Israeli Leaders Smear Even Peaceful Palestinian Efforts for a State

Even more threatening to Israel these days than the sporadic violence on its borders from the civil war in Syria or Islamist opposition to the military coup in neighboring Egypt is the peaceful and growing boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) movement in the West and in Palestine against Israeli companies and institutions, especially those that have a presence in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Not surprisingly, Israeli leaders see the potent danger this movement presents to their occupation, which violates international law by continuing to retain and settle territory gained by military conquest.

Yet the rhetoric of Israelis leaders has been over the top in condemning the BDS movement. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently dubbed proponents of BDS "classical anti-Semites in modern garb." Similarly, the country’s economy minister, Naftali Bennett called U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry a "mouthpiece" for anti-Semitic elements attempting to boycott Israel.

Such statements are offensive and ridiculous. In fact, given the fact that the United States has been fairly slavish over the years in its political and military support of Israel and provides this wealthy Middle East nation with more than $3 billion dollars in annual aid, Bennett’s statement is just downright ungrateful.

In Washington’s debates over foreign policy, nobody ever calls someone "anti-Muslim" who advocates cutting off the billions in aid that has been sent to a Pakistani government that not only aids Afghan Taliban guerrillas killing US troops in Afghanistan but probably helps them plan their anti-American attacks. Nor are people who advocate Japan taking over more of its own defense burden from the US government regarded as anti-Buddhist/Shinto.

The term "anti-Semite" has become such a powerful smear because of Adolf Hitler’s legacy of murdering six million Jews. (That Hitler also slaughtered six million so-called "deviants," such as gypsies, gays and lesbians, etc., gets almost no publicity.) In fact, it is no coincidence that the international community and President Harry Truman acquiesced to the creation of the state of Israel in Palestine in 1948 – only three years after Hitler’s murderous reign ended.

A person unfamiliar with the politics of Israel’s creation might ask the logical, but politically incorrect, question: why since the Nazi government committed heinous crimes against the Jews, weren’t they given part of Germany to form a new state after World War II instead of being given the land of Islamic peoples who had nothing to do with the holocaust? The answer is that the Jews wanted to return to their Biblical homeland, no matter who was now living there, and the powers that be – Britain first and then the United States – were predominantly Christian nations with which Biblical stories also resonated.

Yet before Israel was created in 1948, the Jews hadn’t controlled Palestine for nearly 2,000 years – to be exact, after the Romans kicked them out in the year 70 CE. Also, between 638 CE, when the Muslims began their governance of Jerusalem, and 1918, when the British grabbed Palestine after World War I as part of the spoils of the defunct Ottoman Empire, Muslims ruled Palestine for almost 1,200 years (the other 88 years was an interruption in Muslim rule by Christian crusaders). In 1917, to encourage the United States to join its war against Germany, Britain promulgated the Balfour Declaration, which promised Jews a "homeland" (not a state) in Palestine. The problem was that the British, to achieve other policy ends, also promised the same land – on at least two occasions – to Muslims, who despite ancient Bible stories, had a better and more recent historical claim to it.

And in 1948, Israel didn’t just declare a "homeland," but provocatively declared itself a "state," provoking a war with its Arab neighbors. And Israel’s claim to land was much broader than the international community’s plan for partitioning Palestine between Jews and Muslims. In all, Jews returning to Palestine before 1948 legitimately purchased seven percent of Israeli territory; the vast majority of Israel was taken by armed force before and during the 1948 war.

Then in 1967, Israel launched a "preemptive" attack against its Arab neighbors, gaining the West Bank and Golan Heights, which it still occupies today and is settling in violation of international law. Palestinians want the West Bank returned to their ownership and desire to have a viable remnant state on ground to which they have the more valid historical claim. Terrorism (the intentional killing of civilians) should be condemned, as should the Israeli killing of many more Palestinians through "collateral damage" by reckless and excessive Israeli military attacks on suspected terrorists.

Yet after armed conflict of one form or another since the mid-1930s, the Palestinians may have finally stumbled upon the most effective threat to Israeli occupation of the West Bank – the peaceful BDS movement. Because the Palestinians have no real chance of getting rid of Israel by any armed means (and the vast majority of them know it) and because Israel is a working liberal democracy of sorts (at least for Jews), the best way for them to pressure Israel to make concessions to grant them a remnant state is through the peaceful moral suasion of the BDS movement. That is why Israeli leaders are trying so hard to taint Europeans and Palestinians who support it as being "anti-Semites."

Author: Ivan Eland

Ivan Eland is a senior fellow at the Independent Institute and author of Recarving Rushmore: Ranking the Presidents on Peace, Prosperity, and Liberty.