Wednesday, April 25, 2018

What we learned from Ms. Portman - Dr. Eitan Orkibi

by Dr. Eitan Orkibi

Those who prod Israel to make territorial concessions don't exactly stand by our side when we have to contend with the consequences.

While everyone was busy being star struck, an important aspect of Natalie Portman's decision to reject the Genesis Prize "due to recent events" on the Gaza border was missed in the public discourse. Her announcement reeks of opportunism, as explained on these pages by Amnon Lord on Monday, and her reasoning vacillated until finally finding the safe shores of "not wanting to appear as endorsing Benjamin Netanyahu."

There is a lesson here that we should learn though, whether about the dizzying speed in which anti-Israel propaganda spreads, or about the capriciousness of our friends who preach in favor of territorial concessions.

Some Israelis, ever since Barack Obama's departure from the White House, have desperately sought an alternate cosmopolitan hero to rely on and apparently think the Israeli public suffers from short-term memory loss about the withdrawal from Gaza and the promises that were made about giving the IDF freedom of action once we leave the coastal enclave. We would be able to deploy along a recognized sovereign border, they assured us, from where we could defend Israel's security without having to answer to the world.

It's ironic that the disengagement from Gaza – whose propagandists marketed it as a successful "pilot" for a future "ingathering" from Judea and Samaria – did in fact play the role of harbinger. Not only did it foreshadow Palestinian violence and their plans for the day after occupation, but the behavior of the so-called peace camp as well. The public is asking what it can glean from this camp's reaction to the IDF's conduct on the Gaza border, and about the day we will have to contend with a similar scenario on a different border – next to Modiin let's say?

The Palestinians occasionally try catching us off guard: a rocket here, a tunnel there, storming the border fence. On the other hand, those who wanted us to leave Gaza adhere to a fairly regular script: First comes a provocative post on social media, followed by the appearance of opinion pieces and petitions against Israel's military brutality; eventually, portions of this sentiment are translated into a heartfelt declaration and land on the pages of some leading European journal or in a pointed interview on Al-Jazeera.

What is still changing is the speed with which the IDF is accused of war crimes. It seems that from one incident to the next, the time it takes to go from accusations of "disproportionate response" to "slaughtering innocents" keeps getting shorter. And if "the State of Israel shoots protesters" then clearly it would be immoral to receive an award from its blood-drenched hands.

None of this is to say that the "peace camp" shouldn't be allowed to protest, or that criticizing the IDF is forbidden. It only means that from one round to the next it is getting easier to predict certain behaviors. A large part of the public's aversion to future territorial concessions doesn't stem from the violence we can expect from the Palestinians; rather it exists because those pushing for the next withdrawal don't exactly stand by our side when we have to contend with the consequences.

Some of them are quick to accuse IDF soldiers of perpetrating a massacre; others don't hesitate to shake Israel off like a piece of dog feces stuck to the soles of their pristine shoes. This message has also been heard loud and clear, Ms. Portman.

Dr. Eitan Orkibi is a senior sociology and anthropology lecturer at Ariel University.


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