Abuse of the Palestinians’ human rights by Israel is not a secret. It is well documented, not only but various human rights organizations but also in the news, including by Israel’s own the Times of Israel, Haaretz, and the Jerusalem Post.
As an example, a recent article in the Times of Israel documented the abuse suffered by Palestinians in the Bedouin shepherding community of Ein Rashash in the West Bank at the hands of settlers while Israel’s security forces were ineffective or worse. Examples of credible human rights organizations that document Israel’s abuse of the Palestinians include the Israel-based B’Tselem and Peace Now. On August 10, 2023, B’Tselem wrote, “After repeated attacks and threats by settlers and having been left with no other choice, the Bedouin community of al-Qabun, located east of Ramallah, abandoned its homes this week.”
It is not an exaggeration to say that Israel’s policies in the West Bank are a form of Apartheid and that some of the actions of settlers with the quiet acquiescence of Israeli authorities are a form of ethnic cleansing. Yet the Palestinians are getting nowhere in fighting back against the abuse. Why is that?
One can blame Israel of course, and that’s fair because Israel is after all the one perpetrating the abuse. Israel could choose to change its policies, and some previous governments have made small attempts in that direction, but it chooses not to. But I also blame at least as equally those who are supposed to defend the Palestinians but who fail miserably in that duty: the Palestinian leadership, the Palestinians’ Arab allies, the Palestinian diaspora, and the large pro-Palestinian movement.
The failure of the Palestinian leadership (which includes not only the officially recognized Palestinian Authority but also all factions that constitute de-facto Palestinian governments, including Hamas in the Gaza Strip) is the most obvious. They have missed every opportunity to move towards a two-state solution except for the Oslo Accords which the Palestinian leadership has badly mismanaged. They continue to repeatedly discredit themselves and weaken the Palestinian cause by using antisemitism, incitement, and terrorism rather than legitimate means, such as political and economic pressure, which are highly effective against Israel and fully available to them. For every step forward achieved by the Palestinians through the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, and other means, the Palestinian leadership takes two steps backwards by using hatred and violence.
The Palestinians’ Arab allies created the Palestinian problem in the first place by refusing to accept the 1947 UN partition plan and by starting a war with Israel instead. They again missed an opportunity after the 1967 Six-Day War to negotiate a peace agreement with Israel. Even Egypt and Jordan who later negotiated peace agreements with Israel failed to advance a two-state solution as part of those agreements. There is some talk now that Saudi Arabia wishes to include steps towards a two-state solution as part of a normalization agreement with Israel, but there are two reasons to be doubtful. One, it is hard to believe that Saudi Arabia will act in the best interest of the Palestinians when they have never done so before. Two, the Palestinian leadership has not changed, and it is likely that if given an opportunity to advance a two-state solution, they will miss it yet again.
The Palestinian diaspora and the greater pro-Palestinian movement could be effective in defending the Palestinians, but they have adopted the same failed strategies as the Palestinian leadership: antisemitism, incitement, and support for terrorism. They express legitimate criticism of Israel and then in the same breath they shoot themselves in the foot by exposing their own hatred towards Israel in any form. They don’t seem to understand that if you can’t tell the difference between settlers deep in the West Bank and Jews living in Tel Aviv and Haifa peacefully next to Arabs who have equal rights, no one with any real influence will take you seriously. But I think that their problem is even more fundamental than that: it seems that just like the Palestinian leadership, the pro-Palestinian movement would rather see no Palestinian state than accept the Jewish state.
And yet while the Palestinians’ so-called defenders are not doing their job, the rights of Palestinians continue to be abused in the West Bank, they continue to be pushed out, and they continue to be deprived of statehood. One could of course argue than that the Palestinians are responsible for their own predicament since they chose to go along with the rejection of the 1947 UN partition plan, since they choose their own leaders (or at least tolerate them), and since their own diaspora forms the core of the so-called pro-Palestinian movement. One could of course argue than it is the Palestinians themselves who are choosing to have no state rather than one that neighbors Israel.
This argument would not be wrong, but it is incomplete. The mindset of Palestinians has not been shaped freely though education and an unrestricted exchange of ideas. It has grown out of the Arab antisemitic decision to reject Jewish self-determination in any form. It has grown out of decades of anti-Israel rhetoric and promises that the refugees will be able to go back “home”. Even Gaza and the Palestinian-controlled parts of the West Bank include Palestinian refugee camps, with the illusory and toxic promise that those Palestinians will somehow one day live in Haifa or Tel Aviv. How could those Palestinians after decades of brainwashing have anything other than a badly warped sense of reality. It is the duty of the Palestinian leadership, the Palestinian diaspora, the Palestinian allies, and the Arab states to bring the Palestinians back to reality.
But there is one group that is often effectively and consistently defending the Palestinians: the Jews. Many of those Jews live in Israel and many live abroad, most notably in the United States. They are effective because they document the facts and yet they respect Israel’s right to exist. In fact, many of them are former Israeli soldiers who risked their lives to defend the Jewish state.
Unfortunately, the Jewish groups who defend the Palestinians cannot do it alone, and even among them, there are those who have adopted the antisemitic and anti-Israel rhetoric of the pro-Palestinian movement. This leaves the Palestinians mostly helpless and mostly undefended. Those who by all rights should be on their side are busy instead engaging in Holocaust denial and various other forms of antisemitism. They have chosen to peddle hatred rather than to build a state, and unsurprisingly, as a consequence, the Palestinians still have no state.