Munich has opened a new front in the Israel-Palestine wars. There John Kerry warned Israel that his peace talks would be the last chance. If they failed, he predicted the rise of BDS and a looming one state solution:
For Israel, the stakes are also enormously high. Do they want a failure that then begs whatever may come in the form of a response from disappointed Palestinians and the Arab community? What happens to the Arab Peace Initiative if this fails? Does it disappear? What happens for Israel’s capacity to be the Israel it is today – a democratic state with the particular special Jewish character that is a central part of the narrative and of the future? What happens to that when you have a bi-national structure and people demanding rights on different terms?
So I think if you – and I’m only just scratching the surface in talking about the possibilities, and I’ve learned not to go too deep in them because it gets misinterpreted that I’m somehow suggesting, “Do this or else,” or something. I’m not. We all have a powerful, powerful interest in resolving this conflict…For Israel there’s an increasing delegitimization campaign that has been building up. People are very sensitive to it. There are [sic] talk of boycotts and other kinds of things. Are we all going to be better with all of that?
Israeli nationalists, who dominate Israel’s political landscape, have raised a great geschrei over this rhetoric. What? Even John Kerry must weary us with talk of boycotts, Intifadas and delegitimization? We don’t hear this enough from our enemies that we have to hear it from him as well.
The result has been shouts of “anti-Semite” and worse. As only these Israel apologists can muster.
But what did Kerry say but the truth? If Bibi digs in his heels and refuses to go the extra mile and the talks fail, then it won’t be just the peace activists behind BDS Israel will have to worry about. It will be entire nations. Wait until the first western country votes to sanction Israeli products. Then what? How long before that snowball picks up speed and comes crashing down the hill?
Even more importantly, the Israeli nationalist tumult over Kerry’s remarks is hypocritical because these are the very same statements being made by Israeli centrist politicians like Tzipi Livni and Yair Lapid. Are they anti-Semites too? Of course, to the Israeli far-right they are. They’re persona non grata in the crazy, topsy-turvy reality the ultra-nationalists inhabit. I’m reminded of the saying popularized by Holoaust survivor, Dr. Hajo Meyer:
Anti-Semites used to be those who hate Jews; now anti-Semites are those Jews hate.
In stretching the definition of “anti-Semite” beyond all reasonable proportion, the nationalists have destroyed the importance and value of the term. Now, whenever there’s a real anti-Semite, that person will be able to deny the charge pointing to the damage done by Israel’s political right.
During the same conference at which Kerry made his remarks, there was a heated exchange between Tzipi Livni and Saeb Erekat. The heat first rose when Livni told Erekat that the Palestinians’ refusal to stop calling Israeli cities like Jaffo and Haifa by their Arabic names was what posed an obstacle to achieving peace. In the meantime, Livni readily referred to the Territories as Judea and Samaria, indicating she was refusing to cede an Israeli claim to Palestinian lands based on a Biblical claim. This seemed a particularly incendiary, provocative and tone-deaf argument for Livni to pose in that context. Such a statement would score political points with the Likudist right-wing, but she was in Munich amidst an internationalist audience.
Erekat naturally took umbrage at an Israel Jew telling him he should give up the right to see Israel as part of his Palestinian heritage, since territory that is Israel was the birthplace of the Palestinian people. It launched this diatribe:
“Israel has to choose between three choices one of which is the two-state solution…
The second choice…if the Israelis want to call Jericho by their Hebrew names “Yeriho” and to call Nablus “Shkheim”, is one state for both peoples.
The third choice…is the use of security pretexts to justify “apartheid” in the West Bank. “Now in 2014, there are streets in the West Bank which I can’t use as a Palestinian,” he added.
“When this happens, please Saeb, don’t use Arabic names to talk about places in Israel such as Jaffa and Haifa. Well, you can use Arab names, but don’t tell refugees who are waiting in Lebanon and other areas with the keys of their houses that they can return to live in these areas because that is against the two-state solution.”
To which Erekat replied:
“You are talking about historical narratives?…I am the son of Jericho. Last year I celebrated my city’s 10,000th birthday. I am proud to be a descendant of the Canaanites who lived in Jericho 5,500 years before Joshua who burnt Jericho and I will not alter my history.”
In Yisrael HaYom, a prominent Israeli rabbi and law professor, Haim Schein (Hebrew), took up the cudgel (Hebrew) on behalf of Biblical Judaism. He said that if Erekat wanted to be a Canaanite, very well then, we Israeli Jews should give him his wish; while remembering the Biblical command to exterminate those tribes which inhabited the land before the Israelites (among them, the Canaanites ‘natch):
How disturbing to hear, especially in the city of Munich, so near to Dachau, Kerry chose to threaten Israel and persuade its citizens that their sense of security was an illusion and that an economic boycott could be expected if they didn’t accede to international pressure.
John Kerry and the Obama administration has already proven they don’t understand the rules of the Arab world, which have turned lies and deceit into their own unique art form. This too is the reason for the prolonged bloodletting that continues in our region wherever America is involved.
…With his words, Kerry fatally damaged the very process he’s promoting. He encourages Abu Mazen and his friends to resist any possible progress in the path to peace…Under Kerry’s influence the Palestinians have changed their narrative. Instead of being cousins fighting for an inheritance from their common ancestor [Abraham], they’ve now become Canaanites. The meaning of the new narrative is: it’s either them or us. There can never be peace. How to confront the Canaanite legacy? We’ve already received very precise instruction in the Torah.
Schein alludes to this verse from Deuteronomy:
You will not allow a single soul to live. You will exterminate every Hittite, Emorite, Canaanite, and the Prizites, Hivites, and Jebusites as the Lord your God commanded.
Schein has in effect called upon his fellow Israelis (or shall I call them ‘Israelites?’) to harken back to the Bible’s tribal blood feuds and not just ethnically cleanse, but exterminate the Palestinians. He has called for genocide. With a wink and nod, perhaps. But it’s genocide nonetheless.
Will Schein face any legal consequences for advocating genocide in a State built upon the ashes of an earlier historic genocide? Not really. In fact, he’s liable to be added to the next Likud list just behind Moshe Feiglin! Oh, and while I’m on the subject–of which political party is Schein a proud member? You guessed it, Bibi’s Likud. ‘Nuff said.
In a passage from this article I didn’t translate Schein claimed that the Israeli people, in the face of Kerry’s anti-Semitism would become “titanium” in both their strength and their resistance to compromise. For him, this is highest praise. For me, it’s delusional.
Let no reader ever again talk to me of Palestinian incitement, when Israel has such Jewish genocidaires in its midst.
H/t to reader, Ami and 7th Eye.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.