The latest explosion of terrorism from Gaza, the reaction from Israel, the violence in and around Jerusalem and the international response to these events continues to reverberate. Things have calmed somewhat in Israel, although violence continues, but a second, related front continues to rage in the public dialogue.
Anti-Israel rallies worldwide have seen explicit antisemitic imagery and threats openly and prominently exhibited. Such expressions are now commonplace at protests, in online spaces and in public squares. Anyone who insists there is some sort of hermetically sealed wall between anti-Zionism and antisemitism needs to explain why bands of thugs in London drove through Jewish neighbourhoods screaming “F**k the Jews, rape their daughters.” Social media has logged millions of overtly Jew-hating statements and images, including thousands of instances of the phrase #Hitlerwasright.
These examples are obviously extreme. Far more common, even from ostensibly mainstream voices, including elected officials in Canada, the United States and Europe, is language employing the apartheid libel or that Israel is a “settler-colonial” regime.
The settler-colonial motif is particularly effective in the Americas because we, unlike Israel, are actual settler-colonial societies. The assertion that Jews are, basically, an invasive species in the Land of Israel meets fertile soil just as global attention again focuses on the situation of Palestinians.
While the antisemitic language and violence is deeply worrisome, it raises a secondary issue about the motivations of anti-Israel voices. Villainizing, isolating and denouncing Israel seems to fulfil some primal urge in a great number of people. What it does not do is hasten Palestinian self-determination.
Any resolution to the conflict and, therefore, Palestinian statelessness, will come from the rejection of this approach. Put plainly: one cannot be pro-Palestinian and anti-Israel at the same time. If you seek the destruction of Israel, you reject compromise, coexistence and peace – the only things that will ever bring about an independent Palestine.
The binary that defines the Israeli-Palestinian situation is a false one. Being pro-Israel demands being pro-Palestinian – seeking a compromise in which both peoples live in peaceful coexistence. Being pro-Palestinian requires being pro-Israeli because only when the Palestinians, the region and the world accept Israel’s right to exist will we have a scenario where coexistence and a Palestinian state will emerge.
People overseas, many with no personal stakes in the conflict, prolong the problem. Among self-defined “pro-Palestinians” are many who seem content to fight for Palestine to the last Palestinian. Evidence of this macabre attitude can be seen every time overseas “allies” revel in the supposed moral victory of Palestinian victims exceeding Jewish victims when conflict erupts.
Similarly, too common among our own folks are rantings on social media along the lines that “there is no such thing as a Palestinian people.” Call them what you will (decent people refer to others by the terms they prefer), there are people who call themselves Palestinians and semantic arguments will not change that. We win no awards or disagreements by proving that the people who call themselves Palestinian are something other than what they say – just as those who subscribe to the kooky Khazar conspiracy of Jewish origin to refute Jewish indigeneity to the Holy Land deflect from the issue at hand. In both cases, it does not negate the core issue: both peoples – and many more whose identity gets short shrift in the binary – exist and live there now. That will not change.
Israel is not going anywhere and Israelis are not going, as the late American political reporter Helen Thomas suggested, “back to Poland.” Neither are Palestinians. The first step – it seems ludicrous that it needs to be said – is acknowledging that both peoples (and others!) are there now and deserve to be.
There are countless complexities in the Israeli-Palestinian mess. But there is one certainty that is not the least bit complicated: Palestinian self-determination will come and Israel’s right to exist will be secured because of coexistence and compromise. Neither side’s extremists will ever win.