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Kristof and Double-Standards By: Seth Frantzman
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Nicholas Kristof spends most of his columns reminding us of the evils of sex slavery, which is one of the greatest of evils, and searching for other motifs to write about around the world. It was no surprise that this magician of the pen would eventually find his way to Israel and turn his focus on the Palestinians. It was no surprise that Kristof would eventually devolve into the old clichés: "what Israel needs from America isn't more love but tougher love." It is not particularly surprising that he was inspired to write this after having been seduced by Palestinian children and the sight of the wall. What is most surprising is that his views on Israel now border on the most extreme hypocrisy.    

In a July 24, 2008, column in the New York Times by Nicholas Kristof, entitled "Tough Love for Israel," he explores the Jewish settlers in Hebron and those who defend their right to be there. He notes that one defender of the Jews in Hebron e-mailed him the following: "Jews lived in Hebron for 1,800 years continuously...until their community was murdered in 1929 by their Arab neighbors. The Jews in Hebron today — those 'settlers' — have reclaimed Jewish property." Kristof will have none of it and replies, "True, Jews have deep ties to Hebron, just as Christians do to Jerusalem and Bethlehem, but none of these bonds confer any right to live in these places or even visit them." 

This is an interesting view, but it contradicts  Kristof's view  that the Palestinians have any inherent right to one inch of square land in the West Bank, Jerusalem, or Israel. 

Kristof is self-contradictory because in the exact same article, when discussing the security fence built by Israel, he gives Israel permission to "build a fence. But construct it on the 1967 borders, not Palestinian land — and especially not where it divides Palestinian farmers from their land."  Kristof tells the reader at one point that historic ties to a land do not confer any basic rights to that land. Then he tells us that the Palestinians have some right to "Palestinian land." This is the essence of a double-standard. One people are said to have a "land" that is irrevocably theirs; another people have no such rights.

Double-standards are the stock-in-trade of those who lash Israel. In the latest issue of the Jerusalem Quarterly which is published by the Institute for Jerusalem Studies, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Institute for Palestine Studies, there is a review of Raz Kletter's Just Past? The Making of Israeli Archeology. Here we are served up the typical tripe about how Israeli archeology has been perverted by nationalism and the search for a forged Jewish past in the Holy Land. (Raz is an employee of the Israeli Antiquities authority and his book is unbiased in this arena, reviews of it are another thing.) This reminds one of Nadia Abu El-Haj's infamous dissertation at Duke university where she argued not only that Israel has used archeology for nationalism but that destroying Jewish archeological sites such as the Tomb of Joseph is part of the Palestinian struggle (perhaps the way the Taliban's destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas was a part of their "struggle" against Buddhism).

Israel's opponents attempt to prove that, because Israeli archeology has traditionally had more interest in Jewish sites than, say, Muslim ones, any Jewish history of the Holy land is complete fabrication. However, this, too, is subject to a double-standard. The double-standard, like Kristof's, begins and ends with the Palestinians. Those who critique Israeli archeology claim that it ignores the "Palestinian" history of Israel. As Jane Kramer asserts in an article entitled "The Petition," which appears in the April 2008 issue of The New Yorker, it ignores the 1,400 years of "indigenous" Palestinian life in the Holy Land.

But herein lies the lie. Palestinian archeology, which exists at Palestinian universities such as Bir Zeit and at a newly inaugurated museum in Gaza, is predicated entirely upon a nationalist interpretation of the past. If we examine the book Atlas of Palestine published in 2000 by the Applied Research Institute of Jerusalem, an amorphous sounding organization that is devoted to the Palestinian cause, we find that in a 5,000 year chronology of the history of "Palestine," the Jews only lived in the country for a 103 year period (1000-923 B.C. and 612-586 B.C.). This is a deliberate fabrication that purposely ignores the Hashmonean and Herodian periods of Jewish rule from the 3rd century B.C to the 1st century A.D. It also purposely makes the periods of Jewish rule at the time of King's Solomon and David and the period of the Kingdom of Judah and Israel smaller and emphasizes that "Philistines" and other people were constantly inhabiting the country. The Canaanite habitation of Palestine, according to this chronology, apparently lasted thousands of years. This chronology distorts the history in order to emphasize the Palestinian connection to the land. (Palestinians claim variously to be descended from Arabs, Philistines, and Canaanites.) This is a nationalist interpretation of the history of the Holy Land. Yet the publisher of this nationalism is funded, according to NGO Monitor, by the EU, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), Canadian government's International Development Research Centre, and USAID under the auspices that it is a 'research institute.'

Herein lies the problem: those who condemn Israeli archeology also support the likes of Nadia Abu al Haj and the Applied Research Institute. They claim that bias by Israeli archeologists in any search for a Jewish past is part of an attempt to 'cover up' the real history of the land and yet at the same time they applaud Palestinian attempts to erase any Jewish connection to the land of Israel. This is the classic double-standard, and like Kristof's contradictions, it is part and parcel to the problem. 

Standards must be the same for all peoples and all nations. The Palestinians may have rights to the Temple Mount and Jerusalem and Hebron. They may have a fair interest in exaggerating their attachment to the land; that is fair.  Equally fair is the Jews' interest in their history and archeological sites. In addition, the Jewish right to their holy sites is as much a right as others have. If nationalist-inspired archeology is improper, then it must be improper for all.  Until those who critique Israel are able to see the flaws in their logic -- or base their arguments on logic rather than hatred -- the criticism must fall on deaf ears, for it is criticism whose basis is in contradictions, hypocrisy, and double-standards. Tough love for Israel should only come when the same tough love is being given to others.


Seth Frantzman is doing his doctorate in Jerusalem at The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. His articles have appeared in the Jerusalem Post, Middle East Quarterly and the Tucson Weekly. He lives in Jerusalem.


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