The Obama administration is furious about Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent objection to Palestinian plans for a state with “no Jews.” In a video posted on September 9, 2016, Netanyahu made the obvious comments that the Palestinian effort to purge all Jews from the West Bank amounts to “ethnic-cleansing” and “ethnic cleansing for peace is absurd.” The State Department responded by shooting the messenger, calling Netanyahu’s remarks “inappropriate and unhelpful.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas makes no secret about Palestinian intentions. As he boasted to the interim Egyptian President while on a visit to Cairo in July 2013: “In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli – civilian or soldier – on our lands.”
The State Department’s reaction to Netanyahu opens a window into the nature of modern antisemitism, as well as possible Obama plans to drive a permanent wedge between Israel and the United States via the Security Council before he leaves office.
Simultaneously with promoting a Jew-free state, Palestinians routinely accuse Israel of “ethnic cleansing.” A mere two days after the State Department’s scolding of Netanyahu, on September 11, 2016, Abbas crowed that Israel “is advancing settlement construction, ethnic cleansing, premeditated killings and violation of holy sites, turning it into an object of criticism across the entire world.”
The ethnic-cleansing mantra is frequently accompanied by Palestinian charges of ‘apartheid,’ ‘racism,’ and ‘Judaization.’ The common thread of such hate speech is that the facts are irrelevant. Nearly two million Arabs live in Israel with more freedoms than in any Arab state.
Moreover, the ethnic-cleansing libel is really not about “settlements.” It is made in order to shatter the legitimacy of a Jewish state, period – often by shamefully appropriating Jewish history. Here is Abbas at the UN’s annual Palestinian Solidarity Day on November 29, 2012: “The Palestinian people miraculously recovered from the ashes of Al-Nakba of 1948, which was intended to extinguish their being… in one of the most dreadful campaigns of ethnic cleansing and dispossession in modern history.” The same statement was repeated by Palestinian UN ambassador Riyadh Mansour as recently as May 15, 2016.”
The State Department’s response to years of Palestinian charges of ethnic cleansing against Israel has been silence. So when the Prime Minister of Israel took issue with Palestinian calls for an ethnically-cleansed Jew-free Palestine, why the sudden histrionics?
The answer is that the charge of ethnic cleansing directed against Palestinians is the quintessential inconvenient truth.
This truth threatens to interrupt what looks increasingly to be President Obama’s post-election plot not to veto a Security Council resolution that would criminalize settlements.
Netanyahu’s candor challenges President Obama’s line of thought, spelled out by U.S. Ambassador David Pressman at the General Assembly on November 24, 2015 as follows: “terrorism, violence, settlements and demolitions are increasingly creating a one-state reality and imperiling the viability of a two-state solution.”
Connecting “terrorism” and “settlements” in this way is as offensive as drawing a straight line between alleged American misdeeds and 9/11, or between Gitmo and San Bernardino.
No doubt the linkage is attractive in foreign policy circles. Speaking at an event about antisemitism, held on September 7, 2016, for instance, UN General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft of Denmark actually said: “Some of my closest lifelong friends are Jewish” before launching into a tirade on Israeli “repression” and “illegal settlements” coupled with claiming the Assembly was engaged in a “tireless fight against any kind of hate and incitement.”
During Lykketoft’s one-year tenure, which ended September 13, 2016, the General Assembly adopted 19 resolutions condemning Israel and 7 critical of human rights violations by all other 192 UN countries combined. Action on Syria totaled one resolution, despite upwards of 400,000 dead and counting. The UN’s egregious discrimination and demonization of the Jewish state – directed at Israelis regardless of where they live – is the anti-Jewish kind of hate and incitement.
The State Department went on offense because they have no defense. Playing the settlements card and advocating for a Jew-free Palestine is not a move to promote peaceful co-existence. It’s an intrinsic part of a 67-year old xenophobic attempt to wipe the only Jewish state off the map. Truth ought to be more “helpful” than lies.
Anne Bayefsky is director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust. Follow her on Twitter @AnneBayefsky.