The campaign to delegitimize Israel

The international community is being drip-fed the toxic assertion that Israel is the cause of world's problem.

A two-hour drive, at most, from here, in a lawless land, extortionists are holding a British journalist captive to try and delegitimize my country. The kidnapping of the BBC's Alan Johnston in Gaza, and now the broadcast of his taped denunciation of the fact of Israel's existence, are only one small part of a wider campaign. And it is working. The international community is being drip-fed the toxic assertion that, were it not for Israel, ours would be a peaceful world, a harmonious community of nations, living in tranquility alongside each other, respecting differences and working out disagreements in a spirit of compromise. If it were not for Israel, the Original Sin, the bone in the Islamic throat. In Alan Johnston's Britain, the campaign is proving particularly effective. So much so that the union that represents his own profession, the National Union of Journalists, along with many academics, members of the clergy and numerous other opinion-shapers, now subscribe to this notion of Israel as prime irritant, prompter of terrorism. They will have nodded sagely this weekend when Johnston, in what must be regarded as a text scripted for him, lamented the fate of the Palestinians, purportedly "arrested, imprisoned for no reason... killed on a daily basis," and forced into "absolute despair after nearly 40 years of Israeli occupation which has been supported by the West," and when he castigated Britain for having "worked to bring about the State of Israel, which is the cause of all the suffering of the Palestinian people." Willfully overlooked by those who seek to delegitimize Israel and, appallingly by those who fall prey to the campaign, are the basic truths at the root of our Middle East reality, at the root of the Islamist terror campaign. Willfully overlooked is the fact that modern Israel is not some upstart Western invention, supplanting the state of Palestine, but the ancestral homeland of the Jewish nation, the land where our nation long lived and has always sought to live. The world is filled with Muslim nation-states and Christian nation-states. Ours is the only Jewish nation-state. It is the only nation-state that the Jewish nation has ever sought. It was revived by the international community too late to save the stateless Jews from the Holocaust. But when belatedly relegitimized, after millions had died because of the international community's failure to protect the stateless Jews of Europe, its reconstitution was predicated on the establishment of a nation-state, too, for the Arab inhabitants of mandatory Palestine. The revived State of Israel, and a first-ever Palestinian state, could and would have coexisted here since 1948 were it not for the fact that those who spoke for the Arab inhabitants eschewed the partition and sought instead to overrun Israel altogether. Israel stated its desire for peaceful relations with its neighbors in its 1948 declaration of independence and has restated it, and acted upon it, ever since. When Arab nations sought peace with us, we rushed to embrace them, even at the price of relinquishing territory from which we had been attacked and that we had captured in wars designed to eliminate us. Even today, we grapple with the dilemma of what to make of Syria's peace overtures. Peace with Damascus means relinquishing the Golan Heights to a regime that may not be stable, a regime that used those same Golan Heights to seek our destruction a generation ago, a regime that even now is rearming on its side of that border. And yet if Bashar Assad were to travel to Jerusalem and offer peace in return for the Golan, the Israeli public would throw out any government that did not immediately embrace him. Continued Palestinian suffering is not, in the malevolent text scripted for Johnston, a consequence of unacceptable and inexplicable Israeli occupation. Why are Palestinians still living in refugee camps in Gaza when there is no Israeli presence there? Why are Kassam squads firing into sovereign Israel from Jew-free Gaza, and bringing more suffering on their fellow Palestinians as Israel tries to stem the fire? Israel's only real reservation about Palestinian independence is that the state of Palestine not be established at the expense of the State of Israel. But that, to date, is the price that the Palestinian leadership has set. Yasser Arafat rejected a two-state solution at Camp David seven years ago, instead seeking a mass Palestinian population influx into Israel that would have destroyed Israel as a Jewish state. The Hamas government that succeeded him subscribes to an extremist Islamic ideology that regards Jewish sovereignty as an intolerable blasphemy. Peace with Egypt in the late 1970s, and with Jordan in the mid-1990s, and the illusion of looming peace with the Palestinians, had led Israelis to believe that the nations of the Middle East had given up hope of overrunning the Jewish state and were reluctantly coming to terms with it. In hindsight, however, that momentum shifted with the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979, and a counter-movement has been accelerating ever since. The Islamic Republic of Iran, a rapacious regime bent on exporting its fundamentalist thinking throughout this region and beyond, has made Israel's elimination a prime goal, though by no means its sole aim. It has waged war against Israel by proxy - via Hizbullah in south Lebanon and by the terror groups it helps arms and train and fund in Gaza and the West Bank. And now it seeks the nuclear capability to destroy Israel directly. The international community's failure to distinguish victims from aggressors in our conflicts is fuelling the campaign to delegitimize Israel. In failing to recognize Islamist aggression, to strive concertedly against it, and to encourage the marginalized voices of moderation, it is exacerbating the suffering of ordinary people on both sides of the conflict - failing Israel, failing the Palestinians, failing the region, failing its own long-term interests. Israel faces Iranian-inspired enemies fighting asymmetrical wars - building bombs for suicide attackers in factories in the heart of civilian neighborhoods, firing rockets at Israeli towns and cities from crowded residential areas, crowing at Israeli fatalities, and crying foul to the international community when Israel tries to defend itself with physical barriers, ground forces and air attacks. And much of the international community is buying the deception. The world's media fails to convey that Israel, with its open society, allows access to the camera crews and reporters not only when it is hit, but also when it fires back - whereas the closed societies around us never countenance the documentation of their aggression, only their victimhood. A strategic misrepresentation of our reality is being inexorably created, fostering the false portrayal of Israel as aggressor when the demonstrable fact is that Israel has no territorial claims in southern Lebanon, from where it withdrew unilaterally even though it knew it would be left vulnerable, or in Gaza, from where it uprooted its own civilians, and that it seeks nothing more fervently than a viable accommodation with its neighbors. Israel's war against Islamic extremism is the world's war. It is a battle between those who value life and those who, in the words of the Madrid train bombers, love death. It is a war between those who cherish freedoms and those who have become prey to an apocalyptic, death-cult interpretation of Islam. If the extremists prevail, the consequences will be cataclysmic for Israel. But they will be cataclysmic, too, far beyond Israel, far beyond this region. Terrorism is not a consequence of an Israeli failure to make peace with the Palestinians. It is a tool of the intolerant ideology that has consistently thwarted all efforts at such peace, an ideology that seeks to replace Israel and to impose itself far beyond Israel. The captured Alan Johnston is just one small victim of that extremist intolerance, forced to declare its sentiments. Woe betide those who would believe the words put into his mouth.