The latest UNESCO resolution on “Occupied Palestine” is both nothing and something.
It is nothing because it changes nothing. It cannot render “null and void” Israel’s possession of Jerusalem or its status as our capital city (echoing Hamas’ new document of principles, p.11). It cannot make ma’arat hamachpela or kever rachel “Palestinian” sites. And it cannot make UNESCO something rather than the nothing it has become, because its passage of a series of similar resolutions shows that it is a creature of anti-Israel politics rather than an organization to promote international cooperation.
On the other hand, the resolution adds to the massive accumulation of documents, maps, slogans, manifestos and resolutions in UN agencies, churches, and universities – none of which in themselves change anything – that declare that we, the Jewish people in their sovereign state, are nothing. A historian of the 30th century might come upon this pile of documents and believe that there is a country called “Palestine” that is “occupied,” although there would be a far smaller collection of sources testifying to the existence of a state called “Israel.” They might wonder how nothing can occupy something.
Although millions of Arabs, other Muslims, Europeans, Ha’aretz writers, and other enemies of Israel have been so far unable to dislodge the tenacious grip of the Jewish people from their land by force or the combination of force and guile called “diplomacy,” they have been able to produce thousands of tons of paper attesting to the proposition that we don’t exist, and to the extent that we do, we oughtn’t to.
When it comes to mass production of “content,” we can’t compete. There is a UN Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, as well as a Division for Palestinian Rights which maintains the United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine. And that’s just the UN. Think about the thousands of journalists and academics around the world who at this very moment are writing articles and publishing papers that explain how everything from Palestinian honor killings to American police shooting black people is Israel’s fault.
News coverage from world media is abysmal. Nobody expects good treatment from Al Jazeera, owned by our friend the Emir of Qatar; and of course the New York Times is terrible, possibly thanks to its historic discomfort with the fact of its Jewish ownership. Reuters and AP are also very problematic. I could go on, but then I’d have to mention my favorite, America’s National Public Radio.
Don’t forget the NGOs, both the international ones like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, and the Israeli ones like B’tselem, Breaking the Silence, ad infinitum. All of them get much of their money – millions of dollars annually – from entities hostile to Israel, and the funders get what they pay for: countless reports and testimonies accusing Israel of war crimes and oppression of Palestinian Arabs.
What can we do? There are just a few million of us, and there are more than a billion of them. How can we possibly keep up with and counteract the flow of words, memes, columns, Facebook posts, movies and TV programs, and every other imaginable expression of the simple idea that motivates them: Jews out!
Perhaps we don’t need to. All human understanding requires discrimination. We receive a flood of data through our senses, some of it relevant to our survival, some of it interesting in some way, and some of it worthless. Our job is to pick out the important stuff, the “signal,” and reject the “noise.” If we can’t do that, we flail around, unable to take the actions necessary for our survival. What applies to individuals also applies to states. I’ve been saying for years that we have to fight harder to win the information war, but maybe I’ve been wrong all along. Maybe the object of the campaign against us is to upset us, to distract us – to hide the signal in a plethora of noise. If that is true, then the less we play this game, the less damage it will do.
Here are some ideas:
Let’s start by kicking the UN out of Jerusalem, as Minister of Culture and Sport Miri Regev suggested yesterday. The UN has been squatting in Jerusalem’s Armon Hanatziv neighborhood since 1967, engaging in illegal construction and anti-Israel activities. This is a perfect time to teach the UN who is actually sovereign in Jerusalem (hint: it isn’t them and it isn’t the non-state of “Palestine”). The less we have to do with the UN, the less noise they introduce into our channel.
Then we can continue by modifying the NGO Transparency Law to give it some real teeth. An NGO that violates the law is fined a measly $7,500, a drop in the bucket for an organization like Breaking the Silence with an annual income (2015) of $1.3 million. Personally, I would like to see all foreign funding of political organizations banned, period. If an Israeli NGO can’t survive on Israeli contributions, then maybe it doesn’t need to survive. Shut down their noise output!
Israel worries too much about all these words on all this paper. There is a serious lack of housing in and around Jerusalem. That’s the signal. We should ignore the noise and build some more. The UN will condemn Israel, the NGOs will have fits, the NY Times will write a critical editorial, but what else will be new? We could even use some of that land the UN is squatting on.
Israel must control the land area of Judea and Samaria and its airspace for simple geographic reasons. Any “solution” needs to be one that recognizes this. Another signal. Why do we waste time and energy and make dangerous concessions like freeing prisoners for the sake of an agreement to give up control of this land? Why do we let the noise obscure the signal?
Some decades ago I believed that we were headed toward world government. Like it did in Blackhawk Comics, the UN would police the world, and international forces would crush evildoers before they got started. Nations would wither away (well, maybe not the USA!), and the great systems of capitalism and communism would evolve toward each other, ultimately to reconcile. Nationalism, being irrational, would also die out (it didn’t occur to me to wonder about the Zionism I strongly supported), to be replaced with peaceful coexistence.
In hindsight, it’s obvious that this vision ignores basic facts about human nature which (thank goodness) prevented it from coming to pass. Today the Soviet Union is gone and the US is struggling to survive, perhaps as divided as it was prior to the Civil War. The international institutions that were to have given rise to the utopian world government are dying. The EU is on its last legs and the UN has passed from marginal usefulness to almost total parasitism, a parasite that its hosts can’t bring themselves to kill. The Blackhawk Squadron will not take off again to save the world.
The world is changing, getting less rational, more dangerous and more fragmented. Nobody will give artificial respiration to weak nations in a world dominated by Putins, Xi Jinpings and (maybe) Trumps. Israel won’t be protected by international organizations or laws, even if they were not subverted politically and turned against us. And it can’t depend on the US, which has its own problems that will only get worse.
What will matter in the future, and already matter today, are facts on the ground and the ability to deter aggression. This is the real “signal.” The posturing of international diplomacy is just part of the noise that is intended to obscure it.