UK media coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict typically imputes good faith to Palestinians – operating under the premise that most truly want a peaceful resolution with the Jewish State.
However, what if this assumption is misplaced?
How would media coverage of boycotts, lawfare and other forms of Palestinian ‘resistance‘ change if journalists took seriously the possibility that the Palestinians’ end goal was not to live in peace with their neighbors, but, rather, perpetual war, the only desirable end result being the elimination of the Jewish state?
Well, an independent Catholic news site asked that very question (Do Palestinians Want Peace?, June 19), in the context of linking to a Guardian report by their Middle East editor Ian Black about the forced resignation of a Palestinian professor who led a group of his students on a trip to Auschwitz.
Black – as Guardian editors are wont to do – framed the depressing episode, in which a Palestinian professor was vilified for merely attempting to evoke sympathy amongst Palestinians for Jewish victims of Hitler’s genocide, as a story of ‘competing narratives of victimization.
Dajani resigned from his post at Jerusalem’s Al-Quds University this week after failing to win the unequivocal support of his employers in a row which highlighted the darkest taboos of the conflict with Israel and each side’s enduring sense of victimhood.
The visit to the concentration camp was part of a project to study the Holocaust and teach tolerance and empathy. “It is about understanding the other,” Dajani told the Guardian during a conference in the Qatari capital, Doha. “You need to understand the other because reconciliation is the only option we have. And the sooner we do it the better. Empathising with your enemy does not mean you sanction what your enemy is doing to you.”
Organised in conjunction with three other universities, one German and two Israeli, the project also arranged for Israeli students to meet Palestinians living in refugee camps.
Dajani faced abuse, intimidation and death threats over the visit. Al-Quds dissociated itself from the project but defended his right to be involved. It insisted he had not been dismissed and supplied him with bodyguards. But in the end it accepted his resignation.
Implacable in the face of the uproar, he rejected accusations that he intended to promote the Zionist narrative of the conflict rather than respecting the primacy of the Nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic) – the flight, expulsion and dispossession of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians that was the price of Israel’s independence in 1948.
Black then adds his own spin:
Propaganda that conflates antisemitism with opposition to Israel has also played a role. Israel’s foreign minister, Abba Eban, famously talked about the country’s “Auschwitz borders”. Menachem Begin, the prime minister who invaded Lebanon in 1982, described Arafat “cowering in his bunker” in Beirut like Hitler in Berlin.
Indeed, it’s the line about ‘conflating antisemitism with opposition to Israel’ where Black loses the plot and promotes the Guardian narrative – one which suggests that Jews cry antisemitism in the face of ‘mere’ anti-Zionism, or, in its more troubling form, that Jews cry antisemitism with the cynical intent of deflecting criticism of Israeli policies (The Livingstone Formulation).
However, a more holistic understanding of Palestinian attitudes – one which takes into account empirical data on Palestinian attitudes about Jews and Israel – would lead those not swayed by such pronounced ideological biases to contextualize the Palestinians’ “resistance” to Holocaust education in a much different way.
We’re alluding to a recent survey commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League demonstrating that Palestinians have the highest rates of antisemitic attitudes in the world – a survey consistent with polls about antisemitism conducted in previous years by Pew Global .
Here are the highlights from the ADL survey which, let’s remember, did NOT ask any questions about Palestinian attitudes about Israeli policy:
- 88% of Palestinians believe Jews have too much control over global affairs.
- 88% of Palestinians believe that Jews have too much control over the global media
- 78% of Palestinians believe that Jews are responsible for most of the world’s wars.
But, perhaps most troubling – even worse than the belief that Jews are responsible for most of the world’s wars (an attitude consistent with libels found in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion) – is the following:
- 87% of Palestinians believe that people hate Jews because of the way Jews behave.
Of course, on one hand, it likely stands to reason that those who believe that Jews control the world would justify ‘hatred of Jews’ by explaining it as a rational reaction to Jewish villainy. However, there’s a more important point about the 87% of Palestinians who believe that Jews are hated because of the way Jews behave, one which relates to Black’s article about Palestinian rejection of the ‘Holocaust narrative’.
Even the most parve forms of Holocaust education begin with the premise that 6 million murdered Jews were innocent victims of a grotesque manifestation of anti-Jewish racism, and that there is no justification whatsoever for the crimes committed in the name of Nazi ideology.
So, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that Palestinians – who believe, per the poll results, that their own acceptance of historic antisemitic canards about Jewish perfidy is justified as a rational response to Jewish behavior – would reject efforts to encourage them to accept a Holocaust ‘narrative’ premised on Jewish innocence.
The manner in which Palestinians relate to the Holocaust has significance for those who wish to understand Israelis’ nuanced views of efforts to achieve a two state solution. Though the overwhelming majority of Israelis accept in principle a two-state solution, most are also skeptical, in light of the persistent problem of Palestinian incitement, terror glorification and antisemitism, that two states will actually result in peace.
Even if a treaty is signed by the two parties, why are we expected to possess confidence that Palestinians will stop inculcating their children with the values of resistance, and truly see the agreement as a final end to all historical claims?
Finally, what, in light of the Palestinian rejection of even the most benign efforts to humanize six million murdered Jews, should provide us with hope that a piece of paper signed by Palestinian leaders will actually result, after seven decades of hostility, in a diminution of Palestinians antipathy towards the Jewish other, and create a society which humanizes – and accepts the existence of – six million living Jews?
Whilst it is perhaps not surprising that UK journalists – those with the luxury of dealing with such matters as amorphous political abstractions – uniformly ignore such questions, those of us who will have to live the real-world consequences of Palestinian sovereignty cannot breezily dismiss this seemingly immutable Palestinian enmity, nor allow ourselves to be seduced by the chimera of peace.