# 139 – Criticism by Stephen Pohlmann - Ourboox.com
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# 139 – Criticism

Helping others to understand Israel - and Israelis to understand others...
  • Joined Sep 2016
  • Published Books 409

April 2, 2010

One of the responses I received to my last letter was from a good friend, who is academically very knowledgeable about the Middle East. That person (I don’t even want to hint whether male or female – this is not personal) has asked to be taken off the mailing list.


From their point of view, I am extremist. Wow….Are they right, I must think to myself? And I do think about it; perhaps more than most of the Letter recipients, because I am here in Israel. I care. I care about the country, the people here (all the people here) and I also care about the image abroad. This is why I write the Letter, because I feel – in my opinion – that many outsiders’ views of Israel are misguided, to say the least.


Does that make me extreme? Well, here is Israel, I am involved, concerned, but not extreme.

But the spectrum on the outside is so wide….If that person is right, if I am extreme, then God help the World, because there are so many far more extreme than I, and they are ready to express that extremism in the ugliest and most uncontrolled manner.


I believe I am flexible. I do try to see ‘the other’s point of view’. (I gained a lot of insight when meeting the Israeli Arab / Palestinian dentist a few months ago). I still believe there is a chance for peace – and I can imagine living in peace here.

So, what brought this on?


Paragraph # 1 from my friend:

“Centuries after the Muslims built the al-Aqsa mosque and even more centuries after the Romans destroyed the Temple, the civilized world agreed international law to say it’s illegal to build on occupied territories. The settlements in East Jerusalem are illegal. That seems straightforward to me”.


My quick comment:

‘Illegal to build on occupied territories’ is a very narrow statement. A narrow answer is that 1) the West Bank belonged to no one for most of history. I believe the first time it received international recognition was in 1947, when they voted for the State of Israel and a legal partition of the land.


The Arabs disagreed. Not only did they vote against the resolution, they did not accept the democratic decision and launched a war. The West Bank was then occupied….by Jordan, who did not cede the land to the other victims in this feud, the Palestinians. Same happened in Gaza, which was occupied by Egypt. So much for the Muslim Brotherhood.


The status quo was not acceptable to the Arabs, who wanted the whole of the area – in defiance of the UN resolution. Hence the 1967 war. Israel won. Many Israelis think that this was where Israel made the mistake – copying Jordan and Egypt and occupying those lands.


The fact that the Arabs would not listen to negotiations (Arab League meeting in Khartoum) should have been ignored, in my opinion. But, like many victors in history, we took advantage of the situation and started occupation – a moral and historical right, but a political mistake.

Summary – It is certainly not straightforward.


Paragraph # 2 from my friend:

“America subsidizes Israel to the tune of three billion dollars per year plus help with armaments. Israel insulted Biden, probably the best friend Israel has in the US administration”.



My quick comment:

I don’t have any problem with this statement. I agree basically. But this was a blip. Biden’s reaction – and that of Clinton (= the US administration) was, to use a well-worn phrase thrown at Israel so often, grossly disproportionate. The US has many times publically accepted the fact that Israel does NOT see Jerusalem as occupied territory.


For the first time in recent history, the city is united, it is open to all religions, and it’s what the Jews have been thriving for for thousands of years. Even when Sadat was in Jerusalem, he turned his back on the city and prayed towards Mecca….

The settlement freeze or moratorium concerned the West Bank, not Jerusalem.

Sorry, but we shall have to agree to disagree here.


PS – America’s subsidy of Israel is a lot, but one can see quite clearly what has been done with the money. A successful democratic country has been established – and you could hardly have a more predictable supporter for the US at the UN etc. A good investment.


Now check the enormous subsidies the US has been making to the Palestinians – and, in fact, to many of the Arab nations. Palestine is a sad political mess – and if you check the political support the US has been receiving from the Arab world, one can see that it has been a bad investment.

Definite over-reaction by Biden and friends.


Paragraph # 3 from my friend:

“The current Israeli government is a threat to the peace process. That seems straightforward to me.”


My quick comment:

All governments of Israel have worked for peace, whether left or right. The right-wing parties may scream and shout in their manifestos and in opposition. But when in government, they have proven to know that they have no choice. No one can tell me that Nobel Peace Prize winner, Menachem Begin, was a peacenik. But he was the one that signed the document with Sadat.


And everyone (at least in Israel) knows that there is more chance for peace when the Israeli opposition consists of the left wing, who will never oppose such moves.

Sorry, but this is also not straightforward.


Paragraph # 4 from my friend:

“And on passports: by stealing British passports, Israel put the safety of the passport holders at risk. That also seems straightforward to me!”




My quick comment:

I have difficulty commenting on this without being sarcastic. It is hypocrisy to imply that passport-forging is such a mind-boggling surprise. I can imagine that the only criticism from many governments (from all sides) is that the story came out.

My friend has of course the right to their opinion – to criticise. But such apparent naivety.

Now…do I copy this to them or not…..


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