The last three weeks have been a time of agony and nightmare for not only Israel but for World Jewry as well. The breakdown in Israeli security and intelligence has resulted in a level of unprecedented wartime endangerment of Israeli civilians.
It also for me personally revived a torrent of nightmarish memories from my youth and early adult years of killing of Jews by Palestinian Arabs. These included the bloodthirsty murders in the 1950s and 1960s of Israeli farmers by Palestinian Arab fedayeen invading from Gaza, the Nazi-like execution of the Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics by Black September, an affiliate of Yasir Arafat’s Al-Fatah, and the slaughter of 22 Israeli school children by the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine in May, 1974 in Ma’alot, Israel.
I remember how a few days before my high school graduation and the start of the Six Day War in June, 1967, Ahmed Shukeiri, the predecessor of Yasir Arafat as the first chair of the Palestine Liberation Organization boasted of the Palestinian Arab intention to “throw the Jews into the sea” and claimed that “no Jews would remain alive” after the anticipated Arab destruction of Israel. Of course, it must be said that the Palestinian Arab terrorist leaders always made one concession: They gave us Jews the right to be buried in our own cemeteries.
So I concede my emotional torment during this period. As a member of an extended family with numerous Holocaust victims and survivors, many of whom found new lives and hope in the State of Israel, I could hardly be expected to remain dispassionate.
Yet there are two other features of the impact in America of the Israeli war with Hamas that are unprecedented.
The first is the number of leftist Jews who have taken up the cause of the supposedly “innocent” Palestine Arabs as their own. Most notable in this regard is Sarah Schulman, a leftist New York Jewish activist and playwright who is the archetypal “useful idiot” from the Jewish community for the Palestinian Arab cause. These Jewish defectors cherish the “human rights” of those who want to kill Jews.
The second is the embrace by a large portion of the American academic community of the notion of “moral equivalence” between the Israelis and Palestine Arabs. These misguided individuals dishonestly neglect an inconvenient truth: That the original and persistent cause of the conflict since the United Nations partition vote authorizing the establishment of Israel in November, 1947 is the implacable refusal of the Palestine Arabs to recognize the very existence of Israel as a Jewish State.
And now, the ranks of the “moral equivalence” school have been bolstered by the addition of John J. Farmer, Jr., the former Attorney General of New Jersey and now a prominent academic at Rutgers University, most recently the Director of the Eagleton Institute of Politics. He made clear his adherence to the dubious “moral equivalence” school in his October 23, 2023 column in the Star-Ledger, “In Israel and Gaza, the ultimate failure of politics.”
The article begins innocuously enough with Farmer describing his participation as a legal advisor to General Jim Jones, the Special Envoy for Middle East Regional Security on a fact-finding mission to Israel and Gaza during the Bush 43 administration. He expresses empathy with Jews, Christians, and Muslims he met on the trip. He was at least factual enough to concede that the recent Hamas invasion was “the largest systematic massacre of Jewish civilians since the Holocaust, it was a crime against humanity and should be treated as such, and certainly not celebrated or justified or explained away.”
He then expresses the hope that the prospects for a just and lasting peace will be improved if the “current armed struggle is conducted with care for innocent lives.”
All reasonable enough. But then in his last two paragraphs, Farmer displays his adherence to the “moral equivalence” doctrine in a grotesque distortion of the reality of the conflict between Israel and the Palestine Arabs, as follows.
“But it will be achieved only if this struggle proves a turning point, ending the outsized influence of the nihilist death cultists of Hamas among the Palestinians and the deluded far-right fantasists among the Israelis, whose visions for the future are remarkably congruent. Each wishes for the obliteration of the other population so they never have to see each other again.”
“We must ensure that neither gets its wish.”
Note the use by Farmer of the word “obliteration.” Roget’s Thesaurus defines “obliterate” and “exterminate” as synonyms.
I defy Farmer to find any Israeli political element of even the most infinitesimal significance who advocates extermination of Arab civilians, Palestinian or otherwise. Even the most extremist elements in Israeli politics, the Kahanists, whose support among Israelis rarely exceeds three percent, refrain from any rhetoric advocating extermination or genocide of Arab civilians. Farmer cannot produce a scintilla of evidence supporting his assertion that “deluded right-wing fantasists” in Israel wish for the obliteration of the Palestinian Arabs so that they never have to see them again.
As for mainstream right-of-center Zionist leaders, including Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky, Menachem Begin, and even Bibi Netanyahu (whom I have criticized severely and even called for his removal) they have denounced in no uncertain terms those who have called for expulsion of Palestinian Arabs from Israel or the West Bank. And Menachem Begin was an outspoken advocate for the human rights of Arabs, both within pre-1967 Israel and the West Bank.
The reverse is true of the Palestinian Arabs. As noted by the renowned Atlantic columnist Jeffrey Goldberg, the Hamas rhetoric is an incitement to genocide of the people of Israel. And the spiritual ancestral godfather of Hamas is the late Haj Amin Al-Husseini, the leader of the Palestinian Arabs prior to the establishment of Israel in 1948. He was an ally of Nazi Germany who was feted by Adolf Hitler in Berlin in 1941.
And let there be no question that Hamas is a mainstream Palestinian Arab entity, reflective of the Arab Street. It came to power in the Palestinian legislative election of 2006, in which it finished first with 44.45 percent of the vote and a majority of 74 of the 132 seats.
The Palestinian Arab voters in that election had absolutely no doubt as to the genocidal intention of Hamas towards Jews. Article 7 of the Hamas Covenant of 1988 proclaims the following:
“The Day of Judgement will not come about until Moslems fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Moslems, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.”
So Farmer’s statement that there are “deluded far-right fantasists among the Israelis, whose visions for the future are remarkably congruent” with those of Hamas constitutes a gross and obscene distortion of reality and in fact, a blatant falsehood. He cannot produce any evidence whatsoever of congruence between Hamas and the goals of the Israeli extremist right. The conflation of the two is profoundly intellectually dishonest.
What Farmer has done is to find a moral equivalence between the Palestine Arabs, who have a tradition of leadership with a genocidal message, and an Israel whose leadership emphatically repudiates and condemns genocide. Farmer is embracing a false equation.
To be sure, Farmer has achieved political correctness in academia with his embrace of “moral equivalence” of Israel and the Palestine Arabs. The following quote of Golda Meir makes clear how meaningless this political correctness is:
“If we have to have a choice between being dead and pitied, and being alive with a bad image, we’d rather be alive and have the bad image.”
Before you mischaracterize Israel again, Mr. Farmer, please consider that quote.
Alan J. Steinberg of Highland Park served as regional administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as executive director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.