Politics as a Continuation of War by Other Means (Update)

by A. Jay Adler on June 9, 2010
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Apropos of my post of earlier today, Normblog, offers one of his periodically superb guest posts from Eve Garrard: Israel, human decency, common humanity.

Garrard scores writers Fintan O’Toole and Iain Banks for their own indecent attacks on Israel by running through the litany of human and national indecencies that enemies of Israel purposefully ignore. She ends,

Third, and most importantly, every point I’ve made in this post has been made before, by many others, many many times: forcefully, cogently, analytically; both passionately and dispassionately; with humour and with despair. It hasn’t made the slightest difference to the likes of Banks and O’Toole. Nor to the many others shouting or whispering at us, in the teeth of the evidence, that Gaza is the new Warsaw Ghetto, and that Israel is really Nazi Germany come again – and so it’s fine to hate Israel, it’s to your credit to hate it, it shows the world that you have simple human decency.

Why is this? And where will it lead?

The answer to why is that it is not an argument in search of truth, a debate open to resolutions of reasoned persuasion. It is a war, of the kind I describe below. Why primary belligerents in that war, such as Hamas, are fighting it they tell us very directly. The question of why others are enlisting themselves in that war has multiple answers, some wearily historic, some of more modern vintage, and there are writers and historians regularly well addressing that question for those who care to know.

As to where it will lead, that remains to be determined.

AJA

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4 comments

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

copithorne June 10, 2010 at 11:56 pm

Boy it seems just about impossible that I could say anything or have any new ideas on the subject.

I can understand that it seems like there is so much blame directed at Israel that it seems like the most important thing to do to rally political support for Israel.

I can sympathize that there have been times or forums where I would have chosen not to criticize the Democratic Party because upholding a simple big picture building hope is more useful than indulging in activity that could promote cynicism. If lives are on the line, I can justify being a partisan.

We are very far away from any kind of peace in the region. We are at the point of thinking about what we might have to do in order to begin talks negotiating the size of the table at peace negotiations.

So, much of my response to conversations about Israel is just to focus on the conversations themselves. It is not that I have influence over Israeli policy. But how can I practice talking about the issue that leads closer to peace rather than away from it?

So, some of the principles I might look to uphold include:

1. A sense that interminable war is not an acceptable option. I might say that endless war would destroy the spiritual principle of Zionism. Or that it will sicken Israeli society.

2. Not knowing what to do is a better option than interminable war. ‘I don’t know how to bring about peace’ is a more fruitful posture than defending what is going on even though what is going on has no prospect of leading to peace. I understand this is nearly an impossible position for an Israeli government to take. But it works for those of us on the sidelines.

3. Trying to see things from both sides is better than defending one side and blaming another. Again, not knowing how to take the other side can be more fruitful than taking one side and blaming the other.

4. There is always something both sides can to to promote peace. Succumbing to the view that ‘there is nothing we can do to promote peace’ is not acceptable.

I can understand that Israeli’s policies towards Palestinians are more humane than any other country might achieve. It also seems to me inarguable that there are substantial dimensions of the Israeli occupation that are punitive, arbitrary, sadistic and humiliating. It is understandable that the Israelis have become angry and this anger leaks out. But these dimensions of Israeli policy are not constructive. In conversation, it does not advance things to ignore them or defend them.

It seems to me that everyone knows how this is going to end. ’67 borders, no right of return, international Jerusalem, brokered and enforced by broad multilateral international coalition lubricated by a pile of American and Arab money. How far could Israel get pursuing this destination by itself? A skillful leader could get pretty far. You announce this is where you are headed and you begin to get other countries to sign on.

What is it going to take to lance the boil of Palestinian and Islamic victimization and violence? Feminism. Rock and Roll. The internet. Soccer. A constructive heroic purpose for young people. Liberal religion. The best of the West is all I’ve got to offer.

Reply

A. Jay Adler June 11, 2010 at 6:29 pm

I certainly endorse your concluding paragraph.

There is no doubt that military occupation or control, even the most benign, which the Israeli effort in these circumstances cannot be, is a humiliation. And some counter-terrorism tactics are very strong. It’s war. “Arbitrary” is bureaucracy’s middle name. I would be interested to know, though, which policies you consider “sadistic.”

About negotiations, regardless of what many people say is going to be the face of a final agreement – which we know, in significant measure, because on several occasions the Israelis, not the Palestinians, have sketched the face of it, one cannot negotiate like that. I have engaged in both business and union-side negotiations, and followed, as an outsider, many political negotiations, and an opening proposal is never a final agreement. Go in with your sincere bottom line as a package, and you will either give away much of importance to you in the end or waste your time not getting anywhere. That’s just the way contention and negotiations work. If the Israelis starting now all over again offer what you state, the Palestinians will presume it is only a starting position and they will ask for more – and think the Israelis intransigent for not giving any further, even if the Israelis had started by offering more than they ever had before.

Regarding interminable war – look for an analogy in an upcoming post.

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A. Jay Adler June 10, 2010 at 12:49 am

I understand why you would think what you say here regarding blame. Of course, at the moment, there is so much blame being directed at Israel. I believe, for now and a long time, that Israelis would settle for others to believe whatever they like about blame, and for Palestinians to continue to believe in their own rightness, so long as the Israelis could have an actual peace beside neighbors truly willing to leave them in peace.

Regarding effective policies, do you (sincerely) have alternative ideas, with consideration of what behaviors would likely follow – from the Palestinians, in general, from Hamas, from Hezbollah – and what consequences?

Reply

copithorne June 9, 2010 at 10:05 pm

It seems as though there is hardly any room any more to ask whether the policies of the Israeli government are effective and whether they are likely to lead to good outcomes.

In these times those questions are overshadowed by the preoccupation of who is to blame.

To me it is a matter of interest why the conversation of who is to blame is so much more compelling than the conversation of how to solve problems. If I could figure out how to disarm that preoccupation with blame – personally and politically – I could be useful.

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