|An Open Letter to the Presbyterian Church|
Written by PJTN Advisory Board Member, Dr. Shmuel Katz
In 2004, the Presbyterian Church (USA) approved a resolution calling for "phased selective divestment in multinational corporations doing business with Israel," such as Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard, and Motorola Solutions. And now, the Presbyterian Church is considering approving another, harsher resolution at its biennial General Assembly scheduled to take place in Pittsburgh at the end of June.
Such a divestment policy, besides unfairly demonizing Israel, would harm relations between Jews and Christians that has been nurtured for decades.
What is behind this divestment movement? From some peculiar reason, anti-Israeli positions often cannot be explained objectively. It is amazing how persistent distortions of the truth may induce certain reaction by misinformed and uninformed good people. Joseph Goebbels, the Nazi Propaganda Minister, taught the world that the more blatant and outrageous a claim, the more uninformed people may fall for it.
So let's clarify some facts as they relate to Israel and the Middle East:
Anyone who reads the Bible and other reliable history books will know that the Jews had - and still have - a presence and a deep connection to the land of Israel and to their capital Jerusalem. There were periods in history when the majority of the Jews had been expelled from their homeland, but despite this, there were always pockets of Jewish communities living in the Holy land.
Currently, a large number of the Jews who live in Israel are Jewish refugees from Arab lands, who were welcomed by their brothers in Israel and became productive citizens.
Following the Roman conquest of Israel and the destruction of the Second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem 2,000 years ago, the Romans re-named the land of Israel "Palestine," after the extinct enemies of the Jews, the Philistines. The Romans also named the city of Jerusalem "Ilea Capitoline." This dual renaming was intended to disconnect the Jews from their homeland.
Thus the original "Palestinians" were the Jews. Indeed, throughout history, since the destruction of the Second Jewish Temple of Jerusalem till very recently, the Jews were always the ones associated with Palestine.
For about 400 years, before the reestablishment of the modern State of Israel, a vast area of the Middle East was controlled by the Ottoman Empire.
Following the defeat of the Ottomans by the British, the French and their allies, during World War I, this huge territory was divided into smaller nations.
In 1917, Great Britain and other nations recognized again the connection of the Jewish people to their ancestral homeland, and the Balfour Declaration endorsed designating a tiny piece of land of the crumbling Ottoman Empire for the Jews. The rest of the vast land was allocated to create Arab countries including Turkey, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and others.
The British created the new state of Trans Jordan (later Jordan), over about 80% of the designated land for the Jews, violating the terms of their post-WWI mandate. They aimed to solve a conflict between the Hashemite Family and the Ibn Saud Family in Saudi Arabia - and the Jews paid a heavy price, losing a large part of their homeland.
Throughout this entire period there was no mention of Arab Palestinian people as an independent entity. They never had an independent state by the name of Palestinian, they never controlled the city of Jerusalem during any period of world history, and they never claimed to be a separate nation from their Arab brothers.
The Old City of Jerusalem had a Jewish majority since 1850. The only period in recent history when Jews were not living in Jerusalem was between 1948-1967; following the Arab war of aggression against Israel, Jordanians expelled all the Jews that survived the war, and destroyed their infrastructure, including their houses of worship. In violation of the Armistice Agreement, the Jews were not allowed to visit the holy Western Wall.
As for the remaining 20% of the designated land for the Jews, in 1936 the League of Nations suggested a partition of, between the Jews and their Arab neighbors. The Jews were ready to accept the idea, but the Arabs rejected it, and it did not materialize.
A State is Born
Again in 1948, when the UN voted to create a Jewish state and an Arab state in that remaining 20% of the land, the Jews accepted it but the Arabs rejected it.
This was not just a diplomatic rejection. On the same day of the declaration of the State of Israel, seven Arab nations invaded the tiny reborn State of Israel, with clear annihilationist intent.
Following the 1948 war, Jordan controlled the "West Bank" of the Jordan River, and Egypt controlled the Gaza Strip. There was no demand and no attempt made to create a new Palestinian State in those territories.
In 1967 Egypt, Syria and Jordan launched another attempt to liquidate the State of Israel. They began by blocking Israel's waterways to their southern city of Eilat, increasing terror activity against Israel, chasing away the UN observers from the Israeli border with Egypt, and deploying an invasion army on Israel's borders. Israel pleaded with the international community to stop this madness, but nothing was done to repeal the Arab aggression. Against all odds, Israel managed to overcome these armies.
The 1967 borders were never regarded as "internationally recognized borders," But rather difficult-to-defend "armistice borders." Therefore the wording of the armistice agreement was that the final borders would be negotiated at a later date, taking into account Israel's security needs.
Israel offered to negotiate peace in 1967 but got a triple-refusal from the Arab summit in Khartoum: "No peace, no negotiation, and no recognition of the Jewish State."
Despite winning the 1967 war, Israel offered to accept almost all the Arab demands. Following the 1993 Oslo accords, a generous offer of statehood was again made to the Arab Palestinian People in the year 2000 - only to be rebuffed by Arafat and his cronies, as confirmed by President Clinton and his envoy Dennis Ross.
So far, many Arabs refuse to negotiate peace with Israel, continuing instead with incitement, disinformation and terrorism, without relinquishing their hope to liquidate Israel in stages.
One tactic used to delegitimize Israel is to show a map of a "shrinking Arab Palestinian state." Yet such a state never existed in the history of nations and therefore it cannot shrink! Israel offered to create a new Arab Palestinian State on a part of the Jewish ancestral homeland, despite the fact that Israel became much smaller since the Balfour Declaration. This offer was made in the hope of achieving a peaceful resolution and a better future for all people of good will in the region. Unfortunately, Israel has no serious partner for peace on the Palestinian side. (Note that Jordan and Egypt did not make such a generous offer when they controlled this same land from 1948-1967.)
What are the legalities of the territories? The land of the West Bank, historically called Judea and Samaria, is an unallocated remnant of the Ottoman Empire and the British Mandate, which legally obligates the State of Israel to manage it. There has never been any legal limitation on people living there in settlements, whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim.
Conditions of the local Arab population in these territories have improved tremendously under Israeli control, in comparison to pre-1967 Jordanian control. The local Arabs have better healthcare, more freedom to educate their children the way they choose, greater economical growth, and more individual freedom compared to many of the other Arab countries in the region.
While some decry the separation fence, it would have never been built if not for the terrible phenomenon of suicide bombing of innocent Israelis. Following honest and productive negotiations, the final borders can be determined independently from the location of this security fence, which hopefully will not be needed.
The State of Israel is obligated to protect all its citizens - Jews, Christians and Muslims alike. The government is forced to take defensive actions from time to time. Israel undertakes serious efforts to prevent unintended casualties, and the results are far superior to similar situations in other countries in the world. But for some reason, skilled shameless propagandists blow any Israeli action out of proportion.
Certainly, the human rights record of the State of Israel is far and beyond better than the surrounding Arab States. Unfortunately, this too has been maliciously manipulated.
An analytical review of facts indicates that this conflict is not about land, because Israel has a miniscule piece of land in comparison to its neighbors, but it seems that the conflict is related to the global war of religions that is targeting their opponents in a systematic manner. Israel is being only one small piece of the puzzle. The hope of the extremists is that once Israel is liquidated they will continue their mission in Europe and the USA ("the Great Satan") and elsewhere, in order to establish a world wide Caliphate which will be dominated by Sharia Law. Some members of other religions will be allowed to survive under the Caliphate rule as Dhimies, as second-class citizens, serving the believers in Allah.
The scenario is even more complex, given the vicious ongoing war within the Muslim world between the Moderates and the Radicals, and among the various fractions of the Shiah and the Sunni groups, and among others. See the conflict in Syria, the conflict between Iran and Saudi Arabia, the conflict within Iraq, the conflict between the Turks and the Kurds, etc.
Much of the demonization rhetoric against Israel focuses on a so-called humanitarian crisis in Gaza. In fact, Israel provides extensive humanitarian support to the people of Gaza. This includes food, healthcare and even infrastructure (as long as it is not providing the terrorists with tools to rain rockets on innocent Israeli women and children). Just to mention two examples, even the brother-in-law of the leader of Hamas traveled to Israel to receive medical treatment, and the Arab Palestinian veterinarians were given vaccines for their cows by the Israeli health authorities.
To describe how much Israel does to benefit their neighbors and the entire world would take thousands of pages. But for some reason, the media exercises very selective reporting and does not carry this news. We should cherish the good and criticize the bad under the same criteria that we use to judge every other country in the world, and we should not single out the responsible and altruistic State of Israel for harsh condemnation.
Once we judge the State of Israel on its own merits, we can clearly see a nation that is doing tremendous good in research and development, in humanitarian aid, in innovation and originality, in helping citizens from all religions, and in assisting people from around the world. When there were natural disasters, Israel sent aid all the way to Turkey, Haiti, Japan and many other nations.
Israel should be commended, not condemned, for their efforts.
I urge you to consider the objective facts, independent of longstanding political and diplomatic grudges. I refer you to a set of maps showing the evolution of the Middle East; to 25 short answers to tough questions about Israel, and to a primer of information called "Israel 101."