Ronald Lauder’s recent New York Times editorial, “Israel’s Self-Inflicted Wounds,” exposed a growing rift between American and Israeli Jews over the elusive two-state solution, which has been further exacerbated by the violence currently roiling Gaza. Israelis from across the spectrum seem to recognize it as a chimera without historical foundation, whereas secular and progressive Jews in North America increasingly view it as doctrine to be imposed on others 5,700 miles away, regardless of the consequences.
Two-state advocates often demand that Israel make concessions despite the anti-Semitic rejectionism which permeates Palestinian society. But if forced on Israel, their solution would leave her with enemy sovereigns at her doorstep – as has been graphically demonstrated by the Gaza situation.
Americans who believe that most Palestinian Arabs accept the concept of “two states for two peoples” seem undeterred by surveys showing precisely the opposite or by the PA and Hamas Charters – though both deny Israel’s right to exist and one calls for genocide. Foregoing critical analysis, many accept the dubious Palestinian narrative while overlooking anti-Israel rhetoric that is revisionist on its face and anti-Semitic at its core. Whereas many proclaim they are saving Israel from herself, their seeming tolerance of Palestinian revisionism would suggest otherwise.
Though generally assumed to be liberal policy, the two-state paradigm is increasingly accepted by self-identified conservatives (e.g., Lauder, President of the World Jewish Congress) who are secular and/or affiliated with the non-Orthodox movements.
Unfortunately, the paradigm is compromised by conflicting narratives that are irreconcilable. It presumes the authenticity of Palestinian national claims that lack provenance, but which Palestinians legitimize by denigrating the Jews’ ancient connection to and continuous presence in their homeland. While Israel could agree to any resolutional framework for political reasons with an entity that accepts her existence, she cannot validate a myth that repudiates Jewish history and sovereignty.
In his New York Times piece, Lauder suggested that Israel risks becoming repressive absent a Palestinian state, writing: “If current trends continue, Israel will face a stark choice: Grant Palestinians full rights and cease being a Jewish state or rescind their rights and cease being a democracy. To avoid these unacceptable outcomes, the only path forward is the two-state solution.”
He also took issue with the orthodox establishment, suggesting its pervasive influence on Israeli society will alienate diaspora Jewry and lead to semi-theocracy. Nobody can argue with his pro-Israel bona fides. But what is concerning when such claims come from conservatives is that they invoke presumptions often associated with progressives.
These presumptions, however, begin to crumble when parsed against the “March of Return” and subsequent violence orchestrated by Hamas in Gaza, which though clearly rejectionist and anti-Semitic have been regarded favorably by the western media. Sympathetic bias was evident in news commentary that compared the Gaza protests to Martin Luther King’s 1965 march in Selma, Alabama, and thus analogized Hamas-inspired violence to American civil rights advocacy. Whereas Dr. King sought to unite people in the spirit of human dignity, however, Hamas aims to demonize Jews and encourage genocide. Any comparison between Selma and Gaza bespeaks either ignorance or artifice.
Sympathy for the Gaza protestors has also been expressed by liberal groups like J Street, which issued a press release stating, among other things, the following:
“J Street is saddened and disturbed by renewed violence today at the Gaza-Israel border…
“While there are reports of a small number of Palestinians attempting to breach the fence or otherwise attack Israeli soldiers, the vast majority of those who have gathered appear to be exercising their legitimate and important right to engage in nonviolent protest…
. . .
“We call on Hamas to stop inciting violence within peaceful protests. We call on Palestinian leaders to resume efforts to negotiate a path to political reconciliation. And, echoing numerous Israeli peace organizations and political parties, we call on the Israeli government to ease the siege of Gaza, help alleviate the suffering of its people and actively pursue a two-state resolution to the underlying conflict…”
The implication that Hamas usurped the protests of a peaceful majority does not jibe with facts on the ground. There was nothing incidental about the involvement of Hamas, which planned the violence in Gaza, knowing mainstream journalists would whitewash its coordinated mayhem, mischaracterize its intentions, and criticize any Israeli response as disproportionate. Apparently, Hamas could also count on western progressives to vouch for its supporters’ integrity and raise the false specter of Israeli culpability.
On-site reports described widespread violence, with participants burning tires, pelting IDF soldiers with rocks, hurling incendiary projectiles, and breaching the security fence at the border. The unrest has been pervasive and not limited to extremist outliers; and notwithstanding fatuous reports of Israeli soldiers killing young and elderly Arab civilians, almost all casualties have been identified as terrorists or adults of fighting age, including members of Hamas’s “Nukhba” commando unit. Moreover, the renewal of violence to coincide with the US embassy opening in Jerusalem has been described by non-Israeli military experts as a coordinated, tactical terrorist operation.
Despite Hamas’s admission that most of those killed were terrorists, liberal Jewish groups nonetheless have publicly mourned the deaths of “innocents.” And news reports from Gaza continue to portray the violence as an understandable expression of frustration over “the occupation.” Although Israel’s complete disengagement in 2006 illustrates the absurdity of such claims, it is ignored by activist reporters who persist in characterizing Gaza as occupied despite the lack of any Israeli presence or rule
Dishonest reporting and claims of disproportionate Israeli reactions are intended to evoke false images of Jewish colonial repression – images that are reinforced by liberals who support the revisionist myth that Israel’s existence without a Palestinian state violates the intent of the original Mandate for Palestine. Such arguments are nonsense, however, insofar as the San Remo Convention of 1920, the Transjordan Memorandum of 1922, and the Palestine Mandate of 1923 never advocated creating a state for “Palestinians,” who had no sovereign existence and whose national identity would not be invented for decades. To the extent these enabling documents may have contemplated an Arab state alongside a Jewish one in the ancient Jewish homeland, that intent was fulfilled by the creation of Transjordan (Jordan) in 1921.
This history – not Palestinian mythology – should set the parameters for any resolutional framework. It is well and good that Israel is a vibrant democracy that respects minorities and encourages free participation in the electoral process. Israel’s primary existential purpose, however, is to provide national autonomy for Jews in their homeland. Her equal treatment of all citizens, whether Jewish or Arab, is a projection of her ancestral values and starkly contrasts with the ethnic and religious persecution and strife that characterize the rest of the Mideast.
And yet, progressives never condemn countries like Saudi Arabia for financing extremism, subjugating women, and suppressing speech, or Iran for persecuting non-Muslims, killing gay people, and exporting terrorism. They prefer instead to denounce Israel using an assortment of unsupportable straw arguments.
One of easiest calumnies is to accuse Israel of apartheid, because the mere use of the word inflames passions beyond reason, especially among those who are unaware that it is a crime with a specific definition. The International Criminal Court’s Rome Statute of 2002 defines “apartheid” as consisting of acts “committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” This definition hardly fits Israel, however, where Arab citizens have the same legal rights as Jews, live where they want, and serve in government as Knesset members, cabinet ministers, and judges.
Another common subterfuge is the “demographic time-bomb” argument, which claims Arab population growth will displace Jews and result in the suspension of democracy to maintain Jewish supremacy. But Israel’s population last year totaled approximately 8,680,000, broken down by percentage as 75% Jewish, 20% Arab, and 4.5% “other.” Moreover, Jewish birthrates are higher than those of Arabs, even among secular Jews, and they continue to rise as Arab birthrates decline, both in pre 1967 Israel and in Judea and Samaria.
Finally, those who believe two-statism is necessary to preserve Israel’s democracy also tend to represent orthodoxy as a threat to democratic freedom, though orthodox hegemony does not seem to bother average Israelis. The anti-religious fervor of secular non-Israelis seems to ignore the fact that orthodox influence is maintained through Israel’s political process and is ultimately subject to domestic political pressures. It seems, however, that what secular progressives really want is to remake Israel in their own image from afar.
Perhaps it is diaspora Jews who are alienating Israelis, and not vice versa.
Regardless of motivation, secular Americans often sound presumptuous in declaring what would be best for Israel – oblivious to how their partisan ideals might threaten her sovereign integrity. If they are truly concerned about Israel’s survival, however, they would do well to learn her history, acknowledge the reality of Palestinian rejectionism, understand what is really happening in Gaza, and recognize that Israeli citizens are capable of determining their own national needs and priorities.