last updated 12/14/2003

Ok, I don't want to turn this into the Debate Israel site, but Israel seems to excite a lot of passion (there's a surprise), and every post gets more responses. I've taken three of them and put them up along with my responses, however I honestly intend this to be my last Israel commentary for a while. So next week, write in and suggest other non-controversial topics for debate (like whether cats are better than dogs--even though everyone knows dogs are better).
From: Bernie M.
Subject: Hamas
Date: Thu, 30 Jan 2003

It was a poor choice to single out Hamas as "not an enemy of the United States", since Hamas is the mortal enemy of Israel. As an American I strongly support the Jews in Israel and I feel it was poor taste to use Hamas as an example of terrorists who "don't matter" to U.S. interests.

Bernie M.

You shouldn't selectively quote me, Bernie. What I said was "Hamas, for example, does use terrorism, but that does not necessarily make them an enemy of the United States." Note the words "not necessarily." But in any case, how does Hamas being a mortal enemy of Israel automatically make them an enemy of us? My loyalties are complex, but they certainly do not require me to take Israel's side in every struggle, and why should the rest of America be any different. I am an American, not an Israeli. If Israel's government has policies I support, I would then favor the United States helping them; if not, I would feel decidedly less supportive. I feel the same way about other American allies, such as France, Britain, or Japan. Is that poor taste?

All that said, I think Hamas is a pretty nasty organization.
From: JM
Date: Thu, 30 Jan 2003
Subject: (no subject)

it is amazing that you could be so on base in regards to ann, and so off base in regards to the israeli palestinian situation. lots of words, you just have no clue. you just do not get it, so i will try to lay it out in very simple terms: 1948 united nations mandate, two states, one arab, one jewish. one side accepts, one side does not, in reality there is very little difference today, then in 1948,

in order to have peace, you have to want peace,
grow up

Very simple answers are usually wrong.

Here are some riffs on your terms:

In 1948 the United Nations, under heavy American and Israeli lobbying, voted to divide Palestine into two states. Jews made up 37% of the population but were given 55% of the land. Within the 55% allocated to the new Israeli state there were 500,000 Jews and almost 400,000 Arabs. The Arabs thought they were getting a raw deal. Those crazy Arabs.

Today Israeli settlers are moving into the West Bank and Gaza. I'm sure they don't mean all that stuff they spout about wanting to annex large chunks of both areas. But those Arabs still are peevish.

The interesting thing about keeping a close watch on Israeli debates is that you see a great deal more openness to the Palestinian point of view among Israeli leftists than you do among most American commentators (an example being the article by David Grossman that I included at the end of Israel Pt 1).
I know, I know, I keep publishing Andrew's letters, but he seems like a nice guy. For a conservative. Lawyer. Hmmm.

From: Andrew McKinney
To: "''"
Subject: Israel For Beginners, Part 2
Date: Thu, 30 Jan 2003 18:21:03 -0600

Dear Carl:

First disclosure, if I were Jewish, I would be a Zionist myself. The central justification for a Jewish state is the Holocaust and the vast pan-European complicity in that unbelievable horror. It is without precedent in scope, i.e. rounding up Jews in every country from Russia to France with the willing aid of far too many locals. Europe still has a lot to answer for.

Second disclosure, I am conservative and considerably more hawkish than you.
Now, to the merits: the present intifada, by all accounts, comes as a result of Sharon's trip to the Temple Mount. That is to say, a man went someplace, hung around for less than a day, and left. And for this, war is waged? Isn't that just a bit of an over-reaction? Just a bit unbalanced? What kind of person, much less an entire population, comes so unhinged over a visit by someone to some place that they would commit murder and give their own lives? Its like some kind of bizarre youth gang feud run totally amok. Would Israel bomb the West Bank for two or three years running if Yassar Arafat visited the Wailing Wall? No civilized, rational people would do what has been done in the name of avenging the visit by Sharon. Near contemporaneous with the intifada was an offer of peace from Barak to Arafat that was as good a deal as anyone could have hoped for. Arafat took a powder. Arafat has yet to offer a concrete assurance that Israel can continue to exist, and no other Palestinian leader has offered a lasting peace with Israel. Conventional Palestinian thinking on this subject is the Jews must leave, period. There are, of course, a few Palestinians with no following who offer reason and accommodation, but those are the exceptions, the very limited exceptions. It is a proven fact that Arabs and Palestinians can lively safely in a Jewish state. No one seriously argues that Jews could live safely in any Arab country today, and certainly not in a country run by Arafat, Hamas or Hezbollah. The Israeli Jews have no where to go, so they must stay. This is a given. There will be no right of return for Palestinians on the West Bank or in the Gaza strip and Israel will remain a Jewish country. These are the facts. They won't change. The question is whether the Palestinians can reconcile themselves to this reality. It is a 'yes' or 'no' answer, with 'no' signaling war to the finish. The Israelis will win, at high cost, and no one will be the better for it. What is needed is some degree of reason from the Palestinians. As biased as I am, I am certain that any objective party would find the Israelis much more prone to reason and peaceful resolution than the present Palestinian leadership and, seemingly, a goodly portion of the Palestinian population. The problem is: how do you reason with people who go to the functional equivalent of war because someone they don't like goes to a place they don't want that person to go, even though he leaves shortly thereafter? Where is the common ground with people like that? As a smart, intellectually honest guy with some addled thoughts and weird biases (that goes with being a Lefty), I look forward to your response should you have the time to reply.

Best regards.
Andrew McKinney
Houston, Texas

For starters, Andy bubie, you say that "Europe still has a lot to answer for." Ok, I agree totally. But why do the Palestinians have to pay for Europe's crimes?

Moving along, you must know that Sharon's walk did not create the intifada, it merely irresponsibly triggered it. It'd be equally wrong to say that the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand in 1914 was the cause of World War One. Both actions were merely the matches thrown into a pile of very flammable munitions. What has caused the current intifada is many things, including many years of steadily advancing Israel occupation.

Check out this map created by the Israeli organization Peace Now. It shows all the Jewish settlements dotted throughout the West Bank and Gaza. Most of these settlements have large perimeters, despite their relatively small populations, infringing on Arab lands. The roads leading to and from the settlements are patrolled by the Israeli army and are usually restricted. Cars with Israeli license plates cruise on through, Palestinians cars are either forbidden or are forced to stop at numerous humilitiating checkpoints (the lines at these check points can be hours long). And the settlements themselves are clear symbols of the settlers intention of annexing the West Bank and Gaza. It is in this apartheid context (and I've only brushed the surface) that the Palestinians "over-reacted." If you'd like to see a little more, I suggest you rent the movie "Promises." It's a lovely and heart-breaking documentary made by an American Jew about two groups of Palestinian and Israeli kids meeting with each other over the course of a few years (before the recent violence).

I'll agree that making such a big deal over a mosque seems a bit silly to me, but then I'm a godless lefty. I think the Jews getting all worked about the Wailing Wall is foolish too. Ditto for Mecca, Bethlehem, Mount Fuji, and any other religious symbol you can name. But I do understand that others think differently and I try to respect that reality as long as nobody is getting killed as a result.

Now you say that Arafat hasn't offered any assurance that Israel has the right to exist. Take this paragraph from an OpEd piece written by Arafat in February 3, 2002's New York Times.

But first, let me be very clear. I condemn the attacks carried out by terrorist groups against Israeli civilians. These groups do not represent the Palestinian people or their legitimate aspirations for freedom. They are terrorist organizations, and I am determined to put an end to their activities. The Palestinian vision of peace is an independent and viable Palestinian state on the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, living as an equal neighbor alongside Israel with peace and security for both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. In 1988, the Palestine National Council adopted a historic resolution calling for the implementation of applicable United Nations resolutions, particularly, Resolutions 242 and 338. The Palestinians recognized Israel's right to exist on 78 percent of historical Palestine with the understanding that we would be allowed to live in freedom on the remaining 22 percent, which has been under Israeli occupation since 1967. Our commitment to that two-state solution remains unchanged, but unfortunately, also remains unreciprocated.

You don't have to believe him, but he did say it, and was backed by the Palestinian Council.

As for the rest of your points, I think I've pretty much answered them in Israel for Beginners Parts 1 and 2. Remember, it was an Israeli fanatic who assassinated an Israeli prime minister who looked like he was going to make peace. It was a group of Israelis who plotted to blow up the mosque on the Temple Mount. You call the Israelis reasonable but you must know that most of those 200,000 Israeli settlers (along with their supporters back in Israel) want to annex much or all of the West Bank and Gaza. And seems to me that Prime Minister Sharon is only paying lip service to the idea of peace, he wants to annex as much as the settlers who adore him. (Just this morning I was talking to a young Israeli student in one of my classes who was disgusted with Sharon's victory and its implications for Israel's future.)

Peace will only possible when the vast majority of Palestinians give up on violence AND the Israelis show themselves willing to give the Palestinians an autonomous state, something which has not yet happened. I think one possibility is to follow Labour Party leader Amram Mitzna's plan and simply withdraw from most of the West Bank and Gaza. This would not lead to immediate peace but it would end the greatest source of anger for Palestinians: the presence of 200,000 settlers whose goal is clearly to annex large chunks of the West Bank and Gaza. Sadly Mitzna lost the election.

I admit I'm not optimistic. Fanatics on both sides are dedicated to sabotaging any peace arrangement. The moderates are being shouted down and the only slim hope is for a big outside broker, the United States, to jam a deal down their throats. But that ain't likely to happen. So the bloodshed continues.
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