Recently, with the Michigan Student Assembly voting against the infamous divestment resolution, there has been increased discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the forefront is University Prof. Nadine Naber, who, in referring to the Israeli occupation, made the unsubstantiated claim that the “Israeli military has systematically killed Palestinian children, demolished Palestinian homes and targeted pregnant women at checkpoints.” Even more disturbing is the fact that 21 University professors and lecturers came out in support of Naber and her comments (Professor deserves freedom, not ad hominem attacks, 04/01/2005).
The majority of Israelis, hoping for a peaceful two-state solution, recognize the necessity of the occupation in attaining this goal. In order to obtain peace, the safety of Israel must be guaranteed. President Bush has supported the two-state solution from the beginning, though admitting that it will only succeed when the Palestinians create “entirely new political and economic institutions, based on democracy, market economics, and action against terrorism.” The onus falls on the Palestinians, not Israel.
Thus far, the Palestinians have done little to achieve these goals. Therefore, Israel has to take necessary precautions to ensure the safety of its citizens. The construction of a security fence, though controversial, has been a great success, reducing Palestinian terrorist attacks by 90 percent. The Israeli military has clear, distinct uniforms in order to differentiate themselves from civilians. Palestinians have no such distinctions, as the suicide bombers consist of “civilian” men, women and even children. Because of this, checkpoints are absolutely necessary. Between the years 2000 and 2002, there have been 10,582 terrorist attacks against Israel, resulting in the murder of innocent men, women and children. According to www.factsofisrael.com, a poll of Palestinians conducted in 2002 showed that 66 percent of Palestinians supported suicide bombing against Israeli civilians. In addition to this, 51 percent of Palestinians agreed that the uprising’s goal should be “liberating all of historic Palestine” — which could be taken as support for replacing the Jewish state with a Palestinian state rather than reaching a two-state solution. Students Allied for Freedom and Equality, which proposed the divestment resolution, reinforces this statistic, as it has done nothing to work towards peace; its sole aim to tarnish the image of Israel.
Another accusation made by many of SAFE’s members is that Israel is responsible for the living conditions of the Palestinians, another unfair accusation. In 1967, Jordan, Syria and Egypt led a campaign to wipe the Jewish state off the map. According to a 1967 Egyptian news radio broadcast: “The sole method we shall apply against Israel is total war, which will result in the extermination of Zionist existence.” Syrian Defense Minister Hafez Assad proclaimed that his goal was to “explode the Zionist presence in the Arab Homeland” and to “enter into a battle of annihilation.” Yasser Arafat has preached to a cheering crowd, “We plan to eliminate the state of Israel and establish a purely Palestinian state. We will make life unbearable for Jews by psychological warfare and population explosion. … We Palestinians will take over everything, including all of Jerusalem. We will not bend or fail until the blood of every last Jew from the youngest child to the oldest elder is spilt to redeem our land!” Clearly, the goal of the Six Day War was not about liberation or protection, but the eradication of the Jewish presence in the Middle East. After repelling the attack, Israel was poised to march on the capitals of the three Arab countries, but pulled back, eventually ceding the land, not wanting to prolong the conflict. The only territories Israel claimed — and continues to claim — were those of the West Bank and Gaza, two locations necessary to repel future attacks.
SAFE also demands that Israel end the occupation. Aside from the necessity of the occupation, SAFE should realize that twice, once in the early 1970s and once in 2000, the disputed territories were offered to the Palestinians, and twice the offer was rejected by Arafat. If Arafat were so concerned about the formation of the Palestinian state, why would he reject such an offer? The answer is that Arafat had much more to gain if the Palestinians were kept in their squalid living conditions, so that worldwide sympathy towards a Palestinian state would be better achieved. Likewise, Arab leaders want to retard Palestinian progress, thereby uniting the entire Arab world, through the plight of the Palestinians in hatred against Israel. Palestinian independence threatens this unity of purpose. Former Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser proclaimed, “The Palestinians are useful to the Arab states as they are. We will always see that they do not become too powerful.”
I urge SAFE to examine the situation closely before pointing the finger at Israel. It is not as black-and-white as they make it out to be. If SAFE’s goal is truly peace and not the annihilation of the Jewish state, then they should be working with Israel instead of against it.
Shuster can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.