Ha’aretz writer Akiva Eldar described himself thus in a 2008 article:
The prominent Israeli columnist Nahum Barnea wrote in November 2000 (in a publication of the Israel Democracy Institute) that “there are Israeli reporters who do not pass the ‘lynch test.'” These, he wrote, are journalists who could not bring themselves to criticize the Arabs even when two Israelis were savagely murdered by a mob in Ramallah. Barnea, who last year was awarded the Israel Prize for journalism, went on to argue that our support for the Palestinian position is absolute. He concluded, “They have a mission.” I was honored to be mentioned as one of those journalists, alongside my fine colleagues Gideon Levy and Amira Hass.
What he wrote yesterday was even more revealing. In an article entitled “Abbas should change his locks before next wave of Palestinian prisoners freed,” Eldar tells us that many of the Arab prisoners to be released in the second phase of the exchange for Gilad Shalit will be “car thieves and petty criminals.”
Now get ready … here is Eldar’s unique take on this:
After being compelled to give Hamas a healthy offering of security prisoners, including “heavy” terrorists, Netanyahu is determined this time to release a low-fat fare.
This isn’t the first time that Netanyahu is converting an agreement to release Palestinian prisoners into either a bonanza or boondoggle for the Palestinian leadership. Twelve years ago, during his first term as prime minister, Netanyahu sent Yasser Arafat mainly prisoners who were incarcerated for criminal – not security – offenses…
Abbas now claims that then prime minister Ehud Olmert promised him he would release two Fatah prisoners for every one prisoner returned to Hamas. Netanyahu suggests that Abbas go to Olmert and ask him for these prisoners.
Eldar is actually criticizing Netanyahu for cheating the PLO by not releasing more murderers! He seems to suggest that Netanyahu is behaving dishonorably toward Abbas by violating some kind of understanding.
Let’s remember that Israel is not releasing these prisoners, who by all rights should serve out their sentences, because it lost a bet on a football game to Hamas and the PLO. They are being released in payment of ransom, to free a kidnap victim who was held incommunicado for more than five years.
In a previous post, I suggested that we refer to the Shalit deal as a ‘jailbreak’ and not a prisoner exchange. There is no difference between this and a situation in which gang members free their confederates by holding a gun to the head of a hostage. The idea that one could behave dishonorably toward the gang in that situation is absurd.
This is so illogical, so crazy, that I looked more carefully at Eldar’s confessional 2008 article. What could make a Jewish Israeli, one who isn’t stupid, think like this?
There are many Jews who believe that there is no difference between Hebron and Tel Aviv, or between West and East Jerusalem. As far as they are concerned, the Land of Israel was promised solely to the People of Israel. Yet anyone who perceives the West Bank (and not “Judea and Samaria”) and East Jerusalem as occupied territories cannot accept the policies of Israel’s governments for the past forty years. Occupation does not have two sides. There is no symmetry between the occupier and the occupied. This is true even if the occupied fight the occupier with despicable and contemptuous methods.
There are two important threads here.
One is a deliberate blindness to historical facts. Why does he say “not Judea and Samaria?” These were the accepted names until 1950, when the Jordanians, having invaded and occupied the territory that formerly was part of the Palestine Mandate renamed them for political reasons.
Certainly there is a difference between Hebron and Tel Aviv, but the implication of Eldar’s statement is that the difference is that Jews may live in Tel Aviv and not Hebron. But — as Melanie Phillips has written — Jews lived in Hebron for centuries until they were expelled by a murderous pogrom in 1929, and then again by the Jordanians in 1948.
Prior to 1967, the last time these places were under Jewish control was that of King David. Afterwards, a succession of foreign conquerors — occupiers? — controlled them until, with the demise of the Ottoman Empire, the ‘international community’ recognized that a tiny piece of it, their historical home, could be set aside for the Jewish people.
Incidentally, at the same time, several Arab states were created out of former Ottoman colonies. None of them are free or democratic.
Since then, the Arab world — indeed, the Muslim world — has had no higher common purpose than to snuff out this tiny Jewish island in a sea of Arab and Muslim states. When President Roosevelt met with King Saud in February 1945, he was treated to a diatribe on the subject of Jewish immigration to Palestine. Why did Saud care so much about a territory that didn’t border Saudi Arabia at a time of geopolitical upheaval everywhere?
The reason is simple, and it is the same as what animates the conflict today: the possibility of Jewish control of ‘Arab (or Muslim) land’.
In other words, religious hatred and racism.
The second thread is what is called postcolonialism. This is the radical position that morality is politically determined. A ‘colonist’ or ‘occupier’, always European or North American in origin, oppresses a ‘colonized’ people. Because of the inherent power imbalance, the colonized people has a ‘right’ to ‘resist’ by any means available, even terrorism.
In addition to the logical incoherence of this idea — if morality is political, then it is not morality as we know it — the paradigm of European colonialism does not apply to Israel (nor to Israeli Jews, many of whom are of Middle Eastern origin). Indeed, if anyone was an oppressed people that overthrew a European colonial power and established self-determination in their homeland, it was the Jews of Palestine.
Eldar says that he is not opposed to the State of Israel, he just thinks “it [is] better to live in a small but beautiful country than in a large and ugly one.” But his postcolonialist argument leads to a slippery slope. What, indeed, is the difference between Hebron and Tel Aviv? How would he respond to the Arab argument that ‘the occupation’ began in 1948, not 1967?
Not only is he blind to history and ideologically impaired, he is entirely naive about the intentions of the PLO, with whom he wishes to make ‘peace’. He writes,
I have condemned those Israeli policies that reinforce Hamas and weaken the chances for a peaceful settlement: the faltering negotiations for a permanent agreement, the invasive layout of the separation fence, the hundreds of roadblocks and the dozens of illegal settlement outposts.
That was three years ago, but I would have hoped that by now he would understand that any agreement that Israel makes with the PLO will not be peaceful or permanent. And even that will be moot if Hamas replaces the PLO as ruler of the territories, quite likely if Israel withdraws.
Eldar’s ideology and lack of historical sense has led him to oppose his own, Jewish people in their struggle with those that hate and want to destroy them, so much so that he doesn’t see the irony in his call for Netanyahu to release murderers — one of those that Abbas would like to see out of jail is Marwan Barghouti, serving 5 life sentences for murder — instead of car thieves!