Is it Still Foolish to Hope?

two-traumatised-societies1

Palestine-Israel Journal

I grew up in a household that was quietly but staunchly pro-Israel. This was of course (and still generally is) the default position in the west. Most Australians would have stood squarely behind the Israeli Defense Force as it battled Egypt, Jordan and Syria in 1967, been shocked by the Munich massacre in 1972 and enthralled when four planeloads of Israeli commandos, after a dangerous, long, ground-hopping night flight, rescued some 100 hostages at Entebbe airport in July 1976. (Curiously enough, the only commando killed during that mission was Yonatan Netanyahu, elder brother of Benjamin, who seems likely to once again become Israel’s prime minister.)

It was the David and Goliath story brought into modern times.

Today, the story is radically different, at least for me. Let me give you a small illustration of the distance travelled. Last week, a friend of more than thirty years standing (with whom I’d long ago agreed to disagree on this issue) was surprised, and pleased, when some comments of mine in which I’d praised the Jews convinced him I really wasn’t antisemitic. It came as a shock that such a thought had ever even crossed his mind. The experience was a powerful illustration of this issue’s capacity to confuse and divide, and a reminder that assuming even close friends understand what’s in one’s heart can be foolish. Particularly so in this instance since I almost always end up arguing the Palestinian case. As to why, despite our amicable standoff agreement, we ended up discussing it at all, well, the sheer ubiquity of new reports about Gaza made it impossible not to do so. Our conversations, I’m happy to say, remained civil and we might even have made a little progress towards better understanding.

I found it intriguing that the one thing which slightly shifted this friend’s perceptions of the issue was not my eloquence (such as it was), but an article written by King Abdullah of Jordan for The American Magazine in November, 1947. It was entitled “As the Arabs see the Jews” and began with these two paragraphs:

I am especially delighted to address an American audience, for the tragic problem of Palestine will never be solved without American understanding, American sympathy, American support.

So many billions of words have been written about Palestine-perhaps more than on any other subject in history-that I hesitate to add to them. Yet I am compelled to do so, for I am reluctantly convinced that the world in general, and America in particular, knows almost nothing of the true case for the Arabs.

Does it strike you too as a little disconcerting that these words might as easily have been written last week? Reading them (and I recommend you do), knowing they were written with great hope (and intelligence) over 60 years ago and then read by hundreds of thousands of Americans well before I was born provided a visceral confirmation of just how long this tragedy has been unfolding. Like King Abdullah, but with far more reason, I too was, indeed am, hesitant to add to the many words already spilled. And yet, in the end, how can I not? When a people I admired so much (and would love to admire again) appear to be slowly and painfully closing off their chances of achieving a durable peace, and sullying both their memories and perhaps their dreams, should I not at least try to say something constructive? And surely this is no less so when a people who have suffered so long and unjustly in exile and dispossession are brutally hammered yet again in their homes and offices and schools. And for what? Who is it that wins from all this?

After reading King Abdullah’s eloquent plea for understanding, it doesn’t take much imagination to see why much of the Arab world would prefer that Israel had never been established. Nor, of course, is it in the least bit difficult to understand why Jewish citizens of Israel won’t countenance this viewpoint in even its most abstract form.

That fear of annihilation often sits deeply within Israeli Jews ought to surprise no-one. The heartrending history of their persecution through the centuries would be justification enough even without the black hole of the Holocaust. Nor does it help that Israel is in truth alone and surrounded by states that can by no measure be called friendly. The Zionist dream of establishing a Jewish state which would be a haven from an unfriendly world long predated the Second World War (the movement was founded, largely by secular Jews, in the late 19th century) but this shattering catastrophe clearly gave it immense impetus. The appalling lack of generosity shown by the western world in accepting so few Jewish survivors must have made it seem utterly imperative. It’s natural, too, that for many who came and settled the words “never again” were engraved on their hearts. They would fight to the death to hold on to what they had, and to ensure their survival.

And so there is grief, determination, anger and resentment at a great injustice on one side and fear, determination, perhaps some guilt, and anger too at the sheer intransigence of the problem on the other. It’s the core dilemma that has kept this wound open for over two generations. That, and what seems to me a long series of own goals on both sides.

* * * * * * * * * * *

There have been moments when the road not taken seems so very clear. In the immediate aftermath of the six day war, for example, the former Israeli prime minister, David Ben Gurion, was flown over the captured land west of the river Jordan, land with Biblical names like Judaea and Samaria, full of resonance, history and allure. Profoundly moved though he was, Ben Gurion is reported to have said: “Now we must give all this land back at once. Except Jerusalem, perhaps. That we will have to discuss.” Perhaps he understood even then that it would be, for Israel, a poisoned chalice, a temptation which would exert an increasing power and make any lasting settlement with the Palestinians well nigh impossible.

His fears went unheeded. Keeping the captured territory and so establishing buffers against future attacks must have seemed such an obvious answer, whatever the injustice meted out to previous owners. Once Israel had control of these lands, settlements were of course inevitable, however slow the initial moves may have been. I should imagine it was this spectre, and the eternal enmity and conflict it would spark, that Ben Gurion foresaw when he flew over them that day in 1967.

Another friend, this one a retired Brigadier in the Pakistani army, has recently analysed the strategic dilemma confronting America in Afghanistan. Since a somewhat similar one faces Israel in Gaza (and arguably the West Bank), his overview of the available options seems particularly relevant:

When devising a policy and a military strategy to deal with an insurgency, the first question that should be asked is: how widely and deeply is the insurgency embedded in the general population? If the answer is ‘Not too much’, then it is feasible to try and deal with it using a typical military COIN [counterinsurgency] strategy against the insurgents, along with political and economic measures to win over the rest of the population. This is how the US stabilized the situation in Iraq after it stopped waging war against the Sunni population, and instead began to court, and even protect, it (it helped greatly that the remaining insurgents were mainly foreigners).

If the insurgency is well established within a large part of the population, then the above measures will not work, and another question needs to be asked: Are you prepared to wage war (not COIN!) on the general population (as the only means available to strike at the insurgency)? If the answer is ‘No’, then you must find a political solution to the problem. This was the answer of the British in Northern Ireland, and they finally did manage to arrange a political solution.

If the answer you are prepared to give is ‘Yes’, then the chances of success of the war you will need to wage on the general population will depend on the human and natural environment in which you will wage it, and whether you are prepared to invest in it the required time, resources and brutality.

Israel’s current strategy seems to be an awkward hybrid of the first (in the West Bank) and the last (in Gaza). Brutal though the assault on Gaza was, it (thankfully) fell well short of the sort of no holds barred approach Russia took in Chechnya. At the same time, it was sufficiently punitive to stir condemnation from around the world and harden Palestinian resistance. Despite their losses, Hamas now looks even more entrenched in Gaza than it was in December. (It’s ironic to recall that for many years, Israel encouraged the growth of Hamas as a counterweight to Arafat’s Fatah, which was then seen as the more serious threat to Israel’s control over Gaza and the West Bank).

At no stage has Israel provided any incentives that might have strengthened the more moderate political wing of Hamas or attempted to bring it into the political process as was finally done with Sinn Fein in Ireland. Indeed quite the opposite: the constant humiliation of President Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority (which has tried to work with the Israeli government) as settlements continue to mushroom in the West Bank and the Palestinian people face incessant harassment and discrimination serves as a stark disincentive to cooperation.

Combined with a widespread perception of the (previously Fatah controlled) Palestinian Authority as corrupt, this disillusionment ensured Hamas’ win in the January 2006 election. Ironically, again (beware, it seems, of unintended consequences), this election had been heavily favoured by the US administration and they were stunned at the outcome. Rather than accepting what was widely acknowledged as a free and fair election process, and seeking to use it as a potential game changer, the result was instead met with a near total and concerted withdrawal of all aid and cooperation, not only by Israel and the US but also by much of the international community. Certainly not the best advertising for their pro-democracy credentials in the Middle East.

In addition, Hamas (and by default the Palestinian people) were subjected to constant harassment, punitive financial measures and, in Gaza, the imposition of an increasingly comprehensive blockade, particularly after Hamas preempted a US and Israeli backed attempt by Fatah to seize control in 2007. The result has been severe shortages of food and medicine, the progressive breakdown of the sanitation and power infrastructure and a near collapse of business activity since exports were also totally blocked.

* * * * * * * * * * *

That all this has been counterproductive ought not to have come as a surprise: there is, after all, no historical evidence of which I’m aware that such policies benefit anyone other than the more extreme elements in a society. As Brigadier Ali noted later in the piece I quoted from above: “Of these [various counterinsurgency attempts], only the Russians ultimately succeeded, because of the small size of the target population compared to the forces they put in, and the massive brutality of their operation.” Writing in the Christian Science Monitor in March last year, Gareth Evans (Foreign Minister under Hawke and Keating, now head of the International Crisis Group) drew similar conclusions about the futility of trying to cut Hamas out the equation by force:

The policy of isolating Hamas and applying sanctions to Gaza has been a predictable failure. Violence to both Gazans and Israelis is rising. Economic conditions are ruinous, generating anger and despair. The credibility of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and other pragmatic forces has been grievously damaged. The peace process is in tatters.

Many Israelis are also desperately unhappy with the Gaza campaign, not only because of the strategic failure but because what was done so profoundly clashes with their self-perception. Take this recent Haaretz editorial:

This is precisely the moment at which Israel needs to preempt the others and investigate itself. It is impossible to ignore what has already been reported, and one must not leave the task of investigating solely to foreign bodies, some of whom are hostile. Israel also needs to ask itself what was done in its name in Gaza. Were deeds that are never to be done, even in a time of war, perpetrated? Has the IDF crossed the line according to international law? Was there no other way apart from such widespread killing and destruction?

For some, the sense of despair and disillusionment goes even deeper. Avraham Burg, scion of an establishment Israeli political family and himself former Speaker of the Israeli Knesset and Chairman of the Jewish Agency for Israel, has written and spoken widely about his fears. In the course of a long interview with Ari Shavit (an old colleague from the “small group of reserve soldiers and officers who came out against the First Lebanon War”), they delved deeply into the question of whether the Zionist project had failed. This brief excerpt reveals the intensity of the discussion (Shavit in italics):

What you are saying is that the problem is not just the occupation. In your eyes, Israel as a whole is some sort of horrible mutation.

“The occupation is a very small part of it. Israel is a frightened society. To look for the source of the obsession with force and to uproot it, you have to deal with the fears. And the meta-fear, the primal fear is the six million Jews who perished in the Holocaust.”

That is the book’s thesis [the book is “Defeating Hitler”, written by Burg]. You are not the first to propose it, but you formulate it very acutely. We are psychic cripples, you claim. We are gripped by dread and fear and make use of force because Hitler caused us deep psychic damage.

“Yes.”

Well, I will counter by saying that your description is distorted. It’s not as though we are living in Iceland and imagining that we are surrounded by Nazis who actually disappeared 60 years ago. We are surrounded by genuine threats. We are one of the most threatened countries in the world.

“The true Israeli rift today is between those who believe and those who are afraid. The great victory of the Israeli right in the struggle for the Israeli political soul lies in the way it has imbued it almost totally with absolute paranoia. I accept that there are difficulties. But are they absolute? Is every enemy Auschwitz? Is Hamas a scourge?”

You are patronizing and supercilious, Avrum. You have no empathy for Israelis. You treat the Israeli Jew as a paranoid. But as the cliche goes, some paranoids really are persecuted. On the day we are speaking, Ahmadinejad is saying that our days are numbered. He promises to eradicate us. No, he is not Hitler. But he is also not a mirage. He is a true threat. He is the real world – a world you ignore.

“I say that as of this moment, Israel is a state of trauma in nearly every one of its dimensions. And it’s not just a theoretical question. Would our ability to cope with Iran not be much better if we renewed in Israel the ability to trust the world? Would it not be more right if we didn’t deal with the problem on our own, but rather as part of a world alignment beginning with the Christian churches, going on to the governments and finally the armies?

“Instead, we say we do not trust the world, they will abandon us, and here’s Chamberlain returning from Munich with the black umbrella and we will bomb them alone.

Unsurprisingly, Burg is now an intensely controversial figure, much reviled, viewed by many (perhaps most) as a traitor to Israel and his own history. As Ari Shavit put it in his introduction to the interview:

I was outraged by the book [Defeating Hitler]. I saw it as a turning away of an Israeli colleague from our shared Israeliness. I saw it as a one-dimensional and unempathetic attack on the Israeli experience. Still, the dialogue with Avrum was riveting. We got angry at each other and raised our voices at each other and circled each other warily like two wounded gladiators in the arena. You can’t take away from Avrum what he has. You can’t take away the education or the articulateness or the ability to touch truly painful places. Maybe that’s why he is so infuriating. Friend and predator; brother and deserter.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of this kind of extreme viewpoint, it seems clear that the Palestinians are not the only people in crisis. The exhaustion on all sides is palpable, even from this distance. Many Israelis have no doubt retreated behind metaphorical (and literal) walls, unable to see any way to unravel the intricate tangle. As for the Palestinians, whatever energy is left after the daily struggle for survival must surely often coalesce as rage. Man disposes, God weeps.

What, then, is to be done? And, as Primo Levi put it, “If Not Now, When?”

* * * * * * * * * * *

On Monday last week, President Obama gave an extended interview (indeed his first formal interview as President) to al-Arabiya, the Saudi satellite television station. For many, including Mark Lynch, a professor of political science at George Washington University who writes at ForeignPolicy.com, he struck pretty much the right tone:

He repeatedly emphasized his intention of moving past the iron walls of the ‘war on terror’ and ‘clash of civilizations’ which so dominated the Bush era.   “My job is to communicate to the Muslim world that the United States is not your enemy,” Obama said, emphasizing as in his inaugural address that he is “ready to initiate a new partnership [with the Muslim world] based on mutual respect and mutual interest.” And where so much of the Bush administration’s ‘public diplomacy’ was about manipulating and lecturing, Obama begins — as he should — with listening: ‘what I told [Mitchell] is start by listening, because all too often the United States starts by dictating..so let’s listen.’

The Mitchell he’s referring to is George J. Mitchell, appointed by Obama (in one of his first acts as President) as special envoy to the Middle East. Mitchell has form, and, unusually, it’s good. Previously Senate Majority Leader from 1989-1995, he was Clinton’s special envoy to Northern Ireland from 1995-1998 and played a substantial role in bringing about the historic “Good Friday Agreement”. He, and Richard Haass (who was Bush’s envoy to the N. Ireland peace process), wrote an article for the International Herald Tribune in May 2007 on the occasion of devolved government fully returning to Northern Ireland. In it, they summed up the principles they saw as vital to successful peace negotiations. They’re worth quoting at some length:

Those who would shoot or bomb their way to power must be prevented from doing so if they are ever to turn from violence to politics. At the same time, making sure that people realise that violence will not succeed is not enough. They must also come to believe that a true political path exists, one that will allow them to realise enough of their agenda to persuade their followers to turn away from violence.

Negotiations are essential. Peace never just happens; it is made, issue by issue, point by point. In order to get negotiations launched, preconditions ought to be kept to an absolute minimum.

In the case of Northern Ireland, it was right to make a ceasefire a prerequisite. Killing and talking do not go hand in hand. But it was also right not to require that parties give up their arms or join the police force before the talks began.

Confidence needs to be built before more ambitious steps can be taken. Front-loading a negotiation with demanding conditions all but assures that negotiations will not get under way, much less succeed.

Parties should be allowed to hold onto their dreams. No one demanded of Northern Ireland’s Catholics that they let go of their hope for a united Ireland; no one required of local Protestants that they let go of their insistence that they remain a part of the United Kingdom.

They still have those goals, but they have agreed to pursue them exclusively through peaceful and democratic means. That is what matters.

Including in the political process those previously associated with violent groups can actually help. Sometimes it’s hard to stop a war if you don’t talk with those who are involved in it.

To be sure, their participation will likely slow things down and, for a time, block progress. But their endorsement can give the process and its outcome far greater legitimacy and support. Better they become participants than act as spoilers.

It takes no great insight to see how these principles could be applied to the Israeli / Palestinian dispute, nor to grasp how little they have been to date. Although a great many private individuals and groups (including those within Israel) have long been working tirelessly towards goals of this sort, little of substance can happen until the Israel government, and those states who have the power to influence it, are willing to seriously set foot on this long road. Israel is, after all, the regional superpower.

Nor does it help that Israel has of late made it ever more impossible for the Palestinians to “come to believe that a true political path exists, one that will allow them to realise enough of their agenda to persuade their followers to turn away from violence.” In a recent article in the New York Review of Books, Roger Cohen illustrated this point rather well:

There is another right that Israel does not have: to delude its people into thinking that peace is achievable without coming to terms with the deeply entrenched Middle Eastern realities that are Hamas and Hezbollah, organizations still viewed in the US government and Congress almost exclusively through the prism of terror, but whose grassroots political movements present a far more complex, variegated picture. The logic of the Israeli offensive, if there is one, must surely be that Hamas can be so weakened as ultimately to crumble. That is also the logic of the relentless blockade that persisted during the six-month cease-fire despite Israel’s earlier commitment, as part of the deal, to opening border crossings. But such logic is flawed. Hamas is not going away. As Brigadier General (Res.) Shmuel Zakai, the former commander of the Israel Defense Forces’ Gaza Division, told Ha’aretz on December 22 [2008]:

‘We could have eased the siege over the Gaza Strip, in such a way that the Palestinians, Hamas, would understand that holding their fire served their interests. But when you create a tahadiyeh [truce], and the economic pressure on the Strip continues, it’s obvious that Hamas will try to reach an improved tahadiyeh, and that their way to achieve this is resumed Qassam fire.’

We are left, then, to wonder whether Obama’s more conciliatory attitude towards the Muslim world and his appointment of Mitchell heralds the beginning of a new and more hopeful process, one where America might be able to set aside its historical one-sidedness on this issue sufficiently to truly assist. Despite all the difficulties (by no means all of them originating in the Middle East), and the historical animosities, it ought surely not be beyond the ken of man to move matters in a slightly more constructive direction. To judge from this transcript of Mitchell’s remarks on the occasion of his appointment (found via an excellent article by Daniel Levy entitled “Can George Mitchell Astound the Skeptics, Again?”), he certainly seems to think so:

In the negotiations which led to that agreement [the Good Friday Agreement], we had 700 days of failure and one day of success.

For most of the time, progress was nonexistent or very slow. So I understand the feelings of those who may be discouraged about the Middle East.

As an aside, just recently, I spoke in Jerusalem, and I mentioned the 800 years [the time since Britain began its domination of Ireland]. And afterward, an elderly gentleman came up to me, and he said, “Did you say 800 years?” I said, “Yes, 800.” He repeated the number again. I repeated it again. He said, “Ah, such a recent argument. No wonder you settled it.”

(LAUGHTER)

But 800 years may be recent, but from my experience there, I formed the conviction that there is no such thing as a conflict that can’t be ended. Conflicts are created, conducted and sustained by human beings; they can be ended by human beings.

For anyone inclined to believe in the efficacy of prayer, this may be a good time to send up a few.

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Paul Frijters
Paul Frijters(@paul-frijters)
12 years ago

Hi Ingolf,

your piece raises more issues than can be answered in a hurry. Let me quickly respond to the most important ones though.

1. If you want to look at the importance of fear in keeping individuals in their current position, look no further than your own piece. You should not have to write this many words to convince the audience you are trying to be balanced and informed of history. You shouldnt have to tell us you have friends on the other side to convince us of your good intentions. If you think Israel has committed war crimes (which I think you believe), you should be able to just say so and not hide behind quotes of others. It is a piece that reeks of the fear of the label ‘anti-semetic’. How can you ask others to step over their fear with a piece that is full of it? Let me turn your own piece on you and ask you to step over your own fears and tell us what you really think. Or has freedom of informed opinion died even in the blogoshpere?

2. yes, it is foolish to hope at this time. It is not part of human nature to reach an agreement in which you share the pie if you believe you can have the whole pie for yourself. Rather, you convince yourself you have an inalienable right to the whole pie. It was always yours to begin with. At the moment, Israel’s military superiority over the Palestinians is too overwhelming to realistically think Israel will give up land, water, territorial claims, or whatever. If you believe you can have it all, you dont share. Why would you? Even if you do not have the stomach to eradicate your opponents so that they wont pester you in the future, you will simply keep them in a prison camp whilst you enjoy the fruits of the resources. Worse still, you will keep the prisoners poor and demoralised so that they wont bother you too much. It helps if they make threatening noises because that gives you an excuse to bomb any hint of economic independence (and hence strength) out of them. The brutal strategic reality is that if the Palestinians want to be taken seriously, they have to have a seriously better organised army. The big mistake Palestinians like Hamas have made is to threaten too much with a stick that is too small. The mistake is understandable given the imperatives of their internal politics (which are fascinating), but the obvious way forward for them is to walk softly and meanwhile carve a much bigger stick.

3. Yes, you are fool to hope at this time, but it is very necessary that you keep on hoping. After all, the abandonment of hope is the doorstep of hell. Just imagine what truly desparate Israelis could do to the Palestinians.

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observa
observa
12 years ago

Palestinians have their two state solution at last. Hamas and Fatah. Like me, no Israeli could possibly live under the yoke of either and that’s what breaching that wall means now for Israelis. When a million Muslim troops gathered meanacingly on the borders with Israel and Palestinians licked their lips at the thought of driving the Jews into the sea, they were gambling on all the pie as Nasser told the UN to bugger off which they hastily did. Unfortunately it was an all or nothing gamble for the Palestinians and they lost. The rest of Arab Street sued for peace and ditched the Palestinians for most of their own land back.

Ever since they’ve used Palestinians as their useful idiots to nip at the heels of their humiliators. They quietly load Palestinian guns, they’re too afraid to fire themselves, at the same time maintaining the domestic rage against an iconic enemy that is the typical diversionary tactic of every dictatorial regime. I refuse to be their useful idiots too and so support the only decent democracy in the region bar one. The fledgling Iraqi beacon of light that may yet prove a greater challenge to the gaggle of gangsters in the region, that so publicly champion the rights of what are really their private pet poodles. I’m not that soft in the head to be used like that.

Nicholas Gruen
Admin
Nicholas Gruen(@nicholas-gruen)
12 years ago

Thanks for the piece Ingolf.

observa
observa
12 years ago

Mind you with Iraq I might be a bit soft in the head it seems
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/KB03Ak03.html
which might beg the question what the hell are we doing in Afghanistan let alone wanting to force Israelis to be democratised and civilised by Palestinians.

observa
observa
12 years ago

‘At no stage has Israel provided any incentives that might have strengthened the more moderate political wing of Hamas or attempted to bring it into the political process as was finally done with Sinn Fein in Ireland.’

Nonsense! It was 9/11 that held a mirror up to the IRA and when they didn’t like what every decent civilised person saw reflected there, they had enough intelligence to no longer want to be associated in any way with the methods of fundamentalist Islam and its large caravan of hangers on. Then and only then could a peaceful resolution begin. That’s the intractable problem for Israel and indeed many infidels dealing with much of Islam. Palestinians don’t have that same intelligence although they had the golden opportunity to demonstrate it with their PA under Arafat after Oslo.

Paul Frijters
Paul Frijters(@paul-frijters)
12 years ago

observa,

this is clearly an emotive issue for you, so let me tread carefully here. Even though I agree that this issue has been tainted by internal political pressures (not just within Arab countries though!), I think you miss the main point. The point is not whether the Palestinians have made mistakes, have the wrong leaders and the wrong friends, and not even what they threaten others with. The point is that they are humans and that the stronger side has the obligation to treat them with as much human dignity as possible. From the (BBC) documentaries I have seen, the Israeli military this time has stepped over the line of what is deemed acceptable behaviour of the strong towards the weak. It will be up to the international courts to nail it all down, but one would need a heart of stone to see the disproportionate suffering of the Palestinian women, children, and men, and to nevertheless say ‘they had it coming’.
The missed opportunity of Oslo, when Barak went as far as one can expect an Israeli prime minister to go, should tell you something: the claim of statehood and territory is the main bit of dignity left to the Palestinians. You do not sell your dream if it is all you have left, even if it will mean great hardship for many years to come. And this is the difference with Northern Ireland: the Irish Catholics had some degree of economic wealth and were never required to give up their dream of a United Ireland. Even in the peace treaty following the Good Friday agreement, the protestants were not asked to give up any significant amount of resources. Giving up land and resources is far more difficult than agreeing not to shoot each other for a while. It really only happens when you truly believe you cannot win by force. That needs military parity.

Rob
Rob
12 years ago

“…and, yes, I do think most of the needed shift, and the initiative, has to come from the Israeli side…”

What would you suggest, Ingolf?

Withdraw from Gaza? Done, with the results we have seen.

Withdraw from the West Bank? Offered by Barak, Sharon and Olmert. Rejected.

Evacuate the West Bank settlements? Offered by Livni and Olmert. No substantive response from Abbas (not least because with the settlers and the IDF gone, the West Bank would instantly fall into the hands of Hamas).

Sit still under rocket fire? Done, for eight long years before Cast Lead.

More generally, you seem to think it’s a generous concession that the arguments of Israel’s supporters be ‘taken seriously’. Why is that?

Rob
Rob
12 years ago

Here is a quote from someone who really knows what he’s talking about – Khaled Abu Toameh, a Palestinian who writes for the Jerusalem Post:

And where are we standing today? I told you before that Im one of those people who support a two-state solution. I think its a wonderful solution. But in the end were getting a different kind of two-state solution. We have two separate entities. One in Gaza, and one in the West Bank.

The one in Gaza is an Islamic state run by Hamas and supported by Ahmadinejad, Syria, Hezbollah, and some people say Al Qaeda and the Muslim Brotherhood. Its a very dangerous situation, and as a moderate Muslim thats the last place I want to live on this earth.

What we have in the West Bank is the secular, corrupt, powerless regime of the PLO. Abu Mazen, Abu Shmazen, all these Abus. The Arafat cronies who failed their people over the past fifteen years. Who lost the election in January 2006 because of the corruption. Who were kicked out of Gaza because they failed. Who have lost control over half the Palestinians who live in this part of the world. And they are sitting in Ramallah. These people are in power only thanks to the presence of the IDF in the West Bank. If the Israeli army were to leave the West Bank tomorrow morning these PLO people would collapse in five minutes and Hamas would take over.

The question we should ask ourselves in the wake of this scenario is whether or not there is really a partner on the Palestinian side for any deal, let alone a peace agreement. Any kind of deal. Is there really a partner on the Palestinian side? And the answer is simple. No.

NPOV
NPOV
12 years ago

At the risk of being excessively simplistic, it does seem that the one thing that’s become obvious from the whole Israel-Palestinian conflict is that retaliating to violence with more violence does nothing to stop it (*).
Does Israel really not have the technology to simply render the attacks coming from Palestinian useless, e.g. by destroying their missiles in the air? Does such technology exist?
If it became obvious that Israel had enough wealth and technology to protect itself from whatever Palestine could afford to throw at it, and wasn’t bothering to attack back, surely the enthusiasm for violent solutions among Palestinians would wane pretty quickly.
The fact that Israel is going beyond simply protecting itself, and is instead launching counter-attacks, does seem to reveal some amount of intent to acquire more territory for itself. As long as that’s the case, the situation isn’t going to resolve itself.

(*) I’m not arguing this as a general case – obviously WWII was an example where violence was the only thing that was going to stop Hitler’s violence.

NPOV
NPOV
12 years ago

Seems I’m not the only one to consider this possibility:

http://jotman.blogspot.com/2009/01/why-doesnt-israel-just-shoot-down-hamas.html

I’m interested in the claim that Hamas’ attacks aren’t actually doing any significant damage…is that true?

Rob
Rob
12 years ago

No it’s not, NPOV. Many people have been killed and injured by the Qassams, which is the reason Hamas/PIJ fire them. The secondary reason is to create such a climate of fear in the southern towns that the inhabitants evacuate north. This is an avowed purpose of the rocket barrage. Many residents have done so (half the residents of Sderot were recently re-housed in a tent city in Tel Aviv, IIRC), but most are too poor. So they have to soak it up – kids afraid to go to school, no weddings, etc.

On your other question about destroying the rockets – these missiles are unguided, so normal electronic counter-measures can’t be deployed (these lock onto missiles’ guidance systems, which the Qassams don’t have). I believe Israel is looking at radar-based defences but because the missiles are in flight only for a few seconds, that’s a big ask of any defensive technology.

Hamas uses these missiles precisely because they are unguided – no effective defence, but maximum fear and confusion, since no-one knows where the rockets will fall.

NPOV
NPOV
12 years ago

The “climate of fear” part is why I agree just sitting there and taking the hits won’t work. Even if it’s true that the chance of getting killed by a rocket is low compared to many other possible means of death for most Israelis, I can well imagine they continually inflict significant psychological damage.
On that grounds, Israel are justified in attempting to protecting their citizens. And if it’s true that no technology exists yet to reliably prevent the rockets from reaching Israel, then the next best thing would seem to be high-precision attacks on where the rockets are coming from, ensuring that civilian casualties are not measurably more than those caused by Hamas rockets. But the scale of Israel’s recent retaliation is well over and above that. And there’s basically no reason to believe it’s of sufficient scale to stop the violence once and for all (which would probably require wiping out the Gaza strip entirely).

Rob
Rob
12 years ago

High-precision responses, yes – to the extent that is possible. My understanding (which may be wrong – I’m not a military expert) is that the Israelis use shell- and rocket-tracking radar systems to pinpoint the point of origin of hostile fire. They can’t see what they’re firing at, obviously. So, if the rockets or mortars are fired from a school, a private residence or a hospital or any other civilian installation – as they almost always are – when the IDF fire back at what their computers tell them is the point of origin, there is a high likelihood of hitting civilians.

During the recent engagement in Gaza there were drones directly surveilling the environment and aircraft steering the missiles, so there was a greater chance of precision strikes. But in the years before Cast Lead, the IDF fired back from within Israel. Thanks to Hamas’ practice of using the civilian infrastructure as cover, civilian casualties were inevitable. And that’s exactly why Hamas operates in that way.

NPOV
NPOV
12 years ago

I understand that, but I don’t believe Israel counter-attacked with such force as to result in what is almost certainly over a thousand civilian casualities (vs less than 10 caused by Hamas) merely because there was no alternative.

pablo
pablo
12 years ago

Obama’s directive to his chosen envoy Mitchell to go and listen to the protagonists rather than issue directions puts him, at least in the first instance, in the same position as probably most of the readers of this post. I would have described myself as neutral on the issue until roughly the time Sharon came on the scene as Israeli premier. Even so I’m still a listener and can even applaud Sharon for his decision to exit Gaza. What I didn’t understand and what makes me less of a listener was actions such as destroying the homes of the ex-Israeli Gazans and some horticulture, presumeably for some scorched earth policy of giving the Palestinians no helping hand. If exiting Gaza was a peace gesture why muddy it with such wanton vandalism. The same would go for collective punishment by the IDF bulldozers.
On the Palestinian side it is reprehensible that Hamas would not honour the previous Fatah/PA ‘recognition of Israel’ policy. This is what responsible incoming democratic administrations do, like it or not. But there is a dreadful logic in their hatred for Israeli actions and the increasingly partisan hardliners in Tel Aviv who sponsor it only encourage more violence. As the much stronger partner, Israel may have to contemplate a much greater degree of forebearance in the use of force if it is going to ever find a peace partner with enough stature among the Palestinians to win a peace deal.
Blaming Arafat for the failure of the Clinton peace plan with Barack is unfair according to some like Zbiginew Brzenszki former national security advisor under Pres Carter. Clinton was too vague on the assurances to Arafat he believes. Obama won’t want to make the same mistake if ever Mitchell gets close to a deal with Olmert’s successor and the PA leadership. Refusing to even listen to Hamas – at least in public comment – doesn’t strike me as a very good start. Maybe that is just spin but I am getting very jaundiced by the spin that too often invades brave posts such as Ingolfs. May a thousand listeners bloom.

Rob
Rob
12 years ago

I think you are missing the point, Ingolf. The settlers aren’t the problem. They are cordially disliked by mainstream Israelis and few would weep many tears for them if they were uprooted, as were the settlers of Sinai and Gaza. It’s a solvable problem. But the climate has to be right, as Toameh says, and it’s wrong now. If Israel pulled the settlers out now, along with the IDF presence, the territory would be immediately seized by Hamas. And then the rockets would start to hit Tel Aviv (which is only about 10 miles from the West Bank, remember). Israel was willing to sacrifice Sderot for three years, but it won’t do the same when Grads, Katyushas and Qassams start hitting Tel Aviv.

Here’s how Totten put it in an earlier post, and he’s no less clear-eyed than Toameh:

A clear majority of Israelis would instantly hand over the West Bank and its settlements along with Gaza for a real shot at peace with the Arabs, but thats not an option. Most Arab governments at least implicitly say they will recognize Israels right to exist inside its pre-1967 borders, but far too many Palestinians still wont recognize Israels right to exist even in its 1948 borders. Hamas doesnt recognize Israels right to exist inside any borders at all.

Far too many Westerners make the mistake of projecting their own views onto Palestinians without really understanding the Palestinian narrative. The occupation doesnt refer to the West Bank and Gaza, and it never has. The occupation refers to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. A kibbutz in the center of Israel is occupied Palestine according to most.

That‘s the problem – a rejection of Israel’s right to exist – not the settlements. That’s the huge stumbling block.

Talk to Hamas, as Toameh suggests? Sure, if they want a ceasefire, if they want peace on some terms worth talking about. But they don’t. That’s Toameh’s whole point.

Rob
Rob
12 years ago

“….actions such as destroying the homes of the ex-Israeli Gazans and some horticulture, presumeably for some scorched earth policy of giving the Palestinians no helping hand. If exiting Gaza was a peace gesture why muddy it with such wanton vandalism…..”

pablo, it was the Palestinians who wrecked the greenhouses – if that’s what you are referring to. A bunch of Jewish philanthropists raised about 13 million USD, bought them from the settlers and gifted them to the PA. A third of them were wrecked an d looted in the first days after the Israeli evacuation, and most were subsequently destroyed a few months later.

There was no scorched earth policy. Israel left behind a USD100 million export industry in flowers, fruit and vegetables in those greenhouses. It was the Gazans who destroyed it.

Rob
Rob
12 years ago

“I understand that, but I dont believe Israel counter-attacked with such force as to result in what is almost certainly over a thousand civilian casualities (vs less than 10 caused by Hamas) merely because there was no alternative.”

In the spirit of Ingolf’s post I am trying not to get really angry about this. Israeli casualties from the rockets were as low as they were because the IDF has whole arm – the Home Front Command – which is dedicated to protecting its citizens. It builds bomb shelters, secure rooms in houses, operates a whole infrastructure to protect its people from being killed. Hamas, despite being loaded with money from Israel, the EU and the US does nothing like that. They know Israel will retaliate if attacked, but they do nothing to protect their civilians – indeed, they do everything possible to put them in harm’s way. It wins them brownie points when they die. Israel doesn’t operate that way.

Are you saying if a thousand Israelis had been killed it would somehow have been OK for the IDF to kill that many Gazans, and only then? And the latest assessment from the IDF is that ONLY 250 of the casualties were not Hamas operatives. Why should we believe the IDF? Well, why should we believe Hamas? Given Hamas’ tactics of hiding among civilians, it is inevitable that some innocents would have been killed.

As for the ‘disproportionate’ tag – how ‘proportionate’ was it to fire 6000 rockets and an uncounted number of mortar shells into civilian areas of Israel over a three year period after every last Israeli settler, soldier, donkey, goat and gnat had been removed from Gaza?

(Apologies for the heat.)

NPOV
NPOV
12 years ago

There’s nothing proportionate about what Hamas does – their actions are completely inexcusable. Israel is justified in defending itself, but absolutely some degree of proportionality is required. If Hamas rockets had killed 1000s of Israeli citizens I don’t think anyone would feel that their counter-attack was unjustified.
Even if it’s true that “only” 250 of the casualties were genuinely innocent civilians, it’s still well over an order of magnitude greater than the number killed by Hamas attacks. If it was known that many of the Hamas launching sites were in areas occupied by a significant civilian presence, and it wasn’t possible to get those civilians out, then aerial strikes are not a justifiable response, and aside from the unnecessary death, destruction and devastation aren’t going to do anything to stop terrorist groups from attacking Israel (and probably quite a bit to help create support for such groups).

Rob
Rob
12 years ago

Not according to the Law of Armed Conflict. If civilian installations normally immune under the LOAC – schools, religious centres, etc. – are used for military purposes, they lose their immunity and become legitimate military targets. And the responsibility for the deaths of civilians in such cases lies with the organisation (Hamas, in this case) which put them in that position.

Rob
Rob
12 years ago

“If Hamas rockets had killed 1000s of Israeli citizens I dont think anyone would feel that their counter-attack was unjustified.”

I don’t understand this. How many British citizens had been killed by the German Wehrmacht in September 1939? None. Not one. Lots of Poles had though. So why did Britain declare war on Germany?

Rob
Rob
12 years ago

Sorry to be a bore – but to go back to the headline post:

Ingolf, I’m amazed that you are so impressed with King Abdullah’s letter. You cannot fail to be aware that at the League of Nations’ San Remo Conference in 1920, it was decided to confer upon Britain the responsibility for administering he Mandate of Palestine – which specifically called for the establishment of a Jewish National Homeland in Palestine. Under the terms of that Mandate hundreds of thousands of Jews immigrated lawfully and peacefully to Palestine.

As for Abdullah here:

“In the 1920s, Arabs were annoyed and insulted by Zionist immigration, but not alarmed by it.”

Rubbish. Arabs were rioting against Jewish immigration and land purchase as early as 1920. Hundreds of Jews were killed in Jerusalem, Hebron and Safed in the anti-Jewish riots of 1929.

“Even the League of Nations sanction does not alter this. At the time, not a single Arab state was a member of the League. We were not allowed to say a word in our own defense.”

That’s because there were no Arab states in 1920. They were all constituted by the British and the French in the lands that they (principally the British) had liberated from the Turks, who had been the imperial power in the region for the past 400 years. Abdullah himself (of the Arabian Peninsula’s Hashemite dynasty) was given Transjordan by the British.

I could go on, but…

Paul Frijters
Paul Frijters(@paul-frijters)
12 years ago

Ingolf,

yes, its a fine line you are trying to tread and I appreciate your wish for balance, but your piece does read fearful to me. One can now and then quote others so that it is clear you are not alone in your views, but we cannot here debate with the people you quote. We can only debate with you so its important to know where you stand without us needing to read between the lines.

I agree with you that the current situation is one of which one can ask ‘how did we get to a situation no one wanted and almost no one wants to see continue, but which looks like will almost inevitably continue for a while?’. You need to be almost super-human to come up with a satisfactory answer though. There is so much history and background and psychology to get on top of, it is truly daunting. It’s probably better not to spend too much time on the past but rather on how to go forward and whether peace has a chance. You are right that I am pessimistic in the medium term for the Palestinians and for any form of peace accord, but I am not that pessimistic for them in the long run. In the long-run I am pessimistic for the Jewish Israelis, with or without peace accords. All the long-run indicators look bad for them, including relative population growth, the decline of the influence of their closest allies, the inevitable eventual economic growth of their swarn enemies, the proliferation of weapons technology that could cause havoc in a small area, etc.. Their long-term future in that part of the world looks bleak. However, let’s not make this thread a cold analysis of power play because that is not in the spirit of your piece. Let’s concentrate on the joint humanity of all involved.

The debate about whether it was 1000 women and children, or only 250 seems shallow to me. The families of the 750 supposedly ‘legitimately killed’ will bemoan their lost ones to no less degree than the ones ‘illegitimately killed’. Am I supposed to believe the casualties at the bombed UN school were anything less than a tragedy because of the political games by the Egyptian hierachy and the other Palestinian parties? These arguments feel like attempts to take the human side out of the situation and to pretend its all just a game whereby you ‘win’ if you can convince others of the sub-human qualities of the vanquished.

NPOV
NPOV
12 years ago

Rob, you’re seriously suggesting Hamas is in anyway comparable to Third Reich?
I don’t doubt for a moment that if Hamas invaded Israel with 2,000,000 men and over 5000 tanks that Britain, Australia, the U.S. and virtually every democratic nation in the world would send assistance, quite justifiably.

Rob
Rob
12 years ago

In its annihilationist fantasies it surely is, NPOV. In this it precisely reflects the ambitions of its sponsor, Iran.

As for your other point, who sent assistance to Israel in 1948 when it was invaded by five Arab armies bent on its extermination? No-one, except Czechoslovakia (and that quietly).

Meanwhile, Ingolf….

Rob
Rob
12 years ago

Ingolf:

Let’s take some of your points one by one.

“To take but a few examples, consider the quote I extracted from Toamehs talk above. He readily conceded that Hamas had largely held their side of the bargain last year when Israel did not.”

“Largely held” means it did not hold. Rockets fell throughout the 6-month hudna, though in greatly diminished numbers. I take Khaled’s point, though; Hamas was re-arming and re-grouping, consistent with the concept of the hudna (not a ceasfire, not a truce, but merely a pause, a calm). Toameh did not say the Israelis had not honoured it. He said that Hamas had honoured it “in a way”. Right.

From your LRB article: “This understanding was seriously violated on 4 November, when the IDF entered Gaza and killed six members of Hamas. ”

Yes. The IDF detected a tunnel that had been bored under the border with the intention of kidnapping Israeli soldiers (like Gilad Schalit, who was kidnapped two years ago and is still held by Hamas or its affiliates, with no decisive proof of life, and no Red Cross visists allowed). The IDF judged the threat of incursion to be imminent, and sent a team to destroy the tunnel. Hamas operatives fired at the IDF in the tunnel; fire was returned, Hamas fighters died.

Further: “Hamas responded by launching Qassam rockets and Grad missiles. Even so, it offered to extend the truce, but only on condition that Israel ended its blockade. Israel refused.”

There is no credible evidence that this was the case. On 21 December, the Israeli Cabinet considered a report by its intelligence chief, who stated that Hamas was interested in continuing the hudna on wide-ranging terms. This appears to be the basis of this allegation. However, on that day, which was 2 days after Hamas terminated the hudna and recommenced rocket attacks, 50 Qassams fell on Israel.

On the “blockade”: there was no blockade. Israel continued to supply fuel, electric power, food. medical supplies and humanitarian aid throughout the three years after its withdrawal from Gaza. It is surely unknown in the history of warfare for one party to supply such largess to an adversary swron to its destruction.

As to the Ha’aretz report, that’s a mish-mash of what other outlets had carried about Hamas’ terms for putative a ten year hudna (again, not a truce, not a ceasefire, merely a pause). If those precise words were said, which I doubt, they were a lie. I prefer to rely on Toameh, Totten, and on Hamas itself. You can’t go much past their 1988 Charter as an authority. If that weren’t enough, consider the rhetoric of Iran, Hamas’ sponsor.

“I simply thought it beautifully written in a way that helps the reader to stand for a moment in the shoes of the Arabs.”

I could cite a dozen statements from Ben Gurion that would help readers stand for a moment in the shoes of the Jews.

Rob
Rob
12 years ago

“I too see greater danger for Israel than for the Palestinians in the long run if a workable agreement isnt found.”

That’s nonsense. Israel has survived greater challenges in the 60 years it’s been in existence, and it remains the most successful example of nation-building in the post-WWII world. That’s not going to stop.

The only real losers from the present situation are the Palestinians. They need to agree to three things: (1) stop firing rockets and mortars into Israel (2) stop sending suicide bombers into Israel (3) stop terrorist attacks on Israel.

Then all would be, well, not well, but tolerable. Israel could live in peace and quiet, and the Palestinians could get on with building the civil infrastructure and economic base they need to establish a viable state.

But that’s not going to happen in this generation. As Toameh says, the thing to do is not look for a “solution”, but manage the situation as it is. Otherwise, sit on you hands, and wait.

NPOV
NPOV
12 years ago

I don’t pretend to know much about the 1948 invasion – did Israel request help? Was providing assistance seriously considered by other nations? Remembering that it was barely 3 years since the end of WWII, it’s not too surprising that battle-weary Western nations were reluctant to send men, but surely there was more to it than that.

Rob
Rob
12 years ago

NPOV – I don’t believe so, but I may be wrong. The attacks by the Arab armies commenced (air attacks by Egypt) even as Ben-Gurion read the Declaration of Independence over the radio. The air lift of arms from Czechoslovakia began some time later.

Rob
Rob
12 years ago

Ingolf:

1. Israel does not control the Rafah crossing. Egypt does. If Hamas has got a problem with Rafah, it has a problem with Egypt. Not with Israel.

2. The November 4th incident. What’s a “defensive” tunnel into Israel? What kind of sense dos that make? That’s how Hamas (actually the PRC) got Shalit. D’you think the IDF should have waited for a stream of Hamas gunmen to come out of the dark to kidnap some more IDF soldiers before they took action?

3. So Hamas ended the hudna and resumed hostilities. We all knew that. Your citations do not in any way support your contention that Hamas offered to extend the hudna. On Toameh’s account, it is Mubarak and Abbas who bear the responsibility refusing to open the border with Egypt on Hamas’ terms and thus sparking the termination of the hudna. Not Israel.

4. Thanks for the BBC commentary, famous for its anti-Israel bias. No mention of the fact that Hamas routinely confiscated the aid shipments and sold them to the highest bidders. No mention of the fact that Hamas shelled the crossings with Israel to prevent aid getting in, because it didn’t suit their propaganda (which you bought, apparently). Even during the war itself Israel was bringing hundreds of aid trucks through, which Hamas hijacked.

5. Ha’aretz is about as reliable a source as The Guardian (i.e. not reliable at all). The paper is going out of business because of the radical position it takes, notably its hosting of Israel’s most famous anti-Israel reporter, Gideon Levy.

6. Only one side is right, though. If Abdullah’s letter had been penned by the BNP, people like you would not have hesitated to call it racist. “All these horrible foreigners! How can we be expected to accept them! They will overwhelm us”, etc. etc.

I’m sorry to say it, but you simply don’t know what you’re talking about.

melaleuca
melaleuca
12 years ago

It would be good if you could back up your claims with links, Rob.

I tend to have more sympathy for the Israelis than the Palestinians but you appear to have a ridiculously black and white view of the situation which I find as repellent as, well, Hamas.

NPOV
NPOV
12 years ago

Rob, the Israeli government itself announced its intention to place “additional sanctions…on the Hamas regime in order to restrict the passage of various goods to the Gaza Strip and reduce the supply of fuel and electricity.” (http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2007/gapal1064.doc.htm). No doubt Hamas has played a role in preventing aid getting to those who most need it, but even without such actions, the sanctions have been punitive and dehabilitating by any measure. And there’s no evidence I can see they’ve done anything to reduce support for the Hamas regime, or to significantly disrupt its military capacity.

Rob
Rob
12 years ago

Fair point, mel. I write in heat sometimes, and that’s a mistake. But I went through dozens of these idiotic arguments at LP recently, so I’m feeling tired and pissed off with the ubiquity of the demonisation of Israel.

Apologies to Ingolf and the CT crew if I’ve over-stepped

Rob
Rob
12 years ago

TA, I should have said.

Rob
Rob
12 years ago

NPOV @ 38. OK. I’m not trying to be bad, difficult or argumentative. But please explain to me by what structure of warfare, logic or other process of reasoning is Israel compelled to support, sustain and supply with food, medical aid, fuel and electricity an enemy government (yes, government, democratically elected and all that) which is sworn to its destruction? Especially when it could get all of it from a (putatively) comradely Arab neighbour, namely Egypt?

NPOV
NPOV
12 years ago

I’d also say that your implication that Hamas hijacked “hundreds of aid trucks” or sold much of the aid intended for the most in need doesn’t seem to have a lot of substantive evidence that I can find, but by all means feel free to provide it. Most of the articles describing the phenomenon rely on vague references to “reports coming out of Gaza” – only one bothers to name a specific incident of a Jordanian aid truck being hijacked by gunmen.

Mike Pepperday
Mike Pepperday
12 years ago

What a lot of fruitless argy-bargy. Im in the right and youre wrong. Im moral and youre immoral. What a bore. There is nothing original in it and it does nothing to illuminate root causes.

Unlike Paul, I dont see the root causes as all that complicated.

The problem in Ireland was recently resolved by sharing power. The same sectarian problem is solved in Germany, Switzerland and Belgium (more or less) by sharing power.

If, as appears to be the case, the systemic domination of one religion is not stable, then the a solution in the ME, too, would require that power be shared. It is not so much the pie that has to be shared; it is power. This would seem to mean, necessarily, the one-state solution.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Binational_solution
Qaddafi recently promoted it:
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/22/opinion/22qaddafi.html?th&emc=th

But in the state of Isratine the Arabs would soon outnumber the Jews and the Jewish state would be no more. It wont happen. With no sharing of power there is no prospect of a solution. So thats that: no true political path exists. Its hopeless.

The crucial factor is Jewish exclusiveness. Judaism is not just a religion; it is a way of life. Christianity and Judaism are both monotheisms saying people should be nice to each other. The essential difference is render unto Caesar i.e. separation of church and state. The Jews couldnt or wouldnt and in 69AD the Roman empire, which didnt give a damn about local religions, lost patience and wiped them out.

It was a monumental catastrophe. The argy-bargy merchants might like to decide: Do you blame the Romans for disproportionate aggression or do you blame the Jews for bringing it on themselves?

There is a price for exclusivity. Even without an air of superiority, an apartheid attitude causes jealousy. The events of 69AD, two thousand years of pogroms, and the super-pogrom in the 30s and 40s, have had no apparent impact on Jewish exclusivity. On this logic the strife will continue, maybe for centuries. On this logic, what conceivable solution is there other than, someday, somehow, another serious final solution?

Rob
Rob
12 years ago

NPOV @ 42 – here is one report.

NPOV
NPOV
12 years ago

I never implied that Israel was “compelled” to supply anything. But clearly the Gazans had relied on Israel supplies of fuel etc. (it’s not clear to me whether this was provided at market rates, or heavily subsidised), and Israel intential cut those lines of supply off. Indeed, as I understand it, it basically stopped all trade with the Gaza area. Now it may be true that most of those supplies could have been imported from Egypt instead, but, at least according to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rafah_Border_Crossing, it was Israel that insisted that the border crossing remain mostly closed between June 2006 and June 2007, when Hamas took control of Rafah. What’s not clear is who had the responsibility for keeping it closed up until the breach in January 2008, or to what extent it has remained opened for trade since then.

NPOV
NPOV
12 years ago

Rob, you must use a different definition of the word ‘substantive’ than I do.
Who observed these “100” trucks being hijacked, and how is it known that Hamas then auctioned it off at whatever prices it could get?

It certainly wouldn’t surprise me that wihin an organisation like Hamas there would be groups quite willing to carry out such activities, but I’m somewhat skeptical that it’s making a huge impact on the livelihood of innocent Palestinians, relative to decisions made by Israel.

Rob
Rob
12 years ago

Yes, it’s sketchy on that report, I admit, NPOV. I’ll see what else I can dig up.

jimparker
jimparker(@jimparker)
12 years ago

Can anyone, anywhere, anytime, point me to one blog thread that has even infinitesimally leavened the load on the ground in the Middle East.

Why do you guys bother?

jimparker
jimparker(@jimparker)
12 years ago

Oh right. Now I’ve actually bothered to read the thread, I see Mike Pepperday was already on the case here.

Aside from some semantic reservations about the third last and last paras, I’m pretty much in accord with Mike @43.

Not that it will do any good.

Paul Frijters
Paul Frijters(@paul-frijters)
12 years ago

Mike and Nabokov,

I beg to differ. I do believe there is a political path, but simply not one that includes a long-run viable Jewish state. One possible path of what will happen in the next 50 years or so is as follows:

– continuing marginalisation of the Palestinians in Israel and outside.
– a gradual further exclusion of Arab Israelis in Israeli society, fuelling their population growth.
– following some real or trumped-up threat, a functioning dividing wall which will annex some bits of the West Bank and the whole of the Gaza strip into Israel and, potentially, siphon off the Arab bits of south Israel into the West Bank which is then subsequently declared an autonomous state. I would call this a unilaterally imposed bi-state ‘solution’, ex post ratified by everybody who matters.
– despite the syphoning off, the Arab Israelis continue to out-grow the Jewish Israelis, eventually leading to an internal form of power sharing within Israel between the Jews and the Arabs. This eventually reduces the political power of the Jews in Israel who will in ever greater numbers leave for Western countries. A small group of Jews remains, connected to holy sites and particular enclaves. These are grudgingly allowed to remain for a long time, just like Jewish enclaves were allowed to be in Middle East for the 2 thousand years before the 20th century. We are then more or less back to the situation in 1900.

This is just one of many different scenarios I can think of, but the end result is the same: the Jews will eventually leave Israel. The main difference with Mike and Nabokov is that I do not see another great catastrophe coming for the Jews. It is not in anyone’s interest to allow it to happen, now or in the foreseable future. Also, it doesnt fit the psychology of Arab culture. The Arabs have historically not really been into the business of wiping out others. As long as the others acquiesce in the superiority of Islam and dont make too much noise, they are left alone, and have been left alone for a very long time through very difficulty circumstances. Arab history is surprisingly tolerant towards its Christian, Jewish, and other minorites within its borders, even through centuries in which Christianity was weak and in no position to protect its minority in Arab countries. I thus think the majority of the Jews will leave Israel before another catastrophe happens and be re-absorbed into Western societies where they will make outstanding contributions and dream of once returning to Israel.

As to the exclusivity of religion, I do not see it that simplistically. There are many religions that are exclusive and non-evangelist. It doesnt seem a winning evolutionary strategy to not include newcomers, but this does not mean the adherents inevitably get wiped out. They will often get converted. After all, do not forget that many of the early Christians and Muslims were Jews. Hence conversion is well possible. The argument on the Roman empire hence misses the real point, which is not who was persecuted (the Christians were also persecuted, perhaps even more fanatically) but rather which group managed to convert more people to its faith faster.
I guess where I agree with Mike and Nabokov is that in the run-long, their logic of the school playground does have some merit in explaining politics: if you are weak, you had better keep quiet whilst you grow in strength. When you are weak but act strong, your powerful friends come and go, but the resentment against you remains and hence if you are weak, you had best act weak. If you dont, then eventually you lose.

Ingolf,

I guess you and I have virtually identical views on most of this, so there’s indeed no point in looking to disagree on minor stuff.