Into the Fray: Israel needs to once again convey, unapologetically, to the world the rationale for its founding.
The most accurate way to describe Israel today is as an apartheid state… 3.5 million Palestinians and almost half a million Jews live in the areas Israel occupied in 1967, and yet while these two groups live in the same area, they are subjected to totally different legal systems. The Palestinians are stateless and lack many of the most basic human rights. – Neve Gordon, “Boycott Israel,” Los Angeles Times, August 20, 2009.
Taken from an article by a senior Israeli academic, this excerpt typifies the racist Judeophobic rhetoric that has come to dominate the public discourse on the Israeli- Palestinian conflict.
Sadly it is rhetoric that has been endorsed by many in the Israeli academia and media. Even more disturbing is the complicity — or at least complacency — of Israeli officialdom in allowing it to become the defining feature of this discourse.
Expecting Jews to die meekly
This mode of rhetoric is no less than inciteful, Judeophobic racism, because in effect, it embodies the implicit delegitmization of the right of Jews to defend themselves.
It embodies the implicit expectation that Jews should consent to die meekly. And how can an expectation that Jews die meekly be characterized other than as “inciteful, Judeophobic racism?” For no matter what the measures Israel adopts to protect its citizens from those undisguisedly trying to murder and maim them — because they are Jews — they are widely condemned as “racist,” “disproportionate violence” or even “war crimes/crimes against humanity.”
It matters not whether these measures are administrative decisions or security operations, defensive responses or anticipatory initiatives, punitive retaliations or preemptive strikes. It matters not whether they entail the emplacement of physical barriers to block the infiltration of indiscriminate murderers; the imposition of restrictions to impede their lethal movements; the execution of preventive arrests to foil their deadly intentions; the conduct of targeted killings (with unprecedentedly low levels of collateral damage) to preempt their brutal plans; the launch of military campaigns to prevent the incessant shelling of civilians…
Lip service to Israel’s right to self-defense
The depiction of these measures as arbitrary acts of wrongdoing, whose only motivation is racially driven territorial avarice and discriminatory embitterment of the lives of the Palestinians, distorts reality and disregards context. But far more perturbing, is the moral implication of this condemnation.
For if all endeavors to prevent, protect or preempt are denounced as morally reprehensible, the inevitable conclusion is that they should not be employed. This implies a no less inevitable conclusion: To avoid the morally reprehensible, the Jewish state should — in effect — allow those who would attack its citizens, to do so with total impunity, and with total immunity from retribution.
True, many of Israel’s detractors protest with righteous indignation that they acknowledge that it “has a right to defend itself.” But this is quickly exposed as meaningless lip service, for whenever Israel exercises that allegedly acknowledged right, it is condemned for being excessively heavy-handed.
It makes little difference if Israel imposes a legal maritime blockade to prevent the supply of lethal armaments to Islamist extremists; or if Israeli commandos are forced to use deadly force to prevent themselves from being disemboweled by a frenzied lynch mob; or if, in response to the savage slaughter wrought by Palestinian suicide bombers — which relative to its population, dwarfed the losses on 9/11 — Israel clears the terror-infested and boobytrapped Jenin, using ground troops rather than its air force to minimize Palestinian collateral damage, thus incurring needless casualties of its own.
No matter how murderous the onslaughts initiated by the Palestinians, no matter how blatant the Palestinian brutality, no matter how outrageous the Palestinian provocation, the Israeli response is deemed inappropriate.
Despite the declaration of recognition of some generic abstract right to defend itself and its citizens, it seems that in practice the only “appropriate” response is for Israel to refrain from defending itself.
Exigencies of security
Then there is the reverse racism emblazoned in the subtext of the discourse of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians: The victims of racist hatred are condemned as racist for fending off their racist attackers.
Security barriers are not erected, roadblocks are not put in place, travel restrictions are not enforced as a racist response to Palestinian ethnicity but as a rationale response to Palestinian enmity. To believe otherwise is to fall prey to what Binyamin Netanyahu once called the “reversal of causality.” The blockade of Gaza is a consequence, not a cause, of Hamas’s violence; the West Bank security barrier is the result of, not the reason for, Palestinian terrorism.
If not for the massive carnage at Sbarro pizzeria, at Dizengoff Center, at the Passover Seder in the Park Hotel, there would have been no IDF operation in Jenin in 2002. Without the indiscriminate bombardment of Israeli civilians, there would have been no Cast Lead operation in Gaza in 2009. If pregnant women and ambulances were not used to smuggle explosives into Israeli cities, there would be no need for checkpoints and roadblocks. If Palestinian gunmen would not open fire from vehicles on Israeli families passing by, there would be no need to restrict the movement of Palestinians on certain roads. If Palestinians did not ambush Israeli cars traveling though Palestinian towns, there would be no need to construct special roads for Israelis to bypass those towns.
The outcome of Judeophobic enmity
Of course, the standard Judeophobic response to this will be… “occupation,” that all-purpose, all-weather, one-size-fits-all excuse for every racist Palestinian atrocity perpetrated against the Jews.
According to this morally base and factually baseless contention, all Palestinian violence is an expression of understandable rage and frustration due to years of repressive “occupation” of Palestinian lands.
This claim is as egregious as it is asinine. It must be rejected with the moral opprobrium and the intellectual disdain it so richly deserves.
Indeed, as I have demonstrated in several recent columns, the call for the destruction of the Jewish state was made long before Israel held a square inch of what is now designated as “occupied Palestinian land.” (In fact, the original 1964 Palestinian National Covenant explicitly disavows any sovereign claim to the “West Bank” and Gaza as the Palestinian homeland.) The founding documents of the PLO, Fatah and Hamas are all committed to the destruction of the Jewish state, irrespective of time and regardless of frontiers. This too was the sentiment reiterated by Mahmoud Abbas in his recent UN appearance.
So clearly “Occupation” is not the origin of Palestinian ill-will towards Israel. Quite the reverse. The Israeli presence in Judea, Samaria and Gaza is a direct outcome of Arab ill-will towards Israel, when in 1967 their massive military offensive to destroy Israel failed catastrophically.
It was not Jewish territorial avarice that brought Israel to “the territories” but Arab Judeocidal aggression.
What if there had been no ‘Occupation’?
Even if it can be irrefutably shown that “occupation” is not the origin of Palestinian hostility, might it is not be possible that elimination of “occupation” would induce, if not Palestinian amitié, then at least Palestinian acceptance of Israel? Sadly, all evidence seems to point the other way. Every time Israel has made tangible efforts to remove “occupation,” the frenzy of Palestinian terrorism has soared to a higher crescendo, and forced abandonment or even reversal of these efforts:
• This was the case from 1993 to ’96, when the implementation of the Oslo agreements brought forth a huge wave of suicide bombings.
• This was the case in 2000, when Ehud Barak offered sweeping concessions to the Palestinians, who responded with a wave of unprecedented terrorism which continued under Ariel Sharon’s “restraint-is-strength-policy” until the carnage made military response unavoidable. The result was Operation Defensive Shield in 2002 that brought the IDF back in force to the “West Bank,” where calm has been largely maintained ever since.
This was the case in 2005, when Israel withdrew from Gaza and erased every vestige of “occupation,” and in return received continuing and escalating violence that culminated in Operation Cast Lead.
Clearly, not only can “occupation” not be attributed as the cause of Palestinian enmity, but attempts to remove — or at least attenuate — it seem only to exacerbate this enmity.
Here intriguing questions arise: What if Israel had never taken over the “West Bank” or had withdrawn immediately after doing so, transferring control back to Jordan? What then would have become of the Palestinians and their claims to “national liberation?” What “occupation” would have then been blamed for their plight? What territory would have then been the focus of their efforts to establish their state? These are weighty questions which must await discussion at some later stage, but merely raising them poses a serious challenge to the factually flawed conventional wisdom that dominates and distorts the debate on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
‘Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism’
“Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism” is the mantra sounded with Pavlovian regularity by Israel’s detractors. And they are of course right. Criticism of Israel is not necessarily anti- Semitism.
However, the enduring practice of holding the nation-state of the Jews to discriminatory double standards does makes anti-Semitism an increasingly plausible explanation for that criticism, an explanation can no longer be summarily dismissed without persuasive proof to the contrary.
After all, atrocities of ferocity and scale far beyond anything of which Israel is accused, even by its most vehement detractors, are perpetrated regularly with hardly a murmur of censure from the international community. By contrast the slightest hint of any Israeli infringement — real or imagined — of human rights immediately results in expression of shock and revulsion in headlines in all major media outlets across the globe, precipitates emergency sessions of international organizations, and produces worldwide condemnation, from friend and foe alike.
Of course, the implication is not that Israel should be judged by the same criteria as the tyrannies of Sudan or North Korea; or by the bloody standards of Damascus or Tehran.
The question is, however, why should it be judged by standards and criteria which are far more stringent than those applied to the democracies that make up NATO.
For in the Balkans, in Iraq and in Afghanistan they have enforced blockades and embargoes far more onerous and damaging to civilians than that imposed on Gaza. They conducted military campaigns far from their borders that caused far more civilian casualties than Israel has in campaigns conducted only a few kilometers from the heart of its capital city…
Yet international outcry has been — at best – muted.
So, while holding the Jewish state to standards demanded of no other nation in the exercise of its right to self-defense may have explanations other than anti-Semitism (or Judeophobia to be more precise), no really compelling ones come readily to mind.
The real racism
This brings us back to where we began.
While the Jewish state faces unparalleled threats, and unconditional enmity, it is continually condemned for acting to meet those threats and to contend with that enmity — no matter what measures it adopts, no matter how grave the peril, no matter how severe the provocation.
This then is the real racism that permeates the discourse on the Israel-Palestinian conflict:
• The expectation that the Jews jeopardize their security in order to maintain the viability of manifest falsehoods.
• The perverse portrayal of every coercive measure undertaken by the IDF to protect the lives of Jews against those striving to kill them, merely because they are Jews, as racially motivated, disproportionate violence.
• The disingenuous depiction of the inconvenience caused to Palestinians by these measures as a more heinous evil than the Jewish deaths they are designed to prevent.
• The attitude that shedding Jewish blood is more acceptable than the measures required to prevent it, an element that appears to be becoming increasingly internalized into the discourse on the Israel-Palestinian conflict.
Israel needs to once again convey, unapologetically, to the world the rationale for its founding: Jews will no longer die meekly.