Half-truths not a recipe for Arab-Israeli peace

By the time you read this, a cyclone will have passed through our campus – one whose intent is to take what already is a mess, strew it about even more and then move on to another city to do the same.

The Marvin Center was the first stop Oct. 21 on a 17-city tour by two men who swept into Washington with all the showmanship of turn-of-the-century snake oil salesmen. Like salesmen would have, Yacoub Odeh and Salim Shawarmeh spoke convincingly and presented “evidence” that what they were saying was true.

Also like salesmen, their presentation was designed to rile up the audience, whip them up into a frenzy and get them to act. Their speeches were part pathos and part passionately delivered cheap shots at Israel. Where they differed from salesmen, however, is that all a fast-talking shyster wants to do is make a few dollars by selling you a phony cure, but these two men came to GW to try to make war by selling a phony ailment.

What Odeh and Shawarmeh spoke about was the destruction of Palestinian homes in Israel by the Israeli government. They presented what seemed to be staggering evidence that Israel is viciously destroying the homes of innocent Palestinian families simply because they are Palestinian.

Unfortunately, the entire presentation was premised upon a few half-truths and some outright lies that cheapen Odeh and Shawarmeh’s claims and render all their “evidence” nothing more than counterproductive deceit.

First, and most egregiously, these men repeatedly referred to the Israeli government as merely an occupying force in Jerusalem. It should be noted that 1967 is not the correct date to begin telling the story of modern Jerusalem. The correct year is 1948, when the city – referred to as “Jew City” by Odeh – was invaded by several Arab armies during the first hours of Israel’s existence. In 1967, Israel gained back the land that Jordan had occupied as a spoil of war for 19 years, and which Palestinians now consider “occupied” by Israel.

Next, in a true role-reversal, Odeh accused Israel of treating Palestinians unfairly. He said, “Can you imagine coming home and finding a bulldozer there?” This is a fair question, but then I must ask: Can you, Mr. Odeh, imagine eating in a cafe or boarding the No. 4 bus downtown and being blown to pieces?

Most noticeably missing from the evening was any mention of the two conditions under which the Israeli government destroys a home – Arab, Jewish or otherwise. The first is if the home is built or zoned illegally; the second is if the home belongs to a terrorist or the surviving family of one.

Both are last-resort tactics by a government that must consider world opinion in even its most minuscule moves. What good are high-level peace talks among world leaders if all their work can be derailed by squatters? Jewish homes, when illegally built, are destroyed right alongside the ones whose pictures are being paraded around the United States in this ploy to make Israel appear racist.

In fact, all legally zoned and built Palestinian homes are untouched, even when they serve as safe havens for rock throwers and more advanced terrorists.

As for the other condition, the speakers did not ask their audience to consider that Israel is virtually powerless to defend itself from terrorist attacks. Israelis do not share with Palestinians the boon of tens of millions of fellow travelers in neighboring countries who are well-armed, well-financed and ready to fight. Her “peace partners” frequently vow, when speaking to the Western world, that they will fight terrorism. But they then rant in Arabic about “driving the Zionist presence into the sea.”

It is the policy of both Hamas and Hezbollah to support the families of suicide bombers for life after the bombings are committed. Furthermore, non-suicide terrorists who are actually arrested by the Palestinian Authority usually only are detained for a short time. Most are allowed to escape through loosely guarded gates. If they are arrested by the Israelis, they are typically released soon afterward, as part of one trade-off or another. The only palpable deterrent Israel can use against terrorism is the threat of destroying one’s house. Frankly, compared to the Palestinian policy of kidnapping and killing any Arab who sells land in Israel to Jews, destroying homes is a fairly benign punishment.

Odeh and Shawarmeh know exactly what they are doing. Unfortunately, many people – even those who follow current events – will not.

Israelis and Palestinians are hopelessly embroiled in a type of cold war (which often boils over), only they do not have the benefit of an ocean between them. This unique situation is not made better when propagandists pass themselves off as experts. What is left of the peace process is tentative and muddled enough without the help of these two men. If they insist on speaking, then I insist we consider the entire story, not just the parts of it that suit one side and falsely demonize the other.

Under the First Amendment, their show will be allowed to go on. But it begs the question of whether they are falsely shouting “fire” in a public place. They certainly are not shouting “peace.”

-The writer is a second-year student in the Graduate School of PoliticalManagement.

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