While it is essential to answer misguided claims against Israel, it is even more important to communicate clear pro-Israel messages. In this "war of public opinion," the side that is able to control the issues and to have their messages communicated most prominently will be the side that is most convincing and victorious.
Here are three clear points that highlight Israel's commitment to peace and shared Western values.
Israel wants peace... and is willing to sacrifice a large portion of its homeland to end the conflict.
1) Creation of the State
A key feature of the Jewish movement back to the Land of Israel has always been a desire to come back peacefully. From the very beginnings of the State of Israel, peace was offered to its Arab neighbors, though usually not accepted. On May 14, 1948, David Ben-Gurion, read Israel's Declaration of Independence:
We appeal in the very midst of the onslaught launched against us now for months to the Arab inhabitants of the state of Israel, to preserve peace and participate in the up-building of the state on the basis of full and equal citizenship and due representation in all its provisional and permanent institutions.
We extend our hand to all neighboring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighborliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.
In 1917, Britain produced the Balfour Declaration, which voiced favor for a Jewish national homeland on both sides of the Jordan River. In fact, the territory encompassing both the countries of Israel and Jordan today was originally designated for a Jewish state. Yet, in 1922, the land on the eastern side of the Jordan River was given to Prince Abdullah to create an Arab "Palestinian" State, called Transjordan. Thus, around 75% of the land designated for a Jewish state was taken away.
In 1937, the Peel Commission was set up to deal with the land dispute between the Jews and Arabs, coming up with a compromise, which would divide the remaining land on the western side of the Jordan into two independent states. The Jews accepted the plan and the Arabs rejected it.
In 1947, the United Nations offered a Partition Plan, which again divided the land promised to the Jewish people. Within this land on the western side of the Jordan River, about 60% was designated as a Jewish state. Thus, the UN was proposing a Jewish state with around 15% of the original land promised by the British government. Yet the Jews accepted it. Though the offer could have been refused with good reason, they instead chose the path of peace. On the other side, the Arab world rejected the UN proposal.
2) Land for Peace - The Sinai
The phrase used most in the peace process is "land for peace." In essence, Arabs are asked to compromise by offering peace in order to attain their objective -- land. Israel is asked to compromise land in order to attain their objective -- peace. Thus the very cornerstone of all negotiations takes as a given that for Arabs, agreeing to peace is a concession to their true goal, whereas for Israel, peace is the goal.
The most notable example of Israel sacrificing land for peace occurred in 1979, when the most right-wing prime minister in Israel's history, Menachem Begin, met with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and U.S. President Jimmy Carter at Camp David. There, Begin signed a peace treaty with Egypt, returning the entire Sinai Peninsula -- constituting 80 percent of Israel's land mass - in exchange for normalization of relations with Egypt. Begin not only gave away massive amounts of land, but also dismantled settlements containing thousands of Jews, dismantled Israel's largest air force base, and gave up possession of oil fields in the Sinai. Thus, land, oil, money, military strength and settlements were compromised for the primary Jewish value of peace.
3) Modern Day - Camp David II
Israel's great willingness to seek peace is clear even today. In 2000, Prime Minister Ehud Barak returned to Camp David, this time to negotiate with Yassir Arafat, the head of the Palestinian Authority. At Camp David, and later at Taba 2001, Barak went further then any previous Israeli government had ever dreamed of going. Israel offered:
- to give Palestinians 97% of the territories (the PA already controlled 40% of the territories, containing 97% of the Palestinian population of the territories), with the remaining few percent to be made up with land in the Negev connected to the Gaza Strip.
- to give Palestinians military control of eastern Jerusalem and even parts of the Old City. Administrative control of the Temple Mount, which overlooks the Western Wall, was also offered. This despite that the Temple Mount is Judaism's holiest site, and despite the occurrences of rocks being thrown by Muslims from the Temple Mount at Jews praying at the Wall.
- to allow many Palestinian refugees to return to Israel through family reunification, as well as giving compensation to those refugees who couldn't return.
Sadly, Arafat walked away from the negotiations without making a counter-offer. Instead he launched a war of terror.
4) Willing to Compromise, but Not Renouncing Claims
It is an essential to point out, that while Israel has been willing to make tremendous compromises in order to achieve peace, it is not in any way renouncing its claims to the Land of Israel. The historical, legal and religious ties between the Jewish People and the Land of Israel are clear (see Part 1, Occupation, Section D). Yet, while being fully cognizant of its ancient and permanent connection the Land, Israel has and is still willing to compromise to achieve peace.
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Israel wants peace... but the Palestinians haven't prepared their people for it.
1) Creating False Hopes Amongst the Palestinian People
Palestinian society has limited access to ideas and information outside of their society. The Palestinian Authority is totalitarian government that limits free speech and expression. For reasons of it own, the PA has encouraged its people to take extreme positions that make it near impossible to reach a peaceful compromise. The majority of Palestinians cling to the demand of the full return of Palestinian refugees to Israel proper, as well as believing that the fight against Israel is not only to end the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, but also to destroy the entire State of Israel.
2) Propagating Hatred Through Television
Many have claimed that the current terrorist war against Israel was sparked by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount in Sept. 2000. Yet, the Communications Minister of the Palestinian Authority publicly stated this was false, describing how the uprising was planned well before. Indeed, a full month before Sharon went to the Temple Mount, footage of the previous Intifada began being shown on Palestinian TV.
Throughout the month, the amount of time each day dedicated to showing footage of Palestinian youngsters throwing rocks and aiming slingshots at Israeli soldiers increased, motivating people to take violent action. After the violence actually began, Palestinian television was completely taken over by: day and night, footage of violent uprising was channeled into every Palestinian home.
In addition, Palestinian TV aired a movie with actors depicting the rape of Arab women by Israeli soldiers, as well as fabricated "news footage" of Israeli soldiers decapitating Arabs. Voice of Palestine radio interrupted the Arabic music to report (falsely) that Israeli jets had just bombed Bethlehem; "Palestinian blood is flowing in the streets!" the correspondent said. The Palestinian street was whipped into a frenzy.
3) Palestinian Education Creating Children Soldiers
In September 2000, the Palestinian Authority's Ministry of Education issued 14 new elementary school textbooks. These all exclude the State of Israel from maps, and all evidence of Israel and its cities has been eliminated and replaced by "Palestine."
Palestinian media often celebrates terrorist bombers. Young children are convinced to go directly to areas of conflict with the clear goal of endangering their lives, in order to please their parents, friends and teachers.
See www.memri.org for specific examples of Arab incitement.
4) Islamic Fundamentalism
Fuel for the current terror war to destroy Israel is Islamic fundamentalism, who see the world divided between Dar al-Islam, lands controlled by Islam, and Dar al-Harb, lands not controlled by Islam. It is the individual and communal responsibility of all Muslims to bring all lands classified as Dar al-Harb to the realm of Dar al-Islam. Thus, these extremists preach that Islam must spread both religiously and politically. They declare it is even more important that land once controlled by Islam (like Israel) should never be in the hands of non-Muslims.
The method Muslim extremists use to achieve their goal is jihad -- the use of violence to spread Islam.
In addition, traditional Islam defines Jews and Christians under the term dhimmi, i.e. "protected peoples" as fellow monotheists. While Jews and Christians are treated better than pagans, they are still considered inferior to Muslims. Throughout history, Jews living under various Muslim regimes paid a special tax to survive. In addition, they were not allowed to ride horses, carry weapons, walk on sidewalks if a Muslim is approaching, and other discriminatory guidelines. The idea of Jews having to wear special clothing, such as yellow stars, originated in Muslim countries under the guidelines of dhimmi.
Islamic Fundamentalism does not only threaten Israel. Muslim extremists have initiated violence in other regions, including India/Pakistan, Chechnya, Bosnia, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Egypt, Bali, and of course, the United States on Sept. 11.
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Israel wants peace... and is the America's most committed ally in stopping terrorism and bringing peace and democracy to the Mideast.
1) Common Battle Against Terrorism
Since September 2000, Israel has been attacked more than 15,000 times. And for every attack, Israel has prevented another 20. Israel is the world's leader in counter terrorism and works closely with the United States to share expertise and to prevent further attacks against Americans.
The U.S. State Department has identified Hamas, Al-Aqsa Martyr's Brigade, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah -- all of which are linked to or funded by Arafat and the Palestinian Authority -- as terrorist organizations, alongside Bin Laden's Al Qaeda terrorist network.
Israel and the U.S. stand together in countering the greatest threats to American and Western interests in the world, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, state-sponsored terrorism, and the spread of Islamic radicalism. The two nations share technology and intelligence, conduct joint military exercises, and work together in the areas of research and strategy. America's large financial and military support allows Israel to have a qualitative edge in the region, enabling the U.S. to avoid the much more expensive deployment of American troops.
2) Shared Values
Israel and the U.S. share the fundamental principles of freedom and equality. Both nations were established by immigrants, who sought freedom from oppression, and both are rooted in the tenets of democracy, human dignity, individual rights and religious freedom.
Israel is the only country in the Middle East where all citizens, including Arabs, have representation in the government, freedom of religion, freedom of speech and women's rights. Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, a region dominated by authoritarian and military regimes, and stands out as the only country in the region with regular, competitive elections.
Israel is the only country in the Middle East that the U.S. can fully count on. Unlike other "allies" in the region, Israel continuously stands with the U.S. and supports its international policy.