On Tuesday, the United Nations Security Council met to discuss “The Situation in the Middle East.” The situation in question wasn’t a war in Syria that has taken hundreds of thousands of lives or the rise of ISIS. Instead of tackling the difficult problem of how to end that civil war, which has drawn in forces from around the region and created millions of refugees, the UN preferred to devote its time and energy to a more familiar and, therefore, safer topic: Israel’s continued presence in the West Bank. What followed was a dreary and all too familiar debate in which Israeli settlement policies were slammed and UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon rationalized Palestinian terror by declaring, “it is human nature to react to occupation, which often serves as an incubator of hate and extremism.”
Ban’s comments provoked a furious and justified response from Israel. But what is remarkable about a debate that focused almost exclusively on the Israeli presence in the West Bank and gave short shrift to the current Palestinian terror campaign known as the “stabbing intifada,” is that so much of what was said about the policies of the Jewish state were uttered as if the history of the 22 years of efforts to end the conflict had never occurred.
It is a fact that the troubles of the Palestinians are considered uniquely important and worthy of more attention than the greater sufferings of other peoples at the UN. But the corollary to the world body’s obsession with the alleged crimes of Israel is that terrorism committed by the Palestinians is also treated differently.
The question of the disposition of the West Bank is a thorny one and the wisdom of continued building of Jewish homes in the territories is one that has long divided Israelis. Even if we were to set aside the fact that Jews can assert a legal right to live in what is the heart of their ancient homeland that is guaranteed by the League of Nations Mandate, which served as the foundation for international law on the subject, the assumptions behind Ban’s comments are fallacious.
When Ban speaks of nearly 50 years of Israeli occupation, he ignores the fact that Israel has repeatedly offered the Palestinian Authority statehood and withdrawal from almost all of the West Bank. If the goal of the Palestinians were truly statehood, they would have jumped on the deals put on the table in 2000, 2001, and 2008, all of which would have granted them sovereignty over this territory as well as a share of Jerusalem. Even the Netanyahu government, which is widely derided as intransigent by its critics, offered to withdraw from much of the West Bank and accepted a two-state solution. But Palestinian leaders have never been willing to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state no matter where its borders might be drawn. That’s why all discussion of Palestinian “frustration” is deeply misleading.
Whatever one may think should be the ultimate disposition of the West Bank, the Palestinian refusal to negotiate peace has made it obvious that the widespread belief that the settlements are the obstacles to peace is absurd. Moreover, Israel has already demonstrated what happens when it does what the international community wants and uproots settlements and hands territory to the Palestinians. The withdrawal of every single settler and solider from Gaza in 2005 led to the establishment of a Hamas-run terrorist enclave which effectively functions as an independent Palestinians state in all but name.
Moreover, the recent upsurge in Palestinian wasn’t the “natural” reaction to Palestinian frustration about the failure to bring about a two-state solution that the majority of them continue to oppose. The spark was the lies told by PA leader Mahmoud Abbas and the rest of the Palestinian leadership about alleged Israeli plans to harm the mosques on the Temple Mount. The driving force since then has been the same spirit of rejectionism that has animated the Palestinian national movement since its inception. Palestinian public opinion continues to view the Jewish presence in any part of the country as unacceptable. Whether Jews are sitting in a café in Tel Aviv or in a West Bank settlement, Palestinians think they deserve death.
It is not “human nature” — normal instincts that are presumed to exist in all people — that drives Palestinians to seek out random Israelis, whether they are young or old, male or female, or even pregnant, and to stab or shoot them. In this case, the “incubator” of hatred and extremism is not the Israeli refusal to give up land they know will be used as a launching pad for more terrorism but rather a Palestinian ideology that views territorial compromise as treason.
Nevertheless, it must be admitted that “human nature” does actually play a part in this discussion. Sadly, the willingness to treat Jews differently from that of every other people and nation on the planet is rooted in a virus of hate that seems impervious to efforts to eradicate it. Whatever the rights and wrongs of various aspects of a complex dispute between two peoples over one piece of land, it is clear that the indiscriminate killing of Jews remains the sort of thing that much of the world is prepared to tolerate. Comments such as those of Ban, even if they are accompanied by boilerplate rhetoric about terrorism being deplorable, serve only to further encourage the Palestinians to persist in their intransigence.
The only way to resolve the question of the West Bank is to persuade Palestinians to give up their quest to destroy Israel. But until a sea change in their political culture permits them to embrace reason, comments such as those of Ban have the destructive effect of encouraging them to believe the world shares their belief that murdering Jews is a laudable endeavor.
On the eve of the day that the international community uses to commemorate the Holocaust, there is something profoundly disturbing about the way Ban and the rest of the world body chose to rationalize the irrational hate that drives the Palestinians to kill Jews. The UN’s treatment of Israel is proof that the indifference to anti-Semitism that allowed the Holocaust to happen is yet with us. If this is “human nature,” it is proof that the vile hate that led the mass slaughter of European Jewry seven decades ago is still alive and well.