Israel is taking all the right steps along the pathway to peace
First published in The Age
Reaching a fair and just two-state solution to this long-standing conflict has the support of the majority of the world’s democracies and was reiterated in the Australian Parliament last month by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and Opposition Leader Brendan Nelson in support of a bipartisan resolution commemorating Israel’s 60th anniversary of independence.
This solution, however, has its opponents, particularly those groups led by Iran and its President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and terrorist movements such as Hamas and Hezbollah which reject the peace process and maintain a fanatical commitment to destroy the state of Israel.
This would deny the Jewish people’s right to self-determination and cause a catastrophic upheaval that would add to the suffering of both sides in this war-ravaged part of the world. Nevertheless, the radical Islamist rejectionists have gathered support from fringe groups on the extreme right and left of the political spectrum and ironically, given Hamas’ anti-Semitic charter, even from a tiny minority of Jews.
These include the remnants of the Independent Australian Jewish Voices, whose leadership lost the support of many rank-and-file members last month for seeking to align the group with a one-sided advertisement promoted by Palestinian groups condemning Israel alone for all the troubles of the region.
IAJV founders Antony Loewenstein and Peter Slezak have been in damage control ever since, and their article “Self-defence or brutal occupation?” published on this page on March 31 unsurprisingly (given their lack of credentials and expertise in this area) demonstrates their lack of understanding of the complexities of the conflict.
They rely principally on the discredited work of Americans John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt to support the historically inaccurate proposition that it was the Arabs and not Israel who were the Davids confronted by a Goliath when five Arab armies attacked a severely outnumbered nascent Jewish State in May 1948 and threatened its inhabitants with a “momentous massacre”.
Loewenstein and Slezak also cite out of context Benny Morris, who they describe as a “leading Israeli historian”, to support their outrageous claims about the history of the conflict. They are apparently unaware that the same Benny Morris has demolished the Mearsheimer-Walt thesis and indeed, took their argument apart piece by piece in an article titled “The ignorance at the heart of an innuendo. And now for some facts”.
Morris was scathing in his assessment of their thesis, describing it as a “nasty piece of work” and concluding that “what these distinguished professors have produced is otherwise depressing to anyone who values intellectual integrity”. Morris said in the Irish Times in February that “the demonisation of Israel is largely based on lies — much as the demonisation of the Jews during the past 2000 years has been based on lies”.
This lack of intellectual integrity is carried over in the works of many who seek to revise the history of the region in their quest to reject the notion of two states to resolve the conflict. The most problematic claim made by Loewenstein and Slezak is that Israel is “not the state of its citizens but only of the Jewish people” and that it discriminates against its Arab population.
In this aspect, as in many others, they deny the fact that Israeli Arabs are recognised on an equal footing as citizens of Israel. Arabic is one of the country’s official languages, along with Hebrew and English, and the Arab population has grown significantly (so much for supposed “ethnic cleansing”), as have the numbers in employment and schooling. Arabs are also well represented in Israel’s parliament and it has an Arab minister in its government. By contrast, the stated aim of Hamas and other Arab political entities is to categorically and violently rid the region of Jews.
Israel may not be perfect, but it is a vibrant democracy surrounded by Arab dictatorships and theocracies. The only hope for peace in the region remains the creation of an independent Palestinian state living side by side with Israel, rather than instead of Israel.
For this to occur, the Palestinian leadership must immediately cease all violence and terror, financial support for terror and incitement, and more importantly, re-educate Palestinians that this is the only option to move forward. Only then can the world give its wholehearted support to the process taking place between Israel and the Palestinian Authority which seeks to bring reconciliation, peace and prosperity to the two peoples.
Dr Danny Lamm is the president of the State Zionist Council of Victoria.
This Op-Ed appeared in The Age on 7 April 2008.