Professor Richard Landes
Professor Richard LandesCourtesy

Richard Landes is a historian living in Jerusalem and the chair of the Council of Scholars at Scholars for Peace in the Middle East.

(JNS) Gershon Baskin is a long-time Israeli peace activist. He did admirable work during the failed Oslo peace process in the 1990s, hoping to forge coexistence between Israel and the Palestinians. After Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat refused peace at Camp David in 2000 and launched a suicidal terror war on Israeli civilians, Baskin, like most of the Israeli “peace camp,” lost a great deal of credibility.

Baskin soldiered on, however, insisting that Israel could and should make peace with the Palestinians, regardless of their terrorism and violence. Proud of his contacts with various Palestinians, he sponsored many initiatives and working groups.

In 2007, he wrote a response to critics whose hostile talkbacks filled the comments to his Jerusalem Post column.

In 2015, along with his Hamas contact Ghazi Hamad, he played a prominent role in the exchange of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit for over a thousand Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

However, as a result of seeing Hamad give interviews after the Oct. 7 massacre that made his genocidal hatred of Israelis quite clear, Baskin wrote and published a letter to Hamad breaking off all contac

The following open letter is my response to Baskin and the wider peace camp.

Dear Gershon Baskin,

You recently published a letter to your Hamas contact Ghazi Hamad, who has notoriously promised, “We will repeat October 7 until Israel is annihilated.”

As a long-time critic of your writings, I would like to respond to this extraordinary document. Although your letter is remarkably honest, allow me to press some points:

First, why did it take you over three weeks to wake up to the genocidal ravings of your supposed friend?

Why do you speak of Hamad as if he has recently changed, rather than simply revealed who he was all along? Does your vanity not permit you to see how, in negotiating such an extravagant exchange with him to return Gilad Shalit, you secured the release of the mastermind of Oct. 7—Yahya Sinwar?

Ponder the feelings of a fellow peace activist, who called his Palestinian friend and asked, “Did you know that Hamas was capable of this?” To which the “man of peace” responded, “Of course. The only ones who didn’t were you stupid Israelis.” This is the man whose assurances you trusted?

Ponder why there are hundreds of miles of tunnels under Gaza, but no public bomb shelters.

Ponder the accusation that you and the peace camp contributed to the calamity of Oct. 7.

And now, if you wish to sincerely pay the debt you owe—not only to the tortured, mutilated, burnt, raped and massacred Israelis on Oct. 7, but also all the Palestinians used as human shields in Gaza—then let me suggest the following to you and all those in the “peace camp” who consistently blamed Israeli unwillingness to sacrifice more land and more security to reach a settlement you were sure would bring peace:

First, get off the moral high ground. You say to Hamad, “You don’t deserve to speak to someone like me.” Really? You’re not a lover betrayed. You and many others got duped for decades by your and our enemies. Your moral narcissism, your pride in your flamboyant good-heartedness, blinded you to a reality that would have made your blithe, fatal confidence impossible. Instead, you slandered those of us who pointed out this reality as right-wing warmongers.

Second, sit down and reread the extensive critiques of your peace efforts by people like Ken Levine, Raphael Israeli, Ephraim Karsh, Ofira Seliktar and Golan Lahat. Then go back and read how indignantly you responded to those critiques.

You might even try to read my recent book Can “The Whole World” Be Wrong? (yes, it can), which deals with not only the Oslo folly (chapter 5), but the way in which Western progressives were duped in precisely the same way you were—as you have now publicly admitted—with the same disastrous consequences for them as for us.

Third, spend time on MEMRI and Palestinian Media Watch. Familiarize yourself with the kind of discourse commonly expressed in the Arab and Palestinian public sphere. Evaluate the evidence that the incitement to hatred so prevalent there has the extermination of the Jews as its goal.

Fourth, make it your dedicated task to use the soapbox you’ve built in the “progressive” world to reveal to that world, in extensive detail, why you told Hamad: “You and your friends are directly responsible for the tragedy that is happening to your people. … Millions of Palestinians are paying the price of your hate, your fanatic ideology and your lack of humanity.” Explain how you got it so wrong.

Determine how wide Hamad’s circle of “friends” might be. Does it only include religious “fanatics”? Or does it include secular Palestinian groups like Fatah and the Palestinian Authority? Document how these “friends” sacrifice their ownpeople to their mad determination to wipe out another people.

Explain how you and the rest of the peace camp did nothing to extract the Palestinians from the talons of this death cult. How, instead, you read their painful grip as a manifestation of the Palestinians’ desire to be “free.”

Explain to your fellow compassionate progressives how these jihadis engineer their own people’s misery and death in order to achieve a PR victory in their war of annihilation. Explain how they exploit our humane concerns for their people in order to secure such PR victories. Explain that these victories are so highly valued that these jihadis create the terrible suffering and humanitarian catastrophe in order to win them.

Explain how, by bemoaning the loss of the lives we hold so dear—and they do not—by following their lead in blaming Israel, we ensure the prolongation of the jihadis’ bloody, cannibalistic war. Explain that you share a significant burden of guilt for the victimization of the very people you think you want to help.

Explain how, by whitewashing the jihadis—in the service of diplomacy to be sure—the peace camp gave them the fig leaves necessary to cover up their genocidal intentions, even as, by holding Israel responsible, you gave wings to their raving accusations that we are committing genocide. Explain how you have tilled the soil and now we all have to reap what you have sewn.

I’m sure you can understand why some might believe you have blood on your hands.

Having awoken on the wrong side of the moral arc of history, rise and get on the right side.