The Obama Administrations continued refusal to criticize Israel for its ruthless killing of aid workers off the coast of Gaza highlights a fundamental problem with the way in which the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in America is portrayed.
The premise upon which the debate is based on is fundamentally flawed, and in some cases overtly racist. The American media and the intellectual classes operate within the logic that Israel is the victim of Arab aggression and is simply defending itself from hostile neighbors – the Muslim countries are anti semitic and hell bent on the destruction of Israel and cannot ever be negotiated with. Israel, the story goes, is a democracy and an ally of the United States, and therefore justified in anything it does to protect itself.
There is one inconvenient truth that shoots a deadly arrow in this narrative, and it isn’t an easy one to swallow.
The truth is that the creation of the Jewish state was based on the theft of land from an indigenous people. While Jews would prefer to believe that their country is a ‘miracle in the desert’, for the hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, it is an everlasting nightmare.
The pro Israel narrative continues with its portrayal of Arab aggression, noting the wars in 1948, 1967 and 1973 as proof that the country was under perpetual attack. While it is true that the Arab nations attacked Israel after it declared itself a nation in 1948, it must be remembered that if Mexican immigrants declared a state of Mexico in Arizona, it is unlikely the U.S government would not see it as an act of aggression and take immediate military action.
The wars in 1967 and 1973 were started by Egypt and Syria, not the Palestinians, and the Israelis used it as an excuse to annex more Palestinian land (Gaza, the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights and the West Bank), an act illegal under international law. The Palestinians, as always, suffered the consequences of competing empires.
The continued occupation of the Palestinian people and the relentless expansion of the Israeli state is a text book definition of colonization. The Palestinians have a right to resist this occupation, and the onus is on Israel to stop it so that peace talks can resume.
The use of terrorism against civilians is, in my opinion, never justified. The Palestinians should find more productive ways of promoting their cause and take the moral high ground. But to continue the ridiculous story that Israel is the victim prevents serious dialogue from happening and destroys any real chance of peace.
While Israel will never disappear, it can and must live in harmony with its neighbors. If it continues to ignore its own history and the pain and suffering it has inflicted on a largely defenseless people, it will continue to be the target of terrorism and hate.
As a Jew, I am ashamed that the enormous suffering of our people has led to the victimization and brutalization of another. The truth about Israel was not an easy one for me to accept. I grew up believing in its virtue and superiority over its heathen neighbors, but the reality I discovered, was not so black and white. The Palestinians are not blameless in this unfortunate episode in history, but they are most certainly the victims. The Palestinians did not kill 6 million Jews or subject them to thousands of years of persecution. The Europeans and Russians did that, and the Palestinians are paying a price for it.
It isn’t right, and it must end. And the Jewish people must speak out about it because they are the only ones who can stop it.
Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.