How could we give permission [for there] to be a state of Islam and a state of Jews? It [the two-state notion] is a kind of apartheid….For the Palestinians and the Israelis, I am sure that the one democratic state will be the only solution
– Badran, Khaled Jaber’s grandfather, April 2012
- We need all [of] Palestine… Israel as a Jewish state is a big lie. It’s a big lie. [Israel is] a European colonial imprint…. It’s a matter of time…. They will go away the same way that France went from Algeria and Italy from Libya.
– Falastin, Khaled Jaber’s mother, April 2012.
Readers will, of course, recall that Khaled Jaber was the five-year-old Palestinian boy filmed sobbing at his father’s arrest by Israeli police, and who, according to Peter Beinart, provided much of the impetus for him to write his recent book, The Crisis of Zionism.
Sauce for the gander
It is, of course, true that the Jaber family’s rejectionist political perspectives are neither moral exoneration for any alleged injustices/iniquities in Israeli policy toward the Palestinians, nor definitive proof of universal or wide-spread sentiments of similar enmity among the wider Palestinian population.
However, neither is the Jaber incident – even if one accepts Beinart’s unquestioning and questionable interpretation of what happened – a fair representation of overall Israeli conduct vis-à-vis the Palestinians, any more than the brutal beating of Rodney King by the LAPD is a representative reflection of official US policy vis-à-vis ethnic minorities.
But since Beinart did extrapolate from the Khaled Jaber incident, implying that it is illustrative of the unfair and oppressive burden imposed on the un-enfranchised Palestinians living under Israeli occupation, he should neither be surprised, nor in a position to protest, when others extrapolate from other localized events/expressions to illustrate the imprudence and implausibility of his views.
Beinart is on record stating that even if he had known the Jaber family’s political beliefs, it would not have changed his decision to feature Khaled’s story in the book’s introduction, saying: “The point I was trying to convey in that story was simply about a small example of the reality of what it means to live as a population that doesn’t have citizenship or the equal rights given by full citizenship and the consequences of that. And that seems to me a reality that is important, irrespective of the political views of the people who are suffering.”
As mentioned earlier, this is not a position that can be dismissed apriori. However, few will deny that it seems more than a little incongruous that the very family through which Beinart chose to convey the pressing need for a two-state arrangement vehemently rejects the admissibility of such an arrangement –irrespective of Israeli policy.
Actually, it’s worse. For it turns out that the Jabers are not a typical Palestinian fellah (peasant) family eking out a meager living from arid lands denied irrigation by iniquitous Israel.
As The Jerusalem Post reported, Badran is a professor at one of Hebron’s two universities – both established in the 1970s under the Israeli administration of the town – prior to which it had no institutions of higher learning.
He is also designated a “senior member” of the radical Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine which has been involved in some of the more gruesome terror attacks over the past half century.
An uncanny knack
The Jabers have an uncanny knack for attracting the attention of the international media. The briefest of Google searches reveals that the incident Beinart seized on was not the Jaber family’s first brush with Israeli forces over illicit water use filmed by an international TV network.
Indeed, 10 months prior to Sky News showing the young Khaled wailing over his father, Fadel, being arrested, lo-and-behold Al Jazeera also appeared to document a confrontation with Israel authorities over the Jaber family illegally tapping into water pipes.
Unsurprisingly, the network broadcast a distorted and deceptive account of the water realities in the “West Bank.”
It accused Israel of depriving Palestinian farmers of their rightful share of water, blithely disregarding – as did Beinart – that it is the Palestinian Authority which is responsible for providing Palestinian consumers with water, but does not even use all of the quota allotted it.
Although the Israeli forces did dismantle the illegal connections, no one was arrested for “water-theft,” and a dapperly dressed Badran vowed to continue to defy the authorities and reinstall them.
First Al Jazeera, then Sky News with the Jabers within the space of a few months? Of course, this may be sheer coincidence – but it does make you think. Just maybe there may be something to the Israeli claim that Fadel Jaber was arrested for disturbing the peace and not for stealing water.
And perhaps there just might be something to the Israeli claim that the poignant scene of the wailing Khaled was less than authentic.
Radical, rejectionist, ruthless
The Jabers’ association with the PFLP is interesting because it shows what inappropriate “icons” they are to illustrate Beinart’s claims. For both their personal opinions and their organizational affiliation illuminate aspects of Palestinian society that underscore the foolhardy futility of Beinart’s political prescription.
The PFLP, in which Jaber has a leading role (the PFLP website describes him as “a leader”) is the second largest faction in the PLO – after Abbas’s Fatah – and is one of the most radical and rejectionist of all Palestinian groups.
It “pioneered” armed aircraft hijackings in the ’60s and ’70s – including the Entebbe episode.
It was involved in some of the most horrific acts of terror – from the 1972 massacre of almost 30 passengers at Lod (now Ben-Gurion) Airport in conjunction with the Japanese Red Army to the brutal 2011 murder of the Fogel family, whose killers were closely associated with the organization.
The PFLP was also responsible for the assassination of Israeli tourism minister Rehavam Ze’evi at a Jerusalem hotel in 2001.
It opposed the Oslo Accords and any recognition of Israel, recently winning praise from Hamas for suspending its participation in the PLO’s Executive Committee.
The PFLP is not an Islamist organization.
It was established by a Palestinian Christian, George Habash, whose animosity toward Israel pre-dates any “nondemocratic occupation” in Judea, Samaria or Gaza, going back to the 1950s.
The same is true of one of Habash’s most notorious lieutenants, Wadie Haddad, who also worked for the KGB and reportedly dismissed the infamous international terrorist Ilich Ramírez Sánchez (Carlos) from his PFLP team for failing to execute hostages.
Neither the heinous history of the organization nor the bloodstained biographies of its founders deterred grandfather Jaber from eulogizing Haddad (and Habash) earlier this year in a radio broadcast, prominently reported on the PFLP’s website, praising their myriad acts of murderous international terror as unwavering loyalty to the Palestinian cause.
Same incident, different portrayals
Why is all this relevant to the assessment of Beinart’s critique of Israeli policy and its US supporters? Because it focuses on one on the major defects in Beinart’s argumentation: His total disregard for the nature of Palestinian society, its deep-rooted hatred of Israel and the widespread rejection of Jewish sovereignty, within any borders whatsoever, as a policy- relevant factor.
Beinart’s haste to accept the emotive superficiality of the 55 second video that spurred him write his book results in a picture of Israel as cruel, discriminatory oppressor, wreaking suffering on a passive, disenfranchised civilian population.
However, a little research into the incident, and the figures it involved, would convey a very different portrait of reality.
It would show Palestinian society as one of pervasive and abiding enmity toward Israel – because of what it is, not what it does – that embraces all segments including non-Muslim secular movements. The Jabers would not be depicted as poor agrarian peasants, toiling in the parched fields, deprived of adequate water by Israeli malice, but educated intellectuals actively affiliated with one of the most extreme terror organizations on the planet and utterly opposed to any conciliation with a Jewish state.
In the former portrait, all the onus is on Israel to act to end the conflict; in the latter, Israeli action is irrelevant for ending the conflict, a portrait in which – as Daniel Gordis pointed out in his debate with Beinart – there is “nothing Israel can do to end the conflict – not even land for peace.”
What about Wafa?
If one wanted to choose an iconic figure to convey the unforgiving realities Israel faces in its interaction with Palestinian society – and one that vividly illustrates the harsh veracity of Gordis’s observation – one could do no better than Wafa al-Biss.
Biss is a young Palestinian woman from Gaza, who in 2004 was admitted to Beersheba’s Soroka University Medical Center with serious burn injuries. At the hospital, she received emergency – probably life-saving – treatment. Her parents and her Gaza doctors praised the dedication of the staff and the quality of the treatment.
She was allowed return for periodic check-ups to monitor her progress.
Then in the summer of 2005, on one of these visits, she was caught at a border crossing, trying to smuggle more 10 kg. of explosives in her clothing. Her plan was to blow herself up in an attack intended to kill the very doctors who had saved her life, along with as many patients and bystanders as possible.
Her dispatchers were not Hamas operatives, but the Fatah affiliated Al-Aksa Brigades.
Biss, although contrite and pleading after her capture, has since her release in the Schalit exchange waxed considerably more defiant, urging youngsters to follow her example of suicide attacks against Israel and further abductions of IDF soldiers to secure the release of more Palestinian prisoners.
So there lies the rub: Dedicated humanitarian aid by Israel is reciprocated with murderous Palestinian actions against the very people who provided the aid.
Now, while Wafa al-Biss’s conduct may not be a template that all Palestinians embrace, judging from the enthusiastic reception she received on her return, it certainly seems to be extremely popular, even in official PA circles.
Reality not ‘stereotypes’
Beinart warns that “depicting Palestinians as violent and hateful” is criticized by young liberal US Jews “as stereotypical and unfair, citing their own Muslim friends” hinting perhaps that they cannot be hoodwinked by duplicitous rightwing propaganda, as they have their own sources of information regarding the real nature of Muslim society.
Sadly for Israel, US Jews’ experience with their Muslim friends has little practical relevance in terms of policy input or political doctrine. After all, the realities that Israel must contend with to ensure the security of the state and the safety of its citizens is not generated by populations of affable, educated Muslims who have chosen to live in an open, democratic society.
The realities it has to deal with are populations that produce societies like those in Sudan and Syria, in Algeria and Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq; that beget organizations such as the Taliban, al-Qaida, Hezbollah, Hamas, Al-Aksa Martyrs Brigade and Islamic Jihad.
One can only hope that Beinart is not seriously suggesting that the genteel interactions that liberal US Jews may have with refined, well-mannered followers of the prophet on leafy US campuses or in elegant suburban salons has any bearing on the policy decisions Israel has to make vis-à-vis the Palestinians –who embrace the likes of Wafa al-Biss, or at least eschew any censure of her, her past actions and future intentions.
Liberal democracy Sderot-style
It is increasing difficult to understand precisely to which interpretation of reality Beinart is trying to tether his political perspectives. Indeed, he has increasingly been compelled to concede that the Palestinians may be unable to make the compromises necessary to achieve his two-state vision.
However, that in no way brings him to admit the probability of error. Instead he makes the extraordinary demand that even if such a vision is presently unattainable, Israel somehow has an obligation to preserve the possibility of its eventual implementation, for an indeterminate period of time during which the Palestinians will presumably, but inexplicably, morph into more amenable beings.
In the interim, Jewish settlements are to be left to wither and disintegrate, and Jewish settlers paid to relocate (a proposal, which when made regarding Jews, is considered “enlightened” and “liberal” but when made regarding Arabs, suddenly becomes “racist” and “fascist”).
Worse, Beinart has now declared economic war on any Jew residing east of the 1949 armistice lines with his recent proposal in The New York Times for a BDS campaign against economic entities operating there – a proposal that South Africa seems to have seized on.
So what is the plausible outcome of the reality Beinart aspires to? The renunciation of Jewish claims to the Jewish homeland and its irrevocable transfer to Muslim control – which, given the developments of the Arab Spring, greatly increases the probability that that control will be in the hands of implacable Islamist extremists.
So Beinart is actually advocating bringing the realities of bombarded Sderot to Rothschild Boulevard in central Tel Aviv, and millions more civilians into the range of weapons being used today against Israel from territory transferred to Palestinian control. Millions more Israeli civilians forced – at the will of Judeophobic extremists – to cower in bomb shelters.
If this is not his intention, he offers precious little to explain how this is to be avoided. Or – if it can’t – why millions of traumatized Israeli children are a price worth paying to assuage the intellectual discomfort he and his ideological cronies apparently suffer.
Is Peres legitimizing BDS?
Beinart’s proposals underscore that he either has no clue or no scruples when it comes to Israeli realities. Either of these should be enough to disqualify him as a speaker at the 2012 Israeli Presidential Conference later this month. For not only does he urge Israel to adopt an undifferentiated policy toward those who endorse its existence and those who endorse its eradication, he advocates immunizing the Palestinians in their quest to destroy Israel – and even facilitating and rewarding their efforts to do so.
But it is perhaps his proposal to impose economic boycott (albeit partial) on the nation’s produce that is the most outrageously intolerable.
Unless the presidential invitation is withdrawn, it is almost unavoidable that it will be interpreted as presidential endorsement of anti-Israeli BDS measures.
How else could it be seen? The consequences will be incalculable.