The Spanish parliament recently declared that there should be an independent Palestine but no independent Catalonia. The French parliament is about to call for an independent Palestine too, though it will unlikely ask the French government to let the New Caledonians vote on their independence. Next in line is the European parliament in Strasbourg; it is unlikely to ask Turkey to end its 40 year occupation of Cyprus, an EU member. With failed Arab states imploding and falling one after the other under Iran’s grip (Yemen is the last to date), the European urge to create another one boggles the mind. Yet there is a partial explanation for this recent urge of European parliaments to “recognize” a non-existent state of Palestine: European parliamentarians are being lobbied by Israelis.
Prominent among them is Michael Ben-Yair, who served as Israel’s attorney general between 1993 and 1997. In April 2013, Ben-Yair wrote on his Facebook page that Israeli settlements in the West Bank are “the most evil and foolish acts since World War II.” Asked whether he thought Israeli settlements were more evil than the Cambodian and Darfur genocides or Stalin’s gulags, Ben-Yair answered positively. Typically, Ben-Yair tries to create a dichotomy between a moral pre-1967 Israel and an immoral post-1967 Israel. He completely obliterates from his narrative what the Arabs call the Naqba, i.e. the expulsions and destructions of 1948. For the Arabs, the historical scar is 1948, not 1967. This is why they insist on what they call the “right of return” and this is why all attempts to solve the conflict by settling the 1967 issue but not the 1948 one have failed.
Ben-Yair and his Israeli acolytes who lobby Europe to recognize “Palestine” refuse to face that fact. This is why their attempt to solve the conflict has failed and this is why, consequently, no political majority has emerged in Israel since the mid-1990s to implement their policies. Instead of reassessing their failed policy, “1948 deniers” (as I call them) try to impose on Israel, via foreign pressure, a policy that most Israeli voters are no longer willing to buy. Hence the creation of “J-Street” in America, and hence the active lobbying of European media and political parties by frustrated Israeli has-beens. Among the most recent and noticeable media appearances of such Israeli lobbyists in Europe was a Nov. 18 TV interview with Yael Lerer (a self-described “Israeli author”) on France 24’s Arabic channel (on the “Al-Niqash” evening program). In it, she blamed PM Benjamin Netanyahu for the murder of Jewish worshipers in Jerusalem on that same day, and said that starting a new intifada would be “a good thing.”
By contrast, there are Israelis who supported the Oslo agreements and who continue to favor a two-state solution, but who also realize and recognize that no peace is possible as long as the Palestinians insist on the so-called “right of return” and as long as they defame and demonize Israel. Prominent among them is veteran journalist Ben-Dror Yemini, whose book “The Industry of Lies” was recently published in Hebrew and will be published in English soon. Yemini meticulously exposes the media defamation campaign targeting Israel, on campuses, among NGOs and at the UN, and shows how the State of Israel has become “the Jew of the nations,” i.e. the scapegoat of the world’s ills. Yemini stills supports peace and a two-state solution but no peace will be possible, he argues, alongside an industry of lies.
Just as Yemini’s book came out in September 2014, George Deek, the deputy chief of mission at Israel’s embassy in Norway, delivered an impassioned speech. Deek, an Arab Christian and senior Israeli diplomat, told the story of his family. He explained that his grandfather left Jaffa in 1948 but decided to come back and build a new life in Israel. “The Palestinians,” he said, “have become slaves of the past.” He called upon the Arab world to put an end to the shameful treatment of the Palestinian refugees, to abandon the fantasy of the so-called right of return, and to start thinking about building a better future, just as the Jews did after the Holocaust. “Time has come to put an end to the culture of hatred and incitement,” Deek concluded.
The likes of Michael Ben-Yair and of Yael Lerer say they want peace, but in truth they perpetuate the conflict by actively taking part in the culture of demonization, falsification and victimization. Ben-Dror Yemini and George Deek, by contrast, convey a message of sanity, courage and hope. This transcends the right-left divide: no true peace can emerge from the production of lies, from the perpetuation of victimhood and from the rejection of self-criticism.