As for now, I hold to a view that took firm form after the Palestinians’ definitive rejection of the Camp David – Taba peace efforts of 2000 and 2001. It then became obvious to me, as indeed it did to the Israeli public, that the Arab elites and the Arab “street” will not tolerate a Jewish state, no matter how small, anywhere in what the prevailing Arab view holds to be sacred Arab land, namely Israel.
In brief, I would accept what Professor Richard Landes has described as the Honor/Shame-Jihad paradigm:
The [Honor/Shame-Jihad paradigm] understands the Arab-Israeli conflict through the prism of honor-shame culture and Islamic jihad. These elements of Arab culture are the main factors that have made it impossible to reach a solution to the conflict. Arab leaders view any compromise with Israel as “losing face,” since such an agreement would mean recognizing as a “worthy foe” an inferior group that should be subject. Such a blow to Arab honor cannot be tolerated for cultural and political reasons: losing face means to feel utter humiliation, to lose public credibility, and to lose power. In search of lost honor, Arab (and Palestinian) elites, never particularly concerned with the welfare of their masses…
Source: Al-Aqsa TV (Hamas), Oct. 9, 2009
Friday prayer and sermon, unidentified Hamas speaker:
“Today we look at Al-Aqsa as it sighs beneath the yoke of the Jews, beneath the yoke of the sons of apes and pigs, brothers of apes and pigs. Destroy the Jews and their helpers.”Click here to view
Holocaust-denial, currently the most practiced of the anti-Semitic propaganda tropes worldwide, is pervasive in the PA territory as it is in the media of the Arab world. The PA President, Mahmoud Abbas, has a PhD in Holocaust-denial, awarded by a Soviet university:
The Other Side: the Secret Relationship Between Nazism and Zionism (Arabic: al-Wajh al-Akhar: al-‘Alaqat as-Sirriya bayna an-Naziya wa’s-Sihyuniya. Publisher: Dar Ibn Rushd, Amman, Jordan. 1984) is the title of a book by Mahmoud Abbas, published in Arabic. It is based on his CandSc thesis, completed in 1982 at Patrice Lumumba University (now the Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia) under the title The Connection between the Nazis and the Leaders of the Zionist Movement (Russian: Связи между сионизмом и нацизмом. 1933–1945), and defended at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Soviet Academy of Sciences.
In the book, Abbas argues that the Nazi Holocaust had been exaggerated and that Zionists created “the myth” of six million murdered Jews, which he called a “fantastic lie”. He further claimed that those Jews which were killed by the Nazis were actually the victims of a Zionist-Nazi plot aimed to fuel vengeance against Jews and to expand their mass extermination. (Wikipedia)
One of the most symbolic actions of the Arab elites is the annual observance of “Nakba Day” (Day of the Catastrophe) to mark the establishment of Israel in 1948. Contrary to verbal declarations that PA demands could be satisfied by a return to 1967 borders, the staging of the annual Nakba event consitutes a rejection of Israel even if it were confined to its most limited borders, i.e. those of 1948. These Nakba observances send a powerful message to the Arab “street”: the existence of Israel itself is a crime, no matter how small Israel might be; and our cause today is what it was in 1948, when the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon invaded Israel, with material help from Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Lybia.
The rejection of Israel by the Arab elites is so extreme that sometimes it appears comical. One case in point is the ritualistic denial by Arab scholars, for propagandistic purposes, of any ancient Jewish connection to Jerusalem. In brief, according to these professors and, in the case of Jerusalem’s Al-Quds University, of official University policy, there were no Jews in Jerusalem before modern times, there was no King David, there was no Jewish Temple. I have documented these pseudo-scholarly distortions in a previous posting.
In the Muslim world, it appears that the word “normalization,” when used in connection with Israel, is the equivalent of treason to the faith. Despite the fact that both Jordan and Egypt, alone in the Arab world, have peace agreements with Israel, civic groups like unions and professional organizations in these countries routinely refuse any formal or informal relations with their Israeli counterparts. Again, it is the PMW that has documented this phenomenon.
The war came at a great cost in lives and economic damage—half a million Iraqi and Iranian soldiers as well as civilians are believed to have died in the war with many more injured—but it brought neither reparations nor change in borders. The conflict is often compared to World War I, in that the tactics used closely mirrored those of that conflict, including large scale trench warfare, manned machine-gun posts, bayonet charges, use of barbed wire across trenches, human wave attacks across no-man’s land, and extensive use of chemical weapons such as mustard gas by the Iraqi government against Iranian troops and civilians as well as Iraqi Kurds. At the time, the UN Security Council issued statements that “chemical weapons had been used in the war.” However, in these UN statements it was never made clear that it was only Iraq that was using chemical weapons, so it has been said that “the international community remained silent as Iraq used weapons of mass destruction against Iranian as well as Iraqi Kurds” and it is believed that the “United States prevented the UN from condemning Iraq”.
Intra-Palestinian violence was a prominent feature of the Intifada, with widespread executions of alleged Israeli collaborators. While Israeli forces killed an estimated 1,100 Palestinians and Palestinians killed 164 Israelis, Palestinians killed an estimated 1,000 other Palestinians as alleged collaborators, although fewer than half had any proven contact with the Israeli authorities.And then there are the very frequent mutual killings by Fatah and Hamas.
The Evolution of bien-pensant thinking on Israel
The intransigence of the Arab elites would matter less if it were not for the support it receives, at least implicitly, from an apparently growing anti-Israel current in the liberal/left circles of the West.
Today we are used to seeing more than a few committed enemies of Israel in academia and in the high-brow punditry, whom Schleiermacher might have called the cultured despisers of Israel and Jews. That was not always the case. For the first twenty years or so of its existence Israel generally enjoyed, if not approbation, at least a modicum of good will among such classes.
A detailed, probing history of the evolution of such bien-pensant views remains to be written (are you listening, Mr. or Ms. Recent Graduate ?). Suffice it to say, while objectivity (at least) could be counted on in the past, this is no longer the case. Of course it is easy to exaggerate the importance of figures like Tony Judt, Mearsheimer, Walt, etc.: when I attend AIPAC conferences, I find the most liberal members of Congress come out very strongly for Israel, no less so than the conservatives. Nevertheless, it would seem that strongly hostile views and strongly hostile action are fairly common in liberal-left circles, especially so in the more activist groups like Occupy Wall Street (on this, see my piece here) and the politicized Lesbian groups.
While the overall picture of changes in the bien-pensants’ viewpoint remains to be examined, the position of one part of this public — that of the Communists, their followers, and their lineal descendants — is clear. The Soviet Union broke diplomatic relations with Israel after the 1967 War, on June 10, 1967, and, for geo-political reasons, aligned itself with the Arab enemies of Israel, especially with Syria. I happened to have been in Paris at the time, and I well remember the shock of French Jewish protesters at a demonstration against the sudden change of the line of the French Communist Party (PCF). “We will not forget this,” I remember one speaker declaiming, addressing the Party hacks. Annie Kriegel has provided us with the text of a surprisingly anti-Semitic speech delivered by Benoît Franchon, Secretary of the Communist-controlled CGT union, one of the top PCF leaders, at the Thirty Seventh National Congress of the CGT, held in Nanterre from June 12 to 16 of 1967:
They [war correspondents] have shown us — replete with the details that go with a great demonstration of faith — a ceremony at the Wailing Wall…. The presence of certain high financiers conferred upon it a significance that had nothing to do with the religious fervor which the true believers who participated thought to find in it. The spectacle makes us think that, as in Faust, it was Satan who led the dance. Nor was the golden calf missing; there it was, just as in the Gounod opera, standing up contemplating its feet, amid the blood and the filth, the results of these diabolical machinations. And indeed, we are told the two representatives of a cosmopolitan tribe of bankers attended this saturnalia, people well known throughout the world: Alain and Edmond de Rothschild. At their feet lay the dead, still bleeding. Among them were Jewish workers, who died for them; Jordanian workers and peasant, who also died for them. (from l’Humanité, June 17, 1967; reproduced in Kriegel, The French Communists, p. 163-4).
The Soviets’ 1967 line, to which they held to the end of their existence in 1989, had a tremendous effect on the broad spectrum of liberal/left opinion. The Soviets’ fiercest opponents on the Left, the Trotskyists, followed their Stalinist enemy/friends in the decisive turn against Israel after the ’67 War. The Trotskyists saw themselves in competition with the Communists for the pool of left-leaning “militants.” As a result of the Soviet position, it became more and more required for the “revolutionary socialists” and the “anti-imperialists” to include a fierce opposition to “Zionism” in their propaganda. The Trotskyists could not afford to be outbid in the left-wing marketplace. (Of course there were earlier reasons, primarily the inherent Marxist anti-Semitism, that made them vulnerable for this shift. I have discussed these matters here.)
As for the descendants of the old Stalinist movement, most strikingly The Nation magazine of the United States, it is the Soviets’ turn against Israel in 1967 that still seems to weigh heavily in its hysterical campaign against Israel. (See my blog on this here). Obviously there are other reasons as well for the liberal/left “anti-Zionism” of our day. Just what these are awaits the careful study of a historian yet to appear.
There is little hope for peace between Israel and its Arab neighbors in the foreseeable future. The reasons for this pessimism lie mainly in the Muslim culture of hate and violence. The “anti-Zionism” of parts of liberal/left opinion in the West — giving support to the Islamist anti-Israel project — contributes to the difficulty of finding a solution.