Arabs Israel Israeli Arabs

Defiant dreamers of Arab-Jewish co-existence

Is it remotely possible to close the gaps between Jewish and Arab citizens of Israel?

62% of Palestinian Arabs living in Israel believe that Israeli Jews “are foreigners who do not fit in this region, and they will eventually leave the country,” according to a recently released poll by Haifa University’s Jewish-Arab Center. A similar proportion opposes Israel’s continued existence as a Jewish Zionist state.

Meanwhile, 68.1% of Israeli Jews told the pollsters that they oppose public commemorations of what Arabs call the Nakba, the “catastrophe” that occured when Palestinian refugees fled or were expelled in 1948. 53 percent say the state has the right to encourage Arab citizens to emigrate, and 62 percent say as long as the conflict continues, Arab voters should have no say in Israeli foreign policy, according to another poll by the Israel Democracy Institute.

Gaps in the narratives are matched by disparities in income and educational achievement as well as systemic discrimination against Israeli Arabs. How in the world can these people ever live together?

That is the kind of Big Question that Nasi Masrawa, the mayor of the Arab Israeli town of Kfar Kara, and Haim Gaash, the mayor of the nearby Jewish town of Pardes Hanna-Karkur, refuse to answer. Instead, last Tuesday evening at Congregation Ansche Chesed in New York City, they described a project that appears to be less ambitious but is in fact extraordinarily difficult: their townspeople are working together to solve the concrete, day-to-day problems shared by both communities. It is an initiative of Givat Haviva, an Israeli institute that works to promote coexistence and equality between all Israeli citizens.

Until recently, few people from Pardes Hanna-Karkur and Kfar Kara had anything to do with each other, although these towns in Israel’s Wadi Ara region northeast of Hadera are ten minutes apart. But thanks to the “Shared Communities” program, groups of women, teenagers and elderly men from each town have been meeting to choose and then plan joint projects that will help improve daily lives.

Maswara votes for Hadash, the left wing Arab-Jewish party, and said, “I cannot sing Hatikva.” Gaash votes for the centrist Kadima party. “We will never agree on the history, or on politics,” according to Masrawa. If their constituents had started talking about politics and The Situation in the occupied territories when they first met, there would have been “a big fight…But they can work together to make small changes.”

Both display a modesty that is almost defiant, a message that is the antithesis of spin. “We don’t use the word `co-existence.’ That’s a word from the `peace industry,’” said Gaash. He used to be part of that industry, the civil society groups that strive to find grand diplomatic solutions. He was the executive in charge of building grassroots support for an agreement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict reached by Sari Nusseibah, a moderate Palestinian nationalist academic, and Ami Ayalon, former head of Israel’s internal security services. He gave up and became a small town mayor. ”We are just trying to help people get to know each other and improve their communities.”

There used to be more interaction between Israel’s Arab and Jewish citizens. But since 2000, when the intifadeh begun by West Bank Palestinians sparked riots and turmoil in the areas of Israel proper where many Arabs reside, the mutual isolation has deepened. Nearly 68% of Israeli Jews told the Haifa University pollsters that they avoided driving through Arab towns and villages. By encouraging contact and joint projects, both Gaash and Misrawa hope they can reduce tensions and slowly develop a sense of a shared future.

Thus far, aided by facilitators from Givat Haviva, the women’s group has decided to bring professionals into both communities to deal with a range of problems confronting female children, from eating disorders to parental conflicts. They will also create a joint cookbook. Needing productive after-school activities, the teenagers will start a joint theater group. The retirees are working on finding recreational activities for elderly men. They decided to encourage joint games of pétanque, a French game that resembles bocci..

But the tensions are so profound that even those seemingly simple activities have met with resistance in both towns. “Many people don’t want us to try,” said Masrawa, a lawyer. And that is why, he said, “we dare not fail.”

The resistance and skepticism comes not only from local people. In recent years, some NGOs in Israel as well as American Jewish donors concerned about the plight of Israel’s Arabs have grown very skeptical of dialogue and co-existence programs. Getting people together to chat and sing “Kumbaya,” I have heard them say, does not address the second-class citizenship of Israeli Arabs. More systemic change, more economic opportunity and political empowerment for Arabs, is necessary.

Of course it is. But it’s also true that if these two peoples have no contact and no common language to address everyday challenges, and if they assume that their dramatically different narratives make it impossible to share their country, and if nothing is done to dispel tension and fear and hatred, “it will just take one match to make a big explosion,” Gaash told me.

Givat Haviva has been doing the seemingly old-fashioned work of Arab-Jewish dialogue—among other things–for decades, and now it is more important than ever. Already, mayors from six other neighboring towns –three Jewish, and three Arab—have asked it to start similar programs. Riad Kabha, the former mayor of the Arab town of Ba’arta who runs the organization’s Arab-Jewish Peace Center, hopes this is the beginning of a “grassroots movement” of collaborative problem-solving that will expand to many other divided communities.

Masrawa bristles at the idea that the program involves dialogue for the sake of dialogue. In an interview, he was a bit more ambitious than he had been in public. He said discrimination against Israeli Arabs was terrible and beyond his ken to address. But if he and others could show Israeli Jews that it was possible to work productively with their Arab neighbors, that Arabs were responsible citizens, it might wear away stereotypes. And that, in turn, might make political support for far reaching, systemic change more likely.

Meanwhile, politicians, academics and activists keep proposing more comprehensive solutions. Some Israeli Knesset members and NGOs insist that Israel should be defined as a state for all of its citizens, not a Jewish state. Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman favors the ugly idea of transferring Israeli territory with Arab residents –including part of the Wadi Ara region—to a Palestinian state. In the latest Forward, Ilan Peleg and Dov Waxman offer some sensible policy suggestions, such as aggressive affirmative action to help Israel’s Arabs, ensuring that Arab institutions are included in “the state’s decision-making processes” and recognizing the Arab community “as a national minority with collective rights.”

It is hard to believe any of these will be implemented in the near future. But no matter what happens, these two peoples need to figure out how to live together. Maybe, just maybe, tangible change could start from the grassroots, from ordinary people willing to ignore their differences, from shared community programs insistently spreading throughout the country, defying the extremists who despise co-existence and the cynics who mock it.

105 thoughts on “Defiant dreamers of Arab-Jewish co-existence

  1. Interesting article. I agree, it’s good to work on small, practical projects between Arab and Jewish neighbors. You can get along day to day while disagreeing on the big questions. Well, at least until the next intifada. Then you withdraw from each other or fight each other for a while, then you go back to working together. It’s a good thing.

    I wonder who really chose the projects here. Did Arabs and Jews choose them together, or was it more Jews or more Arabs?

    It’s interesting that one of the projects is importing Jewish feminism (dealing with “gender discrimination”) into an Arab town. I’d have suggested something a little more concrete, less ideological. In fact, I’m kind of ambivalent. On one hand, it’s not nice to tear apart what’s left of traditional Arab culture. On the other hand, women’s liberation means a lower Arab fertility rate, and we all want that. Not that we’re racist or anything.

    Speaking of which, I kinda like that ugly solution of border adjustment, in principle. I liked it enough to vote for Lieberman’s party when they proposed it. But you’re right that it’s a utopian dream. Even if it were to happen, it would just mitigate the problem, not solve it. No complete solutions. The best we can get is partial improvements, like through these small cooperative projects.

  2. Sounds like a program that will make it easier for Israeli Jews to live in an inherently unjust state. It’s a cover for normalizing discrimination that inevitably comes when Jews cling to the idea that they must have their own state and who cares about the 20% Palestinian Arab minority or their brothers and sisters in the occupied territories? Sorry, Dan, I’d not buying what you and these mayors are selling.

  3. Aaron, I was misinformed about addressing “gender discrimination” and have updated the post based on an explanation from a GH staffer. Does it bother you that the Arabs whom Lieberman wants to transfer do not want to be part of the Palestinian state and reject this option? Or is that of no concern to you?

    Alvin, I wouldn’t dream of wasting time selling you anything, including empathy for people caught in an impossible political situation who are doing the best they can. I assume you’re not an Israeli Arab, but please don’t hesitate to visit Kfar Kara and explain to the people there why they shouldn’t have anything to do with their Jewish neighbors. I am sure your wisdom would be greeted with enthusiasm and that they will do whatever you say.

  4. “Getting people together to chat and sing “Kumbaya,” I have heard them say, does not address the second-class citizenship of Israeli Arabs. More systemic change, more economic opportunity and political empowerment for Arabs, is necessary.”
    Even that would be entirely meaningless as long as it only affected Israel’s fig-leaf Arab minority.

    The primary problem, as harsh as it sounds, is not the discrimination that Israeli Arabs face, it’s the brutal colonial rule that Arabs in the ‘territories’ are subjected to. And I am very sorry to say it, but in the end Israeli Arabs unwillingly help enable that colonial rule.

  5. P.S.: Slightly echoing your suggestion to Alvin, may I suggest to you that you get in touch with some Palestinians who live in Area C of the West Bank and ask if they think of this initiative?

  6. Koshiro,
    I’ll get in touch with them after you get in touch with the Palestinians in Jenin, in Area C, who are doing joint economic development with Israeli Jews in Gilboa, in much the same spirit.

    It’s really inconvenient that a minority of Palestinian Arabs remained behind and were not expelled, isn’t it? It makes it a bit harder for you to cling to your Manichean view of the conflict and of the universe. Only a bit harder, because you obviously haven’t relaxed your grip, as you think their very existence makes them “enablers” of colonial rule. That means, in your heart of hearts, it would be easier for you if they didn’t exist at all. I will ask Nasi Masrawa and Riad Kabha to apologize personally to you for being alive.

    I presume that, like Alvin, until the occupation ends you would prefer that Israel’s Arabs not lift a finger to help themselves live better in a society that discriminates against them or develop positive relations with their Jewish neighbors. If I’m wrong, and you’re not actually advocating that they suffer or transform themselves into noble resistance fighters in order to make the conflict easier for you to digest, I am eager to hear your prescription for them.

  7. Koshiro,

    Arabs make up 20% of Israel’s population. If you dismiss them as a mere “fig leaf minority,” would you say the same thing about African Americans?

  8. “I’ll get in touch with them after you get in touch with the Palestinians in Jenin, in Area C”
    Jenin is not in Area C.

    “It’s really inconvenient that a minority of Palestinian Arabs remained behind and were not expelled, isn’t it?”
    Benny Morris seems to think so. I think it’s awfully convenient for Israel.

    “Only a bit harder, because you obviously haven’t relaxed your grip, as you think their very existence makes them ‘enablers’ of colonial rule.”
    Being Israeli taxpayers makes them that, whether they want it – and no doubt they don’t – or not. I don’t blame them. I just point out the inescapable, harsh reality.

    “I presume that, like Alvin, until the occupation ends you would prefer that Israel’s Arabs not lift a finger to help themselves live better in a society that discriminates against them or develop positive relations with their Jewish neighbors.”
    Actually, I can sympathize with them. They have little choice. Of course they are just trying to live their lives. I blame no one for not going the way of passive resistance and conscious rejection of the oppressor state, just as I do not blame citizens of any dictatorship who arrange themselves with the regime in order to quietly eek out a living for themselves.

    But I do not admire or promote this either. The way to end an oppressive system’s oppression is not cooperation but, indeed, resistance.

    I do not at all oppose Jews and Arabs cooperating anywhere, be it Israel, be it the occupied territories. But the common basis for this cooperation must be firm and explicit opposition to occupation and oppression. The ‘well, let’s agree to disagree on politics’ idea means accepting the political status quo and making it more palpable.

    I do blame YOU for uncritically describing this without taking the above into account.

    “Arabs make up 20% of Israel’s population. If you dismiss them as a mere ‘fig leaf minority,’ would you say the same thing about African Americans?”
    If the US government ruled another 200 million disenfranchised African Americans under harsh colonialist conditions, I would.

  9. P.S.: CYNIC, n. A blackguard whose faulty vision sees things as they are, not as they ought to be.

  10. Koshiro,
    Again, stated so negatively. “But the common basis for this cooperation must be firm and explicit opposition to occupation and oppression.”

    The success of actual participation as peers is not enough (the result of successfully opposing oppression). You want to go a step backwards?

  11. I’m not opposed to this kind of effort and maybe it could have a good long term effect, but I was disappointed for the same reason that bothers Koshiro–the “let’s agree to disagree about politics” is a way of letting the more powerful party off the hook. So it’s up to Palestinians to persuade Israelis that they are worthy of having rights. People like that sooner or later either have to be confronted with ugly facts they didn’t want to hear so that they can change, or else the change has to be imposed upon them from the outside. Both things happened in our own civil rights days. There were plenty of white moderates who didn’t like the KKK, but if one had waited for them to do something there would still be segregated bathrooms in the South. And we also had the same type of argument about the right approach. Some thought blacks could wear away white stereotypes through self-improvement, education, hard work, etc. Fine. But ultimately it took a more confrontational approach, both from MLK and in the courts from the NAACP, to change America for the better. And it was a grassroots collaboration between blacks and whites that helped bring this about, but a more confrontational sort of effort than that described in this post.

  12. White” moderates” said exactly the same thing about Martin Luther King, Richard.

    I don’t object to this attempt at getting Israelis to treat Palestinians like human beings. But it’s not the only path and there’s no reason why Israelis couldn’t join with Palestinians in “direct” nonviolent action against the occupation. Fortunately, some do.

  13. Donald,

    The occupation is not the only problem. Israeli Arabs want and need to battle discrimination and find a way to co-exist with Israeli Jews. The challenges faced by Palestinians in the territories are related but different. I don’t feel that I am in any position to suggest to someone like the mayor of Kfar Kara that he should take a “more confrontational approach,” and neither are you. But even if an organized campaign of peaceful civil disobedience were launched to further his people’s cause, it would still be necessary for both Jews and Arabs to learn to live together in a shared society. So I don’t think the effort described in my post precludes what you are suggesting (and I don’t think you do either, if I understand you correctly)

  14. “You’re right. I apologize. Jenin is in Area B. Now will you ask them?”

    Probably not.

    a) I asked first.

    b) It would be a major hassle to find Palestinians in the area who have participated, or even heard of, these projects.

    c) Most importantly, you’re just showing by how far you missed the point here.
    Yes, there are a few Palestinians who benefit economically from cooperation with Israelis. And no, asking them about how they feel about this is not going to be helpful at all.

    ‘We provide Jobs to Palestinians. Why don’t you ask our Palestinian construction workers how they feel about it?’ This is a typical pro-settler argument and yours is merely a different shading of it. By buying into this, you are helping to maintain the Potemkin village of ‘economic peace’. It is not only misleading, it is also incredibly callous of you to suggest we should focus our attention on a select few who are able to achieve small improvements by cooperating with the occupiers, while ignoring the countless Palestinians whose economic opportunities – to say nothing of their human rights – are actively and maliciously destroyed by Israel.

  15. Dan–I basically agree with your post 17. I’m conflicted and ambivalent about this for the reasons I’ve mentioned and Koshiro expresses more forcefully, but yes, the two sides do have to learn to get along and possibly this is one pathway that could help get them there. It doesn’t go far enough, but it is hopefully a step in the right direction.

    I think, though, there has to be something like the MLK style of direct action as well.

  16. Why is making land swaps that transfer territory with Israeli Arabs in it to a future palestinian state ugly. It seems to me that they would welcome that. instead of living under what would you call it, Don and Koshiro, ” the zio-nazi jackboot”

  17. I generally avoid Nazi comparisons, whether referring to Israel or Hamas. It’s excessive. Others seem to disagree.

  18. Dan, to answer your question: it bothers me very much that one would be imposing Palestinian jurisdiction on people against their will. It’s an injustice against Israeli citizens. Citizenship is a promise, and this would be breaking that promise.

    On the other hand, citizenship for a region is often transferred from one state to another as a result of war. It’s not a horrible injustice like expulsion or even leaving people outside of any jurisdiction at all. There are many individual injustices, against Arabs and Jews alike, that will be needed if we’re to end this hundred-year war. And I don’t think we can end it unless Israel is a securely Jewish state.

  19. But Aaron, why wouldn’t they want jurisdiction transferred. According to the blogosphere they live under oppression that is unimaginable. The worst that has ever happened to anybody. And they are totally igonored by the world. Nobody ever hears about them due to zog. Is that not true?

  20. Sigh, guess I shouldn’t even answer to these pathetic strawmen, but anyhow…

    1. Arbitrarily disenfranchising people is a human rights violation.
    2. Israeli citizenship affords these people some protection from the Israeli government. A hypothetical Palestinian citizenship would take this away. Since the sovereign ability of a future Palestinian state to protect its own citizens from Israeli aggression is, shall we say, in doubt, it is only prudent to try and retain your legal protection.
    3. Israeli Arabs have some social security and some government services. Much less than Israeli Jews, but some. These and other economic reasons are not simple selfishness. These Arabs contributed to the Israeli state by paying their taxes, and they deserve something in return.

    If Israel is serious about “swapping” these areas to a Palestinian state, I have the following suggestion:
    a) All affected Israeli Arabs keep their Israeli citizenship, with all that entails, and get citizenship in Palestine as well.
    b) An open borders policy for them that makes crossing into Israel as easy as for residents of East Jerusalem.
    c) And of course a guarantee that pensions etc. will continue to be paid by the Israeli government.

    How ’bout that? Should be okay, right? After all, this “swap” idea is not just a pretext to rid Israel of unwanted Arabs, right?

  21. Koshiro,
    The idea of land swaps is to compensate the future Palestinian state for settlement blocs retained by Israel in a peace agreement. As the Palestinians don’t want discontiguous territory it would mean transferring territory that is contiguous to the West Bank, which happens to be Arab. It would be similar to territory in Eastern Europe that changed status from Russian to Polish to Belarussian or from Russian to Polish to Ukranian without the inhabitants moving. I imagine that the total involved would be a few tens of thousands at most–if that, so it would not really change the demographic balance in Israel very much.

    I imagine that what you wish could be written into the transfer agreement. But crossing would be subject to security considerations, which would depend on the status of the peace.

  22. Koshiro, are you going on the aid flotilla to Syria. Thepeople there could probably use some help. I’m sure its leaving soon, isn’t it? How can it not?

  23. @ Tom
    If Israel wants to swap away territory, it should be unoccupied. In fact, if swaps were to be truly equitable, the Palestinian side would get to choose the territory it wants, similar how to Israel just took what it wanted.

    “Security considerations”, right… so Israeli Arabs suddenly become a “security consideration” as soon as they’ve been conveniently disenfranchised and put on the other side of a fence. So why are they not a “security consideration” right now? Are Jews on the other side of the fence a “security consideration”?
    Seriously, what you are saying here just proves my point. Israeli Arabs have very good reason to cling to their Israeli citizenship since it’s basically all that prevents Israeli “security” declaring open season on them.

    @ Bill
    I knew I shouldn’t wasted my electronic breath the first time.

  24. Koshiro,
    Israel should do your suggestion on swaps, of offering the PA the first choice.

    As a kid, my aunt had a great method for equal sharing. I cut the cupcake, my cousin would pick which one she wanted. (or vice-versa). For either of us to get the best outcome, we had to choose the most equal. (sometimes the game was “sweetened” by a desired rose icing on one side, in which case equal meant something different than 50/50. But, always the person that cut the cake was different than the chooser.)

    The first step is to agree on the extent of swaps, which is what held up Olmert and Abbas.

    That is resolvable.

    The most important question for Israel, is whether Israel would in fact be accepted in such an arrangement, or just thought of as a temporary situation.

  25. Shouldn’t your boys be looking to hit Latakia on the way to Gaza. Its got to be on the agenda, right. Assad is a fun guy. Surely compared to the zionist jackboot. What say you Kosh?

  26. Koshiro,

    I haven’t taken the time to review all your comments on my various posts, but my distinct impression is that the mere mention of Israelis’ “security” or “security concerns” is a red flag to you, as if anyone who raises the issue is automatically an apologist for evil. So, I’m curious. If there were an agreement sometime in my grandchildren’s lifetime (I don’t have any grandchildren yet), whether it is a single binational state or a two state partition or a three state federal arrangement with Jordan, there are almost certainly going to be extremists on both sides who want no part of it. Some of them will be violent and some of them will be Palestinian Arabs. What specific steps to deter them from killing Jews would your conscience allow you to accept?

  27. Always good to see progress and improvements in Jewish-Arab relations. Such projects should be pursued regardless of the status of the conflict.

    As for requiring ‘resistance’ to the Israeli occupation being necessary as Koshiro seems to want all organizations working to promote friendship and tolerance, isn’t helping people get to know ‘the other’, the best way to end discrimination? I mean, by being able to emphasize with each other, they might -gasp- be able to support each other for equality! Truly, that would be a terrible thing for the settlers, Hamas, and indignant outsiders who want the conflict to continue to a completely avoidable final confrontation.

  28. @ Dan Fleshler
    If you can’t be bothered to refer to an actual topic, I don’t see any reason to answer.
    Refer me to any specific ‘security’ measure, and I’ll explain to you why it is merely an excuse for something else or why – considerably less often – it is not.
    Repeating my explanation of the ‘security considerations’ by Tom:
    We are talking about Palestinians who have been Israeli citizens for their entire lives and had unlimited access to all of the country. And these very same people’s access to Israel suddenly becomes a ‘security consideration’ once their village ends up on the Palestinian side how?
    It’s like with those Palestinian firefighters who were allowed into Israel without any hassle as their help was needed and who were later kept from attending a festivity in their honor for ‘security’ reasons – after the crisis was over.

    @ Bill
    “What say you Kosh?”
    How ’bout ‘buzz off, troll’?

  29. @ Benjamin
    “As for requiring ‘resistance’ to the Israeli occupation being necessary as Koshiro seems to want all organizations working to promote friendship and tolerance, isn’t helping people get to know ‘the other’, the best way to end discrimination?”
    Name one historical example of discrimination, occupation and oppression being ended by cooperation alone, without any confrontation or resistance.

  30. P.S.: Oh, and one more thing regarding the topic of “security”. I do not, as a rule, take seriously people who talk about Israeli security needs all day and treat Palestinian security needs as some strange, alien concept.

  31. Dan–it’s a red flag because of what Koshiro points out in #34. I’m not talking about you (I don’t know if Koshiro is or not), but in the media, when the phrase “security concerns” is used in America it is always Israeli security concerns. When the killing of innocent civilians is condemned by US politicians and pundits it is nearly always the killing of Israeli civilians by Palestinians that they are talking about and that’s true of Obama, who on the American political scene is criticized for being too anti-Israeli. If you listen to Obama when he’s making one of his pretty speeches the Palestinians suffer from humiliation, but the Israelis fear for the safety of their children. Obama empathizes with the parents at Sderot who fear for their children–he certainly doesn’t say one word about empathizing with the parents in Gaza. So that’s why the phrase “security concerns” is like a red flag.

    And yes, Israel has legitimate security concerns. But they seem at least as interested in using them as a propaganda weapon as anything else. Good police work (without torture and political repression as seems to happen with those wonderful PA security forces we hear so much about) would be the way to deal with violent extremists who won’t accept some hypothetical peace agreement that the vast majority of Palestinians accept.

  32. But Kosh, my man, shouldn’t you be on the Turkish-Syrian border helping refugees. Other wise someone might draw the conclusion that your just a Jew baiting anti-semite.

  33. Koshioro,
    Perhaps I wasn’t clear in my post (and I’m not being sarcastic). When I meant ‘final confrontation’, I meant the kind of scenario that several groups wish to come about; one ‘final confrontation’ that will end the conflict with the destruction of ‘the other’. Many (if not most) of the settlers probably believe in something along the lines of Kahane, Hamas wants a bloody purge, ect ect.

    I don’t mean that there shouldn’t be an active effort to bring about the needed changes. What I -do- mean is that the first step towards such goals requires cooperation between the sides. I doubt the civil rights movement in America would’ve succeeded if only one portion of America would’ve backed it, as an example. Ect ect.

    As for security concerns, the main problem seems to be negotiations, and an agreement that is enforceable on both sides. Israel has kept its peace with Jordan and Egypt, and gotten burned from the withdrawal from Southern Lebanon and Gaza. It’s a problem both sides face and need to resolve.

  34. The assumption that direct action primarily brought about social change that stood, is a fantasy.

    ONLY in cases where institution-building occurred, has revolution been successful.

    Israel is an example. The “direct actions” of the terrorizing Irgun and Stern Gang had little effect on the formation of a viable state capable of affording security. What did have considerable effect was literally institution-building, support systems, economic systems, legal systems, health systems, communication systems, self-governance systems.

    The actions by Hamas (many) that consists of those support systems are what earned its reputation in Gaza and elsewhere. When they conducted “direct action” in any form, and particularly in terrorizing form, they LOST their credibility and support.

    In South Africa, it was only Mandela and the ANC’s acceptance of the white presence and even white property, that even 90-10 change was possible. That, and organization founded on the forgiveness of the other, not on the cultivation of hatred.

  35. It’s not either/or, Richard. Institution building is needed, but some sort of direct action is also needed. Your own example of Israel is curiously incomplete–it wasn’t just Irgun and the Stern Gang that engaged in terrorist actions against Palestinian forces. Leaving aside what one thinks of the morality, if Haganah hadn’t engaged in some serious ethnic cleansing there wouldn’t be an Israel in its present form. Not that this is a good thing. And it’s not the sort of direct action I’d advocate.

    As for South Africa, Mandela obviously believed in direct action, institution building, and forgiveness all at the same time.

  36. You forgot to mention the Doctors Convoy massacre on Mt. Scopus. The massacre of the etzion bloc. And the total and complete ethnic cleansing of the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem. An honest omission I’m sure.

  37. I think the emphasis on institution-building comprises somewhere around 95% of the impetus for social change.

    Koshiro has NEVER to my memory spoken respectfully of institution-building, but instead only derisively, as he speaks primarily derisively of relationship-building efforts.

    Every feature that you would describe as oppression emerges from racism that is mutual, mutual hostility. There is an Israeli racism that has a life of its own, and a Palestinian racism that has a life of its own, but the majority is born of escalated hostility.

  38. Bill, have you ever admitted one single crime committed by the Israelis? I’ve got no problem at all admitting that the Palestinians have committed numerous crimes against innocent Israeli civilians, some of them children. None of it is excusable. But keep it up. As best I can tell there are people like you defending Israel on virtually every website where the issue is discussed. I am sorta curious though. What goes through your head when someone mentions an Israeli atrocity? Do you admit it’s true and shameful, or do you just skip that step and launch the counterattack?

  39. [I hope that my previous comment didn’t get through either due to some technical error. If it was censorship, just tell my right away.]

    “Every feature that you would describe as oppression emerges from racism that is mutual, mutual hostility.”

    Nonsense. Classic blaming the victim routine. Were centuries of European antisemitism based on ‘mutual racism’? Was slavery and later segregation in the US? You have some nerve.

    “In South Africa, it was only Mandela and the ANC’s acceptance of the white presence”
    Nelson Mandela would rather stay in prison for decades than compromise on the right to resistance. Your naming him as a champion for peace-through-surrender is absurd.

  40. P.S.: *[…] or some automated anti-profanity thing.
    (I had used a more colorful term for “nonsense” originally.)

    P.P.S.: Tell *me right away.

    Geeze, I’m tired.

  41. Koshiro,
    Your language summarizing my reference to Mandela as “peace through surrender” is more telling than you imagine.

    If you want to deny Mandela’s universal spirit, in favor of resistance-only, you will be disserving the Palestinian cause.

  42. What Israeli atrocities, seriously. And if you mention collateral damage in air strikes you better be ready to charge the entire United States military high command with the same thing.

  43. Who the foxtrot has been talking about resistance *only* now?

    “I do not at all oppose Jews and Arabs cooperating anywhere, be it Israel, be it the occupied territories. But the common basis for this cooperation must be firm and explicit opposition to occupation and oppression. The ‘well, let’s agree to disagree on politics’ idea means accepting the political status quo and making it more palpable.”
    That should clear it up. OTOH, I have not seen you recognize the right to resistance.

  44. I don’t acknowledge a universal “right to resistance”. I recognize a right to dissent.

    The common basis of peer to peer is already realized. There is no resistance if peer to peer is the status.

    Maybe in criticizing those peer to peer relationship-building efforts, you are expressing your addiction to resistance.

  45. Rich, you irritate the hell out of me but that’s not the point. Your trying for a back and forth with my man “the kosh”. But here is the gulf. You, in between singing kumbaya, want Israel to survive. He DOESN’T. And the repercussions of that. The death and dispersion of the Jews there in, is something he is not only fine with but is looking forward to having happen.

  46. “The common basis of peer to peer is already realized. There is no resistance if peer to peer is the status.”

    This needs to be translated into English.

  47. If groups are forming peer to peer relationships, then THAT is the prize.

    What do you need translated?

    You want change from peer status? To what?

  48. “If groups are forming peer to peer relationships, then THAT is the prize.”

    They’re not. The Palestinians are choking back what they really think and presumably so are the Israelis. This approach is only useful if it is a stepping stone to real exchanges of views, admission of wrongdoing (to some degree from both sides, although much more from the Israeli side), and real reconciliation. This ain’t it and if it doesn’t go any further, it’s going to fail.

  49. Koshiro,

    Any Israeli border crossing points and other security measures would be set up to deal with Palestinians and others wishing to cross into Israel and not specifically with Palestinians who happen to be Israeli citizens. If the climate of peace is good the checks will probably tend to be perfunctory, if not they will be much more thorough.

    The problem with the opening of the Israeli barrier at East Jerusalem is that it defeated much of the purpose of barrier by leaving a gaping hole in it. That is why I don’t advocate treating anybody specifically as the East Jerusalem Arabs.

    Palestinians will also be free to employ their own entrance requirements and security checks at the border. If they feel their citizens are being needlessly harrased they will be free to retaliate in checks of Israelis wishing to enter into Palestine.

  50. “The Palestinians are choking back what they really think and presumably so are the Israelis. ”

    That’s tact, in the interest of continued good relations.

    One of the criticisms of Israeli community is that they are paranoid without “necessity” or “cause” (I have to put them in quotes given the history of terror on civilians.)

    If there is peer-to-peer status even if only in a room, then to condemn that is to give up the goal for addiction to the means.

  51. @ Tom Mitchell
    There is a really simple lithmus test for this, Tom.
    If it is any more difficult for an Israeli Jew to cross into Israel than it is for an Israeli Arab, then it’s racism.
    That one would even entertain the thought of erecting barriers to a country’s citizens re-entering said country for “security reasons” speaks volumes about how second-class the Israeli Arabs’ citizenship really is.
    Citizens of Israel have the right to enter Israel whenever they want to. Period. It’s a human right, and if it’s not fixed in Israel’s ersatz constitution, it needs to be.

  52. P.S.: Oh, and by the way. You’re cracking me up with your naive believe in the effectiveness of the separation fence only being compromised by Berli… I mean Jerusalem. What are the latest numbers of illegal work migrants crossing the fence again?

  53. Don, let me ask you this. What Israeli war crimes are you thinking of. I’m sure that you have a handy list at your fingertips. Probably has big as the phone book

  54. Kosh, baby, before the fence, palestinian suicide bombers were blowing themselves up for the 72 virgins constantly. After, not so much. The results are the results.

  55. Bill, you could take a look at the websites of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Btselem, and probably Gisha (I haven’t read much on that last one) and find plenty of material on the war crimes of both Israel and its various opponents (Hamas and Hezbollah mainly). I know I have. You just have to be willing to look.

  56. And Bill, just to get you started, here are 11 pages of weblinks to Btselem articles on human rights issues.


    You can find the Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch articles for yourself, no doubt. HRW often puts out a piece on one side’s violations and then follows up with a piece on the other side.

    Occasionally someone on the pro-Palestinian side objects to their evenhandedness, but I think they’re doing what a good human rights group should be doing.

  57. Come on Don, at least give me something that is non partisan. HRW, Amnesty International. Nothing but Jew hunting expeditions and you know it.

  58. Bill, HRW regularly puts out documents about Hamas and Hezbollah war crimes.

    Richard–“Tact” in this context just means “dodging the real issues dividing the two communities”. Moderate whites in the South were very “tactful”–I knew quite a few growing up in the period immediately following the end of Jim Crow. That stayed in place for 100 years because whites in America, the moderate ones that is, were too “tactful” to be honest about what was going on. If it had been left to “tact”, Jim Crow would have stayed in place for another 100 years.

    I don’t think one should have confrontation all the time and in all places, but tact by itself quickly becomes surrender to evil practices.

  59. The 62% of Israeli Arabs yearning for dissolution of Israel has been consistent, hasn’t it? There’s an argument to be made that NOTHING will change the Arab mindset on this question–and thus we have an unresolvable conflict.

    It makes the intention of Right of Return unmistakeably clear.

    There’s a part of me, perhaps the wishful thinking part, that secretly hopes Right-leaning Jews are just paranoid about all this. But apparently they are 100% correct.

    The Left agrees, but I guess they dream the impossible dream of changing Arab minds. Good luck with that, Don Quixote.

  60. Backbone, stated tactfully NEVER end up as dodging the real issues.

    If anything, partisanship/solidarity distorts reconciliation far far more than tactful sincere expression.

    I sincerely believe that you and many others share an addiction to resistance, that when hunger is fulfilled, you want more.

    What is effective? What is likely to be effective?

    What has been effective?

    Institution-building has been effective. Relationship-building has been effective. Resistance has CONSISTENTLY been inneffective. It is the opposite of non-violent civil disobedience as it is obeying the strategems of Netanyahu and likud.

  61. “Resistance has CONSISTENTLY been inneffective.”
    Again, pure nonsense.
    All successful liberation movements were built on resistance, not on collaboration.

    “It is the opposite of non-violent civil disobedience”
    More nonsense. Resistance can be non-violent or violent. You don’t advocate disobedience, but obedience. You insist that Palestinians should only ‘protest’ within the confines of the law that oppresses them. I challenge you again: Name one successful liberation movement that conformed to your standards.

  62. “The 62% of Israeli Arabs yearning for dissolution of Israel has been consistent, hasn’t it?”
    No, it hasn’t. In fact, you just made up ‘yearning for the dissolution of Israel’, which was surely not asked for in any poll.

  63. The Palestinian development of functional institutions of state, and diplomacy is not obedience in the slightest.

    It is assertive, responsible, reliable.

    Militancy is none of those things. It usually leaves an utterly unreliable leadership in power, usually with hateful biases incapable of governing democratically.

    There is a crucible effect of struggle transforming some leaders to a great combination of courage and compassion (Nelson Mandela is the primary modern example).

    But, those are exceptions. Institutionalization of hatred is more of a norm.

  64. Richard,

    I really don’t understand what you are saying or why you are saying it. Are you asserting that there should be no mobilization of grassroots political support to change Israeli policies and battle against racist legislation? It is one thing to not favor violent “resistance.” But are you saying that if Palestinian citizens of Israel opt for non-violent civil disobedience, and/or find more Jewish allies in an aggressive and organized battle for Israeli public opinion, that would be counter-productive? Why can’t those actions co-exist with apolitical co-existence programs?

  65. In order of importance I support

    1. Institution building
    2. Relationship building
    3. Joint efforts in collegial content areas (ecology, academia, cultural, business)4.

    Each of those are positive, oriented towards a goal, that do not risk offending anyone, except those that filter their offenses through a political litmus.

    4. Electoral advocacy
    5. Clarification of law and legal assertions in courts

    These are positive, as in comprising a goal, but may be antagonize those with other agendas.

    I believe that non-violent marching, and moderate civil disobedience is useful as communication.

    It communicates two things: the content of the demonstration, and the discipline to non-violence and the confidence that that engenders.

    In many practical cases, I bow out of it on Israel/Palestine, often finding myself in a march that contain signs “Zionism is racism”. Even if I’ve driven 200 miles to attend, I’ll leave it.

    I oppose actions like storming a border (including the flotilla), even if only an occupied one, as dangerous and threatening. The poetry of the imagery, as effective as it can be, is not useful if it adds to the possibility of war.

    The Israeli theme is “we are surrounded”. Relative to that, actions like storming a border, or the flotilla, do not suggest an alternative, but only pressure.

    They do NOT change hearts and minds, but only threaten hearts and minds, firming rejection of what the demonstration was about.

    Since I’ve been aware of Israeli/Palestinian issues, from an Israeli perspective, Israelis were surprised by the first intifada. They mostly didn’t realize that Palestinians weren’t content with the way things were.

    Half of the country responded to that by saying, “ah, we should listen to them”.

    And, what they were told, was “We want to self-govern. We want a state based on 67 borders.” which made sense and resulted in a few hundred thousand marching in Rabin Square at Peace Now demonstrations.

    So, the response was Oslo, imperfect, incomplete.

    When the second intifada happened, much more violent (resulting from hopes dashed/betrayed), the Israeli response wasn’t “we should have offered more”. It was, “they never wanted peace in the first place.” And, that is the current dominant Israeli Jewish political worldview.

    As unreasonable as it is relative to Abbas and Fayyad, it is not unreasonable relative to Hamas winning a majority election, 2 years after the second intifada, no general remorse.

    The wounds are raw now, and neither the power structure nor the dissenters are that careful, in word or in deed.

    Its just my own observations.

    I think the most important work in Israel is electoral. I’m not there. Most that I write to say that they’ve given up on electoral efforts.

    So, I don’t really know what to say to anyone. I’ll continue hoping that the martial orientation recede, that voters will vote their reason rather than their fear.

    I don’t see it as likely if the fears are repeatedly stimulated.

    And, I get that the Palestinians cannot simply grin and accept incremental expropriation and abuses to their dignity.

    So, I guess my only recommendation is precise self-discipline to principled and applied non-violence.

    Otherwise, conflict/war is the result which is not a progressive outcome.

  66. “They mostly didn’t realize that Palestinians weren’t content with the way things were.

    Half of the country responded to that by saying, ‘ah, we should listen to them’.”
    … the half that mattered responded by saying ‘break their bones’, as our beloved innocent peace martyr Rabin put it at about the same time he brutally crushed a nonviolent tax strike – but then again, according to you he did the right thing against a ‘counterproductive’ effort.

    What you paint in your whole post is a picture of an ignorant, fearful and ethnocentric society. If you’re right, and I’m not saying you are, you have made the case for cooperation even weaker and the case for pressure much stronger.

  67. I believe that the majority of Israelis’ view is conditional.

    If we are accepted, we will accept.

    I assume that that is reciprocal on the part of Palestinians. “If we are accepted, we will accept.”

    If that is the case, that each communities views are conditional, then the task to create peace is to create the conditions by which people can interact.

    The political language constructs a million stimuli for rejection, and little effort for connection.

  68. “An ignorant society” that would be the palestinians. Murderous and animalistic slso. But to the “kosh” that’s Ok. Has long as they get their quota of jews.

  69. Koshiro thinks I’m misinterpreting the poll: “62% of Palestinian Arabs living in Israel believe that Israeli Jews “are foreigners who do not fit in this region, and they will eventually leave the country,’”

    Can you give me another interpretation for the above statement? Maybe I’m missing some nuance here.

  70. I don’t have the poll in front of me, but it sounds like the 62 percent are expressing a perfectly natural if unfortunate sentiment. Their own people aren’t allowed to return and yet foreigners can claim citizenship by moving to Israel if they are Jewish. They are second class citizens in their own country. They lived under martial law for decades and now there is open discussion about getting rid of them. So I would expect to see a lot of Palestinians thinking exactly what Suzanne says. What’s bizarre is her notion that their resentment shows that rightwing Israelis are 100 percent correct.

  71. “Can you give me another interpretation for the above statement?”
    Sure: That 62% of polled Palestinian Arabs living in Israel believe that Israeli Jews are foreigners who do not fit in this regio and will eventually leave the country.

    Note that this statement, as reported by Dan, already differs from the one in his source, which said ‘Israelis’ and not ‘Israeli Jews’. Of course, Dan didn’t intend to distort the findings, but he merely thought he’d clarify what he believed to be obvious.
    But that is already a problem. Poll results are among the most easily misinterpreted types of data, whether intentionally or accidentally.

    To take your example, which goes a lot further than Dan’s: You simply substituted ‘yearning for the for the dissolution of Israel’ for the actual poll question. And you would probably continue to argue that this exercise in reading collective minds was correct, if not for one little obstacle:

    You see, it I wasn’t correct when I said that your interpretation wasn’t asked for. It actually *was* asked for, in a different question, if the polled Arabs would like to see Israel disappear altogether. 30% answered in the affirmative – a far cry from the 62% to whom you attributed the very same by twisting the poll results.
    The poll als says that two thirds oppose Israel *as a Jewish and Zionist state*, but then again, this does – obviously – not correlate with a desire to dismantle Israel altogether.

    “62% of polled people say X, but I’d say they actually mean Y” is unscholarly, manipulative and dishonest. It is no more valid a method of polling than manipulating a questionnaire with invisible ink.

    P.S.: I have to mention that source, a report on “Israel National News”, already is so imprecise as to be unuseable. In no case are the exact poll questions given, there is no hint of the methodology beyond a vague sample description etc.

  72. Bill,
    I just deleted your comment, which was, among other things, homophobic. As I’ve noted before, you sometimes provide a useful perspective on The Situation and articulate arguments from the right that do need to be addressed. That’s why I don’t ban you altogether. But please please control yourself.

  73. Dan, I’ll take your point. But please admit this. Phil Weiss thinks that the establishment of Israel was the greatest crime that has ever taken place. Pure evil. It is logical to assume that If Rommell had broken through at El Alamein and wiped out all the Jews in the yishuv and if the was in Russia had gone differently then ergo no Israel. To him that would have been the better outcome. And you can’t deny that.

  74. Bill, I have many problems with Phil’s positions and activities, but your premise is preposterous. I won’t dignify it with a more detailed argument. If you believe it, then there is something wrong with you. If you don’t believe it, and are just trying to be provocative, please do it on someone’s else’s blog.

  75. Richard, I don’t think the flotilla is going to help the people of Gaza. It is a publicity stunt whose goals are vaguely defined and is based on (mostly) well-intentioned activists’ desparate need to do something, anything, mostly to make themselves feel better.

  76. “The poll als says that two thirds oppose Israel *as a Jewish and Zionist state*, but then again, this does – obviously – not correlate with a desire to dismantle Israel altogether.”

    No, as you stated, they only want to dismantle it to the extent that Jews disappear. Are you playing games here?

    It may be understandable that they want the dissolution of Israel (Israel was created as a Jewish state habituated mostly by Jews–stop beating around the bush). As long as this desire and YEARNING for dissolution of Israel remains the focal point of Palestinian aspirations, they are screwed. Are they not screwed right now?

  77. Israel as a Jew-free modern infrastructure is perfectly desirable, right Koshiro? That’s the only interpretation I can take from your strange semantics. Very oily indeed.

  78. Walks like a duck, talks like a duck. Rich and Dan. You simply can’t deny that your boy thinks that Israel is an evil enterprise. The worst development in history. He says so every day. Ergo, if all the Jews in Europe had been wiped out and the Afrika Corps had gotten over the Suez canal. that would have been a far better outcome.

  79. Suzanne,

    Many Israelis wish that the Palestinians would simply go away as a problem, and Rabin was famously quoted as saying he wished Gaza would fall into the sea. The real question is if those making these statements are actively trying to implement them. By their indicated opposition to inclusion in a Palestinian state most Israeli Palestinians are indicating that they would rather be second-class citizens in a Jewish democracy than risk living in a corrupt autocracy.

    Wishing to have an Israel that is not a Jewish state, is different from wishing for want that is Jew-free. The United States is not a Christian state, no matter how much Evangelical Christians assert that it is. Ending Israel as a Jewish state would mean eliminating the legal advantages that Jews enjoy over non-Jews such as the right to rent lands conquered in 1948 by the Israeli army. Also the more equal distribution of state funds to municipalities.

  80. Bill,
    You are incapable of resorting to logic and reasoned argument so you resort to name calling and tired cliches. You definitely should go into politics.

  81. Why should the Palestinians be obliged to coexist with the career criminals that have caused such unimaginable suffering and horror for them? We need to stop talking about the Israelis as thought they are due certain rights. They have the right to leave—get off other people’s land and stop brutalizing them. That is the only right they have.

  82. Feel better now, Rykart, now that you have fulfilled your obligation to make ignorant blanket condemnations? We are talking about Palestinian citizens of Israel, not Palestinians in the occupied territories. If you think their Israeli neighbors should “get off” the land –and go to Poland or Iraq or Russia–, then I will get you contact info for the Helen Thomas fan club. Happy Independence Day.

  83. @ Suzanne
    “No, as you stated, they only want to dismantle it to the extent that Jews disappear.”
    I stated nothing of the kind but seeing how imaginative you’ve been when it came to inventing poll questions that had not been asked, I should have expected no less from you.

  84. Rich, I’m curious, you know Phil ( Hitler should have finished the job ) Weiss and his parents. Are they proud of what they produced? I’m curious.

  85. Tom, I am afraid the situation is more complicated than you are presenting it. It is not just merely a “problem” of having a “Jewishly defined” state, the problem, as many (most?) Palestinians see it is the Jews that are in the state.
    I suggest you read this piece about Sayid Qutb, one of the most important of the theoreticians for the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood. I am currently reading a biography of him which is written by an American who is at least partly sympathetic to him. To Qutb, the Jews are an evil force whose only goal is the eradication of Islam, and they have been working for this goal since the time of Muhammed.
    Qutb commentary (tafsir) on the Qur’an called “In the Shade of the Qur’an” is one of the most popular in the world today.
    How many Palestinians agree with everything Qutb says about the Jews? I don’t know, but I do know that HAMAS is closely connected with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. If a significant number of Palestinians agree with Qutb’s view, then any possibility of any sort of peace or modus vivendi is far more remote:

  86. To clarify further…the problem is not merely one of “civil rights”. The conflict is essentially national and religious. This means changing the defintion of the state of Israel wouldn’t satisfy the Arabs. As long as Jews remain the majority and Hebrew is the dominant language and the national culture is predominantly Jewish/Israeli, the Arabs will feel humiliated, because they realize that Israel is sitting in the heart of the Arab/Muslim Middle East.
    Even if most Jews converted to Islam, there would still be a problem. In 1492 Spain, one-half of the Jews converted to Christianity rather than be expelled, yet this didn’t solve their problems. In the wake of this mass conversion, the Inquisition got to work trying to root out “insincere” converts. Because of the danger of talented Jews moving up in society and challenging the hegemony of the native Christian population, the concept of “limpieza” (i.e. “pure blood-racial purity) was introducted to keep the Jewish conversos out of the way.
    Obviously the modern Arab/Israeli conflict is not an exact repeat of this experience of hundreds of years ago, but the historical precedents do show how religious/national resentments do prove to be hard to uproot, even if various external manifestations are supposedy mitigated. Look at the conflict in Iraq, and now, possibly in Syria where ethnic tensions could cause a major civil conflict. Also Yugoslavia.

  87. Rich, I saw that you boy, Phil ( Hitler should have finished the job ) Weiss said that American Jews supported civil rights purely out of self interest. Your thoughts. BTW you still haven’t told me about his parents. Are they like him. Pro-hamas, hezbollah, etc.

  88. Rich, I have to tell you that its fascinating that over at “mondofront” your seen has some sort of right wing, zio-nazi, jackbooted fanatic. And you rated your own column. Strange world we live in.

  89. I love it Rich, and Dan, your good buddy, Phil ( Hitler should have finished the job ) Weiss hates Israel so much that he can’t even cheer for the United States Womens soccer team.

  90. YBD:
    Citing Said Qutb as representative of Israeli Arab opinion would be like citing Meir Kahane as representative of Israeli Jewish opinion. In fact a much better case could be made for Kahane as he at least held Israeli citizenship even if he was American born and raised and his following consisted mostly of transplanted American and Soviet Jews. Only a small percentage of Israeli Arabs are supporters of Hamas or the Israeli Palestinian fundamentalist movement. Probably about the same percentage of Israelis who supported Kahane when the Bagatz outlawed his candidacy back in 1988.

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