David Remnick’s issues with Israel (and the facts)

From there the bandits went on to the house of Joshua Ben Arieh, where they stabbed and burned to death Joshua, his wife and one son, and then shot dead his infant son. In the same house three children of Shlomo Leimer, aged 8, 10, and 12, were stabbed and burned to death. Proceeding farther, the Arabs broke into the house of Shimon Mizrahi, where they killed his wife and five children, ranging in ages from 1 to 12 years, and then set fire to the house…. [New York Times, Oct. 4, 1938]

David Remnick once said, with no apparent irony, that “It’s one thing to be ignorant, it’s another to parade it as sophistication.” Too bad he ignores his own advice in his March 21, 2011 New Yorker article, which puts the onus on Israel for the lack of peace in the region, psychoanalyzes Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and – surprise – finds him wanting, all the while portraying Palestinians as peace-seeking, innocent victims of rapacious Israelis.
From Remnick’s blinkered perspective a massacre such as the one described above should not have happened before 1967, before the “occupation.” But it did happen, in 1938.

Throughout the article, Remnick suggests that the strife in Israel revolves around the year 1967 when, in the defensive Six-Day War, Israel ended Jordan’s illegal 19-year occupation of what the Hashemite regime had labeled the West Bank. (The territory was Judea and Samaria to the British Mandate authorities and to Israelis, before Jordan renamed it to cover up their illegal annexation, an annexation recognized only by Britain and Pakistan.)

Remnick writes,

For years, Israeli and American commentators have been waiting for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to leave behind the right-wing Revisionist ideology of his father…and…end the occupation of the Palestinian territories…The occupation – illegal, inhumane, and inconsistent with Jewish values – has lasted forty-four years…without serious progress toward an agreement, matters will likely deteriorate, perhaps to the point, yet again, of violence.

First of all, the occupation is not illegal – that is, until there is a treaty with some other party allocating the territory and establishing recognized and permanent borders, Israel is under no obligation to withdraw. Israel is thus no more an illegal occupier of the West Bank than the United States or the Soviet Union were illegal occupiers of Germany when their armies fought their way towards Berlin during World War 2.

Furthermore, unlike the situation with the occupation of Germany, Israel has legitimate claims to Judea and Samaria under the terms of the Palestine Mandate, which in Article 6 called for “close settlement by Jews on the Land.” Israeli territorial claims, as well as Palestinian and possibly Jordanian ones, all need to be settled by negotiations, as per UN Security Council Resolution 242.

As for Remnick’s offensive claim that “commentators have been waiting” for Netanyahu to leave behind the ideology of his father, he neglects to consider that perhaps Netanyahu might actually believe in the ideology independently of his father, and that his beliefs might actually be well-grounded legally, historically and strategically. But to Remnick, apparently, no serious, intelligent person could possibly believe what Benjamin Netanyahu has long espoused in his books and speeches. Of course, Remnick has probably forgotten that the Middle East is not the Upper East Side, and his cultural imperialism blinds him to the fact that what passes for wisdom in one place might be folly in another.

Also, noticeably missing is a similar psychological profile of Arab leader Mahmoud Abbas, the leader who last year saw fit to praise and eulogize Abu Dauod, ‘commander’ of the 1972 Munich terrorist raid, saying, “He is missed. He was one of the leading figures of Fatah and spent his life in resistance and sincere work as well as physical sacrifice for his people’s just causes.”

Such glorification of terrorists, like the acts of terror themselves, are not aberrant occurrences. Palestinian terrorists are routinely glorified as role models both by the Palestinian Authority and by Hamas.

Remnick ignores Abbas’s history of Holocaust minimization that borders on Holocaust denial, and fails to offer any analysis of what all this might portend for the peace process. Remnick never says whether Abbas or other Palestinian leaders have any beliefs that they need to “leave behind,” apparently because he doesn’t believe that they do.

And Remnick also omits that Abbas has been shown to speak one way to a Western audience, and in a completely contradictory way to an Arab audience. Indeed, just one day after the massacre of five Jews in Itamar Abbas allowed for Dalal Mughrabi – who commanded the Fatah terrorists that perpetrated the 1978 coastal road massacre in which 37 Israelis, including a dozen children, were slaughtered – to be honored at a ceremony where a public square was named after her. And only weeks ago, under the direct control of Abbas’s office, videos that glorified the terrorist Habash Hanani – who, in May 2002, entered Itamar and murdered three Israeli students – were televised.

Rather than giving his readers a full picture of the Palestinian leaders, Remnick makes the fantastic claim that “Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad…have shown themselves willing to make the concessions needed for a peace deal.” If that is the case, why was there no peace deal when then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert once again offered the Palestinians huge concessions, to no avail? Indeed, according to Remnick “Inevitably, the parameters of a two-state solution would be like those established at Taba, in 2001, and by Ehud Olmert and Mahmoud Abbas, in 2008.” If so, why was the deal offered by Olmert not accepted? Remnick doesn’t say.

Just as misguided as his portrayal of Abbas-the-peacemaker is his premise that pre-1967 massacres by Palestinians, such as the one in Tiberius in 1938, should not have happened, since this was before the “occupation” that is supposedly the root of the problem. But far from being an aberrant act of terror, the Tiberius massacre is just one example in a long history of terrorism committed against the Jewish people in the land of Israel, both before 1967 and after.

In 1929, in Hebron for example, Arabs slaughtered their Jewish neighbors; whole families were murdered with their children, many with axes and knives.

In 1954, in Scorpion’s Pass (Maale Akrabim), “An omnibus of the Egged company proceeding from Eilat to Beersheba was ambushed and attacked at that spot by an armed Arab band. The first volley of shots killed the driver and hit several passengers. The immobilised vehicle was subjected to a hail of bullets from all sides. The murderers brok e in, killing off the survivors. Altogether, 11 men and women were put to death. Four escaped, of whom two were seriously wounded. (Statement to the Knesset by Prime Minister Sharett on the Ma’aleh Akrabim incident, 24 March 1954).

In 1956, murder took place in Shafrir when terrorists opened fire on a synagogue full of children and teenagers.

After the Six-Day War, the acts of terror against civilians continued.

In 1972, it was the slaying of the Israeli Olympic team in Munich, Germany.

In 1974, there was the execution of schoolchildren in Ma’alot in northern Israel on a field trip from Safed:

(Israeli General) Gur said later that he could see the girl students being shot one by one. Israeli officers said that they found ten girls dead, each with a bullet in the neck. Time’s David Halevy was among the first to enter. “Gray smoke enveloped the school,” he reported…I raced up to the second floor. A group of dead kids were lying in a corner. Their bodies were clustered in grotesque positions — as if they had died trying to protect one another. One girl was lying on her back, her eyes wide open, staring at the ceiling. Her body was cut in half at the waist. Most of the injured seemed to be girls. That was the shocking thing. They were beautiful girls with ugly wounds on their faces. Their clothes had been shredded, and there were open wounds on their breasts and legs. The movement of stretchers seemed endless.” The carnage, once the shooting ended, included 17 teen-agers dead and 70 wounded. (Time Magazine; Monday, May. 27, 1974).

Just last week, there was the murder of the Jewish family living in Itamar, when Udi Fogel, 36, Ruth Fogel, 35, and their children Yoav, 11, Elad, 4, and three-month-old Hadas were stabbed to death and partially decapitated.

The list goes on. Far from this terrorism being linked to a specific year, as Mr. Remnick would have his readers believe, this is an ongoing pattern of attacks against the Jewish people living in Israel for generations.

The right of the Jewish people to live in their historic homeland of Israel was rejected before 1948, and after the reestablishment of the modern State of Israel in 1948; before 1967, after 1967; and this basic right is still being denied today. Only when journalists like Mr. Remnick are willing to clearly identify the root cause of the strife in the region -the absolute and ongoing rejection of Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel – only then, will they help the situation. Otherwise, they at best obfuscate the truth, or at worst give excuses and cover to the actual perpetrators of misery and injustice in the Middle East.

Other Serious Problems

Mr. Remnick portrays the Jewish connection to the Land of Israel as a singularly post-World War II phenomenon, and as revolving exclusively around safety considerations and pragmatic concerns. There is no mention of the four-thousand-year historical connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, or that Israel is the religious and spiritual center of the Jewish world. Remnick fails to mention that there has been a continuous Jewish presence in the Land of Israel from ancient times until today.

Remnick ignores the fact that despite the numerous conquerors who attempted to invade the Jewish homeland – from the Babylonian empire, to the Persian and Greco-Assyrian, to the Roman, Byzantine, Arab Caliphates, Turkish, Crusader, Ayyubid, Mameluke, and Ottoman – the Land of Israel, remained the country of only one people, and Jerusalem has served as the capital of only one nation,that of the Jewish nation.

The centrality of the Land of Israel to the Jewish people cannot be overstated or ignored, and yet, Mr. Remnick does ignore it. He essentially ties Jewish history in the Land of Israel to the Holocaust, citing “the necessity of a Jewish state after the Second World War” as its only justification.

There is also no mention of the displacement of 850,000 Jewish refugees who were forced to flee from Arab lands after 1948, no mention of the pogroms and persecution of Jews in those regions who had to abandon their homes and belongings and find new lives in safe, and more welcoming, lands. The only refugees Mr. Remnick recognizes are Arab refugees.

Every mention of justice and morality, tragedy and suffering, he relates to the plight of Arabs. To Israel, meanwhile, he assigns terminology such as illegal, inhumane, stubborn, proto-fascistic, anti-democratic – these terms to a country which has been named “the only country in the region to rank as Free and qualify as an electoral democracy.”

Perhaps Remnick is expressing his personal feelings about these matters, given the absence of historical fact; but these invectives have no place in genuine journalism.

Mr. Remnick falsely charges that “AIPAC, the Anti-Defamation League, and other such right-leaning groups have played an outsized role in American politics… [and] are hardly representative.” In fact the American Jewish groups that support Israel have large numbers of supporters, and gain what influence they have, precisely because they are representative of both the Jewish community and the wider American community. Indeed, year after year polls show that the overwhelming majority of Americans support the State of Israel.

Remnick also inexcusably ignores the incitement to hate and murder Jews that is regularly found in Arab media, mosques, and educational materials, and that public squares, summer camps, and sports tournaments are repeatedly named after terrorists. And besides ignoring the hate education in Arab countries and the Palestinian territories, Remnick also ignores the impact this hate education has, and specifically how it makes peace with Israel so difficult to achieve.

Columnist David Suissa describes how Arab children can:

…walk to school along a street named after the terrorist Abu Jihad, who planned a bus hijacking that killed 37, spend the day in a school named after Ahmad Yassin, the man who founded Hamas, play soccer in the afternoon in a tournament honoring terrorist Abd Al-Basset Odeh, who killed 31, and end his day at a youth center named after Abu Iyad, who was responsible for killing 11 Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich.

Remnick either does not know all this, or worse, he does, and wants to make sure his readers don’t find out.

It is disconcerting that a prominent journalist such as Mr. Remnick could write such an inaccurate, incomplete article that so mangles the history of the region about which he is commenting. While one might not expect Mr. Remnick to be a Middle East expert, if he hopes to contribute constructively towards bettering the situation, before he again writes on the Middle East, he might try reading a reliable history of the region.

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