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An open response to Dorothy Naor

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  • Maurice Ostroff
    An open response to Dorothy Naor From Maurice Ostroff November 29, 2010
    Message 1 of 1 , Nov 30, 2010

      An open response to Dorothy Naor

      From Maurice Ostroff                                      November 29, 2010




      Dear Dorothy Naor


      Thank you for taking the time and trouble to reply extensively to my open letter to Professors   Boesak and Esack.


      In response, let's start with points of agreement. First of all I agree that we don't see things through the same glasses.


      Secondly I agree with your statement that you would probably not apply the term ‘apartheid’ to what happens in Israel although I would not include the word "probably". Nevertheless I'm pleased that we agree on this issue,as it is the essence of Chief Rabbi Goldstein's letter to Archbishop Tutu.

      Having been an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa I state categorically
      (not probably), that there is absolutely  no resemblance between the statutorily imposed apartheid in the old South Africa and the situation in Israel. Allegations that Israel is an apartheid state as alleged by Archbishop Tutu and against which Chief Rabbi Goldstein appealed, are either based on ignorance or are blatantly misleading false propaganda, best described as factoids, a word coined by Norman Mailer to describe a false statement that is widely accepted as true only because it is repeatedly quoted, especially in the media.


      I did not and do not for one moment claim that Israel is free of faults. Like most democracies Israel is far from perfect. You evidently missed the portion of my letter in which I freely admitted that there are inequalities that must be corrected. I pointed out for example that although there are many very wealthy Arabs and Palestinians; very sadly we cannot deny that poverty does exist in the Arab sector as it does in some Jewish sectors as well. According to a BBC report some 50% of Israeli Arabs live in poverty, as do 60% of ultra-orthodox Jews, compared to 20% of all Israelis. I said his is an unacceptable situation that must be, and is, being corrected.


      All I ask of you and other single-minded unrelenting harsh critics  of Israel is a measure of even-handedness and balance. Please examine Israel's faults in context and avoid the double standard of singling out every Israeli wart or perceived wart for public opprobrium by the international community while turning a blind eye to horrible violations of human rights around the world. I expect that when I offer comparisons with situations elsewhere you will respond correctly that sins by others don't justify Israel's sins. I add however, that while comparative studies don't justify sins they are essential to understanding any sociological subject in the context of the real world.


      Even in democratic Britain widespread racial discrimination exists. For example, according to an article by the Saudi historian Hatoon Al-Fassi, "..discrimination and sidelining of immigrant Muslims has been one of the main causes of creating a culture of extremism among Muslims in Britain..Adding to the anger about this discrimination in Britain was the increase in the unemployment rate among the Asian Muslims, and their difficult living conditions... as well as their seclusion in the so-called Muslim ghetto in certain cities such as Manchester, Bradford, Leeds, Nottingham, Birmingham, Luton, and other cities..."


      And when it comes to unequal treatment of communities, the unfortunate situation in Israel, which must be corrected, is common in many democracies. For example on the 9th October 2010, London's Spectator published a distressing expose under the title "Britain’s welfare ghettos". Ed Howker wrote "Today we are releasing a brand new picture of the nation’s welfare ghettos. Our research gives a disheartening insight into the extent of dependency in England and Wales. The top line: things are getting worse"


      And in the USA this is what the Black People's Advancement and Defense organization has to say about Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa.

      "..the dishonest education, currently existing in Hillsborough County Schools, perpetuates the division, between Black people and White people. Furthermore, we believe Hillsborough County Schools Systems intentional refusal to allow Black people to become knowledgeable and experienced, in aspects of our culture, that not only enthuse us, but that profit other people, is the reason only barely a third of the Black children, in Hillsborough County Schools graduate with a diploma.. We demand an end to police containment, police brutality, excessive arrests, disproportionate sentencing and inequitable incarcerations, of Black people.. and the ongoing surveillance, of Tampas Black communities, by law enforcement, nearly always results in the unjust and unlawful harassment, arrest, criminalization, incarceration, torture and death, of Black people"


      Referring to your statement that inequality in Israel begins with the Law of Return,  I remind you that this law was passed in 1950 when the memory was still fresh of desperate Jews who had survived the horrors of concentration camps and sea journeys on small grossly overcrowded ships, being turned away from the shores of what was then Palestine. If Black Empowerment laws that give preferences to Blacks in the USA and South Africa to compensate for years of discrimination are applauded,why is this law not regarded in the same light?

      I remind you too, that many countries have very similar laws.  For example in Finland certain aliens, who have Finnish ancestry or a close connection with Finland, may be granted a residence permit. No other reason, such as work or study, is required in order to receive the permit. This includes persons who have at least one parent or grandparent who has been a native Finnish citizen.


      German law allows persons of German descent living in Eastern Europe to claim German citizenship and Greece grants citizenship to people of ethnic Greek ancestry who are members of the Greek diaspora, including those whose ancestors have been resident in diaspora communities outside of Greece for centuries or millennia. Other countries with similar laws include Taiwan, the Czech Republic, Hungary, India, Ireland, Poland, Romania, Russia  and Japan


      I have no doubt that you would not categorize the above right of return laws in other countries as apartheid and I ask seriously why you raise it as an example of apartheid only in Israel.


      You are mistaken in your statement that Israel ignores UN Resolution 194 on the return of Palestinian Refugees. Israel has not ignored this resolution; it interprets it differently from you as dealt with in more detail on my web site.


      Article 11 of resolution 194 "resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.."


      Note that as the above text does not specifically refer to Palestinian refugees, an even-handed objective approach would interpret this to apply to all refugees involved in the conflict including the approximately 900,000 Jews who were forced to flee from their homes in Arab countries. In addition, the resolution refers to those refugees wishing to live at peace with their neighbors. From the belligerent statements voiced by opinion makers in the PA as well as Hamas, there is no intention to live at peace with Israeli neighbors.


      And if one really wishes to try to understand the distressing problem of refugees I recommend the Time Magazine cover page article of July 5, 2010 under the title "Seeking refuge". It refers to over 15 million people worldwide trapped in limbo and unwanted anywhere and it describes the efforts being made by host countries to absorb them with no mention of any right of return.


      Contrary to your subjective outright blaming and condemnation of Israel for the tragedy of the Palestinian refugees it is educational to read the more objective view of the general manager of Al -Arabiya television, Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed as published in Asharq Apawsat. Here are extracts of what he wrote


      "Our insistence to lock the Palestinians in camps and treat them like animals in the name of preserving the issue is far worse a crime than Israel stealing land and causing the displacement of people. The 60 year-old camps only signify our inhumanity and double standards. Israel can claim that it treats the Palestinians better than their Arab brothers do.


      What is happening in Lebanon's Nahr al Bared ..Tens of thousands of people crammed in undignified houses, where many of them were born and have lived for five decades. Some Arab countries “hosting” refugees ban them from leaving [camps], from occupying a large number of positions and deny them any other legal rights. Some of them have to jump over walls and sneak out to complete their chores or to breathe and experience the outside world".


      Click here for the complete article 


      You wrote  "You, Maurice Ostroff, need but to open your eyes to realize how inaccurate you and Rabbi Goldstein are to claim that equal rights do exist here".  


      Despite your condescending tone, (hardly conducive to constructive civil discourse), I nevertheless accept your advice to open my eyes and with eyes wide open I cannot accept your categorical statement that neither checkpoints nor the wall offer security. The data I have examined indicate that in fact the security barrier and checkpoints have indeed substantially improved security as confirmed by none other than the leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ramadan Abdallah Shalah.


      Interviewed in Damascus by the Qatari newspaper Al-Sharq  he said "..the enemy [i.e., Israel ] had found ways and means to protect itself from such attacks.. For example, they built a separation fence in the West Bank . We do not deny that it limits the ability of the resistance to arrive deep within [Israeli territory] to carry out suicide bombing attacks" (Al-Sharq, March 23, 2008 ).


      The PIJ leader repeated his admission of the wall's effectiveness when he told Hezbollah's Al-Manar TV that the terrorist organizations had no intention of abandoning suicide bombing attacks but that their timing and the possibility of carrying them out from the West Bank depended on other factors, for example. “there is the separation fence which is an obstacle to the resistance  and if it were not there, the situation would be entirely different”  (Al-Manar TV, November 11, 2006 ).


      I don't think you will be surprised that I consider The PIJ leader to be well informed about the effectiveness of Israel's security measures.


      As to the reason for the wall and check points, Dennis Ross, PhD, Distinguished Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, summed it up in an Aug. 4, 2003 Wall Street Journal commentary titled "When is a Fence not a Fence?" He  wrote

      "Truth be told, those responsible for the fence are Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the al Aqsa Martyrs' Brigades. Their terror produced the impulse for the fence. If violence were not a threat, the fence would not be necessary."


      Space limitations and the exigencies of time prevent me from addressing your many references to newspaper articles. Suffice it to say that an equal number of articles give an opposite point of view.


      I am pleased that you didn't attempt to deny my statistics showing that prior to the Intifada the Palestinians were financially better off than they are now. This is factual information. It is not important whether,  as you claim Israel's motive was profit; the facts remains that every aspect of Palestinian life was better and were improving before the intifada and that the hardships suffered by the Palestinians result from defensive necessity.


      Admittedly, the cooperative industrial zones I described were planned in Israel's self interest, in the strong belief that a strong Palestinian economy will contribute to peaceful coexistence. Why do you imply a sinister purpose?

      I envy your faith in believing that Israel's withdrawal from lands captured in 1967 will automatically convert our neighbors into peaceniks. If I could believe that, I would gladly join you in advocating such withdrawal. Unfortunately our experience in withdrawing from Gaza is not encouraging as mentioned in my letter to professors Boesak and Esack.


      Your statement that Israel deliberately caused the rift between Hamas and Fatah and that had there been no Hamas, Israel would have had to invent it is far-fetched.

      Article 27 of the Hamas Charter confirms that the dispute has nothing whatsoever to do with Israel. Rather it is based on religious intolerance


      It states

      "..Secularism completely contradicts religious ideology. Attitudes, conduct and decisions stem from ideologies. That is why, with all our appreciation for The Palestinian Liberation Organization - and what it can develop into - and without belittling its role in the Arab-Israeli conflict, we are unable to exchange the present or future Islamic Palestine with the secular idea. The Islamic nature of Palestine is part of our religion and whoever takes his religion lightly is a loser.


      The day The Palestinian Liberation Organization adopts Islam as its way of life, we will become its soldiers, and fuel for its fire that will burn the enemies".


      The question must be asked how peace can be achieved while  Hamas is ruled from Damascus and its charter declares there is absolutely no room for peaceful negotiation and while article 13 of the Hamas Charter declares that initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement, that there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad and that initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors


      I regret that you didn't comment on the last paragraph of my letter to the two professors and I would very much appreciate learning your proposal for a peaceful settlement while taking Israel's security concerns seriously, especially in view of the intense rocket attacks experienced from Gaza and the possibility of rocket firing groups being stationed in the West Bank opposite Ben Gurion airport.

      In conclusion I respect your dedication as a concerned citizen to a cause that you believe is in the interests of our little country, but I ask you to consider seriously whether New Profile's activities are in effect achieving the opposite. The threats we face are very real and your  undermining of the army serves the interests of our real enemies.

      Whether one is inclined to the political left right or center, there is every reason to take seriously threats by Nasrallah who has announced that Hezbollah now has more than 12,000 rockets or Iran's Rafsanjani who called on the Muslim states to use nuclear weapons against Israel or Hamas interior minister Fathi Hammad who declared that Hamas is on its way to liberate Haifa and Acre together with other armies as reported by Khaled Abu Toameh in the Jerusalem Post on October 26.

      As requested by you, this letter is being widely distributed and it is also addressed to your New Profile Group. I look forward to your response



      Maurice Ostroff




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