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The 'Jerusalem Intifada,' the president and the cliff

When the Left is right.

Smoke is seen rising over the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya as Palestinian youth clash with Israeli police, November 5, 2014. Earlier in the day, a Palestinian man drove into a crowd of pedestrians in Jerusalem, killing a Border Police officer and wounding over a dozen others. (Photo by Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

Smoke is seen rising over the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Issawiya as Palestinian youth clash with Israeli police, November 5, 2014. Earlier in the day, a Palestinian man drove into a crowd of pedestrians in Jerusalem, killing a Border Police officer and wounding over a dozen others. (Photo by Yotam Ronen/Activestills.org)

For years, Cassandras on the Left warned that the festering captivity of the stateless Palestinian population living under military rule would reach a breaking point. There would be a third intifada, maybe a bloodbath. At the very least, said the Left, there would be a drastic collapse of Israel as we know it — the Israel we dreamed of. Israel would become an isolated pariah state with a cruel elite ruling over a desperate, legally inferior people, or else a neutral political entity with no traces of Jewish anything. They said that the two-state window was closing at least five years back.

Now, journalists, diplomats, caring outsiders and erstwhile insiders long gone, ask me regularly if we are reaching these breaking points.

Here is what I see around me: in the last decade there have been four full-out wars and now possibly a fifth as the violence accelerates around Jerusalem. Four of those wars are from the last six years alone; the pace of open hostilities is quickening.

Inside Israel, even as the socio-economic and educational status of Palestinian-Arab citizens improves, racist antagonism is worse than at any time since the end of military rule over Arab citizens in 1966. Now the hostility flows from all directions: from elected representatives, government ministers, and some portions of the public as well.

Abroad, western nations that should have been Israel’s best friends are despairing. The Scandinavian and Western European countries who are so close to Israel in terms of a social-democratic ethos and socially liberal values; yet they are the most alienated by Israel’s policy regarding the Palestinians. They know the painful history, they welcomed Israel into all Western clubs despite the conflict. But younger generations no longer comprehend how the 20th century traumas justify the 21st century political anomaly of eternal occupation. Some are angry that Israel sells itself as a democratic society, then protests that criticism of occupation is anti-Semitic or hypocritical, because Syria is worse.

The representatives of these communities I have met — bureaucrats, civil society and citizens — strike me as neither anti-Semitic nor unsympathetic to Israeli suffering in this conflict. They are simply confounded as to why Israel does not reach the conclusion that seems most obvious: the policy of occupation must end. They do not understand why citizens tolerate it.

A Palestinian runs to take cover from tear gas during clashes with Israeli police in the Palestinian refugee camp of Shuafat in east Jerusalem, on November 5, 2014

A Palestinian runs to take cover from tear gas during clashes with Israeli police in the Palestinian refugee camp of Shuafat in east Jerusalem, on November 5, 2014

European allies are now eyeing policy to back up their critical rhetoric. The EU guidelines to avoid funding Israeli projects in the West Bank are a major change: foreign governments of allied countries now restrict interaction with Israel.

America remains the last bulwark against much deeper isolation. It is America’s UN veto, America’s enormous global weight, American financial and military aid that props up Israel’s standing and policies. For these reasons, America was thought to hold the keys to a solution. But as my wise friend Matt Duss pointed out in the wake of “chicken-gate”:

In the past, the U.S. worked hard to block [forms of diplomatic pressure and condemnation of Israel] on the premise that they undermined bilateral Palestinian-Israeli efforts to resolve the conflict. With the Israeli government now uninterested in any such efforts, that argument no longer works.

Polls show that American people are moving away from blanket support for Israel, towards partisan divides: in other words, Democrats are applying their generally liberal, rights- and equality-oriented worldview to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and coming up short, compared to Republicans, with their Hobbsington approach (Hobbes + Huntington, get it?) and much higher support for Israel.

As one worried Israeli at my seder table this year put it, America may not be there forever.

On both sides of the pond, the boycott concept is on an upward trajectory. It is easy to support as a non-violent protest, it is perceived to have a moral and practical history of success in South Africa. Since the call has come from Palestinians, it can be seen as a simple symbol of solidarity with the oppressed. Israel supporters should fear the day the BDS movement tones down its maximalist and overreaching rhetoric and becomes moderate, pragmatic. It will much harder for anyone opposed to the occupation to say no.

So is the “breaking point” coming nearer? In hindsight, I believe we will realize that it’s already arrived.

Yet here in Israel, August came and Israelis said ‘the war is over.’ I found myself unable to say these words. The war did not start in July and it did not end in August. The violence in Jerusalem is not an irrational, arbitrary, Jew-hating outburst of savages. It is a predictable human response to an intolerable situation that refuses to end.

Here in Israel, people laugh and shout about the possibility of upcoming elections. The Right gloats in its demographics, the mainstream Left pins its hopes on the sanity expressed by new President Reuven Rivlin. I lauded the president too, just last week. But when one article after another sees him as the only sign of hope or change, and  Avraham Burg writes ,“thank god there is a new president in Israel…Long live the president! For the glory of Israeli society,” I have to ask: is he too little, too late? Can one ceremonial figure make all the difference? Can internal soul-searching make any difference if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which Rivlin can’t really change, continues?

Or is Rivlin thinking something else? Is he trying to show that Israel can in fact become a fair and equal society among Jews and Arabs, and thereby plant different seeds for a solution?

The only way to stop stone throwing is to end the occupation
Rabin memorial makes clear Israel’s peace camp stuck in the 90s

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    1. Kolumn7

      There is somebody on the right who does not expect violence and terrorism from the Palestinians? The difference is that on the left they justify it as legitimate or reasonable. On the right it is the expected result of the persistent refusal of Palestinians to come to terms with the existence of Israel. Until that happens there is no chance for any pragmatic and lasting arrangement. The same is true for BDS. It can’t become pragmatic because at its core it is a movement dedicated to the destruction of Israel. The same is true of Israeli Arabs. Their increased economic and educational achievement only makes them embrace more extreme anti-Israeli views because for the most part they too embrace an ideology which sees no room for Israel.

      The left has never been right on this issue because the Palestinians keep proving them wrong. The leftist policy of appeasement and withdrawal only leads to greater violence and increased demands.

      And yes Dahlia, running random Jews down on the street is an irrational, arbitrary, Jew-hating outburst of savages.

      The delusion that Israeli concessions would lead to anything but more violence is entirely that of the Israeli left and its European patrons who still haven’t internalized that there has been no change on the Palestinian side that makes peace possible. Fortunately the rest of Israel has understood this and stopped listening to their delusional ramblings.

      Reply to Comment
      • Sprouts

        The BDS movement is not calling for the destruction of Israel at all. It’s trying to save it from killing itself. Can’t you see that ?

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn6

          I suppose this could be some sort of sarcasm but I’ll reply seriously anyway.

          The BDS movement calls for economic warfare against Israel until it allows the entry of 5-7 million Arabs that are the descendants from those that fled a war the Arabs started to destroy Israel 67 years ago. Were that to happen there would no longer be a country called Israel.

          The top leaders of the BDS movement (Omar Barghouti, Ali Abunimah for example) have stated that the goals of the BDS movement are contrary to any solution where Israel continues to exist. The overwhelming majority of the proponents of BDS are on record as opposing the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East. The most optimistic of them see Israel being eliminated peacefully but the elimination of Israel is the overriding goal of the movement even if some of its most naive followers get confused because the movement focuses on tactics and action and not on goals.

          So, what is the BDS movement trying to save Israel from? Existing as a country and being able to defend itself.

          Reply to Comment
        • The Trespasser

          Rubbish. The sole goal of BDS is a complete elimination of the Jewish state via reduction of territory and demographics alternation.

          BDS platform is nearly 100% illegal and pursues purely anti-Zionist goals.

          “Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall”

          Israel had already ended the colonization and occupation of most of the Gaza strip. We all know what was the outcome.

          “Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality;”

          That statement is pure Judeophobia and racism.
          1) There is no such thing as “Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel”

          2) Israeli Arabs enjoy full
          equality. Ask Hanin Zoabi.

          “Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.”

          More rubbish. UN resolution 194 NEVER stipulated that Israel is obliged to let back hostile population.

          Reply to Comment
          • Bryan

            When you say “Israel has ended its colonization and occupation of most of the Gaza Strip” what exactly do you mean? Human Rights organizations still consider it occupied since Israel has total control of its land and sea borders, its air-space and its electro-magnetic frequencies, and can, with assistance from its Egyptian ally absolutely control the movement of people and trade from the Strip. Israel, with help from its US and European allies also attempted to maintain its status as “the only democracy in the Middle-East” by undermining a Hamas government elected in free and fair elections. Hamas is not everyone’s cup of tea (and its election was largely the result of the corruption and collaboration that Fatah engaged in) but it is not ISIS and all the evidence is that were Israel to relax its blockade and engage in meaningful negotiations then Hamas would commit to (and police) a long-term truce. However that does not suit Israel, because its withdrawal from Gaza was merely a stratagem designed to buy time for its continued occupation of the West Bank. Indeed Hamas is a vital ally of the Israeli state since other scapegoats for Israeli crimes have disappeared and any time Israel wishes it can goad Hamas into a response by assassinating its leaders or attacking its farmers and fishermen. It knows of course that any Hamas response will be ineffectual because of Israel’s preponderance in weapons of mass-destruction (one only has to look at the disproportionate civilian casualty list in Israel’s recent rampage to see that Israel is like a cat toying with a captured mouse). So I think what you were probably trying to say is that the Israeli occupation of Palestinian Territories (both Gaza and the West Bank) is ongoing, is being intensified, and has been carefully calculated to make any two-state solution impossible, as well as to relieve international pressure upon Israel to make peace.

            Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        For goodness sake can we stop using this false left-right antithesis. It has some meaning in economic affairs where the right urges unfettered freedom for the rich to exploit the poor and make money, and the left argues for social solidarity and a safety net to prevent homelessness, starvation and the exacerbation of inequality. It has some meaning in social affairs where the right often advocates draconian punishment, restrictions on the movement of people and the denial of freedom to individuals to live their own lives and control their own fertility, whilst the left generally argues against capital punishment, illiberal policing, and unnecessary curbs on human freedom of choice. But in international affairs, the assertion of human rights and the observance of international law is simply a main-stream issue. The castigation of those of many and varied backgrounds who insist that the occupation is simply illegal, immoral and counter-productive are neither left nor right, but citizens of the world who seek justice and peace. Unfortunately the victory of neo-liberals and neo-conservatives on economic matters since the Thatcher-Reagon era has been so overwhelming that “leftist” has become a convenient stick to beat those who are advocates for decency in international affairs. When hasbarists so consistently exploit “leftist” name-calling you know that their intellectual and moral cupboard is empty.

        Reply to Comment
        • Kolumn6

          For goodness sake, you have provided no actual response. You just went on and on about how nice these lefties are by hiding behind ridiculous notions of “human rights” and “justice” and “decency” even as they surrender territory based on the flawed premise that doing so would bring peace and security while in reality it just brings more violence and death upon us. That premise is so full of holes that no one in Israel bothers to listen to it anymore.

          In Israel the left are those that believe that surrendering territory to Arabs brings us closer to peace. The right believes that doing so until the Arabs are actually willing to accept our presence here is tantamount to suicide. Control of the West Bank is neither illegal, nor immoral, nor counterproductive. It is legal according to all the laws of war, it is moral if it is maintained to ensure the security of the citizens of one’s country, and it is productive if it does so. Everything else is nonsensical plays on words used by the people who don’t like to be called ‘left’ for the purposes of promoting their pro-Palestinian pro-terrorist positions because they have no actual case to make based on the facts of the matter.

          It is a cute trick. You define “morality”, “justice”, and “decency” to match your political stripes and bash everyone else as being immoral or unjust. Having done so you have absolved yourself of the need to actually make any argument about how pursuing the policy you propose actually benefits the citizens of Israel. And the reason you and others don’t want to make such a case is because you know it would be destroyed by counterargument which would only leave you with the usual ‘leftist’ tactic of calling everyone who disagrees with you a racist and/or a fascist.

          Reply to Comment
    2. bar

      Of course, in this writer’s universe Palestinians have zero agency.

      An Israeli MK just went to Europe and lied openly about the status of Israeli Arabs in Israel.


      This is an Arab with close ties to Arafat who sits in the Knesset, has drawn a Knesset salary since 1999 and constantly and endlessly pontificates against Israel. Then he goes to Europe to claim he doesn’t enjoy equal rights. It would be funny if it weren’t so serious.

      So yeah, you and your group push lies about Israel, along with your cohorts at Haaretz and your other friends at the multitude of other NIF funded and EU funded NGOs. Then, when the Europeans happily attack Israel and the American left decides to side with these lies, you come to Israel and say, “See, it’s your fault, we always warned you.”

      Well, Israel has offered the Palestinians peace and a state three times in the past 14 years. The Palestinians have refused and continue to wage physical and diplomatic war. At the end of the day, these facts are immutable.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bryan

        Surely it is entirely desirable that someone sitting in the Knesset and rightly drawing a salary should represent the interests of those who elected him, and hold the government to accountability. The only shame is that those sitting in the US congress and the British houses of parliament so often fail to deliver to the interests of their constituents. Only under fascism is it regarded as a crime and treachery to question government actions.

        As for three generous peace offers in fourteen years, though they made some progress they failed to adequately address key issues and there is little evidence that had the negotiations actually reached consensus the Israeli government could actually have implemented them. One only has to look at how far Israel has undermined and reneged upon the historic Oslo commitment of the 1990’s to see that Israel is an inadequate partner for peace.

        Reply to Comment
    3. Ken Kelso

      Bar, another good article about exactly what you said.

      Don’t expect Abbas to sign anything
      So far, the Palestinian negotiating tactic has been to get concessions, then cut off talks and ‘start where we left off.’
      By Shlomo Avineri
      Feb. 18, 2014

      As prime minister, Ehud Olmert met 36 (or was it 37?) times with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and couldn’t reach an agreement with him. But that didn’t stop him from saying in a recent interview on Channel 2 that he’s certain Abbas is a partner for an accord.

      Olmert was prepared to go further than any other Israeli leader in meeting the Palestinians’ demands, including on the issues of Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and territorial exchanges; he offered to evacuate 70,000 settlers as well as make a humanitarian gesture allowing 5,000 Palestinian refugees (or their descendants) to return. This underscored his belief in the need for Israel to make a painful compromise, and given his own political past, his courage and determination was especially admirable.

      But what came out of all that? When Olmert proposed in dozens of meetings that Abbas sign a document containing the Israeli concessions, he refused. Olmert explains this by saying that Abbas did not say either yes or no. This is patently ridiculous: By refusing to sign, Abbas clearly said no.

      Evidently, Abbas was not ready to commit to anything, but he was able to get Olmert to consent to far-reaching concessions, and then halted the negotiations. The upshot is that when the negotiations resume, the Palestinian side will insist that they must begin “where they left off” – with the starting point being the Israeli positions as set forward in Olmert’s generous proposal, with no concession having been made by the other side.

      Am I misinterpreting things? This is exactly what happened in 1995 in Yossi Beilin’s talks with Abbas. Then, too, the talks led to extensive Israeli concessions; then, too, the Israeli side sought to put things down on paper and fashion a final accord – and then, too, Mahmoud Abbas refused to sign. There was never any Beilin-Abbas Agreement. There was only a paper laying out Israeli concessions.

      At Camp David, then-U.S. President Bill Clinton became fed up with this method and, as he ran out of patience, told Yasser Arafat that so far he had rejected every offer. Perhaps you have a proposal of your own, Clinton suggested to Arafat. But no such Palestinian proposal was ever placed on the table.

      At Camp David, then-U.S. President Bill Clinton became fed up with this method and, as he ran out of patience, told Yasser Arafat that so far he had rejected every offer. Perhaps you have a proposal of your own, Clinton suggested to Arafat. But no such Palestinian proposal was ever placed on the table.

      Reply to Comment
    4. Ken Kelso

      The Trespasser, get your facts correct.
      Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem never belonged to the Palestinians.

      The Palestinians have nothing to do with the name Palestine.
      The name Palestine is named after the Philistines, not the Palestinians or any Arab group.

      The name Palestine was applied by the Romans to eliminate the name Israel.
      It was certainly not directed or bestowed to the Arabs in this area.

      The Philistines were from Crete in Europe and came to Israel 3000 years ago and were not Arabs or Muslims. Delilah and Goliath were Philistines. (Philistines died out.)

      Philistine is the name the Romans renamed Israel as a chagrin against the Jews.

      Yassir Arafat was not a Philistine, but an ARAB born in Egypt. Philistine originates from the Hebrew verb Palash, which means to invade. So the Arabs who started to call themselves Palestinians in the late 60′s are invaders and they want to create an Invadia state.

      There was never in history any state called Palestine governed by Palestinians.
      Tell us when did it ever belong to Palestinians? Answer Never. It was never a Pal land to begin with, so your question is invalid.
      The Palestinians never governed or controlled any land before 1993.
      To make it simple, please tell me one Palestinian President before 1948? Keep thinking.
      The Palestinians want a capitol, which they never had, in a country that never existed.

      If the Arabs were there first, why is the Dome of the Rock built on top of the Temple Mount instead of the other way around??
      “You got some explaining to do”

      Reply to Comment
    5. Ken Kelso

      The Trespasser is an apologist for the racist BDS.

      Paul McCartney: They Threatened to Kill Me if I Played in Israel
      Artists who perform in Israel aren’t just worried about selling tickets, but about their safety, as they are targeted by BDS groups.
      By David Lev
      First Publish: 7/10/2013

      When rock legend Paul McCartney came to Israel in 2008, he was, at least to some extent, taking his life in his hands. Not because of Israel’s sometimes precarious security situation, but because he was threatened by BDS (boycott, divest, and sanction) anti-Israel groups. “I got death threats, but I’m coming anyway,” the singer was quoted as saying by Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs researcher Adam Shay.

      “I got explicit death threats, but I have no intention of surrendering. I refuse to cancel my performances in Israel,” Shay quoted McCartney as saying.

      The former Beatle is not alone.

      Dozens of other artists who schedule dates in Israel are lobbied, bullied, threatened, and even attacked at concerts by anti-Israel groups who are bent on isolating Israel culturally, as well as economically. Many artists, said Shay, claimed that their web sites have been attacked by hackers right before their Israeli concerts.

      Alicia Keys, who recently played a concert here last week, supplies the latest example of intimidation faced by artists who play Israel. Several of her fellow singers – notably Elvis Costello and Roger Waters – urged her to cancel, calling Israel an “apartheid state,” and Keys’ Facebook page was littered with condemnations of her on the day of the concert. Costello himself cancelled a concert in Israel in 2010, as did Carlos Santana, after being hectored by anti-Israel groups. Other notables who have cancelled planned concerts in Israel are Jon Bon Jovi, the Yardbirds, Joe Lynn Turner, and the Pixies. Spanish singer Paco Ibanez went one better, telling a French newspaper that he is boycotting the Hebrew language, which he can speak, for political reasons.

      But despite the pressure and threats, there are many artists who continue to play Israel. In the past month, rock bands Deep Purple and the Pet Shop Boys have held concerts in Israel, and American artist Rihanna is scheduled to take her second tour here in October. And of course, there was Madonna.

      Many of these artists, Shay said, decided to perform in Israel despite the threats. “When singer Moby was interviewed on Army Radio shortly before he performed in Israel, he said that the intensity of the attacks against him before he came to Israel made him suspect that this wasn’t an objective movement that was concerned with people’s welfare, but with something dark and dubious.” Unfortunately, though, “most artists just don’t want to deal with it. It’s much easier for them to release a statement that they won’t be appearing in Israel ‘for reasons of conscience’ rather than to say their lives are being threatened and they’re frightened.”

      Reply to Comment
      • RICK

        Which was the last occupation that people resisted when their resistance was called “something dark and dubious”? France, 1940? Ireland? How could an indigenous people’s resistance be called “something dark and dubious”? South Africa? Native Americans? Armenians? What is “something dark and dubious” is the duplicitous blindness of defenders of oppression, such as the many such in this blog. Which of you defends the police against the wanton murders of unarmed African American men by U.S. police and then would not apply the same criteria to Palestinian men killed on an almost daily basis in their own land?

        Reply to Comment
    6. Josh

      Dr. Kelso fights against his hasbarian brother Trespasser. I laugh my ass of. Is this the best personal you get at the moment to disturb 972mag? oy, we’re going to win

      Reply to Comment