Saturday, February 5, 2011

The New York Review Redeems Itself

      There could not be a greater contrast between the dreary Agha-Malley article in the last issue of the New York Review and the magnificent, moving, but despairing article in the current issue, "Israel & Palestine: Breaking the Silence," by David Shulman, a chaired professor at the Hebrew University.

     Heartbreaking as it is, it is must reading.  How can it be that a Jewish state has become so degraded, so criminal, so hopeless?  We can take some small comfort that there continue to be some Israelis who have not succumbed to the moral nihilism and sheer stupidity of the vast majority of their landsmen; their numbers may even be growing, especially among young people, but they are not winning.

       What, then, is to be done?  Can anything get through to these people?  I know of no answer other than to keep fighting, but devoid of illusions.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for directing me to the Shulman article. I appreciate it.

Gene Schulman said...

Keep fighting? How does one fight ignorance and stupidity?

Gil Maguire said...

Thanks Jerry, it is powerful piece that really lays out the ghastliness of the situation there.

While Shulman stresses the moral blindness and apathy of Israelis to the situation, I see the same in this country; 300 million Americans oblivious to one the largest acts of collective oppression of another people in 60 plus years, all funded and enabled by us through our government. Yet, in the past week our entire nation is rivited by the stuggle of 80 million Egyptians to overcome an oppressive regime that exists and is funded and enabled by our own government, largely to protect Israel.

It is difficult to see an end to this madness unless the end result of the Arabic democracy bloom is a huge loss of US influence in the region. At some point the true cost of our alliance with Israel may finally become clear and unacceptable to the American people. I'm not holding my breath.

The last paragraph in the Shulman piece also seems to reflect the pessimistic theme in the Agha/Malley piece,

"A Palestinian state, recognized by all the world except for Israel, would, no doubt, be
only a step toward an indeterminate future, replete with old and new dangers.
Judging by recent statements by right-wing Israeli politicians such as Michael
Eitan, one such danger is that Israel may (following the Gaza model) eventually
retreat from much of the occupied territories without making peace with the new
state—probably the worst of all possible outcomes, but one entirely consonant with
the collective blindness I have described. I’d like to think the tortured peoples of
Israel and Palestine could do better."

Richard Witty said...

I think you "fight" with the truth. (Is the word "fight" a representative word, or is that already a description of opposition that will only multiply in intensity?)

In the case of the Palestine Papers, the truth is seen that the PA is willing. If Hamas can clarify that it is willing, and the new heroes (human rights activists endorsing BDS - Omar Barghouti, and others that currently endorse a single state) can clarify that they are willing, then the question of whether there is a partner for peace can confidently shift to Israel.

That the PA is regarded as betraying the Palestinian and Arab cause by Al Jazeera, and by the official vanguard, conveys that the street and vanguard do not desire to reconcile with Israel, and unconditionally so, that they are unwilling.

So, at the same time as the veil is lifted that there is in fact a partner for peace, a confident one; the street declares that they renounce the effort, that those that persevere to accomplish something enduring are traitors.

I don't know if Israel is willing.

I describe likud/Israel Beitanhu/Shas as erring on the side of opportunism. As such, they relish the idea of an unwilling and fundamentally divided Palestinian polity.

Kadima errs on the side of caution. As such, they will either wait for terror to stop by principle not just by tactic, and for PA/Hamas/independants to unite under a platform of assertive negotiation, or they would craft an agreement with the PA for ratification and let the ratification process determine Palestinian will.

The nascient Israeli left hopefully would be more creative, actively constructing peace.

Gil Maguire said...


The best evidence of Israeli unwillingness is 500,000 Israelis living in gated/guarded ("Jews only") settlement communities throughout the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israel has had the power to unilaterally create a two state solution along the Green Line with "minor border adjustments" since 1967. Most progressive Israelis and American Jews like you still see that as the ultimate outcome. The reality is that Israel has been controlled by its religious settlor right and hard core Zionist zealots since probably Balfour times. There is no way they will ever agree to give Judea and Samaria to the Arab rabble. It just ain't gonna happen so quit deluding yourself.

Richard Witty said...

The language that you use to describe the various settler factions is misrepresentative to my mind.

Its misrepresentative because it assumes that there is no other possible political conclusion that is possible to construct, and then fails to take the next steps towards forming a viable alternative proposal.

I've dialogued with settler representatives (not at much length at all, so any conclusions that I derive from the experience are admittedly speculative). They stated that if Palestine were to be comprised of 67 borders, based on a confident mutual recognition, that they would accept that they faced the choice of remaining as Palestinian citizens, or moving back to Israel. (Many would object and vehemently. There are Kahanists there, but the implication that even the majority of settlers are Kahanist is a misrepresentation of their views.)

I've stated many times at Mondoweiss that there are two primary legal issues at play that don't disappear.

1. Questions of title to land and buildings. That can ALWAYS be determined and remedied on a case by case basis. So long as title to land is in a status of contested (by the legal "rational man" test, not by public opinion), then that status remains permanently. Subsequent claims can always be made. No current owner can then be confident that they have the degree of rights to use land as they suppose.

The usual remedy to title questions is compensation to perfect title. Only in rare conditions are current residents expelled.

It takes a color-blind court to accomplish, and clear consented basis of law.

2. Sovereignty - That is a determination solely of jurisdiction. What geographic (or social) jurisdiction defines who is the governed, as in "consent of the governed".

Democracy is optimized. There is no firm "this is the only possible jurisdiction". In the current setting with 80-20 majority in Israel, and 90-10 majority in West Bank/Gaza (Palestine), partition optimizes democracy.

The single state imposes and because it imposes, represents an oppression on to those that don't consent. If it were a small minority that didn't consent to a single state, then they would just have to live with it, make the best of it. That it is currently a very compelling majority, it is the only possibility that can call itself democratic.

To my mind, the only effort that will bear fruit to change reality for Palestinians is change that Israel will consent to. It requires changing Israeli attitudes and policies, and can only be accomplished socially and electorally.

Its the reason that I find the effort for BDS to be counter-productive, self-talk. Orchestrated shunning does not change people's hearts and minds for the better. It is not much a communication. It only invokes fear.

Although there are similarities between South Africa and Israel/Palestine, and between Jim Crow south and Israel/Palestine, both are different in fundamental ways.

If committed to by solidarity, I think that the two-state solution is nearly a sure thing at this point. To the extent that solidarity gets angry with the PA for being too sincerely willing to compromise, they will delay any sovereignty for Palestinians.

Likud's opportunism is on thin ice, both internationally and more importantly for social change, domestically (in that likud has presided over the rapid and harmful devolution of Israeli international relations with Egypt, Jordan, Turkey - all former allies - critical but allies).

Anonymous said...


The stupidity and naive disposition that peace is possible with the Palestinians is yours, not the Israelis. Its good that Israel doesn't have you negotiating the Hamas.

Anonymous said...

I think the most recent comments on this page make it crystal clear that the Palestinians have absolutely no partner for peace, and never have had. More fool they for having believed it when they did, more fool the Americans for pretending the inverse is the fact.

Richard Witty said...

Thank you for sticking to your convictions on Mondoweiss recently.

Its obvious to me that you adopt a humanism that includes sympathy for all (not just the politically expedient or fashionable).

I appreciate that you accept that there is tension in any real life political conclusion, that perfect consistency doesn't represent reality.

That recognition for me (of moral tension, accepted inconsistency), compels me to think in terms of what is a good outcome, a goal.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your integrity and honesty. I am a US Jew with friends and family members currently struggling with their Zionism in the face of reality that cannot be hidden from. Your example, and your brave sharing, is so very important right now. -- Kipp Dawson, Pittsburgh, PA

Anonymous said...

The 9/11 truth is out on the internet.
This is the truth - The WTC was destroyed by 3 thermo-nuclear explosions.