“Inconvenient Truths the Anti-Zionists Don’t Want People to Know” was the subject of a talk given by Israel activist Dr. Alan Stein on June 21 at Temple Israel of Natick. Stein’s goal is to reclaim the narrative, terminology and truth about the Middle East from the mire of lies and anti-Semitism into which Middle East discourse has fallen. To explain why so many misperceptions about Israel are widely believed, Stein quoted Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s propaganda minister, “A huge lie repeated often enough is accepted as truth.” Stein’s response, “Unanswered media bias and misinformation repeated often enough are accepted as truth.”
Stein is founder of PRIMER-Massachusetts (Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting) and PRIMER-Israel. PRIMER volunteers monitor and respond to newspaper articles, editorials and letters which are biased against Israel. In 2015 Stein was honored as Letter Writer of the Year by the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).
Stein’s talk covered a range of misconceptions about Israel. “The so-called ‘1967 borders,’” he pointed out, “are actually temporary armistice lines from the end of Israel’s War of Independence in 1949.” At that time, through U.N. mediation, Israel concluded armistice agreements with Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Lebanon. All parties agreed that the agreements would serve as interim arrangements until replaced by permanent peace treaties. Since then, the Arab nations have refused all attempts at negotiating peace treaties. “United Nations resolutions 242 and 334,” Stein added, “call for secure and recognized borders. It was never considered that Israel would relinquish all of the land acquired in the War of Independence.”
While the media would have people believe that Israel has swallowed up huge areas of land, said Stein, “The whole of Israel today, including the disputed territories, constitutes less than a quarter of the area of the British Mandate.” The mandate system was instituted by the League of Nations in the early 20th century to administer territories which were not yet self-governing. In 1922 the League entrusted Great Britain with the Mandate for Palestine (as the area was called before the State of Israel was founded) granting political sovereignty to the Jewish people, recognizing the “historical connection of the Jewish people with Palestine.”
Stein also dealt with the false narrative that Jews have no ties to Israel. He pointed out that the Jewish people have maintained ties to their homeland for 3,700 years. The Israeli claim to the land harks back to biblical times as well as the Jews’ continuous inhabiting and development of the land throughout the centuries.
As for Jerusalem, Stein affirmed, “Its status as the capital of Israel is United States law,” referring to the Jerusalem Embassy Restoration Act of 1995. Passed by an overwhelming margin in the U.S. House and Senate, the Act affirms that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel and refers to congressional resolutions calling for the city to remain undivided. The Act mandates that the U.S. Embassy be moved to Jerusalem no later than May 31, 1999. Since that time presidential waivers have postponed the move.
Countering accusations that Israelis are racists and oppressors, Stein pointed out that Israeli Arabs, who comprise about one quarter of the population, have equal rights in Israel, “even though some are loyal to Israel’s enemies.” They have more rights, especially in the case of women and gays, than in areas ruled by the PLO, Hamas and Fatah, as well as other Arab nations. In Israel, he noted, “Arabs are doctors, lawyers and police. One served as acting president, another as a Supreme Court justice. And while Jews must serve in the Israeli armed forces, this is optional for Israeli Arabs.” Israeli Arabs also control their own religious lives, supported by the Israeli government.
Stein went on to discuss how Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestine National Authority and chairman of the PLO, is repeatedly referred to as a “moderate.” “Abbas,” said Stein, “is in the 13th year of his four-year term. He has no inclination to make peace with Israel. He promises terrorists that ‘All blood spilled is pure blood for Allah.’ The PLO charter still calls for the destruction of Israel.”
“Why are his statements not publicized?” asked Stein. “Palestinian Arabs are more interested in having no Jewish state than in having a state of their own.” In fact, he added, “The PLO was established to destroy Israel, not to establish a Palestinian state. Abbas is called a moderate but he makes the same demands made by Yasser Arafat. He’s always referred to as moderate while Netanyahu is always called ‘right wing,’ meaning radical right wing. Other leaders are not referred to in that way.”
Another term Stein discussed was “illegal occupation and settlements.” “The ‘occupied territories’ are actually disputed territories. As for expanding settlements, no new ones have been built in a quarter century until the recent building for families evicted from Amona.” The Amona outpost was declared illegal by the Israeli High Court and razed earlier this year. “All building that has taken place,” added Stein, “is on lands that would remain in Israel under any peace agreement.”
“Why have the Palestinians gotten so much attention?” asked Stein. “Because they are the most successful at terrorism and because their target is the only Jewish state. In other words, anti-Semitism. If the world had paid attention to terrorism against Israel, it might have been more prepared for present-day terror. Every very terror tactic used now in Europe and elsewhere was first used against Israel. But the world didn’t care.”
Stein gave examples of biased headlines, such as those that appeared after the recent murder of a young female soldier in Israel. “’Three Palestinians die after terror attack,’” Stein quoted. “The equivalent after 9/11 would have been ‘19 Arabs die in plane crashes.’”
“I rarely read anything in the press about the Middle East that is not tainted by false information. We have the ability and the obligation to promote the story of Israel,” said Stein. “Israel’s supporters have a big advantage. We don’t have to lie.” He encouraged Israel supporters to “write letters, post on Facebook, Twitter, whatever venue you find comfortable. Get on the mailing lists for CAMERA, Honest Reporting and PRIMER. Call or write your senators and congressional representatives. Catherine Clark of the 5th Massachusetts district calls Jerusalem occupied territory. We have to educate people like Clark.”
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