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I moved from dank, dark North Manchester, U.K. to Karmiel, Western Galilee, Israel in March 2010. It is, believe me, one of the sunniest, loveliest towns on earth. With a background in local Jewish journalism I continue to write freelance. I manage several blogs, have  appeared on Technorati and Blogcritics and now contribute to the online magazine, 'Live Encounters'. My main blog is Alwayswriteagain (http://wwwalwayswriteagain.blogspot.com

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Lies, Damned Lies - and Compromise On Israel!

I wrote yesterday about the boringly perennial round of anti-Israel boycotts in Britain, so it must be time to re-address the continuing problem here in its  globally depressing scale.

Last week the South African University of  Johannesburg failed to engineer an academic boycott of Israel's Ben Gurion University of the Negev. In fact the proposal was thrown out by the university's own faculty senate.

But you wouldn't think so. Stuart Palmer of the Israeli Citizens Action Network warned supporters in his Haifa Diary on Friday:

"Given that the boycott movement depends so heavily on creating the (mistaken) impression that their efforts are gaining momentum all the time (even in this defeat they are claiming victory) ... it is important that the story of this defeat is told as far and wide as possible".


The story by the Associated Press tells what really happened in Johannesburg - which concluded, fairly enough - with the South Africans urging BGU to work with their Palestinian counterparts.

The A.P.'s Jenny Gross reported:

"... Calls for similar academic boycotts to protest Israel's Palestinian policies also have failed in the West. The South African university's faculty senate met Wednesday to vote on the proposal, which had been endorsed by anti-apartheid icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu, but instead accepted a compromise without a vote. They asked Ben-Gurion University to work with Palestinian universities on research projects, and to start the collaborations within six months if it wants to maintain ties with the University of Johannesburg.

"UJ Vice Chancellor Adam Habib said the compromise reflected his institution's values. 'We believe in reconciliation ... we'd like to bring BGU and Palestinian universities together to produce a collective engagement that benefits everyone.' The universities have joint research projects and academic exchanges on biotechnology and water purification".


However a laughably deceitful, if not wholly false account of what happened has also been published by the Ma'an News Agency. The one part which reflected the A.P. version was that about the suggested compromise:

"The University of Johannesburg decided to conditionally sever ties with Israel's Ben Gurion University on Wednesday, the Palestine Solidarity Alliance announced.

"Calls for the break in ties prompted the launch of a fact-finding investigation by the University, which told the university's senate that it had confirmed BGU’s links with the Israeli military and complicity in the Israeli occupation.

"A petition filed by academic groups was backed earlier in September by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, as well as some 250 South African academics, organizers said. The conditional severance includes research or teaching relationships with BGU "that has direct or indirect military links; or in instances where human rights abuses are identified." When violations of the university's charter are identified, the decision said, they will be terminated after six months.

"The decision went further and "recognized the necessity for the University to engage with Palestinian universities," a statement from the petitioners said. UJ Vice Chancellor Adam Habib told Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz that what was decided on in the senate was a compromise, maintaining some ties with the Israeli university, but also pledging to work in parallel to establish ties with Palestinian universities.

"'We believe in reconciliation,' Habib said. 'We'd like to bring BGU and Palestinian universities together to produce a collective engagement that benefits everyone.'

"Petitioners also called the decision a victory, saying 'the overwhelming support of respected South African voices has highlighted the structural complicity of Israeli universities in the occupation,' and added that the decision "emphasizes the necessity for South African universities to reconsider their affiliations to Israeli institutions."

Stuart.Palmer Meanwhile, Stuart has given much space in today's Haifa Diary about global reactions to his post last week. He cites the case of Linda Robb who appears to support "Palestinian propaganda, which can easily demonstrated to be untrue". So he has listed Ms Robb's arguments and sought help in answering them from social media expert Dr Andre Obeler, now in Australia, who answered Ms Robb  point by point.

Dr Obeler believes - after Goebbels - that the propaganda is being spread intentionally and unintentionally, and its effect is to rewrite  history and more recent events. This needs to be addressed both within the Jewish--Israel community and publicly.

Stuart's  original comments are numbered.  Below each point  in red and  italics, are Ms Robb's points of view and below those are  Dr Obeler's answers.

1) The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is absolutely ideological, not territorial.

And that by fact is not true. What the goal of the Arabs has always been is that the pre '67 Borders held to. Actually the fact of the matter Is that the conflict is more territorial than Ideological but it is not 100% either way. The Arabs and the Jews share the Dome of the Rock, skirmishes have taken place and except for the occasional scuffle they share this area in relative peace, albeit a shaky one. Pre 1947 the Arabs and Jews lived in peace.


Dr Obeler - There are, in broad terms, two sides to the Palestinians. The PLO represented a secular left wing ideology (but that has been changing over the last decade) and Hamas represents an Islamist ideology. The PLO could historically consider territorial compromise; it's unclear if that is still the case. For Hamas it is ideological and territory does not come into it. The little bit of room the PLO has to negotiate territorially is tied up politically with ideological issues.

In terms of the red text, that is clearly not true. Let’s start with the word "always". If 1967 borders were the issue, and further, were the issue not just for the Palestinians but for the Arab states, then the attacks prior to 1967 and indeed prior to the formation of the state of Israel, would not have occurred. We have the Arab riots of the 1920s where the primary Palestinian leader (the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem)  urged that the British Mandate of Palestine be included as part of Syria. After his and other speeches "Arab civilians initiated violent riots in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem"[A]. Fatah was founded in 1954 in order to achieve "armed resistance" it was clearly not resistance against the then Jordanian occupation of the west bank. (I'm glossing over the general position of Fatah to Jordan which was hostile, and the Jordanian government drove them out in 1971[B]). The key point is that this argument makes no sense as the conflict pre-dates the occupation.

The Arabs and Jews do not "share" the Dome of the Rock. As the BBC puts it, "the compound is run by the Muslim Waqf authorities under Israeli security control" [C]. This means Israeli troops are used by the Muslim authorities to stop Jews praying there. Jews can visit provided they do not pray. This situation is peaceful so long as the Jews are kept in their place. It is hardly an example of "shared" control working.

Prior to 1947 the Arabs and the Jews did not live in peace. I have already referred to the 1920s. Additionally between 1936-39 there was a full-scale revolt by the Arabs. This was against the Balfour declaration and the commitment for the Jews to have a state.[D] The objection was ideological unless you consider an insistence of no-territory as territorial? 

[A] http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10007666
[B] http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/world/war/israel-terror.htm
[C] http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/middle_east/6967457.stm
[D] http://www.kinghussein.gov.jo/his_palestine.html

2) The settlement issue could have been resolved many years ago (2000, or 2008, for instance) but the Palestinians rejected Israeli offers of viable statehood. It is a fiction that the settlements are the reason there is no peace, and the obsessive focus on them means that the underlying cause of the conflict - ongoing Arab rejection of Israel's sovereign and legitimate rights in the land of Israel - are conveniently ignored.

That is going on the assumption that Israel has a legitimate right to the land to begin with. And the more settlements that are put in place the more land is needed and more Arabs are displaced. The Arabs want the original borders put back...while some radicals call for the total ejection of the Jews the common thought is the borders.  

Dr Obeler: The original statement:

This is correct. More so than it first appears... the agreements that the negotiators worked out (agreed by both sides) had settled this issue to everyone's satisfaction. That the ultimate agreement was not accepted means those agreements during negotiations aren't binding... but it shows agreements are possible and indeed the terms of such an agreement, acceptable to both sides, are known to both sides.

The reaction:

The major problem here is that there are no original borders. The green line was an armistice line, not a border. In any case it was with Jordan not the Palestinians. While Palestinians have claimed the settlements are illegal, there are plenty of legal analyses explaining why this is not correct. They may pose a political difficulty to a later land for peace compromise that needs to see some of them dismantled... but the Gaza withdraw shows that this is not a real problem. This is, as stated, mostly an excuse.

In terms of occupation, please remember the Palestinians have never had a state. As such there is no such thing as "occupied Palestinian land" or indeed the "occupied Palestinian territories". This is an error put about by the Palestinians and UN agencies, established historically by the Arab and Soviet blocks, whose aim is to support the Palestinians. When the task is considered from the point of view of establishing a new state, and accepted (as both sides have done), that it will be roughly along the 1967 green line, but with give and take as needed for security purposes and to take account of populations to minimize transfers (the real meaning of UN resolution 242)... the issues becomes far less complicated. Jerusalem is a complication, but it was annexed to Israel, so is not strictly part of the territories that need to be discussed. If Israel nevertheless decides to discuss Jerusalem that is up to the negotiating teams ... but the outcry on the Israeli side will be huge and I doubt any government would survive such a move. This is used by the Palestinians (and only in recent years) to scuttle negotiations ... by referring to construction freezes in Jerusalem. This is not a serious concern but a tactic.

3) Settlements should be part of a face-to-face diplomatic negotiation - the Palestinians do many things which the Israelis consider to be irreconcilable with long-term peace (education of the youth being just one example), but the Israelis do not walk away from the talks (for instance, the Palestinians still refuse to recognise Israel as a Jewish state with democratic rights for all its citizens).

The unfortunate thing is that the Palestinians see Netanyahu as a traitor and much the same way as we view Obama. And Israel has never recognized Hamas as a duly elected entity...whether they be deemed terrorists or otherwise. They were elected by the people but that has never been how Israel has viewed them. 

Dr Obeler : I don't see what this has to do with anything. I'm sure the Israelis see Abbas as a traitor who has condoned violence etc. It's actually irrelevant.

4) Israel, whether you agree or disagree, implemented the settlement freeze for 9 months (ie from November 2009), and throughout that time the Palestinians refused to come to the negotiating table. The Palestinians eventually entered talks precisely as the Israeli freeze ended in order to bring maximum international pressure on Israel, without the Palestinians having to concede anything.

And I wonder how much more the Palestinians must concede? How much more of their land needs to be taken away to feed the power lust of the International Bankers. What people fail to realize is that Israel, the US and the EU all go by the beat of the IB. Israel is no more an independent nation State than the US is, the IB does the talking and the nations do the walking. He who owns the gold makes the rules. So Israel will jump on one end and the Palestinians will jump on the other. I am of the opinion that  there will never be any peace in the Mid East. There is too much money to be made by turmoil from all parties and most especially for the International Bankers.  

Dr Obeler: Original statement: this is not contentious.

The Reaction:

I think the issue of what Palestinians need to give are partly listed above. An end to violence, mutual recognition etc have already been committed to and then not upheld by the Palestinians. You can't negotiate if one side gives something concrete and the other side gives a promise about something that can change at any time ... and then keeps changing its mind about. In this case the Palestinians are not giving any land as they have no land to give. It is Israel that is giving land, in return for promises relating to a lasting peace. You can't easily (legally) take the land back; while you can easily change you mind about peace. This problem is why so many now believe that Land-for-Peace as the basic formula is a failure. Yes, land needs to be given to create a Palestinian state, but the agreement needs to be wider then this with real penalties on the Palestinians if they breach the agreed peace. Also, issues like the Palestinian school books that educate for violence needs to stop immediately so that steps towards peace can be taken. They form a far greater barrier to peace (poisoning minds against it) than issues like settlements that ultimately have political solutions.

The international bankers seem to me to be based on two antisemitic stereotypes. Firstly that Jews control the world's finances. Secondly the conspiracy theories about Jews controlling the world. I know you didn't like to say this to Jews, but this is how this antisemitic propaganda is spread, particularly in the Arab world. It is not only propaganda, but it is propaganda promoting racism. That this enters the discussion at all concerns me.

5. The impression created by some media correspondents, in particular the BBC, was that the end of the moratorium would mean that settlements could expand their current borders or indeed that new settlements could be founded. This is not the case. Settlers are prohibited from building on land beyond the boundaries of their settlements or from starting new settlements.

If the above is indeed true than what are these new settlements we read about? Are all news sources liars or is there another agenda in play here? One needs to follow the money...and who benefits from any current state of affairs. therein lies the answer.

Dr Obeler : There are some building permissions that were granted previously and which have been unable to progress due to the freeze. Jerusalem is a separate issue and permissions there are a municipal issue. So the news source may be conflating two very different things. Finally there may well be some illegal construction... this occurs on both sides. It is often then demolished by the IDF - on both sides.

Another unfortunate thing is all this information is taken from an Israeli site. To get a proper view of any matter at hand but most especially this one, more than one side needs to be posted so that the reader can view for themselves others views on the subject.

Dr Obeler : Actually... it comes from a UK based site run by a lawyer. Not an Israeli site at all. As I have shown above, it is supported by highly credible sources. This does not surprise me given the source the original points came from.

The view that all sources are equal is very post modern and is often misused to show that truth is relative. Truth doesn't work that way, neither does history. The Palestinians have been huge proponents of relativism and narrative in place of facts and history. A narrative is fine to understand someone's perspective, but it should not be dealt with in isolation or in place of the facts.




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