When columnist George Will voices his passion for baseball, he is sufferable. His nuanced arguments for further impoverishing the have-nots, enriching the haves, and waging wars of convenience fascinate. His culpable ignorance and shameless racism in recent columns on Israel forfeit respect.
Will celebrates, uncritically, the consequences of the Zionist 1897 decision to forcibly remove the indigenous, 90 percent Palestinian Arab population, there for 1,700 years, and steal their land. Forcing the British out with a 1947 terror campaign offered the opportunity.
When Palestinian Arabs balked at the United Nations’ denial of their 70 percent majority state, giving the Jewish minority political control of most of Palestine, outbreaks triggered the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians — by massacres, assassinations and expulsions — before Israel declared statehood. Only then did Arab armies appear — no match for well-armed, war-experienced European colonists.
Will ignores President Harry Truman’s outrage at the cleansing and assassination of U.N. mediator Folke Bernadotte, who sought a rollback. By the 1948 truce, Israel had cleansed 700,000 Arabs and occupied 78 percent of Palestine. The fledgling state’s real estate ownership leaped from 6 percent to 75 percent. Did Israel have a “right to exist” by denying to another people the rights they claimed for themselves?
Will ignores Palestinians’ right to their homes, olive trees, businesses, capital, culture, independence, free movement and security from home demolitions (now 20,000), land and water confiscations, false arrests, beatings, assassinations, murders and the myriad humiliations of Israel’s 36-year occupation and campaign to oust Palestinians from Palestine.
Will bemoans Israel’s lack “of an hour of peace.” Israel has attacked Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon repeatedly and the unoccupied part of Palestine in 1967 and repeatedly thereafter. Recognizing Israel’s expansionist design, Gen. Moshe Dayan observed that Israel was doomed to endless war. It was attacked only once for refusing to return the Sinai to Egypt.
Essentially helpless, Palestinians have protested with morally indefensible suicide bombings and rocketing. Beyond the U.S., Arab hostility to Israel is no mystery: Israel treats Palestinians as dispensable animals.
Israel has become the consummate propagandist — in constant danger of annihilation, though threatened only in 1973. When peace looms, Israel provokes attacks: after a Hamas cease-fire, it bombed Rafah in 2008, then slaughtered Gazans in self-defense. Hamas’ election victory made it Israel’s new bugaboo: Its 10-year truce offer was met with a Gaza blockade.
Will spins the second intifada as a violent response to Ehud Barak’s offer of the moon to Yasser Arafat when it was a response to Ariel Sharon’s invasion of the al-Aqsa mosque with a small army. Barak offered isolated cantons and Arafat walked out.
Neither is the U.S-backed fourth-strongest military power a “menaced” little country — with Iran threatening its “capacity for self-defense.” Its politicians use fear to win office — and U.S. aid. Hamas and its neighbors representing no “existential threat,” it drafts Iran. Iran has attacked nobody in 180 years, and its leaders have no suicidal intentions.
Without mentioning five-times-greater Palestinian losses in the second intifada, Will extrapolates Israel’s as equivalent to 42,000 Americans. Israel’s 2008 Gaza attack killed the equivalent of 225,000 to 283,000 Americans.
Will conveniently ignores recognition of arrogant and lawless abuse of Palestinians by Israeli leaders from Ben Gurion to Ehud Olmert. He ignores condemnations by Nelson Mandela, Bishop Desmond Tutu and Israeli and other Jewish scholars and journalists from Moshe Menuhin to Benny Morris, Ilan Pappe, Uri Avnery, Amira Hass, Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, Joel Kovel and Jeff Halper.
Reckoning only Israel’s designs and propaganda, Will sees nothing to negotiate.
Isn’t it Will’s false premise that Israel is not accountable for its lawlessness and dismissal of Palestinian humanity that gives rise to the “stench in [Europe’s] nostrils”? No Palestinian has had security, peace or hope for 63 years. As a Jewish Holocaust survivor put it, “What crime did the Palestinians ever commit except being born in Palestine?” Comfortable in his racism, Will has never asked.
Bill Slavick of Portland is coordinator of Pax Christi Maine and a former candidate for the U.S. Senate.