Michael Tarazi must think that Americans never read newspapers (especially Front Page Magazine) or watch TV. His Op-Ed piece in Sunday’s NY Times (cf. infra, “Two Peoples, One State”, 10.3.04) presents readers with a masterpiece of mendacity. Almost every sentence is a distortion, de-contextualization, obfuscation, or outright fiction….and painfully transparent ones at that.
Typical of the demagogue, his opening sentence reverses reality. There is nothing “untenable” about Israel’s policy. In fact, it has been an amazingly successful policy since the earliest Zionist activities at the end of the 19th century. As a state, Israel has pulled off bona fide miracles: defeating armies five times the size of its IDF; integrating and rehabilitating a refugee population (c. 750,000 Jews driven from Arab countries between 1949 and 1954) larger than the population of Israel at the time; draining swamps and making the desert bloom; creating the second most successful hi-tech industrial complex in the world (second only to the USA); and creating the only functioning democracy in the entire Middle East, in which the Arab citizens of Israel have five political parties (four more than they can vote for in any Arab state in the entire world) and twelve members of Parliament.
Israel’s sovereignty over the West Bank and Gaza Strip has been similarly miraculous. From June 1967 to July 1994, during which time Israel was in control, the economy of those territories exploded with an average annual growth rate of 13%; seven universities were built where none existed before; tourism sky-rocketed; thanks to Israel’s “mini-Marshal plan”, infra-structure at all levels was brought into the 20th century; as were medical services such that infant mortality plummeted and life expectancy rose; and at one point almost 300,000 Arabs from the West Bank and Gaza Strip worked daily in the Israeli economy earning more than their counterparts anywhere in the Arab world. Israel’s “untenable” policy was so successful that the Arab population of the West Bank and Gaza strip tripled during this period, in part because of hundreds of thousands of Arabs moving into the territories from other parts of the Arab world –life was better under Israeli rule (all per World Bank statistics). All of this came to a grinding halt as soon as Arafat took over in 1994 and started his “Oslo war”.
And this brings us to Tarazi’s next obfuscation. He bemoans the Israeli “incursions” that kill dozens of Palestinians. Is he unaware of Arafat’s terror war four years in duration, aka the second Intifada? Did he not notice that Hamas and Islamic Jihad and the PFLP and the PFLP-GC and the DFLP and the el-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade and Tanzim and Force 17 and Fatah and the Moslem Brotherhood and Hezbollah (just to name a few) have perpetrated more than 18,000 terror attacks since Oslo (9/13/1993), killing more than 1,700 Israelis and wounding almost 7,000 (as a percentage of population, these deaths are comparable to more than the total Americans lost in the Viet Nam war)? Did he not read the news reports about how Hamas has fired dozens of Qassam rockets across the green line into Israeli cities, killing innocent civilians (including several toddlers) just days before the Israeli “incursion”? It is beyond rational argument that Israel’s entry into the Gaza Strip is a defensive measure to stop Hamas’ indiscriminate and relentless killing of Israelis – but then again, Tarazi’s is not a rational argument.
And then, to conclude his first paragraph, Tarazi makes a statement that all by itself shows the irrationality of his position: “Israel’s overall strategy toward the Palestinians…wants
Palestinian land but not the Palestinians who live on that land.” He seems not to have noticed that Prime Minister Sharon has done just the opposite, even though it puts his government coalition and his political career in jeopardy, with his decision to unilaterally, and without any concessions from the terrorists, pull out of Gaza, forcibly evacuate the 8,000 Israelis who have lived there for 35 years, and turn the entire Gaza Strip over to the Palestinian Authority. There may be multiple interpretations of Sharon’s motives and plans; but there is no rational way to suggest that the unilateral pull-out will give Israel more land, with or without the Palestinians.
And its all down hill from there. Tarazi asserts that “Israeli support for a Palestinian state is motivated “ …. by a desire to segregate non-Jews while taking as much of their land and resources as possible”.. He must hope that his audience does not know that Baraq and Clinton offered Arafat almost all of the West Bank and Gaza Strip at Camp David 2 (July 2000) with dismantling of most settlements and Arab sovereignty over the Temple Mount. “..as much of their land and resources as possible”? What does he consider “their land”?
He must also rely upon his audience’s ignorance of Arafat’s arbitrary refusal of what Bandar bin Sultan defined as the very best offer Arafat could ever hope to get (New Yorker Mag., 3/24/03). Arafat’s obduracy was so extreme that President Clinton declared: “Arafat, it’s all your fault!” And then Arafat started the 2nd Intifada! Israel’s re-occupation of the West Bank in April, 2002, and the current re-occupation of parts of the Gaza strip, are defensive measures aimed at stopping the terror war and eliminating Arafat’s ability to kill Israelis.
Then there is the question of “Palestinian land”. As a legal adviser to the PLO, Tarazi must know that none of the West Bank and Gaza Strip has ever been “Palestinian Land”. Before Israel’s, the last legal sovereignty over these territories was that of the Ottoman Empire. The British Mandate was a temporary care-taker control established by the League of Nations. And from 1948 to 1967, the West bank was illegally occupied and annexed by Jordan, and the Gaza Strip by Egypt –both in stark defiance of international law, Fourth Geneva Convention, and UN resolutions 181 and 194 (which declared that there should be a state of Palestine on that part of partitioned Cis-Jordan that was not given to the state of Israel). Israel conquered these territories in a defensive war (June 5-10, 1967) and then offered to return them to their illegal occupiers (Jordan and Egypt) in exchange for peace. Stunned and confused by this offer, the Arab world convened at Khartoum, Sudan, in August, 1967 and formulated their response: the now infamous three Khartoum “NO”s: No recognition, no negotiations, no peace. International law is clear. In the case of a defending country’s occupation of an aggressor’s territory, the disposition of this territory must await a peace treaty between the belligerents. In the absence of a peace treaty, the defending country’s continued sovereignty over the territory is completely legal. So, until a legal Palestinian government concludes a peace treaty with Israel, the West Bank and Gaza Strip are Israeli land. Individual Palestinians may own personal title to some of it; but that title is under the legal sovereignty of Israel. There is no “Palestinian land”.
And that brings us to Tarazi’s de-contextualization of the “settlements”. There is nothing illegal about Israelis living on the east side of the “green line” (per above), and there are certainly no “colonies”. There are bedroom communities near Tel Aviv and Netanya and Petah Tikva and Jerusalem with high-rise apartments and homes, like any normal suburb. There are neighborhoods of Jerusalem, such as Gilo, that were built on land purchased from Palestinians at fair market value, or built on land for which there was no recorded personal title. And there are kibbutzim and moshavim and various villages scattered through the West Bank and in the southern corner of the Gaza Strip. In conformity with the Fourth Geneva Convention, no Palestinians have been displaced by these Israeli towns nor have Israelis been forcibly transferred into them. In fact, quite the opposite. As noted above, the Israeli development of infrastructure in the West Bank was part of the cause for the prosperity enjoyed by the Palestinians, and part of the reason for their phenomenal population growth. While there are indeed more than 200 Israeli areas of habitation in the territories, there are more than 260 new Palestinian villages or incrementally accreted suburbs or exurbs as well. Both are legal, and both reflect the very successful policies of the Israelis in the territories from 1967 to 1994.
Water is a contentious issue. The main motivator for Israel’s restrictions on ground water usage is the process of seeping salinization that occurs when artesian sources are over-taxed. Over-use has characterized the Palestinian exploitation of limited sources since the big population growth in the West Bank. Since almost all of the water used by the Israelis east of the green line is from the National Water Carrier (an aqueduct bringing water from the Sea of Galilee), the restrictions on underground water sources are for the long-term benefit of the entire population of the West Bank. Water is indeed a problem, but one that could be better solved via negotiations than by blowing up busloads of civilians
Then there is what Tarazi calls the “barrier”! Although many may deny it for political purposes, it is obvious that Arafat’s terrorism built the fence, and that the fence has been unexpectedly successful in stopping that terrorism. Far from using the fence as a way to grab more land, Israel subordinates the IDF’s assessment of security needs to the convenience of the Palestinians who have personal title to land traversed by the fence (per a recent Israeli supreme court decision). And, since it is a fence (and not a wall) over 97% of its length, it can be moved or removed if and when peace negotiations require.
If Tarazi really believes that “…Israel is offering ‘independence’ on a reservation stripped of water and arable soil”, then as their attorney he ought to be advising the PLO (aka the Palestinian Authority) to stop its terrorism and start making peace. Or perhaps he neglected to watch the news on April 14, 2004 when Sharon made his ground-breaking offer: if the Palestinian Authority stops the terrorism and stops the incitement and starts to negotiate, the Palestinians will get their state. But even if they do not stop the terrorism, THEY WILL STILL GET THEIR STATE! However, Israel will draw the borders unilaterally. So if they want a bigger state, with more arable land and water, then it is in their best interests to stop the terrorism. But they don’t.
In fact, they never have. In 1937 the Arabs could have had 85% of Palestine west of the Jordan, but they rejected the UK’s offer (the Peel partition plan) in favor of a revolt that Britain quelled at the cost of thousands of Arab lives. In 1947 they could have had c. 50% of the land, but again they went to war and, much to their surprise, were defeated by Israel. In 1949 they could have had a treaty with Israel that would have returned to them most of the land that they lost in the 1948 war, but instead they chose to maintain their belligerency and declared an eternal state of war. That is why the Rhodes conference was an armistice conference and not a peace conference.
In June, 1967 they could have gotten back the land they lost in the 6-day war, in exchange for peace (which Anwar es-Saddat did in 1979 – peace in exchange for Sinai at Camp David 1); but the Arab world could not deal with the reality of the need to make a deal with Israel. So Israel kept the land. Never has Israel coveted Arab land. Quite the opposite. Dragged into unwanted wars of survival, Israel has consistently offered to return conquered land in exchange for peace. It is only because of Arab obduracy and psychotic Jew-hatred that Israel today holds legal sovereignty over what was supposed to have been the Arab State of Palestine.
After this tiresome litany of transparent lies and distortions, Tarazi finally gets to his main point: “…a one-state solution in which citizens of all faiths and ethnicities live together as equals”. It is an irony of galactic proportions that Tarazi now wants the world to believe that really all the terrorists ever wanted was to be friends with the Jews and share a nice happy state together.
For 125 years, Palestinian leadership has been preaching “death to the Jews”. For 55 years Arab nations have been engaged in a series of wars whose goal was the annihilation of Israel. For 35 years Arafat has led a relentless terror war whose goal was the destruction of Israel and the genocide of its Jews. And for the past four years, Arafat and his terrorist minions have made a last-ditch, desperate effort to prevail via endless terrorism, violence, murder, and intimidation.
And they all failed.
No one can predict the future, but past behavior is statistically the best indicator of future behavior.
So how did Arafat and his terror army behave in Jordan from June 1967 to September 1970? -so badly that King Hussein had to drive them out with a full-scale war (black September, 1970) that took the lives of c. 10,000 Palestinians.
How did Arafat and the PLO behave in Lebanon from October, 1970 to August, 1982? -they terrorized the Lebanese, created a civil war, killed tens of thousands of Christian Lebanese, drove hundreds of thousands from their homes, and threatened to bring down the entire Lebanese government.
It is not by chance that no Arab state was willing to offer safe harbor to Arafat and his minions when he was cornered by Sharon in Beirut in 1982.
And how has Arafat behaved since Oslo? -18,000 terror attacks against Israel, 1700 Israeli dead and almost 7,000 wounded since 9/13/1993 (when Arafat declared on the White House lawn his unshakable commitment to peace), and Arafat continues to cheer on his terrorists, call them his heroes and martyrs, and dub his female homicide bombers his “army of roses”.
Palestinian national aspirations are unique in the world and throughout history. Their sole defining paradigm has been terrorism, their unabashed self-expression has been the diatribe of genocide, and their unequivocal aim has been the destruction of a sovereign state and the annihilation of its population.
There is no society in the world that would want to share its sovereignty with the world’
s arch terrorists. No government could rationally be expected to share its power with those who have left in their wake an abysmal travesty of murder and extortion, intimidation, torture, terror and destruction
Why would anyone expect that Israel would want to?
Now that they have failed through war and terrorism, the terrorists want to conquer Israel through a faux diplomacy and palpably mendacious protestations of peaceful intentions. PASSIA (Palestine Academic Society For the Study of Academic Affairs – the Palestinian Authority’s propaganda office) may have concocted this new approach, but anyone with the brains that God gave a napkin can see the reality.
Mr. Tarazi is either abysmally ignorant, or he hopes that we are.
OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR , New York Times, 10.3.04
Two Peoples, One State
By MICHAEL TARAZI
s untenable policy in the Middle East was more obvious than usual last week, as the
Israeli Army made repeated incursions into Gaza, killing dozens of Palestinians in the deadliest attacks in more than two years, even as Prime Minister Ariel Sharon reiterated his plans to withdraw from the territory. Israel’
s overall strategy toward the Palestinians is ultimately self-defeating: it wants Palestinian land but not the Palestinians who live on that land.
As Christians and Muslims, the millions of Palestinians under occupation are not welcome in the Jewish state. Many Palestinians are now convinced that Israeli support for a Palestinian state is motivated not by a hope for reconciliation, but by a desire to segregate non-Jews while taking as much of their land and resources as possible. They are increasingly questioning the most commonly accepted solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict -“two states living side by side in peace and security,” in the words of President Bush -and are being forced to consider a one-state solution.
To Palestinians, the strategy behind Israel’
s two-state solution is clear. More than 400,000 Israelis live illegally in more than 150 colonies, many of which are atop Palestinian water sources. Mr. Sharon is prepared to evacuate settlers from Gaza -but only in exchange for expanding settlements in the West Bank. And Israel is building a barrier wall not on its land but rather inside occupied Palestinian territory. The wall’
s route maximizes the amount of Palestinian farmland and water on one side and the number of Palestinians on the other.
Yet while Israelis try to allay a demographic threat, they are creating a democratic threat. After years of negotiations, coupled with incessant building of settlements and now the construction of the wall, Palestinians finally understand that Israel is offering “independence” on a reservation stripped of water and arable soil, economically dependent on Israel and even lacking the right to self-defense.
As a result, many Palestinians are contemplating whether the quest for equal statehood should now be superseded by a struggle for equal citizenship. In other words, a one-state solution in which citizens of all faiths and ethnicities live together as equals. Recent polls indicate that a quarter of Palestinians favor the secular one-state solution -a surprisingly high number given that it is not officially advocated by any senior Palestinian leader.
Support for one state is hardly a radical idea; it is simply the recognition of the uncomfortable reality that Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories already function as a single state. They share the same aquifers, the same highway network, the same electricity grid and the same international borders. There are no road signs reading “Welcome to Occupied Territory” when one drives into East Jerusalem. Some government maps of Israel do not delineate Israel’
s 1967 pre-occupation border. Settlers in the occupied West Bank (including East Jerusalem) are interspersed among Palestinian towns and now constitute nearly a fifth of the population. In the words of one Palestinian farmer, you can’t unscramble an egg.
But in this de facto state, 3.5 million Palestinian Christians and Muslims are denied the same political and civil rights as Jews. These Palestinians must drive on separate roads, in cars bearing distinctive license plates, and only to and from designated Palestinian areas. It is illegal for a Palestinian to drive a car with an Israeli license plate. These Palestinians, as non-Jews, neither qualify for Israeli citizenship nor have the right to vote in Israeli elections.
In South Africa, such an allocation of rights and privileges based on ethnic or religious affiliation was called apartheid. In Israel, it is called the Middle East’s only democracy.
Most Israelis recoil at the thought of giving Palestinians equal rights, understandably fearing that a possible Palestinian majority will treat Jews the way Jews have treated Palestinians. They fear the destruction of the never-defined “Jewish state.” The one-state solution, however, neither destroys the Jewish character of the Holy Land nor negates the Jewish historical and religious attachment (although it would destroy the superior status of Jews in that state). Rather, it affirms that the Holy Land has an equal Christian and Muslim character.
For those who believe in equality, this is a good thing. In theory, Zionism is the movement of Jewish national liberation. In practice, it has been a movement of Jewish supremacy. It is this domination of one ethnic or religious group over another that must be defeated before we can meaningfully speak of a new era of peace; neither Jews nor Muslims nor Christians have a unique claim on this sacred land.
The struggle for Palestinian equality will not be easy. Power is never voluntarily shared by those who wield it. Palestinians will have to capture the world’
s imagination, organize the international community and refuse to be seduced into negotiating for their rights.
But the struggle against South African apartheid proves the battle can be won. The only question is how long it will take, and how much all sides will have to suffer, before Israeli Jews can view Palestinian Christians and Muslims not as demographic threats but as fellow citizens.
Michael Tarazi is a legal adviser to the Palestine Liberation Organization