Understanding the Mideast takes more than sightseeing – Robert Gutman

Kudos to Kylie Stephens for her decision to visit the Holy Land (“Going to Israel and Palestine to see for myself,” Oct. 27:

The introductory comments in her guest column are thoughtful and reasonable, to be sure. However, before she reminds us that “Americans should care about the ongoing conflict in Israel and Palestine because of the human factor,” she introduces two themes that require more thought than she seems to have given the matter.

The first is the North Carolina law and the proposed amendment to existing law of the federal government constitution. The second, equally important question is: “why, if she is well read, did she leave out so much context? The absence of dealing with the historical conditions suggests a pre-visit bias, something even she may not recognize.

Robert Gutman

To be sure, the events in Dickinson, Texas, are an overreach of the law and have already been labeled as such and corrected. But complaints about overreach are not central to the issue at hand.

She echoes the erroneous claims by several partisan organizations that the bills limit individuals’ freedom to express dissatisfaction with Israel. They contain no such prohibition. The passed N.C. law and proposed federal legislation simply says that both the states and federal government can refuse to do business with companies that boycott Israel. Under these laws, individuals remain free to boycott and also call for Israel’s destruction

More importantly the context needs a much cleaner understanding of history and Palestinian assertions.

The 1948 armistice line (later the United Nations announced it to be a border, but it was not so declared by Israel or the other combatants) was the temporary line that was the direct result of the attack by a determined allied Arab group of countries attempting to drive Israel into the sea. Then they prompted the 1967 war for the same reason, resulting in Jordan leaving the West Bank.

Throughout these times, Israel has had to contend with the same and new Arab leaders trying to “wipe out Israel” with terror and rockets. Simply turning over those areas to the Palestinians without military surveillance and disarmament would provide intolerable opportunity for more of the same kind. Has not this already happened in the immediate years where Israel unilaterally gave parts of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority hoping for peace but instead receiving a constant barrage of killing rockets (Yes, and a good number fell short, killing their own people). Clearly, a workable, peaceful and respected final status is required.

BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) proponents want, and have said for a long time, that their goal is the Israel’s complete destruction. Omar Barghouti, who founded the BDS movement, has said many times: “Definitely, most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.” When he says, “Palestine,” he talks not only about the West Bank, but also about all the land between the Mediterranean Sea and Jordan. The BDS movement was founded and exists for the destruction of Israel.

I hope some day there will be peace in the region. This must include peace between Israel and Gaza, and therefore a unified non-terrorist Palestinian. Such a peace must include safety for the Christians who have been continuously persecuted by the Palestinians and driven to a barely recognizable minority from the much earlier quite sizable population. A pseudo-peace would lead to a destruction of the only safe place in the world, other than parts of our Western Hemisphere, for a people murdered and forcibly removed for thousands of years, a people even now threatened in Europe and America.

I trust that Ms. Stephens will enjoy her trip. If she explores history as well as simply sightsee, she may well learn much more than she has written. I hope she will give us a chance to hear her reactions and discuss our mutual views in an open forum.

Robert Gutman is co-chair of the Durham chapter of Voice for Israel.