Mr. President: On June 4, 2009 in a Keynote Address to the Muslim world delivered from Cairo you asserted that it is "undeniable that the Palestinian people - Muslims and Christians - have suffered in pursuit of a homeland." You continued and claimed that "for more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation" and "daily humiliations - large and small - that come with occupation." You concluded by stating "let there be no doubt: The situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own."
Mr. President: 61 years ago the Arabs in Palestine were neither hapless targets nor innocent bystanders. The human tragedy of being uprooted notwithstanding, the first stage of Israel's war of independence in 1948, was a fierce interethnic and anti-Zionist civil war in which the Arabs in Palestine were the aggressors and the initiators. Then came the all-out war and invasion of seven regular Arab armies whose participation the Arabs in Palestine engineered. There were 6,000 Israelis dead as a result of that 1948 war, in a total population of 600,000. One percent of the Jewish population was gone. In American terms, the equivalent is 3.0 million American civilians and soldiers killed over an 18-month period.
Mr. President: You speak about daily 'humiliation' of the Palestinian Arabs but ignore the real victims of Arab terrorism. In Israel, every Israeli is searched numerous times during the course of a day. Israelis are asked to open their bags and purses for inspection and in most cases are subjected to body searches with a metal detector every time they enter a bank or post office, pick up a bottle of milk at the supermarket, enter a mall or train station, or visit a hospital or medical clinic. Young Israeli men and women are physically frisked in search of suicide belts before they enter crowded nightclubs.
These ordinary daily humiliations extend to similar searches when Israelis go to weddings or bar mitzvahs. No one in the western world speaks of the humiliation that Jews in Israel are subjected to, having to write at the bottom of wedding invitations and other life cycle events, "The site will be secured [by armed guards]" - to ensure that relatives and friends will attend and share in their joyous occasion.
To date, no one protests the fact that, since the 1970s, Jewish schoolchildren in Israel are surrounded by perimeter fences, with armed guards at the schoolyard gates. Not one Arab village in Israel or the Territories has a perimeter fence around it. Guards are not required at Arab shops, cafes, restaurants, movie theaters, wedding halls or schools - either in Israel or in the Territories. Palestinian Arabs also do not need armed guards to accompany every school trip, youth movement hike or campout, as they are not targets of terrorism.
Israelis are told to disguise themselves when traveling abroad - not to speak Hebrew in public and not to wear garments that reveal their Jewish/Israeli origins. On the other hand, Arabs who frequent Jewish cities and towns in Israel wear their traditional Arab headgear without fear of being attacked or harassed.
In fact, Mr. President, the average Israeli is "humiliated and harassed" far more times a day than the average Palestinian Arab.
And as to the claim of occupation - the former president of the International Court of Justice, Professor, Judge Stephen M. Schwebel makes it clear:
"As between Israel, acting defensively in 1948 and 1967, on the one hand, and her Arab neighbors, acting aggressively, in 1948 and 1967, on the other, Israel has the better title in the territory of what was Palestine, including the whole of Jerusalem."
Thank you for your attention.
Eli E. Hertz