Posts Tagged ‘Palestine’

The long odds against Israel-Palestine peace

August 9, 2014

The Israeli novelist Amos Oz is an example of a sincere Zionist who sincerely wants peace between Israel and the Palestinians.  He favors lifting the blockade against Gaza and recognition of a truly independent Palestinian Arab state.

But in regard the Israeli army’s attack on Gaza, he posed the following questions:

Amos Oz

Amos Oz

Question 1: What would you do if your neighbor across the street sits down on the balcony, puts his little boy on his lap and starts shooting machine gun fire into your nursery?

Question 2: What would you do if your neighbor across the street digs a tunnel from his nursery to your nursery in order to blow up your home or in order to kidnap your family?

via Deutsche Welle

I might say that if my neighbor had been the original occupant of my house, that if I’d kicked him out, and that if I had a record of killing my neighbor’s relatives, regardless of age, he would be exceedingly foolish to expect me to be deterred from anything by a child on his lap.

But this is not a meaningful answer to Oz’s argument, which is that Israel should try to make peace, including lifting the blockade on Gaza, but that so long as Hamas militants attack Israel, Israel has no realistic choice but to respond and retailiate.

Jewish peace advocates say Israel should negotiate a truce, end the blockade and freeze the settlements (or, which is highly unlikely, shut them down).   They are right in saying that so long as Israel bombs and blockades the people of Gaza, and expands settlements on the West Bank, there is no possibility of peace.

But if bombing, blockade and settlements ceased, the Palestinian Arabs would not necessarily be content to let bygones be bygones, and to sit in peace on the 22 percent of the original Palestine remaining to them.

In the one case, peace is impossible; in the other, peace is unlikely.

I don’t say this in any gloating spirit.  The government of my own country, the United States, has done a global basis what the Israeli government has done locally.   Both countries have operated like the Michael Corleone character in Godfather II—seeking safety by trying to kill all their enemies.

But perfect safety is an illusion, the number of potential enemies is unlimited and there comes a time when it is too late to escape the consequences of past actions.   I hope it is not too late for Israel.  I hope it is not too late for us Americans.


Read and listen to some other Jewish voices below.


Be careful what you wish for

August 1, 2014

“If Hamas were destroyed and gone, we would probably end up with something much worse. The region would end up with something much worse,” [Army Lt. General Michael] Flynn [outgoing head of the Defense Intelligence Agency] said at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado [last week].

“A worse threat that would come into the sort of ecosystem there … something like ISIS,” he added, referring to the Islamic State, which last month declared an “Islamic caliphate” in territory it controls in Iraq and Syria.

via Reuters.

Israel reportedly supported Hamas in the 1980s as a counterweight to the secular Palestine Liberation Organization.

A Jewish critique of Israel’s policies

August 1, 2014

Rabbi Henry Siegman, former head of the American Jewish Council and of the Synagogue Council of America, in interviews on Democracy Now, calls for the Israeli government to cease its attacks on Gaza and to recognize the human rights of the Palestinian Arabs.  The interview is a excellent, objective summary of the situation.

I think Rabbi Siegman is representative of what is best in the Jewish tradition, which is older and much richer than Zionism.  I think he is right in advocating real self-determination for the Palestinians, as opposed to the fake self-determination they have now.

I would like to think that true self-determination would open a path to peace.  Peace is impossible otherwise.  But I fear Israel may have passed the point of no return.  Rabbi Siegman said in the interview that part of the purpose of the attacks on Gaza is to destroy the possibility of an independent Palestine and of peace talks that might lead to an independent Palestine.  That purpose may have been accomplished.

I recall a story about an American officer offering compensation to an Iraqi family for the killing of the father.  The eldest son said it wasn’t enough.  The American asked how much compensation would be enough.  The son replied, “Ten dead Americans.”

But I don’t want to write anything that, in however tiny a way, would diminish the chances for peace, however small they may be.  Age-old enemies have made peace in the past, as in Ireland.  It is up to Israelis and Palestinian Arabs, not to me, to say whether peace is possible.


Israel Provoked This War: It’s up to President Obama to end it by Henry Siegman for Politico.

The Liberal Zionists by Jonathan Freedland for the New York Review of Books.

I thank Jack Clontz for calling my attention to the Democracy Now interview.  It is well worth viewing in its entirety.

Is an Israeli-Palestinian peace even possible?

July 14, 2014

This video is an admirable effort by the Jewish Voice for Peace to describe the Israel / Palestine conflict objectively and to propose a constructive solution.  Sadly, I doubt a constructive solution is possible.  I’d be glad to be proved wrong.

I’m currently reading Empire of the Summer Moon, a history of the Comanche nation and its great chief, Quanah Parker.   The history of United States treaties with the Comanches and other American Indian nations is very like the various peace plans between Israeli and the Palestinians.

The problems with the Indian treaties were that, on the one hand, the United States government did not and maybe could not hold back white settlers who wanted Indian land, and that, on the other hand, Indians did not recognize the authority of negotiators making concessions in their names and did not consider themselves bound by the treaties.

I do not equate the Palestinian Arabs with tribal peoples of North America, but I do see parallels in their situations.  The only possible outcomes of the merciless wars between the Plains Indians and the white settlers were that the Indians would drive out the settlers, or that the United States Army would subjugate the Indians and force them to live on reservations.

Via Juan Cole.   Hat tip to Jack Clontz.


International recognition for Palestine

December 5, 2012
Double click to enlarge.

Double click to enlarge.

If you follow my web log at all, you know that I like maps and charts as a way to convey information.  There is a lot of good information in the map above.

One of the things that this map shows is that most of the world gives some sort of acknowledgement of the existence both the Israeli and Palestinian nations.

The biggest exception is a bloc of Muslim nations, including all the nations except Egypt and Jordan that declared war on Israel in 1948, plus Bhutan (!) and North Korea.  Even though the United States is Israel’s chief ally and supporter, the governments of Iraq and Afghanistan, which were put in power by the United States, refuse to recognize the legitimacy of Israel as a nation.  Likewise Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Indonesia, all U.S. allies, refuse recognition.

Very few nations are found on the corresponding opposite side, refusing to acknowledge the existence of Palestine as a nation.  They are all minor countries—South Sudan, Guatemala, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, the former Yugoslav Macedonia, Armenia and Burma (Myanmar).

The United States and most U.S. allies recognize Israel, but have some sort of acknowledgement of the Palestinian nation.  Most of the rest of the world recognizes both countries, which is what the United States ought to do.

This is all very interesting, at least it is to me, but only two nations on this map really count, and they are Israel and Palestine themselves.   It is up to the leaders of these two nations to determine when Israel will be at peace and Palestine will be free.


Israel: the once and no longer underdog

December 5, 2012


I used to sympathize with Israel because I thought of the Israelis as the underdogs, and I thought the Israeli people were under a threat to their existence.  I don’t think that is true any longer.

Zionist leaders at the turn of the previous century believed that Jewish people would forever be persecuted minorities in the countries in which they lived, unless they, like other peoples, had a homeland of their own.  During the early 20th century, some prominent Jewish people opposed Zionism.  They said Jews were adherents of a religion, not a separate nation.  To say otherwise, they said, would only validate anti-Semites who denied that Jews could be patriotic citizens of the nations in which they reside.  The rise of Naziism confirmed the fears of the Zionists.   Being patriotic did the German Jews no good.

The immediate impetus for the creation of Israel was the failure of the Allies to address the refugee problem after World War Two.  If the United States and other countries had been willing to take in Jewish people and others in Displaced Persons camps after World War Two, the Jewish people in the camps might not have tried to get to Israel at all costs.

I don’t blame the founders of Israel for trying to establish a new Jewish state.   I don’t blame the Palestinian Arabs for fighting back.   One of my mother’s favorite sayings that that two wrongs don’t make a right.  But sometimes two rights make a wrong.

Jewish people have a deep fear of being wiped out.  Nobody who is familiar with history could say that fear has no basis.   The Arab League declared war on Israel in 1948 with the intention of wiping out the new nation.   The map above shows the nations that declared war on Israel; the nations in dark green were the ones that put troops in the field.

Later on the Soviet Union allied itself with anti-Israel nations.  The Soviets were an open-ended source of arms for Egypt and Syria in waging war against Israel.  In that situation, it was only right that the United States maintain a balance by arming Israel.

But that situation no longer obtains.  Israel is no longer threatened by neighboring countries, even the ones who refuse to recognize its legitimacy as a nation.   Instead Israel is waging war on a subject people, the Palestinian Arabs, a people who have as much right to exist as a nation as the Israelis did in 1948, and who have as few alternatives as the Israelis did back then.   But most of Israel’s American supporters think that Israel is as embattled and surrounded as it was in 1949 or 1956 or 1967.  It’s time to look at the new reality.

Double click to enlarge.

Double click to enlarge.

Click on Visualizing Palestine for more graphics.


Israel and Palestine: a voice for peace

December 5, 2012

This video pretty much sums up the Israel-Palestine situation as I see it.   I think it is to the credit of Israel that such a video could be made and discussed in that country.  Such freedom exists in few, if any, of the countries that are Israel’s avowed enemies.  This in itself is a reason why Israel should not be erased from the map of history.

Click on Jewish Voice for Peace for more from the makers of the video.


A brief history of the Holy Land

October 26, 2012

Click on Who’s Killing Who? A Viewer’s Guide for background on this animation.

Click on Nina Paley’s Blog for more from this artist.

Hat tip to

“Jews and Muslims”: an e-mail chain letter

June 14, 2010

Some friends of mine last week forwarded me an e-mail chain letter that evidently has been making the rounds for many years. It is entitled “Jews and Muslims” and begins by saying that Muslims want to wipe Jews off the face of the earth. Then it goes on compare the number of Nobel Prize winners of Muslim vs. Jewish heritage (about 100 times more Jews than Muslims) and concludes by saying Palestinian Arabs can have peace any time they want just by laying down their arms.

My response is as follows:

One. There are more than 1 billion Muslims in the world, and among them are to be found all kinds of people, good and bad, and many different points of view. I don’t think the Muslims who participate in interfaith dialogues with Jewish congregations here in Monroe County, N.Y., want to wipe the Jews off the face of the earth. I am aware that many Muslims, especially in Arab countries, refuse to recognize the government of Israel, but that is a different thing. The United States for many years refused to recognize the government of China,, which in my opinion was a mistake, but that didn’t mean that Americans wanted to wipe the Chinese off the face of the Earth.

Two. I admire the Jewish people for having developed a culture that has produced so many outstanding people in the arts and sciences. But do you want to know another ethnic group that has produced more than its share of Nobel Prize winners? The Germans. Even people who belong to nations that have contributed greatly to world culture are capable of doing bad things.

Three.  There are two sides to the Israel-Palestine conflict, and we Americans generally only hear one side. It is as if all our news of the conflicts that formerly went on in Northern Ireland and South Africa consisted of reports of terrorist atrocities committed by the Irish Republican Army and African National Congress, all attributed to an irrational hatred of Protestants by Catholics and of white people by black people.

I do not, of course, justify acts of terrorism, no matter who commits them.


Gaza and Israel’s demographic dilemma

June 11, 2010

I have long interpreted Israel’s policies toward the civilian populations of Gaza and the West Bank as expressions of blind rage, provoked by Palestinian terrorist attacks which also are expressions of blind rage. But maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they are based on an evil logic.

One of Israel’s long-range problems is the so-called demographic dilemma – the fact that the Palestinian Arab birth rate exceeds the Israeli Jewish birth rate so that, in time, the Arabs will be a majority in the territories ruled by Israel – Israel proper plus the West Bank and Gaza. To counter this the government of Israel tries to encourage Jewish immigration from Russia and other countries.

But there is something else that Israel can do to resolve the demographic situation, and that is Palestinian Arab emigration. The Israeli government blockade of Gaza does not make any sense in military terms; few of the embargoed products has any military use. But it does have the effect of making the lives of the people of Gaza so miserable that they will use any opportunity to leave.  Expansion of Jewish settlements on the West Bank serves the same purpose.

You could view Hezbollah and Hamas terrorism as mirror images of this policy. Random attacks on Israeli civilians do not impair the Israeli government’s military capability nor do they make the Israeli government more willing to negotiate. But the creation of a climate of fear and uncertainty would discourage immigration into Israel and encourage emigration.

If this interpretation is correct, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is going to go on and on and on until the two sides realize that neither one is going to drive the other out, and they have to figure out how to live together.


“… get the hell out of Palestine”

June 11, 2010

When Helen Thomas said Jews should “get the hell out of Palestine,” the implication was that the Jewish people are not a nation, in the way that the Irish, the Poles, the Algerians and others who have struggled for national independence, are nations, and have no right to a homeland, as these other nations have.

This is the prevailing point of view in the Arab world and widely held elsewhere, and it is a view that Americans rarely hear. According to this way of thinking, Jews are merely a minority group in whatever nation they happen to reside, and never can be more than that. Jews born in Poland are Poles, Jews born in Germany are Germans, Jews born in the United States are Americans and Jews born in the territory of the old British Palestinian Mandate are not Israelis, but Palestinians.  Jews have no right to leave their native lands, settle in Israel and the Palestinian territories and push out the resident population.

But there is a flip side to this, and that is the refusal to recognize that Palestinians also are a nation with a right to self-determination. The counter-argument is that Palestinians are not a nationality, and it doesn’t matter if they are pushed out of their ancestral lands, because they are merely generic Arabs who could live just as well in any Arabic-speaking country from Morocco to Iraq. If the Israelis demand that Palestinian Arabs acknowledge their right to exist as a nation, they should recognize the existence of the Palestinian Arab nation. The alternative is more suffering and more bloodshed.