Martin Indyk (R) with John Kerry
Martin Indyk (R) with John KerryMatty Stern/Flash 90

Dr. Medoff is founding director of The David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies and author of more than 20 books about Jewish history and the Holocaust. His latest is Whistleblowers: Four Who Fought to Expose the Holocaust to America, a nonfiction graphic novel with artist Dean Motter, published by Dark Horse / Yoe Books.

Could something good come out of the October 7 murders, rapes, and beheadings? At least one ex-State Department official seems to think so—and it’s not the first time U.S. officials have suggested that Palestinian Arab violence might have a positive side.

Writing in the new issue of Foreign Affairs, former Assistant Secretary of State Martin Indyk, whose connections to Qatar can be easily found on the web, asserts that as awful as October 7 was, there could be a beneficial result—the creation of a Palestinian Arab state.

“As a result of the war in Gaza,” Indyk writes, the Biden administration has “stronger leverage to transform the resurrection of the two-state solution from a talking point to a reality.” Moreover, Israel’s “deterrent power took a blow on October 7,” creating a “new dependence” by Israel on the United States, which “makes Israel vulnerable to U.S. pressure,” according to Indyk.

The fact that Hamas is holding Israeli hostages could also help this process, Indyk suggests. If the U.S. brokers “another hostages-for-prisoners swap” (by “prisoners,” he means convicted Palestinian Arab terrorist murderers), then “the Israeli public would be profoundly grateful,” and therefore President Biden might be able to convince average Israelis that creating a Palestinian Arab state would “keep Israelis safer.” Thanks to the “massive costs” that the Hamas pogromists inflicted, the Israeli public might be ready to give in, Indyk theorizes.

This is not the first time Indyk or other U.S. officials have suggested that Palestinian Arab violence against Israelis has a positive side, but they used to be more coy about it. (Kissinger was careful not to publicize his explanation for preventing Israel from striking first in October 1973, which was that if Israel loses soldiers in the Yom Kippur War, they might be ready to give in to Arab demands, ed.)

In June 1997, an unnamed “senior U.S. official” told the the Jerusalem Post that Arab violence against Jewish residents of Hebron was “a plausible safety valve” that “lets the Palestinians vent their anger.” Indyk was the U.S. ambassador in Israel at the time. Two months later, the Israeli news media reported that aides to President Bill Clinton recommended "that he allow what [they called] the ‘explosive’ situation between Israel and the Palestinians to deteriorate to a violent clash [because] this will convince the sides of the need to renew negotiations.”

Indyk subsequently was promoted to assistant secretary of state. After he met with Israeli officials in early 1999, the Jerusalem Post reported that “a senior U.S. administration official” remarked that it was “unreasonable” not to expect the Palestinian Arabs to “resort to desperate actions” if Israel did not make additional concessions.

In May 2000, Clinton’s national security adviser, Sandy Berger, rationalized Arab violence by invoking the biblical concept that something can be both a curse and a blessing. He said Palestinian Arab terrorism against Israel was a curse, but it was also “a blessing,” because “the tragedy that awaits in the event of inaction also constitutes the greatest incentive for immediate action” toward a negotiated agreement.

In more recent years, some U.S. officials have made similar statements. The Israeli news media reported in May 2014 that a “senior U.S. official” (from the Obama administration) said: “The Palestinians are tired of the status quo. They will get their state in the end—whether through violence or by turning to international organizations.” The Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz reported that Israeli officials believed the person who made the remark was Martin Indyk.

There are historical precedents for State Department officials, and other prominent Americans, viewing human rights violations by evil regimes as less important than some policy goal. Breckinridge Long, President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s ambassador to Italy, considered Mussolini’s abuses a minor matter compared to his “punctual trains” and “well-paved streets.” And while Long did not endorse the brutal persecution of Vienna’s Jews following Germany’s annexation of Austria in 1938, he argued that Hitler’s move should be accepted because the Nazis would “bring order, system, and comparative peace” to that region. Nevertheless, FDR promoted Long to assistant secretary of state.

“I am not in accord with the Jewish situation in Germany,” aviation hero Charles Lindbergh wrote after visiting there in 1936. But while Hitler “is a fanatic in many ways,” he “has accomplished results (good in addition to bad) which could hardly have been accomplished without some fanaticism.” Overall, “the condition of the country” demonstrated that Hitler had “far more character and vision” than his critics acknowledged, Lindbergh argued.

University of Arizona President Homer L. Shantz, who led an academic tour group to Nazi Germany in 1934, did not deny there had been a “little furor” aimed at Jews there. But what was really important, he declared upon his return, was that Nazi Germany was creating “the most perfect [land use] ever developed…there are not as many weeds in Germany as in one square mile in this country.”

Such attitudes were, needless to say, disgraceful. Nazi abuses were not some kind of necessary cracking of eggs in order to make an omelette. Mussolini could have developed efficient trains without torturing dissidents; Hitler could have eliminated weeds without massacring Jews. It is equally wrong to view Palestinian Arab violence as inevitable, and as something that is less important than its possible diplomatic consequences. Jewish victims of Arab terrorism are real people who are being murdered or maimed, orphaned or widowed.

In his Foreign Affairs essay, Martin Indyk is saying, in effect, that while October 7 was a nasty piece of business, that’s just what Palestinian Arabs do, so we should look on the bright side—it might convince Israelis to give in to U.S. pressure for a Palestinian state. That’s an ugly sentiment, and unfortunately, it’s nothing new; Indyk is just finally saying the quiet part out loud.

As published in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles