With Jews Under Siege, It’s Time To Debunk Left-Liberal Narratives On Israel
For the last two weeks, Palestinians have been conducting stabbing campaign in Israel. Incited by the Palestinians’ top political and religious leaders, the campaign has thus far resulted in eight murders and over 70 attempted murders. The victims — including young teens, young mothers, and elderly women and men — have been targeted solely because they are Jewish.
The Obama administration is intent on characterizing the violence with a moral equivalence that is anything but moral. Team Obama’s approach to Israel reflects attitudes and assumptions commonly accepted in liberal-left circles. America’s historic support for Israel will be threatened over time if liberal-left narratives continue to take root here. Recent events in the Middle East, which highlight the barbarism and intolerance that pervades the region surrounding Israel, create an opportunity for Israel’s supporters to effectively respond to those narratives:
Narrative: Israel is a European colonial outpost
Response: Jews without Israel are Yazidis, indigenous people unable to survive the oppressive culture of the Middle East without a protected enclave.
About half of Israel’s Jews fled oppression from Arab or other Muslim countries, or their forefathers did. Jews once lived throughout the Middle East — one third of Baghdad was Jewish at the end of World War I, and there were Jewish communities in almost every Arab country as well as Iran and Turkey. Jews have been the largest religious group in Jerusalem since 1840, well before the Zionist movement began. By the mid-20th Century, oppression of Jews in the Arab world had become intolerable. Almost a million Jews were chased out of Middle Eastern communities they had lived in for centuries. Israel provided them a refuge. Without Israel, they would have suffered the same fate as today’s Yazidis, Christians, Kurds and other minorities in the Middle East. It is clear that the Arab and broader Muslim world is the most hostile environment on earth today for minorities (as well as women and gays). Tiny Jewish minorities have somehow managed to survive in parts of the Arab world, but that chapter is closing. Yemen’s last remaining Jews were recently ordered to convert to Islam or flee. Israel, with a land area one-sixth of one percent the size of that of the Arab world, is a tiny enclave that is necessary to allow these Jews to live in their own region.
Narrative: Israel is an “apartheid” state
Response: Israel is the least “apartheid” state in the region by far; singling out the only Jewish state for such a smear is anti-Semitic.
Arabs make up over 20 percent of Israel’s population. They have full rights as citizens and complete religious freedom. They serve as elected legislators, as judges, and participate fully in Israeli society. Compare this to the rest of the Arab/Muslim world, where the treatment of minorities ranges from subjugation to slaughter. Israel is not perfect, and the state of siege she is forced to live under makes it very difficult to be perfect. But Israel still manages to be an oasis of tolerance in the world’s most intolerant neighborhood. It is anti-Semitic to single out the world’s only Jewish state as a gross violator of human rights, when it in fact has the best human rights record in the region by far under very difficult circumstances.
Narrative: Israeli settlements on the West Bank are the main obstacle to peace with the Palestinians
Response: Peace — and certainly a two-state solution — will be impossible unless the Palestinians abandon their dream of driving the Jews into the sea.
Israel’s pre-1967 borders are merely armistice lines: They reflect where the fighting stopped after five Arab armies attacked Israel — vowing to “drive the Jews into the sea” — following Israel’s independence in 1948. The U.N. resolution creating Israel also created a Palestinian state. At the end of the war, Jordan controlled the West Bank, Egypt controlled Gaza, and both countries would horribly oppress the Palestinians living there over the next two decades. Jordan and Egypt could have ended their brutal occupation and created a Palestinian state at any time during that period, yet they never did so and the “global community” never pressured them to do so.
Israel’s pre-1967 borders are not defensible. Israel was only nine miles wide in its mid-section. Those intent on driving the Jews into the sea would not have had to drive them far. Under any viable two-state solution, those borders would have to be adjusted and many of the settlements would be within Israel’s adjusted borders. But given that Israel would be such a slight sliver of land even with adjusted borders, it would be suicidal for Israel to cede military control over the West Bank under current circumstances. Israel ended its occupation of Gaza in 2005, and has been rewarded with thousands of rocket attacks ever since. Israel is wedged into a narrow gap between the West Bank and the sea. Vacating the West Bank would create intolerable risks to Israel as long as Palestinians cling to their dream of liberating Palestine “from the river to the sea,” celebrate the murder of Jews just as joyously as they celebrated 9/11, and refuse to accept Israel as a Jewish state.
The tense standoff that exists today is hardly optimal for anyone. But Israel, given its precarious geography, cannot accept a two-state solution where the Palestinians retain the intent and ability to pursue a one-state solution. A hostile Palestinian army on the West Bank, which could freely invite in ISIS, Iran, or any other allies intent on destroying Israel, is a non-starter.
President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry believe that a two-state solution will dampen Palestinian radicalism. They took an analogous approach to the Iran nuclear deal, hoping that their flexibility and reasonableness would usher in a new era of cooperation with Iran. Iran quickly demonstrated, however, that flexibility and reasonableness are viewed with contempt in that part of the world: Since the U.S. agreed to the nuclear deal, Iran has conducted provocative ballistic missile tests, conspired with Russia to annihilate U.S.-allied rebels in Syria, stepped up its proxy war in Yemen, and convicted an American journalist on bogus charges.
The President and Secretary Kerry have it backwards in their urgent push for a two-state solution: A two-state solution will not, in and of itself, result in peace and mutual acceptance between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Rather, mutual acceptance must occur before a two-state solution becomes a viable and sustainable option.
Narrative: Israelis stole the Palestinians’ land, a unique injustice in modern history
Response: Jews throughout the Middle East, including Jerusalem, had their land stolen by Arabs.
Hundreds of thousands of Jews throughout the Muslim world had their land stolen when they were forced to leave their ancient communities there. Many found refuge in Israel.
When Jordan took over East Jerusalem at the end of the 1948 war, it immediately expelled every Jew. Jerusalem’s historic Jewish Quarter, along with the rest of the Old City, was emptied of Jews. Jews were forbidden to even enter East Jerusalem or the West Bank, and hence were denied access to the holiest sites in Judaism. Almost all of the synagogues in the Old City were destroyed, with many converted into stables and chicken coops. The ancient Jewish cemetery was desecrated, with the tombstones used to line latrines.
The plight of Palestinians — and Jews — who were displaced in the Middle East is hardly unique. As just one of many examples: Shortly before the State of Israel was created, Pakistan was partitioned off from India to promote Muslim self-determination. In a partition that was more disruptive than the one in Palestine by orders of magnitude, several million Hindus and Sikhs were driven from their ancestral homelands. The current civil war in Syria has displaced 11.5 million people, as part of almost 60 million people that are displaced by conflict around the world today.
Narrative: Israeli militaristic expansionism makes peace impossible
Response: Palestinian leaders, by ensuring that Palestinians are raised from birth with a steady diet of Jew-hatred, are making peace impossible.
Palestinian children are indoctrinated to hate Jews and to seek Israel’s destruction. The prevalence of these attitudes in Palestinian society makes it exceedingly risky for Israel to trade land for the hope of peace.
To quote Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “If the Arabs put down their weapons today, there would be no more violence. If the Jews put down their weapons today, there would be no more Israel.”
If you don’t believe him, please watch this video.
David B. Cohen served in the administration of President George W. Bush as U.S. Representative to the Pacific Community, as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior, and as a member of the President’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. He is the author of Left-Hearted, Right-Minded: Why Conservative Policies Are The Best Way To Achieve Liberal Ideals.