Monday, October 31, 2011

Tobin - The Left’s Palestinian Halloween Trick

Jonathan S. Tobin
30 October '11

Who destroyed Israel? That’s the question a cartoon by Eli Valley, the Forward’s artist-in-residence, asks in a Halloween-themed fantasy in which he poses in a graphic cartoon which begins with the Olympic Games taking place in Tel Aviv, Palestine in 2052. Going backward, he tells us the demise of the Jewish state was the fault of settlers, Israeli right-wingers and their American friends who refused to accede to a two-state solution, leading inevitably to the United States abandoning an “apartheid” Jewish state. The graphic, titled “Never Miss an Opportunity,” attempts to turn Abba Eban’s famous line about the Palestinians “never missing an opportunity” to make peace on the Jews. But his false narrative is an absurd distortion of both recent history and the current situation.

The problem here is not just that it is the Palestinians who refused an Israeli offer of a Palestinian state in 2000, 2001 and 2008 and have refused to negotiate with Prime Minister Netanyahu even during a settlement building freeze. Rather, it is that the Palestinians don’t really exist in the imagination of the Jewish left. Their actions, the reality of Hamas rule in Gaza, incitement, terrorism and inability to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state within any borders not only isn’t mentioned, it doesn’t even enter the debate. For Valley and other American Jewish leftists, peace is solely in the hands of the Jews; therefore the lack of an agreement is the fault of Israel and its enablers. In Valley’s vision, the true role of American Jewry should be in opposing Israeli policies and sending “reparations” to the Palestinians.

This above all explains the radical disconnect between Israelis and American Jews these days. In Israel, the left, at least as far as war and peace and security issues, is a wreck with virtually no influence or support. That’s not because the majority love the settlers or have embraced the ethos of the right, but because they understand there is no Palestinian peace partner. Should the Palestinian ever finally say, “yes” to a two-state solution, no Israeli government, including the one led by Netanyahu, could stop it. But they haven’t and until they do, Israelis won’t be giving up any more land that will serve as missile firing bases for Hamas or any other terrorist movement.

But this hard-won knowledge hasn’t penetrated into the consciousness of the Jewish left here. So, like Valley, they continue to argue about the Middle East conflict in terms rendered obsolete by two decades of Israeli concessions that have been met with more Palestinian rejectionism.

Valley’s Halloween trick transforms Israel’s defenders into its callous destroyers who are motivated, as columnist J.J. Goldberg writes in a column in the same issue, solely by hatred for Arabs. This serves to both demonize Netanyahu and the mainstream pro-Israel community and to get the Palestinians off the hook for their own behavior and goals. That this appears in the same newspaper that has often published editorials calling for civil debate about the issues is an irony apparently lost on no one but the current staff of the Forward.

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