The region: Jewish, Israeli, liberal and cynical in 2012

There has been what is called an “Arab Spring” with fantasies about instant democracy.

AIPAC conference 370 (photo credit: Gil Shefler)
AIPAC conference 370
(photo credit: Gil Shefler)
While you probably know what I’m about to write, it is useful to reinforce and pull together the pieces of reality we face.
It is 2012, a year which seems to be going by very fast and is already one-fourth finished. People are walking around with smart phones and all sorts of electronic devices that were undreamed-of not long ago. There has been what is called an “Arab Spring” with fantasies about instant democracy. An African-American was elected president of the United States though his party’s nomination, and thus probably the White House, almost went to a woman.
Times have changed.
Yet the hysterical hatred for Israel in the Arabic-speaking world and among Muslims in general has only increased; the philosophy of rejectionism is – almost? – as strong as ever. Indeed, it is no longer safe, and certainly isn’t comfortable, for Jews in much of Europe and even, for those who support Israel, on American college campuses.
In previously moderate Tunisia, now under Muslim Brotherhood rule, thousands of Salafists paraded, chanting to kill the Jews in order to enter paradise. The new Tunisian constitution contains a provision that the country can never recognize Israel.
Almost a half-century ago, Tunisia’s leader was the first Arab politician to call for recognizing Israel. We’re still waiting.
In Morocco, perhaps the overall most moderate country in the Arabic-speaking world, a meeting of the Mediterranean Parliamentary Union was held. Israel, which has a parliamentary system and is on the Mediterranean (I can almost see it from my window), is a member of this group. Consequently one Israeli attended the meeting. The result was a riot in which thousands of Moroccans assaulted the building and the leader of the ruling Islamist party complained.
I won’t bother citing a thousand other examples. But with the triumph of revolutionary Islamists and the throwing down the memory hole of decades of disastrous Arab anti- Israel policies, the Arabic-speaking world is becoming more radical on this issue. It is now joined by Turkey and Iran.
They hate us; they despise us; they want to kill us.
In this situation there is a strong temptation for Westerners to say that if only Israel didn’t exist (radical version) or made huge concessions (liberal version) then all of the problems in the Middle East would go away and all the region’s conflicts with the West would go away.
There is a strong temptation for Western Jews to say that if only Israel made more concessions on territory there would be peace; hate would turn into love, or at least benign indifference, and all the problems of the Jews would go away. There is also a total temptation for Western leftists – including a disproportionate number of Jews – that if only Israel disappeared or made huge concessions, socialist utopia would come speedily in our time.
In fact, for the first time in history we are seeing a concerted and wellfunded campaign to destroy the base of support for Israel among American Jews. It is rather ironic that this is happening in 2012. After all, Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula, southern Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and parts of the West Bank.
Since 1993, Israel has not established a single new settlement nor expanded the geographic size of existing settlements. Israeli governments have offered to accept a Palestinian state in all of the Gaza Strip, almost all of the West Bank, and in part of east Jerusalem.
And so on.
Now we are told by the highly publicized and very smug that if only there is an economic boycott of settlements, Israel will be saved. We are not told that if only there is a willingness among Arabs and Muslims to make peace, plus the total defeat of the revolutionary Islamists, peace is far more likely to be achieved.
That real solution has two differences from the first one: • There is literally nothing we can do, no concession or risk, which will bring about that outcome.
• Thus, we do not have the power to resolve this conflict. We can stand up, sit down, walk by the way, or return to the 1967 borders, and it won’t matter.
About 25 years ago, I was convulsed with laughter at a Palestine National Council meeting in Algeria while watching a young American Jewish Peace Now kid try to explain to a group of Fatah guys that they really did just want a state of their own to live alongside Israel within the 1967 boundaries. They kept explaining to him that this wasn’t the way they thought at all. They wanted “all of Palestine from the river to the sea.”
This well-meaning boob knew better than the Palestinians as to what their actual political stance was.
It is not comforting to acknowledge that there simply isn’t going to be any formal peace agreement or end to the conflict. I won’t say “never” but I’m pretty sure for the next 30 to 50 years, and somewhat less certain for the rest of this century.
But, of course, in time anti-Semitism in Europe went away – oops! It didn’t, but you know what I mean.
Does saying these things make me “right wing”? Not at all. It is also the consensus position of the great majority of left-of-center Israelis and it should be the position of liberal Jews. The whole point is that this is not a matter of our will or preference or program but something that is being forced upon us.
Sure, I want a two-state solution, but not as a launching pad for the next round of would-be genocide. I want the ideal solution of peace and a good neighborhood, but I don’t expect that is going to happen. Not my fault, not our fault.
Let’s face reality, stop blaming ourselves and get on with our lives. Let us improve our society, economy and culture. Of course, let’s also defend ourselves. Let us try to preserve as much as possible of the rapidly disappearing Jewish people. And if you want to boycott someone, why not start with those who insist on remaining our enemies and who would like to murder us.
Makes sense to me.