Contrary to Elaine W. Shiber’s account of Israeli history in “Conflict dates back to Israel's broken promises in 1948” (Dec. 8), Israel has continuously pursued peace and has encountered Arab rejection and war.
Like Americans, Israelis seek peace. Israelis, however, face a terrorist regime at their very doorstep. Tiny Israel, no larger than the state of New Jersey, is surrounded by 22 Arab nations that have launched four wars against it, in ‘48, ‘67, ‘73 and 2000. The international community offered both Arabs and Jews self-determination in 1947, an offer the Jews accepted and the Arabs rejected. Israel again offered the Palestinians a state in 2000 that would have included 100% of Gaza, 98% of the West Bank and East Jerusalem as a capital.
The Palestinian Authority replied with a terror war against the men, women and children of Israel.
Shiber ignores these facts and instead demonizes Israel, the only democracy in the Middle East, a country willing to examine its own misdeeds in war as in peace. The highly self-critical Israeli press is testament to this sincere search for honesty, peace and conciliation with its Arab neighbors. Polls even today show a willingness on the part of most Israelis to make concessions to establish normal relations with the larger Arab world. Yet the same polls show that upwards of 70% of all Palestinians continue to support suicide bombings and other forms of violence over negotiations.
Shiber’s account is also full of outright misinformation on the frequently distorted issue of Palestinian refugees. She repeats propaganda claims that Israel “forced out...three quarters of a million Palestinian[s]” in 1948.
This is false. The vast majority of refugees fled out of fear and were exhorted to do so by their Arab brethren who urged them to make way for Arab armies that would defeat the Jews, thereafter permitting the Palestinians to return. Foremost scholar Efraim Karsh estimates only 5-10 percent were expelled by Israelis, and these from areas where Israel’s survival was seriously threatened by armed Arabs, such as in Ramla and Lod.
Shiber is wrong again in claiming Israel has refused to fulfill U.N. obligations regarding Palestinian refugees. Resolution 194, a non-binding Chapter 6 resolution, specifies among other things that: “Refugees [must] live at peace with their neighbors.”
Yet Palestinian Arabs and their leaders have been in violation of this resolution since its inception, denying Israel’s right to exist and launching terrorist attacks even in the years following Oslo. Today, it is known that the Palestinian Authority directly funds and abets terror against Israeli civilians, as the discovery by Israeli forces of a cache of documents in Arafat’s Ramallah headquarters attests. This is hardly “liv[ing] at peace.”
Perhaps most telling with regard to Palestinian intentions has been the systematic education of the Palestinian people, including children of all ages, to kill innocent Israelis. This frightful hate-indoctrination can be found in school textbooks, mosque sermons and political statements, as well as on official Palestinian television. (See Web sites such as MEMRI.org, PMW.org and camera.org.)
What prevents peace is Palestinians teaching that Judaism and the Jewish people have no legitimate connection to the land of Israel, and that Palestinians are honor-bound to eject them and will ascend to paradise if they blow up Israeli toddlers eating ice cream, grandmothers shopping or school children riding a bus.
Recognizing that the Middle East is not only the domain of hundreds of millions of Muslims, but also the rightful and legitimate home of Christians and Jews is the key to ending the conflict.
Originally appeared in Daily Independent [Ashland, Kentucky]on December 29, 2002.