The Next Anti-Israeli Temper Tantrum

Some two dozen well-known novelists are writing a book about Israel’s occupation of the West Bank that will lack context, ignore reality, give Palestinians a pass for their terror and Jew-hating, and do nothing to end the very occupation they deplore.

The occupation is “the most grievous injustice I have ever seen in my life … the worst thing I have ever seen, just purely in terms of injustice,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning American Jewish author Michael Chabon said after touring the West Bank city of Hebron in late April with his wife, the novelist Amy Ayelet Waldman – who are jointly leading the project to produce the book next year. Perhaps Chabon’s led a sheltered life, for the occupation in Hebron and elsewhere in the West Bank hardly compares to humanitarian horror in North Korea; political suppression in China, Russia and Cuba; and the lack of fundamental human rights across the Arab world.

Or perhaps it hasn’t occurred to Chabon, Waldman and the other esteemed novelists who include Mario Vargas Llosa, Geraldine Brooks and Dave Eggers – all of whom have visited the West Bank, East Jerusalem, or Gaza or will do so in the coming weeks – that they wouldn’t be allowed to investigate human rights in any of the aforementioned countries due to their autocratic rule.

But let’s set aside the writers’ naivete and take them at their word. “We decided,” Chabon and Waldman wrote in announcing the project in February, “to mark the 50th anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank by editing a volume of essays by notable international writers on topics involving life in the Palestinian territories, free of cant… [to] allow readers to understand the situation in Palestine-Israel in a new way, through human narrative, rather than the litany of grim destruction we see on the news.”

The writers are working with Breaking the Silence, a controversial group of Israeli soldiers and veterans who discuss their service in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem. Their joint goal is simple: end the occupation. They hope that the writers will, as Breaking the Silence’s Yuli Novak put it, “touch the hearts of many people, both in Israel and internationally, in convincing them of the necessity to end it.”

The book, Chabon and Waldman explained, “is not an analysis of the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. It asks a simple question: What does occupation look like? What does it feel like to live under occupation?” So while raising consciousness to end the occupation, the book will offer no words about why it’s lasted a half-century, why Israeli hasn’t succumbed to such pressure before, and what might happen if it did.

Readers, then, won’t learn that Palestinians leaders have rejected peace with Israel that would end the occupation multiple times, most recently in 2008 when Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Ohmert offered Palestinians 93.7 percent of the West Bank, land to almost fully compensate for the other 6.3 percent, a link to Gaza, Israeli withdrawal from Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem, and international control over the Old City (where Jerusalem’s most sensitive religious sites are located). They won’t learn that Palestinian leaders reject peace with Israel because Palestinians largely reject the vaunted “two-state solution” – that is, the reality of a Jewish state in the historic Jewish homeland.

They won’t learn that the Palestinian side is divided between the Palestinian Authority (which runs the West Bank) and Hamas, the terrorist group dedicated to Israel’s destruction (which runs Gaza); that Israel unilaterally withdrew from Gaza in 2005; that Hamas ousted the Palestinian Authority from Gaza in a violent coup in 2007, turning it into a terrorist haven from which the group launches missiles and builds tunnels to attack Israel; or that Israel legitimately fears that withdrawing from the West Bank could bring the same thing there.

They won’t learn that Palestinian leaders indoctrinate their people in the ethos of endless war and boundless hostility to Israel; that “moderate” Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas pays homage to Palestinian “martyrs” who spill Jewish blood; and that Palestinian media feed their people a steady diet of content urging them to retain the “resistance,” kill Jews and oust Israel from its land.

They won’t learn that the recent deadly Palestinian knifings in Jerusalem and the West Bank are predicated on myths, perpetuated by Palestinian leaders – that Israel planned to close the Temple Mount and that, rather than respond to the knifings, it’s targeting Palestinian children for slaughter.

Thus, this book will be another anti-Israeli temper tantrum that criticizes the occupation while offering nothing useful to end it.

Lawrence J. Haas, a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council, is the author of the new book Harry and Arthur: Truman, Vandenberg, and the Partnership That Created the Free World.

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