The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict in a Single Conversation

by A. Jay Adler on July 12, 2012
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The following is a partial transcript of a “discussion” on Democracy Now between Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin and Ali Abunimah of Electronic Intifada. In this brief exchange we see all of the essential characteristics of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Tobin makes the point that regardless of any opinion regarding the settlements, peace can be had. Legal settlements can be sacrificed for peace just as illegal might be. Abunimah fails here, as everywhere else, to be an honest interlocutor. Rather than respond to that idea, he dismisses it as a “talking point.” And even if it were? What about the idea behind it? However, Abunimah is not a man of ideas, but of postcolonial jargon. His rhetoric in a single brief conversation represents in nature the actions of the Palestinian and greater Arab world going back to 1947: refusal to engage and accept, a rejection of reasoned discourse just like rejection of a Jewish state. He slings historically and conceptually false lablels like slurs and stones: “settler colonialism,” “apartheid,” “indigenous Palestinian people.” In his final dishonesty, he snows the sympathetic mind with reference to “Jim Crow tyranny,” as if two peoples in conflict over land and competing nationhoods are the equivalent of discrimination within a single nation.

But, ah! That’s the point. Abunimah’s unspecified solution in equality to his manufactured inequality is an unarticulated but implicit single nation – which isn’t Israel. Tobin, less driven and riven by hate and mental hackery, is too smart for him, and does not leave the inference unexpressed. Then Abunimah is reduced to scurrying into all the corners of his dishonesty to deny the implications of language.

Same as it ever was. Same as it ever was. Read.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: I want to turn to a statement made by Israeli President Shimon Peres. He spoke out Tuesday against settlements in the West Bank. He said, quote, “Israeli settlement in territories densely populated by an Arab population could bring about a threatening demographic change; that is, it could endanger the Jewish majority in Israel. It is doubtful that a Jewish State without a Jewish majority can remain Jewish.” Jonathan Tobin, can you comment on what Israeli President Shimon Peres said?

JONATHAN TOBIN: That’s a position that many Israelis hold. But it shouldn’t be conflated with the question of their legality. The problem here is that people like the people from The Electronic Intifada don’t really recognize legitimacy of Jewish life anywhere in the country, including inside the Green Line, including the settlement Tel Aviv. The problem here is that it’s not a question of whether they’re legal or not, because if the Palestinians wish to make peace, if they wish to compromise, if they wish to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders are drawn, they can do so, and Israel has approved it will withdraw from territory, if offered peace. The problem is, the Palestinians won’t recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state, the legitimacy of Jewish life anywhere in that country. That’s why this is—the talk of war crimes, the talk of it’s criminal—Jews are not foreigners in the land of Israel.

The problem is, the Palestinians don’t wish to share. What we have here is a question of disputed territory. Both sides have rights. All the rights are not on the sides of the Palestinians. Jews have rights, too. If the Palestinians wish to have peace, if they wish to have the Palestinian—independent Palestinian state that they were offered three times and rejected three times in the last 12 years, they have to start dealing with the reality that the Jews aren’t going away. And if they do, they’ll find that Israel is willing to withdraw from most of the settlements, whether they—whether they consider them legal or not. Let’s not conflate these two issues. Peace is possible if the Palestinians are willing to make peace. It’s not possible if they focus on fantasies about throwing the Jews out. Even the Obama administration, which has been the most sympathetic to the Palestinian of any in recent—in any recent light, understood that many of the settlements are going to stay. That’s what the talk about territorial swaps was about last year. So, to focus on the illegality of things, of places that everyone knows are going to stay Israeli, and where Jews have the right to live, is just a fantasy that breeds more terrorism and more rejection of peace, which is what we get from The Electronic Intifada.

ALI ABUNIMAH: Well, if—

AMY GOODMAN: Ali Abunimah.

ALI ABUNIMAH: I mean, yeah, I see that Mr. Tobin studied the talking points very well this morning. Of course, let’s bring things back to basics. This isn’t a question of Jews. Jews have lived in Palestine since before the Zionist settler colony was imposed on Palestine. It’s not a question of Jews living there. It’s a question of settler colonialism, of apartheid, of the assertion that Jews have a right to superior rights than the indigenous Palestinian people and have a right to just bulldoze— literally bulldoze—their way onto Palestinian land and steal it for their own benefit. Frankly, I mean, I’m not surprised Mr. Tobin doesn’t care a jot about international law—

JONATHAN TOBIN: Jews are the indigenous people there, too. Jews are not foreigners.

ALI ABUNIMAH: —but you would think—you would think that Commentary, a conservative publication, would care at least about private property rights and the fact that vast tracts of these Jewish-only settler colonies are built on private Palestinian land, stolen by force by Israel’s Jewish sectarian militia known as theIDF.

Now, back to Shimon Peres’s statement, which was your original question, of course, his statement calling Palestinian babies a so-called demographic threat really reveals the Jim Crow-like racism at the core of this Zionist ideology that views the mere existence of Palestinian babies in their own native land as a threat to Israel. How can Palestinians ever possibly recognize or give legitimacy to an entity which views their mere reproduction as human beings as a mortal threat? It’s time for Mr. Tobin and all the fans of this apartheid, racist, Jim Crow tyranny to make good on their claimed liberal and progressive values and oppose Israeli apartheid and accept the inevitable, which is, just like in the Jim Crow South, just like in apartheid South Africa, one day there is going to be equal rights for everyone between the river and the sea, and all of this nonsense that Mr. Tobin is trying to sell us will be absolutely forgotten.

NERMEEN SHAIKH: I want to turn to the U.S. response to the commission’s report. The Obama administration criticized the findings of the report. Speaking Monday, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said, quote, “The U.S. position on settlements is clear. Obviously, we’ve seen the reports that an Israeli Government appointed panel has recommended legalizing dozens of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, but we do not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlement activity and we oppose any effort to legalize settlement outposts.” Jonathan Tobin, can you respond to that?

JONATHAN TOBIN: Well, of course the administration isn’t going to—hasn’t recognized that position. It opposes it. But it also tacitly agrees to the fact that the Jews aren’t going away. I mean, what we heard from my colleague on the show was the Palestinian fantasy that some day Israel is going to be destroyed. All the calumnies, all the slanders about apartheid—

ALI ABUNIMAH: I never said that. I didn’t use those words.

JONATHAN TOBIN: Yes, yes. That’s what—

ALI ABUNIMAH: I said that the system of racism and apartheid is going to be ended.

JONATHAN TOBIN: That is exactly what you are talking about.

ALI ABUNIMAH: And that will happen.

JONATHAN TOBIN: It is not an apartheid state. It is the only—

ALI ABUNIMAH: But don’t substitute your words with mine.

JONATHAN TOBIN: It is a state where Arabs have equal rights, serve in the parliament. And that—that is exactly what they are talking about. They’re talking about the destruction of Israel, and which is why this whole discussion—

ALI ABUNIMAH: Your words, sir. And it’s your fantasy.

JONATHAN TOBIN: It is your meaning. Don’t try to—

ALI ABUNIMAH: Your fantasy is the destruction of Israel.

JONATHAN TOBIN: Don’t try to—don’t try to lie your way out of it.

ALI ABUNIMAH: Was Jim Crow the destruction of Alabama and Mississippi?

JONATHAN TOBIN: You are fantasizing about the end of the Jewish state.

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20 comments

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Dan January 13, 2013 at 11:54 am

It’s people like Abunimah and Massad who cause me to legitimately fear an Al Jazeera outpost on American TV. Up until now, the US has been a relatively safe haven from all of the braindead propaganda that people like them vomit forth so regularly. The last thing we need is to give them a voice.

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brucejuice52 July 19, 2012 at 1:11 pm

So go headlong into the nitty gritty. Some people tend to forget that the other official language of the UN, like Canada, is French. The French version of the Resolution says “Retrait des forces armées israéliennes des territoires occupés lors du récent conflit”.

“des territoires” can only be interpreted as “from the territories”.

Also like Canada, both languages hold equal weight, and must be interpreted together.

The stated purpose of the resolution was to prevent the acquisition of territory through war & to affirm each side’s territorial integrity. As your logic goes—along with the logic of the Israeli government–Israel could withdraw ten feet and satisfy its obligations, and then use the continued occupation as a bargaining chip to get itself a better deal, the latter of which it is doing.

So basically, if your logic were right, Resolution 242 was intended to have no practical function. Not only that, it would go directly against the stated purpose of the Resolution.

Generally, Security Council resolutions are meaningful and have a practical effect. That’s the main difference between the Security Council and the General Assembly. Reading out certain words (like “the”) may help you sleep at night, but you are on fairly shaky ground.

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brucejuice52 July 19, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Also, in terms of the statements of diplomats, of the 15 members of the Security Council (at the time), diplomats from eight of those countries (France, Russia, India, Bulgaria, Ethiopia, Mali, Nigeria Argentina) (over 50%), explicitly announced that the intention was the Israel withdraw from all the territories.

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A. Jay Adler July 20, 2012 at 8:01 am

You spark my curiosity. Obviously, you long ago ceased to be responding to the point of this post and have continued to exemplify my subsequent point about the ideological compulsion to make Israel wrong, and I have no intention of arguing endlessly with you about that. (You do know that well over 50% of member UN nations voted for Resolution 3379, declaring Zionism a form of racism? You agree?) But when you speak of Israel withdrawing from all the territories, on what do you justly base that demand? Don’t say a Security Council resolution – I presume if the Security Council voted tomorrow that Spain needed to cede land to France, you would not agree on that basis that Spain was required to do so. On what basis – other than a negotiated agreement to meet the desire and need of two peoples for a state – do you argue that those territories, and all of them, legally belong to the Palestinians?

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brucejuice52 July 20, 2012 at 1:06 pm

My argument was the military occupation is illegal. To assert that the land legally belongs to the Palestinians–although it is true–goes beyond the scope of my argument. I have already effectively taught you an introductory course in international law, and I have no desire to go beyond what I have said.

But, to recap, You challenged my argument that the military occupation is illegal, and I provided very clear evidence that that you were simply mistaken. If you do not believe that Security Council resolutions are binding international law, then if I may, I suggest for you to read the UN Charter and the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. This shall satisfy you’re curiosity.

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A. Jay Adler July 20, 2012 at 3:01 pm

Your arrogance is impressive. Where I heretofore thought you argued merely tendentiously and poorly, I now see you do so either dishonestly or self-delusively. In your didactic presumption, you think it has been overlooked how many arguments you dropped after failing to respond to their counters. You conversely presume, apparently, that my disinterest in engaging you in futile dispute over every referent constituted some victory on your part.

In response to your resort to the UN Charter, I could cite Article 80, which incorporated the rights established under the Palestine Mandate of Jews to settle in territory west of the Jordan river. With time, no doubt, you would find a response. I could point out the politically delegitimizing history of UN commissions and omissions – the failure, for instance, to classify and regularly condemn the Turkish “occupation” in Cyprus as an occupation, or the Moroccan in the Western Sahara, each of which is more clearly so than on the West Bank. You will have your response.

I could point out how you fail to grasp the elementary point of my Resolution 3379 example: not the legal standing of a General Assembly versus a Security Council resolution (though the consequent effect on moral standing of such racist UN history is not to be overlooked) but the foolishness, as you had just done, of resorting to majority percentages – regarding the proper understanding of Resolution 242 – as meaningful argument.

However, it is just that argument over 242 that reveals that tendentious insistence in all your arguments, against any reasonable accession and compromise. I offer that the very drafters of the resolution afterwards clearly explained the political origination of the ambiguous word choices and omissions in the resolution. You respond that some council members disagree with the ambiguity – which embedded potential for disagreement was the very purpose of the amibuguous language to begin – and that the French version differs. You fail to mention that while English and French are equal official UN languages, the resolution was drafted in English, or that many French language experts state that the French version, as it is, is the only proper way to translate the English as it is.

What does all this establish? At the very least, to a reasonable and open mind, that there is room for uncertainty and credit to the other point of view, which might offer good reason to cease that argument and settle the whole affair. But not for you. You have a political cause you’ve latched onto like a teat, and you’ll keep sucking it until you wear it out and split your lip, but never mind – it tastes good. And all this is the reason this conflict has persisted for over sixty years, because some people care more about grandiose fantasies of themselves as Robert Jackson providing “an introductory course in international law” than they actually do in seeing the conflict end.

But I know you mean well.

brucejuice52 July 20, 2012 at 1:13 pm

P.S. Resolution 3379 was a resolution of the General Assembly.

I am not going to elucidate the differences between the General Assembly and the Security Council, but to be succinct, resolutions from the former would not be classified as international law. SC resolutions are, in fact, international law.

I share your outrage about General Assembly Resolution 3379, but you need not worry, because it is not binding.

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brucejuice52 July 17, 2012 at 6:54 am

Yes, I agree, words matter. Especially the words of the World Court, the Israeli High Court, the UN Security Council, and not to mention the UN General Assembly. Words you reject. First, the continued military “occupation” in West Bank and East Jerusalem (as designated by the Israeli Supreme Court and World Court) is “illegal” according to Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. I won’t address the self-defence argument because it is inconsequential, as Security Council resolutions are nonetheless binding international law. Second, the establishment of Israeli settlements in these lands is also illegal according to the 4th Geneva Convention and have “no legal validity” according to Security Council Resolution 446.

You’re right about the precondition. The Israeli Government demands the Palestinians to recognized the right (or legitimacy) of existence of the Jewish State of Israel. This issue is off the table, meaning a solution is off the table. It’s not a precondition, per se, but it preemptively subverts any chance of success.

Yes. I personally believe the Palestinians should attempt to negotiate for a deal. Also, I believe the Israeli government should discontinue its illegal operations, so they cannot be used as a bargaining chip. There is no contradiction here.

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A. Jay Adler July 17, 2012 at 8:24 pm

Now, you see, anyone reading your comment who is unfamiliar with the source documents would not know from your use of the words “occupation” and “illegal” in quotation marks that those words do not, in fact, appear, for instance, anywhere in Resolutions 242 and 338. The latter just refers back to the former which refers to the “acquisition” of territory by war, not the defensive occupation of it prior to a settlement of the conflict. 242 does call, among other provisions, for the withdrawal of Israeli forces; however, it calls for withdrawal within the context of “establishment of a just and lasting peace.” That, of course cannot be accomplished while the Palestinian Authority refuses to negotiate. Once again, the claim of the illegality of Israel’s defensive occupation of territory prior to a peace settlement is simply false.

Every party in every negotiation thinks some demands of the other side are nonstarters that preempt settlement. That’s why the parties are in conflict to begin and why negotiations are necessary. That’s how it works. One may state the same of the Palestinian demand for a complete “right of return.” It is never going to happen. On the other hand, Israel has already in the past, in return for a peace treaty with Egypt, withdrawn from land occupied in the very same war. It has already once before, in Gaza, withdrawn from settlements it considered to be legal. Which brings us back to the point of this post. The issue is not really anyone’s arguments about the legality or illegality of the settlements; the issue is negotiations. Anything might happen with them; almost surely nothing the Palestinians favor will happen without them. Yet the Palestinians, after having rejected at least four opportunities for a state, continue to refuse to negotiate without preconditions. As usual, it is someone else’s fault.

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brucejuice52 July 18, 2012 at 7:05 am

To put in in layman’s terms, Security Council resolutions, as I mentioned, are binding international law. This means that refusing to obey an SC resolution, simply, is always illegal. No need to be redundant. Some clever lawyers have tried to weasel around them, but member states of the UN are simply bound by Security Council resolutions.

To be precise, Resolution 338 says the following:

“The Security Council … Decides that, immediately and concurrently with the cease-fire, negotiations start between the parties concerned under appropriate auspices aimed at establishing a just and durable peace in the Middle East.”

This part of the agreement basically requires all parties to negotiate, which they have done, and failed thus far. Resolution 338 does not require a negotiated outcome or solution–it only requires that talks are “aimed at establishing a just and durable peace”. That part of the resolution has been fulfilled, though regrettably, without success.

Also Resolution 338 calls upon parties to implement Resolution 242 “in all of its parts”.

The part about the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, as Resolution 242 requires, has not been fulfilled. This makes the military occupation illegal.

In any case, the settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, as I mentioned, from Resolution 446, “have no legal validity”, and are not in accordance with the Geneva Conventions.

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brucejuice52 July 18, 2012 at 7:24 am

Oh yes, and in terms of my use of the word “occupation”, I do not need to repeat that Resolution 242 refers to territories “occupied” in the recent conflict, so does the World Court and the Israeli Supreme Court.

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A. Jay Adler July 18, 2012 at 9:23 am

I love “clever lawyers,” who try to “weasel.” Law for you is an ideological-God commandment when you like its interpretation, sophistry when you don’t. In addition to my previous point about 242 as a whole package, not severable in its implementation, among the weaseling clever lawyers you reference are most of the diplomats who actually drafted the resolution, and who clarified multiple times that “withdrawal from territories” rather than from “the” territories was a conscious diplomatic construction (weaselly to you) intended to allow that for security purposes, Israel might not withdraw to the 1948 armistice lines (the 1967 boundaries). The logic of this, too, entails that withdrawal would not take place outside of a peace settlement, because it is only the negotiations of a peace treaty that can establish agreed upon boundary lines. It is argued in no other conflict that a successful defensive party withdraw from territories occupied before its foe is willing to make permanent peace. No one would have insisted that the World War II allies withdraw from Japan or Germany as occupying powers if the Japanese and Germans had refused to surrender (just, by the way, the most unequal kind of negotiated settlement there can be).

All of which returns us still once more to the point of this post, which I made again in my last comment, and which you once more ignore. Some parties, as you here, are unendingly invested in winning the argument and making the other side wrong. Others, like Tobin in his participation in the televised discussion here, understand that settlement of a conflict is not a process of making the other side wrong and winning the point: it is about negotiation of demands against needs and the desire for peace and a different future. If you agree that the Palestinians should be negotiating, whatever they think of Israel and its actions, then the point of this post has been made.

brucejuice52 July 12, 2012 at 11:41 am

sry for posting twice

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brucejuice52 July 12, 2012 at 11:40 am

I really don’t agree that these terms are entirely “conceptually false”. If the US came into Canada and started bulldozing houses and claiming the land belongs to them (even if because of their religion, like the Manifest Destiny), and building American-only villages, I really can’t think of any other word beyond “colonialism”. In any case, it’s categorically illegal, as is the military occupation.

The “apartheid” analogy is very widely used, and I think that can be classified as a civil rights issue. The legal discrimination against Palestinians is undisputed, and documented by countless Israeli Jews and others.

Also, “indigenous” peoples is pretty bang-on, if describing the Palestinians who have lived in the area for milennia. There’s also people from other ethnicities and religions, sure, but that does not negate Palestinian indigenous-ness.

One can debate until the cows come home about what concept is most appropriate. But they are just words. The main point is, however, that EVEN if the words “colonialism” or “apartheid” are not entirely appropriate in this context, they would not be far off from the truth.

In the end, Israel maintains an illegal occupation, continues to illegally build settlements in land acquired by conquest, and they do not accord the same rights and benefits to Arabs. It doesn’t make much sense to get mad with Palestinians–they are understandably infuriated for losing their land. This will surely continue until Israel discontinues its illegal operations.

By the way, I think your “competing nationhoods” concept is much more euphemistic and inaccurate than anything leveled against Israel. There’s not a lot of competition, much more “domination”.

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A. Jay Adler July 12, 2012 at 12:52 pm

Well, sorry, but your account of these issues is historically groundless and grossly conceptually mistaken. Every analogy you use is mistaken. The U.S. and Canada are two established and and sovereign nations. Israel and the disputed territories, and the status quo after sixty plus years of conflict between two antagonistic peoples, are not analogous. These differences and the history behind them are determinative, and the goal of those who obscure them is to obscure the truth. Yes, Palestinians are indigenous to the area; so, too are Jews. References to Palestinian indigeneity (in implicit contrast to Jews) and to colonialism are a denial of Jewish indigeneity and history and rights and at least functionally anti-Semitic. I examine this all at length here. That “apartheid” is widely used does not make it so. Are you crowd sourcing the truth? They are not “just” words. They are profoundly, meaningfully words, which represent ideas. That is all we have to work with, and it is a lot. While Tobin offered a a rationale for the legality (though not the appropriateness) of Israeli settlements on the West Bank, you, like Abunimah, simply assert their illegality, without countering his argument. In that manner, one can comfortably believe whatever one likes. Similarly, you merely call my “competing nationhoods” terminology “euphemistic.” Pray tell, how? Two peoples were offered by the UN separate nations on adjacent land within an area they both claim. One people accepted the offer; the other rejected it and tried to destroy the first. Since then they are in competition for that land to serve their separate (competing?) interests in nationhood. But you call that a euphemism. That’s your story and your sticking to it?

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brucejuice52 July 13, 2012 at 9:09 am

I understand that Canada is a sovereign state. However, you missed the point. Historically speaking, “colonialism” refers to a state acquiring territory by establishing civilizations within another territory, whether or not the territory is “terra nullius” (empty land), sovereign territory, or “disputed” territory. In any of those cases, it is colonialism. The “disputed territory” you speak of, or more precisely the land in the West Bank which was occupied by Palestinian homes (many now demolished), is effectively being “colonized” through the establishment of Jewish-only settlements. It is entirely analogous.

Sorry, I will properly respond to this “rationale” for the legality of the settlements.

“The problem here is that it’s not a question of whether they’re legal or not, because if the Palestinians wish to make peace, if they wish to compromise, if they wish to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state, no matter where its borders are drawn, they can do so, and Israel has approved it will withdraw from territory, if offered peace.”

The problem is that building settlements is a direct obstacle to peace. The military occupation which is maintained, illegally since 1967, and the establishment of illegal settlements, must be dismantled as a “precondition” to any successful mediation.

Just think, would Palestinians want to sit down at the table to negotiate, while at the same time Israel CONTINUES to build these settlements? I know I and many others would not. It’s not politically feasible, and the Israeli government must know this. So many don’t believe the Israeli government when it says it wants “peace”. They can just acquire more land by maintaining the status quo.

I called “competing nationhoods” a euphemism, because there is no competition. Israel has its foot on the throat of the Palestinians, militarily and politically. Israel is a modern and stable republic, a regional superpower with nuclear weapons, with one of the world’s best intelligence services, and backed by the global superpower. My government, says an attack on Israel is considered an attack on Canada. Palestine is a disaster with unstable and fragmented leadership, a fragmented territory with unclear borders, unrecognized at the United Nations, unlike Israel. Most people in my country perceive Palestine as a black sea of refugees and terrorists (that’s not what I think). You can call it “competing” nationhoods if you want—it held certain truth 60 years ago, but I think the competition is over. Israel has a strong vibrant nation with a global support base, while Palestine may be more accurately described as a fledgling, “struggling” nation–that is “struggling” to survive and define itself.

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A. Jay Adler July 13, 2012 at 1:40 pm

The clue to how you argue was in your “just words’ phrase in your original comment. You don’t think words and their exact meanings – or the precise historical and circumstantial parameters to which they refer – make a difference. So you will offer an analogy of one sovereign state establishing settlements in another and pretend that this is properly comparable to a state and terra nullius or a state and disputed territory or a state and territory occupied in a defensive war, a territory which is mostly no longer (properly speaking) “occupied” (I know, you will say it is).

Similarly, while “colony” may be a simple descriptor of a settlement outpost in foreign land, we know that the word “colonialism” is used to invoke, as you use it, a more precise definition of historical processes of social invasion, conquest, and oppression. But such distinctions are “just words.” Regardless, in neither case do the words apply to Israeli settlements on the West Bank of the Jordan River. Jews have always, historically and continually lived on these lands – they owned land and homes in that territory before the 1948 war – and Jewish villages in the West Bank are no more colonies than are Arab villages in Israel. The denial of this historical reality – and the invocation of “colonialism” – is one of the immediate signs either of ignorance or an intent to prejudice the case. Likewise the completely erroneous labeling of any “occupation” as illegal. Occupation of land in a defensive war is not illegal, up and until there is a negotiated peace treaty, something the Palestinians have never been willing to agree to – and you now have another excuse for current unwillingness.

Your objection to the notion of competition because you misidentify it with equality – it is only competition if it is equal competition – is just one more avoidance rationalization along with using the settlements as an excuse to avoid negotiations. Israel might just as reasonably insist that it will not negotiate until the PA eliminates all of the rampant Antisemitism in PA schools and educational materials. from media and from houses of worships. This would be rightly viewed – however reasonable – as a tactic to avoid negotiations. The peoples were “equally” competing in 1947 when Israel accepted the UN partition and the Arabs rejected it and launched a war. Israel won the war, dedicated the next 60 years to to building the strong vibrant nation you suggest and the Palestinians, both enabled and disabled by their Arab brethren, spent that time mired in hatred and enculturated victimization, refugee politics and terrorism, and the foolishness that led them to reject their own state at least three more times. Yes, there are consequences for choosing badly and losing. That is life and history. But there is no rule book that says negotiations only take place between equals – however that notion is very uncertainly defined – and most of the time they do not.

You and I – and the Israelis and Palestinians – could have this argument over historical truth and wrong until the final judgment. That will be a very long time. Or they can negotiate an end to conflict, peace, and two states. You can establish all the good reasons (excuses) you want for refusing to negotiate – now, “under these circumstance,” “until” – if the highest priority is making Israel wrong and establishing the Palestinians as wronged. How has that been working for the Palestinians until now? Or the Palestinians can negotiate a state.

Or are you one of those people who actually believes that some day the Palestinians are going to get a substantially different and better deal than they have been offered already (in any case substantially less than they threw away in 1947), or that Israel will somehow disappear, and that the Palestinians can somehow win, and you’re encouraging them not to negotiate and to remain in their current conditions and to hold out? That would be quite a role to play in all this. Is that what you’re about?

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brucejuice52 July 16, 2012 at 8:44 am

“Jews have always, historically and continually lived on these lands – they owned land and homes in that territory before the 1948 war – and Jewish villages in the West Bank are no more colonies than are Arab villages in Israel.”

Once again, I agree that there are Indigenous Jews in the area. Also like you, I agree that Indigenous Jews should be allowed to live there, and they are not colonial settlers. But that is completely avoiding the issue of the demolition of Palestinian homes to be replaced by new Jewish-only settlements (key word: “new) built by the state of Israel in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. (see: http://www.unrwa.org/etemplate.php?id=1001). The label of “colonialism” cannot be objectively denied.

Despite your protests, the military occupation is, quite plainly, illegal, as is the annexation of land conquered through military force. I am sure you are aware of the several Security Council resolutions, and the fourth Geneva Convention. In addition, by calling the West Bank and East Jerusalem “occupied”, I am merely echoing the opinion of the Israeli High Court (2005) and the International Court of Justice (2004).

I do agree that the Palestinians should attempt to negotiate. However, as a precondition, the Israeli government demands that the Palestinians to affirm the “right” of the Jewish State Israel to exist, which would amount to recognizing the moral legitimacy of their perceived dispossession. It ain’t gonna happen. I know that. You know that. The Israelis know that.

As a precondition to any successful negotiations, Israel needs to discontinue its illegal operations. Why? If they don’t, they will continue to use the illegal settlements and military occupation as bargaining chips. It seems completely rational: Israel will simply acquire more land. But that way, chances of a peaceful settlement arising are slim-to-none. At least until Israel decides to align with international law.

In terms of the future, let’s just say I don’t think much will change any time soon. Israel will keep distracting the West with the “Iranian Threat” while the protracted conflict over Palestine continues un-hindered.

brucejuice52 July 12, 2012 at 11:39 am

I really don’t agree that these terms are entirely “conceptually false”. If the US came into Canada and started bulldozing houses and claiming the land belongs to them (even if because of their religion, like the Manifest Destiny), and building American-only villages, I really can’t think of any other word beyond “colonialism”. In any case, it’s categorically illegal, as is the military occupation.

The “apartheid” analogy is very widely used, and I think that can be classified as a civil rights issue. The legal discrimination against Palestinians is undisputed, and documented by countless Israeli Jews and others.

Also, “indigenous” peoples is pretty bang-on, if describing the Palestinians who have lived in the area for milennia. There’s also people from other ethnicities and religions, sure, but that does not negate Palestinian indigenous-ness.

One can debate until the cows come home about what concept is most appropriate. But they are just words. The main point is, however, that EVEN if the words “colonialism” or “apartheid” are not entirely appropriate in this context, they would not be far off from the truth.

In the end, Israel maintains an illegal occupation, continues to illegally build settlements in land acquired by conquest, and they do not accord the same rights and benefits to Arabs. It doesn’t make much sense to get mad with Palestinians–they are understandably infuriated for losing their land. This will surely continue until Israel discontinues its illegal operations.

By the way, I think your “competing nationhoods” concept is much more euphemistic and inaccurate than anything leveled against Israel

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A. Jay Adler July 16, 2012 at 8:51 pm

The distinct meanings of words and the various concepts they distinguish continue to trip you up. “Indigenous” is not synonymous with “native.” Individuals and peoples are referred to as native to a region; only peoples are indigenous. The Jewish people did not originate in more than one region of the world. You have to be trafficking in slanderous and (even genetically) thoroughly debunked concocted histories to maintain that any segment of world Jewry is not indigenous to the Middle East. That, or be offering some novel idea that indigeneity has an expiration date.

“Occupation” and “illegal occupation” are not synonymous. “Occupation” and “annexation” are not synonymous either. “I don’t like the occupation” does not mean “the occupation is plainly illegal.” The occupation is not illegal. Will you believe Wikipedia? Here. Occupation as the result of a defensive war and occupation of lands with no previous legitimate sovereign arguably establish different criteria from those you think so plain. Wikipedia again.

“Lands conquered through military force” and “lands taken in self-defense and held until the enemy is willing to make peace” sound different, don’t they? They mean something different. Words matter.

You write that “as a precondition, the Israeli government demands that the Palestinians to affirm the ‘right’ of the Jewish State Israel to exist.” You are mistaken. This is, currently, a final demand of Israel as an outcome of negotiations. It is not a precondition. (Will you believe The Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies?) The right of Israel to exist was backhandedly acknowledged by the PLO in 1993 as part of the Oslo process. The “Jewish” element is more recent, and again,an outcome demanded (both sides have demands), not a precondition. Israel sets no preconditions to negotiations.

You write, “I do agree that the Palestinians should attempt to negotiate.” Then you write, “As a precondition to any successful negotiations, Israel needs to discontinue its illegal operations.” Make up your mind. Or is “successful” here a weasel word? The only way to successfully negotiate, first, is to negotiate at all. I offer some of the historical and conceptual distinctions I do not defer a settlement of the conflict or even to justify settlements. I support two states. I also support, along the way, historical accuracy and the truth.

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