By Asra Ziauddin
Recently, conservative David Horowitz delivered a lecture at UCLA named “Intellectual Terrorism: The Left’s War on Free Speech.” Although the main topic was not centered on the situation in Israel-Palestine, he inevitably brought it up because of his strong pro-Israel mentality.
Not only did Horowitz speak on campus, he also propped up a sign close to the bottom of Janss Steps that was titled “Wall of Lies” and included supposed myths and facts about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Recalling Palestine Awareness Week put on by the Students for Justice in Palestine in winter quarter, I remember a similar panel labeled “Dispelling Myths: Face the Facts.”
These two very opposing viewpoints present a confusing array of information for the rest of the population. Since no credible sources were cited on either signboard, I conducted my own research to assess certain myths surrounding the situation between Israel and Palestine myself.
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 percent of Israel’s land restricts non-Jewish individuals, even citizens, from owning it.
Since 1948, the United Nations 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, 1948. 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 that resulted in the deaths of a couple hundred people in the peaceful village. Accounts also show that Israeli forces occupied Palestinian towns before May 14, 1948 as well.
Thus, if Israeli forces occupied Palestinian lands before the Arab armies came in and partook in massacres like that in 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.
Both Israeli and Palestinian children, who we can definitely consider non-military targets, have died in the course of the conflict ““ 124 Israelis and 1,463 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 unbalanced number of killings, however.
Myth: Muslims and Jews cannot get along. Fact: Prior 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. 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. 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.
Ziauddin is a second-year pre-business/economics student.