The worldview of the pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel, anti-Jew protesters rests on three lies about Israel. No matter how fervently protesters believe these lies, wave them on signs and chant them in unison, such beliefs fail the simplest of tests: the test of truth.
Lie number 1: The Jews of Israel are “settler colonialists” with no historical ties to the land of Israel and no right to reside there.
The truth: The Jewish presence in Israel precedes the arrival of Islam by 1,600 years. Dozens of kings of Israel, beginning with Saul, David and Solomon reigned in these areas from 1050 BCE on. Even after the Roman defeat of the Bar Kochba revolt in 135 CE, which led to the dispersion of Jews throughout the Mediterranean, Jews continued to live in Jerusalem and environs.
Lie number 2: Israel has been oppressing and maltreating Palestinians (and denying them a state) for 75 years.
The truth: On Nov. 29, 1947, the UN General Assembly approved the creation of two new states, one Jewish and one Arab, to replace the British Mandate. Rather than accept their own state, the Arabs set out to destroy the Jewish state. Azzam Pasha, secretary-general of the Arab League warned of “a war of extermination and a momentous massacre.”
Immediately following Nov. 29, Arab militias began attacking Jewish towns; on May 15, 1948, a day after David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the state of Israel, forces from Egypt, Syria and Iraq invaded. Some 600,000 Arab residents fled the hostilities, a departure the Palestinians call the nakba, or catastrophe. The real catastrophe was refusing to accept a state alongside Israel.
Since Israel’s victory in 1948, terrorists from Arab countries, Gaza and the West Bank have regularly infiltrated Israel to murder Jews. Between 1949 and now, including the intifadas of the 1990s and early 2000s and the Oct. 7 atrocities, 4,890 civilians have died in terror attacks. Arab armies also fought two major wars, in June 1967 and October 1973. Instead of annihilating Israel they suffered disastrous defeats, losing the West Bank, Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights.
While Egypt and Jordan eventually signed peace treaties with Israel, Palestinian leaders squandered opportunities. In 2000, Yasser Arafat spurned Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s offer of a Palestinian state encompassing most of the West Bank and Gaza. In 2008 Mahmoud Abbas declined an even more generous offer. By rejecting their own state in favor of trying to destroy the Jewish one, Palestinian leaders tolerated, nay, encouraged, violence rather than coexistence, at a horrendous — and pointless — cost in lives.
Lie number 3: Israel is an apartheid state.
The truth: the 2.1 million Arab citizens of Israel have rights denied to Arabs in neighboring countries: the right of free speech, the right to education and health deva, the right to vote. Arabs constitute 20% or more of enrollment at leading Israeli universities. Arab doctors are 17% of all Israeli doctors. Two of the 15 judges on the Israeli supreme court are Arab citizens. And Israel’s Muslims worship freely in 1,600 mosques across the country.
Even Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has acknowledged the truth: Israeli Arabs have “freedom of speech, freedom of religion and participation in political life.” Mansour Abbas, head of the Israeli Arab political party Ra’am, rejects labeling Israel an apartheid state. “Our fate is to live together,” he says, and to choose “peace, security and tolerance” over “fights, conflict, hatred.”
It’s understandable, if infuriating, that Palestinians indoctrinated in hatred for Jews accept lies as truth. But what excuse is there for Rep. Rashida Tlaib slandering Israel as an apartheid state? For Prof. Joseph Massad at Columbia praising Hamas’ barbarism as “awesome”? As for those blocking roadways while chanting “From the river to the sea” — how many know even the basic geography and history of Israel?
In a survey of 250 U.S. students, 86% of whom approved the chant, only 47% could correctly name the Jordan River and the Mediterranean. Some thought the river was the Nile, that the sea was the Atlantic. Fewer than 25% could identify Yasser Arafat. When asked about the 1993 Oslo Accords, a quarter said no such agreement ever existed.
As Ron Hassner, the UC-Berkeley professor who commissioned the survey, writes in the Wall Street Journal, those orchestrating calls for Israel’s destruction count on “the political ignorance of their audiences” to spread their message of hate.
The truth cannot bring back the Israelis slaughtered by Hamas or the thousands of Gazans killed in Israel’s response. But when the fighting ends, honoring the truth and rejecting lies would be a vital first step on a very long road to peace.
Sigel is the author of “Juror Number 2: The Story of a Murder, the Agony of a Neighborhood.”