Israel Resource Review 31st March, 1997


Common Myths of the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict
by Joel Bainerman
Israel Political Analyst

Zichron Yaakov, Israel
The Middle East conflict is unique in that every journalist, foreign newspaper columnist, rabbi, politician, political scientist, and Church leader is an armchair expert on Israel's political problem with the Arab world. It doesn't matter how many thousands of kilometers away from the region one lives, it can be half way around the world, an "expert opinion" is always at hand by someone who thinks they know more about the Arab-Israeli conflict than the people who are indigenous to the region. These unqualified, completely unsupported standard responses leads to a mountain of myths about the Middle East conflict.

The most common myths:

1) "A Palestinian state is the only way to solve the Middle East conflict."

What if the "Palestinian state solution" doesn't work? Is there a plan B? What if the Palestinians fail in their attempt to build a stable political arena and a prosperous economy? What if the radicals take over? If anyone has an alternative plan this is one Israeli citizen that would like to hear what it is short of "we'll cross that bridge when we come to it." Those who live thousands of miles away from the region should stop being so arrogant and think they know much about how to solve our conflict than we do. When is the last time an Israeli sounded off about how America isn't doing enough to solve her problems with the blacks? Beyond this, who is to say that for sure, the creation of a Palestinian state is the way to go to solve this conflict. The last thing this world needs is yet another unstable, poor Arab state. Nothing will change for the Palestinian- with a state or without one.

2) "If Israel doesn't 'choose' peace an all-out war in the Middle East will break out."

Based on history, there are other conflicts in the region. An all-out war might soon break-out in the region which will have nothing to do with Israel.

This statement is nothing but an opinion. Who says "if Israel doesn't choose peace" a war will occur? Why is Israel's commitment to peace being challenged? When in the past was it ever assumed that Israel would "chose" war over peace? Israel has always been a peace loving nation. When was Israel's desire for peace ever questioned?

How dare people who live on the other side of the world feel they have a right to "criticize" Israel on "moral grounds" Israel does so much more for peace than the PLO. At least Israel looks like they are trying. The PLO couldn't care less if their people had one minute of peace or not.

It isn't about Israel "choosing" peace or not choosing peace. The problem in the Middle East isn't derived from Israel's so-called "intransigence." That notion, that Israel is morally bankrupt due to its treatment of the Palestinians, didn't exist 20 years ago. Today it is a given in the media. How did this change so fast and why is what serious researchers should be looking into?

3) "If Israel doesn't leave the territories the Arabs will become so frustrated they will be forced to go to war."

Does this logic work in both directions? What would the world say if Foreign Minister David Levy announced that Israel might be forced to attack Syria because of Assad's refusal to sign a peace treaty? What if Israel announced: "Iraq and potential threats to the security of the state of Israel. We are going to have to eliminate them."

Can a people really be so "frustrated" as a result of the "political treatment" they are subjected to, that they are justified in starting wars? Why are the Arabs not condemned for announcing to the worth that "if Israel doesn't do what we say, we are going to declare war on her?"

4) Yasser Arafat is a moderate and has now recognized Israel's right to exist.

Did Arafat wake up one morning, slap himself on the forehead and say: "Damn it, Israel exists, they exist, why didn't I recognize that? Have I ever been silly For 24 years I mistakenly believed that Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth, but, suddenly, now, I realize I was wrong all along. I should have made peace with Israel long ago."

Is it really possible that Arafat goes from being hatred Arab terrorist leader to "sort of an okay guy you can invite to state functions"?

5) "Arafat is so desperate for peace, he'll take anything. Unless Israel negotiates with the PLO now, Arafat may get cold feet and back off from his recent moderation and renunciation of terror which will strengthen the Islamic Fundamentalist fanatics."

Why does Arafat have a choice? Isn't he supposed to support "peaceful endeavors?" Who gave him the moral right to exercise the 'return to the extremist camp' option? This notion of "take Arafat or get the extremists" argument is crap. If that is the choice there is not choice. Until the Palestinians can put up some decent folk as their leaders they get no independent state. Period.

6) "The present situation cannot go on indefinitely. Time is not on the side of the Israelis. Delays will only weaken Israel's position and result in a situation being imposed on her."

This conflict, being what it is and far away a real settlement is, could very well go on for a few more decades. It wasn't meant to be solved. Even outright annexation of Judea and Samaria will not lead to "national suicide" because Israel will always have the option of withdrawing from the territories if the burden of ruling over the Palestinians becomes too onerous. The world has never forced Israel to do anything. Whatever strategic or military mistakes she made she made them on her own mistaken assumptions. Oslo was not forced on Israel. The Rabin government wanted it.

7) "Peace is the ultimate form of security."

Such simplicities don't work in the Middle East. Peace is the time between the last and the next war. Hopeful optimism won't alter the basic facts on the ground. Israelis only want to strike a deal they can live with. What they have today stinks for most Israelis. Oslo didn't help Israel. It only weakened her security and the average Israeli's positive sense of security. For Israelis peace and security are not to be found in the same sentence.

8) "Israel must learn not to be afraid of peace. Why is Israel missing this historic opportunity for peace?"

If the political culture of the Palestinians is left out of the equation, a critical chunk of the Arab-Israeli conflict is neglected. Radical Palestinian leaders shouldn't be so easily let off the hook. If a Palestinian state never comes into existence it will be their fault. Not ever having a state of their own might be the price the Palestinian people will have to pay for having not chosen more moderate and realistic leaders. Arafat has not served the Palestinians well. Any Palestinian who thinks he has is deluded as to the true nature of Yasser Arafat and the PLO.

9) "A Palestinian state will not be a threat to Israel."

Stupid argument. An unstable Palestinian state would be a threat to the Palestinians. For some reason, only people like Sharon and Shamir believe in the this boogeyman concept of a Palestinian state and how it is supposed to rise up out of the dust and take on and defeat the Israeli army. Nonsense.

10) "Israel has a right to exist and a right to safe and secure borders."

This is essentially a qualifying statement and is usually followed with: "but the Palestinians too have a right to a homeland."

Why is Israel's right to safe and secure borders subject for debate? Why does no other country's right to safe and secure borders need to be reiterated or reassured? What if the Finish representative in the UN stood up one day and announced that due to a conflict over coastal fishing rights, it would no longer acknowledge Sweden's right to exist? What other country's existence can be used as a bargaining chip in a political conflict? Even in the height of the Cold War Russia and the U.S. never refused to recognize each others' existence.

Should Israel really care one way or the other if the Arabs "recognize" her existence? She existed for 50 years without and hasn't done too bad for herself. Look at living conditions in the Arab world. The Arabs have about a million other socio-economic problems to deal with before they need to worry about whether to "acknowledge Israel" or not.

11) "The Palestinians and the Israelis are destined to live together. The most important step at this point is to get Israel and the Palestinians talking to each other. Eventually the "dynamics of negotiations" will take over and lead to a political settlement."

Why are participants in other conflicts around the world never told "its inevitable they will have to live together"? Do Palestinians who work as garage mechanics in Wadi Joz in East Jerusalem or refugee camp dwellers considers the "dynamics of negotiations" when they look at the their conflict with Israel? What do people who live on the other side of the world know about "dynamics of peace"

12) "Israel has lost its moral soul."

Running shoes have soles. Nations have interests. Have the Syrians or the Algerians "retained their soul"? Even if the majority of Israelis believe that their security interests are best served by maintaining dominion over the disputed territories, their "souls will remain in intact." Those who proclaim such notions should not be judging which people have "lost their moral soul" and which have not.

13) "The Palestinians are the Jews of the Arab world."

Palestinians truly believe this and feel themselves to be a notch above other Arabs. Yet few of them understand or admit why this is so. It is because they were the only Arab people to actually LIVE with the Jews. This is why they are LIKE the Jews. If the Palestinans took an honest poll and asked themselves who have done them better, the Israelis or their Arab breathe, what would the answer be?

14) A typical Palestinian intellectual speaking: "One day we will have our state. It must be. In may take ten years, but it will come. We have waited 40 years, and we can wait another 40 years. When Israel withdraws from the territories Arafat will announce a state,, the Palestinians will create a democracy, and all the factions of the PLO will become political parties. We won't need borders or armies because we will have peace."

One world describes the national mindset of the Palestinians: UNREALISM. The Palestinians were turned into "unrealists" by their Arab breathren who have manipulated them for most of the past century by fooling them with the "don't worry, we'll throw the Jews into the sea" line and they fell for it hook, line and sinker.

Just about everything Palestinians leaders and intellectuals say or purport is unrealistic or unlikely to happen. It is part and parcel of dream-thinking. Theodore Herzl said: "If you will it, then it is no dream." With the Palestinians, it is: "If you dream it, it will be."

15) "Israel can't afford to miss the opportunity for peace

Can the Arabs "afford to miss the opportunity for peace"? Won't they also suffer if they "miss the opportunity for peace?"

16) "Israel must pay a high price for peace. The fruits of peace are too dear."

Shimon Peres loves this line. If there is a such high price to be paid for peace (in terrorist act) perhaps peace is not worth the price? With peace with the Palestinians, wasn't threats of terrorism supposed to decline. How come it has grown so much since Oslo was signed?

No Israeli or any other academic has researched the subject of how much Israel has or has not to gain by peace- economically or strategically. For 50 years Israel has performed economic miracles in her short period as an independent state. She has become a leader in developing and commercializing new technologies. Her standard of living is the envy of the developing world.

How much better can "the fruits of peace" make something that is already pretty good?

Joel Bainerman
The Israel Technology Letter
P.O. Box 387
Zichron Yaacov, Israel, 30900
Voice: (+ 972-6) 639-6673
Fax: (+ 972-6) 639-8880

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Red Lights & Green Lights:
Weapons Control in the Palestine Authority?
by David Bedein
Media Research Analyst

At a time when Hamas threatens more terror activity against targets throughout Israel, it may be instructive to note the extent to which the Palestine Authority directly licenses arms for the Hamas instead of confiscating their weapons . The Cairo Accord, signed between the Israeli government and Arafat on May 4, 1994, created strict regulations for firearm possession in the PA, in an attempt to minimize terrorist attacks carried out by Palestinian groups and individuals opposed to the Oslo Accords. Arafat agreed to restrict the possession of firearms by ordering the PA to take three steps: disarm militias, confiscate weapons, and issue gun licenses for pistols only to individuals demonstrating a need for them, and only with Israel's consent. However, Arafat and the PA have yet to implement that agreement, perpetuating a situation in which the ability of groups and individuals to carry out terrorist attacks remains undiminished.

The PA took no action for eleven months. However, in April 1995, following the Islamic Jihad terror attack near Cfar Darom which took the lives of six Israelis and one American, the PA announced a May, 1995 deadline for turning in illegal weapons. Yet by the appointed deadline, very few civilians had turned only a few dozen weapons. IDF Lieut. Col. Shabak confirmed the Palestinian police had only confiscated a few weapons at the deadline. These numbers pale in comparison to the total number of unlicensed weapons in the PA area of jurisdiction, which, while unknown, were estimated by Arafat himself as early as March 1995 to be more than 26,000.

Five militias under the PA's jurisdiction remain armed: Fatah Hawks, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, PFLP, and DFLP. Not only has the PA refrained from taking steps to disarm these groups, while high ranking officials continue to state their refusal to do so.

Shortly after the agreement was signed, Col. Jibril Rajoub, head of Arafat's Preventive Security Service said, "We sanctify the weapons found in the possession of the national factions which are directed against the occupation." Echoing this sentiment only a year later, Freih Abu Middein, Palestinian Minister of Justice, said the Palestinian police would not disarm Hamas or Islamic Jihad. A senior Hamas official confirmed that the PA had not demanded their disarmament, saying that "the PA is not asking us to disarm, just to report to it."

Meanwhile, the Palestinian Liberation Army police force continued to issue licenses for automatic weapons and gun permits to well known members of terrorist organizations. Both Shabak and the Palestinian Police commander in Gaza, Gen. Ghazi Jabali, confirmed that Islamic Jihad and Hamas leaders have received permits to carry weapons, Shabak noting, "most of the permits issued thus far have been given to members of the opposition parties." Shabak also acknowledged that some of these permits were for "light automatic weapons," a statement confirmed by the Palestinian Minister of Information. As if to allay fears, the PA Minister of Justice, Abu Medein said that he had received assurances that the Hamas and Islamic Jihad members would "keep their weapons at home."

The issue is not whether or not Arafat turns on or off "green lights" for the Hamas or the Islamic Jihad. Quietly and seemingly unknown to the Israeli public, Arafat has heavily armed both terror groups, and they will decide when and how to use their weapons against Israeli targets.

Why does the Israeli public not know that the Palestine Authority has been issuing weapons to the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad, since May, 1995 ? All Israeli media carried the story - but on the back pages and never as a lead item on Israel State TV and Israel State Radio. Nobody wanted to disturb the good news of the peace process. Let alone the momentum.

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"Why is this night different ..."
by Lenny Goldberg

If he has a son, the son asks.

In contrast to Hanukah and Purim where we are commanded to "publicize the miracle" (and include everyone), on Pesach, the publicizing of the miracle starts first of all with the children. And this is for the reason we mentioned (in the introduction) - that here the goal of the publicizing of the miracle is that the father, at the first available moment, will pass down the principles of faith in the G-d of Israel and the exodus of Egypt to the small son, so as to continue the unbreakable chain. And how tremendous is the fact that the Emunah of Yisrael, despite it's depth, is simple enough in its basis, that it can be conveyed from father to small boy, by means of a simple story appropriate for a child. This is the significance of the questions which appear here. And it is incumbent upon us to arouse each child, according to his ability, to ask more and more questions. Because the idea is better internalized if he asks and gets an answer, than if he just gets the answer (without asking). And from here one can learn that even if there are no children, the adult should provoke questions for himself and others, in order to sharpen the understanding.

On this night we add another link to the chain of our tradition, conveying the concrete basis of the faith through all the generations, because in such a way can the new generation ITSELF see things properly, despite the fact that "officially", thousands of years have passed since the event took place. And, behold, he did not see it with his own eyes. But the passing down of the message from generation to generation in such a concrete and precise fashion makes it EXACTLY AS IF HE SAW IT. Just as no one doubts historical events which took place two hundred years ago, since everything is known and passed onward by humanity, so, too can the events of over 3,000 years not be doubted, because the people passed it down in the same way, each one to his children. And this is the difference between Hanukah, Purim, and Passover.

For only on Passover was each one commanded to see himself as if he left Egypt, since this fact is the basis of our faith, and without it, our faith would not have survived in such a precise manner after so many thousands of years, hundreds of generations, and countless tragedies and exiles. In such a way, the child is not only connected to his father, but also to the father of his fathers who lived hundreds of years ago and thousands of years ago, each one being a special pipeline for this message which is intended PERSONALLY FOR HIM! On this night, the Jewish child will also receive upon himself his responsibility for the next generations, to continue the chain and the pipeline, and he will understand that if he does not connect himself to the Jewish People, there is no reason for his existence.

The Four Questions:

The Torah speaks to the Jew in the language and style he understands and can relate to. It even adjusts itself to different types of people. As the midrash in Yilkot Shimoni says, (Dvraim, 776 ): "That you should go with the strict types according to their understanding, and with the moderate types according to their understanding."

But there are two limitations:

  1. You cannot change the Torah around as you see fit to do so. Adjustments for different people and different situations are already found in the "halacha", and if it is not in the "halacha", no man has the authority to change and adjust matters, even if he feels that he is "saving" the Torah.
  2. Even if it is possible conveying the message in different ways to different people, if in the end it doesn't work and that particular Jew still doesn't want to listen, he is not dismissed from the Torah, and we are not dismissed from telling him words of Torah. The famous saying, "In the same way that it is a mitzvah to say something that will be listened to, it is a mitzvah not to say something that will not be listened to", has nothing to do with the essence of the message, and one cannot dismiss someone from mitzvot from the Torah for such a reason. On the contrary, "And whether they listen or refuse to - let them know that a prophet was amongst them". (Ezekhiel, 3) You just tell them Torah, even if there is a need to "blunt his teeth", as the Hagadah eventually tells us we should do to the evil son. And even if he blunts OUR TEETH, we will not shut up, as G-d told Yishiyahu, "my children are rebellious. If you accept it upon yourself to be humiliated and beaten by my children, then you may go as my messenger; and if not - you will not go as my messenger ..." (Shmot Raba, 7:3)

... and in answering the wise son, we tell him all the halachot, (for this too he requested to know) right up until the last one, which is the Afikoman. And there is a stress here that it doesn't suffice explaining to him the general idea of Judaism, but rather the halacha, up to the last detail is also needed. This is to teach all those who stress "nationalism" and other aspects of the Jewish idea, but abandon the fulfillment of the halacha and all it's details. Here we tell the wise son that as much as he gains wisdom in understanding the essence of Judaism, remember that all this is worth nothing if he forsakes the fulfillment of the practical mitzvot and it's details. In any case, without a doubt the basis of the answer is the story of the exodus from Egypt ("We were slaves..") which is the base of our faith, and if we believe in this, then we will come to understand that the Torah is truth and it is an obligation to fulfill it, because slaves we were to Pharo in Egypt, and now we are slaves to G-d ...

The evil son - "What does this service mean to you?"

The Tanchuma (Shmot 5) says that the evil son says, "Let us be as Egyptians". And this is the key to understanding this son. He wants to dismiss himself from the yoke of belonging to Am Yisrael and all this "service". Thus we can understand why he says "to you". After all, at first glance there should be no connection between throwing away service to G-d (mitzvot), and alienation from the Jewish People which is expressed by his saying, "to you". But the author of the Hagadah sees the essential connection. Only for a very short time can there be a reality where one can feel a connection to his people without a connection to Torah and mitzvot. And so we see in these times how those who raised the banner of fighting against religion, lost their connection to Zionism, where as those who remained truly faithful to nationalism were those who strengthened their connection to religion.

"Had he been there, he would not have been redeemed": Why? Because he would have died during the plague of darkness in which all the "Jewish criminals" died. Who "merited" such a nickname? Those WHO DID NOT WANT TO LEAVE EGYPT. And this fortifies what we said earlier: The connection between the evil son who throws away the service to G-d and his alienation from Am Yisrael. And what could symbolize the alienation from Am Yisrael more than his lack of willingness to make Aliyah to Eretz Yisrael, which is the base of the nation; the place which unites the nation and gives life to it and it's Torah.

"..consequently you must blunt his teeth and reply to him.."

There is no behaving towards him with "Darke Noam", and we don't say, "you are our brother". For the good of the rest of the Jewish People, we must act harshly towards him. He who willfully takes himself out of "Clal Yisrael" and rejects the people and land of Israel must be dealt with harshly. Without a doubt, this harsh treatment will convince others who are borderline (like the son who does not know how to ask) that it is not worthwhile to go in such a way, and thus encourage them to go in the way of the wise son, thereby saving themselves.

The simple son: The Yirushalmi and Rambam call this son, "foolish". What does the simple son understand? "With a strong hand did Hashem take us out of Egypt". Anyone is capable of grasping this message of Emunah. True, not everyone can reach high levels of understanding the way of G-d, but anyone can, even the most foolish of people, even he who is totally cut off from anything spiritual, even a gentile - is capable of grasping G-d's existence through G-d's strong Hand and Omnipotence. The truth is, that the Torah answers the wise son in the same basic way at the beginning, but with him, the answer is expanded upon greatly with all the details .... (Dvarim 6) The simple son won't understand this, so we mention to him G-d's strong Hand, and this is sufficient for leaving an impression upon him that will bring him to real emunah. And an important thing here: The real Emunah, despite it's awesome scope, does not demand deep wisdom in order for one to accept it (despite the fact that the wisdom certainly deepens the understanding). Any Jew can reach a real and simple level of truth which will obligate him. After all, if this were not so, the Almighty would not be able to expect anything from the foolish!

"For not only one has risen against us to DESTROY US, but in all ages they rise up against us to DESTROY US."

Here there is a double stress on "to destroy us" - The goal of the goyim is not just to distress us, but rather our very existence is what bothers them. And so it is in this generation, where a piece of territory or another is not what interests them, but rather the annihilation of Am Yisrael, and this illogical hatred of the nations was bred at Mount Sinai.

"But in all ages they rise up against us to destroy us"

What a flat statement to make! And the question may be asked: Was there not a generation where they did not rise up against us to destroy us? But there are different methods to wipe us out. There are those who try to wipe us out physically, like Haman and Hitler; and there are those try to wipe us out physically through trickery, so we that we won't prevent the attempt to do so. Then there are those who try to destroy us spiritually by assimilation, like Greece. In any case, the rule that Esau hates Yaakov holds in every generation, as we see in this statement.

"And the Holy One, Blessed Is He, rescues us from their hands".

Many use this verse to support the argument that the Jews do not have to take practical means to save themselves, since in every time of trouble, G-d has promised that he will save us and everything will be O.K. Indeed, it is true that EVENTUALLY, it will be good. But Oy Veh to those who take solace in this! Don't they understand that the significance of this "solace is that despite the fact that we will never be destroyed, we may suffer pogroms, inquisitions and holocausts? Not just this, but, "And if one tenth remain in it, then that shall be consumed.. (Isaiah, 6:13), and Rashi explains: "Nine parts (out of ten) will perish, and only a tenth will remain, and this too will be consumed" May G-d help us. Is this the scenario we should aspire for? Is it permitted for us to be satisfied and take comfort in this? But rather we must act with self-sacrifice in doing what G-d demands of us so that we may be saved from NEEDLESS tragedy, because it does not have to be!

"... to teach us that our father Yaakov didn't go to Egypt to SETTLE DOWN PERMANENTLY"

My father and teacher (H"yd) said that when he made Aliyah in 1971 to Israel, he went to Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook who received him very warmly, (and even told his students to take him to the Kotel, where both rabbis were photographed together). He said that he told Rav Kook that he came to Israel to "settle down", and Rav Kook said that in the land of Israel, one doesn't settle down, but rather "rises up."

The Ten Plagues:

Couldn't G-d have taken us out of Egypt without all this violence? After all, G-d is Omnipotent, and certainly he could have taken us out Egypt with "Darke Noam" or even by way of a "peace process". After all, it would seem that what is most important is that the Jews got out of Egypt - for what all this cruelty and vengeance?

The answer is that the goal of the exodus of Egypt was not just that the people of Israel go free, but the major goal was that G-d-hating gentiles and desecrators of His Name who "did not know G-d" (as Pharo said upon seeing Moses the first time), -- would know G-d. But the gentile does not grasp the existence of G-d, and certainly won't accept the concept that He chose the Jews as His people, by way of "awe and spiritual elevation" or through pure intellectual understanding. Only by the way of him seeing and feeling Hashem's Might and Power can the most obtuse of gentiles understand G-d's existence and choice of Am Yisrael. And when the gentile insists on not believing in Him, and defames and fights against Israel thereby desecrating the Name of G-d, and empties the Name of G-d from the world, so to speak, then G-d unleashes His arsenal against him, so that "he will know that I am G-d".

"Because he passed over the houses.."

The salvation from the Egyptians started with the "havdala" (the separation) - that is the willingness of the Jewish People to show their differences between them and the gentiles in a practical way. It was exemplified by the placing of the blood from the slaughtered Egyptian deity on their doorposts without fearing the Egyptian reaction. This readiness for havdala displays proof to one's emunah. And just as in the first redemption, so it is in our days, where the redemption is dependent on Am Yisrael's willingness to adopt upon themselves concepts connected to "havdala", through the acceptance of the yoke of Heaven, and without fearing that we will be labeled as "racists". And it is not for nothing that the internal struggle today between the Jewish People and the Hellenists centers around this concept of "havdala". Nor is it a coincidence that the entire question of whether to vomit out the Arabs or not, ends up being centered around - not whether it will work, and not even ethics, but rather around "racism", which at first glance has nothing to with anything. But the truth is that the redemption is dependent upon our separating ourselves from the nations, and most essentially our readiness to adopt for ourselves all the practical halachot which derive from the concept.

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