Last week, we all enjoyed Amira Hass elaborating on the evils of Israel’s “hostile” control of Judea and Samaria/West Bank as she told us the story of the young Palestinian teenager who was arrested by Israeli forces. According to her claims, the boy was not only entirely innocent, he had to be told what a slingshot was. Oy, the pain! Her story failed to elicit much sympathy from yours truly since the very next day three young Palestinian teenagers were captured at a checkpoint with explosives and knives in their pockets. I didn’t report it, but the following day, a 16 year old Palestinian boy was also captured with explosives at a checkpoint.
Fortunately for Ha’aretz, they do not rely on just one columnist or reporter to regularly find fault with Israel, they have an experienced team in place. I thought today would be a propitious day to introduce Akiva Eldar’s latest wonder.
Akiva, like Amira, has no difficulty finding numerous faults with any of Israel’s activities. He has been a journalist for some decades and rarely misses an opportunity to attack Israel while giving the Palestinians a pass. Now, lest you think that I’m just making this up, be assured that he is not shy about providing this information himself.
The prominent Israeli columnist Nahum Barnea wrote in November 2000…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…I was honored to be mentioned as one of those journalists, alongside my fine colleagues Gideon Levy and Amira Hass.
I admit to being guilty as charged. I am a journalist with a mission, and also no small amount of passion. Every Israeli with a conscience, in particular one who watches reality from up close on a daily basis, cannot write about the occupation from an objective observer’s neutral point of view. My parents immigrated to Israel in 1933 out of choice and hope, not out of despair or fear. Sixty years ago, shortly after I was born, they sat glued to the radio when David Ben-Gurion proclaimed the establishment of a Jewish state that would be democratic, egalitarian and peaceful. My primary mission is to leave behind for my children and grandchildren a state that is loyal to these principles and values. The occupation of a people, while denying its basic rights, robbing its lands and trampling its dignity, is turning us Israelis into prisoners–prison guards spend a significant part of their lives behind prison walls.
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.
Well, it must be noted before I proceed that I, too, wish for an Israel that is democratic, egalitarian and peaceful. I, too, believe that having Israeli soldiers in the midst of another population is a terrible thing for Israeli society. I understand the difference between Hebron and Tel Aviv, although not so much the difference between West and East Jerusalem.
Yup, I dare say that I want peace just as badly as Akiva Eldar. Which is why I wish he would stop with his war-mongering.
The idea that the occupation is entirely Israel’s fault is absurd and flatly false. The idea that Israel isn’t peaceful by its own design is also entirely false. That’s even before we get to the contentious question of why one should accept the moniker “West Bank” for a territory that was so named during an illegal occupation that included a failed attempt at annexation by Jordan. Why is that narrative more acceptable than “Judea and Samaria?” Why is the true proposition that Jordan was the part of Mandate Palestine given to the Arabs so far-fetched that Eldar deems “West Bank” to be appropriate? How does he accord to the Palestinians lands that were never controlled by them?
Those are minor problems, nowhere near as great as his acceptance of the despicable and contemptuous methods used by the Palestinians to fight the Israelis. It is reprehensible and absolutely immoral to accept the violence perpetrated against Israeli civilians over these decades. To remind Eldar, this violence began long before 1967 and long before 1948. It was not excusable then and the Six Day War did not make it more acceptable now.
The idea, furthermore, that the “occupier” has an asymmetrical relationship with the “occupied” ignores Israel’s reality over these past decades. As has been noted elsewhere by others, it is not the “Palestinian-Israel” conflict, but rather the “Arab-Israel conflict.” Israel has built its army to fight other armies for good reasons, and did not construct their army around Palestinian violence. The asymmetry that exists between the Palestinians and Israel becomes symmetrical when one considers that other countries are involved in this conflict and Israel must remain on its guard. Example? Iran provides Hamas with its rockets…
Anyway, today Eldar blamed Palestinian violence on Netanyahu.
The cabinet’s decision to renovate Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem and the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron illustrate what awaits, reminding veterans of the Oslo Accords of Netanyahu’s directive in September 1996 to open the Western Wall Tunnel. Netanyahu’s weakness for Jewish heritage and his lack of sensitivity to the neighbors’ dignity cost dozens of Israeli and Palestinian casualties.
Eldar is referring to Netanyahu’s government’s declaration that Rachel’s Tomb and the Cave of the Patriarchs are officially Israeli heritage sites. Of course, they are also Muslim heritage sites, which means that Muslim Palestinians might become very upset by this desire of the Israelis to proclaim these sites as having historical importance to them. Eldar obviously expects Palestinian violence to result from the assignment of Jewish heritage status to these sites, violence that he blames on the nasty Jewish Israelis who would dare to declare the cave of their patriarchs part of their heritage. The resulting violence, Eldar asserts, will be the fault of Israel, not the Arabs.
He dares to compare it to Netanyahu’s decision to open a tunnel at the Western Wall, which led to riots and violence instigated by Palestinians that left both Israelis and Palestinians dead. Then, too, the connection to a historic Jewish site was asserted by the state of Israel. Apparently, any action taken by Israel leads to Palestinian violence. Those snarky Jews in Israel should stop thinking they control or have any right to places like the Western Wall!
To recap: Eldar opposes declarations of this sort because they lead to Palestinian violence and any Palestinian violence is the fault of Israel because it is an asymmetrically superior power to the Palestinians who are therefore permitted contemptuous acts of violence against Israeli civilians. He forgot to add “while they pursue the destruction of Israel.”
Wait! He doesn’t really believe they’re pursuing the destruction of Israel. How do we know this? His wacky article tells us that he had a long chat with Saeb Erakat, the ubiquitous Palestinian
bald guy spokesman, in which Erakat hinted that the Palestinians not seeking to destroy Israel. Erakat reported sending out a plaintive booklet to European diplomats outlining how Obama screwed disappointed the Palestinians by backing off on his hard-hitting agenda with respect to Israel and how this, not the Palestinian recalcitrance to negotiate, has led to the current impasse in talks.
Needless to say, there was no mention in there of the Washington Post article outlining the Palestinian leadership’s decision to boycott talks with Israel under the assumption that it would bring down Netanyahu’s government. Nope, Erakat’s world, like Eldar’s, is filled with underdog Palestinians and monstrous Israelis. Erakat can provide no evidence that he or his colleagues seek peace, while Israel can show three peace offers in the past decade, but according to the current Palestinian narrative, effectively conveyed by Erakat and echoed rigorously by Eldar, the fault for absence of negotiations or peace lies with Israel.
Nevertheless, Erekat in his document refuses to rule out the two-state solution. In the concluding section, he mentions the option of a binational state between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, but stressed to me this is the worst possible option. He assured me that he would do everything possible to avert a descent into that abyss.
Gee, thanks Saeb! He “refuses” to rule out the two-state solution. Imagine a people without a state being so magnanimous! Better yet, it is a relief to know that Erakat believes that a single state “solution” is the “worst possible option” and that he would personally do everything to “avert” that outcome. This is indeed first-rate reporting where Eldar’s passion comes through loudly and clearly. All Israel needs to do is give in and then give in some more and then just maybe, the Palestinians will be willing to talk about peace. And if Israel doesn’t give in? They get the Palestinians going for a single state.
I love that Eldar appreciates blackmail of this sort with equanimity. With people like him having a soapbox like Ha’aretz, peace is surely just around the corner. If, that is, the Palestinians don’t believe that it’s the worst possible option. They wouldn’t believe that, would they?
Check out our articles about the Palestinian endgame…