At Vox, Max Fisher declares that “it’s not enough to condemn those who do wrong” when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “but to understand the conflict that produces them.” This is a sensible assertion. The problem is that rather than exploring the roots of conflict, Max Fisher proceeds to blame Israel for the entire mess by offering a slew of dubious historical and moral justifications for terrorism.
Oh, and kidnapping, too.
It’s worth noting that Fisher is no stranger to chewing over well-worn anti-Israel tropes in the guise of inquisitive journalism. “Why,” Fisher wondered while at the Washington Post “is the U.S. okay with Israel having nuclear weapons but not Iran?” (I dunno? An openly hostile, theocratic, destabilizing force is less trustworthy than a liberal democratic ally?) Or, “Here’s a List of Countries With a Higher GDP Per Capita Than Israel,” in which Fisher pondered if Mitt Romney’s assertion that Israel’s embrace of Western values allowed them to create a more prosperous society than their neighbors was true or not. (Answer: Maybe if Israel wasn’t poking its nose in everyone’s business, Gaza City would be just like Tel Aviv.)
“The end of ‘both sides’: Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is indefensible,” is the title of Fisher’s piece. It begins by offering dispatches on some of the hardships Palestinians have been subjected to after the recent kidnapping of three teenage yeshiva students in the West Bank — one an American citizen (a fact Fisher is not moved to mention). Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused Palestinian terrorist/unity government participants Hamas of being behind these abductions, which does not exactly sound farfetched. But we’ll see.
And while Fisher offers a few superficial declarations about spreading the blame (“no one is pure” — and isn’t that the truth?) overall the Jews are aggressors, paranoid and unreasonable. And it is they who should cease the occupation, the root cause of all problems. What that might mean to Israel’s security or the lives of thousands of Jews elsewhere is immaterial. Vox says it’s mean.
Only the modern Western world could create people who sympathize with or seek to justify actions of barbarians who kidnap innocents
— Benjamin Weingarten (@bhweingarten) June 17, 2014
Now, it would be waste of time to point out every context-free historical tidbit Vox employs to hang the entire conflict around Israel’s neck. We’ve heard it all before. What is worthwhile, though, is pointing out the morally contemptible rationale it offers regarding today’s events. Here’s one for starters:
As children, the kidnap victims surely cannot and should not be held personally culpable, but they could be considered an extension of the occupation, which has been far from a peaceful endeavor.
The kids didn’t exactly get what was coming, Fisher makes that clear, but anyone could understand why this sort of thing happens. Three children studying at a religious school in Hebron, one of the oldest Jewish communities in the world, a city that Palestinians officially agreed to share in 1997, could, reasonably, be seen as extension of the occupation. Fisher goes out of his way to tell us that the Israeli-controlled stretch of Hebron “seeps with paranoid rage” about “Arab violence” (or, so-called Arab violence, as Fisher’s quotation marks insinuate)— though he does save us any discussion of the all-encompassing and deep-seated paranoia, anti-Semitism and anti-Western hysteria that plagues Palestinian society.
And as he catalogs the injustices Arabs face, including checkpoints — erected after Fatah, cajoled by the Jews, sent militants to murder over a thousand Israelis during Intifada 2 — Fisher points out that the “entire population” of “middle-aged and older men who work for Hamas’s political branch (remember that they are also a political party)” were also detained. You know, just another asymmetrical response deployed by Israel. Because, as you can imagine, Hamas is super diligent in compartmentalizing its political and terrorist operations.
So just to recap: Three teens could be seen as an extension of a brutal occupation. Hamas’ political organization should not be put out by Israel. Collective punishment that ropes in Hamas is bad. Collective terror that ropes in a trio of hapless Yeshiva students could be understandable.
On what surely is a trivial note to many, Hamas is still considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. It is – the political wing, included — in a state of war with Israel, one that includes missile strikes aimed at the civilian population. Fisher sees fit to mention the horrors of a gas shortage in Gaza; he does not find it worthy to mention the 8,000 rockets that Hamas – a political entity that a now has teamed with the “moderate Palestinian government” in the West Bank – has launched at civilians. This is the government Fisher wants Israel to empower. How that would work out, he doesn’t offer any thoughts on.
Vox, a site that purportedly exists to explain the world to us, is plowing old ground. The idea that the powerful are culpable might be logically flawed, but Israel’s critics have used it for decades. It can be found in The Nation circa 1985, or a Ron Paul newsletter circa 1992, or now on the Vox landing page. Of course, the idea that Vox has the capability to explain an issue as complex as the Israel-Arab conflict in a few thousand words or that it can render judgment is laughable. The reasoning used to try and accomplish the feat, though, is just as disturbing as it has always been.