Blimp deflator: Letting out the gas

Assessing the claim of double standards

Posted in history, israel, palestine by Blimp deflator on November 28, 2010

This article by Stephen R. Shalom, dated November 19, 2010, and taken from Jews for Justice for Palestinians, is a revised version of a talk given at Yale University on November 11, 2010, at a forum sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine. The article’s full title is: Anti-Semitism and the Israel-Palestine conflict – assessing the claim of double standards.

As it becomes increasingly difficult to justify Israel’s treatment of the Palestinian people, Israel’s apologists — whether based in Israel or at pseudo-academic centers such as the Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Anti-Semitism — resort to another line of defense: namely, they accuse Israel’s critics of being anti-Semitic. Not the sort of classic anti-Semitism found for example in Hamas’s Charter, but instead the anti-Semitism of an anti-Israel double standard.

What I’d like to do is examine some of these claims of anti-Semitism and double standards and see what merit they may have.

One argument supporting the charge of anti-Semitism goes like this: It is anti-Semitic to hold Israel to a higher standard than other countries. Why, for example, are critics more concerned about civilian casualties caused by Israel in its attack on Gaza in December 2008 and January 2009 than by the United States in its assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah in November 2004? This is the argument made for example, by Israeli analyst Yossi Alpher.[1]

Alpher, I think, overstates the number of casualties in Fallujah, but let’s agree that both attacks killed large numbers of innocent civilians. So, yes, anyone who cheered the U.S. military in Fallujah and condemned Israel in Gaza would be a hypocrite. But this certainly wasn’t the view taken by leading progressive critics of Israel, whose position was quite consistent and principled: they denounced both attacks for showing an immoral disregard for the welfare of non-combatants; they accused both the Bush administration and the Olmert government of responsibility for grave war crimes.[2]

There was in fact widespread criticism of the Fallujah attack; and the Iraq war as a whole was overwhelmingly opposed by world public opinion. In fact, the only country in the world where a clear majority of the population supported the initiation of the war was Israel.[3] Six months before the war began Israel’s deputy Interior Minister, Gideon Ezra, said regarding a U.S. attack on Iraq “The more aggressive the attack is, the more it will help Israel against the Palestinians. The understanding would be that what is good to do in Iraq, is also good for here.”[4]

I don’t mean to suggest that Israel learned how to treat Palestinians from U.S. behavior in Iraq. Actually, there’s quite a bit of evidence that U.S. tactics in Iraq draw from Israeli experience. For example, Dexter Filkins wrote in The New York Times in December 2003,

“American soldiers are demolishing buildings thought to be used by Iraqi attackers. They have begun imprisoning the relatives of suspected guerrillas, in hopes of pressing the insurgents to turn themselves in….The response they chose is beginning to echo the Israeli counterinsurgency campaign in the occupied territories.”[5]

The press also reported Israeli urban warfare experts briefing U.S. military personnel on what they might encounter in Iraq. But in fact the U.S. military and the Israeli military are so intertwined that it’s hard to sort out the chicken and the egg here. In 2007, for example, the U.S. Marine Corps newspaper reported on a new urban warfare training center in Israel where U.S. troops hoped to later train.[6] The center was built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and funded largely from U.S. military aid, and was said to be preparing Israeli forces for combat in Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon, and Syria.

So it would indeed be wrong to criticize Israeli actions in Gaza in 2008-09 while giving a pass to the United States. But there’s no double standard — there’s a single standard — when we say all attacks that cause massive harm to civilians violate international humanitarian law and should be firmly denounced. And that’s why we denounce both Israeli behavior and that of the U.S. government in Iraq.

A second argument holds that it’s anti-Semitic to criticize Israel for its treatment of Palestinians, when in fact the Arab countries themselves have severely mistreated Palestinians, and refused to take steps to resettle the Palestinian refugees.

There is no doubt that Palestinians have fared badly in the Arab world. Only in Jordan have Palestinians been eligible for citizenship. In Lebanon, the government fears that allowing Palestinians to become citizens would disturb the country’s delicate Christian-Muslim balance; in Egypt, the shortage of arable land led the government to confine the Palestinians to the Gaza Strip. It must be noted, however, that the Palestinians were reluctant to leave the camps if that meant acquiescing in the loss of homes and property or giving up their right to return. One saw the same pattern during the 1999 Kosovo war. Many Kosovar Albanians who were driven from their homes did not want to leave the refugee camps on the borders for fear this would weaken their claim to later return home.

In any event, it is true that Palestinians have been abused in many Arab countries. One should note, however, that the worst treatment of Palestinians often was carried out in collaboration with the Israelis. So when Lebanese Phalangists massacred thousands at Sabra and Shitila, Israel gave them support, at a minimum firing illumination flares over the camps so that the killers could carry out their grizzly deeds. When King Hussein of Jordan slaughtered thousands in September of 1970, Israel (and Washington) stood ready to come to his aid. When Kuwait expelled its entire Palestinian population following the Gulf War, no voices in Tel Aviv or Washington were raised on their behalf.

It is sometimes implied that the lack of assistance to Palestinians from Arab nations somehow justifies Israel’s refusal to acknowledge and address the claims of the refugees. But if you harm someone, you are responsible for redressing that harm, regardless of whether the victim’s relatives are supportive.

One must distinguish here between the attitude of the Arab states and of the Arab people. Efraim Karsh in a recent op-ed in the New York Times[7] is quite right about the sorry record of the Arab states when it comes to supporting Palestinians, but when he claims to cite a public opinion poll showing that the Arab population shares this indifference, he’s basing his claim on a non-poll that didn’t ask about Palestinians at all.[8] There is in fact deep support in the Arab world for Palestinian rights. And when Karsh tells us that Jordan’s King Abdullah went to war in 1948 not on behalf of the Palestinians, but to grab territory, he’s correct; but what Karsh omits is that Israel was in cahoots with Abdullah, with the two nations secretly agreeing to carve up between themselves the fledgling Palestinian state.[9] So by all means let us denounce Abdullah’s treachery, but this hardly whitewashes the record of Abdullah’s senior partner, the Israeli state.

Some claim that it’s anti-Semitic to demand a state for Palestinians at the expense of the world’s one Jewish state. After all, the Arabs already have 22 states. Why do they need another one?

This argument, of course, is nonsensical. Not all Arabs are the same. That other Arabs may already have their right of self-determination does not take away from Palestinians’ basic rights. There are more than 50 European nations. Is this an argument to deny Hungarians, say, a state of their own? Would anyone think of suggesting that Hungarians could be re-settled in one of the other 50 European states and so don’t need their own state?

The fact that many Palestinians live in Jordan and have considerable influence and rights there — or at least those rights that are compatible with living in an authoritarian monarchy — doesn’t mean that the millions of Palestinians living under Israeli occupation or who were expelled from their homes and are now in refugee camps aren’t entitled to their rights — any more than the fact that there are a lot of Jews in the United States, where they have considerable influence and rights, means that Israeli Jews should be packed off across the Atlantic.

It is anti-Semitic — claims another argument — to be concerned about Palestinian refugees, but not about the approximately equal number of Jewish refugees from Arab lands. In fact, there’s been a population exchange, with Jews from Arab lands coming to Israel and replacing the Palestinians. So nothing needs to be done for the Palestinians.

This argument too is spurious. Jews left Arab countries under various circumstances: some were forced out, some came voluntarily, some were recruited by Zionist officials. In the case of Iraq, Jews feared that they might be harmed, a fear possibly helped along by some covert bombs placed by Zionist agents.[10]

But whatever the case, there are no moral grounds for punishing Palestinians (or denying them their due) because of how Jews were treated in the Arab world. Individual Palestinians are not responsible for the wrong-doing of Arab governments. If Italy were to abuse American citizens, this would not justify the United States harming or expelling Italian-Americans.

Not all Jews from Arab lands are refugees. Those Jews who were mistreated in or expelled from Arab countries deserve compensation and a right to return if they so desire. But this is nothing for which the Palestinians bear any responsibility.

It’s anti-Semitic, says another argument, to accuse Israel of refusing to work toward peace when in fact Israel accepted compromises in 1947 and again in 2000, while the Palestinians rejected them.

This claim, however, doesn’t mesh with the historical evidence. In 1947 Jews were only one third of the population of Palestine and owned only 6% of the land. Yet the partition plan granted the Jewish state 55% of the total land area. The Arab state was to have an overwhelmingly Arab population, while the Jewish state would have almost as many Arabs as Jews. This is known in political science as gerrymandering. If it was unjust to force Jews to be a 1/3 minority in an Arab state, it was no more just to force Arabs to be an almost 50% minority in a Jewish state.

Understandably, the Palestinians rejected partition. The Zionists accepted it, but in private Zionist leaders had more expansive goals. In 1937, during earlier partition proposals, David Ben Gurion, who was to become Israel’s first prime minister, wrote to his son,

“A partial Jewish state is not the end, but only the beginning. The establishment of such a Jewish State will serve as a means in our historical efforts to redeem the country in its entirety….We shall organize a modern defense force…and then I am certain that we will not be prevented from settling in other parts of the country, either by mutual agreement with our Arab neighbors or by some other means….We will expel the Arabs and take their places…with the force at our disposal.”[11]

A year later, Ben Gurion told a Zionist meeting: “I favor partition of the country because when we become a strong power after the establishment of the state, we will abolish partition and spread throughout all of Palestine.”[12]

In early 1949, Ben Gurion told his aides: “Before the founding of the state, on the eve of its creation, our main interest was self-defense….But now the issue at hand is conquest, not self-defense. As for setting the borders — it’s an open-ended matter. In the Bible as well as in history there are all kinds of definitions of the country’s borders, so there’s no real limit.”[13]

So this was hardly a case of Palestinians rejecting a fair compromise and the Zionists accepting it. But even if that were the case, this can provide no moral justification for denying Palestinians their basic right of self- determination for more than half a century. This right is not a function of this or that agreement, but a basic right to which every person is entitled. Are Palestinians for all eternity to be denied the fundamental right of self-determination and must they live under foreign control because their leaders may have rejected an agreement in 1947? No one would think of saying that Israelis ought to live under foreign military occupation for seven generations because of the wrongdoing of the Israeli state. But that seems to be the argument with respect to Palestinians.

Even if we think that the Palestinians were wrong to reject partition in 1947, how could that justify Israel taking over a large chunk of the territory assigned to the Palestinian state, and taking over as well half of Jerusalem, which the partition resolution had set aside as an international zone? And how could it justify not just expelling large numbers of Palestinians from their homes and confiscating their property, but also refusing to allow — as the UN continually urged — the return of those Palestinians willing to live in peace with their neighbors?

As for the Camp David talks in 2000, the view promoted by Israeli apologists and the Clinton administration (but I repeat myself) is that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak made an exceedingly generous offer to Yasser Arafat, but Arafat rejected it, choosing violence instead.

A U.S. participant in the Camp David talks, Robert Malley, has shown the falsity of this view.[14] Barak never put any offer into writing and never provided details, so that in Malley’s words, “strictly speaking, there never was an Israeli offer.” The terms of the non-offer, as best we can tell, were to give the Palestinians Israeli land equivalent to 1% of the West Bank (unspecified, but to be chosen by Israel) in return for 9% of the West Bank that housed settlements, highways, and military bases, effectively dividing the West Bank into separate regions. Thus, there would have been no meaningfully independent Palestinian state emerging from Camp David, but a series of Bantustans, while all the best land and water aquifers would be in Israeli hands. Israel would also “temporarily” hold an additional 10 percent of West Bank land. And given that Barak had not carried out the previous withdrawals to which Israel had committed, Palestinian skepticism regarding “temporary” Israeli occupation is not surprising. It’s a myth, Malley wrote, that “Israel’s offer met most if not all of the Palestinians’ legitimate aspirations” and a myth as well that the “Palestinians made no concession of their own.”

Some Israeli analysts have made a similar assessment. For example, influential commentator Ze’ev Schiff wrote that, to Palestinians, “the prospect of being able to establish a viable state was fading right before their eyes. They were confronted with an intolerable set of options: to agree to the spreading occupation … or to set up wretched Bantustans, or to launch an uprising.”[15]

Another argument holds that it’s anti-Semitic to condemn Israel for occupying the “occupied territories,” since these territories were acquired by Israel in a just war of defense. Israel’s supporters argue that although Israel fired the first shots in this war, it was a justified preventive war, given that Arab armies were mobilizing on Israel’s borders, with murderous rhetoric.

The rhetoric was indeed blood-curdling, and many people around the world worried for Israel’s safety. But those who understood the military situation — in the Israeli government and in the U.S. government — knew quite well that even if the Arabs struck first, Israel would prevail in any war. Nasser was looking for a way out and agreed to send his vice-president to Washington for negotiations. Israel attacked when it did in part because it rejected negotiations and the prospect of any face-saving compromise for Nasser. Menachem Begin, a member of the Israeli cabinet at the time and an enthusiastic supporter of this (and other) Israeli wars, was quite clear about whether it had been necessary to launch an attack: Israel, he said, “had a choice.” Egyptian Army concentrations did not prove that Nasser was about to attack us. “We must be honest with ourselves. We decided to attack him.”[16]

However, even if it were the case that the 1967 war was wholly defensive on Israel’s part, this cannot justify the continued rule over Palestinians. A people do not lose their right to self-determination because the government of a neighboring state goes to war. Sure, punish Egypt and Jordan — don’t give them back Gaza and the West Bank. But there is no basis for punishing the Palestinian population by forcing them to submit to foreign military occupation.

Immediately following the war, Israel incorporated occupied East Jerusalem into Israel proper, announcing that Jerusalem was its united and eternal capital. It then began to establish settlements in the Occupied Territories in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibit a conquering power from settling its population on occupied territory. And despite Israeli government apologetics, it always knew that the settlements were illegal, having been so advised privately by its legal adviser at the time, the distinguished jurist Theodor Meron.[17]

When the war began, the Israeli government lied, saying Israel had been attacked first, but in any event it assured the world that its defensive intentions could be seen by the fact that it had no territorial ambitions. When U.S. Secretary of State Dean Rusk later reminded Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban of this assurance, Eban “simply shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘We’ve changed our minds.’”[18] Indeed.

Another argument notes that the United Nations, dominated by anti-Semitic regimes, singles out Israel for special condemnation. The General Assembly passes numerous anti-Israel resolutions each year and raises barely a peep about the offenses of others, even when they are far more egregious.

There is no doubt that nations in the UN General Assembly allow all sorts of considerations — from self-interest to power politics to bigotry — to affect their voting behavior. Many of the world’s crimes go unremarked in that body. But the question remains whether the many condemnations of Israel are the result of anti-Israel bias or of Israeli policies that are disproportionately worthy of condemnation.

Here’s a way we can resolve this question. Instead of looking at the General Assembly, let’s look at the UN Security Council. By the undemocratic procedure that prevails in that body, no substantive resolution can be adopted if the United States votes no, because of its veto power. Thus, we can see what the second most pro-Israeli government in the world thinks about Israeli behavior over the years.

Now this test that I am employing is an exceedingly conservative one: many times when Israel indeed warrants the most severe condemnation, the Security Council fails to do so because of the United States’ veto power. 42 times Washington vetoed resolutions critical of Israel. And countless other times, critical resolutions were not submitted because of the certain U.S. veto. And since the end of the Cold War, the Council has been notably quiet on the Israel-Palestine conflict.[19] In 2006, Israel’s UN Ambassador, Dan Gillerman, jokingly told a meeting of B’nai Brith International that the U.S. UN Ambassador John Bolton was “a secret member of Israel’s own team at the United Nations.” The Israeli delegation, he said, was really not just five diplomats. “We are at least six including John Bolton.”[20] But what was farce the first time may become tragedy under the Obama administration, where Washington has offered Netanyahu, in addition to other appalling concessions, a pledge to veto any anti-Israel resolution in the Security Council for the next year if he would freeze settlement construction for three months — though details remain unclear.[21]

So my procedure will have a lot of what social scientists call type I errors — instances where Israel deserved extreme condemnation, but didn’t get it — and very few type II errors — cases where it was wrongly condemned.

So what does this extremely conservative test of Security Council resolutions reveal?

It shows that Israel has been criticized, condemned, and censured by the Security Council — including by the United States — more than any other country in the world: for its military attacks on its neighbors, for its annexation of territory, for its refusal to apply the Fourth Geneva Convention to the Occupied Territories, for refusing to withdraw its troops, for taking hostages, for deporting civilians, for seizing a civilian airliner, and on and on. [For details, see Appendix.]

Is there a double standard? Absolutely. But the double standard is in Israel’s favor. Why? Because no other nation with such a record of violations of international law and of the resolutions of the Security Council and other UN bodies has been as immune as Israel from Security Council sanctions. Iraq was of course sharply condemned by the Council, but the condemnation was not just words: the Council authorized military action in 1991 and more than a decade of the harshest sanctions. South Africa was frequently criticized by the Security Council, and an arms embargo was imposed. Thanks in part to the obstruction of the United States, Britain, and France, the sanctions against Pretoria were quite limited, but nevertheless there were sanctions. Portugal was often condemned for its colonial and military policies in Africa, and it too was the subject of sanctions. Serbian behavior was the subject of numerous Security Council resolutions, and military action was authorized. In the case of Israel, on the other hand, its record-breaking numbers of U.S.-backed Security Council condemnations were not accompanied by any sanctions at all.[22]

The final argument I want to consider says that surely Israel does not have the worst human rights record in the world. So why is it getting picked on?

There are three points to note here.

First, the UN does have an inherent bias to pay inadequate attention to domestic matters. There is a tension in the UN Charter: on the one hand, articles 55 and 56 of the Charter commit member states to respect human rights; on the other hand, article 2 section 7 stipulates that the UN has no right “to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.” This tension is not surprising given that the leading powers at the UN’s founding were the Jim Crow United States and the Soviet Union under Stalin.

In a few cases, the UN has gotten involved in domestic human rights issues, most notably in the case of South Africa, but in general even unpopular states have avoided criticism for their internal affairs. This is true even of Israel. In the many resolutions condemning Israel over the years, they are almost entirely focused on its treatment of people in occupied territories or people who have been forced across international borders or civilians in neighboring states — not its treatment of its internal population.[23] So, yes, one can name numerous states whose domestic human rights record is worse, far worse, than Israel’s, but how many states are there whose human rights record in occupied territories is worse than Israel’s?

It could certainly be argued that Indonesia’s murderous occupation of East Timor was worse. Because of Indonesia’s political clout the UN was pretty ineffectual in dealing with the Timor situation. Indonesia had the backing of many non-aligned states, and its invasion and occupation were abetted by the United States. Among the countries that didn’t think Indonesian behavior was so bad, however, was Israel, which abstained on the General Assembly resolutions condemning Indonesia’s invasion. Morocco’s rule in Western Sahara is another awful occupation — but Washington and Paris have prevented any UN sanctions against Morocco, and maintain close ties with Rabat. Israel too is on good terms with the Moroccan government.[24] Sixty-four countries currently recognize the “right of self-determination of the Sahrawi people,” but absent from this list are the United States and Israel.[25] Thus, the two governments that most vociferously complain that Israel has been singled out for criticism have been rather muted in their condemnation of other occupations. On the other hand, some of the leading defenders of the Timorese and Sahrawi people have also been sharp critics of Israeli treatment of the Palestinians.[26]

Washington, of course, was outspoken in its denunciation of the horrendous human rights violations accompanying Iraq’s takeover of Kuwait. But Iraq was hardly given a pass: as noted, the condemnations of Iraq were near unanimous and both sanctions and military action were approved by the Security Council.

A second point to make about human rights double standards is that it makes sense as Americans that we should focus attention on the crimes of our own government or those enabled by our own government — that’s where we have the greatest moral responsibility and where we can make the most difference. So, yes, there were two horrible atrocities in 1982 in the Middle East: Israel’s invasion of Lebanon and Syria’s massacre in the city of Hama. But Israel was significantly armed by the United States. It was given diplomatic backing by the United States. So it’s appropriate for Americans to be critical of crimes for which they bear some significant responsibility and which they could stop. Syria, on the other hand, was not armed by Washington. The artillery shells that fell on Hama, unlike the cluster bombs that fell on Lebanon, were not made in the United States. The United States did not run interference for Syria in the UN. Americans bore little responsibility for the destruction of Hama and could do little to stop it.

Related to this point is a third one: it is reasonable to allocate one’s time on the basis of likely impact. To spend a lot of time writing books or articles opposing something that everyone opposes is not a very effective use of one’s energies. So of course one should not refrain from signing an ad protesting, say, Syria’s actions in Hama, and even more so one shouldn’t offer apologetics on behalf of the Syrian government; but to write reams of pages criticizing Syria for its atrocities in Hama is pushing against an open door. There probably wasn’t a single U.S. commentator who praised Assad for his butchery. So there was nothing really to debate. In the case of Israel, however, there are a large number of commentators who loudly defend everything that country does. There are celebrated moralists like Elie Wiesel who have gone on record stating that it is improper to criticize Israel outside its borders.[27] When Stalinists of old used to reflexively defend the Soviet Union no matter the circumstances, it was easy to see apologists at work. Unfortunately, there are many prominent commentators in the United States who have this same sort of slavish devotion to Israel. Those willing to speak the truth accordingly have a greater obligation to refute the lies that are so common in our public discourse: and that means criticizing Israel.

Anti-Semitism is one of the world’s foulest ideologies. But if we want to minimize it, then instead of attacking those who criticize Israel’s abuses, it would be far more effective to join those critics in urging Israel — which calls itself the state of the Jewish people — to end its abusive policies.

  • Stephen R. Shalom is a professor of political science at William Paterson University in New Jersey. He has written extensively on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, concerned particularly to take up the arguments of those who attempt to excuse or justify Israel’s actions in the occupation.

    1. Yossi Alpher, “A Message for Washington, Brussels and Cairo as well as Jerusalem,” Bitter Lemons, Feb. 23, 2009.
    2. Both the United States in Iraq and Israel in Gaza violated two separate moral and legal standards: international humanitarian law and the prohibition against aggressive war. (To use the language of just war theory, they violated both jus in bello and jus ad bellum principles.) Neither war had a just cause, if for no other reason than that their stated goals – destroying weapons of mass destruction and preventing the firing of rockets into southern Israel, respectively — could have been readily been achieved without resort to war. For discussion of the Gaza case, see Stephen R. Shalom, “Unjust and Illegal: The Israeli Attack on Gaza,” Logos: A Journal of Modern Society and Culture, vol. 8, no. 1, 2009; and Jerome Slater, “A Perfect Moral Failure: Just War Philosophy and the Israeli Attack on Gaza” [extended, footnoted version for the Tikkun website].
    3. See Ephraim Yaar and Tamar Hermann, “Peace Index / Most Israelis support the attack on Iraq,” Haaretz, Mar. 6, 2003. Martin Kramer irrelevantly challenges this poll, by citing another poll that shows a minority of Israelis opposed to immediately going to war (“Israel and Iraq War,” Sandbox, April 2, 2006). For international comparisons, see Gallup International, “Iraq Poll 2003″ (checking their actual data, rather than their press release.
    4. Ben Lynfield, “Israel sees opportunity in possible US strike on Iraq,” Christian Science Monitor, 8/30/02. Back in 2003, Yossi Alpher wrote about some of the “positive linkages” between the Iraq war and the Israel-Palestine conflict: “suicide bombings perpetrated against American forces in Iraq, and the inevitable tough reaction toward the Iraqi civilian population that they engender, tend to soften Israel’s image in the eyes of international public opinion by portraying the harsh Israeli reaction to suicide bombings within the context of an international norm. By the same token, the US occupation of Iraq and civilian ‘collateral damage’ it causes there act in a way to justify Israeli actions in the West Bank and Gaza that would otherwise be criticized mercilessly. When an Israeli attack in Gaza that kills a terrorist along with six innocent Palestinian civilians is relegated to page 18 of The New York Times, the war in Iraq is definitely distracting attention from the confrontation here.” “Linkages Good and Bad,” Bitter Lemons, Apr. 14, 2003.
    5. Dexter Filkins, “A REGION INFLAMED: STRATEGY; Tough New Tactics by U.S. Tighten Grip on Iraq Towns,” New York Times, Dec. 7, 2003.
    6. Barbara Opall-Rome, “Marines to train at new Israeli combat center,” Marine Times, June 25, 2007.
    7. Efraim Karsh, “The Palestinians Alone,” New York Times, Aug. 1, 2010.
    8. James Zogby, “Arabs Don’t Care About Palestine? Don’t Bet on It,” Huffington Post, Aug. 2, 2010.
    9. Avi Shlaim, Collusion Across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement, and the Partition of Palestine (New York: Columbia University Press, 1988).
    10. See Mark Tessler, A History of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994, pp. 308-11; and sources in Noam Chomsky, Towards a New Cold War, New York: Pantheon, 1982, p. 462n33.
    11. Quoted in Jerome Slater, “What Went Wrong? The Collapse of the Israeli-Palestinian Peace Process,” Political Science Quarterly, vol. 116, no. 2, 2001, pp. 173-74.
    12. Quoted in Slater, “What Went Wrong,” p. 174.
    13. Jerome Slater, “Benny Morris, Former Historian,” On the U.S. and Israel, Oct. 5, 2010.
    14. Robert Malley and Hussein Agha, “Camp David: The Tragedy of Errors,” New York Review of Books, August 9, 2001.
    15. Slater, “What Went Wrong,” p. 184, citing Haaretz, Nov. 24, 2000.
    16. “Excerpts From Begin Speech At National Defense College,” New York Times, August 21, 1982.
    17. Donald Macintyre, “Secret memo shows Israel knew Six Day War was illegal,” The Independent (London), May 26, 2007. [back]
    18. Dean Rusk, As I Saw It, New York: W.W. Norton, 1990, p. 388.
    19. See Security Council Report, “The Middle East 1947-2007: Sixty Years of Security Council Engagement on the Israel/Palestine Question,” Special Research Report No. 4, Dec. 17, 2007. Security Council Report is “an independent not-for-profit organisation in affiliation with Columbia University’s Center on International Organization.”
    20. Reuters, “Israel’s UN ambassador slams Qatar, praises U.S. envoy Bolton,” Haaretz, May 23, 2006.
    21. Edmund Sanders, “Israel considers U.S. proposal; Netanyahu presents his Cabinet with an American incentive package to resume talks with Palestinians,” Los Angeles Times, Nov. 15, 2010, p. A3.
    22. Double Standards: How the International Community has Taught Israel that it is Above the Law. A report of the Negotiations Affairs Department Palestine Liberation Organization, Sept. 24, 2002. This study was published by the PLO, and so its analysis is obviously partisan, but the tables, assembled by Dr. Barbara Metzger, provide a good summary of the situation.
    23. The lack of serious criticism of Israel’s domestic policies is not because its domestic policies are blameless. For example, even apart from matters allegedly relating to national security (like censorship, torture, and repression), Israel has separate and unequal segregated schools (Human Rights Watch, “Second Class: Discrimination Against Palestinian Arab Children in Israel’s Schools,” Sept. 30, 2001), and more than 250,000 Israeli citizens and residents are currently barred from marrying in Israel (Asma Jahangir, Mission to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, A/HRC/10/8/Add.2, Jan. 12 2009, available here).
    24. In 1965, the Mossad helped the Moroccan regime capture and assassinate exiled opposition leader Mehdi Ben Barka. Israel provided Morocco with military aid in its efforts to control the Western Sahara. See Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, “Israel and Morocco: A Special Relationship,” The Maghreb Review, vol. 21, nos. 1-2, 1996, p. 40; Michael M. Laskier, “Israeli-Moroccan Relations and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1977-2002,” Israel Affairs, vol. 10, no. 3, Spring 2004, pp. 43, 52; Xavier Cornut, “The Moroccan connection,” Jerusalem Post, June 22, 2009.
    25. See the list on Wikipedia.
    26. For example, Noam Chomsky and Stephen Zunes.
    27. Cited in Noam Chomsky, The Fateful Triangle, Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 1999, updated edition, p. 16.

  • No apartheid in Israel? – the Zionist case rebutted

    Posted in israel, palestine by Blimp deflator on November 24, 2010

    ‘No Apartheid State in Israel’

    An open letter to Archbishop Desmond Tutu from Warren Goldstein, Chief Rabbi of South Africa, The Star, South Africa, November 4, 2010.

    Dear Archbishop Desmond Tutu, I write to you with a heavy heart.

    You are a revered leader in South Africa, but recently have added your iconic voice to the campaign for sanctions against Israel.

    Archbishop, I believe you are making a terrible mistake. Without truth there can be no justice, and without justice there can be no peace. The Talmud says: “The world stands on three things: justice, truth and peace.” These three values are inseparable. Archbishop, I am convinced that the sanctions campaign against Israel is morally repugnant because it is based on horrific and grotesquely false accusations against the Jewish people.

    The truth, archbishop, is that Israel is simply not an apartheid state. In the State of Israel all citizens – Jew and Arab – are equal before the law. Israel has no Population Registration Act, no Group Areas Act, no Mixed Marriages and Immorality Act, no Separate Representation of Voters Act, no Separate Amenities Act, no pass laws or any of the myriad apartheid laws.

    Israel is a vibrant liberal democracy with a free press and independent judiciary, and accords full political, religious and other human rights to all its people, including its more than 1 million Arab citizens, many of whom hold positions of authority including that of cabinet minister, member of parliament and judge at every level, including that of the Supreme Court. All citizens vote on the same roll in regular, multiparty elections; there are Arab parties and Arab members of other parties in Israel’s parliament. Arabs and Jews share all public facilities, including hospitals and malls, buses, cinemas and parks. And, archbishop, that includes universities and opera houses.

    The other untruth is the accusation of illegal occupation of Arab land. Like the apartheid libel, this is outrageously false. There is no nation that has a longer, deeper or more profound connection to its country than the Jewish people have to the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem.

    Archbishop, you and I as religious leaders always turn to the Bible as a source of truth. What does it mean that Israel is the “promised land”? It means, as we both know, that it was promised by God to the Jews – the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This promise was first fulfilled by God more than 3,300 years ago, when Joshua led the Jewish people into the land of Israel. Since then there has been an unbroken Jewish presence in the land, albeit small during the Roman exile.

    All the books of the Old Testament – Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc. – describe the deep connection between the Jews and the land of Israel, including the West Bank, known in the Bible as Judea and Samaria – the area that contained the great cities of the two previous Jewish commonwealths, such as Jericho, Shiloh (where the Tabernacle stood for hundreds of years), Beit El (where Jacob had his vision of the ladder) and Hebron (where Abraham, Isaac and Jacob are buried with their wives Sarah, Rebecca and Leah).

    Three thousand years ago, there was no London or Paris, no Washington or Moscow, no Pretoria or Cape Town, but there was a Jerusalem, capital of a Jewish state.

    “If I forget thee O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its cunning… if I fail to elevate Jerusalem above my foremost joy.” Those words from Psalms are recited by Jews at every wedding. At every funeral, the statement of comfort given to the mourners refers to Zion and Jerusalem. Jews pray for Jerusalem three times a day, and also after every meal.

    Archbishop, the Arab/Israeli conflict is not a struggle against apartheid or occupation. It is a century- long war against the very existence of Jews and a Jewish state in the Middle East. There have already been seven major Arab/Israeli wars since the birth of modern Israel.

    Today the front includes an alliance between Iran, Syria and Hizbullah, the latter now with 40,000 rockets aimed at Israeli cities. Iranian officers train Hizbullah forces, while Iran pursues nuclear weapons and openly declares its intention to wipe out Israel. Hamas, the terrorist Palestinian government in Gaza, sides with Iran and Hizbullah in rearming with the declared aim of destroying Israel.

    Since 1967, one aspect of this century- long conflict has been the demand for a Palestinian state. In spite of the deep historical and religious roots of Jews in all of Israel, generations of Jewish leaders have been prepared, for the sake of peace, to give up ancestral and covenantal land to establish a Palestinian state.

    SO WHY has there not been peace? The ANC taught us you can’t make peace on your own. No matter how deeply the ANC was committed to a peaceful resolution of the South African conflict, until the National Party was prepared to accept that black South Africans had a place in their own country, there could be no peace. And so too, until the Arab/Muslim world accepts that Jews have a right to a state of their own on their ancestral land, there will be no peace.

    In 1948, the Jews accepted the UN resolution establishing a Jewish state and a Palestinian state, but the Arab world rejected it and five Arab countries invaded Israel to destroy it.

    After that, the West Bank and Gaza were in Arab hands until 1967.

    There was an opportunity then – every day for almost 20 years – to establish a Palestinian state. It never happened. And since then there have been numerous opportunities – each rejected by Arab leaders.

    Why? Because this war has been more about the destruction of the Jewish state than about the establishment of a Palestinian state. Even today, so-called moderate Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas denies Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

    In 2000, the Palestinian leadership launched a massive wave of suicide bombers into Israel, leading to more than 1,300 civilian deaths and 10,000 injuries. Proportionately, such carnage in South Africa would mean more than 10,000 killed and over 80,000 injured! Israel erected a security fence with checkpoints to shield it from such attacks launched from the disputed territories.

    Archbishop, you compare these checkpoints to apartheid South Africa. But they are not about pass laws, which don’t exist in Israel. The checkpoints are on the border between sovereign Israeli territory and the disputed territories of the West Bank and Gaza in order to keep civilians from being murdered, and have been very successful in doing so. These checkpoints – like those found in all airports – are there to prevent suicide bombers from blowing up innocent people.

    Archbishop, do not bestow respectability on an immoral sanctions campaign that is an affront to truth and justice, which prevents peace and prolongs the terrible suffering of people on both sides of this painful conflict. Archbishop, let us pray for an end to all this agony, and for the fulfillment of the verse in Isaiah: “And the Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces.”

  • The writer is chief rabbi of South Africa.


    If this is not apartheid, then what is?

    By Allan Boesak and Farid Esack

    In the opening lines of an open letter to Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, Rabbi Warren Goldstein, leader of the South Africa’s Orthodox Jews, makes a plea that: “Without truth there can be no justice, and without justice there can be no peace.” If ever there was a case of a single swallow not heralding summer, alas, this is it. The rest of his article bears little relationship to the truth:

    1. “Jew and Arab are equal before the law.”
    Goldstein conflates life inside Israel and life in the occupied territories. Jews and Palestinian citizens in Israel are certainly not equal before the law: one set of laws does provide for equal rights, but another equally formidable set provides for separate and superior rights for Jews. Presently Israel has several Basic Laws that confirm this inequality, so the system is codified and formal: discrimination within Israel is official. A state founded for any ethnic or religious community cannot but be one that must necessarily discriminate against others. In the occupied Palestinian territories, Jews enjoy special protections and rights to settle and conduct business, and Palestinian civilians as non-Jews are denied those rights.

    In both areas, there is certainly a “Population Registration Act”: everyone in Israel and the occupied territories is identified by ethnicity – Jewish, Arab, Druze or whatever — and this is listed on their ID cards. All rights and privileges in Israel follow from these distinctions. Hence there is a Group Areas Act, too – people who are Jewish can live in certain areas (actually, 93 percent of Israel is reserved exclusively for Jews) and people who are not Jewish are banned from living in those areas. If there is no “Mixed Marriages Act” per se, there are still laws that prohibit Palestinian spouses from the occupied territories from living with Israeli spouses, a prohibition of civil marriage (it is impossible to marry in Israel except in religious courts,) and a host of laws, rules and codes that keep the populations strictly apart. Petty apartheid is hardly required where segregation is absolute.

    Israel indeed has no “Separate Representation of Voters Act” but for two unpleasant reasons. First, half of the entire population under Israel’s control (the 5 million Palestinians living under Israeli military rule in the West Bank and Gaza Strip) are not allowed to vote at all. Every one of the five million people living here can attest plenty to Israel’s draconian pass laws, which constrict and destroy their life chances every single day. Second, twenty percent of Israeli citizens are Palestinians and can vote, but are not allowed to vote for any party or law that alters Jewish national supremacy and special privileges. That is like giving the vote to slaves but preventing them from voting against slavery.

    2. “Israel accords full political, religious and other human rights to all its people, including its … Arab citizens.”
    Goldstein need only ring up any Palestinian mayor, public figure or Knesset representative to be corrected on this. The poverty and isolation of Palestinian Arab communities in Israel is notorious. Of course, there are Arab parties that do provide some Palestinian representation in Israeli politics. But this representation is akin to Apartheid’s Tricameral Parliament of the 1980s: they operate in highly constrained conditions and have been unable in those roles to relieve the endemic poverty and isolation of their communities, or to alter the edifice of racism that suffocates their communities. And again, some five million Palestinians under Israeli rule remain entirely excluded from the political system solely because they are not Jews and have no rights whatsoever except what Israeli military law provides them.

    3. “The other untruth is the accusation of illegal occupation of Arab land.”
    According to Goldstein, Israel is not “occupying” the West Bank and Gaza Strip but reclaiming these areas for ancient Jewish sentiment dating to antiquity. Only religious fundamentalists insist on their own religious texts as the only arbiter between them and others. God is reduced to a dishonest estate agent who parcels out land to His Favorites, land with borders clearly demarcated as if these were registered in a 20th century title deeds office – all at a time thousands of years ago when national boundaries were rather unknown. This sort of thinking is simply outdated – it belongs to a time of colonial conquest and racial domination.

    Remember Uitgegee op gesag van die Hoogste se Hand! (“Given to us on the authority of God” While this is a phrase of Apartheid South Africa’s, Song of the Flag, it may just as well have been an excerpt from Goldstein’s article!)

    Considering Goldstein’s misleading analysis for a moment. How then are the indigenous people to express their own ancient claims to the land and their present political, social and cultural rights? This is the heart of Israel’s apartheid doctrine: that, in the same territory, one group – Jews – has superior rights to another. And if the native people protest, or resist this disenfranchisement, this is seen as outrageous, backward, racism against Jews, an irrational blow against the unquestionable right of a hardworking settler society to fulfill its God-given Covenant and right to self-determination. All rather familiar stuff.

    4. “… until the National Party was prepared to accept that black South Africans had a place in their own country, there could be no peace. And so too, until the Arab/Muslim world accepts that Jews have a right to a state of their own on their ancestral land, there will be no peace.”
    Goldstein had best draw the lesson from his own example: until the Israeli and Zionist movement is prepared to accept that Palestinians have a place in their (own!) country as equal citizens, there can be no peace – there should be no peace! The solution in South Africa was precisely NOT to accept separate black states, but to reject that “solution” for the lie that it was. Israel must give up the premise of separation – apartheid. Only then will the country be able to join the rest of the world (not just the Arab world) as a “normal” country.

    The South African story is simple: states founded on ethnicity are unworkable and evil – it is reprehensible to synonimize your God, religion and your ethnicity and culture with an ideological state. The separation of people from people on the basis of religious or ethnic identity – apartheid – and the privileging of that identity over that of others is simply incompatible with the ideas of universal human rights.

    It is in this context that we salute our dear friend and comrade, the Archbishop, for consistently carrying through the prophetic vision. This time, in actively responding to the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions of Israel until, in the least, Israel abides by international law and the universal principles of human rights.

  • Allan Boesak is Professor Extraordinaire at the University of Stellenbosch and Farid Esack is a Professor at the University of Johannesburg. A shortened version of the above article appeared in the November 10 edition of The Star.


    ‘An Affront to Truth and Justice’: Occupation, Not Dissent

    A Response to Rabbi Warren Goldstein, by Rifat Odeh Kassis, November 2010

    As a Palestinian living in the so-called West Bank, I cannot go to Tel Aviv at all, let alone to the Tel Aviv Opera House. But I know what’s on the program for tonight: Porgy and Bess, performed by none other than the Cape Town Opera, from November 12-27.

    This collaboration between the South African and Israeli opera companies is both ironic and painful, given South Africa‟s recent era of apartheid – and our current one. In response to the news of this performance, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu contacted the Cape Town Opera’s managing director and urged them to reconsider their visit. Kairos Palestine (co-authors of A Moment of Truth, which is Christian Palestinians’ word to the world about the Israeli occupation and a call for support in establishing a just peace), of which I am the coordinator, did the same. The Cape Town Opera refused, and so they are in Tel Aviv at the time of this writing, performing Porgy and Bess (which has, as Archbishop Tutu noted, a “universal message of non-discrimination”), playing their part in normalizing the fundamental injustices of the Israeli state.

    Yet I write today in response not to the Cape Town Opera House, nor to the Israeli government, but rather to Rabbi Warren Goldstein, the chief Rabbi of South Africa. Rabbi Goldstein wrote an open letter to Archbishop Tutu, published in The Jerusalem Post on November 3, which essentially condemned the Archbishop’s commitments to peace with justice, equality for Palestinians, and boycott as an important and non-violent means of opposing the systemic atrocities of Israeli occupation – a means successfully employed for all of the same reasons in apartheid South Africa.

    Thus, I will address Rabbi Goldstein directly from now on.

    Rabbi Goldstein, I write in response to the many ways in which your words contribute to the apparatus of racism, denial, inequity and outright falsehood that continually oppresses the Palestinian people. You have urged Archbishop Tutu to remember the core values of truth, justice, and peace – but I have searched your letter for these values and I cannot find them. Please allow me to revisit and reflect upon some of your words.

    You wrote:

    1. “The truth, archbishop, is that Israel is simply not an apartheid state. In the State of Israel, all citizens – Jew and Arab – are equal before the law…Israel is a vibrant liberal democracy with a free press and independent judiciary, and accords full political, religious and other human rights to all its people, including its more than 1 million Arab citizens…”

    As Professors Allan Boesak and Farid Esack state in their eloquent response to your letter, published in The Star newspaper of South Africa on November 10, you “[conflate] life inside Israel and life in the occupied territories.” But given that your above remarks refer to Palestinian citizens of Israel, I will also focus on this community in the following comments.

    I marvel at the use of your phrase “equal before the law,” a statement both audacious and false. Since obtaining citizenship, the Palestinian population in Israel has been systematically dealt with as second-class citizens, facing exclusion and discrimination in educational, professional, political, and all other public spheres. In a heavily militarized national culture, Israel often justifies its discrimination against Palestinian citizens on the basis that they don’t serve in the military.

    Palestinian schools have separate curricula; Palestinian municipalities receive only a small percentage of funds allocated by the state, per resident, to settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories (oPt) or to so-called “development towns” inhabited solely by Jews; and a brutal land-expropriation policy has severely damaged Palestinian citizens‟ ability to own land, keep land already owned, or receive adequate services.

    I wonder if you have ever spoken to a young Palestinian citizen of Israel attempting to rent an apartment for the first time, rejected on the basis of her last time; to a family of Palestinian citizens of Israel who seek to buy land, or keep the land their families had owned for generations; to a Palestinian university student within Israel, excluded from scholarship opportunities offered only to military veterans of specific wars; the residents of Al-Araqib, a Bedouin village in the Naqab (Negev) Desert whose residents, all Palestinian citizens of Israel, have had their homes demolished for the sixth time in the past three months; to Palestinian MKs in the Israeli Knesset who are dismissed as terrorists for criticizing any of these practices of oppression – I wonder if you have ever spoken to one of them and tried to convince them that they are equal before the law.

    Again, this information specifically addresses the inequalities facing Palestinian citizens of Israel. However, the charges of apartheid (which you so confidently refute) affect the entire Palestinian population, most harshly those living under direct military occupation. As former U.S. President Jimmy Carter has said, “When Israel does occupy this territory deep within the West Bank, and connects the 200-or-so settlements with each other, with a road, and then prohibits the Palestinians from using that road, or in many cases even crossing the road, this perpetrates even worse instances of apartness, or apartheid, than we witnessed even in South Africa.”

    2. “The other untruth is the accusation of illegal occupation of Arab land.”

    By the end of the Arab-Israeli War of 1948, the Israeli military had destroyed more than 400 Palestinian villages and claimed the land on which they stood (expelling, in the process, about 780,000 Palestinians, versus the 150,000 who remained). Israel has seized what is now the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Golan Heights. Between 1967 and 2007, 121 official settlements, 10 “unrecognized” settlements, and many outposts (proto-settlements, if you will) were constructed in the oPt. An additional 12 settlements exist within East Jerusalem, which was annexed – illegally, according to international law – by Israel in 1967. This systematic construction was made possible by the continual theft of Palestinian land: thousands of dunams once belonging to Palestinian families, farmers, and communities have been and continue to be expropriated for settlement building.

    Rabbi Goldstein, we did not invent the definition of “occupation,” nor of “illegal.” Scores of international laws and UN resolutions condemn the illegality of Israel’s confiscation of, occupation of, and construction on Palestinian land – all practices that egregiously violate the human rights of Palestinians in the process.

    3. “Archbishop, you and I as religious leaders always turn to the Bible as a source of truth.”

    In your letter, you speak at length about the land promised to the Jewish people, about the inherent Jewish right to this land, about the Bible‟s statement of this connection – of the Jewish “claim,” essentially, to a holy place and its sites. My purpose in writing this article is not to provide interpretations of God‟s promises. But Kairos Palestine and I do oppose ideological readings of the Bible, and we certainly oppose any use of the Bible that legitimizes injustice, promotes inequality, endorses racial and religious domination, or otherwise severs the Word of God from its universality and love.

    Thus, we condemn the way in which your interpretation justifies the denial of Palestinian rights, and our very existence, in our home. This is the logic of the Israeli occupation itself, which is fundamentally a distortion of the image of God in human beings, a degradation of the way we were meant to treat and be treated by one another, and a dishonoring of God‟s love.

    4. “Archbishop, the Arab/Israeli conflict is not a struggle against apartheid or occupation. It is a century-long war against the very existence of Jews and a Jewish state in the Middle East.”

    This statement ignores the Israeli occupation as a driving force, a fundamental source, of conflict in the Middle East, while simultaneously ignoring the many positive steps taken by Palestinians and Arabs from other countries in order to resolve this conflict. In 1988, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) formally recognized the state of Israel; in 2002, all Arab countries expressed their willingness to recognize the state of Israel with the end of the occupation.

    It is misleading to pretend that the Arab world has sought to prolong the conflict forever, or that its “rejection of Israel” is the core problem. You glibly refer to many missed opportunities for peace. But justice, without which peace is meaningless, is what has been and continues to be missing from the peace process. The state of Israel has yet to act in a way that demonstrates its investment in justice as opposed to simply a “resolution” that affords it a maximum of control.

    Moreover, if opposition to the Israeli occupation and the policies of the Israeli government is considered anti-Semitic (you frequently make this erroneous charge in your letter), then this is a very dangerous conflation indeed; it makes anti-Semitism into a tool used to intimidate anyone who criticizes Israeli policies. In our document, A Moment of Truth, we condemn all forms of racism, whether religious or ethnic, including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia; and we call you to condemn it and oppose it in all its manifestations (passage 6.3). What we oppose is not and has never been Judaism: what we oppose is oppression and occupation in any form.

    5. “…[U]ntil the National Party was prepared to accept that black South Africans had a place in their own country, there could be no peace. And so, too, until the Arab/Muslim world accepts that Jews have a right to a state of their own on their ancestral land, there will be no peace.”

    There are many possible analogies to be drawn between the South African struggle and the Palestinian one, but yours is not one of them: this analysis is both insulting and incorrect. First and foremost, as Professors Boesak and Esack state, “The solution in South Africa was precisely NOT to accept separate black states, but to reject that “solution‟ for the lie that it was.

    Israel must give up the premise of separation – apartheid.” Second, you wrongly position the “Arab/Muslim world” as the National Party, as the white leadership of South Africa, in this analogy, while you position Jews as the equivalent of oppressed black South Africans. No, Rabbi Goldstein, the reality is quite the opposite. The Israeli government is an apartheid elite systematically separating the Palestinian population from the full and equal realization of their human rights and self-determination. Who is David and who is Goliath?

    6. “In 2000, the Palestinian leadership launched a massive wave of suicide bombers into Israel…”

    Like you, we reject terrorism and all other acts of violence, including those implemented in frameworks of religious fundamentalism. However, we also reject the idea that acts of terror occur in a vacuum. The root evil of occupation continues to generate its own worst extremes – enacted by both Palestinians and Israelis – and the cycle of violence continues to affect and involve individuals and groups from both sides. Further, I wish to raise the following question: is the definition of terrorism exclusive to those who use themselves as suicide bombers, or should this category not also include the murder of innocent people at the hands of those in uniform, using sophisticated arms, firing from tanks? We condemn the acts of terror that have killed innocent Israeli civilians. We also condemn the acts of terror that, for example, killed over 1000 innocent Palestinian civilians in Gaza, including over 300 children, in December 2008/January2009. We must extend the definition of terrorism to everyone who perpetrates it, and we must end the cycle of violence completely.

    7. “The checkpoints are on the border between sovereign Israeli territory and the disputed territories of the West Bank and Gaza in order to keep civilians from being murdered…”

    The idea that checkpoints are located on the “border” between sovereign Israeli territory and the oPt, and that these checkpoints exist solely as a protective measure, is gravely misleading. Of the approximately 99 numbered permanent checkpoints, only 36 are located along the Separation Wall or equivalent entry/exit points (which are often located far from the Green Line), while the other 63 permanent checkpoints are scattered within the oPt. The city of Hebron alone has 16. These permanent checkpoints form an overall structure of movement restrictions for Palestinians, yet the Israeli state also establishes multiple “flying” (temporary) checkpoints, the existence or locations of which can change on a daily or weekly basis. Together, the system of checkpoints and roadblocks also serves to divide the oPt into six geographical regions, making travel within the oPt more burdensome and fragmenting Palestinian communities even more than they already were.

    In short, checkpoints do not obey a consistent territorial border; in reality, they operate primarily to limit and monitor Palestinian movement within the oPt, each one a locus of restriction and humiliation for the individuals who must pass through them.

    Further, the fact that you refer to the oPt as “disputed territories” is euphemistic to the point of absurd. They are not disputed; they are confiscated, they are occupied, and this occupation is illegal.

    8. “Archbishop, do not bestow respectability on an immoral sanctions campaign that is an affront to truth and justice, which prevents peace and prolongs the terrible suffering of people on both sides of this painful conflict.”

    Your attitude toward the global BDS campaign is by no means unfamiliar to us. Many people criticize this campaign as “imbalanced” or overly punitive, because they still erroneously reduce the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to a “balanced” dispute between two sides, refusing to acknowledge that the situation is irrefutably otherwise: an apartheid state, brutally militarized and shamelessly unequal. Many people complain, as you have done, that BDS “prevents peace.”

    Starting from the fact that Palestinians are boycotted by Israel to begin with, I must emphasize the hypocrisy of such an argument. Rabbi Goldstein, your letter to Archbishop Tutu extols the state of Israel as a “vibrant liberal democracy.” Later, you condemn terrorism. I‟d like to remind you that boycott, divestment and sanctions are all means of non-violent protest consistent with democratic rights and responsibilities. Its methods are peaceful, and its objective is peace – for all. By affirming this tactic, we reject violence and revenge; the complete system of sanctions should lead to justice and freedom for Palestinians, and peace and security for Israelis as well.

    If you reject BDS as a valid way to call for change, and as a right in and of itself – a right that should be defended by any true democracy – than what other means do you propose for creating peace in our region? In a time when bloodshed has been the primary tactic, negotiations are an exercise in humiliation, and voices like yours continue to suggest that Palestinians have no rights to defend in the first place, BDS is an effective, nonviolent tool that strengthens – and unites – Israeli and Palestinian peacemakers alike.
    What is truly an “affront to truth and justice,” and what “prolongs the terrible suffering of people on both sides of this painful conflict,” is occupation – compounded by the blind support offered by so many people, including you, for its existence and its crimes.

    We, too, pray for the three inseparable values you have quoted: justice, truth, and peace. We hope you will join us in these prayers.

  • Zionists criticize New Zealand’s Green Party

    Posted in israel, new zealand by Blimp deflator on November 11, 2010

    Get paid twice a month:

    Zionists criticize New Zealand's Green Party
    From Australia/Israel Review of November 2010.
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    Comment on Grace of God, a Sunday evening talk

    Posted in religion by Blimp deflator on November 7, 2010

    “With some – for instance Paul in his conversion to Christianity – this [change] is genuine.”

    Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus can not be described as a conversion to Christianity, because Christianity did not yet exist.

    Christianity is a creation of Paul himself; the followers of Paul, who included the writers of the canonical gospels; the ecumenical councils of the 4th century, and the edict of Theodosius in 380.

    It’s not a fulfillment of Judaism, but a new religion that seeks legitimacy by anchoring itself in the Jewish messianic tradition (while incorporating a number of religious motifs from ancient Egypt, Persia and even India).

    Christianity owes its success, in large measure, to (a) the extirpation of the so-called Jerusalem Church of the true followers of Jesus in the Jewish Revolt of CE 66-70, and (b) its appeal to world-weary Hellenists of late antiquity, at a time of social dislocation and collapse.

    In short, it’s a pagan religion, and its saviour/redeemer is a pagan god. This has always been clear to the Jews, who have, rightly, rejected it.

    One of the problems at Wennington School was that it was impossible to raise any historical or philosophical objection to Christianity without incurring the wrath of those in “authority”.

    When I tried to do so, in an essay I submitted in the “religious history” program (a misnomer if there ever was one!), I was censured in terms of remarkable vehemence, and accused of being “tendentious”.

    I was not, however, advancing any cause; I was simply making a number of observations – and expressing a personal point of view that deserved to be taken seriously.

  • The “Sunday evening talk” was by Kenneth C Barnes, the headmaster of Wennington School, a coeducational boarding school in Wetherby, Yorkshire, which I attended between 1953 and 1959. You will find the text of the talk at under Documents/Kenneth Barnes Manuscripts.
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  • From Nile to Euphrates – It’s all Israel’s, says ‘Messianic Jew’

    Posted in history, iraq, israel, palestine, religion by Blimp deflator on November 3, 2010

    Stand with Israel, says David Silver (1)Stand with Israel, says David Silver (2)
    Article from Challenge Weekly of November 1, 2010. Is God the great Ethnic Cleanser?
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