Yeah, I am going to rant about Israel. Well, closer to the truth is I am going to rant about how the Progressive wing of the Democratic Party is beginning to look a lot like Republicans when it comes to telling the truth. I encourage you to Google any news source you wish to confirm my statements and I will provide you with suggested search terms. This rant was started before the Friday cease-fire was announced. As of the time of publishing, the cease-fire is holding. I do not believe that fortunate occurrence changes anything I have written.
First, let us discuss the idiocy of “proportional response” when it comes to this current installment of the Israeli-Palestinian “conflict.” Yes, it is a conflict but is also war, and yes, it involves Palestinians, but that conveniently leaves out that the operating government of Gaza is the Iranian-backed terrorist organization Hamas. Hamas is dedicated to the destruction of the State of Israel (Google: Hamas Charter). Hamas has spent millions of aid dollars meant for the Palestinians living in Gaza on arms, rockets, and building tunnels into Israel, and payments to terrorists for the murders of Israeli citizens (Google: How Hamas gets and spends its money). Iran supplies Hamas with rockets that are indiscriminately aimed at Israeli cities and civilian populations (New York Times – no fan of Israeli policies). Hamas purposely locates its rocket launchers in civilian areas to a) use their population as human shields and b) to ensure maximum negative press when Israel destroys said rocket launchers (Google: Does Hamas hide rockets in civilian space). The latter strategy has, unfortunately, been enormously successful.
Also, let us put away our US privilege and concepts of western democracy and progressive left politics to reflect on the fact that Israel does not exist to achieve peace nor was it founded on our concept of “civil rights”. Israel is not a secular state. Quoting Israeli writer and commentator Daniel Gordis, “The purpose of Israel’s creation was not peace. Peace (internal or external) is a critical goal, and internally, it may well be a necessary condition for Israel’s long-term survival. But Israel’s purpose is not that. Israel’s purpose is the flourishing of the Jewish people. What matters about Israel is not the conflicts, as critical as they are; what matters about Israel is why we are here (See: Daniel Gordis). When we, as Americans, sit in judgement, we sit in a quite different place than the Israelis. We have not fought a war on our land since 1865. We took our land from those who have every right to consider it their homeland and ignored the near genocide we perpetrated. No one with real power or influence in the world community said anything about it. We have not given it back. And yet we judge Israel, founded to protect the Jewish people from millennia-long persecutions, exile, ostracization, and genocide. When threated directly by those overtly dedicated not only to the destruction of the State of Israel, but once again, the indiscriminate killing of Jewish civilians, many Americans, chief among them young, progressive Democrats, condemn them for lack of restraint. While the West rarely reports it, the Israeli armed forces are more “restrained” then any other fighting force in the world. The Israelis have not and are not committing genocide or anything approaching that horror, they are living on land traditionally theirs for millennia, and have a better human rights record than any other country in the entire middle east. Yet, anti-Semites, anti-Zionists, and others compare a war with Hamas, a blockage against importing arms, and a wall and other measures that have prevented (and for the most part halted) the individual terrorist murders of Israeli civilians with the Holocaust, the wholesale, genocidal, brutal Nazi regime’s erasure of 12 million people, half of which were Jews.
Given all that, please tell me what the ‘proportional response’ to having your entire country, including your largest city (Tel Aviv) subjected to rocket attacks is supposed to be? Given the history, given the mental state created by being under constant threat since the founding of the country, how do you think the Israelis will respond? What do you think the United States would do if, for example, the Canadians started launching rockets at Detroit from Windsor after decades of randomly killing Detroit citizens with terror attacks and rocket launches? How ‘proportional’ do you think the United States would be? I rest my case here and suggest that we are just going to have to get used to the fact that when Israel and the Jewish community said, “never again”, they damn well meant it. If protecting the Jewish people offends your preferred narrative, they do not care. Neither do I.
Second, let us discuss the disturbances at the Al-Aqsa Mosque (The Temple Mount) that led to conflict. The Mosque in Jerusalem is the third most holy mosque in Islam, while the Kottel (the Wailing Wall), just below the Temple Mount, is the last remaining part of Solomon’s Temple and the most holy site in Judaism. Note also that Jews are not allowed inside the mosque and I suspect that Muslims would not be comfortable at the Kottel. Thus, tension over this site creates endemic conflict and has for hundreds of years. The current situation can only be described as where you stand depends on where you sit. The Israelis called the conflagration a response to riots and the Palestinian Authority called it a sinful attack (BBC – a stand-out in anti-Israel reporting). This religious flashpoint is a bone of contention for both parties. After the 1967 war, Israel gave administrative responsibility for this location to the Islamic Waqf, under Jordanian jurisdiction, but Israel still provides police and protection for the Kottel. Also in contention is that the Mosque is built over the location of the Second Temple. All in – this is a place where one match can start a huge blaze. And it does on a regular basis. Once again, I ask, even assuming culpability on the part of Israel for the most recent conflagration at the Temple Mount (which I do not so assume), did that alleged provocation justify the launching thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians?
Third, let us discuss the threatened eviction of 6 Palestinian families from a building in East Jerusalem. This one is fraught with contradiction. On one hand, the Israelis contend that this is a private real estate issue; while the Palestinians consider it theft of their land (New York Times). At issue is land purchased some 20 years ago by an Israeli “settler” group. Therefore, many in Israel consider this to be a legal, not political issue. However, as a harbinger of things to come in East Jerusalem, it could be a terrible precedent. The legal principle in discussion here (a complex series of legal actions trying to contend with land ownership dating back before the Ottoman Empire) seems to be clear as mud. One serious interpretation is that this law (See: Property Dispute in East Jerusalem ) is simply evicting tenants that have not paid rent in years to legitimate owners who have been in legal wrangling for decades. If the land was legally sold from the previous Palestinian owner to Israelis (Jews), I am not sure there should be any protest. However, if this is appropriation of Palestinian land with no legal construct as CBS appears to believe (See: CBS) then this is a real issue. Which one is it? I do not know. But in either case, was the Hamas/Gaza response of 4,000 rockets (half of the most conservative estimate of their rocket arsenal) aimed at civilian populations in Israel a “proportionate” response?
Given the realities discussed above, why then would Rep Rashida Tlaib say that President Biden is “taking orders from Netanyahu” and that Israel was “”lawless,” “corrupted” and “set in apartheid?” Why does Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez label Israel “an apartheid state” and asserting therefore it cannot be a democracy. Add to that the several Democrats claiming that Israel is violating the human rights of Palestinians and committing war crimes. Then add in Bernie Sanders, that last bastion of the Jewish Socialist Bund, who always comes off as saying the exact thing you expect him to say (Google: any recent article about these Congresspeople) and that is not pro-Israel.
And now, this. First off, indicating that President Biden is taking orders from Benjamin Netanyahu is not only incorrect it is a deliberate lie said only to inflame the progressives already onboard. Second, Israel is not an apartheid state in any sense. Arab Israelis are full citizens of the State of Israel. To be sure, they face discrimination, but so do other groups in Israel that are Jewish. Further, Israel is not the only country in the world working through how to treat minority populations correctly. For contrast, let us compare how many Jews have been allowed (since 1948 and then 1967) to live in Gaza, or Iran, or Iraq, or Egypt, or Yemen, or Saudi Arabia, or the Emirates, or Syria, or Lebanon. The answer is none to nearly none and certainly a pittance under the age of 60. Then reflect on the treatment of the Kashmiris in Pakistan and India, the Uighurs in China, the Rohingya in Burma/Myanmar, the Kurds in Turkey and Syria, Aboriginals in Australia, First Peoples in Canada, and Native Americans in the US, and the Ainu in Japan.
Moreover, it would benefit Bernie and “the Squad” to do a deep dive into how South African apartheid law manifested in practice before accusing anyone else of being an apartheid state. In this they are either purposely forgetful or again, deliberately ignorant. Third, why is retaliation for unrestrained rocket attacks on civilians a war crime, when those same rocket attacks are not? Can it be true that the world thinks Israel commits “war” crimes because it is better at retaliating than Hamas is in attacking? Or that because they have a better military, they should not try to stop attacks on their civilians. That logic also escapes me. The Israelis built a better military because it was a necessary condition for survival. Hamas and Hezbollah poke the bear at their own risk and risk the lives of their civilian populations in their support and zeal for killing Israeli civilians and for their cowardly behavior of hiding behind those same civilians for protection.
So, I take the Progressive Democrats comments on this unfortunate repetition of the past to be reflective of their base attitude toward Israel and the Palestinians and not on the facts of what happened this time. Sadly, this is not a surprise.
Progressives and some other Democrats have an innate hatred of Benjamin Netanyahu. Perhaps that is because he is a right-wing politician in their eyes and caused President Obama much trouble during his pursuit of a deal with Iran. But Benjamin Netanyahu is not Israel. Moreover, no Israeli Prime Minister from any political party could let indiscriminate rocket attacks on civilians go unpunished. In fact, there are many potential Prime Minister Candidates from farther in the right who are criticizing Netanyahu for his timid response. None of the potential candidates for Prime Minister, not one of them, no matter who, would have failed to respond vigorously. To blame the current situation on Netanyahu (like him or not) is to ignore history. This conflict is way more complicated than the Progressives make it out to be in the evil Israelis oppressing the innocent Palestinians narrative. As far as the “not a democracy” nonsense, let me remind the reader that President Abbas of the Palestinian Authority (who govern the other Palestinian territory, the West Bank) is in year 17 of a 4-year elected term. And Hamas last held elections in Gaza in 2006. So, please, no bleating about “democracy” – Israel is about to hold their 4th election in 2 years.
Do you feel for the Palestinian people? You should. I certainly do. They have been used and abused by the Arab world (and prior to that the British and prior to that the Ottomans) since they were encouraged to leave their homes by the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and other Arab leaders to fight and kill Jews to prevent the founding of the State of Israel. From that time to the present, they have been made the tools of the Arab/Islamic politics of dictators, exiled from their homes, and rejected by every single Arab country in which they tried to settle. They have been at the mercy of a series of avaricious and corrupt leaders who have had no real interest in peace but would rather use their people as human shields and encourage their youth to sacrifice themselves for the jihad. Do the Palestinian people deserve better? You know they do. They cannot be held responsible for the sins of their fathers, uncles, and cousins. But it is highly unlikely that they can achieve a better situation without a change in leadership.
Finally, and in specific response to the progressive left Jews who believe it is incumbent on them to proclaim every Israeli action an act of oppression (variously labelled war crimes, apartheid, evil, ill-intended, criminal, etc.), I have a few suggestions. First, read the Hamas, Fatah, and Hezbollah charters and see for yourself what they say. Second, get a grounding in the long-standing history of the “holy land”, from the Crusades to modern day, with time spend on the golden age of Islam, to the Ottomans, to the British, to the founding of the State of Israel and the Arab world’s reaction, to the expulsion of the Mizrahi from their homes, to the wars of 1967 and 1973 and also the Lebanese and Jordanian civil wars with the Palestinians, to the first and second intifada, the Gaza handover to the Palestinians, and Oslo Accords and all the other attempts at peace-making. Pay keen attention to the times when peace and/or land was offered under Prime Ministers even more to the right than Netanyahu, namely Menachem Begin and Arial Sharon as well as under more “liberal” Prime Ministers such as Yitzhak Rabin.
One of the things you will find is that the Israeli/Palestinian conflict is complex, convoluted, and pardon the pun, byzantine. And, for every complex and convoluted problem there is a remarkably simple and very wrong answer.
We need to be honest with ourselves about the reality of peace between the Palestinians and Israel. It is not going to be easy, short-term, nor enjoyable. To name some of the initial requirements for a real peace process, here are 10 suggestions: 1) Hamas, Hezbollah, and Fatah must openly acknowledge Israel’s right to exist, as a Jewish State, with safe and secure borders and do so in Arabic as well as English. 2) That means Iran, the Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and others need to do the same (and the Abraham accords is a step in that direction) and push the Palestinian political leadership to do the same. 3) A willingness to negotiate land swaps between the West Bank and Israel is required. Israel got nothing but death, destruction, and heartache when it unilaterally left Gaza. They are unlikely to repeat the error. 4) It requires abandoning the right of return for Palestinians to land in Israel, but that needs to apply to Jews as well in terms of Palestinian property. 5) The Israeli settlement movement must be reined in. Settlement expansion in Palestinian areas must cease and many existing settlers will have to be moved – whether willingly or not. 6) A legal system of land sale/transfer and ownership needs to be reciprocal between the two states. If Israel is to have Arab/Muslim citizens, then a Palestinian state must allow Jewish citizens. In both cases, it must be understood that it is the laws of the State that must be followed. 7) Hamas and Fatah must disarm. 8) Israel must increase funding to its Arab villages and Arab education. 9) Israel needs to elect a leader with a sizeable majority committed to peace. The Palestinian Authority need to elect a leader and leadership team committed to peace. 10) Once the negotiations start, the world community needs to help fund the construction of a Palestinian State and safe and secure borders for Israel.
And that is just a start on this seemingly intractable issue. So let us stop the simplistic, “Israel is pure evil, and Palestinians are innocent” nonsense and get to fucking work on the hard problem of peace between implacable enemies, each of which live in a context we really do not, and perhaps cannot, understand.
2 thoughts on “Deja Vu All Over Again”
Thanks Dan for this cogent analysis. Very helpful.
Terrific review of the history of the arab-Israel conflict.