David Remnick has penned an article on the rise of intolerance in Israel–toward Arabs, and towards fellow Jews–that is well-written, nuanced, and multifaceted. Yet it retains a thorough left-wing–and hostile–bias, beginning with the basic presumption that it is intolerance in Israel that is the obstacle to peace and progress in the region, as opposed to the officially-sanctioned and deep-seated prejudices among Palestinians and Arabs.
Remnick begins with the recent controversy over statements by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin that Israel has become “sick,” and that it needs to address the problem. Rivlin, who opposes a Palestinian state but works hard to improve relations with Arabs both within and beyond Israel’s borders, was commenting on the rise of anti-Arab attacks, which culminated in the (widely-condemned) murder of an Arab boy this past summer.
Throughout the article, however, Remnick’s own political prejudices seep to the surface. He accuses Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu–without evidence–of trying to “manipulate the darkling mood,” and implies–again without evidence–that the leader of the conservative Jewish Home party, Naftali Bennett, of being implicitly “jingoistic and racist” because he has proposed that Israel annex portions of the West Bank.
Remnick also downplays the context in which Jewish hostility towards Arabs has increased–namely, the terror attacks by Israel’s Arab neighbors, and the increasing radicalization of parts of the Arab community inside Israel. For example, he mentions that an Arab member of the Israeli legislature, Haneen Zoabi, was called a “traitor” for participating in the Gaza flotilla, but leaves out her support for Hamas, and the fact that she herself has accused Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas of “treason” for cooperating with Israel.
Unlike many critics of Israel, however, Remnick–to his credit–captures some key nuances of the Israeli right, such as the fact that the militant 20th-century Zionist Vladimir Jabotinsky believed in coexistence with Arabs. He gives space to the conservative views of columnist Caroline Glick. Yet he also allows some of the Israeli left’s most incendiary rhetoric go unchallenged, such as that some Israelis “believe in apartheid in the West Bank.”
Above all, Remnick ignores the increasing radicalism of Palesitnian Arabs. He interviews academic Sari Nusseibeh–a moderate, to be sure, but one who drew criticism last year after allowing a Hamas rally at Al Quds University. Remnick omits that event, hinting only Nusseibeh is “overmatched by the fiercer voices around him.”
The article deserves to be read, since the problem of intolerance is real, and must ultimately be faced by friends of Israel regardless of the context in which it has emerged. Remnick approaches the topic with greater sympathy and understanding than many other writers might have done, and embraces a broader spectrum of voices–not just covering his bases, but actually allowing conservative Israelis to speak on their own terms.
Still, his article is motivated by a fundamental misconception of the reason the conflict persists. At a time when Palestinian leaders openly praise and encourage terror attacks, and when President Abbas has sent a letter of condolence praising a terrorist who murdered two Israelis by driving into them at a train station, Remnick’s focus is misplaced. His article exposes more about the reflexive bias of the media elite than it does about prejudice in Israel.
Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak edits Breitbart California and is the author of the new ebook, Wacko Birds: The Fall (and Rise) of the Tea Party, available for Amazon Kindle.
Follow Joel on Twitter: @joelpollak