Wednesday, May 12, 2010


In an article he wrote wrote for Midstream in 2000, The Land of Israel and Jerusalem in 1900, Elliot A. Green corrects some misconceptions:
Standing out among the truths commonly disregarded concerning the Land of Israel and Jerusalem one hundred years ago, and of special importance at this time of Arab-Israeli negotiations, are:

1-- at the end of the nineteenth century, there was no "Palestine" on the ground, only in Western historical memory and in occasional usage by Western diplomats, scholars and travelers;

2--The population was religiously, ethnically, and linguistically diverse, although Muslim Arabs were a majority in the country at the time, albeit the country was not then a defined territory;

3--Jews were a majority of the population of Jerusalem and had been so at least since 1870 -- or earlier according to some estimates;

4--Jews were a majority of the inhabitants of the Old City in 1900;

5--Jews lived both inside and outside the Old City walls, inhabiting quarters which were to be occupied by Transjordan (later Jordan) in 1948, and were thus to form part of what could be called "Arab East Jerusalem" between 1948 and 1967.

Muslim Arabs traditionally saw the country as simply an undifferentiated part of Bilad ash-Sham, usually translated as Syria or Greater Syria. This vast expanse included not only Israel, but the Syria, Lebanon, and Jordan of today, roughly speaking. The country that Jews have traditionally called the Land of Israel, and that Christians called the Holy Land -- was not ordinarily or traditionally seen as a separate or distinct land by Muslim Arabs or the Ottoman state.
Read the whole thing.

Unfortunately, some misconceptions do not die easily.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Palestinian Arabs Descended From Philistines? Canaanites? Few Of Them Are Even Related To The Original Arab Invaders!

One of the issues surrounding the topic of Israeli settlements is the persistent impression that there was a stable, strong community of Palestinian Arabs that awaited Jews who were fleeing the Holocaust.

Actually, there have been Jewish communities there from the time of the Roman conquest, and Jews have been immigrating to Israel for centuries.

Likewise, there has been no solid, thriving Palestinian Arab community--just waiting to be displaced by Zionist Jews--In a post a few days ago, Zionists Kicked Palestinian Arabs Out Of Palestine? Why Do You Think Arabs Came In The First Place?, I wrote about how the Arab Palestinian population is not a permanent fixture in Israel--rather in 1948 many of the Arabs were recent immigrants who came to then-Palestine to take advantage of the improvements made by Jewish immigrants.

Another accusation made against the Israeli settlements is an offshoot of the previous idea that Palestinian Arabs in fact have strong ties to the land--strong, in fact, than Jews--by virtue of the fact that they are descendants of the Biblical Philistines and Canaanites, and at the very least their roots go back to the Arab invaders of then-Palestine in the 7th century.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Zionists Kicked Palestinian Arabs Out Of Palestine? Why Do You Think Arabs Came In The First Place? (Updated)

Originally posted April 20, 2010

Claims by Palestinian Arabs that they were an indigenous people, on the land for many generations, is also a misrepresentation. There is solid documentation for the fact that a substantial part of this group, identified only as part of the Arab nation, migrated into Palestine in the years shortly before the founding of Israel.

Below is an excerpt from pages 116-117 in the section A Different Kind Of Refugee. The key point Klein makes is that the unusual definition of refugee applied solely to Palestinian Arabs discards the requirement of "habitual residence" to a mere 2 years. This is in recognition of the large influx of Arabs into then-Palestine because of the improved conditions created by Jewish immigrants.

Gilo--History And International Law Back Israel

Originally posted on November 23, 2009

In an article in the Jerusalem Post, Maurice Ostroff writes about the status of Gilo--where plans to build 900 houses have caused a new uproar and claims that Israel is once again expanding settlements.
However, as Ostroff points out, the emotional reaction ignores the facts--both historical and legal.

THE REALITY is that Gilo is very different than the outposts in the West Bank. It is not in east Jerusalem as widely reported. It is a Jerusalem neighborhood with a population of around 40,000. The ground was bought by Jews before WWII and settled in 1971 in south west Jerusalem opposite Mount Gilo within the municipal borders. There is no inference whatsoever that it rests on Arab land.

Monday, April 19, 2010

In 2005, Daniel Kurtzer Admitted There Was An Agreement On Settlements

Originally posted June 29, 2009

In an op-ed in The Washington Post on June 14th, Daniel Kurtzer, former US ambassador to Israel wrote in The Settlement Facts
Today, Israel maintains that three events -- namely, draft understandings discussed in 2003 between Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and U.S. deputy national security adviser Stephen Hadley; President George W. Bush's April 14, 2004, letter to Sharon; and an April 14 letter from Sharon adviser Dov Weissglas to national security adviser Condoleezza Rice -- constitute a formal understanding in which the United States accepted continuing Israeli building within the "construction line" of settlements. The problem is that there was no such understanding. [emphasis added]
In regards to President Bush's letter, Kurtzer explains:
President Bush's 2004 letter conveyed U.S. support of an agreed outcome of negotiations in which Israel would retain "existing major Israeli population centers" in the West Bank "on the basis of mutually agreed changes . . . ." One of the key provisions of this letter was that U.S. support for Israel's retaining some settlements was predicated on there being an "agreed outcome" of negotiations. Despite Israel's contention that this letter allowed it to continue building in the large settlement blocs of Ariel, Maale Adumim and Gush Etzion, the letter did not convey any U.S. support for or understanding of Israeli settlement activities in these or other areas in the run-up to a peace agreement. [emphasis added]
That is now. But back on March 25, 2005--in an interview with Israel Television Channel Ten while he was ambassador--Kurtzer said something different:

Sunday, April 18, 2010

When Palestinian Jews Were Under Muslim Rule

Originally posted May 15, 2007

In a post from December, 2005, Chardal writes about Life Under Muslim Rule in general, and has a section focusing on what life was like in then-Palestine for Jews.

Since the Arabian invasion of Palestine in the seventh century, Jews and Christians were allowed to remain alive, between attacks, to be a source of funds obtained by special taxes and extortions, and to serve as helpless scapegoats for the Muslim masses. This policy continued under successive waves of other Muslim non-Arab conquerors of the Holy Land, as well.

The lawful humiliation of the non-Muslim was a fact of life. The degree of harshness of the persecution depended on the whim of the particular ruler.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Who Is In Breach Of International Law: Israel--Or The US?

Originally posted June 28, 2009
Caroline Glick makes a compelling case that not only is Israel not in breach of signed agreements--or international law--on the issue of settlements, the US is breach of both international and domestic law.

On the issue of Israeli settlements and international law, Glick makes a number of points:

Thursday, April 15, 2010

The Israeli Settlements: Whose Land Is It Anyway?

Originally posted on June 24, 2009

According to the Washington Post, it all seems very cut and dried:
Thirty years ago, the State Department legal adviser issued an opinion in response to an inquiry from Congress: The establishment of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories "is inconsistent with international law."

The opinion cited Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that an occupying power "shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies." Israel has insisted that the Geneva Convention does not apply to settlers and broadly contests assertions of the settlements' illegality.

Despite the passage of time, the legal opinion, issued during the Carter administration, has never been revoked or revised...

..."As far as I know, I don't think it has ever been rescinded or challenged by any legal officer of the United States government," said Herbert J. Hansel, the former legal adviser who wrote the opinion. "Ronald Reagan expressed his opinion. But whatever you think of him, he was obviously not a lawyer. It still stands as the only definitive opinion of the U.S. government from a legal standpoint."
Unfortunately, the article is incomplete insofar as it fails to provide the other side of the argument. While the article mentions in passing that Israel does not believe the Geneva Convention is applicable to the issue of the settlements, at no point does the article address the basic question: "why not?"

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

What Makes An Israeli Settlement Illegal?

Originally posted May 28, 2009

It's time to explain it clearly.
Rabbi Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz, Minister of Science and head of the Jewish Home party said, “Yes, we must keep the law. But if you look at the outposts, you’ll see that their classification as illegal was made by Talia Sasson [admittedly left-wing author of a report on the outposts for Ariel Sharon’s government in 2005 – ed.], who is not exactly an objective source. Often, the only reason for an outpost’s classification as illegal is not because of the residents themselves, but because of a technical government problem, and there is truly no legal problem at all.”

Interior Minister Eli Yishai: “There must be equal enforcement of the law, but I don’t believe it is right at this time to dismantle outposts. Not every one can do what he wants.”
The two state solution is not a solution by definition--and a settlement is not illegal by definition either.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Just How Big A Problem Are The Settlements?

Originally posted March 14, 2008

IMRA has the text of an article in the Jerusalem Post that seems to be inaccessible now--a problem systematic of the US policy the article is about. The article is about an upcoming evaluation of how Israel and the Palestinian Arabs have been implementing the Road Map, and the skewed approach the US applies in their comparative evaluation. Along the way, the article notes:
The micro problem with this approach is that there is no symmetry between
settlements and terrorism, on either the moral or strategic levels. It is a
moral travesty that building homes is compared to murdering innocents. But
even if settlement expansion can be seen as problematic, it makes little
sense to treat all settlements equally, as if there were no difference
between expanding existing towns that are contiguous with Israel and inside
the security barrier, and settlements situated amidst the Palestinian

Monday, April 12, 2010

Arlene Kushner On Legal vs. Illegal Settlements

Originally posted May 28, 2009
The following excerpt is reposted with permission from Arlene Kushner's mail list ("First Things First", May 27, 2009).
Email to subscribe.
Also check out her website: Arlene From Israel.
The whole business of legal vs. illegal settlements is both complicated and political. Most settlements have had some interaction with some government departments or agencies. They've hooked up water lines, or electric lines, or paved a road, or whatever. There is sanction somewhere along the way. And sometimes that sanction is considerable. But if final papers are not in place, then the settlement can be called "illegal" or "unauthorized."

The region comprised of Judea and Samaria is not governed by Israeli civil law -- civil law was never extended to this area as it was to the Golan and to eastern Jerusalem. (Note: this is not a case of annexing it, but extending the law of Israel to apply.) The region is administered separately under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defense, and it is the office of the Defense Minister that must sign off on a settlement. Thus Barak's involvement here.

There are instances in which "illegal" settlements have been later declared legal, and there is hope that this might happen now in a handful of instances at least. That can particularly be the case when so-called outposts are really outlying neighborhoods of recognized settlements.

But it can happen in other instances as well. And actually it was explained to me by a lawyer some time ago that many settlements considered authorized today moved through a process this way.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Halkin On Settlements And Stereotypes

Originally posted on December 13, 2007

The December issue of Commentary Magazine features an article by Hillel Halkin on "What the Settlements Have Achieved". Actually, the article is a review and critique of the book Lords of the Land by Idith Zertal and Akiva Eldar.

Halkin finds the book to be more than just biased--it creates a sterotype by taking the image created by Gush Emunim and applies it to all settlers:

Friday, April 9, 2010

What New Settlement?

What is it about a bunch of houses that elicits such a knee-jerk response?
HonestReporting notes that some of the media is mistakenly implying that Israel is building new settlements.

Karl Marx on the Treatment of the Jewish Majority in Jerusalem

Emet m'Tsiyon writes:
Karl Marx, often considered the arch-socialist, the enemy of capital, the scourge of filthy lucre, wanted to make a living like most other folk. For this purpose, Marx wrote a column every few weeks for the New York Daily Tribune, edited by the famous Horace Greeley. This gave our nemesis of capitalism a chance to make a few Yankee greenbacks, while spreading his own opinions.

Marx' column of 15 April 1854 discussed the background to the Crimean War, first of all the rivalries of Christian powers focussed on the Church of the Holy Sepulcher through their own national churches. He also discussed the social situation in Jerusalem, such as how Muslims treated non-Muslims in general and how Muslims and Christians in Jerusalem treated the Jews in Jerusalem, who were already a majority in the city in Marx's time, not only according to Marx but to his French contemporary, Gerardy Santine, and to more recent authorities, such as Tudor Parfitt.
Read the whole thing.

A Jewish Majority in Jerusalem in 1853, wrote Contemporary French Diplomat

Emet m'Tsiyon examines the sources and context of Cesar Famin--a French diplomat, historian, and man of letters who
had a very good understanding of the status of the non-Muslim in Muslim society in general and in Ottoman society in particular. He is in basic agreement on this matter with recent authors such as Bat Ye'or, Rafael Israeli, David Bukay, Moshe Sharon, Robert Spencer, Andrew Bostom, etc.

A Modern Canterbury to Judea and Samaria Tale

The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, is upset:
Unless there is a way of representing the settlements as legitimate self-defence I remain very disturbed about that, along with many.
Looks like the archbishop is in luck: My Right Word is on the case, with a concise list of arguments on why the Israeli settlements are legal.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Niggers Of Palestine

Originally posted October 21, 2007
Like the miserable dog without an owner he is kicked by one because he crosses his path, and cuffed by another because he cries out--to seek redress he is afraid, lest it bring worse upon him; he thinks it better to endure than to live in the expectation of his complaint being revenged upon him. Brought up form infancy to look upon his civil disabilities everywhere as a mark of degradation, he heart becomes the cradle of fear and suspicion--he finds he is trusted by none--and thee he lives himself without confidence in any
British Counsel Young, describing life for Jews under Muslim rule in Palestine in 1839, quoted by Joan Peters in 'From Time Immemorial', p. 187
In one chapter in her book, From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict over Palestine, Joan Peters writes about the countless attacks and massacres suffered by the Jewish community in 'Palestine' at the hands of the Muslims over the centuries before the reestablishment of the state of Israel. At one point, Peters writes:
The Jews under siege were as defenseless as their counterparts in the Arabic-speaking Muslim "Arab" world and as powerless as perhaps the black slaves called "Niggers" by the Southern whites--they too "knew what was good for them," and any attempt at redress for their grievances would only result in more extreme persecution. Both had to "keep their place." [p. 183]
This reminded me of Condoleezza's comment comparing Palestinian Arabs with African Americans in the old South. Before addressing Rice's comparison, here are some of the events that Peters mentions in her book that form the basis for her comparison:

Friday, April 2, 2010

Obama, Biden, and Clinton: Can't Anyone Get The Facts About Israel Straight?

The history of the Middle East in general--and Israel in particular--is a long one. No one expects members of the Obama administration to know all of it forwards and backwards. However, there are basic historical and geographic facts that underly the policy decisions that the Obama administration makes.

And that is why the mistakes that Obama, Biden and Clinton make so disturbing.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Real Reason Obama Will Never Hit It Off With Netanyahu

From the National Review feature: Krauthammer's Take:
On Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington this week:
We have already had a year delay in talks because of Obama interjecting the settlement issue in the first place.

Remember, for 17 years the Palestinians and Israelis negotiated, ever since Oslo, directly in the absence of a freeze in settlements. Palestinians never demanded it as a precondition.

In comes Obama, and he demands a freeze of settlements.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Loudest Critics Of Biden Incident In Israel Don't Deal With Facts--But Know Exaclty What They're Doing

The details surrounding the Biden episode and its repercussions are coming fast and furious--and as usual, there is a distinctive one-sidedness to the way they are being portrayed.

In How Obama created the Biden incident, Charles Krauthammer puts the gaffe--surrounding the announcement by Israel's Interior Ministry about housing expansion in a Jewish neighborhood in north Jerusalem--in perspective:
But it was no more than a gaffe. It was certainly not a policy change, let alone a betrayal. The neighborhood is in Jerusalem, and the 2009 Netanyahu-Obama agreement was for a 10-month freeze on West Bank settlements excluding Jerusalem.

Nor was the offense intentional. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did not know about this move -- step four in a seven-step approval process for construction that, at best, will not even start for two to three years. [Hat tip: Soccer Dad]
Israeli ambassador to the UK, Ron Prosor notes that those making demands on Israel do not even know where Ramat Shlomo, the center of the controversy, is located:
Let's get the facts straight. Ramat Shlomo is not in "east" Jerusalem as often reported, but in the north of Jerusalem. It is not a new settlement, but an existing, established neighbourhood. The planning application has already taken years and will take at least another three for the first brick to be laid.

Most cool-headed analysts agree that Jerusalem suburbs such as Ramat Shlomo will be considered part of Israel under any negotiated two-state solution.
Think about that for a second: not only was the announcement about something that would not even take place for the foreseeable future, and that the announcement itself does not contradict the 10-month freeze that Netanyahu had agreed to--the yelling by critics about Israel building in East Jerusalem is not even in East Jerusalem, and is in an area that many agree will belong to Israel anyway in any peace agreement.