Israeli media have been clashing for several days now over the Ilana Dayan Uvda program’s revelation that human rights NGOs have been turning over Arab land brokers to the Palestinian Authority, where they face torture and even execution, based on a PA law that forbids selling land to Israelis. The right in Israel is celebrating the confirmation of what they believed all along, namely that left-wing NGOs are an hypocritical bunch who wrap their hatred of Israel in the guise of defending human rights. The left in Israel, feeling, quite justifiably, pushed against the ropes, is either keeping silent, refusing to comment for a variety of reasons, or coming up with a shrill apologia that confirms the same right-wing suspicions.
Author A. B. Yehoshua, who was contacted by Mida, a right-wing publication dedicated to setting the record straight on right-left issues, said there were two issues at stake: the first one was the need for transparency in land deals in Judea and Samaria. He argued against breaking the laws of the PA by Jewish organizations making clandestine land deals. As to whether or not the land brokers who are turned-in suffer torture, or worse, he is against it. “Transparency is one thing, torture is another,” A. B. Yehoshua said. “That’s already their problem, whom they torture and whom they don’t.”
What if those brokers are killed? “I think that’s a serious issue as far as the PA is concerned, but it’s the PA, it’s their right,” the author answered, adding, “I don’t think they (left-wing NGOs) should get involved in internal Palestinian relations. We view it as a foreign territory. I don’t think we should get involved in the relationship between a foreign country and its citizens. But if the PA law provides the possibility (of killing brokers who sold land to Jews) then that’s that.”
Rabbi Chaim Navon wrote on his Facebook page Sunday, “I truly believe that very few left-wing people would have behaved like the wicked [Ezra] Nawi (the Ta’ayush activist who bragged about turning in land brokers). Out of my leftist friends, very few would have even supported him — unlike Yehoshua et al. Still, this affair teaches us that the position of the Israeli left has no relation to human rights. Why? Because even though most leftists don’t wish that Palestinians be tortured by their leaders, they still know this is what would happen under any given Palestinian government, and not just to those who sell land to Jews. An independent Palestinian state will be a ruthless dictatorship. How do I know? Because that’s what’s going on in Gaza. Because that’s what’s going on in every Arab state. There isn’t even one Arab state with a democratic government, with Western style human rights.”
It could be argued that there are, today, one or two democratic Arab states — Tunisia and Lebanon come to mind. Like every democracy, they’re far from perfect, but we must acknowledge them. Still, Navon is absolutely right about the likelihood of a PA state ending up like the Hamas’ run Gaza and not like Tunisia. He notes, however, that the PA Arabs would still prefer to have fewer civil rights in an independent Palestinian state, over their current situation, where they are ruled by a Western democracy. But the issue here is not the Arabs, argues Navon. “I understand a Palestinian who prefers his own nationality,” he writes, “but why should an Israeli Jew identify with that nationality, even at the cost of grave harm to human rights?”
The answer is that the Palestinian issue, since 1967, has never been about the Arabs, but about the face of the State of Israel. With a few minor exceptions (Prof. Yeshayahu Leibowitz comes to mind) Israelis have chosen the territories retrieved in the Six Day War as the battleground over the Jewish character of the state. Israelis who want to hold on to at least the Jewish settled portion of the territories, including eastern Jerusalem, also want their country to be Jewish; Israelis who advocate for returning those territories almost invariably want Israel to be just another secular state where Jews and everyone else are equally welcome.
The plight of the Palestinians has never entered the debate. After signing the Oslo agreement, on March 1, 1994, Prime Minister Rabin went on TV and told Israelis what he thought about the Palestinian Authority. It had nothing to do with the plight of the Palestinians, nor did Rabin, in his worst nightmares, believe there would be a Palestinian State. Rabin saw the PA—which back then ruled Gaza, too—as a group of goons in charge of controlling the unruly Arab masses. Here is what he said on television on that celebrated day: “The Palestinian police will fight against Hamas without B’Tselem, without the Supreme Court of Justice, and without Mothers Against Silence.”
That was the essence of Rabin’s support for a peace treaty with the Palestinians: Arafat, unencumbered by the nuisance of democratic institutions, will do a better job keeping the Arabs down. When Rabin served as Defense Minister for PM Yizhak Shamir (Likud), at the start of the first intifada, his solution to the popular uprising was, “Break their bones.” You couldn’t get Yitzhak Rabin to shed a tear for the Palestinian plight with a bowl of freshly cut onions.
The battleground in Israel has been over religious and spiritual territories. The fact is that of the two camps, the one that is in more daily contact with Arabs are the people on the right, especially in Judea and Samaria, because they hire them, they trade with them, they actually maintain neighborly relationships, some good, mostly bad, but they view them as people who should be dealt with. Left-leaning governments, including Ariel Sharon’s Kadima, erected the security fence, a string of walls and wire fences running up and down the “disputed territories” and keeping the Arabs “out there,” on the other side of the wall.
Pundit Gideon Levy was on the money in attacking Ilana Dayan with a poison dripping pen in his Ha’aretz column: “The right and the settlers obviously celebrated the [Ezra Nawi exposé]: they captured yet another outpost. They’ve already compared the left-wing activist Ezra Nawi, who was taped saying he intends to turn in to the Palestinian Authority a Palestinian land broker — to the Duma murderers, no less. Renowned for their concern for the lives of the Palestinians, right wing representatives were shocked by Nawi’s words.”
Levy has spoken and written several times about the Uvda broadcast, which actually includes a short comment by himself, where he pooh-poohs the gravity of the Nawi plot, saying that if that’s the worst the right wing infiltrators have managed to get on the left-wing NGOs, then those NGOs must be righteous people. Levy’s concerns, like A. B. Yehoshua, and like Amos Oz, who declined to speak on the matter, and several others on the left, is the very fact that Israel’s Channel 2 agreed to run a show that was conceived and researched by a right-wing group. Because with the right “infiltrating” and eventually dominating the main communications outlets in Israel, the left’s influence would be cut down to its real demographic proportion in the country: around 10 percent. The Jewish State will continue to behave Jewish, enact laws prohibiting trade on Shabbat, support IDF soldiers who defend themselves against Arab terrorists, and who knows, maybe even impose Israeli laws on Area C, where close to 400,000 Jews are living and thriving alongside an Arab minority of under 80,000.
And that, dear reader, is the real subtext of last Thursday’s Uvda exposé.