Newly elected U.S. President Joseph Biden is reportedly preparing to hit the reset button with the Palestinian Authority, whose President Mahmoud Abbas severed ties with the Trump administration over the move of the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem in 2017.
According to the Times of Israel, which covered the impending reset late last year, relations were also strained by disagreement over the so-called pay-to-slay program that pays stipends to the families of terrorists who had killed Israeli civilians. The Times of Israel reported that one of the concessions sought by the Biden administration in exchange for renewed ties is for the PA to pay families of terrorists according to financial need and not according to the length of their sentences.
In addition to renewing ties with the Palestinians, reports also indicate the Biden administration is seeking to reengage with Iran, which had been at odds with the Trump administration over the campaign of “maximum pressure” against its nuclear program.
The International Crisis Group, a think tank, has declared the president should consider reinstating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iran Deal, if Iran reverses some of its recent violations of the agreement. Reporting by the Jewish Insider indicates that Robert Malley, president of the International Crisis Group, is being considered by the Biden administration as point-man for efforts to resurrect the JCPOA.
Regardless of what one thinks of these policies, it is clear they present a new lease on life for so called peace and justice organizations in the United States and Israel. Thanks to the Trump administration’s Abraham Accords, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco, and Sudan have started to normalize relations with the Jewish state without allowing the Palestinians to veto their decision. The growing rapprochement between Israel and Arab countries in the region undermines the credibility of activists in the West who had argued that such a thing could not, would not, happen. And then it did.
Once it happened, these activists needed a new narrative to justify their existence. A so-called human rights group in Israel, B’Tselem, gave it to them, just in time for the change of the guard in Washington, D.C. That narrative is “Jewish supremacism.”
Astroturfing About Israel
Earlier this month, the organization issued an eight-page paper that declares the Jewish state guilty of apartheid. Predictably enough, the paper has received little traction in Israel, but has gotten laudatory coverage from foreign media outlets. The Associated Press portrayed the publication of the report a watershed moment in Israeli history, calling B’Tselem the “premier human rights group” in Israel.
AP’s assessment obscures the fact that B’Tselem has very little credibility or support from people who live in Israel, which is why it relies on foreign donations to survive.
Its website declares that the organization was “69 percent funded by foreign state entities in 2019.” To make matters worse, one of its former field workers was revealed to be a Holocaust denier a few years back. This helps explain why the Israeli government recently banned the organization from presenting its propaganda in public schools in Israel.
Israelis have been through too much over the past few decades to put much stock in B’Tselem’s one-sided condemnations of their homeland. Consequently, the organization has effectively abandoned its efforts to change Israeli public opinion and has enlisted the coalition that seeks to isolate the Jewish state on the world stage.
Fueling Hate in the Name of Peace
It does this by feeding propaganda to Israel-haters in the West under the guise of human rights activism. Those Israel-haters then rebroadcast this information as if it were the gospel truth about the Jewish state. The logic is that if an Israeli Jew says something about Israel, it must be true (but only if that Jew condemns Israel like they do).
Jews who defend Israel? Well, they’re right-wingers intent on building a “greater Israel” who should be canceled.
In the weeks and months ahead, this report will become a central element in the push to distract people from the rapprochement between Israel and a growing number of Arab countries who have decided that using the Jewish state as a scapegoat for all their problems is not a winning strategy. With the “Jewish supremacism” charge, countries that make peace with Israel will be portrayed as villains for doing so by, ironically enough, Christian “peace” organizations.
This all ignores some pretty obvious problems. For example, on its first page, the text states that B’Tselem does “not provide a historical review or an evaluation of the Palestinian and Jewish national movements,” stating that while they are “important questions, they are beyond the purview of a human rights organization.”
After declaring it will not address the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict, the text does just that, by emphasizing more recent events that buttress its narrative of Israel as a bastion of Jewish supremacism and ignoring those bits of history that help explain why Israel has done what it has done.
For example, B’Tselem ignores failure of Palestinian leaders to accept three opportunities for statehood since 2000, PA support for ongoing violence against Israeli civilians through the pay-to-slay program, and its promotion of hostility toward Israel and Jews in official media outlets. It is these policies, pursued by Palestinian leaders, which necessitate the security measures that B’Tselem declares unjust.
Moreover, the text obscures how Palestinian belligerency toward Israel (and Jews) has helped create Israel’s security measures. The Israelis have not imposed the security measures they have on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip to achieve Jewish supremacism over the Palestinians, but to protect Israeli life and property.
To make matters worse, the text calls efforts to protect Jewish sovereignty and self-determination against Palestinian efforts to undermine these goods, a regime of “Jewish supremacism.” This allegation—worthy of David Duke—ignores that the Palestinian effort to deprive Jews of their right to self-determination, even as they claim it for themselves, is itself an act of supremacism.
Elsewhere, the text laments that, “In East Jerusalem, Israel works to prevent any social, cultural or political activity associated in any way with the PA.” Perhaps that’s because its leader, Abbas, has praised people who stab Jews, and pays salaries to them.
B’Tselem further alleges, “The division of space also hampers a unified struggle against Israeli policy.” The text also bizarrely suggests that Israel has no right to determine who gets to enter its territory.
Israelis aren’t obligated to make it easy for the Palestinians to kill their citizens As unhappy as it makes B’Tselem’s stakeholders, Israel does have a right to determine who is allowed into its territory and who isn’t.
Jewish Values Provide for Justice
To buttress its case for “Jewish supremacism,” B’Tselem cites the nation-state law the Knesset passed that declares, “The right to exercise national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”
The fact is, non-Jews who live in Israel wield influence over what it means for Israel to be a Jewish state. To its credit, Israel has allowed the non-Jewish citizens in the land to enjoy the same rights as Jews and in some instances wield power and authority over Jews — in the Jewish state.
All this is in keeping with Jewish teachings about dealing justly with the sojourner in the Torah. These passages are wielded with great ferocity by anti-Israel Christians, but these Christians never really address how well Israel achieves this goal.
Israel treats its own citizens, minorities, dissidents, and adversaries with more humanity than any other country in the Middle East does, and it does so because it is a Jewish state, guided by Jewish values. It is Israel’s Jewishness that makes the country so remarkable and praiseworthy, a marvel.
A National Identity Is Not Supremacy
The underlying point that B’Tselem is trying to make without making it explicit is that there is something wrong with Jewish power and self-determination. And to make that point, they have to obscure the facts and reality about how Jewish self-determination has played out over the past 72-plus years.
Israel’s history reveals that there is something inherent in Jewishness and Judaism that holds Jewish identity in tension with the rights of others. It is not supremacism. Contrary to what antisemites have declared, a fundamental cordiality and generosity has manifested itself in the past few decades in Israel. B’Tselem is trying to turn the Torah’s demand for cordiality and generosity for the sojourner into a suicide pact.
But the fact is, Israel is under no obligation, as B’Tselem suggests, to treat those who seek its destruction, with the kindness it is called to show to sojourners in the land.
None of this will stop B’Tselem’s allies from deploying its allegation of Jewish supremacism against Israel in the weeks, months and years ahead.
On that score, we might even be thankful. People who do promote this text going forward will reveal themselves to be indifferent to the demands of life in the modern world, also revealing themselves to be on the wrong side of facts, logic, and history.