Herewith is Doron Isaacs' second instalment in our Crossing Swords debate about the recent SA Human Right Delegation (SAHRD) to Israel. Last week Joel Pollak penned his first entry. To read the opening of this debate and the brief author biographies, follow this link: Crossing Swords, Part one.
This link will always display all entries (without comments) in chronological order: full text of Crossing Swords debate
Part 3 - Doron Isaacs instalment 2
Thanks, I also commend you for participating in this debate. Some think that views like mine can be ignored or silenced; a proposition that is naïve, undemocratic, and bad for communal life. Those who debate with me, even harshly, open up a discussion that is essential. All that I have objected to are physical threats and untruths.
You repeat criticisms I’ve already answered. We did not “begin and end with Israeli violations against Palestinians". As explained in my previous post, we spent time dealing with the gravest of Palestinian violations against Israelis, terrorist attacks. We also met with Israel victims of such attacks. Your implication that we dismiss the separation barrier out of hand is directly contradicted by my previous post. Using the Gaza disengagement as evidence that settlements don’t drive the occupation is undercut by what is now understood to have been the tactical sacrifice of Gaza for the larger prize of the West Bank, as confirmed in the Dov Weisglass interview.
Your other criticism is that we didn’t address Palestinian violations against Palestinians, and I accept that. Important, yes, but the idea that this omission means we somehow missed the boat is silly. In the West Bank, less than 8% of Palestinian deaths have been caused by other Palestinians, a not insignificant amount, but clearly a small minority. We also did not deal with the serious discrimination against Israeli Arabs, evidenced by separation barriers built between Jewish and Arab communities within Israel. As ACRI has reported: “For many years, the Arab population in Israel has suffered from deprivation and discrimination in the distribution of public resources in all areas of life." This is not to mention refugees, asylum seekers and Bedouins. There is violation of Jewish Israeli human rights by Israel that we didn’t deal with either, like infringement of the right to health. Within Israel, the number of hospital beds per 1,000 persons reached 1.94 in 2007 – the lowest figure in the developed world. Violation of the right to privacy, through wiretapping, has increased dramatically. All of the above must be seen against the backdrop of the Occupation, which drains resources and undermines democracy.
You make a historical claim about 1967 that warrants discussion. Indeed, after Israel attacked Egypt, Jordan did attack Israel first, and must be apportioned serious blame, but the opening of the IDF archives is producing a new literature about the six-day war, and has made clear that the Generals intended conquering the West Bank anyway. There was, according to Tom Segev, "no existential danger to the state", and "no justification for the panic that preceded the war, nor for the euphoria that took hold after it".
We disagree on whether settlements drive the Occupation, but not on whether they constitute an impediment to its resolution. Any Israeli Prime Minister serious about peace must confront this, and he or she will do so at enormous political and personal risk. Coalitions are fragile, serious confrontation between segments of Jewish Israeli society is not unthinkable, and assassination has its precedent. One must recognise and be sympathetic to these things. What will nevertheless prompt this brave and crucial leadership? Yes, a bona fide partner; but more is needed. The economy, tourism and diplomatic relations remain strong despite the Occupation. International approval and a clean conscience – being the only short-term incentives – do not stack up against the risks, and thus there is an interest in maintaining the status quo. I support one tactic, moral pressure, focused on the Occupation, never the state’s existence. The Human Rights Delegation was an instance of this.
 Most killing of Palestinians, whether by the IDF, or by Palestinians themselves, has occurred in Gaza, which we didn’t visit. Of all the 5464 Palestinians killed in conflict-related violence between October 2000 and September 2008, 4823 were killed by Israeli security forces (2970 in Gaza, 1784 in the WB and 69 in Israel), 57 were killed by Israeli civilians and 593 were killed by Palestinians (458 in Gaza and 135 in the WB). (Excluded from these figures are Palestinians who died after medical treatment was delayed due to restrictions of movement, and Palestinians killed by an explosive device that they set or was on their person.) During the same period 1061 Israelis were killed (726 civilians and 335 military). Statistics at http://www.btselem.org/English/Statistics/Casualties.asp.
 Yael Padan and Shuli Hartman, "Fences, Walls and Environmental Justice" Bimkom – Planners for Planning Rights http://www.bimkom.org/dynContent/articles/walls,%20fences,%20justice.pdf.
 ‘The State of Human Rights in Israel and the Occupied Territories – 2007 Report’ The Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) at 17, http://www.acri.org.il/pdf/state2007.pdf.
 Ibid at 5.
 Ibid at 54.
 Tom Segev 1967 (New York: Metropolitan, 2007) at 300.
 Ibid at 337.
 Ibid at 16
The story so far
|Doron Isaacs works as the Coordinator of Equal Education, a community-based civil society formation working for educational quality and equality in South African schools. He has degrees from the University of Cape Town in business and law. In 2003 he was Secretary General of Habonim-Dror Southern Africa. Thereafter he became active in student politics on issues including HIV-AIDS, judicial independence and Israel-Palestine. While studying law Doron provided legal support to the Treatment Action Campaign. He established the Student Society for Law & Social Justice in 2007 which now has branches in most law faculties in South Africa. Doron was a co-organisers of the SA Human Rights Delegation to Israel & the Occupied Palestinian Territories in July 2008. He has family and friends in Israel and visits regularly.||Joel Pollak is the author of the forthcoming book "The Kasrils Affair: Jews and Minority Politics in Post-Apartheid South Africa”. He is a former speechwriter for Tony Leon of the Democratic Alliance, the official opposition in South Africa. He is currently studying international human rights law at the Harvard Law School where he is chairperson of the Alliance for Israel. In 2007 Joel spent his summer volunteering at the Association for Human Rights in Israel. During his time in South Africa, he received a Master of Arts with Distinction in Jewish Studies from the University of Cape Town. Whilst studying in Cape Town Joel was involved in many interfaith activities aimed at encouraging dialogue between Muslims, Christians and Jews about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He blogs at the popular Guide to the Perplexed.|