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OpinionIsrael-Palestinian Conflict

Our own worst enemies

If you wonder why there is so much hostility towards Jews and Israel on campus, look no further than the professors who teach already ignorant students that facts don’t matter, only narratives.

Arab refugees in 1948. Photo by David Eldan
Arab refugees in 1948. Photo by David Eldan
Mitchell Bard
Mitchell Bard
Mitchell Bard is a foreign-policy analyst and an authority on U.S.-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books, including The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews and After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.

It’s bad enough that we have real enemies who are attacking Israel; the last thing we need is “friends” who, perhaps with the best of intentions, are undermining Israel’s case in the United States. One example is an organization I have never heard of, the A-Mark Foundation, which erroneously believes “clear, concise and unbiased information on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is difficult to find.” Maybe, if you don’t bother to look. My publication, Myths and Facts, has only been around for 60-odd years (originally published by the founder of AIPAC), and the legacy Jewish organizations have produced plenty of material. My first impulse was to think, “Let a thousand flowers bloom,” but then I saw that the material is based on the work of UCLA professor Dov Waxman, a frequent critic of mainstream American Jewry and one of the signers of an anti-Israel screed published before Oct. 7 (another was Harvard University professor Derek Penslar, who Harvard naturally put on its antisemitism task force).

If the material A-Mark published, based on Waxman’s book, The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: What Everyone Needs to Know, is any indication of his scholarship, students at UCLA are in trouble, as are any readers of the A-Mark answers to the “10 Common Questions About the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” Waxman exemplifies the worst of woke academia, where facts don’t matter as much as narratives, and their truthfulness or speciousness is irrelevant because everyone’s narrative is their truth. He says both sides dismiss the others’ narratives as myths. He doesn’t acknowledge that facts can be distinguished from myths. It’s a flypaper version of history where there are two sides, and it doesn’t matter which side the fly lands on.

The first paragraph in the “unbiased” answer to question one on what the conflict is about is misleading and inaccurate, reducing it to the two peoples fighting over one piece of land cliché. The religious dimension of the conflict is ignored completely; that is, the Islamic rejection of a Jewish presence on “Muslim land” from the days of the Mufti to Hamas today.

He dates Palestinian nationalism to the mid-19th century, which is untrue. People at that time identified themselves by clans and religion. In the 1920s, the Palestinians began to talk about wanting to be part of Greater Syria, not an independent state. The Jews wanted to return to their homeland and were willing to share it. Unhappily, they accepted the reduction of the size of the Jewish homeland.

Starting in 1937—and as recently as 2008—the Palestinians were offered opportunities for statehood nine times and rejected every one. The Palestinians’ disinterest in independence during the 19-year Jordanian/Egyptian occupation is not mentioned.

It is simply taken for granted that the Palestinians should get a state just because they want one. The Kurds and Basques have a greater claim to independence. Why are only Palestinians entitled to one?

Waxman gives equal weight to the Jewish and Palestinian claims to indigeneity. He acknowledges evidence of Jewish roots in the land dating to antiquity while Palestinians didn’t arrive until after the Muslim conquest, but then contradicts this inconvenient fact by claiming that “it is impossible to definitively know who was here first.” He then asserts a blatant falsehood, suggesting that Jews believe they descend from the Canaanites, and further insinuates that there is validity to the baseless Palestinian claim to be related to them.

The explanation of Zionism is facile and misleading, calling it “a diverse set of beliefs.” No, Zionism is the belief that the Jewish people are a nation entitled to self-determination in their homeland, which is Israel. There are different “flavors” of Zionism debating how this should be achieved and what the state should look like, but not the objective.

The Arabs believe the Zionists are colonialists, but Waxman shows they are the antithesis. He acknowledges that the Arabs are wrong but says their view “is completely understandable in the context of that time.” We are no longer in that time, however, so when Israel’s detractors say it now, it is simply a lie.

His version of how the Palestinians became refugees in the first place is mostly wrong, starting with the exaggerated number of 700,000.

Ephraim Karsh’s research has shown the number was no more than 609,000, and United Nations and CIA estimates were roughly half that. Waxman repeats the Arab canards about the Palestinians being expelled as part of a campaign of “ethnic cleansing,” but acknowledges most Palestinians “probably” were not expelled. The facts are well-documented that Palestinians were forced to leave in a handful of instances, and not for “ethnic cleansing” but to protect Israeli soldiers from being attacked from the rear. The Arab narrative further dissolves if you know thousands of Palestinians left before the war began, that Israel encouraged Arabs to stay, and 250,000 remained to become full citizens.

Most Palestinians left because they didn’t want to be caught in the crossfire of the war. He cites historian Benny Morris to discredit the idea that many Palestinians fled because their leaders encouraged them to make way for the invading armies and promised they’d be allowed to return to their homes—and those of the Jews. Morris, however, said that “Arab officers ordered the complete evacuation of specific villages” and that “there can be no exaggerating the importance of these early Arab-initiated evacuations in the demoralization, and eventual exodus, of the remaining rural and urban populations.”

There is plenty of documentation about the leaders’ role if Waxman bothered to look.

The discussion about the fate of the refugees is also inaccurate. Refusing to allow enemies who left their homes to return is not a violation of international law. Other refugee populations were resettled, but it was the Arab states that prevented the Palestinians from becoming citizens in their countries. Israel offered to allow some refugees to return in exchange for a peace agreement; the Arabs rejected the idea.

Waxman cites U.N. Resolution 194 as granting Palestinians a “right to return”; however, that is a selective reading of the resolution, which conditioned their return on a willingness to live at peace with their neighbors and called for their resettlement. Also omitted is the fact that the Arab states voted against the resolution because it was adopted when they still believed that they would drive the Jews into the sea. Like all General Assembly resolutions, 194 is not legally binding.

He also incorrectly states that Israeli leaders have not accepted any compromises regarding the Old City; former Israeli Prime Ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert offered them. Omitted is the Palestinians’ rejection of those proposals.

On the borders of a future state, Waxman has accepted Palestinian propaganda that Palestinians have abandoned their claim to the majority of the land they believe should be theirs and are being asked to take only 22% of Palestine. It is Israel that is only 22% of historic Palestine, and if Israel withdrew from the disputed territories, it would possess only about 18%. Today, some 73% of Palestinians live in “Palestine.”

The evidence that the Palestinians have not abandoned their goal of destroying Israel and claiming the land from the river to the sea is clear from Palestinian Authority maps. Furthermore, Israel has already withdrawn from more than 90% of the territories it captured in 1967, including all of Gaza and 40% of the West Bank. It is not obligated to return any more land. Waxman also accepts that the territories are “occupied” when they are disputed. Israel cannot occupy land that was part of Israel but never a sovereign Palestinian state. Moreover, an occupier is a nation that attacks another and then retains the territory it conquers. One that gains territory while defending itself, like Israel, is not in the same category.

In another distortion of historical fact, Waxman says Netanyahu doesn’t want to negotiate. That is true during the war, but he was willing and did in the past. It is true that Netanyahu opposed Oslo, but he didn’t repudiate it and agreed to further withdrawals in negotiations with PLO head Yasser Arafat.

Waxman refers to current P.A. leader Mahmoud Abbas as “a staunch advocate of the peace process” even though he has refused to negotiate since 2008, to recognize Israel as a Jewish state or to stop incentivizing terrorism. He falsely equates religious Zionists and Islamists. Extremist Jews are a minority, with no say in policy towards the Palestinians and no charter calling for the murder of their neighbors. The Palestinian public elected Islamists, who took over the Gaza Strip, and immediately started acting on their desire to destroy Israel and kill Jews.

If you wonder why there is so much hostility towards Jews and Israel on campus, look no further than the professors who teach already ignorant students that facts don’t matter, only narratives. By disseminating misinformation about history, they hinder genuine understanding of the conflict. Worse still, they push a false equivalence between the positions of Israelis and Palestinians, distorting reality and perpetuating animosity.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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