Stance typical of anti-Israel activists

Dervla Murphy’s call for a boycott of Israel is one-sided and shows a misunderstanding of the facts, writes Boaz Modai

DERVLA Murphy is a well-respected writer whose books are read almost as widely as the countries in which she has travelled.

It is all the more disappointing, then, that in her open letter to President Higgins (Feb 9, 2012) calling on him to boycott Israel, she should abandon the dispassionate approach of the travel writer for the openly partisan championing of one side of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, vilifying the nation state of the Jewish people and the only liberal democracy in its region.

There are strong grounds for believing that the photo accompanying the article (which did not originate with Ms Murphy) is a staged piece of propaganda. Neither the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights nor the Palestinian Ma’an News Agency reported the alleged incident, nor did any English-language media outlet cover it, and nobody witnessed it despite the crowd present.

There are many inconsistencies and puzzling aspects in the series of photos of which this was one, as well as in the statements given by the alleged victim and the hospital where he was treated.

Ms Murphy’s argument that Palestinian Arabs alone are ‘native’ to the land of Israel shows her total misunderstanding of the facts and the history. It is spurious and ahistorical to say that Jews are not native to the land of Israel, but this is typical of the propaganda, or ignorance, of anti-Israel activists who portray the region as exclusively Arabic until post-Holocaust Jews came off the boat.

It is an undeniable truth that Jews have been native to the land of Israel for thousands of years. The Jewish population fluctuated over time but it was always a constant. My own family, for example, have lived in Jerusalem since 1810. Jerusalem was majority Jewish once again in the 19th century — long before even the European Zionist migration to the region. Hebron, in the West Bank, has had a Jewish population for 3,000 years.

She also repeats the old canard that Israel is an ‘Apartheid’ state, as if there is the remotest connection between Israel and the former South Africa. Israel’s population is one-fifth Arab, who enjoy freedom and legal rights unheard of anywhere else in the Arab World. Israeli Arabs serve in the army, the police, the legal system (including an Arab judge in the Supreme Court), the Knesset, the civil service and government.

She is also disingenuous about the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) campaign waged around the world against Israel, portraying it as a noble, heroic exercise by selfless, disinterested individuals. In fact, BDS is wrong on so many levels.

Firstly, by trying to disrupt trade between Israel and other countries, it threatens jobs, including here in Ireland which has a healthy and large export trade to Israel. No wonder, then, that Ireland, and all other EU countries, oppose any boycott, and rightly so.

Secondly, BDS activists are often militants and fanatics who harass shopkeepers, businessmen, politicians and members of the cultural community, sometimes in a threatening way to make their point.

Thirdly, what is often labelled ‘Israeli produce’ is actually fruit produced by Palestinian farmers in the West Bank. Therefore, BDS actually hurts the livelihood of the very people it purports to be in solidarity with.

Her assertion that harmless Israeli cultural events are ‘propaganda’ by the Israeli state betrays a serious paranoia. The Israeli Film Days event in Dublin a few months ago featured Israeli comedies, drama and dancing troupes including an Israeli who is expert in Irish dancing. How anyone even half-rational can see such things as dangerous is beyond me. The fact that Tánaiste Eamon Gilmore, Justice Minister Alan Shatter, and many ambassadors participated in the gala evening just proves my point.

Her claim that the best solution to the Israeli-Palestinian issue is a binational state is typical of the anti-Israel movement. It shows that these people deep down are not opposed to what Israel does (that is merely an excuse for their hatred), but rather their opposition is really about what Israel is — a state for the Jewish people.

A binational state incorporating Israel, the West Bank and Gaza would quickly lead to Jews becoming a minority — the end result being the destruction of their state and either their submission to Arab Islamic tyranny or their expulsion from the land altogether — as Hamas still desires.

The only possible way there can be a fair, peaceful settlement between Israel and the Palestinians is a two-state solution, with Israel as the Jewish homeland and the West Bank and Gaza as a Palestinian state. Alas, it is up to the Palestinians to agree amongst themselves that peace and negotiations are the only way forward and to come to the peace table for talks without preconditions on either side. Israel is still waiting.

Lastly, one wonders at the lofty self-importance of someone appealing directly to President Michael D Higgins to not visit a particular country as Head of State. I would suggest that we all let Mr Higgins make his own decisions. He needs no advice from anyone, certainly not from a biased propagandist.

* Boaz Modai is ambassador of Israel.

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