Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict discussion

Israel/Palestine Conflict

Comments Showing 1-24 of 24 (24 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

message 1: by Xysea (new) - added it

Xysea Continued from my God Delusion thread here:

No hitting below the belt, and may the best person win!

Abigail's Post:

Wow! I've been following along with this thread, and there are so many things I want to address, that I don't know where to begin. Oh for the simplicity of the religion vs. atheism debate! :)

First of all, this is an issue which arouses an astonishing amount of passion, in people of all persuasions. I realize that this is a statement of the obvious, but I mention it because I believe that unexamined anger is an invitation to unreason. And frankly, I see it on all sides of this debate. I have friends who are vehement critics of Israel and her policies, who toss out words like "fascism" far too freely for my comfort. I also have friends whose unquestioning support of Israel is so complete and impenetrable that no fact can dent their hardened sense of superiority. It makes me want to gnash my teeth!

As I believe that we are all influenced (though not necessarily defined) by our background and upbringing, I will make the following disclosure: I am the daughter of progressive Christians, and grew up in an environment of social activism. My father is a clergyman, and through his various friendships on ecumenical councils, I grew up in an atmosphere of great religious tolerance. My father married a woman outside of his own church, actually, but that is another story...

I can remember eating Passover dinner at the house of one of my father's Rabbi friends. I can also remember the stories that another friend's wife would tell of her visits to the Occupied Territories. She was an eye doctor, and involved with Doctors Without Borders. I can vividly recall the pictures and stories she brought back, of children with their eyes shot out by those "harmless" plastic bullets, and of the terrible human rights situation in general. It made a lasting impression upon me, and other than the Apartheid state (my family had sponsored a black South African minister in the US, who worked with my father), it was probably the international situation about which I felt the most strongly.

I mention all of this, so that you will understand that when I eventually reached high school, and mentioned some of the human rights violations committed by Israel in a social studies class, only to be ridiculed and accused of anti-Semitism by some of my Jewish classmates, I was horrified. All the more so since some of these students would have been the first to denounce these types of violations if they were committed by any other state. I can be a very stubborn person however, and had always been taught to fight for what I believe in, so the more I was persecuted for my beliefs, the more entrenched they became, and the angrier I grew.

Those who deny that many American Jews use the accusation of anti-Semitism as a diversionary tactic, in an effort to silence criticism and shut down debate, are, quite frankly, deluding themselves. I am personally acquainted with a high school social studies teacher who had trash burned on his lawn by members of "Friends of Israel" for daring to suggest in his class that this conflict has two sides. This is not an urban legend folks, I myself have witnessed actions like these.

All of which is to say, I passed into my adulthood with the strongly-held belief that the accusation of anti-Semitism against critics of Israel was a mere sophistry, thrown out by unethical people with no real counter-argument. I'm afraid that nothing could have really moved me from this position at the time, because it was based not just in belief, but in my lived experience. If challenged, I would have argued to the end that my views were just and rational, based upon the facts, and nothing but the facts.

Now I am a little older, and (hopefully) a little wiser. I know now that sometimes, despite all our better intentions, our "vision" is clouded by emotions that are so reflexive, we can't always perceive their influence. It has been my good fortune in recent years to become friends with a wonderful Jewish woman, who also happens to be a staunch supporter of Israel. Sometimes I find myself irritated by her unquestioning acceptance of certain ideas, but she is always willing to discuss the issue, and does not condemn me for holding different views. Most importantly, she does me the justice of not making assumptions about my motives.

It is extraordinary how being listened to with respect will open a discussion to the possibilities of real communication. This is not some facile, sentimental, "feel-good," or wishy-washy platitude. I learned things from my friend that no one else could have taught me. When I realized that certain statements I would have previously dismissed sounded quite reasonable from her mouth, I was genuinely shocked. I realized that my own faculty for reason was not as unassailable as I had assumed, that perhaps anger WAS a part of my position...

I am neither Israeli or Palestinian, neither Jewish nor Muslim, and I have no concrete ties, of family or deep friendship, to the Middle East. If I have been led astray by anger, in connection with this issue, then I think most other people have as well... Dispute this, as you please.

Now: I hope that this long personal reflection hasn't turned anyone off, because I do have some concrete things to say. The most important concern in any situation, for me anyway, is that human rights are protected. This is the lens through which I examine all international (and domestic) affairs. As an organization that criticizes almost everyone, I find that Human Rights Watch is, generally speaking, a very creditable source of information. I recently slogged through their 2007 World Report, and I think that both supporters and critics of Israel might be surprised at some of the content contained therein.

Critics of Israel will be glad to know that Israel's gross violation of human rights, and disregard for international law are (quite rightly) condemned. Supporters of Israel will be pleased to note that the report repeatedly points out (both in the introductory essay and in the section on the Middle East) that the international criticism of Israel, as it concerns human rights, has been disproportionate to their actions. I was dismayed to hear that the UN Human Rights Council managed to draft three resolutions on Israel in their first year of existence, but failed entirely to take action on situations ranging from Darfur to Burma (a name I use intentionally...). Such outright imbalance seems incomprehensible to me, until one learns the identity of the member-states on the council. Regardless, such unbalanced action reeks of bias.

I still believe that many accusations of anti-Semitism against critics of Israel are specious. But I also think that it is readily apparent that something other than a "pure" interest in justice and human welfare is motivating many critics on the left right now. What else could this be, other than anti-Semitism? Isn't complexity uncomfortable...

Paul's Post:

Hi Abigail - thanks for your interesting message anyway, even if we aren't going to pursue that issue. one little tiny comment from me - in my life I have thought I would never see the end of the USSR without violence, and the end of apartheid without a massive civil war, and the end of the civil war in Ireland. Yet all these things happened.


message 2: by [deleted user] (new)

Israel had the unfortunate luck to have been formed AFTER all the OTHER nations had finished their ethnic cleansing (like our work on the Native Americans).

message 3: by Xysea (new) - added it

Xysea I have an abhorrence for anyone possessing the worldview that everyone would be better off if only X race or religion did not exist.

And yet, we sit by and watch most of these things unfold right before our very eyes and act as if we are powerless to stop it.

message 4: by Ruth (new)

Ruth Hmm, I'll check it out. I seldom read the Times Business Section. Or any other Business section for that matter.

message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

Sorry. Other WESTERN nations. Many of the African and Middle Eastern countries haven't gotten the hang of nationalism yet and still follow tribal lines more than national boundaries. Thanks to our Western colonial forefathers and foremothers, again.

message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

See? That's what I'm talkin' about. I've seen HORDES of Iranians here. I love it.

message 7: by Xysea (last edited Jan 02, 2008 12:34PM) (new) - added it

Xysea Ginnie:

Thanks for the article. I had to snort at this part: "But Goodreads seems to be mostly under Tehran's radar..." and I thought, "Not anymore..."


I interpreted Brendan's comment slightly differently, meaning that the Jewish State was formed only after several Western countries had almost successfully ethnically cleansed Jews from their midsts.

It's possible, however, that I am merely using my own frame of reference there and it isn't what he meant at all...

Edited for clarity.

message 8: by Xysea (new) - added it

Xysea Ha! Abigail, SNAP! We said almost the same thing, at the same time.


message 9: by [deleted user] (last edited Jan 02, 2008 12:51PM) (new)

No, let me be clear: Israel is under greater scrutiny in the Western World for its hamhanded abuse and violence against its hateful neighbors and ex-natives because the brutal nation-building in the Western World was over by the 20th century. No new nations. New governments, new enemies. No new countries.

The world would have been better off if the Jews could build a nation in the Middle East--or anywhere else--but nobody wanted them. So they chose their ancient homeland. The Arab farmers didn't mind them there as long as there weren't TOO many. When there were, the Arabs would periodically massacre Jews there to show the British and the world they didn't want any more Jews piling up there. Some Jews retaliated with violence. (Ultimately, I'm proud of the fledgling Israeli government which blew up ITS OWN CITIZENS in a boat off the coast when they found out they were arms to be used by a Jewish terrorist organization.) When the British jumped ship and the UN gave the thumbs-up to a two-state solution, the Arabs and proto-Palestinians said NO WAY. We'll kill all the Jews and drive them into the sea! The Jews said, all right. We'll set up shop here, you set up shop there...but we can't have you in OUR new country because you're TRYING TO KILL US. Thus, the war between ALL THE ARAB COUNTRIES and Israel ... which Israel was expected to lose. Israel won. And there began the troubles. The Palestinians had fled their homeland out of fear of the Jewish army or on promises from the Arab nations that they'd win and could return. Now they're stuck: The Arab nations wouldn't take them in when the Tragedy happened or the Palestinians didn't want to leave. Thus festered a population of Israel-despising, Jew-hating suicide bombers and poorly armed militants.

And here we are! The modernized nation of Israel, predominantly but not exclusively Jewish, can't swing open its borders or give over territories for fear of rocket attacks--which are guaranteed to happen. What do we do?

Deal with what IS. Would you have the Israelis leave Israel? To go where? No one took the Jews 60 years ago, and they won't do it now. Would you have the Israelis give back all the territory they won in the Yom Kippur War? Then who will stop the rocket attacks that pummel the "lawful" country of Israel?

What's to be done?The Arab and Muslim countries won't step up and help the Palestinians. Israel gives more money to the Palestinians than any other nation--and justifiably! They're refugees of a war fought over land Israel now occupies. But wars are fought, people lose ... and there it is. Now what? Israel's not going anywhere, and they can't let up on the Palestinians because it'll just mean dead Israelis. WE lost two buildings in downtown at ONE TIME and launched TWO nation-crushing wars on the other side of the world. Israel has sat on its hands while the Palestinians have launched attack after attack on illegal settlements as well as legally occupied areas.

It's a hard, hard situation all around. The Palestinians need help. The Israelis need help securing their borders. Just leaving the territories will kill Israelis. Staying clamped down on the Palestinians will kill Palestinians. So there you have it. Survival. People are trying to survive, and they have to come to a compromise. I hope they do. As a studious Jew, I sympathize more with the Jews than the Arabs. But that doesn't mean I condone what the Israeli government or the Israeli people do in all cases. And neither does the Israeli government or the Israeli people; there is MUCH opposition arguing in that country. But, as in this country, if someone suggests we should give back land that will mean dead bodies the day after it's relinquished, well ... no one will dare to do it in Israel, in America, in Iran, or anywhere else in the world.

May God or gods or whatever bless that region and find a way for the Israeli Jews, the Israeli Arabs, and the Palestinian Arabs to live in peace.

NOTE: Edited with more information.

message 10: by Xysea (new) - added it

Xysea Thanks, Brendan, for your clarification. That helps.

Yes, a lot of the empirism and nation-building has been completed. So, in that respect you are right: Any nation-building that is going on now will have the greater scrutiny of the world.

Are you inferring that the scrutiny is greater towards Israel than it would be to another country, because of this?

message 11: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant Brendan, what can I say, I don't disagree with a word of that. (Except a quibble, there was a lot of ethnic cleansing when Yugoslavia broke apart in the 1990s - indeed, that's where the term was first used). I would like to mention here that Philip Roth wrote a fabulously funny and completely outrageous novel called Operation Shylock in which a character called Philip Roth makes a lecture tour of Israel preaching the doctrine of Diasporism, the message of which is : Jews, leave Israel now! Go back to your real homeland, central Europe! It's safe there, whereas Israel now is the most dangerous place on earth, the last place you should be! Wake up Jews!
Back in the real world, the intractability of the Palestinian problem is made so much more so since as I've said elsewhere it is the peg on which all the jihadis hang their grievances, which makes it willy nilly part of the even greater conflict between Islam and the West, a conflict which cannot be wished away, alas; and because of its political and geographical situation Israel is perforce seen by the USA (and itself?) as the bulwark for the West against Iraq, Iran and Syria. Hence the tacit secret arming of Israel with nuclear weapons.
All of this stuff is nearly enough to send me off to read the Da Vinci Code. But not quite.

message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

For God's sake, Paul, NOTHING is enough to send one off to read THAT. If you want conspiracy theory, try this DVD review of mine. It's good fun!

Sad that people take it for REAL, but, y'know, FUN!

message 13: by Paul (new)

message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

No, the New World Order people are funny. The neo-Nazis aren't. Icky! I told my wife I was fascinated that one of the video games produced by the skinheads had a part where you raid a synagogue and kill the rat-faced Jews inside. Uhhh, yeah.

message 15: by Charissa (new)

Charissa Brendan... thank you so much for doing the hard work of laying all that history and perspective down so eloquently. A much better job than I could have done, I'm sure. And with much less swearing.

I live in the middle of the Left Coast, in the North San Francisco Bay Area. I'm so very very very very tired of hearing the Left go on about the horrible Israelis and the poor put-upon Palestinians. I have very little patience left around the issue. Mostly because the liberals I have encountered are so poorly informed about the facts. The only saving grace is that I used to think the same way as they do, by and large, and therefore understand how you can hold such beliefs so passionately (simply because they *seem* right) and be so dramatically misguided. But ultimately the liberals who hold that perspective bother more than people who are simply blatant Jew haters. Mainly because so many of them are so insufferably morally superior about it. I can't even tell you how many times I have been called a "republican" a "conservative" a "hawk" or a "fascist" for talking in support of Israel. Or, my favorite, "a Nazi Kike". Not even kidding about that one.

So... thanks. And... it's the minority of skinheads who are neo-Nazis. Most skinheads are SHARP (skinheads against racial prejudice). Unfortunately the skinheads who were given most of the press coverage were the neo-Nazi minority.

message 16: by Xysea (new) - added it

Xysea Charissa,

I don't think anyone here believes you shouldn't support Israel, if you do.

I think, what I can tell from the comments, is that people don't support a blind view towards Israel - that its position is all right, and the Palestinian position is all wrong.

Most thinking people do realize that there is criticism that can be leveled at both sides in this issue.

I don't feel I am poorly informed about the facts. I worked in an Orthodox Jewish household for a long time in my late teens and 20s; I studied poli sci in college, and I read avidly and prodigiously. I have many Jewish friends and we discuss this topic regularly; they don't seem to think I'm ill-informed or acting morally superior. And I don't feel I've come to my views out of any latent anti-Semitism, or any need to feel intellectually superior.

I guess I'm just unsure why you are not accepting of criticism towards Israel. Should they be allowed to do whatever they want, whenever they want and in whatever way they want - without criticism from the rest of the world? What other country is permitted such luxury of position?

I think, at the end of it all, some people believe the ends justify the means. In some cases, during this conflict, the Israeli government has demonstrated an adherence to this kind of Machiavellian philosophy - and I don't care who the govt is, or what ethnicity or religion it is, I cannot get on board with that kind of thinking or behavior.

message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

I completely understand and respect that, Xysea. I think I'd just like people around the world to think what their country and life would be like if they were Israelis and Palestinians. Sympathetic to both sides. In our comfy First World digs with weak and docile neighbors, it's easy to forget there are places where it's not as easy to be nice to people. Hell, we had WAY more liberty to be nice to the Native Americans than Israelis have of being nice to the Palestinians, and we didn't avail ourselves of the opportunity. So we're successful in our country as Americans because the Native Americans weren't successful. I hate it, but sometimes the world really IS a zero-sum game. Sometimes we CAN'T all just get along.

message 18: by Xysea (new) - added it

Xysea Our utter failure with the Native American peoples, from our disrespect of their beliefs to our ethnic cleansing (whether deliberate or accidental) of the populations, should serve as a warning beacon to those who would propose the same.

I would not suggest doing the same to either the Israelis or the Palestinians.

message 19: by Xysea (new) - added it

Xysea Ginnie,

I caught glimpses of it, but didn't watch it all the way through. What I did see of it, though, was mesmerizing.

You're right about the history angle, though.

message 20: by Charissa (new)

Charissa I believe in my multiple comments on this subject that I have quite explicitly stated that one of the many reasons I sympathize with the Israeli cause more is that they are self-critical and self-policing. I believe I have also stated quite explicitly that they are not perfect, that they have made mistakes. I believe I have also quite explicitly stated that the situation is, in fact, a tragedy all around.

By saying that I am tired of dealing with the liberal Left here where I live around this issue I am not accusing anyone here of anything. I told Monica that I thought her facts were askew. If I want to say anything about anyone on this thread I would do so directly. Please do not take my general statements personally, they are not intended as such.

I don't feel that it is wrong to have empathy for the Palestinian people on an individual basis. I have a great deal of empathy for any people whose great misfortune it was to be born into such a FUBAR situation, through no fault of their own. However, I make a strong distinction between individual people and a nation or organization. When I refer to "Palestinians" I refer to an organization that operates not as individuals, but as a mob which subscribes to a set of ideals. When I refer to Israel I speak of the nation which acts on another set of ideals and convictions. Palestine does not exist as a nation at this time, which is why they are put in quotation marks. If they become a state I will stop putting them in quotation marks.

It is beyond obvious to me that the plight of individuals in the situation is a miserable one. It's as obvious as saying "war is bad" or "peace is good". Believing that peace is good doesn't help resolve the situation, and it masks deeper and more complex issues.

At this point I have spent the past seven years researching the Middle East extensively, both in terms of it's history and current events. After adding up all the information I have been able to gather and process over that time, including many debates with people on both sides of the issue, I have determined for myself that I unconditionally support Israel. There are so many factors that went into that determination that it is much too time consuming to go into it here. I have had this debate so many times I grow weary of explaining myself. It's just so very very very complex. However, I still feel compelled to speak up when I feel Israel is being grossly misrepresented.

Perhaps I should, for my own sanity, spend some time writing my own treatise on why I support Israel. Then I could just copy and paste it into situations like this and have done with it. Or hand a copy of it to people who I encounter in a 3D situation.

message 21: by Charissa (new)

Charissa Thanks Ko. Yes, perhaps "unconditionally" is a strong term... but I literally cannot think of something that Israel would feasibly do at this point that would change my support of them. If they behaved as a nation and a culture the way that Arab states do then I would probably stop supporting them... however, they do not, and I cannot imagine them ever doing so. So, on that basis, my support for them as a nation is, in fact, unconditional. Even if they felt it necessary to use a nuclear weapon against another nation I would expect it was a legitimate decision, arrived upon by painstaking debate and moral agonizing.


message 22: by Paul (new)

Paul Bryant How tortuous is this topic may be observed in this fine review of Norman Finkelstein's The Holocaust Industry. It's by Abby, and I think it fits in our discussion very well:

"Norm Finkelstein thoroughly documented a phenomenon that has been nagging at me for a while now, which is the exploitation of the history of persecution of the Jews. As the oldest grandchild of Holocaust survivors, I have never questioned the horrors that my grandparents experienced. What Professor Finkelstein documents is how this horror has been used as a muzzle and a tool, in ways more extreme than I had even realized.

When I began advocating for human rights in Israel and Palestine, I realized that the Holocaust was one of the sharpest weapons in the "Anti-Semitism" defense that supporters of Israel's current policies throw at anyone who dares suggest that maybe, just maybe, Israel should: obey the laws of war or indeed any international law,and question whether the whole "Jewish state" concept might be a bit discriminatory on its face and in its enforcement. We say, "The IDF shouldn't have shot that 12 year old Palestinian in the head," and we hear, "The Israeli state must be strong, 'they' want to exterminate the Jews." A terrifying thought, if true, but even the most horrid Palestinian terror acts bear no semblence to the system of European pograms, discriminatory laws, and mass murder. (As my grandmother, a survivor of the Lodz ghetto, observed, it is the Occupied Palestinian territories that look a bit like the ghetto. . . And it was an IDF commander who admitted to taking tactics from the Nazis, not a Palestinian militant.)

What made me feel a little more ill is Professor Finkelstein's detailed accounts of how Holocaust litigation has been focused against Swiss banks (even though American and even Israeli banks took Jewish assets during WWII and haven't returned them), how this litigation is framed (as restitution and remedy for needy Holocaust survivors), and where the money goes (not to my grandma, or Norm's parents, but to the Holocaust industry museums and of course Zionist institutions.) "

message 23: by Charissa (new)

Charissa Abigail,

I was not aware that you had directed a specific question at me. If so, please repost it so that I can attempt to formulate a direct answer to you.

I'm not angry about Israel and Palestine... it's not personal enough for me to be angry about. It doesn't directly effect my life any more than it effects the lives of other Americans. I have Jewish friends, I have Muslim friends, I have Christian friends, I have atheist friends. I am opposed to fundamentalism of any kind, including Jewish fundamentalism. I find certain aspects of how the Jewish faith is practiced appalling. However, it is my observation that there is a marked difference between the state of Israel and Arab states with respect to their underarching set of ethics. I cannot support the underarching ethics which drive Muslim countries. Period. I can support the underarching ethics which drive the state of Israel. Period.

It is not up to me to micro-manage their choices in how they conduct their war for existence in a harsh land, surrounded by enemies on all sides.

You can disagree with me... you can say you don't understand how I can hold that perspective. That is your prerogative. Are you hoping that I will work to convince you of my opinion? Or are you simply genuinely trying to understand how I arrived at that position, considering that I seem to be an otherwise rational human being?

I don't mind just agreeing to disagree with you. I don't see how fairness comes into any of this. We are all busy people with busy lives and other priorities. I have to make choices about the way I spend my time and energy. Why that seems unfair to you I'm uncertain.

Finally, I will reiterate what someone else said earlier in this discussion (Paul? Brendan?)... that international criticism of Israel is, and always has been, completely out of proportion to their actions... and out of proportion to the criticism which is leveled at the actions of the Arab states. Therefore, I am not interested in engaging in further criticism of Israel. There are plenty of other people who have that covered.

message 24: by Charissa (new)

Charissa Abagail... thanks for the clarification. I will sit with all this for a while and hopefully find some time to honor this debate with a more complete post. I meant my paragraph at the end of #28 to indicate that I might try and write a complete analysis of arrival at my current POV, not as an excuse to bugger off without explaining myself.

However, I do think it is within all of our rights here to take stands with or without engaging in further debates about those stands. It's an open forum... there are no rules of engagement really. I appreciate that people seem to refrain from becoming petty. It makes the atmosphere are rare and enjoyable one.

You have certainly gone out of your way to post rather thorough explorations into the issue... I hope to be able to respond in kind at some juncture. It's going to require my going back to my readings and creating a rather thorough essay on the subject. Since we're talking about seven years of research it may take a while. Hopefully, in the end, it will at least be coherent.

In the interim I can say that I don't cotton to genocide. But I have seen no evidence of genocide on the part of Israel, in fact I view their actions as having been, by and large, rather restrained. So... if the day came where they decided to simply wipe out every Arab or Palestinian they could get their hands on, well I'd have to eat my hat, now wouldn't I?

Thanks for the heads up on the HRW tid bit. I'll keep that in my arsenal. ; )

A pleasure debating with you.


back to top