The Washington Post is certainly working overtime to get Israel’s message out. Between Jackson Diehl, Richard Cohen, Jennifer Rubin and Fred Hiatt, it’s hard to tell who is a more effective hasbarist.
In a guest commentary over at the WaPo, Robert Bernstein makes an argument that ends up minimizing true anti-Semitism as it tries to conflate opposition to Israeli policies with hatred of all Jews:
Yet at this moment of possibility, the United Nations is fueling discord and anti-Semitism.
The United Nations is doing this by granting legitimacy to Hamas, a terrorist Islamic group, and the Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas. A vote to add to the United Nations a new member state that calls for the elimination of its neighbor and glorifies terrorism will make peace harder — not easier — to achieve. While Hamas’s calls for genocide most certainly should be condemned, those who would accept the position Abbas has taken, even as recently as Friday, when he submitted to the United Nations an application for statehood, should be aware of the work of Palestinian Media Watch. The group, an Israeli research institute focused on monitoring the messages of all aspects of Palestinian media, has detailed some of the deception of the Palestinian Authority, even during moments of peace talks. For example, while portraying himself to the West as a man of compromise, Abbas said flatly last October that “we refuse to recognize a Jewish state.”
Human rights groups, which could be highlighting the crimes of Arab dictatorships against Israel and each other, have instead chosen to focus primarily on Israel. They continually discount the extraordinary steps Israel takes to protect civilians on both sides — steps approved by military experts, such as using pamphlets, phone calls and even noise bombs to scare people away from a location before a bombing — while whitewashing Hamas’s desire to eliminate a whole country as just bluster and meaningless words. One would think that, of all organizations in the world, human rights groups would particularly believe that words matter. Words inform intent and influence action. Words and actions need to be taken seriously, especially when they are sponsored by governments.
In the article, Bernstein links to sources with a far-right pro-settler agenda and in particular, Itamar Marcus. Marcus has a long track record of misrepresenting the facts in order to support his anti-Palestinian agenda (see here and here).
First of all, Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian PM Salaam Fayyad have repeatedly recognized Israel’s right not only to exist, but to do so in peace and security. Additionally, the Arab Peace Initiative stipulates that Arab League states would recognize and normalize relations with Israel upon a just resolution of the conflict- ie. a Palestinian state based on internationally recognized 1967 lines. The refusal to acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state is based on the PA’s oft-stated belief that doing so will hurt them in negotiations over the right of return and the rights of Arab citizens of Israel. Abbas specifically stated at the UN that he is not trying to delegitimize Israel but rather delegitimize the occupation. The media, the US government and the Israel Lobby continually ignore that very important distinction. I’m not sure why we should expect the Palestinians NOT to criticize and oppose their status as a stateless people under military occupation, but we clearly do.
That’s not to say there is no anti-Semitism in the Arab world- there is a lot of it. I am not going to defend irrational hatred of any kind. However, the ongoing occupation and failure to resolve the crisis only makes matters worse. The plight of the Palestinians is a festering wound in the Arab world and pretending that Israeli policies don’t play a role in how Israel is viewed is disingenuous. In addition, whether people agree or not, the perception of Israel is that it is exempted from all legal and moral accountability for everything and anything it does because of it’s relationship with the United States. So while the U.S. and our allies always claim Israel is being unfairly singled out for criticism at the UN (and there are times when it certainly has been), some would argue that it is also unfairly singled out for special protection and privileges. Two wrongs don’t make a right.
We all understand that Iran or Syria criticizing Israel’s human rights abuses is ridiculous, but does that automatically mean that the Palestinians can never have their rights under international law vindicated at the UN because sometimes Israel is unfairly targeted for criticism? The illegal settlement issue is a perfect example. Israel is allowed to knowingly violate international law with regard to settlements/land/water/resource appropriation for no other reason than that they are Israel and the Palestinians just have to suck it up. If the situation were reversed we certainly wouldn’t expect Israel to tolerate that- and they wouldn’t.
UPDATE: At least one media source has decided to analyze Bernstein’s claims, of course it’s not an American outlet but rather The Economist. You can check it out here.