Monday, July 27, 2009

Myth: Anyone, Jew or Arab, can purchase a home anywhere in Jerusalem (Netanyahu)

Conservative spin: Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu "claimed that anyone, Jew or Arab, could purchase a dwelling anywhere in Jerusalem, and pointed to a few dozen Arab residents in Jewish neighborhoods like French Hill and Pisgat Zeev."

The Facts:

1. "It is virtually impossible for an East Jerusalem Arab (who is a resident of Israel but not a citizen) to buy a home in most of West Jerusalem or in many Jewish neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, where the land is leased only to full-fledged Israeli citizens by a state ownership institution."

2. "These neighborhoods [French Hill and Pisgat Zeev] are in East Jerusalem, annexed by Israel in 1967. That's what the controversy over Jerusalem is all about. Arabs who moved there did so due to the housing shortage in Arab East Jerusalem.

That housing shortage was brought on by two factors. One is construction of the Jerusalem security barrier, which separates East Jerusalem from the West Bank and makes it extremely difficult for Arabs to live outside the city and commute to work there. The second factor is the failure over the past 42 years of the government of Israel and the Jerusalem municipality to issue all but a handful of housing construction licenses for Arab residents of the city." (Israeli security analyst and former Mossad official Yossi Alpher, Jewish Settlement in East Jerusalem: Working at Cross-Purposes, Bitterlemons, 7/27/09)

"The FACT is that while American Jews like Irving Moskowitz can buy land in East Jerusalem Arab neighborhoods, a Palestinian resident of, say, Sheikh Jarrah cannot purchase an apartment in many parts of west Jerusalem, because the Israel Lands Administration, which owns the land, will only enter into a contract with Israeli citizens of persons entitled to citizenship under the Law of Return." (Former Jerusalem Post editor-in-chief Jeff Barak, Netanyahu's Self-Inflicted Crisis, Jerusalem Post, 7/26/09)

Myth: It's inconceivable that Jews can live where they wish in Paris, New York and anywhere else in the world, but not in Jerusalem (Netanyahu)

Fact: "Paris and New York are not Jerusalem, a de facto divided city. The annexation by Israel of Jerusalem's eastern half is not recognized by the international community, which almost unanimously designates it as the future Palestinian capital. Incidentally, few countries even recognize West Jerusalem as Israel's capital. " (Israeli security analyst and former Mossad official Yossi Alpher in Bitterlemons, 7/27/09) "Not one government has its embassy in Jerusalem today. Netanyahu's statement of our sovereignty in Jerusalem not being challenged is at best wishful thinking." (Gershon Baskin, Oh no, Jerusalem, Jerusalem Post, July 20, 2009)

2. Netanyahu's unwillingness to freeze construction of new Jewish housing in Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem undermines the prospects for progressing the Arab world towards peace with Israel: “Actions like this approval [by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu of a new Jewish settlement construction project at the Shepherd’s Hotel in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem] will only reinforce and increase Arab distrust of Israel and the peace process President Obama is trying to catalyze, making it even harder to convince the Arab states to deliver the sort of early normalization steps that the US views as critical to the process.

“Israel and the US have for some time been complaining about Arab unwillingness to promise any normalization in advance of an actual settlement freeze. The Shepherd's Hotel debacle offers a very good example of why, perhaps, Arab leaders are reluctant to ‘pony up’ until it is clear that there won't be continual embarrassments and setbacks.”

-Lara Friedman, Director of Policy and Government Relations, Americans for Peace Now, and attorney Daniel Seidemann, Ir Amim (Israel). APN Settlements in Focus (July 22, 2009): “Abusing Jerusalem to Assail Peace: the Case of the Shepherd's Hotel." (Ir Amim is an Israeli non-profit organization working for an equitable and stable Jerusalem with an agreed political future. For more information, see

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Myth: Removing Jewish settlers from the West Bank (or Gaza) to facilitate a 2-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is ethnic cleansing.

Fact: Ethnic cleansing is the forcible removal of members of a minority ethnic group from their home territory by a state controlled by another ethnic group without their consent. Israeli settlers are Jewish citizens of Israel, under a Jewish-majority government. When the Israeli government votes—through a democratic process in which settlers and their representatives participate fully—and decides to remove Jewish settlers to promote a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, that’s Israeli democracy at work.

That’s what happened when the Israeli government and the Knesset voted to remove the settlers from Gaza. When one side loses out in a democratic debate, and a law is passed, if some decide to oppose the government’s decision, they are breaking the law—and the government is morally and legally justified in using coercion to insure that they follow the law.

Settlers do not have the moral or legal right to permanently live in the West Bank or Gaza, which are viewed by the U.S. and the entire international community - and Israel's own Supreme Court - as occupied territory.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Myth: President Obama implied in his Cairo speech that the Holocaust was the primary reason for Israel’s creation.

Fact: "Obama said that "America's strong bond with Israel is unbreakable." It is based, in part, on the "recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied . . . an unprecedented Holocaust." The Holocaust proves, Obama has repeatedly said, why Jews must have a state of their own. And right-wingers are fuming. They are upset, or claim to be, because Obama cited the Holocaust but did not refer to the 4,000 year Jewish connection to Eretz Yisrael or the Bible.

"It is rather amusing. Every foreign dignitary visiting Israel-including Barack Obama-is taken to the Holocaust memorial, Yad Vashem, as soon as he or she sets foot in Israel. It is always the first stop because it is the Israeli government's way of showing that the State of Israel is the living embodiment of the concept of 'Never Again.' These visitors are not taken to see the ancient Dead Sea scrolls or the Western Wall. No, Yad Vashem is the destination because, in Israeli eyes, it is the Holocaust that provides the prime justification for a Jewish state.

"But now the right-wingers here are angry because Obama learned that lesson too well. Hypocrisy? No, they dislike Obama because of who he is and the Israeli-Palestinian peace he is trying to achieve. They will clutch at any straw to libel him. In this case, they are accusing Obama of being, get ready, a Holocaust acknowledger. It's laughable.

"But it is also utterly predictable. For people hell-bent on preserving the deadly status quo, there are no limits. They will, quite simply, say anything. To his credit, this president is not listening to them. These people didn't support him in 2008 and they won't in 2012. Besides, the policies they Johnny-one-note about are invariably wrong - wrong for the United States and wrong for Israel. The president should hang tough."

(M.J. Rosenberg, Israel Policy Forum Washington Director of Policy Analysis, With God on Their Side, IPF Friday, July 23, 2009)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Part 2 - Myth: President Obama implied in his Cairo speech that the Holocaust was the primary reason for Israel’s creation.

Fact: President Obama sounds more like Theodor Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, than his Jewish critics. The President said in Cairo:

"America's strong bonds with Israel are well known. This bond is unbreakable. It is based upon cultural and historical ties, and the recognition that the aspiration for a Jewish homeland is rooted in a tragic history that cannot be denied.

"Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed -- more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, it is ignorant, and it is hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction -- or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews -- is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve."

Theodor Herzl, The Jewish State, 1896:

"The idea which I have developed in this pamphlet is an ancient one: It is the restoration of the Jewish state. The world resounds with clamor against the Jews, and this has revived the dormant idea....No one can deny the gravity of the Jewish question. Wherever they live in appreciable number, Jews are persecuted in greater or lesser measure.

"We have sincerely tried everywhere to merge with the national communities in which we live, seeking only to preserve the faith of our fathers. It is not permitted us....In our native lands where we have lived for centuries we are still decried as aliens...The majority decide who the 'alien' is...No nation on earth has endured such struggles and sufferings as we have....

"The fact of the matter is, everything tends to one and the same conclusion, which is expressed in the classic Berlin cry: 'Juden 'raus!' ('Out with the Jews!')...Shouldn't we 'get out' at once...?...The nations in whose midst Jews live are all covertly or openly anti-Semitic.

"Anti-semitism increases day by day and hour by hour among the nations; indeed, it is bound to increase, because the causes of its growth continue to exist and are ineradicable....Perhaps we could succeed in vanishing without a trace into the surrounding peoples if they would let us be for just two generations. But they will not let us be. After brief periods of toleration, their hostility erupts again and again.

"Thus we are now, and shall remain, whether we would or not, a group of unmistakable cohesiveness. We are one people--our enemies have made us one whether we will it or not...

"Once we begin to execute the plan [for a Jewish state], anti-Semitism will cease at once and everywhere....The Jews who will it shall achieve their State. We shall live as free men on our own soil, and in our own homes peacefully die."

Theodor Herzl, First Zionist Congress Address, Basle, 1897

"The sentiment of solidarity with which we have been reproached so frequently and so acrimoniously was in process of disintegration at the very time we were being attacked by anti-Semitism. And anti-Semitism served to strengthen it anew...Zionism, or self-help for the Jews, points a way out of these numerous and extraordinary difficulties."

If you read this first, please click here to read Part 1 of the rebuttal to the myth about Obama, Israel and the Holocaust.