Response to Minto’s article, NZH, 12 July 2022
18 July 2022
I am writing in connection with the error riddled and biased opinion piece written by John Minto ” From Raglan to Palestine.” Minto who is a political activist and spokesperson for Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa, continues unabated with his anti- Israel obsession.
In this piece he makes a false equivalence between colonisation of Māori land and what he calls the colonisation of Palestine. His particular focus at this time is Masafer Yatta which he claims is Palestinian land which is being confiscated. This is contrary to the fact that this area is state land, which was declared a military training ground in the early 1980s. Any building in this area has been illegal and the high court is moving to enforce this. The recent High Court decision lists some of the more egregious examples that prove unequivocally that the residents of the illegal “villages” of Masafer Yatta arrived after the IDF closed off the area for military use.
Arab claims to this land are unfounded, and the claim that Israel is dispossessing indigenous people is a lie.
In the opinion piece, Mr Minto talks about mass expulsions of Palestinians from their land in 1948 while he fails to mention that this movement of people was due to a defensive war fought by the fledgling Jewish state against 5 invading Arab armies. The reasons why Arabs left were varied. Some left in advance of what they believed to be the swift defeat of Israel, some responded to calls by Arab leaders to leave, some were expelled for military and strategic reasons and others simply fled to avoid being caught in the fighting.
Many Arabs did in fact remain and make up 20% of the population of Israel, serving in all sectors of society, including roles as doctors, lawyers, Supreme Court judges, professors, and members of the government. The original 700,000 who left their homes have now swelled to around 7 million, so the accusation of ethnic cleansing is again a falsehood.
He also fails to mention the approximately 850,000 Jews who were forced to leave Arab and Muslim countries between 1948 and 1972 and many had their property confiscated. Approximately 600,000 of those Jews emigrated to Israel and Israel received no compensation for their resettlement. Their descendants form a significant proportion of Israeli society today and were readily absorbed into this new nation.
Minto ignores the fact that there has been a continual Jewish presence in the land of Israel, which occupies part of the area previously known as Palestine. Palestine was a name given to the area by the Romans and before the British mandate, the name was synonymous with the Land of Israel. Prior to the British mandate, the area was a part of the Ottoman empire. Jews, Muslims, Christians lived in this area.
Jews are in fact the indigenous people of the land – the word Jew is derived from Judea and the West bank is known to Jews as Judea/Samaria. This is the region in which the distinct Jewish culture developed 3,000 years ago. The Arabs are indigenous to Arabia and didn’t invade the region until the 7th century.
The area known as Palestine had been under Ottoman jurisdiction for 400 hundred years up till the end of WW1. It was then placed under the British Mandate. In the fourteenth century when Israel fell under Muslim rule, there were Jewish communities in at least thirty cities, including Haifa, Hebron, Gaza, Jerusalem and Safed. At the time of the Ottoman conquest in the early sixteenth century, 200 years later, Jews lived in Jerusalem, Nablus, Hebron, Safed and in many Galilean villages. From 1948 it has been under Israel sovereignty and recognised by the international community, including NZ.