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The Great Middle East Peace Process Scam
March 22, 2008 11:01 AM   Subscribe

"The Middle East peace process may well be the most spectacular deception in modern diplomatic history." Henry Siegman, the former executive director of the American Jewish Congress and more recently the director of the CFR's US/Middle East Project, argues in this essay from the London Review of Books that:
...all previous peace initiatives have got nowhere for a reason that neither Bush nor the EU has had the political courage to acknowledge. That reason is the consensus reached long ago by Israel’s decision-making elites that Israel will never allow the emergence of a Palestinian state which denies it effective military and economic control of the West Bank. To be sure, Israel would allow – indeed, it would insist on – the creation of a number of isolated enclaves that Palestinians could call a state, but only in order to prevent the creation of a binational state in which Palestinians would be the majority.
posted by bhouston (43 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Henry Siegman wrote another piece a few years ago that I've always thought was particularly good: In the Mideast, ask the right question. I'm interested to see what he has to say this time.
posted by Dasein at 11:14 AM on March 22, 2008


While it is clear that many of Israel's political leaders - prominently, Ariel Sharon - have rejected the idea of a Palestinian nation and have acted to destroy the Palestinian political entity, I think it is mistaken to deny that those Israeli leaders involved in the peace process - namely, Rabin and Barak - were acting in good faith towards a two-state solution.
posted by Sar HaPanim at 11:23 AM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


To be sure, Israel would allow – indeed, it would insist on – the creation of a number of isolated enclaves that Palestinians could call a state, but only in order to prevent the creation of a binational state in which Palestinians would be the majority.

Let's face one thing - if the end result was a democratic binational state in which Palestinians were the majority, the consequences would be ugly. Sharia law and oppression of the Jewish citizens in the country would be a given, and quite honestly, I'm not sure they wouldn't be peacefully and democratically voted into the gas chambers.

I don't think any solution in which one group has direct control over the other is a good idea at this point in time.
posted by Mitrovarr at 11:31 AM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


It should also be noted with regard to the "Bantustan" analogy that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank began with an "open door" policy in which inhabitants could freely cross over into Jordan and Israel proper. The construction of checkpoints, fences, etc. arose in response to terror attacks - and particularly the second Intifada - which were often associated with Palestinian organizations whose goal was not the ending of the occupation beginning in 1967 but rather the total destruction of Israel.
posted by Sar HaPanim at 11:38 AM on March 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


Brilliant article - thank you for posting this.

...its systematic confiscation of Palestinian land and an occupation whose goal, according to the former IDF chief of staff Moshe Ya’alon, is ‘to sear deep into the consciousness of Palestinians that they are a defeated people’.

The catch-22 for Israel seems to be - "How can we continue to utilize the resources the West Bank provides (i.e. land and water) without providing citizenship to its residents?" The solution is this ongoing failed peace process. An unoccupied West Bank would be too costly to Israel - they need the water and the territory for settlements - but offering any kind of citizenship or rights to the Palestinians would immediately overturn the current majority in Israel. It's an impossible situation for Israel.

Also - I'm overjoyed to see someone finally recognize the token nature of the Gaza withdrawals - settlements that only represented 2% of the total illegal housing Israel has constructed over the past 15 years.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:38 AM on March 22, 2008 [6 favorites]


Mitrovarr - Sharia law and oppression of the Jewish citizens in the country would be a given.

Talk about begging the question.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 11:43 AM on March 22, 2008 [9 favorites]


It's only a lie. A deception is when you fool people.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 11:44 AM on March 22, 2008 [3 favorites]


Mitrovarr wrote: "Let's face one thing - if the end result was a democratic binational state in which Palestinians were the majority, the consequences would be ugly. Sharia law and oppression of the Jewish citizens in the country would be a given, and quite honestly, I'm not sure they wouldn't be peacefully and democratically voted into the gas chambers."

Good fact free fear mongering Mitrovarr. The Palestinian leadership has long been secular or Marxist, only recently has HAMAS (whose rise to power was significantly aided by Israel) gained a foothold as a result of the inability of the more secular leadership to deliver (although HAMAS will prove equally unable to deliver as time passes.) The Arab citizens of Israel currently do get along quite well with the Jewish population and are significantly less inclined towards radical Islam which indicates that their not being segregated and being given an effective political voice helps both groups to co-exist peacefully.

In South Africa, there were fears of a "white genocide" if the white lost absolute power too. It was a useful fear to spread as it made practical thinkers believe it was necessary for self-preservation to continue the oppression of the black South Africans. I suspect that this similar fear that you expressed has similar usefulness in this context.
posted by bhouston at 11:45 AM on March 22, 2008 [5 favorites]


Baby_Balrog gets a point for (all too rare) correct use of begging the question.
posted by Araucaria at 11:58 AM on March 22, 2008 [4 favorites]


In South Africa, there were fears of a "white genocide" if the white lost absolute power too.

I have significant problems with Israeli policy. But I think any reasonable person should grant that, just maybe, the Jewish people will be more legitimately fearful of genocidal intent than white people of European ancestry. When is the last time half the world population of, say, Frenchmen were systematically butchered?
posted by Justinian at 12:05 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


bhouston: In South Africa, there were fears of a "white genocide" if the white lost absolute power too. It was a useful fear to spread as it made practical thinkers believe it was necessary for self-preservation to continue the oppression of the black South Africans. I suspect that this similar fear that you expressed has similar usefulness in this context.

The South African situation had different dynamics and a history consisting of more peaceful protest and less terrorist action, nor did their neighboring countries repeatedly try to destroy them on the behalf of their oppressed populations.

Nevertheless, I do not support the permanent presence of an occupied state - I just tend to favor a two-state solution. That way, both countries can have self-determination the way they want it. Maybe some occupied territories could be withdrew from and combined with some territorial concessions on the Israeli side, in return to having some occupied territories being ceded to them. I do think the Palestinian country has to be contiguous for their self-rule to be real.
posted by Mitrovarr at 12:19 PM on March 22, 2008


I think it's the height of silliness to pretend that the Jewish people of Israel are in any danger of extermination any time soon.
posted by Baby_Balrog at 12:20 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


I can't recall the author, but someone here on MeFi pointed this out and it stuck with me. Israel has three choices:

1. Be a Jewish State.
2. Be a Democracy.
3. Keep the territories.

Pick two.
posted by mullingitover at 12:24 PM on March 22, 2008 [17 favorites]


there's two other lies, or (self-)deceptions involved here

one is the old justification that israel needs "defensible borders" - the rocket attacks from lebenon and gaza have pretty much eliminated that possibility

two is the idea that the palestinians have to negotiate anything - no, time and demographics are on their side - eventually they will have the arms and the ability to use them

the establishment of israel is on a par with the establishment of the crusader states - theocentric, undermanned and ultimately doomed
posted by pyramid termite at 1:02 PM on March 22, 2008


pyramid termite wrote "two is the idea that the palestinians have to negotiate anything - no, time and demographics are on their side - eventually they will have the arms and the ability to use them."

You are right and wrong in the same statement. You are right that the Palestinians just have to wait out Israel if there isn't going to be a viable two-state solution because demographics are on their side. But you are wrong that access to arms will provide any advantage -- in fact armed uprising is likely only to justify increasing harsh responses. Patience + demographics + peaceful demonstration = international pressure towards a binational state. It's getting closer all the time.
posted by bhouston at 1:06 PM on March 22, 2008


I remember reading this leaked report by the UN envoy for the Middle east peace process, Alvaro de Soto. The man was jaded.
posted by Tobu at 1:07 PM on March 22, 2008 [2 favorites]


Patience + demographics + peaceful demonstration = international pressure towards a binational state. It's getting closer all the time.

Absolutely. Every suicide bomber takes them farther away from this realization.
posted by tkchrist at 1:48 PM on March 22, 2008


tkchrist writes: "Absolutely. Every suicide bomber takes them farther away from this realization."

Which leads us to the perverse situation that true calm in the Palestinian territories is more dangerous to Israel than a low level of manageable violence.
posted by bhouston at 1:56 PM on March 22, 2008


bhouston writes "Which leads us to the perverse situation that true calm in the Palestinian territories is more dangerous to Israel those with a vested interest in never-ending violence than a low level of manageable violence."

ftfy
posted by mullingitover at 1:58 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


If peace broke out in the middle east how would the US government get taxpayers to buy jets for Israel for 2 Billion a year?
posted by srboisvert at 3:01 PM on March 22, 2008


Which leads us to the perverse situation that true calm in the Palestinian territories is more dangerous to Israel than a low level of manageable violence.

No shit. I pity the Palestinian leader who is successful in popularizing a non-violence movement. He/she will not live long.
posted by tkchrist at 3:32 PM on March 22, 2008


Why is it that when I first look at where an article gets published I can pretty much tell you piror to reading what stance it will take? The NY Rev of Books, which I have been getting since it began so many years ago, is famous for getting writers who are Jewiash to badmouth Israel time after time. The London Rev, a fine paper in general, is similar.

I suspect that the "Israel elites" are not mentioned by name fora reason, but when has Hamas shown that it is willing to begin negotiations for a Palestinian state by recognizing Israel's right to exist? After all, it is in negotiations that we determine who is and is not willing to do this or that, and not by judging in advance.
posted by Postroad at 3:56 PM on March 22, 2008


Maybe when Israel stops expanding illegally.
posted by tarvuz at 4:01 PM on March 22, 2008 [3 favorites]


Postroad wrote: "I suspect that the 'Israel elites' are not mentioned by name fora reason, but when has Hamas shown that it is willing to begin negotiations for a Palestinian state by recognizing Israel's right to exist? After all, it is in negotiations that we determine who is and is not willing to do this or that, and not by judging in advance."

You obviously didn't read the article, not even the first two paragraphs before typing in your response above. Siegman writes in the article that Hamas is part of the problem and needs to be overcome and describes why the current attempts by Olmert and Bush are merely going to reinforce Hamas rather than strengthen Abbas. Siegman seems to care about Israel's future and isn't writing with the simple intention to badmouth it, but of course you wouldn't know that because you didn't even open the article to read it. Talk about "judging in advance."
posted by bhouston at 4:28 PM on March 22, 2008


This map pretty much says it all, IMO. Israel needs to exist — but what it has done this past few decades is wrong.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:21 PM on March 22, 2008 [3 favorites]


five fresh fish: I don't think it can be overlooked that the map went from the third picture to the fourth picture because everybody surrounding the Israelis invaded them, and the Israelis declined to roll over and die quietly.

Like I said, I have significant problems with Israeli policy, but unlike the USA and Bush's War on Terra, Israel really and truly has faced existential threats repeatedly over the past half century and still faces them today.
posted by Justinian at 6:56 PM on March 22, 2008 [1 favorite]


And having not overlooked that, what? The Palestinians are being royally fucked over. Hell, half the Palestinian deaths this past decade have been civilians caught in the crossfire. Hamas sucks the devil's balls, but the Israeli pro-war politicians are tickling his asshole.

Not that it makes any difference, IMO. There's been a solid sixty years of this bullshit. One or two generations have been raised to blindly, murderously hate the opposition. They're all fucked in the head, sociopathic toward one another. There's not an iota of hope that they're going to come to peace without wholly extinguishing one or the other group.

Palestinians are a doomed species.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:43 PM on March 22, 2008


bhouston: You obviously didn't read the article, not even the first two paragraphs before typing in your response above. Siegman writes in the article that Hamas is part of the problem and needs to be overcome and describes why the current attempts by Olmert and Bush are merely going to reinforce Hamas rather than strengthen Abbas.

It seems to me that, on the contrary, Siegman is justifying Hamas's rejectionist position and mocking Fatah's participation in the peace process and Abbas's attempt to negotiate with the Israelis.

From the second paragraph: "Palestinian moderates will never prevail over those considered extremists, since what defines moderation for Olmert is Palestinian acquiescence in Israel’s dismemberment of Palestinian territory. In the end, what Olmert and his government are prepared to offer Palestinians will be rejected by Abbas no less than by Hamas, and will only confirm to Palestinians the futility of Abbas’s moderation and justify its rejection by Hamas."

Siegman later argues that even the land acquired by Israel in 1948/49 was illegitimately obtained: In the course of a war launched by Arab countries that sought to prevent the implementation of the UN partition resolution, Israel enlarged its territory by 50 per cent. If it is illegal to acquire territory as a result of war, then the question now cannot conceivably be how much additional Palestinian territory Israel may confiscate, but rather how much of the territory it acquired in the course of the war of 1948 it is allowed to retain. At the very least, if ‘adjustments’ are to be made to the 1949 armistice line, these should be made on Israel’s side of that line, not the Palestinians’.

This, again, demonstrates Siegman's sympathy for Hamas's rejectionist stance. In doing so, he seems to ignore the fact that the borders of most modern states were determined through war.
posted by Sar HaPanim at 8:21 PM on March 22, 2008


Sar HaPanim wrote: "This, again, demonstrates Siegman's sympathy for Hamas's rejectionist stance. In doing so, he seems to ignore the fact that the borders of most modern states were determined through war."

I'm all for Israel annexing the West Bank, just give the Palestinians inhabitants there a right to vote as Israel is a modern Western "democracy" right? Oh wait, I remember, Israel just wants the land not the people because they aren't Jewish... yeah that complicates things.
posted by bhouston at 8:43 PM on March 22, 2008


As I see it, Siegerman's argument contains two major flaws: (1) ascribing a longstanding consensus to Israel's leadership in favor of the establishment of settlements and of Israeli sovereignty over the territories occupied in 1967; and (2) dismissing the role played by the Palestinians and Arab states in preventing a peaceful settlement of the conflict.

The views Siegerman ascribes to the Israeli elite are those of the right: Jabotinski, Begin, Dayan, and Sharon. Admittedly, these men were clearly in favor of the "Whole Land of Israel" project involving the suppression and expulsion of Arabs living in the historic land of Palestine and the establishment of Israeli settlements and sovereignty in this land. Their views, however, do not describe all of Israeli political thought.

In fact, up until the war in 1973, Begin and his Herut party (which later became part of the Likud coalition) were marginalized within the Israeli political system, which was dominated by Ben Gurion's Mapai and later the Labor party. Immediately following 1967, the consensus within Israel's political leadership (then under Prime Minister Eshkol) was that all territories obtained in the war would be returned to Arab sovereignty in exchange for recognition and peace. A precedent for this idea existed in the return of the Sinai to Egypt after Israel had conquered it in the 1959 war over the Suez canal, and it was borne out again when the Sinai was again returned to Egypt in 1982 following the 1979 peace accords. The first attempts at establishing settlements in the West Bank by religious-zionist youth in the years following the 1967 war were repeatedly squelched by the Israeli Defense Forces.

In the face of continued rejection of her existence by all Arab states until 1979, by the Palestinian leadership until 1993, and by a very large portion of Palestinians and other Arabs to this day; in the face of the 1973 war in which her very existence was once again threatened by her neighbors; in the face of two intifadas and constant low-level attacks in which Palestinians with and without Israeli citizenship murdered her civilians for no discernible purpose; and in the face of the Palestinians' continuing failure to assemble a functioning government, Israel's political stance has shifted joltingly over the years to a resigned acceptance of the settlements and the various instruments of repression employed by the IDF in the occupied territories.

To ignore this transition in Israeli political thought and its cause in Arab rejectionism, as Siegerman seems to be doing in this piece, is to be an ideologue blind to the nuances of history.
posted by Sar HaPanim at 9:50 PM on March 22, 2008 [3 favorites]


Sar HaPanim, if Israel wants to continue down the path of making a two-state solution impossible, then there will be a one-state solution. Siegeman realizes this and thus pleas for a two-state solution to preserve what he views as Israel. Everyone who can pull themselves out of the moment can see this. If Israel doesn't get a two-state solution, it can only survive as a reincarnation of South Africa apartheid for so long, and it doesn't matter who you blame. You are completely, and I think purposely, missing the big picture here.
posted by bhouston at 10:09 PM on March 22, 2008


It bears repeating that anyone who argues for a one-state solution is either a dangerously naive idiot or a malicious, bloodthirsty idiot. Thrusting two factions who hate each other violently into a single nation with a single government is a foolproof recipe for civil war. Following the conclusion of the war, the survivors will re-segregate.
posted by Krrrlson at 12:16 AM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Mitrovarr: "To be sure, Israel would allow – indeed, it would insist on – the creation of a number of isolated enclaves that Palestinians could call a state, but only in order to prevent the creation of a binational state in which Palestinians would be the majority.

Let's face one thing - if the end result was a democratic binational state in which Palestinians were the majority, the consequences would be ugly. Sharia law and oppression of the Jewish citizens in the country would be a given, and quite honestly, I'm not sure they wouldn't be peacefully and democratically voted into the gas chambers.

I don't think any solution in which one group has direct control over the other is a good idea at this point in time.
"

Absolutely right, "suppositions" gives you the right to commit a genocide.

"Hey maybe we created the biggest prison in the World, where a whole people lives in fear and daily humiliation, but if we give them their rights, they'll try to kill us." "Oh, they"ll do it?" "Of course, these people don't know anything else than violence, it's in their genes!" "OK then, keep going, peace will sure ensue."
posted by zouhair at 2:12 AM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


It always blows me away how good Americans are at discussing Israel and Palestine outside of the US congress, the White House and the Pentagon.

How can there be such discussion and diversity that your politicians fail to reflect?
posted by sien at 3:30 AM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


five fresh fish: I don't think it can be overlooked that the map went from the third picture to the fourth picture because everybody surrounding the Israelis invaded them, and the Israelis declined to roll over and die quietly.

And then kept that land illegally. And then pushed its own settlements into all the good places within that land. The people that lived there before Israel pushed them out have reason to be really pissed off.

There are reasonably solutions to be had. Unreasonable people in positions of power refuse to have them.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:43 AM on March 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Krrrlson wrote: "It bears repeating that anyone who argues for a one-state solution is either a dangerously naive idiot or a malicious, bloodthirsty idiot. Thrusting two factions who hate each other violently into a single nation with a single government is a foolproof recipe for civil war. Following the conclusion of the war, the survivors will re-segregate."

There are already many Israeli Arabs who get along great inside Israel. Giving people rights and freedoms and equality goes a long way towards peaceful coexistance. Many whites in Apartheid South Africa spread the fear of a white genocide if the blacks were ever given equal rights, that fear never materialized but it was very useful in creating resistance to the movement to stop the oppression of the blacks. Fear is a useful tool to justify oppression and the continuation of two-tiered systems of rights.
posted by bhouston at 9:12 AM on March 23, 2008


There are already many Israeli Arabs who get along great inside Israel.

Sort of like the one who gunned down all those Yeshiva students recently, and those who tried to kill a couple of municipal inspectors? Now let's add a bunch of angry and desperate residents of Gaza and the West Bank into the mix, many led by people who are still sworn to the destruction of Israel.

Many whites in Apartheid South Africa spread the fear of a white genocide if the blacks were ever given equal rights, that fear never materialized but it was very useful in creating resistance to the movement to stop the oppression of the blacks.

Nice job on perpetuating the laughably faulty South African analogy, where, as we all know, whites were subjected to sixty years of bloody invasions by neighbouring black countries and terrorist attacks by local blacks. This likely puts you in the dangerously naive idiot territory, which, I admit, is better than the other alternative.
posted by Krrrlson at 10:59 AM on March 23, 2008


Krrrlson wrote: "Sort of like the one who gunned down all those Yeshiva students recently, and those who tried to kill a couple of municipal inspectors? Now let's add a bunch of angry and desperate residents of Gaza and the West Bank into the mix, many led by people who are still sworn to the destruction of Israel."

This is where your mistake is incredibly clear. If you move properly towards a binational state, you won't have "angry and desparate residents of Gaza and the West Bank," it is the current situation with oppression and a lack of rights that fuels the anger. But, I suspect that you purposely try to avoid cause and effect style thinking as it can cramp your style. You should take a cue from Peterus and the Anbar awakening, it was Peterus' ability to elevate himself above the current Israeli-style thinking that produced those results.

Krrlson wrote: Nice job on perpetuating the laughably faulty South African analogy, where, as we all know, whites were subjected to sixty years of bloody invasions by neighbouring black countries and terrorist attacks by local blacks. This likely puts you in the dangerously naive idiot territory, which, I admit, is better than the other alternative.

I love your misplaced self-confidence, it is really funny. You do realize that there were invasions of neighboring countries and many cross border raid as well as lots of attacks from the internal black population. I think you were trying to be sarcastic, but your lack of knowledge of the SA situation sort of blew apart that attempt.

Here are some links:

Cross-Border Attacks on the Frontline States

Car bomb in South Africa kills 16

Internal resistance to the apartheid system in South Africa came from several sectors of society and saw the creation of organisations dedicated variously to peaceful protests, passive resistance and armed insurrection.

No analogy will be perfect, but there are clear similarities, especially in the way both communities talk to each other about the necessity of perpetuating the defensive situation.
posted by bhouston at 12:08 PM on March 23, 2008


How can there be such discussion and diversity that your politicians fail to reflect?

Because our politicians reflect narrow interests, not the diversity of the population.
posted by Rykey at 12:54 PM on March 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


And then kept that land illegally.

wah! we invaded them with the intention of wiping them off the face of the earth but they kicked our fucking asses to hell and back and now they won't put everything back the way it was before we invaded. it's just not fair! wah! wah!
posted by quonsar at 8:41 PM on March 23, 2008


I'm afraid I'm going to have to agree with Quonsar on this one. You start an aggressive war and you've got no business complaining that your opponent is occupying some of your land once you get your butt kicked.
posted by Justinian at 11:40 PM on March 23, 2008


Justinian wrote: "I'm afraid I'm going to have to agree with Quonsar on this one. You start an aggressive war and you've got no business complaining that your opponent is occupying some of your land once you get your butt kicked."

Then annex the land and give the inhabitants voting rights.
posted by bhouston at 6:18 PM on March 24, 2008


quonsar writes "wah! we invaded them with the intention of wiping them off the face of the earth but they kicked our fucking asses to hell and back and now they won't put everything back the way it was before we invaded. it's just not fair! wah! wah!"

Most of the people living in the territories had nothing to do with the war, they made the mistake of coming out of the wrong vagina. But you know, fine, we're holding descendants responsible for the crimes of their ancestors. Glad you're ok with holding the jews responsible for killin' our jeebus.
posted by mullingitover at 11:08 AM on March 25, 2008


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