« Settlement Freeze | Main | The Cairo Speech »

June 04, 2009

Comments

I'll bring it up again: the President gave a great moral summary of the Israel-Palestine situation:

"For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers – for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel's founding and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security."

First rate. It reminds me why I'm glad he won.

Not insane. Actually, make that remarkably sane.

Which, in terms of our recent foreign policy, is a real milestone.

Best speech so far....it directly addressed the issues, wasn't an 'apology' (as Romney would like to say). And I think most importanly, gave the Middle East a message of Hope....just like his campaign.....now we can only pray that this feeling will last past the next suicide bomb.

IOZ

"But seriously," Mr. Obama continued. "The time of the past is in the past, and the future is that which lies before us." Pausing for effect, he added, "The present is now," drawing applause.
..IOZ

Point-

There's a lot of problems with Obama's interpretation of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

He said, "It is easy to point fingers – for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel's founding and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond."

How painful is that history for the Israelis? They displaced an entire people, established their state, and still have to deal with the fact that the Palestinians won't disappear. Until a US president acknowledges that the root cause of the problem in the conflict is that one side's (yes its easy to point fingers) goal is to have a state that is based on the racial exclusion of many of its inhabitants and would-be neighbors, and the other side resists--sometimes violently--said project, there will never be peace.

I thought it was a terrific speech, covering all the bases, plus some I didn't expect. The women's rights issue was a surprising and welcome note.

rick

Obviously we disagree -- I happen to think that Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state.

I happen to think that Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state.

On what do you base that right, Point?

I happen to think that all the people in Israel-Palestine have basic human rights--including self-determination.

In all likelihood, the best way in practice to accommodate everyone's basic human rights will be via two, monoethnic states (though the devil will be in the details).

But on what basis does any group establish a right to a monoethnic state, especially when they want that state to rule a multiethnic land?

But on what basis does any group establish a right to a monoethnic state

the typical way is with overwhelming military force.

it worked for us.

I don't know if that was the intent, but it struck me as a speech with an Arab audience in mind (in addition to American and Israeli audiences watching intently over his shoulder), rather than a more nebulous 'Muslim world' one. Other than the opening platitudes to Islam as a religion and cultural force, there was little here for anyone east of Iran. Unsurprisingly, Afghanistan-Pakistan was skipped over as lightly as possible.

Given the itinerary -- Saudi Arabia, Egypt and apparently Buchenwald -- the speech strikes me to be, above all, a statement of intent on the Israel-Palestine question, that is, Obama's intention to immerhse America right in the guts of that question.

The timing was definitely informed by the need to wait out the result of the Israeli elections and speak first to the victors. I'm curious as to whether it was also deliberately timed to preempt the Iranian election, or whether that was a happy accident. The speech will have been very alarming in Tehran; the Bush administration basically abandoned the field of public diplomacy to the Iranians, allowing Ahmadinejad to really seize the limelight as, supposedly, the only person left who cared about the Palestinians. The Palestine issue is essential for Iran to appeal over the heads of Arab governments and try to break out of its regional isolation. Obama countering that effort is one of the most effective things that Washington can do to pressure Iran into abandoning its weapons program.

Oh the joys of seeing an American government rediscover the utility of diplomacy, and remembering that international politic is a multi-level game!

"a statement of intent on the Israel-Palestine question, that is, Obama's intention to immerhse America right in the guts of that question."

Wat. And you think that would be a diplomatic coup against Iran? To have the appearance that the US is going to be more involved in the I/P conflict?

I'll believe that things have changed when things actually change. In the meantime the killing of brown people continues, the torture continues, the illegal imprisonment continues, the illegal spying continues and the looting of the taxpayer is accelerating.

#
Over at Yglesias there were two comments on his "Obama in Cairo" post this morning that I found particularly encouraging.

#34 cate Says:
June 4th, 2009 at 9:51 am

As a rhetoric-wonk, what I find interesting is not simply that the speech itself was a big deal (it’s getting nearly wall-to-wall BBC coverage), but that almost every speech Obama gives is a big deal. This is no accident. Particularly since the post-Wright Philadelphia race speech, Obama has signaled that all major controversies will be responded to with a speech–and each of these speeches have the same characteristics. They acknowledge the depth of the problem, they attempt to speak directly to multiple stakeholders from not simply one of two sides, but of many sides, at different points in the speech. And it provides a synthesis that focuses not on a single solution but rather an advocacy of processes that help us negotiate these thorny issues. These speeches call for more speech, more deliberation, more listening. And the more attention we pay to each speech, as they become the de rigeur response to controversy, the deliberative process is modeled and further encouraged. He’s not giving solutions, he’s slowly building a new political ethic.


# 37 Sumayya Says:
June 4th, 2009 at 10:11 am

I think if you guys were Muslim it would play a lot differently to you. For me, it was amazing, cathartic to hear an American president publicly respect hijab, acknowledge that anti-hijab sentiment is about denying Muslim women their identity rather than freeing us, call out Muslims who repress women, acknowledge the right of Palestinians to a dignified existence, acknowledge that Israel– while it will continue to exist– is built upon the expulsion of Palestinians from their homes. To have him recognize what Muslims know, that with Christians and Jews we are ahl al-kitab, and to frame a call for a better future for Muslims in terms of what Islam asks for us, is extraordinary. Alhamdulillahi rabbi’l al-amin!

For a speech extolling the indispensability of stating the truth, it contained an awful lot of well-worn untruths.

I wonder what a real truth-telling would sound like. Obama would, of course, be impeached for such a thing.

Examples, Margarita?

"In all likelihood, the best way in practice to accommodate everyone's basic human rights will be via two, monoethnic states (though the devil will be in the details).

"But on what basis does any group establish a right to a monoethnic state..."

ben alpers

I don't think we're that far apart* -- it is my understanding that the Jewish people have the right to self-determination and survival as a people; their history of persecution shows that this requires a Jewish state. Hence Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.

But to be clear -- recent history has shown that Palestinians also have such a right. That is why I support the two state solution.

*though I think you mischaracterize the people of Israel's intentions somewhat

Margarita, perhaps you should enumerate what you thought were the "well-worn untruths". I thought it was a marvelously balanced presentation tonally appropriate for its audience. Not too full of bromides, not too far in advance. Aware, respectful,

"Given the itinerary -- Saudi Arabia, Egypt and apparently Buchenwald -- the speech strikes me to be, above all, a statement of intent on the Israel-Palestine question, that is, Obama's intention to immerhse America right in the guts of that question."

I was struck by the way Obama moved the Overton Window in this speech with regard to official US rhetoric in support of the Palestinians (has any US President ever described their plight as "intolerable" in a major speech, prior to today?) while at the same time covering his other flank politically by speaking very directly and forcefully against Holocaust denialism, using extreme positions on both sides against each other. This is underscored by his itinerary (Cairo, then Buchenwald), which I am sure is no accident.

This is a theme which frequently arises in Obama's speeches. He uses extremist groups and their viewpoints as a foil, pivoting away from them back towards some sort of consensus viewpoint. In many cases this "consensus" is at the present time more hypothetical than real, but Obama's language challenges the audience to join it and to support the process of constructing it, by posing a choice between extremism and moderation. This is a binary choice, just as Bush's Manichean world view imposed a binary choice on the listener. But in Bush's case the opposition posited was a dualistic one between two sides only ("You are either with us or against us"), whereas in Obama's world view the opposition is ternary - a sensible middle distinguished from extremes on both sides (essentially “Are you sane, or one of the nuts?”, he asks). It is Yeat’s ‘Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold...’ run backwards.

This is a very effective rhetorical tactic but it comes with a price of sometimes requiring that Obama construct a strawman on one side or the other in order to balance out his ternary equation. His appeal works best for those issues on which there truly are deeply polarized views (no straw necessary) and there is already a strong sense of frustration with the status quo. It seems to me that the I/P conflict in the Middle East an issue where the first condition is strongly fulfilled, now we will find out if sentiment on the second condition is strong enough to support the construction of a middle ground consensus against everything which both extremes can throw at it.

ThatLeftTurnInABQ | June 04, 2009 at 05:09 PM

Well said!

Also note Buchenwald plays against the Iranian extremist Presidential candidate; subtly supporting the more moderate without "interfering" in their election process.

The hijab/education comments support Muslim women, again in a wonderful balance.

@ Point,

“I don't think we're that far apart* -- it is my understanding that the Jewish people have the right to self-determination and survival as a people; their history of persecution shows that this requires a Jewish state. Hence Israel's right to exist as a Jewish state.”

I think, for some people, the ethnic/religious tension between European Christians and European Jews (a.k.a. The Jewish Question), ended up being “solved” by taking land from Palestinian Christians and Palestinian Muslims.

From the Arab point of view, Europeans were colonizing land for Europeans, once again.

How painful is that history for the Israelis? They displaced an entire people, established their state, and still have to deal with the fact that the Palestinians won't disappear. Until a US president acknowledges that the root cause of the problem in the conflict is that one side's (yes its easy to point fingers) goal is to have a state that is based on the racial exclusion of many of its inhabitants and would-be neighbors, and the other side resists--sometimes violently--said project, there will never be peace.

So asserts rick, whose valuable insights on the I-P issue have apparently been ignored by American administrations up to and including this one.

Methinks a few people missed the point here. Obama is describing and dealing with the real world. Not anyone's ideal world, not the world of what-should-be's, but the world that actually exists that we have to deal with.

In that world, Israel exists. You don't have to like how it came to be, but unless you're prepared to destroy a country that will fight to the death for its existence, demolish 61 years of infrastructure, evict from their homes 7 million people whose only offense was being born there, and create the greatest refugee crisis since WWII... any solution to I-P includes recognizing Israel's right to exist and determine its own fate, just as it includes the same for the Palestinian people.

If you're really prepared to do all that in order to right a 60-year-old injustice, you are not dealing with the real world and I hope to hell your voice is far away from the ears of anyone who makes policy. If you're not, then bickering about who started it accomplishes nothing except fueling the decades-old vendettas that sustain this conflict.

Obama gets it. I don't think you do.

I don't see how having two states would necessarily solve the conflict, considering that in practice the borders and resources of any Palestinian "state" would still be controlled by Israel.

Given the changing demographics in the region, an ethnically pure Jewish state is not possible over the long term without active ethnic cleansing.

I am convinced that the most stable long-term solution is for a single, united government over Israel and Palestine with full voting rights for all citizens.

If a non-Jewish-majority Israeli state amounts to the "destruction" of Israel, then I would say that, in a world without ethnic cleansing, it's already doomed.

I don't think we're that far apart* -- it is my understanding that the Jewish people have the right to self-determination and survival as a people; their history of persecution shows that this requires a Jewish state.

JFTR, there are about as many Jews in the US as there are in Israel, so I hardly think this is a given.

I am tired of the talk versus action trope being trotted out. In diplomacy, talk *is* action. Speeches create political space for formal agreements. Statements are part of the process. Speeches also create political pressure from the people to their leaders.

One thing we should have learned about Obama is that he's relentless pursuing his goals once he has speechified on them. And he tends to mean what he says. And his team has a great sense of timing and proportion.

So, he's been making overtures to Iran. Today, conveniently before the Iranian elections, he acknowledged and effectively apologized for the coup against Mossadegh and the bad blood generated by it. This seems pretty unprecedented to me. This creates political space for the anti-anti-american forces in Iranian politics. A good thing. He even called out the Iranians for defining themselves by opposition to America. He's trying to pull the rug from under the hardliners.

Obama is also always speaking directly to the people - bypassing the filters of media and political rulers. WH made sure that the speech was available in unfiltered form, translated, to anybody. Not a coincidence: this is something the autocratic rulers in the region must hate. Did you notice how to first mention of "democracy" got a big applause?

I'm personally leery about this treatment of "Islam" as a monolith in the speech. But I can kind of see where it comes from. One, since political organization in many ME countries has been repressed, religion became the main outlet for politics and ideology. The conservative religionists are propping up their power by by telling their supporters how "The West"/"modernity"/etc are coming to take away their religion and culture. The more unhinged wingnuts take to arms. Sound familiar? Obama is effectively calling bullshit on them - with the Muslim Brotherhood representatives in the audience! Secondly, using this muslim self-concept of one undivided umma, he can include all muslims without adding another 7 main points to his speech.

Now, please somebody who knows Arabic, tell me what hajib means (yeah, he meant hijab). Hope it's nothing too obscene.

Talks cheap. The end.

@ Charles,

I believe a one-man-one-vote solution is the best; however we are a radical minority.

I suspect a deranged and deformed two-state solution will be tried first, fail miserably…Israel will meddle as well as most of the big time Middle-East actors, screw the Palestinians even further, and eventually do what many “Barbarians” did on the outskirts of the Roman Empire, demand the rights of citizenship and use the bigger and wealthier bureaucracy to solve the problems, said bureaucracy, caused back home.

Just a thought.

someotherdude

That point would have to completely ignore the long, studied history of muslim populations oppressing their jewish populations.

Hajib ?

    A hajib from Arabic الحاجب was a government official in Al-Andalus (Spain) and Egypt. They began as Chamberlains but by 756 had evolved to be equivalent to a vizier.

My last point refers to someotherdude's 5:32 post.

Catsy -

I completely reject the suggestion that recognizing Israel came into being through the eviction and displacement of Palestinians and currently functions as an apartheid state leads inexorably to dismantling Israel forcibly as the obvious (and only) solution. I also think that dismissing the viewpoint of a significant chunk of affected parties "accomplishes nothing except fueling the decades-old vendettas that sustain this conflict."

charles @ 5:43

"I don't see how having two states would necessarily solve the conflict, considering that in practice the borders and resources of any Palestinian "state" would still be controlled by Israel."

As they say, the devil's in the details; my two cents, if Israel is concerned by control of the border with Palestine, it can be helped by a third party (UN? NATIO? an alliance or arab states, maybe?).

Similarly, an agreement on resource sharing can be enforced by a third party as well, if need be.

"Given the changing demographics in the region, an ethnically pure Jewish state is not possible over the long term without active ethnic cleansing."

Region =/= Country

The migration started in the late 19th century, but accelerated after the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

So, it follows from that, European Christians and European Jews get to dictate how Palestinian Christian and Palestinian Muslim land gets divvied up?

Not that I really want to rehash this whole history, however...Zionism is a European phenomena and its end was about displacing non-Europeans, something Europeans were doing all over the world, by the way. Each of these land grabs were justified by whatever political ideologies were in vogue and justified colonization.

It would be interesting to know how much of the Arab Jewish populations were agitating for Europeans Zionists to occupy Palestine. I’m sure there were a few; however this seems to be primarily a “European thang.”

Point-
Region = "the area controlled by Israel"

Point,

The world is full of longstanding histories of majority populations oppressing ethnic and religious minorities. Real peace comes when those histories are overcome, not when they are merely accommodated. Still, cease fires are better than active conflicts.

I still don't accept as a general principle that every ethnic group in the world has a right to a chunk of land on which it can establish a monoethnic state. The only way to achieve this "vision" is through "ethnic cleansing" and/or apartheid. Not coincidentally, most of the states that have ethnic definitions of citizenship (and Israel is far from alone in this) have achieved and/or maintained this model of citizenship through some combination of these things.

For most of human history, people have lived alongside and along with people who practice different religions and speak different languages. And I have a prejudice (born perhaps from being a citizen of a multiethnic democracy) in favor of regimes that are built on such diversity.

But as I've already said, I wouldn't let that prejudice stand in the way of a (relative) peace in I/P achieved on the basis of two monoethnic states.

OK, taking these one at a time:

charles' point would be made moot by the creation of a country out of land where Palestinians live, as, if done right, would then no longer be controlled by Israel.

THe idea of a multi-ethinic unitary state seems like a good idea to Americans who now coexist well in a multi-ethinic unitary state. But the Middle East ain't America. The history of the area is completely different.

Right now, neither group wants to co-exist in na unitary state, so the idea is a complete non-starter.

Hell, even the two-state solution looks near impossible at this point. Let's stay in the real world and at least try for the imperfect but not quite impossible two-state solution.

someotherdude

"It would be interesting to know how much of the Arab Jewish populations were agitating for Europeans Zionists to occupy Palestine. I’m sure there were a few; however this seems to be primarily a 'European thang.'"

It stopped being a "European thing" when arab jews voted with their feet.

In that world, Israel exists. You don't have to like how it came to be, but unless you're prepared to destroy a country that will fight to the death for its existence, demolish 61 years of infrastructure, evict from their homes 7 million people whose only offense was being born there, and create the greatest refugee crisis since WWII... any solution to I-P includes recognizing Israel's right to exist and determine its own fate, just as it includes the same for the Palestinian people.

This strikes me as absolutely correct. Israel's right to continue to exist isn't based on a people's abstract right to a monoethnic state, but rather on the fact that it does exist and that its continued existence is supported by millions of Israelis.

None of which is to whitewash the colonial aspect of the Zionist enterprise. But as residents of a country that similarly would not exist were it not for a colonial enterprise that violently displaced a native population, U.S. Americans ought to be careful about claiming that the crimes of past generations obviate the rights of present ones.

It would seem that the Holy Koran tells us, "Be conscious of God and speak always the truthiness." To that end, we are told that America is not a self-interested empire. America does not seek a world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another. America rejects the killing of innocent men, women, and children. The Iraqi people are better off because of regime change. America has unequivocally prohibited the use of torture. America will respect the sovereignty of nations and the rule of law. Resistance through violence and killing does not succeed. America seeks a world in which no nations hold nuclear weapons. No system of government can or should be imposed upon one nation by any other. America does not presume to know what is best for everyone, just as we would not presume to pick the outcome of a peaceful election. America strives for the rule of law, the equal administration of justice, and government that is transparent.

We've heard this before. If in diplomacy, talk is action, then action is action too.

I read the speech. My response is 'let it be so'. There was much to like and nothing to dislike.

Best for last; ben alpers:

"The world is full of longstanding histories of majority populations oppressing ethnic and religious minorities. Real peace comes when those histories are overcome, not when they are merely accommodated."

I understand if this causes some grit teeth, but -- the case of the Jewish people is different.

When your ancestors sought to live in the very multiethnic society you describe -- only to find their former neighbors complicit in the extermination of your people -- you can understandably find the idea, that you just have to trust that your people will survive as a minority wherever they go, an impossibility.

If the Jewish people have the right to self-preservation, and they have a history of being persecution to the point of attempted extermination, then they have the right to form a state.*

*To those who ask, "but why in Israel?" -- they was already a Jewish population in Palestine, following a long tradition of jewish emigration.

None of which is to whitewash the colonial aspect of the Zionist enterprise. But as residents of a country that similarly would not exist were it not for a colonial enterprise that violently displaced a native population, U.S. Americans ought to be careful about claiming that the crimes of past generations obviate the rights of present ones.

Past generations? Some of the displaced people we're talking about are actually still alive, for pete's sake.

I completely reject the suggestion that recognizing Israel came into being through the eviction and displacement of Palestinians and currently functions as an apartheid state leads inexorably to dismantling Israel forcibly as the obvious (and only) solution.

That's nice. Myself, I reject the notion that any Highlander movie was made after the first one, but that doesn't have any effect on the facts listed in IMDB. When you break it all down, what you're asking for is for Obama to say some variation, "Israel started it, they're more in the wrong than the poor Palestinians, who are just trying to survive their neighbor's aggression." You're asking him to take sides.

Not only is that not going to happen, it's better for the prospects of peace that it doesn't.

I also think that dismissing the viewpoint of a significant chunk of affected parties "accomplishes nothing except fueling the decades-old vendettas that sustain this conflict."

I must have missed the part where Obama--or I--did any such thing. I thought he was pretty clear in pointing out that both sides have their share of blame and blood on their hands.

What I did say--and, in part, what Obama said--is that dwelling on who started what accomplishes nothing useful or constructive. If what you're looking for out of any meaningful peace process is to assign blame and find fault, you are /really/ missing the point.

The idea is to find a way forward that allows peace and self-determination for everyone in the region. Assigning blame for the wrongs of the past will not do that. The right and wrong of how Israel came to be is only relevant to this if your goal is to settle the question of whether or not Israel's very existence is legitimate. That question is not on the table, and never will be.

If on the other hand you're looking for words from Obama that recognize the wrongful nature of Israel's /ongoing/ settlement activities, and the necessity of ending them, then I can only suggest you read the speech you're criticizing, or pay better attention to the news.

Hajib ?

A hajib from Arabic الحاجب was a government official in Al-Andalus (Spain) and Egypt. They began as Chamberlains but by 756 had evolved to be equivalent to a vizier.

Shows why you shouldn't rely on Wikipedia! Seems like a very esoteric meaning of hajib -- it's normal meaning would be 'doorman', or else the present participle of hajaba, the root verb meaning to cover or conceal from which 'hijab' comes from.

In all seriousness though, it was a funny word for him to mangle, given that it must be one of the more common Arabic words in the West these days.

Generally speaking, his comments on women's issues were the weakest of the speech, but it's as much a minefield as Afghanistan I suppose.

I understand if this causes some grit teeth, but -- the case of the Jewish people is different.

For whatever it's worth, I'm Jewish and active in my local Jewish community. And I'm afraid I don't buy this.

If the Jewish people have the right to self-preservation, and they have a history of being persecution to the point of attempted extermination, then they have the right to form a state

Prior to World War II, Zionism divided Jews around the world. During the war, the attractiveness of this "solution" to the "Jewish problem" obviously grew. But I think history has proven that a Jewish state is no solution...let alone a right.

I'm eternally grateful that when my ancestors left Eastern Europe at the end of the 19th century they came to the United States not to Palestine. Over the course of the last century, this country has been a much more secure place to be Jewish, and Jewish life has been arguably richer and more diverse, than it has been in Palestine or Israel.

The notion that nation-statehood provides an ethic group with permanent security is an illusion born of the politics of the nineteenth century. And the price of defending this illusion in Israel-Palestine has already been pretty steep.

Israel is today a "fact on the ground" and has a right to exist for the reasons Catsy has stated in this thread. But its existence isn't justified by the history of the oppression of my people. Nor does it solve the problems raised by that history.

Past generations? Some of the displaced people we're talking about are actually still alive, for pete's sake.

And a just solution for I-P would provide them with reparations.

But the crimes of the past cannot be undone by crimes in the present.

I just don't see how this history is fundamentally different from, say, the history of the destruction of Hawaiian independence--the most recent example from within the U.S. itself--which took place only half a century earlier.

"My response is 'let it be so'. "

Amen.

I understand if this causes some grit teeth, but -- the case of the Jewish people is different.

People of every ethnicity believe that their ethnicity is "special" in some way.

When your ancestors sought to live in the very multiethnic society you describe -- only to find their former neighbors complicit in the extermination of your people -- you can understandably find the idea, that you just have to trust that your people will survive as a minority wherever they go, an impossibility.

Things change over time. In a nuclear age, I'd say that concentrating the world's Jews into one tiny country is a profoundly stupid way to ensure the survival of the Jewish people. Ideas that made sense in 1944 don't necessarily hold true today.

If the Jewish people have the right to self-preservation, and they have a history of being persecution to the point of attempted extermination, then they have the right to form a state.*

Um, OK. It is nice that you feel this way. However, if you want to convince other people, you need to provide some sort of evidence or argument for these notions. I don't know what it means for the "Jewish people" to have a right to self-preservation...don't all people have a right to self-preservation? And what exactly constitutes "the Jewish people"? People that orthodox rabbis consider Jewish? People with a particular genetic inheritance?

"However, if you want to convince other people, you need to provide some sort of evidence or argument for these notions. I don't know what it means for the 'Jewish people' to have a right to self-preservation...don't all people have a right to self-preservation? And what exactly constitutes 'the Jewish people'? People that orthodox rabbis consider Jewish? People with a particular genetic inheritance?"

One can with equal validity change "Jewish" to "Palestinian" in these questions. Or to "French" or "German" or "Swiss," or any other more accepted nationality. But, for some reason, these questions get asked less of other peoples.

Me, I simply say both people have a right to a state, and I don't bother to argue further, any more. Life is short.

ben

I can certainly respect questioning the practicality of Israel as a defense of the right of Jewish identity. It could be worth debating at length in future threads maybe, but, for me, it's getting too late to get into tonight. For now, I concede that you make a very good point.

One can with equal validity change "Jewish" to "Palestinian" in these questions. Or to "French" or "German" or "Swiss," or any other more accepted nationality. But, for some reason, these questions get asked less of other peoples.

One can and I would if I saw someone here making the same extravagant claims about Palestinian or French or German or Swiss people. But no one is doing that.

Gary are you feeling all right? This sort of pointless nitpicking seems beneath you.

turbulence

I also take your point on the practicality of state as defense, but the rest of your post is, well...

"People of every ethnicity believe that their ethnicity is 'special' in some way."

To state again: the case of the Jewish people is different.

Also, Gary does a good rebuttal.

And just as I posted...

Turb, the whole point of arguing the two-state solution is to provide both the Israelis and the Palestinians the right of self-determination.

If you honestly don't think that the Germans have the right to determine their country as a German nation, or the Japanese for their nation, or any other such nation state -- well, you should probably know, they disagree.

I'm also going to take Gary's other point -- life being short -- and call it a night.

If the Jewish people have the right to self-preservation, and they have a history of being persecution to the point of attempted extermination, then they have the right to form a state

Dutch Calvinist used that same sort of discourse to justify their settlements in South Africa, you know…they were the TRUE CHRISTIANS, and the Anglo-Protestants placed them in concentration camps, and the world just wanted to see these particular Dutch Calvinists dead, although they spoke for the true global Christianity, or because of this....and, you know the story.

I’m not trying to demean the European Jewish experience; however I am always suspicious of people who claim to speak for their global religion, while taking land. Anglo-Protestants in the US were notorious for this, as well.

Point: To state again: the case of the Jewish people is different.

Yeah, yeah: you think Jews are special and entitled to privileges no other group of people against whom genocide has been attempted is entitled to. We got it.

Turb, the whole point of arguing the two-state solution is to provide both the Israelis and the Palestinians the right of self-determination.

Except for the Palestinians who want a one-state solution in which the 5.2 million Muslims and the 5.5 million Jews and I-don't-recall-how-many-Christians are equal citizens. They apparently don't have the right to self-determination. On account of the fact that being rounded up in the largest concentration camp in the world while their Israeli neighbors murder them and starve them isn't enough to make them Special: they're only Muslims.

To state again: the case of the Jewish people is different.

Repeating this point does not make it any more persuasive. If you want to persuade me, you need to explain a model by which "the Jewish people" are entitled to have a mono-ethnic state armed to the teeth at US taxpayer expense while other groups like the Copts, the Kurds, the Uighurs, or the Cherokee are not. Simply stating over and over "the Jews are special" isn't enough: if you have an actual principled belief, you need to describe those principles and explain how they discriminate and select the Jews out of all the oppressed peoples of the world but no others. If all you've got is special pleading for your preferred ethnic/religious group then persuasion will be quite difficult.

If you honestly don't think that the Germans have the right to determine their country as a German nation, or the Japanese for their nation, or any other such nation state -- well, you should probably know, they disagree.

I actually don't think that the Germans have the right to create a state where membership in a particular ethnicity or religious group determines what civil rights one has. In fact, I don't think Germany is structured in that way at all. Citizenship in Germany is not limited to people of a particular ethnic or religious identity; moreover, Germany doesn't have the second class citizenship that Israel offers its Arab citizens.

I really don't see why any ethnic or religious group should be entitled to a state of their very own. All things eventually die, including ethnic and religious identities. Seen any Visigoths lately? And the bar for survival in pluralistic multi ethnic democracies is shockingly low. I mean, if Scientology and the prosperity gospel and Rush Limbaugh listeners can flourish in the US, surely any religious or ethnic group worth caring about can survive without its very own state.

If you honestly don't think that the Germans have the right to determine their country as a German nation, or the Japanese for their nation, or any other such nation state -- well, you should probably know, they disagree.

Isn't that what we did after WW2.

Citizenship in Germany is not limited to people of a particular ethnic or religious identity

It's not limited to people of a particular ethnic or religious identity, but neither is Israeli citizenship.

And, like Israel, Germany has a "Law of Return" that allows ethnic Germans from Eastern Europe, many of whose ancestors never lived in what is today Germany, to get citizenship much more easily than non-German residents of Germany.

It's not limited to people of a particular ethnic or religious identity, but neither is Israeli citizenship.

Are you saying that non-Jews can immigrate to Israel, become citizens, and have full rights? Or does the Israeli government still reserve some rights for Jews only?

In any event, I thought Point's whole, er, point, was that it was vitally important that Israel remain a Jewish majority state which necessarily means making sure that a significant number of non-Jewish voters cannot be permitted to exist.

I am convinced that the most stable long-term solution is for a single, united government over Israel and Palestine with full voting rights for all citizens.

That is probably true, but I doubt that it would get 8% in a plebiscite. Two nations could work and they could decide how closely to work with each other (see Czechia and Slovakia for an example of a successful divorce).

Ben Alpers, does that German law of return apply to US citizens?

Citizenship in Germany is not limited to people of a particular ethnic or religious identity;

Actually, it is. I happen to have been born in Germany. Yet I am not eligible for a German passport or German citizenship.

I really don't see why any ethnic or religious group should be entitled to a state of their very own.

Members of ethnic and religious groups are, IMO, entitled to live as equals wherever they are, enjoying the same civil rights accorded the majority population. When we have a situation where this is not possible, as with European Jews, the obvious solution is a state. IMO, it does not require the Holocaust to justify the existence of a Jewish state. It was well-justified by the history of the Jews in Europe up to the time the Zionist movement began.

Yeah, yeah: you think Jews are special and entitled to privileges no other group of people against whom genocide has been attempted is entitled to. We got it.

This is a blatantly anti-Semitic remark. As a matter of fact Jews are "special" in European, including British, history. See above as to privileges ethnic groups are entitled to. .

I understand the need for a political Jewish identity in the face of dominant religions hostile to their place in those societies...but fusing these political identities with ethno-nationalist/religio-nationalist land grabs is another thing, altogether. The deeds been done, but I can no longer engage in the religio-ethnic-nationalist rhetoric.

someotherdude,

Nothing I wrote should be construed as endorsement of Netanyahu, or the settlements, or Greater Israel, or the like.

Catsy -

I'll thank you not to put words into my mouth or make assumptions about what I want. I thought my response was clear and to the point. You suggested that talking about Israel's complicity in the current situation Palestinians find themselves in - eviction, displacement, second-class status ect. - was detrimental as it leads to only one solution; the (violent) dissolution of Israel. This is what I took issue with. I don't see that recognizing that the past occured impeeds a peaceful resolution to the conflict or neccesitates a violent response, nor do I see how it necessarily leads to the dissolution of Israel. To use an analogy that unlike yours actually makes sense, for the US to recognize that slavery was wrong or that what we did to Native Americans was akin to ethnic cleansing does not lead to the conclusion that the US must be dissolved, violently or otherwise, or that the US has no right to exist. But we couldn't have a meaningful dialogue on race in the US if one side was claiming that slavery was a right and proper institution, or that it never happened.

And to make it absolutely clear, I was not responding to Obama's speech. I was responding to your comments, nothing else. I certainly am not denying that Israel exists nor am I arguing that it has no right to exist. And I think that Obama's speech is a step in the right direction.

Actually, it is. I happen to have been born in Germany. Yet I am not eligible for a German passport or German citizenship.

I'm a little confused here. Some countries do not confer citizenship to all people born in their domain. That does not mean that citizenship depends on religion or ethnicity though.

Members of ethnic and religious groups are, IMO, entitled to live as equals wherever they are, enjoying the same civil rights accorded the majority population. When we have a situation where this is not possible, as with European Jews, the obvious solution is a state. IMO, it does not require the Holocaust to justify the existence of a Jewish state. It was well-justified by the history of the Jews in Europe up to the time the Zionist movement began.

This is an interesting analysis. But I don't see why you're limiting it to the time when the Zionist movement began. Right now, Jews can certainly live as equals in many countries. To me, that suggests that there is no basis for insisting that Israel must remain a Jewish state today. In other words, by this line of argument, I can see how you would justify the need for a Jewish state in 1945 but not in 2009.

Here are the laws regarding the acquisition of Israeli citizenship.

Some things to note:

1) Anyone born in Israel, regardless of ethnicity, is an Israeli citizen (this is not true in a number of other countries, including Germany, where one's parents either have to be German or have established permanent residency in Germany for some years; before 2000 the German laws were even more restrictive).

2) Anyone, regardless of ethnicity, can apply for naturalization as an Israeli citizen (at the discretion of the Minister of the Interior) provided they have lived in Israel for three of the last five years, that they plan to permanently reside there, and that they renounce their other citizenships.

3) All Jews can more or less instantly become citizens of Israel due to the "Law of Return." This law applies to non-Jewish family members in mixed families. Citizenship can be denied to Jews deemed to threaten public health or the security of the state, who engage in activity "directed against the Jewish people" or who have a criminal past.

Thus while Jews are advantaged, citizenship is not restricted to Jews.

As I understand it the main difference legally between the status of Jewish and Arab citizens is that Arab citizens are excused from military service.

It is precisely because Israeli citizenship is not limited to Jews that the occupied territories cannot simply be annexed. Were the West Bank and Gaza actually incorporated into Israel, the Palestinian residents of those areas would become Israeli citizens and Israel would "loose its Jewish character" simply by dint of demography.

Ben Alpers, does that German law of return apply to US citizens?

My understanding is that Germany's Right of Return is written so that it applies only to historic ethnically German communities in Eastern Europe, e.g. Romanian Germans and Volga Germans.

What I don't know is whether U.S. citizens from these communities can qualify or not. The average German-American certainly can't.

Incidentally, many other countries also recognize a right of return that gives members of their majority ethnic group (and occasionally other groups, too, e.g. Sephardic Jews wishing to gain Spanish citizenship) an advantage over other would-be naturalized citizens.

someotherdude,
Nothing I wrote should be construed as endorsement of Netanyahu, or the settlements, or Greater Israel, or the like.

Posted by: Bernard Yomtov | June 04, 2009 at 09:51 PM

Oh man, I was not trying to implicate that stuff to you at all. I was referring to my own involvement in the romanticization of the Social Democracy in the Levant.

And I understand, the context Zionism gets developed, ….especially during the long list of Pogroms in Europe, in addition to the way each culture regulated Jewish people, ethno-nationalism became the answer for many people. I just think we tend to assume what happens in Europe/The West becomes the universal truth for the globe.

Bernard: This is a blatantly anti-Semitic remark

I realise (re-reading it, this morning) that certainly comes across as that, and I apologise.

(I was, in fact, responding with exasperation to Point's repeated attempts to assert "special rights" for Israeli Jews, which argument does not fly: but yeah - it was a stupid thing to say, and I apologize both for the appparent anti-Semitism, and for my stupidity in pouring fuel on the fire Point was trying to start.)

As I have (jokingly) said repeatedly in the past: Wouldn't it be better, if we moved Israel to Cyprus and let China (neutral) blow up the Temple Mount* turning it into the Jerusalem lake. That would of course require to remove all these quarrelsome Greeks and Turks from the island, which could be seen as a bonus (and both ethnicities have countries to go to).
---
Germany is a complicated issue. There are still many ethnic Germans in the surrounding countries but relatively few European** non-Germans inside Germany (the Danish minority being the main execption***). Also German is spoken officially in Austria and Switzerland.
The law of return for esp. Eastern European Germans has been narrowed significantly, mainly because of blatant abuse****. There was a cottage industry for faking German ancestry in order to profit from that law and even many of the 'real' Germans had shed any cultural traces (including the language).
A running gag about this was 'My father owned a German shepherd dog'.

*and maybe some other tainted places in the area
**and 'the Turkish question' is a whole problem in itself
***Sorbs never had a state of their own. They have special autonomy rights.
****and there were those embarassing cases where people proved their German ancestry by presenting Nazi credentials ('my grandfather was in the SS').

Jes,

OK. No problem.

Turbulence,

Citizenship laws vary widely, of course. But ethnicity certainly plays a part. Germany, until the 1999 reform, was particularly strict in this regard. It's one thing for a country to not automatically confer citizenship on those born in its territory, and another to deny it based ethnicity even after long residence.

It stopped being a "European thing" when arab jews voted with their feet.

Posted by: Point | June 04, 2009 at 06:42 PM

Weren’t those migrations, primarily a result of Zionist establishment in Palestine? Not the other way around. Those Arab societies were awful, to collectively punish their Arab Jewish communities for the actions of European Zionism, however I still don’t think it justifies what happened to Palestinians.

As a matter of fact Jews are "special" in European, including British, history. See above as to privileges ethnic groups are entitled to.
Posted by: Bernard Yomtov | June 04, 2009 at 09:39 PM

Not to obsess on historical politics, but the Jews of Britain, did benefit from being a minority within the most powerful Imperial force in the world.

The developing Zionist movement and the growing Anglo-Israeli/Christian Zionist ideology sure went a long way in influencing these global powers actions in an Arab land. African-American settlements in Liberia benefited from their relationship with the US, although they were a persecuted minority back in the Empire.

someotherdude; Not to obsess on historical politics, but the Jews of Britain, did benefit from being a minority within the most powerful Imperial force in the world

Yes, but I think what's being referred to here is this and this. The Angevin Empire was pretty damn powerful for its time, but it wasn't the most powerful Imperial force in the world, and Jews were explicitly discriminated against and excluded from it:

The final step was taken on 18 July 1290 by an Act of the King in his Council. It happened to be (long since remembered with awe) the fast of the ninth of Ab, the anniversary of manifold disasters for Jews, from the destruction of Jerusalem onwards. On the same day writs were issued to the sheriffs of many English counties, informing them that by Royal Decree all Jews were ordered to leave England before 1 November; any who remained were declared liable to be executed. The news of the expulsion was greeted by the population with great joy. Parliament promptly agreed to royal demand for a fifteenth of moveables and a tenth of the spiritual revenue, in taxation against Jews.

@Point:

I understand if this causes some grit teeth, but -- the case of the Jewish people is different.

When your ancestors sought to live in the very multiethnic society you describe -- only to find their former neighbors complicit in the extermination of your people -- you can understandably find the idea, that you just have to trust that your people will survive as a minority wherever they go, an impossibility.

If the Jewish people have the right to self-preservation, and they have a history of being persecution to the point of attempted extermination, then they have the right to form a state.*

I am curious as to why you feel the above makes the Jewish people unique, given e.g the history of the Romani.

"I am curious as to why you feel the above makes the Jewish people unique, given e.g the history of the Romani."

The history of the Jewish people, and of the Romani people, are both unique, and quite different, although they also, of course, have certain points of comparison.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Blog powered by Typepad