Saturday, November 20, 2010

Obsessing about the Settlements

From The JPost, 16 November, by GIL TROY*:

Barack Obama and his followers talk constantly about “The Settlements.” Obsessing over this pretends the conflict began in 1967.

Israel remains more popular ...with most Americans – than the hysterical hand-wringing suggests.

Unfortunately, Ivy- League, ivory tower, left-leaning, New York Times-reading Jewish intellectuals are souring on Israel. Typically, these elites claim to represent more people than they do, although, unfortunately, they are in sync with the president of the United States.

Barack Obama and his egghead followers talk constantly about “The Settlements.” Reducing the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict to any one dimension does violence to the truth.

Reducing the conflict to the settlements is an act of historical vandalism, defaming the memory of nearly 30,000 Israelis, very few of whom died in settlement-related violence – most of whom died because of the continuing Arab refusal to accept Israel’s existence.

Obsessing about the settlements blames Israel while absolving the Palestinians of responsibility. It is a form of liberal racism, condescendingly treating the Palestinians as if they are not accountable for their deeds and words. It ignores the fact that the delegitimization of Israel today does not stop at the settlements but attacks the essence of the Zionist project. It glides over the fact that Israel withdrew from 25 settlements in Gaza and Samaria in 2005, then endured thousands of rocket attacks and a Gaza takeover by Hamas, whose charter targets the entire Jewish state – and the Jewish people. It overlooks the fact that when Yasser Arafat led his people away from the Oslo negotiations back toward terror in 2000, Palestinians blew up Jerusalem buses, Tel Aviv felafel stands and Haifa cafes, treating all of Israel as a “settlement.”

Emphasizing the settlements pretends the conflict began in 1967, even though the PLO started in 1964, six Arab armies attacked the new state in May 1948 and the Arabs rejected the UN partition compromise in November 1947.

Emphasizing the settlements circumvents negotiation, caving in to Palestinian land claims, mindlessly embracing their one-sided narrative....

We also know that traditionally, when countries fight, the winner keeps the territory. I challenge my historian colleagues, asking them to name one example when a country won a defensive war then voluntarily returned the territory it conquered, if it had a prior claim to the land. The only answer is Israel, returning the Sinai to Egypt in 1979, relinquishing control under Oslo in 1994 and leaving Gaza in 2005...

...Fighting delegitimization is fighting for peace. Just as the Palestinians, and many Israeli and international NGOs, complain each time a Jew breaks ground outside the Green Line, Israel, the US and the entire pro-peace infrastructure must complain every time a Palestinian delegitimizes Israel, denies its right to exist or attacks the Jews. There must be zero tolerance for such language, which only discourages compromise.

...we need a coalition of conscience fight demonization from all sides and to work for peace, improvising a solution based on mutual accommodation rather than stubbornly and artificially freezing boundaries in one random historical moment or another.

*The writer is professor of history at McGill University and a research fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem. He is the author of Why I Am A Zionist: Israel, Jewish Identity and the Challenges of Today and The Reagan Revolution: A Very Short Introduction.
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