Actually, it is not true that it is OK to question the legitimacy of any state, as the U.N. charter forbids it. This is the sort of thing we can expect from Jeff Halper.
By now, most people understand that Jeff Halper and the organization he leads, the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions (ICAHD), are not trustworthy sources of information about the Arab-Israeli conflict.
This doesn't stop him from being invited to speak to Christian audiences in the U.S., nor does it stop so-called Christian peace activists from distributing ICAHD materials in the U.S.
Halper was present at the Presbyterian Church (USA)'s recent General Assembly in Minneapolis and anyone who missed his presentation (organized by the Israel-Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (USA), could visit Sabeel's table in the convention center and purchase "Counter-Rhetoric: Challenging 'convention wisdom' & reframing the conflict," a 41-page booklet published by ICAHD in 2006. Sabeel activists were selling the booklet for $3.
Predictably, this booklet has a couple of what can be politely be characterized as "howlers."
For example, on page 20 of this booklet, the text attempts to refute the notion that "There is no partner for peace," by asserting that "the Palestinian leadership, including Hamas, and the entire international community are united in calling for a two-state solution on the 1967 borders, something Israel is not willing to agree to."
There are a couple of obvious problems with this passage. First off, the 1967 borders as they are called in this text are armistice lines and under UN Resolution 242, Israel's borders are to be determined under a final peace agreement, which so far, has not been achieved.
Secondly, the notion that Israel is not willing to agree to a two-state solution is contradicted by historical events.
Israel attempted to negotiate with the Arabs after the Six Day War in 1967 only to be rebuffed with the Three Nos of Khartoum in which the Arab League stated there would be no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel and no peace with Israel.
It also ignores the failure of the Camp David negotiations in 2000 during which Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered the Palestinians a state of their own on all of the Gaza Strip and most of the West Bank, which Palestinian leader Yassir Arafat rejected, without making a counter offer. Israel also agreed to the Clinton Parameters, which Arafat rejected despite a warning from Prince Bandar from Saudi Arabia who told the Palestinian leader "I hope you remember, sir, what I told you. If we lose this opportunity, it is not going to be a tragedy. This is going to be a crime." (The New Yorker, March 24, 2003.)
The most egregious howler, however, is the assertion that Hamas is part of a group of organizations calling for a two-state solution. Hamas' own charter calls for Israel's destruction. Its leaders have made numerous statements reaffirming its commitment to this goal. For example, in January 2006, Mahmoud Zahar, Hamas' "foreign minister," stated "We do not recognize the Israeli enemy, nor his right to be our neighbor, nor to stay [on the land], nor his ownership of any inch of land. ... Our principles are clear: Palestine is a land of Waqf [Islamic trust], which can not be given up. (Jan. 17, 2006 translated by Palestinian Media Watch).
In light of the mountains of evidence proving otherwise, the notion that Hamas is willing to accept Israel's existence is frankly, laughable.
There's another laughable assertion – that no one is denying the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state.
On pages nine and 10, the booklet gives readers a response to affirmations of the Jewish right to self-determination by asserting that while it is "perfectly reasonable to question the basis of the legitimacy of any state, no one in the international community, or in the Palestinian leadership, is saying otherwise. Only that the Palestinians have an equal right to a Palestinian state, on Palestinian land, and that Palestinian citizens of Israel (Arab Israelis) have full civil rights inside Israel."
Who does ICAHD think it's kidding? Israel's legitimacy as a Jewish state, and the of Jews to exercise their right to self-determination, has been under assault for years. For proof, go see Hamas' charter and while you're at it, take a look at Sabeel's Jerusalem Document which calls for a one-state solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict with the formula being "One state for two nations and three religions."
Incitement Not a Problem
Things get really weird on page 17, when the booklet denies that anti-Semitic incitement in Palestinian society is not an obstacle to peace, stating that "while there is clearly a nationalist sentiment in Palestinian texts, as there is for Israelis, there is no call for incitement against Jews or Israelis in the Palestinian Authority's curriculum. The PA has even gone so far as to ban the posting of 'martyr posters' on schools out of concern that it will encourage violence among the youth." (The booklet offers this assertion to refute the notion that "the real problem is the anti-Semitic propaganda that Palestinians receive since childhood.")
To get a more accurate picture of the problem of incitement in Palestinian society, go to Palestinian Media Watch, the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), or even youtube. This is no mere "nationalist" sentiment, but annihilationist sentiment and it is an obstacle to peace whether Halper and the group he leads want to admit it or not.
The booklet, (authored by Emily Schaeffer, Jeff Halper and Jimmy Johnson), was published with funding from the European Community. It includes the predictable disclaimer that the views expressed in the document do not "reflect the official opinion of the European Commission."
To make matters worse, the booklet expresses gratitude to ICAHD's other funders which include European Union, Christian Aid, the Catholic Committee Against Hunger and for Development, the Church of Sweden, the Austrian Development Agency and the government of Ireland.
What were these institutions doing supporting an organization that offers such a patently distorted view of the Arab-Israeli conflict?
And can someone tell us why ICAHD is a trusted "resource" in mainline Protestant community?