Israel on My Mind

The recent war in Gaza, coupled with the rejection of Israel-critic Charles Freeman for an intelligence post in the Obama administration, has led to a renewed round of hand-wringing over America’s relationship with Israel.

Let’s kick things off with this delightful article from today’s New York Times. It reports on Israel’s growing isolation from the international community:

Israel, whose founding idea was branded as racism by the United Nations General Assembly in 1975 and which faced an Arab boycott for decades, is no stranger to isolation. But in the weeks since its Gaza war, and as it prepares to inaugurate a hawkish right-wing government, it is facing its worst diplomatic crisis in two decades.

Examples abound. Its sports teams have met hostility and violent protests in Sweden, Spain and Turkey. Mauritania has closed Israel’s embassy.

Relations with Turkey, an important Muslim ally, have suffered severely. A group of top international judges and human rights investigators recently called for an inquiry into Israel’s actions in Gaza. “Israel Apartheid Week” drew participants in 54 cities around the world this month, twice the number of last year, according to its organizers. And even in the American Jewish community, albeit in its liberal wing, there is a chill.

I have no problem with investigations into possible war crimes in Gaza. The fact remains, however, that in Gaza Israel faces an enemy that has openly declared war on them, and which rained down several thousand rockets on Israeli cities over a period of several years. They face an onslaught of other forms of terrorism from enemies who routinely declare that under no circumstances will they recognize Israel’s right to exist. No other country in the world would be expected to sit idly by in the face of such provocation, let alone undetake any sort of normal diplomatic relations with that enemy. Certainly no Arab nation would have been so restrained in the face of such threats.

But such is the double standard Israel has always faced. They are surrounded by despotic Arab regimes which have shown little interest in supporting democracy or basic human rights. The Palestinians are just a political pawn to these regimes, as indicated by their utter unwillingness to lift a finger to help them, which they easily could. And yet it is only Israel that gets likened to the worst human rights abusers, like Apartheid South Africa or even Nazi Germany. The moral and historical cluelessness of such charges are simply breathtaking. Let the Swedes and the Spanish face relentless terrorism from neighbors bent on their obliteration and then we’ll talk about the proper treatment of foreign athletes.

The Times article also contains this nugget:

The issue of a Palestinian state is central to Israel’s reputation abroad, because so many governments and international organizations favor its establishment in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. And while the departing government of Prime Minister Ehud Olmert negotiated for such a state, the incoming one of Benjamin Netanyahu says that item is not on its immediate agenda.

All sensible people ought to support the two-state solution, but whose fault is it that we do not have it? The Palestinians could have had that in 1937, when the Jews were willing to accept a small, discontiguous state comprising areas that were majority Jewish. The Palestinians rejected it and their leadership enthusiastically supported the Nazis instead. The situation largely repeated itself in 1948. And in 2000 the Palestinians were offered virtually everything they could hope for from a two-state solution. Most Arab leaders encouraged Yasser Arafat to accept the deal. Instead he rejected it, and instigated a new round of terrorism instead. Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia, no friend of Israel, openly described it as a crime against the Palestinian people that the deal was rejected. President Clinton and lead US negotiator Dennis Ross both laid the blame entirely at Arafat’s feet. But then, they’re all just flunkies of the Israel lobby.

All of that seems to be forgotten. No, it’s Israel who is to be blamed for losing interest in the two-state solution. Of course it is.

It does not help that Israel is about to have a right-wing government, one which will of necessity include the odious bigot and thug Avigdor Lieberman (who does, at least, support the two-state solution). This is a deplorable development, but even here the double-standard of Israel’s critics is astonishing. When the Palestinians elect groups of genocidal religious fanatics like Hamas and Hezbollah, we get lectures about how Israel’s actions serve to radicalize the Palestinian population, making it inevitable that such fanatics will come to power. There is truth to that, certainly, but we never hear the corresponding lecture about how relentless Palestinian terrorism may have radicalized the Israeli population.

Meanwhile, also in the Times, the always worthless Stanley Fish weighs in on the subject of boycotting Israeli academics. Though he does, eventually, come down on the right side (that the boycott is a bad idea), it is hard to see how he could have been more wrong in his analysis. Here’s an example:

But the effort to detach Israel from South Africa by claiming that the sins of the latter were much greater than the sins of the former has not been successful, in part because those who make it are trying too hard. (You can almost see the sweat on their foreheads.) The American Association of University Professors ties itself up in knots explaining that while its own history includes “support for divestiture during the anti-apartheid campaigns in South Africa,” it nevertheless opposes this boycott. The rationale seems to be that South Africa was a special, one time case — “South Africa is the only instance in which the organization endorsed some form of boycott” — but that is hardly going to satisfy those who are prosecuting the “if-you-protested-injustice-then-you-should-protest-it-now” argument.

The better course would be for the AAUP and other boycott opponents to accept the equivalence of the two situations, and repudiate what they did in the past. Not “what we did then is different from what we decline to do now,” but “we won’t boycott now and we were wrong to boycott then.”

It is cluelessness of a high order to think that South African apartheid is comparable to the situation between Israelis and Palestinians. For one thing, as Michael Kinsley points out in this essay, apartheid was all about race hatred of Whites towards Blacks. In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, where do you find race hatred? From the Israelis, who guarantees full civil rights to its Arab citizens and whose courts have routinely sided with Arabs against the Israeli government? Or is it from the Arabs, whose relentless promotion of the vilest smears and stereotypes of Jews is a ubiquitous feature of their culture?

On the political side, apartheid was about exiling Blacks to bantustans as a way of purging South Africa of its black population. Israel has no desire to do anything similar to its Arab population. As for the West Bank, leaving aside the fact that the people living there are not citizens of Israel, there is the simple fact that Israel captured that land in a war of aggression started by its enemies. Most israelis would like nothing better than to abandon the West Bank, but they legitimately fear renewed aggression if they do so.

Which brings us to the National Journal. They asked some of their regular contributors to address the following question: What are the specific steps President Obama, leaders of Congress, the State Department and yes, those of us on this blog, can take to ensure that a rational discussion, and a possible consensus, can be reached on U.S. policy toward Israel and Palestine?

Most of the contributors declined to answer, preferring instead to lambast the all-powerful Israel lobby for doing what it could to derail the nomination of Charles Freeman. If you’re not familiar with the situation, here’s the short version. There were many reasons for opposing Freeman, but one of them was his blinkered view of Israel. Many pro-Israel groups, finding his views objectionable, lobbied against him, sometimes using — are you sitting down? — harsh rhetoric. They were successful.

Really, try to contemplate the full horror of the situation. A political nominee was opposed by a particular lobbying group, which was successful in its opposition. I mean, it’s not like such things happen a hundred times a day in Washington, right? But this was the Israel lobby we’re talking about, and when they are successful it is, by definition, indicative of far more than just politics as usual.

So most of NJ’s columnists served up the usual whining nonsense. Here’s Michael Schueur, an adjunct professor at Georgetown University:

There is indeed an identifiable fifth column of pro-Israel U.S. citizens — I have described them here and elsewhere as Israel-Firsters — who have consciously made Israel’s survival and protection their first priority, and who see worth in America only to the extent that its resources and manpower can be exploited to protect and further the interests of Israel in its religious war-to-the-death with the Arabs. These are disloyal citizens in much the same sense that the Civil War’s disloyal northern “Copperheads” sought to help the Confederates destroy the Union. The Israel-Firsters help Israel suborn U.S. citizens to spy for Israel; they use their fortunes and political action organizations to buy U.S. politicians with campaign donations; and most of all they use their ready access to the media to disguise their own disloyalty by denigrating as anti-Semites or appeasers fellow citizens who dare to challenge them. The Israel-Firsters are unquestionably enemies of America’s republican experiment and will have to be destroyed as the Copperheads were destroyed — by the people, after a full public deabte, at the ballot box.

Gosh! It’s hard to believe that people see anti-semitism among certain Israel critics.

Here’s Colonel Joseph Colins:

If you criticize Israel, you can be tarred by various groups as an anti-semite. If you cozy up to the Palestinians or even concern yourself with their material well being, you are called soft of terrorism.

This is an article of faith among Israel’s critics, but it is mostly nonsense. You are hard-pressed to find any Israel defender of any prominence accusing someone of being anti-semitic simply for criticizing Israel. After all, Israel has done plenty in its history to be deserving of criticism. What country hasn’t? What gets you accused of anti-semitism is singling out Israel for extraordinary condemnation while ignoring the vastly greater human rights abuses of other countries, and while ignoring the extraordinary provocation Israel has faced in its history.

From the other side, nearly all of the most prominent Israel defenders support the two-state solution, and actively want a viable, functioning Palestinian state. Such a state is plainly in Israel’s interest, after all. Supporting moderate Palestinian forces is not what gets you tarred as being soft on terrorism. But when you dismiss relentless rocket fire aimed at civilians as a nuisance, as many critics of Israel did at the start of the Gaza war, you are certainly open to the charge. And when you infantilize the Palestinians by suggesting they are so put upon that they have no choice but to throw their support behind terror groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, then you are definitely being soft on terrorism.

It’s not all bad news. David Goure of the Lexington Institute offers a long essay in rebuttal. You really must read the whole thing. Here’s an excerpt:

So, perhaps it is a good thing that the so-called Israeli lobby exists, if indeed it does, just to offer a counterweight to the impact on U.S. policy of the lobbies supported by the Saudis, Iranians, Egyptians, Russians, oil companies, and others. With apologies to Voltaire, but if a pro-Israel lobby did not exist, of necessity we would have to create one. But that would only be to create balance with respect to the impact of the other lobbies on U.S. Middle East policy.

Here’s another:

The reality is that no so-called Israel lobby is necessary to impact U.S. Middle East policy because our interests and those of Israel are largely congruent. Whether it is the natural affinity of democracies; our shared political and social modernity; the common opposition to Soviet expansionism during the Cold War; the sharing of intelligence; technology cooperation; equal distance, politically speaking, from the internecine political warfare that consumes the Arab world; a mutual determination to defeat terrorism; or a shared culture…Israel and America are in accord. What is the basis for our strategic relationship with the Arab nations? The answer is one word, oil. Absent oil, Israel alone would continue to hold our interest in the region. If the Obama Administration is successful in weaning the U.S. from its addiction to oil, Israel alone will be of strategic interest to this country. At least that will be the case until democracy and representative
governance takes hold elsewhere in the region.

Well said!

I saw history professor Juan Cole on Colbert yesterday. He was assuring us, based on public opinion polls, that the Muslim world is just teeming with moderates who love America and want more engagement with the West. I hope he’s right, but I see little evidence of it. After all, public opinion polls have also shown great support in the Muslim world for suicide bombing defended in explicitly religious terms. For me the central truth of the Israeli- Palestinian conflict remains what it has always been. If the Palestinians and their supporters lay down their arms, the result will be peace. If the Israelis lay down their arms, the result will be genocide. What hope for a two state solution so long as that is the case?

Comments

  1. #1 notedscholar
    March 19, 2009

    Only if we had listened to Noam Chomsky in the 1970′s, none of this would have happened. Also, Chomsky has explained the many fallacies of the idea that the Israel lobby controls U.S. policy.

    NS

  2. #2 Joshua Zelinsky
    March 19, 2009

    While I agree with much of what you have to say, Israel’s election of the new government really does come across as being the country’s own fault. Seriously, I mean Avigdor Liebeman possibly for foreign minister? That just doesn’t bode well.

  3. #3 SLC
    March 19, 2009

    Prof. Juan Cole has been shown to be a congenital liar. He claimed, based on what he said were his translation of President Amadinejads’ remarks, that the latter didn’t threaten to eliminate the State of Israel from the map. He was shown to be a liar by Christopher Hitchens who pointed to a translation by a former Iranian national whose knowledge of Farsi is at least equal to Prof. Coles’ Of course, the Israel bashers respond with a smear campaign against Mr. Hitchens, but they never point out where the translation of the former Iranian national went wrong.

    Prof. Rosenhouse could also point to one of Mr. Freemans’ stalwart defenders, the vicious Jew baiting Israel basher, Prof. Steven Walt, the disgrace of Harvard University, whose accusations of dual loyalty hearken us back to the regime of Mr. Hitler.

  4. #4 SLC
    March 19, 2009

    Re Avigdor Lieberman

    I am not an admirer of Mr. Lieberman but his reputation as a far right wing neo-fascist is greatly exaggerated. It is quite true that the man used race baiting appeals against Israeli Arabs and clearly is prejudiced against them. On the other hand, there doesn’t seem to be any evidence that he is particularly prejudiced against Arabs in the PA, Jordan, or Egypt. Further, he is equally prejudiced against ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel and is a stalwart secularist who advocates civil marriages and an easing of the ultra-orthodox Rabbis’ grip on the question of citizenship of immigrants.

    Actually, IMHO, both Mr. Lieberman and Bibi are loudmouths who talk big but act little. Or to reverse the quote attributed to President Theodore Roosevelt, they talk loudly and carry a twig.

  5. #5 Ole
    March 19, 2009

    Comment deleted.

  6. #6 Jason Rosenhouse
    March 19, 2009

    Ole –

    My blog is not a forum for you to drone on for paragraph after paragraph accusing me of bad motives and launching ad hominem attacks. Almost nothing in your silly comment addressed anything I actually wrote. Normally I am incredibly tolerant of even the dopiest commenters, but I know from past experience that threads about Israel can quickly spiral out of control. If you think you can make an actual argument without speculating for sentence after sentence about what I’ve read or who I’ve spoken to then you are welcome to try again. Otherwise, kindly go away.

  7. #7 Michael Ralston
    March 20, 2009

    I’ve criticized Israel’s actions in Gaza before, and will continue to do so, on the simplest of grounds: They will not work to resolve the conflict.

    The sole reason I am unlikely to articulate such a criticism of Hamas is that I consider Israel to be far superior – and thus, hope for to improve by minor steps, whereas in my “ideal world”, Hamas would be virtually unrecognizable.

  8. #8 Mogens Michaelsen
    March 20, 2009

    You say that you have “no problem with investigations into possible war crimes in Gaza”. But immediately after saying that, you try to explain the special situation for Israel. Does that mean, that this is some kind of “excuse” for possible war crimes?

    I agree with the view, that Israel is in a very special situation, and that this fact should always be taken into account, but this is a political question, which is highly relevant for any solution to the problem. It is not relevant when we talk about possible war crimes.

    Whether an act is a war crime or not, is pr. definition independent of the political situation.

    Double-standard is when the war crimes of some states are not investigated for political reasons.

  9. #9 Martin Poulsen
    March 20, 2009

    “the Arabs, whose relentless promotion of the vilest smears and stereotypes of Jews is a ubiquitous feature of their culture?”
    That (racist and imperialist) sentence sort of sets the “scientific” standard for this post.

  10. #10 lonely adjunct
    March 20, 2009

    Thank you, Jason, for this excellent post. In these times such a reasoned and balanced statement on Israel is a breath of fresh air, especially for those of us in academia.

  11. #11 Eamon
    March 20, 2009

    I’m in full agreement with Martin Poulsen’s comment (sans the Imperialist bit)

    That kind of low stereotyping was certinily an enabler for the recently reported IDF ‘war crimes’ in Gaza:

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/world-news/we-shot-unarmed-civilians-israeli-soldiers-14236559.html

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/middle_east/7952603.stm

  12. #12 Valhar2000
    March 20, 2009

    That (racist and imperialist) sentence sort of sets the “scientific” standard for this post.

    Ah! Argument by label! A time honoured classic!

    Have you ever heard of the Blood Libel? It is taught to school children in Saudi Arabia, and it is a common belief in Muslim countries.

    So what was wrong with Jason’s sentence again?

  13. #13 Erik 12345
    March 20, 2009

    Martin Poulsen: That (racist and imperialist) sentence sort of sets the “scientific” standard for this post.

    Where is it claimed to be a scientific post?

  14. #14 Captain Obvious
    March 20, 2009

    Valhar2000, if you see no problem with the claims you linked to it is logical for you to see no problem with the claims in the OP.

  15. #15 Thomas
    March 20, 2009

    Jason complains that groups in Gaza sent “several thousands rockets” on Israel. What he, as is quite common, forgets to tell is that for half a year before the Israeli invasion there had been a cease fire and that Hamas had stopped firing any and managed to prevent others from doing so to the point where there were one or two a month. In return Israel had promised to ease the blockade, which constitutes a collective punishment of the people of Gaza, but Israel had done nothing to fulfill their part of the deal. Instead Israel launched an attack on Gaza November 4th and after that Hamas saw no point in continuing an unilateral ceasefire.

    Lets no forget that most of the people in Gaza are refugees forced to leave Israel when the Jews took over. Or put more bluntly: when a group of European colonists who this time happened to be Jews took over yet another country. They have plenty of reasons for not liking or trusting Israel.

    Now compare Israel’s reaction vs Gaza with Britain’s vs North Ireland and the terrorism from IRA. Did Britain start to bomb Northern Ireland with cluster bombs and white phosphorous in return? Nope, they did use some questionable tactics, but what finally solved the problem was negotiations.

    Terrorism rarely appear out of nothing. Had Sweden behaved like Israel I’m sure we too would have suffered from terrorist attacks. In fact, go back into history and we did behave like that and we did suffer rebellions and what today would be labeled terrorism.

    If the plan from 1937 you refer to is the Peel commission, you ought to be aware that the Jews rejected it and that it included forcible relocation of Palestinians to give land to a bunch of immigrants. Is it surprising the Palestinians weren’t too keen on the idea?

    “On the political side, apartheid was about exiling Blacks to bantustans as a way of purging South Africa of its black population. Israel has no desire to do anything similar to its Arab population.”

    Are you for real? Are you completely unaware of how Palestinians were driven out both when Israel was created and the period thereafter? For example, what today is Ashekon was until 1948 an Arab town called al-Majdal, and I’m sure some of the people in Gaza used to live there, before the Jews took over. Israel is treating Gaza just as a bantustan, although I don’t think South Africa ever put such a harsh blockade on any of theirs.

    What is completely missing from your one sided article is any discussion of the settlements and ongoing de facto annexation of the West Bank. (Or should I say Judea and Samaria?) You think the Palestinians should lay down their weapons, but all that would happen is that Israel would speed up the annexation. They’ve tried and they know the result.

  16. #16 SLC
    March 20, 2009

    Re Thomas

    Mr. Thomas, in his screed against the State of Israel, conveniently forgets the Jews expelled from Arab countries (at least 1/2 million from Iraq alone). But of course, to people like Mr. Thomas, they don’t count.

    Mr. Thomas indicates that he is Swedish. Let’s remember how Sweden sold iron ore to Germany during the 2nd World War and allowed German troops to pass through their country to stab Norway in the back, probably why Norwegians don’t much like Sweden. Quite a comedown from the days of King Gustavus Adolphus whose victory at the battle of Breitenfeld saved Protestantism from being eliminated from Europe.

  17. #17 Thomas
    March 20, 2009

    SLC, I didn’t attempt to give a full account of the history of the Middle East. I do not approve of the expulsion of Jews either, but since this took place after the creation of Israel it can not be used as an excuse for what happened then. Nor is the fact that there are other countries behaving badly any excuse for Israel.

    As for Sweden, yes we sold iron ore to Germany, allowed them to ship troops from Norway to Finland etc. On the other hand we gave lots of intelligence to the allies since we had cracked all communications between Germany and Norway. Too bad Stalin was too paranoid to believe the warning that Germany was about to invade. We also allowed the allies to help direct their bombing raids against Germany from Sweden etc. Our neutrality was hollow both ways. As a small country we did what we had to survive, nothing to be proud of perhaps. OTOH, USA was just as eager to trade with Germany until Germany declared war, yet Americans love to depict themselves as heroes of the war.

    As for German troops backstabbing Norway through Sweden, I wonder where you got that piece of desinformation. We did allow troops to move through Sweden between Norway and Germany during the war, but that was after the conquest was finished. At the same time we trained a Norwedian army (officially a suspiciously heavily armed police force) to help retake Norway when possible, but as the German capitulated that never became necessary.

    If you had read more about Swedish 17th and 18th centruy military adventurism you might be less proud of it, we acted like thugs back then. I’m much more proud of events in 1905 when Norway wanted independence and we didn’t try to keep them in the “union” despite our military superiority.

  18. #18 Jason Rosenhouse
    March 20, 2009

    Mogens –

    I don’t think Israel bathed itself in glory in its attack on Gaza, and based on what I have read it seems likely that war crimes were committed there. I want those war crimes prosecuted, even though I am not optimistic that they will be. I feel the same about the war crimes the United States committed during its war with Iraq, for the record. But all actions must be considered in context.

    Michael Ralston –

    I think you are probably right that the harmful effects of Israel’s attack on Gaza outweigh the good that was done. What I object to is that so much of the criticism directed at Israel’s actions, for example, that the rockets from Gaza were just a nuisance that could have been tolerated, seemed completely detached from the realit of the situation. I believe that Israel has become radicalized after years of relentless attack and demonization, and that this is a very dangerous development for Israel’s future. That I understand how they got to this point and that I think that many of Israel’s critics have bad motives and a poor understanding of the situation does not change that fact.

    Thomas –

    Yes, I am familiar with exodus of Palestinians from Israel in the years around Israel’s creation. I am also familiar with the fact that much of that exodus was the result of a war of aggression started by Israel’s enemies, and that many of the Palestinians left at the behest of other Arab governments. I am also aware that Jews were expelled from neighboring Arab nations in roughly the same numbers. And I am aware that today Israel has a large Arab population which has far more in the way of civil rights than they would find in most of their neighbors, while the neighboring Arab nations have almost nothing in the way of Jewish populations.

  19. #19 SLC
    March 20, 2009

    Re Thomas

    1. Ah gee, Mr. Thomas doesn’t endorse the expulsion of Jews from Arab countries. What a relief!

    2. I am quite aware of the actions of Charles XII who got his comeuppance at the Battle of Poltava in, I believe, 1712. However, IMHO, Gustavus Adolphus’ actions can in no way be described as aggression. Had he lost the Battle of Breitenfeld, the history of Europe would have looked very different and not for the better.

  20. #20 Thomas
    March 20, 2009

    Jason, that “war of aggression” you speak of was fought by both sides. Jewish immigrants, Jordan and Egypt fought to divide the Palestinian land that Britain had given up on controlling between them. The Palestinian population got caught in between, but at least the Jordanians and Egyptians were happy to let them stay on the conquered land while the Jews wanted to create a Jewish democracy, which required that most non-Jews be driven out.

    The whole story about how it was Arab governments who urged the Palestinians to move is misleading at best. There were cases where they did urge civilians to move out of expected combat zones, but that only makes sense. Today Palestinians are blamed if they let civilians stay in the combat zone, being accused of using them as “human shields”. Whatever they do it’s somehow wrong. But then you also have the massacre in Deir Yassin that was used in propaganda to make Palestinians flee or the ethnic cleansing of Lydda. Read Benny Morris:
    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=380986&contrassID=2

    When you bring up the exodus, sometimes voluntary sometimes forced, from Arab states you implicitly say that you put these states and Israel on the same moral footing. The problem here is that Israel claims to be and is treated as a Western democracy. In that case it ought to behave like one.

    The Arabs who did manage to remain in Israel are second class citizens, but have far more rights than those in the West Bank and Gaza. Today those are the worst victims of Israeli aggression, and in the West Bank you have what can only be described as an apartheid state.

  21. #21 SLC
    March 20, 2009

    Actually, I would have to disagree with Prof. Rosenhouse concerning the recent Gaza action. The Gazans are just lucky that the late and unlamented dictator of Syria, Hafaz Assad was not the Prime Minister of Israel. When faced with terrorist attacks emanating from the Syrian City of Hama, Assad had the town surrounded with several hundred artillery pieces and subjected to a 2 day bombardment that killed some 20,000 people. Tom Friedman in his book, “From Beirut to Jerusalem,” refered to the massacre as Hama Rules.

    If the IDF had applied Hama Rules to the Gaza Strip, Mr. Thomas would really have something to whine about.

  22. #22 Thomas
    March 20, 2009

    SLC, if Israel was treated the same way as Syria by the international community you would have something to whine about. If it had been Syria bombing Dimona rather than Israel bombing a possible Syrian reactor, then I’m sure you’d have been whining too, just as you would have if it had been Syria occupying Israeli land for four decades.

  23. #23 SLC
    March 20, 2009

    Re Thomas

    Syria is not treated poorly by the international community because of the events in Hama. The international community couldn’t care less about what happened in Hama.

    However, there is this to be said. Dictator Assads’ actions there were effective. The terrorists who were operating out of Hama and planting bombs all over Syria have been very quiet since 1982 when the attack happened, those that are still breathing air instead of dirt that is.

  24. #24 Erik 12345
    March 20, 2009

    Jason: But such is the double standard Israel has always faced. They are surrounded by despotic Arab regimes which have shown little interest in supporting democracy or basic human rights. The Palestinians are just a political pawn to these regimes, as indicated by their utter unwillingness to lift a finger to help them, which they easily could. And yet it is only Israel that gets likened to the worst human rights abusers, like Apartheid South Africa or even Nazi Germany. The moral and historical cluelessness of such charges are simply breathtaking. Let the Swedes and the Spanish face relentless terrorism from neighbors bent on their obliteration and then we’ll talk about the proper treatment of foreign athletes.

    That argument cuts just as deep the other way. Suppose a superior military force gave away half the US territory to a new people and supported them so that the new occupants (e.g. American Indians) of half the US territory became a regional superpower. The American people would no doubt respond with violence and terrorism, as is standard in asymmetric warfare. Suppose the new regional superpower responded with military actions and by dividing what is left of the US into a Swiss cheese and enforced numerous road blocks and check points where US people where held for hours after hours. What would the US people do then? Of course, they would respond with more terrorism.

    Americans, and people of almost any other nationality, are in an extremely poor position to unconditionally condemn Palestinian terrorism since they would do pretty much the same in the same situation. This is not saying that I think that Palestinian terrorism is any way desirable and good, only that it is effectively human nature when faced with those conditions. Very few react well to being driven from their homes and the land that is part of their sense of identity.

    All sensible people ought to support the two-state solution, but whose fault is it that we do not have it? The Palestinians could have had that in 1937, when the Jews were willing to accept a small, discontiguous state comprising areas that were majority Jewish. The Palestinians rejected it and their leadership enthusiastically supported the Nazis instead. The situation largely repeated itself in 1948. And in 2000 the Palestinians were offered virtually everything they could hope for from a two-state solution. Most Arab leaders encouraged Yasser Arafat to accept the deal. Instead he rejected it, and instigated a new round of terrorism instead. Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia, no friend of Israel, openly described it as a crime against the Palestinian people that the deal was rejected. President Clinton and lead US negotiator Dennis Ross both laid the blame entirely at Arafat’s feet. But then, they’re all just flunkies of the Israel lobby.

    Here is a documentary about the 1999-2000 peace negotiations (Clinton, Albreight, Barak, Arafat, among others are interviewed). As you can see, the Israeli side was as much a source of frustration for the Clinton administration as the Palestinian side. Barak felt the pressure from the Israeli voters not to comprise, made secret reservations to the official offers, etc.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jsl5sQ2NYRA&feature=related (part 1)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qJd7f3KTXpM&NR=1 (part 2)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Uj8AY1NK9I&NR=1 (part 3)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLg7xpLu-ME&NR=1 (part 4)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QAHX18mqXd8&NR=1 (part 5)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9yStLtiuB8&feature=related (part 6)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EO5QAh_bh6Q&feature=related (part 7)

    Neither side appears to have been particularly committed to the peace process (if you had claimed that the Palestinians offered virtually everything Israel wanted, yet Israel rejected it, I could have cited this same documentary against it).

  25. #25 Antonio Jerez
    March 20, 2009

    Jason wrote:
    “Most israelis would like nothing better than to abandon the West Bank, but they legitimately fear renewed aggression if they do so.”

    This is utter nonsense. What Jason forgets is that most Jewish israelis are not prepared to give up the illegal settlements on the West Bank, and as long as that doesn´t happen there is really no abandonement of the West Bank and there is no possibility of creating a viable palestinian state.

  26. #26 Erik 12345
    March 21, 2009

    My comment on parts of the OP probably got stuck in the spam filter as it contains 7 links. I just want to mention a documentary about the peace negotiations in 2000. It shows that the Israeli side was as much of a frustration as the Palestinian side in those talks. It is split into 7 video clips and can be found by searching YouTube for:

    elusive peace programme 1

  27. #27 Pierce R. Butler
    March 21, 2009

    It takes an awful lot of rationalizing to support this: http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1072466.html

  28. #28 Jason Rosenhouse
    March 21, 2009

    Pierce –

    I don’t support it. My take on it is the same as Jeffrey Goldberg’s.

    I have no illusions that Israel is a nation of saints whose every word, thought and deed is noble and just. You should consider, though, that you read that article in an Israeli newspaper which has the freedom to investigate and report on such things without fear of the government shutting them down. That alone is orders of magnitude ahead of any Arab country. That’s far more freedom and introspection than American media outlets showed during the Iraq War.

    Israel has plenty to answer for, and recent developments, both the Gaza War and their new right-wing government, have not been encouraging. That has nothing to do with whether Israel is held to a ludicrous double-standard, or whether many of the things for which Israel is condemned are morally and historically brain-dead.

  29. #29 Pierce R. Butler
    March 22, 2009

    Jason -

    Yeah, I read about My Lai in an American paper, too.

  30. #30 Jason Rosenhouse
    March 22, 2009

    Pierce –

    Did you seriously just liken the My Lai Massacre to a handful of Israeli soldiers commissioning clothing with vile slogans on it? I think you just confirmed my point about Israel being held to ridiculous standards.

  31. #31 Thomas
    March 22, 2009

    Jason, did you miss the stories about Israeli soldiers killing civilians? This latest story about the shirts just gives a background, showing the mindset of the people who do the killing and is evidence that the attitude is accepted by the officers.

    As I understand it the English edition of Haaretz is very different from the mainstream Hebrew press. There may be no censorship prohibiting them from writing about dead civilian Palestinians, they just choose not to. This is not different from USA where you could find stories about the Iraq war in minor publications while the mainstream press choose to shut up.

    That the Israeli public so easily can find out about the atrocities its military commits isn’t really a defense either, it just proves that they either don’t care or actively support it. Given the latest election result one may fear the latter.

    If you want double standards, compare the response to when Serbia attacked Kosovo to root out UCK, a rather nasty terrorist group, to how Israel is treated when it does the same in Gaza. Or watch how the West ignores Israeli nuclear weapons while using sanctions or even wars against other countries that may not even try to get any.

  32. #32 Pierce R. Butler
    March 22, 2009

    No, Jason, I was commenting on the observed fact that nations with “a free press” still commit intolerable atrocities, and their apologists resort to absurd non sequiturs.

    You left out how Israeli-developed micro-irrigation has made the desert bloom, the subtle elegance of the architecture of the Jewish-only apartment buildings facing the Wailing Wall, and how cute the kids are performing the national dances (when they’re not throwing rocks at the survivors of the families their own families have displaced from their ancestral farms).

    See also http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/03/21. Just terrible, the standards some gentiles hold Israelis to.

  33. #33 Erik 12345
    March 22, 2009

    I wonder what Americans would do if a superior military force occupied US territory and gave away half the land to, say, the American Indians. Then helped the American Indians to become a regional superpower that divided the remaining US territory into a Swiss cheese of security walls, crippled transportation by enforcing road blocks where US citizens had to wait hours after hours, and took control of central resources like water supply.

    Would there be any terrorist attacks against the Indians as that scenario unfolded? Would retaliation attacks make Americans more or less determined to continue terrorist attacks?

  34. #34 Jason Rosenhouse
    March 22, 2009

    Erik -

    The United States stole much of its land from the Indians, and much of the Southwestern United States was stolen from the Mexicans. How much terrorism from their quarters would the US tolerate before responding with overwhelming force? If Indian or Mexican suicide bombers started entering American cities, would you show up to defend them? Do you think the US would respond with military action that would make Israel look dovish by comparison?

    You worry about Palestinians being held up at security checkpoints. I worry more about Israeli civilians being blown up by suicide bombers. Do you understand that the security fence you decry was a response to unrelenting terrorism, and would not exist but for that terrorism? Do you understand that every time Israel has tried more peaceful responses, to the point of offering enormous concessions towards a two-state solution in 2000, they have been rebuffed, and have been faced with increased terrorism instead?
    Suppose Israel took down its security fence, removed the checkpoints, and retreated to its 1967 borders. What would be the result of that? You know the answer perfectly well. It would not be peace in the region.

    I will not be replying further in this thread. I think you, Thomas, and Pierce are proving my point admirably. You condemn Israel for anything you can find, without any sense of perspective about the history of the region, or the threats they have faced, or how other countries have responded when faced with similar situations.

  35. #35 Thomas
    March 22, 2009

    Jason, you have a relevant point when you compare the Europeans who conquered America with those who conquered Israel. Whether it’s conscious or not I don’t know, but I suspect that’s one of the reasons Americans are so willing to support Israel. It’s a continuation of the tradition to conquer land from “primitive tribes”. Americans spilled a lot more blood in their conquest, of course, but the Jews had the bad luck of starting too late, when humanitarian laws had become more prevalent, and after Hitler had tried and failed a similar colonization program in Eastern Europe.

    Do YOU understand that every time the Palestinians have decreased their resistance, there has been more settlements taking over more of their land and water? They have the misfurtune of living on land another people decided that God gave them several thousand years ago, and that they have the right to “reclaim”. What choice do they have but resist any way they can?

    Do you realize that the only time Israel has removed any significant settlements was in Gaza, and only because it became too expensive to protect 6000 people in a hostile area. (Instead they were moved to equally illegal settlements on the West Bank).

    Suppose Israel removed its settlements and built its wall along the 1967 border? Suppose IDF was replaced with an international force in the West Bank and Gaza until the situation there was more stable. Suppose Israel returned Golan to Syria. It might not mean immediate peace, but it certainly would be an important step. Do you agree?

    Israel didn’t offer any real concessions in 2000. They still insisted on keeping land that wasn’t theirs. Offering to return part of something that never was yours to begin with isn’t a concession!

    All that you have made clear here is that you are willing to support Israel no matter what, and that somehow you think that the fact that Israel isn’t the worst nation in the world is an excuse for the crimes committed.

  36. #36 Pierce R. Butler
    March 22, 2009

    Jason – have you looked at the comparative casualty rates? There are typically three Palestinian funerals for every one in Israeli, but last year the ratio zoomed by a factor of about thirty.

    Please do not accuse your/Israel’s critics of lacking perspective.

  37. #37 Erik 12345
    March 22, 2009

    Jason: The United States stole much of its land from the Indians, and much of the Southwestern United States was stolen from the Mexicans. How much terrorism from their quarters would the US tolerate before responding with overwhelming force? If Indian or Mexican suicide bombers started entering American cities, would you show up to defend them? Do you think the US would respond with military action that would make Israel look dovish by comparison?

    You have my point exactly backwards if you think your example here does anything but support my point. I don’t think that the US would require much to respond with overwhelming force. I also think that if the US citizens were treated as the Palestinians, the US citizens would become much worse terrorists than the Palestians have ever been. If there is any country with a double standard on terrorism it is the US. As Scott Atran points out in “Genesis of suicide terrorism” (Science 299(5612):1534-1539, March 7 2003), US counterinsurgence actions in fact already satisfy the US’ own definition of ‘terrorism’, though the Congress choose to relabel it as “counterinsurgence”. You think Sweden and Spain have a double standard? Then check the US mainstream discourse on terrorism.

    You worry about Palestinians being held up at security checkpoints. I worry more about Israeli civilians being blown up by suicide bombers. Do you understand that the security fence you decry was a response to unrelenting terrorism, and would not exist but for that terrorism?

    The point is not to “decry” security walls (which do not define a simply connected area, to borrow some math terminology, but divides Palestine like a Swiss cheese), but merely to make the disarmingly obvious point that many of the walls and checkpoints servers to further radicalize and galvanize the Palestinian resistance.

    Do you understand that every time Israel has tried more peaceful responses, to the point of offering enormous concessions towards a two-state solution in 2000, they have been rebuffed, and have been faced with increased terrorism instead?

    As I pointed out above, it is not true that Israel offered “virtually everything they could hope for from a two-state solution” (as the OP says). What counts as “enormous” is perhaps a matter of debate in a contentious political dispute, but the Israeli side was as much of a headache to Clinton and Albreight (who did the negotiating) as the Palestinian side. Rather than describe the whole documentary I pointed to above, I’ll just mention how it ends: Israel publically accepts the last terms, but secretly raises a number of objections to it, while the Palestian side rejects it. Not an impressive performance from either side, as far as peace negotiations go.

    Suppose Israel took down its security fence, removed the checkpoints, and retreated to its 1967 borders. What would be the result of that? You know the answer perfectly well. It would not be peace in the region.

    This probably depends a lot on how it is done. If it were done suddenly and out of the blue, then at least Atran (reference above) suggests that it might lead to perceived vindication of the terrorism strategy for Hamas and other terrorist organization. If, however, it came as a result of a process where the Palestians had some influence, then it would probably reduce violence.

    As rule of thumb, the sort of military retaliation and control Israel is unlikely to have positive effects, at least for the general public in Israel and Palestine. The following is from Scott Atran’s Trends in Suicide Terrorism: Sense and Nonsense:

    “Regarding the Palestine/Israel conflict, polls by the Jerusalem Media and Communication Centre
    indicate that increased coercive measures by Israeli forces during the Second Intifada (fall 2000 – fall
    2003) are positively correlated with Palestinian popular support for attacks.” (p. 12)

    “To capture the hearts and souls of people around them, terrorist groups provoke their enemies into committing atrocities.” (p. 15)

    Moving on:

    I will not be replying further in this thread. I think you, Thomas, and Pierce are proving my point admirably. You condemn Israel for anything you can find, without any sense of perspective about the history of the region, or the threats they have faced, or how other countries have responded when faced with similar situations.

    While I can understand that there are millions of more constructive things to do than debating the Israel-Palestine issue (again), the above is just not true. Criticizing your OP is not the same as condemning Israel for anything to be found. Nowhere above is there a condemnation from me concerning Israel. Instead, I have:

    (i) pointed out that it is not true that the Palestians where offered virtually everything in the 2000 negotiations,

    (ii) pointed out the American double standard when it comes to terrorism to put the alleged Spanish and Swedish double standard in a bit of perspective.

  38. #38 Erik 12345
    March 22, 2009

    It seems the HTML link for Scott Atran’s “Trends in Suicide Terrorism: Sense and Nonsense” didn’t work so I’ll give the URL:

    http://sitemaker.umich.edu/satran/files/atran-trends.pdf

  39. #39 Tom Coward
    March 24, 2009

    I claim no expertise in international politics, nor any intimate knowledge of the details of the Israel/Palestinian dispute. I would observe, however, that the posts on this thread are a microcosm of the the process that has lead mostly nowhere for over 50 years. Specifically, most of the posters are very well versed in the sorry history of this region, and point an accusing finger at one side or the other and say, in effect, “How can you expect us to do such and so when everyone knows that the other side did such and such?” Is there no way for all sides to admit the facts on the ground as they are, then try to find a common vision of where they ought to be in some reasonable time? And then work on the steps needed to get from here to there?

    Just asking!

  40. #40 doodles
    April 20, 2009

    Honestly, do we need or want more “religious states” whether it is Jewish Israel or Moslem Iran? Shouldn’t we follow the model of the Enlightenment and support true democratic states not religiously bigoted states where people of the “wrong” religion are second class citizens? A bunch of Europeans and Russians concluded that an old book of fairy-tales gave them the right to dispossess the native population of Palestine; it only makes sense if you accept their silly fairy-tales as having some authority.