Who Cares About History?
Three news items this week were rooted in efforts to rewrite history at Israel’s expense.
On Monday, the Hamas-linked Palestinian Information Center mocked Israelis participating in “so-called ‘Holocaust remembrance’” and called Tel Aviv a “settlement.”
In less than 140 Arabic characters, the tweet denied the past of a city that was established by Zionists in 1909 and questioned if there was Holocaust.
Perhaps it’s not surprising that the tweet contained so much misinformation, as Einat Wilf explained earlier this month:
Holocaust denial, Holocaust minimization (‘6 million is an exaggerated number’) Holocaust ‘equalization’ (‘there were other genocides and ethnic cleansings, the Holocaust was no different’), Holocaust reversal (‘what the Nazis did to the Jews is what the Jews are doing to others’), Holocaust marginalization (‘other people were also killed in the War’) and Holocaust by association (‘the Palestinians are the secondary victims of the Holocaust’), are all but different facets of the same effort—to rob Israel of what seems like a powerful and indisputable source of legitimacy.
In another case that culminated earlier this week, the British government was petitioned to apologize for the Balfour Declaration, which was falsely described as the product of a “colonial policy” that led to the displacement of the Palestinian people. The declaration, which marks its 100th anniversary this year, was one of the documents underlying the establishment of a modern Jewish homeland.
London responded with a forceful statement calling the Balfour Declaration “an historic statement for which [Her Majesty’s Government] does not intend to apologise. We are proud of our role in creating the State of Israel. The task now is to encourage moves towards peace.”
The Palestinian Authority’s involvement in the campaign to pressure the UK to apologize for the Balfour Declaration is troubling.
The Palestine Liberation Organization, the PA’s predecessor, agreed in 1993 to renounce terrorism and negotiate peace with Israel. One of the conditions for accepting the PLO as a peace partner was that it would change parts of its charter that call for Israel’s destruction. One of the articles it was supposed to change was Article 20, which reads:
The Balfour Declaration, the Mandate for Palestine, and everything that has been based upon them, are deemed null and void. Claims of historical or religious ties of Jews with Palestine are incompatible with the facts of history and the true conception of what constitutes statehood. Judaism, being a religion, is not an independent nationality. Nor do Jews constitute a single nation with an identity of its own; they are citizens of the states to which they belong.
Whether or not Palestinian leadership actually abrogated the offending sections of its charter, the Balfour apology campaign shows that the PA still denies Israel’s basic right to exist.
The third case rooted in historical distortion this week featured convicted Palestinian terrorist Rasmea Odeh, who finally acknowledged in court on Tuesday that while applying for U.S. citizenship, she had lied about her involvement in a 1969 bombing that killed two university students in Jerusalem. Odeh now faces a sentencing hearing in August, after which she will be deported to Jordan.
While Odeh’s lie about her bloody past was motivated by an apparent desire to became an American citizen, it also reflected efforts by her supporters to downplay the severity of Palestinian terrorism.
But these falsehoods damage rather than strengthen prospects for peace, as they all seek to delegitimize Israel and give the Palestinians no incentive to compromise.
In an essay this past January, Max Singer of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies argued that for there to be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, the U.S. and other international players must adopt a “truth telling strategy,” which would discourage Palestinians from distorting history to attack Israel’s legitimacy.
Persistent US truth-telling would so undermine the Palestinian leadership’s efforts to deny basic historical truths that they would not be able to continue without embarrassing themselves before their own people. It would show the Palestinians that the US, and presumably other democracies, are not prepared to accept blatant falsehoods as justification to force Israel to accept a Palestinian victory. This would undermine one of the major Palestinian reasons for thinking they might still be able to destroy Israel: their hope that it is not too late to remove Israel from the land completely. That Palestinian hope is the fundamental obstacle to peace.
Who Cares About UNSCR 1701?
Hezbollah’s media tour of Lebanon’s border with Israel last week showed that the Iranian proxy had “dropped all pretenses and laid bare the joke that is UNSCR 1701 and the ‘Lebanese government,’” wrote Tony Badran, a research fellow at Foundation for Defense of Democracies. (United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701, which ended the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, stipulated that there be no armed groups in Lebanon except for the Lebanese Armed Forces [LAF] and banned other nations from shipping weapons to any force other than the LAF.)
In essence, Badran observed, the media tour showed that the Lebanese government is totally dependent on Hezbollah.
The control Hezbollah wields over Lebanon was highlighted during another incident this week. Lebanese President Michael Aoun, an ally of Hezbollah, and other Lebanese officials are seeking to prevent passage of additional U.S. sanctions against the Iranian proxy, arguing that such sanctions “greatly harm Lebanon and its people.” Aoun’s claim that sanctions against Hezbollah would hurt the Lebanese people is an admission that Hezbollah effectively dominates Lebanon. As David Daoud, a research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, observed in January: “Slowly but surely, the Party of God is clearing its own path towards full control of Lebanon’s government.”
There may however be one player on the international scene that cares about enforcing UNSCR 1701: Israel. Several missiles struck sites near Damascus International Airport on Thursday, shortly after four cargo planes from Iran landed in Syria. According to Emanuele Ottolenghi, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, such flights often transport weapons to Hezbollah in violation of UNSCR 1701.
While Israel did not claim responsibility for the missile strikes, Israeli Intelligence Minister Yisrael Katz said they were “consistent with our policy to prevent Iran’s smuggling of advanced weapons via Syria to Hezbollah by Iran.” If Israel did attack the suspected Hezbollah arms depots in Damascus, it would appear to be the one country in the world that is serious about enforcing UNSCR 1701.
Who Cares About Iran’s Nuclear Weapons Program?
There’s an interesting quote in Josh Meyer’s Politico article on Monday documenting the consequences of the Obama administration’s decision last year not to pursue 14 suspects involved in Iran’s nuclear program. Former Justice Department counterproliferation prosecutor David Locke Hall said the move “erased literally years — many years — of hard work, and important cases that can be used to build toward other cases and even bigger players in Iran’s nuclear and conventional weapons programs.”
Hall’s comment is the latest of many indications that Iran sought to illicitly develop nuclear weapons—a well-documented fact affirmed by the UN that Iran continues to deny.
The former prosecutor also said that by deciding not to pursue the fugitives, even though their “crimes posed a direct threat to U.S. national security, the [Obama] administration has essentially told [U.S. officials] their efforts have produced nothing more than political capital that can be traded away when politically expedient.”
This is an especially damaging criticism of the nuclear deal. When defending the deal in August 2015, former President Barack Obama said, “I’ve had to make a lot of tough calls as President, but whether or not this deal is good for American security is not one of those calls. It’s not even close.”
Even if one accepts the claim that the nuclear deal was itself good for American security, according to a number of former Justice Department and FBI officials who spoke to Politico, Obama compromised national security by failing to go after the Iranian fugitives in order to secure the accord. Given that he sold the nuclear agreement as a means of enhancing American security, that failure is particularly egregious.
“If a state of Palestine were given independence tomorrow, would it become a failed state?” Eylon Aslan-Levy asked at the beginning of his recent article in The Tower Magazine. While a Palestinian state is often presented as a necessary ingredient for a stable Middle East, “a close examination reveals that this is wishful thinking,” Aslan-Levy wrote.
Aslan-Levy noted that mainstream Israeli opinion and the leaders of the Likud, Yesh Atid, and Labor parties all show skepticism toward Palestinian statehood. Even opposition leader Isaac Herzog, head of the center-left Zionist Union coalition, “proposes the postponement of final-status talks by 10 years in hopes that a decade of non-violence and ‘dramatically accelerated’ economic development will lay the groundwork for a sustainable peace.”
The factors inhibiting the rise of a successful Palestinian state include “group grievances” resulting from the failure of a united government, with the two largest factions Fatah and Hamas unable to reconcile. Palestine would also suffer from a lack of “state legitimacy,” Aslan-Levy warned. “The PA is alienated from its people and endemically corrupt. Mahmoud Abbas is in the 13th year of a four-year term, and most Palestinians want him to resign.”
“The world calls for Israel to negotiate the creation of a Palestinian state, but according to its own data and statements, the PA lacks the foundations for viable statehood,” Aslan-Levy observed. As a Palestinian state would be extremely fragile, “any destabilizing fallout would inevitably spill over into Israel and provoke renewed conflict.”
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Three Big Questions
While Hezbollah’s takeover of Lebanon is a clear violation of UNSCR 1701, the UN has done nothing to enforce the resolution. The UN is also a member of the Middle East Quartet, which is designated to oversee peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians. One of the Quartet roadmap principles insists that Hamas accept Israel’s right to exist. Given the UN’s fecklessness in enforcing 1701, what confidence can Israel have that any peace agreement agreed to under its authority will protect it from future threats?
A Syrian drone was shot down on Thursday evening by a Patriot missile over the Israeli Golan Heights. Was this breach of Israeli airspace a response to the targeting of a suspected Hezbollah arms depot near Damascus International Airport earlier in the day?
PA President Mahmoud Abbas has been trying to impose his political leadership over the Gaza Strip against Hamas’ objections. Is this his attempt to fix the widespread impression that the PA is dysfunctional and incapable of leading an independent nation, especially in advance of his scheduled meeting with President Donald Trump in early May?
[Photo: bar stef / YouTube ]