How defenders need to attack

Israel’s advocates all too often fail to state the reality of its enemies’ intentions. It is time that they did


Last weekend, I was a speaker at a huge CAMERA conference in Boston on the topic of the "war by other means", the global campaign of demonisation and delegitimisation of Israel.

CAMERA stands for the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America. The work it does in combating the media onslaught against Israel, through careful, calm and forensic exposure of the lies and distortions being promulgated about Israel, is of enormous value. But, for all the great work that it does, and for all the undoubted commitment of the conference's 800-plus participants, it seems to me that so many American pro-Israel Jews - like those in this country and doubtless elsewhere - are missing the big picture.

This feeling was amplified by remarks made by another conference speaker, Wall Street Journal columnist (and former Jerusalem Post editor) Bret Stephens. As he said, much pro-Israel advocacy isn't very smart because it is conducted from a permanent defensive crouch rather than an offensive position which sticks the accusations into Israel's attackers.

So, for example, such friends of Israel fret endlessly about whether or not Bibi will extend the moratorium on new building in Jewish communities in the disputed territories, rather than ask the much more germane question of what the Palestinians are offering as an equivalent concession. The answer to that one, said Stephens, is that they say they will keep the lid on terrorism. So their great concession is to stop killing Jews. Which kind of illustrates that, while the issue in contention for Israel is land, that for the Palestinians is mass murder.

Put the other side on the back foot. Change the narrative

But instead of accusing the Palestinians and their western supporters of this rejectionism - the true reason for the Middle East impasse - many self-professed "friends" of Israel position themselves on the very ground that Israel's enemies have chosen to conceal their real aim to obliterate it.

This ground defines the conflict instead as being about the boundaries of two states, Israel and Palestine. Hence the almost exclusive focus on the settlements and the territories, and on Israel's supposed obduracy on these issues as the major obstacle to peace. This is demonstrably absurd. The only obstacle to peace is the Palestinians' continued and open refusal to accept the existence of Israel as a Jewish state, and thus their continued objective to wage a war of extermination against it.

That is why, when the bulk of the territories was offered to them in 2000, their response was to start blowing up Israelis in buses and pizza parlours; that is why, when Jewish settlers were removed from Gaza, their response was to fire thousands of rockets at Israeli towns; and that is why "moderate" Mahmoud Abbas says the Palestinians will never accept Israel as a Jewish state.

In short, the whole issue of the settlements and the territories is a giant red herring which has been swallowed wholesale by the west's Israel-bashers. But many in the pro-Israel camp have precisely the same preoccupation, obsessing about whether Israel is making enough concessions on the settlements.

And so they endorse - albeit in softer and more anguished tones - precisely the same false, manipulative narrative employed by Israel's enemies to conceal the real nature of this conflict.

As Stephens rightly observed, Israel's defenders should be moving the conversation on to the subject of the ill treatment of the Palestinians by the rest of the Arab world - and towards each other.

I would go further. I would ask self-styled "progressives" who obsess about removing the settlers from the disputed territories why they promote an agenda of racist ethnic cleansing designed to remove every Jew from a putative state of Palestine - while Israel , whose Arab minority enjoys full civil rights, is excoriated for "apartheid".

Put the other side on the back foot where it belongs. Change the narrative.

Melanie Phillips is a Daily Mail columnist

    Last updated: 11:34am, October 14 2010