(March 18, 2021 / JNS) Searching my home library for a book about Israel that I knew to be there, I noticed a small paperback that showed no evidence of ever having been opened. Its author was Michael Neumann, the son of German refugees, whose father had been a sociologist of Nazism. In time, the son followed in his father’s academic footsteps, becoming a professor of philosophy at Trent University in Canada. The title of Neumann’s book, The Case Against Israel, suggests that it was written in response to Alan Dershowitz’s The Case for Israel. Turning pages, it quickly became evident that not only had Neuman lost the argument, he had also lost any claim to historical accuracy.
Convinced that “Zionism was from the start an ill-considered and menacing experiment in ethnic nationalism,” Neumann accused Israel of “defending an illegitimate project”—namely, the return of Jews to their biblical homeland in Judea and Samaria in 1967, previously Jordan’s “West Bank,” following the Six-Day War. So Israel became a “pariah” state, committed “to unending and depraved racial warfare.” Neumann’s primary source was Noam Chomsky.
Jewish settlements, according to Neumann, are “built on pseudo-biblical foolishness, bad history, greed, and—worse—a sort of racist messianism that deserves no tolerance.” They pose “a moral threat” to peace; “there is no reason a single one should remain.” Palestinians have “no alternative to violent resistance” to the Israeli occupation of “their” land. Oblivious to the 1929 Arab massacre of Jews in Jerusalem, Hebron and elsewhere in Palestine, he blithely claims that it was not Palestinians but “radical Zionists” who “brought terrorism to Palestine.”
For Neumann, Israeli retaliation for Palestinian terrorist attacks is “equivalent, from a moral standpoint … to the terrorism practiced by Palestinians.”
His predictable, if preposterous, conclusion is that “Israel is the illegitimate child of ethnic nationalism.” Therefore, in his warped reasoning, Palestinians were “justified” in responding to Zionism as “a mortal threat” that entitled them to resistance “by any means necessary” (including, presumably, murderous terrorist attacks against innocent Israeli civilians). His egregiously false narrative concludes with condemnation of “the lies, obfuscations and self-deceiving nonsense that sustain Israel’s occupation.” He might, in a spare moment, look in a mirror to see “self-deceiving nonsense” at its worst.
I had just finished reading Neumann’s screed when, coincidentally, an astonishing discovery was reported days ago. Israeli archeologists, digging in a Judean (not Jordanian) wilderness cave, found dozens of Dead Sea Scroll fragments of biblical verses from the books of Zechariah and Nahum, with the name of God written in Hebrew, dating back 2,000 years. They also discovered items left behind, including coins with Jewish symbols, when besieged Jews (not “Palestinians”) had fled to the caves from Roman conquerors in the first century C.E. There can be little doubt whose land they had fought to defend.
Completing my reading trifecta was a Times of Israel report (March 18)—surely, to Neumann’s pleasure—that the Biden administration is likely to propose a (deservedly discarded) two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It was drafted by Hady Amr, Biden’s deputy assistant secretary for Israeli and Palestinian affairs. Amr is a man with a mission: to eradicate former President Donald Trump’s Israel-friendly policy. This would require the cancellation of American legitimization of settlements; a return to pre-1967 borders, erasing Israeli sovereignty over biblical Judea and Samaria; reopening of the PLO diplomatic mission in Washington; and, perhaps most preposterously, restoration of funding for the U.N. Relief and Works Administration (UNRWA), which not only supports some 30,000 living Palestinians refugees but their descendants unto eternity. Biden might as easily have chosen Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas to draft Amr’s proposal.
So, ironically, Biden—who has yet to hold a press conference to stumble and bumble his way through—has chosen an articulate advocate of Palestinian statehood in the biblical homeland of the Jewish people to contrive his Middle East policy.
Jerold S. Auerbach is the author of Hebron Jews: Memory and Conflict in the Land of Israel and “Print to Fit: The New York Times, Zionism and Israel 1896-2016,” which was recently selected for Mosaic by Ruth Wisse and Martin Kramer as a “Best Book” for 2019.
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