Thoughts on Israel and the Current “Situation”

by Daniel A. Kaufman


An extended (and somewhat frustrating) conversation in the discussion thread on Robert Wright’s latest video on BloggingHeads.TV finds me needing to address something I’ve been wanting to talk about for some time. [1]  The subject is Israel and its “situation” and what our attitude towards both should be.  Rather than put together a formal essay, I simply want to bullet a number of points that it seems to me any person who is intellectually honest, historically well-informed, and morally unconfused should agree with (or at least, see good reason to agree with) and from which we can make some obvious inferences.

But first, some disclosures.

First – My father’s family fled Germany for Palestine in 1933.  As a teenager, my father was a member of the Haganah, where he smuggled in Jewish refugees from the concentration camps, in defiance of a harsh British quota, and he subsequently fought in the Israeli War of Independence, when Israel was attacked by four Arab countries (soon to become six). [2] My mother’s family was forcibly driven from their homes in Kolozsvár, Hungary and some were deported to Bergen-Belsen, while others were sent to Auschwitz. (Her father had already been murdered by the Arrow Cross.)  After the war, she and what little remained of her family came to the fledgling Jewish state as refugees.  The overwhelming majority of my family still resides in Israel and family members have fought in all of Israel’s wars. For the first fifteen years of my life — from 1969 – 1984 — I spent between one and two months a year in Israel.

Second – Our family belongs firmly to the Israeli Left.  We do not vote Likud.  We are secular and think the ultra-Orthodox Haredi are a plague on the country.  We vehemently oppose the settlements and believe that the Palestinians should have their own state and be left to their own devices.  (Given how they manage the territories they do control, it seems to me very likely that upon receiving full statehood, they will immediately descend into civil war, but so long as it does not spill over into Israel, that is their prerogative.)

So, with the disclosures out of the way, here we go. (While in no particular order, hopefully, there is some logic to the organization of these points.)


(A) There is nothing weird or arbitrary or otherwise untoward about the Jews choosing the Levant as the location for their national aspirations.  The only reason the Jews are in the diaspora in the first place, is because we were expelled from the Levant.  Europe and the rest of the Middle East were demonstrably hostile environments for Jews to live in.  A good part of the motivation for the original Zionist movement was the anti-Semitic violence and forced ghettoization in 19th century Eastern Europe.

(B) From day one, the Israelis have been in favor of two states and the Arabs have been against it.

On 29 November 1947, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution recommending the adoption and implementation of a plan to partition the British Mandate of Palestine into two states, one Arab and one Jewish, and the City of Jerusalem.

The General Assembly resolution on Partition was greeted with overwhelming joy in Jewish communities and widespread outrage in the Arab world. In Palestine, violence erupted almost immediately, feeding into a spiral of reprisals and counter-reprisals. The British refrained from intervening as tensions boiled over into a low-level conflict that quickly escalated into a full-scale civil war. [3]

And, of course, there were also the peace plans of the 1990’s to all of which the Palestinians responded with violent Intifadas.

(C) It is not a generally accepted principle that the losers of a war of aggression get to choose the terms of the peace or assert the moral high ground.  The Arabs were demonstrably the aggressors in the wars that created the current state of affairs in the region (’48, ’67, and ’73) and thus have no standing whatsoever to dictate terms or provide a moral narrative with regard to the situation in the region.

(D) It is not a generally accepted principle that the losers of a war or their ancestors are owed back what they lost.  Americans are not required to give their property to American Indians or Mexicans.  Germans and Hungarians and Iraqis are not required to give their property to Jews.  Etc.  The idea that Israel should be the sole exception to this smacks of a wild double standard, at best and is beyond that curious, given the vastness of Arab lands in the region and the tininess of Israel.

(E)  It is generally good advice that a loser, in the weaker position, accept the best deal he or she can get.  It is very poor advice to suggest that such a person should hold out for a deal he or she will never get.

(F) One cannot control or manage an unwilling population in perpetuity without inviting perennial instability and violence.

(G) The Arab “Nasserite states” (Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Libya) were vassal states of the Soviet Union throughout the Cold War. [4]

(H) Amin al-Husseini, The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, the leading Palestinian nationalist – and Yasser Arafat’s mentor, until Arafat replaced him – was openly allied with Hitler and the Nazis. [5]

(I) Israel was founded by socialist agrarians, and the political Right had little to no power until the 1970’s. The timing of this shift in Israeli politics to the Right is not an accident. The Israeli Right would not be emboldened and empowered in the way it currently is, had: (a) the Arab nations not waged continual war against Israel for decades; (b) the Palestinians not defined the 1970’s with skyjackings and mass murders, like that performed at the Munich Olympics; (c) the Palestinians not rejected the peace plans of the 1990’s. [6]

(J) Israel was the darling of the political Left in the West, until the mid-1970’s, when things began to change, to the point of the complete switcheroo we see now.  What happened in the meantime that could make sense of this change?  Certainly the shift of Israeli politics rightward is one reason.  But the shift also coincides with the American and European Left’s abandonment of its traditional labor constituency and its capture by “post-colonial” ideology, which, non-coincidentally has also led to the Left’s catastrophic loss of political ground to the Right in the US (see Nixon – Trump) and perhaps elsewhere in the West.

(K) There are currently 17 Arab members of parliament in the Israeli Knesset.  Historically, there have been 81, since 1949.  A number have been Knesset Speaker, Deputy Speaker, or President.  Guess how many Jewish government ministers there are in the Arab countries from which over 800,000 Jews were either expelled or fled?  [7]

(L) Being homosexual is a crime punishable by death in Gaza.  Things are not much better in the West Bank (or Saudi Arabia, Iraq, etc.).  Meanwhile, Israel hosts one of the largest, most vibrant annual gay pride parades in the world and is the place to which gay Palestinians seeking refuge are likely to flee. [8]

(M) As a general rule, one would think that barring personal interests, one’s activism would be governed by utilitarian considerations: i.e. where there is the greatest need.  Hence, with respect to those who have no personal stake in the Arab/Palestinian-Israeli conflict, the question as to who should be the target of efforts such as Boycott, Divest, Sanction would be determined by who are the worst actors with whom one’s country is associated.  The United States and Europe routinely do business with Saudi Arabia, Iran, China, and any number of other countries whose behavior is far more egregious than Israel’s, no matter how skewed a view you take of its role in the conflict in the Middle East.  Indeed, the US’s own behavior since the mid-twentieth century is worse than Israel’s by orders of magnitude, beginning with the nuking of two Japanese cities and the firebombing of dozens of Japanese and German cities, during the Second World War, moving along with the debacle that was the Vietnam War and the bombing of Cambodia, which was a direct cause of the Cambodian genocide, and continuing, most recently, with the catastrophic war in Iraq, the forcible dismantling of Libya and who knows what else in the future.  Why no BDS USA?

(N) It is sometimes claimed that the appalling acts of terrorism committed by the PLO, Fatah, Black September, and other such groups over the last fifty years or so are justified, because they are indicative of what desperate people do in desperate times.  It is an odd claim. When my people were rotting in ghettos in Poland and Ukraine or being put into ovens in Sobibor and Auschwitz, they did not strap explosives to their own children and send them to blow up Germans and Poles or insist on remaining an effective refugee population in perpetuity until everyone who’d wronged them returned everything they’d taken or had been stripped of their nationhood.


Now, to what strike me as some obvious inferences one can make on the basis of (A-N):

(i) Those primarily responsible for the current Palestinian/Israeli conflict are not the Israelis, but rather the Palestinian leadership, the Arab nation-states, and the more cynical members of the UN.  The Israelis have a lot to answer for, however, in terms of exacerbating and worsening the situation through their absurd, cynical settlement policies.

(ii) It is quite clear that the overwhelming Arab motivation in the region from the beginning has been the complete destruction of Israel and that there never was any serious intent to coexist with her.  (This is demonstrably not the case with Israel, who, beyond accepting the proposed partition, included its Arab citizens in its government from the very beginning of the State.) Upon realizing that they could never effect such an outcome, because they were hopelessly outclassed militarily, economically, and in every other way by the Israelis, several of the Arab states finally quietly acquiesced and made peace deals with the Jewish State, but the Palestinian leadership, in good part, has not.  Hence its ongoing misery.

(iii) There is something odd to the point of downright creepy about Western progressives offering such staunch, uncritical support on behalf of peoples and nations who have demonstrated zero commitment to liberal or progressive ideas and practices in their own lands.  The either disingenuous or morally muddled “pinkwashing” accusation is just one bit of evidence of how corrupt (and corrupting) the current progressive stance on the subject has been. [See fn. [8]]

(iv) Aside from those involved due to a personal stake, B.D.S. is either (a) disingenuous; (b) hopelessly naïve; (c) ignorant; (d) anti-Semitic.

(v) American and European progressives are currently being played as “useful idiots” by anti-Israel actors. [9]

(vi) Israel made a catastrophic mistake in how it handled the territories it took after the Six-Day War.  It should either have annexed them and integrated the populations or given them back, regardless of the fact that it had no obligation to do so.  It’s settlement policies were a second, compounding, catastrophic mistake, and the result are the permanent South Bronxes and Detroits that we have in Gaza and the West Bank now.

(vii) Those encouraging the Palestinians to continue to resist and refuse to accept some sort of settlement are not their friends but their enemies.  The same goes for those encouraging Israel to keep building settlements.

(viii)  Had the Palestinians accepted the peace deals negotiated with Yitzhak Rabin and Ehud Barak, the situation in the region today would be significantly better than it actually is.

(ix) The progressive dream that Israel represented in its beginnings may have been forever destroyed by this conflict which, given its interminable nature, has hardened the hearts of the Israeli people. I think Golda Meir was quite correct when she said the following:

We can forgive the Arabs for killing our children. We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children. We will only have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us. [10]

What she didn’t realize was that this also would be the only time when we could have peace with ourselves.

(x) At this point, the politics and actions of both sides simply serve to harden one another into their respectively radical positions.  As Israel seems quite capable of weathering this out for the long haul – it is an economic and technological powerhouse in the region and worldwide and enjoys overwhelming military superiority – it may be generations before anything changes for the better.

(xi) The whole thing is a damned, bloody shame.




[3] Loc. Cit.







[10]  Some think the quote is apocryphal.






89 responses to “Thoughts on Israel and the Current “Situation””

  1. s. wallerstein

    As to point D., it seems to me that while Israel not obligated to grant the right to return, to pay reparations to Palestinians who lost their property in the 1948 war might be a good idea and a first step towards renewing the peace process.

    Machiavelli notes: “men sooner forget the killing of their father than the loss of their patrimony”. (The Prince, chapter XVII).

    Whether or not the Palestinians are responsible for the failure of the peace process in the past, as you claim, Israel could well take the first steps towards getting it going again by, as I say, offering reparations for Palestinian property and above all, withdrawing to the 1967 borders (with some minor adjustments for strategic reasons). That is not going to happen with Netanyahu leading Israel unfortunately.

    Netanyahu went to Brasilia for proto-fascist leader Jair Bolsonaro’s inauguration earlier this month and seemed to get along all too well with this ultra-rightwing racist and anti-gay demagogue.

  2. I agree with you entirely. Indeed, that’s what I think they should do. (Not the Return part, though. At least not as it is demanded.) But it can’t happen until the politics of both sides are reset. Right now they simply are shoving each other into the arms of their most extreme elements.

  3. As for Netanyahu’s sick flirtation with fascists and anti-gay assholes, while political power may be in Jerusalem, the real power is in Tel Aviv, and Israel ain’t going back on its gay rights commitments.

    Addendum: Let me be more precise. There is tremendous economic and cultural power in Tel Aviv …. etc….

  4. I agree with much of what you write there. And I agree very much with (xi).

    I do think that Israel should have been more generous in offering concessions to the Palestinians. If they had, then I suspect that the Palestinians would have rejected those concessions because of their own uncompromising attitudes. But the public at large would then have put more of the blame on the Palestinians and less on Israel. It seems to me that recent Israeli policy has been a public relations disaster.

  5. I think they were quite generous early on, Neil. That was part of my point in suggesting that the Palestinians handled their loss in an incredible stupid fashion and allowed themselves to be manipulated by the Arab states that saw an advantage to keeping them in a permanent refugee state.

  6. J. Bogart

    A and D are not consistent. E has too many exceptions to be of much use, e.g. Ireland. H is irrelevant, just as Israeli selection of murderers as PM is. L is irrelevant. IX is self-indulgent and neither relevant nor true. VI is inconsistent with your view of foundation of Israel as legitimate; the relevant international law supports foundation and a duty to return lands. A problem with BDS is that the strategy seems to have had little influence on South Africa and there is no reason I have seen to think it will have greater effect here. Agree that the conflict between the states and the abysmal state of Palestinian social and political forces is a central problem.

  7. Nothing inconsistent whatsoever about A and D. A simply says that there is nothing arbitrary or weird about the location of Israel. It doesn’t say Israel was “owed”.

  8. L is not irrelevant, as one of the inferences i make has to do with progressive support.

  9. Nothing self indulgent whatsoever about ix.

    Afraid you’ve batted 0 for 0.

  10. Oh and vi is not at all inconsistent with Israel’s legitimacy as a nation.

  11. J. Bogart

    (A) There is nothing untoward about the Jews choosing the Levant as the location for their national aspirations. They were expelled from the Levant.
    Expelled from the Levant over a thousand years before the establishment of Israel; the return and creation involved displacement and expulsion of (we can call, for lack of other term) Palestinians. If there is nothing arbitrary or untoward about the choice, then it is because (in part) there is some connection to the place based on inhabitation and then expulsion. If there was nothing like being “owed”, which I take to tie to right to the place, then it is gets harder to see how why there is any interest in legitimacy. Certainly it is not without precedent. The nations of North America, for example and as you note, are saliently similar. The conflict (not contradiction) with (D) is this: Jews were expelled from Palestina more than a thousand years before establishment of Israel. The expelled have, on your account, no claim to the lands from which they were removed. (Maybe ‘owed back’ means something else, but you’ll have to tell me that as I think it doesn’t.) That looks like their claims to the place are extinguished. So the Jews have no claims to Palestina, or didn’t at the relevant time. Which seems to imply that the Palestinians did have valid moral claims to the place and the choice to locate Israel there does need justification. In addition, under current international law, there is nothing special about expecting reparations for wars of aggression. Something of the sort is behind the view that Russia owes Ukraine return of Crimea. Maybe you are committing to a genuinely realist view of international relations, in which case it is hard to see any point to the moral language or to the references to the UN. In addition, as the Jews had no rights, were not owed, as you say, then Palestinians were and are fully justified in resisting the entry and expansion of Jews.
    (L) is irrelevant to the conflict or assessment of the conflict. Israel’s recent development as hospitable to LGB communities can’t matter to the realist suggestions higher on the list, and is independently of no relevance to the nature of the conflict or its resolution. Israel did not have a different status as justified, e.g., in 1969 when it was not particularly hospitable to LGB communities.
    (ix) is morally self-indulgent. Set aside that it cannot be made to fit with the realism of the earlier points. First off, it is hardly true. Israel’s establishment involved a process of ethnic cleansing (albeit not on the scale of, say Serbia or Croatia), which included killing innocents and terror campaigns. Arabs did not force that on anyone. Nor is it plausible that Palestinians forced Israelis to kill Palestinian children. That would require abandoning normal accounts of responsibility – like supposing the Easter Rising forced the British to shell apartment buildings in Dublin. The guys who give the orders should not be let off that easy.
    (vi) International law does require Israel to return the lands occupied as a result of the Six-Day War. It did and does have “an obligation to give them back”. With respect to legitimacy of Israel, the point I did not make clearly enough is that your think that UN action goes to the legitimacy of Israel, which is to say, that the founding was permitted (or maybe authorized) by international law. So it is not that the occupation deprives Israel of legitimacy, but that if you rely on international law for legitimacy you are stuck with international law on the occupied territories and the duty to return.

    Notwithstanding these disagreements, my point is not to say the Israel is illegitimate. Or that is morally lesser or worse than its neighbors. (Or to deny that it does a great deal better by it residents and citizens.) I just (?) think your list of bullet points gets things wrong in a number of ways. And, as for scoring, I am 10 for 10 even though I was not making 10 points, because I have a catcher’s mask and a blue hat.

  12. Fair enough, man. I just got such a lashing over at BHTV that I’m a little defensive.

    I still don’t agree with you, re: A. My point was simply to say that there is nothing weird or arbitrary about the choice of place, given our history. This is in reply to the often cited, “why not Madagascar” or whatever.

    My point re: the initial UN partition was not to bow at the altar of “international law” — a concept about which I am quite skeptical — but simply to make the point that Israel has always accepted the idea of living alongside its Arab neighbors, while the Arabs demonstrably have not accepted the idea of living alongside their Jewish neighbors.

    I stand by the rest of my replies.

  13. Carol Bensick

    Powerful essay. Thanks for taking the trouble,

  14. Paul S. Rhodes

    Describing the U.N. Partition Plan as a two state solution is, I would suggest, just a tad disingenuous. At that time the Jews comprised just six percent of the population and owned only a third of the land in Mandatory Palestine, and yet the U.N. plan gave them more than half of the land and most of the arable, fertile land, relegating the Arabs to the hard-scrabble hills. What you describe as a “Two State Solution” looks more like outright theft, and if I were an Arab living in Mandatory Palestine in 1947, I would think by what right is the U.N, giving half my land to a minority immigrant population, most of whom have been here for merely thirty years? You’re damn right I would oppose this plan.

  15. I appreciate it. The abuse one gets for taking even a moderate liberal position is both disheartening and tiring.

  16. Well, they did oppose the plan. Then they and their friends launched a war.

    And got their asses kicked. That’s how real life works. You gamble and sometimes you lose.

  17. s. wallerstein


    However, Israel is there: what are we going to do with it?

    Besides the fact that it’s there, it’s a functioning prosperous country with free speech and gay rights, etc. That may not mean much to you, if you live in the U.S. and take that for granted, but I’ve lived most of my life in South America and I am aware that not all societies function well or guarantee free speech.

    I suggest and Dan K. seems to agree above that Israel withdraw from the occupied territories to its 1967 borders, which are legal in terms of international law (the UN) and in addition, pay reparations to the Palestinians for the property that they lost in 1948. How about paying at 2018 market prices? With that cash refugees, currently starving in Gaza, can buy themselves a nice home in the new Palestinian state and probably have a little left over for a trip to a Europe and a retirement plan. That’s as good as a deal as anyone will give you in this world.

  18. I mostly agree S. Wallerstein. Definitely about unilateral withdrawal to the pre-67 borders. I would be much more inclined to your reparations idea, if the Palestinians hadn’t responded to the 90’s negotiations with two intifadas. At this point, I am quite disinclined I’m afraid.

  19. s. wallerstein

    A man with a nice home, a credit card and an SUV in the drive-way is much less likely to throw rocks or blow himself up.
    Money works miracles. Obviously, you can point to terrorists who come from rich families, but in general, money produces a certain complacency with the status quo in almost all of us.

  20. That is true. Then again, the Palestinians seem to want to pass up every possible opportunity and remain miserable forever, so my faith in their collective rationality is quite low.

  21. Funny, but my father suggested something similar. He once said, “Give every Palestinian a million dollars. Way cheaper than the wars, and they’ll never bother you again.” That assumes however, that they are rational actors, and their behavior since ’48 suggests otherwise.

  22. s. wallerstein

    Here’s one of my favorite jokes which will illustrate my point.

    The Coca Cola company decides that they are going to try to get the Catholic Church to change the Lords Prayer from “give us our daily bread” to “give us our daily Coca Cola”. It will be great publicity.

    They send their sales manager to talk to the local Archbishop. He offers 10 million dollars to change the prayer. The Archbishop is indignant. These are the holy words of our Lord, Jesus Christ, he says and besides the Holy Church does not accept bribes and slams the door.

    So Coca Cola sends their vice-president to talk to Cardenal. He offers 100 million dollars to change the prayer. The Cardenal pauses, reflects and then says “thank you for your generous offer, but the Holy Church will never change the words of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. God bless you.”.

    Finally, Coca Cola sends their CEO to talk to the Pope. Holy father, he says, I offer 500 million dollars deposited in an offshore banking account to change the prayer. The Pope picks up his phone and asks: what was the bakers’ last offer?

  23. Steve

    Daniel, while I generally enjoy your musings, you jumped the rationality track before you even got started. There is no historic connection at all between European Jews and people of the Levant, as you put it. The connection is as mythic and symbolic as old negro spirituals longing to return to the River Jordan. What would have made more sense was to carve out a corner of the Ukraine for the new Jewish state.

  24. Sorry you feel that way. Thank you for commenting.

  25. s. wallerstein

    Sefardi Jews are as Middle Eastern and Semitic as they come.

  26. A small remark on (K) “There are currently 17 Arab ministers in the Israeli Parliament (Knesset).”
    That should be “There are currently 17 Arab members of Knesset.”
    I would be surprised if they all were ministers.

    I respect your point of view (although I don’t agree with everything) but I feel that you’re not correctly describing the current situation of “the Palestinians”.
    There was an interesting piece in the NY Times today that explained – correctly, I think – the Palestinians currently are mainly onlookers while several external forces beyond their control are fighting it out on their land (and in the surrouding countries): Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas … To which Israel may be added. You suggest the Palestinians aren’t rational actors; I think they barely deserve to be called actors.

  27. Hamas was elected. Polling of Palestinians has demonstrated substantial support for the terrorist activities of Hamas and the PLO over the years. Efforts to paint them as non-actors are just an exercise in excuse making.

  28. s. wallerstein

    I guess the basic question here is: why Israel?

    It’s got a nasty rightwing government, it is occupying the West Bank and “overseeing” Gaza against international law, its army can be brutal and violate human rights, etc.

    However, the world is full of brutal governments. How about the Saudis or Putin or even the U.S.? After all, all of Israel’s military adventures have had some defensive justification, while the U.S. is in Iraq and Afghanistan without any defensive justification. I live in Chile where Nixon and Kissinger plotted with the local military to put Pinochet in power without the democratically elected government which Pinochet overthrew posing any threat to the U.S.

    Israel is definitively not Denmark, a mind-your-own-business country which hasn’t attacked anyone in a very long time, but on the other hand, it is not the world’s worst human rights offender.

    Dan K. has listed many of Israel’s virtues above and I will not bother to repeat them.

    Why Israel?

    I suspect that for one or another reason people expect better behavior of Israel (and the Jews) than they do of the Saudis or of Putin and so get more upset when Israel behaves like the other SOB’s. In some sense that is a compliment to the Israelis (and the Jews): they expect us to be as civilized as the Danes and the Swedes and we behave almost as badly as the U.S. does.

    I think that Israel should behave better. As I said above, they should withdraw from the occupied territories and pay reparations to the Palestinians for properties lost in the 1948 War.

    Still, it does seem that Israel is held to higher standards than most societies are.

  29. Israel didn’t always have a “nasty right wing government.” Indeed, Israel was founded as a socialist-agrarian country and was ruled by socialists through the 1970’s.

    It was driven into the arms of its right wing, by endless wars waged against it by the Arab states and by the terrorism of the PLO.

    The Palestinians, by contrast, were ruled by nasty murderers from day 1. See my note re: the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and Yasser Arafat.

    Look, this is all pretty transparent and obvious. Those who keep twisting themselves into pretzels to take the opposing view are, as I said in the essay, either (a) disingenuous; (b) hopelessly naive; (c) ignorant; (d) anti-Semitic.

  30. Paul S. Rhodes

    In other words, might makes right. Okay.

  31. You really just don’t get the whole idea of realism in geopolitics do you.

    What do you think is going to happen? The Israelis have overwhelming military superiority in the region. They are an economic and technological powerhouse. The countries surrounding them are a bunch of basket case kleptocracies and murderocracies. The Palestinians, if left to themselves, would descend into immediate civil war.

    When you gamble and lose, you have to deal. The Arabs gambled on rejecting the partition and attacking Israel. They lost. And then they lost again and again and again.

    At this point, anyone with even the slightest brains and good judgment would make a deal, as Sadat did with Begin decades ago.

    But to refuse and stamp your foot and whine about “might makes right” just means you are a fool. And will continue to lose.

  32. Sephardi and Mizrahi. And so are the Ashkenaz. How do you think they got to Poland or Ukraine? Via the Diaspora. Jews are not indigenous to those areas.

    The whole line is just stupid, which is why I didn’t respond to it.

  33. Dan,
    I think your argument persuasive and historically fairly well informed. I confess a difficulty writing of this issue because I personally think the situation is hopeless; so be honest, I try not to think of it. Too many missteps by too many of the players in this game have left the situation in ruins. It is like watching someone playing poker with someone who thinks they’re playing chess, and the third player is playing rock-paper-scissors. “Full house!” – “Your queen’s in check!” “Paper wraps stone. – I win!” “Huh?” Except the stakes are human lives. And not just for now, but for generations to come. The world simply does not now have the politicians with the diplomatic savvy to untangle this.

    Some notes:

    1. Little understood in the West is:

    1) There is not one Islam. There are the Shiite and the Sunni. The Sunni are themselves divisible between competing sects.

    2) Across Africa. the Mid-east, and the Indian subcontinent, the spread of Islam has followed tribal and clan influences (if the heads of the clan adopted one sect, the rest of the clan followed). 3) The broader regional politics in the struggle between the two main sects has a long protracted history encompassing states of vast territories. This is why, while it is wrong to say that Islam constitutes a political ideology, it nonetheless has a political history. This political history was completely ignored by the British (still the real villains of the piece), largely ignored by the French, and remains largely unknown in America. The point is that there is not (never has been) one “Arab” population with which to deal. There are multiple Islamic populations that sometimes work together, sometimes not.

    3) Israel was established as a largely secular state with an *ethnic* Jewish heritage. The pull to the (religious) right by the Likud, understandable given the rising fear inspired by the electoral victory of Hamas among the Palestinians, is probably not reflective of the real interests of the Israeli majority – anymore than Trumpism is truly reflective of the majority of the American electorate. Yet the problem is that there have been, and are, decisions made that possibly generations will be find themselves bound to, that are counterproductive. First and foremost of these is transformation of Israel into a religious state. This, if completed, would be disastrous.

    4) The only reason the American Religious right supports Israel is that they expect Armageddon in the near future. But this is a powerful belief – and a hideous one. Who wants a nuclear holocaust to bring about Judgment Day? – Possibly the Rev. Frank Graham.

    5) No one one seems to ask the rather obvious question: why does Iran want to involve itself in the affairs of Israel? We largely assume that they simply want influence in the region – and this is largely correct. But there may be another reason: Jerusalem. Especially in the conflict between Sunni and Shiite, control of Jerusalem is paramount.. It is, after all, the flashpoint in the history of the Crusades. And failure to recognize Islamic antagonism to Western Colonialism means failure to recognize that for many Muslim theorists (esp. extremists), the Crusades are still on-going..

    6) You mention the disparity between the small area of land Israel inhabits, and the large amount of land inhabited by Arabs. I don’t think you’re being disingenuous here, because people rarely stop and think about arability (subtract non-arable land, and Australia is a very small state indeed). Land that cannot be sowed and harvested, if only for animal feed, is no land at all. In fact Israel – especially following the annexation of the Golan Heights watershed – sits on the best water supplies in the region.

    7) Finally, how did the Western Left change their minds on Israel? It began with a certain thread of French Marxists, (eg, Sartre), historically responding to the Algerian anti-colonial war, which they read as a war of self-liberation. They were partially correct, What they didn’t understand were the tribal dynamics or\f the region and its religious history (and pace Mark English, while I think the Modern notion of ‘religion’ was an invention, I also think it has proven very useful).

    As long as religion is the driving force behind the politics of the Mid-East, there is no hope for any negotiated settlement between the disparate parties involved. And can you imagine any near future when Religion is not that driving force? I cannot.

  34. A couple other notes on reflection:
    1) The indoctrination in antisemitism for Palestinian youth is well documented; the indoctrination in anti-‘Arab’ bias of Israeli children is not as well documented, but can be guessed given the rise of the right.

    2) The historical problem of Islam is that, if one accepts all the best that can be said of God in the Abrahamic religions, it is (almost bizarrely) the most reasonable. It offers an absolute god without any vested racial/ ethnic interest; with readily understood prescriptions and proscriptions drawn from ancient tribal traditions and biases; with ready-made social structures and an unyielding moral code easily translated into law. There are ‘miracles’ in the Islamic narrative, but no ‘mysteries.’ The previous Abrahamic narratives (Bible) are accounted for; and even science has a place in its cosmology (as long as it is understood that Allah can do anything He chooses on a moment’s whim).

    The point is that it cannot be properly negotiated – in any Islam-dominated state – on either a moral or religious bases. Such negotiation demands historical savvy, political savvy, economic savvy.

    Oh, but look who’re the leaders of Israel and the US right now.

  35. Paul S. Rhodes

    Just like Poland gambled on resisting the Nazi Invasion of 1939? Are you listening to yourself? Geez. The Jews weren’t satisfied with the Partition Plan, either, because they wanted even more land so they provoked an Arab Attack by provoking a major refugee crisis. You’ve heard of Plan Dalet, no? If you haven’t, I suggest you google it or, better yet, read up on it in the works of David Hirst and Ian Pappé. Plan Dalet was a plan to cleanse Palestine of Palestinians, village by village, either by massacre (as in Deir Yassin) or by the threat of massacre. The plan worked so well, that by the time of the British Withdrawal on the15th of May, the neighboring Arab countries were overwhelmed by a refugee problem so severe that they were forced to defend the persecuted Palestinians. Hence, the “attack on Israel”, which the superior Haganah (and the superiority was never in doubt) forces used as an excuse to capture more territory than was allotted to the Jewish State by the U.N. But, hey, if you can get away with ethnic cleansing, then do it, right?

  36. s. wallerstein

    Paul Rhodes,

    When you refer to “the Jews” not being satisfied with the partition plan, you begin to sound a bit anti-semitic.

    It’s the Israeli leadership who weren’t satisfied with the partition plan. The Jews include Noam Chomsky, Uri Avnery, Amira Hass, Jewish Voices for Peace, etc.

  37. Bunsen Burner

    So what are we to make of A then? There were a people called Jews a thousand years ago. There is a modern people calling themselves Jews. These are not the same people. There has been too much genetic, ethnic, religious, cultural and linguistic divergence. Does a secular Ashkenazim with a Slav Orthodox parent really have greater claim on a piece of land in the Levant than a Palestinian whose ancestors may have have had a continuous existence there for centuries? How is this any different for the type of ethno-nationalistic claims currently been made by the far right?

  38. Of course we are the same people. This isn’t a blood claim but a heritage claim. I am adopted. Nonetheless, my parents’ people are *my* people in every meaningful sense.

    Jews worldwide participate in the same rituals and traditions every Pesach. Read the same parts of the Torah on Shabbat. Follow the same dietary laws that reach back to just a few gundred years after the destruction of the Temple. Jews more than almost anyone else can claim this sort of civilizations continuity, reaching back to a single land and kingdom.

  39. Also, I will repeat again, that (A) only speaks to the reason why there is nothing weird about Israel being founded where it is. It says nothing about it being owed. I don’t know why people seem to almost want to misread this. It is very clearly stated.

  40. You’re history is either ignorant or deliberately slanted. The Israelis demonstrably accepted the partition as indicated in the citation I offered. And my family was actually there at the time. Was yours?

    You can hurl whatever slurs you want. It makes no difference to me or to the only successful country in the entire blighted region.

  41. Paul S. Rhodes

    Mr. Wallerstein, fine, I’ll use the term “Zionists” instead. Using the term “Israeli Leadership” is a bit anachronistic as Israel did not quite exist yet in 1947

  42. And as you very well know the intention of Dalet is disputed among historians. There are those who say as you do that it represented a conspiracy to ethnic cleansing. And there are those who argue it was purely defensive. And as you would expect, who says what is determined by their already established pro or anti Israel inclination.

    Look we get it. You’re anti Israel. I’m pro. Is there any point to our going around and around?

  43. Paul S. Rhodes

    Yeah, sure the Zionists agreed to the plan, knowing full well that the Arabs would not. Again, who the hell would agree to their own dispossession? You make it sound like the partition plan was fair to both sides without mentioning any details of the plan. Again, the Zionists at that time represented only six percent of the population and owned only a third of the land, and yet the U.N. Plan gave them more than half of the land (57%) and included in that was most of the arable land. Anyone–not just those filthy Nazi Arabs–at the wrong end of such a blatantly lopsided deal would accept it. The Zionists knew that the Arabs would resist and planned to use this resistance as an excuse to use the Haganah (and the Irgun) to grab more land.

    Your argument is a lot like Austria’s justification of its invasion of Serbia. Well, Serbia rejected Austria’s Ultimatum, leaving the Empire no choice but to invade. Yeah, but the Ultimatum was written specifically so that Serbia would have no choice but to reject it. The Ultimatum made demands on Serbia’s sovereignty that no country could accept and still maintain its independence.

  44. Bunsen Burner

    What does L have to do with not treating Palestinians like animals? Why is the whole Arab world displayed a single entity, and worse as a single proxy for all things Palestinian? I have many good Arab friend in the UK and in Egypt who are doing a lot to promote gay rights. They are not responsible for their government’s bigotry. On the other hand why does attitude to homosexuality trump the vile racism of many Israelis? I have had my life threatened only twice – both times in Tel Aviv – both times for stating the horrors I had seen in the West Bank.

  45. Paul S. Rhodes

    Yeah, and Israel gave Hamas permission to organize in the Seventies in the hope that it would weaken the PLO. Typical divida et impera strategy which the Israelis stole from the British.

  46. Paul S. Rhodes

    If you post my reply (and I don’t think you will, but if you do), post this one. It’s proofread.

    Yeah, sure the Zionists agreed to the plan, knowing full well that the Arabs would not. Again, who the hell would agree to their own dispossession? You make it sound like the partition plan was fair to both sides without mentioning any details of the plan. Again, the Zionists at that time represented only six percent of the population and owned only a third of the land, and yet the U.N. Plan gave them more than half of the land (57%) and included in that was most of the arable land. No one–not just those filthy Nazi Arabs–at the wrong end of such a blatantly lopsided deal would accept it. The Zionists knew that the Arabs would resist and planned to use this resistance as an excuse to use the Haganah (and the Irgun) to grab more land.

    Your argument is a lot like Austria’s justification of its invasion of Serbia. Well, Serbia rejected Austria’s Ultimatum, leaving the Empire no choice but to invade. Yeah, but the Ultimatum was written specifically so that Serbia would have no choice but to reject it. The Ultimatum made demands on Serbia’s sovereignty that no country could accept and still maintain its independence.

  47. Bunsen Burner

    What exactly then is your definition of Jewish? I have friends and even member of my own family who consider themselves Jewish. Yet they don’t follow any rituals or dietary laws. None of them have read the Torah. None of them a religious. They did have such people as ancestors however. Are they Jewish or faking it? Is there a test or it it all based on self-identification?

  48. Bunsen Burner

    M is a very strange response. Activism should be governed by utilitarian considerations? Well Ok, even we assume that then it does not follow that it has to be where there is the greatest need.The correct utilitarian consideration would be to act where and how you can be most effective. Trying to stop the abuses of your country should rank higher than the abuses of other countries as that is where you are most effective. Likewise the strategies you employ. BDS is a strategy that can work against Israel, it is not a strategy that would be useful against China. Also the idea that other countries are simply given a free pass on their abuses relative to Israel is just plain ignorant. Just in the last year I have either seen or taken part in protesting abuses in Burma, Saudi, Yemen, Russia and China. The real question is why should Israel be treated differently and allowed to get away with its horrendous human rights abuses?

  49. Bunsen Burner

    I wonder to what extend Israel really can weather this out. I don’t what ‘… an economic and technological powerhouse..’ could be referring to but probably to the fact that Israel has received 100’s of billions of US dollars in aid. In fact the last Memorandums of Understanding signed by Obama was the largest such agreement ever by the US with any other country. Without US support I seriously doubt Israel would be have the relative prosperity it currently enjoys. Support that has been steadily eroding as people become aware of the horrendous human rights abuses going on in the occupied territories.

  50. I already explained the relevance of L. I will not do so again.

    Good to hear about your personal experience. Mine has been exactly the opposite. And spend five minutes perusing the well archived material routinely used in Palestinian schools if you want to see “vile racism.” As for your “friends,” polling routinely demonstrates the atavistic attitudes prevalent among substantial majorities of the people in the countries you are talking about.

    Look, as with Rhodes, we obviously aren’t going to agree on this. Is there any point in going around and around on it?

  51. I already posted your last reply. And here I’m posting your revision.

  52. Paul S. Rhodes

    You always say that when you find yourself on the weak side of the argument, don’t you?

  53. This is ignorant nonsense, I’m afraid.

    “Israel ranks fifth among the most innovative countries in the Bloomberg Innovation Index.[3][4] It ranks thirteenth in the world for scientific output as measured by the number of scientific publications per million citizens.[5] In 2014, Israel’s share of scientific articles published worldwide (0.9%) was much higher than its share of the global population (0.1%).[6][2] It also has one of the highest per capita rates of filed patents.[7]

    The economy of Israel is advanced by global standards.[17][18] Israel ranks within the top 20 nations in the world on the latest report of the UN’s Human Development Index, which places it in the category of “Very Highly Developed”, allowing the country to enjoy a higher standard of living than many other Western countries. The prosperity of Israel’s advanced economy allows the country to have a sophisticated welfare state, a modern infrastructure, and a high-technology sector competitively on par with Silicon Valley.[17] Israel has the second-largest number of startup companies in the world after the United States,[19] and the third-largest number of NASDAQ-listed companies after the U.S. and China.[20] Intel[21], Microsoft[22], and Apple[23][24] built their first overseas research and development facilities in Israel, and other high-tech multi-national corporations, such as IBM, Google, HP, Cisco Systems, Facebook and Motorola have opened R&D centres in the country.[25]”

  54. Nah. I say it when I find myself repeating myself to disingenuous interlocutors.

    Do you really think there is a point in our continuing to go around and around? I do not. Each of us has said our piece. And clearly, neither is going to convince the other. I will not allow the comments section to turn into an abuse-fest.

  55. Paul S. Rhodes

    Oh, so I’m disingenuous because I simply argue that the Partition Plan was a blatantly lopsided deal for the Arabs and that no one can be expected to agree to their dispossession? I can imagine you would say the same thing if I objected to a burglar in my house, especially if the burglar was kind enough to let me keep my pajamas. Sheesh. If anyone is disingenuous, it is you, Dr. Kaufman. You are the one who are basically arguing that the Zionists have the right to dispossess the Palestinians of their land because of might. You are arguing that might makes right, and if that is the case, Dr. Kaufman, philosophy is pointless and so is your very job.

  56. Er, my refusal to repeat an answer I’d already given was directed to Bunsen, not you.

    And I’ve made no such argument as the one you attribute to me. As for my job, fortunately, your view of it is irrelevant, and my students and employer are quite satisfied with the work I do.

    Have a good day.

  57. (Islam) “is (almost bizarrely) the most reasonable” – I really meant ‘rational,’ or better yet ‘rationalistic,’ in the simplest sense. Although the sacred texts of Islam are as confusing as those of other religions, its basic precepts and practices are easy to grasp, which can make it quite attractive to those in certain circumstances. My point being that it’s not going away or experiencing anything like our Enlightenment in the West any time soon. Which is why appeals in negotiation must be to political and economic interests in the region. That requires considerable delicacy; but it can be done by those historically informed.

  58. Paul S. Rhodes

    Oh, if you’re not making the argument that I am attributing to you, then tell me, kind sir, by what right did only three percent of the population have to fifty-seven percent of the land which included most, if not all, of the arable land in Mandatory Palestine?! The only thing I hear from you is that the Arabs should not have rejected this ‘deal’ because they got their asses kicked. If that’s not the doctrine of Might makes Right, then I don’t know what would be.

  59. I suspect that most if not all nations have no “right” to be where they are. That is not how geopolitical matters are typically determined. That you seem only interested in it with respect to Israel is certainly interesting, but not something we will likely profitably debate.

    Unless, that is, you are planning on fighting as vociferously for the return of my mothers’ family’s property in Cluj to us or my father’s family’s property in Mannheim. Then, of course, there is the question of the entirety of the United States, Canada, etc.

    Once again — and this is the last time I will ask — do you see any profitable result in our continuing to go around this issue with one another? You’ve already established that you think I am a promoter of ethnic cleansing, apartheid, etc. What further point do you think you are going to make that you haven’t already done?

  60. Steve

    I will stipulate on the Sephardi. Ashkenaz however have no genetic link to the original residents of Israel. you can look it up.

  61. Bunsen Burner

    Sorry, are you disputing that Israel has been the recipient of 100s of billions of US aid? Fake news is it? In that case you’re right, why bother engaging in this discussion when you seem to have no interest in understanding anything about the real world. Have fun with your confirmation bias

  62. s. wallerstein

    Throughout human history might has made right. There is probably not a single nation or society where some people have not taken the lands of another.

    As far as I know, Israel’s pre-1967 borders have been accepted by the UN and are thus legitimate in terms of international law. The only recourse we have against might making right is international law.

    Both I and Dan K have made it clear throughout this thread that we believe that Israel should withdraw from the occupied territories and stop trying to control Gaza and thus abide by international law.

    Whether the original partition of Palestine is “fair” is an interesting question, but it seems no more relevant politically than whether the Norman invasion of Great Britain was “fair” or whether the peace treaty ending the 30 Years War was “fair”.

    For the record, I don’t think that the original partition of Palestine was fair to the Palestinians, but it happened and it has been accepted by the international community and even by many Palestinians. For example, I participate in an online human rights group here in Chile and I stated there, as I did above, that I believe that Israel should withdraw from the occupied territories to its 1967 borders and compensate Palestinians for the lost of their property during the 1948 War. As a result, a fellow of Palestinian origins in the same group invited me to speak to the Palestinian Federation here in Chile because he felt that my proposal was a step towards peace between our two peoples. That invitation made me feel very good.

  63. Paul S. Rhodes

    Ah, you FINALLY made that point. And that’s probably one big reason why this country is such a rabid supporter of the State of Israel, both countries having come into being through ethnic cleansing. But you are still comparing apples and oranges. Our ethnic cleansing happened more than a century ago, Israel’s just seventy years ago. You know very well that in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the aboriginals attacked us whites because we had dispossessed them. We managed to whittle down the aboriginal population to a comparatively non-threatening number. The Palestinians in the Levant constitute a much greater percentage of the regional population than does the aboriginal population here. So, should Israel do to the Palestinians what we did to the First Nation Tribes? How far are you willing to take your ‘geopolitical realism’, eh? Preaching to the Palestinians that they deserve their lot because they disobeyed the authority of the infant U.N. (and are terribly homophobic–but that’s just post hoc propter hoc reasoning) is not working. At all. They still want their land back and the right of the return of the Palestinian diaspora. What should be done to disabuse them of all these naïve and anti-Semitic delusions? Shoot them?

  64. Genetic link? Who cares?

  65. Who disputes it?

    As for confirmation bias, I think you should look in the mirror. I also think you have engaged in some pretty selective and distorted reading of what I actually wrote.

  66. I look forward to your vociferous, impassioned arguments for the Germans and Hungarians to return my family’s land to them. And for the US to give up the whole place. I’m sure it will do as much good as the Palestinians demanding everything back from Israel.

    As for your question, if they attack Israel they will be shot. As has already occurred. What do you expect? I’m not going to Germany to blow up schoolbuses until they return my father’s property. And I’m not going to Hungary/Romania and blowing up pizza parlors, until they return my mother’s property. According to your “logic,” I should. And what do you think they’d do if I did? Shoot me.

    You are both incredibly naive and stupid, I’m afraid to say. Like a child you elevate principle to a point it can never reach. It must always negotiate with reality and practice. The rest is just infantile foot stamping. And, of course, perennial losing.

    Or you’re just an incredibly disingenuous anti-Semite. I can’t decide which. But given that you are not counseling me to act towards the Germans and Hungarians the way you are counseling the Palestinians to act towards Israel, I’m starting to lean towards the latter.

  67. Paul S. Rhodes

    Please post this instead. This is proofread. Sorry.

    Oh, you want to talk about reality? Okay, the reality is the big demographic time bomb. The birth rate among the Palestinians is much higher than that of the Israelis. That’s why Israel has adopted a policy of squeezing the population in both Gaza and the West Bank in the hope that they’ll just leave. And that’s why the Israelis will periodically provoke the Gazans to violence so the misnamed IDF has an excuse to bomb Gaza’s infrastructure and make that “open air prison (former English Prime Minister David Cameron’s term)” more unlivable than it already is. But still the Palestinians keep popping out more kids than the Israelis, and if that continues, the Israelis will soon be outnumbered. I can see only two solutions: 1) outright genocide of the Palestinians or 2) granting every Palestinian Israeli citizenship in a one state solution. If the latter happens, Israel will cease to be a Jewish State, but I don’t think even Avigdor Lieberman wants Israel to stuff Palestinians into gas chambers. I could be wrong about that, though.

  68. Lol. You almost had me until this one. Now I know not to take you seriously anymore. You’ll have to do your “thing” with someone else.

    “Periodically provoke Hamas.” Amazing. You should become one of these newfangled “woke” comedians.

  69. Paul S. Rhodes

    You must also have a low opinion of Norman Finkelstein as well.

  70. You would be correct.

  71. Couldn’t it just be that you both are right? Israel has a very dynamic and innovative economy, but as far as I know it was kick-started by spin-offs of the huge investments in military-related research and development; and it is not unreasonable to assume these would have been unsustainable without the billions of US aid.

    In your reply to my first remark, you wrote that the Palestinians voted for Hamas. Certainly, but on the other hand the Irgun (also called Etsel or Etzel) – a terrorist organization – was a political predecessor to Likud party, and they get lots of votes. Menachem Begin was a leader of the Irgun and became prime minister of Israel.

    Sometimes these things happen. Sometimes people vote for (ex-)terrorists. Begin signed the Camp David accords and got a Nobel prize for peace.

    Was the election of Begin a vote for terrorism? What does that vote for Hamas mean? The Irgun was in a certain sense a home-grown Israeli organization (although I don’t know how many Jews actually agreed with their methods) but Hamas is heavily influenced by non-Palestinian actors. If it turns out that clever Russian internet-propaganda heavily influenced the most recent presidential elections in the US, that would certainly diminish the legitimacy of Trump’s election. Because of the same reasons, I rather doubt the legitimacy of all those votes for Hamas.

    The Palestinians are in my opinion the plaything of external forces. They are a huge present for the middle-east. For Israel – how could it justify the settlements without an external enemy like the Palestinians? – but even more for all kinds of semi-dictatorial Arab or Shiite nations who love to whip up some anti-Israel frenzy to make people forget that they’re living in a semi-dictatorial country.

    I hope you agree that the settlements are an abomination. They’re not necessary for the safety of the Israeli borders. And they are the only example I know of brute-force colonization by a civilized country in the 21th century.

  72. I think you’re underestimating the demographic time-bomb. A two-state solution seem to be very problematic, because of the Palestinian (or Arab?) intransigence and the Israeli settlements, but a one-state solution is going to be confronted with that high Palestinian birthrate.

    Orthodox Jews may have higher birthrates too, but does Israel really want to be taken over politically by an growing orthodox population? That relaxed attitude towards gays in Tel Aviv may disappear faster than you think.

  73. I wasn’t LoL’ing at that part. Rather, it was at the “provoking Hamas” part.

  74. One of the first things Begin did was make peace with Sadat.

    You shouldn’t ask my view on the settlements. I was explicit about them in the essay.

  75. I wouldn’t dismiss the “provoking Hamas” so easily. Everybody in the middle-east needs Hamas. Israel needs a mean Hamas. What the fuck would it do without them? What would it do if the Palestinians suddenly became peace-loving guys? Abolish the settlements and invite all those people living there to come back? Open the borders with Gaza?

    The rest of the middle-east needs Hamas too of course, to show their manly courage fighting against the injustices of 1948.

    Hamas fulfills a very useful function for everyone involved, and it’s not going to disappear soon. The meaner it is, the better it is.

  76. Well, I’m for a peace settlement. We need neither Hamas, nor Netanyahu and his goons.

  77. Before we rush to handing Israel completely over to the Palestinians, we should remind ourselves what this would actually look like – because we already know what it would look like – It would look something like Syria. Violent conflicts would immediately erupt between various sectarian Islamic groups. These couldn’t even be called ‘civil wars,’ because this assumes conflicting governments, and it’s not certain that any governmental agency could be properly organized.

    It is not that there aren’t intelligent, reasonable, well-meaning Palestinians with talent and political abilities. But too many different – and opposing – Islamic interests have intervened and will and would continue to intervene in the organization of a true Palestinian State. The indoctrination that occurred in the ’70s and ’80s, which I previously remarked briefly, makes a reasonable election on representative democratic principles virtually impossible – programmed drones do not make good voters – a problem that plagues every republic these days, but is especially potentially catastrophic in a region with tribal and sectarian commitments overriding any rational politics.

    Finally, let me remark, given the discussion so far, that the events of 1948 are pragmatically irrelevant going forward, especially given the complex and complicated history of Ottoman, British, global and regional politics leading up to it. There are a people who identify as Palestinian, although what other identity they may share is actually open to considerable question. The State of Israel exists. It may not be in the best condition, politically, that we could hope for it. But it has potential, manifest in its history; and whatever its failings (which may be rightfully called to account when egregious), it remains – despite all the conflict within and without – a stabilizing presence in the area.

    That sounds paradoxical – but practical politics is filled with paradoxes. It is paradoxical that the form of government allowing the greatest opportunity to the intelligent, well-meaning, and capable, should depend also on the representation of he poorly educated with little aspiration beyond a good job with a good wage. Yet such is the case, at least in the West.

    Perhaps another, better form of government will replace this. But right now, it’s the best we’ve been able to come up with.

  78. alandtapper1950

    Dan: Thanks for your sane and clear analysis. EJ, your comment above is very apt, I think.

    I see that Amos Oz died last month. His “A Tale of Love and Darkness” is the best insider’s account I know of living through the contested history of Israel.

    I’d be interested to know what reading others recommend, for those of us not close to that part of the world.


  79. I would strongly recommend “The Pledge,” by Leonard Slater.

    This short piece by the Times on it, from 1970, also provides an interesting window into a time when the US had a much clearer and less morally confused picture of ’48 than we do now, after decades of pro-Arab propaganda.

  80. Paul S. Rhodes

    Anything by Norman Finkelstein or Noam Chomsky.

  81. I also would recommend Abba Eban’s book, “My Country: The Story of Israel.”

  82. Chomsky is a brilliant linguist. Politically and historically he is a conspiratorial lunatic.

  83. Paul S. Rhodes

    Yeah, anyone who doesn’t subscribe to the doctrine of Realpolitik’s Might makes Right is a lunatic in your eyes.

  84. Nope. But nice try.

  85. Paul S. Rhodes

    Hey, you call me a whining little, clueless kid for simply pointing out that it was simply unrealistic to expect the Arabs to assent to their own dispossession under the U.N. Partition Plan. The Arabs were weaker than the Haganah and the Irgun and therefore they should have just acquiesced to being robbed. Sounds like Might makes Right to me.

  86. You know nothing about the War of Independence if you think the four (later six) Arab states that attacked Israel were weaker than the Israelis.

    I think we’ve gone around and around this long enough. Unless you have something new to contribute, I will not publish any more of the same old same old.

  87. Paul S. Rhodes

    “We discussed with him what could happen if British troops were withdrawn from Palestine. ‘If you were to withdraw British troops, the Haganah would take over all Palestine to-morrow,” General D’Arcy [commander of the British forces in Mandatory Palestine] replied flatly. ‘But could the Haganah hold Palestine under such circumstances?” I asked. ‘Certainly,’ he said. ‘They could hold it against the entire Arab world.’” Crum, Bartley C., Behind the Silken Curtain, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1947, p. 220

  88. Ah, the British. What reliable tellers of that story they are.

    My father was almost killed by them several times, as a teenage boy, while trying to smuggle Jews from the concentration camps in violation of the British quota. They are almost as great villains of the story as Egypt, Syria, and the other Arab states that attacked Israel.

    Israel had to put together several irregular groups, in order to field an army. They were armed with WWI weapons and whatever else they could get their hands on. The book, “The Pledge,” goes into detail as to the lengths the Israelis had to go to to get weapons to fight the 6 Arab states that attacked them.

    My father was there. And I know the story, intimately, from the inside.

    And now, it has been truly enough. I appreciate your contribution.



    From Reader Marc Levesque (sent to me privately):

    “I don’t think attributing more blame to the Palestinians or the Israelis, in general, or for the current situation can help improve the situation or alleviate the suffering. I’m also unaware of what Robert Wright said so I don’t know what you’re responding to here, but I still think the depth of the injustices in the UN resolution imposed on the Palestinians in 1947 needs to be openly acknowledged and addressed comprehensively to help both alleviate the suffering and for the current situation to improve.”