Wednesday, March 08, 2017

The Tragedy of One Sided Compassion

Jewish Voice for Peace - Do we need more of these? (Forward)
Peter Beinart is a tragic figure. This is a man, (an observant Jew I’m told) whose conscience has moved him to make unpopular choices. Especially with those of us that support the State of Israel. First let me answer the question asked in the title of his Forward artilce: No I would not prevent him from entering Israel just because he supports boycotting settlements in the West Bank

Many people have condemned Mr. Beinart for that. And for expressing more sympathy for the plight of Palestinians than for the Israeli victims of the terror stemming from their midst. While I am in profound disagreement with him, I do not attribute nefarious motives to him. When he speaks of his love of the country where Jewish history began, I believe him. And I completely understand his sympathy for the plight of the Palestinian people. I’ve acknowledged their adverse circumstances on the West Bank more than once.

So, no…. Peter Beinart is not evil. But he is grossly misguided in my view. Not because of his sympathy for Palestinians. But for refusing to understand why their dire circumstance exist. 

Now, I’m quite sure that he realizes that Israel has to defend itself and do whatever it can to protect its citizens. But I am equally sure that he does not agree with the way they are doing it – expecting them to not only treat Palestinians with more dignity but to immediately withdraw from the West Bank and actually give them a State of their own. 

I’m sure he believes that once they have a state, the terror will subside. And in any case Israel will still be able to protect their citizens from within their old pre 67 borders. He is not alone in this assessment. This was probably the same kind of assessment made by the previous administration and why they did not veto a UN resolution condemning ‘the occupation’.

I believe he is grossly in error about that. If recent history has taught us anything, it has taught us that the danger to Israel has substantially increased since they gave up Gaza. It should be more than obvious that giving up the West Bank would have similar but more severe consequences.

What also troubles me about his views is that his compassion for the Palestinian people has caused him to espouse their narrative as the ultimate truth of the region. So much so that he urges people to visit the West Bank and see Israel through their eyes. While he did say that people should first learn to love Israel before they do that - it is not too much of a stretch to believe that once you immerse yourself in the other side you might tend to reject what you first believed about Israel and begin to buy into more of the Palestinian argument than even Mr. Beinart would be comfortable with.

I understand why he feels it is necessary to see the plight of the Palestinians themselves by visiting them and seeing it firsthand. It is always a good idea to see the view from the other side before deciding which side has the most merit.  But that will never happen if one of those sides will stop at nothing to vilify the other.

It would not be the first time a Jew - seeing first hand how terrible their conditions are and then abandoning Israel entirely as an Apartheid State that ought to be destroyed. 

The Muslim world in the Middle East has not been averse to passing off fiction as truth when it comes to the Jewish people. Antisemitic books filled with lies like Protocols of the Elders of Zion and Mein Kampf are top sellers there. Popular entertainment figures have publicly advanced false notions about Jews requiring gentile blood as a key ingredient for Matzos on Pesach. In short the propaganda there doesn’t stop with the Israel occupation, it includes good old fashioned antisemitism. 

Mr. Beinart also overlooks the terrorist attacks coming from the Islamists among Palestinians as a result of their extremist religious views combined with the above mentioned indoctrination. To Islamists -  Jews are the devil. That he doesn’t factor any of that into why Israel does what it does is probably because he is blinded by his compassion for the underdog. One can debate the tactics used by Israel to protect its citizens. However, one cannot debate the need.

If one were to follow the logic he employs in ‘seeing things from the other side’ in a case where antisemitism is so rampant, would it not have been logical to feel the same way about seeing the Jewish people from the Nazi Germany’s point of view in the 30s? Are there not two sides?

Would he have encouraged them to visit the Berlin and listen to speeches made by Hitler about what the Jews have really done to their country? Would he have encouraged them to read real histories of Jews in Germany, histories that explode the myth that Jews have contributed to it? Would he have encouraged them to consume as much German poetry, literature, journalism and film as possible? Shouldn’t they too have seen how Jews looks from the other side?

Obviously he would not. He would be appalled at the suggestion and insulted in the extreme, I’m sure - citing major differences. And I wouldn’t blame him. I don’t mean to suggest that he would ever do that. I’m sure he is a kind and decent man. But is what he is asking young people to do by going to the West Bank and absorbing all their antisemitic propaganda all that different?

Once again, I know he means well. He is a humanitarian that opposes the occupation of the Palestinians on West Bank because he truly feels their pain. But I think he might be wise to try and see the Israeli side as well and articulate their view alongside the Palestinian view. And consider the consequences of his suggestions. Do we really need to make more antisemites in the world? Especially Jewish ones?