Former Canadian Ambassador to Israel Jon Allen condemns Israel for defending itself

Does Allen devote any thought to the notion that a society that can't tolerate the other peacefully assembling is not yet able or willing to make peace with the Jewish polity?


On May 18, 2021 former Canadian Ambassador to Israel Jon Allen's opinion piece, entitled "How long did Israel think Palestinians would put up with their current situation?" ran in the Globe and Mail.

The body starts off well enough, with Allen acknowledging that nothing justifies Hamas's homicidal rocket bombardments against Israel, recognizing such attacks as pure political opportunism, and lamenting the pogroms against Jews—and vigilante actions against Arabs—in Israel. Allen also admits that the latest rampage against the Jewish state undermines the belief that there is a Palestinian partner for peace.

Unfortunately it is all downhill from there. Allen condemns Israel for being realistic and active—if resignedly so—about its survival rather than sharing his wishful thinking that it has a good faith partner in negotiating or arriving at any sensible resolution.

Allen writes that he "disagrees with" the view that there is no Palestinian partner for peace, then moves on to discuss other matters. His sole argument for his position appears to be that the current situation is awful. Few reasonable people would disagree with that position, but no one has been able to improve on it, and not for want of trying.

Allen makes the same mistake many Israelis (and others) have made in believing that because peace is desperately necessary, that peace must be possible, in the current conditions. Until a Palestinian leadership emerges that accepts the right of the Jewish people to self-determination in their ancestral homeland, it is not.

Allen introduces the Israeli barricade of the Damascus Gate as the precipitating factor to the riots, as if this action was the originating provocation. Why, though, does Allen neglect to enquire or write why the Israeli police took such action? There is ample evidence the Israeli police were responding to violent assaults on visibly Jewish worshippers.

Does Allen believe that violent attacks on Jewish worshippers are not provocative, but defensive measures against such actions are? Does he believe that the situation would be the same, let alone better, if Israel was not in charge of the site? Is he not aware of the long history of abuse and destruction of Jewish holy sites prior to Israel taking the Old City?

Allen reveals the shallowness of his argument when he discusses the Sheikh Jarrah case. He—a lawyer himself—blithely dismisses the actual facts and jurisprudence of matter, which has been litigated for years, as "legal technicalities." This characterization is vapid and meretricious. The facts and law of a case matter.  

There is a long-standing dispute about whether squatters must pay rent or not to continue living in houses they occupied after Jewish residents were expelled in a war of attempted annihilation against the infant Jewish state. It is a testament to the independent Israeli justice system that the affected parties have enjoyed the right to challenge this administrative decision—right up to the highest court in the land.

Allen writes that the Israeli march celebrating Jerusalem Day "did not help," as if a peaceful and joyous celebration of the reunification of the city and colossal expansion of religious freedom constitutes some kind of factor explaining away Hamas's actions.

Does Allen devote any thought to the notion that a society that can't tolerate the other peacefully assembling without descending into an orgy of violent Jew-baiting might be an entity which is not yet able or willing to make peace with the Jewish polity?

Allen's treatment of East Jerusalem is rather troubling. Allen's starting point would have the Western Wall, the holiest Jewish site in the world, as "occupied Palestinian territory," notwithstanding the fact there was no Palestinian polity at the time Israel captured the land in a defensive war in 1967. The only reason Jewish "settlement" there was interrupted in the first instance was because the Jordanians rendered the area Judenrein between 1949-1967.

Does Allen ever contemplate that a basis point such as he has identified might be less than "even-handed"? Does he ever wonder why there are dozens of mixed Arab-Jewish communities in Israel, but none in the lands of any of its neighbours?

Allen writes that there has been no path to peace or even glimmer of hope to that in the last 12 years since Netanyahu's second premiership began. This comment is patently absurd. Actually, Netanyahu has made peace during his tenure with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan, and Morocco, and notable inroads with Oman, Mauritania, and Saudi Arabia.

Netanyahu has publicly and repeatedly accepted a Palestinian Arab state—one presumes even Allen does not delude himself about the number of Jews who will be tolerated there—along with a majority but by no means exclusively Jewish state. Netanyahu's door has always been open to negotiations. The Palestinian side has yet to reciprocate.

Might Allen consider that it could be difficult for Israel to make peace with an entity that is horribly fragmented, split between one openly genocidal kleptocracy (Hamas) and another (the Palestinian Authority) that is marginally more subtle in its violent hostility?

Mahmoud Abbas, the leader of the "moderate" side, can't go to one of the two territories he ostensibly controls without being assassinated by his own subjects. He's also 85.5, has a literal Ph.D. in Holocaust denial, and is in the seventeenth year of his four year term.

Even by the standards of the often fraught Middle East, this matrix is not a recipe for great success.

I would ask Allen, how long would he tolerate being attacked by an organization and government whose avowed aim is the the murder of him, his family, and people? How many times more, after, 1947/8 (UN partition plan), 1967 (Allon Plan), 2000 (Clinton/Camp David), 2008 (Olmert), 2020 (Trump) will he persist in ignoring Palestinian rejectionism?

Popular (if apparently unsubstantiated) lore holds that Albert Einstein, himself an ardent Zionist, once described insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. It is time—in fact, it is far past time—for Allen to disabuse himself of the dysfunctional and dangerous notion to which he and others stubbornly cling: That the Israel-Palestinian conflict is some kind of territorial dispute between actors with the same values and can be solved as such.

Allen and his ilk would do much better to acknowledge the naked truth: the recent conflict is but another salvo in the long existential conflict between a democratic, peace-seeking, and Jewish state and a polity that refuses to acknowledge the right of the other side to live in dignity, security, and peace. It may come as news to Allen, but it's rather difficult for a non-masochistic, self-respecting person or entity to meet half-way a unit dedicated to the former's utter destruction.


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