Into the Fray: Israel’s Pearl Harbor?

Unavoidably, as frustration with the two-state principle increases, the quest for alternatives will begin.

Twisted version of Israel flag, Apartheid flag 311 (photo credit: Richard Millett)
Twisted version of Israel flag, Apartheid flag 311
(photo credit: Richard Millett)
Anti-Israel hatred on campus crests each year during an event called “Israel Apartheid Week.” With this ominous name and programs that thrive on ignorance and blind disregard for the facts, tens of thousands of college students are urged to rise up against Israel                                                          – Dore Gold, February 23, 2012
Israel is completely outclassed and outmaneuvered on a battleground it doesn’t even understand it is on                                                          – Melanie Phillips, January 9, 2011
Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) is once again upon us. Described on its official website as “an annual international series of events held in cities and campuses across the globe,” its aim is “to educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system and to build Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns as part of a growing global BDS movement.”
Traditionally, IAW includes events (lectures, films, rallies, poetry readings, art exhibitions and so on) spanning anything from 60 to 90 cities from Albuquerque to Zurich.
This year, however, a new condiment has been added to spice up the noxious brew of deceit, distortion, and disinformation on the IAW menu.
Harvard’s harbinger hate-fest This weekend a conference will be held at Harvard University, organized by a slew of pro-Palestinians student organizations, to discuss prospects for the implementation of a one-state solution for the resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict.
In the words of the organizers, “our conference will help to expand the range of academic debate” in which to date “the only Israel/Palestine solution that has received a fair rehearsal in mainstream forums has been the two-state solution.”
Although the conference is not officially part of IAW activities, there is little daylight between the two, as demonstrated by an IAW poster which prominently features it under the heading of “Other Palestinian Events” taking place in Boston under IAW auspices.
The goals of the conference are “to educate ourselves and others about the possible contours of a one-state solution and the challenges that stand in the way of its realization.”
The two-day program includes six sessions with a list of about 20 speakers, almost all with distinctly anti-Zionist/anti-Israel credentials.
A cursory glance at the sessions reveals the thrust of the conference.
The first panel, titled “What happened to the two-state solution?” is slated to “trace the Oslo process’s trajectory to explain why ‘two-states for two peoples’ is no longer a viable option for Israel/Palestine,” while the final panel – titled “A History of Violence: Truth and Reconciliation” – poses the following loaded questions: As in other conflict zones, the Palestinians and Israelis will one day need to share the same land and resources in one country. Yet, a great deal of violence has isolated the two peoples from one another.
And individuals who may have committed war crimes may remain at large.
How can the open wounds of the past be healed? How can justice for the victims of racism or violence be achieved?
South Africa as template Doesn’t get much clearer than that. An international drive has begun to annul Jewish sovereignty, to fuse all the territory between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea into one, ostensibly polyethnic, political unit and to apply the South African model of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to reinforce the perception of the Zionist regime’s apartheid practices, mimicking the South African precedent in dealing with “individuals who may have committed war crimes” (IDF soldiers and Israeli security personnel) to “achieve justice for the victims of racism” (the Palestinians).
The planned conference has provoked vehement protest from numerous prominent pro-Israeli figures – including the American Jewish Committee’s David Harris, Harvard’s Alan Dershowitz and The Jerusalem Post’s Caroline Glick – who pointed out, quite correctly, that the event is a thinly veiled call for the abolition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people.
The strong condemnation of the conference was clearly justified. For behind the sanitized academic phraseology about “helping to expand the range of the debate” and “educating ourselves and others about the possible contours and challenges of a one-state solution,” lies venomous political intent: To create an international climate in which it will be impossible for the Jews not only to sustain their national sovereignty, but even to sustain the very notion that they have a right to do so.
And that is precisely where IAW and the One-State Conference dovetail. They both endeavor to co-opt the symbolism and imagery associated with the struggle against the genuine racism of apartheid-regime South Africa and use it against the Zionist regime in Israel/Palestine by creating a false parallel between the two.
The clear implication that this misleading analogy engenders is equally misplaced: Just as apartheid was abolished so must Zionism – and the Jewish nation-state – be, replaced by the illusion of an egalitarian state-of-all-its-citizens incorporating all the land from the river to the sea.
Chickens home to roost In an article titled “Fighting campus hatred,” Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the UN, comments: “These campus initiatives were incubated in 2001 at the first Durban Conference, proclaiming ‘no apartheid South Africa in the 20th century and no apartheid Israel in the 21st.’ This battle cry sparked the BDS movement calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions to punish Israel, and evolved into an invective-loaded campaign on campuses coast to coast among some labor unions, churches, media and cultural institutions.
“But,” as Gold rightly observes, “it is based on a lie.... Those hurling these charges against Israel hope that their audiences are ignorant of the facts.”
He cautions, however, that, “unsubstantiated allegations, constantly repeated, take a toll on American opinion, despite bedrock gut support for Israel which, thankfully, exists as a strong counter-force to this mass exercise in propaganda.”
A recent report by The David Project indicates that support for Israel is lower among college students than the rest of the American population. It warned that bipartisan American support for the Jewish state could be threatened if large segments of the public comprising the future leadership spend their formative years in an environment dominated by negative attitudes toward Israel.
Yet none of this is, or was, unavoidable.
Significantly, Gold points out: “Studies confirm that when accurate information about Israeli policies, society and values is provided, the false [anti-Israel] arguments are uniformly rejected.”
He goes on to urge that “our most critical challenge is to educate the young. Our students feel confident and empowered when they know the facts and can challenge group-think favoring Israel’s isolation, dismantlement or destruction. We are duty-bound to engage students.”
And there you have it in a nutshell. The current situation reflecting the accumulated effect of over a decade of a well-orchestrated assault on Israel’s legitimacy is the most damning indictment of Israel’s public diplomacy and of those charged with its conduct.
For despite all the well-placed diagnoses of sources of virulent Judeophobic sentiment across the world, much of the blame must be allotted to ineffectual Israeli response to the clearly gathering storm clouds.
Indolence, impotence, ignorance Wail as we may at the falsehoods propagated by our enemies, this will have little impact in addressing what in many ways is emerging as the most ominous strategic danger facing the country.
Of course, Israel will be subjected to diplomatic attack by its adversaries. That is what adversaries do. As Melanie Phillips observes, “The Arabs, the Palestinians, Muslims have organized for years. They have put money and thought and intelligence and shrewdness behind this [campaign].”
But, far more than the actions of its foes, it has been the inaction of Israel in retaliating that has precipitated the current abysmal situation.
I have written previously on the pitiful levels of resources that are devoted to Israel’s public diplomacy. We are now harvesting the bitter fruits of the misguided miserliness.
For when Dore Gold and others complain that pro-Israeli students lack the basic knowledge to rebut the baseless accusations of their well-funded anti- Zionist rivals, who should be held responsible for leaving them so unprepared for battle? Why has there been no commensurate Israeli investment of “money, thought, intelligence and shrewdness” in repudiating this insidious offensive of unfounded invective? Why has the Israeli leadership allowed a motley collection of clearly fabricated and easily refuted falsehoods to balloon out of control and become what is now a threat of strategic proportions?
Prisoner of process The answer is relatively simple – although many will find it difficult to accept. By entering the Oslowian “peace process,” and recognizing the legitimacy the Palestinian Arabs’ claim to statehood, Israel virtually ensured its current diplomatic beleaguerment.
The reasons for this are twofold: • By acknowledging the Palestinians as worthy “partners for peace,” Israel has precluded any possibility of conveying to the world the true nature of its adversaries and hence precluded any chance of acquiring international understanding for the measures it requires to ensure its national security and the physical safety of its citizens.
• The establishment of a Palestinian state west of the Jordan would – except under wildly optimistic, and hence irresponsible, assumptions – make the maintenance of day-to-day security within the Green Line untenable. Thus by acknowledging the legitimacy of the Palestinian claims for statehood in Judea and Samaria, Israel has locked itself into a situation in which it can only ensure the security of its population by denying the fulfillment of claims it itself acknowledges as legitimate.
As long as Israel remains committed to the “peace process,” its diplomatic strategy will remain imprisoned by the exigencies of maintaining that process – or at least the appearance thereof.
Accordingly, Israel will not be able to present Palestinian society as the brutal, backward, bloodthirsty society it really is without exposing itself to accusations of willfully derailing peace efforts. As long as this restriction persists, Israeli reticence in bowing to Palestinian demands will be seen as unreasonable and inexplicable obstructionism. Likewise, Israel’s inability to accurately convey the dangers involved in a Palestinian state inevitably portray Israel as arbitrarily denying the rights of Palestinians it itself professes to perceive as valid.
Unsurprisingly, this creates a position which is increasingly incomprehensible and indefensible.
Inevitable one-state debate It is impossible to overestimate the potential longer-term significance of what is to take place at Harvard this weekend, whatever the immediate impact might be. It is the initial step in a process enormously dangerous for Israel – a process it dare not disregard. It may turn out to be its “Pearl Harbor.”
In this respect, well-meaning pro-Israel advocates such as Alan Dershowitz and David Harris are gravely mistaken in their endorsement of the two-state paradigm.
Anybody with a firm grasp of the geographical, topographical and hydrological parameters of the area, together with a knowledge of the socio-cultural and religious characteristics of the relevant populations and an appreciation of the dismal events of the past quarter century, will recognize that it is an unrealistic pipe dream. Clinging to it plays into the hands of the enemy.
For even under the wildly implausible assumption that the Palestinians genuinely desire a state for themselves, the bargain that needs to be struck is unattainable.
The maximum Israel can offer without irresponsibly compromising its security is less than the minimum Palestinians can be reasonably expected to accept in satisfying their national aspirations.
Conversely, the minimum that the Palestinians can be expected to accept for a tenable state exceeds the maximum that Israel can offer without rendering its security untenable.
Accordingly, as Israel necessarily puts off agreeing to the establishment of a Palestinian state, the two-state principle will appear less and less viable. Inevitably this will be perceived as unjustified Israeli intransigence. This is precisely why paying lip service to an unattainable two-state solution plays into the hands of the enemy – for it creates situations that invariably cast Israel in a negative, disingenuous role.
Thus adhering to it is not the key to Israel’s legitimacy. Quite the opposite. It is increasingly the source of its de-legitimization.
Urgent strategic imperative Unavoidably, as frustration with the two-state principle increases, the quest for alternatives will begin. This was precisely the “hook” for the Harvard event.
Unless a serious effort to formulate a logically consistent, operationally viable, Zionist-compliant alternative is undertaken with great urgency (see my “Palestine: What Sherlock Holmes would say”), the Harvard-formulated one-state paradigm will gain increasing ascendancy in the public discourse.
Dealing with this rapidly emerging menace is Israel’s most pressing imperative.
Failing to do so would indeed invite a new “Pearl Harbor.”