Irony abounds in Sylvia Schwarz’s piece, “Human rights: Not to be entrusted to governments” (MinnPost, Nov. 19), which is a title camouflaging yet another diatribe against Israel.
To begin, Schwarz correctly advises that human-rights violations occur throughout the world. Yet, she descends into the same intellectual dungeon as the United Nations Human Rights Commission in dedicating most of her space to criticism of Israel — as is the habit of the Human Rights Commission. Indeed, such human-rights malefactors as Sudan, Saudi Arabia, and Russia, who are also members of the Human Rights Commission, channel its energies to a perpetual critique of Israel. By contrast, the commission ignores such abuses as Iran’s treatment of homosexuals (public executions) and members of the Baha’i faith (imprisonment for the practice of their religion). I believe this obsession — whether in a MinnPost commentary or the halls of the United Nations — betrays a true agenda: delegitimization of Israel.
A second irony lies in Schwarz’s use of the word “amnesia.” It is precisely the lack of context — the casting aside and forgetting of history — that makes her comment, “for more than 60 years governments have been playing at a ‘peace process,’ ” either mean-spirited or profoundly ignorant. Let us review the facts of those who “played” at peace:
• Anwar Sadat was assassinated in 1981 for negotiating a peace with Israel in 1979.
• Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated in 1995 for seeking a two-state solution with the Palestinians — a position favored by a majority of Israelis — in the aftermath of Israel’s peace treaty with Jordan in 1995.
Moreover, we have seen over the past 75 years the promulgation of plans for resolving the conflict between Jews and Arabs in Palestine through a two-state solution; they were serious attempts to reconcile conflicting national aspirations and bring peace to the Holy Land:
• The 1937 recommendation of the Peel Commission to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab States.
• The 1947 approval of the United Nations to partition Palestine into Jewish and Arab States — supported by both the United States and USSR.
• The 2000 negotiations at Camp David led by President Clinton, which were at the brink of success with the Palestinians receiving nearly all of the West Bank. Tragically — not “playfully” in light of the efforts of American, Israeli and Palestinian negotiators — Yasser Arafat rejected this political solution, leading us to today’s impasse.
Precipitated by terrorism
A terrible symptom of this current deadlock is the humanitarian crisis in Gaza — which all parties must take steps to address. This crisis — and this point was “forgotten” in Schwarz’s piece — was precipitated by Hamas terrorists using Gaza as a launching pad for terrorism after every Israeli settler and soldier had left Gaza in 2005. Hamas — a client of Iran — did not seek a better life for Gazans after the Israeli departure, but rather began the indiscriminate shelling of southern Israel with missiles. Since 2005, more than 6,300 rockets were launched into Israel, and more than 3,000 rockets were fired in 2008 alone.
Israel, with its citizens under fire (Jewish and Arab alike), exercised its sovereign right of self-defense through Operation Cast Lead. Despite Israel’s unprecedented attempts to limit civilian casualties (and every civilian casualty is a tragedy), Israel was again placed in the dock with the Goldstone Report, which was authorized by a Human Rights Council Resolution that prejudged Israel’s guilt and omitted criticism of Hamas.
(Please read this article by Moshe Halbertal in The New Republic analyzing the Goldstone Report from the perspective of a leading Israeli intellectual of the left who has served on a commission of the Israel Defense Forces to codify ethics in this age of “asymmetrical warfare.”)
The information contained in the links below provides context illustrating the difficulty in fighting terrorists embedded in the civilian population of Gaza who kill indiscriminately.
Missile Attack on Israeli Town of Sderot, Sept. 1, 2007
IDF Aircraft Target Hamas Operative, January 2009
Hamas Uses Human Shields, Hamas MP Fathi Hammad, Hamas TV, Feb. 29, 2008
Hamas Uses Mosques to Store and Launch Weapons:
“The IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.” Col. Richard Kemp, former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan, at UN Human Rights Council, October 16, 2009
The absurdity and third irony of Schwarz’s piece is that the delegitimization of Israel and associated boycott movement would have the disastrous effect of denying the world the following technological innovations and medical advances developed in Israel:
• The cell phone;
• instant messaging;
• the Intel Pentium chip;
• radiation free breast cancer diagnostic testing;
• internet firewall security;
• the “Gut cam” ingestible pill camera to diagnose cancer; and
• drip irrigation.
In conclusion, it should be noted that Schwarz’s “International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network of the Twin Cities” represents little of the local Jewish community. Regardless of political or religious affiliation, the Jews of Minnesota, for their part, are for historical, religious, cultural and familial reasons strongly supportive of Israel. A community survey of 2004 found that 89 percent feel an attachment to Israel and for good reason in light of the historic and democratic ties between our country and Israel.
Steve Hunegs is the executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas.