Glenn Greenwald performed an immense public service Thursday when he interviewed the pro-Palestinian intellectual Rashid Khalidi and asked him whether Israel “had a legal and moral right” to respond militarily to the Hamas terror attack of October 7.
Khalidi evaded the question, and tried to explain the horrific murder of 1,200 people, and the kidnapping of 240 hostages, as the inevitable response to “occupation,” going back to the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, which Arab states failed to destroy.
This is the essence of the conflict.
Activists for the Palestinian cause — whether in the ivory tower, or the Hamas tunnels — will not reject deliberate violence against civilians. In their view, terror is a means justified by the ultimate end of destroying Israel.
Khalidi did not call explicitly for Israel’s destruction, but rather for a “political resolution.” His conditions rule out any kind of two-state solution Israel could safely accept, but he regards Israeli towns near Gaza as “settlements,” which gives the game away.
There is a tinge of elitist snobbery in his description of these communities: they are “suburban,” he said.
In reality, they are all poor rural towns or collective farming communities, often populated by left-wing socialists who want peace with their neighbors.
The “suburban” label indicates the role to which these idealistic Israelis have been consigned in the academy’s cultural struggle against the West, where the Palestinian cause equals liberation and Israel is a bourgeois evil, like capitalism and Christmas trees.
Khalidi could have said, quite simply, that Israel has the right to protect its own citizens. But the Palestinians and the Israelis are not “Country A” and “Country B,” he says (oddly denying Palestinians the status of “country” they flaunt in international forums).
The flipside of denying Israel a right to respond is denying any Palestinian responsibility not to start wars by murdering innocent people, or any Palestinian agency to do something for themselves — like using concrete for something other than terror tunnels.
Khalidi’s attitude reminds me of an episode from law school, when I was in a seminar on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with 15 Harvard students.
Asked whether Israeli civilians were legitimate targets for terror attacks, only four of the 15 students said no.
Two of us in the “no” camp were Jews; one was a pacifist opposed to violence of any kind; and one was a Muslim from Darfur, who opposed Arab nationalism because he had been victimized by it.
I remember being shocked by the views of the other eleven.
They were wrong.
There is no principle in international law that allows anyone to target civilians or non-combatants deliberately. Military operations that also pose a risk to civilians may be legal; but there is no “right to resist” by murdering innocent people.
This is obvious in every circumstance except when Israelis are the targets.
Perhaps that is because of antisemitism, expressed here as an extreme indifference to Jewish life. Perhaps it is because the Palestinian cause has become a romantic symbol of resistance.
Regardless, the persistence of the idea that it is acceptable — even desirable — to attack Israeli civilians is the main reason that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict persists.
Terrorists know Iran (and Russia) will arm them, and Western intellectuals will excuse them.
They also know that the United Nations, the U.S., the European Union, and the Arab states will offer humanitarian aid, as if the welfare of Palestinian civilians were not the responsibility of Palestinian leaders themselves, as they grow rich in luxurious exile.
Moreover, support for terror against civilians is self-defeating — not just because of the devastating Israeli response, but also because no society that condones the use of mass murder during a conflict can ever build successful post-conflict institutions.
Perhaps moderate voices would emerge, if they did not fear murder by fellow Palestinians — the original crime for which Hamas’s leader in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, was once in prison.
Why should they risk speaking for peace, when intellectuals in the West do not?
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new biography, Rhoda: ‘Comrade Kadalie, You Are Out of Order’. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.