The Holocaust, the Fiction of International Law, and the Necessity of a Self-Reliant Israel

Nov. 29 2018

A recent article about the Kindertransport—the rescue by Great Britain of some 10,000 Jewish children from Germany and Austria on the eve of World War II—noted that any celebration of British generosity must be tempered by the facts that London did not allow Jewish adults into the country and, at the same time, barred Jewish immigration to Palestine. In other words, writes Haviv Rettig Gur, Britain, despite this singular act of heroism, is also “responsible for the orphaning of the very children it saved, and in no small part for the trap European Jews were placed in as the Nazi grip tightened.” He draws some enduring lessons for the Jewish people and the state of Israel:

[T]his history matters, today, perhaps, more than ever. There is an inevitable corollary to the rule of universal indifference that is Britain’s true legacy from that period: . . . Jews can only rely on themselves when the danger comes. When we relinquish control over our own fate, we fall. . . . No liberal world order, no example of momentary kindness, however central it may be to some other nation’s narrative of itself, will, in the end, save us from the flames.

Israel is powerful. But Israel is also small. It may one day not be quite so powerful. It has too many enemies, and too many of them are ideological radicals and tyrannical brutes, for it to find consolation in its current power. If you want to understand why we [Israelis] seem inexplicably obsessed with our vulnerability even as we continue to advance in capabilities and achievements far beyond those of our enemies, look no farther than the very act of kindness so celebrated in the West as an example of a world that cares for the weak. Look closer. It is in equal measure an example of the self-adulation, paternalism, and indifference of the strong. . . .

In an important sense, the relatively new and equally paternalistic edifice of international law, forged in the ashes of the Holocaust, is a similar fiction, propped up by sanctimonious self-edifying illusions like the Kindertransport narrative. It is a moral code upheld by a narrow transnational elite whose sense of self seems unaffected by half a million dead Syrians, a million dead Rwandans, Bosnians, Yazidis, and so on. It is a law of convenience, a law meant to serve the moral self-esteem of the strong. . . .

It is no accident that Israel is a bigger target of international legal attention than the world’s great powers, that the Palestinian question exercises the moral imagination of the strong more than all the depravations and callousness of China, Russia, or even Britain or America on the world stage. . . . Ironically, the hollowness of this paternalistic fiction is rendered even starker when one looks at it from the Palestinian side. Given the massive attention lavished on the Palestinians and their sufferings, it is remarkable how little headway this attention has won for the Palestinian cause. What can the Palestinians show for all the decades their cause has spent perched at the top of the agenda of the international liberal order? The irony is even more striking when one realizes that the world’s weakness in coming to the Palestinians’ aid is as compelling a piece of evidence as any ever offered for Israelis’ longstanding distrust of the international community as protector, and therefore as moral arbiter of a small nation’s security policies.

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Maintaining Security Cooperation with the PA Shouldn’t Require Ignoring Its Support for Terror

In accordance with legislation passed last year, the Israeli government has begun to deduct from the tax revenues it collects on behalf of the Palestinian Authority (PA) an amount proportional to what the PA pays to terrorists and their families. Last year, a similar law went into effect in the U.S., suspending all payments to the PA so long as it continues its “pay-for-slay” policy. The PA president, Mahmoud Abbas, has retaliated by refusing to accept any tax revenue collected by Israel—raising concerns that the PA will become insolvent and collapse—while insisting that payments to terrorists and their families are sacrosanct. To Yossi Kuperwasser, Abbas’s behavior amounts to mere extortion—which has already worked on the Europeans to the tune of 35 million euros. He urges Israel and the U.S. not to submit:

Abbas [believes] that influential Israeli and European circles, including the security establishment, view strengthening the Palestinian Authority, and certainly preventing its collapse, as being in Israel and Europe’s best interests. They will therefore give in to the pressure he exerts through the creation of an artificial economic crisis. . . .

[T]he PA leadership’s insistence on continuing wage payments to terrorists and their families, even at the price of an artificial economic crisis, shows once again that . . . the Oslo Accords did not reflect a substantive change in Palestinian national aspirations or in the methods employed to achieve them. . . . If paying wages to terrorists (including the many terrorists whose attacks took place after the Oslo Accords were in force) is the raison d’être for the PA’s establishment, as Abbas seems to be saying, . . . one cannot help asking whether Israel has to insist on maintaining the PA’s existence at any price.

True, Israel cooperates on security issues with the PA, but that serves the interests of both sides. . . . The short-term benefits Israel gains from this security cooperation, [however], are of less value than the benefits enjoyed by the Palestinians, and worth even less when measured against the long-term strategic damage resulting from Israel’s resigning itself to the constant incitement, the promotion of terror, and the political struggle against Israel carried out by the PA. Israel should not do anything to hasten the PA’s breakdown, because it has no desire to rule over the Palestinians and run their day to day lives, but it also should not feel more obligated to the PA’s continued existence than do the Palestinians themselves, thereby leaving itself open to continuous extortion.

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