Thursday, August 27, 2009

Don’t let the facts get in the way

I was just forwarded a link to a site by a “young New Zealander” where he tries to give perspective to global events.

I haven’t gone through every page on his site, but his article on the history of the “Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” seems poorly researched and written. His terminology and use of language looks like it comes directly from a Palestinian propaganda style book and he manages to make significant historical errors in almost every single paragraph, quite an accomplishment.

In the interest of fairness, I though I’d point out some of his most glaring errors.

Conflicting British Promises

During WWI, Britain supported independence from Turkish rule for the mainly Arab population of Palestine, who had lived in the area for thousands of years. To gain Jewish favour, Britain also supported the establishment of a Jewish homeland in Palestine.

False: In the 1800s the area was vary sparsely populated. Although there was a small Arab community going back to the 7th Century (hardly “thousands of years”), the vast majority of the Arab population came in search of better economic opportunities at the end of the 1800s or early 20th Century.
The only population that had been in the land for "thousands of years" was the relatively small Jewish population that can trace itself back to Biblical Times.

Awarded Palestine at the end of WWI, Britain saw how conflicting its promises were: Jews began moving to Palestine, clashing with locals who believed in their own dreams of independence.

The Holocaust

After WWII, the world saw the full horror of the Holocaust and became sympathetic to the establishment of a Jewish homeland. Sadly it was the Palestinians who had to suffer for Europe’s guilt.

False: Firstly it wasn’t “European guilt”, The Arab community (particularly Haj Amin al-Husseini, Mufti of Jerusalem who was a guest of Hitler in Berlin for the duration of the war) supported the Nazis and were also partially responsible for the horrors of the Holocaust.
Secondly, the State of Israel was one of many states created after WWII with the breakup of the British Empire. The movement to create an Independent Jewish country pre-dates any attempts to create an Arab State in the area or the Holocaust and was not a result the Holocaust.

Britain’s control of Palestine became a burden. Violence increased between Jews and Palestinians. Jewish terrorist groups attacked the British – most infamously blowing up their headquarters at the King David Hotel.

False: It is true that "Violence increased between Jews and Arabs", but the violence was almost all in one direction - Arabs attacking Jews. There were Jewish military groups (Hagana, Palmach, Lechi), but they were almost exclusively for self defence. The Lechi/Stern Gang which did take the offensive on occasion could not be defined as "Terrorism" as they attacked only British Military establishments (The King David Hotel housed British HQ). Also interesting that the author failed to mention the Arab riots of 1929 and 1936-39 which were terrorist attacks against (mainly Jewish) civilians.

In 1947 Britain asked the United Nations (UN) to make a decision on the future of Palestine. The UN voted to split Palestine in half – into separate Jewish and Arab states.

Birth of Israel

On May 14 1948, Jewish leaders announced the birth of Israel. The next day surrounding Arab countries declared war on them. After a year of fighting, Israel defeated the Arab-alliance and secured its survival.

Palestinians who lived within Israel’s borders were forced to leave. If they refused, they were beaten or simply murdered. Over 750,000 Palestinians fled their homes. Today they and their descendents still live in terrible conditions in refugee camps.

False: The Palestinians were not "Forced to Leave", many Arabs stayed and are now full equal citizens of the State of Israel. There were very few (if any) examples of Arabs who refused to leave being "beaten", certainly not murdered, in fact many Jewish leaders begged the Arabs not to leave and explicitly offered them equal rights and a called for peace in the declaration of independence.
Many Arabs did flee, but this was mainly in response to fear generated by Arab propaganda which tried to demonize the Jews by exaggerating, or creating false accounts of Jewish attacks against Arabs.

Six-Day War and Occupation

In 1967, Israel initiated the Six-Day War with Egypt, Jordan and Syria. By its end, Israel had taken control of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank – the only land the Palestinians had left since Israel’s creation.

False on 2 accounts: Firstly the Israelis did not initiate the 6 Day war, it began when Egypt violated the cease-fire agreement and positioned tanks on the border and broadcast that they intended to destroy the State of Israel.
Secondly the Gaza Strip and West Bank were not "the only land the Palestinians had left”, they were occupied (or in the case of the West Bank, annexed) by Egypt and Jordan, and there had never been any talk of allocating this land to the Palestinians.

Today the West Bank remains under Israeli occupation. Successive Israeli governments have funded the building of Jewish villages and towns (settlements) on occupied Palestinian land. Now there are over 300,000 Jewish settlers in the West Bank.

These settlements violate Article 49 of the Geneva Convention, which states that ‘the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.’

False: Firstly Article 49 of the Geneva Conventions does not apply to the West Bank and Gaza as they were not never part of a sovereign nation (they were previously occupied by Egypt and Jordan), however Israel has voluntarily applied the Geneva Conventions to these territories. Article 49 refers to forcible transfer of populations, allowing citizens to voluntarily build homes in disputed areas is not covered by Article 49.

In 1968, the UN Security Council passed Resolution 242, which called for Israel to end its occupation of the territories captured after the Six-Day War. 40 years later this still hasn’t happened. The honoring of Resolution 242 remains central to any Palestinian vision of peace.

False: Resolution 242 does not obligate Israel "to end its occupation of the territories", at the time the resolution was passed there was a debate whether the article should include all "The Territories" and the final wording refers only to part of (not all of “the”) Territories. Israel fulfilled its obligation in the 1980s when it withdrew from over 90% of the territory when the Sinai was returned to Egypt as part of the 1979 Peace Agreement.
Since then Israel has voluntarily withdrawn from the entire Gaza strip and has offered over 90% of the West Bank. Far more than was required by Resolution 242.

First Intifada (Uprising)

The growth of Jewish settlements on their land caused the Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip to rise up in violence against both the Israeli military and Jewish settlers between 1987 and 1993.

Nightly television images of Palestinian youths hurling stones at Israeli tanks created a global awareness of the Palestinian cause.

A Flawed Peace: The Oslo Accords

In 1993 the Oslo Accords peace agreement was signed between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO). Under the agreement, Israel would return the Gaza Strip to Palestinian control. The West Bank would be split into zones, with over 60% remaining under Israeli occupation.

In return for the Gaza Strip, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was expected to ‘control his people’ and end attacks against Israelis: an equation known as ‘land for peace.’ This would prove difficult as the majority of Palestinians viewed Oslo as a betrayal because it allowed the Israelis to escape the legal obligation of UN Resolution 242.

False: The Oslo Process did not define the final border arrangements, but it was generally understood the almost all of the territory would be given to the Palestinians and in fact the Palestinians were eventually offered 97% of the West Bank and 100% of Gaza.
In exchange for this territory Yasser Arafat had to do more than ‘control his people’, rather he had to actively stop violence, end incitement, and educate his people for peace.
Had he fulfilled his obligation to stop incitement and prepared his people to live in peace it is almost certain that there would be a Palestinian State today.

Second Intifada (Uprising)

Between Oslo’s signing in 1993 and 2000, the number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank grew from 80,000 to 150,000. This proved to the Palestinians that Oslo was a sham.

Oslo collapsed at the Camp David talks in 2000. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak refused to abandon the illegal Jewish settlements on Palestinian land, and Arafat refused the portion of land Israel deemed fit to give back.

False: Far from refusing to abandon Jewish Settlements, Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians almost 100% of the Occupied Territories with only minor border adjustments. It is unclear why Arafat refused this offer, but is seems that he was unwilling or unable to agree to an end of the Conflict

Disheartened by political attempts to gain independence, Palestinians turned again to violence. Both sides routinely committed atrocities, and most of the victims were innocent civilians.

False: Both Sides did not "routinely committed atrocities". The only side that deliberately and regularly attacked civilians were the Palestinians. There are zero cases of the Israeli Army deliberately targeting civilians.

Gaza and Hamas

In 2005, the Israeli Government removed all Jewish settlements and military presence inside the Gaza Strip. Hamas (an Islamic party with a history of violence towards Israelis) gained control of the Gaza Strip, after a landslide victory in the 2006 Palestinian elections. Israel responded by closing down Gaza’s borders, causing mass unemployment and suffering.

Palestinian armed groups began firing rockets into southern Israel. In December 2008 Israel responded by heavily bombing the Gaza Strip, before invading on the ground. The conflict ended on 18 January 2009.

Human rights groups have accused Israel of committing war crimes during the invasion. Accusations include the bombing of hospitals and schools, and the shooting of civilians carrying white flags.

False: Although certain "Human rights groups" have accused Israel of these actions. All actions have been investigated and proven to be false.
For example, A Greek Telethon raised money to Rebuild a Palestinian Christian Hospital that was allegedly destroyed by Israel. The only problem was that the hospital never existed (source). Similarly cases of "civilians carrying white flags" turned out to be armed combatants violating the Rules of Law by hiding behind white flags or the Red Cross symbol (for example see here)

The Arab Peace Initiative

The Arab Peace Initiative offers the best chance of lasting peace in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The initiative proposes establishing ‘normal’ (peaceful and respectful) relations between the entire Arab region and Israel. In exchange, Israel would completely withdraw from the occupied Palestinian territories.

The immediate hope for the plan is not good – both Hamas and the current Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reject it.

False: The “Arab Peace Initiative” not only calls on Israel to withdraw from the “Occupied Territories”, but calls for the end of Israel as a Jewish State by allowing unrestricted Palestinian migration to Israel “referred to as “The Right of Return”). It does not accept Israel’s right to exist as a sovereign Jewish State.

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