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November 18, 2013

Lying about history will not help the cause for peace

http://www.jewishjournal.com/opinion/article/lying_about_history_will_not_help_the_cause_for_peace

Photo courtesy Shutterstock

Photo courtesy Shutterstock

OneVoice is an organization in a long list of those that consider themselves impartial and committed to dialogue on both sides, in order to solve the “Arab-Israeli conflict.” According to its website, “OneVoice is an international grassroots movement that amplifies the voice of mainstream Israelis and Palestinians, empowering them to propel their elected representatives toward the two state solution and an end to the conflict and occupation.” (Of course, the Palestinians have no elected representatives, as Mohammad Abbas’ Presidential term ended in 2009. Since being elected to power in Gaza in 2006, Hamas has also not held any elections).  Though well intentioned, OneVoice is an organization that makes peace harder to attain by not addressing the root causes of the Arab war against Israel. 

OneVoice is now on a West Coast campus tour. Its programs are supposed to be balanced, consisting of three presenters; one Palestinian Arab who speaks about the Palestinian Arab perspective; one Israeli who speaks about the Israeli perspective; and one American who initiates the discussion and gives an overview of the “conflict.” However, in reality the program is far from balanced. 

At San Jose State University, the Palestinian Arab gave a one-sided presentation about how the Palestinian Arabs are victims of Israeli occupation and oppression, as expected; the Israeli gave a somewhat even-handed talk, though omitted many significant details; and the American--who is supposed to be the unbiased one--gave an anti-Israel talk. Not exactly neutral.

Here are some highlights:

In her overview of the conflict, the first thing the American representative mentioned was the “military occupation in the West Bank for the last 47 years,” and how the Israelis keep building settlements which are confiscating Palestinian Arab land. Listening to her talk, one would think the “conflict” started in 1967, which, of course, is not true. She mentioned nothing about the massacres of Jews in Jerusalem and Hebron years before Israel even became a state in 1948. She did not mention that the Palestinian Arabs, after declining the United Nation’s plan for a two state solution in 1947, joined the surrounding Arab countries in their attack of the nascent Jewish State, promising to push the Jews into the sea. 

When discussing the second intifada, the American representative only mentioned that it means “uprising” in Arabic, and that it was comprised of “violence on both sides.” This is a gross mischaracterization of the second intifada, which in reality was a terrorist war against Israel, initiated by Yasser Arafat, and comprised of Palestinians blowing up innocent Israeli civilians; while Israel engaged in self-defense. She did not mention how the second Intifada was preceded by a generous offer of peace from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, including 95% of the West Bank with agreed upon land swaps, all of Gaza, and Eastern Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital. She also failed to mention that Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia called Yasser Arafat’s decline of this offer, “a crime against the Palestinians.”

Finally, in a breathtaking omission, the American spoke about the Israeli blockade of Gaza without ever offering the justification for the blockade, which includes Israel’s attempt to stem the outbreak of rockets being fired by Hamas. 

The Israelis talk was more reality based, but still did not mention any of the above points. He did speak about the Jewish refugees from Muslim lands after the 1948 war, as well as how Israel does not consider the Palestinian “right of return’’ a realistic demand. He did speak about the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 leading to rockets raining down on Israeli cities. However, when speaking about the 1947 U.N. partition plan, which would have created a Palestinian State, he omitted that the Palestinian Arabs refused, while Israel agreed. He simply states that the plan failed and led to war. And he only described the second intifada as a “reaction” to Israeli “occupation,” nothing else. 

The words “Hamas” or “terrorism” were not mentioned by anyone, including the Israeli, until the question and answer period. This was unbelievable. Not mentioning Palestinian Arab terrorism when speaking about the “Arab-Israeli conflict” is like not mentioning the Nazis when speaking about World War II. 

The event was not a total failure, as pro-Israel representatives were there, including myself, with the intent of injecting some reality into the conversation during the question and answer period. I asked why the presentation included such an extensive discussion of Israeli “occupation” and settlement activity as causes of the conflict, without mentioning anything about Palestinian Arab incitement to violence and glorification of terrorism. In answering my question, the American woman claimed that incitement to violence was negligible in Palestinian society and that incitement against Palestinians is also happening in Israel. This is a whitewashing of Palestinian hate, vitriol and incitement against Jews, of which there is no comparison in Israel. The Israeli answered that they are not here to place blame on anyone, but simply to find a solution. I could not disagree more with this view, as only by first, properly assessing blame, can we identify who is at fault, and who and what must change for there to be peace.

As a follow up, another pro-Israel representative spoke more about Palestinian incitement against Israel, and then asked if the Palestinian would condemn Hamas for its commitment to killing Jews in its charter. In an eye-opening remark of candor, the Palestinian representative said, “Hamas is a part of Palestinian society, a part of our national fabric...we don’t see Hamas as a problem anymore...Hamas is committed to the two state solution.”


Sam Levine is the Executive Director of the Zionist Organization of America's Western Region.

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