Here’s part 2 of the 3-part questions from the floor finale to our debate between Joel Pollak and Doron Isaacs. Part 1 of the Q&A can be found here. If you haven’t read the full text of the debate you can find it by clicking on the blue button. The final 2 questions will be published on Friday.
Question 3 for Doron
|The Hamas charter calls for the killing of every Jewish man, woman and child on the face of the earth, do you blame the settlements and occupation for this?
I am obliged to point out that the Hamas Charter does not call for “the killing of every Jewish man, woman and child on the face of the earth”.
It speaks of the “struggle against Zionism” , of “defeating the enemies”, of eliminating Israel, and of raising “the banner of Allah over every inch of Palestine”.
Those of us – all of us – who distrust Hamas must do so on the basis of fact, not propaganda.
Now there can be no doubt that the Charter is not only xenophobic, sectarian, and racist, but also ill-conceived, inaccurate, retrograde, and intellectually vacuous. Its use of classic unhinged antisemitic conspiracy theory would be laughable if it wasn’t so vile. The “enemies” – presumably the Jews – have managed to “take over control of the world media”, “stir revolutions in various parts of the globe” including the “French and the Communist Revolutions”, establish and control the “Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, Lions Clubs, B’nai B’rith”, “take over control of the Imperialist states and made them colonize”, “established the League of Nations”, “stood behind World War II” and “inspired the establishment of the United Nations and the Security Council”. This has apparently “been laid out in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.”
It also contains this charming phrase from the Koran:
“The time will not come until Muslims will fight the Jews (and kill them); until the Jews hide behind rocks and trees, which will cry: O Muslim! there is a Jew hiding behind me, come on and kill him!” 
(Incidentally, I recently heard Prof Faried Esack, a member of the Human Rights Delegation, remark publicly on the contemptibility of that verse.)
For good measure the Charter claims that the Jewish “merchants of war” have been “behind the diffusion of drugs and toxics of all kinds”.
Do I blame the settlements and occupation for this bigotry? Of course not. I blame the bigots who wrote it.
Two additional points you might find interesting:
Firstly, it seems fairly possible, as explained in 1986 by the former military commander of the Gaza Strip, that at a time when Israel sought to undermine the secular PLO, it extended “financial aid to Islamic groups ... to create a force that would stand against the leftist forces which support the PLO”, i.e. that Israel assisted Hamas in the early days. Of course Israel didn’t anticipate the killing Hamas would carry out.
Secondly, although there can never be any excuse for Hamas’ violence and grotesque antisemitism, they are capable of holding genuine political grievances. When they say that the situation “destroys houses, renders children orphans and issues oppressive judgements against thousands of young people who spend the best years of their youth in the darkness of prisons” they are a little closer to the truth.
But they must learn. If they want to be supported as the victims of oppression, then they cannot preach oppression.
Question 3 for Joel
While I agree that human rights apply to all, it is - in my view - simply absurd to consider rights violations on both sides without seriously taking into account the fact of a belligerent occupation (referred to as such by the Israeli High Court of Justice). Do you agree? If so, what impact does the fact of the occupation - one side being an occupier and the other the occupied - have on considerations of human rights violations?
- Jonathan Berger
You seem to misunderstand the term “belligerent occupation.” In international law, it does not describe the character of the occupation itself, but the manner in which the occupation came about—i.e. in a military conflict. In fact, the law of belligerent occupation allows the occupying power to do certain things that would ordinarily be forbidden in peacetime—such as evacuating civilian populations for “imperative military reasons” (see Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention).
For many years, the Israeli government refused to apply the Fourth Geneva Convention (which covers “belligerent occupation”) to the territories, partly because they did not belong to a legitimate sovereign power when they were captured by Israel. But Israeli courts have long applied the Convention to the occupied territories as customary international law, and have gone even further than the text of the Convention itself in establishing both the duties of and restrictions upon the Israeli occupying power. Israel has also taken the extraordinary step of giving Palestinians the right to petition the High Court of Justice directly, which is unprecedented. All this is not to say the occupation is a rosy affair, but to the extent that your use of the term “belligerent” is pejorative and not merely legal, it is inappropriate, at least given the legal nature of your question.
As far as human rights are concerned, Israelis and Palestinians have the same, equal human rights with or without an occupation. Some rights are inviolable, such as the right to life. And some are subject to “balancing” against security needs, in accordance with standards recognized by international law, such as the proportionality doctrine. Your view of Israel’s human rights performance is likely to be dictated by whether you believe Israel’s restrictions of certain Palestinian rights (such as the constraints imposed by the security barrier, for example) are proportional to the danger of terrorist attacks against Israeli civilians, or not.
One thing is certain: the fact that the Palestinians are on the losing side of this conflict does not excuse them from obeying the same human rights norms and doctrines as the Israelis.
Question 4 for Doron
I would like Doron to flesh out his powerful point about Israel not having adequate incentives to end the occupation and make peace with the Palestinians.
He argues that moral pressure, which organisations like the SAHRD and their tour put on Israel, is his way of trying to change this situation.
In a similar vein, he lobbied for Nadine Gordimer to boycott the international writer’s festival held in Israel earlier this year. But what if cultural and moral pressure do not bring peace? Say in 1 year or 2 years from now there is still not agreement? Would Doron support financial and diplomatic sanctions against Israel? In fact given his logic, I can’t understand why he does not call for such measures now. Surely serious economic pain and travel restrictions would be a very useful tool for allowing Israelis to internalise the cost of the occupation.
So my question is, does Doron support financial and political sanctions against Israel and if not why not?
I will explain the rationale for overt moral pressure, and then answer your question directly.
There are 191,000 settlers in East Jerusalem, plus 276,100 in the rest of the West Bank, totalling 467,100. Of these, approximately 65,440 live East of – beyond – the Separation Barrier. Whichever number you pick, it’s a lot more than the 8,195 removed, traumatically, from Gaza.
Currently, attempts to remove settlers from a single house in Hebron, for which the High Court has issued an evacuation order, are being met with threats of unprecedented resistance from settler leaders and accusations by Rabbis that the State of Israel is an enemy of the people.
Within a broken political system the High Court is repeatedly petitioned for relief. Some, like Joel, put much store in it, but its reliability and reach are limited, and its rulings so routinely evaded in the West Bank that a mainstream journalist like Ofer Shelach is now calling the Court a “fig leaf” and Hebron “a place with no law”.
The possibility, even prospect, of violence between army and settler – between Jew and Jew – should give us all pause. It is foremost in the minds of Israel’s leaders, and it makes them less likely to pursue, let alone succeed in, a serious peace process. Shimon Peres recently told the British Parliament that withdrawal may lead to civil war. Ehud Barak warned of the danger of another assassination. But there is no two state solution without significant withdrawals. Olmert, free from the danger of having to actually do something, is now speaking this truth:
“We were wrong; we did not see the big picture...
“It will not work. It is already not working. It claimed a price from us which we do not have the moral strength to bear - and it will claim even heavier costs - which will unravel the fragile bonds which still preserve the social solidarity of Israeli society..
“This truth, unfortunately, will obligate us to rip away many portions of the homeland - in Judea, Samaria (the West Bank), Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.”
As I said in the first salvo of this debate: even if all violence stops, which it must, the settlements are the structural barrier to peace. Despite the risks counted above, I think the settlers are relatively weak, and believe that the State of Israel wields enough rule of law, and has enough internal coherence, to affect withdrawal. But it will not happen on its own. It must be incentivised. This means supporting those who act and pressuring those who do not.
So I support various forms of non-violent political pressure. I think it is crucial to show that suicide-bombing will get Palestinians nowhere, but that peaceful political organising can yield results.
If an inclusive human-rights based campaign emerged to impose targeted economic sanctions on Israeli goods and services produced in the West Bank, I would support it.
Question 4 for Joel
If Jews - especially those who settled on the West Bank in violation of international law - are to be offered full citizenship of an independent Palestine, should all Palestinian refugees not be entitled to return to Israel? If not, why not?
- Jonathan Berger
No. First of all, the definition of a Palestinian refugee is absurdly broad. After the 1948 war, the UN applied a peculiar definition to Palestinian refugees—never used for any other group before or since—according to which anyone who had been resident in Palestine for two years prior to the war was eligible for refugee status. The descendants of these persons (and their descendants, too) are also considered refugees, according to this peculiar UN provision. Thus the number of Palestinian refugees has ballooned beyond several hundred thousand to the several millions.
An unrestricted right of return would completely overwhelm Israel and end its existence as a Jewish state. Israel could and should absorb some number of deserving refugees (perhaps those who can prove they were expelled from their homes by Israeli forces in 1947-48), but it should not be expected to commit political suicide.
Your question establishes a false equivalence between granting full citizenship to Jews as a minority in Palestine on the one hand, and granting Arabs majority status in Israel on the other. The former would be a reciprocal gesture, based on the fact that Arabs in Israel are full and equal citizens. The latter is simply the expression of Palestinian maximalist demands and cannot be taken seriously.
Question 5 for Doron
"I support one tactic, moral pressure, focused on the Occupation, never the state’s existence. The Human Rights Delegation was an instance of this." How does the "moral pressure' exerted by The SAHRD differ from the "moral pressure" exerted by Ronnie Kasrils?"
- Anthony Posner
I know little about Ronnie Kasrils’ politics – I’m sure you know more than me. But I do know two things. He has a background as a member of MK, the liberation army of the ANC, and as a Jew. I can contrast the Delegation’s engagement with these traditions.
On the evening of Tuesday 8 July, in Budrus, a Palestinian village badly affected by the Separation Barrier, Barbara Hogan, Nozizwe-Madlala Routledge and Janet Love told their personal and political histories to an audience of Arab and Israeli activists. Love was an MK soldier, enrolled in Angola a few short years after matriculating from King David Linksfield. She later re-entered South Africa illegally and set up the ANC’s covert communication network under direction from Mac Maharaj. Hogan, the first white woman to be tried for high treason, was in the ANC underground before spending her nine years in prison. She was tortured repeatedly. Madlala-Routledge, an ANC activist in the Natal region, spent more than a year in solitary confinement. These three women are today Director of the Legal Resources Centre, Minister of Health, and Deputy Speaker of Parliament, respectively. That night in the West Bank, all three stressed that the armed struggle was not a significant force in South Africa’s liberation and cautioned against the use of violence in politics.
In terms of Jewish identity, people like me, Nathan Geffen, Dennis Davis, Jonny Copelyn and others are not merely “of Jewish decent”. We are actively involved in the Jewish community. We do not see ourselves as external critics of the Jewish community, but rather as concerned citizens of that community. We recognise that it is important that the Jewish community be convinced rather than reprimanded. That doesn’t appear to have been Kasrils’ attitude.
Kasrils – as brave as his role in the struggle was – has some hypocrisy hurdles. He was Deputy Minister of Defense during South Africa’s corrupt and obscene arms deal. He was a loyal member of Mbeki’s cabinet, keeping silent during the AIDS and Zimbabwe catastrophes, and the abuse of state apparatus for party-political purposes. None of this disqualifies him from a legitimate perspective on Israel, but it does reduce the moral influence he wields.
Question 5 for Joel
i. Would you agree that the policy of separation on the West Bank as evidenced by the five examples below is a violation of Palestinian civil rights?
a) Palestinians cannot travel on route 443, nor many other roads in the West Bank.
b) The separation barrier cuts deep into the West Bank, often hugging against Palestinian villages so as to make land available for settlement expansion.
c) The movement of Hebron Palestinians is severely curtailed. They cannot access the city's main road nor can those living on this road exit their front doors etc.
d) Palestinians and Israelis living on the West Bank are subject to separate legal systems.
e)A complex permit system operates restricting Palestinian movement to many places including religious sites in the Old City of Jerusalem as well as to their agricultural lands.
ii. If so, what do you suggest be done to change Israeli policy with respect to the above? (Nathan Geffen)
ia. Probably not. Most of these travel restrictions did not exist prior to the second intifada. The question is whether all of them are in fact justified by military necessity. I cannot be certain of this (can anyone?), but Israel’s courts have certainly been diligent in scrutinizing these developments and have ordered changes where necessary. Israel’s High Court of Justice has also imposed an additional standard: namely, that changes to the occupied territory be for the benefit of the occupied population. This is a more difficult test to meet, and one that the Israeli road network very likely fails in some respects, but again the courts have been responsive to meritorious challenges brought by Palestinians and by Israeli human rights groups. The fact is that these restrictions would disappear absent the threat of Palestinian terror.
b. No. Your description of the security barrier is inaccurate. It is meant as a defensive measure, not a land grab. Furthermore, the barrier has been closely monitored by the High Court of Justice, which has ruled that the route is to be strictly dictated by security concerns. There are many settlements that now find themselves on the “wrong” side of the barrier; if anything, the barrier has sent a signal that the ambitions some settlers may have harbored for a “Greater Israel” have been definitively ended.
c. Probably not. You do not specify which part of Hebron you mean. Eighty percent of Hebron falls under Palestinian control, according to the 1997 agreement with Israel. There are no such Israeli restrictions there. Perhaps you are referring to the remainder of Hebron that is under Israeli control, and which includes both Jews and Arabs. Movement along the main commercial road in that area was basically free until a deadly Palestinian suicide bombing in 2003. In response to that episode, and continued inter-communal violence, the Israeli military shut down that road. It has also repeatedly removed Jewish settlers who have tried to occupy abandoned Palestinian shops and homes along the road. One can perhaps argue that the Israeli military has been harsher towards Arab residents than to Jews in this area. Perhaps that is a violation of Palestinian civil rights. But since your question is not specific enough, I cannot be sure exactly what you mean.
d. No. Palestinians and Israelis on the West Bank ought to be subject to different legal systems. That is what makes an occupation different from an annexation. Israel is required to respect the pre-existing laws of the territory, which was administered for nearly two decades (though not, perhaps, legally) by Jordan. Palestinians in the West Bank are not citizens of Israel (and in the case of East Jerusalem, many consciously refused Israeli citizenship when it was offered to them after 1967). The fact that Palestinians have different laws is also the necessary outcome of the Oslo peace process, which established the Palestinian Authority. The PA has legislative powers of its own, and Israel ought to respect these as far as possible in preparation for the emergence of a sovereign Palestinian state. Despite these two different legal systems, Palestinians are still granted the right to petition the Israeli courts, which may blur the legal distinctions but is beneficial overall in terms of the protections provided to Palestinian rights. Your question seems to imply that Israel imposed separate legal systems on Jews and Arabs, but that is simply not the case. Separate legal systems existed before the occupation, and will exist afterwards as well. There are difficulties that Palestinians face in that the ordinary criminal courts in the West Bank have been Israeli military courts, but the right to petition the Israeli High Court of Justice goes some way toward restoring a balance.
e. Probably not, as long as the permits and restrictions are not arbitrary but required by legitimate security concerns. One can expect visas and permits to persist—in a more formalized, bilateral manner—once an international boundary exists between Israel and Palestine as two sovereign states.
ii – The answer to all of these problems is the same. End Palestinian terror, negotiate a lasting peace, and build a sovereign Palestinian state alongside Israel.
Click continue reading to view notes.
Hamas Charter ‘Article XIV’; Copies of the Charter available at http://www.palestinecenter.org/cpap/documents/charter.html and http://www.mideastweb.org/hamas.htm.
 Hamas Charter ‘Introduction’.
Hamas Charter ‘Preamble’.
 Hamas Charter ‘Article VI’.
 Hamas Charter ‘Article XXII’.
 Hamas Charter ‘Article XXXII’.
 Hamas Charter ‘Article VII’ quoting Bukhari and Muslim.
 Hamas Charter ‘Article XXXII’.
 Hamas Charter ‘Article XXVIII’.
 Graham Usher ‘The Rise of Political Islam in the Occupied Territories’ Middle East International (London) No 453, June 1993, p 19; See also Ze’ev Schiff and Ehud Ya’ari Intifadah (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1991) pp 233 – 234.
 Hamas Charter ‘Article XX’.
 Israel Central Bureau of Statistics ‘Localities and Population, by District, Sub-District, Religion and Population Group’ from ‘Statistical Abstract of Israel’ (2008 No. 59, Table 2.7); See also B’Tselem ‘Population by year in West Bank settlements’ at http://www.btselem.org/English/Settlements/Settlement_population.xls.
 ‘Population Growth East and West of the Barrier’ Foundation for Middle East Peace at http://www.fmep.org/settlement_info/settlement-info-and-tables/stats-data/population-growth-east-and-west-of-the-barrier; Although housing a minority of the settlers, these are the majority of settlements.
 ‘Settler leader: Hebron evacuation will be met with force greater than Amona’ Haaretz at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1040507.html.
 Nadav Shragai ‘Settler rabbi: The State of Israel is an enemy of the people’ Haaretz at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1038565.html.
 Ofer Shelach NRG http://www.nrg.co.il/online/1/ART1/812/857.html.
 Anshel Pfeffer ‘Peres warns evacuation of settlers may lead to civil war’ Haaretz at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1038961.html
 ‘Barak warns against another political assassination’ Ynet.com at http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3620609,00.html.
 Shahar Ilan ‘Olmert speech urging settlers to prepare for withdrawal sparks outrage’Haaretz at http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1036083.html; See full speech at http://184.108.40.206/search?q=cache:8mhq-TIdFkoJ:www.geneva-accord.org/SIP_STORAGE/FILES/3/1283.doc+%22It+will+not+work.+It+is+already+not+working%22+olmert&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=2&gl=za; see also Ehud Olmert ‘The Time Has Come’ New York Review of Books (Volume 55, Number 19 • December 4, 2008) at http://www.nybooks.com/articles/22112.