Jewish education expert discusses Israel's past and present
Just as it is important to always remember the Holocaust by retelling those events through living survivors, books, films and various programs, it is equally important to teach the history of modern-day Israel accurately, and make sure it remains factual so that its history does not become distorted to fit a particular political agenda. On Nov. 4, approximately 35-40 people attended a program on Israel in World Relations, held at the University of Central Florida.
Sponsored by the Knights For Israel, Hillel Central Florida, Our Soldiers Speak, Hasbara Fellowships, Committee For Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA), the course was designed and presented by JED Institute founder Richard Bass, who's extensive curriculum is widely recognized as one of the most thorough and balanced resources to teach the issues in the Middle East today. One of the central aims of all of his courses is to encourage people to challenge opinion, uncover facts, and search for the truth without bias.
The Jewish historical connection to Israel
Chief Palestinian Justice Sheikh Taysis Tamimi said in August 2009 that the Jews have no historic connection to Jerusalem and the Jewish Temple never existed. Sheikh Tamimi is the second highest Muslim cleric only to the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem so his words are to be taken seriously.
Bass presented evidence the Jewish people have a historical connection to Jerusalem and the Temple Mount and dispelled the claims of Sheikh Tamimi using two examples of archeological and eyewitness evidence: the Arch of Titus, which has a menorah engraved carving from Solomon's Temple, and eyewitness accounts from Flavius Josephus of the Jewish Temple on what is now called the Temple Mount.
Bass also used Islamic sources that counter Sheikh Tamimi: Qur'an verses 17:4-7 talk specifically of the Jewish Temple at the Temple Mount. Page 4 of the 1925 Temple Mount Guide by the Islamic Waqf states, "the site of "Solomon's Temple at the Temple Mount is beyond dispute."
Sovereignty over Israel and international law
At the Basel Conference of 1897 Theodore Herzl gave birth to the first Zionist Congress. It declared, "Zionism seeks to establish a home for the Jewish people in Palestine secured under public law."
CBN News Middle East Bureau Chief Chris Mitchell stated, "Fifty years later in November of 1947 what many considered an impossible dream became a reality when the United Nations voted to approve a Jewish state in Palestine. Yet international agreements had already validated the Jewish State many years before in the San Remo resolution of 1920 and the League of Nations Mandate in 1922."
Bass provided the foundational evidence for the establishment of the modern State of Israel and the San Remo Resolution of 1920 validates his claim.
In 1947, Britain abandoned the Palestine Mandate and told the United Nations to take this land off their hands. The U.N. put forth an Arab State and an Israeli State in the nonbinding U.N. Resolution 181. The Arabs rejected the partition plan and Britain soon after left the region.
On May 14, 1948, Israel declared independence and was immediately attacked by Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq. Israel was victorious and expanded her territory.
Israel's expansion of new territory caused an Arab refugee problem, which the world blames on Israel. Bass explained Israel was not to blame for these refugees because if the Arabs accepted the U.N.'s partition plan there would have been no war and no refugees.
On May 6, 1967, Israel preemptively attacked her neighbors and won this war in six days. Bass pointed out that Golda Meir never understood why the Arabs said they were fighting over Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria when at that time there were none.
As a result of the '67 war, Israel gained more territory including the Sinai, Gaza strip, West Bank, Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem (including the holy places in the Old City, which leads us into the next topic of occupation).
The Israeli occupation-myth or truth?
Bass asked the question can Israel be an illegal occupier? He defined an occupier as a country that controls land that it does not own. Based on the San Remo Resolution, Bass said Israel was granted the land on the east and west side of the Jordan River, which includes the West Bank. According to international law Israel legally owns the land and can't be an occupier, by definition.
Then the 1973 Yom Kippur War happened. Israel won, but the dynamics of the Middle East changed, according to Bass. The Middle East Arab countries now had oil exporting power and money. Bass observed that Japan, Great Britain and Canada became dependent on Middle Eastern oil and their support for the State of Israel diminished accordingly on the world stage.
The Arabs lost wars to the Israelis in 1948, 1967, and 1973. Post 1973 the Arabs realized they could not defeat Israel on the battlefield but they did have a formidable economic weapon controlling Middle Eastern oil flow to the West.
Bass said the United States' objective in the region was "Arab hegemony" (dominance) but whenever there are movements toward a peace process the Arabs respond with violence against Israel, and we still see that today.
Camp David 2000-The two-state solution
In 2000, then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak told Yasser Arafat, then president of the Palestinian National Authority, he could have 96 percent of the West Bank. Bass said Barak did this to out Arafat's true intentions of not wanting land for peace but all of Israel.
Arafat turned down Barak's deal of 96 percent of the West Bank, exposing the Palestinians true intentions. The Barak deal showed that Israel would be willing to put the entire West Bank on the table for peace-and that has been the United States' negotiating strategy today.
Israel, however, must have secure borders before there can be any peace. Going back to the 1967 borders is not an option, according to Bass. Arafat's chief negotiator said that Arafat would not go down in history as the Arab who gave up Sunni control of Islam's third holiest site, the Temple Mount, to the Jewish people.
Bass concluded the peace process is not about land but about Islamic ideology.
May 19, 2011, the New York Times headline read, "Obama Sees '67 Borders as Starting Point For Peace Deal." Bass explained that if Israel were to go back to the 1967 borders it would be geographically unable to protect its borders. He encouraged his listeners to use their own critical thinking to determine if President Obama's plan for a two-state solution is possible.
He illustrated the point that Israel did give up control of the Gaza Strip and West Bank to the Palestinians and were repaid with thousands of modern missiles fired into Israel. If Israel were to go back to the '67 borders it would be only 9-miles wide at its narrowest point near Netanya.
In conclusion, Bass stated: "I am not proposing a solution, it is a complicated situation...in Shariah Law, Islam can make a truce indefinitely with a stronger opponent... I'm not telling you what to believe you need to make your own free will decision. One must consider that Israel cannot survive and defend its borders if it does not control the Jordan Valley, which would be part of a Palestinian State. This is just something to consider."
Bass ended his lecture with this Golda Meir quote, "...I wish to say that from the time I came to Palestine as a young woman, we have been forced to choose between what is more dangerous and what is less dangerous for us. At times we have all been tempted to give in to various pressures and to accept proposals that might guarantee us a little quiet for a few months, or maybe even for a few years, but that could only lead us eventually into even greater peril...If Israel is not strong there will be no peace."
Question from student: "Why is it OK when Israel targets Palestinian civilians with bombs?"
Bass' response: "You're asking are Israel's military initiatives just. I see a difference in quality between a missile or rocket attack being launched against a civilian population versus a defensive measure to stop that from happening. I don't see Israel initiating these attacks, I see there are ten of thousands of rockets being fired at Israel and Israel's return fire is more accurate. I don't think that is a fair valuation. You're right that I did not show the other side, but not that I'm trying to hide anything. For me, there is a difference in quality for a state to defend its population from not one but tens of thousands of rockets.
Let me tell you a first-hand story. When a siren goes off in Israel warning of incoming rockets, the population has 15 seconds to find a shelter. I know a woman with three children and she literally has to decide which child to grab and run to the shelter (with) because at times she physically can't get all three of her children in those 15 seconds. Israeli citizens are terrorized by these thousands of Palestinian rockets.
You also have the issue from the other side where they appear to have a total lack of concern for human life. They fire their rockets from residential centers, schools, and hospitals as the U.N. turns a blind eye. The other side may say that if Israel wasn't blockading then the rockets wouldn't be fired into Israel, maybe that's true, I don't live in Gaza. It's complicated, I just don't see the Palestinians dealing fairly with its citizens. There is tremendous wealth yet a large segment of the population lives in poverty. There are hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into Gaza in aid money. Instead of building infrastructure they are using the money to buy more rockets.
Bass then addressed a question about "Israeli apartheid": "I gave you a definition for occupation, apartheid also has a definition. Apartheid's definition is state-sponsored racial segregation. Have you been to Israel?"
"No, I'm Lebanese," responded the questioner.
"I hope you will visit Israel sometime, I don't want you to take my word for this. There are 1.2 million Arab Israeli citizens going to work, have their own shopping centers, schools, etc., living in peace with Israeli Jewish citizens, and if that is apartheid I'm not sure where that comes from.
A questioner asked about Israeli African concentration camps. She referred to the Holocaust and Israel treating the Palestinians as the Jews were treated in World War II.
Bass replied that he would have to hear specifics (the questioner could not provide any facts or evidence to support her claim). Bass responded that he sees Israel putting themselves on the line economically for the Ethiopians and Sudanese who managed to survive crossing Egypt to get into Israel.
"I see Israeli soldiers feeding and clothing these African immigrants when they enter Israel who are escaping Egypt as the Egyptians are firing live rounds at them," Bass stated. "You can read about these personal accounts online-don't take my word for it. The facts show that Israel expends huge amounts of economic resources on these African immigrants. It makes no sense the State of Israel would do these things if your claim of Israeli African concentration camps is true."
Your questions about the Israeli Apartheid and African concentration camps does not fit with Israel flying trauma centers half way around the world to Japan and Haiti to name only two examples. American doctors say they are amazed at the humanitarian work Israel does whenever a natural disaster happens anywhere in the world. Israel cares for the Gaza and West Bank Palestinians in Israeli hospitals the same as they do for their own population. It does not fit that Israel would do this type of humanitarian work and then turn around and put Africans in concentration camps and practice apartheid. The facts and evidence do not support your claim although I appreciate you bringing up these questions," he said.