The Sabeel document attempts to marshal support for the Palestinian radical political agenda, not for mutual understanding and reconciliation. Under the guise of impartially reporting facts, it presents factual distortions, errors and deceptions whose effect is to vilify and delegitimize Israel and blame its very existence for the continuing Arab-Israeli conflict. The following is a partial list of these errors and deceptions:
I. Distorting history to delegitimize Israel and justify Palestinian grievances
· Claim: “The State of Israel was established in 1948…leading to the displacement of most of its Palestinian inhabitants, who became refugees.” (p. 1)
Fact: The establishment of Israel did not displace a single Palestinian Arab or create refugees. When Israel declared its independence on May 14 1948, it welcomed all Arabs living in its UN-recommended borders as equal citizens. The war that Arab states launched against the newly established state caused, as most wars do, these dislocations. Israel assured Arabs who remained in its borders that they could become full citizens: 160,000 chose to stay. No Jews were allowed to remain in Arab-occupied sections of the former Palestine Mandate. Nor were Jews allowed to stay in other Middle Eastern states where many had lived for millennia, long before the Arab-Islamic invasions. The Arab states created 900,000 Jewish refugees as they disgorged their Jewish citizens between 1948 and 1965.
· Claim: “Israel…was founded on the denial and violation of Palestinians’ rights.” (p. 1)
Fact: Just the reverse is true. The UN Partition Plan of 1947, which set the foundation for the Jewish state, offered to also create an Arab state in the Palestine Mandate though no such state had ever existed. Jews accepted the compromise. Arab leaders rejected the opportunity because they did not want to share the land with Jews who had been an indigenous, oppressed minority in the region.
· Claim: “Israel was established…on 78% of historic Palestine.” (p. 1)
Fact: There was no “historic Palestine.” No new nation ever emerged after the Romans defeated the Jewish state in 70 AD; the area became a province of different empires and shifting populations with constantly changing borders. Palestine was created by the League of Nations in 1920 when it also carved other Middle Eastern nations out of the defeated Ottoman Empire. The Mandate roughly followed the borders of ancient Israel and was designated as the Jewish homeland. The British awarded the vast majority of the Mandate—78%--exclusively to Arabs in 1922 in what became Jordan.
II Falsely accusing Israel of refusing to end the ‘occupation’ and of being the obstacle to peace while claiming Palestinians have repeatedly tried to make peace.
· Claim: “[P]ressure must continue until the Occupation ends.” (p 7) “[P]eople living under occupation (like the Palestinians on the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem).” (p.2)
Fact: This claim is counter-factual. Israel’s ‘occupation’ has not been ongoing. Israel has repeatedly sought a peaceful solution to the conflict and an end to its military administration of the Territories. By 1997, with the Oslo Accords, Israel had withdrawn from all population centers and turned them over to the PA, leaving 98% of Palestinians, 46% of the West Bank and over 80% of Gaza under Palestinian governance. In 2000, Israel offered the Palestinians 97% of the West Bank, 100% of Gaza, east Jerusalem and the removal of Jewish communities in these areas. Yasser Arafat rejected the offer. Israel temporarily redeployed to some population centers only in self-defense during the terrorist campaign unleashed in September 2000.
Gaza is no longer ‘occupied’ at all. In August 2005, Israel deployed from the remaining sections of Gaza, removed its troops and uprooted and removed all Jewish communities. Israel also uprooted four Jewish communities in the northern West Bank and has rerouted its security fence so it will impinge on only 5% of the West Bank. In contrast, the PA has
Claim: “In 1988 and for the sake of peace, the Palestinian National Council accepted UN Resolution 242, thus clearly expressing its willingness to recognize the state of Israel provided it withdraw from all the occupied territories. Similarly, in 2002 the Beirut Arab League Summit officially extended full recognition….Israel rejected the offer without even considering it officially.” (p. 1)
Fact: Neither Yasser Arafat, the Palestinian National Council or the Beirut Arab League Summit made genuine peace overtures to Israel. Yasser Arafat engineered the 2nd Intifada, publicly praising suicide bombers as heroes and martyrs and paying their families. The PLO never amended its Charter to eliminate sections calling for the destruction of the Jewish state and denying its right to exist although the Oslo Accords required it to do so.
The Arab Summit plan was never officially presented to Israel. When Prime Minister Ariel Sharon offered to attend the Summit to discuss the plan, Arab states refused. The plan simply reiterated the same, maximal demands that Arabs had been making since 1949 and 1967, including Arab misinterpretations of Resolutions 194 and 242, demands for total Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights (though Syria refuses to negotiate with Israel) and even from Lebanon (although the UN had declared that Israel had already complied with UN resolutions and fully withdrawn), and called for recognition of the right of return, a principle that has never been applied to any other refugees. The proposal also violated the core principle of UN resolutions for peace: bilateral negotiations between Israel and the aggressor nations. The plan made no demands on Palestinians and did not denounce terrorism though it was floated at the height of the terrorist war against Israel.
III. Falsely accusing Israel of violating international law and human rights standards
· Claim: “Israel stands in violation of over 60 UN resolutions and has been protected by a United States veto over 30 times.” (p. 1)
Fact: Israel is in compliance with UN Security Resolutions, which are binding. However, it has not and cannot be expected to comply with the avalanche of anti-Israel resolutions passed by the UN General Assembly which, in any case, are not binding. Unfortunately, though the UN has admirable ideals, when it grew from 58 members in 1948 to 191 today, the block of Arab-Third World countries came to wield political power that permitted it to promote the Arab propaganda campaign against Israel by hijacking and perverting the language of human rights. The UN finally acknowledged this history of anti-Israel prejudice and called for reform in its conference, “Confronting Anti-Semitism” in June 2004.
· Claim: “ We are concerned about the delegitimization of International Law that Israel models when it ignores the International Court of Justice, the Geneva Conventions and United Nations Resolutions.”(p. 4)
Fact: The Sabeel document repeatedly distorts, invents or misinterprets ‘international law’ so it seems to support the maximalist Palestinian agenda. None of these institutions makes “international laws.” The International Court of Justice renders advisory opinions to resolve disputes. They are not legally binding. The Geneva Conventions are not laws: they are standards that signatories agree to live up to. Israel lives up to them. UN General Assembly Resolutions are not law nor are they binding. The main threat to the legitimacy of international law is when politicized groups coopt and distort them to push their own political agenda which the Palestinians have explicitly tried to do.
· Claim: “Israel, in its continued occupation, is in open violation of international law.” (p. 3) Israeli administration of the Territories is “illegal occupation.” (p. 7)Fact: Israel ’s military administration of the Territories was required by the most fundamental international law, the Hague Conventions of 1907 on belligerent occupation. Israel captured the Territories in a defensive war and was legally obliged to govern and administer them until the belligerents made peace and resolved boundary issues in an overall settlement and a new sovereign authority was established.
· Claim: “[B]uilding of the [security] wall violates international law.” p.4
Fact: Israel is not building a wall. 97% of the security barrier is a chain link fence that resembles those around school yards, only 3% is a “wall” and it resembles the sound barriers along American highways. However, this section of the barrier is not designed to muffle highway noise. It is designed to prevent sniper attacks along Israeli highways.
The security fence was built solely as a passive, non-lethal form of self-defense against Palestinian terrorism and is no different than the security barriers other nations have built to keep out terrorists and illegal immigrants such as those between the US-Mexico, India-Pakistan, North-South Korea, Spain-Morocco.
· Claim: “There are multiple examples of violations of human rights in the Israel-Palestine conflict.” (p 2) “Our goal is to insist on Israel’s compliance with international and humanitarian law.” (p 3)
Fact: This document never identifies or denounces the human rights violations committed by Palestinians nor does it acknowledge that the Palestinians launched a savage terrorist war against September 2000, sending young people to blow themselves up among civilians. This campaign, which targets innocent civilians for mass murder, violates the most fundamental human rights and moral codes. Israel has been forced to defend its citizens and its actions must be judged according to the rules of combat, not the rules of peace-time conditions.
· Claim: “ No group of people, simply due to their ethnicity or nationality, should be excluded from the protections of International Law.”
Fact: The implications in this statement are misleading and false.
Israel ’s actions are not caused by the Palestinians’ ‘ethnicity or nationality.’ 20% of Israel’s population—1.3 million people—are Arabs. They have full civil and human rights and have more rights and freedoms than average Arabs living anywhere else in the Middle East. Israel’s actions are solely in response to the murderous terrorist war that Arabs in the Territories launched against them in September 2000.
The only group in this conflict who is excluded from the protections of international law are the Jews. Palestinians call the terrorists who mass murder Jews ‘shaeeds’ and ‘glorious martyrs.’ The PA refuses to allow any Jewish communities to exist in its future state. Israel has just uprooted the thriving agricultural Jewish communities in Gaza so that the area would be Judenrein—empty of all Jews. This is racism.
IV Misrepresenting what Sabeel is, whom it represents and what its goals are
· Claim: “Sabeel is a Christian organization.” (p. 1)
Fact: Sabeel may be made up of Christians, but its purpose is to further a specific political agenda. Its mission is to give theological and religious legitimacy to radical Palestinian positions and prejudices. It does not represent most Palestinian Christians, ignores the PA’s persecution of Palestinian Christians and is a conduit for exporting anti-Israel invective to Europe and North America.
· Claim: “ Around the world people are beginning to speak of selective divestment from Israel as a method of creating the change that is needed.” (p. 6)
Fact: There is nothing new about the effort to isolate Israel economically. Arab states instituted a total economic boycott on Israel and on companies that do business with Israel in 1949. While some countries have relaxed these restrictions, others have not. The goal then, as it is now, was to cripple and destroy Israel. Palestinian Christians like those at the Sabeel Center are simply hoping to extend this Arab policy to the rest of the world.
· Claim: “We are promoting the same values as those who struggle against anti-Semitism.” (p 7)
Fact: The opposite is true. The Sabeel Center is promoting the views of anti-Semites, those who single out the Jewish people and dehumanize and demonize them. The Sabeel proposal singles out only the Jewish State for condemnation and makes false accusations against it. This anti-Zionism is a form of anti-Semitism which is characterized by 1) Demonization of the Jewish State, 2) Delegitimization of the Jewish State and 3) Double standards—judging the Jewish State by standards which are not applied to any other nation.
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