Predictably, this wave of terrorism, with Palestinian teenagers and twenty-somethings attacking Israelis commuting, shopping, walking to synagogue, has unleashed a wave of idiocy blaming Israelis for being targeted. The Independent in England framed Israel’s violent reaction as an overreaction to “a spate of alleged stabbings.”
Four centuries after Shakespeare had Shylock the Jew ask “if you prick us, do we not bleed,” when Palestinians slash innocent Jews Jeremy Corbyn’s England believes we only bleed “allegedly.”
And The New York Times
echoed Palestinian lies questioning the conclusive archaeological and historical evidence that two Jewish Temples stood on Mount Moriah.
Forced to run a correction, the Times
admitted that the only “question is where precisely on the 37-acre Temple Mount site the temples had once stood,” but the headline remained “Historical Certainty Proves Elusive at Jerusalem’s Holiest Place.” (Note, the Muslim conquerors’ tendency to build holy places like the Dome of the Rock on others’ sacred sites makes the Aksa Mosque, built in 691 C.E., 30 years after Muhammad’s death, proof that originally Muslims considered the Temple Mount the site of the Holy Temple, built by Solomon 1,600 years earlier).
These outrages reflect “The Obama Intifada,” a term I use regretfully, and that has been received angrily. Clearly, most guilty are the terrorists, their co-conspirators who aid them, their teachers who encourage them and their leaders who stir them up. Clearly, President Barack Obama doesn’t want this “on his watch,” as he said about Iran going nuclear. But Obama – Israel’s Best Friend Ever – shaped the broader inflammatory context.
His perpetual blame game puts the burden disproportionately on Israel, as does his “dog whistling”: all the unquotable gesturing and messaging that demonizes Israel and condescendingly enables Palestinians to use American and European dollars to subsidize dehumanizing incitement, anti-Semitism (not “just” anti-Zionism) and evil violence against a 14-year-old girl here, a young teacher there – innocents just trying to live their lives.
Yet again, I note that Obama is not anti-Israel or anti-Semitic. Such language demonizes him unnecessarily and aligns him with Israel’s outright enemies. We must move beyond the simplistic antior pro-Israel dichotomy. Obama respects Israel’s right to exist. However, having swallowed the Big Lie that no Jews belong in the West Bank he allows his anger over Israel’s presence there to sour his perceptions of Israel and blame Israel for causing the conflict.
As with the Times Temple lie, two decades after most Israelis acknowledged that two peoples love the same land because history is messy enough to generate conflicting land claims, the Palestinians’ exclusive (and ultimately exterminationist) claims to Jerusalem, the West Bank, and basically all of Israel, are gaining traction with intelligent people.
What’s absurd is that the West Bank, which even many Jews now perceive as Palestinian property wrongly occupied by Jews, is an artificial improvisation hastily defined by the 1949 armistice’s “Green Line,” then illegally occupied – er, controlled – by Jordan for 19 years. Making that piece of land an organic entity that must be Jewfree with sacrosanct borders simply rewards Palestinian intransigence.
Today, the healthiest, safest Israeli-Palestinian future lies in rejecting this rigidity and transcending contiguity. Negotiators and the “PPPPs” – perpetual, professional peace processors – should respect the demographic status quo, and prepare both populations for two independent non-contiguous states, with interlocking borders.
Think about it. In the modern world, city-states can thrive. Conflicting Arab-Jewish claims and communities have already divided the area. And the Palestinian population retains strong tribal and local identities. The first steps should be toward declaring true independence in the areas that are already Palestinian, and which Israeli law bars Israelis from entering.
We need new national and geographic paradigms. Calling these independent, interlocking regions “Bantustans” would be sheer demagoguery, negating Jews’ internationally recognized claims to this territory. Jews have deeper historic ties to Bet El and Hebron than to Tel Aviv – consider The Patriarch’s Tomb’s architecture and history.
And remember, the West Bank is no more organic than artificial sweetener – and more toxic.
This historical analysis recognizes that national self-conceptions evolve, borders shift, people move.
The Palestinians have their narrative and claims, while we Jews have ours. As a Zionist and an American, I respect Palestinian nationalism.
I resent when someone else tries rewriting my historical narrative, I won’t rewrite theirs. As a liberal democrat, I acknowledge the problems with the Israeli military controlling Palestinians in some places.
But I also note that they have much freedom from Israeli rule in Ramallah and elsewhere, while they endure more oppression from their own people in Gaza and elsewhere.
Moreover, their violence perpetuates Israeli rule. My new book The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s
argues that the Soviet Union collapsed peacefully, South African apartheid vanished peacefully, the Northern Ireland troubles ended peacefully, but the Israeli-Palestinian problem persists violently because only in this conflict does one group seek to destroy the other people. You cannot compromise with those who wish to kill you.
As we watch young Palestinians stabbing and rock-throwing, flip the Western assumption that people that violent must be that desperate.
Instead, ask: who is teaching them to hate? Why aren’t they raised to be peaceful (Mahatma) Gandhians or high-tech (Bill) Gatesians? Palestinians could get more than they expect with non-violence or a productive, middle-class high-tech society. Instead, they terrorize their neighbors and create totalitarian exterminationist regimes like Hamasistan in Gaza.
Finally, note the irony: Bill Clinton and Barack Obama share the same vision of two states for two peoples, but Israelis still cherish Clinton’s friendship and resent Obama’s hostility. Instead of falsely crowning him Israeli’s Best Friend Ever, pro-Israel Democrats should protest the messaging, the dog whistling, the telegraphed hostility. Israel needs true Clintonesque friends, not Blame Israel First Obamians, especially with totalitarian terrorism metastasizing yet again.The writer is the author of The Age of Clinton: America in the 1990s which was just published by Thomas Dunne Books of St. Martin’s Press. A professor of history at McGill University who will be a Visiting Scholar at the Brookings Institution this fall, this is his eleventh book. Follow on Twitter @GilTroy www.giltroy.com.