Tuesday, November 20, 2012
The issue you can't talk about
As a commenter who wandered over from Informed Comment to berate me on the previous post illustrates, and as David Atkins here laments, there are reasons - not exactly good ones, but reasons - why bloggers are wary of writing about the Israel-Palestine thing.
Nevertheless, I'll take a chance. First of all, just so you know, I was at one time professionally involved in Middle East related activism, as staffperson for an organization called the Lebanon Emergency Committee. This was a coalition formed in the Boston area following the invasion of Lebanon by Israel in 1982, in pursuit of the PLO. Yes, we wanted Israel out of Lebanon, among other objectives for both the Lebanese and the Palestinian people. Unfortunately neither has fared all that well since.
The fact is, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, and the Israeli settlements there, are in violation of international law and several United Nations resolutions. There is a vast imbalance in power between Israel and Palestine, and the Palestinian people are simply being crushed, politically and economically, by a movement of settlers, mostly from Europe, who claim that God gave them the land on which the Palestinians have lived from time immemorial, and who are slowly, relentlessly, exercising this utterly absurd claim.
That's the basic reality. Are there Palestinians who deny Israel's right to exist? Certainly. But the international consensus since at least the 1960s, to which the Fatah leadership is committed, is that there should be two states.
I personally do not believe that in the modern world, we should be promoting nation states based on religio-ethnic identity at all. However, Israel is a fact, and there's no way to go back. Justice cannot be established in the past, but only in the future. And future justice demands that Israel uproot the settlements, leave the West Bank, and let the Palestinians work out their own future. Israel possesses an absolutely overwhelming advantage of military force and economic power. The country is in no existential danger. Any claim to the contrary is nonsense.
Those are among the starting points for any sensible discussion. And by the way, my comment that so provoked our guest was to condemn Hamas for launching rockets at Israel. This post, if noticed, will attract even greater outrage, I expect, from the opposite direction. As Atkins says, you can't win.