Sunday, June 16, 2002

There are several groups of people who I have been trying to understand: among them the Palestinians, the US State Dept., and the EU.... As I continue to run my blog and receive interesting emails from around the world, it seems that the differences in opinion that these groups and the Israelis have a lot to do with realpolitik, and a lot to do with misinformation. They have much less to do with "differences in perspective" and the like.

Istanblog writes:
It bothers me that most people outside the region tend to pick one side or the other as the bad guy, and then ignore the bad stuff the other side is doing. If you see the destruction of Palestinian homes and construction of Israeli settlements as bad, then Arafat is excused for failing to do anything about terrorism. Or, if you see permitting terrorism against Israeli civilians as an unacceptable way to defend your people, then Sharon is excused for using tanks to pave the way for settlers

There's a another tendency around: preposterous even-handedness. By this I mean a point of view which soft-pedals Palestinian atrocities (examples are boring by now - but Friday's IHT termed Fatah's gunning down a pregnant settler woman as "harassment") while amplifying Israeli settlements and defensive actions into "war crimes" and the like.

In my opinion, you yourself signal the weakness of the "even-handed" approach by resorting to misstatements and hyperbole. "Sharon uses tanks to pave the way for settlers". No, he doesn't... "Destruction of Palestinian homes" ... Do you mean the booby-trapped ones in Jenin? Or the ones in East Jerusalem built without a permit? (If you mean the latter, then go ahead and criticize the municipality as unresponsive or draconian even)... "if you see permitting terrorism against Israeli civilians as an unacceptable way to defend your people" You try to slip in the proposition that blowing up Israeli civilians is a form of Palestinian self-defense (acceptable for some and unacceptable for others) ... How can anyone sincerely claim that? That's just disingenuous...

Some basic facts: Settlement growth is mostly frozen except in a few places near the Green Line; the IDF is taking steps against the illegal "settlement outposts". The Mitchell plan provided for a total settlement freeze following a ceasefire - Arafat said "sure", but then thumbed his nose at the ceasefire part. The Oslo accords specifically did not mandate a settlement freeze.
The bottom line for me is there are two sets of bad guys running the two sides, and both are happy to sacrifice lives on their own sides to continue their agenda

For which agenda do you consider the Israeli government to be "sacrificing lives"? A unilateral withdrawal from isolated settlements might save lives in the short term (and is even being considered), but will encourage more terrorism in the slightly-longer term.
Those US-based Muslims aren't having their land settled by people who openly talk about sweeping them into the sea (yes, I know it goes both ways in Palestine)

Nonsense. It does not "go both ways". Are you hearing that from the Turkish media? the BBC?
The Palestinians want the Israelis out of their land, with differing definitions of what constitutes "their land".

And only a quiet minority have a definition of "their land" that is limited to the 1967 borders. Even fewer have a definition that recognizes the historic connection that Israel and Judaism have to Jerusalem. That both these things are the case is evident not only from recent polls, but also from virtually all public statements of Palestinian leaders (the maligned-though-still-not-so-moderate Sari Nusseibeh being the exception that proves the rule).

The settlements are problematic from various perspectives. But they do us Israelis the favor of providing a "lightning rod" for the even-handedness (or "moral equivalence") folk. In Egypt, there was a popular song that goes "I hate Israel. Sharon and Shimon" - ie. no distinction between Sharon and Peres. If the settlements were to go away before a full peace deal is concluded, I do believe that our critics would find other reasons to rake us over the coals : the 1948 refugees, our definition as a Jewish state. And these attacks on our being here might start in The Nation and The Guardian, then maybe receive cautious embrace from Tony Judt and Robert Wright, and then become commonplaces on MSNBC (ie. shrill, circumspect, and finally glib).

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