Rebutting Anti-Israel Myths on Campus
Backgrounder by Eric Rozenman and Ziv Kaufman
Distortions and lies about Israel flourish on college campuses. They contribute to an international campaign to demonize the Jewish state and stigmatize its supporters.
Groups including Students for Justice in Palestine promote a false narrative, disseminating anti-Israel propaganda of the BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) movement. This effort, spawned at the hijacked 2001 U.N. conference against racism in Durban (“the Centrality of NGOs in the Durban Strategy,” Prof. Gerald M. Steinberg, Yale Israel Journal, July 11, 2006) seeks not a two-state solution and Israeli-Palestinian peace but destruction of the world’s one Jewish state.
Among prominent anti-Israel falsehoods students encounter:
The Gaza ‘massacre’ charge
Massacre means intentional mass murder. There were no Israeli massacres of Palestinian Arabs in Gaza, not during the December 2008 – January 2009, November 2012 or July-August 2014 conflicts with Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (both U.S.-designated terrorist organizations) and similar groups.
TIME magazine’s Web site posted CAMERA’s analysis (“How Hamas Wields Gaza’s Casualties as Propaganda,” July 29, 2014) after the first three weeks of this summer’s fighting. Analyzing statistics from the Palestinian Human Rights Centre (which alleged 82 percent civilian fatalities at the time), it showed that women and children under 15, who comprised 71 percent of the total population, accounted for one-third of the fatalities. But males between 21 and 27—prime fighting age—were 44 percent of the total, and males between 17 and 39 nearly 60 percent.
Estimates of non-combatant-to-combatant deaths at the hands of U.S. and coalition forces in Afghanistan and Iraq have been in the 3:1 and 4:1 ranges, respectively. The Israeli military expects final figures from this summer’s fighting to be in the 1:1 range—as they were, despite widespread initial claims of “mostly civilian casualties—after the 2006 Israeli-Hezbollah war in Lebanon and the 2008-’09 Gaza fighting (“Hamas’ Revelation Undermines Key Conclusion of Goldstone Report,” Nov. 19, 2010).
In 2014, Hamas did murder dozens of Gazans it labeled as Israeli collaborators during the fighting with Israel. The victims, however, more likely were loyalists of the competing Fatah movement or critics of Hamas’ misrule. Meanwhile, Hamas and its allies fired more than 4,500 mortars and rockets (hundreds which fell short in the Strip) at Israel, each one a war crime.
The ‘apartheid Israel’ slander
On some campuses, “Israel Apartheid Week” amounts to annual indoctrination, a reincarnation of medieval passion plays with anti-Jewish lyrics reprised as anti-Jewish state themes. But in the real world, all Israeli citizens, whether Jews, Christians, Muslims, Druze or others have equal rights. Members of non-Jewish minorities vote, serve in the Knesset (parliament), have access to Israel’s world-class universities, can purchase land, work in the occupations of their choice, volunteer for the military (Druze agreed to conscription), become judges and diplomats, even, as has been the case, win the “Miss Israel” beauty pageant. This is the opposite of South Africa’s former apartheid regime, under which minority whites deprived majority blacks of equality and imposed crippling restrictions in most areas of life.
Malcolm Hedding, a Protestant minister who grew up in South Africa and spoke out against apartheid, has called the “apartheid Israel” smear “absolute nonsense.” According to Hedding “Israel is not trying to dominate the Arab minority or dehumanize it; she’s trying to facilitate sovereignty [for Palestinian Arabs] in one way or another while protecting her own citizens from a program of destruction. In no way is it an apartheid system.” (“Anti-Apartheid Preacher: Labeling Israel Apartheid is ‘Absolute Nonsense,’ ” May 8, 2007)
Bottom line, Arabs in Israel enjoy a fuller, safer exercise of civil rights than do citizens of any of the 22 member countries of the Arab League, not to mention in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip or Fatah (Palestinian Authority)-administered West Bank.
The ‘resisting occupation’ dodge
Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. In 2006, Hamas won the first Palestinian legislative council elections. In 2007 in a “five-day war” in which more than 100 died, it ousted Fatah from the Strip. This defeat left the latter heading the Palestinian Authority only in the West Bank. The PA there administers a minority of the territory but more than 90 percent of its Arab residents.
After Hamas’ election victory and refusal to agree to international demands to cease terrorism, agree to abide by previous Israeli-Palestinian agreements and to recognize Israel, Israel and Egypt imposed partial blockades on the Strip. Mortar and rocket fire at Israel and infiltration attempts, which predated Israel’s withdrawal, increased.
Hamas is the Palestinian offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood. The Brotherhood’s credo is “Allah is our objective. The Prophet is our leader. The Koran is our law. Jihad is our way. Dying in the way of Allah is our highest hope.” Hamas’ charter calls for the destruction of Israel in favor of an Islamic theocracy from Gaza to the Jordan River and genocide against the Jewish people.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad differs with Hamas more over speed than goals. Like the other two groups, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, financed by the PA, has attacked Jews not only in the disputed territories but also inside Israel proper. The “occupation” these movements “resist” is that of the Jewish state by Jews.
'Israel blocks a Palestinian state' allegation
In 2000 and 2001, the United States and Israel offered Yasser Arafat, then Palestine Liberation Organization chairman and Palestinian Authority president, a West Bank and Gaza Strip state on more than 95 percent of the territories, including eastern Jerusalem as its capital, in exchange for peace with Israel. Palestinian leadership refused and launched the terrorist war of the second intifada (2000 – 2005) in reply.
In 2008, Israel proposed a two-state agreement with the Palestinian side receiving more than 97 percent of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with land swaps from Israel to compensate for the remainder, in exchange for an end to the conflict. Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, could not bring himself to say yes or make a counter-offer.
This recent history is without noting that Jordan was created by Great Britain in the 1920s on three-fourths of the land originally intended by the League of Nations for the Palestine Mandate. A majority of Jordan’s population is Palestinian Arab.
Post-World War I Palestine was created by the victorious Allies on a portion of the former Ottoman Empire in part so Great Britain, the Mandate holder, could assist in re-establishing the Jewish national home there.
It’s also worth recalling that Israel remains the obligatory military occupational authority in the West Bank, as the World War II Allies were in West Germany, as a result of successful defense against wars of aggression in 1967 and 1973. The status of the disputed territories is to be resolved through negotiations according to U.N. Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) and related initiatives such as the 1995 Israeli-Palestinian interim accords and the 2003 “road map” promoted by the United States, United Nations, European Union and Russia.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated in 2013 his support for a two-state arrangement as voiced in a 2009 speech at Bar-Ilan University. (“Netanyahu stands by two-state solution,” Ynetnews, Nov. 11, 2013)
This despite Palestinian attempts to avoid required negotiations and the compromises they imply with end-runs to the United Nations.
Israel committed ‘ethnic cleansing’ in 1948 accusation
In 1947, the U.N. General Assembly recommended partition of the remaining British Mandate for Palestine into two countries, one Arab, one Jewish. The Jews agreed but the Arabs rejected partition. When the British departed in 1948, Israel declared its independence—and the armies of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq, plus Palestinian Arab “irregulars” invaded.
As a result of the war the Arab side started and lost, an estimated 500,000 to 600,000 Arabs fled what became Israel. Most Arab refugees left at the urging of their leaders or simply to avoid the fighting. A minority, behind Israeli military lines, was expelled (CAMERA: “Backgrounder: Palestinian Arab and Jewish Refugees,” May 12, 2009).
Meanwhile, more than 800,000 Jews were expelled or fled Arab lands in which their communities had lived for centuries and in some cases millennia. Nearly 600,000 went to Israel. The new Jewish state, rationing food at the time, absorbed its refugee arrivals. The Arab countries confined theirs to camps, in most cases denying them citizenship and imposing occupational and other restrictions.
About 150,000 Arabs remained in Israel after the 1948-1949 war. Today Israeli Arabs number 1.7 million, about 20 percent of the population. Among them are 130,000 Christian Arabs, Israel being the only Middle Eastern country whose Christian population has not declined but rather grown. (“Sojourners Portrays Israel at Center of Christian Crisis in Middle East,” June 20, 2013) There has been plenty of “ethnic cleansing” in the region, including Sunni Muslims from Shiite Muslim areas, Shiites from Sunni districts, Christians, Jews and other religious and ethnic minorities from Arab countries. But not an “ethnic cleansing” of Arabs from Israel.
Students concerned about justice in what was the League of Nations/United Nations British Mandate for Palestine should know that in Israel (17 percent of the original Mandatory lands) there is equal justice under the law. Freedom House rates Israel “2” on its 1-to-7 scale for civil liberties (“7” is the worst) and, like the United States, as a free country.
Freedom House gives Jordan (77 percent of the Mandate) a “5” and considers it not free. The West Bank under Fatah/Palestinian Authority and the Gaza Strip under Hamas (together the West Bank and Gaza constitute the remaining, as yet unallocated 6 percent of the Mandate) each rate "6" and "not free."