What I told my kids

You’ll hear that it’s not as simple as the Israelis are good guys and Palestinians are bad guys, or vice versa. And that’s true.

But it’s also not so complicated that there are no clearly identifiable good guys or bad guys. It’s just that they cut across the sides.

The good guys are anyone, on either side, whose ideal end state is two countries, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace.

The bad guys are anyone, on either side, whose ideal end state is the other side being, if not outright exterminated, then expelled from its current main population centers (ones where it’s been for several generations or more) and forcibly resettled someplace far away.

(And those whose ideal end state is everyone living together with no border — possibly as part of the general abolition of nation-states? They’re not bad guys; they can plead insanity. [Update: See here for clarifications!])

Hamas are bad guys. They fire rockets indiscriminately at population centers, hoping to kill as many civilians as they can. (Unfortunately for them and fortunately for Israel, they’re not great at that, and also they’re aiming at a target that’s world-historically good at defending itself.)

The IDF, whatever else you say about it, sends evacuation warnings to civilians before it strikes the missile centers that are embedded where they live. Even if Hamas could aim its missiles, the idea of it extending the same courtesy to Israeli civilians is black comedy.

Netanyahu is not as bad as Hamas, because he has the power to kill millions of Palestinians and yet kills only hundreds … whereas if Hamas had the power to kill all Jews, it told the world in its charter that it would immediately do so, and it’s acted consistently with its word.

(An aside: I’m convinced that Hamas has the most top-heavy management structure of any organization in the world. Every day, Israel takes out another dozen of its most senior, highest-level commanders, apparently leaving hundreds more. How many senior commanders do they have? Do they have even a single junior commander?)

Anyway, not being as bad as Hamas is an extremely low bar, and Netanyahu is a thoroughly bad guy. He’s corrupt and power-mad. Like Trump, he winks at his side’s monstrous extremists without taking moral responsibility for them. And if it were ever possible to believe that he wanted two countries as the ideal end state, it hasn’t been possible to believe that for at least a decade.

Netanyahu and Hamas are allies, not enemies. Both now blatantly, obviously rely on the other to stay in power, to demonstrate their worldview and thereby beat their internal adversaries.

Whenever you see anyone opine about this conflict, on Facebook or Twitter or in an op-ed or anywhere else, keep your focus relentlessly on the question of what that person wants, of what they’d do if they had unlimited power. If they’re a Zionist who talks about how “there’s no such place as Palestine,” how it’s a newly invented political construct: OK then, does that mean they’d relocate the 5 million self-described Palestinians to Jordan? Or where? If, on the other side, someone keeps talking about the “Zionist occupation,” always leaving it strategically unspecified whether they mean just the West Bank and parts of East Jerusalem or also Tel Aviv and Haifa, if they talk about the Nakba (catastrophe) of Israel’s creation in 1947 … OK then, what’s to be done with the 7 million Jews now living there? Should they go back to the European countries that murdered their families, or the Arab countries that expelled them? Should the US take them all? Out with it!

Don’t let them dodge the question. Don’t let them change the subject to something they’d much rather talk about, like the details of the other side’s latest outrage. Those details always seem so important, and yet everyone’s stance on every specific outrage is like 80% predictable if you know their desired end state. So just keep asking directly about their desired end state.

If, like me, you favor two countries living in peace, then you need never fear anyone asking you the same thing. You can then shout your desired end state from the rooftops, leaving unsettled only the admittedly-difficult “engineering problem” of how to get there. Crucially, whatever their disagreements or rivalries, everyone trying to solve the same engineering problem is in a certain sense part of the same team. At least, there’s rarely any reason to kill someone trying to solve the same problem that you are.

“What is this person’s ideal end state?” Just keep asking that and there’s a limit to how wrong you can ever be about this. You can still make factual mistakes, but it’s then almost impossible to make a moral mistake.

178 Responses to “What I told my kids”

  1. Ernest Davis Says:

    Going by the ideal end-state can err in both directions. On the one hand, there are people who _ideally_ would favor an extreme solution, but are willing to accept what is practically possible given actual realities. On the other hand, there are people who _ideally_ would favor a moderate solution, but are so entirely convinced that the other side will never accept that that, as a practical matter, they favor an extreme solution. One may well be better off with the first in charge than with the second.

  2. DangerNorm Says:

    My first reaction to your implication that a one-state solution is absurd was to think of the desegregation of the United States. If we could manage that here, why not in Israel? It may seem inevitable now, but would it have to someone in the 1950’s?

  3. Alexandre Zani Says:

    I am more bullish on a one-state solution than you are. I think the people who call what is going on an Apartheid point us in a direction worth exploring: Bring Palestinians in as full citizens of Israel, truth and reconciliation commissions, etc… It’s a bit idealistic in a sense, but it has been done in some cases that also looked hopeless.

    I also think Hamas is partially the way it is because they don’t have all the power in the world. Terrorism is not a tactic favored by the powerful. I expect that if Hamas was to start winning, they would rapidly realize that bombing civilians willy-nilly is not the best use of their resources and they would stop. That’s not an excuse, but I think it’s a wrench in your “what would they do if they could do anything?” thought experiment.

  4. anon85 Says:

    I agree with Ernest. Someone who says “death to capitalists” is less bad than someone who actually commits murder.

    The kid who fantasizes about murdering his bully is not automatically a monster – not even automatically worse than the bully.

    It’s morally relevant that one side killed many more children than the other; it’s not enough to *only* consider the supposed desired end-states, but also, you know, who’s actually killing children at the moment. And yes, the answer is “both sides”, but one kills many more.

    The problem with Scott’s moral stance is that it can change on a whim – Hamas could declare tomorrow that they want a 2-state solution, but change literally nothing else and keep firing rockets at civilian centers (“only out of necessity” or something), and Scott will have to say that Hamas is OK now.

  5. Paul Hoffman Says:

    It’s sad to see you dismiss the mixed-state solution that some of my Israeli friends fervently support as insane. They don’t seem like insane people; in fact, they seem less insane than the current political leaderships.

  6. Scott Says:

    Wow, a post on Israel/Palestine whose first three comments, at least, are totally civil and constructive! Achievement unlocked.

    DangerNorm #2: No significant contingent of African-Americans ever tried to establish a separate country within US borders, or (worse) expel or exterminate the white population with help from all the surrounding nations. It’s a radically different situation.

    Likewise, Alexandre Zani #2: The problem with your argument is that there’s already data on what happens when the power is relatively equal or the Israeli side has less. That was the situation pre-1967 and (even more so) pre-1948. It was not pretty. The Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, then leader of the Palestinians, pledged his assistance to Adolf Eichmann to bring the Final Solution to the Jews then living in British Mandate Palestine, and only the defeat of Rommel in North Africa prevented that from happening. One can’t understand where things stand today without grappling with that history.

  7. Anon93 Says:

    Fantastic post! I do have one caveat: this Hamas charter is a historical document and not as relevant today so judging Hamas by the charter feels a bit like saying the US Constitution endorsed slavery. What is relevant is that Hamas officials say things like https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/news/senior-hamas-official-urges-palestinians-worldwide-to-kill-every-jew-on-the-globe and that Hamas denies the Holocaust, shoots rockets in civilian areas, consistently says it wants to kill or expel all the Jews in Israel, and so on and so forth.

    The other commenters seem to think that if Hamas got more power they would somehow start wanting to coexist with Israel. To those comments I only ask: what would convince you otherwise? I would believe such an argument about the PLO, which used to be a full-fledged terrorist organization but has now accepted the Oslo Accords. Hamas, on the other hand, are religious extremists. Israeli Kahanists do not want to coexist with Palestinians, and the fact that Israel has gotten more powerful has not tempered their stance at all.

    The goal of Hamas is to kill or expel all the Jews in Israel. Terrorism is not a tactic of the strong, but ethnic cleansing (and actual ethnic cleansing, not like https://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-israel-conducted-no-ethnic-cleansing-in-1948-1.5447785 ) and genocide are favored tactics of the strong. Hamas says it will do that, and it has a religious motivation for doing so. Why should we not take them at their word?

  8. Scott Says:

    anon85 #4: I cheerfully accept what you treat as a reductio ad absurdum. Yes, if Hamas announced tomorrow that they support a two-state solution and renounce their original annihilationist goals, I’d treat that as a massive improvement over the status quo—even if they kept firing rockets! The problem would then “merely” be a mismatch between rhetoric and actions, just like it often is on the Israeli side. And rhetoric and actions really do exert a strong gravitational pull on each other, sometimes known as “cognitive dissonance.” This gravitational pull looks completely negligible on the scale of days, yet is a dominant force on the scale of decades.

  9. Anon93 Says:

    anon85 #4: Intention matters, because in the words of https://www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2018/01/26/how-much-does-bds-threaten-israels-economy/ “different tactics naturally flow from conflicting aims.

    Groups that support a two state solution, Palestinian and otherwise, generally do not shoot rockets at Israeli civilian centers or support boycotts of Israel, because such behavior is not conducive to a two state solution. Rather they often support things like a boycott of settlements or differential labelling of West Bank products, nonviolent protests inside the West Bank and Gaza, and so on.

    If Hamas *did* start saying that they wanted a two state solution as their endgame but continued their current tactics, Hamas wouldn’t necessarily be “good” (Xi Jinping supports a two state solution, that doesn’t make him good…) but it would become possible to actually negotiate a lasting peace with Hamas. Intention matters, because in the long-term actions follow from intention.

    Here too there is empirical precedent. The PLO used to be a terrorist organization that wanted to destroy Israel, but when they changed their end goal to a two-state solution, this gave rise to the peace process and the Oslo Accords, and over time became much more nonviolent (though they certainly were violent in the early 2000s, but one must look at the long-term trend), to the point where the PLO and Israel now cooperate against Hamas and the PLO is at least as anti-Hamas as Israel is. Of course the PLO still does many problematic things, and I would not call them “good”. Even with all of the terrorism they have perpetrated, they are secular nationalists who want a country, much like (most of) the Zionist movement (parts of which also perpetrated terrorism) and not religious extremists like Hamas or Kahane who want to kill or expel everyone of a certain ethnicity and commit genocide or ethnic cleansing. There is a big difference. You can negotiate with the PLO. You can negotiate a ceasefire with Hamas, but you can’t come to any long-term solution with an enemy whose goal is your destruction and the killing and expulsion of all the Jews in Israel.

  10. Fernando Says:

    I’m not sure if you think this changes the core of your argument, but “and yet kills only hundreds …” is a bit inaccurate, in my opinion.

    Not only the number is more like “hundreds per year” or “more than 4000 since he took office” (2009, which averages ~300). But also, people are not calling this an apartheid for no reason. The palestinian people are being treated horribly. They have reduced access to water, roads, etc.

    At this point, I think, realistically, the “two state solution” is not even on the table… or does anyone honestly think it will happen in the next 10 years? What most people are protesting for is to condemn those actions enough so Israel feels a bit of pressure to stop aggressively mistreating those people. Check the

    Maybe we could have other unavoidable questions: “how do you think palestinians should be treated? How do you feel about the way they are being treated right now?” Does your abstract geopolitical believes trump human suffering? By how much?

  11. James Gallagher Says:

    it’s shameful for all humanity that Israel is so hated by large regions of the world.

    It should be celebrated that after the actual evil Nazis tried to exterminate jewish people they made a VERY successful tiny homeland in the middle-east.

    If the millions of Israelis move to a desert suburb of the US or Australia etc, it will be almost certainly be equally successful, while the land that is taken over by the Palestinians will probably not be.

    And then everyone can shut up about the jews

  12. M Says:

    With respect to a one-state solution, maybe start a new state with close to equal representation for Muslims/Arabs and Jews, and the electoral system chosen explicitly in the constitution to favour more moderate/centrist candidates? Ranked ballots? Maybe something like approval voting with each voter allowed some fixed number of “disapproval votes”, too, to try to rule out extremists?

  13. Yonatan Bilu Says:

    The one-state “solution” seems to be where we are actually heading. You ridicule it by painting it as part of a general abolition of nation states, but to varying degrees this is this is where we are at already. Palestinians and Jews both live in territories under Israel’s control, with varying degrees of rights afforded the palestinians – nearly equal rights within the ’67 borders, limited rights in east jerusalem, and very little rights in area C (different laws and judicial systems). Why wouldn’t this be extended further, to the territories which are currently only under partial Israeli control?
    Annexation of Area C was something that both Bibi and Gantz discussed, and sort of green-lighted by Trump, so will probably come up again in near future (e.g. When Bibi has a “full” right-wing coalition after the upcoming elections and republicans get a majority in the house and senate in 2022). I assume that once this happens, it would be done in a way that the annexed territories are contiguous, and readily secured, which might even imply annexing even more land then what is currently designated Area C. I don’t see how there could be two states after that happens. Rather, I imagine that Area B, would become the new area of contention, with small groups of jews buying property within arab towns there, the army going there to protect them, and so on.
    I definitely agree that the ideal would be a two-states solution, I just don’t see how this could realistically happen. And if it can’t, perhaps what the “good guys” should focus on instead is equal rights to all people living under Israel’s rule.

  14. Devdatt Says:

    Here is Gideon Levy explaining how the Israeli state sabotaged the two state solution
    https://fb.watch/5wutbpX51N/

  15. Disgusted Says:

    Absolutely specious reasoning when you say:

    “They fire rockets indiscriminately at population centers, hoping to kill as many civilians as they can. … The IDF … sends evacuation warnings to civilians before it strikes the missile centers… Netanyahu … has the power to kill millions of Palestinians and yet kills only hundreds … whereas if Hamas had the power to kill all Jews, it told the world in its charter that it would immediately do so”

    Are you killing as many as you could, and if you had more power would you kill more? — These are absolutely the wrong bars to apply. And when you additionally say “[the Palestinians are] not great at that”, you’re starting to sound as condescending and dismissive as Jeff Ullman when he said “some even managed to get a gmail account”.

    A better question to ask about Israel is: during all the years of “peace” we’ve had before this, exactly what did Israel do to defuse and deescalate the situation? What did Bibi or Israel do to make a two-state solution a viable one? And just what do you gain by continuing the insane settlements?

    A better question to ask about Palestinians (not Hamas) is: are you all demented? Poking Israel with toy missiles has worse consequences for you than it does for Israel. Why in God’s good name would you let Hamas do it on YOUR behalf? Haven’t you seen what just happened to Sri Lankan Tamils only a decade ago?

    Until the masses, the people of Israel and Palestine stand up to their own leaders, this will not change.

  16. Geometry of the shadows Says:

    Lets not forget that both mixed-state and mono-ethnic state options are being tried right now, without much success: Jewish residents of Gaza has been forcefully resettled elsewhere in 2005. Israel has ~2 million Arab citizens with full rights. None of these options resulted in durable peace, or likely to do so in the future.

    Analysis of the situation can no be complete without looking at the elephant(s) in the room: culture and values of both populations, including their various subcultures, and the influence of outside geopolitical interests.

  17. Joshua Says:

    It’s very strange that you think IDF’s targets (such as Associated Press) all have hidden missile silos. We don’t normally expect militaries to be bastions of honesty. It’s not really their charter.

  18. Ken Miller Says:

    The problem with the 2-state solution is that the Israeli settlements on the West Bank have rendered it impossible. Which, I believe, was exactly the goal of the Israeli government in pushing for more and more settlements. The settlers occupy way too much of the land, and there’s way too many of them. A two state solution would require moving most or all back into Israel. But they are crazy, they have guns, many of them would fight to the death to stay, and no Israeli government is going to shoot them down for a two-state agreement.

    So, the 2-state solution is dead. Thinking there can be a Democratic one-state solution anytime in the reasonably foreseeable future is probably crazy, but unfortunately thinking there can be a two-state solution given the settlements is even crazier.

    Oh, also, they don’t claim there are Hamas missile centers in many of the buildings they destroy. In some cases they just assert that a Hamas commander lives in one of the assortments. And they say that is a reason to destroy the entire building and all the homes of all the families in it, and all the AP offices too. I don’t find that a reasonable argument.

    As for giving civilians a warning: in the 2014 Gaza war, Israel killed about 2200 Palestinians, about 1500 of whom were civilians according to the UN. For comparison, Hamas killed 73 Israelis, 6 of whom were civilians. I find it very difficult to see that disproportionate level of slaughter as an outcome of a policy that places any value on Palestinian lives or has any serious desire to do only what must be done militarily while minimizing civilian casualties. Ditto for the 18 months of firing live ammunition at the demonstrators near the Gaza-Israel border, including shooting many well marked journalists and medical personnel.

  19. bertie Says:

    Scott what you written in a few paragraphs makes much more sense than most of the volumes I have read on the subject.

  20. Doug S. Says:

    One thing I’ve wondered: Gaza’s other border is with Egypt – would the Palestinians living there consider “Egypt annexes the Gaza Strip and grants citizenship to the Palestinians living there” to be an improvement on the status quo? (Never mind if Egypt would actually want to do this.)

  21. Rahul Says:

    Scott:

    Here’s another one.

    If you saw a fight in which a small guy punches a big brawny boxer. The big guy doesn’t look like he took much damage by the one punch but retaliated by pummelling the smaller guy till he’s black and blue and bloody.

    What would you say to that?

    And would it matter if someone said, look the boxer didn’t get hurt coz he has spent his whole life on training and thousands of dollars on protein suppliments so now he’s just carefully built his defenses. Or maybe the boxer was also an off duty cop and was wearing a protective vest so the punch was barely felt.

    What I mean is, what about the proportionality of response standard of fairness? Doesn’t the state, or the actor in a fight who comes from a position of strength bear a relatively higher responsibility to moderate his response?

    When a man assaults another innocent man on the street, we may know that the assaulter was wrong, that he was even the instigator.

    But we still don’t hang or maim him for it.

  22. JoshP Says:

    Paul Hoffman #5:

    With the local Arabs Pogroms of the last few days I’m sure those friends of yours do not live in Jaffa or Acre, nor did they try to drive thru Wadi Ara lately. The idea of one state sounded crazy to begin with to whoever knows anything about the history of the conflict, and after the last week it is crazier than ever.

  23. Israeli Says:

    Thanks for a sane post! However, I think it’s too simplistic.
    Most notably, Israel was established as a safe haven for the Jewish people, having been persecuted for thousands (literally) years. On one hand, I don’t think Palestinian moderates would ever accept a Jewish Israel in a peace deal (incidentally, this was related to where the last round of peace talks halted). On the other hand, I think the Jewish people will be considerably less safe (in general) without a Jewish Israel. Thus, modulo a significant change of hearts, the reasonable aim is a better handling of the conflict.

  24. Ira Glazer Says:

    > And those whose ideal end state is everyone living together with no border

    Their name is John Lennon.

  25. D.A. Says:

    I’m an Israeli Jew. I don’t care about Zionism but I didn’t choose to live here, either, and even if I could emigrate, not all my family and friends can. I always vote Meretz (the left-most party in the Knesset). I don’t know what I can do to help solve this conflict.

    My ideal end state is whatever is conductive to lasting peace and prosperity. Two states, lasting peace, reparations, removal of some Israeli settlements, ‘peace and reconciliation’, the works. And I have no idea how I could achieve this even with literally limitless power, as long as that power is purely political and military and doesn’t let me literally rewrite people’s minds on both sides who hate each other and want the whole country to themselves. (If I could do that, I could make a single state for both!)

    So if you asked me your question – what should be done? I don’t know! If you do know, please tell me!

    It’s easy to say that the 7 million Israeli Jews and the 5 million Palestinians should both stay living where they are and each have an independent state. But a big part of each group doesn’t *want* that. If I don’t want to forcibly resettle Palestinians into Jordan, but I do want to forcibly stop Palestinians from trying to kill or expel Israeli Jews, then how is that different from what we have today?

    If we had a majority Left government in Israel it would likely be a large improvement. And I hope that will happen. But we’ve been there before and we weren’t any closer to resolving the actual conflict. No-one seems to have an actual plan for peace because we’ve tried them and they failed.

    So if you have any idea what to actually do, beyond agreeing on the ideal (but unachievable) end goal, please tell me! I’m not saying this to try to justify anything Israel is doing. I’m saying this because I honestly don’t know what I’m supposed to be hoping for as a general solution.

  26. Alex Says:

    I think there are a few key relevant points missing here:
    1) There’s an active military occupation and ethnic cleansing and settlement of lands under occupation. Aside from being morally wrong in its own right, this is creating facts on the ground which work towards a particular end state and it’s not the two state solution. Settlement of the Occupied Territories has been basically consistent Israeli policy since the territories were conquered in 67, it’s not just a Netanyahu thing. Hamas may be horrible, but that doesn’t even begin to justify any of this.
    2) One side has much more power here. While there may be ‘bad guys’ on both sides, one sides’ bad guys have immensely more power and ability to do bad things, which they use. That’s why the biggest crimes here are concentrated on one side. This is closely linked to 1) above.
    3) The US is actively involved in arming and financing one side in particular. As a result I think people in the US have much more responsibility for the crimes on the Israel side, even though there are crimes on both sides. I agree ‘what is this person’s desired end state’ is a good and important question, but it also needs to be asked ‘where is this person situated, what responsibilities do they have as a result, and do their actions align with the end state they claim they want?’ It’s all well and good to profess support for human rights or a two state solution, but we also need to be talking about our own governments’ active support for bad actors and human rights abuses. That brings in another very important asymmetry.

    Also, I think you’re cherry picking data points on Hamas (and perhaps more generally). Hamas has said that they’d accept a 2 state solution with 67 borders. See e.g. https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2011/05/24/136403918/hamas-foreign-minister-we-accept-two-state-solution-with-67-borders. I’m not suggesting they’re peaceniks or not ‘bad guys’, but they are more ‘pragmatic’ than their worst statements would make them appear (who isn’t?).

  27. DavidM Says:

    >The bad guys are anyone, on either side, whose ideal end state is the other side being, if not outright exterminated, then expelled from its current main population centers (ones where it’s been for several generations or more) and forcibly resettled someplace far away.

    I think it’s important to recognise that _this has already happened_, in 1948. The majority of Gaza’s inhabitants are (descendants of) people who fled/were expelled from their homes in 1948, and were prevented from returning by Israel’s racialist immigration laws.

    I’m not saying there are necessarily easy answers, but I do think it’s important to start by telling their story and acknowledging their status as victims of ethnic cleansing, rather than thinking that ‘two countries, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace’ is a straightforward solution.

  28. bertgoz Says:

    Scott, there is a clear calculation to determine who is the “bad guy”. The one is causing more suffering and ultimately more deads. That is clearly Israel. All other arguments are irrelevant

  29. sam Says:

    It’s funny that you think a one-state solution is unrealistic, because I think that about a two-state solution!

    The problem for me with a two-state solution is that there’s no particular guarantee that a genuinely independent Palestine winds up friendly to Israel. 1967 and 1971 show that fully-fledged independent Arab states could and did launch full-scale wars against Israel, and they only had third-party grievances; I just can’t see any way to wind up with a sovereign Palestinian state that’s not a revanchist invasion hazard (or, at least, no way that’s any more realistic than what it’d take to make a one-state solution work). World history shows that revanchism can endure for generations and then pop up its head again and take a bloody bite (e.g., the Falklands dispute was only smouldering diplomatically until the surprise invasion of 1982).

    It seems to me that the two-state options are (a) hope that an agreement can be found that’s satisfactory enough to prevent any revanchism (but people have been looking hard for that for an awful long time and there’s a big, big gap between what the Palestinians want and Israeli offers…), or (b) hope that Israel maintains its local military supremacy indefinitely (but it’s only a few tens of kilometers from the West Bank to the Mediterranean, or to encircle Jerusalem, and an assault only has to work *once*…), or (c) that Palestine doesn’t have an army and that Israel maintains suzerainty over Palestine (but then it’s not really a genuinely independent state and it’s questionable whether this is really very different to the status quo…), or (d) some kind of international peacekeeping force wields a stick to keep the peace (but what happens if they’re expelled from the West Bank – and we’re also back to the Israel-has-no-strategic-depth problem, and not even the strongest army can guarantee that a front won’t be pushed back tens of kilometers against a suprise attack…).

    In contrast, in a one-state solution, Israel’s fate is decisively in Israel’s hands. Israel has a strong, resilient democratic tradition and human rights protections that are about as good as any in the developed world; an excellent security apparatus, with a will to use it to stamp out terrorism and extremism; and the education system can be designed to encourage peace, which is the ultimate goal – having the *next* generation not wanting to kill each other. None of those would necessarily be guaranteed in an independent Palestine, but I think it’s very plausible that present-day Israeli instutitions can be preserved in a future Isratine if the transition is done carefully. If *that* can’t be made to work – where Israel wields the full power of the state to put the kibosh on violence and maintain a liberal democratic order – then I don’t think that anything can, and the situation’s hopeless.

  30. bagel Says:

    Ken, you assert that re-establishing the Jewish presence in the West Bank that Jordan ethnically cleansed prevents the Two State Solution – why? Arabs live in Israel as citizens. What is the reason that Jews can’t live in Arab countries? If the answer is “because they wouldn’t be citizens, if they weren’t expelled or killed outright”, then that tells us something about the negotiating parties.

    Further, why count kills as a measure of proportionality? Proportional to what? What does that tell us? Israel invents Iron Dome and their civilian death toll goes down; does this make destroying Hamas’s rocket launchers less moral now? They invent “roof knocking”, and set up infrastructure to warn the other side’s civilians about incoming strikes; does that mean they can knock down every building in Gaza if they wanted, as long as people weren’t in them? When Hamas forces people to stay where they know Israel intends to strike, does that make Israel responsible?

    Imagine you’re a government; how do you protect your citizens with those rules? How does this notion of proportionality lead to coherent morals?

  31. Boaz Barak Says:

    Hi Scott, I agree with much of what you say (and in particular that Netanyahu and Hamas are allies and indeed this war has already resulted in a decisive military victory against the enemy, namely Yair Lapid).

    But mostly I’m astounded that in comments on a blog post about this issue we haven’t seen yet comparisons to the Nazis or quotes from Mark Twain’s book. Please use your moderation powers extensively to keep it that way.

  32. Scott Says:

    Boaz Barak #31: Yes, astoundingly, so far I’ve had to leave only one comment in moderation (one from an antisemitic regular, attacking me for my “Jewish concept of morality”). And, I’m proud to say, this post was shared / upvoted by people who might normally be considered on opposite sides. Let’s continue to explore how much civility is possible in an Israel/Palestine blog comment thread in the midst of a war.

  33. Scott Says:

    bertgoz #28:

      Scott, there is a clear calculation to determine who is the “bad guy”. The one is causing more suffering and ultimately more deads. That is clearly Israel. All other arguments are irrelevant

    Yeah, sorry, that’s precisely the sort of simplistic cached answer that I wrote this post in reaction to. If three people run into a crowd of schoolchildren blindly swinging machetes, and they manage to kill two before police snipers take down all three, no one argues the police must be in the wrong because they “caused more suffering and ultimately more deads.” (At least, no one would argue that before extremely recently.)

    Without the concept of intention, there’s no morality, no good guys and bad guys to begin with. There are just people doing whatever they do because of their incentives and environment and so forth.

  34. Ari Says:

    Many Israelis supported the two-state solution but they saw what happened when they withdrew from Gaza and Hamas took it over. If they withdrew from the West Bank, they can expect something similar to happen, as Hamas wants to take over all of Israel. Most Israelis now recognize that the two-state solution is not realistic in the near-term. Yes, the ideal state end state is two countries “living side by side in peace”, but what should one aim for in this unredeemed world? A more realistic plan for the West Bank is to work on economic development and increased self-rule. But I don’t know what the solution is for Gaza.

  35. D.A. Says:

    @Sam #29:

    > In contrast, in a one-state solution, Israel’s fate is decisively in Israel’s hands. Israel has a strong, resilient democratic tradition

    There is an Arab majority between the Jordan and the sea. A single democratic state granting citizenship to all would not have a Jewish majority government. Do you think, under those conditions, the Israeli democratic tradition would win out, when you yourself acknowledge a separate Palestinian state would be revanchist? To me, as an Israeli Jew, that seems completely unrealistic.

  36. Scott Says:

    DavidM #27:

      I think it’s important to recognise that _this has already happened_, in 1948. The majority of Gaza’s inhabitants are (descendants of) people who fled/were expelled from their homes in 1948, and were prevented from returning by Israel’s racialist immigration laws.

    An intellectually honest discussion of this issue would also include the million or so Jews expelled from their homes in Arab countries at the same time, with no compensation and no one ever mentioning any right of return for them. It would include the many Arab communities that didn’t fight or flee in 1948 but stayed right where they were, and that are now comprised of Arab Israeli citizens. And it would include the Grand Mufti, whose explicit goal for the Jews living in Palestine Mandate at that time was the Final Solution.

    If this sounds like an infinite rabbit hole, I agree! That’s exactly why my approach is focused less on relitigating the past, than on clearly eliciting what each party wants for the future, and not allowing any evasions of that crucial question.

  37. bertgoz Says:

    Scott, I am talking about civilian deads not combatants, i.e. people who had no intention but to carry on with their lives without swinging machetes at anyone

  38. Scott Says:

    bertgoz #37: Of course. Modify the example so that there’s only one crazed machete-wielder in the crowd, who kills two, before the police take him out while killing two additional innocents as collateral damage. I’d still see the machete-wielder as the much worse “bad guy,” although the police might not be covered in laurels either. And this is sufficient to establish my general point that goals and intentions matter—I hope you now agree about that?

    Crucially, both sides in this conflict agree that goals and intentions matter. E.g., Hamas doesn’t just tot up the number of dead on each side and say “we rest our case.” Instead, they have a whole narrative according to which the casualties they cause are justified—and of course, they do anything they can to increase their number and thereby redress the imbalance.

  39. bertgoz Says:

    Scott #38: I agree that intentions matter.
    Now with respect of your example, if the police what consistently killing a larger number of bystanders while taking down criminals it won’t be morally acceptable in any society.
    Additionally, the moral scrutiny to which a state funded body such as the police should be subjected differs from that applied to criminals. Being the former much stringent.

  40. sam Says:

    @D.A. #35

    Yeah, it’s important not to sugarcoat it – making a one-state solution work is non-trivial. I do think it’s less non-trivial than a two-state solution, though, and that it’s the least unrealistic path forwards that can actually improve the lot of the Palestinians (and they really do need it).

    In *any* solution, there needs to be a big cultural shift amongst Palestinians to make, y’know, invading Israel and killing millions of people not a goal shared by enough of the population to make it a feasible prospect; I contend that, if that transformation is possible, it’s much more likely to be possible in Isratine than in an independent Palestine. I acknowledge that it might not be possible at all, but in that case the Palestinians are basically just fucked, forever, and the Israelis existentially need to rely on the Palestinians never getting their act together, forever; neither of those sound like things we should accept without seriously, seriously looking at the alternatives.

    A Palestinian state has no moderating influence in it; a smaller swing towards extremism and hatred suffices for the extremists to take the reins of power. On the other hand, in an Isratine, there’s no way extremists would get anywhere near an outright majority or the reins of power by constitutional means, so there’s more room to breathe and to give the social engineering a chance to work.

    Opinion polling for the next Palestinian elections has Fatah on 38-43% and Hamas on 30-34%, with undecideds/others on 27-28%. While Fatah aren’t perfect by a long shot, another comment upthread puts it nicely: you can negotiate with them. But those numbers suggest that, in the near term, Hamas will always be in striking distance of taking government in an independent Palestine (13-point swings aren’t at all unheard of, espeically with that amount of undecideds); it’d take a big, big stroke of luck for Hamas never to get into government before Fatah could improve material conditions enough and do enough socio-cultural engineering that invading Israel becomes unthinkable. That Hamas support is also high enough that trying to stamp out terrorism with the power of the state is more likely to lead to civil war than success, and a Palestinian civil war has a high risk of spilling over and escalating regionally; on the other hand, if terrorism isn’t stamped out, the rockets keep coming, so Israel will invade to stop them and we’re right back to the status quo.

    So that’s my pitch for the one-state solution: the ~50% of can-be-negotiated-with Palestinians and ~90% of can-be-negotiated-with Israelis team up, putting together a coalition strong enough to crush the terrorists and extremists, and to wield state power to stop the violence and change the culture of the state’s citizens to prevent violence in the future, because the can-be-reasoned-with faction in Palestine isn’t strong enough to do that on its own. I realise that that’s a hard sell for Israelis (‘you want us to share a state with them because they can’t be trusted with a state of their own not to attack us!?’), but I really do think it’s the least terrible option available, not actually impossible, and the one that’s actually got the best security outlook for Israel.

  41. Anon93 Says:

    Alex #26: Look carefully at what the Hamas are saying. They are saying they would accept a Palestinian state on the ’67 lines but only as a temporary truce (a “hudna”), a stepping stone to “liberating” Palestine, i.e. destroying Israel.

    See this article at https://newrepublic.com/article/41239/hoodwinked-hudna for a discussion of this. The NPR headline is misleading, Hamas never says “two state solution”.

    It’s as if ISIS accepted the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq and offered a 10 year hudna if we were to do this. It would not mean ISIS changed their goals or wanted peace.

  42. Anon93 Says:

    Boaz Barak #31: Fantastic comment, made me laugh, and indeed there is: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-lapid-suggests-political-considerations-are-behind-israel-s-gaza-operation-1.9813432

    Lapid for Prime Minister of Israel. Hamas and Netanyahu both have a political incentive to escalate things, Hamas what with the cancelled Palestinian elections and Netanyahu to prevent Lapid from forming a government. I don’t think Netanyahu woke up one day and said “I’m going to start a war to prevent Lapid from forming a government” especially since Hamas started shooting first and it takes two sides to start a war, but definitely political conditions made him turn up the temperature.

  43. A CS woman Says:

    Good post. I actually agree with you almost entirely. Except that I disagree to the unproven assumption that Nethanyahu is corrupt (obviously this is not the main point here, but still). These allegations have yet to be proved and in the current trial, even if he’s found guilty it would not establish any serious corruption. Talking to the press, and receiving expensive ciggars from friends is not corruption in any acceptable norms in contemporary politics.

    As for the contention that Palestine and Palestinians do not exist. I agree that at times this is an objectionable rethorical tactic to deny their human rights. But it is also a legitimate, and mostly correct historical observation, when one also acknowledges the need to find a humane solution for them.

    For the one state solution, this is I believe a viable solution, only not for the Arab-Israeli conflict, but for the beating conscious of Western ultra progressives. They seem to be okay with countries like Syria being distroyed with millions dead in decades-long civil wars, as long as they don’t need to face the reality of what they wrongly perceive as “an oppressive power structure between two different identity groups”. This over obsession with alleged “power structures” already premates many comments here (with no sound moral justification – there is no acceptable moral imperitive forcing a powerful identity group to sacrifice its own individuals for the sake of “equity of power”).

    For the two state solution, this is obviously a viable solution in the long term, only that it was tested for about 50 years and failed: Palestinians have failed to form a peace seeking leadership, and still hold to their ethos to take over all of Israel (yes, there are also Israelis who wish to take over all of the West Bank but they are in minority in Israel, for now at least).

    So for the foreseeable future the best solution in my mind is either this status quo of short restricted military conflicts or a limited autonomous Palestinian sovereignity, without a full statehood (the latter would first deteriorate into a civil war between different Palestinian factions, and then would lead to a war against Israel).

  44. Jr Says:

    What is your take on the Palestinians who might be evicted in East Jerusalem? My impression is that it is severe hypocrisy of Israel to give insist Jews get their property back, when Palestinians can’t get their property back, and when settlements enroach on Palestians’ land, but I don’t know the details.

  45. Ken Miller Says:

    Bagel #30: You ask why the settlements could not simply be made part of the Palestinian state. The answer I think is simple: Israel would never in a million years agree to that. It would be seen as abandoning their people.

    This is an illuminating article by Peter Beinart, a smart, knowledgable Jewish commentator who combines sympathy for Israel with defense of Palestinian rights about as well as anybody, as to why he has finally (a year ago, when the article was written) abandoned his long-held hopes for a two-state solution and decided that the only possible solution is a one-state solution.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/08/opinion/israel-annexation-two-state-solution.html

  46. Ken Miller Says:

    Bagel #30: You ask ‘why count kills as a measure of proportionality’? The principle is proportionality: “Proportionality is a principle under international humanitarian law governing the legal use of force in an armed conflict, whereby belligerents must make sure that the harm caused to civilians or civilian property is not excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage expected by an attack on a legitimate military objective.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_of_war#:~:text=Proportionality%20is%20a%20principle%20under,by%20an%20attack%20on%20a)
    To me, the disproportionality of 2200+ to 73, 1500 civilians to 6, along with real time following what happened in Gaza in 2014 — knowing the context that created these numbers — indicates to me that the principle of proportionality was not followed. I agree that numbers alone do not tell you, although numbers this extreme must require some pretty extreme contextual information for it to emerge as proportional.

    But in this case it was clearly Israel’s intention to set Hamas and Gaza back very far, so it would take them years to rebuild, and they were willing to sacrifice a lot of civilians to that goal, despite all the nice words about how they always give civilians warnings and so forth (if the warnings were so universal and so effective, they would not be killing 1500 civilians). The intensity of the assault on Gaza, the sheer amount of the place that was destroyed, as well as the number killed, was out of all proportion to anything Hamas was doing to Israel, Iron Dome or no Iron Dome (and no, this does not say that Hamas sending rockets and targeting civilians was in any way acceptable.)

    And in this context there is something more people should know about, which is the Israeli idea, common to many of their strategists, of “mowing the lawn”. The idea is that every so many years, they must “cut back” the development of Hamas’ and Gaza’s infrastructure (including weaponry) and make them start over, like mowing a lawn. Here’s an article in the Washington Post describing this:
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/05/14/israel-gaza-history/
    Once you understand this, the idea that their bombings of Gaza are simply a ‘response’ to rockets begins to look like a simple cover story for a much longer-term strategy.

    Hamas is horrible. Hamas commits war crimes. As does Israel. I am not commenting on Hamas. I am saying that the Israeli line that they are the most moral army in the world, that they bend over backwards to minimize civilian deaths, etc., is excellent P.R., but it does not bear very much scrutiny.

  47. Scott Says:

    Jr #44: My take is that, for the sake of peace, the Israeli government should have compensated the Jews who hold the legal title to the property, in a deal that would’ve let the Palestinians continue living there permanently. That seems to me like the only solution that would satisfy the court (which, just like an American court, can rule only on narrow questions of property rights, not about the legitimacy of its nation’s founding), while not opening a Pandora’s box of historical claims and counterclaims from an era filled with injustices on both sides.

  48. Anon93 Says:

    Ken Miller #45: So Israel will never agree to a two state solution, but somehow Israel will agree to a one state solution? How can one argue that 500,000 Israeli settlers will not agree to be a part of a Palestinian or binational state and are an unsurmountable obstacle to its creation, but 6 million Israeli Jews (including those 500,000) will agree to be part of a Palestinian or binational state?

  49. DavidM Says:

    Scott #36: I don’t think it is relitigating the past to point out that *right now, today* there are millions of people being denied the right to return home on the basis of explicitly discriminatory laws. I just can’t see the fact that I could move to Israel tomorrow but a 1948 refugee cannot, purely because of our respective ethnicity, as anything other than an obscenity on the level of the South African pass laws or the Jim Crow South.

    To the extent that mizrahi refugees wish to return and cannot then that is an equal injustice; my understanding is that in practice essentially none do (I hear Baghdad is lovely at this time of year…) and so this receives little attention. I don’t see how the other things you mention are relevant to the ’48 refugees, unless somehow the argument is that ethnic cleansing is OK if the target group is indeed really evil and dangerous, which seems a very dark road to go down.

    And yet. If I were a citizen of modern Israel, would I be keen to merge my polis with that of the occupied territories? No. So I’m not saying the solution is easy! But the ‘right of return’ often seems to be portrayed as some kind of ridiculous extremist demand, which I don’t think is the case.

  50. Scott Says:

    DavidM #49: I think your use of the word “home” smuggles in the conclusion you want. We’re talking about a period, ~75 years ago, when huge population transfers were commonplace — e.g., the expulsion of millions of Germans from the Sudetenland — yet there’s basically one that anyone still talks about reversing, on behalf of people very few of whom are still alive, and their descendants almost none of whom know the places to which they’d be returning. And of course, the Palestinians would still hold many of those places, had Arab leaders agreed to the UN’s original partition plan like Ben-Gurion did, rather than choosing to wage a war to expel or exterminate the Jews.

    So, yes, relitigating the past. I find it more helpful to focus on the future.

  51. pete Says:

    My preferred endpoint is be a one-state solution where battles are purely political and, asymptotically, the country is peaceful. I claw my way out of the insanity tag by saying that such a solution is an impossibility – but it remains my preferred solution. I think that the two-state solution is equally improbable. and less desirable(as remarked above, it would be a more unstable situation).

    It seems that Israel is fundamentally expansionist and that a plurality of Palestinians may never accept even the 1967 borders. It looks hopeless, a recipe for everlasting “interesting times”.

  52. Ken Miller Says:

    Anon93 #48: Israel will never accept a solution in which Palestinians run a country containing the hundreds of thousands of Jewish settlers. (I don’t know if Palestinians would accept this either.) I agree a one-state solution is also unattainable in the near term, but in the long term it seems at least possible that a democratic one-state solution that adequately protects the rights of both sides could be formulated. Peter Beinart, whose article I cited in #45, has created a beginning outline of what such a formulation might look like. And with enough world pressure against the current one-state apartheid* solution, and given the impossibility of any alternative such as a two-state solution, it seems possible that ultimately Israel and Palestine could be pushed toward this solution. To slightly change the famous Arthur Conan Doyle quote, “Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the solution.”

    *on calling the current situation the one-state apartheid solution: let me quote Nathan Thrall, one of the sharpest and best-informed observers of the situation:

    “Within the West Bank, you have Palestinians living in — most of them, living in 165 little islands of supposed Palestinian autonomy, that is in fact under total Israeli control. Israel enters these islands of autonomy at will. They’re disconnected from one another. They need Israeli permission to go between them. And the Palestinian security forces now, in these disconnected islands, are suppressing the protests that are taking place.

    If we look at the whole territory altogether, these Palestinian islands of autonomy, 165 of them in the West Bank, plus Gaza, they amount to about 10% of the territory of mandatory Palestine, the territory under Israel’s control, not including the Golan Heights. So what we have is Israel directly administering and controlling 90% of this territory, and we have 10% of it that is in this pseudo-autonomy, which is not a real autonomy.

    So … [this is] a situation in which millions of people are being deprived of basic rights, of civil rights, of political rights, based on their ethnicity. That is called apartheid.”

    First two paragraphs from part 1, last paragraph from part 2, of an interview here:
    Part 1: https://www.democracynow.org/2021/5/13/nathan_thrall_israel_palestine_jerusalem
    Part 2: https://www.democracynow.org/2021/5/13/nathan_thrall_on_a_day_in

  53. tas Says:

    Thanks for writing this, Scott. It cuts to the point.

    I have a very poor understanding of the situation. But I don’t know why it is never considered as a solution that Gaza be administered by Egypt. (And potentially that parts of the west bank be administered by Jordan.) Israel and Egypt have managed to forge peace. And there does not seem to be an intrinsic reason why Gazans cannot live under Egyptian rule (perhaps with some kind of semi-autonomous status).

    It seems that Gaza/Palestine is not capable of effectively governing itself, nor living under Israeli rule. The logical third option is to have another country step in. So why is this not even considered? Can someone enlighten me?

  54. Ken Miller Says:

    Scott #47, your solution is decent and just, but it ignores the fact that the impetus for the evictions is not a desire for money or property rights, but a desire to push Palestinians out of desired territories and replace them with settlers. So your solution would be unlikely to be one that the government of Israel would implement or that the litigants on the settler side would accept, if they had any choice in the matter.

    Also, while it is true that the courts can only rule on narrow issues of property rights, there is a larger issue of the discriminatory nature of the laws. The law specifically allowed people to recover land expropriated by Jordan in 1948, which by a wild coincidence was entirely the land of Jews. But no such law was enacted to allow people to recover land expropriated by Israel in 1948, which by a wild coincidence was entirely the land of Palestinians. This is not a matter of litigating the past, but the nature of the laws in the present. [In addition, there is also the fact that, under international law, domestic Israeli law cannot be applied to the occupied territories, the residents of those territories cannot be moved out, and citizens of the occupying power cannot be moved in.]

    A very thorough report on the Sheikh Jarrah situation — I’ve only read the introduction and conclusion — can be found here: https://www.adalah.org/uploads/oldfiles/newsletter/eng/feb10/docs/Sheikh_Jarrah_Report-Final.pdf

  55. Scott Says:

    tas #53: I believe the 1-sentence answer is, Egypt has zero interest in Gaza becoming its problem. But maybe others can explain more.

  56. Anon93 Says:

    AOC pushes alternative facts on Twitter:

    (1) At https://twitter.com/AOC/status/1392220241472720897 she blatantly and unapologetically mischaracterizes a tweet by Andrew Yang at https://twitter.com/AndrewYang/status/1391897869137887234 as a “chest-thumping statement of support for a strike killing 9 children” when Yang said nothing of the sort.

    (2) At https://twitter.com/AOC/status/1393673695433043976 she implicitly calls Israel an apartheid state and says it is not a democracy. Both of these are objectively false.

    This is awful. AOC is every bit as awful as Trump and Netanyahu.

  57. David Says:

    The Jews aren’t going anywhere and the Palestinians aren’t going anywhere either. The days when a two state solution was a possibility have passed leaving us with nothing but the insane hope that Jews and Palestinians can live together as equals and in peace in a greater Israel, Grand Muftis notwithstanding. But what could be more insane than the present reality? Who in their right mind could wish for what we are now living through?

  58. Scott Says:

    My general approach is: yes, learn the past, understand the past, counter the historical falsehoods, simplifications, and one-sided narratives introduced by propagandists for both sides. In the end, though,

    (1) the adjudication of property claims arbitrarily far into the past would make a squatter, invader, or colonialist of nearly every person of every race now living on earth (with rare exceptions, e.g. involving McMurdo Station in Antarctica), but

    (2) in any case, people who are yet to be born have a much greater claim on our moral attention than people who died a long time ago.

  59. Roff Says:

    Rahul #21:

    The big blindspot in your analogy is that you use “not much damage” as the parallel for “only a small number of innocent people murdered on the Israeli side”. They’re few, but they were still innocent human beings, and their lives matter. As does every innocent life lost on the Palestinian side.

    (Trigger warning: I write below about the murder of innocent children, but after all, this is what this post is about.)

    To correct your story: The big brawny guy has a large family with many small helpless children. So does the small guy. Small Guy kills a few of Big Guy’s little children. What does Big Guy do? He could retaliate by carefully killing the same number of Small Guy’s children (or one less, to adhere to bertgoz’s weird definition of not being the bad guy). But he feels this would reduce his children’s lives to some kind of currency that is up for exchange as long as the transaction is equal. Instead, he sets Small Guy’s home on fire and kills 10 to 20 times as many of his children, to put the price tag on his own children’s life so high that no one would dare target them again (or so he mistakenly thinks, despite a long history of evidence to the contrary). 

    I do not, by any means, say this is a justified thing to do (and as a disclosure, I am an Israeli jew). Small Guy’s children are as blameless as Bug Guy’s, their lives are as sacred, and every single life taken on either side is a heartbreaking disaster. I do mean for you to see the full complexities of the situation. If you want to understand the Israeli mindset, you need to put yourself in all honesty in Big Guy’s shoes, and think how far would you go and which lines you would cross and refuse to cross in trying to protect your family’s lives.

  60. DavidM Says:

    Scott #50: you have got to be kidding me! The State of Israel’s entire founding concept is based on return after a 2000-year exile, but the Palestinian refugees are supposed to just fuggedaboudit after 75 years? I am truly sorry if this causes offence, but I really feel that many otherwise reasonable people suffer from a fundamental failure of empathy when it comes to this.

    Re #58, (1) to be clear I am talking about residency and citizenship rather than property, which I agree is more complex, (2) 75 years ago is not ancient history, and this affects the rights of people alive now (note that virtually all countries allow citizenship to be passed down at least one generation), (3) the million or so children now living in Gaza, and those yet to be born, will lead much more fulfilling lives if they are not confined to a 10x50km strip of desert.

    Of course arguing about politics on the internet is famously a fool’s errand, so I’d better go back to looking from the B’tselem twitter account, to videos of openly antisemitic parades in the UK and other countries, and weeping for man’s inhumanity to man. And then hopefully pull myself together and get some research done!

  61. Alex Says:

    Anon93 #41: My point was that Hamas appears to be open to negotiate on reasonable terms. There were specific comments earlier about what Hamas’ attitude was, and I was trying to show the situation is different than what just looking at their worst statements would suggest. You might not personally find those terms appealing, but a meaningful end to violence and the occupation seems very significant to me, and something worth pursuing rather than dismissing. The situation is so messed up there also need to be more meaningful steps to de-escalation, and it seems to me a key part of that has to be shifting from trying to work through disagreements with violence to working them out through other means.

    Sadly though, because of the way the Israeli state was founded and maintained, through violence and mass dispossession, it’s legitimacy may always be seen as suspect by many, especially the victims. Likewise in Canada and the US, there are many Indigenous people who see the Canadian and US governments as fundamentally illegitimate, because of how they were established and maintained. It seems to me that for Palestinians and others to view the Israeli state as legitimate more, Israel needs to move away from using violence and terror to impose its will on the situation, and do more to address legitimate grievances. But unfortunately the opposite attitude seems common: ‘we’ll only consider ending our brutal, violent and illegal military occupation and ethnic cleansing of your lands if you accept forever and always the legitimacy of the Israeli state’.

    Anon93 #56: On Israel being an apartheid state, HRW’s recent report on this makes a persuasive case IMO: https://www.hrw.org/report/2021/04/27/threshold-crossed/israeli-authorities-and-crimes-apartheid-and-persecution. Perhaps it won’t convince you Israel is an apartheid state, but I hope it will at least convince you it’s a debatable question (rather than being objectively false).

  62. bertgoz Says:

    Roff #21: by no means I was claiming that “infringing less suffering that your opponent” makes you a good guy. My bad for not qualifying this properly.

    I was making a posteriori analysis of a complex conflict spanning say the last decade. Assuming that in it there are plenty of complex situations where no clear line of what is morally right or wrong can be drawn. But if analyse it over such long period and extract the tally of innocent casualties of each side you can reach the conclusion on which side is the causing the greater evil.

  63. Scott Says:

    Roff #59: And even what you said is a massive oversimplification!

    Officially, Big Guy set Small Guy’s house on fire in order to destroy the weapons cache that Small Guy had used to murder several of Big Guy’s children. (But revenge, deterrence, and winning the support/admiration of his own children probably also factored into Big Guy’s motivations.) Before doing this, Big Guy stood outside Small Guy’s house with a loudspeaker, imploring any children to get out. Alas, while many children left, some stayed, and Big Guy ended up killing up more of Small Guy’s children than Small Guy did of Big Guy’s.

    Meanwhile, Small Guy says he’s only killing Big Guy’s children because Big Guy stole his land, and put Small Guy and his children under virtual house arrest, and now Big Guy is strong and prosperous while Small Guy is dirt-poor. Big Guy says it’s more complicated than that: a mediator a long time ago ruled that they both had valid claims and should split the land, Big Guy agreed to that proposal but Small Guy didn’t and publicly vowed to annihilate Big Guy and every last one of his children. Small Guy’s friends say those were just angry words and don’t matter now, compared to the disproportionate suffering Big Guy is actually inflicting on Small Guy’s family. Big Guy replies that the words do matter, because Small Guy never took them back, and also (of course) Small Guy continues to pick off Big Guy’s children whenever he can. Also, despite his name, Big Guy is kind of sensitive about this topic, because years ago, Small Guy’s grandparents’ best friend murdered most of Big Guy’s extended family while Small Guy’s grandparents cheered him on; only Big Guy’s grandparents narrowly escaped.

    Strangely, we’re talking here about a 1-acre plot of land, surrounded by hundreds of acres owned entirely by Small Guy’s relatives. Yet those relatives have never once invited Small Guy to stay with them, even while they cheer Small Guy in his fight against Big Guy.

    And one could list dozens more points … any of which might be relevant in a county courthouse or a moral philosophy seminar, so why not here? 🙂

  64. sensav Says:

    I completely agree with bertgoz on the above, stating that ISF is not evil while killing dozens of children is something that you shouldn’t be that proud of telling to your children…

    (and the never ending joke about human shields have to end at some point… as if in case you are a potential target of the ISF you have to kick away your family and neighbours and go live in a tent with a sign to help the bombs to spot you …)

  65. Scott Says:

    DavidM #60:

      you have got to be kidding me! The State of Israel’s entire founding concept is based on return after a 2000-year exile, but the Palestinian refugees are supposed to just fuggedaboudit after 75 years?

    No, they’re not supposed to fuggedaboudit. They have a valid claim. The Jews also have a valid claim, based not merely on ancient Israel but on the continuous Jewish presence there, the large amounts of land Jews legally bought in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the Balfour declaration. Alas, no historic claim to land can ever be absolute, precisely because of the possibility of two or more valid claims on the same land. One then needs a mediated resolution—which is exactly what the UN attempted with its 1947 partition plan. It can’t be repeated often enough that everything that’s happened since is the tragic aftermath of one side (having nowhere else to go) grudgingly accepting the UN’s compromise, and the other side rejecting it and waging a war of annihilation against the first side, which it lost.

  66. Pat Says:

    Scott I admire your attempt at approaching this extremely difficult topic.

    I also like your comparison that hamas are the couple of guys with machetes randomly swatting at the crowds and IDF being the police trying to stop them.

    If this event happened *multiple times*, and the guys with machetes consistently killed a *couple of people* while the police consistently killed *dozes and dozens* of innocents while stopping the machetes guys I would seriously consider that there is something “wrong” in my understanding of how much better are the cops because they could have killed all the crowds or because they say they just want to stop the bad guys.

    Is it possible that you are willing to believe the cops for the nth time, and minimize the important of the loss of innocent human life on the other side, because of -very legitimate- past trauma that happened to the cops’ parents?

    Of course intentions matter, but there is a reason they say the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

    As for myself I have learned to “shut up and multiply” when deciding who is worse… But that does not matter, because as you said what is important is to know that those who want the Palestinians or the Israelis to just die or disappear are both bad guys.

    And hopefully those who want both people to live and prosper can eventually prevail, be it in one state or in two states.

  67. A CS woman Says:


    Scott #50: you have got to be kidding me! The State of Israel’s entire founding concept is based on return after a 2000-year exile, but the Palestinian refugees are supposed to just fuggedaboudit after 75 years?

    Actually, this is where the claimed non existence of the Palestinians as a nation plays a valid point.
    The claim of the Jews to Israel is national and historical, based on their national and cultural and religious identity. It is not a “humanitarian” right based on ‘a right of return’. Humanitarily, Jews have a right of return to their Arab and European ancestral land. The Palestinians on the other hand have almost no historic claim to Israel, only a humanitarian one. But this humanitarian claim is not much different than a German right of return to the Sudetenland, which is not anymore sought-after.

  68. Scott Says:

    sensav #64: It’s obvious to my kids that, when missiles are being fired at their grandparents every night, sending them to the shelter every hour or two, there’s nothing inherently evil about attacking the sites where the missiles are being fired from. It’s obvious to them that it is pretty evil to hide the missile launchers in the places where kids live. That much they can get from watching cartoons. It takes an adult to stop understanding such things.

    The interesting part for them, the part that takes longer to explain, is how complicated it all is, how there’s also lots of good (and undeserved suffering) on the Palestinian side and evil on the Israeli side, how good and evil cut across sides and can only be inferred from intentions and actions and not from what costume someone wears.

  69. anon85 Says:

    Scott, I’m not saying intention doesn’t matter. Sure, it matters. It’s just not the only thing that matters, because people are wrong about their own intentions.

    Can you answer the hypothetical about the bully? From my previous comment: if a bullied kid fantasizes about killing his bully, is he morally worse than the bully?

    I view Israel as the bully in this scenario. The Palestinians have, at this point, been oppressed so long nobody even remembers freedom. They are citizens of no country, Israel forbids them from self-determination acts such as building an airport or controlling their own imports, they have no passports, etc. Without access to reliable trade, there’s no way for such a small region to build an economy, and indeed in Gaza the vast majority of people are unemployed (and rely on international aid).

    As for Hamas “hiding the missile launchers where there are kids”, I’m not convinced this is happening. For one thing, the Palestinians live in one of the densest territories on the planet; I’m not sure there are so many kid-free places. For another, I don’t know that I take Israel’s word for this, given that in the past few years Israel also bombed kids on a beach, shot a protestors 100 yards away from a fence (on the Palestinian side), etc. Israel’s concern for civilian casualties has been… inconsistent, let us say. They bomb first, then later claim the casualties were “human shields”. Who would call them out on a lie?

    And last but not least, bombing kids is wrong *even if there are missile launchers somewhere in their vicinity*. It is evil to kill 10 kids on the other side in order to save 1 on yours, and yet that’s exactly the tradeoff Israel is regularly making. (Thought experiment: an ISIS sympathizer in the US shoots up a cinema, then runs off to hide in a crowded mosque. Do the Feds bomb the mosque?)

  70. Daniel Says:

    There is not much to say about the current conflict. Given the current reality, It was inevitable (although surprisingly and wonderfully, we were able to go 7 years without one), it will change nothing and it will happen again soon enough.

    With that said, however tragic, the current conflict provides some good observations to learn about the world.

    Specifically – being able to observe people who have strong opinions on this conflict (specifically those of generic platitudes against Israel and in support of Hamas) that are based on such superficial or silly analysis is enlightening; so many new names revealing themselves to be such poor thinkers.

    A funny example- the AP president harshly condemning Israel for destroying its Gaza headquarters. Hamas is committing a war crime by embedding their intelligence and operational offices within a media office + civilian building. Hamas ofcourse deserves no condemnation because to the AP president. This isn’t a conflict between Israel and Hamas. This in fact, not even an armed conflict (like the Ethiopian civil war or Azerbaijan-Armenia). To the AP president, this story is just about the Israeli destruction of Palestine, nothing else is relevant.

    Simply put, the AP president is a fool. I feel glad to be able to observe his silliness and learn form it.

  71. Roff Says:

    Scott #63:
    Sure, there’s the whole backstory with its many facets and subtleties. I do not actually feel they have much bearing on the question of taking innocent lives, which is a completely different moral plane. Once this begins (or resumes) happening, it no longer matters as much what past atrocities and even past bloodshed happened before.

    bertgoz #62:
    If it is agreed that there is evil on both sides, I do not see the point of measuring which is the greater evil. Where does that lead other than the implied justification of the allegedly-smaller evil, an obviously morally crippled conclusion given the innocent bloodshed that both sides are complicit in. Targeting of innocents is evil that is ever justified, regardless of context. 

    anon85 #69:
    Your thought experiment is not hypothetical. The USA’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were similar in their motivation and manner of conduct to Israel’s wars in Gaza. Factually, yes, they bombed the mosque.

  72. anon85 Says:

    Roff 71:

    The fact that the US would obviously never bomb such a mosque if it were on US soil reveals what we all know deep inside: bombing the mosque in that situation is wrong. It becomes more wrong the more civilians you kill, and also more wrong the fewer people the terrorist would likely kill.

    “Don’t kill kids” is a pretty rock-solid pillar of morality.

    I suppose sometimes, in trolley problems, it can make sense to kill some kids to save a larger number of others. That’s not Israel’s situation: I don’t think anyone would argue that the Israeli bombings *decrease* the total number of deaths (on both sides) in the conflict. The bombings are by far the largest cause of death!

  73. Ric Says:

    Before these very recent events, I found myself wondering about a statement that a few Israeli politicians have made about Gaza, that goes something like this: “they had the opportunity to become a Singapore by the Mediterranean … but they chose violence instead”. The land mass of the two places is about the same. Is the statement fair? (Honestly, I don’t know and am curious about what people with better understanding think.)

  74. anon85 Says:

    Ric #73:

    It’s not fair. Singapore trades with neighboring countries; Gaza cannot, because Israel won’t let it. Singapore has an airport; Gaza doesn’t because Israel wouldn’t let it build one. Israel even attacks Turkish flotillas in international waters if they threaten to bring construction material into Gaza!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gaza_flotilla_raid

  75. Tim Converse Says:

    So … all one-staters are either 1) bad guys, 2) insane, or 3) both?

    [If this is not a fair summary, please correct me.)

  76. Ken Miller Says:

    Scott #65: you wrote “It can’t be repeated often enough that everything that’s happened since is the tragic aftermath of one side (having nowhere else to go) grudgingly accepting the UN’s compromise, and the other side rejecting it and waging a war of annihilation against the first side, which it lost.” It sounds like you are not following your own advice of looking forward and not trying to litigate the past, and are instead trying to establish who cast the first stone.

    It is not that simple. Before Israel declared Independence on May 15 1948 and other Arab countries invaded, 250,000-300,000 Palestinians had already fled or been driven out (out of a total of 700,000 refugees in the end, 80% of the Palestinians in what became Israel; that left 160,000 in Israel, 40,000 of which were ‘internal refugees’ who had fled their homes to other locations within Israel). Jewish militias were by far the main force pushing them out (e.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1948_Palestinian_exodus). Note, from that source, that a Haganah intelligence report at the time estimated that 73% of the external Palestinian refugees were directly driven out by the Jewish militias, another 22% by fears generated by the actions of the militias (including the massacre at Deir Yassin), and at most 5% were driven out by Arab calls to flee.

    And note that the ‘UN compromise’ did not envision any expulsion of the Palestinian population, and in fact the UN asserted their right of return. The Palestinian right of rreturn was “formulated for the first time on 27 June 1948 by United Nations mediator Folke Bernadotte,[5] proponents of the right of return hold that it is a sacred right,[6] as well as a human right, whose applicability both generally and specifically to the Palestinians is protected under international law.[7] This view holds that those who opt not to return or for whom return is not feasible, should receive compensation in lieu…. The first formal move towards the recognition of a right of return was in UN General Assembly Resolution 194 passed on 11 December 1948 which provided (Article 11):
    Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palestinian_right_of_return

    But Golda Meir already on May 1 declared there should be no right of return, procedures and committees for appropriation of property were set up shortly thereafter, and by July it was official policy that they lost their homes and land to Israel with no compensation and could not return, and numerous Palestinian villages were leveled. (same source)

    So there was already much cause of grievance from, and much violation of the UN compromise by, the Israelis, even before May 15 and the invasion by Arab states. I am not trying to make an assertion as to who has the first or primary grievance, i.e. who cast the first stone. I only want to ask, do you really feel confident in doing so?

  77. Rahul Says:

    I think one of the factors that has been changing quite rapidly is the global support and perspective on this.

    If you roll back the clock 70 years, with the backdrop of the Holocaust and the difficulty of starting a new nation with unfriendly Neighbors, the world really did look at Israel as the underdog deserving of help and support. Barring the usual crooks and anti semites.

    But I think that has changed over the decades. Nobody thinks of Israel as weak any more. Also, unlike 50 years ago wartime reporting is instant and gory in its detail. The effects on public perception are huge.

    With great power comes great responsibility. And the general perception has become that Israel is playing the role of the bully.

    And this is not based so much on Israel’s actions during this conflict but on how they act in the peace-times that precede the conflicts.

    On a pragmatic note I think it’s important for Israel to rally global support and if the current policy continues I see the support failing.

  78. Ken Miller Says:

    For those inclined to believe the Israeli P.R. that they are the most moral army in the world, always careful to warn civilians and doing their utmost to avoid civilian deaths, I suggest that you consider this article in the NY Times tonight: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/16/world/middleeast/israel-gaza-hamas-civilian-casualties.html

    Some excerpts:
    “The Israeli missile that slammed into a Palestinian apartment exacted a shocking toll: eight children and two women, killed as they celebrated a major Muslim holiday, in one of the deadliest episodes of the war between Israel and Palestinian militants that has raged for nearly a week.

    Israel said a senior Hamas commander was the target of the Friday attack. [N.B., not a missile launching site; just the claimed presence of a single commander.] Graphic video footage showed Palestinian medics stepping over rubble that included children’s toys and a Monopoly board game as they evacuated the bloodied victims from the pulverized building. The only survivor was an infant boy.

    Both sides appear to be violating those laws [of war], experts said: Hamas has fired more than 3,000 rockets toward Israeli cities and towns, a clear war crime. And Israel, although it says it takes measures to avoid civilian casualties, has subjected Gaza to such an intense bombardment, killing families and flattening buildings, that it likely constitutes a disproportionate use of force — also a war crime.

    In the deadliest attack yet, Israeli airstrikes on buildings in Gaza City on Sunday killed at least 42 people including 10 children, Palestinian officials said.

    Israel sometimes warns Gaza residents to evacuate before an airstrike, and it says it has called off strikes to avoid civilian casualties. But its use of artillery and airstrikes to pound such a confined area, packed with poorly protected people, has led to a death toll 20 times as high as that caused by Hamas, and wounded 1,235 more.

    Israeli warplanes have also destroyed four high-rise buildings in Gaza that it said were used by Hamas. But those buildings also contained homes and the offices of local and international news media organizations, inflicting enormous economic damage.

    In a statement about the attack on Friday that killed 10 family members, the Israel Defense Forces said it had “attacked a number of Hamas terror organization senior officials, in an apartment used as terror infrastructure in the area of the Al-Shati refugee camp.”

    Neighbors of the family, though, said no Hamas official was present at the time of the attack. [Note that the AP also says they know of no Hamas presence at any time in their building, where they had been for 15 years, and which contained offices of 12 news organizations.]

    Human rights groups, however, say that Israel routinely pushes the boundaries of what might be considered proportionate military force, and that it has frequently breached the laws of war. “There’s been an utter disregard for civilian life that stems from the decades of impunity,” said Omar Shakir, Israel director for Human Rights Watch.

    A scathing report by Breaking the Silence, an organization of leftist combat veterans, into the conduct of Israel’s army during its last major war against Hamas in 2014, accused the military of operating a “lenient open-fire policy” in Gaza. It said Israeli commanders had called for “brutal and unethical” actions there and encouraged soldiers to behave aggressively toward Palestinian civilians.

    The group’s executive director, Avner Gvaryahu, said that the Israeli military did not intentionally set out to kill civilians but that it routinely uses disproportionate force. He pointed to the use of artillery in recent days to hit targets with munitions that can kill anyone in a radius of up to 150 meters, or almost 500 feet.

    “It speaks volumes to the fact that we are not doing everything in our power to prevent civilian casualties,” Mr. Gvaryahu said.

    Others push back on Israel’s insistence that Hamas is to blame for the civilian casualties because it operates from residential areas. In a densely populated place like Gaza, “there is almost no way to fight from it without exposing civilians to danger,” said Nathan Thrall, author of a book on Israel and the Palestinians.

    Mr. Thrall noted that the headquarters of the Israel Defense Forces was in a residential part of Tel Aviv, beside a hospital and an art museum.”

    And read the report referred to from Breaking the Silence: https://www.breakingthesilence.org.il/pdf/ProtectiveEdge.pdf

  79. derek davison Says:

    Sunday was the deadliest single day yet in Israel’s non-stop bombardment of Gaza, with at least 42 people killed (ten of them children). Naturally none of the killings were the Israeli military’s fault. The Israelis were trying to destroy part of Hamas’s tunnel network, you see, and apparently had no idea that all the civilian residences sitting above it might collapse along with the tunnels. Who could have predicted, really. Gaza’s health ministry now puts the number of dead since this conflict began on Monday at 188 (as of Monday morning that figure stands at 197). I don’t have numbers on wounded but that figure was at 950 on Friday and must be well over 1000 by this point. Ten people have been killed in Israel by Gazan rocket fire.

    Saturday’s death toll was lower, though the Israelis did welcome US Israel-Palestine envoy Hady Amr to Tel Aviv by killing at least ten people in a single airstrike on Saturday morning. The day’s biggest incident really involved the Israeli destruction of an evacuated office tower containing the Gazan offices of Al Jazeera and the Associated Press. This strike raised howls of outrage among Western media and establishment Democrats in Washington, the same sorts of people who didn’t really seem to care all that much about the war in Yemen until Mohammed bin Salman murdered a journalist. My cynicism aside, it also raised understandable and serious concerns about the intentional targeting of journalists. Here too, though, it’s not Israel’s fault. Hamas was using that tower, you see, for nefarious but unspecified reasons. The reporters using the facility never reported on that seemingly newsworthy state of affairs, either because they’re very bad at their jobs or because they’re somehow in cahoots with Hamas. It’s all very simple and believable, but no the Israelis can’t actually show you any of the evidence for these claims because that evidence is classified. Still. Even though the building is destroyed.

    Gaza’s infrastructure has unsurprisingly been pulverized, with power lines down and broken sewer lines leaking refuse into the open air. Israeli authorities have closed of Gaza’s fishing zone and are blocking the delivery of animal feed into the enclave, while the Israeli military reportedly targets Gazan farms. Humanitarian relief agencies are also being barred from operating in Gaza, which is becoming a more critical problem as more people are displaced by Israeli attacks. And this is all apparently going to continue for awhile, as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Sunday that he hasn’t seen enough carnage just yet. As if to punctuate the sentiment, Netanyahu’s address on Sunday was followed shortly thereafter by a new round of Israeli airstrikes.

    Elsewhere, Israeli police killed one Palestinian in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah on Sunday. The Palestinian man apparently rammed a roadblock with his car, injuring six police officers in the process.

    The New York Times unearthed a little-regarded incident that took place in east Jerusalem at the beginning of Ramadan that offered a sneak preview of the police assaults that ended Ramadan and helped spark the conflict in Gaza. Israeli police apparently entered the vicinity of al-Aqsa Mosque on the first day of Ramadan and cut the wiring to the loudspeakers that broadcast the call to prayer from the facility’s minarets, to make sure the call didn’t interrupt Israeli President Reuven Rivlin’s Memorial Day speech at the Western Wall. Rather than schedule his speech around the call to prayer, Rivlin expected the mosque authorities to adjust to his schedule. When they refused, the cops took care of the conflict.

    This mosque incident is a relatively minor thing but it’s a microcosm of the double-standard that pervades the Israeli-Palestinian relationship. Israeli events take precedence over Palestinian events. Decades-old Israeli property claims are legally relevant, while similar Palestinian claims are not. Israel has the right to defend itself, Palestinians apparently do not. And so forth. That double standard is on clear display right now in the city of Lod, which has reportedly descended into a virtual mini civil war amid ongoing violence between its Arab and Jewish Israeli communities. The double standard is that one of those communities is operating with the acquiescence if not outright cooperation of Israeli security forces:

    Far-right Jewish Israelis, often armed with pistols and operating in full view of police, have moved into mixed areas this week. In messages shared by one online Jewish supremacist group, Jews were called to flood into Lod. “Don’t come without any instrument for personal protection,” one message read.

    Amir Ohana, the public security minister, has encouraged vigilantism, announcing on Wednesday that “law-abiding citizens carrying weapons” were an aid to authorities. He made the comments after a suspected Jewish gunman was accused of killing an Arab man in Lod. The minister, without presenting evidence, said it was in self-defence.

    Since then, attacks have intensified. One video, apparently taken by an Arab resident, showed two Jewish Israelis filling bottles with petrol at a service station next to a white car. “The police are right next to them,” said a voice off-camera.

    Internationally, after a weekend of pro-Palestinian demonstrations in cities around the world the Organization of Islamic Cooperation issued a statement on Sunday strongly criticizing the Israeli war effort and its treatment of the Palestinian people. This is important in that the OIC couldn’t collectively agree that water is wet without Saudi approval, and to a large extent it’s been the Saudis’ willingness to look the other way on the Palestinian issue over the past few years that’s allowed other Arab states, like the UAE and Bahrain, to strike their “Abraham Accords” normalization agreements with the Israeli government. The OIC session apparently involved more than a few heated comments directed toward those states. But in truth, the fact that this crisis has shifted from clearly aggressive Israeli actions in east Jerusalem to something that can be portrayed as a typical exchange of fire in Gaza helps leaders in Abu Dhabi, Manama, etc., who can now offer some token criticism of Israel while mostly blaming Hamas for the violence and ignoring everything that preceded it. Regardless, there’s not much point dwelling on this statement because there’s nothing the OIC could do to affect the course of the conflict anyway.

    There’s apparently nothing the United Nations Security Council can do, either, or at least nothing it will do after an emergency session on Sunday produced nothing—not just “nothing of substance,” but nothing at all. That’s mostly because the United States, under President Joe “power of our example” Biden and Secretary of State Antony “champion of human rights” Blinken, is blocking any UNSC statement. A UN Security Council statement is invariably a purely symbolic thing unless there’s someone willing to enforce it, and the US can ensure that doesn’t happen. So blocking such a statement makes it clear that Biden is prepared to go to great lengths, even at the risk of isolating the US internationally and angering a sizable chunk of his political base domestically, to shield Israel from even the most toothless criticism.

  80. Seraj Assi Says:

    It has been a brutal week for Palestinians in Jerusalem.

    As hardline Israeli settlers prepared a provocative parade through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City, Israeli security forces turned their guns on peaceful Palestinian protesters and worshipers performing Ramadan prayers at the Aqsa mosque, injuring hundreds in yet another brutal crackdown. Videos circulating on social media in recent days have shown Israeli police officers throwing stun grenades and shooting rubber bullets at Palestinians inside the mosque, attacking Palestinian worshippers with tear gas bombs, and viciously beating a Palestinian man in the mosque compound. On Monday, Israeli strikes in Gaza killed twenty Palestinians, including ten children.

    Once again, Israel has turned its celebrations of Jerusalem Day, an Israeli national holiday commemorating the reunification of Jerusalem and the establishment of Israeli control over the Old City, into an occasion to repress Palestinians and remind the world that it is in fact, as a Human Rights Watch report acknowledged last week, an apartheid state.

    Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has praised the police for ​“taking a strong hand” against Palestinians, declaring: ​“Jerusalem is Israel’s capital and just as every nation builds in its capital and builds up its capital, we also have the right to build in Jerusalem and to build up Jerusalem. That is what we have done and that is what we will continue to do.”

    This is nothing but a brazen land-grabbing scheme, an expansionist plan hatched in broad daylight and backed up by violent settlers. Netanyahu’s ​“Greater Jerusalem” vision plans to annex Jerusalem, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians—constituting nearly 40% of the city’s population, with thousands living beyond the ​“separation barrier” in East Jerusalem—are facing the daily prospect of displacement. Far-right settlers, armed to the teeth and emboldened by right-wing politicians, are insisting that the Israeli Supreme Court carry through the eviction of Palestinian families from East Jerusalem.

    What is happening in Jerusalem, then, are not ​“clashes” between Israelis and Palestinians, as mainstream outlets would have you to believe. What is happening is the brutal daily reality of an occupying power, emboldened by unconditional US support and international apathy, exercising its military might against a stateless people living under its control, stripped of their basic human and civil rights. What is happening is a Netanyahu administration seemingly emboldened by the deafening silence from Washington, where the Biden administration has yet to take a clear stance on the ongoing violation of Palestinian rights.

    In Washington, the few exceptions to cowardly silence or pro-Israel cheerleading have come from left politicians.

    Senator Bernie Sanders came out staunchly against the unbridled brutality of the government-backed Israeli settlers, tweeting: ​“The United States must speak out strongly against the violence by government-allied Israeli extremists in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and make clear that the evictions of Palestinian families must not go forward.”

    Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said in a Twitter message: ​“We stand in solidarity with the Palestinian residents. Israeli forces are forcing families from their homes during Ramadan and inflicting violence. It is inhumane and the US must show leadership in safeguarding the human rights of Palestinians.”

    Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib shared a video on Twitter showing Israeli forces firing stun grenades into a Palestinian medical facility, saying: ​“There is no reason, none, to attack people while they are praying or seeking medical attention—other than to dehumanize and terrorize them.” Calling on President Biden to intervene and prevent Israel from entering Temple Mount, where its forces have been attacking Palestinian worshippers, Tlaib further warned that ​“too many are silent or dismissive as our U.S. tax dollars continue to be used for this kind of inhumanity. I am tired of people functioning from a place of fear rather than doing what’s right because of the bullying by pro-Israel lobbyists. This is apartheid, plain and simple.”

    Representative Ilhan Omar also tweeted in solidarity with the Palestinian worshippers, writing: ​“This is happening as Muslims pray tarawih & tahajud in Palestine. Families who pray all night during Ramadan, the mosque is like home. Palestinians deserve to find refuge in a mosque and peace in Ramadan.”

    For decades, consecutive administrations have given Israel a blank check to pursue its expansionist and segregationist policies against Palestinians, showering it with billions in public money and backing it to the hilt—lavishing money on an apartheid government that is killing and displacing Palestinians every day.

    The United States must not be complicit in these continuing atrocities. The Biden administration must pressure Israel to end its occupation, dismantle its illegal settlements, and recognize Palestinians’ rights. It should follow the example of Senators Sanders and Elizabeth Warren, who have repeatedly called for imposing conditions on US military aid to Israel.

    Israel cannot be allowed to act with impunity, to kill and displace free of consequences. Occupation and apartheid must come with a cost.

  81. Eitan Bachmat Says:

    We are currently at a 2.5 state solution. Hamas has complete control of the Gaza strip, Netanyahu has complete control over Israel and parts of the west bank are essentially controlled by the PLO until they decide to have an election and Hamas will win.
    We are at the 25th anniversary of the Hamas-Netanyahu political marriage and it has been fantastic for both. I must say that they are very loyal to each other and avoid temptations, this is amazing given that Netanyahu is secular and Hamas religious, and proves that thirst for power conquers all.
    The middle east is very tribal and I actually favor a 3.5 state solution, I think there should be a state of tel-aviv which will be party central for liberals
    and perhaps a 4.5 state solution with the kingdom of Jerusalem being a fight club for religious zealots from all sides

  82. Денис Says:

    Count me insane then. Come join the side that reflects no light when you’re ready, Scott.

    Came here to say that it was interesting how individuals are like particles, but they interact like waves. Wanted to ask if you know of a text that spins that analogy out, or I have to do all the dirty work myself.

  83. Jr Says:

    anon85 #72,

    Why don’t you think the bombings save lives on net? If Hamas is not bombed they will only send more rockets against Israel until either Israel bomb them anyway, or they succeed in killing large number of Israelis.

  84. Jelmer Renema Says:

    @ Scott 50: I think your claim that the Israel-Palestine population transfer is the only one people talk about reversing or somehow making compensation for is deeply incorrect.

    In fact, almost every population ‘transfer’ from that period is still a political issue for someone, whether it’s the expulsion of Germans from eastern europe post ww2 (the head of the Federation of Expelees, is still a member of parliament for the CSU), the soviet expulsions of Poles from Eastern poland (last time I was in Warsaw I saw advertisements in the bus stops about this!) or the Balkan atrocities (as my guidebook put it: ‘politics here is about who did what to whose grandfather during world war two’). One could make this list longer almost at will: Russians in the Baltic states (go to the Estonian national museum and see what a sensitive issue that is), hungarian-slovak relations, the Caucasus republics, and so on.

    What makes the case of Israel different is that:

    a) It’s the only one that happened in an area of the world where the cold war was not static. The conflicts I mentioned above were either within one of the two alliances, which meant there were bigger fish to fry, or they were between members of the opposing alliances, which meant they were subsumed in the larger conflict of the cold war (like the Oder-Neisse line).

    b) It is the only one that involves people from Western Europe.

    There are many reasons, I think, why people can legitimately hold different views on the Israel-Palestine situation, but the claim that people somehow uniquely remember this one injustice doesn’t hold water.

  85. Karen Morenz Korol Says:

    I may have to plead insanity (coupled with ignorance) on this one. It seems to me that keeping people separated by a border/wall is the best way to create an “us vs them” mentality. Meanwhile, my (very limited) understanding is that there are already many Arabs living peacefully within Israel, and with Israeli citizenship, and there are Arab/Israeli political parties that have seats in parliament. I know there’s a long and painful history to overcome in order to make integration possible, but it seems to me that we’ve sort of tried the “two separate states” thing, and it leads to bombs being lobbed every few years. I think (hope) that’s a lot less likely if people live together in the same neighbourhoods, and their kids go to the same schools, play on the same soccer teams, etc. But again, I may just be too insane and I’m certainly too ignorant to say anything with certainty on the topic.

  86. Jo Says:

    Interesting post and comments as always, your blog is a good place.
    On the current conflict, apart from the suffering, death, feat, injuries… what really gets to me is, what is gained in this? What is the end-goal? (Granted Bibi/the Israel extremists on one side, Hamas on the other think they gain something)
    Looks like Israel will have a military victory and Hamas a moral/media one… And then? More rubble and dysfunction in Palestine, and Israel weaker than before (I don’t think this increases Israel’s standing on the world scene, this does nothing to change the military/strategic standing with regards to Israel’s neighboring states, this will probably not eradicate Hamas, this will reinforce hate on the Palestinian side… negative effects all along)

    For the debate between a two-state solution and a one-state solution, as both seem to be impossible why not aim for the middle? “The United States of Israel and Palestine” where some sovereignty is kept withing the confines of what is now Israel and Palestine, and some sovereignty (first *security* both internal and external… although I’m not sure it would be wise, at least in the first decades, to share Mossad, especially wrt. Iranian operations…) is shared in new democratic institutions (take Israel’s existing ones as a blueprint)… Ensure that power at this level is more or less shared fairly (as in Ulster?)

    This could start as specific, common projects (like the European Union was built step by step) and as long as these projects do not change the current land equilibrium I don’t see how one could in good conscience object them, on both sides.

    Then the hard part would be (again step by step) for both sides to agree to “dilute” some of its sovereignty (or “dreamt sovereignty” in case of Palestinians) in the new shared institutions.

    For Palestinians, a promise of better material life (we can imagine some kind of wealth transfers, think German RFA/RDA reunification) should be enticing enough, IF the “democratic” instututions are functional enough for the “common man” to have a voice. (this will not happen if Israel keeps throwing bombs on them. We as external observers simply don’t know how “legitimate” Tsahal’s targets are and this seems to be a big part of the current debates/controversies… In any case I don’t think levelling buildings is a straightforward path towrds democracy for palestinians)

    Could Iran be convinced to stop funding and supporting Hamas (or at least Hamas operations in Palestine/against Israel) in exchange for renewed talks around the nuclear issue and the end of sanctions? This would remove quite a nefarious “player” from the table.

    Israel should be convinced to both relinquish some sovereignty, and give a *big* financial/services help to Palestine. First a return to moderate governments would be a good idea. USA has both big pockets and big military toys. USA could fund a “marshall plan” for Palestine/Israel, and make a big show of “donating” some military hardware (ships, aircraft…)

    All of this seems like science fiction I know but the most important points are:
    1. A “union of states” might be the stable, peaceful option that is the closer to what exists on the ground today.
    2. This is an incremental solution with several facets that can be worked in parallel, and I think that this would be the most resilient to setbacks. Because this will be long, there will be setbacks, what is important is that setbacks are temporary and that in the long run, peace, security and prosperity improves for all.

  87. Alex Says:

    Scott #65: I agree with the general point that there are many valid historical claims among both Palestinians and Jews for land in historic Palestine, but I’d disagree that the Balfour Declaration or the 1947 UN Partition Plan provide any basis for valid claims. Putting aside the fact the Balfour Declaration was more a vague commitment than a specific grant, the British had no right to give away Palestinian land. Might and colonial conquest do not make right. Similarly, the UN General Assembly had no authority to partition historic Palestine or decide what states should be there (that the UNGA does not have such authority Israel would certainly come to agree with later!).

    Scott #68 and others: why are you so confident that the IDF is not (often) lying about Hamas fighters being at the locations they bomb? From what I read from human rights organizations it seems they do routinely target civilians, and at the very least bomb indiscriminately and with such wanton disregard for human life that it amounts to the same thing. To my knowledge they don’t generally provide evidence to support their claims (e.g. when they recently blew up the offices of the Associated Press and Al Jazeera, and AP challenged the IDF’s claims). Another indicator to me that they are showing callous disregard for civilian lives: I doubt the IDF would be so willing to accept the ‘collateral damage’ if it were Israeli Jewish people who were the victims.

  88. Scott Says:

    It occurs to me that all those who’ve used this comment section to share screen after screen of horrific details from the latest mini-war, or who implicitly demand that I, a blogger in Austin, TX, justify every outrage by a government whose leader I called “corrupt,” “power-mad,” and “thoroughly bad” in this very post — and who thereby nudged this comment thread, which started out surprisingly well, to be closer to every other Israel/Palestine thread in the history of the Internet — they’ve actually provided me a perfect opportunity to try putting into practice the philosophy this post advocated!

    What is your ideal end state?

    Whichever side you’re on, there is an infinite number of outrages that could be listed from the other side. Experience shows that it’s impossible to make progress that way. So one more time, from the bowels of my heart:

    What is your ideal end state?

  89. A CS Woman Says:

    Just to reiterate some points, and clarify some misunderstanding, in my opinion:

    1) The US, UK, and West ally forces, attack and kill uninvolved civilians as collateral damage in higher proportions than Israel in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, etc. This is allowed by international law to my best knowledge: it is legitimate to cause collateral damage and unfortunately cause the death of innocent civilians when exercising self-defense, or within a war (in a “proportional measure”).

    2) Israel is directly attacked by Palestinian rockets. The US, UK and ally forces were not. So the international community should start by condemning first the US and ally forces before it does so against Israel, if it considers collateral damage illegitimate. There is no justification in picking on the weaker (in this case Israel).

  90. Rahul Says:

    Scott / Roff:

    From your comments it seems clear that you don’t think that the current Israeli response is disproportionate.

    Fair enough, would you set the bar at some threshold? How assymetric should the loss of life become for you to agree that the IDF response is unjustifiably harsh.

    Or do the relative death counts not matter at all in your assessment of fairness and proportionality?

  91. Scott Says:

    Rahul #77: Indeed, the way I think about it is that in the wake of the Holocaust (which, again, the leader of the Palestinians at that time fervently supported and wished to repeat in Palestine), and according to the modern ethos in which moral credibility is granted by victimhood, the Jewish refugees in Palestine had breathtaking, world-historic, near-infinite moral credibility … but zero physical security. The entire history of the state of Israel, over the past 73 years, has been a history of trading off moral credibility for physical security. It was obvious, not only that some such trade was called for, but that an extremely large one was — who else, in that position, wouldn’t have made such a trade? The question now is whether Israel has overshot the target, as far away as it originally looked. (Or worse yet, if it’s given up moral credibility without increasing physical security, or passed up opportunities to increase moral credibility and physical security at the same time.)

  92. Scott Says:

    Alex #87: I’m sure that the IDF sometimes lies about specific incidents, and I’m even more sure that Hamas lies about specific incidents. If the truth about specific incidents (e.g., the bombing of the AP / AlJazeera building, which the IDF claims also contained Hamas military assets) will ever be known, it might not be known before months of investigations. I don’t know how to explain more clearly that litigating specific incidents is not my interest here.

    Regarding the UN, one could run the logic either way. If the UN has the legal or moral authority to pass all those resolutions condemning Israel, then how did it not have the authority to propose the partition plan that created Israel in the first place? Or if its creation of Israel was just a non-binding recommendation, then why aren’t its later condemnations just non-binding recommendations as well?

  93. Rahul Says:

    Scott #91:

    Yes, I think I agree on that. The question you ask: has Israel overshot the target? Do you feel any uncertainty about the answer? I don’t.

    On a personal level: Whenever I watch or read Holocaust or pre WW2 histories I feel an undeniable empathy towards the Jews. Even post the birth of Israel the history of the early settlers or the teams that brought Eichhman and other Nazis to trial, or the early wars won against the Muslim states. All through those I find myself rooting for Israel the underdog winning against great odds.

    But current developments are clearly reversed and Israel does come out as a right wing bully misusing its position of power.

    I suspect more and more of the world will see it as that and it’s not a good development for Israel itself.

    Sometimes I wonder, if the 2000 year history of Jewish thought gave plenty of opportunities to debate and tweak the philosophical and moral underpinnings of living when weak and persecuted. But maybe how to handle power and strength was a problem not oft arisen and perhaps thats one cause of the flaws in Israeli moral / ethical policy.

  94. Jay Says:

    Scott #88,

    Once upon a time (long before I emigrated there) Québec had a terrorist group, like Irgun or Hamas. Then a man they had kidnapped died. Nobody applaud. Nobody would work with them again. End of the canadian civil war. You can call that my ideal end solution.

    Is it one state? Is it two states? I don’t think this matters that much. Do you accept your neighbours have the right to live and flourish in peace, or would you glorify your terrorist group and make it your army and most powerfull political movement? That’s what matters.

    Of course, easier to say when it’s not your grandpa who risks a Palestinian rocket or an Israelian missile. Good luck to all who wouldn’t kill for their preferred political organisation.

  95. beleester Says:

    >(An aside: I’m convinced that Hamas has the most top-heavy management structure of any organization in the world. Every day, Israel takes out another dozen of its most senior, highest-level commanders, apparently leaving hundreds more. How many senior commanders do they have? Do they have even a single junior commander?)

    Reminds me of the old joke that being al-Qaeda’s second in command was the most dangerous job on the planet, because we were constantly hearing that we’d killed this or that important guy in Afghanistan but we couldn’t find Bin Laden.

  96. Scott Says:

    Rahul #93: Yes, as I hoped I’d made clear in this post, I now find it obvious that Netanyahu and the settler movement have “overshot the target.” But my reasoning might differ from yours. It runs as follows:

    The Holocaust is (and I hope I’m not going too far out on a limb here…) one of a tiny number of candidates for the worst thing that’s ever happened in the history of the human race. It would be worth upturning the foundations of the universe to prevent its recurrence. If so, then certainly it’s worth giving the survivors a patch of land the size of New Jersey, one that they had an extremely reasonable claim to anyway, and letting them defend that patch with everything they’ve got. If the leaders of the areas surrounding that patch threaten (as they do) a second Holocaust, launch wars with that aim in mind, etc., then you basically can’t optimize too much in terms of foiling their plans.

    The problem arises when you’ve optimized so much that further “optimizations” seem not merely unhelpful, but just as likely to work in the opposite direction, ironically increasing the likelihood of the second Holocaust that it was your goal to prevent. This, to my mind, is precisely what the settler movement has now done: by making Israel more and more into a de facto apartheid regime, it creates an obviously unsustainable situation that’s harder and harder to resolve without mass violence, against one side or more likely both. When, meanwhile, just continuing to build up pre-1967 Israel into a rich, population-dense Singapore-on-the-Mediterranean (but a well-defended one) was a viable option all along.

  97. zeev zurr Says:

    re # 60 & # 67
    with the added clarification that most of the Arabs living in 48’s Israel arrived to this “deserted holy land” (per Mark Twain 1867 visit) followed the wake of the early land developers zionists (first Zionist congress in 1897)

  98. Nilima Nigam Says:

    I truly, truly admire this post. Thanks.

    Many years ago, with reference to another seemingly intractable, horrible, and pointlessly violent conflict and which was closer personally, I tried a thought experiment.

    ‘Suppose’, I thought, ‘I were given the ability to achieve my stated goal, even if the path included harming kids. Would I be willing, me personally, to harm those kids towards this goal? How many kids? Forget the ‘how I got here’ nonsense for a moment. Here’s the chance: you get your desired goal, and you just need to state the cost, and extract the cost yourself.’

    I tried to honestly sit with this. It was remarkable how my goal shifted.

    So your question: ‘what do you really want, given unlimited power?’ is an excellent one. It’s a sobering exercise for each of us.

  99. John Says:

    It took until comment #86 for someone to even mention Iran. An impressive demonstration of the geopolitical knowledge of the commenters here.

    Scott #88 “What is your ideal end state?”

    First: USA and Arab states force Iran to stop financing Hamas -> 98% of all problems solved.

    Second: Trump/Kushner plan for political stability and economic recovery and prosperity.

    Result: “Israel” as a Jewish Homeland State (by constitution) in more or less its current borders, with “Palestine” as a partly-autonomous zone/region, like Hongkong or South Tyrol.

  100. Jay Says:

    D.A. #25,
    Maybe, juste maybe, the one thing you could do is focus and repeat unconvenient truths.

    Scott #96,

    “Certainly it was not reasonable to install Shoah survivors among ennemies and force them to defend that patch of land with everything they’ve got”

    “One alternative was building the same religious state but somewhere safer”

    “or maybe we should have build a non religious state for all victims of genocides”

    “or build a network of shtetls and stay ready to leave whenever it’s safer elsewhere”

    “actually, was it even possible to make a worse choice of location?”

    Of course it does not lead anywhere close to a solution, as we can’t change a past choice. However, the fact that many promote equally irrespective but convenient narratives (“the so conveniently so deserted holy land”, as Twain should say) makes me suspect that unconvenients truths helps moderation.

  101. Barak Pearlmutter Says:

    Scott #38,
    The quip I heard about this, from a cynic actively involved in Israeli military operations, is that Hamas tries to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible, and the IDF tries to kill as few Palestinian civilians as possible, and neither does a particularly good job of it.

  102. Scott Says:

    Barak #101: I phrased it precisely that way in a previous post on this blog, and took a lot of flak for it! 🙂

  103. pete Says:

    Scott #96

    “… build up pre-1967 Israel into a rich, population-dense Singapore-on-the-Mediterranean…”

    Interesting idea and it sounds great but I don’t think it would’ve worked. Israel was a tiny country surrounded by enemies. I think that expansionism was baked into Israel from day one and it is not clear when and where that phase will end.

    On another note, you mention that the Jews were given an area the size of New Jersey to forge a secure base after the Holocaust. Perhaps we should have given them New Jersey instead of Palestine. Or maybe Southern Scotland?

  104. anon85 Says:

    Jr #83 said: “Why don’t you think the bombings save lives on net? If Hamas is not bombed they will only send more rockets against Israel until either Israel bomb them anyway, or they succeed in killing large number of Israelis.”

    The Israeli bombings killed 20 times as many people as Hamas’s rockets so far. Hamas fired around 3,000 rockets, so to start with we would have to wonder whether Hamas even has 60,000 rockets – if they don’t, then Hamas cannot exceed Israel’s death toll no matter how hard they try.

    Suppose for the sake of argument that Hamas does have more than 60,000 rockets. Well, Scott advocates listening to people, so I can’t help but point out that Hamas’s stated reason for firing rockets is *revenge for the Israeli bombings*. If Israel stopped bombing, it’s quite likely Hamas would stop firing rockets after not too long (say, at most after another 3,000 or something). If nothing else this is because the Palestinian Authority relies on international aid and cannot afford to be perceived as the clear villain by international eyes; they have strong incentives to look like victims.

    Last but not least: if a bombing killed my kids… well, I’m a kind of a pacifist, I won’t *necessarily* dedicate my life to revenge. But there’s like a 20% chance I might do so. How about you? If you also can emphasize, then it seems obvious that the Israeli bombings help Hamas recruit.

    In short, I don’t see how it’s possible to conclude that the Israeli bombing prevent deaths on net. They (1) right off the bat kill 20x more than all of Hamas’s rockets, (2) Give Palestinians international sympathy, which can act as a cover for Hamas’s crimes, (3) almost surely help Hamas recruit.

  105. anon85 Says:

    Scott #88:

    My ideal end state can be reached by Israel acting unilaterally.

    It’s pretty easy. Every Palestinian should be a citizen of some country. Israel can choose which: either a citizen of Palestine, which Israel must recognize as legitimate (and leave to their own devices, e.g. allow them to build an airport), or a citizen of Israel, with full rights. No more apartheid.

    In practice, this would likely look like (1) Israel retreats from at least all settlements that *Israel itself* views as illegal, (2) Israel moreover retreats from all settlements that prevent the West Bank from being simply-connected topologically, (3) Israel recognizes the West Bank as the country of Palestine, and allows them to build an airport, (4) Israel grants Israeli citizenship to all Palestinians living in Jerusalem (around 300,000), since I assume Israel prefers to keep Jerusalem.

    I would be OK with any other permutation in which the Palestinians all get citizenship; I’d even be OK with a one-state solution (which Israel can achieve unilaterally by granting the Palestinians Israeli citizenship).

    Scott, perhaps that’s part of my disagreement with you: you take Israel’s word for its desired end-state, but I say, if Israel wanted an end, it could achieve it unilaterally! Israel’s revealed preference for an end-state is the status quo. (Contrast the Palestinians, who could not attain any end-state unilaterally.)

  106. Partisan Says:

    Thanks for this post, Scott—while I’m sure I could nitpick parts, on the whole I am totally with you on “Team Peace.” Sadly, like other commenters I see the two-state solution as roughly as hopeless, or at least as far from where we stand now, as the one-state John Lennon utopia.

    Anyway, for what it’s worth I have a message for D.A. and other Israelis who hold similar views: from an American Jew, thank you. To the extent that I have any hope for this situation it is because people with your attitude still exist. I don’t have the faintest idea how to get to there from here either, but surely one crucial part is for enough people to want to, and to want to enough that they are willing to give other things up.

  107. Alex Says:

    Scott #88: What I’d advocate for now is a peace deal with 2 fully independent states along the 67 borders.

    To my mind the goal is to address the biggest wrongs of the moment, and move away from violent conflict towards working through issues using peaceful means and democratic process. That means ending the occupation and armed conflict. Part of how we get there is for the rest of the world (where I’m located!) to stop arming, financing and otherwise aiding and abetting the actors committing crimes. So no arms sales to either party (for the US and Canada that means no arms sales to Israel), BDS tactics for the settlements, and perhaps Israel generally, to get it to end the occupation (which would ideally be part of a peace deal, but given how immoral and harmful it is, Israel should do it even outside of a peace deal, unilaterally if necessary). And so on. To my mind the occupation is the biggest obstacle to peace, and Israel can make no claim to be defending itself so long as the occupation continues.

    Scott #98: I guess I was less trying to litigate specific incidences, as questioning the assumption that the IDF was only targeting ‘bad guys’ and doing their best to avoid harming civilians (though I raised specific instances in order to make that point). I perceived that assumption in your and others’ comments, and you seem to repeat it in #102.

    I think the later UN General Assembly resolutions ARE also non-binding recommendations, though they do contain significant moral force. That contrasts with UN Security Council resolutions, which are binding (though binding doesn’t necessarily mean just). If Israel hadn’t been created in 1948, I’d have considered it a reasonable argument for Zionists to point to the 1947 UN Partition Plan in making a case for a Jewish state, but I don’t think it would be reasonable to point to that resolution as justification for using force to establish such a state.

  108. myst_05 Says:

    I think that those who support a two-state solution need to check themselves for insanity too: it simply isn’t happening. A far better solution would involve moving Palestine to unoccupied Saudi Arabian land by the Red Sea and having Israel pay for *all* the costs. The Israeli budget probably couldn’t afford to pay it off all at once so they’d need a reparations plan over the next few decades.

    As an alternative, Palestine and their leaders could pay to relocate Israel but this would be far more expensive given how developed Israel is. Israels GDP is 400 billion/year while Palestines is 16 billion/year. Assuming relocating a country costs 25 years worth of GDP, it would cost Israel one year worth of GDP to pay for relocating Palestine but 625 years worth of GDP for Palestine to pay for the reverse migration.

  109. JimV Says:

    Here’s another problem I don’t know the answer to:

    I think sooner or later there will be a 99.9% reliable means of lie-detection. (Perhaps involving an MRI scan.) Will it be used to vet political candidates, to assure negotiators are bargaining in good faith, remove all cognitive bias of the form, e.g., “the other side claims they didn’t steal the election but they are all liars”, etc.? Or will it be used by despots to test minions for loyalty, and detect insurgents? No doubt there would be some of both, but which effect will be greater? Will the lie-detectors be a big plus or a big minus?

    What effect would it have on the Israeli-Palestinian issue, assuming both sides had the technology?

    I would very much like to know what the facts are, as seen by both sides, and know that speeches and responses to press questions were veridical, but I’m afraid those in power would not allow it to be used that way, and reserve it for their own ends.

    (The main reason I read this blog and the other blogs I read is because my internal lie-detector believes I am being told the truth as the authors know it.)

  110. Scott Says:

    Jay #100, pete #103, and myst_05 #108: The idea of building a Jewish homeland somewhere other than Israel/Palestine was avidly debated by Herzl and the other early Zionists! As well it should’ve been. But it’s not just that we can’t undo the past; rather, it’s that we know the exact sequence of events by which Israel/Palestine won out. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Israel/Palestine was an obvious Schelling point, and basically no one thought that Jews moving there would raise any military problem. The area was sparsely inhabited and arid, land was cheap, and the Ottoman Turks were OK with it. In Herzl’s novel Altneuland, there’s an Arab character who lives peacefully among the Jews and who welcomes the economic boon they brought to the area—something that might seem like black comedy in retrospect, but it wasn’t a baseless thought. (On all the usual economic indices, Palestinians today do extremely well compared to most of the Arab world, not counting the petro-states, and the main reason is Israel.)

    Alas, human nature being what it is and fate being horrifically cruel, relations gradually deteriorated in the decades before WWII—but by that point, it was already too late to establish a Jewish homeland somewhere else. And crucially, no other place offered a refuge (not the US, not Canada, not Australia, not England…), which was what consigned the 6 million to their deaths. For many of the escapees, and afterward the survivors, Israel was there and it was pretty much the only game in town.

  111. Scott Says:

    Alex #107:

      To my mind the occupation is the biggest obstacle to peace, and Israel can make no claim to be defending itself so long as the occupation continues.

    I completely agree with you that Israel should extricate itself from any settlements that prevent Palestine from becoming a viable state—by a negotiated settlement if possible (what they tried repeatedly in the 90s and 2000s), or unilaterally if not.

    Again, though: how does your theory deal with the 1948 and 1967 wars, in which the Arab states tried to wipe Israel out before there was any occupation?

  112. Scott Says:

    Paul Hoffman #5, pete #51, David #57, Tim Converse #75, Денис #82, Karen Morenz Korol #85: I owe all of you a belated clarification regarding my comment that the one-state solution is “insane.”

    For starters: “insane,” in this context, is at least partly a term of endearment! Before it gathered momentum, the American Revolution was insane! The computer revolution was insane! Emancipation was insane! Zionism itself was insane!

    OK, but a serious question remains for me. Namely, in 2021, why isn’t hoping for a two-state solution equally insane? hasn’t that become just as fantastical as the binational nation of Isratine? If we’re going to indulge in crazy fantasies at all, why not go all the way, and hold out for John Lennon’s Imagine?

    Let me share my response to a Facebook friend who asked me the exact same thing:

    In short, there are fantasies and then there are fantasies! The two-state solution looks like a fantasy now, but it was viable in the recent past. In fact it came within a hair of happening—it plausibly would have happened if Rabin hadn’t been assassinated, and then again if Arafat hadn’t said no at the last second. More importantly for the future, the two-state solution is a fantasy that could in principle be realized even in a broken world full of people many of whom still want to kill the other tribe. Whereas to my mind, the “one-state solution” isn’t a load-bearing solution at all; it’s just a name given to a utopian situation that would become possible only after the underlying grievances and justified fears had already been resolved anyway. That’s the difference.

  113. Boaz Barak Says:

    I admit I didn’t read all the comments, but one point I want to make is that the relations with Palestinians is not the only problem that Israel is looking for a solution to.

    I think that a root cause is that Israel didn’t really decide what country it wants to be. Since the beginning there were two competing views. One in which Israel is a democratic country which is a safe haven for Jews but where everyone has equal rights and religion has a limited and circumscribed space in public life. Another is that Israel is a Jewish country first and foremost, and in cases religion conflicts with democracy, it’s the latter that needs to give out.

    These two views also correspond to the relative importance of Tel Aviv (which is the center of population and commercial activity today but was mostly not part of biblical Israel) vs the West Bank (which was the heart of the kingdom of Judea, from which modern Jews descend).

    Israel never formed a constitution, in large part because these differences were not reconciled, and it’s short history has undergone dramatic demographic transformations that are still ongoing. In particular, unlike many other countries, younger people in Israel tend to be more right wing and more religious than the older generations.

    Unfortunately, the path Israel has been on during Netanyahu’s terms is to neither a one state nor a two state solution but rather a permanent occupation with a slow but steady erosion of democratic norms within Israel. This has come together with a weakening of the Palestinian authority,

  114. Boaz Barak Says:

    Anyway, I think once rockets are fired on you then any country would and should use its military to defend itself. (Though I think much of the IDF bombing is not just defensive but also to incur pain and create a deterrence with an eye toward the next inevitable conflict.)

    My problem with Israel’s leadership is not what they do once the rockets start flying but what they are doing until then. Israel has an amazing military and technology that enabled it to manage to avoid having to make the painful & hard choices of what country it wants to be when it grows up. I just hope that by delaying the choices more and more, it has not passed the point of no return.

  115. Boaz Barak Says:

    No solutions rally but blog readers might want to read this profile of David Grossman from 2010 ( https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/09/27/the-unconsoled )

    (It’s long but it’s really worth while. While it’s from more than 10 years ago, as one anecdote it mentions him protesting the eviction of Palestinian families from Sheikh Jarrash – the same neighborhood that was the beginning of the current crisis.)

  116. Ken Miller Says:

    Scott #111: 1967 was 54 years ago. A lot has changed. 12 years after that, Egypt made peace with Israel. In the ensuing years things have changed quite a lot in terms of relationships between Israel and the other Arab nations. In fact there is clearly a Saudi-Israeli alliance against Iran.

    Catholics and Protestants in Ireland could point to 50 years of mutual killing. No one I think could have ever imagined them living together as equals in peace. Same with blacks and whites in South Africa. Or in the American South. Things do change.

    If you would like to read a long, thoughtful take on the possibilities of a one-state solution and how it might work, and why the two-state solution is lost, by Peter Beinart: https://jewishcurrents.org/yavne-a-jewish-case-for-equality-in-israel-palestine/

  117. ultimaniacy Says:

    Jay #100:

    “One alternative was building the same religious state but somewhere safer”

    This is such a baffling argument. I can understand the reasoning that says the Jewish state shouldn’t have been built anywhere because it was always bound to piss off the existing gentile population there. But people who think declaring a state belongs to the Jews was fine, but instead of putting it in the one place on Earth which has an actual historical connection to Judaism, they should’ve thrown a dart at a map and declared “this place belongs to the Jews now because we said so”, and then the gentiles would’ve been completely fine with it? How does that even begin to make sense?

    Scott #112:

    “In fact it came within a hair of happening—it plausibly would have happened if Rabin hadn’t been assassinated, and then again if Arafat hadn’t said no at the last second”

    Scott, you are talking about the Oslo Accords negotiations, where Arafat rejected the Israelis’ proposals and then walked away from negotiations without explaining his objections or offering any ideas of his own, correct? What makes you think that Rabin, had he lived, could have prevented this? No matter how great you think Rabin was, I don’t see how it would have changed the fact that Arafat was obviously not willing to negotiate in good faith.

  118. anon85 Says:

    Scott #111 said: “Again, though: how does your theory deal with the 1948 and 1967 wars, in which the Arab states tried to wipe Israel out before there was any occupation?”

    I’m not the guy you asked, but I find this to be an infuriating question. There are so many answers to it!

    1) The 1967 war will turn 54 years old in a few weeks. All the political leaders from back then are likely dead. The soldiers who fought it are in their 70s. The great-grandchildren of those soldiers are now being born in the West Bank, denied basic rights from birth by the Israeli regime for the crimes of their ancestors. How many generations down does that debt go?

    2) There is permanent peace between Israel and Jordan, as well as between Israel and Egypt, despite these countries all fighting in the 1967 war. What happened in 1967 is not predictive of what might happen now, unless you’re telling me you’re scared that Jordan would attack Israel.

    3) Don’t conflate the Arab states with the Palestinians! Did the Palestinians even fight in 1967? I don’t know the history well enough, but I suspect you may have to go back to 1948 to blame the Palestinians, at which point the war is outside virtually everyone’s living memory.

  119. anon85 Says:

    Boaz and others:

    To me, the situation looks like Palestinians saying “please take the boot off our face”, and Israel replying “the beatings must continue until morale improves; if we let you up, you can’t be trusted not to retaliate”.

    Boaz says “I think once rockets are fired on you then any country would and should use its military to defend itself.”

    Consider the reply: “I think once a country blockades you and denies you basic liberties for decades then any territory would and should use whatever force it has to attack its oppressors”.

    Now, personally I don’t condone shooting rockets at civilians even if there is a boot on your face. But then again, I don’t condone bombing children even if there are nearby rocket launchers (assuming you kill 5+ children per 1 prevented death-by-rocket, which is Israel’s situation).

    Is “give me liberty or give me death” only admirable when white people say it? To the Israel-supporters, if you were Palestinian, would you not support Hamas?

    (Again, I wouldn’t, because I don’t think killing civilians is ever morally in the right unless you’re saving more lives than you’re killing. But some seem to think it’s OK to bomb civilians if there are some Hamas leaders in the area, so I wonder where the line gets drawn.)

  120. fulis Says:

    The question I ask myself is: would I rather be a Palestinian living in Israel, or a Jew living in Palestine, and the answer is obvious.

  121. Laurence C Says:

    Scott, I disagree with your judgement that a one-state solution is ‘insane’ and offer Northern Ireland as an example. From the late 1960s until the late 1990s we had a similar situation with the Provisional IRA killing citizens of Northern Ireland (from both Protestant and Catholic communities) with retalitatory killings from extreme Unionist groups. The UK Army which had been sent in to stop the inter-communal violence was also responsible for some killings. I make no allocation of blame for the killings – they happened and we cannot undo the past, but if we let the past dictate our future we can never move on.

    The Good Friday Agreement of 1998 required the formation of a power-sharing executive, initially dominated by the more moderate parties (UUP and SDLP) but more latterly by the more extreme parties (DUP and SF). Despite this, it still functions and the mandatory cross-community voting on certain major decisions ensures that the minority community cannot be discriminated against. That Agreement would not have come into force without the USA, as exemplified by President Clinton and Senator Mitchell playing a major role. It is time that President Biden took a similar responsibility for Israel/Palestine.

  122. fred Says:

    ” If they’re a Zionist who talks about how “there’s no such place as Palestine,” how it’s a newly invented political construct: OK then, does that mean they’d relocate the 5 million self-described Palestinians to Jordan? Or where?”

    That’s easy: Xinjiang China.

  123. Scott Says:

    anon85 #118: I completely agree with you that the Palestinians of today shouldn’t be punished for the crimes of their parents and grandparents. That’s why I don’t propose to punish them, but to give them their own state! On the other hand, the ‘48 and ‘67 wars (combined, of course, with the Holocaust, supported by the Palestinian leadership while it was happening, and combined with Hamas’s continuing annihilationist intent) … all that is directly relevant to the question of why the Jews living there today, even most of the secular, left-wing ones, will never accept any arrangement in which they don’t live in a Jewish state. And since most Palestinians don’t want a binational state either, it seems like a complete nonstarter to me, unless and until conditions change so drastically that nothing anyone said in this thread is relevant any longer.

  124. Gadi Says:

    After the complete failure of the disengagement, it’s going to be impossible to convince Israelis or any other rational person that loosening control of the land will lead to anything other than Palestinians lashing out and attacking from these territories. It’s also the same failure of the Oslo accords that led to the Intifadas. Time and time again, Palestinians prove they can’t be trusted and they actively abuse the peace negotiations as a tool in their endless fights.

    You want to solve the problem, the problem is in the hearts and minds of Palestinians. They raise their children on hatred. They teach them in school how it’s the greatest honor to be shahid and suicide bomber and to kill Israelis. You have completely self-brainwashed people and it is naive to think you can just empathetically treat them like they are similar to you. Time and time again this mistake proved fatal to Israelis.

    I think any solution will have to first and foremost solve the problem that is the Palestinian mindset. The solution can’t come alone from single leaders. Therefore my personal opinion is that Israel should have to invest in taking complete control of the Palestinians and begin a slow but important process of counter-brainwashing the Palestinians back into a civilized mindset, so that maybe in another generation, we’ll have a hope of giving them control without getting hurt.

    Any attempt at short term solution mediated by leaders will not solve the problem. The problem is not with the leaders it’s with the people. Peaceful leaders can’t rise and lead when their people are brainwashed into hatred so deep the priorities are twisted beyond redemption.

  125. Scott Says:

    ultimaniacy #117: I don’t know whether Rabin would’ve been able to solve the problem had he lived. But even on your account, if you swapped out Arafat for someone better, the two-state solution would now be reality. So the point stands that these aren’t (or at least weren’t) impossible macro-level problems: they really did come down to just a few individuals, and the horrible contingency of fate. We were close.

  126. Gadi Says:

    anon85 #119: There was no blockade on Gaza after the disengagement. There was an opportunity for Gaza and the Palestinians to show their peaceful ways by doing literally nothing. All they had to do was literally nothing while they had no “boot on their face”. No restrictions. Just take the land and act like normal rational people. Not a single jew in that land too. No occupation. Instead they chose to elect terrorist organization, kidnap soldiers and shoot rockets.

    If they can’t even be trusted to live peacefully when completely left alone, what hope is there for peace? Every single thing Israel did to Gaza later, they brought upon themselves. Of course they can’t be trusted not to retaliate – Gaza was left alone, given a chance to act independent and responsible and what we got is this crap.

  127. Boaz Barak Says:

    Anon85 #119: I did not say that I justify every IDF bombing. Indeed, I said that I don’t think all the bombings are defensive, and as much as the IDF may be trying to minimize civilian deaths, in every one of those wars it seems to be trying less hard than the last one.

    What I was saying is that I blame Netanyahu less for what he’s been doing in the last few days, and more for what he has done in his last 12 years in power. Throughout his tenure, instead of strengthening the moderate Palestinian Authority and demonstrating to the Palestinians (and in particular those in Gaza) that there is a benefit to working with Israel, he has done the complete opposite. The result has been a strengthened Hamas and a weakened Fatah, with Hamas having a chance to gain control even of the West Bank if and when there would be elections for PA leadership.

    Scott: It’s very hard to judge how close we were to a 2 state solution. It was not just about the leaders. The Oslo accords deliberately (and perhaps wisely) put off till later the most contentious issues such as Jerusalem, the right of return, and final borders. The hope was that first trust would be built before the leaders would explain to their respective people that they need to make painful sacrifices for peace, and that dreams they grew up on and promises they were given are not going to happen.

    For example, a single settlement wasn’t evacuated by Rabin! Even a settlement freeze wasn’t part of the agreement, though Rabin made one already before Oslo judging it (correctly) to be in Israel’s interests.

    To proceed to a 2 state solution, both sides would have had (and still do) to accept very painful compromises. Palestinians would have to give up on the right of return, at least in any practically significant way, which has been their central objective since 1948. They would also needed to accept land swaps, not get all of eastern Jerusalem, and some restrictions on the military powers of the future Palestinian state. Jews would have had to give up at least part of the control of Jerusalem, and evacuate the vast majority of settlements.

    These steps would have been a very hard sell to the respective populations, even at the time. I don’t know whether or how Palestinian public opinion changed, but Israel has moved significantly to the right in the intervening years. It has also built many more settlements, which makes the 2 state solution even harder now than it was then.

    BTW There is a significant chunk of the Israeli population and leaders that simply does not have an “end state”. For example, I don’t believe Netanyahu really thinks in terms of “end state”. He just wants to “manage the conflict” and live to rule another year. I think for many Israelis who say “the solution is X” for some widely unrealistic X, it’s not because they believe that X will happen. Basically it’s their way to say “the solution is that we keep things as they are until X happens or hell freezes over”. Of course “keeping things as they are” is much easier for Israelis than it is for Palestinians.

  128. matt Says:

    Your kids clearly have much longer attention spans than mine.

  129. Rahul Says:

    Ultimaniacy #117:

    “. I can understand the reasoning that says the Jewish state shouldn’t have been built anywhere because it was always bound to piss off the existing gentile population there. But people who think declaring a state belongs ”

    It’s hard to second guess the descisions taken historically with the advantage of hindsight but here is one thought:

    Although the holy land had Jewish connections it had strong connections with Muslims too. And in terms of antipathy towards Jews the current location is probably the worst spot on the map in terms of Neighbors that hate Jews.

    Of course, had they been plopped say in a Christian locale ( mere hypothetically) one wonders whether anti Semitism was stronger in Muslims or Chrisitians. With the immediate backdrop of the Holocaust back then seems difficult to determine.

    What may have made sense ( again in a purely academic sense) would be to find peoples without a 2000 historic hatred for Jews. Hindus? Buddhists? Confucians?

    I wonder whether there was any history of any alternative sites explored back then which were in Asia for example.

    I’m just fantasizing how history might have played out if say some of the Indian desert border areas to the north west, eg the Thar desert or the Rann of Kutch had instead been alloted to the Zionists by the same British masters. Perhaps Pakistan would have been the Palestine of today, who knows!

    Incidentally India does have a long history of Jewish trading presence without much of conflict. But perhaps that’s because we didn’t have as many of the disaspora in the first place.

  130. Anon Says:

    I suppose a part of this that is often left out of the conversation is that “good people” can act badly when they are traumatized.

    So much of jewish identity today revolves around trauma, and understandably so. I’m somewhat surprised that given this awareness, the role of trauma in the psyche and behavior of Palestinians is ignored easily.

    How should one expect children born in Gaza today to not want revenge? I’m not saying it’s rational, and I think a sizable group will grow up to want nothing but a peaceful existence, but of course such circumstances will also produce a sizable group of “hawks”.

    What is happening now is that both sides are digging themselves into further trauma, a very convenient political force to be exploited by hawkish leaders.

    The way I see it, the only solution is for the more powerful party to be willing to reconstruct the relationship with the same intensity that they fight. It doesn’t work to bomb 10 fold whatever Hamas does, but then in peace time don’t try 10x of Hamas to improve the situation for Palestinians. It’s a bitter pill politically, and emotionally. I simply don’t know if any other solution would work to reconcile the wounds that keep deepening.

    To disclose, my end goal is that all people living in that area are content/happy with where they live and feel like they have opportunity to grow. I don’t know how many states that takes, but open to any number.

  131. Shmi Says:

    This prof argues that targeted Magnitsky-style sanctions against those in power, rather than BDS, might work a lot better, and be palatable to a lot more people inside and outside Israel:

    https://hegemon.substack.com/p/so-its-apartheid-what-about-the-sanctions

    > The elegance of targeted sanctions, as we know from cases like Russia, is that they make it harder for leaders to use them as political footballs. Putin cannot claim that sanctions against oligarchs are “anti-Russian” precisely because they target the same people that most Russians dislike too. Similarly, it’s harder to accuse sanctioners of being anti-semitic when they target specific individuals rather then groups, for specific and documented contraventions of international law.

  132. Alex Says:

    Scott #111: I’d say a few things (similar to Ken Miller #116 and anon85 #118). Most importantly: the positions of the parties have changed drastically since 67. Relations with the Arab states are totally different, including a peace deal with the biggest military, Egypt. The PLO position shifted in the 70s onwards to being open to accept an Israeli state. Hamas has never existed without the occupation, and was a response to it, but they also eventually moved to apparent openness to accepting an Israeli state. With peace deals or otherwise radically altered relations with the Arab states, the military situation is completely different from 67 (or 73). Israel has one of the most powerful militaries in the world, and no longer faces any major military threat from its neighbours; the united Arab states are a serious military threat to Israel, but an independent Palestine is not (it could potentially pose security/safety concerns, but that’s a different matter).

    Is there a guarantee that a peace deal would hold together, and things wouldn’t descend into violence again in 20 years? No, but life doesn’t contain those kinds of guarantees. Imagine this scenario: presumably and hopefully there will be more democracy in the Arab states in the future. If/when that happens the deals made with Arab states might not hold together if the occupation and Israeli apartheid system is still there. It seems to me here, as anywhere really, the only lasting basis for peace is to meaningfully address the legitimate grievances that exist. Violence and terror may give Israel more land, but it will never give legitimacy or security.

    In any case, the (legitimate) desire for security does not justify human rights abuses, war crimes, or apartheid, though that is usually how states justify those crimes, whether it’s Israel or any other. I feel like that should be obvious, but it’s shocking how often exactly that argument is made (though usually not so explicitly).

  133. HASH Says:

    Born and raised in muslim family, in muslim (now evolving to be Islamist) country. I’m the only one who was atheist (currently agnostic) in my entire (big) family. My family is not educated (basic literacy) even they are consider themself Islamist, they didn’t teach us hate “Jews” but religion school did.
    I didn’t because; by chance few Socialist teacher (math, physics, chemistry etc) secretly gave us few tips about, what is critical thinking, how question our dogmas, always read what opposition says for same topic etc. Buying new books was almost impossible job even we were in a “quasi secular” country, they have no idea how religious home ruled by iron fist. House full of religion books, if you search everything not related to God considered infidel Leftist blasphemy. So, I have to go city library, which you can’t find Leftist thinkers books there either. But at least you can read some secularist scientist there. Take 3 books (max), go catholic church yard behind the city library. Bcs muslim population always scare those building, very rare open doors and bother you while you try read books before sun down. Take notes, learn new names you never heard. You can’t go book store and buy those books… there is no money for it 🙂 Best chance, go second hand book seller (my chance he was good reader Socialist, he always found me related books).
    This is how (very slow and very painful) I learned not to hate Jews (or anybody based on religion or ethnicity). My top 10 scientist and politicians are Jews and proudly defend them in any cause. Not easy to defend them in a Muslim country. They kicked us from college, forced us resign from government jobs, killed or exiled academics etc. Now I’m 49, still resisting against extremism, bigotry, fascism even know EU and US feeding them, helping them with looking other side when those governments kills us.

    @Scott explained PERFECTLY: “Netanyahu and Hamas are allies, not enemies. Both now blatantly, obviously rely on the other to stay in power”

    Peace from a Marxist Guy, who living in a Fascist Ruling Country!

  134. Scott Says:

    matt #128:

      Your kids clearly have much longer attention spans than mine.

    Indeed, I was only able to have this conversation with them in small snippets at a time (and it’s far from a verbatim transcript). 🙂

  135. Scott Says:

    Rahul #129:

      Although the holy land had Jewish connections…

    “Jewish connections” seems like a strangely understated way to describe the land that’s been the whole earthly focal point of the religion and the place Jews faced in prayer for the past 3000 years. 🙂

    Even so, I completely agree with the principle that any solution has to preserve access to the central sites of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Having spent time in Jerusalem, I can testify that despite what you see on the news, which obviously postselects for conflict, the existing arrangements actually do a fairly remarkable job—on a typical day, you do see huge numbers of observant Jews, Christians, and Muslims peacefully sharing the same tiny space.

  136. Scott Says:

    HASH #133: Wow, that’s quite a story—thanks so much for sharing it. I wish you as much happiness and intellectual freedom as possible wherever in the world you are. Salaam/shalom/peace!

    (Now, whether Marxism itself is a religion, one that experience has shown to be as vulnerable to dogma, self-certitude, and violence as any of the god-based religions, is a debate we can leave for another day… 🙂 )

  137. Rahul Says:

    Scott #135:

    Fair enough.

    My point was that it does not seem an optimal strategic choice to plonk people for safe refuge in the midst of their arch enemies .

    It’s a choice almost designed for eternal conflict!

  138. A CS Woman Says:

    #132 Alex:


    The PLO position shifted in the 70s onwards to being open to accept an Israeli state. Hamas has never existed without the occupation, and was a response to it, but they also eventually moved to apparent openness to accepting an Israeli state.

    Sorry, but this is incorrect. PLO would never acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state. They refuse to admit Jews are a people. They officially recognize Judaism as a religion only. Their end goal is the annihilation of the Jewish state as an “illegitimate colonial power”, and the implementation of their ‘claim of return’, and this is well documented and acknowledged. The Hammas is more radical. It is a branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and not merely a reaction to the Israeli presence. They never recognized even the existence of Israel as a state (regardless if it’s a Jewish state or not).

    Commenters here keep repeating the one-state idea (note, it’s not a “solution”). This is a nice-sounding idea, but there is no viable one state scenario with Jews and Arabs living together. Any such attempt would lead inevitably to a civil war (Syria-style), and millions dead (again, like Syria).

    I believe that the best scenario in the foreseeable future is either the status quo (minimizing number of casualties) or a limited Palestinian autonomy.

  139. Another Anon Says:

    Scott #123:

    It’s interesting how even fighting against having your homeland being invaded and conquered by foreigners financed by other foreigners is considered “crimes of their parents and grandparents”… There is an empathy barrier where some people cannot even think as if they were in the other side…

    Were Texas to be invaded today, how would you feel about someone 80 years from now that you fighting a war to keep it in the USA was a crime? It feels like you think Palestine is rightfully a Jewish territory or something…

    Gadi #126:

    Gaza is being kept under a pre-industrial development phase by Israel. There is always a big fraction of humans that living in such a situation that would feel the necessity to challenge and even violently so fight against such an oppressive regime… And when they do, OMG terrorists!
    Just try to corner a cat and see what happens, it’s a fight or die response being purposely provoked by the more powerful party.

    Some people’s terrorists are usually other’s freedom fighters and vice-versa…

    From Wikipedia:

    Energy restrictions
    See also: Gaza electricity crisis

    Almost all of Gaza’s liquid fuel and about half of its electricity are supplied by Israel, while Gaza’s sole power plant runs on crude diesel supplied by Israel. In late October 2007, in response to persistent rocket fire on southern Israel, Israel cut diesel exports to Gaza by 15% and gasoline exports by 10%, and created targeted electrical outages for 15 minutes after a rocket attack. According to Israeli officials, the energy flow to hospitals and Israeli shipments of crude diesel to Gaza’s sole power plant would remain unaffected. The Israeli government argued that these limited energy cuts are a non-violent way to protest against Hamas rocket attacks.[59]

    The following day, Attorney General of Israel Menachem Mazuz suspended the electricity cuts, and the Israeli Supreme Court gave the government three days to justify its energy cuts policy.[60]

    On 1 December 2007, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled that the electricity cuts were unlawful, and ordered the Israeli military to stop them by the following day. In its ruling, however, the court allowed Israel to continue reducing its diesel and gasoline shipments to Gaza.[61]

  140. Scott Says:

    Another Anon #139: What’s interesting is that even the other commenters here who are arguing with me in favor of a one-state solution, aren’t bothering to contest the morality of Israel’s self-defense in 1948 and 1967—possibly because they understand the relevant history more than you do. The Jews, in 1948, were fighting for a tiny piece of land, much smaller even than present-day Israel, most of which was legally bought in the Ottoman period, and which the UN had allocated to them in its partition plan. The Palestinians would’ve had everything else, in perpetuity, had their leaders only been willing to stomach living next to Jews.

    Anyway, what’s your ideal end state? Is it what I’d imagine it to be from your comment?

  141. SR7371 Says:

    Also I’m confused about your distinction between the “engineering problem” and the end state. If someone advocates for a close settlement of Jews in Palestine (the original aim of the Balfour declaration), you challenge them with ” does that mean they’d relocate the 5 million self-described Palestinians to Jordan?”. But that’s as much an engineering problem as your engineering problem to achieve the two-state solution. If you refuse to specify the engineering solution to achieve your end state than why should anyone else do it? Or do you have specific objections to alternative end states (besides 1SS and 2SS, I think you covered them well) which go beyond questioning the engineering means of getting there?

  142. SR7371 Says:

    Also, what’s going on in your city, Scott? https://twitter.com/ConspiracyLibel/status/1394729544091897858

  143. Jay Says:

    Ultimaniacy #117,
    You may well be right that, wherever you build it, a religious stage will always be a recipe for human disasters. Let me rephrase: « Assuming building a peacefull religious state is even possible, chose the location wisely over religiously. »

  144. Ken Miller Says:

    Gadi #126: It is not true that Gaza after Israel left was free, and the only reason for any restrictions is that they chose violence and elected Hamas. There was blockade from the very beginning. Here is a more complete story (from wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockade_of_the_Gaza_Strip):

    “2005-2006 blockades

    In the words of special envoy James Wolfensohn, “Gaza had been effectively sealed off from the outside world since the Israeli disengagement [August–September 2005], and the humanitarian and economic consequences for the Palestinian population were profound. There were already food shortages. Palestinian workers and traders to Israel were unable to cross the border”.[23]

    On 15 January 2006, the Karni crossing – the sole point for exports of goods from Gaza – was closed completely for all kinds of exports.[24][25] The greenhouse project suffered a huge blow, as the harvest of high-value crops, meant to be exported for Europe via Israel, was essentially lost (with a small part of the harvest donated to local institutions).[25][26][27] Moreover, closing of Karni cut off the so-far resilient textile and furniture industries in Gaza from their source of income.[28] Starting February 2006, the Karni crossing was sporadically open for exports, but the amount of goods allowed to be exported was minuscule compared to the amount of goods imported[29] (which, in turn, barely supported Gaza’s needs).[30][29] Between 1 January and 11 May, more than 12,700 tonnes of produce were harvested in Gaza’s greenhouses, almost all of it destined for export; out of it, only 1,600 tonnes (less than 13%) were actually exported.[26]

    Hamas electoral victory and aftermath

    The 25 January 2006 Palestinian legislative election took place during a full blockade on exports and imports[31][25][32][29][note 1] to and from Gaza (including food supplies). Hamas won these elections, gaining control of the Palestinian Legislative Council, which first met on 18 February 2006.[33] On that day, following the swearing in of the new PLC, Israel imposed sanctions on the PA, began withholding the Palestinian Authority’s tax revenue (collected by Israel on the PA’s behalf), and travel restrictions on Hamas PLC members were imposed. On 20 February, Hamas leader Ismail Haniya was nominated to form a new government. The new PA government with Haniya as Prime Minister was sworn in on 29 March.

    Following the elections, Israel and the Quartet on the Middle East stated that their continued aid to and dialogue with the PA under a Hamas government was conditional on Hamas agreeing to three conditions: recognition of Israel, the disavowal of violent actions, and acceptance of previous agreements between Israel and the PA, including the Oslo Accords. Haniya refused to accept these conditions, and Israel and the Quartet stopped all dialogue with the PA and especially any member of the Hamas government, ceased providing aid to the PA and imposed sanctions against the PA under Hamas.[4]

    As noted by Wolfensohn (and also in an EU paper), withholding of the Palestinian Authority’s own tax revenue – an action taken by Israel alone, not by the Quartet – was more damaging than the ceasing of international aid to the PA. These taxes, collected in Palestine (both in the West Bank and Gaza) by Israeli authorities, were supposed to be transferred to the PA’s budget. By releasing or withholding these revenues, Israel was able, in the words of the International Crisis Group, to “virtually turn the Palestinian economy on and off”.[34] After January 2006, Israel withheld these transfers for more than a year.[35][36] Withholding the tax revenue by Israel meant that the Palestinian Authority lacked money to pay its employees, including the police, further destabilizing the situation in Gaza.[37]

    In March 2007, Hamas and Fatah formed a PA unity government, also headed by Haniya. Shortly after, in June, Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip during the Battle of Gaza,[1] seizing government institutions and replacing Fatah and other government officials with Hamas members.[2] Following the takeover, besides other measures, Israel and Egypt closed the border crossings with Gaza, marking the start of the blockade of the Gaza Strip. Meanwhile, in the West Bank, President Mahmoud Abbas officially dissolved the government (which had been led by Ismail Haniya of Hamas), suspended parts of the Basic Law, and created a new government by a decree, without approval of the legislative body. This government was recognized by the international community; international relations and aid to the government in the West Bank resumed, the economic sanctions were lifted, and Israel transferred tax revenue to it.”

  145. Scott Says:

    SR7371 #141, #142: I didn’t understand your first question. Regarding Austin: yes, I’ve come to see lurid anti-Israel protests, sometimes verging on medieval blood libel, as just a regular feature of the university towns where I’ve by now spent the majority of my life, though I didn’t have the pleasure of witnessing the one in the photo. In any case, I believe that for better or worse, the majority of Texans are pro-Israel to the point of making me look like Edward Said.

  146. Ken Miller Says:

    Scott #140: You write that no one is contesting the morality of Israel’s self-defense in 1948 and 1967, and that “The Jews, in 1948, were fighting for a tiny piece of land, much smaller even than present-day Israel, most of which was legally bought in the Ottoman period, and which the UN had allocated to them in its partition plan. The Palestinians would’ve had everything else, in perpetuity, had their leaders only been willing to stomach living next to Jews.”

    I don’t contest the morality, but I contest the idea that the Israeli side had the sole claim to morality. The whole thing is far more complex, there are always two sides, and you are only telling one of them. If you look back at my comment #76, I tried to present some of the other side, and why the Palestinians regard 1948 as the Nakba. There’s a lot more in that comment, but I’ll repeat a key section:

    “Before Israel declared Independence on May 15 1948 and other Arab countries invaded, 250,000-300,000 Palestinians had already fled or been driven out (out of a total of 700,000 refugees in the end, 80% of the Palestinians in what became Israel; that left 160,000 in Israel, 40,000 of which were ‘internal refugees’ who had fled their homes to other locations within Israel). Jewish militias were by far the main force pushing them out (e.g., https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1948_Palestinian_exodus). Note, from that source, that a Haganah intelligence report at the time estimated that 73% of the external Palestinian refugees were directly driven out by the Jewish militias, another 22% by fears generated by the actions of the militias (including the massacre at Deir Yassin), and at most 5% were driven out by Arab calls to flee.”

    We as Jews need to contend with these truths, the genuine and deep wrongs that were done to the Palestinians in the time leading up to the 1948 war, and not just tell simple stories “We asked for nothing and for no reason they decided to kill us anyways”. There are of course also the legitimate Israeli aspirations to a state where they could be themselves and defend themselves, in the context of the holocaust as well as of the long-term Jewish presence there. I’m not trying to tell a one-sided story on the other side, but I’m trying to present the other side that you seem to be ignoring when you discuss 1948. It’s only if we all face the heavy wrongs done by both sides and the heavy grievances of both sides that there is any hope of stopping the endless cycles of retribution and blame.

    And perhaps it’s obvious, but my desired end state is anything that lets everyone there, Jews and Palestinians and everyone else, live in peace and freedom and fulfillment. I used to think that meant the two-state solution, now I think that is impossible, which leaves only the highly improbable one-state solution.

  147. Another Anon Says:

    Overall? No “Sovereign States” or borders over the whole world… Religion and Sovereign States are ideas well past their usefulness, only creating more and more problems in the present…

    But on the real situation about Israel / Palestinian situation, I would advocate a 1 Sovereign States solution which made the Israel citizens feel safe would be my solution… Maybe make the military composed only of Israel’s current citizens and progeny? And give palestinians full citizenship otherwise? Of course there needs to be some compromise on political power that tries to maintain some balance… Certainly there are much better people out there to try to imagine some workable solution. The problem is that the powerful will not want any compromise, so only some foreign power like the USA could try to make this happen.

    About how wrong you think I am, what if a Mexican revolt were to declare Austin an independent Sovereign State? Do you think USA would be OK or would make an military intervention? Of course any kind of Sovereign State would take military instance… And then you are using that historical fact as it were some *crime* when it is well understood that military intervention by a Sovereign State to preserve its borders is not only rightful, but also the expected and correct response… You are being somewhat blinded by your emotional connection to the issue at hand.

    Maybe “Sovereign State” is not the correct term in English, but from context it’s comprehensible…

  148. Ken Miller Says:

    p.s. when I said “there are always two sides” — well, not always. In discussing the Nazis and the Holocaust there are not two legitimate sides. I think a deep and profound mistake made by many Jews (and I repeat, I am Jewish), stemming no doubt from the trauma of the holocaust, is to mistake the situation with the Palestinians for the situation with the Nazis. They have in common “someone is trying to kill me”. They differ strongly in that there is a long and complex history of genuine wrongs done to Palestinians by Jews and to Jews by Palestinians, both sides have 75 years of legitimate claims, there is some rationality and reason for why there is conflict between Palestinians and Jews, and seeing it as another case of “crazy people are trying to kill me out of pure irrational hatred” without understanding their genuine grievances only ensures the cycle keeps spinning.

    It is true that many of the fundamentalists, both Jewish and Palestinian, may be lost to pure irrational hatred. But even Hamas can be a rational actor, e.g. they have made strategic decisions to not fire rockets for years on the basis of commitments from Israel to ease the blockade, and not started firing again until long after those commitments were broken. It’s not impossible that they could become responsible political actors, or that some of them already are, despite the words in their charter (which are likely to be the last thing to change, if the stance of the organization should change). Historically, when a group is driven by genuine grievances, even if they may develop factions that desire annihilation of the enemy, if those grievances can be genuinely addressed, that faction can shrink and become isolated and lose power. Whether that means that faction within Hamas shrinking, or the support of Hamas among Palestinians shrinking. No guarantees, of course, as the situation in Iran shows. But assuming they are all Nazi-equivalents misses an awful lot of common human ground and ensures the situation is completely intractable.

  149. Gadi Says:

    Anon #139: I call bullshit on your claim Israel “kept Gaza in pre-industrial age”. I googled Gaza factories, first result I got here https://www.calcalist.co.il/local/articles/0,7340,L-3058202,00.html

    The year there is 2008, two years after Hamas’ control of Gaza, and the article talks about 3700 factories closed as a result of Hamas control of Gaza. It talks about the complete collapse of 96% of the industrial activity in those two years alone.

    Gaza had factories, had somewhat local economy which relied on selling to Israel and the west bank primarily. They weren’t independent but you can’t expect independence immediately after the disengagement. To say they were backed into a corner is ridiculous. There were zero restrictions on Gaza prior to Hamas control. After their control the restrictions were made to reduce Hamas’ ability to attack Israel.

    They chose to elect terrorist organization, they chose to attack Israel with rockets, kidnapping soldiers, they chose to literally destroy every single bit of economy and civility they had by them and themselves alone. There was nothing simpler than just living peacefully without attacking Israel with rockets, to prove what a good idea it is to give Palestinians authority.

    What people just don’t get is that the majority of Palestinians like Hamas. Even after they got a good taste of how Hamas completely destroyed Gaza and made it hell on earth, they are still brainwashed into thinking Hamas pathetic “resistance” is better than peace and prosperity.

    The culture difference is just incomprehensible to leftists. They just can’t accept the simple fact that people raised to worship terrorists and to hatred will rise up full of hate and will be impossible to make peace with. In fact, it increasingly seems like Muslim culture is hindering peace not only in Israel but in the rest of the middle east. There was the Arabic spring, yet almost no Muslim country managed to stabilize into a stable democratic nation. In Egypt, the Muslim brotherhood was elected and only took the country backwards, only to lose it to a military coup that was necessary to prevent the Islam from destroying the country. Syria has been in civil war since. Iran, not even an Arabic country, managed to devolve from a secular open and free country, into a dictatorial religious hellhole, thanks to Islam. There is not a single stable muslim democracy in the region.

  150. Another Anon Says:

    SR7371:

    It’s a disservice to the discussion at hand anything comparing what is happening to the Holocaust, it is not at all like it in any way… It is not systematic, it is not widespread hatred among many countries, it is not trying to kill systematically the people… Such comparisons only make all this happening worse.

    A more aptly comparison is to the apartheid regime in South Africa, which is certainly far from 100% exactly like but does share a lot of similarities…

  151. Another Anon Says:

    Start thinking rationally instead of emotionally. What Hamas stands to gain from the destruction of Gaza’s factories?

    In a Capitalist society, given enough time, the factories will keep working and/or be reopened somewhere else if there are economical conditions for profit… The only actor with such power to stop that happening in Gaza is Israel, not even Hamas has that power alone…

    It is obvious the culprit is Israel… Hamas might be just the excuse the ultra-right in Israel needed for economic destruction…

  152. fred Says:

    Scott was way more succinct the previous times this happened, in 2014

    “Hamas is trying to kill as many civilians as it can.

    Israel is trying to kill as few civilians as it can.

    Neither is succeeding very well.”

    (https://www.scottaaronson.com/blog/?p=1939)

  153. anon85 Says:

    Gadi #126 says: “There was no blockade on Gaza after the disengagement.”

    Oh come on, what a ridiculous lie. Please check out Ken Miller #144, who links here:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blockade_of_the_Gaza_Strip

    Gadi #149 says: “I call bullshit on your claim Israel “kept Gaza in pre-industrial age”.”

    Well, at least you seem to have backed away from the lie of saying “there was no blockade on Gaza after the disengagement.” Progress!

    (As for those factories you talk about, they were clothes-sewing workshops the type that can be found in third-world countries like Vietnam. Also, you make it sound as if Hamas shut them down, but of course, what shut them down was Israel’s further restrictions on trade.)

    So, there was always a blockade restricting all trade with non-Israeli countries, and this was tightened after Hamas was elected. In other words, they chose to elect Hamas because there was a boot stomping on their face. So:

    “Please take the boot off our face”

    “The beatings must continue until morale improves; if we let you up, you can’t be trusted not to retaliate.”

    [tries to wrestle with the boot]

    “Aha, now we must stomp even harder until you stop resisting.”

  154. Roff Says:

    Ken Miller #148:

    You write that Hamas has “made strategic decisions to not fire rockets for years on the basis of commitments from Israel to ease the blockade, and not started firing again until long after those commitments were broken”.

    What is this referring to? Their firing rockets at Israel has never ceased for that long, it’s been continuous for two decades (albeit most of it doesn’t make world news), with brief breaks after larger-scale conflicts like the current one, due to Hamas’ operational capabilities being temporarily exhausted.

    This point is crucial to the sequel of your message. The Israeli left-wing pitch during the 90’s and early 00’s had been similar to yours – that if we only be rational and well-meaning, the extremists on the other side would surely lose popularity and fizzle out (in general, much of the discussion here feels to me “stuck” in the 90’s). By now it is widely considered debunked, which is why it is the Israeli left wing that has sadly lost popularity and fizzled out.

    When Israel dismantled the Gaza settlements in 2005, many left-centrist thought we were finally taking the big leap of faith, and that this major concession would surely be rewarded with peace on the Gaza border. Hawkish figures like Bibi warned that it would have the opposite result, extending Hamas’ firing range from sparsely populated regions in the Negev to southern cities like Ashkelon. Sadly, this proved to be accurate, and Bibi’s vindication on this point played a major role in his ascension to power shortly after. It’s that same alignment of interests between him and Hamas, that Scott wrote of. It indeed was not in Hamas’ interest to lose popularity and fizzle out. 

    IDF’s pulling out of south Lebanon in 2000 led to similar results with Hezbollah, and their full magnitude came crashing down on Israel at about the same time, in the 2006 war. And in the background hovers the Iranian regime, regularly speaking of the annihilation of Israel without any “rational” conflict to speak of. These events all led to the widely held belief in Israel that all overt demands about land and money are mere excuses for an inevitably perpetual conflict, and that any additional concessions would not promote peace but only rearrange the conflict around a riskier position for Israel. This is very much at the root of the Israeli’s public opinion swing to hawkish right-wing views.

    People like you – and like me, who still believes in the two state solution (despite what I wrote about being stuck in the 90’s) – need to acknowledge these events and think deeply and honestly about how to address them in promoting any resolution. It no longer cuts it to just say “sure, there are no guarantees, but we gotta try don’t we”. Nor to dismiss it as “oh it’s just post-trauma from the Nazis”. It’s not true, and this untruth is loud and clear to Israeli ears. We need to acknowledge these valid concerns and create a situation where Israel can take the steps we believe it needs to take, like ending the occupation, without feeling it is compromising its safety.

  155. ultimaniacy Says:

    Jay #143:

    “You may well be right that, wherever you build it, a religious stage will always be a recipe for human disasters. Let me rephrase: « Assuming building a peacefull religious state is even possible, chose the location wisely over religiously. »”

    Israel’s location was not chosen religiously. Zionism in its early stages was a movement primarily among secular Jews. In fact, for decades Orthodox Jews hated Zionism; they thought it was better for the “Holy Land” to have a small number of Jews who were all deeply religious, steeped in Jewish culture, and saw it as a place of great spiritual importance, rather than a larger number of Jews who were mostly secular, raised in European culture and saw Israel as a mere refuge from discrimination. Many of them also believed that the return of the Jews to Israel was supposed to happen only after the coming of the Messiah and it was therefore heretical for any ordinary human to try and bring it about. (This started to change after the Holocaust, and even moreso after the Six-Day War, in which Israel’s swift victory was such a shock that many religious Jews assumed it must have been miraculously arranged by God to show his support for the Zionists).

    So why was Israel chosen as the location? As Scott has pointed out (#110), because Israel was the only available Schelling point. Like I said before, you can’t just throw a dart on a map, say “this place belongs to the Jews now”, and expect the world to go along with it. With Israel, there was a known history of the region having been under Jewish control at one point, as well as a documented millennia-long tradition of Jews proclaiming the desire to return, which made it the least arbitrary possible choice of location. Assuming that you think there should have been a Jewish state to begin with, there was never a realistic possibility of it being anywhere other than Israel — as demonstrated by the fact that every attempt to establish a Jewish state outside of Israel has been a complete failure.

  156. anon85 Says:

    Roff #154 said: “We need to acknowledge these valid concerns and create a situation where Israel can take the steps we believe it needs to take, like ending the occupation, without feeling it is compromising its safety.”

    I wonder, would you say the same situation in other circumstances? If China said they are worried about Uyghurs retaliating if released from their interment camps (and indeed there have been terrorist attacks by Uyghurs in the past, it’s not entirely hypothetical), would you respond

    “We need to acknowledge these valid concerns and create a situation where China can take the steps we believe it needs to take, like releasing Uyghurs from internment camps, without feeling it is compromising its safety.”

    No, Israel must grant the Palestinians rights unconditionally. It is not OK for Israel oppress a population for 50 years with no end in sight only because maybe they’ll be mad if freed. Even if, for some reason, you think the Palestinian adults today do not deserve their own country, you must at least put in a guarantee that newly-born Palestinians — those currently babies, blameless for all past actions of Hamas — will see freedom in their lifetimes.

    Do what’s right, and peace will follow. Almost makes you want to quote The Present Crisis:

    ——

    For mankind are one in spirit, and an instinct bears along,
    Round the earth’s electric circle, the swift flash of right or wrong;
    Whether conscious or unconscious, yet Humanity’s vast frame
    Through its ocean-sundered fibres feels the gush of joy or shame—
    In the gain or loss of one race all the rest have equal claim.

    […]

    We see dimly in the Present what is small and what is great,
    Slow of faith how weak an arm may turn the iron helm of fate,
    But the soul is still oracular; amid the market’s din,
    List the ominous stern whisper from the Delphic cave within,—
    “Bombing children for ‘self-defense’ is most terrible of sins.”

  157. Jay Says:

    Ultimaniacy # 155, Here’s a quote you might find interesting, from wikipedia:

    “With the support of the then Premier of Tasmania, Robert Cosgrove (in office from 1939), Critchley Parker proposed a Jewish settlement at Port Davey, in south west Tasmania.[19] Parker surveyed the area, but his death in 1942 put an end to the idea.”

    But I couldn’t find the attempts you were talking about, unless you count that as an attempt?

  158. DR Says:

    Beautifully written. Thank you for doing this to help lay people get a grasp on this. I particularly like the title. That perspective allows you to simplify without dumbing things down.

  159. Roff Says:

    anon85 #156:

    You are mixing several things. Indeed, it is my view that Israel needs to end, unconditionally, the occupation in the West Bank and its military rule of the population there. This is an urgent moral matter. But Israel does not conquer Gaza (any longer), nor does it have settlements there, nor does it govern its population – all unlike the West Bank. Gaza has long been governed by Hamas – the direct oppressor of its residents – under an Israeli blockade.

    Why is the blockade in place? Unlike settlements, it is not motivated by any kind of nationalist or religious zeal. It is obviously a defensive measure meant to prevent Hamas from amassing the weapons that it regularly uses against Israeli civilians. Its role should be evident by the fact that even under the blockade, Hamas tries and succeeds in developing and deploying those weapons ever more powerfully (for example, from not being able to fire at Tel-Aviv, to just barely in 2014, to quite reliably now).

    This chicken and egg problem cannot be untangled one-sidedly. It needs to be done as part of mutual negotiation and agreement, that would include lifting the blockades along with guarantees for the safety of civilians of both sides – which is another thing I believe should begin immediately. By arguing that Israel can simply solve the whole situation one-sidedly all on its own, you’re whitewashing Hamas’ role in this bloodshed. If you think Hamas plans to cease firing once the blockade is lifted one-sidedly, then you clearly haven’t been following, talking to, or listening to Hamas (they are quite vocal and web-savvy, and you can easily find their stated view on the matter online – trigger warning). Their plans to persist in terrorism and violence are not mere possibility or speculation. And here, unlike Gadi’s abhorrent messages above, I draw an clear and important distinction between Hamas and the Palestinian people – just like the violent designs of AlQaeda and ISIS are never to be blamed on muslims in general.

    I did not understand how you gathered that I think Palestinians do not deserve their own state, since I clearly wrote the opposite – that I support the two state solution. In case it wasn’t clear, this term refers to a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

  160. Ken Miller Says:

    Roff #154: Thanks for a thoughtful comment. What I was specifically referring to was the ceasefire from Nov. 2012 to July 2014, when Hamas kept the peace and prevented other groups from sending rockets, even though Israel quickly violated the terms of the agreement (Hamas had reasons of its own, I’m not saying it was an altruistic act). The ceasefire was finally broken when Israel used the excuse of searching for 3 young Israeli kidnapped men to round up 100’s of Hamas members including much of the top Hamas leadership, even though they already knew the men were dead and knew who the killers were. The best account I know of the ceasefire is from Nathan Thrall, though he doesn’t speak to the “already knew” part:

    https://www.lrb.co.uk/the-paper/v36/n16/nathan-thrall/hamas-s-chances

    Here’s an article from the Jewish Forward that goes into more details of the “already knew” part:

    https://forward.com/opinion/201764/how-politics-and-lies-triggered-an-unintended-war/?p=all#ixzz374CPB51T

    Here’s an article from the Times of Israel with Israeli officials confirming that the rocket launchings in July (actually starting June 30) 2014 were the first time Hamas had sent rockets since Nov 2012, and I believe also confirming that they held other groups back as well (Thrall may also discuss this):

    https://www.timesofisrael.com/hamas-fired-rockets-for-first-time-since-2012-israeli-officials-say/

    I know this case best but I have a suspicion that in many cases, including the present one, Hamas had not been sending rockets, Israel staged a provocation, Hamas responded with rockets, and that allowed Israel to launch another massive death and destruction operation against Gaza. Why would Israel want to do this? As I wrote about in comment #46, one reason is the strategic doctrine of “mowing the lawn” — periodically wiping out the infrastructure of Gaza and Hamas and a decent chunk of the leadership of Hamas, leaving them consumed with reconstructing starting from zero, for years, until it is time to “mow the lawn” again. This is described, for example, in this article in the Washington Post:
    https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2021/05/14/israel-gaza-history/

    There’s another possible reason I had forgotten about, the “Dahiya doctrine”, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dahiya_doctrine
    Quoting from wikipedia:
    “The first public announcement of the doctrine was made by general Gadi Eizenkot, commander of the IDF’s northern front, in October 2008. He said that what happened in the Dahya (also transliterated as Dahiyeh and Dahieh) quarter of Beirut in 2006 would, “happen in every village from which shots were fired in the direction of Israel. We will wield disproportionate power against [them] and cause immense damage and destruction. From our perspective, these are military bases. […] This isn’t a suggestion. It’s a plan that has already been authorized. […] Harming the population is the only means of restraining Nasrallah.”[3][6][7]

    According to analyst Gabi Siboni at the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies:

    “With an outbreak of hostilities [with Hezbollah], the IDF will need to act immediately, decisively, and with force that is disproportionate to the enemy’s actions and the threat it poses. Such a response aims at inflicting damage and meting out punishment to an extent that will demand long and expensive reconstruction processes. Israel’s test will be the intensity and quality of its response to incidents on the Lebanese border or terrorist attacks involving Hezbollah in the north or Hamas in the south. In such cases, Israel again will not be able to limit its response to actions whose severity is seemingly proportionate to an isolated incident. Rather, it will have to respond disproportionately in order to make it abundantly clear that the State of Israel will accept no attempt to disrupt the calm currently prevailing along its borders. Israel must be prepared for deterioration and escalation, as well as for a full-scale confrontation. Such preparedness is obligatory in order to prevent long term attrition.”[8][9]

    Noting that Dahya was the Shia quarter in Beirut that was razed by the Israeli Air Force during the 2006 Lebanon War, Israeli journalist Yaron London wrote in 2008 that the doctrine, “will become entrenched in our security discourse.”[4]

    Some analysts have argued that Israel implemented such a strategy during the 2008–09 Gaza War,[10] with the Goldstone Report concluding that the Israeli strategy was “designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population”.[11]

    A leaked U.S. embassy cable from October 2008, two months prior to the Gaza War, reports that General Gadi Eizenkot in his first interview in four years, discussed Israel’s northern, central, and southern regions, and “labeled any Israeli response to resumed conflict the “Dahya doctrine” in reference to the leveled Dahya quarter in Beirut during the 2006 Lebanon War. He said Israel will use disproportionate force upon any village that fires upon Israel.”[12] The 2009 United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict makes several references to the Dahya doctrine, calling it a concept which requires the application of “widespread destruction as a means of deterrence” and which involves “the application of disproportionate force and the causing of great damage and destruction to civilian property and infrastructure, and suffering to civilian populations.” It concluded that the doctrine had been put into practice during the conflict.[13] However, in a 1 April 2011 op-ed, one of the lead authors of the report, Judge Richard Goldstone, stated that some of his conclusions may have been different had the Israeli government cooperated with his team during the investigation. The op-ed has been interpreted by some as a retraction of the report and its conclusions.[14] Goldstone’s three co-authors were strongly critical of his statement.[15]

    The doctrine is defined in a 2009 report by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel as follows: “The military approach expressed in the Dahiye Doctrine deals with asymmetrical combat against an enemy that is not a regular army and is embedded within civilian population; its objective is to avoid a protracted guerilla war. According to this approach Israel has to employ tremendous force disproportionate to the magnitude of the enemy’s actions.” The report further argues that the doctrine was fully implemented during Operation Cast Lead.[16]”

    Obviously no one can prove this is the strategic doctrine behind the assaults on Gaza. And Israeli officials have long since improved their P.R. and learned not to say things like this out loud. But as a model, it accounts for the utterly disproportionate physical and human destruction of Israel’s periodic attacks on Gaza much better than the theory that this is required to stop the rockets.

    As for what you argue about the left-wing ideas being debunked — I don’t think they have ever been tried. When Israel pulled out of Gaza, for example, they continued to control all entry and exit (except one site controlled by Egypt) and all imports and exports, and they continued to blockade Gaza and economically strangle it, ruining their hoped-for greenhouse farm export business for example, as I wrote about in #144.

  161. Ken Miller Says:

    p.s. when I speculate that Israel stages a provocation, Hamas responds with rockets, and this allows, or at the least leads, Israel to launch a full scale attack on Gaza — I do not mean that the rockets are justified by the provocation, or that they are not terrorizing and terrorist and a war crime (as is the Israeli attack on Gaza). I only mean that it is a predictable reaction, a controllable sequence.

  162. M Says:

    My personal opinion is that a reasonable compromise given the history would be something like:

    UN troops should ensure security of both sides, Israel should unilaterally withdraw to the 67 UN voted border and respect the rights of its arab population. Israel keeps the possibility to defend itself but would normally never need to actually do it as it would be the UN mission. Palestine would have elections and be recognised and accountable as a state.

    Israel as a state, Hamas as an organisation and all the individuals involved should answer for every single civil death they caused in the recent conflict and before to an international court where one can claim collateral damage and the other resistance to occupancy, but in any case one cannot justify such actions by just his own moral standards and there should be an international trial as fair as it could be to allow everyone to try to move forward.

  163. HasH Says:

    I remember Palestine Hezbollah propaganda video in college (1991). One of their leader was talking about “how they were happy, when Jews buying their land 10-100 fold more cost. but when we realized there is no land left to sell, we remembered how holly our city was”..

    Not sure how Palestinian people analyze their history but I believe Muslim Arabs/Persians and Turks screwed them bad. Hundreds of years they built palaces, harem, Eden gardens in Spain, Constantinople but nothing in their land. They stayed poor condition, used for excuse to manipulate Muslims in far from them.

    Before 1948, population rate was 35% Palestinian %65 Jews in Jerusalem (1922), today 40-60 (2016). Total Palestinian population; 987,755 (1955) to 5,101,414 (2020), doesn’t look like “exodus” to me.

    If you go look in other “Muslim” country around middle east. They all bomb/kill, oppress, exile, torture, imprison minorities (like Kurdish people) or even different Muslim sects (Pagan Alawites). My people forced to be muslim 300 years ago. Other side of the border converted to be Orthodox Christian. No one remember or talk about this, but we do. They forced us to refuse our identity, not only religion but our race. Even my father (entire family) believe they came from muslim (Abraham’s) ancestors. We lost (almost) our ancient language (because forbidden to teach or practice), they changed our villages names.

    I am against all kinds of religion states. Sad to see most intellectual, educated nation (Jews) turn their dream country to ugly, religious land. When I see orthodox Jews in action, they all look same to me (muslim arabs, persians, orthodox/catholic christian fanatics). In my dream world, there are no borders or class differences, if we can’t make it happen now, at least we can make Pure Scientific Secularism works for every country who want to stay exist in history.

    (I have better idea: open a “political science” class in every HIGHER IQ field, challenge quantum physicist, mathematicians, CS genius people to engineer solving political/social problems. I guarantee they will find the best system compared our last 10,000 yrs failure).

    HIGH Love from Overseas,
    Peace!

  164. SR7371 Says:

    Another Anon #150:

    why are you telling me that? tell it to your fellow pro-Palestinian supporters who are bleating about another “Holocaust” while doing the Hitler salute. But then it’s not very surprising given the history of the Palestinian National Movement which allied with the Nazis and forced the British to ban Jewish refugees from Palestine which led to millions of deaths in the Holocaust.

  165. ultimaniacy Says:

    Jay #157:

    “But I couldn’t find the attempts you were talking about, unless you count that as an attempt?”

    I guess, rather than saying that “every attempt to establish a Jewish state outside of Israel has been a complete failure”, it would be more accurate to say that “every attempt to convince people to attempt to establish a Jewish state outside of Israel has been a complete failure”. Besides the one you note in Tasmania, there were also proposals for Jewish states in a number of places, with particular consideration given to Kenya and Argentina. But those who wanted it to be somewhere other than in Israel were never able to collectively decide on one place long enough to get anywhere, which I would say supports my claim above about Israel being the inevitable choice by virtue of its being the only natural Schelling point.

  166. Alex Says:

    A CS Woman #138: Here are some early instances of the PLO being open to or explicitly supporting a 2 state solution w 67 borders: in 1976 PLO leadership made statements indicating openness to accept an Israeli state within 67 borders (https://www.nytimes.com/1976/12/10/archives/plo-set-back-in-lebanon-told-by-allies-to-compromise-guerrilla.html), and in 1981
    the PLO supported the Fahd Plan (https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1981/11/20/plo-aide-urges-us-backing-for-fahd-plan/581ec91f-a176-43ab-8a6e-6a45e60ab99c/), which so far as I can tell was a relatively reasonable 2 state solution, or at the very least a reasonable basis for discussion towards a settlement. Later in the 90s peace processes they would clearly and continuously express openness to a 2 state solution.

    Here’s a recent example of Hamas expressing openness to a 2 state solution with 67 borders: https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2011/05/24/136403918/hamas-foreign-minister-we-accept-two-state-solution-with-67-borders. While Hamas grew out of the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas itself was founded in the 80s (and was actively supported by Israel in the beginning, interestingly/disturbingly, as they wanted to undermine the PLO).

    In fact given this and other history, it’s hard to escape the conclusion that there has at times been a deliberate strategy on the part of Israeli leadership to avoid negotiation so they can continue building settlements in the occupied territories by claiming there’s no one to negotiate with on the other side, or claiming they’re too insane or evil or whatever to even talk to them, even though there is openness.

    I think you may be conflating what a party accepts and what they accept as legitimate, and pursuit of objectives using violent vs. peaceful democratic means. If Palestinians or Israelis want to merge Palestine and Israel into 1 state, or Italians want to create a United States of Europe, or Scotland wants to break off from the UK, that’s their prerogative (whether you agree or disagree those are good ideas), as long as they pursue those ends peacefully and through legitimate democratic process that respects human rights etc. It seems to me the problem is when people use violence or coercion to achieve those goals. The point of a peace deal is to end violent and open conflict, not to end all disagreement or suppress democracy.

  167. Alex Says:

    Ken Miller: thanks for your detailed and informative comments, I learned quite a bit from reading them.

    Roff #159: Israel has withdrawn its military to the borders of Gaza, but the military occupation hasn’t ended. Gaza is a giant open air prison. You say the blockade is a defensive measure. Does Palestine have the right to blockade Israel as a defensive measure? If not why not, when you suggest Israel has such a right? If the blockade is a defensive measure, why has it covered food items?

    Scot #140: I’d definitely contest the morality of what Israel did in 48 and 67. I’ve tried to focus on what seem like the key points, and agree it’s not necessarily productive to try to litigate or pass judgement on everything that happened in the past. But because you brought it up and I can’t resist… 🙂 The UN did not give any territory to Israel because the UN General Assembly has no such authority (does anyone seriously think they do?); rather the UNGA made a suggestion for what a reasonable proposal would be. Israel did not fight to implement the UNGA proposal, it fought to take the territory it could grab. There’s been a consistent and strong current in Israel towards violent territorial expansion, from then until today with the settlements in the occupied territories. Israel’s founding wasn’t self-defence, it was a European settler colonial project that used violence, terror and ethnic cleansing to establish an ethnocratic state in a multi-ethnic society. To a degree this is standard fare for European colonialism, so I’m not suggesting Israel is uniquely bad in this respect, and I’m not suggesting Zionist aspirations for a Jewish homeland or state aren’t legitimate, but it seems to me looking back that it was clearly a terrible idea to turn to violence, and the horrible messy situation we have now is in to a big degree a result of that. And Israel started the 67 war.

  168. Scott Says:

    Everyone: I’ve decided to close the thread this afternoon, since I think it’s rapidly converging to a standard Israel/Palestine thread of the sort there are 10500 of elsewhere on the Internet. I’m happy if the focus on the desired end state forestalled that for a while, but it couldn’t do so forever. If anyone has a last word to get in, they can do so now.

    Meantime, thanks so much to everyone, whatever their views, who contributed their ideas here in a good-faith spirit.

    In this post, I was more explicit than I’ve ever been before in condemning the current Israeli government. I’m sorry that that’s still not enough for some commenters. Broadly speaking, I’m open to considering any idea whose end result is that (1) Israel, as a Jewish safe haven, continues to exist, and (2) the Palestinians gain self-determination. I’m not necessarily open to ideas where one or both of those conditions fail.

    More concretely, if you say that the Palestinians have proved themselves incapable of self-determination, etc. etc., you’re saying that there’s no solution except for Israel to rule over them in perpetuity (or worse yet, for them to be resettled someplace else). That’s an utter impossibility to anyone who accepts Enlightenment morality.

    Conversely, if you continue to repeat that Israel is a “settler-colonialist project” whose very creation in 1948 was illegitimate (or whose defense of its continued existence against the 1967 blockade was illegitimate), you’re strongly implying that you’re aiming for a world where Israel no longer exists, so that we return to the situation of Jews there at the mercy of those whose stated aim is to exterminate them. In that case, the only advice that anyone could give the Jews there regarding you would be, “don’t bother trying to reach any understanding with this person, there’s nothing short of national suicide that will ever satisfy them, so just defend yourself however necessary.” Do you understand that this is the implication of your words?

    As Sherlock Holmes has it, once you’ve eliminated the impossible, whatever is left however improbable must be the truth. To my mind, the two-state solution is the improbable truth that’s left—yes, even now, even after everything that’s happened in the past 20+ years.

    May all people of goodwill find ways to live together in peace.

  169. Roff Says:

    Scott #168: Thanks for giving us a chance to wrap things up 🙂

    Ken Miller #160:

    Much of what you write is correct, including the “mowing down policy”. The Israeli government is at fault as well as Hamas for the recurring escalations of violence with Gaza, including the current one.

    About the “Dahia doctrine” – there is context here, and a reason why Israeli officials made those vocal statements about “disproportionate response”, which are very much related to current events in Gaza. The reason is that after pulling IDF out of south Lebanon in 2000, the Israeli governments adopted what became known as the “containment doctrine”: whenever Hezbollah would fire rockets on civilian northern towns (which would happen regularly, as with Hamas and southern towns nowadays), Israel would respond in a local, measured and minimal way, never giving Hezbollah a justification to initiate a larger scale conflict. Israeli officials famously said that “their (Hezbollah’s) rockets will rust away in their sheds”. This doctrine is considered to have blown up in Israel’s face in the 2006 war, when those perfectly unrusted rockets rained on Israeli cities and wreaked havoc. All those declarations you quote about the Dahia doctrine were meant to assuage the Israeli public’s outrage on the apparent failure of the containment doctrine in the north.

    Finally, I didn’t mean to say that the Israeli left-wing ideas are debunked – I am a left-wing person who believes in them. I meant that they are considered debunked by the “centrist mass” in Israel. There was a massive shift in Israeli public opinion about the plausibility of peace with the Palestinians during the 2000-2010 decade. Even Bibi and Sharon – two of Israel’s most hawkish leaders ever – ran their PM campaigns in the late 90’s and early 00’s on the promise of making peace. Today it is completely off the table, and as left-wing supporters aspiring for peace, we must reflect on the deep reasons for this shift and figure out effective ways to move forward.

  170. Scott Says:

    Roff #169:

      Thanks for giving us a chance to wrap things up

    Also presumably what Netanyahu told Biden this morning 😀

  171. Jay Says:

    Ultimaniacy #165, Yes, I can agree on this formulation. Thanks the chat and good luck. 😉

  172. Ken Miller Says:

    Just thought I would add Peter Beinart’s discussion of what the structure of a one-state solution might look like — it can’t just be one democratic state with no further substructure, it needs to respect both Palestinian and Jewish nationhood. Here is what he wrote (with lots of links in the original to explore things further) in https://jewishcurrents.org/yavne-a-jewish-case-for-equality-in-israel-palestine/:

    “WHAT MIGHT the political system of an equal Israel-Palestine look like? Post-apartheid South Africa created a bill of rights and a strong constitutional court. Building upon those precedents, the Palestinian American commentator Yousef Munayyer suggested last year in Foreign Affairs that a future Israel-Palestine might enshrine a set of individual rights that it took 90% of the legislature to overturn.

    That’s a good start. But, in one crucial respect, Israel-Palestine could not look like post-apartheid South Africa because South Africa is not a binational state. Although apartheid leaders did their best to promote ethnic and racial divisions, the ANC—which included white, Indian, and mixed-race South Africans in prominent roles—never saw itself as representing a separate Black nation, but rather the South African nation. When South Africa became a democracy for all its people, it didn’t have to add a hyphen to its name.

    Israel might. In Israel-Palestine, there is Jewish national identity and Palestinian national identity, but no Jewish-Palestinian national identity, at least not yet. When the editors of the progressive journal +972 Magazine searched for a single, inclusive name to describe the one state between the river and the sea, all they came up with was an area code.

    As a binational state, a democratic Israel-Palestine would need to protect not merely individual rights but national rights as well. Here, Belgium and Northern Ireland are better models. Binational Belgium delegates enormous power to its three regions—one composed mostly of Dutch-speaking Flemish, one composed mostly of French-speaking Walloons, and one linguistically mixed—as well as to “community governments,” which represent Dutch and French speakers no matter where they live. If 75% of either Flemish or Walloon representatives in parliament oppose important legislation, they can block it. In Northern Ireland, the two heads of government are chosen, respectively, by the largest Catholic and Protestant parties. Key parliamentary decisions require substantial support from representatives of both communities. These cooperative—or “consociational”—forms of government are not always pretty. Between 2010 and 2011, it took Belgium a record-breaking 589 days to form a government. Still, the academic evidence is clear: Divided societies that share power work far better than those that don’t.

    Scholars have imagined various ways to adapt these models to Israel-Palestine while tackling thorny questions of national rights, immigration, and military powers. Some involve federalism, a central government that—as in Belgium or Canada—hands power down to local bodies, through which Jews and Palestinians manage their own affairs. Others involve confederalism, a Jewish state and a Palestinian state that each hand power up to a supranational authority that might look something like the European Union. A Land for All, a group that promotes confederalism, has proposed that Palestinian refugees could return to Israel yet be citizens of Palestine, while Jewish settlers could stay in Palestine and remain citizens of Israel. Alternatively, the famed Palestinian scholar Edward Said suggested in 1999 that in one state, “[t]he Law of Return for Jews and the right of return for Palestinian refugees [would] have to be considered and trimmed together.”

    Trimming the Law of Return need not prevent Israel-Palestine from being a Jewish home. What’s crucial, if it is to remain a refuge for Jews, is not that a Jew from New York can land in Tel Aviv and become a citizen on day one. It’s that the state enshrine in its constitution the obligation to be a haven for any Jew—and yes, any Palestinian—in distress.

    That principle could be extended to foreign affairs. Israel today boasts a Ministry of Diaspora Affairs charged with promoting the welfare of Jews around the world. A democratic Israel-Palestine could retain it, and add a ministry tasked with promoting the welfare of diaspora Palestinians. More fully outlining a democratic Israel-Palestine’s foreign policy would require its own essay. But it’s worth noting that although regional antagonists like Iran and Hezbollah would remain, Palestinian freedom would undermine the core justification for their antagonism. Moreover, they would likely face an Israel-Palestine that enjoyed a warm peace with much of the Arab world.

    None of this means democratic binationalism in Israel-Palestine would be simple or easy. To the contrary, it would be enormously messy and complex. But Jews would be well positioned to defend their interests—perhaps so well positioned as to inhibit fundamental transformation. Compared to white South Africans, Israeli Jews boast much stronger transnational ties to a much stronger diaspora. They’re also a far larger share of the population. When apartheid ended, South Africa was 12% white. Israel-Palestine is roughly 50% Jewish. And even if the Jewish share of the population fell as the result of emigration, refugee return, and a lower birth rate, the experience of South Africa and the US—where political equality has only marginally remedied the economic chasm between the historically privileged and the historically oppressed—suggests that Jewish economic privilege would endure. It sounds strange to say now, but decades after Israel-Palestine extends the right to vote to all its inhabitants, it’s more likely that thoughtful observers will worry—as they currently do in South Africa and the US—not that conditions have changed too much, but that they have changed too little.”

  173. Ken Miller Says:

    One final thought. Beinart links to two articles about Jewish rabbis who have met extensively with Hamas leaders and believe peace with them is possible. I don’t know anything to evaluate the reality, but it is certainly important food for thought. Despite what they wrote in their charter, it is at least possible that they could be a rational political force. I don’t know. But these articles are worth reading:
    https://www.timesofisrael.com/islam-is-more-than-ready-for-peace-with-israel-says-rabbi-who-has-met-with-the-whole-strata-of-radicals/
    https://www.haaretz.com/a-settler-rabbi-s-solution-for-peace-1.5268490

  174. Booben Specter Says:

    Hi Scott,

    I’m an Arab American undergrad, and a long time enjoyer of your blog and works.

    Before ranking “good guys but worse than” and “bad guys but better than”, I think it’s worth considering the circumstances of the parties involved. I’m going to argue that any definition of the word “terrorist” that includes Hamas (as it should!) should include the IDF as well.

    Walled-off Gaza is the stronghold of Hamas, described as the largest open air prison, Palestinians there are totally dependent on Israel for all their basic needs (electricity, food, water, etc). All independent efforts by Palestine to independently get these needs are crushed. Gaza is among the most densely populated places in the globe, yet it takes on average over three hours to get an ambulance in Gaza thanks to Israeli checkpoints.

    In parts of my local Arab community growing up, Hamas was mentioned not as terrorists, but as kind of a group of freedom fighters (we kept our mentions of them to their efforts to start free food programs for Palestinians and to build independent healthcare facilities (to mention the work that Hamas does outside of killing innocent people)). Hamas is a hugely complicated organization, in a land without institution Hamas has grown to fill the void by slapdashedly becoming all of the institutions. There are “members” of Hamas that deal only with healthcare or education that have nothing to do with and know nothing about the terrorist wing of the organization. To an Arab the word “Hamas” is an incredibly imprecise statement, and can refer to two vastly different people.

    It’s not true that the difference between the IDF and Hamas is merely targeting civilians, since many Palestinian civilians killed by the IDF in normal “peacetime” are convicted of terroristic activity after they die. With a conviction rate close to 100% for Palestinians! This is hugely inaccurate since just about everyone in Palestine is associated in some way with Hamas, just as I am affiliated with USPS.

    Here’s the point: Terrorism involves violence against civilian populations as a means to some political end. The IDF is Israel’s terrorist organization, massacring the Palestinian populous setting Palestine back each time from gaining any form of independence or nationalization. The excuse is always terror, but terror’s excuse is that the cruel subjugation of Palestinians must end. Peace has never worked out for Palestinians, life under the perpetual land-air-sea blockade makes obtaining food and water a daily struggle. Peacetime in Palestine is violent for Palestinians, due to the structure of violence imposed on them by Israel. Palestinian civilians are killed by the IDF year-round (and convicted-after-the-fact). Peace between Israel and Palestine benefits Israel significantly more than Palestine, which is why Hamas has such a strong presence in Palestine. I want to mention that posting rants like this from Palestine is incredibly dangerous. A family friend of mine is in prison in Israel for posting a video of three IDF soldiers destroying solar panels, he was charged with terrorism (of course), the claim for all of these media arrests in Israel is always that speaking out against Israeli oppression is equivalent to spreading terrorist propaganda.

    Lastly, I know this point is probably driven more than any other, but it’s important. The death tolls from any Palestinian-Israeli conflict always results in hundreds (if not thousands) more deaths on the Palestinian side. Most of which are civilians and a sickening number of children. I believe in Israel’s right to exist, I admire Israel for its amazing infrastructure and its emphasis on scholarship and education. Though the IDF is truly the terror of Palestinians, just this past week Israel destroyed multiple schools and also the news building in Gaza. The news building was given enough warning to evacuate only humans, all records and equipment were destroyed. It will take years for Palestine to scrape back to the inhumane conditions already forced onto it, Israel is almost untouched and will continue its first-world existence, with its concerns being accordingly “lawn maintenance”.

  175. Nick Nolan Says:

    There is a common theme with several ethnic conflicts:

    1. Israel-Palestine conflict,
    2. police violence against blacks in the US,
    3. conflict in Sri Lanka
    4. Kurds in Turkey and elsewhere.

    Nobody cares without violent backlash from the minority. Violence changes priorities. You must break something to get noticed.

    The common theme is that before the backlash starts, there there is usually a long squeeze where the more powerful party just pushes and pushes the minority. You have asset seizures, structural poverty, a pool of blood in the morning, but because they all happen to one person or family at the time, the media does not pay any attention.

    Before the first Intifada there was just constant squeeze and violence against individuals. Year after a year without any desire to seek peace because Palestinians didn’t fight back hard enough (inside the Palestine). The current violence started with yet another real-estate squeeze and clearing gatherings in the front of the Mosque.

    The solution starts with ending this racist squeeze. It could come from outside. The US should subtract money from its aid to Israel to buy bigger and better houses for those Arabs that Israel wrongs. Every expelled Arab would get better housing. Every unjustified action would be corrected with money withdrawn from the aid to Israel.

  176. Scott Says:

    Booben Specter #174: I’m incredibly sorry that your thoughtful and valuable comment got left in my moderation queue! Maybe I clicked “Approve” on my phone twice, which reverses the original approval—it’s happened to me before. Anyway, it’s up now (I did change the timestamp to put it at the very bottom, so as not to mess up the comment numbering).

    I’ve had a recurring fantasy that someday, all the Jews who accept Palestine’s right to exist could sit down with all the Arabs who (like you) accept Israel’s right to exist, I suppose over pita, hummus, and babaganoush, and by the end of the evening they’d have everything sorted out.

  177. Gadi Says:

    I’ll also note that while most people instantly reject the idea of Israel continuing as-is without giving Palestinians voting rights (they do have human rights and local self-governance right now anyway), just think about the fact that there are no Arabic democracies anyway, and without Israel, Palestinians would most likely live in an Arabic dictatorial regime of some sort. Democracies and Islam don’t mix and tend to destabilize, as the region proves again and again and again. So they should be grateful for what they have because it’s more western values than the Palestinians would have gotten otherwise.

    Gaza under the occupation was also more prosperous than it is under Hamas’ control, and there’s no denying that. Maybe, just maybe, it’s actually better for them not to be in control. I think the most telling sign of that is that if you ask an Israeli Arab with full citizenship if he would move to Palestine if it would be created, and they would definitely hesitate. Deep down they know we’re just better at managing a country than them, which makes their whole freedom fighting for control questionable strategy.

  178. Booben Specter Says:

    Scott #176: Thank you, I too hope that more Arabs will support Zionism as a Jewish liberation movement and right to self determination and I hope that more Jews will support Palestinian right to self determination and advancement. Of course Arabs and Jews have so much more in common than not. I too long for the day that Israelis and Palestinians live side by side not only in peace, but in mutual respect, cooperation, and love.