of the refugees,” Abbas said, “They will eventually gain their rights, and the day will come when the refugees return home.”429. In November 2010, the Fatah Revolutionary Council praised Abbas for standing up to pressure and maintaining his position on the Palestinian right of return. 429a

Though Abbas negotiates with Israel he rejects its raison d’etre as a Jewish state.  Speaking to the Palestinian youth parliament in 2009, Abbas declared his refusal to recognize Israel's Jewish character saying, “Call yourselves what you want, but I will not accept it… The ‘Jewish State’… I will not accept it.” 430 Abbas backed that statement again in September 2010, when he told members of the Hadash party it was an “unacceptable demand” that he recognize Israel as a Jewish state.431  

Abbas is also supposed to have forsworn terror, but in February 2008, he told the Jordanian paper al-Dustur that he did not rule out returning to the path of armed “resistance” against Israel. In fact, his reason for not currently engaging in “armed struggle” is not because he has disavowed terror, but simply because he doesn’t believe the Palestinians can achieve their objectives without a coalition.  As he told the Arab League in July 2010, “If you want war, and will fight Israel [with us], we are in favor.” 432 Additionally, Abbas was one of the founders of the Fatah terrorist group and, in February 2008, he proudly claimed credit for initiating the terror campaign against Israel. “I had the honor of firing the first shot in 1965 and of being the one who taught resistance,” Abbas said. The PA president even takes credit for training Hizbullah- “We had the honor of leading the resistance and we taught resistance to everyone, including Hizbullah.” 433 The daily newspaper of the Palestinian Authority, Al Hayat Al Jadida, whose budget is supplied by Abbas, has praised, honored and even eulogized martyred terrorists. The paper, for example, praised the Palestinian who murdered eight youths in a Jerusalem school in 2008, referring to him as having achieved Islamic martyrdom.  In 2010, Abbas eulogized the mastermind behind the massacre at the 1972 Munich Olympics in which 11 Israeli athletes were murdered as “a leading figure in resistance and sincere work” who “sacrificed for his people’s just causes.”434

Like Ahmadinejad, Abbas also allows Holocaust denial to spread under his watch. The official PA media outlet airs programs where Palestinian academics teach that Auschwitz and Dachau “never existed” and the Palestinian Ministry of Education produces schoolbooks which teach the history of World War II yet completely ignores the Holocaust and the extermination of six million Jews. 435

On the issues, Abbas is no moderate.  Israel has no illusions about Abbas and from the time he took over for Arafat has expressed skepticism that any agreements could be reached with a man who has shown neither the will nor the ability to carry out any of his promises. Nevertheless, Israeli leaders understand he is the only interlocutor they presently have and are willing to pursue negotiations in the hope that Abbas will eventually moderate his views and compromise on the issues required to reach an agreement.

"Yasser Arafat cleaved to the permanent national rights that cannot be diminished...We state today, we will not deviate one iota from the principles of Yasser Arafat and his objectives."

—Mahmoud Abbas, Palestinian Authority President436

MYTH

“Israel is the only country in the Middle East that feels threatened by Iran's nuclear ambitions.” top

FACT

In light of the thousands of secret documents and cables released by the whistle-blowing site WikiLeaks in late November 2010, it is clear that Israel is neither alone in its concern over the Iranian government’s budding nuclear weapons program nor in its desire to see that program destroyed.  Western media outlets have consistently harped on Israel’s deep concerns over the Iranian march toward becoming a nuclear power, however much of the Arab world also feel threatened by Iran and harbor similar, if not more extreme, views towards confronting Iran’s nuclear ambitions. 

While most nations in the Arab world continue to state publicly that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the greatest threat to the region, the WikiLeaks cables tell a different story.  The leaked documents, many of which detail meetings between U.S. diplomats and high-ranking officials in Arab governments, expose how many Arab states in the Middle East feel threatened by the prospect of a nuclear Tehran and are advocating for military action.  As Mustafa El-Labbad, director of the Al-Sharq Center for Regional and Strategic Studies in Cairo, notes, WikiLeaks unveiled to the world that “the official stance in the Middle East, led by Saudi Arabia and including Egypt, Jordan, UAE and Bahrain is that Iran and not Israel poses the main threat to the region.”437

In a meeting with top U.S. military commanders in 2008, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia allegedly exhorted the US to “cut off the head of the snake” by launching military strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities.438  Another leaked cable detailed a 2009 meeting at the U.S. Embassy in Bahrain in which King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa argued “forcefully for taking action to terminate [Iran’s] nuclear program, by whatever means necessary.”439  This view is shared by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed bin Zayed, who proposed using “ground forces” to “take out all locations of concern” in Iran if air power alone would not be successful. 440 The Kingdom of Jordan also views Iran as a threat to the entire Middle East.  Referring to the Shia Muslim-majority nation, Jordanian officials told the U.S., “It is an octopus whose tentacles reach out insidiously to manipulate, foment, and undermine the best laid plan of regional moderates… Iran’s tentacles include its allies Qatar and Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in the Palestinian territories.” 441 WikiLeaks documents also revealed that an Egyptian intelligence chief told the U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff that Egypt would cooperate with the U.S. if they confront Iran, a claim reverberated by Egyptian President Mubarak who said, “No one will accept a nuclear Iran.” 442

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressed confidence that these revelations will help build momentum for a larger international coalition that can place tougher restrictions on Iran and trusts that “more and more states… believe [Iran] is the fundamental threat.”443  Steve Plocker, a leading commentator for the Israeli newspaper Yediot Ahronoth, echoes Netanyahu’s views and hopes.“The leaked documents show that the entire world, not just Israel, is panicked over the Iranian nuclear program,” he writes, “Iran poses the greatest clear and present danger to the stability of the world, and the world has to act to remove this malignant tumor.” 444

"That [Iranian nuclear] program must be stopped. The danger or letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it."

—Hamad ibn Isa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain445

MYTH

“Saudi Arabia is an ally of the West in the war on terror.” top

FACT

While the United States has publicly lauded Saudi Arabia as a major ally in the ongoing war on terror, classified diplomatic cables uncovered by the whistleblower site WikiLeaks in late November 2010 show that the State Department holds a much more pessimistic view towards the Saudi commitment to counter-terrorism.  More than nine years after the attacks of September 11th, the released cables reveal that U.S. officials feel Saudi Arabia continues to permit, and at worst even encourage, the financing of terrorists.  In recent years, wealthy Saudi nationals were identified as funneling millions of dollars through various government-sanctioned charitable organizations that help fund Islamic terror organizations, including Bin-Laden’s Al-Qaeda and Palestinian Hamas.  According to one of the released cables, “Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” 446

Though the Saudi government was not directly indicted by WikiLeaks for financing terrorism, both their support for extremism and their reluctance to embrace the American-led war on terror is well documented.  In 2002, at the height of the Palestinian Intifada, the Saudi’s sponsored a telethon for “Palestinian martyrs” through which hundreds of thousands of dollars were distributed to the families of suicide bombers. 447 An estimate released in 2003 showed up to 60% of Hamas’ total budget was supplied by Saudi Arabia, either from official government sources or through organizations whose ongoing activities were protected by the government. 448 Towards the end of the Bush administration, after years of receiving millions of dollars in economic and military aid from the U.S., Saudi leaders attacked the U.S. by calling it “a first class sponsor of international terrorism” and even issued a fatwa allowing the use of WMD’s against the U.S. 449 In one of the cables released through WikiLeaks, dated December 2009, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was privately critical of the Saudi government’s staunch refusal to ban three charities that the U.S. classified as terrorist entities after intelligence reports suggested “that these groups continue to send money overseas… and fund extremism.” 450 Clinton was also deeply frustrated that the Saudi’s had done little to disrupt the internal access to fundraising that terrorist groups such as Hamas, the Taliban and Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) enjoy within the Kingdom.451  For example, not one person directly identified by the United States and United Nations as a terror financier for these groups has been prosecuted in Saudi courts.

The Saudi Arabian government has indeed made some efforts to curb terrorism stemming from its country; however, the measures taken have been almost exclusively aimed at protecting the royal family and their vast oil reserves.  As Stuart Levey, Under Secretary for Terrorist and Financial Intelligence within the Department of the Treasury, noted, beyond those “personal” initiatives, Saudi Arabia has taken only minimal steps to curb Islamic extremism.  In an interview with ABC News, Levey said, “If I could somehow snap my fingers and cut off the funding [to terrorists] from one country, it would be Saudi Arabia.”452 Despite being publicly hailed by the United States as a critical military and diplomatic ally, Saudi Arabia has yet to prove that it is fully committed to assisting in the war on terror.

"Saudi Arabia is active at every level of the terror chain, from planners to financiers, from cadre to foot soldier, from ideologist to cheerleader... Saudi Arabis supports our enemies and attacks our allies."

—Laurent Murawiec, RAND Corporation 468

MYTH

"The viability of a future Palestinian state is severely hampered by the continued construction of Israeli settlements." top

FACT

When the 10 month Israeli moratorium on settlement building in the West Bank expired in September 2010, the approval of construction requests resumed. Despite the moratorium, the Palestinian Authority still had refused to enter negotiations for the first nine months. At the last hour, and under intense international pressure, the Palestinians agreed to participate in one round of talks yet immediately threatened to leave if the moratorium was not extended. In separate negotiations with the United States, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was prepared to extend the freeze for another three months but the Americans nixed the proposal. 453

Meanwhile, the Palestinians continued to insist they would not talk if any building took place in East Jerusalem. Israel never agreed to place any restrictions on building in its capital and the Palestinians used this as a pretext to avoid peace negotiations, this despite the fact that they had engaged in talks for nearly 17 years without the precondition of a settlement freeze.

Announcements of new construction in the West Bank after the moratorium ended immediately set off hysterical cries from the Palestinians and their supporters, as well as ill-informed journalists, that the continued building would make peace impossible. A December editorial in the Baltimore Sun, for example, mentioned that Israel’s settlements are expanding “at a rate that will soon render the whole issue [of peace] moot because eventually there won’t be enough land to create a viable Palestinian state”. 454 The New York Times noted that Israel was making it exponentially harder for the Palestinians to achieve independence by allowing more Jews to move and settle into the West Bank. While the accusations aimed at Israel paint a picture of the settlements as “land-hungry” and dominating the landscape of the Palestinian territories, the facts tell a completely different story.

According to data released by the Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics, and independently verified by the anti-settlement Israeli organization Peace Now, there are currently 303,900 Jews living in 122 settlements - a number representing only 12% of the West Bank’s total population and proportionally much smaller than the Arab population of Israel.455 The settlements population increase over the last year was also actually significantly lower than the average annual increase of the last two decades.456 Moreover, almost 65% of the settlers live in just four settlements - Ma’ale Adumim, Betar Illit, Modi’in Illit and Gush Etzion– communities that are all near the “Green Line,” and expected to be incorporated into Israel in any future agreement involving the creation of a Palestinian state.457

Most of the remaining settlers are scattered in small communities that Israel has previously indicated it would consider evacuating in exchange for peace. This precedent was set years ago when thousands of Israelis were evacuated from Sinai in 1982 as part of the Israel-Egypt peace treaty. Israel also unilaterally withdrew thousand of settlers from the Gaza Strip in 2005 in the hope this would stimulate the Palestinians to negotiate a peaceful end to the conflict.

Additionally, all new settlement construction in the West Bank is within the boundaries of already established settlements. “In-fill,” as this type of construction is generally termed, is a common practice in urban development whereby one builds on unused land inside an existing neighborhood and it is the only type of building that Israel legally permits for Jews in the Palestinian territories. 458 Furthermore, more than half of the building is within the four large settlement blocs. 459

Not one new legal settlement has been built since 1999 when Israel approved the construction of Negahot in the Hebron hills. In fact, after more than 40 years of Israeli control over the West Bank, built-up areas of Israeli settlements constitute less than 1.7% of the territory’s total area. 460

"We are in a pointless discussion about the marginal issue of building in the settlements.... To reach peace, we need to discuss the issues that are really hindering peace, the question of recognition, security, refugess and of course many other issues."

—Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister 467

MYTH

"Israel illegally demolished a Palestinian national landmark in East Jerusalem." top

FACT

On January 9, 2011, Israeli crews began demolition work on the Shepherd Hotel building in the Sheikh Jarrah community of Jerusalem to make way for the planned construction of a Jewish housing project. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas insists the hotel is a historic national landmark and Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat claims that Israel is illegally demolishing the hotel as part of their attempt to “ethnically cleanse Jerusalem from its Palestinian inhabitants, culture and history.” 461

In truth, the hotel, situated in the middle of a predominantly Arab neighborhood that overlooks Hebrew University and the Mount of Olives, was built in the 1930s. The building, which served as an Israeli district court after 1967 and then as a border police station during the first Intifadah, was privately purchased in 1985 by an American businessman yet has been vacant for almost a decade. Plans to build a 20 unit apartment complex on the site were approved less than six months ago and the government has ensured that the project will not displace any Arab residents or affect any other buildings in the neighborhood. The site was never considered a Palestinian cultural heritage spot and, in fact, its only claim to Palestinian historical fame was that it served as a home for Hajj Amin al-Husseini, the former Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Nazi collaborator.462 The British exiled al-Husseini during the Mandatory period and confiscated the property; ultimately the building's rights were passed to Israel from Jordan after the Six Day War. Contrary to reports, the Israeli government did not illegally confiscate the building under the “Absentee Property Law” and the sale of the property in 1985 was conducted in the same legal manner as other real estate transactions. 463

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton criticized Israel’s actions, suggesting that demolition of an unused building somehow “undermines peace efforts to achieve a two-state solution.” 464 In doing so, Clinton once again - as with the earlier insistence on a settlement freeze - gave President Abbas an excuse for refusing to return to peace negotiations advocated by President Obama.

There are no precedents or statutes in international law that would prohibit Israel from granting construction permits to private citizens to build in its capital. As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “No democratic government would impose a ban on Jews purchasing private property… Just as Arabs can buy property in Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem, Jews can buy property in predominantly Arab neighborhoods.”465

"Calling Jerusalem a settlement is a misinterpretation, an insult to the city. It is incomprehensible that they are mixing questions of private rights, international law and politics. [The hotel was built] on private land, the development of which has nothing to do with diplomacy."

—Yigal Palmor, Israel Ministry of Foregin Affairs Spokesman 466

MYTH

"Israel is required by international law to supply goods and services to Gaza- its blockade is 'collective punishment'." top

FACT

The statutes of international law only require Israel to permit passage of food, clothing and medicines intended for children under fifteen, expectant mothers and maternity cases. Israel, however, is not bound by the law to provide these supplies- it is only obligated not to interfere with provisions sent by others.470 Israel has not only complied with the law but has gone beyond precedent by providing humanitarian supplies itself. On the other hand, if Israel has reason to believe that Hamas will intercept these materials and the enemy will benefit, even these basic provisions may be prohibited.

Furthermore, the law does not prohibit Israel from cutting off fuel supplies and electricity to Gaza, withholding commercial items or sealing its border.  Additionally, Israel has no obligation to even provide the minimum supplies which would prevent a “humanitarian crisis.” In practice, though, Israel has gone above and beyond what is required- it provides for nearly 70% of Gaza’s energy supplies, allows sick and wounded Palestinians to be treated in Israeli hospitals and has even helped to upgrade Gaza’s sewage pumping and water purification stations. 471 Israel maintains this humanitarian corridor even though terror attacks continue to emanate from inside the strip.

Some critics have labeled Israel’s actions as "collective punishment," which is a reference to Article 50 of the Hague Convention on the Laws and Customs of War; however, this article pertains to the “imposition of criminal-type penalties to individuals or groups on the basis of another’s guilt.”472 Israel has done no such thing. Israel has no obligation to maintain open borders with a hostile territory. The suspension of trade relations and naval embargoes are frequent tools of international diplomacy and have never been regarded as “collective punishment.”473

"Since one of the main purposes of imposing a naval blockade is to use coercion against a hostile entity or state that is a party to an armed conflict, the affected population genrally feel the effects of this pressure.... The issue is not that there is coercive actions which impacts the population collaterally, but rather what the impact is and what mitigating humanitarian measures are put in place... Thus, the fact that the fabric of economic life of the civilian population is adversely affected as a result of economic warfare does not, in itself, amount to collective punishment."

— "The Turkel Commission", The Public Commission to Examine the Maritime Incident of May 31, 2010, Part One 475


"Legally, [Israel] is obliged only to prevent the civilian population from dying from starvation. In practice we have done much more than that... It is clear that the civilian population has suffered, but that does not mean the measure was illegal. We will not [target the areas where terrorists fire from], we will not do that. We will not harm the civilian population."

—Major General Avichai Mandelbilt, Israeli Military Advocate-General 474

 

MYTH

"Israel must accept the demand of Palestinian refugees to ‘return’ in order to achieve peace." top

FACT

The Israeli refusal to allow Palestinian refugees to flood Israel is both a lawful and understandable position that should not impede a peace agreement with the Palestinians.

Publicly, Palestinians insist the refugees have a “right of return.” In December 2010, for example, Palestinian Chief Negotiator Saeb Erekat declared that peace with Israel would be “completely untenable” if Israel continued to “disregard the aspirations [of the Palestinian refugees] to return to their homeland.”476

Privately, however, Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas acknowledged in a meeting with the Palestinian Negotiations Support Unit on March 29, 2008, “On numbers of refugees, it is illogical to ask Israel to take 5 million, or even 1 million, that would mean the end of Israel.” 477

In negotiations with Abbas, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, like other Israeli leaders before him, offered to accept a limited number of refugees on a humanitarian basis. No agreement was reached, but the record shows that the disagreements were over the number of refugees and the amount of monetary compensation rather than an Israeli acceptance of the demand that all refugees have an option to 'return' to Israel.

In the envisioned two-state solution, the refugees will have a right to return – to the new State of Palestine.

"The conflict we're trying to solve is between two peoples.... The basis for the creation of the State of Israel is that it was created for the Jewish people. [The Palestinian] state will be the answer to all Palestinians including the refugees. Putting an end to [right of return] claims means fulfilling national right for all."

— Tzipi Livni, former Israeli Foreign Minister478

 

MYTH

"The Egyptian revolution has no impact on Israel's security." top

FACT

The impact of unrest in Egypt on Israel’s security will not be known until it is clear who will be leading the country. Whatever his failings as a leader within Egypt, Hosni Mubarak faithfully upheld the peace treaty with Israel. If Mubarak is replaced by someone who does not keep the country’s treaty commitments, Israel’s security will be endangered.

Since signing the peace deal with Egypt in 1979, Israel has reduced the percentage of its GDP devoted to defense by nearly a third- from 23% in the 1970s to 9% today. 479 Israel also significantly reduced the number of soldiers stationed on its southern border and has been able to focus its strategic planning on other threats. Peace with Egypt has contributed to the economic growth of Israel and also was a catalyst for other peace negotiations. Psychologically, the treaty also showed Israelis that peace with an Arab, Muslim state is possible. 480

A change in regime could easily lead to the reversal of these trends. While Mubarak fulfilled the letter of the peace treaty, he never was committed to its spirit. Thus, the media, military and general public were never conditioned to accept Israel as its neighbor. The Egyptian media has often been critical of Israel to the point of anti-Semitism and the military has consistently directed war games against Israel. 481

If the next leader of Egypt reneges on the treaty, Israel will find itself essentially surrounded by enemies- the same position it was in for decades following independence. A potentially belligerent Egypt would join the threats currently posed to Israel from Hamas in Gaza, Syria- who remains formally at war with Israel, and Lebanon who has become essentially an Iranian proxy dominated by Hezbollah. Jordan is also facing unrest and its future is uncertain. 482

If this scenario plays out, the region will be destabilized and become a powderkeg for renewed conflict. The risks of compromise with the Palestinians would also grow as the creation of a Palestinian state would complete Israel’s encirclement by potentially hostile forces.

A change in the Egyptian regime has broader implications as well, especially if the Islamist-oriented Muslim Brotherhood- a crucial player in the protests- gains power. This scenario would open the possibility for Egypt to become an Islamic republic- much like Iran, a base for terror and even a more internally repressive regime. The Brotherhood has pledged with popular support to revoke the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty and, since Egypt has the region’s largest military force, it could threaten not only Israel but pro-Western regimes such as Jordan and the Gulf states as well. 483

Mohammed ElBaradei has emerged as one possible opposition leader, but it is by no means clear which direction he would take the country if he were to take power. The fact that he is now backed by the Muslim Brotherhood is cause for concern, as is his vocal criticism of Israel and his record as an apologist for Iran during his term as head of the International Atomic Energy Administration. 484

Egyptians deserve freedom and democracy, but that is not always the outcome of revolutions. The 1979 Iranian revolution, for example, started as a revolt against the oppression of the Shah but resulted in the establishment of an Islamic tyranny; the 2005 revolt in Lebanon paved the way for the takeover of Hezbollah; and the 2006 Palestinian Authority elections brought Hamas to power and helped doom peace talks. 485

Despite the historical precedent, Egypt could emerge from the current turmoil with a democratic government that is committed to good relations with Israel. Israel, unfortunately, must plan for the possibility of another outcome.

MYTH

"Turmoil in Egypt is a result of the failure to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." top

FACT

Echoing an oft-repeated dogma of the last decade, James Jones, former national security adviser to President Obama, recently said that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains the core problem of the Middle East and that failing to solve it could lead to more “Egypt-like demonstrations in other countries in the region.” 486 Numerous Arab officials, including Amr Moussa, one of the potential candidates to take over for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, have also promoted this view that Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians is the key to solving the Middle East’s woes. Last year Moussa told France 24 News that “the stability of the region, security of the region, and the future of the region” relies on solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 487

Conflating the absence of progress in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations with the emergence of the Egyptian crisis or any other intra-Arab conflict in the Middle East ignores the internal conflicts that exist within the Arab world and individual countries. In the case of Egypt, the Egyptian people have suffered under the autocratic regime of President Mubarak for more than three decades and were inspired to finally revolt by the uprising in Tunisia, which was also a response to the dictatorial rule of its leader. The Israel and Palestinian issue has nothing to do with the fact that Egyptians have lived under martial law, that they are poor and disenfranchised. Protestors are not demanding an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; they are demanding Mubarak’s ouster and democratic reforms.

As scholar Daniel Pipes once noted, Americans tend to think of every dispute in the Middle East in terms of its connection with Israel, even if completely superficial. 488 However, solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, while obviously important in its own right, would have no impact on the current turmoil in Egypt, the takeover of Lebanon by Hezbollah, the growing dissent in Jordan or Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and threats against its neighbors. It is the myopic focus of many on the Palestinian issue that has contributed to the failure to address other problems across the Middle East, such as the lack of freedom in Egypt that is currently the true source of disaffection in that country.

MYTH

"America's veto of a UN Security Council resolution condemning settlements undermined peace talks." top

FACT

In a direct rebuke to the Obama Administration, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas rejected a number of compromise offers from the President to express concern about the settlements and, instead, insisted on a vote at the United Nations Security Council on a resolution condemning Israeli settlements as “illegal” and calling for an immediate building cessation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The United States vetoed the resolution, according to US Ambassador to UN Susan Rice, because “[the resolution] could encourage the parties to stay out of negotiations.” US House of Representatives Majority Leader Eric Cantor echoed Rice’s sentiment and added that the US needed to “make it clear that peace cannot be imposed, it must be directly negotiated.” 489

It was especially ironic that the UN would be devoting its energy to debating settlements at the very time when much of the Arab Middle East was in upheaval. Rather than direct its attention to turmoil in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, Bahrain and Yemen, the Security Council was considering a measure that would not have had any impact on Israeli policy and done nothing to advance the cause of peace.

The Palestinians may well have insisted on bringing the matter to a vote in an effort to divert attention away from embarrassing revelations shown in leaked documents from their negotiating teams that indicated, among other things, an acceptance of some Israeli settlements in exchange for Palestinian statehood. 490 By going to the UN the Palestinians may have also hoped to justify their ongoing refusal to engage in direct negotiations with Israel. Though never insisting on a settlement freeze before President Obama called for one, Abbas has now made this a prerequisite for future talks.

Abbas also appears to have concluded that Obama’s failure to force Israel into a settlement construction freeze means that the U.S. cannot be counted upon to compel Israel to capitulate to Palestinian demands. Thus, instead of direct talks, the Palestinians are attempting to avoid compromise by stoking international pressure on Israel to concede on the issues. Since talks broke down in September 2010, the PA has been engaged in a global campaign to convince countries to endorse the creation of a Palestinian state within the 1967 armistice lines. The UNSC resolution was yet another effort to win international sympathy in the hope of imposing a solution on Israel.

Even if the resolution had passed, it would not have altered the status of settlements in international law since the Security Council is a political body with no judicial power. The council would also have contradicted its own precedents. UNSC Resolution 242, which passed in 1967 and remains the agreed basis for a settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict, calls for unspecified Israeli withdrawal from the Palestinian territory butt only with the guarantee of secure and defensible borders.

Rather than mutually discussing the pertinent issues to resolve the conflict, Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinians have launched, in the words of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, “a political offensive against the State of Israel” that includes exploiting the UN to weaken Israel’s international legitimacy. 491By accepting its role as a pawn of the Arab world, the United Nations Security Council has proven yet again that it lacks the legitimacy or the backbone required to play a constructive role in facilitating peace between Israel and the Palestinians.

"Direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have been and still remain the only way forward to resolve the longstanding conflict in our region. Therefore, the resolution before [the Security Council] should never have been submitted. Instead the international community and the Security Council should have called upon the Palestinian leadership - in a clear and resolute voice - to immediately return to the negotiating table without preconditions and to renew direct negotiations."

— Meron Reuben, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations 492


MYTH

"American media coverage of Israel is proportional with coverage given to the rest of the Middle East." top

FACT

Though the seeds of Arab revolution were sown during the last few years by the brutal policies of their dictators, American media coverage of the Middle East over the last decade has meant Israel and Israel alone. Until the street protests in Tunisia and Egypt forced media outlets to focus on these countries, the American media seemed to conveniently forget that hundreds of millions of people throughout the Arab world lived under ruthless rulers who continuously subjugated their citizens and abused their basic human rights. If a story did not deal with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict it was inauspiciously placed on the back-burner.

Minute scrutiny was given to every action of the Israeli government or IDF and the media routinely lambasted Israel while making headline news out of such trivial events as the renovation of an abandoned hotel in East Jerusalem or the government decision to implement a citizen loyalty oath. Though egregious human rights violations were happening simultaneously in Iran, Libya, Tunisia and Egypt, there was practically no coverage conferred to these events.

Israel probably has the highest per capita “fame quotient” in the world because of the disproportionate media coverage it is given. Americans tend to know more about Israeli politics and find Israel’s leaders more recognizable than even those of their neighbors in Canada or Mexico. Moreover, there are more news correspondents and organizations based in Israel than in any other country in world except for the United Kingdom. Unfortunately it took such momentous actions as the complete upheaval of the status-quo in the Middle East to remind the media that stories exist outside the borders of Israel.

MYTH

"'Israel Apartheid Week' promotes peace." top

FACT

The seventh annual “Israel Apartheid Week” (IAW), on college campuses in the United States, Canada, England and South Africa during the beginning of March 2011, is part of a smear campaign aimed at delegitimizing Israel that has nothing to do with supporting the Palestinian struggle for independence. One need not look any further than the events’ perverse title, which attempts to draw a specious moral equivalency between modern democratic Israel and racist South Africa, to understand the deliberate and wanton desire of IAW’s founders to harm Israel. As Israel’s former ambassador to the United Nations, Dore Gold, notes, “Israel Apartheid Week is not about respect for human rights… and not a movement dedicated to making peace, but rather to denying the historical rights of the Jewish people.” 493

Shrewdly operating under the broad scope of academic freedom, the proponents of IAW are no more legitimately struggling for “justice, equality and peace” in Israel than they are actually supporting the Palestinian national cause. Rather than highlighting possible avenues to peace that have been or still can be created through mutual cooperation by Israel and the Palestinians, IAW seeks only to demonize the Jewish state. Canada’s National Post, for example, called out IAW as nothing more than a “festival of bigotry” that “vilifies a single country… and whose message is more or less the same as Ahmadinejad or Hamas- that Israel is a uniquely evil and fundamentally illegitimate nation.” 494 Canadian Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff notes that, “Israel Apartheid Week…tarnishes our freedom of speech … [and shows] intolerance that has no place … anywhere in the world.” 495

The goal of the delegitimizers is to create an indelible image in the public mind of Israel and apartheid, like McDonald’s and hamburgers. They believe that if they succeed, the next logical steps will be to take draconian measures against Israel, similar to those used to dismantle the South African regime.

The good news is that only about a dozen campuses out of roughly 4,000 in America were sites of these hate fests. At the same time, more than 50 “Israel Peace Weeks” and other positive events were being held by students who understand that Arabs- both men and women- enjoy more freedoms in Israel, such as the right to vote, worship, protest, and petition the court, than they do in any other country in the Middle East.496 Unlike the ignorant sponsors of anti-Israel events, these students know that Arabs have been elected to Israel’s parliament in every vote since independence, Muslims work in the Israeli Foreign Ministry and even thousands of Bedouins, Druze, Arabs and Christians serve alongside Jews in the Israel Defense Forces.497 More importantly, the students behind peace weeks recognize that the path to improving the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians lies through dialogue rather than demonization, and that the fulfillment of Palestinian national aspirations is possible only through direct negotiations with Israelis and not by caricaturing them as monsters.

"'Apartheid' is used in this case and elsewhere because it comes easily to hand: it is a lazy label for the complexities of the Middle East conflict. It is also used because, if it can be made to stick, then Israel can be made to appear to be as vile as was apartheid South Africa and seeking its destruction can be presented to the world as an equally moral cause."

— Benjamin Pogrund, South African Apartheid Opponent 498

 

MYTH

"'Palestinian terrorism is a byproduct of the 'cycle of violence' perpetuated by Israel." top

FACT

The heinous attack on March 11, 2011, in which two Palestinian terrorists infiltrated the Israeli town of Itamar in the West Bank and brutally murdered a family of five, including a four-year-old son and a three-month-old daughter, has the international media once again discussing the “cycle of violence” in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. According to numerous international news agencies, violent attacks by Palestinians are part of a cycle of violence that is perpetuated and escalated by actions on both sides and that cannot be stopped until Israel gives in to Palestinian demands. For example, the Los Angeles Times wrote that the tragic event was only part of a “continuing cycle of violence” while the BBC and CNN both highlighted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's announcement of extended settlement building as a direct reaction to the atrocious attack.499 The Palestinian Authority, through spokesman Nabil Abu Reudeina, condemned Israel for extending this cycle of violence, calling it “wrong and unacceptable,” and warned it could lead to even further escalation of the conflict.500

Suggesting that Palestinian terrorism is just part of a cycle of violence for which Israel also bears responsibility is akin to equating the arsonist with the firefighter. The terrorists are like arsonists and the Israelis firefighters. You would not accuse the firefighter who puts out an arsonist’s fire, or tries to prevent him from setting one, of perpetuating arson. The terrorists are engaged in a persistent war that leaves Israel with no choice but to defend its citizens. If the terror stops, Israel will have no need to engage in countermeasures.

In his seminal work, To End a War, that followed years of diplomacy in the Balkans, U.S. diplomat Richard Holbrooke dismissed the idea that “ancient hatreds” had fueled that regional war and instead focused on the endemic spread of incitement through the media that had “aroused an entire generation of Serbs, Croats and Muslims to hate their neighbors.” 501 Similarly, despite repeatedly agreeing to cease such provocations (see the 1993 Oslo Accords, 1998 Wye River Memorandum and the 2003 Road Map), the Palestinian Authority continues to tolerate and instigate incitement in the media, mosques and schools. As in the Balkans, this policy has aroused a generation of Palestinians to hate both Israel and Jews. In the last quarter of 2010 alone, the PA was responsible for more than 20 cartoons, videos and speeches calling for violence and the destruction of Israel. 502

In early 2011, PA President Mahmoud Abbas personally delivered $2,000 to the family of a terrorist who had attacked IDF soldiers and the PA’s official newspaper, Al Hayat Al Jadida, promoted a soccer tournament named after Wafa Idris, the first female Palestinian suicide bomber. 503 Just three weeks prior to the attack in Itamar, PA-TV aired a video tribute to a number of “martyrs,” which included a terrorist who had killed three Israelis in a similar attack in Itamar in 2002. 504 These provocations of the Palestinian Authority have all led to what the Chairman of the Israel Ministry of Strategic Affairs, Yossi Kuperwasser, calls “an attitude of hate and demonization towards Israel” that has created “a situation where it occurs to someone to carry out a [terrorist] attack.” 505

The Western media has mostly ignored Palestinian incitement. Worse, many outlets have rationalized Palestinian terrorism, often refusing to even use the word “terrorism” to refer to atrocities. The media portrayal of the innocents murdered in Itamar is reminiscent of suggestions that rape victims “asked for it.” The fact that the family lived in a settlement did not excuse, justify or cause their murder. Parents and children sleeping in their beds did not deserve to be killed because they lived in a disputed territory.

The reaction of the international community should be unambiguous outrage to this atrocity and those media outlets that essentially have blamed the victims should be chastised for their moral, ethical and journalistic lapse.

"I expect the international community to sharply and unequivocally condemn this murder, the murder of children ... There is no justification and there can be neither excuse nor forgiveness for the murder of children ... This requires [more than] unequivocal condemnation. This requires a halt to the [Palestinian] incitement. I demand that the Palestinian Authority stop the incitement that is conducted on a daily basis in their schools, mosques and the media under their control. The time has come to stop the incitement and begin educating their people for peace."

— Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister 506


MYTH

"'Israel unnecessarily maintains checkpoints to control and humiliate the Palestinians." top

FACT

Checkpoints exist solely to protect the lives of innocents on both sides. If no terrorist threat existed, no barriers would be necessary.

Thanks to improved security cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian security forces, a greater commitment to preventing terror on the part of the Palestinian Authority and Israel’s successful counterterror measures, the level of violence emanating from the West Bank has significantly declined. This has allowed Israel to take steps to ease restrictions on Palestinian movement and remove many of the road blocks and checkpoints. In 2010, for example, Israel issued more than 651,000 entry permits to West Bank residents wishing to travel to Israel, an increase of 42 percent over 2009. 507 In 2009-10, Israel removed more than 200 roadblocks and reduced the number of manned checkpoints from 41 to 14. 508

Israel also balances its security concerns with sensitivity to the medical needs of Palestinians. In 2009-10, more than 28,500 Palestinian hospital patients and their companions were transported from Gaza to Israel to receive world class medical treatment. An additional 175,000 patients from the West Bank, among them 7,500 children, were brought to Israel for various procedures, surgeries and treatments. 509 For example, thousands of Gaza residents suffering from cancer are admitted for radiation, chemotherapy and clinical trials in Israel. 510 Israel has created numerous medical programs, such as Heart to Heart, that are specifically targeted at helping Palestinian children who suffer from rare, life-threatening diseases. 511 Moreover, many Israeli hospitals have opened internship programs to help train Palestinian doctors from the West Bank and Gaza.

Still, as recently as March 9 when a Palestinian terrorist was caught at the Tapuach checkpoint south of Nablus carrying five pipe bombs and three firebombs intended for use against Israeli civilians, we are reminded why the checkpoints were established and why they cannot all be removed. Israelis look forward to a day when a peace agreement with the Palestinians obviates the need for these security measures.

MYTH

"Rockets shot from Gaza at southern Israel do not cause enough damage to justify military retaliation." top

FACT

Since the start of the Palestinian War in 2000, terrorists from inside Gaza have fired no fewer than 12,000 Kassam rockets, GRAD missiles and mortars at southern Israel, including more than 6,000 since Israel unilaterally withdrew from the area in 2005, and nearly 100 since the beginning of March 2011 alone. These explosive weapons have killed 28 Israeli civilians, injured hundreds more and have inflicted heavy damages on schools, synagogues, houses and hospitals in the region. 512

Like the Nazi rocket attacks on London during the Blitz, the Hamas barrages terrorize all the people within their range- an area has extended to include all of southern Israel, home to roughly one million Israelis. 513 Two of Israel’s most populated cities, Be’er Sheva and Ashdod, as well as hundreds of smaller towns and villages are situated within rocket range of Gaza. Places such as Sderot and Kfar Azza are so close that residents have mere seconds to find shelter after hearing the warning siren, keeping them in a near constant state of fear and anxiety. 514 Since the most recent escalation in mid-March, schools and many businesses have been forced to close.

The indiscriminate attacks on civilians are a violation of human rights and constitute a war crime. 515 No country would tolerate such ongoing threats to its civilian population. The Israeli government took only measured responses against the terrorists during the first three years of barrages before finally launching Operation Cast Lead in December 2008. It is a testament to Israel’s restraint, and desire to not escalate the conflict, that the government has not taken more aggressive steps to end the latest bombardment.

Still, no one should expect Israel’s leaders to allow its civilian population to be terrorized on a daily basis. As President Obama said before his election to the post in 2008, “If somebody was sending rockets into my house … I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that.”516 Israel cannot be expected to do any less.


MYTH

"Justice Goldstone remains convinced that Israel committed war crimes documented in the Goldstone Report." top

FACT

In an April 1, 2011, editorial published by the Washington Post, Justice Richard Goldstone retracted his accusations that Israel intentionally targeted civilians and was guilty of war crimes during its conflict with Hamas in Gaza in December 2008.517 The principal author of the 575 page report bearing his name, commissioned by the UN Human Rights Council to investigate allegations of criminal misconduct during the Gaza conflict, Goldstone now admits the work used by Israel’s detractors to vilify Israel was based on incomplete information and falsely accused Israel of wrongdoing. Goldstone conceded that “if I had known then what I know now, the Goldstone Report would have been a different document.” 518

The report, which erroneously claimed that Israel led a “deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population,” became a tool for Israel’s detractors to demonize the Jewish state and denigrate its right to self-defense. 519 Goldstone now accepts that “civilians were not intentionally targeted [by Israel] as a matter of policy” and that in the aftermath of having thousands of rockets and missiles fired at its cities, Israel had the “right and obligation to defend itself and its citizens against such attacks.” 520 In fact, as Colonel Richard Kemp, former Commander British Forces in Afghanistan, testified to the Goldstone committee in 2009, “The IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.”521

Israel’s claims regarding casualties also have proved correct, Goldstone acknowledges. “The Israeli military’s numbers have turned out to be similar to those recently furnished by Hamas.” He is referring to the recent Hamas admission that, as Israel maintained, most of the Palestinians who were killed in the fighting were terrorists and not bystanders. 522

Goldstone also takes the UN Human Rights Council to task, noting that its original mandate was “skewed against Israel.” He said he “hoped that our inquiry into all aspects of the Gaza conflict would begin a new era of evenhandedness at the UN Human Rights Council, whose history of bias against Israel cannot be doubted.” 523

Goldstone also now rightfully focuses his criticism on Hamas. “That comparatively few Israelis have been killed by the unlawful rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza,” Goldstone writes, “in no way minimizes their criminality.” 524 He added that Hamas’ actions during the conflict were intentional and “purposefully indiscriminate” and he excoriates them for failing to investigate any of the war crimes accusations. By contrast, Goldstone acknowledged that Israel has “dedicated significant resources to investigate” allegations of misconduct.

Though long overdue, Goldstone’s retraction is timely because Hamas has resumed rocket attacks on Israeli civilians and Israel may again be forced to reengage Hamas to defend its citizens. Nevertheless, the damage caused to Israel by the Goldstone Report is incalculable. Public protests, university forums and official declarations have used the “evidence” released in the report to smear Israel and its brave soldiers. Unfortunately, renouncing his report will not stem the tide of anti-Israel propaganda based on its mendacious claims. Goldstone nevertheless has an obligation to go to all the forums where his report was misused and set the record straight. As a member of the UN Human Rights Council, the United States should demand that the Goldstone Report be denounced as a sham and erased from the record.

"Everything that we said proved to be true. Israel did not intentionally target civilians and it has proper investigatory bodies. In contrast, Hamas intentionally directed strikes towards innocent civilians and did not conduct any kind of probe ... The fact that Goldstone changed his mind must lead to the shelving of [the Goldstone Report] once and for all."

— Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister 525


"We always said that the IDF was a moral army that acted according to international law. Judge Goldstone needs to publish his present conclusions before all international bodies where he published his distorted report ... It is unfortunate that it took Goldstone such a long time to change his mind, but its better late than never.

— Ehud Barak, Israeli Defense Minister 526


MYTH

"The Iron Dome Missile Defense System negates the need for Israel to engage in military operations against Hamas in Gaza." top

FACT

The escalation in rocket barrages from terrorists in Gaza against southern Israel in 2011 has forced the Israeli government to rush deployment of the “Iron Dome” missile defense system to protect its citizens who live within rocket range. In the beginning of April, two Iron Dome batteries were placed outside of Beersheva and Ashkelon and immediately proved their value by intercepting several GRAD rockets aimed at civilian areas in Israel.527

The Iron Dome, jointly developed by the Israeli Defense Ministry and Israel-based Rafael Advanced Defense Systems, is an “outstanding system unmatched by any other in the world.” 528 The missile shield comes at a steep price, however, as each battery costs nearly $80 million and the individual missiles are an additional $75,000. 529 The high price-tag initially kept the Israeli government from purchasing additional batteries, but after seeing the system's effectiveness, Israel has ordered four additional batteries that are expected to be for with U.S. military aid. Unfortunately, the new batteries will not be ready to use for a number of months. 530 Hamas, meanwhile, can continue to fire hundreds of homemade mortars and kassams, along with Iranian supplied rockets.

With only two batteries in operation, Iron Dome cannot cover every area of Israel within range of Hamas rockets. Moreover, the system does not create an impregnable shield; Iron Dome was not designed to destroy smaller rockets, mortars or anti-tank missiles, a vulnerability that Hamas has already exploited. Since the Dome’s deployment, dozens of mortars and rockets have hit southern Israel. 531 Hamas also fired a Russian-made, laser guided anti-tank missile at an Israeli school bus that could have killed several children and did severely injure one. 532

The anti-missile system is solely a defensive weapon; it does not prevent future barrages. Therefore, Israel may still need to take preemptive or retaliatory measures against Hamas to protect its citizens. To maximize its effectiveness, Iron Dome must be combined with offensive military operations against the terrorists in Gaza. 533

"This is a great technological achievement, it's the first time that these type of missiles have been intercepted ... But we can't cover every house, every citizen, every site in Israel ... Ultimately, our response to those that fire rockets on our cities and on our civilians is to attack them."

— Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister 534


"[Hamas] is not going to let [rocket fire] rest ... If this new [Iron Dome] system is seen to be effective, then Hamas and other extremist groups will do what they can to find other modes of attack."

— Colonel Richard Kemp, Former Commander UK Forces Afghanistan 535


"Our holy warriors drew useful lessons [from studying the Iron Dome] that can help in defeating it ... What will they [Israel] do when there is intensive rocket fire, all in one direction and at the same time? It will fail."

— Abu Attaya, Palestinian Popular Resistance Committee (PRC) Spokeman 536


MYTH

"The targeted assassination of terrorist leaders is a counterproductive military strategy." top

FACT


While Israel has routinely been criticized for the targeted killing of terrorists, the United States has actively engaged in a policy of assassinating al-Qaeda operatives since 9/11, culminating in the announcement on May 1, 2011, that Osama bin Laden was killed by U.S. special operations forces.537 Like Israel, the United States believes that killing the planners and perpetrators of terror attacks is vital to its national security. This strategy prevents attacks, sends a message to would-be terrorists that there is a price to pay for terror and makes the planning of attacks more difficult by keeping the terrorists on the run. 538

Killing bin Laden was part of a broader strategy of eliminating the leadership of al-Qaeda. Israel has successfully pursued a similar approach in targeting the leadership of Hamas. Pinpoint Israeli strikes killed Mahmoud Adani (2001), Salah Shahade (2002), Ahmed Yassin (2004) and Abdel Aziz al-Rantissi (2004).539 The death of its leaders temporarily crippled Hamas and compelled the organization to call for a protracted cease-fire with Israel in December 2004. 540 After Hamas recommenced rocket attacks into southern Israel in 2011, Israel resumed targeting the terrorists and the group again called for a truce.

As President Obama remarked in his address to the nation, “the death of bin Laden marks the most significant achievement to date in our nation’s effort to defeat al-Qaeda … on nights like this we can say: Justice has been done.” 541 Bin Laden’s death does not constitute a final victory over terrorism, but the United States has struck an important blow and sent a message, echoed by Israeli policy, that terrorists will not evade justice.

"Targeted assassinations shatter terrorist groups and makes it difficult for them to conduct effective operations, when these individuals are killed their organizations are disrupted ... Targeted killings also force terrorists to spend more time protecting themselves ... There is no question that Hamas has been seriously weakened by the decimation of its ranks through assassination."

— Daniel Byman, President of Center for Peace and Security Studies 542


MYTH

"Hamas-Fatah reconciliation paves the way to peace negotiations with Israel." top

FACT

In uniting for the first time since 2007, Hamas and Fatah, rulers of the Gaza Strip and West Bank, respectively, have theoretically made negotiating a final peace deal with Israel more realistic. Previously, Israel negotiated exclusively with Fatah, which, even if willing to do so, could not sign an agreement that would end the conflict because Hamas opposed peace with Israel.

The reconciliation pact, signed in Egypt on May 4, 2011, joins the two leading Palestinian parties in a caretaker government until long overdue parliamentary elections can be held. Former President Jimmy Carter and others contend the pact “will help Palestinian democracy and establish the basis for a unified Palestinian state … that can make a secure peace with Israel.” 543 Practically, however, the reconciliation agreement does little to create the framework for a democratic Palestinian state and makes peace with Israel virtually impossible to achieve.

Neither party has shown any interest in democracy. Fatah has repeatedly delayed scheduled elections, primarily due to fear of losing to Hamas as it did in the last election. Both, meanwhile, have ruled autocratically and abused the human rights of the Palestinians under their control. Hamas remains committed to creating an Iranian-style Islamic government and has created an oppressive environment in Gaza for non-Muslims and Muslims alike.

Internal politics are of less concern to Israel than the unwavering antagonism of Hamas toward peace. Hamas officials have repeatedly said they are committed to Israel’s destruction and have said their views have not changed in reconciling with Fatah. Moreover, Fatah officials have gone out of their way to say they do not expect Hamas to change its attitude toward Israel. Nabil Saath, a high-ranking aide to PA President Mahmoud Abbas, said demanding Hamas to renounce terrorism and recognize Israel is “unfair, unworkable and does not make sense.” 544

The future of security cooperation between Hamas and Fatah also looms as a major concern to both Israel and the United States. The United States alone has spent $542 million since 2005 in training and arming the Palestinian Authority’s National Security Force in the West Bank, a force that has gained operational legitimacy with the IDF for its counter-terror efforts. 545 Under the unity pact, Hamas’ security apparatus- which prides itself on actively targeting Israel - will be integrated into the PA force, basically spelling an end to the Palestinian commitment to fight terror. 546 Moreover, the agreement requires Fatah to release hundreds of Hamas militants who are currently imprisoned in the West Bank, a move that would pose a serious security risk for Israel and destroy the goodwill the PA built with Israel from arresting these men in the first place. 547 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted that this stipulation would mean “a tremendous blow to peace and a great victory for terrorism.” 548 The danger to Israel has also grown as a result of Egypt’s decision to open the border with Gaza, thereby facilitating Hamas arms smuggling.

The decision to reconcile appears to be a tactical one based on necessity rather than a commonality of views. Fatah has grown progressively weaker in the West Bank and is known for its corruption. Officials seeing the revolutionary fervor against similarly corrupt, autocratic regimes fear an uprising against them and believe a unity deal will mollify the Palestinian street. Fatah also wants to press the UN to declare a state of Palestine unilaterally and is afraid that countries may have an excuse to vote against them if they are divided. Hamas also has an incentive to work with its rivals because of fears it will lose a major base of support if the Assad regime falls in Syria and because it has faith it can take over the Palestinian Authority from within if elections are held and it is allowed to spread its tentacles further in the West Bank.

It remains to be seen if the reconciliation will take place and last. Previous efforts have foundered over the division of power and ideology. The fact that Hamas has not retreated from its positions on Israel, Islam or its rightful share of power reduce the likelihood of the factions remaining united.

Regardless, the Quartet has made clear the conditions under which it will work with Hamas, namely, the need for Hamas to recognize Israel’s right to exist, eschew terror and agree to honor past Israel-Palestinian agreements. Hamas leader Khaled Meshal has refused to meet these conditions and therefore the Quartet is required to shun the unity government. 549

The Fatah decision to abandon the way of peace and join the terrorists calling for armed struggle to bring about Israel’s destruction also threatens Palestinian well-being. After watching its economy boom in the last few years, in large part because of Israeli and international assistance, the world is likely to reconsider its support for a government that includes terrorists. The United States may now be required by law to cut off all aid to the PA. According to House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) , “U.S. taxpayer funding [to terrorist organizations] is prohibited under current law.” 550 Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) initiated a letter, cosigned by 27 Democratic senators, calling for President Obama to suspend the $500 million in annual aid to the PA until Hamas renounces terrorism. 551

Ultimately, the Palestinians must unite to achieve their national goals, but by allowing the terrorists of Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine to become part of their government, Fatah has distanced itself even further from those who have worked to create an independent Palestine. The Palestinians do indeed need to reconcile- but with Israel, not Hamas.

Israel’s leaders, who have begged the Palestinians to agree to a two-state solution, now see no one with whom to negotiate. Thus, rather than improve the prospects for ending the conflict, the Palestinians have taken yet another step away from peace and reconciliation with their neighbors and ensured that negotiations will remain in limbo and Palestinian statehood a dream.

 

MYTH

"Israel unjustly responded with violence to the protests of Nakba day." top

FACT

On May 15, 2011, Palestinians across the Middle East commemorated the 63rd anniversary of “al-Nakba,” marking the “the catastrophe” of Israel’s creation in 1948. Violent protests sprang up across Jerusalem and the West Bank as well as along Israel’s borders with Gaza, Syria and Lebanon. Many commentators were quick to suggest that the demonstrations were a Palestinian extension of the “Arab Spring.” Fox News, for example, declared there was “little doubt” the protests “were inspired by the extraordinary Arab Spring” while UN special coordinator for Lebanon, Michael Williams, said he was “shocked” by Israel’s use of “disproportionate, deadly force” in response to people tearing down parts of Israel’s border fence and illegally storming into the country. 552

Israel is accustomed to condemnations from those who believe the country has no right to defend its citizens or borders. In this instance, the IDF was confronted with a violent mob that invaded its sovereign territory. These were not peaceful protestors seeking democratic rights like those in Egypt and elsewhere, they were provocateurs sent to instigate violence and to distract attention from the brutal repression of the opponents of Syrian President Bashar Assad. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah encouraged Lebanese Palestinians by telling them, “you will liberate your lands … the fate of [Israel] is demise and no borders will protect it.” 553

Bypassing UNIFIL and UNDOF, the international peacekeeping forces stationed specifically to contain violence on Israel’s borders with Lebanon and Syria respectively, the invaders dismantled Israeli fences, illegally infiltrated Israeli territory and attacked IDF soldiers. 554 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared that Israel “is determined to protect its borders and sovereignty” and should not be held to a higher standard of action than other countries. 555 In a formal letter of complaint to the UN, Israeli ambassador to the UN Meron Reuben said the IDF operated with “maximum restraint in confronting the significant threat and … the explosive potential” for violence. 556 U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has repeatedly made clear that “Israel’s right to defend itself is not negotiable” and in reaction to the violent protests State Department spokesman Mark Toner reiterated the United States’ stance that “Israel has the right to defend its borders.” 557

Palestinians are understandably bitter about their history over these last six decades, but, had the Palestinians and the Arab states accepted the partition resolution in 1947, the State of Palestine would be celebrating its 63rd birthday along with Israel. We are often told that what the Palestinians object to today 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 a refusal, even today, to reconcile themselves with the Jewish State. This was reflected in the statement by Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas, who assured protestors that this year will mark the “end of the Zionist project in Palestine.” 558

While Fatah and Hamas have many disagreements, they both agree on the Nakba, so it should come as no surprise that Israeli's would find it difficult to be optimistic about the prospect of negotiating a two-state solution with a united Fatah-Hamas government that believes their country has no right to exist.

"My friends, the root of this conflict never was a Palestinian state, or lack thereof. The root of the conflict is, and always has been, [Palestinian] refusal to recognize the Jewish state. It is not a conflict over 1967, but over 1948, over the very existence of the State of Israel. You must have noticed that yesterday's events did not occur on June 5, the anniversary of the Six Day War. They occurred on May 15, the day the State of Israel was established. The Palestinians regard this day, the foundation of the State of Israel, [as] their nakba, their catastrophe. But their catastrophe was that they did not have a leadership that was willing to reach a true historic compromise between the Palestinian people and the Jewish people."

— Benjamin Netanyahu, Israeli Prime Minister 559


MYTH

"Israel must withdraw to the June 4, 1967 boundaries." top

FACT

After President Barack Obama said, “We believe the borders of Israel and Palestine should be based on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded sharply by declaring, “[Israel] cannot go back to the 1967 lines – because these lines are indefensible.” 560 In stating this position, Netanyahu was reiterating the longstanding view of the government of Israel.

In the wake of the Six Day War, and Israel’s capture of the West Bank and Golan Heights, Foreign Minister Abba Eban told the United Nations: “The June [1967] map is for us equivalent to insecurity and danger. I do not exaggerate when I say that it has for us something of a memory of Auschwitz.” 561 Nearly thirty years later, soon after signing the Oslo Peace Accords, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin made clear: “The border of the State of Israel … will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the June 1967 lines.” 562

What Eban and Rabin understood, and what countless military and legislative officials – both in Israel and the United States – have echoed, is that by withdrawing to the pre-1967 lines, Israel would lose all of its strategic, tactical, geographic and topographic advantages, opening up its homefront to easy attack. Strategically, by completely withdrawing Israel would lose its extensive system of early-warning radars, its bases of operations that have worked to halt Palestinian terrorism and its control over the Jordan Rift Valley that allows the Israel Defense Forces to prevent the smuggling of illegal weapons and protects Israel from the type of invasion it faced in 1948 and 1967. 563 Tactically, Israel would need to find new ways to deal with the threat that enemy missiles could hit anywhere in the country in under two minutes. 564 Geographically, a retreat would diminish Israel to only nine miles at its narrowest point between the West Bank and Mediterranean Sea and would put almost every major Israeli city, from Beersheva in the south to Metulla in the north, within the range of Kassam and Katyusha rockets. 565 Topographically, the highlands of the West Bank and Golan Heights – rising nearly 3,000 feet above the coastal plain – would allow those who control the heights to rain down missiles with greater accuracy and lethality onto Israel’s major population centers and only international sea and airports. 566

The drafters of UN Security Council Resolution 242 understood that Israel would never have secure and defensible borders if it were forced to withdraw from all the territory it captured in 1967 and deliberately omitted that requirement. The Israeli government has consistently said it is prepared to withdraw to the 1967 line with modifications. The United States has also recognized this interpretation of the resolution. In negotiations with the Israelis and Palestinians in 2000, for example, President Bill Clinton laid out a plan to create a Palestinian state that envisioned Israel retaining parts of the West Bank.

In a letter sent to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in 2004, and overwhelmingly supported by both houses of Congress, President George W. Bush explicitly said the U.S. would neither force nor expect Israel to completely withdraw to the Green Line:

 

“In light of new realities on the ground, including already existing major Israeli populations centers, it is unrealistic to expect that the outcome of final status negotiations will be a full and complete return to the armistice lines of 1949, and all previous efforts to negotiate a two-state solution have reached the same conclusion. It is realistic to expect that any final status agreement will only be achieved on the basis of mutually agreed changes that reflect these realities.567

In clarifying the remark he made in his May 19, 2011, speech, President Obama told delegates to the AIPAC Policy Conference on May 22, “Israelis and Palestinians will negotiate a border that is different than the one that existed on June 4th, 1967.” 568 By stating that a final settlement would include “land swaps,” Obama acknowledged that Israel would retain some territory in the West Bank, generally understood to be, at a minimum, the major settlement blocs.

Israel has time and again demonstrated its readiness to cede territory for peace – having done so on multiple occasions with Egypt, Lebanon and the Palestinians. Prime Minister Netanyahu has said he is also prepared to “make painful compromises to achieve peace.” As he told a joint session of Congress on May 24, 2011. “I recognize that in a genuine peace, [Israel] will be required to give up parts of the Jewish homeland.” 569

"It is unthinkable that Israel would return to the '67 borders in the West Bank, which would deny the Israeli people the defensible borders that are vital for them. Even in the era of advanced military technology there is a decisive importance to strategic depth and terrain conditions for national security."

— Lt. Gen. Earl B. Hailston, Commander U.S. Marines in Iraq/Afghanistan 570

 

MYTH

"Gaza does not receive necessary humanitarian supplies due to Israel's blockade." top

FACT

Though Hamas attempts to manipulate public opinion and distort reality to claim that Israel is making Gaza into the worlds “largest open-air prison,” the facts paint a completely different story. In 2010, both the International Red Cross (ICRC) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) publicly reported that there were no shortages of food or supplies in Gaza. 571 Even when Hamas resumed bombarding Israel with mortars and rockets, Israel continued to provide humanitarian assistance, electricity and even waste disposal to Gaza.

In April 2011, Mathilde De Riedmatten, ICRC Deputy Head of Sub Delegation in Gaza, announced that there was “no humanitarian crisis in Gaza … there are products [in supermarkets], there are restaurants and a nice beach.” 572 She noted that the ICRC and IDF “coordinate the entry of goods into Gaza and the entry and exit of people … sometimes patients who are going to Israel to receive medical care.” 573 In fact, over the first quarter of 2011 alone, Israel delivered a daily average of 5,000 tons of food, goods, fuel and development assistance through its land crossings with Gaza. Moreover, in 2010, Israel authorized the exit of more than 18,000 Palestinian patients from Gaza to Israeli hospitals for medical treatment – everything from cancer chemotherapy to heart surgeries. 574

While Israel continues to supply necessary humanitarian supplies, the citizens of Gaza can now also move and trade freely with Egypt. On May 25, 2011, the Supreme Military Council - ruling Egypt since the overthrow of President Mubarak – officially opened the Egyptian border crossing with Gaza at Rafah, ending a four-year closure of Gaza’s only international border outside of Israel. Now Israel’s detractors, who accused Israel of blockading the Strip while ignoring Egypt’s closure of the border, can no longer use Israeli policy as justification for future blockade-busting flotillas to supply Gazans.

Life in Gaza is certainly difficult, but the situation there does not constitute the humanitarian crisis Hamas and the media have portrayed. This is largely because Israel has ensured that a steady supply of food and basic supplies reach the Palestinian people. With its border now open to Egypt, Gazans can also no longer claim to be under a total blockade and can procure the resources they need through the Rafah crossing. The concern now is whether Egypt will allow Hamas to exploit the opening to smuggle in weapons for use against Israel.


MYTH

"Palestinian protestors staged non-violent demonstrations on the Israeli-Syrian border." top

FACT

On June 5, 2011, in a repeat of the events of “Nakba Day” only two weeks earlier, hundreds of Palestinian and pro-Palestinian demonstrators marked “Naksa Day,” a commemoration of the Arab loss in the Six Day War, by sparking deadly riots on Israel’s borders. The demonstrators attempted to infiltrate across Israel’s border, forcing Israeli troops to disperse the crowds. Unlike the nonviolent protestors who have taken to the streets in Syria to demand governmental reform from President Bashar Assad – and who have been summarily brutalized and killed – the demonstrators on Israel’s borders came armed with the intent to provoke Israel’s army.

International media reports characterizing the protestors on the Syrian border as “non-violent” and “unarmed” were inaccurate. Armed gunmen were spotted in the crowds that gathered near the border fence and many other allegedly peaceful protestors flung Molotov cocktails and large rocks toward Israeli forces. 575 At one point, the incendiaries launched by the protestors caused a mine field to ignite, leading to the explosion of four anti-tank mines, which caused severe injuries to the protestors.576 The IDF cautioned the mob approaching the border to stay back. The protestors ignored the warnings, however, and, instead of peacefully demonstrating, repeatedly rushed the fence to test the IDF. 577 When the IDF called for a ceasefire to enable Red Cross personnel to evacuate the wounded, protestors took advantage of the situation by continuing to breach the border. 578

Israel made clear in the week leading up to these events that it would defend its borders from foreign invaders. “My instructions are clear,” declared Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “To respond with restraint, yet with the necessary resolve to protect our borders, our communities and our citizens.” 579 U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner emphasized that, “Israel, like any sovereign nation, has a right to defend itself.” 580

The Israeli government also called on its neighbors to prevent any provocations by blocking access to their shared borders. In the case of Lebanon, the Lebanese military intervened and halted planned marches, but the Syrian regime allowed unfettered access to their border and instigated violent demonstrations. The Reform Party in Syria reported, for example, that Assad paid demonstrators up to $1,000 for rioting and up to $10,000 if they would be killed by Israeli fire. 581

Few people were fooled by the Syrians’ cynical use of the Palestinian refugee issue to deflect attention from Assad’s ongoing brutal repression of his people. 582 Unfortunately, the media played into Assad’s hands. Since he does not allow reporters into Syria to witness his atrocities, the press instead covered the border protests and then replied on inaccurate and inflammatory Syrian claims of casualties to criticize Israel. The tragedy of the protests is that they have helped Assad continue to commit atrocities with impunity while raising false hopes for Palestinian refugees that they can achieve their demands by force. The continuing irresponsibility of the Palestinian leadership has also been on display as Mahmoud Abbas has done nothing to discourage the provocative acts or to do the one thing that offers real hope for a better future for the Palestinian people – negotiate a two-state arrangement with Israel.

MYTH

"The 'Flotilla 2' is intended solely to help relieve the humanitarian crisis in Gaza." top

FACT

For the second time in two years, a group of anti-Israel activists have organized a flotilla under the pretext of bringing necessary supplies to Gaza. The true aim of the organizers, however, is to attract international attention and embarrass and provoke Israel by challenging its policy of preventing the terrorists of Hamas from smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip. These provocateurs know that Gaza has no shortage of essential goods, that any needed supplies can be transferred through Egypt and that Israel is prepared to welcome ships into its ports and transfer the cargo to the Palestinians provided it is searched for contraband and weapons before being forwarded.

Labeling itself the international “Freedom Flotilla II – Stay Human,” this year’s convoy will include ships sailing from the United States, Canada, Greece, Ireland, France and Italy and has invited journalists and politicians to join their blockade-busting mission. The U.S. State Department criticized the organizers, declaring that “groups that seek to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza are taking irresponsible and provocative actions.” 583 American citizens were warned not to participate in the activity, which may also violate American law because funding for the mission was raised illegally in the States. 584 In addition, several countries have taken measures to prevent ships from sailing from their ports. Cyprus, for example, which was used as a springboard for the 2010 flotilla, has banned all sailings to Gaza from its seaports. 585

Israel already has indications that some of the activists are planning to use violence against Israeli soldiers if they attempt to board the ships or prevent them from landing. Israeli intelligence learned that some of the flotilla participants may be bringing along chemical agents such as sulfuric acid in order to “shed the blood of IDF soldiers.” 586 The provocateurs apparently hope to gain the type of notoriety and publicity that activists in 2010 achieved when they brutally attacked Israeli soldiers boarding one of the flotilla vessels.

In 2010, flotilla organizers justified their actions by claiming a humanitarian crisis existed in Gaza. It was not true then and is not true now, as the deputy head of the Red Cross subdelegation to Gaza flatly stated in April 2011 that there is “no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.” As recently as June 19, 2011, an aid convoy to Gaza named “Miles of Smiles 3” delivered 15 medical vehicles and 30 tons of medical supplies and milk powder to Gaza through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. 587

Israel has the right –legally and ethically – to stop and inspect ships that attempt to deliver supplies straight to Gaza. In the past, ships attempting to smuggle tons of weapons into Gaza were prevented from doing so by the Israeli blockade. If the Flotilla 2 activists are truly intending to deliver humanitarian supplies, and not to create a bloody confrontation with Israel, it is possible to do so by following procedures set up by the Egyptian and Israeli governments. By trying to circumvent the avenues provided to them, flotilla participants are demonstrating they are far more interested in self-promotion than the welfare of Palestinians.

"Unauthorized efforts to deliver aid are provocative and, ultimately, unhelpful to the people of Gaza. Canada recognizes Israel’s legitimate security concerns and its right to protect itself and its residents from attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups, including by preventing the smuggling of weapons."

— John Baird, Canadian Foreign Minister 588


"The Secretary-General called on all Governments concerned to use their influence to discourage such flotillas, which carry the potential to escalate into violent conflict."

— Ban Ki Moon, United Nations Secretary-General 588

 

MYTH

"The United Nations repudiated the claim that Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza is legal." top

FACT

On September 2, 2011, the United Nations released its investigative report concerning the May 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla that tried to breach Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. The UN Palmer Committee, led by former New Zealand prime minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer, examined the facts, circumstances and context that surrounded the deadly conflagration off Gaza's coast and submitted findings on the international legitimacy and legality of Israel's continued blockade of the Hamas-run enclave. Despite attempts by many media outlets to bury the findings and highlight only the parts that criticized the Jewish state, Palmer's report adopted conclusions that vindicated Israel's positions concerning the blockade and placed the responsibility for the confrontation on the "humanitarian" groups that formed the flotilla.

The 105-page report, which relied heavily on Israel's internal investigation into the incident as well as accounts from flotilla participants, concluded that Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip is consistent with customary international law, is legitimate due to the security threat posed by Hamas and does not constitute collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza.589

"Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza....The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea," the report concluded. Palmer also affirmed Israel's legal right to stop and board the vessels.

"Israeli Defense Forces faced significant, organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers when they boarded Mavi Marmara requiring them to use force for their protection. Three soldiers were captured, mistreated, and placed at risk [and] several others wounded," the report stated.

While the UN committee stated that the Israeli soldiers acted responsibly in defending themselves against the self-proclaimed IHH peace activists - armed with clubs, knives, and steel pipes - it also reprimanded Israel for boarding the ship without prior notice and using "excessive and unnecessary force." Israel took issue with this conclusion and reiterated its regret at the loss of life during the incident.590

The United Nations has now officially stated that Israel's two-year naval blockade is legal and legitimate. To protect its citizens from the continued threat of arms smuggling by Hamas, Israel has the ongoing responsibility to inspect any cargo that enters Gaza. It is Hamas and its supporters - not Israel's blockade -that pose the greatest danger to peace and security in the region.

The report criticized the flotilla's organizers and questioned their "true nature and objectives, particularly IHH [that] planned in advance to violently resist any boarding attempt."

Regarding Turkey, Palmer's report said that "not enough was done to inform the flotilla participants of the risks." Moreover, states like Turkey have "a responsibility to take proactive steps" to warn flotilla participants and "to endeavor to dissuade them" from challenging Israel's naval blockade.

The Palmer report also contradicted human rights groups' claim that a humanitarian crisis exists in Gaza. Anyone wanting to send humanitarian aid to Gaza, the report said, must do so in coordination with Israel and the Palestinian Authority through the land crossings.591

MYTH

"A Unilateral Declaration of Independence is the Palestinians’ only avenue to advance the Peace Process." top

FACT

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is poised to defy the wishes of Israel, the United States and many European nations when he submits a request to the UN to recognize a state of Palestine. Abbas maintains that Israeli intransigence at the negotiating table has left the Palestinians no choice other than unilateral action to advance the peace process. 592 In truth, it is the Palestinians who have refused even to sit down for talks with Israel. Despite repeated invitations from Israel, and encouragement by the Obama Administration, Abbas has boycotted negotiations for two years.

Rather than discuss the crucial issues of borders, settlements, refugees and Jerusalem, Abbas has chosen to pursue a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) in an effort to gain international recognition for his uncompromising positions on these issues. A UN vote, however, will not provide independence to the Palestinians; it will be only a symbolic victory. Israel will not withdraw from any territory as a result, will not recognize “Palestine,” and will not change its support for a two-state solution based on agreed upon borders and security arrangements.

The Palestine Liberation Organization has held observer status at the UN since 1974 and Abbas is now seeking the privileges of an independent state. The Palestinians expect at least 150 of the 192 UN members to endorse their statehood bid, but the United States has already pledged to veto any resolution put before the Security Council. 593Without Security Council approval, the General Assembly can only change the PLO’s status as it does not have the power to declare the establishment of states or to admit members to the UN. Nevertheless, a General Assembly vote would give international recognition to a phantom Palestinian state.

Though it is unlikely to matter to the General Assembly, which has an automatic majority for any pro-Palestinian initiative, the Palestinians do not yet have all of the characteristics of a state. According to the 1933 Montevideo Convention, the four requirements for a state are a permanent population, a defined territory, effective government over the population, and the capacity to enter into relations with other states.

As Steven Rosen of the Middle East Forum observed, " the General Assembly will create an imaginary state that has two incompatible presidents, two rival prime ministers, a constitution whose most central provisions are violated by both sides, no functioning legislature, no ability to hold elections, a population mostly not under its control, borders that would annex territory under the control of other powers, and no clear path to resolve any of these conflicts."
594

In addition, the Palestinian Authority is unable to support itself financially, depending almost entirely on foreign aid. Finally, the “state” is divided between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with the latter outside the control of Abbas. Hamas rules Gaza independently, opposes the UDI, as well as any peace with Israel, and continues to engage in terror. A vote for the UDI would endorse Hamas rule and create a UN member state whose objective is the destruction of another member.

By going to the UN to circumvent negotiations, the Palestinians will undermine the peace process by violating international agreements, alienating the Israeli public and giving the Palestinian people false hope that their lives will change. Many Palestinians, including Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, recognize this course is irresponsible, and may threaten some of their interests, and are therefore opposed to the UDI. 595

Approval by the UN of a unilateral declaration of independence has potentially serious detrimental consequences for the Palestinians. Israel will feel justified, for example, in taking its own unilateral measures. The Oslo Accords could also be declared null and void and Israel could cease to abide by its provisions, such as providing water to the PA (which would no longer exist) or recognizing Palestinian control over certain areas in the West Bank. By declaring “independence,” the PA would threaten bilateral cooperation with Israel in more than 40 spheres of activity, including security collaboration, institution building and economic support. 596

Moreover, the UDI would jeopardize economic aid from the United States, which is legally prohibited from funding terrorist organizations and Hamas would now be governing at least part of phantom Palestine. The U.S. Consul General in Jerusalem, Daniel Rubenstein, told the PA that Congress is prepared to “take punitive measures to cut aid” if the UDI is pushed forward. 597

Additionally, the UDI will raise expectations among the Palestinian people that they will be independent, that Israeli involvement in their lives will end, that the settlements will disappear and that they will have a capital in Jerusalem. When none of these come to pass, the public may turn on its leaders or, more likely, vent its frustration on Israel. As EU Parliament Chief Jerry Buzek warned, “unilateral actions can become very dangerous.” 598

A UDI would contravene almost every international resolution and agreement aimed at achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace. The Oslo Accords, the Road Map and Security Council resolutions 242, 338 and 1850 stipulate, the only route to a sustainable peace is through negotiations. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admonished the Palestinian leadership on the UDI tactic, saying “there is no substitute for face to face discussion.” At a time when much of the Middle East is either in flames or simmering, the Palestinians seem determined to throw a gasoline can into the mix. The United States and Israel are trying to do everything possible to discourage them from their incendiary policy and to restart peace negotiations, but Abbas may not be deterred from proving once again that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

MYTH

"Palestinian leaders claim that the future Palestinian state will welcome Jews and Israelis." top

FACT

The Palestinian Liberation Organization’s ambassador to the United States Maen Areikat said on September 13, 2011, that a future Palestinian state should be free of Jews, a call for ethnic cleansing reminiscent of Nazi Germany. This is not the first time that a Palestinian official has suggested making “Palestine” judenrein and reflects an ugly undercurrent of anti-Semitism within the Palestinian Authority.

Once a Palestinian state is established, why shouldn’t Jews be welcome there? The same question could be asked of any country, but is particularly relevant in the case of the area likely to become Palestine because it has been the home of Jews for centuries.

Imagine the uproar if any Israeli official suggested that no Arabs or Muslims should be allowed to live in Israel. In fact, 1.3 million Arabs live as free and equal citizens in Israel. “After the experience of the last 44 years of military occupation and all the conflict and friction, I think it would be in the best interest of the two people to be separated at first,” Areikat told USA Today. 599

Areikat insists that the Palestinians need to work on building their national identity, but part of their demand for independence is based on the claim that they already have a national identity. Moreover, how would identity-building be impeded by the presence of Jews, unless you subscribe to Nazi-like ideology about purity of the race and argue that Jews may somehow contaminate the Palestinian nation.

After provoking criticism, Areikat later gave a partial retraction, but his anti-Semitic views have been echoed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who said in December 2010, “If there is an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, we won’t agree to the presence of one Israeli in it.” 600

Now Abbas is requesting that the United Nations endorse a Palestinian state that will be founded on anti-Semitism and a promise of ethnic cleansing. The question now becomes whether a body created with the aim of promoting peace, dignity and universal human rights will disgrace itself by voting in favor of a resolution that undermines those principles.

"To summarize, the new Palestinian state will be a genuine apartheid state. It will practice religious and ethnic discrimination, will have one official religion and will base its laws on the precepts of that religion."

— Alan Dershowitz, Harvard law professor 601

MYTH

"Mahmoud Abbas is working toward reaching peace with Israel." top

FACT

Increasingly, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas appears to be the negotiator of choice for the West simply because officials see no option. Israelis are increasingly beginning to question this default option after three years of Abbas refusing to enter negotiations with Israel and a lifetime of rejectionism.

New evidence that Abbas is the impediment to peace continues to mount. In September 2011, Abbas defied the United States and many other nations by submitting an application for recognition to the UN Security Council.

A month later, Abbas again ignored the objections of the United States and other Western powers and submitted an application to UNESCO seeking recognition of Palestine. While winning the vote, the White House condemned the decision as "regrettable" and "premature," and said it undermines the effort to bring about peace between Israel and the Palestinians.602

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly invited Abbas to talks without preconditions and Abbas has refused. In fact, Abbas came out of his first meeting with President Obama saying he hoped the Obama Administration would force Netanyahu out of office. Abbas added that he was willing to wait years until that happened.603

Even after Israel placed a ten-month moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank in an effort to entice the Palestinians into peace talks, Abbas refused to sit with the Israeli leaders until just two weeks before the freeze was set to expire and, after one meeting, never returned to the talks.604

In October 2011, the Quartet called for a renewal of talks and Abbas ignored the group that includes the UN, Russia, the United States and the European Union.

A new memoir by former U.S. National Security Adviser and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has provided additional damning evidence of Abbas's rejection of peace. In 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered to withdraw from approximately 94 percent of the West Bank, with an additional 1.5 percent of the territory used to create a passage to Gaza and the remaining 4.5 percent to be "swapped" so that Israel could annex its major settlement blocs.605

Olmert also proposed a division of Jerusalem that would have allowed the Palestinians to establish their capital in the predominantly Arab part of the city. Rice called the proposal "amazing" and warned the Prime Minister that "Yitzhak Rabin had been killed for offering far less."606

Abbas refused to consummate the deal. As Haaretz noted, "aficionados of the Palestinians again found a million and one reasons why the peace-loving Palestinian leader had refused the offer."607

While rejecting peace Abbas also glorifies terrorists. Most recently, he praised five of the terrorists released in the deal to free Israeli hostage Gilad Shalit (who was kidnapped on Abbas's watch). The killers, along with other former prisoners, were awarded grants by Abbas as a "presidential token of honor."608

Abbas has found excuses not to negotiate a deal with three different Israeli prime ministers and there is no reason to expect that a change in Israeli leadership would make him any less intransigent.

After spending two years trying to satisfy Palestinian demands and encourage them to return to the negotiating table, President Obama has reportedly grown so disenchanted with Abbas that he has not spoken to him in months.609

Columnist Yoel Marcus may have put it best when he described Abbas as "an adamant rejectionist" who comes "across as a nicely compelling non-partner."610

MYTH

"Time is not on Iran's side vis-a-vis its acquiring the atomic bomb." top

FACT

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a report on November 8, 2011, with new evidence of Iran’s commitment to building a nuclear weapon and the progress it has made toward achieving its goal.

The IAEA expresses “more concern about the possible existence of undeclared nuclear facilities and material in Iran” and “was informed that Iran has undertaken work to manufacture small capsules suitable for use as containers of a component containing nuclear material. Iran may also have experimented with such components in order to assess their performance in generating neurons. Such components, if placed in the centre of a nuclear core of an implosion type nuclear device and compressed, could produce a burst of neutrons suitable for initiating a fission chain reaction,” the report states.611

Unwilling to take military action, the international community has tried both carrots and sticks to halt the Iranian drive toward the nuclear threshold. Years of fruitless negotiations and offers of incentives were viewed by the Iranians as signs of Western weakness and were exploited to accelerate their program. As multiple IAEA reports have illustrated, sanctions have had no more impact as several nations have failed to enforce them rigorously, and other countries, especially China, have openly flouted them. Efforts to impose tougher sanctions have proved futile as China and Russia block their adoption at the UN Security Council.

U.S. policy has also been a failure. The Obama Administration first tried negotiating with the Iranians and was made to look as foolish as the Europeans who had previously failed to talk Iran out of building a bomb. The Administration has continued to apply half-measures and refused to impose any significant sanctions that would seriously inflict pain on the Iranian leadership or the general public. The fear of hurting the people has ensured they do not suffer enough to risk a revolution against the regime.

The only publicly disclosed efforts to stop the Iranians that have reportedly slowed them down have been quasi-military operations involving the assassination of nuclear scientists and the use of cyber warfare to infect the nuclear program's computer systems with a virus. The IAEA report makes clear, however, that even these covert operations have not discouraged Iran from pursuing a weapon and making progress toward their goal.

Some apologists for Iran have suggested that the regime poses no danger to U.S. interests. This is nonsense. Iran funds international terror, works to undermine Arab-Israeli peace, threatens oil supplies, promotes instability, targets our troops in the region and hatched a terror plot in Washington, D.C. The pre-nuclear Iran is already spurring proliferation as Arab rivals start to explore a nuclear deterrent.

The nations in the Middle East have no doubt about the danger posed by the Iranians and, with the exception of their allies in Syria and proxies in Lebanon, are united in calling for measures to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Saudi Arabia has made no secret of its desire, for example, to see the United States use military force against Iran.612

Iran is continuing on what appears to be an inexorable march to join the nuclear club. Continuing policies that have failed for a decade will not halt that advance.

MYTH

"Due to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel's economy has been suffering." top

FACT

Israelis have always envisioned a day when they would have peace with their neighbors and enjoy normal commercial relations that would be a boon to both Israel and the Arab states. Unfortunately, the Arab states initiated an economic boycott in 1945 and most still refuse to engage in any trade with Israel. The ongoing conflict also imposes heavy costs on Israel, forcing it to devote resources to security that might otherwise be directed to more productive uses.

Despite these impediments, Israel has shown a remarkable capacity to thrive economically throughout its history. Today, in fact, as the economies of most nations struggle, Israel’s is booming. Israel now has the world’s fastest-growing economy.613

One indication of the strength of Israel’s economy is its rating by Standard and Poor. While S&P downgraded America’s rating in August 2011 (for the first time since 1917) from AAA to AA+ following the stalemate over raising the debt ceiling,614 the ratings services raised Israel’s long-term foreign currency sovereign credit ratings in September 2011 from “A” to “A+,” denoting its “very strong capacity to meet financial commitments.”615

Another sign of Israel’s economic strength was its admission to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in June 2011. This placed Israel among a select group of 34 nations that “promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.”616

According to the OECD, Israel’s economy is expected to grow by 5.4 percent in 2011, up from 4.7 percent in 2010. Unemployment is also expected to decline from 6.6 percent to 6.2.

For 2011-2012, Israel ranks as the 22nd most-competitive market in the world, two ranks up from last year in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report.617 Switzerland, Singapore, Sweden, Finland and the United States rank as the top five, respectively, while Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the only other Middle East nations in the top 25, rank at 14 and 17, respectively.618

These are just a few indicators of the strength of Israel’s economy. Israel, like other nations, also has its share of economic problems. As the protests of the summer of 2011 indicated, many Israelis are unhappy with the gap between rich and poor and the cost of housing and child care. The number of Israelis below the poverty line has also grown to 23.6% of the total population today. These are real concerns that Israelis want their government to address.

Israelis also hope that one day they will be at peace with all their neighbors and can then focus more of their resources on improving the lives of the people and expanding the economy and less on security.

MYTH:  

Gaza does not receive necessary humanitarian supplies due to Israel's blockade.

FACT

Though Hamas attempts to manipulate public opinion and distort reality to claim that Israel is making Gaza into the worlds “largest open-air prison,” the facts paint a completely different story. In 2010, both the International Red Cross (ICRC) and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) publicly reported that there were no shortages of food or supplies in Gaza. 1 Even when Hamas resumed bombarding Israel with mortars and rockets, Israel continued to provide humanitarian assistance, electricity and even waste disposal to Gaza.

In April 2011, Mathilde De Riedmatten, ICRC Deputy Head of Sub Delegation in Gaza, announced that there was “no humanitarian crisis in Gaza … there are products [in supermarkets], there are restaurants and a nice beach.” 2 She noted that the ICRC and IDF “coordinate the entry of goods into Gaza and the entry and exit of people … sometimes patients who are going to Israel to receive medical care.” 3 In fact, over the first quarter of 2011 alone, Israel delivered a daily average of 5,000 tons of food, goods, fuel and development assistance through its land crossings with Gaza. Moreover, in 2010, Israel authorized the exit of more than 18,000 Palestinian patients from Gaza to Israeli hospitals for medical treatment – everything from cancer chemotherapy to heart surgeries. 4

While Israel continues to supply necessary humanitarian supplies, the citizens of Gaza can now also move and trade freely with Egypt. On May 25, 2011, the Supreme Military Council - ruling Egypt since the overthrow of President Mubarak – officially opened the Egyptian border crossing with Gaza at Rafah, ending a four-year closure of Gaza’s only international border outside of Israel. Now Israel’s detractors, who accused Israel of blockading the Strip while ignoring Egypt’s closure of the border, can no longer use Israeli policy as justification for future blockade-busting flotillas to supply Gazans.

Life in Gaza is certainly difficult, but the situation there does not constitute the humanitarian crisis Hamas and the media have portrayed. This is largely because Israel has ensured that a steady supply of food and basic supplies reach the Palestinian people. With its border now open to Egypt, Gazans can also no longer claim to be under a total blockade and can procure the resources they need through the Rafah crossing. The concern now is whether Egypt will allow Hamas to exploit the opening to smuggle in weapons for use against Israel.

 

MYTH:  

The 'Flotilla 2' is solely intended to help relieve the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

FACT

For the second time in two years, a group of anti-Israel activists have organized a flotilla under the pretext of bringing necessary supplies to Gaza. The true aim of the organizers, however, is to attract international attention and embarrass and provoke Israel by challenging its policy of preventing the terrorists of Hamas from smuggling weapons into the Gaza Strip. These provocateurs know that Gaza has no shortage of essential goods, that any needed supplies can be transferred through Egypt and that Israel is prepared to welcome ships into its ports and transfer the cargo to the Palestinians provided it is searched for contraband and weapons before being forwarded.

Labeling itself the international “Freedom Flotilla II – Stay Human,” this year’s convoy will include ships sailing from the United States, Canada, Greece, Ireland, France and Italy and has invited journalists and politicians to join their blockade-busting mission. The U.S. State Department criticized the organizers, declaring that “groups that seek to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza are taking irresponsible and provocative actions.” 5 American citizens were warned not to participate in the activity, which may also violate American law because funding for the mission was raised illegally in the States. 6 In addition, several countries have taken measures to prevent ships from sailing from their ports. Cyprus, for example, which was used as a springboard for the 2010 flotilla, has banned all sailings to Gaza from its seaports. 7

Israel already has indications that some of the activists are planning to use violence against Israeli soldiers if they attempt to board the ships or prevent them from landing. Israeli intelligence learned that some of the flotilla participants may be bringing along chemical agents such as sulfuric acid in order to “shed the blood of IDF soldiers.” 8 The provocateurs apparently hope to gain the type of notoriety and publicity that activists in 2010 achieved when they brutally attacked Israeli soldiers boarding one of the flotilla vessels.

In 2010, flotilla organizers justified their actions by claiming a humanitarian crisis existed in Gaza. It was not true then and is not true now, as the deputy head of the Red Cross subdelegation to Gaza flatly stated in April 2011 that there is “no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.” As recently as June 19, 2011, an aid convoy to Gaza named “Miles of Smiles 3” delivered 15 medical vehicles and 30 tons of medical supplies and milk powder to Gaza through the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. 9

Israel has the right –legally and ethically – to stop and inspect ships that attempt to deliver supplies straight to Gaza. In the past, ships attempting to smuggle tons of weapons into Gaza were prevented from doing so by the Israeli blockade. If the Flotilla 2 activists are truly intending to deliver humanitarian supplies, and not to create a bloody confrontation with Israel, it is possible to do so by following procedures set up by the Egyptian and Israeli governments. By trying to circumvent the avenues provided to them, flotilla participants are demonstrating they are far more interested in self-promotion than the welfare of Palestinians.

"Unauthorized efforts to deliver aid are provocative and, ultimately, unhelpful to the people of Gaza. Canada recognizes Israel’s legitimate security concerns and its right to protect itself and its residents from attacks by Hamas and other terrorist groups, including by preventing the smuggling of weapons."

— John Baird, Canadian Foreign Minister 10


"The Secretary-General called on all Governments concerned to use their influence to discourage such flotillas, which carry the potential to escalate into violent conflict."

— Ban Ki Moon, United Nations Secretary-General 10

 

MYTH:  

The United Nations repudiated the claim that Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza is legal.

FACT

On September 2, 2011, the United Nations released its investigative report concerning the May 2010 Mavi Marmara flotilla that tried to breach Israel's naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. The UN Palmer Committee, led by former New Zealand prime minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer, examined the facts, circumstances and context that surrounded the deadly conflagration off Gaza's coast and submitted findings on the international legitimacy and legality of Israel's continued blockade of the Hamas-run enclave. Despite attempts by many media outlets to bury the findings and highlight only the parts that criticized the Jewish state, Palmer's report adopted conclusions that vindicated Israel's positions concerning the blockade and placed the responsibility for the confrontation on the "humanitarian" groups that formed the flotilla.

The 105-page report, which relied heavily on Israel's internal investigation into the incident as well as accounts from flotilla participants, concluded that Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip is consistent with customary international law, is legitimate due to the security threat posed by Hamas and does not constitute collective punishment of Palestinians in Gaza.11

"Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza....The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea," the report concluded. Palmer also affirmed Israel's legal right to stop and board the vessels.

"Israeli Defense Forces faced significant, organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers when they boarded Mavi Marmara requiring them to use force for their protection. Three soldiers were captured, mistreated, and placed at risk [and] several others wounded," the report stated.

While the UN committee stated that the Israeli soldiers acted responsibly in defending themselves against the self-proclaimed IHH peace activists - armed with clubs, knives, and steel pipes - it also reprimanded Israel for boarding the ship without prior notice and using "excessive and unnecessary force." Israel took issue with this conclusion and reiterated its regret at the loss of life during the incident.12

The United Nations has now officially stated that Israel's two-year naval blockade is legal and legitimate. To protect its citizens from the continued threat of arms smuggling by Hamas, Israel has the ongoing responsibility to inspect any cargo that enters Gaza. It is Hamas and its supporters - not Israel's blockade -that pose the greatest danger to peace and security in the region.

The report criticized the flotilla's organizers and questioned their "true nature and objectives, particularly IHH [that] planned in advance to violently resist any boarding attempt."

Regarding Turkey, Palmer's report said that "not enough was done to inform the flotilla participants of the risks." Moreover, states like Turkey have "a responsibility to take proactive steps" to warn flotilla participants and "to endeavor to dissuade them" from challenging Israel's naval blockade.

The Palmer report also contradicted human rights groups' claim that a humanitarian crisis exists in Gaza. Anyone wanting to send humanitarian aid to Gaza, the report said, must do so in coordination with Israel and the Palestinian Authority through the land crossings.13

 

MYTH:  

A unilateral declaration of independence is the Palestinians’ only avenue to advance the peace process.

FACT

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is poised to defy the wishes of Israel, the United States and many European nations when he submits a request to the UN to recognize a state of Palestine. Abbas maintains that Israeli intransigence at the negotiating table has left the Palestinians no choice other than unilateral action to advance the peace process. 14 In truth, it is the Palestinians who have refused even to sit down for talks with Israel. Despite repeated invitations from Israel, and encouragement by the Obama Administration, Abbas has boycotted negotiations for two years.

Rather than discuss the crucial issues of borders, settlements, refugees and Jerusalem, Abbas has chosen to pursue a Unilateral Declaration of Independence (UDI) in an effort to gain international recognition for his uncompromising positions on these issues. A UN vote, however, will not provide independence to the Palestinians; it will be only a symbolic victory. Israel will not withdraw from any territory as a result, will not recognize “Palestine,” and will not change its support for a two-state solution based on agreed upon borders and security arrangements.

The Palestine Liberation Organization has held observer status at the UN since 1974 and Abbas is now seeking the privileges of an independent state. The Palestinians expect at least 150 of the 192 UN members to endorse their statehood bid, but the United States has already pledged to veto any resolution put before the Security Council. 15 Without Security Council approval, the General Assembly can only change the PLO’s status as it does not have the power to declare the establishment of states or to admit members to the UN. Nevertheless, a General Assembly vote would give international recognition to a phantom Palestinian state.

Though it is unlikely to matter to the General Assembly, which has an automatic majority for any pro-Palestinian initiative, the Palestinians do not yet have all of the characteristics of a state. According to the 1933 Montevideo Convention, the four requirements for a state are a permanent population, a defined territory, effective government over the population, and the capacity to enter into relations with other states.

As Steven Rosen of the Middle East Forum observed, " the General Assembly will create an imaginary state that has two incompatible presidents, two rival prime ministers, a constitution whose most central provisions are violated by both sides, no functioning legislature, no ability to hold elections, a population mostly not under its control, borders that would annex territory under the control of other powers, and no clear path to resolve any of these conflicts."
16

In addition, the Palestinian Authority is unable to support itself financially, depending almost entirely on foreign aid. Finally, the “state” is divided between the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with the latter outside the control of Abbas. Hamas rules Gaza independently, opposes the UDI, as well as any peace with Israel, and continues to engage in terror. A vote for the UDI would endorse Hamas rule and create a UN member state whose objective is the destruction of another member.

By going to the UN to circumvent negotiations, the Palestinians will undermine the peace process by violating international agreements, alienating the Israeli public and giving the Palestinian people false hope that their lives will change. Many Palestinians, including Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, recognize this course is irresponsible, and may threaten some of their interests, and are therefore opposed to the UDI. 17

Approval by the UN of a unilateral declaration of independence has potentially serious detrimental consequences for the Palestinians. Israel will feel justified, for example, in taking its own unilateral measures. The Oslo Accords could also be declared null and void and Israel could cease to abide by its provisions, such as providing water to the PA (which would no longer exist) or recognizing Palestinian control over certain areas in the West Bank. By declaring “independence,” the PA would threaten bilateral cooperation with Israel in more than 40 spheres of activity, including security collaboration, institution building and economic support. 18

Moreover, the UDI would jeopardize economic aid from the United States, which is legally prohibited from funding terrorist organizations and Hamas would now be governing at least part of phantom Palestine. The U.S. Consul General in Jerusalem, Daniel Rubenstein, told the PA that Congress is prepared to “take punitive measures to cut aid” if the UDI is pushed forward. 19

Additionally, the UDI will raise expectations among the Palestinian people that they will be independent, that Israeli involvement in their lives will end, that the settlements will disappear and that they will have a capital in Jerusalem. When none of these come to pass, the public may turn on its leaders or, more likely, vent its frustration on Israel. As EU Parliament Chief Jerry Buzek warned, “unilateral actions can become very dangerous.” 20

A UDI would contravene almost every international resolution and agreement aimed at achieving Israeli-Palestinian peace. The Oslo Accords, the Road Map and Security Council resolutions 242, 338 and 1850 stipulate, the only route to a sustainable peace is through negotiations. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton admonished the Palestinian leadership on the UDI tactic, saying “there is no substitute for face to face discussion.” At a time when much of the Middle East is either in flames or simmering, the Palestinians seem determined to throw a gasoline can into the mix. The United States and Israel are trying to do everything possible to discourage them from their incendiary policy and to restart peace negotiations, but Abbas may not be deterred from proving once again that the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.

 

MYTH:  

Palestinian leaders claim that the future Palestinian state will welcome Jews and Israelis.

FACT

The Palestinian Liberation Organization’s ambassador to the United States Maen Areikat said on September 13, 2011, that a future Palestinian state should be free of Jews, a call for ethnic cleansing reminiscent of Nazi Germany. This is not the first time that a Palestinian official has suggested making “Palestine” judenrein and reflects an ugly undercurrent of anti-Semitism within the Palestinian Authority.

Once a Palestinian state is established, why shouldn’t Jews be welcome there? The same question could be asked of any country, but is particularly relevant in the case of the area likely to become Palestine because it has been the home of Jews for centuries.

Imagine the uproar if any Israeli official suggested that no Arabs or Muslims should be allowed to live in Israel. In fact, 1.3 million Arabs live as free and equal citizens in Israel. “After the experience of the last 44 years of military occupation and all the conflict and friction, I think it would be in the best interest of the two people to be separated at first,” Areikat told USA Today. 21

Areikat insists that the Palestinians need to work on building their national identity, but part of their demand for independence is based on the claim that they already have a national identity. Moreover, how would identity-building be impeded by the presence of Jews, unless you subscribe to Nazi-like ideology about purity of the race and argue that Jews may somehow contaminate the Palestinian nation.

After provoking criticism, Areikat later gave a partial retraction, but his anti-Semitic views have been echoed by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas who said in December 2010, “If there is an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, we won’t agree to the presence of one Israeli in it.” 22

Now Abbas is requesting that the United Nations endorse a Palestinian state that will be founded on anti-Semitism and a promise of ethnic cleansing. The question now becomes whether a body created with the aim of promoting peace, dignity and universal human rights will disgrace itself by voting in favor of a resolution that undermines those principles.

"To summarize, the new Palestinian state will be a genuine apartheid state. It will practice religious and ethnic discrimination, will have one official religion and will base its laws on the precepts of that religion."

— Alan Dershowitz, Harvard law professor 23

 

MYTH

Mahmoud Abbas is working toward reaching peace with Israel.

FACT

Increasingly, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas appears to be the negotiator of choice for the West simply because officials see no option. Israelis are increasingly beginning to question this default option after three years of Abbas refusing to enter negotiations with Israel and a lifetime of rejectionism.

New evidence that Abbas is the impediment to peace continues to mount. In September 2011, Abbas defied the United States and many other nations by submitting an application for recognition to the UN Security Council.

A month later, Abbas again ignored the objections of the United States and other Western powers and submitted an application to UNESCO seeking recognition of Palestine. While winning the vote, the White House condemned the decision as "regrettable" and "premature," and said it undermines the effort to bring about peace between Israel and the Palestinians.24

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly invited Abbas to talks without preconditions and Abbas has refused. In fact, Abbas came out of his first meeting with President Obama saying he hoped the Obama Administration would force Netanyahu out of office. Abbas added that he was willing to wait years until that happened.25

Even after Israel placed a ten-month moratorium on settlement construction in the West Bank in an effort to entice the Palestinians into peace talks, Abbas refused to sit with the Israeli leaders until just two weeks before the freeze was set to expire and, after one meeting, never returned to the talks.26

In October 2011, the Quartet called for a renewal of talks and Abbas ignored the group that includes the UN, Russia, the United States and the European Union.

A new memoir by former U.S. National Security Adviser and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has provided additional damning evidence of Abbas's rejection of peace. In 2008, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert offered to withdraw from approximately 94 percent of the West Bank, with an additional 1.5 percent of the territory used to create a passage to Gaza and the remaining 4.5 percent to be "swapped" so that Israel could annex its major settlement blocs.27

Olmert also proposed a division of Jerusalem that would have allowed the Palestinians to establish their capital in the predominantly Arab part of the city. Rice called the proposal "amazing" and warned the Prime Minister that "Yitzhak Rabin had been killed for offering far less."28

Abbas refused to consummate the deal. As Haaretz noted, "aficionados of the Palestinians again found a million and one reasons why the peace-loving Palestinian leader had refused the offer."29

While rejecting peace Abbas also glorifies terrorists. Most recently, he praised five of the terrorists released in the deal to free Israeli hostage Gilad Shalit (who was kidnapped on Abbas's watch). The killers, along with other former prisoners, were awarded grants by Abbas as a "presidential token of honor."30 In December 2011, Abbas met with a woman (released in the Shalit deal) who lured a 16 year-old Israeli teenager to his death by Palestinian militants, under the pretext of an internet romance in 2001.31

Abbas has found excuses not to negotiate a deal with three different Israeli prime ministers and there is no reason to expect that a change in Israeli leadership would make him any less intransigent.

After spending two years trying to satisfy Palestinian demands and encourage them to return to the negotiating table, President Obama has reportedly grown so disenchanted with Abbas that he has not spoken to him in months.32

Columnist Yoel Marcus may have put it best when he described Abbas as "an adamant rejectionist" who comes "across as a nicely compelling non-partner."33

MYTH

Time is not on Iran's side vis-a-vis its acquiring the atomic bomb.

FACT

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a report on November 8, 2011, with new evidence of Iran’s commitment to building a nuclear weapon and the progress it has made toward achieving its goal.

The IAEA expresses “more concern about the possible existence of undeclared nuclear facilities and material in Iran” and “was informed that Iran has undertaken work to manufacture small capsules suitable for use as containers of a component containing nuclear material. Iran may also have experimented with such components in order to assess their performance in generating neurons. Such components, if placed in the centre of a nuclear core of an implosion type nuclear device and compressed, could produce a burst of neutrons suitable for initiating a fission chain reaction,” the report states.34

Unwilling to take military action, the international community has tried both carrots and sticks to halt the Iranian drive toward the nuclear threshold. Years of fruitless negotiations and offers of incentives were viewed by the Iranians as signs of Western weakness and were exploited to accelerate their program. As multiple IAEA reports have illustrated, sanctions have had no more impact as several nations have failed to enforce them rigorously, and other countries, especially China, have openly flouted them. Efforts to impose tougher sanctions have proved futile as China and Russia block their adoption at the UN Security Council.

U.S. policy has also been a failure. The Obama Administration first tried negotiating with the Iranians and was made to look as foolish as the Europeans who had previously failed to talk Iran out of building a bomb. The Administration has continued to apply half-measures and refused to impose any significant sanctions that would seriously inflict pain on the Iranian leadership or the general public. The fear of hurting the people has ensured they do not suffer enough to risk a revolution against the regime.

The only publicly disclosed efforts to stop the Iranians that have reportedly slowed them down have been quasi-military operations involving the assassination of nuclear scientists and the use of cyber warfare to infect the nuclear program's computer systems with a virus. The IAEA report makes clear, however, that even these covert operations have not discouraged Iran from pursuing a weapon and making progress toward their goal.

Some apologists for Iran have suggested that the regime poses no danger to U.S. interests. This is nonsense. Iran funds international terror, works to undermine Arab-Israeli peace, threatens oil supplies, promotes instability, targets our troops in the region and hatched a terror plot in Washington, D.C. The pre-nuclear Iran is already spurring proliferation as Arab rivals start to explore a nuclear deterrent.

The nations in the Middle East have no doubt about the danger posed by the Iranians and, with the exception of their allies in Syria and proxies in Lebanon, are united in calling for measures to stop Iran’s nuclear program. Saudi Arabia has made no secret of its desire, for example, to see the United States use military force against Iran.35

Iran is continuing on what appears to be an inexorable march to join the nuclear club. Continuing policies that have failed for a decade will not halt that advance.

MYTH

Due to the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel's economy has been suffering.

FACT

Israelis have always envisioned a day when they would have peace with their neighbors and enjoy normal commercial relations that would be a boon to both Israel and the Arab states. Unfortunately, the Arab states initiated an economic boycott in 1945 and most still refuse to engage in any trade with Israel. The ongoing conflict also imposes heavy costs on Israel, forcing it to devote resources to security that might otherwise be directed to more productive uses.

Despite these impediments, Israel has shown a remarkable capacity to thrive economically throughout its history. Today, in fact, as the economies of most nations struggle, Israel’s is booming. Israel now has the world’s fastest-growing economy.36

One indication of the strength of Israel’s economy is its rating by Standard and Poor. While S&P downgraded America’s rating in August 2011 (for the first time since 1917) from AAA to AA+ following the stalemate over raising the debt ceiling,37 the ratings services raised Israel’s long-term foreign currency sovereign credit ratings in September 2011 from “A” to “A+,” denoting its “very strong capacity to meet financial commitments.”38

Another sign of Israel’s economic strength was its admission to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in June 2011. This placed Israel among a select group of 34 nations that “promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.”39

According to the OECD, Israel’s economy is expected to grow by 5.4 percent in 2011, up from 4.7 percent in 2010. Unemployment is also expected to decline from 6.6 percent to 6.2.

For 2011-2012, Israel ranks as the 22nd most-competitive market in the world, two ranks up from last year in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report.40 Switzerland, Singapore, Sweden, Finland and the United States rank as the top five, respectively, while Qatar and Saudi Arabia, the only other Middle East nations in the top 25, rank at 14 and 17, respectively.41

These are just a few indicators of the strength of Israel’s economy. Israel, like other nations, also has its share of economic problems. As the protests of the summer of 2011 indicated, many Israelis are unhappy with the gap between rich and poor and the cost of housing and child care. The number of Israelis below the poverty line has also grown to 23.6% of the total population today. These are real concerns that Israelis want their government to address.

Israelis also hope that one day they will be at peace with all their neighbors and can then focus more of their resources on improving the lives of the people and expanding the economy and less on security.

 

MYTH

Of the Palestinian prisoners released in the Shalit deal, most who have spoken out say they will renounce terror.

FACT

Israel hoped that the 477 prisoners it released as part of the Gilad Shalit exchange deal in November 2011 would show remorse for their actions; however, the oldest prisoner released so far seems to be the only one with any hint of penitence.42

Seventy-nine-year-old Sami Younis had served 29 years of a 40-year sentence for activity in the terror cell that murdered soldier Avraham Bromberg in 1980. While never explicitly expressing regret, Younis said that “what was correct for that time is no longer correct. Since the Oslo accord, I’ve become a soldier for peace. Sixty years of war and bloodshed is enough.”43

Unfortunately, several others prisoners have shown no remorse whatsoever for their heinous crimes and immediately incited others to follow in their terrorist footsteps. These include failed suicide bombers and Palestinians who dispatched or drove other terrorists to attack Israeli bus stations, hotels and restaurants.

These killers and would-be murderers were welcomed home as heroes not only by their families and friends but also by Palestinian Authority officials. President Mahmoud Abbas, often called a “moderate” by wishful thinkers, declared, “You are freedom fighters and holy warriors.”44

One appalling example of a terrorist using her notoriety to promote violence was failed suicide bomber Wafa al-Bis, who told dozens of Palestinian children at her Gaza home: “I hope you will walk the same path we took and, God willing, we will see some of you as martyrs.”45

Al Bis was 19 when she tried to blow up an Israeli hospital but was found with 22 pounds of explosives sewn to her underwear at the Erez crossing checkpoint. Indeed, Bis’ mother said “this is jihad, it is an honorable thing and I am proud of her.”46

Ahlam Tamimi was not only unrepentant; she was willing to resort to violence again. In July 2001, Tamimi, then a 20 year-old student, drove a suicide bomber who blew up a Jerusalem Sbarro restaurant that killed 16 people and injured 130.

When asked if she felt sorry, she replied “No. Why should I feel sorry?” Tamimi does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and added, “I dedicated myself to jihad for the sake of Allah, and Allah granted me success. You know how many casualties there were [in the 2001 attack]? This was made possible by Allah.” The interviewer asked if she would do it again and she said, “Yes.”47

Similarly, Muhammad Abu Ataya – sentenced to 16 years in prison for membership in Hamas’ military brigade – said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “will not deter us from continuing the journey of resistance.” Speaking to Lebanese Al-Quds TV, Abu Ataya stated he was imprisoned for “killing spies and traitors [and] going after the herd of settlers and the Israeli army,” actions which he still supported.48

Another of the murderers who gained his freedom was Yehya Sinwar, a senior operative who helped form Hamas’ military wing in Gaza. He had been serving four life sentences for his involvement in the 1994 kidnapping and murder of Israel Defense Forces soldier Nachshon Wachsman. Upon his release, Sinwar extolled the virtue of kidnapping Israelis as a means of improving the morale of Palestinian prisoners. “For the prisoner, capturing an Israeli soldier is the best news in the universe, because he knows that a glimmer of hope has been opened for him,” he told The New York Times.49

 

MYTH

"Israel's proposed rebuilding of the Mugrabi Gate leading to the Temple Mount is an act of religious war."

FACT

On Monday, December 12, 2011, Israel temporarily closed the single pedestrian walkway open to non-Muslims that leads to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Israel’s Western Wall Heritage Foundation, which closed the walkway to the Mugrabi Bridge, cited the public safety of visitors who use the walkway as the reason for closure. The ramp is a temporary structure that is unstable, a fire hazard and prone to storm damage. It was built after an earthquake damaged the original ramp in 2004.

Israel wants to build a safer, permanent structure, but has been reluctant to do so because of the type of hysterical reaction of Arab officials that accompanied the brief closure of the current bridge. Egyptian, Jordanian, and Palestinian (Hamas and the Palestinian Authority) officials characterized the Israeli move as negative, and their statements range from calling it “illegal” and “unacceptable” to “a declaration of religious war.”50

Jordan’s religious affairs minister Abdul-Salam Abbadi criticized the Israelis of “further Judaizing Jerusalem and changing the Islamic and Christian character in the Old City using baseless excuses.” One PA Official called the decision “illegal unacceptable and provocative [because] Israel has no right running these sites in the occupied part of east Jerusalem.” Hamas accused Israel of “provoking the feelings of all Islamic and Arab people.”51

Additionally, the Palestinian Center for Human Rights “condemns in the strongest terms the ongoing policies adopted by Israeli occupation authorities aimed at creating a Jewish majority in occupied East Jerusalem, the latest of which has been closing the wooden bridge of Bab al-Maghariba.”52

The outrage expressed over Israel’s actions is less about the bridge than the underlying issue of who ought to have jurisdiction to control the gate to the Temple Mount. Palestinians insist this should be part of the capital of a future Palestinian state and Muslims argue they should control the area because it is the site of the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa Mosque. For Jews, the Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism, the site of the original holy Temple built by Solomon. Politically, it is also part of Israel’s capital and subject to the government’s authority.

The issue has nothing to do with freedom of religion or access to the Temple Mount. The Mugrabi Bridge is used primarily by non-Muslims. Muslims can and routinely do enter the Temple Mount from another of the several gates only open to Muslims.

Israel has demonstrated sensitivity to the issue by refraining from demolishing the bridge and building a more structurally sound one up to this point; however, the time is coming when public safety will have to take precedence over politics. The Mugrabi Bridge is unsafe and needs to be replaced. Providing this security to Muslims and non-Muslims alike who wish to visit the Temple Mount or pray in the mosque should be commended.

 

MYTH

"The Palestinian leadership wants to normalize ties with Israel."

FACT

Israel’s quest for peace with its neighbors starts with a desire to engage in mutually beneficial cooperative activities and to build confidence and positive attitudes to encourage coexistence and lasting peace. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, along with President Obama, has spent most of the last three years trying to convince Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to simply sit at the negotiating table to reach a peace agreement. Abbas has stubbornly refused to engage in peace talks. Worse, he is now doing everything in his power to prevent other Palestinians from engaging Israelis in any way.

The West Bank-ruling Fatah party declared war on normalization with Israel, Bethlehem’s (Palestinian) mayor called for a total boycott of Israel, and hundreds of Palestinians successfully interrupted and stopped two conferences about peace whose participants included Palestinians and Israelis.53

Senior Fatah official Hatem Abdel Kader announced Fatah’s plans to “thwart any Palestinian-Israeli meeting, even if it’s held in Tel Aviv or west Jerusalem…In Fatah we have officially decided to ban such gatherings.” Last week, Palestinians stopped an attempt by the Israeli Palestinian Confederation to hold a conference in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, and the following day, another anti-normalization protest forced the group to cancel another planned meeting at which Al-Quds University President Sari Nusseibeh planned to speak.54

This week, Palestinian political activists thwarted a meeting between Israelis and Palestinians in east Jerusalem that was organized by the Palestine-Israel Journal, a non-profit group started by two well-known Palestinian and Israeli journalists. The group's main goal is to broaden the peace process's support base by promoting dialogue between the civil societies. The thwarted meeting's topic was the "Arab Spring's impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict." 55

Lifelong civil rights leader and the first South African democratic leader Nelson Mandela said: “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”56 The Palestinians, however, call for boycotts and other measures to avoid working with Israelis to build the kind of partnership Mandela rightly said could lead to peace.

Once again, the obstacle to peace is clear – Palestinian intransigence. Abbas still believes he can establish a state without negotiating with Israel. Until he is either disabused of this delusion or replaced by a true leader who promotes normalization and seeks peace through dialogue, the two-state solution that Israel and most of the world seek will remain out of reach.

 

MYTH

"The Palestinians agreed to negotiate with Israel without preconditions."

FACT

After three years of refusing to talk to Israeli officials, Jordan’s King Abdullah persuaded the Palestinians to meet with Israeli negotiators in Amman, raising hopes that, at last, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas was dropping his demand that Israel freeze all settlements before agreeing to enter peace talks. Israelis also were cautiously optimistic that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s longstanding invitation to discuss all outstanding issues would be accepted and that progress could be made toward achieving a two-state solution.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat threw cold water on those hopes immediately, saying the Amman meeting was not a resumption of negotiations. He continued to insist that “Netanyahu needs to freeze construction of settlements and accept the ’67 outline for a two-state solution before we return to the negotiating table.”57

This was never a precondition for talks in the past; in fact, Abbas held 35 meetings with former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert while settlement construction continued.58 When Netanyahu did agree to a 10-month freeze under pressure from the Obama Administration, Abbas still refused to negotiate until the last month of the freeze, when he nixed continuing the negotiations on the grounds that Israel would not extend the settlement freeze. 59

Palestinians and their supporters claim that Israeli settlement construction undermines confidence in Israel’s commitment to peace; however, they have no one to blame but themselves for the growth of settlements. The moment they sign a peace agreement, the settlement construction will cease, but there is no reason to expect that to happen in advance of negotiations.

The Palestinians operate under the impression that Israel must make concessions, prisoner releases, settlement freezes, dismantling of checkpoints, just to get them to the bargaining table. Compromise, however, is supposed to be part of peace talks, not the price for the talks themselves. In its desire for peace with the Palestinians, Israel has nevertheless made such concessions in the past, but there is no reason to do so now.

While the Palestinians complain about the impact of settlements on their confidence, they are doing everything in their power to undermine Israeli confidence in their sincerity about peace. First, Fatah has been working to reconcile with Hamas, which condemned the Amman talks, vows to destroy Israel and declared itself the Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood.60 Besides reiterating its unwillingness to recognize Israel, let alone make peace with it, Hamas continues to engage in terror attacks against Israel, firing a total of 633 rockets and 400 mortar shells into Israel from the Gaza Strip in the last three years. 61

Second, rather than express a desire to peacefully end the conflict with Israel, the Palestinians have threatened a lengthy diplomatic offensive against Israel aimed at winning recognition from the international community for their demands without having to compromise through direct talks with Israel, isolating Israel and seeking international sanctions to try to force Israel to capitulate to their demands. “[The year 2012] will be the start of an unprecedented diplomatic campaign on the part of the Palestinian leadership, and a year of pressure on Israel that will put it under a real international siege [through a] campaign similar to the one waged against apartheid in South Africa,” Fatah Central Committee member Nabil Sha’ath said.62 The Palestinian campaign is expected to include:

Third, Palestinian incitement continues. In a particularly bold gesture of defiance, Abbas appointed a convicted terrorist, responsible for shootings and bombings against Israelis, and released as part of the Shalit exchange deal, as an advisor in his Ramallah office.64

These are not words or actions of leaders interested in serious negotiations to make peace. Rather than seeking to resolve differences, the Palestinians seem committed to intensifying the conflict. This reckless policy is being pursued against the backdrop of the region’s turmoil and the growing likelihood that radical Islamists will take power throughout the region. This is a time when Israelis need reassurance that their most immediate neighbors are interested in coexistence if they are to be expected to make risky territorial concessions.

Hopefully, the two sides will continue direct talks, but those negotiations can only succeed if there is a dramatic change in the Palestinian position and they drop their preconditions and discuss the difficult compromises both sides must make to achieve a two-state solution.65

 

MYTH

"Palestinian terrorism is no longer a threat to Israel."

FACT

The Palestinian decision to finally sit down with Israeli officials to discuss issues is an important first step toward achieving a two-state solution. One of the principal impediments to peace, however, remains Palestinian terrorism.

To its credit, thanks in large measure to U.S. training and cooperation with Israel, the Palestinian Authority has significantly reduced the attacks and threats from the West Bank. The Palestinians originally promised to cease all terror when Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin agreed to mutual recognition.66 They have reiterated this pledge in each succeeding agreement without yet fulfilling the commitment. For example, in 2011 alone, the following attacks occurred:

  • March 11 - Udi Fogel, 36, and Ruth Fogel, 35, along with three of their children Yoav, 11, Elad, 4, and 3-month-old Hadas were stabbed to death by terrorists in their home in Itamar, in northern Samaria.67
  • March 23 - One woman, identified by the police as a 56-year-old British tourist, was killed and about 50 people wounded when a bomb exploded across from the Jerusalem Convention Center, near the Central Bus Station. The bomb had been placed near a telephone booth at a crowded bus stop next to Egged city bus #74.68
  • April 24 - Ben-Yosef Livnat, 24, of Jerusalem was killed by a Palestinian policeman at Joseph's Tomb in Nablus.69
  • September 23 - Asher Palmer, 25, and his year old son Yonatan of Kiryat Arba were killed when their car crashed on Route 60 near Hebron, after being struck by stones. 70

These are just the attacks that have succeeded; terrorists regularly attempt to infiltrate Israel or to mount other attacks in the West Bank. The much criticized security fence and the handful of remaining checkpoints, however, continue to save the lives of innocent Israeli Jews and Arabs. For instance, on January 7, 2012, Israel Border Police thwarted a major terror attack originating from Jenin when they captured four Palestinians carrying 11 pipe bombs, a pistol and a commando knife at the Salem Crossing in the northern West Bank. They are suspected of having planned to attack a military court.71

The Palestinian Authority continues to lack any control whatsoever over the Gaza Strip and the terrorists operating there. In fact, PA President Mahmoud Abbas continues to seek an alliance with Hamas, the party responsible for the ongoing terror emanating from their area of control.

Since February 2009, Hamas has fired at least 633 rockets and 405 mortar shells from Gaza at Israeli civilian areas.72 In addition to creating a constant level of anxiety for hundreds of thousands of Israelis living in southern Israel, many of these attacks have had deadly results. In 2011, the following Israelis were killed and injured:

  • April 7 - Daniel Viflic, 16, of Bet Shemesh, died (April 17) of mortal wounds suffered when an anti-tank missile was fired at a school bus in the Negev near Kibbutz Sa'ad just moments after it had dropped off the rest of the school children.73
  • August 18 - Eight Israeli citizens were killed and more than 40 wounded in a multi-pronged terrorist attack north of Eilat in southern Israel. Five civilians were killed when terrorists opened fire on a passenger bus and another civilian was killed in a separate attack on an empty bus. An IDF combat soldier was killed when his jeep hit an IED placed on the road and a member of the Israeli police special SWAT unit was killed when his unit led heavy fighting against a group of retreating terrorists. The victims: sisters Flora Gaz (52) and Shula Karlinsky (54) and their husbands - Moshe Gaz and Dov Karlinsky (58); Yosef Levi (58); St Sgt Moshe Naftali (22) of the Golani Brigade; SWAT Cpt Paskal Avrahami (49); and Yitzhak Sela (56), of Be'er Sheva, was driving the bus. The Popular Reistance Committees, responsible for the terrorist attacks, is an independent terrorist organization in Gaza, supported, subsidized and trained by Hamas.74
  • August 20 - Yossi Shoshan, 38, from the small town of Ofakim in southern Israel, was killed when a GRAD rocket shot by Gaza terrorists landed near him in Be'er Sheva as he was driving to find his pregnant wife who was hiding from the attacks.75
  • August 22 - Eliyahu Naim, 79, who sustained serious head injury while running for cover during an Ashkelon rocket attack died at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem on Sept 4, 2011.76
  • October 29 - Moshe Ami, 56, a father of four from Ashkelon, was killed when shrapnel from a GRAD rocket fired by terrorists in Gaza hit his car.77

Furthermore, the IDF believes that the amount of weaponry that has been smuggled into Gaza in 2011 has increased by 15 to 20 percent compared to the previous year in part due to weapons brought in from Libya amidst the turmoil there. Israel is particularly concerned about sophisticated Russian-made antitank missiles and shoulder-to-air missiles.78

Previous efforts to move the peace process forward have been thwarted by Palestinian terror and could do so again. The only way to convince the people of Israel that Palestinians are sincere about ending the conflict is to put a permanent end to violence and the ongoing incitement that encourages terror.

MYTH

"Israel no longer faces any threats from Gaza."

FACT

Israel faces a serious security threat from Gaza. Led by Hamas, Palestinian terrorists in Gaza continue to fire hundreds of rockets and mortars at Israel – more than thirty rockets have struck Israeli civilian areas since December 2011 alone. Moreover, with strengthened financial support from Iran and a weakening of Egyptian security in the Sinai, Hamas has been able to vastly enhance its weapons caches despite ongoing IDF attempts to destroy Hamas weapons facilities.

While Israel is constantly searching for avenues to advance the peace process, Hamas remains committed to Israel’s destruction and has proven unwilling, even under the guise of “Palestinian reconciliation,” to recognize Israel or consider any peace agreements. The prisoner exchange with Israel for the release of Gilad Shalit has emboldened the terrorists in Gaza. Shalit “will not be the last soldier kidnapped by Hamas as long as Israel keeps Palestinian prisoners detained,” Hamas’ military wing spokesman said after the October 2011 exchange.79

Hamas is believed to have a fighting force of more than 20,000 armed men, including five brigades assigned to different areas of the Gaza Strip. Additionally, Hamas has elite surveillance, anti-tank, mortar & rocket fire and anti-aircraft teams equipped with state-of-the-art weaponry.80 Though the IDF inflicted a heavy toll on Hamas, both in terms of men killed and weaponry destroyed, during Operation Cast Lead, many observers believe that Hamas’ capability is even greater now, a mere two years later.

Since the end of Operation Cast Lead in January 2009, Hamas has fired 633 rockets and 400 mortar shells into Israel, including 80 grad rockets, compared to only two in 2010. These rocket barrages terrorize over one million Israeli residents and have directly led to the deaths of five innocent civilians, including 16-year-old Daniel Viflic, who was killed when Hamas fired an anti-tank missile at a school bus.81

Moreover, the breakdown in security along the Sinai-Gaza border has allowed Hamas to rearm and enhance its weapons stock. As a result of the turmoil across northern Africa, thousands of missiles - including shoulder-launched anti-tank missiles and rockets with a range of more than 40 kilometers [sufficient to reach Ashdod to the north and the outskirts of Be’er Sheva to the southeast] - are now being smuggled into Gaza through illegal tunnels on its border with Sinai. Another sign of the terror is the fact that saboteurs have blown up the gas pipeline between Egypt, Israel and Jordan seven times since last year.82

In years past, Israel was able to rely on the Egyptian military to secure this border, but with the collapse of the Mubarak government and the growing possibility of Islamic extremists taking over the country, Israel now has no partner to help impede the flow of illegal weapons into Gaza.

The fact that the threat to Israel from Gaza has steadily been growing has forced Israel to prepare for the contingency of a military operation to protect its citizens. No country would allow hundreds of thousands of its citizens to be forced to live in perpetual fear of coming under attack from rockets. To avert another outbreak of violence, it is essential that the Palestinian Authority assert control over Gaza and the international community take steps to prevent arms smuggling to Gaza and to ensure that Hamas understands it will be held responsible for a future conflict.

MYTH

"The rights of Palestinian women are protected in the Palestinian Authority."

FACT

Discrimination against women is common in Palestinian society and institutionalized by Palestinian authorities in the territories, particularly in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip. Physical violence, including spousal abuse, employment prejudice and education inequities are just some of the ways that Palestinian women are mistreated on a daily basis. Like the abuse of women throughout the Arab and Muslim world, however, the media, human rights organizations and even women’s rights groups have paid little attention to these violations of human rights.

In January 2012, women employees at the Palestinian Women’s Affairs Ministry began a “hunger strike till death” to protest harassment and mistreatment of women by their own leadership.83“The situation is [so] grave,” one striker said, “[that] women have received threats to be shot in their legs … [or] not to let [into] their offices.”84

Such abuse, though, is only the tip of the iceberg.

In 2007, two in five women in Gaza reported being subjected to violence and, in 2009, the Palestinian Independent Commission for Human Rights reported nine women had been murdered in honor killings in the Palestinian Territories.85 In 2009, 52 percent of Gazan women faced regular physical violence and 14 percent were victims of sexual violence; 37 percent of women in the Gaza Strip said domestic violence is the primary safety problem facing girls and young women.86

Legally, women are supposed to be protected by Palestinian law, but their rights are still severely infringed. Rape, for instance, is illegal – and punishable with up to fifteen years in jail - but the law does not cover spousal rape and abuse. Likewise, assault and battery are crimes under Palestinian Authority law, but rarely applied to cases of domestic violence. Moreover, Muslims in the West Bank and Gaza are governed by Shariah law when it comes to marriage, but few women are actually accorded their proper rights from these laws.87

In Gaza, Hamas officials prohibit all mixing of men and women in public while premarital sex and other “ethical crimes” are punishable by incarceration. The “morality police” punish women for dressing “inappropriately” or riding motorcycles. In 2010, Hamas banned women from smoking water pipes in public cafes. Female university students regularly report discrimination by university administrators, professors and their male peers.88

Women’s participation in the workforce in Gaza is approximately 14 percent, compared to 67 percent for women in the West Bank. Cultural restrictions and traditional stereotypes continue to hinder women’s workforce participation, especially in professions such as journalism, where female reporters are often relegated to covering mundane topics, if they are allowed to report on anything at all.89 In March 2011, a handful of Palestinian female journalists complained that they had been beaten and tortured by Hamas security forces in Gaza, just before Hamas raided media offices in Gaza, including those of CNN and Reuters, and confiscated equipment and documents.90

Perhaps the most reprehensible abuse of women is their use as human shields by Hamas. During Operation Cast Lead, a number of incidents occurred where Hamas terrorists used women to protect themselves and military sites.91

“Where women are educated and empowered,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said, “economies are more productive and strong. Where women are fully represented, societies are more peaceful and stable.” 92

The mistreatment of women in the Palestinian Authority should be high on the agenda of human rights organizations as well as politicians interested in Middle East peace. Ensuring the rights of Palestinian women will help make the PA economy stronger, the society more just and the conditions for peace with Israel more favorable.

 

MYTH

"Palestinians are talking about peace with Israelis in Jordan."

FACT

Palestinians refuse to make the simple declarative statement that they support two states for two peoples – as Benjamin Netanyahu did in June 2009. They sit in what are supposed to be peace talks without ever agreeing that peace should be the outcome of negotiations.93

Lacking a mandate from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to actually negotiate, the Palestinian delegation refused to listen when Israel’s security concerns were raised (they prevented the Israeli briefer from entering the room). Moreover, when the Israeli team broached the subject of East Jerusalem and Jewish settlement blocs, chief “negotiator” Saeb Erekat had no counter offer other than accusing Israel of trying to deprive Palestine of territorial contiguity.94

Israel continues to be pressured to make gestures to the Palestinians just to keep them at the negotiating table, ignoring the fact that the Palestinians never consider any Israeli concessions sufficient and simply raise their demands each time Israel gives in to international pressure and offers Mahmoud Abbas a carrot.

Now Abbas has expanded his list of preconditions for Israel to meet before agreeing to future negotiations. In addition to a settlement freeze, Abbas now demands that Israel release more Palestinian prisoners, dismantle West Bank checkpoints, and even cede territory to PA control. In essence, Abbas is seeking to flip the negotiation process on its head - demanding results before talks - and then seeks to blame Israel for the lack of progress until his demands are met.95

Peace seems to be the last thing on the Palestinian agenda. Instead, Fatah and Hamas have announced their reconciliation without Hamas meeting any of the international conditions for recognition, namely recognizing Israel, ending terror and affirming past Israeli-Palestinian agreements. Hamas officials have made clear they remain committed to Israel’s destruction and this must now be considered the policy of the unity government.96

Beyond rhetoric, the Palestinians continue to engage in warlike activities, including the firing of rockets into Israel, attempting to carry out terrorist attacks, mounting an international campaign to delegitimize Israel and inciting violence in schools, the media and mosques.97

Some still naively believe the conflict is about land. Israel proved through its withdrawal from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, however, that it is prepared to give up land in the hope of achieving peace. The Palestinians, however, do not give any indication that they will be satisfied unless Israel withdraws to the Mediterranean Sea. The Palestinians’ leaders today are not just at war with Israelis but with the Jewish people. This was evident in the statement by the Mufti of Jerusalem, the inheritor of the position once held by Hitler’s would-be accomplice Haj Amin al-Husseini. The current Mufti, Sheikh Ikrem Sabri, quoted a hadith on January 9, 2012, which said that:

The hour of judgment will not come until you fight the Jews….The Jew will hide behind the stone and behind the tree. The stone and the tree will cry, ‘Oh Muslim, Oh Servant of God, this is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’98

The man who introduced the Mufti declared: “Our war with the descendants of the apes and pigs is a war of religion and faith. Long live Fatah!”99

Israelis would like nothing more than to have peace with the Palestinians, especially watching the turmoil in the Arab world around them; however, the earthquake we are witnessing in the region makes Israel’s security needs even more urgent. Israelis now see Islamists taking over Egypt and threatening to tear up the treaty with Israel; Hamas terrorists firing rockets from Gaza, Iran-backed Hezbollah terrorists taking over Lebanon and threatening to fire 50,000 rockets at northern Israel; Syria in shambles, with the prospect of an Islamist regime coming to power in Damascus; the Palestinians in the West Bank joining hands with Hamas and Iran getting closer each day to achieving a nuclear capability.100

As the earth falls in around them, the Israelis need reassurance, not pressure. The inventory of their concessions is long; the list of Palestinian compromises can be written on a postage stamp. It is said that “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” The long journey toward peace between Israel and the Palestinians ultimately begins with the Palestinians taking that first step – one Israel has already taken – and agreeing to two states for two peoples.

MYTH

"Terrorism against Jews is limited to attacks in Israel and the Palestinian territories."

FACT

The terror war against Israel and the Jewish people is not confined to the Middle East. For years PLO terrorists attacked Jewish targets around the world, hijacked airplanes, murdered Olympic athletes and targeted diplomats. This worldwide terror campaign appears to be escalating again with the support of Iran, aided by its proxy Hezbollah. As events of early 2012 show, terrorism against Jews is neither a byproduct of “occupation” nor a response to specific Israeli actions but is bred out of wanton incitement to kill Jews wherever they are.

In February 2012, terrorists attacked official Israeli representatives abroad in India and Georgia, while in Thailand, security officials were able to prevent Iranian and Lebanese cells from carrying out their planned strikes.101 Thai security officials arrested several Iranian men who likely were trying to attack Israelis in Bangkok.102 These incidents came on the heels of the January arrest of three Iranian men in Azerbaijan who had planned to kill two Israeli religious emissaries in Baku.103

In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated unequivocally that Israel holds Iran responsible for the string of attacks. “In recent months we have witnessed several attempts to attack Israeli citizens and Jews in several countries,” he said. “Iran and its proxy Hezbollah were behind all of these attempted attacks … Iran is behind these attacks; it is the largest exporter of terrorism in the world.”104

These are just the latest atrocities perpetrated by Iran and its allies. Argentina's Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires was bombed in 1992, long before any tensions over Iran’s nuclear program. That bomb killed 29 and injured more than 250.105 Among the victims were Israeli diplomats, children, clergy from a church located across the street and other passersby. Two years later, the AMIA Jewish community center in Buenos Aires was bombed, killing 85 and wounding 300.106

“Just as we have seen in the past, the Jews are the convenient first target for crazy dictatorships, but not the last,” Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman said.107

For now, Jews are the targets, but if steps are not taken to stop Iran’s nuclear program, the entire world may face the perilous threat of Iranian-sponsored global terrorism buttressed by a nuclear capability.

MYTH

"Israeli democracy is threatened and Americans need to speak out to save it."

FACT

Public figures in the Jewish world from Peter Beinart and Thomas Friedman to Jeffrey Goldberg and Roger Cohen have expressed concern that Israeli democracy is increasingly doomed. “[Among] the greatest danger[s] by far to Israel is that it will squander the opportunities of power,” Cohen wrote in The New York Times.108 Enemies of Israel are wringing their hands with glee as Jews help them try to chip away at one of the critical pillars of the U.S.-Israel relationship, our shared values.

In truth, Israeli democracy is secure and thriving. The contrast with its neighbors is even more glaring today than ever before as Arab states such as Yemen and Syria descend into tribal, religious and civil wars, autocracies such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain brutally crackdown on dissenters and supposedly democratic revolutions in places such as Egypt fizzle and bring to power radical Islamists for whom freedom and democracy are anathemas.

Israel’s Basic Law for Human Dignity and Liberty, one of a handful of laws that collectively serves as the de facto Israeli constitution, declares that “fundamental human rights in Israel are founded upon recognition of the value of the human being, the sanctity of human life, and the principle that all persons are free.”109

Israeli government officials are elected by popular vote and Israel protects its citizens’ freedoms of expression, press, assembly and religion, as well as the rights of women, Arabs and minorities.110

In a region where homosexuality can be considered a capital crime, Israel has one of the most progressive records in the world related to the treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals. Israel’s annual Gay Pride Parade dates back to 1998 and, since 2002, there have been Pride Parades in Jerusalem. The Tel Aviv Pride Parade is the largest on the Asian continent with 100,000 participants from around the world.111

Many organizations, including some internationally funded nongovernmental organizations, operate in Israel and pursue agendas that are highly critical of Israeli policies. Some of these perform useful watchdog functions while others appear more interested in undermining the state than improving it. Anger toward some of these groups prompted legislators to propose a variety of measures that some viewed as constraints on freedom of speech or otherwise anti-democratic. Israelis, however, used their democratic rights to oppose these measures and none have been adopted to date.112

When troubling issues arise, the democracy works the way it should. For example, when a woman was mistreated on a public bus by an Orthodox Jew, the free press reported the story, Israelis mobilized to fight against this type of behavior and the political leadership spoke out and said they would not tolerate it. This does not mean that such discrimination will disappear overnight, but the democratic forces inside Israel reacted as they should.113

The political left and right routinely complain about each other’s policies, but this is the nature of a healthy democracy. The political middle helps place checks on the extremists at both poles. Israel also has an independent judiciary that helps ensure Israel’s democratic principles and its laws are upheld.

Israel’s democracy, like other democracies, is not perfect. It still has a distance to go before all people are treated equally in practice as well as in law. The United States faces similar struggles after nearly three centuries of independence; should we be surprised that Israel has not solved the same problems in its first 64 years?

Israelis do not need to be told by outsiders, Jewish or otherwise, how to sustain their democracy. They have learned how to protect their security and their civil rights in a dangerous neighborhood. Israeli democracy isn’t always pretty, but it works.

"As the only regional democracy with a constitutional culture strong enough to sustain its political structure, Israel is a crucially situated outpost of the West."

— Ruth Wisse, Harvard Yiddish literature professor 114

 

MYTH

"Iran is the only Muslim nation in the Middle East seeking to develop nuclear technology."

FACT

Those who argue that the world can live with a nuclear Iran ignore the likelihood that a nuclear arms race is likely to ensue in the Middle East, which will exponentially increase the danger to the region and beyond. The cost of stopping Iran’s drive for a bomb, therefore, must be balanced with the benefit of preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

At least 12 Middle Eastern nations have either announced plans to explore atomic energy or signed nuclear cooperation agreements since the exposure of the Iranian program. Like Iran, they say they are interested in only “peaceful uses” of nuclear technology.

The Saudis have been quite explicit about the impact an Iranian bomb will have on their security. “If Iran develops a nuclear weapon,” an official close to Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal said in June 2011, “that will be unacceptable to us and we will have to follow suit.”115 In January 2012, Saudi King Abdullah signed an agreement with China for cooperation in the development and use of atomic energy for civilian purposes. 116

In January 2011, Egypt’s prime minister reaffirmed his country’s plan to construct its first nuclear power plant in the coast city of El-Dabaa.117 In 2009, the United Arab Emirates accepted a $20 billion bid from a South Korean consortium to build four nuclear power reactors by 2020.118

Jordan has cooperation agreements related to building nuclear power infrastructure with South Korea, Japan, Spain, Italy, Romania, Turkey and Argentina. Kuwait has agreements with the U.S., Russia, and Japan. In 2010, Qatar raised the possibility of a regional project for nuclear generation. Algeria has one of the most advanced nuclear science programs in the Arab world and is considering the role that nuclear power could play in its domestic energy generation. Two years ago, Oman signed a nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia.119

The international community does not have a good record in preventing rogue nations from developing nuclear weapons, despite arms inspections, sanctions and other measures aimed at reassuring the public. Iraq was believed to be developing a bomb when Israel destroyed its nuclear reactor in 1981.120 Similarly, Syria managed to build a secret nuclear facility under the nose of the international watchdogs and was stopped only by an Israeli military operation.121

President Barack Obama illustrated the danger of a nuclear Iran vis-à-vis the nuclear arms race it would spur: “It will not be tolerable to a number of states in that region for Iran to have a nuclear weapon and them not to have a nuclear weapon. Iran is known to sponsor terrorist organizations, so the threat of proliferation becomes that much more severe,” Obama said. “The dangers of an Iran getting nuclear weapons that then leads to a free-for-all in the Middle East is something that I think would be very dangerous for the world.”122

The task of eliminating the Iranian nuclear threat and the proliferation that will follow should not be the responsibility of Israel. It is true that Israel is the one state that Iran has threatened to wipe off the map, but the Arab states are also on the front line and petrified of a nuclear Iran. This is why the Saudis explicitly called for a military attack on Iran.123 A nuclear arms filled Middle East, however, will ultimately pose a threat to global peace and stability. International action is needed to ensure that Iran does not get the bomb and set in motion the nuclearization of the Middle East.

MYTH

"Women do not have equal rights in Israel."

FACT

Israel is widely considered among the world’s most progressive nations in defending the inalienable rights of women.

Israel’s Declaration of Independence – calling for the equal treatment of Israeli citizens regardless of race, religion, or gender – stands as a beacon of civility, freedom, and justice in a region where women are denied many basic freedoms by the rule of law.124

In fact, Israel was one of the first countries in the world to be led by a female head of state. From 1969 to 1974, Golda Meir served as Israel’s Prime Minister, setting the stage for future generations of women to follow in her political footsteps.125 Today, 24 women serve in the 120-member Knesset, a higher proportion than sit in the U.S. Congress.126 Three women also are ministers in the Israeli cabinet – Sofa Landver, Orit Noked, and Limor Livnat.127 Additionally, the leaders of two of Israel’s three major political parties - Kadima and Labor - are both women, Tzipi Livni and Shelly Yachimovich, respectively.128

Three of the twelve Israeli Supreme Court Justices are women, and the recently resigned President of the Supreme Court was also a woman, Dorit Beinisch.129 Moreover, women now comprise a majority of judges throughout Israel.130

The Israel Women’s Lobby was formed in 1984 to encourage the involvement of women in shaping legislation and influencing the policy of decision-makers. In the 1990s, a new group, Ahoti, was founded to empoower disadvantaged women, particularly Mizrahim (women from Arab countries), Ethiopians, and Arab Israelis.131

Another important litmus test of the status of women in any country is the degree of gender equality in the labor market. In Israel, approximately 50 percent of women participate in the workforce, a number that compares favorably internationally.132 In terms of equal economic participation for women in the workforce, Israel was ranked 15th out of 31 nations in Europe, Asia, North America, and Oceania, by the International Labor Organization.133

Women also play a crucial role in defending the state. Service in the Israel Defense Forces is compulsory for both men and women – women serve for twenty-four months, men for thirty-six months. Today, women take active roles in all units of the IDF, including combat units and the air force.134 In October 2011, 27 female combat soldiers completed the IDF Ground Forces Officers Training Course, and in December 2011, five female pilots graduated from the Israeli Air Force’s elite Flight Academy.135

In addition to preparing for war, Israeli women are also active in the pursuit of peace. A law was adopted in 2005 mandating adequate representation of women in peace negotiating teams. Other women are active in groups such as Peace Now and Women in Black, which advocate Israeli withdrawal from the disputed territories, Bat Shalom, an organization of Jewish, Palestinian, and Arab women that encourage Israeli-Palestinian dialogue, and Women in Green, which views settlements as an asset to Israeli security.136

Israel is also working to advance the status of women around the world. Since 1961, the Golda Meir Mount Carmel International Training Center (MCTC) has been training women in Africa and Asia. The center’s courses, workshops, study tours and seminars in Israel and in partner countries raise awareness of gender bias and the need for gender-sensitive policy decisions. Since its establishment, 17,500 participants from more than 150 countries have attended programs related to Community Development, Early Childhood Education and Organization, and Management of Microenterprises.137

Like the United States, Israel has not yet achieved perfect gender equality in all spheres of society. Nevertheless, great strides have been made toward that end. In a region where Egyptian “democracy” protestors attacked and raped women, the Saudi monarchy practices gender apartheid, and other Arab states tolerate “honor killings" and other abuses directed at women, Israel offers a model for those Arabs who believe in liberty and justice for all.138

MYTH

"Israel's policy of targeted killings is immoral and counterproductive."

FACT

On March 9, 2012, the Israeli Air Force targeted and killed two members of the Popular Resistance Committee terror organization in the Gaza Strip, Zuhair al-Qaissi and a collaborator, who were preparing an attack against Israel.. Al-Qaissi was also responsible for planning the infiltration of Eilat from the Egyptian Sinai in August 2011 in which eight Israelis, including six civilians, were brutally murdered, as well as Gilad Shalit’s kidnapping in 2006.139

Israel is faced with the difficult task of protecting its civilian population from Palestinians who are prepared to blow themselves up to murder innocent Jews as well as terror groups that indiscriminately fire rockets into Israeli towns. One strategy for dealing with the problem has been to pursue negotiations to resolve all of the conflicts with the Palestinians and offer to trade land for peace and security. After Israel gave up much of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and offered virtually all of the remainder, however, the Palestinians chose to use violence to try to force Israel to capitulate to all their demands.

A second strategy is for Israel to “exercise restraint,” that is, not respond to Palestinian terror. The international community lauds Israel when it turns the other cheek after heinous attacks. While this restraint might win praise from world leaders, it does nothing to assuage the pain of the victims or to prevent further attacks.

“The assassination of Hamas head Sheik Ahmed Yassin in 2004 played in the world as the killing of a crippled holy man by Israeli rockets as he was leaving the mosque in a wheelchair after morning prayers. Because of secrecy surrounding the operation, no file was prepared to explain why he was being killed, that he was an arch-terrorist who had, two days previously, sent two Gaza suicide bombers into Ashdod Port in an attempt to cause a mega-blast of the fuel and nitrates stored there. Or that he had been directly responsible for the deaths of scores, if not hundreds of Israelis.”

— Hirsh Goodman, columnist 140

Moreover, the same nations that urge Israel to exercise control have often reacted forcefully when put in similar situations. For example, the British assassinated Nazis after World War II and targeted IRA terrorists in Northern Ireland. In April 1986, after the U.S. determined that Libya had directed the terrorist bombing of a West Berlin discotheque that killed one American and injured 200 others, it launched a raid on a series of Libyan targets, including President Muammar Qaddafi’s home. Qaddafi escaped, but his infant daughter was killed and two of his other children were wounded. President Reagan justified the action as self-defense against Libya’s state-sponsored terrorism. “As a matter of self-defense, any nation victimized by terrorism has an inherent right to respond with force to deter new acts of terror. I felt we must show Qaddafi that there was a price he would have to pay for that kind of behavior and that we wouldn’t let him get away with it.”141

More recently, the Obama Administration has used drones to kill Taliban fighters and terrorists and found and killed bin Laden in 2011.142

"The Israeli targeted assassinations against Palestinian resistance groups, especially against their leaders, is very effective. It is definitely a policy that aims at paralyzing these groups and stopping them from carrying out future attacks against Israel.”

- Mukhaimer Abu Saada, professor of political science at Al-Azhar University in Gaza City 143

Israel has chosen a third option for defending itself—eliminating the masterminds of terror attacks.

In 2006, Israel’s Supreme Court ruled that “it cannot be determined in advance that every targeted killing is prohibited according to customary international law, just as it cannot be determined in advance that every targeted killing is permissible according to customary international law."144

Targeting the terrorists has a number of benefits. First, it places a price on terror: Israelis can’t be attacked with impunity anymore, for terrorists know that if they target others, they will become targets themselves. Second, it is a method of self-defense: pre-emptive strikes eliminate the people who would otherwise murder Israelis. While it is true that there are others to take their place, they can do so only with the knowledge they too will become targets, and leaders are not easily replaceable. Third, it throws the terrorists off balance. Extremists can no longer nonchalantly plan an operation; rather, they must stay on the move, look over their shoulders at all times, and work much harder to carry out their goals.

Of course, the policy also has costs. Besides international condemnation, Israel risks revealing informers who often provide the information needed to find the terrorists. Soldiers also must engage in sometimes high-risk operations that occasionally cause tragic collateral damage to property and persons.

The most common criticism of “targeted killings” is that they do no good because they perpetuate a cycle of violence whereby the terrorists seek revenge. This is probably the least compelling argument against the policy, because the people who blo