Israel, Palestine, and the Impossibility of Moderation

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154 Responses

  1. BHCh says:

    There is a very simple reason why all demands from Hamas are UNREASONABLE:
    Their charter states that the overall objective is to murder all Jews.Report

  2. Stillwater says:

    This is the impossibility of moderation. What does it mean to say that Hamas made some reasonable demands but not others?

    So, your definition of moderation reduces to what Hamas does the while admitting you’re a Zionist? Isn’t an equally reasonable conclusion here that Zionism isn’t moderate? (Is there a subtlety to the argument I’m missing?)

    ALso, your earlier claim that being a non-zionist Jew = being anti-zionist simply can’t be right unless you define zionism as being a “if you’re not with us you’re against” us sorta thing. I mean, lots of people who aren’t zionists are not anti-zionists. Why can’t a Jew be one of them?Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to Stillwater says:

      1. It is perfectly legitimate to think that there should be no such thing as a state designed on ethnic/religious line.

      2. If someone believes in #1, they should be consistent about said belief.

      3. Hamas is a fundamentalist Islamic terrorist organization that seeks to create a state of Palestine along Islamic lines that really doesn’t want a Jewish presence in the Middle East.

      4. It seems rather contradictory to oppose the hard-line Israelis and Orthodox settlers and be measely mouth about Hamas and make like Judith Butler and talk about how Hamas and Hezzbolah are part of the “global left.”

      So I have no problem with people who oppose the idea of state that is aligned along religious lines. I do think they are extremely naive if they think a single-state solution is going to result in a secular country like the United States or Canada instead of a country organized along Islamic lines. Kind of like the Prebyterian minister who argued that all the Jews in the Middle East should move to the United States. Why should it be the Jews who move?Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Your not seeing things through the minds of people like Judith Butler on issue number 4. To them Hamas and Hezbollah’s hardline ideology is perfectly acceptable because they are good indigenous people waging war against European colonialist scum even though half of Israeli Jews come from North Africa and the Middle East. Israel is an imperialist, colonialist enterprise to them so any opposition to it is good and part of the global left by default.Report

      • @leeesq

        In my American Revolution thread, you suggested that, say, Puerto Ricans would be justified in using violence or waging a violent war for independence if they wanted independence and the US wouldn’t let them. Do you draw a distinction, here?

        That probably sounds like a gotcha, but I don’t really intend it as such. I can imagine many good faith ways in which you might draw such a distinction. You didn’t say they would be justified in launching rockets against US cities, nor did you say they would be justified in, say, bombing restaurants in the US. Neither did you say that they would be right to ally with a coterie of nation-states dedicated to the destruction of the US.

        I think the arguments of Butler, et al., see things through that lens of independence movements and Fanonesque assertions of anti-imperialism, and they have a point. But only a point. I dislike their knee-jerk celebration of uprisings and wars for independence, whatever the costs. I think they’re understandable–and understanding probably means I should suspend judgment–but I’m not going to celebrate those violent efforts any more than I’m going to celebrate the American Revolution.Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Israel is an imperialist, colonialist enterprise to them

        I unequivocally support Israel’s right to exist, but I think it’s quite fair to define them as imperialist and colonialist. The perpetual expansion of Israel’s borders is an attempt to change the facts on the ground to continually degrade the viability of a Palestinian state. There’s also repeated encroachment on Syrian territory, and a policy of keeping Lebanon unstable.

        Of course the Arabic states in the region aren’t doing jack for the Palestinians, either. It’s more convenient to have them in de facto colonization so their plight can be used as a distraction from domestic issues and used to build political support internally. It stopped working in Syria, but it helped prop up the regime for a while.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Gabriel Conroy, there are several difference. First, I said that Puerto Ricans would be justified in using violence against the United States if the United States would not engage in negotiations for indepence. Both Hamas and Hezbollah have refused to negotiate with Israeli officials as a matter of principle on several occassions. This brings us to the second difference. The goal of Puerto Rican revolutionaries is independence from the United States but they do not seek its destruction. Hamas and Hezbollah are on the record that the only acceptable goal for them is the destruction of Israel in its entirely. They have said this repeatedly and acted on this principle. There is no reason to doubt their sincerity when they say no Israel is the only acceptable goal. Finally, Israel withdrew from Lebanon and Gaza but still faced a rocket barrage.Report

      • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I am quite certain that an apartheid state, be it America (precivilwar) or Greater Israel, will NEVER work, long term.

        Hamas is a tool, a pawn of our fucking ally Saudi Arabia.

        Who the HELL comes up with Hamas and Hezbolah as being part of the global left? God, that statement is freaking embarrassing.

        The United States has tons of laws that incorporate Christian Ethics. It is possible (though, perhaps, not probable) that Palestine might do similar — incorporating a bunch of Islamic Ethics, without actually being an Islamic state.

        America is powerful and wealthy enough to throw money at the situation. This also may be enough to keep a state secular.

        The Jews should move, because they’re more wealthy (by and large) and thus can afford to leave. Also, there’s fewer of them, so less pressure by other parties to take them. They’re also more educated, so it’s an easier sell to other places. And, to top it all off, they wouldn’t be moving into the freaking desert, and having to deal with Desert Arabs (which would be the likely result of forcibly expelling Arabs from Palestine/Israel).Report

      • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Cite me on “half of Israeli Jews come from North Africa or the Middle east”? Most Jews in Israel are Caucasian…Report

      • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        These folks (Butler et alia) were cheering for the revolution in Mexico about five years ago? Or are they just busy talking about whatever is popular in the news, and not paying attention to anything that’s not Imperialist?Report

      • Mo in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        @leeesq But Israel has also refused to negotiate with Fatah as well. If anything, Israel’s actions have made Hamas more attractive by showing that being more moderate, a la Fatah, provides no benefit. If you don’t deal with MLK, you make Malcolm X seem appealing.Report

      • North in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Mo is on point here. Abbas gave Israeli’s security cooperation and a West Bank mostly free of suicide attacks and rocket fire. In return he was given settlement expansions and additional lists of demands by the Israeli’s. Hamas has kidnapped soldiers and engaged in attacks. In exchange Bibi has negotiated with them, given them prisoner releases and exchanges and generally treated them seriously. From that perspective violence is yielding the better results and moderation is a mugs game.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        I think it depends on how much land the Palestinians think belongs to them. If they are talking about the West Bank and Gaza, I can see your point. If they are talking about everything that was part of the British Mandate, that is just extremism that will not accept any non-Muslim presence in the Middle East.Report

      • @leeesq

        I can’t really dispute any of the facts you mention, both because they are likely true and because you have a better knowledge of the situation at hand than I do. So fair point.

        I do imagine, however, that any independence movement, once its leaders resort to violence, will frame that violence as being “necessary” because the oppressor government has refused to negotiate, and upon closer inspection, the refusal to negotiate is more a refusal to negotiate on the terms of the independence seekers. Some Puerto Rican nationalist movements in the 1970s sometimes resorted to violence, and although I know almost nothing about these movements, I suspect they believed the US couldn’t be negotiated with.

        At the same time, the nation/state/government from which independence is asserted is probably often (usually?) going to see most independence groups as starting from some point that’s non-negotiable. That’s a bias in the way things work, not really a reflection of the bad faith of the state in question.

        I realize this probably sounds as a critique of the point you made, and in a sense it is, because I do disagree that even in cases where the governing power refuses to negotiate, violence for independence can still be unjustified. But I’m actually agreeing with you on the specific issue at hand: My wariness of most independence movements when they resort to violence extends to the Hamas government’s actions. (And perhaps the “Gaza movement” is not a textbook independence movement, although Gaza seems to have less autonomy than a truly independent state.)Report

  3. NobAkimoto says:

    Moderation is meaningless, but national interests are not.

    I can’t, under any circumstances see how maintaining the status quo helps anyone but Hamas. It certainly doesn’t help the PA, it doesn’t really help Palestinians as a whole, and it certainly doesn’t help the long-term viability as Israel as simultaneously a Jewish state and a liberal one.

    On some level it’s not moderation but simply real politik that requires dealing with nihilists and people that are probably ideologically out to get you. It’s not moderation that created Detente between the Soviet Union and the US, it was worries about survival. Ditto SALT and START.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to NobAkimoto says:

      The issue is how Israel can deal with nihilists like Hamas? As far as I can tell, a lot of people really seem to think that Israel should just ignore the rocket barrage. This will apparently lead to some miracle that will cause Hamas to give up its nihilistic goals or have the people of Gaza overthrow Hamas and establish a government that can negotiate with Israel.Report

      • North in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Lee, you don’t deal with nihilists like Hamas by giving them what they want. Or certainly not in isolation. If Bibi had gone about trying to strengthen the PA/Abbas by rewarding them for the enormous improvement in security on the West Bank while also behaving towards Hamas they way they have then Hamas would be in far more dire straits than it is. Instead Bibi gave the Palestinian moderates nothing and claimed the success in security was exclusively a result of Israeli barriers and military personnel. The Palestinians thus have been shown that moderation will be rewarded by the Israeli’s by settlement expansion and ever increasing security crackdowns- it is no wonder that Palestinian moderation is withering.Report

      • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        They did establish a government that can negotiate with Israel. Hamas on the inside, PA on the outside.

        Then came sanctions and other crapola…

        Israel does not NEED to do military action in order to stop the rockets.
        Israel COULD stop exploding the daughters of its allies in Gaza (on air no less), causing them to subsequently emmigrate.Report

      • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        nothing like destroying your peaceful ally’s home, on air, and then refusing to apologize for it, to strengthen the eliminationists.

        I hope I live to dance on Bibi’s political grave.Report

      • NobAkimoto in reply to LeeEsq says:


        So what’s the military solution to Hamas? Blockades, sanctions, and flat out military occupations haven’t worked. What’s the magical bullet where sufficient punitive actions will get them to accept the existence of Israel as a Jewish state?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Same thing as with Tea Partiers. They’re getting older, they’ll die eventually.Report

      • Francis in reply to LeeEsq says:

        As best I can tell, the long-term solution is to hope desperately for self-deportation to someplace, anyplace else. (The only other solution is forced population transfer — all 1.7 million of them. What could possibly go wrong?)Report

      • NobAkimoto in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Perhaps the closest approximate comparison to the scale of the land dispute in Israel-Palestine is the unholy mess that was late 19th century/early 20th century Greece and Ottoman Empire/Turkey. The Greeks had a long, long nationalist ideology of the Megali Idea which effectively demanded half of Anatolia and Istanbul to make up their national birthright. They did, in effect, deny the legitimacy of the Ottoman Empire, and essentially wanted to bring an end to Turkish rule in any form in Anatolia, an area they considered part of “Greater Greece”.

        They only managed to settle that in the long run through a combination of punishing wars between eachother, an enormous forced population exchange of, quite frankly, epic proportions, and the forced death of certain maximalist interpretations of nationalism.

        Both Greater Israel and single-state in the area need to die a messy death of ideology crashing against reality before parceling out things can ever be possible.Report

      • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Killing those two ideas (or at least Greater Israel) pretty much requires genocide, at this point.
        Peace is a useful delusion — useful to bibi at any rate.

        Hatchets need to be bloodied before they can be buried, don’t they?Report

      • Zac in reply to LeeEsq says:

        @leeesq Let me preface this by saying, I am a fellow Jew and I do support the right of Israel to exist, although not as a “Jewish” state; the idea of a religiously-based state is absurd regardless of the religion (I would say the same of Saudi Arabia or Iran). I believe in a one-state solution with Palestinians as equal citizens, because I have no desire to see my people become perpetrators of the kinds of crimes they fled there to escape in the first place.

        In 13 years, Hamas rockets have killed a grand total of 28 people. Vending machines are deadlier. Yes, Israel should absolutely have the wherewithal to ignore the rockets.At the very least, they should not use it as an excuse to drop cluster-bombs on children and fire missiles into apartment buildings.

        You cannot simultaneously exercise control over a territory you occupy and militarily attack that territory on the claim that it is “foreign” and poses an exogenous national security threat when it is convenient to do so. Israel does have a right to self-defense, but not in the sense that most people take it to mean: “self-defense” in the context of international law has complex legal meaning, like “negligence” in the context of civil law. As military occupiers, they have legal obligations under the Geneva Conventions that they are in direct contravention when they roll into Gaza and start flattening the place. If any other state committed these actions, they would be seen as obvious bad actors and likely pariahs on the world stage, but because of the world’s (not-necessarily-unreasonable) collective guilt over the Holocaust, we all simply watch and wring our hands.Report

      • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Join the boycott. At least do something, dammit!Report

      • Zac in reply to LeeEsq says:

        @Kim The current boycott movement strikes me as rather ineffectual. I would rather that the governments of the world apply pressure via withdrawal of aid and economic sanctions, similar to how the apartheid government in South Africa was pressured in the 1980s.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Great comment Zac! I agree ahunnertpercent.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq says:

        @Zac, Israel’s entire reason to exist is as a Jewish state. If you say Israel can exist but not as a Jewish state than you might as well just support a one state solution. A non-Jewish Israel is an oxy moron.Report

      • Zac in reply to LeeEsq says:

        @leeesq As I said before: “I believe in a one-state solution with Palestinians as equal citizens, because I have no desire to see my people become perpetrators of the kinds of crimes they fled there to escape in the first place.”

        If Israel must choose between ceasing to be violator of human rights and international law, and remaining a Jewish state, I as a Jew would much rather see it do the former. Basic principles of democracy, egalitarianism and human rights automatically trump religion, no matter which religion, forever and always. To claim otherwise is to abandon the whole project of liberalism.Report

      • Gabriel Conroy in reply to LeeEsq says:


        I had thought that Israel aspires to be a secular state. It isn’t completely, of course, but I had thought that was the aspiration. However, I’ll defer to you in your knowledge of it.

        Sometimes I think all these controversies have a precedent in the Biblical story of the Jews wanting a king, and when they got one, found that having one was much more difficult and wearisome than they had anticipated or perhaps even wanted, and their kings did some really grand things, but also some really wicked things. Would you know if there a running commentary on this story and its relevance (or lack thereof) to the current situation in Israel?

        I really do ask this question in the spirit of curiosity. I’m not trying to bait you.Report

      • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        the point of thumbscrews is not to kill the person. Judging by the lulz, the boycott is working as intended.
        While I’ll agree that more people need to fuck with Israel, that doesn’t absolve you from the moral imperative to do something.
        (if you’d rather, I’m certain there are Palestinian charities who are not Hamas, who you can donate to.)Report

      • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        As long as Israel restricts immigration of Palestinians, and forces all jews to show bloodlines (or Orthodox ritually approved conversions) in order to immigrate, it’s not a secular state.
        [I’m a great deal more sanguine about “religious states” — because I feel like most countries are one, to some degree or another.]Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Gabriel, the line between religion and state has long been a blury one in Israel for several reasons. One reason was that while all Zionists wanted a Jewish state, they never quite came to a conclusion by what this means. Beliefs ranged from a state with a Jewish ethnic majority to a state where Judaism the religion was the animating principle to everything inbetween. The debate is still ongoing and the line kept blury in order to keep the peace. Another reason is that Israel/Palestine is filled with a lot of contentious religious real estate. Your going to want a state that can intervene in religious disputes to keep things calm. A purely secular state is an impossibility in that particular area whether its the Jews or Arabs that constitute the majority population.

        Zac, can you please explain to me how a one-state solution would work or be free of the various ethnic and sectarian conflicts that range in that part of the world?Report

      • Zac in reply to LeeEsq says:

        @leeesq “Zac, can you please explain to me how a one-state solution would work or be free of the various ethnic and sectarian conflicts that range in that part of the world?”

        I would never say it would be free of potential ethnic or sectarian conflicts, I just think it would be preferable to the status quo. Is South Africa doing well these days? Well, it’s a mixed bag, but it’s a damn sight better than it was under the apartheid regime.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Zac, I think your being relentlessly optimistic about the ability to create a multi-ethnic state in Israel/Palestine and have it end up as South Africa after 1994. What if the majority of Muslim residents want to join the Organization of Islamic Countries or the Arabs, the Arab League? I’m pretty sure that the broad spectrum of Jewish citizens are going to be completely against both on the grounds that what was promised as multi-ethnic Palestine is rapidly becoming Arab Muslim Palestine. The majority of Muslim Arabs in Israel/Palestine may not be Islamists in the mode of Hamas but like many others in the region links between Islam and the state are popular political opinions.

        The choice has never been between Jewish Israel and secular, democratic Palestine. It is between Jewish Israel and Arab Muslim Palestine.Report

      • Chris in reply to LeeEsq says:

        The choice has never been between Jewish Israel and secular, democratic Palestine. It is between Jewish Israel and Arab Muslim Palestine.

        This very well may be true, but without at least an independent Palestinian state, Isreal will have to become more and more repressive to keep a strictly Jewish Israel. This may have at one time been a battle for the very existence of Israel. Now it’s a battle for its soul, and the good is losing.Report

      • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        No, you’re wrong. In the 1970’s, in the 1980’s even, there could have been a secular Palestine. Support for Islamists has waxed and waned, and for a long time, secular nationalists were really in favor — and Palestine along with Egypt were some of the strongest proponents.

        Egypt loses power, and as it loses power, the Middle East destabilizes. America has done some good by lending more support to Iran, but that doesn’t help the predominantly Sunni world (Iran’s sphere is more likely to extend to Azerbajan and Kazakhstan…).

        If we don’t win this battle for Israel’s soul, genocide will be the final solution.

        We use the tools we have, and right now we’re increasingly turning to psychological warfare (which, as always, is a tricky tool to use — but we’ve got plenty of experience…). [Every time Israel fires on peaceful protesters…]Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Kim, what is your evidence for this? Theocratic politics as been an important in Muslim-majority countries since the 19th century. A call to return of the purity of early Muslim theocracy has been a response to modernity in pratically every Muslim-majority country from Morrocco to Indonesia. Even if Israel never existed, there are going to a not insignificant of Palestinian Muslims attracted to Islamic theocracy simply because of normal political patterns and ideological distribution in Muslim-majority countries. I really see no reason why politics in an independent Palestine would be immune to the same issues that are present in other countries in the region that have nothing to do with Israel. The presence of a large Jewish minority that doesn’t want to accept second-class status would exasperate things.Report

      • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        today’s reading for you: Nine Parts of Desire by Geraldine Brooks.

        I’m not saying some religious nuttery wouldn’t have occurred. It just wouldn’t have been terribly strong. Lord knows, it hasn’t really taken hold in Turkey, and it’s only Saudi influence that has gotten it so far in Egypt.

        And you’re ignoring the whole “discrediting the Arab nationalists by showing how much they sucked at fighting israel” angle.

        Palestine wasn’t a Wahabi state, it’s brand of Islam was a lot more moderate.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to NobAkimoto says:

      I am curious about why you think the current situation helps no one but Hamas.

      I admit that it this is a subject that it is very hard to find unbiased or unemotional reporting on. Possibly more so than other subjects.

      So far most people seem rather fed up with Hamas including their closest allies in the Middle East like Egypt. Hamas are basically trapped in a no-win situation. I read an article about how the Iron Dome is too effective and makes Israel look like a bully but I’ve read narratives from Israelis where they talk about the psychic toll of constant air raids and how their elderly parents are basically under house arrest and people seem sympathetic.

      People were rightly horrified at the murder of the Palestinian teenager, and the bombing of children on the beach but I don’t see people telling Israel to just deal with Hamas and give Hamas everything they want.

      The voices who are being angry at Israel are the typical ones: Andrew Sullivan, Mondoweiss, the far-right people like Daniel Larison who write for Paleocon (and probably anti-Semitic) publications.Report

      • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Hamas benefits when Israel is shown as a bully.
        Peace benefits when Israel acts as a bully towards Peaceful Opponents — or when Israel is shown to be being assholes who can’t be bothered to pay legal minimum wages to their employees.Report

      • North in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        C’mon ND, even Jeffrey Goldberg has stated that Israel’s behavior towards the PA/Fatah/Abbas/West Bank has been knee slappingly idiotic. Bibi has tripled down on sticks without a hint of carrot for years now. It’s like the Israeli’s honestly think that the relatively peaceful state of affairs in the West Bank is somehow self sustaining under the current conditions. When it comes to the West Bank Bibi was born on Second but thinks he hit a double.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        Maybe but at the same time no one seems able to control the recent events in Europe where Arabs mobbed against a synagogue in Paris on Bastille Day and other random anti-Semitic demostrations and violent attacks. A record number of French Jews are making Aliyah or migrating to other countries because of France’s inability to quell anti-Semitic incidents.

        There have been other incidents all over Europe that are either ignored or discreetly encouraged. The mayor of Malmo, Sweden has suggested that Jews are to blame for the anti-Semitic attacks in his city.

        There is a lot of Fanonesque excuse making for the Arabs.Report

      • NobAkimoto in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        The status quo only helps Hamas because it erodes the ability for there to be any negotiated settlement at all. At this stage the only people who win when things continue that way are nihilists.

        As much as there is such a thing as a psychological toll from being under threat, Hamas poses no existential threat when all it’s capable of doing is lobbing rockets. It has no other useful power projection mechanism. Disengaging from Gaza in the first place has put them into a position where their only real solution was random rocket attacks and the occasional border incident.

        States don’t have to like one another to deal with them in ways that match their interests. Look at how Turkey, for example, is dealing with the KRG. The fact that they have tacitly admitted to something that has been anathema for that state for nearly its entire existence (ie a de facto Kurdish state) has allowed it to push the PKK into a cease fire and more.

        I’m at least not suggesting giving Hamas “everything they want”. But partly as the weaker party, they gain more relatively speaking when Israel can legitimately be seen as an occupying or colonial power than when they’re impotently tossing rockets across the border.

        There is a lot of Fanonesque excuse making for the Arabs.

        Yes, because if there’s anything that “the Arabs” in Europe suffer from, it’s an abundance of acceptance and toleration from the rest of their communities. The implication that the Europeans are happily privileging their Muslim communities over their Jewish communities is inane.Report

      • Saul Degraw in reply to Saul Degraw says:


        I think there are plenty of issues with discrimination against Arabs in Europe but also that European officials let Arabs vent against the much smaller Jewish populations as a release.

        I think despite claims to the contrary, anti-Zionsm can often be linked to anti-Semitism and dog whistles are highly possible just like they are among US politicians against blacks, Hispanics, and immigrants

        “Why does being opposed to Israel so often and so casually tip over into expressions of disgust with the Israeli people and with the Jews more broadly? It’s because, today, rage with Israel is not actually a considered political position. It is not a thought-through take on a conflict zone in the Middle East and how that conflict zone might relate to realpolitik or global shifts in power. Rather, it has become an outlet for the expression of a general feeling of fury and exhaustion with everything – with Western society, modernity, nationalism, militarism, humanity. Israel has been turned into a conduit for the expression of Western self-loathing, Western colonial guilt, Western self-doubt. It has been elevated into the most explicit expression of what are now considered to be the outdated Western values of militaristic self-preservation and progressive nationhood, and it is railed against and beaten down for embodying those values.”

        I agree with this quote.Report

      • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        All Hail Green Leaf!

        You side with Israel. Kat sides with the Palestinians.

        Me? I’ma gonna side with the trolls. They have more fun than the lot of you.Report

      • Zac in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        “Maybe but at the same time no one seems able to control the recent events in Europe where Arabs mobbed against a synagogue in Paris on Bastille Day and other random anti-Semitic demostrations and violent attacks. A record number of French Jews are making Aliyah or migrating to other countries because of France’s inability to quell anti-Semitic incidents.

        There have been other incidents all over Europe that are either ignored or discreetly encouraged. The mayor of Malmo, Sweden has suggested that Jews are to blame for the anti-Semitic attacks in his city.

        There is a lot of Fanonesque excuse making for the Arabs.”

        Wow, Saul, I honestly expected better of you. How is any of this at all related to the Palestinians? They are not responsible for the actions of people in other countries. “The Arabs” are not some cohesive group, any more than “the Jews” are. It would be as though I blamed that organ-smuggling ring among those rabbis in New Jersey on Israelis. Simply absurd.Report

      • North in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Saul, the Arabs in Europe behave badly sometimes, so the fish what?!? The Arabs in Europe tried to drive Piglet out of the workplace and bully operas and newspapers into not offending them. Their culture is a backwards one that’s only beginning to catch up to some of the others. Again so the fish what? That is not any reason for England to go convert a segment of Transjordan into a bantustan.

        I advocate about the idiocy about Bibi and his right wing morons and mouth breathers not because I bear any animus for Israel but because I care about her. If I despised Israel I would probably be absolutely delighted watching the madness abounding and I would be cackling with mustache twirling glee as I watched her people beginning to accept the cultural coarsening and othering mindset that they so deplore in the Arabs.Report

  4. I think there’s a few things at play. First is how you and your friend define “Zionist.” I know at least a few people who would never question Israel’s right to exist, but describe themselves as “anti-zionist” or “non-zionist.” According to them (I assume, but I’ve never asked), “Zionism” probably means something like “Israel must not be criticized.” For you (Saul) on the other hand, I suspect the meaning is more nuanced. You’ll never give up on Israel, but you would criticize it.

    Second, this

    I am sure that there is an event that will render me heartbroken and cause me to give up on Israel but I have not found it yet. Perhaps there is an event that will cause my friend to become disheartened with the Palestinians but I doubt he has found it yet either.

    strikes me as a false dilemma that unfortunately people seem to embrace. It should be possible to criticize and praise both sides, as well as to point out that the worst of Israel is not all of Israel just like the worst of the Palestinians is not all Palestinians.

    Third, I don’t blame Israel for defending itself from rocket attacks. I think I agree with Noah Millman that it’s not defending itself as wisely as it might, but I can imagine the US being no different if it suffered rocket attacks from its neighbors, and if I lived in range of the rockets, I’d be grateful.

    Fourth, when it comes to the Palestinian situation and occupied territories, in isolation, I believe it is Israel that has more power to make the difficult decisions. Israel–again, in isolation and not taking into account the general international situation in which it finds itself–is the stronger entity. That might not be enough, and having the power to act doesn’t do much if the current regime in charge of the Palestinians is so violent. But I think any assessment of the decisions made by the two peoples (if we’re going to make sweeping judgments about people to begin with, which is a nice, but dangerous shorthand) has to take into account Israel’s relative power. Of course, Israel doesn’t operate in isolation, and it has to take the bigger picture into account, and that constrains its actions, too.

    Given ten situations in which a more powerful state, or people backed by that state, occupies another people, in nine of those, the people who protest, revolt, or try to assert independence will probably not be nice about it. That might make me seem like an apologist for Hamas. Please don’t take it that way. I have a high bar for when violence is acceptable, even when it comes from marginalized and oppressed groups or from groups with less relative power.

    Fifth, when it comes to moderation on this issue, I think it’s one of those, “be the change you want to see.” That’s hard to do, and sometimes the situation calls for taking firm stands and going to arms. But it’s necessary, in my opinion, especially when when our involvement is in discussing what’s happening. In other words, if one lives in an occupied territory, or in an area subject to rocket attacks or suicide bombings, then one might reasonably find it necessary to abandon moderation (even then, I question the decision). But when it comes to discussion, one has to sometimes be the moderate one because the other option is to close off discussion.Report

  5. North says:

    Saul I am a former feverent supporter of Israel now reduced to a moderate supporter of Israel personally. I would submit Israel’s sins have been not in their comission towards Hamas but in their omission towards Fatah. Netanyahu has been very obviously and purposefully undermining and weakening Palestinian moderates and strengthening Palestinian extremists (like Hamas) for his entire political career.
    Bibi is quite obviously perfectly content to “mow the lawn” periodically and suffer Hamas’ rocket bombardments but the idea of confronting his own people on the subject of the West Bank settlements is intolerable for him.
    If there is a God or Goddess his/her sense of humor is excruciating. If only Arafat had passed away earlier or Sharon suffered his stroke later.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to North says:

      I honestly don’t think that many Fatah leaders really want independence for a variety of reasons either. For one thing, it would mean that they would actually have to engage in state building and be capable leaders to the Palestinians. Their current position gives them a lot of the benefits of leadership with little of the responsibilities and many dollars in international funding to use for a variety of corrupt purposes. According to the New Republic, in the last round of negotiations Fatah leaders were more focused on pre-conditions for negotiations like prisoner releases than the end deal. Susan Rice found this so exasperating that she yelled at them for not seeing the big picture.

      I also think that many of the older Fatah leaders like Abbas and possibly a good number of the younger ones still have the same ideological problems in forming a final negotiation with Israel that Hamas has. Many of them seem stuck in the revolutionary mindset and can’t reach a final deal because that would mean legitimizing Jewish self-determination.

      At this point, I think Israel should do a unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank and tell Fatah that they are free to do as they please. Just give them their independence.Report

      • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Were Israel capable and willing to do that — indeed, if they did do that, I might become a Zionist again.Report

      • North in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Lee, we don’t disagree on anything but the window dressing. Fatah is the way it is now because all of it’s constructive elements have been actively stamped on by Bibi’s malign neglect. That is not an excuse for Fatah, the Palestinians deserve better, but it doesn’t absolve Israel.
        Fatah currently meets all of Israel’s ostensive demands for a neighbor; it acknowledges Israel exists and will continue to exist, it tamps down on its extremist elements and it engages in security cooperation with Israel. Israel has everything it needs to withdraw from the West Bank except the will to actually do the painful difficult task of extricating itself. I suspect that this will only be able to be done by a centrist or left wing Israeli government since the right is too beholden to its settler wing. I fear with cold shivers that the Israeli polity has abandoned the inclination to elect such a government in the near term.Report

      • Mo in reply to LeeEsq says:

        A lot depends on what the “West Bank” is. Original borders or taking into account settlements. If it’s the latter, than there’s a lot still on the table.Report

      • Kim in reply to LeeEsq says:

        too many people (Well, one really) have died for the Liberals to actually withdraw from the West Bank.
        Terrorism sends an awful message.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq says:

        North, I’m wondering about how big the constructive element in Fatah was. They did exist but they never seem to be the ones in power or that great in number. There have been recent posts on facebooks of citizens of various Muslim-majority countries like Iran or Pakistan scribbling “I stand with Israel” and posting it with their passport so clearly there are differences of opinion. Its just that the ones willing to make with peace with Israel aren’t in power.Report

      • North in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Lee, if Israel had made it in their interests to make Peace with Israel the ones who genuinely like Israel would have made common cause with the naked mercenaries and self interested ones and dragged the Palestinians into a deal. If the early Aughts or late 90’s Israel’s had had Abbas and his crew to deal with instead of that shyster Arafat then the Israeli’s would probably be enjoying a tense but deepening peace instead of riding this merry go round again. I don’t agree with Kim about much but I would love to dance on Netanyahu’s political grave. Abbas and Fayyad? A non-likudnik Prime Minister could have done a withdrawal with the likes of them in charge. Olmert almost did.Report

    • Burt Likko in reply to North says:

      Largely this. A two-state solution requires some cooperation between Israel and Palestine. Both demonstrated disinterest in working with one another when things were more peaceful than they are now.

      It’s not at all clear to me that good fences make good neighbors — fences seem to be causes of animosity rather than acknowledgement of mutually-respected boundaries. Especially when topped with endless loops of concertina wire.Report

    • Snarky McSnarkSnark in reply to North says:


    • Mo in reply to North says:

      @north The sad thing is that today the Yigal Amirs have substantially more power and the Yitzhak Rabins have substantially less.Report

  6. Kim says:

    When you stop supporting Israel, it will already be too late.

    Every word you write that supports Israel, even as it does things that are violations of both its own and international law without consequences, lends power to your foes.Report

    • Stillwater in reply to Kim says:

      You mean that ironically, yes? I hope so, anyway.Report

      • Kim in reply to Stillwater says:

        No. I don’t. We’re rapidly reaching endgame in the Middle East, and judging by the current heading, the consequences are going to be ugly. Genocide is not out of the question. In fact, it’s a majority probability.

        Saul and Lee are good guys, and they mean well. But I’d rather tell them now that they’re being idiotic, rather than blame them later when (More!) people are dead.Report

  7. j r says:

    Moderation is far from impossible. It does, however, require you to temper, if not outright abandon, your tribal affiliations.

    People have been fighting and dying over land and resources for as long as there have been people. What is so special about this iteration that it calls me to rush into the fray and declare my allegiance to one side or the other? A few hundred people die violently every year in Chicago, but almost no one runs to Facebook to post about the relative superiority of the Gangster Disciples to the Vice Lords.

    I lament the situation. I mourn the dead. But, I refuse to pick a side.Report

    • Saul Degraw in reply to j r says:

      I would largely agree here and that the best solution to all land disputes like Israel-Palestine and what happened in the former Yugoslavia is open boarders.

      It is sadly only a small handful of liberals and libertarians that seem to truly believe in open boarders. Most people seem to accept no greater legitimacy than the nation state. I’ve heard liberals say argue for the children coming in from Central America but also hem and haw about just letting them in carte blanche because open boarders would send the wrong message. The weak liberal solution seems to be to treat the children humanely, give them lawyers and hearings, but not necessarily to grant all the children asylum carte blanche.Report

      • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Yawn. You don’t want actual open borders. Because if there were actual open borders, the Palestinians would all move back to Palestine, and there wouldn’t be an Israel anymore. Might take a year or two, but Palestinians are the majority, or nearly so.Report

      • NobAkimoto in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Doesn’t Zionism as a concept rely upon the nation-state being the ultimate sovereign authority in the world?Report

      • James Hanley in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Most people seem to accept no greater legitimacy than the nation state

        Yes, and it’s disturbing because they will gladly engage in actions harmful to others that they otherwise would never be able to justify to themselves.Report

      • Kim in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        I dunno. I support terrorist hunting whether done by governments or NGOs. I support hunting down and killing torturers and slavers.

        These are my values, and they really don’t change when you toss a government into the picture.Report

      • Zac in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        FWIW, Saul, I believe in open borders.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Yes, and it’s disturbing because they will gladly engage in actions harmful to others that they otherwise would never be able to justify to themselves.

        That’s true of any allegiance. Look at a defense lawyer badgering a rape victim as part of a “vigorous defense”, or the people defending the Comcast retention specialist because his douchebaggery was “doing what his employer wants”. And the horrors done in the name of religious faith are far too numerous to describe.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        Doesn’t Zionism as a concept rely upon the nation-state being the ultimate sovereign authority in the world?

        Zionism believes that there should be a strong, secure Jewish community in the Holy Land, and that any Jew in the world should be free to join it. Nation-states come in only because having one is currently the only way to achieve that.Report

    • Will Truman in reply to j r says:

      For the US I have quite a bit of difficulty reconciling open borders with a strong safety net and the liberal project more broadly.Report

  8. Jaybird says:

    There is one major dynamic that colors my opinion on this whole thing and it goes back to arguments I got into during the 2nd Intifada.

    It had to do with the issue of (however you wanted to frame it):
    A) Israel stopping and searching ambulances at the border
    B) Palestinians using ambulances to smuggle bomb belts through the border

    My response was something to the effect of “they found a couple of bomb belts” (and I posted an article detailing how they found a couple of bomb belts, one of which was usually the same one as the previous guy posted, just later in the same article).

    At this point, I’d try to bring up stuff like “treaties that discussed use of ambulances to smuggle bombs” and then, for whatever reason, these treaties became somewhat unimportant pieces of paper, and, besides, they only found a couple of bomb belts.

    It felt like watching a pro wrestling match with a bad referee. This tag team had to follow every rule and that tag team didn’t have to tag in and out and they could use closed fists and the rule book didn’t apply. The rule book only applied to one side.

    In any case, that was a million years ago and with different argument partners and this is totally different now, right? So we start fresh with the arguments and I will try to not argue as if I know that my interlocutors will pull the same kinda tricks. But I’ve got that in the back of my head anyway.Report

    • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

      And the other thing in the back of my head:
      I imagine a scenario where Israel yells “Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Fine!” and pulls out of Gaza entirely. Like, even takes down the fence between Gaza and Egypt and says “do whatever the heck you want, you’re your own state now, go eff yourselves” and just walks away. More walls between Gaza and Israel but now that’s the only Gazan border that Israel is monitoring and keeping stuff from passing through.

      What happens next? In my imagination, “peace” is not what happens next.

      So then Israel yells “Jesus Christ!” at the West Bank and there’s some fancy map work to be done but they pull out of pretty much everywhere except for some parts of Jerusalem.
      “I don’t care what you do next, but you’re not coming through this border”, they then say. “Work with Jordan if you want. Or not. We don’t care. You’re your own state now. Go eff yourselves.”

      What happens next? In my imagination, “peace” is not what happens next.

      Is my imagination limited?Report

      • North in reply to Jaybird says:

        With regards to Gaza or the West Bank Jay if Israel pulled out entirely and peace didn’t happen then they could likely “mow the lawn” with relative equanamity knowing that there’d be very little discomfort from their Western allies on the matter*. They’d also know that there was very little risk that the Palestinians would bail on the two state solution and start demanding citizenship and voting rights in Israel thus erasing the Jewish state**. Finally they’d know that without Israeli soldiers and settlers teaching the following generations of Palestinians to loathe them that it’d get really hard for the Palestinians to transmit that poke the bear mentality from one generation to the next if, in some unlikely scenario, they tried to cling to it.

        *and what little there was they could very very easily ignore.
        **Since there’d be physical seperation and no Jewish control over Palestinian movement the Palestinians would be ignored in these demands by the actors Israel’s care about.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        I guess this is where I see things tie into the arguments I got into during the second intifada. If a Palestinian Youth explained that God was Great before engaging in an enhanced kinetic political display of opposition on a bus, I would have people argue that this was perfectly understandable, if regrettable, and on and on and on. I don’t know how representative of the opposition this position is… but I saw it a *LOT* during. I don’t know that it’d evaporate if Israel did what I’m suggesting.

        I mean, I thought that the pullout from Gaza was wonderful and illuminating. What happened after the pullout? The story I most remember is the Palestinians burning down the former Synagogue. Here’s this awesome building that would have been a great public meeting place (perhaps even could have been made into a half-decent mosque?) and, of course, the Palestinians burned it to the ground.

        After that, I learned that the Israelis were in charge of what got in and what got out of Gaza… and it wasn’t limited to bomb belts, missiles, and bullets. Stuff like “Frozen Fish Sticks” and whatnot. That struck (and continues to strike) me as bullshit. I understand the weapons thing, I guess. Governments gonna govern. I don’t like the treatment of staples… but then I wonder what might happen if Israel up and left Gaza and allowed Frozen Fish Sticks in the future and my conclusion is not peaceful or close to peace.

        It’s more like I imagine that there’d be all kinds of rockets or shells coming into Israel (civilians, military, whatever) and, instead of being told about how awful the shelling is, I’d be told that the shelling (even shelling that breaks a cease-fire!) is regrettable but perfectly understandable. Now, perhaps we would be able to dismiss such voices who’d say such things as being nutterbutters. Sure.Report

      • NobAkimoto in reply to Jaybird says:

        So in your imagination, what’s the scenario that brings “peace”?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        So in your imagination, what’s the scenario that brings “peace”?

        Israel being a smoking crater.

        That’d buy a couple of months, anyway. I imagine a couple of months after that, the Palestinians would have an election, vote in Sharia, then have a civil war.

        That’s just conjecture, though.Report

      • NobAkimoto in reply to Jaybird says:

        So your contention is essentially “Palestinian Arabs are incapable of being peaceful”?Report

      • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        If israel ceased to exist, suddenly the 50+% of the population of Saudi Arabia with AK47s would start an uprising.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        Eh, that’d be like asking So your contention is essentially “Saudi Arabian Arabs are incapable of being feminist”?

        There are a lot of cultural issues going on. For certain things on the surface to change, there will have to be deeper changes in the culture.

        We don’t like talking about changing other cultures. It’s unseemly.

        But if the culture does not change, there will continue to be conflict whether or not the Jews (I mean, Israelis) are there. Of course, my only evidence for this is what I see as similar cultures in the region.Report

      • North in reply to Jaybird says:

        Jay even if I granted your pessimism, and I don’t consider it irrational, the bald fact remains that an Israel that wasn’t blockading Gaza and wasn’t entangled with and strangling (and strangled by) the West Bank would be in a pretty good position to look after itself. Consider the regard the state has from the civilized west now despite its questionable behavior regarding the West Bank and Gaza. Eliminate those concerns? We have ample samples: western opinion has been enormously strongly in favor of Israeli retaliation early on in each of these defensive maneuvers. ELiminate the entanglement concerns? Any Palestinians that are attacking Israel have only “We hate Jews” or “We want to undo the creation of Israel en toto” as justifications? Only genuine antisemites and the most quacky of right and left wing fringes would care. Israel would be demographically secure and concrete with regards to the good will of the international nations that they give a Fish about.

        And the Palestinians? Maybe they’d sort their shit out once they didn’t have the Jews on the street corners to blame. Or maybe they’d blame the Jews, cause trouble, get steam rolled,watch the world shrug and say “you stupid fishers” and eventually get the idea. Frankly without the occupation the Palestinians would have to be distinctly unlike any other population of humans on the planet to manage to sustain that kind of destructive rage against the Israelis.Report

      • Chris in reply to Jaybird says:

        Frankly without the occupation the Palestinians would have to be distinctly unlike any other population of humans on the planet to manage to sustain that kind of destructive rage against the Israelis.

        Not really. Look at Eritrea. Look at Sudan. Look at much of the southern 3rd of Africa through the 80s, Ireland after the early 20s, or Pakistan and India today. If there are still disputed lands, there will still be conflict, and it will be extremely difficult to dissipate the hate and distrust.

        That said, it can’t be any worse than it is now. It’s not like an independent Palestine, even with ’67 borders, is going to rapidly develop military might sufficient to challenge Israel.Report

      • North in reply to Jaybird says:

        Agreed Chris though your examples are mostly of civil war sort of movements with ideological disagreements within a national or ethnic group. The Israeli’s and Palestinians are capable of living separately. Ireland is the only example you’ve raised that’s lasted generations and it had an outside power (England) stirring it up.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        Fair enough. I’m a big fan of unilateral withdrawal. I’m pretty sure that there will be noises made about how they didn’t pull out of Jerusalem enough but pulling out of most of East Jerulsalem should suffice for most folks.

        My issue is that the rocket attacks will continue. This isn’t really a big deal for Gaza because of the difficulty of hitting a decent target mixed with the iron dome… but Jerusalem has more targets than a bad metaphor from the Northeast in January.

        There will be attacks, and ignored ceasefires, and more attacks, and more ignored ceasefires, and, eventually, reoccupation of the West Bank just to keep the peace.

        But saying “this is what will happen” is cheap. Israel should pull out and let the Palestinians do their thing.

        And then we can enjoy the excuses. My money is on “they still occupy Jerusalem! No peace until Jerusalem is FREE!”Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to Jaybird says:

        Jaybird – I would be very pleased with unilateral Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank and East Jerusalem (i.e.: all areas east of the Green Line).

        The Palestinians would still definitely want some kind of link between the West Bank and Gaza. There would still be huge numbers of refugees calling for the right to return to their destroyed homes and villages in Israel. But it would be major, major progress.

        And the Israelis are never going to do it. Not because they’re worried about what would happen next, but because it would involve giving up large amounts of occupied and deliberately settled land, substantial agricultural and industrial areas in the Jordan Valley and Dead Sea areas, and a captive labour force to work in those areas. And, even more so, because it would mean going against the will of the settler movement and conservative Israelis, who want to retain much of the West Bank as, functionally, part of Israel for both religious and economic reasons.

        The Israelis deliberately moved hundreds of thousands of people into the occupied West Bank, and have been speeding up that process ever since the Oslo Agreement (which overwhelmingly shows that they weren’t sincere about ever intending to withdraw, and Oslo was no more than a smokescreen). Now they’ve got no way out of that. The settlers won’t leave unless force is used against them; even if the Israelis decided that they wanted peace more than land, they wouldn’t tolerate either the massive use of force against hundreds of thousands of their people OR leaving those people in a Palestinian state; and if Israel simply withdrew all their forces and left the settlers behind…well…the Palestinians have seen settlers burn their homes, destroy their wells, cut down their olive groves, throw rocks at their children, for decades, so I don’t expect that what happened to the settlers would be pretty.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        the Palestinians have seen settlers burn their homes, destroy their wells, cut down their olive groves, throw rocks at their children, for decades, so I don’t expect that what happened to the settlers would be pretty.

        Well, so long as we understand that, hey, sometimes violence begets violence.

        You can’t make an omelet, after all.Report

      • North in reply to Jaybird says:

        There may be more targets from the West Bank than Gaza, Jay, but there’s also a hell of a lot more for the Palestinians to lose if they launched rockets from the West Bank. I do not buy the Israeli line that rocket attacks do not occur from the West Bank due to their security presence. The PA has demonstrated the capability to prevent rocket attacks while under occupation; with their independence and welfare at risk I cannot imagine that the PA would somehow become more lax about rocket attacks once they had their territory.

        And if they did and the West Bank became another Gaza? Well then the Israeli’s could fight it with much greater moral clarity.

        That said my hand shaking fear is that Katherine is correct and the settler movement has demographically/politically tilted the Israeli polity into paralysis on the subject of settlements. If that is the case then may God help them all because I have no idea where it’ll end but I suspect it’ll be nowhere good or even somewhere that Israeli’s of today or ten years ago would say is remotely good.Report

      • NobAkimoto in reply to Jaybird says:

        Not really. Look at Eritrea. Look at Sudan. Look at much of the southern 3rd of Africa through the 80s, Ireland after the early 20s, or Pakistan and India today. If there are still disputed lands, there will still be conflict, and it will be extremely difficult to dissipate the hate and distrust.

        I still think the Anatolian situation between Greek independence after Navarino up to and including the whole Cyprus and Aegean Sea conflicts in the 50s onward is most comparable. While Greece is now so mired in its own internal miseries that the Megali Idea is (for the moment) dead, I’d imagine a sufficiently nationalistic right wing party might revive the whole “Let’s retake Constantinople” thing if given sufficient justification.Report

      • NobAkimoto in reply to Jaybird says:

        With all that said…

        Bibi’s no Ataturk, and Abbas is no Venizelos.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to Jaybird says:

        @nobakimoto, @chris, and @north, in an alternative history where Israel never existed and we had Arab Palestine* instead, I see no reason why independent Arab Palestine would be immune from the broader problems that existed in the Arab world. Even without Israel, the Middle East was filled with conflict like the battle between the Arab nationalists and the conservative Monarchists, the treatment of various Minorities, or the Islamic theocrats against the Secularists. Considering the sacred geography of Israel/Palestine, the area is going to be an especially attractive target for theocrats seeking a glory hole.

        *What side independent Arab Palestine takes depends on what Britain would do with the mandate without the Balfour Declaration. There is a good chance that they might not split the mandate but give the entire thing to Abdullah. This means we end up with the Hashemite Kingdom of Palestine and in a best case scenario, Palestine ends up as bigger and more prosperous version of Jordan. If they decide to split the mandate for some reason than the cis-Jordan part is probably going to be a conflict zone.Report

      • North in reply to Jaybird says:

        That’s interesting Lee but a non sequitor. I don’t think anyone here is assuming away the existence of Israel but rather discussing what the likely outcomes would be if the Israeli’s unilaterally separated themselves from the Palestinians and withdrew from the West Bank. Jay pessimistically assumes it would be worse than the status quos. I think it’d range somewhere in the gamut from somewhat better than the status quos to massively better than the status quos.Report

      • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        The endgame to the current situation in Israel/Palestine is genocide. Our increasingly harsh treatment of Israel is an attempt to get politicians to stand up to terrorists. I doubt it will work, honestly. But it’s our obligation to try.

        And I don’t give a flying fuck if those crazy religious Jews roast — they’re responsible for a lot of death and animosity. Just desserts, and all that.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to Jaybird says:

        How fair/unfair is it to say that one of Kim’s opinions is representative of a significant portion of the folks arguing?

        Because her opinion there seems representative of a lot of the folks that I’ve argued against. (Also, if you swap out “Jews” for “Muslims”, you get a decent facsimile of the opinion of a large chunk of the opposition.)

        And, to be perfectly honest, it seems to me that if you can get away with saying what Kim said, you have to be prepared to put up with people swapping out religions (or ethnicities) and making the exact same statement.Report

      • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        I’m about… 3% of the people arguing on this thread, I suppose.

        Do bear in mind significant differences: It is relatively easier to single out the Religious Zealots on the Jewish Side (sorry folks, they ain’t in Israel, I’m not calling them Israelis if they don’t live there, and you’ll be upset if I call them Palestinians) — they are the idiots living in settlements, particularly illegal settlements. They’re the ones shooting Israeli soldiers come to dismantle said settlements.

        And I’m okay with people saying “All the terrorists should die, whatever religion they’ve got”. But, I think probably 60% of folks on this thread would say that. Including the peacenik Zionists (dat’s a compliment!)Report

      • North in reply to Jaybird says:

        I’d say Kim’s opinion is not representative and is rather fringe but it’s considerably less out there than I would have said it was five or ten years ago. That worries me.Report

      • Kim in reply to Jaybird says:

        … really? Because, I’m restricting the “deserves to die” list to terrorists. On both sides.
        I wouldn’t have thought that would be controversial to anyone.Report

  9. Tod Kelly says:

    The important thing is that everyone pick a side of who is to blame for Middle East conflict and don’t bend! Do that, and it should be right as rain any day now.Report

    • Kim in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Actually, that’s obvious. Hitler’s to blame.

    • KatherineMW in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      Over the whole historical time frame: Britain, Germany, and Israel. In that order.

      During the last 47 years: Israel.Report

      • North in reply to KatherineMW says:

        And the Palestinians. They never did miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity, the poor people.Report

      • Zac in reply to KatherineMW says:

        @north “They never did miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity”

        Every time I see someone say that, I feel like they’re not totally sure what that actually entails but they say because it sounds clever. At the very least, people never miss an opportunity to use it.Report

      • North in reply to KatherineMW says:

        It’s a great saying Zac and true. It does not, in any way, excuse either side but it remains true. That said it’s becoming increasingly true of the Israeli’s over the last decade as well.Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to KatherineMW says:

        North – If much of the rest of the world arbitrarily decided that perhaps Saskatchewan and Manitoba should be given to, say, the Tibetans, on the basis that the Chinese have treated them awfully, and the UN decided after mediation that, to be fair, the Tibetans should “only” get Saskatchewan, would you be okay with that? Do you think the population of Saskatchewan would be okay with that? Should the population of Saskatchewan be okay with that?

        Assume for the purposes of this example that the number of Tibetans moving in would be larger than the current population of Saskatchewan and would thus form a majority.

        If, theoretically, Canada objected to that and our army tried to stop it, and the Tibetans formed a fighting force that expelled most of Saskatchewan’s current population from Saskatchewan, would we be okay with that?Report

      • North in reply to KatherineMW says:

        I’m fascinated Katherine, normally it’s right wing Israeli’s who regress to 1940’s to 1990’s history to change the subject.
        In brief: The Jewish people have connections and habitation in the Middle East that is considerably more deep rooted than any connection between Tibet and Saskatchewan; attempting to write them out of the history of the region strikes me as rather dishonest. Palestine was no picnic before the Jews started immigrating in masse. Israel’s founding was, like all countries I know of save Iceland, fraught with conflict and deplorable behavior on both sides- no one covered themselves in glory there. The Arabs and the Palestinians reacted like fools to it. Israel reacted to their reaction like damn fools. Now neither the Israeli’s nor the Arabs are going anywhere so now they’re going to have to sort it out.Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to KatherineMW says:

        I wasn’t attempting to change the subject, North. The Palestinians haven’t had any “opportunities” in the past 20 years, since Oslo, because Israel hasn’t behaved in anything resembling good faith and has made it more than clear that they have no intention of ending the occupation and have every intention of annexing large parts of the West Bank. None of the supposed agreements proposed by Israel since Oslo put any barriers in the way of Israel continuing to do that. After falling prey to one smokescreen, it’s hard to see why the Palestinians should go along with another one unless the Israelis give any indication of wanting peace and a two-state solution (e.g.: ceasing and reversing settlements). Anything else is just providing political cover for Israel.

        Given that – and given that you expressed agreement with the second paragraph of my other post, where I detailed the same thing – I assumed the “missed opportunities” you were speaking of were ones occurring earlier in history. And I was pointing out that the Palestinians had every reason to regard the “deal” they were presented with in 1947 as unacceptable.

        I recognize that Jews have a long past connected with the Holy Land, but territorial rights are generally regarded as expiring after a couple of millennia. We aren’t trying to give the Iranians the territory of the Persian Empire, or the Italians the Roman Empire. It was similarly preposterous to declare that land which the Palestinians were inhabiting, and had been inhabiting for generations, was to be made a “Jewish homeland” on the say-so of European powers who had no legitimate rights to the region and were in a position of colonial control over it.

        From the viewpoint of the Palestinians, the creation of Israel was (and is) plain old colonialism, and they can’t comprehend why the world’s decided that colonialism is okay for Jews but wrong when anyone else does it.

        I recognize that Israel does exist, and will in all probability continue to exist (even if it’s made a two-state solution impossible, I see the destruction of the Palestinians by Israel a far more likely consequence than the end of Israel as a Jewish state), but I don’t regard its creation as a legally or morally correct action by the Western powers. Britain couldn’t legally or morally “give” territory that the British had no legitimate right to in the first place.Report

      • North in reply to KatherineMW says:

        There’ve always been Jews in the lands that Israel occupies Katherine, we both know that. They only began immigrating in masse last century but they’ve always been present. I’m not aware of any millennia long connection between the peoples of Tibet and Saskatchewan.

        Just as the Israeli’s have had plenty of opportunities they’ve missed; particularly in fostering Palestinian moderates instead of undercutting them; the Palestinians have missed plenty of chances. Oslo, Clinton and Barack for instance- had they acceded to that deal the Israeli’s would have had to start uprooting their settlements. The Gazan withdrawal- the absolute self-destructive madness of reacting to Israeli withdrawal by turning Gaza into a rocket launching pad against Israel is jaw gaping level of insanity and most assuredly a missed opportunity.
        The Palestinians have been oppressed and suffered terribly, but they have inflicted plenty of their suffering on themselves as well. There is no blameless side in the Middle East- no pure innocent party.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to KatherineMW says:

        North, in my experience anti-Zionsits tend to think that by 1881, when Jews began emigrating back to Israel/Palestine for the purpose of re-establishing a Jewish majority country, was so distant and marginal that these Jewish immigrants were no better than the Pied-Noirs in Algeria. The Palestinians were basically there for several generations and this gave them more rights to self-determination.

        Its not an illogical argument but it ignores several factors like the fact that the Jews that began to immigrate to Israel/Palestine from Russia, Romania, and Yemen were perceived by their neighbors as aliens and treated as such. In Romania, Jews were even legally considered foreigners. Any Jew who lived in Romania and who wanted Romanian citizenship had to get a personal naturalization bill passed in the Romanian Parliament. It also ignores the fact that there were 25,000 Jews in Israel/Palestine in 1881 out of a population of around 400,000. That isn’t a sliver minority. Its a pretty substantially sized one. This means that the Jews didn’t appear out of nowhere.

        The essential problem with the anit-Zionist narrative, when its not motivated by sheer hatred of the Jews, is that they really don’t have any solutions for the problems faced by the Jews through out Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa besides hoping everything works out.Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to KatherineMW says:

        Clinton and Barack for instance- had they acceded to that deal the Israeli’s would have had to start uprooting their settlements.

        There was never any such deal, North.Report

    • Zac in reply to Tod Kelly says:

      I thought the important thing was to make a sarcastic zinger that shows you’re above the fray, but I see you’ve already taken care of that. 😉Report

  10. KatherineMW says:

    Hamas has one bargaining chip. One. The fact that they have not “accepted Israel’s right to exist”.

    Israel controls the Palestinian Territories. The Palestinians in the West Bank have ceded everything – they have accepted the current state of occupation, they have agreed to assist the occupation forces, they allow their people, even their children, to be taken away and indefinitely imprisoned. They agreed to allow Israelis to use the vast majority of the groundwater that lies under Palestinian land; the Israelis have exceeded by large amounts even what Palestine agreed to, and the Palestinians have no means by which to hold them to their contract. They have accepted that Israel steals property and transfers it to their own citizens to build colonies on. They have signed agreements that cede their right to defend themselves, without providing any other mechanism to prevent Israel from doing whatever it wants to them. Every other nation in the world – Israel definitely included – is regarded as having the right to defend themselves against aggression. The West Bank Palestinian Authority sacrificed it for the hope of having a state in future, a hope that has been entirely in vain, and that has been manipulated by Israel for two decades.

    Hamas would be absolute fools to give up their sole bargaining chip for empty promises. I see no obligation for them to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a state until Israel is ready to reciprocally recognize Palestine’s right to exist as a state. I see no obligation for them to cease using military force against Israel until Israel ceases to use military force against Palestine, and withdraws all its forces from their territory.

    If, by some unimaginable military circumstance, Hamas gained control of the whole Negev, I don’t think we would be telling Israel that it was unacceptable to counterattack. Until the Palestinian Territories are no longer occupied by Israeli forces, every military action Palestinians take is, by definition, defence.Report

    • North in reply to KatherineMW says:

      But Hamas doesn’t take military actions Katherine, it takes terrorist ones. Hurtling rockets at civilians is, by definition, terrorist. I don’t see a way to defend it.

      But honestly, over the last few years since Arafat died I would describe your second paragraph as largely accurate and Israel’s failure and behavior, described therein, as almost (but not quite) as inexcusable as Hamas’.Report

      • Mo in reply to North says:

        Thane Rosenbaum has found a way to justify targeting civilians.

      • NobAkimoto in reply to North says:

        Hurtling rockets at civilians is, by definition, terrorist. I don’t see a way to defend it.

        …such as those infamous terrorists Curtis LeMay and Arthur “Bomber” Harris.Report

      • North in reply to North says:

        Hamas is no nation and they are not in some form of total war with Israel Nob. I hold no brief for mass firebombing but the contexts are somewhat different no?Report

      • NobAkimoto in reply to North says:

        Given that Hamas is the reigning authority in Gaza, I’m not sure why they wouldn’t be considered the equivalent of a state actor waging war. It’s a matter of capability that differentiates them than anything else.Report

      • North in reply to North says:

        I would agree. Also goals matter. To my knowledge neither side in WWII had any desire to erase the other’s nation and people from the face of the earth and while both sides (and especially the Americans) did indeed hit civilians it was with the intended and realistic goal of degrading the capability of their opponent to wage war with the civilian deaths as an unfortunate side effect. Hamas has no realistic goal of degrading the Israeli’s ability to wage war. The killing of the civilians is their intended aim.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to North says:

        Given that Hamas is the reigning authority in Gaza, I’m not sure why they wouldn’t be considered the equivalent of a state actor waging war.

        Wouldn’t this being acknowledged result in Israel having more options wrt violence? (See, for example, Curtis LeMay and Arthur “Bomber” Harris.)Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to North says:

        If Hamas killing several civilians is terrorism, so is Israel killing hundreds of civilians. I agree that it’s wrong.Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to North says:

        And I agree with Nob that mass bombing of civilian areas by state actors in WWII was also terrorism. Given what a morally-loaded term “terrorism” has become, it’s a double-standard to define “terrorism” as only including actions of non-state groups or individuals.

        I define terrorism as: actions which deliberately target civilians or civilian areas for harm, with the goal of demoralizing the enemy, dissuading them from future attack, or altering their political positions/actions. By that standard, Hamas are terrorists. And so is Israel, with Operation Cast Lead as a prime example.Report

      • Kim in reply to North says:

        “goal of demoralizing the enemy, dissuading them from future attack, or altering their political positions/actions”
        Can you cite sources pertaining to Cast Lead where the Israeli leadership describes this as their goal?Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to North says:

        while both sides (and especially the Americans) did indeed hit civilians it was with the intended and realistic goal of degrading the capability of their opponent to wage war with the civilian deaths as an unfortunate side effect.

        That may have been the objective of some of the Allied military leadership in WWII, North, but it wasn’t Harris’ view. Harris’ deliberate objective was to bomb the German civilians so extensively that it would demoralize the Germans into giving up. It wasn’t just, or even mainly, about hitting military and industrial targets – it was about pounding the people into submission. Here’s a quote from Harris:

        the aim of the Combined Bomber Offensive…should be unambiguously stated [as] the destruction of German cities, the killing of German workers, and the disruption of civilised life throughout Germany.[30][31]

        … the destruction of houses, public utilities, transport and lives, the creation of a refugee problem on an unprecedented scale, and the breakdown of morale both at home and at the battle fronts by fear of extended and intensified bombing, are accepted and intended aims of our bombing policy. They are not by-products of attempts to hit factories.

        That’s unambiguously a declaration that terrorism is his deliberate means of waging war. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were also indisputably about terrifying the Japanese into submission.Report

      • KatherineMW in reply to North says:

        The indiscriminate nature of Cast Lead made it pretty clear that it was less about hitting specific military targets than about pounding the Palestinians into submission. The UN report found, through interviews with Israeli soldiers, that they were essentially ordered to shoot anyone on sight, shoot to kill, and assume everyone they saw was a combatant.

        From the conclusion of the UN Fact-Finding Mission’s report:

        1883. The Gaza military operations were, according to the Israeli Government, thoroughly and extensively planned. While the Israeli Government has sought to portray its operations as essentially a response to rocket attacks in the exercise of its right to self-defence, the Mission considers the plan to have been directed, at least in part, at a different target: the people of Gaza as a whole.

        1884. In this respect, the operations were in furtherance of an overall policy aimed at punishing the Gaza population for its resilience and for its apparent support for Hamas, and possibly with the intent of forcing a change in such support. The Mission considers this position to be firmly based in fact, bearing in mind what it saw and heard on the ground, what it read in the accounts of soldiers who served in the campaign, and what it heard and read from current and former military officers and political leaders whom the Mission considers to be representative of the thinking that informed the policy and strategy of the military operations.Report

      • Mike Schilling in reply to North says:

        To my knowledge neither side in WWII had any desire to erase the other’s nation and people from the face of the earth

        Actually “erase the other’s nation from the face of the earth” is a fair description of the Nazi intent towards Eastern Europe. Some of the people might have survived, as serfs.Report

      • Chris in reply to North says:

        and while both sides (and especially the Americans) did indeed hit civilians it was with the intended and realistic goal of degrading the capability of their opponent to wage war with the civilian deaths as an unfortunate side effect

        The residents of London on December 29, 1940, Dresden from February 13 to 15, 1945, and Tokyo on March 9 and 10, 1945, to say nothing of the residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki later that year might disagree. Civilians were undoubtedly targets of those raids, at least to some extent, and civilian casualties were certainly intended, not seen as unfortunate side effects. Such bombings were about destroying will.

        Also, the people of Poland, Ukraine, Lithuania, Belarus, and western Russia would disagree strongly with your assertion that the Nazis didn’t want to wipe them off the face of the Earth. I mean, there are 3 million dead Polish and 20 million dead Soviets civilians to argue against the point. Not to mention the 5 million or so Chinese civilians that the Japanese did away with in various acts of genocide.

        As pretty much any war will show, if fighting goes on for more than a few months, the animosity toward and dehumanization of the enemy build to such an extent than an escalating series of atrocities by both sides is pretty much inevitable.Report

    • j r in reply to KatherineMW says:

      I see no obligation for them to recognize Israel’s right to exist as a state until Israel is ready to reciprocally recognize Palestine’s right to exist as a state. I see no obligation for them to cease using military force against Israel until Israel ceases to use military force against Palestine, and withdraws all its forces from their territory.

      How about the simple fact that they have no hope of winning? Hamas simply does not have the military force to drive the Israelis into the sea as they would like to do. All they can do is annoy the Israeli government enough to provoke a response in which the Israeli government is killing Palestinian citizens. I am all for asymmetrical warfare when that is all you have available, but what Hamas is doing amounts to terrorism against their own people. Basically Hamas is trading Palestinian lives for bad publicity against Israel, which Israel doesn’t seem to care much about. And not only is this is an unethical tactic, but it is absurdly ineffectual.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to j r says:

        How about the simple fact that they have no hope of winning?

        They don’t have to win militarily. They have to win in the papers.

        All you need to do is have the refs say “well, this is a tragedy but you have to understand…” whenever you do something wrong and have the refs say “HEY! HEY! THAT’S COMPLETELY INAPPROPRIATE!” whenever they do something wrong and you’ve got yourself halfway to victory.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to j r says:

        I am all for asymmetrical warfare when that is all you have available,

        I agree with this, actually.

        but what Hamas is doing amounts to terrorism against their own people.

        And yet you conclude that Hamas doesn’t even have that option available to them, presumably because such asymmetrical tactics will result in an asymmetrical response. Presumably, tho, (and by hypothesis, no?) asymmetrical warfare is justified precisely when exists a disparity in power structures between the competing parties exists, in particular military power. WHich of course sorta entails that asymmetric warfare will – or at least could – elicit a massively disproportionate response. In which case asymmetric tactics would in fact not be justified. The two claims strike me as inconsistent. When and how would asymmetrical warfare exclude the possibility of a military (or economic, whatever) response targeting civilians? Am I missing something?


        As a description of things, you may be right. Let’s assume you are: Hamas engages in these action in an effort to win the media war. Irrespective of whether that claim incorrectly trivializes the complexity of these issues (I think it does) if the claim is correct, the question is Why? Why do you think Hamas’ actions reduce to an effort to win the media war? Surely there must be a reason for is an instrumental reason behind their desires, no? At least, there is if we attribute basic rationality to the decision-makers within that group, which your claim necessarily rests on.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to j r says:

        It’s fairly straightforward.

        “Can we win in an air war?”
        “Can we win in a ground war?”
        “Can we win in a media war?”
        “Well, let’s do that.”

        Perfectly reasonable, perfectly rational. Fire off a hundred rockets and kill maybe a dozen Jews, I mean Israelis. When Israel responds by destroying a handful of the places holding munitions and, in doing so, harms/maims/kills a hundred bystanders, this turns a tactical loss by Hamas into a strategic victory (or is it vice versa? I can never keep those straight).

        Surely you’ve seen the argument that Hamas has only killed maybe a dozen Israelis, right?Report

      • Kim in reply to j r says:

        Agreed. People on both sides who want peace, would rather see Israel attacking innocent, unarmed protesters. That’s how you win a media war, folks. Not by attacking civilians blindly.Report

      • North in reply to j r says:

        Jay, I’m inclined to agree with your assessment, which makes disengagement (even if it has to be unilateral) from the West Bank so imperative. Hamas’ political/media war is fundamentally dependant on the presence of the Israeli settlements and the West Bank opression that is required to safeguard them. Remove that element and Hamas is left with virtually no traction in the court of western opinion. I just don’t see them being able to rev up the same oomf for, say, East Jerusalem* or inside the Green Line Israel. Not even close.

        *That said I think Israel would be well advised to make some accomidation to the Fatah/West Bank Palestinians regarding East Jerusalem anywhere from letting them have it as their capital up to the more complicated sharing schemes.Report

      • Stillwater in reply to j r says:


        Maybe I’m confused about what you’re suggesting here, but it seems to me you’re saying that Hamas tries to win the media war simply to win the media war, that there is no instrumental reason for doing so. That winning the media war constitutes end-game, ultimate victory in their eyes and nothing else is at stake. Is that what you’re saying?Report

      • Jaybird in reply to j r says:

        Well, if I may oversimplify greatly, there are three things that can happen in a war.

        A) Side A wins pretty definitively
        B) Side B wins pretty definitively
        C) The can gets kicked down the road

        (I realize that that is a gross oversimplification but this is Friday night.)

        Winning the media war can keep Israel from getting A… leaving only B or C. So let’s say that in the absence of Israel winning pretty definitively, the can gets kicked down the road. In another couple of years, things flare up again. Winning the media war can keep Israel from getting A.

        And so on and so forth until you have enough people saying, as Sister Katherine said:
        and if Israel simply withdrew all their forces and left the settlers behind…well…the Palestinians have seen settlers burn their homes, destroy their wells, cut down their olive groves, throw rocks at their children, for decades, so I don’t expect that what happened to the settlers would be pretty.

        Just expand that a bit. Enough to allow B to happen.

        That’s why winning the Media War is so important.Report

      • Kolohe in reply to j r says:

        Most successful asymmetric warfare campaigns (since the end of WW2) achieve their success because they prompt the other, stronger side to simply up and quit.

        Upping and quitting is a lot easier when the fight is half a world away (or even in the USSR/Afghanistan case, a couple of republics away).

        Gaza and Tel Aviv, in contrast are a mere 50 miles apart.

        So that’s why even though Hamas has nothing available but asymmetric warfare, they are going to do nothing but bring misery upon the people of the Strip with attacks on the Israeli state and interests: because Israel is never going quit.Report

      • Jaybird in reply to j r says:

        An excellent point.

        I should rephrase my points A and B accordingly:

        A) Side A loses pretty definitively
        B) Side B loses pretty definitively

        At this point, Burt would say something about Mutants.Report

  11. Here are some steps that could lead to more moderation in such discussions, but they do presuppose the good faith of the discussants:

    1. Be as specific as possible about locating actions to actors. Instead of speaking of what “the Israelis” or “the Palestinians”–or worse, “the Jews” and “the Muslims”–are doing, talk about what Netanyahu or his government or Hamas are doing. You can of course make the argument that both represent the expressed will of the peoples involved, but it’s sometimes helpful to stick with what one knows for a fact than with what one infers from an election. And if you are going to make that argument, be sure to parse the existence of counter-trends among the population that supposedly supports its representatives.

    2. Be open about your true rejection. What would Palestinians have to do, what would their endgame have to be, in order for someone on the one side to support them? Same thing for Israel.

    3. Ask for clarification before jumping to conclusions. If someone says they’re “non-Zionist,” ask what they mean by “non-Zionist” and by “Zionist.” It’s possible you’re closer to agreement then the use of terms acknowledges. Of course, terms don’t exist in a vacuum.

    4. Realize that tone and context are important. Even if the openly avowed “non-Zionist” agrees in substance with you, his/her use of “Zionist” is so emotionally laden and that emotion-ladenness has a history and a context. The term itself can operate as a code for something much more nefarious. So if the problem is with the use of this term–and not necessarily what the interlocutor means by the term.

    5. Remember that things have a history and history is messy. It’s not as if there was a homogenous, happy group of Palestinians who at some point in the 1940s were all mass evicted and relegated to an occupied territory. It’s also not as if the anger that Palestinians feel arises simply out of the fact that the people who are treating them horribly are Jewish.

    6. Try not to infer the worst. A criticism of Israel is not necessarily a desire to see it destroyed. A criticism of Palestinians is not necessarily a defense of Israel’s treatment of them.

    7. Stay on topic. If the discussion is about Israel and Palestine, avoid the temptation to bait the discussant with, say, examples of blatant antisemitism elsewhere in the world. If that latter needs to be brought up, demonstrate why that’s relevant.

    8. Engage in “strategic BSDI’ism.” We don’t have to assume that “each side is right” or that “each side does exactly the same things wrong” to recognize the messiness of the situation. But when criticizing the actions of one side, or of representatives of one side, it can be helpful to acknowledge what one’s own side does, to acknowledge the discomfirming evidence. This doesn’t mean conceding anything, other than facts which in all likelihood you already admit are true. But it does signal one’s good faith.

    9. If you’re emotionally attached to the topic–and many of us are–acknowledge it. Also acknowledge how much of that attachment is “tribal” and how much is vested in a sincere sense of self-interest. This is more a request for introspection than for self-sabotaging oneself in a debate. If I had relatives in Israel or the occupied territories, my closeness to the subject would likely affect my emotional attachment to it. If I were only two or three generations removed from victims of one of the worst genocides in history, I might very well have a different sense of what’s at stake. Those circumstances have almost nothing to do with the truth of the matter, but they provide a way to look at moderation. As for me, since none of the preceding really applies to me, I ought to acknowledge that my interest is much more theoretical than others and that if someone seems to adopt a more uncompromising or hostile tone than I like, it might be because I just don’t get it from their angle. At the same time, it’s possible that some people–in this thread and in the larger world–have a less direct stake in the outcome than they might *feel* they have in such discussions.

    All of the preceding are extremely hard to do. If I were closer to the “tribes” in this dispute, perhaps I would find it impossible. But I think those points can work at least as good first steps in the hard work of making this very emotional issue discussableReport

    • j r in reply to Gabriel Conroy says:

      Getting people to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the correct and very reasonable terms that you have laid out is a project that would be just about as difficult to carry out as brokering an actual lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.Report

  12. Murali says:


    Down here:

    Israel’s entire reason to exist is as a Jewish state. If you say Israel can exist but not as a Jewish state than you might as well just support a one state solution. A non-Jewish Israel is an oxy moron.

    This is transparently racist special pleading. I doubt you would say that a non-muslim Malaysia or a non-muslim Iran is an oxy-moron. Or if you do, you are far more tolerant of injustice than I am.Report

    • LeeEsq in reply to Murali says:

      Will if you want to be blunt about it, in a one-state solution the name Israel is probably going to be changed to Palestine. So you literally can’t have a non-Jewish state Israel because the name is going to change.Report

      • Murali in reply to LeeEsq says:

        Well, the name of the state is a trivial matter when compared to whether the state has an effectively liberal set of rules that treats all its citizens equally regardless of their religious or ethnic affiliation. Meaning if Jews and Arabs can live there side by side peacefully, it can be called Lalapalooza for all I care.Report

      • LeeEsq in reply to LeeEsq says:

        @murali, you can write an ideal liberal constitution but it means nothing if an illiberal party wins at least a plurality in an election and gets to form the government. Based on other sectarian fights in the region, I fail to see any logical argument why people think secular, multicultural Palestine was even a remote possibility.Report

      • Murali in reply to LeeEsq says:

        I’m pretty sure that liberal constitutions actually do part of the job in solving sectarian conflicts. The other part of the solution involves a state willing to bash a few heads whenever people get uppity. That’s how it worked in Singapore in the 60s.

        Given the similarities in situations: small non-Muslim countries surrounded by larger Muslim neighbours. I think we’ve done a better job of handling shit than Israel has.Report

      • Gabriel Conroy in reply to LeeEsq says:


        I’m going to pile on about the “Jewish state” business. But before I do so, I’ll say I understand that there are historical reasons why Israel is and has been conceived as a “Jewish state,” as you explained in answer to my query above. (Thanks, by the way, for taking the time to answer.) Perhaps, Israel qua “Jewish state” can be defended as a Jewish state, perhaps with some earnest and effect protections of the rights of the individual and of marginalized groups. And as you point out in your response to @murali , majoritarianism in “Palestine/Israel,” pure and simple and without checks, could be a disaster for Jewish people in Israel.

        Here’s me “piling on”:

        To frame full inclusion in a state around an profession of faith and/or ethnicity is indeed illiberal. Maybe it’s necessary. Maybe it can be justified. Maybe it’s even workable. But it’s still illiberal because it predicates full citizenship around religious/ethnic affiliation and because it creates something like an established religion or an established ethnic priority, for lack of a better term. That means that Israel, however justified it is in the way it configures its polity, will, as long as it is conceived as a “Jewish state,” always have to answer the question about “special pleading” that Murali brought up. And that question will always be a legitimate one, even if it is ultimately and convincingly dispatched by appeals to recent history and to current necessity.

        Someone here has made a comparison to South Africa, and one could also compare it to, say, Jim Crow regimes. That comparison may not be apt, but it will always be legitimate to raise it and the supporter of the “Jewish state” conception will have to answer it. It’s not a beyond-the-pale question. And if one were to talk to defenders of the (happily) late Apartheid and Jim Crow regimes, one would find, again, appeals to the history and the current necessity of conceiving the state as in some ways religiously or ethnically exclusive and illiberal.

        This is a tragedy in the literary sense. A polity that wants to be liberal (“the only democratic country in the Middle East”) must adopt illiberal policies. Or, to mix metaphors, this is a potentially a situation in which one (is riding the tiger and dares not hang on because the ride is too wild and dangerous, but dares not let go because one will be eaten.

        I don’t know the solution. I don’t know if a one-state or two-state solution, or a one-state federal solution–where the “Palestinians” and the “Israelis” can be allies and, eventually, friends–will work better. But if one is to endorse religious/ethnic particularity, one will have to pay the price. And the price is the ever recurring (and legitimate) question about “special pleading” and illiberalism. Expect the question to recur, again and again and again.Report

  13. Francis says:

    Being cool and safe and several thousand miles from Jerusalem, I am particularly well-suited to opine on this issue. Ahem. That said,

    As best I can see it, there is currently no (none, zero, zip) democratically available solution. By this I mean the most pro-Palestinian proposal that would be accepted by 50% +1 of Israelis would receive less than a majority of Palestinian (non-Jewish occupants of Gaza and the West Bank) votes and vice versa. Like the old ad goes, they would rather fight than switch.

    So the Israelis pound Gaza and dice up the West Bank, faintly hoping that some fine day all the Muslims will leave but in the interim trying to keep the violence down. And the Palestinian leadership — divided as it is — either counsels accommodation waiting for the day that they can win the war or churns up violence in order to keep their people outraged by Israeli response. (If you were living in Gaza, who would you blame, your leadership or the Israelis?)

    At the end of the day there are 1.7 million people living in the Gaza Strip. They have nothing better to do but wait for the day when they can move back into Israel. What, after all this time, they’re going to move to Los Angeles? It seems that they would rather die. And (for better or worse) the Israeli government is unwilling to kill them.

    As Americans, the question we have to ask ourselves is what our role in this absurd play is going to be. I have no bright ideas. Every possible road seems to lead to slaughter. (And now I’m thinking of a book set in the desert among a group of crazed religious fanatics: Dune.)Report