Thursday, January 8, 2009

On settlers etc.

Max responds to my confusion over the intent of settlers. There are extremist settlers, most certainly, but...
settlers are also Israelis of no particular ideological bent, who bought homes in settlements because they worked low-paying jobs, and couldn't afford to live in a city. These people live in places like Gilo and Har Homa, well-established communities whose crimes, while still very relevant to the future of a Palestinian state, are now 30 or 40 years in the past. Enough time, in other words, so that we must now grapple with the idea of second-generation settlers, guilty of nothing more than being born in the wrong place. These people deserve to be resettled fairly, and it should be the duty of Israel and the international community to look out for them just as carefully as we will look out for Palestinian refugees who have to be resettled outside of Israel.
This is a good point, and I know this has been faced on a smaller scale with the Gaza withdrawal, where certainly second (and third?) generation settlers were being removed from their homes, often to massive protests. The West Bank would surely be more difficult.

I like Max's take on the Israel question--and value it especially since he's there, in Israel, and leveling this message at Americans:
"We've been trying to tell the American electorate all along that there are better ways to be a friend to Israel than to give it a blank check and a license to kill -- but nobody listens until there's more blood in the street."
In regards to the impossible contradiction of West Bank settlements and a Palestinian State, Max agrees, and also notes that:
"maintaining such a contradiction has been in the interest of Israeli politicians for many years now, in no small part because of the United States' simplistic, dumb support of this little country."
I think it's good to hear this sort of thing coming out of Israel. And one wonders at the fact that if, as Max states, the Israeli moderates have been humming this tune now for years, why the American public seem so deaf to the message (and I've no doubt that's exactly what moderates have been saying for years, either...). It's possible that the so-called pro-Israel hard-liners are successful because there actually is and has been a very vocal anti-Semitic element to this debate, and they are able to crowd out honest critics of Israeli policy by playing the bigot card.

But I've seen where this sort of "blank check" leads and it tends to be in circles. Bloody circles, endless violence, and heaps and heaps of denial on both sides of the debate.

Just take a step back and read some posts from hard-liners on either side. One thing you won't find is empathy, and another is nuance. I'm afraid those qualities plus a whole lot of creative thinking are going to be necessary to solve this mess.

Oh, and another thing Max mentions in the post is that Israeli moderates are by and large realists when it comes to foreign affairs. In this age of rash neo-imperialism (global trade backed by military might and a rush to lay claim to energy resources) we need all the realists we can get.

Americans need to start supporting Israel the way they would their own country--by asking the tough questions, and demanding a higher level of accountability and common sense. It's our business because it has to be. It's been our business for decades now. Real live people on both sides of this conflict rely on a balanced broker in the US, and it's time they had one.

Oh, and further reading on the subject: Richard Spencer thinks this incursion into Gaza is A Damned Foolish Thing:
When Israel invaded Lebanon two and half years ago, the campaign was, by all conventional measures of military matters, a resounding success. The only problem was that Israel was fighting an asymmetric war—that is, an established nation-state (think F-14 firing missiles) was taking on an amorphous, state-like social charity and terrorism organization (think screaming poor person with a grenade launcher). The funny thing about this kind of conflict is that the little guy usually wins by losing, and the big guy is usually ruined by his success. On CNN International, Israel looked like a horrible monster, and on the proverbial “Arab street,” Hezbollah got cred for standing up to the “Zionist entity.” Hamas, which at the moment is much smaller and less well organized than Hezbollah, will undoubtedly benefit greatly from losing a war to Israel and will soon be rewarded with an enlarged donor base, new recruits, and a reputation for toughness. Getting attacked by the Israelis is good for organization branding.
I recall Max (and others) writing on how this was a push to gain enough security capabilities to actually re-establish pre-1967 borders. Hard to say, but I suppose this is a possibility. Then again, isn't it rather like the cart before the horse?