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Leftists Speak Out

by Becky Johnson
October 31, 2002

This is a letter to Amy Courtney.  She, along with Cassandra Brown succeeded in their suit against CALTRANS for allowing American flags to be displayed on freeway overpasses, but not other forms of speech.  These two women hung their bedsheets on a freeway overpass in Scotts Valley, Ca. with the message "Are you buying this war?"   and "At what cost?"  Courtney remains an anti-war, free speech advocate, and a member of the Community Commons Collective.  Here is my letter to her.
Dear Amy,
I was glad to finally get to meet you in San Francisco at the rally on October 26th.  We both were handed a paper from a man from the Free Palestine Alliance (FPA).  As I told you then, I probably would take issue with some of the statements made by that organization.  After thoroughly reading it and doing a little research, I wrote up my major differences.  If you no longer have a copy of the two-sided flyer, I can fax it to you. But hopefully this is self-explanatory.  Let me share with you some of my concerns with the positions put forth in that paper.  The quotes from the FPA flyer are in boldface italics.  My responses are in plain text.
--- Becky Johnson
1.  "...the (US/Israeli) mission aims in a region rich with resources, to maintain a chokehold on all who dare to aspire for self-determination."
First, Israel is not rich in resources. It has no oil or gas deposits.  Second, Israel has supported Palestinian self-determination in 1948 (the partition plan rejected by the Arabs), in 1993 with the Oslo accords setting up the Palestinian Authority which has ruled Palestinian villages and Gaza since then, and again in 2000 when Barak offered 97% of the West Bank to the Palestinians only to be answered by Arafat's launching the intifada.  It has been, in each case, the aggression by Palestinian terrorist groups that have prevented true self-determination from occurring. Arafat was elected 7 years ago to a five-year term.  What does that tell you?  Many Arabs immigrated to Palestine in the 20's like Jews. Many Jews immigrated there legally by British law. So they are not "usurping" anyone.
2.  "Israel--a state developed by a lineage of war criminals with a long history of massacres."
First, the most egregious act against the Palestinians happened in 1970 by the Jordanians who executed 30,000 Palestinians during Black September in a one-month period.  Somehow people blame Israel for this violence--- despite the fact that it was Arabs killing Arabs.
The Jewish people suffered from the worst war criminals in history with the holocaust in the 1940's.  The Jewish people have suffered pogram after pogram, discrimination, theft of property, expulsion, jailings, and executions both in Nazi Germany and in many other countries.  The State of Israel was formed in 1948 as a refuge for the Jewish people.  The only massacre you can blame the Israelis for happened on April 9th, 1948 in the town of Deir Yassin.  Over 100 Arab civilians were killed.  This town also had a contingent of Iraqi soldiers who were firing on the road from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.  You cannot find a single example of a massacre since then from the Israelis. 
3.  "Established at the monumental expense and suffering of the entire Palestinian and other Arab peoples, Israel has attempted in the course of its short history to depopulate Palestine of its Arab inhabitants..."
It this were true, why has the population of Palestinians increased from 810,000 in 1948 to 3.2 million today? This is the same time in which they claim that Israel's military might "exceeds by several folds the abilities of all of the Arab States combined."  If Israel is so heavily armed in comparison to the Palestinians, then why haven't they "depopulated Palestine"?  The answer is the FPA would rather condemn Israel for what it has the capability to do but has not done, rather than credit Israel for showing restraint. Palestinians are forced to have special passports and pay 10% of their income to Arafat when they live in other Arab countries. Kuwait deported 300,000 Palestinians after Desert Storm for supporting Saddam Hussein.
4.  "an apartheid-style colony"
Under apartheid, blacks were confined to a small,overcrowded area, unable to vote, or participate in their own destiny.  In Israel, 20% of the population are Arab/Muslims who enjoy full citizenship rights, can vote, own property, and have representatives in the Knesset.  Also, Israel has taken in Jews from nearly every country in the world so that their population is as ethnically diverse as the population in the United States --- sort of a Jewish melting pot.  These include black Jews, Russian Jews, Argentinian Jews, and even south African Jews.  Three times the Jewish people offered the Palestinians their own state---only to be rebuked and suffer terrorist attacks for their efforts.  Between 1967 and 1993, the Palestinians on the West Bank enjoyed the highest standard of living in the entire Arab world.  Under "the brutal Israeli occupation" they went from having one university to seven.  In 1993, and the self-rule provided for by Oslo, that trend has been reversed.  Why blame Israel? Certainly the PA is more responsible for the suffering of the Palestinian people.  The word "colony" also is pejorative and not sustained by facts.  Israel did not "colonize" the West Bank. Israel took over control of the West Bank from Jordan in 1967 in response to an aggressive war waged against Israel by the Arabs.  Hardly colonization.   They were militarily attacked by countries seeking to destroy the entire Jewish state.
5.  "the current proposal envisions that the total land of Palestine, after it is ethnically cleansed of the indigenous population, should become Israel."
First, there is no country called "Palestine."  It is called Israel.  If they are talking about the West Bank, that used to be Jordan.  But Israel has a peace treaty with Jordan, so that boundary is not disputed by Jordan.  Second, there has been no ethnic cleansing of Palestinians.  The population of Palestinians has increased by a factor of four since 1948 when it had an Arab population of about 800,000.  Currently the Arab Palestinian population is 3.2 million.  The use of the word "indigenous population" is also incorrect.  The West Bank has had both Jewish and Palestinian residents for thousands of years.  Its not like the the United States and the Indians.  The Arab populations tend to be rather nomadic and migrate around between Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt, and Israel.  There never was a country called "Palestine".  The British Mandate gave the name Palestine to a large area including all of Jordan.  However, in 1948 those boundaries changed.  In fact, the Palestinians didn't even start to call themselves by that name until after the '67 war--- 20 years after the formation of the modern state of Israel.  These same Palestinians (and their supporters) call for the removal of all Jews from the West Bank.  Why is that not ethnic cleansing?  Why can't Jews and Muslims live together on the West Bank even after the independence of Palestine?  To do otherwise is to promote true ethnic cleansing.
6.  "Sudan...on the list of nations which allegedly support terror."
That there should be any question that Sudan supports terror is bizarre.  In Sudan, slavery exists openly.  Torture, murder, and lack of human rights are rampant--- but barely a single organization for human rights in the west acknowledges this.  In fact, the lack of human rights and women's rights thoughout the Arab world-- using torture, lynchings, public executions, and prohibitting women from voting, driving cars, or having any rights other than chattel for their husbands--- are the anti-thesis of the human rights movement.  Yet somehow Israel is singled out even though conditions in the Arab countries are far worse.  The first Arab women who got the right to vote were Arab women living in Israel.
7.  "Palestine...constitutes the moral and political hub of the movement for self-determination and democratic transformation." 
In Gaza and Palestinian Authority controlled areas, 12 terrorist organizations operate virtually unchecked by the PA ---Tanzim, Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, Hezbollah, Hamas, the PLO, Islamic Jihad, the PFLP, and several others.  The methods of these organizations include bombings, car bombs, snipers, kidnappings, murder, and suicide bombers.  When Arafat ran for election, he was opposed by an 85-yr-old woman who urged everyone to vote for Arafat.  The Palestinian media is all state-controlled.  Arafat is two years past the term he was elected for fill yet has not yet decided to hold another election.  Public opinion polls show that 88% of the Palestinians support the suicide bombers.  Lynchings in the street are common. So is public vivisection.  Terrorists arrested by the PA are quickly released without punishment.  The PA has even financed some of their operations.  What kind of morality does this represent?  Is it moral to blow up civilians at markets, on buses, and in discotecques?  What kind of democracy only holds elections when the dictator allows it?  The PA is a military dictatorship run by a corrupt government that is starving its own people and blaming Israel for it.  What is democratic about this?
8.  "...including despots and garrison states, such as Israel." 
Ariel Sharon was elected to office.  He is beholden to both the Israeli Knesset and to the Israeli Supreme Court. The definition of a despot is that they have absolute power and authority.  Clearly this does not describe Sharon.  It may more accurately describe Arafat.  Israel is a garrison state meaning they are heavily armed. But then Israel has been attacked in four offensive wars since 1948 and currently suffers from an average of 21 attempted terrorist attacks a day.  Few nations have as much reason to be heavily armed as Israel does. 
9.  "...consists of attempting to physically and politically eliminate the Palestinian people and to halt their popular rebellion against one of the world's last colonial powers." 
This is turning facts on their head. It is the Palestinians who want to eliminate the Jewish people and drive them into the sea.  Israel wants peace.  They want to co-exist with the Palestinians.  It is the terrorists from the Palestinians who prevent this peace from occurring.  Israel cannot be called a colony either.  The Jewish people have historical roots to the land that pre-date that of any Muslim.  They were granted the state of Israel by a vote of the United Nations.  They have returned to a homeland their ancestors were driven from hundreds and even thousands of years ago.  They did not displace the Arabs by doing this, but invited them to stay and build the new nation.  The popular rebellion is indeed popular among Palestinians. So is the hatred of Jews.
10.  "...what the exclusionary and racist state of Israel stands for."
In its charter, Israel promised to be the homeland for any Jew in the world.  Immigrating non-Jews must apply for citizenship in much the same way they do in the United States.  Arab Muslims who lived in Israel prior to 1948 were invited to stay and have full citizenship. 170,000 Arab Palestinians were repatriated after 1948. Israel also rescued 10,000 Ethiopian (black) Jews and absorbed them into Israel.  By contrast, the hatred of the Jews by the Palestinians is a better example of racism.
11.  "...in 1948 the obliteration of hundreds of towns and villages, the expulsion of no less than 3/4 of the population."
650,000 Arabs fled Israel in 1947-1948 at the urging of the Mufti who had also aligned himself with Adolf Hitler.  Israel did not expell them.  They left because they believed that the combined Arab forces would militarily destroy the new state of Israel.  They were promised the chance to move back into the homes left by the Jews once the Arabs had killed them.  Why blame Israel for this?  Aren't the Arab leaders more to blame?  This is historical revisionism and is not supported by facts.
12.  "...a Jewish state on 78% of their land."
This unsupported statistic is meaningless.  78% of what larger land are they referring to?  Here's a statistic for you.  Israel has given back 93% of the land it obtained by conquest after the 1967 war.  The Arab/Muslims have 23 countries. There is only one Jewish country.  And now the FPA wants to carve out a 24th Arab/Muslim country out of the only Jewish country in the world?
The Jewish people have the exact borders of Israel prescribed in the Torah and the Talmud (or the Old Testament for you Bible-readers).  This is the same homeland the Jewish people have been longing to return to since 70 AD.  In that time it has been ruled by the Romans, the Crusaders, the Turks, the British, the Arabs, and now the Jews.  To say it is "their" land, meaning the Palestinians, is to imply that one knows who, ultimately, the land belongs to.  This is far from the case.  The ultimate ownership of the West Bank is disputed and both Arabs and Jews have legitimate claims on the same land.
13.  "...bereft of their ancestral homeland."
Israel and the West Bank have been the ancestral homeland for the Jewish people a lot longer than the Arab Muslims.  The Jewish ties to the land go back 3,300 years!!  Since most of the Palestinian Arab population came into Israel after 1948, most are immigrants and non-citizens.  They have the same status as illegal aliens in the United States.  The ancestral homeland argument sounds very touchy feely but its not based in fact. 
14.  "Israel seeks to finish off a job it started long ago." 
This is the pot calling the kettle black.  It is the Arabs (including most modern day Palestinians) who have sought to destroy the Jewish state of Israel.  Here they accuse Israel of doing what the Palestinians are trying to do to them.
15.  "the right of 4.5 million refugees to return to the homes from which they were expelled over five decades ago." 
So the 650,000 Arabs who fled Israel in 1948 are now 4.5 million?  Plus, there are 3.2 million Palestinians already in Israel.  There are also 1.2 million Israeli Arabs within Israel.  Between 1949 and 1971, Israel repatriated 170,000 Palestinians.  This argument of allowing the "right to return" to people who have never lived a day in Israel makes no sense.  The youngest person alive who fled Israel in 1948 would be 54 years old.  Obviously, there are not large numbers of people who left Israel in 1948 that are seeking to return to Israel now.  Most who wanted to have already returned.  Note, none of the other Arab countries (other than Jordan) will allow the Palestinians to emmigrate within their borders.  This is a false issue used only to condemn Israel by distorting facts and by taking in the gullible.
16.  "Israel's...egregious contemporary crimes." 
Since the author did not mention what these "crimes" are, I thought I'd list a few Palestinian crimes.  Shootings, car bombs, infiltration and attacks, knifings, kidnappings, lynchings, public executions after 10 minute "trials", training 10 year olds to shoot rifles, arson, violent rock throwing, and suicide bombings. 
17.  "divestiture from all Israeli and Zionist institutions"
This is the push to treat Israel as though it were South Africa under apartheid.  It is not.  Israel is a diverse, democracy which allows dissent, freedom of speech, and tolerance for all religions.  The IDF is considered the most professional army in the world, and follows strict orders to minimize the loss of innocent civilian life.  The Palestinians do the opposite.  They promote maximizing the loss of innocent Jewish civilian life.  You can make a better case for divestiture from Sudan than Israel, but few human rights groups have focused on the much more egregious human rights violations taking place there.  For the vast majority of cases, Israel's military has been used to defend its borders and its people from terrorist attacks.  This is hardly a basis to support divestiture. By "Zionist institutions" he means Jews. Zionism used here is a euphemism for antisemitism.
18.  "....a future of equality and dignity for all."
This is supposedly the FPA's summation of what the Palestinian people are fighting for.  The Palestinians want equality with Jews and Christians?  The Palestinians want the equality of men and women?  Do the Palestinians want a free state of their own in which they can practice self-rule?  Or do they want to vanquish the state of Palestine of the Jewish infidels?  As long as the Palestinians are dancing in the street after successful suicide bombings.  As long as Palestinians are encouraging their children to shoot rifles and to throw rocks.  As long as Palestinians are naming streets and schools after suicide bombers, no Israeli will ever believe that the Palestinians are in favor of equality and dignity for all, nor should any thinking person who is viewing this situation.
I do think there is a need to improve the lives of the Palestinians living in the camps (about 1.1 million).  I do think the Palestinians who are basically stateless citizens deserve to belong somewhere, whether in their own independent state, or as part of another country such as Jordan and Egypt.  With $125 million in foreign aid each month, there is no reason why any Palestinian should be starving or poorly housed.  It is the fault of a corrupt PA which is responsible for the miserable condition the Palestinians are in now.  Israel is not to blame.  In fact, Israel has tried countless times to improve the lot of the Palestinians only to be violently attacked and condemned.  That is why I am supportive of Israel in the current conflict.