More arguments about Israel/Palestine
This post is based on one of those comments of mine that grew and grew until I realized I'd written what almost amounted to an article. So, why not make it one?
Well, one reason is that arguments about Israel and Palestine are rather like a circle dance, round and round and round, and in the end, people usually end up pretty much where they began. I've read many such discussions on other blogs, and listened to many in person (even participated in a few at times, as you might imagine).
The same arguments, over and over. The information is out there, but it takes time to read and sift through, and few are willing to do so. Even fewer are willing to do so with open minds. In this, perhaps it's not all that different from many other issues.
Without getting too far ahead of my own "change" story, I want to say that until a few years ago I was one of those "cycle of violence" folks on the topic of Isreal. As part of my post-9/11 education, I spent an incredible number of hours reading about the topic online: pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian sites in fairly equal measure. And I came to the conclusion that Israel--which, like any nation, is imperfect and flawed--has the stronger case.
I'm not going to devote this blog to arguing that issue. The information is out there; you can do your own research. So don't expect any sort of exhaustive point-by-point discussion here, or tons of links.
However, in the comments section of my post discussing the Irgun/Hamas comparison, an anonymous commenter offered some of the classic anti-Israel arguments here. I responded to some of them in a comment of my own, and I'd like to repeat and discuss a few of my remarks (follow the links if you want the full text of anon's comment and my response; I'm only dealing with some of the points here).
First, an observation: I've noticed that commenters who disagree with me sometimes misunderstand what I've written. I've wondered about this quite a bit--surely there's enough to disagree with in what I've actually written; there's no need to twist it or misunderstand it to find fault. But I've become convinced that (and this probably happens on both sides) when a person is emotionally incensed about a discussion, and is engaged in reading something on the "other side," it's especially easy to fall into the trap of misunderstanding what has been said. I'd really like my critics (and even my defenders!) to be aware of this potential problem, and to try to stop misreading or putting words into my mouth, or into the mouths of others.
An example is the following, from the comments in the Irgun/Hamas thread:
Commenter "anonymous" writes:
Neo-neocon: "I'll even go so far as to speculate, for the sake of argument, that the Irgun actually intended to kill British soldiers".
A most stunning intellectual leap. Imagine that, "even go so far" as to "speculate" Irgun intended to kill an English soldier? I certainly stumbled onto a cutting edge site here.
..You're damned right they intended to kill British soldiers, I know, my father (Irgun) was one of them (again so did Palmach, the Stern Gang and Haganah).
But in fact, when I wrote, "I'll even go so far as to speculate, for the sake of argument, that the Irgun actually intended to kill British soldiers"" I was writing about the King David Hotel incident only. In the very next sentence, I wrote: "in fact, if you read the Irgun links, you will see that there were definitely other Irgun operations that had the explicit purpose of killing British soldiers and which did accomplish that end, as well as killing some others into the bargain," thus explicitly saying that, whether or not the Irgun intended to kill British soldiers at the King David, they most definitely targeted them in other operations.
So, commenter anonymous did not understand (or pretended not to understand) my point, and I wanted to clear that up.
But more importantly (and this is really why I'm highlighting anon's comments here), I think that he/she offers an excellent example of what have become the standard arguments against Israel. As such, anon (although he/she no doubt has his/her own special history and agenda) is an excellent example of a certain approach to the issues involved.
Once again, to refute the comments point by point would take years. The arguments about the unfairness/fairness of Israel's offers at Camp David are a case in point. One can go to countless websites online and read the pro-con. As stated before, I spent many long hours reading both sides carefully and tried to do so with as open a mind as possible. I became convinced that Arafat was offered a decent (not perfect, but pretty decent) deal but refused it because he was an utterly corrupt "leader" who most definitely could not change. He sold his people down the river, and had been doing so for decades. Subsequent events and revelations certainly bore that out; anyone who thinks Arafat had his people in mind is ignoring the preponderance of the evidence against the man (here's an excellent article on the subject from the Atlantic Monthly, by the way, if you're interested in reading more).
I believe that anonymous's bias was revealed in this statement of her/his:
There are many reasons why Israel didn't write down it's true aims on paper, as Hamas has, foremost being the necessary illusion that Israel, and it's western backers, stand for something decent.
So, Hamas gets points for honestly stating its desire to obliterate Israel, whereas Israel is hiding its true aim--which I can only conclude that anon believes is an analogous desire to obliterate the Palestinians and all its Arab neighbors? And, indeed, there is a group in Israel which believes that Israel should take over all of historical Palestine (although not all the Arab countries). But they are a minority and do not represent what Israel stands for, which is indeed something "decent." My guess is that anonymous knows that, and chooses to ignore it for purposes of sophistry.
Anonymous also writes: "The Palestinians on the other hand have, well, ..nothing, do they? Only hate, and who can blame them. Perhaps a reason for their 'terrorism'?"
This is the classic excuse for Palestinian suicide bombers, which I've discussed at some length previously, here.
Indeed, however, the Palestinians have been misused and shunted around by their Arab "friends," and kept isolated and as second-class citizens in "camps" administered by a corrupt UN and "leaders" such as Arafat who've rob them blind and reign through terror. Yes, it's unfortunate, but don't blame Israel for that.
Anonymous also offers the following as the explanation for the Palestinians' refusal in 1947 to accept the state that was offered them by the UN partition:
In 1947 the U.N. "offered" the Palestinians to be ruled under a non-Palestinian, the Hashemite King of Jordan (more malable to western interests then the troublesome Mufti of Jerusalem). I wonder if the Jews would have accepted the State of Israel ruled by ..the Pope? In other words the Palestinians were offered nothing. No homeland anyway.
I am relatively certain you are quite aware that the objections to the formation of the Palesinian state in 1947 did not rest on problems with a Hashemite king, although that may have not been to their liking, either. You no doubt know that the entire kingdom of Jordan was carved from Palestine, also, and that early in the game the Palestinians did not consider themselves to be a distinct people from the Jordanians. That came later. The Jordanians managed to accept their king, somehow. The objection to the creation of Palestine was that it coincided with the creation of Israel. Israel was unhappy with many elements of the deal, also, but they accepted it. The Palestinians did not. It is a great tragedy.
And ah, yes, that "troublesome" Mufti of Palestine, less malleable to Western interests. It would be helpful if you would level as to the truth about that troublesome Mufti (see this and this). No doubt the Mufti would have made a completely acceptable head of a Palestinian state at its creation--acceptable to Hitler, that is, had he still been alive.
Anonymous also writes the following:
As for "the goals of Israeli's" and Jews it's worth mentioning that prior to the creation of Israel, many, if not a majority of Jews were against a solely Jewish State. They (Jews at the time) were predominantly socialist and communist, and saw such a State, based solely on race and religion, as inherently undemocratic, "the Siamese twin" of that other purely despised racist State, facist Germany. That nothing fruitful could come out of something so unjust was clear to them. They were right.
I have no doubt whatsoever that many Jewish residents of the area prior to the creation of Israel were in fact Socialist and Communists, and no doubt many didn't want Israel to have a solely Jewish identity. But anonymous must know that he/she is distorting the facts about Israel's identity and its so-called racism. In fact, the shoe is on the other foot. Jews are not allowed to be residents of Israel's Arab neighbors, whereas Arabs constitute one-fifth of the population of the country of Israel. I am fairly certain that anonymous knows that fact, but chooses to ignore it for his/her own purposes, and instead to use the despicable comparison to its "Siamese twin," fascist (ie, Nazi) Germany.
In an interesting irony, that is a comparison worthy of Goebbels (and I don't care who made it, even if those persons are Jews; it is still worthy of Goebbels to call Israel a Siamese twin of Nazi Germany). I don't mean this as sophistry, either; I mean it as the literal truth: it is a statement worthy of Goebbels in its use of the Big Lie. But of course, as Goebbels himself said, if a lie is repeated often enough it becomes the truth.
Once again, let me reiterate that this post is not meant to be any sort of definitive and exhaustive discussion of Israel and Palestine. My purpose is merely to highlight a few points. My arguments here are not to convince those such as anonymous (an impossible task, anyway). I am simply attempting to respond relatively briefly, in an effort to clear up some things in the record.
For further information, I refer you once again to the following website (and, believe me, this is just the tip of the iceberg): Mideast Web. You can do a search and find countless other pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian sites that offer information. My guess is that many of you have already done so, and have formed your own opinions.