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Thank you for putting J Street on trial

Last Wednesday, a Knesset Committee met in order to determine whether J Street had the right to call itself “pro-Israel.” The Knesset Member who called for the hearing, Otneil Schneller, “told the Forward that being pro-Israel can only mean defending the policy and conduct of the elected government, whatever one’s personal opinions.” Therefore, J Street did not pass his litmus test. While my friends and fellow travellers on the American Jewish left denounced the hearing –as did some centrist groups–, I found it edifying and thought-provoking, and was inspired to write the following letter.

Dear Mr. Schneller:

Thank you for helping to orchestrate the hearing on J Street. Even before the proceedings, you had obviously concluded that J Street was not pro-Israel, because you explained to the Jerusalem Post: “American Jewish groups, right or left, should understand that they should maintain full solidarity with Israel overseas –and when [Kadima opposition leader] Tzipi Livni or [leftwing Meretz MK] Haim Oron become prime ministers. I will demand the same loyalty from right-wing groups.”

Your definition of pro-Israel is not new. But by using an official setting to proclaim that J Street is not Israel’s friend, you’ve provided an opportunity to delve more deeply into what some Israelis “demand” from American Jews, and to receive instructions on exactly how you would like us to behave.

“The code that was broken is more serious than the content” of J Street’s positions, you said. So let us now try to define that code more precisely, shall we? It’s a code I’ve been asked to follow all my life, but because you and others who advocate it have never fully defined the rules, I’ve always found it a bit confusing. Please help me out here. If I understand you correctly, you believe American Jews are pro-Israel only if we:

1) Have no principles, no values of our own. Instead, we must be amoral ventriloquists’ dummies, giving voice to whatever the Israeli government says at any given moment. Did I get that right?

Apparently you believe there can be no exceptions to the requirement that we publicly agree with each and every Israeli policy. J Street recently mobilized many hundreds of people to lobby Congress for aid to Israel (and the Palestinian Authority), including the American defense package that will help Israel maintain its qualitative military edge. After initially objecting to sanctions against Iran for various reasons, it eventually threw its weight behind sanctions, a high priority of the Israeli government. But that was not enough for you. You told the J Streeters, ”You are not Zionist and you don’t look out for Israel’s interests,” and your colleague Danny Danon called them “pro-Palestinian” because they took some stances neither of you liked.

The Zionist Organization of America routinely criticizes the current Israel government and it openly lobbied Congress against the peace policies of Labor-led governments. So, can I assume you believe that it, too, should be banished from the pro-Israel tent? Or do you first need to convene another hearing and grill ZOA President Morton Klein? Will there be a third hearing on American Jews who quietly fund illegal settlement outposts? I would be eager to hear Mr. Danon, an advocate for the settlers, explain to them why they are his enemies, too.

2) Lobby against the U.S. government’s positions whenever Israel disagrees with them, even if we believe our government is acting in the best interests of our own country as well as Israel. For years, we’ve been hearing that unless we live and vote in Israel, unless we serve in your army, we have no right to publicly disagree with official Israeli policies. Now, Israelis who don’t live here and don’t vote here are instructing us on how to participate in America’s political process, what to say to our own President and Congressional reps. Is that correct?

3) Ignore the steady drift of young people from the American Jewish community. One reason they are leaving is that they cannot defend what they consider to be morally indefensible, like the fact that your government permits the rousting of Palestinians out of their houses in East Jerusalem to make room for Jewish settlers. Many young American Jews want a home where they can call themselves pro-Israel and feel pride in being Jewish without sacrificing universal moral values. J Street, Americans for Peace Now, Ameinu and like-minded groups try to provide that home.

But you would like us to ignore the challenge completely and deny them that home, right? I am committed to Israel’s future because I am committed to the Jewish people and its survival, but you don’t have the slightest bit of concern about the survival of our community here, do you? In fact, you openly demeaned it, comparing “the mentality of exile with that of redemption.” Is your ultimate goal to dramatically shrink the number of American Jews who care about Israel and the Jewish people? That is a truly revolutionary approach to Israel-Diaspora relations and to securing Israel’s future. In fact, I am going to urge my local Federation to convene a hearing and invite you to expound upon this idea.

4) Accept the proposition that as American citizens we have the right to publicly object to the policies and behavior of countries throughout the world, but the one country we are forbidden to criticize is Israel, the homeland of the Jewish people, whose actions are taken in our name.

During his testimony at your star chamber…I mean, your hearing, J Street Board Chair Davidi Gilo said, “I shall finish with a quotation from the words of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, at a conference of `Taglit’ Jewish young adults in 2003: `I want you to know that Israel is not just an Israeli project. Israel is a Jewish universal project. It is yours no less than it is ours and you share the responsibility for what will happen here. No, you don’t have to carry the whole burden upon your shoulders, but it is your responsibility, because whatever will happen in the future in the state of Israel, will influence the lives of Jews the world over.'”

I do not believe you responded to that quote, or to that concept. Do you agree with it? Or do you think Israel is the universal Jewish project but we should not say a word when we believe the project has gone awry, just continue to keep our mouths shut and our checkbooks open?

I look forward to your clarifications. I want to be “pro-Israel,” I really do, but I need more guidance from Israelis like you who have obviously thought deeply about the nuances and complexities of life in the Diaspora.

Dan Fleshler

82 thoughts on “Thank you for putting J Street on trial

  1. Dan,
    Magnificent! I can’t wait to hear Schneller’s reply, which I trust you will ashare with us.

  2. This is a pointed, intelligent critique that essentially breaks down into its disparate parts what I’ve said the central problem is: conservative Israeli lawmakers expectation of unconditional love.

    At a time when rockets are falling from Gaza and international criticism for the IDF’s actions in the territories mount, hawkish leaders are growing increasingly frustrated by “internal” critique such that they are willing to “disown” those Jews who criticize.

    It is critical that we continue to support J Street, and by proxy all Jews who support the State but critique its failing — like myself.

    Well done.

  3. I agree that that many Jews are ventriloquist’s dummies, but Dan Fleshler got it backwards. He is the Dummy, as are the other well-meaning but entirely ignorant Jews of the left, together with their non-Jewish comrades, who – facts be damned – bash Israel at every opportunity or no opportunity at all.
    JStreet is a fraud. From the outset it was almost entirely, and surreptitiously supported by the self-hating, apostate Jew George Soros who uses his ill-begotten wealth to malign, disparage, and attempt to destroy the State of Israel.

    Rather than mindlessly parroting all of the nonsense, study history. If ever the enemies of Israel come to power, they don’t discriminate between Jew and Jew. Secular, religious, Zionist or not, they kill them all.

    Wake up.

  4. David,

    Assuming your comment was not meant to be a parody, allow me to make a daring suggestion. Why don’t you try thinking a little bit?

  5. J Street doesn’t advocate enemies of Israel coming to power, nor are we “ignorant.” We can love Israel but disagree with Isaraeli policy in the same way that we can love America but disagree with American policy. If you feel otherwise, please convince your friends at AIPAC (and presumably Fox News) to stop saying anything bad about elected American officials or Obama administration policies on ANY issue. To follow your faulty line of reasoning, it would be unpatriotic to do otherwise.

  6. There’s no doubt that the intertwining of Jewish observance with “the code” drives Jews away from participating in Judaism, as it did for me. And the sooner American Jewish Congregations can focus more on religion and their communities, and less on internal conflict about Israel, the better. That’s the value that J-Street can bring, by moving the discussion away from the synagogue. Right now I feel like Israel, for good or evil, towers over Everything. But the Israeli right’s tactics doesn’t make that possible.

    The Israeli right is challenging American Jews in a new way, beyond the “code”. The secular right is challenging our loyalty. The religious right is challenging our identities. We are being offered a series of false choices. Being marginalized politically is one thing. (The Israeli left is marginalized, why should our opinions in Israel be any different?) But Israel is trying to marginalize us ethnically. The not-so-implicit threat is, “If you don’t have our back, should something arise, we won’t have yours.” We are being threatened with the promise of Israel.

    It is hard to know how to feel about this. Most people I know (including one Israeli parent) would attribute this to the demographic marginalization of liberal secular Jews in Israel. Insofar as we mirror them, religiously, politically and culturally, the Israeli right holds us in the same regard. The difference between liberal secular Jews in Israel and here, is that here we are perceived to have political clout, particularly within the U.S. Democratic Party. So while liberal secular Jews in Israel are politically irrelevant, here we are a threat.

    What’s unsatisfying about this explanation is that it goes in opposite directions. After all, if we’re not Jewish how are we a threat worthy of Knesset hearings? But if we are Jewish (and therefore a threat), why are our identities at issue?

  7. This is phenomenal, eloquent, and inspiring. I look forward to hearing what Schneller has to say, or hearing the deafening silence that may resound.

  8. Excellent piece, Dan. My personal feeling is that I will no longer contribute money to any Israeli Jewish cause, and I go one step furtherwill press my representatives to cut foreign aid to Israel since, my existence as an American Jew means nothing to the authoritarian leadership of the Likud Government.

    I’m sorry, but I’m not some dumb, mindless, play back machine (like Tea Party members are in this nation) who will blindly go along with every position of the Israeli Government as correct or just. I will continue to support J-Street over some of the rather lethargic, mainstream American Jewish groups who will kow-tow to the whims of the Israeli Government. Knesset Member Otneil Schneller should know that he has pissed off a lot of people and as far as I’m concerned he can kiss my tuchis.

  9. Dan O,

    You raise some intriguing points. But the sneering dismissiveness of Schneller’s attitude towards American Jewry is not limited to the Israeli right. AB Yehoshua does not believe we can lead an authentic existence as Jews if we don’t live in a Jewish state. I’ve sensed that the same sensibility exists in at least a few other Israelis in his, and therefore our, camp

  10. I believe that to be pro Israel, one must be pro peace, because what Israel needs to prosper and to be a light onto the world is peace, and the neocom AIPAC policy and the settlement policy are blockages to peace.
    If we are not allowed to comment on Israeli policy, maybe some Israli PM’s should shut up about ours. Contrary to the beliefs on 70% of American Jews, Dubya and Dubya’s Iraq policy was praised by Ariel Sharon and some other PM’s. Should we disallow that because it goes against our feelings. I believe that Dubya was the worst U.S. President in my (71 year) lifetime – and he lied his way to get to that policy. I don’t like the comments from the Israli PM’s who are jsut trying to kiss ass.

  11. First of all,
    American Jews have every right to criticize Israeli policy. They can also try to influence the Israeli political system. But, they have NO RIGHT to use foreign powers (e.g. the US) and foreign bodies (e.g. the UN) to FORCE Israel to do what they want, against the will of the Israeli populace. Thus, as I see it, J-Street is a hostile, anti-Israel organization, no matter what it calls itself. Their lobbying against the US casting the veto in the UN permanently discredited them in the eyes of most Israel.

    Secondly, for Kerry,
    You seem to be saying that you, as a Jew, are only prepared to support us Jews in Israel IF WE BEHAVE…only if we are good little children and do what you want.
    However, I do hope you will press your idea for the US to cut aid to Israel. The aid harms Israel’s economy and is given for political reasons. Israel doesn’t need it. The reason the Americans give it is because most of the money (particularly the military aid) is spent in the US. It has led to unemployment in Israel which, for example, stopped producing its own combat rations and army boots. Israel is also forced to do things like by Boeing jet aircraft instead of Airbus, even though Airbus offered a better deal. Israeli Prime Ministers like having it perceived that Israel is economically dependent on the US (which it isn’t) because of cases like Ariel Sharon. When the suicide bombings were plaguing Israel in 2001 and 2002, Sharon kept justifying not taking military action by saying “the US will get mad if we do so and we don’t want to endanger the aid we get from them”, even though this was a bluff…in the end Sharon was forced to take action and the aid was not cut off. So please, Kerry, try to get the US aid to get rid of the aid.
    (But what if we did need it Kerry?)

  12. One thing that I really would like to understand: Beinart and others claim that “the majority of American Jews are increasingly aliented from Israel and that this, in effect, that they believe Israel could have peace if it wanted it, and the lack of progress in the so-called “peace process” is Israel’s fault and, in addition, they accept the Palestinians demands and grievances against Israel pretty much as stated by Palestinian (both FATAH and HAMAS) spokesmen.
    Can anyone actually prove if this is true or not.
    I am aware of the famous polls that says “young American Jews don’t feel a close connection with Israel” or that “Israel is not an important factor in their life”, but even if this is true (and their is a dispute about the meaning of this) this certainly does NOT mean they sympathize with the Palestinians over Israel or view Israel as an aggressor, or that they are anti-Zionist or whatever. Can anyone clarify this?

  13. @Y Ben-David:

    Have you just asserted that the wielding of soft (diplomatic) power is illegitimate? Or is it only illegitimate when the object of soft-power is a democracy? Or is it illegitimate only when the object of soft-power is Israel? Please, so we can learn best, answer the questions directly, and then explain if you wish.

    I was under the impression that the point of the U.N. was to make certain kinds of soft power legitimate by subjecting it to debate, criticism, etc. And I would have thought that President Obama’s casting the veto would, in your view, argue in favor of the legitimacy of that system as it doesn’t operate unchecked against the interests of a single group. But if it does not, and such soft power is illegitimate nonetheless, why would one bother to concern oneself with U.N. Resolutions at all?

    Moreover, one wouldn’t need to develop such a system legitimizing soft power unless one expected democracies to be the object of that soft power. After all, democracies expect fairness. Tyrannies can only expect fairness disingenuously. That’s why the governments of Venezuela and Libya are laughing stocks.

    In short, and so as not to deceive you, I very much doubt that there is a decent position in the area given what you’ve expressed. I expect, instead, a kind of nihilism where the legitimacy of soft power depends on whether it is judged (by you) to be good for Israel. Which is, of course, another way of emptying ‘legitimacy’ and ‘right’ and so on of any meaning at all.

    The U.N. isn’t perfect, but it is a vehicle by which countries (and their citizens) can seek to influence others. I don’t see any reason why a group of U.S. citizens shouldn’t lobby our own government to exert soft power on another. I realize our own government sent an ambassador, John Bolton, who rejected the legitimacy of the U.N. But his position was wholly outside of the mainstream, and I’m happy he’s long gone.

  14. YBD:
    I’m confused: you write as if the U.S. is a foreign power for American Jews. Are you contending that as part of am Israel they have the right to influence Jerusalem, but not to influence Washington?

  15. Tom-
    You raised an interesting, touchy point. You could ask the same thing about the UN…after all, we are all humans, aren’t we?
    There is a bond that connects all Jews, no matter what country they live in. This, BTW, is not unique to Jews. Greek-Americans have long supported Greek and Greek Cypriot interests even when they clashed with American interests when it comes to relations with Turkey.
    Same with Irish-Americans regarding Northern Ireland and American relations with the UK. I might add Mexican-Americans to the list. That is what is great about the US, it allows its citizens to freely organize and express themselves about interests outside the US which may clash with American interests. In Britain that is not the case…if a Jew wants to enter polite society (in the Establishment, in the universities, in the trade unions) a Jew must first carry out a ritual denunciation of Israel in order to be admitted.
    Thus, it is considered illegitimate by the vast majority of Israeli Jews as well as Jews in other countries to run to foreign powers and foreign bodies to IMPOSE on Israel policies rejected by the Israeli populace.
    People bring up the lobbying by “Right-wing” groups like the ZOA who went to Congress in order to demand strict controls on American aid given to the Palestinian Authority which was not living up the terms of the Oslo Agreement regarding incitement to violence, but this was regarding US relations with the Palestinian, not with Israel, even though the Israeli gov’t opposed the ZOA’s efforts because they themselves had no intention of demanding PA compliance with the agreement they (the Leftist Israeli gov’t) itself had written into the agreement. None of this had anything to do with forcing the Israeli gov’t to carry out policies it was opposed to.

    As I said, I am not against free speech and I support the right of American Jews to oppose Israeli policy as long as it is done within Israel itself. Obviously, the Left (i.e. the ‘peace camp’) has been largely discredited in Israel and so is the despair this camp is feeling that is making them go outside of Israel to get what they want. This is the next step, not only is the radical Left amongst American Jewry trying to use external political force against Israel, but not the radical Left in Israel is doing the same thing, and I include their support for BDS in this, even “targetted” BDS. This shows how bad their political situation in Israel is and it is only pushing them further and further into the political sidelines

  16. YBD:

    So you are saying that American Jews have the right to try to change the policy of a foreign government, but do not have the right to lobby their own government to change its policy. Very interesting.

  17. So, YBD’s view is ‘keep it in the family’. That has nothing to do with anyone’s rights. It has to do with a relationship between peoples. A man has a *right* to charge his brother with assault, but there are mores against that.

    The trouble, of course, is that Israelis want to have their cake and eat it too. Israelis want to treat the diaspora with contempt (see conversion bill, no “streams of Judaism”, etc.) while receiving the treatment of family. Relationships require reciprocity. For the longest time US Jews have treated Israelis like brothers. Now we’re starting to treat Israelis as self-estranged brothers. That’s why YBD is wrong.

  18. @ YBD

    There’s a difference between alienation and a lack of interest. Assimilated Jews lose interest in Judaism and Israel. Already interested liberal Jews become alienated.

    The article proves Dan’s point – hawks want to write off Jews who care and object to Israel’s policies along with Jews won don’t care at all.

    What I still don’t get is if the criticism from caring Jews who criticize Israel isn’t legitimate, because it is not from within the family, why Rabbi Hirsch gets so worked up about it.

    I mean either we’re either part of the Jewish people, or not. Do you (and Hirsch) believe we’re impostors? If so, say so. Don’t beat around the bush.

  19. Dan–I know this is off topic, but will there be any commentary on Richard Goldstone’s Op-ed regarding the UN report about Israel’s alleged crimes against humanity?

  20. Not a chance will he say he was dead wrong about Goldstone. Watch for a masterful obfuscation. A yes but, if he writes anything at all.

  21. Bill, you’re right. Here is my “yes but.”

    I don’t know enough about the different investigative reports and have nothing original to say about Goldstone, so I’m not going to post anything other than this comment.

    I am very glad Goldstone concluded that Israel did not intentionally target civilians. I never claimed or thought that they did so. Contrary to what Bill thinks, I WANTED to believe the Israelis acted as morally as possible in the midst of a war against non-state actors. But I wrote that I was skeptical that Israel’s internal military investigations would be able to prove conclusively that “Israel WENT OUT OF ITS WAY TO AVOID civilian casualties.” Proving that is not the same thing as proving that the Israeli military didn’t intentionally target civilians. I think that is an important distinction, but I’m sure Bill thinks that making it is an obfuscation.

    Have the Israelis proven conclusively that they went out of their way to avoid civilian casualties? I don’t know enough to know. If Goldstone had written that they had done so, I would have been even happier.

    This is what I wrote, soon after the report came out. I don’t see any reason to retract it:

    “I’ve just finished reading the Goldstone report. As the Forward notes, it “blisters with specificity.” It is upsetting. I don’t know exactly what happened in the Gaza Strip during “Operation Cast Lead” last winter. I do know that Israel will have a difficult time discrediting the report by citing the UN’s past transgressions, or insisting that Israel went out of its way to avoid civilian casualties, or explaining how the report neglected to include the “context” for Israel’s actions. White phosphorus provides its own context.

    “I also know that Richard Goldstone is my kind of Jew. And this time, I’m not going to hate myself for neglecting to lambaste those who reflexively call him “self-hating.”


  22. I would make the argument that ascertaining who is a civilian when your fighting an enemy that doesn’t wear a uniform and hides among the population is problematic. A population that has coughed up a number of female and youthful suicide bombers. But I digress. If more Israeli soldiers had been killed. If the Jewish body count was higher. Would that have satisfied your upper west side sensibilities and made things easier at J-street gatherings.

  23. “ascertaining who is a civilian when your fighting an enemy that doesn’t wear a uniform and hides among the population is problematic. A population that has coughed up a number of female and youthful suicide bombers.”

    I agree. What makes you think I don’t?

    “If more Israeli soldiers had been killed. If the Jewish body count was higher. Would that have satisfied your upper west side sensibilities and made things easier at J-street gatherings.”

    I don’t think you actually believe that is what I want, do you? Assuming you don’t, why do you insist on acting like a kid who says something outrageous and disgusting just to get attention? If there were a way to fart in the blogosphere, I I am sure you would take advantage of it.

  24. I would maintain that the responsibility of the IDF high command is to accomplish the mission with the smallest number of casualties for their men. Their men. Not hamas. Obviously you and Goldstone don’t feel that way.

  25. Whether the IDF likes it or not–the rules of engagement are different in guerrilla warfare. They need to take extra precautions against hitting civilians–or face bad PR. They’ve been set up. They need to outmaneuver the foxes. In my opinion.

  26. John Dugard on Goldstone’s semi retraction


    Amnesty International–


    Kenneth Roth writing for Human Rights Watch–


    Goldstone himself seems to be rather inept at communicating, to put it charitably–his op ed was based on little evidence, and now he says he doesn’t support retracting the report. HRW and AI say that the main point of the Goldstone Report still stands–that Israel was guilty of indiscriminate violence in urban areas and targeted civilian infrastructure, even if one can’t prove that they specifically targeted civilians. I don’t see much of a distinction there myself. When Hamas or Hezbollah fire inaccurate rockets into Israel and apologists claim they might have been aiming at military targets (something one of the Hamas officials claimed), it’s not difficult for most people to dismiss this. We assume that the use of indiscriminate weapons is equivalent to targeting civilians.

  27. I think the issue should be used to clarify in international law, the relationship that you are talking about.

    That is the general challenge of the situation.

    In favoring the underdog, there is always disproportionality between one that has no weapons and some (civilians relative to rockets), and between those that have some weapons and those that have precise and powerful ones (with the responsibility to choose targets intentionally and concisely).

    Again, in the specific case of Gaza, there are two contributing realities that make the assertion of the whole being a war crime (rather than incidents, or individual decisions, even major ones).

    1. That Hamas shelled Israeli civilians over a ten day period without Israeli military response, and escalated that shelling, ignoring warnings that the status would soon reach the status of war. It constructed the communication to Israel that Hamas desired war.

    This contributes the reasoning that some military response was required.

    2. That during that ten day ramp up, Hamas officials (now the Al Qassams military wing, no longer civilian control) publicly declared that they were sufficiently armed to fight off an Israeli ground assault, and that if Israel did invade, that they would “wipe the Gazan streets with Israeli blood”.

    The significance of those assertions are to the Israeli public, that a large and militarily careful scope of war was necessary.

    Two points. It was necessary to undertake some military action, and the scale of the military action had to be significant.

    There is evidence of carelessness, of willing negligence to consistently restrain. And, there is evidence of political opportunism, the desire to teach Hamas a lesson (and likely some of teaching Palestinians a lesson for electing and accepting Hamas rule).

    And, that communication to Gazans, “look what your leaders have brought you” failed utterly. It did not communicate, “Hamas is driving your community to ruin”. It communicated “we are driving you to ruin.”

  28. Richard, believe it or not, the best account of the lead-in to the Gaza war that I have found is on Wikipedia @ It has been closely scrutinized by lots of people who don’t seem to have vested interests or too many ideological proclivities. It gives the lie to the simplistic idea, often heard in the blogosphere that the whole thing can be explained by asserting that “Israel broke the ceasefire” and just wanted a pretext to wipe out Hamas. But I don’t see anything about a 10-day ramp up or the messages from the Hamas military wing. Where did you find those?

  29. Ok Dan, rocket comes out of gaza. Hits bus filled with kids. What is your move if you were PM of Israel.

  30. Still waiting Dan, Rich. An anti-tank missile comes out of gaza and hits a school bus. First, thank you Goldstone. Second, what would you two do. I’m sure it would be stunning in its brilliance.

  31. Well, I’m no warfare strategist, but I always thought undercover Mossad ops to target and assassinate specific PLO leaders was useful. Keep destabilizing the enemy’s leadership. Better than bombing civilian areas, imo.

  32. What I took away from Goldstone’s retraction in the OP ed is that Israel got in its own way by refusing to cooperate with the investigation. In essence making themselves look worse than what appears to be the case.

  33. If you know who fired the rockets, you arrest them or kill them. If you know who ordered it, same thing.

    Of course, similar advice would go to Palestinians with regard to Israeli violence and theft, if only they had the power to hit precisely the people who are responsible.

    As for Dan’s link, it seemed fair to me (once I actually found the page I think he was referring to.) But the usual mythology that people in the US react to is the notion that Israel was subjected to endless rocket fire before finally responding. The truth is that both sides have some responsibility for the war starting.

  34. Brilliant plan Don. But say perchance you can’t ascertain who did it. Or maybe your average hamas terrorist hasn’t fully assimilated episodes of law and order and doesn’t come quietly. What would be plan B.

  35. It might interest you all to know that many of us on what you would call “the Far Right” in Israel oppose Barak’s “bomb the hell out of them by remote control” approach. A use of light commando units attacking the heads of HAMAS and its central command and control infrastructure, as Suzanne mentioned would be more effective, but they seem to be afraid to this, even though it proved quite effective in the past (Barak himself participated in such operations). This would greatly reduce “collateral damage”. We of the Far Right aslo most vehemently oppose the idea of sending Israeli troops into the Gaza Strip to oust HAMAS and take control and then hand it over to Abbas’ people instead. The only thing that would justify Israel taking control of the Gaza Strip again would be the intent to rebuild Gush Katif, but I don’t think that is on anyone’s agenda at the moment. The future might be different, though.

  36. Plan B–If you can’t take the genuinely bad guys out without killing a bunch of innocents, then you don’t take them out.

    I’m not sure what Plan B should be for Palestinians. Actually, plan A should be nonviolent resistance, but since there’s so much talk about Israel’s “right to defend itself”, I think it’s only fair to point out that cuts both ways.

  37. Dan,
    Per Haaretz reports from December 18 – 29, Hamas first withdrew its request from other factions to withhold firing, but claimed to not fire themselves. After a couple days, they acknowledged that they had fired.

    Initial Hamas rockets were fired into areas that could not do damage to Israelis (what would have been a “warning”). Subsequent rockets and mortars targeted Sderot, surrounding small settlements, then Ashkelon and surrounds, with increasing frequency and range.

    In the press there were communications of warning going both ways.

    When the Israeli air attacks began, the rockets extended to Ashdod and surrounds and then Beersheva.

    At around the 22nd or so, reported in Haaretz, leaders of the Al-Qassams Brigade declared that they were militarily prepared for an Israeli invasion, and that if Israel entered on the ground, they would wipe the Gazan streets with Israeli blood.

    The claims were consistent with earlier claims by the Al Qassams.

    The point is that Hamas escalated shelling until the IDF responded. (Certainly Israel was prepared for an assault, and staged its logistics from Dec 18th until the 29th, but also that Israel was prepared to cancel it if the rocket escalations hadn’t occurred and continued after “parental” warnings.)

    And, that either because of justified by the Hamas declarations of preparedness, prior successes at guerilla fighting in Gaza, Israel was compelled by its citizenry to a militarily “careful” campaign.

    The actual was a Rohrshach of self-justification. The IDF applied their careless self-justification, excusing means that were not within the reasoning of even the expanded operation. And, the left applied their careless self-justification (solidarity) in excusing the escalation of shelling of civilians.

  38. The left-wing pro-Israel movement will never take root, real root, if it is perceived, rightly or wrongly, as failing to recognize Israel’s right to defend its citizens. I understand legitimate criticism, and I think that criticism of Israel’s decision to stay in Gaza for as long as it did during Cast Lead is legitimate criticism that when I’m in the right state of mind I can agree with. I think rewriting history to suggest that somehow the sequence of rocket fire was somehow the fault of the Israelis is baffling, wrong, and troublesome.

  39. Jerome Slater’s post is repetitive, and does not address the question of the admissable scope of war given that Hamas shelled civilians, escalated that shelling before Israeli military strikes, had killed many IDF soldiers in prior ground assaults, asserted that they were fully prepared for an Israeli ground assault, and leaders of Al Qassams declared that they would “wipe the Gazan streets with Israeli blood”.

    Requiring a much more “careful” military approach than just a skirmish.

  40. Its not that Palestinian were shelled versus Israelis or Jews.

    Its that the nature of targeting civilians is qualitatively different than targeting those that are aggressing against civilians.

    It is the obligation of a democratic state’s military to defend against aggressions on civilians. There is just no way around that.

    And, it is material.

  41. “It is the obligation of a democratic state’s military to defend against aggressions on civilians.”

    True, but that has little or nothing to do with most of Israel’s violence. If you dismiss Israeli oppression and violence as playing a role in causing Palestinian violence, then you can speak in grand terms about Palestinians targeting civilians and Israel defending itself. But it’s a gigantic lie, and the idea that “my preferred side employs legitimate violence and the other side does not” is perhaps the main cause of the atrocities on both sides.

  42. The two are entirely separate questions. We are NOT well served by merging them.

    The IDF responsibility remains protecting civilians. The statement at the end of Slater’s piece denies the responsibility of the army of a democracy from protecting civilians.

    “For that reason, then, even if its methods had been pristine, Israel had committed the crime of international aggression. Indeed, in those circumstances it is not even necessary, in a sense, to examine Israel’s methods: ****if you don’t have a just cause, you are not morally or legally permitted to attack even the other side’s soldiers, let alone its people.****”

    I don’t buy it.

    When Hamas shells civilians, the IDF has the responsibility to defend those civilians, regardless of context.

  43. Richard,

    You’re absolutely right. I commend you for your patience. The lengths to which some really, really smart people go in an attempt to twist simple truths, such as Israel having the irrefutable obligation to defend its citizenry, demonstrates, at its worst, that there does exist an irrational hatred of the Jewish State. You can debate with some people and others it matters not.

    My immediate concern, as someone who has advocated for a peaceful two-state solution since more and more of my detractors were in diapers, is that the laudable effort of Jeremy Ben Ami has been hijacked by people who can’t even say that they are pro-Israel and pro-peace.

  44. Bruce:
    “Israel having the irrefutable obligation to defend its citizenry”
    That’s BS, nobody questions that. What people question is (a) what response is appropriate and (b) whether some elements in Israel are not deliberately provoking the other side.
    Even before I “went over to the dark side” and was still a young, idealistic IDF soldier and officer, I would often scratch my head, befuddled when in the middle of a long lull in hostilities we my state and army would go and eliminate another low- or mid-level Palestinian, which was sure to provoke a response within a couple of days. Some people actually studied the phenomenon and came up with the conclusion that most lulls indeed are ended with Israel’s actions. This totally jives with my personal experience. An this MO – in with you provoke your neighbor to have a justification for reaction – is not new, of course (Moshe Dyan confessed to provoking Syrian response in some 80% of cases prior to Six Days War.)
    Of course, Palestinians have their own share of provocations. But for me this was always analogous to treating grown ups and children the same. Israel is the grown up – we have the state, the army, the wealth. Palestinians are fractured, dispossessed and oppressed. I cannot hold them to the same standard.

  45. Hamas claims to be a state, not children. That description is demeaning to them.

    In MANY cases they control the dance. Their actions are the ones that drive the sequence. As such, as adults, they are responsible to not put their own community in gross harm’s way.

    As I can’t find the published citation for my memory of Qassam Brigades assertion that they will ‘wipe the Gazan streets in Israeli blood’, I will no longer use ” ” quote marks, and declare that it is my memory.

    I apologize for that misrepresentation.

  46. Peter D:

    I honor your service and I am not one to suggest that Israel has not been provocative, and wrongheaded in its responses over time. On the other hand, your military service, respectfully, leaves you with no extra standing to say that “nobody” questions Israel’s right to defend its citizenry. To put my response in your terms, that is BS, absolute BS.

    It is difficult I think for many Israelis like you, who live or lived in a tiny nation with a free press, where you can knock your adversaries until the cows come home, to comprehend what many of us from the outside see. In the end, when Israelis duke it out, it’s not existential.

    One doesn’t have to be an IDF veteran to posit that the rest of the world does not look at Israel in the same way that it looks at other nations. The Goldstone Report is just the latest example of the fraud, internationally, associated with judging your country. I’m an attorney, and maybe that’s my fault, but I could tell you that the UN Human Rights Council at its core has no standing to judge Israel (the only nation on the permanent agenda on that Council), and neither did it display appropriate discretion when it placed individuals on the Goldstione Commission who had already publicly pre-judged Israel’s actions in Gaza as constituting war crimes. That dog don’t hunt as a matter of elementary fairness or more sophisticated notions of due process.

    One must speak out against such disparate treatment and I’ll give you one recent example. I’m a union lawyer in America, which is kind of like being Israel in the United Nations these days; people think unions are bad and corrupt, period. Last week I finished a trial in bankruptcy court, with a hostile judge in a case where the company was claiming it would liquidate unless it gutted the union contract. I tried to point out that what the company wanted was excessive, and my adversary and I began to argue about certain revenue numbers that the company was relying on. The judge said to me, I don’t think revenue is relevant–I kid you not–and then he said that if I wanted to raise this in writing with me go ahead. My response to him was “why bother if you don’t think it’s relevant?” In short, I challenged his objectivity and I think the result was that his demeanor changed for the remainder of the trial.

    The point I wish to make is that one doesn’t have to cease criticism of Israeli actions and abandon, at the same time, the position that Israel deserves to be treated like any other nation–and my friend, Israel, outside of Israel, does not receive that consideration.

    Finally, with all due respect, you are obviously more familiar with Israeli politics than a mook like me, but tell me please, why does Meretz garner no support anymore? Why is it that Labor is as good as dead. Are all of your fellow countrymen, with the exception of a couple of people like you, cold-blooded murderers and indifferent to the lives of Palestinians? Of course, I don’t think you believe that, but I only raise this to make the point that there was a time just 15 years ago when, from the outside at least, it looked as if the Israeli public was ready to deal.

    The Goldstone Report, taken to its logical end, was in fact yet another example that there are people in the world who fail to recognize the right of Israel to defend itself.



  47. We didn’t need Goldstone to know what both sides did in the Gaza War–there were other human rights groups that came to similar conclusions. Both sides committed war crimes. Obviously Israel’s were on a far larger scale.

    Yes, the UN Council focuses on Israel and lets others off. This would be worth comment if it made any difference, but in the real world, the only war criminals who are actually brought to justice are deposed dictators who are no longer useful to the West. That’s the double standard that matters. Israeli war criminals have nothing to worry about because no Western government (certainly not the US) has any interest in seeing a Western official put on trial for war crimes. It’s not a precedent that Obama or Bush or any American President would welcome.

  48. Donald:

    While I think you clutch to your use of legalities like nakedly asserting “war crimes,” I find it quite remarkable that you also acknowledge what more people should come to terms with, and that is that Israel is not treated the same as other nations at the United Nations. So you find cause to accuse Israel of war crimes under international law, and yet you recognize that the international body that was deliberating over that matter of law is biased. Then you write that it–Goldstone–doesn’t matter because “other human rights groups” believes that Israel committed war crimes.

    If your comment isn’t the text book definition of a non-sequitor, I don’t know what one is.

    Now returning to Dan’s justifiable displeasure with the silly intolerant folks in the Israeli Knesset who put J Street on mock trial, while I absolutely agree with him I find fault in J Street for failing, unlike you, to recognize the bias at the UN. I think J Street should reconsider its trust in the UN on matters pertaining to the I-P conflict, because I think that will help J Street attract more people who truly are pro-Israel and pro-peace.

  49. The most amazing thing about these comments is that you are all still here, caring enough to find out what each other has to say, caring enough to get pissed off, keeping track of this conversation weeks after I posted something. I think that’s pretty cool, actually. So, thanks…

  50. Thank you Dan. Nobody provides a forum on these issues like you do. And I’m not blowing smoke, because you know when YOU piss me off, I don’t hesitate to tell you so. 🙂

    Happy Passover to you and yours. And, remember, we’ve been saying “Next year in Jerusalem” long before there were internets.

  51. Bruce, I think that the bias at the UN Human Rights Council is in which countries they choose to investigate. But the investigation itself wasn’t biased, as shown by the fact that it came to much the same conclusions you’d find in Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

    As for the UN Human Rights Council itself, ask yourself which Israel would rather have in its corner–a hypocritical UN bureaucracy or a hypocritical US government? Susan Rice recently said the US government saw no sign of Israeli war crimes in Gaza. How special. In terms of bias they cancel out, but somehow I suspect the Israelis wouldn’t trade the support of the US government for 50 UN Human Rights Councils. It’s why I blew off your concern. There is tremendous hypocrisy from all sides when it comes to human rights, and US and Israeli officials are net beneficiaries of this hypocrisy. Otherwise in a just world they’d be in jail right next to some of the thugs they themselves criticize.

  52. Amnesty Internationalm, Human Rights Watch. Come on Don. Whats the deal, you couldn’t reach down into hell and dig up Arafat or Julius Streicher. BTW You have to love the karma with this Italian in gaza

  53. @Richard:

    Hamas claims to be a state, not children. That description is demeaning to them.

    Actually, its the other way around. By bringing Israel to the same level as Hamas it is demeaning to Israel. And I can see a country that considers itself a beacon of light in a sea of darkness, fails to prosecute even a single case of settlers’ rampages, wanton killing of unarmed protesters and maybe every once in a while gives laughable sentences to soldiers and officers who should be put behind bars for years. This is about the level of Hamas in my book.
    And Richard, I mentioned things that happened long before Hamas took over Gaza.


    On the other hand, your military service, respectfully, leaves you with no extra standing to say that “nobody” questions Israel’s right to defend its citizenry.

    And I don’t pretend for a second it does. I mentioned it to show that even as brainwashed a person as myself back then could see that something was very fishy with Israeli policy towards Palestinians.
    And I stress – show me anybody (worth talking about) who says Israel has no right to defend itself. The question is how. And the question is whether at times Israel deliberately provokes the other side to have a pretext for an attack.

    Why is it that Labor is as good as dead. Are all of your fellow countrymen, with the exception of a couple of people like you, cold-blooded murderers and indifferent to the lives of Palestinians?

    Good question. From where I sit (I still have Israeli citizenship, I don’t live there anymore), it seems like the country is slowly but surely descending into a fascistic mindset. For Jews in America this is hard to understand. Jews in exile are always a minority and as such they are very liberally minded. Jews in Israel are finally in charge and the Jewish “gene for social justice” (whose existence, if I am not mistaken, Claude Levi-Strauss jokingly hypothesized) is quickly atrophying. Phil Weiss has been saying this for years now and just recently Bernie Avishai basically said the same. American Jews like you still have a very idealistic idea about Israeli society, I am afraid.

  54. Not often that you find Israelis named Peter who think that Phil Weiss is the voice of truth. What town did you grow up in and what army outfit were you in. Just curious.

  55. “And I stress – show me anybody (worth talking about) who says Israel has no right to defend itself. The question is how. And the question is whether at times Israel deliberately provokes the other side to have a pretext for an attack. ”

    You nailed it.

    You read at Mondoweiss. Even Jerome Slater declared that Israel has ‘no right to defend itself’, if it is followed by what is interpreted as ‘provocation’. Provocation happens at different scales all the time politically. The choice of ‘do we fight back’ is a choice that must be addressed a dozen times a week.

    So, is Hamas a responsible adult organization, or is it a teenage one, or entirely childish in your mind?

  56. “So, is Hamas a responsible adult organization, or is it a teenage one, or entirely childish in your mind?”

    You’re asking Peter, but I’d say that Israel and Hamas are both childish. The idea that you can steal and kill and do what you want and then scream very loudly if the other kid does some of the same stuff to you is pretty childish.

  57. Peter D.

    1. My question about what happened to the Israeli left yields a response from you that Israel is heading towards fascism. OK I see where you’re coming from.

    2. Then you ask me to name anyone who specifically utters the words “Israel has no right to defend itself”. Silly challenge.

    3. Then, finally, you give the classic really really smart person refrain that American Jews like me have an overly idealistic perception of Israeli society, and you plug in the really, really smart people at Mondoweiss as corroboration that people like you, unlike people like me, know what’s going down. Oh please Peter; you can do better than that around here. As to Avishai, I think he’s a bit pompous and condescending about American Jews (which renders his message a nullity–dig?) but I did read the Hebrew Republic and was very impressed with much, not all, of what he wrote.

    Peter D., you just confirm with me for the Nteenth time that the fringes on the extreme left and right converge in their religion that they know things nobody else does.

  58. Perelman, you have short memory – we met before, even here. I grew up in Siberia and my town name will tell you nothing. The outfits I served in were called “Gdud Ha-Bok’im Ha-Rishon” and “Hativat Hiram”. Go figure it out.

    “So, is Hamas a responsible adult organization, or is it a teenage one, or entirely childish in your mind?”

    Why is this about Hamas? You think I like Hamas? I don’t and this is beside the point. Actually, if you want to justify Israel’s actions by pointing that Hamas is no better, you really made my point.

    “Even Jerome Slater declared that Israel has ‘no right to defend itself’, if it is followed by what is interpreted as ‘provocation’.”

    OK, suppose you have a dispute with someone. You have a period of mutual restraint but you still hate each other’s guts. You then go into his house and break his window. Then he comes back to your house to kick your a$$. Yeah, you’re justified to protect yourself, sort of. Then you go back to only trash his house and kick his family on the floor. Does this make it clearer to you? My former commander Shmuel Zakai (check him out, Perelman) and many other people were saying, right before Cast Lead, that we could figure out a MO of living with Hamas.
    Bruce: so, you’re surprised that in times of fascistic shifts the left disappears? Ask any historian of fascism about it. And there was never a large contingency of true left in Israel. The left that was ready to give scraps to the Palestinians as long as it did not affect their smug world in any material way – yes. But I have little use for definitions of left and right. Each sees those in very subjective terms. You think advocating “for a peaceful two-state solution since more and more of my detractors were in diapers” makes you “left”? OK.

  59. In fact Peter, I haven’t written that I am right or left, but you can characterize me as you wish, and you can mock American Jews who support a two-state solution but don’t accept what you claim as the gospel. I did say that you write as if you are either on the extreme right or left; to me they are two peas in a pod, a pod that is filled to the brim with really really smart people who honestly believe–like all religious extremists believe–that they see things nobody else does. So that, for example, a poddist might say, as you have written here, that historically a diminishing left leads to fascism, and therefore that explains what is going on in Israel now. And my response is that, even in the case of really, really smart people, sometimes simpleton idealistic American Jewish guys like me understand that consistencies such as historical dialecticism can be the hobgoblin of even really, really smart minds.

  60. Diminishing left is a symptom, not a cause.
    And I am not mocking advocates of two state solution, where did you get that!? But advocating a two state solution in itself is not being “left”. And I’ve seen many people advocating two state solution as long as they never have to make any move to actually do something about it. I am not saying you’re one of those (and I know nothing about you.)

    “like all religious extremists believe–that they see things nobody else does.”
    Really? Have you been reading Haaretz lately? Some Strenger or Burston and other liberal Zionists who are not on the far left? I am lazy to bring links, but if you search “fascism” on Haaretz site I am sure you’ll disabuse yourself of the idea that nobody but a few folks like me who sees “things nobody else does”.

  61. Peter,
    That was a uniquely deflecting response.

    I really don’t know what you are expressing except frustration and anger.

    The only way that I know of to fight fascism is to persuade of the value of mutual humanization, and electorally.

    To leave is to partially to enable fascism. To boycott is partially to enable fascism (as a component of leaving, not participating, not committing to persuade an electorate).

    And, even if you are an advocate for human rights, to only complain rather than state human rights in terms of Palestinian goals, is partially to enable fascism.

    Maybe its so far along that you are frightened personally. That could be true. If that is the case, then maybe boycott is the way to go, that it has already gone too far.

    That it continues as a democracy with diverse minority parties still, suggests to me that it is not too far, that it still holds the concept of consent of the governed as primary, rather than government by ideological vanguard (fascism and communism).

    If you looked at Palestinian society as closely as you look at Israeli, most likely you would find irritatingly smug and privileged.

    The left in Israel disappeared because of the intimate intensity of the second intifada, the election of Hamas by Palestine in the 2006 elections, and the two opportunistic wars initiated by Hezbollah and Hamas (to which Israel responded excessively).

    It is rational for those that are not ideologically determined to have shifted towards an emphasis on protection in that context.

    And, a persuasive argument to both Israelis and Palestinians to treat each other kindly, would multiply and result in current improvements in Palestinians legal and personal status, and long-term in a clarification of borders, and perhaps moderate right of return even.

  62. Oh, Richard, spare me your sermons, I’ve read enough of those over the years. My post addressed directly the points you were making. Instead, you keep with your usual “oh, just talk nicely to them lest they get offended” stuff. This is a deflection of any serious criticism.
    Now if you really want “to persuade of the value of mutual humanization” the first step in my book would be to see where your actions were at the root of the other’s reaction. And that one cannot do with niceties. It is funny that one of the most despicable people in Israeli politics actually understood this very well: “If born a Palestinian I would join a terror organization” (Ehud Barak).

  63. You quoted Strenger and Burston.

    Ask them what their guiding themes are.

    What do you think caused the reduction in left parties in Israel?

    Do you think it was a character flaw, or rational or some other reason?

  64. Do you think it was a character flaw, or rational or some other reason?

    I don’t know and I don’t care. I don’t care for excuses. I note that neither you nor Bruce said anything about the incontrovertible fact that Israel fails miserably at its responsibility to provide security and justice for subjects under its occupation. Instead you’re searching for rationalizations why it is so. I don’t know. I don’t think it is character flaw beyond maybe the fact that many times victims of abuse tend to become abusers. Once I thought we Jews were really “better” (yeah, I thought we had a gene for social justice), now I simply believe we’re just like everybody else.

  65. Peter:

    I never believed we were better than anyone else.

    Chag Sameach. I know you might not like Jeffrey Goldberg’s politics, but here’s something from him in today’s Atlantic that resonates with me:

    “Michael Walzer once wrote, “Wherever you live, it is probably Egypt.” Those of us who aren’t oppressed live too close to oppression, or participate in oppression, or are otherwise indifferent to oppression. This Passover, when we tell the story of the Jewish people’s journey from the slavery of Egypt to the freedom of Israel, pause for a moment to contemplate this miracle: This year, in Egypt, it isn’t even Egypt. Pharaoh is under arrest, his sons are in jail, and the Egyptian people are groping their way to freedom. Next year, at Passover, let us hope that the Egyptian people will have succeeded in their struggle to make the word “Egypt” a synonym for freedom, and not enslavement. Let us hope that in Libya, and Syria, and Iran, freedom is close at hand. Let us hope that the Palestinian people find their way to freedom, too, and let us hope that by next year, the people of the Jewish state of Israel will have completed their journey from slavery to true freedom, a freedom that will grant them a permanent place under the sun.”


  66. Richard,

    I’ll tell you what did in “the Left” in Israel. There were multiple causes and they weren’t all the same for Labor and Meretz.

    1) Corruption and being in power too long. This ended Labor’s tenure in power in 1977.
    2) Overreliance on generals and lack of leadership. This kept Labor out of power from 1977 to 1992. Peres and Rabin with their rivalry eliminated the next generation of leaders.
    3)Lack of development of domestic issues. From its foundation in 1968 Labor appealed to voters based on its expertise in security matters. This is tied to the above point.
    4) Kisautism–the love of tenure in power. Labor would rather serve in government with the Likud as a junior partner rather than in opposition. This blurred the line between the two parties. This served the interests of the generals at the top and the Likud.
    5) The al-Aksa Intifada destroyed the party’s credibility with the electorate. In Northern Ireland the failure of the IRA to disarm on time did the same thing to the ruling Ulster Unionist Party. Barak then insisted that not just Arafat but all Palestinians were opposed to peace.

    1) Continued to push peace with the PLO when the situation was not ripe for peace.
    2) Had alternative issues but downplayed them in favor of the peace issue.
    3) Not willing even after the Hamas electoral victory in January 2006 and the Gaza coup in 2007 to prefer the Syrian track over the Palestinian track.
    4) Too committed to quota systems in choosing its Knesset list.

  67. A little bit on Bruce’s and Richard’s question of what causes the Israel’s lurch to the right.
    First, an anecdote.
    Sometime in 2008 I decided to engage some Russian-speaking Israelis posting on a forum. It did not go particularly well. I decided to be anonymous, not to reveal where I come from, not to mention I served in the IDF etc, and engage the guys only on the level of pure reasoning and fact and morality. I did not want the “personal” aspect to contaminate the reasoning (they decided I was from a Russian embassy or something like that; none seemed to suspect I could be an Israeli with a very similar background to theirs.) I also stressed that they cannot appeal to arguments of the type “you have to live here to understand the conflict” and by extension to have a right to voice an opinion on the conflict. I told them that, for example, none of us lived thru the WWII and still we form opinions on what happened there based on available info. This strategy did not achieve the desired result. I wasn’t able to make any inroads, to cause any doubts in their convictions.
    Anyway, this was an aside. What I really wanted to say is that even before engaging them I read thru their forum posts stretching back to the Second Lebanon War. And at some point they were debating Kahane or Gandhi (Rehav’am Zeevi) or both, I don’t remember, and while some were supportive, one guy there said: no, this guy’s policies are a red line for me. I think he used the word “fascism”. So, this one guy, while right-wing and nationalistic like all of them, still said “no” to the idea of transfer. And now, a couple of years later I was talking to the same guy and he was advocating deporting all of Palestinians. And I thought: whoa! What happened that this guy now talks like those he used to call “fascists”? There weren’t any suicide bombings anymore, as far as I remember, although the killing spree in Merkaz Ha-Rav yeshiva did happen right then. Yes, there were Qassams as usual, with their notorious inefficiency and equally notorious effectiveness (while there were numerous Israeli operations in Gaza and incidents like Bet Hanun which killed hundreds of Palestinians.) So, all in all hardly the most violent years of the conflict especially from Israeli casualties POV, but this young guy just went totally nuts.
    Of course, this is just one example. Society as a whole undergoes a transformation and the main factors are probably very different.
    Is it just the fatigue from the endless confllict? Like the idea that since it is never gonna end then we need some more radical measures?
    Or the easily sellable idea of “we gave them Gaza and in return got back the Qassams”? Yeah, this is like “we had peace process and got Second Intifada instead” – same very Israel-centric view that ignores the other inconvenient facts such as accelerated building of settlements during the Oslo process. And what about the almost total quiet in the West Bank? This is rationalized not as Palestinians’ conscious decision to refrain from violence but as a successful repression thereof.
    I’d also mention the total separation from the Palestinians which facilitates dehumanization. This is actually a result of the peace process – either deliberate or accidental – but pernicious nonetheless.

  68. I have a suggestion for another reason why the Israeli Left has been eclipsed. For decades, the Israeli Left has always deprecated what the Arabs themselves said, particularly to their own people. As far back as the 1960’s (before the Six-Day War) Nasser would tell reporters in private that he wanted to make peace with Israel. When they would point out the venomous things he said in public with Israel, they would wave them away as being “for internal consumption”. Israeli leaders would say “what he says in private is his true position, what he says in public is merely propaganda made in order to please his public”. Israeli leaders happily accepted this view of things….apparently that is how they themselves viewed their public statements to the Israeli people. Regarding Arafat, those who pushed the Oslo Agreements would say “we have private assurances that he really wants peace with Israel, in spite of his public declarations”. However, the massive onslaughts of suicide bombings openly supported by Arafat and FATAH finally discredited this line of Israeli Leftist propaganda. Add to this quite open threats against Israel made by the Iranians and other Islamist groups and the massive INTRA-MUSLIM violence (recall that although “All Muslims are love one another” and “all Arabs are brothers” this has not prevented a massive fratricidal slaughter in numerous Arab and Muslim countries) and we see a real awakening by the Israeli public about the true intentions of the majority Palestinians and the rest of the Arab world towards Israel. When an important Muslim cleric like Qaradawi who advocates killing as many Jews as possible in Israel gets cheered in Cairo and is feted as a major future influence on the Egyptian government, people in Israel are finally taking notice.

  69. Here we go again, YBD, stuck on the “its always them, never us”. While your description of why the Israeli public rejected the “left” might be somewhere correct, your prescription is not. In the real world our actions cause reactions. Attitudes are not static.

  70. Peter D.-
    Yes, it is always them, meaning that it is their rejection of the right of Israel to exist inside any boundaries. One can “understand” their opposition to the Jewish settlements in Judea/Samaria, but ultimately even their removal would not only not solve the Arab/Israeli conflict, it would exacerbate it by encouraging the Arabs to think Israel will keep making concessions and folding up until we are willing to run away even from Tel Aviv. No compromise peace is possible.

  71. Peter wrote:

    “Israel is the grown up – we have the state, the army, the wealth. Palestinians are fractured, dispossessed and oppressed. I cannot hold them to the same standard.”

    this is the biggest flaw in leftist thinking, in my opinion. The so-called children are not stupid and they are manipulating this card for all it’s worth. It’s one of the reasons the Palestinian leadership has no incentive for peace.

    Don’t get me wrong, I can see that the Israelis are taking advantage of the status quo for their own interests…but it is misguided and patronizing–and demonstrably futile to hold Palestinians to a lesser standard.

  72. Suzanne, I never said “stupid”! but due to lack of normal institutions and, frankly, normal life, their shortcomings are more excusable. The fact that some manipulate etc – well, that’s par for the course…

  73. Making excuses for their shortcomings just guarantees they’ll stay in the same rut. I see this dynamic between individuals all the time. It doesn’t work!

    Furthermore, it doesn’t provide the Israelis with an incentive (or pressure) to change either. As crappy as things are…they are still getting the better deal. Why should they change?

    They haven’t changed…that should tell you everything you need to know.

    The unending debate is: are the Palestinians dysfunctional because of Israeli occupation–or are the causes more deeply embedded and OLDER than the state of Israel?

    I’d say the answer is both–and until that issue is addressed honestly it’s all going nowhere…

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