Reader Response: Correcting misleading allegations towards Israel

 A reader response to a series of Communities columns. We welcome the debate. Photo: Yair Lapid gestures as he delivers a speech at his "Yesh Atid" party in Tel-Aviv / Associated Press

WASHINGTON, November 22, 2013 — Recent commentaries in The Washington Times Communities have echoed certain erroneous allegations about Israel, Jews and U.S.-Israel relations.

One such error was the statement that “[Zionism] extends from a strictly theological perspective” (Oct. 2, 2013 “Does Zionism help or hurt Jews in the diaspora?”). Modern Zionism, especially as crystallized by Theodore Herzl, stems from 19th century European nationalism. It rests on the idea of the Jewish people as a historic national and ethnic group.

Another error was the comment that, “If Judaism were a nationality, as Zionists claim, it would not have a history” of converts to and from Judaism (Oct. 7, 2013; “What does ‘Jewish’ mean in today’s America?”). But of course, as Jews convert to Judaism, they assume a new religion and join a people, as the biblical Ruth pledged to Naomi a few millennia before Herzl. Therefore, B’nai Israel, literally the children of Israel (biblical Joseph), is in practice the people or nation of the Jews. This egregious and erroneous mixing of categories also ignored current understandings, such as the United Nation’s definition of the right to self-determination.

Another allegation repeated recently was that Israel is a theocracy. In reality, Israel is the state of the Jews, but hardly a theocracy. Religious laws are not imposed on its citizens, 25 percent of whom are in any case Muslim, Christian or other non-Jews with full civil rights.

These misleading, anti-Israel commentaries are regularly posted with question-marked headlines, though forthright answers are never presented. This transparent device of innuendos-via-query always points to answers about Jews and Israel in the negative. The statement that Jewish history is a “[l]egendary past 2,000 or years ago” is obviously false, as archeology, history and DNA testing show Jews’ ties to the land of Israel, ethnic continuity, and Jewish religious and cultural bonds have been living, not legendary, from early biblical times. Many Christians and Muslims, as well as Jews, attest to the continuing centrality — not “legendary” — nature of Hebrew scripture, which in many respects is the foundation of both the New Testament and the Koran.

Retailing the hoary Soviet-Arab smear of Israelis as the new Nazis is yet another fallacy on which these commentaries are based. This comes when Iran threatens Israel with a nuclear holocaust, Syrians are killing more of their citizens than the number of people who died in all Arab-Israeli wars, and Islamic terrorists are slaughtering tens of thousands in the Middle East and beyond.

In yet another insinuation by question, a Communities column asks why the “boycott, divestment, and sanction” movement’s (BDS) campaign is popular. There is a simple response: it is not. The BDS movement, though noisy, has won few victories in its campaign against companies trading with Israel. Israel’s economy has never been stronger. Furthermore, there is a common misunderstanding of BDS’s real goal — the destruction of the world’s one Jewish state and its replacement with the 22nd Arab country.

The repeated observation of increasing population growth in Israeli settlements fails to add that they have not increased in area. New or renewed Jewish communities began in the disputed territories after 1967 and still take in only three to four percent of the land. Meanwhile, Arab building, legal and illegal in the West Bank and Jerusalem, has gone on largely uncriticized. 

Another misperception advanced by these commentaries is that “[y]ounger native-born Israelis tend to be more theo-conservative than older generations, harboring pronounced anti-Arab viewpoints.” In fact, polls show that most Israelis want a peace agreement and a two-state solution, and they don’t trust Palestinian Arabs after years of terrorism.

A new secular party, “Yesh Atid” (“There is a Future”), rose to be second largest in today’s Israeli government coalition, pushing an ultra-Orthodox religious party out of the government and into opposition. And this shallow examination of Israeli “theo-conservative” viewpoints neglected to mention Palestinian childhood education that stresses automatic weapons and jihad suicide bombers.

An erroneous reference to Israel’s “pre-1967 borders” and alleged lack of Israeli good faith in negotiations with Palestinian leaders omits key parts of recent history, including the 1993 Oslo Accords, the 2000 Camp David proposal, Taba 2001, and talks between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas in 2008. These all included Israeli offers of either a West Bank and Gaza Strip state or steps leading to one, and all were rejected by Palestinian leaders.

None of these proposals referred to “pre-1967 borders” because they do not exist. If the Israeli-Jordanian 1949 armistice lines along the West Bank and 1950 Israeli-Egyptian armistice lines along the Gaza Strip were international borders, there would be no need for negotiations under U.N. Security Resolution 242 and 338, the more recent Oslo Accords, or the U.S., U.N., E.U. and Russian “road map.”

The dishonest style, context and not-so-subtle innuendos of these articles in The Washington Times Communities essentially amount to a call for a “one state solution” which would entail the creation of a 22nd Arab country and elimination of the one Jewish state, and perhaps a civil war. Palestinian leaders have declared that no Jew would be allowed to live in what would be a new, apartheid Palestinian state.

One of the most far-reached allegations in these postings has been that Israel is funded by the United States. Online columnist Joseph Cotto claimed that “quite often,” as he generalized, “people say that the U.S., along with other Western powers, is financing a neo-apartheid state due to Israel’s ethnocentrically Jewish policies” (Oct. 25, 2013, “Should America stop foreign aid to Israel?”). Really, “quite often”? The October Anti-Defamation League/Martilla Strategies survey showed that 76 percent of Americans believe Israel is a strong U.S. ally; perhaps “quite often” refers to Cotto’s fringe sources?

Israel’s “ethnocentrically Jewish policies” grant equality to all Israeli citizens, Jews and non-Jews. It ranks 16th among 187 nations on the U.N.’s Human Development Index, suggesting more successful minority integration than in many other countries. And since the Israeli gross domestic product totals $280 billion in 2012, while U.S. aid amounts to $3.1 billion annually and other foreign assistance is negligible, the United States and other countries are hardly “financing” Israel.

Befuddled allegations of Israeli exploitations of Palestinian Arabs are curious given that Palestinian standards of living, life expectancy and population rose dramatically after Israel gained control of the West Bank, Gaza Strip and eastern Jerusalem. Israel collects taxes for and transfers revenue to the Palestinian Authority, supplies the PA with more water than required under Israeli-Palestinian agreements, provides electrical power even to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, and has supported large-scale U.S. and Western European aid for the PA.

Articles by writers who promote a “one-state-solution” are based on the fantasy that Israel must be the primary source of Middle East unrest. As if the Shia-Sunni intra-Islamic conflict has not created much more extremism and bloodshed than the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as if internal upheavals having nothing to do with Israel have not struck Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan and other countries with large Arab and/or Muslim majorities.

This reader response is in response to a series of commentaries (October 2 – November 5) by columnist Joseph Cotto for the Communities.

Ms. Golan Fischgrund holds a master’s degree in Government, Diplomacy and Conflict Resolution from the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya in Israel and is the Washington research intern for CAMERA, the 65,000-member, Boston-based Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America.

This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.

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