Disputed territories in the Middle East

Discussion in 'Politics and Society' started by Operacast, Jul 19, 2015.

  1. Operacast

    Operacast Member

    Mar 7, 2004
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    Check out this review of this behind-the-scenes book on the disputed territories in the Middle East --


    -- There is much to find fault with in much of what's said here. But it occasioned further reflections of my own that helped clarify in my own mind some sort of forward path out of this horror.

    First off, though, I have to say I found that this article does not entirely follow-up on certain statements at its outset. Early on, Siegel and Stern write:

    "The activists are willing to open up to the apparently naïve German and express their true beliefs about Israel and Zionism—hateful views they might be more circumspect about sharing with, say, a New York Times reporter."

    But nowhere in the rest of the article do we see any direct quotes along the lines of "Jews this" or "Jews that" from some of the activists covered in the book under review. Of course, it's possible there may be such unguarded remarks of that kind in the book itself after all. But this review utterly fails to quote a one, making hash of the above quote.

    Clearly, however, the most effective -- and devastating -- of the revelations that this review does indeed describe is that disgusting episode deliberately staged in Bi'lin. There, finally, we have a case of a behind-the-scenes look at wheels turning, the like of which would probably have never been granted to Tenenbom without his disguise.

    The most illuminating reflections in the review, it seems to me, are the kind of unwrapping at the end of the piece that could just as well have been arrived at without any undercover on-the-ground work at all:

    "Michelle, who is Jewish, has been hard at work pressing the Nakbah claim for all Palestinians, including Israel’s Arabs. She tells Tenenbom/Tobi that her NGO works with the Israeli leftist organization Zokhrot (meaning “remembrance”), which is dedicated to perpetuating the Nakbah myth and to compensating the dispossessed Palestinians by allowing millions of them to return to their ancestral homes in Haifa, Jaffa, and Jerusalem, thereby ending the Jewish state."

    This happens to reflect a "Eureka" moment that I happened to have a little over a month ago myself. I didn't need a Michelle working with Zokhrot to see the entire Palestinian talk of "right of return" as being an obvious and illegal counterpart to the irresponsible ultra-orthodox settlers' activities in the West Bank. Both strike at the heart of Oslo, and if carried out to their inevitable conclusion, each effectively rubs out the other state. This is why -- candidly -- both strike me as inherently unethical and immoral. They merely invite more and increased suffering.

    This article, for instance, is excellent in pointing out that (outside Gaza, which is a special case) most Palestinians in the area happen to be among the better off Arabs in the region. Consequently, any moral urgency for proactively pulling up stakes and moving back to "their roots" is murky, to say the least. Instead, the more I look at this "right of return", the more it strikes me as a thinly veiled road to mortal attack against Israel. The same is true, I feel, for the irresponsible ultra-orthodox settlers in the West Bank effectively moving in against Palestinian families. Both sets of would-be "movers" are mirrors of each other. The fact is that what's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander. Duh.

    I've arrived at a new -- provisional -- standard, and I'm not sure if it can hold up in the long term. But maybe it can. You see, it's true there have been displaced persons at the heart of many a new nation (India included, as pointed out in this article). Some of that displacement is merely consequential as a result of pressures that are built up that are not necessarily deliberate or conscious. Other displacements have been deliberate and consciously planned. Whichever, the result is new families that then spring up in certain areas hitherto foreign to those new families.

    Yet here's the nub: Innocent children of new arrivals also grow up in these new areas. Here is where I would suggest a new standard. By the time they are teenagers, these innocent children can only recall and are only comfortable in their new areas. The notion that they are just squatters on land that's not theirs is inherently cruel and unreasonable. They didn't take the land. Their ancestors did.

    Yes, there has been great suffering for those families who may previously have been there. But that's no moral or ethical reason to visit the same kind of suffering now on a new generation of the "other". In fact, such a notion is offensive -- or should be. Two wrongs don't make a right. Why visit the same suffering on the "other" previously visited on a previous generation? The new suffering -- and threat of virtual ethnic cleansing -- that would be visited on the Israelis if the "right of return" were to be carried out to its logical conclusion constitutes a new injustice, not justice at all. Any prior de facto ethnic cleansing that may have been the result of earlier policies aimed at the other side in years gone by will never sufficiently justify a new round of the same sort of suffering visited on a later more innocent generation of Israeli families.

    Likewise, I frankly feel the very same way about the Byzantine network of checkpoints that have arbitrarily and unjustly sprung up for Palestinians throughout the West Bank under Netanyahu as a result of this irresponsible orthodox settlers' movement for a new Judea and Samaria.

    The standard for not allowing removal for families with partly grown children from new areas unless it's voluntary, but of planned removal for new settlers, either Palestinian or Israeli, where partly grown children are not an issue, may make the best sense. Of course, there will always be discontent of some kind no matter how these agonized problems are resolved.

    However, I think the second principle, after the one involving partly grown children, should be that we not repeat the same degree of suffering endured by others in the past. Don't arbitrarily move in and disrupt the lives of a largely innocent generation on either side.

    Maybe the relatively well-off Palestinians through most of the area do indeed feel a certain pang of longing for places where their ancestors used to live. But that's nothing compared to the sufferings attendant on arbitrary mass migrations all-too-blithely contemplated right now and effectively enabled on both sides by the unreasonable likes of Barghouti (the pioneer of the highly suspect BDS movement that threatens to mainstream the destructive "right of return" idea) and Netanyahu (the most reactionary Prime Minister Israel's ever had whose goading of the settlers and draconian treatment of the Palestinians has marked a new low).


  2. Muslimwoman

    Muslimwoman Coexistence insha'Allah

    Apr 5, 2007
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    Hi Operacast.

    A very interesting post. A couple of thoughts if I may.

    You say "feel a certain pang of longing for places where their ancestors used to live" which makes it sound all dreamy and far off in the distant past. Of course many of the new generation of Palestinians have grandparents still alive who were removed from their homes and villages in 1948 (my parents were born in 1942 and 1944 and are both still alive, so the timescale is within living memory). Didn't many Jews pray for hundreds of years to be able to return to Israel, the place of their ancestors? So why would Jews hold such a longing in their hearts for so long but expect Palestinians to basically 'get over it' during their lifetime or within one or two generations?

    One of the hardest parts of this discussion and of being a supporter of the BDS movement is the Israeli insistence in associating the movement with Jews and anti semitism. That of course is their point, by associating they can play the victim but while there are many anti Semites who simply follow such movements because they see them as anti Jewish, there are also many people who have no issue with Jews who simply detest the way Israel as a political entity is treating Palestinians, Arab Israelis and stealing land in the West Bank. When are Israelis going to stop trying to rewrite history and stand back to consider that their actions may be the reason Israel is so often at the top of people's agenda?

    While I detest the way Israel was created, both by the British and by Jews turning up and ethnically cleansing entire villages, it was done and can't be undone and everyone needs to accept that but it does leave a nasty taste in the mouth and things need to be done to right some of the wrongs, as was expected of Germany after WWII. I can also see why Israel doesnt wish a right of return, as it would end Israel as a Jewish state ... that would be a good thing if Israel then became a secular state but we all know that wouldn't happen ... but where I lose my temper is on Israe's insistence that a future Palestinian state must not include a right of return Who are the Israelis to decide who can live in another country? It also smacks of 'the more Arabs there are living in a neighbouring state the longer it will take us to get rid of them', based on the calls for Israel to take all of ancient Jude and Samaria.

    From the link that you provided it says "Even in Tel Aviv, founded by Jews in 1909, Zokhrot (with Michelle’s help) is agitating to rename some streets according to their “original Palestinian names.” which completely ignores the fact that Tel Aviv grew out of the 3,000 year old city of Jaffa. It's rewriting history and just sweeping facts on the ground under the proverbial carpet.

    The problem with "the other" is it is inshrined in Israel, so how can it go away? What are the new generations doing to change the status quo? We see young Israeli members of the Knesset calling for genocide, referring to little snakes in their mother's womb, young children writing messages on bombs, etc, so have they changed the attitudes of their near ancestors or are they still going down the road of "the other" and perpetuating the attitude that Israeli Arabs are tolerated visitors as long as they don't have too many babies. You say why visit the same suffering on the other but you don't mention that people are still being removed from their homes, not allowed to build on their land, etc to make way for more settlements which is going on as I type, so talking of young generations being able to stay where they were born and the fear of retaliatory ethnic cleansing is simple hypocrisy I'm afraid. The West Bank and Jerusalem are occupied territories so it doesn't matter who was born there during the occupation they have no right to remain and there are good reasons this was written into international law.

    It is so obvious to the world that the settlement building and joining them up was always about eventually saying "well it exists now and we were born there so we should keep all this and they can have the little enclaves that remain or they can just be absorbed into Arab countries" which is appalling and it's not historical, it's happening on the ground right now and it's unacceptable.

    Personally I would like to see a two state solution with the settlers being absorbed back into Israel and Jerusalem being designated an international city. The Palestinians say they need Jerusalem as a capital but the world owes it to them to build them a new capital city. I actually love an idea I read recently where the UN moves its headquarters to Jerusalem and it becomes like the Vatican, a unique entity.

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