Knesset in the snow, Dec. 12, 2013 Photo: Knesset Spokesman's OfficeThe right of return of the Palestinians is an integral part of UN Resolution 194… The moral and political injustice of dispossessing the Palestinians in the past shall not be remedied by creating new injustices.
– Avraham Burg, “Say a big ‘thank you’ to Martin Schulz,” Haaretz, February 14, 2014
Liberation from Zionism is not a dirty word.... what lies behind Zionism nowadays are interests related to water, real estate… and a huge army hungering to justify its existence… We have to get rid of Zionism…
– Yitzhak Laor, “Get rid of Zionism,” Haaretz, June 3, 2011
We enthusiastically chose to become a colonial society… engaging in theft and finding justification for all these activities…
– Michael Ben-Yair , “The war’s seventh day,” Haaretz, March 3, 2002
For readers less familiar with the lesser- known protagonists in today’s Israeli socio-political milieu:
Avraham Burg was the speaker of Israel’s parliament, and chairman of the Jewish Agency, son of Yosef Burg, iconic leader of the right-wing National Religious Party that evolved into what is now Bayit Yehudi, headed by Economy Minister Naftali Bennett. Avraham Burg’s mother, Rifka Slonim, daughter of Jacob Joseph Slonim, Ashkenazi rabbi of Hebron, was a survivor of the 1929 Arab massacre of Jews in the city;
Yitzhak Laor is a well-known Israeli poet, author, and journalist, and lectured in the department of literature, Tel Aviv University;
Michael Ben-Yair was attorney-general under the governments of Yitzhak Rabin and Shimon Peres. In a 2013 Facebook post, Ben-Yair labeled construction of Jewish communities across the pre-1967 lines “the most evil and immoral act since the Second World War,” deeming them worse than the atrocities of the Pol Pot regime in Cambodia, the purges during Stalin’s reign of terror and the gory genocide in Darfur.
Bad week for Jewish sovereignty:
The last week or so has been a very bad time for the sustainability of Jewish political independence. It has been even a worse time for intellectual integrity in Israeli politics and a really atrocious time for Jewish solidarity.
Somewhat paradoxically, things got off to a not so bad start last Wednesday, when European Parliament President Martin Schulz gave what was, overall, a rather positive address to a plenary Knesset session that was far more laudatory toward Israel than critical. He was even unequivocally emphatic that “the EU has no intention to boycott Israel.”
But things went seriously awry when Schulz foolishly insinuated that Israel was depriving Palestinians of water, citing wildly inaccurate figures, which he admitted were uncorroborated, and which he had heard in a passing conversation with a Palestinian youth. This incident prompted an irate walkout of the Bayit Yehudi faction.
Of course the “water libel” against Israel is nothing new. Totally unfounded – indeed, outlandish – accusations that it is denying the Palestinians access to adequate water supplies have been leveled against it for years. But in the case of the furor over Schulz’s remarks two points should be made.
Water: The new blood libel?
The first is that it was of course discourteous and injudicious to makes such serious allegations in such a public manner, when the most cursory inquiry, made discreetly to the proper authorities, would have quickly dispelled his misconceptions and avoided the unfortunate and unnecessary brouhaha. But then, perhaps even in the mind of the relatively amicable Schulz, Israel must be assumed guilty of something… In this regard PM Netanyahu’s response was apt and accurate: “Schulz admitted that he didn’t check if what he said was true, but he still blamed us. People accept any attack on Israel without checking it.”
This brings me to the second point.
The very fact that such a senior foreign politician is still laboring under such grave misapprehensions is a devastating indictment of Israeli public diplomacy.
For in the case of water, all the facts are crystal clear, and overwhelmingly exonerate Israel of any allegations of discriminatory deprivation toward the Palestinians.
Accordingly, the very fact that anyone can still raise such absurd charges, however obliquely, without being subjected to withering ridicule, reflects an inexcusable failure of Israel’s diplomatic apparatus to discharge its functions.
Grotesque and perverse:
Of course not all Israelis were put out by Schulz’s ill-considered rashness. Avraham Burg (see above) for example thought he deserved a “big thank you.” Burg, who achieved his public stature representing the Jewish state and the Zionist ideal, has devoted his recent efforts to annulling them – although he apparently has no qualms about continuing to receive generous pensions/benefits from its tainted coffers, which to the best of my knowledge he has yet to decline.
In a grotesquely perverse piece in Haaretz (where else?) he seizes on Schulz’s misinformed allusion, to reenforce the worst anti-Israel (and anti-Jewish) connotation that could be attributed to it.
In his toxic tirade, in which Burg hurls highly disrespectful personal insults at Netanyahu, he declares “We ought to be grateful to President Schulz. Perhaps the disparity in access to natural resources isn’t precisely what he was told in Ramallah… But let’s get back to the principle.
The current Israeli government, headed by that man of “moral confusion” [Netanyahu], accepts the premise that the Jews deserve more.”
Taking his father’s name in vain:
I shall deal with the repudiation of the outrageous Judeophobic slur a little later.
It will suffice here to point out that, although Burg generally commends Schulz’s implied censure of Israel, he feels that the attitude of the European Parliament president to the Jewish state was far too benign, stating “On most issues connected to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict we disagree. He is closer to the Israeli mainstream, and his positions resemble those of [the very dovish] Labor Party chairman Isaac Herzog.”
Burg, who basically now advocates the abolition of Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people and its conversion into a multi-ethnic state-of-all-its citizens, goes on to take his strongly pro-Zionist father’s name in vain: “If my father, one of the founders of the party that later became Bayit Yehudi, were alive to see his political descend[a]nts in the Knesset on Wednesday I have no doubt… that he would… turn over in his grave.”
Sadly, I am old enough to be able to remember the ideo-political predilections of Burg senior, who retired from politics in 1986, after heading the National Religious Party for almost 10 years. I would give heavy odds that what is making his father, who escaped Nazi Germany at the last moment, “turn in his grave” is not the conduct of Bayit Heyudi, but his son’s descent into the depths of political prostitution (I make no apologies for the term), and the latter’s betrayal of all the Zionist ideals he cherished.
Shame on Susan:
But Burg junior was not the only one to use the issue of the “water libel,” raised (inadvertently or otherwise) by Schulz’s address, and provide grist for the mills of the myriad Judeophobes, eager to pounce on any opportunity, however flimsy, to denigrate the Jewish state, and to undermine its security and existence.
Earlier this week, Susan Hattis Rolef published a column in The Jerusalem Post titled “Water in the West Bank and the blockade on Gaza.” The piece was so misleading and misinformed that it is difficult to keep criticism of it within the confines of collegial courtesy.
There are so many inaccuracies, distortions and outright errors in her article that it would require more than an entire column to deal with them exhaustively. I will thus confine myself to the most glaring.
Hattis Rolef contends, “There are no official figures regarding the average water consumption of the Jewish inhabitants in the territories,” hinting that this alleged dearth is indicative of some dark conspiracy, and prejudicially states: “but it is assumed to be much higher (some say even double) the figure for Israelis within the Green Line.”
She is hopelessly wrong on all counts and seems to indicate that she did not invest a modicum of effort in researching the topic before publishing her diatribe.
A brief telephone call to Israel Water Authority would have provided her with all the information (and more) that she could have wished for. The authority is more than eager to oblige, as virtually all the data are highly supportive of Israel’s positions.
For example, she would have discovered that the roughly 380,000 “Jewish inhabitants in the territories” (excluding greater Jerusalem) consume on average considerably less than the roughly 8 million “Israelis within the Green Line.” While the former consume a total of 50 million cubic meters of fresh water annually (and approximately 70 m.cu.m. including degraded waste water for orchard irrigation), the latter consume almost 1,200 m.cu.m. of freshwater (and 1,900 m.cu.m. including other waste/brackish water).
Thus, the average per capita fresh water consumption of “Jewish inhabitants in the territories” is just over 130 cu.m. annually, and of total water, under 185 cu.m., while for “Israelis within the Green Line” the corresponding figures are 150 cu.m. and almost 240 cu.m., respectively.
Hattis Rolef claims that, although there “is formal cooperation between the water authorities of Israel and the Palestinian Authority… the balance of power is like that between a mule and its rider.”
Ah, won’t the anti-Israel Judeophobes love that imagery! In fact, if she had bothered to read the Oslo II Accords (Article 40), which deals with Water and Sewage, she would discover that there is a Joint Water Committee that is charged with administering all water-sewage related matters. According to Article 40, “The JWC shall be comprised of an equal number of representatives from each side” and “All decisions of the JWC shall be reached by consensus…” This clearly gives the Palestinians veto power over the decision-making process, which is the major reason for the delays in construction of purification plants for waste water, which continues to flow and pollute Israeli downstream sources.
So much for the mule-rider analogy! She complains, “Israel actively destroys Palestinian wells and reservoirs because they are allegedly ‘illegal,’” adding snidely, “which is what much of the international community says about… what Israel has done in the West Bank since 1967, and… ‘he who lives in a glass house shouldn’t throw stones...’” So is Hattis Rolef seriously suggesting that Israel permit unregulated and unrestricted extraction from the aquifer and allow depletion to reach the catastrophic proportions now existing in Gaza, following Israel relinquishing control there? How precisely would that improve the lot of the Palestinians water-wise?
Vindictive malevolence vs inept impotence:
There is so much more to respond with, like for instance that Israel conveys more water from inside the pre-1967 lines into Judea-Samaria (67 m.cu.m.) than the entire consumption of the much maligned “settlers” (50 m.cu.m.), thus more than compensating the Palestinians for the entire Jewish water usage across the Green Line; or like, according to the Oslo Accords it is the PA, not Israel, that is responsible for supplying the Palestinian consumer with water, and virtually all stoppages/ shortages are due to unpaid bills, faulty infrastructure and theft on the part of the Palestinians; or that differentials in consumption reflect differences in demand and lifestyles rather than differences in supply and discriminatory deprivation.
But there is only so much one can cram into a single opinion column. I am forced to forgo mention of the other perfidious “pearls-of-wisdom” from other leading left-wing activists and representatives, on other topical issues.
However, the fact that the water issue continues to remains a topic that can still be used to denigrate Israel, without the malefactor being scorned and shamed, bears lamentable testimony to the vindictive, borderline treasonous malevolence of the Left, which makes cynical use of it to further its political credo; and to the inept, borderline imbecilic, impotence of the Right, which has failed to totally discredit this practice.
This lethal combination is emerging as, arguably, the gravest threat to the sustainability of Jewish political independence.
Martin Sherman (www.martinsherman.net) is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. (www.strategicisrael.org)