Thursday, March 29, 2012

Finally: Sane Settlement Talk From a Zionist

I'm Jewish, I suppose (really, it seems crazy to me to deem theology or culture as inheritable; I am what I am and believe what I believe out of conscious personal choice) but have never been a Zionist. For one thing, the settlements fill me with disgust - contributing to my dismay with the unreasonable assumption that my schnozz puts me in favor all that (I want to throw a brick at my TV whenever I hear someone refer to the Israeli regime as "The Jews").

That said, I don't like the Palestinian regime any better. I find provocation just as disgusting, and when I first observed that Palestinian bombers rarely attacked right-wing Israeli hawks in their synagogues, but usually left-wing doves in their nightclubs and shopping malls, I understood the game quite well.

But the settlements. Yeesh, the settlements. Back in 2010, I expressed my consternation that American Jews, who I suspect mostly despise the settlements, rarely spoke out.

So I was delighted with this Op Ed in the NY Times by Peter Beinart, a staunchly pro-Israel orthodox Jew. And I've heard - from multiple sources with multiple backgrounds and viewpoints - that his brand new book "The Crisis of Zionism" is a groundbreaking and beautiful work, even if you - like me - range between disinterest and nausea on the topic (here's an excerpt, and here's another).

With much of the world retracting, sickeningly, into neo-tribalism, it's inspirational to see someone break ranks with an act of conscience and integrity.


JB said...

Why is it always "if only Israel would ..."? The last time Israel ceded land, Gaza, it was used to house Hamas and as a staging ground for endless missile attacks on civilians. Lebanon is essentially a puppet state of Hezbollah and by extension Iran and Syria. Sinai now has become a lawless land which extends the reach and enables the weapons traffic for Gaza. If Israel would do more of the same, why would Israel expect a different result?

In order to accept Beinart's premise, you have to accept that the settlements are the impediment to peace. Beinart would provide to the Palestinian Authority unilaterally concessions that they refuse to discuss in negotiations--and by the way since Beinart would not boycott so-called East Jerusalem so he is alreay derided by the Arabs as not making enough concessions.

Netanyahu went contrary to his political base and agreed to stop all construction across the 1948 armistice lines for 10 months. For 8 months, Abbas did nothing. Then Abbas proposed re-starting negotiations only if Netanyahu agree to extend the ban on constructions further and agree to further concessions BEFORE negotiations. Abbas wants the UN to recognize Palestine, but he cozies up to Hamas who has a charter specifically calling for the destruction of Israel.

The green line is not a border. It simply recognizes a boundary between land controlled by Jordan and land controlled by Israel after Jordan, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt failed to exterminate all the Jews in 1948. The West Bank is mirrored by the East Bank, which is also populated by a large portion of Arabs who identify as Palestinian, but the East Bank is considered part of Jordan and no one expects Jordan to give up that land to a Palestinian state.

In case I am not making it clear, there never was such a thing as a Palestinian state. The land referred to as Palestine was controlled by various empires until the British tired of governing it and brokered a deal to segregate the land into Jewish and Arab control, and instead of welcoming the Arab land as a home to the stateless refugees (now knows as Palestinians) the surrounding Arab countries immediately declared war on the Jews. The was of independence secured the creation of a Jewish state in 1948, and the six day war in 1967 preserved the Jewish state by preempting the ambitions of the neighboring Arab states to reverse the success of 1948. Israel can't be called on to 'give back' land to a Palestinian state that never existed.

Abbas can't or won't admit to his people that there will continue to be a Jewsh state. The majority of Arabs who identify as Palestinian aren't interested in a two state solution, this would only be a temporary solution until they can succeed in "liberating" all of Palestine -- the land between Jordan and the Sea.

Beinart is not sane. Beinart like most Jews detests the current state of affairs, but refuses to accept that Israel is powerless to change things as long as there is no partner for peace.

There is depressingly little that can be done until the Arabs want a Palestinian state more than they want there to be no Jewish state, or as Golda Meir said “We will have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us”.

Jim Leff said...

Thanks, JB.

You make some good points. But, of course, Palestinians could (and do) make equally persuasive counterpoints. It's quite apparent to outside parties that the chicken/egg complaint chain extends literally ad infinitum, and that each side has more than enough bitter grievance to fuel its conviction of righteous high ground.

Which is to say, statements of grievance do nothing for anyone at this point. They just cement the indignation and polarization.

When a hard conflict solidifies into a standoff where each side views itself as pure victimhood and the other as pure villainy, that's a situation where any high ground has long ago ceased to exist, and nothing remains but villainy all around (and worse to come). So why not shift gears and aim to regain high ground, rather than keep bashing toward untenability? Shoot, even lab rats can spot a dead end without mushing their noses up against it!

"If Israel would do more of the same, why would Israel expect a different result?"


Metric tons of aggression and suppression have worked poorly. A few pounds of conciliation have also worked poorly. I don't see the latter justifying the former.

PS - And there's this! ;)

JB said...

Considering a world where the UN focuses the majority of its human rights investigations on Israel, invites Hamas to speak at the human rights commission, and reluctantly (if at all) censures leaders of murderous regimes in Libya and Syria Israel can be forgiven for having a go-it-alone mentality that is far from playing the victim. I think launching military attacks from civilian territory, then publishing pictures of dead and injured children -- often from years earlier and from non-military incidents or complete fabrication -- is playing the victim to an incredibly crass degree.

JB said...

Here's the bottom line:

Israel's leaders have prepared the Jews for a two state solution at risk of political failure or assassination.

Arab leaders have promoted the fantasy of killing all the Jews to the point that just recognizing or negotiating with Israel assures political failure and almost assures assassination.

The Arab position did not start in 1967--the PLO was formed three years earlier with the same goals that Hamas touts today. It is misguided and frankly dangerous to believe that Israel caused or can mitigate the state of Arab aggression and fantasy through unilateral actions.

JB said...

Here's the history of the PLO, dating to before 1967 and aligned with the rest of the Arabs on the Israel Problem, from that noted pro-Israel source Al Jazeera.

This says what I said, only better:

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