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August 06, 2018

Comments

Speaking (as I was on the other thread) of snark, I recently snarked at Doc Science that I wasn't a complete halfwit, but I may have been optimistic because it took me about 3 full minutes to work out that Janie's IP stood for Israel and Palestine! It just goes to show how multi-faceted that thread was, and how easy it was to compartmentalise the bits one was primarily interested in.

I thought it meant, in my case, 2605:6000:8b16:dc00:b548:e445:2909:5893. :)

I imagine people are a bit hesitant to comment (I know I am). So maybe start off with some book recommendations?

really CharlesWT? I'd have thought sure that they'd have to pry your IPv4 address from your cold, dead hands.

Sheesh. I just thought that since the Israel-Palestine discussion was still going at the end of the other thread, it would be nice to give it a thread of its own. I for one was learning something from it.

FWIW, as someone who was fed a lot of dramatic detail in the 70s (by right-wing Zionist friends of parents) about how the Arab governments and radio stations etc encouraged Palestinians to flee their homes before a brutal Israeli takeover, I was around to see even right-wing historians in Israel admit this was pretty much all lies, in the 90s. I believe, but cannot quote sources, that Donald's analysis is essentially correct.

Weirdly, given that I use the term a lot, I was puzzled by what IP meant for a few seconds.

More later, probably. I would have to catch up on the other thread.

really CharlesWT? I'd have thought sure that they'd have to pry your IPv4 address from your cold, dead hands.

No great giveaway. A reboot of the modem changes it.

What I notice most about the Israel-Palestine conflict is how much it has changed since I was in college (and first noticed it).

Then, Israel (as a country) was OK with living within its recognized borders, and only wished that the Palestinians would do the same. There were doubtless some Israelis who wanted the whole of the West Bank (and probably Gaza) as well, but they were too marginal to even get noticed. And the Palestinians had never had an election.

Whereas today, the Greater Israel view is the national view. I'm not sure it is actually the majority view. But since the Settler Movement (whatever its real name, if any, is) is integral to the government coalition, their view is the government view. (And I feel like Likud has come around to the view as well.) And the Palestinians have had elections (complete with power changing hands peacefully); it's not what you'd call a solid democracy, but they have at least had a bit of experience with the forms.

Which means that, today, neither the Israelis not the Palestinians are willing to accept anything that would possibly be considered a settlement. Or even an armistice. There simply is no room for agreement when both sides' only acceptable solution is the disappearance of the other.

But coming to an already inhabited land with the intent of taking it over and after having the imperialist power grant you that right is, well, not something that would make Zionism popular.

So pro-Nazi sentiments were set of understandable, and the consequences for Jewish attitudes towards Arabs are the fault of the Zionists?

Well, Zionist money was certainly popular. As Benny Morris has said, some of the loudest anti-Zionist agitators by day were also some of the most enthusiastic land-sellers by night.

Me: “I don't think this is accurate. The invasion started the day Israel declared independence, more than a month after Deir Yassin, an act, by the way, condemned at the time by mainstream Israeli organization, including Haganah.”

Donald: It’s a fairly standard claim that about half of the Palestinian refugees were generated or whatever the word is before the official birth of Israel and the other Arab countries invaded p, which, by the way, in practice mostly meant invading the portions that were supposed to go to the Arab state. Transjordan invaded specifically to take that territory. Merton Benvenisti gives a refugee figure of 380,000 on page 124 of “ Sacred Landscapes”.

That's largely non-responsive. The invasion was not, as you seemed to claim, in response to Deir Yassin.

And are you seriously claiming that the invading armies intended only to take territory from which Arabs were expelled, and leave the Jews in peace elsewhere? That's ridiculous.

I minimize the Arab armies because I see people commonly cite the Arab armies and then cite the relative populations of the Arab countries vs Israel, giving a drastically misleading impression of the situation.

I fail to see the relevance of this. Nor is it misleading to note that the Arab countries' military resources were greater than the Zionists'. That they used those resources badly and misjudged the situation out of contempt for Jews is not to their credit, no matter what you say.

in addition may I say, at the risk of inflaming the thread, that you seem to minimize and justify just about everything on the Palestinian side here, including even outright anti-semitic violence, which was far from uncommon in the decades before WWII.


“that you seem to minimize and justify just about everything on the Palestinian side here”

Nope. At every point from the 1920’s until the “ stabbing intifada” of a couple years ago I condemn people who murder unarmed civilians, especially children. There is no justification for this. On the far left one frequently sees the phrase “ by any means necessary” used to justify terrorism. I utterly disagree from both moral and practical reasons. Moral, obviously. The practical part comes in when you ask what sort of endgame you imagine. How could anyone think they are going to win that way given the disparity in power and what sort of “ victory” do you get from glorious freedom fighters who murder children? Palestinians IMO should get behind the BDS movement and press for equal rights. They need to take the moral high ground. Of course, as a comfortable Westerner whose country arms their oppressors I am in a poor position to tell them this. Especially when the NYT published four opinion pieces justifying the shooting of demonstrators.

I acknowledged that both sides commit atrocities and both are wrong. What I won’t grant is the common Western version of Zionist innocence poisoned by irrational hatred on the Arab side. There were bigots on both sides and the open desire of the mainstream Zionists to take over an already inhabited land poisoned the atmosphere right from the start. No one in history ever said it was okay for outsiders to come in and take over. It happens all the time, but by force.

My ideal solution would be a 1ss with equal rights for all. The should ask for that anyway, even if they get a 2ss instead. Don’t let the Zionist side set the tone or the limits of what is or isn’t fair and pay no attention at all to Americans who think they are honest brokers.

Arab armies. Sigh. I really don’t care that Israel kicked their butts. You seem to think I have some interest in defending the Arab governments. They came in partly because their populations demanded it but they were also there for ulterior motives. King Abdullah wanted the land granted to the Arab state for himself. He was a frenemy of the Zionists. Jordan has always played that role. The others were there partly to stop him. As for annihilation, at times they did have a chance to commit atrocities, but they don’t in general seem to have been any more bloodthirsty in practice than the Israeli side. What I object to is the standard storyline that poor little Israel finally got its own state and outnumbered 100 to 1 by the surrounding Arab states won a miraculous victory against the ravening hordes. In reality there was a low level on again and off again terrorist battle/ civil war between Arabs and Jews and Brits starting from the late 30’s which picked up again in late 47. Palestinians were being expelled in large numbers by April and May of 48 and once the Mandate ended the Arab armies came in The deliberate expulsion and decision to keep the refugees out in the second half of the war had nothing to do with the Arab armies. It was demographic.

As for bias, the root cause of the conflict is a combination of Western antisemitism and Western racism against Arabs. Palestinians are the scapegoats who get blamed because Western countries refused to take in enough Jewish refugees. With some Western liberals it really did work that way. It is why for decades people believed the story that the Palestinians all left of their own free will.

Book suggestions—

Sandy Tolan’s The Lemon Tree

Merton Benvenisti. “The Sacred Landscape”

John Judis has one about Truman and the birth of Israel. Forgot the name.

Tom Segev’s One Palestine Complete is about the Mandate period.

Benny Morris is a good historian but racist, it turns out, based on a 2004 interview with Ari Shavit.

Rashid Khalidi has written various books— I forget their names.

Forgot Avi Shlaim’s “ The Iron Wall”

“Well, Zionist money was certainly popular. As Benny Morris has said, some of the loudest anti-Zionist agitators by day were also some of the most enthusiastic land-sellers by night.”

I am shocked, shocked, I tell you, at the revelation that some in the Palestinian elite were assholes, something that is pointed out in most books one reads on the subject. If you are trying to imply that most of Israel was purchased, no, it wasn’t. The number I have seen is that Zionists had purchased about seven percent. There were about four hundred villages depopulated so apparently the Zionist money hadn’t reached those places.

Many ordinary innocent people ( or as innocent as any of us) have been hurt on both sides. The Palestinians as the weaker side have lost more and in the West to add insult to injury they are constantly condescended to and lectured by the citizens of the countries that should have taken in the Jewish refugees. No other people get accused of fanaticism for claiming the right to live in their own homeland.

A quick synopsis of the 1948 war is found on the wikki here. Part 3.1 provides a concise assessment of the relative military strengths of both sides.

What struck me was the incongruity of the rather low levels of war casualties as opposed to the tragedy that was about to unfold and envelop the entire region, a tragedy that continues to this day.

That was was also another phase of a gradually building civil war....wars that are, as we should all know too well, particularly brutal (cf. Syria today) is also to be noted.

The debate rages, but the central fact remains: A people essentially, and recently (consider our own history of conquest here...but it took place oh so "long ago"), established an ethno-religious nation state by expropriation and military force. That those so dispossessed harbor hatred against Israel should be rather obvious.

The Likud led careening path into an even more virulent and extreme right wing ethno-nationalism is further cause for concern. They are laying the groundwork for an apartheid state. The consolidation such an outcome is doubly tragic, for it would not endure.

An Israeli settler being interviewed in a Doonesbury comic: "We didn't move here all the way from Miami to be Arabs."

They [Likud] are laying the groundwork for an apartheid state.

I only wish I could believe that was true. But my most optimistic expectation is that they will go for ethnic cleansing via complete eviction of Palestinians from the West Bank. (My pessimistic expectation is that they will try for ethnic cleansing via genocide.)

If I misread you, I apologize.

My impression was that you are simply unable to criticize Palestinian violence, or pro-Nazi sentiment, or any Palestinian misbehavior, without providing a justification. Read your comments, trying to take my POV, and tell me if I am as wrong as all that.

And bear in mind that the Zionists at the time of the declaration of the State of Israel were three years removed from the Holocaust, and that anti-semitic sentiment was widespread among Arabs. There were realistic fears that surely contributed to atrocities. If we're justifying, let's justify.

Arab armies. Sigh.

Far from being an argument, a sigh is just a sigh. (Sorry, couldn't resist)

What I object to is the standard storyline that poor little Israel finally got its own state and outnumbered 100 to 1 by the surrounding Arab states won a miraculous victory against the ravening hordes.

It's not clear what you object to in this storyline. It seems more or less accurate to me, allowing for a bit of hyperbole. Were the forces available to the Arab countries - not just the ones sent to the fight - truly inferior in arms and numbers to the Zionists?

If you win a victory against an opponent who has the ability to overwhelm you, but loses because of ineptitude, internal political strife, underestimating your abilities, and so on, does it not count as a great and unexpected victory?

I'm well aware, incidentally, that only a small part of the land was purchased, and will go further and say that even wrt to that land there was a conflict of culture about what that meant, and what owners were entitled to. The tenant farmers generally anticipated that when their land was sold it just meant that they paid rent to a different landowner, not that someone would evict them.

bobbyp,

The Likud led careening path into an even more virulent and extreme right wing ethno-nationalism is further cause for concern. They are laying the groundwork for an apartheid state. The consolidation such an outcome is doubly tragic, for it would not endure.

I agree totally. I consider current Israeli policy immoral and self-destructive. I see no acceptable outcome. Netanyahu will go down in history as an inhumane, vain, and very foolish leader.

I have lots of Israeli relatives. My father was an ardent Zionist, and it is only by chance that I am American rather than Israeli. Current policies greatly anger and sadden me.

John Judis has one about Truman and the birth of Israel. Forgot the name.

Genesis: Truman, American Jews, and the origins of the Arab/Israeli Conflict

"There simply is no room for agreement when both sides' only acceptable solution is the disappearance of the other."

Right, and that pretty much why I have to sit out the conflict. In the 80s maybe there could have been some resolution (probably if there had been no right of return to Israel, only to what would have been Palestine). After the second Intifada that became much less likely as the peace side of Israeli politics lost a lot of ground. This empowered the current dynamic which appears to be something like "if they don't want peace we might as well win the slow war". That isn't a just solution, but I don't see a workable just solution so unjust solutions of one sort or another are very likely. I'm not sure what to say beyond that. Unjust solutions prevailed in Tibet, and now it is firmly China's. I suspect that unjust solutions will prevail in Israel. So the question I suppose is can we minimize the injustice? What kinds of unjust solutions can we 'live with'. What kinds of unjust solutions do we think that we can't allow a sovereign nation to enact without some sort of response?

A lot of the problem is that everyone has burned all sorts of good will. The EU isn't a good faith actor. The US isn't a good faith actor. I'm unaware of any Arab good faith actors. Israel isn't a good faith actor. It seems like without some sort of major change somewhere, that things are going to continue to be awful.

The major current Western BDS movement is pretty clearly anti-realistic though. A one state 'democracy' with a full 'right of return' would instantly make Israel a Palestinian majority state. What do they think the high probability good outcome would be for that? A super repressive Egypt? A somewhat worse Turkey? Saudia Arabia with all the Jews kicked out? And those are the semi-positive outcomes.

Seems to me that a Lebanon or Syria are likely outcomes with an expansive civil war.

And I'm not even sure what a reasonably good realistic change that might lead to a good two state solution would be either.

“A one state 'democracy' with a full 'right of return' would instantly make Israel a Palestinian majority state. What do they think the high probability good outcome would be for that? ”

I don’t see BDS working unless most Palestinians commit to wanting a democratic state with equal rights for all. It would still be an uphill battle, since Westerners reject it out of hand. But actually, the BDS movement is flexible on 1ss vs 2ss.

Also, in my opinion anyway, a workable stable 2ss would have porous borders and there would probably be many thousands of Palestinians and Israelis crossing the borders and maybe even living in each other’s countries. They are on top of each other and both sides obviously have an attachment to the land. They have to get to the point where they like and respect each other. I think there are a minority of Israeli activists who work with Palestinians who model this sort of thing. Only a minority now. But anyway, I think a workable 2ss requires almost as much daydreaming about peace and harmony and people singing around campfires as a 1ss.

The 2ss as a divorce I suspect would not work. If the Palestinians feel bitter about a deal forced down their throats, it fails.

With global warming, maybe the whole place becomes uninhabitable in a few decades. So there’s that.

Byomtov—Don’t worry about it. I think the Palestinian side should have been more welcoming of Jewish refugees in the 30’s, with the advent of the Nazis, but positions had hardened years before. Judis talks about this. Though Westerners are the very last people who could lecture Palestinians about their failure to be welcoming to Jewish refugees.

Byomtov— Forgot to reply on the Arab armies thing. So one more time. The standard narrative which I used to believe had Israel the completely innocent victim finally given statehood and then the massive Arab hordes swoop in, while the Arabs already living there are ordered out by their leaders and they left, hoping to come back on the heels of the Arab armies and pillage their neighbors. The victory was supposed to be against overwhelming odds and the morality is black and white. Didn’t happen that way. The armies were tiny and the most formidable one, that of King Abdullah, was there to grab the land allocated to the Arab state. According to Shlaim, Abdullah’s army made no attempt to enter the land allocated to the Jewish state by the UN. Israel in turn was also interested in increasing its land— it went from about 55 percent allocated by the UN to 78 percent. Abdullah took the West Bank and Egypt got Gaza.

And it’s not a miracle if the bigger army wins. Which is what happened.

I don’t have any particular sympathy for the rulers of the various Arab countries. The point is that the romanticized version of the story was meant to paper over the expulsions. Countries usually tell mythical stories about their history.

Also with this talk of relocations, it should be noted that at exactly the same time in Europe, the winners of WWII engaged in massive relocations to try to homogenize the countries in order to promote peace. They did it more successfully and therefore had more peace?

Kevin Drum link

Donald,

We have to agree to disagree about the armies.

1. Jordan was not the only Arab country involved.

2. You continue to minimize the threat from the Arab countries ("The armies were tiny") by talking only about the forces they sent. I don't think "the bigger army won" is a totally accurate summary.

According to the the Wiki article cited by bobbyp,

In 1948, Iraq's army had 21,000 men in 12 brigades and the Iraqi Air Force had 100 planes,...

In 1948, Egypt's army was able to put a maximum of around 40,000 men into the field

Syria had 12,000 soldiers at the beginning of the 1948 War

Lebanon's army was the smallest of the Arab armies, consisting of only 3,500 soldiers.

The Israelis had about 40,000 fighters.

The point is that the romanticized version of the story was meant to paper over the expulsions. Countries usually tell mythical stories about their history.

National origination myths have lots of purposes. Why do you pick the worst possible motive for Israel and claim that it was the entire objective, and do your best to paper over, as you put it, Arab behavior.

For me, who is not as versed in the IP conflict, I get the impression that the assassination of Rabin was a (the?) cusp

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Assassination_of_Yitzhak_Rabin

It seems that this was the moment in time when the possibilities disappeared.

“Why do you pick the worst possible motive for Israel and claim that it was the entire objective, and do your best to paper over, as you put it, Arab behavior.”

I don’t. They were opportunists. Nobody had clean motives. And the actual forces sent were tiny. I could copy Schlaim’s numbers from his book— the point was that at every point the Israeli side had more men in the field than all the Arab forces present, so the dramatic victory against overwhelming numbers didn’t happen. People still repeat the melodramatic version and also claim that the refugee problem was simply Arabs leaving voluntarily. I have had both things told to me in real life in the past year. You want to say that the Arabs could have sent more. They didn’t. Hell, they didn’t even cooperate. Transjordan stood by and let Israel beat Egypt. Again, how exactly am I praising the Arab countries here? They look stupid and cynical. I am pointing out that the heroic narrative about Israel’s founding is mythical.

And yes, Sebastian, the Europeans engaged in massive ethnic cleansing followed by totalitarian rule. India and Pakistan had enormous violence, massive refugee flows and several wars since. Benny Morris thinks that Israel should have completely expelled all the Arabs and justifies it explicitly as following the American model with the Native Americans. So there are lots of inspiring examples.

Possibly the whole modern obsession with nationalism and ethnic purity and even self determination was a bad idea— it seems to place the rights of abstract collectives over the rights of individuals and so people can justify anything. And yes, this applies to people on both sides in the IP conflict who justify atrocities for the sake of the cause.

I don’t.

You do.

the romanticized version of the story was meant to paper over the expulsions.

That's it, according to you. No other purpose.

I agree Arab countries had no right to expel Jews. Nobody in the conflict looks good. The increase in Arab anti-semitism occurred with the advent of Zionism. Obviously the actions of people on each side contributed to the actions of the other. When a group of people declare their intent to create a state for their own people in an already inhabited land, you guarantee hostility.

Zionists wanted to declare a state in Syria or Egypt?

From wikipedia:

The Egyptian Prime Minister Mahmoud an-Nukrashi Pasha told the British ambassador: "All Jews were potential Zionists [and] ... anyhow all Zionists were Communists."[168] On 24 November 1947, the head of the Egyptian delegation to the United Nations General Assembly, Muhammad Hussein Heykal Pasha, said, "the lives of 1,000,000 Jews in Moslem countries would be jeopardized by the establishment of a Jewish state."

On “The Death of Klinghoffer”, I didn’t see it or “Munich” either, though I read the script of the latter, but I think artists try to humanize both sides by taking some famous atrocity and humanizing the Palestinian terrorists. Which irritates me, because in an utterly predictable fashion all the freaking controversy is about whether the work is too sympathetic to terrorists

That's all that irritates you? Glorifying the murder of a wheelchair bound old man is no big deal?

With the continuing divisions and violence with IP and India/Pakistan (another IP!), it amazes me that Northern Ireland seems to have settled down. Not perfect, but LOTS better than one had any right to expect.

Why? My guess is the EU and (too?) rapid economic progress in Éire. Hard to recruit new IRA members when there's piles of money to be made.

I'd say, snarkily, that it was that the conflict in Northern Ireland didn't have the "IP" initials, but "IRA vs. Protestants" did, so that's not it.

Why do you pick the worst possible motive for Israel and claim that it was the entire objective, and do your best to paper over, as you put it, Arab behavior.

byomtov,

For starters, being an old crank Leftist, I tend to sympathize with Donald's POV. That said, the above strikes me as an example of how these discussions tend to break down.

For most Americans, the foundational myth of the state of Israel gets no further than Paul Newman in Exodus. Pointing out that such myths contain a good deal of fabrication and/or exaggeration would seem to be a reasonable thing to bring into the conversation, no?

Perhaps we need to inject some examples of Israeli brutality, murder, torture, and yes 'terrorism' so we can all wave the bloody shirt and ask rhetorically, "That's all that irritates you?" I do not find that to be conducive.

But it's hard.

As to a permanent solution? I can offer nothing, and I fear the final outcome will be unbearably tragic.

Similarly, I am of the perhaps benighted opinion that the mother of all collective action problems, global warming, will make vast regions of the globe uninhabitable, and the billions to the south will start to move to the north...mass migration of a virtually unstoppable kind. It will not be pretty.

We had our chances, and we blew it.

With the continuing divisions and violence with IP and India/Pakistan (another IP!), it amazes me that Northern Ireland seems to have settled down. Not perfect, but LOTS better than one had any right to expect.

Why? My guess is the EU and (too?) rapid economic progress in Éire.

Which raises an interesting question: what impact will Brexit have on Northern Ireland? The economies of the North and of the rest of Ireland are closely intertwined. The only way there isn't a disaster is if the UK stays in a free trade and free movement of people union with the EU. Which totally negates the motivation** for Brexit.

** That's the motivation of the British voters who supported it. The motivation of the Russian financial supporters is, of course, another story.

bobbyp,


the above strikes me as an example of how these discussions tend to break down.

It is not clear to me what you are referring to by "the above."

For most Americans, the foundational myth of the state of Israel gets no further than Paul Newman in Exodus. Pointing out that such myths contain a good deal of fabrication and/or exaggeration would seem to be a reasonable thing to bring into the conversation, no?

Yes. It would be.

As Donald says, countries have their origination myths, which of course glorify the founders and omit a lot of unpleasantness. I don't think Roland and Oliver were quite that heroic.

What I object to in his comment is the specific accusation that Israel's origination story was dreamed up only to conceal the expulsion of Arabs. I doubt that's so, which is not to say that the expulsions were largely unpublicized.

Further, what I object to in the Klinghoffer discussion is the complaint about the reaction to the portrayal of the hijackers. Is it a terrible thing to criticize a sympathetic portrayal of murderers? Does such a portrayal not irritate just a bit?

So my criticisms are of fairly specific matters, and I continue, by the way, to think that the size of the Arab armies put into the field in 1948, which Donald wants to stick to, is not the sole measure of the balance of power in the war.

In Cuba they consider the Bay of Pigs a great victory over the US. Should we discount that because the invading force was inadequate?

which is not to say that the expulsions were largely unpublicized.

which is not to say that the expulsions were not largely unpublicized, or misrepresented.

Pointing out that such myths contain a good deal of fabrication and/or exaggeration would seem to be a reasonable thing to bring into the conversation, no?

I think one of the problems with taking on prevailing wisdom (or whatever you want to call it) is that you end up emphasizing those things you believe are true and that are at odds with the prevailing wisdom. You don't really bother with the things that are already baked into the prevailing wisdom on whatever subject is at hand.

In the case of this thread, I'm guessing Donald doesn't bother going on much about the Palestinians doing bad things because they're widely considered to be a bunch of crazed terrorists already.

It's a reactive discussion in a non-neutral context.

In Cuba they consider the Bay of Pigs a great victory over the US. Should we discount that because the invading force was inadequate?

Sort of, yes.

I don't know what they say about it exactly, but presumably you could cook up a heroic myth of brave Cuban fighters repulsing the phenomenal might of a capitalist aggressor committed to Cuba's eradication. Or something.

But no, that wouldn't really be accurate.

I mean, I'm sure the Cuban defenders were brave enough, and a perfectly serviceable fighting force. And it's true they won a victory against a superpower with the potential to field hundreds of thousands of troops armed with billions of dollars in state of the art equipment.

The problem with that narrative is that there is no universe in which that potential military might would ever actually be brought to bear on Cuba. As much as some segments of US leadership would have have liked to see end of Castro, there was an equal amount of apathy, political disunities and geopolitical constraints (*cough* USSR *cough*) to consider. All of which are real factors, and concretely prevented the US from ever even really considering bringing anything like it's potential military might to bear.

So there are *reasons* the force fielded in the invasion was inadequate to the task, and however plucky and brave the Cuban defenders were, those *exogenous* reasons were really the more important factors in the victory.

I don't see how it's any different with Israel.

There's this idea -- and I think it's still very much in circulation, and used as an ongoing excuse for Israeli abuses and intransigence -- that the '48 war was about how the entire Arab world united in their irrational hatred of the newborn Israel, and amassed their combined international might to murder it and push the body into the sea. They were stopped only by an inferior, but fiercer, force of underdog Israeli heroes who managed to not only defend their infant state, but thoroughly humiliate the aggressors. Something, something.

That myth falls apart not only because of things like prior expulsions and terrorism on the Israeli side, but also *because* of the ulterior motives and disunity of the Arab coalition. You keep vaguely accusing Donald of valorizing them somehow, but I think their flaws are exactly his point.

Antisemitism was certainly one motive for the war on that side, and perhaps one that sold well with their various publics, but if that had actually been the primary aim of the war, if the entire Arab population really was unified and genocidally committed to eliminating Israel, why did those hypothetical Arab hordes never actually materialize? Even if the military leaders initially, contemptuously, underestimated Israeli defenses, surely they could have come back with reinforcements drawn from their vast and motivated populations to finish the job?

The fact is, that was never going to happen. The entire hypothetical military force or population of the Arab nations isn't relevant, because it was never actually on the table. The intra-Arab rivalries and distrust, the ulterior land-grab motives, economic limitations, competing military commitments, etc. all amounted to *real* constraints under which the war was fought.

I don't think Donald's principle point is about the purpose of the foundational myth. It's the fact that the foundational myth is, indeed, a myth. And in virtually every detail.

and I continue...to think that the size of the Arab armies put into the field in 1948....is not the sole measure of the balance of power in the war.

It strikes me that this is exactly on point...Donald's point. Or, to put it a bit differently:

The entire hypothetical military force or population of the Arab nations isn't relevant, because it was never actually on the table. The intra-Arab rivalries and distrust, the ulterior land-grab motives, economic limitations, competing military commitments, etc. all amounted to *real* constraints under which the war was fought.

Indeed yes.

I feel like I’ve lost the thread of the discussion. What is the proposition “the Arab forces actually arrayed for battle weren’t as massive as the founding myth suggests” supposed to add to the discussion? If I grant that it is true what happens? Does it mean that the surrounding countries did not declare war and invade? Does it mean that they did not get support from a bunch of other nearby countries? Does it mean that Israelis were really safe all along and didn’t really need to fight back? What is going round and round on it getting us?

I feel like I’ve lost the thread of the discussion. What is the proposition “the Arab forces actually arrayed for battle weren’t as massive as the founding myth suggests” supposed to add to the discussion?

My guess is that it wasn’t supposed to be that important, but it took on a life of its own because that how teh internets work.

I'm thinking (though someone can correct me) that the initial impetus is that if the foundational story of Israel is pointed out to be false, support of Israel might be reevaluated. However, as hsh points out, this then takes on a life of its own.

I suspect that Donald's point may be that the exaggeration of the forces arrayed against Israel was meant (by those who consciously perpetrated it) to add to a sense of the Jews having been victims of ongoing existential persecution, even after the holocaust, and therefore bolster public sympathy for the legitimacy of the state even among people who would otherwise question the dispossession of the Palestinians. I'm on a phone, so can't easily write much or scroll back and forth to check if this makes sense. But if it does, it could also explain byomtov's reflexive resistance to the very idea: the (not entirely mythical) image of plucky little Israel fighting for its life against overwhelming odds is one way decent and humane people salve their consciences about the palestinians. FWIW, I do not exempt myself from this.

What is going round and round on it getting us?

What is discussing this topic in the first place getting us?

What is saying "yer doin' it rong" getting us?

(And now I'm doing to what he did to other commenters. That's the internet for you.)

What, in general, is discussing things on the internet "getting us"? ...

Donald brought up IP a week ago on the Epitome thread, and he, byomtov, Hartmut, and other people have been discussing it ever since. You, Seb, showed up today, contributed a couple of comments, and then suggested that the other people weren't talking about the right things.

Sigh.

For the record, I thought the exchange about the founding myth was quite interesting, both for its straight content and for the way people were using it to feel around for why other people were framing the topic the way they were. I think useful things can be learned that way...esp. when the conversation is contentious but respectful, as this one has been.

Cross-posted with GftNC. Also, My comment was missing Sebastian's name, as in: "I'm doing to Sebastian what he did...."

Oh, for an editing function.

No, I read the last 200 or so comments on that thread, so it seemed fine for quite a while. Believe me, I'm all about getting sucked into minutia from time to time (cough probably all the time). But the last 3 or 4 iterations of the exchange seem to have gotten heated as if either side thought that resolving would get anywhere. From my point of view, it doesn't look like resolving that particular point does anything to the overall analysis, so I was wondering if it was really worth coming to blows over, or if it was just a historical clarification with no supposed impact on the current situation. Not in a "shut it down" kind of way. More of a "what are the stakes to this particular point" kind of way.


Anyway, thank you for pointing out that I didn't communicate that very well. (That isn't sarcasm).

Something knocking around in my so-called mind is whether the is any factual dispute between Donald and Bernard with regard to the size force the Israelis were directly facing or the size force they could potentially have faced. I’m guessing not, and it’s mostly about how to characterize the situation.

GftNC, you write "But if it does, it could also explain byomtov's reflexive resistance to the very idea: the (not entirely mythical) image of plucky little Israel fighting for its life against overwhelming odds is one way decent and humane people salve their consciences about the palestinians."

I guess this is the application I don't understand. If it is downgraded to medium-strength Israel fights for its life against pretty bad but not shockingly impossible odds, does that change anything? It doesn't for me, but heaven knows I'm not the most typical person in the world.

Also the Israel-centrism thing is always jarring. At around the same time, 7,000,000 or so Germans in Poland were forced out of their homes to tidy up the European map because the Allies didn't think they could live with the Polish in peace. About 3 million Germans were forced out of their homes in Czechoslovakia because the Allies didn't think that they could live together in peace. About 500,000 were forced out of Hungary for the same reason. There was a fight over the Lisbon treaty as recently as 2009 where The Czech republic insisted on getting an exemption clearly avoiding a right of return for those people displaced in the WWII aftermath.


In 1948 about 700,000 Palestinians fled/left/were pushed out. The proportion of each of those categories is in question, but the overall numbers are not. In 1967 there was about 300,000 more.

Europe and the US are awfully high and mighty about population transfers that they were doing at almost exactly the same time as Israel. They are awfully high and mighty about the right of return and reparations of 1 million Palestinians, when they ignore the right of return for 7 million Polish refugees forced from their homes, and 3 million Czech refugees, and half a million Hungarians refugees.


What does that mean for the situation? I don't know. The parallel is there, but I'm reluctant to draw conclusions from it.


Hmmmm, it bugs me that I don't want to draw conclusions, so I'm going to extend the thought in a way that will almost certainly mean that I had better not ever be famous for anything because it will be easy to misquote. So please extend interpretative charity.

I'm reluctant to draw conclusions from a parallel with say Poland, because the reflexive conclusion would be something like "if they can't live together in the long term, maybe population transfers a la Germany are a lesser evil. Rip off the band-aid and try to move on."

But they are SUCH a great evil that I'm not content with the reflexive conclusion.

It feels to me a lot like the ticking time bomb torture scenarios. It assumes too much knowledge about uncertain futures. It sweeps too much under 'they' it projects too much about future states of mind, about unborn people, and about our understanding of human dynamics.


But on the other hand it feels that unlike the ticking time bomb hypothetical, this isn't hypothetical at all. The Palestinians really are suffering right now. There really doesn't seem any way to get from here to a peaceful anything without one side getting rid of the other in some way (either through lots more killing or through separation). And I really don't even see what the next steps would look like.


Argh.

It seems to me that drawing a parallel with post war population transfers is problematic because of the state Europe was in immediately in the post war. The Middle East was not in a state of total devastation. I don't mean to dismiss what you say out of hand, but saying 'forced out of their homes' is quite different when the landscape is like
http://histclo.com/essay/war/ww2/cou/pol/w2p-dev.html

as opposed to Palestine. I have to consider more about what that exactly means, but I think that 'population transfers' don't really get us a parallel.

In addition, it is hard not to imagine that the German population would not be 'punished' in some fashion, given that the nation that they were a part of had just waged a systematic war of elimination.

"In addition, it is hard not to imagine that the German population would not be 'punished' in some fashion, given that the nation that they were a part of had just waged a systematic war of elimination."

I don't think you're really understanding the context. This wasn't just German people in Germany. This was families in Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. This wasn't just devastated towns, it was forcibly uprooted towns transplanted into Germany. They were no more to blame for what Germany did than the Palestinians were to blame for what Jordan and Egypt did.

hsh,

Something knocking around in my so-called mind is whether the is any factual dispute between Donald and Bernard with regard to the size force the Israelis were directly facing or the size force they could potentially have faced. I’m guessing not, and it’s mostly about how to characterize the situation.

I think this is accurate.

jack lecou,

The entire hypothetical military force or population of the Arab nations isn't relevant, because it was never actually on the table. The intra-Arab rivalries and distrust, the ulterior land-grab motives, economic limitations, competing military commitments, etc. all amounted to *real* constraints under which the war was fought.

Bear in mind that the Israelis did not necessarily know that the various issues mentioned would limit the size and effectiveness of the Arab forces, and from a military POV it is surely unwise to assume that that would happen. From their POV, they were under a much stronger threat, complete with eliminationist rhetoric.

Perhaps it would have been more accurate for the Israelis to say that the Arabs were such total bunglers - schlemiels we might say - that we beat them despite our vastly fewer (population) numbers. Or not. Regardless, the military victory of a newly established country over those who wished to destroy it seems significant to me, whatever the details.

"They wanted to kill us all, but we fought them off despite their (hypothetical) greater numbers," is not a total falsehood.

Sebastian,

Argh.

I agree completely. The news from Israel angers and depresses me. The rise of the ultra-orthodox right is, IMO, a disaster.

The rise of the ultra-orthodox right is, IMO, a disaster.

For pretty much any country, and regardless of the religion involved, the rise of religious fundamentalists to be a significant political factor is, IMHO, a recipe for disaster. Israel is currently one such, but not the only one.

Jordan wasn’t trying to destroy Israel. They just weren’t. They were after the West Bank, which was assigned to what was supposed to be the Palestinian state

Others above correctly deduced my point regarding why the myths of 1948 are important to expose.. I am sort of tired repeating it. There was a standard narrative about what happened which was obviously designed to be a morality play depicting a totally innocent Israel fighting against overwhelming odds. The reality was different. It is normal for countries and partisans to promulgate heroic myths and to cover up sordid details. It happened here and I personally know people who repeat the myths as though they were true.

“That's all that irritates you? Glorifying the murder of a wheelchair bound old man is no big deal?”

On “The Death of Klinghoffer”, I never saw it or read the script. I did read the script for “ Munich” and I followed the controversies about both, which seemed identical. I doubt the play glorified the murder of Klinghoffer. What I suspect it did was portray the terrorists as complex people motivated by oppression or maybe personal loss or whatever, but I was too disgusted to hunt down the script. I have already said what I think about terrorism and the “ by any means necessary” crap that some on the far left espouse, but I guess you have forgotten that already.

If the play actually glorified murdering an old man in a wheelchair, then yes, that would be disgraceful. But I doubt it did that. I might be wrong. What irritated me, as you ought to know since I explained it already, is that here you have liberal or leftist playwrights apparently trying to convey the complexities of the conflict and what do they do? They take two famous despicable murders ( or mass murder in the case of Munich) committed by Palestinian terrorists and frame the issue around that. They humanize the Palestinians by showing them at their very worst. And predictably, all the discussion around the two works of art revolves around whether they glorified terrorism or were too sympathetic to terrorism or whether we should be equating good people with evil people. And in Munich, the Israeli assassins are humanized, full of doubts. In real,life they murdered a waiter by mistake and according to Asad AbuKhalil who runs the Angry Arab website, one of their victims had nothing to do with terrorist actions, but was just a writer or propagandist for the Palestinian side. One could do a movie which was the mirror image, showing Palestinians being murdered by Israelis or one could do a movie where atrocities on both sides are depicted and we could see how the perpetrators came to that point and how the family members of the victims were effected. But no, they chose Munich and Klinghoffer’s murder to show the Palestinian side. I am guessing that many Palestinians would rather not be humanized any further by Western literary types.

"Jordan wasn’t trying to destroy Israel. They just weren’t. They were after the West Bank, which was assigned to what was supposed to be the Palestinian state"

That statement seems overly narrow. You can't really say "Jordan wasn't trying to destroy Israel" and then leave open what their simultaneous allies Egypt, Syria and Iraq were doing. The alliance asserted that they had the right to Arab rule throughout the entire area.

I don't think you're really understanding the context.

Well, I've never lived in a post war landscape and I don't think you have either. GIven that one of the key flashpoints of the war was Kalingrad (Königsberg) and the Danzig corridor, there was a lot more going on there than 'forcing families from their homes'.

Furthermore, the Nazi philosophy of Lebensraum, which specifically postulated finding 'space' for the expanding German populace creates a situation where you don't simply say, ok, stop it, but making it clear that earlier steps in establishing this be nullified and rejected.

Again, I don't reject your parallel, but, like all historical parallels, you need to make sure you acknowledge all of the surrounding circumstances.

Sorry, and I should have included the annexation of the Sudetenland/Munich agreement in the above.

Avi Shlaim, “The Iron Wall”, page 38.—

“Throughout the war King Abdullah continued to pursue limited objectives and made no attempt to encroach on Jewish state territory. Ben Gurion, for his part, showed no similar restraint and in the first two rounds of fighting at least, acted according to the old adage a la guerre comme a la guerre. During the long second truce, however, he had time to reflect on the advantages of adhering to the original agreement to divide western Oalestine between Israel and Transjordan, an agreement that Abdullah showed every signof wanting to restore.

Page 39 has more, but I will just type this—

Throughout the war between Israel and Egypt, the Arab Legion remained neutral.


He spends a couple of paragraphs pointing out that the special arrangement Abdullah had made with Golda Meir was something he stuck to and was crucial in allowing Israel to have such a complete victory, but it has been largely ignored in standard Zionist historiography because it doesn’t fit neatly with the version where little Israel fights off the entire Arab world. The Arab Legion was the toughest of the Arab armies.

I am looking for my 2002 copy of a book by Morris and others on the 48 war. Lost on some bookshelf somewhere. Don’t have his last book—I was so disgusted by his interview with Shavit it sort of spoiled him for me, though he is still supposed to be a good historian.

BTW, I came back wanting to take up byomtov’s offer to drop the discussion of the Arab armies. But it is the internet. Arguments continue until everyone is sick of them.

On the current situation, I think David Shulman’s pieces in the New York Review of Books are very good. He is the sort of person that makes one feel unreasonably optimistic just because it shows there are some decent people working for a just solution. Not enough, of course.

Shulman’s most recent piece—

https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2018/06/28/jews-human-rights-last-tzaddiks/

I admire people like him. He is actually doing something in a difficult situation and he seems so darn balanced.

The superiority of the Jordanian army continued thru the 1967 war. (And, for all I know, may continue to this day.) As the war ended, the Israeli forces were 1 day from Damascus, 2 days from Cairo, but 3 days from Amman -- much closer physically to Amman, but a much tougher road.

That statement seems overly narrow. You can't really say "Jordan wasn't trying to destroy Israel" and then leave open what their simultaneous allies Egypt, Syria and Iraq were doing.

The point of ongoing historical scholarship is the attempt to ascertain "what really happened", and what were (those others) "really doing" as opposed to "really spouting ridiculous propaganda".

If Jordan was, in fact, "not really trying to destroy Israel" then this is an important point. Why is it so hard to give it some degree of historical weight?

Post-war relocations: The Germans were relocated to Germany, the Czechs were relocated Czechoslovakia, the Poles...etc. Do you not see a pattern here?

The assumption is this: The Palestinians should have been relocated to some mythical Arab nation state (and the emerging Arab states should have gratefully absorbed them as "arabs")...not PALESTINE....because there was no ARAB PALESTINE. This was a major conceit of the western powers.

Basically, the Israelis were more than pleased to have the great powers draw some hitherto nonexistent lines on a map and call the area so enclosed "Israel", and the Palestinians were not.

If the play actually glorified murdering an old man in a wheelchair, then yes, that would be disgraceful. But I doubt it did that. I might be wrong.

Is it only refraining from glorification that is required?

in Munich, the Israeli assassins are humanized, full of doubts. In real,life they murdered a waiter by mistake and according to Asad AbuKhalil who runs the Angry Arab website, one of their victims had nothing to do with terrorist actions, but was just a writer or propagandist for the Palestinian side.

What exactly do you criticize in the Israeli response to the Munich massacres? Is it the assassination of the perpetrators or the alleged mistakes? If the former, what would you propose as an alternative, an extradition request?

“Is it only refraining from glorification that is required?”


I am not sure how well it would work as a play, but a play on this subject should make it clear that the terrorism of both sides is abhorrent. You already know this.

“What exactly do you criticize in the Israeli response to the Munich massacres? Is it the assassination of the perpetrators or the alleged mistakes? If the former, what would you propose as an alternative, an extradition request?”

The innocent waiter who was killed was in Norway. Alleged mistakes? It took me literally five seconds of googling to find the Wikipedia article on that. So yeah, they should have tried extraditing him. Since they didn’t, the Israelis responsible are guilty of murder and should have been extradited. The Wikipedia article says the Norwegians caught some and they were convicted, but released by 1975. Heartwarming. Asad AbuKhalil also says some of the others killed weren’t terrorists either, just activists and writers. He also says Israel was busy bombing and killing and assassinating Palestinians both before and after Munich, many of them innocent. I can’t prove it, but I bet he is largely correct. I will provide a link to a later period when Israel was engaged in terrorism.

So what recourse should Palestinians have when Israeli terrorists and war criminals kill them? Or does this whole justice thing only go one way?

https://www.upi.com/Archives/1981/10/02/A-165-pound-bomb-ripped-through-an-empty-schoolhouse-in/7481370843200/

Google “ Front for the liberation of Lebanon from Foreigners” and you will find various articles from the early 80’s about this shadowy group that was planting bombs that killed in total hundreds of people. The PLO said it was Israel. They were right.

Ronan Bergman ( sp?) just wrote a book which revealed this was a group run by the Israelis. The NYT and other American media gave the book a stellar review, but framed it in such a way you wouldn’t realize the Israelis were killing hundreds of civilians. They focused on the cases where an Israeli with a conscience put a stop to particular operations. I plan on reading the book soon. The NYT Sunday Magazine carried an article by the author framing it that way — you know the drill, compassionate Israelis doing their best not to be sucked down into the moral pit with their enemies. But as Rémi Brulin pointed out, you just have to do some googling to see
they were deep in the pit.


Anyway, yeah, justice. Whaddaya gonna do, extradite them?

Another link from that era.

https://www.nytimes.com/1983/02/06/world/18-die-in-bombing-at-plo-s-center-in-western-beirut.html

GftNC, you write "But if it does, it could also explain byomtov's reflexive resistance to the very idea: the (not entirely mythical) image of plucky little Israel fighting for its life against overwhelming odds is one way decent and humane people salve their consciences about the palestinians."

I guess this is the application I don't understand. If it is downgraded to medium-strength Israel fights for its life against pretty bad but not shockingly impossible odds, does that change anything? It doesn't for me, but heaven knows I'm not the most typical person in the world.

Sebastian, I'm sorry I didn't get to this last night (my time), I am defying my own normal rhythms and having early nights at the moment. The moment may indeed have passed, but in case it hasn't: my point was not to do with an objective or practical reality, it was to do with an emotional "reality". I am extremely keen to stay in the fact-based, reality-based world, but one cannot ignore that emotions play an enormous part in all this, and that cleaving (even if emotionally rather than rationally) to the foundational myths surrounding the formation of the state of Israel enables people (usually but certainly not always jews, often who have had family members lost either in the holocaust or in subsequent wars or terrorist actions) to absolve the Israelis of some of their guilt for egregious actions at the time and since. As I tried to make clear above, I do not absolve myself from this tendency.

It's absolutely clear from the outside that Donald it not an anti-semite taking any opportunity to revile the Israelis while glorifying and excusing the actions of the Palestinians, and that byomtov is not an "Israel right or wrong" apologist. In fact, as others have noted, their underlying views are probably extremely similar. But the emotions attaching to the whole subject make it easy for them to ignore what the other has said in the past which makes this plain.

"yomtov is not an "Israel right or wrong" apologist. In fact, as others have noted, their underlying views are probably extremely similar."

From the peanut gallery, I think this isn't quite right.i think they agree on the facts. The motivations, before and because of those facts, are clearly evaluated differently.

Not peanut gallery, we talk in this country about not refighting the Northern conquest while constantly bickering about the remnant reminders of that war, and there is little remaining vestige of the economic punishments much less violence.

All to say nothing gets resolved in the IP question as long as any action is justified by the historical injuries.

The facts today: Arabs dont recognize Israel's right to exist,Israel doesn't recognize the right of Palestinians to a state, Palestinians believe that Israel is their territory. Without the US there would no longer be an Israel because the Arabs wouldn't hesitate to destroy them, and kill most of them. Israel occasionally goes too far to look strong.

The thread that unravels all that is universal recognition of Israel by Arab states. Until they dont have to worry about their neighbors stated intention to destroy them they are who I support.

Northern conquest

???

"northern conquest"

clearly, that refers to Tim Horton's, extending Canadian dominion ever southward.

I, for one, welcome our new donut overlords.

I come from the land of the ice and snow
From the midnight sun
Where the hot springs flow
(hammer of the gods)

Northern conquest

My American history education must be seriously lacking. Because the only events I recall that resembled such a thing were various invasions of Mexico. Which I'm pretty certain wasn't what Marty was talking about.

The thread that unravels all that is universal recognition of Israel by Arab states. Until they dont have to worry about their neighbors stated[*] intention to destroy them they are who I support.

One could equally say something like:

"The thread that unravels all this is universal recognition by Israeli powers of the sovereignty of Palestinian territory. Until the Palestinians no longer have to worry about demonstrated Israeli intentions to destroy them, through ongoing settlement, economic blockade and military action, they are who I support."

Not that this is what I what I am saying, because I don't think it's *that* much more fair, neutral or useful way for an outsider to pick a side than yours. But that is the point.

(I would note that the latter version does at least have the advantage of narrowing the scope of agreement and actionability to the actual parties involved, rather than holding the fate of Palestinian civilians hostage to the unaccountable domestic concerns of politicians in Cairo, Amman or Damascus.)


----
* This "stated" of yours also seems pretty weaselly to me. For one, it is extremely amenable to goal post moving.

I mean, if the governments of the nations you're referring to all released statements tomorrow saying "we renounce our intentions to destroy Israel, honest" would that really do the job? It seems pretty empty.

Why wouldn't you then want to insist on a demonstrable lack of interest? Or a lack of ability? (But then, that would be the other thing: because aren't both of those already de-facto the case?)

On the other hand, if by "stated intentions" you mean a renunciation of the apparent wishes of large fractions of the actual populace of those countries (which is, along with some combination of mutual diplomatic posturing and a sense of historical injustice, the reason that opposition to an Israeli state is a stated position of those states in the first place), how do you expect those minds to change without the impetus of some outside event?

This whole thing reminds me of the time I made the mistake of keeping some sewing pins in one of those little magnetic paperclip jars. I stuck my finger in a little too deeply once to retrieve a pin, and found I really didn't want to pull it out anymore. Eventual extrication was...difficult.

One of the first things I discovered was that demanding that the pins unilaterally cease being pointy didn't seem to alter the situation much. The only way it would have been a helpful thing to insist on was if I really didn't want the situation to actually change...

i have almost nothing to contribute to the IP issue other than to say that it seems to me that both sides have arguments that have merit.

all of that said, i want to say that, in 15+ years of hanging out on political blogs, this is the most respectful and even-handed discussion of the IP issue that i've seen.

well done.

Not peanut gallery, we talk in this country about not refighting the Northern conquest while constantly bickering about the remnant reminders of that war...

Calling it the Northern conquest being a case in point.

Plus, there's one of those Weasely We instances. Such a "we" certainly doesn't include me; I never talk about "the Northern conquest," because as far as I know there wasn't one (except Tim Horton's, of course, but even Tim is on the retreat, with quite a few franchises closing in Maine in the last few years).

trolls gotta troll. fish don't have to bite.

Donald,

I think your 11:47 and 12:04 are "whataboutery."

As to other comments, there is no doubt that I have strong emotional ties to Israel, and that surely influences my thinking. Nonetheless, I try to make as objective a case as I can on various issues, because I do feel some of the criticism is unfair.

Whatever the strength of the armies in 1948, it is clear that there were threats of annihilation from Arab countries at the time, and threats against Jewish communities in those countries as well as the declarations of intentions to sweep the Jews into sea. The Nazi Amin al-Husseini was a prominent leader of Palestinian Arabs.

If you want to explore reasons for atrocities - without justifying them - you might consider those facts.

I also invite you to comment on what might have happened in a different world, where the British simply permitted Jewish immigration into Palestine, and had a reasonable, announced, plan to establish a single democratic state there.

Finally, let me say this, going back to my motivations. I find European criticism of Israel galling. The Europeans made this mess, in any number of ways. It was European anti-semitism that led to the conclusion that Jews needed a homeland, and it was European and American reluctance to take in Jewish refugees both before and after WWII - a sort of Western nimbyism - that built the pressure to create Israel. It was two-faced British policy early in the 20th century that helped get things started.

So I'm not keen on hearing about how terrible Zionism is, especially from Europeans. Tell me what should have been done.

I need to add that I have no problem with criticism of current Israeli policies wrt settlements and so on, or to the influence of the ultra-orthodox on Israeli government in general.

It is the criticism of Zionism as a movement that galls me.

russell -- good reminder. Thanks. :-)

Tell me what should have been done.

Rome should not have fallen.

C'mon, it was entirely tongue in cheek reference, labeled as from the peanut gallery.

To ignore the specific statements through the years refusing to recognize Israe and the intent to destroy is problematic for me.

A stated enemy in your midst with strong external support leaves no options except constant defense.

Rome should not have fallen.

Fair enough, bobby, but in the 20th century that was really a sunk cost.

Bear in mind that the Israelis did not necessarily know that the various issues mentioned would limit the size and effectiveness of the Arab forces, and from a military POV it is surely unwise to assume that that would happen. From their POV, they were under a much stronger threat, complete with eliminationist rhetoric.

From the Athenian POV, the Persians at Marathon represented a far superior, theretofore invincible force.

So when those ~10K Athenians nevertheless decisively defeated the numerically far more impressive looking Persian infantry... Well, that was, rightly, viewed by the Athenians as a great victory.

And with the benefit of hindsight, we can also observe that, regardless of the apprehensions the Greeks no doubt felt in the moment, the (theretofore untested) effectiveness of Greek hoplite tactics against Persian infantry formations made that Athenian victory an unsurprising likelihood, rather than an underdog longshot. Darius probably should have done some things differently, but of course he didn't know this either.

All of these things are true simultaneously.

We aren't actually Israelis in 1948, or Athenians in 490 BC, but historians from the future. Considering individual, imperfect, POVs is part of the process, and can certainly help shed light on *why* certain actions were taken, but it's not helpful to do so with only one party. We must go around the room and try to see where everyone was coming from and what their objectives and perceptions actually were. And then we consider the actual facts and constraints as best we can determine them, with the benefit of historical perspective and a certain dissipation of the fog of war.

I do not claim that Israelis never had cause to *feel* grave concern, nor that they had no reason to congratulate themselves afterward on what was certainly a hard-fought victory. And I understand, as best as such things can be understood, how such things can grow into a convenient national myth, without anyone (necessarily) deliberately trying to create falsehood.

But if we are examining the historicity of things, in retrospect, then "the Israeli POV at the time" is not really our primary concern. At least not our only one.

And saying, from our privileged perspective, that it isn't that surprising that the Israelis won, because it turned out that theirs was the superior force, and perhaps operated under few constraints, shouldn't be a particularly controversial statement. Nor should we shy away from attempting to discern, e.g., King Abdullah's actual intentions, rather than simply assuming it was destruction of the Israel, or whatever is consistent with the national myth we are rebutting.

To ignore the specific statements through the years refusing to recognize Israe and the intent to destroy is problematic for me.

I see no evidence that anyone is ignoring such things. Rather, one might regard them as materially lower on the list of importance relative to the thousands of other considerations involved. E.g., ongoing, actual real life, human rights violations. Or de facto military capability to carry through on such postures.

Conversely, however, it seems to me that to deem those statements the most important factor of interest it is necessary to ignore or seriously underplay rather a large number of other factors.

Which strikes me as...problematic.

Byomtov—Of course it is whataboutery. I have a long essay in me about the overuse of that word as what is supposed to be a winning argument. Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. In this case, it isn’t. The entire I-P discussion in all times and places is 90 percent people pointing out atrocities they think the other side is ignoring. You asked what the Israelis should have done in response to Munich, sarcastically referring to extradition as though it was silly and referred to alleged mistakes. Well, in order—

1. The killing of the waiter was a mistake admitted by all. Others are “ alleged”. Asad AbuKhalil says they assassinated a lot of the wrong people and as of 2005 he claims, somewhat mysteriously, that at least two are still alive. I think he said Abbas might have been involved, but don’t think he meant them as one of the two.

2. The fact that an innocent man who had zero to do with it— he wasn’t even Palestinian—was murdered in freaking Norway suggests the possibility that extradition as opposed to roving murder squads might have been the way to go in that case. And the Israelis either escaped or received prison terms but were out by 1975. So your sarcasm was misplaced and claims of “ whataboutery” make no sense on that point. You asked a question and I answered it.

3. Here is the whataboutery. We live in a world where people simply take for granted the right of Israelis to obtain a very rough sort of justice against people who murder their citizens. But it doesn’t work in reverse. The idea that people killed by the Israelis or the US or its Saudi ally have a right to justice in any form, let alone the right to conduct assassinations against those responsible, is so far out of the mainstream you can’t even imagine someone suggesting it in, say, the NYT.

On your counterfactual—Judah Magnes and a handful of others favored a democratic state for all with Zionism not interpreted as favoring a Jewish state. They were rejected by both sides. The Palestinian leaders saw it as a Trojan horse. I think they were wrong morally and pragmatically. That was their best shot at keeping their country and not being expelled. Whether things could have been different in a world without the Balfour Declaration, the Western imperialist attitudes, and without Zionists obviously trying to establish a Jewish state against the wishes of the people already there is something I don’t know. I am guessing some would have opposed it because there are always people opposed to the Other and because antisemitism would kick in. But it would have been much less vehement.

“But it would have been much less vehement.”

I want to rephrase that. The haters would have still hated, but there wouldn’t have been as many.

Donald basically beat me to the punch, but I was going to point out that what byomtov is calling "whataboutery" is basically the golden rule, which can be restated as something like "whatabout if I do that back to you, how would you like it?"

And the golden rule seems like a fair thing to bring up when the discussion of unrestrained extrajudicial assassinations, on foreign soil no less, comes up.

I keep referring to this piece. Here is the link. It is very angry and of course I don’t know who was innocent or not. But you don’t get to read much unfiltered outrage on the other side.

http://angryarab.blogspot.com/2005/12/spielberg-on-munich-humanization-of.html

Jack, to count any of those other things as more important you have move Israels real fear of being destroyed to some lower importance which I believe is not reasonable.

They are a country working under imminent threat of attack, when not being attacked, full time.

As opposed to Palestinians, of course. Who have no justifiable cause to fear for their safety or homes. Amiright?

Are you a parody account?

Incidentally, the link I just posted is “ whataboutery”, but in a vengeful kind of way. I get the impression that he only grudgingly admits that Munich was wrong. He is infuriated that it got attention and Israeli atrocities do not. It isn’t a balanced piece at all.

Which, btw, is why I think people should be supporting BDS. Peaceful protest, not glorification of “freedom fighters”. The record of freedom fighters even when they win is so bad only someone in love with the idea of it would keep pushing it. I see this in the mainstream too— it was insane to think that we could pick out “ moderate Syrian rebels” when they fought side by side with al Qaeda in Syria and when many of the weapons we supplied quickly ended up in the hands of ISIS. That’s a different rant, but anyway, people who conduct terrorist attacks and win usually end up not being respectful of human rights after they win.

It was two-faced British policy early in the 20th century that helped get things started.

My mother always said that my grandfather, who was by all accounts a fascinating and brilliant man who was very active in South African politics, fought in the Boer War, and was also probably a Zionist (my mother certainly was, and they were very close) but who died just before 1948, never in her hearing referred to England (pace Trump) except as "England, the whore".

It is interesting, is it not, what we see here.

We have a bunch of people here with somewhat different takes on the IP situation. Still, we aren't nearly as invested and embedded in the situation as the Israelis and Palestinians, for all that we have opinions.

Even so, we show no signs of being able to come up with an agreed-upon "solution" to the problem. And if we, with a little emotional distance from the situation, cannot do so, what hope is there for those actually involved to agree on anything substantive?

"If Jordan was, in fact, "not really trying to destroy Israel" then this is an important point. Why is it so hard to give it some degree of historical weight?"

Because you are merely alluding to historical weight rather than actually typing it out.

Jordan directly joined two separate invasions in which other countries had very high level rhetoric about destroying Israel. They didn't have to join in those two separate invasions. An invasion isn't just talk. So historians finding that at some point some of the leaders in Jordan mouthed the idea that Jordan didn't want to completely destroy Israel doesn't have much *weight* compared to the fact that the joined in on the military invasion in 1948 *and then again* in 1967. The fact that *Jordan itself* only wanted part of Israel *for itself* while joining in on an invasion that had much larger aims than just getting some land for Jordan itself suggests that the historical weight we give to Jordan's alleged aims *without mentioning even in passing the aims of the other invaders* strikes me, as I said before, as overly narrow.


If four KKK members break into your house, and one with a knife wants to kill you, one with gasoline wants to burn your house down, one with a rope wants to rape your wife, and the biggest one (and only one with a gun)--who is strangely named Arab Legion and is from Jordan--says he merely wants to take all of your furniture, I'm not sure we need to focus on the fact that he says he wants your furniture to the exclusion of everything else. And if you want to talk about the *aims of the home invasion* you would never just say "one guy said he wanted the furniture". And if the guy with gasoline started pouring it all over the wood, while the guy with rope dashed upstairs, you could be forgiven for fighting all four of them as if your life depended on it *even if it is true that Mr. Arab Legion only wants your furniture*.

I have the same take on IP matters as Russell. But, since I'm not as smart as he is, I will talk about how this discussion has played out, both here and in general and I hope that take is of interest to some and isn't felt to be too dismissive by others.

It's interesting that Bernard and Donald ended up contesting the questions about the birth of Israel. The contestation (is that a word? the whole IP question seems to be so far beyond a debate or a discussion that I think we need a new word for it) seems to require that one side or the other be painted unequivocally as the bad guys from start to finish. Concern about whether Israel should be thought of as a plucky little nation that could seem to be to be beside the point, it's arguably a nuclear power, which makes questions about Arab nations stating it has a right to exist pretty much beside the point, as jack lecou points out.

What makes the back and forth here respectful is that both Bernard and Donald both reject the furthest outliers and accept that the other does as well. I'm sure we've seen some IP debates where the two sides cannot bring themselves to admit that. But the fact that we are starting in 1948 indicates to me that there's not going to be a lot of give and take already.

And starting in 1948 is simultaneously too early and not early enough. Bernard's mention of Zionism shows that the story didn't start with the Holocaust, but either with Herzl and others 50 years before that, or with the Romans and the Jewish diaspora. As bobbyp notes, if those Romans hadn't had the gall (Gaul?) to collapse, we wouldn't be stuck with this problem. Or something like that.

Munich and the Death of Klinghoffer were cited. I hope this isn't a 'ur doing it rong' statement, but for me, works of art, like films and operas, are not really a place where discussion is going to be helped or clarified. I was trying to think of a work of art that somehow clarified a political conflict, and I'm coming up blank. I understand that some may take a lesson from a work of art, and that a work of art can represent a particular viewpoint that may be problematic, but there is so much that intervenes between what actually happened and what appears before the audience that I can't see how it can help. I mean, Munich by Steven Spielberg is already coming from a particular viewpoint so getting angry about that is beside the point. And, looking at the critical reaction on Wikipedia, it isn't the case that everyone swallowed the story hook line and sinker. Some cut and paste

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Munich_(film)

Variety reviewer Todd McCarthy called Munich a "beautifully made" film. However, he criticized the film for failing to include "compelling" characters, and for its use of laborious plotting and a "flabby script." McCarthy says that the film turns into "...a lumpy and overlong morality play on a failed thriller template." ...

Chicago Tribune reviewer Allison Benedikt calls Munich a "competent thriller", but laments that as an "intellectual pursuit, it is little more than a pretty prism through which superficial Jewish guilt and generalized Palestinian nationalism" are made to "... look like the product of serious soul-searching." Benedikt states that Spielberg's treatment of the film's "dense and complicated" subject matter can be summed up as "Palestinians want a homeland, Israelis have to protect theirs." She rhetorically asks: "Do we need another handsome, well-assembled, entertaining movie to prove that we all bleed red?"[13]

Another critique was Gabriel Schoenfeld's "Spielberg's 'Munich'" in the February 2006 issue of Commentary, who called it "pernicious". He compared the fictional film to history, asserted that Spielberg and especially Kushner felt that the Palestinian terrorists and the Mossad agents are morally equivalent and concluded: "The movie deserves an Oscar in one category only: most hypocritical film of the year."[14]

I found the last paragraph interesting, because I couldn't at first glance tell what Schoenfeld thought was the problem, either Palestinian's portrayed too nobly or the Mossad agents and the article itself is locked, though the use of 'terrorists' suggest it is the former. This is confirmed by this reader's letter
https://www.commentarymagazine.com/articles/munich/
which tells us that Schoenfeld was arguing that the Israeli side was unfairly portrayed in Munich. I haven't seen the movie, but I think this shows (as if anyone here needed proof) how there is no way to take a middle position.

I think it was wj who noted that the other IP conflict (i.e. Ireland) seems to have resolved in a way that nobody would have predicted, though with Brexit looming, I have a sinking feeling that we can find a way to f**k it up. Though if it holds up, we still have the Kurds, the Rohinga, the Tibetans, the Tamil, just to name a few off the top of my head.

They didn't have to join in those two separate invasions.

True. And Israel didn't have to invade Egypt in 1956 or initiate the hostilities in 1967.

So there you go.

lj brings up a good point about how this particular issue is discussed and how it all goes back to broad brushed attacks on anti-semitism or the antidemocratic seeds embedded in the 'Zionist enterprise'.

If you want whataboutery, how about this...the charge has been leveled and/or implied here that Israel is surrounded by haters bent on its destruction, and its very existence continuously imperiled. People still bring up cannards like 'right to exist', etc.

Consider:
Israel is universally regarded to have nuclear capability.
Egypt has a peace treaty with Israel and full diplomatic relations, which kinda' mocks the idea that they harbor any serious notions about pushing them into the sea.
Jordan also has diplomatic relations with Israel.
Syria, in the midst of a bloody civil war, is on a suicide mission.
Lebanon is, you know, rather small, but things appear to be getting better....somebody inform me otherwise.
Iraq is still in recovery. I don't think it's going to be pushing anybody into the sea in the near future.
Iran...are you serious? What are they going to do? Invade Jordan? They have a lot of their own problems.

So basically, things are looking pretty good for the Israelis. And what is their response?

Tell me.

One could argue that there has never been a better time for the two sides to talk. Alas, one side is holding all the cards, and is intent on rubbing it in.

A wise one once told me, "Bobby, what goes around comes around."

The discussion should, perhaps, start here.

Jack,

And saying, from our privileged perspective, that it isn't that surprising that the Israelis won, because it turned out that theirs was the superior force, and perhaps operated under few constraints, shouldn't be a particularly controversial statement.

No it should not be. Neither should it be controversial to accept that the Zionists were fighting what they reasonably thought was a war for physical survival against countries with vastly larger populations, Abdullah notwithstanding. No matter how "easy" anyone thinks it was, it probably didn't look that way at the time.

Neither should it be controversial to accept that the Zionists were fighting what they reasonably thought was a war for physical survival against countries with vastly larger populations...

Menachim Begin, 1948: "The Partition of Palestine is illegal. It will never be recognized
.... Jerusalem was and will for ever be our capital. Eretz Israel will be
restored to the people of Israel. All of it. And for Ever."

Reasonable thoughts?

I’m siding with Marty.
I think it unfortunate we didn’t offer the Jews Navada back to when they were looking for a home.
I used to think all the Jewish refugee immigrant came from eastern Europe and Russia and was surprise to learn that Baghdad population was about 30% Jewish before the end of WWII.

I think it unfortunate we didn’t offer the Jews Navada

Sounds so simple. Are you from Nevada?

This article suggests that the Jewish population of Israel was roughly 700,000 in 1948. The population of Nevada in 1950 was 160,083.

Would you like your state to be expanded, in a very short space of time, by adding four+ times as many people to it as are currently living there?

My only point is to agree with everyone on this thread who has said: there's no simple answer.

lj's list (Kurds, the Rohinga, the Tibetans, the Tamil, just to name a few off the top of my head) is going to look like the golden days when climate change really gets going. I almost wrote "when climate change heats up." Eh.

lj's list . . . is going to look like the golden days when climate change really gets going.

Bangladesh alone is going to leave all the existing cases in the shade.

I lived just across the lake from Navada. Was thinking to look what they did with the desolate place that was Palestine, what could they have done with Navada. There was plenty of federal land to offer them at a discount. Perhaps Navada would have become a Jewish State in the way Utah is the Mormon state.

C'mon, it was entirely tongue in cheek reference, labeled as from the peanut gallery.

if this is in reference to the "northern conquest" thing, it actually immediately followed the words "not peanut gallery".

whatever.

I get the impression that the assassination of Rabin was a (the?) cusp

I also think the assassination of Rabin was a tragedy. Whatever momentum toward peace had been built up, at great effort, seemed to dissipate.

What is missing now, I think, is leadership that is actually interested in a peaceful resolution. Nobody seems to be able to imagine a way forward, at this point.

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