Obama, the Holocaust and the Palestinians

Obama at Yad Vashem: Honoring the Holocaust and protecting Israel, but not the ‘Greater Israel’ of the settlements

The line in last Friday’s New York Times summed it up: Some Israelis and their American supporters are furious with President Barack Obama, the Times reported, because they saw his Cairo speech as “elevating the Palestinians to equal status.” And those who would be threatened by Palestinians being viewed as equal human beings to Israelis may have reason to be concerned. That’s because whatever its policy implications — and the jury is very much still out on those — Obama’s Cairo speech marked a profound conceptual shift in official Washington’s discourse on the nature and causes of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and of America’s obligations to each side. So much so that one as prone pessimism as I was before the speech was forced to note that the reason Israel’s more right-wing supporters are worried is that, rhetorically at least, Obama was trying to move the U.S. position towards one of an honest broker.

He began with the Israelis, rooting America’s “unbreakable bond” with Israel on a recognition of the centuries of persecution suffered by Jews that culminated in the Holocaust.

“Six million Jews were killed, more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today,” he noted. “Denying that fact is baseless. It is ignorant, and it is hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews is deeply wrong and only serves to evoke in the minds of the Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.”

This, of course, is sound advice. As I’ve previously written on this site,

“Arab Holocaust denial … evades confronting the fact that not only did the Holocaust happen to the Jews of Europe, but because it happened to the Jews of Europe — and because of the reaction by other Western powers before and after the fact — the Holocaust profoundly changed the Arab world. Indeed, in this sense, the Holocaust may have been one of the most important historical events shaping Arab history over the past century…

The memory of the Holocaust is such a powerful ideological tool for Zionism precisely because of its reality — it speaks the collective memory of Ashkenazi Jews of our fate in Europe, and it pricks the conscience of the perpetrators and those who preferred to turn away.

To respond by trying to deny the reality of the Holocaust is as profoundly immoral as it is idiotic — creating a kind of binary game in which if Israel says mother’s milk is good for babies, the likes of Ahmedinajad will convene a symposium to prove the superiority of formula. The point about the Holocaust is that it happened to the Jews of Europe, and afterwards, as a result of the efforts of the Zionist movement and some combination of shame and latent anti-Semitism in the West, many of its survivors had no choice but to go to Palestine, where they were willing to fight with every fiber of their being for survival, without the luxury of considering the history and context into which they’d been thrust. In the war that followed, Palestinian Arabs, who had been 55 % of the population and had controlled around 80 % of the land, now found themselves displaced and dispossessed, confined to a mere 22 % of Palestine (the West Bank and Gaza), and prevented by a series of ethnic-cleansing laws passed by the State of Israel at its inception from reclaiming the homes and land from which they’d mostly fled in legitimate fear of their lives.

So, the Holocaust, in a very real way, reverberated traumatically in Palestinian national life: It was the narrative that fueled the ferocity with which many of those who drove the Palestinians from their homes in 1948 approached the struggle.

Indeed, Obama appeared well aware of that reality in turning to the Palestinians’ story: He became the first American president to officially enter into the public record an official acknowledgment of the Palestinian national trauma known as the “Nakbah”. He didn’t use the term, of course, but he made clear that for the Palestinians, Israel’s creation in 1948 was a catastrophe that resulted in their “displacement,” leaving many languishing in refugee camps ever since. That trauma was followed, since 1967, with the humiliation of occupation. So, Obama identified the Palestinians as an oppressed and dispossessed people engaged in a struggle for their national rights — although he was sharply critical of their methods, and urged them to follow the strategic examples of the African-American civil rights struggle and the anti-apartheid struggle in South Africa, even if some of his characterizations and comparisons were a bit iffy. Obama said

“It is also undeniable that the Palestinian people, Muslims and Christians, have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than 60 years, they’ve endured the pain of dislocation.

Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank and Gaza and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations, large and small, that come with occupation.

So let there be no doubt, the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. And America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity and a state of their own.”

Obama here roots the Palestinian plight in the expulsions of 1948 — he’s not just talking about the Palestinians under occupation; he’s talking about the refugees, too, and vowing not to turn his back on them, even if a two-state solution necessarily truncates their aspirations. To frame the Palestinian national experience as a 60-year quest for statehood is misguided, of course — as Rob Malley and Hussein Agha make clear, the Palestinian national movement has always been organized around the principle of throwing off occupation and recovering that which was taken from Palestinians in 1948. Statehood, as in the two-state conception in which the Palestinians would have cede their claims to much of what was once theirs, was a realpolitik political compromise adopted by the PLO leadership from around 1988, and never especially enthusiastically embraced by their base. Still, it appears increasingly likely that Hamas will, in its own way, reach a similar realist conclusion, based on the fact that as much as they’d prefer that Israel had never been born (so would Mahmoud Abbas and all of Fatah, frankly), they know it’s not going anywhere.

Obama’s scolding of the Palestinians on violence was also double-edged:

“Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia, to Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: violence is a dead end.”

That formulation is replete with flaws, of course: The grim reality for Palestinians is that they were a forgotten people until the late 1960s and early 70s, when the PLO’s campaign of high profile terror attacks put them back in the headlines. And the only reason Israel agreed to talk to the PLO ahead of the Oslo Accords was that the intifada uprising that began in 1987 made the occupation politically untenable. Moreover, following Obama’s civil rights analogy, Palestinians could not peacefully appeal to the “ideals at the center of” Israel’s founding for full and equal rights in the way that African Americans did of the United States, since the very principle of a “Jewish State” required their exclusion. (If the 1947 U.N. Partition Plan had been implemented, Palestinian Arabs would have been 45% of the population of what would become Israel).

And as for using South Africa as a stick with which to beat home the message that the Palestinians have to “renounce violence”, it ought to be remembered that the Nelson Mandela and the ANC never, in fact, renounced violence, until the apartheid regime had accepted the principle of democratic majority rule.

Still, far more significant than these flaws in his reasoning is the fact that Obama appeared to acknowledge that the Palestinians have a right to resist their plight — he challenged their resorting to violent resistance, instead urging them to pursue non-violent means of resistance, both on moral grounds and also because they’re more likely to effective. And in suggesting that the Palestinians learn from African-Americans or black South Africans under apartheid, he was recognizing their narrative of dispossession and oppression.

I don’t remember the Palestinian side of the story ever having been explained to the American people by its government in this way. Instead, the Palestinians have usually entered the American conversation on the conflict mostly through the prism of the Israeli narrative, i.e. as a threat to Israel. Obama, as the NYT noted Israel’s boosters are complaining, has elevated the Palestinian narrative to equal status.

Doing so, Obama believes, is actually vital to achieving peace. He argued,

“For decades, then, there has been a stalemate. Two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It’s easy to point fingers.

For Palestinians to point to the displacement brought about by Israel’s founding and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history, from within its borders as well as beyond.

But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth.

The narratives also connect, of course: It was not the Palestinians who authored the Holocaust, yet they paid a heavy territorial price for the establishment Jewish safe haven in its wake. And their resistance to their dispossession, and later occupation, has reinforced the belief, among many Israelis, that they remain under threat of extermination — a belief often callously exploited by politicians with an expansionist agenda: They called the 1967 borders “Auschwitz borders” (even though those included twice as much territory as was awarded to Israel in the UN Partition plan), and began to expand their grip on the West Bank. And any move, even by Israeli authorities, to evict settlers who have stolen and colonized Palestinian land, is denounced by settlers and their supporters as an echo of Jewish dispossession under Nazism.

One of the sticking points in talking to Hamas, on the other hand, is its refusal to recognize the State of Israel. Yet that’s explained by the place of the Nakbah in the Palestinian national narrative: For many Palestinians, even Fatah supporters, “recognizing” Israel appears to be a demand that they accept and legitimize the very “dislocation” of 60 years ago that Obama recognized.

In recognizing both competing narratives, Obama has waded into the conflict’s most intractable issues.

He hopes to navigate that minefield with the two-state concept, which is why he was so harsh on Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem — their very existence undercuts prospects for a two-state solution, not simply because they were created in violation of international law, but because the physical space they occupy makes a mockery of the physical integrity of any Palestinian state. (To recap on our political geography, the 1947 partition plan offered what the Palestinians deemed a bitter pill by requiring that they, then 55% of the population and owners of most of the land, accept 55% of Palestine being awarded to a Jewish state comprised mostly of refugees from Europe, leaving them in political control of the remaining 45%. The 1948 war left them, under Egyptian and Jordanian authority, in control of the West Bank and Gaza, comprising only half of what had been allocated them in the partition plan — and those territories came under Israeli occupation after the 1967 war. When the Palestinians in 1988 moved to accept a state on the occupied 22% of historic Palestine — the West Bank and Gaza — that was a massive compromise. But ever since then, the settlements have been systematically carving up and shrinking even that 22%…)

Obama attempted to draw a red line on settlements, saying “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements.”

Hence, a solid U.S. bond with Israel to guarantee its survival and security in a hostile environment, but no endorsement of an expansive Zionism that calls on Jews to “redeem” the Biblical Land of Israel by settling on West Bank land. By insisting that Palestinians are born equal to Israelis and that their side of the conflict be understood, and that Israel halt its expansion into Palestinian territory, Obama is forcing Israel to confront a basic question of its own identity — and also to reckon with the fact that its creation, and expansion, have occurred at the expense of another people who are deemed of equal status in the mind of the American president. No wonder, then, that some Israelis and their American supporters are annoyed.

Obama’s real impact will be measured by what he does on the conflict rather than by what he says. Still, those prone to pessimism about U.S. policy on the Middle East changing should consider the fact that even before he’s done a thing, he’s changed the discourse, signaling that the United States has moral obligations to both sides.

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55 Responses to Obama, the Holocaust and the Palestinians

  1. Despite the glimmers of hope in the rhetoric I just don’t think that Obama has the testicular fortitude to spend real political capital on this until his second term.

    If Bibi pulls a Sharon and does a 360 in his own rhetoric (I’m looking forward to seeing his own speech on the peace process that he’s announced) I will have real hope, but despite being an optimist about the process I just don’t see peace without Israel coming around on their own. Nobody has the political capital in the US to bludgeon them into becoming honest brokers themselves and they have willing foils in Hamas and Iran to keep real political pressure off of them.

    I’m hoping that Bibi makes a legacy move for peace, that’s the best shot I see right now. Otherwise I’m looking forward to Obama’s second term.

  2. Y. Ben-David says:

    Tony and Obama said:
    So, Obama identified the Palestinians as an oppressed and dispossessed people engaged in a struggle for their national rights

    But weren’t they offered a state in 1937, but turned it down? Weren’t they offered a state in 1947, but turned it down? Didn’t they start a war in 1947 in order to prevent the Jewish state from arising? Weren’t they offered a state in 2000 by Barak which they turned down? Weren’t they offered a state by Olmert but didn’t they turn it down? (Yes, I know people out there wil scream that they weren’t offered enough so they had to start bloody wars in order to get more, which they repeatedly failed to achieve). So they are not merely fighting for “national rights”, but those “rights” as they see it means depriving the Jews of theirs. Otherwise they wouldn’t have started the war in 1947 which led to their defeat and the refugee problem.

    Obama is following a self-defeating policy. He is leading the Arabs to think that all they have to do is sit back and Obama will “deliver” Israel for them. As Sadat said “the US holds 99% of the cards” so if they believe this, it is a sure recipe for continued stalemate.

  3. Matthew says:

    Wow, 1937? Ever notice how Zionists always go back a lifetime to justify today’s crimes? In 1937, Japan was an empire, Stalin ruled Russia, and Hitler ruled Germany. I guess none of those nations are entitled to any respect today because of their ruler’s actions 72 years ago.

  4. Y. Ben-David says:

    Matthew, I suggest you learn how to read an entire posting. I mention other offers after 1937 including up to last year. Don’t the Arabs have to face up to the consequences of their wars of aggression?

  5. Pingback: War in Context - NEWS & VIEWS ROUNDUP & EDITOR’S COMMENTS: June 9

  6. Rupa Shah says:

    Excellent post, Mr Karon. Those (and there many ) who have criticised the President’s speech without finding a single positive sentence, I hope, will read your post.

  7. saucy jack says:

    “Don’t the Arabs have to face up to the consequences of their wars of aggression?”
    Doesn’t Israel?

  8. COLINDALE London says:

    Unfortunately, the constant theorizing and comment as to the tactics of the US government vis-a-vis Israel and vice-versa, are of little practical interest.
    The LIKUD party head, Netanyahu, is obliged to further the mission of his party which is to obtain a greater Israel by any means. How he intends to achieve this unmodified objective is by further obfuscation of the issues, by the killing of more women and children to terrorize the Palestinians or simply by using the power of AIPAC in Congress to tie the hands of Obama and the White House.
    There will be no real progress until the power of the unelected Israeli lobby is curtailed by law. Whatever is said, the fact remains that it is a gross misuse of the democratic process for an unelected minority to hold such undue influence over both Houses and thereby to restrict the power of the elected president and his foreign policy.

  9. Joshua says:

    Good offers, Y.Ben-David. Next time just explain that Bantustans are all they are going to be offered and all that they are going to get and then maybe you could really put it in the proper historical pretext, context and subtext.

    (It’s as if acceptance of a plan would suffice in the first place. Would it really have changed your mind?)

  10. American says:

    If you want to know how to end I-P this is how. Read it.

    “Visions of the End Game…A strategy to bring the Israel Palestine conflict swiftly to an end”

    by Tony Klug

    Fabian Society UK…. a paper for the Oxford Org.



    It is along the lines of my own long held..’lead,follow or get out of the f***ing way’…approach to I-P.

  11. Chris says:

    >To respond by trying to deny the
    >reality of the Holocaust is as
    >profoundly immoral as it is idiotic

    ***ALL*** historical claims are up for discussion, dissection, and if necessary, revision.

    Perhaps Karon is devoid of reasoning skills, or his logic is blinded by emotions. The Holocaust deniers do just that, they deny that the event or aspects of it took place. There’s nothing idiotic or “immoral” about it. Why get upset because others don’t believe differently? If the event is as firmly set in history as Karon believes it is then just ignore the deniers.

  12. American says:

    Y. Ben-David

    A few facts for you

    1)No one owes the Jews anything except some long dead nazis….their children don’t even owe you…generations after generations are not going to keep paying the Jews for what their fathers, grandfathers and great grandfathers did.

    2) The US in particular doesn’t owe the Jews or Israel…they in fact owe us.

    3) The Palestines certainly don’t owe the Jews or Israel. You owe them.

    4) No one on earth recongizes real estate deeds given by God…so you are entitled to exactly zilch except for whatever sympathy the world wants to give you and sympathy for batshit crazy religious fanatics is running low.

    5)This is 2009 and no one gives a s*** about 21 centuries of Jews proving that indeed, doing the samething over and over again and expecting different result is the best definition of stupid.

    6) But if you want to campaign on historical victimhood since time began I am sure the christians could be once again riled up to persecute you for killing Jesus.

    Is that far enough back in your victimhood for you..or would like to talk present day reality?

  13. ASA says:

    Robert #1

    On the contrary, I am looking forward to see Obama get engaged immediately and try the 2-year deadline that he has set to himself (according to the news media). It can be done, atleast it can set the motion of a detailed negotiation track on the final issues (of which Obama showed remarkable knowledge and acceptance about). This is the first time for a POTUS to even acknowledge the real (and thorniest) issues of this conflict, as Tony says in his post.

    With any luck, if Obama can achieve major movement on Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations in the first term, he will have tremendous political capital to use in the Iraq, Iran, and the Af-Pak frontiers in the second term. I am sure he is going to need that sooner or later to help heal the wounds caused in the last 8 years. The “muslim world” is not going to believe the words of the President anymore … they want him to “walk the talk”, as some put it.

  14. Chris says:

    I meant “Why get upset because others believe differently?”

  15. Chris says:

    Right on “American”.

  16. ASA says:

    Tony, thanks for a great post, and this platform!

  17. Chris says:

    “American”, you must be an ANTI-SEMITE!

  18. spyguy says:

    I am still very much a pessimist.

    – There is no one in the world with both the political will and the military might needed to remove 500,000+ settlers from the WB so there will be enough productive land for the Palestinians. Unless those settlers are removed, there can be no Palestine. The settlers have won. No matter how much Obama leans on Israel, the settlers will stay.

    – The IDF is owned by the settlers so any talk about evicting the settlers is just that, talk. The IDF will NOT make any real attempt to evict the settlers because killing Jews is a lot harder than killing Arabs. Make no mistake about it, to clear the WB of settlers will REQUIRE that Jews will have to be killed because the settlers have made it very, very clear that they will fight to the death. One Jewish settler child killed by the IDF will stop the eviction in its tracks.

    – Any attempt to evict the settlers will cause civil war in Israel, which the settlers will win because they have FULL ACCESS to every weapon the IDF has, including tanks and planes because most of the long term IDF soldiers are settlers.

    – Almost the entire US government is bought and paid for by Israel. Other than Obama, there is no one that will do anything counter to what Israel wants (for example, most of congress signed a letter to Obama telling him to back off, which to his credit, he promptly ignored).

    But … There are things that Israel can’t control:

    – The number of people that care about the Holocaust is declining rapidly as the people that lived during WW2 die off. Their children feel absolutely no guilt about the Holocaust, if they even know about it. To most people in the US, UK and EU, the Holocaust is ancient history with no relevance to their lives. Not only that but the vast majority of the world’s 7 billion people have no cultural connection what so ever to Israel (think China, India, Russia, Latin America, Africa, etc.). If it weren’t for the US, Israel would be gone by now. Most people in the world, when they think about Israel, consider it to be a pain in the ass.

    – The US has shot itself in the foot militarily, politically, socially and financially. As a result, power is shifting away from the US to China, Russia, India, etc. That is, power is moving to the members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), who have no reason to care if Israel disappears.

    The bottom line is while Obama appears to understand that the Palestinian situation must be fixed before things explode, he does not have the power to force the major changes in Israel that will be required to prevent the explosion. It would take US soldiers on the ground in the WB, killing settlers to get the WB cleared so Palestine could exist and that will never happen.

    In the end I think Obama will fail, setting the stage for a massive war in the ME which Israel will lose, but will get lots of Americans killed and our way of life destroyed.

  19. spyguy says:

    A solution the world could impose that might work …

    The UN Security council should define the borders of Lebanon (Shebba farms), Syria (Golan), Jordan, Egypt, Palestine, the international enclave of Jerusalem and Israel. The US should sponsor the resolution and vote for it. The borders would give Lebanon, Syria and Palestine back the land Israel has taken. That is, Israel would be confined to the 1967 borders.

    Jerusalem would become an international enclave not owned by either Israel or Palestine and administered by the UN. Everyone that lived there would need to have a passport from some other nation in the world and people would be encouraged to move out of the city with financial incentives and building restrictions.

    The UN could then immediately recognize the state of Palestine and require it to have monitored elections within 90 days to create a government. Both Hamas and Fatah would be subject to being banned for any violence.

    Then Israel would have 6 months to remove its citizens from Palestine.

    Sure the Israelis would scream, but once everything was codified, they would have to live with it, especially if every nation but Israel agreed to it.

    The only other alternative to this imposed “two-state” solution is eventual massive war which will get lots of Jews killed. The status quo is NOT sustainable and the US can NOT protect Israel for too much longer. Once Israel loses its US shield, it is toast.

    One thing I can not understand is why people in Israel can not understand that they are running out of time and that the odds of them winning the next big war are minuscule.

  20. richard vajs says:

    Why do the “settlers” have to be removed from the West Bank? I say draw the borders along the 1967 borders and let the “settlers” be Palestinian citizens; paying Palestinian taxes, obeying Palestinian laws, etc. And let an equal number of Palestinian refugees return to their lands in Israel. The Jews who can’t tolerate living in Palestine can move themselves back to Israel and vice-versa. Otherwise, the world (USA) is going to be on the hook for a lot of exorbitant “relocation” costs and over-the-top anguishing about the fates of the thieving “settlers”.

  21. RJBH says:

    Who Remebers the Fate of the Ibos…. Holocaust have happened both before “The Jewish Holocaust” and since … Jews need to get over what happened 60/70 years ago… and be a bit more humane about what they do now.

  22. An Old Marine says:

    Words, words, words ….. immediately followed up w/ Hillary’s declaration that we may attack Iran to prevent its weapons nuclearization “like we did in Iraq” Nothing will change w/ the Annointed One’s oratory. I’m so tired of any opponent of zionism or jewish wrongdoing being likened to Hitler … Norriega, Khomeni, Saddam, Franco, Laden , et al. At some point the American sheep, when they can’t get their beer, porn and gasoline, will start pointing fingers at the responsible ones.

  23. ASA says:

    “In the end I think Obama will fail, setting the stage for a massive war in the ME which Israel will lose, but will get lots of Americans killed and our way of life destroyed.”

    spyguy – are you writing the screenplay for the next Hollywood mega hit or something? 🙂

    “Way of life destroyed”? Care to expand?

    Your next post is directly contradicting the first. If your first post is true … “Then Israel would have 6 months to remove its citizens from Palestine.” … then, how on earth would Israel achieve the second?!!

  24. Saggy says:

    The arguments that the holocaust didn’t happen are better than you think. Here are several.

    The pictures you’ve seen of supposed holocaust victims were taken at the end of the war in western camps, not ‘death camps’, and were of tyhpus victims, not persons killed by the Nazis. This is a FACT.

    The Nazis used Zyklon, a commercial insecticide used all over Europe, to kill lice on clothing in fumigation rooms. These rooms still exist at Auschwitz but are never shown to visitors. Another FACT.

    The ‘gas chamber’ shown to visitors was ‘reconstructed’ by the Soviets after the war. A FACT.

    There is a book “Jewish Fund Raising Campaigns with Holocaust Claims During World War ONE” by Don Heddesheimer documented with reprints of articles from the NYT and other Jewish press.

    The US sent a team of forensic pathologists into the camps after the war. They did not find a single victim of gassing. This is a FACT.

    You only have to read the ‘testimony’ of some of the most prominent ‘survivors’ to realize it is pure phantasmagoria. This is my opinion. Check it yourself, read Filip Meuler, Elie Weisel, Abraham Bomba, Yankel Weirnik. You’ll be a holocaust denier.

  25. jdledell says:

    Richard Vajs – Abbas has already stated that Jewish settlers are welcome in the new Palestinian state as long as they follow Palestinian laws and pay taxes.

    The problem comes because the secular settlers will have zero interest in living under Palestinian rule and they will volutarily return to Israel. However the ideological settlers, for example in Kiryat Arba, Bat Ayin and elsewhere will refuse to not only move but also refuse to honor any Palestinian laws. If a Palestinian policeman or tax collector entered Kiryat Arba he would live less than a minute.

    The ideological settlements are armed to the teeth. I know from visiting my niece in Kiryat Arba, I saw a whole armory of rifles, RPGs, small bore mortars etc. The people there have repeatedly stated they will fight any Palestinian entering their town and count on the IDF to come to their rescue rather than see Jews die.

    I would suspect that a number of Jews will continue to reside in Palestinian territory and that relations with their Palestinian neighbors will be luke warm but repectful – kind of like it was in Israel in the 50’s and 60’s when I first started going there. We could go shopping in Ramallah or head to Nablus for dinner.

  26. richard vajs says:

    I appreciate your first hand knowledge, but consider, in WWII, there were many little islands in the South Pacific with Japanese soldiers armed to the teeth and eager to fight to the death. In most cases, the US did not have to invade and engage, instead they were allowed to be isolated and cut off from resupply. They withered on the vine. Likewise, the ideological settlers can stay in their little fortresses but they will not be traveling on “settler only” roads to interface with Israel proper. I think they will soon come to some agreement with Palestine.

  27. Jaime says:

    Somebody has the balls (American) to put Israel in their place and immediately the Israel-firsters come out in panic. Isn’t it true that Israel has sequestered the world and blackmails anybody who shows their true colors? Maybe the US and Europe feel afraid of this blackmail, but in South America, we see Israel for what they are: criminals.

  28. Peter says:

    Tony, you write:

    following Obama’s civil rights analogy, Palestinians could not peacefully appeal to the “ideals at the center of” Israel’s founding for full and equal rights in the way that African Americans did of the United States, since the very principle of a “Jewish State” required their exclusion.

    Arik Ascherman of Rabbis for Human Rights mentioned something along these lines at a talk I attended last weekend. He said that last year his group broadcast an ad in Israel that played an excerpt of Ben-Gurion’s 1948 reading of Israel’s declaration of independence, including the following lines:

    it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

    Ascherman said that he considers himself a Zionist because he considers Zionism to include the above principles quoted by Ben-Gurion.

    Obviously Palestinians can’t be expected to rally around this declaration, but we have to admit that the statement “it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex” goes well beyond anything in the U.S. Constitution or Declaration of Independence.

  29. Arie Brand says:

    In 1937 the British Peel Commission proposed a partition of Palestine in a part for Jews and one for Arabs. This proposal was later withdrawn by the British government as unworkable. The Arabs had already rejected it earlier.

    The reason for this rejection was made clear in a submission of the Arab Office to the 1946 Anglo-American Committee of Inquiry (one can find it in Laqueur & Rubin’s collection of documents about the conflict).

    The Arab Office wrote:
    “The whole Arab people is unalterably opposed to the attempt to impose Jewish immigration and settlement upon it, and ultimately to establish a Jewish state in Palestine. Its opposition is based primarily upon right. The Arabs of Palestine are descendants of the indigenous inhabitants of the country, who have been in occupation of it since the beginning of history; they cannot agree that it is right to subject an indigenous population against its will to alien immigrants, whose claim is based upon a historical connection which ceased effectively many centuries ago.”

    Moreover, the Arabs suspected Jewish intentions. Now the Jews would take a finger, but soon they would attempt to get hold of the whole hand. They wrote: “It cannot be too often repeated that Zionism is a political movement aiming at the domination at least of the whole of Palestine; to give it a foothold in part of Palestine would be to encourage it to press for more and to provide it with a base for its activities.”

    This assessment was correct. Ben-Gurion spelled out plans to that effect in correspondence to his son dating from the late thirties. The subsequent history of Israel has furthermore made abundantly clear that the Arab suspicions were fully justified.

    The Arab objections were as relevant in 1947/1948 as they were in 1937. Yes, even more so because the partition offer was now even more ungenerous.

    This remained the trend.The so-called generous offer of Camp David, almost half a century later, was a joke. Jonathan Cook has last year highlighted the main features of this so-called generous offer on the basis of an Israeli 26 page government document about the matter that was leaked to Haaretz (see http://www.jkcook.net/Articles2/0309.htm#Top). Olmert’s planned offer was largely based on this unacceptable deal (of which Ben-Ami, Israel’s former Foreign Minister, has said that he would have rejected it too if he had been in Arafat’s position).

    Looking at this sad history YBD seems to see a justification in it for Israel now taking a hard line in withholding the last remaining 22% of the territory that the Palestinians, at the end of their tether, have now decided to accept.

    The logic of this position escapes me. Since progressively more unfair partition plans were rejected by the Palestinians they are now no longer entitled to any partition at all, even one in which they are being fobbed off with a tiny part of the territory which they originally regarded as theirs.

    In short: the rejection of unfairness justifies further unfairness.It is hard for hasbara-spreaders to observe even the most basic form of intellectual hygiene.

  30. Matthew says:

    Spyguy’s comments about the Holocacust are trenchant. Of course, the Holocaust is declining in importance. It happened 70 years ago.

    And the cruelty to Palestinians is on-going.

  31. Ofer says:

    Funny…. my comment regarding discrepancies of the Holocaust with actual scientific evidence and how the shoa has surpassed the grant by G-d of the law to Moses on Mt. Sinai as the greatest event of Judaism, along with a new Japanese exposure of the false “soap” evidence presented by the Soviets at the Nuremberg trials was originally posted and then censored. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmm. I guess I won’t bother w/ this site anymore. And I a am an observant Jew. I’ll say it again…. when disagreeing with aspects of the Holocaust mythos gives rise to criminal charges as in Europe or Canada…. something is pretty fishy. No body denies deaths or atrocities (which occured on all sides), but the six million figure was manufactured out of thin air as well the Nazi policy of extermination. Sure, there were hideous murders at the camps, mostly in the final weeks of the war, as epidemics, starvation arose and order broke down (just like Andersonville in the American civil war). For the zionists the crash will come because all, i mean ALL human movements based on falsehoods (like Naziism, Communism, “Humanism”, Maoism, Castroism, etc., etc. will fall. I am ashamed of the zionist state and what happened to dispossess and terrorize the indigenous Palestinian (Moslem and Christian) people, and that includes observant Jews who abhorred the violence of the Stern Gang and Irgun terrorists. A “nation” created by terrorism shall fall by terrorism. Isn’t 60 plus years of fighting and the murder of innocents on all sides enough?

  32. Bill Pearlman says:

    What’s really fucking scary about Tony Karon is that he wrote and continues to write about Israel for Time magazine. A little bit of an agenda here, don’t you think.

  33. DaveS says:

    A most interesting exchange between Richard Vajs and jdledell. While Jewish citizens of Palestine is a workable concept theoretically, it is the hardcore extremists who are heavily armed and would refuse to submit to Palestinian authority that are the problem. Moreover, they have a far higher birthrate than the secular Jews, making the extremist percentage higher and higher. If they have to be forced out, it seems to me that a cutoff of all supplies and water and electricity, etc. should force them to abandon their settlements.

    But on the whole, this problem is another argument in favor of the one-state solution. Let them stay, but they must live as equals with non-Jews rather than as superiors. No more forced relocations of anyone.

    The situation is not unlike Apartheid South Africa. In the waning years, it was feared that transformation to equality and majority rule would only come after much bloodshed, and that white people would be forced to emigrate to survive in so hostile an atmosphere. But things turned out better than expected. Can’t Israeli Jews give up their position of dominance and accept equality? Frankly, I don’t see any other alternative in the mid- to distant future.

  34. Murphy says:

    Very good post, spyguy.

    Israel, though its own greed and hubris has placed itself into a Catch 22: There can be no Palestine (hence no security for Israel) with the settlements, but Israel cannot survive as a state at peace with itself if it dismantles the settlements and forcibly removes the hundreds of thousands of often fanatic colonists. So Ben Gurion was right: in insisting on colonising Palestinian land, Israel has laid the seeds for its own eventual destruction as a state.

    “One thing I can not understand is why people in Israel can not understand that they are running out of time and that the odds of them winning the next big war are minuscule.”

    Read Jared Diamond’s “Collapse”. Though more about ecology than politics, it makes clear that throughout history – recorded and otherwise – time and again societies have acted in ways to ensure their own destruction. I think Israeli society is a state of deep, collective denial. They have for so long been used to having a free hand with their Arab neighbours without suffering more than a few pinpricks – relatively speaking – in return. It may not be that they consciously think things can go on like this for ever, but the alternative – having to close ALL of the settlements and come to terms with their neighbours as equals – is just too painful to contemplate.

  35. Bill Pearlman says:

    Has opposed to the happy go lucky boys of Hamas. Who in the mind of Tony Karon are just wonderful guys.

  36. Mike says:

    Obama’s speech was great! You would never know it was written by Denis Ross.

  37. spyguy says:

    Netanyahu has sealed Israel’s fate.

    The status quo is not sustainable and Netanyahu has chosen to prolong the status quo long enough for him to satisfy his ego.

    There are only FIVE possible ways the situation in the area (defined by Lebanon’s south border, Syria’s south-west border, the Jordan river and Egypt’s northern border) can play out over time:

    – Israel takes it all. That is, Israel successfully forcibly ethnically cleanses the entire area of non-Jews. If Israel tries this, there will be a massive war that Israel will lose.

    – Two state solution – This is no longer possible because there is no one in the world with both the political will and the military might to make it happen by moving 500,000+ Israelis out of Palestine back into Israel. Netanyahu has made this very, very obvious and Obama does not have the political capital to hit Israel over the head with a “metal baseball bat” to bend Israel to his will (“metal baseball bat” = massive sanctions, no more protecting Israel in the UN, etc.).

    – Gaza to Egypt and leftover bits of the West Bank to Jordan – Neither Egypt nor Jordan would agree to this as it would destabilize both countries. As a result, the old governments, which are vastly out of sync with their populations, would be replaced by virulent anti-Israel governments. Israel would be going from the frying pan into the fire. This would probably lead to massive war that Israel would lose.

    – One state solution – Israelis will fight this to the death because it would mean that the resulting secular democratic country would be minority Jewish. A large minority, but still a minority. It would be the complete end of the Zionist dream of a “Jewish State.”

    – Arabs take it all by forcibly ethnically cleansing Jews from the area – Unless a fair solution is quickly found (requiring Israel to give up lots of land, water and cash), this is the most likely outcome over time. I know that this offends many people, but from a pure historical/power perspective this is the most likely scenario. If you don’t like the death and destruction that comes with this, then someone is going to have to take a “metal baseball bat” to the Israeli population and get a fair two-state or one-state solution.

    I have published this list before and NO ONE has been able to come up with any other plausible scenarios that take into account how humans really act as shown by almost 10,000 years of history.

    Sure, there will be those that discount Arab military strength and hype Israel’s military strength, but the reality is, Israel’s military might can easily be trumped these days by the huge number and variety of weapons that are sloshing around on this “blue marble.”

    Personally I would prefer a fair two-state solution, but I suspect that before I die, Israel will cease to exist (BTW – I am old enough that I probably have less than 35 years left to live).

    It is a real shame that stupidity and hubris will get so many people killed.

  38. DaveS says:

    spyguy – I agree with most of what you say, with the big exception of what you call the most likely scenario. I’m sure that the vast majority of Palestinians would be very happy with a one-state solution. I have not seen any evidence that the Arab side seeks to ethnically cleanse the area of Jews, rather than live in full equality with them. The Zionist myth is that they want to drive us into the sea, but who really says that, other than Israelis who falsely claim that is what is at stake. I foresee an eventual one-state solution, even if a two-state solution is an intermediate step for a decade or two. Eventually, the world will tire of the claim of Israeli Jews to live in domination and superiority over another ethnic group, and Israelis, like South African whites, will be forced to accept the inevitable progress of true equality. The only question is how many people will die in the interim before this ultimate solution is implemented.

  39. spyguy says:

    DaveS – I agree with the King of Jordan that a massive war is coming.

    One reason is the governments of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia are vastly out of sync with their own populations. I expect that one or more of the so-called “moderate” Arab governments will fall and be replaced by a much more militant government. Egypt is an almost sure bet. I suspect that the existing governments in Jordan and Saudi Arabia will be dragged far to the right by the fall of Egypt, the influence of Iran and the impotence of the US and Europe.

    As I pointed out earlier, Israel no longer has a military advantage over the Arabs who have more than adequate weapons and can easily get even better weapons on the open market and their military leaders are well trained by watching how the US military was defeated in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam.

    Assuming no one uses nukes, Israel will lose the next middle east war. If Israel uses nukes, it will also lose, but in the wink of an eye when it gets nuked. I will not be surprised if Israel uses their nukes as a first strike in a Masada-like suicide.

    As for the one-state solution, the Palestinians might be OK with it, but the Israelis will fight it to the death since it effectively kills the Jewish national dream for all time. When Arabs and Jews are all equal citizens of a new secular democratic country called “ZZ,” the Arabs will be free to live anywhere in the country and Jews will not be able to control the situation. Dreams die very hard and many people will not give up their dreams until they are dead.

    As for the two-state situation, exactly what contiguous, usable land, would the Arabs be able to build their state on? There is no longer any land to do that, unless 500,000 Israelis are moved and there is no one to move them, because it will require that some of them will need to be killed. And yes many of the settlers are that fanatical.

    Basically neither of the two scenarios you wish for are viable from a real-politic, real-power basis.

  40. Rabbi Chaim Richman says:

    The incident of the golden calf is fraught with difficulty. It seems, upon reading the events which led up to the debacle, to be so self evidently a transgression of commandments received at Sinai, so painfully clear an abandonment of the covenant with G-d, and so crude an expression of base irrational idolatry, that we run the risk of missing its true message: A cautionary tale, to be sure, but what lesson could it bear for us? We are far too sophisticated to fall prey to such primitive impulses.

    Far too sophisticated? We shall see: Our sages point out that it was the mixed multitude – the erev rav – that approached the children of Israel and Aharon the high priest and demanded that a golden calf be created to lead them through the desert. Now many peoples had risen up and attached themselves to the children of Israel as they left the bondage of Egypt. Among them were individuals who saw the miracles G-d was working, and inspired by the might of the One G-d, clamored to become a part of His people. They stood side by side with the Israelites at Sinai, heard G-d’s words, and voiced their allegiance. They, like Yitro, (Jethro), left their idolatry and joined the nation of Israel.

    Yet there were others who presence among the Israelites was part of a well orchestrated, cunningly sophisticated plan hatched by the Egyptian “wise men and magicians, and necromancers” (Exodus 7:11) who surrounded Pharaoh. They had planted their evil emissaries among the people of Israel in the hour of their departure from Egypt. These ruthless enemies of Israel waited patiently, biding their time for the right moment to strike. The concluding hours of Moses’ absence from the people, as he received G-d’s word on Mount Sinai, proved the perfect opportunity. Encircling Aharon they made the following plea: “We are not part of the congregation of Israel. We don’t accept your G-d, and you don’t accept us. Therefore, we demand the following: Either you allow us to commingle with you as equals, or create for us our own god to lead us through the desert. We shall rally around our own god, become our own nation, follow our own ways, but remain always attached to the people of Israel, to be a constant thorn in your side, a stumbling block along the way, a source of endless grief and your eternal nemesis.”

    Aharon, playing for time, trying to placate the frenzied multitude, and at the same time, forestall their plans until Moses would return, called upon them to “Remove the golden earrings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters and bring them to me.” (ibid 31:2) But without hesitation the multitude tore the gold from their own ears and placed it before Aharon. The die was cast. The deed was done.

    Today we too face the same stark “choice” that Aharon faced. “Friends” and enemies alike have encircled the nation of Israel, and, appealing to the same noble qualities of loving kindness and concern for the other that characterized Aharon, make the same demand: “Create for this mixed multitude, this erev rav that has insinuated itself within your borders, that hates your G-d, and despises your people, create for them their own god – their own entity – their own state, from where they will forever prove your bitter, implacable foe. Do this, or else allow them to infiltrate the congregation of Israel, dissolving forever your covenant with the Almighty.”

    Far from being too sophisticated to fall prey to this great deception, it is our very sophistication and largeness of spirit which has proven our downfall today, just as it did then. Being confronted with this choice of the erev rav, what then, must we choose?

    Torah provides the answer: in the aftermath of the golden calf, G-d reaffirms His covenant with His people. Torah restates a small number of fundamental commandments, enumerating the three pilgrimage festivals, and asserting the following: “When I drive out nations from before you and I widen your border, no one will covet your land when you go up, to appear before the Lord, your G-d, three times each year.” (ibid 34:24)

    The Holy Temple is hardly incidental to the story of the golden calf. Nor is it incidental to the crossroads at which Israel finds itself today. The Holy Temple can’t wait until all the other “outstanding issues” are solved: The Holy Temple is the right response to the challenge posed by the mixed multitude. By creating an environment in which our relationship with G-d can flourish unimpeded and in which all who attach themselves to the G-d of Israel can share in this holy endeavor, we effectively thwart the twin threat of the mixed multitude and their international backers: We choose neither to pervert our covenant with G-d by bowing to the demand to create a golden calf, a separate entity within the land of Israel for our enemies, nor to abandon His love by allowing our sworn enemies to overwhelm us from within. We choose renewed commitment to G-d, and rally around the fulfillment of His promise. In the words of Moses, “Whoever is for the L-rd, let him come to me!” (ibid 32:26)

  41. Arie Brand says:

    The stuff above comes from a blog entitled “The Third Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem” which has to be seen to be believed.

    It reeks of paranoia, religious ‘superbia’ and xenophobia.

    The reference in the piece above to
    “our very sophistication and largeness of spirit” is the chutzpah of the month.

  42. Gwenzyme says:

    Contamination with a virus called Vesivirus 2117 has disrupted production and the plant will be closed for cleaning, said Henri A. Termeer, Genzyme’s chief executive.

    The shutdown of the plant, Allston Landing in Boston, will cause a shortage in August of Cerezyme, a drug that treats Gaucher disease, in which harmful levels of a fatty substance accumulate in the spleen, liver, lungs and brain. The company also expects a reduced supply of Fabrazyme, which treats Fabry disease, in September and October, Mr. Termeer said. Fabry disease, in which lipids build up to harmful levels in the eyes, kidneys, nervous system and cardiovascular system, affects 5,000 to 10,000 people.

    Genzyme said it would work with regulators, doctors and patient groups to manage distribution of supplies

  43. Jorge from Bloomington says:

    “… he’s changed the discourse, signaling that the United States has moral obligations to both sides.”

    – Tony Karon

    I agree that that would appear to be Obama’s hope.

    But the reality as we’ve seen through the prism of the Iranian election is far from that.

    The OUTCRY against the so-called Iranian “crackdown” on dissent is deafening.

    If ONLY the U.S. had cried so loudly for Mexico in 2006. If only the U.S. had welcomed criticism from the outside world, including Iran’s Supreme Leader, in 2000. If only the U.S. would bark as loudly following every Chinese elections.

    But none of those matter to the people who write and report the news.

    We won’t tolerate dissent within our own borders, much less welcome it from without. We will support the Mexican “victors” (and other “friends”) that support us and we’ll threaten anyone who dares to question the legitimacy of the Mexican government (and those governments friendly to the U.S.).

    As for the Chinese and the Russians… well, they have nukes.

    Obama may want change, but he’s the one who will be forced to change or … dare I say it, die trying to force others to do so.

    You read it here first.

  44. Hammersmith says:

    Israel is and artifact of European colonialism. It has no legitimacy, no credibility. That is has evolved into a modern day Mississippi or South Africa simply verifies it corrupt origins.

  45. Year end tax planning may be a little tougher this season since the status of the Bush tax cuts and the federal income tax brackets continue to be up in the air. of course the expiring tax cuts won’t go into effect until 2011 but the pending improve in taxes for long term capital gains and dividends could mean you may benefit from some year end tax moves such as loss harvesting and wash sales.

  46. Beth Kaplan says:

    I’ll repeat my father’s words on this subject from many years ago: “They (the Arabs/Muslims) had at least seven countries to settle in; they had 60-70 years to do it in. Why *didn’t* they??”
    Having “said” that, I’ll continue thus: Trying for a single state with Jews and Arabs living and working together in peace, is utterly unworkable, I think. Not because I wouldn’t love to see it happen – but because I simply don’t believe the zealots (esp. on the Muslim side) would allow it. Most people don’t know (and many wouldn’t believe) that Hitler and Saddam Hussain were buddies during WWII, that Hitler ensured Hussain’s troops were trained in
    military maneuvers and sent someone high in the Party to
    recruit the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem to “rouse the rabble”:
    threaten the local Arab sheikhs and villagers into fleeing
    to the hills, abandoning their lands, even if it wasn’t wise to do so. For another matter, I gather there are Koranic verses (I don’t know which ones) which damn Jews as
    pigs and dogs in the worst way – for something that allegedly occurred way back in Muhammed’s time. And on these (and the virulent anti-Jewish hatred stirred up again by the Nazis) are based all 14 centuries of unreasoning hatred against Jews. (No less unreasoning a hatred than the Christians against us, and for no “better” reason.) Look who’s carrying a grudge, now! But the entire Arab world
    since 1948 (in fact, since Israeli Independence Day), has
    declared war against all of Israel’s Jews, threatening to
    push them all into the sea. Israel has had to fight at least
    five wars against the neighboring Arab nations – who have
    *ALWAYS* attacked first; the reason Israel has such a good
    military is every person knows it’s a matter of survival, that they don’t *dare* lose.
    Incidentally, for these Holocaust-deniers and lousy Arab
    apologists’ benefit, Israel was populated by those who, after WWII, survived the death camps – discovered by *OUR* and British GIs, Jews who were uniformly *refused* entrance by all Western countries on the mealy-mouthed grounds that they had “quotas” and couldn’t allow in any more. The fact is, they simply wouldn’t. They *refused* to raise the quotas, refused to remit them altogether, refused to help
    the refugees on the Hamburg ship that docked in Havana,
    were refused entry everywhere (“Ship of the Damned”), refused to bomb the railroad tracks leading to the death
    camps… They absolutely refused to do ANYTHING to help us – and after the war came “Operation Paperclip” (which some of you perhaps know about).
    And btw – I wouldn’t trust anything Obama does, anymore.
    He’s proven such a *massive* disappointment, considering he
    ran for President under a banner of change. Well, there’s
    been d–n little change, that I can see.

  47. Beth Kaplan says:

    “there are Koranic verses (I don’t know which ones) which damn Jews as pigs and dogs in the worst way”

    Pardon me, I meant “as the offspring of pigs and dogs” in the early section of my post…

  48. Hello, after reading this awesome piece of writing i am as well delighted to share my knowledge here
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  49. richard204 says:

    no one verses in koran says jews is pig

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