Reclaiming the frame
One of the major achievements of anti-Israel advocates has been to focus attention on Israel’s presence and actions in Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”) and Gaza. It has become widely accepted, even amongst Israel’s friends, that Israel simply being in the Territories is the cause of the conflict and Jewish communities are a positive crime. The obvious anachronism of this view (the conflict existed before Israel entered the Territories, so her presence there can hardly be the cause of the conflict) does little to weaken a force drawn from repetition.
Recently the BDS movement has sought to use the Territories as a beach head to a full-fledged campaign to boycott Israeli products and services. Produce and products from the Territories are forbidden by some European governments from bearing the “Made in Israel” label. At the time of writing, the South African government is proposing to have such products labeled as being from the “Occupied Palestinian Territories.”
Attacks on Israel’s presence in the Territories provides the perfect cover for attempts to delegitimatize Israel in general. It’s a short step from defining Israel as being a criminal state (for the “illegal occupation”) to being an illegitimate state (due to it being “born in sin”). It’s also a tactic with enormous potential to divide supporters of Israel; continued debate on the future of these areas is a real issue in Israeli politics and it’s therefore neither desirable nor possible to forbid Diaspora Jews from taking sides on the issue.
The way to draw the poison from the debate is to change the way in which it is framed. The discourse is currently framed as:
- Israel is illegally occupying an area that belongs to someone else.
- Israel must immediately withdraw, because every moment she remains there is another crime.
- When Israel eventually, reluctantly, repents of her crime of occupation and does withdraw, she can expect neither goodwill nor concessions as a result.
We have to reframe the discourse so that:
- Israel has a strong legal and historical claim to the Territories.
- Israel is in control of the heartland of the Jewish people and the cradle of our civilization. This is an area that we claim as ours.
- Notwithstanding her strong legal and historical claim to the Territories as part of the homeland, Israel has already compromised on their status and is willing to discuss further concessions if it will promote the even greater value of peace.
In short, we need to transform the discussion from one about whether settlements are legal or not, to one about whether they are a good idea or not.
(I’m breaking with my usual format to write much more than usual post on this topic. Since I’m suggesting a rather radical shift in the way we discuss the issue I think we need to look at the issue in more depth than can fit into one post. I’ll post two more installments of this over the next couple of weeks. If you’ve grasped the essential idea, you can stop here. If you want more detail, please read on.)
1 Boycott, divestment and sanctions.