With President Barack Obama’s forthcoming trip to Israel set for March 15, pundits on both sides of the political spectrum are weighing in on whether the trip has any significance.
By strange coincidence both during and just after his trip, an internationally held event, Israeli Apartheid Week, will take place – including in parts of the Palestinian territories. The president’s trip itself ought not to be mere optics, or an obligatory visit to engage politicians. This is a timely opportunity for America’s head statesman to condemn a global event that seeks to delegitimize the State of Israel.
According to the Israeli Apartheid Week website, more than 220 cities around the world participate – just a few years after the inaugural week in Toronto, Canada - in this one-sided Israel-bashing fest.
It’s a stark reminder again that Israel’s enemies thrive on the propaganda front.
Unfortunately, students are being fed a steady diet of sheer lies: that Israel is a bloodthirsty terrorist state, Gaza is a concentration camp, and the security fence is just like the Berlin Wall.
They are taught that only free and democratic Israel - apparently the worst human rights abuser on the planet - is worthy of boycott, divestment and sanctions.
Students aren’t taught that, as a fact of life, anti-Semitic teaching has been incorporated in Palestinian school textbooks, media and literature. Holocaust denial is typical fare in the Arab press. In the Palestinian territories, many streets are named after suicide bombers. Rockets rain down on Israelis daily.
Students have no idea that the Palestine Centre for Public Opinion - an Arab-led body – year to year shows that a huge swath of Palestinians are still in favour of suicide bombings.
This, evidently, is all supposed to magically end if the Israelis give up the “occupation” of the West Bank, says the “Israeli Apartheid” position.
It’s a position never challenged at this conference.
Standing up for Israel is often met with scoffing – for instance, the epithet of “Israel-firster,” the pejorative term which is code for “you must believe, quite blindly, that Israel can never do wrong” or “you belong to the Israel lobby.” Name-calling neatly replaces dialog. On the pro-Israel side, you never see the same level of disrespect, such as abruptly dismissing someone as an “Israel-worster,” or those who believe Israel only does wrong.
Revealing the ignorance and biases of these hardline leftists isn’t difficult.
Ask them to name a Jewish terrorist, and they dutifully roll off a dozen Israeli politicians or Baruch Goldstein. Ask them to name an Arab terrorist -- and they’re dumbfounded.
Ask them to name Islam’s third holiest site, and they unblinkingly say the Dome of the Rock or al-Asa. Ask them to name Judaism’s third holiest site, and they can’t (it’s either Rachel’s Tomb or Ma’arat HaMachpeleh).
Ask them what the West Bank was called in Biblical times. Again, they’re stumped (Judea and Samaria).
If they stick around after these questions, ask them if they’d rather be a Jew in an Islamic court, or an Arab in an Israeli court.
Notwithstanding, to the so-called peacenik, there’s no Jewish historical homeland anyway, and certainly nothing sacred or holy about Israel. That is why, to them, giving away land in Israel is tantamount to giving away land in say, Mozambique.
While we would all like to see a democratic and free Palestine, the “land for peace” equation ultimately is a fallacy. It wrongly assumes that the onus is on Israel to give land away to acquire, buy or result in peace. It’s like saying to the schoolyard bully: I'll give you a chocolate bar if you stop beating me up. Meanwhile, these bribes haven’t worked.
With this formula, Israel appears to be the sole factor in the way peace (or war) is shaped.
This formula wrongly presupposes that by not giving land, Israel is implicitly allowing (or preferring) war. Note the logical opposite of “land for peace” is “no land, war.” So let’s try this instead: Peace for land. As long as peace does not exist, land cannot be given away.
This would send the message to terrorists: They have caused the delay in getting this year’s slice of land.
True lovers of peace should want to see real progress. Palestinian children should be peaceable with their neighbours, and Arabs must accept that Israel has a competing – and legitimate - narrative. Nowhere are prominent Arabs encouraged to announce that Israel is not wholly to blame for the current situation.
Sadly, Israeli Apartheid Week isn’t about fostering understanding and goodwill, or about seeing all sides. Mr. Obama, on the other hand, has a unique opportunity in coming days to deliver another soaring speech on Israel – from Israel.
In it, he could in one fell swoop condemn Israeli Apartheid Week, this international hate fest, and all that it stands for. Though he won’t change the minds of the hardline left, he would signal to everyone else that demonizing Israel is unacceptable – something he’s never done before.
That is worth more than any photo-op.
Dave Gordon is a Toronto-based writer and host of podcast “Insights and Influence” on LandmarkReport.com.