By Clifford D. May
February 23, 2016
Imagine that your mission is to make sure the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians does not get resolved — not even now, a time when self-proclaimed Jihadis are wreaking havoc throughout much of the Middle East and, as a consequence, Israel’s relations with Egypt, Jordan and even Saudi Arabia are improving. What policies might help you accomplish your mission?
Start with an idea the French have been floating: Convene a “peace conference,” announcing in advance that if progress isn’t made, the Israeli side will be held responsible and the Palestinian side will be rewarded. No crystal ball needed to predict how that will turn out.
Second, demand that Israelis “end the occupation” and don’t say what you think they’re occupying — whether it’s specific territories or every square inch of Israeli soil. Also, ignore the fact that Israelis, more than a decade ago, withdrew from Gaza, relinquishing claims to a territory they had taken from Egypt in a defensive war, a territory which earlier had been ruled by Britain and for centuries before that was a backwater of the Ottoman Empire.
Gaza is currently ruled by Hamas, a Palestinian organization openly committed to exterminating Israel through jihad. Toward that end, Hamas has fired thousands of missiles into Israel and, in recent years, has been digging terrorist tunnels. No problem: Justify that as “resistance.”
When Israelis respond to such attacks, Hamas uses Palestinian civilians as human shields. Blame Israel for that, too. You’ll be surprised how many people nod their heads. And you’ll be encouraging Hamas to continue this lethal, immoral and illegal practice. Don’t feel bad about that. Abetting the anti-peace process is not supposed to be a picnic.
It will be helpful, too, if you insist that Fatah, which rules the West Bank, is trying hard to achieve a modus vivendi with Israel even as its leaders incite terrorism (for example, by charging that Israelis threaten the al Aqsa Mosque, which Israelis actually protect and long ago placed under Muslim authority) and heap honours upon Palestinian teenagers who stab Israelis in the streets. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has for years refused to negotiate with Israelis. Ignore that. Almost everyone else does.
If you do get specific and demand that Israel end its occupation of the West Bank (territory ruled by Jordan until Jordan attacked Israel in 1967) you should pretend not to know that an Israeli withdrawal in the absence of security guarantees will lead to terrorists using the hills overlooking the Mediterranean coast to lob missiles and mortars into Tel Aviv as well as at Israel’s international airport.
To defend themselves, Israelis will have to return fire or send troops back into the West Bank. That will to result in high body counts on both sides. If asked about this, say, “You’re just speculating” or “Well, risks have to be taken.”
One more suggestion: Support BDS, which stands for boycott, divest and sanction, a campaign to demonize Israel and persuade governments and corporations to wage economic warfare against the world’s only Jewish state.
BDS advocates relentlessly throw mud at Israel in the not-unreasonable conviction that some will stick. For example, they delight in calling Israel an “apartheid” state when, in truth, Muslim citizens of Israel are guaranteed rights unavailable to Muslims — much less minorities — in any of the world’s Muslim-majority countries. “Apartheid” means separate. Perversely, BDS advocates are trying to separate Israelis and Palestinians, not least by shutting down enterprises where they work together.
Senior leaders of the BDS campaign such as Omar Barghouti reject any possibility of a Palestinian state peacefully coexisting alongside a Jewish state. “We oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine,” he has candidly declared. Nevertheless, you should maintain that BDS aims at achieving a “two-state solution.” Most people won’t recognize the discrepancy.
As a BDS advocate you’ll need to turn a blind eye to the atrocities being perpetrated against Arabs and Muslims (and Christians, Yazidis and others) just beyond Israel’s borders. Israel is and must remain Public Enemy No. 1 — that’s the BDS story and you need to stick to it.
Plenty of people will buy it — though not everyone. There are those who understand how anti-Israelism and anti-Semitism have become intertwined. Just as the goal of radical anti-Semitism in the 20th century was a Europe without Jews, the goal of radical anti-Semitism in the 21st century is a Middle East without a Jewish state. In both cases, murder, economic warfare and propaganda are means to that end.
A growing and bipartisan list of members of Congress sees BDS for what it is. In recent days, they’ve begun to enact legislation intended to discourage anti-Israeli trade and commercial practices, for example by authorizing the U.S. Trade Representative to re-evaluate economic relations with any EU countries that support boycotting Israel.
Legislatures in Illinois and South Carolina have passed — also with strong bipartisan backing — laws penalizing companies that discriminate against Israelis. Similar measures are pending in other states.
There’s even been some rethinking internationally: Anti-BDS bills or resolutions have passed in Canada, France, Spain and Britain. The Europe Union may be backing away from punitively labelling products made in Israel and Israeli-controlled territories.
The vast majority of Israelis would be willing to help Palestinians achieve statehood in such territories — if an agreement can be reached ensuring that independence is celebrated with fireworks exploding in the skies rather than missiles exploding in Israeli villages.
Imagine that your mission is to make such an agreement elusive for as long as possible. You know what you have to do. And perhaps now you also know who else is doing it.
Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a columnist for The Washington Times.