April 03, 2002
More on Israel

Israeli reader Michal suggested that I start a new topic on the Saudi “peace proposal” instead of continuing that thought on the comments of the history piece from earlier this week. Sounds like a good idea to me.

*Warning* This started out as a dispassionate statement, but it has turned into a rant. Proceed at your own risk.

As I had mentioned earlier, the governments of the Arab world do not have diplomatic relations with Israel, except for Turkey, Jordan, and Egypt. This might be one of the reasons that the Israelis don’t listen to them—why should they listen to people who don’t acknowledge their legitimacy? Diplomatic recognition comes before negotiation. (This does not mean that they have to exchange ambassadors or pretend to like each other; this is a fundamental recognition of Israel as a state.)

Another issue is the repeated assertion that Israel is “illegally occupying” the territories it captured during the 1967 conflict. Okay—this means that Italy and Romania are going to return Trieste and Transylvania, respectively, back to the Austro-Hungarians, Russia is going to give Kaliningrad (nee Konigsberg) back to the Germans, and China is going to return Lushun (nee Port Arthur) to the Russians? These areas were all captured as the result of wars (started by the losers, for the most part), and they are all recognized as legitimate. Why is it that Israel’s capture of the disputed territories is different? And the point can also be made that Israel was filled with Jews for 2000 years before Mohammad was even born, so it certainly has a historical claim to the old city of Jerusalem (which, BTW, is in “East Jerusalem”) and the Judea and Samaria regions adjacent to the Jordan River (AKA the West Bank). The fact is that these regions were captured from the Jews during wars from centuries past.

Some say that the Palestinians are waging a war for self-determination. OK, do they support the ETA (in Spain and France), the Kurdistan People’s Party (in Turkey), the Chechens (in Russia), the Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines, and the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka? All of these groups are separatist groups that carry out terrorist attacks in the name of self-rule. Or is it only groups waging war against Israel that warrant recognition?

I am not one of those who equates anti-Israeli sentiments with Anti-Semitism, but I cannot help but note that Europe has both a higher number of Anti-Semitic crimes and a general disdain for Israel, whereas here in the US, the equation is reversed. We have our share of Anti-Semites, but they are nowhere near as prominent and dangerous as those in France or Britain. Austria and Germany have also seen significant numbers of hate crimes, and their role in the Nazi movement cannot be dismissed out of hand.

Most of the bashers of Israel condemn the oppressive role the Israeli military plays in keeping Palestinians out of Israel, but forget the era before the intifada when unemployment in the West Bank was lower than that of much of Europe, when tens of thousands of Palestinians crossed into Israel every day to work. It was only when the massive waves of violence began that Israel closed the travel routes between Gaza and the West Bank, bulldozed the runway at the international airport in Gaza, and stopped the influx of Palestinian workers into its borders. Israel has no safety now, as nobody wants to accept the Palestinians, and the Palestinians have made it clear that they do not want Israel. Somebody has to give, and it’s not going to be the Israelis.

Many point to the disparity in the death figures between the Palestinians and the Israelis a proof that the Israelis are brutal. Well, gee, if I was an Israeli soldier, ARMED WITH A GUN, and four Palestinians started throwing rocks at me, you bet your sweet ass I’d shoot back. If I lived, that would be four Palestinians dead, and no Israelis. Don’t tell me that stones are not as lethal as bullets; stoning is a form of the death penalty still carried out in Islamic countries. BTW, the Palestinian Authority authorizes the death penalty as a form of punishment for ordinary crimes; Israel authorizes the death penalty only for military crimes.

“What about destruction of homes and property by the Israelis?” one may ask. May I remind those people that all demolition activities by the Israelis have occurred after the structure was used in an attack upon Israelis citizens or property. An end to the attacks would bring about an end to the destruction.


posted on April 03, 2002 12:57 PM


Your refutations of the "illegal occupation" argument doesn't quite hold water. The problem is that the examples that you cite -- Italy/Triest, Russia/Kaliningrad, etc. -- you cite aren't comparable: Italy isn't "occupying" Triest, but has made it a part of Italy, and the people of Triest are Italian citizens -- the same is true of the other examples that you cite.

There is a refutation to the "illegal occupation" argument, yours just isn't it.

posted by Tony Adragna on April 3, 2002 08:45 PM

Okay, I will agree with you there. However, Israel *has* formally annexed East Jerusalem (in 1967) and the Golan Heights (in 1981). All residents of the areas were given the opportunity to become Israeli citizens at that time. The Arabs still claim these territories as part of the mythical state of Palestine, and demand they be included in any peace deal.

posted by Scutum on April 3, 2002 11:18 PM

Somehow you ultimately didn't say much about the Saudi initiative, but I feel somewhat responsible for your raising the subject..., so I will make some comment nevertheless, and in a way, it would connect to the rest of your rant (it's not that I lack comments to the merit of the rest, it just would be too long to bear...). That comment itself would need to be divided. My apologies.
The major problem with the Saudi initiative, to my mind, is that it totally ignores the current reality - the context in which it was sent into the world. That reality is of a vast wave of brutal terror attacks, started by the Palestinians shortly after the Camp David talks (with n-o justification, and contrary to the o-n-l-y fundamental obligation they took upon themselves under thr Oslo accords (accords their fruits they have collected though)). That reality is a daily reality (surreality actually) ever since. It shattered to pieces the peace process (though many tend to forget, Israel maintained the talks during the first months of this bloody rage. Sharon, which is often mentioned by the Arabs as the one to blame, became PM only six months later). It grievously wounded the Israelis trust in the peaceful intentions of the Palestinians (which took seven hard years to build, despite its being bleeding years, and tearing us apart from within).
That reality demands grand gestures, and without a clear statement from the Arab leadership, denying that terror strategy and demanding the Palestinians to halt it immediately, the Saudi intiative won't do. Under these kind of circumstances, what could have been a turning point had it been made two years ago, simply lacks the sincerity, genuine (not to mention practical) seriousness.

posted by Michal, Israel on April 4, 2002 03:56 AM

Other "truth signs" unfortunately indicates the same - stating, in the same breath, they don't think Sharon is the leader to accept that initiative; rejecting his idea of coming to speak at the Beirut summit (and when you think of it - why didn't they accept that challenge ?); the non reaction to the Hizballa open rejection of that plan (not to mention its activities - and that goes to the whole Lebanese precedent). Taking all that into account, the Saudi initiative would be considered, to the most, as an important development, but won't be able to make a breakthrough. It was more than mere symbolic hence, that on the very day it was adopted at the Beirut summit, it was flooded with blood of the suicide bomb at Netanya (the terror attack of Passover eve - resulted with 26 dead people, at current count).

The comparison with the late president Saadat's initiative, is inevitable (and I'm old enough to talk about it "at first hand"): When Saadat offered to and came to speech at the Knesset (Israeli parliament) - we didn't ask for Egypt recognizing Israel prior to his visit, and we heard him very carefully, even though he had very harsh words to say to an Israeli ear (certainly at those days). But we also could see and hear the sincerity, the good will, the fact that he meant business. That, not only by the
way he handled that whole visit, but also by his choosing to declare, along with his harsh words, the "no more war" statement.

As for the compulsive "blame it on Israel" reaction at other places of the world, I'd say just that the non-sincerity/sheer hypocrisy observation, stands as well (usually spiced with lots of ignorance as to basic facts - both of history and of current realty).

posted by Michal, Israel on April 4, 2002 03:58 AM

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