Something Must be Done

A few months back, I talked about numbers, pointing out that in campus debates regarding the Middle East members of the “pro- and anti-Israel camps at most universities never tops more than 5-10% of the student population, with the other 90%+ viewing activists on both sides as mostly engaged with talking to themselves or shouting at each other.”

Actually, I would go even further than that and say that within the 5% of the population choosing to take a side, just a small percentage of those activists are what I would call “hardcore.” The rest (possibly the majority) are people who feel an injustice is being done (Palestinians are suffering or Israel is being attacked) and – as idealists – they don’t feel they can sit idly by and do nothing.

A very thoughtful commenter who joined a discussion on this site recently highlighted that this is why she took a stand in favor of BDS at UC Davis earlier this year, not because BDS is a cause to which she has dedicated her life but because in the face of so much suffering in the Middle East she felt that at least those pushing divestment were offering a way of doing something that stood a chance, she hoped, of making the situation better.

Now I could make this the shortest posting ever written on this blog (don’t get your hopes up) and say that the solution for people with this burning desire to “do something” is to participate in one or more of the many organizations dedicated to peace and reconciliation between Jews and Arabs in the Middle East, or development in the West Bank via micro-loans and other investment vehicles. In fact, my visitor responded very well to suggestions that she follow this route – as well she should since these options represent good uses of time and effort in and of themselves.

But I fear if we leave things there it will give the impression that BDS is just one of a number of reasonable alternatives for improving the situation in the Middle East, possibly louder and more aggressive than helping to start small businesses on the West Bank or contributing to summer camps for Arab and Israeli kids, but still a peaceful alternative to conflict (i.e., violent conflict).

Needless to say, I reject this characterization and completely reject the notion that the BDS self-characterization as being the heirs to Gandhi, King and the struggle against Apartheid. For if Israel is NOT such a loathsome place that it (and it alone) deserves to be boycotted and if Israel is NOT the sole (or even primary) reason why there is no peace in the Middle East, then BDS is a means to characterize it as these negative things, even if these characterizations are not true (which they are not).

And why portray Israel in this light by making it a target of BDS? In order to create the impression that it IS loathsome and Apartheid-like, that it IS the main (possibly the one and only) reason why there is no peace, even though those accusations, as I said, are false. In other words, BDS is a combat technique, one that involves propaganda (a crucial part of any war strategy, going back to the Persian Wars). It is designed to create the impression that one party to the conflict is getting what it deserves when the violent “arm” of the movement springs into action (which it does routinely) and to de-legitimize any violence Israel takes in response (characterizing it, for example, as a “war crime”).

If, as Einstein said, you cannot both work for peace while preparing for war; you cannot simultaneously be part of a non-violent, peaceful movement and a propaganda effort. As a supporter of Israel, I have no problem battling against those who declare themselves to be Israel’s enemies who want to see it weakened or even destroyed. After all, they have honestly identified where they stand (as have I).

But I do object to those who dress up their propaganda campaign as something other than the warlike effort that it truly is, and I especially loath the fact that they use this inaccurate characterization of themselves to lure in idealists, good people, with promises that BDS offers a way of helping others when, in fact, is dedicated to doing just the opposite.

So I guess I would advise people like my visitor to learn more (from people on both sides of the conflict, as well as from “neutral” observers – yes, they do exists) before taking a political stand either anti-Israel (such as BDS) or pro-Israel (such as the work I do here). I don’t know where you’ll come out at the end of such a journey, but at least the road will be mapped out with more information than comes out of a BDS fight. And I have yet to meet someone who has truly taken such a voyage who came out with the kind of one-sided view of the world that characterizes any divestment debate.

Absent that (or possibly in addition to or as a result of that journey), committing to help smaller-scale reconciliation and development efforts is a fine way to go, both as a way of doing good in a troubled part of the world, and as a way to make a contribution to truly peaceful activities (activities BDS proponents often attack as part of their “de-normlization” efforts, BTW). In addition to contributing to the greater good (albeit in small increments), it also provides a way to avoid doing harm either inadvertently or by being manipulated by people who ultimately do not have the interest of Israel, the Palestinians or you in mind when they try to recruit you to their cause.

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35 Responses to Something Must be Done

  1. Fred December 22, 2010 at 9:29 pm #

    One suggestion about what “must be done”: stop the settlements

    http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/settlements-are-destroying-zionism-1.325310

  2. Anonymous December 22, 2010 at 9:39 pm #

    But instead of stopping these settlements, showing the world Israel is serious about 2 states, stopping the delegitimization of Israel, what does Israel do? Build more settlements ! Build baby build.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/23/world/middleeast/23settle.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

  3. Anonymous December 23, 2010 at 1:12 am #

    Israel is not taking new lands for settlements, btw. Expanding the settlements includes building new schools, additions to existing homes, things like that.

  4. Jon December 23, 2010 at 11:46 am #

    Great big surprise. And so the answer to every question, the response to every article, the magical mantra that can be used to shield the brain from any issue that might fit outside your frame of reference is “settlements, settlements, settlements.”

    Well, you’ve been making this same case over and over again forever. And the fact that the accusations are made one time or ten, by one person or three does not change the fact that you’ve had your chance to make your case and if all you can say is “settlements, settlements, settlements” again and again, I think it’s fair to say we get that this is your point and have done so for the four decades you and like-minded people have been making it.

    Now while you may feel that you are entitled to discuss nothing else for the next half century, I think it only fair to ask you to respond to someone else for once. And, in this case, perhaps we can turn to the subject of refugees. In particular, the million Jewish refugees (the Forgotten Refugees) and what the Arab world owes these refugees for making them homeless after 1948.

    Actually, an answer to this question will help your case as well. For by your own reckoning, the number of Palestinians made homeless by the 1948 war was 750,000. So all we need to do to determine what the Israelis might owe to this refugee population is to take the figure you provide us as what you think the Jewish refugees deserve and multiply that by three-quarters. Could things be any simpler than that?

    So, what do you have for us? What do you feel the Arab world owes those Jews they treated so abominably all those decades ago And if your only answer is “settlements, settlements, settlements,” I will presume your answer is “nothing,” which by extension means you are telling us that Israel owes the Palestinian refugees three-quarters of nothing.

  5. Karmafish December 23, 2010 at 9:58 pm #

    Jon,

    you consistently maintain one of the very best pro-Israel blogs in existence.

    Keep up the good work, please, and have a very happy holiday.

    Peace to you, please, good sir.

    http://thejewishnewsplace.com/

    http://karmafishies.blogspot.com/

  6. Anonymous December 23, 2010 at 10:24 pm #

    Jon the Palestinians do not need micro loans at this time, they need Israel to stop the occupation and return stolen land. There are many nations (including the US, the EU, and others) that will gladly provide loans and other development aid to Palestine. Another disingeneous comment from someone who supports Israel at all costs, even when her actions are indefensible. Please don't pretend to be someone you clearly are not: a friend of the Palestinians.

  7. Anonymous December 24, 2010 at 5:52 am #

    No Jon it is not just the settlements, it is also the occupation,the check points, the illegal wall that snakes through Palestinian land, mistreatment of the Palestinian people in every facet of life, colonization, imprisonment of non violent demonstrators, disproportionate use of force, war crimes, a bouncer thug turned foreign minister, treating it's 20% Arab population as second class citizens, a nation that thinks and acts as if it above international laws and…..

    Take your pick.

    Oh and yes the illegal and immoral Zionist project called the settlements.

    Good evening

  8. Anonymous December 24, 2010 at 11:28 am #

    @anonymous
    So, you support the Arabs' genocide attempt of 1948, the genocide attempt of 1967, the expulsion of 900,000 Jews from their homes in the Arab countries for being Jews? And the continuation of those goals (see the Hamas Charter, the Arab media, hate-schooling of children, etc.). Or do you not exactly support them, but are just willfully blind to them?

    Do you realize you've actually had the cheek to reference “morals” while you consistently overlook these essential matters?

    Johnny

  9. Jon December 24, 2010 at 2:32 pm #

    Thanks Karmafish, both for the compliment and the reminder to make sure I think the many bloggers I turn to for their thoughtful work over the last year (a list which now includes you).

    Happy Kwanukamas!

    Jon

  10. Jon December 24, 2010 at 2:33 pm #

    Johnny – Someone asked a few posts ago why I’ve chosen to engage with the various anonymous commenters over the last week or two and, as I told them, I was hoping to use them to demonstrate the various points I’ve been making recently regarding tactics, specifically tactics related to seizing and controlling the language of debate.

    As the most recent Anonymouser demonstrates, he has no intention of ever taking any other stance than accuse, accuse, accuse. It is not simply ignorance or disinterest that prevents him from acknowledging any issue other than his own accusations (such as the Palestinians responsibility for their own plight, the role of the Arab states in perpetuating the Middle East conflict, or any BDS-related argument I’ve ever brought up in this blog). Rather, this choice is based on the fact that accusation is the one and only one arrow the BDSers have in their quiver.

    Their tactic, demonstrated over and over again, is to never relent, to never acknowledge error or the existence of any other point of view. But this strategy is predicated on other people showing them the very respect that they refuse to give others. But now we have a polite way of telling them that they will only receive the respect that they show to those they are speaking to, by pointing out that their time at the prosecutor’s desk has come and gone and now is the time for them to listen and not just talk, talk, talk.

    No doubt the list of accusations we can expect from them will grow ever longer, as will their increasingly shrill demands that we answer each and every accusation in turn while they also demand the right to ignore every response and, in fact, ignore everything anyone else has to say. But this is just one more demonstration of the desperation with which they will cling to their one and only one (failed) strategy in the face of those who have their number.

  11. Sandy O. December 24, 2010 at 6:45 pm #

    Thank you for this thoughtful, well-balanced blog. (I wish I could say as much about the first few nonsensical responses.)

    I'm really inspired by grassroots, two-state movements like One Voice (and thank you for providing a forum that introduces those alternatives), but I am still concerned that there is a dearth of options for US citizens who want to send a strong message to our own government that we do not approve of its policies regarding Israel.

    My critique is less of Israel's government(which I firmly believe has a right to exist as an sovereign state, and to defend its own interests as such) than of my own government. I don't believe that BDS will directly change Israel's policies but I haven't found anything else that could put pressure on the US to revise its political positioning.

    Social pressure clearly doesn't work since the US refuses to play well with others, so perhaps financial pressure might?

  12. Anonymous December 24, 2010 at 9:08 pm #

    But now we have a polite way of telling them that they will only receive the respect that they show to those they are speaking to, by pointing out that their time at the prosecutor’s desk has come and gone and now is the time for them to listen and not just talk, talk, talk.

    Do expand, please. Seems to me that pointing out their inversion of aggressor with defender (a grotesque moral inversion) makes clear that they’ve got no place at a prosecutor’s desk at all. But I feel that you mean something else.

    Johnny

  13. George T. December 25, 2010 at 8:23 pm #

    Sandy, you have expressed dissatisfaction with our (US's) policies towards Israel and want to see it changed in ways that will be more conducive to a 2 state solution. You have also expressed strong reservations about BDS as it is extreme and should be used only as a last resort. I suggest we put the pros and cons of BDS aside for a moment.

    I invite you to identify some of the US policies that you feel have been detrimental to the 2 state solution/peace process so we may have a fruitful discussion.

    George

  14. DrMike December 25, 2010 at 9:57 pm #

    Sandy:

    Clearly you are trying to educate yourself about the issues involved, and I commend you for your attention to Jon's writing and some of the other comments posted here.

    Allow me to deliberately oversimplify the situation for just a moment–consider that there are basically two groups, which I shall call pro-Israel and anti-Israel. The specific distinction is that the anti-Israel group does not accept the right of the Jewish people to a state (Israel) within any borders whatsoever. The pro-Israel group can include people who do support that right, though they may range from those who unquestionably support every action Israel takes to those who often, and publicly, oppose such actions.
    (side note: I unquestionably love my children. But that doesn't mean I agree with everything they do. However, I don't berate them in public in front of their friends and enemies, and I don't stand idly by when someone is bullying them).

    Now, within that construct, where do you put the supporters of BDS? Clearly, as shown by the video to which I referred you, they do not accept the right of the Jewish people to a state within any borders at all– and as you have come to realize by reading this blog, the so-called fictional “right” of return does deal with their fantasy that Israel, at gun- (or nuclear weapons-)point, will be forced to accept an influx of 5 million descendants of refugees created when the Palestinians and their Arab allies attempted to strangle the nascent state even before its birth.

    So, given that BDS isn't about settlements, why do you think they keep harping on that? It's not as if they would agree to let Israel live in peace if it evacuated all the settlements. (BDSers out there, if you think that statement is incorrect, please refer me to any BDS website that substantiates your statement).

    Obviously, it's a sales gimmick. It attracts well meaning people such as yourself who can have very legitimate concerns about the situation of a population under occupation, and gets you in the door. Once there, you are then sold the fake bill of goods that BDS is about peace and coexistence.

    The main problem, unfortunately, is that it's not only the BDS proponents that speak out of both sides of their mouths. The Palestinian leadership has continuously also stood by the “right” of return as a fundamental, non-compromisable position. So if Israel completely withdraws from the West Bank, and the PA leadership insists that this is not enough for peace, how long do you think that it will take for rockets to start landing on BenGurion Airport? Look at the geography and see how close Israel's population centers are to the hills of the West Bank. Then look at what happened in Gaza after Israel completely withdrew in 2005, from which dozens of rockets continue to be launched at Israel each week.

    So everytime you see an anonymous poster continue to talk about “settlements”, just continue to respond with the question: “So, if Israel withdraws from the West bank, then you agree that there would be no reason to continue BDS tactics?” And watch how none of them will give a straight answer to that one.

  15. DrMike December 25, 2010 at 9:58 pm #

    Sandy:

    Clearly you are trying to educate yourself about the issues involved, and I commend you for your attention to Jon's writing and some of the other comments posted here.

    Allow me to deliberately oversimplify the situation for just a moment–consider that there are basically two groups, which I shall call pro-Israel and anti-Israel. The specific distinction is that the anti-Israel group does not accept the right of the Jewish people to a state (Israel) within any borders whatsoever. The pro-Israel group can include people who do support that right, though they may range from those who unquestionably support every action Israel takes to those who often, and publicly, oppose such actions.
    (side note: I unquestionably love my children. But that doesn't mean I agree with everything they do. However, I don't berate them in public in front of their friends and enemies, and I don't stand idly by when someone is bullying them).

    Now, within that construct, where do you put the supporters of BDS? Clearly, as shown by the video to which I referred you, they do not accept the right of the Jewish people to a state within any borders at all– and as you have come to realize by reading this blog, the so-called fictional “right” of return does deal with their fantasy that Israel, at gun- (or nuclear weapons-)point, will be forced to accept an influx of 5 million descendants of refugees created when the Palestinians and their Arab allies attempted to strangle the nascent state even before its birth.

    So, given that BDS isn't about settlements, why do you think they keep harping on that? It's not as if they would agree to let Israel live in peace if it evacuated all the settlements. (BDSers out there, if you think that statement is incorrect, please refer me to any BDS website that substantiates your statement).

    Obviously, it's a sales gimmick. It attracts well meaning people such as yourself who can have very legitimate concerns about the situation of a population under occupation, and gets you in the door. Once there, you are then sold the fake bill of goods that BDS is about peace and coexistence.

    The main problem, unfortunately, is that it's not only the BDS proponents that speak out of both sides of their mouths. The Palestinian leadership has continuously also stood by the “right” of return as a fundamental, non-compromisable position. So if Israel completely withdraws from the West Bank, and the PA leadership insists that this is not enough for peace, how long do you think that it will take for rockets to start landing on BenGurion Airport? Look at the geography and see how close Israel's population centers are to the hills of the West Bank. Then look at what happened in Gaza after Israel completely withdrew in 2005, from which dozens of rockets continue to be launched at Israel each week.

    So everytime you see an anonymous poster continue to talk about “settlements”, just continue to respond with the question: “So, if Israel withdraws from the West bank, then you agree that there would be no reason to continue BDS tactics?” And watch how none of them will give a straight answer to that one.

  16. DrMike December 25, 2010 at 10:00 pm #

    Sandy:

    Clearly you are trying to educate yourself about the issues involved, and I commend you for your attention to Jon's writing and some of the other comments posted here.

    As you have been shown by the video to which I referred you (and of course there are many other examples to back those up), the BDS movement does not accept the right of the Jewish people to a state within any borders at all– and as you have come to realize by reading this blog, the so-called fictional “right” of return is their fantasy that Israel, at gun- (or nuclear weapons-)point, will be forced to accept an influx of 5 million descendants of refugees created when the Palestinians and their Arab allies attempted to strangle the nascent state even before its birth.

    So, given that BDS isn't about settlements, why do you think they keep harping on that? It's not as if they would agree to let Israel live in peace if it evacuated all the settlements. (BDSers out there, if you think that statement is incorrect, please refer me to any BDS website that substantiates your statement).

    Obviously, it's a sales gimmick. It attracts well meaning people such as yourself who can have very legitimate concerns about the situation of a population under occupation, and gets you in the door. Once there, you are then sold the fake bill of goods that BDS is about peace and coexistence.

    The main problem, unfortunately, is that it's not only the BDS proponents that speak out of both sides of their mouths. The Palestinian leadership has continuously also stood by the “right” of return as a fundamental, non-compromisable position. So if Israel completely withdraws from the West Bank, and the PA leadership insists that this is not enough for peace, how long do you think that it will take for rockets to start landing on BenGurion Airport? Look at the geography and see how close Israel's population centers are to the hills of the West Bank. Then look at what happened in Gaza after Israel completely withdrew in 2005, from which dozens of rockets continue to be launched at Israel each week.

    So everytime you see an anonymous poster continue to talk about “settlements”, just continue to respond with the question: “So, if Israel withdraws from the West bank, then you agree that there would be no reason to continue BDS tactics?” And watch how none of them will give a straight answer to that one.

  17. Stan Melman December 26, 2010 at 2:09 am #

    DrMike I am also an interested observer of the Israel/Palestine conflict. I agree that the return of millions of Palestinian refugees to Israel as part of any peace deal does not make sense because the palestinians would have a majority and there would be no jewish state.

    However, I am having a hard time understanding /justifying how settlement construction in areas slated to be a future palestine are in any way helpful to peace and a two state solution. it seems to me as one sided and counterproductive.

  18. DrMike December 26, 2010 at 7:59 pm #

    Stan, all I can say to that is that I agree with you! While there has never been any publicly announced agreement on exactly which areas would be slated to be a future state of Palestine (and the Palestinians continue to insist publicly that it must be along the 1949 armistice lines which are often incorrectly referred to as “internationally recognized borders”, most observers believe that agreement on future borders was reached in the negotiations in December 2000 at Taba, in the waning days of the Clinton administration. The borders would run beyond the 1949 lines in some areas, to take in about 90% of the Israelis living in the West Bank (in built-up areas such as reunified Jerusalem, Ariel, Maaleh Adumim, and Gush Etzion). There would also be Israeli territory ceded to a state of Palestine in a 1:1 ratio to compensate for this. Jewish neighborhoods in Jerusalem (Ramot, French Hill, Ramat Eshkol, Gilo) would remain in Israel, Arab neighborhoods such as Issawaya, Shuafat, Abu Dis would become part of Palestine.

    So it would indeed make a great deal of sense for Israel to stop building in areas outside of those lines. Given the nature of Israel's coalition government, though, that's politically difficult to carry out. Which leads to the question: why are the Palestinians given infinite leeway on their maximalist demands (eg “right” of return), with the excuse that their leadership doesn't have enough support to take that step, yet the Israelis are held (by some, not necessary you Stan!) to a standard that insists on unilateral concessions?
    Of course, the last time Israel offered the Palestinians such a deal in 2000, Arafat said no and went to war– because he, just like the BDS proponents today, was not prepared for peace with Israel
    Nonetheless, I think it would be a powerful step for Israel to delineate its offer much more clearly and to stop building in areas outside such borders (they have already stopped expanding the land areas of those settlements).

  19. Jon December 27, 2010 at 12:20 pm #

    Sandy – I appreciate your hanging in there and, as noted in the previous comments thread, I promise to do my best to answer your questions either as response comments or as future postings.

    I'm glad to hear that you are interested in and attracted to grassroots projects that are truly dedicated to peace and I hope you find good use of your time and energies there.

    I also understand that, like many Americans, you have a bone to pick with your own government, especially with regard to foreign-policy stands that it takes. And I don't feel the need to debate the your stances on various US foreign policy matters (unless you want to) since – as US citizens – we are all entitled to our opinions on what our government does or doesn't do.

    My only caution is that Israel is often used as a political football between defenders and critics of a particular American administration or policy, despite the fact that support for Israel has been one of the few things Democrats and Republicans (both in government and in the grassroots) agree on from decade to decade, administration to administration. As such, the case for American support for Israel has its own merits and should not simply be assumed to be part of whatever policies you dislike.

    This is another case where BDS can act as a “Great Simplifier” claiming: you don't like what the US is doing (in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere). The US supports Israel. Therefore, you must support BDS.

    Such a synogism doesn't work, exemplified best by the fact that none of the economic pressure BDS has tried to apply is in any way targetted towards the US.

  20. Anonymous December 28, 2010 at 12:01 am #

    Jon

    The UCB divest bill targeted two US companies: General Electric and United Technologies.

  21. Sandy O. December 28, 2010 at 4:51 am #

    I feel really uncomfortable with my government verbally and monetarily backing up Israel, when it's doing things like giving the finger to a ruling by the ICJ. I don't like that the U.S. uses its veto on the UN Security Council to block international actions on the matter. And I don't like that even when a given administration (e.g. the current one) is willing to formally state that Israel's actions are directly undermining the peace process, they won't actually do anything about it.

    If international bodies can't do anything to influence Israeli policies and the U.S. won't do anything, it starts to look verrry appealing for citizens of the world to take matters into their own hands.

    @Jon: that's a great point about Israel being the focus when talking about things that actually have nothing to do with Israel. I'll definitely be keeping that in mind.

    And Motorola and Caterpillar are two more U.S. companies targeted by BDS.

  22. Anonymous December 28, 2010 at 9:49 pm #

    Sandy. Like everyone else on this thread, I do not question your sincerity. However, I do have a question for you: on what basis do you believe that the ICJ or the UN are worthy of respect or have anything to do with (Capital J) Justice.

    I am an attorney who deals with these matters frequesntly (though not exclusively), and I suggest from my experience the ICJ and the UN and their decisions are not worthy of unthinking or automatic respect and support. Their decisions are based almost exclusively on the demands of power, politics, and personal beliefs of the judges making the decisions (just as the decisions of US Courts often are to my chagrin).

    I merely suggest that you do not decide what is right or wrong based on what someone else — or some institution — says, but make up your own mind. At the least, read the ICJ decisions with some skepticism before deciding they are right.

    If you want to discuss further (with examples), I can provide you with my work email address.

  23. Sandy O. December 29, 2010 at 3:40 am #

    I certainly agree that these things should be approached critically. Nothing is clear cut, yes/no, especially in a situation like this.

    One basis on which I support the ICJ ruling in this matter is that it was not equivocal. 14 of 15 judges agreed. And that decision is also in line with what the majority of the world seems to believe. I've yet to hear any neutral-party evidence supporting Israel's actions regarding the barrier, which was the focus of the ICJ ruling.

    The UN, the ICJ, Jimmy Carter, Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu, Noam Chomsky, Norway's government, on and on and on … these can't all possibly be loose canons with a personal/emotional/political/religious stake to defend.

    The question for me personally is not 'Is there a human rights/international law issue that needs to be addressed?', but rather, 'What can I do to be a part of the solution?'. The solution must be for both Israelis and Palestinians. It's tough business, obviously, but nothing is impossible.

    I have my own ideas about how I would like to see things play out, but that's obviously irrelevant. Especially since othing is going to happen as long as Israel continues to undermine peace talks, flout international law and generally leverage geo-political power into a position that places it above both international opinion and the law.

    I think that pattern of acting as though it is special in some way and needn't be accountable for its actions may be one thing pushing many people towards divestment from Israel.

  24. Anonymous December 29, 2010 at 7:38 pm #

    I agree that we should not accept the decisions of the UN or any other body without review and scrutiny. On the other hand, we should not reject any UN resolution or ICJ opinion regarding the Israel Palestine conflict without first reviewing the merits of these decisions.

    I am and have always been a strong supporter of Israel and her right to exist in peace and security as a Jewish state. However, I am very concerned that Israel is increasingly isolated in the international community. There is a perception around the world (correct or incorrect) that the US will always support Israel, even if Israel is on the wrong side of an issue. At first I brushed these arguments aside as either racist/antisemitic or simply baseless and foolish. Unfortunately the more I read and understand about this conflict, the more concerned I become.

    Some believe the US is unhappy with Israel but unable to do anything about it due to the powerful Israel lobby. If true, this is an unsustainable situation, undermines the US in the international community, and most importantly, is detrimental to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state.

  25. Anonymous December 29, 2010 at 8:50 pm #

    Sandy. the lawyer here again.

    I think your attempt to support your position by citing Noam Chomsky shows where you are in your political/social development. I stopped using Chomsky as moral support when I found out how ready willing and able he was to excuse the killing of hundred and thousands, so long as the killing was done by “anti-imperialists.” I trust you will make the same decision. As to Jimmy Carter, as a committed liberal, I grieve for what might have been with President Carter.

    The ICJ opinion was 14-1 because of the ADVISORY question it was asked. A question made advisory onlay as one method of expressly designing the question to avoid any consideration of the purposes or necessity of the fence, or the reasons why it was built where it was built. It is like if I asked you to determine whether killing someone was bad, without letting you consider the issue of self-defense. Or asking for an advisory opinion on whether and act of sex is pleasurable, without letting you consider the issue of rape and consent. The ICJ opinion is an example of garbage in/garbage out. Worse, it was designed that way.

    I could list many more reasons why the ICJ decision proves nothing — certainly not from a moral perspective — but I suspect it will not sway you. Your mind seems made up.

    I will end by joining Jon and suggesting that if you support a 2 state solution and do not wish to see the destruction of the Jewish State of Israel, you stop helping those who do. BDS is a movement whose goal is a 1 state solution. So stop spending your time, money, energy on BDS. If you continue to support BDS after being well-educated on this website as to its means and goals, then actions always speak louder than words.

  26. Another lawyer December 29, 2010 at 10:36 pm #

    Dear lawyer

    Why is it that the wall in question runs through lands that are to be a future Palestinian state? And don't you think that such unilateral moves by Israel send a strong message to the world that Israel is “above the law”? Finally, given that the settlements take up over 40% of the West Bank, don't you think this has anything to do with the one state solution being proposed by the BDSers?

    As much as I love and support a Jewsih State of Israel, I think this has gone too far and Israel needs to realize that she can't eat her cake, and have it too.

  27. Anonymous December 30, 2010 at 3:47 am #

    Five small points/responses:

    1. Your assumption is incorrect. Not all of the wall “runs through lands that are to be a future Palestinian state.” Some of it does; some does not from all serious proposals I have seen.

    2. The wall is built where it is because the purpose of the wall is to prevent terrorists from coming over from the West Bank and killing persons not on the West Bank. Thus, it must perforce be on the West Bank between the major Jewish populations and the non-Jewish population where possible. If you looked at the map, the wall is placed where it is for various reasons, including where it will be less disruptive (i.e., not through towns where possible). Some sections of the wall has been moved several times based on legal complaints. Most of the “wall” is not a wall at all.

    3. Here is another error by you. By claiming the move was “unilateral,” you happily ignore the deaths and bombings that led to the wall in the first place. You assume part of the answer in your question. As if the government of Israel woke up one day and decided to build a wall for no purpose but to harm Palestinians. Lawyerly trick that, but just a trick

    4. Considering that the BDSers call for the end of all Israel, they are not satisfied by 100% of the West Bank — so no, no real connection between the 40% and the one-state solution. In this regard, I also note that there has never been any indication that the Palestinian leadership would be satisfied with 100% of the West Bank, as they are wedded to the right of return. The settlements as a real obstacle to peace are a chimera; they would be dismantled in exchange for real peace or (better yet, but I know not realistic) the Jewish population allowed to stay as citizens of the new state. GO AHEAD, CALL ISRAEL'S BLUFF AND GIVE UP THE RIGHT OF RETURN. You might not like the result, however, as I suspect you too would not agree to give up the right of return (being willing to fight to the last Palestinian from your comfy couch in — what part of the US or Europe do you live in?)

    5. What annoys me the most is the exquisite refusal by “lawyer” to grant the Palestinians any autonomy or self-will. Apparently, the are mere ciphers who never act, but are merely acted upon. As ciphers, they can never “go too far” or “act unilaterally” or “be required to compromise.” An attitude that reeks of “white man's burden” and other colonial attitudes toward the inferior child-like “brown folk”

    5. This is a great example of Jon's posts about misuse of language: “unilateral” “runs through lands that are to be a future Palestinian state” “above the law” (what law?) “Israel needs to realize” Such loaded misstatements spoken with such self-assurance.

  28. Anonymous December 30, 2010 at 5:14 am #

    A few “humble” responses to your responses

    1. I never meant, implied or stated that all of the wall runs through what is to be a palestinian land. Some of it does, but since I am certain that Israel is fully capable of land surveying, the location of this wall in these areas is not only deliberate but unilateral. Yes Israel is unilaterally establishing borders in land that is under negotiation and that is not right.

    2. I think you are confusing borders between sovereign nations with “facts on the ground” established by the occupying power in the form of settlements. Israel may place whatever it wants on its sovereign land just as any other sovereign nation can, my opinion is irrelevant. Issue here is Israel is messing with someone else's land.

    3. As stated above the term “unilateral” is used because the wall establishes a demarcation/border and it runs through land that is occupied/in dispute/subject of negotiation, call it whatever you want. No lawyer would accept that, would you?

    With regards to bombings and death, I refer you to the official and agreed upon statistics of death/ injuries on both sides of this dispute and you will find that far more palestinians have died at the hands of israelis than israelis at the hands of palestinians. I never condone violence, the death of one man woman or child, jew or arab is wrong.

    4. I am sorry you feel that taking over 40% of the WB and building settlements on them will not somehow lead to extreme measures and calls for a one state solution. I think it makes a lot of sense.

    It may come to you as a surprise that I am against the ROR of millions of palestinians to Israel. This would destroy the jewish majority in Israel and though I am not a believer in religion, I think the jewish and democratic state of Israel has the right to exist in peace and security. A few thousand palestinians *as a symbolic gesture* thats one thing, monetary compensation thats also one thing but no right of return. I have had this view for a decade now.

    5. I am certain that the palestinians have in fact gone too far, made stupid mistakes, committed crimes etc. I never said/thought this was one sided. I hope I have not made one sided statements, if I have I apologize.

    5 (again) the repeat of the number 5 may have been a Freudian slip as you say nothing new in this one.

  29. Jon December 30, 2010 at 12:18 pm #

    Just to throw my two cents in, I urge anyone seeing the large number of conflicting legal claims to consider the possibility that arguments regarding legality and illegality can serve as a substitute for political negotiations that might be more suitable. After all, negotiations require compromise and understanding while a legal case has a much simpler solution: for the person or nation acting illegally to stop doing so.

    But what if Israel decided to declare Palestinian government to be illegal and refused to negotiate with them until they stopped breaking the law? After all, the current leader of the PA is in the 7th year of his 5 year term, following another leader who served 10 years of a five year term, and the Gaza Strip is ruled by people who came to power in a coup. Activities in both the West Bank and Gaza over the last two decades could be easily categorized as war crimes, and it's unclear to me what authority either Hamas or the PA operates under, given that Olso required them to do certain things which they have failed to do.

    I'm not urging such a legal argument in lieu of negotations mind you, just highlighting that it's not that difficult to make the case that one party or the other is in violation of the law which would make negotiations unnecessary since the more appropriate solution for such illegal behavior is to end it and/or punish those who are behaving in such a manner.

    In brief, caution is urged on anyone who wants to go down the legal route if you are also hoping for a peaceful outcome based on a negotiated political settlement.

  30. Anonymous December 30, 2010 at 1:09 pm #

    “With regards to bombings and death, I refer you to the official and agreed upon statistics of death/ injuries on both sides of this dispute and you will find that far more palestinians have died at the hands of israelis than israelis at the hands of palestinians. I never condone violence, the death of one man woman or child, jew or arab is wrong.”

    . . . Rubbish statistic.

    1. To what statistic are you referring. How are those numbers arrived at?

    2. Thanks for the lack of context — killed how, when, why?

    3. Once again, infantilizing the Palestinians. The choice to fight from mosques and behind the civilian population may have an effect on those statistics.

    4. The goal of the “democratically elected — then took over in a coup” Hamas is to destroy all the Jews. The P.A. merely wants the Jews to be forced to leave once they have a majority in both states through the right of return. Given these genocidal goals, imagine the result if the situation was reversed.

    5. Your point is what exactly based on this supposed fact, the Palestinians have a right to suicide bomb? The Jews have no right to defend themselves by building a wall.

    6. WHERE IS THE REAL STATISTIC for this discussion, the amount of Jews killed and successful terror attacks from the West Bank before and after the wall was built. The efficacy of the wall is the key issue — one you do not appear to dispute.

  31. Anonymous December 30, 2010 at 4:17 pm #

    I think any discussion regarding peace in this region needs a serious discussion of UMRWA- and its role in perpetuating this conflict:

    “UNRWA’s institutionalization of refugee-cum-military camps is, in my view, the principal obstacle to peace in the Middle East. The chances of achieving peace and security in the Middle East will continue to be remote as long as UNRWA is, in… effect, underwriting a self-destructive Palestinian cycle of violence, internecine warfare, and a perpetual war against Israel.”

    https://www.commentarymagazine.com/viewarticle.cfm/the-palestinian-proletariat-15590?page=all

  32. Anonymous December 30, 2010 at 6:08 pm #

    sources of the “rubbish statistic” from wikipedia

    67 war
    Between 776[3] and 983 Israelis were killed and 4,517 were wounded. 15 Israeli soldiers were captured. Arab casualties were far greater. Between 9,800[5] and 15,000[6]

    yom kippur war
    Israel suffered between 2,520[17][15][226] and 2,800 killed in action.[14] An additional 7,250[227] to 8,800[14] soldiers were wounded.

    Arab casualties were known to be much higher than Israel's, though precise figures are difficult to ascertain as Egypt and Syria never disclosed official figures. The lowest casualty estimate is 8,000 (5,000 Egyptian and 3,000 Syrian) killed and 18,000 wounded.[14] The highest estimate is 18,500 killed in action of which 15,000 were Egyptian and 3,500 Syrian.[15

    1982 lebanon war
    t is estimated that around 17,825 Lebanese were killed during the first year of the war, with differing estimates of the proportion of civilians killed.

    Samuel Katz and Lee E Russell in their book Armies in Lebanon 1982-84[58] puts the casualties as follows:
    Israel – 368 dead and 2,383 wounded

    first intifada
    The Israeli army killed more than 1,000 Palestinians in the 1st intifada and more than 120,000 Palestinians were arrested in the 6 year conflict.[24]

    second intifada
    Of the 4,281 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces or civilians since the beginning of the Second Intifada, 2,038 were civilians according to B'Tselem.[1]

  33. Anonymous December 30, 2010 at 6:12 pm #

    Israel can build a wall or whatever else it desires on its land as stated above and my opinion is irrelevant. The efficacy of the wall is not in dispute, the location is.

  34. Sandy O. December 30, 2010 at 6:57 pm #

    Oh, I knew that someone would call out Noam Chomsky being on that list. I almost took it out but left it in for my own entertainment. (I'm silly like that.)

    But it does highlight some issues inherent in conversations devolving into legalistic debate. For one thing, it discourages consensus building. That's why I really appreciate groups like One Voice, that are moving toward finding ways to agree on issues, rather than continuing the tired debate focused on the Letter of the Law.

  35. Jon December 31, 2010 at 11:06 am #

    Sandy – There’s no problem invoking the name of Noam Chomsky in debate, so long as you are honest with yourself and others that he represents a highly partisan voice whom you are bringing into the conversation with a full understanding that his positions are controversial. If people react to his invocation (as you apparently anticipated they would), it is likely because he is often presented in these types of debates as a voice we must take seriously because of his academic reputation, rather than as a partisan whose expertise in one field (linguistics) does not necessarily give him any more unique insight into the Middle East than you or I possess.

    Regarding legal arguments, I agree that they can serve as a substitute for negotiations (or consensus building if you like). Which is why phrases like “illegal settlements” and “war crimes” (whether applied to Israeli or Palestinian settlements or military actions) need to be analyzed carefully to ensure they are not being used as a way to preclude discussion and debate by demanding that one side of the argument be declared illegal at the outset.

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