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Benjamin Folkinshteyn

No Means No

Yes and no. Simple words, really. With a clear meaning. One signifies consent. The other signifies rejection. These two words are encountered often and have the same meaning in everyday life, in business and in interpersonal relationships. Books, movies, songs and slogans have been written about and around these words. Canonical literature on negotiation carries titles like “Getting to Yes” or “Start with No”. And, of course, there is the popular “no means no” concept regarding consent in sexual relationships.

Easy to understand. Easy to implement. There shouldn’t any confusion when it comes to these two verbal utterances.

So, why is it that our political betters have trouble understanding the repeated emphatic “no” of Palestinian rejectionism. The October 7 terrorist attacks have only emboldened it and further etched it in stone. Thus, for example, Hamas’s leader abroad Khaled Mashaal loudly and without mincing words stated as follows just a few days ago:

“I would like to say two things about the two-state solution. First, we have nothing to do with the two-state solution. We reject this notion, because it means you would get a promise for a [Palestinian] state, yet you are required to recognize the legitimacy of the other state, which is the Zionist entity. This is unacceptable. We demand to be liberated, to get rid of the occupation, and to have our independence, and our state. [Israel] is my enemy. It is not my concern. [. . .]

Obviously, the position of Hamas, and the position of the vast majority of the Palestinian people, especially following October 7, I believe that the dream and the hope for Palestine from the River to the Sea, and from the north to the south, has been renewed.”

Not much wiggle room there. No ifs, ands, buts or maybes (which pretty much always mean ‘no’ anyway). That’s a big, emphatic, unquestionable ‘no’.

Further, recent polling across the Arab world has shown tremendous support for the October 7 attacks (or twisted denials of the atrocities committed) with disapproval of the attacks woefully underwhelming in Gaza and the West Bank.

Yet, ever the optimists, U.S. and international politicians and diplomats continue to recite the two-state solution mantra with as much religious fervor as the mullahs who shout “Death to Israel!” in daily prayer. And thus with nary a hint of self-awareness or grasp of factual truth,  U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) argues that “[i]t’s pretty clear that Netanyahu is listening much more to the extremists in his government than the president of the United States and the Biden administration” in response to Israel’s objections to the “tried and true” formula for peace at this time.

Talk about chutzpah.

And speaking of chutzpah, for the longest time I was bothered by the American adaptation of Sholem Aleichem’s Tevye the Dairyman rebranded as Fiddler on the Roof for screen and stage, but I could never properly articulate why. That is, until I read Professor Ruth Wisse’s critique, which pointed out the unmitigated gall of Greek Orthodox Fyedka’s criticism of Tevye’s rejection of Fyedka’s union with Hava.

“’Some,” says Fyedka, ‘are driven away by edicts—others [that is, he himself and Hava] by silence.’

Let’s understand what lies behind this sentence. Fyedka is daring to equate Tevye’s refusal to accept Hava’s conversion to Christianity with the czarist persecution of the Jews of Russia. The accusation is outrageous and brutal—but to it, Fiddler’s Tevye replies meekly: ‘God bless you.’ Charged with bigotry for upholding the integrity of the Jewish people, he ends by endorsing the young couple’s intermarriage as the benign culmination of a leveling ideal.”

The Fyedkas of our time have unfortunately upped it a notch. Not only do they seek to destroy the integrity of the Jewish people through baseless accusations of bigotry and racism or by inverting Jewish history and religious practice, but they dare criticize the Jews for defending themselves against actual physical extermination as well. They prefer their Jews cowering or dead. They close their eyes and ears to facts and actual words uttered by those who express genocidal intentions. They actively choose not to hear the emphatic “no” of those who actively work toward Jewish genocide. Only when the Jews say “no” to their own destruction do they hear it, charging the Jews with being obstacles to peace. If only the Jews would agree to being raped and murdered, then a harmonious Middle East could come into being.

Enough is enough. No means no.

About the Author
Benjamin Folkinshteyn is an attorney in private practice in the Greater New York area. He is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Pennsylvania Law School.
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