Earlier today, one of my Twitter followers accused me of supporting South African-style apartheid because I staunchly and with few apologies defend the nation of Israel. This baffled me. Surely defending Israel’s right to exist as a nation does not mean that I support every move the nation makes, does it? To him, it does.
But I got thinking about the whole matter of Israeli apartheid and I realized that I don’t have such a big problem with it. That’s not to say I want it to continue. I certainly do not. However, given the situation in which Israel finds itself, thanks entirely to Palestinians, I can not imagine how else they could live even reasonable free and safe lives.
Consider: Israel is under a constant existential threat. Palestinians try to kill Israelis every day. Hamas, a Palestinian group that now governs Gaza launches rockets into Israel at the rate of at least hundreds a year. Israelis have been killed by Palestinians at nightclubs, playgrounds, restaurants, schools, and outside their own homes. They have been kidnapped from their own cars and held for ransom. Palestinians have done, and continue to do, all these things with the eventual goal of the destruction of Israel and the expulsion of every last Jew from of the Middle East.
They have gotten pretty good at killing Israelis, too. According to the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Palestinians have killed 1,170 Israelis since 2000 (not including 18 killed abroad in targeted attacks against Jews). If you boil that down to a per capita number, then compare it to the population of the United States, that would be equivalent to 49,145 dead or almost 4,915 Americans killed every year for the past ten years. That’s more than died in battle deaths during Vietnam, the American Revolution, the War of 1912, the Mexican-American War, or the Korean War. That’s more than died on 9/11 by almost 2,100.
Imagine suffering one and three-quarters 9/11s every year for a decade. How well would you sleep? What would you demand of your elected officials? How would you view Muslims?
Now, not every Palestinian wants Israel erased from the Earth. I want to make very plain that I do not consider every Palestinian a potential genocidal killer. the facts do not bear that out. But a significant number of them do and it is impossible to tell on sight which are the threats and which are not. The genocidal enemies of Israel make the situation worse by hiding themselves and their weapons among otherwise innocent Palestinians. They use them as human shields and propaganda tools. They pride themselves on it. It is how they have survived to this point because if they attacked Israel openly, in keeping with the laws of war, Israel would have annihilated them long ago. So they hide. They blend in. They make themselves look like every other Palestinian right to the moment when they reveal their rockets, their guns, their suicide bomb belts, their car bombs.
These are not my opinions. They are facts of life for the over 7 million Israelis who live under near-constant threat of death every day of their lives.
At this point, I want you to imagine that you are a member of the Israeli government charged with protecting your people. Let’s say the number of murderous Palestinians to innocent was one in ten, a number that is, I think, low but that will work for this thought experiment. How would you be able to tell which Palestinian was that one who was looking for any way to kill dozens of your countrymen? What method would you use to sift the threats from the innocents? How could you give your people any sense of security?
If it were me, I’d set up a series of checkpoints and make people show their identifications. I’d make sure I strictly controlled those credentials and I’d compare them to the gigabytes of information my intelligence service had gathered on potential threats. I’d be very careful to whom I granted Israel citizenship. I’d prevent non-citizen Palestinians from living in Israel anywhere they wanted to help me use my limited security resources most efficiently. I’d build secure walls and patrol them vigorously. I’d create as much space between my people and the threats as I possibly could. I’d use my military to keep the known enemies from resupplying themselves.
You see the problem here. Israel can not act like it’s Nebraska and the threat of death is rare. Those who govern the country have an obligation to secure their nation as best they can. I doubt very seriously they are happy about what they have to do. I do not for a second believe they take joy in the checkpoints and walls and buffer zones and blockades.
Of course, some folks will call these measures apartheid. They would be foolish to do so because, as Khaled Abu Toameh wrote in detail, Arab life in Israel is nothing at all like what blacks endured in South Africa. Arabs have a member of their very own in the Knesset, Israel’s governing body. They enjoy a free media, go to the same beaches and shopping centers as Israelis, and enjoy freedoms they would not have in neighboring Egypt, Jordan, or Lebanon. They are not completely free, but neither are they oppressed as South African blacks were. They are not living in apartheid but in a regrettable situation largely of their own making.
The truth of the matter is that Palestinians could live free right now, with a country of their own, with a peaceable Israeli neighbor if Hamas and all the other killers among them would lay down their arms and forswear their genocidal ways. If Israel could be reasonably certain that their people were not in constant danger, they would lift many of the security measures that now exist. They would have no reason to keep them and, if for some reason they did, they would find even staunch supporters demanding their removal. That’s not to say that all the issues between Israel and Arab would go away. There is a long history there that can not be erased overnight. But that history can not be addressed while Israel faces a death sentence and no reasonable person should insist they act as if that death sentence does not exist.
I recommend a couple articles to you today. Jay Nordlinger has an extended post at The Corner that addresses some of the issues I brought up, Helen Thomas’ anti-Semitism, and what the discussion this week is really all about. Yoram Dori, adviser to Israeli President Shimon Peres, wrote an open letter to Helen Thomas that is shockingly direct and far more polite than I could have managed. His question is very simple: why does she want to prevent him from living the simply, peaceful life that she enjoys?