Top Myths about the Middle East Conflict - Stowarzyszenie Służba Szalom Oświęcim _angielska

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Top Myths about the Middle East Conflict


Myth #1:  
Jews have no historic connection to Israel / Palestine.

         A key element of Arab and anti-Zionist attacks on Israel is the notion that the Jewish presence in the country is a remnant of 19th century imperialism in which Europeans colonized and exploited parts of the third world. But far from being outsiders there, the Jewish ties date back 4,000 years to the very beginning of Jewish history recounted in the Bible and verified by much of the evidence of archeology that has been discovered.
         Though the Romans expelled most of the Jewish population from the country, Jewish settlement continued without interruption throughout the last 2,000 years. In all this time, the Land of Israel remained a constant in thoughts and the hearts of Jews throughout the world, as it was remembered in their daily prayers and in their dreams.

Myth #2:

Jews have no unique claim to the ancient and holy city of Jerusalem.

         Though both Christianity and Islam have holy sites in the city, the Jewish ties predate that of any other existing religion. King David made Jerusalem the capital of Israel 3,000 years ago 1,700 years before Islam was even founded. Jerusalem never served as even a provincial capital during the centuries of Muslim rule. The entire city is sacred to Jews; only the Dome of the Rock has religious significance to Muslims. Moreover, in the modern era, Jews have been the majority of the population of the city since the 1840s.
         As for freedom of worship, the only period during which all faiths have been free to worship in peace has been since 1967 when the city became unified under Israeli sovereignty.

Myth #3:

The Zionist movement was never prepared to share the land.

         From the very start of the Jewish return to their historic homeland in the late 19th century, it has never been the goal of the Zionist movement to uproot the Arab population or to create a state where only Jews could live. In 1922, the League of Nations Mandate for Palestine was partitioned by Britain, with the east bank of the Jordan River reserved for Arab rule (it eventually become the Kingdom of Jordan), and the area between the Mediterranean and the Jordan being designed as the Jewish National Home. Dating back to the 1930s, every subsequent peace plan that has been proposed involved some sort of partition of the Western portion of Palestine. Though all of these schemes involved painful concessions for the Jews, the leadership of the Zionist movement and subsequently the Jewish state always accepted this principle of sharing the country.

Myth #4:

The lack of an independent Palestinian Arabs state is the fault of the Zionist.

         In 1947, the United Nations approved the partition of Palestine between a Jewish state and an Arab state. The response of the Palestinian Arabs, as well as the rest of the Arab and Muslim world, was a categorical rejection of any scheme that allowed a Jewish state on any part of the land, no matter what its borders might be. No effort was made to set up an independent Arab state in the part of Palestine allotted for that purpose. In the aftermath of Israels War of Independence, in which it repelled the invasion by five Arab armies, the West Bank, Gaza and half of Jerusalem, were left in Arab hands. But for the next 19 years when these territories reminded under Arab control, there was never any consideration given to creating an Arab state there. On the contrary, the focus of the Arab world was on extinguishing the fledgling state of Israel that existed in the truncated borders left by the 1949 armistice lines.
         In the years after the 1967 war, Israel has maintained a willingness to negotiate a peace deal based on the concept of “land for peace.” Indeed, at Camp David in July 2000 and the following January at Taba, Egypt, Israel offered the Palestinians a state in these lands as well as part of Jerusalem. The answer from Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was “no,” and he followed up that refusal by launching a terrorist war of attrition that resulted in over a thousand Jewish deaths and even more suffering on the part of his own people.

Myth #5:

The plight of Palestinian refugees is a special case of dispossession that must  be redressed by international action.

         In the aftermath of World War II, millions of refugees were created by the partition of India, the re-drawing of the map of Europe, as well as by the war brought on by the Arab refusal to accept the UNs partition of Palestine. Only in the case of Palestinians who fled their home during the course of Israels War of Independence, was there a failure to re-settle the refugees. The Palestinian refugees, whose exit from the country was caused more by a general fear of the war sweeping over the land than by any action on the part of the Israelis, were the only refugees who were kept in camps and not allowed to integrate into the populations of the Arab countries that received them. They were kept homeless as a means of maintaining the illusion that the creation of Israel could be undone. Subsequent generations of this population have been raised in these camps and inculcated in an irredentist ideology whose premise is the rejection of any Jewish state. They remain the wards of a UN agency (the United Nations Relief Works Agency) that is devoted to perpetuating their status as refugees at a cost of billions of dollars on international aid.
         On the other hand, several hundred thousand Jews living in Arab countries were evicted from their homes during this same era and forced to flee to safety in Israel or the West where they were integrated into society.

Myth #6:

The occupation of eastern Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan Heights in 1967 was the result of an Israeli war of aggression.

         In May 1967, Egypt launched a blockade of Israels southern port of Eilat. Egyptian and Syrian forces massed on Israels borders. Egypt demanded, and got, the UN peacekeeping force that separated their army from Israel in the Sinai, to withdraw. Egyptian dictator Gamal Abdul Nasser and other Arab leaders told their peoples that they would soon launch a battle of annihilation that would result in Israels destruction. When international diplomacy failed to get the Arabs to back down, Israel decided that it would not wait to be attacked and launched a defensive war to forestall the Arab assault.
         After the war ended in a sweeping Israeli victory, Israel stated its willingness to make peace, but an Arab summit conference a month later answered with three nos. No peace. No recognition. No negotiations.

Myth #7:

Jewish settlements are the main, if not the sole, obstacle to peace in the Middle East.
  Though many legal sources claim that Jewish settlements in the West Bank are illegal, the fact remains that the right of Jewish settlement in those lands was guaranteed by the Mandate for Palestine of the League of Nations. This territory was never part of any other sovereign state and its final legal status is subject to negotiations that must be concluded between the competing parties. Until such time as there is a peace accord, which gives one side or the other sovereignty in this territory, it is inaccurate to refer to this land as belonging to one side or another.
         Twice before, Israel has shown a willingness to uproot Jewish communities for the sake of peace: in the Sinai (given back to Egypt in the 1979 Peace Treaty) and in Gaza (from which Israel withdrew unilaterally in 2005). The existence of settlements in these areas is no bar to a peace deal under which they might be withdrawn.

Myth #8:

The failure of the Oslo peace process was the result of actions by hard-line Israeli governments.
      The Oslo process was embraced by Israel in the hope that an offer of land would be met with genuine peace. However, the result of years of negotiations and various Israeli withdrawals has not been peace. From the start of the Palestinian Authority rule in the West Bank and Gaza in 1994, Palestinian leadership has encouraged terrorism against Israel and fomented hatred against the Jewish state while “peace education” is promulgated in Israeli schools. Throughout the 1990s as Israel signed several agreements that gave the Palestinians more autonomy, the corrupt PA leadership continued to tolerate and even fund terror groups. In 2000, Yasser Arafat refused Israels offer of a Palestinian state in virtually all of the West Bank and Gaza as well as part of Jerusalem and lunched the terror offensive known as the Second Intifada.
         Though all Israeli governments have at times, been forced to reply with force to terrorist attacks from Gaza, Lebanon and the West Bank, all have stated a willingness to negotiate a peace. Today the Palestinians are split between the Palestinian Authority led by Mahmoud Abbas which is too weak to make peace and Hamas, the rulers of Gaza, who reject it under any circumstances. Both factions reject the legitimacy of a Jewish state.  

Jonathan S. Tobin

He is executive editor of Commentary magazine, the premier monthly journal of opinion, ideas and literature. He can be reached via e-mail at:  

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