The most basic rule in dealing with the Saudis and their friends is that Israel must not feel that it has to pay anything for peace, anything at all. Nothing. Zilch. Zero. Nada. – Dr. Mordechai Kedar
Dr. Kedar is talking about Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states, but this is true for all of Israel’s foreign relations. So many times when dealing with Europe, the US, and of course Arab countries, agreements are made contingent on concessions on the “Palestinian issue.” And what does that mean? Usually it implies acceptance to some degree of the “Palestinian narrative,” namely that we Jews came along and dispossessed the “native” Palestinian Arabs, and now if we want to be left alone (never mind being treated like a normal nation and not the spawn of Satan) we need to make it up to them. Often the concessions demanded lead directly to the destruction of our state, but hey, the Jews lived so happily as a Diaspora in the Christian and Muslim spheres for thousands of years, so why would that be a problem?
Enough. As Ben-Dror Yemini shows in his impressive but depressing new book, Industry of Lies: Media, Academia and the Israeli-Arab Conflict, demonization of Israel is pervasive. It is everywhere, it is irrational, it feeds on itself and it is effective. Ultimately everyone who studies in a university, a grade school, a high school or even a kindergarten has it explained to them that Israel is a uniquely evil enterprise that tortures and murders Palestinians, keeping them under a system of apartheid until they can be killed by the ongoing genocide.
So naturally, everyone, even if they are Israeli, thinks it is perfectly OK to demand that we give up to the Palestinians what we “owe” them, and maybe even a little more as punishment for the pain and suffering we’ve inflicted.
As I said, enough. Israelis, at least, should be capable of standing up for the truth, not to mention their own survival. Especially when the falsity of the accusations against Israel are self-evidently false: Yemini discusses “genocide” claims, including a particularly egregious one by Israeli academic Yitzhak Laor, who published an article in the London Review of Books including a statement that “gas chambers are not the only way to destroy a nation, it is enough to develop high rates of infant mortality.” But publicly available data show that Palestinian infant mortality dropped from between 152-162 per thousand births in 1967 to between 53-63 in 1985 and less than 20 in 2014. Palestinian life expectancy at birth has gone from 49 to 76 since 1967, and the Arab population of Judea, Samaria and Gaza has at least tripled since 1970. Genocide indeed!
Other accusations are logically inconsistent, not even needing empirical data to refute them. One of the well known ones is “pinkwashing,” the idea that Israel’s tolerance of LGBT people cannot be used as evidence for Israel’s overall liberal, tolerant behavior, including toward Palestinians – because Israel oppresses Palestinians. Could an argument be more circular?
One can’t forget the famous master’s thesis by Tal Nitzan at Hebrew University, which generated a storm of astonished criticism 10 years ago, when she received a high grade and a prize for a paper that claimed that the fact that IDF soldiers did not rape Palestinian women implied that Israeli Jews are racists who don’t find Arabs attractive! Leaving aside the fact that there has been an Arab Miss Israel (Rana Raslan, 1999) and that an Arab woman won the popular Israeli singing competition “The Voice” (Lina Makhoul, 2013), the argument illustrates a misunderstanding of the nature of military rape (which is about power and subjugation, not attractiveness) in addition to being, well, just blindingly stupid.
A great deal of the political discourse about Israel is based on premises which, while not so obviously false as Tal Nitzan’s thesis, are simply made up. Every day “journalists” around the world (especially in Israel) make up stories which are either completely false, biased, contextless, or exaggerated, and which cast Israel in an ugly light. Gideon Levy and Amira Hass of Ha’aretz are tireless masters of the art form. And anything ugly about Israel is immediately accepted as true by the hundreds of millions of people on this earth – I don’t think this is an exaggeration – who must believe that Israel is far more evil than Hitler was.
Political leaders, presidents, popes, prime ministers and EU officials are not immune, as we saw when President Obama and Pope Francis repeated Hamas-sourced accusations about child casualties in Gaza, or when then-EU Parliament President Martin Schultz parroted falsehoods about Israel keeping water from Palestinians.
Along with the continued demonization, there is also the suggestion that Israel’s very statehood is illegitimate, a colonial enterprise that should be undone, like white minority rule in Zimbabwe or South Africa. We are told that if we want “peace,” we need to surrender like the whites in what used to be Rhodesia did, although in our case there is a Jewish majority. But, no problem – that is precisely what would be achieved by implementing a Palestinian “right of return” for millions of descendents of “refugees,” many of whom were migrants who came to Mandate Palestine as late as 1946 before fleeing the war that the Arabs started. After all, that would be “justice,” because they are “colonized” and we are “colonizers.” Never mind that there is no precedent for any such “right” in modern history.
No, it wouldn’t be justice, and we don’t need “peace” on these terms, not with Saudi Arabia, not with the EU that is placing identification badges on goods from the “settlements” that it speciously calls “illegal,” not with the PLO – which should never have been crowned “legitimate representative of the Palestinian people” in the first place – and not with the UN Human Rights Commission, which apparently is about to release a blacklist of companies to boycott who do business across the Green Line.
All of these entities see us as less than legitimate, not even the “normal” state that Herzl longed for, but far lower than normal. They project their own dark history – imagine, Europeans calling us “colonialists” and Arabs accusing us of racism and ethnic cleansing! – and they pretend that they’ll let us live if we repent from our “crimes” and compensate our “victims.”
The Gulf states, led by the Saudis, want something from us today: to stop Iran’s march across the region. Tomorrow the West may need something – you laugh, but look at the direction Europe is going. Whatever any of them offer, we should demand in return an end to their abusive treatment, including a true end to the academic incitement that governments allow to pass and even fund. And they can stop it if they want to: anti-Israel academics are whores – watch their fervor evaporate with their grants. If countries can make it illegal to use the “wrong” pronoun, they can stop the demonization of Israel in their schools.
That’s part of what we should get. And what we should pay in return?
Other than our contributions to science, technology, medicine and the arts – that we would freely give them anyway – nothing. Zilch. Zero. Nada.
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