5 January 1989 Errors in Jewish Letter
Ron Bender, Staff Writer
The Rapid City Journal, July 1, 1982
To the Editor:
This is in answer to Alene Schwab’s letter in your Journal. I felt compelled to answer because of many errors contained in this letter, probably due to lack of information. However, before I clarify those errors, let me make a statement. During the last couple of years, while working on issues relating to the Palestinian Israeli conflict, with the Jewish Community in the U.S., we came to the conclusion that in order to help resolve this conflict, let’s not put too much emphasis on the past and history since every side has his own arguments. Indeed, the Palestinian arguments are stronger and more convincing. But let’s concentrate on the present and the future. This is how we came, both of us, Arab and Jew, to work together on this issue.
Now let me explain those errors
1. She is talking about the PLO to go back to the Arab countries. The PLO is just a government in exile. It is the executive committee, but I am talking about the Palestinian people, who are not illegal aliens, who came across the border and are seeking amnesty from the government of Israel. They are the ancient people who lived in historic Palestine for the last 5,000 years. Their ancestors are a mixture of Philistines, people of Canaan, the Ishmaelite, decedents of Ishmael, the son of Abraham and Hagar. All those people are mentioned in the Bible.
2. The Palestinians are not asking the Israelis to give their little country as you mentioned. They are asking them to give them back the West Bank and Gaza which were occupied by military force by Israel in 1967. This is only 20% of the historic Palestine which was occupied by Israel in 1948.
3.Why don’t you ask the same question of the Israelis, to go back to the countries they came from? It is a fact that in 1917, when Britain occupied Palestine and promised to help the Jews to immigrate to Palestine and establish a “Home Land” after the Ottomans, who administered Palestine as a province of the Muslim Empire from 1517 to 1917, the Jews were only 55,000 people in Palestine, which amounts to less than 4% of the population So, in spite of the mass immigration of the Jews from all over the world to Palestine against the will of the native population, the Palestinians, the Jewish population was only 700,000, about 30% of the total population in 1947 when the British decided to leave Palestine. Just one year later, on May 14, 1948, when the Jewish state declared independence they were able to force almost a million Palestinians out of their land to become refugees. In 1967, the Jewish State completed the occupation of all Palestine, forcing another 300,000 Palestinians to go out, and this is the core of the problem. The Palestinian refugees, who were expelled and are seeking return or compensation. The Israelis claim that many thousands of Jews left the Arab countries in similar circumstances who are also entitled to compensation or return if they wish. This is why I advocate an international conference and negotiations between the Israelis and the Palestinians to resolve those refugee problems, with other issues, such as Palestinian statehood alongside Israel.
4. You mention Israel as a beacon of democracy in the Middle East, and I agree with you, but this democracy is only for the Jews. The Israeli Arabs arc second class citizens, they are citizens of Israel, but not nationals. The brutal suppression of the civilian population in the West Bank and Gaza Strip amount to anything but democracy.
5. As far as foreign aid to Israel, it amounts to more than $4 billion a year. For the last 40 years, we subsidized the government of Israel at the rate of $50 billion, This $4 billion a year amounts to more than 30% of the aid that goes to all the countries of the world. I believe that this aid is badly needed in the starving nations of Africa, or to preserve wildlife, even we need this money right here for our own domestic programs. I don’t mind any pro-Israeli who is willing to send a donation from his net income to the government of Israel, but it is unfair to ask the American taxpayer to subsidize this. As a Palestinian American, I resent very much that my tax money is going to Israel to kill my cousins in my little town of Burin, or to take the water from my little town, which is desperate for drinking water, to a nearby settlement for their swimming pool.
6. As far as mentioning that this land was God given, first of all, I don’t believe God is an unjust, who gives people something and deprives others. God is not a real estate broker who disperses this or that, we all are His children. And don’t forget that the Palestinians are decedents from Ishmael, the son of Abraham and Hagar and that according to the Bible, that promise was given to Abraham before the birth of his two sons, Isaac, the father of the Jews, and Ishmael, the father of the Arabs, this way giving inheritance to both children and not to one. Also, don’t forget, the Palestinian Arabs are Muslims, belong to the Islamic world of almost 1 billion people and in their Holy book the Koran, there is nothing mentioned to give the land to the Israelis and it is unfair of to you impose your book on other people’s beliefs. It is also of interest that 20% of Palestinian people are Christian and they don’t believe in this promise to give this land to the Jews, and if you have seen in the latest news media, the one who was just sitting at the right side of Chairman Arafat in Geneva is Elia Khouri, who is a Catholic Bishop, a Palestinian refugee from Jerusalem and living now in Amman, Jordan. Finally, I would like to mention to Ms. Schwab, that the issue boils down to one thing, that you, Alene, if you are a Jew, or if you are converted to Judaism tomorrow, can go to Israel anytime and be a full citizen, according to the Israeli Law of Return, and I, Dr. Said, born in Haifa, Israel, with my ancestors going back to the people mentioned in the Bible, can not go back and live as a citizen, let alone be allowed to go and look to our house, without harassment, which has been occupied by a Jewish family from Poland since 1948. I will be glad to sit with you or any other people who are interested to know the facts.
Thank you very much
Dr. Mohammad Said