Being Palestinian Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry

When will the international community demand an apology from Hamas?

It is predominately understood that Israel was in the right in her actions during the latest operation against the Gaza flotilla. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on the mark when he unequivocally stated that Israel “will never apologize for defending itself.”  The problem is not always being right but also being strategic which is Israel’s biggest challenge.

Consequently, the world was “outraged” the UN was “shocked” and once again we can see how Israel is held to a double standard that no other country in the world is held to. Israel is expected to always behave morally and treat the Palestinians with silk gloves in order not to hurt or offend them in any shape or form. The Palestinians, meanwhile, can do no wrong even when they openly engage in acts of terrorism.

Moreover, it is the hyper-sensitive focus on Israel by the global media outlets that draws attention to every flaw Israel has. Israel by no means is perfect but it is the only democratic country in the region which actually abides by a rule of law. The same freedoms we hold dear as Americans can only be found in Israel. Yet it is Israel that brings the U.N. Security Council together for more commissions and inquires than any other nation and holds anti-Israel kangaroo courts on a regular basis.  The stark contrast relates of course to the real threat – a nuclear Iran, which just a few days ago announced that it now has enough uranium for two nuclear bombs. And yet, somehow it is much easier for the world to focus on the “peace activists” of the flotilla.

The halo effect generated by Israel’s actions against Palestinians spawns the sympathy Palestinians want and yearn for as it depicts them “helpless” and illustrates how Israel is the true obstacle for peace. In fact, this is why the Palestinians and the Arab world at large love to quote UN resolution 242 whenever they have an opportunity. 242 has become the foundation for the land for peace formula drafted after the Six Day War, and a superficial reading seemingly places Palestinian/Arab brokers of peace in a position of strength. For Arabs, this “legal” prerequisite emphasizes the give and take aspect: if Israel valued peace, it would return land; if Arabs wanted land, they would give peace.

The reason Arabs love to quote 242 is that it is a deceptively simple equation; on the one hand it talks about the exchange of land-for-peace with Israel, meaning that there is room to negotiate peace. On the other hand, although we naively believe that it also calls for recognition of Israel as the Jewish state, that is not the case.

In theory they can say they really want peace but in practice it is very far from the truth. The resolution calls for “Withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict.” It deliberately does not call for withdrawal from “all” or “any” because the resolution’s authors knew that such demands were unreasonable. As far as “peace” goes the resolution lays on the bureaucratic boilerplate and calls for “Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force.”

The UN Resolution demands that Israel gives up some land in exchange for some, still unspecified, peace. Israel is still waiting. In the context of when the resolution was passed (November 1967) the Arab response was clear. 242 remains the best smokescreen for Palestinians and Arabs, since they say they want peace based on 242 but in the same breath, usually in Arabic, they reassure one another that they are committed to the “3 no’s of Khartum.” And indeed this position has not changed much over the past forty plus years: no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, and no negotiations with Israel is still what motivates many Palestinians in their yearning for Israel’s death.

Today, under the Hamas-led Palestinian Authority, “land-for-peace” automatically translates into “land-for-talk” because to most generous Americans and Europeans, talk – not peace – is all that Israel should expect, and possibly deserve, in exchange for territorial concessions. This is the motivation which drove Hizbullah to attack Israel in 2006 and Israel to act against Hamas in Gaza in 2009.

Talk is cheap. Land and lives are expensive. If the Palestinians really want to talk about Resolution 242 as the basis for anything, they should first get their own territories under control, stop firing rockets at Israeli towns, and start creating a decent civil society. Until then Israelis have learned a hard lesson that until the other side stops wanting to wipe Israel off the map, resolutions like 242 really aren’t worth the paper they’re written on and Israel will need to continue combating “peace activists” who work towards violence rather than true peace.

Asaf Romirowsky is a Senior Fellow at EMET and an associate fellow at the Middle East Forum.