If the right is unable to get the results it wants even in Brooklyn, it is easy to imagine its plight in other places.

May 24, 2011

In News

  • Netanyahu heads for Washington as Israel to stop Israel’s collision course with all our allies, who are no longer prepared to listen to his arguments about the country’s security.

    By Zeev Sternhell

     Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is going to Washington at what may be the last chance to turn the establishment of a Palestinian state from a global anti-Israel campaign into a joint Israeli, American and European project. The establishment of a sovereign Palestinian state is today a necessity, just as Zionism was a necessity. And about half of Israeli society apparently agrees with Western public opinion and Western governments on the principle that Palestinian Arabs have the same right to independence and sovereignty as do Israeli Jews.

    Were Netanyahu a leader worthy of the name, one who understood the deep processes taking place under his nose and tried to make the most of them, he would not think and speak like a leader of the Betar youth movement. But on his upcoming trip to the United States, Netanyahu will prefer to rely on AIPAC, an organization that represents the right-wing minority of American Jews and symbolizes the Jewish community’s disappearing past. There, just as in the Likud Central Committee, it is still possible to talk about the Land of Israel as belonging to the Jews alone.

    It is precisely this approach, which ignores the rights of the Palestinians, that drives young people, intellectuals and liberals away. At universities, in the media and in the cultural world, these groups are already displacing the conservatives. The extent to which the Jewish right has lost its sway even in its stronghold, New York, can be gathered from its failure to prevent American playwright Tony Kushner from getting an honorary doctorate from the City University of New York.

    Another incident, which was not publicized in the media but is even more significant, involved an attempt to prevent a young pro-Palestinian lecturer from getting a position at Brooklyn College. Under pressure from the pro-Israel right, the planned appointment was canceled by the school’s president. But when the academic staff rose up in arms, the lecturer was given the job. If the right is unable to get the results it wants even in Brooklyn, it is easy to imagine its plight in other places.

    To this must be added the international pressure for an academic and economic boycott of Israel, which has been generated by the recognition that there is no other way to force Israel to end the occupation. Closer to home, Deutsche Bahn’s withdrawal from the project to lay a railway line between Tel Aviv and Jerusalem should have caused a shock. But here, we prefer to avoid reality.

    Because of its blindness and imperviousness, Israel is gradually turning from a source of pride and an object of admiration into a nuisance, if not an object of outright hostility.

    This is how, with our own hands, we turned the problem of the occupation into an issue for the entire Western world, and the Palestinians into the West’s proteges: Faced with an occupying power that is simultaneously unresponsive and self-righteous, the West feels moral and political responsibility for the Palestinians’ fate, just as in the past, Western public opinion felt deep sympathy for the Jewish state.

    This feeling of responsibility has increased in recent years, after it became clear that the Israeli right has no intention of responding to Palestinian demands for freedom and independence. Under the guise of security considerations and the war on terror hides the real, ideological reason: In the right’s view, recognizing the equal national rights of the Palestinians means forgoing exclusive Jewish ownership of the Land of Israel. From the point of view of members of the Israeli rejectionist front, recognizing the equality of Jewish and Arab rights on both sides of the Green Line is tantamount to betraying Jewish history.

    But since the number of people who are still prepared to buy an argument of this kind is diminishing worldwide, Israel is on a collision course with all our allies and supporters. And at the end of this road, it is liable to become a pariah state.