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A complex history of exploitation and propaganda

The conflict with the Palestinians has significantly cost human lives on both sides. Among them, was Shireen Abu Akleh, who was well known to Al Jazeera’s Arab-speaking viewers, says the writer. File picture: AFP

The conflict with the Palestinians has significantly cost human lives on both sides. Among them, was Shireen Abu Akleh, who was well known to Al Jazeera’s Arab-speaking viewers, says the writer. File picture: AFP

Published Jun 12, 2022

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By Eliav Belotsercovsky

The history of international relations is a story of wars and conflicts, passing by with the ebb and flow of time. However, the only clash that has remained for 75 years and survived the Cold War, the collapse of the USSR, and even Covid, is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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Those in pursuit of short-term political gains often present the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from an emotional angle. This kind of presentation causes history to fall prey to those trying to manipulate it. The emotional manipulation conveniently canvasses facts behind the canopy of a victim.

Sadly, Israel continues to be a scapegoat for all the misfortunes that have befallen Arab people, particularly the Palestinians. Many of the accusations comprise a great deal of propaganda, slogans, imagination and the distortion of historical facts. To understand the complex conflict, it is essential to go back to history and the facts.

FACT 1

After 6 million Jews lost their lives because no country provided them with a haven from Nazi persecution, Jews and the international community welcomed the creation of a Jewish State.

A UN vote on November 29, 1947, established the Jewish State. In this vote, 33 of the 56 member states supported the resolution and 10 abstained. Only 13 objected. The Jews had accepted the UN partition plan that provided for a Jewish and Palestinian state.

However, the Palestinian leadership was misled by their own greed. Thereafter, the Arab States and Palestinians declared war on Israel. The six heavily armed Arab armies that were sent to annihilate the infant state failed to achieve the goals of the Arab aggression. The ceasefire that followed entailed Egyptian control over the Gaza strip and Jordanian control over the West Bank.

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A Palestinian State could have been created in the West Bank by Jordan and in Gaza by Egypt. Yet, neither state seemed interested. Their own Arab brothers did not recognise the national aspirations of the Palestinians.

FACT 2

It is true that Israel has a conflict with the Palestinians. It is also true that Israel was always ready for compromise. Yitzhak Rabin and the Palestinians signed the Oslo Accords in 1995.

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Yet, in 1996, as a means of gaining more political concession, Yasser Arafat unleashed a wave of terror on Israel. The terror has almost destroyed the hope of Israel ending the conflict. In 1999, Israeli minister Ehud Barack met US president Bill Clinton and Palestine Liberation Organization chairperson Yasser Arafat in Camp David, with forthcoming proposals. Arafat refused to engage in discussions.

In 2005, Prime minister Ariel Sharon left the entire Gaza strip, thereby dismantling the settlements and withdrawing the army in the hope of peace. In return, Israel got a Hamas takeover in Gaza and constant rocket attacks on Israeli civilians. Since the establishment of Israel, more than 4 000 women, children and men have lost their lives to terror attacks in Israeli cities while going about their daily lives. The lives lost to terrorist attacks in Israel are often under-reported. This year alone, terrorists have killed 19 Israelis – old and young, religious and secular, Arabs and Jews.

FACT 3

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Israel is a vibrant democracy that enjoys a free press and an independent judicial system. The Israeli media constantly criticises its government and there are various Israeli organisations that openly propagate a staunch pro-Palestinian position.

Israel celebrates its multitude of perspectives and its diverse voices remain a source of strength in the pluralistic Israeli society. Israel is one of the most developed countries in the world. The country (which is roughly the size of the Kruger National Park), is known as a Start-Up Nation, the Silicon Valley of the Middle East.

Israel has eight Nobel Prize laureates in science and shares its expertise as a world leader in agriculture, water management, cybersecurity and more. Israel is a Jewish State with a 20% non-Jewish population, who are predominantly Arab Muslim. The 2 million Arab citizens of Israel are descendants of the Arab population of the early days of Israel. The Arabs in Israel are subject to the same rights as their fellow Jewish citizens.

Every four years, or earlier, they too elect their representatives to the Knesset. The Arab Islamic Party is a part of the governing coalition and two ministers of the Israeli government are Arabs. We are proud that the Arab citizens of Israel enjoy a high level of living. According to the latest statistics, 40% of graduates of all the medical faculties in Israel are Arabs. A substantial part of the Israeli national football team, including the captain, are Muslims.

FACT 4

The conflict with the Palestinians has significantly cost human lives on both sides. Among them, was Shireen Abu Akleh, who was well known to Al Jazeera’s Arab-speaking viewers.

The journalist lived most of her life in Jerusalem and, for decades, reported on issues related to Israel and the Palestinians. Abu Akleh was at the peak of her career and her death was unnecessary and tragic. The circumstances surrounding her death remain unclear.

The Israeli Defence Forces are responsible for protecting citizens against the incessant terror attacks on Israeli citizens. The responsibilities include conducting operations such as the one near Jenin to arrest suspects in terrorist activities.

During this operation, the terrorists used heavy fire and explosives against the force, to which the soldiers retaliated. In this operation, Abu Akleh was wounded and died of her injuries. It is difficult to establish what exactly happened.

Although, according to the heavily circulated video clip, the terrorists can be heard claiming that they have wounded a soldier and that he is lying on the ground. No Israeli soldiers were wounded in this encounter.

Rather, it is possible that the “fallen soldier” mentioned, was in fact, the journalist. Subsequently, Israel called on the Palestinian Authority to conduct a joint thorough investigation of the event. The answer was no. Israel also requested to receive the bullet that killed Abu Akleh. The request was also refused.

The Israeli suggestion to involve an independent expert in the investigation was ignored. Such actions suggest that the Palestinian Authority is not interested in the truth but rather in exploiting this tragic occurrence for its political expediencies.

Abu Akleh’s funeral was also exploited for political purposes and was turned into a riot and a manifestation of hatred towards Israel. Terrorism is the scourge of our times. Unfortunately, Israelis are well familiar with the terrorising phenomenon of the indiscriminate killing of its civilians, men, women and children.

What is undeniably clear is that peace cannot be reached by incitement, intransigence or accusations. Peace can be reached through only compromise and rational dialogue. We can only hope for courageous leadership, decisive to end the conflict, and abandoning maximalist dreams of the future, for a better present for its people.

A leadership that accepts the reality and is ready to begin a substantial, strategic dialogue with Israel. We are bound to live as neighbours and should create relations based on trust and respect.

* Belotsercovsky is the Israeli ambassador to South Africa

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