MER Comment
"A member of Israel's Shas party, Rabbi Ovadia Yossef, said Arabs were
reproducing like insects and "swarming like ants". Israeli Prime
Minister Menachem Begin called Palestinians "beasts walking on two
legs." Israel's tourism minister in 2001, Rehavam Zeevi, referred to
Palestinians as "lice" and "cancer". Among the most vocal and consistent
opponents of Israel's policy, on the other hand, is Palestinian Edward
Said. In 2000, he called the Jews "one of the most enlightened and
historically humane people".
--------------------------


January 21, 2003

Palestine Ironies

By Justin Podur

A common belief propounded by opponents of Palestinian rights is that
Arabs want to 'drive Israel into the sea'. In 1992, Israel's Prime
Minister Yitzhak Rabin said: "I wish Gaza would sink into the sea."

Another common belief is that Palestinians were given a 'generous offer'
by Ehud Barak, which they refused in 2000 and launched the intifada and
the suicide bombers. But Israeli settlements expanded faster in the West
Bank and Gaza under Barak than under Netanyahu, and a map of the
'generous offer' (never published in the US) shows a West Bank and Gaza
littered with settlements, without Palestinian control over East
Jerusalem, with checkpoints between Palestinian communities, and no
freedom of movement or control over resources.

Everyone in the west is familiar with the image of a Palestinian child
or youth throwing a stone (which they do, usually at tanks, that
occasionally respond with live ammunition, which is a strange thing to
call ammunition that kills). But in the olive groves of the West Bank,
it is Israeli settlers, protected by the Israeli Army, which is armed
and supported by the United States, who come down from the hills to
throw stones (and worse) at Palestinian families who try to harvest
their olives.

Israel's government says it cannot leave the West Bank and Gaza because
to do so would be to desert the settlers, who are committed to staying.
But Tanya Reinhart reports that "many of the residents of the isolated
Israeli settlements are speaking openly in the Israeli media about their
wish to leave. It is only necessary to offer them reasonable
compensation for the property they will be leaving behind."

A member of Israel's Shas party, Rabbi Ovadia Yossef, said Arabs were
reproducing like insects and "swarming like ants". Israeli Prime
Minister Menachem Begin called Palestinians "beasts walking on two
legs." Israel's tourism minister in 2001, Rehavam Zeevi, referred to
Palestinians as "lice" and "cancer". Among the most vocal and consistent
opponents of Israel's policy, on the other hand, is Palestinian Edward
Said. In 2000, he called the Jews "one of the most enlightened and
historically humane people".

People throw up their hands and say: "Muslims and Jews cannot live
together in peace". But for most of history it was Muslims and Jews who
managed to live in peace and European Christians who found themselves
unable to live with either Muslims or Jews-expelling them, fighting
crusades against them, and holding inquisitions to root them out.

It was also European Christians who enacted the Holocaust. On January
25, 2002 an Israeli Army official commented to Ha'aretz that "if the
mission is to seize a densely populated refugee camp or to take over the
casbah in Nablus the commander must first analyze and internalize the
lessons of earlier battles, even, however shocking it may sound-how the
German Army fought in the Warsaw ghetto."

Israel refused to call what happened in Jenin in March 2002, where 23
Israeli soldiers and at least 56 Palestinians (most of whom were
civilians) were killed, a massacre. Ha'aretz said "There is evidence of
intense combat, but, with appropriate caution, it can already be said
what did not happen in the Jenin refugee camp. There was no massacre. No
order from above was given, nor was a local initiative executed, to
deliberately and systematically kill unarmed people." Media all over the
world followed this line. But when Palestinians ambushed a group of
soldiers and armed settlers, killing 12, in Hebron in November 2002, the
Israeli foreign minister called it the "Sabbath Massacre", Kofi Annan
from the United Nations called it a "despicable terrorist attack", and
many wire agencies picked up the story as Palestinians attacking "Jewish
worshippers".

Many believe that Jews in the United States would not accept it if
Israel made concessions to Palestinian rights. But 87% of Jewish
Americans and 97% of Arab Americans polled believed Israelis and
Palestinians have the right to live in secure and independent states,
and 52% of Jewish and 79% of Arab Americans favoured a two-state
solution including the evacuation of settlements from the West Bank and
Gaza.

Would the conflict be any different if people knew that everything they
thought they knew about the conflict was wrong?

http://www.zmag.org/sustainers/content/2003-01/21podur.cfm