The false and unsubstantiated assertion that Israel violates the “human right” to “access to higher education” of any group (including Gaza Strip and West Bank Arabs) epitomizes what’s wrong in an October 2016 APS News article
in the monthly newsletter distributed to the membership (48,000) of the American Physical Society. The reality completely differs from the assertion. In fact, Israel is the region’s only nation whose policies
are bringing significant diversity and broad access to higher education to all its populace including its minority Arab community. APS here has seriously misled its membership about Israel.
Yet, until the concluding section of “Meeting of Minds Boosts Middle-Eastern Math and Physics,” the article’s only obvious inaccuracy is the (repeated) usage of the term “Palestine.” Rachel Gaal, APS News’ staff science writer, writing about joint events held in the West Bank in July 2016 – Palestinian Conference on Modern Trends in Mathematics and Physics (PCMTMP-V); and Palestine Advanced Physics “School” (a three-day seminar) – uses the term as if it refers to a sovereign nation. The problem with this is that there has never been a sovereign nation of “Palestine” though the term could refer to an imputed Arab objective. But absent an agreement with Israel negotiated according to U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian interim accords and related pacts, “Palestine” remains only an objective. Meanwhile, the areas in question are more accurately and commonly referred to as the “West Bank” or “Gaza Strip.”
However, the main problem with Gaal’s article is the egregious closing paragraphs:
While the students and organizers alike benefited from both excursions, some students were unable to participate due to travel restrictions imposed by the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Students from Gaza were not granted permission to travel to the meetings, which prevented one student from attending the school, and also prevented two scientists from giving their talks at PCMTMP-V. All three individuals are from the Islamic University of Gaza and requested they not be identified.
“Access to higher education is a human right, and it is deeply regrettable that this right is not respected by the ongoing Israeli occupation,” stated [David] Marsh [of Cambridge University, England, one of the international organizers of the school] in an email. A statement by Scientists for Palestine, released at the end of July 2016, asserted the organization’s position is to ensure equality of human rights despite the restrictions.
Despite the hardships caused by the occupation, science in Palestine continues to grow and strengthen its international connections. Scientists for Palestine will be proud to continue to support this development,” the statement said. To overcome the imposed travel restrictions, Scientists for Palestine broadcast the school’s program to the Islamic University in Gaza.
When contacted, the Israeli government refused to comment on the matter.
Refuting APS’ anti-Israel propaganda
CAMERA has received well founded complaints from APS members concerning this material. It’s disappointing that a prestigious organization such as APS would provide a platform for propaganda disparaging the Jewish state. It’s virtually impossible to confirm the legitimacy of the victimization narrative since first, the three alleged victims are unnamed and second, Gaal’s main, if not only, information source is an unreliable group named “Scientists for Palestine” which seemingly sprang into existence, ex nihilo, in 2016 in connection with the two West Bank meetings. No evidence of a previous existence for the group can be found by either online googling or searching the Nexis journalism data base. And Gaal’s claim, “When contacted, the Israeli government refused to comment on the matter,” is ambiguous. What Israeli government office? What Israeli official(s)?
Moreover, it’s false, as charged here, that Israel simply intentionally obstructs the higher education of Gaza Strip Palestinians through use of travel restrictions. It’s not simply a matter of visa or informal arrangement between countries at peace with one another (such as between United States and Canada) – what’s involved is the entrance into Israel of members of a hostile population which has selected fanatical leaders, the Hamas (Islamic Resistance Movement) terrorist organization, committed by its founding charter to the destruction of Israel. Indeed, Hamas repeatedly orchestrates the firing of rockets on Israeli towns and creates terrorism tunnels into Israel in an effort to hurt and kill civilians. So, Israeli authorities regularly require travelers from the Gaza Strip to submit to security questioning before allowing them to enter. Did the three individuals in question refuse to submit to such questioning? It’s worth noting that the Hamas rulers, according to the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), impose severe external travel restrictions on the people of the Gaza Strip. None of this is touched on by the writer.
Usage of the terms “occupy” or “occupation” or “occupied” necessitates at least a modicum of historical context. This terminology used to condemn Israel by the Palestinian leadership, dominant culture and external supporters – is used by them in the sense that it includes the land of Israel. This meaning has been proclaimed repeatedly. For example, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on official PA television
: “All our holy places are still under occupation, and so far we have not liberated one inch of Palestinian land. All Palestinian land is occupied – Gaza is occupied, the West Bank is occupied, the 1948 lands [i.e., Israel] are occupied and Jerusalem is occupied.”
The article wrongly implies that the Gaza Strip is occupied by Israel. This is false for any sense of the word “occupied.” Israel unilaterally and completely withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005. Concerning the West Bank (Judea and Samaria – part of the ancient homeland of the Jewish people), Israel remains the legal, obligatory military occupational authori
ty having taken that area in self-defense in the 1967 Six-Day War pending conclusion of a negotiated agreement on the territories’ final status. Israeli troops had withdrawn from the majority of Palestinian population centers in the West Bank after Israel and the PA signed an interim agreement on Sept. 28, 1995. But with the resumption of Palestinian violence against Israelis during the second intifada (2000 to 2005), Israeli troops re-established a major presence in the West Bank but do not have a presence in Palestinian cities except when there are security needs. In any case, the PA currently has jurisdiction over the daily lives of almost all (93 percent of) West Bank Arabs.
Due to the seriousness of the issue and the importance of APS, this writer made an effort to get APS to publish a version of this CAMERA article. Several attempts to communicate failed to elicit a response until one from the Editor of APS News, David Voss, revealing that the effort was in vain. The message stated, “We do not publish articles from unaffiliated organizations… we have already published letters from APS members addressing some of your concerns… your article is not appropriate for APS News.”
Evidently, APS does not believe the matter serious enough to make an exception to its policy that excludes outside articles – while also considering that, in its opinion, the matter has been adequately addressed by members’ letters. However, a visit to the Web site
reveals that the letters referred to, only two in number, while well founded and well written, are understandably quite limited in scope and depth due at least to the limit in number of words allowed.
Nonetheless, APS members should be informed that Israel, the only Western-style democracy in the Middle East, is a technologically advanced open society with equal rights for Christians and Muslims as well as Jews. Israel has women’s equality, an independent judiciary, free news media and is the only country in the region where Americans could live as freely as they do at home and one that, since it strives effectively to prevent religious and ethnic prejudice, ought to be an example for the Middle East’s many countries now in intra-communal upheaval.
The father of modern physics looked forward to the restoration of the Jewish nation of Israel. Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) – who created the foundations of classical physics including mechanics, the principal of universal gravitation, and the three laws of motion bearing his name – predicted that the Jewish people would ultimately return to the land of Israel. Sir Isaac was likely to have been one of the first Christian Zionists, a group that is today among the most effective supporters of Israel’s legitimate self-defense policies including those demonized in Gaal’s article.