05 June 2010

Israel and Palestine

I believe that Israel has a right to exist, and I'm an admirer of the plucky little Israel that beat off the meddling Poms in 1947, which beat the Arabs in 1967 and '73, which held to the Camp David Accord and which bent over backwards to find peace in Oslo.

I wish Palestine had that greatness of spirit. First, it took a generation to articulate any sort of political response to its stateless predicament, and when it did it came in the all-rhetoric-no-responsibility mendacity of Yasser Arafat and Fatah. Now, Palestinian politics is imported from Iran and operates like an organised crime outfit, where squalor is leavened by small mercies on condition of absolute fealty to Hamas and its hierarchy. Where is its Mandela, someone who can stand up for Palestinians without swaggering - or caving in?

The game-breaker can only come from the Palestinians. The Israelis are showing all the fractious brittleness that conservatives call strength, but which the historian knows precedes the end of regimes. Netanyahu is a fool and nobody in that country's elite has the standing to call him out (except the extremists who bray that he hasn't gone far enough).

I've long believed that the flotilla idea, and not an embargo, is what the US should use against Castro in Cuba. Even if the Israelis found weapons or other contraband on that flotilla now, nobody would believe them; the return of Private Shalit is further away than ever.

The two-state solution is now a given; Israel-only is a position that can no longer be sustained, but the Palestine-only push is only made easier if Israel discredits itself. This is the piece that best sums up my attitude toward the recent flotilla - I find it hard to disagree with a single sentence, especially this one:

The threat of delegitimation is not a military problem and it does not have a military solution.

... and this:

It is hard not to conclude from this Israeli action, and also from other Israeli actions in recent years, that the Israeli leadership simply does not care any longer about what anybody thinks ... This is not defiance, it is despair ... This is the very opposite of the measured and empirical attitude, the search for strategic opportunity, the enlistment of imagination in the service of ideals and interests, that is required for statecraft.

That despair has traditionally been the preserve of the Palestinians: Entebbe and Munich, the contemptible murder of Klinghoffer, walking away from Oslo. It is the death-wish of an insurgent opposition, of wreckers and vandals.

Those who support the Palestinians must believe that real leadership exists among the Palestinians, capable of realising a state which serves those people well and would have them live in peace among their neighbours and enjoy prosperity. It doesn't, and so supporting Palestinians is just another expensive and pointless folly, like the various strands of socialism last century, or anarchism before that.

in our time Jewish pride has a disturbingly parasitic relationship with Jewish lachrymosity

No comfort can be taken from the fact that the Palestinians too wallow in victimhood and try to turn that base metal into the gold of righteousness. So too the Serbs and Croats, the Fenians and Ulstermen, Mugabe and Ahmedinejad and North Korea and the Basques. No cause can be right that resorts to this. Only those who can build more than they destroy can have their destruction forgiven and accepted, and allow that which is built in its place to remain standing.

A real “Freedom Flotilla” would have sailed for Gaza to liberate it from its rulers.

Perhaps they thought they were, or that Palestinians would be grateful. The problem is that a reasonable Palestinian leadership has no-one with whom to deal: a Hamas racketeering organisation; an Israeli government that is disingenuous at its best (fleeting) moments; a United States that is not sufficiently engaged to even hear such voices, let alone support them; and Arab neighbours who are afraid of their own moderates, let alone anyone else's.

If there's no latter-day Begin or Palestinian-Sadat to produce a moderate, two-state solution, then to hell with them all: and stop using our passports to prosecute and perpetuate all your bullshit.

Update 10 June: Why have two former News Ltd copy girls gone after some old lady who's been sacked? The media aim to render complex situations simple, but if it is tre that acid tongue sinks veteran scribe, then what's her-name and Caroline Overington are doing us all a disservice by writing the same beef-witted article framing this as a culture war thing. When people write like that about them, they think it's mean; when they dish it out, they are just, um, doing what they do (which is, get ahead of themselves).


  1. Your equating of the Palestinian cause with that of Socialism is perplexing. Socialism was doomed to eventual structural failure - it could not provide long term development and economic growth.

    Supporters of the Palestinian people may not think much of Hamas leadership, but the Palestinians are a people, not a way of social organisation.

    To equate the two suggests there is something inherent in the Palestinian people themselves that forever prevents their success. I hope that isn't what you think.


  2. derrida derider7/6/10 1:48 pm

    The time for a two-state solution has passed - Netenyahu and Sharon knowingly and deliberately killed it for domestic political reasons with their post-Oslo settlement policies and their (then) policy of backing Hamas to isolate and destroy any Palestinian moderates.

    Which points to the problem in your post - the assumption that Netenyahu and his ilk are fools rather than knaves. He's about as interested in Israel's long-term prosperity as Abbott is with rational immigration policy when he talks about "turning the boats back".

    He's far more concerned about stoking "war on terror", "Iran wants to nuke us", "the whole world is anti-semitic", "arabs are all untrustworthy monkeys" paranoia. It's what holds his government together and ensures that he continues in government after the next election.

  3. Kymbos, my comment was about the political situation in Palestine rather than the people: I think the people are ill-served by "their leaders". Their politics is a choice between dumb (Fatah) and dumber (Hamas), and any result in favour of a free Palestine will play into their hands, against the interests of Palestine and Palestinians. I hope they come through it, like the Lebanese have, without the suffering that they and the Iraqis have suffered, but I fear not.

  4. dd, you assume that it is the Israelis who act and that the Palestinians are acted upon. You assume that paranoia is a sustainable model for a state. I think you're wrong on both counts. The next Israeli election or the one after, or the one after that, is neither here nor there.

    Yeah, I'm being idealistic. Someone has to be.

  5. Andrew, how come you hold so much store in the next israeli election, whilst refusing to acknowledge that Hamas is the democratically elected government in Palestine. Or does it hold sway with you that the Palestinians can elect whoever they want, as long as israel approves it? The disregard that the west has for a democratically elected Govt. is deeply disturbing.

  6. I don't care whether or not Israel approves of Hamas.

    My point is that even if Palestine had a genuine statesman, the current Israeli government would still botch this relationship.

    Hamas are a mob of gangsters propped up by the Iranians. They're democratically elected in the way that Mugabe is democratically elected, or George W Bush: the best of a bad bunch at best, but still bad.

    A democratically elected government can serve its people badly. In the west, in the east, in the north and south, people know this.

  7. The problem is that the game breaker can only come from the Israelis,since they have all the military power and have made significant territorial gains using it.Why change this policy when they have the US as supporter,banker and armourer? They only have one friend and that friend is all they need.
    The Palestinians are indeed victims,the fact that Hamas seems to be run by religious psychopaths is irrelevant when considering the situation of the Palestinian people. Hamas and the Zionists need each other.

  8. I think your second sentence needs rethinking, as Obama has moved the ground out from under militant Israel. And the statement that "the fact that Hamas seems to be run by religious psychopaths is irrelevant" is easily the silliest thing I've read on this whole issue.

  9. Andrew,

    Really?The ground hasn't shifted very far I'd say and it can always shift back.To many Americans Israel is 'family'.

    You've missed the point,I was referring to the ethical issues involved in the situation of the Palestinians,Hamas's nastiness is often used as an excuse to do nothing while the Palestinians remain in the ghetto.So you see Hamas suits the more militant Israeli politicians very well.

    The problem is that many people unconsciously or deliberately don't separate the political elite from the people.

    I could have said that your comments where rather naive,but out of politeness I didn't.

  10. Shades of grey24/6/10 2:20 am

    It's refreshing to read Andrew's intelligent multi-shaded analysis of the Middle East, when the blogosphere seems to abound with ranters pitting all powerful "zionists" against helpless palestinians.