The pro-Israel crowd love to trot out anti-Semitic memes to smear their opponents. One of them, used widely by Alan Dershowitz and the like is the term “blood libel.” Accuse Israelis of killing Palestinians indiscriminately and it’s a blood libel because, of course, a Jew shedding non-Jewish blood is the same as Jews murdering Christian babies to use their blood in making matzah for Passover. Got that?
Bibi Netanyahu’s latest outrage is this video in which he ever so innocently professes bafflement that Palestinians would oppose Israeli settlements. Why, he asks, if 2-million “Arabs” (the actual number is 1.8-million) live in Israel proper, can’t Jews live in Palestine?
There is a wee-small problem with this analogy: approximately 600,000 Israeli Jews live in settlements. But they have lived in them for at best a generation, while Palestinian have lived in Israel for centuries. The vast bulk of settlers moved to Palestine since 1967, while Palestinians have lived in Israel over a vastly longer span. Nor have Palestinians displaced anyone over this period. While Israeli settlers have literally stolen the land out from under the Palestinian natives.
Bibi’s general argument is not new. He and his supporters have advanced it for years. But he added a new and even more outrageous twist this time: Palestinian opposition to Israeli settlements was akin to ethnic cleansing because it meant no Palestinian would ever accept any Jew living anywhere on Palestinian land.
There are numerous outrageous elements to this charge worth parsing. The first, and most obvious is that it’s Israel, rather than Palestine, that’s engaged in ethnic cleansing. Israel has destroyed a record number of Palestinian homes over the past year, leaving their inhabitants homeless. It has enacted draconian definitions of Palestinian residency which render tens of thousands of Palestinians stateless if they live outside areas like East Jerusalem for any length of time. Israel also depopulates Palestinian neighborhoods of East Jerusalem through forcible eviction and theft of homes. Israel maintains a stranglehold over the West Bank economy so that stifles innovation, independence and development that might sustain the population. The final coup de grâce is the siege of Gaza, which has forced thousands of Gazans to flee their imprisonment by any means possible.
So which Israeli Jew has ever been ethnically cleansed from Palestine? None. Further, the claim that Palestinians will never accept Jews living in Palestine is a hoax perpetrated by none other than Netanyahu himself and his followers. In fact, those like Rabbi Menachem Froman, who lived in the Tekoah settlement before his untimely death, denounced the idea of Israeli national sovereignty in the West Bank. He argued that he would happily live under Palestinian jurisdiction. What was important to him was not which nation owned the land on which he lived. Rather, he believed God owned the land and his allegiance was to Him and not to any particular nation.
Such an approach offered a way for Jews to remain in Palestine after a peace agreement was signed. Undoubtedly, the lion’s share of settlers would return to Israel, rather than remain under Palestinian sovereignty. But to those who really sought to uphold the vision of Abraham and the Bible to live in this Holy land, they could live there as Palestinian (or Israeli) citizens.
The final hypocrisy of Bibi’s video is his refusal to reciprocate with Palestinians regarding Jewish settlers in Palestine. If you truly believe that Jews must live there, then it’s self-evident that Palestinians should be permitted to return to their homes in pre-48 Israel. Jewish settlers see their return to their ancestral homeland as a fulfillment of sacred Biblical texts and a divine promise. The Palestinian return to their homelands from which they were expelled by Israel in 1948 is no less compelling to them. It is, to them, reparation for the Original Sin committed against them by Ben Gurion in the establishment of the State.
So if Bibi wants to argue that Jews who returned to ancient sites like Hebron or Tekoah or Bethlehem must be permitted to remain there, I say fine: then let’s talk about the return of the original refugees expelled in the Nakba and their direct descendants.
The U.S. government was none to happy with Bibi’s incitement against Palestinians. The State Department, in its typical milquetoast fashion, called the comments “inappropriate and unhelpful.” This sort of language is akin to taking a pebble to a gunfight. It’s one thing when David faces off against Goliath with a slingshot. But this is like David blowing bubbles at his well-armed nemesis. Indeed, the motto for U.S. policy toward Israel should be an inversion of the famous military slogan: “always outnumbered, always outgunned.”
NOTE: I’ve just published a new piece at Mint Press News, Israel Ramps Up Its War on BDS. It exposes an official Israeli campaign of death threats and intimidation against Palestinian activists and NGOs. Please read and promote via social media.