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Countering Bias and Misinformation mainly about the Arab-Israel conflict

Response to Prof.Seaford's refusal to review Israeli's book

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About Maurice Ostroff

An open letter to Professor Seaford  from Maurice Ostroff

May 21, 2006

Dear Professor Richard Seaford,

Having viewed your impressive web site, I share your interest in uncovering the relationship - in ancient Greece as well as in our own society - between how people think and the kind of society in which they live.

It is in this spirit that I ask you to please help me understand your refusal to review "The Invention of Coinage and the Monetization of Ancient Greece", by Prof. D.M. Schaps. While I commend you for taking action when you feel what you called “moral outrage”, I hope you will not mind my suggesting that this particular action is neither effective nor appropriate. Nor is your moral outrage justified.

As I notice that you have written about Euripides, I am tempted to quote his advice, “The best and safest thing is to keep a balance in your life,..” and to suggest that your refusal to review Schaps academic work, lacks the balance recommended by Euripides.

I believe that we laymen are entitled to expect that a balanced attitude, especially from a learned scholar of your status, would require careful examination of all available facts before making subjective accusations like “the brutal and illegal expansionism, and the slow-motion ethnic cleansing, being practised by your government.

It was Aristotle who taught that ”Knowledge of the fact differs from knowledge of the reasoned fact.” A modest amount of research into impartial documentation would have drawn your attention to reasoned facts that would have saved you from the embarrassment of making these baseless allegations.

While Israel’s presence in the West bank and previously in Gaza may be considered undesirable or inadvisable, eminent international jurists have ruled that it is not illegal. If we are to avoid the distortions introduced by propagandists, obviously, the most reliable sources from whom to seek clarification about the highly relevant much-discussed UN resolution 242, are the persons who drafted it.

The late Eugene W. Rostow, who played a leading role in producing the resolution, as well as the late Professor Julius Stone, one of the twentieth century's leading authorities on the Law of Nations, both pronounced that the Jewish right of settlement in the area in question is equivalent in every way to the right of the existing Palestinian population to live there.

According to Rostow , “..in the case of Israel's self-defense in 1967, the entry on the territory (West Bank, Gaza and Golan) was lawful. The effect of a prohibition (of entry by a defender, to an aggressor's territory MO.) would be to guarantee to all potential aggressors that, even if their aggression failed, all territory lost in the attempt would be automatically returned to them. Such a rule would be absurd to the point of lunacy. There is no such rule...”

He also wrote “.. 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. And the Armistice Agreements specifically provide, except in the case of Lebanon, that the demarcation lines can be changed only by agreement when the parties move from armistice to peace. 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.”

In drafting the resolution, British Ambassador to the UN in 1967, Lord Caradon, and American Ambassador, Arthur Goldberg, deliberately omitted a demand for Israel to return to the pre-1967 borders. 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 we didn't demand that the Israelis return to them, and I think we were right not to."

To accuse Israel of illegal expansionism during the current period when massive voluntary, I repeat voluntary, withdrawals have been made from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, just does not add up. Nor does your accusation of “ethnic cleansing” stand up to even the slightest honest intellectual examination.

It is an odious term, which came into common use during the Yugoslav wars. There is no similarity and no absolutely no justification for this allegation. If you read the Israeli press, you cannot help but notice that the one small Israeli political party which advocates transfer, albeit voluntary transfer, is roundly castigated to a greater extent than is the anti-immigrant, British National Party which is gaining strength in your country.

A visit to an Israeli hospital will surprise you. You will see Israelis and Palestinian Arabs, including injured Palestinian terrorists, receiving the same treatment as their victims. You’ll also see Palestinians with illnesses untreatable in their hometowns, receiving treatments as a matter of course. Even CNN has shown footage of Palestinian suspects wounded in a terror attack, being treated alongside their victims; and clips of young Palestinian and Israeli patients partying together in an juvenile Israeli cancer ward.

Aristotle taught that we have scientific knowledge when we know the cause. With great respect sir, I suggest that the powerful, massively funded Arab propaganda machine has succeeded in inverting cause and effect in international opinion about the Arab-Israel conflict.The power of this lobby is not conjecture. For example, in 2002 the US Committee for a Free Lebanon reported that according to official Saudi sources Riyadh's "overseas development aid" between 1975 and 1987, averaged $4 billion per year, of which at least $50 billion over two and a half decades financed "Islamic activities" exclusively. Compared to these numbers, the miniscule Israeli PR budget of about $4million is helpless.

I hope you will accept this letter in the constructive spirit intended and I would very much appreciate a considered response.
 
Recommended reading:
Articles by the Late Eugene W. Rostow, US Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs between 1966 and 1969 who played a leading role in producing Resolution 242.
a.  Historical Approach to the Issue of Legality of Jewish Settlement Activity (The New Republic April 23, 1990).
http://www.take-a-pen.org/english/Articles/Art27012004.htm
b.   Are the settlements legal? Resolved. (The New Republic, October 21, 1991).

 

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