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Banish me. Shoot me. I often agree with Stephen Walt.

There is a peculiar, paranoid style of Jewish politics. Its logic would be shameful and contorted even it didn’t come from descendants of the people who invented sophisticated, multi-layered Talmudic pilpul: once someone is deemed beyond the communal pale, an enemy of the Jews, then you become tainted if you approvingly quote anything he or she has ever written.

When reviewing my book in the Jerusalem Post, Jonathan Schanzer blamed me for citing Rob Malley’s thoughts on how the American Jewish community influences State Department policymakers: “The author also does himself a disservice by quoting Robert Malley, who coauthored articles after the collapse of the Oslo process with Hussein Agha, a former adviser to Yasser Arafat, blaming Israel and exonerating Arafat.” This is not exactly classic guilt-by-association. It is worse. It is guilt-by-thought-association. (Actually, it’s worse than that, because it completely distorts what Malley and Agha have written).

Similarly, a Realistic Dove commentator once insisted that MondoWeiss, the hard-hitting and often disturbing blog from Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz, be removed from my blogroll. I have often used this space to argue passionately with Weiss, but have also agreed with him. Either way, his blog often provides information available nowhere else. Why is agreeing with him sometimes, let alone keeping him on a blogroll, equivalent to embracing every one of his thoughts?

To these thought police, probably the worst sin is giving the slightest hint that you agree with anything that Stephen Walt or John Mearsheimer have ever propounded about Israel and the Israel lobby. My book takes exception to some of their characterizations of the Jewish community and foreign policy decisionmaking. But, in addition, I wrote that while “they got a lot of things wrong…,they also got a lot of things right.” To some, making the latter point was the equivalent of saying something obscene in front of little children.

So now it can be told (take a deep breath, Danny): I OFTEN LIKE WHAT STEPHEN WALT WRITES ON HIS BLOG. I think that, more often than not, I am a foreign policy “realist,” too. In his reaction to the controversial op-ed in the NY Times by Hussein Agha and Rob Malley, he wrote almost precisely what I was going to write. It was so close, in fact, that I didn’t bother to write anything. The money quote, for me:

…(T)he most significant lines in the entire essay were the last two, where they write “the heart of the matter is not necessarily how to define a state of Palestine. It is, in a sense it always has been, how to define the state of Israel.” Again, they didn’t explain what they meant by this, so it’s hard to know what they were trying to say.

The implication, however, is that Israel still has to decide what kind of state it is going to be. Will it be a modern secular democracy with a certain Jewish character, but where non-Jews are fully equal citizens both de jure and de facto? If so, then two states will work, and the two conflicting narratives about the past could gradually cease to matter very much. In the most optimistic scenario, the whole sorry history of the Zionist-Arab conflict might eventually be regarded as a painful historical episode but not part of anyone’s future agenda, much as Alsace-Lorraine eventually ceased to be an issue between France and Germany. Or will Israel continue to pursue the dream of Greater Israel, increasingly fueled by ethno-religious claims and the growing political power of religious extremists? If so, then it will become an apartheid state and will eventually face a Palestinian struggle for democratic rights….Needless to say, these different visions will have far-reaching implications for relations between Israel and its neighbors, the rest of the world, and between Israel and the Jewish diaspora…I wish Agha and Malley had been less coy in raising this important set of issues.

He sounds like a left wing, progressive Zionist. In fact, he sounds a bit like Ehud Olmert, just before he left office. So kick me out of the tent, folks. But after you do, you might want to try a daring experiment: forget that Walt wrote one book or a few blog posts that you didn’t like, and garner whatever truth he has to offer. The truth is always worth hearing, whether it comes from Arutz Sheva (the settlers’ radio station), or Philip Weiss, or Benjamin Netanyahu, or Mahmoud Abbas, or Walt and Mearsheimer.

82 thoughts on “Banish me. Shoot me. I often agree with Stephen Walt.

  1. Don’t be disheartened Dan.

    The moderate lawful view is that Israel deserves sovereignty, but to self-govern, not to expropriate nor to oppress.

    And, that Palestine deserves sovereignty, also to self-govern, not to expropriate nor to oppress.

    On Torah. In Deutoronomy and many places elsewhere, the Jewish community is described as a “stiff-necked people”, stubborn, a royal pain in the ass. (Those are God’s words, not an anti-semites).

    Under some traditional approaches, Torah is given to moderate our otherwise irritating nature. Under other approaches, Torah is given to rationalize our stubbornness.

    Some interpret Torah to clarify a specific human, super-humane role for the Jewish nation, “a nation of priests”. Others interpret Torah to define a privileged role as almost a new species in process of differentiation.

    My criticism of Walt and Mearsheimer and Phil Weiss when enamored with them, was of carelessness, of neglect to realize the possible consequences (assessed over a generation, not administrations) of invoking old fascist formulas of “Jewish dominance of the media, applied nefariously” (often invoked at Mondoweiss), “Jewish dominance of finance , applied nefariously” (less frequently invoked than the press conspiracy), “Jewish control by whispering in ‘rightful’ powers’ ears”.

    But, when it comes to proposal, Walt, Mearsheimer, Finkelstein, Chomsky, Ben Ami, King Abdullah of Jordan, Mahmoud Abbas, Dan Fleshler, Uri Avnery agree that some political conclusion resembling the Geneva Accords is practical and just, and some intra-communal reconciliation and assistance is also practical and just.

    The conflicts on how to get there, say between Kadima and the left, are secondary. The right take advantage of exagerated rhetoric by the far left, to dismiss peace as impossible, sheltering their own land-lusts from the light of day.

  2. Thanks, Charles. Much appreciated. Lately, quite often, I’ve had the unnerving experience of being the oldest person in the room during business meetings. I confess it would be hard to be the oldest person at a conference.

  3. Mearsheimer and Walt are both important and respected Realist IR theorists. I considered buying Mearsheimer’s book on Realist theory and may get it in the future. If I was writing about alliance theory I would definitely get Walt’s book. But they tend to have definite favorites in the Arab-Israeli conflict and Israel isn’t one of them.

  4. Dan-
    Do you ever read what is posted at MONDOWEISS? Lately there is a prolongued discussion about how Jewish “arrogance” caused antisemitism in Eastern Europe. Do you identify with that? Okay, so he wants Jews out of Beit El and Hevron and Jerusalem, and many “progressives” agree with that. Does that mean they want to legitimize discussions like the one I mentioned above? Does that mean they think it is legitimate to say that Jews in Tel Aviv are also “illegal settlers” who should go back to Morocco or Poland or whatever? By having a link to his site, you are, in effect legitimizing those views.

    Since the election of Obama I have been very worried that the effect that this alliance of Obamaist anti-Zionist cheerleaders (e.g. MJ Rosenberg), allied with J-Street and other Israel bashers (whether they call themselves “Zionists” such as Richard Silverstein or anti-Zionists like Phil Weiss) would succeed in dividing the Jewish community of America. This was attempted in Israel during the Oslo period….all those who opposed Oslo were tarred with epithets like “extremists”, “war mongers”, “people of the past (Peres’ favorite)”, “gangsters” and, after Rabin’s murder “assassins”. These were used by mainline poltical politicians and commentators who supported the Labor Party and MERETZ. In the end, reality took hold, thousands of people were killed or wounded needlessly, and the people of Israel who supported Oslo finally realized that it was a fraud. That is why Labor and MERETZ, who received 56 seats in the pre-Oslo election of 1992 received in the last election 16.
    So since the battle against Israel led by the “progressives” failed within the country, the battlefront moved to the US where it was thought that the fact that 80% of the Jews voted for Obama would mean that the majority of Jews would support an anti-Israel policy by the Obama Administration which would use coercion, unilateral sanctions and finally, an imposed solution which would be supported by a significant part of American Jewry against the consensual interests of Israel. It now seems that this is not going to happen. American Jewry has not been divided. One of the reasons I detect for this is the very fact that sane “progressives”, like you, Dan, identify with people like MONDOWEISS and Walt and Mearsheimer to at least some extent. When people read the gargabe they spew out and see that you want people to look at it, they will conclude that the “progressives” who claim to be “pro-Israel” are really more comfortable with Israel bashers, antisemites and Arab jihadists than they are with most of the Jewish community, even if they don’t really subscribe to the views. Simply saying that I, a “progressive”, can be an ally of Saudi princes who finance J-Street and Human Rights Watch because they want the Jews out of Jerusalem just as I do , but we then disagree on Tel Aviv, is simply tarring the “progressive” camp in they eyes of most formally unaffiliated Jews who still have the “pintele Yid” in them and a warm spot in their heart for the rest of the Jewish people in Israel.
    Thus, the bottom line is that the more you “progressives” identify with the anti-Israel crowd, the more you discredit your own cause, as I see it.

  5. What a ludicrous description of Dan’s approach.

    Talk about tar and feathering.

    You have to realize that the posters on Mondoweiss are different people than Phil, or Richard S or MJ Rosenberg.

    Phil rarely overtly states his positions (which I find unnerving as it eliminates dialog with him). Richard S too often and too overtly and too demeaningly states his positions (which I find unnerving and a gamble on his part). MJ doesn’t dialog with me (apparently he was offended by something I said at some point).

    They are just bloggers.

    Mearsheimer’s and Walt’s theories are described as balance or homeostatic theories. Like the body maintains homeostasis (constant temperature, constant blood oxygen levels, constant toxicity levels: you know n’kavim n’kavim). They describe political power similarly.

    Again and again, I challenge you to use your skill FOR the purpose of creating a peace, a real peace, and NOT for the purpose of rationalization of a land-lust.

  6. Yaacov,

    Let me try one more time:

    There are insights that make sense to me. There is information that is useful to me. It doesn’t matter to me where they come from, or who is the source. If you do a search of “Philip Weiss” on this blog, you will find examples in which I criticize the very ideas and attitudes you claim I am trying to “legitimate.” As I said, there is a paranoid style of Jewish politics….

  7. Dan-
    I am afraid you didn’t understand my point. First, I want to repeat what I have stated many times before….I have no problem with someone who loves Israel, supports Zionism but says “we have to do something with Judea/Samaria because the Arab population there has to be given independence because I view that as the best thing for Israel”. As I see it, people with that philosophy and with my philosophy are on the same side. As I see it, you and I both want what is best for Israel and the Jewish people. I can not say that about Weiss, MJ and others. Weiss himself posted the piece about “Jewish arrogance” in Eastern Europe, he is always going on and on about how Jews control the US, he posted a piece saying the Palestinians are the “real ancient Hebrews” and that we and our ancestors who have clung to our Jewish identities at the very peril of our lives are frauds. Even if he supposedly disapproves of the incendiary antisemitic comments there, they don’t really seem to bother him. So what does it mean if you post a link to his site….you are giving people access to all that filth. Do you really think it is a good idea that people, some of whom do not have very much information about Jewish and Israeli history have their heads filled with this rubbish, seemingly with your at least indirect approval. As I see it, you are identifying yourself and the “progressive” cause with misfits. A lot of bad people do some good things (e.g. Columbian drug lords who build schools and hospitals) but this does not detract from their negative effect on everyone else.

  8. I have to agree with Yaakov–although this is not commentary on your agreement with Walt, Dan. I don’t know enough about him.

    But to follow your line of reasoning, Stormfront has some useful, perhaps truthful things to say about America. I won’t read them long enough to find out…but no doubt they do. lol!

    And probably some of Hitler’s insights into the shambles Germany fell into after World War 1 were valid too.

    It’s the actions taken and/or ideology endorsed that really matter. I would argue that’s more relevant than whether someone has made a keen observation about an existing problem.

    I think you offer enough of a balanced pov–that you attract reasonable people here. So while I agree with Yaakov about linking to Phil’s site…I’m not hung up on it.

    That said…I’m not exactly comfortable with the fact that your blogroll includes someone whose link also shows up on Stormfront and David Duke’s site.

  9. Yakov,
    I’ve not heard you sincerely entertain the criticisms against Israeli policy and neo-orthodox behavior and motivation.

    Some that do are looking for any excuse to demean Jews and Israel. But, some that do are so committed to Jewish consciousness and character, that they are willing to speak an uncomfortable truth, that they are likely to bear some ill consequences of.

    Certainly, the threat of isolation or being entirely ignored for the statement of an inconvenient truth, is a violence in itself, a violence without due process.

    A better question as a result of this discussion, is do you ever agree with Stephen Walt for example?

    Have you read his blog?

    He’s not a nut. He is not contemptuous.

    But, he does note that expansion of settlements is a BAD way to pursue peace, is in fact a slap in the face to all other parties.

  10. Anyone calling Rosenberg an anti-Zionist has taken leave of their senses. Further conversation seems pointless.

    Not only is he a Zionist, he’s one of the nicest people working on this issue of any persuasion.

  11. Charles-
    Technically, you are correct, he does claim to be a “Zionist” although NO ONE in Israel, including MERETZ-types, curses Israel and Jews like he does, so I should better have characterized him as an “Israel basher”.

  12. I don’t understand this post. You agree with Professor Walt on occasion or more frequently? And? Respectfully, so what? Aren’t you demonstrating the kind of paranoia you criticize some of those other Jews about.

    Professors Walt and Mearsheimer opined that American boys and girls have died in the thousands in the deserts of Iraq because of the Israel Lobby. Funny how that sounds like so many other historical indictments of the Jewish people. So banish me and shoot me for believing that they are full of malarky on a fundamental and key issue–indeed, to the point where it matters not if I might not disagree with either or both of them now and then, or even more often than not.

    Gosh, I’m comfy sitting in the camp of Leonard Fein on this one.

  13. “Professors Walt and Mearsheimer opined that American boys and girls have died in the thousands in the deserts of Iraq because of the Israel Lobby.”

    Wow…they said that?

    Yeah–I guess Viet Nam and Gulf War 1 were because of the Jews too.

    A nation always acts out of self interest. Any so called expert who fails to note that–is no expert.

  14. Actually, yesterday, Walt stated exactly the pretty much the opposite of Bruce’s generalization.

    “First, Kaplan says that “the book alleges that it was Israel’s supporters in America who played a pivotal role in influencing the Bush administration to go to war in Iraq in 2003.” To be precise, we do not claim that it was “Israel’s supporters” who played this pivotal role, because we were well aware that there are many supporters of Israel who also opposed the war. Rather, we argued that “the driving force behind the Iraq war was a small band of neoconservatives” (who are a subset of those Americans who are also strongly supportive of Israel), and we also documented how some (but not all) of the other individuals and organizations in the broader Israel lobby also helped sell the war here in the United States. We emphasized that the neoconservatives and other backers of the war did not cause it by themselves and that the broader international context and the 9/11 attacks were critical factors that helped convince President Bush and Vice President Cheney that ousting Saddam was a good idea. In short, the phrase “Israel’s supporters” is too broad, and mischaracterizes our argument.”

    On Mondoweiss and elsewhere, we witness what some “dissenters” wish that Walt had said.

  15. Bruce, as I said, they were wrong about many things and their take on the Iraq war was one of them. i wrote a whole article to that effect in Reform Judaism (see “Publications” on this blog) In their book, though, they did allow that there were other reasons for the invasions besides the “Israel lobby” Regardless, when it comes to what needs to be done now, on the Palestinian question, I agree with Walt most of the time. My point is his arguments on that issue and others should be taken seriously but some won’t allow themselves to do that.

  16. I’m tired of the neocon label too. It’s become another code word for Jew. When in fact, the underlying motive of neoconservative strategy was to strengthen America’s superpower position around the globe and stabilize certain hotspots with Western-style democracy.

    It was all done so we could continue our oil addiction and cozy way of life.

    Banish me. Shoot me. I often agreed with them–despite their ill-chosen tactics (and misguided optimism).

    If Iraq works out…score 1 for the neocons.

  17. Needless to say…we’ve got to quit the oil addiction. So I won’t back them on that anymore for a variety of reasons.

  18. Suzanne, careful not to write about them only in the past tense. They are still with us. One of the younger ones, Schanzer, trashed Dan’s book. And they are stgill dangerous, because they cannot exist without a mega-enemy –Soviet Union, North Korea, Saddam and now, Iran…

  19. Teddy–I’m not familiar with Schanzer.

    However, I don’t think the neoconservative concern about competing powers is unfounded–nor is it one-sided.

    There IS a global power struggle–there always has been–and if that defines a neocon–then Jack Kennedy was a neocon.

    I’m probably not as hardnosed about it as some of them are…but I do appreciate that it’s a jungle out there in the global theater. It goes back to what I stated earlier about ALL nations acting in self interest.

    BTW–neoconservative Robert Kagan’s website– has interesting analysis about the US and European rift on international matters.

    I admit to being a bit of a hawk on international law–precisely because there IS NO INTERNATIONAL LAW. It’s the law of the jungle.

  20. Richard:

    I believe Dan will or should back me up when to the extent that Professors W&W wrote that but for the Israel Lobby we have not have gone to war in Iraq. That is a remarkably brutal analysis with painful historical precedent. Post-hoc generalizations by the good professor are just that. Again, I stand with Leonard Fein and other peace lovng zionists in condemning such drivel from anyone, even if they subsequently have some good ideas about resolving the conflict. Bigotry has historical metrics, and this truism applies even to professors with fancy pens who may have views that you and I agree with on matters pertaining to Israel and Palestine.

    I don’t really care what morons on the far right say about much, but I will continue to be a proponent of a peaceful two-state solution in Israel and Palestine and, at the same time have absolutely no problem loathing the Professors Walt and Mearsheimers of the world. Those who find favor in folks who ignore historical predicate in positing hurtful stereotypes have no monopoly on supporting President Obama and craving peace. And I could care less if I don’t fit the bill on this or any other website on what constitutes favoring peace.

  21. Again, I thought they were careless, in an area where there was great danger (not a good combination).

    I believe them when they say that they were misinterpreted and that the right and left-right exagerated their views, rather than represented them.

    Their presentation associated with the original London Review of Books article though was provocative, and did give cover to the more malevolent uses of their thesis.

    I hope the politics actually shift before things permanently fall apart.

    I’m getting very worried about it now.

    I don’t believe in the tough-love approach to Isreal.

  22. As far as finding things in common…

    I’m an Orthodox Jew. One time while listening to an interview of a prominent individual and his views on theology, I realized that I agreed with a large percentage of his comments. That individual happened to be one Rafsanjani. So to quote another poster on this blog, “So what?”

    Regarding paranoia…

    The now famous Walt & Mearsheimer essay mentioned that the “Israeli Lobby’s” meddling often reversed the outcomes of elections of what should have been a fait accompli. However, the only example they provide is the loss of incumbent Illinois Senator Charles Percy in 1980. Therefore, they don’t present much evidence (if even credible) to back their claim.

    By the way, I found that (critical) insight via the New York Review of Books, hardly the best friend of a politcal conservative.

    What the NYRB didn’t mention was that when Percy lost, the state of Illinois was experiencing double digit inflation and unemployment.

    However, Walt and Mearsheimer concluded that it was the “Israel Lobby’s” work.

    Dan, you make it sound like paranoia is limited to only those with whom you disagree.

    To sum up, the quotes that Dan provided sound like “Jewishness is the obstacle to peace”.

  23. Expansionist “Jewishness”, the interpretation that Torah teaches to ignore the commandments in favor of occupying the land, is the obstacle to peace.

  24. If one opines that settlement exapansion is AN obstacle to peace, as opposed to THE obstacle to peace, then perhpas it’s a reasonable argument. The latter view (THE obstacle) however exculpates the Arabs’ own brand of “ethno-religious claims and the growing political power of religious extremists”.

    What’s an example of the “growing political power of religious extremists” on the Israeli side? Is the Netanyahu of 2009 the same as that of 1996, or did he endorse a 2-state solution? Please provide examples.

    Do the Palestinians have examples of “growing political power of religious extremists”? Perhaps the Sha’ria of the Gaza proto-state is an example. Apparently a non-issue to the Walt-Mearsheimer, Malley and Agha troika.

    The likes of who Dan quoted are quite myopic regarding the Arabs’ own brand of ethno-religous zealotry (the Temple never existed, the Jews have no connection with the Land, the Samir Kuntar fan clubs).

    While it was courageous of President Obama to come down hard on Holocaust deniers (Abbas?) it would have been a beautiful thing if he extrapolated that point into the wrongdoing of denying the Jews’ historical ties to the Land.

    Regarding Dan’s comment of the paranoia of “once someone is deemed beyond the communal pale, an enemy of the Jews, then you become tainted if you approvingly quote anything he or she has ever written.”

    Does this mean that someone espousing left of center views should have the right to glean from sources such as Jabotinsky, Kahane, Yisrael Medad et al without the fear of stigmatism from his political peers?

  25. I’m not sure what you are getting at Zach.

    Expansion is the primary obstacle to peace. The other issues are tangible and resolvable.

    I don’t understand the apparent rejection of Torah by the expansionists, and often stated by rabbis and in the name of affirming Jewish identity.

    Can you explain to me how expansion by force or twisted rationalization is not a violation of “thou shalt not steal, or thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s possession”?

  26. Dan’s comment:

    “There is a peculiar, paranoid style of Jewish politics. Its logic would be shameful and contorted even it didn’t come from descendants of the people who invented sophisticated, multi-layered Talmudic pilpul”

    If utilizing the axiom that the Gemara (Talmud) is the standard bearer of Jewish thought, then I wholeheartedly agree and applaud the effort.

    It’s worthwhile to keep in mind that this standard bearer also had standards of who was qualified to contribute to this monumental work.

    One of the great scholars, referred to as “Acher” (ie “the other guy” but on 1 single occasion referred to by his full name Elisha ben Abuya) was a turncoat to his people and therefore disqualified as a contributor despite his prowess in Torah scholarship.

    The Talmud takes it even 1 step further when one of Acher’s student, Rebi Meir the author of much of the Mishna, was not given credit with his name to his insights because he continued to quote the teachings of his former mentor Acher subsequent to the latter’s exit from the fold.

    Therefore, if you’re positing that it’s historically or characterisitcally “unJewish” to define an individual as beyond the pale and subsequently banishing all of his work, the Talmud, evidently, is not a source to back this claim.

    The Talmud might even be the source to prove the contrary.

    By the way, Dan. Although I often disagree with your opinions, I continue to read your blog since I’m confident that you utilize dispassionate logic, intellect, history plus an innate desire to have the best intentions for the Jewish People to arrive at your conclusions.

    Also, your postings are fortunately bereft of vindictive indictments of those who see things differently than you. Well, maybe tagging “paranoid” to those who select sources of info with discernment might have been harsh, but hey, you’re only human!

  27. Richard W,

    From my POV, framing the (loaded) question with presumed guilt is not a constructive position to commence dialogue.

    Hopefully this response will do a degree of justice to the concepts involved. The prime movers of settling Yehuda and Shomron view themselves as fulfilling the mitzvah of “Yishuv Ha’Aretz” as taught by their mentor Rav Tzvi Yehuda Kook. Much of Rav Kook’s conclusions do not resonate with me, but I also know my place next to a Torah Scholar and am in no position to act or speak vituperatively towards things I don’t understand.

    I feel the exact same way regarding the teachings of the Satmar Rebbe Rav Yoel Teitelbaum who, based on his Scholarship, preferred (to put it mildly) that the State of Israel should never materialize. Once again, it doesn’t resonate, but I also know my place in the figurative presence of a Torah Scholar.

    If someone like the Satmar Rav spoke harshly about the policies formulated by the likes of Rav Kook, then it’s the “shakla v’atarya” (give and take) between 2 qualified sources.

    While it’s my job to follow the injunction of Pirkei Avot “Aseh L’cha Rav” (Make for yourself a Rav / Teacher) I am in no position to consider myself a qualified participant in this type of rabbinical discussion any more than I would be in a dialogue between Dr James Watson and those who doubt his concept behind the DNA model.

  28. Zack,
    That constitutes a predictable dismissal.

    If you are not in a position to opine, then how can you advocate without severely risking offending Torah, offending Hashem?

    If you can’t explain it, perhaps you can research and present an argument that does explain how taking thy neighbor’s land by force is instructed or not prohibited in Torah.

    I get that purchasing land in good faith consented transactions is a fulfillment of the commandment to inhabit the land (given to Joshua though, not to us).

    I don’t get how the military taking land for temporary defense purposes, then support settlements being constructed, then transfer to the JNF or national ownership entities and permanently leased to exclusively Jews, is a fulfillment of Torah.

    Please elaborate, otherwise the rational conventional understanding of it as theft and coveting stands and will be propagated.

  29. Richard,

    From what I do understand, any argument that places the onus or accusation of theft on Israel’s part regarding Yehuda/Shomron can be logically or consistently applied to areas within the ’48 Armistice areas or even the ’47 Partition Plans as well.

    There is already no shortage of those who believe that “the rational conventional understanding of it as theft and coveting stands and will be propagated.”

    Do your statements mollify them?

    “That constitutes a predictable dismissal.”

    That comment sounds pretty dismissive.

    “then how can you advocate without severely risking offending Torah, offending Hashem?”

    Advocate what? What are you talking about?

    I have found a place in my community and just know that Israel may have no alternative but to cede control of the populous Yehuda/Shomron but the terminal rejectionist attitude of the Palestinian side does not present any reason for optimism.

    The tone and tenor of your postings convey that you are entitled to an explanation and will demand so until satisfied.

    Oh well, just glad that the owner and moderator of this blog is more open to at least attempting constructive forms of dialogue.

  30. I love the tenor of this blog.

    It emerges from Dan’s original thesis, and the way that he manages conversation. He does not insult, though he does get peeved some times.

    Its a really important question for a practicising Jew, what is instructed by the commandments, what is permitted, and what is prohibited.

    I read Torah and some Talmud, and it repeats the ten commandments I think in four points in written Torah. Elaborations of the ten principles like the commanment to put reminders of the ten on the gates of our house, between thine eyes, donning tzitzit (which I don’t myself do) are for the purpose of reminder.

    We are asked to teach our children the commandments, and not as incoherent separate law(s), but as integrated coherent principles – law.

    What are we teaching when we take opportunistically, and then rationalize it?

    Are we not then teaching to ignore Torah, and the method by which to do so skillfully?

    What do you see being taught by that? Honestly.

  31. I saw a website urging that Jews buy land in the West Bank, as constituting a legal sale.

    Unfortunately, in the environment of strategically isolating Palestinian population (urging the population to move elsewhere), the purchase of land in those conditions is more analagous to the purchase of my mother-in-law’s father’s carpet factory in Hungary in 1942.

    We have to have higher standards than rationalization.

    AFTER Palestinians have peer status, then lawful purchases will constitute proper title. That is NOT the status currently.

    Any that desire that Jews be permitted to settle legally in the West Bank would pursue that peer sovereignty as the prerequisite.

  32. Zach,

    I appreciate your appreciation of what I’m trying to do with this humble blog. And I appreciate your thoughful interventions. When you say, in #29, that you “know your place” as a Torah scholar in relation to Rav Kook and the Satmar Rebbe, you bring up an issue that has always befuddled me.

    I understand, via my brother (a Baal Teshuva) and other Orthodox Jews of my acquaintance, the need to defer to the wisdom of Torah scholars on a host of matters involving prayer, religious observance, relations with others in the community and with non-Jews, and other matters. But where do you draw the line?

    Let’s say there was no anti-Zionist Satmar Rebbe arguing with Rav Kook, the inspiration of many settlers. Let’s say there was no give and take between 2 qualified sources that enabled you to justify not taking a stand. If the injunctions of a scholar like Kook resulted –at least in part– in a political situation that victimized Palestinians (even if Palestinians and their leaders share the blame), are you not “qualified” to hold any opinion at all? I honestly don’t understand what you are saying. At what point does deference to learned authority become passive acceptance of injustice? And what do you think of Orthodox Jews like Rabbi Melchior or the people from Netivot v’Shalom and Oz v’Shalom, who do not think the tradition justifies the occupation or continued settlement? What makes them less estimable authorities than Kook?

  33. Zach said:
    From what I do understand, any argument that places the onus or accusation of theft on Israel’s part regarding Yehuda/Shomron can be logically or consistently applied to areas within the ‘48 Armistice areas or even the ‘47 Partition Plans as well.

    Yes, Richard, “land lust” on the part of those Marx-quoting Leftist kibbutznikim (Dan-most of those lusting kibbutznikim had never heard of Rav Kook and did not use his thinking to justify their taking the land from the Arabs-they used “progressive socialist internationalism” as their excuse to “victimize” the Palestinians, as you say, not “primitive nationalist/ religious sectarianism”).

  34. Yakov,
    How is that reference an attempt to do anything but distract from the questions of whether your behavior, your advocacy, is in conformance with Torah, or plain human decency?

  35. I certainly appreciate the referencing of the Torah and Talmud to remind people of their moral compas.

    However, I wonder if at the end of the day–pragmatism and sovereign self-interest are (necessarily) more influential.

  36. Richard-Because you keep tarring the “Right” with the same brush. Your latest one is “land lust”. I was pointing out that almost everyone can be accused of “land lust”, including your ancestors who came to America, the Homesteaders who moved West in the mid-19th century, Ben Gurion and the Socialists of the Second Aliyah, the “progressive” Professors at Tel Aviv University sitting on the former Arab village of Sheikh Munis.

    I will repeat what I said before….the Torah, as interpreted by most, but not all modern Orthodox/religious scholars, gives the Jewish people the right to settle ALL of Eretz Israel. The Balfour Declaration recognized this right on an international basis. Balfour (AND THE TORAH) recognize individual rights of Arabs to their property and culture, but not NATIONAL rights. Thus, Israel has no right to confiscate private owned Arab land if they have clear title to it, but much of Judea/Samaria is state-land, and Jews have every right to settle that land, as I and many others see it.
    I feel no moral obligation to give the Palestinians a state…if they want to live under Arab sovereignity they are free to move to one of the Arab states. There are 23 IIRC but there is only one Jewish state. Seems fair to me.
    Regarding restrictions on their movement, it has been pointed out innumerable times that this is a consequence of the terror war their freely elected leadership decided to embark on. Once the security situation is stabilized, free movement will be restored. It was the Oslo Agreement, the so-called “Peace Process” that disrupted the lives of the Arabs and restricted their movements.

  37. Yaakov–as you probably know by now–I am with you on the role Palestinians play in their own demise– which includes their delusion about right of return and other war mongering ideology.

    But what you seem to be saying is that–because Palestine was a loosely defined region–not a state–Palestinian Arabs never had ancestral claim to the area at large (including the area designated for their Palestinian state).

    I fully accept they lost their claim to ancestral land inside Israel when they waged and lost a war against the Jewish community. That’s how it goes in war. Tough cookies.

    But losing land through war is different from having no ancestral claim. It’s a whole different argument.

    I think you start to lose the argument (factually & morally) when you suggest they can pick up and go anywhere because Jews have stronger ancestral claim to Palestine (the region) than Arabs do.

    I have to wonder how this would’ve all played out if the Arabs were less fierce and more diplomatic.

    To be fair, there is the risk they would’ve suffered the same fate as say, the Cherokee, who tried to play by the settlers rules.

    I’m not taking sides here…just trying to be objective.

    The Arabs have alienated my sympathy with their tactics–but I can’t ignore their ancestral mark in the region. You ARE asking/demanding they give up a part of themselves.

  38. “the Torah, as interpreted by most, but not all modern Orthodox/religious scholars, gives the Jewish people the right to settle ALL of Eretz Israel.”

    How does that reconcile with “IF you keep my commandments….” which is more universally accepted as Jewish law.

    Does Torah give national sovereignty to Israel permanently? That seems to me to be modern revision of Torah.

    Even the Lubavitch that I know well don’t describe modern Israel as parallel to historic Israel. They describe the Torah-defined messianic Israel as from Tigris to Mediterranean, not as Jordan to Mediterranean.

    The state of Israel boundaries are then entirely mundane, NOT God-defined, more rationalized.

    To equate the “right of Jews to live there” as Torah-defined is to revise Torah for collective land-lusts.

    If another person lives in a locale, they live there. There are settlements that are built on land that was entirely unoccupied previously, and there are some that required forced displacement of prior residents.

    I’ve consistently advocated for a case by case assessment of each, but utilizing color-blind law rather than the law by decree of the occupation.

    Again, I appreciate that there is some self-restraint expressed by those that regard the taking of land by force as improper, and instead seek to purchase.

    But, also again, purchase during a period of militarily caused stresses on communities, is not a fair purchase, but a sale under duress.

    I’ve grown sympathetic with the statements by some radical Palestinians of “why should we be prohibited from even visiting our parents’ graves?”

    I’m not sympathetic with the application of any military force or terror, nor sympathetic with even boycott. I have faith that Jews, Israelis, can be convinced that expansion is a form of warring, and that making peace is a more practical and more just approach.

    You imply “we are just taking back what is ours”, but it was never yours. It was some individual Jew’s (maybe) in the time of the Romans. That is long past.

    Its not a means to make the world sanctified.

    To make the world sanctified would take the patience to create a setting in which land purchases could honestly be said to be consensual and not made under duress (with a gun a few feet behind).

  39. Richard-
    The borders and laws of settlement of Eretz Israel are a halachic matter no less than the laws of justice you mention. Over the 2000 years of exile, many of these things were ignored and then forgotten. This is a complicated matter and can not be adequately addressed in a forum like this, but classic scholars like RAMBAM (Maimonides) and RAMBAN (Nachmanides) among others, devoted considerable effort in describing Eretz Israel, its borders and the laws of settlement AND the laws of the resident alien. If you are interested I can recommend a couple of good books in English which describe these things in depth.

  40. Sure, recommend away. I’d be more interested though in your thoughts.

    Are you aware of their, or others, addressing the specific points about acquiring property by indirect means that are known to have originated in coercion and sale under duress?

    If the title to the property is confidently legitimate, it should be very easy to demonstrate. It wouldn’t take rationalizing to deter inquiry to accomplish.

  41. Also,
    Are the interpretations of the laws as they apply to instructions to Jews actually in effect so long as the rest of the world does not recognize the Jewish right to the land?

    Did you address my concerns about your and others exagerations and opportunistic interpretations of the Balfour declaration?

    Torah is in all cases a conditional document, that I know of. It consistently states “IF you keep my commandments,….”

    It is nowhere unconditional, maybe prophetic in cases, but never unconditional in causation. Otherwise, there would be no motivation for keeping the commandments.

    We actually have a purpose as a people, and that is as described, to be a nation of priests. Not fake priests that do hocus pocus without any real transformation, but authentic priests, that are prepared to and actually make change. And, the specific change that we are asked is to sanctify what is gross. (To brighten, to invite God into reality.)

    It takes backbone.

  42. I started a conversation with Ali Abunimeh on his facebook page. He had accepted me as a friend, and we had dialogued periodically over the course of a month.

    On his page, he stated that the would reject Trafalgar Square filled with gold rather than surrender his rights in Palestine.

    So, I asked, “what are you rights, specifically?”

    He didn’t answer himself, but another poster stated “right of return”.

    I asked what specifically does the right of return mean? He stated that it was spelled out in General Assembly resolution 191, outlining the responsibilities of 1948 mandatory government.

    I commented that resolution 191 had never passed the security council so was not binding international law.

    He stated that the borders of Israel have at no point been ratified by the security council either.

    So, I asked in clarification, Does the right of return refer to:

    1. The right of individuals displaced in 1948 to return to free access to the land of Israel/Palestine?
    2. The right of individuals to retrieve property that was taken under the absentee landowner law
    3. The right of any descendant of anyone that had lived in Israel/Palestine to free access to travel and reside?

    The questions weren’t answered, and my facebook friend status was cancelled.

    I wrote to Ali asking why he did that, as I was asking sincere questions for the purpose of clarifying.

    Shortly after the exchange, I came to the conclusion that it was in fact very unnatural and cruel for Israel to have permanently excluded those that had resided there for lives and generations, and now to isolate and squeeze their territory further.

    It was then upsetting to read of the rationalization of

    “Against all odds, the ashes of a people have resurrected a prosperous country. Rather than claiming our inheritance, we have been acting like thieves caught in the night with stolen goods. The entire Holy Land is ours and we don´t have to apologize. It is the end of days. We have come home and it is time for the interlopers to leave.”

    “We can end the conflict simply by investing. By buying out just 1% of the Arab population in Judea and Samaria, Jews can reclaim 58% of the land. In fact, it is much less than the one percent, as the overwhelming majority of Arabs that occupy Area C (58% of the West Bank) is illegal Arab squatters. Just as every Jew that lives in Yehuda and Shomron (Judea and Samaria) must prove ownership of their property, every single Arab living in Yehuda and Shomron should be made to show that they have similarly registered their land, proving their ownership through the Ottoman, British and pre-1967 Jordanian records. If they cannot prove ownership, they must be removed from those properties just as Jews are forcibly removed from properties they fail to register. By fining these squatters and forcing them to move, and buying out the rest, the entire area is de facto annexed to Israel. The Arabs in the remaining 42% of the West Bank must also be required to prove ownership. Those Arabs in illegal possession of land around the villages in Area B must be compelled to evacuate. This land, together with land purchased by Jews, is de facto also annexed to Israel. ”

    Maybe legal per the interpretation that formerly Jordanian state land is now legitimately Israeli state land (likely not), but through the window of “thou shalt not covet ANYTHING that is thy neighbor’s”, its a collective land-lust.

    How does a people function as a nation of priests, a light to the nations, if it willingly oppresses them?

  43. This end of days stuff….oy yoy yoy! Nothing good has ever come out of that type of thinking. Sorry.

    Richard…that was an interesting facebook exchange. I guess he gave you his answer.

  44. “Shortly after the exchange, I came to the conclusion that it was in fact very unnatural and cruel for Israel to have permanently excluded those that had resided there for lives and generations”

    All very well and good…but the larger reality is that the exclusion came out of mutual hostility. It was war. The Arabs lost.

  45. Suzanne,
    The here and now that Palestinians are asked to live is a cruel one, a current cruel one.

    It is not past, but present.

    It just should not be. The standard of Jewish patriarchs includes the standard of Abraham “if there are ten righteous, will you spare the city?”

    I think it is appropriate, right, for Palestinians to protest, to object to the current norm.

    They should reject terror, but they should not shut up, and they should be heard rather than ignored.

    It is a communal failing to live in fantasy, either Pollyanish optimistic fantasy, or distrustful negative fantasy.

    It hinders the ability to reconcile tangible and reconcilable objective concerns.

    On the “end of days” site. I speculated that it might have been a neo-Christian site, maybe Jews for Jesus settling in the West Bank.

  46. Well, imo, the current situation for the Palestinians is unacceptable…but a lot of it is self-inflicted.

    I don’t think they should be silent or go away…but they DO need to let go of right of return. That concept is driving their whole raison d’etre.

    I guess this boils down to differences in whom we perceive the onus to be on–whether it’s settlers or the Palestinians. I’m willing to put the onus on both equally.

    But as I see it, to single the Israeli side out exclusively is not going to work. It doesn’t work on an individual level on blogs like this one–and it doesn’t work at the state level either.

  47. Richard-how can an intelligent person like yourself fall for their propaganda? It seems like you have developed a form of cyber-Stockholm Syngdrome….they ban you for innocently asking a few tough questions, and you end up identifying with them! Did you forget in 1947 they proclaimed Jihad, (meaning THEY STARTED THE WAR) and then announced it will be a war of genocide?

    Isn’t this Ali Abunimeh the guy who was a pal of Obama’s and was the one to teach Obama all he needed to know about the Arab/Israeli conflict?

    Well, you did learn one thing at least—that they will not compromise on the Right of Return and so there is no chance of any peace agreement being reached between the two sides.

    It’s a pity you were taken in so easily.

  48. You two are engaging in the same vagueness as the posters on Ali Abunimeh’s posts.

    If the condition of Palestinians is unacceptable, then you don’t take a position that accepts it. I won’t indulge in boycott of Israeli institutions. I think it is counter-productive.

    But, I will ask the questions that I perceive suggest ways that we be real Jews, applying the commandments, the fundamental ones, rather than applying the rationalizations.

    Your use of “their” is a big problem, as there are multiple “their’s”. As I’ve said a dozen times, I’ve met my Abrahamic 50 (even the first pass to get Hashem to agree).

    Severity is only a characteristic of Hashem temporarily. The permanent characteristic is kindness, to all living. You be severe strategically, so that you can be kind the vast majority of the time.

    Israel is failing at that. It is being severe (gevurah) habitually, and keeping kindness as a never-used.

    Make the effort to co-exist already. Put your mind and imagination to that task. Ask your leaders to as well. Make it happen.

    Please stop rationalizing your own failure to realize goodness.

  49. Richard–while I don’t let the Israelis’ off the hook for the crappy conditions of the occupied territories…I also understand that things like corruption, disorganization, financial mismanagement etc on the part of Palestinians also play a HUGE role.

    In other words…the occupation could pull out today and the Arabs would have to still deal with their own demons.

    I’m with you on freezing settlements…but that doesn’t make my criticism of Palestinians any less harsh–nor do I think a settlement freeze will solve the larger problem–which is a bunch of people who are hallucinating about right of return.

    I can sympathize with Palestians at the individual level. There are those caught in this quagmire, suffering terribly, and they don’t deserve it.

    Collectively, however, I think they suck. Like the Republicans they need to lose their loyal base and redefine themselves.

    Maybe the UAE can fund their green economy and they can start from scratch as a fossil fuel-free, progressive state.

    If I were a depressed and hopeless Palestinian–that would give me lots of hope. I don’t mean to sound glib…but until they do something drastically different–they are stuck.

  50. I agree that a green Palestinian economy would be wonderful.

    I actually took part in drafting a proposal in 1998 to develop a photovoltaic philanthropy effort to develop photovoltaic systems (collectors and batteries) to support off-grid clinics in the Arab world.

    It didn’t happen. I don’t know why. I won’t blame it on Arab corruption. I actually don’t know how much that happens.

    Some definitions of the right of return are really extensions of natural freedom of movement, that any law-abiding person should have between communities.

    The prohibition is experienced as entirely unnatural.

    As I am free to travel to Mexico or Canada (no criminal record), Palestinians without criminal records should be free to travel through Israel.

    There are ways that Israel can unilaterally relieve the pressure-cooker condition of Palestinians, particularly in Gaza. That they are not agonizing on how to improve things, wiping their hands of the mess, is understandable in similar ways that the moral negligence of raging forms of dissent is understandable.

    Its really a negligence, a wrong. “I wipe my hands of you.”

  51. Richard—wow! If you know all that photovoltaic stuff you must be in high demand.

    I learned–rather late in the game–that the Arabs, namely the UAE are at the cutting edge of carbon-free sustainable cities. Have you heard of the Masdar project? Reportedly set to be habitable this year.

    Now if only the Palestinians would put their energy into something like that!

    The right of return, as you described it, is a right that naturally occurs between states that have friendly relations. We’re not there yet.

    I could be wrong…but I don’t think that’s what Ali Abunimeh had in mind when he thinks of right of return. Do you?

    Anyway…the only thing that’s going to break the stalemate, imo, is something like the King Abdullah plan–and for Palestinians to give up right of return (as I perceive them to define it)

  52. I don’t know what Ali Abunimeh thinks of.

    I asked him. I asked some friends of his. I asked Phil Weiss.

    They don’t say. They use language like “that’s already been clarified”.

    “Where can I see?”

    “You’re baiting”

    Its Kafkaesque. I’m not sure if they are serious about their work from those exchanges, that they would be that impatient at serious inquiry.

    I experienced the same from neo-orthodox that interpreted my comments on seemingly contradictory passages from Torah as an attack on Torah, and therefore I was shunned, then verbally abused when I persisted in my questions.

  53. Richard–I’ve only seen your interactions with Phil and with Yaakov–in terms of 2-of the 3 you mentioned. So I can’t comment on your exhange with Ali and other Arabs.

    I really like how you’re civil and ask a lot of probing questions. If people won’t answer the questions (which are honest ones, imo) it tells me they have something to hide.

    With Phil & Yaakov you play the part of Conscience.

    Now, all of that said…my perception is that you come down the hardest on settlers (Yaakov) than the other side (Phil).

    You’re not abrasive at all. But I don’t see you using any equivalent terminology or accusatory language like “land lust” for anyone else.

    So while I think you’re questioning approach is excellent…I do see a little bias. For that reason alone–I probably understand their defensiveness.

  54. Phil’s inferences are suggestions. Not yet being done.

    The settlement expansion is currently occurring, strategically, and with military support.

    It is pressing currently.

  55. Phil et ilk are trying to orchestrate sanctions on Israel.

    The Palestinians are still sending rockets into Israel.

    Those aren’t inferences, imo…they’re aggressive acts with intent to harm.

  56. Rocket fire has been extremely sporadic since March.

    There was an injury from a rocket today, but is the first that I’ve heard of in a long time.

    “The Palestinians” does not likely represent the reality. Individuals, maybe associated with a renegade faction, would be more representative.

  57. Phil confirmed in a post today, without using the word “I”, that he endorses the boycott movement, and from the perspective that Israel is primarily an oppressor and NOT part of a cycle of violence, a dialectic.

    It sickens me to so conspicuously ignore the history of intentional and intimate terror on civilians, as part of the dynamic of interaction and power.

    The isolation of Palestinians is unjust. But, the response of “by any means necessary” as the controlling logic of resistance, stops any creative response.

    The hatred continues, but stated in the form of boycott. It is a GREAT irony to me, that Gandhi is quoted as an example of Palestinian resistance. Gandhi adopted the Gita as model and deeply respected Jesus’ comments “love thy enemy”.

    That is the context in which the tactic of civil disobedience was presented. Absent that context, civil disobedience is only a chosen tactic of war.

    Hamas’ revision of Gandhi’s dictum “the purpose of civil disobedience is to evoke a response”, to shell civilians until Israel is goaded into military response (Gaza in 2008), is horridly cynical and gullible (or worse, complicit).

    It doesn’t excuse Israeli over-reaction. If anything, it demonstrates that Hamas played Israel, as Hezbollah did in 2006.

    Israel has to be more savvy.

    Things are getting more and more polarized. My impression is that Hamas wanted likud to win the election, for the polarization, for the prospect of conflict and alienation.

    The Gaza debacle is the Hamas PR victory. The only reason it hasn’t burned Israel more, is the ineptitude and dismissability of most of the solidarity for Palestinian resistance.

    But, Netanyahu will likely give Hamas and other anti-Zionists more tools.

  58. If Hamas is Ghandi, then Trump is a Che Guevara. lol!

    I agree that Israel is always reacting to the Palestinians–which is why the Palestinians have better PR leverage.

    Without having the faintest knowledge of fighting guerrilla warfare, it always seemed to me that psychological warfare is the way to combat terrorism.

    I guess the challenge is, how do you outsmart the enemy camp and wear them down–and how do you creatively thwart rocket attacks and other forms of terrorism?

    I’m not sure what Israel’s options are here.

    While I think the settlements should be frozen–I don’t have high hopes that it would appease Hamas and other political leadership.

  59. Hey guys, sorry to come late to this discussion. As a regular reader of Mondoweiss, I wanted to offer an explanation of (at least how I see) the Palestinian right of return.

    First of all, there is a reason why it is called the RIGHT of return, rather than something like the “suggestion of return”. This is from Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (
    “(2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.”
    Furthermore, article 9 states:
    “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.”
    So the founding documents of the United Nations endorse unequivocally the right of Palestinians who left their country (modern Israel) whenever and for whatever reason (though most cases would qualify as “arbitrary exile”) to return and live in Israel. This provision seems to technically cover those Palestinian refugees who were born there, and I would argue that it would be humane to extend that same right to the families of those original refugees.

    However, I want to suggest an alternative guideline for a right of return. I don’t believe it is my place, or anyone’s place, to question Zionism’s assertion of the Jewish people’s connection to the land of Israel, and their right to exist on that land. And by the same token, I don’t believe it is anyone’s place to deny Palestinian nationalism in its claim of a connection between the Palestinian people and the land of Israel/Palestine. So if there is currently a Law of Return for those who plausibly claim Jewish ancestry, an equally welcoming policy should exist for ANY people who plausibly claim Palestinian heritage.

    I don’t see how we can resolve this conflict without the truly equal recognition of everyone’s individual human rights AND national rights. A state that defines itself exclusively as a Jewish one cannot bring a final resolution to the conflict, and, more importantly, cannot be just. The same would be true of an exclusively-defined Palestinian state.

  60. Thanks for the calmer tone.

    One key word in your last paragraph was “exclusively”. Israel is not now an exclusively Jewish state. It is a Jewish national state, as France is a French national state. There are minorities in France (and only allowed to emigrate by restrictive criteria, that include rights of citizens of its former colonies), and there are minorities in Israel.

    France needs reform relative to its minorities (and some of them need to reform how they are citizens), and Israel needs reform.

    I personally agree with the sentiment that those individual Palestinians that were not permitted to return to their homes, should be permitted some right of compensation for the takings (requiring some legal standard of proof of title, even relative title – leasehold level), and possibly some right of return to reside in Israel. (HOw many would want to become Israeli citizens?, few I expect)

    I disagree with the granting that right to descendants. I don’t have the right to return to Poland or Hungary, and shouldn’t.

    If Palestine wishes to afford the right of return within its sovereign region, that is their concern entirely.

  61. I don’t think the introduction of millions of Palestinians into Israel is a realistic argument even under ideal circumstances (i.e., non-hostile Arab population)–and I doubt even the Arab pols take it seriously.

    It’s more of a wedge to stop the 2 state solution.

    No one discusses it because it’s not going to happen.

    I’m not against financial reparations, per se…but how about focusing on running a self-sufficient Palestinian state instead of getting distracted by dead end arguments?

    I know it sounds harsh…but this is why Arabs in that immediate region garner little respect. It’s also a huge part of the reason why they are in such sorry shape.

    This is not to take any responsibility off of Israel–which is opportunistically taking advantage of Palestinian incompetence—but let’s get real.

  62. Robin,
    How many of the Arab and Third World countries demanding the Right of Return apply the rights listed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights to their own populations? The name is a joke.

    The Palestinians will have a Right of Return to the Palestinian state, Palestine, and Jews have a Right of Return to Israel. I don’t see a problem here.

  63. Thank you for hearing me out. This is my issue with your responses. Israel would not exist today were it not for the de facto recognition of a Jewish Right of Return to Israel/Palestine (after many centuries, no less), first by the British and then by Israel. Presumably, Zionists considered that right to be quite important, and still do. Certainly Zionists are not claiming that Jews never should have been granted a right of return–that they should have accepted exile, even when it was a centuries-old reality and the current population did not necessarily want them to come back.

    So to me it looks like nothing else but prejudice when Zionists deny to Palestinians what they so passionately claim for their own ethnic group.

    Is the right to return to one’s national homeland important or not? To say no undermines the whole rationale behind the creation/existence of Israel. To say yes means recognizing that right for Jews and Palestinians alike, unless you have a prejudice.

    On “exclusively”: I said a state that was defined exclusively as a Jewish one. Meaning, not as a “Jewish-Palestinian state”, or an ethnicity-neutral “Israeli state” (which is the true parallel for the term “French state”–one can be of Arab or Chinese ancestry and still call oneself “French”, which is not true of “Jewish”). This “exclusive” definition has obvious translations to practices that are exclusive. Israel includes any prospective immigrant who is Jewish, and excludes any who is Palestinian, even if he/she was born within the territory of the state. Another example of exclusion would be the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians in 1948.

    The notion of a “Jewish state” is an ethnically exclusive one, not comparable to a “French state” or an “American state”, since those states give no official recognition to ethnicity. It would be comparable to a United States officially defined as a “White state” or “Anglo-Saxon state”. Would that be acceptable to us? Of course it wouldn’t, for good reason.

    Jews and Palestinians need accept the FACT that the land of Israel/Palestine is the national home of TWO ethnic groups. Denial of one or the other group’s claim to exist on the land is the cause of the conflict.

    And Tom, the problem with your solution is that the West Bank is not Palestine, and Israel proper is not Eretz Israel. The Palestinian refugees abroad are generally not from the West Bank at all. So for them to go there would not be a return. It would still be exile. And in practice that solution means that non-Israeli Palestinians would still be barred from the majority of their homeland.

    They would be the main victims, since Israel would cover the lion’s share of the land. But don’t get me wrong, I am also very serious about the right of Jews to live in the West Bank and Gaza (as equals of course, not in armed colonies as they currently do). An exclusively-defined Palestinian state would also be a tragedy. (Although as a smaller state it would be a smaller tragedy. And that does not exist as of now, nor would a future Palestinian state necessarily take that form.)

  64. Robin,
    Actually under international law many of the so-called Palestinian refugees aren’t refugees but “internally displaced persons” i.e. refugees within the same country as they went to other parts of what had been the British mandate. All those who initially went to the West Bank and Gaza fit that definition.

    And you never addressed my point about the hypocrisy of your claim of rights.

  65. Tom, it’s not hypocrisy. The right of return is not for “Arab and Third World countries”, it is for Palestinian refugees. People, not states. The actions of foreign govts have no bearing on that right, and Palestinians are not responsible for those actions anyway. So why are they relevant?

    Furthermore, I am not a citizen of any “Arab and Third World countries”. I am a U.S. citizen. Israel is our largest aid recipient and close ally. I am primarily concerned with my role in perpetrating injustice–the opposite of hypocrisy I think. Perhaps you would do well to take a similar attitude.

  66. Gazans and West Bankers are more likely to be absorbed by neighboring Arab states than by Israel–and unfortunately (imo) that’s not likely to happen either.

    So why spend much time discussing it?

  67. And Tom, if there are going to be two states, the West Bank/Gaza would in fact be a different state from the refugees’ original home, Israel. Thus they would be “externally displaced”. Refugees. The designation “internally displaced persons” depends on including them in a single-state solution, which you seem to oppose.

  68. Because that’s not what they want, Suzanne. The point I’m trying to make is that we all need to be attentive to the legitimate wants of both sides, otherwise the conflict will never end.

    Jews want to live in Israel/Palestine. Palestinians want to live in Israel/Palestine. Both say the land is central to their identity. Why should either of those wants be considered invalid?

  69. And I have to say, I think it is seriously problematic when people talk of “rights” in connection with Jews and Israel (right to exist, right to security, etc.) and only “possibilities” or “likelihoods” for Palestinians, as if “might makes right” where they’re concerned. If we acknowledge the concept of rights at all, we need to apply it to both sides–or discredit ourselves as being prejudiced.

    And of course we can make pragmatic deals to improve conditions. But justice is never an unrealistic fantasy. (I read on this blog the Herzl quote “if you will it, it is no dream”.) We should never give up at least making the case for justice, even if reality forces us to make compromises.

    Palestinians may get a better result from waiving their right to return. But no one should tell them they HAVE TO, and people of conscience need to call out those who do.

  70. Robin

    Palestinians would also like Israel to disappear.

    Wanting and getting are two different animals.

    The only way it could happen, in fact, is through a bloodbath where the Palestinians were militarily superior. If that’s the subtext of your argument for achieving right of return–then shame on you!

    It is not in Israel’s sovereign interest to allow something like that. It would be cultural suicide.

    Anything else I say on this matter would be redundant–because indeed,it’s a dead end argument. So I’m done arguing.

  71. “Palestinians would also like Israel to disappear.” This would not be an example of a legitimate want, which is what I said we need to be attentive to. Again, how is the desire to live in their homeland an illegitimate want? And if it is, why for Palestinians and not Jews?

    However, I would also ask you to refrain from potentially offensive generalizations like the one above. It surely does not describe the views of many Palestinians.

    Suzanne, it seems strange to me that you denounce in theory, when attributed to Palestinians, the same actions that Israel has carried out in reality. Wielding superior military force to safeguard the immigration of millions of co-ethnics onto ancestral lands? That same military superiority leading to bloodbaths for the other side? Unfortunately that’s the story of Israel. And, since you seem to have misunderstood me, I am against either side doing those things.

    My vision doesn’t involve one ethnic group wielding military power over the other. Rather, it involves one or two states with multi-ethnic armies, and multi-ethnic governments. Coexistence, mutual respect and equality. Is that cultural suicide? It sounds to me like the alternative is physical suicide. And the denial of one group’s equal human rights. What are our priorities here? Human rights or Jewish cultural hegemony?

  72. And let me apologize if I come off as overly shrill. I hope you are not done arguing, Suzanne, because I value this dialogue.

  73. I think it’s been pretty well documented that Israel and the surrounding Arab states (specifically Egypt) had military parity until ’67.

    The Arabs thought they could win that war. They failed. They lost. They’re still licking their wounds.

    That’s how it goes in the nasty jungle.

    As for a one state muli ethnic solution–one exactly does multi-ethnic mean? Arab and Jewish and ____ and _____ (please fill in the blanks)

    And…have you bothered to find out if this is what Israelis want? Does what Israelis want even matter to you?

    Anyway…you’re missing a major point…Jews have established a sovereign state so they no longer fall prey to future persecution or holocaustic tendencies of rogue nations. It’s a done deal. A precautionary measure.

    You may not like that…you may not agree…but the decision will always be an Israeli one. Not yours.

    The only way you can bring down Israel is through a bloodbath. Even the Palestinians know that.

    The whole issue of FORCING these people to live together is highly suspect anyway. If the Shia and Sunni can’t live peaceably in one locale–do you really expect Muslims to allow Jews autonomy??????

    I think we all understand the underlying motive…no need to play games here.

  74. ok…I am really going to end this argument because I’ve indulged in it before and it’s pretty hopeless.

    Some people are not very honest or aware of their aversion to Jews living in an autonomous Jewish state.

    Arab cultural hegemony? That’s ok with them.

    Jewish cultural hegemony? This gnaws at their innards and they’re not even sure why.

    Tom is right. This is stinky poo hypocrisy.

  75. I think you are misunderstanding me. I have no problem with Jewish cultural hegemony. The problem is in protecting that at the expense of human rights, which should always be our first priority.

    Any state in Israel/Palestine should include Jews and Palestinians. If Jews do not want to share a land with Palestinians (or as you might put it, want Palestinians to “disappear”), that also falls outside the category of “legitimate wants”. That is racism.

    “That’s how it goes in the nasty jungle.” Would you say this about the Holocaust? I don’t mean to make any comparisons, but just to point out that “might makes right” is a horrible, inhumane principle.

    I see that you worry about the potential for a future Holocaust or large-scale persecution of Jews. I share that worry. But victimizing is not the best way to avoid being victimized yourself. Advancing the principles of justice and human rights is.

    Consider this: where are Jews safer from violence? Israel or the United States? How about Tel-Aviv (where Jews live alongside Arabs, however unequally) or the West Bank (where Jews and Arabs are separated by guns and barbed wire or the wall)? As America acknowledged after its civil rights movement, enforced separation is a recipe for insecurity and oppression.

    And as you worry about a potential future catastrophic situation befalling the Jews, know that THIS SITUATION is exactly that for Palestinians. These discussions may continue to be hopeless for you if you fail to acknowledge that Arabs, Muslims, Palestinians (many of whom are Christians who live harmoniously with their Muslim neighbors) are not fundamentally violent or intolerant people, just as Jews aren’t. And that Palestinians, most of whom have never hurt anyone and bear no guilt for the conflict, suffer tremendously EVERY DAY at the hands of a state that claims to act on behalf of Jews.

  76. The Christians DO NOT live harmoniously with the Muslims!!!

    There can be no rational argument until you rectify that erroneous statement. The Christians are fearing for their lives in the Arab world.

    And the Shia and Sunni are at each other’s throats too! Are you kidding me? This is all over the news and has been for years.

    I don’t sense you understand the reality over there. You’re seeing it the way you want to see it–not how it really is. That’s a problem.

  77. I think here you would again do well to avoid generalizations about Arabs and Muslims. I was speaking only about Palestinian Muslims and Christians, and what I said was entirely true. You can read for yourself: The little harassment Christians do suffer is universally condemned and opposed, even by Hamas.

    You seem to view religious conflict and persecution as basically a product of Islam itself, rather than the power struggles of specific countries like Iraq or Lebanon.

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