Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Reframing the Problem

Mike L.

{Cross-posted at News and Views from Jews Down Under and the Times of Israel.}

David Olesker has an article on his blog entitled, Israel in the Frame and what is below are its concluding paragraphs:
Let’s reframe. The problem is not Israel, but the governments of the Arab world. The key to understanding the conflict is their despotism and denial of human rights. The rights of Jewish people to national self-determination in their ancient homeland are rejected by almost the whole of the Arab world. Now it makes sense to pull the camera back and Israel becomes almost invisible in the vastness of the Middle East.[4] Hence, the key to peace between Israel and her neighbors becomes securing the recognition of Jewish rights[5]
As I write this blog post, Israel is in the process of releasing convicted terrorist killers as the price to bring the negotiators of the Palestinian Authority back to the table. This is only the latest of a long series of concessions Israel has made to try to secure peace. Supporters of Israel sometimes become frustrated that it is only Israel that is ever called upon to make concessions and compromises. It’s even more galling when the constant pressure to concede comes from the nations that see themselves as friends and allies of Israel. This pressure will continue until the frame is changed. 
If a different conceptual frame, that of denial of Jewish rights, were anchored firmly in public consciousness, the absurdity of Israel being forced to pay for the privilege of making concessions would be apparent to all. Why isn’t this conceptual frame accepted and well known? Well, don’t expect the PLO, Hamas or the Iranian government to propagate it for us. That’s a job no one will do except ourselves. 
It is important for the advocate for Israel to refute lies about the Jewish state. It is even more important to constantly and imaginatively promote a new way of thinking about the entire region.
Olesker is essentially arguing, along with people such as historian Richard Landes, what I have been arguing for quite some time now.  How we frame the issue, and the language that we use to discuss it, makes all the difference in the world.  The problem is not just that anti-Semitic anti-Zionists falsely frame the issue as one in which a powerful and vicious Jewish country exploits and brutalizes the inert and innocent "indigenous" population, but that Israel's friends and advocates, to a significant degree, buy into that frame, as well.

The tendency within much of western Jewry is to accept the broad strokes of the "Palestinian narrative" which centers around the idea that Israel is Occupying (often with a big "O") "Palestinian" land and is therefore the aggressor.  As the aggressor, it is up to Israel to jump through whatever hoops that are laid down, by either the local Arabs or the western powers, in order to end that aggression.

So long as Jewish pro-Israel advocates accept the broad strokes of this frame we can never win the argument because Israeli guilt is built into the frame, itself.

What we need to do is broaden the frame in both time and place.  Because this has the effect of being more historically accurate, it also serves to undermine the "Palestinian narrative" of perpetual victim-hood which is at the core of Arab and European justification for violence against Jews.

The time period that we should be discussing is not 1967 to the present, nor 1948 to the present.  It is the 7th century to the present.  The place that we should be discussing, as Olesker explicitly argues, is not just the Land of Israel, but the entire Middle East.  Thus the conflict is not an "Israeli-Palestinian" conflict, but an ongoing aggression by the vast Arab majority in that part of the world against the tiny Jewish minority and it has been continual for fourteen centuries, now.

Until we reframe the argument so that it better reflects actual history and the extent of the aggressors involved, we can never win.  The sooner that we understand this, the sooner that we can change the ugly dynamics involved.  Most pro-Israel advocates, despite their best intentions, actually promote a view that is profoundly harmful to both the Jewish State of Israel, and to the Jewish people as a whole, because they have accepted the notion that Israel is at fault and, thus, it is Israel which must be taken to heel.

And that's how we get people like David Harris-Gershon, or organizations like J-Street, who do nothing but spit hatred at Israel and yet still get to claim that they are "pro-Israel."

{A Big Tip 'O the Kippa to the Elder of Ziyon.}

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