In the opinion of Commentary magazine, the Prime Minister of Israel is insufficiently pro-Israel

by Daniel on December 4, 2007

Via Matthew Yglesias, this is enough to make a cat laugh. As I’ve argued elsewhere, although the Mearsheimer & Walt “Israel Lobby” does have a referent which is a real and definable set of groups and institutions, this lobby really doesn’t have all that much to do with Israel. Every time this slightly scary bunch of warlike, paranoid and rather right-wing people are asked to make a choice between the national interests of Israel and their own vanity politics, it’s Israel that gets shafted. Any concern over “divided loyalties” or what have you is completely misplaced – the “Israel Lobby” are nationalists of a completely imaginary state, one which has no meaningful politics of its own, no need to compromise with reality and no national interests other than constant war.

Note also that the well-known South Africa analogy, which has been pronounced to be intrinsically bigoted and anti-semitic by the wisest heads outside Israel, is considered normal politics by the head of government of that country. I begin to think that the Israeli state (which has, over the years, played its part in giving these nutters much more prominence and credibility than they deserve) has been lately finding the wingnuttier wing of American “pro-Israel” politics to be more trouble than it is worth. There are all sorts of reasons one might have to be less than happy with the human rights record of the State of Israel, but as far as I can see they don’t deserve to be blamed for the extremely negative contribution made to public debate in English-speaking politics by the political organisation trading under their name.

{ 78 comments }

1

abb1 12.04.07 at 4:05 pm

Wrong analysis. Israeli wingers are much nuttier then anything you’ll read in Commentary. And there are plenty of them there, a majority, in fact; check the opinion polls.

2

foolishmortal 12.04.07 at 4:30 pm

Any concern over “divided loyalties” or what have you is completely misplaced – the “Israel Lobby” are nationalists of a completely imaginary state….

You know, I think I’m going to have to cite this sooner or later. How I’m going to deal with the link I’ll figure out later.

3

Ragtime 12.04.07 at 4:42 pm

The Ragcat is, in fact laughing. Funny thing to see.

But then, I find my own President failing — time and again — to act in America’s best interest. Of being insufficient pro-America.

So I can laugh at the application, but not the theory.

4

Abe Bird 12.04.07 at 5:00 pm

Mearsheimer & Walt’s “Israel Lobby” book (and article) is disgraceful to intelligence. I wouldn’t accept such students to my MA degree’s class in ME political science course!

5

seth edenbaum 12.04.07 at 5:09 pm

“the “Israel Lobby” are nationalists of a completely imaginary state.” That’s true for nationalists everywhere. Israeli German, Serbian. even Palestinian, but the Palestinians get the worst of it.
Simple dichotomies don’t work. It’s not a question of who’s rational and who isn’t.

“Note also that the well-known South Africa analogy, which has been pronounced to be intrinsically bigoted and anti-semitic by the wisest heads outside Israel, is considered normal politics by the head of government of that country.”
Read Olmert . As a friend of mine (and a Jew from Berlin) responded when I sent her the link above “So in other words, the analogous demise of apartheid is what’s truly worrisome.”

The rational solution, the moral one at this point and the only modern one there ever could be is a one state solution.
It should have been that from the beginning.

6

Joshua W. Burton 12.04.07 at 6:03 pm

I think it was Nahum Barnea who first referred explicitly in the Hebrew press to Americans who are “willing to fight to the last Israeli.” In a similar vein, Rabin famously dissed some well-meaning AIPAC sob sister shortly after his election in 1992. “We all remember exactly where we were when the SCUDs started falling,” she simpered. Rabin: “So do we. You were in America.”

7

Sk 12.04.07 at 6:04 pm

“The rational solution, the moral one at this point and the only modern one there ever could be is a one state solution.
It should have been that from the beginning.”

Hey, if it works for Belgium, it should work anywhere.

Sk

8

Abe Bird 12.04.07 at 6:43 pm

To: seth edenbaum (4):

Only two-states solution is possible, if something is possible at all at that place. Jews and Arabs can’t live together in one Arabs’ majority state. Be serious. The better solution is to have two states in that historic land of Israel, while the Jordan River borders them in the middle. Israel will be spread out and stretched from the Jordan River to the sea shore and will be the national land of Israel. Jordan will be the national Arab’s state of those who are called “Palestinians”. One has to remember that the Palestinians are 80% of Palestinian’s Jordan. Most of the Arab refugees will be settled in Jordan than they’ll reach 98% of the population there.

Jews and Arabs as persons will dwell at their places as they are sited now. Arabs, those who are living in Israel too, will vote for the Parliament in Amman. Jews will vote for the Knesset in Jerusalem. That act will preserve the identity and souls of both states while keeping the Muslims threat to annihilate Israel away of reach. That will make the area much calm and safer. Both states can join a mutual alliances to keel ties close rather to sink into war.

Equating Israel to Apartheid’s South Africa is false and outrageous. Its one of the major lies that the Falsetinian ProPalganda succeeded to promote and plant in the European population heads. The very truth is that while Israel is ready to recognize a Palestinian state, where ever its border will be, The Arabs do not want to recognize Israel as the state of the Jews. More than that, while Arabs constitute 20% of the Israeli habitants, the Arabs formally deny the right of Jews to be habitants in their future state. I think that this makes clear that the Apartheid side in this game is the Arabs. The fact that Arabs contribute more to ProPalganda doesn’t make their case more right.

9

seth edenbaum 12.04.07 at 6:56 pm

My name is Edenbaum. I have family in Israel. But our name goes back to Medieval Germany, not the Levant. I’m also the descendent of Protestant refugees from religious persecution in 17th century France. Should I have a right of return? If so to where? I’m only 300 years away from Marseilles.
On the practical level at this point the Israelis and Palestinians may be more connected to one another than the Flemings and Walloons. And there’s also the example of Czechoslovakia, where the leadership was more set on dissolution than the people.
Israeli annexation is already producing a single state. That’s the context for Olmert’s fears. The above is a list of generalities and specifics. The South African solution is the best solution for Israel: morally, culturally, and practically.

10

P O'Neill 12.04.07 at 7:44 pm

Israeli wingers are much nuttier then anything you’ll read in Commentary.

But what genre of nutty? Judea & Samaria forevah nutty or Nuke Iran Now nutty? Or both? Because Cheney is both.

11

fred lapides 12.04.07 at 8:06 pm

I am an American Jew. I do not believe I have the right to tell Israelis what they ought to do. 2 states of course means an Arab majority and that will be the end of Israel and Jews. In fact, why should those commenting tell Israel to get rid of their country and make it into something else?

Commentary magazine is run by neo-cons and their rep by now is mud. That magazine used to be good but is silly now.

12

abb1 12.04.07 at 8:28 pm

what genre of nutty?

Racists, supremacists, righteous victims, the usual. Also, of course, religious nuts, but not too many. Read comments at Haaretz or LGF, it’s all there, and in Israel it’s not a fringe.

13

JanieM 12.04.07 at 8:48 pm

Fred Lapides @ 11: I’m confused. How does 2 states mean an Arab majority?

14

alex 12.04.07 at 9:00 pm

Dsquared wrote:

Note also that the well-known South Africa analogy, which has been pronounced to be intrinsically bigoted and anti-semitic by the wisest heads outside Israel, is considered normal politics by the head of government of that country.

Not so. What Olmert said was,

If the day comes when the two-state solution collapses, and we face a South African-style struggle for equal voting rights, then, as soon as that happens, the State of Israel is finished.

That is, he was not comparing Israel today to South Africa; he was saying that, should a certain set of circumstances occur, Israel will be in danger of becoming South Africa. The distinction lies in comparing present Israel to South Africa and hypothetical future Israel to South Africa.

15

Donald Johnson 12.04.07 at 9:16 pm

I can’t read Olmert’s mind, but the two state solution hasn’t yet been implemented, so the current situation is similar to South Africa under apartheid and the danger (from Olmert’s viewpoint) is that Palestinians might start demanding a South African solution of one man, one vote.

That’s the logical reading of his statement. It also happens to be true.

16

Bloix 12.04.07 at 9:43 pm

Well, no, it doesn’t happen to be true. A majority of the people between the Mediterranean and the Jordan are Jews.

Olmert’s concern is that it will become true, because the Muslim birthrate is so much higher than the Jewish birthrate, and Palestinian life expectancies are high. Demographers predict that the cross-over point will take place in about 12 years or so. (Claims of Israeli genocide against Palestinians notwithstanding, Palestinians have one of the highest growth rates in the world. Over the last 40 years, the Israelis have proved themselves the most incompetent genocidaires known to history.)

As for the “South African” solution – the proper analogy is not South Africa. In South Africa, the whites, a small minority, have surrendered political power in exchange for retention of economic dominance. That is not a trade-off that is available in a state where almost half the people are members of the dominant group. The proper analogy is Lebanon.

Lebanon is a state that began as roughly half-Muslim, half-Christian, and it has been embroiled in a series of civil wars from its beginning. Anyone who proposes a one-state solution for Israel is proposing a state on the Lebanese model, which is a guarantee of intractable civil war for generations to come. And if there were civil war in Israel, would the neighboring states stay out? They haven’t in Lebanon – both Syria and Israel have invaded repeatedly.

As they say, if you’re wishing for a one-state solution, you might as well wish for a pony while you’re at it. A two-state solution, on the other hand, might actually work.

17

dsquared 12.04.07 at 9:46 pm

the proper analogy is not South Africa.

I get the feeling that you’re not going to be terribly happy if I start referring to the “Serbian solution”.

18

Zara 12.04.07 at 10:20 pm

Okay . . . so the head of government cannot be wrong about what his nation’s best interests are? I am sure George Bush will be gratified to hear this.

As I’m sure you know, Olmert is pretty much an accidental prime minister, with very little support within Israel. So I’m not really sure what the fact that he holds a particular view is supposed to tell us about anything.

19

Leinad 12.04.07 at 11:00 pm

“Falsetinian ProPalganda”

What is it about this debate that drives people to hurt the English language?

20

seth edenbaum 12.04.07 at 11:02 pm

Two-States or One State : the Avnery-Pappe Debate

The practical question is a real one. I oversimplify sometimes, just because I’m so sick of hearing the moral defense.

21

Joshua W. Burton 12.04.07 at 11:09 pm

I get the feeling that you’re not going to be terribly happy if I start referring to the “Serbian solution”.

Not unless you stepped up and did your share for Bosnian Muslim orphans in 1992-93.

22

Joshua W. Burton 12.04.07 at 11:25 pm

Also, Serbia is a thorny stick for any European to beat Likud with, since Srebrenica.

23

Donald Johnson 12.04.07 at 11:53 pm

I was comparing the human rights situation in Israel with the human rights situation in South Africa, not the relative population numbers of oppressor vs. oppressee. That’s what Carter, Desmond Tutu, and various Israelis mean when they make the comparison. Palestinians in the West Bank are living under laws that favor the Israeli settlers over them. It’s ridiculous that I have to point this out.

As for the one-state solution, I’ve used that Lebanon analogy myself as an argument against it. But a two state solution will only work if there is an enormous reservoir of good will on both sides and a willingness to make it work. I favor it myself, not because I think it’s the fair solution but because it’s supposedly the only workable one. But I wonder if it’s really that much more workable than the one state solution if the one state solution would inevitably lead to Lebanon.

24

seth edenbaum 12.04.07 at 11:58 pm

Joshua, grow up.

25

Joshua W. Burton 12.05.07 at 12:19 am

[B’Tselem statistics]

…which show fewer total deaths in Israel and Palestine since 1995 than Wim Kok’s Serbian friends perpetrated in one unfortunate town in one infamous week that year, and which therefore underline my point about the inaptness and disproportion of this ugly comparison.

Joshua, grow up.

Private bet. I’ll double my 2007 contribution to B’Tselem in his name, if Seth can provide evidence that he’s given them a quarter as much money as I have, over the five years ending yesterday. Contact info on request.

26

seth edenbaum 12.05.07 at 12:36 am

What are we arguing about Joshua?
You tell me what you’re defending.

27

Joshua W. Burton 12.05.07 at 12:42 am

What are we arguing about Joshua?

We’re not. Please go away.
(But do send B’Tselem money, if your parents can spare it.)

28

Jonathan Edelstein 12.05.07 at 12:51 am

@22:

But a two state solution will only work if there is an enormous reservoir of good will on both sides and a willingness to make it work.

It seems to me that a one-state solution would require much more trust and goodwill than two states, because the required level of integration would be higher. In order for two states to coexist, all they have to do is not attack each other. If a single state is to function, the inhabitants actually have to work together in matters of day-to-day governance.

The historical track record of single-state solutions (defined, for purposes of argument, as states formed from the involuntary union of two or more hostile peoples) is a poor one. Lebanon isn’t the only case of failure: others include Cyprus during the “partnership republic” period, Armenia and Azerbaijan during the immediate post-Soviet era, Nigeria, Sudan, the DRC, etc. In a “best-case” scenario, you get a state of sublimated ethnic conflict along the lines of Fiji or Guyana. Even Belgium, with 180 years of single-state inertia and EU-anchored peace and prosperity, is having a hard time making it work.

South Africa is the only real counterexample I can think of (Macedonia may be a second one if it survives the next few years), and the Israelis and Palestinians don’t even come close to the conditions that enabled ZA to succeed. Whether or not two states is the fairest solution – I think it is, but that’s a whole ‘nother argument – anything else is way up the gravity gradient.

29

Dick Durata 12.05.07 at 1:21 am

I recall that another Israeli PM was insufficiently pro-Israel and look what it got him. Maybe the Commentary piece should be looked on as a warning.

30

Joshua W. Burton 12.05.07 at 1:56 am

The historical track record of single-state solutions (defined, for purposes of argument, as states formed from the involuntary union of two or more hostile peoples) is a poor one.

There has been at least one somewhat controlled experiment — a people who fought two unions hostile to their peculiar institutions. Surprisingly, although letting Texas go still looks a priori like a splendid idea, the United States has not done conspicuously worse than Mexico on the long view.

31

Chris 12.05.07 at 2:14 am

The argument that needs to be resolved first in this debate is “If you were sent back to 1945, knowing what you know now, would you advise the Jewish population of the world to set up the state of Israel in its present form?” If the answer is yes, then we need to work out what possible scheme would perpetuate it; if the answer is no, we need to work out how to wind the situation back. Is there anybody out there who’s prepared to argue that they all wouldn’t have been better off in the Kimberleys?

32

Leinad 12.05.07 at 2:17 am

No, then we’d end up fighting them for the beautiful sun-drenched landscape and brilliant sunsets. Think of the damage to the Australian tourism industry!

33

Jonathan Edelstein 12.05.07 at 2:58 am

“If you were sent back to 1945, knowing what you know now, would you advise the Jewish population of the world to set up the state of Israel in its present form?”

Of course, that advice would have to be given on the basis of the conditions then prevailing. Whether the Jews would have been better off in the Kimberleys is a moot point if the Australian government of the time wasn’t willing to take them in – as, if Evian is any guide, it wouldn’t have been.

There’s also a certain amount of room between establishing the State of Israel “in its present form” and not establishing it at all. One could, for instance, advise the Jews of 1945 to establish the state but avoid certain subsequent mistakes, in which case your logic would dictate that we figure out how the mistakes might be undone or corrected. I’d argue that the Taba or Geneva proposals would be a fair start toward doing so, although your mileage may vary.

34

Donald Johnson 12.05.07 at 3:50 am

“In order for two states to coexist, all they have to do is not attack each other”

I’m not sure about this, given the smallness of the Palestinian state. I would guess they’d have to be on pretty good terms with their neighbor if they want to prosper. I might be wrong–state building isn’t my area of expertise.

In my more optimistic moments I’d hope they’d be on such good terms that in a generation or so the two states might even decide to merge. Obviously a fair number of Israelis want to live on the West Bank and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t if the two sides could live together in peace.

35

Chris 12.05.07 at 4:02 am

No, the Evian conference was in 1938, not 1945; in 1945 the nations of the world were much more willing to take in Jewish refugees, and the thing might conceivably have been done.

More centrally, Jonathan says “There’s also a certain amount of room between establishing the State of Israel ‘in its present form’ and not establishing it at all.” As far as I can see, there isn’t. The State of Israel in its present form is a Jewish state, existing primarily for the Jews. That’s why (a) people support it and (b) other people oppose it. The State of Israel in a different form isn’t recognisably the State of Israel at all. The founders wouldn’t have been open to suggestions that they establish some other kind of state on the same territory – they wouldn’t have seen the point. And I can’t see how any state built on that principle would have gone along a very different path or ended up in a very different situation.

36

Ben Alpers 12.05.07 at 6:35 am

Hey, if it works for Belgium, it should work anywhere.

I know this was probably not a serious argument, but it’s worth pointing out that there’s a lot less human misery in Belgium with no government than there is in Israel/Palestine today. If Belgium, even today’s Belgium, were the result of a one-state solution, that would be a pretty good bargain for all involved.

Please note that I’m not at all suggesting that Belgium would be the result of a single, binational state in Israel-Palestine.

37

Down and Out of Sài Gòn 12.05.07 at 7:31 am

The historical track record of single-state solutions (defined, for purposes of argument, as states formed from the involuntary union of two or more hostile peoples) is a poor one.

I dunno about that. It’s been nearly 150 years since the end of the American Civil War. It doesn’t look like the South is going to rise again any time soon.

38

abb1 12.05.07 at 8:07 am

#34, Chris, I don’t think it’s true and I don’t think this is a helpful framing.

The state itself, the mechanics of it, the post office, the parliament, the police, the army, the courts, even the torture chambers – none of the mechanics are inherently racist. The machine itself is neutral, can build, can destroy.

Remove wickedness from policies, ban Zionism and any other racial/religious supremacy stuff from politics, change the school curricula – and 20-30 years from now it’ll be fine, no worse than Belgium anyway.

Anyway, it may just collapse on its own, which is probably what Olmert and his comrades are concerned about. According to wikipedia:

On 20th April 2007, the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth reported that 14,400 immigrants are expected in 2007 while 20,000 are expected to leave the country [6]. The reports also state that: “…approximately a quarter of the Israeli population was considering emigration” and that “Almost half of the country’s young people were thinking of leaving the country.”

In 2007 The Jerusalem Post reported that: “For the first time in over two decades, it was reported last week, Israel will likely experience a net negative migration rate in 2007”

39

Hidari 12.05.07 at 8:17 am

‘and 20-30 years from now it’ll be fine, no worse than Belgium anyway.’

This is a joke yes? I mean… you do read Crooked Timber? You know, the Belgium posts?

40

abb1 12.05.07 at 8:28 am

No, not a joke. I haven’t noticed half of the Belgians killing, imprisoning, torturing and starving the other half, uprooting their orchards, destroying their houses, anything like that. They’re having problems and crises like everybody else, they work it out in a civilized manner.

41

Hidari 12.05.07 at 10:27 am

Yes but they are also splitting up, as a one state ‘Isratine’ would surely split up. The one state solution is the two state solution in disguise.

I like the idea of ‘removing wickedness from policies’ though.

42

stostosto 12.05.07 at 11:13 am

But is Belgium seriously splitting up? I’ll believe it when I see it.

43

Alex 12.05.07 at 12:46 pm

Also, two states who manage not to attack each other can usually cooperate pretty well on technocratic things even if they officially despise each other; it wasn’t many years after the tank-to-tank confrontation at the Berlin Wall that US and Soviet air traffic controllers were working side by side at the Berlin Air Safety Centre.

44

GreatZamfir 12.05.07 at 1:17 pm

Just a note to the Belgium-is-doomed crowd: I suspect people from countries with two-party systems might get a wrong view about the duration of the crisis. In countries with coalition governments, government formations of, say, 100 days are quite normal. The Dutch record is 208 days, longer than the current Belgian crisis.

Of course the Belgian crisis is still far from resolved and will probably surpass that 208 days. But the whole system of government is capable of handling the absense of an official government for during these kinds of periods. Most decisions are still taken, only major ones have to postponed.

45

mds 12.05.07 at 3:56 pm

this lobby really doesn’t have all that much to do with Israel.

Well, also thanks to a post by Yglesias, we’ve learned that Labor Party members such as Barak and Ben-Eliezer are parroting the American neoconservative line again, and would prefer to fix the intelligence around the policy, since otherwise Israeli hawks lose a portion of their casus belli too. Presumably, there’s a way in which members of the Israeli government don’t really have all that much to do with Israel, but it would require some really creative semantics.

46

Jonathan Edelstein 12.05.07 at 4:04 pm

@34:

No, the Evian conference was in 1938, not 1945; in 1945 the nations of the world were much more willing to take in Jewish refugees, and the thing might conceivably have been done.

They were more willing to talk the talk, but often slower to walk the walk. The United States still had the national quota system and didn’t give any breaks to Eastern European Jews (it’s no accident that the Jews who settled in the US during and after the war were mostly German), the UK was interning stateless Jews on Cyprus and the Polish Jews were returning home to pogroms. Even those countries with more generous policies, such as the Dominican Republic, would likely have balked at admitting hundreds of thousands or millions. Projecting the idea of universal asylum back to the 1940s is somewhat anachronistic.

And then there were communities like the Yemeni Jews, who were oppressed as hell but weren’t refugees in the legal sense and wouldn’t have had a snowball’s chance of being admitted to any Western country. Their only realistic chance for freedom and dignity in this lifetime was a state.

It’s possible to look at a map and find plenty of places where Jews might have been better off. Personally, I think Bavaria would have been nice. It would have required considerably more ethnic cleansing than occurred in Mandatory Palestine, but the consensus seems to be that 1940s-era ethnic cleansing is OK as long as the perpetrators were Allied powers and the victims Germans or Poles. If the Bavaria plan had been put into effect, I’d be eligible for an EU passport today, and my aunt might have started a Moroccan-cuisine craze in central Europe long before the Maghrebi immigrants in Amsterdam got around to it. But for all I can tell, that idea wasn’t even given a moment’s thought, and I suspect that any other plan for mass sanctuary in the West would have been almost equally quixotic.

The State of Israel in its present form is a Jewish state, existing primarily for the Jews. That’s why (a) people support it and (b) other people oppose it.

There are two groups of people in the world: those who divide people into two groups, and those who don’t. I don’t believe a two-group division is appropriate here. There are certainly those who would support a Jewish state no matter what and others who will oppose it on that ground alone, but there are plenty of people in the middle whose willingness to accept such a state depends on its policies. I don’t believe that very many Israeli policies, either historic or current, were or are inevitable results of Israel being a Jewish state. For instance, some people who have a problem with Israel now would be more accepting of it within the 1967 borders, and others (including, if polls are any guide, a majority of Palestinian-Israelis) would accept a Jewish state that gave full individual equality and collective cultural autonomy to non-Jewish minorities. Neither of these is incompatible with Israel being a Jewish state – the European national-minority framework comes to mind as a method of constructing a homeland-type state within liberal parameters.

The question as I’d frame it – and the only practical question, in my somewhat biased opinion – is how to construct an Israeli state that is at peace with its neighbors, doesn’t occupy foreign territory and fulfills its legal guarantees of equality for minorities. In other words, the question is how to construct Israel along European lines rather than the Habsburg-Ottoman path it has taken thus far. That seems quite possible to me, certainly more so than any alternative.

47

Jonathan Edelstein 12.05.07 at 4:24 pm

@33:

I’m not sure about this, given the smallness of the Palestinian state. I would guess they’d have to be on pretty good terms with their neighbor if they want to prosper.

As Alex pointed out, though, even states where the governments (and much of the respective populations) nominally despise each other can coexist reasonably well. I agree that there has to be a minimal level of trust and cooperation for two states to exist together, but the necessary level of goodwill is much less than what’s needed to sustain a single state.

In my more optimistic moments I’d hope they’d be on such good terms that in a generation or so the two states might even decide to merge.

I’d guess that the cooling-off period would have to be closer to two generations, but I don’t see why not. It worked for Germany and France, didn’t it?

While we’re all wishing for a pony, my ideal solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be for both Israel and Palestine to join the EU. This would amount to “two states minus” – each state would keep many of the incidents of self-determination (including, critically, separate security forces and citizenships) but would have (1) an overlay of existing supra-national institutions to resolve disputes and deal with cross-border issues, and (2) free movement of people and a universal local franchise. The right-of-return and settler problems would be eliminated quite elegantly – Palestinians could freely live in Israel as citizens of Palestine (or, for that matter, Belgium or the Netherlands) and vice versa. Jerusalem could be a free city under EU jurisdiction and a joint capital. One could even argue that the EU owes it to the Israelis and Palestinians in return for Europe’s role in creating this whole mess. But, well, that and a pony.

On a somewhat less pony-like level are proposals to create a mini-EU in which Israel and Palestine alone are confederated. The Alternative Palestinian Agenda – which, uniquely among single-state proposals, recognizes Jewish peoplehood and suggests a right of return for both Jews and Palestinians – is a well-thought-out and promising prescription along these lines. If I thought it had a chance of working, I might support it. But I don’t think the necessary level of goodwill will exist without a substantial cooling-off period.

It’s funny, though, that the more a single-state solution aims to be fair to both sides and resolve both parties’ concerns, the more nearly it tends to resemble two independent states, and the more a two-state solution attempts to guarantee peace and cooperation, the more nearly it resembles an EU-style confederation. Proposals for a just peace seem to be limited (in the mathematical sense) by a confederation of states, so maybe that will be the long-term solution.

48

Jonathan Edelstein 12.05.07 at 4:38 pm

@36:

It’s been nearly 150 years since the end of the American Civil War. It doesn’t look like the South is going to rise again any time soon.

Were northern and southern Americans “two peoples” before the civil war, though? Their original union was voluntary, and they seem to have all thought of themselves as Americans despite their political disagreements. That may also be, pace Joshua, why Texas wasn’t viable as part of Mexico but did manage to stay in the United States.

That’s also, IMO, why South Africa succeeded in transforming itself politically within a single state. The component ethnic groups had lived together for a long time, and except for a homeland movement that was fringe even among Afrikaners, they all agreed that they were South Africans at the end of the day. The main liberation movement was very consciously not indigenous-nationalist and made a point of including everyone in its proposed new state. The stakes in the South African conflict were always framed the political future of a single state, not whether it should divide into two or more. That doesn’t seem present on either the Israeli or Palestinian side of the I-P conflict.

49

dsquared 12.05.07 at 4:48 pm

37, 48: Scotland and England were definitely two peoples who fought an awful lot of wars, and Great Britain turned out all right (although trying to repeat the experiment in Ireland, less so).

50

abb1 12.05.07 at 7:02 pm

The component ethnic groups had lived together for a long time…

Incidentally, it not that different in Palestine. Don’t forget that a half of those who are identified by the state as Jews are Sephardi, Arabs. Of the other half, I would guess, at least a half of them will definitely leave if they lose control.

51

Jonathan Edelstein 12.05.07 at 7:33 pm

The Arab world’s a big place, abb1. Most of the Mizrahim in Israel are from the Maghreb, Egypt, Yemen, Iraq and Syria, and the Jews who were in Palestine before the Yishuv were mostly Ashkenazi. The Israeli Mizrahim are refugees and descendants of refugees: it can’t really be said (except possibly from a pan-Arabist perspective) that they and the Palestinians have lived together for a long time.

52

NoOneYouKnow 12.05.07 at 7:48 pm

England only managed to annex Scotland after forcing it to accept Hanoverian reign and then crushing the Jacobite Rebellion in 1746, murdering thousands of Scottish civilians, and transporting tens of thousands more to the New World. Scotland has now reinstated its own semi-autonomous parliament and many make noises about independence. As does Wales.

53

Serge 12.05.07 at 9:32 pm

As for my great-grandparents being “Arabs”, abb1, I doubt very much that they would have recognized themselves in that term; certainly my grandparents and parents would take great exception to the idea. As for me, I am pretty sure I am not an ethnic Arab, although you are free to call me whatever you like.

The retrospective projection of ethnic homogeneity on multicultural, heterogeneous places seems to me a particularly poor way to try and win an argument. There does, in fact, exist a Jewish people, or so we and ancestors have liked to think for many generations now.

54

Serge 12.05.07 at 9:33 pm

There is something a bit ironic in Daniel’s outrage to see right-wing Jews criticizing Israeli policy, is there not?

55

Geoff Robinson 12.06.07 at 12:14 am

For some Israel is their Soviet Union, a dream repositry for their hopes and hatreds that has little relation to the real world. Remember how embarrased the Stalinist leaders of the West European CPs were when Khruschev admitted the Stalinist debacle.

56

Bloix 12.06.07 at 12:58 am

“Don’t forget that a half of those who are identified by the state as Jews are Sephardi, Arabs.”

Hilarious. “Identified by the state,” indeed. I presume you’ve never even heard of Shas, the Mizrachi ultra-orthodox political party that has as many seats in the Knesset as the Likud.

And if you called a Mizrachi Jew an Arab you’d get a punch in the nose. There are no Israelis with a more visceral hatred of Arabs than those who lived in Arab lands.

As for emigration, the Israelis who leave are the most secular, the best educated, the least observant, the ones who would be most willing and able to make an accomodation with Palestinians. The ones who will stay are the religious, the ideological, and the fanatically committed. Emigration strengthens the hand of the right wing within Israel and reduces the chance of peaceful reconciliation.

57

Joshua W. Burton 12.06.07 at 12:59 am

For some Israel is their Soviet Union, a dream repository for their hopes and hatreds that has little relation to the real world.

“Some” in the Soviet case could equally be Sparts or Birchers, and as applied to Israel this remark is similarly (and deftly!) two-edged.

Hopes and hatreds: one man’s Mede is another man’s Persian.

58

s.e. 12.06.07 at 1:06 am

“And if you called a Mizrachi Jew an Arab you’d get a punch in the nose. There are no Israelis with a more visceral hatred of Arabs than those who lived in Arab lands”

Jews and Arabs are all really children of Abraham,” says Harry Ostrer, M.D., Director of the Human Genetics Program at New York University School of Medicine, an author of the new study by an international team of researchers in the United States, Europe, and Israel. “And all have preserved their Middle Eastern genetic roots over 4,000 years,” he says.The researchers analyzed the Y chromosome, which is usually passed unchanged from father to son, of more than 1,000 men worldwide. Throughout human history, alterations have occurred in the sequence of chemical bases that make up the DNA in this so-called male chromosome, leaving variations that can be pinpointed with modern genetic techniques. Related populations carry the same specific variations. In this way, scientists can track descendants of large populations and determine their common ancestors.
Specific regions of the Y chromosome were analyzed in 1,371 men from 29 worldwide populations, including Jews and non-Jews from the Middle East, North Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, and Europe.
The study, published in the May 9 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that Jewish men shared a common set of genetic signatures with non-Jews from the Middle East, including Palestinians, Syrians, and Lebanese, and these signatures diverged significantly from non-Jewish men outside of this region. Consequently, Jews and Arabs share a common ancestor and are more closely related to one another than to non-Jews from other areas of the world.
The study also revealed that despite the complex history of Jewish migration in the Diaspora (the time since 556 B.C. when Jews migrated out of Palestine), Jewish communities have generally not intermixed with non-Jewish populations. If they had, then Jewish men from different regions of the world would not share the same genetic signatures in their Y chromosome.
“Because ancient Jewish law states that Jewish religious affiliation is assigned maternally, our study afforded the opportunity to assess the contribution of non-Jewish men to present-day Jewish genetic diversity,” says Michael Hammer, Ph.D., from the University of Arizona, Tucson, who is the lead author of the new study. “It was surprising to see how significant the Middle Eastern genetic signal was in Jewish men from different communities in the Diaspora,” he says.

59

derrida derider 12.06.07 at 3:26 am

I was once told by an Israeli that “Our American friends are prepared to fight for Israel to the last Israeli”. Israel is bitterly divided internally, and Daniel has a point in that the “Israel lobby” represents only one half of that divide. But the half they do represent is the really scary half.

60

Padraig 12.06.07 at 4:03 am

Probably a little late to the party, but I had to point out a few blinding ironies.

According to Abe Bird, comparing Israel’s actions in the West Bank and Gaza to Apartheid-era South Africa is abominable. Abe argues that Jordan shall be the new Palestinian state, after all the Palestinians move there. The Jews will keep their land, and the Jordanians will give up theirs, and Arabs in Israel will vote for a government they will never live under. One wonders several things, however:

1) If the Israelis, who immigrated en masse until they were around a third of the Palestinian population in the 1940s, were not accepted by the Palestinians as having a claim to over 50% of the territory, then why would the Jordanians accept giving up the entirety of their control over Jordan by allowing mass Palestinian immigration?

2) If the Israelis are unable to accept the right of return for Palestinians whose families lived in Palestine for a millenium or so, then why would the Jordanians accept taking one for team Israel?

3) Isn’t Abe’s proposed solution precisely the solution that South Africa had for its unwanted majority population – i.e., removing all political rights for blacks by declaring them to be citizens of bantustans that the vast majority of that population would never live in? Admittedly, Jordan is a lot bigger than Swaziland, but the effect – a population living its entire life under the rule of a state over which it has no influence – is exactly the same.

In other words – Israelis control everything between the Jordan and the coastline, Palestinians are no longer even second class citizens, but rather basically stateless people. Honestly, nationalism can go hang, and that includes Zionism. Enough people have died for the idea that the state – representing ethnicity and race – is god.

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abb1 12.06.07 at 8:14 am

53, …certainly my grandparents and parents would take great exception to the idea

It doesn’t matter for the purpose of this particular argument. They are native to the geographical area known as ‘Arab states’ and therefore they are Arabs. They speak the language, they are a part of the culture, little idiosyncrasies of their particular Arab tribe are irrelevant.

56, There are no Israelis with a more visceral hatred of Arabs than those who lived in Arab lands.

I doubt it. I don’t have any specific knowledge of this, but my general impression is that the opposite is true. If you have something to support your thesis, I’d be interested to learn. Just make sure we’re talking about the same thing: ordinary Sephardi, not the religious nuts among them.

62

abb1 12.06.07 at 8:25 am

I mean, Bloix, sure, you’ll probably get a punch in the nose. But that’s only because they are called ‘Arabs’ as an insult. “Nobody wants them around, they stink like Arabs”, I heard this a couple of times from my Russian friends – those most secular, best educated, those who you believe would be the most accommodating.

63

Roy Belmont 12.06.07 at 10:44 am

#49- “Scotland and England were definitely two peoples who fought an awful lot of wars, and Great Britain turned out all right”
That’s the single most pompously asinine thing I’ve ever read on Crooked Timber.
As #52 points out, you’ll have to elide some powerfully dark acts to get to “all right”. The peace of blood-soaked victory, gained by treachery and schizoid hypocrisy.
Sort of like the way the mass removal of North American indigenous people from out of the way of European settlers involved “an awful lot” of fighting. Then it stopped. La. Then the US “turned out all right”. La la.
This may actually be the hope of many of the more comfortable bystanders watching the grinding obscenities of Israeli violence against the Palestinians.
If the Palestinians would just give up, you know, gosh, surrender or something – or maybe the Israelis could starve then out a little faster, then it could be over, and Israel too would have its chance to “turn out all right”.
As long as we don’t bring outmoded concepts like moral behavior into it.

64

Mrs Tilton 12.06.07 at 3:31 pm

Seth @58,

fascinating stuff; hadn’t known it before, but hardly surprised to learn it.

Be that as it may, was this intended to suggest that Jews & Arabs ought to love each other like brothers because they are close genetic relatives? If so, there’s crowd of Serbs/Croats/Bosniaks, Indians/Pakistanis, N.Koreans/S. Koreans, Czechs/Slovaks, Jaffas/Taigs, etc., etc., here who’d like a word with Dr Ostrer.

65

Serge 12.06.07 at 7:46 pm

They are native to the geographical area known as ‘Arab states’ and therefore they are Arabs. They speak the language, they are a part of the culture, little idiosyncrasies of their particular Arab tribe are irrelevant.

You mean in the way that Armenians, Assyrians, Persians, Kurds and so forth are Arabs? Then, sure, but I don’t think your argument is a very good one.

(I guess you could quibble about how those ethnic minorities had, in most cases still have, their “own” languages whereas the Judeo-Arabic dialects and written communications of the Jews — I’m not sure whether you are willing even to acknowledge that we constituted an ethnic minority — weren’t “really” a language. But that would be an even weaker argument, and — not that it matters, I guess — a considerably more offensive one.)

They speak the language, they are a part of the culture, little idiosyncrasies of their particular Arab tribe are irrelevant.

Again, you seem to be anxious to homogenise geographic areas, and to close off the possibility of transnational communities — diasporas — actually existing.

The retrospective projection of ethnic homogeneity on multicultural, heterogeneous places seems to me a particularly poor way to try and win an argument.

Just make sure we’re talking about the same thing: ordinary Sephardi, not the religious nuts among them.

Given the relative absence of your Euro-Enlightenment shearing of “religion” from the rest of culture among, erm, those who are “ordinary Sephardi”, I doubt it is as easy as you apparently think to draw such a line.

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abb1 12.06.07 at 9:39 pm

Serge, tell me: is George W Bush an Englishman? Is Antonin Scalia an Italian? Is Tom DeLay a Frenchman? Is Joe Lieberman a Jew? Is Clarence Thomas an African?

Can I call them all ‘Americans’ and assume that their ability to get along with each other would not be significantly affected (if at all) by whatever it is you insist separates them so dramatically? Or does doing so make me guilty of projecting ethnic homogeneity on multicultural, heterogeneous place?

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seth edenbaum 12.06.07 at 10:29 pm

“was this intended to suggest that Jews & Arabs ought to love each other like brothers because they are close genetic relatives? “
Oy. No, just that some of them at least should stop pretending otherwise. At the same time it’s annoying how often I get into arguments when I say that the Jews are a people.
Another interesting story.

In October 2001, the publishers of Human Immunology retracted an immunogenetics paper that some readers felt contained inappropriate political content. They also deleted it from the online edition of the journal and asked librarians to physically remove the pages the article was printed on. The first author of the controversial article was also guest editor of the special issue the paper appeared in. The case triggered much debate in editorial organisations and internet discussion groups, and the guest editor, editor in chief, sponsoring society, and publisher were all criticised for their roles in the affair. This article examines the claims and counterclaims.

…The paper attracted attention not only for its scientific content but also for parts of the text some readers felt reflected political bias. The authors reported that their analysis of human leucocyte antigen gene variability and haplotypes showed that “Jews and Palestinians came from ancient Canaanites, who extensively mixed with Egyptians, Mesopotamian, and Anatolian peoples in ancient times.” The abstract concluded that “Palestinian-Jewish rivalry is based on cultural and religious, but not genetic, differences.

68

Jonathan Edelstein 12.06.07 at 11:10 pm

Couple of things, abb1:

First, why is it an either-or question whether Joe Lieberman is an American or a Jew? People can, and usually do, have more than one identity. I’m an American citizen and a member of the Jewish people. I’m also a resident of New York City, a member of my family, a lawyer, a social democrat and an atheist. There’s nothing incompatible about all American citizens sharing one identity while not sharing others, just like an Iraqi Jew (or an Iraqi Kurd) might identify as an Iraqi but not an Arab.

Second, don’t people have a right to define who they are? Nations are constructs to begin with, so the views of those who construct them seem entitled to respect. If Jews see themselves as a distinct people, and if Mizrahim regard themselves as part of that people, then it isn’t for outsiders to tell them they aren’t. Somehow I doubt you’d be sympathetic (nor am I) to the flip-side argument that Palestinians are no different from any other Arabs and should just blend into Jordanian or Syrian society.

For what it’s worth, a sense of peoplehood has been an ongoing Jewish cultural thread through well over a millennium of dispersion. It’s reflected in ninth-century poetry as much as nineteenth, and cuts across the Ashkenazi-Mizrahi divide which those who deny Jewish peoplehood often paint as much sharper than it really was. Peoplehood isn’t the only conception of Jewish identity, of course, and there are both historical and modern countercurrents, but it’s not something that can be dismissed out of hand by saying “they’re Arabs” or “they’re Russians.”

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Serge 12.07.07 at 12:32 am

Can I call them all ‘Americans’ and assume that their ability to get along with each other would not be significantly affected (if at all) by whatever it is you insist separates them so dramatically?

On the first part, well, sure; “Americans” is a signifier of citizenship, not ethnicity. Your error, I think, is in the unwritten assumption that “Arabs” is commonly understood as a geographic, rather than an ethnic, signifier. This assumption is wrong.

On the second part, I would suggest you take care not to put words in my mouth, especially if you seek to dramatize them.

70

MSS 12.07.07 at 2:26 am

Great to see Jonathan E. here. And, as usual, he’s lifting the level of discourse, even when not all his interlocutors share that aim.

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abb1 12.07.07 at 8:18 am

Jonathan, consider the context. All I’m arguing is that Sephardi Jews are not alien to the Arab culture (unlike most of the Ashkenazi Jews) and would have little difficulty blending in a bi-national state. Just like Joe Lieberman should be able to blend easily with Clarence Thomas, but not necessarily with a Nepalese guy who sacrifices goats to please his gods. I don’t deny anyone’s Jewish identity and I’m not saying that anyone should blend into anything.

OK, Serge, I concede your point. Let’s not call them ‘Arabs’, let’s do it properly: ‘a group of people indigenous to the Middle East’, ‘a group of people indigenous to the Arab culture’, whatever. Same difference.

72

Jonathan Edelstein 12.07.07 at 1:27 pm

All I’m arguing is that Sephardi Jews are not alien to the Arab culture (unlike most of the Ashkenazi Jews) and would have little difficulty blending in a bi-national state.

Fair point, but I’m still not sure I agree with it. There’s a wide range of cultures among Arabic-speaking people, and someone from the Maghreb or the Arabian peninsula won’t necessarily be at home in Egypt or the Levant. The largest single group of Mizrahi Jews in Israel is of Moroccan ancestry, and I believe the second largest comes from Yemen, and I doubt either would have an automatic affinity for Palestinians or vice versa. Although, if peace ever reigns, I wouldn’t rule out such an affinity developing over time.

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abb1 12.07.07 at 2:07 pm

I dunno, the Arab League (of which both Morocco and Yemen are members) must be about the size of the US or EU (population-wise). I assume there must significant cultural homogeneity there, given the fact that they have had this union for what – over 60 years now? Let’s say less homogeneity than the US but more than the EU, no?

74

Randy McDonald 12.07.07 at 4:10 pm

Jonathan:

“I suspect that any other plan for mass sanctuary in the West would have been almost equally quixotic.”

East Prussia comes to mind, but was it “Western” after 1945?

75

MSS 12.07.07 at 4:16 pm

Randy, good question. I suppose East Prussia after 1945 was only marginally more “Western” than the Jewish Autonomous Oblast, which, amazingly, still exists.

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Jonathan Edelstein 12.07.07 at 4:17 pm

Population isn’t everything – factors like distance, ease of travel, amount of migration and a common spoken language (which is far from a simple matter in the Arab world given Arabic diglossia) also matter. The Arab League is a political entity which includes Sudan, Mauritania and the Comoros, so the EU comparison seems about right. That would make the cultural difference between a Moroccan and a Yemeni about the same as that between, say, a Spaniard and a Swede – not totally alien, certainly, but not automatically at home either.

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Jonathan Edelstein 12.07.07 at 4:29 pm

I suppose East Prussia after 1945 was only marginally more “Western” than the Jewish Autonomous Oblast

Although if it had been given to the Jews, it would probably have been a nominally-independent Soviet satellite rather than an integral part of the Russan Federation. Fast forward 60 years and you’d have a moderately prosperous EU-10 (or would that be EU-11?) nation, although the period in between wouldn’t be very pleasant.

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Seth Edenbaum 12.07.07 at 6:00 pm

I’m sorry but this is all blather and literary theory. Meanwhile
Israel is considering an Iran Strike and Gaza’s medical sector suffers Israeli sanctions and people are dying.

Most nationalist movements do not derive from people being driven off their land. And many of those same people are still alive. How many people here are supporters of ETA or the full independent Kurdish nation? Nobody would claim that Chileans and Argentines have to get along but somehow in the middle east things should be easier. Blah Blah.
Israel is considered one of “us.” It should not be. What demands have ever been made of it? And I mean DEMANDS!

There’s another thread on deconstruction running at CT right now and they should be joined together. There is no arab point of view represented on this site yet John Quiggen can crack wise about easy and false dichotomies. “Trust us” I hear again and again. But still someone has to respond “No, trust no-one, least of all yourselves.”
Interrogate everything. An old lesson maybe not not one people learned, least of all neoliberal bureaucrats.

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