Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Further Thoughts on the "For the Sake of Zion" Statement

At the end of my critique of the "For the Sake of Zion" statement, I invited the authors to show me where I had misread its intent. I received responses from the authors, Steven Cohen and Leonard Fein, as well as from Doni Remba, who published a response to my critique on his blog. There ensued a fruitful and frank exchange of opinions, as the diplomats like to say.

I was asked by these three to give the statement a more charitable reading than I had given, and certainly not to parse it as a middle east peace plan. So I printed it out and read it a few times over Shavuot.  It does allow a broad interpretation of the final settlement, and is compatible with multiple scenarios, from a maximum withdrawal of Israel to the 1967 borders, along with the creation of a strong, militarized Palestinian state with its capital in Jordanian East Jerusalem, to a minimum withdrawal of Israel from Abu Dis (or some other Arab neighborhood in an expanded Jerusalem) and from the illegal outposts, with contiguity guaranteed by a system of bridges, tunnels, chutes and ladders. No doubt the authors intended something in the middle of the extremes.  As for the giving up the right of return, one of the authors assured me that despite the language of "Advancing towards a two-state solution" they had not intended to suggest that this was a demand in advance of a final settlement.

I am not a big fan of ambiguity in statements of this sort, deliberate or otherwise. When Richard Silverstein and I came up with a statement condemning Israel's conduct of the Gaza War, we decided to focus exclusively on the question of Israel's military conduct (jus in bello) and not on its decision to go to war (jus ad bellum), even though both of us thought that decision to be wrong and unjustified.  We knew that if we limited the statement we could get more signatories, because, frankly, Israel's conduct was so horrendous that no reasonable person could possible disagree with us, and in the intervening months no reasonable person has. I also think that it would have been wiser to keep the Cohen-Fein statement short and away from specifics, as the JCAL writers did.

But these are small points. Let's leave this as a dispute "for the sake of heaven" among people who share a lot in common values and aspirations.

No comments: