June 08, 2006

Why is Israel's star falling?

The Jerusalem Post has an article wondering why Israel's image is suffering so badly in so many eyes. The headline asks Israel's image - why the all time low?

Consider some of the past few years' developments:

  • It has become acceptable in academic and media circles to question whether Israel even has a right to exist. Yet 13 years ago, at the height of the "occupation" - before Israel had recognized the PLO, transferred land to the Palestinian Authority or evacuated a single settlement - such discourse was considered beyond the pale.

  • It has become increasingly common to speak of Israel as an "apartheid state." That, too, would have been unthinkable 13 years ago.

  • Decisions to boycott and/or divest from Israel - virtually unknown 13 years ago outside the Arab world - are now commonplace in the West. Several churches, for instance, have decided to divest from Israel; and in the last two weeks alone, both the largest British lecturers' association and a leading Canadian union voted to boycott Israel.

  • Most Europeans, according to polls, consider Israel the leading threat to world peace. That, too, is a new development.
  • There are two reasons for this turnaround. The first is public perception and the second is "a small but influential group of opinion leaders." Evelyn Gordon promises to deal with the second part next week. I can hardly wait but let's look at the first part.
    Among the general public, the growing view of Israel as a pariah would be impossible had Israeli (and international Jewish) leaders not abandoned one simple tenet that all of them maintained prior to the 1993 Oslo Accords: that Israel has a valid claim to the West Bank and Gaza.

    This claim does not necessitate Israel's retention of these areas; countries throughout history have occasionally ceded land to secure peace agreements. But only if Israel has a valid claim to the territories can giving them up be a "painful concession" that merits reward by the international community. If Israel has no claim, it is merely a thief. And no one would admire, much less compensate, a thief for the "painful concession" of returning some, though not all, of his ill-gotten gains - or for offering to return some, but again not all, of the remainder in exchange for sufficient reward. On the contrary: The thief deserves opprobrium, boycotts and divestment.
    Quite so, so what does Evelyn Gordon suggest?
    IF Israel is to have any hope of reversing the rising tide of worldwide antipathy, it must start by reiterating the basic truths that have disappeared from its discourse over the last 13 years: that Israel has a valid claim to this land, and that ceding this claim is not an Israeli "interest," but a wrenching move conceivable only in exchange for suitable recompense.

    The case, briefly, is as follows:

  • First, this is the historic Jewish homeland: Jerusalem and Hebron, not Tel Aviv and Haifa, were the heart of the biblical Jewish kingdom. This is vital, because the fact that this was our historic homeland is what justifies establishing a modern Jewish state here at all. Otherwise, we are indeed mere foreign interlopers.

  • Second, this land was unequivocally allotted to the future Jewish state by the 1922 League of Nations Mandate, which was never legally superseded. The 1947 UN partition plan was no more than a non-binding "recommendation" (the plan's own language) - as are all General Assembly (as opposed to Security Council) resolutions. Thus once the Arabs rejected the plan, it had no more validity than any other unsigned deal. (Were this not true, incidentally, much of pre-1967 Israel would also constitute "occupied Arab land.")

  • Third, no sovereign state ever replaced the Mandate on this territory. Jordan and Egypt conquered the West Bank and Gaza, respectively, in 1948, but neither conquest ever received international recognition. Legally, the territories remained stateless lands whose ownership was disputed. The only change that has occurred since is that the Palestinians have replaced Egypt and Jordan as the Arab claimants.

    And finally, Israel acquired these lands not in a war of conquest, but in a defensive war. [not quite]

    At this late date, reversing the international perception of Israel as a thief rather than a legitimate claimant will be a Herculean task. But unless Israel makes the effort, it will increasingly be treated as a criminal rather than a seeker of peace.

  • So let's recap. First, there is an entitlement to a state in Palestine for Jews because there was one 2,000 years ago. Second, the League of Nations (without consulting the natives) allocated the territory to be a "Jewish state". I'm not sure you'll find that terminology in its deliberations but if you could, so what? Third, the occupied territories were not governed by sovereign authority prior to their conquest by Israel. But why should this give Israel more right to govern them than the original inhabitants or any right at all?

    So in order to rescue its battered image Israel has to resort to biblical claims, the irrelevant shenanigans of the League of Nations and the idea that the West Bank, Gaza and Jerusalem, in spite of their long-standing inhabitants were some kind of no-man's land. Actually, I think it's the long overdue exposure of such nonsense that has Israel exposed as the pariah that it is.

    Remember the article isn't about reality, it's about image. So perhaps this Evelyn Gordon is right. More work needs to be done on Israel's image if zionists in the media can do any more work than they already do. But the reality will remain the same and it is that that is being exposed. It is that that is causing Israel's star to fall in the eyes of an increasingly aware public.


    Post a Comment