I write in reference to Joshua Schreier’s Sept 28th article on Bret Stephens’ recent interview and Q&A at Vassar College on Sept 20th.
Professor Schreier’s assertion that Mr. Stephens has somehow “pinkwashed” the issue at hand is hollow and misses the point of the interview almost entirely. Stephens’ references to Israel’s history of tolerance toward the entirety of its citizenry were just simply and obviously to contextualize the liberal and progressive culture upon which the State of Israel has rested from the moment of its creation. No more and no less.
Professor Schreier’s peculiar inferences and extrapolations seek to suggest that Stephens argues that Israel’s actions in the West Bank are justifiable because of its liberal principals and tolerance of all communities, the LGBTA one included. That’s at least a stretch and at most absurd.
While it is true that Israel’s history of tolerance and protection of liberal principals has stood in stark contrast to the medieval principals of its neighbors, the two matters are simply irrelevant to one another and Schreier’s suggestion that Stephens intentionally has linked them for the purpose of obfuscating some supposed bad acts is pure fantasy if not utterly bizarre. Schreier’s letter is devoid of any meritorious scholarly criticism of the interview.
Instead, his letter to the Misc obsesses over the matter of LGBTA rights (as well as strangely seeking to tie in the recent civil protest in the US related to police brutality) when in fact not more than a few minutes of the actual interview addressed the liberal principals of Israel as a general matter. As much as I expected to be outraged by this aspect of Professor Schreier’s argument, it’s hard to think of his rantings as anything more than misguided and, well, weird.
Whether you agree with Brett Stephens’ position or not, this aspect of his argument is, in fact, that Israel’s defensive actions with respect to the West Bank indeed are merited…but for reasons pertaining to something altogether different: specifically Israel’s right to protect the sovereignty of its lawful borders and the safety of its citizenry. The Palestinian community asserts that Israel has no right to exist and clings not to peace and coexistence but rather the destruction of Israel and its citizenry. Israel justifiably disagrees and seeks to protect itself.
It does so in the face of daunting daily struggles against an enemy that would throw it into the sea if given the opportunity and has tried regularly to do just that since before the Balfour Declaration. Despite living under constant threat, Israel provides aid, supplies, and the very best medical attention to the very people who seek its destruction.
Why does it do this? Because Israel believes that peace is possible even if its hostile neighbors repudiate the olive branch that Israel has extended time and again. To wit, as set forth on May 15th, 1948 in its declaration of statehood: “WE EXTEND our hand to all neighbouring states and their peoples in an offer of peace and good neighbourliness, and appeal to them to establish bonds of cooperation and mutual help with the sovereign Jewish people settled in its own land. The State of Israel is prepared to do its share in a common effort for the advancement of the entire Middle East.” Of course, the Arab response to this offer was a declaration of Jihad against Israel.
Schreier’s unsupported assertions about the history of the conflict is a study in historical revisionism if not ignorance and is highly irresponsible for an educator. It is a falsehood to say that Israel expelled 750,000 Palestinians in 1948. It is true that many Arabs in the region chose to abandon their homes ahead of what was soon to be a war zone due to the immanent military offensives planned by neighboring Arab states.
Golda Meir was famously dispatched to Haifa to try to convince the large Arab community there to stay. She was unsuccessful. Most neighboring Arab states eventually sealed their borders against the Palestinian Arabs who chose to flee en mass creating a refugee crisis of the Arabs own making. Israel did something unprecedented and quite the opposite: it offered all Arabs inside its borders full citizenry with the rights and privileges afforded to all other Israelis, Jewish or otherwise. Sadly, most turned down that offer, and their progeny are left to rue the day.
With respect to Schreier’s assertion that Stephens rejects the activism of SJP and similar parties, how can anyone expect otherwise? These are groups that stand allied with parties (e.g., Hamas) whose very charter calls for the annihilation of Israel! I also point out that the Vassar SJP chapter publicly labeled him a racists, so little surprise that Stephens stands justifiably opposed to their principals. Interestingly, Schreier has was quoted in Clark Xu’s Sept 28th article as having said that “[SJP and JVP] are not calling for the elimination, expulsion or subjugation of any national group, but rather for equal rights.” That is patently false.
I also point out that all citizens of Israel–be they Jewish, Muslim, Druze, Christian, Bahai, or other–already have equal rights and have had since 1948. Sadly, those who have chosen to be governed by Hamas have made their beds, their buyers’ remorse notwithstanding. These people were not denied the aegis of equal rights or even an independent state as offered by UNSCOP in 1947; their forefathers and foremothers turned down the invitation.
Schreier calls Israel “[A]n oppressive and racist regime”. If this is what Schreier considers oppressiveness and racism to look like, one wonders what his opinions are of the neighboring Arab regimes that kill gays, oppress women, and stand committed to wiping Jews (and other Arab Israelis) from the face of the earth. That’s not “Pinkwashing”; it’s just fact.
Richard E. Geller ’93