Anyone writing on anti-Semitism will inevitably be asked their position on Israel before too long. The short answer here is that it’s complicated.
The focus of this site is anti-Semitism rather than Israel but it will not hesitate to defend the Jewish state when it seems appropriate. However, that does not mean uncritical acceptance of all of Israel’s actions or a denial of Palestinian rights.
In contrast, it certainly does entail a rejection of attaching labels to the conflict as if they help understand its character. Terms such as “apartheid”, “colonial settler state” and “ethnic cleansing” are nowadays essentially used as swearwords. (The misuse of these labels will be explored in detail in future articles).
Neither are the solutions routinely proposed by outsiders any better. There will be no calls here for a “binational state”, a “one state solution” or a “two state solution”. Any genuine resolution of the conflict will only come about by the interaction of people in the region. It cannot be imposed by outsiders.
As for “from the river to the sea” (meaning from the Mediterranean to the River Jordan) that slogan is at best a cliché. Often, in the hands of Islamists and their supporters, it is a coded demand for genocide against Israelis.
The view taken here is that the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is a tragedy for both sides. The impetus for the creation of the Israeli state came mainly from anti-Semitism in Europe – clearly not a problem created by the Palestinians. Yet it was the Palestinians who have suffered the consequences of the creation of a new state in the region.
Isaac Deutscher (1907-1967), a Polish Marxist writer, devised a reasonable metaphor on the situation in an interview he gave shortly before his death. (see The Non-Jewish Jew and other essays ):
A man once jumped from the top floor of a burning house in which many members of his family had already perished. He managed to save his life; but as he was falling he hit a person standing below and broke that person’s legs and arms. The jumping man had no choice; yet to the man with the broken limbs he was the cause of his misfortune.
That does not mean that the current quagmire was inevitable. With more far-sighted leadership on both sides the outcome could have been better. But it does help capture the existence of the tragedy in which Israelis and the Palestinians have become embroiled.
However, things have moved on substantially since Deutscher devised his metaphor. For one thing the conflict is now better understood as a battle between three sides rather than two: Israel, the Palestinians and Islamism.
The goal of the latter is not Palestinian liberation. On the contrary, as I argued in a spiked article in May, its ideal is to create an Islamic caliphate across the whole region. It is hostile not only to Israel but to Palestinian self-determination.
The recent rise of what could be called “woke anti-Semitism” in the West makes rational discussions on Israel even more difficult. It tends to view Jews as beneficiaries of “white privilege”. Such ideas make it harder to discuss Israel sensibly in the US and indeed beyond.
Untangling woke anti-Semitism will be one of the main priorities of this site in the year ahead. Developing a better understanding of Islamism is also a key task. And, bizarre as it may sound, there are significant overlaps between the two outlooks.