Forgotten, But Not Gone
By A.D. Freudenheim

14 July 2002

In a recent Newsweek article about the Palestinians' terror war against Israel, Ha'aretz columnist Ari Shavit is quoted as saying "There is this feeling, 'We tried politics, we tried the Army, we tried everything. What's left?'"[1] Given the universe of solutions that could be applied to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - among them those things Shavit mentions, but also including an idea as dazzlingly basic as a complete Israeli pull-out from the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip - this is a rather remarkable statement. Clearly, not everything has been done, and to suggest otherwise is just plain ignorant.

If anything these days, there seems to be a forgetfulness about the origins of the conflict in which Israel now finds itself embroiled. Most American news coverage has long since stopped including the history of this particular struggle in coverage of current events; this "history" used to include information about the Israeli capture of the territories in the June 1967 war, but now stretches back only as far as re-tabulating the number of dead on both sides since September 2000. Likewise, the anti-Zionist (and sometimes anti-Semitic) complaints of many anti-globalization protesters have provided a distraction for world Jewry. These constant tirades against Israel, which have unfortunately rarely condemned Palestinian violence, have made it possible for personalities such as Abraham Foxman, director of the Anti-Defamation League, to attempt a refocusing of the public relations war on Israel's behalf; the finger-wagging spectacle of European anti-Semitism has been raised once again.

In an op-ed published recently in the Washington Post, Foxman's paranoia about criticism of Israel hit a fever pitch. Europeans "must acknowledge that the anti-Israel vilification across Western Europe is unacceptable" he says; such remarks "…do not fall into the category of legitimate criticism of a sovereign state."[2] In a similarly plaintive article published in The New Republic, Yossi Klein Halevi argues (among other things) that the level of demoralization in Israel is reaching critical levels, and that the same anti-Israel statements about which Abe Foxman complains are also the statements that help recruit new foot soldiers for the Israeli right-wing: "International detractors who turn every Israeli act of war into a war crime and subject the Jewish state to a level of moral judgment not applied to any other nation are inciting the very hard-line forces they deplore."[3]

Perhaps Halevi is right - maybe Israel is being judged too harshly. But the reverse seems to be equally true: that anyone who believes in peace, or who questions what the Israeli government alleges is its process for achieving peace - or who even raises the question of whether Israel has done all it can to attain peace - is judged more harshly than the person who remains silent. Implicit in Foxman's column is the belief that any criticism of Israeli policy is an inherent revelation of underlying anti-Semitism, that any European support for Palestinians is a harbinger of peril for European Jews. Both Halevi and Foxman bemoan the political isolation of Israel, without acknowledging the legitimate basis for criticism of Israeli oppression, occupation, and violence against Palestinians. Moreover, they gently downplay the long (and distinguished!) American history of vilification of other sovereign nations; current friends such as Pakistan, Most Favored Nation trading partners such as China, and enemy (but nonetheless legitimate, sovereign) nations such as Libya have, at one time or another, been the subject of scurrilous campaigns by the U.S.  Global politics is a dirty game, boys, but that does not make everyone an anti-Semite.


The only word I can come up with to adequately describe the situation is: pathetic.

The recent Israeli raid on the offices of the moderate Palestinian leader Sari Nusseibeh was pathetic; it served only to underline for the world how desperate and unrestrained are the Israelis these days. (Cynically, one might hope that this attack against Nusseibeh was designed to strengthen his popularity among Palestinians, but this seems unlikely - and if such actions continue, how moderate will he remain, in the end?) The Israeli-imposed curfews, the destruction of Palestinian houses, ultimately the entire ongoing occupation is just pathetic.

The ongoing Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians, not to mention the Palestinian lynching of those accused of collaborating with Israel, is also pathetic. If anyone has doubts about the likely survival of a Palestinian state, the Palestinians themselves offer the best evidence of how they will lawlessly tear it limb from limb, as they now escalate the infighting that will surely continue through to next year's elections. Just today, some Hamas followers took advantage of the chaos created by an Israeli raid to kill a Palestinian whose trial for collaboration was disrupted by the attack.[4]

Unfortunately, in the middle of this high-pitched conflict, many might feel that the rationale and the history behind the struggle have disappeared under the weight of a tit-for-tat kind of retaliatory violence. The historical reasons for this conflict are perhaps temporarily forgotten, but are most certainly not gone, and for all of the talk of wanting to achieve peace, of seeking solutions to the conflict, this failure to deal with the underlying causes of the conflict - occupation, oppression, attacks against civilians on both sides - may be the most pathetic thing of all.

[1] "Code Blue in Jerusalem," by Joshua Hammer,
Newsweek, 1 July 2002.
[2] "Europe's Anti-Israel Excuse," by Abraham H. Foxman,
Washington Post, 27 June 2002.
[3] "The Wall," by Yossi Klein Halevi, The New Republic,
8 July 2002.
[4] "Suspected Palestinian Informer Shot," The Associated Press,
14 July 2002.
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