Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Drawing the Wrong Conclusions

As an American, it's uncomfortable to take issue with an Israeli prime minister. I recognize it is primarily the Israeli's who need to live with the consequences of any policies or decisions, so that ultimately they should be the ones to make those decisions.

On the other hand, I feel Jews in the Diaspora who support Israel have an obligation to try to help the Israelis make wise decisions.

In his recent interview with Yediot Aharonot, Israel Prime Minister Ehud Olmert used faulty logic to reach a conclusion which I believe is in error.

The fact that one uses faulty logic does not prove the conclusion reached is wrong, but in this case the empirical evidence strongly suggests Olmert's conclusion is wrong. To make matters worse, Olmert's very public airing of his current view plays into the hands of those seeking to destroy Israel and makes peace even harder to achieve.

An example of this is evident in an October 3 polemic written by Ghassan Michel Rubeiz for the Progressive Media Project and which unfortunately has appeared in a number of newspapers.

The article is entitled Now even Olmert says Israel should withdraw from Occupied Territories. Not surprisingly, it both distorts Olmert's remarks and weaves them together with a collection questionable and outright false assertions.

We include some annotated quotes from the article and add a bit more commentary at the end.

Quote: "Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Sept. 29 that his country must withdraw from the occupied territories, which it has held since 1968, including East Jerusalem."

[Comment: The territories in question are disputed, not occupied, with control over the areas primarily inhabited by Arabs long-ago transferred to the Palestinian Authority. There is also no entity named "East Jerusalem."]

Quote: "For the last 35 years, Olmert has been a staunch supporter of the occupation of Palestinian land."

[Comment: The land in question is disputed; it is not and has never in the past been "Palestinian land."]

Quote: "Settlers in the West Bank and East Jerusalem doubled their construction of houses this year, according to the Israeli group Peace Now. In East Jerusalem, settlers are building close to 1,800 dwelling units, and 2,600 more on the West Bank."

[Comment: There are millions of people living in the disputed territories. Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and the people building homes there are by no stretch of the imagination "settlers." A couple of thousand housing units in the disputed territories is a drop in the bucket. If the Palestinian Arabs were interested in peace, there is no more reason why Jews couldn't live areas turned over to them than there is for Arabs to not be allowed to live in Israel.

The very fact that the so-called "settlements" are brought up is an indication the Palestinian Arabs are not interested in peace.]

Quote: "Israel has erected a Berlin-type wall that surrounds the settlements. The cement fence has allowed Israel to cut deeper into precious Palestinian land."

[Comment: The anti-terror barrier is primarily normal fencing with detection devices. Only about 5 percent of the barrier is made of concrete, primarily in areas where chain link fencing would not provide security from Arab snipers.]

Quote: "Building Jewish settlements undermines the future of Palestinians and weakens the long-term security of Israel. It also erodes Israel's democracy, hardens the resistance of Palestinians and thwarts U.S. peace mediation."

[Comment: This is a matter of opinion, which is legitimate to state in a commentary even thought there is little evidence to back it up. However, the assertion contains the false implication that Israel is currently building new settlements.]

Quote: "Despite the evacuation from Gaza, Israel controls all the territories, an area with a population of 5.5 million Palestinians, almost the size of the Jewish population."

[Comment: This is false. Control over roughly 95 percent of the Arab population in the disputed territories was long ago turned over to the Palestinian Authority.]

Quote: "In 1967, the United Nations designated the territories, through Resolution 242, to be the Palestinian state."

[Comment: Absolutely false. There was no mention of a Palestinian state, or even of the so-called Palestinians, in United Nations Security Council Resolution 242. The United Nations called for "secure and recognized borders," a role the temporary armistice lines in effect prior to the 1967 war could never serve.]

Quote: "The first byproduct of the expansion of settlements is the moral erosion of Israel. It cannot be a democracy when half of the people who live under its sovereignty are oppressed."

[Comment: This statement falsely implies that half the people living under Israeli sovereignty are oppressed. In doing so, it falsely implies that the Palestinian Arabs living in the disputed territories are both living under "Israeli sovereignty" and "oppressed" by Israel. Roughly 95 percent of the Palestinian Arabs in those areas are living under their own Palestinian Authority. In effect, they are oppressed, but their oppressor is not Israel!]

Quote: "The second byproduct of these settlements is the growing exasperation of the Palestinian people. Today, despite rising suffering in Hamas-ruled Gaza and despite the failure of Palestinians to reap the fruits of militancy, the Islamic resistance remains popular among Palestinians. Continually driving Palestinians beyond despair is not a sensible survival strategy for Israel."

[Comment: This falsely implies Israel has such a strategy. The fact that Hamas and other Arab terror groups routinely attack the very Israelis working to provide goods and services to people in the Gaza Strip provides evidence that driving Palestinian Arabs beyond despair, while not an Israeli strategy, is a strategy for Hamas.]

Quote: "The third byproduct of the settlement policy is the delaying of a peace accord. In a descending order of firmness, the United Nations, the European Union and the United States have over the years criticized settlement expansion. Israel's annexation of land thwarts these efforts."

[Comment: Israel is not annexing any land.]

Additional Comments

The writer makes it appear that Olmert supports his own assertions and couches Olmert's words in the language of anti-Israel propagandists. However, nothing in Olmert's interview retracts his earlier recognition that Israel has a legal, historical and moral right to the disputed territories; Olmert's words merely reflect his belief that the Palestinian Arabs are so intransigent that they will not agree to peace without a total Israeli capitulation to their outrageous and unjustifiable demands along with an apparent belief that total Israeli capitulation will bring about peace.

Olmert is correct in his recognition that Israel has not achieved peace while allowing Jews to live in portions of the disputed territories. This does not, however, imply that forcibly removing Jews from their homes will bring about peace, any more than the absence of Jews from those areas brought about peace between 1948 and 1967.

Israel long ago offered almost everything supposedly demanded, only to be met with outright rejection along with the launching of a brutal terror offensive. This is strong evidence that total Israeli capitulation will not bring peace.

The other side of the coin is that Olmert's uttering his current opinion feeds Arab intransigence, making it even more unlikely that they will negotiate a reasonable peace agreement.

It also provides anti-Israel propagandists a golden opportunity to distort his words to weave a tale that is more likely to both mislead the naive and encourage the Israel-haters.

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