Arguing with apologists for terror

I have had more arguments than I can count with American, British, or other European critics of Israel; either in person when I was living in the UK, or in writing over email or Facebook since I moved to Israel. The day after the shooting at Sarona I almost got embroiled in another such discussion but I resisted the temptation to respond to some comments on a friend’s Facebook feed. I knew the experience would be infuriatingly pointless.

Here is how I imagine the conversation would progress, based on past experience. The words of my imaginary interlocutor, replete with straw men and deliberately inflammatory assumptions, are drawn from real comments I’ve heard/read in similar discussions. (My ‘voice’ is in italics):

“It’s terrible what happened yesterday in Tel Aviv, but it’s because the Palestinians feel so hopeless at the lack of a peace process.”

“But it’s Mahmoud Abbas, not Netanyahu, who’s refusing to negotiate…”

“Yeah, well that’s because Israel keeps building settlements.”

“But we did implement a ten-month settlement freeze and Abbas only showed up at the negotiation table in the tenth month. Then he walked away at the end.”

“Well, if Israel’s serious about peace, why doesn’t it just get rid of the settlements?”

“What, like in Gaza?”

“Gaza’s different! Israel put a siege on Gaza. That’s why Hamas started shooting rockets.”

“Other way around I’m afraid. The siege was implemented because of the rockets.”

“Then why do you think the rocket attacks started?”

“Because there is a fundamental rejection of Israel’s very existence. The ‘occupation’ these people are fighting began in 1948 not 1967.”

“Well… anyway, the Palestinians should be able to live in freedom, not under Israeli occupation.”

“We are in agreement about that.”

“So, end the occupation and then they might accept Israel.”

“Might? You think Israel should take that risk? You think Israel should withdraw its entire military from the West Bank, in the hope that what replaces Israeli rule will be a benign Palestinian administration that recognizes the Jewish people’s right to a state? You don’t think it’s more likely that people like the thugs who slaughtered civilians in a cafe in Tel Aviv yesterday will be calling the shots?”

“That is racist. You’re assuming that the Palestinians are incapable of creating a peaceful society.”

“It’s not an assumption, it’s an educated guess. In Gaza the Palestinians had an opportunity to develop a prosperous autonomous region after the Israeli withdrawal. Do you know how much western assistance they could have got for their economy had they chosen to focus on that rather than on continuing “the armed struggle” against Israel?

In the West Bank the corruption of the Palestinian Authority and its suppression of political dissent is in the grand tradition of Arab autocracies throughout the Middle East. And who’s to say an Islamist factions like Hamas – or worse – won’t take over a West Bank Palestinian State? Look around the Middle East! It doesn’t exactly inspire confidence in the chances of successful transitions to democracy in Arab society.”

“It is racist. You don’t think there are any Palestinians that want democracy.”

“That’s not what I said. I know for a fact there are Palestinians who want democracy, but they are not in power and have little means of achieving it. Meanwhile the two options presented to them seem to be an Islamist regime with a genuinely genocidal agenda towards Jews; or a more secular government, led by people like Mahmoud Abbas – a man who may be sincere in his desire to reach a two-state solution but who continues to revere Palestinian murderers of Israeli children as martyrs and who is happy to lie about Israeli intentions towards Muslim holy sites and incite violence.”

“I see. So it’s all the Palestinians’ fault, Israel is blameless and the status quo is just fine.”

“No. I’ve even written about unilateral steps that I think Israel should take to improve the lives of Palestinians in the West Bank – including evacuating some settlements. But I’m not naive enough to think it will satisfy the demands of Palestinian terrorists. What most Israelis understand – but far too few non-Israelis – is that those prepared to murder innocent civilians in cold blood will not be appeased by compromise deals. Israel’s only hope of ‘giving them what they want’ would be to commit national suicide.”

“Well, they do have a point. You did kick them out of their homes in 1948.”

“Ah. I wondered when you’d get around to admitting you essentially agree with the terrorists’ agenda – if not necessarily the means. I can see this conversation is not going to get us anywhere so I’ll conclude with this. 1948 was a war, but – and here’s the rub – it was a war started by the Palestinians and the Arab states, who rejected the UN’s offer of a two-state solution, which the Jews accepted. The Palestinian tragedy is that their leadership of the time wanted to block Jewish sovereignty more than they wanted to realize their own. They went for all-or-nothing, and ended up with nothing. Tragically for them and for us, it appears that that remains the case today.”

About the Author
Before moving to Israel from the UK, Paul worked at the Embassy of Israel to the UK in the Public Affairs department, and as the Ambassador's speechwriter. He has a Masters degree in Middle East Politics from the University of London. He is currently a Senior Fellow at the Menachem Begin Heritage Center in Jerusalem - though he writes this blog in a personal capacity. He has lectured to a variety of groups on Israeli history and politics and his articles have been published in a variety of media outlets in Israel, the UK, the US and Canada.
Related Topics
Related Posts