(February 22, 2021 / JNS) The critics of Israel are so predictable, it’s almost funny.
Over the past two weeks, as if on cue, The New York Times published an op-ed urging steps to facilitate the creation of a Palestinian state; the RAND Corporation released a new study pushing for the creation of a Palestinian state; and the news media manufactured a mini-crisis between President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in order to put more pressure on Israel to—you guessed it—agree to the creation of a Palestinian state.
I say “as if on cue” and not “on cue” because there’s no evidence that any of this is the product of some kind of coordination or conspiracy. Rather, it’s just the same old alignment of pundits, partisans and self-appointed experts who champion Palestinian statehood and see the Biden administration as a vehicle to accomplish that goal.
This latest wave of pro-Palestinian pressure began on Feb. 10 with the RAND Corporation’s release of a new study, “Alternatives in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.”
RAND held meetings with 33 “focus groups,” consisting of a grand total of 270 Arabs and Jews in Israel and abroad, and then concluded from those discussions that creating a Palestinian state is “the most politically viable alternative” of the possible “solutions” to the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Obviously, a bunch of “focus groups” don’t have any magical insight for solving a conflict that has raged for more than a century. But when you wrap a “study” in the prestigious name of a prominent and well-heeled institution such as the RAND Corporation, you get media attention, which in turn influences public opinion and maybe even political leaders.
Two days after RAND’s announcement, the Times devoted a large portion of its op-ed page to an essay by Bernard Avishai and Sam Bahour calling on Israel to facilitate various economic steps that would lay the groundwork for the creation of a Palestinian state. Their plan includes “dividing sovereignty in Jerusalem,” by the way.
Bahour is an American-Palestinian Arab businessman who lives in Ramallah, so it’s almost comical when he and his co-author complain about Palestinians wanting to be “free from military occupation,” as they put it. Bahour should look out his window. He won’t see any Israeli soldiers or Israeli military governor; they left in 1995. Bahour has been living under Palestinian military occupation—the Palestinian Authority, not Israeli military occupation—for the past 26 years.
His co-author, Bernard Avishai, has penned The Tragedy of Zionism. According to CAMERA, Avishai’s writings about Israel are “hate-filled,” “full of malice” and “drip with loathing of Israel.” Of course, his identification line in the Times op-ed did not mention anything about him viewing Israel as a tragedy; Avishai is just “an American-Israeli professor and writer.”
The same day that the Bahour-Avishai op-ed appeared, the White House, responding to media inquiries, publicly denied that Biden was “snubbing” Netanyahu by not including him among the first phone calls that the newly elected president made during his first month in office. But evidently, that denial meant nothing to The Los Angeles Times, which five days later ran this headline: “Biden’s Snub of Netanyahu Sets the Tone for More Evenhanded U.S.-Israel Relationship.”
For several weeks now, various editors, journalists and pundits have been busily manufacturing a mini-crisis over the non-snub, presumably in order to provoke tension between the American and Israeli governments. The critics don’t want the new U.S. administration getting too friendly with the Israelis. They want Biden to be pressuring Israel for that Palestinian state.
One of those quoted in the various news articles about the non-snub was Aaron Miller, a longtime State Department Arabist who worked hard to get several previous administrations to support Palestinian demands. He seems anxious to push Biden down a similar path.
In an op-ed on CNN.com last week, Miller trotted out an 11-year-old incident to remind everyone of a previous time Biden got mad at Israel—from which Miller no doubt derives encouragement that maybe Biden can be turned against the Israelis again.
According to Miller, Biden “was deeply embarrassed by Israel’s 2010 announcement of major expansion of housing units in East Jerusalem.” Almost everything in that sentence is inaccurate. It wasn’t “Israel’s announcement”; it was a routine publication, by the office of Jerusalem’s mayor, of an administrative step. It wasn’t a “major expansion of housing units”; it was a routine approval in the bureaucratic process leading to the eventual construction of housing units. And it wasn’t in “East Jerusalem.” It was in the neighborhood of Ramat Shlomo in northern Jerusalem.
I’ll give Miller the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is simply ignorant of the geography—which, I admit, is pretty surprising for somebody who was one of the U.S. State Department’s Arab-Israeli “experts” for more than two decades.
But the alternative would be worse. The alternative explanation would be that Miller knows full well it’s not in “East Jerusalem,” yet he deliberately used that term in order to make it seem as if the apartments were built in Arab territory.
Whether the result of ignorance, self-interest or old-fashioned bias, the self-proclaimed experts are cranking up their pressure-Israel propaganda machine into high gear. Friends of Israel need to respond—and quickly.
Stephen M. Flatow is a vice president of the Religious Zionists of America, an attorney in New Jersey and the father of Alisa Flatow, who was murdered in an Iranian-sponsored Palestinian terrorist attack in 1995. He is the author of “A Father’s Story: My Fight for Justice Against Iranian Terror.”
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