Israel and the Palestinians

The past couple of weeks have brought the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to the fore.

The wave of violent attacks on Israeli citizens has apparently been fomented by Mahmoud Abbas’ false accusation that Israel intended to change the status quo on the Temple Mount. Palestinian leaders have continued to praise the unprovoked attacks and to lie about the Israeli response. This article gives a fairly extensive report.

This wave of violence is consistent with the history of conflict since the foundation of the State of Israel. Arabs attacked Israel at its birth in 1948, and although Egypt and Jordan had the good sense to come to terms with Israel, the Palestinians have never wavered in their purpose of destroying Israel and ending the presence of Jews in the area. The Palestinian leaders have constantly promoted anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic sentiments among the people.

Israel has, for its part, exercised its right and duty to defend itself during the state of war it has had to endure for 67 years. Some decisions, such as the building of settlements in areas won during hostilities, may have been unwise. Some actions undertaken in Israel’s defense may have involved excessive or misdirected force. There is an excellent book, My Promised Land, by Ari Shavit, which acknowledges wrongs done by Israel, while affirming Israel’s fundamental right to exist. The wrongs, in my opinion, no more make Israel “the bad guys” in the conflict than excesses committed by the Allies in World War II make them the bad guys in that conflict.

As I see it, the basic underlying fact is that the reason there is no peace between Israel and the Palestinians is that the Palestinians are unwilling to live in peace with Israel.

The history of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem’s anti-Semitism, (see here, and here) has also made the news. The first article I linked notes how that anti-Semitism long predated the Mufti’s support of Hitler and how it continued on after the war in Yasser Arafat, his kinsman and admirer. It is unfortunate that PM Netanyahu’s exaggerated account of the matter may be enabling people to evade the reality the the anti-Semitism of the current leadership of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority has deep roots in their history and is surely behind their intransigence.

In the light of all this, I don’t see how it is possible for any decent person to support the Palestinians generally, to try to justify Palestinian violence against Israelis, to criticize legitimate Israeli self-defense, to focus on occasional excessive acts by Israeli forces while saying not a word about Palestinian terrorism and brutality, or to support the anti-Israel BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) movement.

And yet there are such people. A second cousin of mine gloated about the fact that Canadian PM Stephen Harper’s Conservative Party had lost every seat in Atlantic Canada where she lives: “Atlantic kicks Harper’s arse. 1-way ticket to Israel.” She has been involved with a group that calls itself “The Island Peace Committee,” which was active in 2014 in condemning Israel’s self-defense against attacks from Gaza. When I responded to a couple of her shares of posts from the Committee, she unfriended me. When I responded to her post about Harper with a comment pointing out that Israel is the only country in the region that recognizes many rights she ought to support, she deleted the comment.

Many people point out the inherent anti-Semitism of the supporters of the Palestinians, but I think that is not the full explanation. On a personal level, I can’t recall my cousin ever saying anything suggesting anti-Semitism on her part. In some cases, anti-Semitism may be the primary motive; in others, anti-Americanism may be in play — the U.S. supports Israel so they oppose it. Even more, though, I think this is an instance of opposition to Western Civilization, of which Israel is a clear representative. There is the mindset that says all cultures are equal, and equally good. Somehow, in practice that means that people of every other culture can be proud of their culture and seek to maintain it, but Westerners shouldn’t. Whether from that starting point or not, a number of people seem to have the (perhaps unspoken) attitude that Westerners are the oppressors of everybody in the world, and therefore deserve to be defeated.

Maybe I’m psychologizing the pro-Palestinians wrongly. What I am sure of is that they are, whatever their delusions about Israel and the Palestinians, in fact on the wrong side of the conflict.

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3 thoughts on “Israel and the Palestinians

  1. Hi John, A couple of comments or remarks about your blog which I found very interesting, Firstly the conflict between the Jews and Arabs dates back to the beginning of the 20th century and if you read about that period of time, you realize that the conflict has a distinctly nationalist flavor i.e., two peoples quarreling about the same area. While I think that there is a anti-Semitic element in the thinking of some pro-Palestinian supporters abroad, I would be somewhat wary of using the term “anti-Semitism” in regard to the Palestinians on the West Bank since this introduces an aspect that is apt to muddy the water rather than contribute to movement forward. They have certain legitimate claims that should be addressed irrespective of how they feel about the Jews of Israel. Under the Mandate, the chief motivating factor, the Mufti aside, was nationalism rather than anti-Semitism. Another point that I think should be discussed but it is rarely touched upon is the political maturity of the Arabs. The clan and family play major roles in Arab society and first loyalties are to the extended family. Very rarely has Arab society been able to create institutions that command the loyalty of the society as a whole and to act accordingly. Unlike Zionism which initiated a vigorous opposition to the Mandate and the British while developing the bodies that became the main institutions of the state after 1948, Arab society has organized to carry out a variety of negative activities to oppose Israel but they don’t seem to have generated the necessary institutions and political bodies that enjoy the support of the multitudes.

    Keep blogging and all the best. Arthur

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  2. Thanks for the comment, Arthur. I can see that nationalism can be an important factor, but I wonder if even among ordinary people anti-Semitism is becoming a factor. A site I follow here showed a TV screen cap of a little girl (about 6 years old) saying that she wanted to have a gun so she could kill Jews when she grew up. Is she too young to distinguish Jews from Israelis? Is it significant that the term she has learned is “Jews?”

    Maybe it doesn’t matter if the Palestinian leaders are anti-Semitic if they’ll make and adhere to a peace treaty. So I can see how making a big deal of their anti-Semitism won’t help. But being aware of it makes it clearer just how difficult it will be to get them to seriously negotiate a peace. And if over the course of the decades, the Palestians have been becoming anti-Semitic along with their anti-Zionism, that will make it harder for the leaders to “sell” any treaty to the people. But again, maybe the people as a whole don’t matter too much if the clan leaders can be brought into line.

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  3. In the ordinary give and take of discourse here in Israel, it is quite common for a member of one group to refer to the other as a Jew or Arab. And when I hear an Arab referring to an Israeli as a Jew, I don’t regard it as anti-Semitic at all but as a way of speaking. Within Israel proper, that is within the Green Line, it is particularly common to speak this way in order to distinguish between Jews and Arabs since the Israeli label covers both peoples. For an Arab acquaintance to say to me something like “You Jews etc….” is quite acceptable while in the US or elsewhere it would undoubtedly be regarded as an anti-Semitic statement.

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