Monday, April 28, 2014

What if the Global BDS Movement Were to Achieve Its Goals?

What is the genius of the three calls of the global BDS movement, endorsed in 2005 by over 170 Palestinian organizations?

Very simple: their moderation and eminent reasonableness.

Here are the calls, once again:
  1. Ending [Israel’s] occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall;
  2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
  3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
As I have pointed out repeatedly, each one of these calls only makes sense under the assumption that the State of Israel exists. And this is what bedevils the opponents of the BDS movement. They would prefer that the BDS movement call for the demise of the Jewish state . They would prefer that the third call demand explicitly  the return of all Palestinian refugees to Israel, and not merely “promoting the rights…as stipulated in UN Resolution 194,” which was overwhelmingly adopted in the UN, including by the United States, after it had recognized the Jewish state.  Since there is still a consensus in the world for the legitimacy of a Jewish state (though no consensus for the particular sort of Jewish state that Israel has become), the opponents of BDS would love the movement  to say that the goal is the elimination of the Jewish state, or replacement of the Israel  by another state in which Jews would be an ethnic minority.

But it doesn’t.  And that is not just a tactic. The truth is that there are Palestinians who don’t want’ to live in a secular state with millions of Israeli Jews. They would prefer their own state. But they also want dignity and equality for those Palestinian Arabs who are citizens of Israel as well as the right of the refugees to return to their homeland, as called for by international law and convention, and UN resolution.

These eminently moderate calls  befuddle the defenders of the status-quo post 1948,   forcing them to say  – without a scrap of evidence – that  all this is a trick, that there is “hidden agenda,” “implied by the goals,” or, at least, a “possible (negative) implication of the goals.”  

Ask a liberal Zionist why she opposes the third call, and she may say, again without a scrap of evidence, that it would imply Israel being swamped by millions of hostile Palestinians. In other words, she would make an entirely nonsensical claim that has nothing to do with the third call.

Let’s make a thought experiment, shall we? Let’s imagine that the State of Israel is so negatively affected by the BDS movement that it ends the occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967, dismantles the Wall, recognizes the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality, and respects, promotes, and protects the rights of the Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.  And let’s give a specific scenario: the Jewish settlers are resettled within the 1967 borders, the Law of Return and the Citizenship law are amended to allow for full equality between Israeli-Jews and Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel in citizenship and immigration, and all the legislation that discriminates against Arab-Palestinians is abolished. (Indeed, according to most liberal Zionists, there is very little discriminatory legislation to begin with. )

Moreover, let’s assume something really unlikely, that around a million Palestinians opt to return to their homes and properties, a number that far exceeds all current projections in polls of Palestinians. And remember that, according to resolution 194, they return after having declared that they are willing to live in peace with the Israelis and to abide by the laws of Israel.
Under those circumstances, the State of Israel would have a population that would be over 70% Jewish and under 30% non-Jewish. it would be a state of all its citizens. Its official languages and cultures would continue to be Hebrew and Arabic; Judaism, Islam, and Christianity would continue to play a role (too large a one, in my opinion!) in the public sphere. In many respects it would be indistinguishable from Israel today, only less racist and discriminatory.
Now what would be so bad about that? I mean, even from a Zionist point of view?
Yet this democratic Israel is the nightmare scenario that the opponents of BDS really fear. Because they are not interested in a liberal democracy with a  a strong Jewish/Hebraic cultural content. They are interested in a state in which Jews qua Jews occupy a position of privilege,  a state in which non-Jews are recognized as “citizen strangers.” to use Shira Robinson’s felicitous phrase.  The anti-BDS folks want Israel to be for the Arabs like Poland was for the Jews, where Jews were citizens, but not really part of the Polish nation. This is what Israel has been since 1948, and this is what many liberal Zionists defend
And that  brings me back to the brilliance of the BDS movement, and why it is gaining traction in the world: More and more people are beginning  to understand that its aims are  much more moderate and moral  than the status quo within 1967 Israel.
And that what provokes many of the opponents of BDS to  misrepresent the global BDS movement, or to give absurd arguments against it, such as that the Palestinians should be more concerned with the slaughter in Syria, or human rights violations in China, than their own suffering in Palestine.
After all, by that reasoning, those who protested the treatment of Soviet Jewry in the 1970s were moral hypocrites, since they should have been out protesting the genocide in Cambodia during the same years.

33 comments:

Alex Stein said...

Has a BDS leader ever said that most of the refugees wouldn't want to return? To my knowledge any polls indicating that fact have been suppressed.

Alex Stein said...

To make my point more clearly:

1. Omar Barghouti - "Besides, with the power gap between Israel and the Palestinians being so immense, why would Israeli Jews accept this unitary state, where, by definition, Jews will be a minority?"

2. Ahmed Moor - "BDS does mean the end of the Jewish state."

3. The 'Angry Arab' - "The real aim of BDS is to bring down the state of Israel...That should be stated as an unambiguous goal."

danny1094 said...

I often enjoy your posts and think your arguments have a lot to recommend. However, I find this post to be unthinkably pollyannaish and basically a crock of shit.

You conflate the three aims of the BDS movement with institutional form (one state/two state) in which those aims are realized.

While the three aims of BDS as stated could theoretically be satisfied in a two-state paradigm, this institutional form is not dictated by logical necessity. In point of fact, many (maybe most) BDS proponents call for a one-state solution in which Jews are a minority.

To claim otherwise is either to be ignorant of the thrust of BDS literature, or to ignore those aspects that don't fit into your own two-state vision and liberal zionist ideology.

Please read either of the books by Ali Abunimah (perhaps the most prominent BDS leader) to see where you are wrong factually. Or really anything written by the leaders of this movement.

Jerry Haber said...

Alex, you have no knowledge that polls indicating the views of Palestinians have been suppressed. Just google; I don't have to do your research for you. And there is no such thing as a BDS leader or spokesperson. BDS is not an organization. It is a movement with a specific call, endorsed by over 170 Palestinian organizations. I simply cannot understand why people don't get that.

Jerry Haber said...

Hey, danny1094, thanks for responding. But I am not sure I enjoy the fact that you like my posts, since if you misundertand them the way you misunderstood this one, that wouldn't make me happy.

1) I didn't conflate aims. I suggested a scenario in which they were achieved. It's not the only scenario, but it is certainly a likely one.

2) My post wasn't about BDS literature, or about BDS leaders. But since you mention Ali Abunimah, I will say this. He is ont an official spokesman for the movement. But he has an excellent post in which he, citing Omar Barghouti, shows that most of the organizations supporting BDS are not opposed to two states.

In fact, thank you for writing your comment, because Abunimah answers it in his post,

"Why do Zionists falsely claim BDS movement opposes two-state solution?"

See http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/why-do-zionists-falsely-claim-bds-movement-opposes-two-state-solution

Nat said...

I would not be surprised in the least if you were to be accused by supporters of the Israel lobby of being a "self-loathing Jew" (whatever the hell that that is supposed to be). You are a courageous individual.

John Candido said...

I completely agree with Jerry Haber on the BDS. I am not anti-Semitic but I do support all of the aims of BDS movement. I have a perpetual support for the state of Israel. What I am vehemently against is equating support for the policies of the Likud party as a litmus test for anti-Semitism and loyalty to Israel.

John Candido said...

I completely agree with Jerry Haber on the BDS. I am not anti-Semitic but I do support all of the aims of BDS movement. I have a perpetual support for the state of Israel. What I am vehemently against is equating support for the policies of the Likud party as a litmus test for anti-Semitism and loyalty to Israel.

Alex Stein said...

Jerry - can you cite a single poll which shows that a majority of Palestinians wouldn't want to return to Israel?

Alex Stein said...

I also notice that you don't refer to the quotes I mentioned above.

Rich said...

Jerry Haber, You said "around a million Palestinians opt to return to their homes and properties, a number that far exceeds all current projections in polls of Palestinians." I have been looking for information on this exact issue. Can you share the polls you have seen that indicate about how many Palestinians would return to Israel?

Geoff Kl said...

hey jerry,

why dont you practice what you preach and hand your home in israel over to an arab family?

filthy colonizer

Mooser said...

I just can't figure out what on earth all this chazzeri about "self-loathing Jews" is. Of course I'm a self-loathing Jew! That's a job I should leave to somebody else?
Not if I want it done right.

Laura Myerson said...

Thank you for your excellent, clarifying post, Jerry Haber.

YoMo57 said...

Being a Jew in Poland wouldn't have been quite so challenging and dangerous if there had been 40-50 other nations with Jewish majority populations, many with 90-99% Jews, many of which surrounded Poland and if the world population of Jews outnumbered Poles by 1000 to 1. Apart from those quibbles, this is a solid analogy.

"Red" Merriweather Coast said...

How are you defining a Polish person, though? The people who lived in Poland had been diverse and mixed long before WWII. The Polish historical demographics are actually kind of fascinating and very complicated. Same with the Arabian people, actually!

I don't understand why so many Arabian countries are being lumped together as if they were a homogeneous whole (which is physically impossible to achieve with 350+ million people). The issue should be the Palestinians. I don't see the logic in treating Palestinians who aren't citizens of Egypt, Iraq, etc., as if they are a part of them because they are all Arabic. That's blaming a Canadian for the US invasion of Iraq.

John Candido said...

If there are any people out there who, like me, agree with Jerry Haber on this post, could you please share it and promote it through Facebook or any other way. Thank you.

Phil Weintraub said...

Thanks for your post. I appreciate your perspective and how you support your argument.

I shared it with a friend and he noticed that there are two slightly different but significant phrases used as to the first of the three demands. At one place on the BDS.net site it calls on Israel to "its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the Wall. At another part of the site in reference to the intro it calls on Israel to end "its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall."

Do you have any idea why different language is used and which one is the "correct" one and why the language is different?

Any insight will be appreciated.

Phil

FilisteeNola said...

Wow. So if up to a million Palestinians want to return, then they have the right. If it's more than that, they don't. I find that premise in these comments as well as in the article itself, a perfect illustration of why justice will not come from within a Zionist framework. It's simply too xenophobic.

Check out the Israeli organization Zochrot, which is trying to answer the question of return in a framework of universal rights, not demographic fear.

Jerry Haber said...

Filisteenola, please read my article carefully. No where did I say that only a million Palestinians have a right to return. And read my comments to the next post as well.

All refugees have the right to return to their homes.

It's frustrating to see how many people simply could not follow my argument....well, I guess I should have been clearer.

Paul said...

Of course, your quote of the 2005 BDS Call is inaccurate. It did not include the words "occupied in June, 1967". This is a later distortion of the original statement.

Jerry Haber said...

Paul, what quote are you referring to?

Berel Dov Lerner said...

I think only about 750,000 Arabs fled the war in 1948. Many of them have died of old age by now. so how could there be even a million refugees? Trick question! But here's the real problem for me: BDS is a form of economic warfare. Engage in it and you are trying to deliberately harm my livelihood and community. You automatically become my enemy. Just what the Middle East needs - another party to conflict. And then there are little problems such as defensible borders and the wonderful experience Israel has had with Palestinian control of Gaza. It's interesting how after Western liberals have grown so wary of forcing political experiments upon the Middle East, no one worries about the practical consequences of the creation of a Palestinian state under current conditions.

Jerry Haber said...

Berel, I was being conservative. According to UNRWA's statistics there are over 5 million Palestinian refugees. According to al-Awda,"The total Palestinian population in the world today is estimated at about 11 million. Of these, 7.2 million including their children are living in forced exile or internally displaced, and are denied their right to return to their homes and lands of origin by the state of Israel." But you know what, you and I can make a deal. Only Palestinians who were actually displaced by the Zionists can return to Israel. And only Jews who were actually displaced by the Romans can return as well.

Of course, BDS is economic warfare. All those who place sanctions on Iran are viewed by many Iranians, especially the hardliners, as enemies of Iran. Those who supported the Jackson-Vanik amendment in the 1970s as a way to pressure the Soviet Union to let Soviet Jewish refuseniks out were considered to be enemies of the Soviet Union. Would somebody oppose both these actions because they created more enemies. (Although how is this creating a new party to the conflict? BDS is a Palestinian movement.) Some further points. Palestinians are not in control of Gaza. It wasn't liberals who forced recent political experiments upon the Middle East; it was neocons. And Israel as a Middle East "experiment" has failed because it can only exist at the expense of the human, civil, and political rights of the Palestinians Arabs, especially those the West Bank and Gaza, not to mention those Palestinians it ethnically cleansed. Even Palestinian Israelis have forfeited their political rights because Palestinian Israeli political parties will not be invited into the coalition, and they are excluded by ethnicity from the nation that the State represents.

Nat said...

"I think only about 750,000 Arabs fled the war in 1948."
That's enough to populate a major city. It's like saying "only" ~6 million Jews were killed by the Nazis.

Berel Dov Lerner said...

Nat - context, please. I was saying that 750,000 is less than the million refugees being referred to. Unlike every other group of refugees from the 1940s, only Arabs who fled the war confer their refugee status unto the thousandth generation. Unlike any other host countries in the world, only Arab countries (including the Palestinian Authority itself!) are not denounced for treating native born people the children of native-born people as second-class citizens just because their grandparents were refugees in the middle of the previous century. And forgive me for mentioning the unmentionable truth that the peculiar "Palestinian" national identity of those Arabs, largely Sunni-Muslims who had migrated relatively short distances to adjoining areas of the Sunni-Muslim-Arab region, was essentially an artificial construct which artificially gained its real cultural significance as the result of the cruel strategy of maintaining refugee status unto the thousandth generation. (I will not insult your intelligence by presuming that someone in this conversation believes in Dr. Sand's preposterous theories, which can be disproved by any page of the Jewish liturgy).

Berel Dov Lerner said...

Now Jerry: I never said liberals forced experiments in the middle east, quite to the contrary, I said they were wary of such expiriments. (Although I was born in the USA I have lived for the past 30-odd years in Israel and I don't have a stake in America's bizzarely polarized political culture) And of course when I fought in my youth for Jewish emmigration rights from the USSR I considered myself an enemy of of the USSR. I didn't pretend I was trying to end the Cold War. I didn't belong to oranizations with BS names like "Jewish Voice for Peace with the Soviets" when I wasn't trying to establish peace. (An honest name for an organization today might be: "Jewish Voice for the Creation of a Palestinian State at Any Cost Après Moi, le Déluge"). Now you write: "And Israel as a Middle East "experiment" has failed because it can only exist at the expense of the human, civil, and political rights of the Palestinians Arabs, especially those the West Bank and Gaza, not to mention those Palestinians it ethnically cleansed." Here's the thing: if someone places me in a zero-sum situation where I have to commit suicide to improve their lot, don't expect me to martyr myself. The Gazans are suffering because they feel the need to maintain their "inalienable right" to hate Jews and attack Israel. Don't forget how not a few overly-hopeful people thought the withdrawal from Gaza would work out: http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/the-miracle-of-the-hummus-and-the-fishes-1.168193 Yes, I know, the article I just cited is based on the unspeakable premise that the Palestinians (and perhaps even Arabs more generally!) are full-blown human being possessing agency and culpability for their misdeeds. One of the really stupid things about BDS is that it leaves that agency out of the equation. I don't know who I am dealing with in this conversation, but I will go out on a limb and assume that someone out there admits that Israel has legitimate concerns which must be addressed by any resolution of the conflict which is intended to produce more that a few photo-ops for politicians followed by renewed and more terrible violence. By telling the Palestinians that if they sit on their hands the world will deliver all of their demands on a silver platter, BDS robs them of the will to negotiate in good faith. (For people who like to pretend Netanyahu never took the two-state solution seriously: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4634075,00.html ) Without negotiations, Israel's legitimate interests will not be addressed.

Berel Dov Lerner said...

Although this discussion of whether-or-not Jews should support attacks on the Jewish State is very appropriate for the 9th of Av, I have other things to do. I will leave you with just two more points. Jerry writes: "Even Palestinian Israelis have forfeited their political rights because Palestinian Israeli political parties will not be invited into the coalition." That's like saying that Meretz voters have forfeited their political rights by joining a party which will never enter into a Likud-led coalition. No one is forcing the Israeli Arab political leadership to waste their political capital on anti-Israel grandstanding instead of representing the genuine interests of the Arab-Israel electorate. And, of course, Arabs can and do vote for parties which are not peculiarly identified with the Israeli-Arab community. And a final point on the "Right of Return". I am not willing to accept conservative predictions regarding how many Arabs would demand to move to Israel, and here's why: Consider this scenario: Israel accepts the "Right of Return" and Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, or post-sanctions Iran decides this would be a great opportunity to establiosh its leadership of the Muslim world by footing the bill for a multi-billion dollar offer that the grandchildren of the Arab refugees would be crazy to refuse, designed to bribe them into overturning the Jewish demographic majority in Israel. This might be accompanied by a few choice anti-refugee progroms in Arab lands, and presto: Israel would suddenly be perceived as the only "safe" place for the grandchildren of the refugees to live. And won't that be wonderful: millions of people who have been instructed from birth to believe that Jews are the problem and violence is the solution would be dropped into the world's largest Jewish community. Syria, Iraq, and ISIS would look like a picnic in comparison.

Jerry Haber said...

Berel, lots of points to respond to, it's difficult to know where to begin, but here goes, because I really want to address the point of your next comment.

The BDS movement is not motivated by love the State of Israel or its welfare, although there are people like me who feel that were Israel to answer the calls of the BDS movement, it would be a better place. But BDS is primarily a movement spearheaded by an organization of around 36 Palestinian NGOs who are fighting for the rights of Palestinians as individuals and as a group. Don't confuse agency with power. Palestinians have agency but they lack power, military, economic, what have you. So the BDS movement is an attempt to empower Palestinians in their confrontation with those who have expelled, expropriated, and, in general, controlled their lives, all this being a necessary consequence of the drive to create a Jewish state in a land occupied by other people and another people. Armed insurgency has failed; non-violent resistance has failed; BDS on its own will not succeed either. But Zionism simply deluded itself into thinking that Palestinians would welcome being displaced from their land. Ahad Ha-Am knew it. Hans Kohn knew it. Buber and Magnes knew it. Jabotinsky and Ben-Gurion knew it. The Zionism movement never engaged in any serious attempt to come to terms with the majority Arabs of Palestine. They decided, ultimately, that conquest and might would work, and the hell with the people who stood in their way.

Jerry Haber said...

So it was ultimately, in my view, the statist Zionists who put themselves into the zero sum. They told the world a lie -- perhaps you felt it was justifiable in order to create a state -- that they could have a state that reasonable Palestinian Arabs would accept, even welcome.In their imperialists fantasies (just read Herzl's Altneuland), the natives would welcome their material progress, exchanging their birthright for a mess of, what, schools? hospitals? And if they didn't, well, too bad for them.
And the Palestinians? Did they lack agency? No, even Jews in the concentration camps had agency. But they lacked power, and that is the critical issue, here, not agency. For some of that they bear responsibility. They bear some responsibility for losing to the Zionists, for not being strong enough, for letting internal dissension and bad leadership, lose their land. They underestimated badly the power of the Zionists, and their inability to get their act together as been their greatest weakness to date. Tactically, they should have accepted partition in order to gain strength, so that in the next round, they could defend themselves by capturing more Israeli territory -- which is just what Ben Gurion did. Although they were entirely right from their standpoint to reject a partition plan, and although nobody in the world criticized them for doing so, and although the Zionists rejected UN trusteeship -- perhaps history would have been different. But then again, knowing Ben Gurion's attentions and Israel's irridentism, armed resistance would have given Israel grounds to conquer more territory (cf. 1956 and 1967). So they would have had to have a great more power to hold their own.
The BDS movement is a non-violent Intifada, where Palestinian organization are attempting to muster diplomatic and moral support around the world to press their aims. And, slowly but surely, they are beginning to succeed, especially with respect to the occupation. BDS is the expression of Palestinian agency. But you will have none of that, Berel. For you, the Palestinians are a people with no right to an army, no right to unilateral diplomacy, nor right to declare independence and fight for their land, no right to organize boycotts, they are, Berel, people, who simply by virtue of being Palestinians can only do one thing -- accept their lot as shoavei mayim and hotevei etzim, and, maybe, maybe, if they prove that they are "civilized" and behave themselves (and keep their tempers) be allowed to run their internal affairs, and benefit by the trickle down theory of throwing in their lot with the Jews. I don't think that will work in the long run, Berel. And I don't think people around the world are going to buy it.
My next comment will address the argument you should have made.

Jerry Haber said...

(I don't like the name Jewish Voice for Peace either; I would prefer the name "Jewish Voice for a Fair and Just Agreement between the Israeli and Palestinian Peoples." Fortunately, I wasn't asked. Frankly, peace is not the issue I am concerned with; it is basic human rights, including the right to self-determination.)
Here is how you should have argued: Let us grant the Palestinians their claims. Let us grant that they were systematically uprooted from their land, that they have been the victims of sixty years of Zionism, and that the Zionists are mostly to blame. Every offer the Zionists made was a bad one, and the Palestinians were right to reject them, especially since the Zionsits did all those bad things. In short, let us concede that the Zionists and the Israelis are entirely at fault, and that justice is entirely on the side of the Palestinians, and that their hatred of Israel is absolutely justified.
Even if we grant all that, that should not at all affect our political calculus. Because, as you put out, in a zero sum game, it's us or them. The fact that your claims are justified only means that you will fight harder for them, and will receive sympathy many quarters. So I will have absolutely no interest in making any concessions simply out of my concern for survival. For even if I am able to find Palestinian partners who are willing let bygones be bygones, I have no guarantee that the next group will be any better -- on the contrary, I have already conceded that their grievances are legitimate. Historical grievances, feelings of resentment and hatred will not be displaced so easily. And so I cannot any serious moves towards an accommodation because of my very real security needs.
In short, while I sympathize with the plight of the Palestinians I cannot do anything to endanger my own security, especially since I understand that historical grievances are justified. You won't be happy with anything less than my self-destruction, and I am not willing to do that for you.
Here you will be surprised to learn that I agree with you. Israel in the current situation has no real motivation to stop its land theft, its control of movement, its refusal to allow certain foods into the Gaza strip as collective punishment. It would be irrational for Israel to change its policy.
Now were Israel to suffer a colossal military defeat, with its lands being occupied, its citizens restricted in movement, facing a powerful enemy with technological and military superiority, its negotiating position would be similar to that of the Palestinians today, in a word, crappy. the Palestinians would try to dictate the same humiliating terms that the Israelis offer today, and no doubt with partial success. But that is not what I wish for. What I wish for is to attempt to level the playing field so that not ending the suppression of Palestinians rights will be a greater threat to her security than continuing it. In other words, Israel can only be reasonably expected to act in its own interest -- that is what states do -- and so paying a price for the status quo is imperative. I don't expect you agree. You apparently see nothing wrong with the status quo and blame the other side for it. But when Israel's survival requires ending the status quo and allowing the Palestinians to be free people in their land, then there will be movement.
So, Berel, you will not see me appealing to the value of "peace" or "morality" besides what I would base line. I want the Israel to be a minimally decent state, not a paragon of virtue. If Israel cannot be a minimally decent state, I am not in the least interested in its survival -- in fact, I would work to see it replaced by something that is minimally decent -- and that goes for other states as well that don't fit the bill. The purpose of states is to protect and foster the liberty and flourishing of those who inhabit it. States don't have an inalienable right to exists, and we have seen states come and go.

Jerry Haber said...

Here is how you should have argued: Let us grant the Palestinians their claims. Let us grant that they were systematically uprooted from their land, that they have been the victims of sixty years of Zionism, and that the Zionists are mostly to blame. Every offer the Zionists made was a bad one, and the Palestinians were right to reject them, especially since the Zionists did all those bad things. In short, let us concede that the Zionists and the Israelis are entirely at fault, and that justice is entirely on the side of the Palestinians, and that their hatred of Israel is absolutely justified.
Even if we grant all that, that should not at all affect our political calculus. Because, as you put out, in a zero sum game, it's us or them. The fact that your claims are justified only means that you will fight harder for them, and will receive sympathy from many quarters. So I will have absolutely no interest in making any concessions simply out of my concern for survival. For even if I am able to find Palestinian partners who are willing to let bygones be bygones, I have no guarantee that the next group will be any better -- on the contrary, I have already conceded that their grievances are legitimate. Historical grievances, feelings of resentment and hatred will not be displaced so easily. And so I cannot make any serious moves towards an accommodation because of my very real security needs.
In short, while I sympathize with the plight of the Palestinians I cannot do anything to endanger my own security, especially since I understand that historical grievances are justified. They won't be happy with anything less than my self-destruction, and I am not willing to do that for them.
Here you will be surprised to learn that I agree with you. Israel in the current situation has no real motivation to stop its land theft, its control of movement, its refusal to allow certain foods into the Gaza strip as collective punishment. It would be irrational for Israel to change its policy.

Now were Israel to suffer a colossal military defeat, with its lands being occupied, its citizens restricted in movement, facing a powerful enemy with technological and military superiority, its negotiating position would be similar to that of the Palestinians today, in a word, poor. The Palestinians would try to dictate the same humiliating terms that the Israelis offer today, and no doubt with partial success. But that is not what I wish for.

What I wish for is to attempt to level the playing field so that not ending the suppression of Palestinians rights will be a greater threat to Israel's security than continuing it. In other words, Israel can only be reasonably expected to act in its own interest -- that is what states do -- and so paying a price for the status quo is imperative. I don't expect you agree. You apparently see nothing wrong with the status quo and blame the other side for it. But when Israel's survival requires ending the status quo and allowing the Palestinians to be free people in their land, then there will be movement.

Jerry Haber said...


So, Berel, you will not see me appealing to the value of "peace" or "morality" besides what I would base-line. I want the Israel to be a minimally decent state, not a paragon of virtue. If Israel cannot be a minimally decent state, I am not in the least interested in its survival -- in fact, as a Jew and as a decent human being, I would work to see it replaced by something that is minimally decent -- and that goes for other states as well that don't fit the bill. The purpose of states is to protect and foster the liberty and flourishing of those who inhabit it. States don't have an inalienable right to exists, and we have seen states come and go. States are important only in so far as they provide for their people.

That's enough for today. If you read my posts, you will see I have answered your questions elsewhere. Oh, one more thing: Palestinian nationalism is an artificial construct. I agree with you there, but that is only because all nationalism is an artificial construct. Jewish nationalism began around the same time as Palestinian nationalism did -- in the late nineteenth century -- and in both cases it was as a result of contemporary events. (For the origin of Palestinian nationalism, read Khalidi and Kimmerling and Migdal). There are many differences between the two nationalisms, but both started with politically aware intellectuals in the context of nineteenth and early twentieth century empire.

You dismiss Sand, but you will find it harder, I think, to dismiss Rav Soloveitchik. What forged various tribes into a people was the experience of collective deprivation and persecution; in Egypt, the sons of Jacob became Am Yisrael; it was the covenant of fate. That was also an "artificial construction." What forged the Palestinians into a people, including Palestinian peasants who hitherto had little nationalist political consciousness -- true of many of the Jewish masses in Eastern Europe by the way -- was and is the ongoing Nakbah, to a large extent. But don't forget that no proposal for a Jewish state in Palestine was put forth without a similar proposal for an Arab state, at least from the period of the Peel commission. True, the Balfour Declaration called for a Jewish homeland within Palestine, but that need not have been a state. And in any event the point is moot because the Zionists violated the terms of the Balfour Declaration when citizens of the British Mandate of Palestine were denaturalized and rendered stateless.