Israel: How did it get this bad?
February 6, 2001 11:06 AM   Subscribe

Israel: How did it get this bad?
...they are outraged by the Palestinians, not only for rejecting Mr Barak’s offer but for turning on Israelis with violence. “We gave them everything, and they shoot us,” is, crudely, the Israeli-in-the-street reaction. Disillusioned and bitter, Israelis are blinkered from any point of view but their own; they are blind to a Palestinian perspective.
posted by cell divide (28 comments total)
Before you tell us what the Israelis think en masse, perhaps you ought to explore what the Israeli left has been saying for some time now. Additionally, you might skim though some books by Tom Segev, who is a revisionist historian so in tune with much of what the Arabs say that his book is used by PLO, as he notes in one of his prefaces.
That said: what would be your attitude if 5 armeis attacked you any number of times with the announced purpose of destroying you, and in any subsequent possible peace arrangements, a number of extreme groups claim there will never be peace till Arabs control all the land, land given in partition by the League, the British Mandate, and the U.N., and which offer was turned down twice by the Palestinians.
But of course it is easy to be against a garrison state, made that way becuase of the constant threats against it.
For a view of what many in the Arab world want, check out WWW.Arabia. com and this is one of the more moderate sites.
Assuming you are American, what has your country taken from Mexico after a war and annexed, payinbg a pittance and telling the Mexicans to take it or not? and your American indians? The Brits and the French protected them; the newly formed nation pushed them ever westward till they could confine them on reservations (Hitler read this and formed concentration camps based on this). Your country now has troops in how many countries of the world?
And before letting us know about the Israel (jewish) lobby, even Ralph Nader, Lebanese, noted that there were many far larger; and Israel has just signed off (they offered) to stop taking foreign aid, except for military equipment, thus making Egypt our largest beneficiary of foreign aid.
The peace camp wantg4ed Barak, and he was very popular. Things have not worked out, as Abba Eban noted long ago: Arafat never misses an opportunity to miss an opportunity.
Sorry for the rant, but I know that you and many others want to unload on the only democracy in the area. By the way, see Feed on the article on the New Syrian loosening up under their new ruler, whose country still occupies Lebanon, and with some 35 thousand troops. Or does that occupation not count?
Show me an army that won that has given back territory without having a strategic reason or a peace accord. Why do you expect Israel to do it? (ps: spell checker not working. Sorry)
posted by Postroad at 11:52 AM on February 6, 2001

I'm not sure what that unintelligble screed is supposed to mean, or who exactly it was addressed to, but as the original poster I guess it was me?

You bring so many different factors into the equation with little rationality, so I'm not sure if it's appropriate to debate. But...

I think following International Law would be a good place to start. What is it about Israel that makes it above international law? And don't compare the crimes of Israel in the modern era to those of America in the 18th and 19th century-- while they are valid from a moral perspective, they are not in the political sense.

Actually I think you display your racism pretty boldly by declaring that the ultimate in revisionism is someone who dares to be 'in tune with the arabs'. So anyway maybe it's pointless to even discuss. I'm sorry I posted the link.
posted by cell divide at 12:08 PM on February 6, 2001

Fair enough. let us not argue. My "racism" is merely my pointing to an Isreali historian who is very sympathetic to the Arab plight, which you seem to feel is universally disregarded by all that not a form of racism?

As for international law---again, America is hardly in a postion to justify things by an appeal to this, and I could note that it was international law that created Israel but it is the arab bloc that has not allowed Israel to have a rightful place in rotation in the security council.
Without defending this or taht country, can you really not see how many times so many countries have gone their way, despite "international law"?
Sorry my emotion got the best of me and that I perhaps rambled on in a disorganized manner. Peace.
posted by Postroad at 12:46 PM on February 6, 2001

I'm sorry I posted the link.

No, don't be sorry. I'm glad you did post it. For me, it's important to read a variety of views on a particular topic. I don't often find articles that question Israel's POV.

Also, Hitler was highly influenced by the actions of the "young turks" during the early part of this century. This is, of course, referring to the massacre of over 1,000,000 Armenians by the Turks in 1917.
posted by doublehelix at 12:51 PM on February 6, 2001

Mr. Divide,

After reading both your initial post and your reply, I'm still not sure what position you are taking. Your statements are vague and fail to make any real arguments that we can discuss. However, it is quite obvious where your bias lays.

That being said, I was wondering, how is it that you know what the typical Israeli on the street thinks? Are you an Israeli?


posted by saturn5 at 12:53 PM on February 6, 2001

perhaps the confusion came from the fact that the text after the link was actually pullquotes, and not my personal spin. I thought the article actually made a good case for the Israeli left-wing position as it stands in theory, and I liked how it showed that in practice the committment to peace is lacking on both sides.

True, Israel was created by international law, but part of that was the creation of a neighboring arab state, which Israel has never allowed to happen.

My personal position, having made numerous trips to the region and having stayed with and met people literally on all sides of the issue is that Israel's refusal to allow a just peace to take hold will seal its downfall, not the other way around. The 1984 War-is-Peace dogma can only last for so long until the dam bursts.

posted by cell divide at 12:59 PM on February 6, 2001

I really don't have a dog in this fight (to use one of our colorful local collequialisms), but I can see Israel's viewpoint as well as the Palestinian's.

Personally, if I was living in a country surrounded by enemy states (countries which have called for the destruction of your country), I sure as hell wouldn't give up any more territory than I had to.

Territory allows you to buy time by retreating when the next attack comes. And if you look at a map of Israel, you'll see that giving back the West Bank results in seriously reducing the amount of territory Jordan must take to split Israel in half.

I've always believed that territory-for-peace plans were doomed because of this simple fact. Maybe the Golan Heights can go, but never the West Bank. Giving the land back is militarily insane for Israel and I really don't think it'll ever happen.

Since the Palestinians want their land back (entirely justifiable sentiment) and the Israelis are never going to give it back (again, entirely justifiable), I don't see a way out of the current dilemma unless you put the U.S. 1st Armored on the border.
posted by CRS at 1:03 PM on February 6, 2001

Why are we confusing a poster's opinion with America's actions? Isn't that just what you were arguing against (it truly is hard to tell).

Just because the US has made many many mistakes (whether through naiviety or cold calculation is an argument for another time), should not preclude arguments such the desirability of a country (any country) adhering to International Law.

I can denounce the US, China, Israel, etc., etc. in the same breath and be entirely justified. My citizenship in any of these places doesn't matter. If I think something is wrong, I will say so.
posted by trox at 1:09 PM on February 6, 2001

I often wonder how the israeli christians fit into all of this.
posted by doublehelix at 1:15 PM on February 6, 2001

Double: do you mean the estimated 1/5 of the over 1 million Russian emigrants who falesly claimed Jewish heritage and moved to Israel in the 1990s? Or do you mean the Palestinian Christians (some of whom were inside the lines drawn in 1948) and are now Israeli citizens?
posted by cell divide at 1:26 PM on February 6, 2001

cell, I'm not even sure! I know almost nothing of this population in Israel. I do wonder how they view the struggle between the Arabs israelis and the Jewish israelis and how they are affected. Are the Palestinian christians treated the same way as the non-christian Palestinians?
posted by doublehelix at 1:34 PM on February 6, 2001

At the very heart of all the death and suffering related to this issue you find a disagrrement over Religion. As an atheist I find that to be the saddest, most ironic, and most ridiculous thing of all.

That said, I have up until very recently been a staunch supporter of the Israeli point of view, if for no other reason than that they are our only ally in the region. However, I'm not so sure anymore. I understand that Israel sees the occupied territory as spoils of the war of '67. I understand they see that land as a buffer against invasion, but then why do they continually settle their own people in this buffer zone. That simply doesn't make any sense.

Also, if you see the Israelis presence as an occupation, which it seems even most Israeli's do, then the Palestinians have no choice but to fight. If there is an occupying force in your homeland you fight until you are dead or the occupier is driven off, no matter what nationality or religion you are (unless you're a Bhuddist e.g. Tibet).
posted by efullerton at 2:19 PM on February 6, 2001

At the very heart of all the death and suffering related to this issue you find a disagrrement over Religion. As an atheist I find that to be the saddest, most ironic, and most ridiculous thing of all.

I think that's exactly the problem as well.

I saw a very interesting music/film piece by Steve Reich a few years ago called "The Cave." It was based around filmed interviews with Israeli Jews, Palestinian Muslims, and Americans, asking them questions concerning the Biblical stories of Abraham, Isaac, and Sarah, and the cave which is believed to be their burial site. It's apparently the only site of worhip in Israel where both Jews and Muslims worship in the same place. What really, really struck me in it was the Jews and Arabs speaking about these Biblical characters - who as far as anyone knows are purely mythic and fictitious - as if they had just seen them last week. Describing their physical characeristics, manners and personalities. It's this hard and fast link of mythology and historical fact that needs to be grown out of before any peace can be had there.
posted by dnash at 2:37 PM on February 6, 2001

Lots of good stuff here! I am all for what Barak had wanted: get the settlments closed down. But the intifada continued and no settlement and now things likely to heat up. that said: the West Bank had "belonged" not to the Palestinians but tpo Jordan; the Gaza Strip, to Egypt. Those two countries made a peace with Israel and left that land rather than take in the Palestinians (Jordan took in many but will take in no more).
The Palestinians need and do deserve a homeland. But they need too, like the crazies in Israel, to accept a settlement that has been negotiated and both sides must agree to no more warfare and Israel's right to exist (the UN said this; the League said this; the Mandate said this).
Until such time, the mess continues.

posted by Postroad at 2:39 PM on February 6, 2001

If the occupying force in your homeland is an army, then fighting, physically confronting them might make sense.

When the "occupying force" is families, just trying to live their lives, and perhaps advocate for their own people, "fighting" them (by terroristic acts or outright assassination, most often) is not the way to gain friends and influence people to be swayed to the justice of your cause.
posted by Dreama at 2:39 PM on February 6, 2001

Lots of good stuff here! I am all for what Barak had wanted: get the settlments closed down. But the intifada continued and no settlement and now things likely to heat up

You are fundamentally wrong here-- for one thing, Barak has increased settlements more than even Netanyahu. This more than anything else is a slap in the Palestinian face, hence the escalating tensions and the intifada.

To say "but the intifada continued" as if it was in spite of, and not because of, Barak's settlement policy (again, he increased settlements) is to ignore the basic facts of the issue.

posted by cell divide at 2:47 PM on February 6, 2001

When the "occupying force" is families, just trying to live their lives...

I think that may be oversimplifying. The settlers come into the settlements knowing that it is a disputed area, if they choose to live there anyway then they are just as much an occupying force a formal armed presence.

It would be like India sending in settlers to Kashmir, and saying to Pakistan, "Oh by the way, the war is over because now we have families living on you land." What do you think Pakistan would have to say to that?
posted by efullerton at 3:01 PM on February 6, 2001

Also, if you see the Israelis presence as an occupation, which it seems even most Israeli's do, then the Palestinians have no choice but to fight.

Couldn't be more wrong here. The Palestinians and Israelies are 7-something years into a peace accord. Fighting is not and can never be an option during a peace agreement. Never.
posted by attitude at 3:23 PM on February 6, 2001

The Palestinians and Israelies are 7-something years into a peace accord. Fighting is not and can never be an option during a peace agreement. Never.

I was refering to the basis for the conflict in its entirety. Obviously there have been serious transgressions by both sides.
posted by efullerton at 4:05 PM on February 6, 2001

There was fighting there during the Crusades and there will still be fighting a thousand years from now, provided that one side doesn't completely butcher the other one. It doesn't matter which side you support or however you want to spin it. Peace in the Middle East is nothing but a pipe dream. That's what happens when religious factions refuse to get along.I propose we ban all organized religion immediately! :)
posted by Mr. skullhead at 7:18 PM on February 6, 2001

With the election of Sharon today, given his past and right-wing leanings, I think it's safe to assume that a lot more people are going to die before any kind of peace can happen.

The entire situation is entirely outside of my own reality. I don't think I can relate, or even imagine, what it is like to live there. I don't know enough of the history to have an informed opinion one way or the other. It does seem to me, however, that this is not a rational debate, but as a few others have mentionned, a debate founded in race and strongly-held religious beliefs. I can't see anyone backing down. I can't see anyone giving in. I can't see anyone walking away. I only see lots and lots of people, innocent people, dying.

I thank whatever gods there are that I was not born into that region of the world.
posted by Calebos at 9:16 PM on February 6, 2001

I second Mr.Skullhead's proposal.

Religion IS the reason that they will never get along in the middle east. This might be simplifying things a little, but religion is the root cause. Most of the conflicts throughout our history have been caused by religious differences, due to how fanatical people are about their faiths.

posted by Zool at 10:18 PM on February 6, 2001

...given his past and right-wing leanings, I think it's safe to assume that a lot more people are going to die before any kind of peace can happen.

Oh yeah. Things have been just peachy there lately under the left-wing Barak/Clinton plan. No deaths or nothing. And Arafat's such a liberal pacifist!
posted by aaron at 10:34 PM on February 6, 2001

Mr. skullhead: There was fighting there during the Crusades and there will still be fighting a thousand years from now

Actually there is hope that this won't go on for ever. Look at Nippur, the holiest city of the ancient middle-east. 6000 years of continuous history, now gone and long forgotten.
posted by lagado at 10:50 PM on February 6, 2001

I think you're in trouble anytime you're dealing with a nation whose population actually believes that they are "God's Chosen People". (A belief claimed in some sense by both Israelis and Palestinians.) Thinking of oneself as God's favorite flavor of human certainly provides lots of opportunities to rationalize some mighty inhuman acts. (Like firing rockets from your helicopter into crowds of rock-throwing protesters).

I'm not just picking on Israel here. The Palestinians haven't been acting very admirably either. But the fact is, the rocks and bottles that the Palestinians are throwing were not paid for with my tax money. The Israeli chopper was.

No wonder Palestinians are pissed at the U.S. We are giving support and aid to their sworn enemies. Why do we get so righteously indignant when U.S. interests are the target of "terrorism"? We call it terrorism, they call it fighting a war the only way that they can.

All of my life, I've unquestioningly accepted the pro-Israeli slant on practically every news story I've ever seen on the issue. Probably because I've been taught since Sunday School that Israelis were chosen by God, and my entire Christian upbringing was inextricable tied to the concept of Israel's inherent righteousness. Also because terrible things have happened to Jews throughout history, and I weep for the untold millions who have been persecuted for their beliefs, or for their race.

Lately, though, I've begun to see this conflict for what it is. A land war. Pure and simple. Two groups of people, with different beliefs and lifestyles, want the same chunk of dirt. Just like every other war in history. Every soldier in all of those previous wars believed that they were on the side of God and holiness, and mom and apple pie. Some were, some weren't, and I don't know anyone who is qualified to be the absolute judge, one way or the other.

Point is, if my tax money is going to purchase weapons that are used against a particular group of people, I want to be damn sure that there is a compelling reason that these people are being killed. I see no such reason in this case.
posted by Optamystic at 12:38 AM on February 7, 2001

My problem is with American involvement. At times it seems we're more interested in the Arab/Israeli conflict than our own (numerous) problems. There are many other global hotspots that deserve our attention as well.

They're always going to fight, nobody will ever agree. End US involvement.
posted by owillis at 12:56 AM on February 7, 2001

This has to be the most complex and confusing political issue that humanity faces, and the reason, I beleive, for the post and the outpouring of despair which will follow the election is that Israel elected an extremist nationalist politician.

Hopefully, in the same way that radical left-leaning politicians seem to move to the centre when they take office, Sharon will do the same.

The most applicable examples I have found is that

(US version) Israel elected their own Pat Buchanan
(UK version) Israel elected their own Ian Paisley

The world has suddenly become a bit more scary hasn't it.
posted by fullerine at 1:22 AM on February 7, 2001

I admit that I have no sympathy for the Israeli Nationalist-Fundamentalist position. I view the Israeli attitudes towards Palestinians as similar to those taken by European settlers towards the native Americans.
I do have an emotional bias in favor of the Palestinian cause, having met and become friends with a number of Palestinians and having heard their horror stories about life under Israeli occupation. Most of them BTW do not believe in destroying the state of Israel, but expect their lands back, a just peace, and respect for their rights.
A good background article on the situation can be found here, as well as in this Noam Chomsky article/lecture, which is an excellent and detailed (but long) analysis of the Palestinian issue in view of the latest developments .

posted by talos at 9:33 AM on February 7, 2001

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