Article by Paul Goldstein follows my comments
Dear Paul, thanks for sharing another point of view to the view of Runderheim. Every one has to strive to be honest when writing about two populations and be open to different points of view. I laud you for bringing your point of view to the fore. Good Job!
Peace is attainable and we should not give up on it. The Jews deserve security and the Palestinians the hope. Peace hinges on hopes for the Palestinians and security for the Israelis, anything short of justice will not produce sustainable peace"
I am yet to see a conference where they invite known radicals, liberals and moderates from both sides. No one has to support anothr point of view, but must be willing to see and acknowledge it. It will extinguish some of the fire when some one is heard. Until we put all our cards on the table, our dialogue remains partial and does not contribute to peace making significantly.
This is an article of mine that was published (in Norwegian) in "Hallingdølen", the newspaper of the Hallingdal region of Norway, in the issue of Jan. 21, 2010. [This was in response to an anti-Israel article of similar length that appeared in the paper the previous week.]
An online link to the published article and the Norwegian text can be found by scrolling down.
ISRAEL WILL LIVE – IN PEACE
by Paul Goldstein
In his piece attacking the State of Israel and Jewish nationhood, Bjarte Runderheim relies on numerous distortions and inaccuracies, as well as ignoring the many relevant facts that would contradict his claims. It does no service to the cause of peace, which requires building two-sided trust, to distort facts in bashing one of the sides to a conflict.
His denial of the legitimacy of a Jewish national homeland ignores the facts of history. Jews have lived in what is now Israel for 4000 years, in an unbroken continuous existence. After their first two states in Palestine were destroyed, a Jewish community (historically called the “Yishuv”) continued to thrive in the land under a series of successive conquering powers.
The Arab population in what is now Israel has its original roots in the Muslim conquest of the region in the 7th century. Jews and Arabs from that point lived together uneasily in the region under differing foreign powers and empires. There was no independent state in Palestine, either Jewish or Arab, from the time of the destruction of the Second Temple (in the year 70) until 1948.
By the time of the 400-year rule of the Ottoman Empire (1517 to 1917), both the Jewish and Arab populations had diminished sharply. The author Mark Twain, travelling through what is now Israel in the mid-19th century, reported the region was mostly a desolate wasteland and sparsely inhabited.
The Yishuv, though, began to grow in that century. By the 1850’s the western part of Jerusalem had a Jewish majority. Spurred by anti-Semitic pogroms in Russia and other areas, European Jews began arriving in 1882, joining the long-standing Yishuv, a people who by that time had been stateless for nearly 2000 years.
As the British took control of the region in 1917 under a League of Nations mandate, the Balfour Declaration was issued, promising the restoration of a Jewish national homeland in part of Palestine. During the British rule of Palestine (1917-1948), Jewish immigration was sharply restricted – even during those years when Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust desperately searched for a safe haven. However, during the British Mandate there was a substantial increase in the area’s Arab population from neighboring lands, an immigration quietly encouraged by the British authorities.
The enormity of the Holocaust, during which countries around the world firmly closed their doors to Jewish refugees and allowed millions of people to be slaughtered, demonstrated the urgent need of a restored Jewish national homeland. The United Nations in 1947, over the objections of Arab countries, authorized the rebirth of Israel, fulfilling a 2000-year-old dream – though only after a third of all the world’s Jews had been murdered.
After the British left on May 14, 1948, the surrounding Arab countries wasted no time in trying to destroy the new Jewish state, co-ordinating a massive attack the following morning.
The years of 1947-1949 were ones of great upheaval in the region, and a massive two-sided population shift took place. Hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees from surrounding Arab countries, fleeing greatly increased persecution, poured into the new Jewish state. At the same time hundreds of thousands of Arab residents of western Palestine fled into neighboring Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria.
As a result of the enormous exodus into Israel of Jews of Arab lands, a majority of Israel’s Jewish population was of Middle Eastern origin (Sephardic or Mizrachi Jews) until the great influx of Soviet Jews at the beginning of the 1990’s. The founding Jewish population of Israel was mostly indigenous to the region with Middle Eastern roots going back thousands of years; European (Ashkenazi) Jews were a 40% minority. Together they created a nation in a land that had never seen any independent state other than a Jewish one.
From the beginning the Arab minority was granted full voting rights and citizenship rights in the new state, and there have always been Arab members in the Knesset [parliament]. Arab citizens of Israel have enjoyed a higher quality of life – in education, literacy, health care, longevity, and financial conditions – than Arabs in the surrounding nations. Relations between Jews and Arabs within Israel have always been relatively peaceful. Nearly all the hostilities have been between Israelis and Arabs living outside the country’s boundaries. Any assessment of Israeli treatment of Palestinians needs to take these facts into account (which Runderheim does not).
What came to be known as the “occupied territories” were a direct result of the 1967 Six-Day War, in which Israel defeated a co-ordinated effort from the surrounding Arab countries to destroy the Jewish nation. Most of this land has since been returned to Arab control. But plans to withdraw from the West Bank under the Oslo treaties were derailed by an increase in violence and terrorism. Israel withdrew entirely from the Gaza in 2005, but that did not stop terrorist attacks from Hamas, which continues to control the region.
The often-heard rhetorical comparisons to South African apartheid (a word which Runderheim uses several times) have no basis in reality. In the old South Africa three million whites ruled over 20 million blacks, who were denied all voting rights. Blacks were required to live in designated areas, and there was strictly enforced segregation in restaurants, public transportation, and places of recreation such as parks and beaches. In contrast, the Israeli Arab minority has full voting rights, and there is absolutely no segregation or enforced separation. Jews and Arabs mingle freely together in all public facilities.
The “wall” that Runderheim refers to is the security barrier, which for 95% of its length, is fence, not wall. It was designed not for any “apartheid” or separation, but to reduce the instances of terror attacks. In this respect the barrier has “worked”. However, it is most unfortunate that it needed to be erected. Undoubtedly it will come down as a result of resumed peace negotiations.
One-sided bashing in this complex conflict, as Runderheim does, is of no help to anyone. What is needed is a recognition of the national rights of both Jews and Palestinians, and a long-term mutually acceptable peaceful solution borne in negotiation and compromise. One such comprehensive framework already exists – the unofficial 2003 Geneva agreement. It remains only for dedicated and visionary leaders on both sides to put it into effect.
- Paul Goldstein
(published in Norwegian, in “Hallingdølen”, January 21, 2010)