A conflict of words Speakers during Palestine Week defamed Israel with inaccurate facts

This is a republication of an original article written by Reece Epstein in the Cavalier Daily on Tuesday, November 25, 2008.

On September 23, 2008, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stood before the UN General Assembly and said, “The dignity, integrity and rights of the American and European people are being played with by a small but deceitful number of people called Zionists.” He called Zionists an “acquisitive and invasive people.”

Ahmadinejad uses the word “Zionist” when he means “Jews,” and tells a disturbing complex of lies about them as he pursues nuclear weapons and predicts the imminent demise of Israel. Ahmadinejad is the standard bearer for a new generation of anti-Semites who are becoming increasingly vocal in their propagation of hatred.

It is in this context that Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine invited Richard Ben Cramer and As’ad Abu Khalil as part of “Palestine Week.” Both speakers made flagrantly false assertions while here.

Cramer is a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist and the author of “How Israel Lost: The Four Questions.” He said in his speech here that Israel is primarily responsible for the conflict to this day because of its occupation of the disputed West Bank and Gaza Strip since 1967.

But in fact, the violence can be traced back to pogroms against the Jews by Palestinian Arabs in the ‘20s and ‘30s.

In 1941, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin al-Husseini, traveled to Nazi Germany to ask Hitler to aid him in wiping out Jews in the Holy Land. Hitler was too busy slaughtering Jews and fighting a war in Europe to be of direct help to the Mufti in Jerusalem. However, as Eric Rozenman of The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in American (CAMERA) notes, “the Mufti was able to help raise Bosnia Muslim divisions to fight for Germany and to block an exchange of thousands of Jewish children for Germans held by the Allies.”

When the Jewish state was created with UN approval in 1948, it was immediately attacked by Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Iraq. When Israel won its war for independence, Rozenman recounts, “Jordan occupied Judea and Samaria and renamed them the West Bank, and Egypt took the Gaza Strip.” Following the war, Palestinian Arab terrorists targeted innocent Israeli citizens throughout the ‘50s and ‘60s.

The Israelis, whom Cramer called his “backward cousins,” defended themselves in 1967 when Egypt, Syria, Iraq and Jordan amassed nearly 250,000 troops and 2,000 tanks near their border. Clearly, Israel’s actions in 1967 did not spark the conflict.

Cramer slandered Israel further by calling it an “apartheid state.” Israel is no such thing. About 16 percent of Israelis are Muslims, and they enjoy more extensive civil liberties their brethren in Arab countries. The only legal distinction between Jews and Muslims in Israel is that most Jews are required to serve in the military, while Muslims are not.

But Cramer almost sounded credible after As’ad Abu Khalil spoke. Khalil authors the “Angry Arab News Service” and is a professor at California State University, Stanislaus.

Khalil accused Israel of carrying out pogroms against the Palestinians, but failed to provide any historical examples. Israel, like any nation at war, has sometimes made tragic mistakes on the battlefield. But unlike Palestinian terrorist groups, it does not practice ethnic violence or target civilians.

Palestinian terrorists operate in built-up areas because they know that they score a propaganda coup every time Israel accidentally kills civilians while counter-attacking terrorists. The pro-Israel Anti-Defamation League notes, for example, that “in the early days of the Second Intifada, [members of a faction of Fatah] shot at Israeli forces from behind groups of demonstrating children and young men.”Howevever, according to that group, Israel tries to respond to terrorist attacks by carefully choosing specific targets whenever possible.
Khalil claimed that Israelis are racists who consider Palestinian Arabs to be expendable. He said further that the Israel Defense Forces’s actions in the 2006 Lebanon War were morally equivalent to those of Al Qaeda terrorist attacks.

Al Qaeda considers anybody who disputes its radical theology — be he Christian, Jewish, or moderate Muslim — a target worth killing. If Israelis really considered Arabs to be sub-human, Israel might simply try to wipe them out with their powerful military.

Instead, Israel has sought peace since its founding. As Rozenman explained, Israel’s desire for peace is demonstrated “in its ’48 Declaration of Independence, and by the treaty with Egypt and ’94 treaty with Jordan.” It is further demonstrated “by the ’93 Oslo attempt [at peace] and Israel’s 2000 Camp David statehood [offer, which was] rejected by Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority.”

Israel regularly treats Arabs wounded in the violence in its hospitals, and affords them extensive civil rights — it is no racist nation.

Students for Peace and Justice in Palestine should apologize to the community for providing Cramer and Khalil the opportunity to defame Israel.

About the Author

Reece Epstein is President of Hoos for Israel.