By Stuart Littlewood
Have you read this in the Wall Street Journal?
It is not difficult to figure out why the Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee feels he has to write such nonsense. The real puzzle is why a publication with the standing of the Wall Street Journal feels the need to print it.
• "No universities existed in the West Bank until Israel opened them after the 1967 war," claims Mr Harris.
This will surprise the Vatican and many Catholics in the US. The first university in the West Bank was Bethlehem, opened in 1973 by the De La Salle Christian Brothers with the co-operation of the Vatican’s Congregation for Oriental Churches. It has been closed at least 12 times by the Israeli invader and shelled by Israeli tanks. Its staff and pupils are continually harassed by the Israeli occupation forces.
Birzeit became a university in 1975 after offering first and second year university courses while still a college. It too has suffered repeated closure by the Israeli occupation. In 1988 Israel shut it down for 51 months (until 1992) and the university had to operate underground, off-campus, with students taking up to 10 years to complete their degree. Can you see the good folks of Harvard, Yale, Brandeis, etc, sitting still for that kind of abuse?
And, just to be bloody-minded, Israel won’t allow students from one part of Palestine, Gaza, to attend university in another part, the West Bank, even though the two territories are considered continguous under international law. War on students is part of Israel’s obnoxious policy mix.
• "There was no Palestinian state before 1967. The West Bank was in Jordanian hands…"
I often hear this. So what? Before 1948 there was no Israeli state and the West Bank was in British hands. Before that it belonged to the Ottoman Turks. What is Mr Harris trying to tell us? That the native Palestinians were somehow responsible for what happened to the Jews in Europe and the Soviet Union, that their land was forfeit – up for grabs, ripe for the picking – and it was OK to expel them?
In 1948 the Jews declared statehood pretending to accept the UN Partition Plan’s over-generous allocation of Arab lands, but they had already embarked on a terror campaign to grab more. They ethnically cleansed some 700,000 Palestinians at gun-point. One of the hundreds of villages whose Palestinian inhabitants were put to flight was Najd, on which the Israelis built their township of Sderot… whose Jewish inhabitants everyone is supposed to feel sorry for.
They even stole Jerusalem, which the United Nations had designated an "international city". The Old City is actually part of East Jerusalem, which is Palestinian territory; but Israel wants it all and the dispossession, annexation and Juda-isation continues at an ever-increasing pace.
• "Israel has recognized the legitimacy of Palestinian statehood as a result of negotiations."
Instead of enforcing international law, implementing UN resolutions, ending the illegal occupation and restoring to Palestinians their lands and rights, the international community created an outrageously tilted playing field and set up ‘negotiations’ between a strong party (the nuclear-armed occupying power) and a weak party (an occupied people living under cruel military rule). Now, while the occupation continues, Israel’s Western stooges want to sit the helpless Palestinians down once again to bargain with their tormentor for their freedom.
As before, these lopsided negotiations are intended to pressure the Palestinians into abandoning their rights under international law and settling for far less than they are entitled to… in other words, accepting a pseudo-state made up of shredded remnants with little or no control over its borders, no security, no means of defence and submitting to perpetual Israeli control. The situation is plainly immoral and back-to-front.
“Just as there is currently no parity in the field of confrontation, there is also no parity around the negotiating table,” says Hamas chief Khaled Meshaal. Negotiations serve only Israel.
How can there be peace without justice? So law and justice first, please, Mr Harris.
• "Have the Palestinians similarly accepted the legitimacy of Jewish sovereignty?"
Does anyone seriously expect Palestinians to recognise a state whose jackboot is on their throat? Israel has ethnically cleansed and confiscated Palestinian lands and water resources and obliterated Arab heritage. It has deposited more than 500,000 Jewish “settlers” on the Palestinian territory it illegally occupies with the clear intention of making the occupation permanent. For this reason Israel refuses to declare its borders. Moreover, the regime is a habitual violator of Security Council resolutions being in flagrant breach of over 30 dating back to 1967.
Meshaal has said: “We refuse to recognise the legitimacy of Israel because we refuse to recognise the legitimacy of occupation and theft of land.” Such recognition would be inconsistent with international law and human values. He also said they would accept Israel’s status (which does not amount to formal recognition) within its 1967 borders. “We just don’t want to give Israel the legitimacy for having taken our land in the first place,” he told an interviewer.
For their part Hamas would be happy to build a Palestinian state within the internationally recognised 1967 lines. This from the Palestinian Resistance won’t be music to the ears of Mr Harris, Israel’s American minders or their British government poodle, but it’s perfectly in line with international law and Palestinian rights. Israel just won’t accept it.
Credibility Gap Gets Wider and Wider…
Here in the UK, the Advertising Standards Authority insists that communications messages must be "legal, decent, honest and truthful". I imagine the American Association of Advertising Agencies too condemns false, misleading or exaggerated claims. These standards should also apply to editorial.
Does the American Jewish Committee pass the ‘decent, honest and truthful’ test? On its website the AJC expresses deep disapproval of an American Christian group, Kairos USA, for endorsing a Palestinian Christian document "demonizing Israel".
According to Rabbi Noam Marans, AJC’s director of Interreligious and Intergroup Relations, “the original Kairos document did nothing to advance peace. People of goodwill recognise that direct negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis are the only way sustainable peace will be achieved”.
Would people of goodwill really put arm-twisting ahead of compliance with international law? I don’t think so. And whatever those bent ‘negotiations’ are designed to achieve, it isn’t justice.
The rabbi also says that Kairos USA aims to change American understanding of the history and complexity of the Middle East. The Christian group’s goal is not peace but "the undoing of Israel".
The document he complains about – the Kairos Palestine Document – is the Christian Palestinians’ message to the world asking the international community to stand by the Palestinian people, who have faced oppression, displacement and apartheid for more than six decades, and work for a just peace in the Holy Land.
This hard-hitting document declares that the military occupation of Palestine “is a sin against God and humanity” and any theology that legitimizes the occupation “is far from Christian teachings”. Zionists naturally don’t like the way Kairos alerts the world to the fact that Jerusalem is still being emptied of its Palestinian citizens, their identity cards confiscated and their homes demolished and/or expropriated, and that the city of reconciliation has become a city of discrimination and exclusion, and a source of struggle rather than peace.
And they probably squirm at the way it hits out at Israel’s contempt for international law and international resolutions, and the paralysis of the international community.
The Kairos document and a report called ‘Justice and Peace for Palestine’ (discussed recently by the Methodist Church) both conclude that the occupation of Palestine by Israel is the main obstacle to security and peace. Israeli settlements on Palestinian soil are of course illegal under international law. Furthermore Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, as Israelis and their pimps in the international corridors of power know perfectly well, forbids an occupying power from transferring parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies. But Israel is allowed by the ‘Big Boys’ to continue doing it.
Kairos USA therefore urges Christians in the US to press their government for a foreign policy that shows a commitment to justice for both Israelis and Palestinians. “We urge all Americans to support political candidates who do the same".
What’s wrong with that?
How Far Does Israel’s ‘Right to Exist’ Extend?
The AJC’s swipe at Kairos echoes last year’s big grumble by The Board of Deputies of British Jews, who complained that the document didn’t acknowledge Jewish connections with the land of Israel. But the Israelis’ programme of dispossession and demolition disregards the Arabs’ ownership of the same land.
The BoD also criticised British Methodists for quoting Kairos in their decision to support a boycott of Israeli goods. Again the hypocrisy is breathtaking considering that Israel relentlessly strangles Palestine’s trade and has choked off Gaza from the outside world.
"Kairos is unhelpful,” moaned Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg. “It fails to mention the violence unleashed towards Israel from before its very inception… It does not acknowledge the effect of acts of terror carried out in the heart of civic life… and by thousands of rocket attacks from Gaza."
What is the good rabbi talking about? Israeli forces inflict terror every day on Palestinian civic life. Yes, they complain loudly about the garden-shed rockets from Gaza and will tell you the exact number. But do they keep count of the number of state-of-the-art bombs, rockets and shells fired into Gaza by their tanks, jets, helicopter gunship, armed drones and navy warships? And the resulting mega-deaths and wholesale destruction of key infrastructure, much of which was paid for by us Western taxpayers?
Has he ever mentioned the evil work of Jewish terror gangs in the run-up to Israeli independence?
Today, few people flying in to Ben Gurion airport (which serves Tel Aviv) realise that it was formerly Lydda airport. During the British mandate Lydda was a major town and designated Palestinian in the Partition. In July 1948 Israeli terrorist troops shot up the town and drove out the Arab population, Muslims and Christians alike. Donald Neff tells how, in an orgy of ethnic cleansing, the Israelis massacred 426 men, women, and children. 176 of them were slaughtered in the town’s main mosque. For the lurid details see Palestine Remembered.
Out of the 19,000 residents only 1,052 were allowed to stay. The remainder were forced to walk into exile in the scalding July heat leaving a trail of bodies – men, women and children – along the way.
The bloody assault on Lydda was witnessed by two American news correspondents. One recorded that "practically everything in their way died. Riddled corpses lay by the roadside." The other wrote that he saw "the corpses of Arab men, women and even children strewn about in the wake of the ruthlessly brilliant charge".
Then the looting: Israeli troops reportedly carried away 1,800 truck loads of Palestinian property. Jewish immigrants flooded in and Lydda was given a Hebrew name, Lod.
It can be argued that Israel has no legitimate right to Lydda/Lod/Ben Gurion airport – it was stolen in a murderous terror raid as were so many other Palestinian towns and villages. But keep it under your hat. Rabbi Noam Marans wouldn’t want American understanding of the situation, so carefully shaped and nourished by the pro-Israel lobby, to change.
As long as the Israel defies the codes of civilised conduct and denies millions their freedom its right to exist is bound to be challenged. If only the regime had behaved decently, honestly and truthfully from the start, things would have been so different.
And so would the prospects for world peace.
– Stuart Littlewood’s book ‘Radio Free Palestine’ can now be read on the internet by visiting www.radiofreepalestine.org.uk. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.