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Against the Israeli Right's state of war

Despite the fallout from the State Comptroller’s report on the 2014 Gaza war, we must remember that the violent atmosphere it created was a boon for an Israeli Right that fosters nationalism, racism and persecution of the Left.

By Alon Mizrahi

Israelis march in support of IDF troops fighting in the Gaza Strip in the Old City of Jerusalem, July 31, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Israelis march in support of IDF troops fighting in the Gaza Strip in the Old City of Jerusalem, July 31, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

1. Throughout my life, I have witnessed Israel take part in a long list of military operations and wars. I have also seen a great deal of terrorism. There was the First Lebanon War, the First Intifada, the Gulf War, the Oslo Accords, the Second Intifada, Operation Defensive Shield, Operation Cast Lead, and Operation Pillar of Defense. Like every Israeli, I was raised in an atmosphere in which war could break out any moment — and, in fact, that happened fairly often.

But never in my life has my society frightened me as it did in the days of Operation Protective Edge. Even today, every time I recall that period, that familiar feeling of dread comes back. The thirst for revenge and the mass funerals, the desire by top government officials for more blood and killing, the violence in the streets, an apocalyptic feeling on social media. The call by Jews to take the law into their own hands and begin the slaughter.

It was that summer I understood that what I had believed my whole life — that we are the good guys who never choose to go to war if we can avoid it — is a lie. According to the conclusions of the recent State Comptroller’s report on the government’s handling of the war (which affirmed what many Israelis already knew), this war could have been prevented. Israel, however, chose differently.

2. Protective Edge was pure political profit for the Right. Internet-based search and destroy units formed against leftists. The calls to commit a Holocaust against leftists and annihilate Gaza suddenly became legitimate. The crazed, racist demon that lies deep within every society everywhere, yet is censored and balanced out by a large dose of top-down restraint in every culture that cherishes life, was given center stage. We have yet to put that genie back in the bottle.

Netanyahu won big following that war. Remember that.

The trick: Small wars

3. Terrifying as it may be, the Israeli Right has no political interest in preventing small wars at particular times. Right-wing propaganda, which told us that we were on the brink of a Holocaust and that there is no alternative to war, could not provide a better public atmosphere for an “operation” in which soldiers die, civilians live in fear, and Arabs are killed in the thousands as their homes are destroyed. This is the Right’s political sweet spot: arguments for war are made forcefully, and any opposition is — of course — considered treason against the homeland, God, and the nation.

Perhaps we do not give enough thought to the fact that the absence of peace is in the political interest of the Right. The Right, after all, is nourished by panic and an atmosphere of “no alternative.” Peace and reconciliation contradict its core principles.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a prize to Dr. Regina Fickman, who was honored for her care of wounded during Operation Protective Edge, at the Channel 9 Award Ceremony for People of the Year at the Jerusalem Convention Center, June 14, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gives a prize to Dr. Regina Fickman, who was honored for her care of wounded during Operation Protective Edge, at the Channel 9 Award Ceremony for People of the Year at the Jerusalem Convention Center, June 14, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)

The sobering effect of larger wars means that they pose a danger to the Right. Aside from the mass casualties, any unnecessary burdens are liable to be thrown overboard — such as French colonialism in Algeria, the Vietnam War, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and — potentially — Israel’s occupation of every inch of the West Bank.

Small wars. That’s the trick to maintaining a national spirit that insists on its own stupidity. So perhaps we should not be surprised when Education Minister Naftali Bennett predicts that we are headed toward another war this spring. The last one created a culture that legitimized the persecution of leftists, reminiscent of the most egregious, fascist regimes on earth. Who knows what the next war will bring.

Context matters

4. We cannot forget the general context. Operation Protective Edge began after Hamas fired rockets at Israel in response to Operation Brother’s Keeper, in which Israel sent thousands of soldiers into the West Bank in order to ostensibly search for three kidnapped Israeli teenagers, but carried out what was undoubtedly collective punishment on Palestinian society in the occupied territories. A number of Palestinians were killed in demonstrations against Operation Brother’s Keeper, which included raids and arbitrary arrests, some of them likely planned in advance and which had nothing whatsoever to do with the kidnapping.

The Israeli leadership wanted to create a facade of a brutal operation and revenge, perhaps because this is what its right-wing voters were expecting (which is always politically profitable, remember that). Or as Uzi Benziman wrote in Israeli media watchdog The Seventh Eye:

As opposed to its stated goals of managing the crisis responsibly, the country’s leadership has been exposed — through its public declarations — as being knocked off balance by the reality on the ground. And if the practical results are depressing (the three boys have yet to be found, as have their captors), they are a by-product of a harsh objective reality full of obstacles. After all, the problematic consequences for our image are the result of the words and deeds of state leaders and their spokespeople.

Israel was dragged into Protective Edge after completely ignoring political alternatives, and all while deploying great amounts of violence without any forward-looking plan. It is necessary to understand the background for the war, the strategic backdrop that made calls for revenge possible, and the terrifying violence that we saw among the Israeli public, on social media, and in reality, which hit a fever pitch with the burning of Muhammad Abu Khdeir. None of this can be chalked up to fate. It’s not simply part of life here, as the Right likes to claim.

We must remember how Protective Edge began: with a violent campaign in the West Bank, where Palestinians live without political rights under the control of a state that has ruled over then for 50 years. In effect, Israel is telling them that it will never grant them their independence.

An Israeli tank amid the rubble of a destroyed mosque in the Gaza Strip during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge. (Courtesy of Breaking the Silence)

An Israeli tank amid the rubble of a destroyed mosque in the Gaza Strip during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge. (Courtesy of Breaking the Silence)

Protective Edge began with the monstrous kidnapping and murder of three innocent teenagers, sons of families who were sent to live in the West Bank with the explicit goal of preventing the Palestinians from gaining independence. It continued with rockets from Gaza and another military operation in the besieged enclave, which came following decades of a violent military regime (a regime that I had a small role in). The oppression stems from the same original sin: the desire for geographical expansion while entirely ignoring the local population.

Ending the settlement addiction

It is madness, of course, to keep millions of people in this condition and live among them in villas. And yet Israel stubbornly insists on sending families to dispose of Palestinians and erase their existence in the West Bank.

This kind of enterprise cannot exist without real violence from both sides, and it comes from the Palestinian side because no people on earth would agree to be treated the way Israel treats the Palestinians. Yet the occupation and settlement expansion cannot continue without actively refueling hatred and existential fear among Israelis. In order to allow our government and the settler movement to continue settling the West Bank, we must hate Arabs to the point that we completely dehumanize them and fear them enough to justify every action against them.

In this sense Operation Protective Edge is the perfect embodiment of the rightwing-settler worldview. It does away with the question marks vis-à-vis Palestinian humanity, rendering unnecessary any discussion on their future as a free people, or of their present as human beings deserving of respect. Moreover, it unites the Right’s rank and file in an even more intense struggle against the Left, creating heroic tales that will spur future generations to enlist in the IDF without hesitation. For the Right, there is nothing more perfect than that.

But every political camp in Israel that is not willing to dedicate all of the country’s resources to the settlement enterprise — with all of its catastrophic consequences — needs to decide, finally, that this situation must come to an end.

With Netanyahu’s political career drawing to a close, which will inevitably weaken the settlers’ grasp on Israel’s corridors of power, every non-settler political actor needs to make the important and fateful decision that Bennett’s Jewish Home party must not be part of any future coalition. The damage done to Israel’s spirit and norms after seven years of a coalition with Bennett may still be repaired, but only if Israel decides to put an end to its settlement addiction and come to the conclusion — without which there will never be peace internally or externally — that the Palestinians are part and parcel of this land, and that they are entitled to a life of dignity and equality.

Either that, or we can prepare to deepen the internal fascism and violence, we can prepare to turn the IDF into a Falangist militia, we can prepare to destroy our relationship with Jewish communities worldwide, and we can prepare for many more front pages of newspapers full of young, smiling Israelis. And dead ones, too.

Alon Mizrahi is a writer and a blogger at Local Call, where this article was first published in Hebrew. Read it here.

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    1. Bruce Gould

      Re the state comptrollers report on Operation Protective Edge:

      http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4928684,00.html

      Furthermore, the comptroller rebuked Netanyahu for rejecting diplomatic alternatives in Gaza without even presenting them to the Security Cabinet , which in turn prevented the ministers from considering these alternatives and discussing the chances and risks they entail.

      http://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.774507

      “Israels Gaza War Failure Was First and Foremost a Diplomatic One”

      Reply to Comment
    2. Firentis

      1) Of the three murdered teens, only one had parents that lived in Judea and Samaria. They were kidnapped and murdered by Hamas operatives.

      2) The war started because Hamas launched rockets at Israeli cities and wouldn’t stop until pommeled into agreeing to a cease-fire. Hamas chose to fight this war and chose to have it last as long as it did. The Israeli offer of a cease-fire was on the table from day 1.

      3) The general context is the persistent refusal of the Palestinians to accept living in peace next to a Jewish state on any borders. Hamas makes this obvious by saying so every day. Abbas makes it obvious by rejecting any negotiations on the basis of two states for two peoples.

      4) The Right in Israel gets stronger from Palestinian rejectionism, not from wars. It gets stronger every time the Left’s vision of peaceful Palestinians that are ready for peace is demonstrated to be an illusion.

      5) The idea that the control of Judea and Samaria is based on “hating Arabs” is absolute lunacy. Israel controls that territory because otherwise it would turn into Gaza – a launching ground for attacks on Israel.

      6) Making this about settlements is pandering to your own base. Much as you have convinced yourself that the settlements are the core problem you have failed to convince the overwhelming majority of the Israeli public that believes that Palestinian rejectionism is the reason why there is no peace. As long as that is the case no one is going to confront the settlers because doing so does not bring peace any closer.

      7) When Netanyahu is replaced it will be by a right-wing leader whose policies will likely be pretty similar. The reason for this is because the public is more afraid of the suicidal tendencies of the Israeli Left than it is of maintaining the status quo under a right-wing leader. The reason behind that is that the Israeli public simply doesn’t believe that the Palestinians are interested in peace and there is nothing that the Israeli Left wing can actually do about this. Only the Palestinians are capable of demonstrating their interest in peace by accepting the principle of two states for two peoples.

      8) I personally don’t like Netanyahu, because he is corrupt and paranoid. I don’t have any particular love for the settlers and have no issue with partitioning the land or creating a Palestinian State. But I see no alternative to the status quo. The only thing that would change my mind on this topic is a brave Palestinian leader that actually comes out and openly says that he wants to see two states living in peace side by side – one a nation state of the Jewish people with equal rights for minorities and the other a demilitarized Palestinian state. If the Palestinians desire peace such a statement should be trivial to make. Yet they refuse. And as long as they do I can not take their claims to want peace seriously and I have no choice but to continue to accept the status quo as the best we can currently hope for.

      9) Until that happens I presume there will be more wars and more bloodletting. And despite the wars that will happen and the suffering that will be inflicted on both Israelis and Palestinians my conscience will be completely clean.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.579701

        “How Many Times Must The Palestinians Recognize Israel”?

        (on the other hand, Palestinians aren’t going to recognize Israel as a “Jewish state” because 20% of Israeli citizens identify as Palestinian)

        Reply to Comment
        • Firentis

          They need to accept the principle of two states for two peoples at least once for me to take their desire for peace seriously. Otherwise all that is on the table is a temporary ceasefire and it isn’t worth the risks involved.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            ​RE: “Only the Palestinians are capable of demonstrating their interest in peace….They need to accept the principle of two states for two peoples at least once for me to take their desire for peace seriously.”

            Bruce puts it succinctly. But let me add this. Once you insist on Palestinians “accepting” this “principle,” then you have to explicitly define what the phrase “two states for two peoples” actually means. In great detail. They’ve long shown they are interested in peace with Israel. Any poll numbers one way or the other will be tremendously elastic depending on how they see themselves being treated by you. (That’s how politics and political evolution in real people in real contexts work, as opposed to crude racial stereotyping of unchanging “bloodthirsty Arabs,” works. Lest we hear back from you and others that ‘oh yeah how about in 1929….huh?!’)

            The reminder that Palestinians aren’t going to recognize Israel as a “Jewish state” because 20% of Israeli citizens identify as Palestinian is a reminder that “two states for two peoples” by itself is a set of ambiguous code words that can mean anything you want it to mean and what the Israeli right means and intends by it is never going to form the basis for a sane practical agreement outside of a fatally narcissistic world view.
            Furthermore, the idea that the Palestinians need to “demonstrate their interest in peace” and “prove their desire” in order for you to “take it seriously” is smug occupier’s disdainful logic. No general or Prime Minister of yours bases your security on counting on “their desire,” now or ever. This fake dating game language of their secret “desire” gives the game away.

            A binding final status end of conflict agreement is just that. You don’t need them to endorse “a Jewish state,” to “prove their desire.” This demand for “proof” is fake. An invention. If, in your cherished scenario, radical forces took over, whatever “endorsement” of “a Jewish state” would constitute no magical force shield and would be worth the paper it’s printed on.

            Nor would you then be helpless damsels in distress who could not defend yourselves and defend yourselves mightily. In fact, after a final status accord a good sized portion of your right wing would then positively lust after radical right wing Palestinians taking over (“our kind of people!”) so that they would have an excuse to start the whole ethnic cleansing cycle all over again. They would see an Arab attack as a gift from God. Ask Halevy.

            What you truly need, actually, is a form of what you have now in regards to the occupation: practical, vigorous ongoing security force cooperation and enforcement that you are motivated to work on, nurture, strengthen. It is up to you to work in practical ways, as all states everywhere do with their neighbors, to continue to build good will and incentives and ensure security. Your security establishment is well equipped to handle this task and have told you so.
            The “risk involved” is fake too. The risks of a population seething under your apartheid domination is far far greater than a population motivated to mutually cooperate with you, and with whom you are motivated to work closely and in good faith to minimize risks. Nothing you now do is in good faith. Nothing.

            Let us see Naftali Bennett and the High Luminaries of the Yesha Council likewise sign a document saying they too forever renounce their political narrative and for all time endorse Judea and Samaria as the nation state of the Muslim-Arab People. Oh? They decline? How about that. Gee, the Yesha Council and those Israelis just haven’t proven their desire for peace.

            Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            Threat = Capacity * Intent

            As long as the intent is there to eliminate Israel the threat will continue to exist. The only way to remove the intent is to ensure that the Palestinians recognize and accept that the end goal is a solution based on a solution of two states for two peoples. What does that exactly mean? It means that the Palestinians accept that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people and they accept the existence of such a state as a legitimate situation which they do not intend to undermine through any means. Any hesitation from accepting such an outcome, and there is clearly hesitation, means that the threat will remain after any agreement is signed because the intent is still there to undermine the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East.

            Threat = Capacity * Intent

            If the intent is still there, then increasing the capacity by transferring territory, allowing weapons transfers or in any other way increasing the power of the Palestinians is equivalent to increasing the threat to the State of Israel. Every agreement proposed so far would have the effect of increasing the capacity of the Palestinians to inflict damage. The only way to compensate for this is to decrease intent. The only way to demonstrate that is through the acceptance by the Palestinians that their previously held rejection of the principle of a Jewish nation-state in the Middle East is no longer valid and that going forward their increased capacity will not be directed towards such a goal. Short of that all you can do is try to get an agreement that precludes some of the possible means that the Palestinians can use to continue to struggle to undo what they would continue to see as an illegitimate situation. However, once you have granted the Palestinians their own state they would then be free to effectively ignore any commitments made while signing the agreement and Israel’s ability to do much about that short of war and reoccupation would be limited. It is true that even an agreement that is built on the principle of two states for two peoples can fall apart. Nonetheless the force of international law that would accompany such an agreement would undermine the legitimacy of any revisionist Palestinian demands while bolstering the Israeli position. Backsliding on such an agreement would be may times harder because it would be vastly harder to find support for it.

            There is no reason to believe that the Palestinian population will be motivated to mutually cooperate with us as long as they believe that we should not be here and our country should not exist. They will have groups that insist that all security cooperation is verbotten and groups that put forward myriad proposals on how to undermine and eliminate our country. There can not be normal neighborly relation while there is an overwhelming political consensus on one side that insists that the other neighbor should not exist. They will have no faith in us and we will have no faith in them. The only thing that would change is that is a solid mutual understanding on what the future will look like – two states for two peoples. Without that the whole thing will fall apart and yes, it will be far worse for us than the current status quo.

            I fail to see how it makes any sense on your part to grasp on to equivalence between Naftali Bennett and the “moderate” Palestinian leadership. Israel has repeatedly been willing to accept that the result of a peace agreement would be two states for two peoples – a nation state of the Jewish people and a nation state of the Palestinian Arabs. If you suggest that the “moderate” Palestinian leadership is as “moderate” as Naftali Bennett then certainly signing any agreement with them is a complete waste of time.

            There will be no movement towards peace until there is a stable foundation to build it on. That foundation is the acceptance by both parties that a peace agreement will result in two states for two peoples. Short of that the whole thing is built on quicksand and increases risk with no chance of actual peace, and it isn’t worth it.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            ​“accept that Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people”

            This has been ably dissected by Noam Sheizaf.
            https://972mag.com/why-i-oppose-recognizing-israel-as-a-jewish-state/78751/

            But with “and they accept the existence of such a state as a legitimate situation which they do not intend to undermine through any means” you are I think codifying that any democratic action is “undermining” and subversive and hence you take this thing a step further to where we sensed you were always heading: you reveal the demeanor of the master and something like a fascist mindset. Honestly I think you Israelis have obstinately boxed yourselves into an impossible situation.

            “The only way to remove the intent is to….” We have heard this posturing over and over and

            I understand the emotions behind it but it never rationally convinces. No one not trying hard to be convinced thinks this is plausible, that it is not a subterfuge for the settlement project. Your own security establishment has said this over and over. Excuse me but the mismatch between what the Israeli security experts say and what Israeli right wing ideologues say is glaring.

            “It is true that even an agreement that is built on the principle of two states for two peoples can fall apart. Nonetheless the force of international law that would accompany such an agreement…”

            This is not true. The force of international law deriving from the kind of binding agreement I am talking about would achieve everything you say you want. One gets the sense that for you “revisionist Palestinian demands” means democracy. Can’t have that can we?

            Your comments about Bennett mystify me.
            First of all, Bennett and the Yesha Council totally dominate your government. Netanyahu is fused at the hip with them. The Bennetyahu government. To somehow construe Bennett and the settlers as marginal or extremists or “wild weeds” from which you are differentiated is to peddle the idea that Israel and the settlements can be meaningfully differentiated.
            But my point was that you can no more expect the Palestinian coalitions to sign on to your “nation state of the Jewish People” and what you mean by that (as opposed to a homeland of the Jewish people…) than you can expect Bennett or Netanyahu or Herzog and his Zionist Union (there are two basic Jewish parties in Israel, the Jewish nationalists and the “Zionists”) or any Israeli Jewish party, even Meretz, or any sizeable coalition of Israeli Jews including you of course—you the “moderate”—to sign a document saying you all renounce your political narrative and endorse Judea and Samaria as the nation state of the Muslim-Arab People. You would never get an Israeli coalition to sign such a document. Yet you expect a Palestinian coalition to sign the equivalent.

            Reply to Comment
          • Firentis

            Without a Palestinian recognition of the principle of two states for two peoples any agreement does not resolve the underlying conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. It is not a peace agreement. The Palestinians would continue to insist that the current situation of the existence of a Jewish state (Israel) is illegitimate and would continue to act against Israel. Within such an environment any agreement would be a mere formality while the conflict continues. There would be no trust on either side and both sides would prepare for the next conflict.

            International agreements and UNSC resolutions have limited value. For an example feel free to look at UNSC 1701 which was supposed to prevent Hezbollah from operating south of the LItani river. There is even an international force which was supposed to ensure that this came to pass.

            Given that within the Palestinian state there would be continued legitimacy to continuing the confrontation with Israel the Palestinians would arm themselves and would prepare their people for such a confrontation. They would gradually shrug off all their obligations under whatever agreement is signed and there will be little that the international community or Israel can do. With such an agreement Israel would be party to creating a fundamentally and implacably hostile state looking over its major population centers and major infrastructure.

            Without a solution in which both sides accept the principle of two states for two peoples any agreement signed would be a ceasefire. It would inevitably fail. There are no benefits to Israel from such a situation. The threat from the Palestinian state would be several orders of magnitude higher than that which exists in the West Bank under the status quo. Without a corresponding decrease in intent, which is impossible as long as the Palestinians continue to insist on the illegitimacy of the existence of a Jewish state, this is not a risk worth taking.

            I didn’t construe Bennett as marginal. He has 7% of the members of the Knesset and is currently a minister in the government. He is however still in the minority. Bennett isn’t going to recognize the right of the Palestinians to have a state. However, once again, he is in the minority. You somehow equate the positions of this minority with the rejection by the “moderate” Palestinian leadership of the idea of recognizing the Jewish right to have a state. You also seem to display your ignorance about the rest of the Israeli political spectrum. The center-right, center, center-left, and left have zero issue with recognizing a Palestinian state within Judea and Samaria including whatever formulation the Palestinians want as their definition for their state. So, your equivalence between the parties is bunk.

            In any case, we are going in circles. There will be no agreement signed between Israel and the Palestinians that will not be based on the principle of two states for two peoples. Accepting such a principle is the only way the Palestinians can demonstrate to me and the majority of the Israelis that they are actually interested in ending the conflict. Anything short of this is not worth the risk for Israel. And until that happens I will continue to support the status quo as the best way to manage this conflict.

            Reply to Comment
        • AJew

          20% of a population is a minority. A minority has no right to define the culture of a country.

          France has a sizable minority population yet no one would argue against the concept that France is the state of the French people.

          PS
          The minorities can choose to keep their own culture and be respected, they would still be described as French but part of an ethnic minority. Or…

          …they can assimilate and become indistinguishable from the rest of the French people.

          Hey, we Jews know how this works. We were ethnic minorities in all the states in which we lived during our 2000 years of exile. But no one considered our feelings and refused to call France the state of the French people or Italy the state of the Italian people or Saudi Arabia the state of the Arab people.

          And you know what, Bruce? It was our choice to keep our Jewish culture. They were right about their refusal to shed their national identity just because of us. As we are right about our insistence that Israel, which is a Jewish majority state, is the state of the Jewish people.

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “France has a sizable minority population yet no one would argue against the concept that France is the state of the French people.”

            This is muddled. France consciously will not even collect statistics on racial or ethnic origin because it does not define citizenship or statehood according to majority or minority status. Your invoking France, of all places, with its national motto since the Revolution of liberté, égalité, fraternité, is deeply muddled and confused. And it gets to the heart of your trying to pass yourself off as something you are not.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            How am I passing myself off exactly, Benny? I am being totally frank and honest about who I am. I am a nationalist. I am a Zionist. In fact, I am a right wing (centre rightist) Zionist.

            Now that we covered me, Benny? Tell us who might you be? And who do you represent? And please don’t try to pretend that you stand for justice. You don’t even know the meaning of the word. I’ll leave it at that for now.

            As for France:
            Yes, they have lofty ideals. Which IS commendable, I’ll be the first one to admit it. But like the rest of us, in practice they fall far short of those ideals. Just google the words “discrimination AND France”. It’s an eye opener.

            I am not having a go at the French. I am just making the point, in response to Ben’s attempt to idealize the French (in order to push Israel down), I am just making the comment that the French are human too.

            Now let’s talk about Arab countries, shall we Benny?

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            None of this is to the point. France has ideals enshrined in its identity and in its laws and it falls short of those ideals, but it has them. But Israel’s ideals and Israel’s laws are not at all France’s ideals and France’s laws.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            France does not live in the same rough neighborhood as we do. Nobody questions the right of existence of France. So stop comparing apples with oranges. And yet, even the French are far less than perfect, despite their lofty ideals. Did you google “Discrimination in France”? Now stop being so robotically one eyed, Benny!

            Maybe though you should focus a bit on the behavior of our Arab neighbors. That might give you a clue about why we are forced to behave as we do.

            Like I said. This is a rough neighborhood. The weak in here have a very short life expectancy.

            Reply to Comment
        • i_like_ike52

          The Palestinians demanded that Israel recognize them and their constitution defines them as an ethnocentric Arab state with Islam as the state religion, all of which means official discrimination against non-Arabs and non-Muslims. Do you have a problem with that?

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            This is a distracting and deceptive formulation. The Palestinians are not demanding that the Israelis recognize them AS an ethnocentric Arab state. Nor is Abu Mazen demanding that you specify that you are NOT an ethnocentric Jewish state. He is merely saying that he will not recognize you AS an ethnocentric Jewish state. Abu Mazen has in fact said that the Israelis can call themselves whatever they want to call themselves. (This of course begs the question of just why Israel does not have a constitution and cannot define itself clearly and coherently to itself and to the outside world via a constitution.)

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            No Benny, not so fast. Your Arab friends have been at war with us for one reason and one reason alone. Because in line with UN Resolution 181, we implemented Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people. YES, UN Resolution 181 talked about a JEWISH state. The Arabs rejected that and made war. Now they are obliged to show that they no longer reject the idea of a Jewish state by specifically declaring that they accept the Jewish state as their neighbor. Otherwise we don’t believe that they want peace. Otherwise we believe that they just want us to relinquish lands to them so that they can regroup and make war on us again.

            Think of it this way: if I attack you with an axe but you disarm me. Would you hand the axe back to me unconditionally just because I start yelling at the top of my voice:

            “gimme …. gimme… gimme my axe back … it’s mine…. it’s all mine …. you axe thief … you are a villian … you are trying to steal my axe. The axe is not yours…”

            Would you just hand the axe back to me unconditionally? Or would you at the least expect me to make a formal solemn promise that I won’t attack you with my axe again? And not just that, but wouldn’t you at least want to be convinced that even if I promise not to attack you again, wouldn’t you want to be convinced that I mean it? That I am not just tricking you? That as soon as I get the axe I won’t immediately attack you again…?

            Now tell me, how is Abbas’s refusal to formally recognise the Jewish state, convinces us that he won’t just use the new state that he would be allowed to establish after we hand the West Bank to him, as a spring board, or as a launching pad to attack us again? A bit like Hamas did when we got out of Gaza? How can we be sure that he or his successors wont do that too if he even refuses to utter a mere symbolic gesture to show that he as the representative of the Palestinian Arabs now recognises Israel as the nation state of the Jewish people?

            What exactly do you people want, Benny? Why should we hand over concrete strategic assets like lands in return for NOTHING?! We don’t even deserve a mere symbolic recognition of our existence in return? Do you think that we are fools? Why don’t you make yourself useful instead and start whispering some sense into the ears of your Arab friends and convince them that a mere symbolic recognition of the Jewish state is not too high a price to pay for an independent Arab Muslim state which the new shiny state of Palestine will inevitably become.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “Otherwise we don’t believe that they want peace”

            This is a tiresome nonsense formulation. We’ve been over this.

            The idea that the Palestinians need to demonstrate their interest in peace and prove their inner desire by endorsing your identity and your narrative, and relinquishing their own narrative, in order for you to “believe” in them, as if they were wooing you, is smug occupier’s logic. No general of yours bases your security on counting on someone else’s desire or on your “believing” in others. Now or ever. This is fake dating game language. If it is “merely symbolic” as you say then you prove my point.

            A binding final status, end of conflict agreement is just that. You don’t need them to endorse “a Jewish state” so that you can “believe.” This demand for “proof” is fake. An invention. If, in your cherished scenario, radical forces took over, whatever “endorsement” of “a Jewish state” would constitute no magical force shield and would be worth the paper it’s printed on.

            Nor would you then be helpless damsels in distress who could not defend yourselves and defend yourselves mightily against a Palestinian mouse that roared. In fact, after a final status accord a good sized portion of your right wing would then positively lust after radical right wing Palestinians taking over (“our kind of people!”) so that they would have an excuse to start the whole ethnic cleansing project all over again. They would see an Arab attack as a gift from God. Ask Halevy.

            Shall we see Naftali Bennett and the High Luminaries of the Yesha Council likewise sign a document saying they too forever renounce their political narrative and for all time endorse Judea and Samaria as the nation state of the Muslim-Arab People? Oh? They decline? How about that. Gee, those Israelis just haven’t proven their desire for peace.

            What you truly need, actually, is a form of what you have now in regards to the occupation: practical, vigorous ongoing security force cooperation and enforcement that you are motivated to work on, nurture, and strengthen. IT IS UP TO YOU to work in practical ways, as all states everywhere do with their neighbors, to continue to build good will and incentives and ensure security. Your security establishment is well equipped to handle this task and have told you so, over and over again.

            The “risk involved” is fake too. The risks of a population seething under your apartheid domination is far, far greater than a population motivated to mutually cooperate with you, and with whom you are motivated to work closely and in good faith to minimize risks. Nothing you now do is in good faith. Nothing.

            “Why should we hand over concrete strategic assets like lands in return for NOTHING?!”

            This is telling. Evidently, you regard a just peace and an end of conflict agreement as “nothing,” and in a post following this I will explain why. (BTW, they are assets and they are concrete but they are not “strategic.” And you will never turn them over unless you are forced to, because all of this is part of “the illusion of haggling.”)

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          • AJew

            “…and relinquishing their own narrative, in order for you to “believe” in them…”

            …let’s see: their own narrative has been that the idea of a Jewish state is unacceptable. You don’t think that they need to disown that narrative in exchange for us giving up concrete strategic assets (lands) and taking a risk for peace?

            Nothing doing, Benny, we do think that they need to give up their old narrative. We need confidence building gestures from them too. Otherwise they get nothing from us. Get it?

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          • Ben

            In my previous post I pointed out that a just peace means nothing to you. In a sense, your formulation that “otherwise we don’t believe that they want peace” is not really a nonsense formulation. It is a device. A device with a purpose: to create fake existential threats. Andrew Levine explains: 

            SEPTEMBER 8, 2011
            The New “Existential Threat”
            by ANDREW LEVINE
            Why Israel creates “existential threats”
            http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/09/08/the-new-existential-threat/

            “The general contours of a negotiated settlement, acceptable to all who believe in a two state solution, have been clear for decades.… As matters now stand, it is clear that Israel won’t agree to live alongside a viable Palestinian state; officially autonomous Bantustans are as far as it will go.  This is so not just because many Israelis harbor hopes for a Greater Israel or because the Israeli political class is effectively owned by a religiously driven settler movement.  The more important reason is that if there were a just peace, Israel’s reason for being a state of the Jewish people, and therefore its hold over “diaspora” Jews and even over its own population, would diminish, not abruptly but inexorably. 

            Leaders of the Israeli political and military establishment understand this.   It is why they conjure up existential threats and why, regardless what they say, they have repeatedly drawn back from making peace with the Palestinians…. 

            The animating principle of the Zionist movement from the 1890s on has been that Jews need a state to serve as a refuge in a world in which anti-Semitism is a force of nature.  That thought never gained traction before the Nazis took power in Germany, and even then it was resisted by secular Jews committed to universalist ideologies and also, for theological and philosophical reasons, by Orthodox and Reform Jews.  In time, universalist ideologies faded and Zionism hijacked Judaism.  Meanwhile, as Jewish assimilation has proceeded at full throttle in the United States and other Western countries, and with anti-Semitism no longer much of a concern, Israeli nationalism has all but monopolized Jewish identity politics in the West.

            Because Judaism, shorn of the Zionist shell that has been imposed upon it, is a non-starter for most Jews today, and because inter-marriage is so prevalent, it is becoming increasingly difficult to maintain a sense of Jewish identity on religious or ethnic grounds.  That leaves only Israel.  And as Israeli society sheds its historical ties to secularism and socialism, Israel has become hard to love or even to admire.  No wonder that so few diaspora Jews would even think of living there or that so many Israelis live abroad.

            There is, of course, still the memory of the Nazi Judeocide, and Zionists exploit it for all it is worth.  But as time passes, that memory becomes less serviceable; and not all the Holocaust museums in the world can maintain its efficacy.  The Zionist movement succeeded in appropriating moral capital from the devastation Nazi Germany wreaked upon European Jewry, but it has spent that capital recklessly, and there is not much of it left.

            Enter existential threats.  When they do not exist, as is the case with the ones Israel’s leaders invoke, they need to be invented or at least blown up out of all proportion….” 

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