CAMERA Presspectiva’s Senior Research Analyst, Shlomi Ben-Meir

Quite the commotion has been stirring at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem after the student group representing the Hadash political party released a propagandistic, anti-Israel video. The four-minute long clip portrays a series of noteworthy events since Israel’s inception from a Palestinian perspective. Condemning the administration for allowing IDF soldiers to study on campus during their service, the Hadash students assert that “Hebrew University is a partner in the Palestinian Nakba.

Hadash students were accused of putting the soldiers’ safety at risk by showing their faces in the video. Following complaints to the university’s administration, the Hadash students published the same video with the faces of the soldiers blurred out, accompanied with a defiant statement:

“You can erase their faces, but not the truth and their crimes.

Last night, we received a notice from the Hebrew University’s administration who asked us to blur the faces of the soldiers in the video that raised the issue of the occupation and the militarization of our campus.

For days, while the video has been making the rounds on social media, we have not received a substantive response to the allegations we put forward, merely attempts to silence us or redirect the conversation from the main point of the video.

Will erasing the faces of the soldiers, the last line of defense by the university, incentivize others to provide answers to the questions we’ve asked?

Feel free to answer. We are waiting.”

They are correct about one thing – the questions raised do require answers, because they are the same standard tropes seen in Palestinian propaganda for decades. Some are demonstrably false, others grossly one-sided, and some grievously omit key parts of history that are less flattering to their narrative.

We have heeded Hadash’s call for answers and are happy to oblige. Let us begin dissecting the main points raised in the video:

“1948: 72 Years Later, the Palestinian Nakba Still Continues Today”

The Nakba (catastrophe) is the name bestowed by the Palestinian narrative for what occurred to the Arabs residing in Israel / mandatory Palestine during the Israel War of Independence, when hundreds of thousands of local Arabs left their homes.

Undoubtedly, these Arabs experienced a great tragedy, but the narrative of the Nakba ignores vital context: the War of Independence began as a civil war instigated by the local Arab population the day after the UN Partition Plan was voted on (Arab states in the region later joined in). Instead of accepting the offer to divide the land among the Arabs and the Jews, these Arabs decided to wage war dedicated to the destruction of the nascent Jewish community. Their tragedy could have been avoided. Three years after the end of the Holocaust, this endeavor could be seen as an attempt to complete Hitler’s final solution.

The video continues and describes the “uprooting, abuse and expulsion of over 750,000 Palestinians.” While there is debate about the precise number of Arabs that were forcibly evicted from their homes by Jewish forces, the onus does not fall squarely on the Jews. Renowned historian Benny Morris concluded his seminal book “The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem,” by writing that:

“The Palestinian refugee problem was born of war, not by design, Jewish or Arab. It was largely a by-product of Arab and Jewish fears and of the protracted, bitter fighting that characterized the first Arab-Israeli war; in smaller part, it was the deliberate creation of Jewish and Arab military commanders and politicians” (p. 286).

He further notes:

“Nor… is there evidence… of any general expectation in the Yishuv of a mass exodus of the Arab population from the Jewish or any other part of Palestine… When it occurred, it surprised even the most optimistic and hardline Yishuv executives…” (pp. 63-64).

In the opening chapter of the 1994 edition of his book “1948 And After,” Morris added:

“The Yishuv did not enter the 1948 war with a master plan for expelling the Arabs, nor did its political and military leaders ever adopt such a master plan. What happened was largely haphazard and a result of the war” (p. 17).

“In most cases, the Jewish commanders…were hardly ever confronted with the decision whether or not to expel an overrun [Arab, S.B.M] community: most villages and towns simply emptied at the first whiff of grapeshot (p. 21).”

Although the refugees were not allowed back to their original homes, this was the norm during that bygone era, when population transfers during or after conflicts were viewed as an inevitability – or even a positive step – in facilitating the creation of nation-states, as population transfers theoretically stymied ethnic tensions that had spawned numerous conflicts. This was the case with Germany and Czechoslovakia, Greece and Turkey, India and Pakistan. This was also the case for the hundreds of thousands of Jews that were expelled from Middle Eastern and North African countries who found refuge in Israel.

And that is the answer to the argument that the Nakba “still continues today.”

Perhaps the ongoing Palestinian refugee crisis is a result of the unique criteria offered exclusively to Palestinian refugees, which has allowed them to grow indefinitely for more than 70 years since their crisis began?

“1967, the Naksa: Occupation of the Gaza Strip, Sinai, West Bank and Golan Heights”

Similar to the case of the Nakba, the video doesn’t provide context to the events preceding Israel’s defensive Six-Day War: the Egyptians closing the Straights of Tiran, a casus belli for Israel; the expulsion of emergency UN forces from the Sinai Peninsula and influx of Egyptian military; and Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser’s call for Israel’s destruction.

The video likewise makes no mention of the Jordanians joining the war effort, despite Israel’s pleas for neutrality. If Jordan had listened, there would have been no occupation of the West Bank.

“1982: Sabra and Shatila Massacre, 3 Days of Brutal Murder of Palestinian Refugees”

Israel’s Kahan Commission determined that then-Defense Minister Ariel Sharon was responsible for turning a blind eye to signs of a forthcoming massacre in the Lebanese refugee camp.

But the massacre was not planned or executed by Israel; it was perpetrated by Christian militants and occurred during the Lebanese Civil War. The Palestinians experienced other horrifying atrocities during the war, such as the Tel al-Zaatar massacre, and were themselves responsible for the carnage of the Damour Massacre. Never heard of these tragedies? There’s a reason for that: Palestinian propagandists have no way to blame Israel for it. On the contrary, they actively try to forget them so they can portray Israel as the sole contributor to Palestinian suffering.

“1987: First Intifada, When the Children of the Stones Stood Against the Zionist Tanks”

The intifada was more than mere children throwing stones, consisting of countless shootings, stabbings, grenades and explosives. Of particular note is the awful attack on bus 405, when terrorists drove the bus into a ravine and murdered 16 people.

“2000: Execution of the Child Muhammad al-Durrah”

The image of al-Durrah from September 2000 is a symbol of the Palestinian struggle often used to incite violence and terror. An Israeli investigative commission determined that the cause of al-Durrah’s death was unclear. In fact, at the end of the infamous video supposedly showing his demise, the boy is seen alive. Moreover, the barrage of bullets that struck the boy could not have been fired from an IDF position, according to an Israeli forensic expert. Lastly, Dr. Yehuda David, who claimed to have already treated bullet scars on al-Durrah in 1994, was acquitted in a libel suit filed against him in French court.

Of course, the Hadash students will naturally dismiss these reports and conclusions as Israeli propaganda. Therefore, we will focus on two key takeaways:

  1. The video clip showing al-Durrah’s death contains zero evidence that the IDF killed the boy.
  2. Even if we accept the unproven allegation that al-Durrah died by IDF fire, he was not “executed,” but rather caught in the crossfire between Israelis and armed Palestinians.

“2002: Invasion of Jenin”

The Hadash video fails to mention that the Second Intifada began in 2000, immediately upon Yasser Arafat’s rejection of the proposed peace deal at Camp David. Again, the Palestinian leadership chose violence over statehood, which could have celebrated its 20th anniversary this year. Furthermore, the video glosses over the 1,000 Israeli lives lost by innumerable suicide attacks. Israel “invaded” Jenin after Palestinian attacks peaked in March 2002, when over 100 Israelis were murdered in one month alone, and a wide-scale military operation against terrorist infrastructure inside Palestinian cities was declared.

“2006: Land, Sea and Air Siege of the Gaza Strip”

The video ignores the 2005 Israeli disengagement from Gaza, when thousands of Jews were uprooted from their homes, rendering Gaza devoid of any Israeli presence. Soon after the disengagement, residents of southern Israel experienced an onslaught of rockets fired at them from Gaza.

The siege of Gaza began in 2007, not in 2006, as was incorrectly stated in the video. It began when Hamas violently seized control of the Strip and refused (and still refuses) to accept conditions that would allow for a solution to the problems in Gaza: cessation of violence, recognition of Israel, and upholding the agreements signed by Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The siege is meant to prevent Hamas from bolstering its power. Hamas’s intransigence has led to three extensive IDF operations in which Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza used civilians as human shields to fire rockets at innocent Israelis.

….Which brings us to today.

The video portrays IDF soldiers studying at Hebrew U as murderers. Moreover, allegations in the video that an Arab student was booted from his dorm room in favor of a soldier are difficult to discredit due to lack of details, but the burden of proof here is on the accuser. However, one accusation can be quite easily debunked:

“The University’s Rooftops Have Become Sniper Posts, to Shoot the Brave Youth of Issawiya”

Could it be? Here is the picture taken from the video footage:

What do we see here? Well, a brief google search gives us the answer, straight from the horse’s mouth. In December 2019, the official website of Hadash posted a complaint that “police are observing Issawiya from a building on Mount Scopus” (on Hebrew U’s campus). In other words, these cops are just watching the neighborhood, and are clearly not “sniping.”

But then, how did these “observers” become “snipers?”

Probably the same way the defensive wars of 1948 and 1967 became colonial wars of dispossession, the Sabra and Shatila Massacre became “Israeli,” and Muhammad al-Durrah became “executed.”

Click here to read this article in Hebrew.

Contributed by CAMERA’s research analyst Shlomi Ben-Meir.

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