George Mason University stood by its invitation to Shari Arison, the American-Israeli owner of Bank Hapoalim, Israel’s largest financial institution, to speak at its winter commencement December 19. A protest letter from a faculty member and a GMU student recycling phony “apartheid Israel” and “illegal occupation” clichés failed to intimidate school officials.
Though this mini-tempest fizzled — about a dozen students and several other members of the thousands filling GMU’s Patriot Center walked out when Arison spoke — the same fraudulent claims continue to be made elsewhere. Sunlight being the best disinfectant, exposure follows of at least some of the falsehoods asserted by Craig Willse, an assistant professor of cultural studies, and Tareq Radi, a member of the class of 2013, in an open letter to “the George Mason community”:
* The pair charged Arison, who endowed a “Doing Good Values” professorship at Mason and is ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the world’s most influential women, with investments “directly involved in the illegal occupation and colonization of Palestine.”
If by “Palestine” Willse and Radi mean the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Israeli withdrew from the latter in 2005. Meanwhile, it remains the legal, in fact obligatory, military occupational authority over the West Bank as a result of successful self-defense in the 1967 Six-Day and 1973 Yom Kippur wars. Like the Allies in post-war Germany, but with legal, historical and religious as well as security claims to the land.
On a daily basis, Arab residents of the West Bank and Gaza Strip are under the administration of competing versions of the Palestinian Authority. What may be illegal is the continuation in power of Fatah movement officials in the West Bank PA and Hamas leaders in the Gaza Strip years after the terms for which they were originally elected expired.
* “Illegal colonization” is another falsehood reiterated so often that many believe it. In fact, the League of Nations Palestine Mandate, the basic international law in this case, calls in Article 6 for “close Jewish settlement” on the land west of the Jordan River. That includes both what became Israel and the West Bank.
The U.N. Charter, Chapter 12, Article 80, upholds the Mandate’s provisions, including Article 6. So do other relevant international instruments, among them the post-World War I San Remo Treaty and the 1924 Anglo-American Convention. All were intended to facilitate reestablishment of the Jewish national home in Mandatory Palestine. As for Gaza and the West Bank, the authors of U.N. Security Council Resolution 242 (1967) recognized that both Jews and Arabs had claims in the disputed territories that would have to be resolved in negotiations.
Legally and historically, Jewish claims in the West Bank are perhaps a bit stronger than those Willse and Radi benefit from regarding former Native American land now occupied, for example, by GMU.
* The pair cite other U.N. resolutions in attempting to stigmatize Jewish communities in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria as it was commonly called until Jordan’s illegal occupation between 1948 and 1967). Unlike Security Council resolutions 242 and 338 (1973), the countless anti-Israel measures adopted by the U.N. General Assembly or specialized agencies like the self-parodying U.N. Human Rights Council essentially are expressions of sentiment, not law.
* The anti-Arison duo refers to Israel’s “Apartheid Wall” and note it was “declared illegal by the United Nations International Court of Justice.” What the two don’t say is that, according to the United States, numerous European countries and Israel, the ICJ lacked jurisdiction in what was a political, not legal referral; that the ICJ opinion in any case was advisory, not binding; and the security barrier helped reduce dramatically Palestinian terrorist attacks that had murdered hundreds of Israelis, Jews and Arabs alike, and foreign visitors.
Reality refutes the “apartheid” charge. In Israel, the Arab minority (20 percent) exercises the same civil rights as the Jewish majority. Israeli Jews include tens of thousands of black Ethiopians rescued from religious apartheid in their country of origin. Palestinian Arabs, even at the height of the terrorist war of the second intifada, 2000 – 2005, were determined by a U.N. study to enjoy a higher standard of living than Arabs in a number of Arab countries, including Egypt, Syria, Morocco and Yemen.
* The pair alleges that Arison’s family “has built its wealth through the direct dispossession and oppression of Palestinians ….” This is libelous. It would be edifying to watch Willse and Radi try to defend their unsubstantiated charg
e in court.
To the extent Palestinian Arabs have been dispossessed, it is because they joined with five Arab countries in attacking the new Jewish state in 1948, in violation of the U.N. partition plan, and lost. Since then they’ve perpetuated self-inflicted dispossession by rejecting or sabotaging Israeli, Jordanian-U.S.-Israeli and Israeli-U.S. offers of peace, autonomy and/or statehood in 1967, 1979, 1985, 1993 – 1998, 2000, 2001 and 2008.
Members of the George Mason University community to whom Willse and Radi addressed their protest would be justified in concluding that the duo, as supporters of the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanction (BDS) effort care not about Israeli-Palestinian peace or a two-state solution. Nor are they concerned with justice for the Jewish people, with its 3,000-year-old ties to the land of Israel or equity for the Palestinian Arabs. Neither do real cases of massive oppression and dispossession in the Middle East, like that currently underway in Syria, motivate them.
No, in a world with 21 Arab countries and, through negotiations the possibility of a 22nd, they like other BDS’ers seek the elimination of the one Jewish state. There is a word for those who would deny to one people what they would permit to all others, and it’s racism. When that one people to be so discriminated against is the Jews, that racism is more precisely known as antisemitism.