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February 18, 2003

Bethlehem and Palestinian Ghettos

The Israelis are building a wall in Bethlehem to separate the Arabs from the Jewish part of town, just one more wall in a catacomb of walls and checkpoints trapping Palestinians in, well...


And I mean that in the sense of the Warsaw Ghetto.

I saw the movie the Pianist last week, and to see the Israelis step-by-step take Palestinian autonomy away, deny them jobs, deny them access to friends and family through walls and security-- what can you think of other than the slow destruction of humanity that the Nazis inflicted on Jews in the ghettoization period.

When the Nazi comparison is made, Israel defenders mount the barricades, since the Palestinians are not being gassed in ovens. But the horrors of Nazism started much earlier, as the Jews were stripped of their humanity and autonomy long before they lost their lives.

And now the Palestinians are losing all access to work, to visit friends and families freely, to have any sense of freedom but only life under the guns and rules of an antagonistic people who literally treat them like animals penned in ghetto cages.

Yes, everytime the Nazi comparison is made, people cry out agains the comparison as obscene (although the same people often seem to have little trouble to the casual comparisons of Saddam Hussein to Hitler) or that other regimes are more repressive. Which is true-- next door Syria comes to mind.

But repression tied to racism and ethnic domination has its own horror beyond mere dictatorship, for it combines loss of freedom with psychological degradation, and destroys any sense of common humanity.

I visited Syria back in 1999 and it was clear that no one could speak their mind, yet it was also obvious that people could also live their lives in some degree of common life, however restricted. I also visited the West Bank, at probably the time of maximum freedom under the Palestinian Authority before the second intifada broke out. And even then, the continual police checkpoints you had to cross felt like jolts to the soul, however mild they were then. At the full level of restraint today -- where Jews can move freely while Palestinians are caged like animals -- such a system of ghettoization violates any sense of humanity.

No, it is not Nazi Germany circa 1943.

It is Nazi Germany circa 1938.

Those who can defend Israeli on that basis should be ashamed.

And before anyone points to the violence of Palestinian suicide bombers, the idea that somehow violent resistance by Jews against their ghettoization would have made the Nazi acts acceptable hardly rings true. Turkey justifies the Armenia genocide of 1915 on the basis of the violence of the Armenians resisting Turkish repression, as they do today with the Kurds. The United States justified its genocide against Native Americans on the basis of their violent resistance, which also targetted many innocent civilians.

And I make these comparisons to highlight what I am not saying. I would never say that Israelis are uniquely evil, only that they have backed themselves into a horrific policy, much as many other nations have, step by step, accepted the dehumanization of another people for reasons that seemed so acceptable at the time. Focusing on Hitler misses the point-- the issue is how a people-- German, American, Israeli -- can accept policies that violate every sense of decency against another people, no matter how logical or necessary it seemed at the time, whatever justification was offered by its government at the time.

The sad fact is how easy it has been in history, repeatedly, for this kind of degradation to happen and how easy many people find it to justify it at the time.

What pains me most is that when I was in Israel and the West Bank in 1999, it was so clear that both Jews and Palestinians I met wanted peace, yet they could not quite pull away from destruction, as the Israelis kept building settlement walls throughout the Oslo process, constricting the potential movement of the Palestinians even as they promised freedom. And eventually, the reality of walls overrode the promises of freedom, and the second Intifada broke out.

And yet the Israelis continue to believe that walls and ghettos for the Palestinians are the solution, not the problem driving death and resistance.

The sad fact is that walls are quite good as imprisoning and destroying the soul and humanity of Palestinians, but seem remarkably incapable of restraining the bodies of suicide bombers that are the result of that dehumanization.

I want an Israel that survives, but the present course by the Israeli government is as sure a route to suicide, both spiritually and physically, as I can imagine.

Posted by Nathan at February 18, 2003 06:15 PM

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As my partner (http://jameswagner.com) commented, you left out another parallel: the concept of "Lebensraum", or "living space".

Posted by: bloggy at February 19, 2003 12:19 AM

A brave article. You know you're going to get a shitstorm over you now, do you?

Posted by: Martin Wisse at February 19, 2003 09:30 AM

When the walls, ghettos, and tank raids fail to stop Palestinian terrorism, there will be many who rush to say, "We just need bigger walls, stronger ghettos, and more tanks." I have argued with a person who believes that the Israelis should, right now, kill about 10% of the PA's security force--5000 people--to send the right message to the Palestinians. Strangely, he doesn't think that if the Palestinians were to kill 10% of the Israeli military that this would make the Israelis more likely to listen to the Palestinians. Funny, that.

Posted by: Kevin J. Maroney at February 19, 2003 11:44 AM

I think the analogy that you touched on, between the Palestinians today and the American Indians during the 19th century, is very apt in a lot of ways, especially in the way Palestinian crimes against Israelis are used to justify the taking of land and resources. Unfortunately, in keeping with the Indian analogy, I think things are only going to get worse for the Palestinians for a long time.

Posted by: fin at February 19, 2003 12:43 PM

bravo on a great piece - and there are many israelies, yours truly included, that agree with you.

Posted by: yoni at February 19, 2003 12:56 PM

Except that the Israelis aren't colonizers like the Whites who drove out the Native Americans. Jews have had a consistent, though fluctuating, presence in Jerusalem (and Israel generally) for several thousand years.
And prior to 1948, *they* were the persecuted minority.
Israel's current actions towards the Palestinians notwithstanding, they are not "imperialists" or "colonizers". And suggesting they are only adds fuel to the fire of Islamist prejudice and myths of a secret plan for a "Greater Israel".
I think that most people can agree that Israel's policies are misguided and dangerous, but I think drawing the comparison to Nazi Germany is strong rhetoric without being particularly helpful in contextualizing the situation.

Posted by: amh at February 19, 2003 01:02 PM

While the Israeli Jews are not "colonizers" in the strict definition of the word (although certain South Africans would disagree), their actions, as they build more and more settlements in the Occupied Territories are more like the actions of colonizers than not. I've thought for many years that the actions of the Israeli government toward the Palestinanians is too much like the actions of the German government toward the Jews for comfort. But, often one can't talk about these feelings with Jewish friends because of immediate accusations of anti-Semitism. Thanks for starting the conversation.

Posted by: Harolynne Bobis at February 19, 2003 04:45 PM

How can people who forcably move residents from their land, and occupy it with people of their own ethnicity--whom they then protect with the military--*not* be colonizers? Colonization is -exactly- what Israeli settlments on Palestinian territory is.

Posted by: c.b. at February 19, 2003 05:22 PM

How can people who forcably move residents from their land, and occupy it with people of their own ethnicity--whom they then protect with the military--*not* be colonizers? Colonization is -exactly- what Israeli settlments on Palestinian territory is.

Posted by: c.b. at February 19, 2003 05:22 PM

i too saw the movie "The Pianist" and thought of the current Israeli/Palestinian conflict. The Israelis are acting in a manner that does reflect a complete lack of regard for another people. They are "cleansing" the land of Palestinians. It would take a US President to stop this. Right now we only have a dictator. The man who was elected was Gore and he would make this conflict the first order of business. There will be no peace in the middle east until this is resolved.

Posted by: Norm at February 19, 2003 07:36 PM

I wish Gore had won too, but let's not go nuts here. Gore was, if anything, even more an enabler of Israel's oppression of the Palestinians than Bush presented himself as being. Gore was a long-term ally of Martin Peretz and the "pro-Israel" tendency in the Democratic party. On this issue, I don't think there's much to choose between them.

Posted by: william burns at February 19, 2003 08:15 PM

Your flood of enemies hasn't showed up yet, but I'll weigh in in basic agreement. This issue makes cowards of a lot of us. But the Bush-Sharon team has immensely worsened what was already a bad situation. The worst elements of Israeli and American society have been egging one another on, with Sharon of course being the mentor for our hapless boy-king.

I know that some Israelis (I don't know what proportion)are aware that a lot of American evengelical Christians and American Jews are sitting in safety encouraging Israel to take the maximum risks. One guy (Moskowitz?) sits in Miami Beach and funds West Bank settlers. Peretz has the sweet life here, but he keeps adding gasoline to the flames.

Unfortunately, raising this issue can only hurt the Democrats.

Posted by: zizka at February 19, 2003 09:13 PM

This is an important conversation. Thank you for initiating it. Let's hope it gets engaged more broadly.

Re: amh's mention of "myths of a secret plan for a 'Greater Israel," an article in this week's NY Times Magazine actually lends credence to that myth. Or am I reading passages like this wrong:

"Gissin, Sharon's senior adviser, explains that most of the outposts are positioned within the municipal boundaries that the Israeli government has designated as under settlers' control -- an area that is many times the size of the land that settlements are currently built on. Within the boundaries of this ''master plan,'' as Gissin calls it, the government considers outpost creation legal."


Posted by: Ruth at February 20, 2003 02:38 PM

Thank you Nathan. The recent Israeli election debacle was an eye-opener. The doves still hoped that walls would be enough to look "serious about security". But isn't it like that cliche about love, hate and indifference, indifference being the wall and indifference being the worst thing. The Israeli public rightly saw that the wall, being the worst thing they could do to the Palestinians, would lead to a continuation of war. Sharon's policies have led to a continuation of war, too -- but if you have a war, you might as well put your biggest hawk in charge, rather than your biggest dove.

There's an analog in present US politics too, but I won't go into it, just let me say that was a good piece and thanks for writing it.

Posted by: Eric M at February 21, 2003 11:38 PM

For those of you who think that Bush is a dictator, I would suggest you read Lileks's piece at http://www.lileks.com/bleats/archive/03/0203/022103.html

Posted by: oscar at February 22, 2003 02:04 AM

Great post - you raise many good points, all of which I agree with.

Posted by: Kristjan at February 22, 2003 02:50 AM


"Capture of biblical sites.

In a new trend, the PA have stepped up their efforts to take over biblical sites sacred to Jews and Christians. In Jericho somebody set the ancient Jewish synagogue on fire, and crowds prevented fire trucks from putting out the blaze.

In Nablus, the biblical Shechem Palestinians took control of Joseph's Tomb after days of fierce fighting.

According to the Oslo Accords, the tomb was considered a holy site. After the PA took it over last October, they immediately converted it into a mosque.

This was quickly followed by calls to take over Rachel's Tomb in Bethlehem and the Cave of Machpelah in Hebron, the burial place of the partriarchs.

PA terrorists launched an attack on Rachel's Tomb on December 5 and came within 30 feet of taking the site.

These sites are holy to those who honor the Bible. But since islam considers itself superior to both Judaism and Christianity, its followers have no problem usurping Jewish and Christian sites and changing them into Muslim sites.

Islam teaches that Jews and Christians twisted the faith given them by God and that allah gave the final revelation to Muhammad.

It also considers Jewish and Christian heroes-such as Moses, David, and Jesus-good muslims whose teachings lead to Islam. Never mind that islam did not even exist before the seventh century.

A moslim mosque in Bethlehem's Manger Square is another example. The PNA has taken over Bethlehem, Hebron, Nablus (Shechem), and Jericho, which were Jewish towns in biblical times, in an attempt to extinguish the last vestiges of Jewish life and presence in these cities."

........do these actions of the arabs disturb any of you.?

........people who deny Jewish claims and access to these sites ARE antisemites...and also anti Christian.

Posted by: ploome at February 22, 2003 09:24 AM

One difference between Nazi Germany and Israel:

European Jews weren't blowing themselves up in coffeehouses in an attempt to murder as many civilians as possible. Arabs (specifically Palestinians) have.

Armies of European Jews didn't try to destroy Germany on a couple of occasions. Arabs have.

European Jews weren't launching rocket attacks on innocent civilians. Arabs have.

European Jews weren't inculcated with a non-stop barrage of racist invective against Germans. Arabs are.

I could go on, but hopefully you understand what I'm trying to say.

Posted by: Lone nutbag at February 22, 2003 02:47 PM

On the day that the Palestinians agree to live in peace with the State of Israel and to abandon their "intifada" against Israeli citizens, then you can complain to me about Israeli checkpoints, blah, blah, blah. Why on earth should the Israelis give the Palestinians a free pass to make bombs and carry them into Israeli discos, pizzerias, buses, hotels, synagogues and schools? Whether you admit it or not, Mr. Sawicky, that is all you are asking for.

Posted by: Doug Levene at February 22, 2003 03:21 PM

Lone & Doug - Until you see the 'logical necessity' of hunting down every member of every US hate group, bulldozing their family homes and businesses, and walling them off into little enclaves because some of them engage in hate speech and other reprehensible behavior, you don't have a leg to stand on. You punish the guilty in proportion to their crimes, you leave the innocent alone. And you don't engage in the systemic disenfranchisement and economic strangulation of any large group for any reason, unless you want to open yourself up to serious charges of injustice.

It's the definition of oppression to punish a whole group for the crimes of a few. It does not excuse the random terror and impoverishment inflicted on an entire society. Neither side is clean, but until the problem is fixed on the side that has the power, it won't be fixed at all.

Posted by: natasha at February 22, 2003 04:15 PM

It seems to me that one large difference is that the Israeli arabs are not treated the same as their non-israeli relatives.

(Still, I think the current Israeli government policy is similiar to trying to stop a feedback squeal by shoving the microphone into the loudspeaker.)

Posted by: chris bond at February 22, 2003 04:47 PM

I think you covered it well, though I do think your case could be made as strong with other historic dehumanizing parallels. Comparing Israeli actions to Nazi's, or Armenian's to Turk's, or any other parallels between past enemies, even if accurate, often produces more heat than light in discussion.

That yours has not drawn as much heat is a testament to how well you articulated it.

Though it cannot directly compare, having worked with homeless people, I did not fully understand how dehumanizing it can be. When I became homeless, it hit home, hard, what human interactions were absent and how easily one could be trapped into an 'exploit or be exploited' mentality. Dehumanizing folks never works, in any society, without fostering hopelessness and violence.

Imho, Israel walks along the edge of the abyss. If it can find no other way out of the spiral of constant emnity it finds itself in, it, too will share the blame.

Other Arabs have marginalized Israel and they've done the same to the Palestinians; it is too bad that both oppressed peoples cannot recognize they share more in common via experience than they differ by ethnicity.

Posted by: Cowboy Kahlil at February 22, 2003 05:16 PM

"On the day that the Palestinians agree to live in peace with the State of Israel and to abandon their "intifada" against Israeli citizens, then you can complain to me about Israeli checkpoints, blah, blah, blah. Why on earth should the Israelis give the Palestinians a free pass to make bombs and carry them into Israeli discos, pizzerias, buses, hotels, synagogues and schools?"

Right, because it's wholly the palestinians fault they are in the position they're in, right? Israel has no choice but to oppress them, right? Palestinains have been blowing themselves up in cafe's for 35 years, haven't they?

The bulk of this didn't start after Sharon's visit, did it?

It has nothing to do with the systematic denial over 35 years of a people's basic freedom to govern themselves, does it?

There's nothiing to it but arabs blowing up jews, right?

I'd like you to answer a question for me, which came first, the chicken or the egg? It seems like you'd know.

Posted by: Tim at February 22, 2003 09:00 PM

Read a column... somewhere on the internet which posited that at any given time in Israel and the Occupied Territories, there was one of four wars going on:

1) a war for the security of Israel against Palestinian terrorism.
2) a racist colonial war to break the Palestinian will.
3) a war to free Palestinian from Israeli oppression.
4) a racist war by Palestinians aimed at destroying Israelis and Jews.

The difficult part is telling which war is being fought at which point in time, and to identify those actions correctly.

Posted by: Jake at February 22, 2003 09:29 PM

And there still remains the inconvenient reality that THREE TIMES as many Palestinians have been killed as Israelis in the last few years.

Posted by: Nathan Newman at February 22, 2003 09:42 PM

Good on those who have called the local IKDF personnel on using the existence of extremists and crazy mullahs as an excuse for crazy, destructive and oppressive policies. Natasha puts it particularly well, I think.

oscar: "For those of you who think that Bush is a dictator, I would suggest you read Lileks's piece at..."

Well, speaking for myself... when Lileks has admitted to himself and his readers that maybe that Patriot Act thing isn't such a hot idea, let me know. As a political analyst, he's thus far proved a pretty good comedian.

Posted by: Doctor Slack at February 23, 2003 01:02 AM

"And I mean that in the sense of the Warsaw Ghetto".
O, really? The wall is not meant to keep Arabs locked within, but to keep killers out of Jerusalem. There is also the slight difference between remnants of a genocide, such as were in the Warasw ghetto, and the inconvenienced yet aiding compatriots of hell-bent terrorists, which is the case here. There is a genocide in the makings here also, to be sure. Arabs in general and Palestinians in particular have made this clear, both in word and deed, for close to a hundred years now. Israel's history is rampant with massacres of Jews by Palestinian Arabs. However, when Israel has the upper hand, what does it do? It builds a defensive wall. Well, Arafat himself described Israel's plans to build a wall making the border between Israel and the PA a reality as a crime against humanity. Why should you do less?

"there still remains the inconvenient reality that THREE TIMES as many Palestinians have been killed as Israelis in the last few years."
Yup, there have been more Palestinian casualties. There may be many reasons for this. Lesser training of PA police (designated as armed thugs by many Palestinians); Israeli marksmanship; The televised propensity of Palestinian terrorists to hide behind stone throwind kids they duped to serve as live shields; The general disregard for human lives as documented in Palestinian K-12 curriculum... you name it.
The fact that one side has more casualties (always the case in wars) does not make that side neither right nor aggrieved. Didn't the US forces inflict more casualties on Germany than vice versa in WWII? Does it make the German cause just? Also, US troops were a long way from home, an ocean away. Would you say they were in the wrong in going all the way to Europe to stop the third reich? And the stopping was not bloodless. Many civilians of the occupied countries have died in the deed. According to the standards you now apply to Israel, it seems you would. The more relevant data is who the dead were. If you have a war in which one side's casualties are all combatants, and the other's are all non-combatants, it's easy to determine who is in the right. This is quite the situation here, as much as reality and common sense would allow. And the data is only a click away - that is, if you are interested in facts, not catch phrases.

Coming to think of it, WWII is relevant here in more ways than one here. The Palestinian leadership at the time was not only pro Nazi, but actually allied with the Nazi regime. The Al-Husseini mufti actually traveled to Berlin, assisted Hitler in forming Muslim SS troops, caused Hitler to exterminate Jews instead of sending them to Palestine, and called upon him to exterminate the Jews in the mandate area too. You know, the Jewish National Home and stuff. All that is in writing and photos, not conjecture. Why is this relevant nowadays? Because the Palestinian leadership is still out to exterminate Jews. The relative and spiritual successor of the mufti, Yasser Arafat (AKA as Mohammed Abdel-Raouf Arafat al-Qudwa al-Husseini, his given name) allows and encougrages the murder of Jews. Under his regime, children in kindergarten are brainwashed into believing that the utmost destiny a person can have is to be a suicide/homicide bomber and to die killing Jews (heaven awaits, packed with willing 72 virgins a piece). Most, if not all Arab countries are Judenrein. The PA kills Jews whenever able - all Jews in the *Disputed Territories* (when designating them Occupied, please refer to when they were occupied and from whom, if you can) live there only by the protetection of arms (in contrast, more than a million Arabs live freely in Israel).

Admittedly, the wall in Bethlehem is inconvenient to the population. But calling a protective wall a ghetto, "in the sense of the Warsaw Ghetto", is an insult to the dead - especially when the spiritual successors and allies of the Nazi regime are actively trying to finish the job it started in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Posted by: Amos at February 23, 2003 01:06 AM

Amos, that is one of the most ill-informed, illogical posts I've yet seen around here. The wall is most definitely going to have the effect of keeping the Palestinians confined with no egress to their jobs, fields or neighboring villages, towns. The Mufti was despicable, yet Palestinian siding with Germany is explainable by resistance to British colonialist rule, and hence is quite natural (kind of like the Finns siding with Germany against Russian depredations) but says nothing as to any endorsing of Nazi aims other than to achieve liberation from the British yoke. I love the bit about al-Husseini making it seem as if the shared family names had one being a close cousin of the other. The name indicates that the one bearing it is a descendent of the grandson of the Prophet Muhammad Husayn. After some 1400 years there are quite a few al-Husseini's (or Al-Husayni's -better transliteration) running around. Kinda like indicting someone named Smith because another guy named Smith committted a crime.

Posted by: chris at February 23, 2003 05:34 AM

chris, the wall will not keep "the Palestinians confined with no egress to their jobs, fields or neighboring villages, towns", as you say. It will make them "have to pass through an army checkpoint inside it to reach the rest of Palestinian Bethlehem". Read the article.
Granted, this will make their lives not easier, but harder. However, it will keep others alive, and when one belongs to a side that initiated war, one should not be surprised life becomes more difficult. Obviously, the residents will only rant against Israel - all those who ranted against Arafat are long gone.

"Palestinian siding with Germany is explainable by resistance to British colonialist rule, and hence is quite natural." Maybe so, but having the goal of exterminating the Jews in the area isn't. If you hate the Brits (put there by the League of Nations after the Ottoman Empire lost WWI), why slaghuter the Jews? And the Jews were not the favorits of the Brits - the Arabs were. They enabled Arab immigration into the designated Jewish National Home all through the mandate years, while Jews were kept out. Even during WWII, they were sent back to their deaths in Europe. The reason? The Brits wanted calm rule, and the Arabs tended to make waves when they didn't get what they wanted - like three years of armed revolt, for example. The Jews didn't, with the result of the multiplying of the number of Arabs in the JNH while the number of the Jews stayed relatively low. This led to the current situation, where the Jews are expected to share their remaining 25% of the promised national home with Arabs, again. And we will.

Now, Arafat went into a lot of trouble to hide his origins. Why would he do that? Perhaps to hide the fact he is a relative of such a notorious man as the mufti was?
Arafat changed his name in his youth, when the mufit was reviled by all, along with the Nazi regime. But nowadays, he calls him hero. Also, he is repoted to have called him "uncle".
Here's some more. Heck, even the Britannica does not dispute their family relationship (from his mother's side).

So, we're not talking Smith and Smith here. Either they are related, as most sources agree, or they are spiritually related, as Arafat claims time and again. From his own mouth, he sees the man you said was "despicable" as a hero, and strives along that man's ambitions. He has killed Jews whenever possible, and introduced new ways and organizations of terror to the world.
This is from Googling a few minutes. Why don't you use some of the links from the sites to learn who and what Arafat is. Here's another, which shows how he utterly ruined the chances for Israeli-Palestinian peace for the visible future. At the bottom of this site is more evidence of his being a relative of the mufti, from his own brother and sister.

Now, please remind me again what was ill-informed in what I wrote. After you read the texts you refer to, that is. I won't say enjoy, because there is no joy in reading about Arafat. However, do learn.

Posted by: Amos at February 23, 2003 06:46 AM

As many IDF reservists know, the brutality of the Israeli effort in WestBank/Gaza is evil and self-defeating. But something like the Belgian indictment of Sharon, proves again that Europes ability to self-righteously forget its own history is remarkable. Perhaps when the EU announces that as reparations for 1500 years of brutality and oppression it will create a Jewish nation in Europe, I think the South of France would be nice, with full EU status and its own army, then one could start to take that crap seriously.

Posted by: citizen k at February 23, 2003 12:59 PM

Jake, the column you referenced sounds very much like the Michael Walzer essay "The Four wars of Israel/Palestine" which first appeared in Dissent in Fall 2002. Those interested can read the essay here. It is certainly worth chcking out.

Posted by: Joel at February 23, 2003 09:16 PM

Nathan, you are an expert in making things seem different than they actually are. Allegations galore, low on proof. Let me go through the allegations.

You write: "Amos, citing to various anti-Palestinian web sites is not exactly evidence"

Some of the sites I mentioned are pro-Israeli. Some are not. All agree on the facts. I see you yourself don't refute any fact I refer to in what you call "anti-Palestinian web sites". Is it beneath you, or maybe you simply cannot do it? Do you disqualify truth because you don't like the messenger? If you do, you risk losing touch with reality.
None of the sites alleges the Palestinians with anything they did not actually do. Where's the anti-Palestinian angle you're talking about, then? There are enough facts, more than enough, both in photo and in self incriminating words, as to what really happened. Israel is not the side who has to make things up in this conflict.

The Stern gang (LEHI) was an outcast during the time of its activity. No other organization identified with it. Most actively opposed it (would that the Palestinians do that today - but Arafat hugs even the smallest, craziest radical organizations). The governing bodies of the Jews in the mandate area even went so far as to act with the British against them (we don't want from the Palestinians anything we didn't do ourselves, you see).
If you mention Shamir, please be so kind as also mention that he opposed bringing Arafat and his private terrorist army over here from abroad and inflicting him on the Palestinians. Also, it was during Shamir's period as PM that peace talks began, in Madrid. This was a response to the true Intifadah (1987-1991), which was indeed popular, unlike Arafat's pre-planned war with anything ranging from knives to missiles. The death toll on both sides was, accordingly, way lower. Israel initiated no war during his time, only peace. He even refrained fro counter attacking Iraq in the Gulf War, after Iraq attacked Israel with missiles. Thank you for mentioning him.

"Now, all these sources can probably be disputed, as scholarship on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is marred by massive bias and distortion."
Too true, and don't I know it. I'll cite such cases, if you would like me to. However, I choose to take your sources as correct. As I already said, the people who did this alienated themselves from all other official bodies in the mandate, and the public had extremely low tolerance for them. They were outcasts. They were acted against.

As to Count Bernadotte, I quote from the source you cited: "Ironically, Bernadotte found little enthusiasm among the Arabs for independence. He wrote in his diary:
The Palestinian Arabs had at present no will of their own. Neither have they ever developed any specifically Palestinian nationalism. The demand for a separate Arab state in Palestine is consequently relatively weak. It would seem as though in existing circumstances most of the Palestinian Arabs would be quite content to be incorporated in Transjordan."

The only Arabs who were for Palestinian nationalism were, curiously enough, also for the extermination of the Jews in the designated Jewish National Home mandate. You see any coincidence here? A high Palestinian official even let slip once that the "Palestinian state is a new expedient to continue the fight against Zionism and for Arab unity."
Despite all that, Israel, knowing that there must be a solution to the Palestinian Arabs, went for peace and negotiations.

"But the point is, don't try to throw out one-side propaganda and expect people to think you have made some dramatic point."
Propaganda. Nice word. Now, propaganda which all sources confirm as true has another word. Fact.
The point I was out to make, BTW, was that Arafat and the al-Husseini mufti are related. Although Arafat (born al-Husseini) has obscured his past, evidence shows that his mother was a relation of the mufti. But blood ties are secondary here. You might be related to a monster such as the mufti was, yet disapprove of him. Not so Arafat. He is by word and deed the successor of the mufti, and he continues to implement the mufti's plan. He even managed to alienate the supporters he formerly had in Israel, and to bury any chances for peace and reconciliation in this generation - brainwashing kindergarteners will do that.
That point I made, and only counter-evidence will allow you to credibly say otherwise. Certainly no amount of ranting will.

Posted by: Amos at February 24, 2003 04:44 AM

I read Michael Walzer's essay you linked to. Very insightful stuff. Thanks.

Posted by: Amos at February 24, 2003 05:37 AM

Nicely done.

Posted by: Weiner at February 24, 2003 04:52 PM

Yes, a very interesting discussion.

Sorry Nathan, but I have to go with Amos on this one. He challenged your wall references, and you haven't done much to rebut or refute his arguments. Going into equivalency accusations by comparing the crimes of fringe extremists to generally supported policies is unconvincing.

(But the point is, don't try to throw out one-side propaganda and expect people to think you have made some dramatic point.) Pot, kettle, etc.

Nice try, though.

Posted by: Tom Chisholm at February 24, 2003 04:52 PM

The dittohead aspects of conservatism (just posting a message to agree with someone else) is a really odd legacy of Rush et al on talk radio.

Posted by: Nathan Newman at February 24, 2003 04:59 PM

I'm so ashamed that I had the nerve to quickly show my agreement with Amos's points as well as my respect for his skill in articulating them. If only I had been more verbose . . .

A two-second paging through the previous comments on this thread brough me to #16, who said "Great post - you raise many good points, all of which I agree with."

How odd that you didn't see fit to insult Kristjan for that outburst. I wonder why.

Incidentally, "I concur" and it's equivalents were around long before that windbag Rush Limbaugh.

We're still waiting for your response to comment #33.

Posted by: Weiner at February 24, 2003 05:12 PM

" The Jews were not the favorits of the Brits - the Arabs were. They enabled Arab immigration into the designated Jewish National Home all through the mandate years, while Jews were kept out....with the result of the multiplying of the number of Arabs in the JNH while the number of the Jews stayed relatively low"

What Arab immigration are you talking about? Population surveys done by the British estimate that 222,648 Jews came to Palestine between 1930 and 1939. During the same decade, only 18,000 non-Jews came to Palestine.

The claim that illegal Arab immigration was responsible for the increase in Arab population has been completely disproven. When Zionism first came about in the late 19th century, the population of Palestine was almost completely Arab (In 1880, there was approximately 300,000 Arabs and only 24,000 Jews). When the Balfour Declaration was issued in 1917, Palestine was still 90% Arab.

Posted by: Peter at February 24, 2003 07:33 PM

The analogy to Nazi Germany in 1938 doesn't stand up much better than the analogy to 1944. It's common to view the Nazi regime in the 1930s as a period of petty oppression that served as the prelude to genocide, but in fact, the oppression was a long way from petty. By 1938, Nazi Germany had concentration camps, and although they were not yet extermination camps, they were essentially death camps in slow motion due to their conditions. The Nazis of the 1930s enacted the Nuremberg Laws and engaged in systematic sterilization and execution of the disabled and mentally retarded. 1938 was the year of Kristallnacht. Israel hasn't done anything comparable.

More importantly, intentions do matter. Nazi Germany was ruled by a racist, openly genocidal ideology from the very beginning - anyone who thought otherwise after the publication of Mein Kampf was kidding himself big time. It would have been unthinkable for Nazis to negotiate in good faith with Jews, Gypsies or Slavs. Zionism is not an ideology of racial superiority or even racial exclusivity - the premise of Zionism is that Jews have the same right of self-determination as everyone else, not that Jews are better than everyone else. Zionism is compatible with self-determination for Palestinians in a way that Nazism was not compatible with the human rights of "untermenschen."

Finally, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is morally ambiguous in a way that the interplay between Nazi Germany and its victims is not. The author of comment 24 got it right on the money when he said that the Israelis and Palestinians are each fighting a partially legitimate war - and the occupation is part of the legitimate as well as the illegitimate war. It is not possible to ethically support Nazism, but it is possible to ethically support the continued existence of Israel as a Jewish state. I'd actually go further and say that it is immoral to oppose Israel's existence, but you don't have to agree with that to recognize that acts undertaken in defense of Israel have a different moral character than acts committed in support of Nazi racism.

If you're looking for analogies, I think the best comparison to the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the Algerian war of independence. That's hardly a favorable or comforting analogy for Israel, but it's both more accurate and less inflammatory than the comparison to Nazi Germany. Nazi comparisons are a facile and, ultimately, intellectually dishonest method of demonizing Israel.

Posted by: Jonathan Edelstein at February 25, 2003 11:35 AM

The Nazi analogy is inherently explosive--it arouses people's emotions and shouldn't be used. A better analogy, because IMO pretty darn accurate, is the one you made to the history of white/Native American relations. In both cases (Israel and America), people who were often fleeing some form of persecution come to an already inhabited land with the notion that they have a right to take it over. To be fair, some sincerely want to live in peace and complete equality with the natives (Quakers in America, binationalists in Israel/Palestine). But this is a minority view among the immigrants. Most are determined to take the land over one way or another. The inhabitants fight back, sometimes using terrorist tactics and slaughtering innocent people. In fact, both sides use such tactics. One can't pick any particular date for the beginning of this conflict (such as the birth of the nation, whether in 1948 or 1776) because the conflict was inevitable from the very beginning, unless of course the Quakers in one case or the binationalists in the other had been the majority viewpoint. They were not.

Posted by: Donald Johnson at February 25, 2003 10:58 PM

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