Tuesday, April 29, 2003/lk
By CHRIS and CARY JACKSON
Special to the News
We were, to put it mildly, dismayed by the content of a recent Hood River News article (“A Powerful Gathering,” Hood River News, April 19.)
This article, by RaeLynn Gill (now RaeLynn Ricarte), was mainly a summarization of the chief points that Cindy Green and Sabina House brought home from a meeting in Washington, D.C., about why we “definitely need to take a strong stand with Israel.”
We believe that the argument put forth in the article is lacking in plausibility; furthermore, we believe that many of the comments in this article should never have been allowed to go unquestioned by the Hood River News’ staff writer.
There were four reasons put forth in this article to justify Israel’s “claim to the Holy Land.” Let’s make no mistake here. The Holy Land is not only the land given to the new state of Israel in 1947. The Holy Land, the land that God promised Abram/Abraham and his descendants in Genesis 15:18, spans from the great river in Egypt to the Euphrates — yes, that’s in Iraq. At a minimum, it consists of the ancient land of Canaan — which includes the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, regions not ceded to the new state of Israel in 1947. This is why many fundamentalist Jews and Christians believe that it is not morally wrong for Israel to expand its borders beyond those provided by the U.N.
So what reasons were produced? First, “(Israel) had become a nation 2,000 years before the rise of Islam.” The Palestinian Arabs have occupied the land for over 4,000 years and have been living with a minority population of Jews on that land for close to 2,000 years. This seems to be the important consideration. What does the rise of Islam have to do with the right to exist on the plot of land that your ancestors have passed down for centuries?
Second, “Jerusalem has been the Jewish capital for over 3,300 years and had never been the capital of any Arab or Muslim entity.” The vast majority of Jews left Jerusalem — and Palestine generally — beginning in about 100 BCE: the Diaspora. That’s a significant absence of about 2,000 years. But let’s say that this reason has some merit. At best, this would only show that the new state of Israel had a strong claim to Jerusalem. But let’s remember that the reasons are supposed to justify the continual expansion of Israeli citizens into occupied territories well beyond Jerusalem. This would be like saying that you had a claim to all of Hood River simply because you could make a tenuous case that you should own the downtown blocks.
Third, “Arab refugees in Israel did not start identifying themselves as ‘Palestinians’ until 1967, two decades after the modern state of Israel had been established.” This statement is deeply disturbing. From this we can conclude that an entire group of civilians can be robbed and driven out of their ancestral homes and villages if they haven’t yet been forced to unite around a national identity.
Fourth, “Israel did not force Palestinians out of their land in 1948, they were encouraged to leave by Arab leaders and 68 percent of the 63,000 individuals who willingly left did not encounter any military force.” We sincerely hope that this 63,000 number is a misprint, because this is a shocking misrepresentation of history: even mainstream Israeli historians admit that the number of refugees might reach 500,000. However, the majority of international historians puts this number at closer to 750,000. We do not mind if one says something like hundreds of thousands, but to use a figure like 63,000 is to seriously distort the truth.
And did the Arabs flee “voluntarily”? Mainstream historians agree that most of the over 700,000 refugees were driven out of their homes by a combination of Israeli military and paramilitary action. The not-insignificant incidence of voluntary Arab flight from their homes stemmed from fear based on rampant rumors of Israeli atrocities.
The first three of the “reasons” in the argument clearly lack sufficient relevance to make their case, and the fourth is simply false.
Toward the beginning of the article, Cindy Green was quoted as saying that “We as a people, as a nation, need to take a stand against the atrocities that are waged against the Israelis.” Let’s consider some facts about Israel’s role in this conflict. Israel’s policy of locating civilian settlers within militarily occupied territories (a practice that continues to this day) has been found by the International Committee of the Red Cross to be in direct violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. Remember the Geneva Conventions? They were adopted as international law after World War II to prohibit and prevent the practices in which Nazi Germany had engaged. Furthermore, the U.N. has passed 69 resolutions condemning Israel’s inhumane treatment of the Palestinians — practices including land confiscation; denial of public services; monopoly of water and natural resources; illegal detention; destruction of homes, schools, churches, mosques, wells, and orchards; and the list goes on. Physicians for Human Rights, International Committee of Jurists, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and International Red Cross are some of the organizations that routinely condemn Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. Can any informed person honestly say that the state of Israel is an innocent party in this conflict?
While we respect the right of Ms. House and Ms. Green to express their religious and political beliefs, we find the use and phrases such as “battle of evil” and “righteous struggle” to be objectionable given the reality of the conflict and Israel’s participation in it.
This issue is complex. But the following are some resources that the interested citizen might find helpful:
Books: The Question of Palestine, Edward W. Said; The Fateful Triangle, Noam Chomsky; Righteous Victims, Benny Morris.
Chris and Cary Jackson live in Hood River. Chris Jackson heads the philosophy and religion program at Mt. Hood Community College.