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Ben-Dror Yemini
BDS: The lies and the truth
Op-ed: Israel's critics love to make grandiose claims against it, and they get a lot wrong in the process. Here are some examples.
Israel is not exempt from criticism. Not every decision by the Israeli Government has been a proper one, and not each step in every confrontation within recent years has been appropriate. Conflicts create difficult situations. Self-defense against terror brings with it injustice and harm to innocent people.

 

 

The continuation of the settlement project is at the center of a heated public debate. Many Israelis think that investment in the settlements is contrary to Israeli interests and hurts the chance for peace. Within Israel there is sharp criticism against unnecessary violation of human rights, and there are many who demand that further steps be taken to increase the equality of Israeli Arabs.

 

But there is a difference between a legitimate argument, relevant criticism of Israeli policy, and a monumental campaign of false claims of apartheid, genocide, crimes against humanity, and proclamations that Israel was born in sin because it is a colonialist entity and as such is involved in the serious crime of ethnic cleansing.

 

The following short answers do not attempt to defend this government, or any other government of Israel. They are meant only to refute some of the false claims that are uttered time and again against Israel.

 

Israeli-Jewish settlers in Migron. The settlement project is heatedly debated inside Israel (Photo: Reuters)
Israeli-Jewish settlers in Migron. The settlement project is heatedly debated inside Israel (Photo: Reuters)

 

Serious accusations have also been heard from within Israeli’s academia and the Israeli media. Here, too, you can hear the accusation that Israel is an apartheid State. Here, too, there are people who claim that Israel is involved in genocide. Israelis claim that the IDF treats the Palestinians the same way the Nazis treated the Jews. The fact that such claims are heard in Israel does not make them true. It is simply proof that Israel is a vibrant democracy, with freedom of speech that allows for the expression of false accusations.

 

The problem is that throughout the world such claims gain very serious platforms. “Factual” claims are not examined, even though a simple examination would lead to their dismissal.

The ideas presented here are not intended to be a political stance. It is a presentation meant to fight incitement, propaganda and demonization, and facilitate a fair political debate.

 

Summary

These are not all the claims against Israel. There are others. Some are just claims. Not every closing of every store in Hebron is fair. Not every hold-up in every check-point is justifiable. Not every prevention of digging a well is excusable. In spite of the obvious improvement in the lives of Palestinians from 1967 until today, Israeli rule has also created injustice.

 

Israeli society, as a democratic society, with a free press and watchdog organizations, analyzes and monitors itself. This is the reason for many changes in the last two decades. Mainly changes for the better. There are fewer check points. There is more self-rule for the Palestinians.

 

BDS protesters in the Netherlands. The Boycott movement doesn't really want peace (Photo: Tal Shahar)
BDS protesters in the Netherlands. The Boycott movement doesn't really want peace (Photo: Tal Shahar)

 

The wish for settlement or agreement is a just wish, even if there is a heated debate in Israel and outside regarding the terms. It is clear, though, that the Boycott Movement does not wish for peace or a settlement. It is a movement that uses arights discoursein order to deny the right of one people to self-determination. It is a movement whose leaders and guides mislead many of its supporters. The leaders oppose peace.

 

Many of the supporters wish for a just peace settlement, based on two States for two peoples, so the points presented here are not meant to support any one political stance. They are meant to present basic facts. They are intended to refute the propaganda of lies and enable a dialogue that is fair, even if it is critical, which is a fundamental condition to solving the Israeli-Arab conflict.

 

The Lie: "Zionism is a colonialist movement. You conquered from the Palestinians land that is not yours."

 

The Truth: Zionism is a national liberation movement, like many others that were established in the 19th and 20th centuries. Zionism did not "conquer." Many Jewish people, who were persecuted, especially in Eastern Europe and the Arab countries, started making their way to Israel. There was no entity called Palestine at that time. It was a piece of land extremely sparsely populated, under the rule of the Ottoman Empire.

 

Herzl appealed to the Turkish Sultan and other dignitaries in order to get permission to allocate this part of the land to the Jews. The consent was received only in 1917, with the Balfour Declaration stating “A national home for the Jewish People”, and was confirmed by the League of Nations in 1922. Until the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 not one Arab was driven away from his land, and every piece of land that the Jews settled on was purchased and paid for in full.

 

The Lie: "You drove millions of Palestinians off their land. That is ethnic cleansing."

 

The Truth: In the first half of the 20th century, there were waves of population exchanges for the purpose of establishing Nation States. About 60 million people were uprooted from the homeland. In 1947 the U.N. declared the establishment of two States between the River Jordan and the sea – a Jewish State and an Arab State. The Jews accepted the decision. The Arabs rejected it, and declared a war of annihilation.

 

Many Arabs fled and were driven out  in the confrontations in the month leading up to the war , and others were driven out of the battlefields following the invasion of the Arab state armies into the newly born State. About 711 thousand Arabs became refugees. As a result of that conflict about 850 thousand Jews were forced to leave the Arab countries. Many of them were driven out and their possessions confiscated. Out of tens of millions of refugees in those years, the only ones who remained as refugees are the Palestinians, and that is as a result of a conscious decision of the Arab countries to perpetuate their situation.

 

The Lie: "Palestinians who live in Israel are second-class citizens."

 

The Truth: Israeli Arabs are citizens with equal rights. Arabs serve as Members of Parliament, as judges in courts, including the Supreme Court, as professors and doctors. In the past there were incidents of discrimination, and sometimes there still are. But according to any objective measure, the condition of Israeli Arabs is far better than that of Muslim minorities in Europe.

 

The head of the panel of judges who sent former Israeli president Moshe Katsav to jail, for example, was an Arab judge. The chairman of the Central Election Committee in 2015 Elections was also an Arab. There are numerous examples of the ways in which Israeli Arabs are integrated in the culture, art, economy and academia of Israel.

 

Justice Salim Joubran. Headed the panel that sent Moshe Katsav to jail (Photo: Moti Kimchi)
Justice Salim Joubran. Headed the panel that sent Moshe Katsav to jail (Photo: Moti Kimchi)

 

The Lie: "Israel enforces an apartheid policy in the occupied territories."

 

The Truth: Israel has completely withdrawn from the Gaza Strip, and most West Bank Arabs live under the Palestinian Authority which covers most aspects of their lives. The Palestinians on the other side of the Green Line are not Israeli citizens, because they aspire for a Palestinian State, and Israel did not annex the West Bank. Over the last few decades, Israel has accepted, time and again, a settlement of two states for two peoples. Arafat rejected Bill Clinton’s proposal, and Mahmud Abbas (Abu Mazen) rejected a similar proposal by Ehud Olmert. On the very day that the Palestinian leadership accepts a two state solution – a peace agreement will be within reach.

  

The Lie: “The IDF detains Palestinians in order to establish a reign of terror in the West Bank”.

 

The Truth: IDF soldiers only detain Palestinians if, and only if, they are suspected of hostile activities. The battle against terror is not just an Israeli battle. It is a hard and complicated battle being fought throughout all of the Free World, as well as Arab countries. The Palestinian Authority with Mahmud Abbas is also active in a struggle against terror. Thanks to the Israeli and Palestinian Authority activities, as well as the separation barrier, the level of terror and violence has diminished. In any battle against terror, by any country, innocent people may get hurt. No country is immune to mistakes.

 

The Lie: "Israel murdered thousands of children in Gaza."

 

The Truth: Israel is carrying out a battle against Hamas, which is recognized by the Free World – including the European Union – as a terrorist organization. The Hamas treaty calls for the extermination of Jews, and in Hamas broadcasts, even in children’s programs, there is blatant anti-Semitic and racist incitement. Hamas brutally uses children in building its terrorist tunnels; it uses children as human shields, and launches rockets out of schools and densely populated areas.

 

Contrary to Hamas who shoot with the malicious intent to hurt civilians, Israel takes extreme measures, more than any other army in the world, to avoid hurting innocent people. But Hamas’ cynical use of civilians and children resulted in unfortunate harm to innocent civilians. The blame is on those who support terror, not on those who fight it.

 

The Lie: "Israel is strangling Gaza in a siege with no reason."

 

The Truth: Israel withdrew from Gaza a decade ago in order to enable its people to flourish and prosper under self-rule. Hamas chose the path of violence and terror. Ten years after the disengagement, the great majority of the areas evacuated by Israel are used as training grounds for terrorist organizations. Following Hamas’ success in the 2006 elections in the Palestinian Authority, the Quartet (the European Union, the UN, the United States and Russia) presented it with conditions for recognition and cooperation: acknowledgement of previous agreements and cessation of violence.

 

Hamas responded with point-blank rejection. The violence, the terror, the rocket launching on Israel were not because of the siege. It was the other way around: the siege was implemented because of the violence, the terror and the rockets. The day Hamas chooses to accept the international community’s terms will be the day the siege will no longer be needed.

 

Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. Recognized as a terrorist organization in the free world (Photo: AFP) (Photo: AFP)
Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. Recognized as a terrorist organization in the free world (Photo: AFP)

 

The Lie: "Israel does not let the Palestinian Authority manage the population in the territories."

 

The Truth: Most Palestinians living under Palestinian Authority rule do not see Israeli soldiers, and do not live under Israeli rule. Almost all the check-points that existed in the past in the West Bank have been removed as a result in the drop in the level of terror. In most aspects of day to day existence the Palestinians run their lives with no Israeli interference.

 

But until a permanent agreement is reached, Israel is still in charge of security, without which there is a risk of terror taking over, as well as Hamas, as was the case in Gaza. This will backfire first and foremost on the Palestinians themselves. It is not an ideal situation, but considering the rise of a wave of Islamic extremists in some of the neighboring countries, the Palestinians are in a much better position.

 

The Lie: "The Palestinians want peace with Israel, but Israel does not want to live in peace with them."

 

The Truth: The Arabs were the ones who said “NO” to The Peel Commission Partition Proposal in 1937. They said "NO" to the UN Partition Proposal of 1947. The Oslo Accord in the 90s was supposed to lead to an agreement, but instead it brought a wave of terror. After the Camp-David conference in the summer of 2000, President Clinton presented both sides with parameters for a peace agreement: two states for two peoples, including the division of Jerusalem, withdrawal from 90% of the West Bank territories as well as from the entire Gaza Strip, and rehabilitation of the refugees with the help of an international fund.

 

Israel decided to accept the terms. Arafat refused, and launched the second Intifada, that caused the death of thousands of Palestinians, and more than a thousand Israelis. In 2005 Israel withdrew from the entire Gaza Strip, up to the last centimeter. Since that time, almost 20 thousand rockets have been launched from Gaza towards Israel.

 

The Lie: "Israel should respect the Palestinians’ 'Right of Return' in accordance with international law."

 

The Truth: Tens of millions of people who became refugees after the two World Wars did not get 'Right of Return' because such a right would have caused world chaos. International law does not include such a right. Petitions that were handed in by refugees from central Europe after the Second World War, and by refugees from Cyprus, were dismissed out of hand.

 

Mass return of refugees to their fore-fathers’ birth place would mean the destruction of the State of Israel. On the day that the Palestinians agree to a two state principle, without insisting upon the destruction of Israel by mass return, there will be a much greater chance to achieve a peace agreement.

 

The Lie: "Continuing the settlement project is proof that Israel does not want peace."

 

The Truth: The settlements are at the center of a heated debate within the Israeli public. The criticism against it, one has to stress, is not part of the demonization. But the peace proposals make it clear that the settlements are not an obstacle for peace.

 

Israel has evacuated thousands of settlers from the Gaza Strip. In any future agreement, there will be settlers living in settlement blocks on 5% of the area. The agreements regarding the minority of settlers outside those blocks, is subject to negotiations between the parties. Maybe they will stay where they are. Just as there is an Arab minority in Israel, there could be a Jewish minority in the Palestinian State. Or perhaps a different arrangement will be found.

 

Arafat, Peres, and Rabin. The Oslo accords brought a wave of terrorist attacks, instead of peace (Photo: Getty Images) (Photo: Getty Images)
Arafat, Peres, and Rabin. The Oslo accords brought a wave of terrorist attacks, instead of peace (Photo: Getty Images)

 

The Lie: "Israel is committing Palestinian genocide."

 

The Truth: Eleven to 12,000 Palestinians have been killed between 1967 and 2015. The vast majority were involved in hostile activities. Relative to the size of the population this number is smaller than the average death rate from road accidents. One can call it many things – but not genocide.

 

It does not even come close to being genocide. This is one of the most blatant lies behind anti-Israeli propaganda. Contrary to terrorist organizations, who intentionally target civilians (both with rockets and with suicide-attacks in densely populated centers); Israel makes every effort not to harm innocent civilians.

 

The Lie: "Israel is the number-one enemy of Muslims and the source of all conflicts in the Middle East."

 

The Truth: Israel is not the enemy of the Arab World, and has diplomatic relations, including peace agreements, with countries with large Muslim populations. The number-one enemy of the Muslims is world Jihad that kills mostly Muslims – in Nigeria, Somalia, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Libya and Syria.

 

Israel has nothing to do with this blood fest. Many Muslims admit that their main problem is the Jihad, which murders – in terrorist acts only – about 2500 Muslims every month. In 2014, for example, more than 32 thousand people died in terror acts executed by the Jihad, with all its branches. This does not and did not have anything to do with Israel.

 

The Lie: "Only an academic and consumer boycott of Israel will improve the situation of the Palestinians and bring peace."

 

The truth: Objective data proves that the Palestinians’ situation has improved under Israeli rule. For example, in 1967 there was not even one academic institute in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. Since Israeli rule, and under its patronage, scores of institutions of higher-education have been established.

 

The will of Palestinians for peace has to be respected, but one should realize that the main demand of the boycott movement is not “put an end to occupation”, and not even “two lands for two peoples’’’ but rather “the right of return” i.e. the annihilation of the State of Israel.

 

The heads of the Boycott Movement ‘the likes of Omar Bargouti and Ali Abuneima’ make it absolutely clear, that this is their intention. This is what makes the boycott the number-one enemy of any peace settlement based on two-lands-for-two peoples. The boycott only nurtures the illusion, and in doing so – perpetuates the conflict.

 

BDS protesters. Boycott movement leaders really desire the annihilation of Israel (Photo: Reuters) (Photo: Reuters)
BDS protesters. Boycott movement leaders really desire the annihilation of Israel (Photo: Reuters)

 

The Lie: "Israel harms the Palestinians in every Humanitarian aspect. What the Nazis did with gas chambers Israel does by raising mortality rates among babies."

 

The Truth: The World Bank, the World Health Organization, and even Palestinian investigators have presented data which clearly shows that these allegations are no more than a pack of lies. Life expectancy among Palestinians in 1967 was 48.6. It has risen to 75.

 

Mortality rate among Palestinian babies is 15 to every thousand babies, compared to 22 in Turkey and 39 in the world average. In almost every humanitarian aspect that can be checked and measured, the Palestinians under Israeli rule are better off than the world average, and they are usually at the top of the MENA countries block. (Middle East and North Africa)

 

The Lie: The definition of Israel as a "Jewish state" is an expression of racism.

 

The Truth: The most important principle in the U.N. Charter is the right to self-determination. Jews who want autonomy, as well as Palestinians, have that right. Jews have fought for the right to self-determination because they suffered persecution.

 

Czechoslovakia was divided into two nation states; Yugoslavia was split into six entities, because each people claimed their right to self-determination. An effort to deny any people this right is a violation of International law, and in itself is an expression of racism. It must be said, that as a Jewish Democratic country, non-Jews have full and equal rights in Israel.

 


First published: 09.28.15, 21:09
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