(1) New Mexican Letter Writer Gets It Wrong; (2) BDS Seems Ineffective on Israeli Tourism

  1.  Mark Davis “Off-the-Mark” in New Mexican Letter to the Editor

On July 10, 2017 Mark Davis wrote a New Mexican letter-to-the-editor (see full text of letter below) complaining that Suki Halevi’s op-ed (see here for a copy of Suki’s work) excoriating Bill Stewart’s May 6 column was “one-sided and misleading.”  Davis argues that Suki ignored the “settlements on Palestinian lands” and claims that Israel has been “annexing Arab land” and therefore shouldn’t be receiving military aid from the US.  He also claims that “every U.S. administration recognized these illegal settlements as the main obstacle to a two-state solution.”  In short, Davis is wrong.

There are factual and analytic problems with Davis’ statements:

1. Until Obama’s failure to veto UN Security Council Resolution 2334 at the end of 2016, no US president before or since Carter has called the settlements “illegal.” Even the Arab-American Institute acknowledges this in a 2009 document “American Presidents and Israeli Settlements.”  Presidents have called them “lamentable” or “not helpful [in peace negotiations]” or “illegitimate.”  As the Arab American Institute states, “While the Carter-era determination on the illegality of settlements has never been rescinded, no US president, since Reagan, has made reference to settlements as illegal.”  The most comprehensive source of discussion on the legality of Israel’s settlements can be found in Maurice Ostroff‘s, “International Law and the Settlements“, published in 2011.  A further characterization of Presidential administrations can be found in the Jerusalem Post article of December 25, 2016.

2.  The Israelis have shown at least twice that they are willing to change or give up settlements for a genuine quest for peace.  They did so in the Egyptian Peace Accords, where 12,000 “settlers” from 18 settlements were forcibly evicted from their homes, and they did so again in 2005 when, hoping to see a genuine response by the Palestinians in Gaza, they forcibly evicted 9,000 “settlers” from the Gaza strip.  They hadn’t needed to do so – they could have just removed settlers from the non-contiguous (to Israel’s pre-1967 Armistice Lines) Israeli settlements.  We know the result of the Gaza withdrawal – thousands of rockets targeted at Israel; Hamas caused 3 wars in

3.  Davis calls these “Palestinian lands” and “Arab land.”  Given that the pre-1967 Armistice lines were not the final borders of Israel or Palestine, and that UN Security Council 242 states that the parties are to come to an agreement for permanent boundaries with security, Davis is prejudging the outcome of negotiations that have not concluded (and are currently moribund).

4. US military aid has been $3.1 billion per year, not $3.8 billion. (It becomes $3.8 billion in 2019.)  Though granted another $600 million or so has gone to additional research and development of missile defense systems used by both Israel and the US over the past few years.  This is in accordance with the US Congress’ declaration in the “United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012” that it is in the interests of the US that Israel maintain a qualitative military edge (QME) over its neighbors.  70% of these funds are spent in the US.  In 2019 a ten year memorandum of understanding (MOU) includes $33 billion in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and a $5 billion commitment in missile defense assistance.  This funding will be disbursed in equal increments of $3.3 billion in FMF and $500 million in missile defense funding each year for the duration of the understanding.  Beginning in 2019 about 90% of funds will be spent in the US, including $1.2 billion on the advanced military capabilities that only the United States can provide.  

5.  Davis doesn’t mention the many times the Palestinians have walked away from the negotiating table, not even giving the Israelis the opportunity to provide a contiguous West Bank for a Palestinian state.  Indeed the Arabs more generally (pre-1994) or Palestinian Authority since 1994 have refused Jewish or Israeli peace offers in 1937, 1949, 1967, 2000, and 2008.  The last would have swapped lands for some of the larger settlements and given the Palestinians 98-99% of the land mass they desire.  Would Davis advocate that the $350 million the US gives to the Palestinians each year should be contingent on their demonstration of the elimination of terrorism and good-faith efforts at compromising for peace?

6.  Finally, Davis doesn’t address any of Halevi’s points per se about Stewart’s absurd column.  Nor does he critique Stewart’s article.  Does that mean he agrees with Suki’s assessment other than her lack of mention of the settlements and US funding?  We doubt it.  But perhaps he couldn’t find anything factual to counter her arguments and therefore had to deflect the discussion of Stewart’s vile anti-Semitism in his unprofessional May 6 column.

Here’s Davis letter (with a curious title):

Dialogue necessary

Suki Halevi (“Stewart undercuts quest for peace,” My View, July 2) chastises Bill Stewart for “classic anti-Israel propaganda” in a one-sided and misleading attack that ends in a plea for peace. Curiously, Ms. Salevi [sic] never mentions Israel continuing to build settlements on Palestinian lands. Before Donald Trump, every U.S. administration recognized these illegal settlements as the main obstacle to a two-state solution.

One wonders why American taxpayers continue to give Israel approximately $3.8 billion in annual military aid, when it has refused to comply with countless appeals to stop annexing Arab land. Conditioning such aid on improved conduct would be welcome and necessary.

Mark Davis, Santa Fe

Write a short letter to the editor that challenges Davis.

You can write a letter once a month or one My View every three months. The New Mexican requires the letter writer’s name, address and phone number to be considered for publication. They also encourage writers to include a photo of themselves.
Send letters and op-eds to:  letters@sfnewmexican.com.  Any questions?  Call 986-3063.

2.  Record-breaking Tourism Breaks BDS Advocates  

On July 9 the Israeli Tourism Ministry announced the 2017 first half tourism figures:  a record-breaking 1.74 million tourists entered Israel, 26% more than in the first half of 2016.

Help us Defeat BDS in NM.  If you have knowledge about or experience with advocacy at the NM legislature please join our new anti-BDS committee that initially will be strategizing in collaboration with other anti-BDS advocates.  Send an email expressing your interest to info@sfmew.org.

Need Facts about the Arab/Palestinian Dispute with Israel?

Did you know that there are many resources for the facts about the Middle East that can be found on our and other websites?  Explore the “Resources” tab above.

Note on your calendar and plan to attend:  next SFMEW meeting is September 18 at 7:15 pm at the home of Marcia Torobin.  

SFMEW is a beneficiary organization of the Jewish Federation of New Mexico.