The Right to Exist

sec-clinton-visits-palestineUpon returning from her visit to the West Bank last month, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton remarked, ““For Israel to get the kind of strong support it is looking for vis-à-vis Iran, it can’t stay on the sidelines with respect to the Palestinians and the peace efforts. They go hand in hand.”

Clinton’s visit to the West Bank may have helped shape this statement, and may help shape the policy of the United States toward Israel and Palestine under the Obama administration.  Is this in fact a sign that the US will once again take a balanced role in peace negotiations?  After eight years of unilateral support for Israel, it is time to reevaluate whether that support is actually doing more harm than good.  With a possible Iranian conflict looming on the horizon, important steps toward diplomatic resolutions need to be taken.

There are many good reasons to support Israel, of course, and given our current national interest in the Middle East, support for Israel certainly makes sense.  It is a democracy in a sea of totalitarianism; a generally secular nation hedged in by theocracies.  In its short time as a modern state, the Israelis have proven time and time again that they are a country of innovators.  They have breathed life into the desert by developing remarkable irrigation technologies, and have built up an impressive tech industry.  Of course, their basic right to exist stems from none of these things.  Whatever one’s feelings regarding the division of the British Mandate, Israel is now an autonomous state and has a right to its security and continued existence.

Colonialism shaped Israel and it shapes the conflict today.  The divvying up of the Middle East after the fall of the Ottoman Empire gave rise to nationalist and religious extremism and to modern terror.  Jihad, in its current iteration, is little more than post-colonial backlash made radioactive by the more virulent strains of Islam.  Similarly, false borders penciled in across Africa have led time and again to civil war, racial and tribal conflicts, and genocide.  Years of South African apartheid have left deep racial scars in that nation’s cultural framework.   Millions of dead, and decades of near-perpetual war mark the partition of India and Pakistan.  Above it all looms the specter of nuclear terror.  This is the enduring legacy of the West’s colonial heritage: a widespread loss of self-determination across the the third world.  Israel sits at the nexus of this post-colonial, postmodern conflict.

The irony of the modernized, prosperous state of Israel is its extension of colonialism to present day Palestine.  Hilltop settlements, Jewish-only roads – these are not the symbols of a free and open society, but of a colonial power.  While Hamas denies as a matter of principle the Jewish state’s right to exist, Israel maintains a much less vocal, yet much more tangible denial of Palestinian rights.  The Hamas charter is widely and rightly criticized for its inclusion of a “destruction of Israel” clause, a policy which makes it excessively difficult for Western governments to negotiate with the militant organization, or to trust that any negotiations will bear any lasting fruit.  Israel, on the other hand, practices what Hamas only preaches.  By expanding settlements in the West Bank, and effectively implementing a West Bank apartheid system, Israel is actively denying Palestine its right to exist.

The current state of affairs has become untenable, as have all colonial projects in the past.  Either a separate Palestinian state must be recognized or Israel will be forced to embrace full-fledged apartheid, leading either to the eventual overthrow of Jewish rule by an increasing, and increasingly hostile, Arab population, or to the systematic reduction of the Arab population by the Israelis.  Neither of these situations, of course, would be acceptable to the Israeli people.  Utopian notions of a sort of Israeli federalism are just that – Utopian and impractical.

At a ceremony for fallen Israeli soldiers on Monday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said “Our existence as a nation and country depends on our unity.”  Netanyahu and his Likud party, however, remain ambivalent to a two-state solution.  Like the Hamas charter or the vitriolic blustering of the Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, this is ultimately counterproductive and self defeating.  It can lead only to an escalation in the militarization of Israel and the continued impoverishment – both economical and psychological – of the Palestinians.  Peace through unity can only be achieved if that unity extends to both sides of the barrier.  Since Hamas is unlikely to take that step, it may be that in the end, Israel must continue toward peace unilaterally.

Denying a people their right to self-determination is the same as denying their right to exist.  If we are to condemn Hamas for it – and we should – then we must also condemn Israel.  This does not mean that we should withdraw our support of Israel, or that Israel must give up its very valid and necessary security measures.  The continued expansion of settlements should be viewed instead as  a direct security threat to Israel proper.  A critique of the settlements should not be confused with a critique of the nation itself, nor should a critique of Israeli policy be conflated with condemnation of the Israeli people.

After 61 years of conflict, both the Israelis and the Palestinians have a right to security and self-determination.    “The Obama administration will be vigorously engaged in efforts to forge a lasting peace between Israel, Palestinians and all of the Arab neighbors,” Secratary Clinton said in a statement to the press.  The role of America should not be the unequivocal support of either party, but rather as the broker of some practical, sustainable peace.  Whether the Obama administration is up to the task will be seen in the coming months, but the track record of the president’s predecessors suggests that cynicism might be the order of the day.

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65 thoughts on “The Right to Exist

  1. An often overlooked aspect of this fight: human rights are not something people deserve. You don’t earn human rights, through good behavior or anything else. You have them by virtue of being human.

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  2. ChrisWWW – I’m preparing for a lot of expected arguments and accusations to be thrown my way.

    Freddie – indeed. People seem to overlook that anytime it threatens convenient arguments to the contrary…

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  3. The dynamic that I would most like to see changed under a 2-state solution would be the end to the “you have to understand”s that show up when, say, an infatada starts.

    Particularly, this dynamic:

    “A group of radicals encroached onto Palestinian territory with a handful of mobile homes and built a settlement.”
    “This would not happen without the tacit support of the Israeli government and, as such, is a war crime that the Israeli government is engaging in!!!!! The United States is supporting WAR CRIMES!!!!”

    “A group of radicals shot some missiles into Israel from the Palestinian territories.”
    “Well, you have to understand, the Palestinian government does not have the coordination to keep every single pocket of crazies with a model kit from access to, say, a grenade. It’s folly to blame the rocket “attacks” on “the Palestinians” when it’s obviously just a handful of nuts who happen to have a handful of legitimate grievances. If the legitimate grievances were addressed, maybe the rocket attacks would stop. Here’s a list of legitimate grievances. Man, these discussions always get so heated when you zionists hear about the legitimate grievances held by the people performing acts that I cannot condone.”

    I don’t expect this dynamic to change, of course… but when the Palestinian territories have acknowledged governments, maybe the worst excesses will be mitigated somewhat.

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  4. I don’t expect this dynamic to change, of course… but when the Palestinian territories have acknowledged governments, maybe the worst excesses will be mitigated somewhat.

    One point behind establishing a two-state solution is that of accountability. There is a reason why such a disenfranchised, headless people would turn to terror. Give them a real government. See what happens.

    Also, your two examples certainly do play out (along with other, contrarily extreme and silly arguments) but I hope I avoided them in my post. I understand that it is never so simple as labeling it as “war crimes” or the Palestinians as “helpless victims” but that does not mean that the settlements are in any way good policy, or that the Palestinians are as a people responsible entirely for their predicament or the actions of the terrorists.

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  5. Yes, allow me to say that I am *NOT* (absolutely not) accusing you of making those arguments. I was merely saying (agreeing?) that I would hope that a Palestinian State (actually, *TWO* Palestinian states) would do more to fix the problem than anything else.

    Now, of course, if it does *NOT* fix the problem, I’m not certain that the proper course of action would be to say “Israel needs to make even more concessions!”… but the two (okay, three) state solution is one that Israel ought to make.

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  6. Another thing giving the Palestinians statehood might achieve would be the ushering of their politics into the wider Arab political world – putting them at a more even keel with their neighbors, and forcing them to step up to the plate in a sense – as well as forcing their neighbors to step up to the plate.

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  7. I’m going to call you an anti Semite, just to make you feel at home. But not now! I’m going to wait until you’re not expecting it, just to show you.

    Furthermore, I’m not going to quibble over your one-sided version of history. That’s just too much effort for me right now.

    What I am going to do is to remind you (if you ever knew about it) of a great analysis by Paul Berman: he said that there are four wars in Israel/Palestine, of which two are legitimate and two are not. The wars for security and a national state are legitimate; the wars of expansion and extermination are not.

    You seem to be trying for something like this, without really ever hitting it on the head and in the process you’re confusing the issue.

    It’s easy to see how your post fits into Berman’s analysis—expansion=settlements; extermination=Hamas. I pretty much agree with you, you may be surprised to know.

    Where we part ways is when you say, “Since Hamas is unlikely to take that step, it may be that in the end, Israel must continue toward peace unilaterally.” It’s unacceptable and unrealistic to give Hamas a pass while demanding concessions out of Israel, although you do seem to have moderated this sentiment since the last time I read it. It’s unacceptable because you’re demanding that Israel compromise its security (the legitimate fight, according to Berman) while it allows Hamas to maintain the illegitimate one it promotes against Israel—extermination. It’s unrealistic because there is no rational argument in favor of this position anywhere. It rests on just shrugging your shoulders at Hamas—fanatic Islamists will be fanatic Islamists, after all. They’ll never change, so just ignore them. It’s unrealistic to demand this for a policy that any nation under attack by them can follow.

    It doesn’t seem impossible in theory to get Hamas to give up its genocidal goals. All it would take is for the UN, the EU, Egypt, Jordan, and so forth to take up this position unequivocally, to match their positions on the illegitimacy of the settlements. That would be more or your “honest broker” stuff. Berman’s argument seems unbeatable to me as a justification. Then, Hamas would know that its game is over. It’s only when this happens that the war will be over.

    Practically, of course, this is not really possible. The above entities are hostage to Arab interests in many ways and here I have no qualms at all about accusing them of anti Semitism.

    The above is how I think Obama should proceed. He should announce that he’s open to talks with Hamas, but on this topic alone until further progress. Then, he could continue to pressure Israel on the settlements, but this pressure would be balanced with an equal pressure on an equal point (again, the illegitimate war) on Hamas. With Obama’s talent and popularity, he may have a shot at it. But he won’t even try it, for reasons unknown to me.

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  8. I know you wouldn’t call me that, Roque. For all our disagreement, I think we have enough mutual respect not to go there.

    Regarding this:

    It’s unacceptable and unrealistic to give Hamas a pass while demanding concessions out of Israel, although you do seem to have moderated this sentiment since the last time I read it.

    Here is my point: the only reason we can make demands of Israel at all is because it is a functioning, legitimate state. Should we grant that same level of legitimacy to Palestine then the same demands could be made and expectations could have a more reasonable chance of being met.

    I think your suggestions though, and the “four wars” theory, are all very reasonable.

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  9. ChrisWWW:

    I’m curious, what do you think is the most likely outcome in Israel/Palestine?

    Civil war – Jews fighting Jews and Arabs fighting Arabs – when the settlements are finally dismantled. Then – who knows? Like any good tale, things will get worse before they get better…

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  10. It’s unacceptable because you’re demanding that Israel compromise its security (the legitimate fight, according to Berman) while it allows Hamas to maintain the illegitimate one it promotes against Israel—extermination.

    How is he demanding Israel compromise its security? It seems to me he’s calling for a Palestinian state and an end to the settlements, or, at the very least, their expansion.

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  11. The dynamic that always makes me scratch my head regarding the Israeli/Palestinian thing is the whole “cultures” issue. My gut feeling when I look at the conflict is this:

    Which side has free speech, a free press, something akin to civil recognition of same-sex relationships, no-fault divorce where the woman is treated like a human being, medical marijuana, legal abortion, and chicks with skirts above the knee and/or cleavage?

    Oh, that one? That’s the one I’m rooting for, then. And the other one doesn’t have those things? Hell, not only do I have someone to root for, but I have someone to root against!!!

    Not only that, but the side I’m rooting for is surrounded on all sides by cultures without acceptance of homosexuality, free speech, weed, or cleavage? Wow!

    Hell, that’s why I’m inclined, in any given case, to give the benefit of the doubt to Israel. Not because “It’s Israel” but because, out of the two cultures I’m given the option of, Israel is the only one with something close to a liberal culture.

    Like Freddie said, there are Human Rights. You don’t earn them. You have them. Only one of the cultures comes anywhere close to recognizing them. The tendency to give the benefit of the doubt (the “well you have to understand”s) to the cultures where, for example, you cannot buy a copy of Playdude makes me scratch my head.

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  12. Hell, not only do I have someone to root for, but I have someone to root against!!!
    Word.

    Would you also support stripping American Quakers, Evangelicals, and Muslims of their right to vote, and then bulldozing their homes? You should probably also force them to live on an ever shrinking reservation that you bomb every now and then.

    It’s all okay though, because your culture that allows that is superior.

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  13. Dude, I already said that I support a Three State Solution.

    If you’d like to offer a “well, you have to understand” when it comes to the killing of homosexuals, however, I’d love to hear it.

    Oh, your support for the Palestinians doesn’t amount to support for killing homosexuals?

    Why do you ask if my support for Israel amounts to support for stripping American Quakers of the right to vote? Because, dude. That’s just nutty.

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  14. Illiberal tendencies of a people or state should not mean that we adopt illiberal attitudes toward said people or state. In other words, just because they don’t respect women’s rights the way we do, does not mean we should not extend them basic human rights either.

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  15. Chris:
    “How is he demanding Israel compromise its security [ie, by demanding dismantling the settlements and abandoning the West Bank]? It seems to me he’s calling for a Palestinian state and an end to the settlements, or, at the very least, their expansion.”

    It’s because such a thing would give Hamas a foothold at least and possibly more power on the West Bank. This would put Tel Aviv and 75% of the Israeli population within easy Qassam-rocket distance, among other things.

    I don’t know if this is “true” but I think that most Israelis believe it to be true, which is why I say it’s unrealistic.

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  16. “Illiberal tendencies of a people or state should not mean that we adopt illiberal attitudes toward said people or state.”

    Hey, I’m not talking about illiberal attitudes. I’m just talking about looking at both cultures and seeing which one I identify with more. Which one do I wish there were more of?

    This does not mean that everything Israel does is golden. This does not mean that everything Palestine does is wicked.

    This does mean that, in the conflict, there is a side that I automatically sympathize with more.

    And, again, I scratch my head at the vitriol that can follow from saying such a thing.

    For the record, no: I think that Ted Haggard should still be allowed to vote.

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  17. “Yes, but also – which side has a state? Which side has some modicum of self-determination?”

    Is there some modicum of self-determination in Gaza? I suspect that there is, actually… but let’s say that the answer is “no, there ain’t”.

    Let’s say that we establish a government there. Hurray. A government.

    Now do they have a modicum of self-determination?

    I would still answer “no”. Why? Well, the last “real” election they had was the one where Fatah lost and Hamas won. The dynamic I got from this election was not the “ohmigosh, the Palestinians voted in Hamas!!! They’re all terrorists!!!” that I’ve seen in places but more of a “Hurray! We finally can officially throw the bums out!” vibe. Hamas, of course, saw this as a mandate for Hamas.

    Well, we saw where that led.

    Anyway, let’s say that Hamas legit mans up and says “we have a government, it’s representative, it has the will of the people, these are our borders, please respect them”.

    (For the record, I don’t think that a body incapable of doing such a thing really qualifies as “a government”.)

    What do you think would happen on the world stage?

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  18. Ed Kain:
    “Civil war – Jews fighting Jews and Arabs fighting Arabs – when the settlements are finally dismantled. Then – who knows? Like any good tale, things will get worse before they get better…”

    I can’t believe you said that. You say your so-called solution will lead to a bloodbath. You look at it as a “good story.” I never suspected you of applying such silly aesthetic criteria to such an intractable conflict. I thought you were more serious than that.

    How, then, is your idea supposed to be a “solution” if it leads to a worse situation that we have today?

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  19. In order of appearance:

    Jaybird –

    I’m just talking about looking at both cultures and seeing which one I identify with more. Which one do I wish there were more of?

    Also, re: Gaza I would have to say no – they don’t have self-determination. They are completely within the control of Israeli policy, Israeli economics, etc. This is not necessarily or wholly the fault of one side or the other, but they are certainly not a “free” or self-determining people.

    Roque –

    I can’t believe you said that. You say your so-called solution will lead to a bloodbath.

    Actually this is the scenario I think will happen, not the one I think will happen if Israel were to end settlements now. I think the longer they wait, the stronger the settlements will become; the more military control they will, etc. The longer we wait the stronger Hamas will become in the West Bank. In other words if we don’t act sooner than later, we will probably see a bloodbath. If the settlements are dismantled now I think we can avoid most of that bloodshed.

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  20. I can’t believe you said that. You say your so-called solution will lead to a bloodbath.
    That’s what ED Kain thinks will happen, sans a peace agreement / two state solution.

    It’s because such a thing would give Hamas a foothold at least and possibly more power on the West Bank. This would put Tel Aviv and 75% of the Israeli population within easy Qassam-rocket distance, among other things.
    That’s a pretty flimsy case. Qassam rockets are not an existential threat to Israel (Israel has admitted as much), and it’s a miracle more aren’t being shot from the West Bank. They are made from little more than a steel cylinder, fertilizer and traces of TNT.

    There is also the possibility that a peace agreement resulting in a two state solution would eliminate the motivation for making and firing the rockets in the first place.

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  21. “They are made from little more than a steel cylinder, fertilizer and traces of TNT.”

    This is exactly what I’m talking about when I talk about a “well, you have to understand.”

    Anyway, E.D., when you say “They are completely within the control of Israeli policy, Israeli economics, etc. This is not necessarily or wholly the fault of one side or the other, but they are certainly not a “free” or self-determining people.”

    I disagree that they are “completely” within the control of Israeli Policy, economics, etc… (note: my beef is with the word “completely” and this comment should not be read as me saying that they’re not, in any way, under Israeli control).

    For one thing, there’s that whole Egyptian border thing. Egypt could, in theory, open it. They haven’t. Why? They could open it for solely trade purposes without allowing “undocumented workers” across the border. They haven’t. Why?

    Specifically, is Egypt *JUSTIFIED* in not opening the border? Why?

    Do these justifications extend to Israel at all?

    I don’t see Gaza, for example, existing as a state on it’s own *WITHOUT* Israel acting as a colonial power. If this is something that should be avoided (it *IS* something that should be avoided, right?) then we have to ask the question of why the justifications for Egypt’s draconian “undocumented worker” laws do not also extend to Israel.

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  22. Jaybird:

    For one thing, there’s that whole Egyptian border thing. Egypt could, in theory, open it. They haven’t. Why? They could open it for solely trade purposes without allowing “undocumented workers” across the border. They haven’t. Why?

    That’s easy. They haven’t because of treaty obligations with Israel, plain and simple.

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  23. Dude, we *TOTALLY* need to get rid of those, then.

    In addition to the fact that most of the bad crap that they don’t want traded is being smuggled across the border anyway (yay, prohibition), the good crap that they ought to want aren’t getting over there.

    I’m not an open borders nut like many of my ilk happen to be, but I am a free trade nut. Prohibition isn’t helping Egypt, Palestine, *OR* Israel.

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  24. ChrisWWW:

    I can’t believe you said that. You say your so-called solution will lead to a bloodbath.
    That’s what ED Kain thinks will happen, sans a peace agreement / two state solution.

    No. That’s what he says will happen if the settlements are dismantled. As things stand today, the settlements will be dismantled only if there’s a peace agreement/two state solution. So it looks like you’re (you and ED Kain) in a bit of bind here.

    That’s a pretty flimsy case. Qassam rockets are not an existential threat to Israel (Israel has admitted as much), and it’s a miracle more aren’t being shot from the West Bank. They are made from little more than a steel cylinder, fertilizer and traces of TNT.

    Let’s review: you asked me “How is he demanding Israel compromise its security [ie, by demanding dismantling the settlements and abandoning the West Bank]?” I explained the security risk and then you say I have a “flimsy case” and move the goalposts to “existential threats.” Who ever said they were existential threats in the first place? Not me. What’s going on here? Are you just not paying attention or are you playing around thinking you can “win” some bullshit argument by these tactics?

    Let’s remember that Israel is a democracy so politicians have to get voted into power. I can’t imagine anyone getting voted into power in Israel with your attitude. Imagine their saying, “Oh come on! They’re just a bit of TNT and fertilizer. We’re not really under existential threat. No biggie. Let’s just live and let live. They like to play with rockets. We like to play with science, technology, music and art. Why can’t we all just get along?”

    So, if 75% of the Israeli population is within Hamas rocket range, that means that 75% of voters will want a solution. That solution will not be to “engage” Hamas in conversation. It will be another wholesale invasion.

    As for the “bit of fertilizer plus a bit of TNT,” Hamas will be upgrading their rocket capability, like anyone else upgrades anything else. We’re the upgrading species. There were some rockets fired at Israel last year with the capability of reaching the outskirts of Tel Aviv. Israel has caught and destroyed Iranian arms shipments to Hamas. So just because their rocket capability seems risible to you today doesn’t mean it will stay that way. Israeli politicians will have to think at least that far ahead, just to stay in power, or get it, even if you can’t.

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  25. As always with Israel posts, the debate began too fast for me to get involved. (These posts must do wonders for your traffic, yes?) I’ll confine myself to the original.

    So here’s your discussion question: wasn’t the lesson of the Gaza withdrawal that “unilateral” movements toward withdrawal are inherently dangerous and counter-productive? Recall that the PA was in full control of Gaza after the Israelis left. Hamas took over in only weeks of fighting. Do you believe the same could not happen in the West Bank? If not, why not?

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  26. I couldn’t help myself with this much, though. To the questions about the Egyptian border: Egypt does not open its border because Hamas is a regional branch of the global Muslim Brotherhood movement, which is the minority political party in Egypt and an enemy of Mubarak’s government. Treaties with Israel are entirely incidental to this fact, in more ways than one.

    That’s not a green light for the Israeli blockade, and if it seems a double standard to fault Israel for playing that game without faulting Egypt, well, it IS a double standard. But that’s the price you pay for being a card-carrying democracy, and not an authoritarian regime.

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  27. ED Kain:

    I know you wouldn’t call me that, Roque. For all our disagreement, I think we have enough mutual respect not to go there.

    I forgot to say thanks for this. It shows you’re a bigger man than I am. Keep it up!

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  28. Max, good point on Egypt. But – in fact – treaties with Israel do play a part. There are certainly many angles to the Gaza question, but then again, I focused this piece on the West Bank, which has a somewhat different dynamic.

    Part of the problem with the assumption that “well in Gaza look what happened, that’s going to happen in the West Bank too” is that quite frankly, Gaza was never really given a chance, and even if it had been it’s likelihood of success was fairly low to begin with. For one thing, expecting Gaza to operate autonomously without the West Bank is a little foolish. The geography there represents a real problem, but so does the political problems associated with an occupied West Bank and an unoccupied (but largely blockaded) Gaza. In all of this there is still no legitimate state apparatus set up, which is one reason Hamas was able to make such headway with the Gazan population vis-a-vis social services, etc.

    In other words, it’s much more complicated than that. We still haven’t given a Palestinian state a chance.

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  29. I think you’re missing my point, and perhaps inadvertently even making it, as well. I had the chance to hear Akiva Eldar, the author (http://www.amazon.com/Lords-Land-Settlements-Territories-1967-2007/dp/1568584148/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1241044756&sr=8-1) and Ha’aretz columnist a few weeks back. He subscribes to a popular theory on the Israeli left, which is that Ariel Sharon withdrew from Gaza not to begin the dismantling of the settlement project, but to reinforce it in the West Bank by providing an object lesson in the Strip. In this telling, Sharon knows very well that unilateral movement in Gaza will ultimately collapse the region into chaos, undercutting any argument toward settlement dismantling in the West Bank.

    Whether or not this is true of Sharon, it certainly does accurately describe the conversation over settlements taking place in Israel today. You have simplified my question to “well in Gaza look what happened, that’s going to happen in the West Bank too”, and attempt to counter this by pointing out that Gaza “was not given a chance.” But this is precisely my point! Unilateral withdrawal in Gaza deprived it of a chance. The Israelis evacuated without giving the Palestinians clear expectations for what they wanted in return; when they (predictably) received nothing, the Israeli right was all too able to play the victim card, bemoaning incorrigible Palestinian violence in the face of amazing Israeli restraint.

    So, to restate the question: how is a unilateral withdrawal from the West Bank not the beginning of a tumble into the same trap? Settlements, perhaps, are one thing — but what of the incredibly complex network of internal Israeli checkpoints that currently keep the region stable? Do you have any sense of what the risk of a Hamas takeover is, should these checkpoints disappear? I will hazard a guess and say ‘no’, because I also have no idea, and because I suspect not even the Shin Bet can say for certain.

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  30. I explained the security risk and then you say I have a “flimsy case” and move the goalposts to “existential threats.”
    Well, I think your goalposts were garbage, that’s why I moved them. They were too low and too close to center field.

    If the hypothetical threat of homemade rockets from the West Bank are enough to derail the peace process, then there is no hope. How can the Palestinians ever convince the Israelis that their citizens can’t or won’t shoot these rockets they can make in their kitchens? You’d have just as much luck convincing the Israelis that Palestinian school children will stop throwing rocks at IDF soldiers.

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  31. Is the threat of homemade rockets hypothetical? I thought it was actual.

    I think that the Israelis would be thrilled with the threat of homemade rockets from the west bank remaining hypothetical, for the record.

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  32. Chris brings up a good point, though. The fact is there can never be – no matter what the Palestinians do or say – a total security guarantee . Fatah becomes pretty mainstream and we get Hamas; Hamas moves toward the mainstream and we get Jihad Bunnies from Outer Space; the Bunnies form a coalition government with Hamas – and then some teenagers make a pipe bomb or somebody rams a tractor into a building.

    There simply cannot be guarantees. Peace will come in fits and starts.

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  33. So when a kid straps a bomb to his chest and blows up in a Sbarro, it’s something that just happens? Something that should not be seen as something to derail the peace process? Kids will be kids, what are you gonna do?

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  34. ChrisWWW:

    Forget the goalposts. It looks like that expression confused you. Nobody is talking about “existential threats” from the Qassam rockets alone. The existential threat comes from Hamas (and many others like Iran), who use the Qasaam rockets (among other things). If they had better rockets then there would be an existential threat from their rockets. They obviously want better rockets and have acquired some even now.

    Should Israelis take your attitude? Should they wait until Hamas has the potential to threaten their existence before the get worried about it? Maybe. But for sure any politician with this for a plan will not even get elected dog catcher. That’s what you’re not understanding. It’s their country. They’re the ones who have to decide where the limits are, not you.

    The threat from the Qassam rockets doesn’t have to be “existential” for Israelis to consider them important enough threats to counteract. Of course, there’s a range of threat that people will tolerate before counteracting it. In the case of the Qassam rockets, Israel has already tolerated quite a lot more than most other people would.

    It’s obvious that they are a threat to security no matter where they come from. People die and are hurt from them. People’s lives are disrupted by them. You have to remember that Israel is a democracy and the people under this threat vote and petition their government. Other people who vote feel solidarity with the people under threat. Etc. Why is this so hard for you to understand?

    I never said that Hamas was firing Qassam rockets from the West Bank so your search was practically useless. I said that it was reasonable to think that they would fire Qassam rockets from there if they could. Today they can’t and it’s because Israel is standing in their way, not because they don’t want to.

    You should read Max, above, about:

    the incredibly complex network of internal Israeli checkpoints that currently keep the region stable. Do you have any sense of what the risk of a Hamas takeover is, should these checkpoints disappear?

    That’s all I’m saying. Israelis are correctly concerned about this risk. Why? Because of the Qassam rockets plus their genocidal ideology. We know that they want to upgrade their rocket capability. We know that Iran has already tried to help them do so. It’s not just some “bullshit hypothetical” if you live in Israel.

    And it’s not only about Qassam rockets either. After the Gaza war, Palestinians in Gaza began to question Hamas’s use of the rockets since they eventually brought Hell down on their heads. They began to think that maybe it would be better to go back to the martyrdom operations (suidide/mass murder). This kind of thing would be exponentially easier for them to operate from the West Bank, if Israel abandons it unilaterally.

    These are real fears that Israelis are fully justified in holding, not just hypothetical bullshit. It’s no Schweinflu, for example.

    The peace process was not derailed by the Qassam rockets. It was derailed by Arafat in 2000 at Camp David. Palestinians can easily convince Israelis that they won’t fire rockets at them simply by not doing it. The rockets are not fired by Palestinians in general, they’re fired by Hamas. Probably most Palestinians don’t want Hamas to do it. But they’re not just pranks.

    As for ED Kain, nobody is asking for a “total security guarantee” and Chris brings up a red herring. On the other hand, you’re correct that the rockets are not the problem. The hatred for Israelis is. With this hatred, human ingenuity will always find a way, as you said. If this hatred didn’t exist then it would be as close to a “total security guarantee” as anyone has a right to expect.

    That’s why I said that Obama should be using his immense popularity and talent to demand an end to the hatred and an end to the occupation of the West Bank. The two things are related. As long as this hatred exists, Israelis have a legitimate security concern. When it ends, they don’t. This only seems fair to me.

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  35. “The point is that if we determine peace based on the actions of any act of violence then there will simply never be peace.”

    The problem strikes me that this, far too often, can become an argument that Israelis are the moral agents in the relationship. If Israel, say, retaliates against rocket attacks, it is an act of agression and a hinderance to the peace process.

    If a Palestinian blows up in an Israeli Sbarro, people will not say “this is an act of aggression!” but instead ask “Why did the kid do that?”

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  36. Roque,
    There is a lot I disagree with in your comment, but let me just that you’ve hinged your entire argument on hypothetical threats and ‘thoughtcrimes’.

    I can’t very well prove the Palestinians will stop shooting homemade rockets, or will instantly stop hating Israelis, just as Israelis can’t prove their settlers will stop hating and killing Palestinians. The conflict has gone on too long with too many atrocities committed by both sides for all violence and hatred to cease quickly.

    But I do think giving the Palestinians a real chance at self-determination will remove the foundation for that hatred and violence.

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  37. ChrisWWW:

    So there’s a lot you disagree with but you can’t prove it? That’s what I thought. You were just blowing gas. I never asked you to prove that Palestinians will stop shooting homemade rockets or will instantly stop hating Israelis. So you’re not arguing with me about that.

    As for the hypothetical, I simply said that to Israelis themselves none of this in hypothetical. They are legitimate security concerns. That’s different from a hypothetical. They’re the ones who control the fate of their own country.

    Why doesn’t your argument hinge on a hypothetical? You say, “giving the Palestinians a real chance at self-determination will remove the foundation for that hatred and violence.” Remember that they have been given real chances at self-determination many times in the past and they have just said no. So your hypothetical is truly bullshit since it’s not even hypothetical. It’s a mistake.

    There is no “thoughtcrime” here. Why do people immediately jump on the Orwell defense? That in itself should be a thoughtcrime. I was talking about race hatred. I was talking about race hatred plus incitement to extreme violence going back generations. This is not what Orwell had in mind at all.

    If you want to go Orwell here, the three-minute hate is a much better fit. Even Orwell couldn’t have imagined what takes place during Friday afternoon “prayers” in Palestine and throughout the Middle East.

    Remember, for example, that this so-called thoughtcrime was part of the Oslo process. Palestinians agreed to end their indoctrination of hatred. They didn’t. They made it worse.

    Can it be done? Can governments end hatred and incitement to violence based on hatred? Of course they can. Of course they have. Of course that ending this is the surest way to achieve peace.

    Think about the Pacific War (1941-45). It was a war of race hatred from beginning to end. Where did all the hatred go? Who hates the Japanese today and calls them monkey-men, like they did back in the ’40s? What Japanese call us lice and vermin and devil men, like they did back in the ’40s? If we did it before we can do it again. All that’s missing is the willpower to to it.

    That’s why I say that Obama is missing his chance to be the greatest peacemaker since Ghandi. Greater. He has a shot at sainthood if he plays his cards right. He has the power and ability to do it. He doesn’t have the will. That’s what makes him a loser in my mind.

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  38. I never asked you to prove that Palestinians will stop shooting homemade rockets or will instantly stop hating Israelis. So you’re not arguing with me about that.
    You didn’t ask me, but you implicitly made that demand of the Palestinians by saying that possible rocket attacks from the West Bank are an unacceptable security threat if Gaza and the West Bank are allowed to reunify.

    As for the hypothetical, I simply said that to Israelis themselves none of this in hypothetical. They are legitimate security concerns. That’s different from a hypothetical. They’re the ones who control the fate of their own country.
    Hypothetical rocket attacks from the West Bank remain hypothetical whether you live in Jerusalem or New Jersey. They are real once they start happening.

    Why doesn’t your argument hinge on a hypothetical?
    It does, I won’t deny that. But in my defense I will say that my hypothetical at least ends in peace and restoration of human rights.

    Remember that they have been given real chances at self-determination many times in the past and they have just said no.
    This is a common sentiment but simply not true.

    I was talking about race hatred. I was talking about race hatred plus incitement to extreme violence going back generations.
    I know what you were talking about, and I addressed it. Palestinians hatred for Israelis and vice versa isn’t totally irrational. But even if the rational issues are addressed, generations old feelings are going to disappear overnight. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t get started on that path as soon as possible.

    Even Orwell couldn’t have imagined what takes place during Friday afternoon “prayers” in Palestine and throughout the Middle East.
    There are similar feelings on both sides.

    Obama is missing his chance to be the greatest peacemaker since Ghandi. Greater. He has a shot at sainthood if he plays his cards right. He has the power and ability to do it. He doesn’t have the will. That’s what makes him a loser in my mind.
    I agree that Obama won’t do what’s necessary to push the situation to a resolution. However, I think the last best shot for peace was under the Clinton administration. I’m afraid that the last few years have seen the situation deteriorate beyond repair.

    Aside from all the continued violence we have the expanded settlements, walls and checkpoints. They’ve largely worked to reduce the violence on the Israeli people while plunging the Palestinians into ever more despair. But since the violence is down, who in Israel will stomach removing the settlements, or dismantling the walls and checkpoints? Short term security will win out over long term peace and stability.

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  39. ” I will say that my hypothetical at least ends in peace and restoration of human rights.”

    My hypothetical of Gaza being absorbed into Egypt and the West Bank being absorbed into Jordan ends with the discovery of a cure for cancer and acceptance of Gay Marriage in the Middle East.

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  40. Chris, note that part of the fear of rockets in the W Bank is how easily they can hit Jerusalem (and longer range ones Tel Aviv.) To illustrate, it’s the difference between let’s say Cuban missiles hitting Tallahassee, and Cuban missiles hitting Washington, DC.

    The other fear, which I’m surprised hasn’t yet been mention, is the possibility of a nuclear or other large-scale material making its way into the W Bank over the Jordanian border. Simply in terms of size this is a much scarier risk than it is for Gaza, especially considering Palestinians in the W Bank still enjoy some mobility into and out of Israel. Just a little food for thought.

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  41. ChrisWWW:

    Couldn’t you have picked a more biased video clip to show? I never watch TV and never saw this 60 Minutes broadcast. At least now I understand why so many people share your attitude: They saw it on TV, so it must be true! At least it wasn’t on the History Channel. Then it would be history!

    Just a quick critique off the top of my head:

    Interviews were with 90% Palestinians and 10% with Israelis. Of the 10% the majority were with settlers, who do not represent the Israeli government or the majority of Israeli opinion.

    Biased interviews: For example, “Why do the Israelis have the checkpoints?”

    “To fragment our land,… etc etc”

    No mention of the years of suicide/murders against Israel based in the West Bank.

    No mention of Palestinian violence. The only mention of violence is by Israelis. It shows the Wall but no mention of the years of mass murder/suicide bombings that made it necessary. Etc. Etc.

    Use of inflammatory language taken from Palestinian propaganda: apartheid, etc etc.

    In general, this is disgusting. Supposedly it advocates peace but it only incites more hatred against Israel. It blames them for the conflict and portrays the Palestinians as victims. I’m ashamed to be an American and see our TV producing this garbage. I thought that this was characteristic of French and European TV. Now I know how wrong I was.

    Aside from the above, your clip does not relate to the point I brought up, “Even Orwell couldn’t have imagined what takes place during Friday afternoon “prayers” in Palestine and throughout the Middle East.” Both sides do not gather at “prayer” every week to chant “Death to Israel/Palestine!” That only happens on the Muslim side. If not, then put up a link of an equivalent five-minute hate in Israel. Five-minute hates are routine incitements to hatred operated by governments, not spontaneous demonstrations. So, put up about your “both sides” canard, or shut up.

    1. I never made any implicit demands that “possible rocket attacks from the West Bank are an unacceptable security threat if Gaza and the West Bank are allowed to reunify.” I meant just what I said. There was nothing implicit about it. I supported this with facts and logic so there was nothing hypothetical about it either. You can argue with my facts and logic but you can’t say it was hypothetical because it wasn’t. My hypothetical was limited to a hypothetical solution to the problem; my analysis did not “hinge” on it, like yours does. I said that the world should demand that Palestinians step up and claim responsibility for their actions and for their unacceptable demands for the extermination of the Jewish state. I hypothesized that if this can be accomplished, then they can achieve peace. So my hypothetical ends in peace just like yours does. But my analysis of the situation does not depend on this.

    On the other hand, yours does: you admit to basing your position on a hypothetical. This is progress for me.

    You called me a liar: “This is a common sentiment but simply not true.” “This” refers to the many times Palestinians have been offered self-determination. I don’t have a time line at my fingertips, so I’m just going by memory. They were offered it in 1937, 1947, 2000, and 2001. Maybe sometime back in the ’70s too. So your hypothetical is not even worth considering as an hypothetical. After so many tries, and so many rejections, who would agree to just trying the same old thing again? Only people who get their information from “60 Minutes.”

    The Palestinians have rejected self-determination so many times and they will continue to reject it if it means they have to live in peace with the Jewish state. That’s the reason they rejected it in the past.

    So, that’s why I’m pointing to Palestinian rejectionism as the root cause of the conflict. It’s not hypothetical. It’s based on history. That’s why I said that our policy should be directed at making them give up this unacceptable position. It should be directed at making Israel give up its unacceptable positions as well, i.e., the settlements and the occupation of the West Bank.

    But even if Israel does give up the settlements and its occupation of the West Bank, without a corresponding move by Palestinians the violence will continue. The “corresponding move” is to give up their illegitimate demands for the extermination of the Jewish state.

    I actually agree with Jaybird’s solution, as much as he enjoys being facetious, which is to absorb the WB into Jordan. This was the original plan, or something like it, back in 1947. It’s impossible today but, still, I agree it would be the best thing all around. This would also imply dismantling the settlements, etc. But if and only if Arabs/Muslims/Palestinians give up their illegitimate demands for the destruction of the Jewish state. If not, it’s not a peace plan. It’s a war plan.

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  42. There is probably “a” Muslim out there that would do such a thing.

    Eschatology is weird, man.

    The question of whether such a person would have the power/connections to get such a device (or a close enough for jazz one) is a tougher question to answer, I think. I *HOPE* not…

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  43. Use of inflammatory language taken from Palestinian propaganda: apartheid, etc etc.
    How is apartheid not an accurate term at this point?

    So, put up about your “both sides” canard, or shut up.
    The Israeli settlement population is hardline, partly out of necessity, and not insignificant in size.

    I would venture to say that most Israelis and Palestinians just want to get on with their lives. Of course Israelis can pretty much already do that.

    They were offered it in 1937, 1947, 2000, and 2001.
    Technically that’s true, but you’re completely ignoring the nature of these offers. So you’re not lying, just being misleading :-)

    The “corresponding move” is to give up their illegitimate demands for the extermination of the Jewish state.
    They should of course give that language up, but it’s going to be the result of the peace process moving forward. It’s not going to work as a prerequisite to negotations. After all, the Palestinians can just as easily say that Israel does not recognize Palestine’s right to exist and so on.

    I actually agree with Jaybird’s solution, as much as he enjoys being facetious, which is to absorb the WB into Jordan.
    But Palestinians aren’t Jordanians or Egyptians (especially after these years of radicalization under occupation), and those countries don’t want to be responsible for millions of what are essentially refugees. Israel might be able to pull it off if they open their treasury to Egypt and Jordan to help take care of the Palestinians.

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  44. “Israel might be able to pull it off if they open their treasury to Egypt and Jordan to help take care of the Palestinians.”

    So… the solution to the problem involves more Colonialism?

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  45. Out of curiosity, Chris…how large do you think the settler population is? I suspect you have an inflated conception of its size based on the news coverage…

    I’m no apartheid expert, but one reason it doesn’t seem like an accurate comparison to me is the Israeli Arab population, which enjoys full rights in territorial Israel. Life in the West Bank is far from pleasant, but to argue that it is racially motivated seems to require that you ignore the well-being of the many Arabs who have Israeli citizenship.

    ED: Obviously, a nuclear attack would be more likely in Tel Aviv than Jerusalem. But if you’re really asking, then yes, I do personally believe that there are many radical Muslims willing to blow up Jerusalem in order to destabilize Israel.

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  46. Yes, but laws in Israel proper concerning Arabs vs. laws in the West Bank concerning Arabs are different, as are laws for Israeli settlers in the West Bank from their Arab neighbors or, in other words, apartheid in the West Bank not in all of Israel. But that is just the current system. What about the future? What about under one, unified state?

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  47. Clearly that’s the case. I was only bringing up the example to point out that calling the Israeli system ‘apartheid’ attaches a lot of racial baggage to it that doesn’t really seem to be there, when you consider the Israeli Arab population.

    In a binational state, if that state were the result of too much status quo, I think full-on apartheid would be something that we would see. I just wrote about it the other day here: http://somepolitical.blogspot.com/2009/04/new-numbers-on-two-state.html
    Regarding continued Israeli refusal to abandon the settlement project, and the inevitable binational state that would be produced: “At a certain point in the (ever-nearing) future, Israelis are going to have a national decision to make with regard to their indigenous Palestinian population. Extend them the rights of citizenship, ethnically cleanse them, or just go full-Apartheid? This is not an imaginary scenario.”

    We are on the same page when it comes to the consequences of this behavior. But ‘apartheid’ as a racial word is also a stick with which many people beat Israel over the head, whether it fits or not.

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  48. Max,
    The settlement population is approximately half a million. The population of Israel is around seven million. So, settlers make up 7% of the population, which I don’t think is an insignificant number.

    Again, I’m not sure how you avoid calling the situation apartheid, even when there is a significant Arab Israeli population (There are currently 1.5 million Arab Israelis and somewhere around 4 million Palestinians living in the occupied territories). I don’t think anyone would make the claim that the US wasn’t a slavery or segregation nation even though blacks were treated relatively well in some parts of the country (the North) and legally segregated or enslaved in others (the South).

    You’re opposed to the idea that it’s racially motivated, but how can you avoid that conclusion? There are Jewish settlers living outside the wall in the West Bank, and they are treated in a completely different manner than the Palestinians who live in the same area.

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  49. Try 2.5%. Maybe 3%, if you want to stretch it.

    Opposition to the idea that separation is racially MOTIVATED is very simple, and it starts by pointing out that Israelis are interested in security, not racial purity. We can have a lengthy discussion over whether the measures they have taken are creating a more secure future. But the idea that Israel has cordoned off certain roads in the West Bank because it believes Palestinians are racially inferior is ridiculous. It requires completely ignoring the give and take of the last six decades of history between the two peoples.

    As for your US example. In certain places in Israel (Akko, Nazareth) it stacks up, in others (Haifa, Tel Aviv) it does not. But I’m not suggesting that Israel is a racism-free country. On the contrary. Israelis are at times very troublingly racist, the product of violence that has gone on too long. But under apartheid (and in the US during slavery, for that matter) the racism was government-sponsored. There is no such thing against Israeli Arabs, end of story. They have three parties in parliament, full rights as citizens, and are portrayed positively in Israeli popular culture on a regular basis, from Israeli Sesame Street to sitcoms, etc.

    As for Palestinian Arabs, return to step 1 of this argument. There is obviously a huge difference between the lives of these two groups, despite common ethnicity. But again, my point is to say that the difference in their lives tells you something about what the Israelis care about. Right or wrong, they perceive Palestinians as a security threat, not a racial problem.

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  50. Max,
    Only have a second here to respond, so I just want to say I accept your argument about intent, but in practice, it’s still a system of segregation and disenfranchisement along racial lines.

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  51. The European Forum on Antisemitism defies Antisemitism like this:

    Working definition: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

    In addition, such manifestations could also target the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.

    Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:

    *

    Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
    *

    Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
    * Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.

    *Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
    *Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
    * Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

    Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:

    *Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor

    *Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

    *Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.

    *Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

    *Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

    However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.</blockquote

    Statements by ChrisWWW:

    It’s all okay though, because your culture that allows that is superior.Qassam rockets are not an existential threat to Israel these rockets they can make in their kitchens? Why did the kid do that? [i.e., commit mass murder by suicide]There are similar feelings on both sides. [I.e., government-sponsored hate sessions, hate propaganda, etc etc]How is apartheid not an accurate term at this point?Technically that’s true, but you’re completely ignoring the nature of these offers. So you’re not lying, just being misleading. [I.e., believing that Palestinians have never been truly offered self-determination because of Israeli double-dealing]They should of course give that language up… [I.e., government incitement to hatred; Jews are sons of apes and pigs; Jews make matzo balls out of blood extracted from pubescent Muslims]

    Does he “justify the killing or harming of Jews?” E.g., kitchen-made rockets; no existential threat; implying that the suicide mass-murderers have a reason that would explain their crimes.

    Does he say or imply that Israelis are racist? e.g., the “apartheid” comments, comment #1, above etc etc.

    Does he apply double standards? E.g., by blaming Israel for the violence and placing the burden for a solution on Israel alone, e.g., by holding the 60 Minutes broadcast up as “I urge you to watch this excellent 60 Minutes report on the Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. Along with walls and roadblocks, the settlements are making life for the Palestinians unbearable and decreasing the likelihood of a two state solution.”

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  52. Roque Nuevo,
    Urban Dictionary defines ‘douche bag’ as:
    A person with an unbelievable size of ego without the substance to back it up and normally deludes himself that he is the “numero uno” in the universe. A douchebag is normally narrow-minded but thinks otherwise, disrespectful but thinks he is cool, thinks he knows everything but this is not the case and has a weird and peculiar habit of treating other people like dirt when in fact he is the dirt.

    Now that the name calling is out of the way, I’ll just say that I reject any definition of anti-Semitism which leaves no room for criticism of the state of Israel. I have no problem or special animus for Jews or even the majority of Israelis. However, I do have a problem with the actions of the Israeli government.

    I’m disappointed, although not surprised, that you’ve resorted to this line of argument. Congratulations.

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