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Countering Bias and Misinformation mainly about the Arab-Israel conflict

Response to the South African government's statement on Gilo

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About Maurice Ostroff

Memorandum to South African Ambassador, His Excellency Ismail Coovadia

Copy to President Jacob Zuma

 

From Maurice Ostroff

5 Asher Barash, Herzliya.   Telephone. 09 9595261                 November 26, 2009

 

Sir,

 

Response to the South African government's condemnation of Israel’s approval of 900 new units in Gilo

 

I read the above statement with a great deal of concern and sadness. As an early anti-apartheid activist, I fully understand the ANC government's empathy with the PLO as one-time fellow freedom fighters, but I hope you will agree that empathy does not warrant blind support based on misinformation.  I believe that the sentiments in the above media statement would not have been expressed, were it not for the prevalent widely distributed inaccurate information in mainstream media about the Israel Palestinian conflict in general and Gilo in particular, as well as the manner in which words like settlements have gained misleading emotional connotations.

 

Gilo does not resemble outposts in the West Bank that are often featured in the news. It is a residential neighborhood not far from the Knesset building with a population of around 40,000. It is an integral part of the Jerusalem municipality as recognized by Israel's previous prime ministers including the late Yitzhak Rabin.

 

In his video message to the November 8, Rabin Rally in Tel Aviv, President Obama urged Israel to pursue Rabin's legacy. It is therefore relevant to recall that in his last speech to the Knesset on October 5, 1995, Rabin said "The borders of the State of Israel, during the permanent solution, will be beyond the lines which existed before the Six Day War. We will not return to the 4 June 1967 lines....First and foremost, united Jerusalem. The complete speech may be viewed at http://tinyurl.com/6kzam.

 

It would have been refreshing if South Africa had expressed independent judgment by encouraging PM Netanyahu's opening of the door to peace talks in a manner unequaled by any of his predecessors. His bold departure from the stance of previous governments in freezing settlement in the West Bank (except for the municipal area of Jerusalem) is indeed a bold move that deserves recognition rather than derision.  Even Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton praised Netanyahu's move as ''unprecedented''. And now she has been joined by Middle East envoy George Mitchell who expressed appreciation of the fact that PM Netanyahu has gone further than any previous Israeli Prime Minister in meeting the calls for a halt to construction in the West Bank 

Not even the most ardent opponents of "settlements" including the PA, realistically expect Israel to relinquish the Western Wall or Gilo, which are both just beyond the 1949 armistice line on which the Green line is based. As the map shows how close Gilo is to this line, it is important to consider its significance. It is not an international border. According to former US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Eugene Rostow, the Armistice Lines of 1949, which are part of the West Bank boundary, represent nothing but the position of the contending armies when the final cease-fire was achieved in the War of Independence. ..Resolution 242 is based on that provision of the Armistice Agreements and states certain criteria that would justify changes in the demarcation lines when the parties make peace.

 

gilo_knesset.jpg

 

As your press statement refers to United Nations Security Council resolutions 242, 338 and 1515 it is relevant to examine them.. Resolution 338 dated during the Yom Kippur War called on the parties to implement resolution 242 and resolution 1515 calls on the parties to implement the Road Map. The key resolution is 242 and obviously the most reliable sources from whom to seek clarification are the persons who played the main roles in drafting it, namely British Ambassador to the UN, Lord Caradon, American Ambassador, Arthur Goldberg and former US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Eugene Rostow. In an article in The New Republic, "Resolved: are the settlements legal? Israeli West Bank policies," (Oct. 21, 1991) Rostow wrote "... Speaker after speaker made it explicit that Israel was not to be forced back to the 'fragile and vulnerable' Armistice Demarcation Lines, but should retire once peace was made to what Resolution 242 called 'secure and recognized' boundaries, agreed to by the parties. ".

 

In an interview in the Beirut Daily Star on June 12, 1974, Lord Caradon stated:  "It would have been wrong to demand that Israel return to its positions of June 4, 1967 because these positions were undesirable and artificial. After all, they were just the places where the soldiers on each side happened to be on the day the fighting stopped in 1948. They were just armistice lines. That's why I didn't demand that the Israelis return to them, and I think we were right not to."

 

As I believe South Africa is genuinely interested in promoting a peaceful solution, I would have expected that instead of pushing the parties further apart by harsh criticism of Israel, South Africa would have urged the Palestinians to accept Israel's call to come to the negotiating table, where all the aims and claims of the parties will be hammered out. Setting preconditions to negotiations negates the very concept of negotiation.

 

And again, as an early anti-apartheid activist I find your reference to Israeli activities being reminiscent of apartheid especially hurtful. A serious study will convince any impartial observer, that allegations of a similarity between the old South Africa’s apartheid regime and the Israeli system are spurious. It is unworthy of the South African government to adopt these false propagandistic slogans that are rejected by all who value moral integrity.

 

South Africans know better than anyone else that apartheid was entrenched in the law and strictly enforced, whereas in stark contrast, Israel s Declaration of Independence specifically ensures complete equality of social and political rights to all inhabitants irrespective of religion, race, or gender. A visit to any Israeli hospital, where Arab and Jewish doctors and patients coexist in complete harmony will convince the harshest critic of the absurdity of likening Israel to the despised apartheid regime. For more details see http://www.2nd-thoughts.org/id32.html

 

Recommended reading

International Law http://www.2nd-thoughts.org/id162.html

The Occupation http://www.2nd-thoughts.org/id91.html

The Six-Day War & Resolution 242   http://www.2nd-thoughts.org/id127.html

Apartheid, Israel & South Africa  http://www.2nd-thoughts.org/id87.html

 

___________________________________________________________

 Copy of the South African government's media statement

 

South Africa’s response to latest Israeli settlement activities in East Jerusalem

 

The South African government expresses its concern at the latest round of Israeli settlement activities in East Jerusalem and registers its condemnation of Israel’s approval of 900 new settlement units in the settlement of Gilo, south of East Jerusalem. South Africa is aware of the statements of the Palestinian leadership that this settlement expansion   on the part of Israel will result in an increase in the Israeli settler population over the next two years that will exceed the previous two.

 

South Africa takes note of the statements by United States President Barack Obama who stated that: "I think that additional settlement building does not contribute to Israel's security, it makes it harder for them to make peace with their neighbours. I think it embitters the Palestinians in a way that could end up being very dangerous.”  We also take cognisance of the statements of the European Union presidency which said that: "If there is to be genuine peace, a way must be found to resolve the status of Jerusalem as the future capital of two states.”

 

South Africa maintains that these attempts by Israel to create facts on the ground imperils attempts to achieve a negotiated solution to the conflict, namely that of two states, Israel and Palestine existing side by side in peace within internationally recognised borders. South Africa emphasises that the issue of Jerusalem is one of the final status issues that needs to be part of a negotiated solution to the conflict in the Middle East.

 

The actions on the part of Israel are in opposition to the will of the international community as expressed in United Nations Security Council resolutions 242, 338, 1515 as well as the Arab Peace Initiative. We condemn the fact that Israeli settlement expansion in East Jerusalem is coupled with Israel’s campaign to evict and displace the original Palestinian residents from the City.

 

South Africa stresses that these actions on the part of Israel jeopardise the prospects of resuming peace talks aimed at arriving at a final settlement to the conflict. South Africa is deeply concerned that these activities by Israel will only serve only to deepen the cycle of violence in the region. As an occupying power, Israel has specific and clear obligations under international law.    

 

We call upon the Israeli government to cease their activities that are reminiscent of apartheid forced removals and resume negotiations immediately. 

 

For more information contact Chief Director for Public Diplomacy, Saul Kgomotso Molobi on 082 940 1647.

 

Department of International Relations and Cooperation

Private Bag x 152

Pretoria

0001

 

 
 

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