Some of Israel’s most intelligent critics have generally made the argument that the recent round of violence is so one-sided that it is not even a war. Their arguments are rarely met head-on by the talking points of Israel’s defenders who are focused on judgments of right and wrong rather than on dismantling the misperceptions underlying the argument against Israel. Alas, this logic cannot be dismissed by a tweet or a short newspaper opinion column, and that’s what these critics are counting on: for their opponents to be on the defensive, trapped in an argument that has already been framed so that Israel will be forced into the impossible task of proving its innocence. In fact, they’re right on their point about a one-sided war; just not in the way that they think.
The concept is simple, and was recently articulated at length by Professor Stephen M. Walt, the outspoken king of bringing international relations “realist” school to solving the Arab-Israeli conflict. Walt explains that Israel used the murder of three Jews to “whip up anti-Israel sentiment” and thus lay the public foundation for launching wanton assaults on Gaza’s populace. The cause of the assaults, argues Walt, is not Hamas’ rockets—Hamas’ rockets are largely ineffectual. They are an almost-harmless emotional expression of resistance against occupation by an imprisoned people, and the consequences for Israelis are simply the price they pay for being the “occupiers.” Israelis’ rights are subordinated to the Palestinians’ “right to resist occupation.”
And despite this right, Israel continues the slaughter of innocent Arabs, fully knowing that Hamas will not be defeated by this. The tunnels will be rebuilt. The stockpiles will be replenished. The only lasting result is death on a massive scale—and that is how Israel wants it. Meanwhile, bullied by the Israel lobby, America supports the sadistic state of the Jewish People, undermining America’s standing in the world.
The argument is almost airtight, isn’t it? Almost. Although, Walt does not address what would happen if, as his critique implies, the US were to shrug off the firing of rockets from Gaza, punish Israel for trying to degrade Hamas’ military capabilities, and allow supplies for building tunnels and bunkers for Hamas’ leaders and ammunition to flow freely into the territory: Would the freedom to launch rockets at Israel without repercussion somehow discourage the same Gazans who elected and now support Hamas from supporting the strategy of firing ever more and better rockets into Israel? Would the guaranteed safety of Hamas leaders—who build bunkers only for themselves and now must hide—discourage them from attacking Israel? Would Hamas use total control of its imports to acquire and fire fewer rockets?
Walt’s canard seems to be that if only the Zionists didn’t “occupy” Palestinian land—which he defines as areas that lie outside of Israel according to the 1949 ceasefire line, a line that Fatah has crossed for decades to perpetrate terrorist attacks, and which Jordan ignored when it occupied the “West Bank,” including half of Jerusalem, from 1948 to 1967—Palestinian anti-Zionists would no longer have a motive to “resist” Israel by, say, burying axes in the heads of Holocaust survivors. Therefore, they would immediately respect Jews’ rights. The majority of Palestinians who currently support a two-state solution only as a means to an eventual one-state—one Arab state—solution would have a change of heart. Anti-Zionists would, as if by magic, abandon the strategy they have implemented over the last century in such places as Hebron, Jerusalem, Baghdad, and through multiple wars: kill Jews until they submit to whichever Arab leader fancies himself to be the next ruler of the Next Big Pan-Arab or Pan-Islamic Empire.
All the hallucinatory conspiracy theories about Jews that have served as pillars of the anti-Zionist narrative—that Jews control the United States, that they pull all the main levers of American and European foreign policy, that Jews wish to sterilize Arabs, spread AIDS among them, traffic in their organs, and so on—would vanish. I guess you would have to be paranoid to think that anti-Zionism’s violent tradition, at seeing the first solid victory in a century, would pick up the pace rather than dissipate.
As Walt would have it, Israelis do not believe their true friends, people like Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street, who desperately want to save them from themselves, because they are too hell-bent on regional imperialism and colonialism. Never mind that Israelis have already relinquished the Sinai Peninsula, land that is twice the size of the Israel; that in the early 1990s, per the Oslo Accords, they evacuated areas of the West Bank where a vast majority of Palestinians live; or that they uprooted themselves from Gaza entirely while still even providing it with utilities—all for the sake of “peace.” Israelis, Walt contends, started a war because they want to “drive a new wedge between the two Palestinian factions.” It’s so diabolically ingenious of them! Fortunately, we have him to tell us the truth about the latest devious Zionist plot.
Unfortunately, the professor does not really discuss how this wedge works. Nor does he expound upon how the factions were ever going to agree on anything in a peace proposal, or even who would be king of Palestine.
The Great Zionist Plot
Still, Walt continues, by supporting Israel America is really shooting itself in the foot here. And AIPAC is pulling the trigger. How ironic, or something. This support has nothing to do with most Americans seeing Hamas as the bad guys—it’s the Jews’ money, which is aimed at getting America to give more money to Israel, that’s really pulls the strings. I suppose it’s that Jew money that resulted in John Kerry coming back to the Middle East to pressure Israel for more concessions, all while not even requiring Palestinians to even pretend to negotiate.
I suppose, too, that we should forget all the money that the United States gives to the Palestinian Authority. Or the billions dollars Gaza has received through the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (“UNRWA” to which the U.S. pledged hundreds of millions of dollars in 2013). Of course UNRWA is not Hamas, although it has stuck by their party line that a Palestinian “right of return” is inevitable and more important than peace. UNRWA is only mildly disturbed by Hamas’ use of U.N. facilities to store rockets (which UNRWA then gives back to Hamas to fire at Israel) and its ambulances to transport glorious fighters. And, to boot, UNRWA just so happens to fulfill Hamas objectives of providing its subjects with “education” and welfare, cementing dependence upon Hamas and freeing up Hamas’ other resources for “resistance.”
Saving the World
Yet what’s really going on here, Walt argues, is that America has been hijacked, and because it is not sufficiently anti-Zionist, its foreign policy will fall apart on every front, collapsing under the weight of its moral inadequacy. We will be judged by the world, and by historians, for this failing.
It’s strange, though, that Walt—a professed realist—doesn’t explain what interest any country really has in embracing anti-Zionism. We are supposed to take his word for it that joining in against the Jewish state will result in something good, somehow. It’s even stranger still that he invokes the judgment of historians, when recent history is littered with those who have embraced anti-Zionism and thereafter seen their policy implode. History tells us of great Western powers giving in to anti-Zionist demands to appease “the Arab world,” only to find that by doing so it has only encouraged more anti-Western sentiment and additional demands for greater concessions (see, for instance, under: Britain’s White Paper policy). But while the tide of appeasement is high and smart policy-makers are surfing on it, it is almost as if what the anti-Zionists say doesn’t matter. It’s as if their supposed grievances have nothing to do with the insane conspiracy theories they believe are the roots of their problems.
Currently, the Palestinian dead are all over the news. The lust for Arab children’s blood that anti-Zionists ascribe to Jews is fresh fodder for Jon Stewart’s jokes. And, as the anti-Zionists would have it, the American media is still overly pro-Israel. Surely no pundits in the West have ever made hay—and money—from being supposedly “silenced” by “false” claims of “anti-Semitism.” Bravery, indeed.
But anyway, Walt’s bottom line is that the war is one-sided, between one country with too much power and another without enough. It is a war by Israel that will accomplish nothing except spill blood. Indeed, despite the fact that he offers no explanation or proof, Walt may be quite right that Israel’s actions are ineffectual or counter-productive, although this claim is undermined by Israel recently preventing a massive subterranean invasion. But even Walt himself admits that the actions of Hamas are equally futile. And in the end, to Hamas, this is clearly not a fight about who can kill the most people on the other side. Hamas’s rockets have likely blown up more Arabs than Israelis at this point, and the child labor used to build their tunnels have already killed more Arab children then they will ever kill Israelis.
Hamas’ One-Sided Financial War
As a whole, this isn’t even a war at all. It’s a fundraiser. Palestinian leaders get their money from European “humanitarians” and from Arab oil sheiks, and they solidify their power first by controlling the local economy and means of indoctrination to command the obedience of Gaza’s population, and then by firing rockets to ensure that they appear as fighters to their people, and victims to the world—victims in need of more funds. Nitsana Darshan-Leitner aptly summarized Hamas’ dire need to raise more money, get money more easily through its Palestinian Authority “partner,” and have free access to “aid” to the Gaza Strip that it can then immediately seize and sell for war funds. Others have already gone over some of the things Hamas could have done with all those resources it used to build some its tunnels, including two bomb shelters the size of NFL football stadiums.
And so Hamas’ leaders make the ultimate sacrifice, buying more sports cars and multi-million-dollar beachfront estates so that Palestinians remain victimized, first by Hamas’ tyranny and second by the consequences of its futile attempt to make the Judaeans realize that they’re not from Judea, they’re really from the mythical kingdoms of Khazaria, or Atlantis, or something.
It is this one-sided war that is really happening. Palestinian leaders hope to squeeze international assistance out of each moment of violence, regardless of the human costs of their refusal to build a state until all their pipe dream of the Jews disappearing is fulfilled. Israelis have already established an infrastructure for independence and defends themselves. Unfortunately, Palestinian leaders since the creation of the Palestine Mandate have attempted to enlist others—poorer Palestinians, Arab countries, sympathetic Westerners—to make sacrifices for them. And so these leaders have a very strong interest in eliciting condemnation of Israel. Shaming Israel’s Jewish community into submission is what anti-Zionism views as the great solution, and it is Hamas’ participation in this effort that results in more funding and support.
There’s just no money in actually contributing to peace; Hamas has thrown people off rooftops for less. Palestinian leaders receive more encouragement and more funding from violence. If they come to the negotiating table, don’t accept anything but the end of Israel, and then start an “intifada,” all the better. But if they built a peaceful state based on a negotiated settlement, they would no longer be fighting the Zionists and would have to actually shoulder the responsibility of exercising the freedom that they claim is their goal. So they continue fighting this war so that they may once again pluck gold teeth from the jaws of defeat.
Cheering Hamas’ War
Walt unwittingly supports the one-sided war of fundraising through “resistance.” He wants his readers to believe that if Israel were to make concessions on every front, this could not possibly result in Palestinian leaders claiming victory, requesting more funding for this success, and then demanding further concessions. It is as if Walt—the “realist”—believes that mere criticism of “apartheid” will dispel all notions of security and power, and compel a nation of Jews who believe in their own rights to contribute to arming an enemy whose collectivism is based upon the belief that Jews cannot have rights.
This is the true goal of the one-sided war: to bolster anti-Zionist funds that will be managed and spent by an Arab elite, and perhaps even to get Israel to pay Hamas’ salaries. Walt intends to shame Americans into supporting the party that has formulated this scam and will benefit most from it. To be sure, he knows that this violence cannot defeat Israel. It will enrich the Palestinian Arab elites, but it will not make the Jews unconditionally surrender to the fate that has met nearly every unarmed Jew at the hands of an armed anti-Zionist. And as a consequence of Walt’s misperceptions and the sad reality that the Arab-Israeli conflict lies beyond the bounds of his rationality, Palestinians will see his support as a confirmation of their conspiracy theories. They will rally around Hamas and throw another generation of Palestinian babies against an iron wall in the belief that it will break.
Unfortunately, then, Walt is right: the war between Hamas and Israelis is one-sided. But it is the side he demands we all support that is waging it.