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.