Sunday, March 22, 2015

Netanyahu's Win Is Good for Palestine

This letter was written by Arthur Toporovsky in response to an op-ed "Netanyahu's Win Is Good for Palestine" by Yousef Munayyer.

It is worth noting that while Mr. Munayyer repeatedly describes Israel as having "apartheid policies" and being an "apartheid regime" he does not describe in what way that label is fitting to the situation. Instead, he speaks of it as if it is the truth, and allows his blank-check accusation to do its damage without having to substantiate his claim.  In the same manner he writes of how Israel is "monopolizing West Bank land and natural resources" without explaining what resources he is referring to.  Are there mineral resources that lie under the Israeli settlements and in no other place in the West Bank? Do Israeli settlements encompass the only oil or gas wells in the area, thereby depriving the Palestinian Arabs of those resources?  Surely he cannot mean water, which has been subject of a successful cooperative project between Jordan, the Palestinian Arabs and Israel.  Again, the accusation is left unfounded, and it need only be made in order to do its work.

Instead of land for peace, Mr. Munayyer claims that the Arabs are now seeking rights for peace, but he does not acknowledge the full truth of the matter.  Arabs, he says, are demanding the right to live on their land with  free movement, due process, equal treatment under the law, voting rights and freedom from discrimination.  In reality, Arabs live throughout the West Bank, Gaza and Israel area.  It is the Jews who are prevented from freely living on the land and who are only permitted to live in those areas that were not conquered by Arab forces in 1949.  Freedom of movement in and out of Israel and near the Israeli settlements is and has to be dependent on the Arab rejection of violence against Israelis.  It was the increasing Arab hostility from the West Bank that led to the building of the Israeli security barrier, and it is the failure of the Arab leadership to renounce violence that maintains it.  Notably, while the Arabs demand the right to go into Israel on a regular basis, they do not wish to reciprocate by allowing Israelis into Gaza and the West Bank in the same manner.

Most disingenuous is his claim that Arabs are denied voting rights, especially as he makes this claim after noting that Arabs had indeed voted in Israeli elections.  This claim, promoted by BDS, is based on the conception of the West Bank, Gaza and Israel as being one state under Israeli governance, which therefore requires all peoples within that state to vote.  The reality is that it is not one state, the West Bank and Gaza are slated to be recognized as Palestine, and there is already a Palestinian Arab government of that state.  For Israel to dissolve that government and bring the entire region under Israeli governance would be a true violation of the rights of the Palestinian Arabs.  One could make an argument that the Arabs who are living in the Israeli settlements should be allowed to vote in Israeli elections, but one can just as accurately claim that the Jews living in the West Bank should have been allowed to vote in the Arab elections, which they were not.  As the sovereignty of those areas are disputed, it is appropriate that those people living there vote in the elections of the country they wish to be part of when a final definition of borders is achieved.  Similarly, just as Israel cannot impose its government on the West Bank and Gaza, so too it cannot impose its legal system on the citizens of those areas, and Arabs from those areas who are arrested by the IDF cannot be brought into Israel for trial.  This is what is required by international law.  Ideally, the P.A. government should be arresting those people who commit acts of violence, even if only as a demonstration of respect for the human rights of the Israelis who are living in the disputed areas, but that is not what happens.  What is important to note is that the Arabs living within Israel are subject to the same laws as the other citizens of Israel, and have the same right to due process as any person who might be arrested, and also have the right to work within the system as lawyers and judges.  One might want to ask Mr. Munayyer how many Jewish lawyers or judges are in the Palestinian Arab legal system.

No nation is free from discrimination.  P.M. Netanyahu’s call for right-wing supporters to get out the vote to counter the impact of left-wing parties busing in voters was not wrong in principle, but his including the word “Arab” to describe the demographic group that was being bused in made it insensitive and open to charges of discrimination and “fear-mongering”. Clearly he should have never used that word.  Most certainly he owes a public apology for it, though I can understand that it might not be entirely well received.  Nonetheless, what is important to note is that he was not denouncing the Arab right to vote in any way, even if he was calling for people to come out so as to counteract their increased presence in the voting booth.  Nor does that comment change the fact that 17 Arabs were elected, by a mix of Arabs and Jews, to serve in the Knesset.  The Joint List is not only an Arab party, but with 13 seats it is the third largest party in the Knesset, which gives it the potential for significant power, either as a member of the governing coalition or as opposition.  This is not true in any other Arab nation, where Palestinian Arabs are typically not allowed to vote, much less run for office.  For months, P.A. President Mahmoud Abbas has been insisting that Israel has reversed its 47 year commitment to preserve Arab control of the Al Aqsa place, despite assurances from the Israeli government that it has no intention of doing so.  In a series of speeches, Abbas has been referring to Israelis as “cattle” and that the mere presence of Jews has been “defiling” the sanctity of the Muslim holy places, calling all Muslims to protect those places by all means necessary.  Hamas has been telling people to attack Israelis with their knives and cars.  Not only has Fatah not condemned such blatant calls for violence, it has been sending letters of commendation to the families of those who have killed Israelis or died in the attempt.  Where is the condemnation of that fear-mongering and incitement?

Over the course of his tenure as prime minister, Netanyahu has released hundreds of prisoners, including mass murderers, and even froze settlements for 10 months, just to bring the Palestinian Arabs to the negotiation table.  What has been offered in return? The idea of two states, side by side, based on the 1949 Armistice lines, in which Arabs can move freely from one to the other while Jews are denied the right to visit ancient sites such as the thousands year old Mount of Olives cemetery or the Western Wall?   A rejection of every Israeli proposal offered, including some drafted with Pres. Abbas himself?  Attempts to unilaterally have the borders defined by the U.N.?  Why is it impossible for the two states to have both peoples living in both states, with one state under Arab governance and the other under Jewish governance?  Why must East Jerusalem, with the Old City of Jerusalem, be rendered free of Jews instead of being open to both peoples as proposed in  U.N. resolutions?  While Hamas has always rejected Israel’s to exist at all, and much of the Fatah party speaks of the two-state solution as a step towards the goal of one Arab state, why is it that Netanyahu’s comment is seen as the death of the peace process?  Perhaps it does not matter that Netanyahu is once again prime minister, not so long as the Palestinian Arab people continues to dream of a land free of Jewish inhabitants.  Perhaps it is time to begin pressuring the Palestinian Arabs to stop promoting violence against Jews, to let go of the unrealistic claim of 1967 (really 1949) lines as borders, and to fully accept Israel’s right to exist.  Perhaps then we might have peace in the Middle East.  Unfortunately, Mr. Munayyer does not even come close to such considerations.

No comments: