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October 18, 2012 - Image 45

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2012-10-18

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points of view

>> Send letters to: letters@thejewishnews.com

Editorial

Protestant Letter's
Israel Bias Is Vexincj

Disingenuous

Palestinian leader miseharacterizes conflict.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas repeatedly referred to Israel as "the

occupying power" that's "altering the city's historic character" in Jerusalem, "preventing

vital infrastructure projects" in the West Bank and inflicting "suffering" in the Gaza Strip.

n Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas' mind,
the West Bank settlements present the major
obstacle to renewed Israeli-Palestinian peace
talks.
"The approach required for saving the chance
for peace must, first and foremost, be predicated
on the understanding that racial settler coloniza-
tion must be condemned, punished and boycot-
ted in order for it to be completely halted," Abbas
exhorted in his Sept. 27 speech to the U.N. General
Assembly in New York City.
He said he spoke as
"the sole legitimate
representative of the
Palestinian people," a dig
at his nemesis Hamas,
the U.S. Department of
State-designated terrorist
organization that rules
the Gaza Strip. Hamas
routed Abbas' Palestinian
Authority in 2005 once
Israel pulled up stakes in
that fenced-off crucible of
Islamist indoctrination.
In his speech, Abbas staked his claim early and
often to the Palestinian people's goal of an indepen-
dent state of Palestine, with eastern Jerusalem as
its capital and on all land of the West Bank and the
Gaza Strip "that Israel occupied in the June 1967
war" — a shameless slam at West Bank settlements.
Maintaining tradition, Abbas repeatedly referred
to Israel as "the occupying power" that's "altering
the city's historic character" in Jerusalem, "prevent-
ing vital infrastructure projects" in the West Bank
and inflicting "suffering" in the Gaza Strip.
He said the settlement policy constitutes a breach
of international humanitarian law and U.N. resolu-
tions. He said it dashed the hopes that sprouted
from the 1993 signing of the Declaration of
Principles at Oslo between the Palestine Liberation
Organization (PLO) and Israel — a signing meant
to bring "a just peace in our region that allows for
the fulfillment by the Palestinian people of their
inalienable national rights."
West Bank land not only is subject to negotia-
tion, which Abbas refuses to do, but also is part
of the biblical Land of Israel. Israel would never
evacuate the larger Jewish settlements near the

Israel would never
evacuate the larger Jewish
settlements near the
West Bank border — and
shouldn't have to. They are
integral to the Jewish state.

West Bank border — and shouldn't have to. They
are integral to the Jewish state. And they provide
an essential buffer from terrorists unmoved by
Palestinians weary of war.
Abbas still subscribes to the notion that Israeli
statehood in 1948 caused Al Nakba, the Arabic
term for "The Catastrophe:' Concern about Arabs
considered refugees of Israel or their descendants
(estimated at 500,000 to 1 million in total) must
be resolved; but certainly not by giving each free
rein back to Israel, which would destroy the Jewish
majority. Little discussed is the fate of the more
than 800,000 Jewish refugees who, generally under
duress, left, fled or were compelled to leave their
homes in Arab lands following Israeli statehood;
what about them or their descendants?

A

Sticky Wicket

New settlements and continued construction
within the West Bank and Arab-populated eastern
Jerusalem certainly are problematic in pursuing
new talks. But there's no justification to curtail
development without evidence that would accom-
plish something; the Palestinians have made no
effort to negotiate, even after a Netanyahu-imposed
10-month settlement construction freeze that
expired in 2010.
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak's settle-
ment proposal, first pitched 12 years ago, remains
intriguing as a negotiating tool. With conditions,
Israel would unilaterally leave outlying West Bank
settlements and outposts. The settlement blocs of
Gush Etzion, Maaleh Adumim and Ariel, represent-
ing 90 percent of the Jews living in the West Bank,
would continue under Israeli control and receive
military support.
Abbas, meanwhile, is clueless in complaining

eemingly out of nowhere, 15
American Protestant leaders have
beseeched Congress to take a
hard look at U.S. aid to Israel, and suspend
it if warranted, because of "widespread
Israeli human rights violations." Yes, sup-
port for Israel must be transparent. But
it's nonsense to allege "unconditional" U.S.
military assistance to Israel has helped
spur "deteriorating conditions in Israel and the occupied
Palestinian territories" – conditions that endanger the "real-
ization of a just peace."
Keeping Israel militarily strong is critical to the security
of America's closest Middle East ally. The Israeli government
must be held to a high standard, but no higher than any
other U.S. foreign aid recipient.
It's disheartening, to say the least, that leaders of the
Presbyterian Church (USA), United Methodist Church,
Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, United Church of
Christ and National Council of Churches USA are among
signers of an Oct. 5 letter seeking investigation into possible
Israeli violations of pacts with Washington involving Israeli
use of U.S.-supplied weapons against Palestinian civilians.
Acknowledging they have "witnessed the pain and suf-_
fering" of Israelis as well as Palestinians, the letter urges
Congress to ensure U.S aid isn't supporting an Israeli govern-
ment undermining peace prospects. It urges congressional
hearings to determine Israeli compliance.
The letter cites "specific, systematic human rights viola-
tions related to U.S. military support." That's helpful informa-
tion: Assess the allegations and punish proven violations. But
such scrutiny should be a matter of course in appropriating
foreign aid. What about U.S. aid to the Palestinian Authority,
whose lack of reins over local terrorist groups is immensely
troubling?
Key to the letter is the insinuation that "it is the moral
responsibility" of U.S. Christian leaders to question "uncon-
ditional" U.S. aid to Israel, given such lack of "accountability"
serves to "sustain the status quo and Israel's military occu-
pation of the Palestinian territories." The letter alleges Israel
consistently upends peace efforts in the region and defi-
antly sustains settlement activity against U.S. government
requests – ignoring that a past settlement freeze did nothing
to bring the Palestinians back to negotiating.
Jews everywhere want what the letter signers envision: "a
peaceful and resilient Palestinian civil society." The so-called
Israeli occupation of the West Bank is strictly a defensive
posture precipitated by years of Palestinian-driven terror.
Israel is an advocate of a two-state solution to 64 years of
real or potential strife and has tried to appeal to civilized
Palestinians.
The Anti-Defamation League spoke for the American
Jewish community in proclaiming the surprise letter
bypassed a history of interfaith dialogue and partnership
with mainstream church leaders, causing a "serious breach of
trust" and damaging "the foundation for mutual respect."
Certainly, the letter in no way should be read as represen-
tative of a large segment of Protestants in America.
Still, in singling out Israel, letter signers have distressingly
set back Protestant-Jewish relations at a time when, as the
American Jewish Committee put it, "religious liberty and
safety of Christians across the Middle East are threatened by
the repercussions of the Arab Spring."

Disingenuous on page 42

October 18 d 2012

41

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