Student Counsel

Last week, Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, was persistently interrupted and heckled as he gave a speech at the University of California-Irvine.

Among the shout-outs was this gem: “Michael Oren! Propagating murder is not free speech!”

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As the Jerusalem Post reported, this barb “closely resembled part of a statement released by the university’s Muslim Student Union (MSU) prior to and against Oren’s appearance.” Ultimately, 11 protesters were reportedly arrested for their behavior.

We know that emotions about the Middle East conflict run high on college campuses. It’s normal and noble for young adults to be concerned about social justice, and certainly death and destruction around the world are natural targets of their angst relative to the often-woeful human condition. But we are very concerned that Jewish students, seeing the virulence spewed toward Israel by many otherwise open-minded students, might feel embarrassed or lack the talking points to combat distortions and fabrications.

So here are a few questions to be raised when terrible things are being hurled about with regard to Israel:

1. While any deaths are of course terrible, why are the Arab-Israel conflict deaths singled out when Muslims are killing vastly more Muslims than die at the hands of Israelis?

In 2007, Daniel Pipes and Gunnar Heinsohn published a very important and telling list. In an article titled “Arab-Israel Fatalities Rank 49th,” the authors place Middle East deaths in the context of the world’s conflicts since 1950. Far down the list is the Arab-Israeli conflict, to which the authors ascribe 51,000 deaths, about 70 percent of them on the Arab side.

Yet according to the authors’ estimates, 11 million Muslims were killed in conflicts from 1950-2007, with 90 percent of those deaths being inflicted by Muslims upon Muslims. In other words, intra-Islamic deaths are over a hundred fold those of Palestinians and Arabs who have died in conflict with Israel.

2. Why do Islamists frequently refer to the plight of Palestinians as a “genocide” when the population in the territories has grown from 1 million to over 3.8 million in the last half century?

The West Bank and Gaza growth numbers are startling–they doubled from 1 to 2 million from the mid-1900s to 1990, and now they are on the verge of doubling again.

And if the estimate of 10 million Palestinians worldwide is accurate, the deaths at Israeli hands amount to less than 1 percent. Contrast this with 40 percent of worldwide Jewry, and two thirds of European Jewry, that perished in the Holocaust.

3. Why do Palestinian apologists believe that Israel has it in for Arabs and Palestinians?

This is a mixed bag. There’s no question that Arabs and Palestinians in Israel have far better legal status than their brethren in most other Arab nations. On one hand, in the Israeli democratic system, Arabs and Palestinians, who comprise about 20 percent of Israel’s population, have the right to vote. They have the right to hold public office and 10 percent of the seats in the Knesset is currently held by Arab parties. Arabic is a co-national language with Hebrew, and the national education system has a branch for each language. On the health front, infant mortality rates have improved dramatically in the last 40 years, dropping almost fourfold and are vastly superior to the rates in many, if not most, Arab nations. And despite continuing social issues and stalls in the peace progress, there have been decent economic growth figures in certain West Bank cities, including Jenin, formerly a terrorist hotbed.

On the other hand, it is absolutely true that Arabs experience discrimination, unemployment and educational inequities at higher levels than their Jewish counterparts in Israel, and these inequities must be addressed in much more substantial ways than they have been to date. Health care remains underfunded and infant mortality is still double that of the Jewish population. There is a lot more work to be done.

4. Why do those defending Palestinians vis- à-vis Israel not insist on legitimate political leadership rather than a party (Hamas) which continues to espouse the destruction of Israel as one of its goals and uses military tactics that are almost exclusively directed at civilians?

On the heels of Operation Cast Lead, many sources, including the blatantly biased Goldstone Report of the United Nations, blasted Israel for targeting civilians. But Hamas and its followers for years had sent rockets, upward of 6,000, into Israel with no military targeting whatsoever. Moreover, Hamas’ military operations are almost exclusively mixed in with the civilian population, and there has never been one iota of attempt by Hamas to distinguish between civilian and military targets. Contrast this with the cell phone calls, texts and faxes sent by IDF forces into Gaza before many of their attacks during Cast Lead. There is no evidence that any such efforts have ever been made by Hamas.