In this post to his British newspaper blog Hitchens delineates a history of what he calls “Judophobia”; concluding with this point-counterpoint –
As for the conventional wisdom of the commentators, let me take it piece by piece: “Israel needs to make concessions to the Palestinians if it wants to live in peace. These concessions should take the form of land.”
**There is no evidence that territorial concessions will bring peace. Far smaller Jewish states were proposed by the Peel Commission in 1937, and by the UN in 1947, but rejected by the Arabs. Palestinian voters recently voted for Hamas, a party which does not accept that Israel has a right to exist. They knew what they were doing.
” It may be that Israel was once a small country under siege from more populous neighbours, but Israel has now taken on the role of bully and aggressor, oppressing and abusing the Palestinian people.”
**Israel remains a tiny country and it continues to face the hostility of the entire Muslim and Arab world, including oil-rich Saudi Arabia, nuclear-armed Pakistan, Iran and – despite a very cold peace treaty – Egypt. Yes, Israel is subsidised and armed by the USA, but so, to very similar levels, is Egypt. The ‘Palestinian’ cause certainly has some justice. The displaced refugees from 1948 ought long ago to have been resettled and compensated. But there must be a suspicion that the oil-rich Arab world – which could have achieved this easily – prefers to keep them where they are for propaganda purposes.
“Israel will forfeit its right to the support of the West unless it changes this behaviour.”
**The West is entitled to criticise Israel when it does wrong things ( though Britain’s participation in the Iraq war makes it hard for us to take a moral stand on the killing of civilians). But the facts are that Israel was created on our promise, and that it is by world standards a free, law-governed country which tries to abide by civilised standards. To compare Israel to Nazi Germany, or to cast it as the bully in the region, is plain false.
“The pre-1967 borders of Israel are the correct borders and a withdrawal to those borders would bring about peace. ”
**Arab propagandists now say they like the 1967 borders. But they did not like them before 1967. In pre-1967 times they harked back to the 1947 borders, which were even more cramped. Actually, Israel long ago returned most of the land it conquered in 1967, in return for peace with Egypt. But while that peace is very cold and not guaranteed to last, the land is gone for good. Land for peace? That’s what they said about the Munich agreement for which Neville Chamberlain is rightly reviled. Land was certainly handed over. But there was no peace.
Israel is responsible for the squalor and misery of the Palestinian refugee camps, a wretchedness which naturally breeds terrorism and hatred.
**See above. Israel is certainly to blame for its cruel expulsions in 1948. But much has happened since. That responsibility is not Israel’s alone. The Arab world should constantly be asked why it does so little to help the refugees, who seem to have plenty of access to weapons, but not so much to clean water, electricity and good-quality housing.”
Bad as the living conditions are in the camps, these are no excuse for terrorist murder. There is never any excuse for terrorist murder, and we in the West should be careful not to offer one. The idea that bad conditions equal desperation equals terrorist murder is a wicked falsehood, which assumes that poor and oppressed people lack consciences and can therefore be excused if they adopt criminal methods.
This is, in a way, a slander on poor Arabs – who in my experience are hospitable and generous people and who have on many occasions in recent history courageously protected Jewish neighbours from murderous attacks. I am quite sure most Arabs would not dream of using such methods and privately condemn them, though there is little free speech on this subject in the Arab Muslim world. And, as it happens, a large number of those involved in terrorist actions come from prosperous and well-educated families.
There is a ‘cycle of violence’ in the region which prevents reasonable discussion.”
**This is simply a way of saying ‘six of one and half a dozen of the other’. But Israel has from the start been willing to compromise over territory. In their speeches to their own supporters, leaders of the Palestinian movement have repeatedly made clear that any settlement would be a stage on the way to final victory, the end of the Jewish state which remains their aim. That aim remains a realistic one, as long as the West offers concessions in return for violence. It will only be abandoned if the West shows unflinching resolve to stand by its promise. And then – as should have been done long ago – the plight of the refugees can at last be addressed.