Sun Sentinel Columnist Gets Facts Wrong

Writing yesterday in Florida’s Sun Sentinel, Pierre Tristam argues that the U.S. is on “the wrong side of history” with its vote against upgrading the Palestinians’ status in the United Nations. Too bad, though, Tristam can’t get the history right.
Tristam, the editor of, wrongly states:

Israel approved the creation of the Palestinian Authority in 1993. That was supposed to be the first step toward a Palestinian state. There hasn’t been another step since, except backward.

So here’s a reminder for the historically-challenged Tristam about some steps that Israel took towards Palestinian statehood. In addition to approving the creation of the Palestinian Authority during the Oslo years, Israel withdrew from major Palestinian population areas, including Ramallah, Kalkilya, Jenin, Nablus, most of Hebron, Gaza City and Jericho, totaling 40 percent of the West Bank and much of Gaza. As a result, more than 95 percent of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza live under Palestinian Authority rule. Following Oslo, the Palestinians established their own police force, banks, schools, health care facilities, seaport and airport.
These steps were followed by then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s unprecedented Camp David offer in which the Palestinians would have received about 98 percent of the West Bank, Prime Minister Olmert’s expansive proposal (both rejected by the Palestinians) in which the Israeli leader reportedly “accepted the principle” of the “right of return,” and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s unprecedented 10-month freeze of settlement construction.
In addition, Israel fully withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, uprooting every single one of its civilians and pulling out every last soldier, leaving a Palestinian border under Palestinian control for the first time in history.
But Tristam pretends like none of this ever happened. He jumps right from the creation of Oslo to the Palestinian violence of 2000, as if nothing happened in between. And, then, echoing the outrageous statement of Washington Post ombudsman Patrick B. Pexton who described Palestinian rockets as “bee stings on the Israeli bear’s behind,” Tristam downplays the terror caused by these rockets in the following passage:

There was the second Palestinian Uprising of 2000. There’s been two crushing assaults on Gaza (2008, 2012), supposedly because Israel would not tolerate attacks from Hamas, though that’s part of the crock of Israeli propaganda. Just 47 Israelis have been killed by fire from Gaza in the last six years, and only one had been killed this year until November. Not negligible, but not worth a war. In comparison, almost 3,000 Palestinians have been killed, just in Gaza, which has been under siege through those years.

In addition to omitting any mention the nearly 1,200 Israelis who were killed during the Second Intifada, referred to above as the “second Palestinian uprising,” Tristam fails to acknowledge that the rocket attacks have interrupted and disrupted daily life for millions of Israelis, for years. Tristam may think this is “not worth a war,” but many Israelis did support air strikes against Hamas. Here, the data is pretty definitive.

On Nov. 19, 2012 The Jerusalem Post reported that “A poll taken by Panels for the Israeli Center for Political Training found that 85 percent of Israelis believe embarking on the operation was the correct decision.” Another poll indicated that 91 percent of respondents supported the air strikes.
No Fishing Falsehood
Tristam also falsely claims:

Those people aren’t allowed to fish. They’re not allowed to trade with the outside world. They’re not allowed to work across the border. And they’re not allowed to have a state of their own, even though they elected their government democratically.

Actually, Gazans are permitted to fish. Before the Egyptian-brokered cease-fire last month, Gaza fishermen were permitted to fish up to three nautical miles from the shore. It has been widely reported that the cease-fire agreement extends the permitted area to six nautical miles. Here are some pictures of Palestinian fishermen over the last year, both before and after the cease-fire:
Palestinian fishermen fish at sunset off Gaza City April 6, 2012. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem (GAZA – Tags: SOCIETY BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT ENVIRONMENT)
Palestinians display their fish for sale at a fish market in Gaza City June 14, 2010. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem (GAZA – Tags: AGRICULTURE SOCIETY)
Nov. 27, 2012 – Gaza City, Gaza Strip, Palestinian Territory – Palestinian men sell fish at a market in Gaza City November 27, 2012. Israel eased restrictions on Gaza fishermen on Saturday, further implementing truce brokered by Egypt after a week of fierce fighting, Palestinian officials said.
Gets it Wrong on Trade, Too
Tristam offers another falsehood when he reports that the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip are “not allowed to trade with the outside world.” In fact, Israel eased its restrictions on exports from the Gaza Strip earlier this year. The Jerusalem Post reported on Sept. 19, 2012 that date bars have been exported to the West Bank and that Gaza-grown produce has been shipped to Europe and Saudi Arabia. And on Dec. 5, Elder of Ziyon reported that beds made in the Gaza Strip have been shipped to Tunisia.
No Existential Threat

Tristam also reports that “Nothing, not even the 1967 Arab-Israel War, has threatened its existence since 1947.”

This was not the belief of Arab leaders before the Six Day War, who boasted of their plans to destroy the Jewish state in the months prior to the war. They sure thought they had a chance to destroy Israel.
For example, on May 27, 1967, President Nasser of Egypt stated:

Our basic objective will be the destruction of Israel. The Arab people want to fight . . . The mining of Sharm el Sheikh is a confrontation with Israel. Adopting this measure obligates us to be ready to embark on a general war with Israel.

In addition to listening to months and months’ worth of annihilationist rhetoric from Arab leaders before the Six Day War, Israelis were faced with the presence of almost 100,000 troops on the Egyptian front alone. Israel, by way of comparison, was only able to muster 45,000 troops to defend against Egyptian forces.

In 1967, Arab leaders thought they could destroy Israel and made it clear they were going to try. Israel took these leaders at their word and defeated their forces. Forty-five years later, Tristam tries to deny what Arab leaders themselves had stated publicly – that they could and would destroy Israel.

Along these lines, Tristam describes Israel as “impregnable.” If Israel was impregnable, how does he explain the deaths of more than 1,100 of its citizens during the Second Intifada? (Interestingly enough. Tristam acknowledges the “second Palestinian uprising of 2000” but makes no reference to the Israelis killed during this event, which most people refer to as The Second Intifada. To refer to these deaths would have undermined his subsequent description of Israel as “impregnable.”)

Another Misstatement

Tristam also accuses Israel of fronting the claim that “Palestinian people really don’t exist.”

In fact, Israel has negotiated with the PLO since the early 1990s. Its leaders signed a declaration of principles on Sept. 13, 1993 with the PLO, which it recognized as “representing the Palestinian people.”

Clearly, Tristam has allowed his opinions to get ahead of the facts.

A correction is necessary.
Dexter Van Zile assisted in this analysis.

Comments are closed.