Very early in this benighted year, I wrote a blog headlined “Who Truly owes the Palestinians Justice?”
It was prompted by remarks by HRH the Prince of Wales during a visit to the West Bank as part of his Official Visit to Israel. I understood why the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) would have insisted on HRH making obeisance to the Palestinian cause but I was nevertheless angered that his remarks inferred culpability by Israel, giving credibility to those who blame the Jewish State for dispossessing the Palestinians.
But, of course, the tendency to believe Israel is responsible is not limited to FCO officials and Royals. The belief that Israel is responsible for dispossessing the Palestinians has become an article of faith; a fake “fact” believed even by many Jews and those who are not Israel-haters or anti-Zionists.
I was reminded of this when reading an excellent comment piece by Josh Glancy in last Sunday’s edition (September 20th) of the Sunday Times about the agreements signed in Washington the previous week. It was an intelligent, balanced piece on the seismic geopolitical changes signalled by the signing and the blatantly partisan reporting by the American media. But he couldn’t resist slipping in a few sentences about Palestinians. There’s no harm, obviously, in expressing compassion for the Palestinians but a mention in this context inevitably also helps to reinforce the idea of Israel’s culpability.
And while I suspect Glancy’s bout of “mentionitis” was motivated by Jewish guilt, Palestine “mentionitis” is frequently impelled by something darker. I’ve lost count of the celebrities, comedians, broadcasters et al I’ve heard name-drop “Palestine” (in a supportive way) and “Israel” (in a negative way), to signal his or her woke-ness. And that’s without, er, mentioning the social-media morons and the hard-line boycotters and divestment fanatics whose entire raison d’etre is to demonise Israel.
While some Israel-hate is arguably fuelled by antisemitism, I firmly believe – perhaps naively – that much Israel-hate as well as “casual” antagonism and Palestine “mentionitis” comes simply from absorbing the lies, omissions, half-truths and deliberate distortions instead of believing the historical facts.
One way to remedy this, is more and better PR leading to a greater awareness of those historical facts because Jews did not dispossess the Palestinians of their homeland. Documents and records prove that in 1921 and again in 1947, the Palestinian Arabs were offered a viable, independent state in more than two-thirds of Palestine but Palestinian leaders rejected this making them, not Israel or Jews, responsible for the creation – and later the perpetuation – of the tragic refugee crisis.
But knowing these facts is not enough. Our community knew 35 years ago it was facing a pro-Palestine campaign of lies, omissions and half-truths that demonised Israel while cleverly playing into anti-Semitic tropes. Yet it did nothing. Or did very little. And today’s community is paying the price – especially university students and pupils at Jewish schools who require guards throughout their school day.
So now it’s time to change the narrative. It is time to stop playing defence and start to play offence. We should start with an event taking place in early October. Billed as “a conversation” between Jeremy Corbyn and senior Palestinian politician Dr Mustafa Barghouti, it is entitled “Justice for Palestine.” Our community should put on its own event entitled “Who Really Owes Justice to Palestine?” I’d be happy to suggest some talking points, especially if by being more pro-active, we can halt the “mentionitis;” the trickle of mentions (and far worse) by those who have listened to the lies…