Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Columnist Misrepresents Israel's Actions

This letter was written in response to an error-filled column published in the Daily Campus, the student publication of the University of Connecticut. The offensive column may be viewed by clicking here.

In some of my spare time when I'm not teaching mathematics at this university, I serve as president of PRIMER-Connecticut, an organization whose acronym is based on its mission of "Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting."

It is thus on two counts that I found George Maynard's column, ("Israeli Atrocities Should Not Be Masked By Friendship," Oct. 11), disappointing.

Aside from its extreme bias, with which I strongly disagree but which is certainly permissible in an opinion piece, the column contained numerous factual errors along with logical inconsistencies.

The article referred to an "official Israeli military operation" conducted at a time before the re-establishment of Israel. Clearly, at that time there was no official Israeli military and thus an "official Israeli military operation" was a logical impossibility.

The columnist completely misrepresented U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 and falsely stated that "Israel refused to comply" with the resolution as it did not "withdraw from the occupied territories."

Resolution 242, adopted Nov. 22, 1967, contained several provisions, all of which are generally ignored except for the single provision referred to incorrectly in the column.

The provision referred to called for "withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict."

During the drafting of the resolution, there was considerable debate about whether to include the definite article before the word "territories." The definite article was deliberately omitted, in line with a recognition that the armistice lines in effect prior to the war were never meant to serve as borders.

The truth is that even if it did not withdraw from any additional territory, Israel would be in compliance with both the letter and spirit of that principle, having already withdrawn from well over 90 percent of the territory it came into control of in 1967.

Of equal footing with withdrawal was the principle calling for "termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force."

The overwhelming majority of Israel's Arab enemies, including the Palestinian Arabs, continue to refuse to comply with that principle. It is that refusal which has prevented the implementation of Resolution 242 and continues to be the reason Israel's dreams for peace have yet to be realized.

Discussion and even debate about the Arab-Israeli conflict, a more appropriate term than "Israeli-Palestinian conflict" since the latter is just part of and a consequence of the former, is welcome. It is important, however, especially in a university setting, that anything presented as fact be true.

- Alan H. Stein
Associate Professor of Mathematics;
President, PRIMER-Connecticut

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