Last Sunday was Holocaust Remembrance Day and, in America and Europe, people are working hard to put an end to anti-Semitism. They can look forward to permanent employment. Anti-Semitism is a virus that can be treated but not cured. It morphs.
It’s been said before but bears repeating: In the 20th century, the goal of extreme anti-Semites was a Europe “cleansed” of Jews. In the 21st century, the goal of extreme anti-Semites is a Middle East “cleansed” of a Jewish state. For many, “Never again!” means never again in the 20th century will European Jews be slaughtered by Nazis. As for Middle Eastern Jews in the 21st century, they’re fair game.
Ali Khamenei, the “supreme leader” of the Islamic Republic of Iran, expresses this candidly. “Israel must be burned to the ground and made to disappear from the face of the Earth,” he has said.
Eager to set those fires are Hezbollah and Hamas. Jeremy Corbyn, leader of Britain’s Labour Party, has described both groups as “friends.”
But that’s just talk. The pertinent question is what can be done to further imperil Israel and the Jews who live there? Last week, the lower house of the Irish parliament passed legislation (78-45 votes) offering one answer: Wage economic warfare against Israel, in particular by criminalizing a range of business transactions with Jews in the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
You should know — as perhaps some Irish parliamentarians do not — that the Golan Heights came under Israeli control after Syrian attacks in the Six-Day War of 1967. No one who identifies as a Palestinian lived there then or lives there now. The implication that Israel should hand over the Golan — and its indigenous Druze population — to Syria’s mass-murdering dictator, Bashar Assad, is ludicrous.
As for east Jerusalem, it contains the Jewish Quarter of the Old City, a place where Jews have lived since the time of King David more than 3,000 years ago. Through slaughter and forced exile, foreign invaders, one after another, have attempted to make them “disappear.”
Jordan’s Arab Legion seized and occupied east Jerusalem in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Also conquered: territories that had been known as Judea and Samaria, thereafter renamed “the West Bank.” Losing them was the price Jordan paid for joining in the 1967 war against the Jewish state.
On several occasions since, Israeli leaders have offered to turn over more than 90 percent of the West Bank to Palestinian leaders in exchange for peace. Those leaders — there have been only two, Yasser Arafat and Mahmoud Abbas — have refused.
What they have insisted upon instead is land for and recognition of a Palestinian state while continuing their fight to eliminate the Jewish state.
Some proponents of the BDS (for Boycott, Divest and Sanctions) campaign forthrightly state that as their goal. Others insist they favor a “two-state solution,” with Israel’s withdrawal from “Palestinian territories” seen as a step forward. But that theory has been tested.
In 2005, the Israelis withdrew from Gaza, a territory taken from Egypt in the 1967 war. Soon after, Hamas fought — literally, not metaphorically — Fatah, its rival. Hamas won and turned Gaza into a platform for continuing attacks against Israelis using missiles, terrorist tunnels and other means. Hamas leaders have consistently said they will never accept Israel’s existence within any borders.
Irish parliamentarians might want to play out the hand they are attempting to deal. Israel withdraws from the West Bank. Hamas takes over from Fatah. Missiles are launched at nearby Tel Aviv. Israelis defend themselves. Bloody battles take lives on both sides. Over time, the West Bank resembles Gaza — or Syria. Is this really the result Ireland wants to facilitate?
There is a chance that the legislation passed by the Irish parliament will fail to become law — though probably not because the arguments I’ve made above have resonated. Ireland has attracted some of America’s largest companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Google and Facebook. They pay lots of taxes and provide lots of jobs.
Obeying the Irish law would likely mean violating existing U.S. federal law that prohibits American firms from participating in foreign boycotts not endorsed by Washington. More than two dozen state laws also penalize firms that engage in such boycotts.
The United States in 2017 accounted for two-thirds of all foreign direct investment in Ireland. So, in the end, this law could have more impact on Ireland’s economy than on anything happening in the Middle East.
Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney has said the legislation also may run counter to European Union trade regulations. Ireland’s attorney general has called the bill “legally unsound.”
Based on such considerations, the executive branch of the Irish government may find a way to shelve the legislation — again, based on what it will cost Ireland, not because it’s perceived as unfair and discriminatory, or apt to fuel more and bloodier conflicts between Palestinians and Israelis.
Final point: There are disputed territories around the world yet Irish parliamentarians have had little to say about Turkey’s occupation of northern Cyprus, Russia’s annexation of Crimea, Morocco’s claim to the Western Sahara or China’s stranglehold on Tibet.
In only one Middle Eastern country do Jews, Arabs, Muslims, Christians, Druze and others hold citizenship, vote on a regular basis and enjoy freedoms. Only one country in the world has given up land for peace and is willing to do so again. Irish politicians now want to single out that country for punishment. It’s their special way of commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day. Like I said, the virus morphs.
• Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a columnist for The Washington Times.
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