This is a piece written specifically in response to a comment left on one of my previous articles.
Firstly, thank you for your comment. You obviously invested time and effort in writing it and more importantly I always appreciate dialogue. Words, negotiation and an effort to understand are vital elements of any future settlement. I always try to respond to *everything* so my method of dealing with a comment such as yours is to work through it piece by piece.
“I am someone who is critical of Israel and its continued occupation of Palestinian Territory but I guess reading much of what you wrote, you may conflate that with anti-Semitism which I would not accept. And yes I am a Muslim but I do not consider myself as anti Jew.”
I can be critical of the ‘occupation’ too and I am no antisemite. There are many levels of criticism and many reasons to criticise and I most certainly do not suggest that all those critical of Israel are antisemites. I could add much more on this, some you would agree with, some you wouldn’t, but I would rather focus on the real content of your comment.
I suspect many who ready your blogs are like minded but I am interested in genuinely understanding the view point of the other. I recognise that the conflict can be deeply emotive with entrenched views on both sides.
Absolutely on both counts. Almost everyone stays within their comfort zone, only reading material that reinforces their position (which is annoying). And I have spent years arguing the conflict on forums and barely remember a single occasion when anyone moved an inch (2.54cm for our continental friends). Whatever your opinion I commend you for both reading my blog and writing a civil and considered comment.
So although you claim that anti-Zionist academics like illan pappe use history to support their pre-conceived views, I’m not sure that the likes of benny Morris are any different in that regard.
My point in this regard mainly suggests that the research is *sometimes* placed on top of an already existent and sometimes extreme bias and that it greatly impacts the quality of the work. I fully accept this can work both ways, both with Zionist and non-Zionist academics. With Pappe, I have found it distinctly uncomfortable. As an example, see the picture on the left. In his book on ‘The ethnic Cleansing of Palestine’ Pappe is arguing against one of Morris’s assertions. He uses the word ‘impossible’. This word is simply not an academic word, far from it. On this type of assertion, an academic can suggest an event unlikely, unusual, difficult to reconcile and so on; but to actually use the ‘impossible’ word, indicates a mind that seems closed to alternatives. In soft science, use of phrases such as “authorized *all* actions of expulsion”, precludes the existence of a single event when this was not the case. First year students of research learn to write better than this. Pappe is not even a witness but using archives to support his theories, there is *almost no way* that absolute certainty can be used to describe these type of conclusions drawn from this material. In my opinion it isn’t just indicative of bias, but is also academically sloppy.
In any case, I’m struggling to find a balanced view in your writings either as it seems to be all the fault of the Muslms and Arabs while Israel is entirely innocent. It kind of reminds me of that Golda Meir saying and I’m only paraphrasing here from memory ‘that we can forgive the Arabs for killing our children, but we can never forgive the Arabs for making us kill their children’
I am sure you find bias in my writings. I am a Zionist and believe that the creation of a Jewish homeland was a historical morally justifiable necessity; and you don’t. However, do not mistake this as claiming Israel is ‘innocent’ in all this or that every event is the fault of Muslims. I am neither blind nor stupid. Within the paradigm I exist in, I try to be as balanced as possible. When I talk politics I tend to annoy Jews too.
Every point in history you seem to suggest is down to Arab rejection and anything contrary to your point of view is Palestinian propaganda. You present statistics to support your claim but I work with data in my job everyday so I know that stats can be presented in such a way to prove anything you want as alleged fact.
Now we are getting down to the meat in the argument. First off, yes stats can be used to prove almost anything, but then again, those telling the truth have to use them too. I do not however understand your opposition to this argument. It is a historical truth that the Arabs rejected Balfour, rejected the Mandate, rejected Zionism, rejected Jewish immigration, rejected partition, rejected Israel’s declaration of independence and have been rejecting Israel for the most part ever since. The Palestinian argument is not that they did not do this, but that it was a justifiable ‘rejectionism’. I personally do not think all of this was justifiable, thus setting in motion a cause and effect situation that brings us to today. That is simply my position on a historically accurate truth. There is no propaganda involved in this argument whatsoever.
Regarding propaganda. Your accusation is unfairly levelled. If you can provide me with a specific instance where I called a particular piece of information propoganda, we can analyse it together and find out if it has substance, or is indeed propaganda. I am quite a good at research, and I tend to dig deeply before I reject a story as bogus. I also admit I make mistakes, so if you think I have made one, point me in the direction and unleash me. But please do not simply discard my position without a factual case to back you up. Look at that map of Palestinian land for example, the one that is used at almost every pro-Palestinian event I have been to. It is absolute distortion, totally bias and factually false. Garbage would be the best word to describe it; a disease that infests intelligence and spreads stupidity. I admit I have come across ‘Hasbara’ that is factually incorrect, but there is nothing comparable with the lies, distortions and false claims that eminate from the Palestinian propaganda camp. If their case is truly so indisputable, so ethically obvious, why is there this constant need to make up stories?
And I accept that some of the comments that you have posted From YouTube from pro-Palestinian rallies are deeply offensive. But I can also post similar videos from pro Israeli rallies where the comments are equally offensive to Arabs. What does it really prove other than some ill informed people can let there emotions get the better of them at demonstrations. Is society really that anti-Semitic as I think I face far more criticism and scrutiny as a Muslim particularly after 9/11?
In context, your comment was posted on the blog regarding antisemitism in London, so for anyone reading, this is why this particular point has arisen. Yes, they are deeply offensive and yes, you can post similar videos showing offensive comments against Arabs. I am sure, certainly since 9/11 that as a Muslim you have faced unacceptable racism wherever in the west you may be. My point though wasn’t about people letting their emotions get the better of them at demonstrations, but rather about that being the driving force for them actually being present at the demonstration at the first place.
Put it this way let us imagine a demonstration against ritual slaughter (something both you and I have an interest in). The driving force for such a demonstration would or should be animal welfare. If you were to take a video at a demonstration against ritual slaughter and many of the people there were shouting anti-Muslim slogans, or you noticed people advertising the demonstration on anti-Islamic websites, you have rather caught them with their pants down. They are not there about the animals at all, but rather to vent their racist, unacceptable, views whilst hiding beneath an acceptable umbrella.
If only 2% of the UK is antisemitic (the figure is far, far higher) and only 2% of the antisemites turn up at anti-Israel demonstrations, then you have an army of 24,000 people to protest against Israel before a single pro-Palestinian needs to join. How convenient too for the antisemite. All he has to do is switch the word ‘Jew’ for ‘Zionist’ and he can call Jews ‘child killers’ without a care in the world. No, not every anti-Zionist is an antisemite, but I would argue almost every antisemite is an anti-Zionist. That woman with the umbrella in the video, when she goes to these events, does she help the Palestinians, collect food parcels, invest in their infrastructure and preach peace or does she simply hurl abuse at Jews and tell them that they should die?
As for ‘is society really that antisemitic’. I have no doubt you feel anti-Muslim attitudes strongly and are finely tuned to pick them up. I am the same with antisemitism. Trust me, it’s there. I do not want to get into a which is worse, because it is pointless, divisive and there are underlying differences that make the two incomparable. Let’s accept they both exist, we are both impacted by it and move on.
And yes, the killing of Israeli civilians on the street of Israel is a horrendous crime. But settler violence against Palestinian civilians where a teenager is forced to drink petrol and burnt is no less horrendous and shocking.
True, the brutal murder of Mohammed Abu Khdeir was beyond vile. In fact, the way he was killed was clearly more shocking and more horrendous than stabbing someone in the street, even if the end result is the same. I neither intend to protect or defend violence against civilian Palestinians (I wrote a blog after the attack in Duma). What I will say is this: It is rejected by mainstream Israeli society, condemned by the government and outside of extremists, these people are totally opposed. Baruch Goldstein for example, a hero to a select few, is a name known to most Israelis as a mass murdering religious extremist. His movement outlawed, his shrine dismantled and his body not even buried in a Jewish cemetery. Compare this, to the way that mass murderers of Israeli civilians are treated within the Palestinian community. This is not equal at all and I therefore reject the comparison. Yes, murderers of civilians need to be condemned; and for *the most part* Israelis condemn theirs and *for the most part* Palestinians celebrate theirs. This is not equal. This unfortunately is also part of the Palestinian propaganda campaign; they take ‘an exception’ in Israel and use it as ‘a rule’, whilst comparing it to ‘a rule’ in Palestinian society that is presented as ‘an exception’. It is a successful way of creating smokescreens, but it has no real ethical merit.
In any case David, what I am unable to fathom in your posts is what your solution to the conflict is? When Israel conducts a military campaign in Gaza where the sheer destruction and impact on civilians is so severe, most ordinary people with no political affiliations are going to be horrified and protest against Israel.
If a solution to the conflict was so easy, it would have ended in 1950. My posts tend not to contain solutions, because they address specific issues that are not related to a currently non-existent peace process. But as you are about to talk about concrete proposals, let’s move on to them (I have not ignored your Gaza comment, I know it is about to be mentioned again in your post and I will address it then).
Israel is losing moral credibility with the masses around the world not because of the Arabs but due to its own violent policies. And people cheering on the hills of Sderot having a picnic while bombs are falling on civilians in Gaza is not going to adhere Israelis to the British public. It is the killing that enrages people, not some inherent hatred for Jews.
Using an example of a picnic in Sderot is highly selective. Just as you mentioned before over the video footage from the demonstrations, I can provide ample (far more than you can) footage of Palestinians celebrating devastating terrorist attacks. This is propaganda talk (part of the exception, rule strategy I mentioned earlier) and I try to avoid it wherever possible.
However, do you not feel that tens of millions of Muslims in the west make a difference? As you and I both know, most Muslims naturally sympathise with the Palestinian narrative rather than the Israeli one. Most of them were brought up indoctrinated in education systems and over the past 30 years, tens of millions of Muslims have moved to the west. If as the Arabs used to argue, the Jewish voice was heard because of their presence in Europe and America, isn’t it logical to suggest that now, the Muslims are also well represented in schools, in universities, in the workplace and in politics. If a school has 15% Muslim schoolchildren, do you really believe they teach the conflict the way they used to 20 years ago? At a university, aren’t Muslims going to want to bring their agenda to the research table? Are you really arguing that this has had no effect whatsoever and only *Israeli actions* are responsible for the sea-change? This to me seems an argument without any credibility. I would suggest they are the driving factor behind the entire change of narrative (not the *only* cause, but the main one). I agree the change has happened and also agree that it is going to get worse, but I simply dispute the underlying reasons for this occurrence.
Now I have in mind what a just solution may be but I’m not sure if it correlates to your solution.I recognise the state of Israel as a political reality although I may disagree with the Zionist project. And I doubt we will agree on the events of 1948 so let’s deal with the present day.
Israel is a political reality and we’d differ on the events of 1948 but maybe not as much as you think. Some things are part of the historical narrative; on November 29th 1947 the vote of partition was passed and within a day, Arabs were attacking Jews. Reprisals and counter reprisals took place as civil war erupted. Within 60 days irregular Arab forces entered Palestine. Rather than lay down and be slaughtered, the Jews fought and won. If you wish to suggest that in this fight for survival, the Jews didn’t play entirely clean, I am willing to accept that. Their enemy wasn’t playing clean either, the Jews just happen to be the side that won. What is important to remember is who chose to fight.
I also want to address the issue of refugees. I know you probably think most were ‘expelled’, so I ask you whether you think most Syrian or Libyan refugees have been forcibly expelled or have chosen to leave because of the fighting? It is historically accepted that up to 100,000 Arab refugees (the fittest and richest) walked as early as March 1948. The flight was so bad that the neighbouring Arab countries *closed their borders* to hold the Arabs inside Palestine. I accept some Arabs were expelled, but I suggest many were just doing what people do when civil war breaks out – leaving the arena.
I uphold the right of all people to live in peace and security but not at the expense of another. There is now a generation of Israelis that live in the land and I do not seek to drive them into the sea and I genuinely don’t believe that the Palestinians want this either. They just want peace and security David for their families and children but if that is not forthcoming, it is only human nature to fight back even though they are up against one of the most sophisticated and powerful armies in the world.
This sounds pleasant, but it is historically unpalatable.Firstly, if the Palestinians *only wanted peace and security*, this conflict would never have started. Instead Arab leaders inside British Palestine such as Haj Amin al-Husseini (the Grand Mufti) specifically and deliberately set out to create conflict. The Mufti was brutal, inciting massacres, seeking division and continually violently opposing those Arabs who sought peaceful coexistence. Once evicted from British Palestine, he made his way to Iraq, whilst there he pushed Nazi philosophy, eventually making his way to Hitler’s table in Berlin. The Arabs have always had atrocious leaders who for their own religious or political reasons chose to incite the general population and led them from the start into civil conflict with the Jews. Look around the Middle East. Just how do you suggest this problem can be solved?
Secondly, this fails to hit the mark when discussing what occurred between 1949 & 1967. The West Bank and Gaza were completely in Arab hands. In this case, if your point was accurate, we have peace. Except we didn’t and what the Arabs claimed they wanted to do was exactly what you say they didn’t, which is drive the Jews into the sea.
Thirdly it fails to hit the mark when discussing Oslo. Within weeks of a peace agreement, Jews started to be murdered by people within the Arab community and groups like Hamas set out to derail the talks by beginning a wave of brutal suicide bombings. These parts of the Arab community may want peace, but only on their specific terms and will continue to kill until such conditions are met. It is true to say these people also only want peace and security for their families and children, but the ‘peace’ they seek condemns everyone to perpetual war.
In any event this is a historical argument rather than one over a solution. What I would ask you to consider however, is whether your understanding works both ways. You say it is only human nature to fight back, so in the beginning when the Arabs began murdering the Jews, do you accept the Jews also had the right to fight back? (which is how the conflict started).
I know the one state is not going to be acceptable to you as this will undermine your need for a Jewish state. I’m not sure either how you reconcile the concept of a Jewish state with a secular democracy when 20% of the Israeli population is not Jewish. I do not accept that a Jewish state is your inherent right either but I recognise that is what you have and wish to maintain so let it be if that means peace.
I accept that you do not necessarily agree with me on this and that is fair enough, you neither need to accept my reasons for wanting such status nor worry about how I reconcile internal issues. What the US does inside the US for example is not your concern. I would argue that whilst talk of ‘one happy world’ might sound pleasant, nationalism is visibly raising its head across the globe. Given that Jews suffered oppression in every single nation where they have lived, I would suggest it is incumbent on other nations to show they have long overcome their own issues before expecting the Jews to consider how things ‘might’ have changed beyond their borders.
As for one state, why do you think it would be different from Iraq? Syria? Lebanon? Egypt? Libya? Given that Israel has created for itself a powerful, democratic, well educated, innovative, dynamic and industrious haven within a very nasty area, it isn’t surprising that those outside look enviously upon it. But truth be told as we look around the Middle East, can you provide an example of ‘one nation’ that the Israelis can look to and say “ah, that is what he means”?
What too of accepting responsibility for mistakes? Did you want Israel to give up the Golan in the 1990’s? Had Israel actually given it up for ‘peace’, just what would that peace look like with Syria in pieces and ISIS on the border? If things go wrong, do you accept responsiblity and take action or do you shrug your shoulders, walk away and simply let the Jews sweep the blood of the streets.
For these reasons, I discard automatically all talk of a one state solution. It is not of ‘this world’; these days even ‘one Europe’ is placing borders between countries.
I also accept that Jews have an intimate connection to the land but you would also have to accept the same for Palestinians.
It is good you have acknowledged the Jewish connection and I clearly accept the historical fact that Arabs were living (not called Palestinians back then) as a majority on the land prior to Zionism and indeed continued to hold majority status in many regions of British Palestine up until the founding of Israel. Facts are facts.
You say that Israel has returned land in the past like the Sinai which is true but it’s not like Israel had a legitimate claim to this land anyway. So likewise, if Israel were to disengage from the territories captured in 1967 admittedly with some land swaps but this would have to include the dismantling of some of the settlements deep into Palestinian land to ensure that a future Palestine can be a functioning contiguous state with some link to Gaza by highway or train. Remove the economic blockade and the illegal wall and define your borders with agreement.
This is effectively part of the outline of the deal that the Palestinians already rejected. You are not far from what many Israelis believe is a fair solution. With these types of discussions, you and I could solve the conflict between us over coffee. Do not forget the Israeli peace camp collapsed because they felt betrayed by the Palestinians with the outbreak of the intifada in 2000. I was in Ramallah in 2000, and why they chose the road they did, I will never understand. If the Palestinians were to present themselves as willing to seriously negotiate, I believe the Israelis would respond. At the moment Netanyahu’s (and no, I do not have to be a fan of his) offer of unconditional peace talks remains answered only with knives.
I would however ask you to consider what happened in Gaza, because you reference dismantling settlements and mentioned Gaza earlier. In 2005, Israel did pull out of Gaza and dismantled settlements. It was seen as ‘historic’ and ‘a joyful day’ by the Palestinian leadership. Within days of the complete pull-out, rockets were fired into Israel, leading to another round of fighting and the blockade you speak of was not set in place until later. The blockade did not lead to the violence; the blockade was a response to it. Should Israel accept sporadic rocket fire as a price to be paid? Would the UK sit quietly whilst the residents of Portsmouth and Southampton spent their time in shelters?
I would ask you this. If the Palestinians only want peace, and with them having seen Israel completely pull out of Gaza and dismantle settlements, forcibly evicting settlers, why didn’t they take the opportunity to show how it could work. Why the violence?
I understand that the right of return will not be accepted but there needs to be a compensation package for those who were displaced in 1948.
And this is where it all falls down. Even setting aside the issue of compensation for the moment. You cannot promise me that this is the end of the conflict. Since 1949 the Palestinian refugees have been used and abused by the Arabs. Instead of resettling them (notice the Syrian refugees have no such problem with resettlement), the Arabs nations specifically and deliberately decided to create a problem that would not go away. They refused to resettle the refugees, with Lebanon for example, putting them into camps far worse than anything inside Israel (there is real Apartheid there). Between 1949 and 1967 why weren’t some refugees resettled into the West Bank? Why didn’t the Arab nations gather together to solve the refugee problem?
It is clear to everyone that these refugees are not ‘going home’, but who is going to tell them? What makes you think that leader will live through a week when he does, and why do you think these refugees will accept such a solution? Isn’t it far more likely that we will end up with 2 states and terror groups outside and inside the borders made up of refugees who refuse to accept the deal? The right of return is the sticking point and why Palestinian leaders keep walking away from the negotiating table. It is a problem of the Arabs own making and one that has stuck them in this awful stalemate. It is why some Arabs have changed tactic and begun once more to peddle the One State Solution; they want Israel to swallow the bitter pill that the Arabs themselves created.
As for compensation. Will the Jewish refugees also get compensation? My wife’s father was forced out of Egypt and made to donate all his possessions, his business, his home before he left. Does he get compensation? 850,000 Arab Jews left Arab lands, many of them expelled (not all), many of them sent penniless, with the Arab states taking their possessions. 850,000. Do you feel they also deserve compensation or is it only the Palestinians? Does it make a difference that Israel absorbed all these refugees whilst the Arabs didn’t? Should Israel pay for acting with more ethical behaviour than its neighbours did?
That leaves East Jerusalem which I know is going to be contentious. So it will just have to be shared with full access to all holy sites probably enforced by an international peace keeping force.
We won’t get this far, because we won’t get beyond the issue of the refugees. You cannot give me peace because of them. I suggest that Jerusalem isn’t the sticking point it is an excuse. People who want peace do not find excuses to make war, they make excuses to make sure peace is found. I understand Jersualem seems like it is the problem, but if the Palestinians truly wanted a viable peace that includes Israel, a suitable arrangement for the Jerusalem issue would be found.
In return, the Arab states have promised as pledged in the past, full recognition of the Israeli state and will consider the conflict ended with establishment of full diplomatic and political ties. Now I know you find Hamas abhorrent, but in any conflict, you must talk to your enemies if you are serious about peace.
I have no problem talking to anybody and I am personally more than willing to make massive compromise in return for allowing my children to grow up in peace. I believe over coffee you and I could perhaps sort it out in an hour, unfortunately I also believe you cannot bring with you the will of those you support. And what you have suggested is a formula that has been suggested already, but until the Palestinians can find unity, understand that every delay has cost them dearly, finally find a leader that is strong enough and somehow sell the two state option to the refugees, I cannot see a solution to this conflict over the short term. I hope on this last point I am wrong and once again, I do thank you for your comment.