Paintballing with Hezbollah.
March 30, 2012 8:32 AM   Subscribe

"We figured they’d cheat; they were Hezbollah, after all. But none of us—a team of four Western journalists—thought we’d be dodging military-grade flash bangs when we initiated this 'friendly' paintball match." Paintballing With Hezbollah.
posted by HumanComplex (53 comments total) 39 users marked this as a favorite

 
The Hezbollah team took a hostage and used him as a shield in paintball. That's beautiful.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:46 AM on March 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


Fascinating article - thanks for posting this.
posted by jquinby at 8:51 AM on March 30, 2012


I get that there might be an attitude of "this is just a game; we do this for real; go ahead and shot me with your paintball gun, I ain't afraid!" going on but, really, if you've been shot you've fucked up. You're "dead." Why not use this as training, even if the four plucky Western journalists aren't exactly on par with the Israeli army?

Also, the paintball thing is an interesting hook but, Vice seriously spent a year planning this? I don't even know what to make of Vice anymore.
posted by asnider at 8:53 AM on March 30, 2012


Yeah this is amazing. The cheerfulness between the two sides has the same eerie feeling as the WW1 christmas truce.

Also, there should really be more serious journalism that doesn't hide a healthy sense of humor/absurdity in some quest to maintain "professionalism." I have very conflicted feelings about Vice but no one is doing shit like this article, and I think they deserve a lot of credit for it.
posted by tempythethird at 8:57 AM on March 30, 2012 [19 favorites]


but, really, if you've been shot you've fucked up. You're "dead."

In a good amount of non-fatal shootings, the victim dropped after being shot once. Typically, their reaction was 'oh no, I've been shot! time to stop fighting,' even if the shot was not immediately physically incapacitative.

Training to be able to continue the fight as long as possible, even if injured or shot, is pretty good training.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:18 AM on March 30, 2012 [6 favorites]


Also, there should really be more serious journalism that doesn't hide a healthy sense of humor/absurdity in some quest to maintain "professionalism." I have very conflicted feelings about Vice but no one is doing shit like this article, and I think they deserve a lot of credit for it.

I agree. I've never played paintball, but I'd absolutely give it a try with the Hezbollah guys.
posted by Forktine at 9:21 AM on March 30, 2012


Personally, I gave the piece a lot more credence when I realised that the Westerners involved were semi-serious journalists rather than stereotypically profane Vice hipsters. The Andrew Exum mentioned writes this frequently excellent blog and used to work as an advisor to McChrystal, fwiw.
posted by emergent at 9:21 AM on March 30, 2012


Training to be able to continue the fight as long as possible, even if injured or shot, is pretty good training.

Good point. I stand corrected.
posted by asnider at 9:23 AM on March 30, 2012


If I were trying to write an onion article lampooning vice I don't think I could do any better than this.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:27 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


At the very end of the evening, things take a chilling turn. The Boss walks over and takes Ben’s gun away from him while criticizing his marksmanship. In an exemplary display, the Boss takes careful aim at a rope hanging on the other side of the arena and fires shot after shot, squarely hitting the rope each time while chanting Yahoud (“Jew”) on each pull of the trigger. He seems to think it’s funny, but no one else laughs.
Charming.
Still, as the tour goes on, I probe for a deeper understanding of how the Boss feels about his adversaries. His shooting-the-rope “Yahoud” joke was offensive from just about any perspective, but in a normal Lebanese context, it wasn’t a total anomaly. By and large, folks in this part of the world tend to conduct themselves with a gleeful lack of political correctness. The IDF recently had to deal with revelations that a sniper team who had participated in the assault on the Gaza Strip in 2008 had also made t-shirts featuring a visibly pregnant Muslim woman surrounded by crosshairs. one shot, two kills was emblazoned underneath.
Assholes.
posted by zarq at 9:41 AM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


Assholes

Sure, but it sounds like it's pretty typical "frat boy"-style assholery vs something more "other" to Westerners.
posted by Slothrup at 9:47 AM on March 30, 2012


Assholes.

What exactly do you expect from two sides that viciously hate each other? Gallantry?
posted by tempythethird at 9:55 AM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


tempythethird: " What exactly do you expect from two sides that viciously hate each other? Gallantry?"

I've met a number of former IDF soldiers who do not hate either the Palestinians or the Lebanese, and a number of Palestinians and Lebanese who do not hate all Jews or even just Israeli Jews. Not everyone on both sides hates the other.

We can see from this how dehumanizing one's enemies has become a vicious cycle for some on both sides. It perpetuates the problem, and those who don't feel the same way need to put a stop to it -- nip hate speech and hateful acts in the bud before they spread further. By declaring that what has been done is not okay, and pushing those in authority to punish such displays harshly.

In both situations, change must be imposed from without and within.

What do I expect? I expect them to change. Willingly or Un-, it makes no difference.
posted by zarq at 10:10 AM on March 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


In a good amount of non-fatal shootings, the victim dropped after being shot once. Typically, their reaction was 'oh no, I've been shot! time to stop fighting,' even if the shot was not immediately physically incapacitative.

Citation please? I've always been, a bit morbidly I know, interested in the immediate effects on a person that's just been shot. The movies show one thing but there has to be semi-hard data or research out there on the very thing you mention.
posted by RolandOfEld at 10:14 AM on March 30, 2012


I've always been, a bit morbidly I know, interested in the immediate effects on a person that's just been shot.

My dad was shot through the back (and out the chest) in a gun accident while he was in the Navy (it wasn't him - a guy in the office hadn't cleared his weapon and was cleaning it or somesuch in the next room). He said it felt like he'd gotten punched really hard in the back. He lost consciousness pretty quick, but he remembers looking across the room at someone who was on the phone and hearing that guy say "holy shit I gotta go - one of my guys just got shot' or something along those lines.
posted by jquinby at 10:40 AM on March 30, 2012 [3 favorites]


What do I expect? I expect them to change.

And one side will. Probably a century or so after they annihilate the other side.
posted by spaltavian at 10:52 AM on March 30, 2012


Indeed. Not enough people on either side want to change, for various reasons. Once they've grown tired of burying their children, it'll stop. But that won't be for a long time, if ever.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:59 AM on March 30, 2012


"Paintballing With Hezbollah" sounds like it could be the name of a Dead Kennedys song.
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:02 AM on March 30, 2012 [10 favorites]


Not everyone on both sides hates the other.

Right, not everyone. Just many. I've met plenty of Israelis advocating for extermination of the Arabs (their words.) I had Israeli visitors in NYC who would seethe and spit at the site of brown people of ambiguous origin, and one of these was an IDF veteran. We had to leave the restaurant before we even got our food. (Anecdata - I know. But you better believe it represents a significant chunk of the population.)

Do you really want to get between someone so full of hate and with an itchy trigger finger, and their target? You have to be pretty damn determined to be willing to do so. I seriously doubt there's a sufficient number of people with that kind of determination on either side.
posted by tempythethird at 11:07 AM on March 30, 2012


spaltavian: " And one side will. Probably a century or so after they annihilate the other side."

I'm not convinced. Movements for both war and peace within Israel have become more vocal. So have anti- and pro-Settler advocates. The divide between secular and ultra-religious Jews in Israel seems to have also become a lot more prominent. And there are groups on both sides who are pushing for constructive, lasting peace, to varying effects. Rather than blithely dismiss the situation as hopeless, we need to think in terms of short-term, attainable goals and strive for them.

Recognizing and addressing problem areas is one way to do that. Working from the assumption that peace is possible.
posted by zarq at 11:12 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


Patrick, Special Agent Urey W. (14 July 1989). Handgun Wounding Factors and Effectiveness [PDF]. p. 11, Quantico: Firearms Training Unit, FBI Academy
Barring central nervous system hits, there is no physiological reason for an individual to be incapacitated by even a fatal wound, until blood loss is sufficient to drop blood pressure and/or the brain is deprived of oxygen. [...]

Psychological factors are probably the most important relative to achieving rapid incapacitation from a gunshot wound to the torso. Awareness of the injury (often delayed by the suppression of pain); fear of injury, death, blood, or pain; intimidation by the weapon or the act of being shot; preconceived notions about what people do when they are shot; or the simple desire to quit can all lead to rapid incapacitation even from minor wounds. However, psychological factors are also the primary cause of incapacitation failures.

The individual may be unaware of the wound and this has no stimuli to force a reaction. Strong will, survival instinct, or sheer emotion such as rage or hate can keep a grievously injured individual fighting.
posted by Edogy at 11:14 AM on March 30, 2012 [8 favorites]


Peace isn't possible in that area because too many people don't want it. Attaining peace means both sides not responding to violent actions with more violence. That is extremely difficult, particularly when all it takes is one madman with a gun and willingness to die to spark a firefight.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:23 AM on March 30, 2012


tempythethird: " Right, not everyone. Just many. I've met plenty of Israelis advocating for extermination of the Arabs (their words.) I had Israeli visitors in NYC who would seethe and spit at the site of brown people of ambiguous origin, and one of these was an IDF veteran. We had to leave the restaurant before we even got our food. (Anecdata - I know. But you better believe it represents a significant chunk of the population.)

No, I don't have to "better believe" anything.

My own anecdata, from working with and being friends with Israelis, says otherwise. Yes, racism exists. Fanatics exist. This is not to say that your experiences aren't valid. But they clearly do not represent everyone. Nor do they necessarily represent "a significant chunk of the population." For that matter, we can't assume mine do either.

But I do not believe that dismissing the situation as hopeless is helpful or constructive. Defeatist attitudes solve nothing.

Do you really want to get between someone so full of hate and with an itchy trigger finger, and their target? You have to be pretty damn determined to be willing to do so. I seriously doubt there's a sufficient number of people with that kind of determination on either side."

Our all-volunteer military does so every day. So does the compulsory IDF. Palestinian and Israeli protestors sometimes do that too.

Change requires effort. And yes, sometimes it means standing up to fanaticism in order to do what's right.
posted by zarq at 11:26 AM on March 30, 2012 [2 favorites]


The author shot them multiple times and they kept playing. That would be cheating in every game of paintball I've ever played (except for a zombie-themed scenario game, where only headshots counted).
posted by Thoughtcrime at 11:27 AM on March 30, 2012


... and on page two I see that this is addressed. Sorry.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 11:29 AM on March 30, 2012


Nor do they necessarily represent "a significant chunk of the population."

I have lots of interactions with two groups of Israelis. My extended family consists of first-generation Russian Jews living in the US, and my brother's wife comes from similar origins. There are a lot of secular Russian Jews in Israel, and their party - the racist, nationalistic, anti-Democratic, and tending-toward-violence Yisrael Beiteinu - is a significant participant in the current governing coalition. They have no problems cooperating with religious extremists (Shas) as allies of convenience. Those two, plus some tiny parties, and Likud (basically the Republicans) are running the country.

Politically, the left is shrinking and has no party with either momentum or passion to represent it. The other group of Israelis I know are the expat community here in Berlin. Granted - a self-selected group, but nevertheless they speak of a tightening vice around the secular and peace-minded perpetuated by the nationalistic and the religious. Many of these people have no intention to ever come back to Israel, they see no possibility of improvement - and I think it is this exodus that is responsible for the growing radicalization of Israel.

So with political power flowing in the exact wrong direction and no good reason for this to turn around (do you have one?) I think pessimism is indeed called for. I think that even if a pro-peace movement were to gain enough steam, you'd have to consider the very real possibility that all they would do is incite an Israeli-Jew on Israeli-Jew civil war. The settlers and their supporters have worked for decades to get what they have, and they're not going to give it up without a fight - and by fight I mean armed conflict.
posted by tempythethird at 11:55 AM on March 30, 2012 [5 favorites]


Why not use this as training, even if the four plucky Western journalists aren't exactly on par with the Israeli army?

I read this article yesterday, and my recollection is that one of the Hezbollah fighters was asked if he'd ever fired a paintball gun before. His answer was something along the lines of "We do it all the time up in the mountains."

More anecdata re: wounding not necessarily being the end of fighting: Like most US cops, the MA State Police used to carry .38 revolvers. The impetus for changing that was supposedly when a trooper traffic-stopped a large known bad guy, who went after the trooper. The cop emptied his .38 into the guy's torso and still had to wrestle him down.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 12:04 PM on March 30, 2012


Citation please? I've always been, a bit morbidly I know, interested in the immediate effects on a person that's just been shot. The movies show one thing but there has to be semi-hard data or research out there on the very thing you mention.

You can read the citations (relating the actual incidents) of Medal of Honor awards online. The vast majority involve the recipient being wounded and yet continuing on with said heroics, usually while refusing medical attention. Obviously these are all extraordinary examples by their very definition, but if you want examples of people carrying on despite serious injury, there you go.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 12:27 PM on March 30, 2012


Like most US cops, the MA State Police used to carry .38 revolvers...

The FBI made a similar decision after a deadly gunfight in the wake of a Miami bank robbery.
posted by jquinby at 12:36 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


His answer was something along the lines of "We do it all the time up in the mountains."

Yeah, and then he followed up by saying "...just not with paintballs."
posted by elizardbits at 1:06 PM on March 30, 2012


This is incredible reporting.

Frankly, the willingness of the journalists to even to agree to this, let alone taking it further--like when the author travels alone with "the Boss" into the mountains--is inspiring.

Takes real bravery to put yourself out there like that, even for the sake of investigative journalism.
posted by misha at 1:12 PM on March 30, 2012


Great article. My favorite (and I think the most revealing) comment comes at the end when he is driving around with the Boss:

I ask him what he really thinks—personally—about his Israeli enemies.

“They are well trained and tough,” he says. “They fight hard and defend their land and people. I respect them as enemies. They work with their hands, they fight for themselves, and they take care of their own people, so they’re much better than the Saudis.” He goes on: “Saudis are the worst people alive. They claim to be the most religious Muslims and were given the greatest gift of any nation by God himself. Do they protect Muslims with this money? Do they feed the poor? Build a culture? No, they spend it all on cars and whores. I hate them.”


If peace means Hezbollah turns their attention to Saudi, watch out world: Saudi is the worlds oil buffer/reserve. Of course the collary is that peace is unlikely if it means destablization of Saudi.
posted by zia at 1:36 PM on March 30, 2012 [4 favorites]


There was no Arab Spring in the house of Saud, that's for sure. Funny how that works.
posted by Trochanter at 1:38 PM on March 30, 2012


Change requires effort.

The problem is, Israel has all the power in this situation, but exactly zero short-term incentive to do so. There's the ultimate long-term incentive in the from of demographics, but long-term thinking doesn't win the elections. Try being the Israeli PM who gives up half of Jerusalem and see if your government lasts long enough to sign the treaty it negotiated.

The only way peace is possible is for Israel to give the Palestinians a real state and endure a lot of violence from people like Hezbollah until the conditions of peace allow for Palestinian statesmen to come to power. (The cruel irony is that Israeli actions, taken in a vain hope for security, have made it virtually impossible for peacemakers on the other side to attain influence.)

For this to work, you'd need truly great Israeli leaders over a considerable amount of time. Countries just don't get that lucky.

The other "solution" is for Israel to stay on the current path, lose the birthrate war and have a single-state solution imposed on them, i.e. someone has to win. That is pretty much how every other chronic conflict like this played out. Not every side made a desert and called it peace; but somebody won. But unlike say, Northern Ireland, I think "winning" in Israel is going to require annihilation.
posted by spaltavian at 1:40 PM on March 30, 2012


Always wear a cup, boys. Always wear a cup.
posted by not_on_display at 2:16 PM on March 30, 2012


And one side will. Probably a century or so after they annihilate the other side.-- spaltavian

Indeed. Not enough people on either side want to change, for various reasons. Once they've grown tired of burying their children, it'll stop. But that won't be for a long time, if ever. -- Brandon Blatcher

Uh, just to be clear, you people realize that Hezbollah is in Lebanon, a country that Israel has not occupied since 2000, right? Other then the 3 week 2006 war in Lebanon there has been "peace" there for 12 years.

All you need for peace is separation Israel and Lebanon have a big wall between them, so they don't have anything to worry about. The problem with Palestine now is the settlements. Move the settlements, put up a big wall, and that should solve the problem.

The other big difference is that Hezbollah is Shiite (and supported by Iran), while Hamas is Sunni, so it's not that surprising that Hezbollah would be anti-Saudi.
posted by delmoi at 2:25 PM on March 30, 2012


Other then the 3 week 2006 war in Lebanon there has been "peace" there for 12 years.

There has certainly not been "peace" in Lebanon; though yes, of course, Hezbollah operates largely in Lebanon. If you look at the post we're responding too; it about the general situation, not just Lebanon v. Israel.

Move the settlements, put up a big wall, and that should solve the problem.

That's really absurd. Where are you going to move the settlements? Who is going to move them? Some of these "settlements" are cities now; what happens to them? How can an Israeli leader sell a unilateral plan like this if it doesn't involve swiping half the Jordan Valley? How can Hamas, Fatah or anyone on that side accept it if it does?
posted by spaltavian at 2:43 PM on March 30, 2012


The only way peace is possible is for Israel to give the Palestinians a real state and endure a lot of violence from people like Hezbollah until the conditions of peace allow for Palestinian statesmen to come to power.
Again, Hezbollah is in Lebanon. Other then a three week period in 2006 where Israel managed to kill 250-500 Hezbollah fighters and 1,191 civilians (vs losing 121 soldiers and 44 Israeli civilians) there hasn't been any major violence from them since Israel left Lebanon in 2000.

So this idea that Israel will have to 'endure' violence from people 'like Hezbollah' if they leave makes no sense. They left 12 years ago and there's been only minor skirmishes, other then then the aforementioned war, which mostly only killed Lebanese civilians.

Hamas is mostly in in the Gaza strip, which Israel already left. They occasionally fire rockets, but they don't do much damage.

On the other hand, check out a map of the west bank It's covered with civilian settlements which serve no defensive purpose whatsoever. The region is crisscrossed with Israeli checkpoints, and restricted areas. Israel controls their border and even internal movement. People get kicked out of their homes in order to make room for more Israeli settlers.

If the purpose of keeping troops in the west bank were simply about security, there would be no reason at all to have civilian settlements, especially since settlers harass Palestinians inflame the situation.
posted by delmoi at 2:54 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


There has certainly not been "peace" in Lebanon; though yes, of course, Hezbollah operates largely in Lebanon. If you look at the post we're responding too; it about the general situation, not just Lebanon v. Israel.
There has essentially been peace Between Israel and Hezbollah for 12 years excluding those three weeks in 2006. The reason is simple: There are no Hezbollah in Israel, and there are no Israelis in Lebanon, thus, there can be no fighting. Other then that, only minor nonsense.
If you look at the post we're responding too; it about the general situation, not just Lebanon v. Israel.
I don't really know what you're talking about. the FPP was about Hezbollah, and it took place in entirely in Lebanon.
That's really absurd. Where are you going to move the settlements?
Move. Tear down. Whatever.

Or let people stay and live as Palestinian citizens, which everyone knows is completely unrealistic. Realistically, the buildings would be transferred to the Palestinians, and the government there could divide them up. There used to be settlements in the Gaza strip, but those were removed without any major issues.

There was actually a recent blog post on the Atlantic about how the major roadblocks to peace were put in place by the Israelis, basically. They actually have a big set of articles about the ongoing peace process, including an article about the Palestinian Hamas/Fatah unity government and also linking to this article about Hamas joining the PLO and thus becoming signatories to the Oslo agreements and moving away from military resistance towards "popular" resistance, which does not mean total non-violence apparently, but it does mean not shooting rockets and that kind of thing.

If Hezbollah hasn't been fighting against Israel for six years, and Hamas is moving away from terrorism and working with Fatah, then from where exactly would violence emanate if Israel leaves the west bank?

And more to the point, why do they need settlements there?
posted by delmoi at 3:08 PM on March 30, 2012


If you look at the post we're responding too; it about the general situation, not just Lebanon v. Israel.
I don't really know what you're talking about. the FPP was about Hezbollah, and it took place in entirely in Lebanon.


The post by zarq I quoted. I don't understand what you're not getting. I know where Hezbollah is; just drop it.

That's really absurd. Where are you going to move the settlements?
Move. Tear down. Whatever.


Awesome; why didn't I think of that?

And more to the point, why do they need settlements there?

This is actually a massive missing of the point. Who said they "needed" the settlements? This has nothing to do with need.
posted by spaltavian at 3:16 PM on March 30, 2012 [1 favorite]


then from where exactly would violence emanate if Israel leaves the west bank?

Who the hell said that would ever happen? Isreal is not going to leave the West Bank until they are forced out. They will leave part of the West Bank, whatever amount that can get through the Knesset, and that's it. That amount will not satisfy the Palestinians. There will be violence. Israel will need to show discipline in the face of that violence. Which won't happen.
posted by spaltavian at 3:21 PM on March 30, 2012


That amount will not satisfy the Palestinians. There will be violence. Israel will need to show discipline in the face of that violence.
Oh yeah so violent, those Palestinians.
posted by delmoi at 4:41 PM on March 30, 2012


You are really being an asshole for no reason. My posts in this thread alone have blamed Israeli leadership. Israeli leadership is guilty of a lot of violence. Both sides are. But if Israel imposes a very one-sided land division on Palestine*, yes I think there will be violence on both sides.


*Since you're having trouble, let me again point out that I am clearly faulting Israel more here. This "ha ha I found a way to interpret you in a less than a 100% Lefty approved way" is the worst feature of Metafilter.
posted by spaltavian at 4:58 PM on March 30, 2012


I think the real question is how tough these Hezbollah guys are in a Starcraft match.
posted by Ritchie at 7:26 PM on March 30, 2012


Always wear a cup, boys. Always wear a cup.
posted by not_on_display at 2:16 PM on March 30 [+] [!]


The only time I ever played paintball a friend spent the week an a half before hand telling us all how he was going to shoot us all in the balls. In the end this led to another friend deciding to wear a 'cup' or DP as we call them in the antipodes, which was lucky for him as somehow my first shot managed to hit him right in the groin from about ~65 metres away even though he was partially in cover. Of course he claimed after the round that he didn't feel it, which was while he kept on playing but now I suspect he was secretly a member of Hezbollah.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 8:37 PM on March 30, 2012


I want to go paintballing with Hezbollah!
posted by Estraven at 2:48 AM on March 31, 2012


Please God, don't let this be the next reality TV show.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:26 AM on March 31, 2012


All you need for peace is separation Israel and Lebanon have a big wall between them, so they don't have anything to worry about.

Rockets. This is why Israel attacked Gaza in 2008. Hezbollah allegedly has lots and lots of rockets nowadays, many of them quite substantial.
posted by Joe in Australia at 4:49 AM on March 31, 2012


tempythethird: "I have lots of interactions with two groups of Israelis. My extended family consists of first-generation Russian Jews living in the US, and my brother's wife comes from similar origins. There are a lot of secular Russian Jews in Israel, and their party - the racist, nationalistic, anti-Democratic, and tending-toward-violence Yisrael Beiteinu - is a significant participant in the current governing coalition. They have no problems cooperating with religious extremists (Shas) as allies of convenience. Those two, plus some tiny parties, and Likud (basically the Republicans) are running the country.

I am an American who works with Israelis. My wife (also American) works with Israelis colleagues and with several Israeli organizations. We have friends who are currently living in Israel (both native born and Americans who made aliyah) and some who are expats.

They all have a wide range of views. Some served in the IDF. Some are hawkish, others dovish. Some hopeful, some pessimistic. Which was pretty much my point earlier: Neither your nor my experiences are universal. American Jewry is divided into AIPAC=ers and J-Streeters, but we're not so easily categorized, either.

Politically, the left is shrinking and has no party with either momentum or passion to represent it.

For the moment. We're currently seeing a rehash of American politics from 2001-2006 take place in Israel. Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that during that time period, American politics mimicked that of the Israeli right wing. Fearmongering and paranoia used as political currency.

Security has always been the first and foremost reason why Israeli Prime Ministers are elected. They do their best to guarantee security and the Israeli public will vote for them. The Israeli right is big on security. When the Left has gained and held power (Rabin) it has always been through the invocation of safety.

Netenyahu takes a hard line against the Palestinians (and Hezbollah) and let's face it, he practically taught fearmongering of terrorism to the Bush administration. Once he regained power, he used the tools at his disposal to incite paranoia in the Israeli public. He speaks frequently of Ahmadinejad and the threat of Iran -- who to be sure is a threat, but perhaps not as much of one as he'd like us to believe. And his hardline stance with regard to the keeping and building settlements has pretty much derailed the peace process.

Until Netenyahu leaves office, there will probably be no peace. He's too intransigent. And too good an advocate for Israeli paranoia. But he won't be in place forever. And when he does leave, hopefully he'll be replaced by someone who is actually interested in peace.

On a side note, it was interesting to watch what happened last summer. Tens of thousands of people protesting economic conditions in the streets of major Israeli cities. Netenyahu's approval rating dropping from 50 - 30% (approximately) and now, nearly a year later, his approval rating has once again risen to the low 50's -- thanks to the security issue. At the time I was hoping Lipni would capitalize on it, but her career is now in ashes. Why? Security.

So with political power flowing in the exact wrong direction and no good reason for this to turn around (do you have one?)

Actually, I do. The inevitable press of history is against them in the long term. Between the various Arab Spring movements in their neighbors (showing those populations that change is possible -- note the strong Land Day protests over the last few days,) a switch from hands-off to hands-on foreign policies with regard to Israel may come soon. Add to that the negative world opinion of Israel's management of the Palestinian territories and the growing anti-Israel sentiment in this country, and I suspect the Israelis will be lucky if people turn a blind eye forever. Better to get out in front of that, then let matters fall into someone else's hands. Since we can probably guess that anyone who steps in will not be blindly pro-Israel / Zionism.

think pessimism is indeed called for. I think that even if a pro-peace movement were to gain enough steam, you'd have to consider the very real possibility that all they would do is incite an Israeli-Jew on Israeli-Jew civil war. The settlers and their supporters have worked for decades to get what they have, and they're not going to give it up without a fight - and by fight I mean armed conflict."

I'm okay with pessimism. I said I don't think it's constructive to dismiss the situation as hopeless.
posted by zarq at 6:31 AM on March 31, 2012


Until Netenyahu leaves office, there will probably be no peace. He's too intransigent.

Zarq, let's imagine that Netanyahu is miraculously transformed into someone who was eager to sign a peace deal. He's seated at a table with Obama, Ban Ki-moon, and a Palestinian representative, and they're about to sign a comprehensive deal that will bind both the Israelis and Palestinians.

Who is that Palestinian representative?
posted by Joe in Australia at 6:51 AM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


Joe in Australia: " Who is that Palestinian representative?"

Hard to answer at the moment, but I assume it would be Fayyad and Abbas, since they're already speaking with Obama et., al. But since he's not speaking for all Palestinians, it's hard to trust that any outcome from a comprehensive peace deal would be binding and long-term. So, long-term peace is predicated on the idea that Hamas / Gaza falls in line and Abbas is able to unify his people. A big if.

Or perhaps not. If the deal is presented as a fait accompli, and Abbas is left to clean house, that might not be such a tough battle after all. If Palestinian statehood is achieved under Abbas, then it is likely that Hamas would have an uphill battle retaining relevancy. Masha'al and Haniyah aren't fools. But they do have their own agenda. And the announcement last month that they have foresworn all violence was at least... well, interesting, if most likely worthless.

The situation is too complex to predict one way or another -- all we can do is speculate. Do the Palestinians even trust their leaders anymore? Unknown. Erakat conceded things to the Israelis that he never would have sold to the Palestinian people. Sure, he's resigned. But he worked for Abbas.

Similar questions were raised during Ireland/ the IRA's struggle with Britain. The situations aren't equivalent, but peace did happen eventually.
posted by zarq at 7:32 AM on March 31, 2012 [1 favorite]


zarg: don't know if you're still watching this thread, but in case you are...

Israel is a small country and demographics/migration make a difference. Also, unlike the US, many Israelis have a rather provisional view of their nationality. Especially among the more educated and secular, many have American and/or European roots to which they have the option of returning. Dual citizenship, multiple allegiances, such is the stuff of a young and tenuous state.

When your population is 7 million or so, its not that difficult to change the ideological makeup of the state, and to cross various related tipping-points. This isn't America, which due to its size can comfortably sea-saw between various ideological points indefinitely. In a state this small, change can be fast and permanent.

Going with your Bush-years-America characterization, imagine if during those Bush years a huge chunk of the American left had been ready, willing, and able to migrate. That's the Israeli condition. And there's one place where your analogy falls apart. Even during the Bush years - a large part of the American right was/is committed to representative government. The fascist tendencies of the Republican party, even at the worst points of recent history, have nevertheless been tempered by the libertarian and business-laissez-faire strains within that same party. In Israel on the other hand, the right (composed of nationalists of Eastern european descent and the religious) is almost uniformly anti-liberal, and growing more so every day.

Better to get out in front of that, then let matters fall into someone else's hands. Since we can probably guess that anyone who steps in will not be blindly pro-Israel / Zionism.

I agree that the chance of progress that isn't externally imposed is zero. But Israel's victim/bunker mentality will only be reinforced when exposed to more pressure from the outside. If the entire world mobilizes against them South Africa style, couldn't you imagine them becoming ever more recalcitrant and repressive in reaction? They have their nukes, they don't need to fear anyone, and that's the posture that will be maintained as economic sanctions cripple their economy, drain the last of the intelligentsia out of the country, and turn them into yet another middle-eastern basketcase - just Jewish and with nukes.
posted by tempythethird at 5:52 PM on March 31, 2012


Zarq, that was a really interesting comparison. As you point out, the situation in Northern Ireland is (pretty much) resolved. So why do I have a gut feeling that Israel/Palestine is somehow different? Firstly, the resolution in Northern Ireland is actually surprising. A lot of people didn't think it would happen. So even if the situations are similar, I don't think that there is any room for complacency. But more significantly, the dynamics in Northern Ireland were very different. The IRA and other groups purported to be acting with a view to achieving the Republic of Ireland's territorial claims on Northern Ireland. This meant that the militants were isolated once the Republic of Ireland amended its constitution to specify that it had no territorial claims over Northern Ireland and that any unification could only be brought about "by peaceful means with the consent of a majority of the people, democratically expressed, in both jurisdictions". At that point Irish nationalists had to settle for devolved power from the UK to Northern Ireland and the opportunity to work for unification within a democratic system. They got everything they could reasonably have hoped for, short of unification, and the benefits of working within the system outweighed the potential benefits of further fighting - especially when their former comrades would likely have been fighting against them.

In contrast, there is no Palestinian equivalent of the Republic of Ireland; no body which can make armed struggle illegitimate by signing a peace deal. Once the Republic of Ireland abandoned its territorial claims that was that: the IRA could hardly say that the Republic of Ireland was itself illegitimate. But that's exactly what happens among the Palestinians - Hamas says the PA is illegitimate; the PA says the same about Hamas; and I suspect the Palestinian diaspora notionally represented by the PLO would say the same about both of them, especially if they abandoned their territorial claims against Israel.

I rather think that the Oslo accords were intended to create a Palestinian entity that could make peace the way the Republic of Ireland and the UK made peace. But the Republic of Ireland was hardly going to go to war with the UK and so its territorial claims were merely nominal; the benefits of peace outweighed them. In contrast, territorial demands are the whole point at issue between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian Authority must make territorial demands if it is to ultimately be the government of an independent state. Furthermore, the fact that Hamas controls Gaza means that it doesn't need the Palestinian Authority to grant it legitimacy: it has territorial demands against both Israel and the Palestinian Authority!

On the other hand, Israel isn't going to make another significant unilateral withdrawal - both because it's acutely aware of what happened when it made a unilateral withdrawal from Gaza, and also because the PLO and Palestinian Authority aren't in a position to renounce Palestinian territorial claims even if Israel withdrew all the way to its 1967 borders.(*) But as long as it doesn't abandon its territorial claims it gives militants justification to commit violence.

So this is why I think the England/Irish nationalist conflict isn't a good analogy for the Israel/Palestinian one. The England/Irish nationalist conflict was ostensibly a proxy war on behalf of the Republic of Ireland, but it turned out that the RoI didn't really care about its territorial claims. When it bowed out of the conflict it left its nominal proxies without a substantial basis to continue the conflict. In contrast, even if the PA's territorial claims were to be satisfied it would not resolve the conflict with Hamas, let alone the claims made by the Palestinian diaspora. Since they have substantive claims rather than symbolic or nominal ones they will not abandon them in exchange for the opportunity to work within a peaceful democratic system.

(*) Here is the PLO logo, with a map of the entire British Mandate of Palestine circa 1948 on it. There's no room for Israel. I'm not aware of any Palestinian logos showing, e.g., the West Bank and Gaza - it always seems to be Israel and Judea and Samaria as one unit.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:50 AM on April 2, 2012


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