Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Propaganda, Propaganda, Propaganda

Ah, it's good to know the Electronic Intifada is still the premier bastion of Palestinian propaganda on the web. Take a look at a recent article by Sharif Hamadeh, a fellow working for Adalah, an Israeli Arab advocacy group.

He primarily argues that the Disengagement is just a cover for the strengthening of the Israeli presence in the West Bank and Gaza. In all honestly, that's partly true. Disengagement will allow Israel to retain a large chunk of the West Bank and Jerusalem at least until the Palestinians decide to seriously engage in a process of peaceful negotiations.

But Hamadeh's argument stems from his misunderstanding of Israeli society's attitude towards its Arab minority and its Palestinian neighbors. He believes that the Shafa'amr attack was "the fruit of the deep-seated racism cultivated by successive Israeli governments over many years." Considering how Israel completely rewrote its textbooks to better accord with the more "liberal" approach to the conflict, I am unclear about what cultivated racism to which he refers.

Put simply his argument is that Israeli society is racist against the other, has treated its Arab minority as "second or third class citizens," and must undergo a complete change in how its views its minorities if peace is to become a realistic goal.

While I do not deny there is discrimination against Israeli Arabs in Israel, I do not agree that it is ingrained into society. Hamadeh claims over 20 laws discriminating against Israeli Arabs are currently on the books, but cites none. He does mention two laws, one that refuses to compensate the Palestinians for years of military operations in Gaza, and the other which denies Palestinians who marry Israeli Arabs automatic citizenship.

The first law speaks nothing of Israeli Arabs and only refers to an occupying power not indemnifying the losing party in a war the victor did not start. I've yet to see any historical precedent for the victor repatriating the losing party after winning the war. Moreover, I've yet to see any legal basis requiring Israel to carry out such a program.

The second law is much more troubling. But it's a law based on security, not ethnicity. The law only applies to Palestinians, not every Arab. If an Israeli Arab marries a Saudi, the spouse will receive automatic citizenship. So while I'm not familiar with the legal issues involved, I do not see this law spawning from a racist world view.

Hamadeh makes some blatantly misleading claims:

1) "The demonstrators were protesting against Mr Sharon's provocative visit to the Muslim holy site of Haram ash-Sharif in Jerusalem."

He neglects to note that the same site is the holiest site in the world for Jews.

2) "Not a single individual has yet been charged for the [13] Arab deaths [by Israeli police in 2000]."

The Israeli government appointed the Or Commission to review the events, and while they did find fault in how the police acted, it did not find criminal fault on the part of any officer. Just because people were unarmed does not mean the police cannot use lethal force.

3) "Just as the wishes of the 1.4 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip play no part in the public debate being waged in Israel over the withdrawal, the fact that Palestinians have now become the disengagement's first victims has been lost amid a sea of blue and orange ribbons, representing the current competition between Jewish and ultra-Jewish nationalism."

Wrong on many points. Since when do noncitizens decide policy? Moreover, Israeli Arabs voted in the Knesset on the disengagement issue and were just as much a part of the decision as any other Israeli. Lastly, Israeli Arabs were not the first casualties anymore than the Israelis who were killed in Gaza last week.

4) "As UN Special Rapporteur Professor John Dugard reported in March 2005, the dismantling of Jewish settlements in Gaza does not mean that Israel will cease to be considered an occupying Power in the Strip under international law."

True, but if Israel withdraws its troops (which it will) and withdraws from the Philadelphia route, it might not have the effective control needed to constitute an occupation.

5) "Meanwhile, plans to encourage the intensive Jewish settlement of the Galilee and Negev regions within Israel, where large numbers of Palestinian citizens of Israel live, are also being pursued. "

Well, I guess once Palestinians live somewhere no Jews are allowed.

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