Several hundred Reform rabbis from around the world signed a full-page newspaper advertisement accusing Israel of “suffocating” the Palestinians.
The charge is not only wrong — it’s backwards. If anybody is suffocating the Palestinian Arabs, it is the government that rules them — the Palestinian Authority.
The advertisement, headlined “A Statement by Reform Rabbis from Throughout the Diaspora and Israel,” appeared in The Forward on February 5. It bore several hundred individual names, but no name of any sponsoring organization; hence the actual organizers of the project and the authors of the ad’s text remain a mystery.
The ad paid lip service to the recent wave of Palestinian terrorism, stating: “We condemn those Palestinians who have engaged in incitement and acts of terrorism, including injury and death on innocent Israelis.” Notice that the ad used the vague term “those Palestinians,” without naming anybody. Even Secretary of State John Kerry, who can hardly be described as Israel’s best friend, has explicitly acknowledged that the Palestinian Authority is doing the inciting. For some reason, these rabbis could not bring themselves to criticize the PA by name.
The ad then proceeded to tick off a litany of accusations against Israel, including the allegation that Israel is guilty of “the suffocation of [Palestinian] human life for nearly five decades.”
I wonder how many of the signatories are aware how close that language comes to accusing Israel of committing genocide.
For the past twenty years, 98% of the Palestinians have lived under the rule of the Palestinian Authority, not Israel.
The international legal definition of genocide (as adopted by the United Nations in 1948) includes: “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part.”
The notion that Israel is “suffocating” the Palestinians is wildly inaccurate, and the use of the term “nearly five decades” is equally absurd.
In 1995, the late Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin withdrew Israel’s forces from the cities where 98% of the Palestinians reside. For the past twenty years, 98% of the Palestinians have lived under the rule of the Palestinian Authority, not Israel. It is the PA, not Israel, which is in control of Palestinian Arab education, culture, elections, the economy, and all other facets of communal life.
In accordance with the Oslo Accords — to which the Palestinian Authority is a signatory — the PA currently controls about 40% of the territories. Obviously they would like to have more.
It is also true that in a few ways, the PA does not have full sovereignty — for example, they are not free to import tanks and planes. No doubt they wish they could import them. If these rabbis want to make the case that the Palestinian should be given more territory, or tanks, or planes, they can make that case. But to make it seem as if Israel is still occupying the Palestinians or controlling their lives does a disservice to Prime Minister Rabin and the substantial concessions and withdrawals he made in the hope of facilitating peace.
The greatest irony, of course, is that if anybody is “suffocating” the Palestinians, it is their own leadership. Don’t take my word for it. Read the State Department’s most recent report on human rights around the world.
There it is reported — by the Obama administration — that under the Palestinian Authority, there are “restrictions on freedom of speech, press, and assembly” and there are “limits on freedom of association and movement.” Under the PA, “corruption, violence against women, and societal discrimination” are “serious problems.” The PA regime is guilty of “discrimination based on sexual orientation and HIV/AIDS status” and imposes “limits on worker rights.”
In addition, “child labor, including forced labor,” is “a serious problem” under the PA. Moreover, “human rights problems under the PA in the West Bank included abuse and mistreatment of detainees, poor and overcrowded detention facilities, prolonged detention, and infringements on privacy rights.”
Will the rabbis be sponsoring another full-page ad, to denounce the Palestinian Authority for suffocating the Palestinians? Don’t hold your breath.
This column first appeared in Israel National News.