Of course, Benjamin Netanyahu did not say that—or any such thing. Netanyahu, as the leader of the Jabotinskyite Likud movement understands that Israel must remain a Jewish and democratic state that respects all its citizens, including Arabs, many of whom serve honorably in the courts, the Knesset, and elsewhere. But imagine the outrage if Netanyahu had said such a thing—we have seen how when third-string Knesset backbenchers make even less offensive remarks it generates New York Times headlines and much Jewish handwringing about supposed Israeli “racism,” when, of course, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is a national one not a racial one at all
By contrast, when Mahmoud Abbas, briefing “mostly Egyptian journalists,” according to the report reprinted in the Jerusalem Post, imagined an Israeli-free (but let's face it, basically Jew-free) Palestinian state, few mainstream media outlets decided this was news. This Outrage Gap, this magical ray that renders Palestinian bigotry and hate-mongering invisible, has perverted the so-called “peace process” for decades, and has already caused imbalance in this latest round of negotiations—which, despite my frustrations and fears, I desperately hope will succeed.
To be fair, this is Abbas’s full sentence: "In a final resolution, we would not see the presence of a single Israeli—civilian or soldier—on our lands." This is, of course, one of the fundamental assumptions guiding peace talks for decades, that the Jews will leave what the Palestinians have convinced the world is their territory exclusively, while Arabs will stay in Israel. That assumption follows the guidelines of the original British Mandate after World War I, which created a Jew-free Transjordan, east of the Jordan River, and envisioned carving out some territory west of the Jordan for a Jewish state.
Let me be clear. My vision of Israel’s future includes all of Israel’s current citizens and their future descendants, Jewish, Christian and Muslim. Moreover, I understand that a future Palestinian state will require displacing more Israelis from some territory, as was done with Yamit after the Egyptian Peace Treaty and was done in Gaza—and we forget—part of the West Bank, with the Disengagement. I also believe that the most viable arrangement with the Palestinians will respect current demographic realities as much as possible, trying to draw viable boundaries that minimize the amount of inconvenience to people living on both sides of the Green Line—that improvised boundary from 1949.
But the free pass given Abbas on these remarks, like the free pass given to his odious dissertation trying to Nazify Zionism and minimize the Holocaust, tells a deeper, darker tale. There are vast armies of Palestinian enablers in the West who exaggerate every Israeli imperfection and soft-pedal serious Palestinian evils. This asymmetry results in always blaming Israel—even when the Palestinians turn from negotiating back to terror in 2000—and always putting the onus on Israel to make the first move—as evidenced by Israel’s major concession this week in freeing murderers with blood on their hands. This outrage gap holds democratic Israel, with all its imperfections, to an impossibly high standard, while rarely holding Palestinians up to even the most minimum standards when it comes to judging their undemocratic procedures, their appalling human rights record, their hostile attitudes toward gays, women, Jews, or any non-Palestinian, non-males.
Clearly, this imbalance hurts Israel, undermining Israel’s standing, alienating bystanders, putting extra-pressure on Israel even from natural allies in the United States and Europe. But this imbalance hurts Palestinians too, in at least two central ways.
First, I think reflects what I call liberal condescension. I hold Palestinian politics and society up to high standards out of respect; giving Palestinians a free pass, be it when they terrorize or demonize, shows contempt for them, assuming that somehow they cannot live up to basic standards of decency.
Second, all this enabling feeds Palestinian extremism and Israeli extremism as well. Indulging Palestinian bigotry, oppression, fanaticism, and violence helps make the Middle East more incendiary, undermines Israeli moderates, and fuels the fanatics.
Just as many critics of Israel insist they are true friends trying to save Israel’s soul, true friends of the Palestinians in the West would start by publicizing Abbas’s remarks—and then repudiating them as contrary to the kind of country he should be trying to build and the kind of tone he should be trying to set in negotiations.