As students of UCLA, many of us are familiar with the attention grabbing wall put in Bruin Plaza once a year during Palestine Awareness Week. The information presented on the wall may seem convincing, but we do not know the extent of its validity when reading statements that aren’t always cited. Throughout the week, one panel seemed to be the most hotly contested, titled “Dispelling Myths: Face the Facts.” Since no sources were included on this problematic panel, I conducted my own research. There were a total of five supposedly dispelled myths- of which I detail my findings below. The words in italics are those taken directly from the panel.
Myth: Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. Fact: This democracy only works for Jewish citizens. Six million Palestinian refugees have not been granted the right of return. Most would agree that respectable democracies exercise policies which apply equally to all citizens and protect their basic rights. However, upon examining current policies in the state of Israel, Israel’s government doesn’t seem to function as a normal, impartial democracy should. For instance, land ownership is not granted equally in the country; 90% of Israel’s land restricts non-Jewish individuals, even citizens, from owning it. Since 1948 the UN General Assembly’s Resolution 194, stating that all refugees wanting to return to their homes peacefully should be able to do so, has not been honored by the state of Israel. The Fourth Geneva Convention describes the refusal of repatriating displaced people as a violation of basic rights; violating basic rights is not the correct conduct for a respectable democracy.
Myth: Palestinians are the source of violence. Fact: The occupation of Palestine is the root cause of violence. Israel was formally established when Britain withdrew control on May 14, 1948. Arab states came to fight against Israel on May 15, according to official UN reports. However, examples of violence were noted long before May. More than one source recalls a violent massacre by Israeli forces occurring in April 1948 in the Palestinian town of Deir Yassin. The New York Times even reported on it, stating that a couple hundred people in the peaceful village were killed. Accounts from authors such as Henry Cattan, who wrote Palestine, the Arabs and Israel, said Israeli forces occupied Palestinian towns before May 14 as well. Thus, if Israeli forces occupied Palestinian lands before the Arab armies came in, and partook in massacres like that of Deir Yassin, the Palestinians were not the source of violence. The occupation began the violence.
Myth: Israel struck military targets only. Fact: The eyewitness accounts and images of mutilated women and children show that Israel struck the civilian population. Findings gathered by B’Tselem, The Israeli Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, depict grim statistics. Both Israeli and Palestinian children, who we can definitely consider non-military targets, have died in the course of the conflict: 124 Israelis and 1,452 Palestinians to date since September 29, 2000. This data supports that fact that Israel and Palestine have killed civilians and not just “military targets.” It is important to take into consideration that these statistics illustrate an imbalanced number of killings, however.
Myth: Hamas violated the ceasefire, which led to the recent carnage in Gaza. Fact: Israel violated the ceasefire when it killed several Palestinians on November 4, 2008. The ceasefire mentioned here, beginning in June 2008 between Israel and Hamas, contained specific agreements. They included the expectations that Israel would halt all incursions into Gaza and Hamas would stop all rocket attacks into Israel. On November 5, 2008, BBC News reported on Israel’s incursion into Gaza, killing six Palestinians, prompting Hamas to retaliate with rocket attacks. We see from the news report that Israel violated the ceasefire first, followed by Hamas.
Myth: Muslims and Jews cannot get along. Fact: Prior to the to the occupation of Palestine in 1948, they lived in harmony. Several historical accounts illustrate that conflict was not always the case in the region. Don Peretz, a professor as well as author of The Arab-Israeli Dispute, recalls how there was virtually no conflict between the Jews and Arabs at the time. Sami Hadawi, writer of Bitter Harvest, describes the harmony evident between immigrant Jews and inhabitants of North Africa and the Middle East extending back to the Middle Ages.
To sum up, these myths are, essentially, myths. I urge anyone with doubts to my research or any statements I have included to visit the website www.ifamericansknew.org, which provided me with my sources. If anything, I hope examining the statements above somewhat clarified the issues revolving around Israel-Palestine and show that a proper understanding of political conflicts is crucial to understanding them.