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  • stephen schecter

The ambassador and the historian

I first met the ambassador on a trip to Israel. The trip was more a mission as the Jews like to call these trips, in this case organized by the Republican Jewish Coalition. American Jews active in the Republican Party organized a ten-day trip to Israel, during which participants got to see military parts of Israel normally closed to tourists and meet with various experts on matters related to Israel’s situation. The aim of all these missions is to expose participants from abroad to an understanding of Israel’s security needs one does not get from reading the headlines or watching legacy news outlets. Upon return to their own countries, participants on these missions are then presumed to be able to better defend Israel and explain the parameters shaping its policies. I was invited to join this mission courtesy of cousins who were active in the organizing group.


The time was the summer of 2004. After then Prime Minister Sharon had sent troops into Ramallah to quell the second intifada unleashed by that gangster Arafat, relative calm had descended on the country. Sharon had floated the idea of Israeli disengagement from Gaza by which Israeli settlements along the Gaza coast were to be uprooted as another step in the hopeless Israeli attempt to induce the Palestinian camp to embrace a real peace with the Jewish state. I remember hearing some left-wing Israeli academic lauding the attempt as a realistic strategy to keep Israel intact as a Jewish and democratic state. This he advocated on a mission of his own to Montreal earlier that year, though in retrospect I realize it was a mission that was organized by the forces that had also given birth to the infamous Oslo Accords a decade earlier. I was skeptical, especially when he said that Israel could always return to Gaza if the attempt did not work out as planned.


On the mission we were taken to a military outpost close to the Gaza border where an English-speaking Israeli soldier from Brooklyn briefed us on the situation. We know, he told us, how much toothpaste there is in every household in Gaza, but we cannot wait to get out of here and stop sending them electricity in exchange for terrorist attacks. The message he intended to convey, so I presumed, was that Israeli intelligence is good enough to risk the gamble of withdrawal, while disengagement would make the Arab Muslims in Gaza responsible for what happens to this second attempt at handing them a self-governing state. Maybe he was suffering from battle fatigue, just as the whole country was and continues to be, however much they slough it off as the price for doing business in the restored Jewish homeland. Nonetheless, listening to that soldier who bore the rank of major, I felt perhaps the government knew what it was doing. After all, I am simply an observer from afar, do not serve in the IDF, do not live in the country. On the other hand, as A. B. Yehoshua once wrote in a novel, Jews always know something about Jews who live in another town that they don’t know about themselves. Another way of interpreting the well-worn phrase all of Israel is bound up one with another.


The mission continued. When we got to Jerusalem we met with a Jewish senator from Minnesota who assured the assembled body that President George W. Bush’s heart was in the right place. Israel’s safety would not be compromised, though the usual clouds were gathering on the horizon, notwithstanding the foolish Thomas Friedman’s lament that Sharon had Bush under house arrest. On our last day in Jerusalem we were addressed by an ambassador. He bore the title as a former Israeli diplomat in the United States and now a consultant to legislators and other parties interested in the by now euphemistic Arab-Israeli conflict. His talk was an eye-opener. Today I cannot remember the specifics of what he said, but I do know his talk reinforced my skepticism about the Gaza disengagement plan. Afterwards he came by our table and further impressed me with arguments that indicated the Oslo track was definitely wrong. At the time I may still have been operating on the assumption that peace was a question of time because modernity made war ridiculously outmoded. But not everyone embraced modernity, as the facts on the ground surrounding Israel showed.


The ambassador had facts at his disposal. Judea and Samaria were the historic heartland of the Jewish state. Demographic data was in Israel’s favour, not against it. The Palestinians inflated their births, minimized their deaths, double counted populations living in East Jerusalem now part of Israel, included diaspora Palestinians as residents even though net emigration from PLO-controlled territories was growing every year. Furthermore, Jewish birth rates west of the Jordan River were rising while Muslim ones were falling, undermining the argument that were Israel to annex Judea and Samaria it would cease to exist as a Jewish state. My ears picked up. I signed on to his newsletter, which carried further data about Jewish and Arab demographics in Judea and Samaria. I came to see that for Palestinians lying was a way of life, embedded in the proto-totalitarian organization of society in those areas which the Oslo Accords gave them to self-govern. Ideology and terror ruled the roost, and the more I did research on the Arab Muslim world the more I saw I was watching a transplanted version of Visconti’s movie The Damned.


It is nearly twenty years now and I keep receiving newsletters from the ambassador. Not only do they continue to debunk the demographic threat used by left-wing fascists to press further compromises on the Jewish state. They also continue to underscore the contributions Israel consistently makes to the safety and well-being of western democracies, especially when it comes to American military aid. Contrary to progressive anti-Semites who argue Israel is wagging the imperialist and racist American dog, the ambassador calmly points out how a militarily strong Israel never requires American boots on the ground, how Israeli technology always returns American military aid new and improved, and how Israeli intelligence supports the safety of American citizens. Indeed, his newsletter never fails to remind of the ties that bind the two countries on every major Jewish holiday: the Hebrew scriptures that served as the inspiration for the American Republic, exemplified in the many biblical names of American towns and cities, Bethel, Shiloh Jerusalem, and in the attachment to liberty heralding the Hebrew exodus from Egypt and the Puritan one from England. His prescient reminders always come to reinforce what I have long come to believe: namely, there will be no peace in Israel until the Palestinians who are only so-called Palestinians are expelled from Gaza, Judea and Samaria. That democratic allies of Israel, not to mention many Jews, continue to delude themselves of the opposite is only testimony to the long shelf life of bad ideas.


Unlike myself, however, the ambassador never tires in his efforts to point out the obvious. The more the world turns toward excusing irresponsible cutthroats as victims of the enterprising and the steadfast, the more he reminds us of who is right and who wrong, who works by murder and who works by endeavour, who by terror and empire and who by peace and boundaries. And calls to his aid the lessons of history no longer taught in our schools. In this he was aided by an historian who recently published a book on the so-called Deir Yassin massacre aptly titled The Massacre That Never Was. Always intrigued by the notoriety of this story, this historian decided to investigate the claims behind the infamous Deir Yassin massacre. Deir Yassin was an Arab village where a battle occurred between Jewish and Arab forces in April 1948 as part of the wider war between Jews and Arabs once the Arab Muslims refused to accept the UN Partition Plan granting the Jews a state in part of Mandate Palestine. For years the Arabs had claimed that Jewish forces murdered over two hundred and fifty men, women, and children in this village as part of their plan to drive Arab Muslims throughout the country to flee their homes. For years this story had also been invoked to justify and excuse Arab terrorist attacks against Jews in Israel because what’s good for the goose is good for the gander. But no one had ever bothered to investigate whether these claims were true. This historian decided to do that by interviewing remaining survivors of that battle and investigating Arabic sources in which Muslim participants, now dead, gave their accounts of what had transpired.


The upshot, to summarize his findings, was that there was no massacre. The villagers had managed to get their hands on heavy artillery from Egypt before the fighting had broken out. The Jewish forces, unaware of this recently delivered arms cache, had decided to attack the village as part of the battle for Jerusalem. A fierce battle ensued resulting in one hundred deaths, many of them civilians who were nonetheless captive in the homes from which the Muslims had decided to fight. But all the survivors agreed that there was no massacre of unarmed civilians and even said so at the time or shortly thereafter. However, one of the leaders of the Arab Muslim forces in Palestine decided to spread the story that a massacre had occurred, hoping thereby to pressure other Arab states to intervene militarily on their behalf. He succeeded in spreading this story over the objections of the villagers themselves, whose unintended result was to fuel a mass exodus of Arab Muslims from other villages. And so was born the Naqba, the Palestinian lament that the creation of the state of Israel was the perfidious plot of Jews to gain their homeland at the expense of a Palestinian catastrophe. The myth of the Deir Yassin massacre began the first of many such libels, including the Al-Dura affair, the Jenin massacre, Israeli war crimes in Gaza, and the Israel apartheid canard taken up by no less than Amnesty International and the notoriously anti-Israel United Nations, and filtered through student governments in western universities.


When this historian submitted his research, now a book, to respected academic publishers, he was systematically turned down. Editors who agreed with his findings nonetheless stated the time was not right for such a book to appear. Eventually it was published by a small Israeli/American press and came to my attention courtesy of an internet lecture with the author sponsored by a Middle East forum that is still interested in history. I was delighted to attend the seminar and learn that the Deir Yassin massacre had never occurred. It now belongs to the list of so-called events that swirl around Israel and its relations with the Arab-Muslim world, including the so-called Palestinians themselves, who were never the indigenous sovereign people of a country called Palestine but transients and migrants from the hinterland of Arabia, Syria and Egypt like Yasser Arafat and Edward Said. The Palestinian cause is built on a tissue of lies, fed by Muslim honor culture and rooted in kinship society, though aided and abetted today by all the methods of modern terror and ideology in the Arab Muslim world and the acrobatics of critical theory in the western academy. That this historian simply pursued his research and published his findings about which he talks with little rancor and professional pride is admirable, as admirable in my books as the persistence of the ambassador in setting forth his insights which taken together compose a history of their own.


*


I admire the ambassador and the historian for their persistence, their belief that facts and history and words still matter at a time when the gatekeepers to the little that remains of the Enlightenment have built walls of censorship to keep truth at bay. Nothing for them counts more than tabulating the world’s victims, of whom the Palestinians are the unholy emblem. From the homeless in the downtown cities of the western world to the engineering students in Arab Hebron who set out on a hike bent on rape and murder, the grievances of the intersectional downtrodden are indulged by the welfare fascists with their Ph.Ds. and MSWs who readily give them carte blanche to suck the rest of us dry. Not once are these putative victims accorded the respect of moral agency. Not once is the question asked: what have you done to wind up here and why should the rest of society pay for your bad decisions when it does not pay for ours? Instead, Israel continues to send Gaza electricity while Gaza sends Israel rocket barrages. The withdrawal from Gaza has turned into a nightmare, but Israel has not returned to take over the territory, despite what the advocates of disengagement promised. On a regular basis Palestinians decide it is time again to kill Jews with stabbings, car rammings, rock throwing, guns, and now once again recently with bombs. Even as I write, two bombs were detonated at the Jerusalem bus station, killing two, including an Israeli-Canadian youth, and wounding twenty-two others. The Israeli leaders vow to capture the perpetrators, as if that will stop future attacks. The Canadian Prime Minister condemned the attack, but not the Palestinian attackers whom he did not name, while the American president sent the FBI to investigate the death of a Palestinian-American journalist during a shootout between Palestinian gunmen and Israeli troops months ago. Who cares anymore? The Biden Administration has even taken the occasion to upgrade its representation to the Palestinian Authority, reaffirming its commitment to a two-state solution that calls on Israel to retreat to pre-1967 borders so that both Israel and a future Palestinian state can live in peace, freedom, justice, and prosperity. As if Israel’s existence and not Palestinian gangster leadership prevents the Palestinians from living in peace, freedom, justice, and prosperity right now.


It is always the educated classes who are first to jump on the bandwagon of their murderous masters. Matthew Arnold sounded the alarm in his poem Dover Beach written a century and a half ago, but no one listened. Perhaps it is good no one listened, or the ambassador would cease to write and the historian would cease to inquire and we would all sink into the silence that so temptingly beckons. I myself confess to have abandoned the attempt to persuade, to teach, to inform. I note that the Druze in Israel, at the same time the Jerusalem bombings occurred, took three Palestinians prisoner and threatened to kill them if the Palestinians did not release the body of a Druze young man kidnapped from a hospital where it was claimed he died following a car accident. No one can tell for sure if he was kidnapped from the hospital while still alive, but the depravity to which the Palestinians can stoop should surprise no one. I admire the Druze for taking the only steps which the Palestinians can understand, for the young man’s body was promptly returned. I wish the Israeli Jews would do the same, but they have other considerations to manage, so they think. Thus does the situation continue to deteriorate until murder on a colossal scale will be the final solution, and the Palestinians, the so-called Palestinians, will finally have the Deir Yassin massacre they long for.


________________________________________

For the curious, the ambassador’s name is Yoram Ettinger and his newsletter can be seen and subscribed to at theettingerreport.com; the historian’s name is Eliezer Tauber and his book is called The Massacre That Never Was: The Myth of Deir Yassin and the Creation of the Palestinian Refugee Problem (The Toby Press, 2021); the Middle East Forum (meforum.org) sponsored Professor Tauber’s webinar and publishes as well The Middle East Quarterly.

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