(JTS) Regrettably and increasingly, Western intellectual discourse regarding anything connected to Israel has been taken hostage by pseudo-intellectual, radical leftist extremists who, using distorted information, flawed facts, “progressive” language and accepted buzzwords, seek to enhance and expand existing efforts to deny and undermine Israel’s legitimacy as a Jewish and democratic nation-state.
This ideological goal of dismantling Israel is particularly evident in a curious July 9, 2020, article published in radical leftist Australian literary journal Overland, titled, “Fighting against a Racist’s Peace: What It Means to Oppose Annexation.” The author is the child of Palestinians, Tasnim Mahmoud Sammak, whose doctoral research project at Melbourne’s Monash University seeks to explore what she describes as the “emergence of radical political subjectivities and imaginaries.”
Her ultra-radical language indicates a thought process based on misconceptions and flawed assumptions. The abundant use of extreme, radical leftist buzzwords indicates an inherent lack of seriousness and intellectual honesty.
What is perhaps even worse is an apparent linkage that emerges in this article between pseudo-intellectual leftist modes of thinking and extreme, fanatical Palestinian terror and incitement to Israel’s destruction.
The following are some examples of such exaggerated, illogical and inciting terminology used in the article.
“Zionism is a settler-colonial, ethno-nationalist project”
This is an often repeated and meaningless cliché using pseudo-intellectual terminology intended to appeal to extreme ultra-liberal, leftist elements that are opposed to the very existence of Israel as a state and deny, as a matter of principle, the claims and rights of the Jewish people.
Israel has valid historical, legal and political claims to its sovereign territory and land, as well as to the land it presently administers.
In addition to the long-term historical evidence of Jewish presence, as set out in the writings of Persian, Greek, Roman and other historians who visited the area in the early centuries, and in biblical sources, extensive archeological evidence, publicly available, affirms the existence and presence of a Jewish national population in the area for over 3,000 years. The “return to Zion” has been a central theme of Jewish prayers for two millennia.
These Jewish claims have been acknowledged legally and internationally by the 1917 Balfour Declaration affirming the right of the Jews to reestablish their national homeland, the 1921 San Remo Declaration, which transposed the Balfour Declaration into an internationally recognized document and reaffirmed in the subsequent League of Nations Palestine Mandate and the United Nations Charter.
This land has never been part of any sovereign entity since the termination of the Ottoman Empire more than 100 years ago, and as such, Israel has not colonized and is not colonizing the land of any other state or entity.
For more than 120 years, the Zionist movement has been universally recognized as the national liberation movement of the Jewish people and is no different from other ethno-national movements.
To single out and condemn Zionism in such a manner is tantamount to singling out the Jewish people and denying them a fundamental right that is possessed by all other national peoples.
Israeli settlements that were established since 1967 were in full compliance with customary international norms, on land that was not privately owned by any local Palestinian, nor were they part of any sovereign Palestinian entity. Residents of Israel’s settlements were neither forcibly nor illegally transferred into the area in violation of international conventions. On the contrary, their presence there is subject to the agreed-upon reciprocal peace negotiation process set out in the 1993-5 Oslo Accords, intended to determine, through negotiation, the ultimate permanent legal status of the area, including the specific issue of settlements.
To describe Israel and its policies as a “settler-colonial, ethno-nationalist project” displays utter blindness and lack of understanding of the actual meaning of such a phrase and even demonstrates considerable ignorance. The use of such terminology deliberately denies the historical, factual and legal realities on the ground, and ignores the various accords between the Palestinians and Israel that have been internationally acknowledged and accepted.
“Israel’s criminal impunity”
This wild assumption is simply wrong.
Israel’s widely acknowledged and internationally-renowned legal system ensures that all state and military activities, whether by officials, military forces, or individual soldiers, is under strict supervision by Israel’s legal authorities—civilian and military—including its Supreme Court.
Such a framework permits no element of impunity.
Similarly, in the international sphere, Israel’s actions in responding to aggression and acts of terror are fully compatible with its international rights to defend itself against such acts.
Israel is faced with ongoing aggression and terror, whether in the form of periodic, massive rocket fire against its sovereign territory, including its towns and villages, or tunnels dug under and into its sovereign territory in order to enable offensive infiltration by terrorists intent on committing attacks against its population.
Similarly, the willful, daily deployment of explosive devices against Israel’s soldiers stationed along the Israel-Gaza dividing line, the release of explosive and incendiary devices attached to balloons deliberately and willfully aimed at creating mass conflagrations of agricultural land, the deliberate pollution of the air through the mass burning of tires, as well as other acts of terror against Israel’s population and innocent civilians—all entitle Israel to take appropriate precautions to defend itself against such unbridled terror.
To describe such actions in terms of “criminal impunity” is indicative of a willful lack of awareness, a deliberate attempt to misrepresent reality, as well as ignorance of the relevant provisions of international humanitarian law and international criminal law.
“Israel is a racist state that practices apartheid”
These false and flawed allegations represent the weapons and ammunition of Palestinian political warfare for decades. More recently, these libelous and baseless accusations have also underpinned Western, leftist pseudo-intellectual propaganda. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat advanced this slander in his first United Nations General Assembly address in 1974. It was adopted by Western NGO groups at the discredited 2001 U.N. Durban Conference on Racism and has since maintained its prominence in radical circles seeking to delegitimize Israel.
The glib use of the term “apartheid” as a means of denigrating Israel epitomizes the lack of understanding of the racist phenomenon of apartheid and an even wider misunderstanding of the character of Israel as an open, pluralistic, and democratic society.
Any comparison of Israel to the former apartheid regime in South Africa has been outright rejected by those with an intimate understanding of the old apartheid system, especially South Africans. The aim of such propaganda, besides delegitimizing the very basis of the existence of the State of Israel, is to cynically manipulate the international community and to encourage imposition of an international sanctions regime against Israel modeled on the actions against the former apartheid regime in South Africa. South African black human rights activists, writing in the 2020 Jerusalem Center book “Israelophobia,” exposed this misuse of the former South African apartheid system.
On the contrary, Israel is a multi-racial and multi-colored society. Israel’s Arab citizens and residents enjoy constitutional equality and freedom of expression. They exercise a strong and influential political presence in Israel’s parliament (Knesset). Arab citizens play a central role in all spheres of Israeli society. Arab judges serve in Israel’s court system, including as Supreme Court justices. Israeli Arabs serve as heads and senior staff of hospital departments and Israeli universities. Similarly, Arabs serve in Israel’s diplomatic and consular corps, as well as filling senior posts in the police and army.
Each religious community in Israel has its own religious court system, applying Sharia, Canon, Druze and Jewish law respectively and equally.
Unlike those Arab and other countries in which one religion is declared the state religion, or Western countries where Christianity is the predominant religion, or even those Muslim countries such as Iran and Saudi Arabia where certain areas, towns and roads are restricted to “Muslims only,” where women are treated as second-class citizens and gay people as criminals, Israeli law regards Judaism, Islam and Christianity as official religions and constitutionally ensures complete freedom and equality to all.
The incitement to or practice of racism in Israel is a criminal offense, as is any discrimination on the basis of race, religion, sex, or gender. Israeli schools, universities and hospitals make no distinction between Jews and Arabs.
To accuse Israel of being a racist and apartheid state displays basic ignorance of Israel’s democracy and a lack of understanding of the former South African apartheid system that was finally disbanded in 1994.
“The Zionist settler-colonial project extends across internationally-recognized Palestinian land”
This is a common and misleading misconception prevalent in pseudo-intellectual leftist propaganda that has permeated international organizations such as the United Nations and its Specialized Agencies and even the International Criminal Court. It has even succeeded in influencing Western political parties in the United Kingdom, Ireland and the United States, as well as some Jewish communities in those countries.
Whether politically or legally, there exists no such thing as “internationally recognized Palestinian land” or “Palestinian territory.” There has never existed a Palestinian sovereign entity, and, therefore, there exists no such thing as sovereign Palestinian land.
Other than a plethora of non-binding, politically-generated resolutions initiated by the Arab states in the United Nations and repeatedly adopted by an automatic majority in the U.N. General Assembly since the early 1970s, expressing nothing more than the “wishful thinking” of those states sponsoring and supporting them, there exists no binding, authoritative international determination, resolution, decision, or declaration that acknowledges or recognizes Palestinian statehood or Palestinian land.
On the contrary, the PLO and the Palestinian leadership committed themselves in the Oslo Accords to negotiate the issue of the permanent status of the territory, thus affirming the fact that any reference to “Palestinian land” has no legal basis pending the outcome of such negotiation.
As such, any reference to Palestinian land, territory, or state prejudges the outcome of a negotiating issue aimed at determining the ultimate fate of the territory.
Such negotiation has yet to reach fruition.
“Israeli soldiers commit extrajudicial killings”
In light of many videos showing random knife attacks by incited Palestinians against Israeli passers-by, it is incredible to see how radical elements have manufactured and distributed a blatantly false narrative, boldly and openly accusing Israel of randomly executing people in cold blood.
It is no less incredible to see the extent to which these lies are accepted by the international media, by leading Western and Arab political personalities, and even by various foreign and Israeli academics, who rush to accuse Israel’s police and security forces of carrying out “indiscriminate,” “barbaric” or “extrajudicial” executions, when they are defending themselves against these attacks.
By allowing themselves to be influenced by such manipulative lies and by propagating them, the international media and some leading Western political personalities are giving encouragement and license to the Palestinian leadership, as well as to the pseudo-intellectual leftists, to continue incitement to violence and to justify a policy of rendering payment to those who commit acts of terror against Israelis.
Claims by Palestinian leaders considered by the international community to be “moderate,” justifying such terrorist knifings and citing “lack of hope” or “desperation” by the perpetrators of such terror, cannot be considered acceptable by any moral standard.
On the contrary, international law has criminalized any form of encouragement and incentive to commit acts of terror.
Even the U.N. General Assembly resolves annually that “Criminal acts intended or calculated to provoke a state of terror in the general public, a group of persons or particular persons for political purposes are in any circumstances unjustifiable, whatever the considerations of a political, philosophical, ideological, racial, ethnic, religious or other nature that may be invoked to justify them.”
“The Palestinian guerrilla struggle is connected to the global BLM (Black Lives Matter) movement through an interlinked vision to dismantle racist settler-colonial structures and systems”
Any attempt to mislead the international public by claiming that Palestinian terror tactics of firing rockets at Israel’s civilian population, illegally sheltering rocket emplacements and weapons storage facilities among their own civilian population and willfully conducting ecological warfare through arson constitute a “guerrilla struggle” is an insult to the intelligence of the international public.
Similarly, current attempts by left-wing “intellectuals” to draw a false connection and comparison between the Palestinian terror campaign against Israel and its citizens, and the BLM movement, is nothing but a misguided and ill-advised attempt to climb onto the BLM bandwagon.
Such an unfortunate and ill-advised linkage undermines and takes hostage in a false and misleading manner many of the genuine and well-meaning aims of rectifying social and racial ills prevalent within parts of the American society.
Above all, such a false and flawed linkage of American domestic civil and human rights challenges with a 100-year terror-driven political conflict over territory equates and identifies the BLM movement with Palestinian terror, and as such, undermines the integrity of the BLM movement.
“The siege of Gaza is collective punishment on the Palestinian population for democratically electing the wrong party, Hamas”
It is widely acknowledged that the Palestinian Authority’s control in Gaza was usurped by Hamas, an internationally-designated terror organization sponsored and supplied with arms by Iran. Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza, such as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, have turned the area into a base for mounting terror attacks against Israel.
To this end, Hamas produces, smuggles into the area and stockpiles missiles, guns and ammunition for use against Israel and its civilian population. It periodically directs such missiles randomly at Israeli civilian targets, in violation of all accepted norms of international humanitarian law.
In light of this acknowledged situation of armed conflict directed against Israel and its civilian population, Israel has the prerogative to prevent the introduction of weapons and materiel that could serve the belligerent purposes of Hamas, including through such means as a naval and land blockade. The institution of such a blockade is well established in international law and practice.
In accordance with the findings of the U.N. Secretary General’s Panel of Inquiry on the 2010 Gaza flotilla incident:
“Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza. The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law.”
Despite the ongoing, declared hostile intentions of the Hamas administration in Gaza, and its construction of tunnels and manufacture of rockets for use against Israel, Israel maintains an ongoing civilian policy enabling the transfer of commodities via the different overland crossings, civilian entry to and from the Gaza Strip with emphasis on the evacuation of Palestinian patients for medical treatment in Israel, the promotion of projects by the international community, and coordination of operations and aid in agriculture, transportation, trade and industry.
“Tel Aviv, (my colonized home city of Yaffa)”
The perception of the creation of the State of Israel as a “catastrophe’ (nakba) and a colonizing entity reflects a constant and ongoing Palestinian narrative rejecting the creation of a national state for the Jewish people in any part of Mandatory Palestine.
This absolutist and “cancellation culture” narrative, adopted by radical Western leftist elements, sanctions and encourages uncompromising struggle against Israel as the common national aim of the Palestinians.
The State of Israel was not established as an alternative, colonizing entity in place of an Arab state. Rather, it was established as a fruit of the decolonization of the former Turkish Ottoman Empire together with other independence movements in the region at the beginning of the 20th century. From before its birth, Jewish pioneers and refugees of Israel accepted and supported the existence of the Arab residents of the area. Israel always intended to exist together in peace with an Arab state in the area of Mandatory Palestine. This constitutes a founding principle of Israel’s Declaration of Independence.
Distorting and presenting Israel’s creation as a “catastrophe” serves to falsify and overturn the historical narrative from one of inherent denial of the right of existence of a Jewish state through aggression and rejectionism, to one of victimhood and denial of rights.
Through well-orchestrated international brainwashing and incitement, the Palestinian leadership, together with radical leftist elements in the West, seek to further this false and fictitious narrative, which is understood by educated and informed students of modern history to replace the facts of the events of 1948.
Those subscribing to this false narrative, rather than relying on historical facts and evidence, are, in fact, being manipulated into becoming party to this deception.
The distortion of Western intellectual discourse by radical leftist elements, and the attempt to insert such distortion into current political processes and narratives in the West, constitutes misleading, deceptive and wishful thinking, totally divorced from reality and the facts of history and from the fundamental rules of the law and diplomacy.
Alan Baker is director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center and the head of the Global Law Forum. He participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, as well as agreements and peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon. He served as legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel’s Foreign Ministry and as Israel’s ambassador to Canada. This article was first published by the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs.