Left-leaning Israeli journalists say their experience in Doha has sobered them to the reality of the Israeli-Arab conflict.
It was supposed to be a “New Middle East,” one in which the voices of the people override those of belligerent governments, resulting in regional reconciliation based on mutual benefit.
But Israelis are starting to realize that was wishful thinking. They made a similar mistake in their near-euphoric approach to the “Oslo Accords” in the mid-1990s.
This time around Israelis have the World Cup in Qatar to thank for sobering them up.
Israel does not have official diplomatic ties with Qatar, but Israelis were granted permission to attend the world’s biggest sporting event. And the atmosphere presumably created by the Abraham Accords led many to believe they’d be welcomed, or at least treated with newfound respect.
They were wrong.
Prior to the opening of the World Cup, Israeli fans were instructed to conceal their national identity as much as possible.
The many Israeli journalists who traveled to Doha were of course unable to do so, and a steady stream of reports reveal they have met with widespread hostility, and some have even hastily returned to Israel for fear of bodily harm.
This has resulted in those journalists, and hopefully their many Israeli viewers, waking up to the fact that genuine peace is not on the horizon, and likely won’t be in this or the next generation.
A prime example of this came from Raz Shechnik, a correspondent for Yediot Ahronot, Israel’s largest paid newspaper.
After being repeatedly dismissed and abused by not only Palestinian, but nearly all Arab fans, Shechnik wrote on Twitter:
“I became sober-minded here, for the first time. I was always a centrist, liberal and open minded, with a great desire for peace first and foremost. I always thought the problem [between Arabs and Jews] was the governments, the leaders—including ours. But in Qatar I learned just how pervasive the [Arab] hatred is among the people on the street, how much they wish to wipe us off the face of the earth. To what degree everything connected to Israel stirs up harsh hatred.”
What Shechnik and others like him have long ignored, but are now belatedly understanding, is that while the modern problems might have started with leaders and governments, they have since moved far beyond politics.
Those leaders and governments have for decades been educating and indoctrinating their peoples to view Israel as entirely illegitimate, to loathe it with all their being. And the lesson has taken root.
You’ll notice in the above video clip that the Arabs Shechnik tries to engage don’t express frustration with Israel, they insist there is no Israel.
They don’t want a negotiated settlement to the conflict. They want Israel to disappear, thus fulfilling their belief that a Jewish state does not and cannot exist.
They think this way because they have been educated to think this way. And signing even 100 peace agreements isn’t suddenly going to change that.
And I’m not talking here about classroom education, though this is of course happening also in schools across the Arab Middle East. More importantly, Islam teaches its adherents that Jewish sovereignty in lands once ruled by Muslims is illegitimate and must be rejected.
The long refusal of liberal Western peacemakers, including Israelis like Shechnik, to accept that this is ultimately a religious conflict is why all their efforts to date have borne little, if any fruit.