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?

40 thoughts on “The inconvenient truth of two narratives

  1. The last line of the Huffington article was “you first”.

    Mistake. “Do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, whenever you can.”

  2. I thought you lived in New York, Dan. It isn’t raining today…

    The most under-rated component of any viable peace treaty is not trust in an adversary’s intentions, exactly. It is the willingness of both sides to take leaps of faith. There needs to be enough evidence that your adversary will follow through on his promises that you can convince yourself to jump into the unknown. Neither side has provided enough evidence…

  3. I’m at the point where I’ve given up caring whether anti-Zionists and other assorted Jew haters consider Israel’s concerns.

    First off, you can’t force them to do it.

    Secondly, they are not part of the solution and they don’t really deserve a voice in the dialogue, imo.

    I’d rather see someone come along with a Big Idea that solves the problem(s) to both sides’ satisfaction. As opposed to mediation, human rights hand holding, blah blah blah.

    I still think the crux of the problem–waaay beyond illegal settlements, Islamic jihad, etc is that Palestinians have no economic infrastructure.

    What needs to be honestly assessed is whether they have the resources (natural and otherwise) to build an economy that supports their population…


    are they committed to doing exactly that?

    For me, that’s the starting point of dialogue. Everything else is just evasion, imo.

  4. Suzanne,

    I agree that the most rabid anti-Zionists and Israel haters –some of whom hang out on MondoWeiss– are not politically relevant. But there is a vast, unseen audience out there, checking these blogs out, eavesdropping. Many of them are trying to make up their minds and don’t know what to think. They need to know that progressive and pro-Israel need not be an oxymoron. For their sake, it is important to engage the haters, somehow, so that the haters don’t get the last word. That is why I admire what Richard Witty does on Phil’s blog, although I am to the left of Richard on many issues. And that is why, occasionally, I provide posts like the current one.

  5. Dan,
    You’re probably to the left of me only in reactions to the heat of the discourse. Probably not in proposal.

    Maybe in your willingness for the political component to be a larger component of your proposal, rather than my emphasis on rule of law and consent.

    The dilemma with the subject is that there are really no even difficult answers (everyone proposed is wrenching). That is due to the GREAT divisions among Palestinians and Israelis. There are commonalities, but the commonalities are in what bothers them, rather than what they seek or how to get there.

    Thats a description of a very low level of political discourse, common irritation as the only level of consent established, and as a litmus test.

    A mature political discussion would have gotten to articulation of goal. If you took a poll of the participants on Mondoweiss, or Tikkun Olam, let alone other more extreme blogs, you wouldn’t get a concensus of common goal. And, if you did, you wouldn’t get a willingness to forego irritation for pursuing a common positive goal.

    Positive goals might be “reconciliation between the peoples”, “clear and fair definition of boundaries”, “Palestinians’ and Jews’ day in court in their respective former residences”, “establishment of consistent rule of law in each community”.

    Even dissenters that state that they agree on goal, but whose primary motivation is to identify a political correct response to common irritation, spend MUCH more time on separating the “loyal” from the “disloyal”.

    I point to Norman Finkelstein, who is now actually speaking for the reasonableness of a two-state solution, but still is willing to condemn those that come to that from a perspective that does not first condemn Israel deeply.

    Its like someone that sees an accident on the road, and yells at the nurse, “Why aren’t you in shock and ranting at the car that hit the person”. Because its MORE IMPORTANT to help even if I don’t know who is more at fault.

  6. http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1070934.html

    Nasrallah vows Hezbollah will never recognize Israel
    By Haaretz Service
    Tags: israel news, britain

    Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah vowed on Friday that his organization will never recognize Israel.

    In a speech delivered from his secret hiding place and beamed via video to thousands of Hezbollah followers in Lebanon, Nasrallah said his organization will never officially accept Israel, which in his words represents “a rapacious, racist, and illegal entity.”

    “We are strong and we are capable,” Nasrallah said. “If we will stand on our feet, we can destroy this entity.”

    So much for any prospect of even a peace that is based on conditions. Those that state that “if Israel acted so and so…, there would be peace”, ignore the unconditional nature of this assertion, and parallel assertions by Hamas.

  7. Richard, fill in the blanks
    “____ announced that it would have no dealings with any ___ on any political issue, and no dealings with the ___ whatever stand it took”
    Sound very unconditional to me. Yet, the blanks are
    “the Rabin (Labor) government”, “Palestinians” and “PLO”:

    […]The most crucial cases Margalit ignores entirely, for example, ‘Sadat’s peace proposal of February 1971, which offered nothing to the Palestinians (rejected by Israel with US backing), or the January 1976 UN Security Council resolution proposed by Syria, Jordan and Egypt, calling for a two-state settlement of just the sort that Margalit himself endorses, and vetoed by the US. The PLO openly backed the resolution and indeed “prepared” it according to President Chaim Herzog, then Israel’s UN Ambassador. Israel’s response to the calling of the UN session was to bomb Lebanon with over fifty civilians reported killed. It refused to attend the session, and the Rabin (Labor) government announced that it would have no dealings with any Palestinians on any political issue, and no dealings with the PLO whatever stand it took.

    (a href=”http://www.nybooks.com/articles/5766″>Source)

  8. Finkelstein want people to condemn Israel because it’s the possibly the only way to produce pressure on Israel and to keep its feet to the fire and maybe make it think twice before its next destructive move. Your refusal to accuse has nothing to do with your supposed desire to help the situation and everything to do with feeling good about yourself. In your analogy, maybe you want the nurse to help, but let the drunken driver that caused the accident to go free.

  9. The source I brought above—Chomsky’s letter to NY Review of Books—is a gift that keeps on giving (Richard W, note the bold type):

    What is noteworthy about Margalit’s account is not just his falsification of the record and of my adequately qualified review of it, but also the tacit assumption throughout that the only issue is the clarity of the PLO’s offers. Margalit describes Israel as “a bully” which, however, “has a right to a room of his own in the building.” As he notes, I agree, but I would add that the sight of the bully standing with his foot on his victim’s neck wondering whether the victim has been sufficiently forthcoming, whether his signals are clear enough, whether he adequately recognizes the legitimacy of his oppressor, is not a particularly pretty one. And I am surprised to see Margalit writing as though the stance of the bully and his protector is a matter of little significance.
    While the initiatives of the Arab states and the PLO vary in clarity and precision, as I wrote, there is no doubt about the unwavering rejectionism of the US and Israel, both Labor and Likud. These have been the crucial factors blocking the kind of settlement that Margalit has always advocated. As I documented, the basic facts have been suppressed or denied in the US, thus enabling the US and Israel to pursue policies that have led to oppression, conflict and the threat of nuclear war, and will continue to do so. It is constantly proclaimed in the US that Arab intransigence and PLO rejectionism block a political settlement that recognizes the right of self-determination of Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs. In fact, the US and Israel have led the rejectionist camp. This story is one of the most spectacular achievements of contemporary Agitprop, on a par with the tales about Israel’s fabled moral superiority. All of this Margalit ignores, while misrepresenting the two cases he does discuss.
    Margalit notes that in early May 1984, Arafat did make an “explicit” proposal in favor of mutual recognition of Israel and the PLO. To complete the story, Israel at once rejected these offers made by Arafat in interviews in France and England and in statements on his visit to Bangladesh and China. A month later, UN Secretary-General Perez de Cuellar proposed an international peace conference; the proposal was rejected by Prime Minister Shamir and Shimon Peres, speaking for the Labor opposition. The US had rejected a similar proposal in January. The national press in the US has been silent about all of this.
    As Margalit was writing, Labor announced its political program reiterating its famliar stand: negotiations only with Jordan and not the Palestinians, no Palestinian state, no uprooting of Jewish settlements, evacuation only of areas of dense Arab population in “Judea and Samaria”; and Shimon Peres called for expansion of Jordan Valley settlements and incorporation of the region within Israel (Ha’aretz, May 27, 4).

    All written more than 24 years ago! It is a wishy-washy stand like yours, Richard Witty, that enables it to a large extent.

  10. Teddy,
    In Northern Ireland David Trimble took a leap of faith and went into government with Sinn Fein while the IRA was contending that because it wasn’t part of the Good Friday Agreement–maintaining the fiction that Sinn Fein and IRA were separate. The British refused to follow through and Trimble was forced to take steps on his own to maintain the viability of his party and of his own pro-agreement stance within the party. He did it a second time and the British again refused to act. When he finally brought down the Assembly in 2002 it was too late and the UUP was politically compromised. If one side feels too much that it is the victim and doesn’t have to act in good faith the peace process will be in trouble. Only then did Sinn Fein act and get the IRA to disarm but it was too late for the UUP and the SDLP.

    For a long time I feared that the lesson of NI might be that because the settlers (unionists, Zionists) are very evenly divided between moderates and hardliners, that the tendency of the native liberation movements (IRA, PLO) to cheat on agreements would doom any peace process. In the case of NI, the process was saved, but it was a very inferior peace compared to that that was originally envisioned and sold to the public.

    So one always has to be prepared for that leap of faith not being reciprocated–because of the occupation, etc.

  11. Sorry, my first sentence in the last post should end with “were separate–they didn’t have to disarm.

  12. Jesus Witty, how many times has Bibi spoken about his view on a pending Palestinian state, ie NONE. So quit it please.

    Personally, I don’t think the Israeli narrative is dismissed because the dissidents believe that their concerns are unmerited (some do, because as an occupier and the primary aggressor and dispossessor, have no legitimate right to their self-defense) BUT overemphasise the Palestinian narrative because it is so ignored, so disputed and so distorted. It’s almost as if they go out of their way to make their talk so blatant to make up for the silence that is the status quo in mainstream media and in official speak in offices. Dan did say it best: “they are not politically relevant.” Point being: they really have had no representative out there, and that immediately dismisses the Palestinian narrative which is the second part of these “inconvenient” truths. I don’t recall any excoriation of Israel in major Canadian outlet, most of them in the opinion pages insisting that Israel had every right to kill as many as possible. The pages in the States weren’t too diverse either.

    What still puzzles me is the actual paradox of occupying and brutalising and maintaining that Israel still has a right to self-defense. I am definitely wrestling with that as (a) Israel as a (suggestive normal) state does have responsibilities to its own citizens to protect but (b) has no right to afflict the conditions they impose on Palestinians in both the Occupied Territories and in Israel proper. The cause and effect circle only winds around until it’s a riddle of a chicken-or-the-egg question.

    The point being that when does Israel take responsibility for its own actions that make Palestinians want to fight back when they have despaired or when they just have been fed so much hate that they want to take their lives? Of course this leads us to more lessons from history: did the French have a narrative that was consulted when they repressed the Algerians? Did the British have their narrative considered when they were stealing Irish lands? Do the Sinhalese have their narrative when they slaughter the Tamils? It gets rather complex and one could even invoke the Nazi example too.

    Also, I happen to disagree that anti-Zionists cannot be part of the solution. That really leaves out a great portion of Palestinians (in fact, possibly ALL of them except Abu Toameh and Shoebat), and I guess that’s just the euphamism to remove their concern here.

  13. The approach of condemnation is an approach that allows for no study, no interpretation, no recognition of multiple valid perspectives, exactly the comment that Dan is making here, that there is truth in each.


    (Thats an excel format for the absolute value of X squared, if you remember your high school math.

    Is the correct answer for Y, in that problem X?

    Most people that state, “Yes, the square root of a square would be X”.

    But, that is HALF the possible answers. If X is a negative number, then the correct answer is -X. Say if X were -1, then -1 * -1 = 1, and the square root of 1 is 1. TWO valid solutions to the same two dimensional picture.

    180 degrees different.

    You have to find out more to know the correct answer. You can’t attempt to shut down inquiry by ANY definition of political correctness, “this is the only possible conclusion”.

    And, if you can’t find the correct answer from the data that you have, say maybe you’re looking for the square root of -2, a problem without a solution (an imaginary number). If you can’t find the correct answer from the data that you have, a person with intellectual credibility will have to honestly say “I DON’T KNOW” what is accurate, or right.

    In the environment of propaganda enforced (literally) by condemnation and insult (consider Freeman for example), the range of what is accurately “I DON’T KNOW” is very large.

    If you are going to honestly state, I CHOOSE to emphasize this part of the story that has been neglected, even as I know it is not the complete story, that would be wonderfully honest.

    If you are going to say, “YOU ARE A RACIST SHIT, because you don’t smoke the same cigarette as me”, then you are functionally a dogmatist, however “enlightened”.

  14. “What still puzzles me is the actual paradox of occupying and brutalising and maintaining that Israel still has a right to self-defense. I am definitely wrestling with that as (a) Israel as a (suggestive normal) state does have responsibilities to its own citizens to protect but (b) has no right to afflict the conditions they impose on Palestinians in both the Occupied Territories and in Israel proper. The cause and effect circle only winds around until it’s a riddle of a chicken-or-the-egg question.”

    On Israel’s defense, it is NOT a chicken and egg question.

    Israel has a RESPONSIBILITY to defend its civilians from acts of war initiated from outside of its borders, and to defend its civilians from crimes within.

    Shelling civilians randomly IS an act of war. Israel is responsible to address it primarily. Thankfully there are expectations and law about what constitutes appropriate means to fulfill its responsibilities.

    But, that is NOT the question of whether to confront acts of war on its civilians, its solely a question of how to.

    The horror of “dissent” undertaken through acts of terror, is that it puts solidarity into the IMMORAL position of defending terror, in the name of opposing terror.

    Better to take a firm principled stand against all terror.

  15. Thanks for the information on Peres’ advocacy for settlements in the early 80’s.

    I didn’t know he had said that.

    Finkelstein has consistently stated that Nasrallah is a man of integrity, whose statements can be relied on, whose personal word can be relied on, and who is MERELY defending his people.

    I think that is a biased, and innaccurate conclusion, that has led him to make subsequent biased and innaccurate conclusions, and meanly.

    I know people that I respect greatly, that regard Finkelstein and Chomsky as “cutting through the bullshit”, of “intellectual courage and clarity”.

    I respect my friends’ impression, but think it is a half truth, that they also or even instead, foster dogmatism enforced meanly, in their stated effort to oppose dogmatism and oppression.

  16. Peter, Joshua,

    Did you hear my comments on the poverty of political analysis that ends at objection, and makes NO EFFORT to proceed to articulation of goal?

    And, of the poverty of political analysis that once goal is defined, cannot suspend irritation at others in the effort to achieve that good goal?

    Chomsky and Finkelstein adopt the “critical analysis” approach, that willingly ends at objection, rather than taken the next step forward.

    I was a great admirer of Howard Zinn for much of my life, inspired to produce an audio-book of A People’s History in 1992. At one speaking event, he was asked the same question, that isn’t it required of a dissenter to put into practise what he/she observes, to synthesize a positive goal from multiple considerations as a maturation further than mere complaint.

    He said that that wasn’t his role. I was disappointed. I respect him and dissent as important. He informs, like my eyes inform.

    BUT, seeing is not enough. I also have to smell, hear, taste, then think, and then act.

    My life is not fulfilled as the “eye” (a single sense that might provide innaccurate conclusions), but much further along.

  17. On Howard,
    At the same speech, he stated that he thought (like Gandhi) that non-violent civil disobedience would have been a preferable approach to dealing with Hitler. (He’s been widely criticized for such speculations, then assertions.) (And, it is a great “irony”, that he signed the pro-military resistance letter that was printed in the New York Times during the Lebanon War. Somehow, it is appropriate to support non-violent approaches relative to Hitler, but not to Israel.)

    He was a bombardier, I believe over Hungary, during WW2. (A bombardier controls the siting and release of bombs, in his case from a very high altitude. It is an anonymous way to attempt to attack targets, or mass kill if you “miss”, high altitude bombing.)

    My wife, who is a child of Hungarian holocaust survivors, went up to him and hugged him after the speech and thanked him for bombing in Hungary, or she prospectively might not have been born.

    I thought that was an artful manner of dissent.

  18. Just for reference, after my wife did that, one person at the lecture that heard my wife’s comments harrassed her for it.

    Thankfully it was only one.

  19. A hasty post since I’m halfway out the door.

    Dan–I never thought of it like that…that there’s fence sitters, folks looking for education etc reading these blogs. Although it did concern me right from the start that Mondoweiss shows up on the first page of many Israel news google searches. That’s how I found it.

    I guess my role there has been sending people into histrionics and then attempting to guess which personality disorder they exhibit. haha!

    Objectively speaking, I have no idea if that hurts or helps…because I just don’t take them seriously enough to engage. Maybe I need to reconsider (although pushing buttons is fun!)

    I find myself agreeing with Richard most of the time…I consider myself centrist–with the ability to lean left or right dependent on issue.

    One quick comment about the NI analogy that’s been made. I realize I boil things down to economics a lot (must be some remnant Marxist thing from teenage)–and I don’t really think it’s ever as simple as one factor.

    That said, I can’t help but notice that the IRA and proddy counterparts lost their clout as Ireland (and the greater UK) moved into the EU and began to flourish.

    Maybe it’s just coincidence. I am Irish on my father’s side (my mother is born and raised Jewish)–and when I was over there by the border (where I had relatives), I distinctly remember the IRA was hugely unpopular.

    I guess what I’m trying to suggest is that they had already lost their purpose by the time peace talks rolled around. In other words, just trying to save face and stay on the radar. That’s my perception anyway…right or wrong.

  20. Joshua,

    You wrote: “I don’t think the Israeli narrative is dismissed because the dissidents believe that their concerns are unmerited… BUT [they] overemphasise the Palestinian narrative because it is so ignored, so disputed and so distorted.”

    If that was their only motive, it would be laudable. But if you follow the comments on MondoWeiss and other sites that assault everything about Israel, I am afraid you will find plenty of people who simply cannot admit that both sides share responsibility for this tragedy. They also refuse to care that Israelis are also vulnerable to attack, and completely discount the threat and trauma from Hamas rockets in southern Israel because no Israelis have been killed. A few months ago on this blog, I asked one of them, “MM” if he were willing to blame the Palestinians for anything during the last 100 years or so , and he couldn’t bring himself to do it.

  21. Chomsky is not Finkelstein. Y’all should really know that.

    Just on a personal level, you’ll never catch Chomsky with a wild eyed look on his face looking satisfied at some tasteless bit of humor he just thought of.

  22. No, but Chomsky doesn’t mind referring to all those who disagree with him as Hitlerites, fascists, or Nazis. I know, I saw him speak once to a friendly audience and that’s what came out of his mouth. After that I had no wish to explore any of his ideas.

  23. I’m more familiar with Chomsky than I am with Finkelstein–and my familiarity with Chomsky is more with his anti-American-anti free market views.

    I forget where I read an interview with him (maybe the Sunday Times Magazine a number of years ago?)

    Anyway, he struck me as one of the most dour, pessimistic, emotionally dark social commentators I’ve encountered. Actually Zinn strikes me as being somewhat like that too. Just very personally dark.

    I’ve heard that depressed people see reality more realistically than anyone else…but man, if the world (and Israel) are the way Chomsky sees it, please slit my wrists now. 🙁

    I just prefer a more well rounded, even-toned perspective. Not one driven by personal demons.

  24. Zinn is not dark in the slightest. Chomsky is a very nice man if you don’t press his buttons.

    I’ve had some correspondence with both, mostly a very long time ago though.

    I had a recent correspondence with Finkelstein in which he called me the equivalent of a “holocaust denier” because I didn’t agree with his assessment that Hamas’ shelling of southern Israel in the week following the cessation of the cease-fire was not an act of INITIATING military confrontation.

    He stated that the cease-fire had been ended by Israel’s November 4 attack on a tunnel, even as the cease-fire resumed November 18 to December 18 fully and nearly perfectly on both sides.

  25. I attended a lecture tonight by “Combatants for Peace”, with two former soldiers (one Israeli, one Palestinian), that each spoke of their recognition that their prior attitudes and duties were the opposite of what made them good and proud individuals, and effective fighters even.

    They both had difficult stories, both of physically harming and dehumanizing the other. The Palestinian’s story was particularly moving, and you could tell that he felt a little out of place in a synagogue with mostly Jews.

    There was one other Palestinian that was at the lecture, an individual who had attended the counter-demonstration to the pro-peace/pro-Israel demonstration that I attended last weekend.

    The Palestinian combatant for peace responded to his anger and historical reference very kindly and clearly, that he just learned that the other was a human being, and that he had had enough of seeking to cause others severe harm, and that doing so created more opposition.

    Both were asked by more intent activists in the Q & A to condemn Israel and Israelis and the Israel Lobby. They each didn’t do that. They instead spoke that their actual opponent was fear, and that the only way to change that was by listening fully.

    It was inspiring.

    And still depressing, noting how difficult it is to communicate physically across the border, let alone across the psychological divide. And, also noting how the powers that be rationalize that “War is peace”.

    They did state that doing something tangible together helped their communication to their communities a great deal. They build playgrounds.

  26. Sorry Richard if I step on anything that you may have written on but, nothing against you or anyone else, you do have a lot of comments written here and, just like Suzanne, there are time constraints and hopefully I can get back to anything that I may have missed that is of importance to this conversation, which is pleasant I might add.

    “Israel has a RESPONSIBILITY to defend its civilians from acts of war initiated from outside of its borders, and to defend its civilians from crimes within.”

    It’s still quite disputable as although Israel’s government has the primary objective to protect its own citizens, it really has no right to impinged on the rights of others, even within its own borders WHICH IS UNDEFINED. As we discuss this, it’s difficult to understand just what Israel is willing to do within Israel and then within its disputed territories. Alas, it leads me to the thought of Michael Neumann that self-defense has to be one that does the least harm to protect its own. This also alludes to your point Thomas about Israel’s criticisers and their inability “to care that Israelis are also vulnerable to attack, and completely discount the threat and trauma from Hamas rockets in southern Israel because no Israelis have been killed.” I don’t think its an inability (but that’s a personal viewpoint) but rather an attempt at the realist approach to the existential threat that is puffed about Israel’s security. The minimisation of the rocket attack to the numbers game is to conflate the reality WITH the distorted; now I have no doubt that Israel’s care about the rockets landing on their land and in close promixity to so many people living their lives BUT that also pales in comparison with the death toll of Gaza, the living conditions of Gaza AND the total apathy that the world looks on with Gaza. This is the reality here and to make it look like that this is one even conflict with even suffering does not do justice. I do not question how bad living in Sderot could be just as I don’t question how bad living in Gaza really is BUT I make no allusions that Israelis, with a state, with an army, and even with the proper amount of goods that they live with, have it much better off than the Palestinians in Gaza. Does that make the Israeli narrative less demanding? No. Their case is separate and their suffering is separate and of a different magnitude but Israelis aren’t suffering the Gaza conditions.

    Ultimately, Israel does have RESPONSIBILITY, and as many times as they want to be dismissed of this to their Palestinian problem, Israel is still responsible for the situation there. This wanton shelling may constitute war crimes BUT really that seems disingenuous coming from a state that openly does it, routinely, and with more precise weapons and sometimes does it unapologetically. Where does Israel’s responsibility end to protect its citizens to its accountability begin to face its citizens when those measures lead to more hatred?

    It feels like this leads to a free hand for Israel to suppress anything that could be interpreted as a “security threat” just like you accuse Israel’s dissenters in giving a green light for resisters to openly kill in any form possible for them to take. By all accounts, Israel has does so much in the name to protect: it starves Palestinians, it erects walls, it builds checkpoints, it harrasses civilians, it imprisons supposed terrorists or potential ones, it liquidates officials it does not like who speaks bad, it fires on peaceful protests, it bulldozes the houses of families who are linked to “terror” groups, it prevents movement, it builds separate roads, ALL OF IT IS IN THE NAME OF SELF-DEFENSE AND ALL OF IT HAD TRAUMAS of Israeli citizens wanting the state to do more to protect itself AT THE EXPENSE OF THE PALESTINIANS who has seen their lives deteriorate.

    So you want to round them up, imprison them and humiliate them, destroy their homes, and when some of them get a little unruly and take their fight in a way Israel doesn’t like it to be because it may take some lives, then really, that to me seems backward. This isn’t self-defense. It looks more like a beatdown of a spouse who has finally had it and may want to take your life along with her own.

    Now I don’t want to remove the horror of the conflict for the Israelis. But self-defense has ran out a long time ago.

    PS I love Chomsky, Zinn and Finkelstein. I don’t agree with everything they say. I have to say though that I love pessimism and satire which is why I lean more towards Chomsky and Finkelstein. I haven’t had the pleasure to a personal dialogue with both but Sara Roy speaks very highly of both C and F and I have spoken to her very, very briefly and I found her to be very impressionable.

    PPS Teddy, yes I am on Phil’s site and some commenters are WAY over the top on both sides, although admittedly Phil attracts more of Israel’s dissenters that the hasbara-types. I don’t read most of them and I remember one guy named Ed who persisently used “Zio-fascist” or “Zio-Nazi” or something to that tripe. I just couldn’t read more.

    Lastly, let’s not assume that this is a flaw that is only prevalent amongst anti-Zionists and Israel-bashers; I find plenty among the other camp simply refusing that (a) Palestinians have a right to life and (b) Palestinians even existed in the first place.

  27. I attended a presentation last night by two members of Combatants for Peace, a group of former Israeli and Paletinian soldiers/fighters that had determined that they had both been brainwashed to regard the other with hatred or ignoring (“Invisible Man”), and had had enough of it.

    Both individuals had personally done harmful things to the other community during their periods as military. The Palestinian had had much much more severe tragedy. He conveyed a true story of one of his daughter’s being killed by an IDF rubber bullet.

    The event was held at a liberal shul in Northampton, MA. As is usually the case, the Q & A was the most compelling. In the audience a Palestinian student activist (one of the organizers of an anti-Israel counter-demonstration in Amherst, MA – where Hampshire is located), spoke about the injustice to the Palestinians going back before 1948, that the Zionists had conspired from the getgo to expropriate the land.

    The Palestinian speaker said, “Yes, and still they are human beings, and we are human beings and I personally have determined NOT to respond to harm with force or even anger. The most courageous attitude I can take is to listen.”

    Both the Israeli and the Palestinian conveyed a truth-based valor that made reaction look paltry.

    Not even to demonstrate or condemn even though the contrast between their commitment and the fearful Israeli approach and the angry Palestinian approach was stark.

    “We are not academics. We think we are intelligent, but we are not intellectuals. We are simple people, for whom a cloud has been lifted.”

  28. Sorry for the duplication of posts. I thought the earlier one had been interrupted and didn’t post.

  29. The difference between condemnation and anger as activism and non-violent assertion as activism, is that any expression that results from fear or from anger, results in more of the same, whereas non-violent forms of bravery results in assertion with the possibility of reconciliation.

    Hamas shelling, IDF bombing, is a consented dance of the two.

    What do we agree to? To harm each other, in thought, word, and deed.

    Better to accept each other in thought, word and deed, and if possible to help each other.

  30. According to respected international lawyer Franklin Lamb a recent CIA report gives the Israeli state 20 years before it collapses. Apparently members of the US Senate Intelligence Committee have seen the report which argues that a two-state solution is no longer realistic and that a one-state solution is the only viable democratic option. It predicts:

    “an inexorable movement away from a two-state to a one-state solution, as the most viable model based on democratic principles of full equality that sheds the looming specter of colonial Apartheid while allowing for the return of the 1947/1948 and 1967 refugees. The latter being the precondition for sustainable peace in the region.”

    According to Lamb the CIA refers to the rapid and unexpected downfall of Apartheid South Africa (unexpected by the CIA that is which was of course a supporter of the racist regime, with the US government refusing to support sanctions, along with Thatcher’s Britain) and of the Soviet Union.


  31. Richard–thanks for sharing about the speaker presentation. I had first heard about the tour the two are doing in various spots around the US and I’m sorry I missed it.

    Who is their intended target audience for the most part? Is it the Jewish community, various pro-Israeli sectors, or anyone engaged in the I/P issue regardless of which side they are on?

  32. Re: the Franklin Lamb claim…has snopes debunked this yet?

    Franklin Lamb appears to be another anti-Israel activist who is resorting to a new level of lies and deceptive propaganda.

    Just another silly rumor that has no legs.

  33. In Northampton, MA, the presentation was largely to the converted.

    Discussion of Israeli politics is so contentious, insulting even, that there really aren’t many that come to events like that with an open mind, just to learn.

  34. Yes, it is contentious. It’s not a topic of discussion I’m willing to engage in anymore with acquaintances etc unless I sense they have a balanced view. It’s boring at this point…and no one is going to change anyone else’s mind. Just a bunch of people talking at each other.

  35. Gary-
    People have been writing off Israel for decades. Even before the state was created, the British, bedevilled by an inability to satisfy both the Jews and Arabs turned the problem over to the UN in 1947, figuring that the US and USSR would deadlock over the matter and then hand the thing back to the British with a mandate to impose an solution which would be in essence an Arab state with some autonomy for the Jews. However, this deadlock did not occur, the USSR suppported creating a Jewish state as part of partition of the country. Then, when the time came for the British to leave, they were certain the Jews would come crawling back to them and beg them to stay, fearing being overwhelmed by the Arabs (the old “Jews are cowards” stereotype). Instead the Jews won the war. Then, during the waiting period before the 1967 war, people such as the New York Times editorial staff, wrote that “Israel was finished, it has no allies like it did in the 1956 war [Britain and France] and will go under. Israel won the subsequent war. Israel is getting stronger and stronger and the Arab world is falling further and further behind. So doom-sayers like Lamb aren’t saying anything new and will be proven wrong again.

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

    I totally agree with this – the two narratives must be replaced by four narratives:

    moderate Israelis
    moderate Palestinians
    extremist Israelis (settlers)
    extremist Palestinians (Islamists)

    The perpetrators are the extremists and the victims are the moderates. You must separate them in your mind. Separate them now!

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