Sunday, January 05, 2003

There's a lot of controversy about the Central Elections Commission having excluded Arab party leaders Azmi Bishara and Ahmed Tibi from the upcoming elections. I am fairly certain that whatever public statements they have made in support of violence against Israeli civilians and overturning the notion of a Jewish state are extremely mild compared to what they say in private. But it's not clear to me that their presence in the Knesset has damaged the state in any way. If there were a "moderate" Arab party which focused on improving government services and opportunities in the Arab sector while pushing a conciliatory line towards the Palestinians, it could be a natural partner for Labor. Having Bishara and Tibi allows Israeli Arabs to demonstrate that many of them still prefer the confrontational and less democratic approach.

This is an interesting article which discusses whether the Arab-Israeli conflict should be viewed as a clash of interests or a clash of civilizations. Avishai Margalit, the liberal professor who writes about Isaiah Berlin and other subjects for the New York Review of Books, thinks that the Palestinian sense of humiliation contributes to an emphasis of the "civilizational" aspect of the conflict - regardless of whether the particular "humiliating" practices like checkpoints and thorough searches are justified. It's not clear whether he recommends sacrificing Israeli lives to preserve Palestinian dignity. That's a proposition that not many other countries (or airlines for that matter) would actually consider.

This article about Israeli-Arab lawyer Mohammed Dahla, who founded the civil rights organization Adalah, indicates that he sees the Arab-Israeli conflict as a conflict of civilizations. For him, what the Jews did to the Arabs in 1948 (or what he thinks they did) was a kind of metaphysical, irreparable evil.

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