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The accidental Zionist

By Gary Gambill - posted Thursday, 7 September 2017


Yes, the answer came back from a CCAS administrator failing to see why a Muslim discussing Lebanon in the wake of Israel's devastating Grapes of Wrath campaign the year before would be a problem, so Mugraby was scheduled to speak at the center.

That was, until the day of the talk, when (I'm guessing) CCAS faculty learned that Mugraby was speaking about the abduction and incommunicado detention of Lebanese and Palestinians by Syrian forces then occupying all but a sliver of Lebanon (with the blessing of most Arab and Western governments). The location was abruptly changed from the CCAS boardroom to on ordinary classroom outside the center. No faculty were in attendance.

At that time, I was doing freelance Web development work (a little html knowledge went a long way back then) for, among others, an NGO stridently critical of Israeli policy vis-à-vis the Palestinians, and got to know its Jewish-American director.

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When I mentioned the Mugraby story, he confided in me that a longtime Palestinian friend of his had been imprisoned incommunicado for many years in Hafez Assad's Syria, which then held far more Palestinians in its prisons than Israel, and under far worse conditions.

Then why focus on Israel, I asked. "I can't do anything for him," he explained.

Alongside the antisemitism and the money, this idea of Israel as the low-hanging fruit for do-gooders wanting to improve the Middle East was the third foundation stone in what became a vast conspiracy of silence about how the region works during the 1990s.

The well-intentioned flocked in droves to the belief that Israeli- Palestinian peace was achievable provided Israel made the requisite concessions, and that this would liberate the Arab-Islamic world from a host of other problems allegedly arising from it: bloated military budgets, intolerance of dissent, Islamic extremism, you name it.

Why tackle each of these problems head on when they can be alleviated all at once when Israel is brought to heel? Twenty years later, the Middle East is suffering the consequences of this conspiracy of silence.

I don't have a particularly rose-colored view of Israel's history (or that of any other nation-state, including my own), nor do I put much stock in the religio-cultural attachments that make many Israelis resistant to sweeping concessions.

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I just don't buy into the "theory of everything" where Israel is concerned. The particulars of when and how Israelis and Palestinians work out their differences don't matter that much, and insofar as they do Netanyahu is among the least of the complications getting there.

That makes me a hardline Zionist, liberal friends tell me.

All right, I guess.

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This article was first published in The Jerusalem Post.



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About the Author

Gary C Gambill is an Associate Fellow at the Middle East Forum.

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All articles by Gary Gambill

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