Author’s note: I too spent the first weekend of spring break in Washington DC for the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) 2014 Policy Conference. Below is my reflection on, and response to, the atrocious article by Evan Goldstein published on March 10, 2014 under the title: “Opinions: A Reflection on the AIPAC Policy Conference.” The content is my own, and does not reflect the opinions of the Gavel or any organizations with which I am affiliated.
When I returned from the AIPAC 2014 Policy Conference, I was both excited and suspicious upon learning that at least one Boston College student also attended the conference, unbeknown to me. Last night, my suspicions proved legitimate when the Gavel published Evan Goldstein’s reflections on the conference. The article had a strong, accurate introductory sentence, but then immediately plummeted into the abyss of anti-Zionist arguments, never to return.
Indeed, the Arab-Israeli/Israeli-Palestinian Conflict is incredibly complicated, and as such, neither ‘side’ is entirely free from criticism. That being said, it is illogical and even reprehensible to claim that AIPAC is obliged to foster the growth of sentiment that demonizes Israel, meanwhile ignoring the efforts of other lobbying organizations. Think about this: do you expect AIPAC to host a blatantly anti-Israel speaker, thus supporting the circulation of his/her message?
Goldstein claims that AIPAC’s efforts impede peace without mentioning government-sponsored incitement against Israel and the Jewish people that is ever-present within the Palestinian Authority. Naturally, there are Palestinians who hope for a fair and peaceful resolution to the Conflict, but their numbers are quickly diminishing due to incitement in their children’s schoolbooks and media. If you wish to learn more on this specific issue, please consider attending Eagles For Israel’s event, ‘Incitement: An Obstacle to Peace’ next Tuesday, March 18th at 7:00 PM in Gasson Hall Room 202.
Contrary to Goldstein’s claims, Israel’s construction of housing within Judea and Samaria (the ‘West Bank’) is not illegal, nor is it done within a ‘sovereign land of the Palestinians.’ Judea and Samaria encompasses locations with the most ancient Jewish connections to the region, where stories from the Old Testament are believed to have transpired. In recent history, J&S passed from control by the Ottoman Turks to the British Mandate for Palestine in 1917, transitioning to Jordanian control from ’48 until ’67 when the Israeli military removed Jordanian authorities from the area in the defensive 1967 Six-Day War. Jordan forfeited claim to J&S under the terms of the 1994 Israel-Jordan Peace Treaty. To this day, Judea and Samaria has never been part of a sovereign nation, nor has a sovereign nation of Palestine ever been internationally recognized in this land or elsewhere.
These facts aside, I am not saying that Israel’s construction of housing within Judea and Samaria is a great decision. But in order to pass judgment on the situation, one must understand the history of the land and the facts about this construction. Jewish housing areas comprise less than 3% of the land in Judea and Samaria. Most of the construction highlighted by the media is actually taking place within the confines of ‘settlements’ that have existed for years. These areas can hardly be described as settlements any more than American towns and small cities could.
Goldstein continues, mentioning “the displacement of Palestinians by Israeli paramilitary groups in 1948,” ignoring the calls by Arab leaders for the complete evacuation of Arabs from the lands of the former British Mandate. These leaders anticipated a quick and decisive victory of the five-plus-nation invasion of Israel, allowing these Arabs to return to the land now Judenrein.
Next, Goldstein asserts a “legitimate claim to a right of return for Palestinian refugees” without any discussion of the complications of the question of Palestinian refugees. He ignores the unique classification of Palestinian refugees by the United Nations under the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). A Palestinian’s refugee status lasts despite gaining citizenship to another nation and passes down to all descendants for several generations. As a result, the estimated 650,000 original Palestinian Refugees now amount to over 5,000,000. All other factors aside, how can you expect a nation whose population is just under 8,000,000 to accommodate for an additional five million people? Finally, Goldstein ignores the 700,000 Jewish refugees from Arab nations after the founding of the State of Israel.
Now for the fun part…let’s briefly talk Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas. Abbas recently began his tenth year of a four-year term, and does not have control over Gaza. Goldstein considers Abbas to be a ‘partner in peace’ who supports a two-state solution. Why, then, does the Fatah party flag feature a map of ‘Palestine,’ a single state comprised of Israel, Gaza, and J&S? Why, then, does Abbas refuse to recognize the right of the Jewish people to a Jewish state while demanding Israel recognize the right of the Palestinian people to a Palestinian state?
We cannot lose focus of the issue at hand. The Israeli and Palestinian peoples are not at fault. Instead, we must blame their leadership and urge leaders to revise their policies. For instance, do not blame the Israeli people for the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza. Rather, advocate against the terrorist organization, Hamas, which rules over Gaza and misuses given resources in their devout campaign for the destruction of Israel.
Goldstein closes his piece by addressing a common tool of anti-Zionists, the claim that Zionists use the Holocaust as justification for Palestinian suffering. In truth, Zionists suggest that if Israel existed at the time of World War II, the Jewish people would not have known the Holocaust. Moreover, studies of European anti-Semitism reveal a distinct similarity to anti-Zionism today.
I have issued a challenge to Evan Goldstein to a public debate, and extend this challenge to any other Boston College student who propagates misguided antagonism of the State of Israel.
For more information on the Arab-Israeli Conflict, please check out the Facebook ‘Like’ Page for Eagles For Israel (EIBC): www.facebook.com/EaglesForIsraelBC. Next week marks EIBC’s second annual ‘Israel Peace Week @ BC,’ and event information can be found on the FB page.
-Michael Woodbury, Boston College Class of 2014
Michael is a senior from Lexington, Massachusetts graduating with a concentration in Accounting and minor in Philosophy. He has received countless hours of training and education in activism and the Arab-Israeli Conflict, most notably as a Hasbara Fellow. He has travelled to Israel and Judea and Samaria four times totaling around 2 ½ months, and will be returning for a fifth visit in June.
Disclaimer: The photo and content related to this letter have been provided by the writer and are not the property of Gavel Media.