HRC Op-Ed in IPolitics: "Maybe Israel Isn’t Behind the Middle East’s Despair"

In our latest IPolitics commentary, HRC Regional Director Michelle Whiteman takes IPolitics contributor Paul Adams to task for claiming that Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is “deeply committed to a negotiated peace” whereas according to Adams, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is uninterested in peace talks. HRC sets the record straight about Adam’s likening Israel with apartheid-era South Africa and his false claim that BDS came out of “despair”.

Our op-ed can be viewed here or immediately below:

Maybe Israel isn’t behind the Middle East’s despair

By Michelle Whiteman | May 15, 2013 8:54 pm | | 0 Comments 

It is understandably a source of frustration for those who seek a peaceful resolution to the decades-old Israeli-Arab conflict when little evidence of progress is forthcoming. Indeed, talks have been frozen for more than two years with, as Paul Adams says in his recent column, little sign of hope. But the cause of peace is neither advanced through frustration alone nor by assumptions which are unsupported by facts.

On what evidence does Mr. Adams claim that the Israeli government is uninterested in negotiations and that Mahmood Abbas is “deeply committed to a negotiated peace”? On what basis does he assume that BDS was started out of “despair”? On what basis does he claim that Jerusalem and the West Bank resemble “apartheid”?

Although the reader is asked to accept the wisdom of the accusations, Mr. Adams does not himself state his case.

The BDS campaign was born of intolerance of a Jewish presence in the Middle East by the Arab League in 1945, a full three years before the State of Israel was created, and 22 years before Israel came to control the territories in 1967 through a defensive war. While BDS is commonly and disingenuously touted as a measure of “despair”, the truth is much more inconvenient. As the anti-Israel activist Normal Finkelstein recently admitted, the point of the BDS campaign is the dismantling of Israel, not a just resolution between Israelis and Palestinians. Evidently, such a clearly stated objective would win few friends among the morally inclined, and thus the BDS mission’s hateful campaign is neatly couched in words such as “just resolution” and “despair”.

Indeed, like the BDS campaign, the campaign to tar Israel with the “apartheid” libel is another strategy which operates on obfuscation. What of the practice of slavery in Saudi Arabia? The hanging of gays in Iran? The persecution of Christians in Egypt or the honour killings of women in Gaza where the demand for gender equality is met with a bullet?

Real apartheid is not on the BDS radar. But Arabs who, poll after poll, affirm they would rather live in Israel as a minority than anywhere else in the Middle East as part of the majority? Apartheid! Indeed, it is Arabs living in Israel that understand best that Israel is the only non-apartheid country in the Middle East, where everyone is equal under the law. This libel does not offend only Israelis. It is an affront to all those who would campaign against real apartheid were they not misdirected by a campaign of disinformation that excels in rhetoric because it lacks truth and substance.

Indeed, the campaign to delegitimize Israel is characterized by inversion. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has openly and repeatedly called for negotiations without preconditions but is, according to Adams, “uninterested in negotiations”. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, on the other hand, is according to Adams, “committed to a negotiated peace” yet refuses to sit at the table without fulfillment of the demands which form the very substance of the negotiations. What about his unequivocal assertion that he would “never recognize the Jewish state”, a central requirement for the resolution of the conflict? Or his assertion that, “if there is an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, we won’t agree to the presence of one Israeli in it”? Mr. Adams does not say.

It is in this context that Mr. Adams interpreted Foreign Minister John Baird’s coffee in east Jerusalem as a trespass on “occupied Palestinian territory”. Except that Jerusalem was divided in 1949 when the Jordanian army invaded and illegally occupied the Eastern part of Jerusalem, liquidated the centuries’-old Jewish community and used Jewish tombstones to pave its roads. Jerusalem has never been a Palestinian capital but it is the ancient capital of the Jewish people who have a historic connection going back more than 3,000 years.

Far from “occupied Pal territory”, the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles signed in 1993 leaves open the status of Jerusalem, which is claimed by both Israelis and the Palestinians and Israel affirms its legal right to Israel and the territories by virtue of the Balfour Declaration, the San Remo Declaration of 1923, the League of Nations instrument, Article 80 of the UN Charter and the laws of conflict. Those who claim trespass of “occupied Palestinian territory” are putting the cart well before the horse.

The just resolution of the Israeli-Arab conflict is impeded by a decades-old intolerance of the Jewish presence in the Middle East. Because rejecting the right to self-determination is unpalatable to a western mindset, this intolerance is disguised through inversions. It is a conflict that is passed off as territorial, but is existential. It masquerades as a concern for “human rights” but ignores true injustice. It heaps selective opprobrium on Israel alone for an impasse in peace talks but overlooks official Palestinian Authority glorification of terrorism and jihad which makes peace anathema.

In meeting an Israeli minister for coffee in East Jerusalem, Baird rejected the Palestinian fiction that Jews have no history or rights in Jerusalem. He showed that being an honest broker means understanding that one cannot abide the systematic denial of the history and rights of the Jewish people. In so doing, our foreign minister upheld the Canadian values of choosing principle over political expediency and tolerance over intolerance.

Michelle Whiteman is the Quebec regional director of Honest Reporting Canada, an organization which monitors media coverage of the Middle East.


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