Join 3,424 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Zionism - Outspoken criticism from the unlikeliest of places.
July 22, 2002 4:56 AM   Subscribe

Zionism - Outspoken criticism from the unlikeliest of places. Neturei Karta, members of this orthodox clique condemn zionism, claiming there is no place in the modern world for a jewish state.
posted by johnnyboy (75 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Altra group among a number of them that have always favored a "state" that becomes such with the return of the Messiah and thus abhors a secular state. Nothing new here except the papers need to drag this up...why? Irony: the secular state in a democracy allows protests against a secular state.
posted by Postroad at 5:05 AM on July 22, 2002


It's actually not that unlikely -- religious Jews have long had a beef with the zionist program, for the following reason (that's explained somewhat in the article in the interview with Domb): religious jews believe that "Israel" is not a political entity, or at least not solely a political entity. No one can live in a country called "Israel," they claim, because Ithey true srael will only come into existence with the return of the messiah.

This view is held by a minority of religious Jews, but many of them live in Israel, which is admittedly weird. But to themselves, they just live in the land of Israel. The instantiation of Israel as a state has not come about and the current Jewish state is nothing more than an illusion.

You sometimes see "jewish star = nazi swastika" grafitti in religious neighborhoods. But these are quickly scratched out by other, religious, but not quite so hard line, jews.

This is the antithesis of what being Jewish is to me. I'm a zionist because zionism *is modern* (unlike the we-stopped-in-the-year-1800 Jewishness of the ultra-religious). The modern world calls for a modern Jewishness, a Jewishness built on the ideas of strength and self-determiniation, not on weakness and cowaring as an oppressed and hated minority in other countries. We've already seen where that leads, and it wasn't pretty.

It's certainly an elegant claim that we, as Jews, should give back the state of Israel to the palestinians, since it was granted to us by the British instead of by God. Israel is a state like any other, with a founding like any other. Sure, you could find some ultra-crazies to claim that we sould give back the united states to the native peoples who were here when whites started pouring in, but that argument will never resonate for the vast majority of americans.
posted by zpousman at 5:23 AM on July 22, 2002


Somebody came to me; he said for 39 years he had hated the Jews. And now, when he saw us, he felt he had to come and shake hands with us. There were tears in his eyes.

If members of Neturei Karta can inspire this response then there is definitely a place for them in the world.

More people who want to cross the divides & less of those who want to create them please.
posted by i_cola at 5:52 AM on July 22, 2002


Well, I've heard this before. Basically since 'god' didn't give the land back, the Jews shouldn't be back on it... On the other hand, there are lots of religious crazies there who think that they should blow up the dome of the rock (or whatever) and build a new temple, sacrifice a red heifer and destroy the world (or whatever). Equal whackjobbery, IMO.

zpousman: there is a big difference between the Israel Palestine situation and the US with native Americans, and that is while being a native American is not that great socio-economics wise, there aren't 190 million of them and they aren't blowing themselves up on a daily basis. Obviously a larger compromise would need to be made if that were the case.
posted by delmoi at 5:55 AM on July 22, 2002


How surprising, an anti-Israel article in The Observer. The "look even these Jews think Isreal is wrong" argument is a favorite subject of Arab papers as well.
posted by joemaller at 6:38 AM on July 22, 2002


European problem: European solution.

Transposition to palestine=passing the buck.
posted by johnnyboy at 6:43 AM on July 22, 2002


Nonetheless, "Allah bless the Jews" is certainly a refreshing sentiment. Wouldn't it be nice if it caught on?

For Americans new to the idea that being Jewish means different things to different people, you might enjoy reading "The Vanishing American Jew: In Search of Jewish Identity for the Next Century" by Dershowitz.

postroad, ParisParamus, joemaller, anybody, can you dig out a few links for us to help put Neturei Karta into context?
posted by sheauga at 6:44 AM on July 22, 2002


I'm kinda thinking that the whole mideast "peace process" has moved beyond persuasive writing as a possible corrective at this point. There are limits to argument, you know.
posted by mecran01 at 6:45 AM on July 22, 2002


Life must be a joy for you joemailer, effortlessly tarring as you meander through life. Is it a matter of whether it is pro or anti anything? the only 2-dimensional conundrum that comes to mind is the crossword.
posted by johnnyboy at 6:50 AM on July 22, 2002


mecran01: All ideas have to start somewhere. Could a textual argument sway a suicide bomber? Probably not... what about an Israeli voter? I dunno...
posted by delmoi at 6:51 AM on July 22, 2002


Every religious/ethnic group has its lunatic fringe. The ones that make my family cringe are neturei karta and Kahane Chai.

Neturei Karta have been calling for the destruction of the state of Israel since its first days, and no doubt will be doing so until the end of time or Israel - whichever happens to come first. They are a tiny community among the Orthodox, which are themselves a minority of Jews. The larger Orthodox community tends to be pro-Israeli, with more and more of the soldiers wanting to join elite units coming from the observant community instead of the left wing/kibbutznick movement which used to (maybe still does - I dunno) dominate.

While I can understand people saying 'look - here we have some progress with militantly pro-Palestinian groups or individuals coming out and directly saying they're not anti-semitic, they're just anti-Israeli' I frankly can't see how it is anything of the sort. If anything it just makes things worse. Do you think people saying "Don't worry, we won't harm/we like Jews who reject the right of Israel to exist" is going to make Israelis feel more secure? Most Jews think of Naturei Kartei as sort of weird uncle lunatics - that's not how the Israelis feel about arab states claiming the Jewish state shouldn't exist, and understandably so.
posted by fluffy1984 at 7:27 AM on July 22, 2002


I dislike getting lambasted by fellow posters or getting labelled as a guy whose only interest is in the Middle East (see my blog for my main interest!), but here is a helpful site:
http://www.netureikarta.org/
My position: any people, anywhere, that has no place that is also a state is screwed in these days--that went for the Jews (and they got Israel), the gypsies, still picked on throughout Europe, the Palestinians, the American Indians, who rely on the good intentions of the present governbment of America (but still leaves them in poor condition).
The cult-like group above wait for the Messiah; the Christians believe He has come and gone but will make a return; the fundies in Iran make the state a religious place. Israel protects the nom-military group such as this who can sit and wait and not serve to protect the spot where the Messiah will return to.
Einstein once famously said: God does not play dice with the universe. Woody Allen then said: Right . He play hide and seek.
posted by Postroad at 7:39 AM on July 22, 2002


Postroad: I have no idea what you are trying to say there...
posted by delmoi at 7:49 AM on July 22, 2002


joemailer: I (and I suspect a fair few MeFites) tend to avoid I/P threads because people like you can't help yourselves from trying to piss over potentially good discussions.

How about giving some substance to your points?

I don't see the feature itself as picking any side but more a case of 'now this is a bit different'. The initial points fluffy1984 makes were made in the article and it's not as if the writer is trying to pass off NK as being anything other than a fringe group.

delmoi: I think he likes boobies
posted by i_cola at 7:58 AM on July 22, 2002


Many people who are part of the "new left" seem to have forgotten that Zionism was once considered an integral part of the civil rights movement. Also forgotten are the days when an icon of both the civil rights movement and the enlightened American left could find the insight and prescience to make a statement such as this:

"You declare that you do not hate the Jews, you are merely anti-Zionist. And I say, let the truth ring forth from the high mountain tops, let it echo through the valleys of God's green earth: when people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews. This is God's own truth. Anti-Semitism, the hatred of the Jewish people, has been and remains a blot on the soul of mankind...Anti-Zionism is inherently anti-Semitic and ever will it be so...Zionism is nothing less than the dream and ideal of the Jewish people returning to live in their own land...And what is anti-Zionist? It is the denial to the Jewish people of a fundamental right that we justly claim for the people of Africa and freely accord all other nations of the globe. It is discrimination against the Jews, my friend, because they are Jews. In short, it is anti-Semitism."

What 'Zionist nutcase' would dare to make statements like this? It was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, at a speech at Harvard University in 1968. Dr. King had the insight to understand the real rhetoric behind much opposition to Israel. Sadly, we live in an age where many an 'enlightened' college student and liberal intellectual support the political tactics of a bunch who would rather blow up a Jew than speak to them.

As for the Neturei Karta, they and their ilk have always been a tiny minority, whom I liken to the far-right Christian groups, like the one led by the reptile Fred Phelps, who call for the destruction of 'Godless America'.
posted by evanizer at 7:59 AM on July 22, 2002


delmoi says --

zpousman: there is a big difference between the Israel Palestine situation and the US with native Americans, and that is while being a native American is not that great socio-economics wise, there aren't 190 million of them and they aren't blowing themselves up on a daily basis. Obviously a larger compromise would need to be made if that were the case.

It's true that the native problem in the US is not like the palestinian problem in Israel. No question.

But the native americans, at a similar point in the nation's history, were certainly"terrorists" and the rebellions that they led were brutally crushed by the military. And the native americans were feared and generally maligned by the public.

Also, 190 million? Huh? There are 1 million Palestinain citizens of Israel. And 600,000 refugees. That's compared to 4.5 million Jewish citizens of Israel. That's 18%.

I was trying to find a parallel arguement that would show how far from the main stream the argument "God says for us to give back all of israel and dismantle our state" is.
posted by zpousman at 8:06 AM on July 22, 2002


Evanizer - I suspect that a portion of what's going (besides really incredibly bad memory) is essentially semantic confusion. For most Jews, Zionism means the belief that there should be a Jewish state in the biblical land of Israel that is modern and democratic. However, many non-Jews - and some Jews - take the word Zionism as meaning that there should be Jewish state the FULL biblical land of Israel - encapsulating not just the 1948 borders but Judea and Samaria (the West Bank).

I tend to agree that disgreeing with Zionism in the first form above is probably generally anti-Semitism; I disagree that arguing against the second definition usually is; it can certainly be, but particularly in the West I don't think it usually is.
posted by fluffy1984 at 8:17 AM on July 22, 2002


zpousman: your numbers are wrong, there were 600,000 refugees who fled 'israel proper' in 1948, there were lots of palistineans (then jordanians) who lived in the west bank and gaza (those would have been egyptian at the time).

there are 2,090,713 people in the west bank not counting israeli settlers, and 1,178,119 in the tiny gaza strip (2001 numbers... when is the CIA going to update their factbook?). The thing you need to remember is that palistineans are not Isreali citizens. In edition 'non-jewish (mostly arab)' make up about 19.9% of israeli citizens the 5,938,093, that's about 1,181,681.


4450513/5,938,093 = 0.7494852
280m * 0.7494852 = 209m.

190 was just a guess.
posted by delmoi at 8:22 AM on July 22, 2002


fluffy1984- You're right about that semitic semantic confusion- when I speak of Zionism, I naturally assume that Zionism is understood to be this idea of a modern, democratic state in the Holy Land. Unfortunately, it seems that many Arab (and other) opponents of Israel hate it for its modernity (women's rights, respect for secularism, alliance with the United States) almost as much as they hate it for anti-Jewish reasons.
posted by evanizer at 8:28 AM on July 22, 2002


evanizer:

there's a lot of blame to be doled on both sides, but people probably find israel an easier target because it's a centralized one. with regards to the fundamental right accorded to Jews, mentioned in King's speech, i wonder if that right is not being denied to palestinians? surely to some: most people on both sides that i've heard or read do not look kindly on the ranging settlers that push out palestinians; they are one of the worst, unsolved problems in the region.
posted by moz at 8:29 AM on July 22, 2002


Evanizer:

You're right - I think.

I kind of think is Israel offers cafeteria type selection for the various segments of the quite diverse Arab community: it can be hated for its modernity (for the ultra-religious), because it is seen as harming co-ethnic/co-religionists, because it is seen as the last outpost of a hated colonial rule, because it has humiliated Arab/Islamic armies in the past. It seems to offer at least one thing to everyone, and I haven't the foggiest notion which reasons actually predominate for the hatred felt towards it by Arabs and their leaders.
posted by fluffy1984 at 8:41 AM on July 22, 2002


How is this news or worthy of Metafilter? Orthodox groups have been some of the most vocal opponents of Zionism for 40 years. This is neither new nor news, nu?
posted by luriete at 8:48 AM on July 22, 2002


moz- indeed, the settlements are a major problem, and allowing continued settlement is one of the major mistakes of the Israeli state, though killing settlers is not the way to handle the situation. I must also go on the record in support of a co-existant democratic Palestinian state somewhere in the region. This would give a necessary sense of belonging to the Palestinians, and would hopefully end the murderous, corrupt dictatorship of the PA. The establishment of a successful democratic state would also, I believe, sow the seeds of change in the Arab world. I wish there were the amount and variety of secular and moderate Islamic thinkers supporting these goals- and denouncing renegade murder- as there were and are on the side of modern Zionism. Perhaps they exist and are drowned out by the noisy zealots and power-mad thugs who hold as much responsibility for the repression of the Palestinians (more, in my opinion) than does Israel.

i wonder if that right is not being denied to palestinians?

We need to remember that Israel is the only Jewish state in the world, whereas there are lots of states representing the diverse populations of the Arab world. But, thinking over the current situations and leadership of those Arab states, perhaps I see your point. If I were a Palestinian, I would hunger for an alternative to those any day. Perhaps it's time for the anti-Jewish portions of the Arab public to stop blaming the Jews and start blaming the policies and actions of their own leadership as the root cause of many of their woes. I just wish they had someone besides Arafat or the house of Saud or Osama what's-his-name speaking for them.
posted by evanizer at 9:02 AM on July 22, 2002


delmoi, i think your math is wrong:

  2,090,713 inhabitants of the west bank
  1,178,119 inhabitants of the gaza strip
+5,938,093 israeli citizens
  9,206,925 total occupants

By the numbers you cited, approximately 48% are of Arabic decent, which would be comparable to a hypothetical 136 million indigenous peoples living with 144 million non-indigenous peoples in the United States. However, the comparitively small size of the North American indeginous populations in no way relieves North American governments of their moral responsibility to treat these groups justly.
posted by astirling at 9:05 AM on July 22, 2002


Question: how many Jewish refugees were taken into Israel because they were kicked out of Arab lands they had lived on and were citizens of for many many years. ..this all took place around '47 and onwards. But all were allowed a home because they were Jewish. How many Muslims were refused entry into Arab lands as refugees?
posted by Postroad at 9:32 AM on July 22, 2002


At this point, Europe has no credibility when it comes to critiquing how, where and if Jews should exist. Too many centuries of antisemetic; too much indifference to the plight of Israel; too many nuclear materiel weapons and of mass destruction sold to Muslim nations.

With that said, there's nothing inherently antisemetic about this article.

On the other hand, all those Jews who live in Israel who don't believe the current Israel shouldn't exist should leave: it doesn't get any more hypocritical than this.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:38 AM on July 22, 2002


Well my oh my such clarity of thought paris, hence a european problem that needed and still needs a european solution. It is easier to remove the splinter from your neighbours eye than the log from your own.
posted by johnnyboy at 9:42 AM on July 22, 2002


Nothing is more frustrating to me in this sort of debate than hyperbolic and reductionist statements which rely on narrow redefinition of words being paraded as objective fact -- like "anti-zionism is the same as anti-semiticism".

What a useless and meaningless crock. The simple fact that there have ALWAYS been a significant portion of jews who are politically opposed to the zionist agenda -- and they are not all 'fundamentalist whack-jobs' -- should be enough to at least suggest to a reasonable person that this argument might be more nuanced than a simple x = y.

There are lots and lots of Jews who have grown up as children of the diaspora and are just fine with that. There are lots of Jews who are saddened and embarrassed (and further alienated from any sense of Jewish-based identity) by the actions of Israel on a daily basis.

This does not make us 'anti-semitic' any more than thinking George W. Bush is a total ludicrous retard makes me 'anti-american'. Zionism is a purely political question, having to do -- not with the broad theoretical question of whether Jews deserve a homeland, and not with a historography of Jewish persecution -- but whether the State of Israel is a pragmatic entity as it exists now in the actual political, social, and historical context of the contemporary middle east. That context includes an entire nation of displaced Palestinians. It also includes a "democracy" which operates much like Apartheid, under the realistic understanding that the State of Israel cannot be allowed to shift its policies in a way that might reflect they dynamic demographics of its population.

There are many many Jews who are not comfortable with the 'chosen people' schtick, and who cringe at every self-righteous, short-sighted political and military decision that the Israeli government takes -- not just since September of 2000.

If my political criticism, my protest of conscience, my odorous hypocrite alarm, my morality which has developed according to a more modern, secular, rigorous model than would allow me to even implicitly honor 'biblical ownership' and which makes me shrink from noxious self-rightousness, and my ever-growing sense that the safest and most comfortable place for me to be as a Jew is right here in the USA make me into an anti-semite, then -- since we're defining words so casually -- i guess i'm an anti-semite.

But i'm still a jew. And i wish -- if that were the case -- we'd come up with a better word to describe the people who hate jews.
posted by milkman at 10:14 AM on July 22, 2002


by the actions of Israel on a daily basis.

You mean like self defense?

Honestly, I love how, when anyone criticizes "the actions of Israel", they're almost certain to leave out a similar criticism of the actions of Palestinians, the same actions that lead to further "actions of Israel". What is Israel supposed to do? Allow the PA to continue quietly (and not so quietly) support a generation of "martyrs"? Allow more Israeli citizens to be blown up? This is the tactic that is implicitly supported by anyone who refuses to criticize the current political philosophies of the majority of Palestinian citizens. Where is the outrage of all the "Jews who are saddened and embarrassed by the actions of Israel" over the murder of Israeli Jews based on their affiliation with a democratic government and their very ethnic/religious background? You fail to see the difference between the actions of a state and the actions of groups of zealous thugs. Even though a state makes bad decisions (I don't happen to count self-defense, proactive or otherwise to be a bad decision), it still retains its raison d'etre. You seem to deny Israel's very raison d'etre, which makes me very queasy. If you support the idea of a peaceful, democratic Palestinian state, then you have no excuse not to support the existence of Israel.

There is a difference between criticizing the actions of a nation and criticizing its very being. It's difficult to deny that the latter constitutes the majority of those with whom you seem to have allied yourself.
posted by evanizer at 10:39 AM on July 22, 2002


And i wish -- if that were the case -- we'd come up with a better word to describe the people who hate jews.

How about "anti-Jewish"?
posted by laz-e-boy at 10:39 AM on July 22, 2002


astirling: Well, my original idea was to compare the current population of the US (280m) with a hypothetical Native American population (who were not US citizens like the 280m) that would have about the same ratio of Palestinians to Israelis in the region. I thought 190m sounded pretty reasonable.

You're right that my math was a bit off up there, since I was counting Israeli Arabs as being on both sides of the equation... In actually the 'America relative' numbers would be more like 270m or so... or as you said 136 to 144.

I noticed the error right after I posted but i had class in like 10 minutes so I didn't have time to correct myself.

Anyway, thats really besides the point of this discussion.



I naturally assume that Zionism is understood to be this idea of a modern, democratic state in the Holy Land.



evanizer: What? I've never heard Zionism described that way... how can you claim that being anti-Zionist is anti-Semitic and then define Zionism without using the word "Jew". it's a bit inconsistent. I mean, if you believe that quote from MLKjr how can you possibly belive that Zionism has nothing to do with a "Jewish" state?

For your refrence the dictionary has a few definitions of Zionism, and the modern term states 'support for the state of Israel' not 'support for democracy and a modern government on the holy land'.

One could hardly call a government that only allows 64% of the people in its borders to vote 'democratic'. I suppose you could call it 'modern' but then so is Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, as well as a lot of other shitty places.

Right now there are over a million people who are under 24-hour curfew and will probably be killed if they are caught breaking it. Can you really say that it's a modern, morally correct, pro-civil rights or 'liberal' policy?

-----

Too me the concept of Zionism is really more of an outgrowth of early 20th century xenophobia and racial politics, not a reaction to it. Most of the world has grown out of that thing.
posted by delmoi at 10:44 AM on July 22, 2002


Just to stir things up more, I ask you to consider this: What if you came upon a similar article describing a white power rally where there were a few blacks on the platform who were quite happy to endorse the return of slavery?
posted by BGM at 10:47 AM on July 22, 2002


evanizer: How does building settlements in the west bank and gaza count as 'self defense'?
posted by delmoi at 10:50 AM on July 22, 2002


how can you claim that being anti-Zionist is anti-Semitic and then define Zionism without using the word "Jew".

Um, sorry, but it is possible to have a modern, democratic state that is Jewish. The same way it's possible to have a modern, democratic state that is African. Jewishness is generally understood to be an ethnic as well as religious delineation, and many non-religious people consider themselves Jews.

One could hardly call a government that only allows 64% of the people in its borders to vote 'democratic'....Right now there are over a million people who are under 24-hour curfew and will probably be killed if they are caught breaking it.

Where are you getting those wacko figures? Probably out from under the same rock that the Observer gets theirs.
posted by evanizer at 10:52 AM on July 22, 2002


If Zionism means that Jews from all over the world come to the Holy Land to live among the existing inhabitants as equals, then I have no problem with it and I submit that most of the Muslim world would have no problem with it either. If Zionism means that Jews have political rights in the Holy Land above and beyond those of the existing inhabitants, then I oppose that and all good world citizens should oppose it too.

Having said that, you can take "Jews coming to the Holy Land to live as equals" to mean either a) Jews and Arabs living as equals within one state or b) two states living side by side, with neither one having any power or rights over the other. Obviously one scenario is more pragmatic and possible than the other.
posted by laz-e-boy at 10:58 AM on July 22, 2002


It is not possible to have a 'modern democratic state' that also is mandated to preserve a sense of ethnic identity.

it seems crazy to me that anyone could believe that is possible, and it is disheartening both as a jew and a believer in democracy to see the idea perpetuated.
posted by milkman at 10:59 AM on July 22, 2002


The actions that Milkman and others, including myself, object to are not legitimate means of self-defense, but the collective punishment, the enlargement of settlements, the denial of Palestinians' basic human rights, the weekly if not daily killing of innocent civilians and non-combatants, etc. Every nation has the right to defend itself, however it is quite clear that Sharon's aggressive "defense" is in reality an attempt to 'punish' the Palestinians into submission and eventual acceptance of something less than the rights (self-government, statehood, freedom) they desire. It is even more apparant that this approach is not working, and is in fact a self-destructive tactic that, more than the actions of the terrorists, places Israel's existence in jeopardy.

I sincerely doubt that Milkman, or anyone else who argues in good faith, would deny Israel, or any nation the right to defend itself. What we object to is not the notion of defense or self-preservation, but the mockery Sharon and his cohorts make of such a concept when their intent is to gain territory and gain control, to ensure that another group is denied the basic rights that they claim to be defending for their own people.
posted by cell divide at 11:00 AM on July 22, 2002


delmoi: Right now there are over a million people who are under 24-hour curfew and will probably be killed if they are caught breaking it. Can you really say that it's a modern, morally correct, pro-civil rights or 'liberal' policy?
Yes, except for the "liberal" part. Otherwise the million plus people in question would be driven out of Israeli territory or placed in internment camps systematically wiped out, as happened to the Jews a while back and which would happen again if the majority of the Arab world had their way . The Jews have shown truly admirable restraint. As for your " probably be killed if they are caught breaking it" statement,
a) horsepuckey, they would be detained and questioned unless they resisted arrest and left the authorities no choice..
b) and what would they be doing out after curfew, leaving baskets of flowers on their Hebrew neighbour's doorsteps??
posted by BGM at 11:11 AM on July 22, 2002


Um, sorry, but it is possible to have a modern, democratic state that is Jewish. The same way it's possible to have a modern, democratic state that is African. Jewishness is generally understood to be an ethnic as well as religious delineation, and many non-religious people consider themselves Jews.

If by "African" you mean "in Africa", then it would indeed be possible to have a modern democratic government. If by "African" you meant "a country for black people" with restrictions on non-black immigration and non-black people who happened to already live there in about equal numbers, then no it really wouldn't. I don't know of any African countries that have restrictions on non-black citizens, perhaps you could enlighten me. Most people (well, Americans anyway) would immediately dismiss clams for a "white" or "Aryan" nation as racist... why should it be any different for any other ethnic group?

Where are you getting those wacko figures? Probably out from under the same rock that the Observer gets theirs.

5,938,093/9,206,925 ~= .64. Those numbers come from the CIA world fact book as cited (the people in the west bank and Gaza are not Israeli citizens despite the fact that those places have been part of Israel since 1967. Israeli settlers though, can vote) Perhaps some day, you'll learn to read and perform simple arithmetic.

As for the one million under curfew, well, many of the major cities are under curfew, I remember hearing the 1 million figure in the news somewhere... not sure where. Of course the number fluctuates over time, so who knows. here is a BBC "life in pictures" thing that indicates 700,000 people were under curfew on July 7th. The number of people under curfew has gone up since then.


b) and what would they be doing out after curfew, leaving baskets of flowers on their Hebrew neighbor's doorsteps??

Uh, did you miss the 24 hour part? Curfew is only lifted for a few hours a week. This should be common knowledge for anyone who watches CNN... Didn't you see the reports about all the trash out on the streets in major Palestinian cities, because people can't leave their houses to clean it up? As for those who leave their houses, yes lots of them are summarily shot at.
posted by delmoi at 11:44 AM on July 22, 2002


here are some BBC articals that describe life under israeli curfew.
posted by delmoi at 11:50 AM on July 22, 2002


Um, sorry, but it is possible to have a modern, democratic state that is Jewish. The same way it's possible to have a modern, democratic state that is African. Jewishness is generally understood to be an ethnic as well as religious delineation, and many non-religious people consider themselves Jews.

I think this is a terrible analogy: an African democracy is defined by continent it sits on. African democracies are likely to contain many ethnic groups, and being democratic, provide fair representation to each.

Israel is defined by Zionists as a democracy of Jewish character, and government officials use that definition to justify policies that discriminate and marginalize other minority ethnic groups living in the area.
posted by astirling at 11:59 AM on July 22, 2002


The Arab/Muslim world, pre-Israel, pre-1967, and now, has always treated Jews and Israel like garbage. As has Europe for centuries. Too bad so many posters here pretend that Israel and Jews and not an oppressed, tiny minority. Jews deserve to have their own little country and run it as a democracy.
posted by ParisParamus at 12:13 PM on July 22, 2002


The Arab/Muslim world, pre-Israel, pre-1967, and now, has always treated Jews and Israel like garbage. As has Europe for centuries. Too bad so many posters here pretend that Israel and Jews and not an oppressed, tiny minority. Jews deserve to have their own little country and run it as a democracy.

The Arab/Muslim world treated Israel like garbage pre-Israel? Wow. I didn't know that was possible. And if being "treated like garbage" gets you a state, then I should have no trouble convincing you of the right of Palestine to exist.

Throughout much of the past 1000 years (last century excluded for obvious reasons), Jews sought refuge among Arab/Muslim peoples from persecution. Let me say that again. Jews fleeing persecution often went to Muslim countries. Were it not for Muslim protection, Jews would have been wiped out.

Show a little respect, Paris.
posted by laz-e-boy at 12:21 PM on July 22, 2002


O.K., just to jump into a debate that looks like it's rapidly about to go the way of previous and innumerable MeFi IP disaster threads.

Delmoi: It is not possible to have a 'modern democratic state' that also is mandated to preserve a sense of ethnic identity.

it seems crazy to me that anyone could believe that is possible, and it is disheartening both as a jew and a believer in democracy to see the idea perpetuated.


Look, this statement is - or should be - ludicrous to anyone looking at the world as it is, not as it should be. I never hear anyone claiming that the existence of a Norwegian, Danish, German or French state is inimical to the creation of liberal and democratic life in Europe. One of the largest debates raging in these states in immigration, and the reason why people want to limit it is ultimately not scarce resources, it's the belief that 'Danishnss' or 'Germanness' exists, and is something that the state in part exists to preserve: a people and a way of life. Why of all nations is Israel the only one that does not have that right? Israel is a functioning democracy, the individuals within its borders - Arab and Jewish - have the right to vote. There are Arab members of the Knesset. To compare this situation to Apartheid is bizarre at best. Finally, this massive number of Jews opposed to the existence of a Jewish state that you mention. Where exactly are they hiding? I certainly haven't run into any outside of one or two massively left wing college students and the lunatic fringe of the haredi movement.

Laz-eboy: If Zionism means that Jews from all over the world come to the Holy Land to live among the existing inhabitants as equals, then I have no problem with it and I submit that most of the Muslim world would have no problem with it either. If Zionism means that Jews have political rights in the Holy Land above and beyond those of the existing inhabitants, then I oppose that and all good world citizens should oppose it too.

Reference (1) the discussion of the definition of Zionism above. in the end, Zionism is the belief that a Jewish state should exist in the ancient land of Israel. It doesn't mean the whole of ancient Israel - although some people now believe that. I am a committed Zionist and I believe a Palestinian state should exist in the West Bank. There is no, repeat NO, contradiction in that last sentence. (2) Arab and pan-Islamic political and military stances towards Israel have historically referred to the injustice of 1948 (as they see it) when Israel came into being, not just the later conquest of territory in the 6 day war. Only now is this changing - if it really is. It is not clear to most Israeli's that it really has changed among Palestinians or the larger Islamic community - which has treated the existence of Israel, not just its current occupation of the territories - as the fundamental crime.

Israel was willing to allow a Palestinian state to exist in 1948 when it was attacked, but that nascent state was - ironically - swallowed by Jordan and Egypt (it's current erstwhile defenders). The Palestinians are kept in refugee camps in Lebanon and elsewhere by their brother Arabs, to be used as a club with which to beat Israel. Yet their behavior is never questioned. There are at least 5,000 dead and buried under pavement in the Syrian town of Hama; that's the cost of dissent in Syria, but no one really cares. Many Jews and Israelis believe this shows that the world is anti-semitic - i.e., the world will criticize Israel but others can commit crimes far in excess of anything Israel does and it's O.K. Me, I disagree: I think the world is racist in its treatment of Arabs - that it expects them to behave that way, which is ludicrous. The Arab countries have thriving middle classes, educated middle and upper classes, a culture spanning millenia, a committed sense of social justice from Islam, and horrible governments that do terrible things (Hama; the Egyptian gassing of Saudi bases during the Yemen war, etc., etc.). They deserve better and can do better, and the West shouldn't let their governments off the hook or their people suffer as they have.

The whole debate about should or shouldn't Israel exist should, frankly, be forever tabled. There are five million of them, they are extremely well armed, and they're not going anywhere. Given that, the only questions should be how can the Arabs come to a peaceful settlement with Israel and how can a Palestinian state be created and with what borders. Any question of the destruction of the state or its Jewish character is simply going to be a non-starter and detract from the attempt to deal with the real world situation that exists there; substituting theoretical fantasies of ideal situation justice (which no European power has ever felt should apply to their own actions) for real world solutions will only make those real-world solutions more difficult to achieve.
posted by fluffy1984 at 12:26 PM on July 22, 2002


Before the various comments below, I beg to offer one general sentiment. It is not only marginal "ultra" groups like the one profiled in the linked article that think the realities of Israeli existence (not the existence itself) conflict with Jewish teachings. (E.g. the occupation.)

The recent suggestion that Israel would punish the innocent for Palestinian violence brought out some voices of this kind. Ha'aretz reported: "Opposition leader Yossi Sarid attacked the move, saying that it went against Jewish teachings. 'Judaism has always ensured not to punish one person for the sins of another and it is very worrying that the terrorist events are succeeding in confusing the government's thinking,' he said."


how many Jewish refugees were taken into Israel because they were kicked out of Arab lands they had lived on and were citizens of for many many years. ..this all took place around '47 and onwards.

This and Paris' "garbage" comment do indeed strain logic. If nothing else is apparent, it is that intensive Jewish colonization and the creation of Israel are necessary precursors to the Arab intolerance/expulsion being complained of. Put differently, Israel can't justify itself based on hostility that came about after its creation through the Zionist movement altered the equation. (Another thread: I wouldn't claim Arabic-speaking Jews did not face problems before Zionism, but not like in Europe, and from anecdotal evidence I know of some who into the 50's lived in Arab capitals as prosperous professionals, mingling with the most educated local strata. 1967 was the point of no return for this, and Israel is complicit, with its Return policies, in creating the modern phase of the antagonism.)

Jewishness is generally understood to be an ethnic as well as religious delineation, and many non-religious people consider themselves Jews.

Okay, so we have a state whose constitution (and many other laws) officially discriminate according to ethnicity, not religion. Wonderful. And this is just talking about Arab citizens, even though it is not unreasonable, as several posters have suggested, to consider the status and rights of those living under Israeli military overlordship outside of the framework of a recognized government.

Israel's non-Jewish citizens are denied viable land-ownership rights. Come on, people, the LEGAL discrimination against non-Jewish citizens of Israel is not news or controversial. The Israeli law codes studiously avoid "Jew" in favor of "the absentees," "army veterans," and "those eligible for citizenship according to the Law of Return." But morally, this is no different from laws that say "no stinking Arabs dammit, I don't care how many centuries they lived on this land before Zionism."
posted by Zurishaddai at 12:46 PM on July 22, 2002


Look, this statement is - or should be - ludicrous to anyone looking at the world as it is, not as it should be.


Well, first of all, I didn't say that, milkman did, although I don't dissagree. And as for my outlook, I would say that the world should be as it should be, not as it is. As George Bernard Shaw once said: "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man."

I never hear anyone claiming that the existence of a Norwegian, Danish, German or French state is inimical to the creation of liberal and democratic life in Europe.

Well, the Germans aren't causing unbearable hardships for millions of people, these days are they. The debates in Europe center around clamping down on immigration, not what to do with the millions of 'foreigners' who have lived there for hundreds of years. Compared to the Israel situation, these debates are largely academic... certainly no one is dying over them.

Why of all nations is Israel the only one that does not have that right?

Because, dumbass, half the population is not Jewish.

Israel is a functioning democracy, the individuals within its borders - Arab and Jewish - have the right to vote.

If by "borders" you mean "pre 1967 borders" then yes, if by "borders" you mean "actual borders", then no. When Israel returns to its 1967 borders, then it will be a modern democracy. Until then, you can't really call it one.

Zurishaddai: Israel does not have a constitution.
posted by delmoi at 1:10 PM on July 22, 2002


OK, starting from the top here Zurishaddai. You point out that many Jews disagree with government policies in Israel. Wow, man, what a shocker. Because, you know, you'd think all 15 million of us would agree. I had assumed that Labor, Likud and the further left and right wing parties in Israel all agreed on everything as well. You make it sound as if disagreement with government policies among Israeli and diaspora Jews somehow differentiates Israel from other states or questions Israel's legitimacy. All it does it make it a state - much like France or the US. People often disagree with French and US policy, yet it's not news and it doesn't call into question the right of the state to exist.

Second, regarding the roots of Arab hostility to Israel. You point out, quite cogently, that if Israel didn't exist, Arab states and people wouldn't have a problem with it. I can't really argue with that. You seem to be saying that Arab resentment is rooted in the very existence of an Israeli state, and because of that Israel has no right to complain about it. If I am accurately presenting your opinion, please tell me. Once again: it's there, it's not going anywhere, the issue is how to deal with it.

Third - you point out the 6 Day war as the point of no return. You're quite right, had Israel not won the 6 day war things would be different. I don't suppose you've read any of quotes of Nasser, 'Amer, the Ba'athists in Syria or anyone else leading up to the 6 day war; if you had, you'd note that had Israel lost, the basic idea was kill all its citizens who didn't make it out on boats. This would certainly have solved the Israel Palestine problem, but one hopes a more equitable solution could be found. Israel was willing to trade the Sinai for peace with Egypt; no one else seemed willing at the time to trade land for peace.

Lastly, as you say, 90% of land in Israel is government land. Arabs are living in Israel, and on that land. There are mixed Arab/Jewish towns. Historically, Arab Israeli's were often pro-Zionist (defined as wanting Israel to exist) because they only had to look at Syria or Jordan to see the alternatives to life in Israel. The truth is, Israel has failed them. Public jobs, funds, services go disproportionately to Jews. This is wrong. The solution is to change that; changing those misallocations will not change the character or focus of Israel as a Jewish state. The fact also is that it doesn't consitute Apartheid, and that life for Israeli Arabs has appeared better historically than life for Arabs in other Arab states: otherwise Arabs in Israel would likely have done what Jews from Arab countries did, and vote with their feet.

Lastly, one wonders how so much outrage should be spent on the fate of Israeli Arabs - who once again have political, civil and economic rights in Israel they don't have in Iraq or Syria, if there is no outrage over the behavior of those countries. Is there a sense that Iraqi gassing of the Kurds may perhaps be wrong? If there should be no Jewish state, I ask again, should there be Danish, Norwegian, French or Islamic states?
posted by fluffy1984 at 1:27 PM on July 22, 2002


It is not possible to have a 'modern democratic state' that also is mandated to preserve a sense of ethnic identity.

it seems crazy to me that anyone could believe that is possible, and it is disheartening both as a jew and a believer in democracy to see the idea perpetuated.


for the record, i said this, not delmoi. if someone is going to get flamed for it, let it be me.

Fluffy, it might seem to you that i am stretching credibility by invoking my imaginary population of cringing, non-zionist diasporic jews.

To me, however, your disbelief at the prevelance of this attitude in the Jewish-American population demonstrates a decisive lack of perspective in your worldview. I do not deny that there are many -- perhaps, even, the majority -- Jews in the US who have handcuffed their sense of ethnic and religious identity to the survival of the political entity of Israel. But to think that those of us who are critical of the Israeli state, and eager to distance ourselves (and our ethnic and religious identity) from its idealogy and actions are marginalized suggests to me that you must have very limited, insular contact with 'American Jewry'.

and about the European nationalist arguments, i have two points.

1) I personally don't agree with the arguments that are being made in France, Denmark, Holland, Germany, etc. about limiting Immigration to maintain national identity. I equate the champions of such policy with George C. Wallace-style segregationist/isolationist hatemongers. In fact, as i would expect most Jews to think considering how deeply the Holocaust has been beaten into our consciousness, i think that it's a pretty stupid, short-sited, and historically dangerous attitude to have. But then again, I'm just generally prone to dislike the confusion of Ethnic and Political identity -- witness exhibit A: Israel.

2) Trying to talk about where and when the lines are drawn on cultural identity is like trying to cut water. It's part of the reason we have political entities in the first place. It creates a sense of shared identity for the people who are part of the entity. And those people, in turn, determine what makes up the national identity. There are always people who see themselves as representatives of the true identity, who try to resist change. And they always -- in the end -- fail.

it's a dynamic world, folks.
posted by milkman at 1:29 PM on July 22, 2002


Delmoi -

Where on earth did you get that figure (1/2 of Israelis aren't Jewish). I assume you're including the territories (the math still doesn't work I believe). When I talk about Israel I'm speaking about the state - not about the territories. I'm not likely to include them as part of Israel and then say there should be a Palestinian state in them. I don't see why there can't be Jewish state with an Arab minority - which is what exists in Israel today - that is modern and democratic

Second, regarding the debate about European citizenship, look for example at the gastarbeiters in Germany: you can live there three generations, but it won't get you citizenship.

Third, I apologize or confusing you with Milkman, but seeing as you say you agree with him I'm assuming you're not too ofended.

And fourth, a review of 20th century history shows just how terrifying the world can be when people view it as they believe it should be and then set out to change it without regard for reality. I'm not arguing against a sense of justice, I'm simply arguing that a sense of justice without a sense of what the consequences of an attempt to enforce that justice is is more likely to lead to horror than anything else.
posted by fluffy1984 at 1:38 PM on July 22, 2002


Milkman -

Sorry if I was rude in my previous post. I apologize. Also, I said I didn't know many anti-Israeli American Jews. I didn't say they were 'cringing', I said in my experience they appear to be tiny minority. Once again, I'm not speaking about Jews critical of Israeli actions - I certainly am - I'm talking about disagreement with its right to exist. And in passing, I certainly don't claim to be the arbiter of Jewish identity in the US or anywhere else.
posted by fluffy1984 at 1:44 PM on July 22, 2002


Fluffy1984: thank you for helping turn the tide away from the anti-Israeli bent of Mefi.
posted by ParisParamus at 1:49 PM on July 22, 2002


Your response raises several reasonable points, Fluffy. Just to clarify, what I should have said about 1967 as a point of no return (in a wider sense) was rather that the decision to remain in occupation of the West Bank so fatefully poisoned Israel's future prospects (=achieving a coherent and lasting state). (And remember, I wasn't assigning blame for the war; I was just saying that the story of Arabic-speaking Jews was a very different one before the war.) Of course, you will know that many Israeli leaders from across the spectrum were dubious of the occupation after 1967--hardly the fringe, or mere token examples of the variety of political and national opinion that you cite.

changing those misallocations will not change the character or focus of Israel as a Jewish state

Here, I think I can say with fairness that it is not so simple. If you have a magic solution to the apparent demographic realities of Israel and the resultant clash between the notions "democratic" and "Jewish," I'd be interested to hear it. This is a tough puzzle for any Israeli. There's a whole nexus of issues here. Unless Arab citizens are trusted partners in serving and leading Israel, you've got to sense the danger looking at the future of Israel.

delmoi: Of course you're right about my sloppiness with "constitution." Don't know what I was thinking--perhaps I should have refered to "basic law."

In conclusion, I recognize that my (too sentimental) opening point about the Jewish religion's real points of abrasion against the realities of Israel's mode of existence may have seemed facile. But I don't think the polemical answers presented here can somehow argue away the real existential issues and contradictions that face Israel. I remain surprised at how easily any discussion of Israel and the Palestinians loses focus of Israel's own identity and future. It is not so easily separable into a tale of an enmity!
posted by Zurishaddai at 4:18 PM on July 22, 2002




Where on earth did you get that figure (1/2 of Israelis aren't Jewish). I assume you're including the territories (the math still doesn't work I believe).

fluffy1984:

I've been over all of this like three times before, in this thread, but here goes again.

Arab population of the west bank, gaza, and Israel proper:
about: 4,450,513
(calculated by adding the population of the west bank and Gaza from the CIA world fact book entries, which do not include Israeli settlers, and adding the 19.9% of Israeli citizens who the CIA world fact book calls (non Jews, mostly Arab)

Total population of Israel:
about 9,206,925
(calculated by adding the population of Israeli citizens, people in the west bank, and people in the Gaza strip(who are not citizens))

4,450,513/9,206,925 = 0.48338755882121338014592277008882,

or about half.

IF YOU ARE NOT SURE ABOUT THE MATH, DO IT YOURSELF BEFORE COMPLAIGNING

come on people, its not that hard.


---

When (and if) Israel retreats to their 1967 borders and creates a Palestinian state, things will be different. but Israel has occupied that land for 35 years, and not given the people living there the right to vote, even though Jewish settlers to those regions can vote.
posted by delmoi at 4:55 PM on July 22, 2002


*COMPLAINING
posted by delmoi at 4:55 PM on July 22, 2002


Others, perhaps, may see Israel's purpose as to serve the (alleged or short-term) interests of an ethnic group. In light of Deuteronomy 24:16, I am a little perplexed that the "Jewish state" has executed Salah Shehada, who was officially "wanted," and his three children (one infant), who initial reports do not indicate were on any "wanted" list.
posted by Zurishaddai at 5:30 PM on July 22, 2002


And remember, I wasn't assigning blame for the war; I was just saying that the story of Arabic-speaking Jews was a very different one before the war.

So, if the Israelis had systematically destroyed, through mob violence or expulsion, nearly every Arab community in Israel after the Yom Kippur war (a war in which assigning blame is quite easy), do you think you would be making the argument that the Arab states were "complicit" somehow due to their belligerence or their discrimination against their Jewish citizens? I don't think so.

A little history: Every Arab country that had any sizable Jewish community has expelled, killed or forced out through officially-sanctioned mob violence (any of those qualify as 'ethnic cleansing' I believe) the vast majority of its Jewish citizenry, some (such as Egypt) following the Sinai campaign, some (such as Jordan) following the War of 1967, but the vast majority (such as Yemen, Iraq, Libya* and Syria) came in the years immediately following the UN Partition Plan and the War of 1948. OTOH, the current situation in Morocco should give hope that tolerance is possible despite past wrongs. However, the anti-zionists can't have it both ways, decrying Israel's existence as a Jewish state while winking (or claiming Israeli 'complicity') at the multitudinous acts of ethnic cleansing and attempted genocide against Jews in other countries that have served to populate it.

* "The last Jew living in Libya, Esmeralda Meghnagi, died in February 2002. This marked the end of one of the world's oldest Jewish communities, which traced its origins to the 3rd century BCE." 5 months ago; see how we've grown past this?
posted by boaz at 7:11 PM on July 22, 2002


I vehemently oppose violence against any ethnic or religious group (whether state-orchestrated or just mob lunacy). By "complicit," I meant to indicate that there is an ugly Zionist fringe that has always placed the ideal of Jewish immigration into Israel above all else. The extremes of this at the time of Nazism (e.g., interference with non-Israel-bound emigration from Europe) are well-known, but that wasn't the end of it. I don't mean to blame as much to lament the fact that everything (not ONLY Arabs' antagonism towards Jews) has conspired to undermine what functioning models there were of coexistence. Mass Christian emigration from Arab lands is another interesting phenomenon, in which economic factors were probably MUCH more important than religious or cultural ones; but, of course, as some Arab societies became more monolithically Muslim--even if moderate Islam was predominant--the formula for identity, propaganda, etc. was forever changed, accelerating the process. Christian communities that had never seen themselves as all that distinct suddenly wanted to (though this is hardly a completed, ubiquitous, or irreversible process).

In short, I guess I am just one of those people who thinks that only-in-the-20th-c. acts like the partition of India and Pakistan not only caused tremendous suffering then, but screwed everyone later. The "heroic" zeal to bring minority Jewish populations to Israel has not always been motivated by concern about their welfare or the survival of communities outside of Israel. And, since you seem to regard the extinction of old traditions of Jewish communities in the Middle East as sad, I hope you will consider whether it was all really as simple as you describe it. Even if the mass "returns" were good (or even necessary) at times, they sometimes left behind a tiny community robbed of what made it viable (even if under threat).

P.S. The anecdotal evidence I referred to above came from people acquainted with Jewish professionals in Damascus, even in the 70's. It was certainly trustworthy and adequate to prove that the modern coexistence of which I speak is not a figment. But I don't have perfect information, and what I know is certainly enriched by some of the details in the links you provided, boaz, so thanks for that.

This discussion seems to provide an interesting microcosm of what makes most of these "I/P" arguments so incoherent. Everything is "systematic" and intentional, because viewed within artificially truncated units of time, reaction, cause and effect. There is a larger picture. Modern Arab societies weren't born with an intention to repress Jewish communities, and it is not too challenging to imagine conditions in which that particular story would have played out very differently.
posted by Zurishaddai at 9:23 PM on July 22, 2002


P.S. Given how you understood my post (& I'm afraid I haven't managed to change that understanding with what I've written), boaz, you were quite justified to use strong rhetoric in mentioning the anti-Jewish reaction in Arab countries. Allow me to stipulate my general agreement with your account & loathing of the idea that anyone would want to "sweep it under the rug." But I think I am going to lose it if I see another one of these ridiculous analogies, whether your "So, if the Israelis had systematically destroyed, through mob violence or expulsion, nearly every Arab community in Israel after the Yom Kippur war (a war in which assigning blame is quite easy)..."*, or the repeated ones about the ethnic cleansing of South Carolina, or whatever. The analogies all stink. The Jewish diaspora in the Middle East, and its various fates at the hands of Spaniards, Almohads, enlightened Muslims, Socialists, etc., etc., is not comparable (as you make it) to the Arab inhabitants of Israel/Palestine. In Israel/Palestine, when we talk about the Arabs there we're talking about the majority population for several centuries up to the 20th. Go ahead and make an analogy about massacring Samaritans, or immigrants to Yemen massacring the Arabs there. But don't say I made you--I think the whole business is fishy.

For the record, I am not particularly attached to some kind of "thesis" that Israel is at fault on this point. This is all messy history. At this point, I regret the quick aside (in smaller font) suggesting "complicit." There is a sticky enough web of implication here to involve everyone in the Middle East in everything. I don't "wink at" anything. I am not even all about decrying the idea of a Jewish state or Zionism. Rather, I just think that even life-committed lovers of Zionist ideas should be honest about how bold, dangerous, and world-changing an enterprise it really is.

I always strive to bring into my awareness the thing that might be easy to miss, or contrary to intuition. That is why most of my links are to Arabs & Israelis who are not swept up in the most widespread mindlessness out there. I hope this will not be mistaken for ever denying the obvious. It's just that there's a lot in the Middle East that's all too "obvious," especially to an American public that gets a caricature that never goes farther than 10 years into the past. Curiously, at this point, both Israeli Jews and Palestinians see themselves as both persecuted minority and as righteous & triumphalist master. I think we all know that both sides will have to wean themselves from all that for there to be any productive transactions for a better future that actually comes to pass.
posted by Zurishaddai at 9:45 PM on July 22, 2002


"It is not possible to have a 'modern democratic state' that also is mandated to preserve a sense of ethnic identity". Wouldn't Japan, India, Turkey, and South Korea fit that classification?
posted by Mack Twain at 11:13 PM on July 22, 2002


Mack Twain:

Simply, i believe that Japan, India and Turkey (i don't know much about S Korea) are not 'Modern Democratic States' when it comes to the aspects of their policy that deal with such a mandate. No matter what they call themselves.
posted by milkman at 1:18 AM on July 23, 2002


Kind of interesting and relevant: NYT piece on dwindling Burmese Jewish community.
posted by Zurishaddai at 1:52 PM on July 23, 2002


I think we are still talking past one another, Zurishaddai; consider as an analogy (I can't help myself) China. Lord knows I've got not an ounce of sympathy for China's belligerent and violent policies; however, it doesn't follow at all that discriminating against Chinese-Americans could be judged a realistic response to that feeling. Now substitute Israel for China and Arab Jews for Chinese-Americans; that's exactly the 'response' that the Arab states took against their own Jewish citizens. That's why tracing this back to Israel's policies or to some Zionist fringe is ultimately misleading and nonsensical; it was what was happening in their home countries that caused their exit.


The tragedy of it is that as Iraqis, Syrians, Lebanese, Lybians, etc. they could have been an important part of any rapprochement between their home states and Israel, but, as refugees and exiles from those lands, they cannot. Another missed opportunity.
posted by boaz at 9:40 PM on July 23, 2002


"Talking past" seems like it, all right. I don't think our disagreement is acute. I meant to clarify that I don't "trace back" everything to Israeli policies. If there is a wellspring, it is the brute fact of the creation of Israel and the irreconcilable claims to the land. I will confess I am an agitator for Israelis to try to develop a sense of responsibility about 1948. It would go a long way towards securing their own future, on many levels. And, frankly, I really don't think it is that reasonable to expect Palestinian Arabs to engage in an orgy of self-blame without that. I'm not trying to change the subject from the Arab nations--ultimately, peace with them is a trivial question compared to the existential depth of solving the puzzle of Israeli history and Israel's dream of legitimacy.

I do feel bound to say, once more, that this latest American:Chinese-American:China::Arab:Arabic-speaking Jew:Israel analogy is kind of weak. It doesn't do justice to Israel's own peculiar nature as a colonial project, with a colonial ideology (Zionism), rather than a "mother" country.

My whole point could really be summed up like this: I agree with you that the future of the region for Arabs and Jews alike would have been better served by strenuous efforts at toleration and social harmony between Arabs and the Jewish communities among them. (If you really study the record, you will see that there were significant moments where, out of whatever mixture of fear, self-interest, and principle, some Arab governments have tried to be strict about protecting their Jewish citizens.) But, I'd be very curious to know, if the Arab countries had all behaved perfectly in this regard, through everything, do you really see the ultimate outcome as all that different? IMHO, no, the emigration to Israel would still eventually, inevitably, have happened. Israel's demographic paranoia, self-preservation, colonial ideology--call it what you will. (Israel needs third-world Jews to come, and third-world people need the $$$, anyway.)

The tragedy of it is that as Iraqis, Syrians, Lebanese, Lybians, etc. they could have been an important part of any rapprochement between their home states and Israel, but, as refugees and exiles from those lands, they cannot. Another missed opportunity.

We certainly agree about that. Our inability to agree perfectly on how much weight to give to factors beyond the precipitating immediate reaction is probably a function of what makes for a tragic irony here. In any case, lamenting history is a pretty fruitless endeavor. I used to think it would be for a later Israeli generation to sort out history, but I am more pessimistic now. I think the big missed opportunity is Israel's opportunity to have clarity about its identity and future. The dysfunction in Israeli society and institutions, together with demographic changes, may worsen and break down first. Does historical sanity have to precede reconciliation, or vice versa? I don't know.
posted by Zurishaddai at 11:06 PM on July 23, 2002


I will confess I am an agitator for Israelis to try to develop a sense of responsibility about 1948. It would go a long way towards securing their own future, on many levels. And, frankly, I really don't think it is that reasonable to expect Palestinian Arabs to engage in an orgy of self-blame without that.

This is nothing more than the 'You First' school of political philosophy. Maybe we should consider whether it is more important that the Israelis have a 'sense of responsibility about 1948' or the Palestinians have a 'sense of responsibility for 1948'. The Palestinians were the ones after all who rejected the UN Partition Plan (and even the more modest Peel Partition Plan a decade earlier) and instead chose to wage a civil war. Historical sanity requires a sane history, Zurishaddai, not a Palestinian whitewash. Calling for Israeli responsibility about winning a war that the Palestinians started reeks of foolish intensity, not clearheaded insight. Perhaps if you could enumerate what form this 'sense of responsibility' would take...

I do feel bound to say, once more, that this latest American:Chinese-American:China::Arab:Arabic-speaking Jew:Israel analogy is kind of weak. It doesn't do justice to Israel's own peculiar nature as a colonial project, with a colonial ideology (Zionism), rather than a "mother" country.

This continuous refrain of Israeli exceptionalism is what I find weak; every country is different, in nature, history and ideology, yet that does not make them automatically incomparable. Why does anything at all about Israel affect what treatment Jews in other countries should expect to receive?

(Israel needs third-world Jews to come, and third-world people need the $$$, anyway.)

The Arab countries were nowhere nearly as firmly entrenched in the 3rd world in 1948 as they are now, nor was Israel nearly as wealthy then as it is today. I'm sure we each have our theories as to why that is, but it's a matter of historical record that the vast majority of Sephardic immigrants to Israel lived in desperate poverty in Israel during its early years.

lamenting history is a pretty fruitless endeavor.

Tell me if you still believe this when you wake up; this whole conversation seems to return to a lament of 1948 every time I turn the mic over. We both know the answer to our respective laments: Yes, it happened; No, it can not be undone; Maybe, peace is possible anyway.

The dysfunction in Israeli society and institutions, together with demographic changes, may worsen and break down first.

You know, most Arab countries would love to have institutions and society only as dysfunctional as Israel's. The Palestinians too, I suspect.
posted by boaz at 1:03 AM on July 24, 2002


rejected the UN Partition Plan (and even the more modest Peel Partition Plan a decade earlier)

It doesn't take a whitewash to see those rejections as reasonable. Israel has never been interested in any similar deal (analyzed for demographics of the land and who gets to be master of it).
posted by Zurishaddai at 12:53 PM on July 24, 2002


It doesn't take a whitewash to see those rejections as reasonable. Israel has never been interested in any similar deal (analyzed for demographics of the land and who gets to be master of it).

Could you clarify what you mean by that? The 'similar deal' line seems spurious, nothing more than issuing made-up proposals that are presumed to be rejected to cover up the lack of real rejected proposals. Surely in the judging of analogies, a partition plan that exists only in your head, and that was formed many, many years after the fact, can not be fairly compared to one proposed by the UN that was actually presented to the various sides at the time. Sane history please, Zurishaddai.
posted by boaz at 2:00 PM on July 24, 2002


Okay, boaz, what I mean is pretty simple. In the land as a whole west of the Jordan, we have ca. 1.2 million Arabs and 600,000 Palestinians. And Jews hold legal title to a lot less land than Palestinians in every administrative region. Please dispute these facts, or, if you accept them, explain how it was unreasonable for the Palestinians to regard as unreasonable what was offered with them (correlative: what was taken away from them) by the UN partition plan.

Yes, this is a boiled-down simple view of things. But there's a truth that counts for something there.

Yes, after decrying analogies, I went and concocted one. I'll flog myself for that. What I should have said was, that any reasonable people would have done the same. The rejection is hardly evidence for some kind of supposed innate intransigence of the Palestinians! That a likely acceptable peace settlement would give Palestinians today what seemed like a really insulting raw deal 50 years ago, well, that doesn't mean we can blame Palestinians for failing to foresee their forced eviction from their ancestral lands.

I feel like you're forcing me into arguing against Israel. My real disposition is, once we (and by extension, the parties, etc.) can agree on "sane history," we are ready to make a sane present that can be positive for Israel. Meanwhile, Israel has its own collective amnesia partly to blame for being mired in the negativity. (That's not to deny the reality of suicide bombs as a huge dose of the negative--spare me that interpretation--but as long as we have an amoral Israeli leadership that believes that "The fate of Netzarim is the fate of Tel Aviv," Israel is screwing itself. Israel has to be the rock of its own survival, and that's not ultimately going to be established by force of arms, but by moral force.)
posted by Zurishaddai at 11:02 PM on July 24, 2002


600,000 Palestinians

Of course, I meant to write, "600,000 Jews" (source: us-israel.org, as cited by you with approval).
posted by Zurishaddai at 11:04 PM on July 24, 2002


Okay, boaz, what I mean is pretty simple. In the land as a whole west of the Jordan, we have ca. 1.2 million Arabs and 600,000 Palestinians.

Sure, but how is this relevant exactly? Jews were a clear majority in the area partitioned to them. I agree it would have been unfair to create a Jewish state where a Palestinian majority lived or to have engineered a population transfer to make the numbers work, but that's not what the UN did at all. They allotted Jewish majority areas to Israel and Arab majority areas to Palestine within the limitations of creating merely a 6-square checkerboard of a partition rather than a 60,000-square checkerboard.

And Jews hold legal title to a lot less land than Palestinians in every administrative region.

Again, I don't see how this is relevant; owning land does not automatically translate into getting to decide what country it's part of. Besides, the vast majority of Israel's allotted land (~60-70%) was British public land, owned by neither Jews nor Arabs.

Please dispute these facts, or, if you accept them, explain how it was unreasonable for the Palestinians to regard as unreasonable what was offered with them (correlative: what was taken away from them) by the UN partition plan.

'unreasonable for the Palestinians to regard as unreasonable'? I can't read that without my brain hurting, much less argue it; maybe next we'll argue whether Israelis are unreasonable to think the Palestinians were unreasonable to think the UN plan was unreasonable. This is Metafilter after all. Maybe for some perspective, we should consider those Damascus Jews that were living in peace with their neighbors. These people :If you consider this a reasonable condition to live in peace, then yes, I think you must fairly consider the Palestinian attempt to destroy Israel, over a purely demographic argument, unreasonable.

The rejection is hardly evidence for some kind of supposed innate intransigence of the Palestinians!

If that had been the only one, you'd have a point, but they had already rejected the Peel Partition plan too, which provided an 80/20 land split in their favor, even though the population split at that point was only 70/30. I think if you couple the 2, a rejection of an obviously favorable proposal and then again of a less-favorable UN resolution, that's enough to prove their intransigence towards any creation of a Jewish state. Further, there were also a large number of lesser proposals, papers and committees that were unilaterally rejected by the Palestinians, such as the conferences with Syrian nationalist Riad al-Sulh, the British White Paper, etc.

That a likely acceptable peace settlement would give Palestinians today what seemed like a really insulting raw deal 50 years ago, well, that doesn't mean we can blame Palestinians for failing to foresee their forced eviction from their ancestral lands.

This seems like a perfect example of your earlier quote: "This discussion seems to provide an interesting microcosm of what makes most of these "I/P" arguments so incoherent. Everything is "systematic" and intentional, because viewed within artificially truncated units of time, reaction, cause and effect."

I must ask, you have pointed to Benny Morris' seminal work here, but have you actually read it? His book has become an iconic work in this enduring debate, much more discussed than read. The reason I ask is that your claim is no more supported by his work than the Israeli claim that they all left voluntarily. There's too much to it to summarize accurately, but no more than a small percentage truly suffered a "forced eviction from their ancestral lands."

I feel like you're forcing me into arguing against Israel.

I do not wish to force you into anything, but it is better that you argue against Israel than harboring unspoken assumptions against Israel. You can hardly be surprised that the discussion will take that course; after all, if you're going to use the fact of Israel's violent creation to justify all sorts of Arab acts both in Israel and abroad (which you clearly have done, your discomfort with it notwithstanding), then you can hardly expect the fact that the Palestinians caused that to go unmentioned. I haven't even brought up the Hebron Massacre of 1929, The Mufti of Jerusalem or the Riots of 1936[-1939] yet, so we've still got a ways to go if we're going to bring this back to true first causes. I think I will allow Benny Morris to close, since I doubt you dare to accuse him of amnesia:
I revealed to the Israelis the truth of what happened in 1948, the historic facts. But the Arabs are the ones who started the fighting, they started the shootings. So why should I take responsibility? The Arabs started the war, they are responsible.
posted by boaz at 3:57 PM on July 25, 2002


Thanks, Boaz.
posted by ParisParamus at 7:36 PM on July 25, 2002


Okay, boaz, I am trying to look at the trajectory of history and appreciate how both sides have moved and where an eventual reconciliation will be built from. That does mean making victims on both sides human. And yes, humanity does mean doing things that are "not unreasonable to regard as unreasonable." Sorry if that's too "meta"--but would you notice & credit for one second that it's also not claiming "unambiguously jolly dandy thing to do"? I love the way you dismiss it as "meta" and go on to change the subject to something not actually in dispute (Jews in Damascus). After your gratuitous accusation that I have justified phenomena I merely sought to render (historically and humanly) comprehensible, I learn that even if the later partitions were quasi-reasonable to refuse, the Palestinians apparently lost you way back in 1937 because their savage worldview didn't appreciate the necessity of the colonial wave of immigrants, the incorporation of ancient Galilean Arab villages into a "Jewish state," etc.

I'm sincerely glad you consider Benny Morris balanced, because so many (I hope they haven't read him) don't see that. I wouldn't cite him unless I thought his account was something two different sides could accept as the basis for an intelligent discussion.

I don't pretend to be the most persuasive or masterful person to talk about these things! Discussions like this are frustrating. If you heard a Palestinian saying what I'm saying at the negotiating table tomorrow, trying to have a conversation about history, I hope you would think it was a promising sign and not semi-sophisticated & disingenuous propaganda. Each side has to be able to put the other's story into its own mouth and start feeling comfortable with it. From an Israeli point of view, I appreciate that it is necessary for the Palestinians to make this leap of sympathetic capacity, but Israel can and must be responsible for its own moral foundation. This isn't the first time I'm saying that, and I guess I think it's as worthy of a response (even a nitpicking demonstration of why it's not the "truth" would be illuminating) as the rest.

My reading in recent days has been Jeremiah. I'm not trying to be melodramatic, it's just a coincidental fact. There are parts that give me great "discomfort" in the pit of my stomach. Maybe your and my ideas of a just outcome are even close (something like pre-1967 without a meaningful right for refugees to return to Israel?). If they are, then I think so much the worse for everything. Because my efforts at sounding reasonable aren't working for your ears, and our hypothetical ability to agree seems to count for little in actually talking.*

I'll hope it's just that neither of us was arguing much towards a conclusion, anyway. At least I was left curious what your insistence on going back and back to an Arab original sin would mean for us who live in this world today. Is that supposed to be the basis from which Palestinians arrive at the negotiating table choked up with remorse? That will never happen, plain and simple. I honestly believe that the myth of Arabs' being to blame for Israel's problematic present & future status in the world exists for only one purpose: to make compromise impossible. (I've tried, and apparently failed, to communicate the state of moral greyness on both sides that is undervalued in Israeli and U.S. discourse. I never heard a note of recognition of any moral difficuilty on Israel's side from you here. Perhaps justifiable as "corrections" to an extreme interlocutor? But I was not being all that provocative. So I'll give up here--you either think my anguish on behalf of Israel is fake or dangerously misplaced.)

* This really does tear at me. I know that real reconciliation is not possible without a tremendous effort to understand from both sides. But when history comes up, the stories prevent progress. Does this mean reconciliation is a further generation or two off?

A parting aphorism: Israelis, as I suggested, "developing a sense of responsibility about 1948," has nothing to do with assessing, limiting, or otherwise luxuriously dwelling on the reality of the deep and real subject of Palestinian responsibility for suffering and setback.
posted by Zurishaddai at 12:23 AM on July 26, 2002


P.S. I can't help responding to two specific claims of yours. On the first one, I'd sincerely welcome additional info:

Jews were a clear majority in the area partitioned to them
Point me to a really good region-by-region account of the demographics at that time. I have just looked at a 1950 UN document that indicates that only in the tiny Jaffa subdistrict were Jews a majority. I feel like I've seen a million versions of this. If you can show me reliable information about what other subregions had a majority Jewish population, I'd be very happy to have it for present and future reference. (It is never my intention to play fast and loose with knowable facts.)

forced eviction
Ah, that's the remarkable think about forced removal of people. You do it with resolve, and you get a much bigger effect than mere blood spilt or even rifles waved. I can't take seriously Zionist stories that suggest the Palestinians were suffering from some sort of unusual hysteria or had a devilish scheme whereby vacating their land was to their advantage. Why not? Very simple. Every documented case in history of a mass refugee situation is the same story. It's no less "forced" and no less "eviction" for that. If my characterization was too bold, your "small percentage" is not sound either. Moreover, I stand by what I said. My point wasn't to fix blame (I realize it came across as a side-swipe, but reread it, and you'll see I'm telling the truth). I was stating truly and accurately a factor in Palestinian perceptions and motivations to reach a two-state deal. The history of these perceptions and motivations shows two very human and comprehensible groups--Jews and Arabs--behaving as you'd expect humans to behave under the strain of circumstances. Watch yourself, so eager to rebut such modest claims as that the Palestinians don't have an "innate" intransigence! Where does it really leave you, to "prove" that Palestinians are insatiable and not innately as reasonable as anyone else? The resultant "jaded" and "realistic" view of how to be "strong" (leaving aside whether it's moral) is in truth a position of weakness and vulnerability.

P.S. Surely you are not ignorant of what a field day we could have dragging up 1940's Zionist leaders who did not mince words about taking land away from Arabs?!
posted by Zurishaddai at 1:02 AM on July 26, 2002


Re the first question: In any case, no one disputes that we're talking about an only half-Jewish "Jewish state." And historians like Morris say that Ben-Gurion was hostile to partition and wanted better.
posted by Zurishaddai at 1:09 AM on July 26, 2002


All this discussion really proves is how desperately the Palestinians need their own Benny Morris. Palestinian intransigence towards the creation of a Jewish state is a historical fact, Zurishaddai; if you're best attempt at helping my comprehension is to propose that the allocation of a single Arab village into a Jewish state rendered a proposal unfair, then you've just defined the level of your own intransigence. Why should I reject an Israeli myth only to pick up a Palestinian myth to replace it? 'Sane history' is a two-way street; you've driven all the way down it one way, so now it's time to drive a little the other way.
posted by boaz at 9:51 PM on July 26, 2002


Jeremiah 36:3
It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.
Is that the Jeremiah you refer to perhaps? There's something so perfectly fitting about invoking an ancient myth to justify a modern one.
posted by boaz at 9:52 PM on July 26, 2002


« Older The Birth of Superman....  |  Travelling can be expensive, b... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments