The forest and the trees

Recently I had a discussion with a friend of mine about the most important message to deliver to Americans about Israel.

For what it’s worth, he is a “progressive Zionist”. That means that he is left-wing but pro-Israel. And unlike many who call themselves this, he really is passionately pro-Israel.

Anyway, he said that it’s important to try to counteract the anti-Israel propaganda about Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians — the so-called ‘siege’ of Gaza, the false ‘apartheid’ accusations, the exaggeration of incidents involving the Palestinians, the IDF and Israeli residents of the West Bank.

He has a point.  If Americans feel that Israel does not care about human rights, then they won’t support her. And he also agonizes about situations which can’t be explained: for example, the recent case of the Palestinian demonstrator who was shot in the foot by a rubber bullet while handcuffed. It should not have happened, regardless of the provocation (and there was plenty).

What happens, of course, is that actual incidents are exaggerated, new ones are entirely made up — like the Mohammed al Dura ‘shooting’ or the Jenin ‘massacre’ — and the responses of Israel, a nation under continuous pressure from threats of destruction, terrorism and war are presented, ironically, as a systematic program to dehumanize the Palestinians, even to exterminate them.

So it is very important to try to bring some truth and balance into the discussion of human rights, which incidentally cannot leave out Palestinian violation of the rights of Israelis, by, for example, shooting them or blowing them up.

But I don’t agree that this is the most important message.

The problem is this: before 1967, Israel’s enemies didn’t talk about human rights (or even about ‘Palestinians’ very much). They talked about throwing the Jews into the sea. This may have made them feel good, but it didn’t make them very popular in America or Europe. At some point they realized that it would be much more effective to present their project as the quest of the oppressed Palestinian people for self-determination and human rights. And it has been remarkably effective, a tremendous propaganda victory.

Unfortunately, their goals have not changed. Hamas, Hezbollah and Syria are not stockpiling rockets in order to improve the human rights situation in the territories, Syria is not preparing chemical warheads and Iran is not developing nuclear weapons for this purpose. Today the primary cause of the conflict between Israel and her neighbors is that Iran is managing an on-and-off proxy war to destroy Israel.

But the result of the focus on Palestinian rights has been to distract attention from this, and to make it seem like the conflict is between a powerful nation and a powerless minority, when in fact friction with the Palestinians is a small part of a larger, existential struggle.

The present US administration, led by the ‘realist’ school exemplified by James Baker, either doesn’t understand this or pretends not to.  A reasonable policy to promote peace would be to put pressure on Iran and Syria and to strengthen Israel. Instead, the realist ‘solution’ is to force Israel to withdraw from the territories and to create a Palestinian state!

So in my opinion, the message that should be delivered to the world is this one: Israel’s enemies want you to look at the trees and miss the forest. The real cause of war in the Mideast today is the effort by Iran, supported by almost every Arab country and the majority of the Palestinians, to eliminate Israel.

Solve this problem and a Palestinian state would be easy.

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One Response to “The forest and the trees”

  1. Shalom Freedman says:

    This piece makes the major point- the point. And that is that the whole conflict is about the refusal to recognize and live in peace with Israel. This is what has impelled it from the beginning. This has not change though regrettably the circle of hostility has widened and now includes more actively ,Muslims who are not Arab, notably the Iranians who were formerly allies with Israel.
    This point is again the heart of Hasbarah and the heart of the situation. It can never be made too much, for it is the basic truth of the whole story.