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December 30, 2008

Comments

Anybody serious about the ME conflict should read Khalidi's book. Well said, Publius.

I take your recommendation, and would also direct attention to www.ramikhouri.com. He used to be the editor of the Daily Star in Beirut; he's now with Agence Global. Well worth following, and his December 30 piece, A Marginalized Region, is cause for despair.

I bought the book simply for the reason that it appeared to be written by someone unfairly smeared by the thugs amongst the republicans, and I have adopted the habit of tossing said smearees a few coins when such things happen.

Haven't gotten to it in the to read stack but I'm glad that it sounds like it will be worth the time once I do.

Nir Rosen is the author of some of the best reporting available to people in the US on Iraq (see this, for example) and on Afghanistan (see this.) He has summed up the underlying realities laid bare by the present Israeli assault on Gazans in the UK Guardian.

His conclusion is brutal:

A Zionist Israel is not a viable long-term project and Israeli settlements, land expropriation and separation barriers have long since made a two state solution impossible. There can be only one state in historic Palestine. In coming decades, Israelis will be confronted with two options. Will they peacefully transition towards an equal society, where Palestinians are given the same rights, à la post-apartheid South Africa? Or will they continue to view democracy as a threat? If so, one of the peoples will be forced to leave. Colonialism has only worked when most of the natives have been exterminated. But often, as in occupied Algeria, it is the settlers who flee. Eventually, the Palestinians will not be willing to compromise and seek one state for both people. Does the world want to further radicalise them?
I drop this here because it emerges from the consciousness you describe as simply missing for most of us. This is not far out radicalism in that part of the world, but simple realism.

The usual trope. All the failings of Arab world are
due to the actions of the white man. The brown man
has no agency, no autonomy and is not a moral actor.
The Arab simply reacts in a predictable fashion to
the white man's stimuli, as would a laboratory rat.

When they do this, are the Left as racist as they appear? Not really - it's a tactical thing - a way
of dishonestly placing the blame where they prefer it.

I don't think that this comment from "q" is seriously meant, but if it were, it would be entirely false. The point about the situation is not that Arabs are gullible, but that because the West and their allies in the region have overwhelming power and are completely ruthless, they can bribe and bully the leaders of the Arab world to do more or less what they want them to do. This is not racism, it is simple common sense; to challenge it is to be delusional.

I'm listening to NPR right now, where Sallai Meridor, Israel's ambassador to Washington, is speaking to Steve Inskeep. Although the ambassador was asked briefly about who started the breach of the cease-fire (with some very nonspecific "Palestinian viewpoint" offered by Steve Inskeep), Meridor went on and on "justifying" the Israeli view that Hammas breached it in December. This was an incredibly unfair and error-ridden report. I hope people who hear it write in by the thousands.

Whoa - who created Hamas? Perhaps you meant to phrase that differently...

For one, Americans (including me) are simply blind to the region's past. They don’t even see it – or at best see some fairy tale make-believe version. And it's hard to make them see it because our media and educational systems do a horrible job integrating that history into the lens of current events. To us, the world starts anew with each new rocket attack – that’s all we see, and that's where our analysis begins.

I actually think that the situation is worse than this.

Yes, most Americans know nothing of the history of the region. But most Americans know very little of the history of any region.

The bigger problem is that what many Americans think they know of the history of the region is wrong. As a Jewish-American kid, I was taught a standard, Zionist narrative of Jewish settlers making a (presumably empty) desert bloom. The heroic struggle of the Jewish people and the tragedy of the Holocaust were redeemed with the declaration of the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Then, suddenly, the Arabs show up as players in this story, outsiders and intractable foes against which the new Jewish state had to struggle for its existence. The next stop is usually 1967, when again perfidious Arab outsiders attacked the innocent Jewish state.

This is the background against which the most interested Americans have tended to (mis)understand the conflict. The history of the people who lived in the region before the Yishuv is entirely absent. Indeed, their very existence is, in various ways, almost entirely denied. As a result, many Americans who think they know the history of the region "know" a history that conveniently papers over the colonialist aspect of the Zionist enterprise.

I grew up with a pretty typical “End-Times” (Evangelical) view of Israel in Palestine, and then becoming politically left in the 80s, ended up with a pretty Zionist-Labor view of the situation.

In both contexts:

Arabs are absent and ignored.
There is no such thing as Arab/Palestinian Christians.
Arabs/Muslims are against progress and modernity/democracy.

It is certainly the case that within the world of Middle Eastern Studies, Rashid Khalidi is a moderate and respected figure. The problem is that the views which are mainstream within that particularly troubled academic world are at the fringe of American public opinion, and with good reason.

Khalidi, of course, has long since abandoned his youthful radicalism. His early dalliance with the PLO, serving as a director of its press agency WAFA, is a thing of the past. He is older and wiser, more cautious in embracing charismatic figures or the movements that they lead, and as you note, capable of seeing their shortcomings. Few of us would wish to be held to account for the things we did early in life, and it is a profound mistake to privilege those acts above more recent statements. But Khalidi remains an ardent nationalist, who is entirely forthright in declaring that his scholarship is intended to advance that political agenda, and whose treatment of facts and sources is not infrequently cavalier.

McCain's use of Khalidi as a bludgeon with which to strike Obama was disgraceful on two levels: it took what was (at most) a casual friendship for a sympathy of views; and its clear intent was to further associate Obama with leftist radicals, Muslims, and everything foreign and 'other.' This was American politics at its very worst - McCain's prolonged attempt to suggest that Obama was a secret radical, a wolf in sheep's clothing.

It was a smear, of course, because Obama is none of these things: not a Muslim, not a leftist, not a radical of any sort, and certainly not an advocate of Palestinian nationalism or opponent of the State of Israel. (I should also add that there is, of course, nothing inherently objectionable about most of these things; they just happen not to be true of Obama.) Like Obama, I have many friends whose views diverge from my own; to assume a congruity of views based upon a casual friendship, when there exists a voluminous record of public statements and acts to the contrary, is the classic paranoid style. Moreover, though I find Khalidi's views and writings distasteful, they are certainly not beyond the pale. For all these reasons, it was worth decrying the attack upon Obama.

But it would be a dreadful mistake to suppose that because Conservatives find Khalidi objectionable, he must therefore be a paragon of virtue, a scholar of impeccable standing, or a voice of moderation and sanity. He is none of these things. Obama's friendship with Khalidi was inconsequential because it was not substantive; but if Khalidi were his principal adviser on the Middle East, that would indeed have been scandalous. Khalidi has labeled Israel a "racist" state and an "apartheid system." He has strongly condemned the killing of civilians on both sides of the conflict, but steadfastly refused to say whether Israeli settlers should be considered civilians, or are instead occupiers subject to "legitimate resistance," including killing. Moreover, do not presume that because the facts and perspectives that Khalidi advances are unfamiliar, they are therefore correct. His work is best viewed as a balanced, measured, and careful presentation of one perspective; as a useful window into Palestinian thought, and not as a balanced assessment of the conflict as a whole.

Isn't the radical concept of "Palestinian nationalism" also known as the "two-state solution"?

i can haz new yearz open threadz?

Observer, I don't know where to start, and maybe I shouldn't get drawn it at all. However I will say that you seem to respect the intellectual integrity of Khalidi's work, yet still somehow find his final conclusions 'distasteful'. This leaves me with the impression that he has simply out-argued you, and that the unease you feel is the unease of a person who feels cherished aspects of their worldview forcefully challenged. This is a symptom of great scholarship, rather than some comforting and anodyne 'balanced assessment of the conflict as a whole'.

There are, of course, equally impressive people with a variety of differing opinions on the Israel-Palestine issue, but Middle Eastern Studies is only 'particularly troubled' in the US because bigoted and ignorant scumbags like Sarah Palin are allowed to hurl excrement at scholars who surpass them in every facet of intellectual and moral character.

Steve:

Who said the concept of Palestinian Nationalism, per se, was radical?

At this point in time, I don't think it could be so characterized. Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and most major state actors have publicly committed themselves to pursuing something that looks very like a two-state solution.

So where's the radicalism? Well, there's no shortage of Palestinian Nationalists who still seek a single, Palestinian state on all the land between the Jordan and the Mediterranean. I'd argue that's fairly radical (as, of course, is the inverse proposition). Then there's radicalism of means - those who endorse violence, terror, or killing of civilians as a tool of their nationalist aspirations. And I'd even argue that those who would advance the legitimacy of their own state, but continue to deny the legitimacy or right of existence of the state they expect to exist alongside, could be fairly labeled radical.

When I wrote of Khalidi's youtful radicalism, I meant to reference his involvement and identification with the PLO during his tenure at the American University in Beirut, when he worked as a principal spokesman for the organization, and his wife worked as a translator for its news agency. The New York-born Khalidi spoke of the PLO with the plural pronoun "we." The PLO, at the time, was by any definition radical. It embraced terror and violence, indulged in "executing traitors" in Khalidi's own words, and sought the destruction of the State of Israel.

"He has strongly condemned the killing of civilians on both sides of the conflict, but steadfastly refused to say whether Israeli settlers should be considered civilians, or are instead occupiers subject to "legitimate resistance," including killing"

Interesting if true. They are racists living in what amounts to an apartheid system, but still civilians, unless they have guns in their homes and use them to assault Palestinians, in which case they are armed thugs. So what's the context of Khalidi's remark? Is he talking about armed settlers who use violence against Palestinians on the West Bank?

And would teachers at the Islamic University in Gaza be considered civilians, or rather members of a terrorist organization subject to killing? Is everyone who is a member of Hamas subject to killing?

Khalidi has labeled Israel a "racist" state and an "apartheid system."

Israeli citizenship is explicitly based on being Jewish (with the exception of a few Arabs grandfathered in). It's not correct to label Jews a 'race' but 'ethnicist' isn't a word, so 'racist' is about as close as you can get to a one-word description of the situation.

Anyone familiar with both Apartheid and the situation in the Occupied Territories is aware of the striking similarities. Apartheid is a perfectly good analogy for what is happening there.

byrningman:

In evaluating scholarship, it's sometimes useful to separate its facticity from its accuracy. Anyone can selectively array a number of perfectly factual claims to advance a dubious argument. It is that which I find distasteful in the work of Rashid Khalidi - his selective use of the historical record, his tendency to employ theoretical ambiguities to explain away its inconvenient aspects, and his willingness to cross the line from scholar to advocate. As for Middle Eastern Studies, the real problem in the field is its progressive embrace of a fairly rigid orthodoxy. It's a danger that plagues any self-selecting profession, that it will tend to reward those younger scholars who most agree with their own views, creating a degree of insularity and a lack of skepticism.

Donald Johnson:

The most explicit exchange came on "Scarborough Country," with Daniel Pipes (a man who makes Khalidi seem moderate). Khalidi, to his credit, is very explicit that attacks on civilians are never excusable. He goes out of his way to specify that Israelis living within the Green Line are certainly civilians. But asked whether settlers should be considered civilians, he replies that: "the killing of civilians anywhere, under any circumstances, is a war crime." But are settlers civilians, and thus encompassed within that? It's a simple question to which he seems unable to provide a simple answer.

As for the faculty of the Islamic University, I don't think anyone would argue that the deliberate assassination of faculty members, even those holding membership in Hamas, is justifiable. But it's not as if an Israeli sniper shot a professor for teaching a class there. What (I think) you're referring to is the bombing of two research laboratories at an institution that plays a crucial role in Hamas' recruitment, and in its legitimation among the civilian population. Those airstrikes were not in the first wave of assaults. The initial strikes were targeted at structures housing those Israel considers combatants - police stations, rocket launching pads, weapons storage facilities - and unleashed in the middle of the day with no warning to maximize damage. The strikes on the Islamic University were carried out around midnight, to minimize casualties. Why were they targeted? Israel claims that the labs are used in weapons research, to develop and manufacture explosives for use in rockets and mortars. If that claim is accurate, then I think the labs were perfectly legitimate targets.

togolosh:

I would argue that both terms obscure more than they reveal; there is, as you acknowledge, nothing racial about Israeli policies, nor does the South African analogy illumine the situation. Both terms tend to be slung about, rather carelessly, as general terms of opprobrium.

But I didn't raise them to recapitulate that argument here. My point is that when Publius decides to hold up Khalidi as a truth-teller about the current state of affairs in the Middle East, he needs to be far more explicit about the nature of the truths he tells. If Publius believes Israel to be a racist, apartheid entity, he should say so. If he disagrees with Khalidi in that respect, he should explain why.

...nothing racial about Israeli policies...

Not really. The policies towards the non-Israeli Arab population under their control is pretty much a racial one, despite the fact that they have the Israeli Arab population to point to in order to deflect criticism. Even so, Israeli Arabs are second class citizens in practice.

All analogies obscure some aspects of a situation and highlight others. The Apartheid analogy seems to me to highlight some very important aspects of the situation in Israel and the occupied territories, while the aspects obscured are for the most part secondary, if not outright trivial.


How Israel and the United States Helped to Bolster Hamas

"The policies towards the non-Israeli Arab population under their control is pretty much a racial one"

How can you write a sentence like that with a straight face? What possible racial distinction can be made between Israeli Arabs and Palestinian Arabs? Between Druze and Muslims? Between Eastern Jews and Arabs?

Does the State of Israel discriminate on the basis of religion? Undoubtedly. But religion is both more definitive and more porous than race. A man born in this country to parents of Arab descent who wishes to emigrate to Israel may not be allowed; if he converts to Judaism, he will be welcomed and showered with benefits. Ethiopian Jews are citizens the moment they arrive; migrant laborers from the Horn of Africa can labor for years as resident aliens. If you accept the concept of a Jewish State, you may find logic in these arrangements; if you do not, you will no doubt find them offensive. Israel's Jewish citizens hail from a diverse and varied array of racial backgrounds. Its last President was racially indistinguishable from other Persians; the head of its Navy looks as Chinese as his father; its Ethiopian citizens appear no different than their former compatriots on the Horn of Africa; Jews from Goa bear the mark of the subcontinent; black Americans who have converted and emigrated would not look out of place in Harlem. The salient fact of their identity is their religious descent, not their race.

Our steadfast insistence on using that word stems from our own troubled past, from our great original sin of slavery. In the last century, racism became a byword for discriminations of all kinds. It was, after all, the most potent label that could be attached to a discriminatory act; as you noted before, accusing someone of anti-ethnic bias doesn't pack the same punch. Ethnicity, religion, nationality - all were subsumed beneath this single clumsy label.

Observer assertion: "...and whose treatment of facts and sources is not infrequently cavalier."

One example would be nice. Apparently there are many(?)

European Zionists have had no problem incorporating European constructions of race into their own world view.

Anglo-Protestants have had no problem viewing Black Protestants, within their communities as second-class citizens, no matter how universal they claim their religion, is.

ARAB JEW

When issues of racial and colonial discourse are discussed in the U.S., people of Middle Eastern and North African origin are often excluded. This piece is written with the intent of opening up the multicultural debate, going beyond the U.S. census's simplistic categorization of Middle Eastern peoples as "whites."

It's also written with the intent of multiculturalizing American notions of Jewishness. My personal narrative questions the Eurocentric opposition of Arab and Jew, particularly the denial of Arab Jewish (Sephardic) voices both in the Middle Eastern and American contexts.

What possible racial distinction can be made between Israeli Arabs and Palestinian Arabs?

Neither is subject to draft into the IDF, to name one legal commonality. There is also substantial informal discrimination against Israeli Arabs. Race is a social construction, not a genetic one. Overlap between racial categories and genetic categories exists, but the primary basis of racial distinction in social, as witness the one drop theory of blackness in America, or the fact that Australian Aborigines are shoehorned into the same category as people of African descent.

"But are settlers civilians, and thus encompassed within that? It's a simple question to which he seems unable to provide a simple answer."

It's not a simple question, because some of the settlers are violent and terrorize Palestinians, so perhaps Khalidi was thinking of them if he didn't want to issue a blanket statement that they are all civilians. They are all, of course, taking advantage of an apartheid-like system.


Which leads to the racism charge. Perhaps one needs another word to describe the particular form of brutal bigotry at work, one in which Israeli Jews are allowed to settle the West Bank and Palestinian Arabs are not allowed to settle inside the Green Line. Anyway, South African blacks (including Desmond Tutu) have said that Israel's behavior on the West Bank is much like South African apartheid, and I take his word for that.

On the targeting of the universities, I would accept that places where munitions are manufactured are legitimate targets, not that I place much faith in Israeli government assurances. I'd add that it is unfortunate that Palestinians cannot target such places in Israel.

European Jews have always had a contested relationship with European Christians…but the bottom line is that they were European and there are some very powerful privileges that come, as an a result of that.

The Price of Whiteness: Jews, Race, and American Identity by Eric L. Goldman

How Jews Became White Folks & What That Says About Race in America by Karen Brodkin

I don’t think this is a phenomenon that transpired only in the US.

In evaluating scholarship, it's sometimes useful to separate its facticity from its accuracy. Anyone can selectively array a number of perfectly factual claims to advance a dubious argument. It is that which I find distasteful in the work of Rashid Khalidi - his selective use of the historical record, his tendency to employ theoretical ambiguities to explain away its inconvenient aspects, and his willingness to cross the line from scholar to advocate.

On the one hand, I don't really expect you to go into a blow-by-blow refutation of his arguments here, but on the other hand, that's sort of warranted in order to make the claim you are making, as I am of the opinion that he is a first-rate historian, as are most of his colleagues in the profession. Probably his most important work is a deconstruction of the palestinian national identity - a courageous intellectual exercise for anyone dealing with a subject so evidently close to his heart, which surely engendered mistrust on the part of other Palestinian intellectuals, and an accomplishment that makes the accusation that he is some kind of slanted mouthpiece so laughable.

As for "crossing the line from scholar to advocate", all I can say is that once again you are positing that scholarship is not supposed to be opinionated. On the contrary, by definition good scholarship is highly opinionated in addition to being very well argued. It is true that he has crossed the line from pure academic to 'public intellectual', but that doesn't make his work any less credible than, say, recent releases by people like John Gaddis or Niall Ferguson that sit astride the main tables of Barnes and Noble.


As for Middle Eastern Studies, the real problem in the field is its progressive embrace of a fairly rigid orthodoxy. It's a danger that plagues any self-selecting profession, that it will tend to reward those younger scholars who most agree with their own views, creating a degree of insularity and a lack of skepticism.

I also just don't think this is true at all, and this talking point is simply one particularly notable aspect of the broader conservative criticism of academia when the opinions of very intelligent people studying various issues all day long don't agree with their much less-informed opinions. Certainly academic reality does not live up an intellectual idyll, but in my experience at any rate, good work will always find appreciation. If anything, academics complain that the championing of new approaches or new ideas is excessive. Like any community of human beings, it requires substantial efforts to dislodge accepted wisdom, but the fact remains that freedom of debate is simply FAR superior in the academy than in society in general, especially in comparison to the media or politics. Middle East Studies included.

Although I do certainly admit that Middle East Studies has suffered a great deal from bomb-throwers (in the intellectual sense), who have poisoned the atmosphere somewhat.

A focus of the post is to lament the state of ignorance of Americans regarding conflicts in the ME. I agree (and include myself, as well). This state is not very surprising given the general inadequacies of our educational process which is best at teaching skills designed to be minimally functional and employable within our society and instilling certain superficial political notions but little in the way of political principles to build on. The same lament could be repeated regarding Americans' ignorance of their own history and its important events in shaping this country and principles underlying its formation. Today's government participation through the bailouts of various businesses shows we have lost our way. One cause of this direction is our loss of the knowledge of who we are. Each new President takes an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution and each new Congress member takes a similar oath. They then, almost without exception, proceed to pass and sign legislation that cannot pass the tests of constitutionality under any measure.

How can we have any expectation that our leaders and our population generally can act knowledgeably on ME affairs if they don't act so at home?

I’m going to disagree, a bit.

I grew up with very detailed historical accounts as a child in a Puerto Rican Evangelical household. When I met with my little multicultural evangelical church, we had a whole story as to why there were troubles in the Middle East. Christ was coming, and this was inevitable. And when I was being radicalized by an assortment of Leftists, I had a very distinctive account of the illiberal nature of Muslims and the Social Democratic dreams of European Zionists. In these Zionists defense, they would begin changing these views in the 1990s, well the ones I knew.

Many American have views, of the Middle East, and just think the view the currently have is the right one, and there is no need to go deeper.

Human Rights Watch on the violations of both sides--

Link

That should be:

Many Americans have views, of the Middle East, and just think their view is the right one, and there is no need to go deeper.


Khalidi has labeled Israel a "racist" state and an "apartheid system."

What's cool about reading footnotes? Is that it means you don't miss passages like this, from page 262 of The Iron Cage:

"The parallels with South Africa are only superficially accurate. The disparity in numbers between nonwhites and whites there was much greater than between Arabs and Jews in Palestine (at least since the earliest decades of the twentieth century). Moreover, the South African liberation movement always had relatively secure rear areas from which to wage its struggle, and strong allies, unlike the Palestinians. Also unlike the Palestinian national movement, which has repeatedly changed its focus over more than eighty-five years, the South African liberation movement never wavered from its goal of a single democratic state with equal rights for all. South Africa has always claimed sovereignty over its entire territory, and over the entire people, even as it tried to turn some areas into 'self-governing' Bantustans: Israeli governments have shown no desire for sovereignty over Palestinian populations, even as they have coveted their land. Most importantly, although less based on a formal, explicit, legal framework of separation than was apartheid, the flexible, dynamic, ad hoc regime that Israel has erected in the occupied territories over nearly four decades, but especially since 1991, is more controlling, and more flexible, than anything undertaken under the apartheid regime. Leaving aside superficial similarities between the South African pass system and Israel's permit system, there are thus only limited parallels between the defunct apartheid system and the comprehensive and sophisticated matrix of control that Israel has created in the occupied West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem."

For the reasons Observer states, "racism" is simply an inaccurate description of Zionism. Khalidi's first language is English and he is a scholar in I/P affairs, so the innacuracy cannot be accidental.

He could have said, philo-Semitic, though I admit it would be sheer tautology and linguistically perverse. He could have said nationalist, which would reflect the fact that Zionism was just like other 19-20th Century self-determination movements of oppressed nations. Even if he wanted to deny that, he could have respected the fact that Jews span all nations and religions, and called it chauvinist or tribalist. But he went for the flame word.

You may feel that tribalism is just as bad as racism -- but it carries a little less baggage and may lend more light and less heat to the question. Observer is correct again when he says that we view the world through our own national experiences, and our experience with racism was atrocious. Israelis are often tribalist, and even racist, about Arabs, but that is not the issue. The point of using this term is not to criticize the morality of individual Israelis.

When pro-Palestinians say or resolve that "Zionism is racism," they mean that a Jewish State is by definition morally bankrupt. Maintaining a Jewish State is per se an act of racism, just like lynching the Scottsboro Boys or making Rosa Parks sit in the back of the bus. In this framing, nothing Israel can do except dissolve can possibly cure the problem. By existing, Israel does harm.

And this is why many Jews (and some fair-minded gentiles) get upset at the use of that word. "Zionism is racism" means, simply, a Jewish State taints the world no matter what it does. We have heard this concept before. All you have to do is take out "ish State."

If the people who said "Zionism is racism" felt the same way about nationalism or tribalism in general, I would not mind so much. But they do not. They do not say such things about separatist Quebecois, the Irish (south or north), 'We Free' Scots, Vlemish, Kurds, or the many other ethnic, tribal groups that have or want their own self-governance. Eire does not taint the world by existing, even if some Scots were displaced in creating it. Only Israel does that. Only the Jews.

Most of all, they don't EVER say it about the Palestinians.

Quite the contrary, the whole goal of the Zionism is racism concept is to advance Palestinian self-governance. Many commentors on this very site seem to hold that the Palestinians have an absolute right to self-governance, on every inch of the land that some of their ancestors held in tenancy, even though those people were ethnically and culturally indistinguishable from most Jordanians, Lebanese, or Syrians. These particular Arabs must have a separate nation on that land. And it is positively racist, I gather, to take seriously the fact that many of them say clearly that they want to wipe out the Jews who live there.

In short, Jewish nationalism is racism, but Arab racism is mere nationalism. Arabs must have many states. Jews may have none. I have never seen a coherent explanation for this double standard. I doubt one exists.

So, no, it's not a minor semantic quibble.

That's one clever arthropod.

"When pro-Palestinians say or resolve that "Zionism is racism," they mean that a Jewish State is by definition morally bankrupt. Maintaining a Jewish State is per se an act of racism, just like lynching the Scottsboro Boys or making Rosa Parks sit in the back of the bus. In this framing, nothing Israel can do except dissolve can possibly cure the problem. By existing, Israel does harm."

A long post and you miss the point. There are anti-semites who say Zionism is racism, of course. Anti-semites say much worse things than that. But among the non anti-semites who say such things, they mean that Israel's existence as a Jewish state came about and could only come about because hundreds of thousands of Arab inhabitants of the land were forced out and not allowed back in and this attitude is still there in the settlement project. Yes, other countries have done that kind of thing--I'm sitting in one as I type--but they often had the foresight to do it centuries ago, when people would unashamedly proclaim the moral superiority of their own culture and think this gave them the right to shove the pesky natives out of the way. Israel got into this game very late.

Now there were early Zionists who didn't have this as as a goal--people like Judah Magnes, for instance. They wanted to live side-by-side in total equality with Arabs, and I gather that in that viewpoint there'd be no notion of, say, Arab numbers or birthrates being a demographic problem. But anyone who wanted a majority Jewish state in a land mostly inhabited by Arabs was clearly thinking like the European colonialists, which is hardly surprising given the time period--the desires of the natives were only relevant as a problem to be solved somehow, perhaps by "transfer" and it made perfect sense to have Great Britain promise a Jewish homeland in a place outside Britain already inhabited by Arabs. Incidentally, that little problem is why there was a myth of "a land without a people for a people without a land", a myth that was revived a couple of decades ago by Joan Peters. The myth serves a purpose.

Now at this stage of the game, 60 years after the ethnic cleansing, there are generations of people who've grown up in a Jewish state and while I might think it'd be better to have one man, one vote without regard to ethnicity or religion, in practice I don't expect any more of Israel in that regard than I do of Iraq or Lebanon or other Arab states. America took about 200 years to approximate that ideal and rightwing Americans still worry about the Hispanic demographic menace. If the vast majority of people in the Mideast get over this notion that a state should be Arab or Muslim or Jewish, great, but we're a long way from that. So a two state solution seems best, not because I think there's anything noble about a Jewish state, any more than I think that there's something good about an Islamic state, but because it's not America's business to force everyone to live up to a standard we've only sorta reached ourselves and a two state solution might be the least bad solution that's achievable. (Not that I take our democratic idealistic rhetoric seriously anyway,)

Well, this nationalist movement, Zionism, left Europe and nationalized land its British Colonial Government was running in Palestine. That's a bit different than the other conflicts you bring up.

I suspect European Zionism's relationship with European colonialism gave it the racial? ethnic? privilege of leaving Europe and establishing itself in Palestine. And signing up Jews from all over to take up its fight looks a lot like South Africa and the United States who had no problem hiring racial and ethnic outsiders to handle their other racial and ethnic problems.

"Israel got into this game very late."

One other advantage the European settlers of the US had, of course, besides living in a time period where non-white objections to Manifest Destiny weren't taken seriously was, of course, simple numbers. If you are going to move into a land and take it over, it helps to have overwhelming numerical superiority. Then you can allow a right of return once you're firmly established and not even worry about demography if that sort of thing is the sort of thing you worry about.

Trilobyte, Jewish nationalism is not at all the same thing as Zionism. I think Zionism's critics would argue that it is not at all a national liberation project as seen in Ireland etc., but that it is almost the opposite, that is, that the Zionists were more like the Africaaners than the Zulus. Israel's critics have always argued that it is a colonial project.

Personally, I think that disinterested observers would probably agree that the Zionist project has attributes of both a national liberation movement and a colonial endeavour, in the sense that it was undoubtedly a national project by a minority group that had experienced varying degrees of repression in different countries, but that it was also very much a scheme to create a settler society in a distant land by disenfranchising the people who happened to live there. The support of the unambiguous colonial power - Britain - underscores Zionism's colonial nature, while the atrocities of WW2 paradoxically strengthen Israel's legitimacy as a national liberation project. The Israelis I know regularly demonstrate the conflicted duality of their national project: most of my Israeli friends are in fact quite insistent on identifying themselves as Israelis first and Jews second, and have little taste for the right-wingers in their country. On the other hand, importing people from Russia and Brooklyn who typically don't even speak Hebrew, and sticking them in the West Bank is unambiguously a colonial exercise. You can tell because they call themselves settlers.

The racism debate I think is rather boring. Israel is incontestable a racial entity since citizenship is essentially based not on where you are were born but who your mother was (debates over whether the Jews are a race or an ethnicity or a religious group or whatever seem like needless semantics to me). The racist debate thus effectively boils down to whether you can be racial without being racist, and you probably can't.

The real question -- which is both more intractable and more interesting from a philosophical point of view -- is whether 21st century Western norms can allow for racism/racialism to be justified on other grounds, i.e. on the basis of the Jews' almost-uniquely horrific recent history. I should add that Israel is by no means the only country relevant to this question, although it certainly has a much stronger case than certain other countries I can think of, such as Germany.

This is not to say that I don't greatly sympathise with Jews' and Israelis' need to push back on the 'racism' charge, simply on the basis that such hot-button terms are used in the Western media to discredit any point of view without actually engaging with it. That's all part of the PR game, unfortunately, whereby taboo words are used to circumvent debate. Although to Khalidi's credit, I think you do him a disservice here, as he strikes me as being quite studious in his use of the 'racist/racialist' charge to make an argument based on international law or international norms, rather than to incite the mob. As another poster has shown, he has been quite scrupulous to clarify his nuanced take on the Israel-South Africa comparison.

Which all leads back to my initial point that while there are surely thousands of rabble-rousing, unpleasant advocates of the Palestinian cause that we can single out for opprobrium, there is nothing to suggest that Khalidi's critics are engaged in anything other than slander. In reality he is singled out precisely because his arguments are compelling, rather than unpalatable, and merit engagement.

"f the vast majority of people in the Mideast get over this notion that a state should be Arab or Muslim or Jewish, great, but we're a long way from that"

Hmm, having said that, I don't know what fraction of people in the Mideast would like to live in a secular democracy where all religions and ethnicities were treated equally. One gets the impression it's a small fraction, given all the conflict, but maybe not.

Many commentors on this very site seem to hold that the Palestinians have an absolute right to self-governance, on every inch of the land that some of their ancestors held in tenancy, even though those people were ethnically and culturally indistinguishable from most Jordanians, Lebanese, or Syrians. These particular Arabs must have a separate nation on that land.

Also, since it is highly pertinent, I feel compelled to point out that Khalidi made his reputation with a book that actually deconstructs the Palestinian nationalist project. So he is quite literally one of the last people in the world guilty of the criticism you are making there.

Donald Johnson: Not going to wade in here, I just wanted to note that I think you had some very thoughtful and balanced comments on this thread and gave me something to think about.

Does Khalidi believe the "One Man One Vote" solution?

Thanks, OC--that's flattering, given that I think you're generally on the other side from me on this issue.

I'll probably be offline for a few days.

A one-state solution. A unitary Arab-Jewish homeland could bring lasting peace to the Middle East

Ahmad Samih Khalidi
Source: http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1051542,00.html

Monday September 29, 2003
The Guardian

I think that disinterested observers would probably agree that the Zionist project has attributes of both a national liberation movement and a colonial endeavour, in the sense that it was undoubtedly a national project by a minority group that had experienced varying degrees of repression in different countries but that it was also very much a scheme to create a settler society in a distant land by disenfranchising the people who happened to live there

I agree for the most part. That combination is one reason I dislike cheap name-calling like "racism," or "colonialism." The situation just isn't that black and white. So to speak.

Two things, though. First, your phrasing suggests that the early Zionists intended "disenfranchisement." Bear in mind that there had never been a Palestinian state, and that the local Arabs had accepted subordinate status in a series of empires without any particular show of resentment. I don't think the very first Zionists expected settlement to be so much more disliked. There's early Zionist rhetoric about uplifting the fellaheen in brotherhood. Herzl et al. were not incredibly practical people, and Europeans had massive blind spots about cultural differences. I think they expected to be treated as just one more set of foreign landlords at worst, proletarian brothers at best. That didn't happen for a number of reasons, including though not limited to racism, religious bigotry, and cultural intolerance on both sides.

Second, like most 'colonialists,' the Zionists were far more refugees than lordly conquerors. Very rarely do happy people abandon their homes to struggle in the wilderness, whatever inspiring tales they like to tell about themselves. Zionism was a movement of desperation even in 1900. By 1948, yes, creating a Jewish majority by displacing half a million Arabs was disenfranchisement -- but the alternative was mass suicide.

After the Shoah, where on earth were all those Jewish settlers and refugees supposed to go? Clearly not Europe, almost all of which had joined in the slaughter, and was unrepentant. Not Russia, with its own genocidal efforts. Not America, which had kept its quota of 20,000 Jewish immigrants per year throughout the war, and was turning more isolationist, not less. The world dumped its Jews in Israel and called it a gift. The Jews acted like they wanted this all along. What else could they say?

So now what?
The recent book, The Hebrew Republic, suggests a very arms-length federal single state solution, sort of like the modern UK -- shared nominal executive and foreign policy, legislative autonomy with some restrictions, and a shared official language. I like the concept, but I don't see how we get there. At best, I think we would need two generations of two states and economic interchange to build trust. The two nations really need each other economically, like America and Mexico but even more so. Maybe, if America pushes, and if there's an unreasonable amount of luck, they could get to that point.

OCSteve, I think you may have left Donald speechless and shocked his system too much. But I agree with you, his comments have been extremely well expressed.
Another comment I want to make about this thread. Considering the degree of disagreement on many things, this discussion has been extremely civil.
Just an observation about general American knowledge of the Middle East. The person who runs the little restaurant in our office building was talking to me today and mentioning he was going to his church tonight to sing in his choir. Hementioned that it was an Egyptian Christian church and when I said "Coptic?" he just about fell on the floor that someone in this country would know that.

We got to talking about American ignorance of Christianity's place in the ME, including, as someone mentioned above, Palestinian Arab Christians. I bring this up to point out that American's are pretty ignorant and some even believe that there are no good things produced by Arab/Muslim culture.

I leave it at that because my own ignorance of the situation there keeps me from trying to make any substantive comment. I will read Khalidi's book, however, to bring my knowledge level up at least a little.

Is the notion that a state should be all Arab, Muslim, or Jewish, or any other religion or ethnicity for that matter, forward looking or backward looking? It certainly seems to be the antithesis of where we have journeyed in the American experience. It also seems that if it were a conclusive fact that a very large fraction of a state's population thought this way, it would be in the interest of those parts of the world that think otherwise to inhibit its spread beyond its already existing area of influence.

myth of "a land without a people for a people without a land",

Actually, that was not a myth, it has just been misunderstood. "A people" meant "a nation," i.e., a distinct and united ethno-cultural group with rightful aspirations to self-governance.

Most Americans today do not understand how central nationalism was to political and moral thought in the early 20th Century. When Woodrow Wilson promised a "War to End War," for instance, he meant that tearing down the Austro-Hungarian, Russian, and Prussian Empires and freeing brave little Belgium and saucy little Serbia from the oppressor's yoke, would end all need for war, because all those naturally-different sub-races would live in peace if not subjected to the horror of foreign rule. (It helped that Wilson was a romantic neo-Confederate twit.) That's also why it was considered so idealistic to create a "League of Nations." (and note the not-so-subtle shift to "United Nations" later.)

Anyway, the point of that little bromide was that the Arabs were seen as lacking national self-consciousness, and the Palestinians were seen as undifferentiated from any other Arabs, so there was no "people" there to displace, just many individual persons. That was even more or less correct -- ironically, it was the resistance to invasion that gave them a distinct cultural identity.

Back for a moment.

John Miller, you're right. This place does sometimes bring out the civility in people. And I find myself in agreement with most of what the crafty trilobite wrote in his 9:40 statement. He in turn might possibly agree when I say the ultimate cause of the I/P conflict is, in a sense, European (and to a lesser extent American) antisemitism. Without that factor, there wouldn't have been this pressure to form a Jewish state at all costs.

I'm not so sure about the 10:03 statement--my impression is that for at least some, that phrase was meant to imply that Palestine was a mostly empty and desolate land, though maybe others meant what trilobite says. I don't have time to look it up, but I think a couple of rabbis went to Palestine in the early days of Zionism to check out the situation and reported back that "the bride (meaning the land) was beautiful, but already married to another" meaning that it was inhabited after all. Certainly in more modern polemics people sometimes use "land without a people" in a literal way--this is why some passages in one of Mark Twain's travel books are sometimes used to "prove" Palestine was a nearly empty wasteland.

Trilobite's 9:40 is excellent, I think.

On the subject of economic cooperation, IIRC some of the original partition plans contemplated close cooperation between Israel and the Arab state. That surely would be very desirable if a two-state solution emerges.

I remember once being told that the best current example of such cooperation was auto theft. Israeli thieves identified targets in Israel, and their Palestinian partners stole the cars and took them to the West Bank for sale or disassembly. Could be apocryphal.

Incidentally, that little problem is why there was a myth of "a land without a people for a people without a land", a myth that was revived a couple of decades ago by Joan Peters. The myth serves a purpose.

Let me address two points by adding on to Trilobyte's post. The phrase was coined and employed by British Christians promoting the return of the Jews; it never gained wide circulation within the Zionist movement itself. there's a decent overview of this topic in the admittedly partisan Middle East Quarterly.

That same article also points out that on just one page, Khalidi claimed that Herzl didn't so much as mention Arabs in his Der Judenstat (in fact, he did); that this was a widely propagated Zionist slogan (it wasn't); and deliberately misunderstands the phrase as suggesting that the land was depopulated when it simply suggested the lack of national consciousness. That, I hope, will whet the appetites of those who have asked for specific claims; I encourage them to chase down some randomly selected footnotes on their own, to see what they find.

But let's also take a close look at the passage that Hogan has been kind enough to transcribe:

The disparity in numbers between nonwhites and whites there was much greater than between Arabs and Jews in Palestine.

-Here, he lies by misdirection. It's certainly true that the disparity was much greater in South Africa. But it's also the case that the disparity in Palestine tilts the other way. To make sense, the sentence ought to read: "In South Africa, a white minority ruled a disenfranchised black majority; in Palestine, a Jewish majority rules a disenfranchised Arab minority."

although less based on a formal, explicit, legal framework of separation than was apartheid, the flexible, dynamic, ad hoc regime that Israel has erected in the occupied territories over nearly four decades, but especially since 1991, is more controlling, and more flexible, than anything undertaken under the apartheid regime.

-It's a tough sentence to untangle. But then, that's the point. How can a system be simultaneously more controlling and more flexible? Think of it this way - how would one falsify such a claim? Any leniency, change or reform can be dismissed the very flexibility that makes the system insidious; any stringency taken as confirmation of control. Khalidi is comparing two system here. One was an explicit system of control, enshrined in law. The other has been a largely ad hoc response to events. Which do you think is more controlling?

there are thus only limited parallels between the defunct apartheid system and the comprehensive and sophisticated matrix of control that Israel has created

And here's the kicker. Shorter Khalidi: Apartheid? Ha! They had it easy!

Yes, that's right. With a little bit of nuance, Khalidi is essentially arguing that the Palestinians have labored to overcome greater obstacles with fewer resources than black South Africans enjoyed. The nuance he injects into labeling Israel an Apartheid state is that he thinks the term understates matters. The Palestinians, he writes, have had to contend with greater numbers of occupiers; don't enjoy secure rear areas or support from neighboring states; have suffered as the movement shifts its goals; and endured a more controlling legal regime.

This is why I find his arguments distasteful. And I rather think that, if Desmond Tutu read this passage, he'd quite agree.

Let me address two points

Insane racist ranting is not "addressing points".

Insane racist ranting is not "addressing points".

Why, no, it is not. I am, however, driven to assume that this was a non sequitur. Not only does your description entirely fail to reflect Bernard Yomtov's civil and lucid comment, but if you called another commentor "insane," ranting" and "racist," simply because you disagreed with him, you would clearly be in violation of the posting rules.

The same, of course, would apply if you used such terms merely because Bernard is Jewish. But doubtless, you have some other reason for despising him. Perhaps you would care to share it?

In my last, please read "Observer," for "Bernard." I misread the posting order.

Observer, I have limited tolerance for reading Khalidi ever since I went to his University. Does he in this text ever mention the considerable advantages of the Palestinian struggle over that of the South African indigenous population?

In particular, armament, allies, and foreign military aid?

How can a system be simultaneously more controlling and more flexible? Think of it this way - how would one falsify such a claim? Any leniency, change or reform can be dismissed the very flexibility that makes the system insidious; any stringency taken as confirmation of control. Khalidi is comparing two system here. One was an explicit system of control, enshrined in law. The other has been a largely ad hoc response to events. Which do you think is more controlling?

You know, there are a lot of ways that a non-explicit system of control can be more powerful than an explicit system of control. I think it was Raul Hilberg who noted that Jews had more rights when they were convicted and imprisoned by the German criminal justice system and that this was a way that some Jews attempted to escape the Holocaust. The explicitness of German penal law actually provided some protections for Jews.

This isn't to draw a parallel to the situations, but any situation where there is a differential application of rights is going to result in a system of both greater flexibility and greater control.

Not only does your description entirely fail to reflect Bernard Yomtov's civil and lucid comment

Hahaha. Civil and lucid, huh?

Get some sleep.

//Anybody serious about the ME conflict should read Khalidi's book. Well said, Publius.//

Because a book will solve the problem? Not.

Because if I internalize the book's notions it will solve the problem? Not.

There is nothing that either one of us can do about the problem no matter what. What's more, there is nothing Khalidi can do about the problem.

d'd'd'dave: The US's pro-Israel stance in the Middle East and the widespread American ignorance of the situation in Israel/the Occupied Territories (both present-day and historically) is certainly not the only reason that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is usually moving away from a peaceful resolution.

But, insofar as the US could perform the important function of a neutral and powerful mediator in the conflict, and instead invariably chooses to side with Israel, while ignorant Americans sanctimoniously lecture better-informed people for being "pro-Palestinian", yes, d'd'd'dave: it can help - not you individually, perhaps, but...

...oh, what am I saying? A change in US international policy that depends on a majority of Americans becoming better informed on the history and political issues of countries they'd probably have trouble finding on a map?

Never mind. I just have a personal preference for information over ignorance, which you, evidently, do not share.

My slow-motion packing is almost done--Desmond Tutu on the apartheid analogy--

Link

They see -- indeed, they have lived -- the institutional obstacles that Western powers (particularly the British, who owe every Palestinian an annuity) have erected against a viable Palestinian state for nearly a century.

You mean institutional obstacles such as offering them a state in 1937, 1947, and 2000? Groups such as the Kurds or Saharawis wish they had to face such "obstacles."

Take that d'd'd'dave. Some commenters' views are based on what they know to be true and others' are based on ignorance. The same elitist approach that has filled our youth with superficial political notions of egalitarianism and discarded our founding principle of individual liberty.

To give some context to Nephtuli's comment:

The 1937 proposal entailed creating a Jewish-only state in the centre of Palestine and removing by force all Arabs from within that state. As this mini-state would have included Jerusalem, it is hardly surprising that it was roundly rejected by the Arab Palestinians. Once the difficulty of removing by force a large native population had been made clear to the British, they too dropped the proposal.

The 1947 proposal offered a thoroughly muddled state in which Jerusalem was at the centre of the largest Arab territory, but was under control of the UN. To Jewish Palestinians this offered the creation of an independent Jewish state, which they accepted: to Arab Palestianians, this offered the carving up of Palestine - it had no conceivable benefits. (Granted, it now looks like a better solution after sixty-plus years, but it's perfectly clear why it didn't in 1947 appear at all acceptable to Arab Palestinians why they should hand over a large part of their country to European and American colonialists.)

I am not aware of any offer made by the Israelis to create a Palestinian state in 1967; a large settlement movement to the Occupied Territories began soon after the Six-Day War, and no part of the territories taken by Israel in 1967 was given back to any nation till 1978, at which time the settlements on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were well-established.

I puzzle about whether it is possible to reconcile what one may think about the right and wrong when two foreign parties are involved in a dispute with the long-term national interest of one's own nation. In my case, the latter is the United States, and that influences my views ahead of the detailed analysis of all the historical rights and wrongs.

GoodOleBoy, are you the same person who does "Rugged in Montana" on Pandagon? Your last comment reminded me irresistibly of him...

You mean institutional obstacles such as offering them a state in 1937, 1947, and 2000? Groups such as the Kurds or Saharawis wish they had to face such "obstacles."

To follow up on Jes' comments, I don't think there was ever any offer made in 2000. A serious offer would involve a piece of paper. I mean, no one in their right mind would consider any business offer that wasn't written down, but so far as I know, no such offer was ever made in 2000. But perhaps I'm wrong. Can anyone link to a PDF of the "offer" that Palestinians supposedly rejected?

the Arabs were seen as lacking national self-consciousness, and the Palestinians were seen as undifferentiated from any other Arabs, so there was no "people" there to displace, just many individual persons.

As Eddie Izzard has pointed out, it all came down to the cunning use of flags.

Well, let's put it this way. My notions of what it means to act American are old-fashioned. So you will sense a tone of patriotism in my comments (which should be refreshing since there's not much of that here). One important element of my sense of patriotism is supporting and defending the US Constitution and the principle of individual liberty expressed by our founding fathers. I always try to make comments that reflect a logical reasoning process but my ignorance has been overwhelmed by the enormous knowledge of others here resulting in my being called unsavory names on occasion. I don't know 'Rugged in Montana' but I like the handle.

So you will sense a tone of patriotism in my comments (which should be refreshing since there's not much of that here).

First of all, a number of the people here are not from the US, so complaining about a lack of patriotism based on that seems a bit misguided. Second, perhaps under your definition of patriotism, there isn't much, but I would question if your definition is the definitive one.

It's certainly not definitive, but essential. I understand many here are not US, but that should not keep them from understanding what a patriot position would be, and that then should help in understanding US official actions.

I understand many here are not US, but that should not keep them from understanding what a patriot position would be, and that then should help in understanding US official actions.

But your complaint was that patriotism (which seems to revolve around the US) was not much in evidence. This suggests that your definition of patriotism is more focussed on displays of patriotism rather than the actual heart of the matter. That you feel this is essential points to a disagreement with me, at least, and probably with several others. And, bringing it back to the topic of this post, what would you define as 'essential' for a display of Palestinian patriotism?

The 1937 proposal entailed creating a Jewish-only state in the centre of Palestine and removing by force all Arabs from within that state. As this mini-state would have included Jerusalem, it is hardly surprising that it was roundly rejected by the Arab Palestinians. Once the difficulty of removing by force a large native population had been made clear to the British, they too dropped the proposal.

This is only partially true. Jerusalem was to be part of an international">http://www.palestineremembered.com/Acre/Maps/Story579.html">international regime under Peel's plan. Also, the Jews would have received a small percentage of Palestine, and the Palestinians would have received the vast majority of the territory. The Palestinian response to Peel was an uptick in the violence that had been going on since 1936, not any alternative offer of settlement.

The 1947 proposal offered a thoroughly muddled state in which Jerusalem was at the centre of the largest Arab territory, but was under control of the UN. To Jewish Palestinians this offered the creation of an independent Jewish state, which they accepted: to Arab Palestinians, this offered the carving up of Palestine - it had no conceivable benefits. (Granted, it now looks like a better solution after sixty-plus years, but it's perfectly clear why it didn't in 1947 appear at all acceptable to Arab Palestinians why they should hand over a large part of their country to European and American colonialists.)

Notwithstanding that, again, the Palestinians were to receive the larger piece of territory, it is important to note that the Palestinians again did not offer any alternative but merely violently opposed the plan.

Remember the original point I was making. The Western countries (and especially Israel) have made attempts to accommodate the Palestinians (which they have not done for other groups; I await with eagerness the UN's Sahawari day). Whether the Palestinians thought the deals were perfect or not is immaterial because they never negotiated the terms, and never made any attempt to work out a deal with the Jews. They thought they were in the right and refused to compromise. The Jews also thought they were in the right, but they were willing to accept a sub par deal rather than see the violence continue.

I am similarly unaware of any proposal for a Palestinian state in 1967. The fact that UNSC 242's only reference to the Palestinians was as refugees was a major reason the PLO opposed the plan.

To follow up on Jes' comments, I don't think there was ever any offer made in 2000. A serious offer would involve a piece of paper. I mean, no one in their right mind would consider any business offer that wasn't written down, but so far as I know, no such offer was ever made in 2000. But perhaps I'm wrong. Can anyone link to a PDF of the "offer" that Palestinians supposedly rejected?

What Clinton offered at Taba were principles that were slightly modifiable but not a "sign on the dotted line" offer. These principles went as far as I can imagine Israel ever going. Barak accepted the principles, Arafat rejected them. The details are painstakingly recounted in Dennis Ross' The Missing Peace.

What Clinton offered at Taba were principles that were slightly modifiable but not a "sign on the dotted line" offer. These principles went as far as I can imagine Israel ever going. Barak accepted the principles, Arafat rejected them. The details are painstakingly recounted in Dennis Ross' The Missing Peace.

Is this some sort of sick joke? Clinton couldn't offer a damn thing: he did not represent the state of Israel. I mean, I could offer Abbas something as well as Clinton could. Moreover, Tabba was meaningless: the Israeli government was on its way out and totally unable to sign an agreement that its successors would adhere to. What exactly is the point of cutting a deal with a lame duck when the successor will not follow it?

In any event, you've proven my point for me. The Palestinians were not "offered" any deal in 2000; they were given a bunch of "principles" by someone with no power. Yay. Aren't they lucky.

liberal japonicus,

Re: patriotism expressions here or not here, an observation, not a complaint. I'm well accustomed to a lack of patriotic expression or action right here in the US. On the contrary, I value action much more than talk, and I personally have a long history of service as well as a family heritage of patriotism going back to the American Revolutionary War. The use of essential in my earlier reference is for an American to be an American patriot. How would I be expected to define patriotism for a Palestinian? The difference in cultural context is too great for me. As to the conflict itself, I would like hands off, but it seems my elected leaders have concluded we have an interest there. I'm not sure.

GoodOleBoy, I remain confused. Personally I have seen more American patriotism displayed here than at sites such as Red State and other so-called conservative blogs. It would really help if you defined your meaning of patriotism.

Also, the Jews would have received a small percentage of Palestine, and the Palestinians would have received the vast majority of the territory.

Did you miss the point about the difficulties of removing by force a large native population?

Notwithstanding that, again, the Palestinians were to receive the larger piece of territory, it is important to note that the Palestinians again did not offer any alternative but merely violently opposed the plan.

Er, the alternative the Arab Palestinians offered in 1947 was to keep Palestine as a whole country. This alternative was violently opposed by the European/American-origin Jewish minority.

The Western countries (and especially Israel) have made attempts to accommodate the Palestinians (which they have not done for other groups

Is this some kind of joke? The group which, in 1937 and in 1947 Western countries and the UN made "attempts to accommodate" were the Palestinian Jews - both the colonists and the refugees. The UN and the British Government were attempting to convince the Palestinian Arabs that they ought to give up a part of their own country to foreign settlers in order to "accommodate" them.

The Jews also thought they were in the right, but they were willing to accept a sub par deal rather than see the violence continue.

The Jewish Palestinians were doubtless practically aware that clearing all the Arabs out of the whole of Palestine would be a long, messy job, and were willing not to bother if the British would do the job for them for at least part of the country. This wasn't a "sub-par deal": this was their being offered special accommodation to set up a colonialist nation with the last gasp of the British Empire to suppress the natives.

Whereas the Arab Palestinians didn't want to subdivide Palestine at all - and, if democracy had counted for anything under the British Mandate, when the majority do not want to divide their own country and hand over part of it to colonialists, the majority ordinarily are in the right.

That was even more or less correct -- ironically, it was the resistance to invasion that gave them a distinct cultural identity.

Ironic, perhaps, but to be expected. That has been a typical response to colonialism throughout human history. Even as far back as the Romans, there would be no way Vercingetorix could have united the Gauls under his leadership if not for the Roman threat.

So you will sense a tone of patriotism in my comments (which should be refreshing since there's not much of that here).

GoodOleBoy,

If you actually revere the US Constitution as the highest object of patriotic loyalty in the US then presumably you have some knowledge regarding the historical circumstances under which that document was negotiated. Such being the case, you of all people should have a better appreciation for the idea that there are as many forms of patriotic expression as there are Amercians, and that no one way is canonical.

Your comment above was either ill phrased or indicative of someone who doesn't understand the very diverse forms of American patriotism very well. Perhaps hitting the history books might help.

Now please carry on with what is one of the better I/P threads I've read in some time.

Oh, and Happy New Year to everybody!

John Miller,

Most of this discussion here has focused on the long history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the right actions and wrong actions of those two sides, from the view of the various commenters. Some of those comments have castigated the US for leaning toward Israel based on the commenters' views that aid to Israel does not reflect supporting right in the conflict. But US action, in my view, should reflect what we judge to be in the long term national interests of the US, and not was is right or wrong vis-a-vis Israel and Palestine. A discussion of the rightness or wrongness of the US position on the conflict with respect to the US interests might involve patriotism for Americans who engaged in that discussion.

Is this some sort of sick joke? Clinton couldn't offer a damn thing: he did not represent the state of Israel. I mean, I could offer Abbas something as well as Clinton could. Moreover, Tabba was meaningless: the Israeli government was on its way out and totally unable to sign an agreement that its successors would adhere to. What exactly is the point of cutting a deal with a lame duck when the successor will not follow it?

Clinton acted a mediator. He proposed a solution (which the US would back up in a variety of ways). Barak said yes, Arafat said no. The whole point of the mediator is to find common ground and propose solutions and that's what Clinton did.

If Arafat accepted the deal, Sharon would have had no choice but to follow it, especially given the composition of the Knesset after his election. Labor was still the largest party after Sharon's election. At the very least, Arafat could have pointed to the agreement in principle as a PR weapon against Israel if Israel abrogated the agreement and Israel would have been under enormous pressure to keep the deal.

The point is that Israel accepted fairly specific principles, which the parties could modify slightly via agreement. Had Arafat accepted those principles, the parties would have reached essentially reached an agreement (especially if the Plaintians hadn't decided to start Intifada #2, but that's a different matter).

Did you miss the point about the difficulties of removing by force a large native population?

Not at all. There were actually discussion within the Yishuv about that part of the plan and whether it was acceptable. The Yishuv accepted it, but with reservations.

Nevertheless, what alternative did the Palestinians? That's your next comment:

Er, the alternative the Arab Palestinians offered in 1947 was to keep Palestine as a whole country. This alternative was violently opposed by the European/American-origin Jewish minority.

As a whole country with who in charge? What rights would the very large Jewish minority have? That's not an alternative; it's refusing to compromise.

Is this some kind of joke? The group which, in 1937 and in 1947 Western countries and the UN made "attempts to accommodate" were the Palestinian Jews - both the colonists and the refugees. The UN and the British Government were attempting to convince the Palestinian Arabs that they ought to give up a part of their own country to foreign settlers in order to "accommodate" them.

And the Jews who have thousands of years of ties to the land felt that they were giving up a major chunk of their homeland as well...

Both sides felt they were giving something up, and both sides had a maximalist position, but only the Jews were willing to take a compromise deal. As you've admitted, the Palestinians simply were not.

The Jewish Palestinians were doubtless practically aware that clearing all the Arabs out of the whole of Palestine would be a long, messy job, and were willing not to bother if the British would do the job for them for at least part of the country. This wasn't a "sub-par deal": this was their being offered special accommodation to set up a colonialist nation with the last gasp of the British Empire to suppress the natives.

Sadly the above nonsense has no basis in reality. The partition plan called for no such transfer. There is no evidence that the Jews wanted to "clear[] all the Arabs out of the whole of Palestine (although some Palestinians were surely expelled)" The parties' stubborn adherence to their respective mythologies is one of the reasons for the current mess.

Whereas the Arab Palestinians didn't want to subdivide Palestine at all - and, if democracy had counted for anything under the British Mandate, when the majority do not want to divide their own country and hand over part of it to colonialists, the majority ordinarily are in the right.

Of course they didn't want to divide Palestine; that was their strongest position. The Jews didn't want to divide it either, but the realities simply did not permit the two sides to live side by side under the Arab majority. And does anyone believe a unified Palestine would have been remotely democratic? Since when does the majority have the right to take away the rights of the minority?

step away from those italics

GoodOleBoy: "US action, in my view, should reflect what we judge to be in the long term national interests of the US, and not was is right or wrong vis-a-vis Israel and Palestine."

There are, as others have said, a lot of different forms patriotism can take. Mine does not hold that it is an act of love for one's country to encourage it to participate in injustice, absent very, very compelling reasons. (E.g., the US Will be destroyed if we do not help someone keep a paperclip from its rightful owner.) Likewise, I love my siblings, and for that reason would not assist them in becoming murderers, even if that seemed to them to be "in their interests", on some definition of "interest". Loving something or someone involves wanting that entity or person to be the best he/she/it can be.

Moreover, I think that even leaving aside the question whether a country's interests can involve immorality (conceptually), I think that in general they do not. (There are, I think, specific but rare exceptions to this.) For the most part, the idea that they do involves either too narrow a conception of interests, or a lack of appreciation of the damage it does us when people hate us and think we are amoral.

In the specific case at hand, the idea that US interests require support for Israel is bizarre. An amoral, cold-hearted, unsentimental view of what's in what are normally called our interests would, I think, lead to the conclusion that our support for Israel has been disastrous for us. It's because I don't share that view that I do not think it's an open-and-shut question.

Hilzoy:

Eloquently put. My only quibble is with your concluding paragraph: "An amoral, cold-hearted, unsentimental view of what's in what are normally called our interests would, I think, lead to the conclusion that our support for Israel has been disastrous for us."

I believe I understand the point you're making, but would point out that in the paragraph immediately prior, you note that immorality is very rarely in our national interest. I think that's absolutely right. Perhaps we might substitute "short-term interests" for "what are normally called our interests." I don't think there's any doubt that, at various points over the past sixty years, the short-term economic or geopolitical interests of the United States might have been advanced by capitulating to the demands of various Middle Eastern regimes. But over the long term, such a decision would have eroded our international standing. It is not just our wealth and our military might which allow us to exercise our influence around the world; it is the perception that we stand for something. That we will be resolute in support of our friends, and steadfast in opposition to our foes. That, even when we might eke out some immediate advantage, we will not betray our principles.

There are, of course, innumerable instances when we have betrayed those principles in pursuit of some immediate advantage. And there are others when we have attempted to defend our principles, and ended up betraying them. But, on balance, that perception is the greatest weapon we have, and a powerful tool for positive change.

That, to my mind, is an amoral, cold-hearted, unsentimental truth. Even realists and pragmatists can acknowledge the practical utility of idealism. It's not that we need to sacrifice our interests for our principles; it's that, over the long term, defending those principles best serves our interests.

An amoral, cold-hearted, unsentimental view of what's in what are normally called our interests would, I think, lead to the conclusion that our support for Israel has been disastrous for us.

I do wonder sometimes what we get out of treating Israel as the 51st state.

It is not just our wealth and our military might which allow us to exercise our influence around the world; it is the perception that we stand for something. That we will be resolute in support of our friends, and steadfast in opposition to our foes. That, even when we might eke out some immediate advantage, we will not betray our principles.

Is there any evidence for this assertion at all? As you yourself point out, America has repeatedly acted in opposition to these principles. Principles that are often and consistently violated can't be relied upon to guide future behavior, now can they? If there's no evidence and this is just something you like to believe because it makes you feel good, that's fine too, but I'd like to know.

Moreover, I'm curious: what exactly does America stand for? We don't stand for the international rule of law. And while we might sort of stand by our friends if you narrowly define the term friend, we've propped up all manner of brutal dictators who have murdered their own people. We're not even particularly steadfast in opposing our foes: arms for hostages anyone? You've written down some heart warming platitudes, but it seems that our foreign policy would be better served by honesty rather than cloying sentiment.

@Nephtuli:

Notwithstanding that, again, the Palestinians were to receive the larger piece of territory, it is important to note that the Palestinians again did not offer any alternative but merely violently opposed the plan.

Uhm? Unless I'm misremembering (and Wikipedia strongly suggests I'm not), I don't see how 43% of Palestine can be in any way be conceived to be "larger" than 56%.

Italics off?

Is there any evidence for this assertion at all?

I submit that there is negative evidence in support of the notion that the US has derived benefits from its reputation: the absence of an explicitly anti-American alliance structure incorporating one or more major geopolitical powers, designed to oppose the power and constrain the actions of the US.

In strictly realpolitick balance of power terms, such an alliance should have formed by now, since the fall of the Soviet Union and the collapse of the Warsaw Pact was over a decade ago, unless the other major powers of the world have collectively decided to discount the need for it by assuming that US intentions are broadly speaking benign until proven otherwise. That they have persisted in this course of inaction despite the behavior of the Bush administration suggests that this sentiment is actually quite strong and durable.

Uhm? Unless I'm misremembering (and Wikipedia strongly suggests I'm not), I don't see how 43% of Palestine can be in any way be conceived to be "larger" than 56%.

You are correct. Doesn't really affect my point though.

And yes, I forgot an italics tag.

In strictly realpolitick balance of power terms, such an alliance should have formed by now,

I know of no IR model that necessitates this particular result with anywhere near the degree of certainty your argument suggests. As a result, I don't find this argument to be persuasive.

Since Six Apart broke the blogging software Obsidian Wings uses, it takes a mod going in to edit comments to fix italics - hopefully one of the mods will have time at some point.

There were actually discussion within the Yishuv about that part of the plan and whether it was acceptable. The Yishuv accepted it, but with reservations.

But the representatives of the people who would have been forcibly removed from their homes rejected it. That the people who would have *benefited* from the forcible removal of so many Arabs from their homes had doubts about whether it was "acceptable" to do so is I suppose a smidgeon more to their credit than if they'd just agreed to this mass dispossession for their benefit without *any* debate - but only a smidgeon.

As a whole country with who in charge?

A democratically elected government, one person one vote.

What rights would the very large Jewish minority have?

The same rights as the Muslim and Christian population. You have a problem with that?

That's not an alternative

Of course it's an alternative. If the Palestinian Jews had been willing to compromise, (which, as we know, they were not) that would have been the unified-state solution, which now looks like the only possible solution for peace.

Speaking against that alternative, in 1947, of course there was the immediate and awful history of the Holocaust, which gave the Palestinian Jews a strong diplomatic edge which they were (from both historical and first-person report - my father has an interesting anecdote from a peace conference he attended in Germany about that time) not at all slow to exploit in their uncompromising demand for an all-Jewish or Jewish-majority state.

Since when does the majority have the right to take away the rights of the minority?

Since the establishment of the state of Israel, in which the Jewish majority took away many of the rights of the Arab minority. Next question?

Observer: you're right. I was wondering how to put that: I do think that if we were to calculate "interests" in the narrow, short-term way that people often invoke in this context, and ask whether supporting Israel serves our "interests", the answer is "no". As you note, though, I also don't think that's the right conception of 'interests' at all, both because it's too short-run and because our interests include being a decent country.

Supporting Israel could mean anything hilzoy. Can you explain what specific sort of support you think would be justified by either a "longer term" national interest calculus or a "decent country" calculus? I mean, Israel is not a poor country. Our dollars and diplomatic pressure that we expend on Israel could go to improving the lives of many many people in the world...

Hilzoy:

You used the terms immorality and injustice in a very conclusive manner as if the US role historically in this conflict is not subject to further debate. I find that conclusion bizarre since you are quarreling with policies that have been followed more or less by administration after administration with the tacit approval of the electorate. Not all of us are quite as sure of ourselves on these kinds of questions and I'm sure the Israeli populace does not feel that conclusion. It seems that disagreement with your conclusions is part of what drives remarks here, even if your group itself has few dissenters.

I puzzle about whether it is possible to reconcile what one may think about the right and wrong when two foreign parties are involved in a dispute with the long-term national interest of one's own nation. In my case, the latter is the United States, and that influences my views ahead of the detailed analysis of all the historical rights and wrongs.

Well, it's certainly nice to see American conservatives continue to be the standard bearers for proper moral direction.

And who is the arbiter of 'proper moral direction'. You folks sure start with a lot of assumptions.

Turbulence:

I'm not advancing any novel claims. Whether packaged as soft power, moral suasion, or international standing, theorists have long recognized that the idea of America is at least as powerful as any other weapon at its disposal. What does it stand for? In the broadest terms, the notion that the peoples of the earth have the right to opportunity, freedom, and self-government.

The most powerful and sweeping creeds are those enduring ideals by which we measure our shortcomings. It is not our attainment of these ideals which lends them power, but rather, our continual striving to more closely adhere to them in spite of our struggles. When you write pejoratively of the brutal dictators we have enabled, you offer a rebuke that implicitly draws on the notion that America ought to do better. People around the world agree. And that is a powerful testament to the widespread notion that America does, in fact, stand for a better world.

Where does Israel fit into this? It is a democracy in a region of autocracies, it offers opportunity to its people, and a respect for basic freedoms. It is an imperfect and flawed state - more so than some, less so than others. But its professed ideals are largely aligned with our own; those of its enemies diametrically opposed. In general, it has been American policy to encourage Israel to live up to its ideals - to divest itself of territories that it governs undemocratically, to enhance opportunities for all of its citizens, to encourage the broad spread of peace and democracy in the region. We have done this well at times - Camp David stands as a signal success - and poorly at others. But the steadfastness of American support for Israel has provided it with the reassurance the embattled and beleaguered state required to make the concessions that led to peace with two of its neighbors, and to devolve authority to the Palestinian Authority and continue down the road to a final settlement. I cannot think that the interests of our own nation would have been better served by a policy of scrupulous neutrality - what would amount to moral indifference. Our persuasive power rests on the perception of all sides that America's ultimate aim is a peaceful and stable region, receptive to democracy and economic growth - and not on our own narrowly conceived interests.

Without our decency, our only persuasive power would stem directly from our tangible power - and that is a fragile and fleeting thing.

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