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Myths and Facts About Israel and Palestine

JANUARY/FEBRUARY 1998, Pages 55-56

By Richard H. Curtiss

(In refuting what U.S. writer Alfred Lilienthal calls "mythinformation" planted by friends of Israel in U.S. Jewish weeklies and in mainstream U.S. newspapers and magazines, sometimes one doesn't have to look beyond the same media that helped perpetuate it. Here are some examples.)

The Palestinian National Covenant

Myth: "The Palestinian Authority has not rescinded the Palestinian Charter calling for our destruction...We expect both sides to do what we're doing, that is to fulfill agreements."
--Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, quoted in Washington Jewish Week, May 22, 1997.

Fact: "On April 24, 1996, the Palestine National Council, with a vote of 504-54, with 14 abstentions, passed a vaguely worded resolution that, in effect, canceled the clauses in its charter that call for the destruction of Israel."
From article by Jewish Telegraphic Agency staff writer Gil Sedan printed in the Chicago Jewish Star, May 9-22, 1997.

Who Killed the Peace Process?

Myth: "Israel's Likud coalition has fulfilled the concessions made to the Palestinians by the Labor government it defeated almost a year ago. It has received back only what Labor got: broken promises. It has met armed attack from Palestinian civilians with restraint, and keeps hope of peace talks alive."
--Syndicated columnist A.M. Rosenthal, The New York Times, May 30, 1997.

Fact: "Mr. Netanyahu must be judged by his actions and lack of actions. He has stalled implementing the signed agreements of previous governments regarding Hebron, the release of prisoners and other matters. He has ended the freeze on new building in the territories and has authorized thousands of new units. New roads and tunnels are being built all over the territories, eating up more of the minuscule amounts of land available to the Palestinians. Such policies will result in disaster, turning the clock back to the days of the intifada or worse."
--Rabbi Israel S. Dresner, President, Education Fund for Israeli Civil Rights and Peace, New York, N.Y, in letter to the editor published in The New York Times of Dec. 5, 1996.

Fact: "Two extremes must now be avoided. Like most modern political campaigners, Netanyahu has made promises more indicative of the mood of his target audience than of an achievable program. At the same time his opponents--or baffled friends, such as the U.S. administration-- must not fool themselves into thinking that after a decent interval Netanyahu will resurrect the precise framework against which he campaigned."
--Former U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, The Washington Post, July 1, 1997.

Fact: "The political fact is that Israeli policies and actions are easily exploited by the Palestinians as a rationale for the failure of their leadership to take a more uncompromising, anti-terrorist stand. Mr. Netanyahu made it easier for them, especially by unilaterally expanding Jewish settlement in districts of Jerusalem that they regard as up for negotiation. This makes a freeze on new Israeli settlement in disputed territory an essential element of an effective anti-terrorist strategy. Palestinians cannot have it both ways: a wink at terrorism and the acquisition of more land. Nor can Israelis have it both ways, either: more unilateral settlement and more security too."
--Washington Post editorial, Sept. 9, 1997.

Did Netanyahu Derail Peace for the Jews-Only Har Homa Housing Project?

Myth: "The Har Homa development in question at the U.N. is not even a settlement."
--Washington Times editorial, April 6, 1997.

Myth: "Arafat sympathizers abroad cry 'provocation' about the building of apartments for Jews in 'Arab Jerusalem.' But more apartments for Arabs were built there than for Jews."
--Syndicated columnist A.M. Rosenthal, New York Times, April 1, 1997.

Myth: The housing projects initiated, coming in response to the urgent needs of all Jerusalemites, will provide some 6,000 housing unites for Jews in Har Homa and some 3,000 housing units for Arabs in 10 different neighborhoods. Israel will continue to address the ever-growing housing need in Jerusalem."
--Letter to the editor by Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Eliahu Ben-Elissar, Washington Post, March 7, 1997.

Myth: "The Har Homa housing project is not a 'settlement in Arab East Jerusalem' (as described in a U.N. General Assembly resolution) but a housing complex located within Jerusalem built on private land."
--Article jointly written by Representatives Steven R. Rothman and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen published in the Washington Times, July 25, 1997.

Fact: "It's a fact that no high-level peace talks have been initiated since Israel decided to launch its housing project at Har Homa. [That is] the step that brought the peace process to a screeching halt."
--Jewish Theological Seminary in America Chancellor Dr. Ismar Schorsch quoted in The Jewish Week of New York, NY, May 23, 1997.

Fact: "Ir Shalem [an affiliate of the Peace Now movement] said past [Israeli] governments have already confiscated about one-third of East Jerusalem's total 17,000 acres since 1967. The group said about 80 percent of this land was taken from Arab landowners, the rest from Jews, while no similar confiscations were carried out in Jewish West Jerusalem. The group said 40,000 government-funded housing units were built for Jews in the east during this period, while only 600 were built for Palestinians...Sovereignty also explains why Israel chose not to expand Jerusalem toward the empty hills in the west over the years, but rather to build in the annexed east of the city, considered 'occupied' by Palestinians and the international community."
--Financial Times of London Israel correspondent Avi Machlis in The Jewish Week, New York, NY, Feb. 28, 1997.

Do Palestinian Islamists Have a Monopoly on Terrorism?

Myth: "The Clinton administration...refuses to face up to the PLO's aiding and abetting of terrorism. The administration knows Yasser Arafat has given a green light to terrorist groups to attack Israel."
--Chairman Herbert Zweibon of Americans for a Safe Israel, Washington Times, May 6, 1997.

Myth: "The kiss seen around the world between Arafat and the Hamas leader is proof that these two organizations are not merely 'dating' but are married--with the goal of destroying and completely occupying all of Israel, killing Jews in the process as a favor to Allah."
--Syndicated columnist Cal Thomas, Washington Times, Aug. 27, 1997.

Fact: "I have doubt about how much terrorism can be uprooted...We were also terrorists once and they couldn't uproot us... Despite all the efforts of all of the British army in the land, we went on with terrorism."
--Leah Rabin, widow of assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, in Dec. 11, 1997 meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.

Fact: "While most Orthodox Jews joined the chorus of condemnation of violence carried out during the 1980s by those among them who were part of the Israeli Machteret, the so-called Jewish Underground, quite a number of prominent rabbis offered understanding and support. This attitude helped ultimately to insure pardons or parole for those convicted of the crimes.

"Similarly, while most Jews denounced the mass shooting carried out by the Orthodox Baruch Goldstein, a significant minority continued to sing his praises and consider his action as the work of a pious zealot who was justified in what he did. Moreover, they have argued, that justification came not simply from situational ethnics but from the halacha, Jewish law.

"Similar sentiments greeted the shooting of Khayed Salah, attributed by an Israeli court to Rabbi Moshe Levinger, who pleaded guilty to 'criminally negligent homicide.'

"And we have all seen the reactions to the Rabin assassination. While Yigal Amir is reproved, there are lingering justifications for his violence and expressions of anger or even hatred emanating from quite a number of Orthodox corners."
--From article by Samuel Heilman, professor of Jewish studies and sociology at the Graduate Center of Queens College and CUNY, in Washington Jewish Week, Feb. 2, 1995.

No Alternatives for Clinton-Albright Middle East Policy?

Myth: "We have a long way to go...So far we have managed to get agreement on the fact that terrorists are terrible, but we have not yet been able to see what the best methods are to get the peace process back on track."
--U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Sept. 11, 1997.

Fact: "Here we arrive at the salient flaw in American Mideast policy. The policy is explicitly pointed at delivering to Israel its main goal of peace and security, but it makes no similar deference to the Palestinian goal of statehood. In other words, the Israelis are asked to make concessions and promised what they most want, even while the Palestinians are asked to make concessions with no comparable assurance they will get what they most want. The remedy is obvious. The United States should endorse the goal of Palestinian statehood. In their hearts, if not yet in their words and votes, many Israelis anticipate this result. Palestinian statehood would necessarily be conditioned on negotiated Israeli security requirements. The very statement of the goal could give the negotiation the impetus it now lacks."
--Washington Post editorial, Sept. 9, 1997.

The Strategic Value of the Golan Heights

Myth: "Netanyahu has taken a strong public stand against surrendering the Golan, saying control of the promontory from which Syrian guns formerly pounded the Galilee in northern Israel is essential to Israeli security."
--Staff writer Thomas W. Lippman, Washington Post, Jan. 29, 1997.

Myth: "Since the founding of Israel in 1948, Syria has attacked it three times, by surprise and without provocation. In the Six-Day War of 1967, Syria suffered a decisive defeat and lost the Golan Heights, a Queens-size plateau. Israel has been in possession ever since...The Golan is desolate and serves no real purpose, except as a defense post for Israel or as an attack-launching pad for Syria."
--Paid advertisement by FLAME, Facts and Logic About the Middle East, San Francisco, CA, in U.S. News and World Report, June 1996.

Fact: "General [Moshe] Dayan died in 1981. But in conversation with a young reporter five years earlier, he said he regretted not having stuck to his initial opposition to storming the Golan Heights. There really was no pressing reason to do so, he said, because many of the firefights with the Syrians were deliberately provoked by Israel, and the kibbutz residents who pressed the government to take the Golan Heights did so less for security than for the farmland...According to the published notes, [Israeli reporter Rami] Tal began to remonstrate, 'but they were sitting on the Golan Heights and...' General Dayan interrupted. 'Never mind that. After all, I know how at least 80 percent of the clashes there started. In my opinion, more that 80 percent, but let's talk about 80 percent. It went this way: We would send a tractor to plow some area where it wasn't possible to do anything, in the demilitarized zone, and knew in advance that the Syrians would start to shoot. If they didn't shoot, we would tell the tractor to advance farther, until in the end the Syrians would get annoyed and shoot. And then we would use artillery and later the air force also, and that's how it was.'"
--Correspondent Serge Schmemann, New York Times, May 11, 1997.


Richard H. Curtiss is the executive editor of the Washington Report.

© Copyright 1997 American Educational Trust

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