Don’t Make Excuses for Mahmoud Abbas’s Rantings

Jan. 18 2018

At a meeting of Palestinian officials on Sunday, Mahmoud Abbas gave a lengthy speech denying Jewish connections to the land of Israel, explaining Zionism and the Holocaust as part of a 400-year-old European colonial plot, and accusing Israel of poisoning Palestinians’ water. The obvious explanation for the oration, writes Eli Lake, is that Abbas was simply telling his audience what he believes. But some are not satisfied with such an explanation; they reason that “Abbas doesn’t really mean it,” and that the fault lies instead with President Donald Trump, whose actions have driven the Palestinian president to distraction and despair. Lake continues:

This is the interpretation of J Street, the Soros-family-funded advocacy group that touts itself as pro-peace and pro-Israel. A J Street statement . . . was careful to stipulate that [Abbas’s supposed] despair was “no excuse for calling into question either the Jewish connection to, or Palestinian recognition of, the state of Israel.” But let’s not lose the plot. This group asserts that Abbas would not have delivered his rant “if it were not for President Trump’s inept and disastrous missteps regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

J Street here is succumbing to a fallacy of international relations. Call it the prime-mover theory of geopolitics: there is always something America can or shouldn’t do that determines the behavior of its adversaries and allies. . . . But foreign affairs are never so simple as one cause having one effect. And this brings us back to Abbas. The eighty-two-year-old Palestinian leader certainly had reason to be disappointed with Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. He didn’t like Trump’s threats to cut off funding for the Palestinian Authority. But none of that quite explains a speech that wishes for the U.S. president’s house [or, more precisely, his family] to come to ruin, accuses Israel of exporting addictive drugs, and threatens to blacklist companies that do business in the West Bank and report their names to Interpol for bribery.

To explain this vitriol as purely a reaction to despair or hopelessness is to ignore recent history. Abbas was elevated to his position after George W. Bush asked the Palestinian people to elect leaders not tainted by terror. . . . Abbas [in fact] distinguished himself by delivering a brave speech calling for nonviolent resistance to occupation, when Arafat was praising the suicide bombers. The current Palestinian leader has been dining out on that speech now for fifteen years, while consistently rejecting peace offers and later [even] negotiations.

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel & Zionism, J Street, Mahmoud Abbas

Israel’s Nation-State Law and the Hysteria of the Western Media

Aug. 17 2018

Nearly a month after it was passed by the Knesset, the new Basic Law defining Israel as “the nation-state of the Jewish people” is still causing outrage in the American and European press. The attacks, however, are almost uniformly incommensurate with this largely symbolic law, whose text, in the English translation found on the Knesset website, is barely over 400 words in length. Matthew Continetti comments:

Major journalistic institutions have become so wedded to a pro-Palestinian, anti-Benjamin Netanyahu narrative, in which Israel is part of a global trend toward nationalist authoritarian populism, that they have abdicated any responsibility for presenting the news in a dispassionate and balanced manner. The shameful result of this inflammatory coverage is the normalization of anti-Israel rhetoric and policies and widening divisions between Israel and the diaspora.

For example, a July 18, 2018, article in the Los Angeles Times described the nation-state law as “granting an advantageous status to Jewish-only communities.” But that is false: the bill contained no such language. (An earlier version might have been interpreted in this way, but the provision was removed.) Yet, as I write, the Los Angeles Times has not corrected the piece that contained the error. . . .

Such through-the-looking-glass analysis riddled [the five] news articles and four op-eds the New York Times has published on the matter at the time of this writing. In these pieces, “democracy” is defined as results favored by the New York Times editorial board, and Israel’s national self-understanding as in irrevocable conflict with its democratic form of government. . . .

The truth is that democracy is thriving in Israel. . . .  The New York Times quoted Avi Shilon, a historian at Ben-Gurion University, who said [that] “Mr. Netanyahu and his colleagues are acting like we are still in the battle of 1948, or in a previous era.” Judging by the fallacious, paranoid, fevered, and at times bigoted reaction to the nation-state bill, however, Bibi may have good reason to believe that Israel is still in the battle of 1948, and still defending itself against assaults on the very idea of a Jewish state.

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Israel's Basic Law, Israeli democracy, Media, New York Times