Chapter 18: Human Rights
- “Arabs cannot possibly be anti--Semitic as they are themselves Semites.”
- “Jews who lived in Islamic countries during the days of the Islamic Empire were treated well by the Arabs.”
- “As ‘People of the Book,’ Jews and Christians are protected under Islamic law.”
- “Modern Arab nations are only anti--Israel and have never been anti--Jewish.”
- “Israel discriminates against its Arab citizens.”
- “Israeli Arabs are barred from buying land.”
- “Arabs held in Israeli jails are tortured, beaten and killed.”
- “Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is similar to the treatment of blacks in old South Africa.”
- “Israel is pursuing a policy of genocide toward the Palestinians that is comparable to the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews.”
- “Palestinians have the lowest standard of living in the Middle East.”
- “Israel uses checkpoints to deny Palestinians their rights and to humiliate them.”
- “Israeli checkpoints prevent Palestinians from receiving medical attention.”
- “Israeli textbooks are just as hateful as those in the Palestinian Authority.”
- “Israel is a theocracy and should not be a Jewish State.”
- “Israel is persecuting Christians.”
- “Hamas respects the rights of Palestinian Christians.”
- “Israel denies Palestinians basic rights and freedoms.”
- “The Goldstone Report proves Israel is guilty of war crimes in Gaza.”
- “Justice Goldstone remains convinced that Israel committed war crimes documented in the Goldstone Report.”
- “Israel’s blockade of Gaza is collective punishment.”
“Arabs cannot possibly be anti-Semitic as they are themselves Semites.”
The term “anti-Semite” was coined in Germany in 1879 by Wilhelm Marr to refer to the anti-Jewish manifestations of the period and to give Jew-hatred a more scientific sounding name. 1 “Anti-Semitism” has been accepted and understood to mean hatred of the Jewish people. Dictionaries define the term as: “Theory, action, or practice directed against the Jews” and “Hostility towards Jews as a religious or racial minority group, often accompanied by social, economic and political discrimination.” 2
The claim that Arabs cannot be anti-Semitic because they are themselves a Semitic people is a semantic distortion that ignores the reality of Arab discrimination and hostility toward Jews. Arabs, like any other people, can indeed be anti-Semitic.
“The Arab world is the last bastion of unbridled, unashamed, unhidden and unbelievable anti-Semitism. Hitlerian myths get published in the popular press as incontrovertible truths. The Holocaust either gets minimized or denied. . . . How the Arab world will ever come to terms with Israel when Israelis are portrayed as the devil incarnate is hard to figure out.”
— Columnist Richard Cohen 3
“Jews who lived in Islamic countries during the days of the Islamic Empire were treated well by the Arabs.”
While Jewish communities in Islamic countries fared better overall than those in Christian lands in Europe during the nearly 1,300 years the Islamic Empire lasted, Jews were no strangers to persecution and humiliation among the Arabs. As Princeton University historian Bernard Lewis has written: “The Golden Age of equal rights was a myth, and belief in it was a result, more than a cause, of Jewish sympathy for Islam.” 4
Muhammad, the founder of Islam, traveled to Medina in 622 A.D. to attract followers to his new faith. When the Jews of Medina refused to recognize Muhammad as their Prophet, two of the major Jewish tribes were expelled. In 627, Muhammad’s followers killed between 600 and 900 of the men, and divided the surviving Jewish women and children amongst themselves. 5
The Muslim attitude toward Jews is reflected in various verses throughout the Koran, the holy book of the Islamic faith. “They [the Children of Israel] were consigned to humiliation and wretchedness. They brought the wrath of God upon themselves, and this because they used to deny God’s signs and kill His Prophets unjustly and because they disobeyed and were transgressors” (Sura 2:61). According to the Koran, the Jews try to introduce corruption (5:64), have always been disobedient (5:78), and are enemies of Allah, the Prophet and the angels (2:97–98).
Jews were generally viewed with contempt by their Muslim neighbors; peaceful coexistence between the two groups involved the subordination and degradation of the Jews. In the ninth century, Baghdad’s Caliph al-Mutawakkil designated a yellow badge for Jews, setting a precedent that would be followed centuries later in Nazi Germany. 6
When Jews were perceived as having achieved too comfortable a position in Islamic society, anti-Semitism would surface, often with devastating results. On December 30, 1066, Joseph HaNagid, the Jewish vizier of Granada, Spain, was crucified by an Arab mob that proceeded to raze the Jewish quarter of the city and slaughter its 5,000 inhabitants. The riot was incited by Muslim preachers who had angrily objected to what they saw as inordinate Jewish political power.
Similarly, in 1465, Arab mobs in Fez slaughtered thousands of Jews, leaving only 11 alive, after a Jewish deputy vizier treated a Muslim woman in “an offensive manner.” The killings touched off a wave of similar massacres throughout Morocco. 7
Other mass murders of Jews in Arab lands occurred in Morocco in the 8th century, where whole communities were wiped out by the Muslim ruler Idris I; North Africa in the 12th century, where the Almohads either forcibly converted or decimated several communities; Libya in 1785, where Ali Burzi Pasha murdered hundreds of Jews; Algiers, where Jews were massacred in 1805, 1815 and 1830; and Marrakesh, Morocco, where more than 300 Jews were murdered between 1864 and 1880. 8
Decrees ordering the destruction of synagogues were enacted in Egypt and Syria (1014, 1293–4, 1301–2), Iraq (854--859, 1344) and Yemen (1676). Despite the Koran’s prohibition, Jews were forced to convert to Islam or face death in Yemen (1165 and 1678), Morocco (1275, 1465 and 1790–92) and Baghdad (1333 and 1344). 9
The situation of Jews in Arab lands reached a low point in the 19th century. Jews in most of North Africa (including Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Morocco) were forced to live in ghettos. In Morocco, which contained the largest Jewish community in the Islamic Diaspora, Jews were made to walk barefoot or wear shoes of straw when outside the ghetto. Even Muslim children participated in the degradation of Jews, by throwing stones at them or harassing them in other ways. The frequency of anti-Jewish violence increased, and many Jews were executed on charges of apostasy. Ritual murder accusations against the Jews became commonplace in the Ottoman Empire. 10
As distinguished Orientalist G.E. von Grunebaum observed:
It would not be difficult to put together the names of a very sizeable number Jewish subjects or citizens of the Islamic area who have attained to high rank, to power, to great financial influence, to significant and recognized intellectual attainment; and the same could be done for Christians. But it would again not be difficult to compile a lengthy list of persecutions, arbitrary confiscations, attempted forced conversions, or pogroms. 11
“As ‘People of the Book,’ Jews and Christians are protected under Islamic law.”
This argument is rooted in the traditional concept of the “dhimma” (“writ of protection”), which was extended by Muslim conquerors to Christians and Jews in exchange for their subordination to the Muslims. Yet, as French authority Jacques Ellul has observed: “One must ask:‘protected against whom?’ When this ‘stranger’ lives in Islamic countries, the answer can only be: against the Muslims themselves.” 12
Peoples subjected to Muslim rule often faced a choice between death and conversion, but Jews and Christians, who adhered to the Scriptures, were usually allowed, as dhimmis (protected persons), to practice their faith. This “protection” did little, however, to ensure that Jews and Christians were treated well by the Muslims. On the contrary, an integral aspect of the dhimma was that, being an infidel, he had to acknowledge openly the superiority of the true believer—the Muslim.
In the early years of the Islamic conquest, the “tribute” (or jizya), paid as a yearly poll tax, symbolized the subordination of the dhimmi.13
Later, the inferior status of Jews and Christians was reinforced through a series of regulations that governed the behavior of the dhimmi. Dhimmis, on pain of death, were forbidden to mock or criticize the Koran, Islam or Muhammad, to proselytize among Muslims, or to touch a Muslim woman (though a Muslim man could take a non-Muslim as a wife).
Dhimmis were excluded from public office and armed service, and were forbidden to bear arms. They were not allowed to ride horses or camels, to build synagogues or churches taller than mosques, to construct houses higher than those of Muslims or to drink wine in public. They were forced to wear distinctive clothing and were not allowed to pray or mourn in loud voices—as that might offend the Muslims. The dhimmi also had to show public deference toward Muslims; for example, always yielding them the center of the road. The dhimmi was not allowed to give evidence in court against a Muslim, and his oath was unacceptable in an Islamic court. To defend himself, the dhimmi would have to purchase Muslim witnesses at great expense. This left the dhimmi with little legal recourse when harmed by a Muslim. 14
By the twentieth century, the status of the dhimmi in Muslim lands had not significantly improved. H.E.W. Young, British Vice Consul in Mosul, wrote in 1909:
The attitude of the Muslims toward the Christians and the Jews is that of a master towards slaves, whom he treats with a certain lordly tolerance so long as they keep their place. Any sign of pretension to equality is promptly repressed. 15
“Modern Arab nations are only anti-Israel and have never been anti-Jewish.”
Arab leaders have repeatedly made clear their animosity toward Jews and Judaism. For example, on November 23, 1937, Saudi Arabia’s King Ibn Saud told British Colonel H.R.P. Dickson: “Our hatred for the Jews dates from God’s condemnation of them for their persecution and rejection of Isa (Jesus) and their subsequent rejection of His chosen Prophet.” He added “that for a Muslim to kill a Jew, or for him to be killed by a Jew ensures him an immediate entry into Heaven and into the august presence of God Almighty.” 16
When Hitler introduced the Nuremberg racial laws in 1935, he received telegrams of congratulation from all corners of the Arab world. 17 Later, during the war, one of his most ardent supporters was the Mufti of Jerusalem.
Jews were never permitted to live in Jordan. Civil Law No. 6, which governed the Jordanian-occupied West Bank, states explicitly: “Any man will be a Jordanian subject if he is not Jewish.” 18
After the Six-Day War in 1967, the Israelis found public school textbooks that had been used to educate Arab children in the West Bank. They were replete with racist and hateful portrayals of Jews. 19
According to a study of Syrian textbooks, “the Syrian educational system expands hatred of Israel and Zionism to anti-Semitism directed at all Jews. That anti-Semitism evokes ancient Islamic motifs to describe the unchangeable and treacherous nature of the Jews. Its inevitable conclusion is that all Jews must be annihilated.” 20 An Arabic translation of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf was distributed in East Jerusalem and the territories controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and became a bestseller. The official website of the Palestinian State Information Service also published an Arabic translation of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” 21
Arab officials have also resorted to blood libels. King Faisal of Saudi Arabia, for example, said that Jews “have a certain day on which they mix the blood of non-Jews into their bread and eat it. It happened that two years ago, while I was in Paris on a visit, that the police discovered five murdered children. Their blood had been drained, and it turned out that some Jews had murdered them in order to take their blood and mix it with the bread that they eat on this day.” 22
“Syrian President Bashar Assad on Saturday [May 5] offered a vivid, if vile, demonstration of why he and his government are unworthy of respect or good relations with the United States or any other democratic country. Greeting Pope John Paul II in Damascus, Mr. Assad launched an attack on Jews that may rank as the most ignorant and crude speech delivered before the pope in his two decades of travel around the world. Comparing the suffering of the Palestinians to that of Jesus Christ, Mr. Assad said that the Jews ‘tried to kill the principles of all religions with the same mentality in which they betrayed Jesus Christ and the same way they tried to betray and kill the Prophet Muhammad.’ With that libel, the Syrian president stained both his country and the pope. . . .”
— Washington Post editorial 23
Scurrilous allegations made by Palestinian officials include claims that Israel dumped toxic waste in the West Bank, marketed carcinogenic juice to Palestinians, released wild pigs to destroy crops in the West Bank, infected Palestinians with the AIDS virus, dropped poison candy for children in Gaza from airplanes, and used a “radial spy machine” at checkpoints that killed a Palestinian woman. 24
The Arab/Muslim press, which is almost exclusively controlled by the governments in each Middle Eastern nation, regularly publish anti-Semitic articles and cartoons. Today, it remains common to find anti-Semitic publications in Egypt. For example, Al-Ahram published an article accusing Israel of using the blood of Palestinian children to bake matzos. 25
Anti-Semitic articles also regularly appear in the press in Jordan and Syria. Many of the attacks deal with denial of the Holocaust, the “exploitation” of the Holocaust by Zionism, and the odious comparison of Zionism to Nazism.
In November 2001, a satirical skit aired on the second most popular television station in the Arab world, which depicted a character meant to be Ariel Sharon drinking the blood of Arab children as a grotesque-looking Orthodox Jew looked on. Abu Dhabi Television also aired a skit in which Dracula appears to take a bite out of Sharon, but dies because Sharon’s blood is polluted. 26
The Palestinian Authority’s media have also contained inflammatory and anti-Semitic material. Here is an example of a sermon broadcast on Palestinian Authority television:
“The loathsome occupation in Palestine—its land and its holy places—by these new Mongols and what they are perpetrating upon this holy, blessed and pure land—killing, assassination, destruction, confiscation, Judaization, harassment and splitting the homeland—are clear proof of . . . incomparable racism, and of Nazism of the 20th century. The Jews, the enemies of Allah and of His Messenger! Enemies of humanity in general, and of Palestinians in particular . . .” 27
Even Palestinian crossword puzzles are used to delegitimize Israel and attack Jews, providing clues, for example, suggesting that a Jewish trait is “treachery.” 28
“Israel discriminates against its Arab citizens.”
Arabs in Israel have equal voting rights; in fact, it is one of the few places in the Middle East where Arab women may vote. Arabs in 2011 held 14 seats in the 120-seat Knesset. Israeli Arabs have also held various government posts, including one who served as Israel’s ambassador to Finland and the deputy mayor of Tel Aviv. Oscar Abu Razaq was appointed Director General of the Ministry of Interior, the first Arab citizen to become chief executive of a key government ministry. Ariel Sharon’s original cabinet included the first Arab minister, Salah Tarif, a Druze who served as a minister without portfolio. An Arab is also a Supreme Court justice. In October 2005, an Arab professor was named Vice President of Haifa University.
Arabic, like Hebrew, is an official language in Israel. More than 300,000 Arab children attend Israeli schools. At the time of Israel’s founding, there was one Arab high school in the country. Today, there are hundreds of Arab schools. 29
The sole legal distinction between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel is that the latter are not required to serve in the Israeli army. This is to spare Arab citizens the need to take up arms against their brethren. Nevertheless, Bedouins have served in paratroop units and other Arabs have volunteered for military duty. Compulsory military service is applied to the Druze and Circassian communities at their own request.
Some economic and social gaps between Israeli Jews and Arabs result from the latter not serving in the military. Veterans qualify for many benefits not available to non-veterans. Moreover, the army aids in the socialization process.
On the other hand, Arabs do have an advantage in obtaining some jobs during the years Israelis are in the military. In addition, industries like construction and trucking have come to be dominated by Israeli Arabs.
Although Israeli Arabs have occasionally been involved in terrorist activities, they have generally behaved as loyal citizens. During the 1967, 1973 and 1982 wars, none engaged in any acts of sabotage or disloyalty. Sometimes, in fact, Arabs volunteered to take over civilian functions for reservists. During the Palestinian War that began in September 2000, Israeli Arabs for the first time engaged in widespread protests.
The United States has been independent for 235 years and still has not integrated all of its diverse communities. Even today, nearly half a century after civil rights legislation was adopted, discrimination has not been eradicated. It should not be surprising that Israel has not solved all of its social problems in only 63 years.
“Israeli Arabs are barred from buying land in Israel.”
In the early part of the century, the Jewish National Fund was established by the World Zionist Congress to purchase land in Palestine for Jewish settlement. This land, and that acquired after Israel’s War of Independence, was taken over by the government. Of the total area of Israel, 92 percent belongs to the State and is managed by the Land Management Authority. It is not for sale to anyone, Jew or Arab. The remaining 8 percent of the territory is privately owned. The Arab Waqf (the Muslim charitable endowment), for example, owns land that is for the express use and benefit of Muslim Arabs. Government land can be leased by anyone, regardless of race, religion or sex. All Arab citizens of Israel are eligible to lease government land.
In 2002, the Israeli Supreme Court also ruled that the government cannot allocate land based on religion or ethnicity, and may not prevent Arab citizens from living wherever they choose. 30
Meanwhile, 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. 31
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. 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. 32 An Islamic judge renewed the fatwa barring Palestinians from selling property to Jews in 2008 and, as recently as June 2010, a Palestinian was imprisoned for 10 years on charges of selling land to Israel. 33
“Arabs held in Israeli jails are tortured, beaten and killed.”
Prison is not a pleasant place for anyone and complaints about the treatment of prisoners in American institutions abound. Israel’s prisons are probably among the most closely scrutinized in the world. One reason is the government has allowed representatives of the Red Cross and other groups to inspect them regularly.
Israeli law prohibits the arbitrary arrest of citizens. In addition, defendants are considered innocent until proven guilty and have the right to writs of habeas corpus and other procedural safeguards. Israel holds no political prisoners and maintains an independent judiciary.
Years ago, some prisoners, particularly Arabs suspected of involvement in terrorism, were interrogated using severe methods that were criticized as excessive. Israel’s Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling in 1999 prohibiting the use of a variety of practices that were considered abusive. 34
The death penalty has been applied just once, in the case of Adolf Eichmann, the man largely responsible for the “Final Solution.” No Arab has ever been given the death penalty, even after the most heinous acts of terrorism.
“The charge that Israel is [like old South Africa] is a false and malicious one that precludes, rather than promotes, peace and harmony.”
— Richard Goldstone, former justice of the South African Constitutional Court35
“Israel’s treatment of Palestinians is similar to the treatment of blacks in old South Africa.”
Even before the State of Israel was established, Jewish leaders consciously sought to avoid the situation that prevailed in South Africa. As David Ben-Gurion told Palestinian nationalist Musa Alami in 1934:
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. 36
Today, within Israel, Jews are a majority, but the Arab minority are full citizens who enjoy equal rights and are represented in all the branches of government. Arabs are represented in the Knesset, and have served in the Cabinet, high-level foreign ministry posts (e.g., Ambassador to Finland) and on the Supreme Court.
Under the discriminatory policies of old South Africa, skin color determined every aspect of your life from birth until death. Black South Africans could not vote and were not citizens of the country in which they formed the overwhelming majority of the population. Laws dictated where they could live, work, go to school and travel. And, in South Africa, the government killed blacks 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 who are members of the Knesset.
“To be sure, there is more de facto separation between Jewish and Arab populations that Israelis should accept,” observed Richard Goldstone, former justice of the South African Constitutional Court. “Much of it is chosen by the communities themselves. Some results from discrimination.” But, he added this is nothing like the situation in South Africa where separation was considered an ideal. “In Israel,” Goldstone added, “equal rights are the law, the aspiration and the ideal; inequities are often successfully challenged in court.”36a
“The difference between the current Israeli situation and...[old] South Africa is emphasized at a very human level: Jewish and Arab babies are born in the same delivery room, with the same facilities, attended by the same doctors and nurses, with the mothers recovering in adjoining beds in a ward. Two years ago I had major surgery in a Jerusalem hospital: the surgeon was Jewish, the anaesthetist was Arab, the doctors and nurses who looked after me were Jews and Arabs. Jews and Arabs share meals in restaurants and travel on the same trains, buses and taxis, and visit each other’s homes.
Could any of this possibly have happened under apartheid? Of course not.”
— Benjamin Pogrund 37
The situation of Palestinians in the territories is different. The security requirements of the nation, and a violent insurrection in the territories, forced Israel to impose restrictions on Arab residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip that are not necessary inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders. Israeli policy is not based on race, but is a result of Palestinian animosity. Palestinians in the territories dispute Israel’s right to exist, whereas blacks did not seek the destruction of South Africa, only the discriminatory regime.
If Israel were to give Palestinians full citizenship, it would mean the territories had been annexed. No Israeli government has been prepared to take that step. Instead, through negotiations, Israel agreed to give the Palestinians increasing authority over their own affairs. It is likely that a final settlement will allow most Palestinians to become citizens of their own state. The principal impediment to Palestinian independence is not Israeli policy, it is the unwillingness of the Palestinian leadership to give up terrorism and agree to live in peace beside Israel.
Despite all their criticism, when asked what governments they admire most, more than 80 percent of Palestinians consistently said Israel because they can see up close the thriving democracy in Israel, and the rights the Arab citizens enjoy there. By contrast, Palestinians place Arab regimes, including their own Palestinian Authority, at the bottom. 38
In fact, growing numbers of Palestinians in East Jerusalem have been applying for Israeli citizenship and, given the choice, many say they would rather live in Israel than Palestine. A poll of Arabs living in East Jerusalem, for example, found that 35% would choose living in Israel, compared to 30% who preferred to live in a future Palestinian state. Forty percent said they would consider moving to another neighborhood to become a citizen of Israel rather than Palestine and 54% said that if they their neighborhood was part of Israel, they would not move to Palestine. 39
“There is still one other question arising out of the disaster of nations which remains unsolved to this day, and whose profound tragedy, only a Jew can comprehend. This is the African question. Just call to mind all those terrible episodes of the slave trade, of human beings who, merely because they were black, were stolen like cattle, taken prisoner, captured and sold. Their children grew up in strange lands, the objects of contempt and hostility because their complexions were different. I am not ashamed to say, though I may expose myself to ridicule for saying so, that once I have witnessed the redemption of the Jews, my people, I wish also to assist in the redemption of the Africans.”
— Theodor Herzl 40
“Israel is pursuing a policy of genocide toward the Palestinians that is comparable to the Nazis’ treatment of the Jews.”
This is perhaps the most odious claim made by Israel’s detractors. The Nazis’ objective was the systematic extermination of every Jew in Europe. Israel is seeking peace with its Palestinian neighbors. More than one million Arabs live as free and equal citizens in Israel. Of the Palestinians in the territories, 98 percent live under the civil administration of the Palestinian Authority. Israeli policies are designed to protect Israeli citizens—Jews and non-Jews—from the incessant campaign of terror. There has never been a plan to persecute, exterminate, or expel the Palestinian people.
In response to one such comparison, by a poet who referred to the “Zionist SS,” The New Republic’s literary editor Leon Wieseltier observed:
The view that Zionism is Nazism—there is no other way to understand the phrase “Zionist SS”—is not different in kind from the view that the moon is cheese. It is not only spectacularly wrong, it is also spectacularly unintelligent. I will not offend myself (that would be self-hate speech!) by patiently explaining why the State of Israel is unlike the Third Reich, except to say that nothing that has befallen the Palestinians under Israel’s control may responsibly be compared to what befell the Jews under Germany’s control, and that a considerable number of the people who have toiled diligently to find peace and justice for the Palestinians, and a solution to this savage conflict, have been Israeli, some of them even Israeli prime ministers. There is no support for the Palestinian cause this side of decency that can justify the locution “Zionist SS.” 41
The absurdity of the charge is also clear from the demography of the disputed territories. While detractors make outrageous claims about Israel committing genocide or ethnic cleansing, the Palestinian population has continued to grow exponentially. In Gaza, for example, the population increased from 731,000 in July 1994 to 1,657,155 in 2011, an increase of 127 percent. The growth rate was 3.2 percent, one of the highest in the world. The total Palestinian population in all the disputed territories (they include Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem) was 1,006,000 in 1950, 1,094,000 in 1970, and grew to 3,736,210 in 2011. 42
“Palestinians have the lowest standard of living in the Middle East.”
When Israel captured the West Bank and Gaza Strip in 1967, officials took measures to improve the conditions that Palestinians had lived under during Jordan’s 19-year occupation of the West Bank, and Egypt’s occupation of Gaza. Universities were opened, Israeli agricultural innovations were shared, modern conveniences were introduced, and health care was significantly upgraded. More than 100,000 Palestinians were employed in Israel, and were paid the same wages as Israeli workers, which stimulated economic growth.
The rise in violence during the 1990s, and then the war instigated by Palestinian terrorists beginning in 2000, took a heavy toll on the Palestinian economy. To protect its citizens from suicide bombers and other terrorists, Israel was forced to take measures that had a deleterious impact on the economy in the Palestinian Authority. The most serious step was to limit the number of Palestinian laborers entering Israel to reduce the risk of terrorists pretending to beworkers slipping into the country. This raised the level of unemployment, which, in turn, had a negative spillover effect on the rest of the Palestinian economy.
More recently, however, despite the global economic downturn, the West Bank economy grew by more than 7 percent, representing the 26th best growth rate in 2009 out of 212 countries and territories in the world, second in the Middle East, and double the rate of Israel. This remarkable growth was attributable to continued aid from the West, the implementation of economic reforms, and the easing of security restrictions on movement by Israel. 43
Even when the economy was at a lowpoint, Palestinian Arabs were better off than many of their neighbors. The most recent Human Development Report from the United Nations ranks the PA 110 in terms of life expectancy, educational attainment and adjusted real income out of the 182 countries and territories in the world, placing it in the “medium human development” category along with most of the other Middle Eastern states (only the Gulf sheikdoms are ranked “high”). The PA is ranked just below Egypt (#101) and ahead of Syria (#111) and Morocco (#114).44 Few Palestinians would trade places with Arabs in neighboring countries. Well, perhaps, with one exception. They might aspire to the standard of living in the country ranked 15th by the UN—Israel.
“I am a proud Israeli—along with many other non-Jewish Israelis such as Druze, Bahai, Bedouin, Christians and Muslims, who live in one of the most culturally diversified societies and the only true democracy in the Middle East. Like America, Israeli society is far from perfect, but . . . By any yardstick you choose—educational opportunity, economic development, women and gay’s rights, freedom of speech and assembly, legislative representation—Israel’s minorities fare far better than any other country in the Middle East.”
— Bedouin Diplomat Ishmael Khaldi 45
“Israel uses checkpoints to deny Palestinians their rights and to humiliate them.”
It is not unusual for nations to guard their borders and to establish checkpoints to prevent people from illegally entering their countries. The United States has checkpoints at its borders and airports and, as Americans saw on September 11, these are necessary but not foolproof security precautions.
In the case of Israel, the necessity for checkpoints has been created by the Palestinians. By pursuing a violent campaign of terror against Israel’s citizens, they have forced Israel to set up barriers to make it as difficult as possible for terrorists to enter Israel or travel through the territories to carry out acts of violence. The checkpoints are an inconvenience to innocent Palestinians, but they also prevent terror and save lives.
For example, on October 5, 2008, two pipe bombs were found in a parcel carried by a Palestinian man at the Hawara checkpoint near Nablus. On June 8, 2008, an 18-year-old Palestinian was arrested at the same checkpoint carrying six pipe bombs, an ammunition cartridge, bullets, and a bag of gunpowder. “It’s routine to find bombs at this checkpoint . . . every day, we find knives and other weapons,” said Cpl. Ron Bezalel of the military police. Just three weeks earlier, another Palestinian was arrested at Hawara carrying five pipe bombs, which he had attached and strapped to his chest to act as an explosives belt. 46
“One does not judge a democracy by the way its soldiers immediately react, young men and women under tremendous provocation. One judges a democracy by the way its courts react, in the dispassionate cool of judicial chambers. And the Israeli Supreme Court and other courts have reacted magnificently. For the first time in Mideast history, there is an independent judiciary willing to listen to grievances of Arabs—that judiciary is called the Israeli Supreme Court.”
— Alan Dershowitz 47
On November 10, 2008, at the Taysir checkpoint outside of Jenin, Israeli soldiers caught a Palestinian attempting to smuggle through a pipe bomb. 48
On January 9, 2011, a Palestinian was killed at the Bekaot checkpoint after charging at the soldiers. He was carrying a pipe bomb and another explosive device. 49
On March 9, 2011, five pipe bombs and 3 Molotov cocktails were found in a Palestinian’s bag at Tapuach junction. 50
On April 11, 2012, a teenage Palestinian man was apprehended at a checkpoint outside Nablus while trying to pass with seven IED's and three knives.50a
On October 23, 2012, a 19-year-old Palestinian was caught at the Kalandiya check point with eight pipe bombs he was trying to bring into Jerusalem.50b
Hyperbolic media reports and anti-Israel propaganda have suggested Israel is harassing Palestinian women at checkpoints. It is unfortunate that women cannot be ignored as potential security threats. Border policemen at a checkpoint north of Jerusalem, for example, arrested a Palestinian woman pushing a baby stroller that concealed a pistol, two ammunition clips and a knife. 51
Commercial goods, food, medicine, ambulances and medical crews continue to circulate freely, hampered only by continuing attacks. Palestinian workers going to jobs in Israel also may pass through the checkpoints with the proper identification; restrictions are only imposed when necessitated by the security situation.
Barriers are not set up to humiliate Palestinians, but to ensure the safety of Israeli citizens. Frequently, when Israel has relaxed its policy and withdrawn checkpoints, Palestinian terrorists have taken advantage of the opportunity to launch new attacks on innocent Israelis. Still, Israel has dismantled more than 120 unmanned checkpoints and reduced the number of manned checkpoints from 41 to 14 in the last two years. 52
“Israeli checkpoints prevent Palestinians from receiving medical attention.”
Israel has instituted checkpoints for one reason—to prevent Palestinian terrorists from infiltrating Israel. If the Palestinian Authority was fulfilling its Road Map obligations to dismantle the terrorist networks and disarm the terrorists, and its security forces were taking adequate measures to prevent Palestinians from planning and launching attacks, the checkpoints would be dismantled.
Israel tries to balance its security concerns with the welfare of the Palestinians, and is especially sensitive to the medical needs of Palestinians. According to IDF guidelines, any Palestinian in need of urgent medical care is allowed passage through checkpoints. The severity of the medical condition is determined by the checkpoint commander, who is to make decisions in favor of the Palestinian if there is any doubt. Palestinians are also allowed to enter Israel for routine medical care unless there is a security problem. Even then, Palestinians can appeal decisions and are also offered other options, such as transfer to neighboring states.
Ambulances are still stopped and searched at Israeli checkpoints because they have frequently been used as a means to transport terrorist bombs, and many of the murderers who have triggered suicide bombings in Israel gained access by driving or riding in Red Crescent ambulances. For example:
- In October 2001, Nidal Nazal, a Hamas operative in Kalkilya, was arrested by the IDF. He was an ambulance driver for the Palestinian Red Crescent who served as a messenger between the Hamas headquarters in several West Bank towns. 53
- In January 2002, Wafa Idris blew herself up on the crowded Jaffa Street in Jerusalem, becoming one of the first female suicide bombers. She was an ambulance driver for the Palestinian Red Crescent, as was Mohammed Hababa, the Tanzim operative who sent her on her mission. She left the West Bank by way of an ambulance. 54
- On March 27, 2002, a Tanzim member who worked as a Red Crescent ambulance driver was captured with explosives in his ambulance. A child disguised as a patient was riding in the ambulance along with the child’s family. The explosives were found under the stretcher the “sick” child was laying on. 55
- On May 17, 2002, an explosive belt was found in a Red Crescent ambulance at a checkpoint near Ramallah. The bomb, the same type generally use in suicide bombings, was hidden under a gurney on which a sick child was lying. The driver, Islam Jibril, was already wanted by the IDF, and admitted that this was not the first time that an ambulance had been used to transport explosives or terrorists. In a statement issued the same day, the International Committee of the Red Cross said that it “understands the security concerns of the Israeli authorities, and has always acknowledged their right to check ambulances, provided it does not unduly delay medical evacuations.” The sick passengers in the ambulance were escorted by soldiers to a nearby hospital. 56
- On June 30, 2002, Israeli troops found 10 suspected Palestinian terrorists hiding in two ambulances in Ramallah. They were caught when soldiers stopped the vehicles for routine checks. 57
- In December 2003, Rashed Tarek al-Nimr, who worked as a chemist in hospitals in Nablus and Bethlehem, supplied chemicals from the hospitals to Hamas for use in making bombs and admitted he used ambulances to transport the chemicals. He also said the Hamas commanders would hide in hospitals to avoid arrest. 58
- In December 2004, a Hamas agent with forged documents claiming that he was a cancer patient in need of medical treatment from an Israeli hospital was arrested by security forces. Hamed A-Karim Hamed Abu Lihiya was to meet up with another terrorist, obtain weapons from allies inside Israel, and carry out an attack. That same month, a man recruited by the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade to plant a bomb on the railway tracks near Netanya tried to use false papers indicating he needed hospital treatment to enter Israel. Another Hamas terrorist planning a suicide bombing was arrested in March 2005 after pretending to be a kidney donor. 59
“Israeli hospitals extend humanitarian treatment to Palestinians from the Gaza Strip and West Bank. These efforts continued when all other cooperation between Palestinians and Israelis came to a halt during the most recent intifada.”
— Palestinian obstetrician and gynecologist Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish 60
On June 20, 2005, Wafa Samir Ibrahim Bas was arrested attempting to smuggle an explosives belt through the Erez crossing. Bas aroused the suspicion of soldiers at the checkpoint when a biometric scanner revealed she was hiding explosives. When she realized they had discovered the explosive belt, she attempted unsuccessfully to detonate it. 61
Bas had been admitted on humanitarian grounds to Soroka Medical Center in Be’er Sheva several months earlier for treatment of massive burns she received as a result of a cooking accident. After her arrest, she admitted that the Fatah al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade had instructed her to use her personal medical authorization documents to enter into Israel to carry out a suicide attack. In an interview shown on Israeli television, Bas said her “dream was to be a martyr” and that her intent was to kill 40 or 50 people—as many young people as possible.
Since its founding in 1996, Save a Child’s Heart, an Israeli humanitarian group that treats children suffering from heart problems, has treated more than 900 children from Gaza. 62
Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish, a Palestinian obstetrician and gynecologist from the Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip, who has worked at the Soroka Hospital, wrote that he was “outraged at the cynical and potentially deadly suicide bombing attempt.” Dr. Abuelaish said he does research at the hospital’s Genetic Institute and has warm relations with his colleagues. “I make a point, whenever I’m at the hospital, of visiting Palestinian patients,” he said. “I also schedule appointments for other Gaza residents, and even bring medication from Soroka to needy patients in the Strip. . . . On the very day that she planned to detonate her bomb, two Palestinians in critical condition were waiting in Gaza to be taken for urgent treatment at Soroka.”
Dr. Abuelaish added, “Wafa was sent to kill the very people in Israel who are healing Palestinians from the Gaza Strip and West Bank. What if Israeli hospitals now decide to bar Palestinians seeking treatment? How would those who sent Bas feel if their own relatives, in need of medical care in Israel, are refused treatment?” 63
By using this tactic, the Palestinians have reinforced the necessity of retaining the checkpoints and forced Israel to carry out more stringent inspections, yet another example of how terrorists are making life unnecessarily difficult for innocent Palestinians.
Despite a number of other cases where Palestinian terrorists tried to take advantage of the “medical route” to infiltrate Israel, more than 18,000 Palestinians from Gaza, and 175,000 from the West Bank, were allowed to travel to hospitals in Israel in 2010 to receive treatment from some of the finest medical facilities in the world. This includes approximately 7,500 children. Many of these patients receive life-saving treatments that are not available in the Palestinian territories. 64
Picture a 19-year-old soldier commanding a checkpoint when an ambulance arrives. Inside is a woman who is seemingly pregnant and who appears to be in pain; her husband is also highly anxious.
But the soldier has been warned about an ambulance bearing a pregnant woman who is not really pregnant. The intelligence said that underneath an ambulance's stretcher a wanted terrorist is hiding with an explosive belt for a suicide attack.
It is a hot day and there is a long line of cars. His commanders are yelling at him on the two-way radio, “Do not let ambulances without being thoroughly checked, there may very well be terrorists inside!” To complicate the picture, a news video crew is present.
The soldier has to make an incredible number of decisions in a very short time. He is only 19 and has no medical training. He knows that if he lets the ambulance go through and it contains a terrorist, then innocent people will die and he will have failed in his mission. On the other hand, if there is not a terrorist in this particular ambulance, and he delays a truly pregnant woman from reaching a hospital, the lives of the mother and baby could be endangered.
What would you do?
“Israeli textbooks are just as hateful as those in the Palestinian Authority.”
The best hope for the future is that Israeli and Arab children will grow up with a greater understanding and tolerance of one another. Unfortunately, the textbooks in Arab countries, and the Palestinian Authority, in particular, do not promote coexistence. By contrast, Israeli textbooks are oriented toward peace and tolerance. The Palestinians are accepted as Palestinians. Islam and Arab culture are referred to with respect. Islamic holy places are discussed along with Jewish ones. Stereotypes are avoided to educate against prejudice.
More than 20 years ago, it was true that some Israeli textbooks used stereotyped images of Arabs; however, the books in use in public schools today are very different. Israeli texts go out of their way to avoid prejudices and to guard against generalizations. In one seventh grade lesson, students are given the following problem:
Many people think: The dove is a bird that pursues peace. This belief is incorrect; it is a prejudice: people believe it without checking it. There are a lot of prejudices. For example:
1. The Jews control the world and exploit all those who live in it.
2. The blacks are inferior; they are incapable of being scientists.
3. The Arabs only understand the language of force . . .
Be ready to explain orally why these are prejudices. 65
In an elementary textbook on reading comprehension, students read how a Jewish girl was saved by an Arab woman. The book notes, “The Arabs are like the Jews. . . . There are nasty people among them and there are decent people and . . . they should not be labeled.” 66
Contrary to suggestions that Israelis do not accept the idea that Palestinians are a people, Israeli textbooks explain the origins of Palestinian nationalism. For example, a ninth grade text observes that “during the 1930’s, Arab nationalist movements evolved all over the Middle East. Many of the Arabs of Eretz Yisrael also began formulating a national consciousness—in other words, the perception that they are not just part of the larger Arab nation, but are also Palestinians.” 67
While Palestinian texts omit references to Jewish contributions to the world, the Israeli books recognize the achievements of Arabs and Muslims. One text highlights the Arab role as creators of culture: “ . . . they were the first to discover the existence of infectious diseases. They were also the first to build public hospitals. Because of their considerable contribution to various scientific fields, there are disciplines that to this day are called by their Arabic names, such as algebra.” Islam’s contributions are also acknowledged in the same passage: “The Islamic religion also influenced the development of culture. The obligation to pray in the direction of Mecca led to the development of astronomy, which helped identify the direction according to the heavenly bodies. The duty to make a pilgrimage developed geography and gave a push to the writing of travel books. These books, and the Arabs’ high capability in map drawing, helped develop trade. To this day, merchants use Arabic words, such as bazaar, check and tariff.” 68
Palestinian textbooks also negate the Jewish connection to the Holy Land while Israeli texts show respect for the Arab/Muslim attachment to the land. “The Land of Israel in general, and Jerusalem in particular, have been sanctified more and more in Islamic thought—as Islam has developed and spread, both religiously and geographically. As Islam absorbed more and more of the world conquered by it, so it adapted and Islamized the values that it absorbed, including the holiness of the Land of Israel, its flora and its water, living in it, the sanctity of being buried in it and the like. All these became from that time onwards part of orthodox Islam.” 69
Israeli textbooks contain a plurality of views, including those that conflict with conventional research and are critical of Israeli policies. Controversial topics, such as the disputed territories, the refugee issue, and the status of Israeli Arabs are covered from multiple viewpoints. 70
The content of the peace treaties between Israel and Egypt and Jordan is detailed, along with the implications of those agreements. Agreements with the Palestinians are discussed as well, and the atlas used in Israeli schools shows the Palestinian Authority. 71
Israeli texts also use simulation games to help students understand different perspectives on an issue. In one, students are told to divide into groups representing Jewish and Palestinian journalists and prepare a report on the discussion in the United Nations leading to the partition resolution. Students are then asked to discuss the differences between the reports of the Jewish and Palestinian journalists. 72
Israel is not perfect and exceptions do exist. Some generalizations and patronizing terminology are found in textbooks used in the ultra-Orthodox schools. These schools comprise less than 10 percent of the Israeli educational system, and the same Israeli watchdog organizations that have pointed out problems in Palestinian textbooks have also publicized the need to remove inappropriate references from school books in this system. 73
“Israel is a theocracy and should not be a Jewish State.”
It often makes people uncomfortable to refer to Israel as “the Jewish State” because it suggests a theocracy and, therefore, the demise of Israel as a Jewish state is viewed by some people as a positive development. Israel is not a theocracy; it is governed by the rule of law as drafted by a democratically elected parliament. It is informed by Jewish values and adheres to many Jewish religious customs (such as holidays), but this is similar to the United States and other nations that are shaped by the Judeo-Christian heritage and also have expressly religious elements (e.g., church-state separation in the U.S. does not preclude the recognition of Christmas as a holiday). Israel has no state religion, and all faiths enjoy freedom of worship; yet, it is attacked for its Jewish character, whereas the Arab states that all have Islam as their official religion are regarded as legitimate.
Why shouldn’t the Jews have a state? The Jewish people are a nation with a shared origin, religion, culture, language, and history. No one suggests that Arabs are not entitled to a nation of their own (and they have not one, but twenty-one) or Swedes or Germans, or that Catholics are not entitled to a state (Vatican City) headed by a theocrat (the Pope). To suggest that Zionism, the nationalist movement of the Jewish people, is the only form of nationalism that is illegitimate is pure bigotry. It is especially ironic that the Jewish nation should be challenged given that Jewish statehood preceded the emergence of most modern nation-states by thousands of years.
It is also not unusual that one community should be the majority within a nation and seek to maintain that status. In fact, this is true in nearly every country in the world. Moreover, societies usually reflect the cultural identity of the majority. India and Pakistan were established at the same time as Israel through a violent partition, but no one believes these nations are illegitimate because one is predominantly Hindu and the other has a Muslim majority, or that these nations shouldn’t be influenced by those communities (e.g., that cows in India should not be treated as sacred).
In the United States, a vigorous debate persists over the boundaries between church and state. Similar discussions regarding “synagogue and state” are ongoing in Israel, with philosophical disagreements over whether Israel can be a Jewish and a democratic state, and practical arguments over Sabbath observance, marriage and divorce laws, and budgets for religious institutions. Nevertheless, most Jews take for granted that Israel is, and must remain, a Jewish state. Arab citizens also understand that Israel is a Jewish state and, while they might prefer that it was not, they have still chosen to live there (nothing prevents Arabs from moving to any of the 190-odd non-Jewish states in the world). Both Jews and Arabs realize that if Jews cease to be a majority in Israel, Israel will no longer have a Jewish character or serve as a haven for persecuted Jews, and that is one of the elements underlying peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.
“Israel is persecuting Christians.”
While Christians are unwelcome in Islamic states such as Saudi Arabia, and most have been driven out of their longtime homes in Lebanon, Christians continue to be welcome in Israel. Christians have always been a minority in Israel, but it is the only Middle East nation where the Christian population has grown in the last half century (from 34,000 in 1948 to 150,000 today), in large measure because of the freedom to practice their religion.
By their own volition, the Christian communities have remained the most autonomous of the various religious communities in Israel, though they have increasingly chosen to integrate their social welfare, medical and educational institutions into state structures. The ecclesiastical courts of the Christian communities maintain jurisdiction in matters of personal status, such as marriage and divorce. The Ministry of Religious Affairs deliberately refrains from interfering in their religious life, but maintains a Department for Christian Communities to address problems and requests that may arise.
In Jerusalem, the rights of the various Christian churches to custody of the Christian holy places were established during the Ottoman Empire. Known as the “status quo arrangement for the Christian holy places in Jerusalem,” these rights remain in force today in Israel.
It was during Jordan’s control of the Old City from 1948 until 1967 that Christian rights were infringed and Israeli Christians were barred from their holy places. The Christian population declined by nearly half, from 25,000 to 12,646. Since then, the population has slowly been growing.
Some Christians have been among those inconvenienced by Israel’s construction of the security fence, but they have not been harmed because of their religious beliefs. They simply live in areas where the fence is being built. Like others who can show they have suffered some injury, Christians are entitled to compensation. Meanwhile, Israel has taken measures to minimize the impact of the fence on Christians. For example, a special terminal was built to facilitate security checks for those traveling between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. Special gates were built in other areas allowing pilgrims to visit religious sites on the Palestinian side of the fence. Israel often moved the fence route to accommodate requests of Christians, as in the case of the Rosary School that was moved to the Israeli side in response to requests from the Mother Superior. Ultimately, 19 of 22 Christian sites in and around Jerusalem were brought inside the fence, with the exceptions primarily due to the desire to avoid moving the fence deep into the West Bank or compromising Muslim property rights. 74
Meanwhile, Israel’s detractors ignore the precarious plight of Christians under Arab rule, especially under the Palestinian Authority, where approximately 50,000 Christians live among 3 million Muslims. The total number of Christians in the Palestinian territories has remained stable since 1967, however, the proportion has dropped from 15 percent of the Arab population in 1950 to just over 1 percent today. Three-fourths of all Bethlehem Christians now live abroad, and the overwhelming majority of the city’s population is Muslim. By contrast, Israel’s Christian population grew by approximately 114 percent since 1967. 75
Jonathan Adelman and Agota Kuperman noted that Yasser Arafat “tried to erase the historic Jesus by depicting him as the first radical Palestinian armed fedayeen (guerrilla). Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority has adopted Islam as its official religion, used shari’a Islamic codes, and allowed even officially appointed clerics to brand Christians (and Jews) as infidels in their mosques.” The authors add that the “militantly Islamic rhetoric and terrorist acts of Hamas, Islamic Jihad . . . offer little comfort to Christians.”
David Raab observed that “Palestinian Christians are perceived by many Muslims—as were Lebanon’s Christians—as a potential fifth column for Israel. In fact, at the start of the Palestinian War in 2000, Muslim Palestinians attacked Christians in Gaza.” Raab also wrote that “anti-Christian graffiti is not uncommon in Bethlehem and neighboring Beit Sahur, proclaiming: ‘First the Saturday people (the Jews), then the Sunday people (the Christians),’ ” and that “Christian cemeteries have been defaced, monasteries have had their telephone lines cut, and there have been break-ins at convents.” In 2002, Palestinian terrorists holed up in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, endangering the shrine and provoking a tense standoff with Israeli troops.
When Arafat died, Vatican Radio correspondent Graziano Motta said, “The death of the president of the Palestinian National Authority has come at a time when the political, administrative and police structures often discriminate against [Christians].” Motta added that Christians “have been continually exposed to pressures by Muslim activists, and have been forced to profess fidelity to the intifada.” In addition, he reported, “Frequently, there are cases in which the Muslims expropriate houses and lands belonging to Catholics, and often the intervention of the authorities has been lacking in addressing acts of violence against young women, or offenses against the Christian faith.” 76
It certainly wouldn’t be difficult for critics to find evidence of mistreatment of Christians in the PA if they were interested, but unlike Christians who enjoy freedom of speech as well as religion in Israel, beleaguered Palestinian Christians are afraid to speak out. “Out of fear for their safety, Christian spokesmen aren’t happy to be identified by name when they complain about the Muslims’ treatment of them . . . off the record they talk of harassment and terror tactics, mainly from the gangs of thugs who looted and plundered Christians and their property, under the protection of Palestinian security personnel.” 77
“Christian Arabs,” Adam Garfinkle noted, “see Israel as protection against the rising sea of Islam in which they live.” Christians also rarely publicly complain, Garfinkle says, “because Arab Christians are somewhat marginalized in majority Islamic culture, they have often gone out of their way to act more Arab than the Arabs, and that has sometimes meant taking the lead in anti-Western and anti-Israel advocacy.” 78
One Christian who has gone public is Samir Qumsiyeh, a journalist from Beit Sahur who told the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera that Christians were being subjected to rape, kidnapping, extortion and expropriation of land and property. Qumsiyeh compiled a list of 93 cases of anti-Christian violence between 2000 and 2004 and specifically mentioned the case of a 17-year-old girl from his town who was raped by members of Fatah. “Even though the family protested,” he said, “none of the four was ever arrested. Because of the shame her family was forced to move to Jordan.” He added that “almost all 140 cases of expropriation of land in the last three years were committed by militant Islamic groups and members of the Palestinian police” and that the Christian population of Bethlehem has dropped from 75 percent in 1950 to 12 percent today. “If the situation continues,” Qumsiyeh warned, “we won’t be here any more in 20 years.” 79
“Hamas respects the rights of Palestinian Christians.”
In Gaza only about 2,000 Christians live among more than one million Muslims. The population has declined as Hamas persecution has intensified.
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. The same year, the owner of Gaza’s only Christian bookstore was murdered. 80
“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 opened 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. 81
Critics of Israel who express concern for Christians, such as Jimmy Carter, have consistently ignored the persistent discrimination and abuse of Christians by Muslims throughout the Middle East. It is therefore not surprising that they have remained silent while Palestinian Muslims persecute Christians.
The Christian position throughout the territories has always been precarious, which is why many have fled the Palestinian Authority.
“Israel denies Palestinians basic rights and freedoms”
Palestinians are deprived of the freedoms Americans and Israelis take for granted, namely, freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, gay rights and women’s rights. Israel has nothing to do with the denial of these rights, however, they are all blocked by the Palestinian Authority.
As documented elsewhere in this book, non-Muslims regularly face discrimination and Christians have been driven out of Gaza by Hamas. Journalists are not allowed to report freely and critics of the leadership are harassed, jailed or prevented from reporting. In a December 2010 poll, only 27 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and 19 percent in Gaza said they can criticize officials without fear. 82 Gays are not tolerated and many have fled to Israel for sanctuary. Women are routinely discriminated against and honor killings are still practiced.
While human rights groups obsessively focus on Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, they routinely ignore abuses by Palestinians against their own people. While Israel may be blamed for hardships faced by Palestinians, the denial of these basic civil and human rights in the territories has been the sole responsibility of the Palestinian leadership.
“The Goldstone Report proves Israel is guilty of war crimes in Gaza.”
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.” 83
The Goldstone Commission was created to conduct a fact-finding mission and to investigate whether any violations of international humanitarian law took place 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. 84
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. 85
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. 86
When interviewing Gazans, the Commission was chaperoned by Hamas officials. 87 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. 88 This directly contradicts the ample photos, video and reports by journalists that depict Hamas militants participating in all of these illegal activities. 89
One postwar study rebutting Goldstone’s conclusions found that many Hamas fighters were dressed as civilians; some were seen in videos firing mortars and rocket-propelled grenades at troops. The report also documented the use by Hamas of dozens of mosques as armories, command centers and launching areas for rockets. Evidence was also found of Hamas fighters using civilians as shields. 90
Ironically, Hamas undermined claims by Goldstone and other critics of Israel who insisted the victims of the war were mostly innocent civilians when Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hammad admitted in 2010 that it lost more than 600 men during the war. This is consistent with the figure of 709 calculated by the Israel Defense Forces after it released an official list of the 1,166 names of Palestinians killed during the war. 91
Even the UN’s Humanitarian Affairs chief, John Holmes, had criticized Hamas for “the reckless and cynical use of civilian installations . . . and indiscriminate firing of rockets against civilian populations,” which he characterized as “clear violations of international law.” 92
By not holding Hamas accountable for targeting Israeli civilians, the report essentially legitimizes terrorism and criminalizes self-defense.
“For the Palestinian people, death has become an industry at which women excel, and so do all the people living on this land. The elderly excel at this, and so do the mujahideen and the children. This is why they have formed human shields of the women, the children, the elderly, and the mujahideen, in order to challenge the Zionist bombing machine. It is as if they are saying to the Zionist enemy: We desire death like you desire life.”
— Hamas parliamentarian Fathi Hammad 93
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.
“Justice Goldstone remains convinced that Israel committed war crimes documented in the Goldstone Report.”
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. 94 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.” 95
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. 96 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.”97 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.” 98
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. 99
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.” 100
“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 101
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.” 102 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.
“Israel’s blockade of Gaza is collective punishment.”
International law requires that Israel permit passage of food, clothing and medicines intended for children under fifteen, expectant mothers and maternity cases. If Israel has reason to believe Hamas will intercept these goods and the enemy will benefit, even these provisions may be prohibited. Israel also need not provide these supplies; it is obligated only to allow others to transfer provisions.
Furthermore, the law does not prohibit Israel from cutting off fuel supplies and electricity to Gaza, withholding commercial items or sealing its border. Israel also is not obligated to provide any minimum supplies to prevent a “humanitarian crisis.”
Some critics of labeled Israel’s actions “collective punishment”; however, this refers to the “imposition of criminal-type penalties to individuals or groups on the basis of another’s guilt.” Israel has done no such thing. Israel has no obligation to maintain open borders with a hostile territory. The suspension of trade relations or embargoes is a frequent tool of international diplomacy and has never been regarded as “collective punishment.” 103
Israel has complied with international law and gone beyond it by delivering humanitarian supplies it was not required to provide.
1 Vamberto Morais, A Short History of Anti-Semitism, (NY: W.W Norton and Co., 1976), p. 11; Bernard Lewis, Semites & Anti-Semites, (NY: WW Norton &Co., 1986), p. 81.
2 Oxford English Dictionary; Webster’’s Third International Dictionary.
3 Washington Post, (October 30, 2001).
4 Bernard Lewis, Islam in History: Ideas, People and Events in the Middle East, (IL: Open Court, 2001), p. 148.
5 Bat Ye’or, The Dhimmi, (NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1985), pp. 43–44.
6 Bat Ye’or, pp. 185–86, 191, 194.
7 Norman Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands, (PA: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1979), p. 81; Maurice Roumani, The Case of the Jews from Arab Countries: A Neglected Issue, (Tel Aviv: World Organization of Jews from Arab Countries, 1977), pp. 26–27; Bat Ye’or, p. 72.
8 Stillman, pp. 59, 284.
9 Roumani, pp. 26–27.
10 Bernard Lewis, The Jews of Islam, (NJ: Princeton University Press, 1984), p. 158.
11 G.E. Von Grunebaum, “Eastern Jewry Under Islam,” Viator, (1971), p. 369.
12 Bat Ye’or, p. 30.
13 Bat Ye’or, p. 14.
14 Bat Ye’or, pp. 56–57.
15 Bat Ye’or, Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide, (NJ: Farleigh Dickinson University Press, 2002), p. 107.
16 Official British document, Foreign Office File No. 371/20822 E 7201/22/31; Elie Kedourie, Islam in the Modern World, (London: Mansell, 1980), pp. 69–72.
17 Howard Sachar, A History of Israel: From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time, (NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 1979), p. 196.
18 Jordanian Nationality Law, Official Gazette, No. 1171, Article 3(3) of Law No. 6, 1954, (February 16, 1954), p. 105.
19 Modern World History, Jordanian Ministry of Education, 1966, p. 150.
20 Meyrav Wurmser, The Schools of Ba’athism: A Study of Syrian Schoolbooks, (Washington, D.C.: Middle East Media and Research Institute (MEMRI), 2000), p. xiii.
21 Aaron Klein, “Official PA site publishes ‘Protocols’ in Arabic,” WorldNetDaily, (May 21, 2005).
22 Al-Mussawar, (August 4, 1972).
23 Washington Post, (May 8, 2001).
24 Middle East Media and Research Institute (MEMRI); Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, (May 15, 1997); Jerusalem Post, (May 23, 2001); Palestine News Agency WAFA, (April 28, 2005).
25 Al-Ahram, (October 28, 2000).
26 Jerusalem Post, (November 19, 2001).
27 Palestinian Authority television, (January 29, 2010), cited in “PATV Sermon: Jew are Enemies,” Palestinian Media Watch, (February 1, 2010).
28 Jonathan Krashinsky, “Even Palestinian Crosswords Reject Israel,” Palestinian Media Watch, (March 15, 2001).
29 Israeli Central Bureau of Statistics.
30 Alan Dershowitz, The Case for Israel, (NY: John Wiley & Sons, 2003), p. 157.
31 Jerusalem Post, (August 19, 2002).
32 U.S. State Department, Human Rights Report for the Occupied Territories, 1997, 1998.
33 Khaled Abu Toameh, “Islamic judge issues fatwa against Arabs voting in Jerusalem,” Jerusalem Post, (October 26, 2008); Ma’an News Agency, (June 30, 2010).
34 “Torture and Ill Treatment as Perceived by Israel’s High Court of Justice,” B‘Tselem, (May 6, 2010).
35 Richard Goldstone, “Israel and the Apartheid Slander,” New York Times, (October 31, 2011).
36 Shabtai Teveth, Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs: From Peace to War, (London: Oxford University Press, 1985), p. 140; Haaretz, (September 23, 2003).
36a Richard Goldstone, “Israel and the Apartheid Slander,” New York Times, (October 31, 2011).
37 Benjamin Pogrund, “Apartheid? Israel is a democracy in which Arabs vote,” Focus 40, (December 2005).
38 James Bennet, “Letter from the Middle East; Arab Showplace? Could It Be the West Bank?” New York Times, (April 2, 2003). The last time the question was asked was in 2002.
39 Daniel Estrin, “Jerusalem Palestinians taking Israeli citizenship,” Associated Press, (January 12, 2011); Jackson Diehl, “Why Palestinians want to be Israeli citizens,” Washington Post, (January 12, 2011).
40 Golda Meir, My Life, (NY: Dell Publishing Co., 1975), pp. 308–309.
41 The New Republic, (December 30, 2002).
42 July 2011 estimates, The World
Factbook 2011. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2011. Accessed March 11, 2010, at https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/gz.html; https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/we.html.
43 The World Factbook 2011. Washington, DC: Central Intelligence Agency, 2011. Ac-cessed March 11, 2010.
44 “Human Development Report 2009/10,” UN, (January 2010). Accessed March 11, 2010, at http://arabstates.undp.org/contents/file/PHDR2010/PHDR_Book_Eng.pdf; http://hdr.undp.org/en/data/profiles/.
45 Ishmael Khaldi, “Lost in the blur of slogans,” SFGate.com, (March 4, 2009).
46 Efrat Weiss, “IDF thwarts smuggling of pipe bombs,” Ynetnews, (October 5, 2008); Yaakov Katz and jpost.com Staff, “Palestinian bomber arrested near Nablus,” Jerusa-lem Post, (June 8, 2008).
47 Speech to AIPAC Policy Conference, (May 23, 1989), cited in Near East Report, (October 16, 1989).
48 Efrat Weiss, “Palestinian Caught with Pipe Bomb near Jenin,” Ynetnews, (Novem-ber 10, 2008).
49 “IDF Thwarts Terror Attack at Bekaot Crossing,” IDF Spokesperson, (January 9, 2011).
50 “Explosives and Molotov Cocktails Discovered at Tapuach Junction,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs, (March 9, 2011).
50a Yoav Zitun, "Palestinian Nabbed on Way to Passover Terror Attack," Ynet News, (April 11, 2012).
50b Yaakov Lapin, "'Palestinian with explosives was heading for J'lem,'" Jerusalem Post, (October 23, 2012) 51 Maariv, (October 14, 2003); Efrat Weiss, “Palestinian girl hides gun in undies,” Ynet-news, (April 15, 2005); Ali Daraghmeh, “Woman Found Hiding Grenade Under Baby,” Associated Press, (October 22, 2005); Center for Monitoring the Impact on Peace, Newsletter, (February 2004).
52 “UN: Israel has dismantled 20 percent of West Bank checkpoint,” Associated Press, (June 16, 2010); “Israel, the Conflict and Peace: Answers to frequently asked ques-tions,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, (December 30, 2009).
53 Israeli Foreign Ministry, “Use of Ambulances by Palestinian Terrorists,” (February 14, 2002).
54 Washington Post, (January 31, 2002).
55 Israeli Foreign Ministry.
56 “Bomb found in Red Crescent Ambulance,” Ha’aretz, (March 29, 2002).
57 Jewish Telegraphic Agency, (June 30, 2002).
58 “Palestinian Use of Ambulances for Terror,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs, (December 22, 2003).
59 “Attack by Female Suicide Bomber Thwarted at Erez Crossing,” Ministry of Foreign Affairs, (June 20, 2005).
60 Jerusalem Post, (July 1, 2005).
61 Jerusalem Post, (July 1, 2005); BBC, (June 21, 2005).
62 “Developments in Policy Towards the West Bank and Gaza in 2010,” IDF Spokes-person, (March 2011).
63 Jerusalem Post, (July 1, 2005).
64 Yaakov Katz, “Gaza plan: Fill tankers, cut supplies,” Jerusalem Post, (January 14, 2008).
65 I Understand, 1993, p. 259.
66 What is the Interpretation? Comprehension B, pp. 184–188.
67 The Twentieth Century—On the Threshold of Tomorrow, Grade 9, 1999, p. 44.
68 From Generation to Generation, Vol. b, 1994, p. 220.
69 H. Peleg, G. Zohar, This is the Land—Introduction to Land of Israel Studies for the Upper Grades, 2000, pp. 161–162.
70 From Exile to Independence—The History of the Jewish People in Recent Genera-tions, vol. 2, 1990, p. 312.
71 Center for the Monitoring of Peace, “Newsletter,” (December 2003).
72 K. Tabibian, Journey To The Past—The Twentieth Century, By Dint of Freedom, 1999, p. 294.
73 Center for Monitoring the Impact on Peace, Newsletter, (February 2004).
74 Danny Tirza, “The Influence of Christian Interests in Setting the Route of the Security Fence in Jerusalem,” Jerusalem Viewpoints, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, (No-vember-December 2008).
75 Alex Safian, “New York Times Omits Major Reason Christians are Leaving Bethle-hem,” (December 24, 2004), CAMERA; “The Palestinian Christian Population,” JCPA Background Paper, (2011).
76 “Christians in Palestine Concerned About their future Zenit,” Zenit News Agency, (November 14, 2004).
77 Maariv, (December 24, 2001).
78 Adam Garfinkle, Politics and Society in Modern Israel: Myths and Realities, (NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1997), pp. 108 & 110.
79 Jerusalem Post, (October 28, 2005); Harry de Quetteville, “ ‘Islamic mafia’ accused of persecuting Holy Land Christians,” Telegraph, (September 9, 2005).
80 Khaled Abu Toameh, “Gaza’s Christians fear for their lives,” Jerusalem Post, (June 18, 2007); “Catholic compound ransacked in Gaza,” Associated Press, (June 19, 2007)
81 Aaron Klein, “ ‘Christians must accept Islamic rule,’ ” WorldNetDaily, (June 19, 2007); Daniel Schwammenthal, “The Forgotten Palestinian Refugees,” Wall Street Journal (December 28, 2009).
82 Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research, December 16–18, 2010; see also “Palestinian Public Opinion Poll #38.”
83 “Excerpts from Interview with U.N. Ambassador Susan E. Rice,” Washington Post, (September 22, 2009) and “Israel’s Bombardment of Gaza is Not Self-Defence—It’s a War Crime,” The Sunday Times, (January 11, 2009).
84 Bernard Josephs, “Dispute Over ‘Biased’ Gaza Inquiry Professor,” thejc.com, (August 27, 2009).
85 “Israel’s Initial Reaction to the Report of the Goldstone Fact-Finding Mission,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, (September 15, 2009).
86 “UN Smears Israeli Self-Defense as War Crimes,” Gerald M. Steinberg, Wall Street Journal, (September 16, 2009).
87 “Israel’s Analysis and Comments on the Gaza FAct-Finding Mission Report,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, (September 15, 2009).
88 “Israel’s Analysis and Comments on the Gaza Fact-Finding Mission Report,” Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, (September 15, 2009).
89 “Analysis: Blocking the Truth Behind the Gaza War,” Jonathan D. Halevi, Jerusalem Post, September 21, 2009.
90 “Hamas and the Terrorist Threat from the Gaza Strip: The Main Findings of the Goldstone Report Versus the factual Findings,” Intelligence & Terrorism Information Center,” (March 2010).
91 “IDF releases Cast Lead casualty numbers,” Jerusalem Post, (March 28, 2009).
92 “Top UN official blasts Hamas for ‘cynical’ use of civilian facilities,” Haaretz, (Jan-uary 28, 2009).
93 “Hamas MP Fathi Hammad: We Used Women and Children as Human Shields,” Al-Aqsa TV, cited in Dispatch #1710, MEMRI (February 29, 2008).
94 Richard Goldstone, “Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and War Crimes,” Washington Post, (April 1, 2011).
96 Editorial, “Mr. Goldstone Recants,” Wall Street Journal, (April 5, 2011).
97 Richard Goldstone, “Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and War Crimes,” Washington Post, (April 1, 2011).
98 Colonel Richard Kemp, “Goldstone Gaza Report,” UN Watch, (October 16, 2009).
99 David Harris, “Hamas Admits Up to 700 Fighters Killed in Operation Cast Lead,” The Israel Project, (November 1, 2010).
100 Richard Goldstone, “Reconsidering the Goldstone Report on Israel and War Crimes,” Washington Post, (April 1, 2011).
101 Barak Ravid, “Netanyahu to UN: Retract Gaza War Report in wake of Goldstone’s Comments,” Haaretz, (April 2, 2011).
103 Abraham Bell, “International Law and Gaza: The Assault on Israel’s Right to Self-Defense,” (January 28, 2008) and “Is Israel Bound by International Law to Supply Utilities, Goods, and Services to Gaza?,” (February 28, 2008), Jerusalem: Institute of Contemporary Affairs.