In journalism there is a saying that “dog bites man” is not news, but “man bites dog” is, which is why a Jew writing a positive article about Israel has little shot of being published on the op-ed pages of The New York Times or The Washington Post unless they are a current or former government official. But if you are a Jew who wants to be famous, chew up Israel and you become an instant newsmaker.
It was not surprising then to read the utterly ignorant and embarrassingly ill-informed screed by Steven Levitsky, a professor of government at Harvard, and Glen Weyl, an assistant professor of economics and law at the University of Chicago, on the Post’s op-ed page
The piece starts out as all such self-righteous articles do with the pronouncement that the authors are “lifelong Zionists” to establish their bona fides as good Jews. This, they believe, entitles them to speak for the Jews about the welfare of Israel.
Moreover, as professors with no expertise in Middle East politics, they have no other qualification for their opinions. They are, of course, entitled to their opinions, but as two academics from world class universities you would think that they would offer more erudite and professional criteria for their expertise other than the fact that they are born Jewish. I also worry about the education students in the classes of these two professors are receiving given the inaccurate and misleading analysis in their article.
The article can be summarized this way: We hate Israel’s control over Judea and Samaria and believe it is a threat to Israel’s existence. Since we know better than Israelis what is good for them, we call on the US president to take steps to isolate and punish Israel until its leaders listen to us. We are publicly demanding Israel listen to us or face an economic boycott.
This is the same drivel that’s come from Jews on the political fringe like J Street and State Department Arabists that was encapsulated in former undersecretary secretary of state George Ball’s article “How to Save Israel in Spite of Herself.”
These professors may profess their love of Israel, but they devote their article to repeating the revolting and fraudulent accusations commonly made by anti-Semites. In comparing Israel to the racist period in South Africa, they show their complete ignorance of what life was like for blacks in that country compared to the treatment of Arabs in Israel.
People who denigrate Israel’s human rights record ignore what the Palestinians themselves say; namely, that given the choice, they would prefer to live in the “hell of Israel” to the paradise of “Palestine.” When Palestinian pollsters used to ask Palestinians in the territories what country they admired most, the answer they often got was “Israel,” which may explain why they stopped asking the question. It also helps explain why thousands of Palestinians moved into Jerusalem when the security barrier was built around the city to avoid being stuck in the Palestinian Authority. When polled, most of the Palestinians in Jerusalem say they prefer to live in Israel over a Palestinian state. Similarly, whenever anyone suggests a land swap of the predominantly Arab Triangle in northern Israel for most of the settlements, the Israeli Arabs reject the idea out of hand.
How do you explain the fact that so many Palestinians would prefer to live in Israel if it is the horrible place that our Harvard “Zionist” says it is?
The answer is simple. Israeli Arabs enjoy equal rights under the law in Israel, and Palestinians in the territories see how Israel treats them and contrasts that with how they are abused by their leaders in Gaza and the West Bank. The rights we take for granted – freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, women’s rights, gay rights, voting rights – are all guaranteed to citizens of Israel and denied to Palestinians living under the tyrannical rule of PA President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas.
Levitsky and Weyl lament the growth in the settlement population, but they leave out the context. When the Palestinians were first offered a state in 1937 and then again in 1947, there were no settlements and yet they rejected independence. Prior to 1967 no settlements existed and yet the Arab states were unwilling to make peace. When former prime minister Menachem Begin offered Palestinians autonomy during the peace talks with Egypt, the settlement population was about 10,000, and they rejected this offer as well. In 2000, prime minister Ehud Barak offered to dismantle more than 100 settlements and cede roughly 97 percent of the West Bank to the Palestinians for a state, in addition to making compromises on Jerusalem, and Arafat rejected the deal.
The truth is that Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas are the true fathers of the settlement movement because without their repeated rejection of peace offers, the Jewish population in Judea and Samaria would have been frozen decades ago. Even today, Abbas refuses to even sit down with Israel’s prime minister to discuss peace, so Palestinians should not be surprised or complain when the settlement population increases.
Like many left-wing apologists for Palestinian failures, the authors pose a false dilemma by asking American Jews to abandon Israel because it “permanently denies basic rights to another people.” Today, however, 98 percent of Palestinians are governed by their fellow Palestinians and it is Abbas and Hamas that deny them basic rights. The ignorance of two professors from world-famous universities on this point is nothing short of mind-boggling.
The real dilemmas are how do we accept a situation over which neither American Jews nor Israel has any control so long as Palestinian leaders hold irredentist views? What possible compromise do “Zionists” Levitsky and Weyl expect Israel to make that will satisfy Hamas, whose raison d’être calls for the killing of Jews and destruction of Israel?
Contrary to their assertion, Israel’s existence is not threatened by the Palestinian issue. As they note, Israel has administered the territories for nearly 50 years. It can only be changed by Palestinian acceptance of the permanence of Israel, a simple need that seems astonishingly remote.
The professors are also simply wrong in their assertion that US public opinion is shifting against Israel and that the country is become isolated from Western democracies. Today, American support for Israel is near its historic high and young people have not turned on Israel. Meanwhile, support for the Palestinians among the American people is diminishing.
There is no disputing Israel’s political rifts with the United States and the Europeans, but relations remain strong with trade booming, military cooperation growing and a range of cooperative activities going on at the federal, state and local levels.
Typical of apologists for terrorism, Levitsky and Weyl blame the victims for the recent upsurge of violence. They are simply ignorant of the fact that terrorism has never ceased; these attacks have just been more visible and, unlike most threats originating in the West Bank, more difficult to deter. Anyone who believes that Israel can do anything short of suicide to satisfy the Palestinian extremists hasn’t been paying attention to their words or deeds.
The authors must not read the newspapers since they claim that Israel’s control of the territories “limits its ability to force regional alliances against sectarian extremists.” The truth is the Arab states seem to care very little for the Palestinians, which is why they have denied them citizenship and failed to fulfill promises of aid. By contrast, Israel is now cooperating with Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia against Iran and other radical Muslims.
They lament that “Israel’s secular majority feels no need to take the difficult steps required for a durable peace.” They have good reason to feel that way after the experience of the Gaza disengagement when they exchanged land for barrages of thousands of missiles indiscriminately fired at hospitals, kindergartens, schools and towns.
What gives you the right to sit comfortably in your ivory towers and substitute your judgment for that of the people of Israel who have 15 seconds to reach a bomb shelter after hearing the warning of an incoming rocket? How many of your friends and children have you lost to suicide bombers or in fighting the asymmetric battle you mention in which terrorists use their people as human shields?
By expressing support for the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign you give Jewish cover to its proponents who have no interest in the welfare of the Palestinians, peace or human rights. The goal of this movement is the denial of the Jewish people’s right to self-determination in their homeland – Israel. This right is the definition of Zionism. And you cannot claim to be Zionists and support the destruction of Israel at the same time.The writer is the founder of This World: The Values Network, the world’s leading organization defending Israel in world media. He is the international best-selling author of 30 books, including his most recent, The Israel Warriors Handbook.