Authenticity, Continued: Competing Israels, Competing Patriotisms (Thoughts on the Fifteenth Anniversary of Rabin’s Assassination)

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J.L. Wall

J.L. Wall is a native Kentuckian in self-imposed exile to the Midwest, where he teaches writing to college students and over-analyzes Leonard Cohen lyrics.

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26 Responses

  1. Avatar Francis says:

    So, what does the future hold? The two-state solution appears dead; granting non-Jews the right to vote in Gaza and the West Bank is also impossible. So the medium-term looks to be a continuation of the status quo — isolation of Gaza and quasi-occupation of the West Bank with a Vichy-style government for the Arabs.

    How long can this hold? Indefinitely? That doesn’t seem possible.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      @Francis, It’s a touch early to deem the two state solution dead. It’s dead as a political matter only once the PA as a whole begins agitating for voting rights and absorption into Israel.
      Bibi is doing his best to kill it though, damn the man and his religious nut Father. If only Sharon hadn’t gone down from that stroke.Report

      • Avatar J.L. Wall says:

        @North, I think part of the problem is that the only generation of leaders with enough charisma and political capital to unify ENOUGH of the people behind them to act were from 1948: Rabin, Sharon, etc. The only one really left now is Peres, but he’s a) quite old and b) is viewed as too lefty anyway.

        Bibi, as the man who opposed Oslo and also as the brother of Yoni Netanyahu, could have been Nixon in China, had he wanted it. I thought he was ambitious enough to want it when he was elected this second time. I now don’t know what he actually wants.Report

        • Avatar North says:

          @J.L. Wall, J.L. my own opinion on the matter of Bibi; if you want to see any genuine movement from him, any serious effort to actually grasp peace, then the mortal vessel of Benzion Netanyahu will need to be cold and firmly in the ground and his eternal essence well winged away into the bosom of Jehova. Bibi will never relinquish Judea and Samara as long as he has to look into his Fathers living eyes and explain it.Report

    • Avatar J.L. Wall says:

      It depends on whether you think that a two-state solution is permanently dead, or just in intensive care right now. Some sort of two-state solution–even if it’s of the sort so unilateral to hardly be termed a “solution”–is essential to Israel’s long term survival as a democratic, Jewish state. I’d even go so far as to say it’s essential to Israel’s survival in general, even ignoring democratic government. So, as depressing as the actual facts appear, as incalcitrant as the current government appears and as incompetently as its alternatives have behaved since Sharon’s stroke, I refuse to give up belief in the possibility of a two-state solution.

      How to get there? Well, I wish I were smart enough or eloquent enough to help in some way. How long do we have? My guess is roughly 20-25 years — this is based primarily on demographics — but the longer it takes, the harder it will be. I didn’t get into any of this in the above post because most of what it will accomplish is to depress me.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        @J.L. Wall, A time machine. Our kingdom for a time machine. Rabin or even Barak would have been able/willing to cut a deal with the present PA administration in a heartbeat. Bibi and his clown posse deserve to be stuck with that old crook Arafat.Report

      • Avatar Katherine says:

        Some sort of two-state solution–even if it’s of the sort so unilateral to hardly be termed a “solution”–is essential to Israel’s long term survival as a democratic, Jewish state.

        Unilateral in what way? The only way I see a two-state solution emerging is if the US does an about-face on Israel policy and announces flat-out that they’re cutting off aid until Israel ceases settlement and withdraws from the West Bank. And even then, the sheer number of existing settlements make a viable Palestinian state next to impossible; for any functional solution, there would have to be evacuation of at least a sizeable portion of the settlements. I can’t envision any scenario where that would come about.Report

        • Avatar J.L. Wall says:

          @Katherine, I wasn’t referring to anything likely to happen in that aside. But, several years ago, there was talk of a possible unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank — in effect, creating an independent Palestinian state, but with the borders decided on by Israel alone (because this scenario wouldn’t involve any land-swaps in order to keep the largest settlements in Israeli territory). Of course it’s implausible, and there are so many things wrong with it the right and left can agree to dislike it. But it’s not quite demographic suicide, which was why I made a point to include it.Report

          • Avatar Katherine says:

            Thanks for explaining. I don’t like it – the number and location of Israeli settlements basically precludes the creation of a viable Palestinian state from that plan – but I expect that’s what Israel is moving towards, once they’ve taken all the land they’re interested in.Report

  2. Avatar North says:

    Fifteen years later
    Amirs madness flourishes
    Rabins view stagnatesReport

  3. I know far too little about Israeli history and politics to have anything to say except: this post was fascinating, and it’s sad that things look so bleak.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      @William Brafford, It might not be as bad as it seems Will. A single election could change everything on the Israeli side. On the PA side of things there’s real progress. If we could just line up a co-operative Israeli administration it’s within reason to concieve of an end at least to the occupation of the West bank if not a general peace accord.Report

  4. Avatar Rufus F. says:

    My dissertation director is Israeli and we talk about this from time to time. It’s hard not to feel that a lot of people will be hurt if things don’t change and a lot of people will get hurt if things do change. You’ve done a much better job of explaining things than I could.Report

  5. Avatar Matt says:

    I stopped following Israeli politics roughly ten years ago, when I began having doubts about the Christian-Zionist ideas I had grown up with, but I was surprised to read an article in Dissent suggesting that Palestinian interest in the two-state solution was waning, and that many young Palestinians would be pleased with a one-state solution that truly offered them equal rights and full expression.

    I don’t know how accurate or relevant the ideas in that article were, but they strike me as being anti-Zionist in a much deeper way, since full equality under the law would make the distinct Jewishness of Israel impossible.Report

    • Avatar Katherine says:

      I traveled to Palestine this May, and my study group there spoke to quite a few different Palestinians. My general sense is that they would be fine with a two-state solution if one seemed possible, but Israel’s constant and increasingly rapid expansion of settlements and destruction of Palestinian homes is indicating to them that 1) Israel has no interest in a genuine two-state solution and 2) demographic facts on the ground are rapidly making – or have already made such a solution impossible. Given that, they are increasingly leaning towards a one-state solution where they have equal rights within Israel as the only alternative, and one that they would prefer anyway, since it enables refugees to return to their homes (or places near their former homes, at any rate).

      I think a two-state solution would be best, but given the facts on the ground that Israel has created (massive settlements, walls, and military outposts fragmenting Palestine, and Israeli control of the Jordan valley), pushing for equal rights within a single state does seem like the more rational choice for the Palestinians. In two-state negotiations, they don’t even have a chance of preserving their basic rights or getting Israel to adhere to international law.Report

      • Avatar lukas says:

        @Katherine, if I were Palestinian, I’d certainly rather live in Israel (for all its faults, a modern, democratic state). There is little reason to believe an independent state of Palestine wouldn’t be just as corrupt and oppressive as any of the Arab neighbor states.Report

      • Avatar North says:

        @Katherine, Let us not forget Katherine that, when the rubber hits the road, settlements can always be removed. Obviously it gets harder the larger they are but it is always fundamentally possible even if it’s politically difficult.Report

        • Avatar Katherine says:

          It could be done, but it would take a huge amount of political will, and willingness to dare the wrath of the public (and possibly assassination). Given that the current far-right, pro-settlement government includes members of Labour, Israel’s most secular, most left-wing major, I have trouble envisioning a situation where that political will emerges. The Palestinians – who have little contact with Israelis other than soldiers and settlers – probably have a far harder time envisioning it.Report

  6. Avatar Katherine says:

    I also believe there is a case that efforts to de-legitimize Israel by claiming it is an inherently/conceptually racist/superiorist state (or that Zionism is) are merely the mirror image of this phenomenon, and consider such rhetoric equally dishonest and equally threatening.

    Why? If, decades in the future, the US or the UK or Canada cease to have a majority-white population, their political structures will not be endangered. But if we define Israel as an inherently Jewish state, then is there any way it could respond to the emergence of an Arab demographic majority that would be consistent with democracy?

    And isn’t there a problem with defining some of your citizens – and some of the people who have lived in the land for the longest time – as second-class because they don’t share your religion or ethnicity? It does seem that defining Israel as a “Jewish state” does that, just as defining America as a “Christian state” would make Jews, Muslims, atheists, Buddhists, etc. second-class citizens.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      @Katherine, It seems like a quite obvious problem to me Katherine but it’s not like there aren’t several western states that define a national ethnicity. France and Germany for instance and a lot of other continental European countries to a lesser degree. Japan of course above all the others. How to deal with the minority issue though is one that none of those states have really dealt with. The Europeans are struggling with it right now and the Japanese do it by essentially forbidding all immigration and socially (but not legally) treating minorities like crap.Report

      • Avatar J.L. Wall says:

        @North, I’m not up on Israeli immigration policy for non-Jews, but I think American and Israeli Jews know the difficulty being a Jewish, democratic state requires re: demography, and see Europe’s problems. And I think that’s why there was such backlash against the Rotem bill and its variants. Whatever the effectiveness (and whatever one thinks) of J Street, ten years ago I sincerely doubt it could/would have been formed. A conclusion the peace process is just step one. (A tremendous, monumental step one, but still.)Report

    • Avatar J.L. Wall says:

      @Katherine, Because those claims are, in fact, arguments against a two-state solution — and an argument for a one-state solution, even if in good faith, necessitates the dissolution of Israel as it has existed for 62 years. (A one-state solution would see a large Jewish emigration over the medium-term, leaving primarily haredi Jews and Russian immigrants — the latter only because they’ll have a harder time getting to the U.S.) I certainly think it’s possible to argue for a one-state solution without actively thinking ‘Zionism is racism’ or some weaker formulation that idea.

      Another side of this is what it means to ISRAEL for it to be a Jewish state. The disagreement on what “Jewish” means is one of the primary reasons Israel hasn’t been able to even begin serious discussions of a formal constitution. The Jewish citizenry of Israel indicates that it’s not a racial, ethnic, or even strictly religious definition. So I don’t know that the analogy to a “Christian” nation works well enough. North’s comparison to France, Germany, Japan, etc. probably work better — but even then, there’s dissent in Israel from the older, “nationalist” Zionism.

      Without that definition of “Jewish,” you get things like a nation with a secular-liberal Supreme Court also having an official Chief Rabbinate that is increasingly conservative — and has always been in the hands of the ultra-Orthodox. The rather embarrassing face of the political far-right, Avigdor Lieberman, is from a party that represents primarily Russian immigrants — many of whom are not, by the standards of that Rabbinate, Jewish — even though they are by the Knesset’s standards — and even more of whom are completely secular. At the same time, Israel has citizens of equal (when it comes to marriage, in certain ways greater) rights to its Jewish citizens, including an Arab Muslim Deputy Speaker of the Knesset. Which is all to say: if the peace process were to be magically solved overnight, a Jewish state would put some its Jewish citizens in at least as much risk of being second-class citizens as its non-Jews.Report

      • Avatar Katherine says:

        Because those claims are, in fact, arguments against a two-state solution — and an argument for a one-state solution, even if in good faith, necessitates the dissolution of Israel as it has existed for 62 years.
        But how does that make such arguments untrue? You seem to be disputing these arguments on the basis of their implications rather than their accuracy.

        North’s comparison to France, Germany, Japan, etc. probably work better — but even then, there’s dissent in Israel from the older, “nationalist” Zionism.
        The other issue with these arguments is that methods of dealing with them primarily involve issues of immigration. Israel’s Arab population are not immigrants; they lived there before the State of Israel existed, as did many others who have been driven out and not allowed to return. Also, Israel’s Arab population is significantly larger (20% of the Israeli population) than the minority-ethnicity populations of France, Germany, or Japan.

        It’s not likely to become an issue until decades in the future, if then, but the question remains – what will Israel do in order to remain a “Jewish state” if its birthrates cause its Arab population to become a majority?

        At the same time, Israel has citizens of equal (when it comes to marriage, in certain ways greater) rights to its Jewish citizens.

        That may be true legally, but there are issues with discrimination. One of the complaints I heard from Israeli Arabs during my visit to the region was that Arab schools are chronically underfunded compared to Jewish schools. (I suspect this is because most Israeli governing coalitions involve alliances with small Jewish religious parties.) The first Arabic-speaking university in Israel was only formed in 2002, meaning there is little access to higher education for Arab Israelis. One man mentioned that he and his daughter were kept out of a public swimming pool on the basis that they were Arab. The predominant sense among Arab Israelis is that they are treated as second-class citizens.Report

        • Avatar J.L. Wall says:

          @Katherine, Re: immigration vs. Arab Israelis, I would assume that any negotiated two-state agreement would find ways to allow any Israeli citizen who wanted to have a role/place in any Palestinian state. Of course, given economics, I doubt that would be too many — but the birth rate is much less of an issue when we’re talking about Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs, as opposed to Israeli Jews and residents of Gaza/the West Bank. Israel’s birth rate is well above replacement (around 3), and rising steadily; some studies indicate that Arab Israeli birthrates are, in fact, decreasing.

          Re: discrimination. Yeah, I imagine it exists. But I don’t think the practical existence of discrimination proves that Israel/Zionism/the idea of a Jewish state are inherently racist/discriminatory. I view it as a societal problem — not as a philosophical/theoretical problem.Report

          • Avatar Katherine says:

            Thanks for the reply. I was interested in seeing how a relatively moderate supporter of Israel would answer the argument (since a common response to such comments is just to dismiss them out of hand as anti-semitic). You’re probably right that the issue of what to do if Israeli Arabs outnumbered Israeli Jews is, at this point, largely theoretical. The claims I’ve heard on birthrates vary.

            I’m personally of the view that former Arab residents who were driven out in 1948 should have the right to return – and UN resolutions say that they do – but I recognize it isn’t likely.

            I agree with you on that discrimination in Israel is a social issue and not inherent in the country; I was just felt like your first reply to me was arguing that discrimination didn’t actually exist and wanted to push back on that.Report