July 11, 2017
Radical Ignorance Threatens Israel: Let’s at Least Agree on the Facts
Dear Friend of FLAME:
If you’re like most FLAME supporters, you’re probably as flabbergasted as I am by the ignorance—often seemingly willful—of Israel’s detractors.
Israel is accused of apartheid, for example, yet there can be no objective comparison between Israel’s treatment of its Arab citizens—20% of the population—who enjoy full civil liberties, and the scourge of South African apartheid, which denied its black majority equality in virtually every sphere of social and political life. To call Israel apartheid is to ignore the facts—or, more likely, to lie.
Israel separates out Arab non-citizens in the West Bank and Gaza, as many countries do their neighbors, for fear of being overrun—or worse in Israel’s case, for fear of murderous terrorism. Walls on your borders is not apartheid.
Likewise, Israel is accused violating international law by “seizing Arab land,” because Israelis have built housing in the West Bank. In point of fact, dozens of international law experts have ruled that Israeli settlements are perfectly legal, primarily because the West Bank does not belong, nor has it ever belonged, to a sovereign nation. The West Bank is not Palestinian land, it is disputed territory. To maintain otherwise is ignorant or mendacious.
Finally, Israel is accused of obstructing the peace process—despite having made numerous generous land-for-peace offers, most recently in 2001 and 2008 under the auspices of the United States. The Palestinians walked away from all negotiations—did not even deign to offer counterproposals. What’s more, Palestinian society is in such a pathetic economic and political shambles that if you’re in possession of the facts it’s impossible to even imagine the Arabs negotiating, let alone maintaining a peace.
This week’s FLAME Hotline featured article (below) is written by Harvard University student, Cameron K. Khansarinia (’18), whose academic concentration is government. Khansarinia, an ethnic Iranian, recently returned from a trip to Israel and offers a refreshing perspective on the Jewish state that is at stark odds with radical-left views so prevalent on U.S. campuses, which condemn Israel based on ignorance or lies.
By reprinting this piece for you, we’re aware we risk preaching to the choir—much of what Khansarinia says will be familiar. But I think you’ll appreciate that there are still voices of reason at U.S. colleges and universities, still those willing to consider the facts before rushing to knee-jerk, “politically correct” judgments.
Finally, I think you’ll also appreciate some of the valid criticisms Khansarinia levels at the state of Israel—the likes of which (and worse) could as well be made of the United States. If you have college students in your family or circle of friends—or parents of students— please consider passing this week’s Hotline on to them.
For this reason, I hope you’ll also quickly review the P.S. immediately below, which describes FLAME’s long-running hasbarah campaign to expose the campus-based Boycott-Divestment-and-Sanctions (BDS) movement as lying and hypocritical. We will begin running these messages on U.S. college and university campuses starting in September.
President, Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME)
While FLAME and others who oppose the deceitful BDS movement have won many battles—on campuses and in state legislatures—over the last several years, the Israel haters and anti-Semites have won far too many BDS votes at prominent American academic institutions, and they persist. In order to make American college and university students aware of the facts—and lies—surrounding the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, FLAME has developed a position paper: “BDS, Academic Freedom and Anti-Semitism” This paid editorial has appeared in magazines and newspapers, including college newspapers—and will start again in September—with a combined readership of some 10 million people. In addition, it is being sent to every member of the U.S. Congress and President Trump. If you agree that this kind of public relations effort on Israel's behalf is critical, I urge you to support us. Remember: FLAME's powerful ability to influence public opinion—and U.S. support of Israel—comes from individuals like you, one by one. I hope you'll consider giving a donation now, as you're able—with $500, $250, $100, or even $18. (Remember, your donation to FLAME is tax deductible.) To donate online, just go to donate now. Now more than ever we need your support to ensure that the American people—especially college students— and the U.S. Congress quash all support for blatantly anti-Semitic BDS efforts.
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Radical Ignorance on Campus
By Cameron K. Khansariia, Harvard Crimson, June 29, 2017
In recent years, activists, students, and authors have framed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a simple one. The mantra of a cruel Israeli state oppressing the Palestinians is ubiquitous in many intellectual circles.
Most recently, such arguments were heard in these pages when an author called the Palestinian cause, “the least radical cause in the world.” In recounting his Harvard-organized trip to the West Bank, he depicts Palestinians going about their days scurrying from business meetings to social gatherings and lounging in posh cafes. All that is missing from this picturesque description are cute, wide-eyed children playing soccer and eating candy. His few placid days in Ramallah, we are to believe, make the Palestinian cause entirely just and the Israeli policies entirely unjust.
Unfortunately, conclusions about and solutions to centuries-old conflicts cannot be reached in such a short time.
The vast majority of Palestinians, like the vast majority of Israelis, want to lead normal lives of business meetings, afternoons in cafes, and soccer games. But it is unhelpful and disingenuous to be intentionally simplistic to push a political agenda. It is not just the author who falls into this trap, or walks into it intentionally, but the entire Boycott, Divest, and Sanction movement which calls for economic and social isolation of the Jewish state.
I too went on a Harvard-affiliated trip to the Holy Land. We left Logan Airport as 50 strangers and returned from Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion united both in friendship and in the conviction that the most dangerous conclusions to draw about the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians are those that lack nuance.
I knew going into the trip that my pro-Israel sentiments were sure to be challenged. They were. We met with Jewish settlers in the West Bank who reveled in establishing their communities on the land of a future Palestinian state. We listened as an ultra-right Orthodox Jewish leader defended the second-class role many women in his community are relegated to. We heard Netanyahu ally and mayor of Jerusalem, Nir Barkat, tell us inside the City Council Chambers that his was a city without walls or divisions. We could all think of one glaring, concrete exception.
This is the paradox the BDS movement attempts to set up for us: a benign, oppressed Palestinian populace held back from their potential and their human rights by the cold, oppressive Israelis. Therefore, they say, Harvard should divest from this apartheid state. The problem, however, is that they purposefully ignore some of the most important components: the ones that don’t fit their ideology.
They deplore the situation in Gaza, yet they ignore that Israel pulled out of Gaza more than a decade ago. They ignore that the Israeli military forcibly removed those Jewish settlers from Gaza who would not leave voluntarily. This same move, to be repeated in the West Bank if the divestment advocates had their way, led to the takeover of the Gaza government by the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Instead of a vibrant Palestinian state in Gaza, it is a terrorist haven in which the people are repressed by their fundamentalist rulers. Hamas does not spend the billions it receives in foreign aid on schools or hospitals, but rather on tunnels through which terrorists can attack Israel and cash stipends to incentivize suicide bombers, children included. Why should Israel repeat the mistake in the West Bank?
Maybe it wouldn’t matter. Israel is already surrounded by millions of people who, inspired by their leaders and a perverted version of Islam, hate them. As an Israeli mother told me on our trip, “If the Jews had our way, there would be a Jewish state and a Palestinian state in which we could guarantee our ability to survive. If the Palestinian leaders had their way, there wouldn’t be any Jews left, much less a Jewish state.”
Such fear is understandable. Just listen to the leaders of the country my own family comes from, Iran, who have called Israel a cancer to be “wiped off the map” and “annihilated”. They might know that’s already been tried, but they question the reality of the Holocaust, so fat chance.
There is undoubtedly progress to be made in Israel. In Nazareth, we heard mothers bemoan the inadequate funding given to Arab-Israeli schools compared to Jewish-Israeli schools. There are other such complaints of discrimination. However, unlike Black South Africans, the Palestinians and Arab-Israelis have considerable representation in Israeli institutions. Take for example, Salim Joubran, the Arab-Israeli serving as Vice President of the Israeli Supreme Court. This isn’t just token representation. The Court regularly rules in favor of these minority groups and against the Israeli government. Maybe the BDS movement could remind us how many Black South Africans sat on the Apartheid-era South African Supreme Court?
If the BDS movement is keen on boycotting apartheid states, they should start with Iran or Saudi Arabia. There are oppressed women and LGBTQ+ people who would love to explain what a real apartheid state looks like. Sadly they’re unavailable at the moment, as they are currently imprisoned by their apartheid states.
Despite all of this, the extreme lengths to which Israel has gone to defend itself from perennial rocket fire, exploding school busses, and terrorist massacres may cause Americans to recoil at the limitations placed on the civil liberties of Palestinians and Arab-Israelis. We can still side with liberty over security, as I do, but let’s not pretend these security measures are in place to intentionally hold back the vast majority of peaceful Palestinians. They are to hold back those who would drive the Jews into the sea, given the chance.
Many BDS activists have gone to the Holy Land and returned sages with a simple solution: Israel is the racist, apartheid state. I went to the region and returned with more questions than answers, more assured of the humanity of people on both sides. The only thing of which I am sure on this issue is that so many on the left drastically oversimplify the conflict by lionizing the Palestinians and demonizing Israel.
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