By Richard Baehr
Like a new Broadway show testing the waters in New Haven or Boston before hitting the bright lights of New York, an anti-Israel media crusade is going through its warm up numbers in preparation for two big June events. Those upcoming showcases are the trial of former AIPAC employees Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman for allegedly passing on classified information to journalists and Israel, and the 40th anniversary of the Six Day War of early June 1967.
American support for Israel
America has been Israel’s one unshakeable ally. With European nations in the Palestinians’ corner, the pressure by Israel’s enemies to shake America loose from Israel has picked up steam in recent years. If America abandoned Israel or weakened its ties, the assumption is that the Arabs and Palestinians will then no longer have to defeat Israel militarily. Rather the Israelis will feel more isolated and insecure, and begin to leave for safer pastures in droves. Then, Israel will make fatal political concessions or be pressured into them, and the Jewish state will disappear.
Many of America’s allies have promised greater support for America in other international areas if only America would lean a little harder on Israel to compromise, or if only America “engaged” more in solving the dispute with the Palestinians. Of course President Clinton engaged like no other President before him to try to finally end the conflict in the summer of 2000 (Jimmy Carter’s efforts in the first Camp David talks between Israel and Egypt were really little more than the final glue on an agreement that was 95% of the way negotiated before he ever got involved). Clinton’s best efforts failed. And he had an accommodating Israeli Prime Minister in Ehud Barak representing Israel’s interests. Both President Clinton and Dennis Ross, the principal American negotiator during the Oslo process, blamed Arafat for the summitâ€™s failure.
Failure at Camp David
Yassar Arafat walked out of Camp David, and two months later the Palestinians launched a vicious second intifada, making suicide bombings a weapon of choice in an effort to indiscriminately kill Israeli civilians and terrorize Israel into more political concessions. Alternatively, the intifada’s goal was to make sure no peace process that might end the conflict with compromises by both sides could be achieved, since the only satisfactory result for many Palestinians, and certainly for the Islamic terror groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad, is the elimination of Israel.
As to Arafatâ€™s behavior at Camp David and in the intifada which followed, none of this should have been surprising, except to those who think zebras can change their stripes. After grabbing responsibility for killing more Jews than any individual in the world since Hitler, Arafat was unwilling that his legacy be merely liberating the West Bank and Gaza while allowing Israel to remain. That was not the Palestiniansâ€™ idea of conflict resolution.
Clearly, Arafat made sure that among the Palestinians, he had plenty of company in this view. A recent survey indicated that almost 90% of Palestinians under the age of 30 do not accept Israelâ€™s right to exist. A nonstop indoctrination campaign against Israel (and the United States) in mosques, schools, and on Palestinian media since the PLO and Arafat returned to the area from Tunisia in 1993, has left its mark on the current generation.
A very courageous Palestinian journalist, Khaled Abu Toameh has probably put his life at risk by his most recent column in which he describes the new PA (Fatah)-Hamas agreement as a sham, and says the West needs to demand more, since in the new agreement, the Palestinians have produced a path to nothing but perhaps some donor money (Norway has already come knocking), and certainly not a negotiating position that could lead to a peace with Israel. Toameh knows that for Hamas, this has never been the goal, and he is not so sure about Abbasâ€™ motives either.
The trial of the former AIPAC officials, much like the recent trial of Scooter Libby, will be a show trial. Libby will soon be sentenced for making inconsistent statements to a grand jury and Justice Department investigators over the Joe Wilson/Valerie Plame affair. But the backdrop for over three years in this case was really a media war over the Iraq war, and the roles played by Vice President Cheney, his aide Libby, various other Bush administration officials (Karl Rove) and the Washington political journalism community, in this media war.
In the same fashion, the trial of the two former AIPAC officials, will put the pro-Israel lobbying group on trial, despite the distancing that has occurred between the organization and its former employees since the investigation became public back in 2004. The trial will be grist for those who want AIPAC to be classified as a foreign lobby rather than as an American group lobbying for maintaining close ties between Israel and America, much as other groups of Americans lobby for close ties between America and the Arab states, or America and Muslim nations, or American and Ireland or America and India.
The Six Day War anniversary
The New York Times has already revealed that it is preparing a series of articles commemorating the Six Day War, during which Israel took control of the West Bank from Jordan. (Jordan had seized and annexed the West Bank after Israel’s 1948 war of Independence). In that same Six Day War, Israel took the Golan Heights (from which Syria had shelled Israeli farmers in the Galilee for decades) from Syria, Gaza (which Egypt had seized in the 1948 war and then occupied, and which was given by Israel to the Palestinians in 2005) and the Sinai peninsula from Egypt. The Sinai was returned in its entirety to Egypt after the Camp David accord of 1979.
Given the laziness of many members of the journalistic class, a major story in the New York Times such as this one will be borrowed or excerpted by many other newspapers. We can predict the themes of this coming New York Times assault on Israel, from reading a recent article by Steve Erlanger, the Times’ bureau chief in Israel, and a recent column by Nicholas Kristof.
In short, we can expect that Israel will be accused of maintaining a brutal occupation of Palestinian lands for 40 years after the war. More than any other single factor, it will be argued that this is the primary cause of the worldwide Muslim hostility towards Israel, to its principal ally America, and to the instability and ferment in the broader Muslim world.
Exactly how the Israeli Palestinian conflict has been the cause or related in any way to the India-Pakistan dispute over Kashmir, or the violence in Muslim areas of Thailand and the Philippines, or the eight year, million casualty Iran-Iraq war, or the civil war in Lebanon, or the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, or Serbian violence against Bosnian and Kosovar Muslims, or the sectarian violence in Iraq, will not be explained. It is enough to know that Muslims are unhappy with the plight of the Palestinians, so ergo, the turmoil all along the Muslim world’s intersection with the non-Muslim world, must be linked to Israeli wickedness.
The concept of a broader problem with radical Islamic fundamentalism that is creating such ferment everywhere, is simply too politically incorrect to hypothesize, unless it too can be blamed on Israeli misbehavior and the American invasion of Iraq, which as explained below, is also attributed to Israel and its supporters.
Further, come June, we will be spared no detail of the daily humiliation some Palestinians face at Israeli checkpoints in the territories, or the hardships caused by Israel’s security barrier (which almost undoubtedly will be referred to as a Berlin-like apartheid wall, though it is a low fence for 95% of its length, and a wall only in areas where Palestinian sniper fire would otherwise target Israelis). Jimmy Carter in his noxious new book, of course shows a walled section of the barrier on the cover.
And we will see much on the “provocative” expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, mostly by religious “zealots” (for the Times, it seems, a religious zealot may be defined as someone who is Jewish or Christian and believes in God).
The Times cannot complain about Gaza settlements any more, since there are none left.
We likely also will read some sociological poppycock about how Israel has become a militaristic Spartan state, rather than a light unto the nations of the world. Perhaps, there will be a few paragraphs on Israel’s achievements in science and technology (the Nasdaq startups) and even applause for a few times when Israel showed the courage to take risks for peace, and gave back territory to its neighbors or to the Palestinians. But I expect little on the Palestinian or Hezbollah violence that followed such Israeli surrenders.
The framing of the stories will be that if Israel does not yet know peace or security, it is because of its own mistaken policies and failings and its stubborn intransigence, a favorite word of soft headed peace processors who can not understand why this conflict has still not been resolved, since they believe that all conflicts are resolvable if we only try a little harder, and make an effort to appreciate the other side’s suffering and grievances. This is a view held by many liberal Jews, of course.
What will not be broached is whether at any time since the modern state of Israel was created in 1948, the Arabs, and now the Palestinians, ever really accepted its permanence, within any borders, as a Jewish majority state. A strong argument can be made that Zionism has never been acceptable to the Arab and Muslim world and hence Israel’s behavior in the conflict, has to some extent, been irrelevant.
The Iraq War and the neocons
A key part of the current media assault on Israel relates to an attempt to tie Israel and its supporters in America to the unpopular war in Iraq. For years, commentators such as MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and conservative columnist Pat Buchanan, have charged that the Iraq war was sold to the Bush administration by a cabal of neoconservative thinkers and government officials – including Paul Wolfowitz, Doug Feith, Richard Perle and Bill Kristol, among others. All the names mentioned in the cabal are always Jewish, and this of course is not accidental. There are non-Jewish neoconservative thinkers, but mentioning them does not help with launching an attack on Israel.
The argument is that the Jewish intellectuals, in thrall to Israel’s right wing Likud Party, persuaded the Bush administration to launch its pre-emptive war against Saddam Hussein’s regime, in order to help our ally Israel. The charge, of course, is ludicrous. The decision makers on Iraq- President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice – were hardly shrinking violets after 9/11, running to a group of Jewish intellectuals for guidance in the war on terror. Many of them had publicly been warning about Iraq for years.
If the Iraq war was an error, it was an error made on the side of being safe rather than sorry. Problems with the prosecution of the war are also not evidence that the initial decision to invade Iraq was wrong or a deception or both. Even Nicholas Kristof is big enough (for once) to admit that those who prosecuted the war did so honestly, believing it was in America’s interest to do so. Of course, many of today’s anti-Iraq war protestors, who seem to detest Israel almost as much as they dislike George Bush’s America, are not so generous.
But the issue of pre-emption in the Iraq war is sure to come up again in June, when the story of the Six Day war is rehashed. For Israel will be accused of launching a pre-emptive war with three Arab countries, designed as a land grab. Forgotten will be Egypt’s dismissal of United Nations peacekeepers in Sinai and the closing of the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, a violation of the agreement that ended the 1956 Suez War, and an act of war. Also likely to be ignored is the story of how Israel explicitly requested that Jordan stay out of the â€˜67 war, but how Jordan, pressured to demonstrate Arab solidarity, refused and started firing at Israel targets in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv . All of this is recounted in Michael Oren’s exhaustive history of the Six Day War, in a book by that name.
It is also worth looking back at how Israel’s triumph in that war was viewed at the time.
As Alex Safian of the media monitoring group CAMERA has astutely summarized it, until the 1967 war, Israel was viewed as the little guy battling the entire Arab world, which was aligned against it. After the â€˜67 war, the Arabs successfully recast the conflict as Israel the powerful versus the Palestinians, the dispossessed, and powerless. The other Arab states were left out of the equation, except for their grievance getting their lands back.
Pre-emption is an important theme for another reason. Israel’s enemies in academia and the media will also connect the failure they associate with the pre-emptive war in Iraq, with the pre-emptive war that looms on the horizon – an attempt by either Israel or the United States or both to strike at Iran’s nuclear program before it becomes operational. In the case of any contemplated action against Iran, the linkage between the US and Israel will be far more direct than in the case of the Iraq War, and therefore far easier to make.
The theme is predictable: Israel drove us into one bad war; let’s not allow them do it again. And with the â€˜67 war thrown into the mix as the cause of Islamic extremism, we will be presented with a phony pattern of Israel starting wars or getting the US to fight wars on their behalf.
Fasten your seatbelts. It’s going to be a bumpy ride.
Richard Baehr is chief political correspondent of American Thinker.