Once upon a time there was a newspaper called the Jewish Chronicle, known as ‘the organ of Anglo-Jewry’, dismissed by younger generations as too reflective of their parents’ views, but a solid Jewish communal institution that provided sober and often prize-winning journalism, an essential and independent lodestar of communal opinion, as well as a channel for the necessary social data exchanges any community thrives upon.
Whether as a response to the digital age or the perceived need to dumb-down to gain a wider readership and compete with a rival that is often no better than a US supermarket freebee, the JC has become a very red top organ, shrill and sensational in its headlines and conjecture. Here’s a current example: “Government in chaos over Alan Duncan’s ‘land grab’ video”.
Now, just pause, as the government has been doing during the summer recess. David Cameron has been back and forth from his well-earned summer break, for the riots and for Libya. There was no headline about him returning from Cornwall for this ‘chaos’. The Deputy PM and the Foreign Secretary have also had other matters to contend with and what Alan Duncan said on a video wasn’t grave enough for them to comment on. And let’s face it, the JC got it right on one count – what Duncan said reflects government policy. The fact that what he said uses similar language to that employed by the Palestinians doesn’t change that. And saying it, hasn’t caused Her Majesty’s Government anything like chaos.
What this is more about is not so hidden in the JC’s article – the “fury” Duncan’s remarks sparked from community leaders and the Israeli Embassy. Sadly the identity of precisely who amongst our illustrious communal leaders were so exercised about, isn’t revealed and not even the Deputy Israel Ambassador or the Minister Plenipotentiary are quoted, merely an anonymous Embassy spokesman.
Mr Duncan, the JC reveals, is that rare bird, within otherwise closed Israel Right Or Wrong (IROW) Tory ranks, he’s “pro-Palestinian”. Heaven forfend! A Tory minister, no less, espousing pro-Palestinian sentiments? Does that mean there are in fact Palestinians and that they merit support from Tories. Does that make Mr Duncan instantly an anti-Semite, and/or an anti-Zionist? Is it because he spoke against the now notorious land grab that has been an integral and widely acknowledged part of the construction of the West Bank security barrier.
There are some, and the JC is seeking to pander to them, despite the editor’s on-the-record opposition to the occupation, who want their cake and eat it too. The barrier has undoubtedly vastly reduced the levels of cross Green Line terror attacks against Israeli civilians, but it has also gobbled up Palestinian land along the way. Security is no excuse for more thefts of Palestinian owned land, even if the word ‘expropriation’ is preferred. And as to water – it’s another one of those facts the IROW crowd love to ignore, but the evidence is there for anyone to see, if they wanted to. The water table that serves much of the occupied West Bank settlements, Jerusalem and other Israeli towns sits under the Palestinian hills surrounding Ramallah.
What makes this sensationalising nonsense so heinous is that it plays into the hands of all those who believe that by persisting in the occupation, by no longer even talking about it, everyone else will actually forget it. That is arrogance taken to a height of sheer blindness. It is, as one UK lawyer has aptly said, sticking your head in the sand, thus revealing your real thinking parts.
Go on then. Keep up the game played best by Bibi Netanyahu. Lie to your best friends, spin the words ‘Two State Solution’ whilst you build more in the settlements justified by ‘natural increase’, preach to the President of the United States, permit your closest allies to demean that President in ways reminiscent of the way you condoned by your silence the vilification of Yitzhak Rabin Z”L, curry favour with fascists like Glenn Beck and the American evangelical right, do nothing when your Foreign Minister takes the meaning of pariah to unknown depths, lose all your friends one by one in the international community, ignore the prophecy of apartheid from one of Israel’s longest standing British Jewish supporters, pretend that you’ve got the muscle to stop the Palestinians in their quest for UN recognition. Keep going.
But what will you and the JC editorial team make of this Haaretz headline: UN rep. Prosor: Israel has no chance of stopping recognition of Palestinian state ? Or this Ynet one: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4115791,00.html
Who in the Board of Deputies, or amongst the lofty circles of the Anglo-Jewish leadership, or in the London Embassy whence the mighty Ron Prosor came, will you quote as being furious? Which government in chaos will you now describe? It can’t be Her Majesty’s Government. They’re one of those who pursue a Two States Solution policy and who are frankly more fed up with the constant barrage of the IROW crowd whining and moaning about “our pain” because neither Mr Cameron nor Mr Hague are prepared to jump to Israel’s defence when so many of its actions defy defence, than they’ll ever be about Alan Duncan’s video clip.
The government of Israel and its supporters have been in sheer chaos ever since the Palestinians came up with this UN wheeze. And that is really inexplicable. Firstly, the Palestinians are weak and divided, between the West Bank sort of governed by Mahmoud Abbas and the Gaza Strip monopolized by Hamas. Separately and together they are no match for the IDF. Sorry to upset those in Conservative Friends of Israel who tried to ban the use of the word ‘disproportionate’, but if the IDF is the regional military power, then measured against what the Palestinians have as armed forces, this is an asymmetrical, uneven conflict in which, since the first IDF post ‘67 scenarios were drafted, the use of massive and Disproportionate Israeli force was inevitable. That is the history of occupation, and we as Jews and Israelis ought to know about it, as we’ve been on the receiving of it often enough in our time.
And there’s something else we ought to know. The longer and harder you suppress the will for national self-determination, the more you are unable to defeat it militarily, and the worse your failure in the process becomes for you.
Secondly what does UN recognition for the Palestinians actually mean? Does it provide, the day after, for a state with recognized borders and all the accoutrements of a modern state? No. It is a world community’s nod in the direction of that statehood, the fine details for which must still be determined in that one arena Bibi Netanyahu has nightmares about – talks.
What seems to be at the heart of Israeli government anxiety is the loss of the blank cheque of psychological advantage, that in fact there are limits to Israel’s power.
By now it is self-evident that the two pronged Netanyahu policy of arrogant prevarication and obfuscation has collapsed. The smartest and most self-serving path any government of Israel could pursue, after its UN Ambassador tells the truth – and wait, he’ll be denied as a Lefty, just like all those ex-generals, one Chief of Staff amongst them, and heads of military and civilian intelligence who have insisted on a return to talks to reach a Two States Solution, or dared to criticize Bibi’s ‘No’ policies – is to be amongst the first to vote for Palestinian recognition. Let’s face it, Israel could do with some pats on the back, some international approval, a new peace dividend maybe, a chance to find peace with itself. You don’t need housing protests and demands for social reform to know that Israel has slipped into an abyss, mostly but not completely of its own devising.
This is where the real chaos is, and it is one we who love Israel have been furious about for some time. It’s just that our fury isn’t worthy of a sensational headline.