Ben-Dror Yemini: Not Always Saying What is Comfortable to Hear
This is my translation of an op-ed written by Ben-Dror Yemini, originally published on the Yediot Ahronot website on 6 Feb 2020 and posted here with his permission. Note that there are two topics that he undertakes in this one piece.
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He Offered Praise but Brought on a Disaster
It is ten days since the publication of the Deal of the Century, and the fog is beginning to lift. The Deal is good for Israel. The Deal is bad for Netanyahu. Representatives of the right, who first broke out in dance, are changing direction. They have moved to the demonstration tent. At this moment, there is no senior Likud member who has expressed support for the program. Netanyahu stands alone.
The plan that was supposed to help Netanyahu – has put him on the spot. And with all due respect to the annexation of Sudan onto the map of international relations with Israel, and that is certainly something to celebrate, right wingers wanted annexation of Judea and Samaria. Not Khartoum.
The Palestinians, on their side, have been increasing the level of violence over the last few days in response to the loud rhetoric regarding annexation.
And, in fact, the American government, that is stopping the annexation, is adding to Netanyahu’s problems with the right wing. Only one-third of the Israeli public supports annexation of the Jordan Valley. But the extreme right wants to impose upon Israel annexation that would include much more than that. The only comfort comes from Washington. They are not saving Israel from herself. They are saving Israel from the minority within her.
Let us suppose, just for a moment, that it was not Netanyahu but Gantz who was presenting a new peace initiative that included a Palestinian state on 70% of Judea & Samaria with a capital in East Jerusalem and that leaves 15 Jewish settlements encased within the Palestinian state. The reaction would be easily predictable: Propaganda from the right would flood us with broadcasts dripping in fear, such as: There! We exposed this left-winger, Ahmad Tibi’s partner, who cannot hide his support for a Palestinian state and the division of Jerusalem. This man is dangerous. Almost a traitor.
So how wonderful that the plan was presented by Trump and Netanyahu instead. True, the right has already begun to jump on Bibi. But gently. And he is not deemed dangerous and not called a traitor. Netanyahu thereby has created a precedent: One can say “Palestinian state” and even “Palestinian capital in Abu-Dis that is in East Jerusalem”, without being considered a traitor. And if that is the contribution of the Deal of the Century to the public discussion – then we must say thank-you. To Netanyahu as well.
Since publication of the plan, I have written that the extreme left is opposed to the Deal of the Century. That needs to be corrected. Serious people on the left, such as Sever Plotzker and Giora Eiland, pointed out serious flaws. The Deal of the Century is not perfect. Far from that. And yet, the plan is worth supporting.
The Zionist approach was always to say yes, and only afterward to demand changes and corrections.
The Saudi Initiative was also worthy of supporting, with reservations, and of course while rejecting the the “right of return”, a ticking bomb that was added under pressure from the refusal front. Flaws require changes and corrections. Not absolute rejection.
The Palestinians always said no, because they always focused on the flaws they found. They were left behind. Israel always said yes, in spite of the fact that no partition plan or peace plan was perfect. She galloped forward.
Therefore, rejection needs to be left to the extreme left, extreme right, and the Palestinians. That is their specialty. No need to strengthen them.
Jared Kushner is wrong. But before getting to that, we should recall an urban myth that became a global myth, one that argues that among the main reasons for radicalization in the Muslim world, and perhaps chief among them, is the Israel-Arab conflict. That myth is generally spread by spokespeople from the progressive camp. Radical Muslims, so goes the myth, did not intend to be like that. But the conflict, oy! The conflict! It made them extreme.
Disseminators of this myth are not concerned with explanations, but go straight to justifications. Terror in Brussels? In London? It is because of the oppression of the Palestinians. That was the response, for example, of Jimmy Carter or former Foreign Minister of Sweden Margot Wallstrom following the terrorist attack against the Charlie Hebdo magazine.
Following the 2001 terror attack, the Americans asked themselves, why do they hate us?. Where does radicalization come from? Because of the support for Israel, comes the answer. Professor Juan Cole, past president of the Middle East Studies Association (MESA), argued that “according to the committee in Congress, the operations triggered the terror attack following the assault on Jenin”. Not only is there no mention of Jenin in the Congress report, but the battle in Jenin took place in 2002, and the twin towers attack was in 2001. But why heed minor details?
The problem is that this foolishness is spreading. A few days ago, Kushner was interviewed on MBC (Middle East Broadcasting Center), as part of his concerted efforts to justify the peace plan put forward by Trump. A “peace agreement”, Kushner said, “will happen between the Muslim world and Israel, and will reduce radicalization.” Kushner had good intentions. He had some serious claims. But he was wrong.
Radicalization is not a result of funding. In the 70s, 80s, and 90s, Saudi Arabia gave tens of billions of dollars for the establishment of Muslim schools and spreading of Wahhabism and not a few of the places still receive such funding. This brainwashing worked. The education they got there did not include seeking reconciliation or resolving conflicts. On the contrary.
Any chance for the advancement of peace only increases extremists’ appetite. Terror attacks in the United States were planned during the years in which the USA made enormous efforts to achieve Palestinian-Israeli peace. Did this reduce the motivation for terrorism?
There are enough good arguments for supporting peace. Reconciliation with the radicals is not one of them.
[Editorial Comments: I was under the impression that Yemini was mistaken that only 30% of Israelis support annexation of the Jordan Valley. But it appears he is correct. I found this article that supports his contention. I thought it was much more than that.]
Commentary: That is the Story
Ninety-one percent of veteran Israelis agree that their children should learn together in school with Ethiopian children. For 66%, there is no problem with a child marrying someone of Ethiopian origin, and for 90% of Israelis there is no problem having an Ethiopian boss. These are facts disclosed in a survey presented to the President by a new movement, “Israelis against Racism”.
But according to commentators, the data are “horrifying and disturbing: Israel is a racist society, the population spurns Ethiopians and wants to keep a distance from them as much as possible”. How? Simple: publish only the negative data. Ten percent, it was written, do not want to have an Ethiopian boss. True; but as far as I know, 90% is a clear majority.
Marginally, by the way, there is racism. Comparative data on opposition to foreigners clarifies that one is talking about a phenomenon common to all Western states. In Britain, for example, according to a 2006 survey, about 80% would not feel comfortable with a Muslim neighbor. In a more recent survey, in 2017, it becomes clear that 35% of Italian, 23% Germans and 22% of British do not want Muslim neighbours. Sometimes it is a matter of difference in cultures. Sometimes it is because of the fear of terror attacks. Sometimes it is in apprehension of the imposition of Sharia Law. And sometimes it is racism. But no country is racist because of the presence of racists among the population. This is true for Israel as well.
And another thing: There is a gradual consistent trend of decreasing gaps among the various ethnic groups, and that is wonderful. But when talking about Ethiopians there is a manipulation of the accusation of racism – and that just keeps them locked in a sense of inferiority and victimhood.
The Gauntlet Awaits
A challenge for my friends from the Ethiopian community: it appears that the police officer’s version in the Solomon Teka incident was accurate. He was attacked. His family was in danger. And there was not a smidgen of racism there. So who will pick up the gauntlet and publish an article against the superfluous indictment that resulted solely because of a campaign against racism that did not exist?
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Ben-Dror Yemini also wrote an excellent book on media and academic lies. My review of that book is here.
The feature image is a screenshot from Yemini’s Facebook page.