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Twitter Duel Over West Bank Truth

Earlier this week, I wrote about the astonishing success of a new video promoting Israel’s side of the Middle East conflict produced by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon. Ayalon’s “The Truth About the West Bank” debunked Arab myths about Israel’s position and put forward a straightforward argument that whatever the ultimate disposition of the territories, the notion Jews have no right to be in the West Bank or their presence is “illegal” was false.

This video, which has already been viewed nearly 200,000 times, drove Palestinian advocates nuts, because it shows how wrong are the world’s assumptions about Israel. Apparently, it was also enough to drive some liberal Jews up the wall as well. The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg was driven to profanity to describe Ayalon’s efforts which contradicts, at least in part, the mainstream Jewish liberal conventional wisdom to which he subscribes. But in addition to snidely referring to the film as “cheesy” (it is anything but) and “sinister,” he claimed its production showed the Israeli Foreign Ministry had become settlement advocates and that in doing so it was telling the Palestinians to “f___ off.”

Ayalon replied on Twitter that while the video demonstrated Jews were not colonizing foreigners in the West Bank, it said nothing about the future of the territories. He demanded Goldberg produce any line in the script that justified his accusation that it asserted Israel must hold onto all of it forever. This set off a long exchange on Twitter between the two that told us a lot more about Goldberg’s mindset than it did about Ayalon’s.

For Goldberg, the mere mention of Jewish rights (whose validity he later acknowledged during the course of the Twitter debate) is wrong. The fact that the West Bank is the heart of the historic Jewish homeland, that there never was a Palestinian nation to which this land should be “returned,” that Jordan’s occupation of the West Bank was illegal and that Israel came into the possession of it during a war of self defense may be true, but to Goldberg, it is a truth that should never, ever be mentioned. To speak of the West Bank as disputed territory rather than “occupied Arab land” is beyond the pale, because it hurts the feelings of the Palestinians and puts the two claims on a level playing field. According to this point of view, anything said that could in any way buttress the arguments of Jews who believe large parts of the West Bank must be retained by Israel in a peace settlement is the sort of information that clearly must be suppressed.

Goldberg’s side of the argument consisted mainly of him saying he knew what Ayalon really meant, and extremists agreed with him. But he never answered Ayalon’s question, because he didn’t have one. The assertion of Jewish rights to the West Bank doesn’t mean those rights can or will be exercised in all or even part of the land. But it does mean any negotiation over the land ought not to be conducted as a trial in which Israel is put in the dock for being in possession of stolen property.

That is the beauty of Ayalon’s video. It corrects the lies about Israel that have for too long gone unanswered even by its supposed advocates in its Foreign Ministry. But for those who want Israel to merely shut up and hand over all the land to the Palestinian Authority with no questions asked, the truth about the West Bank shouldn’t be told.


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