Sunday, July 27, 2008

Would Somebody Help Me Out Here?

I am unable to understand the logic of those Israel supporters who say that they regrettably have no choice but to accept the West Bank status quo. I am referring to those who say, "Look, we Israelis have no desire to rule over 3 ½ million Palestinians. But, unfortunately, we have no alternative but to continue the current situation that, admittedly, will make life miserable for the Palestinians and will arouse their hatred of us. They are responsible for the mess they are in. They could have had a state or something like it. Instead they sent suicide bombers. We would be crazy to unilaterally withdraw – just see what has happened in Gaza."

I am not bothered by the fact that the argument rests on the following questionable assumptions:

  1. Were it not for the security issue Israelis would be willing to have a Palestinian state next to them on the Green Line.
  2. The threat to Israel from the Palestinians is greater than Israel's threat to them.
  3. Israel bears no responsibility for the breakdown of the Oslo Peace Process, the Intifada al-Aksa, or the rise of Islamic fundamentalism.
  4. The Palestinians were offered a State at Camp David/Taba/Annapolis.
  5. The Palestinians want an immediate and unilateral Israeli withdrawal.

Every one of these assumptions is debatable. I believe them to be false and that Israelis deceive themselves when they claim to accept them. But that's not what bothers me.

What bothers me is that even if we grant all these propositions, I don't see how they justify the West Bank status quo.

Even if we assume that the Palestinians were offered a state at Camp David/Taba, and that they turned it down because they want to destroy Israel, and that they have the power to destroy Israel through terrorism, and that they are responsible for the whole mess they are in – why does it follow that we have the right to conduct massive human rights offenses against them indefinitely?

One could respond that a) Palestinians have collectively forfeited their human rights or b) our human rights trump their human rights, or c) the existence of a Jewish state justifies the massive and indefinite human rights violation of another people. Any of those additional propositions would help the argument go through. But not a whole lot of Israel advocates want to be explicit about a), b), or c). Rather they minimize the human rights violations, calling them "inconveniences" or "unintended" or "regrettable" or "not our responsibility".

I don't understand these guys. Much more consistent are the rightwing Israelis who simply say that the Palestinians don't act like humans and therefore can be abused if necessary.

Why should Israel's right to exist trump the right to exist of the Palestinians, for that matter, any other alternative?

It seems to me that the only morally justifiable answer is that no matter how bad the current situation is, any other situation would be worse for both peoples. If you can show that the Israeli occupation is better for the Palestinians than their own government would then that answer have some purchase.

Has anybody seen that answer argued somewhere? I haven't.


Anonymous said...

You ask good questions. But the fact is that no contractual peace between Israel and the Arabs is possible (the peace treaty with Egypt is understood by them as a partial, temporary cease-fire. This is how the Egyptian regime presents it to its own population). The future of Judea/Samaria will ultimately see the evolution of the current, difficult situation into a Jordanian-Israeli condominium, with the Jews living there being citizens of Israel, and the Arabs being the citizens of a Jordanian-Palestinian regime (it is up to them to determine whether this will be under the Hashemite monarchy or some other system). This will be an INFORMAL arrangement because no Arab could ever officially agree to such a thing (Sadat's example is there for everyone, even though he also stated that the agreement was on the lines of the treaty Muhammed made with the Quraish which was also temporary). Once the security situation is stabilized (something that is not in the offing) the Israeli security presence can be drawn down to a minimum, as it was in during the pro-1993 Oslo Israeli occupation period, when there were almost no roadblocks, few checkpoints and there was free movement between Gaza and Judea/Samaria (it was the Olso "peace" that destroyed the Arabs freedom of movement).
It will take many years for this this situation to evolve. It will require the currently ascendant Islamic extremist movements to be seen to be in retreat. As long as Israel makes prisoner trades like the recent one with HIZBULLAH, and as long as Israel offers to destroy settlements and restricting natural Jewish rights in Judea/Samaria, this will keep encouraing the Arab/Islamic extremists elements ....they can say "see their own leaders like 'tough General' Sharon even admit they are weak and in retreat...if we keep up the pressure they will go under for sure!" (see Nasrallah's "Israel is nothing more than a spider's cobweb" speech). This perception must be broken before the modus vivendi I described above can be implemented. I realize Jerry, that you won't like what I am saying, but it is the only possible improvement in the situation that is feasible. A peace along the lines the "progressives" are suggesting is just not in the cards, as much as they may want it to be.

Jerry Haber said...


Your fantasy is the fantasy that the Zionists have had since 1948. It was exploded with the rise of Palestinian nationalism, the rise of Islamism, the world's acceptance of the two-state solution/federation/and -- and here is the kicker -- the demonization of the settlers in the eyes of most Israelis to the extent that Sharon, who hated the Palestinians, removed the Gaza settler not because he thought it would bring peace, but because he thought that the settlers were a drain on Tzahal.

The mainstream Zionists believed in the Iron Wall conception -- once the Arabs learn that they can't win, they will come to accept us. That actually happened in the case of most of the Arab states, who really couldn't care less about the Palestinians.

But the Zionists never figured on Palestinian nationalism, and for good reasons -- the Palestinians they encountered were peasants with little nationalist tendencies. Egypt could have its peace, fake or not...but Palestinians couldn't have their peace because they couldn't have real self-determination.

Ah, but man plans and God you yourself will agree, Israel has suffered partial defeats beginning with the Yom Kippur War, two Lebanese Wars, two Intifadas (Oslo and the retreat from Gaza). The Palestinians have also suffered, but they don't show signs of going away. And they have a better status in the eyes of the world then they did when guys liked you were arguing against the Jordanian option.

No, I think it more likely that the present situation continues and gets worse until the two-state solution seems impossible. Then more and more people will start questioning whether one state isn't a better idea. This is what Olmert himself said, Then, the best case scenario will be a new regime that replaces the 1948 regime. Under the new regime, Jews will live in the West Bank and Palestinians within Israel proper.

You see, the difference between your scenario and mine is that while nobody but a few rightwing Israelis think in your terms, the world and most Israelis think in two-state terms. They won't do anything about it -- but they won't think that the answer is a return to the status quo before Oslo.

However, I do know of one way out that would help your prognosis:

Just convince the Palestinians that there nationalism is a sham, that they really have everything to gain by cooperating with Israel, that as long as they behave and watch their land being taken away (as in the pre-Oslo period...did you mean the pre-Intifada I period?) then all will be well with them.

I think your chance of doing that is about as good as my chance of convincing the Zionists that things were better for the Jews during the mandate. After all, fewer of them died then; many of them had good neighborly relations were happy. True, there were occasionally troubles, but on the whole, the natives were happy.

Anonymous said...

In 132 C.E. there were those Jews who blindly followed Bar Kokhvah (or Bar Kosovo if you wish a modern misreading) into disaster. There were others who thought the unthinkable and planned for their Judaism to survive. It did by modifying out of existence the insanities which got them into the mess. I hope there are enough of them today so there can be a day after the 9th of Av, and a life after Bar Kosovo

Anonymous said...


What possible reason would the Jordanians have to come back into the West Bank, in a situation where they would have all the responsibility and no power, like the PA today? In your condominium/dual citizenship fantasy, which law and which regime governs when Arab and Jew come into conflict? Don't start by assuming that the Jordanians are complete idiots who will do whatever is convenient for Israel. One things Arab regimes are very good at is survival, and Jordan ain't coming to bail out Israel's sorry ass on the West Bank. They've made that pretty clear.

Anonymous said...

Jordanian-Palestine? Hah! You wish! Under an Israeli occupation or under a Jordanian one it is still the same: An Occupation. And no Palestinian will ever accept that.

The Israeli government is getting really nervous now... If their violence continues you could be seeing the voting in of some Palestinians into the Jerusalem municipal council. Most Palestinians have frowned against this, since it means taking part in the 'Israeli' system, but they too are starting to see their plight of independence go out the window and the plight for EQUALITY being more in the forefront than ever before. Beware: This could be the first step in the quest for equal citizenship, aka. a one state solution...

most ultra zionists are trembling at the current situation. Why do you think they are suddenly being more brazen and up front about the long coveted 'Jordanian Solution' nowadays?

Palestinians have always been creative in their resistance against the occupation (first it was protests, then it was building homes, then it was water reuse-grey water, then it was camera's, and now it's voting...)

Anonymous said...

I'd like to help you Jerry but the fact is there is no solution so in the absence of one I'd prefer to stand with my own National Community. You described me as subscribing to "Mafia Morality" in the past for taking this stand. So be it.

When the Palestinians produce a Michael Collins they will get a state. Until that time, we cannot accommodate them.

Jerry Haber said...

David --

If the Palestinians produce a Michael Collins -- a leader who organizes assassination squads, kills advisors to the government, acts against the policy of his own duly elected government, organizes an army, and gets himself killed in a civil war -- then they may be accomodated by Israel, as you said.

After all, the Jews, like the British, only understand the language of force....

Anonymous said...

Jerry you forget that Collins accepted the Free State instead of holding out for an "Irish Republic" the British weren't prepared to give in 1921. The Palestinians have never produced that kind of pragmatism. If that was the case they would have accepted Ehud Barak's proposal eight years ago!

Joachim Martillo said...

When I have time, I will propose a hypothesis involving the theory of Gramscian hegemonic blocking of discourse and the nature of the imperial system in which Israeli Jews find themselves.

For now I will point out that the question is not specific to Israel proper but relates to Jewish relations with Muslims everywhere.

See Subjugating American Muslims to Israel .

This blog entry addresses not only the synchronic aspect of the problem, but the historical pattern as well:

In Facts versus Delusions in Jewish History, I wrote semi-facetiously:

From the sixteenth century onward important historical events almost invariably take place first in Poland at least from the standpoint of Judaism but often in general.

For example, Commonwealth Poland became the first modern failed state in the seventeenth century.

In Yiddish Civilization, the Rise and Fall of a Forgotten Nation (pp. 235-6), Paul Kriwaczek discusses the role of Jews in sixteenth and seventeenth century Ukraine, which was then part of Commonwealth Poland.

This Yiddish takeover of the wild and lawless Ukraine's economy could be expected to have involved much exploitation and corrupt abuse of monopoly. Jews tried hard to keep such businesses as the collection of customs dues and taxes to themselves. Surviving customs records from the 1580s are written in a mixture of Yiddish and Hebrew. The historian Shimon Dubnow quotes a resolution passed by the Jewish Lithuanian Council, the Vaad Medina Litoh, ruling body of the Jewish estate: "We have openly seen the great danger deriving from the operation of customs in Gentile hands; for the customs to be in Jewish hands is a pivot on which everything turns, since thereby Jews may exert control."


The alliance between ruthless Polish nobles and insecure Yiddish frontiersmen proved dangerous and destructive. The Jews now held a position that nothing in their background or religious law had properly prepared them for. They had been placed in authority over another people, of another social order, another culture and another religion, a people whom the magnates, the Jews' masters, regarded as racially inferior and fair game for callous exploitation. Tragically, shaking off the restraining influence of wiser counsels of the West, the repeated warnings of the rabbis of metropolitan Cracow, Posen and Lublin, the Yiddish businessmen who flocked to the colony came to regard the peasantry in a similar light.

Today Neocons and Friedmanites have globally taken the place of the Yiddish proto-capitalists of pre-modern Ukraine. The Chmielnicki Rebellion, which represented the beginning of the collapse of Commonwealth Poland, could easily pale in comparison with the sort of world-wide political and economic disaster that the new Jewish elite is courting today.

Anonymous said...

Who says that the Palestinians haven't produced a "Michael Collins"? How many languish in those jails without due process? The resistance will continue so long as this occupation continues. It's a fact that is well supported by history.

Jerry Haber said...

David, you forget that the PLO accepted the State of Israel in 1988 and accepted the Oslo process which placed them in a status of a subaltern population, subject to the control and whim of Israel.The degree of autonomy and control that they accepted was far less than anything that Collins would have accepted. And yet when they came to the final settlement -- late, I may add, because Israel did not adhere to timetables -- what was offered them was a "state minus", to use the Hebrew phrase and not a Free Republic.

Perhaps the tragedy is not that the Palestinians have not produced a Collins -- I think Arafat is actually the most likely candidate -- but that the Jews have not produced the sort of statesmen that England produced. Instead, they have assassinated and jailed generations of Palestinian leaders, after they helped foster Hamas as a counterweight to the PLO.

You also seem to forget that the Jewish claim to statehood in Palestine was, in the eyes of the world, no greater than the Palestinian claim, and that the Partition Resolution accepted by the UN in 1947 recognized the legitimate rights of the Palestinians to a state in Palestine, not a "free republic" subject to a colonial authority. That is another disanalogy.

As far as I know, neither Collins nor any other Irish disputed England's claim to sovereignty in England. The fact that you take for granted Israel's sovereignty over territories gained in the 1948war, and put them in the same category as English sovereignty, follows from your uncritical acceptance of the Zionist narrative. This narrative says that that the Palestinians have no legitimate claim to a state in any part of mandate Palestine, that Israel in the 1948 borders is unquestionable legitimate, and that in any ultimate peace settlement it will retain effective control over the West Bank and Gaza, while allowing the natives a great amount of autonomy in running their daily lives.

Collins would have died laughing.

Anonymous said...

Joachim-I like your historical anaylsis & bringing in Antonio Gramsci.

Jerry-The British leadership in 1921 was nothing to write home about. Lloyd-George caved in because he had to get out of Ireland. And Collins accepted the partition of Ireland, a "Free State" under the British crown with British control over key Irish ports, and "Free State" officials asked to swear allegiance to King George V. Would Arafat or Abbas accept such a deal?

Jerry Haber said...


Are you kidding??? Would Israel have offered the Palestinians a deal akin to what Great Britain offered Ireland -- no Israeli troops or monitors on Palestinian soil, a complete withdrawal to the 1967 borders, the ability of the Palestinian Free Republic to have a standing army (like Canada, Australia, or New Zealand), control over their natural resources?

If you think so, then boy, you have my vote for Israeli prime minister.

But let's get serious; the situations were vastly different. Ireland since the nineteenth century was in union with Great Britain and the Irish sat in the British Parliament. A closer analogy would be if the Palestinian Arabs in the Galilee would demand home rule, followed by succession and independence.

Analogies aside -- the question is whether Arafat, liked Collins, was willing to compromise on something less than his maximum demands. And the answer is obviously yes -- he did that time and time again. He was even willing to accept certain limitations on Palestinian sovereignty that Israel would not have accepted on theirs -- see the Taba Moratinos nonpaper:

Had Israel said to the Palestinians, "Look -- we will now sign a peace treaty with you that says by the end of five years we shall withdraw to the 67 borders, remove the settlers, repatriate a significant number of Palestinian refugees, and allow you a standing army, sovereignty over East Jerusalem, and complete control over your ports, airspace, and natural resources -- provided that both you and we do our best to stop terrorism -- and the compliance of this agreement will be judged by the UN, or Quartet, etc., then Arafat would have signed -- provided he would have assurances from the US and the Quarter that Israel would live up to its agreements.

Or -- had Israel said that the problem of the refugees would be negotiated over ten years, then Arafat would have accepted a partial agreement.

But Israel didn't say that. Israel said: This is our offer; take it or leave it (it then kept changing the offer) -- and as part of the settlement you have to declare that you have no further claims in the future. That point was very important to the Israeli side.

Sort of like saying to Collins: you know, if you behave, you *may* get something a lot less than a free state -- something, indeed, a lot less than you already have in Ireland today.

Anonymous said...

Jerry-Lloyd George threatened Collins with war if he didn't accept partition and the Free State and yes I could get a similar deal through if I led the Israeli government.