I got the mic, I rock it how I please

Max Socol wrote a post that I think is an example of rhetorical bad faith. To put it simply, those who say “let’s talk policy, not morality” are always, in fact, talking morality, they’re just privileging their own vision of what’s morally significant and pretending that they aren’t. All politics is moral; some people just like to do away with moral consequences because, you know, that’s easier.  To say that I’m ignoring policy for meta-speak is, I’m afraid, just a dodge, an empty feint away from the fact that the way we talk about things has enormous salience for what our policy actually is. People don’t want us to talk about our national conversation, presumably, because they don’t want it to change, and that inevitably benefits the blind devotion to a certain thin strata of Israeli politicians and American members of the media who have long ago decided that fidelity to the project of Israel means war and occupation.

What’s funny about Socol lecturing me for not talking solutions is that there are many in this discussion who chafe at Americans talking solutions– mind your own business, in other words. Well, Socol is right that we should talk about policy and solutions, and to anyone who would tell me to mind my own business I’ll just say that my business, as a member of a democratic polity, certainly encompasses a country that would quite literally not exist in its present form without the continued patronage of the United States. As to the larger point, dialogue matters, discourse matters, and in fact they are our responsibility to govern as members of a democratic citizenry. Anyone who tells you not to talk about such things is profiting by the exclusion of certain opinions about them.

But the man asked for policy, so here’s policy.

Here’s what I want: I want a two-state solution with Israel returning to its pre-1967 borders, which would have the little benefit of no longer being a violation of international law, laws Israel is bound by treaty agreement to adhere to and which explicitly outlaw the annexation of foreign land through military conquest. I want a land bridge apportioned between Gaza and the West Bank, because “artificial contiguity” or whatever other euphemism is currently in vogue doesn’t work, and no one would accept it within their country. The amount of land used in the land bridge would be apportioned from the West Bank and ceded back to Israel so as not to reduce the size of Israel.

Contiguity can only work, though, without the massive number of checkpoints, chokepoints and barriers, including the wall, which divide Palestine into unmanageable zones that can’t possibly support workable communities. People love to laugh at the sad state of basic infrastructure and functioning logistics within Palestine, but if you were to divide Los Angeles the way the territories have been, you’d see the community utterly collapse. Communities are separated from roads and highways, residential areas are divided from water in a desert climate, and economies are utterly disrupted by the wall and other Israeli divisions of Palestinian space.

In order for Palestine to be a functioning, workable community, it would have to have actual sovereignty and real self-determination, which includes control of its own airspace, borders and ports. As a liberal democrat, I want Palestine to be governed by an elected government; my sincere hope is that this is a government of moderates, with no theocratic trappings and no terrorist groups like Hamas. On the sticky issue of East Jerusalem, the center of Palestinian life in every sense, we might have to have some sort of shared jurisdiction between the two countries; no solution that disconnects either from the city will bring a lasting peace.

So that’s my own little solution. As it happens, it is generally speaking a plan that has been endorsed by the large majority of the industrialized world, and one blocked at every turn by the Israeli government and its patrons in the United Nations security council, the United States. I don’t have every answer, but that seems to me to be the best, most pragmatic way to bring about an equitable, peaceful solution. One thing I am sure of is that no one can support the status quo and call themselves a friend to democracy or basic human rights; for people who support those things, a situation where an ethnically and religiously distinct people live under the control of another country with neither self-government nor citizenship rights can stand.

There you go, Max, you may fire when ready.

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3 thoughts on “I got the mic, I rock it how I please

  1. “Here’s what I want: I want a two-state solution with Israel returning to its pre-1967 borders, which would have the little benefit of no longer being a violation of international law, laws Israel is bound by treaty agreement to adhere to and which explicitly outlaw the annexation of foreign land through military conquest.”

    What treaties are you talking about? Where do you get the idea that Israel has “annexed” the West Bank? Just a stab in the dark, but one treaty I know of is SCR 242, which says that Israel will give up territory (it doesn’t say “all the territory”) in the West Bank in return for peace. So, why is Israel “in violation” and Palestinians are not?

    The above is how you get from discussing international politics to discussing morality. Since your discussion only condemns Israel for violating international law, why is it wrong to assume that you favor the Palestinians?

    You say your little solution has been “blocked at every turn by the Israeli government and its patrons in the United Nations security council, the United States” even though it has the support of all the right-thinking people. But the fact is that it hasn’t been blocked by them. In fact, it was openly offered to them in the 2000 Camp David talks. It has been blocked by the Palestinians—unless you’d demand open borders with a state with openly genocidal intentions against Israel. If there were a group like Hamas in some part of LA, I don’t think you’d be demanding that they have full communications with the rest of the city, since they would use this to kill people in LA.

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  2. Freddie,

    I think I figured out what has rubbed me wrong about Max’s call to write policy. I think the entire purpose of the thoughtful blog is to wax theoretical–to opine, of course, but in a somewhat detached, philosophical manner. To write policy suggestions is to leave this theoretical world, where one can at least be useful in spurring on conversation, and enter into the realm of the concrete.

    Not only that, but policy suggestions are essentially futile. Policy makers could care less. One has a better chance arguing moral or philosophical points than they do laying out a policy approach. It is time better spent, which is why after my response to Max I felt as though I hadn’t really said much, or had somehow wasted my time, but couldn’t quite understand why…

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