By Hunter College CAMERA Fellow, Jacob Kessler. This piece was originally published in The Macaulay Messenger. It is reproduced in full below.
Daniel Patrick Moynihan, four-term senator and ambassador, once said, “You’re entitled to your own opinion, but not to your own facts.” Unfortunately these words ring too true in last month’s article, “Israel’s Choice: Dead End or Two-State,” by Priom Islam. In his article, although some of his conclusions are correct, Islam engages in misleading and untruthful journalism. It is for this reason why I feel the need to respond.
In his first two paragraphs, it seems as though the author is trying give a balanced account of what happened over this past summer. He begins by writing that Israel “accused Hamas of rearming itself and firing rockets into southern Israel.” Either he doesn’t understand what the word accused means, or just forgot to mention that Israel has experienced rocket fire from Hamas both before and after the kidnapping of the three boys. Israel did accuse Hamas of firing rockets. They accused the terrorist organization of doing so because, well, that is exactly what Hamas did. It may seem that I’m being nitpicky, but using the word “accused” implies that this event may not have happened when in fact, rocket fire from the Gaza Strip is real and ongoing.
The next part of Islam’s article perplexes me further. He writes that, “following the kidnapping, Israel used a subsequent investigation as a pretext to launch an offensive against Hamas.” First of all, immediately following the kidnapping and death of the boys, Israel did not enter the Gaza Strip; they entered the West Bank. They did this in order to find the boys and their kidnappers. While Israel was doing this, Hamas started increasing rocket fire into Israel (I use the word increase because there was rocket fire before the three boys were kidnapped). And after Israel had taken enough rockets, they decided to enter the Gaza Strip. The pretext was clear—weaken the infrastructure of Hamas and stop the rocket fire.
Later in the next paragraph, the author makes the claim that although Israeli forces were planning on leaving, “events quickly took on a life of their own.” I’m not really sure what the author meant by this statement. Yes, Israeli forces did not want Operation Protective Edge to be a prolonged offensive, but while in Gaza, they discovered tunnels which were being constructed from Gaza into Israel. These tunnels, whose express purpose was to kill and kidnap Israeli civilians, obviously were intolerable and had to be destroyed. This was accomplished thanks to the operation.
In response to the murder of Eyal, Gilad, and Naftali, as the author says, a few Israeli terrorists burned a Palestinian boy alive. Furthermore, hundreds of Israelis took to the streets and chanted despicable slogans like “Death to the Arabs.” However, these two atrocities are not morally equivalent. The Israeli government condemned the murder of the Palestinian teen, and many of the racist protestors were arrested. On the Palestinian side, Abbas did condemn the murder of three boys and even cooperated with the IDF to help them conduct searches for the murderers in the West Bank. However, Hamas failed to condemn the murderers and some of their government officials even praised them. Furthermore, although Hamas denies direct involvement with the kidnappings, they don’t deny that the murderers were members of their group. So drawing a moral equivalent between the Israeli murderers of the Palestinian (who were largely condemned and later prosecuted), and the Palestinian murderers of the Israelis (who were not condemned by the organization of the killers) is misleading and wrong.
Islam writes that this event indicates a takeover of Israeli society by extremists who used to live on the fringe. He uses the act of a few to describe the feelings of the many without providing any proof for this statement. Islam also uses this provincial line of thinking later on when he says that Zionism “has come to encompass all the land over which Palestinians call home.” Some Zionists definitely do believe that all of Israel and Palestine should be controlled by Israel, but it’s incorrect to say that all of them do. Many Zionists (including this one) are opposed to settlements and believe strongly in a two-state solution.
The last claim of the author I’d like to write about is the author’s statements on the naval blockade, checkpoints, and the secession of steel and concrete being brought into the Gaza Strip. These are all unfortunate realities that the Palestinian people live with. Islam writes, though, that blaming this all on Hamas would be “grossly misinformed.” He does write that Israel endorses these policies on the basis of security, yet he obviously does not believe those reasons to be legitimate. Personally, I believe this opinion is the one that is “grossly misinformed.”
Hamas uses concrete to build the tunnels previously mentioned and accumulated eight hundred tons of it to build these tunnels. Who, in their right mind, would ever ask Israel to provide materials to its neighbor who has a past of using that material for aggressive purposes? With regard to the naval blockade, it is definitely debilitating to the Palestinian economy, but it must remain in place to ensure that Hamas, a terrorist proxy of Iran, does not receive weapons that could threaten Israel’s population. It is also worth noting that contrary to what the author writes, Israel has not “recently restricted fishing waters from six miles off the Gaza coast to three.” In fact, Israel agreed as part of the ceasefire on August 26th (thirty-eight days before the publication of Islam’s article) to extend the permitted fishing zone to six miles off the coast.
I could go on with more allegations of Islam’s inaccuracies, but I won’t and will rather end on a point where we agree: the two-state solution is the only viable way to end this conflict. It has lasted too long and both sides have suffered too much. However, it is important to understand that this conflict is not simply one of “the aggressors vs. the oppressed.” It’s a conflict deeply rooted in history where the Palestinians have been the victims of anti-Semitic leaders who hate Israel more than they love their own people. Israel and the international community have offered the Palestinians a state multiple times, only to have the state rejected and occasionally met with violence. This conflict is therefore complex and multifaceted. So writing articles like Mr. Islam’s without providing context for complicated scenarios and providing misinformation for very simple ones, serves no purpose except to mislead the readership.
Jacob Kessler is a sophomore and Macaulay Honors student at Hunter College, majoring in Political Science, and Chinese and minoring in Arabic. He hails from Long Island, where he has lived for almost his entire life. He is the Founder and co-President of the Hunter Zionist Alliance. Jacob has interned for Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and worked on Congressman Steve Israel’s campaign in 2012. Recently, he completed an internship at the Permanent Mission of Israel to the United Nations, where he worked on economic, social, and environmental development issues. Jacob is interested in learning about different countries’ cultures, religions and languages, and hopes to one day have a profession which enables him to explore these interests further. He is a fellow with the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, and a member of Hunter College’s Roosevelt Institute chapter.