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Ending the occupation: No way around direct pressure on Israel

In previous posts, I have argued that (a) Israel’s security needs cannot be fully met, and that (b) the occupation is the Israeli rational choice - better than both the two-state and the one-state alternatives. For change to happen, there is no alternative to confronting the Israeli public.

Last week marked a decade since the Arab League put forward its plan for a comprehensive peace agreement with Israel. The Saudi Plan, as it was also known, had Israel withdraw to the 1967 borders in exchange for full recognition, normalization, and an end to the conflict. Even the refugee problem – considered by many the one issue on which Israel could never compromise – was to have an “agreed upon” solution. In other word, instead of adopting the Palestinian right of return, the entire Arab League gave Israel veto power over the number of refugees who would be allowed back.

This was all Israeli leaders could have dreamed of in the years leading to 1967. Even Iran joined the 2002 declaration. Yet the Sharon government simply ignored the Arab peace offer. It didn’t even make a counter-offer, or accept the initiative as a starting point. And two prime ministers who came after Sharon continued the same policy, despite the fact that the Arab League reaffirmed its offer again and again. The Arab peace offer and Israel’s decision to ignore it were the most stable elements in the Middle East during the past decade.

How can we explain this? One argument is that the peace offer didn’t properly address Israel’s security needs, mainly because it doesn’t vouch for the period after an Israel withdrawal, and the possible rise of hostile governments that would try again “to wipe Israel off the map.” Yet this particular concern could never be addressed since there is no way to guarantee future political developments. The Arab countries or the Palestinians will never be able to promise Israel security, only legitimacy. The Arab League offered total legitimacy, and apparently, it wasn’t enough. Why?

As I argued in the previous post in this series, the reason is simple: from an Israeli perspective, and above all from an Israeli decision-making perspective, the status quo is preferable to whatever offer is now laid on the table. Having to choose between a two-state solution, a one-state solution and keeping things as they are, the rational choice balance is clearly in favor of the third option. A two-state solution involves enormous security risks and a could mean civil war; the one-state solution is an even bigger unknown. But the status quo – though far from perfect – is pretty good.

The irony is that the better things get in Israel, the bigger the Israeli desire to avoid change becomes. Last week, some pundits pointed to Livni’s emphasis on the revival of the peace process as one of the reasons for her defeat to Shaul Mofaz in the Kadima premieres. Even if we don’t accept this theory, there is no escaping the fact that no Knesset party will run mainly on a peace platform in the next elections, and that all leading candidates have expressed their desire or willingness to join Netanyahu’s government. In fact, tiny Meretz is the only Jewish party to announce it won’t enter such a coalition. There is no political price in Israel for stopping the diplomatic process. Quite the opposite, in fact.

________________

An inherently immoral situation is also the most desirable: From a cost-benefit perspective, Israelis are correct in recognizing all other options as worse than the current situation. The solution to this problem is simple as it is unpleasant: in order to change Israeli mind regarding the occupation, one needs to change their balance of interests.

In other words, between the three options we choose from – one state, two states and the status quo – the status quo, currently positioned as the best alternative, needs (at least) to drop to second place. If we want to create change, the Israeli decision-maker would need to suspect that keeping things as they are might lead to his or her downfall (whereas it’s now the other way around). To put it bluntly, the status quo should become really unsustainable.

This is how it worked in the past. “Advancement” in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict was always preceded with events and moves that made the status quo undesirable and created Israeli demands of their politicians “to do something.” The combination of the first intifada and pressure from President Bush 41 led to the Madrid conference and the Oslo process in the 90s. The second intifada brought Ariel Sharon’s unilateral withdrawal. In both cases, Israeli leaders initiated changes following international pressure and a Palestinian uprising.

Peace plans that weren’t accompanied by a local uprising or international pressure, such as the autonomy plan that Egypt negotiated at Camp David, or Peres’ Jordanian Option from the 80s, failed to materialize; as long as everything was okay, there was no real incentive to take these routes. This wasn’t that different from the dynamic on the Egyptian front, where Israel rejected the peace initiative in 1971, but changed its mind in the years following the 1973 war. The same argument could be made regarding the unilateral withdrawal from Lebanon.

The reason for this dynamic is not that the Israelis are short-sighted, stupid or cruel. It’s rational political behavior. At any given moment, it made sense to avoid concessions – until it didn’t.

As an Israeli, This is something that is hard for me to accept, let alone write. While I desire to end the occupation, I obviously want what’s best for myself and my community. I certainly don’t want another round of violence, even if it does bring a change in the status quo (those romanticizing or praising violence should also keep in mind that in the examples I cited, the Palestinians, the Egyptians and the Lebanese were the ones to pay the heavier price, even if some of their political goals were eventually fulfilled). So the problem remains: how do we bring change?

________________

Since the question is not one state vs. two state but rather change vs. status quo, those looking to end the occupation should ask themselves what kind of pressure they are willing to support in order to make the status quo less desirable for Israelis. This is the toughest problem an Israeli, or a person who cares about Israel, can face – yet it’s probably the single most urgent moral dilemma on the agenda today. The rest of the debate, for the most part, is just propaganda.

We could begin by supporting any diplomatic initiative intended to apply pressure on Israeli governments. I have made this point in the past, and I haven’t changed my mind since. For Palestinians, the time has also come to seriously debate the role of the Palestinian Authority – one of the most important institutions in the preservation of the status quo. But I don’t like giving advice to Palestinians how to oppose our occupation, so I will stop here.

Israelis have many other ways to show their dissatisfaction with the status quo: They can boycott institutions that profit or take part in the occupation, avoid the draft, take part in Palestinian-led protests or lead their own demonstrations. Ultimately, this debate will also lead to dealing with the question of BDS, though it’s clear that actual support for BDS will remain very marginal in Israeli society. Still, as long as no real alternative for the occupation is brought from the Israeli side, I think it’s very important not to oppose any form of Palestinian non-violent resistance, even if one is not taking part in it personally.

All these steps – legitimate but not always legal – carry a certain personal price for Israelis, and more important, all of them put Israelis at odds with their own community. There is really no escaping this point. As I said, the status quo is indeed Israel’s best option, and by fighting against it, one is bound to work against the interest, the desires and the concerns of one’s own people. It is the nature of this moment.

We should also keep all options on the table: Not just the two-state solution but the single, democratic state as well. One state should be debated, argued about, planned – just as two states were in the last three decades. Since Israel is not willing to go either way, it’s only fair to keep discussing all ideas for change. Still, we should remember that for both societies, the moment of choice between the solutions hasn’t come, because the current political battle is over the preservation of the status quo.

One thing should be made clear: Those declaring that “no pressure at all” should be applied on Israel are in fact advocates of the occupation. They might declare their support for a Palestinian state every day of the week, but their real political choice is the status quo. By supporting the status quo – as, for example, most of the Jewish establishment and the American political leadership do – you are not simply avoiding the issue, or “waiting for the right moment,” but rather taking an active role in the daily oppression and injustice taking place in the occupied territories. The need to rationalize this position explains the American addiction to stories regarding how great life is in the West Bank or Gaza – an addiction found even in the most liberal circles.

The combination of local pressure – mostly by Palestinians, with the support of some Israelis – together with international pressure, both on grassroots level and on diplomatic and official channels, is likely to make most of the Israeli public hostile, angry and bitter, but also more open to change, as the status quo seems less and less preferable. This would be our moment of truth, in which we will witness what sort of transformation – if any – our country is still capable of.

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  • COMMENTS

    1. Jack

      There is simple ways to push Israel. Economic sanctions, incentives. If Israel were approached like any other state Israel would have been invaded by this time.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Bill Pearlman

      The Arab League “proposal” was a media trial balloon by the Saudi’s to take the pressure off after 9/11. But I digress. What would you suggest. More suicide bombings. Missile attacks. General war. Total BDS. And the nits the third way which I guess would be closing up shop and taking to the boats

      Reply to Comment
    3. aristeides

      Noam is quite right, as far as it goes. But the real problem doesn’t lie in Israel. As Noam points out, Israelis are incapable of shifting from the precarious and immoral position they have taken.

      The real problem lies in the US. The US is the enabler of the occupation. It’s the US that prevents effective EXTERNAL pressure from beng put on Israel to change. As long as the US is occupied territory, it will become more and more Zionist than Israel.

      .
      The real question is: what will it take to turn the US public against Israel?

      Reply to Comment
    4. Bill Pearlman

      Aristedes. Your really need to use ZOG. Its snappier.

      Reply to Comment
    5. sarah grant

      please jews people ,get over yourselfes no 1 wants your arms or land .just want peace for Palestine please stop killing woman and babies

      Reply to Comment
    6. Jack

      Aristeides,
      You are correct, the problem is the aipac paid politicians and the religious fundamentalists in the american congress blocking any sanctions, condemnations against Israel. However the pressure on Israel keep rising everyday so eventually US have to let go off their total support for Israel, partially because US arent such a strong superpower anymore.

      Reply to Comment
    7. Aaron the Fascist Troll

      An excellently written and courageous follow-up to part one, as expected. I know what it’s like to come to the conclusion that the interests of one’s community are to some extent opposed to some higher good. It’s a hard thing to realize and admit. I literally felt it in my gut at the time I came to such a conclusion. So I think I appreciate what was involved in your writing this article, and I admire your intellectual courage.
      *
      I also think your analysis is spot on, though I don’t share your valuation. Given your moral premises, both stated and unstated, I think your conclusions about goals and strategy are totally valid.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Aaron the Fascist Troll

      One teensy-weensy disagreement, though. (I gotta disagree with *something*.) I don’t think Israel needs legitimation from Arab states. The Palestinians are both the necessary and sufficient agent to grant Israel legitimacy, which they’ll never do in the foreseeable future, even if they promise to do it.

      Reply to Comment
    9. Y.

      1. The Saudi Plan[1] was no peace plan. It was very explicit about what they want from Israel (suicide), and very very ambiguous (at best) about what they want to give to Israel. Funny that. Almost like the intent was to score points, not peace. Lets examine this in a bit more detail:
      .
      “Even the refugee problem – considered by many the one issue on which Israel could never compromise – was to have an “agreed upon” solution. In other word, instead of adopting the Palestinian right of return, the entire Arab League gave Israel veto power over the number of refugees who would be allowed back.”
      .
      Utter nonsense. The Arab League was very explicit about return:
      .
      “II- Achievement of a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon ***in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194***.” [emph. mine]
      .
      And later:
      .
      “To accept to find an agreed, just solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees ***in conformity with Resolution 194***.” [emph. mine again]
      .
      There’s no way around it. Israel is required to agree with 194, which means “right of return”. The “agreed upon” is not a way of limiting it – it’s a way of making clear how total the demand is, since there’s no role for Israel in 194 save for accepting any refugee which wishes ‘return’. (Not that even a limited RoR would be acceptable or possible [2]).
      .
      “The Saudi Plan, as it was also known, had Israel withdraw to the 1967 borders in exchange for full recognition, normalization, and an end to the conflict.”
      .
      Nope. Recognition is not mentioned, and so is not ‘normalization’ (the Syrian delegation vetoed this. They insisted on the much more ambiguous “normal relations”).
      .
      “Yet this particular [security] concern could never be addressed since there is no way to guarantee future political developments.”
      .
      One could try offering demilitarization. Funny, but it’s not in the initiative either.
      .
      2. Previous Israeli concessions were mainly motivated by internal Israeli and Arab politics.
      .
      A. Sadat’s visit to Jerusalem was a complete surprise to Carter, which wanted a general Arab-Israeli peace conference in Geneva. Sadat thought this would lead to nothing (I suspect the 1977 Cairo riots had a role here in impressive urgency), so took the initiative.
      B. Oslo was again a surprise for the Americans, and was a result of a secret track between Labour and the PLO from even before the 1992 elections.
      C. There was no international pressure for withdrawal from Gaza or Lebanon. In the case of Gaza, the second intifadah was dying off or dead (depends on when one defines its end).
      .
      In order to get any form of an agreement, one needs the support of the locals. And this is precisely what you can’t get, since you have nothing to offer the Israeli side (and the Palestinians are told that if they wait, they have a chance at everything). Can’t say I regret the impending failure of your ideas.
      .
      [1]
      http://www.al-bab.com/arab/docs/league/peace02.htm

      [2]
      http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3931910,00.html

      Reply to Comment
    10. Shlomo Krol

      This is very convincing. Thank you.

      Reply to Comment
    11. Richard Witty

      The Saudi plan was a miracle. Even if moderated, it should have been embraced.

      The primary problem from a rational Israeli perspective was the opportunistic role of Hamas as not participant. (They did state that they would accept what the Palestinians voted for, with the supposition that they would do every thing that they could to influence what the Palestinians determined, negatively.)

      Unity, then negotiation, then ratification, then implementation.

      Reply to Comment
    12. Helder Vieira

      I’ve been in favor of external pressure as the only possible way out of the nightmare, israelis cannot by any means escape an increasingly narrow ideological landscape.
      But the rest of the world won’t do anything without a jewish clear consent. And for a number of reasons, I guess the best approach would be to put the baby on the hands of the european jews, forcing them to, once and for all, deliver on the ‘moral clarity’ claim…

      Reply to Comment
    13. Shlomo Krol

      Still I don’t think that the status quo is sustainable and exactly for the reasons that this post quotes – the illusionary stability can turn into a mess overnight if the Palestinians dissolve the PA and demand equal rights rather than state of their own. I think, that not only should the Israelis do what the author of the post proposes, but also try hard to convince other Israelis, that the apartheid is not sustainable, because it is not sustainable. Also, I think, that the work of handful of Israeli activists can bring only very limited results, but the external pressure can change the things. Israel is a very small nation, which depends on its friends. If the friends of Israel apply real pressure, while making sure that they are indeed friends, that what they demand is not dissolution of Israel, God forbid, but the end of apartheid, it can change the things. As much as I don’t like boycotts and other measures, which offend other people, I must admit, that real sanctions, supported by governments, can change the situation.

      Reply to Comment
    14. Bill Pearlman

      Shlomo, what do you want to happen here. A total BDS package. What do you expect the result of that to be. And why Israel out of all the countries in the world.

      Reply to Comment
    15. Jack

      Y,
      The Saudi peace offer was not only based in international law, it was based on world consensus and even went beyond that. The offer said that if Israel accept two states, they would get peace with the arab world. When Israle reject such a grand bargain you understand that Israel doesnt seek peace but expansionism.

      Reply to Comment
    16. Bill Pearlman

      Jack, there was no Saudi peace offer. It was a media ploy to take the pressure off after 9/11. that’s all it was. If it was real they would have dispatched an envoy to Jerusalem to start negotiations. NEVER HAPPENED

      Reply to Comment
    17. XYZ

      The Arab League “peace plan” was a fraud that was foisted on the world in the wake of 9/11. The Saudis were under pressure because so many of their nationals were involved so they wanted it to seem that they were pushing for ‘peace’, something they had never done. It was never meant to be taken seriously and the Arabs have never done anything to advance it, like bring it directly to Israel in the way Sadat did with his plan for a peace agreement.
      Anyway, I don’t see what there is to get excited about regarding the refugee clause which must have the agreement of BOTH sides. That is the Palestinians have to agree to it, or else no agreement. Since they demand full, unrestricted ROR, there will never be an agreement since Israel can never accept such a thing. To believe after everything that has happened since the Oslo fiasco was foisted on Israel could let anyone think the Arabs want a compromise peace agreement with Israel is absolute lunacy. All I keep hearing here from the Left/Progressive Jews is wishful thinking..” I am a reasonable person, I want peace so it just HAS to be that the Arabs are the same way”. WRONG! Just look at what is happening in the newly “democratic” Egypt…the Copts and the Secular Democrats have pulled out of the constitutional committee, seeing that it is rigged by the Muslim Brotherhood and Noor-Salafists. No compromise agreement there!

      Reply to Comment
    18. AIG

      Who is going to pressure Israel? Germany just sold us the sixth sub and any decision about pressuring Israel has to be unanimous in the the EU. We have a few countries there that support us automatically such as our new pals Cyprus (they need us as a counterbalance to Turkey).

      The US has never been a stronger supporter of Israel.

      Russia? Trade and tourism has never been higher, that is at least one good thing Lieberman has done.

      India? A huge Israeli customer of weapons.

      China? They didn’t want to pressure Assad, they will want to pressure us given their spotty record?

      And I could go on. Effective international pressure is a fantasy.

      Reply to Comment
    19. Shlomo Krol

      Bill, I think, that, as the result of serious external pressure, we Israelis may come to our senses and elect a responsible government, which would stop colonization and make real steps to show the seriousness of Israel, such as removal of unauthorized outposts and those established settlements which would be removed in any agreement with the Palestinians, and such as acceptance of the idea that the 1949 truce lines should be the reference point for the future international border between Israel and Palestine.

      Reply to Comment
    20. XYZ

      Regarding “external pressure” for a peace agreement, otherwise known as “the imposed peace”…well, you can forget about it. The outside world has neither the power or the will to impose such a thing. Even Eisenower, atop the then American colossus in 1957 could force Israel to withdraw from Sinai but he could not force Egypt to make a peace agreement, and the whole thing blew up 10 years later.
      The simple fact is that most of the world couldn’t care less about the Palestinians and the Jewish settlements. They view the whole thing as one of those intractable problems in the world. Everyone knows that the Palestinians have repeatedly turned down offers by Israel and others> (now the 972 crowd and the Left/Progressives jump in and say “but Israel didn’t offer enough”…well, it doesn’t matter, the offers were made and turned down…few people care about the details). Even an Israel basher like Avraham Burg once told the Palestinians that the the success of the Zionist movement was based on the fact that once they were offered something…they took it. The Palestinians are compulsive rejectors of peace. Everyone knows it and so most people in the world just don’t care. Even if most people would be happy with a compromise peace, they know it just is not possible.

      Reply to Comment
    21. aristeides

      It isn’t a case of offering Israel anything. Israel already has everything or is in the process of taking it.

      .
      Nothing is going to change until Israel is as popular as Iran, pink slime and George Zimmerman.

      Reply to Comment
    22. Jack

      XYZ,
      Which offers have palestinians rejected based on the world consensus of two states and international law?

      Reply to Comment
    23. Jack

      Bill Pearlman,
      A lie wont become a truth one day if you repeat it it seems you try to follow Goebbles propaganda trick (repeat a lie and it will become a fact). Sorry but that wont work today. Anyone know Israel is a peace rejectionist state.

      Reply to Comment
    24. Shlomo Krol

      XYZ, I don’t want to say that the whole burden of blame for the intractability of the conflict rests on Israel. Of course not. But Israel, too, missed many opportunities, from the failure to discuss peace with Egypt before 1973 and to forge negotiations with Jordan in 1988 through dismissal pan-Arab peace initiative in 2001 and up to refusal of the current government to permanently stop settlements expansion and to continue negotiations from the point the prior government ended them. The result of the occupation and of the colonization is the situation of apartheid on the occupied territories and apartheid is considered crime against humanity by the international law. I believe, that, besides being utterly immoral, it is also the greatest danger for Israel. I can’t see how the settlements advance Israel’s security or peace, but I can see that how they jeopardize Israel and how they make peace less probable. That’s why I think, that serious and friendly pressure of the US and Europe would be very helpful for Israel.

      Reply to Comment
    25. Dorothy Naor

      After reading all the comments, I am amazed that not one tackled the thesis–that the status quo is the best or safest or most desirable. Perhaps because of the militaristic nature of Israel, perhaps because we are brain washed to believe that force is the only means of defense, perhaps other reasons, but the fact is that Israel is the least safe place in the world for Jews (excepting war zones as Afghanistan, which are safe for no one). No where else since WWII have so many Jews been killed in violence, no where else in the world have so many been injured, no where else do so many suffer from post-traumatic symptoms, no where else in the world is every 18 yr old male and femal Jew (excepting ultra orthodox) obliged to enlist in the military, no where else in the world have Jews gone through 12 wars/military campaigns in less than 62 yrs, with the next war always just around the corner. The govmt has plenty of money for wars and expansion, but none for education, health, welfare. And all this is good???? Moreover, no country grounded on a single ethnicity, religion, or race can ever be democratic. There is no difference in principle between a pure Jewish state and a pure Aryon one. All such seek demography rather than democracy. And this status quo is the best solution????

      Reply to Comment
    26. Thanks, Noam. Great analysis. (Agree 100%…) I read somewhere recently (and can’t remember who wrote it or where I read it) an analysis of why we will continue as a country to vote for Bibi even knowing he lies and is dangerous, leading us into war after war endlessly. Because we’re suicidal. That old psychological trait of creating what you fear. The Samson Syndrome.

      One other alternative that seems to be playing out. So many people leaving. Over a million living abroad (15,000 young Israeli kids in Berlin alone, I’m told and 30% of university faculty braindrained). Meaning presumably in some years’ time it will be a mix of the poor and the religious who remain en masse… and we the ageing and elderly.

      Reply to Comment
    27. Leen

      It always makes me laugh when people try to deflect criticism of Israel by pointing furiously at other Arab countries, as if that somehow legitimizes the Israeli occupation. Honey, if the best you can do is compare yourself to other the Salafis instead of more liberal democratic states… well.. you fit in the right category it seems.

      Reply to Comment
    28. Kubrikon

      Noam, I do understand that you are not a fan of the status quo, yet you seem to fundamentally realize that maintaining it is by far the safest option given the alternatives.
      .

      Given that as a starting point, I do not understand the logic of your call for punitive political pressure on Israel in order to push it from what you admit is by far the best option available. Is it done in the interest of weakening Israel so that your conscience can rest clear?
      .

      Additionally I am entirely uncertain how any of the steps listed by you would make the other two options presented any more attractive than they are right now given your logic of why the status quo is the preferable option at the moment.
      .

      You have issued a question as to why Israel has not responded to the API. You realize that the API has flaws specifically in ignoring Israeli security needs vis-a-vis the new Palestinian state and the region at large. You go on to argue that as security needs can not be fully met Israel must make do with only achieving legitimacy from the Arabs as no security is possible. This is a false choice given that security is not an either/or proposition. There are options which provide more or less security depending on the potential threats studied. As such the argument for seeking legitimacy while forsaking security seems to be fundamentally hollow, as is berating Israeli leaders for not leaping at a chance of achieving the questionable benefits of Arab legitimacy at the expense of security considerations.
      .

      Finally, though you point out that you are in a moral dilemma, in the article you have chosen the end of the occupation as the primary motivation, overriding questions of the future security and stability of the state of Israel. This seems like a choice that is unlikely to catch on in Israel, nor is it a choice that can in itself actually justify moving away from the status quo option.

      Reply to Comment
    29. Bill Pearlman

      Ah Dorothy, I do so love those Israel is the new Nazi Germany analogies. Apparently when it goes in that direction its OK with Noam. But no matter. The reason comparatively few Jews have been killed in the diaspora since 1948 is because Israel exists. Not in spite of.

      Reply to Comment
    30. Bill Pearlman

      Shlomo, I don’t know what to tell you. You strike me has a sincere guy. But if Israel is forced to withdraw unilaterally where does it end. BTW Unlike what seems to be everybody else on the planet I don’t have a freaking clue how to end this conflict. I do know that if it was easy or feasible right now it would have been done already.

      Reply to Comment
    31. Noam W.

      Noam – this is a very good piece. The only disagreement I have with you is that I don’t think that the status quo is in Israel’s interests.
      .
      It is definitely in the interests of Israeli politicians but that is not the same thing at all.
      .
      The dilemmas, the difficulties, we obviuosly share them. Though as I have expressed here before, I think there is a deeper problem with BDS as a movement.

      Reply to Comment
    32. Ira

      Noam

      What do you think of Meron Benveniste’s analysis, coming from his in-depth knowledge of the economic realities on the ground, that a two state solution is a complete fantasy ?

      Since, the whole raison d’etre of Israel is as a Jewish polity (btw, ethnically defined states, or some other group description (religious, tribal, etc), are the norm in the world, and it’s not at all clear that this is a bad thing), Israel will be shown, ironically, to have been too successful: it won’t easily be able to extricate itself from it’s conquest of the west bank, yet it can’t take that conquest to it’s logical conclusion: one state for all its inhabitants, unless it’s willing to formally adopt apartheid (very very unlikely, and, in any case, a strategy doomed to complete failure).

      Reply to Comment
    33. aristeides

      Noam defines the status quo as the rational solution, but really, it’s an act of denial. The horse may sing. The Arabs may disappear. The emperor looks in the mirror and sees ermine robes.

      .
      Israelis are like the trio of monkeys who see, hear and speak no reality, because they can accept the alternative. And without external pressure, they’ll continue to deny it.

      Reply to Comment
    34. Cortez

      “Since, the whole raison d’etre of Israel is as a Jewish polity (btw, ethnically defined states, or some other group description (religious, tribal, etc), are the norm in the world, and it’s not at all clear that this is a bad thing.”
      - Its probably a bad thing when its also an exclusivity state that is premised on ethnically cleansing a indigenous population on the basis of religion and culture. In addition, while many states are ethnically defined, the expressions of nationalism can be radically different. France and India are ethnically defined states, India being especially multicultural, but both states have a strong tradition civic nationalism. In theory and many times in practice, anyone can become Indian or French by virtue of participation in civic cultural life. The same is not the case in Israel. Arab Muslim Israelis can vote all they want but they will never be considered Jewish or equal to Jews…the legal system reflects that. Israel still hasn’t had a mizrahi Prime Minster…not even their own Barack Obama or Benjamin Disraeli. Its got a long way way to go.
      .
      “Israel will be shown, ironically, to have been too successful”
      .
      I’m not sure what success is in this context…At this point with the Supreme Court and Knesset retroactively legalizing outposts and sitting idly as settlement expansion continues, it doesn’t seem that Israel wants to extricate itself in anyway.
      .
      Israel is also unwilling to realize that it has/is/will create(d) its own apartheid in the West Bank. It didn’t have to be this way…but like many other Middle Eastern governments…hubris runs high which means that the fall will hurt even more.
      .

      Reply to Comment
    35. XYZ

      In the first clause of the Palestinian consitution it states that the Palestinians are a integral part of the Arab people and they will work for Arab unity. They also define Sharia law as a major basis for legislation. There you have it right there…non-Arabs are lesser Palestinians and non-Muslims are discriminated against.
      The official name of Egypt is “The Arab Republic of Egypt” and the offical name of Syria is “The Syrian Arab Republic”, again, defining themselves as Arab, thus relegating non-Arabs to inferior status. All Arab Middle Eastern states grant Islam official status, thus disciminating against non-Muslims.
      IF THE ARAB STATES CAN DEFINE THEMSELVES THIS WAY, WHY CAN’T ISRAEL DEFINE ITSELF AS A JEWISH STATE?

      BTW Cortez-What are the chances of a Christian being elected President of newly democratic Egpyt? Or a Christian or a Kurd to be elected President of Turkey? Why is Israel supposed to be “better” than these countries?

      Reply to Comment
    36. Shlomo Krol

      Bill, you are talking about the unilateral Israely withdrawal. The withdrawal can only be unilateral – the Palestinians. not occupy Israel. But you mean of course withdrawal without peace agreement. I think that Israel can have peace agreement in exchange for withdrawal. But you see, peace in such long ethnic conflict will not come overnight, no illusions should be nourished. It’s the matter of historical dynamics and we cannot predict history. But I believe in the long run there will certainly be peace if only Israel survives. And the greatest danger for Israel is the occupation and apartheid. Israel must end it as soon as possible, better with peace agreement, but even if there’s no peace agreement – the alternative, continuation of the status quo, is the direct way to disaster (and here I disagree with Noam Sheifaz – I believe the status quo is not viable).

      Reply to Comment
    37. Mikesailor

      Poor XYZ: You can call yourself anything you want. You can call yourself a ‘Jewish’ state or the state of Santa Claus or ‘Mars on Earth’ for all either I or most others care. How about ‘Paradise’? Yet attempting to coerce us to accept your ‘reality’ is part of your own insanity. Whu should I ‘accept’ and legitimize a racist lawless state. Why should I hold you to a different standard of Human rights or allow criminality merely because it is the policy of your so-called ‘Jewish’ state?

      Reply to Comment
    38. Kubrikon

      Mikesailor, your point make no sense as XYZ’s argument is precisely that you are holding Israel to a different standard than the surrounding states. A better question is why do you accept and legitimize them unconditionally regardless of how they define themselves while clearly taking terrible offense at how Israel defines itself?

      Reply to Comment
    39. Bill Pearlman

      Mike, I’m curious, Is Israel the only racist, lawless state around. Are there any ohers? Please enlighten me.

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    40. XYZ

      No, Mikesailor, you are the one holding Israel to a different standard. I never hear people like you complain about Pakistan, an theocratic ethnocentric state that carried out massive ethnic cleansing by separating itself from India (some of this ethnic cleansing, involving over a million people occurred after the initial violence of partition had ended). I have shown you how all the Arab states define themselves in theocratic, ethnocentric terms. If they can do it, why can’t Israel?

      Reply to Comment
    41. MuslimArabJewAndIHeartYou

      XYZ/KUBRIKON: I’m a Muslim Arab Jew. How Jew are the two of you? Oh, and how do I claim my free Palestinian house?

      Reply to Comment
    42. Jack

      XYZ,

      “I have shown you how all the Arab states define themselves in theocratic, ethnocentric terms. If they can do it, why can’t Israel?”
      -
      You are highly ignorant. First there is no “theocratic arab states”. Second you ask why Israel cant be a ethnocratic or theorcratic state? Nothing stop Israel from being that, so maybe you should ask Israel who refuse such labels and instead portray itself as “the only democracy”.

      Reply to Comment
    43. Leen

      @Bill, Pakistan is not a theocratic ethnocentric state. Pakistan is a multi-ethnic state that functions as an Islamic pluralistic democratic state. Though to be honest I wish it would embrace secularism like it has in the past, bu you are misguided if you think Pakistan is an ethnocentric state since it has many different indigenous people and they are prioritized over immigrants.

      Also, once more I think it is hilarious when people compare Israel to authoratarian non-democratic states… if the best you can do is compare Israel to Pakistan and Iran instead of Switzerland or another liberal democratic state, it doesn’t say much about Israel.

      And deflecting criticism of Israel does not in any shape or form legitimizes the occupation. If you want to talk how about the Arab regimes are, then I suggest you go to another site that deals exclusively with inter-arab relations. For now, we are talking about Israel and its occupation. It only makes your argument weak when you try to steer the conversation to Pakistan.

      Reply to Comment
    44. Leen

      My apologies, the above post is to @XYZ as well

      Reply to Comment
    45. Beholder

      >First there is no “theocratic arab states”
      No Jack, you are the uberingnorant one.
      Really. I’ve seen a quite a few people who know less than you do.

      http://bit.ly/HjBFrS
      “Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Yemen, Afghanistan, United Arab Emirates, Pakistian, Malaysia, and Mauritania are Islamic theocracies. The Vatican City is the only Christian theocracy. Most theocracies are usually authoritarian in nature and often jail religious and political dissidents.”
      http://wiki.answers.com/Q/What_Countries_use_the_Theocracy_in_todays_world

      Reply to Comment
    46. Ira

      My point about ethnically defined states was meant to be descriptive, not prescriptive (I’m not presumptuous enough to think that my opinions on the matter are of any great import). The fact of the matter, however is that in almost all states where there is no ethnic strife this is so because the ‘dirty deeds’ had been done long ago; with regard to Israel, one is watching it in real time. However, it’s completely ingenuous to believe that this is something unique to Israel or even the middle east.

      Are the readers here aware of the deep racism that exists in Asian societies ? Of the Chinese belief (perhaps warranted :-)) in the absolute superiority of their civilization ? Of the horror that Thais have at marrying someone who is not Thai ? The fact that Japan will disappear (given that Japanese women don’t want to have children) because they are culturally (or socially or whatever the correct term would be) incapable of accepting immigrants ? The intense Korean ethnocentrism (less polite commentators would call it racism) ?

      There are very few countries which have large non-homogenous populations, and which are defined as states of all their inhabitants. A few come to mind, and I don’t know whether people here would point to them as any kind of real model:

      The United States — enough said (although in large parts of the society, especially among the more technologically advanced sectors, ethnocentric racism apparently is not an issue (Silicon Valley is almost completely recent immigrants)).

      ‘France and India are ethnically defined states’ With regard to France this is completely false: France is quite self-consciously ‘a state of all it’s citizens’, so much so that precise statistics on the racial composition of the society are hard to come by, because it’s illegal to classify people by race (since, bien sur, ‘we’re all French’). YET how many non-white representatives are there in the parliament? (Five years ago, with an estimated 10% non white population, there was NOT ONE non white parliamentarian representing mainland France). Liberté, fraternité, egalité nothwithstanding the French couldn’t be bothered to notice what was brewing in the banlieus right under their nose.

      Brazil – How many non-white representatives are there in the parliament ? What is the non-white vs white poverty rate ? Ditto for incarceration rates (in a country that is half non-white) ?

      India – One doesn’t even know where to start: The largest pogroms of modern times in the ‘population exchanges’ of 1947 ? Indians from the south refusing to speak Hindi, because of the history of northern domination ? The pogroms against the Sikhs after Indira Ghandi was assassinated ? The pogroms against Muslims as a result of the Ayodhya dispute (there were pogroms against Hindus as well)? The absolute marginalization of India’s indigenous populations ? Bangladeshis trapped inside India that have absolutely no rights, even to schools or hospitals ?

      None of this is meant to excuse Israeli policy and actions against the Palestinians; it is however important to put things in context (unless one believes that Israelis are sui generis evil, and thus deserving of no consideration).

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    47. Leen

      @Beholder, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Malaysia are not arab states. Plus Pakistan is not a theocracy, it is an Islamic democracy where there is a civil war going on between the civilian and military government.
      UAE is not a theocratic state, it is a monarchical federation really.
      Sudan became an authoratarian state, however it is not necessarily a theocracy. Furthermore, the situation is unstable at the moment and whether it is truly an arab state is also up for discussion. The only Islamic theocratic democracy is Iran in the list.
      Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy and not necessarily an Islamic theocracy.
      As for Yemen, I guess you missed a memo that there is an uprising…

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_system_of_government#Theocracies

      As I was correct in saying, the only two true theocracies are Iran and Vatican.

      Reply to Comment
    48. Ira

      @ Leen:

      ‘Pakistan is an Islamic democracy.’ What does this mean if you’re not Muslim ? This is exactly the same situation with regard to Israel being ‘Jewish and democratic.’ Are these descriptive or prescriptive terms ?

      Just as the raison d’etre for the existence of Israel is to have a Jewish polity, the raison d’etre for the existence of Pakistan is to have a Muslim polity in the area that had been the British Raj (Pakistan is at least 95% Muslim). The two situations are almost exactly the same.

      Reply to Comment
    49. Leen

      @IRA, it means that Islam is the state religion, however people do vote in parliamentary elections and there is no theocratic body to monitor and ensure that the ‘shariah’ law is observed on all levels publically and privately (although there is a body that forsees that laws do not contradict the shariah), that is the difference between Iran and Pakistan. Furthermore as Christians, while they are discriminated against within Pakistan by the government, one must take in consideration that many parties are trying to push for more moderate rules. That’s what I mean about the civil war between the civilian government and military government (it’s quite a complex situation and I am not an expert on Pakistan).

      But again, this is where it gets a bit hazy when we compare it to Israel. Because are we talking about Jewishness as an ethnicity or a religion? Because in Pakistan it has many ethnicities and indigenous people are not discriminated against, which is the exact opposite of Israel where ethnicity (Being Jewish, not necessarily practicing Judaism, comes first). However in terms of religiousness, I am not sure if Pakistan’s raison d’etre is to ensure Muslim majority because it never really had the whole ‘we are a minority now we need to settle and displace the indigenous people to ensure the Muslim population is at 95%’. It’s not the same because we are talking about an indigenous people. Though I do wish Pakistan would drop the blasphemy laws because it not only harms non-Muslims but muslims themselves. That’s why there are many civil wars within pakistan, coups by different generals, etc.

      Reply to Comment
    50. Shlomo Krol

      Leen,
      Just a small remark: Jews are no less indigenious people to this area, than Palestinian Arabs.

      Reply to Comment
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