The appeasement recipe for 2011

The highly respected weekly magazine The Economist has chosen to grace its first cover of the year 2011 with the anguished plea: “Please, not again.” As the subtitle reveals, the angst is about “The threat of war in the Middle East”, and the focus of the related editorial is, of course, on Israel.
Given the Economist’s well-deserved reputation for dispensing with its trademark cool-headed analysis when it comes to Israel, quite a few commentators have already responded with a “please, not again” of their own by exposing the faulty facts and logic that permeate the magazine’s lead editorial.

In the Jerusalem Post, Dore Gold condemns the Economist’s recommendation to pacify the Middle East by imposing a two-state solution on Israel and the Palestinians as an “indecent proposal.” Unfortunately, there is little reason to doubt that Gold is right to emphasize that the Economist’s analysis “reflects how many European foreign policy experts view the Middle East.”

But while Gold focuses on the Economist’s failure to correctly identify Iran as the main source of destabilization in the Middle East, it is equally noteworthy that the editorial also illustrates how the widespread Western refusal to take the Islamist threat seriously ultimately feeds the efforts to delegitimize Israel.

Consider this short passage from the editorial:

“Iran, Hizbullah and sometimes Hamas say that they will never accept a Jewish state in the Middle East. But it is the unending Israeli occupation that gives these rejectionists their oxygen. Give the Palestinians a state on the West Bank and it will become very much harder for the rejectionists to justify going to war.”

The first sentence obliquely alludes to the fact that there is a religious dimension to the hostility against Israel in the Middle East, and it should be obvious that this religiously-motivated rejection of a Jewish state in the Muslim Middle East has nothing whatsoever to do with Israeli policies and the question of where Israel’s borders are.

It is of course also interesting to see that the Economist wanted to emphasize that Hamas only “sometimes” vows not to accept a Jewish state. Maybe Hamas feels it has laid out its views about a Jewish state, and indeed Jews, in its vile antisemitic charter?

But it is not just the Hamas charter that the Economist ignores when it addresses the rejection of a Jewish state in the Middle East. As a Pew survey published last fall revealed, Jews are widely despised in the Middle East – including in countries that settled their territorial disputes with Israel in peace agreements:

“In the predominantly Muslim nations surveyed, views of Jews were overwhelmingly unfavorable. Nearly all in Jordan (97 percent), the Palestinian territories (97%) and Egypt (95%) held an unfavorable view. Similarly, 98% of Lebanese expressed an unfavorable opinion of Jews, including 98% among both Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims, as well as 97% of Lebanese Christians. By contrast, only 35% of Israeli Arabs expressed a negative opinion of Jews, while 56% voiced a favorable opinion.”

However, because the Economist says so, we are supposed to believe that “it is the unending Israeli occupation that gives these rejectionists their oxygen.”

Never mind decades of anti-Israel and indeed anti-Jewish incitement that have given the “rejectionists” plenty of oxygen. No, according to the Economist, the Jewish state has only itself to blame if it is rejected. The plain fact that “the unending Israeli occupation” ended in Lebanon more than 10 years ago, and in Gaza some five years ago, doesn’t count; and the Economist doesn’t stop to ponder the results of these Israeli withdrawals. Instead, the magazine’s readers are assured that it’s all quite simple: “Give the Palestinians a state on the West Bank and it will become very much harder for the rejectionists to justify going to war.”

Here the Economist’s reasoning comes full circle: The “rejectionists” don’t ever need “to justify going to war”, because for them, the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East is all the justification they need. After all, supporters of the so-called “Palestinian cause” have always presented themselves as fighting for “justice” and have never hesitated to make clear that their view of “justice” requires that the Jewish state will be done away with one way or the other.

But the Economist displays its inability – or unwillingness – to understand what the “rejectionists” are all about not only by assuming that they feel the need to “justify” going to war, but by failing to register that Israel’s enemies never ever go to war: they always only “defend” the long-suffering Arabs/Muslims/Palestinians from “Zionist aggression.” The Western media dutifully play their part to uphold this narrative, because it’s after all quite boring to report day in and day out about attempted terror attacks or rocket and mortar fire on Israel, but if Israel moves to protect its citizens and strikes back, it’s headline news – preferably illustrated with images of heavily armed Israeli soldiers and crying Arab children and women. 

And that won’t be any different if there is a Palestinian state on the West Bank. Israel will still be expected to absorb any number of rocket and mortar attacks from “militants” that the Palestinian government would really like to control but is unable to, because Israel is somehow not doing what it really should be doing. Really, just imagine, if only Israel allowed a few hundred thousand destitute “refugees” to “return” to places their grandparents left some sixty years ago, the “militants” might become less militant – at least for the time being, until there is yet another demand. Indeed, how about freedom of movement: The Economist talks about a Palestinian state in the West Bank, but what happens with Gaza? So what about West Bank “rejectionists” who demand such a fundamental human right as driving through Israel in order to visit their fellow “rejectionists” in Gaza? Isn’t that the least Israel could be expected to grant for the sake of peace in the Middle East?!

Unfortunately, there is plenty of reason to think that, as long as pundits and politicians are unwilling to acknowledge the widespread Jew-hatred that has been cultivated in the Muslim Middle East long before there was a Jewish state, it’s not really about peace, but rather about appeasement. And if appeasement doesn’t work out, guess who will be blamed?