Ron Radosh

Israel's Fate Hangs in the Balance: Is Benny Morris's new Assessment Right?

The fate of Israel should be of concern not to just Jews and Israelis, but to everyone who lives in the United States. No one has made that point more powerfully than Pastor John C. Hagee at Restoration Weekend. You can find the video and text of his speech here. Pastor Hagee’s effort in creating Christians United for Israel, which now has 500,000 members and is undoubtedly the most effective lobbying group on behalf of Israel in the country, speaks for itself.  The good pastor knows that the West is in a war against radical Islam, and that the Jewish people are, as he puts it, “the canary in our coalmine.”

He goes on to say that  “it is the Jewish State in particular that serves as the West’s warning system.  America must wake up to the understanding that Iran fully intends to destroy the United States of America.  When someone threatens to kill you, you should take it seriously. We must recognize those who threaten Israel have the United States in their sights.  To anyone with eyes to see and ears that hear, it is clear that Israel is in the greatest danger it has faced since six Arab armies tried to strangle the Jewish State in the birth canal in 1948.” He then made this point:

“Your fight is our fight; your enemies are our enemies.  We’re in this together to the end. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a new day in America.  The sleeping giant of Christian Zionism has awakened.  Christians are joining Jews in speaking out against militant Islam.  As you know, Ahmadinejad poses a threat to the State of Israel that promises nothing less than a nuclear holocaust.”

There is no ambivalence or equivocation in Pastor Hagee’s words. He says, point blank: “Once again, those who would appease seek to do so at the expense of Israel.  Israel is always the one called upon to sacrifice.  They tell us that if we want the Sunnis and the Shiites to stop massacring each other in Iraq, then Israel must give up land.  And if we want the Syrians and Hezbollah to stop murdering the leaders of Lebanon, then Israel must give up land.  And if we want the Saudis to permit women to drive or vote, the obvious answer is that Israel should give up more land.”

He knows why there is no peace, and the answer is simple: “The problem is Arab rejection of Israel’s right to exist. The problem is Israel does not have a legitimate partner for peace.  The problem is radical Islam’s bloodthirsty embrace of a theocratic dictatorship that believes they have a mandate from God to kill Christians and Jews.  The problem is the failure of moderates in the Arab and Muslim world to stand up and rein in these Islamic terrorists.”

This is the truth that seems to elude not only President Barack Obama, but so many of the would-be wise men in our own country. All this came to mind when I read the very depressing but necessary assessment by Israeli historian Benny Morris, which appears in the new edition of Tablet magazine.  Both Morris, an Israeli, and Pastor Hagee, an American Christian Zionist, know how serious an enemy Israel and America face, and both know that little time remains to tell the world that they must now, before it is too late, force our allies and our government to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear bomb.

Morris raises the issue of the elusive and evidently never-ending search of each new presidential administration to revive the so-called “peace process,” which, as we all know, is more of a joke than it ever was. He raises the issue of what is standing in the way of a two-state solution, that of a Palestinian state living in peace next to its neighbor Israel, and which the various doves in American Jewish circles — primarily the J-Street crowd and the now rather lame Americans for Peace Now group — constantly proclaim is their effort, and which they argue can be reached if only Israel makes necessary concessions.

The truth is that existed in 1947, when the UN voted on Nov.29 to create a Jewish and an Arab state side by side in the old British Mandate, which was due to be given up on May 15th of 1948. The Arab side, as my wife and I related in our book A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the Founding of Israel, was put forth most clearly in a pamphlet published by the Arab League. It stated: “The whole Arab people is unalterably opposed to the attempt to impose Jewish immigration and settlement upon it, and ultimately to establish a Jewish State in Palestine.” They vowed to drench the Holy Land “with the last drop of our blood in the lawful defense of all and every inch of it.” Their demand was simple: “No partition, no further Jewish immigration and no Jewish State.” They would only accept what they called an “independent, democratic Arab state, embracing all of Palestine.” Of course it would be an Islamic state, and Jews would be in a status of dhimmitude,  accepting their given role as a small minority beholden to Islamic law and rule.

Benny Morris understands that for the Arab mentality, little has changed since 1948 and the creation of the Jewish State. The first reason no peace is possible, he writes,  “the one that American and European officials never express and — if impolitely mentioned in their presence — turn away from in distaste, is that Palestinian political elites, of both the so-called ‘secular’ and Islamist varieties, are dead set against partitioning the Land of Israel/Palestine with the Jews.” Morris continues:

“They regard all of Palestine as their patrimony and believe that it will eventually be theirs. History, because of demography and the steady empowerment of the Arab and Islamic worlds and the West’s growing alienation from Israel, and because of Allah’s wishes, is, they believe, on their side. They do not want a permanent two-state solution, with a Palestinian Arab state co-existing alongside a (larger) Jewish state; they will not compromise on this core belief and do not believe, on moral or practical grounds, that they should.”

The truth, Morris believes, cannot be mentioned by our statesman, because if the Palestinian and Arab position is accurately stated, it means that “the Israeli-Arab conflict has no resolution apart from the complete victory of one side or the other (with the corollary of expulsion, or annihilation, by one side of the other) — which leaves leaders like President Barack Obama with nowhere realistic to go with regard to the conflict. Philosophically, acceptance of the rock-like unpliability of this reality is extremely problematic, given the ongoing military and philosophical clash between the West and various forces in the Islamic world.”

Instead of facing this truth and trying to decide what is to be done, our leaders continue on with the farce of always trying to resurrect a peace process that always fails, and will continue to do so in the future. Speaking as a historian, Morris argues the similarities with the era before World War II — the age of “appeasement” — are too striking to ignore. He writes:

“In this connection, our age, it may turn out, resembles the classic age of appeasement, the 1930s, when the Western democracies (and the Soviet Union) were ranged against, but preferred not to confront, Nazi Germany and its allies, Fascist Italy, and expansionist Japan. During that decade, Hitler’s inexorable martial, racist, and uncompromising mindset was misread by Western leaders, officials, and intellectuals — and for much the same reasons. Living in unideological societies, they could not fathom the minds and politics of their ideologically driven antagonists. The leaders and intellectuals of the Western democracies, educated and suffused with liberal and relativist values, by and large were unable to comprehend the essential ‘otherness’ of Hitler and ended up fighting him, to the finish, after negotiation and compromise had proved useless.”

History, he clearly fears, might just this time actually repeat itself. Certainly, the comparisons are too striking to be ignored, a point that Pastor Hagee also pointed out in his speech. At this moment, Hamas is pledged to obliterate Israel as its very raison d’etre,  and while Fatah claims to be willing to accept a two-state solution, it insists upon the acceptance of what they call “the right to return,” without any exception. For Abbas and his comrades, this is non-negotiable. A few years ago, the group of journalists I traveled to Israel with met with Saeb Erekat, the top Palestinian negotiator. He argued that everyone knows a two-state solution could be accepted overnight. But, he added, they will never — and he emphasized this — accept less than the state of Israel agreeing to the right of return of the Arab refugees who fled at the time of the 1948 war between Israel and the invading armies of six Arab nations.

Writing in the new issue of Commentary, Michael S. Bernstam points out that the term itself is a misnomer,  since “the permanent refugeeism of the UNRWA welfare state generates a particular ‘right of return’ claim — the argument that Palestinians should be given title to the land they occupied before Israel’s independence — that fuels perpetual warfare.” In fact, he argues, “First, it is not the right of return of actual refugees (as opposed to descendants) that was created by international conventions since 1948 to prevent deportations and to mitigate the conditions of concurrent refugees who fled the ravages of war. Nor is it the right of return of historical ethnic diasporas to their own nation-states that Germany extends to all Germans, Armenia to all Armenians, Greece to all Hellenes, and Israel to all Jews. Nor is it the establishment of new nation-states where there were none, such as the partition of British Mandate Palestine into the Jewish and Arab states or the partition of the British Raj into India and Pakistan. Rather, the claim of the Palestinian right of return is intended for one historical ethnic diaspora of the ­descendants of perennial refugees to repopulate another people’s existing nation-state, Israel.”

What they want, therefore, is nothing less than “a reconquest after a lost war.” Having been unable to gain that end by their decades long military actions, they now seek it through the policy of appeasement by the Western countries, and by channeling their goal to the aims of and with the help of Iran. Thus the right to “retake” what they lost is being mislabeled intentionally as the “right of return,” with the acceptance of the term by the United States and other Western powers.

As Morris writes, this is the “unitary” Arab state in old Palestine that they have sought since the 1920s, and which today so many of the Western elites, especially the British intelligentsia, now demand as the perceived “democratic” solution to the question of Palestine. As Morris addresses the “refugee” question, he too makes a similar point to that of Bernstam: “The Palestinian leadership is unanimous and resolute in insisting that the problem’s solution lies in the ‘Right of Return’: Israel, and the world, must accept the principle of repatriation and eventually facilitate repatriation. The idea that the refugees must return to their homes has been the ethos, the be-all and end-all of Palestinian politics and policy, since 1948. No Palestinian leader can or will ever abandon this principle, on pain of assassination, and none has.”

So we are no longer talking about the 700,000 displaced in 1948; when the Palestinians raise this issue, they are talking about what they say are the 7 million plus descendants who have been kept in UN refugee camps for decades, and are used as pawns by the various Arab governments, none of whom will ever let them become citizens of their own nations. If their demands were won, it would mean, Morris writes, that “Israel, with its 6 million Jewish and 1.5 million Arab citizens, would instantly or over a short time, become an Arab-majority state.” And that means nothing less than Israel’s destruction — the very goal of the Arab nations, the Palestinian movement, and much of the Western left.

Morris proceeds to engage in what he thinks is the reality for the future of Israel, and it is, as the title of his piece suggests, quite bleak. I will let you read his dire and convincing prediction of the options open for Israel — and none of them are good. This is his conclusion:

“No viable peace agreement is remotely in prospect. Neither is the emergence of a full-fledged Palestinian state. A unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank is so problematic as to be virtually unimplementable. Yet continued Israeli rule over the territory and its people, obnoxious to most Israelis and to the rest of the world, raises the prospect of a bi-national state or an apartheid state, both of which most Jews regard as anathema. That, unfortunately, is where we’re at.”

So what do we do? For a beginning, we must nrelentingly defend Israel and act to stop the new campaign to delegitimize Israel going on at present. We must also pressure the United States to prepare strong action, as it becomes clear the sanctions on Iran are not working, to militarily stop Iran’s progress towards obtaining a nuclear weapon. Such an act is in the interest of our country’s national security, as well as that of Israel.

As Pastor Hagee puts it, the canary has cried out, and it is now time to act.