Claims against Israel: April 2008 Supplement

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Israel faces many claims. Below are concise responses to five key ones:-

•  if only Israel would leave the West Bank there would be peace
•  that the Jews took over the Palestinians' country in 1948
•  that the Palestinians are victims of Israel
•  that Israel has besieged Gaza and reduced it to poverty, and
•  that the West should engage with Hamas

This document should be read in conjunction with ‘Israel Accused: 50 Concise Responses', on the home page of the Beyond Images website:

“If only Israel would end the occupation of the West Bank and agree to a Palestinian state, there would be peace….”

Key Message: Israelis yearn for peace, and are willing to make far-reaching territorial compromises to achieve it. What they lack, even after Annapolis , are Palestinian and Arab partners who are ready both to recognise Israel on paper, and to implement coexistence on the ground. If the Palestinians can put an end to the violence, the incitement, the terrorism and the absolute political demands, then the parties could reach a long-term resolution of their conflict, including a peaceful and fair future for the West Bank . The “occupation” is not the root of the conflict. The root of the conflict is the Arab world's continued failure to recognise Israel , not only with statements, but in practice on the ground.

The history of the conflict proves that its essence is not the “occupation of the West Bank ”

  • For over 100 years Israel has faced rejection, violence and war. Yes, it has treaties with Egypt and Jordan But now it faces rejection and violence from Iran , Hamas, Hizbollah, and Al Qaeda, and Arab and Palestinian moderates whose supposed acceptance of Israel is weak, unconvincing and internally contradictory.
  • The fact that Israel does not yet have a peace treaty with the Palestinians, and that the final status of the West Bank territory is yet to be decided, is a result of the hostility. It's not the cause of that hostility.
  • If the dispute were solely about a Palestinian state on the West Bank , it could have been resolved years ago. Today Israel is signalling clearly that it wishes to negotiate the creation of a West Bank Palestinian state in the vast majority of the disputed territories (and despite huge internal concern and bitter opposition). Such a state could be viable, side-by-side with the major Israeli settlement blocs.
  • It is not Israel which is hindering the creation of a viable Palestinian Arab state on the West Bank today, and perpetuating Israel 's presence, but Arab and Muslim attitudes

Israel's adversaries today do not frame the conflict as about the West Bank

  • Today Iran , Hamas, Hizbollah, Al Qaeda and several Palestinian factions seek an Islamic state in ‘all of Palestine ', and the eventual dismantling of Israel . This goes further than demanding a withdrawal from the West Bank . They each seek to sabotage negotiation and diplomacy, and to exploit Israeli concessions to wage long-term conflict against Israel .
  • This powerful rejectionist front does not define the conflict as being about the occupation of the West Bank .
  • Meanwhile, the idea that all of Israel is “occupied Palestinian territory” is a core belief across the Muslim world, on the street. Once again, the conflict is not defined by them as being about Israel 's presence on the West Bank .

The moderate Palestinian camp don't have the will or means to control a peaceful West Bank state, and in any case their demands go further

  • Some pragmatic Arab leaders and Palestinian figures say privately or even in gatherings such as Annapolis that they accept Israel .
  • But they are neither willing nor able to show by their deeds that they can implement coexistence. So why doesn't Israel just withdraw and make peace with them? If Israel were to agree to withdraw from the entire West Bank tomorrow, the so-called Palestinian moderates would not be able to retain control, and it would quickly be taken over by Hamas, and in all likelihood become a further front in Hamas' war against Israel .
  • Even the so-called ‘moderate' Palestinian camp demand more than statehood. They demand the right of return of Palestinian refugees without conditions. They demand Israeli withdrawal to the 1967 ceasefire lines (even though this contravenes UN Security Council Resolution 242), and they demand absolute control over Muslim holy sites and Arab areas of Jerusalem
  • Incitement against Israel is embedded in Palestinian society, in its schools, its media and mosques. This is an underlying obstacle to peace.

Israeli withdrawals in the last 15 years have resulted in more not less violence from the territories from which it has departed

  • Israeli withdrawals from territory – under Oslo , and disengagement from Gaza - have not curbed the violence, but caused it to intensify. Gaza has become a launching pad for violence against Israeli society
  • The Israeli people do wish to withdraw from further West Bank territory, avoid involvement in the day-to-day lives of the Palestinians and coexist side-by-side with an independent entity. Seeking a ‘two-state solution' is widely accepted among the Israeli people, and is official government policy.

Further Beyond Images resources: Briefings 6, 45, 145, 190 and 193

“The Jews took over the Palestinians' country in 1948….”
  • The re-establishment of Israel in 1948 was the result of steady state-building by the Jewish people, re-establishing a national home which they had been denied for nearly 2000 years.
  • Israel is the Jewish national home: the only national home the Jews have had.
  • The internationally supported UN partition plan of 1947 proposed a viable state for the Arabs of mandatory Palestine , existing side-by-side with Israel .
  • The Jewish leadership accepted partition; but it was rejected by the Arabs
  • Intense violence against Jews in Palestine followed immediately after the partition plan was adopted by the UN, in November 1947. Arabs sought to murder Jews or expel them. And Israel 's independence was greeted with immediate invasion by five Arab armies
  • In addition, it should be remembered that a systematic expulsion did take place at that time: but it was of Jews who lived in Arab countries. Approximately 800,000 were forced to leave their countries in the period immediately after Israel 's independence. They mostly resettled in Israel .
  • Israel 's creation did not “take away” Palestine . Arab leaders refused to agree to the creation of an Arab state, and instead turned to violence to try to prevent a Jewish state from coming into being. That decision rebounded on the Arabs. Both Jews and Arabs are still living with its destructive consequences
  • Key message: It is not the creation of the Israel which created the Palestinian refugee problem, but the violent Arab rejection of the creation of Israel .

Further Beyond Images resources: Briefing 209, and Briefing 211. See also Mitchell Bard's Myths and Facts, online.

“The Palestinians are victims of Israel ….”
  • Key message: “ Israel is the wrongdoer and the Palestinians the victims…”. This narrative ignores basic historic facts, and blinds many support of the Palestinians to the fact that they and the Arab states are primarily responsible for their own situation. Instead of blaming others, and promoting a sense of perpetual victimhood, they should and can take greater responsibility for their own future.
  • Israel 's creation did not “take away” Palestine . Arab leaders in 1947-8 refused to agree to the creation of an independent Arab state
  • Jordanian acts of aggression triggered Israel 's move into the territories in 1967 on the first day of the Six Day War (see Briefing 103). Arab rejectionism is perpetuating Israel 's presence there today, at a time Israel would like to wind its presence down still further. Once again, the Palestinians are victims of their own leaders' decisions.
  • Israel wished to see the Palestinians build up a mini-state in Gaza following its withdrawal in Summer 2005 (see Beyond Images Briefings on Disengagement). The deprivation and chaos in Gaza are first and foremost due to the decision of Palestinian leaders to plunge Gaza into self-imposed international isolation
  • Israel 's security policies such as its security fence are forced upon it, and not its choice. They cause suffering, inconvenience and resentment for Palestinian civilians. But the Palestinian violence which triggered these policies causes suffering, inconvenience and resentment to Jews. That violence has taken over 1100 Israeli lives since 2000.

Further Beyond Images resources: Briefing 73 (on the security fence), Briefing 103 (on the causes of the Six Day War) and 196 (on ‘Palestinians are the victims').

“ Israel has besieged Gaza and reduced it to poverty….”

Key message: Israel would like to coexist with a peaceful and stable Palestinian entity in Gaza . Israel has no interest in tension and conflict involving the Gaza Strip. Israeli policies towards Gaza have been brought about by the ideological extremism of Hamas, and by the sustained rocket and missile assault by Palestinians against Southern Israel . If the Palestinian rockets stopped, and the leadership accepted Israel 's national rights, Gaza could build a prosperous future, supported by the international community and Israel , and achieve peaceful relations with their Israeli neighbour.

  • The international community made large financial pledges to the Palestinians to help them build a society following Israel 's disengagement from Gaza . This inluded $3bn from the G8 nations in July 2005. In 2006 and 2007 international aid and assistance to Gaza reached “stunning” figures, according to a senior UN official (see Beyond Images Briefing 199). It increased after the election of Hamas in January 2006.
  • In 2006 and 2007, financial assistance to Gaza from the entire Arab League (including the Gulf States enjoying gigantic oil revenues) was just 15%of the level of support from the IMF, the UN, the US and Europe (see Beyond Images Briefing 199). The US remains by far the biggest humanitarian donor to Gaza Palestinians.
  • Gaza is in chaos today because of the policies of Hamas and the Palestinian factions – their violent and rejectionist ideology, the weapons build-up, and the sustained and indiscriminate rocket and mortar attacks on Southern Israel (see Briefings 176 and 195 in particular).
  • Those attacks have turned life upside down, and hit schools, kindergartens, and community centres (for school attacks see Briefing 188).
  • Power facilities in Ashkelon has been targeted repeatedly. And the electricity supply network into Gaza has been struck on several occasions by Palestinian rockets, cutting of some power supplies. The rocket squads have now started firing longer-range Katyusha rockets. 190,000 Israelis are within range.
  • Israel 's security measures are designed to stop these attacks and defend Israeli citizens.
  • If the attacks stopped, Israel 's countermeasures would stop too.
  • Israel has tried to maintain the provision of humanitarian assistance into Gaza , even in spite of the tension. More than 7000 Palestinian civilians from Gaza entered Israel for treatment in Israeli hospitals in 2007, an increase of over 50% from the figure for 2006 (see Beyond Images - Stories The Media Ignores).
  • It is not Israel which is reducing Gaza to poverty but the Palestinian leadership. Hamas have even tried smuggling explosive material into Gaza in humanitarian aid shipments.

Further Beyond Images resources: See the area called Gaza and Disengagement under All Briefings on Beyond Images. See also and for excellent and up-to-date information on the situation in Gaza .

“The West must engage with Hamas…..”
  • Key message: Israel is looking for partners for peace. But there is no basis for engagement with Hamas. Hamas are not interested in peace with Israel , but in sabotaging whatever efforts are made towards coexistence. Engaging with them would reward their extremism, and prolong the conflict.
  • Hamas advocates the dismantling of Israel , has a long track-record of violence against Israeli civilians, and opposes a permanent ‘two-state solution'. There is no basis for ‘engagement'
  • The Sinn Fein / IRA analogy is false. Engagement by the British Government with Sinn Fein only took place after clear conditions had been met, and changes on the ground had occurred (for instance the decommissioning of their weapons). Hamas is engaged in a huge arms build-up.
  • Hamas demonises Israel , is building up its military capabilities (see Briefing 191), and is preparing Palestinian society for future war. Moves to ‘engage' Hamas embolden it and reward its ideology
  • Hamas were elected mainly because of popular Palestinian disgust with Fatah. They took over Gaza in June 2007 amidst extreme violence (see Briefing 198), and are ruling today by intimidation. Engagement would reward these actions
  • Hamas were indeed elected democratically. But they are perpetuating their control undemocratically, through violence and internal repression
  • There is an absence of past precedents for engaging with Islamist forces or rejectionist Muslim states (eg failed attempts to engage with Syria or Iran )

Other Beyond Images resources: The section on Hamas under All Briefings; Briefing 201 (on Engagement with Hamas) and Briefings 74, 88, 154, 165, 166, 169, 177, 191, 198 and 200.