Countering Bias and Misinformation mainly about the Arab-Israel conflict

Response to a letter by SA Jews to the Minister of Trade and Industry

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About Maurice Ostroff
On July 13, the Cape Times published a letter under the title "SA Jews are divided on Israel" addressed to the South African Minister of Trade and Industry and supporting "proposed legislation that products made on the West Bank by Israeli companies must be labeled that they are from the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT)".

The letter is signed by Yoni Bass, Karen Ben-Zeev, Bradley Bordiss, Viv Cohen, Liat Davis, Daniel Friedman, Steven Friedman, Nathan Geffen, Joey Hasson, Doron Isaacs, Allan Kolski Horwitz, Marian Nell, Shaun Reznik, Janet Shapiro, Jonathan Shapiro, Shereen Usdin and mention was made that Jonathan Ancer was away.

It contained often repeated claims of alleged "Israeli oppression" in the occupied territories with no attempt at substantiation or of placing events in context that takes into account the circumstances that surrounds them, so that they can be  understood and assessed.

Among the complaints against Israel, the letter claimed that Israeli businesses like Ahava "exploit the natural wealth of Palestinian territory" by using Dead Sea mud. This of course is incorrect.

Ahava products are made from raw material supplied by the Dead Sea Works that is situated in undisputed pre-1967 Israeli territory. The Dead Sea is not Palestinian territory. It is bordered partly by pre-1967 Israel, partly by post-1967 Israel and by Jordan. In fact Jordan too, has established industries that extract chemical from it.
The Ahava product is made in Mitzpeh Shalem a community founded in 1970 in Area C that is controlled by Israel in terms of the Oslo accords. It is not in the same category as recently built outposts which are the subject of controversy.
 

 
See response below.

 Letter to the Cape Times from Maurice Ostroff

July 15, 2012

 

RIGHT OF REPLY

A response to the open letter by several S. African Jews to Minister Davies

 

Dear Yoni Bass and other signatories to the open letter to Minister Rob Davies supporting the proposed regulation on product labeling.

 

Your claim that Israeli businesses like Ahava "exploit the natural wealth of Palestinian territory" by using Dead Sea mud is inaccurate. As I am sure you would not willingly mislead your readers please allow me to offer verifiable facts so as to give you an opportunity to correct the misinformation you supplied. 

 

Ahava products are made from raw material supplied by the Dead Sea Works that is situated in undisputed pre-1967 Israeli territory. The Dead Sea is not Palestinian territory. It is bordered partly by pre-1967 Israel, partly by post-1967 Israel and by Jordan. In fact Jordan too, has established industries that extract chemical from it.

 

The Ahava product is made in Mitzpeh Shalem a community founded in 1970 in Area C that is controlled by Israel in terms of the Oslo accords. It is not in the same category as recently built outposts which are the subject of controversy.

 

As concerned human beings, a factor that you cannot ignore is that the boycott you support would affect the livelihood of 15,000 Palestinians.

 

Unfortunately the prevalent uninformed debate and misleading terms in common use prejudice rather than enhance a two-state solution.  Inflammatory accusations of apartheid and generalizations that don't distinguish between villages like Mitzpeh Shalem and Gush Etzion on the one hand and outposts like Migron on the other, stifle efforts at sincere negotiation. Unsubstantiated allegations of illegality and ambiguous terms like occupied territory are all obstacles to reconciliation.

 

Most of the international community accept without doubt that Gush Etzion for example that was founded before the state was declared and was destroyed by Jordanians in 1948, will remain in Israel.

 

I agree completely with the need for truth in labeling and as the raison d'Ítre of the new South Africa is anti discrimination, I expect that the regulation will be non-discriminatory and framed to enable ALL consumers to check whether ALL products offered for sale are produced under conditions to which they don't object. I refer for example to carpets and footballs made in the Far East by child slaves who work from toddlerhood to adolescence, from dawn to dusk, in horrid conditions every day, without breaks.

 

Even chocolate needs to be accurately labeled as  CNN reported that the chocolate industry uses workers as young as 10 years in the Ivory Coast where child labor, trafficking and slavery are rife.

 

And nearer to home sensitive consumers should be able to avoid buying "blood diamonds" from Zimbabwe since the BBC reported on their origin as a place of torture where sometimes miners are unable to walk on account of beatings.

 

Since Minister Davies has stated that the proposed regulation is not a political but rather a laudable consumer protection move, it follows the use of ambiguous politically loaded terms like occupied Palestinian territory (OPT) must be avoided. As there is clearly divided opinion over the meaning of OPT, it is obviously preferable to use the unambiguous and universally recognizable terms for the territories in question which have been in continuous use for centuries, namely Judea and Samaria.

 

Please allow me to explain the need to avoid ambiguity. In your last paragraph you stated that your aim is the complete withdrawal of Israel from the OPT. But as intelligent well meaning persons, I believe you intend to convey exactly what you mean. It is therefore important for you to tell readers of your "open" letter exactly what you mean by OPT.  Mr. Davies has stated that South Africa recognizes the 1967 borders of Israel. If you accept this, do you demand that Israel relinquish access for example to the Western wall? Or do you accept the concept of the late Yitzhak Rabin, whose footsteps President Obama urged us to follow, and who, a few weeks before he was assassinated, stated that the new borders of Israel will include Ma'aleh Adumim and the Jordan Valley? http://www.2nd-thoughts.org/id308.html

 

You may consider the OPT as everything beyond the Green Line but many have other views. In his letter to the UN applying for Palestinian statehood Mahmoud Abbas based his claim on the 1947 UN partition resolution. Omar Barghouti one of the leaders of the BDS movement as well as Hamas regard all of Israel including Tel Aviv as OPT.

 

Your letter creates the impression that Israel decided for no pressing reason to invade the West Bank. But this is incorrect. The undisputed facts are that that during 1966, there were daily by incursions from Jordan and Egypt and  Syria was shelling continuously from the Golan Heights, making life unbearable for citizens in the Galilee. In May 1967 Egypt moved forces into Sinai and in an act of war, expelled UN peacekeeping forces and closed the Straits of Tiran.  Israel sent an emissary to King Hussein, to plead with him to stay out of the conflict.  He refused. On May 25, Jordan, Egypt, Iraq and Saudi Arabia massed troops on Israel's borders. President Nasser declared publicly "Our basic goal is the destruction of Israel”. It was in the resulting, defensive Six-Day War that Israel took Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem, not from the Palestinians - but from Jordan.

 

The majority of Israelis join you in a sincere desire to arrive at a peaceful resolution to the conflict and we are prepared to make substantial concessions to achieve this. But we have a problem that I ask you to consider. It would be suicidal to return to the pre-1967 situation and recent history has highlighted existential security considerations as described in this video clip http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytWmPqY8TE0

 

Since you have publicized strong opinions on the subject, your views are sought as to how to achieve the withdrawal from the OPT that you urge, while taking the above factors into account.

 

 

 

 

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