History, Maps, Glossary
Counter-Rhetoric: Reframing the Conflict

Counter-Rhetoric: Challenging “conventional wisdom” & reframing the conflict
by Emily Schaeffer, Jeff Halper & Jimmy Johnson
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Table of Contents

Reframing The Conflict 

Challenging “Conventional Wisdom”
    1947-49 Wars 
    Arabs, Terrorism & Security: No Solution
    Illegitimacy of Criticism/Anti-Semitism
    The Nature of Israel 


Counter-Rhetoric: Reframing The Conflict

When it comes to resolving conflicts such as that pitting Israeli Jews against Palestinian Arabs, framing is more important than the facts.  Everyone agrees that around 3500 Palestinians and more than 1000 Israelis have been killed in the four years of the second Intifada (September 2000-2004).  For most Israelis, however, the Israelis were victims of terror while the Palestinians were terrorists or unfortunate (but unavoidable) casualties, with no distinction made between combatants and civilians.  For most Palestinians, their dead were casualties of a struggle for independence and victims of Israeli state terror, while the Israeli dead were the unfortunate victims of their government’s repressive policy of Occupation that left the Palestinians little choice.  These are not minor differences.  They embody fundamentally divergent perceptions and assumptions regarding the nature of the conflict, determining in the end what solutions are or are not possible.

All Israeli governments, be they Labor or Likud, have successfully promoted a framing based solely on security.  Israel, the official framing goes, is a tiny, peace-loving country, a Western democracy besieged by a sea of Arabs intent on destroying it, embroiled in an existential fight for its survival in which it acts only out of self-defense.  Missing from Israel’s security framing is the very fact of occupation, which Israel both denies exists and excises from all its utterances.  Instead, it casts itself as an innocent victim of “Arab terrorism.” 

This framing, compelling and making great sense in the post-9/11 discourse of “security,” nevertheless conceals other elements of the framing not related to security and not stated explicitly: That the entire country between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River “belongs” exclusively to the Jews, thus nullifying any Palestinian rights and claims — indeed, even their even their existence as a people; that “security” requires Israeli control over the entire country, thus eliminating the possibility of any truly viable and sovereign Palestinian state; that one side must win and the other lose, rendering impossible a just peace based on human rights, international law, reconciliation and regional integration; and a rejection of the Middle East in favor of integration — culturally, politically and economically, if not physically — into the Western world. 

While security is certainly a legitimate concern for Israel as it is for other countries, accepting its exclusively security-based framing means ruling out the possibility of a just and sustainable peace with the Palestinians.  As Israelis who believe that Israel’s security, survival and moral integrity depend upon reaching an accommodation with its neighbors, we do not find this an acceptable option.  In fact, we reject the official framing altogether.  Our reading of the history of the region and of Zionism, our understanding of how and why Israeli policy is made in
regards to the Occupation and our experiences with our Palestinian partners and friends lead us to very different conclusions, to a very different framing.

The reframing suggested here seeks to address the underlying causes of the conflict between Israel, the Palestinians and the wider Arab world while offering ways out.  It might be called a “post-Zionist” approach because the critical Israeli peace camp (“to the left of Peace Now,” as we sometimes refer to ourselves) understands that an expanding Jewish state plumped in the middle of a country already inhabited by another people poses fundamental problems of co-existence, human and civil rights, self-determination and justice.  It rests on the principle that two peoples live in Israel-Palestine, each possessing rights of self-determination yet capable of finding ways to co-exist.  At a minimum it endorses a two-state solution, yet it is open to others as well: the creation of a common bi-national or democratic state encompassing both peoples, a regional confederation, or any other arrangement that respects the parties’ human and national rights. Indeed, it argues that only a political solution conforming to human rights and international law will finally meet each people’s concern for justice and security. 

Since it also recognizes the strong and vital cultures of both peoples, the alternative human
rights framing relies less on attempts to carve out distinctive Jewish or Palestinian states — an impossible task in a country in which the peoples are so intertwined — as it does on finding a political configuration that affords each its national expression yet preserves the fluidity of residence and movement this shared space requires.

In the end, the reframing offered by the critical Israeli peace camp rejects the fundamental premise of the security paradigm: That Muslims and Arabs as a whole, and Palestinians in particular, are our enemies.  We insist that the conflict be conceived as a political one that therefore has a solution.  We reject all attempts to mystify it through claims that Jews and Arabs have been enemies “from time immemorial” or that we are involved in a “clash of civilizations.”  We also reject the notion that terrorism lies at the root of the conflict.  While we condemn any attack on civilians, we recognize that such violence is a symptom of intolerable oppression that will end only when the peoples’ underlying claims and grievances are resolved.

We also point out that significant gains have been made towards a just solution to the conflict
even though they have been obscured by the violence of recent years.  Both the Palestinians and the Arab League have recognized Israel within the “Green Line” (that is, on 78% of the shared country); Israel is at peace with Egypt and Jordan, has relations with many Arab countries and expanding ties throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds; a promising diplomatic
Road Map has been formulated by the US, Europe, Russia and the UN; a majority of Israeli Jews have indicated a willingness to relinquish the Occupied Territories if their security could be assured; and Israelis and Palestinians have engaged in prolonged negotiations in the past.  At the same time, as Israelis, we hold our country accountable for its actions.  Security concerns aside, we reject the notion of Israel expanding into the Occupied Palestinian Territories, that 22% of the country that offers a displaced and battered Palestinian people its only hope for self-determination.

Our reframing, however, rejects the notion of “both sides.”  While we recognize that the Palestinians and the wider Arab and Muslim worlds possess their share of responsibility, we also recognize the fundamental asymmetry of power between the sides.  Israel is an internationally recognized state possessing overwhelming military and economic might and
allied to the world’s dominant super-power.  It is occupying the lands of a stateless people, impoverished, with no army and little political leverage.
Given that equation we contend that Israel possesses the ability to end the Occupation, the major obstacle to a just peace and regional security, and will do so only when it is brought into compliance with internationally accepted standards of human rights and international law — not to mention Jewish morality and values.  We offer an alternative framing, a win-win approach, upon which a just peace can be built.  Re-framing, we believe, opens possibilities for peace, security, self-determination and co-existence foreclosed by Israel’s security paradigm.  And finally, by presenting a framing that offers a clear and compelling way to a just peace, we aim to empower our partners to more effectively present our common case.  In the end we offer a hope that permanent conflict need not be the lot of the suffering peoples of the Middle East.

Challenging “Conventional Wisdom”

** “The land of Israel belongs to the Jewish people.”

It’s a genuine historical tie but not exclusive. Jews
were the majority in the Land for only some 1,900
of 10,000 years of modern history, and were the
governing authority for even less.  Exclusively
maintaining the land ignores the 21st century reality,
which is one in which Jews have lived outside of
Israel for centuries and must accommodate the
other populations who have lived, and continue to
live here.

For example the Canaanites were the dominant
group for over two thousand years, as were the
Natufians. The Yarmukians were around for some
four thousand years and laid the base for the
agricultural communities that followed.  Jews have
no more, and no less, a right to the land than the
others who have populated land, including the
Arabs (1200 years).1


If Israel is a democratic state, then it belongs to all its
citizens, at least 24% of which are not Jews.

  Out of Israel’s 7,026,000 people, 1.39 million
are Arabs and just over 300,000 are “Other.”  This
means 24% of the Israeli populace is not Jewish.2  If
Israel is a democracy, then it belongs to its citizens
the same as the United States has a Caucasian
and Christian majority but it does not “belong” to
Caucasian Christians.  Even Israel’s Declaration of
Independence states that the country: will ensure
complete equality of social and political rights to all
its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex;
it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience,
language, education and culture; it will safeguard the
Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the
principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

** “The Arabs only came to this country after the Zionists
started to build the country.”

No serious historian, Israeli or otherwise, supports
that myth. The Arabs originally came to this land in
638 under Caliph Umar.

The Christians of Jerusalem surrendered to
the armies of Caliph Umar in 638.  The Arabs
colonized Palestine and over a few centuries
Arabic language and culture became dominant.  

From that time, but for some 88 years of Crusader
rule, until the founding of the State of Israel and
the expulsion of the refugees, the Arabs were the
dominant demographic majority of the area.3  The
myth of Zionist-era Arab migration to Palestine
has been thoroughly refuted by every major
historian familiar with the area.  The population
increase amongst the Arabs began in the 1850’s
as a result of improved medical care provided
by the Ottomans and Christian missionaries.  
There was certainly some immigration, but also
emigration, from that point on but the population
increase amongst Arabs was due entirely to
natural growth.4

** “Jews have a right to self-determination.”

Certainly, but rights are universal so Palestinians
have them too. The same laws and treaties that protect
the Jewish peoples’ right to self-determination also
protect the rights of others.5

** “France wants to maintain its French identity, why
can’t Israel maintain its Jewish identity?”

      “We just want our Jewish state.”

Despite it being perfectly reasonable to question
the basis of the legitimacy of any state, no one in
the international community, or in the Palestinian
leadership, is saying otherwise.  Only that the
Palestinians have an equal right to a Palestinian
state, on Palestinian land, and that Palestinian
citizens of Israel (Arab Israelis) have full civil rights
inside Israel.

The international consensus, since 1967, has
been for a two-state solution based on the 1967
borders.6  Calling for an end to the Occupation
does not require Israel to give up one inch of the
country’s territory.
1947-49 Wars
** “We were under attack in 1948, what else could we do?”

There are laws of war to which all countries are
obliged.  These laws allow for a vigorous and effective
defense but do not allow for human rights violations
against civilians, the expulsion of peoples, or the
acquisition of territory by force.

The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907
were already customary law at the time of
the Palestinian-Israeli and Arab-Israeli wars
that started in 1947.  The subsequent Geneva
Conventions too make clear that Israel (as well
as Jordan), violated international law during the

** “The refugees left voluntarily or under the direction of
Arab commanders.”

This is a popular, but inaccurate, rendition of events.  
But even if it was accurate, Article 13 of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights clearly states: Everyone
has the right to leave any country, including his own,
and to return to his country.


Those who left were the ones who, rather than fight
the Jews, chose to avoid the conflict altogether.  This
may have come about by forcible expulsion, panic
or any other reason, but for all the hyperbole about
pushing the Jews into the sea, the Palestinians in
the refugee camps are the ones who weren’t pushing
anyone anywhere.

The Convention to the Status of Refugees,
Article 1, Part C., clearly outlines what exactly
a refugees is.  The Convention also outlines
the rights of refugees.  This convention, and
even rights of Palestinian refugees specifically,
have been reaffirmed over the years in several
UN Resolutions and legal analysis. 7  For a
more accurate rendition of the expulsion of
the refugees see Benny Morris’ The Birth of the
Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949 and Walid
Khalidi’s All that Remains.

** “There were no massacres.”

Balad al-Sheikh:
31 December 1947 & 1 January 1948.  21-70 killed.8
Deir Yassin: 9-11 April 1948.  100-120 killed.9
Ein al Zaytoun: 1 May 1948.  30-70 killed.10
Al Dawayima: 29 October 1948.  80-100 killed.11
Safsaf: 29 October 1948.  50-70 killed.12
Hula: 31 October 1948 and 1 November 1948.  35-58 killed.13

In addition to these six, Israeli historian Benny
Morris states that eighteen other massacres were
perpetrated by Jewish forces during the Palestinian-
Israeli and Arab-Israeli conflicts between 1947-49.14

** “If events had been turned around, the Arabs would
have massacred us.”

But history was not turned around and we massacred
and expelled many of them.

Most modern readings of the Palestinian-
Israeli conflict of 1947-48 and the Arab-Israeli
War of 1948-49 state that the victory of the
Haganah was essentially assured by the numeric
and qualitative superiority, in both training and
equipment, of the Haganah.15  The only Arab force
that could have threatened the Jewish forces was
Jordan’s Arab Legion, which did not enter into
Israel proper, according to historian Avi Shlaim,
due to understandings reached between the
Israelis and King Abdullah of Jordan.16
** “There is no Occupation. It is disputed territory.”

The same international law that protects the rights
of Israel and gives it the right to defend itself against
hostile attacks, also states that the Israel’s presence
in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza
Strip is a military occupation, and illegal under
international law.

As defined under international law, it’s a
military occupation.  This is the position of the
entire international community and the United
Nations Security Council.  It has been reaffirmed
in court cases before the World Court, the ICJ,
and Israel’s own Supreme Court/High Court of
Justice, and even Ariel Sharon used the word
“Occupation”, if perhaps just once.17

** “The settlements are for security.”

No country can place its civilians in the middle
of hostile territory and reasonably claim it is for

The settlements are merely a way to grab more
land from the Palestinian Territories.  As long
as the settlements are populated with civilians,
Israel can claim that the settlements are for
security only if it assumes the settlements are
unavoidable.  The military presence near Ariel,
for instance, is only explicable in the context
of having a civilian presence there.  There is no
plausible explanation for a military presence
there without Israeli civilians in the area.
Arabs, Terrorism & Security: No Solution
Arabs, Terrorism & Security: No Solution
** “The other Arabs don’t help the Palestinians.”

But for the occasional peace initiative this is largely
true and should lead us to support the Palestinians
all the more for it.

** “Jews and Arabs cannot live together peacefully and/or
never have.”

Then Zionism was a really bad idea!


This is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If either side
approaches the idea with that mindset then of course
it won’t happen.


The vast majority of the histories of the Middle East
and North Africa say otherwise with vibrant Jewish
communities in almost every country but for Saudi
Arabia.  Furthermore, until recently, it was a daily
routine for as many as 150,000 Palestinians to work
in Israel. Even now, there are many close friendships
maintained by Arab and Jewish Israelis living side-
by-side, as well as strong partnerships between
Jews and Palestinians nonviolently working toward

It would be inappropriate to try and gloss over
the anti-Semitism that occurred in many Arab
countries, but it would be equally inappropriate
to paint the history as worse than it actually
is.  The fact remains that when the Jews were
slaughtered in Europe over the centuries, it was
the Muslim world that offered refuge. 

Most of the historical discrimination in Arab countries
came from a time before international standards
of human rights.  One need only look at the Jews
of Tunisia and Morocco today for an example
of the ever-improving situation for those who
struggled through some awful racism into an era
of acceptance and equality.  The analogy would
be to use the situation of whites and blacks in the
American South during the 1950s as proof that
they could never live together in peace.

** “The Arabs have no concept of human rights.”

Even if true, which it is not, this is not a valid
argument.  Should it be proposed that only nations
with certain guaranteed freedoms be allowed to live
without foreign military rule?

It was actually Babylonia, what is now Iraq,
which gave us the Code of Hammurabi, one of
the earliest codifications of laws that defined
individual rights.  It included women’s rights,
slave rights and even protections for animals.18

** “The real problem is the anti-Semitic propaganda that
Palestinians receive since childhood.”

In addition to having the disadvantage of being false,
this is a nothing more than a distraction unless one
thinks that a good education is a prerequisite for
self-determination, human rights and peace.
u While there is clearly a nationalist sentiment
in Palestinian texts, as there is for Israelis, there
is no call for incitement or violence against
Jews or Israelis in the Palestinian Authority’s
curriculum.  The PA has even gone so far as to
ban the posting of “martyr posters” on schools
out of concern that it will encourage violence
amongst the youth.19

** “There are no Palestinians.”

Groups of people define themselves, and even David
Ben Gurion differentiated between the Arabs of
Palestine and the Arabs of other countries.20

** “There are 22 Arab states, why can’t the Palestinians go

There is no justifiable reason for the Palestinians to go
to any other country, especially when the Palestinian
and Israeli states are not mutually exclusive.


This perspective assumes that all Arab/Muslim
states are the same, rather than acknowledging the
wide variety of cultures, foods, customs, dialects
and climates represented by them. According to the
same logic, an Italian should feel right at home in
Finland just because the majority in both countries
are white and Christian.

** “The Palestinians do not want peace.”

It was Israel, not the Palestinians, who had to be
pressured by the first Bush administration to enter
negotiations with the Palestinians at Madrid in 1991.  
The earlier rejection of Madrid was just one of many
rejections Israel had made in response to Palestinian

In June of 1990, in response to Israel’s
unwillingness to meet the PLO, United States
Secretary of State James A. Baker stated,
“everybody over there should know that the
telephone number of the White House is 1-202-
456-1414. When you are serious about peace,
call us.”  The US even went so far as to delay
loan guarantees to Israel in order to bring about
Israeli compliance.21

** “Most Palestinians are terrorists or support terrorists.”

The main reason behind Hamas’ period of “calm” in
2005-2006 was the need to take into consideration
the desires of the general Palestinian populace,
which largely supported the lull and the disarming
of the militant groups.22


Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defines
terrorism as, “the deliberate and systematic assault
on civilians to inspire fear for political ends.”  This
definition would include Israel’s actions against the
Palestinians as well.23

** “The Palestinians will never be satisfied with part of the
land — they want it all.”

It is not the Palestinians, but Israel, who is
confiscating land and colonizing it.  It is Israel, not
the Palestinians, that insists upon retaining the
territory of the other.


In addition to the implicit recognition that came
with various agreements signed with Israel, the
Palestinians have recognized Israel, officially and
publicly, two times, in 1988 and during Oslo.

** “There is no partner for peace.”

If the definition for “peace” is permanent Israeli
control over East Jerusalem, control over the
borders and water resources of the Palestinian state,
etc., then no, there is no partner for that peace.  But
the Palestinian leadership, including Hamas, and
the entire international community are united in
calling for a two-state solution on the 1967 borders,
something Israel is not willing to agree to.

** “The Palestinians rejected Barak’s ‘Generous Offer’ and
then responded in violence.”

It was the Israelis, not the Palestinians, who walked
away from Taba.24

At Camp David, Ehud Barak presented the following:
No Palestinian sovereignty over the Temple Mount,
no Right of Return or any return of refugees to
Israel, Israel’s annexation of large settlement blocs,
an Israeli military presence in other areas, and
effective Israeli sovereignty over the borders of the
future Palestinian state.  These were unreasonable
conditions, conditions that no Palestinian leader
could accept though Arafat proved willing to
negotiate on several of them.25

** “The Palestinians have ruined every possibility of

During the Oslo Process, Israel almost doubled the
size and population of the settlements, creating facts
on the ground that may be irreversible.  This did far
more to damage the long-term prospects for peace
than any of the Palestinians’ mistakes.

** “Even if Israel withdraws, all the Arabs want is to throw
the Jews into the sea.”

Given that Israel’s military retains a significant
qualitative, and in most cases a quantitative,
edge over that of its neighbors, this is an unlikely


Each of Israel’s neighboring states, as well as many
other states in the region, have made repeated
overtures to Israel for peace and integration into
the region as the costs of permanent conflict do not
affect Israel alone.27

** “The Palestinian Authority can’t control its people.  
Until the PA controls terrorism we cannot end the

The Palestinian Authority has only limited authority
and does not even have a national security
infrastructure.  Without sovereignty over it’s own
territory, it is unreasonable to expect the government
to be able to exert influence over it.  To expect this
with no financial resources is even more absurd.

Part of the Oslo Process was the divvying up of
the West Bank and Gaza Strip into Areas A, B and
C, where Israel and the PA would have varying
degrees of authority.  Areas B and C, where Israel
has full security control, carve up the West Bank
into small, isolated cantons, making dependable
travel, transport and other necessary elements
for institutions of order to operate successfully,
essentially unattainable.


Even were the PA able to exert authority, without
resources or sovereignty, it still cannot address the
motive for terrorism, the Occupation.  Only Israel
can do that.

** “The world never receives information about Palestinian
collaborators killed by other Palestinians without
evidence or judicial processes.”

The fact that Israel does not hold a monopoly on
extrajudicial executions of Palestinians has no
bearing on Palestinian self-determination. Likewise,
internal Palestinian failings have no bearing on the
inalienability of their human rights.
** “The Palestinians fare better under the Occupation
than they would under their own PA.”

With the near-constant humanitarian crisis in
much of the Gaza Strip and West Bank this is highly
unlikely and nothing more than speculation.  Even
more important though is that this goes against all
principles of self-determination.

** “The Wall is not a wall, but a fence / The Wall is 85% a

The material that the Wall/Fence/Barrier is made
from is immaterial to the discourse.  Whether it is
made of concrete, barbed wire or chicken wire, it is a
barrier that prevents the Palestinians from accessing
roads, schools, hospitals, courts, family members,
their holy sites, and their capital, East Jerusalem.
Moreover, this same Wall/Fence/Barrier has been
built so as to confiscate large sections of land from
the Palestinian Territories, in contravention of
international law.

** “The Wall is for security.”

The Wall includes over 200,000 Palestinians on the
'Israeli side.'  If the danger comes from Palestinians,
how can this possibly be for security?28

(By “Israeli side” we refer to the land on the Palestinian side of
the Green Line that is cut off from the rest of the West Bank by the
Wall, not the land on the Israeli side of the Green Line.


Israeli government officials have spoken often and
publicly about the both the path of the Wall and the
integration of the settlement blocs into Israel leading
to the conclusion that even if the Wall is for security,
its path is dictated by political considerations.

In December 2005, then Minister of Justice
Tzipi Livni said, “One does not have to be a genius
to see that the fence will have implications for
the future border. This is not the reason it was
built, but it could have political implications.”  In
February of 2006, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert
stated, “We will hold on to the main settlement
blocs,” all of which are on the “Israeli side” of the


Had the Wall been built on the Green Line, it wouldn’t
even be controversial.

** “The Wall is temporary.”

On the “Israeli side” of the Wall, large swaths of
land have been expropriated and settlements are
being expanded.  Even if the Wall itself is temporary,
the facts established on the ground may be

** “If we take down the Wall, there will be more attacks/
Gaza is a testament to the effectiveness of a wall.”

Since The Wall has gone up, there has actually been
in increase in attacks.  Despite declining numbers
in casualties since 2002, in 2005 there were more
attacks, and more civilian deaths, than in 2000, two
years before the Wall was first proposed.

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has on
its website data related to the number of attacks
by Palestinians against Israelis.  They include in
their data on terrorism attacks against Israeli
soldiers inside the Palestinian areas.  The data
available on the website show dramatic increases
in attacks from 2000-2002, then a period of
decline afterwards in the numbers of deaths,
but not the numbers of attacks except in 2005,
when Hamas, the most active group, declared
a “calm” and largely adhered to it.  Despite the
decline since 2002, the rate of attacks remains
higher than it was in 2000, three years before
construction began on the Wall.  Additionally,
the attack on the Kerem Shalom military post in
June 2006 was done with through a tunnel the
Palestinians dug underneath the Wall.31


Even the Israeli government states that the effect of
the Wall does not “indicate any difference whatsoever
in the motivation of the terrorist organizations
to attack Israeli targets.”  Without addressing the
motives of Palestinian terrorism, there is no reason
to think it will abate.
** “A country has the right to defend itself.”

This is absolutely true and universally accepted,
however international law puts limits on some
activities and prohibits others entirely and the
international community makes a distinction
between war crimes and self defense.
** “If the Palestinians were given the right of return, there
would be no room for them/If there is the Right of Return,
the Jewish state will no longer be Jewish.”

Ignoring the fact that the Right of Return is enshrined
in international law, according to the Palestinian
Center for Policy and Survey Research, only ten
percent of all refugees prefer to return and become
Israeli citizens.  The rest prefer to become citizens
of the Palestinians state, to be resettled in third
countries, or to be rehabilitated in their current host
countries rendering this dilemma moot.32

It is important that the Right of Return
be acknowledged; no matter in what form it
is realized.  Especially important is Israel’s
recognition of the role it played in driving out
the refugees.  It goes without saying that the
acknowledgement of historical anti-Semitism,
especially the Holocaust, is very important for
Jews.  Similarly the campaigns to: recognize
the Armenian Genocide, reparations for slavery
and other crimes against humanity are very
important to the victims and their descendents.  
For the Palestinian refugees it is a similar
Illegitimacy of Criticism/Anti-Semitism
** “Anti-Occupation and/or anti-Zionist Jews are ‘self-

There is no single definition for being Jewish and,
in addition to being condescending, authors of
statements like these claim to have a monopoly on
Jewish life and Jewish values, something no one


Most of the world’s Jews do not live in Israel and
most Israelis want a two-state solution.  Given all
this, self-hatred would have to be a very common
dilemma amongst world Jewry.

** “Criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic.”

It would be no surprise to find anti-Semites critical
of Israel, but to criticize specific Israeli policies that
violate international law is the opposite of bigotry.  

Instead it is a just act — one might even say a very
Jewish one — that works to strengthen human rights,
rights that protect Jews as much as anybody else.

If one is criticizing house demolitions, checkpoints,
extrajudicial executions and like, and one is called
anti-Semitic, then the accuser is bizarre indeed.  

In order for those criticisms to be anti-Semitic the
accuser has to accept those violations of international
law as inherent characteristics of Jewry.  So who is
being anti-Semitic here?

** “The whole world is anti-Semitic.”

While it’s true that there is anti-Semitism in the
world, what does this have to do with the military
occupation of the Gaza Strip, West Bank and East


Unlike in the past, there are international institutions
to combat bigotry and injustice.  Israel’s continued
violation of international law, and the lack of
attempts to address this, weakens these institutions
making them less effective.

** “If you weren’t born here, aren’t Jewish, didn’t lose a
relative in an attack or didn’t serve in the army, you
can’t understand…”

There is nothing inherent in experiencing an event
first hand that improves the understanding of that
event.  After all, who normally understands an event
more, the witness or the detective?

** “Double standard: The world judges Israel more harshly
than it does other countries/ The UN is anti-Semitic
— which you can see by the disproportionate number of
UN resolutions dealing with Israel.”

It seems true that more attention is paid to the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict than many other serious
and pressing issues in the international community,
but the fact that criticism of Israeli policies has not
led to Palestinian self-determination means that
insufficient pressure is being applied.  Raising the
profile of other international issues is not mutually
exclusive with continuing to pressure Israel over the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
** “The international community did not intervene during
the Holocaust; therefore Israel is under no obligation to
follow them now.”

The fact that the international community did not
intervene early enough during the Holocaust has no
bearing on the conflict here.  The fact that the world is
intervening at all here means that it has learned from
the Holocaust and other crimes against humanity.
The Nature of Israel
** “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.”

Though many important criticisms can be made
about Israel’s form of democracy, how does being a
democracy justify the Occupation?33


Is Lebanon not a democracy?  And recently Iraq
(admittedly very flawed)?


It is certainly not a democracy for almost half the
people who live under Israeli control.
u Since 1967 around half of the population
between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan
River, the residents of the Occupied Territories,
have not had any say in how Israel governs
** “There is no contradiction between a Jewish state and
a democracy.”

There is a contradiction if the state does not extend
full rights, and protect those rights, to all of its
** “Israel has the most humane army in the world.”

Given the multitudes of human rights violations
perpetrated by Israel’s armed forces, and lack of
similar violations in other nations, this cannot
possibly be true.

** “Israel treats its Arab citizens better than Jews were
treated in Arab countries.”

This could be argued but even if it was true, how is
second-class citizenship in Israel justifiable solely
because Jews might be third-class citizens in Syria?
** “Israel has more civil rights than any of its neighboring
Arab nations.”

In many ways, but not all, this is true.  But this does
not excuse Israel from the need to correct internal
injustice and discrimination.


1. History of Palestine (n. date).  Retrieved from http:// on 8 October, 2006.

2. Independence Day 2006: 7 Million Israelis (1 May,
2006)., Retrieved 8 October, 2006 from

3. History of Palestine (n. date).  Retrieved from http:// on 8 October, 2006.

4. Porath, Yehoshua (1986).  Mrs. Peters’ Palestine.  
New York Review of Books, Retrieved 8 October, 2006
from  Porath, Yehoshua
(1986).   “Mrs. Peters’ Palestine: An Exchange.”  New
York Review of Books, Retrieved 8 October, 2006 from

5. Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948).

6. The 1967 borders are also referred to as the 1949
Armistice Lines, and the Green Line.  All are identical
and correct.

7. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 194
(1948).  See also: “Human Rights Watch Policy on the
Right to Return.”  Ibish Hussein and Ali Abunimah
(2001).  “Point: The Palestinians’ Right of Return”,
Human Right Brief.

8. Morris, Benny (2004).  The Birth of the Palestinian
Refugee Problem Revisited.  London: Cambridge
University Press.  This particular massacre was done
in retaliation for the Haifa Oil Refinery massacre
perpetrated by Palestinians which was done in
response to a bomb thrown into a crowd by the

9. Kana’ana, Sharif and Zeitawi, Nihad (1987), “The
Village of Deir Yassin,” Bir Zeit, Bir Zeit University
Press, 1987

10. Morris (2004).  Abassi, M. (2004). The battle for Safad
in the war of 1948: A revised study. International
Journal of Middle East Studies, vol. 36.

11. Benvenisti, Meron (2002). Sacred Landscape: The
Buried History of the Holy Land Since 1948. University
of California Press.

12. Morris (2004).

13. Morris (2004).

14. Shavit, Ari (9 January 2004). Survival of the fittest.  
Ha’aretz, Retrieved 8 October 2006 from http://www.

15. See for example: Morris, Benny (2001). Righteous
Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001.  
New York: Vintage Press.  Shlaim, Avi (2000).  The Iron
Wall: Israel and the Arab World. London: Allen Lane.

16. Shlaim, Avi (1988). Collusion Across the Jordan: King
Abdullah, The Zionist Movement and the Partition of  
Jordan. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

17. Wallace, Kelly (27 May 2003). Sharon: ‘Occupation’
terrible for Israel, Palestinians.  CNN, retrieved from on 9 October 2006.

18. Code of Hammurabi (n. date).  Wikipedia, Retrieved
14 October 2006 from

19. Pina, Aaron D. (2005).  Palestinian Education and the
Debate Over Textbooks.  Washington, D.C.: US Library
of Congress Congressional Research Service.

20. Teveth, Shabtai (1985).  Ben Gurion and the Palestinian
Arabs: From Peace to War.  USA: Oxford University

21. Jewish Agency for Israel (n. date).  Timeline — 1991.  
Retrieved 16 October 2006 from
il. Jewish Agency for Israel (n. date).  Timeline — 1990.  
Retrieved 16 October 2006 from

22. ITIC (31 Dec 2005).  “Palestinian Terrorism in 2005.”  
Center for Special Studies, Retrieved 15 October 2006

23. Netanyahu, Benjamin (1995).  Fighting Terrorism.  New
York: Farrar, Strauss & Giroux.

24. Pundak, Ron (2001).  “From Oslo to Taba: What Went
Wrong?” Peres Center for Peace, Retrieved 15 Oct 2006
from Reinhardt, Tanya
(2002).  Israel/Palestine: How to End the War of 1948.  
New York: Seven Stories Press.

25. Halper, Jeff (2005).  Obstacles to Peace (3rd edition).  
Jerusalem, PalMap.

26. Stauber, Zvi and Shapir, Yiftah S. [eds.] (2006).  The
Middle East Strategic Balance: 2004-2005.  Tel Aviv:
Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies.

27. Shlaim (2000).

28. The “Israeli side” of the Wall includes almost all of
East Jerusalem and its 230,000 Palestinian residents.

29. Myre, Greg (7 Feb 2006). “Olmert Says Israel Will
Keep 3 Large West Bank Settlement Blocs.”  New York
Times, Retrieved 15 October 2006 from http://www.  Mackinnon, Mark (2 Jan 2006).  “This
fence makes for nervous neighbours.”  The Globe and
Mail, Retrieved 15 October 2006 from http://www.

30. B’Tselem — The Israeli Information Center for Human
Rights in the Occupied Territories and, Bimkom
— Planners for Planning Rights (2005).  Under the
Guise of Security: Routing the Separation Barrier to
Enable Israeli Settlement Expansion in the West Bank.  
Jerusalem: B’Tselem.

31. MFA (5 Jan 2005).  “Summary of Terrorist Activity
— 2004.”    Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Retrieved
from  ITIC (31 Dec 2005).  
“Palestinian Terrorism in 2005.”  Center for Special
Studies, Retrieved 15 October 2006 from http://www.

32. PSR — Research Survey Unit (18 July 2003). Results
of PSR Refugees’ Polls in the West Bank/Gaza Strip,
Jordan and Lebanon on Refugees’ Preferences and
Behavior in a Palestinian-Israeli Permanent Refugee
Agreement. Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey
Research, Retrieved 17 October 2006 from http://

33. For two critical analyses of Israeli democracy see Oren
Yiftachel (2005), Ethnocracy: Land, and the Politics of
Identity Israel/Palestine, or Sammy Smooha (2001)
“The Model of Ethnic Democracy: Israel as a Jewish
and Democratic State.”