Alan Baker, ed., Palestinian Manipulation of the International Community, Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, 2014, 169 pp.
The major focus of this collection of essays is the relentless Palestinian effort to isolate and discredit Israel internationally and the ensuing complicity of NGOs, journalists, UN officials, religious leaders, and politicians in Europe, North America, and elsewhere. These sober, well-reasoned and carefully documented essays are written by scholars and journalists with varying types of expertise. The volume contains a helpful introductory overview by Israel’s former ambassador to Canada, Alan Baker, an expert in international law. Six of the essays are by jurists and lawyers (Robbie Sabel, Rephael Ben-Ari, Hillel Neuer, Eugene Kontorovich, Phillipe Assouline), several of whom are specialists in the same field. In fact, some of the articles offer cogent and well-informed rebuttals of the accusation of Israel’s violations of international law, such as: the settlements in the West Bank violate the Fourth Geneva Convention; the security barrier violates international law; various Israeli military actions, e.g. against Hamas in Gaza or against the “Gaza flotillas,” violate the law of armed international conflict; Israel deserves to be prosecuted before the International Criminal Court, etc.
The book also demonstrates that many aspects of the global Palestinian campaign against Israel directly oppose efforts to end the Israel-Palestinian conflict peacefully along the lines of the “two-state solution,” to which the PLO ostensibly has been committed for over a decade. For example, in his essay on UNRWA, the UN agency devoted to supporting the Palestinian “refugees,” Dr. Rephael Ben-Ari documents the systematic efforts by the Palestinian staff of UNRWA (some of whom are members of Hamas) to inculcate in young Palestinians the conviction that they can and rightfully should return to their ancestors’ homes in Israel, if need be, by force. According to Ben-Ari, in 1982, UNRWA decided to expand the definition of “Palestinian refugee” to include not only those who fled Israel in 1948 but their offspring in perpetuity, thus sharply increasing the number of “refugees” from about 700,000 to five million and ensuring exponential growth in their numbers in the future. Insisting on the so-called “right of return” for so many millions is a deal-breaker for any Israeli government. The indoctrination of generations of children at UNRWA schools and summer camps, however, makes it nearly impossible for any Palestinian leader to relinquish this “right” definitively as part of a peace treaty. The UN also merits justified criticism in an essay by Hillel Neuer that focuses upon such UN organizations as the Human Rights Council, WHO, ILO, and UNESCO. Furthermore, Dore Gold contributes a critique of the infamous Goldstone Report to the UN Human Rights Council.
Two essays discuss the issue of religion. The liberal Turkish Muslim Sinem Tezyapar makes some refreshingly honest statements about the state of public opinion in the Muslim world, writing that in the Arab-Israeli conflict, the “core problem is not about land or the situation of the Palestinians but rather hatred of Jews in general” (99). She then proceeds to give her own version of Islam, highlighting aspects of Islam that support peaceful coexistence and tolerance toward non-Muslims, especially Jews. One may argue with her reading of Islamic history and doctrine and with her failure to acknowledge the deep roots of antisemitism in the Islamic tradition more fully. Her article, however, includes impressive statements such as: “As Muslims, we bear a special obligation to confront the antisemitism that has infected the Muslim world” (121). The article entitled “Palestinian Christian Abuse of Christian Organizations in the West” by Dexter Van Zile attacks the dishonesty of anti-Israeli Christian Arab activists, who falsely depict harmonious relations between Christians and Muslims in the region, downplay the significance of Islamic anti-Semitism, unfairly blame Zionists for creating all the obstacles to peace and resurrect Christian supersessionist doctrines toward Judaism. According to Van Zile, “whether they mean to be or not, this community of Christians has become an effective group of apologists for Islamist imperialism in the Middle East” (128). A careful reader may find a connection between Van Zile’s essay and that by Philippe Assouline, which focuses upon Palestinian abuses of the press. Assouline documents the pervasive lack of freedom of speech and of the press in both the West Bank and Gaza, which could explain why Christians there dare not speak up about how they are treated by Muslims (163–4).
In conclusion, the essays in this volume shed light on aspects of the Israel-Palestinian conflict that often are ignored or misunderstood by academics and journalists.