Does permitting non-Jews to serve in parliament seem like a veneer? Does granting university places to Arab students in proportion to the Arab size in the general population seem like a veneer? Or perhaps you think that, at some future date, Arab graduates will have their brains sucked of everything they have learned? Or that all the votes that have been cast by Arabs will be taken back as if in a magic trick? What non-Jewish elements do you mean? Be precise, and demonstrate whether the severe discrimination you speak of is state-ordained or simply the sort of discrimination that one can find in any country.
No, it is in part state-ordained (see the list above)
Is Israeli discrimination more severe than that found in Iran, Saudi Arabia or Sudan, to give three examples?
See (1) above.
I think that last comment – ‘for the time being’ – unnecessary and cynical. Israel has consistently improved conditions for Arabs, both Christians and Muslims, since 1948, and I am unaware of any sense in which circumstances for non-Jewish Israelis have gone into reverse in that period, in fact I know for a fact that they have improved to the point where Israel’s Arabs enjoy better livelihoods, working conditions, and general living conditions than their brethren in most other Arab countries. Do you really think that the countries responsible for the misnamed ‘Arab Spring’ or for the tyrannical regimes that preceded and succeeded those upheavals have anything, the slightest thing, to teach Israel about how to conduct its affairs and treat its citizens well? Egypt kills Coptic Christians, persecutes them, burns down churches; Libya is full of intolerance; Lebanon sees a widening rift between Christians, Sunnis, and Shi’is, while refusing Palestinians the right to work in over seventy professions; Syria piles intolerance upon intolerance. There is now a mass exodus of Christians from the Middle East. But in Israel the Christian community is still growing after 65 years. Can you really say that any of this is evidence that Israel deserves to be criticized by you or anyone else, while a country like Iran, that allows the demands of religious extremism make life a misery for most of its citizens. In my earlier e-mail, most of which you have ignored, I drew attention to a key fact, that Israel is the only country in the Middle East (and as far afield as the Muslim world in its entirety) that not only tolerates the Baha’i religion but encourages it to the point of running its international affairs from Haifa and possessing beautiful buildings and gardens, while all Baha’i properties in Iran were turned to rubble long ago. Why would a country that stands out in so many ways be your choice to find fault with? If you truly care about human rights, why on earth aren’t you picketing the Iranian embassy, the Libyan embassy. The Egyptian embassy or (some years ago) the Syrian embassy or the Saudi embassy. Those are countries that really do make life impossible for their non-Muslim (and many of their Muslim) citizens. Their breaches of human rights are egregious and well known. Yet you bother about Israel, a country I for one would be more than happy to live in, even though I’m not a Jew.
See (1) above.
But you speak of Israeli government policy in the West Bank, and that it is this you find severely discriminatory. No doubt there is much to be deplored. Life in the West Bank cannot hope to be normal, given the very nature of the occupation and the sort of society that has been created there by political and religious leaders. But I think you miss something very basic in your portrayal of Israel and the West Bank – context.
Indeed, context is very important. And the most important context, in my opinion, is that Israel was created by an act of ethnic cleansing, in which approx 700k Palestinians were driven out of their homes, and shot if they tried to return to their homes or harvest their crops. You are framing the issue as one of confrontation between Israel and the neighbouring Arab states. But that is not the essential conflict. The conflict is between Zionist jewish immigrants (mostly arrivals during the 1900's) and the indigenous population, who have been there since time immemorial (and probably in large part descendants of converted Jewish populations in ancient times). Unsurprisingly, and entirely predictably, the indigenous population have resisted, and will continue to resist, the robbery of their land and resources. That is the context that needs addressing.
Looked at without context, conditions in the West Bank must seem arbitrary and unnecessary. But the picture changes greatly once context is allowed to play a part in the argument. It would be absurd to believe that Israel, which strives hard to treat its Arab citizens well and to promote their well-being through education, the use of Arabic alongside Hebrew as a national language, the protection of Muslim and Christian Arab holy places, and the arrest of Jewish racists who harbour ill-will towards Arabs it seems absurd to think the same government would arbitrarily decide to treat West Bank Arabs harshly. That would make no sense at all, surely. The situation in the West Bank has brought much opprobrium on Israel and tarnished its reputation internationally. In the long run, Israel knows that the West Bank will in the end be given over to its Arab population as the basis for a future Palestinian state.
I disagree profoundly with that judgement. The clear evidence on the ground is that Israel intends to retain complete command of the useful bits of the West Bank (water resources and major historical sites). It is proceeding to do that by erecting settlements, walls, and Jews-only roads which divide up the country into small enclaves (essentially prison camps) in which a limited amount of self-government is permitted for non-Jews. There is no prospect of Israel permitting the formation of a viable Palestinian state. The situation in the West Bank is extremely harsh. A glance at some of the case histories documented by B'Tselem (http://www.btselem.org/) should be sufficient.
So why on earth wouldn’t it pull out now or at least be nice to the Palestinians?
You are wrong to imply that all Israeli treatment is severely discriminatory. Every year, Israel treats many thousands of Palestinians in its own hospitals. They are not discriminated against at all. They sleep on the same wards as Jews, they are operated on in the same operating rooms by the same surgeons, and for the most part they go home with very favourable opinions of the hospital staff, the first Israelis many of them will have met. Every year, Israel provides 30 million cubic metres of water to the Palestinian Authority (and 70 million to Jordan). Every year, hundreds of Palestinian children are given heart transplants through an Israel charity, Save a Child’s Heart. Under Israeli occupation, the West Bank economy has grown at a terrific rate, quite unlike the case in Hamas-occupied Gaza. Here’s something from a 2011 report by the Washington Institute:
‘Following the establishment of Prime Minister Salam Fayad's government in 2007, the West Bank witnessed rapid GDP growth each year through 2010, including a 12% spike in 2008, 10% in 2009, and 8% in 2010. The IMF attributes this growth to donor aid, improved security conditions, decreased Israeli restrictions on movement, and private-sector confidence due to good management by the Palestinian Authority (PA). In dollar terms (at constant 2004 prices), West Bank GDP climbed from $3.3 billion in 2007 to $4.4 billion in 2010, while per capita GDP went from $1,580 to $1,924, an increase of 22%. The growth looks even better when viewed over a longer period: in 2010, West Bank GDP was 50% higher than in 2000, and 124% higher than in 1994.’
Could that have been achieved under a policy of severe discrimination?
Answer: yes. Its not too surprising. All sorts of horrors, eg slavery, are often quite good for the economic figures.
But let’s get back to context. How familiar are you with the historical background to the present situation?
You will, I’m sure, know all about the way Israel was created, how the United Nations awarded two states, one to the Jews and one to the Arabs.
This was done without consulting the local population and was a collosal mistake. A small minority of the population was awarded 50% of the land, without taking into account the views of the others. We live with the legacy.
Of course, the British had already given away a large tract of the future Jewish homeland when it created Jordan, but in the end it all boiled down to two states. Exactly the same thing as everybody’s ‘twin state solution’ today. The Jews took what they were given and were invaded by five Arab countries. The Arabs refused to establish a state unless it included the entirety of mandate Palestine. The rest is history. The Arabs have fought several wars to drive the Jews out of the region, they have openly stated (if we want to talk about explicit policies) a catch-all doctrine of ‘No negotiations with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no peace with Israel’. Would it make your life easy if your research partners adopted such a policy? The Arabs have turned down more generous peace offers down the years than any beleaguered people in history. And Mahmoud ‘Abbas still says there can be no Jews in a future Palestinian state, while insisting in Arabic that Israel will be wiped out and replaced by a greater Palestine. These are not easy conditions in which to work for peace.
Israel defines itself as a "Jewish state", and states that Jerusalem is the undivided capital of Israel - an attitude calculated to enrage 1.5bn muslims. I am not sure of the situation now but partners in the previous Likud government advocated a greater Israel including all of present-day Jordan. I believe that the new star of Israeli politics (Benny something) runs on a popular platform that there will be no Palestinian state. The consequence of that is either permanent apartheid, or expulsion of the Palestinians. No, these are not easy conditions in which to work for peace.
But until the Palestinians agree to make peace with Israel (as Egypt and Jordan have done), Israel simply cannot pull out of the West Bank. It has already pulled out of Gaza, with disastrous consequences for both sides. Why would Israel wish further violence upon itself?
Because Israel cannot be a democracy (even in the limited sense of a Jewish state) if it continues to rule over another non-Jewish people against their will. So Israel has to make peace. Seriously. Not trying to get away with talk of peace while transparent land robbery continues. Everyone sees through the charade.
And it is the violence that lies behind the sometimes harsh conditions imposed on West Bank Palestinians. You cannot take the violence out of the equation. It is the overriding context. The Jews do not undertake their obligations in the West Bank lightly or gratuitously. Under the Balfour Declaration adopted in the San Remo Agreement, and also under the cession of sovereignty under Article 95 of the Treaty of Sèvres, there is a limitation on the political rights of the Jews. They are prohibited from impairing the civil or religious rights of non-Jews when they exercise sovereignty. But no nation on earth can give up its right to self-defence. Palestinian culture, on the other hand, will not give up its right to aggression. Calls for jihad, praise of ‘martyrs’ (i.e. suicide bombers), threats to kill Jews because they are beasts or viruses or cancers are a staple of Palestinian TV, of mosque sermons, and of political speeches in Arabic. And over the years since the 1920s, violence directed against Jews and Israelis has been fierce, regular, ruthless, and deeply destructive. The two intifadas killed thousands of Israelis and destroyed entire families.
Lots of violence on both sides, sure. But you surely know that Israel has killed approx 7 times as many Palestinians as the inverse.
Hence the checkpoints, patrols, separate roads and the checks on a people many of whose young men and women are devoted to violence. I could continue at length in describing Palestinian terrorism, but I’m sure you don’t have that much patience, so I’ll focus instead on a single instance, from which you may draw broader conclusions.
In December 2004, Wafa al-Biss, a young Palestinian woman from Gaza was treated for severe burns at Beersheva’s Soroka Medical Centre. She remained in hospital till January 2005. In the following June, she had to return to the hospital for further treatment. On her way to Beersheva, she had to pass through a checkpoint, where she was found to be carrying a 22-pound bomb strapped to one leg. She tried to detonate it there and then, but was prevented. After several years in prison, she was released as part of the deal freeing terrorists for Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Schoolchildren awaited her on her return home, and she said to them ‘I hope you will walk the same path we took and God willing, we will see some of you as martyrs.’ That is fiendish beyond all human expectation. Wafa al-Biss planned to detonate herself among the doctors and nurses who had saved her life, and among as many children as possible. Do you think checkpoints are mere discrimination? Wafa is not the last Palestinian stopped wearing a suicide vest and planning to gain access to a hospital, to a hospital where Israel doctors and nurses treat ailing Palestinian entirely without discrimination. Checkpoints and other restrictions that are imposed on the denizens of the West Bank are entirely self-inflicted. It is all about security. Violence and security, twin contexts for restrictive treatment. It is surely obvious: stop the violence and the preaching of violence and you will be treated like anybody else. I can remember checkpoints vividly in Belfast. Just a short walk through town would take me through several checkpoints manned by the army or the police. It was a restriction, but I never grumbled because I knew why checkpoints were there. Once, almost my whole family was wiped out when a bomb exploded under their train. By pure chance, the train was travelling more slowly than usual. If further restrictions had been suggested, would I or my family have said ‘no’?
I appreciate the personal anecdote and I do understand the difficult situation Israelis are in. But Israel cannot get out of its mess by pretending that it is not to blame. Israel is continuously grabbing more and more land and water by settlements. Jewish thugs are entering Palestinian houses and turfing the family out on the street while the IDF stands and watches. Do you not know this? I do not know which side of the divide you were in N Ireland. But suppose you were a catholic. A protestant gang comes into your family house and throws you and your old mother onto the street. The police stand by and laugh. What do you do? Would you be immune to the call for violent retribution?
You seem to have a lot of time for identifying with the predicament of Israelis, but nothing whatsoever for the (much worse) predicament of Palestinians.
Further down you write that ‘since Israel maintains total military control of all of historic Palestine it should be viewed as a single unit’. Apart from the non-sequitur, this illustrates the gulf between us in terms of academic disciplines. The statement is nonsensical. Israel occupies only a part of what you term ‘historical Palestine’. Put simply, there was never any entity called Palestine between the Roman departure (when it was Syria Palaestina), the Byzantine period and finally the era of the Umayyad and ‘Abbasid empires and the creation of British mandate Palestine. Under the preceding Ottoman empire, it was regarded as essentially southern Syria, and it was as part of Syria that the Arabs in the 1930s and 1940s wanted to treat it. The British mandate area is the only one relevant to present claims. It is much smaller than the area of Syria Palaestina, which may be historical but is wholly irrelevant to modern international boundaries. A large part of it was the area handed to the Hashemite Arabs to form Transjordan (now Jordan). Israel is not in military occupation of Jordan. Gaza was at one point occupied by Egypt, but then fell into Israeli hands until 2005, when it was handed back to its Arab residents. Israel is not in military occupation of Gaza. Israel itself is not under military occupation, since it was legally established as a state through the San Remo conference, the League of Nations, and the United Nations. The only area under Israeli occupation is the West Bank, but things are not that simple.
Following the Oslo Accords of 1993, Israel relinquished much of its control over the West Bank. The area is now divided into three sectors. Sector A is totally under Palestinian control and includes 55% of West Bank Palestinians. Area B has Palestinian civilian administration with Israeli security. It includes 41% of West Bank Palestinians. And Area C is under Israeli control but includes a mere 4% of West Bank Palestinians. What this boils down to is that Israel has military control over 4 per cent of all West Bank Palestinians and no control over 96%, nor any over all the Palestinians living in Gaza. So in what sense does it make sense to speak of ‘all of historical Palestine’ (whatever you mean by that) as ‘a single unit’.
Thanks for the history lesson, but it's all pretty irrelevant. The general understanding of the term Palestine is the area between the med and Jordan valley/Dead Sea.
If you mean that the whole of mandate Palestine (minus Jordan) should become a single entity, in other words, one country then I must tell you that that would not only spell the end of Israel, it would almost certainly lead to a genocide of today’s 6 million Jews. Hamas alone have promised that task to themselves, and if you read their Charter, you will see the threat spelled out in stark language. That Charter is readily available online. Here’s a link to a translation (which I recommend) from Yale University:
See above about the situation in Gaza. The horrendous conditions has provided fertile ground for violent extremism there. But the majority of Palestinians in Gaza, including the majority from Hamas, are ready to make an accommodation with Israel. It will certainly not be easy, and a two-state arrangement is almost certainly necessary as an intermediate step. Unfortunately Israel has done everything it can, with its destructive settlement policy, to make a two-state arrangement even more difficult than it would have been.
You say, moreover, ‘the fact that there is a fraction partitioned off in such a way as to have a local Jewish majority and which is favoured with a high degree of democratic rights is not highly relevant, in my opinion’. That is pure bigotry, and I don’t hesitate to say so.
Why this should be bigotry is unknown to me.
Israel was created in the aftermath of the collapse of the Ottoman empire as were Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Jordan, all of which had the same rights (though the Arabs dispensed with democracy pretty quickly). It was created as a home for the Jews, a people who were severely persecuted in Europe, killed in their millions, and treated as second-class citizens in the Islamic world. That was its raison d’être, and it has fulfilled its promise very well indeed. The fact that in this region only the Jewish state knows how to govern itself, functions democratically, provides full freedom for the press, gives opposition parties and anti-Israel NGOs the same rights they would have here is highly relevant. All the Arab states have had exactly the same chance as Israel to lead democratic lives and all have disintegrated into tyranny and religious extremism. That is a very good argument for saying that Israel, not any of its wanton neighbours, should be the model for government across the Middle East. But all the surrounding states spit nothing but the most vicious antisemitism and seek to destroy Israel, with all the good things it has done for mankind.
See above. The conflict is not between Israel and the Arab states, but between Zionist jews and Palestinians.
‘Even these local democratic rights have some severe discriminatory aspects such as the “law of return” which is racially based and inhumane.’ The international community created Israel as the world’s only Jewish state.
True. But this was done without consultation, and against the wishes, of the inhabitants of the area.
Fine. I do not have a problem with that. But Palestinians who were expelled from that same place must also have a right of return. In fact they already have a right of return, enshrined in the Geneva conventions and numerous UN resolutions. The problem is that Israel and its supporters block its implementation.
The result is that a Russian who can rustle or bribe through some papers stating 1/4 Jewish ancestory on his mothers side can arrive in Israel and claim citizenship, while my friend in Southampton, who has the keys and the legal deeds to his family's house in Majdal Askalan (now Ashkelon), cannot cross the borders.
I do not challenge your right to criticize Israel. But you carry that criticism into irrational and prejudiced territory. I have asked you to examine real facts about Israel, but you come back to me with surmises and inaccuracies. Your profession drives you to do better than that. To visit Israel with open eyes. See fault by all means, but do not load your criticism with existential weight, do not call for the extinction of one of the best, most creative, most human rights focused countries in the world – for such I hold Israel to be.
I do not call for the extinction of Israel. On the contrary, I think that a wise Israeli government would immediately withdraw the settlements, agree to implement UN resolutions, allow the refugees to return or be compensated, and allow the formation of a truth and reconciliation committee on the S African lines in which the crimes of both sides will be aired and defused. A secure Palestinian state would be set up alongside a secure Israel. I think that is surprisingly likely. My experience of Israelis and Palestinians has made me realize that the two peoples are astonishingly similar.
In the fullness of time I would hope that the two states merge into a single democratic entity.
Thank you, Malcolm, for taking the trouble to read so far, and for your patience in engaging in what has become a protracted debate. If you want to take this further, I’m game for more. And if you think we have reached a point beyond which further discussion is pointless, as you have suggested, well at least we have both tried. Keep well and don’t inhale too many toxic substances.