On Wednesday, the Sydney Morning Herald featured a rant by Australian-born-Egyptian-Muslim-Palestinian pro-Palestinian activist Randa Abdel-Fattah arguing that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the latters’ ongoing suffering stems from Israel supposedly seeking to safeguard the ”purity” of a Jewish-only state.
The ostensible motivation for Abdel-Fattah’s (pictured) article was a desire to share the numerous experiences of racism she claims to have witnessed when visiting Israel and the West Bank in May. Yet nowhere in the article is she able to recount a single example of the alleged racism because her real motive is to justify her support for a one-state solution.
Here is the sum total of the supposed horrible racist incidents she claims to have witnessed or experienced.
• Her father was given a visa to visit Israel for only seven days.
• Needing to use checkpoints and border crossings between Israel and the West Bank.
• Outrage that soldiers who man the checkpoints spoke in broken Arabic.
• Seeing West Bank roads for use only by cars with Israeli number plates, some built on land previously owned by Palestinians who were compensated, just like in Australia.
• Seeing armed Israeli settlers.
It is clear from her latest piece that she went to Israel and the West Bank with the preconceived notion that Israel is irreconcilably racist because it is a Jewish state. And though she refuses to explicitly say the words, it is also clear that Abdel-Fattah believes Israeli-Palestinian peace is unattainable while Israel exists.
There are many theories as to why a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict remains elusive. They include the military occupation, Israel’s defiance of international law, US bias, the illegal settlements rendering a contiguous Palestinian state an impossibility, the suffocation of Gaza, the wall, the second-class status of Israeli-Arab citizens, the abysmal Palestinian leadership. But, after my visit, I would argue that the oxygen feeding such injustices is a pervasive racism that simply sees Palestinians as inferior. I witnessed and experienced it first-hand.
But this is not a chicken and egg quandary – the checkpoints and security barrier did not cause Palestinian terror and rejectionism. Historically, it is very clear the latter came first. Similarly, the inability to resolve the conflict is not due to the security barrier or checkpoints or a Jewish inability to recognise that Palestinians are entitled to independence. Rather, it is by Palestinian leaders encouraging their people to accept that they need to make painful compromises for peace, prosperity and freedom. This is a blindness that Abdel-Fattah seems to share.
And as so often is the case, a pro-Palestinian activist wants to sell the shameful idea that only the Jewish people are not entitled to be a nation state or are unique in having a country where a religious identity is one part of its national characteristic.
Is Abdel-Fattah aware that the Republic of South Sudan was established just last week because the international community accepted the idea that Christian Sudanese did not want to remain part of the Muslim-dominant north?
Anyway, leaving aside that Israel is amongst probably the most ethnically diverse country on earth and that 1.2 million Arabs have full equal rights to Jews and certainly score higher in terms of quality of life indicators and democratic rights than the 300 million other Arabs in the region, nowhere does Abdel-Fattah mention Israeli offers for a comprehensive resolution to the conflict in 2000, 2001 and 2008.
These offers entailed returning the equivalent of 100% of the West Bank, most of east Jerusalem and a formula to resolve the issue of refugees. She cannot or won’t talk about the offers because she does not believe in a two-state solution.
Yet, of the 2000/01 offers, then US President Bill Clinton said, “The deal was so good I couldn’t believe anyone would be foolish enough to let it go”.
Neither does Abdel-Fattah mention how the Palestinian leadership did not even bother responding to Israeli PM Ehud Olmert’s even more generous peace plan in 2008.
Nor does she refer to Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 that resulted in Hamas and other Islamist groups firing thousands of rockets into Israel.
No, Abdel-Fattah cannot do that because it does not mesh with her wild claim that Israel is a state based on the idea of “a pure race”, which has no right to build a security barrier that ended the capacity for would-be terrorists crossing from the West Bank into Israel to add to the more than 1,000 they slaughtered before it was built.
Abdel-Fattah doesn’t want people to know that even Palestinian leaders acknowledged the success of the barrier in reducing terrorism. Interviewed by Qatari newspaper al-Sharq in March 2008, Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader Ramadan Abdallah Shalah said of the security fence: “We do not deny that it limits the ability of the resistance [i.e., the terrorist organizations] to arrive deep within [Israeli territory] to carry out suicide bombing attacks.”
The increase in checkpoints and troops also played an important part in decreasing the capacity of would-be terrorists from reaching their targets. While the new roads in the West Bank she describes as “racially determined” were laid to bypass access roads that Palestinian snipers were using to fire on cars with Israeli numberplates.
Another argument often made about the security wall and checkpoints is that the terror has stopped so they should be rolled backed. Well, the terror ended because of the security measures, and these will be rolled back when the conflict is resolved.
But one shouldn’t be surprised by Abdel-Fattah’s wild claims, she has a track record of distortions, as the selections below show.
On October 4, 2008 for the Fairfax newspapers’ Good Weekend magazine she wrote an article – “In my grandmother’s house” – describing her family’s trip in 2000 to re-visit their old home near Nablus, claiming “it was because of the creation of the state of Israel, and the ongoing occupation, that my family was displaced”.
But as Abdel-Fattah made clear further on, “my father’s family was not among the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians expelled from their homeland”. Her family lived near Nablus (on what is now known as the West Bank) which was an area that saw very little conflict in 1948 because the Jewish leadership accepted the 1947 UN Partition Plan and understood it would be part of Arab Palestine.
Abdel-Fattah’s grandfather and great-uncle lost their jobs in Nazareth upon Israel’s creation. But this wouldn’t have occurred if the Palestinian and Arab leaders hadn’t launched an unsuccessful war, and then refused to make peace.
She also blamed Israel for her grandmother eventually abandoning the family home near Nablus for Jordan in 1990. But she later revealed that this was a decision taken by her family in Jordan who “refused to send her back” due to her advancing years.
Abdel-Fattah made it plain her purpose was political and she continued to reject Israel’s existence, writing of the Australian parliamentary motion in 2008 congratulating Israel on its 60th year of independence, “I was not the only person to wonder whether it crossed the minds of those who passed the resolution that it is on the destruction of Palestinian lives and homes and the continued illegal occupation of their land that Israel celebrates its independence.”
Once again, the emphasis was placed on Jewish actions. Abdel-Fattah failed to acknowledge the Palestinian leadership’s rejection of the 1947 UN Partition Plan, the subsequent occupation of Gaza by Egypt and the West Bank by Jordan and the complete inaction in turning those areas into a Palestinian state.
In the January 13, 2009 Age, Randa Abdel-Fattah urged that Israel be boycotted until it “respect[s] human rights and democratic principles”, which was ironic given that Israel is the only true Middle East state that does so. She excused Hamas rockets by saying the occupation came first, once again ignoring Israel’s offers of a Palestinian state, and the 2005 Gaza withdrawal.
On May 7 2009, she appeared on ABC TV’s Q&A as a panellist but was introduced simply as an “author and lawyer” ignoring her work as a political activist on behalf of Palestinians. Her own website says she “has used her writing as a medium for expressing her views about Palestinian human rights.” On the show, she claimed that grounds for anti-Israel criticism included “ethnic cleansing of Palestinian villages”, “occupation” of, “discrimination against” and “ongoing suffering of Palestinians.”
She also denied that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech at Durban II was antisemitic as the transcript shows:
TONY JONES: Randa, can I just interrupt you, because the question referred to the Durban Conference. Did you regard the intervention of President Ahmadinejad of Iran as being anti-Semitic?
RANDA ABDEL-FATTAH: No, I read the text. He says extremely inflammatory things and remarks and his denial of the Holocaust is disgusting but let’s put that to one side and look at the actual statements that he made about the racist nature of Israeli society. Look at it from the point of view of an Arab Israeli and the racism that they experience as second class citizens in Israel.
Later on, an audience member asked, “Why should the worst genocide of the 20th century justify the worst genocide of the 21st century?” To which Abdel-Fattah responded with “Thank you”. Only when fellow panellist the Australian’s foreign news editor Greg Sheridan cut in with “The Palestinian race is not being murdered. That’s complete rubbish,” and was pressed by Q&A compere Tony Jones to elaborate did she agree that “I don’t think that it’s genocide”.
She also claimed that when the Australian Parliament commemorated Israel’s 60th anniversary “you celebrated the dispossession, eviction, dispossession and exile of another people in order to create the state of Israel.”
On January 26, 2011 asked by the Age what it meant to her to be Australian on Australia Day, novelist Randa Abdel-Fattah said she felt “intense pride at our apology to the dispossessed indigenous peoples of this land but intense shame at our unwavering support of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land.”
In an opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald (Jan. 27, 2011) even the bombing of an Egyptian Coptic Christian church led to an attack on Israel, with Farid Farid and Abdel-Fattah claiming that it was hard to take support for the Copts from Australian politicians seriously when they “largely turn a blind eye to the occupation of Bethlehem and Jerusalem.”
Yesterday’s article was the first piece she has had published since the January 27 article and you might have thought she would have mentioned the 2,000 deaths in Syria over that period, the Libyan dead, the new Hezbollah appointed government in Lebanon or the Islamist campaign of terror in Tunisia that is overturning the freedoms won in the birth of the Arab Spring.
No, the only thing worth mentioning is alleged Israeli Jewish acts of commission or omission – none of them in fact actually very surprising or horrifying in context – leaving no room for the Palestinians to be responsible for their own past, present or future. When the sole focus is on one group of people to the exclusion of any other for whatever happens, is that not an example of where the true racism lies?
It’s a pity that Abdel-Fattah has enjoyed a largely free run in all forms of Australia’s media over the last few years to peddle misinformation without any supporting empirical evidence and is almost never called to account for her failure to support any genuine solution for lasting peace – instead demanding a ‘solution’ that would guarantee even more suffering for both Palestinians and Jews.