Time to remove the blinders

Slinging "anti-Semitism" at anyone who disagrees with you or dwelling on the misuse of the term apartheid, simply ignores the problem, and provides a facile escape from facing reality.

US Secretary of State John Kerry and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, January 31, 2014. (photo credit: REUTERS)
US Secretary of State John Kerry and German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Berlin, January 31, 2014.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
John Kerry is anti-Semitic, but it’s unlikely that Ehud Barak, Tzipi Livni or Ehud Olmert are also members of the Jew-hating society. That was the point made last week by not one but two Jerusalem Post columnists identified with the extreme Right, in response to the oft-repeated warnings that without a negotiated two-state solution, Israel is in danger of deteriorating into an apartheid-like country.
I guess we should be grateful for the generous concession that previous utterances by Barak, Livni and Olmert were not the result of anti-Semitism, but rather because of their political ambition and quest for power. And Kerry? As the Post pointed out in an editorial last week, while he may be intellectually lazy and ignorant of what apartheid really is, he’s no anti-Semite.
Clearly, there’s no place for the term apartheid in any description of or comparison between the situation facing Israeli and the Palestinians, and the brutal situation that once existed in South Africa.
But anyone who travels between Jewish settlements and Palestinian villages and towns in the West Bank can see that there are two societies living there – one whose residents are waved through checkpoints and enjoy total freedom of movement, and one whose residents are stopped, checked, delayed, and live restricted lives.
It’s easy and convenient to rationalize that contradiction by saying they brought it on themselves, with their war of terror that rained down on Israel in the second intifada, necessitating the building of security barriers that crisscross the West Bank, essentially creating two countries out of one patch of land.
No, it’s not apartheid, by any means. But those emergency measures that saved countless Israeli lives has only intensified the unequal, unfair treatment toward Palestinian West Bank residents.
To all those cheering the demise of the Kerry-led negotiations between Israel and the PLO, that status quo is just fine. As long as Israelis aren’t being killed and suicide bombers are unable to enter the country, then there’s no problem to be solved.
It is part of a double game that those on the Right enjoy playing. At the outset of negotiations, they moaned that there’s no hope of making peace with Mahmoud Abbas because he doesn’t control the Palestinian people or the terror-bent Hamas and Islamic Jihad. What good would any agreement with the PLO be anyway? At the same time, the second that Abbas tried to create a Palestinian consensus by bringing Hamas into the government, the ready-made out was handed to Jerusalem on a silver platter – with good reason, Israel rightfully can’t conduct negotiations with an entity that includes Hamas as long as it subscribes to its goal of wiping out Israel.
That PA-Hamas gift for the Netanyahu government provided incontrovertible justification for discontinuing the process that lead to the clichéd “painful concessions” necessary to create a Palestinian state.
However, instead of sitting back and throwing up our hands and saying “What can we do, it’s the Palestinians’ fault?” Israel now more than ever should be taking the initiative.
Binyamin Netanyahu is famous for saying “I’m ready to meet Abbas any time or any place – we’re only 10 minutes away from each other.” So do it! Make the call.
It may be futile and lead nowhere. Abbas may be ineffective at best, or a snake at worst. But shouldn’t our prime minister be making every effort to woo the Palestinian Authority away from Hamas and work tirelessly toward the two-state solution that he’s repeatedly stated he’s in favor of? Yes, those like Kerry, Livni, Olmert and Barak may have erred when they uttered the word “apartheid,” but they still got the sentiment right. If Israel continues to control the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank, there will be a continuation of what is happening there now – two classes of people – one with rights and one without. It doesn’t really matter what you call it, but it doesn’t reflect the values that a Jewish state should strive toward.
So thank you, Post columnists, for magnanimously admitting that Livni, Olmert and Barak probably aren’t anti-Semitic. It would be even nicer to go one step further: Not only are they not anti-Semitic, they are proud and patriotic Zionists, who while in power and dealing with the Palestinian issue did what they considered was best for the country’s future. And believe it or not, it’s just possible that John Kerry and Barack Obama think that way as well.
These warnings we’re hearing of trouble ahead without a long-term solution can certainly be ignored, or even chalked up to anti-Semitism.
But they are real, and derive from a desire from those making them to see Israel living in secure borders in peace. Slinging “anti-Semitism” at anyone who disagrees with you like manure hoping it sticks, or dwelling on the misuse of the term apartheid, simply ignores the problem, and provides a facile escape from facing reality. It’s time to remove the blinders.