Op-Ed: Beinart-Suissa Debate: Two Legs of a Stool
Salomon Benzimra, P. Eng.The writer, an engineer living in Toronto, Canada is co-founder of Canadians for Israel’s Legal Rights – CILR www.cilr.org. He does consulting work in fluid dynamics, water pumping stations, and project economic analysis and his interests include Middle East politics.
In his introductory remarks to the debate between Peter Beinart and David Suissa, Rabbi John Rosove set the tone. He sorted out the “ideologues” from the “pragmatists,” clearly favouring the latter as the only group worth listening to. By doing so, not only he besmirched the “ideological right” as mere “revisionists or messianic Jews,” but he sadly narrowed down the debate by hailing the “two-state solution” as the only valid topic to be discussed.
Peter Beinart was certainly happy with this narrow concept. For him, peace demands a two-state solution and the creation of a Palestinian state “in the vast majority of the West Bank.” To achieve this goal, settlements must be stopped – and dismantled if need be – and the “occupation” must cease. Ironically,
Beinart stressed that “we need to have an open conversation,” of course as long as it is centered on the two-state solution. This is reminiscent of Henry Ford’s marketing his Model T: “any car color you like, as long as it is black.” And indeed, black is the future of Israel if Beinart’s approach is embraced.
David Suissa aptly demolished some of Beinart’s most egregious flights of fancy but, regrettably, his own support for the two-state solution limited his intervention to a mere discussion of tactics.
Black is the future of Israel if Beinart’s approach is embraced.
At one point, in an attempt to counter the usual Arab accusation that “Jews stole Palestinian lands,” Suissa brandished Eli Hertz’s booklet – This Land is My Land – but he missed a golden opportunity to stress the legal rights of Israel, recognized in international law.
That, in itself, would have thrown Beinart’s construct into utter disarray. It would have also informed the public about the fundamental Middle East issue that remains largely hidden. And it would have elevated the debate by restoring factual evidence based on historical events and internationally accepted legal agreements.
But nothing significant happened in this debate. Both participants, and the moderator, remained mired in the fallacy of the two-state solution and in the false terminology that Arab propaganda masterfully injected some forty years ago to delude gullible Western audiences: the “Palestinian people;” the “occupation;” the West Bank;”, the “1967 lines;” etc.
As George Orwell rightly noted, “If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought.” And thought was indeed corrupted in this farrago of unrealistic admonitions and wishful thinking. So much so that glaring factual errors stated by Beinart remained unchallenged. A few examples:
a) “In 1993, the Palestinians accepted Israel’s right to exist.” How couldn’t Beinart recognize Yasser Arafat’s treachery in making that statement? On May 10, 1994, in a speech he delivered in Johannesburg, Arafat characterized the Oslo Accords as a “despicable truce”, and he compared it to the Hudaibiyah agreement between Mohammed and the Quraish, that is to say, a convenient ruse to delude the enemy.
b) “Gaza is still under occupation.” Beinart should know that “occupation” is clearly defined in the Hague Regulation of 1907 and the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. There is no legal basis to view Israel as an occupier since it does not exercise effective control over the Gaza Strip. Legal experts Justus Reid Weiner and Avi Bell demolished the canard of “Gaza occupation” four years ago, while highlighting the gross violations of several international Conventions by the Hamas rulers of Gaza.
c) “Palestinians are not responsible for the Jewish exodus from Arab lands.” From the late 1940s to the 1960s, when Jews fled or were expelled from Arab lands, the “Palestinians” had not yet entered the international lexicon. The ethnic cleansing of the Jews living in Arab lands was driven by pan-Arabism, carried out by the Arab populace and encouraged by the leaders of Arab countries which represented the Arab League.
In the 1970s, the Arab-Israeli conflict was redefined as the “Israeli-Palestinian” conflict for purely political reasons to pursue, by other means, the century-old Arab aggression against Israel. The Jewish exodus from Arab lands is, therefore, the collective responsibility of the Arab nation, of which the so-called “Palestinians” are an integral part, semantics notwithstanding.
d) “Israel should respect the ‘social and political rights to all its inhabitants’.” Beinart selectively quotes this phrase from the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 to claim that all the Arab inhabitants of Israel (including those living in the “West Bank”!) should be “democratically” granted equal rights. But he forgets the full text that precedes that statement, where Ben Gurion unequivocally defined the essence of the State of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people, with all the prerogatives of sovereignty assigned to its founding people.
Certainly, civil and religious rights are extended to all but one cannot expect Israel, or any nation-state for that matter, to dilute the preponderance of its founding people to the point where the state ceases to exist as intended. Democratic nation-states around the world – Japan, Poland, Iceland and Ireland, to name a few – also draft their citizenship laws to preserve their specific national character.
e) “The core of Israel’s legitimacy is its democratic character.” Within the narrow bounds imposed on this debate, one might believe this non-truth. The reality is that Israel’s legitimacy was recognized thirty years before the State of Israel was proclaimed in 1948.
This legitimacy derives from the recognition of the historical connection of the Jewish people in the geographic area hitherto known as “Palestine,” an act of international law adopted at the San Remo Conference on April 25, 1920, by the Supreme Council of the Principal Allied Powers and later confirmed in the Mandate for Palestine by the League of Nations, with the express purpose of reconstituting (not “creating”) the Jewish National Home in Palestine. (Israel is, nevertheless, the only democracy in the area.)
It is most unfortunate that this debate did not shed any light on the fundamental issue of sovereignty and Israel’s legal rights. The “ideological left” to which Rabbi Rosove referred does not shy away from advancing their preposterous notion of the “one-state solution” – a codeword for the immediate eradication of the Jewish State of Israel – in prestigious venues such as the Harvard Kennedy School.
This debate, in turn, was narrowed down to the “two-state solution,” a process which would inexorably lead to the weakening and possible elimination of Israel. But as Harvard lawyer Wallace Edward Brand wisely pointed out, these two “solutions” are only “the two legs of a stool; without the third, there would be no balance” in any discussion.
The necessary “third leg” is the “one-Jewish-state solution west of the Jordan River”, without which there cannot be any clear understanding of the Middle East situation. This essential option was sorely missing in the debate while Beinart clings to the pseudo-solution of the “two states,” which has been an abject failure almost since its inception.