ZELINKSY: A dangerous resolution

It was with regret that I read Jack Newsham’s Monday column (“The Palestine Paradox,” Sept. 26). Newsham perpetuates age-old, and baseless, attacks against Israel that are all too prevalent on college campuses today. His misguided views play into a warped conception of the Middle East and America’s role in the world.

Newsham’s favorite punching bag seems to be the “extreme rightists of Israel,” a euphemism for anyone not willing to accept a unilaterally declared Palestinian state. In his mind, so-called rightists are due the same legitimacy as Hamas, an organization whose known heinous acts need no mention in this brief column.

There are real concerns — concerns Newsham ignores — if the UN Security Council passes a resolution recognizing a Palestinian state. For starters, it will not create any such state. Instead, it will set up a situation in which Palestinians feel justified in killing more innocent Israelis in their struggle to liberate their now-UN-approved country — a point to which Newsham tacitly agrees when he writes that states “are born of conflict.” The Israelis will have no choice but to protect their people from murder, resulting in yet another pointless cycle of hostility.

I recently came back from two months in Israel. Sitting in Tel Aviv, a vibrant and lively city, I could see the hills of the West Bank only nine miles away. The security dilemma Newsham belittles is real. If the UN declaration of statehood led to an independent Palestinian entity that did not convincingly agree to relinquish violence, rockets would quickly and indiscriminately fall on the towers of a thriving, liberal metropolis, whose residents include both Arabs and Jews.

The Israelis with whom I lived and worked — and countless more like them — deeply want peace. They want their children to grow up without fear from terrorism. They want to live beside an economically viable Palestinian country that respects Israel’s basic right to exist. Neither side can achieve that peaceful dream in a world without security.

In arguing against Israel’s need to defend its citizens, Newsham compares the Jewish state’s security worries to that of Sudan and its newly formed neighbor, South Sudan. In contrasting the two cases, he makes a deeply troubling moral association. Sudan carried out a systematic campaign of genocide against its own people, leading to a massive humanitarian crisis and countless deaths. It is deeply offensive (and factually groundless) to coyly imply Israel’s moral equivalence to a genocidal monster through sly innuendo. Calling Newsham sloppy would be an understatement.

But, nonetheless, Sudan’s case can prove instructive because it disproves Newsham’s basic thesis. The popular referendum that created an independent South Sudan was part of a larger peace agreement that precisely addressed the very security concerns similar to those Israel faces. Sudan and (future) South Sudan negotiated a protracted template for peace before the latter declared statehood. Why hold the Jewish state to a different standard? Why ask Israel alone to give up its right of self-defense and acquiesce to a hostile state under no preconditions?

In his penultimate paragraph, Newsham quotes a Saudi Prince reiterating a unfounded mantra: The United States’ support of Israel is the cause of Arab anti-Americanism. Nothing can be further from the truth. Arab leaders stoke popular hatred of the West and Israel in order to maintain domestic control by diverting attention from the simple fact that their people lack jobs, opportunity and basic rights. It is telling that the Saudis themselves did not grant women suffrage in municipal elections until two days ago (don’t worry, the monarchy doesn’t hold national elections). In stark contrast, Israel has ensured the female vote since its inception in 1948, for Arab and Jewish citizens alike.

Why does Newsham (along with others, here at Yale and globally) single out Israel with a scorn-laced double standard? We can only surmise. Israel’s prominent success as a Jewish qua-Jewish state? The reason itself does not matter. What does matter is that we not accept intellectually shallow anti-Israel polemics that masquerade as thoughtful pleas for peace.

Nathaniel Zelinsky is a junior in Davenport College.


  • bfa123

    You misunderstood Newsham’s column completely…

    • JE14

      I feel like you misunderstood it.

  • JE14

    Excellent column. I couldn’t have put it better myself. Thanks.

  • The Anti-Yale

    The Israelis and the Palestinians have about the same credibility as the Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. Congress.

    Stop the endless bickering and cooperate.


    Two wrongs don’t make a right.

  • ignatz

    Newsham manages to get most things wrong, and the Middle East is no exception. He tilts in Pavlovian fashion toward the underdog of the moment. Today it’s the Palestinians-formerly-known-as-Arabs, who are incapable of managing a small apartment building, much less a nation. Tomorrow, Newsham’s underdog du jour could be — well, almost anyone. Isn’t Muammar Gaddafi looking a bit like an underdog these days?

  • jnewsham

    This comment was removed by the author. (10:16 a.m.)

  • dm

    I’m not going to take a side on this YDN war of words, but I will note that it is regrettable that the YDN let Zelinsky publish a piece where he concludes by asserting that someone who disagrees with him on the Israel-Palestine issue is an anti-Semite.

    • JE14

      excuse me where did he say that anyone who disagrees is anti-semite? the fact is just that a lot of the anti-israel comments aka. anti-sioniste is often just hiding an underlying anti-semitism.

      • jnewsham

        “Why does Newsham … single out Israel with a scorn-laced double standard? We can only surmise. Israel’s prominent success as a Jewish qua-Jewish state?”

        Nate suggested that I hate Israel because I am angry with the success of a Jewish state.

  • yale_senior

    Zelinsky like most opponents of the current Palestinian efforts at the UN doesn’t actually offer the downside of the Palestinians getting UN recognition, other than were they to do so, it would make it harder for Israel to get the exact terms it wants, which is the whole point of compromising for peace in the first place.

    I also do not at all understand this “defensible borders” line. I mean, I do not doubt that Israel is nine miles wide at it’s shortest point, but to remedy that would be to have Israel just acquire the entire bank, never mind that Jerusalem will be on the border of any final agreement in any case. This whole “defensible borders” line is entirely illogical, and I don’t know why smart people like Zelinsky have thought more critically about its implications.

    • silliwin01

      People don’t think critically about things they feel strongly about.

  • Arabianknight

    Look, you can not blame Palestinian for existing. Israel was created in a populated region, its wa the Zionist movement’s choice. The Middle east will not change just to please the new occupants of historic Palestine, Israeli have to live with it or move and go somewhere else. Palestinians have the right to live in a secured, free and independant state, just like Israelis.
    What Israel is demanding, no one can afford. Not the US, not Europe, nor the US Arab allies. Make peace now Israel, the window of oportunities is closing dangerousely.

  • ignatz

    Well, Arabianknight, perhaps you can help educate me about these “Palestinians” whose rights you champion with such fervor. When did the “Palestinian people” first arrive on the scene? Was there an ancient Palestinian state in the land before the Jews arrived? No. Do we have archaeological evidence of “Palestinian” presence in the land 3,500 years ago? No. How about from the 19th Century? No. Do we have a rich history of Palestinian government and culture prior to World War II? No. The truth is that the Palestinians-formerly-known-as-Arabs first claimed to be a distinct “people” in 1968, in the wake of the Arabs’ failed military effort to wipe out the State of Israel. (What a coincidence!) Now there’s nothing necessarily wrong with creating yet another Arab state (look what great things the other 21 have done for the world!), but could you please explain why a brand-new “people” showing up in 1968 are somehow ENTITLED to carve a new country out of Israel? Never mind that their goal is to use their Palestinian state as a foothold to destroy Israel, just explain to me why they’re ENTITLED to their own country. I look forward to your response.

  • domlawton

    Oh, for God’s sake. Every people, every nation, comes into existence out of nowhere. Americans don’t understand this, because the birth of the American state was perfectly contiguous with the birth of American nationalism. You think Britain or Britishness existed as a meaningful construct prior to the 19th Century? What about Germany, which wasn’t even a unified state until Bismarck came along? Or Tsar Nikolai I’s Russification policies throughout the Russian Empire — you don’t think that was part of an effort to construct a new, specifically national consciousness?

    Every “people” is a brand-new people at some point. I wonder what right the brand-new American people had to take all of that land from all of those Native Americans? For that matter, ignatz, the assertion of a deep, primordial history, stretching back thousands of years into “ancient times”, is in its own right a creation of modern nationalism, not a legitimator thereof — there’s a reason that the Chanson de Roland and the Nibelunglied exploded in popularity right around the birth of 19th-century French and German nationalism. Your talk of archaelogical evidence is silly and naive.

    This is shameful. People, read some basic history. Failing that, at least find the time to flick through a copy of Imagined Communities, and until you know a little something about the dynamics of how “peoples” and “nations” create and sustain themselves, don’t you dare think you have the right to arbitrate which ones are legitimate and which aren’t. (States, on the other hand, are a different — and in some ways simpler — matter.)

  • ignatz

    Thanks for enlightening me, domlawton. Now I understand that the best proof of the “Palestinian” cause is the fact that there never was a “Palestinian” people ever before in history. QED.

    Oh, and I have a brief announcement. On behalf of the brand-new “people of south-central Cleveland, Ohio,” I announce our arrival on the scene and I demand a new nation of our own to which we can repair at once. We are nothing at all like the denizens of central Cleveland or northern Cleveland, and our right to self-determination plainly requires our own state. Preferably a balmy island in the Pacific, where ideas like yours are wafted away on tropical breezes as quickly as they are uttered.