From Dorothy Naor – an Israeli Jew
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Your Open Letter to Professors Allan Boesak and Farid Esack
Dear Maurice Ostroff,
I read with great interest your Open Letter to the two Professors.
The result was that I learned that while you and I apparently live in the same country—Israel—we do not see things through the same glasses. I do not refer merely to opinions, but to statistics and other facts. I will treat first the issue of equal rights in Israel proper, and then move on to the West Bank and Gaza. In the following, I use the term “Palestinian citizens of Israel” advisedly, since this is the way many Palestinians (including Bedouins and Druze) who are Israeli citizens prefer being referred to.
1. While I probably would not apply the term ‘apartheid’ to what happens in Israel proper, nevertheless there is a huge difference between the situation here and Rabbi Goldstein’s statement, with which you agree, that “In the State of Israel all citizens – Jew and Arab – are equal before the law.” Would that this were true. Unfortunately it is not. The fact that Palestinian citizens of Israel and Jewish citizens use the same shopping malls does not mean that they intermix. Few Jewish Israelis know Palestinian citizens of Israel, and vice versa. Your citing the instances of hospitals that treat all alike reminds me of how Americans prior to the civil rights movements would ‘prove’ that Afro Americans (at the time called Negroes) had advanced greatly used names such as Marian Anderson’s or Paul Robison’s to show that there was no racism in the United States.
Inequality in Israel begins with the Law of Return, which allows every Jewish person, no matter from where he/she comes, to automatically become an Israeli citizen. This applies to no other ethnic, religious, or racial group in Israel. The counterpart of the Law of Return is The ROR, Return of Palestinian Refugees, whose right to return Israel denies, ignoring UN Resolution 194. Apart from the fact that Palestinian refugees are not allowed to return, a result of this is that whereas Jewish Israeli families need not be separated, wherever its members live, and can visit one another, the same is not true of Palestinian families dispersed in various places, but unable to meet due to Israeli laws prohibiting the refugees from coming to Israel or Palestinian citizens of Israel from going to countries as Syria, Lebanon, and others where refugees live.
In addition to the refugee issue and the Law of Return, are a number of areas in which there is neither equality before the law nor equality in any other respect between Jewish Israelis on the one side and Palestinians citizens of Israel on the other side.
Allow me to mention a few—not all, but a few–examples of inequality:
a) Unrecognized villages, that is to say, villages which, because Israel does not recognize them, are denied infrastructure, inclusive of paved roads, hook-ups to electricity and water grids, schools, and medical clinics. In some instances children of these villages must trek 4 or 5 kilometers to reach school and return home. Water must be trucked in, electricity generated by generators.
No Jewish unrecognized villages exist. These are strictly for Palestinian citizens of Israel, mainly for Bedouin, mostly in the Negev but also in other areas. For information on these see: www.passia.org/diary/Palestinian-Dictionary-Terms.htm”;
“176 Palestinian villages inside Israel – in the Galilee or the Negev – that do not officially exist. The over 90,000 Arab inhabitants are internal refugees, ie, had left their homes during the 1948 War, yet remained within the borders of the new Israeli state, and were unable to return to their villages. They do not receive municipal services, health care, nor are they connected to postal and phone systems. …”
Not all the inhabitants are “internal refugees.” Some of the villages have existed prior to the formation of the State of Israel. See also
The Association of Forty
“Unrecognized” Villages of the Naqab [‘Negev’ in Hebrew]
Ha’aretz Tuesday, July 1, 2008
No health care for 80% of Bedouin women in unrecognized towns
2. Racial Profiling
Haaretz August 1, 2010
Last update – 12:35 08/01/2010
“In Israel, racial profiling doesn’t warrant debate, or apologies”
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondent
[if racial profiling is not indicative of separation then what is?]
3. Reunification (or unification) law which does not permit citizens
of Israel married to West Bank or Gaza residents to live with their spouses in Israel. This law does not apply to any other group of Israeli citizens. Jewish Israeli citizens, no matter which country the spouses come from, may live with them in Israel. For more information see
Adalah Special Report on Family Unification
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
“Nationality and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) 5763-2003, which bans family reunification for Israeli married with Palestinian OPT residents.
The Nationality and Entry into Israel Law (Temporary Order) 5763-2003, based on the Government Decision no. 1803 of 2002, was introduced in 2003 as a temporary measure, but has been renewed since. While Israeli citizens are granted the right to family reunification with their foreign spouse, this law denies this same right to Israeli citizens married to Israeli citizens married to Palestinian residents in the OPT.
Wednesday, August 04, 2010
The Repressive Citizenship and Entry into Israel Law
On July 18, the Knesset again extended the “Temporary Order” as it’s done annually since 2003, affecting thousands of couples, one member an Israeli citizen, the other a Palestinian resident or refugee in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran or elsewhere, denied their right to reunite legally with spouses in Israel.
A new Physicians for Human Rights – Israel (PHR-IL) position paper titled, “No civil status, no hope: A close look at the ‘Humanitarian’ Committee of the Citizenship Law (CL)” explains its harm, using several case study examples.
Since enacted in 2003, it’s prevented thousands of couples from living normally, most unable to reunite, others residing in Israel without health insurance, work permits, or other social benefits.
4. Land laws and discrimination against where Palestinian citizens of Israel may live are rife. This is an enormous subject. For Land laws and distribution of land see http://www.geog.bgu.ac.il/members/yiftachel/new_papers
_eng/Kedar%20and%20Yiftachel.pdf pp 137 ff.
As for discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel, it widely exists. See, for instance,
Even former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said in 2008 that not only did discrimination exist in the public service sector, but also that it was deliberate. “Olmert: Discrimination against Arabs deliberate”
“Prime Minister Ehud Olmert painted a grim picture Wednesday in respect to discrimination against Arabs seeking public service jobs.”
“In a special parliamentary session on the matter, Olmert said: “It is terrible that there is not even one Arab employee at the Bank of Israel (out of 900 employees) and that in the Israel Electric Company Arabs constitute fewer than 1% of all workers.”
These above are but a few of the many areas in which inequality exists. But even they suffice to contradict Rabbi Goldstein’s opinion that “In the state of Israel all citizens . . . are equal before the law.
I, a Jew who grew up in the United States during years that racism against Jews existed, am sensitive to racism in Israel, just as I am sensitive to what Israel is doing also in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It distresses me that Jews can do to others that which they would not have done unto them.
The problem is the criterion of demography. No state that wishes to be ‘pure’—be it a pure Aryan state, or any pure religious, or ethnic, or racial state—cannot avoid not allowing equal rights to those who are not of the ‘pure’ primary social group. You, Maurice Ostroff, need but to open your eyes to realize how inaccurate you and Rabbi Goldstein are to claim that equal rights do exist here.
As for the Occupied Palestinian Territory (hereafter OPT), the means used in South African apartheid may be different from those used in the OPT, but that hardly signifies that separation and segregation do not exist.
You say that prior “to the outbreak of the second ‘Intifada’ . . . there was no need for checkpoints and the security barrier. Without delving into the historical aspects, let me stress that neither checkpoints nor the wall offer security.
Not only would a potential suicide bomber be an idiot to go through a checkpoint, where he/she is certain to be caught, but also thousands of Palestinians without permits enter Israel to work annually and those who are caught, are almost invariably caught in Israel. The Israeli media reports these events on occasion (e.g., Monday, January 04, 2010 Illegal Aliens: 46 illegal Palestinian aliens found
Border Guard forces discover Palestinians packed inside shipping container in terrible cold. Each had paid NIS 250 for ‘transport service’
Ynet Breaking News Wednesday, September 22, 2010
Ten Palestinians illegally in Israel caught near Netanya.
Police arrested ten Palestinians aged 15-17 who were illegally in Israel. They were caught in a private vehicle on Highway 57, near Netanya, after the driver stopped because of a roadblock and fled. (Raanan Ben-Zur) And so on.).
The Israeli excuse for checkpoints is violence. But the reason for checkpoints is separation—not only separation of Palestinian villages from Israel, but even more from one another. They are a means of breaking up the West Bank into pieces so that the contiguity necessary for a Palestinian state would not exist. They are therefore a means of insuring that a Palestinian state would not exist.
The function of the wall is to steal land and to help Israel urbanize the West Bank. Had the wall been intended for security, then it would have been built on the so-called green line, the 1949 Armistice line, internationally recognized. By urbanizing the West Bank, Israel creates a potentially dependent cheap labor force. Men who were farmers but have lost their land will need to find other ways to feed their families.
As justification for the checkpoints and wall, you state that “thousands of Israelis died in terror attacks.” In fact from September 29, 2000 (the outbreak of the 2nd Intifada) till today 1,084 Israelis have been killed by Palestinian violence, whereas at least 6,430 Palestinians have lost their lives to Israeli violence http://www.ifamericansknew.org/stats/deaths.html.
The only way of attaining security for all who live here in Israel and in the OPT and Gaza is not by force, not by separation, but by seeing that justice and right rule. So long as there is no justice for Palestinians, so long as Israel continues to colonize the West Bank, to steal land, and to blockade Gaza from the air, sea, and land there can be no security for Israelis and Palestinians alike.
The fact that Palestinians have in recent years turned primarily to non-violent means of resisting the colonization and occupation indicates that they have themselves realized that their use of violence was a tactical error. Still, there will always be those who will stray from the majority and turn to violence. But at present they are a minority. Israel by continuing the occupation is encouraging the growth of fundamentalism in the area, hardly desirable for Israelis and others.
You state statistics to show that prior to the Intifada the Palestinians were financially better off than they are now. However, Israel did not allow them to work in Israel for their benefit. Rather, Israel used them as cheap labor, and when that became inconvenient, it replaced them with cheap foreign labor. The industrial zones then and the ones planned now are not for the benefit of the Palestinians, but for the benefit of the Israeli owners who will again use Palestinians as cheap labor (see Sam Bahour “Economic Prison Zones” http://www.merip.org/mero/mero111910.html, and Who Profits http://www.whoprofits.org/Involvements.php?id=grp_inv_exploit)
You state that “Israel’s willingness and anxiety to make peace with its neighbors has been unequivocally been proved . . .” Without entering into an argument about what Barak offered or didn’t offer (e.g., the crux of the conflict, the ROR, was not even discussed at Camp David), and without noting that the colonies that Sharon vacated on the Gaza strip were built on Palestinian land to the disadvantage of the Palestinians, it surprises me that you neglect to mention the plan offered Israel by the Arab League (known also as the Arab Peace Initiative or the Saudi Arabian plan). In 2002 it offered Israel full recognition and normalization of relations with all the countries in the region in exchange for a return of Israel to the 1967 line and a just solution for the Palestinian Refugees (the offer did not demand that they return to their homes in Israel). Israel, instead of running with open arms to accept the plan, ignored it in 2002 and also ignored it when it was proffered again in 2007. Had Israel’s leaders been interested in peace they surely would have accepted this offer, But Israel’s leaders, rather than peace and security, prefer to have land and more land.
As for Hamas, it has made several overtures for peace (e.g., a long-term truce offer first made by Ahmed Yassin, who suggested a 20-year-long ceasefire, without recognizing Israel’s right to exist, in return for an Israeli withdrawal from lands captured in the 1967 Six-Day war), but these were also ignored by Israel.
Gaza and the West Bank are both parts of historic Palestine. Israel has separated the two, and has turned Gaza into an open-air prison. Had there been no Hamas, Israel would have had to invent it. Hamas serves Israel’s purposes wonderfully, as does the contention between Hamas and Fatah (divide and conquer).
Finally, with respect to Israel’s security, I repeat, security will come only after Israel agrees to justice for the Palestinians. So long as they have no justice or security, then no walls, no checkpoints, no ethnic cleansing will bring Israelis security. Since I want security for my children, grandchildren, and all future generations here, as well as security for Palestinians and their future generations, I can only hope that justice will soon reign.
Dear Mr. Ostroff, this letter is being widely distributed. I hope that you, too, will publish it. My readers will be very anxious to know your response.
From Maurice Ostroff
November 29, 2010
Dear Dorothy Naor
Thank you for taking the time and trouble to reply extensively to my open letter to Professors Boesak and Esack.
In response, let’s start with points of agreement. First of all I agree that we don’t see things through the same glasses.
Secondly I agree with your statement that you would probably not apply the term ‘apartheid’ to what happens in Israel although I would not include the word “probably”. Nevertheless I’m pleased that we agree on this issue,as it is the essence of Chief Rabbi Goldstein’s letter to Archbishop Tutu.
Having been an anti-apartheid activist in South Africa I state categorically (not probably), that there is absolutely no resemblance between the statutorily imposed apartheid in the old South Africa and the situation in Israel. Allegations that Israel is an apartheid state as alleged by Archbishop Tutu and against which Chief Rabbi Goldstein appealed, are either based on ignorance or are blatantly misleading false propaganda, best described as factoids, a word coined by Norman Mailer to describe a false statement that is widely accepted as true only because it is repeatedly quoted, especially in the media.
I did not and do not for one moment claim that Israel is free of faults. Like most democracies Israel is far from perfect. You evidently missed the portion of my letter in which I freely admitted that there are inequalities that must be corrected. I pointed out for example that although there are many very wealthy Arabs and Palestinians; very sadly we cannot deny that poverty does exist in the Arab sector as it does in some Jewish sectors as well. According to a BBC report some 50% of Israeli Arabs live in poverty, as do 60% of ultra-orthodox Jews, compared to 20% of all Israelis. I said his is an unacceptable situation that must be, and is, being corrected.
All I ask of you and other single-minded unrelenting harsh critics of Israel is a measure of even-handedness and balance. Please examine Israel’s faults in context and avoid the double standard of singling out every Israeli wart or perceived wart for public opprobrium by the international community while turning a blind eye to horrible violations of human rights around the world. I expect that when I offer comparisons with situations elsewhere you will respond correctly that sins by others don’t justify Israel’s sins. I add however, that while comparative studies don’t justify sins they are essential to understanding any sociological subject in the context of the real world.
Even in democratic Britain widespread racial discrimination exists. For example, according to an article by the Saudi historian Hatoon Al-Fassi, “..discrimination and sidelining of immigrant Muslims has been one of the main causes of creating a culture of extremism among Muslims in Britain..Adding to the anger about this discrimination in Britain was the increase in the unemployment rate among the Asian Muslims, and their difficult living conditions… as well as their seclusion in the so-called Muslim ghetto in certain cities such as Manchester, Bradford, Leeds, Nottingham, Birmingham, Luton, and other cities…”
And when it comes to unequal treatment of communities, the unfortunate situation in Israel, which must be corrected, is common in many democracies. For example on the 9th October 2010, London’s Spectator published a distressing expose under the title “Britain’s welfare ghettos”. Ed Howker wrote “Today we are releasing a brand new picture of the nation’s welfare ghettos. Our research gives a disheartening insight into the extent of dependency in England and Wales. The top line: things are getting worse”
.And in the USA this is what the Black People’s Advancement and Defense organization has to say about Hillsborough County and the city of Tampa.
“..the dishonest education, currently existing in Hillsborough County Schools, perpetuates the division, between Black people and White people. Furthermore, we believe Hillsborough County Schools Systems intentional refusal to allow Black people to become knowledgeable and experienced, in aspects of our culture, that not only enthuse us, but that profit other people, is the reason only barely a third of the Black children, in Hillsborough County Schools graduate with a diploma.. We demand an end to police containment, police brutality, excessive arrests, disproportionate sentencing and inequitable incarcerations, of Black people.. and the ongoing surveillance, of Tampas Black communities, by law enforcement, nearly always results in the unjust and unlawful harassment, arrest, criminalization, incarceration, torture and death, of Black people”
Referring to your statement that inequality in Israel begins with the Law of Return, I remind you that this law was passed in 1950 when the memory was still fresh of desperate Jews who had survived the horrors of concentration camps and sea journeys on small grossly overcrowded ships, being turned away from the shores of what was then Palestine. If Black Empowerment laws that give preferences to Blacks in the USA and South Africa to compensate for years of discrimination are applauded,why is this law not regarded in the same light?
I remind you too, that many countries have very similar laws. For example in Finland certain aliens, who have Finnish ancestry or a close connection with Finland, may be granted a residence permit. No other reason, such as work or study, is required in order to receive the permit. This includes persons who have at least one parent or grandparent who has been a native Finnish citizen.
German law allows persons of German descent living in Eastern Europe to claim German citizenship and Greece grants citizenship to people of ethnic Greek ancestry who are members of the Greek diaspora, including those whose ancestors have been resident in diaspora communities outside of Greece for centuries or millennia. Other countries with similar laws include Taiwan, the Czech Republic, Hungary, India, Ireland, Poland, Romania, Russia and Japan
I have no doubt that you would not categorize the above right of return laws in other countries as apartheid and I ask seriously why you raise it as an example of apartheid only in Israel.
You are mistaken in your statement that Israel ignores UN Resolution 194 on the return of Palestinian Refugees. Israel has not ignored this resolution; it interprets it differently from you as dealt with in more detail on my web site.
Article 11 of resolution 194 “resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible..”
Note that as the above text does not specifically refer to Palestinian refugees, an even-handed objective approach would interpret this to apply to all refugees involved in the conflict including the approximately 900,000 Jews who were forced to flee from their homes in Arab countries. In addition, the resolution refers to those refugees wishing to live at peace with their neighbors. From the belligerent statements voiced by opinion makers in the PA as well as Hamas, there is no intention to live at peace with Israeli neighbors.
And if one really wishes to try to understand the distressing problem of refugees I recommend the Time Magazine cover page article of July 5, 2010 under the title “Seeking refuge”. It refers to over 15 million people worldwide trapped in limbo and unwanted anywhere and it describes the efforts being made by host countries to absorb them with no mention of any right of return.
Contrary to your subjective outright blaming and condemnation of Israel for the tragedy of the Palestinian refugees it is educational to read the more objective view of the general manager of Al -Arabiya television, Abdul Rahman Al-Rashed as published in Asharq Apawsat. Here are extracts of what he wrote
“Our insistence to lock the Palestinians in camps and treat them like animals in the name of preserving the issue is far worse a crime than Israel stealing land and causing the displacement of people. The 60 year-old camps only signify our inhumanity and double standards. Israel can claim that it treats the Palestinians better than their Arab brothers do.
What is happening in Lebanon’s Nahr al Bared ..Tens of thousands of people crammed in undignified houses, where many of them were born and have lived for five decades. Some Arab countries “hosting” refugees ban them from leaving [camps], from occupying a large number of positions and deny them any other legal rights. Some of them have to jump over walls and sneak out to complete their chores or to breathe and experience the outside world”.
Click here for the complete article
You wrote “You, Maurice Ostroff, need but to open your eyes to realize how inaccurate you and Rabbi Goldstein are to claim that equal rights do exist here”.
Despite your condescending tone, (hardly conducive to constructive civil discourse), I nevertheless accept your well-intended advice to open my eyes but with eyes wide open I cannot accept your categorical statement that neither checkpoints nor the wall offer security. The data I have examined indicate that in fact the security barrier and checkpoints have indeed substantially improved security as confirmed by none other than the leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ramadan Abdallah Shalah.
Interviewed in Damascus by the Qatari newspaper Al-Sharq he said “..the enemy [i.e., Israel ] had found ways and means to protect itself from such attacks.. For example, they built a separation fence in the West Bank . We do not deny that it limits the ability of the resistance to arrive deep within [Israeli territory] to carry out suicide bombing attacks” (Al-Sharq, March 23, 2008 ).
The PIJ leader repeated his admission of the wall’s effectiveness when he told Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV that the terrorist organizations had no intention of abandoning suicide bombing attacks but that their timing and the possibility of carrying them out from the West Bank depended on other factors, for example. “there is the separation fence which is an obstacle to the resistance and if it were not there, the situation would be entirely different” (Al-Manar TV, November 11, 2006 ).
I don’t think you will be surprised that I consider The PIJ leader to be well informed about the effectiveness of Israel’s security measures.
As to the reason for the wall and check points, Dennis Ross, PhD, Distinguished Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, summed it up in an Aug. 4, 2003 Wall Street Journal commentary titled “When is a Fence not a Fence?” He wrote
“Truth be told, those responsible for the fence are Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the al Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades. Their terror produced the impulse for the fence. If violence were not a threat, the fence would not be necessary.”
Space limitations and the exigencies of time prevent me from addressing your many references to newspaper articles. Suffice it to say that an equal number of articles give an opposite point of view.
I am pleased that you didn’t attempt to deny my statistics showing that prior to the Intifada the Palestinians were financially better off than they are now. This is factual information. It is not important whether, as you claim Israel’s motive was profit; the facts remains that every aspect of Palestinian life was better and were improving before the intifada and that the hardships suffered by the Palestinians result from defensive necessity.
Admittedly, the cooperative industrial zones I described were planned in Israel’s self interest, in the strong belief that a strong Palestinian economy will contribute to peaceful coexistence. Why do you imply a sinister purpose?
I envy your faith in believing that Israel’s withdrawal from lands captured in 1967 will automatically convert our neighbors into peaceniks. If I could believe that, I would gladly join you in advocating such withdrawal. Unfortunately our experience in withdrawing from Gaza is not encouraging as mentioned in my letter to professors Boesak and Esack.
Your statement that Israel deliberately caused the rift between Hamas and Fatah and that had there been no Hamas, Israel would have had to invent it is far-fetched.
Article 27 of the Hamas Charter confirms that the dispute has nothing whatsoever to do with Israel. Rather it is based on religious intolerance
It states “..Secularism completely contradicts religious ideology. Attitudes, conduct and decisions stem from ideologies. That is why, with all our appreciation for The Palestinian Liberation Organization – and what it can develop into – and without belittling its role in the Arab-Israeli conflict, we are unable to exchange the present or future Islamic Palestine with the secular idea. The Islamic nature of Palestine is part of our religion and whoever takes his religion lightly is a loser.
The day The Palestinian Liberation Organization adopts Islam as its way of life, we will become its soldiers, and fuel for its fire that will burn the enemies”.
The question must be asked how peace can be achieved while Hamas is ruled from Damascus and its charter declares there is absolutely no room for peaceful negotiation and while article 13 of the Hamas Charter declares that initiatives, and so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences, are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement, that there is no solution for the Palestinian question except through Jihad and that initiatives, proposals and international conferences are all a waste of time and vain endeavors
I regret that you didn’t comment on the last paragraph of my letter to the two professors and I would very much appreciate learning your proposal for a peaceful settlement while taking Israel’s security concerns seriously, especially in view of the intense rocket attacks experienced from Gaza and the possibility of rocket firing groups being stationed in the West Bank opposite Ben Gurion airport.
In conclusion I respect your dedication as a concerned citizen to a cause that you believe is in the interests of our little country, but I ask you to consider seriously whether New Profile’s activities are in effect achieving the opposite. The threats we face are very real and your undermining of the army serves the interests of our real enemies.
Whether one is inclined to the political left right or center, there is every reason to take seriously threats by Nasrallah who has announced that Hezbollah now has more than 12,000 rockets or Iran’s Rafsanjani who called on the Muslim states to use nuclear weapons against Israel or Hamas interior minister Fathi Hammad who declared that Hamas is on its way to liberate Haifa and Acre together with other armies as reported by Khaled Abu Toameh in the Jerusalem Post on October 26.
As requested by you, this letter is being widely distributed and it is also addressed to your New Profile Group. I look forward to your response