Hillel Neuer was not wrong to point out Kenneth Roth’s flip-flopping on the ICC issue. The evidence is clear that Roth’s previous view has changed from close to 14 years ago. But is that really the story? To me it isn’t.
To me, the story is that Kenneth Roth, and those like him, are perpetuating a modern-day blood libel by accusing Israel of war crimes and are the real obstacles to a negotiated settlement of the conflict. The “war crime” view of settlements turns the conflict into one in which one side is fundamentally evil (Israel) and one side is fundamentally a victim (The Palestinians). In such a case, the solution to the conflict requires not negotiations, but apologies and concessions from Israel for all the alleged wrongs it has committed.
Roth, and those like him, Jewish and non-Jewish alike, know that accusing Israel of “war crimes” inevitably triggers Holocaust imagery and at some level draws an equation between Israel and Nazis. To use terminology like “war crimes” in relation to community building by the Nazis’ victims is nothing less than a blood libel. (And with his father’s Holocaust history, Roth should know better). Deep down, I believe Kenneth Roth knows the settlements are not war crimes, but his Jewish misplaced guilt compels him to rally against them.
My worldview, and that of Judaism as well, is that preservation of human life supersedes all other considerations. To me, then, building houses is in no way morally equivalent in any manner whatsoever to the deliberate targeting and killing of innocent civilians. But to people like Kenneth Roth, the ability to use jargon like “war crimes” and elevate settlement building to the most horrific crime there can be, is, in effect, more important than the preservation of human life. If I was wrong, Kenneth Roth wouldn’t spend his time obsessing with Israel, but would prioritize HRW’s resources consistent with where the worst cases of loss of human life are occurring.
Because of the Kenneth Roths of the word, a settlement of the conflict is pushed further away. Terrorism and murder are given lip-service condemnations, while settlement building in Israel’s historic homeland is the “crime of the century”. And so, the Palestinians are encouraged to be obstinate, while Israel is infuriated by the false charges leveled against it. Palestinian incitement goes on, they refuse to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and we move closer and closer towards the next round of violence. Mahmoud Abbas and Kenneth Roth prepare the kindling, and Hamas and Islamic Jihad light the match.