A Pennsylvania high school teacher, who says he was deprived as a teenager, is now taking it out on his students—by lying to them about Israel.
Sam Schindler, co-founder and history teacher at the Stone Independent School, a private school in Lancaster, Pa., explains in The Forward this week how the “truth” about Israel was hidden from him. His teachers only taught him about the positive side Israel, he complains. “What was kept from me then were images of the occupation, of pulverized houses, of bloody civilians and of terrified children. … The occupation or lives of Palestinians never appeared.”
So now, Schindler is getting his revenge. He’s been teaching his students at Stone Independent all about “the occupation and oppression.”
And—big surprise—at the end of last semester’s course, Schindler is proud to laud their findings. He notes that “the class collectively reached a universal conclusion about Israel and Palestine: The oppression of Palestinians is not sustainable, nor is it justifiable.”
Dear Stone students, I’m sorry to tell you that Mr. Schindler has been lying to you. Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians ended 23 years ago.
Here’s what Mr. Schindler didn’t tell you. When Yitzhak Rabin was elected prime minister of Israel in 1992, he faced a dilemma. On the one hand, he recognized that allowing the creation of a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”), and in the Gaza Strip, would pose a grave threat to Israel’s existence. Israel would be just nine miles wide in its middle, living next to a state run by terrorists and fascist dictators.
But on the other hand, Rabin didn’t want Israel to continue ruling over the Palestinian Arabs who reside in those territories. So he and his aides devised the Oslo Accords, which ended Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians and gave them something close to statehood, but without endangering Israel.
In 1995, Prime Minister Rabin withdrew Israel’s forces from the cities in Judea-Samaria where 98 percent of the Palestinians reside. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon later withdrew from all of Gaza. The Israeli occupation of the Palestinians came to an end. The only “occupation” of the Palestinians currently in force is the 23-year occupation by the Palestinian Authority, led by Mahmoud Abbas, and the occupation of Gaza by Hamas, which is now entering its 11th year.
If any of you ever has the opportunity to visit the “occupied” Palestinians, you’ll be surprised to discover that the Israeli “occupiers” whom Mr. Schindler taught you about are nowhere to be found. There’s no Israeli military governor. The Israeli military administration that once ruled the Palestinian-inhabited areas was dismantled long ago.
The Palestinians’ schools are run by Palestinian principals and teachers. The courts have Palestinian judges. The streets are policed by the Palestinian police and security forces. When elections are held, the candidates and the voters are all Palestinians. Pretty much the only thing that the P.A. can’t do is import tanks, planes, Iranian “volunteers” or North Korean missiles.
The only time Israeli troops enter Palestinian-inhabited areas is when they are chasing down a terrorist. Going into some Palestinian town for an hour or two to catch a bomb-thrower or a sniper hardly constitutes an “occupation” of the Palestinians.
Yes, Israel has checkpoints set up along its border with the P.A., and it’s a shame if that inconveniences some Palestinian travelers. Just like it’s a shame that every one of us is inconvenienced every time we have to go through a security checkpoint at an American airport. But checkpoints are set up in Israel and in U.S. airports for the same good reason: to keep terrorists from blowing us up. That’s not an “occupation.” That’s called self-defense.
The current situation in the territories is not a perfect solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. But we live in an imperfect world. The current arrangements in the territories allow nearly all of the Palestinians to live under their own government. They live in an entity that is close to statehood in every respect except for the few aspects that would most endanger Israel’s existence.
Sam Schindler’s notions about Israel and the Palestinians seem to have been frozen in his adolescence. He’s so angry about having been “deprived” by his own teachers that he hasn’t noticed how much the Middle East has changed in the meantime. It’s a whole new world for Israel and the Palestinians, Mr. Schindler. It’s time you started telling your students the truth about it.
Stephen M. Flatow, a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, is an attorney in New Jersey. He is the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995.