I just attended the annual Association of Israel Studies Conference, this year at Brandeis University. The theme was 100 years since Balfour, but in recognition of the 50th year since the 6-Day War, there was a plenary session dedicated to that topic.
MODERATOR: DAVID ELLENSON Brandeis University
HUSSEIN IBISH, Arab Gulf States Institute
DAN KURTZER, Princeton University
ANITA SHAPIRA, Tel Aviv University
HUSAM ZOMLOT, Chief Representative of the Palestinian General Delegation to the United States
For those familiar with the names, it’s pretty clearly a panel with very little variety, certainly from a political point of view. In terms of the terminology of a panel the AIS was kind enough to allow us to run the following day, they were all members of “the cult of the occupation,” or in its orbit.
Having spent the previous weeks working on the astonishingly unintelligent pack journalism that covered the passage of UN Resolution 2334 and Kerry’s valedictory address in December 2016, I came to an academic organization of Israel scholars, and was offered more steady cult gruel. Below, I review some of the long list of agressively naive or deliberately misleading statements various panelists made during the course of the session.
Hussein Ibish began with a nice, if false formulation: the ’67 conflict and outcome bookends (by which he means puts an end to) the ambitions of both sides in national struggle. For the Arabs, he assures us glibly, Israel was a fait accompli. In the shock of the total failure of Arab armies in 1967, the Arabs gave up their desire to drive Israel into the sea.
Of course, since he’s not a scholar, and not honest, he’s not going to tell you that the Arab response to the catastrophe was to call it, in line with the Nakba of 48, the Naksa, “the setback,” of 1967. He won’t tell you that the three no’s of Khartoum were the loud sound of Arab denial that they had lost, signaling their ever-ready willingness to sacrifice Arab lives and dignity – 2 million under occupation rather than recognize Israel. And although many there were fully aware of these matters, it’s not clear how many of them realized that they were being lied to. “It’s an authentic Arab voice,” one of the organizers told me. I hope that was sarcastic…
For the Israelis, he observes, equally falsely, ’67 brought them to the realization that they couldn’t absorb all the territory taken. They had bitten off more than they could chew. Of course such a reconstruction of the mindset of Israelis in 1967, when the consensual expectation was that they would trade the West Bank and Gaza for peace, is really a retrospective, 20-20 hindsight based on a projection of Arab appetite for conquest, the inability (or unwillingness) of Ibish to imagine sovereign Jews except through the lens of his own cognitive egocentrism.
The 67 war revealed to both sides, Zionist and anti-Zionist that their ambitions are limited. “There is no military solution. If 67 didn’t provide one that was the end of it. There will,” he stated confidently, “eventually be an agreement.” Why? Because “history moves on. People don’t fight each other for ever.” Zero-sum attitudes towards Israel,” he assured us, “have“history moves on. People don’t fight each other for ever.” Zero-sum attitudes towards Israel,” he assured us, “have dissipated since ‘67.” He points to the current Arab countries’ interest in Israel as proof.
This is, of course, goes to the heart of the Saidian deception. Honor-shame analysis, that observes the obvious about Arab political culture, that is to say, that acknowledges the way balanced conflict and warfare is a permanent feature of Arab relations with the “other,” whether that be infidels, or people from other clans. The kind of Kantian era of peace that so moves the progressive Western soul has no charm for them.
For Said, and a generation of academic followers in “post-colonial” studies, such observations were detestable “orientalisms.” How dare westerners compare Arab political culture to that of pre-modern Europe, where war was the sport of kings? We had no right noting the cultural terrain the Arab world had yet to cross on its way to nationalism where the power elite cared for the “people,” on its way to leaving war behind in favor of a steady diet of positive-sum relations with neighbors.
Condemned by our privileged guilt into projecting the best of humanity and generosity onto the “other,” our specialists ended up stupefying themselves, producing massive misreadings of the dynamics in the Arab world, like the grand folly of calling it the “Arab Spring” and meaning by that springtime for democracy, not springtime for apocalyptic, tribal warfare.
Here Ibish uses this systematic misinformation about Arab political culture in the context of reaffirming one of the key creedal dogmas of the cult of the occupation. The Arabs are ready for peace. History has moved on, and the Arabs are on the train.
So if there’s a problem, it’s the force of an outdated imperialism among Israelis, rather than an outdated “strong horse”political culture among Arabs. Never mind that the Arab world was consumed with a debilitating desire to destroy Israel for many decades after 67, starting with 1973. When Sadat made peace with Israel, every Egyptian hung his head in the presence of other Arabs, who considered them betrayers of the sacred cause of expunging the infidel entity from the heart of Dar al Islam. Sadat died for it; his pragmatic survivors went for a cold peace: to be seen with an Israeli was a mark of shame.
Use them as a back channel. Bottom line here: Ibish wants us to be so afraid of being called “orientalists,” that we’ll put faith in Arab assurances that they only want to the Green Line.
He goes on to his analysis of the problem of what he calls “the peace industry.” Israel, he asserts, is “under no pressure to make any compromises. On the contrary, it’s under pressure not to.” Israelis trying to agree understood immediately the allusion. The crazy messianic settlers are holding the entire country hostage, stopping them for making the concessions needed for peace. Of course, there’s no acknowledgment here of the immense pressure that is brought to bear – on the Palestinians’ behalf, and at the Palestinians’ request, on Israel to make unreciprocated concessions.
And, of course, there’s also silence on the even more relevant point that the Palestinians are under no pressure to make concessions from the international community – their current position is “we’ve already made our concessions,” and the world, including American negotiators apparently agree. (Israelis were horrified to find out that the Americans under Kerry had been working them hard for concessions during the negotiations, while not even bother to meet with the Palestinians, much less ask for any concessions.)
Still worse, to paraphrase Ibish, “on the contrary, the Palestinians are under heavy pressure not to.” The “right-wing” forces of irredentism in the Arab world, and especially in the Palestinian world, against any compromise with Israel, are far more pervasive and menacing than those driving Israeli political behavior. Indeed, while the irredentist formula “from the river to the sea” is marginal in Israel, it’s mainstream in Palestinian circles. No public Israeli TV program for little kids would teach that all the land belonged to the Jews. Virtually all the ones on Palestinian TV do.)
Once again, glib formulas and systematic misinformation. No self-criticism, no acknowledgment of problems on the Arab side. We’re okay, you’re not okay, and that’s why we have a conflict.
“Even worse,” Ibish goes on, “we no longer have any working model for how this solution should look like.” As if we ever knew where we were going. The dupes of the cult of the occupation have a clear and clearly delusional notion of where we’re going. In the immortal words of Gavin Esler, it’s so simple, “it could be solved with an email.” Of course, as logical as all that might be, we weren’t going there because the Palestinians under Arafat and Abbas had no intention of going there. They’ve been using the negotiations to maneuver against Israel, not to get themselves a state.
Ibish is not optimistic: “options have been foreclosed; any solution will be a long way away; at an impasse… We don’t know where we’re going any more… which, alas, means a lot more conflict.”
Why this pessimist prognosis? Get ready for the shocker: The “entrenched” occupation. Settlements. Israelis state land. “It’s getting worse and worse.” The Israelis are experts at managing and controling a disenfranchised people.” “Conditions of living of under occupation,” he tells us bluntly, “are intolerable.”
He hits all the proper notes to guilt Israelis, and the empathic peace camp eats it up. “Hurry,” they think, “let us make concessions to these poor people. Their plight is so awful, so ‘intolerable’.”
Of course, when you’re told conditions are intolerable, threats of violence are not far away. “Violent resistance has taken on a generational quality,” Ibish asserts, “because enough people who remember the negative consequences of the 2nd intifada’s violence,” are being replaced by a younger generation that, in its intolerable desperation, says, “I don’t care.” Perfect cult of the occupation chatter: innocent Palestinian victims and Israeli jailors. “What choice do they have?”
There’s no recognition here that the Israelis have a legitimate problem with the Palestinians. No acknowledgment that, whether he disapproves (in English) or not, Ibish presents victimized Palestinians without mentioning their deep commitment to violence. It’s not that a “new generation” has arisen that forgot the painful lessons of decades earlier.
It’s only been a dozen years since the last insane resort to violence by the Palestinians, and the reason the lesson of its disastrous consequences has so little impact on the younger generation is because their elders a) exploited it to make headway turning Israel into a pariah, and b) teach them to hate and to admire violence. Instead of telling their children that the wall was Israel’s response to Palestinian terror, they have told them it’s part of an Israeli plot to deprive them of their rights, to destroy them. Hence the violence.
What should we do, asks Ibish? “A concerted international campaign to improve lives of Palestinians on the ground. And it can’t just be an aid program. It has to be political help. These poor people aren’t treated as citizens. Basically, these poor people have given up the zero-sum game, he tells us despite extensive evidence to the contrary. And now, if you follow my dishonest appraisal of the situation, we’re in a “chicken and egg conundrum. Who goes first?” Not surprisingly, Ibish concludes, Israelis need to stop the occupation.
Then, he assures us, the positive-sum attitude we’ve been told dominates the Palestinian world, will work its magic and we’ll all be good. How silly if not paranoid for the Israelis not to trust Ibish’s assurances. Go first, end the occupation, withdraw to the “67 borders,” and don’t worry, the Palestinian leadership won’t take it as a sign of weakness, as an indicator that it’s time to dust off the two stage plan, and fight for the rest of the Palestinian’s inalienable right to the land:
"From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free".
“I believe,” he confesses, as if this were some bizarre speculation, “that there are Israelis who say look, the longer we wait, the lower the price of making peace with the Palestinians. We should just hold out and it will come to zero.”
Again, a fine piece of projection, since the whittling away strategy of playing out the clock while not making any concessions is the primary Palestinian negotiating strategy. And while there are plenty of Israelis (and some realistic diaspora Jews) who say, “look, as long as the Palestinians are hell-bent on war and hatred, we have no choice but to keep them down,” many see it as a temporary zero-sum strategy, as long as, to be adjusted when Palestinians turn the corner.
Ibish’s response: “No, the Palestinians have reached the rock bottom. (More on this below in response to Zomlot.) The price on delaying giving them what they say they want (the West Bank), just went up.
Next up, Daniel Kurtzer.
Kurtzer, who has written several books on how to make peace, without ever succeeding, gives a mediocre review of what he called six implications of 67. The first implication was the accurate observation that for the Arab states, 67 marked the end of Nasserism, of the “secular,” “Arab nationalist,” approach to both modernization and to acquiring the necessary know-how to fight Israel.
“Search for alternative ideologies in the 1980s (i.e., the aughts of the 15th century AH) led to Islamism across the boards: – Iran, Afghanistan, Algeria, Hamas, Hizbullah. The results are the current catastrophes: “One can trace the breakdown of Arab states today back to 67. Arab states are no longer fighting wars against Israel,” he notes, somewhat hopefully. “They have their own problems.”
If Kurtzer has any idea that his observation undermines precisely the assurances of Ibish offered about the Arab world learning to accept Israel, he gave no sign of it. When secular, zero-sum nationalism, in its failure, produces negative-sum religious zealotry, this is light years from Ibish’s, “they realized Israel is here to stay.”
On the contrary, the Palestinians and so many other Arab political forces turned to Allah to help them destroy Israel. They turned from the somewhat limited secular terrorism of the PLO to the suicide terror of martyrdom operations.
On the contrary, Kurtzer turns from this observation to reiterate Ibish’s claims. For Palestinians, he claims, 67 marked their reemergence as historical agents. Presumably he means that having been failed again by their Arab friends, the PLO began to take initiatives, beginning, he notes, in 1968 with the takeover of Fatah.
Palestinians filled a vacuum, but, he blandly notes, they haven’t really “used that agency,” by which presumably, he means they haven’t acquired statehood by saying yes to offers. But, Kurtzer notes hopefully, in 1988 the PNC’s decision to accept the “Two state solution,” meant they were moving towards the peace process.
It’s hard to know how to assess this piece of misinformation. The acceptance was not of a 2SS, but, in principle of UN Resolution 242, surely in the French version of demanding back all the territories taken in 67. To present this as an acceptance of a 2SS is not only deeply misleading – it in no way involved a change in the charter or a renunciation of the 1974 principle of staged reconquest of all the land from the river to the sea.
But it does shed a fierce light on why Kurtzer has been a consistent failure in his efforts to achieve peace. He’s not really listening to the Palestinians; instead he’s projecting his own hopes onto anything they do that he can remotely spin in the “right” direction. Is he being openly dishonest, or just a hopium addict?
He ended his list of implications with some questions? “Was time on the side of Israel or was it a strategic mistake to delay reaching a deal (as if that were in Israel’s hands)?
Have we seen an end of the Arab belief that Israel can be destroyed? Or do they still cling to the atavistic (religious) drive to wipe it off the map? Does (Palestinian) violence work (as so many of them claim, in their assertion that Israel only understands force)?
Why hasn’t the Peace Process worked so far? American failure? Israel? Palestinians? Both? Without offering his answer to these questions, he concludes, “Our ideas out of date.” Again, we get an insight into why he’s been such a failure.
His ideas were never in date. Like so many cultists of the occupation, he’s been chasing positive-sum butterflies while the folks who won’t give up their need for zero-sum solutions (no matter how often they lose or how generous the offers they don’t deserve), and would prefer lose-lose to win-win, systematically abuse their good will and get them to blame Israel. Kurtzer: excellent case study of a dupe of demopaths.
Old enough to have been a young adult when 67 happened, she remembers the sudden admiration Israel received around the world, the David who had successfully vanquished the Arab bully.
It would have been nice to hear from her about the hopes for a settlement – the first “land for peace” deal Israel offered – and the disappointment of the “Three No’s of Khartoum” when the Arab world chose perpetual war and the abandonment of their own people under Israeli control (Occupation!), over getting on with their lives. But no.
Like so many of her generation, especially among the Ashkenazi secular intellectuals, the conquest has turned from dream to nightmare. Ibish’s remark about Israel realizing it had bitten off more than it can chew, is true of her. In the spirit of selfcriticism, she cited verbatim the famous quote from Gershom Scholem about the dangers of reviving Hebrew, given the explosive messianic potential embedded in that ancient tongue. And then, she added ominously, events today make this warning seem prophetic.
Actually not. Scholem’s aside tells it all:
But more uncanny than the Arab people [unheimlicher als das arabische Volk] another threat confronts us… [our own messianism].
If one looks at which culture, Arab or Jewish, has handled the apocalyptic expectations that the pressure-cooker they live in naturally induces, it’s no contest. Scholem’s self-critical tendencies had deeply underestimated how uncanny the dangers from Islamic apocalyptic.
Indeed, despite the fact that some observers like to press the panic button on runaway messianism among Israeli zealots, as an historian of messianic movements, I can state several points categorically.
Jews in general have a very strong fire wall between messianic hopes and violent apocalyptic outbreaks. One can argue that losing badly repeatedly (2000 years ago) taught them to build those fire-walls, but in any case, they are extremely effective.
Under the critical pressure and threats to the very existence of the people that Israel has endured for almost 70 years, other monotheistic and post-monotheistic people – Christian, Muslim, or secular revolutionary – has melted down into apocalyptic paranoia and violence against both others and themselves.
Given the disgusting behavior of the Palestinians, who attack weak civilians, it is a near miracle that still so few Israelis have made the exegetical move of identifying them as Amalek/the apocalyptic enemy. That so many Jews and Israelis insist on seeing the Palestinian leadership as ready for peace is testimony to the instinctive, even irrational, refusal to see them as a determined enemy.
As opposed to many other messianic traditions, Jewish messianism tends much more towards the transformational rather than cataclysmic apocalyptic scenarios. The impressive energy and imagination that goes into constructive and progressive projects in Israel – therapies, social work, development projects, education, citizenship, military ethics, often channel the messianic fervor that Scholem so feared, into constructive initiatives.
By contrast, the explosive, paranoid, violent tendencies of Qur’anic based apocalyptic fervor, and its compulsive flagellation by Palestinian and other Arab and Muslim elites, offers precisely the kind of behavior one would expect to find among Jews if Scholem’s prophecy had come true.
All in all, Shapira offered a classic example of Israeli progressive behavior. Be self-critical, even harshly self-critical. But don’t criticize the Palestinians or the Arabs, even when they come and insult your intelligence with their false banter. Heaven forbid, one should turn our concern about violent messianism against the people who openly foster the most genocidal versions.
Then came Zomlot, not some “independent” analyst like Diana Buttu, but a party member of an organization that had openly engaged in terrorism against Israelis and continues to support it. The fact that he could be invited, bespeaks the degree to which the AIS steerage has already accepted the good faith of the Palestinians in their desire for a tw0-state solution.
He started out by endearing himself to the audience by referring to the Holocaust as the “most heinous crimes,” and praising American Jews for creating Brandeis in its wake. He then proudly pointed to his alma mater, Bir Zeit, as a great Palestinian university, recently ranked among the top 3% worldwide.
But after the pleasantries we got the PA’s skyscraper elevator speech. The horror of the Occupation: you are nothing. You cannot travel. You do not exist. Never mind that Bir Zeit (and all the many other institutes of higher learning) were only founded after 1967 because the Jordanians would not allow them in their West Bank. Never mind that refugee Zomlot has an enviable CV. Never mind that he was speaking at a meeting of Israeli scholars, which would never happen the other way around.
My generation, Zomlot argued, has only known occupation. My only experience of Israelis is soldiers and settlers. 800,000 Palestinians have been arrested, he claimed (again), a number whose ludicrous implications – 500 arrests per week every week – have been repeatedly debunked. No acknowledgment here that if his party, the PA, had not chosen terror over statehood, this would not be the case, that essentially, it’s the Palestinian leadership that chose to let its people only know soldiers and settlers, and in the ignorance they created, sow war propaganda.
He then proceeded with an astoundingly facetious argument. Look at the economic disparity between the Palestinians and the Israelis. The GDP in 1994 Palestinian 2.8 billion vs. 74 billion for Israel. By 2015 Palestinians, 12 billion vs Israel 305 billion. (Note that Palestinian growth much faster than Israel.) Palestinian income in 1994: $1900 vs. $15,000 for Israel; in 2015: $2800 vs. $36,000. He concludes his list of invidious comparisons with water consumption: 50 liters per person is the world average; Palestinians consume 60 liters per person; Israelis, 300 and settlers 369 liters of our water.
All this is to show how unfair Israel is to the Palestinians. “It’s not because we lack the capacity,” he asserts with a straight face, “so it must be your fault. After all, we have 0 illiteracy rates. It’s the occupation that robs us of our abilities. We don’t need to incite in the schools,” he claims in an allusion to the perennial Israeli complaint, “because the reality of the occupation does it all on its own.”
There is something deeply disturbing about this argument. Obviously if Zomlot wants to make the case that the occupation is the deadening, oppressive force he claims, robbing Palestinians of their agency and abilities, he needs to compare Palestinian statistics with those of surrounding Arab countries – Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt. That would show presumably the stark imbalance between Arabs not under occupation vs. Arabs under occupation.
The only problem here is that were he to make such a comparison, the Palestinian case would be high on the list of successful economies with a considerably higher standard of living (income, infant mortality, life expectancy, education). That accomplishment under Israeli “Occupation,” allows Zomlot to at once proudly claim Palestinians have a high level of education and, rather than acknowledge the role of Israel in that accomplishment, use it to reproach Israelis for oppressing them with the occupation.
Of course any Israeli who points out these matters is immediately accused of white-man’s imperialism: “look how much better off the natives are under our rule.”
But Palestinians can’t have it both ways: bitch about the terrible conditions of the occupation when they are much better off than their fellow Arabs who are supposedly not under occupation (but really are, namely the pre-modern occupation of prime-divider elites). The key here is pride: to be better off under Israeli occupation is humiliating. To be worse off under occupation by your own corrupt and predatory elites is somehow not, or less.
This is of course classic zero-sum thinking, the world Palestinian Arabs try hard to insist they no longer inhabit: in the words of one of the rioters in 1936-9 to the Peel Commission, we didn’t ask the Jews to come here. You say we are better off: you say my house has been enriched by the strangers who have entered it. But it is my house, and I did not invite the strangers in, or ask them to enrich it, and I do not care how poor it is if I am only master of it. (Palestine Royal [Peel] Commission Report (1937), p. 131).
Actually, it’s precisely this mentality that explains why Palestinians are still so far behind the Israelis. For Zomlot, the accomplishments of the Palestinians in education are used as a reproach to Israelis despite the fact that Palestinian excellence in this field compared with the rest of the Arab world is due to the “occupation.”
The fact that Israeli education and Palestinian education are fundamentally different, that 80% of Palestinian courses are religion (i.e., indoctrination), according to the PA Minister of Education; that of that religious training a goodly portion is triumphalist (i.e. zero-sum) religiosity; that Al Quds University is in the grip of Sieg-heiling, goose-stepping Hamas “students”; that Palestinian start-ups are starved of important resources because of the deep hostility of bullying BDS Palestinian “activists” towards any relations with Israel; that the reason there’s a wall, and so few Palestinians working in Israel is because of the insane campaign of terror that Zomlot’s own organization conducted against Israel, leading to the building of the “apartheid” (really Palestinian terror) wall.
In other words, Zomlot’s argument that these “objective” facts about the disparity between Israel and the Palestinians are the reason Palestinians hate Israelis, with no need for “hate incitement” in schools is nothing short of grotesque. It’s just the opposite: the hate teaching and incitement to genocide in the schools are not based on anything in the real world – even on the specious and invidious patter of Zomlot – but rather on the ugliest, racist, paranoid delusions: Jews as sons of apes and monkeys; Jews as plotters to enslave mankind; Jews as murderers of children and massacrers of civilians; Jews as those who must be exterminated.
This teaching is why Palestinians are crippled in the modern world, in their relationship with their neighbors, in the grip of a predatory elite that sacrifices its young on the altar of a triumphalist-driven war for revenge at honor lost.
As for the water argument, not only does it not acknowledge the immense creation of water resources by Israel and its technology (compare water consumption on WB in 1967 with today), but it ignores the massive role played by Palestinian zero-sum policies, both with regards to Israel and to its own people, that account for the low numbers on the Palestinian side:
pervasive waste, refusal to fix leaks, widespread theft, refusal to process waste and recycle waste-water for agriculture (over half of Israeli irrigation uses treated waste-water), drilling into Israeli resources while not developing their own. As one researcher summed up:
In short, the Palestinian Authority is using water as a weapon against the State of Israel. It is not interested in practical solutions to solve the Palestinian people’s water shortages, but rather perpetuation of the shortages and the besmirching of Israel.
Zomlot’s argument fits this description to a T. We Palestinians are innocent victims of Israeli malevolence, when in fact we have created the situation of water dearth with our willingness to make our own people suffer in order to besmirch our designated enemies.
To try and turn all these invidious statistics into a reproach to Israel for not fully embracing and sharing their wealth with the Palestinians – income parity please! – is grotesque. Essentially, Zomlot is saying: “We will be as malevolent and spiteful as we wish, we will contribute amply to the suffering of our own people, we will attack and breed hatred of Israelis at will, and then turn to the Israelis and the rest of the world and say, ‘look at this! These fucking Israelis are depriving us of what we deserve, namely a full share in everything they produce’.”
Zomlot then turns to the peace process. “Most important,” he intones, “2017 marks 0 progress towards peace. For the Israelis,” he complains, “the center left argument is ‘what’s mine is mine, what’s yours is negotiable,’ for the center-right, it’s ‘everything is mine’. Halas (enough) with this nonsense about incitement and state building and creating a culture of peace.
No, we have good reason to dislike Israel.”
Not a word here about prevalent Palestinian attitudes: “What’s mine is mine (Green Line), what’s yours is also mine (Shoreline).” Not a word about how Israelis might have good reason to mistrust Palestinians, including their glib spokesmen.
“The peace process has created a peace industry that lives off its own failure to go anywhere,” Zomlot continues accurately.
“Killing this peace industry is important to advance.” How to move forward then? “Make peace simply: the 2 State Solution is a good formula. There is no need for talks, for proximity talks. I’ll go maximal,” he boldly proclaims. “We define the endgame (by which he means 67 borders with no swaps), and an outside force (like Trump who’s not part of the peace industry), imposes it.”
“Until this happens, we Palestinians must change the reality by raising cost of occupation. How do we Palestinians do this?
How do we create a bloodless sense of urgency in Israel?” Make it clear we are not going away, make it as uncomfortable for Israel in international forums as possible.
And from this audience, whose intelligence he had just systematically insulted for 20 long minutes, arose an energetic round of applause. Why? Because he said everything that “peace-minded Israelis” and their diaspora colleagues love to hear: We Palestinians are victims; you Israelis are the victimizers; stop your bullying and there will be peace.
It’s all in your hands; if you put an end to the corrupting occupation, all will be well. So what if what I’ve said is systematic deception that hides an abiding hatred and malevolence, that we Palestinians, including the PA, have used every piece of autonomy to pursue their hatreds at the cost of their own people. It makes you Israelis feel so good to indulge in masochistic omnipotence syndrome:
“it’s all our fault, and if we are better, we can fix any/everything.”
I spoke with an Israeli professor, much in the mold of Anita Shapira, afterwards. She loved the session. “After all,” she said to me, “we’ve taken away their rights, their property.” “Rights,” I asked, “what are you talking about?” “Their right to vote.”
“When did they ever have a right to vote that we took away? When have Arab leaders ever given their people a meaningful right to vote? Why is Abbas in the 10th year of a four year term and similarly for Hamas?” End of conversation. I’m a mean, un-empathic right-winger. I’m the enemy of good and fair-minded liberal, peace-seeking Israelis, whereas we applaud demopaths like Zomlot and Ibish.
It’s one thing to dismiss journalists as “not too bright,” as superficial and uninformed: it comes with the terrain. But scholars?
When Israeli and American academics show the same cultic preoccupation with the wrongs Israel has done to the Palestinians, and no awareness of the reason why we treat them as we do – irredentism, terrorism, hate-mongering – it’s somewhat astonishing. I spoke with someone about the organizing of the panel. He explained that first they tried to get Zomlot, who said he couldn’t, so they asked Ibish, who said yes.
Then Zomlot said he could come, and, so as not to offend either one, they invited them both. When I asked why they didn’t also ask the Israeli Ambassador to the US, to present the Israeli position, I was told, “that would have been too confrontational.” [!]
What’s going on here? Why has even one, much less two Arab speakers been invited to the panel – especially non-scholars in these matters (how many Arab “Israel scholars” are there)? And why not have someone defend Israel when it’s being attacked with fake news? And why invite such dishonest, superficial, utterly unself-critical foes? And why, given the latest revelations about the way the US conducted negotiations, not have someone like Michael Herzog, rather than Kurtzer who is still a major part of the problem, and given the opening of the archives about 1967, have Yaakov Lozowick, or Yossi Klein still a major part of the problem, and given the opening of the archives about 1967, have Yaakov Lozowick, or Yossi Klein Halevi?
It’s almost as if the rule of the game were a) Palestinians with no self-critical ability who attack Israel for the Occupation, and b) Jews with highly evolved self-critical abilities who either attack Israel or won’t defend it.
“Look how evolved we are,” the composers of the panel seem to be saying, “look how virtuous. We listen to our enemies and don’t talk back.” Yet, instead of virtue, they signal one more example of the stupefying marriage of pre-modern sadism (it’s all your fault) and post-modern masochism (you’re right). And so, AIS joins the media in promoting the least intelligent, least effective, least realistic, agnatological approach to the problem.
They’re so smart, cause we’re so stupid.
Differently put: they’re winning because we’re submitting to their bullying, acting like proleptic dhimmi.
It is said that AIS is the only academic organization some of whose founders hated the subject of study. Only when Jews are involved could such a thing happen. Now with a new President, Donna Divine, perhaps things will change.