Cutting through the confusion about Israel/Palestine
By Richard Forer
21 June 2010
Richard Forer, a former member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), exposes the deceitful and dishonest foundations on which support for Israel is built. In a detailed letter, he outlines a path which those interested in justice and genuine peace in the Middle East can take to reach a true understanding of the Palestine-Israel conflict.
In the spring of 2009, I was a member of a group that put up a billboard criticizing Israel’s lethal use of force during Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. A year later, the group received a letter from a college student – referred to as “J” below – asking it to remove the billboard. The student said that he had researched the Gaza invasion and had concluded that both sides were equally responsible for its consequences. He felt that the billboard unfairly placed the blame for all of the destruction solely at the feet of Israel. I replied to the student with the following letter, some of which contains passages from my forthcoming book.
Thank you for your letter. First, I assume you are Jewish. Is that correct? Before I get into the specifics of your letter I want to talk about a few things you might find interesting. I do so because everyone involved in the Israel-Palestine issue has the potential to change the world from an arena of Us against Them into one of peace and respect. But that requires undeviating self-honesty, which leads to compassion, clarity and understanding. Most people do not take up the challenge of looking deeply within for fear of what they might find. They revert to the safety of their presumed identity and the beliefs and images that make up and reinforce their identity. Attachment to a limited or exclusive identity always carries with it the consciousness of Us against Them. The consciousness of Us against Them requires that there be unending conflict.
Perhaps you have it within yourself to look beyond what you currently see as all sides of the issue. I hope so because the lives of those who suffer on either side of the conflict depend upon people like you. Peace is only possible when we care for people on both sides equally. We do not have to like the other but we have to recognize that he is just as entitled to self-determination as us, that he has the same human needs for respect and dignity as do we. We also have to begin to understand and ask why the other acts as he does. Does his motivation arise in a vacuum or does it arise in relationship to our own behaviour. Have we played roles in inciting his behavior? Until we take responsibility for the parts we play in the drama of human suffering and as it relates to the Israel-Palestine conflict, peace has no chance; and the people we claim to care about will continue to suffer and die, now and into the bloody future, in Israel, in Palestine and throughout the world. They will die and suffer because our true goal is not their wellbeing; our true goal is to maintain our presumed identity; it is to confirm the beliefs and images that we incorrectly associate with our personal and collective identity.
As long as we believe in a world of Us against Them we will see a world of Us against Them. Our emotions, our attitudes toward others, the way we interpret events, what we notice and what we don’t notice will mirror our world view, thereby confirming and reinforcing it. In short, individually and collectively, we create the world we live in. Thus, the great struggle all of us must take on, if we truly want peace and respect between peoples, is to transform our consciousness from Us against Them to one of tolerance and understanding.
To be honest your letter can only fully be answered with a comprehensive look at the history of the Israel-Palestine conflict. The book I have completed would be a good reply but that is beyond the scope of our discussion for now. Obviously you are very passionate and concerned about this situation. With that in mind I have included at the end of this letter a list of some well-researched books on the subject. Most of these writers have come to similar conclusions. Most of them are Jewish. Cypel and Hirst are famous journalists from France and England respectively. Cypel lived in Israel for 10 years and his father was a Zionist leader. Ben-Ami, a historian and former minister of foreign affairs and internal security, was Barak’s chief negotiator at Camp David. [Ilan] Pappe, [Avi] Shlaim, [Tom] Segev and [Benny] Morris are all famous Israeli historians and among the group known as “new” or “revisionist” historians because of their access to the primary archives and their refutation of common Zionist myths. [Tanya] Reinhart and [Baruch] Kimmerling were two of the most renowned and courageous sociologist/historians in Israeli academia. [Mary Elizabeth] King is an expert on collective non-violent action who has worked with Martin Luther King (no relation) and Jimmy Carter. [Clayton] Swisher was a VIP security guard at the Camp David talks in 2000. He interviewed many of the participants. [Anna] Baltzer, an American, is one of the most compassionate people I have ever had the honour to meet. She is brilliant, fair and honest. She cares about Israelis as well as Palestinians.
And even though he is particularly controversial, Norman Finkelstein, despite his blunt critique of Israel’s defenders, is included because of his genius and meticulous research. You can watch him on YouTube. I researched a great deal of the claims he makes by reviewing his sources. In every case he checks out perfectly. I saw no distortion, obfuscation or deceit. Additionally, one cannot ignore the sources he cites. Truthfully, if one wants to criticize Israel, deceit is unnecessary. The words and confessions of Israeli leaders are more than enough.
Again, before I respond to the points you make about Gaza, let me tell you a little about me. I was born a few months before Israel declared its statehood. Both of my parents were first generation Americans. My mother lost 17 relatives in the Holocaust. My father and his family never discussed anything about that horror. My younger brother is president of one of the largest Jewish congregations on the east coast. My identical twin brother is an ultra-Orthodox Jew who lived for a few years in Israel. Both of his daughters are married with children and live in Jerusalem. Some of their friends are militant Jews from Hebron and other messianic communities, who believe that the sixth commandment, which they translate as “Thou shalt not commit murder,” cannot be violated by killing any Arab, since Arabs are inherently predisposed to want to murder Jews; and Arabs are not human anyway. One of my brother’s sons recently served in the IDF [Israel Defence Forces]. I have a friend who lives in Ma’ale Adumim, in occupied territory outside of Jerusalem. She was a member of Kach (Meir Kahane’s group) for 15 years. She now holds Palestinian-Israeli dialogue groups and prefers a one-state solution.
I was extremely “pro-Israel” my entire lifetime. I was utterly supportive of Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in the summer of 2006. I joined AIPAC and donated to the Jewish Federation. Midway through the war in Lebanon, after arguments with close friends who were critical of Israel, I decided to actually engage myself in a real study of the Israel-Arab conflict. My purpose was to alleviate my suffering and to find more historical arguments to refute the claims my friends were making. Up to that point in time I had only read Joan Peters’s highly influential book From Time Immemorial, a book that I learned has been universally debunked and called a “hoax”, “phony”, “worthless”, “recycled Zionist propaganda”, “previously modified and discredited Zionist propaganda”, etc. by scholars from Israel, Europe, the US and the Jewish World Congress. I had used Peters’s research to justify my claim that there never were a Palestinian people; that Israel had always treated the so-called Palestinians kindly and had always bent over backwards for peace.
During my research that began in the midst of the Second Lebanon War I chose to study Jewish scholars only, knowing that if I studied the subject from the perspective of any Arab or Muslim scholar I would suspect bias. My study became a full-time and daily practice to this very day. As mentioned above, many of the scholars I studied had access to the most primary of sources, among them the Israeli state, IDF, Ben-Gurion, Haganah, Palmach and Central Zionist archives. I read the arguments of many Israeli officials, including a number of heads of Shin Bet (Israel’s internal security agency) and I read numerous respected international publications (none Arab), including the Jerusalem Post, Ha’aretz and Yediot Ahronoth. I also studied the websites of the Israeli ministries of defence, internal security, foreign affairs and health as well as respected human rights organizations such as B’Tselem, HaMoked (Centre for the Defence of the individual), Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, OCHA (the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs), UNICEF, the International Red Cross, National Lawyers Guild, Goldstone report, etc., all of which (including the two Israeli NGOs) at one time I would have suspected of being anti-Semitic. I read from both sides of the divide, including Alan Dershowitz, Aaron David Miller, Dennis Ross, Shlomo Ben-Ami, New York Times, Wall Street Journal and more. If I wasn’t sure who a source was I checked it out. I discarded anyone whose claims I could not verify through further research and I discarded anyone who appeared anti-Semitic and/or seemed to be promoting their own prejudices without, at the very least, solid proof from reputable sources. I also randomly checked the sources of virtually all of the articles, books and publications I examined to make sure the author was not taking quotes out of context, was not distorting the real message his source was conveying or was not simply lying. All of the actual historians checked out well; and the human rights organizations, independent of each other are of a very similar mind. I doubt there has ever been a more solidly documented conflict in world history than the Israel-Palestine conflict.
Other than Peters the one author who was clearly distorting history for his own purposes is Alan Dershowitz. Anybody can debunk The Case for Israel. At one time Dershowitz was someone I admired but his spiteful and slanderous participation in the Israel-Palestine issue has only inflamed Zionists and given them apparent justification for their unjustified verbal attacks against not only Palestinians but honest and courageous scholars as well as Jimmy Carter, who is committed to a fair peace between both sides and without whose help in brilliantly brokering the Camp David Accords Israel would not exist in its present form. Remember, Dershowitz is not a historian; he is an attorney and his book is written with the mind of an attorney. He ignores and distorts evidence that could convict his client; and he obfuscates where obfuscation clouds any issue that could also convict his client. Unlike historians who start out with a hypothesis and do research to confirm, modify or deny the hypothesis, and who allow the facts to determine their conclusions, Dershowitz decides on the conclusions and then researches (or not) accordingly. To cite only two examples out of many, on page 184 [of The Case for Israel] he quotes Raji Sourani:
Even Raji Sourani, the director of the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights in Gaza and a strident critic of Israel, says that he remains “constantly amazed by the high standards of the legal system [sic].” [Dershowitz cites Greg Myre, “Trial of Palestinian leader focuses attention on Israeli courts,” New York Times, 5 May 2003].
Here is the actual quote from the New York Times:
Despite his many frustrations with the Israeli courts, Mr Sourani says he remains “constantly amazed by the high standards of the legal system”. “On many issues,” he said, “when the courts are dealing with purely Israeli questions, like gay rights, I admire their rulings. But when it comes to the Palestinians, these same people seem to be totally schizophrenic.” [emphases added]
On page 42 Dershowitz says the following without citing source material:
The developing clash between the Jews of Palestine, led by David Ben-Gurion, and the Muslims, led by the uncompromising Jew-hater, Haj Amin al-Husseini, was not over whether the Jews or Muslims would control all of Palestine… Instead, it was – realistically viewed – whether the remainder of Palestine was to be given exclusively to the Muslims of Palestine or whether it would be fairly divided between the Jews and the Muslims of Palestine, each of whom effectively controlled certain areas.
What is particularly egregious about this quote, which is nothing more than Dershowitz’s own made-up version of history, is that his primary source, Benny Morris, shows that Ben-Gurion’s intention was the opposite of what Dershowitz attempts to deceive his reader into believing. Dershowitz quotes Morris’s Righteous Victims 59 times in the first 83 pages of his book. He quotes Morris a total of 87 times within the 244 pages of the book. Here is what Morris (who is a Zionist and believes that Palestinians are “psychopaths” and “serial killers”) says in Righteous Victims, p.138:
[Weizmann and Ben-Gurion] saw partition as a stepping stone to further expansion and the eventual takeover of the whole of Palestine… [Ben-Gurion] wrote to his son, Amos: ‘[A] Jewish state in part [of Palestine] is not an end, but a beginning… Our possession is important not only for itself … through this we increase our power, and every increase in power facilitates getting hold of the country in its entirety. Establishing a [small] state … will serve as a very potent lever in our efforts to redeem the whole country.
The above passage by Ben-Gurion expresses a common intention that he and the majority of Zionists shared for more than a decade before 1948. Confirmation of this can be found in many books on the subject.
Even though I am going to disagree with you I appreciate the fact that you are doing your own research. One bit of advice that I think is important for everyone is: Do not believe a thing anyone tells you about this issue. Find out for yourself through the most objective research possible, as I did and be sure to do it out of a sense of integrity. Do not demean yourself by selectively researching the subject in order to prove to yourself that what you believe is accurate. Otherwise you will never discover your role in the suffering of others, nor will you discover how to alleviate that suffering. And you will never resolve your own anxiety and suffering. As a Jew you will always be left with the dilemma of victimization: Why does the world not understand my people and why is the world anti-Semitic juxtaposed against compelling evidence that is impossible for all but the willfully deaf and blind to ignore.
J, all that I am going to say here can be found in the many sources I list above or in sources available in my forthcoming book. I cannot divulge these readily available sources at this time because I want to protect the integrity of my book. I also want you to know that I have provided more than 20 Jewish supporters of Israel with evidence similar to what I provide in this letter. I have asked them to examine my evidence and to read one book to either confirm or deny the beliefs they take for granted. Not one has been willing to read a book. Not one was willing to challenge his beliefs. All claim concern for their Jewish brethren, yet none have compassion for the Palestinians. I try to impress upon them that as long as people continue to distort the history of the Israel-Palestine problem and character-assassinate the Palestinian people – as has been going on for over 60 years – peace will not be possible. Their response is to ignore me or accuse me of being anti-Israeli. Denying reality, perpetuating an illegal and brutal occupation, character-assassinating the people you need to make peace with is a road to more suffering, not just for the weak but also for the strong. Acknowledging the truth and working to restore integrity is indeed a road to peace. Who really cares about Israel and who really cares more about holding onto false and unexamined beliefs?
You start your letter with the statement that “we must look at both the Palestinian side and the Israeli side”. I agree but you have not really looked at the Palestinian side. Take, for example, the letter you quote from Tom Adam of Sderot. Yes, he has had to deal with fear of rocket attacks but why? Without condoning these rocket attacks we have to ask: Why have Palestinian groups launched these rockets? Has Israel incited them? Is the launching of these primitive rockets the only way they know to let the world know that their parents, grandparents and children are being oppressed from birth to death? What about Palestinian children, whose lives are at the mercy of the Israeli military? Many of these kids have seen their fathers beaten by Israeli soldiers, their mothers humiliated and called “whores”, have seen violence committed by Israeli soldiers or settlers on a regular basis, yearn for a glass of uncontaminated drinking water, are malnourished, maimed, deaf, blind, paraplegic, amputees, have endured Israeli sonic booms that cause all kinds of trauma, including bedwetting, nausea, miscarriages, nosebleeds, anxiety, muscle spasms, temporary loss of hearing, heart and breathing problems. These Palestinian children are the lucky ones because they are not dead, the victims of rockets, bullets, white phosphorus and Israel’s common refusal to allow medical supplies into Gaza. Also, you should know that Israel fortified public buildings and constructed shelters to protect its Jewish population in the line of rocket attacks. You should also know that Israel did nothing to protect its Palestinian-Israeli citizens in their villages in the line of these same attacks.
You say the Billion Coalition “depicts Israel as the perpetrator and sole cause of the atrocities committed during Operation Cast Lead”. I do not agree that the coalition depicts Israel as the “sole cause of the atrocities”, the vast majority of which were in fact perpetrated by Israel. Rather they see Israel as the primary cause. Israel, as military and civil and illegal occupier, whose force is thousands of time more powerful than the Palestinians, is the party that has the power to make peace. What is particularly counter-productive is Israel’s refusal to abide by international conventions and laws, which are designed to bring about a degree of civility between peoples.
Speaking of peace, I will mention only one example of Israel’s continual sabotage or ignoring of peace proposals since 1948. That is the 2002 Roadmap for Peace that the Palestinians accepted in full. Israel “accepted” but with 14 prerequisites. Among them:
[C]essation of incitement against Israel, but the Roadmap cannot state that Israel must cease violence and incitement against the Palestinians.” “The waiver of any right of return of refugees to Israel; No discussion of Israeli settlement in Judea, Samaria and Gaza or the status of the Palestinian Authority and its institutions in Jerusalem; No reference to the key provisions of UN Resolution 242.
Any objective research leads to the inescapable conclusion that Israel has never wanted peace; what Israel has always wanted is more territory. Israel’s greed has necessitated the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people in order to grab their territory.
You may not be aware, for example, that Israel conspired with the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood in 1987 to create Hamas. Israel also armed Hamas. It wanted an alternative to the PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization]. The first Intifada began in 1987. It was primarily nonviolent on the part of Palestinians (not Israelis). Israel arrested or deported most of the nonviolent leaders while allowing Sheikh [Ahmad] Yassin, Hamas’s spiritual leader, to distribute anti-Jewish hate literature calling for the violent overthrow of the Zionist government. It is far easier for Israel to portray the Palestinians as psychotic killers in order to divert the world’s attention from its strategy of land theft and ethnic cleansing and thereby deceive the world into believing the Israeli army is merely defending itself than it is to justify land theft and ethnic cleansing of Palestinians when their resistance is nonviolent.
You need to do a lot more research if you want to discover, as close as possible, the truth. Your research looks like it comes from either public Israeli government sources, which are notoriously unreliable, or Israeli apologists who have a record of justifying virtually anything Israel does. You also need to more carefully review the Goldstone report. Israel committed terrible atrocities against civilians. Just because Hamas is also guilty of terror (to a significantly less extent than Israel) does not exonerate Israel of anything.
Israel has a National Information Directorate whose purpose is to coordinate the various sectors of the government apparatus into disseminating self-serving messages (propaganda) to the public. I do not trust the Israeli government to publicly admit to their crimes. To do so would hurt their image to Jewish supporters around the world who still believe in Israel’s “purity of arms” and it would implicate its leaders in war crimes for which they could eventually be prosecuted. Israel has always lied about its actions. Its history of lies is astonishing. I prefer to rely on sources that have nothing to gain and everything to lose with their admissions of honesty. Benny Morris:
For decades Ben-Gurion, and successive administrations after his, lied to the Israeli public about the post-1948 peace overtures and about Arab interest in a deal. The Arab leaders (with the possible exception of [King] Abdullah [of Jordan]) were presented, one and all, as a recalcitrant collection of warmongers, hell-bent on Israel’s destruction. The recent opening of the Israeli archives offers a far more complex picture.
Without lies, it would be impossible to talk about peace with the Palestinians for 36 years while at the same time seizing more and more Palestinian land. Without lies, it would be impossible to claim that there is no partner for the road map, while at the same time injecting more and more money into outposts that the road map calls for dismantling. Without lies, it would be impossible to promise “painful concessions” in exchange for peace, while at the same time terming people who concluded such an agreement “traitors”.
Former Israeli Chief of Military Intelligence General Yehoshafat Harkabi:
We must define our position and lay down basic principles for a settlement. Our demands should be moderate and balanced, and appear to be reasonable. But in fact they must involve such conditions as to ensure that the enemy rejects them. Then we should manoeuvre and allow him to define his own position, and reject a settlement on the basis of a compromise position. We should then publish his demands as embodying unreasonable extremism.
[The state of Israel] must see the sword as the main, if not the only, instrument with which to keep its morale high and to retain its moral tension. Toward this end it may, no – it must – invent dangers, and to do this it must adopt the method of provocation-and-revenge… And above all – let us hope for a new war with the Arab countries, so that we may finally get rid of our troubles and acquire our space.
You say that the “fundamental truth is that this is a two-way conflict”. The Palestinians could end the conflict by lying down and allowing Jewish settlers, with the support of their government, to overrun them, allow them to take the remainder of their agricultural lands, their villages and their homes, and drive them out of the country into generations of poverty and homelessness. Is that a real peace? The fundamental truth is that Zionism, and the lies perpetrated by its founders, leaders and supporters from the days of Theodore Herzl on, has initiated and perpetuated this conflict. If someone attacks you, tries to steal everything you own, abuses and humiliates your children and then tells the world that you are a liar who never owned the land in the first place would you accept that?” I do not know any person or country in the world who would passively accept the theft of their land. In 1948 Jews owned about 6 per cent of the land of Palestine. They now control 78 per cent of the land outright, which both the PLO and Hamas have de facto accepted as irreversible. Additionally, Israel has illegally seized or controls about half of the West Bank. And Israel maintains land, sea and air control over the Gaza Strip. In short, the Palestinians subsist on about 10 per cent of their indigenous homeland.
Mostly Ashkenazi Jews fought the British and the Arabs for a Jewish national home. Their connection to the land called Palestine was far less than the connection Palestinians had and still have to that same land. Yet I know of no Jewish supporter of Israel who does not applaud the acts of the Haganah, Irgun and even Stern Gang for their roles in establishing Israel. I know of no Jewish supporter of Israel who resents the uprising of Polish Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto against their Nazi oppressors. In order to dissociate Palestinian resistance from Jewish resistance Israel supporters have to make up myths to portray the Palestinians as not a real people, as inherently anti-Semitic, as murderous and hateful, as not the real owners of the land, as a psychotic society, etc., etc. These myths are designed to deceive all of us. They deprive Jews and others of their natural intelligence and compassion. Palestinian resistance, while mostly nonviolent, is similar to the resistance of any occupied people throughout history.
Israel did kill almost 400 children in Operation Cast Lead. I am not saying that Israel’s leaders said “let’s go kill Palestinian children” but there is no question that Israel’s leaders knew perfectly well that hundreds of Palestinian children and other civilians would die. Gaza is, after all, the third most densely populated place on earth, with 50 per cent of its inhabitants less than 16 years of age. Gaza has been a closed military area since 1967. Its citizens have nowhere to go to flee Israeli bombs and rockets. I suggest you look up Israel’s Dahiya Doctrine (or strategy), which is designed to punish a civilian society for the actions of its leaders (a war crime). As General Gadi Eisenkot said after Lebanon:
We will wield disproportionate power against every village from which shots are fired on Israel, and cause immense damage and destruction. From our perspective, these are military bases. This isn’t a suggestion. This is a plan that has already been authorized.
Israel’s most eminent military strategist, Zeev Schiff, said: “the Israeli army has always struck civilian populations, purposely and consciously… the army … has never distinguished civilian [from military] targets … [but] purposely attacked civilian targets.” Former Chief of Staff Mordecai Gur, a moderate, admitted that Israel always targeted civilians (see [David] Hirst). Rafael Eitan, chief of staff during Israel’s destruction of Lebanese society in the early 1980s, was an extreme hawk who served for years as Ariel Sharon’s second-in-command. He was responsible for the murders of hundreds of Egyptian PoWs at the end of the Suez War. He proposed that for every incident of stone throwing Israel should build 10 settlements. He said “the only good Arab is a dead Arab”. He was founder of the extreme right ultra-nationalist Tzomet party (Movement for Zionist Renewal). Later in life he admitted ordering his troops to brutalize prisoners and impose collective punishment upon Palestinians (both war crimes). He said: “I don’t believe in peace, because if they had done to us what we did to them we’d never agree to make peace.” Think of the implications of that statement. Yitzhak Rabin admitted that “ruling over another people has corrupted us”.
Operation Cast Lead was not “a reaction due to the Islamic Resistance Movement”. It was collective punishment designed to intimidate a people into rejecting Hamas; and it was a re-establishment of the deterrent force Israel relinquished to a certain extent in Lebanon. Ephraim Halevy, former head of Mossad and former National Security Director, said: “If Israel’s goal were to remove the threat of rockets from the residents of southern Israel, opening the border crossings would have ensured such quiet for a generation.”
Yuval Diskin, head of Shin Bet, acknowledged that Hamas is willing to accept a long-term ceasefire on the 1967 borders.
Amira Hass reported in Ha’aretz: “The Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, said on Saturday his government was willing to accept a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.”
But one of the things that they [Hamas] committed to me that was very significant, and they announced it publicly, by the way, to al-Jazeera and others, was that they would accept any agreement that’s negotiated between the Israelis and the Palestinians if it’s submitted to a referendum in the West Bank and Gaza, and the Palestinians approve it. That means they would accept Israel’s right to exist if that’s in the agreement and so forth.
Roger Cohen of the New York Times:
Henry Siegman, the president of the US/Middle East Project, whose chairman is [Brent] Scowcroft … told me that he met recently with Khaled Meshal, the political director of Hamas in Damascus. Meshal told him, and put in writing, that although Hamas would not recognize Israel, it would remain in a Palestinian national unity government that reached a referendum-endorsed peace settlement with Israel.
Regarding Hamas’s use of hospitals, the Goldstone report states: “The Mission did not find any evidence to support the allegations that hospital facilities were used by the Gaza authorities or by Palestinian armed groups to shield military activities and that ambulances were used to transport combatants or for other military purposes.”
In 2006 Israel made a similar claim that Hezbollah embedded their forces within civilian areas in order to attract Israeli firepower. That claim was debunked by Human Rights Watch, which clarified that most of Hezbollah’s rockets were “stored in bunkers and weapon storage facilities located in uninhabited fields and valleys”.
You are correct that “Eighty per cent of the weapons used were precision guided, and 99 per cent of all strikes hit their targets.” Yes, these precision guided rockets destroyed or killed civilians, whole neighbourhoods, minarets where there was no room for any fighter to hide and launch rockets, and UN buildings. B’Tselem reported: “Whole families were killed; parents saw their children shot before their very eyes; relatives watched their loved ones bleed to death; and entire neighbourhoods were obliterated.”
A United Nations General Assembly report quoted the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross): “The Israeli military ‘failed to meet its obligation under international humanitarian law to care for and evacuate the wounded.’ Israel made no effort to allow civilians to escape the fighting.”
The Goldstone report is particularly damning. Again, please read through it. Goldstone rejected the HRC’s [UN Human Rights Council] request to investigate possible war crimes by Israel until they altered the wording to include Hamas as a possible perpetrator. The Israeli government acknowledged his “record of impartiality”. His findings are in line with the numerous human rights groups I mentioned earlier in the letter. IDF soldiers have testified to deliberately killing civilians, just as they have testified to similar brutalities in Hebron. The evidence is overwhelming. If Goldstone had not been head of the Mission there is a high likelihood that the report would have been even more critical of Israel.
Goldstone, as any reasonable person knows, is not an anti-Semite. Eliyahu Yishai was deputy prime minister during Operation Cast Lead. At the beginning of the invasion he urged the IDF to “bomb thousands of houses, to destroy Gaza”. Nine months later, as minister of the interior, Yishai slandered Goldstone as an “abominable anti-Semite” for heading a mission that concluded that the IDF did exactly what Yishai wanted them to do. Yishai is not a reasonable person.
Israel’s internal investigations were designed to cover up their atrocities. Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi is not going to implicate himself or other Israeli officials in possible war crimes and crimes against humanity. Amnesty International responded to the IDF “internal investigation”:
The information made public only refers to a handful of cases and lacks crucial details. It mostly repeats claims made by the army and the authorities many times since the early days of Operation “Cast Lead… It does not even attempt to explain the overwhelming majority of civilian deaths nor the massive destruction caused to civilian buildings in Gaza… [T]he army’s claims appear to be more an attempt to shirk its responsibilities than a genuine process to establish the truth. Such an approach lacks credibility.
Regarding rocket and mortar fire, from 2000 through 2008 Palestinian groups launched 8,088 unsophisticated rockets and mortars against Israel. From 2001 through 2008 eighteen Israelis were killed as a result of these attacks. Contrast those figures with the 7,700 sophisticated rockets that Israel launched against Gaza in nine months, between September 2005 and June 2006. From 2005-2007, 1,290 Gazans, including 222 children, were killed as a result of these kinds of attacks. Who is the perpetrator and who is the victim?
Your statement that “Israel warned the Palestinian people that election of Hamas to the head of the Palestinian Authority (PA) would only cause more conflict” is a reflection of an authoritarian mentality that places one party in control over the lives of another. It is the same mentality that is at the root of this conflict. Hamas was elected in a fair election that the US pushed for. Who is Israel to decide for the Palestinians who their leaders should be? Hamas is not monolithic, is not particularly corrupt as is Fatah, and is not a collaborator with the Israeli government. That is why they were elected and that is why Israel wants them removed. Hamas makes the continued dispossession of the Palestinian people more difficult. What you call Israel’s warning was actually a threat. Hamas has repeatedly stated its willingness to establish a long-term truce. Ephraim Halevy and American strategists said that Israel and the US have the ability to strengthen Hamas’s moderate wing and engage them in a peace process. But, as Moshe Dayan states above, Israel is not interested in a peace process.
If you honestly are looking for the truth your study of Operation Cast Lead is simply not thorough or objective enough. With regard to the ceasefire, if you read the analysis of the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Centre at the Israel Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Centre (IICC) you will learn that “The lull was sporadically violated by rocket and mortar shell fire, carried out by rogue terrorist organizations, in some instance in defiance of Hamas (especially by Fatah and Al-Qaeda supporters). Hamas was careful to maintain the ceasefire.”
Israel never really adhered to the ceasefire. They only allowed the average number of trucks entering Gaza to increase from 70 per day to 90, not the 500 per day that crossed before Israel instituted its blockade. On 4 November 2008 IDF troops entered Gaza and killed six or seven Hamas soldiers because they were allegedly digging a tunnel for the purpose of kidnapping Israeli soldiers. Hamas said its members had been digging the tunnel for defensive purposes. On 5 November Israel sealed all crossing points into Gaza. Yossi Alpher, former Mossad official and former adviser to then Prime Minister Ehud Barak:
[The blockade is] collective punishment, humanitarian suffering. It has not caused Palestinians in Gaza to behave the way we want them to, so why do it… I think people really believed that, if you starved Gazans, they will get Hamas to stop the attacks. It’s repeating a failed policy, mindlessly.
On 14 December a high-level Hamas delegation met with Egyptian Minister of Intelligence Omar Suleiman who, as mediator, had helped negotiate the June to December ceasefire between Hamas and Israel. Hamas offered to end all rocket attacks in return for Israel ending its raids into Gaza and re-opening the border crossings. Suleiman conveyed Hamas’s proposal to Israeli authorities. On 19 December, Robert Pastor, a senior adviser at the Carter Centre, met with Khaled Mashaal, who made the same offer. The next day Pastor passed Mashaal’s offer on to a “senior official” in the IDF, who told Pastor he would get back to him. He never did. As for the Egyptian offer, it is unclear whether Israel ignored the offer or rejected it outright. At an Israeli cabinet meeting on 21 December, Yuval Diskin, said: “Make no mistake, Hamas is interested in maintaining the truce.” Diskin said that if Israel ended the blockade, Hamas would restore the ceasefire.
If you’ve gotten this far, I can tell you the billboard you object to was taken down by Lamar Advertising on 28 April 2009. It was designed to provoke reaction from a mostly apathetic public in the wake of a brutal invasion. Calls from AIPAC supporters influenced Lamar’s decision. Rather than seeing themselves and Israel as victims, these AIPAC people would be far more effective if they took the time to actually look at the evidence. None whom I have met have any intelligent knowledge of the actual history. For them, the childhood myths they were raised with supersede years of honest and objective research. Their attitude is identical to fundamentalist Christians who believe non-Christians will go to hell for their failure to accept Jesus Christ into their lives. They claim to care about Israelis but their continued support of a brutal occupation only demeans an entire people and perpetuates conflict for both sides of the issue. It also paints Judaism, once known for its commitment to ethics and justice, as a religion and culture of hypocrisy and bigotry.
Please do not fall into the trap that so many who remain unconscious of their participation in the suffering of others have fallen into. Please do not allow bigotry to influence you as it has influenced them. I urge you to avoid losing your humanity. Commit yourself to the truth. It is the only path that will free you of your own suffering and free others less fortunate than you of the suffering imposed on them by others.
Sincerely, Rich Forer
Anna Baltzer, Witness in Palestine: A Jewish American Woman in the Occupied Territories
Anna Baltzer, DVD: Life in Occupied Palestine: Eyewitness Stories and Photos
available at www.AnnaintheMiddleEast.com. Excerpts on YouTube.
Shlomo Ben-Ami, Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy
Jimmy Carter, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid
Sylvain Cypel, Walled: Israeli Society at an Impasse
David Hirst, The Gun and the Olive Branch: The Roots of Violence in the Middle East
Norman Finkelstein, Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict
Norman Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History
Baruch Kimmerling, Politicide: Ariel Sharon’s War Against the Palestinians
Mary Elizabeth King, A Quiet Revolution: The First Palestinian Intifada and Nonviolent Resistance
Benny Morris, Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-1999
Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine
Tanya Reinhart, The Road Map To Nowhere: Israel/Palestine Since 2003
Tanya Reinhart, Israel/Palestine: How to End the War of 1948
Tom Segev, The Seventh Million: Israelis and the Holocaust
Tom Segev, 1949: The First Israelis
Avi Shlaim, The Iron Wall
Clayton Swisher, The Truth About Camp David: The Untold Story about the Collapse of the Middle East Peace Process
Richard Forer is a former member of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). His identical twin brother is a prominent member of an ultra-Orthodox sect of Judaism. His younger brother is an attorney and president of one of the largest Reform synagogues on the East coast of the USA. Forer’s book, Breakthrough: Transforming Fear into Compassion – A New Perspective on the Israel-Palestine Conflict, will be available in autumn 2010.