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.  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).  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. 
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. 
(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. 
(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. 
(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? 
(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. 
(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. ]
(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. 
(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. 
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.
 Loc. Cit.
 Some think the quote is apocryphal.