t Was the Holocaust responsible for the establishment of Israel?
'Holocaust' is the name given to the attempted extermination of the Jewish people by Nazi Germany and its sympathizers during WWII. By its end in 1945, six million Jews (one-third of the world's Jewish population) had been annihilated.
While it is true that the horrors of the Holocaust caused many people to sympathize with the plight of the Jews, it would be wrong to say that European guilt was the principal reason for the establishment of a Jewish state. Rather, the Holocaust can be viewed as an accelerant to a process of state-building that was already well under way.
The Zionist movement began in the 19th century and by the 1880s, the first organized wave of Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel had begun. Over the years, the Jews not only established farms, towns and cities, but had laid the foundations of the state-to-be. A flourishing society, with its own government-in-waiting, was actively striving to establish sovereignty over those parts of the country granted to it in the numerous peace plans of the pre-state era.
International support for the goal of the Zionist movement - the establishment of a homeland for the Jewish people in the Land of Israel - began long before World War II. Indeed, the initial key step towards the Jewish state was taken in the aftermath of the First World War, when in July 1922, the League of Nations granted Great Britain the Mandate for Palestine/The Land of Israel. In a decision adopted by the 52 governments of the League, the Mandate called upon Great Britain to facilitate the establishment of a Jewish national homeland in the land of Israel.
The next crucial step was the 1947 United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181, which called for the partition of the Mandate territory into two states, one Jewish, the other Arab.
European guilt cannot explain away the 1947 UN vote. While most European members of the UN voted for the resolution, so, too, did most Eastern European, Latin American and African countries, countries with little or no connection to the Holocaust.
Moreover, the UN Partition Plan did not happen in a vacuum. The British Empire was already crumbling and that same year, India gained independence from British rule, with Muslim areas partitioned to form Pakistan. The process of decolonialization had begun in much of the developing world.
Similarly, by this time, the Jewish state was well on its way to independence. The Zionist movement had helped form a shadow government and most of the other necessary institutions for a state, including political parties, medical and educational systems, labor movements, social organizations, cultural venues and an underground defense force.
Given the abovementioned facts, the question should not be whether European guilt is responsible for the establishment of Israel, but rather had the state of Israel been established earlier, would the Holocaust have happened. However, this issue is largely ignored by those clinging to the 'European guilt' fallacy, since this claim is part and parcel of the theories presented by those who attempt to delegitimize the very existence of Israel.
t Is Israel not an apartheid state?
Like most other Western democracies with a sizeable minority population, Israel still has a great deal to do before absolute equality can be achieved. However, the disparity between the situation of Arab-Israelis and the situation that existed in South Africa is so vast that no legitimate comparison can be made. Indeed, when such parallels are drawn, they are far more indicative of the approach towards Israel of those making this judgment than they are of any reality in Israel.
As there is no genuine justification for making this charge, there can only be two possible explanations for it - either it is being made by someone who is totally ignorant of the situation in Israel or it is being made by someone who harbors a great deal of hatred for Israel. The "Israel is an apartheid state" lie is most often used by those that are trying to delegitimize the existence of Israel, which is one of the three components of the new antisemitism.
Moreover, this comparison does a great disservice to those who truly suffered under apartheid by diminishing both the agony of their situation and by denying the peaceful means that they used to end this horrific regime. Under apartheid, nonwhites could not become citizens or vote, they were limited professionally, forced to live in separate regions of the country and were provided with substandard public services and health care.
While the status of Arab-Israelis in Israel is still open to much improvement, a great deal has already been accomplished towards reaching the goal of absolute equality. Unlike under apartheid, Arab Israelis can vote, live where they want, receive excellent medical care and practice whatever profession they choice. One only has to look at the rise of Arab-Israelis in the public sphere to realize the advances Arab Israelis have made: they can be found on the Supreme Court, in the Knesset (parliament), in ambassadorial positions, as senior officers in the police and army, as mayors, as deputy-speakers of the Knesset and even as government ministers and deputy ministers. Prominent Arab Israelis can be found in almost every sphere of Israeli life, including in the medical fields, media and playing on Israel's national soccer team.
One of the ideals on which Israel was founded was that of equality. Israel's Declaration of Independence states that the State of Israel "will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions." Moreover, it goes on to appeal "to the Arab inhabitants of the State of Israel to preserve peace and participate in the upbuilding of the State on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions." Subsequent legislation and judicial decisions have upheld these principles.
On must question how a country that considers even incitement to racism illegal be considered an apartheid state? The absolute legal equality and the ongoing efforts being made to achieve practical equality clearly prove the spurious nature of this claim.
t Is Israel not a colonialist invention?
Anti-Israeli forces typically deploy two complimentary narratives to brand Israel as a colonialist entity. The first falsely claims that the establishment of Israel was a colonialist act; the second, that Israel itself is a foreign entity in the Middle East, and therefore its continued existence constitutes colonialism.
At the root of both narratives lies the denial of the Jewish people's historic connection to the land of Israel, of Jewish rights and of Jewish claims to the area. The Palestinians and their supporters ignore the archeological evidence of Jewish life in ancient times, the Jewish presence in the Land of Israel throughout the ages, Jewish laws applicable only to the Land and Jewish traditions, including the Biblical accounts of ancient Jews in the Holy Land. Yasser Arafat went so far as to repudiate the Bible and the New Testament by denying that the Temple ever existed in Jerusalem. Palestinian propagandists still claim that the Jews are not a nation, but merely share a religious belief, thereby unworthy of the nationalist aspirations and self-determination granted to other peoples.
Those that support the claim that the establishment of Israel was a colonialist act often refer to Great Britain's Balfour Declaration as proof. Totally ignored is the fact that the British Mandate to establish a "national home for the Jewish people" was created by the League of Nations, the precursor of the United Nations. The 1922 Mandate did not seek to create a new homeland for the Jews, rather it stated that "recognition has thereby been given to the historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine and to the grounds for reconstituting their national home in that country." The will of the international community was to recognize a preexisting right and right a preexisting wrong.
The founding of Israel in 1948 had nothing to do with colonialism. Indeed, the exact opposite is true: Israel's independence assisted in the removal of the British presence in the Middle East. The Jewish residents of Israel struggled to obtain their independence from their colonial rulers. The Zionists had acted much like other national liberation movements of that time, striving to reestablish the Jewish people's self-determination and the resumption of Jewish sovereignty in their homeland.
On the other side, the Arab states enjoyed the support of the colonial powers during the War of Independence, receiving arms and training. The Arab Legion, which played a crucial role in the war, was commanded by a British officer and had both British and Arab officers in its ranks. The Arab states were supplied with weapons from Britain and France, the colonial powers in the region, while most of Israel's arms came from outside forces, primarily via Czechoslovakia.
Often the fact that most Arab countries were established following control by European powers and only became independent states due to European intervention is conveniently ignored. Also overlooked by those who attempt to portray the Jews as foreign interlopers and the Palestinians as the indigenous people is the large influx of Arabs into the Mandate territory, attracted by the improved conditions in the Holy Land and growing economy established by the Jews.
It is sad and ironic that the Jewish people who had a history in this Land dating back thousands of years are considered colonialists by some and that Zionism, the national liberation movement of the Jewish people, is deigned a colonialist movement. Yet a nation established with the specific approval of the United Nations cannot be considered a colonialist entity and a people returning to their historic homeland cannot be considered colonialists.
t Can Israel be both a Jewish state and a democracy?
The Jewish people's ties to the Land of Israel encompass thousands of years of history and the yearning for their homeland reaches back to antiquity. Israel was established as a Jewish state to fulfill the Jewish people's right to self-determination and national independence. As Israel's Declaration of Independence states "It is a natural right of the Jewish people to be masters of their own fate, like all other peoples, in their own sovereign state."
The Jewish state in the Land of Israel was established with the backing of the international community and in accordance with international law.
International legitimacy for a Jewish homeland in the Land was first granted by the League of Nations, the precursor of the UN, when its 1922 Mandate decision recognized the Jewish people, their historic ties to Israel and their rights to an independent national homeland there.
The international community granted its express support for the establishment of a Jewish state when it voted in favor of the 1947 UN Partition Plan. Furthermore, by stipulating that both the Arab and the Jewish state to be founded under the plan should adopt democratic forms of government, the international community declared that there was no contradiction between the national definition of these states and their democratic natures.
Israel has lived up to the confidence of the international community, and has developed into a contemporary Western liberal democracy with freedom of worship guaranteed to all. Israel has citizens from nearly every religion, race, ethnicity and national origin, all of whom enjoy equal rights under the law.
There is no contradiction between Israel's identity as a Jewish state and as a democracy. While some claim that defining Israel as the Jewish state would appear to imply that Israel is a theocracy that is not true. Israel is governed by the rule of law as set out by a democratically elected parliament, and has an elected executive branch, an independent judiciary and a free press.
Israel is self-defined as a Jewish state, however it is mostly secular and has no official state religion. On the other hand, twenty nations that have established Islam as their state religion, two (Cambodia and Bhutan) are officially Buddhist states, while 14 (including Norway, Argentina and the United Kingdom) constitutionally recognize Christianity or Catholicism as their state religion. None of these states is attacked for their religious characteristics.
Israel's primary Jewish characteristics include the status of Hebrew, the official days of rest and holidays and the state emblems and symbols. Israel's Jewish emblems and symbols are no more objectionable than the crosses that appear on the flags of the United Kingdom, Switzerland, Sweden and many other democracies.
Israel does set its holidays and weekly day of rest according to the Jewish calendar, but Western democracies set theirs by the Christian calendar. It is no more theocratic to celebrate Passover and Hanukah than to have an official holiday on Easter and Christmas. Israel respects Jewish values and norms, but that is no different than the Judeo-Christian heritage valued in many other democracies.
One of the claims against the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state is the contention that the Jews do not constitute a people. Proponents of this view claim that the Jews are merely members of a religion. Yet just like the Norwegians, Japanese and French, the Jewish people are a nation with a shared origin, history, religion, language and culture. Moreover, since self-definition is the foremost test of people or a nation, the very existence of the State of Israel provides the ultimate proof that the Jews define themselves as a people.
Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people. National independence can be consistent with democracy, as many modern nation-states are full-fledged democracies. Most European democracies - including Denmark, Italy, Spain, Poland and Hungary - are national states. Just like in Israel, the identity of the nation, as expressed by the majority, is manifested in the state's symbols, culture, heritage, language and calendar.
Many other nation-states also have large national minorities who wish to protect their unique identities, including Spain (the Basques), Poland (Germans) and Finland (Swedish). Still, all these states are considered democracies and their democratic natures are not questioned because their public character reflects that of the majority.
While Arab Israelis do face a certain degree of discrimination, this is not a function of Israel's legal structure as a Jewish state. Rather, this is a reflection of the difficulties faced by many minority populations in other democracies, compounded by the conflict.
Israeli law grants full civil rights to members of all ethnic groups and Israel's declaration of independence guarantees a large amount of cultural autonomy for individuals and for groups. Minority rights are respected by the state: Arabic is the second official language, marriage and other personal status issues are dealt with in a state-sponsored system of Muslim courts and Arab children are educated in a state-sponsored Arab-language school system. In these respects, Israel is more liberal than many other democracies.
At the same time that Israel is subjected to criticism for its Jewish identity, Muslim states, with their state-sponsored religion, are given a free pass. Even the Palestinian Authority has declared Islam its official and sole state religion.
To deny Israel's legitimacy as the Jewish state is to deny the Jewish people's right to self-determination and a homeland. Given the long history of oppression of the Jewish people that included the Holocaust, that right is a necessity. To negate the validity of Zionism, the national movement of the Jewish people, while validating the national aspirations of other peoples is nothing more than discrimination and a challenge to the principle of universal equality. Just as the Palestinians expect Israel to recognize a Palestinian state, Israelis expect the Palestinians to recognize the Jewish state.
It is ironic that those who object to the term "the Jewish state" have no such qualms regarding the establishment of the Palestinian state, one which Palestinian leaders have declared would have no Jewish citizens.
t Is the Law of Return a just law?
The 1950 Law of Return gives every Jew the right to come to Israel as an oleh (immigrant) and become an Israel citizen. It also grants the right to make aliyah (immigrate) to any individual who has one Jewish parent or grandparent or is married to someone who is Jewish or has a Jewish parent or grandparent.
The Law of Return can best be viewed as a response to the long history of persecution of the Jews. It is also a practical expression of the Jewish people's aspirations for the rebirth of their independent state in their ancient homeland.
The rationale for the Law of Return was obvious in the wake of the Holocaust - it was designed to ensure that every Jew could find a place of refuge and rebuild their lives in a Jewish homeland. Upon establishment of the state in 1948, the first act of the government was to abolish all the British restrictions on Jewish immigration, allowing the survivors of the Holocaust, and later the Jews fleeing Arab states, to find shelter in their homeland. In many ways the Law of Return was the Jewish state's answer to the British White Paper of 1939, which severely limited Jewish immigrate to the Mandate territory and doomed the Jews of Europe. With this act, the Israeli government declared that Israel would serve as a haven for Jews from around the world. Since then, it has helped Jews fleeing persecution and hardship, from antisemitism in the Communist bloc to famine in Ethiopia.
The Law of Return does not discriminate against non-Jewish citizens of Israel because it does not deal with any citizens of Israel, only potential immigrants. The law is sometimes criticized because it does not allow Arabs to freely immigrate to Israel or for Palestinian refugees and their descendents to reclaim their former homes. Either situation would undermine the Jewish nature of Israel, which was established as a homeland for the Jewish people, as prescribed by UN Resolution 181 of 1947 (the Partition Plan) and the League of Nations Mandate of 1922. Israel's Law of Return upholds the rights of the Jews.
Furthermore, the Law of Return is not the only path to Israeli nationality. Any non-Jew who wishes to immigrate to Israel may do so through the process of naturalization, under the Law of Entry and the Law of Citizenship, in a manner similar to that in most other democracies. Meanwhile the matter of the Palestinian refugees should be settled through the negotiating process and in the framework of a Palestinian state. When a Palestinian state is established, the Palestinians will be free to enact their law of return to their own territory.
To criticize the Law of Return as racist is to apply a double standard to Israel. Many democracies have compatible laws and similar relationships between their nation-states and national diasporas. Numerous constitutions provide for national repatriation and these ties are reflected in immigration and citizenship laws.
A number of countries in Western Europe (Ireland, Greece, Germany, France, Finland), most central and eastern European states and some Asian states (China, Japan, the Philippines) have repatriation laws similar to the Law of Return. For example, under its immigration laws, Finland gives preferential treatment to those of Finnish-ethnic extraction from the former USSR, calling it repatriation, even though many are descendants of Finns who emigrated from Finland hundreds of years ago.
The Law of Return is compatible with Israel's identity as a liberal democracy. Israel was established to provide a safe haven for Jews around the world and the Law of Return also has brought a scattered people back together in their homeland.
t Does Israel's identity as the Jewish state mean the oppression of its Arab minority?
Israel's Declaration of Independence defines the state as a Jewish and democratic state, a state based on both Jewish precepts and democratic principles. Israel is the only Jewish state, rendering it an easy target of attack - a state that many people label exclusionary, discriminatory and undemocratic.
However, the fact that Israel has an official ethnic character does not render it unique in the family of nations. In fact, Israel is but one of many countries which have an official ethnic character or state religion (Argentina and Costa Rica, for example, are Roman Catholic, Denmark and Iceland are Lutheran, and almost every Arab country in our region is officially Islamic).
The fact that Israel has an official ethnic character is also not discriminatory. Israel's Declaration of Independence not only defines Israel as a Jewish state, but also as a democratic state based upon the principles of the separation of power, freedom, and complete equality before the law for all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race, gender or nationality. These principles apply today. As Israel is self-defined as both a Jewish and a democratic state, it guarantees the rights of its non-Jewish citizens, who enjoy full equality under the law.
Israel is not only a democracy in name, but also in practice. Israel is home to a multicultural society, composed of various minority groups, including Israeli Arabs, Bedouins, Druze, and Circassians. These minority groups constitute approximately 20% of the Israeli population. They enjoy all the rights of Israeli citizens, and bear most of the concomitant responsibilities. In particular, minority citizens in Israel vote in elections, serve as representatives in the parliament, ministers in the government, and ambassadors abroad. They carry Israeli identity cards, travel on Israeli passports, attend Israeli schools, are admitted to Israeli hospitals, and pay Israeli taxes.
Even if redundant, it is important to note that as in any democracy, minorities in Israel enjoy the right to freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of association, among other important political rights. In fact, the freedoms that are afforded to minorities in Israel far surpass the freedoms granted to citizens of other Middle Eastern states.
However, having said this, one cannot and should not ignore that as in any multicultural society claims of discrimination can and do arise in Israel. However, the Israeli system has many safeguards in place to prevent discrimination. For example, these claims can be directly addressed to the Israeli Supreme Court, on which both Arab and Jewish judges reside. The Supreme Court has the power to overturn government action, to order injunctions and to grant relief; and does not hesitate to use this power where necessary.
Israel, like many other Western democracies, is still struggling to obtain absolute equality between all its citizens in practice. However, Israel's strong democratic and legal protections provide a strong base for the protection of minority rights.
t Do the Palestinians have a "right" to immigrate to Israel?
The State of Israel is a national home for Israeli citizens and for Jews living throughout the world. Upon its establishment, Israel provided a full and comprehensive solution to the problem of Jewish refugees who had survived the Holocaust in Europe, as well as those who, following the establishment of the State of Israel, were forced to leave Arab countries that they had lived in for centuries.
While the question of Palestinian refugees is an impassioned one, and while Israel empathizes with Palestinian refugees and their descendants, the Palestinian refugee problem demands a Palestinian solution. The future Palestinian state must provide a full and comprehensive resolution for the Palestinians, including both those who currently reside in the territories and those who travelled to various Arab states and have been deliberately kept as refugees there so as to be exploited as bargaining chips.
According to Palestinian sources, there are approximately 3.5 million Palestinian refugees and descendants registered with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, the U.N. Agency established for the sole purpose of addressing the Palestinian refugee problem. If Israel were to allow all of these individuals to return to her territory, this would be an act of demographic suicide on her part, and no state can be expected to destroy itself. As US President Obama stated "the right of return would extinguish Israel as a Jewish state."
Moreover, neither under the major UN resolutions, nor under international conventions, nor under the relevant agreements between the parties, are the Palestinian refugees granted a "right" to return to Israel. In fact, several UN resolutions hint at alternative means which can be implemented to resolve the Palestinian refugee problem, including resettlement and payment of compensation for lost property. Such measures would constitute a "just settlement" of the refugee problem.
International law does not recognize the right of the Palestinian refugees and their descendents to return to their homes. A methodical examination of the laws pertaining to refugees has found the there is no basis for Palestinian claims. Indeed, the opposite is true: at the time when the refugee problem was created in 1948, the trend was to separate warring sides and returning to Israel was not considered an option. The position against refugees returning was strongly reinforced by the 2010 ruling of the European Court of Human Rights which held that due to the time that had passed, Greek refugees who had been expelled from northern Cyprus in 1974 should not be allowed to return to their homes and expel the current residents. The European Court decided that a resolution to the Cyprus refugee problem must be found through a political resolution to the conflict, much as a resolution to the Palestinian refugee problem can only be resolved politically and in the framework of a Palestinian state.
t Is Israel viewed favorably in the US because of a Jewish lobby?
Israel and the United States maintain close relations because both states share fundamental values and common strategic interests. The two states are allies in every sense of the word while the two peoples are strong friends.
Shared values include a reverence for democracy, respect for individual rights and the belief that governance should only be by the rule of law. The US and Israel also share similar histories: both are "promised lands", one old, one new, both are immigrant nations born as democracies and both have fought wars, though only of necessity or moral requirement.
While Israelis admire the United States, Americans, too, have seen Israel advance from a young country fighting for its existence to an outpost of democracy in a sea of repressive regimes. Israel, like the US, strives for progress, contributing to the world its innovations in science, technology, culture, the humanities and higher learning.
The special bond has existed since President Harry Truman recognized Israel a mere 11 minutes after its establishment as a modern state. The resilient nature of these ties is best demonstrated by the bipartisan support afforded Israel, ensuring that they do not waver no matter which party is in power in Washington. And the US knows that no change of government in Jerusalem could cause Israel to abandon the alliance.
The parallel worldviews of both nations signify that the US and Israel share not only values, but interests as well. The two countries believe that their vital interests include promoting peace, security and stability in the region.
The hazards inherent to the Middle East threaten Israel directly, but also challenge American strategic interests. Both states are concerned with the spread of terrorism and extremism, as well as the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. President Obama has noted that: "Many of the same forces that threaten Israel also threaten the United States and our efforts to secure peace and stability in the Middle East. Our alliance with Israel serves our national security interests."
Together the US and Israel face these threats as allies. Indeed, it was President Barack Obama who called Israel "our strongest ally in the region and its only established democracy." Ties between the two countries serve as a stabilizing factor in an unstable region, as Israel acts as a deterrent to the extremists of the region.
While times have seen other alliances shift, Israel has remained a vital friend and ally to the US. Strategic cooperation has existed for decades. Whether during the Cold War, when Israel was America's only reliable friend in the region, or today in the fight against terrorism, this close cooperation and intelligence sharing has benefitted both parties. For it was Israel's 1981 attack on Saddam Hussein's Osirak nuclear reactor that allowed US forces to free Kuwait during the first Gulf war, protecting America's vital oil interests. At the same time, while American soldiers remain stationed in Germany, Japan, South Korea and elsewhere, Israel's doctrine of self-reliance has meant that American soldiers never have to fight its battles.
Israel continues to make strong contributions to the US in the framework of this strategic cooperation, including in the fields of intelligence sharing, weapons and technological development, combined military planning and joint exercises for the benefit of both sides. Israel's experience in counter-terrorism and homeland security expertise has served America well following 9/11.
Despite these bonds and quantitatively proven support of the American people for the people of Israel, there are those that insist that a Jewish lobby or an Israeli lobby stands behind US-Israeli ties. This view is nothing more than a conspiracy theory. Accusations of disproportionate Jewish influence are an expansion of old antisemitic myths that hold that a Jewish cabal controls the media, world finance and governments.
These types of conspiracy theories can do nothing to detract from the fact that America freely chooses its allies, searching out those nations who share its values and morals. There is nothing more genuine than the formation of close ties between two states that believe wholeheartedly in democracy, freedom and tolerance.
t Is the conflict linked to all the problems of the Middle East?
Linkage refers to the belief that the Arab-Israel conflict is inextricable linked to every other problem in the Middle East. The linkage concept is one of the greatest myths of the Middle East. It has served to alter fair reporting of the history of the region and more dangerously, distorts current assessments of the problems facing the region, preventing rational analysis.
Those that believe in the hard linkage fallacy hold that all the Middle East's issues are linked to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and that every other regional problem will be solved by resolving the conflict. Soft linkage does not support this ridiculous premise but does maintain that the establishment of a Palestinian state will enable significant progress on even the most problematic issues of the region.
The linkage myth began in the 1920s during the Mandate period, created by Arab elites for reasons connected to intra-Arab politics. This fabrication was used by Arab leaders who fought to gain a position of power with the British by representing the Palestinians. They used the linkage theory to explain their involvement in the matter. Additionally, it was part of their attempts to portray the Middle East as the home of a unified Arab nation, a force to be reckoned with.
Linkage gained hold as the US involvement in the Middle East grew. The goal then became to pressure the United States to abandon Israel, based on the claim that the US could not have good relations with both sides. As Arab states realized the extent of US resolve in supporting Israel, they tried to place the onus for resolving the conflict on the United States.
Currently, the myth plays a role in absolving the Arab leadership of all responsibility for the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and for all other problems of the Middle East. For Arab leaders it has the very useful added benefit of placing Israel in the role of scapegoat, a rally point for popular support and a means to divert attention away from the tyranny, corruption and failures of their own regimes.
The linkage myth is so pervasive primarily because it is a propaganda line endlessly promulgated by the Arab elites. For those in the West, it seemingly supplies an easy explanation to an extremely complicated situation - solve one conflict and the Middle East will flourish. Its simplicity makes it attractive to those who seek uncomplicated solutions and refuse to face up to reality. It is particularly attractive to anti-Israeli forces in the West who seek to delegitimize Israel, blaming it for all the ills of the region.
The Palestinian-Israeli conflict is not the single defining issue of a conflict-ridden region. There have been countless numbers of conflicts in the Middle East since 1948, including the civil war in Yemen (1962-68), the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88), the Gulf War (1990-91) and the Second Gulf War (2003-present). None of these wars had anything to do with Israel, and none would have been alleviated by a resolution of the Israel-Arab conflict.
In addition to the fights for power between nation-states in the Middle East, there are also conflicts between sectarian groups as well as between regimes and their domestic rivals. The Middle East encompasses a region with thousands of clans and tribes, different languages and dialects, ethnic and religious groups. Presently, the Arab world is involved with the conflicts between the Sunnis and Shiites and secularists and Islamists, as well as dealing with Iran's nuclear program, the situation in Iraq, the instability in Lebanon, the currently dormant Hamas-Fatah civil war and the rebellion on the Saudi-Yemeni border. Polling data shows that these situations interest the residents of the Middle East far more than the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
Similarly, none of the current Middle Eastern issues will be eliminated by a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Taliban's reign of terror in Afghanistan and the sectarian violence in Iraq are not dependent on border negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians. Nor will Iran abandon its nuclear plans or its regional ambitions because the Palestinian refugee issue is resolved. The Arab states will cooperate or not with the West regarding Iran according to how they view the regional balance of power and not how quickly the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations progress.
There are those that claim that America's support of Israel harms its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Is it realistic to claim that the insurgents in Iraq are concerned more with human rights in the Gaza than with overthrowing the current government, or that the average Afghani is more disturbed by settlement construction in the West Bank than the power of the Taliban.
Similarly, there are those that claim that resolving the conflict would undermine support for extremists. Those who hold this view ignore what happened in Jordan and Egypt. Israel's peace agreements with these two countries did not serve to moderate the extremists there, rather they utilized the peace issue to stir up their supporters in the same way they had used the conflict. A similar scenario can be expected after peace is reached with the Palestinians. This peace agreement will not convince the extremists to moderate themselves, rather it will only spur them on to further violence.
Radical Islamists will never accept a Jewish state in the Middle East. The extremists are not interested in issues such as border negotiations because they are not interested in peace. They care not for the matters relating to "1967" (i.e. the West Bank and Gaza), but for the affairs of "1948" (the existence of Israel). A peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians will not mollify the terrorists,
The same forces of extremism that want to eradicate Israel want to eradicate any American presence in the Middle East. They do not hate American because of Israel, but rather see Israel as an outpost of American democracy and hate Israel because of America. Both are part of the insufferable West, whose culture and beliefs are antithetical to their most closely held beliefs.
Al Qaeda views the resurrection of the caliphate as its prime goal, and US support for moderate Muslim regimes as its prime obstacle. Osama bin Laden's goal is to take power in Riyadh, not Jerusalem. Israel is only a minor blip on his radar. Pre-9/11, bin Laden barely referred to the Israel-Palestinian conflict. His 1996 fatwa "Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places [Saudi Arabia]" concentrated on the US's outrage against the Muslim nation - the stationing of US troops on Saudi Arabian soil. After 9/11, his priorities remained the same: the downfall of pro-American regimes in the US and ultimately, the establishment of an Islamic caliphate. However, closely following trends in the Western media which blamed the attacks on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, bin Laden began to make some use of the Palestinians as a rallying cry. It was the prevalence of the linkage theory which then caused bin Laden to use the Palestinians as an excuse, not true devotion to the Palestinian cause.
Indeed, one of the fallacies of the linkage theory concerns the extent that the Arab world truly cares about the Palestinians. They are more a political ploy than a true object of concern. Since before the establishment of the state of Israel, Arab regimes have been more involved with advancing their own interests than with the welfare of the Palestinians.
Even when the Arab states actually took actions to help the Palestinians, they were acting for their own benefit: the Arab invasion of the newly-established state of Israel in 1848 was actually a land grab, while the Egyptians and Jordanians, who ruled Gaza and the West Bank until the 1967 Six-Day War, did nothing to promote Palestinian statehood. Time after time, the PLO was expelled from Arab countries when it threatened to destabilize the local regime and Arab leaders have did little if anything to defend Palestinian human rights in their own territories.
The linkage theory is dangerous as it diverts attention away from the true problems of the Middle East and absolves the local leadership from all responsibility for their resolution. If all international support for Israel was to cease to exist, Iran's pursuit of nuclear arms would not halt, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq would not end, and al Qaeda would not change its horrific aspirations. Rather, the extremists would be strengthened and the US' position in the Middle East would be gravely compromised. US-Israeli relations may be an irritant in the Arab world, but they do not determine the course of events in the Middle East. Even if the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was resolved, the deep-seated anger in the region will not disappear and the culture of shame and honor will soon find a new cause.
t Is the fence a legitimate means of self-defense?
Palestinian propaganda has tries to portray the anti-terrorist fence in the most negative light possible. Instead of acknowledging that the fence is a legitimate means of passive self-defense, the Palestinians and their supporters twist its purpose by calling it an apartheid wall or a new Berlin wall (ignoring the fact that almost all the barrier is a fence) that is intended to create ghettos.
The Palestinians have attempted to attach the term "apartheid" to the anti-terrorism fence, apartheid being a system of racial segregation designed to preserve the status quo and oppress black South Africans, who were denied all rights. But the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is nothing like the situation that existed in South Africa, and Israel's anti-terrorist fence has nothing to do with separation by race, but with the need to prevent terrorism.
Palestinian propaganda utterly ignores the fact that the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis is not a racial one, but in fact, a national-territorial conflict to which some Palestinians have tried to add religious traits. The fence was not designed to separate two peoples according to their race or religion, but rather to separate the perpetrators of terrorism from their victims. On one side of the fence will be Israeli citizens - both Jewish and Arab - while on the other, the Palestinian population, amongst which the terrorists hide.
Israel is not seeking to isolate the Palestinians. Israel would like nothing more than to see cooperation flourish with its Palestinian neighbors and the Arab world. The only reason that Palestinians have in recent years been restricted from entering into Israel is because of the terrorist attacks that peaked during the second intifada that began in 2000. Moreover, the Palestinians have no legal right to enter the state of Israel: they are not citizens of Israel and many have had nefarious reasons for crossing into Israeli territory.
At the same time, Israeli Arabs (who constitute nearly 20% of Israel's population) are citizens with equal rights under Israeli law, and reside on the Israeli side of the fence. Therefore, it is clear that the fence does not divide on the basis of race or religion, but rather based on citizenship and past terrorist behaviors.
Similarly, the accusations that the anti-terrorism fence is creating another Berlin Wall is nothing more than cheap propaganda that plays fast and loose with historical facts. The Berlin Wall was not a defensive mechanism. Instead it was designed by the totalitarian Communist regime of East Germany to perpetuate the division of the city by keeping the citizens of East Germany - who sought only freedom and contact with their brethren in West Germany - locked in. In stark contrast, Israel is building the anti-terrorist fence for one purpose only: to keep Palestinian terrorists, who wish to murder and maim Israeli citizens, out.
By falsely claiming that the anti-terrorist fence created ghettos, Palestinian propaganda is cynically manipulating history and reality. Defensive measures, such as the fence, have no connection whatsoever with ghettos.
In misusing the term "ghetto," the Palestinians choose to manipulate a concept linked to the darkest, most painful periods of Jewish history, particularly the Holocaust. In this manner, the Palestinians once again exploit Jewish suffering to smear the name of Israel. This is a classic example of the new antisemitism, which uses an outright lie for the purpose of rewriting history and transforming the victim into the perpetrator. The Jews were forced into ghettos to isolate them, to discriminate against them, to persecute them, and ultimately - during the Holocaust - to kill them.
Israel is not pushing the Palestinians into ghettos; the Palestinians live freely in the West Bank. Rather, Israel is creating a barrier between Palestinian terrorists and Israeli communities. The fence was designed to create maximum security with minimal interference to Palestinian daily life. Israel is not forcing the Palestinians to move from their communities, but is being forced to build the security fence to keep the Palestinians terrorists away from Israeli civilians.
It is Palestinian terrorism that caused the fence to be built and it is Palestinian terrorism that must take responsibility for any inconvenience caused by the defensive fence. In actuality, the anti-terrorism fence has contributed to peace, by allowing both Israelis and Palestinians to live side-by-side, relatively free from the conflicts caused by terrorism.
While the status of Arab-Israelis in Israel is still open to much improvement, a great deal has already been accomplished towards reaching the goal of absolute equality.