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  1. #421
    SEÑOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    It must be said however that it does a reasonably good job of describing how Palestinians have been shafted by other Arabs
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
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  2. #422
    Stingy DM Veldan Rath's Avatar
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    Aside from that concession, which statements were incorrect in the video?

    I will readily admit that it is a one sided view without any negatives put forth about the other side, but would like a more firm response than "injustice".
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  3. #423
    SEÑOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    I don't think any of the facts that were presented were too incorrect. My issue is with how these facts are presented largely devoid of any context other than the underlying message that "Arabs are bloodthirsty assholes". Even if the video's creator had not been trying to push a biased view of history, it would have failed to be sufficiently informative given the time constraint, which prevents it from giving any helpful details about the many years of negotiations and the obstacles they faced, the many proposals and their respective advantages and disadvantages, the changing political climates etc. An example of this can be seen in the video's cursory and uninformative description of the negotiations between Abbas and Olmert.

    It's disturbing that the video has such a crude approach to describing the history of the conflict ("Israel offers X% of land area", "Arabs demand Jew-blood"). By taking this approach, it paints an inaccurate picture of a supposedly homogenous and unchanging "Arab world" in which there are no--and have never been any--moderates, no regular people, no Palestinians. Ironically, it also fails to take into proper consideration the ambitions, the intransigence and the anti-Semitism of Arab leaders (and, sure, large parts of their constituencies) past and present. At the same time the video paints an inaccurate picture of a monolithic and unchanging "Israel" whose participation in the conflict is apparently limited to making increasingly awesome offers of MOAR LAND. It's as if the conflict's past has no influence on its future or on the political climates in Israel resp. Palestine.

    When I say the video does injustice to all parties as well as to history I don't mean that I want it to apportion blame equally. I mean that it doesn't give a sufficiently nuanced picture of what's happened, and that, to me, is unsatisfying. If I were in middle-school and saw that video without any background knowledge, I would not be any more informed, after those 11 minutes had passed, about the major points of contention in the negotiations, the problems with the proposals (or even their benefits), the reasons negotiations kept breaking down etc. All I'd be informed of is that apparently all Arabs have a nutritional deficiency that can only be treated with copious amounts of Jew-Blood™.
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
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  4. #424
    Stingy DM Veldan Rath's Avatar
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    I can swallow that.

    My next question then what can Israel do? If there is nothing they can do to appease the Palestineans or their neighbors, why bother?
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  5. #425
    SEÑOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    If we are to believe the official narratives and put them into context, the negotiations between Olmert and Abbas would be one somewhat-promising point of departure, if you can eliminate the violent activities of Hamas and other terrorist organisations. However, even if that narrative were accurate, the deal Israel proposed then would seem to be a non-starter for the present government and perhaps also for the public.

    If Loki's right in his assertion that there's 0% chance of peace as things stand today, then the only suggestions I can make are to at least remove unnecessary obstacles to peace in the future, even if it'd only amount to a 0.5% increase in the chance of peace in the near term. Stop expanding settlements and outposts; be fair with the water; at least try to treat Palestinians on the WB well; work to strengthen the positions of Abbas and those like him wrt Hamas (good luck, after this latest war); keep a close eye on the changing tide of public opinion in Israel that, despite what some blue-eyed observers believe, is turning increasingly towards a normalization of hatred.
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
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  6. #426
    Senior Member GGT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    Blockades always hurt a civilian population. It's obviously necessary to ensure that the civilian population isn't starved into submission (and plenty food, water, medical supplies, etc. are allowed into the Strip), but a legal blockade has no requirements to make life comfortable for civilians if there's a reasonable justification for the blockade (which, in the case of Hamas, there most certainly is).
    Palestinians are being starved into submission, though. Can you see how they fault Israel (and the US by proxy)? Egypt used to be seen as a sympathetic neighbor until the whole Muslim Brotherhood dynamic changed.

    As for creating another generation of violent Palestinians, that was already going to happen. Those UNRWA schools everyone is so worried about are sites of vicious, racist indoctrination where terrorism and 'martyrdom' are praised and all Jews (not just Israelis) are vilified. The ongoing conflict obviously doesn't make things better, but I think the security concerns outweigh the reality that these kids are going to hate Jews irrespective of Israel's actions.
    I disagree. It wasn't a foregone conclusion that all Palestinian children would grow up to be racist, anti-semitic, violent martyrs. But bombing or blockading civilians into submission is certainly no way to win hearts and minds.

    Uhm, there IS an official government; the PA is the civil service of said government, and the PLC and PA president are its government. There is a de facto state running in Gaza and Areas A/B of the West Bank, even if both Hamas and Fatah have ignored democratic norms in their administration thereof, that doesn't mean they don't run things.

    De jure, recognized sovereignty won't really change anything absent a real peace agreement: the Palestinians are recipients of record amounts of international aid and are effectively recognized as a state for all intents and purposes.
    Doesn't Israel have a duty to deal with the official PA government, even if that means Hamas or Fatah is in the mix? Seems like a convenient excuse to say they won't negotiate with "terrorists", knowing full well that terrorist groups have influence over so many things....even from places like Syria or Qatar that's been connected to weapons financing.

    And it's disingenuous to compare the "record amounts of international aid" for Palestinians with what's been allotted to Israel. Millions don't compare to Billions.

    A single state solution wouldn't be any easier, but I can understand why some people want that: it would mean all sides treating every civilian equally.

  7. #427
    All Worship Ragnarök Loki's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aimless View Post
    If Loki's right in his assertion that there's 0% chance of peace as things stand today, then the only suggestions I can make are to at least remove unnecessary obstacles to peace in the future, even if it'd only amount to a 0.5% increase in the chance of peace in the near term. Stop expanding settlements and outposts; be fair with the water; at least try to treat Palestinians on the WB well; work to strengthen the positions of Abbas and those like him wrt Hamas (good luck, after this latest war); keep a close eye on the changing tide of public opinion in Israel that, despite what some blue-eyed observers believe, is turning increasingly towards a normalization of hatred.
    Why make any major sacrifices for such a tiny increase?
    Hope is the denial of reality

  8. #428
    Senior Member GGT's Avatar
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    There doesn't have to be 100% Peace to peacefully co-exist, but 0% Peace is a threat to more than just Israel or Jews.

    Loki, do you agree or disagree that the rest of the world (the US in particular) could get dragged into a full-blown, multi-national, military conflict....what we've previously called World Wars....if Israel doesn't cool its jets a bit?

  9. #429
    SEÑOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loki View Post
    Why make any major sacrifices for such a tiny increase?
    Apart from sentimental arguments such as "it's the right thing to do", and provided you've noted that I said "stop expanding settlements and outposts" rather than saying "give it all back at once", I can think of several reasons:

    - 0.5% is infinitely greater than 0%
    - It is a prerequisite for there being any chance of having successful negotiations ever, and negotiations are a prerequisite for peace (unless you just annihilate the other side ).
    - The change may make other advances more likely. Each tiny step forward may have a favorable impact on the chances of future steps forward.
    - The probability of a payoff is low, but the promised payoff is extraordinary.
    - According to some people only about 10% of the West Bank is occupied by Israeli settlements and outposts or under their jurisdiction, and only a tiny portion of the Israeli public is particularly attached to the civilian settlements, so it would be a minor sacrifice
    - Strengthening the influence of comparatively moderate and sane leaders may pay off even before there's real peace.
    - Trying to curb the spread of hardline or outright extremist views may reduce pressure on government to take unconstructive action and increase its freedom.





    Do you believe any of the negotiations have ever come close to taking even a few faltering steps towards peace? If so, which aspects of those negotiations and the state of the conflict at the time do you believe advanced the peace-process and which aspects undermined them?
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
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  10. #430
    All Worship Ragnarök Loki's Avatar
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    So you'd have a country make political, security, and economic sacrifices today in order to slightly increase the chance of getting something back in the future? That sounds rational to you?
    Hope is the denial of reality

  11. #431
    SEÑOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    Which security sacrifice are you talking about?
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
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  12. #432
    All Worship Ragnarök Loki's Avatar
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    See Gaza. Decent chance of that happening in the West Bank if Israel eases restrictions on movement there and stops policing the area. Furthermore, expanding the settlements in certain directions gives Israel a stronger claim to strategically-important territory.
    Hope is the denial of reality

  13. #433
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    Quote Originally Posted by Loki View Post
    So you'd have a country make political, security, and economic sacrifices today in order to slightly increase the chance of getting something back in the future? That sounds rational to you?
    You didn't answer my question (maybe you have me on ignore status?) but countries weigh these decisions all the time and consider it part of International Relations, Statesmanship, Diplomacy.

    As far as I can tell, Israel is the only small nation whose very existence is recognized, and protected, by the larger world. Smaller and weaker nations have border disputes all the time -- the political, global map changed dramatically after WWII, but also during the 21st century after USSR's demise, and then after the Arab Spring -- with countries trying to gain international legitimacy.

    I can't think of any other nation with the same "automatic" protections that Israel has. It's always been a political dilemma how the west can help "new" nations like Georgia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine et al build and sustain themselves....while Israel has undeniable, indisputable, protective status.

    Israel has a type of special religious and ethnic status that the US hasn't afforded to our own indigent, native American populations (Indians, Eskimos, Inuit). Western, "Judeo-Christian" double standards existed long before WWII and the Jewish holocaust, but we don't expect to see a massive uprising of native American Indian tribes when more than 6 million lives, or generations of linguistic/cultural/ethnic roots were obliterated.

    Assigning certain groups to "Reservations", or relegating them to border prisons isn't the answer, either....since it means segregation over integration. The New World is a global world, and it's a very complicated, complex space to live in. Key word is global.

  14. #434
    Quote Originally Posted by Aimless View Post
    Look I realise that the merest whiff of imagined hypocrisy gets you all gaga but you have to try to keep a level head. You pointed out that Israel gave back the Sinai, and I assumed you were trying to say something about Israel's peace-loving character. My response to that is to observe that there may have been several reasons for that concession that have little to do with peace&love and that are, afaics, also not applicable to the situation with the present illegal settlements in the WB, never mind the Golan Heights. If Israel gave back the West Bank and Gaza, which it never will, I think I'd be more shocked than happy.
    You first suggest that Israel is never willing to give back land under 'appropriate circumstances'. Then we point to the Sinai and Gaza, and you wave them away as saying it was in their interests to do so (and, apparently that Israel 'still occupies' Gaza). Of course it was in Israel's interest to give back that land! That's why they did it. It doesn't mean it wasn't painful - the Sinai involved uprooting a small number of settlers, but the much bigger concession was the massive security risk in handing over a huge strategic advantage to Egypt when it had already been abused to threaten Israel existentially. Ditto with Gaza, except without the existential threat (just a security threat to civilians).

    Israel withdraws when it is in their interests to do so, full stop. They have shown the political will and technical ability to do so on several occasions, and have offered precisely what you sound so skeptical about (the WB and Golan) as well. I don't disagree that a withdrawal from most of the WB with territorial swaps to handle major settlement blocs will be challenging for Israel - due to political, security, and historical/cultural reasons - but I have zero doubt they would do it if they genuinely believed it would result in actual peace. Ever since Oslo, Israel has gone back and forth about just how close they are to such a circumstance, but the basic formula of land for peace has a majority of support in Israel, though the timing is hotly contested.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aimless View Post
    *shrugs* I have seen different figures for the percentage of land that is effectively under the jurisdiction of the settlers. Of course, the 40%-figure is by a political organisation that exists only to persecute honest Jews etc etc and we should believe the estimates offered by those who have absolutely no reason to be biased.

    That said, I like the notion that it's good for peace to steal 10% of someone's property and to continue using that property as if it's your own even though you know such thieving antics are among the things that are, ostensibly, cause for anger.
    B'tselem's numbers aren't taken out of thin air, but they do have a very expansive notion of what constitutes 'settlement land', which they themselves recognize. Obviously the 1% number of just the built up areas is also unrealistic. My litmus test is what percentage of the West Bank would Israel try to hold onto in a final status agreement (with mutual land swaps to compensate for the lost land)? The answer to that, based on repeated offers by Israel and lots of analysis by others, suggests it's just under 10%.

    I dispute your assertion that the 10% is anyone's 'property', or that it's specifically Palestinian. In the absence of past sovereignty (there hasn't been a sovereign power there since the Ottomans since the British were caretakers), the only claims to the land are from personal property. I agree wholeheartedly that personal property rights need to be respected, and that at times settlements (especially outposts) do not pay enough attention to this. There are legal complexities to many of the claims, but this is a serious issue that should be respected (though it is not a matter of international law). For so-called state or community property under the Ottomans, however, I would hesitate to suggest it's 'Palestinian' in anything more than the context of negotiations. And certainly for settlements built on land that used to house Jewish villages before 1948 (such as much of Gush Etzion), I feel no qualms whatsoever in declaring the land to be definitively Jewish, if not necessarily Israeli.

    Point being that you're coming at this from a specific perspective, that all of the West Bank and Gaza and East Jerusalem 'belongs' to Palestinians. My approach is that much of it belongs to individual Palestinians, and that for the sake of peace it's necessary to form a state on much of that land as well. But that's a far cry from saying that every inch of the WB and Gaza belongs by law to 'them', whoever that is. (I think that building in the Golan is a much more challenging issue, though it is actually far less controversial inside Israel.)

    I freely recognize that the reality of land rights in Israel are complicated. Not only are claims stretching back to the Ottomans incredibly unclear, there was also all sorts of population movements (forceful and otherwise) that depopulated Jewish and Arab villages in 1948. In addition, the status of the territories is complex and largely unprecedented (why Israel prefers the term 'disputed' because the legal reality is murky). In such a circumstance, I agree fully that Israel should exercise caution in building settlements on such disputed land - not because it's theft (unless taken from private property), or because it's wrong - but because in such a complex environment, it adds unnecessary complications to an already messy situation. I understand why the major settlement blocs were created - mostly for a mix of security and political aims - and given the current reality I have no particular issue with Israel trying to hold on to said blocs (and build inside them) in a final status solution. Outside those blocs, I think that most outposts are now not being established or expanded on the basis of carefully considered security concerns, and are more driven by internal politics and inertia. In that context, they should be curtailed - not because they are by definition wrong (though they might be, depending on the circumstances), but because they do not serve a strategic purpose and needlessly complicate the situation.

    I would like to think that this is a largely pragmatic and reasonable position to take, that doesn't stake out uncompromising positions like 'this is my land' or 'you stole my land'. I would encourage you to consider it in that light.

    Thank you at least for being honest about your irrationality and dishonesty. Thank you also for reminding me that interpreting international law, such as it may be, is the sole prerogative of the infallible and always-honest Israeli government even though it apparently has difficulties listening even to its own supreme court about domestic laws.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interna...legal_outposts

    http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomac...y-idf-1.449909

    Perhaps you should consider the possibility that the international community's opinion may to some small extent be a well-considered one that takes into account interpretations of international law that are maybe just a teensy weensy bit rational. Almost every single rational observer seems to have a belief that is for some reason diametrically opposed to that of Israeli politicians about eg. whether or not the 4th geneva convention applies to the settlement business and renders them illegal.

    But, you know, sure, in tricky difficult-to-settle matters of law where all but one party agree to one interpretation, it is perfectly clear that we should go with the biased opinion of the lone dissenter because clearly he is being persecuted. It makes sense somehow.
    I will again ask you to please refrain from ad hominem attacks. I am becoming ever-less interested in pursuing this conversation based on your tone.

    I recognize that there are many ways to view the unique situation that is the Palestinian territories. I think you misread Israeli law on this issue, of course; most of the cases you refer to discuss illegal outposts, not government-approved settlements, and are largely concerned with issues of procedure and property rights of Palestinians in the territories. That doesn't mean all Israeli settlements are legal in Israel's courts, but it does suggest that they often consider settlements in general to be legal from an int'l law perspective, but that in specific circumstances argue they are not legal for a variety of reasons. There are Israeli jurists who disagree with this consensus, of course, as do many in the Israeli public. But I don't think there is anything like a popular consensus in Israeli courts that settlements as an enterprise are illegal.

    As for the rest of the world, I think popularity contests do not always determine who is right. My dismissive reaction earlier was based on the fact that whatever Israel is likely to do, they will face widespread international condemnation and claims of violations of international law. Palestinians in particular and the Arab world in general have been very adept at harnessing international institutions towards this end, and have successfully recast Israel as a throwback colonialist, rather than a country put in a difficult situation by an absolutely intolerable security threat.

    Regardless, let us say I were to agree with you - establishing any settlement, on any part of the West Bank, is manifestly illegal. So what? You could cavil along about how they're illegitimate, but the fact of the matter is that most of them are densely populated, near the border, and not ideological in nature. Today, it makes far more sense to figure out how to make an accommodation that works for everyone (such as land swaps) rather than waste our time on finger pointing. There are untold violations of international law that have gone on in the Israeli-Arab conflicts, including any number by Israel. We could keep on arguing about it, or work our a reasonable solution.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again - I do believe that pragmatically Israel should not expand settlements outside the major blocs, and should remove illegal, 'unauthorized' ones immediately. Other small, authorized settlements should not be allowed to expand, but I think they should not be removed entirely until a final status agreement is reached, for simple reasons of negotiating positions. That may practically reduce tensions with the PA, and could help move negotiations forward. That, however, does not mean I necessarily think the enterprise itself is illegal. Questions of legality obscure a useful path forward towards peace.

    So what you're telling me is that it would have made more sense, economically and wrt military strategy, to try to hold on to the sinai by force and attempt to exploit its resources rather than giving it back to its actual owners in exchange for not having to hold it by force, in exchange for getting free passage through the Suez Canal, etc? You're saying that it would have made more sense for Israel to keep the sinai if only Israel hadn't been so woefully sentimental?
    See above: obviously Israel thought it was in their interest to cede the Sinai, despite the significant economic losses and strategic risk. It had nothing to do with sentimentality, but rather cold calculation (if anything, evacuating Yamit was so challenging that an emotional decision would have precluded a deal). What I don't understand is why you don't think Israel can make the same calculation in other circumstances, when they've clearly shown they can do it in the case of Sinai and Gaza, and have agreed in principle to it in the case of the WB (and, sometimes, the Golan).

    Quote Originally Posted by Aimless View Post
    Do you believe Israel will ever come to the conclusion that the security risk will be low enough to justify giving up the west bank and acknowledging either the '49-boundaries or those from '67? And what do the security concerns have to do with whether or not it is legitimate or desirable to continue building civilian settlements on that land?
    Israel feels - probably correctly - that the presence of settlements in strategic areas (e.g. the heights overlooking Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, parts of the Jordan Valley, etc.) adds to security in a way that military forces do not. I think that they would feel comfortable evacuating all of the non-bloc settlements, however, if certain conditions were met - a demilitarized and unified PA, full recognition of Israel, deals on a few sticky issues, etc. Moving the really big blocs may be politically and logistically difficult, but those are largely not a big obstacle, being close to the Green Line, and allowing for appropriate swaps. Since negotiations have never gotten this far (due to a lot of reasons), Israel has not done so yet.

    Quote Originally Posted by Aimless View Post
    It is relevant because without some context it's difficult to assess whether or not this is a genuine "offer". For example, if the "offer" went something like this: "Sure, we'll give you back 90% of what's actually yours, but you can forget East Jerusalem, you can forget the Right of Return, you have to acknowledge that Israel is a Jewish state and oh yeah we're just going to keep building illegal settlements and destroying Palestinian property while we sit here and negotiate."

    If you make an "offer" that essentially amounts to giving back things that are not legally yours to begin with, and condition that on terms that you know to be unacceptable to the other side, while simultaneously doing things that demonstrate a complete disregard for the wishes of the other side as well as for the spirit of the negotiations, then maybe you're not really making an offer and maybe you'll never have to go through with that "offer".

    "Sure, we can give you back a whole 90% of your house that we took from you, but we're keeping the bedroom and bathroom, you can forget letting your kids move back, and oh yeah we're just going to keep molesting your wife as we speak. Deal?"
    See my comments above about 'Palestinian land', but I think you'll find that Israel is remarkably flexible on some of those issues. A narrowly construed right of return - to apply only to Palestinian refugees who actually meet the UNHCR definition, rather than the absurd UNRWA definition - would mean Israel would have to accept back only a few thousand Palestinians, if that. I think mutual recognition is kinda the point here, and I think it's reasonable for Israel to expect an unequivocal recognition as part of a final status deal - honestly, Israel's only getting 'peace' which is nice but can be taken away in a minute. Formal recognition and ties are necessary. Jerusalem is the last real sticking point - and even here I think there's some flexibility on the part of Israeli negotiators (though they won't discuss it until later, by and large). Barak in 2000 offered a messy and complex deal that would have shared the capital - I suspect it would have needed a lot of further negotiation to make it work, but as a starting offer it was remarkably flexible... and was largely shouted down by the Palestinians demanding complete control of E. Jerusalem, including Jewish holy places and neighborhoods. With appropriate negotiating partners, I suspect a deal could be made.

    I have no doubt that the Palestinians won't get all of what they want, but they'll get most of it - and that's why it's called a negotiation. Palestinians demanding they have 'rights' to every single demand is just as bad as the nutso settlers in Hebron who think all of Biblical Israel must be a part of the State of Israel. It's not a way to run a negotiation, nor is it a viable path forward towards peace. I suspect Abbas - were he more powerful and able to credibly deliver peace - may indeed be able to make something work - but in the absence of such credibility, negotiations are pretty much a waste of time.

    (to be continued)

  15. #435
    Quote Originally Posted by GGT View Post
    Palestinians are being starved into submission, though. Can you see how they fault Israel (and the US by proxy)? Egypt used to be seen as a sympathetic neighbor until the whole Muslim Brotherhood dynamic changed.
    They have plenty of food.

    I disagree. It wasn't a foregone conclusion that all Palestinian children would grow up to be racist, anti-semitic, violent martyrs. But bombing or blockading civilians into submission is certainly no way to win hearts and minds.
    They're not destined to, no, but the indoctrination they received - wholly independent of Israel's actions - is more than enough to turn them into that. I don't think every Palestinian child become a suicide bomber, but I also don't think that those who do did so mostly because of Israel's actions.

    Doesn't Israel have a duty to deal with the official PA government, even if that means Hamas or Fatah is in the mix? Seems like a convenient excuse to say they won't negotiate with "terrorists", knowing full well that terrorist groups have influence over so many things....even from places like Syria or Qatar that's been connected to weapons financing.
    Israel does negotiate with terrorists - such as the PLO and Fatah - but generally only ones that aren't irretrievably ideological in their opposition to a two state solution. Hamas isn't even close to being a reasonable partner to work with. Don't just ask me - ask Israeli peacnik Amos Oz: http://www.dw.de/oz-lose-lose-situat...ael/a-17822511

    Quote Originally Posted by Aimless View Post
    Apart from sentimental arguments such as "it's the right thing to do", and provided you've noted that I said "stop expanding settlements and outposts" rather than saying "give it all back at once", I can think of several reasons:

    - 0.5% is infinitely greater than 0%
    - It is a prerequisite for there being any chance of having successful negotiations ever, and negotiations are a prerequisite for peace (unless you just annihilate the other side ).
    - The change may make other advances more likely. Each tiny step forward may have a favorable impact on the chances of future steps forward.
    - The probability of a payoff is low, but the promised payoff is extraordinary.
    - According to some people only about 10% of the West Bank is occupied by Israeli settlements and outposts or under their jurisdiction, and only a tiny portion of the Israeli public is particularly attached to the civilian settlements, so it would be a minor sacrifice
    - Strengthening the influence of comparatively moderate and sane leaders may pay off even before there's real peace.
    - Trying to curb the spread of hardline or outright extremist views may reduce pressure on government to take unconstructive action and increase its freedom.

    Do you believe any of the negotiations have ever come close to taking even a few faltering steps towards peace? If so, which aspects of those negotiations and the state of the conflict at the time do you believe advanced the peace-process and which aspects undermined them?
    Israel does 'confidence building' measures all of the time, under US pressure - easing restrictions on movement, settlement construction freezes, dismantling settlements, releasing convicted terrorists, etc. It's a common theme in negotiations (Israel does something to build confidence, Palestinians who have either no power or no interest in peace come to the table for some fruitless discussions) and hasn't worked in the last 2+ decades. I think that some of the things you mentioned Israel should be doing anyhow, but anything with serious security ramifications should be off the table by now, IMO. That includes prisoner releases and easing restriction more than Shabak suggests.
    Last edited by wiggin; 08-04-2014 at 07:53 PM.

  16. #436
    SEÑOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    You first suggest that Israel is never willing to give back land under 'appropriate circumstances'. Then we point to the Sinai and Gaza, and you wave them away as saying it was in their interests to do so (and, apparently that Israel 'still occupies' Gaza). Of course it was in Israel's interest to give back that land! That's why they did it. It doesn't mean it wasn't painful - the Sinai involved uprooting a small number of settlers, but the much bigger concession was the massive security risk in handing over a huge strategic advantage to Egypt when it had already been abused to threaten Israel existentially. Ditto with Gaza, except without the existential threat (just a security threat to civilians).

    Israel withdraws when it is in their interests to do so, full stop. They have shown the political will and technical ability to do so on several occasions, and have offered precisely what you sound so skeptical about (the WB and Golan) as well. I don't disagree that a withdrawal from most of the WB with territorial swaps to handle major settlement blocs will be challenging for Israel - due to political, security, and historical/cultural reasons - but I have zero doubt they would do it if they genuinely believed it would result in actual peace. Ever since Oslo, Israel has gone back and forth about just how close they are to such a circumstance, but the basic formula of land for peace has a majority of support in Israel, though the timing is hotly contested.
    I'm sorry, I thought it would be clear from the exchange that I was addressing Loki's implicit claim that Israel's willingness to give back the Sinai said anything meaningful about Israel's peace-loving character in the context of the conflict with the Palestinians. Israel today is different from Israel back then, the Sinai is different from the WB, the Palestinians are different from the Egyptians, etc etc. If you read my previous posts as implying that Israel covets all land everywhere at all times even when it'd be detrimental to its interests then that was in error. My contention is not that Israel will never give up any land ever in general, it is that it is currently and for the foreseeable future unwilling to give back land to the Palestinians. I included Gaza in that sentence by mistake, because I was quoting Loki. I don't know if it was truly in Israel's best interest to "leave" Gaza.

    B'tselem's numbers aren't taken out of thin air, but they do have a very expansive notion of what constitutes 'settlement land', which they themselves recognize. Obviously the 1% number of just the built up areas is also unrealistic. My litmus test is what percentage of the West Bank would Israel try to hold onto in a final status agreement (with mutual land swaps to compensate for the lost land)? The answer to that, based on repeated offers by Israel and lots of analysis by others, suggests it's just under 10%.
    If settlement-land truly covers 10% then giving up 90% is no major concession based on how things stand today. However, I do not believe it is reasonable to say that settlement-land covers only ca 10% on the basis of descriptions of peace-talks where that 10% is also said to cover 60-80% of the settler population and also based on reports that, in the midst of peace-talks, approval was given for building on land that would not even be covered by the deals the Israelis were offering.

    The figures you dispute don't only consider what is actively-used settlement land but also which areas are supposedly under the jurisdiction of eg. the various municipalities, and I would assume they get that information from whatever the municipalities themselves assert rather than by hiding in the grass with binoculars making notes of the comings and goings of stray settlers

    I dispute your assertion that the 10% is anyone's 'property', or that it's specifically Palestinian. In the absence of past sovereignty (there hasn't been a sovereign power there since the Ottomans since the British were caretakers), the only claims to the land are from personal property. I agree wholeheartedly that personal property rights need to be respected, and that at times settlements (especially outposts) do not pay enough attention to this. There are legal complexities to many of the claims, but this is a serious issue that should be respected (though it is not a matter of international law). [...] Point being that you're coming at this from a specific perspective, that all of the West Bank and Gaza and East Jerusalem 'belongs' to Palestinians. My approach is that much of it belongs to individual Palestinians, and that for the sake of peace it's necessary to form a state on much of that land as well. But that's a far cry from saying that every inch of the WB and Gaza belongs by law to 'them', whoever that is.
    My phrasing was based on what I assumed is the Palestinian perspective, from which it would amount to offering to give back something that they already believe is theirs by law.

    I will again ask you to please refrain from ad hominem attacks. I am becoming ever-less interested in pursuing this conversation based on your tone.
    You'll have to try to give at least two polite shits about international opinion in the future in that case.

    I recognize that there are many ways to view the unique situation that is the Palestinian territories. I think you misread Israeli law on this issue, of course; most of the cases you refer to discuss illegal outposts, not government-approved settlements, and are largely concerned with issues of procedure and property rights of Palestinians in the territories. That doesn't mean all Israeli settlements are legal in Israel's courts, but it does suggest that they often consider settlements in general to be legal from an int'l law perspective, but that in specific circumstances argue they are not legal for a variety of reasons. There are Israeli jurists who disagree with this consensus, of course, as do many in the Israeli public. But I don't think there is anything like a popular consensus in Israeli courts that settlements as an enterprise are illegal.
    I don't think there is any consensus in the Israeli courts that settlements are illegal in general, nor do I think they are consistent in how they view applicable international law. My point was that the Israeli govt. apparently has difficulties even acknowledging the rulings and the criticisms of its own courts and commissions--eg. when they find that illegal settlements and outposts have been built with the tacit or explicit approval of the relevant agencies, or when they rule that a settlement or outpost must be dismantled only to find that the ruling is not enforced in time or at all--and that I therefore distrust their ability or inclination to parse or implement international law that may pertain to the issue of the settlements. Just as you and others may be dismissive of international opinion on the basis of eg. its supposedly unfounded and irrational anti-Israel bias, I reserve the right to view Israel's opinions on its activities--and how well they mesh with international law--with some skepticism.

    Regardless, let us say I were to agree with you - establishing any settlement, on any part of the West Bank, is manifestly illegal. So what? You could cavil along about how they're illegitimate, but the fact of the matter is that most of them are densely populated, near the border, and not ideological in nature. Today, it makes far more sense to figure out how to make an accommodation that works for everyone (such as land swaps) rather than waste our time on finger pointing. There are untold violations of international law that have gone on in the Israeli-Arab conflicts, including any number by Israel. We could keep on arguing about it, or work our a reasonable solution.
    I think it is difficult to arrive at a reasonable solution if, while you ostensibly attempt to find a solution, you simultaneously go against the spirit of that very endeavour by continuing and worsening a situation that is manifestly a major point of contention and that has been identified as one of the more important obstacles to peace. I think that the recent constellations of Palestinian negotiators were on the whole pragmatic about the solution wrt the land in the WB, but I think that it is difficult for them to continue being pragmatic when Israel expands its settlements to disputed areas in the midst of holding negotiations.
    I've said it before and I'll say it again - I do believe that pragmatically Israel should not expand settlements outside the major blocs, and should remove illegal, 'unauthorized' ones immediately. Other small, authorized settlements should not be allowed to expand, but I think they should not be removed entirely until a final status agreement is reached, for simple reasons of negotiating positions.
    Like I said, you don't have to remove them immediately before a deal has been reached, but the least you can do is to not expand them or create new ones while you're allegedly trying to reach an agreement.

    See above: obviously Israel thought it was in their interest to cede the Sinai, despite the significant economic losses and strategic risk. It had nothing to do with sentimentality, but rather cold calculation (if anything, evacuating Yamit was so challenging that an emotional decision would have precluded a deal). What I don't understand is why you don't think Israel can make the same calculation in other circumstances, when they've clearly shown they can do it in the case of Sinai and Gaza, and have agreed in principle to it in the case of the WB (and, sometimes, the Golan).
    As I said earlier, it's not that I don't think Israel can't, it's that I don't believe the situation wrt the Palestinian territories is such that Israel needs to or even wants to, now and for the foreseeable future, and certainly not with its present political makeup.

    Israel feels - probably correctly - that the presence of settlements in strategic areas (e.g. the heights overlooking Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, parts of the Jordan Valley, etc.) adds to security in a way that military forces do not. I think that they would feel comfortable evacuating all of the non-bloc settlements, however, if certain conditions were met - a demilitarized and unified PA, full recognition of Israel, deals on a few sticky issues, etc. Moving the really big blocs may be politically and logistically difficult, but those are largely not a big obstacle, being close to the Green Line, and allowing for appropriate swaps. Since negotiations have never gotten this far (due to a lot of reasons), Israel has not done so yet.
    It's a shame it has to be all or nothing, but, at the same time, that approach did allegedly get Olmert and Abbas right on the verge of signing an agreement so maybe it'll eventually get you there sometime in the future.

    See my comments above about 'Palestinian land', but I think you'll find that Israel is remarkably flexible on some of those issues. A narrowly construed right of return - to apply only to Palestinian refugees who actually meet the UNHCR definition, rather than the absurd UNRWA definition - would mean Israel would have to accept back only a few thousand Palestinians, if that. I think mutual recognition is kinda the point here, and I think it's reasonable for Israel to expect an unequivocal recognition as part of a final status deal - honestly, Israel's only getting 'peace' which is nice but can be taken away in a minute. Formal recognition and ties are necessary. Jerusalem is the last real sticking point - and even here I think there's some flexibility on the part of Israeli negotiators (though they won't discuss it until later, by and large). Barak in 2000 offered a messy and complex deal that would have shared the capital - I suspect it would have needed a lot of further negotiation to make it work, but as a starting offer it was remarkably flexible... and was largely shouted down by the Palestinians demanding complete control of E. Jerusalem, including Jewish holy places and neighborhoods. With appropriate negotiating partners, I suspect a deal could be made.
    I have been wondering about that issue of recognition, because at times the Palestinian refusal has been cast as nothing more than anti-Semitism and obstinacy, and at times I've been given the impression that the issue is with recognising Israel as a Jewish state which for some reason is against the Palestinian agenda. I have assumed that that conflict would have something to do with either the non-Jewish Arabs in Israel or with the issue of returning refugees.

    I have no doubt that the Palestinians won't get all of what they want, but they'll get most of it - and that's why it's called a negotiation. Palestinians demanding they have 'rights' to every single demand is just as bad as the nutso settlers in Hebron who think all of Biblical Israel must be a part of the State of Israel. It's not a way to run a negotiation, nor is it a viable path forward towards peace. I suspect Abbas - were he more powerful and able to credibly deliver peace - may indeed be able to make something work - but in the absence of such credibility, negotiations are pretty much a waste of time.
    Then help him become more powerful and credible already
    Last edited by Aimless; 08-04-2014 at 09:01 PM.
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  17. #437
    Senior Member GGT's Avatar
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    I agree with minx's sentiments. If Israel wants to defend and protect itself from existential threats, they should concern themselves with Palestinian needs, and negotiate with the PA leadership. Al Abbas is the kind of moderate/centrist Palestinian leader that Israel has claimed to want for decades. And Egypt has the anti-Muslim Brotherhood administration they've also wanted for years. Put the two together....and it's worth asking WTF Israel is doing, or what position the US should take.

  18. #438
    Local talking head LittleFuzzy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GGT View Post
    You didn't answer my question (maybe you have me on ignore status?) but countries weigh these decisions all the time and consider it part of International Relations, Statesmanship, Diplomacy.

    As far as I can tell, Israel is the only small nation whose very existence is recognized, and protected, by the larger world. Smaller and weaker nations have border disputes all the time -- the political, global map changed dramatically after WWII, but also during the 21st century after USSR's demise, and then after the Arab Spring -- with countries trying to gain international legitimacy.
    East Timor immediately springs to mind. Taiwan arguably serves as an example, the same might be said for Cyprus going in the other direction. Israel is fairly unique in that it is a highly developed country beleaguered by weaker and less developed enemies and does not have any major-power enemy involved in the conflict/tensions.

    I'm not going to get dragged into the the rest but the above was just factually inaccurate.
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  19. #439
    Local talking head LittleFuzzy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aimless View Post
    I have been wondering about that issue of recognition, because at times the Palestinian refusal has been cast as nothing more than anti-Semitism and obstinacy, and at times I've been given the impression that the issue is with recognising Israel as a Jewish state which for some reason is against the Palestinian agenda. I have assumed that that conflict would have something to do with either the non-Jewish Arabs in Israel or with the issue of returning refugees.
    I think a statement you made earlier (albeit, one you directed at the other side) would apply here.

    "If you make an "offer" that essentially amounts to giving back things that are not legally yours to begin with, and condition that on terms that you know to be unacceptable to the other side, while simultaneously doing things that demonstrate a complete disregard for the wishes of the other side as well as for the spirit of the negotiations, then maybe you're not really making an offer and maybe you'll never have to go through with that "offer"."
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  20. #440
    Senior Member GGT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LittleFuzzy View Post
    East Timor immediately springs to mind. Taiwan arguably serves as an example, the same might be said for Cyprus going in the other direction. Israel is fairly unique in that it is a highly developed country beleaguered by weaker and less developed enemies and does not have any major-power enemy involved in the conflict/tensions.

    I'm not going to get dragged into the the rest but the above was just factually inaccurate.
    Israel has the US as its undying ally, and unconditional protector. Can't say the same about East Timor, Taiwan, Cyprus...or even Ukraine or South Korea. There's a limit to where the US will extend itself, on behalf of other nations, when their policies are anti-thetical.

    Israel doesn't get a "pass" just because the US is their most formidable ally, or the biggest contributor to the UN. No, Israel has a duty to protect Palestinian civilians, especially when their "defensive" efforts turn into "offensive" measures that kill thousands of Palestinian children.

  21. #441
    Quote Originally Posted by Aimless View Post
    I'm sorry, I thought it would be clear from the exchange that I was addressing Loki's implicit claim that Israel's willingness to give back the Sinai said anything meaningful about Israel's peace-loving character in the context of the conflict with the Palestinians. Israel today is different from Israel back then, the Sinai is different from the WB, the Palestinians are different from the Egyptians, etc etc. If you read my previous posts as implying that Israel covets all land everywhere at all times even when it'd be detrimental to its interests then that was in error. My contention is not that Israel will never give up any land ever in general, it is that it is currently and for the foreseeable future unwilling to give back land to the Palestinians. I included Gaza in that sentence by mistake, because I was quoting Loki. I don't know if it was truly in Israel's best interest to "leave" Gaza.
    I don't get it - Israel's willing to withdraw sometimes but just not this time? On what do you base this? I have no doubt they're reluctant to do so without ironclad guarantees of peace - just like they had reluctance re: Sinai and Gaza (and previous rounds of negotiation with WB and Golan). Yet reluctance does not equate to refusal.

    If settlement-land truly covers 10% then giving up 90% is no major concession based on how things stand today. However, I do not believe it is reasonable to say that settlement-land covers only ca 10% on the basis of descriptions of peace-talks where that 10% is also said to cover 60-80% of the settler population and also based on reports that, in the midst of peace-talks, approval was given for building on land that would not even be covered by the deals the Israelis were offering.

    The figures you dispute don't only consider what is actively-used settlement land but also which areas are supposedly under the jurisdiction of eg. the various municipalities, and I would assume they get that information from whatever the municipalities themselves assert rather than by hiding in the grass with binoculars making notes of the comings and goings of stray settlers
    The 10% figure includes lots of open land that would be necessary to be annexed to provide a contiguous border. Most of the rest of the settler population is far afield in small settlements that don't take up a lot of space. Regardless, this is semantics - call if 15% if you want, but what matters is that Israel wants to hold on to about 10% of the West Bank.

    Municipal control as a metric is silly, though, Israel has lots of 'regional councils' on open and rural land that is largely irrelevant to a 'fact on the ground'. At most it's a legal fiction.

    My phrasing was based on what I assumed is the Palestinian perspective, from which it would amount to offering to give back something that they already believe is theirs by law.
    It can be the Palestinian perspective all you want, but that doesn't make it true.

    You'll have to try to give at least two polite shits about international opinion in the future in that case.
    Oh, so it's okay to be a dick in an argument is you really disagree with what they're saying.

    I don't think there is any consensus in the Israeli courts that settlements are illegal in general, nor do I think they are consistent in how they view applicable international law. My point was that the Israeli govt. apparently has difficulties even acknowledging the rulings and the criticisms of its own courts and commissions--eg. when they find that illegal settlements and outposts have been built with the tacit or explicit approval of the relevant agencies, or when they rule that a settlement or outpost must be dismantled only to find that the ruling is not enforced in time or at all--and that I therefore distrust their ability or inclination to parse or implement international law that may pertain to the issue of the settlements. Just as you and others may be dismissive of international opinion on the basis of eg. its supposedly unfounded and irrational anti-Israel bias, I reserve the right to view Israel's opinions on its activities--and how well they mesh with international law--with some skepticism.
    That's perfectly reasonable; Israel has a robust and ongoing debate about settlements and their legality on a variety of metrics. You can distrust some of their conclusions, but you should at least recognize that they are handling a unique and unprecedented situation that can't be labeled by a knee-jerk reaction of a biased 'international community' either.

    Regardless, this whole disagreement started when you couldn't stand my 'poetry' any longer and argued that Israel's massive settlement enterprise which was obviously 100% illegal (and immoral!) was all based on rejection of future Palestinian sovereignty. I've tried to illustrate that there are complexities to the situation, and the Palestinian sovereignty moving forward has little to do with Israel's view of the legality of (some) settlements under int'l law. You can disagree with Israel here, but at least condescend to consider their arguments on their face rather than buying into a one-size-fits-all 'imperialist' label for Israeli actions.


    I think it is difficult to arrive at a reasonable solution if, while you ostensibly attempt to find a solution, you simultaneously go against the spirit of that very endeavour by continuing and worsening a situation that is manifestly a major point of contention and that has been identified as one of the more important obstacles to peace. I think that the recent constellations of Palestinian negotiators were on the whole pragmatic about the solution wrt the land in the WB, but I think that it is difficult for them to continue being pragmatic when Israel expands its settlements to disputed areas in the midst of holding negotiations.
    It's funny - when Israelis put up an obstacle to peace, they build homes. When Palestinians do so, they blow up a school bus. While I recognize that as a point of rhetoric, Israeli settlements are indeed a significant issue in the final status negotiations - and I also recognize that the building and expansion of small outposts is not helping diplomacy - it's rather disingenuous to suggest that this is a legitimate obstacle to peace in the same way that terrorism is. Israel has shown repeatedly that it is willing to remove settlers and settlements, even against immense domestic opposition. It has also repeatedly argued it wants to control the major settlement blocs, whose identity has not changed in 20+ years. Outposts may be an irritant to diplomacy, but they are not going to substantially change 'facts on the ground' in a way that will change a final status agreement. Everyone knows which settlements Israel is going to keep, and another outpost or two won't change that. Outpost growth is an excuse for putting off negotiations, not a reason.

    Like I said, you don't have to remove them immediately before a deal has been reached, but the least you can do is to not expand them or create new ones while you're allegedly trying to reach an agreement.
    Outside the main settlement blocs, I largely agree with you. I don't think it's a major impediment to negotiations, but it would be a nice bone to toss to the PA and US. Of course, Israel has repeatedly done so - with a 9 month freeze on building/expanding settlements outside the main blocs just a couple years back - and gotten nowhere. It's a costly political decision to take when you don't get any return on it.

    As I said earlier, it's not that I don't think Israel can't, it's that I don't believe the situation wrt the Palestinian territories is such that Israel needs to or even wants to, now and for the foreseeable future, and certainly not with its present political makeup.
    Bet you said the same thing about Ariel Sharon and his right wing Likud government before the disengagement from Gaza. Or Menachem Begin (former terrorist) and his right wing hawkish government before the signing of the Camp David Accords and the withdrawal from Sinai. If anything, the current government makeup is more pragmatic and centrist, given the important role of Yesh Atid and Tizpi Livni's bunch in the coalition.

    I have been wondering about that issue of recognition, because at times the Palestinian refusal has been cast as nothing more than anti-Semitism and obstinacy, and at times I've been given the impression that the issue is with recognising Israel as a Jewish state which for some reason is against the Palestinian agenda. I have assumed that that conflict would have something to do with either the non-Jewish Arabs in Israel or with the issue of returning refugees.
    I think this is a red herring argument by the PA, but I think that is for another time. The whole 'Jewish State' thing is not just semantics, but it also won't prejudice a modest 'right of return' for a few thousand Palestinians or the rights of Israeli Arabs in Israel today.

    Then help him become more powerful and credible already
    Yeah, because Israel can single-handedly make Fatah into a non-corrupt and capable government, and they can stop Islamist (or otherwise) extremism in an environment where children are indoctrinated with egregious lies. The US and Israel (and others) have spent vast amounts of effort and money on supporting the so-called 'moderates' in the PA with little to show for it. Palestinian change at some point must come from within.

  22. #442
    SEÑOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by wiggin View Post
    I don't get it - Israel's willing to withdraw sometimes but just not this time? On what do you base this? I have no doubt they're reluctant to do so without ironclad guarantees of peace - just like they had reluctance re: Sinai and Gaza (and previous rounds of negotiation with WB and Golan). Yet reluctance does not equate to refusal.

    [...]

    Bet you said the same thing about Ariel Sharon and his right wing Likud government before the disengagement from Gaza. Or Menachem Begin (former terrorist) and his right wing hawkish government before the signing of the Camp David Accords and the withdrawal from Sinai. If anything, the current government makeup is more pragmatic and centrist, given the important role of Yesh Atid and Tizpi Livni's bunch in the coalition.
    There are two issues here.

    The first is my belief that comparisons with the return of Sinai to Egypt and the disengagement from Gaza do not support, in themselves, any claim about the Israeli government's inclination to hand over the West Bank for the foreseeable future. Wrt Sinai, you are comparing Israel then to Israel now, and Egypt to the occupied Palestinian territories. How is that a meaningful comparison considering the relationships between the two parties in each situation?

    There is no meaningful comparison to be made between Sinai and the disengagement from Gaza for the same reasons, but in addition we note that the disengagement was unilateral rather than as a part of a peace treaty. Wrt what the disengagement can tell us about Israel's wishes for the West Bank, I note that the disengagement was more than compensated for by increased settlement-expanding and building activity in the West Bank and can hardly be taken as an indication that Israel intends to hand over 90% of the west bank. Instead what we see is that Israel keeps hanging on to as much of the West Bank as possible and the disengagement would perhaps have been the first step towards annexing a third of the WB:

    A month before prime minister Sharon suffered a stroke, in January 2006, he was on the phone with Eitan. Four months after Israel’s unilateral disengagement from the Gaza Strip, the two discussed a preliminary plan to leave the West Bank as well, while maintaining the maximum number of Israeli settlements under Israeli control.

    “Sharon knew that we must disengage from the Palestinians in the West Bank too; that we can’t continue occupying a foreign people,” Eitan told The Times of Israel.

    Sharon dubbed his plan “the mosaic separation,” because it left most Israeli settlements intact, allowing isolated Palestinian villages access to large urban centers through an intricate system of underpasses and tunnels.

    “Arik [Sharon] said: Let’s divide Judea and Samaria and take roughly one-third for ourselves, leaving two-thirds for the Arabs,” Eitan said. “Under this plan, the Jordan Valley and the Judean Desert would remain ours.”

    With the Palestinian body politic divided today between Gaza and the West Bank — while internal rifts within the PLO prevent “even the signing of an interim agreement” — Eitan said he would advise Netanyahu to implement the Sharon plan immediately.
    "I have an idea: let's give them the bag of shit so that we can focus on taking the bag of gold and all the water."

    Though negotiations have featured more generous numbers, I don't see that Israel's activities in the West Bank have been directly consistent with anything but an intention to take for itself the best the WB has to offer.

    The second matter is what I believe will or won't happen. If Israel refuses to even share Jerusalem, do you believe there will be any peace agreement in which Palestinians get back 90% of the WB? If Israel will not negotiate or if Abbas and his ilk lose whatever standing they have with the Palestinian public, do you believe there will be a peace agreement that will see the Palestinians getting back 90% of the WB? And so on. Wrt Israel's intentions vis a vis negotiating an agreement that is palatable to Palestinians, I note that these negotiations somehow keep getting sabotaged and are now a no-go (see below).

    Israeli settlements are indeed a significant issue in the final status negotiations - and I also recognize that the building and expansion of small outposts is not helping diplomacy - it's rather disingenuous to suggest that this is a legitimate obstacle to peace in the same way that terrorism is. Israel has shown repeatedly that it is willing to remove settlers and settlements, even against immense domestic opposition. It has also repeatedly argued it wants to control the major settlement blocs, whose identity has not changed in 20+ years. Outposts may be an irritant to diplomacy, but they are not going to substantially change 'facts on the ground' in a way that will change a final status agreement. Everyone knows which settlements Israel is going to keep, and another outpost or two won't change that. Outpost growth is an excuse for putting off negotiations, not a reason.

    Outside the main settlement blocs, I largely agree with you. I don't think it's a major impediment to negotiations, but it would be a nice bone to toss to the PA and US. Of course, Israel has repeatedly done so - with a 9 month freeze on building/expanding settlements outside the main blocs just a couple years back - and gotten nowhere. It's a costly political decision to take when you don't get any return on it.
    It's not particularly costly when you implement the decision in such a way as to render it meaningless. Nor is Israel's demonstrated willingness to do the right thing or even to uphold the letter and the spirit of its own laws particularly impressive (one example of many).

    Whether or not the continued building and expansion of settlements and outposts is a legitimate obstacle to negotiations is not for you to decide unilaterally. Neither you nor any other supporter of Israel can presume the right to decide what matters and what does not, when there is reason to believe that the settlement-related activities continue to be an obstacle even to holding negotiations:

    Publicly, Mr. Obama has said that both sides bear responsibility for the latest collapse. But the president believes that more than any other factor, Israel’s drumbeat of settlement announcements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem poisoned the atmosphere and doomed any chance of a breakthrough with the Palestinians.

    “At every juncture, there was a settlement announcement,” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. “It was the thing that kept throwing a wrench in the gears.”
    It is certainly easy for the side holding all the cards--reaping all the benefits and having all the privilege to do whatever it wishes--to downplay their advantages as being so unimportant as to not even be worthy of consideration for the moment, a non-issue, like the buzzing of a mosquito, let's just keep talking and be pragmatic. But the truth is that such "pragmatism", on the part of Israeli leaders, is just a cover for arrogance--and there is not a shred of sincerity or good faith to be found in such shenanigans.

    These antics are also not pragmatic for who has any sincere intention to come to an agreement with the Palestinians, unless that person for some reason believes that his counterpart will not be undermined by the settlement expansions.

    As to what "everyone knows", I refer you to the link above on what we all knew Israel was planning to do with the WB, ie. annex a third of it, or what we all know Israel is going to do in the next round of negotiations and the round after that, ie. progressively claim an increasingly large portion of the WB on the basis of "demographic changes". I think we should perhaps consider the possibility that it's difficult to be sure of the truth of what "everyone knows", and that, given such uncertainty, those who truly and sincerely want peace on equitable terms should tread more carefully than Israel is doing. Faced with uncertainty, distrust and fear, it's extraordinarily unwise to sabotage attempts at diplomacy by making ambiguous and threatening moves.

    The 10% figure includes lots of open land that would be necessary to be annexed to provide a contiguous border. Most of the rest of the settler population is far afield in small settlements that don't take up a lot of space. Regardless, this is semantics - call if 15% if you want, but what matters is that Israel wants to hold on to about 10% of the West Bank.

    Municipal control as a metric is silly, though, Israel has lots of 'regional councils' on open and rural land that is largely irrelevant to a 'fact on the ground'. At most it's a legal fiction.
    Re. what "Israel wants to hold on to", see above. However, even were I to accept that Israel wants to hold on to about 10%--which isn't an unreasonable belief if we take their offers at face value--I don't think it is accurate to say Israel only claims the parts of the WB that presently contain the major blocs, nor do I think it is appropriate to dismiss the relevance of what official claims civil institutions assert over large parts of the WB. At present, the Israeli state asserts ownership over at least 19% of the WB that it has designated "state land" and in practice seems to act as if all of Area C is up for grabs.

    It can be the Palestinian perspective all you want, but that doesn't make it true.

    [...]

    Oh, so it's okay to be a dick in an argument is you really disagree with what they're saying.

    [...]

    That's perfectly reasonable; Israel has a robust and ongoing debate about settlements and their legality on a variety of metrics. You can distrust some of their conclusions, but you should at least recognize that they are handling a unique and unprecedented situation that can't be labeled by a knee-jerk reaction of a biased 'international community' either.

    Regardless, this whole disagreement started when you couldn't stand my 'poetry' any longer and argued that Israel's massive settlement enterprise which was obviously 100% illegal (and immoral!) was all based on rejection of future Palestinian sovereignty. I've tried to illustrate that there are complexities to the situation, and the Palestinian sovereignty moving forward has little to do with Israel's view of the legality of (some) settlements under int'l law. You can disagree with Israel here, but at least condescend to consider their arguments on their face rather than buying into a one-size-fits-all 'imperialist' label for Israeli actions.
    Whether or not it is true doesn't matter to the question of how it influences negotiations that must be held in good faith and with at least a modicum of respect for rational and well-justified positions.

    As for dickishness, do you understand that it may be dickish to obstinately, arrogantly and rudely dismiss an overwhelming and authoritative consensus on a legal matter as being a non-issue by saying you don't give a shit? And I say it is being dismissed as a non-issue because what you're saying, in effect, is this: "Everyone has interpreted the law in one way that is to our detriment, but we have interpreted the law in another way that is in our favour, so let's just agree to disagree and we'll keep doing what we're doing because, even though you say it's wrong, I say it's right and I don't give a shit about what you say." That's not only dickish, as you'd realize if you considered the significance of such attitudes in a purely domestic context. When someone is brought before a court and found guilty of committing crimes from which he has benefited immensely, he is certainly entitled to object, and to appeal, but it is not legitimate for him to say, "Okay, let's just agree to disagree and I'll just keep doing what you say is a violation of the law anyway, because you're obviously biased against me." More than dickishness, this attitude is a rejection of the rational rule of law in principle. I can see that the Israeli govt. has difficulties with adhering to the rule of law even on a domestic level, but I expect better from someone who is not a corrupt old weasel.

    If you expect any courtesy then learn to give a shit. Of the two of us, I am the one with no stake and no natural bias in favour of either party. While I argue here against your defenses of Israel's policies and against your interpretation of the conflict, I argue in defense of Israel's policies elsewhere, on matters where I believe they are in the right or are being inaccurately represented. When I refer to the consensus view on the legality of Israel's settlements, it is not because I hate Jews, because I come from a Muslim background, because I lean towards the left, because I hate oranges or anything of the sort. It is because I believe that looking at the consensus--formed not only by rabid bloodthirsty Jew-hating Arabs but also by many others who are well-suited to interpret the letter and the spirit of the law, including a long succession of legal scholars and other legal authorities--is one of the best, most just and most rational methods we have for approaching questions of legality and justice. To dismiss that considered view out of hand by saying you don't give a shit, because it's all biased by anti-semitism and bandwagonning, and then in the next breath expecting acknowledgement and equal status for another more biased and less well-established view... I just... honest to God I don't know what you expect when even your own politicians were never so dismissive (even while being sneaky).

    With all that said, I suppose you're correct in your view that Israel's justification for appropriating the WB has nothing to do with the future sovereignty of a future Palestinian state, because it doesn't believe that future state is entitled by law to the land in the WB that Israel has taken for itself. Of course, that doesn't make Israel's view correct, but I suppose in a way it explains away one non-reason for Israel's reluctance to allow Palestinian sovereignty.

    I think this is a red herring argument by the PA, but I think that is for another time. The whole 'Jewish State' thing is not just semantics, but it also won't prejudice a modest 'right of return' for a few thousand Palestinians or the rights of Israeli Arabs in Israel today.
    Given Abbas's non-crazy stance on other matters, including the right of return (in a manner that no doubt undermines his credibility among many Palestinians), I find it odd that his refusal to accept this formulation would be grounded in nothing more than some form of Jew-hate.

    Yeah, because Israel can single-handedly make Fatah into a non-corrupt and capable government, and they can stop Islamist (or otherwise) extremism in an environment where children are indoctrinated with egregious lies. The US and Israel (and others) have spent vast amounts of effort and money on supporting the so-called 'moderates' in the PA with little to show for it.
    To be fair that may also be because you are as good at shooting yourself and Palestinians in the foot as they are, so in the end you take one step forwards and and two steps back, and granted Israel may have its hands full with its own corrupt-politicians... but, honestly, do you think you could have begun a few years back by not undermining the person with whom you were negotiating?

    Some more water and equality before the law would also be nice.
    Last edited by Aimless; 08-06-2014 at 05:50 PM.
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
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  23. #443
    SEÑOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    I believe we may have reached a point in this particular discussion where we won't make any more headway for a while, so let's just agree to disagree because you have your opinions and I have mine It has for me been an enlightening debate, because this is the first time in a while I've had to sit down and go through these questions in a systematic fashion using evernote and everything. I must also admit I have generally been very impressed by several of the Israeli newspapers I've come across, when it comes to the breadth and integrity of their opinions as well as to the quality of their less-mushy writing.
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
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  24. #444
    Do you want a final response? I'm disinclined to provide one but will do so upon request.

  25. #445
    SEÑOR Member Aimless's Avatar
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    No, that's all right, no need to waste any more of the summer
    “Humanity's greatest advances are not in its discoveries, but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity.”
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  26. #446
    Gotta love Zionuts! http://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-news...-insider-guide

    Quote Originally Posted by Tablet
    An Insider’s Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth
    A former AP correspondent explains how and why reporters get Israel so wrong, and why it matters

    The Israel Story

    Is there anything left to say about Israel and Gaza? Newspapers this summer have been full of little else. Television viewers see heaps of rubble and plumes of smoke in their sleep. A representative article from a recent issue of The New Yorker described the summer’s events by dedicating one sentence each to the horrors in Nigeria and Ukraine, four sentences to the crazed génocidaires of ISIS, and the rest of the article—30 sentences—to Israel and Gaza.

    When the hysteria abates, I believe the events in Gaza will not be remembered by the world as particularly important. People were killed, most of them Palestinians, including many unarmed innocents. I wish I could say the tragedy of their deaths, or the deaths of Israel’s soldiers, will change something, that they mark a turning point. But they don’t. This round was not the first in the Arab wars with Israel and will not be the last. The Israeli campaign was little different in its execution from any other waged by a Western army against a similar enemy in recent years, except for the more immediate nature of the threat to a country’s own population, and the greater exertions, however futile, to avoid civilian deaths.

    The lasting importance of this summer’s war, I believe, doesn’t lie in the war itself. It lies instead in the way the war has been described and responded to abroad, and the way this has laid bare the resurgence of an old, twisted pattern of thought and its migration from the margins to the mainstream of Western discourse—namely, a hostile obsession with Jews. The key to understanding this resurgence is not to be found among jihadi webmasters, basement conspiracy theorists, or radical activists. It is instead to be found first among the educated and respectable people who populate the international news industry; decent people, many of them, and some of them my former colleagues.

    While global mania about Israeli actions has come to be taken for granted, it is actually the result of decisions made by individual human beings in positions of responsibility—in this case, journalists and editors. The world is not responding to events in this country, but rather to the description of these events by news organizations. The key to understanding the strange nature of the response is thus to be found in the practice of journalism, and specifically in a severe malfunction that is occurring in that profession—my profession—here in Israel.

    In this essay I will try to provide a few tools to make sense of the news from Israel. I acquired these tools as an insider: Between 2006 and the end of 2011 I was a reporter and editor in the Jerusalem bureau of the Associated Press, one of the world’s two biggest news providers. I have lived in Israel since 1995 and have been reporting on it since 1997.

    This essay is not an exhaustive survey of the sins of the international media, a conservative polemic, or a defense of Israeli policies. (I am a believer in the importance of the “mainstream” media, a liberal, and a critic of many of my country’s policies.) It necessarily involves some generalizations. I will first outline the central tropes of the international media’s Israel story—a story on which there is surprisingly little variation among mainstream outlets, and one which is, as the word “story” suggests, a narrative construct that is largely fiction. I will then note the broader historical context of the way Israel has come to be discussed and explain why I believe it to be a matter of concern not only for people preoccupied with Jewish affairs. I will try to keep it brief.

    How Important Is the Israel Story?

    Staffing is the best measure of the importance of a story to a particular news organization. When I was a correspondent at the AP, the agency had more than 40 staffers covering Israel and the Palestinian territories. That was significantly more news staff than the AP had in China, Russia, or India, or in all of the 50 countries of sub-Saharan Africa combined. It was higher than the total number of news-gathering employees in all the countries where the uprisings of the “Arab Spring” eventually erupted.

    To offer a sense of scale: Before the outbreak of the civil war in Syria, the permanent AP presence in that country consisted of a single regime-approved stringer. The AP’s editors believed, that is, that Syria’s importance was less than one-40th that of Israel. I don’t mean to pick on the AP—the agency is wholly average, which makes it useful as an example. The big players in the news business practice groupthink, and these staffing arrangements were reflected across the herd. Staffing levels in Israel have decreased somewhat since the Arab uprisings began, but remain high. And when Israel flares up, as it did this summer, reporters are often moved from deadlier conflicts. Israel still trumps nearly everything else.

    The volume of press coverage that results, even when little is going on, gives this conflict a prominence compared to which its actual human toll is absurdly small. In all of 2013, for example, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict claimed 42 lives—that is, roughly the monthly homicide rate in the city of Chicago. Jerusalem, internationally renowned as a city of conflict, had slightly fewer violent deaths per capita last year than Portland, Ore., one of America’s safer cities. In contrast, in three years the Syrian conflict has claimed an estimated 190,000 lives, or about 70,000 more than the number of people who have ever died in the Arab-Israeli conflict since it began a century ago.

    News organizations have nonetheless decided that this conflict is more important than, for example, the more than 1,600 women murdered in Pakistan last year (271 after being raped and 193 of them burned alive), the ongoing erasure of Tibet by the Chinese Communist Party, the carnage in Congo (more than 5 million dead as of 2012) or the Central African Republic, and the drug wars in Mexico (death toll between 2006 and 2012: 60,000), let alone conflicts no one has ever heard of in obscure corners of India or Thailand. They believe Israel to be the most important story on earth, or very close.

    What Is Important About the Israel Story, and What Is Not

    A reporter working in the international press corps here understands quickly that what is important in the Israel-Palestinian story is Israel. If you follow mainstream coverage, you will find nearly no real analysis of Palestinian society or ideologies, profiles of armed Palestinian groups, or investigation of Palestinian government. Palestinians are not taken seriously as agents of their own fate. The West has decided that Palestinians should want a state alongside Israel, so that opinion is attributed to them as fact, though anyone who has spent time with actual Palestinians understands that things are (understandably, in my opinion) more complicated. Who they are and what they want is not important: The story mandates that they exist as passive victims of the party that matters.

    Corruption, for example, is a pressing concern for many Palestinians under the rule of the Palestinian Authority, but when I and another reporter once suggested an article on the subject, we were informed by the bureau chief that Palestinian corruption was “not the story.” (Israeli corruption was, and we covered it at length.)

    Israeli actions are analyzed and criticized, and every flaw in Israeli society is aggressively reported. In one seven-week period, from Nov. 8 to Dec. 16, 2011, I decided to count the stories coming out of our bureau on the various moral failings of Israeli society—proposed legislation meant to suppress the media, the rising influence of Orthodox Jews, unauthorized settlement outposts, gender segregation, and so forth. I counted 27 separate articles, an average of a story every two days. In a very conservative estimate, this seven-week tally was higher than the total number of significantly critical stories about Palestinian government and society, including the totalitarian Islamists of Hamas, that our bureau had published in the preceding three years.

    The Hamas charter, for example, calls not just for Israel’s destruction but for the murder of Jews and blames Jews for engineering the French and Russian revolutions and both world wars; the charter was never mentioned in print when I was at the AP, though Hamas won a Palestinian national election and had become one of the region’s most important players. To draw the link with this summer’s events: An observer might think Hamas’ decision in recent years to construct a military infrastructure beneath Gaza’s civilian infrastructure would be deemed newsworthy, if only because of what it meant about the way the next conflict would be fought and the cost to innocent people. But that is not the case. The Hamas emplacements were not important in themselves, and were therefore ignored. What was important was the Israeli decision to attack them.

    There has been much discussion recently of Hamas attempts to intimidate reporters. Any veteran of the press corps here knows the intimidation is real, and I saw it in action myself as an editor on the AP news desk. During the 2008-2009 Gaza fighting I personally erased a key detail—that Hamas fighters were dressed as civilians and being counted as civilians in the death toll—because of a threat to our reporter in Gaza. (The policy was then, and remains, not to inform readers that the story is censored unless the censorship is Israeli. Earlier this month, the AP’s Jerusalem news editor reported and submitted a story on Hamas intimidation; the story was shunted into deep freeze by his superiors and has not been published.)

    But if critics imagine that journalists are clamoring to cover Hamas and are stymied by thugs and threats, it is generally not so. There are many low-risk ways to report Hamas actions, if the will is there: under bylines from Israel, under no byline, by citing Israeli sources. Reporters are resourceful when they want to be.

    The fact is that Hamas intimidation is largely beside the point because the actions of Palestinians are beside the point: Most reporters in Gaza believe their job is to document violence directed by Israel at Palestinian civilians. That is the essence of the Israel story. In addition, reporters are under deadline and often at risk, and many don’t speak the language and have only the most tenuous grip on what is going on. They are dependent on Palestinian colleagues and fixers who either fear Hamas, support Hamas, or both. Reporters don’t need Hamas enforcers to shoo them away from facts that muddy the simple story they have been sent to tell.

    It is not coincidence that the few journalists who have documented Hamas fighters and rocket launches in civilian areas this summer were generally not, as you might expect, from the large news organizations with big and permanent Gaza operations. They were mostly scrappy, peripheral, and newly arrived players—a Finn, an Indian crew, a few others. These poor souls didn’t get the memo.

    What Else Isn’t Important?

    The fact that Israelis quite recently elected moderate governments that sought reconciliation with the Palestinians, and which were undermined by the Palestinians, is considered unimportant and rarely mentioned. These lacunae are often not oversights but a matter of policy. In early 2009, for example, two colleagues of mine obtained information that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert had made a significant peace offer to the Palestinian Authority several months earlier, and that the Palestinians had deemed it insufficient. This had not been reported yet and it was—or should have been—one of the biggest stories of the year. The reporters obtained confirmation from both sides and one even saw a map, but the top editors at the bureau decided that they would not publish the story.

    Some staffers were furious, but it didn’t help. Our narrative was that the Palestinians were moderate and the Israelis recalcitrant and increasingly extreme. Reporting the Olmert offer—like delving too deeply into the subject of Hamas—would make that narrative look like nonsense. And so we were instructed to ignore it, and did, for more than a year and a half.

    This decision taught me a lesson that should be clear to consumers of the Israel story: Many of the people deciding what you will read and see from here view their role not as explanatory but as political. Coverage is a weapon to be placed at the disposal of the side they like.

    How Is the Israel Story Framed?

    The Israel story is framed in the same terms that have been in use since the early 1990s—the quest for a “two-state solution.” It is accepted that the conflict is “Israeli-Palestinian,” meaning that it is a conflict taking place on land that Israel controls—0.2 percent of the Arab world—in which Jews are a majority and Arabs a minority. The conflict is more accurately described as “Israel-Arab,” or “Jewish-Arab”—that is, a conflict between the 6 million Jews of Israel and 300 million Arabs in surrounding countries. (Perhaps “Israel-Muslim” would be more accurate, to take into account the enmity of non-Arab states like Iran and Turkey, and, more broadly, 1 billion Muslims worldwide.) This is the conflict that has been playing out in different forms for a century, before Israel existed, before Israel captured the Palestinian territories of Gaza and the West Bank, and before the term “Palestinian” was in use.

    The “Israeli-Palestinian” framing allows the Jews, a tiny minority in the Middle East, to be depicted as the stronger party. It also includes the implicit assumption that if the Palestinian problem is somehow solved the conflict will be over, though no informed person today believes this to be true. This definition also allows the Israeli settlement project, which I believe is a serious moral and strategic error on Israel’s part, to be described not as what it is—one more destructive symptom of the conflict—but rather as its cause.

    A knowledgeable observer of the Middle East cannot avoid the impression that the region is a volcano and that the lava is radical Islam, an ideology whose various incarnations are now shaping this part of the world. Israel is a tiny village on the slopes of the volcano. Hamas is the local representative of radical Islam and is openly dedicated to the eradication of the Jewish minority enclave in Israel, just as Hezbollah is the dominant representative of radical Islam in Lebanon, the Islamic State in Syria and Iraq, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and so forth.

    Hamas is not, as it freely admits, party to the effort to create a Palestinian state alongside Israel. It has different goals about which it is quite open and that are similar to those of the groups listed above. Since the mid 1990s, more than any other player, Hamas has destroyed the Israeli left, swayed moderate Israelis against territorial withdrawals, and buried the chances of a two-state compromise. That’s one accurate way to frame the story.

    An observer might also legitimately frame the story through the lens of minorities in the Middle East, all of which are under intense pressure from Islam: When minorities are helpless, their fate is that of the Yazidis or Christians of northern Iraq, as we have just seen, and when they are armed and organized they can fight back and survive, as in the case of the Jews and (we must hope) the Kurds.

    There are, in other words, many different ways to see what is happening here. Jerusalem is less than a day’s drive from Aleppo or Baghdad, and it should be clear to everyone that peace is pretty elusive in the Middle East even in places where Jews are absent. But reporters generally cannot see the Israel story in relation to anything else. Instead of describing Israel as one of the villages abutting the volcano, they describe Israel as the volcano.

    The Israel story is framed to seem as if it has nothing to do with events nearby because the “Israel” of international journalism does not exist in the same geo-political universe as Iraq, Syria, or Egypt. The Israel story is not a story about current events. It is about something else.

    The Old Blank Screen

    For centuries, stateless Jews played the role of a lightning rod for ill will among the majority population. They were a symbol of things that were wrong. Did you want to make the point that greed was bad? Jews were greedy. Cowardice? Jews were cowardly. Were you a Communist? Jews were capitalists. Were you a capitalist? In that case, Jews were Communists. Moral failure was the essential trait of the Jew. It was their role in Christian tradition—the only reason European society knew or cared about them in the first place.

    Like many Jews who grew up late in the 20th century in friendly Western cities, I dismissed such ideas as the feverish memories of my grandparents. One thing I have learned—and I’m not alone this summer—is that I was foolish to have done so. Today, people in the West tend to believe the ills of the age are racism, colonialism, and militarism. The world’s only Jewish country has done less harm than most countries on earth, and more good—and yet when people went looking for a country that would symbolize the sins of our new post-colonial, post-militaristic, post-ethnic dream-world, the country they chose was this one.

    When the people responsible for explaining the world to the world, journalists, cover the Jews’ war as more worthy of attention than any other, when they portray the Jews of Israel as the party obviously in the wrong, when they omit all possible justifications for the Jews’ actions and obscure the true face of their enemies, what they are saying to their readers—whether they intend to or not—is that Jews are the worst people on earth. The Jews are a symbol of the evils that civilized people are taught from an early age to abhor. International press coverage has become a morality play starring a familiar villain.

    Some readers might remember that Britain participated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the fallout from which has now killed more than three times the number of people ever killed in the Israel-Arab conflict; yet in Britain, protesters furiously condemn Jewish militarism. White people in London and Paris whose parents not long ago had themselves fanned by dark people in the sitting rooms of Rangoon or Algiers condemn Jewish “colonialism.” Americans who live in places called “Manhattan” or “Seattle” condemn Jews for displacing the native people of Palestine. Russian reporters condemn Israel’s brutal military tactics. Belgian reporters condemn Israel’s treatment of Africans. When Israel opened a transportation service for Palestinian workers in the occupied West Bank a few years ago, American news consumers could read about Israel “segregating buses.” And there are a lot of people in Europe, and not just in Germany, who enjoy hearing the Jews accused of genocide.

    You don’t need to be a history professor, or a psychiatrist, to understand what’s going on. Having rehabilitated themselves against considerable odds in a minute corner of the earth, the descendants of powerless people who were pushed out of Europe and the Islamic Middle East have become what their grandparents were—the pool into which the world spits. The Jews of Israel are the screen onto which it has become socially acceptable to project the things you hate about yourself and your own country. The tool through which this psychological projection is executed is the international press.

    Who Cares If the World Gets the Israel Story Wrong?

    Because a gap has opened here between the way things are and the way they are described, opinions are wrong and policies are wrong, and observers are regularly blindsided by events. Such things have happened before. In the years leading to the breakdown of Soviet Communism in 1991, as the Russia expert Leon Aron wrote in a 2011 essay for Foreign Policy, “virtually no Western expert, scholar, official, or politician foresaw the impending collapse of the Soviet Union.” The empire had been rotting for years and the signs were there, but the people who were supposed to be seeing and reporting them failed and when the superpower imploded everyone was surprised.

    And there was the Spanish civil war: “Early in life I had noticed that no event is ever correctly reported in a newspaper, but in Spain, for the first time, I saw newspaper reports which do not bear any relation to the facts, not even the relationship which is implied in an ordinary lie. … I saw, in fact, history being written not in terms of what had happened but of what ought to have happened according to various ‘party lines.’ ” That was George Orwell, writing in 1942.

    Orwell did not step off an airplane in Catalonia, stand next to a Republican cannon, and have himself filmed while confidently repeating what everyone else was saying or describing what any fool could see: weaponry, rubble, bodies. He looked beyond the ideological fantasies of his peers and knew that what was important was not necessarily visible. Spain, he understood, was not really about Spain at all—it was about a clash of totalitarian systems, German and Russian. He knew he was witnessing a threat to European civilization, and he wrote that, and he was right.

    Understanding what happened in Gaza this summer means understanding Hezbollah in Lebanon, the rise of the Sunni jihadis in Syria and Iraq, and the long tentacles of Iran. It requires figuring out why countries like Egypt and Saudi Arabia now see themselves as closer to Israel than to Hamas. Above all, it requires us to understand what is clear to nearly everyone in the Middle East: The ascendant force in our part of the world is not democracy or modernity. It is rather an empowered strain of Islam that assumes different and sometimes conflicting forms, and that is willing to employ extreme violence in a quest to unite the region under its control and confront the West. Those who grasp this fact will be able to look around and connect the dots.

    Israel is not an idea, a symbol of good or evil, or a litmus test for liberal opinion at dinner parties. It is a small country in a scary part of the world that is getting scarier. It should be reported as critically as any other place, and understood in context and in proportion. Israel is not one of the most important stories in the world, or even in the Middle East; whatever the outcome in this region in the next decade, it will have as much to do with Israel as World War II had to do with Spain. Israel is a speck on the map—a sideshow that happens to carry an unusual emotional charge.

    Many in the West clearly prefer the old comfort of parsing the moral failings of Jews, and the familiar feeling of superiority this brings them, to confronting an unhappy and confusing reality. They may convince themselves that all of this is the Jews’ problem, and indeed the Jews’ fault. But journalists engage in these fantasies at the cost of their credibility and that of their profession. And, as Orwell would tell us, the world entertains fantasies at its peril.
    Somewhat related: http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/1834...new-york-times

    Then again, even if the coverage is absurdly awful, I do recall what a friend of mine wrote. He headed up the IDF Spokesperson's office for the N. American desk during the latest war, and when discussing double standards in the press and world, he said, more or less "Bring it on." Obviously Israel has no issue with being expected to be better than the likes of Hamas, or Iran, or Russia - they pride themselves on that. But it goes further; it appears that Israel is expected to hold to a far higher standard than that practiced by the most sophisticated Western militaries in the world, notably the Americans and Brits. In a single day of urban combat in Mogadishu some 20-odd years ago, the US military killed several thousand Somalis, including uncounted civilians. This was a single engagement of less than a day involving a few hundred lightly-equipped troops. When Israel invades Gaza in a 50-day campaign with tens of thousands of troops, heavy armor/artillery, and massive airpower, they end up with similar total civilian and military casualties to a single day of high intensity urban combat by US forces. The comparisons hardly stop at Mogadishu - look at Fallujah, drone strikes in the AfPak region, etc. Israel has gone much further than any other power in a similar situation to minimize collateral damage, so it seems unfair to be accused of war crimes. Double standards do abound.

    So what did my friend mean? I think his argument was that Israel must always be willing to examine its own actions in the highly critical light of Western media and governments. Maybe they were more careful than anyone else, and maybe the war was fought in an unprecedentedly careful manner. Yet still a lot of people died, obfuscation by Hamas and the press aside. And many of those people were blameless. Demanding Israel should live up to impossible standards is perhaps unfair, but I think he was saying Israel should relish the challenge. They can always be better, and a double standard has its advantages in always reminding you that you're supposed to be better than the bar set by the rest of the world.

    Doesn't mean I liked the coverage of this, of course, but it is food for thought.

  27. #447
    Administrator Dreadnaught's Avatar
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    I think that's putting a brave face on things. For some reason it makes me think of the theory of unilateral disarmament.

    Or, at least, it's a cold comfort when the mobs attack synagogues in Paris and the youths turn up their noses for the umpteenth time in Berlin.

  28. #448
    Quote Originally Posted by Dreadnaught View Post
    I think that's putting a brave face on things. For some reason it makes me think of the theory of unilateral disarmament.

    Or, at least, it's a cold comfort when the mobs attack synagogues in Paris and the youths turn up their noses for the umpteenth time in Berlin.
    Well, yes. That's why I couched it all in qualifiers. My friend is right in that a lively debate and critical eye is necessary to make sure the IDF and Israeli government are kept to the high standards they set themselves. There shouldn't be uncritical acceptance of what the IDF says they do; there should be journalists and citizens who demand proof and aggressively go after isolated violations and lapses in judgment. A culture of impunity should never be allowed to develop, just because they pride themselves on using high standards.

    That doesn't mean, however, that the vitriol directed at Israel is in any way justified. There's a not-too-fine line between double standards and outright bias, and most of the media reportage on this fell on the wrong side of that line - the two pieces I posted above are hardly isolated. Certainly the popular response in the Arab world and elsewhere (e.g. most of Europe) was not nuanced in the slightest and did not have such high-minded ideals in mind when criticizing Israel's operation. But that doesn't mean that Israel should completely reject criticism and discussion and, yes, double standards. And I don't think they do - there's a lively debate inside Israel on all of these issues, there's always ongoing legal disputes brought by Israeli NGOs against the IDF and government, and Israel engages with their critics with a vast barrage of data. I think that's a good thing, even if their critics in the broader world have ulterior motives for their bias.

  29. #449
    Senior Member Flixy's Avatar
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    Keep on keepin' the beat alive!

  30. #450
    Administrator Dreadnaught's Avatar
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    The funny thing is, does anyone think blood would actually work for making bread dough? I mean, it's got plenty of water but also plenty of other stuff in it. Also, the matzah laced with oxidized iron would almost certainly make the matzah red instead of eerily white.

    Trust me, I tried when I lived in Gaza.

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