On Sept. 20, the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University brought a Board Director of the New Israel Fund, Prof. David Myers, to speak about the Arab-Israel conflict and who is responsible. Myers’ goal was to take a step back and analyze the events leading up to creation of Israel in 1948. Although the discussion was presented as an academic lecture, it was actually, in my opinion, a one-sided, biased outlook on the conflict. Myers attempted to present a three-dimensional approach to blame Israel, Palestine and Europe for the Israel-Palestine conflict, but his stance on the issue failed to accurately consider all sides of the conflict.
Myers used his focus on Europe to ignore parts of history. He spoke about Europe’s responsibility and the affect the Holocaust had on the current state of Israel without taking note of everyone who was involved. For example, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the highest-ranked Muslim religious leader of Jerusalem, the Grand Mufti, Haj Amin al-Husseini, met with Hitler, ideologically supported Hitler’s “final solution” and considered spreading it to the Arab countries during World War II. In a Nov. 2, 1943 address in Berlin, the Grand Mufti stated, “But most of all they [the Nazis] have definitely solved the Jewish problem. These ties, especially the last, make our friendship with Germany not a provisional one, dependent on conditions, but a permanent and lasting friendship based on mutual interests,” according to an Aug. 22 piece published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.
Myers not only left out this critical part of history but also disseminated extreme statements about Israelis such as implicitly comparing Israeli-Jews to Nazis by saying that the oppressed had become like their oppressors in behavior and attitude. While Israel is not perfect, this comparison is flawed, and it misrepresents the facts. Regardless of one’s stance on the Israel-Palestine conflict, it is clear that Israeli policies cannot be described as ethnic cleansing or genocide. Although some point to the high numbers of Palestinian deaths as an indication of genocide, these people fail to acknowledge that these death tolls result from differences in military strategies, among other things ― not genocide. This double standard often presented by the UN fails to address the country’s right to self defense. Never in any point of Israel’s history has there been a mandate calling for murder of all Palestinians as there was for Jews in Germany under Hitler’s “final solution.” Such absurd claims diminish the significance of the Holocaust and suggest hostility towards Jews and their history.
Myers’ entire presentation focused on where the responsibility for the Israel-Palestine conflict lies, and while he attempted to put forth a “three-dimensional” approach that applied blame to Europe, Israel and Palestine, he failed to distribute the blame adequately. By not considering the Hebron massacre of 1929, during which 67 Jews were murdered by Arab terrorists, Myers left out crucial parts of history that contribute to the blame. Similarly, he did not explain that the campaign of anti-Jewish violence across the British Mandate Palestine in 1936 was led by Grand Mufti al-Husseini.
Worse, the terrorism that Myers avoided discussing did not decline in the 1950s and 1960s. Israelis suffered mass-casualty attacks by the Egyptian Fedayeen and the founding of the Palestinian Liberation Organization. Even today, there is raging anti-Semitism in the Middle East, stemming from the Palestinian Authority and Hamas. This past summer, the U.S. State Department accused the PA media of promoting anti-Semitism through the dissemination of “religiously intolerant material,” like television programs that “denied a historical Jewish presence in Jerusalem” or even went as far as calling Jewish people “evil,” according to an Aug. 17 Jewish News article.
In addition to ignoring a lot of harm caused by some Palestinians, Myers ignored the actions of many Palestinians who risk their lives trying to end the conflict and expose the corruption of the PA and Hamas. Instead of supporting this community of Palestinians, Myers presented the insulting portrayal that Israel has complete control of all Palestinians. To say that Myers effectively advocates for the Palestinian community is as misleading as saying he advocates for Israelis.
Looking at the bigger picture, zooming out the lens and including Arab responsibility in the conflict, it is clear that it is not correct to refer to this conflict as only between the Palestinians and Israelis but rather between the larger Arab and Muslim world and Israel. Israelis are not the majority population of the Middle East. If Israel had the upper hand, it would not constantly be living in fear of state-sponsored terrorism coming from Saudi Arabia and Iran. More specifically, existing as a majority population might reduce the fear of complete destruction by nuclear weapons in the hands of Hezbollah in Lebanon or Hamas in Gaza who want to see Israel destroyed. Israel and its people are a minority in a region full of irrational hostility and hate toward the Jewish people, especially from its neighboring countries such as Syria and Jordan. According to Israeli Defense Forces, since 2005 alone, more than 11,000 rockets have been fired by terrorists into Israel, putting 5 million Israelis in constant threat of rocket fire. Half a million of these citizens only have 60 seconds to find shelter.
Myers asked Israel to self-destruct by suggesting it grant citizenship to Palestinians ― thus disrupting the balance of Israel’s democracy and reducing the political power of Jewish-Israelis in their own asylum. I ask him to reconsider his absurd “three-dimensional” approach, which fails to fully analyze the conflict and adequately recognize the needs of both Israelis and Palestinians. I also ask for the Schusterman Center for Israel Studies at Brandeis University to host another lecture about the Israel-Palestine conflict that is not riddled with biased misinterpretations caused by blank gaps of hidden history.
Originally published in The Justice.
Contributed by Brandeis University CAMERA Fellow Aviya Zarur.