The Middle East is a notoriously volatile region, but you can always count on two things. One: There will be violence between Israelis and Palestinians. Two: As soon as tempers begin to flare up again, sundry Jewish commentators will set about putting pen to paper for strident anti-Israel op-eds in the world’s media.
These columns invariably follow the same dreary template, as if penned by freshmen in a Creative Writing 101 course:
A) Authors establish their Jewish credentials to lend themselves moral authority.
B) They move on to decry Israel’s settlements and express shock at Israelis’ collective inhumanity towards Palestinians, while liberally dropping the obligatory emotive clichés of anti-Israel propaganda: “occupation,” “oppression,” “apartheid,” “racism,” “disproportionate response.”
C) They explain how the conduct of the Jewish state has betrayed fundamental Zionist ideals, violated timeless “Jewish values,” and/or caused Israelis to lose their moral compass.
D) Finally, they insist that Israelis need to be saved from themselves by being boycotted, isolated and forced into further unilateral concessions.
The order of these elements might vary, but their content never does.
And so it has proven with another couple of op-eds, published on the very same day, October 23, in The Washington Post, whose editors must assume that a single poisonous assault on Israelis a day just won’t suffice.
Assaf Gavron, an Israeli novelist who teaches in the US, kicks off his piece, “Confessions of an Israeli Traitor,” by telling us that he once served in the IDF. With that out of the way, he declares himself “appalled” at his fellow Israelis and launches into a tirade, insisting they’re “more militant, threatening and intolerant than [they have] ever been.” They’re also insufferably cliquish as part of a “fundamentalist” hive-mindset whereby they refuse to blame themselves for attacks against them. Meanwhile, Israel’s government “beam[s its propaganda] to all corners of the country by a clan of loyal media outlets drowning out all the others.”
Sound like the usual fever dream of anti-Jewish bigots? Bear with me as Gavron isn’t done yet. He proceeds to portray Israelis as vicious bullies who “ridicule, patronize, threaten, vilify and physically attack” righteous and courageous dissidents such as — one presumes — himself. He decries a sinister Zionist “thought police,” which lashes out at “leftwingers” on social media where “social courtesies abandoned [and] hatred rears its ugly head.” The horror! Does he have no inkling of the endless stream of spiteful abuse directed at “Zionists” in the same medium, including this very website? But let’s leave that aside.
Israeli Jews, he insists (presumably exempting himself), are also racist and “demonize” Palestinians. His proof: according to a poll, “only 19 percent of Israeli Jews think most Arabs oppose [terror] attacks” against them. Come again? Israelis are perfectly justified in assuming that Palestinians do indeed overwhelmingly support terror attacks against them because they do — by their own admission and according to their own polls. Not only that, but a majority of Palestinians would love to see Israel eliminated, based on those very same polls. Many Palestinians openly celebrate the murder of every Israeli, including women and children, by ululating delightedly, passing out candy and naming newborns, schools and streets after terrorists. But Gavron isn’t concerned with their moral failings.
Instead, he portrays Israelis as gung-ho fascists without “any basic notions of human morality with regard to Palestinians” for having adopted a shoot-to-kill policy, out of self defense, against knife-wielding Palestinians who have been stabbing random civilians daily for the past several weeks. Palestinians, we learn, only stab, throw stones at and ram cars into random Israeli civilians out of desperation at Israel’s 48-year occupation of the West Bank — even though systematic Arab violence against Jews far predates the war of 1967. “The cumulative effect of this recent mindless violence is hugely disturbing” with “a fast and alarming downward swirl into a savage, unrepairable society,” Gavron opines. He means Israelis, of course, not their attackers.
We then get to element D and Gavron’s predictable solution, as per the usual anti-Zionist mantra: “We must stop the occupation. Not for peace with the Palestinians or for their sake,” he opines, but — surprise — “for ourselves [so] that we can return to being human.” In other words, not only are Israelis inhumane, but they are not even fully human. We get it, thanks.
As for what exactly evacuating unilaterally from the West Bank will solve, he leaves that unanswered. But Israel has been there, done that, has it not? Its unilateral withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, during which it dismantled all its settlements, hasn’t turned out all that well, has it?
In their own op-ed in The Post that day, “We are lifelong Zionists. Here’s why we’ve chosen to boycott Israel,” Steven Levitsky and Glen Weyl, two American academics, traverse similarly well-trodden terrain. They establish themselves as “progressive Jews,” proceed to decry Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, and declare that Israel needs to be boycotted vigorously in order that it can “save itself.”
“We recognize that some boycott advocates are driven by opposition to (and even hatred of) Israel,” they note. “Our motivation is precisely the opposite: love for Israel and a desire to save it.” Some love. You want to see the Jewish state destroyed because you hate Jews? Levitsky and Weyl will be right there with you. It matters not to them why you’re boycotting Israel so long as you’re boycotting it. For “post-Zionist” and “progressive” Jews like them, Israelis need to be punished, even if it kills them, for their own good. Israelis’ lives don’t matter; it’s only the authors’ own “progressive” ideals that do. What are some Israeli lives when you’re out to save Jewish souls?
Palestinians do not seem to matter, either, as they barely receive a passing mention in the two op-eds — except as amorphous victims of Zionist crimes. As usual, the Arabs are peripheral extras in a grand Jewish morality play between “good” post-Zionist/progressive humanists (the three authors, in this case) and “bad” Zionist nationalists (everyone who doesn’t see the world the way they do). They patronize and infantilize Arabs by refusing to hold them accountable for their actions and to the same standards that they hold Israeli Jews. To them Palestinians aren’t people with their own goals and moral agency but amoral actors who can’t be expected to operate by normal conducts of behavior: their only function is to remind Jewish Israelis of their own moral failings. If Palestinians murder Israelis, including within Israel proper, it’s all the latter’s fault. It is they who are expected to engage in extensive soul-searching to find out just why it is that they’re being attacked. The Palestinians are free to act as they please in the usual soft racism of low expectations.
These commentators ignore the actual, oft-stated motivations of Palestinians since all they need them for is to serve as proxies in their own ideological battles against other Jews. Palestinians’ attacks on random Israelis, Gavron tells us, are “a desperate and humiliated answer to the election of a hostile Israeli government that emboldens extremist settlers to attack Palestinians.” But that’s not what Palestinians themselves have been saying, is it? Most of them show little interest in the political leanings of Israel’s governments and were just as hostile to the Jewish state during the tenures of decidedly left-wing administrations in the past. Didn’t Yasser Arafat reject Ehud Barak’s historic concessions in 2000 at Camp David, which might well have led to the creation of a Palestinian state in nothing flat, in favor of launching a brutal five-year campaign of suicide bombings against Israeli civilians all around the country?
Nor do Palestinians tend to cite the settlements as the main cause for their terror attacks. They cite “the occupation,” by which they mean Jewish sovereignty on any inch of land between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean Sea. For weeks Palestinian officials have been whipping up a frenzy of murderous rage by spuriously accusing Israelis of trying to seize the Temple Mount and destroy the Muslim shrines there — in a malicious libel that traces its origins to the 1920s, when the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem Amin al-Husseini used just that excuse to launch a violent pogrom against the Jews of the British Mandate.
Not a day passes without a Palestinian cleric or official — with President Mahmoud Abbas from on down — calling on Palestinians to defend the Al-Aqsa Mosque to the death. The Jews, Abbas has declared, “have no right to desecrate the [Temple Mount] with their dirty feet. We won’t allow them to do that.” Ironically, even as he was accusing Israelis of seeking to “Judaize” the Temple Mount, the Palestinian Authority sought, unsuccessfully, to have UNESCO declare the Western Wall a part of the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in a bid to Islamize it.
This is the same “moderate” Abbas, who recently rhapsodized about “every drop” of Palestinian blood spilled for Jerusalem being “pure,” thereby encouraging Palestinians to do just that: spill some blood. Meanwhile, Dr. Subhi Al-Yaziji, the head of Quranic Studies at Islamic University in Gaza, a territory which of course isn’t occupied by Israel, explained on Al-Aqsa TV that all Israelis “are fair game, even the women [and] the children.” He exhorted his fellow Arabs to murder as many Israeli Jews as they could and strike everywhere. “Carry out bombings in the very heart of the enemy — in Haifa, Jaffa, Tel Aviv and Hadera, as was the case in the past — because that is what hurts the Jews.” Young and impressionable Palestinians have duly been instructing one another on social media about how best to stab Jews to death.
In a similar vein, in his Friday sermon on October 23, the very same day those op-eds by Gavron, Levitsky and Weyl appeared in The Washington Post, another cleric, Abu Hamza Ashur, called on Palestinians in the West Bank to ratchet up the scale of their attacks on Israelis by ditching the knives and resorting again to the far more deadly method of suicide bombings. “By Allah we will use it to turn you into body parts,” he warned Jews while brandishing an explosive belt at the pulpit. “By Allah we will annihilate you with it. We will turn you into lifeless corpses and scattered body parts.”
What do our Jewish commentators have to say about murderous incitement? You’ve guessed it: nothing. That’s a telling omission. Decent and peaceful Palestinians do deserve our sympathy and support, but that’s not what Gavron, Levitsky, Weyl and other Jews like them are really offering. Instead, they propose simplistic solutions to a century-old conflict in which no real progress will be possible without Palestinians’ thorough reevaluation of their all-or-nothing approach to a small, much-contested piece of land. They do Palestinians no favors by treating them as children who are both blameless and incapable of compromise.
These commentators style themselves as principled moralists yet can’t even see how obscene it is to be lecturing Israelis when many of them are being murdered and maimed for life indiscriminately, including women and children, just for being Jews. To be sure, Israelis have their failings and shortcomings, but Gavron, Levitsky and Weyl have nothing worthwhile to say to them by peddling mindless drivel that reduces a complex situation to a crude self-referential morality play wherein Israelis are always the only villains.
There’s an avid global audience for such stuff. Anti-Israel bigots never fail to gleefully seek validation for their bigotry in the curious phenomenon of some Jews bashing Israel as an unspeakable monstrosity. You can count on this: as the knife attacks against Israelis continue, other progressive Jews will be putting pen to paper to decry “the settlements.”