As his article in the May/June issue of Tikkun magazine (“Are Israeli Policies Entrenching Anti-Semitism Worldwide”) attests, Tony Klug is part of that broad camp for Israel’s security and a two-state solution with the Palestinians that I also inhabit. He also shares with me an iconoclastic idea that I posed in an op-ed in The Forward seven years ago, following a conference at New York’s YIVO about the “New Anti-Semitism”: that today’s Jew-hatred is more about the televised and Webcast views of Arab suffering at the hands of Israeli power than traditional anti-Jewish prejudices. To be sure, classic hate imagery (previously dormant) underlines the situation, but recent acts against non-Israeli Jews are a spillover from the Mideast conflict.
Where I depart from Dr. Klug is in his apparent conviction that this is entirely the fault of Jews—of the narrow “tribalistic” bond of Jews with their Israeli brethren on the one hand, and of the unconscionable policies of settlement expansion, military brutality, and discriminatory practices of the State of Israel on the other. I don’t deny that these play a role, but nowhere does Klug attach any responsibility to violence by Arab terror groups or the Palestinian Authority’s failure to accommodate to moderate Israeli peace offers and concessions (I hasten to add that the PA’s negotiating failure is also Israel’s).
Israel’s move to the right can be attributed to the awful fact that the Oslo peace process collapsed into the second intifada, costing 1,000 Israeli lives, and then Israel’s unilateral withdrawals from Lebanon and Gaza resulted in more attacks. Causation is not as simple as most Israelis and Jews believe, but the coincidence of events persuaded them of direct cause & effect and of total Arab culpability.
Klug’s indignation seems especially overwrought in a section asserting that if Israel’s harsh deeds were committed by a government of Buddhists or Hindus, the world would similarly denounce them, and there would be repercussions for diaspora Buddhists and Hindus who show solidarity with their kin (an especially nasty speculation on the part of Klug). One wonders if Klug’s been following events in Sri Lanka and Kashmir.
Sri Lanka in particular is a close parallel, where a separate ethnic and religious group supported a terrorist movement that fought for independence and was mercilessly pounded into submission last year, almost exactly at the same time that Israel hit back at Gaza with somewhat less violence, inflicting far fewer casualties. (I did not support the Gaza offensive.) We have yet to see indignant reactions by the world against the Sinhalese (Buddhist) majority government, not to mention against India’s violent occupation over restive Muslims in Kashmir, nor (God forbid) against their respective diasporas.
A more effective and radical peace posture is not to cast blame on one side, as Klug does, but to patiently unpack historical details as completely and fairly as possible. Israelis and Palestinians together killed the peace process of the 1990s, in a tragic and fateful unfolding of events.
Baruch Goldstein committed the first mass murder incident of the Oslo years and Israel failed to react against the settler community from whence he came; this constituted a huge provocation for Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorism. Secondly, an Israeli murdered Yitzhak Rabin, who would likely have been reelected in 1996, instead of leaving Peres (a serial loser of elections) to fall to Netanyahu and the anti-Oslo right; Peres made the colossal error of killing the Hamas master bomber, Ayyash, during the election campaign–which led directly to a wave of reprisal terrorist attacks that erased his 20-point lead over Netanyahu.
Four years later, Barak rejected the phased withdrawal that was an obligation under Oslo, and this led to his mad dash/last ditch effort at Camp David that was too fevered and high pressured to succeed. Barak also allowed Sharon to promenade on the Temple Mount with hundreds of security personnel—a direct trigger for the beginning of the second intifada.
But I also know that Arafat thought he could manipulate the violence of the second intifada to advance his bargaining position. This represented a total misunderstanding of Israelis and their electoral system; it was Arafat who elected Sharon in 2001 as surely as if he had stuffed the ballot boxes. Arafat’s successor, Mahmoud Abbas, has admitted that the second intifada was a terrible mistake for the Palestinians. And it was the rise of Hamas to power after Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza, and the former’s on-again/ off-again use of violence against southern Israel (events ignored by Klug), which led to Netanyahu’s return to power—along with his racist/ buffoon allies in Lieberman’s Yisrael Beitenu party.