May 01, 2002
Myths about the conflict

In keeping with this blog’s theme of offering nothing that is original, here is a compilation of facts about the Israel/Palestine situation that bear repeating, as often as possible, until the lunkheads who shape public opinion (especially in Europe) wake up.


Assertion 1: Israel is illegally occupying Palestine.

No, Israel is occupying lands captured during a war initiated by its neighbors. The lands outside Israel’s borders were captured in 1967 from Egypt and from Jordan. The fact that these two countries have since renounced their claims to them does not mean that there is an independent state there, one that is occupied by Israel. For examples of illegal occupation, take a look at Tibet (occupied by China), Libya’s attempt to annex the Aozou Strip region of Chad, Syria’s de facto occupation of Lebanon, or Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990. These were all attempts by one country to conquer all or part of another country.

The Israel situation is more analogous to the Indonesian occupation of East Timor upon Portugal’s departure, or Morocco and Mauritania’s partition of the Western Sahara upon Spain’s withdrawal. In these cases, the former administrator of the region renounced ownership. The situation could also be applied to wartime transfers of territory such as the dispersion of Austro-Hungarian territory to Italy, Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Yugoslavia after World War I, or the Russian annexation of large portions of Poland (and the Polish annexation of large portions of Germany) following World War II. The latter examples are a bit different, as the formally annexed areas resulted in citizenship being extended to the residents, but imagine the howling if Israel were to formally annex the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Assertion 2: Ariel Sharon is a war criminal.

This is another old argument trotted out whenever Arafat’s current sins are addressed. The allegation is that he was responsible for the massacre of hundreds of Lebanese civilians during Israel’s campaign to eradicate the PLO in the 1980s. Sharon was only tangentially responsible, as Maronite Christian Lebanese militiamen carried out the massacre, without any input from Sharon. The Israeli government carried out an investigation, and while they did not ascribe the attack to him, they felt that his lack of attention to the situation was at least partially to blame, and relieved him of his post. He was not relieved due to mass murder, as the Palestinian apologists would have us believe.

Assertion 3: The Israelis treat Arab citizens as second-class citizens.

There is probably some truth to this claim, but considering the constant attacks upon Israel by Arabs, there is a trade-off between civil rights and the preservation of life (the ultimate civil right).

Arabic citizens of Israel are taught (in Arabic) in Israeli schools, they hold seats in Israel’s Knesset, they enjoy the freedom to criticize the government (military information is censored, but Hebrew and English papers operate under the same restrictions), they are allowed to practice their religious beliefs (and have access to their holy sites and houses of worship), and even with the “second-class” status within Israel, they enjoy greater civil rights than the citizens of any other Arabic nation. In fact, before the current intifada, the “oppressed peoples” of the West Bank enjoyed more freedom than virtually any other nation in the region.

Assertion 4: It is Israeli oppression that is the cause of the homicide bombers.

If this claim were true, than we would see Christian residents of the West Bank acting in the same fashion, and there would be suicide bombings in Spain, in England, in Chechnya, in the Philippines, and in any other nation where there was civil disorder or separatist movements. The fact that only Palestinians of Islamic extraction are committing these atrocities belies this claim. The fact that Iraq and Saudi Arabia are encouraging the activity (by paying rewards to the families of the bombers) is indicative of a serious disconnect with civility and basic decency.

Assertion 5: Israel is interfering with emergency services, such as ambulances.

When the Palestinians stop employing ambulances as rapid transit for bombs, the Israelis will eventually end their policy of stopping and searching them. The Palestinians crossed another one of those “basic civility” lines by using ambulances to transport bombs, and rebuilding trust will take time.

Further, it is not only the Israelis that are interfering with ambulances, as the incident last week, in which a group of Palestinians prevented EMT’s from access to an injured man (allegedly an Israeli “collaborator”), demonstrates.

Assertion 6: Israel has an obligation to accept the Palestinian refugees from past wars.

Approximately 700,000 people were displaced by the war in 1948, and smaller numbers in the three ensuing conflicts in 1956, 1967, and 1973. (This number is open to dispute, as the UN special mediator in 1948 arrived at a figure of 472,000). There are now approximately 3.7 Million “refugees”, the vast majority of whom have never set foot in Israel, and two thirds of who are not living in refugee camps. Obviously, many “refugees” should be citizens of the country in which they were born. The fact that these Arabic countries refuse to confer citizenship upon their brethren is not Israel’s responsibility.

The primary responsibility for the creation of refugees is the Arab world, which called for Arabs living in the area to evacuate “for a few weeks” to facilitate the destruction of Israel after the Declaration of Independence in 1948.

Only one Arabic country—Jordan—allows Palestinians to becomes citizens as a group. In fact, Saudi Arabia resorted to recruiting in South Asia to alleviate their labor shortages during the 1970’s, and Kuwait (which allowed Palestinians to work in the country, without extending an offer of citizenship) expelled 300,000 Palestinian workers in 1991, after the Gulf War.

Consider, for a moment, the consequences of Israel admitting 3.7 million people who appear to be committed to the destruction of the country. Israel’s current population is 5.8 million. Adding a group as large as that, a group that does not wish to peacefully coexist with the admitting country, is totally unrealistic and would not be countenanced by any other country, but the Arab countries attempt to force Israel to accept the terms as a condition for discussing peace.

One last point—what about the property of the Jewish refugees from Arabic lands? Morocco alone had 260,000 Jews who fled to Israel, yet their property and possessions were forfeited. Altogether, Israel absorbed almost 650,000 Jews from Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Yemen (both North and South, now one country), Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq between 1948 and 1972, yet nobody demands compensation or repatriation demands for them.


This only scratches the surface, but these issues keep popping up, and the press distort the truth often enough to make me scream. I am sure that I will have a follow-up or two to this posting, as more occurs to me, and in response to any feedback I receive on this post.

posted on May 01, 2002 05:27 PM


Hi Scutum, quite an exhausting task dealing with all that, isn't it? Some comments (I hope you don't mind. I'll separate them into two parts):

As for the legality of Isreal's occupation(#1), I think one should recall at least part of those territories - the West Bank, not only was accupied from Jordan, but wasn't legally Jordanian... it was captured by Jordan when Arab countries invaded in 1948... (I'm not sure about the legal status of Gaza Strip, i.e. was it legally part of egypt).
As for the Palestinians suicide/homicide bombers phenomena (#4), I thought one should note as well that contrary that argumentation, it sarted after, again - after, the peace process began (6 months after the first of the Oslo accords was signed), and these attacks accompanied all of that period. Far observers tend to forget that, Israelis won't (and at that period, Israel did it best to "restrain" itself, didn't use military action and didn't re-enter the territories which were given to the PA. That didn't help either). In case you are interested with detailed information, you can find it in a list of the major attacks executed in Israel since that period untill the last flame (which requires and has a list of its own...). These are "just" suicide bombers and booby-trapped cars. i.e. that list doesn't include terror attacks by infiltrators (like the one of last week), ambush snipers etc.
As for Sharon (#2), the inquiry of the Sabra&Shatila events was not carried out by the Israeli government, but by a national judiciary committee (the highest institution for such inquiries in Israel, regulated by a specific law. The kind of which was appointed to inquire and give recommendations with regard the events leading the Yom Kipur war of 1973, Rabin's assassination, etc.). Judge Kahan, who headed that committee, was at that time the chief justice of the Israel's Supreme Court; Judge Barak, the current chief justice and at that time one the justices in the Supreme Court (formerly Israel's attorney general, and a worldwide reputable jurist) was a member at that committee. That I think gives some additional perspective as to the results of that inquiry. ..../2

posted by Michal, Israel on May 2, 2002 09:41 PM

Part 2/2...
As for the Ambulances smuggling explosives (#5), I wondered have you seen this video?
As for the "1948 refugees"(#6), I don't know if you are aware of the fact that part of that problem was a direct result of the war which actually started here after the UN 1947 resolution, which included local Arabs (now known as Palestinians) sieging and in some cases occupying and destroying Jewish villages; blocking roads to villages ans towns (even Jerusalem's entrance) etc. All that happened under British rule, and prior their leaving and the Arab countries invading Israel as you described. Those Palestinans refugees, to my mind, do not have a "right of return" to begin with. They traded their opportunity to live in Israel with a trial to eliminate Israel by force. They took a historical chance and lost. These kind of gambles, have historical charge on their side. And indeed they should have, for if nations would be considered as having rights they have rejected by force (believing it would benefit them more then accepting - or negotiating, what they were offered), there would never be no incentive for resolving political disputes by peacefull means, nowhere.
As for Israeli Arabs (#4), there certainly is a problem here, but it focuses mainly with regard the allocation of governmental budget, not with personal or political freedoms. It should only be fair to mention that the Arab citizens of Israel have their share in culturing that problem, for instance by not sharing the civil duties (and I don't mean necessarily military service, but some equivalent service for the benefit of society), and by marking the Isreli Independence Day as their Nakba (day of calamity).

Thanks and keep on scratching...

posted by Michal, Israel on May 2, 2002 09:51 PM

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