Israel, Palestine, and the Impossibility of Moderation
I have a friend from college who I get into frequent debates with on Israel and Palestine. I can’t remember the exact words he used to describe himself but I believe he calls himself a non-Zionist Jew. I am not sure how this is different from being anti-Zionist.
We have both been posting fairly heavily on facebook recently because of the recent increase in violence and conflict in Gaza. I don’t know how my posts change his blood pressure but he does challenge me when I post. I can tell you that I feel my veins bulge when he posts on Israel-Palestine and that in my darker moments, I become precariously close to accusing him of being a self-loathing Jew. He posts stuff from the most extreme and right-wing Israelis and I consider it a libel designed to make all Israelis look like anti-Palestinian bigots. He is also fond of posting from Mondoweiss. I consider Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz to be prime examples of self-loathing Jews. Philip Weiss seemingly started as a neo-con and has all the zeal of a convert like Saul of Tarsus when he became Paul the Apostle.
The issue is that I consider myself a Zionist but do not consider myself to be a Likuidnik or further to the Zionist Right. I dislike Likuid and always supported a two-state solution. Yet this might all be moot because I am a committed Zionist and still believe in the need for the Jewish state. So far nothing has gotten me to overcome this belief and support the Palestinians against Israel.
Recently I was arguing with my friend about the failed ceasefire from last week. My friend place the blame on Israel’s unwillinginess to ever listen to Hamas. I pointed out that Hamas were a bunch of nihilists who would never accept a Jewish presence in the Middle East. My view was that some of the demands Hamas made for the cease fire were reasonable like having the UN control the airport and port of Gaza. Others were unreasonable like the release of the most fanatical shock troops from Israeli capture and in the end Israel has a right to defend herself and reject ceasefire agreements as unreasonable just like any other nation. My friend responded that he was “no fan of Hamas but….”
This is the impossibility of moderation. What does it mean to say that Hamas made some reasonable demands but not others? It means nothing. What does it mean for my friend to say that he is no fan of Hamas but Israel should cave to the anyway? It means nothing. Neither of us are budging from our positions. We might openly deplore the worst excesses of our respective sides but neither of us is going to budge from our positions. I support the right of a Jewish state in the Middle East called Israel and my friend does not.
For whatever reason, this also makes me think of the debates we had recently on moderate Republicans and their viability in American politics. Moderate is just a word that people like because it makes them sound reasonable and above the fray of partisan politics but moderates will side with their party in the end more often than not.
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. Justices John Paul Stevens and Harry Blackmun are both very famous for being Republican appointees who became liberal icons. Both men were asked about their relationship to conservatism and the Republican Party. Both men allegedly said the same thing: “I did not leave the Republican Party, the Republican Party left me.” I suspect that partisanship holds a strong sway over all of us and most of us are like Blackmun and Stevens.