Mideast Myths Exploded.
August 21, 2001 8:12 PM   Subscribe

Mideast Myths Exploded. It's becoming clear who wants peace and who wants unending killing.
posted by semmi (80 comments total)
"becoming clear"?

after a couple of thousand years of killing each other aimlessly, I think the situation between these unfortunate peoples today is regrettably anything but clear
posted by lairdj at 8:19 PM on August 21, 2001

An editorial in the Post finally clears it up! Whew. Glad it's all straightened out.
posted by bcwinters at 8:25 PM on August 21, 2001

I love the way everyone ignores that Sharon ignited the flames of a Jihad, toppled any hope for peace, and signed the death certificates of untold Israeli and Palestinian civilians to gain a slight political edge.

Sometimes, I'm embarassed to be Jewish.
posted by Ptrin at 8:46 PM on August 21, 2001

Semmi: you're wasting your time trying to convince many people that the Israelis aren't evil and/or the ones getting screwed by the Arabs living in the West Bank and Gaza (not to be confused with "Palestinians", of which there are none). Don't even bother here: it's not the place. You will be flamed. Eternally.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:48 PM on August 21, 2001

Ptrin: spend your time instead being embarassed that you're ill-informed.
posted by ParisParamus at 8:51 PM on August 21, 2001

Nice line; care to enlighten me?
posted by Ptrin at 8:52 PM on August 21, 2001

No, actually, I'm not rolling over that easily.

I'm embarassed by the complete mush the Reform movement has adopted as its cause.

I'm embarassed by the hesitant attitude taken towards gender equality by the Conservative movement.

I'm embarassed by the self-effacing excessiveness the Orthodoxy bathes in.

I'm embarassed that even as people reenter Christianity with renewed vigor, they are leaving Judaism in droves (that includes myself, btw).

I'm embarassed by the incrementalism Israel uses against terrorists, trading police stations for tourists, rocket attacks for bus bombs.

And finally, I'm embarassed that everyone knew that Sharon's move would be the end of peace, and that no one tried to stop him.

Now, please improve my information.
posted by Ptrin at 9:00 PM on August 21, 2001

Nice line; care to enlighten me?

Not here, for the reasons stated above. E-mail me if you like.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:01 PM on August 21, 2001

One sad/interesting aspect of this newest conflict which has been largely ignored is that the stability of both sides needed this.

Israel has been on the brink of an internal power struggle for years. The conservative-orthodox (Israel's "religious right") have been on track to assume the political majority and non-religious Israelis are not thrilled about this.

Yasser Ararfat's grip on power has also been slipping for years. Other groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad probably have more say in Palestinian affairs than Arafat, despite minimal news coverage. Hamas' grip on the Palestinian mindset can be seen in every photo of a Palestinian gathering. Those green flags are Hamas, not the Palestinian authority.

Arafat and Sharon have been at war for their entire adult lives. Both know how to survive, in life and in power. By bringing a new wave of ethnic/religious violence both men have galvanized their respective sides and quelled political infighting. At least temporarily.

Violence may or may not be the status quo, but violence will preserve the status quo.
posted by joemaller at 9:16 PM on August 21, 2001

Say, Paris, that's some wonderful smugness coming off you! Care to explain why? And no, email won't do: you speak in public, be prepared to back up your words in public.
posted by solistrato at 9:20 PM on August 21, 2001

The facts are indisputable. One: The Palestinians are the aggressor; they started the conflict, and they purposely drive it forward with fresh killing on almost a daily basis.

*nose coke*
posted by obiwanwasabi at 9:27 PM on August 21, 2001

One doesn't need to be a full-tilt anti-Zionist to see that the view of the Middle East Kelly sees is one manufactured by a news media comfortable with its facile narrative story hooks:

For out in the Middle East, more and more journalists, each with their local reporting experience, their "training", their journalism schools – the American version being even more banal than the English ones – are using clichés and tired adjectives to obscure reality. Turn on your television tonight or read tomorrow's agency reports and we are told of the "cycle of violence" – no side taken there – of "clashes" (in which the identities of victim and killer are obscured) or of "the fears of Israeli security chiefs". Note how the word "security" is always linked to the word "Israel". And how "chiefs" has made the grade from Blyth to Palestine. And just as the police chief in Blyth would tip us off on a story, so Israelis – to a much lesser extent Palestinians – tip us off on stories. No one wants to rock the boat, to be controversial. Why write about the Blyth staithes if we're going to carry a Coal Board denial? Why write about the outrageous nature of Israel's killing of stone-throwing children if we're going to get outraged letters to the editor?

Much better to stick to clichés. Arab "terrorists" threaten Israel. Israeli "security chiefs" warn Arafat. Can Arafat "control" his own people, we asked when the Israelis asked the same question. Yet when a Jewish settlers' group killed two Palestinian civilian men and a baby, we did not ask if Sharon could "control" his own people. Since the Palestinians had not asked that question, we did not ask it. We were silent that time round. Over five days in the North-east and on the long drive back to London, I listened to the radio news. Two Israelis had been killed by a Palestinian suicide bomber at Binyamina. The Israelis "struck back" at the Palestinians, killing four guerrillas in a "targeted" killing. "Targeted" was Israel's word. In other words, death squads. But that wasn't what the BBC said. When the Israeli settlers murdered the three Palestinians – including the baby – the Israeli police were reported as "narrowing their search" for the killers.

Emphasis mine. From an excellent Robert Fisk self-examination of his growth as a journalist.

The sad thing is I agree more with joemaller's analysis. This is as much about two old men straining to hold political power as it is about the struggle over settlements or holy sites. I'll gank another link from Jorn to demonstrate the non-military reasons that Israel is in the West Bank: settlements and access roads that surround dozens of Palestinian cantons like the Berlin Wall, and control of the aquifer. Has the intifada been deadly to Israeli civilians? Yes, but also to Israeli troops (attacks on troops, even, are treated in the Western media as terrorist incidents). But much more so to Palestinians. You won't see that on your op-ed page, very often.
posted by dhartung at 10:07 PM on August 21, 2001

ALL of the violence makes me sick but the israeli tendency to claim "bulldozers are not instruments of violence" or, more recently "assassination is not like terrorism" that really irks me. israelis might feel like their government is defending them with sanctioned killings and undeclared war carried out under dark of night. white south africans probably felt similarly when their government was struggling to keep the shit from hitting the fan in the 80s. both governments had different pretexts for violence, but the same actual motive: we will NOT share the land. such policy is so wretchedly wrong-headed (as is the article this posting links to) and serves only to fan the flames (as does the article this posting links to).
posted by subpixel at 10:19 PM on August 21, 2001

Paris, just to clarify: was this beauty wishing that Arafat had been murdered and conceding that maybe the Palestinians could get "their own little state" someday, actually your attempt at explaining the Israeli position? I'm shocked that such an even, non-biased comment would land you with so many flames. The massive Palestinian lobby has obviously gotten to this otherwise intelligent community...
posted by buddha9090 at 10:32 PM on August 21, 2001

I would like in my life time to know that peace is possible between the Palestine Arabs and the Israelites. What do we as a world need to understand, what lesson are we learning, what do we fail at so that peace is unattainable?
posted by ericrolph at 11:42 PM on August 21, 2001

Wow. I know this is an editorial piece, but is that kind of thing normal in the Washington Post? Is it a guest piece or the standard line? Is it typical of US coverage?

On a separate topic, does anyone have any pointer of where to donate if you want to support Palestinian causes?
posted by andrew cooke at 12:28 AM on August 22, 2001

what a headline. it's not news in american news that the
jewish state is oppressed. i was hoping this was a counterpoint article. what a bore.

but the answer to your weary question, ericrolph, is people have patriotism, or nationalism, or the religious equivelent(s). it's a beautiful thing to have faith in something large and worth while, that's patriotism; but not in insecurity in the face of peers, that's nationalism. only strife and war and violence are noted as formal history. then there's the moral aid and stuff, but mostly it's violence. and if that's all there is, killing for no reason, then civilization should go down in flames. but you're talking about people who love their own people (at least they started out loving their own people, some of them anyway...) it's driven by hate, of course. our failure, as you put it, is that we as individuals are all capable of love, blind following, and hate. we as a world don't understand/learn anything (at least not quickly unless aided by radiation,) we're not an ant colony; people as individuals can understand what we are, though, what's right to each of us. a palestinian who understands that each israeli citizen is a human just like him/her, can choose to not kill them despite of what the powers that be would have them believe is the majority of palestinians are doing. same goes for an isreali.

a country is a plod of land, yes, but palestinian people are real even if there's palestinian land, parisparamus. they're not syrians and they're not jordanians or kuwaitis...; by saying what you said, you come off like: why bother distinguishing the middle eastern countries? they're all just arabs. i think you know you've written with too hot a head and people here are provoking you for it, which helps. (<-- sarcasm)
shit, i wrote too much.
posted by elle at 12:54 AM on August 22, 2001

dhartung: as I said elsewhere online, I don't know enough about Israeli domestic politics to know if there's a generation beneath that of Sharon (or even Netanyahu) which isn't culturally acclimatised to either fighting for independence or serving on street patrols. I'm guessing that there must be, dating from when things shifted to Lebanon in the late 70s, and my hope is that there's an opportunity there, among politicians in their forties, to redefine the terms of the conflict.

Private Eye got the general tone right, when it described the two sides as "Smite 'Em" and "Smite 'Em Harder". Not that any of this changes the media blight.

In the meantime, the Ottoman Empire's uneasy dissolution continues.
posted by holgate at 1:48 AM on August 22, 2001

Kind of off-topic but interesting I think...there is a good book called "Gideon's Spies". It is about the Israeli intelligence organizations and the power and influence they hold over the West. After reading this book I now see newspaper articles and U.S. policy decisions in a different light.
posted by Stretch at 5:03 AM on August 22, 2001

It's pretty futile (you least for you) if you think Kelly's piece is such a distortion of reality. The word is that it would take about a week to erase the PA. Hope Israel goes for it.
posted by ParisParamus at 5:06 AM on August 22, 2001

Paris. May I direct you to your Metafilter description? You used the contemporary English language maxim:


What exactly does "peace" mean, in the definition used in your "What's the deal with your nickname. . ." bit?

What precisely does "peace" stand for in talk like this?:

The word is that it would take about a week to erase the PA. Hope Israel goes for it.

posted by crasspastor at 5:25 AM on August 22, 2001

Peace means peace. And as long as the despotic PA promotes terrorism and encorages Palestinian Arabs to hate Jews and disseminate such lies as "there was never a Temple in Jerusalem," there will not be peace.

Sometimes war, or at least military force, is necessary for peace. What y'all don't get is that Arafat is the Palestinian Arabs' worst enemy; the rest of the Arab world doesn't give a shit about Palestinian Arabs; and the rest of the Arab world, run by despotic regimes which keep their citizenry in poverty, uses Israel via the Palestinians as a scapegoat to maintain power. This is what Israel is up against. And so far, Israel has acted with WAY to much restraint.

The Palestinians' only hope is to wake up and realize they need Israel; that without Israelis, the land they want to live on will look like the rest of the Arab world--where neither you, nor any of the Palestinian Arabs would want to live.
posted by ParisParamus at 6:34 AM on August 22, 2001

That's one fine piece of Israeli propaganda. It's wonderful what happens after you invade and subjugate people, then ramp up your PR machine with your friendly, powerful neighbor across the sea.
posted by fleener at 6:36 AM on August 22, 2001

Kelly, the author of the opinion piece, betrays a rather stunning degree of ignorance about the phenomenon of terrorism. He seems to approach it from the layman's point of view which seems to feel that terrorism is sadism and spite and insanity. It's not like that at all.

The only correct point that he makes is to claim that the Palestinians consider the current conflict to be a war. Damned straight they do. But he gets everything else wrong.

Terrorism is a completely legitimate form of warfare with a well defined and analyzed overall strategy, and when done well each act of terrorism is carefully tailored to achieve an overall goal, just as in any form of warefare. They are not just random acts of violence. In June I wrote an extended explanation of how terrorism works and why terrorists do what they do, in an article called "The Theory and Practice of Terrorism."

Kelly seems to think that warfare has rules, sort of like a soccer match. You're supposed to field your team and go against their team and have a fair fight and abide by the results, while the world watches on TV. That's unbelievably foolish. The only rule in war is: "Whoever wins the war makes the rules."

You don't go into a war to be "fair"; you go into a war to win, and you do whatever you need to do to win. If taking your paltry band of ill-armed infantry against a modern army in the field would get you massacred (which seems to be what Kelly thinks the Palestinians really should be doing) then you do something else which has a higher chance of success.

He concludes that the Palestinians are the aggressors, but that's because he dates the beginning of the conflict to ten months ago. The Palestinians date the beginning of the conflict to 1948 when the Israelis moved in and displaced them. From their point of view, this is just a continuation of a war which has been going on for more than fifty years.

I consider Kelly's editorial to be ignorant and biased, and infected with outdated and naive ideas about how wars are supposed to be fought. If he knows better than he's a liar. If he doesn't know better then he's an ignorant fool.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 6:36 AM on August 22, 2001

Andrew Cookie - yes, the Post's editorial is standard for how U.S. Big Media reports the situation. It's not surprising, given that NBC recently ran a story on their nightly news about how nothing newsworthy has been happening in August, so the poor "journalists" have been left to report on shark bites and amazing dog tales. What little Americans hear from Big Media about world events is severely warped by a number of international influences.
posted by fleener at 6:39 AM on August 22, 2001

Having lived long enough to have seen several waves of this conflict ebb and flo, I think it's interesting that the former mainstream view - "Israel gooooood... PLO baaaaaad..." - espoused by people like Kelly and ParisParamus is being actively opposed in public, and by someone other than the unfairly maligned Vanessa Redgrave.

If one concentrates only on the past 10 months, or the past two years, or since 1980-something, it's relatively easy to adopt that mainstream position because, well, it doesn't take much thought. If one bothers at all to consider 1948 or Lord Balfour, one cannot come to any conclusion other than that the Palestinian Arabs are a displaced native peoples, fighting for the return of a homeland they've lived in for a dozen centuries, a homeland the occupying military force had no moral authority to "give" to Jews or anyone else, Ottomans be damned.

Personally, I am not in the slightest anti-Semitic, but like a lot of people I know, I have become almost fiercely anti-Zionist in the past year, simply because Israel's position is so completely unsupportable from any reasonable, moral standpoint. Zionists should be the last standing humans to ever complain of an oppositions' desire to eradicate a foe; their ongoing "ethnic cleansing" of the West Bank and other occupied territory has more than demonstrated that they are perfectly capable of those same desires, and with a far larger, Western-supported military to make it happen.
posted by m.polo at 6:54 AM on August 22, 2001

I have become almost fiercely anti-Zionist in the past year, simply because Israel's position is so completely unsupportable from any reasonable, moral standpoint.

What should Israel's postion be?
posted by ParisParamus at 7:00 AM on August 22, 2001

Steven Ben Deste wrote: "Terrorism is a completely legitimate form of warfare with a well defined and analyzed overall strategy, and when done well each act of terrorism is carefully tailored to achieve an overall goal, just as in any form of warefare."

Now, I'm no peacenik, and I don't pretend to be an expert on "warfare," but I find it hard to swallow this statement: "Terrorism [read: blowing up innocent civilians including children] is a completely legitimate form of warfare..." I suppose "completely legitimate" can mean a lot of things, but concluding that terrorism is legitimate based on the fact that it can lead to the desired effect of "winning" a war totally fails to take into account moral or humanistic considerations.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:10 AM on August 22, 2001

ParisParamus, I'm wondering if you know any Palestinians personally?

I have a good friend who is Palestinian and I must say I have observed better behavior and attitude about the situation over there from him (someone who has lived it personally--and his family continues to live it personally) than I have from a few American Jews who have never had to deal with it except for over the news (I'm not lumping all American Jews into this category by any means, just using this as an example). I do not approve of terrorism. Neither do I approve of whatever you want to call what Israel is doing, which seems to amount to basically the same thing, just with the US government's blessing. I don't cheer when a Palestinian suicide bombs a disco. But neither do I cheer when Israeli soldiers kill a baby. There has been killing on both sides, but if you want to talk body count, more Palestinians have died in the past 10 months than Israelis.

I can see why Palestinians are skeptical of American peace talks when the American government consistently gives billions of dollars to Israel every year. If the US really wants peace in the Middle East (and have the credit for making it happen), why don't they cut the purse strings for a little while? Money can be a great motivator....isn't that what the American dream is all about?
posted by witchstone at 7:43 AM on August 22, 2001

And I guess this makes it even clearer for you, semmi?
posted by witchstone at 7:47 AM on August 22, 2001

anyone ever read the butter battle book?
posted by adampsyche at 7:54 AM on August 22, 2001

Sharon is a known murderer, having lead killing squads against Arab settlers in the early 80s. He instigated the September violence with his visit to the Temple Mount. I disagree with his politics, but what's more, I feel he is an evil, racist man. In Israel, apathy has skyrocketed. After decades of attempts at peace, many Israelis have given up hope. The enormous secular and Arab populations do not vote. Conversely, the small ultra-orthodox population turns out in droves to the ballot box, electing whomever their bloc desires. They control Israeli policy, and they are the polar twins of the Palestinian terrorists who put "War with Israel" in the Palestinian constitution.

Israel should not send in bulldozers when it will cause a war. Sharon - a killer of Arabs - should not go on a jaunt to the Temple Mount. Conversely, Palestinian children should not be taught anti-semitism in public schools. Parents should not use their kids as shields, or teach them to throw stones. Civilians should not be targetted on either side. Everyone should put down their weapons.

I'm going to have to disagree with the majority of you; the media I know in Canada is blatantly pro-Palestine. Perhaps it's because I rely more on the left-wing press, but regardlss, I find the pro-Palestine view to be as blind/ignorant as the Post editorial above. Both bring up valid points, while igoring the arguments brought up by their opponents.

The truth is, each side has racists, fundamentalists and villains dictating policy. It is self-perpetuating until some other groups take back control.

There will be no peace until Sharon on the Lubavitchers stop being such cruel jack-asses. There will be no peace until Hamas stosp bombing pizzerias.

The Israelis are using excessive force. They are antagonizing and "being bad". But don't you dare tell me the Palestinians are any more justified in their actions.
posted by Marquis at 7:57 AM on August 22, 2001

The piece does not represent the position of The Washington Post. Post editorials are unsigned and unattributed--they come from the paper (that's the idea, anyway).

This little bit of trolling is Michael Kelly's position, not the Post's.
posted by NortonDC at 8:47 AM on August 22, 2001

There is no way to compare the current Israeli and Palestinian mindsets towards peace and security.

There is a consenus in Israel, from the left and the right, that Palestinians should have autonomy in Gaza and the West Bank. I don't know one Israeli, or one American Jew, for that matter, who has any desire, whatever, for Israel to rule over Palestinians, or deny Arafat, or Hamas, or whoever, the right to rule over Palestinians to their hearts' content. They don't wish for the autonomy to extent to being able to mortar Israeli territory or send in suicide bombers, but then not too many Americans wish for Mexico to be able to mortar El Paso or bomb pizzareias in Tucson, either.

Only a few of the most marginalized Israeli radicals wish to see any more Israeli settlements put down in Gaza or the West Bank; far more Israelis would happily hand over the keys to every settlement gate to Arafat and be rid of them.

On the other hand, the most liberal Palestinian view insists upon the "right of return" which would radicalize Israeli Arabs and eventually make Jewish self-determination in Israel proper a memory. The more mainstream Palestinian view, plainly evident to anyone who can listen to Palestinian government broadcasts or read their newspapers, is that Israeli self-determination is illegitimate and intolerable now and that Jews should be evicted from Israel at gunpoint -- with no patience for the long-term demographic conquest represented by the right of return. The fringe view among Palestinains, which is comparable in quantity of adherence to that of Israeli's who wish to add a few hundred acres of settlements, is to effect the wholesale slaughter of the Jewish people.

My view is that Israel should abandon all settlements in Gaza and all settlements outside a 5 or 10 mile limit from current border with the West Bank, and annex East Jerusalem, and annex the settlements within that line and salients of land up to them so that the border is contiguous. As compensation for the annexed territories (in addition to the improvements and equipment in the surrendered settlements), Israel should build a road and rail-line connecting Gaza and the West Bank and turn it over with an easement to the Palestinians, and fund the construction of an airport and containerised sea port in Gaza. Gaza and the West Bank can then form a state, or not, as their people see fit.
posted by MattD at 8:52 AM on August 22, 2001

I'm about the least isolationist person I know, and yet I have found myself increasingly wondering lately, why do we in the U.S. care about any of this anymore? By all accounts, both sides are irrational hatemongerers impervious to all attempts at intervention and negotiation. So fuck 'em. It's their problem, let them work it out. I'm not so in love with oil that I'm willing to continue sticking my nose where a) it's clearly not wanted and b) it serves no purpose. Let them destroy each other, men, women, and children, and we'll return to deal with the last standing. Neither has any moral higher ground, nor any special claim on either justice or civility. I have more important things with which to concern myself--like my 3D Pong score.
posted by rushmc at 8:55 AM on August 22, 2001

m.polo: one cannot come to any conclusion other than that the Palestinian Arabs are a displaced native peoples, fighting for the return of a homeland they've lived in for a dozen centuries

And one cannot come to any conclusion other than that the Palestinian Arabs are "fighting" by purposefully setting out to kill civilians in civilian areas like nightclubs, restaurants, and busses. These are not "occupation forces" they are regular people living their lives, trying to enjoy an evening out or have a meal. The bomber who recently attacked a Sbarro pizzeria used a bomb loaded with pounds and pounds of nails -- intended for one thing, and one thing only, which is to maim as many victims as possible, those who weren't killed by the blast itself would still have severe and often life-threatening injuries to contend with. from the shrapnel.

The strategy undertaken by the radical Palestinian faction which has been unleashed since the failure of the Peace David talks can only be analysed as: "blow up and kill or cripple or blind as many Jews as we possibly can, and when enough are dead or hurt badly enough that they can no longer mount any defense, then we'll get 'our' homeland back" and no matter how "unfairly" the Palestinians have been treated, that type of uncivilised mode of operation should not be tolerated.

witchstone: I don't cheer when a Palestinian suicide bombs a disco. But neither do I cheer when Israeli soldiers kill a baby. There has been killing on both sides, but if you want to talk body count, more Palestinians have died in the past 10 months than Israelis.

Numbers aside, there is still an important difference -- the Palestinian bombers intended to kill, hurt and destroy whoever or whatever happens to be onsite when they throw their bombs. They don't care who gets strafed when they do a drive-by shooting. The fact that the Sbarro was loaded with children and that there were busloads of tourists nearby was completely inconsequential. But the Israeli soldiers were not aiming at the Palestinian children who have been kiilled -- they had specific, intended targets, not an order to just go kill whoever, whenever, however. It is a sad and unfortunately consequence of (para)military action that there will be innocent bystander casualties. That does not, however, make the intent behind the action which caused those losses equivalent to acts of intentional terror and murder carried out in the name of Hamas/IJ/PA/whoever.
posted by Dreama at 8:59 AM on August 22, 2001

Israel and the Palestinians are in the midst of war, plain and simple. In war, people die. For people to stop dying, one of two things must happen: either the more powerful side (Israel) obliterates the weaker side (which is where this is headed);or, the more powerful side adjusts the political (and geographic) landscape that precipitated this war in the first place, namely: give back the territories, give up East Jerusalem.

Until Israel either kills off the Palestinians or else helps contribute to the creation of a viable Palestinian state, the war will continue...and as long as it does, people will continue to die. It is in Israel's power alone to create the necessary conditions for stopping the violence.
posted by mapalm at 9:08 AM on August 22, 2001

Why, rushmc? Because there are more Jews in the USA than Israel, who through family and religious ties have an interest in the affairs of the Jewish state. And on the other side, you have the Arab states, and the traditional colonial powers, with interests all over the place. Often it's just as misjudged an attitude as those fourth-generation Boston "Irish" who pass the hat for Sinn Fein.

MattD: nice idea, but you can't finesse the status of East Jerusalem. Three thousand years of dispute sets a pretty good precedent against the possibility of a peaceful annexation.

Dreama, do you really think that the Israeli army goes in with helicopter gunships and heavy artillery to perform clean, targetted assassinations? One might naively suggest that the weapon of choice should be something different, if you don't want to kill "whomever, whenever, however". Of course, if you want to show your military clout, it's perfect. And even accepting this ludicrous premise, you're still in the realm of extra-judicial killing.
posted by holgate at 9:11 AM on August 22, 2001

Holgate: I do not suggest that East Jerusalem can be finessed or peacefully annexed. Israel will accomplish the resolution of the current problmes with tanks and paratroopers, and will secure the new borders with razor wire, landmines, patrol helicopters, and machine gun emplacements. Residents of East Jerusalem who are uninterested in Israeli residency will be allowed to exit (or required to, in the event they oppose orderly governance) and should receive the fair market value of any property they leave behind.

This is really a trivially easy thing for the Israeli military to accomplish; the limits of Palestinian courage pretty much extend only to sending suicidal nail-bombers to battle children and suicidally-stupid rock-throwers to battle border policemen.
posted by MattD at 9:24 AM on August 22, 2001

Why, rushmc? Because there are more Jews in the USA than Israel

Ah, yes, more of that perverse religion-motivated hunger to slaughter your neighbors that we agnostics simply cannot fathom...
posted by rushmc at 9:44 AM on August 22, 2001

24+ Hours have past and Paris has yet to post his proofs. Are we not worthy of the truth? Or is there no proof for what he speaks?
posted by tamim at 9:49 AM on August 22, 2001

"PardonYou": like so many people not a student of war, you assume that terrorism necessarily requires violence, and equally that terrorism is necessarily morally evil.

You may be surprised to learn that Ghandi and King were terrorists. I explain that in my article. I also explain why terrorism is a legitimate form of warfare.

And sometimes even violent murderous terrorism is ultimately a good thing. Would anyone condemn the French Resistance for its terrorist campaign in France during the German occupation? Their rate of attacks (on civilians!) makes what's happening in Israel like now look puny.

Even if terrorism is an absolute evil, moral men may engage in it if the alternative is morally even worse. All war is morally evil, but sometimes refusing to fight a war leads to even worse things. Not every moral situation permits a choice which is absolutely good. Moral men must select the best among alternatives, and sometimes that means to launch a terrorist campaign.

The word "terrorist" has been imbued with a negative aura; so that it is not only a description about someone but also an insult. We're being told that we are supposed to hate terrorists.

But actually "terrorist" is a technical word that describes a soldier who uses certain kinds of tactics to fight a war where he is badly outnumbered. The tactics are chosen such as to maximize his abilities and minimize those of his vastly larger opponent, and even to use the opponent's strength against him. It's a well developed field in the theory of war now. It's just that the knowledge of it is not widespread.

It's not that I think that all of us should run right out and become terrorists. I'm not claiming anything of the kind. But in certain circumstances I think I would, if by so doing I could prevent or remove an even greater evil.

Terrorism is legitimate to the same extent that any other kind of war is legitimate, because terrorism is war. It's simply war on the cheap. If you accept that there are legitimate times and places to fight a war, then you have to accept that there are legitimate times and places for a terrorist campaign.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:19 AM on August 22, 2001

Both sides in this conflict are cowards striking from the shadows and running in fear.
Both sides clam to have a god on their side and a divine right to the land.
I say, round up the ones who want to fight. Give all involved the same weapon, something hand to hand like a sword or a club. Let them fight it out, hand to hand, looking each one they kill in the eyes.
The god of the last one standing is the victor and has obvious claim on the land.

I bet it would end really quickly if they had to fight hand to hand.

Or ... we could move everyone out, nuke it to glass, then let them have it back. Kind of like Mom taking away a toy that two kids can't do anything but fight over.

There really is no rational answer to a conflict that has no rational base.
posted by Dillenger69 at 10:19 AM on August 22, 2001

I don't know the answer. I'm not convinced that there is an answer. In recent history, there were two such cases where the only solution was to let the sides fight it out until they collapsed from fatigue (Somalia and Lebanon).

But I do know one small piece of the solution: there can be no peace in the region as long as there are Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. There needs to be not merely a freeze on new settlements but a withdrawal of all existing ones.

I don't expect that to happen, though.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:22 AM on August 22, 2001

My view is that Israel should abandon all settlements... ...with an easement to the Palestinians, and fund the construction of an airport and containerised sea port in Gaza. Gaza and the West Bank can then form a state, or not, as their people see fit.

Good proposal.
posted by ParisParamus at 10:28 AM on August 22, 2001

Dillenger, there is a completely rational basis for this: it's land. There are too many people and not enough land, and everyone wants it. That is what they're fighting over.

The Israelis want peace on the basis of the status quo, because the status quo strongly favors them. The Palestinians can't accept that because the status quo is desperate and intolerable. As a result, it is indeed the Palestinians who are keeping hostility going. But peace is a side effect, not a goal. You don't work toward peace; you work toward resolution of differences and satisfaction of both parties. If you get those things, peace will happen on its own. If you don't, peace is impossible.

The reason that the recent ceasefire failed is that it didn't address the underlying issue at dispute. That issue was sufficient to motivate people to fight in the first place, so it was sufficient to make them start fighting again after imposition of the ceasefire. Requiring cessation of conflict before negotiations begin is useless. You have to begin negotiating immediately. Once a reasonable deal is worked out, hostilities will spontaneously cease. Peace is the reward you get for a good deal. Peace only happens when both sides think it is better than conflict, which can only happen when you remove the motivation for conflict.
posted by Steven Den Beste at 10:30 AM on August 22, 2001

Steven: And sometimes even violent murderous terrorism is ultimately a good thing. Would anyone condemn the French Resistance for its terrorist campaign in France during the German occupation?

Yes. The indiscriminate killing of civilians is wrong. The cause against Nazi Germany was an extremely worthy one, but this does not justify the cold-blooded murder of innocents.
posted by Marquis at 10:42 AM on August 22, 2001

I urge you all to write the Post and tell them what you think of this article. The fact of the matter is that only Israel or the United States can make peace, the Palestinians have absolutely no power, no avenue of dissent (the UN security council being effectively shut off because of the US) and no way to attain their national goals other than scaring the Israelis into sitting down for peace talks.

Israel has tactical advantages in every case, including negotiation because of the "honest broker" of the United States, who skews everything their way.

That's how they were able to work out a "land for peace" deal under which Israel expropriated more land than ever, and built illegal settlements at their fastest rate ever.

But the US is a democracy, and we can change attitudes here and actually bring about a just peace. It's really not that complicated, despite all the emotions and subterfuge. Americans already knows that the Palestinian society has been in a breakdown for the past 50 years, but they don't know that Israel is in violation of 69 UN resolutions, they don't know the brutality of the occupation.

There is a way out of the conflict, and it's rooted in International Law, which is quite clear about what should happen. It is for conflicts like this over territory and land that the UN and International Law were invented, and it is up to the United States to follow them.
posted by cell divide at 10:43 AM on August 22, 2001

The reason that the recent ceasefire failed is that it didn't address the underlying issue at dispute.

Actually, the real underlying issue in the dispute is that the despotic PA assures that the land under its control remains a toilet; the people impoverished and uneducated; the most radical factions of Palestinian Arabs free to bomb; and the millions (billions?) of dollars funneled there squandered (or in Swiss bank accounts, for all we know). As long as this is the situation, Israel has no one to "negotiate" with. Israel is not going to allow a second or third Lebanon or Syria to come into being. And don't tell me that if Israel exited all of the West Bank and Gaza AND gave Jerusalem to the PA the violence would stop. It would probably escalate.
posted by ParisParamus at 10:46 AM on August 22, 2001

Wow. Are you people seriously trying to debate the Israel / Palestine issue on metafilter?

This issue is one of the issues that I am most passionate about, but wouldn't dream of even getting into a discussion on this board. For one thing, even some people on Metafilter (whom I consider much more well-informed than average) know apallingly little about the conflict. My favorite, the first post:
after a couple of thousand years of killing each other aimlessly
A couple thousand years, eh? time to study up on your mid-east history.

Oh, and parisparamus, if you seriously want to convince anybody of anything, you might try being a little bit fairhanded. Otherwise you'll just end up getting high-fives from your fellow zionists while everybody else dismisses you as a propaganda-spouting idiot.
posted by jnthnjng at 11:04 AM on August 22, 2001

Oh yeah, and does anybody else remember that this is the same guy (michael kelly) that a little while ago wrote an editorial complaining about all of the fat people he has to look at when he goes to the beach or the rec club, etc. He sure does some fine writing doesn't he?
posted by jnthnjng at 11:11 AM on August 22, 2001

jnthnjng, think of this as a chance to educate those who don't know anything about it, as their tax dollars are helping to keep it going (if they are American). Why not debate on MetaFilter? Where else can you debate it from the comfort of your living room/office?
posted by cell divide at 11:15 AM on August 22, 2001

I'm waiting for an explanation as to why the police, that shot dead 12 arab israelis last November during a protest, are still free.

I am talking about citizens of Israel, not Palestinians, who were shot during a protest, by police that decided to despense with usual practices. They chose to and use live ammunition rather than rubber bullets because the protest was in an arab rather than jewish part of the country.

You can not shoot your own minority citizens, or can the Washington Post give us a reason why it is O.K. to.
posted by Atom Heart Mother at 11:21 AM on August 22, 2001

As a matter of fact, I am debating it right now at a different place on the web. The difference is there is a limited number of people involved in the discussion (about 5-6 people representing about 3-4 different views), and we have a framework from which to debate. Here, I have no idea what sort of worldview anybody is working from and this makes it nearly impossible to have any meaningful debate. Besides, the other debate has been going on for several weeks and takes too much of my time for me to consider debating it in two places simultaneously :)
posted by jnthnjng at 11:32 AM on August 22, 2001

re: Atom Heart Mother ...

If memory serves, the police were under fire at the protest, being shot at alongside stone throwing. But that's a little beside the point. How do you know that no action was taken towards the police officers in question? Do you regularly read an Israeli or Palestinian newspaper? This is precisely the sort of news story that wouldn't be publicized here -- it's much better for stereotypical perspectives if the cold-hearted Israelis don't give a damn about killing other Israelis.

Is there anyone with updated information on that police-vs-protesters incident, from an informed perspective?

As for 'taking a different stance' with the Jewish protests, well, the question is not the religion of the protester, but who's shooting a gun and whipping rocks at the police.

I'll reiterate what someone posted above: the Israeli army is not trying to kill civilians. Hamas is. To completely ignore the atrocities committed by one side, due to the human rights abuses of the other, does not seem even-handed at all.
posted by Marquis at 11:38 AM on August 22, 2001

nice idea, but you can't finesse the status of East Jerusalem. Three thousand years of dispute sets a pretty good precedent against the possibility of a peaceful annexation.

Where are you guys getting these numbers? My goodness. Do you realize that Islam as a religion began merely 1400 years ago. The entire conflict between the Palestinians and Jews only started around 1900 and didn't really escalate until post-WWII. Sheesh.
posted by jnthnjng at 11:42 AM on August 22, 2001

I'll reiterate what someone posted above: the Israeli army is not trying to kill civilians. Hamas is.

To step back a little: how precisely do you know this? Because the Israeli army spokesmen say so? Because it's reported as such? (Once more, Robert Fisk's piece on the language of the conflict demands to be read.) Because it's done by men in uniform with big guns?

If you're judging people by their stated intent, the Israeli armed forces are incompetent; if you're judging them by their actions, they're hypocrites.

Or, to put it another way: it's collateral damage when the good guys accidentally blow up a school; when the bad guys do it, it's terrorism.

jnthnjng: did I say a fucking thing about Islam? 1000BC is a decent guess at the establishment of Jerusalem as capital of the united kingdoms of Israel by David, which, if you believe the Bible, came out of a war: since then, the city has been fought over on a pretty regular basis, between the children of Israel and quite a few opponents. And I even said that this current conflict is part of the unravelling of the Ottoman Empire, which dates it to the settlement of 1918. Sheesh. If you're going to descend upon us with your superior wisdom, at least read the bloody posts.
posted by holgate at 11:54 AM on August 22, 2001

Of course, the lack of conflict (in part) was due to the fact that Jews only started filtering back into Palestine (illegally, for the record) at the beginning of the 20th c. The Temple Mount, for instance, will have been a sticking point between crazy-non-compromising Jews and Moslems since Mohammed's ascent to heaven.

Holgate: Even looking it at it coldly, there is little for Israel to gain by killing innocents. Given the current Palestinian climate, it only "makes them madder". Israelis, on the other hand (and I say 'Israelis' in order to distinguish them from the psycho israeli government), are tired of the conflict, and, if exploded with nails enough times, will just cave to Palestinian demands.
posted by Marquis at 11:58 AM on August 22, 2001

You can argue disproportionate bodycounts, but when one side has suicidal warriors at its disposal, such analysis is kind of silly, no?

In the end, I'm afraid the middle east is a wonderful realtime illustration of the worst of mankind's behavioral traits.

So let me be perfectly clear: If any one side of this conflict was ever right or wrong about this dispute, both sides long ago gave up pursuing such righteousness and harness it only for rather transparent propaganda follow-ups to the skirmish-du-jour.

Both sides are fired up about their position and neither side will capitulate until a certain threshold of bloodshed has been reached. The longer this dispute is allowed to smolder, the higher that threshold gets.

Were both sides to really duke it out, I'm sure such capitulation would ensue in short order. I've long felt that Arafat/Hamas et al should thank Hitler nightly, for without the recent holocaust still bright in Israel's collective conscience, any other country under the same circumstances would have rolled over the palestinians long ago.

In sum: Neither side is right or wrong anymore, and everyone would be better off if they opted for unfettered warfare and carnage and let the stupid mess burn out of its own accord instead of letting things smolder like this in perpetuity.

Both sides want this, so just build a fence around the land, toss ($ell!) all the guns and ammo both sides want over the fence, and wait for "nature" to take its course. The world would be a better place for it afterwards, and human nature is such that these things will always happen and sometimes simply can't be negotiated away.

Sure this is dark, cynical and heartless. But it would work, and no one else seems to have a real solution.

(Just my immodest proposal, YMMV)
posted by BentPenguin at 12:09 PM on August 22, 2001

I agree with you there, Marquis: as I hinted earlier, I think that the actions of the Israeli military are based upon a command structure that's been on an open war footing since 1948. What's changed since, say, 1967, is that Israel is no longer perceived as the outgunned defender of its own sovereignty; what hasn't changed is the penchant for its political leaders to think they`re Ben Gurion or Moshe Dayan, and that they have to be war heroes first and peacemakers later. Then again, my Jewish friends who spend lots of time in Israel note that subtlety is not really part of the national psyche.

As I said, I'm holding my breath for the next generation of leaders on both sides.
posted by holgate at 12:11 PM on August 22, 2001

Here is a short article from last week by Noam Chomsky about the situation. It comes in rather heavily on the Palestinian side of things. I personally feel I have no hope of penetrating the torrent of misinformation regarding this war and therefore I shall post no opinion of my own at all.
posted by donkeymon at 12:13 PM on August 22, 2001

One of the biggest obstacles to peace, or rather to Israel's ability to make real moves towards peace, is the entrenched power of its founding mythology - one based on the notion of a small number of people defending a small piece of land against millions who would "throw them into the sea."

Whether or not one agrees with that assessment of the situation from say 1920 to 1948 (and it is debatable), the fact is that this mythology of a besieged people is still very much a part of the Israeli psyche, and it is a mythology that must be deconstructed, exposed to the light of day, and ultimately abandoned as no longer relevant if Israel is going to do what's necessary for peace.

American Jews always fall back on the Holocaust in their arguments: "If we are not careful, we will be destroyed." This is ulterly laughable, coming from a country with one of the strongest, most capable militaries in the world, let alone the Middle East, and a country that receives more money from the US than any other (roughly $3 billion, right up there with Egypt).
posted by mapalm at 12:27 PM on August 22, 2001

I know the rules, but here is a link to a documentary film I directed that makes a humble attempt at getting at the roots of this mythology. (As an aside, I interviewed Ariel Sharon for the film, who, needless to say, lives up to his reputation as a hard-liner, to put it mildly.)
posted by mapalm at 12:32 PM on August 22, 2001

Yeah, Jews are so insanely irrational because of their spiritual beliefs. Way more so than all those other crazy religions. Definitely. This fighting's cause of Moses, dude.

It always worries me to see people laugh off the potential of future genocides - be the victims Jews or anyone else. There were almost as many Jews in Europe at the beginning of this century than there are Canadians in Canada. No more. Tides turn, nations fall, and the fact that Israel's got a strong airforce does not mean that they should stop acting defensively; again, the PA has a "war with Israel" clause in their constitution. I don't fault Israel for the wariness it has for its neighbours. I do, however, fault their leaders' racism, bloodthirstiness, vindictiveness and excessive use of force.
posted by Marquis at 12:37 PM on August 22, 2001


Actually the protests they are talking about involved not a single gun shot, except on the Israeli side.

One of the protestors killed was a remarkable young man named Asel. He was active in the group Seeds of Peace which tries to bring Jews and Arab youth together; all who knew him knew that he was a champion of peace.

The day he died, he went to a demonstration with a friend. At a certain point, rocks were thrown by the protestors, and the Israeli internal police moved in with live fire. Asel ran from soldiers, who gave chase to many unarmed youths. He ran into an olive grove where he tripped over a root. A soldier came up behind him and shot him in the back of the head. Some reports say he was beaten by 3 soldiers and then shot in the back of the head, others say he tripped over the root. No ambulances were allowed in the area and he died on the way to the hospital, wearing his Seeds of Peace t-shirt.

Besides those details, the story is not in dispute. To its credit, Israel has put the officers involved in the case into a trial situation. However the trial has not focused on the essential wrongness of shooting unarmed demonstrators, but instead on the level of danger the police were in, whether or not Asel was throwing stones, who gave the order to use live fire, etc. Most likely nothing will come out of it.

According to an Israeli columnist writing in Ha'aretz, there were at least 50 Palestinians and Arab-Israelis shot by the army before there was a single bullet fired by the other side.
posted by cell divide at 12:46 PM on August 22, 2001

posted by Marquis at 12:50 PM on August 22, 2001

Actually the PA does not have a "war on Israel" clause in their constitution. Since 1979, the PLO has had one goal, and that has been to create a Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders of Palestine. One of the first articles of the Oslo peace process was a statement that the PLO recognizes the right of Israel to exist in accordance with International Law and UN resolutions.
posted by cell divide at 12:51 PM on August 22, 2001

A brief bit of research. I view the following to be very "war on Israel" in nature, albeit couched in diplomacy. Presumably, you will disagree.

Excerpts from the Palestinian Constitution, c.1998, obtained from a cache of the (slow) Fateh website. (Emphasis added by me)

Chapter One (Goals): Article (12) Complete liberation of Palestine, and eradication of Zionist economic, political, military and cultural existence.

Article (19) Armed struggle is a strategy and not a tactic, and the Palestinian Arab People's armed revolution is a decisive factor in the liberation fight and in uprooting the Zionist existence, and this struggle will not cease unless the Zionist state is demolished and Palestine is completely liberated.

"Zionism" seems a simple euphemism for "Israel". I leave you to make the subsitutions yourself.
posted by Marquis at 1:09 PM on August 22, 2001

"Zionism" seems a simple euphemism for "Israel". I leave you to make the subsitutions yourself.

Or, alternatively, from the Palestinian National Charter:
Zionism is a political movement organically associated with international imperialism and antagonistic to all action for liberation and to progressive movements in the world. It is racist and fanatic in its nature, aggressive, expansionist, and colonial in its aims, and fascist in its methods. Israel is the instrument of the Zionist movement, and geographical base for world imperialism placed strategically in the midst of the Arab homeland to combat the hopes of the Arab nation for liberation, unity, and progress.
You may find that definition risible (I certainly do) but that's the definition they're using.
posted by holgate at 1:22 PM on August 22, 2001

Israel has been gradually losing it's status as sympathetic nation surrounded by hostile neighbors. When they respond with eye for an eye tactics they look really bad and lose the ethical high ground. You can only stop terrorism with a political solution not a military one. They need to adopt unilateral cease fire, offer concession on east Jerusalem. If bombings continue, sympathy shifts from palestinian side and they will have to accept a generous offer. But Israel must be willing to risk looking like they gave in.
posted by chrismc at 1:22 PM on August 22, 2001

Barak offered a concession on east Jerusalem. Others probably no more about how generous (or not) the offer was, but regardless, Arafat turned it down, and the religious right unseated Barak for his generosity. Of course, then Sharon came in and climbed up that hill...

Am I the only one here with nothing better to do than sit reloading this thread?
posted by Marquis at 1:29 PM on August 22, 2001

Actually that is the Fateh constitution, not the Palestinian Constitution. Fateh is a group within the PLO, but it is not represent the Palestinian Authority. However, your main point about Israel's wariness about its neighbors still stand, as Fateh, Hamas, and other groups are neighbors.

However the PA speaks (or spoke?) for more people than any of these groups combined. The PLO submitted in article A of the Oslo Accords that it recognizes the existence and legitimacy of the state of Israel inside the 1967 borders. They also removed the specific kind of language you saw on the Fateh website from their consitution.
posted by cell divide at 1:38 PM on August 22, 2001

"We must fight Israel until it is gone" --Abdullah Shami, leader of the group in Gaza that conducts suicide attacks against Israeli targets, as quoted in an interview article in the July 9 issue of the New Yorker, titled, The Martyr Strategy.
posted by semmi at 4:21 PM on August 22, 2001

not taking a side on this - just thanking everybody who's posted for all their contributions - well-reasoned & otherwise. this has given me more food for thought on this issue than I've gotten in years.

frankly, I sort of go for BentPenguin's idea.
posted by epersonae at 4:46 PM on August 22, 2001

Dillenger, there is a completely rational basis for this: it's land. There are too many people and not enough land, and everyone wants it.

Then, clearly, there are only two rational solutions possible: make more land; or remove some of the people. Which do you support?
posted by rushmc at 5:14 PM on August 22, 2001

So, basically, we've decided that Britain didn't have the right to attempt to impart some kind of order on the territories it was setting free from colonial rule?

Or are you saying that one of the most devoutly antisemitic nations in the world was too kind to the Jews?

Or something else entirely?

On another tack: where did anybody get the idea that neither side wants us to interfere? Both are desperate for our intervention: its the only way the Arabs can win, and its the only way Israel can save face.

Finally: I'd love to see either peace or the obliteration of Israel. Israel is the only thing that has kept the Middle East from devouring itself whole. Remember: the only thing the Arab nations hate more than Israel is each other.
posted by Ptrin at 10:29 PM on August 22, 2001

On another tack: where did anybody get the idea that neither side wants us to interfere? Both are desperate for our intervention

Again, I should care why? Let them clean their own house, even if their preferred method is to turn it into a boneyard.
posted by rushmc at 8:50 AM on August 23, 2001

RE: Marquis. My comments on Israelis shooting their own citizens were based on a 20 minute newspiece that I saw on BBC 2 Newsnight on Tuesday.

The piece categorically demonstrate that the police fired on 'unarmed' protester.

There was an enquiry, but none of the police were brought to account.

The reasoning given was that they were justified in using live bullets because of the Palistinian uprising. I repeat, these people shot their own citizen, no different that police in New York popping down to Harlem and blasting a few blacks away.

I will do a bit of research on this and post a full topic over the next couple of weeks. It is a disgrace that needs to be highlighted.
posted by Atom Heart Mother at 9:43 AM on August 23, 2001

The piece categorically demonstrate that the police fired on 'unarmed' protester.

An unarmed protester; surrounded by armed ones?

FYI: you can kill someone with a rock.
posted by ParisParamus at 10:14 AM on August 23, 2001

Kill someone with a rock? That's the kind of paranoid thinking that allows Israel to justify its absolutely disproportionate use of force against the Palestinians.
posted by mapalm at 3:19 PM on August 23, 2001

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