Barry Werner – Understanding How the West Sees the Arab-Israeli Conflict
Here is an attempt at understanding the motivations of the predominantly Christian countries of the Western World.
Misplaced good intentions:
There is a genuine desire on the part of most Westerners to help the Jews and the Arabs settle their dispute over the Holy Land. Many in the Western World feel sympathy for the Jews, especially after the Holocaust; the Holy Land is important to them for their own religious reasons; the Middle East conflict has come home to them in the form of radical Islamist terrorism; they feel political pressure from the large number of Muslim citizens that recently arrived in their countries from the Middle East and North Africa; and the Middle East is rich in petroleum. The Western World invested a lot of money and effort in helping the Arabs and the Jews, and the Western World has been trying to help bring about peace.
But the West takes the paternalistic view that they know more than the Israeli government about what is best for Israel. The say they want to help Israel remain a “Jewish and democratic” state against Israeli resistance so they try to force Israel to make what they think are the necessary sacrifices for peace. Most Israelis resent the misdirected efforts of the West that has made peace much more elusive.
Left-wing pro-Palestinian, anti-Zionist, practically antisemitic protestors:
Left-wing, pro-Palestinian, anti-Zionist, practically antisemitic protestors are disrupting the colleges and universities of the West, interfering with attempts at rational discussion about the Middle East, and radical Islamic terrorists are conducting anti-Zionist and antisemitic terrorist actions all over the Western world. These violent protests against Israel seem to be having the intended influence on Western policy makers.
Left-wing revulsion against ultra-nationalism and colonialism:
Westerners with a left-wing political outlook, think Zionism is a form of European ultra-nationalism and colonialism because the early Zionists were Europeans. Ideological blindness keeps them from seeing that the true ultra-nationalists are the radical Arabs who believe fanatically that only Muslim Arabs have the right to political independence in the land of Israel. Israelis are only trying to protect their nation, and military deterrence is essential for that.
Many in the West believe that appeasing terrorists will bring peace to the Middle East and end Islamist terrorism at home. But you can’t appease religious fanatics. By demonstrating weakness Westerners encourage the extremists to be bolder, both in the Middle East and in their own countries.
Many in the West think their self-interest lies more with the larger Arab/Muslim world more than it does with small Israel. But their calculation of self-interest is shortsighted.
“Progressive” or “liberal” ideology:
Progressive Western Europeans internalize the often-shameful history of Europe’s colonial past. When the Arabs tell them that Israel is a Western colonial entity, which it isn’t, progressive Western Europeans feel personally responsible and feel that they can atone for their parents’, grand parents’, and great grand parents’ sins by restraining Israel from what they mistakenly believe is colonialism.
In the United States, progressives internalize the shameful history of slavery and present-day poor race relations. When the Arabs tell them Israel is a racist entity, which it isn’t, many progressives imagine that the Jews of Israel are oppressing the Arab the same way white Americans oppressed their slaves. (Progressives link the “Black Lives Matter” movement to the BDS movement by invoking the new concept, “intersectionality,” which was just created to justify linking such disparate causes.)
Progressives believe oppressed people have the right to “struggle for freedom” unrestrained by conventional rules of warfare. They believe that terrorism is justified since modern states have powerful modern weapons but insurgents must defend themselves with whatever is available. Progressives refuse to see that Islamist extremists aren’t in a “progressive” struggle against colonialist oppression but rather they are in a rage of religious fanaticism and racist hatred of non-Arabs.
The obsession with anti-Zionism on the Left is very old. For traditional Communists it is as least as old as the 1950’s when during the Cold War the Comintern opposed Israel because Israel aligned with the West and the Kremlin backed the Arabs. Anti-Zionism expanded to a new, younger audience in the 1960’s and 1970’s with the explosive growth of violent left-wing activism. Many of those activists are today’s college and university professors, and newspaper reporters. It expanded again with: the influence of Arab students enrolled in Western colleges and universities; Arab money funding Middle East studies departments at major universities; and with Arab money building and refurbishing mosques in the West and installing Salafist imams. The liberal West, concerned about Islamophobia, wanting to curry favor with the oil rich Arab of the Persian Gulf, and afraid of angering terrorists at home has been too tolerant of Islamist activists.
Progressives who support the Arabs against Israel out of good intentions are not actually doing good, they are only feeling good about what they do. But what they actually do is evil.
Medieval Christian antisemitic prejudice:
Before we discuss antisemitism, let me make it perfectly clear that many modern Christians feel a special affinity for the Jewish People since Jesus was a Jew and lived as a Jew. They believe that God’s biblical promise to the Jewish People, that He would restore them to their land, has never been abrogated. The Christian Zionist movement preceded and encouraged the Jewish Zionist movement in the 19’th Century. Lord Arthur Balfour, for example, was deeply influenced by it and Christian Zionism is still active today. Modern Christian churches, especially in the US, reject antisemitism and feel a strong affinity for and kinship with the Jewish People. Several important Christian groups are actively helping Israel.
With that said, we will discuss the Christians who take the opposite view and still hold Medieval antisemitic views.
UNSC Resolution 2334 supports the prejudice that Jews oppress innocent Arabs. It paints a picture in which only Jews are moral actors, and that the Arabs are passive. This supports the Medieval European Christian antisemitic “blood libel” that Jews oppress innocents. The blood libel was often used in the thousand-year history of persecution of the Jews of Europe when Christians turned from a religion of love to a religion of revenge for the accusation of deicide. (The name “blood libel” comes from the accusation that Jews slaughter innocent Christian children to use their blood to make matzos for Passover. This is a jumble of disparate ideas such as the biblical Passover story of the Jews in Egypt marking their door posts with lamb’s blood so that the Angel of Death would know that Jews were living there, and Christian references to the blood of the innocent, suffering Jesus, the Lamb of God.)
One of the basic tenets of Christian antisemitism is that the Jewish People were cast out and damned to wander the Earth like the biblical Cain, never to restore their political independence, as God promised them they would, because of the accusation that the Jews rejected Jesus and were responsible for His death. According to this form of antisemitism, Christians should block the Jewish People from establishing a national homeland in their ancestral land, which sounds eerily like UNSC Resolution 2334, which calls the establishment of a national homeland for the Jews in their ancestral homeland a war crime subject to UN sanctions.
For all these reasons, and probably more, the West has encouraged Arab intransigency by supporting Arab extremists while unfairly attacking Israel. This gives the extremists reason to believe that time is on their side, and that the Jews will eventually disappear like the Crusaders once did.
Westerners don’t understand the rejectionists of the Arab world
Arab attempts to make peace with Israel
Before we talk about the rejectionists, those who reject the idea of a Jewish state in the land of Israel, let’s talk about the courageous secular and religious leaders in the Arab and general Muslim world who are trying to accept Israel. They are courageous because they are opposing the antisemitism and anti-Zionism that is common in the Arab world. The Arab countries that have not yet fallen are at risk of having their religious and secular institutions taken over by religious extremists. These countries are facing severe demographic challenges, both from the natural growth of their populations and from the influx of refugees from the countries with internal conflict; their economies are struggling to support their rapidly increasing populations, and they are facing ecological and environmental challenges such as reduction in annual rainfall and pollution. Their leaders know they need Israel as a cooperative member of their neighborhood to repel the extremists and to build up the economy of the region. But by supporting the rejectionists as they do, the West makes it more difficult for these courageous leaders to make the needed changes.
Rejection of a Jewish state
Rejectionist Arabs complain about the Jews, and the West reacts accordingly. But the West doesn’t understand that at the core of their complaint is the fact that Israel is a Jewish state, not a Muslim Arab state. The rejectionist claim to exclusive ownership of the land is true only within their worldview; they believe the land belongs exclusively to Arab Muslims in perpetuity because the followers of Mohamed conquered the land in the 7’th Century. It is irrelevant to them that most of the Arabs in Palestine descended from immigrants who came there in the 19’th Century when the Europeans created an economy that could use their labor, and that these Arabs were just about as recent as the Jewish immigrants were. It is equally irrelevant to them that before the 19’th Century, the land was inhabited by both Arabs and Jews, and that the Jews were in the majority in Jerusalem. Replacing Western criteria for ownership with Arab Muslim criteria and agreeing with the rejectionists that only Arabs may live in the Jewish historical homeland, including Jerusalem, effectively exiling the Jews from their homeland, will not make the world better or more peaceful.
Until the Arab world accepts the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state rejectionists will not give up trying to destroy it. The West should be trying to encourage the Arab world to accept the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state. But by falsely accusing Israel of war crimes, the UNSC makes the situation worse. Instead of encouraging the Arab and the general Muslim world to teach their children a more accommodating view of the Jews and Israel, the UNSC gives the rejectionists more arguments to use against peace with Jews and Israel.
By the way, what the West is doing is counter-productive for them because the jihad against the Jews is also being fought in the cities of the West.
Westerners cannot relate to the fact that Arab rulers intentionally cause their citizens to suffer in order to gain political advantage, and that they can get away with being phenomenally corrupt. Westerners think it is bizarre when they see the al-Assad family (Hafez, and after him his son Bashar) in Syria, or Saddam Hussein in Iraq, torture and massacre tens of thousands of citizens of their own country, or when they see Hamas use the residents of Gaza as human shields, but they think it is unique and can’t generalize from it. Westerners have no internal conceptual model with which to understand it. (Westerners could never comprehend or internalize the cruelty of Stalin, Mao Zedong or the Nazi Holocaust either.) Westerners can’t imagine that the PLO and Hamas would create the conditions that cause their own people to suffer in order to use the suffering as a political weapon against the Jews. So when the Arabs tell them the West Bank Arabs are suffering Westerners are prepared to accept that the Jews must be responsible for it. They can’t understand that a lot of that suffering is due to corruption and the brutality of the PLO and Hamas toward their own people. (Nor can they understand that the UN’s own UNWRA refugee camps perpetuate the suffering of the “refugees” as a propaganda weapon against Israel.)
It doesn’t make sense to Westerners that the PLO won’t settle for a reasonable peace treaty with Israel even though Israel offered generous terms, although not complete capitulation, in negotiations on several occasions. The West refuses to understand that the PLO leaders turned down Israel’s offers each time knowing that if they make any compromises, the extremists standing right behind them would quickly call them traitors and assassinate them. (Arafat famously said jokingly, he didn’t want to drink tea with Sadat, who had been assassinated for making peace with Israel.) They use the naive goodwill of the Westerners as a political weapon. They believe they could get everything by manipulating the sympathies and using the power of the Western world. Instead of negotiating for a part of the West Bank, they are engaged in an “all or nothing” gamble for all of it.
The PA is now threatening that if they don’t get everything they demand, they will turn over responsibility for governing the West Bank to Israel. The threat is that Western TV will show Arabs suffering even more than now and Israeli soldiers fighting with Arab youth. Who will be blamed? Not the PA, because after all, how can the PA be blamed for making their own people suffer? Westerners will certainly understand it only as Israel’s fault.
Imagine the following scenario. A thief comes into a store holding a gun to his son’s head and says to the shopkeeper, “give me all your money or I’ll shoot my son.” What should the shopkeeper do? Who would be responsible for the death of the thief’s son if the shopkeeper refused? It would be suicidal for the West to fall for that kind of threat, yet that’s what the West is allowing to happen in the Middle East.
The Israeli Settlements in Historical Context
The West Bank is important to Israel in two ways, it is Judea and Samaria, the ancient Israelite homeland, which has intense religious significance for Jews and Christians, and it is part of the homeland granted to the Jewish People by the League of Nations and the UN. Even so, the Jews were willing to trade the West Bank for peace when they accepted the UN partition plan of 1947 and then again after they recaptured it in the 1967 war.
Israel has always been willing to use the 1967 borders as a benchmark for negotiations but Israel has always balked at forgetting that when the Green Line was agreed to in 1949, the Arab world insisted they were not legitimizing Israel’s existence by agreeing to political borders. The UNSC should drop its insistence that the pre-1967 borders, with land swaps, must be the borders of the Palestinian state.
Israel has always held out the possibility of making peace with the Arabs, but that patience is balanced by the opposite feeling in response to unrelenting Arab militancy and terrorism, namely if you won’t make peace then we will keep what is ours. Most Israelis would be willing to allow the Arabs to create an independent state on the West Bank and Gaza if that would put an end to the conflict and if it would not result in a Gaza-like Hamastan on the West bank. But first, the Arabs must convince the Israeli public that they are willing to negotiate in good faith. However, under the present circumstances, if the PA were allowed to set up a state on the West Bank with the conditions it insists upon, it would certainly and quickly become another Hamastan, which Israel can’t be expected to allow.
Israel entered into the Oslo Process with the Arabs, which requires that each party prepare their people for peace. But the PA is in serious violation by continuing to teach its people antisemitism and by honoring terrorists. The PA spends 20% of the annual foreign aid it receives to pay “salaries” to imprisoned terrorists and their families, thus effectively soliciting terrorism. It cooperates with Israel in making sure that the low intensity intifada it instigates doesn’t get out of hand, and it cooperates with Israel in preventing a coup against itself by Hamas, but it refuses to make peace with a Jewish state. This should be the focus of the UNSC’s concern.
UNSC Resolution 2334 gives the Arab rejectionists an undeserved victory. It says the presence of Israeli settlements on the West Bank is the major obstacle to achieving the two-state solution, whereas the main obstacle has always been that the conditions the PA demands would make an Arab state on the West Bank an unacceptable threat to Israel. The resolution hides the fact that the PA egregiously reneged on its obligations in the Oslo process and refused to accept generous terms that required them to agree to real peace. If the West wants to help bring about the two-state solution, it should make it clear to the PA that they will lose even more territory unless they finally agree to a realistic peace. It’s counter productive for the West to force Israel to make concessions that would only result in Arab demands for yet more concessions, and harden Israeli resistance to the West’s disingenuous interference. The West should honor the agreements the Arabs and Israelis made in the Oslo Process to negotiate directly, not through proxies.
UNSC Resolution 2334 supports the rejectionist Arab campaign to deny the Jews’ historic connection to their ancestral homeland, including Jerusalem, in order to delegitimize the Jewish presence in Israel and establish the Arabs’ claim to exclusive ownership. The UNSC is helping the Arabs exile the Jews once again from their ancestral homeland.
UNSC Resolution 2334 supports lawfare to deny Israel’s legitimacy by invoking unconvincing legal interpretations used exclusively against Israel.
By supporting the illusion that Jews cause innocent Arabs to suffer, and by denying the Jews access to their ancestral homeland, UNSC Resolution 2334 supports antisemitic prejudice, in contravention of the UN Charter.
Regardless of the reasons the Western world has for supporting the Arabs against the Jews of Israel, turning over the institutions of the UN, such as UNWRA, UNHRC, UNGA, UNESCO, and now the UNSC, to the Arabs for this purpose is disgraceful and self-destructive.