When we last interviewed Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld of the Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs, it was a week before the 2012 Presidential election in the United States. During that interview, we focused on Obama’s difficulties with Israel, and we discussed how Mitt Romney might benefit the Jewish state if he were to win the election.
Since that time, Obama won the election, and Romney has disappeared from the public view. Despite all the predictions of doom and gloom should Obama win a second term, the American President has been surprisingly pro-Israel since his re-election. Granted, Mr. Obama still appears to be as naive as ever when it comes to the Palestinians and the Muslim Brotherhood, but, at the same time, he has supported Israel in the world forum and continues to maintain strong military ties with the Netanyahu Government.
The current state of affairs in Arab countries is one of constant turmoil and bloodshed. The Muslim Brotherhood and the radical Islamists are poised to take control of the entire region and the anti-Jewish rhetoric is as vicious as ever. The Palestinians still refuse to sit down at the negotiating table with Israel, and they continue to demand the right of return, half of Jerusalem, and a return to the 1967 Auschwitz borders that would leave Israel indefensible. All of these points are major red lines for the Jewish state, and to accept the endless demands of the Palestinians would be national suicide. Israel continues to invite the Palestinians to negotiate a permanent peace with no pre-conditions and the Palestinian chair at the negotiating table sits empty.
While peace remains ever elusive, the rockets continue to fly from Gaza and millions of Israelis are still forced to live with one foot in the bomb shelter. In Europe, violent Jew hate is becoming a common occurrence as the Jewish population finds itself under attack. Cemeteries are vandalized, Jewish schools and synagogues require armed guards, and Jews can no longer safely walk down the streets of Europe wearing a Star of David or a Kippah.
While the future for the world’s Jews looks bleak, the state of Israel remains their one safe haven. The importance of a Jewish state can not be understated, and, to gain a better understanding of the difficulties the nation of Israel faces just to survive and prosper, we turn once again to our good friend, the eminent Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld.
Wolff Bachner: Dr. Gerstenfeld, thank you for taking time from your busy schedule for a second interview with The Inquisitor. It is always a pleasure to speak with you about the important issues facing the nation of Israel and the Jewish people.
Recently, Barack Obama made his first visit to your country as the President of the United States. Despite the criticism of Obama from some of Israel’s politicians, you were supportive of the American president when we spoke before the US elections in October of 2012.
Were you pleased with the President’s recent visit to Israel and do you feel that he is the strong supporter of Israel that he claims to be?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: I only had a partly positive opinion of President Obama before the U.S. 2012 presidential elections. I wrote that the Obama administration has been supportive of Israel after an initially hesitant period and that we should give the President credit for all the good things he has done for Israel. This expressed itself in supplying military equipment, fighting the cyber war and broad strategic collaboration. The United States has also consistently supported Israel in the United Nations. Furthermore, Obama personally intervened in the life-threatening situation for Israel’s embassy personnel in Cairo during the Egyptian mob attack in September 2011.
I pointed out that there were two major issues why most Israelis do not have a positive opinion of the U.S President. The first one is that his image as an internationally weak president is also bad for Israel, as the U.S is Israel’s main supporter. The second one is his appeasement policy toward the Muslim world. Obama does not seem to assess the massive violence coming out of parts of the Muslim world correctly. This was clear from his overtly positive 2009 speech in Cairo to the Muslim world. During his first term, many highly problematic extremist Islamists were received at the White House. In addition, the betrayal of long time political allies such as Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was shocking.
It is clear that during his March visit, Obama – and his speech writer – made a major effort to please the Israelis. This became possible because expectations in Israel before his visit were very low. His popularity rating in Israel has increased considerably due to his visit. I also have a somewhat more positive opinion of Obama now than I had before the visit. Yet the two major problem issues remain.
After his visit, I wrote that there was one speech which he didn’t make – a public address in Ramallah to Palestinian youngsters, like he did in Jerusalem to Israeli students. I have recently published in the Jerusalem Post the text of an imaginary speech he could have made there. Some of it reads: “The Palestinians west of the Jordan River are one of the world’s few nations desiring their own state that could attain it soon. If you want a better future, create a party which promotes real peace with Israel and start pressuring your leaders to accept what the Israelis are proposing. Then you can help build a second Palestinian state in addition to Jordan. Afterwards, make sure that your state lives in peace with all of its neighbors. All of this is far more important for your future than anything else.”
The question of whether he is the strong supporter of Israel that he claims to be, can be answered with another question: Can a rather weak president be a strong supporter of Israel?
Wolff Bachner: Do you think Obama takes the Iranian threat seriously and will he continue to back Israel if the current situation starts to escalate, or, god forbid, a war breaks out between Israel and Iran?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: If flies on the walls of the White House could answer an interviewer, one would probably get a much better answer from them than I can give. The issue may not be whether Obama takes the Iranian threat seriously. He probably does. He is however, likely to do everything possible to avoid war.
From the U.S. point of view, it would probably be better if Israel fought Iran with U.S backing than if the United States entered itself into a direct armed conflict. It is likely that in view of the poor outcome of the Iraq war and the even more meager results expected after the end of the war in Afghanistan, Obama is reluctant to be drawn into another armed conflict. One major consideration is the difficult financial situation the United States finds itself in and the potentially enormous costs involved in another armed conflict in the Middle East. The developments in North Korea probably further lessen Obama’s desire to get directly involved in such a new Middle East conflict.
Wolff Bachner: Many critics of the state of Israel claim the Israeli government and the United States are exaggerating the Iranian nuclear threat as an excuse to start a war with Iran.
Dr. Gerstenfeld: The problem is not that Israel and the U.S. are exaggerating the Iranian nuclear threat, but that many critics are greatly underestimating the enormous hatred of others existing among large numbers of supporters of fundamental Islam. These critics have learned little or nothing from, for instance 9/11, where middle class Saudis were radical enough to murder thousands of civilians and commit suicide for a perverse ideal. From studies by the Pew Research Center we know that there are least 100 million, but probably many more devotees of Bin Laden in the Muslim world.
Israel has no desire to start a war with Iran, yet it does not want to be at the mercy of genocidal hate mongers. They should have been brought before an international court by Western countries which have signed the U.N. genocide convention long ago. All these countries have failed in their duties under international law.
Wolff Bachner: Do you believe that Iran represents a real threat to the people of Israel or is it being overstated to fan the flames of wars?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: From what I have heard from many experts, this threat is real.
Wolff Bachner: Why should Israel be allowed to have nuclear weapons, if the Iranians are prohibited from having them?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: There is a major legal reason: Israel is not a signatory of the non-proliferation treaty, like India and Pakistan. Iran has ratified the treaty and thus is prohibited from having the weapons. Furthermore, Israel has never threatened any country with genocide, while Iran’s leaders have. Iran under its Islamic leadership is what is called a “crazy state.”
Wolff Bachner: The Israeli government just agreed to apologize to Turkey and pay restitution to the Turkish citizens who died on the Mavi Marmara. In your opinion, did Obama pressure Netanyahu to apologize to Turkey?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: For Obama the conflict between Turkey and Israel is a real problem. He wants the two countries to collaborate against Muslim fundamentalism, in particular concerning Iran. This becomes problematic, as Erdogan is a Muslim fundamentalist himself. A Turkey less hostile to Israel may be perhaps somewhat more helpful in containing Iran. To what extent did Obama pressure Netanyahu? Only they can answer this question.
Wolff Bachner: Do most Israelis agree with the apology or do they still view Turkey as a potential enemy that is looking to gain prestige in the Muslim world by attacking Israel at every opportunity?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: I cannot speak for most Israelis. In July 2011, I wrote an article stating that it would be a mistake for Israel to apologize to Turkey. I still think it is a mistake. Erdogan is the type of inciteful politician who cannot be trusted by anyone.
Wolff Bachner: How can Israel ever have normal relations with Turkey after the intense anti-Jewish rhetoric of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan over the last two years?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: The anti-Israel rhetoric of Erdogan started long ago. Already in 2004 and out of the blue, he accused Israel of state terrorism. As long as he is in power, it is unlikely that there will be normal relations between Turkey and Israel.
Wolff Bachner: One of the major criticisms of President Obama is that he is too supportive of Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood.
Why do you think Obama is supportive of Morsi, an unabashed Jew hater who called for the destruction of the state of Israel when he was leader of the Muslim Brotherhood?
Why would Obama send billions in aid and advanced jet fighters to Egypt when Morsi is turning Egypt into a Muslim theocracy, violently oppressing his own people, and openly backing Hamas, a terrorist organization?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: Obama may consider that chaos in Egypt is even worse than the current Morsi presidency. In this context, he may assume that American aid to Egypt may be the only tool which gives the United States some leverage over the Muslim Brotherhood there. He may also think that the Egyptian army may use the military aid to re-establish order in the Sinai peninsula. Perhaps Obama also hopes that ultimately the army will take over the Egyptian government. The attitude of Morsi toward Hamas seems rather ambivalent. He understands that the interests of Hamas complicate Egypt regaining control of the Sinai. A few days ago, rockets were shot from the Sinai into Eilat again. This shows anew that the Egyptians are not in control there. The best answer is probably that Obama wants to see how matters pan out. He can always stop U.S aid at a later stage. All my answers here are speculative though.
Wolff Bachner: Critics of the relationship between Israel and the United States argue that American dollars are used to kill innocent Palestinians. Others are grumbling that America should stop military aid to Israel and force the Israeli government to make peace with the Palestinians. Still others claim the United States is wasting their money on an ungrateful ally when the American economy is in trouble.
Do you believe that Israel is an honest peace partner with the Palestinians?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: I think that most Israelis want peace, however the so-called “peace process” with the Palestinians has so far had many very negative aspects for Israel. The Oslo agreements gave the Palestinian Authority an infrastructure in their territories to mobilize large parts of the Muslim world for anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hate-mongering campaigns.
Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 was a dramatic step showing that it is an honest peace partner. The Palestinians are not. They did not even want to negotiate about the withdrawal. Israel then left Gaza unilaterally, which stressed its peace intentions. The withdrawal rather quickly enabled Hamas to take control of Gaza and shoot rockets into Israel. When Israel defended itself, these actions were often condemned by Western governments and NGOs. Many biased Western media also criticized Israel’s defensive measures instead of the Palestinian aggression. Instead of advancing “peace for peace” the Israeli left has promoted the radically misconceived “land for peace.” So while the “two-state solution” is in principle preferable, it is unlikely to be reached with the present Palestinian rulers, be it Hamas or the Palestinian Authority.
When Obama spoke to Israeli students, he said that he genuinely believed that Israel has true partners in Palestinian President Abbas and Prime Minister Fayyad. How hollow that was soon became clear when Fayyad resigned a few weeks later. Abbas’ democratic mandate as president ended four years ago in 2009. It is doubtful whether he would be re-elected in free elections. Advising Israel to make peace with such ‘broken reeds’ is bad advice.
Wolff Bachner: Do the Israeli people want peace and are they willing to live side by side with a state of Palestine?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: It is often said that there are no wrong questions, only wrong answers. Yet, this is a wrong question. You make peace with your enemies, yet you cannot make peace with people who believe that peace is just an intermediate stage to annihilate you.
Wolff Bachner: How would you respond to those who claim that Israel is an ungrateful ally that does not deserve to receive foreign aid from America?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: Israel no longer receives economic aid. All U.S. aid is military. It is largely spent in the U.S., creating jobs there. In 2010 Steve Rothman, then a U.S. House Representative, wrote an article for Bloomberg titled, “U.S. aid to Israel provides huge return on investment.” If one wants to find ungrateful allies, the Europeans come way before Israel. The United States bled its soldiers in a major way for their reestablishment as independent states in the Second World War. The U.S has never risked its soldiers for Israel. If one wants a prime candidate for an ungrateful ally, Saudi Arabia quickly comes to mind.
Wolff Bachner: Does Israel need more foreign aid from the United States, considering the growth of the Israeli economy, or is this really a matter of maintaining a positive relationship between two long time allies?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: I don’t think Israel will ask for more aid other than for specific projects such as the the Iron Dome, which will also benefit the U.S. and NATO countries.
Wolff Bachner: The negotiations between the Palestinians and Israel have been at a complete stand still since the end of the 10 month freeze in settlement construction in 2010. The Palestinians have refused to resume peace negotiations until Israel agrees to another full settlement freeze.
What gives Israel the right to build settlements in the disputed territories?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: The Israeli government had asked a commission to investigate this matter. It was headed by retired Israeli Supreme Court Judge Edmond Levy. The report concluded that settlements are not illegal under international law and that the 1949 Geneva Convention regarding transfer of populations is not relevant to Israeli settlements, because Israelis have the legal right to settle in Judea and Samaria.
Wolff Bachner: Do you believe Israel has a legal claim to some of the land or do you agree that the settlements are not helpful to the peace process?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: I think that Israel was attacked and as such, has certain legal and moral claims to part of the land that is beyond the 1967 armistice lines. The settlements are part of the price the Palestinians are paying for their aggression against Israel in 1948 and their continued unwillingness to make true peace. The more the Palestinians delay peace talks with all their pre-conditions, the higher the price they should pay. Yet I believe that it would have been better to put all settlements into a few blocs.
Wolff Bachner: Would it do any real harm for Israel to stop building in the disputed territories and freeze construction at the existing settlements as a goodwill gesture to the Palestinians?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: The Palestinians do not deserve any more good will gestures. Their ill intentions have been amply revealed in the past. As said previously, the Israeli withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 was a huge, albeit mistaken, goodwill gesture from Israel. It was also a confidence building act, which turned into a disaster. Without it, there would not have been a huge number of rockets raining down on Israel in the past years.
Wolff Bachner: The Arab States, the United Nations, and the OIC have allowed the Palestinians to languish in refugee camps for 64 years and refused to grant them citizenship in any Arab nation. Instead of caring for their brothers and sisters like the Israelis did with their refugees in 1948, the Arab States have used the Palestinians as a political weapon to bash Israel at every opportunity and demand that Israel allow more than four million Palestinians the right of return to live in the Jewish state.
Why should Israel agree to allow 4 million or more Palestinians the right of return and destroy forever the Jewish character of the nation? After all, didn’t the world’s governments agree to re-establish Israel in 1948 specifically as the one Jewish state and to provide a safe haven for the Jewish people?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: I am not sure that the 4 million mentioned is a correct number. Even more importantly, the great majority of these people are not “refugees.” If we use the standard definition of refugees, there were perhaps 600,000 true Palestinian refugees in 1948, and a much smaller number in 1967. A substantial percentage of them is no longer alive and the others are mostly elderly. Most of the other people mentioned included in the figures for “refugees” are ” descendants of refugees” rather than genuine refugees.
Wolff Bachner: Is the right of return an absolute deal breaker as far as Israel is concerned?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: Israel may let a few genuine refugees in. They are old people who can no longer procreate. The place for the refugees and their descendants to go, if they wish to, is the Palestinian territories which may ultimately become a second Palestinian state, if and when the Palestinians finally want peace.
Wolff Bachner: Israel is one of the world’s smallest nations with a geographic area the size of New Jersey. The Palestinians are demanding more land from Israel and insisting the Jewish state return to “Auschwitz” borders that would endanger every single Israeli.
Dr. Gerstenfeld: Israel is hopefully not going to return to the “Auschwitz borders” – an expression which was coined in a somewhat different way by former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban. Today, Israeli politicians prefer to use the expression “indefensible borders.” In negotiations for a true peace and if such a peace is concluded, a Palestinian state will have to be demilitarized. The risk will always exist that such a state will be taken over by one of the extremist Muslim movements.
Wolff Bachner: How can Israel be expected to give up any more land when the nation is so small that it is barely able to sustain its current population?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: The question of sustaining its population on a small territory is not dramatic for Israel at the moment. It is more a question of how one uses the land than the size of the land. Israel’s current population can be sustained on its territory from before the 1967 war modified to include major settlement areas.
Wolff Bachner: Why would Israel even consider returning to borders that would expose the entire nation to rocket attacks that could reach every corner of Israel in a matter of seconds and render Israel indefensible?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: As said, an eventual second Palestinian state will be a demilitarized one. After the disastrous experiences Israel has endured since the Oslo agreements were signed, plus the Gaza withdrawal, Israel cannot and should not do anymore risk-taking.
Wolff Bachner: In addition to the ongoing conflict between the Arab nations and Israel, many of the 1.6 million Arabs who are Israeli citizens openly advocate for the end of the Jewish state.
Dr. Gerstenfeld: According to the latest figures released before Israel’s Independence Day in April this year, there are 1.6 million Arabs in Israel. We should avoid stereotyping. Opinions among Israeli Arabs diverge. We do not know how many of them would prefer the destruction of Israel and live in a corrupt Palestinian Arab state. Few Israeli Arabs openly advocate for an end to the Jewish state. There is no doubt however, that there is an Arab “fifth column” in Israel. They are for instance, people who would have liked Hizballah to win during the Second Lebanon War, but they are in the minority of Israeli Arabs. Several, but far from all Arab parliamentarians in Israel, are seen by many Israelis as members of such a “fifth column.” One Arab party Balad, memorialized the Palestinian dead after Israel’s Pillar of Defense campaign a few months ago. Its former Parliamentarian Azmi Bishara fled Israel in 2007 and is considered a fugitive from law and suspected of collaboration with Israel’s enemies.
Wolff Bachner: What does the future hold for the relationship between the Jews of Israel and the Arabs of Israel?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: A genuine peace agreement would certainly improve the situation, but as said, it seems far off at the moment. As far as the Israeli government is concerned, it must try to improve the situation of the Israeli Arabs, without taking risks with the potentially subversive elements among them. To identify and observe the latter is what Israel’s domestic secret service is concentrating on.
Wolff Bachner: Can Jews and Arabs ever live together in peace in Israel or is the situation going to continue to escalate until there is open civil war within Israel?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: “Ever” is somewhere remote in the future. A civil war in Israel between Jews and Arabs also seems remote. The majority of the Arabs here know very well that their quality of life, their legal rights and freedom of expression under Palestinian rule would quickly deteriorate. There is no reason for them to fight. Only some potential Israeli Arab collaborators with Palestinians would take such a step if Palestinian rulers thought it convenient.
Wolff Bachner: The Middle East is in complete turmoil at the present time. Libya is the hands of the Islamists, Syria is in the middle of a prolonged civil war that has killed more than 50,000 civilians, and Egypt has been completely taken over by the Muslim Brotherhood.
How great a threat to Israel is the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and the constant bloodshed in much of the Middle East?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: In the first place, the decrease in stability is a threat to the people in those countries. The number of murdered in Syria is often estimated at roughly 70,000. In Libya, tens of thousands were murdered. Egypt is in deep crisis in many areas. Its lack of control of the Sinai peninsula is already a problem. How much of this will spill over into Israel cannot be forecast at the moment.
Wolff Bachner: What can Israel do about the massive amounts of weapons that may fall into the hands of terrorists as governments fall in Libya and other Arab nations?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: Israel probably cannot do very much about this. The first victim of this development has not been Israel, but the African state of Mali, where the French had to intervene to defeat the Islamist insurrectionists.
Wolff Bachner: Why do you think so many people refuse to protest against the violence and death that is occurring in much of the Arab world and focus all their criticism on Israel?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: There is no single reason for this. Often we are also dealing with two separate issues. Regarding the violence in the Arab world, one major aspect is what one might call Western “humanitarian racism.” It is a little-known form of racism which posits that only white and powerful people can be responsible for their actions and crimes. I interviewed Somalian refugee Ayaan Hirsi Ali when she was still a Dutch parliamentarian. She said: “In Socialist eyes, whoever isn’t white or Western is a victim, and this includes Muslims, Palestinians, and immigrants. My position is that I am not a victim. I am responsible for my acts like anybody else and so are all people.”
This attitude of many Westerners – part of the socialists and many others – Hirsi Ali uncovered is a profoundly racist one. If one posits that some people can not be held responsible for their acts, it means that one ostensibly places them on the same level as animals, which also cannot be held responsible for their acts. Again, these attitudes are deeply racist. This humanitarian racist attitude also goes against the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that all people are responsible for their acts. Far more attention should be given to humanitarian racism in Western societies. One will thus expose the many racists in what is often called the “anti-racist camp.” This subject of racists in the anti-racist camp, people who discriminate against others by denying their responsibilities, deserves to become a topic for major study.
As far as hate mongering against Israel is concerned, humanitarian racism also plays a role. If Israel’s enemies cannot be held responsible for their deeds, then Israel becomes the sole country responsible for what happens in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. This is another evil consequence of humanitarian racism. It is easy to identify humanitarian racists if they write or express themselves on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. If they accuse and attack Israel and look away from the genocidal propaganda of the largest Palestinian party Hamas, the glorification of murderers of civilians by the Palestinian Authority, Palestinian terrorism and so on, they are humanitarian racists. Of a somewhat similar type are people who frequently ask Israel to take additional “confidence-building measures” – as if the Gaza withdrawal has not been enough of an example of a totally failed “confidence-building step.”
This is however, only one among several reasons. Another reason for the lack of protest against Arab violence derives from the influence of what one might coin the leftist-Islamist alliance. After the fall of Communism, the extreme left discovered in the Muslim immigrants and their descendants a potential new proletariat. This happened at a time when the classic working class, which was their main audience, had been shrinking. One often finds a disproportionately large number of left-wingers among European journalists. The same goes for NGOs. After the major terrorist attacks in Madrid in 2004 and in London in 2005, there is also fear of further violence by some Muslims.
A further reason is the mutation of anti-Semitism into anti-Israelism. Anti-Semitism is an integral part of European culture. This should not be confused with claiming that most Europeans are anti-Semites, which is not true. After the Second World War and the Holocaust, classic religious and nationalistic anti-Semitism became unfashionable, even though they now are re-emerging. Anti-Israelism on the other hand, often contains classic anti-Semitic motifs which are falsely presented as “general criticism of Israel.” If you criticize Israel the same way that you censure other countries, there is no problem. Once you start using modern mutations of classic anti-Semitic motifs, such as, “Israel represents absolute evil,” “Israel is a Nazi state,” “Israel entered Gaza to kill Palestinian women and children,” “The Jewish people have no right to self-determination,” etc., you are an anti-Semite who tries to disguise himself as a critic of Israel.
Wolff Bachner: Dr. Gerstenfeld, your new book, Demonizing Israel and the Jews: 57 Interviews, will be released in April of 2013. The demonization of Israel is quite common around the world and many experts are referring to this behavior as the new Jew hate.
Why did you decide to write the new book and what did you discover while you were writing?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: In today’s society, which is often called “post-modern,” everything is fragmented. The essence of a demonization process of a person or a country is simple to analyze. One needs a perpetrator who demonizes somebody, one needs a demonizing message to transmit and one needs a vehicle to transmit the demonization. Where it gets complicated is that in the demonization of Israel, there are many categories of perpetrators, among which are Arab and Muslim states, Muslims in the Western world, the extreme left, academics, media, NGO’s, trade unions, politicians, liberal and extremely conservative church leaders etc. This is a sign of contemporary fragmentation of issues.
In ancient days, Christian anti-Semitism had one major demonizing message. The Jews were falsely accused of deicide, the killing of the alleged son of God. Today the messages of demonization and the Jews are greatly fragmented also. The same goes for the transmission tools such as media, the U.N., the social media and so on. I considered that in such a fragmented reality, a book of interviews including very diverse experts from many countries on many subjects, could offer an impression of the many aspects of this demonization and how complex the issue of the current diabolization of Israel and the Jews is.
Wolff Bachner: Do you agree that anti-Israel sentiments are being used to disguise modern Jew hate and how serious is Jew hate today, especially in Europe and the Western nations?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: Classic Jew-hate in Europe manifests itself in various ways. It has greatly increased due to the non-selective mass immigration of Muslims originating from countries where anti-Semitism is endorsed by many. This non-selective mass immigration of Muslims is the largest challenge that European Jewry has encountered in the past 50 years. While the few data we have all show that anti-Semitism coming out of Muslim communities is disproportionately larger than anti-Semitism in the native European communities, the latter are due to their much larger size, still the main source of anti-Semitism.
Wolff Bachner: Do you see a return to the anti-Jewish violence that occurred prior to World War Two?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: One cannot speak here in generalities. It changes from country to country and sometimes even from town to town. In some European countries, pre-war violence against Jews was very minor and it is now already bigger.
Wolff Bachner: Can Jews continue to live safely in Europe with massive Muslim immigration and the hostility towards Israel from many of Europe’s political leaders?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: One cannot speak in generalities here either. The third largest Swedish town, Malmö, is often considered the capital of European anti-Semitism. This is due to the anti-Semitic violence and hate mongering coming out of parts of the local Muslim community, combined with a Social Democrat mayor who is a part-time anti-Semite. The Jewish community there has shrunk considerably in recent years.
Yet in general anyone who lives in a certain location has many considerations to weigh before he or she leaves. Employment is a major issue. Family circumstances are another. Furthermore, if one wants to emigrate, one has to ask whether one’s language, professional and social skills enable one to make a good living elsewhere. We have seen this very clearly under the anti-Semitic and anti-Israel hate mongering regime of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Most of the Venezuelan Jews left the country and moved abroad, but there are still 9,000 Jews who remained there.
Wolff Bachner: After World War Two, the Jewish people regained some of their ancient lands in the Middle East to re-establish the state of Israel. The nations of the world offered the Arabs of the region a country of their own to exist side by side with the Jewish state. The Arab States unanimously refused the offer and nine Arab nations declared war on the Jews within minutes of the final UN vote to create the modern state of Israel. The invading Arab armies swore they would drive the Jews into the sea and promised a bloody massacre that had not been seen since the days of Genghis Khan. Israel, however, won the war and survived to become the only Democracy in the entire Middle East.
Even today, there are people all over the world who claim that Israel has no right to exist. The voices raised against the nation of Israel place 100 percent of the blame on “the evil Zionists” and refuse to admit that Israel’s Palestinian “peace partners” have founding charters that call for the destruction of the state of Israel and the death of every Jew on the planet Earth. The same people who rant against the existence of Israel are willfully ignorant of the simple fact that the terror war against Jews in the Middle East began long before 1948 and the persecution of the Jewish people has continued unabated for almost two millennium.
How can rational people consider the establishment of Israel illegal and immoral, but they have no complaints about Britain and France creating the modern Islamic states of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Saudi Arabia from other portions of the Ottoman Empire?
In many Arab nations, women live as second class citizens, homosexuals are executed in the public square, and non-Muslims are abused and terrorized. In Israel, homosexuals, women, and people of all religions have the freedom to live their lives as they choose. How have Israel’s enemies managed to so completely distort the truth about the Jewish state that Israel has become one of the most hated nations on earth, despite all the progress of the last 64 years?
What can the nation of Israel do to change the world’s opinion, short of giving in to every demand and committing national suicide?
Is there any chance for Israel to even get a fair hearing from the world community or is the nation of Israel facing a future of complete isolation, much like South Africa in the days of racial apartheid?
Is there any realistic hope for peace between Jews and Arabs or are we condemned to a never ending struggle between the Jewish nation of Israel and the Arab world?
How do the people of Israel manage to survive and prosper with their heads held high in the face of such relentless hatred?
Dr. Gerstenfeld: This is a long list of questions. Some of them have already been answered. Others would require an additional interview. Let me just answer one major question. The Israeli government can indeed do much more to counter the demonization campaign against the country.
In my upcoming book I write that “Israel is confronted with a major war by Arab states and their allies. This confrontation is post-modern in nature. Attackers do not always use all of the means at their disposal. This war is enduring, but not continuous, and manifests itself in many fragmented ways. One component is military and violent in nature. It expresses itself through wars, suicide attacks and other terrorist assaults. Since Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005, frequent rocket attacks and other terrorist activity from there are important elements of this kind of warfare.
Another facet of this huge confrontation with Israel is cyber war. Israel’s Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu said in 2012 that many attempts are being made to infiltrate Israel’s computerized systems, largely by Iranian cyber warfare. To combat this, Israel established a National Cyber Directorate in 2011. Netanyahu also stated, “We are building a digital Iron Dome,” indicating that Israel intends to make its system against cyber attacks as effective as the one against rocket strikes. A few weeks ago we saw that major cyber attacks by anonymous hackers against Israeli sites were not very successful.
A third category in this battle is the propaganda war. Due to its inherent fragmentation and the often indirect ways perpetrators phrase their anti-Semitism, the propaganda war is far more opaque than the other two. It is in this last field where our newly established Israeli government should initiate a major defense endeavor, as it is doing in its military and cyber wars.
A Few Final Thoughts:
After interviewing Dr. Gerstenfeld for the second time, I remain convinced that he is a man of peace, who would prefer to see his nation living side by side with her Arab neighbors, working together to turn the Middle East into a modern technological wonder.
There are many obstacles to peace. The relentless hatred expressed by the Islamists is certainly turning the region into battlefield. The threats to Israel from her neighbors, and from Iran, are real and have continued unabated from the moment the UN voted to re-establish the state of Israel in 1948. On the eve of Israeli independence, nine Arab nations invaded Israel and threatened to drive the Jews into the sea. The Arabs lost that war and now, 64 years later, the leader of the Palestinians, Abbas, says the Arabs made a mistake when they rejected a Palestinian state to exist alongside Israel in 1948.
The violent fanaticism of many Arab politicians and Islamic religious leaders stands in direct opposition to the concept of a democratic state. The people of Israel will never agree to a single state under Islamic rule in which Jews are once again forced to live as dhimmis. This is the type of nation the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas would like to see standing in place of the Jewish nation of Israel.
The world seems to have forgotten that Israel was re-established on her ancestral lands by a 33 to 13 vote of the United Nations in 1948, based on the legal rulings of the League of Nations and the San Remo Conference. At the same time land was partitioned from the defeated Ottoman Empire for the state of Israel, the modern nations of Jordan, Syria, Iraq, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia were created. While no one has the slightest concern about the legitimacy of those nations, there are constant calls to dissolve the state of Israel.
Six million Jews didn’t suddenly parachute into Israel. The Jewish people have maintained a continuous presence in Israel for 3500 years and Jews have been the majority in Jerusalem since the first official census in 1852. Jerusalem is mentioned 667 times in the Old Testament and 144 times in the New Testament. Jerusalem is not mentioned once in the Koran.
The idea of ejecting six million Jews from Israel and creating a Palestinian state in its place may be the dream of Israel’s enemies, but it will not take place unless the world is prepared to witness another holocaust. Surely, after 1900 hundred years, enough Jewish blood has been spilled. It is time for the people of the region to reject the endless calls to destroy Israel and learn to live in peace. If the world is willing to accept 56 Islamic states, then there every reason to accept the one single Jewish state.
Am Yisrael Chai – Let all the people of the region learn to live together in peace and brotherhood.
April 19, 2013
Biography of Dr. Manfred Gerstenfeld:
Dr Manfred Gerstenfeld was born in Vienna, grew up in Amsterdam and moved to Israel in 1968. He has a Ph.D. in Environmental Studies from the University of Amsterdam. Gerstenfeld was a board member of the Israel Corporation and other Israeli companies. He was an editor of The Jewish Political Studies Review, co-publisher of the Jerusalem Letter/Viewpoints, Post-Holocaust and Anti-Semitism and Changing Jewish Communities and a member of the council of the Foundation for Research of Dutch Jewry, of which he was formerly the vice-chairman. He is a member of the Board of Fellows at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, a respected Jerusalem based think tank. He was chairman of the Board of Fellows from 2000 until 2012.