All arguments over the seemingly intractable Israeli-Palestinian conflict may be divided between two, and only two, rubrics. The first category of arguments relates to history. These contentions center on historical precedence, namely which people, Jews or Arabs, have a more just claim to the same territory. A previous essay in the Jerusalem Journal delineated ten historical assertions that underlie the Palestinian claim to land. It also showed that those claims are simply not true.
The second area of argument has to do with contemporary issues. This clash of rhetoric is not concerned with establishing historical precedence and rights. Instead, its objective is simply assigning guilt, trying to make the other side look bad. This effort may be further divided into two subcategories.
First is the matter of “Who started it?”
It is a question that evokes an elementary school scenario in which a teacher abruptly turns from the blackboard, responding to a classroom commotion.
Sitting toward the back of the class are two children known to frequently quarrel and disrupt lessons. After the teacher subdues them, each accuses the other of "starting it." Others in the class are split between the ones with whom they side. In fact, these two students have been at each other for months. Does it matter who began the latest row or, for that matter, who started the first one? Establishing this for the record will not prevent future conflicts, but it will provide one of the two sides with a sense of moral superiority.
The second subcategory asks, "Who is doing what to whom?"
Who, in the eyes of the world, is treating the other miserably and should be held accountable for actions deemed unacceptable, even during the course of a conflict?
What follows are ten contemporary fictions asserted by Palestinian apologists who assign this guilt to Israel. They are also used to rationalize questionable, even objectionable, Palestinian conduct. Each of the fictions is followed by a corrective.
Excluded are several less established, though no less outlandish, falsehoods. For example, the charge that Israel infects Palestinian water sources with the AIDS virus. Or that Jews harvests organs from Palestinians killed by the IDF. Another claim that surfaced during the most recent wave of terror, nicknamed the “Knife Intifada,” is that Israeli soldiers first shot innocent Palestinians and then planted a knife on or near their bodies to defend the shooting.
Here then are ten longstanding and malicious fictions that depict Israel as an evil, nefarious society controlled by one of the worst regimes in human history.
FICTION 1: Palestinians are second-class citizens of Israel to whom Israelis relate in a manner similar to the treatment of African-Americans in the United States prior to the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.
In fact, Palestinians are not Israeli citizens at all. As non-citizens, they have neither the rights nor responsibilities of citizens vis-à-vis the state.
Similarly, the State of Israel owes to Palestinians Arabs none of the obligations owed by a sovereign state towards its citizens. Technically, Palestinian Arabs enter Israel (by crossing the 1949 Armistice Line) with the status of foreigners or aliens. This is no different, for example, than Portuguese citizens entering Canada. The reason Palestinians from Judea, Samaria and Gaza entering Israel are not considered tourists has to do with the signed agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Palestinian Arabs are citizens of the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) since it was formally established in 1994.
FICTION 2: Very few Palestinians are allowed to enter Israel.
In fact, anywhere between 90,000 – 100,000 Arabs from Judea and Samaria regularly enter Israel as day workers. Their daily wage is on average 55% higher than the average daily wage in the Palestinian Authority.
In addition to day workers, many tens of thousands of Palestinians daily enter the State of Israel for a number of other reasons. The most common of these is medical related. According to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs over 190,000 Palestinians and their companions from the West Bank entered Israel in 2015 to receive medical treatments unavailable in the Palestinian Authority.
FICTION 3: Israel restricts, even denies, water to the Palestinians.
In fact, this is not only untrue but is perhaps the biggest and most mendacious lie concocted by Palestinian activists in order to discredit Israel.
Water issues are regulated by the Israeli-Palestinian Joint Water Committee, which was established under the 1993 Oslo Accords, article 40 (14). This committee has not met for more than five years due to the refusal of its Palestinian representatives. The State of Israel has continuously exceeded its obligation under the Oslo Accords to provide water to the Palestinian Authority.
What is more, in spite of offers of assistance from Israel, the Palestinian Authority has been sabotaging a possible future two-state solution by preventing the development of an independent water infrastructure.
Incompetence, mismanagement, willful obstruction and inadequate and antiquated infrastructure are the main reasons that some Palestinians, mainly those at the lower socio-economic rung of society, suffer from water shortage.
FICTION 4: Israel is committing genocide against the Palestinians.
In fact, the population of Arabs in Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem continues to grow apace.
According to a 2008 article in The Guardian, using Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics census figures, the Palestinian territories have one of the fastest growing populations in the world, with numbers surging 30% in the past decade (2008).
There were 3.76 million Palestinians in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem, up from 2.89 million 10 years earlier. According to the U.S. Census, population growth mid-1990-2008 in Gaza and West Bank was 106% from 1.9 million (1990) to 3.9 million persons.
FICTION 5: Settlers, as a rule, are violent and hate Palestinians.
In fact, there are thousands of examples of daily cooperation and acts of good-will between Israeli Jews and Arabs who live in Judea and Samaria. The media prefer to publicize incidents of violence and terror, so that the many examples of mundane co-existence between Jews and Arabs go unreported.
One example is an activist organization called “Roots” http://www.friendsofroots.net/.
While political realities make difficult the development of long-term social relations, Jewish-Arab friendships regularly emerge as a result of acquaintances made through business and work activities. Despite the ongoing violence by Palestinians against Israelis, the Israeli educational system tries “to remove stereotypes against Palestinians, advance the values of peace and tolerance, improve the understanding of the national other, and nurture mutual respect and non-violent conflict resolution between the two sides.” (From the report “Peace, Tolerance and the Palestinian ‘Other’ in Israeli Textbooks 2009-2012”)
FICTION 6: Refugee camps were built by Israel to resettle the Arabs of Palestine it ethnically cleansed in 1948 and 1967.
In fact, all the refugee camps surrounding Israel, including those located in the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Authority, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan, were created and are operated by the United Nations under the auspices of the United Nations Works Relief Agency (UNWRA).
Notably, UNWRA is the only agency of the United Nations dedicated solely to the welfare of a single refugee population.(The United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees [UNHCR] is responsible for all other refugee populations in the world.)
The State of Israel has no administrative authority or managerial responsibility for these refugee camps, which serve as an important propaganda tool in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
For decades Israel has pressed for the dismantling of these camps and to have their populations resettled into conventional housing and communities. All of Israel’s petitions have been rejected. New housing for refugees built by Israel in the Gaza strip in the 1970s remained abandoned as potential residents received threats to their lives from local Islamists.
FICTION 7: The Gaza Strip remains occupied by Israel and is an “open air prison.”
In fact, Israel withdrew all IDF troops and dismantled all army facilities as part of the August 2005 disengagement from “Gush Katif.”
In this most controversial campaign Israeli forcibly evicted some 8,500 Jewish residents from 21 civilian communities in the Gaza Strip. All community structures and public areas, such as parks and sports fields, were turned to rubble by IDF bulldozers. Forty-eight Jewish graves were relocated to other parts of Israel. Agricultural infrastructures, particularly a number of greenhouses, were left intact for the benefit Gaza residents.
Rather than seek cooperation with Israel and Egypt in the development of this area following the Jewish state’s historically unprecedented gesture towards peace, the Palestinian Authority used the Gush Katif withdrawal to claim a partial, but incomplete, political victory.
In 2007 the Hamas terror organization effected a coup and overthrew and banished the Palestinian Authority from the Gaza Strip. Since that time, the Gaza strip has served as a Hamas terrorist stronghold from which thousands of rockets have been fired into Israeli civilian areas and hundreds of underground attack tunnels have been dug through which terrorists may invade southern Israel.
Every day Israel authorizes hundreds of semi-trailer trucks filled with thousands of tons of food, medicine, construction and other sundry materials to enter the Gaza strip. They enter through two crossing points, one, called Erez, is on Gaza's northern border. The other, named Karni, is about a mile from Gaza City on its southeast side.
Gaza civilians who have received entry permits from Israel, usually for humanitarian medical reasons, cross into Israel at the Erez Crossing.
Yes, Israel maintains a round-the-clock high alert on the ground that surrounds the Gaza Strip. The IDF often encounters and foils attempts by Hamas terrorists to encroach into Israeli territory. Because of the extreme and militant nature of the Islamist Hamas terror organization, social and economic development with the Gaza Strip has been limited and slow.
Finally, Israel is not the only sovereign country that borders the Gaza Strip. Egypt controls who enters and who leaves the Gaza Strip from the Rafah Crossing.
FICTION 8: The Jewish communities established over the 1949 Armistice Line (the “Green Line) are illegal under international law. Instead of cities or towns, they are called “settlements.” This passive-aggressive pejorative includes neighborhoods in eastern parts of Jerusalem liberated in the June 1967 Six-Day War.
In fact, just the opposite is true.
The Palestine Mandate of the Council of the League of Nations of July 24th, 1922. That mandate called “for putting into effect the declaration originally made on November 2nd, 1917, by the Government of His Britannic Majesty, and adopted by the said Powers, in favor of the establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people, it being clearly understood that nothing should be done which might prejudice the civil and religious rights of existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine, or the rights and political status enjoyed by Jews in any other country.” This legislation has never been annulled; its principles were incorporated into the founding papers of the United Nations in October 1945.
Article 6 of the Mandate further states: “The Administration of Palestine, while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced, shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage, in co-operation with the Jewish agency referred to in Article 4, close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.”
Accordingly, the 15-member Security Council of the United Nations, which is the sole UN body authorized to enact international law has never applied the term “illegal” in reference to these Jewish communities.
Yes, the UN General Assembly has referred to the Fourth Geneva Convention as grounds for declaring the “settlements” illegal. This is, quite simply, wrong. Israel would only be in violation of the Fourth Geneva convention if it forcibly transferred a population into another country’s sovereign territory, which clearly excludes the present case.
Judea and Samaria remain non-sovereign and disputed areas, and the Israelis who live there have chosen to do so. None of them have been transferred there against their will.
According to Eugene Rostow, a former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs in the Johnson Administration, UN Security Council Resolution 242 gives Israel a legal right to be in the West Bank. The resolution “allows Israel to administer the territories” it won in 1967 “until 'a just and lasting peace in the Middle East' is achieved.”
Finally, “nothing in the Oslo Accords prevents planning, zoning and construction activity by either side in the West Bank areas under their respective control.” (Alan Baker, international legal expert and former Israeli ambassador to Canada)
FICTION 9: Jewish settlements are “continuously expanding,” resulting in the expulsion of Palestinians from their lands and villages.
In fact, the last Israel government to authorize a new Jewish community was Modi’in Illit in 1996.
No civilian Jewish community in Judea and Samaria was ever established under Israeli government supervision that resulted in the expulsion of Arabs from their lands or villages.
Private ownership disputes by Arabs in Judea and Samaria involve small parcels of land upon which Jewish homes were built. These have been and continue to be arbitrated through the Israeli judicial system. When there is a clear legal claim, courts have ruled in favor of the Arab plaintiffs.
Not including East Jerusalem, the disputed territory administered by Israel under the Oslo Accords (Area C) constitutes some 60 percent of Judea and Samaria. Only 4 percent of this has been developed by Israel.
Unauthorized “hilltop” settlements, usually erected by small groups of young, religious couples remain controversial. Some have been forcibly dismantled; some more than once, using IDF troops. Others remain intact but receive no developmental funding from the government. Because these residents are still Israeli citizens, they receive protection from the IDF. Internal Israel coalition politics are the reason that some of these unauthorized communities remain ignored.
FICTION 10: Israel is an apartheid state that singles out Arabs for discrimination.
The fact is that Arab citizens of Israel enjoy the same rights and freedoms as all other Israeli citizens, including voting rights, employment rights, parliamentary representation, medical treatment, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of sexual orientation, and education. In Israel, it is illegal to discriminate against Arabs and any other ethnic or religious group. Israeli Arab citizens have successfully prosecuted individuals and institutions for acts of discrimination.
Israel’s detractors take advantage of the necessity for heightened security methods, particularly those implemented in Judea and Samaria, to falsely portray these as examples of an apartheid system. They are aware that in an era when race relations in the United States are often in the news, accusing Israel of practicing “apartheid” or “racism” is sure to win the support of audiences on the political Left. As noted above, Palestinians are not Israeli citizens, but their human rights under the Fourth Geneva Convention are scrupulously upheld by the Government of Israel and the Israel Civil Administration that is the governing arm in Judea and Samaria.
Each of these ten fictions is deeply woven into the Palestinian narrative.
Ironically, most Palestinians know that none of them are true. But they also know that the fictions work. They are persuasive; they get the job done. The fictions sell best to people who come to the discussion with only the most rudimentary awareness of the conflict, and especially to those who always seek out the underdog. Having purchased these fictions with the coin of naiveté, they are quickly filled with "moral" outrage against the Jewish state.
Endless repetition of these fictions has succeeded in convincing countless individuals, even governments, that Israel is a despicable country that relishes oppressing hapless Palestinians.
Such calumnies are ubiquitous on the websites, Facebook pages and Twitter accounts of countless organizations and groups whose politics run from liberal to the far left, including groups like Black Lives Matter whose raison d’etre shares nothing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
They are imbedded in many editorials, opinion pieces and even in ostensibly objective “news” articles of respected newspapers, magazines and journals.
They are blithely passed among speakers on radio and Internet talk shows.
They are the subjects of documentary films that purport to capture examples of Israel’s guilt in situ.
They set the agenda in the legislative chambers of major world bodies, such as the United Nations and the European Union.
And perhaps most painfully, they are now accepted by a growing number of Diaspora Jews, particularly millennials in the United States.
These fictions have been crafted and cultivated over decades. For many, they have become self-evident assumptions not easily thwarted.
In short, Israel remains the target in a relentless war of words. It is an asymmetrical war in which truth must defend itself against a battery of untruths. For now at least, there is no end in sight.