One of the 21st century’s first important speeches on antisemitism by a world leader was given by then secretary of state Colin Powell, in April 2004.
The occasion was the second dedicated conference on antisemitism, organized in Berlin, by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), a group of then-56 countries whose mission is to “work for security, peace and stability” for the billion people living in Europe, Eurasia and North America.
I served as an advisor to the United States delegation to the 2004 gathering, which was headed by former New York Mayor Ed Koch. The host was Joschka Fischer, the German foreign minister; the conference was chaired by Bulgaria’s Foreign Minister Solomon Passy, who was the OSCE chairman-in-office, the title given to the foreign minister of the country that chairs the OSCE that year.
The Berlin Conference, as it became known, materialized only three years after the infamous UN Conference on Racism in Durban, South Africa, which turned into a week-long hate fest of antisemitism and anti-Zionism. The rhetoric which spewed forth at that meeting, including branding Israel an “apartheid state,” also led to the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) campaign which has incessantly sought, to this day, to demonize and delegitimize Israel and its supporters.
Powell had planned to speak at the Durban conference, but decided against attending when it appeared that it would spin out of control, which it did. In the interim, as the antisemitism pot began to boil globally, the OSCE, whose agenda includes human rights issues, announced its conference in Berlin, tying the focus on antisemitism to the place from which the worst crimes against the Jewish people originated. Said Powell in his opening remarks: “Berlin is a fitting backdrop for our meeting. The firestorm of antisemitic hatred that was the Holocaust was set here in Berlin.”
“Now, in the opening years of the 21st century,” Powell said, “we…have come to stamp out new fires of antisemitism within our societies, and to kindle lights of tolerance so that future generations will never know the unspeakable horrors that hatred can unleash.”
Powell decried the dramatic rise in antisemitism that was occurring within democratic nations, saying, “We must send the clear message far and wide that antisemitism is always wrong, and always dangerous.”
He stated that “we must not permit antisemitic crimes to be shoved off as inevitable side effects of inter-ethnic conflicts. Political disagreements do not justify physical assaults, against Jews in our streets, the destruction of Jewish schools, or the desecration of synagogues and cemeteries. There is no justification for antisemitism.”
And then, perhaps the most telling line in the speech: “It is not antisemitic to criticize the policies of the state of Israel. But the line is crossed when Israel or its leaders are demonized or vilified, for example by the use of Nazi symbols and racist caricatures.”
The “crossing the line” concept was groundbreaking. Hitherto, those who engaged in castigating Israel for racist policies had hidden behind the “legitimate criticism of Israel” fig leaf. Now, Powell had lifted a veil that would more easily reveal the antisemitism intentions of those who engaged in such rhetoric. The Berlin Declaration, issued at the conclusion of the conference basically incorporated the secretary’s very words: “…International developments or political issues, including those in Israel or in the rest of the Middle East, never justify antisemitism.”
Powell’s speech would help to pave the way for important advances in the fight against antisemitism. In 2016, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), a consortium of now-34 countries committed to programs of remembrance, research and education, adopted a “working definition of antisemitism.” It serves as an invaluable baseline for addressing classic antisemitic stereotyping and tropes, accusing Jews of collective guilt and dual loyalty, denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, or accusations that Israel is a racist endeavor.
In recent years, the definition has attracted the endorsement of an increasing number of nation states, provinces, non-governmental organizations, universities, sporting associations and others. After hundreds of years with no frame of reference to define this ancient hydra of hatred, the IHRA document has been, and will continue to be, an essential tool in combating it.
Powell closed his speech with a prescriptive for the future: “It is especially important that we instill in our children values and behaviors that can avert such calamities….Tolerance, like hatred, is learned behavior passed from one generation to the next unless the new generation is educated differently. Let tolerance be our legacy. May future generations of schoolchildren read that in the early decades of the 21st century mankind finally consigned antisemitism to history, never to darken the world again.”
Seventeen years on, no truer, or more prescient words, were spoken. Powell’s words are more relevant—and more needed—today, perhaps—then they were in 2004. Driven by social media, by doctrinaire politics and by extremists from the left, right and the Islamic world, antisemitism is seemingly veering out of control.
It’s good today to recall Powell’s speech, with its incisive analysis and his instinctive understanding of how to confront the problem. His voice may have been stilled, but the message he left is as meaningful as ever.
Read CEO Mariaschin's expert analysis in the Times of Israel.
Daniel S. Mariaschin is CEO of B'nai B'rith International.
Lebanon’s new prime minister, Najib Mikati, made it clear in a press conference last week that he would do everything in his power to reverse his country’s descent into economic chaos. He said he’d cooperate with anyone and everyone to transform Lebanon’s current crisis, “with the exception of Israel, of course.”
Notwithstanding Israel’s offer of humanitarian assistance made weeks ago, Mikati’s throwaway dismissal of contact with his neighbor to the south is the stuff from which decades of Arab rejectionism of peace with Israel was made. It is a remnant of the Arab League’s “Three No’s” declared in Khartoum in 1967 in the aftermath of the Six-Day War: “No peace, no recognition, no negotiations” with Israel. Full stop.
Major breaches in that Arab League wall began with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat’s and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin’s historic peace agreement in 1979, and then the Israeli-Jordanian peace treaty signed by Jordan’s King Hussein and Israel’s Yitzhak Rabin in 1994. But early optimism that set in after these two agreements dissipated with the intifadas from 1987-1991 and 2000-2005.
With two anniversaries in the history of Middle East peacemaking upon us this week, it’s important to praise those who have taken steps to break with nihilism and rejection, and to call out those who have made a business of perpetuating violence and hatred.
I was among those present on the White House lawn on September 13, 1993, for the signing of the Oslo Accords between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
There was a sense of incredulity and of “did we ever think we’d see this day” in the air as the principals, led by US President Bill Clinton, and observed by Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres and Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, signed the appropriate documents.
I did not have a front row seat, but I was close enough to see the pained look on Rabin’s face as Clinton encouraged the Israeli prime minister and PLO leader Yasser Arafat to shake hands. Not pained because of the historic moment, but most likely because Arafat’s hands were soiled by 30 years of terrorism, and responsible for the deaths of so many Israelis in some of the most heinous acts imaginable.
It had to have been one of the most difficult moments of Rabin’s life — and it showed. I’m sure many in the crowd were asking themselves if Arafat could be trusted.
The other anniversary, on September 15, will mark one year since the signing of the Abraham Accords, on the same White House lawn. Many of those in the assembled crowd had been there in 1993, as well, though this time, they were wearing masks because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
There was also the same feeling of expectation and optimism, as President Donald Trump, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and the foreign ministers of the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain appeared on the White House South Lawn balcony, then descended the staircase to sign the Abraham Accords normalization agreement.
From my seat, I saw not pained looks on the faces of the principals, but a sense of breakthrough and accomplishment. In a way, the signing ceremony lingered, as if in slow motion, to allow all those present to savor the moment.
In the weeks that followed, Sudan, and Morocco — with its iconic Jewish history and ties to Israel’s hundreds of thousands of Jews born in that country and their descendants — joined in, pledging to normalize relations with Israel.
If there was anything discordant at all about the events of a year ago, it is because for the previous nearly three decades, the Palestinian issue was cast as being the indispensable icebreaker in Middle East diplomacy. It was seen as the Gordian Knot preventing Israel’s acceptance in the region. Policy maker after policy maker, in the US, in Europe, and at the United Nations, perpetuated this conventional wisdom. It became a mantra that guided any number of failed initiatives to push an Israeli-Palestinian agreement — by hook or by crook.
But, like the carefully executed back-channel Israeli-Egyptian contacts that produced the treaty between those two countries, forward-looking diplomats in the Gulf and in Israel saw solid reasons to find common cause to bring them together: a hegemonistic Iran and any number of economic and other joint ventures that just made plain good diplomatic sense.
The Oslo Accords held the same promise, but that was not to be.
Arafat and then Mahmoud Abbas continuously played a double game, at times paying lip service to the idea of negotiations, but all the while making it abundantly clear that they were unwilling to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, keeping their hand in the business of demonizing and delegitimizing Israel at the United Nations, and either signing off on terrorist acts against Israel, or rewarding those (and their families) who carry them out.
The words “good will” were never part of either leader’s lexicon. Since Oslo, an entire generation of Palestinians has been raised on a succession of false hopes and expectations; on hatred of Israel and of Jews; and on zero-sum demands by leaders who themselves have become enriched by their titled positions and political clout.
In the past year alone, trade between Israel and the UAE and between Israel and Bahrain has grown exponentially. Banking, cyber security, and environmental quality agreements have been signed, and academic institutions are partnering with each other. An important agreement to advance the quality of healthcare, including pandemic research, has also been signed by Israel and the UAE.
But perhaps the most important developments of all have been in the people-to-people and getting-to-know-you realm. Exchange students are studying at universities in the Abraham Accords countries. Memoranda of Understanding on combating antisemitism and on Holocaust education have been signed with the UAE, Bahrain, and Morocco. Air links have been established between Israel and these new partners; hundreds of thousands of Israelis have already traveled to all three destinations, and the prospect of thousands of visitors in the other direction — to Israel — shows promise as well, the pandemic notwithstanding.
It is currently impossible to write a paragraph about the Palestinian issue with any of the same upbeat sense of the future. The leaders in Ramallah have seen this parade passing by and it seemingly hasn’t opened any eyes about their own condition. They are mired in hate and rejection. Try as they did to push back against the Abraham Accords, wagging fingers and issuing empty threats at its participants, they have shown themselves to be angry and hateful, living in the past, and cultivating a profile of victimhood that they appear to want to very much perpetuate.
This being the Middle East, anything can happen on any given day that can change the immediate course of history. But these two anniversaries present a stark picture of what happens when one party makes intransigence a policy, and when others see the benefits not only in burying the hatchet, but in working to make the neighborhood a safer, more prosperous place for everyone.
For those who have chosen the second path, happy anniversary.
Read CEO Mariaschin's expert analysis in the Algemeiner.
Daniel S. Mariaschin is CEO of B'nai B'rith International.
(July 1, 2021 / JNS) Last month, I participated in a conference for young adults on the current Jewish agenda, hosted by the Jewish community of Oporto, Portugal.
Three of the speakers were asked if they thought there could ever be another Holocaust.
The answers were uniformly “not likely,” the reasoning being that we are now living, after two millennia, in an era when there is not only a sovereign Jewish state, but one with the wherewithal to be a haven for those escaping oppression and the ability to project its military and other forces to save and protect those in danger.
The upcoming 45th anniversary of the rescue of Israeli hostages being held by terrorists at Entebbe, Uganda, is perhaps the best case in point.
That story began on June 27, 1976, when terrorists connected to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and Germany’s radical Revolutionary Cells organization hijacked, on a stopover in Athens, an Air France Airbus A300 flight from Tel Aviv to Paris. The terrorists demanded the plane fly to the airport in Entebbe, where demands were made for the release of 53 Palestinian prisoners being held in Israel and several other countries.
At Entebbe, 148 non-Jewish hostages were separated from the 94 Jewish passengers, most of them Israeli nationals, and the Air France crew. The non-Jewish hostages were released within two days; the terrorists made clear the Jewish passengers would be killed if their demands were not met. The Ugandan government, led by its infamous leader Idi Amin, announced its support for the hijackers, punctuated with an appearance by Amin himself in the airport terminal hall in which the hostages were being held.
That set into motion an intricate rescue plan conceived by the Israel Defense Forces and the Mossad, which sent, on July 3 and 4, some 100 commandos over 2,500 miles, flying at night, to rescue those being held. The 90-minute raid was successful, though Lt. Col. Yonatan Netanyahu, who led the raid on the ground, and three hostages, including Dora Bloch — a passenger who had been taken earlier to a local hospital and later killed — lost their lives in the operation. In the raid, seven terrorists were killed.
Without exaggeration, it was a glorious moment in Jewish history — one of those “where were you when you heard about…?” instances that you recall as if it were yesterday.
That day, I was at Boston’s Hatch Memorial Shell on the Charles River, on the first date with my wife-to-be, taking in the Boston Pops Orchestra celebrating America’s bicentennial. (It was an extraordinary month for Israel; Miss Israel, Rina Messinger, would be crowned Miss Universe at the competition being held in Hong Kong a week later.)
The message of the Entebbe rescue immediately resonated.
The separation of Jewish passengers from all others, coming 31 years after the Holocaust, recalled Nazi-like tactics still fresh in the minds of Jews, and especially survivors of that barbarity.
This was an era of airline hijackings and high-profile terrorist attacks, many of which were carried out in Europe. The message that Israel’s long arm could be projected anywhere to rescue not only Israelis but Jews in danger reset the counter-terrorism table.
The rescue also instilled pride in Israel among Jews worldwide. Even today, people still shake their heads in amazement that daunting logistical challenges were overcome in such a short period to allow the operation to take place. This came only three years after the Yom Kippur War, which, though Israel was ultimately victorious, had shaken the confidence of some after setbacks for the Jewish state in the early days of fighting in that conflict.
That said, the rescue at Entebbe should not have come to us as a complete surprise. The biblical injunction “Pidyon Shvuyim,” or redemption of those taken prisoner or hostage, was clearly on the minds of those who planned and carried out this historic mission.
I can think of other Israeli-organized or led operations, perhaps somewhat less daring but equally essential, that redeemed Jews in peril: Operation Magic Carpet (also known as Operation on Eagles’ Wings), which airlifted more than 50,000 Jews, mainly from Yemen, to Israel in 1949; more than 120,000 Jews were airlifted from Iraq in Operation Ezra and Nehemiah; and 1991’s Operation Solomon, which in a 36-hour timeframe brought nearly 15,000 Ethiopian Jews to Israel.
For two millennia, Jews lived either at the sufferance of potentates, autocrats or dictators, or in societies where they were tolerated minorities. Occasionally there were benevolent leaders who protected the Jewish minority, but pogroms, harsh discriminatory restrictions and other limits on basic freedoms consigned Jews to life on the edge.
For those fortunate to have immigrated to the U.S. or to some countries far from the horrors of World War II, the idea of being “protected” became less of an issue, but for millions of others, there was no place to turn. The rise of Hitler and the Holocaust that followed, when collaboration with the Nazis, apathy or indifference to their fate were the attitudes of the day, underscored the tragic powerlessness of Jewish communities in Europe. This, notwithstanding the tremendous courage of Jews who fought as partisans or who rescued other Jews from annihilation.
The re-establishment of the State of Israel changed that equation.
There is a photo that constantly stands out in my mind when asked the question, “Do you think it can happen again?” The photo shows Israeli F-15 fighter jets flying in formation over Auschwitz on Holocaust Remembrance Day in 2003. The crew members were all children of or related to victims of the Holocaust.
One of the pilots involved in the flyover that day, Avi Maor, said, “I felt that I was in the skies with the strength of the IAF, the IDF and the entire State of Israel, and that down there were the relics of our people. It hit us when the flyby ended, and there was silence on the radio and in the cockpit. Each one of us was absorbed in thoughts about the sortie and its significance.”
Forty-five years on, the memory of those two overwhelmingly intense July days, when four Israeli Hercules transports emerged in darkness at Entebbe Airport to free nearly 100 captives who were being held and threatened simply because they were Israelis and Jews, needs to be conveyed to new generations as an object lesson in Zionism and the need for a Jewish state.
Our people should never again be placed in such danger. But just knowing that the “Entebbe principle” is there to be exercised should the need arise again is a comfort to us all.
Read CEO Mariaschin's expert analysis in JNS.
Daniel S. Mariaschin is CEO of B'nai B'rith International.
As far back as I can remember, my mother would always make us aware of anti-Semitism. Not necessarily from a historic perspective; her admonitions were about what she had seen and experienced in her life. One of the first stories I recall her telling was about a group of boys in her Maine neighborhood, after church let out on Sunday, who would throw snowballs at the Jewish kids, including her brothers, who lived nearby.
Or, she might talk about the German-American Bund, the pro-Nazi organization whose paramilitary-dressed thugs would hold rallies in New York in the 1930s, spouting the anti-Semitic rhetoric of Hitler’s Third Reich.
Occasionally, she would tell us about Detroit’s Father Charles Coughlin, an early manipulator of the radio airwaves, who held millions in thrall with his raw brand of classic anti-Semitism, including charges of Jewish control of the banks and for bringing about the Bolshevik Revolution.
And then, there were real-time accounts of a customer who might come into our clothing store who complained about another shop owner who had just “Jewed” her on the price of some purchase. This didn’t happen often, but I heard it enough to be aware that these kinds of tropes were still on the lips of many in the 1950s and 1960s.
I knew, too, when my older sisters were applying to college, that certain schools imposed quotas on Jewish enrollment. Many hotels and resorts made no bones about the fact that they were unwelcoming to Jewish guests. We heard that banks, big insurance companies and other sectors of the economy were largely off-limits when it came to hiring Jews. There were neighborhoods and clubs where it was known Jews were not welcome. Jewish actors and entertainers chose to Anglicize their names so as to make their career paths less obstructed.
I think of all this when I try to comprehend and analyze the explosion of anti-Semitism we have experienced in the United States over the past few weeks. Our focus has been so much on European and Islamic anti-Semitism, that we may have become inured to it as hiring and other forms of day-to-day discrimination nearly disappeared, and over the past two generations life became immeasurably better for Jews. We concluded that we had entered a circle of acceptance we had never before reached.
When it comes to the rise in European anti-Semitism we’ve witnessed over the same period, I have often thought that it stems from two sources. One, is that there is a deep-seated resentment of Jews for reminding Europeans that they stood by, or actively participated in, the persecution of its Jewish community. Holocaust remembrance is not only for us, it is for everyone to know exactly how Jews became victims, with few hands to hold and to help during the attempts to exterminate us as a people. I’m not a psychoanalyst, but my sense is that many otherwise reasonable Europeans see in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict an opportunity to simply level the playing field. Yes, you were victims, but now you are the victimizer. End of argument.
Connected to this is the other source for so much of the anti-Semitism we’ve seen in Europe and now in the United States. It is the cover that “legitimate criticism of Israel” gives for those who think the creation of Israel was a grave mistake, or which for some reason it shouldn’t be allowed to be stronger than those who wish to destroy it. There is a perniciousness in this patronizing view of the Jewish state and of all the reasons why it came into existence in the first place.
But now, we are way beyond that.
The Jewish connection to Israel (it is, after all the Jewish state) has opened the floodgates of what appears to be bottled up hatred by a dizzying array of accusers that each day brings us new verbal and physical attacks we never thought possible in the United States. Beatings in New York City, the largest Jewish community in the world. Jewish diners being terrorized in laid back Los Angeles, a mob demanding to know which of them were Jewish. Members of Congress, filled with hubris from their-elected positions, lecturing us on dual-loyalty and Israel of being an “apartheid state” and engaging in “state terror.” University chancellors and mayoral candidates who first try to condemn anti-Semitism, but are later cowed into retracting, clarifying or apologizing for their remarks. So-called “influencers,” many of whom I am certain would have trouble finding Israel on a map of the world, shaping millennial and Generation Z public opinion into a chorus of rabid denigration of Israel and those who support it.
There is a piling on aspect to all this that cannot simply be laid at the feet of the proliferation of social media. I don’t know if it is resentment of what a small, historically persecuted people have been able to do with their lives to make the world a better place. Or, as many have said, it is the product of a progressive worldview on steroids, including intersectionality, which mindlessly, and in an ideologically hollow formula, places Israel in the role of “colonial oppressor.”
I do know this, for sure: we will not emerge from this well, unless respected voices and figures from outside our community, who see what is happening to us and know it is unacceptable, join the fight. What seems to be missing over the past few weeks are more of these folks, whether public officials, faith leaders, top CEOs, heads of leading non-profits and others. We have friends out there, but my sense is there is a strong measure of trepidation when it comes to incurring the wrath of progressives and the woke crowd or, that Jews can take care of this themselves, and don’t need assistance to win the day.
In our own community, we need to reassemble the kind of solidarity American Jewry has demonstrated in the past, but surprisingly seems to be out-of-date or anachronistic to some. Let’s be clear: the attacks on Jews in America’s cities, the demands by roving mobs to tell them if we are Jewish, and the swastika and graffiti daubers, are not making distinctions about our ideological proclivities, the level of our Zionist inclinations, or our party affiliation. This is everyone’s battle, and those who think they are immune from it, should immediately Google “recent acts of anti-Semitism.”
My mother would be tremendously disappointed by the anti-Semitism we are seeing today, but not completely surprised by it. She was brought to America as a child by parents seeking a better life, from a place that was sodden for centuries by anti-Semitism. They found it here, too, but the promise of a better day — for Jews and everyone else—was just around the corner. She lived to see tremendous advances over the decades, but realized that anti-Semitism is a virus that takes little to bring to the surface, to burn again, another day.
This is one of those times. Stunned as many are by it, this latest incarnation of the world’s oldest hatred mustn’t be allowed to fester and grow in a cloud of debating points over whether this is “anti-Semitism or is it just anti-Zionism.” Just ask the folks who were dining out when the passing mob demanded to know if they were Jewish or not.
It is not a cliche to say we need all hands on deck to fight this. We’re not living in 19th century or mid-1930s Europe. But this is a time for friends and allies to join us in calling out and acting against those who are engaging in these daily acts of intimidation and violence. We ourselves are capable of standing up to it, but to really send a message, it is vital that others be roused from complacency, and he heard.
As a community, we have given much to the building of American democracy and civilization. We took the promise of America at its word and have done everything imaginable to have it apply not only to us, but to all who live here. The strength of the Republic has been its diversity, and unlike the world of our forefathers in Europe, being Jewish means not living in fear of who we are and, in the case of the State of Israel, whom we choose to support.
In this hour of challenge, it is not too much to ask friends, neighbors, colleagues and so many others to join us in extinguishing the hatred that has manifested itself so blatantly, and in so many places and so many ways, in our very own country.
Read CEO Mariaschin's expert analysis in the Times of Israel.
Daniel S. Mariaschin is CEO of B'nai B'rith International.
With Secretary of State Antony Blinken visiting the Middle East this week, it’s time to do some real-time stock-taking before plunging into initiatives or prescriptives that could lead quickly to yet another round of fighting.
Unfortunately, the series of battles between Israel and Hamas invite the worst kind of conventional wisdom, which has been disproved time and again over the past 20 years: the moral equivalency, the rote professions of “Israel has a right to defend itself,” followed a week later from the same quarters by statements that the Jewish state must demonstrate restraint and that its response to Hamas must not be “disproportionate.” This is followed by the media’s near total ignoring of the lengths to which the Israelis go to protect civilians during warfare, and then facile calls for a two-state solution as the remedy for all this.
This horrible cycle of events suggests that few lessons have been learned over time.
Now, let’s take a look at some of these steps in greater detail.
Moral equivalency: it beggars the imagination that after all we know about Hamas — its charter (which calls for the destruction of Israel and is filled with antisemitic language), that it cynically uses human shields to protect its missile launchers and leadership hierarchy, and the fact that the organization is on the terrorism lists of many countries — why it is not held to account in the court of international public opinion?
The United Nations Security Council statement calling for an immediate ceasefire could not even bring itself to mention the word “Hamas” in its text.
When some members of Congress, in their Twitter hemorrhaging, can’t find a few characters to unequivocally condemn the indiscriminate targeting of Israeli civilians by 4,000 Hamas rockets, what should we expect from those in the media who react similarly in their coverage — or from the pro-Palestinian mobs that have begun attacking Jews in New York, Los Angeles, and in cites large and small around the world?
Rote professions: With the exception of countries like Austria, the Czech Republic, and Slovenia, which flew Israeli flags from government buildings in solidarity with the Jewish State, and Germany, which issued a strong statement in support of Israel, most democracies uttered only feeble confirmations of “Israel’s right to defend itself.”
Of course Israel has a right to defend itself; but this has become an obligatory and hollow statement, especially when followed only days later by calls to stop the fighting, interrupting Israel’s attempt to fully degrade Hamas’ ability to strike again.
If Hamas is on so many state terrorism lists, why not demand that Israel finish the job?
And this leads in to another glossed over aspect of the fighting: the extraordinary attention Israel pays to avoid civilian casualties.
The media plays, ad infinitum, video clips of imploding and bombed out buildings in Gaza. Notwithstanding Israel’s detailed explanation of how it deploys the “door knock” method of warning building inhabitants of imminent strikes, accompanied by drone surveillance to make sure civilians are not in the area; phone calls and text messages that are also sent as warnings; and Israel’s pinpoint identification of hundreds of military targets spread amongst Gaza’s civilian population, it seems that such care is dismissed — or, perhaps more to the point, gets in the way of the story the media wishes to tell, which is that Israel is callous (and often worse) when it comes to protecting civilians on the ground.
The rush to a two-state solution: in a perfect world, this would be the answer to resolving such an intractable conflict. But since the Oslo Accords were signed in 1993, we’ve learned a lot about Palestinian resistance — not reluctance — to concluding an agreement. The prospective partner in this case, the Palestinian Authority (PA), led by Mahmoud Abbas, has rejected numerous attempts brokered by the United States and others to resolve the conflict. Not at Camp David in 2000, nor after Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, not at the 2008 Annapolis Conference, nor after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s conciliatory speech at Bar-Ilan University in 2009, nor during the Kerry Initiative of 2013-2014, did Abbas show serious interest in recognizing Israel as a Jewish state and getting down to the business of concluding an end of conflict and renunciation of claims.
Just weeks before the disturbances on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount, the White House announced that it would resume funding to the PA, as well as resuming its substantial contributions to UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, which serves Palestinians in the region. The aid to UNRWA will resume, despite its innate corruption and its incitement of hate toward Israel and Jews in its network of schools and other organizations.
But despite the renewal of American aid, Abbas failed to send any signals to calm the situation. Instead, knowing his Fatah faction would be badly beaten in elections slated for March 22, he called off the vote, blaming Israel and, to boot, inciting and exhorting the mobs on the Temple Mount as a means of deflecting an outcry over his electoral decision.
A two-state solution, in the context of the current crisis, now seems more than unrealistic. Given the crisis of the past few weeks, we might one day be looking at Hamas rule not only to Israel’s south, but also to its east, in the West Bank. Why would any Israeli government, having lived through decades of terror and rocket attacks, look to make itself even more vulnerable?
And there’s one other abashedly glossed over and ignored piece of this puzzle: Hamas is in the thrall of Iran, which is seeking to completely surround Israel by well-armed proxies, all the time genocidally calling for “Zionism’s excision” from the Middle East.
All this, while the United States and its P5+1 partners (the US, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany) eagerly pursue negotiations with Iran and a return to the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action Agreement), which would remove sanctions imposed on Tehran for its nuclear program and its blatant attempts to advance it.
Many Hamas rockets and missiles are surely stamped “designed in or made in Iran.” Did the P5+1 condition future discussions with Iran on a cessation of its military relationship with Hamas and its other Gaza proxy, Islamic Jihad?
Hamas has thanked Iran for its help, and the Iranian leadership has congratulated Hamas on its “victory.” Need we better proof of what is going on here?
Simple formulations like “restoring calm,” reviving negotiations with rejectionist partners, and refusing to call out Iran’s role in the fighting will only bring about another round of battles, unless they are accompanied by tough and unequivocal demands. Hamas must be disarmed, the Iranian missile pipeline to Gaza must end, and the Palestinian Authority must get out of the business of speaking one way to Washington and European capitals, and another way to the people it says it represents.
This means recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, ending its call for a “right of return” for millions of refugees (now numbering over 5 million, according to a biased and hypocritical count by UNRWA), and an end to glorifying terrorists and riots, and paying salaries to terrorists who kill and attack Jews.
And one reminder to US policymakers this week — Israel is our ally and friend. Take a look at the correlation of voting at the United Nations; Israel votes more with the United States than our European allies. It shares our values, including the premium placed on human life. It is the only democracy in a Middle East filled with autocracies and worse. It has made tremendous contributions to improving the lives of all through medicine, science, technology, and more. And it is a country, ancient in time, but re-established in the last century on the ashes of a 12-year attempt to eliminate the Jewish people in its entirety.
It’s time to discard the “conventional wisdom” on Israel.
Read CEO Mariaschin's expert analysis in the Algemeiner.
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