This past week, Malanie Phillips wrote an article on the need to change the narrative surrounding the conflict over Israel (h/t Elder). Those who have followed my writings for some time should not be surprised that I find Phillips to be absolutely correct. The issue is, what should be done in order to address the narrative.
The first step in addressing the narrative is to identify it. To paraphrase Phillips, the root of the western narrative
is that the "Palestinian people" are the original inhabitants of the land. Whatever justification Europe's behavior towards its Jews, most notably during the Holocaust, created, the Zionists displaced those original inhabitants in creating their state. As such, their rights are limited to a portion of the land and the "Palestinians" are merely "resisting" to reclaim what the Zionists took beyond their entitlement.Further statements are derivatives of this root narrative. Examples include John Kerry saying
There’s been a massive increase in settlements over the course of the last years. Now you have this violence because there’s a frustration that is growing.and the equation of the deaths of Palestinian terrorists killed in the act of perpetrating terror with those of their victims.
To analogize, the root narrative is like rotting vegetables, the derivative narratives are like vermin, and activities like BDS are like the diseases that the vermin carry. No matter how often you call the exterminator, if rotting vegetables are strewn about, the vermin will come back and come back and spread whatever diseases they carry. Similarly, if the Jews did steal the land from the native Palestinians, then it is truthy that Israel is gobbling up land for settlements. And if Israel is gobbling up land and no appeals to moral conscience are inducing a change, then BDS may be necessary to push Israel's hand. However much we knock down the BDS efforts, if it is truthy that Israel is gobbling up land, the BDSholes will find fertile ground with the public and as long as the public believes that Jews are not indigenous to the southwest Levant while the Palestinians are, Israel's gobbling up land will be truthy.
One observation about supplanting the current western narrative is that doing so will require repeated airing of a counter-narrative. One means of doing so would be for someone who is sympathetic to Israel and has a position in the major media to write regularly about the history of the Jews of Palestine. An alternative approach would be for a public official to push information that challenges this narrative, which the media would be forced to cover. As of now, this is unlikely because no politician faces any pressure to do so. This is because currently the pro-Israel community's definition of a friend of Israel is one who is at least non-belligerent about the "settlements," a measure by which Obama is notably poor, or who supports providing arms to Israel, by which Obama is imperfect but reasonably good. Those two objectives are altogether appropriate objectives, focusing on them ignores what drives the constant challenges on those fronts. The message we have to tell our lobbyists who press our case to the politicians and decide whom to support is "It's the narrative stupid!"
If we were to evaluate politicians based on their contributions to the narrative, the question becomes what contribution we should demand from those wishing to be viewed as friends of Israel. There are two general categories of what we should wish to see promoted. One is the general history of the Jews of the southwest Levant. Critical topics would be Jewish history of the region in all major time periods and connections maintained between the diaspora and the Land of Israel. A supplement to this would be that the Arabs have no record of any kind showing any sort of connection to the southwest Levant. The second is the social order between Jews and Muslims in 19th century Palestine. These two categories provide a one-two punch against the prevailing western narrative. The former demonstrates that long before anyone migrated from Arabia to the southwest Levant, Jews were building there culture there and that they never fully vacated the region. The latter sets up a counterclaim regarding the reasons for Palestinian "resistance." Our goal should be that instead of seeing such "resistance" being based on "statelessness," that it is based on irredentism for the 19th century social order. In order to make that claim, it is necessary to describe what the Palestinians are irredentist for. The history of the 19th century provides that.