I hate to spend time discussing US media coverage of Israel. It should be clearly
understood that in general this coverage is a farce and should not be taken
seriously. Yet there are examples which are irresistible because they are so
revealing of the political as well as media assumptions made about Israel that
so mislead the Western public and policymakers.
The Washington Post ran a
major article explaining that while, on one hand, the Iron Dome missile defense
system is a good thing because it blocks missiles that would otherwise kill and
injure Israelis as well as cause damage, it is also a bad thing. Thomas Friedman
made similar claims. Why? “For a nation that longs for normalcy and acceptance,
one question being debated here is whether Iron Dome will motivate Israel’s
leaders to pursue peace with the Palestinians and the wider Arab world or
insulate them from having to do so.”
In other words, if a lot more
Israelis were being killed and wounded, Israel would have more incentive to make
peace with the Palestinians and Arabs. But since their lives are merely being
paralyzed, Israel just isn’t interested in making peace.
And who is
“debating” this? Well, basically the Post comes up with one name: left-wing
author Tom Segev.
Nobody is interviewed who ridicules this bizarre
And who in Israel is arguing that if only they were more
bloodied, their hearts would be softened and they would prefer peace to endless
conflict? Supposedly Israelis are saying: “Wow, we wish our leaders tried harder
to make peace with the Palestinians. Maybe it’s because we are too strong and
secure.” Well, basically the Post comes up with one name: left-wing author Tom
Segev. Nobody is interviewed who ridicules this bizarre thesis.
make the situation completely clear let me be very explicit: In the 1980s and in
1993 at the time of the Oslo agreements many Israelis argued that because Israel
was more secure it could take risks and make concessions to try to achieve
peace. A number of specific steps, including Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from
the Gaza Strip, were based on this same premise.
Israel could pull out of
the Gaza Strip, uproot all of the settlements there, and not suffer any decline
That’s the historic argument: The more secure Israel was,
the more it could offer the Palestinians in the hope that they would make peace.
Is that clear? When a country becomes less secure it must increase its ability
to protect itself, including by retaining territory useful for that defense,
spending more on military equipment, and not making concessions and taking
risks. The only exception is if people feel certain that such concessions and
risks would definitely bring a full response from the other side and thus lead
to a secure and lasting peace.
Now even leaving aside the Palestinian
Authority’s intransigence and desire – clearly visible for the past 12 years –
to avoid a compromise two-state solution, Israel also faces the following new
• Hamas, which constantly attacks Israel and would continue
to do so (indeed, it would escalate attacks) if Israel did reach an agreement
with the PA.
• An Islamist Egypt whose ruling Muslim Brotherhood group
daily speaks of genocide against Israel and Jews, plus not accepting the
30-year-old peace treaty, not to mention the even more extreme
• An Islamist-ruled Lebanon, where Hezbollah, the ruling
group, constantly threatens to attack and also daily calls for Israel’s
• A hostile Turkey whose rulers support Hamas and
• A Syria where radical Islamists seem poised to gain power.
They cannot possibly be more anti-Israel than the current regime, but they are
willing to make the anti-Israel war a higher priority for direct
So this is an era where Israel clearly needs to defend itself.
Compare this to the early 1990s.
Saddam Hussein had been defeated in the
1991 war; the radical Arabs’ main ally, the USSR, had fallen; America was the
sole superpower; the PLO was so weak and depressed that it seemed conceivable it
might be pushed into peace because it had no other alternative (in contrast to
the contemporary Palestinian Authority which just got recognition as a state and
is feeling very confident); and other factors.
That was a moment when
Israel could take risks, and did so with the Oslo agreements. And yet, of
course, we know – like it or not – that this “peace process” made things worse,
another lesson not processed by the hegemonic political forces in much of the
SO HOW do we get from here to demands that Israel must keep
doing what has failed and the claim that the weaker Israel’s strategic position,
the more it can and should make concessions and take risks? Such a stance is
just about equivalent to saying it is a pity US counter-terrorism measures are
working, because if more September 11-type attacks were to succeed, Americans
would be nicer to Muslims.
Or that if the British air force had only not
defeated the Luftwaffe, perhaps prime minister Winston Churchill wouldn’t have
been so insulated from the need to make peace with the Axis.
infuriating about all of this is not just that Israel has tried so hard to make
peace – including risks and concessions – but that the very attacks referred to
in the Washington Post article were made possible only because Israel withdrew
from the Gaza Strip in an attempt to promote peace! Yet the essential insanity
of the kind of thinking epitomized by this article is shielded when it comes to
Israel, by the media’s bias and sense that it can get away with any nonsense
when it comes to discussing Israel.
MEANWHILE, THERE is some concern
among Israeli intelligence officials with regard to a possible new intifadah in
the West Bank. This would be due to new confidence created by the UN’s decision
to make Palestine a non-member state (the UN’s contribution to peacemaking); a
rapprochement between the PA, which rules the West Bank, and Hamas, which rules
the Gaza Strip; and the PA’s wish to compete with Hamas in attacking Israel and
trying to kill Israelis.
Following the logic of the Washington Post we
should hope lots of Israelis are killed by terrorists as a way to pressure those
obdurate Israelis to make peace.
The Washington Post article basically
follows the same Palestinian political line that has prevailed since the 1960s:
forget about a negotiated compromise, Israel must be defeated, and Israelis made
to suffer. The main goal is to get Israelis to give up altogether and abandon
their state; the shorter-term goal is to get Israelis to accept a Palestinian
state unconditionally so it can get on with the task of finishing that
BEFORE AROUND 1980, the above analysis would have been considered
normative in Israel. Between the 1980s and 2000, when there was rising hope of a
compromise peace with the PLO and its child, the PA, it would have been
considered a right-wing view. Since 2000, however, that assessment – based on
evidence and experience – has again become that of the overwhelming majority
across almost all of the political spectrum.
Internationally, the refusal
to face the fact that the Palestinian side is responsible for the failure of
peace leads to such bizarre theories and blinds people to the actual
The writer is director of the Global Research in International
Affairs (GLORIA) Center, Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, and editor of The
Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) journal. His latest books
are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab
Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria
(Palgrave- Macmillan). www.gloria-center.org