Into the Fray: Stifling debate – BICOM’s blatant bias

BICOM seems determined to adhere to its commitment to two-state principles down to the last Palestinian – and to block debate on plausible alternatives.

European Union and Union flags fly outside a hotel in London, Britain (photo credit: REUTERS)
European Union and Union flags fly outside a hotel in London, Britain
(photo credit: REUTERS)
With the two-state solution... Israel will collapse, because if they get out of Jerusalem, what will become of all the talk about the Promised Land and the Chosen People? What will become of all the sacrifices they made – just to be told to leave? They consider Jerusalem to have a spiritual status. The Jews consider Judea and Samaria to be their historic dream. If the Jews leave those places, the Zionist idea will begin to collapse... Then we will move forward.Abbas Zaki, senior PLO official, ANB TV, Lebanon, May 7, 2009
We need to... restate some basic truths, and think more creatively about how we can act in the world to make a positive contribution to securing these truths... peace will only come through engagement and deep mutual recognition between the two peoples, that there is no alternative to negotiations and mutual compromise, that a final-status agreement will secure two states for two peoples. – Prof. Alan Johnson, editor, Fathom magazine of BICOM (the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre), Autumn 2015
One has to belong to the intelligentsia to believe things like that: no ordinary man could be such a fool. George Orwell
Readers will recall that recently I “crossed swords” with segments of Australia’s Jewish establishment for its ostracizing of prominent Israelis who dared to articulate positions that diverged from the tyrannical tenets of political correctness (see “To the Australian Jewish Establishment – Embrace political truth, not political correctness,” February 25; and “The Australian Jewish establishment: Political truth vs political correctness – a sequel,” March 3).
It now appears that I am compelled – reluctantly – to do the same with a prominent organ of UK Jewry, BICOM, for similar reasons, but in a more personal context.
The background
The impulse for this column arose from an unfortunate interaction with Prof. Alan Johnson, editor of Fathom, a magazine published by BICOM.
In response to a query whether Fathom would be interested in publishing an essay of mine, Johnson replied: “Thank you for your note. I know Martin’s work, of course, and would be very glad indeed to receive a submission...”(February 29)
On March 1, replying to a query as to the desired length of the submission, he wrote, “... I look forward to hearing what your ideas are.”
On March 6, he received my proposed title for the essay: “Israel as the Nation State of the Jews: Fundamental imperatives for survival,” which was not intended to be a work of policy prescription, but rather a closely argued analysis of what Israel’s existential requirements are, leaving readers to determine which policy prescriptions comply with those requirements...and which do not.
Johnson expressed no objection to the proposed topic and even sent a couple of additional emails containing Fathom-related material, including the latest edition of the magazine, which seemed to indicate an interest in ongoing contact.
But this was soon to change...
Odious and outrageous
After a chance (and unrelated) Facebook encounter with me over my recent column “The two-states dogma – The inanity and insanity” (March, 17), Johnson brusquely conveyed that the previously discussed essay from me was now unwelcome.
In the wake of the exchange, in which elements of my proposed Humanitarian Paradigm for the resolution of the “Palestinian problem,” involving incentivized Arab emigration, were raised (more on that later), Johnson dispatched a terse email (March 23), declaring: “.... I have had a chance to read Martin’s views in more detail and I am afraid they lie outside the editorial redlines of Fathom. Just as we do not publish advocates of driving the Jews into the sea, we do not publish advocates of starving the Palestinians out of the West Bank. Apologies if I have wasted anybody’s time, but I didn’t quite grasp what his position was until now. I am sure Martin will continue to use the many platforms he has, including The Jerusalem Post, to set out his argument for coercive-if-non-kinetic-transfer. But he can’t do that in Fathom.”
This deplorable response is as odious as it is outrageous.
For the inferred parallel that Johnson seeks to draw between (a) the Judeocidal intent of the Arabs to drive the Jews – men, women and children – into the sea, and (b) my proposal to extricate nonbelligerent Palestinian- Arabs from the recurring bouts of death and destruction, and resettling/rehabilitating them, out of harm’s way in third-party countries, is at once abhorrent and absurd.
Disingenuous and deceptive
Indeed, it is difficult to avoid deeming the attempt to allude that there is even a hint of moral equivalence between these two diametric opposites as anything other than disingenuous and deceptive.
After all, how can one conceivably conflate the ethical underpinnings of the undisguised desire to indiscriminately slaughter and/or forcibly expel the civilian Jewish population, with a proposal to remove the non-belligerent Palestinian-Arabs from the control of the cruel, corrupt cliques that have led them astray for decades and provide them with an opportunity for a more stable and secure life elsewhere? On its website BICOM describes itself as “an independent British organization dedicated to creating a more supportive environment for Israel in Britain... by trying to create a more complete understanding of Israel and its situation.
It goes on to declare, “We believe in the right of the State of Israel to live in peace and security, just as we believe in the rights of the Palestinians to statehood,” without in anyway trying to confront the fact that, increasingly, both rational analysis and accumulating experience, both Palestinian deeds and Palestinian declarations, show the two to be ever-more mutually exclusive.
Finally, it claims: “We support a close relationship between Britain and Israel, based on shared values and interests,” seemingly unconcerned by the fact that there is little reason to believe that the Palestinian state for which it pledges support will be anything but a homophobic, misogynistic, Muslim-majority tyranny, and a bastion for radical terrorism – comprising the utter negation of such “shared values and interests.”
But, hey, when has logical consistency, not to mention intellectual integrity, ever been considered an excessive sacrifice in the cult worship of the great deity of political correctness.
Supporting two-states... down to the last Palestinian
In the introductory editorial to the March 2016 issue of Fathom we find the following expression of dogged adherence to dogma.
Seemingly oblivious to both reason and reality it pronounces: “The Fathom editors announced in our founding statement that we would be artisans and partisans of the two-state solution.
We adamantly refuse to drift with those who through a failure of nerve, a lack of political seriousness or a sectarian maximalist agenda are exiting the paradigm of two states for two peoples...”
But the accelerating exit from the “twostates- for-two-people” paradigm is not the result of some “failure of nerve,” but of the ghastly failure of the paradigm itself.
Indeed, as Yishai Fleischer aptly noted in a recent Jerusalem Post opinion piece (March 30): “The so-called two-state solution is one of the most empirically tested political arrangements of all time, and every test has proven that the formula is a disastrous failure.”
Of course, while the two-state endeavor has wrought great tragedy on Israel, leaving thousands dead and many more maimed, it is a tragedy that is dwarfed by the one it has wrought on the Palestinians.
As I pointed out in “The tragic toll of the two-state travesty – on the Palestinians” (March 10), both avid two-state enthusiasts and respected Arabs sources acknowledge that in Gaza the situation is transitioning from dire to desperate and Gazans share a “common dream: to leave Gaza for good.”
Spiraling unemployment coupled with the ravages of the radical regime have created a situation in which Gaza remains in ruins with nearly two million people living in total poverty. A majority of Gazans would leave if they had any place to go.”
This is incontestably the result of the two state dogma and the desire to foist statehood on the Palestinians-Arabs. Yet despite all this devastation the folks at Fathom seem unmoved, resolutely determined to stick to their two-state creed... down to the last Palestinian.
Dubious double standards
In Judea-Samaria, the Arab population has only been spared the fate of their Gazan kinfolk because of the presence of the IDF and the – ill-advised – “artificial respiration” that Israel provides their nonfunctional polity and dysfunctional economy.
But to be fair to Johnson, what seemed to have “got his back up” was not the ramifications of whether the financial incentives offered the Palestinian-Arabs to secure their emigration were accepted but rather if they were rejected.
But to disqualify debate on my proffered prescription because of the possible consequences of its failure, while not applying the same criterion to alternative policy prescriptions – such as the “two-state” or “one-state-for- all-its-citizens” proposals – is clearly to apply an unfair intellectual double standard.
After all, for any proposed policy for the resolution of the Israel-Palestinian conflict, it is possible to ask what the consequences of failure are, and what actions would be called for to deal with them. In fact, as I will demonstrate, the consequences of failure of my proposed Humanitarian Paradigm are likely to be the least catastrophic of all the major proposals currently being debated, and are likely to entail the lowest level of kinetic violence to contend with them.
Significantly, when I asked him what his envisaged “Plan B” would be, if after its establishment the control of the Palestinian state fell to jihadist extremists – something hardly implausible – and any orderly socioeconomic routine in Israel’s heavily populated Coastal Plain became impossible to sustain, he avoided any reply.
Similarly, when I asked what would be the response to the – far from improbable – failure of the “one-state-for-all-its citizens” approach, and Israel descending in to a “Lebanonized” reality of bloody inter-ethnic civil war, he again refrained from answering.
The least kinetic of all
Apparently, what Johnson took exception to was a section in an article I wrote, “Preserving the Jewish nation-state – Post-Paris imperatives?” (November 19, 2015), in which I argued that the only way by which Israel can maintain its geographic and demographic viability as the nation state of the Jews is by “reducing the Arab presence west of the Jordan River... The only noncoercive – or at least, non-kinetic – method of achieving this is through economic inducements – by dramatically increasing the incentives for leaving, enhancing the economic rewards for doing so; and by commensurately increasing the disincentives for staying, intensifying – equally dramatically – the material penalties for doing so.”
If the initial configuration of the incentives/ disincentives package is not effective, I suggested that the former be made more tempting and the latter more daunting. But why this should be any more egregious than the responses called for should other policy prescriptions, acceptable for discussion in Fathom, fail, is difficult to comprehend.
For if the two-state endeavor were to fail, the consequences for the Palestinians are likely to be far more calamitous than an enhanced emigration package of incentives and disincentives.
If, as is highly probable, the Palestinian state became a platform from which to attack Israel – as in every single instance in which Israel has relinquished territory to Arab control – what would Johnson propose? A massive invasion of the renegade Palestinian state, on a 500-km. front, with difficult topographical disadvantages?
With all the massive collateral damage that would be inflicted on the Palestinian civilian population as a result of a defensive IDF operation? Or would he suggest restraint, as greater Tel Aviv is subjected to the realities of the Jewish towns and settlements in the vicinity of the Gaza Strip and Netanya becomes Sderotby- the-Sea, while waiting for his prescribed “deep mutual recognition between the two peoples” to kick in?
To be continued...
Similarly with the one-state paradigm, with which Johnson disagrees but still deigns to discuss, if, as is more than likely, it is not possible to forge a cohesive national identity out of adversarial ethnicities that have been at each other throats for decades, what would the resultant realities be? How would the almost inevitable inter-ethnic civil war be dealt with? Mass expulsion of recalcitrant ethnic groups? Forced annulment of their citizenship? There is still much to be said as to why my proposed Humanitarian Paradigm for the resolution of the Palestinian predicament will be the most humane of all currently debated options if it succeeds, and result in the least inhumane realities, if it does not.
Subject to breaking news, I will elaborate on this next week – and I thank Prof. Johnson for, somewhat perversely, providing the impetus for this enterprise.
Martin Sherman ( is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies (