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December 2, 2015 8:04 am

In Washington Post Debate on Israel, Both Sides Get It Wrong

avatar by Benyamin Korn

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Al-Manara Square in Ramallah, Palestinian Authority. Photo: Wikipedia.

Al-Manara Square in Ramallah, Palestinian Authority. Photo: Wikipedia.

Two left-of-center Jewish professors, writing in the Washington Post last month, called for a boycott of Israel. A former Bush administration official then wrote a counter op-ed to refute them. Unfortunately, both sides missed the most important point.

Professors Steven Levitsky of Harvard and Glen Weyl of the University of Chicago wrote in the Post on October 23 that Israel’s “occupation of the West Bank and Gaza and the denial of basic rights to Palestinians living there” has become so similar to apartheid that they now support boycotting Israel, are urging their universities to divest from Israel, and want the US to end all aid to Israel.

In his rebuttal op-ed, former Bush administration official Elliott Abrams made some valid points.

He reminded readers that Israeli prime ministers Ehud Barak and Ehud Olmert offered broad concessions to the Palestinians, but were rebuffed. He pointed out that Palestinian terrorism (almost completely ignored by the two professors) is the real obstacle to peace. And he noted that Palestinian violence against Israel and Jews started long before the occupation in 1967, indicating that their real goal is to destroy Israel, not just end the occupation.

But Levitsky, Weyl and Abrams all missed the main point about “the occupation”: it ended 20 years ago.

In 1995, then-Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin withdrew Israel’s forces from the cities in Judea-Samaria (the West Bank) where 98% of the Palestinian Arabs reside. They pulled out of Nablus (Shechem), Jenin, Qalqilya, Ramallah, Bethlehem, Tulkarm, Jericho and almost all of Hebron. Later, they withdrew from 100% of Gaza.

The Palestinian Authority took over all those areas. For the past 20 years, the PA has policed the streets, collected the garbage, issued the building permits, and administered the elections — that is, when the PA deigned to have elections at all. In Gaza, the PA ruled at first; today, Hamas is in charge there.

The portion of Judea-Samaria that is completely ruled by the PA is called Area A. The PA also has civilian control over another portion of the territories, where Israel is still in charge of security. That’s called Area B. Altogether, the PA has full or partial control of 39% of the territories, and 98% of the Palestinian population, and Hamas rules 100% of the Gazans. There is no Israeli occupation of the Palestinians.

The only debate now is over issues such as whether the PA should be given additional portions of the Israeli-controlled section of Judea-Samaria, and whether the PA should become a sovereign, independent state that can import tanks, fighter jets, and Iranian “volunteers.”

Let’s have that debate. Let’s debate the pros and cons of letting the Palestinian Authority have tanks. But Israel’s critics and defenders alike need to stop debating about an “occupation” that no longer exists.

Mr. Korn, chairman of the Philadelphia Religious Zionists, is former executive editor of the Philadelphia Jewish Exponent and the Miami Jewish Tribune.

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  • Nancy B

    Thank-you Mr Korn for this article. You made a factual and brilliant point! I do agree with many of the above comments to your article.

  • Israel’s rights to the land is ingrained in history, archaeological findings, international law and possession.
    Just like the Arab States have not been required to defend their legitimacy and sovereignty, Israel should also not be required to defend its’ legitimacy and sovereignty. The 21 Arab States and the State of Israel were set up by the Supreme Allied Powers after WWI, when the Ottoman Empire relinquished its title to the territories to the Allied Powers.
    The British were assigned as trustee for the Jewish people to help reconstitute the Jewish State as Implemented by the San Remo Treaty of 1920. The San Remo Treaty incorporated the Balfour Declaration of 1917 as international law. Of importance is the fact that the treaty terms and documents prove there was no state allocation of land to any other people or nation other than the Jewish people in Israel. It should also be noted that the League of Nations set up the Mandate for Palestine as yje reconstituted State for the Jewish people in their historical land with exclusive political rights.
    The Jewish people who lived in Israel for over 4,000 had additional Jewish immigration in the mid-1800s. The local Jewish people with the infusion of additional influx of Jewish immigration, resources, funding and with the explicit permission by the Ottoman government, started developing the land. Within a short time the Jewish people started turning the desert and desolation into green pastures, thus, building an economy, agriculture, housing and industry. Many Arabs from neighboring economically depressed states who viewed this development as an opportunity for work and an improved standard of living, came to work in Palestine.
    It is of interest in this conflict to take into consideration. The Arab countries terrorized and expelled over a million Jewish families and their children, confiscated all their assets, businesses, homes and Jewish owned land 6 times the size of Israel (120,440 sq. km. or 75,000 sq. miles valued today in the trillions of dollars). Most of these expelled Jewish families from Arab countries (who have been there for over 2500 years) were resettled in Greater Israel and today comprise over half the population.
    Over the past 68 years Israel has become a thriving nation with exemplary innovation in education, technology, high tech industry and medicine. Many nations admire Israel’s outstanding development and innovation. Israel has always been extending a helping hand to any nation that wants to learn and advance in industry, technology and medicine.
    The Arab-Palestinians saw an opportunity to get land and a country that was developed and flourished by the Jewish people. They decided that through deception, intimidation, harassment and violence to usurp the Jewish habitants into capitulating to their scheme of a second Arab-Palestinian State on Land allocated to the Jewish people . The Arab-Palestinians live on charity from the nations of the world. They are unwilling to help themselves. After the 1967 war when Israel defeated the 7 Arab armies who tried to destroy it and liberated its territory. Israel started employing many of the Arabs in the liberated Jewish territory, educating them in agriculture and water resources. In the following years the standard of living of the Arabs jumped 5 fold and more, and their economy and housing blossomed.
    When the terrorist organization entered the picture and instigated the Arab population to start terror and violence against the Israelis, the economic advancement was slowed down if not halted. The dire predicament of the Arab-Palestinians is of their own making.
    If you look at Arab land it is desolate and barren, with few exceptions. At the same time, the Jewish land is blooming and developing at an accelerated tempo. The Arabs, rather than follow the example set by Israel, tried to take the Jewish land by force and lost 4 wars in a span of 25 years.
    The Arab-Palestinians current actions in the political and legal arena is a result of losing 4 wars and various battles with Israel. They not only could not win ground, but in fact have caused themselves a downward spiral toward economic desolation.
    The Arab-Palestinians have switched tactics and have now gained more ground and concessions by playing their deceptive peace game. The Arab-Palestinians obfuscation and disinformation and false propaganda campaign along with various pleadings in front of the U.N. and other International bodies has gained them more inroads. The power of oil and the Arab Countries, who do not want the Arab-Palestinians to return to their countries, are helping them promote the false information, and utilizing their numerical control in the U.N. to pass any resolution that they deem necessary to advance their distorted cause.
    Money, power and greed promoted hate and anti-Semitism by the Arabs in order to force Israel into surrendering territory to the Arab-Palestinians. The Arabs are trying to initiate land piracy camouflaged as legal rights to the land of Israel.
    Jewish resistance to persecution by the Arabs and the world at large: Any level headed individual would think that after WWII and the 6 million Jews exterminated in the Holocaust (plus another 5 million of other ethnic groups) would diminish, if not eliminate anti-Semitism and baseless hatred. It seems that no matter the amount of unwarranted persecution, and no matter the sacrifices the Jewish people have endured through the ages, Anti-Semitism continues to raise its ugly head.
    The Media is guilty of escalating hostilities and violence in Israel and elsewhere. The Media has a responsibility to deliver fair and unbiased reporting. They influence the information that people rely on. It is an awesome responsibility and it must be handled with factual un-slanted reporting. Peoples lives depend on it; maybe yours or someone you love. Do we need a legal task force to discipline the Media when they intentionally distort the truth and or stage events for Media sensationalism? I would like your comments and input.
    The affects on the world at large: Has humanity lost its values and fairness? The answer is no. In order to lose something, one must first possess it and the truth is, the world has never had total control of values and fairness. In today’s world, where money and power is pursued at all costs (see Machiavelli), the core family unit is disintegrating and family values deteriorating. Honesty, integrity and fair-play seem to be a thing of the past. Where are we as human beings of the 21st century heading? Obviously downward.
    Take some time to reflect on the truth of what is stated here. Do you really want this kind of world for your children? Senseless hate and destruction must not be tolerated. I urge you to wake up, take the bull by the horn and pursue a path of correction, or we are doomed as a civilized people.
    YJ Draiman

  • You all have it wrong. It has nothing to do with Israel. If it did than tens of other countries are more deserving of condemnation for severely transgressing human rights… esp Hamas themselves!! It is pure antisemitism! These Jews simply hate anything that is connected with Judaism. The Israeli Knesset is also full of them

  • Reform School

    Leftists never permit truth (nor facts) interfere with their pet theories. There is no need to insult them by calling them Jewish, nor any other things they hate.

  • Annie

    Boycott of Israel is one of the most sickening phenomena of our civilization, because Israel brings civilization by its high standards in technology and other areas . Shame on the people who attack the best and cover up their actions by political slurs!

  • Annie

    We are sick and tired of these idiotic rethorics, there have never been any occupations. This is Israeli land , and will always be !

  • Ephraim


  • steven L

    To be a professor at any university, Harvard, Yale, USC etc, does not necessarily qualify an individual for being intelligent.
    These two morons, Professors Steven Levitsky of Harvard and Glen Weyl of the University of Chicago, prove the point magistrally. With no ethics to defend, the only thing left is moral relativism.
    With friends like these, Israel needs no more enemies.
    The Israeli people owns and must keep and save what she has, ETHICS, because NO other country comes close to the Jewish state.

  • Jack Tucker

    The author does not answer the point. It might not seem proper, but increasingly the left, college students, former students, etc. are going to accuse Israel of being a new South Africa where the West Bank population has no political rights. Yes the Palestinians, allied with ISIL, etc. will kill every Jew if the get power. Yes, Tel Aviv is within easy rocket distance of the West Bank. But to the naive students, Israel is in the position where the Palestinians are without rights and it appears to be like South Africa. And Israel is allowing more and more settlements on the West Bank thereby mixing the two populations. What can Israel say about the lack of Palestinian rights of citizenship? That they are fully enfranchised? Terror was the tactic of the Algerians against the French population in France, of the ANC population in South Africa, just as it is in Israel. Every attempt to control it serves to further radicalize the Palestinian population. In the end the danger of a “one state solution” will become insurmountable. That would be a tragedy for Israel and for the Jewish people.

  • martin kessler

    Is Israel actually waiting for the Palestinians “to accommodate” themselves to accepting the State of Israel? They have no intention of “accepting” Israel even if they get a state. If that’s not obvious we are all lost.

    As for me, if “peace” is the operating principle guiding official behavior it is a clear fallacy. The Palestinians are doomed to a Sisyphean existence and to a future no different than the past because they are unable to extricate themselves from the periodic cycles of violence brought on, if you think about it, by Israel’s series of blunders , the second was Oslo, and her third blunder, Gaza. These blunders have sealed the fate of the Palestinians and check mated the Israelis. Is this Gordian’s Knot waiting upon another Alexander? Israel would be doing the Palestinians a kindness to annex all the territory and transfer the Palestinians elsewhere. Failure to annex in 1948 was the first blunder and Israel has been bleeding ever since. Now there is no excuse as Israel is the 11th most powerful military force in the world. Do it–And be done with it! This is the time to take it at the tide. The world is preoccupied with Muslims, not Arabs.

  • Tracy Stark

    I pray that all of Israel know that you are supported and I myself will stand by you to my last breath.I know Yahweh has a great love for his people and will set things right.GOD bless and keep you safe