Common to many anti-Israel activists is an aversion to a peaceful solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that doesn’t comply with maximalist Palestinian demands. So it’s not altogether surprising when George Browning, the former Anglican bishop of Canberra and the president of the Australia Palestine Advocacy Network, disparages the flailing John Kerry-led effort in The Australian.
However, Browning’s opinion piece is certainly not an objective, academic critique of where things have gone wrong. It is, instead, a thinly veiled attack on Israel as evidenced by anti-Israel propaganda and falsehoods. According to Browning:
In 1948, the state of Israel was founded upon the mass displacement of Palestinians, whose homes were either destroyed or taken over by Jewish migrants. Today a minority of Palestinians still live in Israel, subject to a host of restrictions on their employment, housing and education, while the majority live as refugees in the rest of the Middle East.
Israel was certainly not “founded upon the mass displacement of Palestinians.” Browning ignores the historical and religious connections of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, not to mention the recognition of Jewish rights as stated in, for example, the Balfour Declaration of 1917; the League of Nations Mandate and the United Nations partition resolution of 1947.
Browning falsely implies that Israel deliberately caused the Palestinian refugee problem, conveniently ignoring how five Arab armies launched a war of annihilation on the fledgling Jewish state, with all of the resulting and inevitable population displacement in a time of war.
As for the absurd claim that Palestinian citizens of Israel are subject to “a host of restrictions on their employment, housing and education,” this is simply a lie. While it would be foolish not to recognize that much can be done to close economic and social gaps between Israeli Arabs and Jews, there are no Israeli state policies restricting the rights of Israeli Arabs to employment, housing and education. The sole legal distinction between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel is that the latter are not required to serve in the Israeli army. In fact, Israeli Arabs enjoy rights and a standard of living far beyond those of their brethren in the Palestinian territories and neighboring Arab states.
Browning also makes sure to employ the false Israel apartheid libel:
Israel has made it clear that it is prepared to grant the Palestinians no more than a patchwork of reservations in the occupied territories, while maintaining effective sovereignty over their airspace, borders, infrastructure and natural resources. The last time such an arrangement was tried was in 1970 when apartheid South Africa set aside certain “Bantustans” for its black population, which it claimed were independent states.
As BICOM notes:
The Bantustan analogy is false because Israel is not creating ‘independent homelands’ within its own territory for purposes of denying the putative ‘citizens’ of such homelands their citizenship rights. The West Bank and
Gaza were captured in a defensive war in 1967 against Arab armies determined to crush the Jewish homeland that were massed on Israel’s borders. They are not ‘homelands’ since they do not constitute part of Israel, and its inhabitants therefore are not and never were Israeli citizens. Israel has no obligation under international law to annex these Territories and accord their inhabitants Israeli citizenship – indeed, international law demands Israel withdraw from them once a peace agreement has been negotiated.
Browning concludes his attack on Israel by demonstrating that he sees only one side that should be making any compromises:
Turning to international law will not end their [the Palestinians] suffering but their participation in a succession of sham peace processes for the past 20 years has only served to mask the reality of their ongoing colonisation and displacement.
This implies that Israel has conducted all of its peace negotiations over the years in bad faith, deliberately doing so to mask a hostile agenda. This despite successive Israeli governments’ support for a two-state solution and a multitude of concessions offered in peace talks that the Palestinians have repeatedly torpedoed.
As a man of the cloth, wouldn’t former Anglican Bishop Browning be better putting his energies into promoting peace between Israel and Palestinians rather than spreading hatred and falsehoods?
You can send your considered comments and rebuttal of Browning’s claims to The Australian - firstname.lastname@example.org