Last week, a United States amendment to a draft resolution that would have condemned the terrorist group Hamas was blocked at the U.N. General Assembly even before getting to a vote. U.S. Ambassador and future POTUS Nikki Haley called the move “shameful” and declared, “It is no wonder that no one takes the U.N. seriously as a force for Middle East peace.” This is just the latest example of the sort of anti-Israel resistance that the tiny Middle East democracy and its ally the United States confront daily in the Arab-Israeli forever war. What will it take to resolve this conflict? What is the solution?
Elan Journo offers one in his new book, What Justice Demands: America and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict. The book is not a comprehensive history of this complex conflict, but a clarification of its essential nature and moral significance. Its central point is that America must reexamine and change its two-state approach, which Journo argues has not only come to nothing, it has made matters worse. While ostensibly supporting Israel, we actually have sold her out and empowered jihadists in the process.
Born in Israel and raised in the United Kingdom, Journo is a Fellow and Director of Policy Research at the Ayn Rand Institute whose articles have appeared in a such publications as Foreign Policy, Middle East Quarterly, and the Los Angeles Times. He is the co-author of Failing to Confront Islamic Totalitarianism, a contributor to Defending Free Speech, and editor of Winning the Unwinnable War.
In What Justice Demands, Journo puts forth a secular moral framework for the conflict in terms of justice. He begins in Part I by evaluating the moral standing of Israel and, in Part II, that of the Palestinians. He does this by asking the simple question, “Where would you rather live?” In what one French diplomat called the “shitty little country” of Israel, or in any of its neighboring Arab states? The latter, Journo details, are all authoritarian, totalitarian, and/or failed states which impose thought control, gender apartheid, and religious oppression, including honor killings and the dehumanization of gays; Israel, by contrast, offers intellectual freedom, gender equality, and a sexual tolerance unheard of anywhere in the Muslim world.
Israel also offers prosperity and progress to all, in contrast with the Arab world’s widespread poverty, ignorance, and stagnation. Despite “the international chorus of denunciation against Israel—at the U.N., on campuses, in editorials, from the advocates of boycotts, sanctions, and divestment,” Journo writes, “[i]t is only in Israel that individuals in their daily life are free to set and pursue their own path and to achieve their own vision of a good life.”
What explains this dramatic discrepancy? Briefly, it is Israel’s political system, which emphasizes the rule of law and the sovereignty of the individual, unlike the surrounding monarchies, dictatorships, and theocracies which “deliberately, methodically work to subjugate their people.”
Journo goes on to examine the four foundational grievances Palestinians hold against Israel: dispossession, expulsion, occupation, and denial of rights. In each case he systematically and rationally dissects and evaluates those claims, which by and large don’t hold up. Of the Israeli “occupation,” for example, he concludes:
Who bears the responsibility for the economic hardships, political constraints, and tightened security—the lineups at checkpoints, the security barrier, the curfews, the travel permits—under the occupation and since its partial dissolution? Fundamentally, the Palestinian movement and its state sponsors, who have backed guerrilla forces, and who have encouraged, fomented, and funded terrorist attacks. They, not Israel, are the ones who have made life worse for every individual in the occupied territories who truly seeks peace and a better life for himself and his loved ones.
Journo stresses “one crucial point”: even the most serious of “Israeli errors and moral failings” do not “justify the vociferous condemnations of Israel. None comes remotely close to the actual ‘gender apartheid,’ nor the incontestable violations of individual freedoms, nor the daily atrocities that are the norm throughout the Middle East. None of the grievances comes remotely close to warranting the conclusion that Israel per se is an illegitimate state.” Such condemnation, he says, “points to an ulterior, preexisting motivation. And it is particularly revealing that the fundamental hostility toward Israel long predated the occupation, and it actually became more ferocious when Israel began ceding control of some of the occupied territories.”
Then Journo turns to the Palestinian movement to ask, “[w]hat is the nature of that movement, what are its means and ends, and how should we judge it morally?” He recounts the origins of Palestinian nationalism and the rise of terrorist leader Yassar Arafat and his Palestine Liberation Organization, the waging of jihad against Israel, the culture of martyrdom and contempt for life that animates the movement, and the fraudulent nature of the Palestinian leadership, which “claims to fight for freedom, justice, and the well-being of the Palestinian community.” But “[i]nstead of seeking to protect the freedom of individuals, the movement has worked to eradicate it… Instead of seeking justice, the movement inflicts injustice.” Journo concludes this chapter by declaring the movement and its cause “fundamentally evil.”
“What justice demands of us,” Journo states, “in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is a principled stand in support of Israel—along with everyone else in the region who seeks genuine freedom, including among the Palestinian population—and a stand against the Palestinian movement and its cause.” He lays out precisely what this means and how the United States can change its approach to be a more effective supporter of freedom in the region. Detailing three episodes in American policy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – in the post-Cold War era, the post-9/11 era, and today – Journo contrasts what we actually did (such as embracing the PLO during the Olso peace process) with what we should have done.
He finishes the book with four necessary steps to a “truly just” resolution to the conflict, including 1) recognizing the ideological nature of the conflict, and 2) stepping away from the two-state solution. Overall, the plan conforms to what the scholar Daniel Pipes has summed up as “Israeli victory, then peace” – decisively defeating the Palestinian movement first and proceeding from there to a lasting peace.
“We know what’s at stake in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” Journo ends his book. We know the moral character of the adversaries.” The time is now to abandon “our persistently unjust policy” and embrace a wholly new rational perspective that leads to victory. “The goal of victory, however, does not require that Israel’s defeated enemies become its admirers or friends. They just need to feel deterred, permanently, from taking up arms against it.”
Reviewed by: Mark Tapson
Mark Tapson is the David Horowitz Freedom Center’s Journalism Fellow on Popular Culture, and the Center’s Director of Marketing and Media.