Enough with the ‘Palestine first’ lie

We have been told that the road to peace passed through Ramallah. That, first and foremost, Israel had to make peace with the Palestinians. Only after this such a peace, Israel could have relations with Arab Countries.

It was a lie. Israel has now established full diplomatic relations with the Emirates and with Bahrein. Other Arab Countries will follow.

It turned out that the much-flaunted veto power that the Palestinian leaders pretended to have was a bluff. Very few Arab leaders are willing to submit to diktats from Ramallah.

We have been told that the support of the Muslim world for the Palestinian cause was adamant, monolithic, unequivocal. That the existence of a Jewish State “on Arab land” was an insurmountable obstacle to the relations between Muslims and Jews. At interfaith events “the Middle East” was obsessively the topic to avoid (together with, sometimes, sexuality), in order not to upset the Muslim guests.

It was a lie. It turned out that for a many Sunni, by far the largest denomination of Islam, Jerusalem remains a holy city even if it is under Israeli sovereignty. They do not consider Jerusalem defiled by the Jews. The existence of a Jewish State does not pose any problem to interfaith relations. On the contrary, it can be an asset. Which other democracy have full functioning Islamic tribunals and judges?

We have been told that Israel was heading towards the abyss of international isolation. That is because of “the most Right-wing Government in Israeli history” (every Israeli Government is, always, “the most Right-wing in history”) and its refusal to grant everything the Palestinians demanded.

It was a lie. It turned out that, while the Palestinians were stomping their feet, a growing number of States, Muslims and not, are normalising their relations with Israel.

All these lies were told to enforce the Beinart narrative, according which Israel had become something the Diaspora was “not willing to engage anymore”. Jewish millennials, we were told, were “not Zionist anymore”. After all, who wants to be identified with a Country so isolated?

To my knowledge, no one has explicitly blamed Israel while looking at the empty pews during a regular Shabbat in shul. Nonetheless, entire organisations (J Street, Yachad) have built their fundraising strategy on that unverified assumption, of which the “Palestine first” lie was a cornerstone.

To be clear: I believe in the two States solution. I also believe that it’s time for the maximalist Palestinian leadership, whether in its Baathist form or its Islamist variation, to move on and allow a new pragmatic generation to take the lead. But these are internal Palestinian matters.

Today, Yom Kippur, I want to focus on Jewish matters.

The “Palestine first” lie is the cornerstone of too many false narratives, evoked or enunciated in countless columns, articles, meetings, essays, papers and books. Those who have based their career and their reputation on such a lie should take the opportunity to apologise. It has become evident that “end the Occupation” is not a necessary step to take (and we were told it was) to avoid the end of the Zionist project, of the Jewish State and the Universe.

Will it happen? I wish.

About the Author
Italian by birth, Israeli by choice, Rabbi of the largest synagogue in Sussex (UK). Uncompromising Zionist.
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