FACULTY OPINION: The Demonization of Israel Doesn’t Help to Promote Peace

Peter Glick, Professor of Psychology

Saleh Hijazi’s and Dan Whiteley’s recent editorials about Israel present disturbing and unhelpful attitudes of the sort that unfortunately, but understandably, cause Israelis to dig in their heels. Mr. Hijazi demonizes Israel. His rant echoes long-standing anti-Semitic claims that Jews are insatiable murderers who, according to Mr.Hijazi, force “your unborn child…out of your wife’s tummy with a knife.” (Similar attitudes are evident in Arab newspapers that contend, for example, that Israelis murder and drain the blood of Arab children in order to make matzoh for Passover.) Mr. Hijazi calls for building the state of Palestine on the blood of martyrs, presumably those who are eager to blow themselves up in crowded marketplaces, indiscriminately killing civilian adults and children, not just themselves. His attitudes suggest little appetite for a negotiated solution. Mr. Whiteley’s editorial expressly disavows suicide bombings, yet he claims to be “anti-Israel” in the fundamental sense that he is “against the way it [the State of Israel] was created and the way it has been maintained.” I can only read this attitude as denying Israel’s continued right to exist. Mr. Whiteley notes that criticizing Israel does not make a person “anti-American.” But given his specific claims, he logically ought to hold the same attitude toward the U.S. that he has toward Israel. The case for the U.S. occupying “stolen lands” is clear. Millions of indigenous peoples were displaced or killed during the European invasion of North America, far exceeding anything that has happened in Israel. Mr. Whiteley’s claim to be “anti-Israel” but not “anti-American” reveals a disturbing double-standard–he seems to understand that criticizing current U.S. policies or past U.S. actions does not necessarily entail questioning the U.S.’s right to continued existence, but when it comes to Israel he blithely and categorically condemns not only an entire nation’s past, but its current and future existence. This is his contribution to peace?

My aim here is not to be an uncritical apologist for Israel. I consider the past proliferation of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Gaza to be an immoral policy and want to see a viable Palestinian state established as soon as possible. (At the same time, Mr. Whiteley, are you aware that Israel has, in the past, given up immense chunks of occupied territory for peace or of what Barak offered to the Palestinians at Camp David?) It is important for any state (including Israel) to recognize, publicly acknowledge, and offer realistic reparations for unjust past actions. But this cannot be accomplished when a whole nation is demonized, when its very right to existence is questioned, or when it is subjected to random terrorist attacks, all of which naturally motivate a purely self-defensive stance. Both Palestinians and Israelis will have to make hard compromises to attain peace. Putting all of the blame for the current turmoil on Israel alone is counterproductive. If opinions like Mr. Hijazi’s and Mr. Whiteley’s hold sway, how can a realistic negotiated settlement ever be expected?