As the well-known adage proclaims, ignorance often confers bliss — but there are those who feel that self-imposed ignorance is no less blissful. As the Vietnam War was grinding down, Jane Fonda expressed sympathy for Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge comrades in neighboring Cambodia, in spite of warnings concerning their cruel and fanatical character. When it became clear years later that they had perpetrated inhuman policies that took the lives of millions of Cambodians, the actress-turned political activist expressed remorse, explaining that she couldn’t possibly have foreseen that those heroic fighters for national liberation would do such heinous things.
Fonda can be forgiven for claiming innocence of the nebulous future. When future scenarios are crystal clear, however, those who feign innocence of the monstrous ramifications of the policies which they support are nothing less than intellectual criminals. And nowhere is this more manifest than among those who demand that instead of a two-state solution, Israel should be dismantled in favor of one “democratic” state of Israelis and Palestinians — including the millions of multi-generational Palestinian refugees — extending from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. The vision is certainly lovely, as is the universalist vision of One State In Which All Men Are Brothers. Responsible intellectuals, however, do not ignore what is happening in the real world as well — such as in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya. (Don’t let the Islamic State logo fool you; these are essentially civil wars). They also don’t conveniently forget the brutal Lebanese civil wars of the 1970s and 1980s and the heart-rending tragedies which accompanied the civil wars in what was once Yugoslavia.
The lesson is clear: bi-national or multi-national states in the Middle East, the Balkans and most of the rest of the world are invariably a recipe for monstrous, ongoing civil wars. One can hope and pray for a more enlightened world in the future — but we can’t wish away reality with the same dialectical reasoning that led revolutionary groups in the past to interpret bloodletting on a grand scale as a sign that the world was moving in a desirable direction.
Despite these manifest realities, the BDS movement and their fellow-travelers, militantly supportive of a one-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians, have been making inroads in liberal western circles, particularly on college campuses. It is easy to gaze upon this phenomenon from afar with disbelief: Aren’t they aware of the more-than-likely monstrosity of the state which they seek to establish? Haven’t they opened up a newspaper published in the last three decades? Are they bereft of all intellectual integrity? Part of the explanation for their blind Israel-bashing certainly lies in their simplistic ideological rigidity and their ties to hostile Arab and Muslim circles. It is undeniable, however, that the sharp shift to the right in Israeli policies and apologetics has made their work much easier. They don’t confront an Israeli government with a genuine commitment to a two-state solution, rooted in democratic and universal values, but rather one dominated by forces with an obsession to further “Jewish rights” and “historic Jewish aspirations”, a government whose spokesmen cry out from within the delusive morass of Jewish victimization, dismissing all criticism as anti-Semitic in motivation. It’s easy to foment hatred toward such a state and to cast her in a diabolical colonialist mode.
This, of course, is not the only vision of the Jewish state nurtured in Israeli society and in the Zionist tradition. In Herzl’s utopian novel, Alteneuland, in which he graphically depicted his vision of the future Jewish state, the most poignant event occurs when a ruthless Jewish politician seeking to whip up anti-Arab sentiment is overwhelmingly defeated at the polls by an opponent preaching tolerance, understanding and universal brotherhood. The seven-starred emblem chosen as the flag reflects the national commitment to progressive social ideals — and the tendencies of religious and military forces to aspire to greater power is held in check by a vigilant and staunchly democratic public.
One can only wistfully imagine the impact that a sincere commitment to such a vision on the part of our government would have on Israel’s deteriorating image. The rational forces close to the Prime Minister should realize that the campaign to delegitimize Israel will not be effectively confronted by well-trained and sharp-tongued advocates of “Jewish rights” but by a shift in policy to a more moderate and liberal agenda well within the Jewish-Zionist tradition. Such a shift would also have a significant impact upon disaffected intellectuals back home, those whom demagogic government supporters shamelessly label as “radical leftists”.
Notwithstanding this critique, those who seek to artificially impose the South African model on the State of Israel are guilty of ignorance (at best) and malice. To begin with, Israel is a democratic state (not without imperfections…). Unlike pre-Mandela South Africa, moreover, she is also a state with a solid Jewish majority — about 80% — and demographic patterns which indicate that this will continue to be the case in the foreseeable future, should we have the good sense to avoid calls for annexing the territories and the political strength to prevent this from being imposed upon us. The Jewish majority has thus no basis for fear of an internal Arab takeover and despite the shrill demagogy of the extreme right and limited expressions of discrimination and prejudice, relates overall to the non-Jewish citizens peacefully and justly within a context of friendly daily interaction. (Recent manifestations to the contrary should dissipate after the current wave of terror comes to an end.)
And the Arab minority, notwithstanding the posturing and extremism of various political, religious and intellectual figures , understands this and seeks to integrate itself more completely into the national fabric, especially from an economic standpoint. Cries of “Israeli apartheid” are therefore absurd. One can certainly find expressions of such a reality in the occupied territories but unless every instance of discrimination –however minute or personal — is to be called “apartheid” , those who seek to apply the discredited term to Israel proper are guilty of outrageous dishonesty .The only development likely to change this reality would be the influx of Palestinian refugees…
The BDS crowd and its allies are thus in actuality not “peace activists” but war mongers. They not only stubbornly close their eyes to the hellish reality gutting forth from bi-national experiments. They also refuse to acknowledge a prominent fact of modern history: war-displaced refugees do not return to their former lands in states of their erstwhile enemies.This includes the tens of millions of people displaced in the struggles between Greece and Turkey, India and Pakistan, the Turks and Greeks in Cyprus, the Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo, the Armenians and Azars in Nagorno Karabach (to mention only a few examples ) — and, of course, the Germans expelled from Poland and Czechoslovakia after World War II.
Had the BDSers adopted a more honest and specific critique without the refugee linkage, their claims would deserve to be taken seriously. They have opted instead for Goebbel’s Big Lie technique: If you want to defame by lying, make the lie big and repeat it over and over again until it is absorbed by social osmosis.
The campaign to delegitimize Israel is an alarming example of how the techniques of the Nazi Minister of Propaganda have been adopted even by those who pretend — albeit cynically — to speak for human decency.