Published in The Jerusalem Post on September 5, 1999
For more than a decade, a group of self-styled Israeli “new historians” has been ruinously deconstructing some of this country’s most cherished founding “myths”, questioning the justness of Israeli actions back in 1948, even the legitimacy of Israel itself.
Now, it seems, the roaring scholarly debate is seeping dangerously into our children’s classrooms, draining into the halls of justice, and oozing corrosively into the corridors of major political decision-making.
Quietly passed over this summer with barely a murmur of dissent was the introduction of new history textbooks in our high schools that undermine the moral case for Zionism.
The New York Times noticed – the Israeli press was asleep — that these texts appear to have been inspired by Benny Morris, Avi Shlaim and Ilan Pappe – the three most prominent debunkers of Zionist movement legitimacy.
Begun as a history re-write project under the tutelage of Minister of Education Shulamit Aloni (Meretz), the textbooks suggest Israeli responsibility for the Palestinian refugee problem and raise questions about the assertion that Arab intransigence is responsible for the fifty-year-long festering of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Did you know that we — the beleaguered Zionist minority in Palestine – had the military edge in the War of Independence against a dozen or more organized Arab forces? Yep. According to one of our new, Ministry-sponsored history books “on nearly every front and in nearly every battle, the Jewish side had the advantage over the Arabs in terms of planning, organization, operation of equipment and also in the number of trained fighters who participated in the battle”.
The subversive book then talks about Zionist expulsions of Arabs, and asks students to think about the Palestinian “naqba” (catastrophe), put themselves in Arab shoes, and consider how they would of felt about Zionism.
I guess that Rabbi Yitzhak Levy (NRP), the immediate past Minister of Education, was sleeping too. The scandalous project was completed mainly on his watch.
ENTER Minister of Justice Yossi Beilin. Undoubtedly one of the smartest and most creative guys in Israeli politics, Beilin ambitiously has set out to re-work his side of government in the “new historians” image.
To begin with, Beilin froze legislation of the so-called “intifada law”. The purpose of the law, supported by a large majority of Knesset members, is to preclude the filing of suits for compensatory damages against the state by Palestinians who were injured during the intifada. I guess that Beilin thought this law was simply, well, unfair to the Palestinians. Or perhaps he thinks that the intifada rock- and bomb-throwers were justified.
Then Beilin announced that he was opposed in principle to distinguishing between plain old Arab security prisoners and Arab terrorists “with blood on their hands”. In other words, Beilin favors the release of Arab prisoners convicted of murder as part of the peace process.
In the same breath, Beilin added that he strenuously objected to the release of Jews convicted of murdering Palestinians. Personally speaking, I’m opposed to both releases. But Beilin cerebrally explains that there is a difference. “Unlike Jewish murderers who acted on their own volition,” he dithers, “Palestinian terrorists acted out of national interests”.
Uh-huh. So if you’re a card-carrying PLO member or Hamas-nik murder is more understandable. Because it is for a (legitimate?) cause. Sound like post-Zionism to me. Moral obtuseness too.
Beilin now wants to revoke the “Emergency Regulations”, which allow for Israeli administrative detention of security prisoners; the Emergency Search Prerogative Law, which allows the police and army to search people at movies, theatres and malls; and the Prevention of Terrorism Ordinance, which allows the government to close the offices and seize the property of suspected terrorist groups.
The entire security establishment is opposed to the moves. But our Justice Minister is unperturbed. What the heck, we don’t need such “obsolete” security tools (Beilin’s term). Not if peace is breaking out all over and anyway we won’t be holding Palestinians “with blood on their hands” behind bars for long.
As if this was Switzerland, and as if the peace process isn’t likely to be accompanied by terrorist threats, and as if there still aren’t good reasons for potent Israeli counter-measures.
Dr. Beilin also has doubts about the pending “GSS Law”, a long-coming piece of legislation intended to codify the Shin Bet’s powers. But Beilin is worried that the legislation gives “too much latitude and scope of responsibility” to the internal security agency. He is considering a ban on the GSS’s use of “moderate physical pressure” in interrogations.
Why? Because defending ourselves too toughly is not nice. They don’t do it this way in Switzerland. Why should we be any different?
Time to reign in the “distortiographers” and over-zealous human rights crusaders at the Justice and Education ministries. Otherwise, we’ll all become ideologically-bereft Swiss neutrals sheepish about our national rights in the Land of Israel and embarrassed by the ongoing, courageous effort to defend them.