From the lead article in today’s New York Times on John Kerry’s recent speech on Israel-Palestine:
[Trump] was soon praised — also on Twitter — by Mr. Netanyahu, who later released a video statement that was unsparingly direct and dismissive of Mr. Kerry.
“The entire Middle East is going up in flames, entire countries are toppling, terrorism is raging and for an entire hour the secretary of state attacks the only democracy in the Middle East,” Mr. Netanyahu said. “Maybe Kerry did not notice that Israel is the only place in the Middle East where Christmas can be celebrated in peace and security. Sadly, none of this interests the secretary of state.”
As has been widely reported across the world (CNBC, VOA, Euronews, Al Jazeera, Economic Times), Christmas was celebrated in relative peace and security in Bethlehem. As is (or should be) common knowledge, Bethlehem is in Palestine, not Israel. Neither fact seems to interest Netanyahu, his Israeli or American supporters, or the American media.
I say “relative peace and security” because the most obvious impediment to peace and security in Bethlehem is the Israeli occupation of the West Bank (including Bethlehem), which protects the settlements that surround Bethlehem on all sides. In other words, what has escaped noticed is not that Israel is “the only place in the Middle East where Christmas can be celebrated in peace and security,” but that Israel is the primary obstacle to celebrating Christmas in peace and security in the most famous Christian city in the world.
Here’s an article exemplifying The New York Post’s idea of a “news story” on Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem:
- We’re told that tear gas grenades were thrown “back” at those who fired them, but not why they were fired;
- We’re told that “protesters threw stones at the troops, who responded by firing tear-gas grenades,” but (innuendo aside) we’re not told who initiated the violence in the first place, or more to the point, what happened;
- We’re told that the group was protesting “a ‘security wall’ erected by the Israelis to separate Arab and Jewish neighborhoods in the West Bank city,” but are not told that the “Jewish neighborhoods” are not and have never even been regarded (by anyone) as part of “the city” of Bethlehem.*
We’re not told where the reporter was at the time of the relevant events, or how he got the information he reports (as far as his archive is concerned, he could as easily be in New York as anywhere near Bethlehem). Naturally, we’re told nothing about life under occupation in Bethlehem and vicinity. And we’re told nothing about the larger story concerning Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem: as far as the Post is concerned, nothing much happened in Manger Square, and no mass took place in the Church of the Nativity, either.
In other words, Christmas celebrations may be news, but Christmas celebrations in Bethlehem are not, unless they involve an opportunity to express derision for Palestinians. It doesn’t much matter that Christ was born in Bethlehem, or that Christ was himself a Palestinian. No, Christmas in Bethlehem is a story of inscrutable Oriental rage at nothing in particular on the part of crazy people in Santa hats.
It’s axiomatic for the Post that Palestinians deserve to be shot at; what’s funny (apparently) is that they might resist the people shooting at them. Of course, though Palestinian resistance is funny when expressed by Santa, it becomes terrifying when expressed in other ways: as Freud observed, jokes express what otherwise demands repression, and what demands repression in this context is the fact that Palestinians have something to resist in the first place–a militarized occupation/settlement enterprise now approaching its fiftieth birthday. (By the way, the Freudian in me can’t resist observing that if you re-arrange a few letters, “Santa” becomes “Satan.”)
The Post article is written, in effect, in what might be called the Internet omniscient, expressing the viewpoint of an omnicient “observer” (or pseudo-observer) without discernible location, who knows and sees everything without divulging anything about how he does–and who’s strategic enough a writer to know precisely what facts to omit from his story to spin the story in the direction he chooses. It’s as though the Evil Demon from Descartes’ Meditations went into journalism. Like the Netanyahu quote, the Post article a crude attempt at Palestine’s linguistic annexation by Israel: according to the Post, Gilo and Har Homa are neighborhoods in Bethlehem; according to Netanyahu, Bethlehem is itself a city in Israel. If we just keep asserting that Palestine is Israel, the strategy seems to be, it’ll become Israel. Crude, false, and dishonest, but effective: as the bipartisan response to the Kerry speech suggests (or for that matter, the election results suggest), crudity, falsity, and dishonesty work wonders on the American mind (or what’s left of it).
Here’s a passage from another front page article in the Times, this one on the prospects of the so-called “two state plan.” (Never mind that there is no such “plan.”)
The departing administration intended for the speech to lay out a path to peace that they had tried to take, hoping to salvage some scrap of a legacy on the issue. The incoming administration and its Israeli ally were busy counting the days until the old team will be swept from the stage and a new Israeli-American alignment redefines the politics of the region.
Mr. Obama and Mr. Kerry have painted Israel into a corner, providing ammunition to its critics and effectively isolating it on the world stage after a United Nations Security Council resolution last week criticizing Israeli settlements and the secretary’s sharp assessment on Wednesday. But in three weeks, Mr. Netanyahu expects unstinting support from Mr. Trump, who so far appears to be promising it.
The contradiction implicit in the two sentences of the second paragraph should be pretty obvious: if you give a speech at precisely the moment when you know that nothing will come of it, you’re not painting your interlocutor into a corner; you’re giving him an out. By your own admission, all he has to do is wait you out for three weeks, and he’s back on Easy Street.
There is, in any case, no “corner” to back Israel into–at least not in the America of 2016, where bipartsan support for Israel is a given, and principled criticism of Israel or Zionism will get you branded an “anti-Semite” with or without evidence or argument. There’s nothing but a straight shot at indefinite occupation, followed by annexation, subjugation, and forced expulsion: bad as Hillary Clinton would have been for Palestinian rights, I doubt she’d have been quite as bad as the guy who nominated this character to become ambassador to Israel.
In other news, “January 20th is fast approaching.” You gotta hand it to the guy–there are things that Donald Trump gets right. He’s like a stopped calendar that way.
*The claim is on par with saying that the Hudson River divides Manhattan from other “New York neighborhoods,” like Jersey City, Hoboken, and Weehawken, or that the Indiana-Illinois state line divides Chicago from its eastern neighborhood, Gary, Indiana. Or better yet: that the US-Mexico border divides San Diego into northern and southern neighborhoods, the southern one being Tijuana.