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Thursday, July 07, 2011

Tony Karon's latest attempt to push a lie

Time Magazine's Tony Karon is at it again, creating a straw man argument about Israel as he loves to do:
There's nothing new about those hoping for a game-changing U.S. intervention groaning at the news of Ross -- the personification of two decades of "process" without end -- being put in charge. But one paragraph stood out in the exasperated Israeli's [Akiva Eldar] column:
"Now Ross, the former chairman of the Jewish People Policy Institute, is trying to convince the Palestinians to give up on bringing Palestinian independence for a vote in the United Nations in September and recognize the State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people - in other words, as his country, though he was born in San Francisco, more than that of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, who was born in Safed."
The institute to which Eldar refers is a Jerusalem-based think-tank established by the Jewish Agency, a government-backed institution promoting Jewish immigration to Israel. Ross headed it up for a period between his service to the Clinton and Obama Administrations. Now, Eldar accuses him of using the bully pulpit of American power to cajole the Palestinians into heeding Netanyahu's demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a "Jewish state" and as "the national home of the Jewish people."

Skeptics view this demand as simply the latest red herring tossed out by an Israeli prime minister who has built his political career on opposing the Oslo peace process. It has been introduced very late in the game, and its' purpose is largely to preempt any negotiation over the right of return for Palestinian refugees who lost their homes and land to the nascent State of Israel in 1948. After all, it's not recognition of a Jewish theocracy that Netanyahu is demanding; rather, he insists that the state's ethnic composition will remain predominantly Jewish.

Because of the refugees -- and also because of the implications for the status of the 1 million Muslim and Christian Palestinians who are Israeli citizens -- Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas demurs. The PLO has long ago recognized Israel in keeping with all the requirements of international law, he counters, and Israel's definition of itself is a matter for its citizens to decide.

It's hard to know how far Ross and the Obama Administration are pressing Abbas to go in accommodating this new Israeli demand, but Eldar's observation is worth unpacking: Should the Palestinians be required to recognize Israel as Dennis Ross' "national home"?
He then goes on to quote lots of doom and gloom statistics that indicate that Jews, Israelis, young people and Israeli expatriates all do not seem to regard Israel as the "Jewish national home" and therefore it is ridiculous for Netanyahu to demand the same from Abbas.

There is only one problem: Netanyahu never made that demand.

He only demands that Abbas recognize Israel as a Jewish state - which is much, much different. For one thing, it is possible to have more than one Jewish state - look at how many Muslim and Arab states there are.

To Zionists, of course, Israel is the national home of the Jewish people, by definition. It makes no sense to demand that Abbas accept that definition. However, it makes a great deal of sense to demand that Abbas recognize that Israel will remain a Jewish state - in order to finally make the Palestinian Arabs realize that they have no choice but to integrate into their current countries of residence, or move to countries that would welcome them. Their dream of destroying Israel demographically must finally be put to rest - if they are ever to get out of their 63 year limbo. There is no doubt that if their ancestors were asked in 1949 whether they would prefer that their descendants be stateless living outside of "Palestine" or full citizens of other countries, they would choose the latter. That same question can, and should, be asked today.

However, Karon's entire screed is based on a premise that doesn't exist. It is a real issue for Zionists and Jews as to how Israel has lost its centrality in Jewish thought. That issue has nothing to do with the politics of the peace process, and Karon's attempt to conflate the two is simply another method of Israel-bashing under the patina of deep thought.

If you need more proof that Karon is engaging in histrionics rather than analysis, it is worth noting that it was not Netanyahu who introduced the idea of a "Jewish state" being part of the negotiations as Karon says. It was Olmert, and it was enthusiastically defended by Tzipi Livni. Karon is trying to position this as a fringe right-wing Israeli issue, using Akiva Eldar as his basis for what Israelis think.

Left wing columnists, especially Jewish ones, love to pretend that Akiva Eldar and Gideon Levy represent Israeli public opinion - because they desperately want Israel to reflect their own beliefs. They will never admit what every Israeli knows: Eldar and his ilk are the ones who are on the fringe of Israeli society. The mainstream Israeli public fully supports the demand that the PA accept Israel as a Jewish state. They also overwhelmingly support defensible borders for Israel, and they support Israel keeping Jerusalem and its Jewish suburbs. You will never find writers like Karon admitting this in their columns, though. They prefer to push the lie that average Israelis hate their government and think the way Western leftists do.

And that deep desire makes them write idiotic lies like we see here.

(Karon made fundamentally the same points last year, in the friendlier waters of the UAE's National newspaper, where he makes it clear that he himself is the one who is so uncomfortable with the idea that Israel could be considered his home.)