Israel is under siege, facing what many people believe is the most serious crisis facing it since the day it first existed, over sixty years ago. Today, two op-eds were published that address this issue.
The first is by Bret Stephens, and appears in The Wall Street Journal. It just might be the single most important column he has written. He starts stating the obvious, and then listing precisely what Israel’s predicament is:
It is surrounded on nearly all sides by enemies who are aggressively committed to its destruction. And too many people who call themselves its friends are only ambivalently committed to its security.
No one, in a short article, has accomplished the job of showing how the would-be friends of Israel help its enemies by continually putting the blame for Israel’s troubles on the one democracy in the Middle East that has succeeded, and way beyond its founders’ dreams, and hence is put on perpetual trial. It is Israel’s very existence, and its success, that leads to the hateful attempts of its enemies to try to destroy the Jewish state.
Some, on the Left especially, always blame Israel. They say “if only Netanyahu was not prime minister; if only there were no Russian-born Jews exerting influence on the political scene; if only they lived up to the promise of their Labor Zionist socialist founders; if only they had given the Arabs real reasons to stop hating them,” etc., etc., etc. It’s all Israel’s and Bibi’s fault. As noted here the other day, a former head of the New Israel Fund revealed privately what she never could say publicly to her own community: “The disappearance of a Jewish state would not be the tragedy that Israelis fear since it would become more democratic.” Yes, and the remaining Jews would all be dead. This is the true face of the supposedly pro-Israeli Left.
One should heed Stephens’ final paragraph if one really cares about Israel’s survival:
No democracy in the world today lies under a darker shadow of existential dread than Israel. And the events of the past month ought to demonstrate that Israel’s dread is not of shadows only. Israel’s efforts to allay the enmity of its enemies or mollify the scorn of its critics have failed. But is it too much to ask its friends for support — this time, for once, without cavil or reservation?
In a similar fashion, David Harris, executive director of the American Jewish Committee, writes that the “strategic challenges” facing Israel continue to exist and are “hardly likely to end tomorrow.” He discounts from the start those he calls the ABJ Jews — “‘Anyone But Jews’ Jews” — who will help anyone except their fellow Jews. He also does not care about those he calls the “IOI crowd,” those who believe “‘If Only Israel’ did this or that, all would be solved,” as if Israel alone is the guilty party that has failed to stop the attacks on the Jewish state.
Harris is more concerned with those who understand there are no easy answers, but who recognize the burden put on Israel — whom they know seeks peace and is not being treated fairly. Like Stephens, he outlines what faces Israel in the present, pointing to the new threats from Iran, Turkey, Syria, Hezbollah, and, of course, Hamas — whose charter he says should rightfully be required reading. He calls it: “Bone-chilling, classic anti-Semitism.”
He may discard talking to the IOI crowd, but he answers them nevertheless. He notes that the Palestinian Authority has “spurned every offer for peace,” not just coming from Netanyahu today, but from left-of-center, right-of-center, and centrist Israeli governments, continually walking away “from the negotiating table” in favor of appeasement of Hamas. Harris, talking to the IOI types, writes the following:
There are those who say they’d get involved if only there were a different government in Jerusalem. They forget one basic fact: the battle is bigger than the government du jour; it’s really about Israel, no matter who is in power.
In 2000, an unprecedented wave of terror against Israel broke out with a left-of-center coalition in power and a sweeping two-state proposal on the table.
In 1996, when the dovish Shimon Peres was prime minister, he was defeated in an election because of a series of Palestinian terrorist attacks.
What to do?
Look at yourself in the mirror and ask whether this battle really is about someone else, or whether it’s also about you.
To understand the roots of the problem, remember that knowledge is power. And no one has gotten to the roots of the crisis better than Sol Stern, in his new Encounter Books Broadside: A Century of Palestinian Rejectionism and Jew Hatred. If you care about Israel and you are among those who want to give ammunition in the form of logic, facts and truth to your doubting friends, you should immediately order this booklet for them either online or in print, and spend the small amount necessary to give it to them as a gift.
In an interview with Stern appearing today at Frontpagemag.com, Stern himself tells us what he out to prove in his article:
My broadside shows how the Palestinian campaign for statehood is based on a historical big lie. The lie is that the Palestinian people were dispossessed by the new state of Israel in 1948 and that the current Israeli government is still preventing the establishment of an independent Palestinian state. I show that from the beginning of the conflict almost a century ago it was the Jews who were willing to compromise, to accept the so called “two state” solution, while the Palestinian leadership refused to even consider a sovereign Jewish state in the Muslim Middle East. Moreover, this rejection, which was backed by violence at every turn, was driven by Islamic doctrines of Jew hatred.
It is, of course, easy for many of us to assert this truth. It is another thing to prove it, as powerfully and succinctly as Stern has done now.
One thing Stern shows is what a liar Mahmoud Abbas — the man who heads the Palestinian Authority and whom so many believe is a viable partner in a two-state solution — is. He takes apart a recent op-ed Abbas had published in the anti-Israeli New York Times, the source of authority for the hate-Israel, left-wing crowd. Recently, a little noticed item about Abbas appeared in a New York Times report from Israel written by Ethan Bronner, its top correspondent in the Middle East. It should have received major attention, but few outside of Stern — who called it to my attention — noticed it.
The article is ostensibly about the decision of Abbas to go on with his delusional bid for UN membership for the Palestinian Authority. It contained the following incredible yet revealing statement: Abbas was talking to 20 left-wing Israeli intellectuals. Evidently, like their anti-American counterparts in academia, Israel too has the center of anti-Israel sentiment in its universities. Somehow, professors seem exempt to reality, perhaps because they continually live in a dream world.
He started by claiming he wanted negotiations, and informing his audience that he had met secretly with Shimon Peres and Ehud Barak, the private talks led nowhere, and he would therefore go to the UN. As usual, Abbas said direct talks with Israel could begin if only Israel carried out a short-term freeze in building settlements — which of course, they did before, with nothing coming of it. He added the talks had to accept the indefensible 1967 lines, and he refused to accept recognition of Israel as a Jewish state. All this we already know. And yes, Abbas claimed that he and the Palestinians want “to live in peace and security” with Israel, not delegitimize it, but only to legitimize a Palestinian state. And of course, he and his chief negotiator Saeb Erekat say they want a two-state solution. But they always add they will never give up the “right of return,” which means, as everyone knows, they are not serious.
But the key sentence in the story, which should have been the page one headline, is the following. Abbas said:
We are going to complain that as Palestinians we have been under occupation for 63 years.
Look at that sentence carefully. Abbas is saying, not as is usually the case, that Israel is an occupying power not because it controls Gaza and the West Bank, but because it has occupied them from the beginning when it created a Jewish state!
In other words, it is not current policy of the Netanyahu government that has caused the failure of peace, but the very creation in May of 1948 of the state of Israel!
To Abbas and his cohorts, evidently all of Israel is occupied territory and is illegitimate. Israel, as the Left used to say, and as Noam Chomsky’s followers do today, is an imperialist-Zionist-colonialist entity, meant to rule over the Arab masses.
Speaking of the Left, Stone tackles one of the great myth-makers about Israel, a man whose writings had tremendous influence on the Left — the late I.F. Stone. As he says in his interview:
The lion of the old and new left, Izzy Stone, posthumously shows that the Palestinian nakba narrative is another big lie concocted to avoid having to own up to the failures and self-destructiveness of the Palestinians own leaders, from the days of Haj Amin al-Husseini to Mahmoud Abbas.
Present at the first war against Israel waged by invading Arab armies, Stone reported the Arab exodus as not being caused by Israeli aggression — as he later would argue — but by Palestinians running away to avoid the fighting.
Stern says he hopes his “little book helps readers see through the lies about the conflict told by the Palestinian leaders and their liberal allies in the West.” He has indeed done just that, and in fact better than any similar accounts published in the past by others. It is hard to get someone to read an entire large book, such as the many written by Alan Dershowitz in defense of Israel. But people will take out the time to peruse a brief account written in a lively fashion. Stern has, as he hoped, provided a “concise historical narrative” that “can help arm pro-Israel Americans with the facts and arguments they will need.”
So, I end with a plea. Buy Stern’s book, and send it to your friends and relatives!