An earthquake has hit the Israeli political scene. Its longest-serving prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, now leads the opposition after 12 years. For an America that counts on a strong and stable Israel as part of its core security interests, this profound change in Israeli politics is a moment of both potential and vulnerability.
As a follow-up to my article on the growth of anti-Semitism in Europe, I wanted to share with you this EU study that was purposely kept from the public, exposing anti-Semitism within Palestinian textbooks. According to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the EU continues to invest millions in funding the Palestinian Authority’s educational system without demanding that it stop “indoctrinating its children to hate and kill.”
“The report includes dozens of examples of encouragement of violence and demonization of Israel and Jews. The report says the textbooks present “ambivalent – sometimes hostile – attitudes towards Jews and the characteristics they attribute to the Jewish people… Frequent use of negative attributions in relation to the Jewish people… suggest a conscious perpetuation of anti-Jewish prejudice, especially when embedded in the current political context.”
At the time, the head of EU foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini, was a harsh critic of Israel. This is just one of a voluminous number of reports documenting Palestinian incitement and anti-Semitism within their school system. A small sample of links is included.
As an IMPACT-Se study of the K-12 curriculum earlier in the year stated, “Textbooks remain openly antisemitic and continue to encourage violence, jihad, and martyrdom while peace is still not taught as preferable or even possible.”
The article states Prime Minister Netanyahu’s long tenure has left a “lasting legacy. He shifted the fulcrum of Israeli politics firmly to the right —and presided over the dismantling of the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.”
The Israeli polity shifted from center-left to the center right not because of Mr. Netanyahu, but because of the Second Intifada beginning in 2000. That was when President Arafat rejected a Palestinian state and East Jerusalem as his capital and started the bloody Intifada of homicide bombers in Israeli malls, restaurants, and busses. Israelis were shocked and realized that their hopes for compromise with their Palestinian neighbors were an illusion. In 2008, an even more generous offer of 100% of the West Bank, East Jerusalem as a Palestinian capital, and even control of the Temple Mount was rejected by the moderate Palestinian President Abbas.
For all of his triumphs and faults, Netanyahu did not dismantle the peace process or move Israel to the right. That was the Palestinians themselves, who could have had a state at least five times over the last 73 years.
Former Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni’s article says that a two-states-for-two-peoples (Arab and Jewish) solution is the only “answer to the national aspirations of both the Jewish people and the Palestinians.”
Interestingly, she chooses not to mention the most significant event that occurred during her tenure as Foreign Minister, that when Prime Minister Olmert offered Palestinian Authority President Abbas 100% of the West Bank with land swaps, East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital, and internationalization of the Temple Mount, Mr. Abbas never even responded. He was not willing to give up the demand for an unlimited right of return of descendants of Palestinian refugees that would demographically destroy the Jewish state, as well as signing an end of conflict agreement to end all future claims.
Ms. Livni says that neither side will ever accept the narrative of the other and won’t convince the other of “who has more rights to the land.” That may be true, but what is needed is for each side to respect the narrative of the other and be willing to compromise. Only then will the possibility of a resolution of the conflict come into view.
In Europe, the number of Jews continues to decline, but the disease of antisemitism continues to rise. According to a European Union poll, the vast majority (85%) of European Jews see antisemitism as a major problem in their lives.
Welcome to the world of 21st-century European antisemitism and its most popular contemporary form, Israel-bashing. This begs the question, why are Europeans still obsessed with Jews and the Jew among nations while working overtime to support their enemies?
A 2018 CNN survey found only 54% of Europeans said “Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state.” Get that? Nearly half of Europeans think the one Jewish state has no right to exist. This does not bode well for future Israeli-European relations. From an Israeli economic perspective, this matters greatly because Europe is its number one trading partner. How the European Union acts politically against Israel, whether it chooses to increase its support of the BDS movement, can profoundly affect Israel’s economic and military security in the years to come.
According to Michael Sieveking, deputy director of AJC Transatlantic Institute, “Making matters even worse a dangerous fallacy is on the rise that denies that anti-Zionism is antisemitism at all. Anti-Zionism hides behind a veneer of respectability. At its rotten core is the notion that it’s acceptable to deny the Jewish people the freedom to exercise its right to self-determination. There is no shortage of European politicians mourning dead Jews. But where are some of those leaders when living Jews are being victimized for real or imaged actions of Israel?”
Using a politicized definition of human rights as a weapon against Israel allows Europeans to claim the moral high ground. But their morality appears bankrupt as they developed an entrenched double standard against Israel as compared to their muted response to obviously more egregious human rights problems around the world. For example, lobbying for unrestricted trade with one of the world’s most odious malefactors, Iran, shows that the European human rights emperor has no clothes.
They see no hypocrisy supporting a gas pipeline from Russia that will enrich a nation that not only is a human rights nightmare but one that occupies other sovereign nations’ territory, i.e. Crimea, Ukraine, Georgia. China, the world’s number one human rights abuser, has upwards of a million of its Uighur people in “re-education” camps, threatens the democracy of Taiwan, and throws democracy activists in jail in Hong Kong, but still has virtually unrestricted trade with Europe. Yet, the Europeans invest a disproportionate amount of time discussing and strategizing on ways to boycott Israeli goods. Adding fuel to the antisemitic fire, most European nations at best only abstain from UN resolutions against Israel.
Israel and Europe have a complex relationship. The EU is Israel’s number one trading partner, yet the EU seems to be on its way to accepting some form of boycotting Israel for its occupation of the disputed territories in the West Bank.
With the line between antisemitism and anti-Zionism disappearing by the day, Europe is not only hostile to Israel, but Jews themselves.
To understand European antisemitism, you just need to look at the tragedy of Sarah Halimi. “Why France Refuses to Prosecute an Antisemitic Murderer” is the title of an article written by former New York Times columnist Bari Weiss, a journalist run out of town because she reports on antisemitism coming from the Right, Left and Islam, and doesn’t follow the woke orthodoxy on Israel. Like much of Western Europe, her former employer minimizes antisemitism unless it emanates from the far-right.
The story of Halimi, the victim of one of the most vicious hate crimes in recent memory, was underreported by the press because the victim was a Jew killed by a Muslim man. While torturing her, he called her a shaitan (Satan). Then he threw her out of her third-story apartment window while shouting “Allahu akbar” (God is great in Arabic). What is even more frightening was the response of French prosecutors. The alleged killer was not charged because he had smoked marijuana, which is a convenient excuse not to antagonize their antisemitic Muslim citizens. Just ask yourself, if the victim was a Christian or a Muslim, and the killer was Jewish, would the prosecutor have acted similarly? Weiss wrote, “We are suffering from a widespread social health epidemic, and it is rooted in the cheapening of Jewish blood.”
Nothing drives home Europe’s ambivalent feelings regarding Israel than its attempts to economically support the antisemitic theocratic Islamic Republic of Iran, a nation whose authoritarian Islamist leaders repeatedly call for eliminating the Zionist state, while trafficking in demonization of the Jews. Europeans even tried to create a financial system (INSTEX) to bypass American sanctions and enrich the terror state. Western European enthusiasm for a nuclear agreement that guarantees to put nuclear weapons in the hands of Israel’s nemesis while paying lip service to their human rights behavior, Jew-hatred, and maniacally hateful rhetoric makes one wonder what motivates such persistent animosity.
According to European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, reviving Iran’s nuclear deal (JCPOA) is “the most urgent and important” diplomatic priority for the Biden administration in order to improve US-European relations. Borrell completely rejects any efforts to expand the agreement to address matters outside its current scope, i.e. human rights or terrorism. “For us, the Europeans, the Iran nuclear deal, it’s a triumph of diplomacy, and we are very proud of it.”
Despite European self-righteous proselytizing to Israel to improve its human rights record, the EU chooses to defend a regime dripping with Jew-hatred. The EU showed its true colors when it did not stand with the Iranian people, who risked their lives to express their outrage at their government for its abuse and torture of its people. This human rights disaster does not rise to Borrell’s sanctimonious standard as an “urgent” European priority.
Perhaps there is some self-preservation involved. In 2018, The Washington Examiner asked why European policymakers are so determined to “prop up the (Iranian) government. Europeans may feel the pressure of Iran’s threats… the head of the country’s atomic agency warned of ominous consequences if Iran doesn’t see its promised economic benefits. Ominous in this context would seem to mean: Give us sanctions relief, or we will build a nuclear bomb.”
Iranian-backed terrorism on European soil is not unheard of; just look at the Iranian-Hezbollah bombing in Burgas in 2012 targeting Jewish tourists. European anti-Zionism, i.e., antisemitism, expresses itself in many ways. Why has Europe given over 100 million dollars to 35 NGOs supporting the International Criminal Court’s witchhunt to delegitimize Israel? In 2015, the European Commission decided to create a double standard against Israel by labeling all Israeli goods produced over the Armistice Line (1967 Line) to help consumers boycott Israel. It’s a move reminiscent of the Nazi era. Still, anti-Zionist Europeans see it more analogous to the boycott of South Africa, opposing that country’s apartheid. No other nation’s goods in disputed territories from Kashmir to Northern Cyprus warrant such a boycott by Europe.
So is all this explained by the Europeans’ two millennia-long history of antisemitism that now expresses itself as the more politically correct hatred of the Jewish nation? Or is it the modern European bureaucrat who is part of the self-anointed enlightened, progressive left who sees Israel as an aberration in modernity, a nationalist colonial project that belongs to a different era?
A more contemporary answer to understand the resurrection of Europe’s long history of Jew-hatred while painting itself as a moral force for good began with the 1974 Arab Oil Embargo after the Arab-Israeli Yom Kippur War. It was a significant turning point in moving Europeans from begrudging support of Israel that assuaged their guilt for the holocaust to resurrecting antisemitism but in a politically correct incarnation.
This was best evidenced by French President de Gaulle’s antisemitic response after the Israelis defeated the Arabs in the Six-Day War, calling Jews “an elitist… and domineering people.” De Gaulle, like Israel’s Arab enemies, used the word Jew interchangeably with Israeli. Immediately, French foreign policy turned decidedly pro-Arab and anti-Israel, allowing France to pull other European nations against Israel after the Arab oil embargo. French president Jacques Chirac in 2001 blamed Israel for the failure of Camp David, not Arafat, who started the Second Intifada and rejected a Palestinian state. Even today, French animosity to Israel is expressed by its president, Emmanuel Macron, who, unlike other EU leaders, has not criticized the inappropriateness of the International Criminal Court’s prosecution of Israel for war crimes against Hamas.
Supporting the Palestinian cause to appease the Arab oil states had the added benefit of demonizing that “shitty little nation,” as one French diplomat undiplomatically said publicly years later, without the stigma of hating the individual Jews or their religion. Placating Europe’s growing unassimilated Muslim populations is also a significant factor in aligning against the Jewish State. An ADL survey of second and third-grade Muslims in Europe in the 21st century found that 50% could be classified as anti-Semites. These are children, and this is growing worse with time. Yet, Arabs in the Gulf states are warming to Jews and Israel as evidenced by the Abraham Accords, while Turkish, Tunisian, Algerian, Pakistani, and Syrians living in Europe remain persistently hostile to Jews and Israel.
Being able to label Israel as an occupying state allowed Europe to transition to become a cheerleader of the anti-Israel movement, ubiquitous among European elites and on European university campuses. Europeans have perfected their rationale that their harsh criticism of Israel is never antisemitism. Palestinian rejectionism and antisemitism are either ignored or turned into, at best, a moral equivalence.
But Europe is not homogeneous. Eastern Europe is more sympathetic to Israel but has an even more tainted antisemitic history. Their leaders are less liberal than western Europeans but admire Israel’s nationalism. Is it possible for Israel to strengthen relations with Western Europe, with whom it shares more values, but are also its loudest critics? How does it foster a relationship with Eastern Europe that diplomatically supports them while some of their populist leaders dabble in antisemitic tropes and policies? Granted, it is not either-or, and foreign policy is about interests, not usually values, but it would be nice to have some friends who share your values and also support Zionism, the national liberation movement of the Jews.
Israel will quietly continue to hedge its bets and quietly economically pivot from Europe to the Far East and the Asian sub-continent over the next generation or two. If boycotts grow and are enforced, for Israel’s economic survival this will become a necessity. Strengthening relationships in China, India, Korea, Taiwan, and other nations, where there is no legacy of antisemitism, decreases the impact of growing European boycotts. Within a few generations, Europe will likely be overwhelmed by its Muslim population, and its move away from Israel and support of the BDS movement will only accelerate.
Yet, there is some hope. According to Algemeiner, at a recent conference on Protection Against Racial Discrimination and Related Intolerance, the European Commission allocated 2 billion dollars that included a strategy that, “will provide a comprehensive framework to prevent and combat antisemitism…. Holocaust remembrance and fostering Jewish life in Europe.”
But unless they deal with their growing Muslim population’s Jewish hatred, which doesn’t distinguish between Jewish citizens of Europe and Israel, any progress fighting antisemitism will be marginal at best. Concurrently they must address their political class whose default position is harsh criticism of Israel, or the Jews of Europe will continue to emigrate and fulfill Hitler’s dream of a Europe without Jews.
I read the New York Times lead story this weekend, “Life Under Occupation: The Misery at the Heart of the Conflict,” as a justification for this Gaza war and militant violence. Personal stories to pull at your heartstrings are the strategy of pro-Palestinian organizations and the Times.
“Mr. Abu Alia seethed as he described seeing his son outside in the dark, ‘afraid, crying because of the soldiers, and I can do nothing to protect him. It makes you want to take revenge…. But we have nothing to defend ourselves with. Stone-throwing must suffice. We can’t take an M-16 and go kill every settler. All we have are those stones. A bullet can kill you instantly. A little stone won’t do much. But at least I’m sending a message.’”
A few years ago, I debated a J Street representative at the Columbia Graduate School of International Affairs. After my presentation, which presented the conflict in all of its complexities, the J Street representative said, I cannot argue with any of Dr. Mandel’s facts, but let me tell you about… He then went on to tell a litany of personal stories of suffering.
I believe I lost that debate because I did not pull at the audience’s heartstrings, purposely manipulating people’s emotions so they could avoid the more challenging task of evaluating the merits of each debater’s arguments.
I should have spoken about the equally compelling tragic stories of Israeli children and residents of Israel’s South who live continually with traumatic stress. One psychologist in Sderot told me 80% of the residents suffer not from PTSD but rather from continual traumatic stress.
As in the case of my J Street debater, what was left out of the Times news article was any context. There is a word for one-sided news articles. It is called advocacy journalism, meant to convince the reader of the writer’s opinion. Personal narratives are there to make you sympathize with one side or the other. What was most egregious in the article and in that debate was the complete lack of context.
Israel left 100% of Gaza 16 years ago, and Gaza could be flourishing today like Dubai, in Palestinian-controlled territory. Instead, Hamas has committed innumerable war crimes, sending thousands of rockets into Israeli civilian areas while using Gaza residents’ children as human shields.
The only reason Israel controls the Gaza borders is that if it did not, there would be an unrelenting resupply of Iranian missiles and weapons, killing and maiming thousands of Jewish civilians. Excuse Israel for doing the No. 1 thing a nation should do – protect its civilians so they are not living with fear every hour of every day.
The author seemed to have amnesia, leaving out that the occupation of the disputed territory could have ended numerous times over the last 72 years if the Palestinians had accepted a Palestinian state living next to a Jewish state. They refused that in 1937, 1947, 1967, 2000, 2001, and 2008. That is because Palestinian Arab leadership prioritizes destroying a Jewish state more than it wants a Palestinian state. Something you won’t read in a J Street press release. An ADL survey showed that the Palestinian people has the highest ranking for antisemitism in the whole world, at 93%. This was not a poll of anti-Israel bias but blatant stereotypical Jew-hatred.
The pretext for this war, according to the article, was the decades-long court case involving a few families in the Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. The article chose not to mention that Jews have owned the homes since the 19th century, and the tenants have been offered to remain in their homes if they pay rent.
Palestinian supporters have chosen select facts to advance their charge of ethnic cleansing and Judaization of Jerusalem. On a political level, it would have been better for Israel to have ignored this dispute, allowing the Arab residents to stay and having Israel compensate the owners. But Israel is a democracy with the rule of law and courts for real estate disputes.
Perhaps it is time for Israel to realize that the world and a growing part of the Democratic Party will never see Israel as anything but an occupier. Maybe the unrelenting double standard against Israel should be seen as an opportunity for Israel to choose its security borders and not wait for the Palestinians. Heck, nobody thought the Abraham Accords would ever happen. This certainly would upset many people. But considering decades of Palestinian rejection of their own state because they would have to sign an end-of-conflict resolution, accept a demilitarized Palestinian state and end the demand for a right of return, maybe the time has come for Israel to set a new path.
Advocacy journalism can inspire Israel to take the initiative and control its own destiny, as it lives in a woke world where its right to exist is fair game, and violence against Jews is excused as a natural reaction to occupation.
So here are some proposals to get people’s blood pressure to boil.
1. Israel unilaterally defines its borders based on security considerations
2. No further Jewish building in the areas designated for a future Palestinian-controlled territory.
3. Jewish growth is confined to the settlement blocs or settlements essential for security considerations.
4. Continued Israeli security control of the designated future Palestinian territory until the Palestinians can unreservedly sign an end-of-conflict agreement and recognize a Jewish state next to an Arab one. That could take generations, if not longer.
5. Consider drawing the lines of a future Palestinian state that would incorporate areas within pre-1967 Israel with an Arab population. If Arab citizens of Israel want to keep their Israeli citizenship, they may need to move to Israel or remain Israeli citizens living under the Palestinian Authority.
6. Redefining Jerusalem’s artificially created borders to designate overwhelmingly Arab Muslim areas of Jerusalem for a future Palestinian entity, thereby demographically moving hundreds of thousands of Arabs from the census of Israel, if and when Palestinians decide to live in peace with a Jewish state. All Jewish holy sites and neighborhoods remain under Israeli control.
7. Tangible consequences when Hamas sends rockets into Israeli civilian areas.
Mind you, this is all to stimulate debate. None of this would satisfy the international community, the Times, the Biden administration, or for that matter many Israelis, like my fellow columnist Caroline Glick. But it is food for thought.
The Times writers believe Israel is an apartheid state and want Israel to become a binational state – in other words, the demographic destruction of a postcolonial aberration of Jewish racism.
So is it the time for Israelis to consider taking their future into their own hands, offering an olive branch to future Palestinians, that a Palestinian state could be theirs for the asking?
The status quo may be the safest choice for Israel to avoid sanctions from the Biden administration, the EU and the UN. However, now is the time for Israelis to have a serious internal debate about the future, to move forward without waiting for the Palestinian leopard to change its spots.
This war was more about sabotaging the emerging Israeli-Gulf relationship and preventing an Islamist Israeli-Arab party from joining an Israeli government, than it was about a few homes in Sheikh Jarrah. But admitting that would undermine the thesis of advocacy journalists.
As most of you are aware, there has been an enormous increase in anti-Semitic violence during Israel’s Gaza operation. I wanted to share with you one bit of good news. Two US Senators, Tom Cotton and Mitch McConnell announced they are introducing the Preventing Anti-Semitic Hate Crimes Act, legislation to combat the dramatic rise of anti-Semitic hate crimes in the United States. As the headline of a National Review Article said,” Violent Attacks on American Jews Prove ‘Anti-Zionism’ Is Anti-Semitism.”
I hope this can garner overwhelming bipartisan support. The last time legislation was introduced to specifically combat anti-Semitism after the violence in Pittsburgh and San Diego, progressive members of Congress demanded and won a concession that it includes all hate.
As a reminder, here is how to tell the difference between legitimate criticism of Israel and anti-Semitism. It is our State Department definition.
Comparing Israeli policies to Nazis
Standards not applied to other nations under the guise of human rights
Denying Jewish people the right to self-determination
I am attaching a video shot by my colleague Davis Richardson, President of Paradox Public Relations, for those who have not seen some of the videos. He filmed this at Washington Square Park, but the national media did not pick it up. The anti-Israel protestors are heard chanting “Allahu Akbar” and even fist-bumping with NYPD police officers.
Palestinian Israelis refuse to acknowledge the dilemma they put Jewish Israelis in when they choose to align themselves with the enemies of the Jewish state.
In 2003 at the height of the Second Intifada, I tagged along with a group of American Conservative Rabbis who went to Israel to show solidarity with the Jewish state. We were brought to the King David Hotel to hear from then-foreign minister Shimon Peres, and the event was covered by Israeli television. During the Q&A, I asked Mr. Peres if there was a fifth column brewing in Israel among Israeli Arab citizens, “fifth column” being a term used for citizens who sympathize and support an external enemy.
Peres looked at me with an angry stare, and I will never forget what he said to me. “I do not like that expression. I do not like that term.” He then proceeded to march off the stage.
The point in telling this story is that for generations, Israeli leaders have not been willing to contemplate the possibility of a painful truth of what Palestinian Citizens of Israel (PCI) truly believe about living as citizens in the State of Israel. Suppose that the most Israel can offer PCIs (Israeli Arabs) – full rights, recognition of their Arab identity and economic empowerment, while simultaneously accepting the responsibilities of living as minority citizens in a Jewish state – doesn’t meet the minimum they can accept, namely the eradication of the Jewish nature of the State of Israel?
Too many PCIs and anti-Israel activists believe Judaism is only a religion, not a legitimate national movement of a people or a civilization. Despite having freedom of speech, religion and the press, and elected Muslim members in the Knesset, and being freer than any other Arabs in the region, Israel to them will never be a democracy so long as it retains the Jewish nature of the state and the Jewish right of return for Jews living in the Diaspora.
In 2018 I wrote an article titled, “What Do Palestinian Citizens of Israel Want?” This was based on a MEPIN/Keshet seminar I helped organize in which we met with Arab academics and school children and Israeli Arab mayors, and visited Arab colleges, teachers and human rights organizations. That was just the beginning. To deny that PCIs have faced discrimination in allocating government funding, infrastructure and employment opportunities would be to deny reality. As Yossi Klein Halevi said, “Palestinian Israelis have a profound sense of dislocation, humiliation and grievance going back to 1948. Palestinian Israelis are conflicted, as the country they reside in is at war” with their brothers over the Green Line.
But then I asked Palestinian Israelis, if all the economic inequities were magically erased, would they then accept living in a Jewish state assuming the responsibilities of minority citizens? None said yes, proving this is an existential, not an economic issue. They do not believe Israel ever had a right to be created on land that was once Islamic or was their ancestral home.
The current Gaza war between Israel and Hamas may not differ from the three previous military actions (2008, 2012 and 2014) between Israel and the terrorists in Gaza. Israel will not risk the lives of its soldiers or innocent civilians embedded within Hamas military assets in an attempt to replace Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and then having to take charge of civil services for the Gazan people. It will “mow the grass” and hopefully buy a few years of deterrence.
What is different about this war is that the Palestinian Arab street in the West Bank and Palestinian citizens of Israel are openly cheering on Hamas. Hamas told PCIs to “rise up” against “our enemy and yours.” And a not too insignificant number of Israeli Arab citizens responded by lynching Jews, burning synagogues and fomenting pogroms. This is of existential importance, especially when 21% of your population empathizes with an enemy who wants to end your existence. Far-right Jewish nationalists attacking Arabs in retaliation have fanned the flames of violence. They also need to be condemned and incarcerated – one standard of justice and the rule of law for all.
So does Israel have a civil war on its hands? Are the Abraham Accords in danger of collapsing because of the allegation that Israeli security entered al-Aqsa Mosque for no reason? Can’t the world see that Hamas has exploited a land dispute involving just a few Arab families to weaken the Palestinian Authority and prevent a groundbreaking possibility of an Israeli Arab party joining a coalition as a full stakeholder?
So, where do we go from here?
Palestinian Israelis complain about job discrimination because employers favor Israelis who served in the military. But when presented with the option of compulsory non-military civil service to match fellow Jewish citizens, leveling the playing field for employment opportunities, they overwhelmingly reject that option. There is almost no acknowledgment that they, too, have the responsibilities of citizenship.
You can’t complain you aren’t getting your fair share when you refuse to do compulsory civil service to match the time young Jewish citizens give to the nation. Palestinian Israelis refuse to acknowledge the dilemma they put Jewish Israelis in when they choose to align themselves with the enemies of the Jewish state.
Israeli Arab politicians elected to the Knesset, except for Mansour Abbas’s Ra’am party – who seemingly prioritized the PCIs he represents and who wants to work with the Israeli government – have bordered on treason for years. Mansour Abbas’s pragmatism is a significant reason that Hamas wanted to fight a war at this time, lest Arab citizens in Israel look towards a new path that could reconcile them with the Jewish majority.
The Middle East is in flux, and Israel may be facing one of the most critical tipping points in its history. How Israel deals with its Arab minority over the coming years may rival in importance the threat of 150,000 Hezbollah missiles and Iranian nuclear weapons capabilities. As Israel’s Defense Minister Benny Gantz said, the internal Jewish-Arab violence is “no less dangerous than the Hamas rockets…. We must not win the Gaza battle and lose at home.”
The Clinton White House public relations “war room” mantra was never to let any charge go unanswered. Today, many people believe that being selective about which charges to respond to is a more prudent course to avoid bringing undue attention to unpleasant issues. For Israelis and pro-Israel Americans, the choice is not always so clear, especially when falsehoods and slander arrive daily.
This choice came front and center in April, when former CIA director and New York Times opinion writer John Brennan singled out Israel for not living up to his moral standards. He claimed Israel should be more “empathetic” to the Palestinians because of the Jewish legacy of “unspeakable violence perpetrated against them.”
This double standard applied only to the Jewish state and not to any other nation on earth, which got many American and Israeli Jews quite upset. David Harris, the mainstream head of the AJC, tweeted, “Using Jewish history, (the) Holocaust, as a cudgel against Israel is obscene.” Newsday deputy editor Batya Ungar-Sargon went further, saying, “There’s a word for holding Jews to a higher standard than everyone else: It’s called anti-Semitism.”
So would it be better to keep silent and not add any more fuel to the fire, bringing even more attention to Brennan? After all, he is a respected pundit on the progressive MSNBC cable network, and pointing out his offensive remarks could bring more mainstream Democrats to his defense. Should Jews remain silent, hoping that these types of incidents will pass? The real question is: When has it ever been good for Jews to keep quiet about anti-Semitism? If done respectfully, pointing these things out becomes a teaching moment and hopefully an opportunity for those who didn’t mean to cross a line to recant their words. With Israel being accused by “The Squad” in Congress, J Street endorsing legislation to limit military funding of Israel and the once venerable but now anti-Israel Human Rights Watch perversely claiming Israel is an apartheid state, it’s time to speak up to each false charge.
If Brennan’s remarks were an isolated incident, then perhaps it could be passed over with some behind-the-scenes education. But in his case, his default position is to target Israel. In December, when he accused a nation of “state-sponsored terrorism” and flagrantly violating international law, he wasn’t talking about Iran but saved those words for Israel. Unfortunately, this is a much bigger issue than Brennan, as it represents a mainstreaming of anti-Semitism in the guise of anti-Zionism.
Brennen blames Israel for the absence of a Palestinian state, ignoring what we all know, that PLO/Palestinian leaders Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas could have had a state in 2000 and 2008, as well as eastern Jerusalem as their capital. In his essay, he considered it wrong to end funding to the U.N. Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNWRA), even though it perpetuates the conflict by advocating for their so-called “right of return.” That is the demand that all the many descendants of Arabs who left Palestine up to 72 years ago be given the right to return to the place they or their ancestors left, thereby in effect overwhelming and conquering Israel. This month, even the European Parliament called for a review of UNWRA funding because of the hate and violence it teaches for both Jews and Israelis.
You wouldn’t know it from Brennan’s remarks, but most Israelis have empathy for Palestinians living over the Green Line. Many Israelis try to work together with them in political and economic ventures. But the Palestinian Authority, Hamas and other Palestinian factions forbid “People to People” initiatives, ostracize, intimidate and arrest Palestinians who work with Israelis and publicly brand them as collaborators. What the P.A. encourages is the ongoing struggle against Zionism in all its forms, including violence. It spends about 7 percent of its budget (more than $350 million a year) on salaries and stipends to reward convicted and dead terrorists, and their families.
The majority of Israelis are still in favor of a two-state for two people’s solution. However, to Israel’s enemies, “two states” means an entirely Arab state in the West Bank and a binational state with an unlimited right of return of the descendants of refugees to Israel. In other words, two Arab states. No people on earth score higher on the anti-Semitism scale than the Palestinians, thanks to their indoctrination of hatred beginning in early childhood.
In the Times essay, Brennan’s sympathy for the Palestinian cause is apparent. He begins his article by personalizing the “humiliation” of a Palestinian child and her father at an Israeli checkpoint, described in a documentary that he recommended to President Joe Biden. He then added his memories from 1975 that corroborated the brutal unfeeling Israeli and the victimized Palestinian image.
Checkpoints are not nice places for either party. However, in the last 15 years, the number of checkpoints has diminished dramatically. Almost all of them are located on the 1967 lines or around Jerusalem to control the entrance of Palestinians to Israel itself. Traffic inside the territories under P.A. control is mainly unimpeded. Unfortunately, and ignored by Brennan, checkpoints are made necessary because they are the entry point for many terror attacks within Israel, most recently the two on May 2.
Brennan chooses not to add any personal anecdotes to tug at your heartstrings of equally compelling stories of Israelis murdered by Palestinians who crossed into Israel. There was the incident of two men hiding rifles within prayer rugs and killing Jewish soldiers at point-blank range at a checkpoint near Bethlehem. An American physician tried unsuccessfully to remove the bullet from the soldier’s heart on the way to the hospital as a last-ditch effort to save the young soldier. Does Brennan have empathy for these Israeli victims?
What worries us no less is that these misconceptions were the views of the CIA director from 2013 to 2017 while in office. With such distorted views of Israel, it wasn’t surprising that the Obama administration adopted a disappointing approach towards Israel, orchestrating UNSCR 2334, which adopted most of the Palestinian positions, labeling any Israeli presence over the 1949 Armistice (1967 Line) a war crime. One would hope that future CIA directors would work hard to have a balanced, nuanced and in-depth knowledge base without prejudice when advising the president. Americans should be concerned about the politicization of intelligence.
Far-right violent attacks against Jews get headlines, but anti-Semitism in the form of anti-Zionism coming from more leftist sources that have the sympathy of the press is given a pass. Let’s be clear that criticism of Israel and pro-Palestinian views are acceptable as part of free speech. However, present and past U.S. government officials are expected to uphold a high standard. That standard is not met by citing a one-sided litany of complaints against Israel to advocate a double standard that wouldn’t be expected of any other country and demand what amounts to national suicide. Israel is a lone democracy with the rule of law for all its citizens in a sea of authoritarian regimes where anti-Semitism, religious intolerance, denial of rights to women, LGBTQ, minorities and suppression of the press are considered normal.
Perhaps Brennan can write about that in his next essay.
Walter Meed Russell, writing in The Wall Street Journal, sees the glass of America’s 20-year presence in the Middle East as half full. He believes we bolstered our interests, if not advancing democracy abroad. One of the most important accomplishments that we take for granted is that our presence has prevented any “major new international terrorist attacks” on American soil over the last two decades. In addition, he points out the unprecedented accomplishment of the Abraham Accords where today “neighboring Arab states now consider Israel an ally to be cultivated” instead of a pariah to be annihilated.
But are these gains sustainable without a continued American presence in the region? What will be the consequences without an American security blanket?
The American withdrawal from the region, promised by US presidents Barack Obama and Donald Trump, now has a September target date in Afghanistan. In Iraq and Syria, the US presence is also on life support. The long-anticipated departure from the Middle East will end a fragile status quo for all the players in the region.
The Sunni states, which have counted on the US as a final level of defense, are in uncharted territory. America is not only leaving the region but as a parting gift is returning to the Iran nuclear agreement, which will provide Iran with tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief. The Sunni states know this will encourage Iran to test the waters of how far it can push its influence before it suffers any repercussions. Consequently, all of the region’s nation-states are recalibrating their strategies and contemplating new alliances for their survival, even with their current enemy Iran.
So when Saudi Intelligence Chief Khalid al-Humaidan secretly met with Saeed Iravani, Iran’s deputy secretary of its Supreme National Security Council, it represented a possible tipping point between the Islamic world’s bitterest of rivals as a direct result of America’s retreat from the region. Kirsten Fontenrose of the Atlantic Council offered a positive spin, advancing the possibility of an Ishmael Track (Sunni-Shi’ite) between the bitter rivals to pursue détente. Pushing America’s longtime Saudi ally into the arms of the region’s most dangerous actor only serves Russian, Chinese and Iranian interests.
The most dangerous consequence of the American turn from the region will be the nuclear arms race left in its wake. The Sunni world will play catch-up, knowing they or anyone else cannot count on UN nuclear inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency who are not permitted to visit clandestine Iranian nuclear sites, the very places weaponization is likely to occur. If Iran continues to enrich uranium, develops more precise ballistic and cruise missiles and achieves the compartmentalization of a nuclear warhead, a nuclear Middle East is inevitable. The Saudis, Egyptians and the Emiratis will join the race for their own nuclear bomb as a counterweight to Iran’s adventurism and intimidation. The Saudis have already contracted with Pakistan for nuclear technology and possibly a completed weapon.
So what happens when the US leaves the Middle East? Here are 10 possible outcomes that American politicians, the military and intelligence services will have to grapple with in the coming years.
1. Islamist terrorism will find both new and old havens from which to plot mayhem against the US and Israel. 2. Iran will increase its military activity at the region’s two strategic choke-hold points at the Straits of Hormuz and Bab el Mandeb, threatening international shipping lanes. 3. With America’s retreat, allies worldwide will know that American security commitments can be expected to have expiration dates. 4. Iran, Russia and China will be the new superpowers of the Middle East. 5. Israel will be more isolated if Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states move toward Iran out of desperation. Still, Israel hopes they decide to continue normalization (Abraham Accords), seeing them as the better choice of ally. 6. Iran will feel less inhibited in risk-taking, knowing the US will not want to challenge the Islamic regime, lest it withdraw from the nuclear agreement. 7. Iran will set its sights on Jordan, the next domino to fall, after Iraq and Lebanon, under Iranian influence. 8. The Taliban will retake Afghanistan, making all the gains achieved for women and minorities disappear instantly. 9. The chance for regional conflicts will grow. 10. Nuclear proliferation will arrive sooner or later in the Sunni world, to nobody’s benefit.
Are any of these outcomes in America’s national security interest? Will America be forced to return to the region as it did after Obama’s hasty retreat from Iraq in 2011, but under less favorable conditions? As former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren told Yaroslav Trofimov of the Journal in October 2019, “If you think the United States as a global power can pull out of the Middle East and not endanger itself, you are deluding yourselves.”