By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
One of the remarkable outcomes of the recent Hamas war on Israel was the use of terminology that illustrates a larger goal designed to create conditions that justify Hamas “resistance” and claim Israel is a “settler” state. These terms, similar to the chants of “from the river to the sea” that span the far-left and far-right Hamas supporters are designed to assert that Israel should be destroyed as a country. They have origins in the international community’s attempt to undermine Israel from the first days of the state.
In no other place in the world has the international community worked so hard to try to erode the foundations of an internationally recognized state. It’s worth looking at the broader context of this. For instance when Israel was created in 1948 it was immediately attacked by several other countries. This was an illegal invasion and attack on a state whose creation had been backed by the United Nations. When Israel succeeded in defeating these countries the immediate response from the international community was not to help broker peace and aid the refugees that fled, but rather to create a situation in which Israel’s borders were called into question so as to create the conditions of excusing war against Israel.
There would be “cease fire agreements” which by their nature meant the war was not over, just waiting for the next round. At the same time the hundreds of thousands of Arabs who had fled the fighting were housed in refugee camps and a narrative created telling them they would soon return to their homes. This “right of return” which does not apply to other refugees everywhere, of which there have been hundreds of millions in the last century, was created to force Israel to take back refugees. If Israel didn’t, international organizations would create numerous groups to support the refugees until such time this took place.
Next began the terrorism against Israel, no condemnation by the UN or others for countries hosting “armed struggle” against Israel which provoked wars in 1956, 1982 and at other times. Israel was subjected to an illegal military blockade at this time to and non-recognition by most states in the region.
When that had largely failed to destroy Israel the next step was arming of Egypt, Syria and other countries to fight Israel. The same countries arming these states also claimed that the “conflict” and solving it would solve all the region’s problems, but pouring arms into the region for endless wars against Israel was not seen as a problem. Israel’s defensive actions were condemned, including the raid on the Iraqi nuclear reactor in 1981, a reactor supplied by France. Instead of preventing countries like Iraq from pursuing existential threats to Israel, it was encouraged.
At the same time the Palestinian “liberation” organizations that vowed to reconquer all of Israel were given praise at the UN even as Israel was routinely subjected to one sided critique and barred from various regional bodies, isolated and then its national movement called “racist.” Countries in the region were encouraged to use the excuse of fighting Israel to roll back democracy, crush dissidents and minorities, develop and import weapons and start various wars. At each turn whichever extremist regime, from Iran to Nasser’s Egypt, was able to use the Israel excuse as a crutch. The most outlandish comments from Saddam’s regime, firing Scuds illegally at Israel in 1991, to Iran’s comments about Israel go uncondemned in the international community.
What is extraordinary is how at each juncture the international community did not play a positive role trying to foster peace. Instead when there were peace talks there were. Purposeful roadblocks put up to derail them. Talks always said that the “refugees” and “right of return” would be the last issue on the agenda, guaranteeing failure. Also Jerusalem would need to be divided. Meanwhile everything that came to Israel always was removed from international norms. Countries like Iran could target Jews in South America, terrorists targeted Israelis at the Olympics, Hamas was permitted to produce and stockpile missiles illegally and so was Hezbollah. At each turn it was always an excuse that so long as these groups targeted Israel their illegal arsenals could increase. The Palestinian Authority wasn’t even expected to have elections. Israel was kept out of CENTCOM and regional bodies to appease the regional states up until recently.
Ridiculous obsession with Israel at the UN led everything to be warped just to attack Israel from the WHO to Women and Human Rights groups, to UNESCO. Every rule that applies to every country in the world was shifted regarding Israel being singled out. And now human rights groups have done the same regarding accusations of “apartheid.” There is no commonality between Israel’s system and apartheid, but the term had to be changed just to attack Israel. The term “settler state” was shifted from its original meaning relating to the New World states to apply to Israel, a country that is not made up of “settlers.” The supposed “two state” solution has now been tossed aside in favor of what the anti-Israel voices call “one state” and “from the river to the sea.” The accusations that all of Israel is “apartheid” is designed to cater to this alliance of Hamas and the progressive left against Israel. It doesn’t matter what Israel does, just defending itself with Iron Dome is now considered a reason to attack it. Similarly the use of the term “settler” to describe Israel, asserting that this gives it less rights, when numerous other states in North America and other places were created by “settlers.” Only in Israel’s case are migrants and refugees called “settlers.”
Even when Israel tried to do what the international community has asked, withdraw from Gaza, the same community that made sure that failed chaotic Palestinian Authority elections would enable Hamas to take over Gaza. Then they say that Israel still “occupies” Gaza, when Israel left. Hamas is said to have a “right” to “resist occupation” and attack Israel with rockets, and if Israel blockades Hamas then it is said to be evidence of “occupation.” Similarly even though Israel left Lebanon in 2000, Hezbollah is permitted to claim it must keep a massive arsenal to “resist” Israel because Israel “occupies” Lebanon, even though it doesn’t. This shows no matter how much Israel withdraws from the “occupation” will never end and the need for “resistance” will never end. The doctrine is “one state” and a “binational” state. Under no circumstance to international organizations say they won’t fund Palestinian groups that use maps showing all of historic Palestine as theirs, and no Israel. Even terms like “’48 Arabs” or “48 lands” are used. To deny the existence of Israel. No other country is subjected to this. No one says that India is “48 lands”.
Only Israel is subjected to non-recognition by numerous countries, based often on religious hatred. Even as the Cold War ended and other disputes ended there was no push by the international community to recognize Israel. It is a conflict that began in 1948 and which many in the international community will use forever. Iran’s regime uses the conflict to excuse spreading chaos in the region and arming illegal extrajudicial groups. Why does Iran threaten Israel? That question is never asked. Why does the regime get to continually use the Palestinian issue to threaten? No other country randomly adopts a cause far away to threaten to destroy some other other country. For instance Burma may be accused of suppressing Rohingya, but Iran or Turkey don’t threaten the country’s destruction. Only with Israel.
The international community has done nothing to try to create peace in the Middle East and prevent the stockpiling of rockets by Hezbollah, Iran’s brazen nuclear program and other issues. As long as these countries say they will “destroy” Israel, they get a pass. If they threaten any other country they are held to account. Even Jewish history is neatly removed, UNESCO declaring Hebron a heritage site but purposely focusing on the Mamluk and Ottoman period to remove any need to mention Jewish heritage in Hebron. The whole of world history changed just to ignore Jewish rights and role in historic Israel.
This is not about Palestinian rights and a state. Because the nature of the argument, the “river to the sea” talk now said at western Universities, it all about ethnic cleansing of Israel. It is the only state in the world the western left leaning progressive will seek to ethnically-cleanse of its diverse population. It’s the only state they say that it has to provide full and equal rights to “all its citizens” and change its flag and anthem, but no other state in the Middle East must do so. It’s the only state where 4,000 rockets can be fired at it without condemnation or even mention of Hamas. It’s the only state where when there is a war there is a huge rise in attacks on Jews all around the world by the same people who claim “anti-Zionism” is not antisemitism. This is the reality in the wake of the Hamas war.