‘NYT’ runs an op-ed justifying violent resistance, and some Zionists abandon p.r. duties

We’ve said repeatedly that Israel suffered a P.R. disaster in the last Gaza attack: western media for once openly questioned the reasoning and morality behind yet another murderous onslaught on an imprisoned population, the fifth in the last 12 years.

Some observers speak of a sea change in the American discourse, and of course point to the Congressional Democrats who are willing to challenge the Israeli narrative, with Rashida Tlaib and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez echoing Human Rights Watch and charging “apartheid.” And though Bernie Sanders hasn’t gotten that far, he is demanding a halt on the next $735 million in bombs for Israel. And most Democratic voters support such sanctions.

Israel-apologists are now pushing back, with the claim that any sharp criticism of Israel is antisemitic. Bret Stephens says in The New York Times that it is antisemitic to say that Israel takes Gazans’ land– and leaves out the fact that many Gazans are refugees. On the News Hour, Jonathan Greenblatt of the ADL says it is antisemitic to say “that somehow the Jewish state is systematically slaughtering children,” when Israel just killed 66 Palestinian children. (And killed 500 in 2014. And how many young people in 2018– let’s forget about all of that.) No doubt there are antisemitic attacks taking place in America now, some associated with leftwing demonstrations, a source of concern that I share; but the rhetoric from the pro-Israel crowd is aimed at making the Gaza atrocities go away.

Pro-Palestinian commentary is now everywhere; and my aim here is to add up some of the small victories in the media. Surely this is a reflection of a revolution in U.S. public culture brought about by the murder of George Floyd a year ago, but even The New York Times seems to be experiencing glasnost. The Times ran a very long piece detailing the “misery” of six Palestinian families under the occupation that (while it left out the apartheid charges) covered important conditions that the Times has never been that interested in before.

There was also this splendid op-ed piece in the Times by Basma Ghalayini, a Palestinian translator in Britain, explaining that the issue is not Hamas, it’s about Israel taking away Palestinians’ homeland, including the homes of the refugees. I’ve never read such a forthright explanation of the importance of the right of return in the Times:

Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians live in refugee camps, many elsewhere in the Middle East, often forgoing citizenship rights in that second country and passing on their statelessness to their children and grandchildren in the name of one thing. Home. No elected Palestinian government at this point is going to forget that and simply roll over just because some wannabe international peacemaker wants them to, for their career-boosting photo op in the Rose Garden. That’s been done already…

The other astonishment was when Ghalayini asserted that Palestinians have the right to violently resist.

[T]he right to self-defense against Israel’s continued aggression belongs to all Palestinians; legitimate resistance cannot be a right only for those Palestinians who believe exclusively in nonviolent self-defense — not in the face of the violence we endure. We, Palestinians, are in this together.

For others to pretend that Israel is waging a war against Hamas, rather than against all Palestinians, is what allows the kinds of attacks and crimes of recent days to be repeated every few years.

This photo by Ahmed Jadallah of Reuters accompanied Basma Ghalayini’s op-ed in the New York Times.

This follows Yousef Munayyer’s sharp op-ed of a week ago saying the two-state consensus is over and Palestinians have moved on to a struggle for equal rights that international leaders are also embracing.

[T]he Palestinians who can most shape the future now are in the streets and squares, speaking to one another and the world directly, and making clear that the “green line” that divided Israel and the occupied territories was an instrument of division, not liberation.

The energy of this moment represents an opportunity to wed Palestinian aspirations with a growing global consensus.

I’d note (as James North does here too) that Slate ran a long article this weekend by Aymann Ismail documenting the traditional suppression of Palestinian views by top editors at a variety of mainstream outlets, most of them unnamed. But the Times was singled out.

“[W]hen the big escalation happened in summer of 2014, and they were massacring civilians in Gaza, the NYT coverage, as usual, violated all the basic principles that they insist on sticking to for just about every other story,” [former Times staffer identified as Layla] told me. “The thing that really killed me was this ‘rocket tracker.’ ” She was referencing this graphic-driven article that charted the number of rockets fired from Gaza alongside the cumulative number of deaths, the vast majority of them Palestinians.

“It was a depressive couple of weeks of crying in the restroom,” she said. “I also had a close ally in the opinion department who was forwarding me all the responses those editors were having about pitches. And the sheer racism and dehumanization from rank-and-file opinion editors when talking about Palestinians was just jarring.”

Those days are over, imho. As Layla says, Black Lives Matter has changed the American discussion. Michelle Goldberg at the Times now endorses the “apartheid” charge against Israel (in a column focused on antisemitic attacks as an “emergency”).

This seems to be happening everywhere. “Up in Syracuse the local paper [Syracuse Post-Standard] had three pieces in the opinion section all sympathetic to the Palestinians with none supporting the Israeli position,” Donald Johnson writes to me.

Israel’s defenders are getting harder to find. Bari Weiss left the New York Times op-ed page a year back because she saw the left taking over. Jeffrey Goldberg used to be a pugnacious defender of Israel in the U.S.; he now keeps his voice down, as Atlantic editor, surely because he knows it’s out of sync with opposition to American nationalism. And Chuck Schumer has been AWOL –or anyway, he’s singing in Brooklyn somewhere.

Observing these dramatic changes from the right is Andrew Silow-Carroll, the editor of the Jewish Week, who says that the “Overton window” of what is officially discussable “has shifted decidedly to the left in recent years, especially in Congress. Where once Israel could count on solid bipartisan support for all it did, Democrats are now more willing to question its government’s policies.” Until five minutes ago, he says, conditioning U.S. aid was off-limits. Now it isn’t.

The Jewish community is going wobbly, Silow-Carroll says.

[N]ew red lines are being crossed: Some self-described Zionists have spoken openly about their support for a one-state solution or supporting at least a limited boycott of goods produced in the settlements.

Some Jewish liberals are losing the stomach to defend Israel after “years of right-wing governments,” while IfNotNow and Jewish Voice for Peace are “shifting the margins of Jewish discussion.”

[A] growing cohort of young Jews can barely relate to assertions about Israel being the only democracy in the Middle East or a brave survivor of seven decades of Arab belligerence and rejectionism…

In another sign of the times, the New Yorker has a glowing profile of Peter Beinart, heralding his embrace of a one-state outcome. Titled, “A Liberal Zionist Moves Left on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict,” the article by Benjamin Wallace-Wells highlights Beinart’s embrace of the Palestinian right of return this year:

This summer, he was praying during Tisha B’Av, a holy day during which Jews are invited to imagine themselves leaving Jerusalem when it was in flames, and to imagine hoping to redeem it through return. The experience made him think of how hypocritical it seemed for a Jew to tell a Palestinian to give up on returning home. On the one hand you had the temple, on the other the nakba. In Gaza, no one needs to cast his mind thousands of years into the past to imagine himself as a refugee. Beinart said, “There’s just something kind of absurd about the idea that we think so little of Palestinians that we don’t think that they know how to teach their children to remember things.”..

Beinart concedes that Palestinians have been talking about their right to return for 73 years: “I’m not writing anything about the conflict or the situation that many, many Palestinians have not been writing about for a really long time.” But he’s trying to reach an American Jewish audience.

The best moment in the piece is when Beinart comments on Biden aides Tony Blinken and Jake Sullivan hedging on Palestinian rights.

“I don’t know whether they wrestle with this or whether they feel guilty. I do think that, one day, they will be judged harshly for helping to keep Palestinians oppressed.”

The Atlantic is fighting back. Matti Friedman has an angry piece (that we should just be happy isn’t in the New York Times) where he laments that Palestinians have now become a cause even in “elite opinion,” and then says that Americans are projecting our own sins as to racial injustice on to Israelis. He says it’s antisemitism: “distant Jews have become an embodiment of the American evil, racial oppression.” As if what Israel has done to Gaza is not evil.

“This is how the momentary honesty in the press is going to be shut down,” Donald Johnson tells me. “I still think most politicians and a big chunk of the press will be happy to go back to normal and will do what they can to make it happen.” I think that chunk will try, but they won’t succeed.

h/t James North, Adam Horowitz, Michael Arria, Dave Reed, Kate Casa.

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