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Blame Israel (and Netanyahu) ?

Business Day in a recent editorial adopted the more-or-less standard narrative line in “progressive” and “enlightened” Western media. My reply follows below (submitted to Business Day):

I have no doubt that the editorial (“Israel cannot shun Kerry’s warning”, Business Day 2 May) means well. But it fails to address the most significant elements in the sadly predictable outcome of the Peace Initiative and ends by drawing a misleading analogy with the South African experience.

Zionism was a response to the 2 millennia-long Jewish experience of exile and permanent minority status, exclusion, physical insecurity, humiliation and repeated episodes of murderous violence culminating in the most horrific genocide in Man’s long history of brutality. The choice of Palestine to resurrect the Jewish nation was dictated by the continued presence of Jews there ever since their origin 3000 years ago and its centrality in Jewish religious and historical memory.

In the break-up of the Ottoman empire and colonial retreat from the Middle East and North Africa the Arabs received over 99.8 % of the territory (partly reflecting similar but less extreme disproportion in population numbers) with less than 0.2 % going to the Jews at the time of partition in 1947. The Palestinians were not seen by the Arab community at the time even as a future national entity. Following the rejection of partition by surrounding Arab states and the ensuing 1947/48 war, Jordan annexed the West Bank and declared her sovereignty over it. A Palestinian state has never existed either in the West Bank, or indeed anywhere else, and was subsequently only mooted to serve as the sharp edge of Arab rejectionism shortly prior to the 1967 war and conquest of the West Bank by Israel.

Since then Arab-Palestinian rejectionism has continued unabated and has been pursued by military and political means. However, the entire Arab-Islamic region, with Israel at its epicentre, is in a state of convulsive turmoil due to the rise of extremist political-religious movements, the persistence of traditional tyrannical governments, denial of basic human and political rights, technological and economic backwardness, ecological pressures and gross anti-Semitism.

The upshot is a horrific death toll and instability of the whole region with Israel serving as the scapegoat and rejection of the Jewish state as the sole unifying principle in a region riven by violent internal factionalism.

There is little doubt that almost all Israelis are deeply troubled by the situation in the West Bank and want it resolved. A strong majority, until recently, were strongly supportive of a 2 state solution. But to demand that tiny and vastly outnumbered Israel should compromise without the basic acknowledgement of its status as the sole Jewish homeland, understanding of its historical and contextual anxieties accompanied by the necessary security arrangements defies both reason and common humanity.

The Palestinians continue with systematic rejection of all Jewish claims, ongoing open incitement and glorification of terrorism under the aegis of resistance. Failure to acknowledge this undermines your apparent attempt at evenhandedness in the editorial.

Mr Alon Ben Meir, however, a leftwing, self-identified pro-Zionist, feels differently. In a recent post he attributes the collapse of  Kerry’s peace initiative to Netanyahu:  “He (Netanyahu) falsely links the country’s national security to his insatiable thirst for more Palestinian land. He remains marred (sic) in illusions and grandiose dreams, blindly crawling through dark alleys, dragging Israel ever steadily to the abyss, foolishly misleading a county and a people he is entrusted to lead.

Furthermore, according to Mr Ben Meir: ” Though the Palestinians are not innocent bystanders, Israel and Israel alone must now bear the burden because it is the undisputed power that can change the course of events and prevent the looming disaster.”  When I rather vigorously begged to differ Ben Meir wrote to me as follows: “…given your attitude and inability to see the light, you and people like yourself are will be (sic) the culprits that will cause an existential danger to Israel and thus do not deserve to be enlightened. Be my guest and continue to wallow in pipe dreams so removed from reality that makes me feel rather sorry for you and all those who share your sense of what the future holds for Israel.

In my view with friends like Mr Ben Meir Israel does not need enemies. But I’m no oracle, so tell me what you think.

Mike Berger




6 responses to “Blame Israel (and Netanyahu) ?

  1. Charles Smith May 4, 2014 at 11:03 pm

    I can only attribute Mr. Ben Meir’s outbursts to poor nappie training in his formative years, and hope (vainly) that with time, and possible help from a shrink, he’ll see the light at the end of the tunnel.
    Charles (from Israel)


  2. Mike Berger May 4, 2014 at 2:47 pm

    @ Kaye, Gordon, Stephen – A fringe but vociferous minority of Jews (more Christians) believe that biblical injunctions constitute sufficient reason for Israel to occupy the WB permanently. But if present trends continue this could grow – unfortunately. There is no reasonable evidence that Bibi belongs in this camp that I am aware of, though he is not above using it to appropriate audiences. Most Jews in the West and probably even in Israel see themselves as liberals whose first instinct is magnanimity. But the experience of the last few decades has whittled that down in Israel considerably. Many Jews living comfortably in the West have failed to learn the wisdom of the old proverb “that if wishes were horses beggars could fly.” Simply put, if Western liberals, bearing in mind Israel’s geostrategic and demographic position, current regional and global Arab-Muslim (and Palestinian) politics and Jewish historical experience could offer any sort of convincing case for Israeli concessions, I have yet to hear it. It just isn’t possible which is why all these dire warnings about the failure to make peace fall on deaf ears. If the Israelis are asked to chose between suicide and an uncertain and precarious future they would be crazy and cowardly to chose the former. I support them.


  3. Stephen May 4, 2014 at 2:20 pm

    I always have an existential inner struggle when I am called upon to tell Israelis what I think they should do. It goes towards my cushy safe existence as a diaspora Jew in Cape Town and how Israelis view with a full spectrum of opinion their own existential interests and imperatives and rights. I like the way you describe failure to acknowledge these as defying reason and common humanity, although I do believe there are plenty of friends of Israel who really do get it but are exasperated by some of the ill-timed tactics of the Netanyayu government and tend to be more vocal about the latter; or media bias amplifies the impression. I do not know why Ben Meir, flying in the face of all evidence, would see Palestinian nationalism as benign, and not be concerned when, for example, he and his family flies in and out of Ben Gurion airport. I never understand it when people say the stronger should make the concessions irrespective of consequences. Or why as a supposed intellectual he should reduce unsurprising ideological and security rights as an “insatiable thirst for land”. This whole conflict is about two Peoples claiming the same piece of land. Who has a better claim is irrelevant in this 2 state scenario but Israeli rights tend to be invisible and Palestinian rights inviolable with the MSM and the radical left. Personally I am in the camp that believes real politiek dictates for Israel to be both democratic and a Jewish nation state it has to unentangle itself sooner rather than later. But how they get from here to there is for the Israelis to decide for themselves.


    • Raydude May 5, 2014 at 9:29 am

      thanks Stephen for articulating many of the thoughts and feelings that I have on this topic. As an Israeli, my fellow citizen have very convincingly in our last election, shown themselves to be mostly grouped around the pragmatic center. I believed that, as so often happens, the responsibility of office has helped Bibi too understand the compromise many of us feel necessary for a 2 state solution. His position is not a simple one, given the more right wing pressures in the Likud.


  4. Victor Gordon May 4, 2014 at 11:51 am

    I have neve,r and never will, understand the wishful thinking that governs the viewpoint offered by Left-wingers like Ben Meir. It leaves me feeling so out of touch with what I regard as reality that I sometimes wonder whether we’re considering the same country. Ben Meir’s vision of reality is, as far as I’m concerned, based on “feel-good” wishful thinking. His heart so badly wishes to believe that the Palestininas are in actual fact Israel’s true and trustworthy potential friends that someone like Bibi must, inevitably be either a moron, a reckless maverick or a man devoid of any sense of vision. So, what’s new? Was not the same said about every oher PM Israel has ever had in the past? The trick, I suppose is to follow one’s own beliefs based on reality as one sees it and simply ignore the rest.


  5. Sydney Kaye May 3, 2014 at 10:58 pm

    There is nothing wring with Netanyahu linking security to land if it is objectively a security issue , but if the expansion is for reasons linked to religion and mythology, the dangerous adventure is misplaced.


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