I’ve written an article titled “Top Ten Myths about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” that is among my all-time most popular, so when I learned that Vox has a feature called “The 11 biggest myths about Israel-Palestine”, I naturally took an interest. Unfortunately, while Vox gets some things right, what it gets wrong it gets badly wrong.
So, to set the record straight, here’s a quick examination of each of Vox’s eleven supposed myths and corrective for its egregious misinformation.
“Myth #1: The conflict is too complex to possibly understand”
Although I don’t include it on my own list of myths, I agree this is indeed false. In fact, I’ve written an article titled “The Simplicity of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict” that starts with, “There is a general perception that the reason the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has continued for so long is because it is extremely complex. Nothing could be further from the truth. Placed in historical context, understanding the root cause of the conflict is simple, and in doing so, the solution becomes apparent.”
Apart from asserting an opinion as an absolute truth, though, the problem here is that Vox and the feature’s editor, Max Fisher, are feigning to understand the conflict and to be able to help you understand it, too. Unfortunately, Vox only serves to muddy the waters by getting absolutely critical points wrong.
“Myth #2: The conflict is all about religion”
Here, again, Vox gets it right. I would go further, though, and say it’s not about religion at all. It’s about the rejection of the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and the consequences of that rejectionism.
“Myth #3: They’ve been fighting for centuries”
Again, Vox gets it right. In fact, my own “Myth #1” is that “Jews and Arabs have always been in conflict in the region.”
“Myth #4: Europe created Israel to apologize for the Holocaust”
Here, Vox is certainly correct to say that the belief that the Holocaust was “the only significant impetus for Israel’s creation” is false.
However, Vox gets it wrong in a major way by falsely asserting that “Israel was not a creation of European colonialism”.
Yes, it most certainly was!
Zionism Was Absolutely a European Colonialist Project!
Vox tries to sustain this falsehood by arguing, “Israel’s creation was in large part the work of Jews who moved to present-day Israel, despite European efforts to stop them, and who dragged the world into accepting them as a state. It is true that in 1917, Britain issued its famous Balfour Declaration promising the Jews a homeland in British-controlled Palestine as long as this did not undercut the rights of non-Jews there. But in the 1930s, as Jewish immigration and Jewish-Arab tension increased, the British tried to sharply limit Jewish immigration into the area, forcing many Jews into refugee camps in Cyprus and elsewhere.”
In other words, Vox is arguing that since the British “tried to sharply limit Jewish immigration into the area”, therefore the Zionist project to reconstitute Palestine into a “Jewish state” was not a European colonialist project.
For starters, this argument overlooks the fact that the Zionist movement originated in Europe. Its leaders were European. And most of the Jewish immigrants who colonized Palestine were also European. It was a European movement promoting a colonization project.
So in what way was it not a European colonization project?
One of the Jewish colonization organizations, incidentally, was literally called the “Palestine Colonization Association” (PICA), established in 1924 by Baron Edmond James de Rothschild, a French member of the famous European banking family.
Plainly, with or without British support, the Zionist project was ipso facto a European colonialist project.
But Vox is also woefully wrong to suggest that European powers by and large “tried to stop” the Zionist project and that the British, too, eventually stepped in to oppose it.
This claim is completely false.
Whereas Vox states that “the British tried to sharply limit Jewish immigration into the area”, a more accurate way to put it is that the British facilitated Jewish immigration to the full extent that it was politically feasible to do so, given the Arab inhabitants’ opposition to the reconstitution of their homeland into a “Jewish state”.
Indeed, while the British government’s support for Jewish immigration was by no means unrestricted, British policy was explicit in its aim of helping the Zionists to increase the proportion of Palestine’s Jewish population!
Moreover, the whole purpose of the League of Nations’ Mandate that the British were operating was to facilitate the Zionist project. While Vox tries to downplay the significance of the Balfour Declaration, the text of it was actually incorporated into the Mandate, which was actually drafted by organized Zionists to serve their interests—as the British themselves observed at the time.
For discussion and documentation of this, see my article “What Was the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and Why Is It Significant?”, as well as my book Exposing a Zionist Hoax.
The British were in essence the hired guns of the Zionists. Not literally hired, but there was a quid pro quo, which, again, the British themselves explained, and which was that the Balfour Declaration was a propaganda documented intended to garner Jewish support for its war effort.
The British also promised the Arabs their independence in support for the war effort, but that was a promise they never intended to keep. Instead, the whole purpose of the Mandate was, to put it another way, to establish an occupation regime in Palestine precisely to prevent the majority Arab inhabitants from exercising their right to self-determination. British officials were quite candid about this, emphasizing that for the Arabs to exercise this right would be contrary to the Balfour policy incorporated into the Mandate to facilitate the Zionist project.
So, you see, Vox’s claim that Israel was not a European colonialist project is a whopper. The effect of this outrageous lie, of course, is to completely misinform Vox readers about the fundamental cause of the conflict.
No, the UN Did Not Create Israel!
Next, to the same end, Vox tells another whopper: “The United Nations did come around to creating a Jewish state with its 1947 plan for partitioning Palestine”.
No, no, no, no, NO!
That is absolutely false!
What Vox is referring to is UN General Assembly Resolution 181, which contrary to popular myth, neither partitioned Palestine nor conferred any legal authority to the Zionists for the unilateral declaration of the existence of Israel on May 14, 1948.
This huge lie from Vox once again serves to misinform readers fundamentally about the cause of the conflict by leaving them falsely to believe that Israel was established through some kind of legitimate political process in 1947. It was not.
For more on that, read my article “The Myth of the UN Creation of Israel”.
On the contrary, Israel was established in 1948 through violence and the ethnic cleansing of most of the Arab population from their homes in Palestine.
For more on that, read my essay “Benny Morris’s Untenable Denial of the Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine”, also available as an e-book here.
“Myth #5: Palestinians/Israelis aren’t a real nationality”
Here, Vox makes the appropriate point that “the world is organized on an idea called national self-determination, which says people are allowed to determine their own national identity and then organize politically around it. Israelis and Palestinians clearly each see themselves as holding a strong national identity, so the world should respect that.”
In his hoax book “What Justice Demands”, Elan Journo claims that the Palestinian national movement never existed until the 1960s. I debunk that nonsense in Exposing a Zionist Hoax. The point Vox is making here, in addition to pointing out that “Palestinians began developing a distinct national identity in the early 1800s”, also suffices to do so.
The problem is that Vox is implying that the establishment of Israel was nothing more than an exercise of the Jews’ right to self-determination. As we’ve already seen, that is totally false.
“Myth #6: Most Israelis and Palestinians hate everyone on the other side”
The point Vox makes here is that the routine violence we see between Israelis and Palestinians “does not mean that Israelis and Palestinians broadly hate one another or are racist against one another”.
And this is correct.
That’s true going back to the Mandate. Another claim Journo makes in his hoax book is that the Arab violence against Jews during this time was due to their inherent anti-Semitism. In fact, the British observed that until the Zionist project began, Jews and Arabs had gotten along as neighbors in Palestine. They observed how, during the implementation of that project, in colonies where Jewish National Fund (JNF) racist land policies didn’t apply, Jews and Arabs were friendly with each other. Their inquiries into the root causes of the violent outbreaks concluded that there was no inherent anti-Semitism among Arabs, but that they were frustrated about Britain’s broken promise to recognize their independence and the knowledge that the Zionists and their British benefactors aimed to deny them their rights.
The British attitude about that was reflected in how they described Arabs who were willing to collaborate with their occupation regime as “moderates”, while Arabs who demanded that Britain respect their right to self-determination were dubbed “extremists”.
For details and documentation, again see Exposing a Zionist Hoax.
“Myth #7: The US could force Israel to end the conflict if it wanted”
Here, Vox argues that if the US ended its support for Israel and instead “used its influence to bring the conflict to an end”, the conflict would not end “overnight”.
The “overnight” renders that argument a meaningless strawman. But Vox goes even further by absurdly claiming that the US’s support for Israel does not make it “the de facto sponsor of the conflict”.
Well, yes, it does.
I demonstrate that incontrovertibly at great length and in extraordinarily well-documented detail in my book Obstacle to Peace: The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. (Don’t take my word for it; Noam Chomsky has described it as a “carefully documented and highly informative study of how Washington has joined Israel in undermining the efforts to achieve a peaceful political settlement of the Israel-Palestine conflict”.)
Vox tries to sustain this absurd assertion by arguing that “Israel was already engaged in the conflict before it enjoyed so much US support”.
But this is a logical fallacy. The syllogism being employed here is that since the conflict already existed before the US provided Israel with the level of support it does today, therefore this US support does not contribute to perpetuating the conflict. It’s a non sequitur. The conclusion does not follow from the premise.
Next, Vox delves even deeper into absurdity by arguing that US support for Israel doesn’t contribute to the conflict because the US and Israel “bicker frequently”.
Once again, the syllogism presented is a non sequitur.
Vox acknowledges that “the US does provide Israel with an awful lot of military, financial, and diplomatic support”, but persists in its preposterous denial by thirdly arguing that this support “does not buy much real leverage on Israel-Palestine conflict issues.”
But that is just plain nonsense. Ridiculous sophomoric nonsense. And it’s made all the more ridiculous by the fact that Vox here links to another Vox article that talks all about how much leverage and influence the US could have by eliminating or even just reducing aid to Israel, but how consecutive US administrations are just totally unwilling to do so!
“Fourth,” Vox continues, “when the US has overtly pressured Israel on the conflict, as Obama did during his first term, Israel’s response has often been to defy the US by doing the opposite of what is asked.”
But what is Vox even talking about when it says that the Obama administration “overtly pressured Israel on the conflict”?
Well, Vox doesn’t say, but I can tell you what they are referring to. They are talking about how the Obama administration asked the Netanyahu government in Israel to freeze its expansion of illegally constructed Jewish settlements in the West Bank, the Netanyahu government effectively said “No”, and the Obama administration effectively said “Okay” and proceeded to shower even more support on Israel, including vetoing an uncontroversial UN Security Council Resolution condemning Israel’s illegal settlement regime.
That’s the evidence Vox is presenting to support its argument that the US just can’t do anything about it, has no leverage, and isn’t contributing to the conflict by showering Israel with military, financial, and diplomatic support.
It’s downright idiotic!
But Vox isn’t done with its idiocy yet. It proceeds by arguing that this support is not intended to support “Israel’s role in the conflict”, but to “nudge the Israelis to the negotiating table”.
But it’s not even a question of intent. The US militarily, financially, and diplomatically ipso facto supports Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians. Therefore the US is ipso facto a “sponsor” of the conflict.
The whoppers just keep getting bigger as Vox next asserts that to nudge them to the table “is the same reason the US gives heavy financial and political support to the Palestinian Authority [PA].”
Wrong, wrong, wrong!
First of all, the US has given the PA about $216 million on average annually since 1994. Israel, on the other hand, receives more than $3 billion annually just in military aid.
Second, the purpose of the US aid to the PA is to enable the PA to fulfil the function for which it was created under the Oslo Accords, which is to serve as Israel’s collaborator in enforcing its occupation regime. (More details on that, also, in Obstacle to Peace.)
Next, Vox states, “There is a valid case to be made that the high level of American support for Israel does, to some extent, enable its policies in the conflict.”
But there is also a valid case to be made, of course, that the high level of US support for Israel to a very large extent enables Israel’s criminal policies.
Finally, Vox argues that there’s also a “valid” case to be made that “withdrawing American support would make Israelis and their leaders feel more threatened and isolated, thus empowering anti-peace politics and making peace that much less likely.”
But this just makes no sense. By “anti-peace politics”, Vox means the politics of Netanyahu and the Israeli right (which we can learn by clicking a link Vox provides here that says as much). So, how, exactly, does unconditionally giving more than $3 billion in annual military aid to the Netanyahu regime in Israel not empower anti-peace politics?!
Vox at this point is just insulting the intelligence of its readers.
It concludes by reiterating its basic claim that “it is not the case that American support for Israel is so overwhelmingly decisive that switching it off would end the conflict.”
Not “overnight”, at least. But it would certainly be a step in the right direction.
Simply stated, the status quo of Israel’s occupation regime could not be sustained without the US’s military, financial, and diplomatic support.
Just read my book Obstacle to Peace. You’ll see what I’m talking about. I also show in it how the media—like this Vox feature—serve to manufacture consent for the US government’s policy of supporting Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians by systematically misinforming the public about the true nature of the conflict.
“Myth #8: A Palestinian Gandhi could bring peace”
Here, Vox addresses the “popular view among Americans that Palestinians have rejected nonviolent resistance, and that if only they took up the lessons of nonviolent Indian independence leader Mohandas Gandhi, then that would bring the conflict to an end.”
The point made is that, actually, nonviolent resistance has long been tried by Palestinians, but that the outcome has always been that “they’re put down by Israeli security forces, or because they lose momentum against the overwhelming force of the occupation itself.”
Which is correct.
“Myth #9: Things are basically peaceful during periods of relative calm”
This is an absurdity, and Vox is right to say it is false, but it leaves me wondering who the heck Vox has in mind when it suggests that there are people who actually believe that, outside of periods of escalated violence, the conflict is not “destroying lives and communities, and still scarring these two societies every day.”
Perhaps such people exist. I don’t recall ever having heard of one, much less having met or spoken to anyone holding that view.
“Myth #10: Israel is explicitly seeking Palestinians’ total destruction”
Here once again Vox simply manufactures a strawman to beat down rather than addressing any real misconception. The supposed “myth” Vox is challenging here is that “all Israelis” want the Palestinians to suffer “under a suffocating blockade in Gaza and military occupation in the West Bank”.
But who has ever claimed that there are no Israelis who oppose their government’s criminal policies?
This is just more sophomoric intellectual flatulation.
Worse than that, though, Vox here once again simply misinforms its readers by going further and arguing that the Israeli government itself has no “nefarious secret plan” to oppress the Palestinians.
To support this assertion, Vox offers the following: “Take, as a micro example, Israel’s approach to Gaza since Hamas took over in 2006. Israel has invaded or launched extended bombing campaigns in Gaza every few years; this costs many Israeli lives, in addition to the much higher Palestinian death toll, and it never actually solves the underlying problems.”
Yet Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s senior adviser Dov Weissglass characterized the purpose of Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza by saying, “It’s like an appointment with a dietician. The Palestinians will get a lot thinner, but won’t die.”
“Israeli officials have confirmed to Embassy officials on multiple occasions”, a 2008 State Department cable to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice informed, “that they intend to keep the Gazan economy functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis.”
The cable reiterated, “As part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed to econoffs [US embassy economic officers] on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge”.
So much for Vox’s absurd denial that the Israeli government’s nefarious plan is to deliberately oppress the entire civilian population of Gaza!
Next Vox argues that the Israel government would not have signed the Oslo Accords if their intent was to sustain the status quo of Israeli occupation, and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would not have “offered the Palestinians a two-state peace deal” in 2008.
But this simply overlooks that the whole purpose of the Oslo Accords to sustain the Israeli occupation!
That is why the Palestinian Authority was established under the Accords, for example.
The PA’s purpose, in the words of former Israeli Foreign Minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, was to serve as “Israel’s collaborator” in enforcing Israel’s occupation regime. As former Knesset member Natan Sharansky explained in 2008, “the idea of Oslo was to find a strong dictator to … keep the Palestinians under control.” Hebrew University professor Dr. Israel Shahak explained that the PA’s role was to serve as “Israel’s Enforcer”.
As for Olmert’s supposed “offer” in 2008, here’s an excerpt from my book Obstacle to Peace:
“Olmert initially proposed in August that Israel would annex 6 percent of the West Bank with a 5.5 percent land swap in which Israel would keep the good land it wanted and in exchange give the Palestinians desert territory next to the Gaza Strip. By December, Olmert’s proposal was slightly revised to include Israeli annexation of 6.3 percent of the West Bank corresponding largely with the route of the separation wall and a 5.8 percent swap for land in the Judean Desert. Moreover, illustrating the lack of seriousness with which Olmert’s proposal was made, a key aspect was its inclusion of the precondition that the PA must oust Hamas and regain control of Gaza. ‘There is going to be no agreement, period,’ an Israeli official explained to Haaretz. Olmert was merely concerned with establishing his legacy. Abbas’s spokesman appropriately called Olmert’s proposal a ‘waste of time’ and reiterated the PA’s adherence to the international consensus on a two-state solution: complete Israeli withdrawal and a Palestinian state along the pre-June 1967 boundaries, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
In other words, Olmert wasn’t offering anything to the Palestinians. The amount of concessions Olmert was “offering” were negative. Olmert did not make an “offer” so much as issue a demand that the Palestinians cede even more of their land to Israel.
The fact that Vox takes the so-called “peace process” and such Israeli “offers” so seriously is exactly why its supposed “myth”-busting article cannot be taken seriously.
Myth #11: Everyone knows what a peace deal would look like
The myth challenged here is “that everyone broadly agrees on the terms of a peace deal”. Vox is correct to say that this is false.
Unfortunately, Vox badly mangles the reasons why that is false.
The real reason this is false is because the entire so-called “peace process” is the means by which the US and Israel have long blocked implementation of the two-state solution.
Yet Vox confuses the goal of the “peace process” with the two-state solution, in favor of which there is indeed otherwise a strong international consensus.
For example, Vox treats the status of Jersualem as controversial, characterizing it as disputed territory despite it being a completely uncontroversial point of fact under international law that East Jerusalem, along with the rest of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, is “occupied Palestinian territory”.
Vox notes that Israel in 1967 undertook measures to annex East Jerusalem but declines to inform its readers that Israel’s annexation measures are illegal, null and void under international law, as confirmed time and again by over by seventeen UN Security Council resolutions, as well as the 2004 Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ).
The second issue Vox addresses is the problem of the five million Palestinians who are today refugees as a consequence of the Zionists’ ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948. Here’s how Vox treats this one: “Palestinians frequently ask for what they call the ‘right of return’: permission to return to their land and live with full rights.”
So, as Vox characterizes the issue, the right of return is merely something Palestinians claim to have.
That is a malicious lie.
The right of refugees of war to return to their homeland is in fact an internationally recognized universal right, as reflected in UN General Assembly Resolution 194, which resolved “that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible . . . .”
Although today rejecting the Palestinians internationally recognized rights, the US was among the majority of member states that voted in favor of the resolution.
Vox’s feature “The 11 biggest myths about Israel-Palestine” fails miserably in its purported aim of dispelling misconceptions about the conflict.
This is not so surprising given that the person credited as editor on this feature is Max Fisher. For another example of Fisher serving as crude state propagandist, see my article “The ‘Forgotten’ US Shootdown of Iranian Airliner Flight 655”
Far from properly informing its readers, Vox is simply fulfilling the typical role of the US media of manufacturing consent for the US’s policy of supporting Israel’s crimes against the Palestinians.
Far from illuminating the problems in order to further progress down the path to a just peace, Vox has simply chosen to be part of the problem by grossly deceiving its readers about the true nature of the conflict.
For a remedy, read Obstacle to Peace: The US Role in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.