Pushing ‘Palestine’ at UCLA


The United Nations General Assembly’s decision to grant “non-member state observer” status to the Palestinians in November, 2012 was the latest salvo in the never ending quest to create a mythical state of “Palestine” unburdened by concessions to coexistence with Israel. A recent panel discussion, “Palestine & the UN,” at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) took up the subject with mixed results. Sponsored by the Center for Near Eastern Studies (CNES), the Younes and Soraya Nazarian Center for Israel Studies, and the Burkle Center for International Relations, the event was well-attended, with an audience of approximately 100 comprised of students and community members.

Asli Bali, a professor at the UCLA School of Law not known for providing a balanced approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict, was in this instance the more objective voice on the panel. She was the only speaker to point out that this was not the Palestinians’ first time declaring statehood at the UN and, she added, “It may not well be the last time.”

Making a solid case that the Palestinians’ bolstered status is largely symbolic, she noted that Fatah “put itself back on the map” by finding “a non-military way” to score a success. Employing a term often associated with critics of Islamism, she summed it up as a successful example of “lawfare.”

She went on to characterize Egypt as a “patron” of Hamas in the Arab-Israeli conflict, but pointed to a fissure in the relationship. Referring to Israel’s Operation Pillar of Defense in November, 2012, she stated:

Egypt was extremely upset about the seven-day operation that took place in Gaza, and what they were upset with was Hamas. [They] were pressing Hamas to absolutely unilaterally desist in what was, at the end of the day, pinprick attacks in any case, but to unilaterally desist.

By “pinprick attacks” Bali was referring presumably to the thousands of rockets indiscriminately fired at Israel’s populace over the last decade. Southern Israel, in particular, has been hit with over 8,000 rockets since Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, resulting in psychological trauma, injuries, and death.

Steven Spiegel, director of UCLA’s Center for Middle East Development, identified himself as the panelist presenting Israel’s side, but was, in fact, less neutral than Bali. He even announced at one point: “My agenda is to get Israel outside of the West Bank.”

Spiegel spent much of his time lambasting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israel’s “right wing” for not promoting peace. “There are many Netanyahus,” Spiegel said, arguing that Netanyahu has alienated many Israeli voters and Western states. “Israelis are tired of paying for settlements,” he added, suggesting that if Netanyahu joins forces with right-wing elements “the Orthodox will be asking him for money for his Yeshivas every couple of days.”

It is worth noting that it was right-wing Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin who, along with Egyptian President Anwar Sadat, reached a peace accord that would be difficult to reproduce in today’s rapidly Islamizing Middle East.

Spiegel suggested that a lack of assurance from the Palestinian Authority ultimately caused several nations to abstain from voting in the November, 2012 decision, pointing to what he characterized as a well-founded concern over how the Palestinians would use, or abuse, the International Criminal Court as a weapon against Israel.

Arguing that in the days preceding Israeli elections, Palestinians often engage in “physical violence” that sways the Israeli population to vote for the right-wing establishment, Spiegel added,

It is true that Abu Mazen almost blew it by announcing a few days ago, right before the election, that the Zionists and the Nazis had been in cahoots in the 1930s—not something to make Israeli voters feel good about the Palestinians.

Contradicting his original theory, he concluded that, “it wasn’t something as dramatic as a UN vote and it wasn’t a physical attack, so it does seem, from what we know, that the Israeli voters ignored that series of stupidities.”

Spiegel suggested that Israeli society is largely indifferent to, or even supportive of, the Palestinian bid: “Most Israelis of any stripe would accept, if the Palestinians wanted it, a situation where the Palestinians were the Vatican and the Israelis were Italy.” Currently, the other UN non-member state is the Holy See, also known as the Vatican.

Despite Spiegel’s claim to represent “Israel’s side,”  he proffered an extremely narrow view of Israeli society, portraying right-wing elements as radical and, to some extent, tarring centrist Israelis with the same brush by suggesting that Yair Lapid—founder and chair of Yesh Atid, the second largest party in the Knesset—is “no dove.”

Although the panel discussion was indicative of the obsession in Middle East studies with blindly pushing the “Palestine” narrative—often at the expense of Israel—in contrast to the vast majority of CNES-sponsored events involving the Arab-Israeli conflict, this one was uncharacteristically subdued. At some point, reality has to set in, even in academia.

Reut R. Cohen is a journalist, researcher, and photographer. You can follow her at www.reutrcohen.com. She wrote this article for Campus Watch, a project of the Middle East Forum.

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  • http://www.adinakutnicki.com AdinaK

    "Palestine", a nation which has never existed in history – http://adinakutnicki.com/2012/09/27/another-arab-… – is the left's obsession, especially academia's. In any case, without the tutelage, financial and attendant support from the ISM (terror) hydra, none of this would be taking place (at least on such a massive scale) on US campuses, as well as in Europe too.

    Here is the crux – http://adinakutnicki.com/2013/02/03/the-nexus-bet

    Working overtime to beat them back….

    Adina Kutnicki, Israel – http://adinakutnicki.com/about/

    • Glennd1

      What does it matter that "Palestine" never existed as a nation in history? Nobody ever claims it did – it's a straw man argument. And it does nothing to relieve the Zionists of the moral guilt they shoulder due to their ethnic cleansing of the Arab Muslims living in 400 villages, towns and cities in Palestine in '48. It's this immoral act – against the terms of the U.N. partition agreement, the British Mandate for Palestine and the original Balfour declaration – that causes people like me to reject any moral basis for the U.S. support of Israel. It has nothing to do with whether there was ever a Palestinian people or nation. It's a false argument from the outset. Many in Israel admit what I claim is so every day, so don't even dare call me an anti-semite. I'm also even more virulently opposed to Islamism, so don't call me a Muslim sympathizer either. I'm a right winger too, more libertarian, but have never voted for a Dem in my life so don't call me a leftist either. I just have read the actual history of the region. You should try it sometime – or do you just reject what people like Benny Morris and Shlomo Ben Ami admit is true about 1948?

  • Shukhair

    Spiegel is a disgrace who should get himself circumcized so that he can at last be a real Moslem.

  • http://frontpage richard sherman

    Jews have been murdered by these “pinprick” attacks. Bali and her family should receive similar pinpricks. She can then spend eternity with Hitler and Mengele.

  • Brujo Blanco

    If the Palestinians would give up violence they would solve all of their problems. However, their Jew hatred is so pervasive and pathological it is not likely to happen. If the enemies of Israel succeed they will kill every Jew in the Mideast an then they would go after the rest of the Jews. This Islamic movement of death will keep going until they are stopped.

  • κατεργάζομαι

    Indeed!

    When King Hussein of Jordan murdered 10,000 "Palestinians" in September 1970, no one cared about those "Palestinians."

    • Raymond in DC

      That fighting continued into 1971. I was in Israel at the time and a number of Palestinian fighters, fleeing Jordan's forces, crossed into the "occupied West Bank", surrendering to Israeli soldiers. Better to stay alive, they must have thought, and fight another day.

    • Drakken

      I hate to correct you my friend, but ole Hussein offed over 20,000 of the savages and then Hussein kicked out the rest to Lebenon.

  • Willy Rho

    Palestine is a Muslim creation to be a thorn in the back of Israel. They will not let any "Palestinian" be a citizen of any Arab nation for the sole reason to harm Israel and the Jewish People. As long as there are Jews and Christians, Muslims are Not a Real Religion of importance, because it is outshined by both of its source Origins. It is a mish-mash of Judaism and Christianity and to know either of them is to know that Islam is NOT FROM THE ONE TRUE GOD, JEH-VAH.

  • SCREW SOCIALISM

    Remind the socialists of UCLA that US Senator Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in California in 1968 by a "paleswinian".

  • SCREW SOCIALISM

    JORDAN is "palestine" – and that's on the East Bank of the Jordan River.

    Tell the socialists of UCLA that if they are truly against Occupation, any member of UCLA who is not a Native American, that means a European, African or Asian, is a BRUTAL, RACIST OCCUPIER of Native American land and should return to their ancestral home.

    And the only reason the Spanish language is so prevalent in Latin and South America, is due to European Spanish Imperialism.

  • garyfouse

    Good report Reut. I wasn't there, but it sounds like this was another one of those "balanced" events where the Israeli side is "represented" by what I would call a reverse ringer.

    Or was it more like the Harlem Globetrotters against the Washington Generals?

  • Raymond in DC

    Unfortunately, it's not just UCLA. Or Brooklyn College.

    No longer confident of what was happening on the campus of McGill University in Montreal, where I received my first degree, I've been holding back my alumni contributions for a while. I've since confirmed just how much has changed since my day. There's now a major Islamic Studies department with, based on the names, only Muslim "scholars" setting the agenda. (I don't suspect they'll be subjecting the Quran to "critical studies" any time soon.) There's also an Inter-University Consortium for Arab and Middle East Studies (ICAMES), but I don't find listed a single Israeli university within said consortium. An affiliated organization focuses on Palestinian refugees.

    So it's indeed changed, but from my perspective, not for the better.

  • Tim

    Too biased of an article, with too much fire-breathing people-hating anti-Palestinian garbge, to even comment meaningfully. It even refers to Palestine as mythical and then puts it into quotation marks. Hello, it is a freaking UNESCO member and observer at the UN and the borders are clear (even though occupied). I mean, seriously, trying to score points at home? Does this work with the ladies? What is your angle? All I read was hate.

    • objectivefactsmatter

      "Hello, it is a freaking UNESCO member and observer at the UN"

      Which simply means that the UN is almost as corrupt as the PA. Google OIC and read a little before you say such silly things like using the UN as some kind of legitimate authority we should actually have respect for.

      "All I read was hate."

      How do you feel about hate? Do you love hate? Or are you angry about what you perceive and complain about? That's a small example of how we feel about the hate of Islamic supremacists and their destructive murderous lies. I doubt anyone whose words you're reading has ever murdered anyone. You support lying murderers.

      I say that with a genuine love for the facts to be known.

    • Ghostwriter

      Are you living in the same world as we are,Tim? The majority of Palestinians celebrated the deaths of Americans on 9/11. They squandered any sympathy I may have ever had for them by their continued support of terrorism.

  • h w

    i like israel, that is all you should know.

  • G T

    If you love Israel, then you learn to love. Because the hate ain't helping. Go secular!

  • PAthena

    Tim, Why should Israelis not hate those who would destroy them?
    On "Palestine" and "Palestinian": The names "Palestine" and "Palestinian" have been synonymous with "land of the Jews" and "Jew" since the Roman Emperor Hadrian in 135 A.D., after defeating the last Jewish rebellion under Bar Kochba, changed the name of "Judea" to "Palestina" in order to eradicate all memory of Judea and the Jews. (He outlawed Judaism, and changed the name of Jerusalem to "Aelia Capitolina," "Aelius" being his gens name.)
    Calling Arabs "Palestinians" is the effect to the invention of the "Palestine Liberation Organization" (P.L.O.) by Gamal Nasser, ruler of Egypt, and the Soviet Union (both haters of Jews) in Cairo in 1964. When the P.L.O. massacred the Israeli athletes at the Olympic Games in Munich in 1972, Arabs then became known as "Palestinians."

    • objectivefactsmatter

      "Tim, Why should Israelis not hate those who would destroy them? "

      It's just a knee-jerk leftist accusation designed to throw off those who actually care about Western civilization since we're not supposed to hate irrationally.

      Tim obviously has a lot to learn about history and life. But that's OK. We have no idea how old he is. Maybe he'll learn after reading up a bit.

  • Drakken

    Effing fakestinians deserve every nakba that befalls them.

  • Walter Sieruk

    Lets be clear just who are the "Palestinians" ? They are the Muslim/Arabs of that area in the Middle East. By calling themselves "Pakestinians" they seem to feel that gives them some kind of claim on that land. What an delusion they live in ! There was a time in the in the lat century and before that which anyone lived in that area in land in the Middle East, Arab and Jew went by the title Palestinian. Moreover by Divine Right the Jewish people have every have right to all that land. "For the Lord has chosen Jacob for Himself. Israel for His special treasure." Psalm 135 4. [NKJV]