FIVE MYTHS AND FACTS ABOUT THE CONFLICT IN THE MIDDLE EAST
MYTH: The Jews have no claim to the Land of Israel. They are simply newcomers who have displaced the native Palestinians.
FACT: The Jewish people have maintained ties to their historic homeland for more than 3700 years. Israel's claim on the land is validated by the promise of the Bible. There has been an uninterrupted Jewish presence in Israel since the times of Joshua. During the millennia of exile, Jews have maintained their connection to the land through a national language, a distinct culture, and a continual regard for Jerusalem as the national capital of the Jewish people.
There has been a Jewish majority in Jerusalem since 1864. The British Balfour declaration of 1917 guaranteed, in principle, a Jewish state in Israel. Finally, in 1947, the United Nations passed a partition plan, paving the way for an independent Jewish state in the land of Israel.
MYTH: Israel opposes the creation of a Palestinian state, and the frustration of Palestinian national ambitions is the cause of the present conflict.
FACT: In 1948, Israel accepted the UN partition plan, which called for the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank. The Arab states rejected the plan and launched a military assault on the nascent Jewish state. This assault was responsible for the failure to create a Palestinian state. In 1967, Israel's Arab neighbors again threatened to destroy the Jewish state. Israel responded with a defensive battle in which they conquered the West Bank. It was in self-defense that Israel first began its "occupation." Israel immediately offered to exchange this territory for a peace treaty with her Arab neighbors. They refused and persisted in their commitment to destroy Israel.
In the 1990's, Israel has pursued a dialogue with the Palestinian Authority to achieve the mutual goals of security for Israel and freedom for the Palestinian people. The Palestinians have not responded in kind. Arafat speaks of peace in English while preaching war and Jihad in Arabic. He speaks of using the peace process as an attempt to further his goal of the eventual destruction of Israel.
Finally, in September 2000, at Camp David, President Clinton proposed an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and 95% of the West Bank and the creation of a Palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem. Israel accepted the offer. Arafat rejected the offer and launched a second Intifadeh, an armed uprising against Israel. Israel continues to support the creation of a Palestinian state in the Gaza Strip and West Bank.
MYTH: Israel's treatment of the Palestinians constitutes a form of Apartheid.
FACT: Blacks in South Africa were denied voting rights and citizenship. Israeli Arabs are full citizens of Israel. Indeed, they are the only Arabs in the Middle East who are able to vote in democratic, multi-party elections.
Security considerations have led Israel to impose restrictions on the Palestinians living in the territories. Palestinians, however, are allowed to work in Israel and attend Israeli schools and universities. It is the threat of terrorism, supported and sponsored by Arafat and the Palestinian Authority, which forces Israel to set up checkpoints. Palestinian terrorists have even begun using Ambulances to transport explosives for use in suicide bombings.
MYTH: Since September 2000, there has been a cycle of violence in which Israelis and Palestinians simply retaliate against each other's attacks.
FACT: There is a sharp moral distinction between the violence perpetrated by Palestinian terrorists and the Israeli army. The Palestinian terrorists intentionally target civilians, seeking to maximize the death toll at each suicide bombing. Israel, however, seeks to minimize civilian casualties, instead attempting to destroy the terrorist infrastructure that freely operates in the Palestinian territories. Tragically, innocent Palestinians have been killed in these military operations. However, the terrorists must share the blame for these deaths. They intentionally situate their activities in dense civilian population centers, using their fellow Palestinians as human shields against Israeli attacks.
MYTH: Palestinian Authority President Arafat wants to stop terrorism but he is incapable of controlling the extremists.
FACT: Arafat's PA works closely with Hamas and Islamic Jihad and has refused to condemn their terrorist actions. Arafat personally launched the current Intifadeh in response to the Israeli peace offer at Camp David. His own security forces - Tanzim, Fatah, and Al-Aqsa Amrtyrs Brigade - have launched a majority of the 11,500 attacks since September 2000. The PA, rather than arresting, or even condemning, the terrorist attacks, has encouraged and funded them. Recently seized documents from Arafat's headquarters, have shown a clear link between Arafat and the suicide bombings. Arafat was also responsible for the purchase of tons of heavy armament from Iran. The Karine A, the ship on which the arms were delivered, was intercepted by Israeli forces. Arafat at first denied any connection to the arms. Evidence later emerged which prompted President Bush to conclusively state that Arafat in fact was responsible for the purchase.
As long as Arafat continues to support the wanton killing of Israeli civilians and the mass armament of the Palestinian territories, the Israelis will not be able to treat him as partner in peace.