GUEST COLUMNIST: Israel: Another perspective

Dr. Michael Levitan

Stephen Walt’s talk on April 10 prompted me to write this column. Before I give you my reaction to his talk, let me give you some facts concerning Arabs and Israel.

There are about 1.45 million Arabs in Israel – about 20 percent of the Israeli population. These Arabs are citizens and have the same rights as Jewish Israelis. Israel is a real democracy with freely held elections. Israeli Arabs vote in these elections, hold elective office and Arabs make up about 10 percent of the current Israeli Parliament.

The Druze is an Arab community that willingly serves in the IDF. The Israeli government is so respectful of the Druze that it established an independent Druze Court system, following their request.

Now for some historical perspective. Israel was created by the United Nations in November of 1947. It resulted from a partition of a region into two states, one Arab and one Jewish. Israel was almost immediately attacked by Arabs and eventually by the armies of surrounding Arab countries. These countries said that they would not abide by the U.N. resolution creating Israel.

Following the Arabs loss to the Israelis, refugee camps were set up for the Palestinians who chose to leave what was now Israel. These camps have been in existence for 60 years. Neither Egypt nor Jordan will accept these Arab refugees to be integrated into their society.

Gaza is one area where there are Palestinian refugee camps. It borders Egypt. To give you an understanding of size, Israel is slightly smaller than New Jersey. Egypt is more than one-and-a-half times the size of Texas. Gaza is about twice the size of Washington DC. The Egyptians built a wall at the border between Gaza and Egypt.

What was it about Walt’s talk that got me going? Perhaps surprisingly, I agreed with many of the things he said. But there was the yin and yang. Between those sentences with which I agreed, he’d slip absurd statements that I felt were off the wall.

For example, he said that if Israel were attacked, then the United States should be there to support it. However, he also said that if Israel only pulled back to its borders, then there would be peace in the area.

I asked him how he could say that since Israel had pulled back from Gaza and now the Palestinians in Gaza are constantly shelling Israel with rockets. His response was that of a true politician who gives an unintelligible answer when he has no answer to give. In his presentation, Walt condemned Israel for unilaterally pulling out of Gaza. How dare they act on their own when nobody from Gaza wanted to negotiate with them?

Consider the Hamas Charter. Guess what it’s like to negotiate with these dudes? Don’t tell anybody, but they don’t take too kindly to Christians either. Here are some quotes, but check it out for yourself.

From Article 7: “The prophet, prayer and peace be upon him, said: 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! This will not apply to the Gharqad, which is a Jewish tree (cited by Bukhari and Muslim).”

From Article 13: “Since when did the Unbelievers do justice to the Believers? “And the Jews will not be pleased with thee, nor will the Christians, till thou follow their creed. Say: Lo! the guidance of Allah [himself] is the Guidance.”

Needless to say, Walt is a bright man. Yet according to him, we all “know” that oil had nothing to do with the United States attacking Iraq. (If you believe that, I’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn for sale.) Although the Israeli lobby can be bought and sold for the money and power of the oil and Saudi lobbies, Walt denies the power of those two groups.

Before the Intifada, Palestinian Arabs used to work in Israel all the time. Friendships developed and flourished. However, once Palestinians started to blow up buses with bombs, for some reason, things changed. Imagine that you’re in high school; someone walks into the room next door and fires an AK-47 rifle for several minutes … eight students are killed, and then the Palestinians celebrate, as they did following the awful events of 9/11. It happened on March 7.

Just remember, you’re in an academic environment to challenge ideas and seek the “truth” for yourself. Check the meaning of veritas. It’s a great word for a Villanovan.


Dr. Levitan is an associate professor in the department of mathematical sciences. He can be reached at [email protected].