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Criticisms are not the truth

Ed Rabin criticizes letters published in the Davis Enterprise that blast Israel for the flotilla incident (6/18/2010).

Criticisms are not the truth
By Edward H. Rabin
June 18th, 2010

Special to The Enterprise

Mark Graham, Hamza El-Nakhal and Joan Al-Kazily have written letters (June 16) criticizing Israel. With unbridled self-confidence they assert that Israel is “murdering innocent people,” has conducted an “illegal and unprovoked attack,” that the blockade of Gaza is “illegal” and that Israel was established as an “exclusively Jewish state.”

But self-confidence is the enemy of truth, and caution its chief defender.

Al-Kazily is demonstrably incorrect when she claims that Israel is or was established as an exclusively Jewish state. The United Nations resolution establishing Israel, as well as the Israeli Declaration of Independence, specifically refer to and protect the Arab population of the future state of Israel.

Today, more than 20 percent of Israel's citizens are Muslim, Druze or Christian Arabs — all of whom have the right to vote, have free access to the courts and have freedom of religion, among other rights. On the other hand, it is also true that Israel's Arab citizens do have some legitimate grievances that should be addressed.

Graham and El-Nakhal claim that the blockade and Israel's actions to enforce it are “illegal.” I have been a lawyer for more than 50 years and yet I hesitate, without an extensive legal and factual investigation, to give a firm answer to the question of legality. My tentative answer is that both the blockade and Israel's actions to enforce it are legal.

This is not the time or the place to discuss the legal authorities. However, it is useful to remember that during the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, President John F. Kennedy ordered a naval blockade of Cuba, enforced on the high seas. The U.S. blockade was implemented after President Kennedy received a legal opinion that concluded that such a blockade was legal.

Its purpose was to prevent missiles from being delivered to Cuba, just as the purpose of the Israeli blockade is to prevent missiles and other military items from being delivered to Gaza. Israel has recently modified the blockade to greatly reduce the items that are prohibited.

Fortunately, Israel has appointed a commission composed of distinguished Israeli jurists and expert foreign observers to review the legality of the blockade and of its enforcement. Until we can carefully analyze this commission's report, we would do well to withhold judgment. There are, however, certain facts that are indisputable.

Hamas governs Gaza. It systematically discriminates against women, gays and all religions other than Islam. It has executed or maimed scores of Palestinian political opponents. Its charter calls for the murder of all Jews. It has consistently and vehemently rejected any possibility of a peace treaty with Israel. The European Union, Japan, Canada, Israel and the United States all classify Hamas as a terrorist organization.

In the years preceding the Gaza war, Hamas and its proxies fired thousands of rockets and mortars into Israel. In some Israeli towns and villages, the population was forced to live in or close to air raid shelters for months at a time. When Israel finally attempted to defend its citizens from these illegal attacks, it was met with criticism from people living in safe and peaceful communities like Davis, most of whom had remained silent during the eight long years when Israelis were subject to the threat or reality of deadly rocket attacks.

It is always tragic when lives are lost and serious injuries sustained. Israeli soldiers suffered serious injuries. Nine of those seeking to break the blockade were killed and others were wounded. Whether they were innocent humanitarians or armed thugs who attacked Israeli soldiers remains to be seen. In the meantime, the hyperbolic rhetoric of those who rush to condemn Israel before the facts are in is both unfair and unhelpful to the cause of peace — a cause that all people of goodwill support.

— Edward H. Rabin is a Davis resident.

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