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Only Dismantling Lies Will Bring Mideast Peace

a fist painted like the israeli flag and a fist painted like a hamas flag

Mark L. Cohen By Wednesday, 10 April 2024 05:02 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

Amid the U.S. efforts to pressure Israel into halting its incursion into Gaza, the issue of blocked hostage release by Hamas often goes overlooked, as does the broader context of which side is right and which side is wrong in this war. And this misplaced emphasis is a block in the road to finding solutions. 

Two Pivotal Moments 

Initially, Israel was widely considered after the Oct. 7 massacre as the most tragic victim of recent terrorism, and world leaders urged decisive action against Hamas.  

The outpouring of sympathy stemmed from the unprecedented nature of the attack: a deliberate assault on civilians devoid of any military objective, reminiscent of historical atrocities perpetrated by figures like the Huns and khans.  

Even French President Emmanuel Macron, traditionally hesitant to support Israel, called for a robust response to Hamas and the formation of an anti-Hamas coalition. 

And then the tide soon began to turn. Prior to any military intervention in Gaza, French diplomats anonymously criticized their own president. Israel gradually was transformed from victim to aggressor in the eyes of much of the international political and media establishment. 

President Joe Biden while continuing to support the Israeli military operation, became subject to political pressure from the Democratic Party left and began to question military tactics, bowed to opinion polls to find unacceptable much less collateral damage to the civilian populations than during the Iraq War (Iraq Body Count documents 187,174-210,639 violent civilian deaths), and entered into an open conflict with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. However, good or bad Netanyahu is as a leader, criticism by his closest ally certainly is not favorable to Israel's war efforts.  

The global response did a pirouette, with grotesque accusations against Israel flying about, including charges of killing Palestinians in Gaza for revenge; "imprisoning" Gaza; committing genocide, as a claim before the International Court of Justice; and imposing an "apartheid state" on Arabs, forgetting that Arab Israelis sit on the Israeli Supreme Court.  

This inversion of reality, where victims are portrayed as villains, underscores a troubling trend: a resurgence of antisemitism on a global scale. 

The historical suffering of the Jewish people, once a source of empathy, seemed to lose its resonance. Instead, a perverse logic emerged, suggesting that victims of heinous acts must somehow be responsible for  their own suffering.  

This mass hysteria has culminated in the downplaying of the 1,143 innocent lives lost, the 247 hostages taken, and the upwards of 20,000 missiles fired from Gaza exclusively at Israeli civilians.

The media, consumed by anti-Israel sentiment, fixated on the concept of "proportionality" in war against an aggressor, a principle absent from international law. The reality, where Israel employed measures to limit further losses of Israeli life while Hamas employed human shields benefitting from displays of Palestinian suffering, was lost in this narrative. There were almost no articles reminding readers that hundreds of thousand of Germans and Japanese were killed during World War II not as collateral damage but as targets for revenge.   

The Emergence of Antisemitism as a Barrier to Peace in the Middle East   

Not long ago, the primary threats to peace in the Middle East were perceived as Iranian, Hamas, and Arab extremism. However, years of anti-Israel propaganda disseminated by Arab states, UNRWA, and Islamist groups have converged with existing antisemitic movements in the West. This hateful ideology may be propagated only by a minority, but the impact on media and political thinking has been enormous.

One consequence that should be of concern to all who value Western civilization is that denigrating and even demonizing countries that are examples of human progress and that produce excellent universities, longer life expectancy, world-class orchestras, poets, highly educated populations, Nobel Prize winners, and respect for human rights adds to the obstacle of achieving a just and lasting peace. 

From Hamas and Qatar's perspective, sympathy for Hamas' violence has fostered intransigence in hostage negotiations.  

For Israel, the prospect of a Palestinian state has become much more remote, as a significant percentage of Israelis now fear bias in future conflicts, where counterattacks against new terrorist incursions by Hamas and missile attacks would automatically be condemned as provoked by Israel.

Before Oct. 7, the peace process was nonexistent, but significant portions of the Israeli population accepted steps toward a two-state solution. Now, the fear of a Hamas-controlled state serving as a launchpad for Iranian and their surrogates' aggression dominates public opinion.

Today, the most pressing concern regarding a Palestinian state would be its proximity to major Israeli population centers. The Israeli public fears that a wave of antisemitism will render any future Palestinian government incapable of peaceful coexistence because world opinion will condone agression against Israel as justified. The terrible conclusion is that the most regrettable losers are the Palestinian people themselves, who continue to see themselves as victims — sadly, not of their own terrorist government but of Israel.  

The horrifying events of Oct. 7 underscore a terrifying reality: Otherwise rational individuals are susceptible to hateful propaganda that demonises Israel.  

Only by dismantling this foundation of lies can a path toward peace be forged.

Mark L. Cohen has his own legal practice, and was counsel at White & Case starting in 2001, after serving as international lawyer and senior legal consultant for the French aluminum producer Pechiney. Cohen was a senior consultant at a Ford Foundation Commission, an advisor to the PBS television program "The Advocates," and Assistant Attorney General in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He teaches U.S. history at the business school in Lille l'EDHEC. Read Mark L. Cohen's Reports — More Here.

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Amid the U.S. efforts to pressure Israel into halting its incursion into Gaza, the issue of blocked hostage release by Hamas often goes overlooked, as does the broader context of which side is right and which side is wrong in this war.
israel, hamas, mideast, war
Wednesday, 10 April 2024 05:02 PM
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