The United States has asked Israel to explain its recent designation of six Palestinian “human rights” organizations as terrorist entities. While the incident does not seem to have caused a serious clash with the United States, we must make sure that the matter does not escalate.
Palestinian organizations that support violence and seek to delegitimize the Jewish state receive political backing and financial support from European governments and foundations under the guise of promoting human rights.
Even those members of these organizations who do not personally fire rockets or take up weapons enable terrorism: they raise funds for such attacks, pay terrorists and their families, recruit new members and spread propaganda in the Palestinian society fueling violence and perpetuating destruction and distress in the community.
They pay lip service to ideas that are foreign to their values with the aim of deceiving Americans, Europeans and even a handful of Israelis (who are also deceiving themselves). They have no difficulty in perpetuating this deception because extremists who share their twisted values have taken over the international discourse on human rights.
Jerusalem relies on Washington in many ways, and must therefore prove to the administration that its move does not undermine legitimate efforts to promote human welfare.
Attempting to convince “progressives” and extreme anti-Israel elements in the media and academia would be a waste of time. However, the administration and mainstream American society are worth the effort.
The Biden administration is critical of Israel, but it is not obsessed with the Jewish state to the extent that the Obama administration was. Barack Obama caused great damage to the region: he refrained from backing the 2009 Iranian Green Movement, played a key role in the ouster of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in that country, and gave a cold shoulder to Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi, who saved the Middle East from the radicals.
This disastrous approach—that goes back to the presidency of Jimmy Carter—focuses on pressuring pro-U.S. regimes in a way that, ironically, serves anti-Western extremists. It turns a blind eye to the differences between pluralistic societies and the mainstream Arab society and falsely assumes that such pressure will promote pluralistic and democratic values in the Arab public and politics as well.
However, in Arab societies, the choice is between pro-American authoritarian regimes that strive for regional stability and, worse, radical repressive regimes that threaten to drag the Middle East into a destructive conflict.
The proponents of liberalism and pluralism in Arab society are a brave minority. The radicals—former Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser, Syrian President Bashar Assad, former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein or Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei—could not and cannot be turned into moderates.
They can only be confronted by U.S.-backed authoritarian rulers, like el-Sisi, King Hussein of Jordan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman. The real choice is between “far from perfect” or “catastrophic.”
The terrorism of Hezbollah and the Palestinians can only be combated by an Israeli approach that combines determination, deterrence, wariness and firmness, along with the restraints of an open society and democratic state.
Against the American failure to combat terrorism in Iraq and Afghanistan, which ended in an retreat, Israel stands out as the country that managed to live and prosper for generations while battling constant threats from terrorist groups. And it did not have the option of fleeing. Stripping the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine of its resources is part of this ongoing battle.
Dan Schueftan is the director of the International Graduate Program in National Security Studies at the University of Haifa’s National Security Studies Center.
This article first appeared in Israel Hayom.