By Jonathan Tobin
For decades, even many friends of Israel have tamely accepted the idea that Israel’s presence in the West Bank is, in and of itself, a crime against the Palestinians. Thus, it is hardly remarkable that the mainstream media’s discussion of the kidnapping of three Jewish teenagers in the West Bank is being conducted from a frame of reference that views Palestinian terrorism as an understandable, if regrettable result of Israeli provocations. As Seth noted earlier, that was the clear upshot of a New York Times article about Israeli efforts to find the kidnapping victims. It is also a constant refrain on social media where the teens have been blasted not only for their poor judgment in hitchhiking in an area where attacks on Jews have been frequent but in the very idea that in some way Palestinian violence is justified.
That was the conceit of a particularly outrageous article published yesterday in Haaretz by columnist Gideon Levy in which this leftist extremist said the crime was the natural result of Israeli policy on settlements as well the country’s reluctance to release imprisoned terrorists. It has become commonplace to find anti-Zionist rants in Haaretz’s pages but the notion of treating the captivity of Palestinians who have Israeli blood on their hands as morally equivalent to the kidnapping of children breaks new ground even for that intellectually bankrupt exercise in journalism. While it would be easy to dismiss Levy as an outlier, his callous dismissal of Palestinian terror as merely Israel’s due is very much representative of much of the commentary that is published internationally about the peace process. But in a strange way, Levy got it right when he wrote the following:
If the Gaza Strip doesn’t fire Qassam rockets at Israel, the Gaza Strip doesn’t exist. And if, in the West Bank, yeshiva students aren’t abducted, then the West Bank disappears from Israel’s consciousness.
Levy believes such that such efforts are justified because he claims Israelis have blocked all other paths for the Palestinians except violence. This is, to put it bluntly, a lie. It is the Palestinian Arabs who have consistently and repeatedly rejected offers of peace and statehood from the United Nations partition resolution of 1947 through the Palestinian Authority’s four “no’s” over the last 15 years. But where Levy is right is when he writes of the Palestinians seeing their existence as inextricably tied to the war against Israel. Palestinian national identity has become inextricably tied to terror, whether in the form of missile barrages, kidnappings, or suicide bombings aimed at maiming and killing as many Jews as possible.
Levy writes that the idea “that settlers could live in security in the territories” is getting a “wake-up call” about what lies ahead. This stems from his belief that the presence of Jews anywhere in the West Bank or parts of Jerusalem is illegitimate. In making such an argument, Levy is echoing an intolerable, indeed indefensible notion that is routinely put forward by Israel’s enemies that seems rooted more in anti-Semitism than a belief in Palestinian rights. But even if we were to accept the idea that peace could be actually be achieved by Israel withdrawing from every centimeter of those parts of its ancient homeland that came into its possession during the Six-Day War, the notion that terrorism constitutes a proper response to a diplomatic standoff says a lot more about the political culture of the Palestinians than it does about Israeli settlement policies.
Put simply, the notion that anti-Israel terrorism is justified is one that accepts the premise that the Palestinians have the right to evict Jews from any territory that they claim. In Levy’s formulation, Palestinian efforts to murder Jews are indistinguishable from those of the Israel Defense Forces to prevent or punish murder of Jews. In such an upside-down moral universe, Jews are guilty by definition merely by existing even when they are teenage religious students and Palestinians are sympathetic even when engaged in acts of egregious terror.
Yet as absurd as this may sound, Levy’s arguments are the foundation of much of the criticism of Israel and its policies even by those who are too fastidious to justify terrorism. But in writing in this manner, Levy and the countless anti-Israel writers elsewhere who share his point of view are merely proving that the conflict isn’t about territory, settlements, or an occupation but an existential struggle in which Jewish sovereignty or self-defense conducted anywhere in the country, regardless of where its borders are drawn, is viewed as illegitimate.
The majority of Israelis have rightly come to believe that until this culture of hate that dictates Palestinian rejectionism changes, there is no point in further endangering their country by making concessions to the Palestinians. As much as they deplore the rare instances of Israeli vandalism or violence against Arabs, they understand that what happened to the three teenagers is widely supported by Palestinian opinion. No matter what your opinion about what the ideal solution to the Middle East conflict might look like, the justifications of Palestinian terror makes plain that what is at stake here isn’t settlements or settlers but a war against Jews.