Monday, October 10, 2016

Inconvenient Truths the Anti-Zionists Don't Want You to Know

The following is the text of a talk given by Alan Stein at the University of Connecticut's Waterbury Campus on October 10, 2016:

It's nice to be back in Waterbury.

I grew up and went to school in New York and then taught mathematics on this campus for 37 years. My office was on this very floor.

I was active both in the Jewish and general communities, serving as president of the Jewish Federation of Waterbury, being part of the Waterbury Progressive Caucus and a leader in the Connecticut Coalition to Save Darfur. I'm a liberal Democrat, in the tradition of Harry Truman, Hubert Humphrey, JFK and RFK.

When my wife and I started thinking about getting away from the brutal New England winters in retirement, my wife wouldn't consider Florida, which my father used to refer to as "the land of our people," and instead we went to the real land of our people. We now spend seven months a year in Netanya, a beautiful resort city. We eat dinner watching the sun set over the Mediterranean.

Here's one special connection between Waterbury and Netanya in Israel, where I now spend most of the year: Miriam Fierberg, our Netanya mayor, is under house arrest, being investigated for corruption.

I was president of PRIMER-Connecticut for ten years while living in Waterbury. I've since founded PRIMER-Massachusetts and PRIMER-Israel. PRIMER is an acronym for "Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting." There is an enormous amount of irresponsible reporting, creating a distorted picture that's taken advantage of by hateful anti-Zionists such as those involved in the BDS - Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions - movement.

Hence the title of this talk: "Inconvenient Truths the Anti-Zionists Don't Want You to Know."

Today, I'll take for about a half hour to describe some instances of irresponsible reporting, briefly list a small subset - after all, I'm a mathematician - and document a few of them in more detail.  You'll then have the opportunity to ask questions.

Okay, first a recent example of irresponsible reporting.

On September 20, William Booth and Ruth Eglash wrote an article for the Washington Post about the Trump campaign wooing American citizens living in Israel. The article, which was published in numerous newspapers, included these two sentences:

"The settlements are on the land that many Jews say is their biblical and historical home. It is also land the Palestinians want for a future state."

In the first sentence, Booth and Eglash gratuitously insert the words "many Jews say" to cast doubt about something that is indisputable, historical fact.

The second sentence does the opposite: it presents an opinion as fact.

The Arabs have repeatedly spurned golden opportunities to establish a state, casting doubt on whether they really want one.

The Arabs rejected the Peel Commission proposal for a state in 1937, the United Nations Partition Plan in 1947 and Israeli proposals in 2000, 2001 and 2008.

They didn't bother setting up a separate state between 1948 and 1967, when Jordan annexed the West Bank and made all the resident Arabs Jordanian citizens.

Now, maybe the Palestinian Arabs do want their own state, but it's definitely not established fact, especially given that the evidence strongly suggests otherwise. It should not have been presented as fact in a news article.

Headlines are often even more distorting.

Another recent example from the Washington Post: A September 18 article had this headline: "Israeli authorities kill 3 suspected assailants in Jerusalem, West Bank attacks." There have been dozens, probably hundreds or thousands, of similar headlines in recent months.

That short headline was ambiguous, inaccurate and, at best, inverted the actual news. As I explained in a letter to the Washington Post:

"The ambiguity: readers could incorrectly infer that Israeli authorities attacked people in Jerusalem and the disputed territories. It was Arab terrorists who did the attacking.

"The inaccuracy: the attackers were not merely "suspected;" there is no doubt the three dead were assailants.

"The inversion: the heart of the news was that there was another Arab terror attack; the fact that some of the terrorists wound up dead was just a consequence of what were, fortunately, mostly "unsuccessful" attacks."

Most of you probably remember what happened on September 11, 2001. On the next day, did anyone see the headline "Plane crashes kill 19 suspected hijackers in New York, Virginia and Pennsylvania?"


Okay. Now I'll list a handful of inconvenient truths, and then go into detail about others.

•Zionism is simply the national liberation movement of the Jewish people.

•Anti-Zionists deny the right of the Jewish people to our own state.

•Denying that right to the Jewish people, while promoting it for others, is anti-Semitic.

•Until relatively recently, the people today calling themselves Palestinians were insisting they weren't.

•The articles in the PLO Charter calling for the destruction of Israel have never been removed.

•Taken together, Israel and the disputed territories take up less than a quarter of what constituted Palestine at the time of the British Mandate.

•Historically, Jerusalem has never held much interest for Arabs or Muslims except during those times when it was controlled by others.

•Jerusalem has been at the heart and soul of the Jewish people since King David made it his capital about 3,000 years ago. Every Passover, Jews all over the world end their Seders with the chant בשנה הבאה בירושלים - "Next Year in Jerusalem."

•The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 declares, as official United States policy: "Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel."

•The term "West Bank" is a relatively new one. Historically, that area, the heartland of the Jewish kingdoms in Biblical times, was referred to as Judea and Samaria, or Palestine, or southern Syria.

•Only a handful, perhaps 50,000, of the so-called Palestinian refugees are really refugees. The youngest of the refugees are now 68 years old and have no recollection of ever living in what is now Israel.

•Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas is in the twelfth year of his four year term. He is no moderate, has shown no inclination to make peace with Israel and has neither the ability nor the authority to do so even if he wanted.

•More than 95 percent of the Arabs in the disputed territories have lived under their own government for more than two decades.

•The Christian community is increasing and thriving in just one country in the Middle East: Israel. It's being decimated in the Palestinian Authority and Hamas-run Gaza. Under the Palestinian Authority, Bethlehem has turned from a Christian city into a Muslim city.

•The proportion of civilian casualties in the Gaza wars has been amazingly low compared to the norm for post-World War II conflicts. General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said "Israel went to extraordinary lengths to limit collateral damage and civilian casualties." Israel has been criticized by international military leaders for setting a standard their countries can't possibly match.

Now I'll go into a few other inconvenient truths, in more depth - as our very limited time permits - with some documentation, including historical texts and the words of Palestinian Arab leaders.

•The Palestinian Arabs have shown far more interest in there not being a Jewish state than in having one of their own.

The PLO was established in 1964, while the West Bank was part of Jordan. Rather than promoting a separate Palestinian Arab state, the PLO was established to destroy Israel. This goal was enshrined four years later in the PLO Charter. It's sobering reading, although far less so than the Fatah and Hamas charters. Among its provisions:

The PLO "aims at the elimination of Zionism in Palestine."

"The Arab Palestinian people, expressing themselves by the armed Palestinian revolution, reject all solutions which are substitutes for the total liberation of Palestine."

AND

"Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. Thus it is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase."

In their fundamental covenants, the Palestinian Arabs clearly say they reject the existence of Israel, but do not call for their own state.

•Mahmoud Abbas has admitted he's responsible for the continuation of the conflict.

In his own words, spoken in Ramallah on October 15, 2010: "If we showed flexibility on these issues the peace agreement would have been signed a long time ago."

•Mahmoud Abbas has also told his people he will never compromise on any of the key issues. 

As quoted in the Palestinian Authority's own newspaper, Al-Ayyam, on September 7, 2010: "If they demand concessions on the rights of the refugees or the 1967 borders, I will quit. I can't allow myself to make even one concession."

•Abbas clearly rejects the very concept of a two-state solution, vigorously insisting he will never acknowledge Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

•Abbas even bluntly told President Obama he would not commit to an "end of conflict" - in other words, even if he signed some agreement with Israel, the conflict would continue.

Peace requires concessions, by both sides.

Israel has made enormous concessions. Benjamin Netanyahu may be considered "right wing," but he's offered concessions, such as offering the Palestinian Arabs a state, Yitzhak Rabin insisted he would never make.

Mahmoud Abbas may be called "moderate," but he has yet to make a single significant concession; he's still clinging to the same demands Arafat was making in 1993. It's one thing to start negotiations with extreme demands; I thought only my mother-in-law, may she rest in peace, could refuse to budge for more than two decades. I was wrong.

•Abbas demands ethnic cleansing.

For example, on Christmas Day, 2010, in Ramallah, he said: "We have frankly said, and always will say: If there is an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, we won't agree to the presence of one Israeli (meaning Jew) in it." How's that for the Christmas spirit!

•Mahmoud Abbas was a prime instigator of the year-long and counting wave of knifings, shootings and vehicular attacks.

On September 16 last year, he proclaimed "Al-Aksa is ours and so is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. They (meaning the Jews) have no right to desecrate them with their filthy feet. We won’t allow them to do so and we will do whatever we can to defend Jerusalem."

Praising Muslim women who harass Jews on the Temple Mount, he said "Each drop of blood that was spilled in Jerusalem is pure blood as long as it’s for the sake of Allah. Every shahid (martyr) will be in heaven and every wounded person will be rewarded, by Allah’s will."

•In Israel, Arabs comprise nearly a quarter of the population and have full, equal rights.

Of course there's some discrimination; I challenge you to name a single country in which there's no discrimination. I also challenge you to name a country, other than Israel, giving equal rights to a minority which in significant measure is loyal to the nation's enemies.

Arabs participate in every area of Israeli civil life. They're doctors, lawyers, teachers, police. They're in the Knesset, the parliament. Majalli Wahabi, an Israeli Druze, actually served as Acting President for a time in 2007. George Karra, an Israeli Arab Supreme Court Justice, convicted President Moshe Katzav and sent him to prison.

Think about that: an Israeli Arab sent the president of Israel to prison!

When it comes to legal discrimination, if anything, it's the Jews who suffer. Jews are compelled to serve in the army. They don't have a choice. Arabs have a choice. They may serve if they wish, but they don't have to.

•The BDS movement is anti-Zionist and thus inherently and irredeemably anti-Semitic.

Omar Barghouti, the most prominent of the founders of BDS, has said: "Definitely, most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.”

Anna Baltzer, a frequent speaker at "Tree of Life" events, was even more blunt, saying, quote: "“We need to wipe out Israel.” unquote.

•While Mahmoud Abbas may refuse to make peace with Israel, may defame and slander Israel at every opportunity, when push comes to shove he knows Israel is his only friend.

In April, Abbas' brother, who lives in Qatar, was in critical condition with cancer. Where did Abbas make sure he went to get the best medical care? Assuta Medical Center in Tel Aviv, where the doctors had saved his brother-in-law's life with a delicate heart operation six months before, and where his wife underwent leg surgery in 2014.

Ismail Haniyeh is even more extreme than Abbas. Haniyeh is the chief Hamas terrorist in charge of Gaza. But he wasn't too proud to send his granddaughter for treatment at Ichilov Hospital in Tel Aviv in 2013. In 2014, he sent both his mother-in-law and his daughter there, one shortly before the war he launched and the other shortly after.

•The "illegally occupied territories" aren't even occupied. They are disputed territories and Israel has a strong legal claim to them.

At the San Remo Conference in 1920, following World War I, Britain was assigned a mandate over Palestine - which then comprised all of what is today Israel, Jordan and the disputed territories. The mandate called for Britain to prepare for the reestablishment of the Jewish homeland, including the "close settlement" of the land by the Jewish people. This actually included the "East Bank," the 77-78 percent of Palestine east of the Jordan River which Britain separated from the rest, renamed Transjordan and gave to the Hashemites. The decisions made at the San Remo Conference were confirmed by the League of Nations in 1922, and incorporated into the founding documents of the United Nations. That makes them international law.

So, under international law, Israel has claim to all of the disputed territories and building in those territories is not only not illegal, but encouraged.

•The "1967 borders" were never borders.

Article II of the 1949 armistice agreement with Jordan stated "no provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims and positions of either Party hereto in the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine question, the provisions of this Agreement being dictated exclusively by military considerations."

In plain language, the armistice lines were specified to have no political significance.

References to "1967 borders" are factually wrong; no borders existed.

Insisting on "negotiations based on the 1967 borders" is actually an insistence on the violation of that signed agreement! It's also an insistence on the violation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338.

Resolution 242 was adopted November 22, 1967, exactly five years after the assassination of President Kennedy. Its provisions called for:

"Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict" in conjunction with the "termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgment 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."

So, according to this binding Security Council resolution, any Israeli withdrawal awaits a peace agreement and must not be a total withdrawal to the temporary armistice lines. The Security Council itself has given legitimacy to an Israeli presence in the disputed territories until that time.

My apartment in Netanya lies about nine miles from the armistice line and the Arab town of Tulkarm, which is already under the control of the Palestinian Authority. I'm across from the Mediterranean, so the actual width of Israel at that point is only about 9 miles and 50 yards. Secure borders, as called for in the resolution, are unfortunately an impossibility, but the goal should be to make them as close to secure as reasonably possible.

•The Palestinian Arab leadership accepted the Israeli presence in the disputed territories and depends on it.

They agreed to it in the Oslo Accords and Mahmoud Abbas knows that he wouldn't last a week if it wasn't for the Israeli military maintaining security.

Abbas may demand an Israeli withdrawal, but he stakes his life on Israel not caving in to that demand.

My final three inconvenient truths:

1. We keep hearing that the Palestinians deserve a state of their own. There is actually an "Encyclopedia of Stateless Nations." Most people know of the Kurds and the Tibetans, but there are literally hundreds of others, almost all with a far longer and more peaceful history than the Palestinian Arabs. None have repeatedly rejected statehood the way the Palestinian Arabs have. Every one of those national groups is arguably far more deserving of statehood than the Palestinian Arabs.

When my wife and I bought an apartment in Israel, we decided we needed to sell our private home in Waterbury and move to a condo in Massachusetts nearer our daughter. We joined the nearest synagogue, Temple Israel of Natick, which has a "Rabbi Laureate" you may have heard of, Harold Kushner, of "When Bad Things Happen to Good People" fame. One week ago today, on the first day of Rosh Hashanah, I was in the first row, right in front of Rabbi Kushner, when he gave his sermon and said: 

"I would remind you that for almost twenty years, from 1948 to 1967, the Palestinians had a state of their own on the West Bank and half of Jerusalem, including the Old City and the Temple Mount."

Now, when Jews say "Jordan is Palestine," people tend to dismiss it as propaganda. But it turns out that Mahmoud Abbas - remember, he calls himself the president of Palestine, even though there is no Palestine - agrees with Rabbi Kushner. Just last year, on June 2, 2015, Abbas said "Jordan and Palestine are one people living in two states."

There are two basic reasons the Palestinian Arabs get so much undeserved attention: They are the world's most successful practitioners of terrorism ... and their target has been the world's only Jewish state.

2. Israel is the front line state in the fight against fanatical, Islamist terrorists. Every method used by those terrorists against the United States, against France, against Britain, was first used against Israel. Had the civilized world stood solidly with Israel in the past, we might not be suffering from today's outbreak of terrorism. The first, essential step in defeating terrorism around the world is standing with Israel.

3.

If you value human rights, Israel stands with you.

If you value freedom of the press, Israel stands with you.

If you value the rights of gays, Israel stands with you.

If you value the rights of women, Israel stands with you.

If you value diversity and multiculturalism, Israel stands with you.

If you believe children should grow up and not blow up, Israel stands with you.

If you treasure the values that have made the United States of America the greatest country in the history of the world, Israel stands with you.

Israel exemplifies the very values true liberals cherish most, while Palestinian Arab society rejects those same values.

Rabbi Kushner said, in his Rosh Hashanah sermon: "We were privileged to see the rebirth of a Jewish nation in the ancestral Jewish homeland. Be grateful that you were privileged to live in the age of the Third Jewish Commonwealth."

In my years of involvement with the Arab-Israeli conflict, I've rarely read a news story, or a letter to the editor, or a presentation by someone anti-Israel, that wasn't tainted by what I'll euphemistically call false information. I urge you to read, and listen, skeptically, and find the real truth, the inconvenient truth, so often denied.


On that note, thank you for listening to these inconvenient truths. I'm eager to hear your questions, with the usual qualification: questions, not long-winded statements.