Hamas Hebron Israel Israeli occupation Israeli settlements Palestinians

The inconvenient truth of two narratives

On Huffington Post, David Young offers a dialogue between an Israeli and a Palestinian, both of them composites (hat tip to Tom Mitchell). It’s a very useful summary of the current state of the two narratives. An excerpt:

Avi:…We hated uprooting Gaza’s 8000 Jewish settlers; they spit on our own soldiers and called them Nazis. But it had to be done, unilaterally or otherwise. But can Palestinian leaders and institutions exert the same legitimate, authoritative control over its own people, including the radicals?

Ahmed: If most Israelis would hand over Hebron if they thought doing so would make them safer in Israel proper, then the same is true of Palestinian resistance: in the late 1990s, Fatah cracked down on Hamas so much that only 8 Israelis were killed by Palestinians between the summers of 1997 and 2000, compared to more than a thousand during the 2nd Intifada. We were promised at Oslo that if we delivered security, you would reverse settlement growth (or at least freeze it!); but the “dovish” Ehud Barak oversaw the development of more settlements than any other Israeli prime minister…We controlled our radicals then, and you’re still complaining that you don’t have a “credible partner for peace.”

Avi: Okay, you’re right on this one. We wanted to have it both ways, and it cost us both a lot. But now the 2nd Intifada has compelled us to start building trust again, and we have created so many new terrorists that we are now faced again with the same problem: even in the best case scenario, it’s not the vast majority of Palestinians that we worry about. We are worried about the one percent that will simply never give up killing Israelis until we move to Alaska or Uganda or wherever. And among a population of 3.5 million, one percent is still 35,000–all of whom could exploit a peace settlement by launching rockets and mortars from ideal strategic positions on top of the hills surrounding East Jerusalem. Currently, we have the authoritative legitimacy to neutralize our own rabid one percent, but do you?

Ahmed: You don’t get it. We’ve already proven that to you, and you blew it. Whenever Palestinians feel hopeful about the peace process, the government has more than enough legitimacy to confront our extremists.

This brings to mind a comment on a post by Philip Weiss in January. After, at my behest, Weiss acknowledged that it was wrong for Hamas to use people as human shields and that the Israelis were not the only ones who behaved badly in Gaza, “David Green” commented:

“The `two narratives’ approach is a non-starter for analysis and action. Let’s keep the perpetrators separate from the victims.”

I found this quote so astonishing that I saved it for a rainy day. It’s one thing to argue with the Israeli side of the story; this guy thinks it is useful to pretend that the Israelis have no story at all. That is an extreme example, but I am encountering the logic at its core more and more these days, i.e, the premise that Israelis’ worries about their own safety should not even be part of the political and strategic calculus. It is just inconvenient to worry about the Israelis’ worries, so let’s pretend they don’t have any, shall we?

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