August 9, 2023

Toby Block responds to ‘Between Charlottesville and Jerusalem’

To the editor:

I was dismayed by authors of “Between Charlottesville to Jerusalem,” Dahlia Lithwick and Masua Sagiv, accusing Israel of being responsible for the suffering of the Palestinian residents of Judea and Samaria (which the authors erroneously, in my opinion, call “the West Bank”).

Israel has never occupied Palestinian territory. The land in question was seized by Transjordan when Arab states went to war against the Yishuv (Zionist community in Palestine), trying to prevent the emergence of a modern Jewish state in the Jews’ ancestral homeland.

Although the Jews managed to survive the onslaught, Egypt succeeded in grabbing Gaza and Transjordan took control of eastern Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria, dubbing these areas “the West Bank” and dropping the “Trans-” prefix from the name of the Hashemite Kingdom that Great Britain had created on 78 percent of Britain’s Mandate for Palestine. These illegal occupations of lands that had been designated for Jewish control (at the San Remo conference, where the League of Nations adopted the Balfour Declaration) continued for nearly two decades, marked by ethnic cleansing of their Jewish inhabitants, closure to all visitors from the Israel side of the Green Line, destruction of synagogues, and desecration of Jewish graves. Israel liberated the occupied territories only after Jordanian troops fired on Israeli-controlled western Jerusalem, as Jordan allied with Egypt and Syria in a war instigated with the open intention of destroying the Jewish state and annihilating her people.

Although the land liberated from Jordanian occupation is of historic and religious significance to Jews, only a few months after the end of the Six Day War, Israel offered to withdraw from Judea and Samaria in exchange for recognition and peace. The offer was flatly refused when the Arab League met at Khartoum in September 1967. There is no record of Palestinian leaders urging the League to accept the deal because the Palestinians wanted to build their own state on the land Israel had liberated. In fact, only three years prior to the Six Day War, the founding document of the Palestine Liberation Organization had specified that the PLO made no claim to lands held by Egypt and Jordan at the time.

It is often said that Israel won the Six Day War but lost the peace.

Following another two decades of wars, intifadas, and waves of terrorist attacks, Israel signed the Oslo Accords in 1993 and 1995, which envisioned negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians being completed by the year 2000, resulting in the establishment of recognized and secure borders for Israel and the Palestinians. Another three decades have passed and essentially no progress has been made. But that isn’t from lack of trying on Israel’s part. Palestinian leaders flatly rejected the proposals of left-wing PM Ehud Barak (2000/2001) and of centrist PM Ehud Olmert (2008) for the establishment of a Palestinian state on essentially all the disputed land, even with the possibility of joint governance in parts of Jerusalem. Nor did any Palestinian leaders ever approach current PM Benjamin Netanyahu to discuss his vision of a demilitarized state coexisting with Israel (announced in 2009, during one of his previous terms in office).

The true barrier to settling the conflict is that Israel has the temerity to insist that any future Palestinian entity must coexist, peacefully, with the nation-state of the Jews. Sadly, statehood for the Palestinians is really out of the question for the foreseeable future. Palestinian leaders have chosen violence over negotiation and made it abundantly clear that their true goal is to drive the Jews out of Israel, not to build a state in which the people living under Hamas and the Palestinian Authority could become productive citizens. Leaders of both camps have long overstayed their elected terms, enriched themselves by embezzling monies donated for their people’s benefit, and diverted humanitarian aid to efforts to delegitimize Israel in international forums and to end Jewish sovereignty in the Middle East.

Palestinians are suffering because their own leaders have prioritized killing Jews over building better lives for Palestinians.

Toby Block

Atlanta, GA