One More Note on Israel

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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57 Responses

  1. Michael Drew says:

    Can you conceive of a situation in which you’d walk away from from America?Report

  2. Mark says:

    “…I would in all likelihood have to regard the Zionist dream of a Jewish and democratic state as dead; the first adjective would have to be sacrificed for the sake of the second.”

    Avigdor Lieberman, Bibi What A Yahoo, Yisrael Beiteinu, Likud, AIPAC, WINEP, Heritage, AEI, Pastor John Hagee, and a litany of American Theocrats view the Zionist dream as far more important than the democratic state.

    Thus you would lose, J.L.Report

  3. Arny Handelman says:

    American Jews may disagree with Israeli policies. Therefore they may further believe that they have a right to try to influence or force Israel to smarten up, change those policies, make difficult concessions etc. However, it is actually very naive and arrogant for an American Jew, or any American, even President Obama, to think that way. Why? Because there is appearance, and then there is reality. Nobody is in a better position to know what Israel really needs to survive and to thrive. There are all kinds of internecine snake-pit negotiations, dangers, arrangements, deals, strategies, tactics, and black ops matters going on that vitally affect Israel. We don’t know and we’ll never know. We get information that is not just screened and slanted, it might well be deliberate disinformation. Don’t be lulled into thinking that everything is transparent now, with Google, Facebook Twitter and other social media. It’s not. For us to flatter ourselves into thinking that we in the Americas know better than Netanyahu does, what path he must take is sheer arrogance, naivete, and self-delusion. Let’s have faith and give Israel the support she needs, without second guessing her and without trying to impose conditions on her for our support. Obama does more than enough of that. Israel has enough enemies. Lets not be deluded Jewish enemies of Israel.Report

    • J.L. Wall in reply to Arny Handelman says:

      I almost added something in about how it is, in a way, naive or annoying or “what-right-do-you-have?” of me to sit, safe in America, and criticize Israel’s policies, while Israelis my age have done their army service already and the politicians I complain about have to live with the consequences of their policies in a way far more immediate than I do.

      But if the American cousins are the relative who spend the whole time nagging whenever they see you… then so be it. But, at its core, there can be something loving even about nagging — I do it because I care; I’ll risk the egg on my face. Understand that every critique of Israel I make does come with the (implied) caveat of the first paragraph.Report

  4. Arny Handelman says:

    I meant to say “nobody knows better than Netanyahu”Report

    • Mike Schilling in reply to Arny Handelman says:

      Netanyahu thinks that thumbing his nose at the American president is a good idea. I know better than that. He will too, sooner or later.Report

      • The American president thumbed his nose at the Israeli president first by shooting his mouth off without consulting our ally.

        “If you want to know what the Palestinians are going to do tomorrow, just listen to what US President Barack Obama says today. In May 2009, after the first meeting in the White House between Obama and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the US leader made a comment that set the tone for the next couple of years and pretty much killed any chance of negotiations…”

        • Mike Schilling in reply to tom van dyke says:

          The ’67 borders plus land swaps is the only basis for negotiations and always has been. If Netanyahu can’t accept that, he’s not serious about any settlement (which is, of course, the case.)Report

          • Mr. Schilling, your argument was about the nose-thumbing. I simply pointed out who did it first.

            The linked article was germane:


            “Settlements have to be stopped in order for us to move forward,” [Obama] declared.

            The Palestinians, who until that point had never made a total settlement freeze – including in areas beyond the Green Line in Jerusalem – a condition for negotiations, heard Obama and pounced. If this was what the American president was saying, how could they ask for anything less?

            Or, as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said himself in a Newsweek interview in April, “It was Obama who suggested a full settlement freeze. I said OK, I accept. We both went up the tree. After that, he came down with a ladder and he removed the ladder and said to me, jump.”

            If Obama said that the basis of negotiations should be the 1967 lines, and that Jerusalem and refugees should be deferred to a later date, then who were the Palestinians to quibble? And, indeed, they did not quibble. In fact, clutching those parameters to his breast is exactly what Palestinian senior official Saeb Erekat did Tuesday during a speech at the Saban Center of the Brookings Institution in Washington.

            According to The Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl, Erekat “staked out a new position” in his speech, saying that talks would only commence if Netanyahu formally accepted Obama’s 1967-lines parameters, something Netanyahu has made abundantly clear he has no intention of doing.

            If Netanyahu “wants to be a partner he has to say it: Two states on the 1967 lines with mutually agreed swaps,” Erekat said. “He has a choice.” Erekat said that without that declaration, there would be no talks, and the PA would go ahead with its UN push.

            “I have no quarrel with the United States,” Erekat stated. “If Mr. Netanyahu says he accepts the two-state solution on the 1967 lines with agreed swaps, he’s on.”

            There’s the pattern: Obama makes a declaration – one Israel cannot accept – and it becomes the newest Palestinian prenegotiating position.Report

            • Mike Schilling in reply to tom van dyke says:

              According to The Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl, Erekat “staked out a new position” in his speech, saying that talks would only commence if Netanyahu formally accepted Obama’s 1967-lines parameters, something Netanyahu has made abundantly clear he has no intention of doing.

              And since 67 -plus-swaps is the only possible basis for negotiations, this means that Netanyahu has no interest in negotiation, period; he wants the status quo, together with massive American aid to support it, forever. It needs to be made clear to him that that’s not an option, and soon.Report

  5. reader says:

    This is really the same mentality that leads many Jews to support Jonathan Pollard. It’s a highly tribal “my country/people right or wrong…” mentality and the world would be pretty fucked up place (well, more so anyway) if everyone acted like that. It’s like a mother always reassuring her wayward and criminal son that she loves him no matter and she’ll always support him, thereby enabling him to be a menace all the more. It’s all about blood…Report

    • Mark Thompson in reply to reader says:

      It’s like a mother always reassuring her wayward and criminal son that she loves him no matter and she’ll always support him, thereby enabling him to be a menace all the more.

      Except it isn’t. It’s more like a mother who is prepared to reassure her wayward and criminal son that she loves him no matter what, but that if he acts in a way that is completely unacceptable, she will not hesitate to turn him in for his own good.Report

  6. Glen says:

    It seems that many are in concert with Bashar Al Assad. It’s those pesky jews that are the real problem. The din of the chorus has been there throughout history – sometimes it’s just louder than others. As Neitzche said, “The lie rules the world”.Report

  7. jdledell says:

    Am a Jew who feels like JL Wall – I cannot walk away from involvement with Israel even though I strongly disagree with just about everything Bibi’s coalition is doing. I had my bar mitzvah in Haifa in 1956 courtesy of my Irgun grandfather and I lived there in the 1980’s. My entire side of the family resides in Israel so I’m there for the holidays twice a year while retaining dual citizenship.

    Don’t kid yourself – Israel has a plan that it is implementing on a day by day basis and it is ugly. This spring when I was there I heard Nenny Begin give a talk in Kiryat Arba on how the final settlement would include them in Israel because of the importance of maintaining a presence in Hebron. Later when I was in Shilo I heard Danny Danon give a talk about how the Ariel corridor is being expanded to include Eli and Shilo in Israel territory. I’m sure everyone here is aware that Israel is openly vowing to retain the Jordan Valley. In fact if you take a car along route #90 thru the Jordan Valley you will see numerous arab villages absolutely leveled in the latest Israeli version of clearing an area of Palestinians.

    What will be left in 10-15 years is a few isolated city statelets with Israel controlling everything and everyone entering or exiting these Palestinian statelets.
    I hope American Jews at that point push Israel into becoming fully democratic rather than the Israeli version of apartheid. If a bi-national state has to come about it will end the dream of a Jewish homeland that my grandfather fought for, and I share with all my heart.Report

  8. Rob W says:

    What about a commenter’s point at Andrew’s site? He points out, saliently, that 24% of Israeli citizens are not Jews. Are these people part of the “family.”

    In the end, as a non-Jew, Israel has been an ally, but an ally whose actions are inconsistent with my values. And an ally whose actions have resulted in negative blowback for my country, the United States of America. Because I am a U.S. citizen, my loyalties lie with my country. I cannot support another country, “no matter what.”Report

    • Mark Thompson in reply to Rob W says:

      I think the response to this is that Israel is far from the world’s only ethnicity-based nation-state with a sizable minority that does not fit that ethnicity. It is also certainly not the only nation-state with a sizable diaspora abroad that still views the majority in that nation-state as something approaching family.

      For instance, after the breakup of the Soviet Union, Armenia in effect caused a forced exodus of ethnic minorities, especially Azeris, from its borders (which it successfully prosecuted a war to expand),* relying heavily on wealth from its diaspora to support this. In the process, tens of thousands were killed, mostly on the Azeri side, and up to 800,000 Azeris displaced in a very short period of time (according to Wikipedia). Whatever moral ambiguities may have existed with that conflict, the point is that no one has ever really questioned the instincts under which the Armenian diaspora not only refused to turn their backs on Armenia, but in fact actively supported its efforts.

      Similarly, astonishingly few in this country ever questioned the support of Irish-Americans for the IRA.

      But with Israel, not only are the motives of those who actively support and enable its most troubling acts called into question (and, to be clear, I think the motives of such persons should be called into question in all cases…..starting with Peter King), but also even those who (sometimes vocally) oppose those troubling acts but nonetheless refuse to consider ever turning their back on Israel completely on the grounds of never turning one’s back on family.

      This, I honestly do not understand. I am not trying to play the anti-Semitism card here, though. I suspect that most critics of Israel’s policies, and especially Netanyahu’s, aren’t necessarily aware of the parallels to other groups. Certainly, Israel is in a position where its malfeasances will automatically receive greater publicity than the malfeasances of other countries for some legitimate reasons (as a fairly stable and democratic state, it is right to hold it to a higher standard than its neighbors). And so claims about the diaspora will necessarily also float to the surface more easily. But I do not understand why questions about the loyalty of the Jewish diaspora are raised in the first place. (IOW, I don’t doubt the decent motives of those who repeat the questions about the diaspora’s loyalty, but I do doubt the motives that inspires the question in the first instance).

      * Armenia also had to deal with a mass influx of up to 250,000 Armenian refugees being similarly expelled from Azerbaijan.Report

    • Max in reply to Rob W says:

      I thought that was a really disappointing contribution for Andrew to highlight.

      For one thing it’s all but impossible that Wall doesn’t know of Israel’s sizable ethnic minorities. Even minimally educated American Jews are aware of this, in my experience. They may not know the exact proportion of Jews to non-Jews, but they are acutely aware of Israeli Arab, Druze, Bedouin, and other citizens. The members of these minorities serve in Israeli civil service, the IDF, the Knesset, and the Supreme Court.

      I won’t speak for Wall but when I use the language he used in his post, about being unwilling to walk away even during times of fierce disagreement, I most certainly include all Israelis in that sentiment, and that means non-Jews as well. Even if I were motivated purely by tribalism (and I’m not, as Wall took some pains to explain here – like just about any Jew I know, I care about human rights as an end in themselves), the status and treatment of minority groups in Israel is an obvious cachet for the state of Jewish moral living.Report

    • BlaiseP in reply to Rob W says:

      That 24% of Israel’s citizenry is hardly equal in terms of civil rights. Unlike Jews, they are required to carry identity cards (Ihr Ausweis, bitte!) and are excluded from housing benefits.

      The perverse case of Kadaan v. Israel Land Administration shows the disparity between black letter law and the realities on the ground for these non-Jewish citizens of Israel. The blatant discrimination still present within Israeli society cannot be put down via merely legal means.

      Israel faces a cruel dilemma. I would not wish to cast aspersions on Israel. Can the raison d’être for any country, however democratic it might be in theory, be predicated on a [Insert race here] State ?

      The USA faces an even crueler dilemma: the net results of our recent wars have led to the formation of two new Islamic Republics. Should we give an ethical damn about the fundamentally Jewish nature of Israel while we are allied to KSA, Kuwait, Bahrain and other manifestly undemocratic regimes ?

      The Jews were ethnically cleansed out of Baghdad and Alexandria and pretty much every Arab city of note: if those Jews ran to the State of Israel, the only place where they were accepted, shouldn’t we have forcibly evicted the Arabs out of Taht al-Takia, Baghdad’s Jewish Quarter and resettled those Jews? We tolerated the Kurds doing exactly that to the hapless Arabs Saddam Hussein had settled on the best land in northern Iraq.

      Main battle tanks take the ground. Infantry holds the ground. But only settlers can occupy the ground. Israel has made its bed hard, manifestly stealing land from its rightful owners. Of all the ironies of Israeli existence, surely the most ironic is to watch a race of people who endured centuries of oppression and bigotry become a race of oppressors.

      “Never Again” shout Israel’s zealots. Sadly, no. It has all been seen before.Report

  9. Glen says:

    A very last contribution on my part – for I should know better than to waste my time reading this deluge of clap-trap marked by obscurantism and pusillanimity. If Israel were not a jewish state few or none of you would lift a pen. I could recommend a reading list but it would fall on deaf ears. At the very least you could have a look at Dershowitz “The case for Israel”.
    I feel disheartened when fellow americans ally themselves with the ignorant arab street and the anti-semitic european left. The anti-semitic terrorists that the jews face are your freedom fighters. You are their best allies – you are their justification for the killing of jews (and you turn a blind eye when they kill each other – note: Hamas and Arafat before them killed more palestinians then the IDF). The real prize, however, is the ignorant self-hating jew (like that idiot above intoning the memory of his heroic zionist grandfather), who, without shame, trumpets “their” propaganda. They are like that woman engineer in Speilberg’s film Schindler’s List who is so concerned to show the germans how efficient she is and contemptible of her own people. Yet, there is no irony to her execution.Report

    • Jesse Ewiak in reply to Glen says:

      Yes, yes, we understand. Any criticism of Israel’s policies means we want the Jews back in the gas chambers.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jesse Ewiak says:

        Try to dig it like this, Jesse.

        Imagine someone who keeps talking about how much Obama spends and the skyrocketing spending that Democrats always engage in and how we need to reign in spending and how Democrats have a responsibility to create a sustainable economy and so on and so forth. Can you imagine such a person?

        Can you imagine wanting to ask this person about Dubya?Report

        • tom van dyke in reply to Jaybird says:

          I think you’re having a Pauline Kael moment, JB. Dubya took much heat from his right for spending like a drunken Kennedy.Report

          • RTod in reply to tom van dyke says:

            Yeah, but taking heat after you lose the election (and that, of course, being after you have maxed out on terms allowed) isn’t really the same thing.Report

            • tom van dyke in reply to RTod says:

              Actually, RTod, the GOP paid the piper in 2006, losing Congress. Many or most in the GOP felt it was deserved, although the alternative was indeed worse.

              Which was partially rectified in 2010 and likely will be fully rectified in 2012.


              • RTod in reply to tom van dyke says:

                Well, they obviously didn’t pay the piper enough in 2006, because it was pretty much business as usual for the administration AND the right’s most visible pundits afterwards. (And with this, I am not counting those that jumped off the bandwagon in late 2008 when they knew they were about to be crushed.)

                Bottom line for me is this: until you hold power *and* fight hard for fiscal restraint *at the same time*, it’s all just packaging.Report

              • tom van dyke in reply to RTod says:

                RTod, the right’s most visible pundits gave Dubya hell about the spending; I cannot think your assertion about them is requisitely informed. [Not that pundits are terribly important anyway.]

                As for the rest, I’m not sure where that leaves the discussion, so we’ll see what happens after the GOP takes over Congress in 2012.Report

              • Mike Schilling in reply to tom van dyke says:

                Really, the right’s most visible pundits gave Dubya hell about fighting two wars off-budget and funding them entirely via pork-ridden emergency spending bills? I must have missed that.Report

              • We did them together as a nation: The wars were both approved by consensus from both parties.

                Mr. Obama’s Libya adventure, less so.

                Further, national security emergencies aren’t quite germane. Not that it will stop such spaghetti from being thrown against the wall.

                Regardless, the Dems got one boot in 2010, and likely will receive the other in 2012. I hope the GOP does better than they did say 2002-2006. They did well 1994-2000 or so, and I’m quite willing to credit Bill Clinton as well.

                Unfortunately, Bill Clinton was a DLC Democrat, and that wing of the party has dissolved.


              • Mike Schilling in reply to Mike Schilling says:

                In other (fewer) words, you can’t support your statement.Report

          • Jaybird in reply to tom van dyke says:

            Not my point, Tom. (And, in any case, I got into fights over spending *REGULARLY* at Redstate where the defenses of Dubya amounted to “well, the Dims would be worse!”)

            My point was to create an analogy for someone who criticizes Israel why people hearing the criticisms might have questions about the criticisms.

            Not get into a fight over how much the principled conservatives took Dubya on from the Right.

            I was at Redstate from 2004-2008, dude. I got banned.Report

    • Max in reply to Glen says:

      “contribution” is a major stretch, manReport

    • jdledell in reply to Glen says:

      Glen – I suspect you are American and maybe have never even visited Israel. Do you even know what goes on in the West Bank on a daily basis? Israel is a first world country that is imposing an occupation on another people. Either dump the occupation or annex the territory and give the residents citizenship. This has been going on for 44 years – enough is enough.

      The occupation is why Israel is being picked on versus 3rd world countries that surround Israel. More is expected of civilized countries.

      As to my grandfather the Brits called him a terrorist and put him in prison several times. He killed numerous British soldiers as well as arabs. Given his experience as a chemist he fashioned bombs hidden in donkey carts – the IED’s of the day. Was he a terrorist or a freedom fighter – you tell me.

      Do you know any Palestinians – have you ever met one? I kind of doubt it given your absolute hatred of the “other”. This conflict is neither black or white. The propaganda from both sides is nauseating.Report

      • tom van dyke in reply to jdledell says:

        If the Mexiconians start shooting rockets at the US and sending suicide bombers into our civilian midst, I’m gonna occupy the shit out of them until they decide to stop and I don’t care how long it takes them to come around.

        Then we could talk.

        And if the US were only the size of New Jersey and the next war we lose will be our last war, even the talking is gonna take awhile.

        Philosophy, political philosophy, natural law and even “rights talk” recognize survival and self-defense as primary goods. I have no doubt that Israel is guilty of many of the things it’s accused of in the fight for its survival; we hope that their gratuitous cruelty is less than average, even minimal, but such cruelty and inhumanty is par for the course when men are in a death struggle.

        This is not to excuse a whit of their sins and even crimes. But the fact is, if the Israelis, who afterall are mere men, behaved like angels, their predicament as a nation and a people would not be a whit less grave.Report

        • jdledell in reply to tom van dyke says:

          Tom – Be realistic – Israel does not face existential threats from either the Palestinians or the arab countries surrounding it. In 1967 Israel took on all their armies at one time and it took only 6 days to win. Meanwhile Israel’s military has grown significantly more powerful while the arab armies equipment and training has deteriorated. If a war broke out now, Israel would win in 6 hours not 6 days.

          As to the occupation, from 1967 to 1987 Palestinians demonstrated non-violently to end the occupation and be granted autonomy, if not statehood. I lived in Israel during this period and we essentially laughed at doing anything but continuing the occupation and increasing the settlements. In response to Palestinian requests for self-rule, Israel in 1980 tripled the size of Jerusalem’s borders and annexed Palestinian East Jerusalem. Technically, Israel offered the affected Palestinians the chance to apply for naturalized citizenship. My niece who works in the Ministry of Interior assures me the process is almost impossible to navigate. This is what led to the first Infitada in 1987, largely non-violent except for some stone throwing.

          If the US, or portions thereof, were occupied what rockets and/or guns should we not use to regain our land?Report

          • tom van dyke in reply to jdledell says:

            When all else fails, sue for peace, take what you can get. If the Palestinians had abided by Oslo and behaved like good neighbors since, opinions like mine here and in Israel would be different.

            But as it stands, by its historical standards, Israel is at peace as much as it ever was, and by the looks of things, as much as it ever will be. It has no reason to roll the dice.Report

            • jdledell in reply to tom van dyke says:

              Tom – If you spent time listening to what the Israeli politicians tell the people in Hebrew you would know that Bibi’s plan is to essentially put the Palestinians on “reservations”. This would be the result of “taking what they can”. As a Jew I cannot support this abhorrent treatment of other human beings.Report

              • Jaybird in reply to jdledell says:

                A “reverse Memri”, found in the wild.Report

              • tom van dyke in reply to jdledell says:

                What I see on Memri scares me far more. If it doesn’t scare you “as a Jew,” then what can I say?

                These discussions always go the same way, Israel bad, Palestinians like poor mistreated puppies. But it takes 2 to tango.

                I believe I addressed the Heart of Darkness problem above, no excuses for Israel’s sins and crimes. However, those sins and crimes are unrelated to the question of whether the Palestinians will or can hold up their end of the bargain, any bargain.

                And frankly, most of the attacks on Bibi just seem an extension of left-right politics and say more about the speaker than the situation. Basically, I’m good with whatever the Israeli people decide is best for their survival. It’s their survival, not mine. Or the UN’s or the US State Dept.’s.

                If Israel want to trust the Palestinians, I say fine, and good luck.Report

              • North in reply to tom van dyke says:

                Tsk Tom, I haven’t seen a conversation on the League with you yet that has involved anyone beating their breasts about the plight of “the poor mistreated Palestinians”. Maybe you debated this with Freddie once in the past? Certainly for my part I can only just muster the minimum empathy necessary to try and understand their strategic view on the politics.
                But trust the Palestinians or not the Israeli’s need to divest themselves of the West Bank or else they’ll drown themselves in a demographic ocean. It’d be nice to be able to rely on the Palestinians to hold up some kind of agreement but it isn’t necessary; such withdrawals can be done unilaterally. That Bibi and his fundy allies continue to entangle their state further with the territory speaks endless volumes about their character/sense and you don’t need to be a leftist to see that. Just open eyed.Report