What Now (July 24, 2014)

Yesterday, I sent out e-mails to facebook friends that had expressed some interest in what is going on in Israel/Palestine/Gaza, asking:

Simple question.
1. What do you propose that Israel do right now?
2. What do you propose that Israel do over a five year plan?

To my understanding, articulation of a goal and strategy to realize a humane goal, is the hundred thousand dollar question of the day.

Things are changing very quickly. Attitudes are changing very quickly. My attitudes have changed considerably in a short three weeks. These are answers at a point in time, of good people trying to work to make the world a convivial home (for ourselves and families, for neighbors, for spirituality).

I sent out the letter to around 40 individuals and got 29 responses, a very high percentage even to people that one knows. Thank you.

To summarize:
In the short term, there were some black-white distinctive answers revolving around whether Israel should seek a cease-fire or continue with a military effort until some tangible goal is achieved.

Of the 27 respondents, 10 stated that they thought that the Israeli military should continue in Gaza (some temporary and conditional, others with no clear criteria for ending, or not at all), 10 stated that Israel should voluntarily participate or unilaterally initiate a cease-fire (some conditional, others unconditionally), and 11 stated that they did not know what Israel should do right now, or didn’t directly answer the question. (Some said both cease-fire and continue military.)

There was a variety of opinion on whether and to what extent to involve Hamas.

Of the 27 responses, 2 emphasized contacts with Hamas, 6 emphasized accepting the Palestinian unity government, 6 emphasized contacts with the PA primarily – as distinct from the unity government, 2 emphasized no contact with Hamas at all, 15 didn’t address the issue of Hamas directly, or didn’t know.

There was a variety of opinion on whether to emphasize social, bi-lateral political, and/or multi-lateral political efforts.

Of the 27 responses, 3 emphasized face to face relationship-building, 15 emphasized direct talks between Israel and PA (current or unity government), 2 recommended watching or permanent defense, 10 emphasized international participation in negotiations (Arab League or UN), 10 emphasized electoral and social/legal reforms within Israel, 4 didn’t comment on the venue for their recommendations or didn’t have a clear opinion.

My own, 28th voice (so far, I hope more respond, and keep the question a live one often), is in the short-run, I believe that Israel should continue its military effort, certainly to destroy as many of the offensive tunnels as they can, weapons caches, and to weaken Hamas to the point that either an international transition occupation or PA control over Gaza is achievable. Then, Israel should stay out of the way and allow Palestinians to have independent elections, in which they can THINK out their future goals.

While I hold many members of Hamas in respect, I believe that their decision in the late 90’s to emphasize (more than emphasize) their militia over their social service efforts fundamentally corrupted them. The formed a nut to protect a shell rather than a shell to protect a nut, in the accurate description of “using bodies to protect weapons”.

Mid-term, I think that Israel should negotiate with the elected Palestinian government, and firmly negotiate mutually viable two-states that are healthy good neighbors. They should engage in the common competition of hospitality, in which neighbors compete to see which will be more generous. (A friend in Israel told a story of his visit to a Palestinian neighbor. They argued vigorously over who should be responsible to pay for some food that they each ate. My friend lost the argument. The Palestinian won the honor of being the person to pay. It took a half-hour to figure out per my friend.) That’s what we should be doing, competing for who can help the most, like real friends do.

In all the venues. Face to face relationship-building, economic development, cooperative joint needs (water, public health, ecology, culture), and in political compromise. (Israel should offer more then the green line so that Palestine can be viable and healthy and know that it is valued, honored.)

My and my friends’ two cents.

Akiva Eldar

Bibi should ask to appear total in front of a special summit of the Arab league and declare that he accepts the API.

Harvey Stein

Richard – I hesitate to answer for several reasons. First, I’m not a politician and I prefer to deal with deep motivations and processes rather than surface policy. Second, I think the question is a bit one-sided. First, it’s not what we should “do” that is important. The most crucial change in Israelis would be if somehow (I don’t know how exactly) more Israeli leaders began to see Palestinians and Arabs as real people, NOT just as projections of their fears. One consequence of this is that Israel would not refuse to “talk to the enemy”. We would realize that the most fundamental action we can take is – talking with the enemy. Any successful negotation takes place when each party knows the other. I believe in “win-win” as the cutting edge negotiating tactic, and this can’t be done unless we develop a real RELATIONSHIP with our neighbors. Second, I know from experience that most of us Westerners (and all humans too) tend to be anchored in “me.” When you start stating your needs (I have noticed recently that you – and many Israeli leaders – need “all the tunnels to be destroyed” before any other substantial progress) start stating “what Israel should do”, you forget to ask, “What will Israel GIVE in exchange for what Israel will GET”. Again, all healthy human intercourse is relationship. I loved when Uri Avnery (who has lived here since 1933) mentioned to me the “Israeli national autism.” To me, it became so clear. All humans are rooted in “me”, but Israel is more rooted in “me” than most of us – which again, is why the most fundamental change is we Israelis and Jews must learn to relax the “me.” (Of course these symptoms are those of trauma surviviors, and the crucial healing in Israelis is to feel that “I will survive, I am safe” etc) OK, that’s a few thoughts in response to your questions. I am so glad that I have a few good FB friends in Gaza – I real their terrified statuses, I make comments, I make myself look at the photos of a Gazan dad with his little son in his arms, his son’s head half blown off….. It is not about what Israel should do. It is about radically changing our habits towards, “What can we of both sides learn to do together.” End of lecture…. Back to work here. I’m very relieved, and fingers crossed, that Jerusalem has had no alarms since we returned. Tel Aviv has daily alarms, Gaza has them one an hour etc…..

Hamas are exactly as aggressive “me” as Likud and the entire governing Israeli coalition. They’re ALL bullies, all allergic to talking, they all need each other to stay in power. I hesitate very, very strongly to demonize any Other. There are moderate Hamas, extremist Hamas. How can one human presume to know exactly what is going on in another’s behavior, simplifying ANY person’s behavior to X or Y? One of the most interesting articles I read recently is this one by Noam Sheizaf: http://972mag.com/why-do-palestinians-continue-to-support-hamas-despite-such-devastating-loses/94080/


A resident of Melbourne Australia

Richard , after hearing Yossi Klein Halevi last night , and hearing how Israelis have all internalised and carry the Right- Left debate within them , and are schizophrenic with it, I have come away feeling more paralysed for Israelis than ever. You have seen me being idealistic but even though Halevi made everyone feel understood, even though he made some suggestions for the future , his hope lay more on others acceptance of our status quo than on any major Israeli change at all . Halevi basically described how united all Israel is behind Netanyahu , because of his caution , even if he is unpopular . He is still very strongly supported, particularly in war time. Israelis have learnt that the rightist approach wont bring peace and that neither will the leftist approach bring peace . To tell you the truth he did not offer a ‘remedying ‘ of Zionism like Shavit or Beinart did , although he does want settlements to be frozen on WB and for us to not confuse moral self analysis with external defence.( in practice and in conversation) But he also stated that Israelis will not share Jerusalem whilst Hamas terrorism prevails. . He had VERY little to say on ROR and this disappointed me greatly . I feel like he represented the mainstream Israeli , without a future narrative , hoping that alliances will change in ME and that the world is waking up to Israels predicament . I found he explored Israel’s psyche with us in a deep way , but did’nt explore Palestinian psyche or losses much at all. This has left me feeling empty and without a thing to say today . How can i talk about any solutions when its not in touch with Israelis on the whole? Halevi commented too that when the Keri initiative failed , no one was out demonstrating …no one had expected it to succeed. So to tell you the truth , today I feel all out of suggestions. If it changes I will respond. The way Halevi framed the conflict mainly with Gaza and Hamas , and ignored framing accord to peace on WEst Bank and Abbas, also to a large extent ignoring refugees in camps and the humanitarian crises that still presents , has left me feeling very hollow.Basically he acknowledges this conflict is about 48 and not 67 , but had no substantive way forward to offer. He didnt say it , but implied was status quo with a freeze on settlememnts , full rights in Israel itself to be remedied….and hoping the future can improve as the middle East can suddenly improve , as it did with Sadat . It didnt convince me, as he did not address deligitimisation at all , other than to describe how existentially he feels we are not yet accepted in these circles as indigenous, I cant help feeling he is still rooted in his great past research and not yey fully grappling with where other sectors of the Palestinian psyche is at. as far as Gazaz goes , apaprently trhe tunnels are so extensive that Halevi feels there will be an investigation to see why they were undetected or else known about and nothing was done. he feels Bibi had no other choice in each case in this war. Whilst i generally feel Halevi is a very ‘traditional’ voice , i am not relating so well to peter Beinart’s criticisms of Bibi . I feel Israel is kinda trapped by Hamas but has no solution . So , Richard , I need time to reflect ….tit feels to me as if there is no more middle ground. Even Beinhart is not positive about 2 state solution. And Israelis are moribund in realism i think with neither the right or the left One staters having an answer to how Israel would stay Jewish and democratic. One would have to go.

Martin Goodman
1) Continue trying to end Hamas 2) More overtures of peace towards the residents of Gaza and the Palestinians 3) Draft a comprehensive deal and submit it to the United Nations for approbation

Rabbi Gershon Steinberg
Seek a ceasefire. And, lift the blockade. Seek to create a separate Palestinian State with United Nations recognized borders and with Jerusalem as the Capital of both Palestine and Israel under International status.
A Prayer for Peace

Aziz Abu Sara
Cease fire. Easing the blockade. Mainly on food and needs of population. No need to block chocolate for security reasons. Negotiate with a unity gov that represents both Hamas and Fatah

Yonah Fredman
I have no idea what Israel should do now.
for a five year plan, I propose a demilitarization of gaza an end to the siege and negotiating a border with the PLO regarding the future state of palestine.

A well-known and loved progressive Israeli journalist
bearing in mind that this is impossible with the current government: 1. Open direct talks with Hamas, careful not to undermine or backstabbing The PA, staying open to and cooperative with the original Fatah-Hamas link. Talks would offer relief or lifting the Gaza siege and paying civil servants in exchange for verifiable truce and some demilitarization and or PA presence in Gaza. 2. Expand on 1 to work toward an internationally supported 2 state solution including Gaza.

Noam Sheizaf
1. israel should end the military operation in Gaza immediately, let fishermen leave for deep water, open land crossings for airport and export, then conduct brief negotiations who have one goal – creating mechanism to end the water and arial blockade.
2. Israel should reach an internal decision to end the occupation immediately, and enter negotiations only on the issue of implementation and desired solution (1state/2ss). there will be considerable security risks and perhaps violence (both Jewish and Palestinians), but this will happen anyway and in any scenario, so better do it now.

Shel Horowitz
1. Stop killing people and use the criminal justice system rather than war to go after the kidnappers.
2. Begin a process of reaching out, providing organized venues for Israeli Jews and Palestinians to interact with each other, seeking the areas of common ground, seeking ways to provide technical assistance and support to each other, finding ways to grieve together and get past the violence, as happened in Ireland and even Rwanda. And sitting down together to figure out some way of governing that place that respects the rights of both peoples.

Carlo Strenger
What Northern Ireland Can Teach Us About the Hamas Problem
You can never achieve a lasting peace if a major player in the conflict is excluded from the process.
Hamas’ impact on the Israel-Palestine conflict has been phenomenally destructive. The organization has made sure to undermine any positive dynamic that could have paved the way to a two-state solution. Its suicide bombings in 1996 made sure Benjamin Netanyahu won that year’s general election — and Netanyahu has previously taken pride in having destroyed the Oslo process during that 1996-1999 tenure.
Hamas’ shelling of the country’s south since Israel’s disengagement from Gaza in 2005 has become one of the main reasons Israelis are not willing to take the risk of the Israel Defense Forces’ withdrawal from the West Bank. Israelis rightly ask what would happen if Hamas took over the West Bank and could turn life in all of Israel’s population centers into a living hell.
These fears are only exacerbated by Hamas’ infuriating cynicism and its use of Palestinian civilians as human shields. Most rockets are launched from densely populated areas, and Hamas does everything to prevent the civilians the IDF has warned of imminent bombardment from leaving their buildings. Hamas has certainly earned being classified as a terror organization by the Free World: its disregard for human live — mostly Palestinian, but also Israeli — is appalling.
Israel’s extreme right-wingers bask in macho statements (some of them made by women) that Hamas must be destroyed, neutralized, disarmed, shattered or smashed. This makes for good rhetoric but is utterly useless. Naftali Bennett, Danny Danon (whom Netanyahu rightly fired from the government this week), Avigdor Lieberman and Co. can dispense such advice freely, since they know it will not be implemented. If they actually had to take responsibility for their inflammatory rhetoric, they would be in trouble, because then they would have to come up with a plan on how to do this — which, of course, they do not have.
Here is Israel’s conundrum: When we leave the realm of irresponsible rhetoric and enter the world of actual planning, there seems to be only one way out — and this way creates a problem for Netanyahu.
There is remarkable consensus, ranging from Haaretz commentator Zvi Bar’el to a recent Guardian editorial (a paper generally quite critical of Israel), that the unity government of Fatah and Hamas established in June is Israel’s only chance to stabilize the situation. It would allow Fatah gradually to regain control over the Gaza Strip, creating a situation in which Israel would have a partner for negotiations that has control not only in the West Bank but in Gaza as well.
Many a reader might now want to ask: “You just wrote that Hamas is a cynical organization that doesn’t shy away from horrendous acts — and now you’re telling us it needs to be involved in a future peace process, even if indirectly? Are you out of your mind?”
As much as I loath Hamas, its anti-Semitic charter and the brutality of its leadership, I have also studied the logic of peace processes around the globe, with the help of Lord John Alderdice. He is one of the world’s leading authorities on the topic, receiving his lordship for his contribution to the Northern Ireland peace agreement. One of the main lessons Alderdice has learned from his participation in that peace process, and his involvement in many other conflict areas, is that you can never reach durable calm if a major player of the conflict is excluded from the process.
The analogy with Northern Ireland is instructive. The Ulster conflict, generally known as The Troubles, lasted 30 years and cost about 3,500 people their lives — and the conflict had roots that went back to the 17th century. Britons viewed the Irish Republican Army with no less loathing than we currently view Hamas, and the IRA’s terror tactics were often horrifying. There are even more analogies to the Israel/Palestine conflict, including the hunger strikes of Republican prisoners that played a crucial role in the conflict. And yet the IRA’s political wing, Sinn Féin, became a central player in the peace process that led to the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.
Israel is currently not willing to recognize Hamas as a legitimate political party. Emotionally, I couldn’t agree more, and I have accused Hamas more than once for its destructive impact on the area and the terrible price it exacts from its own people. But if I look at Israel’s long-term interest, it is clear that without involving Hamas in some way, Israel will be under attack time and again in the coming years, and in the long run Hamas will undermine any attempt to achieve a durable agreement with Palestine if it does not get involved in the political process.
The Palestinian unity government would allow Israel to stabilize the situation in the short term, without directly talking to or recognizing Hamas for the time being. But this requires that Israel becomes serious about moving toward a durable agreement with the Palestinians, which places Netanyahu in an impossible situation. He is currently in open conflict with his own party and his “natural” allies from the right, including the settlers. His laudable restraint in the current round of conflict with Hamas has isolated him even further, and he does not have any political backing in his own camp for a constructive policy toward the Palestinians.
Danon, a powerful leading figure in Likud, has lately called him the “Labor Party’s subcontractor,” and it is unclear how much backing Netanyahu has in his own party — which has, for some time, ceased to be a mainstream right-wing party and moved toward the extreme right as represented by figures like Danon and Miri Regev.
In a sense, it is difficult to feel much sympathy for Netanyahu, because the extreme right-wing party he currently heads is largely of his own making. In the 1990s, he did much to create Likud’s culture of hatred for the peace camp, and he didn’t do much to moderate his second government from 2009-2013.
Unfortunately, the same cautiousness that has led Netanyahu to keep escalations with Hamas within limits is also likely to keep him from courageous moves and to engage with the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, reaffirmed lately by former Saudi Intelligence Chief Turki al-Faisal in the pages of Haaretz.
And if Netanyahu will not muster the courage for a creative long-term strategy, the next escalation with Hamas is only a matter of time.

Greg Pollack
) Likely missiles are now being fired further within Gaza. Don’t go there. Destroy the tunnels you’ve found an pull out. Search for exists on the other side and collapse them. Unilaterally cease bombing, but announce a single major damage hit, including but not limited to loss of life, will trigger a full resumption. Privately, agree in principle to controlled imports based on American aid.
2. Freeze settlement expansion. Construct the rule of law in the WB where IDF soldiers and settlers are responsible for unwarranted trespasses on person or property. Announce that the election of PA reps is not your concern; that only policy of an elected regime will determine response. Have privileged imports into Gaza via American aid, with security checks at point of origin and arrival. Request US funding of two or three Iron Dome batteries, as well as full replenishment of present depletion. Open if Israeli crossing to transport into Gaza only, not people crossing; urge Egypt to allow people crossing in the South. State empathically these are only first step measures and ask for advise on how to proceed. Come to terms with your settler and national right thugs. Stop allowing race and religion to trump the rule of law. Forbid, at the cabinet level, policy advocacy which limits citizen rights within Israel. If you want to so advocate, you are in the Knesset but not government. Inquire honestly as to why Arab Israelis rioted. Provide municipal services to East J. Stop acting like acts in the WB and EJ don’t have implications in Gaza. I guess that’s enough.

James Adler
Ok, got them and I’ll respond. 1. What do you propose that Israel do right now? Declare a cease-fire, make Hamas look foolish if they keep firing (and since the rockets aren’t harming Israelis aside from the one tragic case it may be worth the risk and would certainly save lives of Israel soldiers) –and make Hamas look foolish and in a bad light if they didn’t. Then while Kerry’s there start taking him seriously, announce a total settlement freeze, that Israel will be willing to make substantial permanent withdrawals that all N.’s predecessors were willing to, announce it’s willingness (and be serious about it) to consider both the Saudi Peace plan of 2002 and the Geneva Accords of 2003, both of which it disdained and ignored. 2. What do you propose that Israel do over a five year plan? I didn’t realize the next question covered some of this. Work vigorously to support Kerry’s work, engage seriously and intensively on the Saudi Peace plan and Geneva Accords, announce wilingness to discuss East Jerusalem as the Capital of Palestine, quietly stop the absurd unprecedented (for Israe’s ownl PMs and in Israel’s own diplomatic history) that Abbas be humiliated made to become a “Zionist” by recognizing Israel as a “Jewish State” which no other country in the world has had to do and are not in the peace treaties with either Egypt or Jordan; on and on and on… : ). Cheers…
Yes. One thing if wouldn’t mind adding both now and next 5 years– Israel Putting the November 200 Barak offer/terms back on the table and also the Taba January 2001 near-agreement terms back on the table; if Israel really wants peace and we certainly want peace and security and end to thne confflict for it and if they do to ; and theSaudi’s and Arab League never took there offer offer off the table in the last 12 years. So add to Geneva Accords, Saudi Peace Plan, and Kerry efforts, also Barak Plan and also where they ended up so close at Taba, that stopped because Obama was a lame duck due to Gore’s stolen election, and GW Bush was about to take office who didn’t care about any of this until Condi Rice took over 6 years of his 8 terms in office later…. Thanks Richard—

Yigal Gafni
Israel should keep firing for the next 3-4 days till Hamas reach its breaking point, Israel should stop aerial bombardments and murder of civilians. In the Long run, Israel should accept the Unity Government and allow elections in the territories. Recognize the new Palestinian President and announce Its willingness to negotiate a peace treaty based, like all the others, on June 4 67. It should also recognize the API and invite the King of Saudi Arabia to pray at Al Aksa.

Rabbi Chaim Adelman
Take immediate and permanent control of Gaza

Ira Weiss
I try to analyze the effects of different scenarios, but i don’t live in Israel or Palestine and don’t propose what they should do.

Zvi Levy
Did you see this article by a friend of mine? http://www.thenational.ae/opinion/comment/peaceful-resistance-could-deliver-the-greatest-dividends

Peaceful resistance could deliver the greatest dividends | The National

David Cooper
1. Depose Hamas in Gaza and replace it with the PA.
2. Reach a comprehensive peace agreement with PA.

Lee “Tax Carbon” Diamond
Ira Weiss is exactly correct. Can’t win with purely military strategy. There are groups today more radical than Hamas. Israel is just waging the same old game. Abbas has given a lot in the last several years. Israel needs to work a broader deal with Palestinian SOCIETY. Start with the West Bank But, they first need to extricate themselves from Gaza. Then, they have to give the Palestinians an incentive to reject violence. Long term, they have to pursue peace. That means first and foremost, stopping settlement construction or expansion

Larry Derfner
Accept a cease-fire pretty much on Hamas’ terms, or certainly on terms that allow Gaza to breathe. Should also seek technological way to destroy tunnels on Israeli side. (If it were up to me, I would lift the blockade of Gaza immediately, but that’s not going to happen.) Negotiate w/Abbas and Hamas for a two-state solution. (I would immediately tell 100,000 WBank settlers than in a year they will be living on foreign territory, and there’s a lot of compensation dough waiting for them in Israel proper, but that’s not going to happen, either.)

A resident of Queens, NY
Is it fair to say that my mind changes by the minute? Right now, my answer to the first question would be to demolish Hamas through a combination of means, including military force and strengthening the moderates. My answer to the second would be to freeze the settlements, make a beehive to Abbas’ office in Ramallah, and try to jumpstart talks.

Gershon Baskin
Marion Lipshutz
1. Ceasefire 2. Negotiations towards a 2 state solution, with Geneva Accord g G uidelines Acknowledge the Nabka, formal apology Palestine Israel close 2 state confederation with reparations to Gaza.
No more West Bank settlements! Full and free medical care to all injured Gazans.
Yes, and please add that I also support Gershon Baskin’s more detailed plan as well. It is on my Facebook page.

A resident of Northampton, MA
I am currently flummoxed. Can’t give them advice. I think the best outcome would be for the US to give the Iron Dome to Gaza and them duke it out without killing civilians
A five year plan is also hard…..the ideal outcome would be a peaceful Palestinian state in the W. Bank and Gaza, with no closures or cages, thriving and in peace with an israel that is not resource greedy and willing to work with them for peace. I don’t see anyone on either side willing to work for that. If the Israelis are not willing, I think the US has to stop enabling this ongoing war.
My thinking is evolving. Have you seen Gershon Baskin’s proposal for an end to the conflict on FB?

Reed Hwh
Simple questions, but not so simple answers. Lol. Ok. Can I think about it a little bit and get back to you so I have thoughtful and reasonable responses?
I think Israel should continue with its mission of disabling as much of Hamas’s military capabilities, terrorist sites, weapon caches and tunnels; using its doctrine of military deterrence, until Hamas acquiesces to the Egyptian ceasefire agreement. Once the ceasefire agreement is in place, Israel should have a couple of demands: 1) a demilitarization of all Palestinian militias, so the only limited armed forces in Palestinian Territories would be the PA security forces, who coordinate security with IDF; and 2) Hamas and all Palestinian political factions must accept the Quartet’s conditions; failure to do so will result in global consensus with the designation as a terrorist organization and ineligibility for Palestinian elections. In exchange, Israel can acquiesce to most of Hamas’s demands, with the exception of freeing prisoners, which include: • Withdrawal of Israeli tanks from the Gaza border. • Lifting the siege and opening the border crossings to commerce and people. • Establishing an international seaport and airport, which would be under U.N. supervision. • Increasing the permitted fishing zone to 10 kilometers. • Internationalizing the Rafah Crossing and placing it under the supervision of the U.N. and some Arab nations. • International forces on the borders. • Easing conditions for permits to pray at the Al Aqsa Mosque. • Prohibition on Israeli interference in the reconciliation agreement. • Re-establishing an industrial zone and improvements in further economic development in the Gaza Strip. In within the five years, the Palestinians should hold elections with international election observers present to ensure fair and free elections; only political parties and factions who accepted the Quartet’s conditions would be eligible. The PA should cease monetarily incentivizing violence, by ending payments to the families of convicted terrorists in Israeli prisons. They should also rename streets, public squares and buildings that have been named after terrorists. Then the PA-PLO and Israel should be required to reaffirm their commitment to the two state solution and previous negotiations, including the Clinton Parameters, Taba Summit and Road Map for Peace. Then final negotiations should be held and the unresolved issues addressed in a final and lasting peace agreement.

Ethan Schwartz
1)continue cleaning out the rockets and the tunnels. 2)sign a cease fire that includes a Qatari presences and the building of infrastructure. The building of a port for loading and off loading materials that have been checked at Ashdod harbor. That’s off the top of my head.

Shmuel Rosner
Keep fighting. Keep talking to PA about bettering on the ground situation.

A Brooklyn, NY resident prominent in the Jewish community
unilateral cease fire; join the EU call for Hamas to disarm. wait. and if necessary, go back in with ground troops. i am here and while there is great despair about the hoodlums on the right and the loss of innocent life in Gaza, there is strong unity on supporting the ground troops to destroy the tunnels.
Suzanne Brita Schecker
I propose Israel immediately stop the fighting in Gaza..
I propose that Israel’s get rid of Netanyahu and vote for a leader with a sincere desire and willingness to work for a lasting peace and a two state solution…

Paul Reti
Israel cannot change the Arab world.
Israel cannot change Arab culture.
It can only do essentially the same. Use the big stick occasionally, and wait while the Arab world sorts itself out, or self destructs.

A resident of Brooklyn, NY
Offer to open up talks with Hamas based on Hamas’ demands, which are not unreasonable, and agree to an immediate end of military operations on both sides on this basis.
Over the next five years, cultivate back-channel relations with Hamas based on stabilizing the situation, combating the Salafi threat, and opening Gaza to free trade and travel under the supervision of neutral bodies with observers from Israel and Gaza. Demolition of all tunnels as a quid pro quo.

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The Two-State Solution Changes

The prior concensus of what a two-state solution/approach would have looked like, is summarized by Obama’s statements in 2009, while he was committed to putting his personal political capital and the weight of US power and prestige into cementing completion of the deal that then Israeli prime minister Olmert and Palestinian Authority president Abbas started and nearly completed.

That is that based on the pre-1967 war armistice lines (formed in 1949), equal and consented land swaps would be treatied to comprise a permanent and consented border between viable and safe Israel and viable Palestine.

Unstated assumptions in that concensus included that the settlement blocs that were close to Israel proper would likely be incorporated into sovereign Israel and any protruding edges of otherwise consented settlement blocs and the settlement blocs deep within the West Bank (likely including the Jordan Valley settlements) would be incorporated into sovereign Palestine, and the consented assumption is that they would be required to be evacuated.

The settlement bloc of Maale Adumin was a source of contention. It protruded into the West Bank, creating a “waist” similar to the waist for Israel slightly further north.

There is a difference between the two “waists” though. Although there are potential staging areas for militants to cut off Israel at it’s waist, even in the six day and 1973 war, that was not undertaken or probably even conceived militarily. The Maale Adumin “waist” though does threaten to isolate East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank. The announcement of the settlement construction in the E-1 area (extending the Maale Adumin settlement bloc and connecting Maale Adumin to Israeli annexed and developed parts of East Jerusalem), did not threaten to completely sever Arab East Jerusalem from the West Bank, as was fairly widely reported, but would make access considerably more inconvenient and militarily exposed. A difficult location for a capital.

The assumed requirement for any of the settlements to be prospectively evacuated is inherent in all of the assumptions that I’ve read, from left and right. The left asserts that the permanence of the settlements’ residents themselves and unwillingness of the Israeli society to remove them, makes a two-state solution impossible, dead. The right site the demand that they be evacuated as reason why they can’t consider undertaking serious negotiation at this point. The numbers prospectively slated to be evacuated are either up to 20,000 in remote outposts, up to 100,000 in the far-flung settlements, up to 350,000 in the non-suburb settlements not so far-flung, or up to 650,000 of all east of the green line.

In contrast, prime minister Fayyad offered an alternative. That was to allow the settlers to remain in Palestine (with whatever border) but renounce Israeli citizenship, and adopt Palestinian. Settlers themselves or the Israeli state would then compensate either individuals or the Palestinian state or parallel land trust agencies for the value of previous extra-legal appropriations, and forego the exclusively Jewish permission to reside in the settlements. The proposal puts an end to the nature of the settlements as Israeli state sponsorship of state expansion.

In interviews this past week, Fayyad further stated his regret that the US had conspicuously used the language of “swaps”, as that led to Israeli liberal hopes that the protruding settlements could be part of Israel (they all protrude some), comprising a common gerrymandered pattern of border, rather than a more rational contiguous region, that accommodated a Jewish minority, in similar scale to the Arab minority in Israel.

Abbas rejects the Fayyad approach of allowing settlers to remain in Palestine, instead insisting on forced removal, or very conditional application for Palestinian citizenship.

From this impasse, numerous “single-state” proposals are being floated from sometimes odd sources. The Israeli proposal comes from Moshe Arens (former likud defense minister), in which the West Bank would be annexed, all residents would be granted citizenship, comprising a 61-39 Jewish demographic majority, with Gaza entirely excluded, presumed to form an independent state. Others from the left include full establishment of one-person one-vote including Gaza, and also including the right of return for diaspora Palestinians to anywhere in the river-to-sea area. Including Gaza would likely comprise a 51-49 Arab majority. Including the right of return, assuming that in a single state, it would be highly exercised (unlike to the likely exercise to a Zionist state), would result in a 60-40 Arab majority, or greater.

There is no consensus for any of these options. And, as there are so many options, with so many affected and primarily distrustful of the other, to sort through them would either take dangerous and bold leadership on partners’ parts, or just won’t happen.

There is a significant danger that aggressions will escalate, that sequences of confrontations would add up to war. There are so many possible scenarios that prediction is difficult, but the range includes war with Iran and Hezbollah, the spread of a third violent intifada into the West Bank, cruel forms of BDS, conflict and possible war with Egypt, civil war in Jordan, WMD war with Syria. Lot’s of horror stories.

Other more benign possibilities include entirely non-violent third intifada in the West Bank, deferral of Hamas to PA authority with a new election and shared government, continued Egyptian role as mediator.

The consequences of increased violence in the West Bank is the likud right’s dream, resulting then in likely annexation of Area C (all of the settlement blocs and Jordan Valley), Israeli removal from areas under Palestinian control, permanently separating West Bank from Gaza, and the West Bank from East Jerusalem, landlocked and surrounded by only Israel (like the Bantustans). Likud regards that as survivable, resulting in temporary isolation from Europe and US, but ultimately creating a new fact on the ground, analagous to a new accepted armistice line.

Faced with West Bank violence, and the complex of “we’re unwilling to accommodate the settlers”, they will consider annexation of Area C their only choice.

My own sense is that the Fayyad proposal is the only two-approach remaining, and that Abbas should adopt it, and the Israeli and western left should adopt it.

As the communities do not think of themselves as one nation, and the various dissenting groups pursuing a single state are sadly NOT undertaking the kind of integration and persuasion efforts that would be necessary for it to be viable and desirable if remotely possible at all, that the two-state approach remains the only one that could be characterized as democratic. All others result in imposition on the governed, rather than consent of the governed. A single state solution would then be very unstable, again with dangerous prospects for all communities should violence result.

(At the same time, the one state accommodating a plebiscite after passage, might be the fastest path to a two-state solution, as the two state solution achieved five years ago, might have been the fastest path to a single state – following calm, then increased transit, then open transit and trade, then multi-national federation.)

A way forward?

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“All My Relations/Tikkun Olam” – Conspiracy of Wholeness

I have a trivial story that I told my children growing up. I’ve revised it here from what I told them. The punchline is the same.

“There once were two brothers around bar mitzvah age who were confused about what their adult life was going to be like. They asked the teacher. What should I do in life? What is a good Jewish life? What is a good human life?

The teacher spoke of the process of creation, that God only went so far in the creation process, and then rested, that the remainder of creation was for us to participate in, and do the best that we can. The boys responded, “What does that mean?” (in not that nice language).

The teacher then spoke about how all things in the world, at whatever scale are in a state of tension, of pulling apart, falling apart. That in a healthy being, those tensions exist in a state of balance, so that they don’t fall apart, and are in fact useful characteristics in a helpful life. But, that inevitably things start to and then do fall apart.

And, that through whatever form, wherever you find yourself, the best that you can is to help people, communities, nature, your family “get it together” (to coin an apt sixties phrase). In a word, that you should work to make things whole, in all your relations, where you find/put yourself.

So, the young men later went out into the world.

The older found that there was MUCH that had fallen apart in the world, that there were many people’s lives that were distressed, even people that were very close to him. He noticed patterns to that distress, that many people had similar maladies, from similar causes, with similar subsequent symptoms.

He got angry about that, and decided that he would put his teacher’s words into practice, and vehemently criticized the system and oppressive regimes that had caused so many such suffering. He went so far as to participate in some borderline violent demonstrations, and came to think of the wealthy, the powerful, authority in general as evil. He decided that he would work to tear down the system, and trust that nature was a self-organizing process, that something organic and better would replace what was.

His brother, did not get angry at social incongruities, as he had already gotten married and was much more concerned with the stability of his livelihood and family. He applied the same teaching differently. He noted that some revolutionaries (somehow he excused his brother) had excessively attacked some of his colleagues work that he knew was benevolently motivated (at least to the market targeted), and came to disregard and even to hate those that rebelled, those that sought to turn the world upside down. He even went so far as to attend rallies furthering the order of the status quo. Some of the rallies focused on the rebels, that they should lock the door and throw away the key. (He didn’t take those remarks seriously, preferring to consider other parts of the message as important. “Personal responsibility”

At thirty, both brothers were invited to a family event in which the teacher was also invited. It was the first time in a decade since they had seen him, and both were eager to tell of their lives and hear the teacher’s comments, endorsement and advice.

The first brother told of his life, of his current attitudes, of his sensitivities and angers, seeking the teacher’s endorsement. The teacher responded, “It is obvious that you have your heart in the right place. You are obviously at root a very compassionate man, to be so concerned with others’ suffering.”

The second brother told of his life, of his current attitudes, of his commitments, sensitivities and angers, also seeking the teacher’s endorsement. The teacher responded similarly, “It is obvious that you are very concerned about the well-being of your family, your community. I can see that at root you are a very compassionate man, to be so concerned with others’ welfare.”

But, then later, the teacher spoke to them together. “You are beautiful young men. I can see why your father is so proud of both of you.” (This confused each of them, as they each thought that the teacher would endorse their approach over their brother’s.)

“But, there is something that you are both doing wrong now. That is rather than making things whole, a lot of what you are both doing now is to make holes.

The difference in actions that you each feel called to, is really not that large.

You who feel concerned for humanity’s suffering should continue working for their restoration, helping them, and where you identify wrongs that suppress them in some way, working to change that. But, you should do so in a way that does not threaten or hurt the people that you believe are doing wrong. In fact, you should be appreciative of what they have accomplished in their lives, what they find important, why, and how. By remaining sensitive to ALL your relations, you will be better able to succeed at improving the lives of those that are harmed, those that you have come to care about.

You who feels the importance of family commitment, hard personal work, should value the efforts of those that speak up for others (and for those that speak up for themselves). They do not threaten your life. They offer you a window to improve your life. If we are successful in this world, but at others’ expense, then what have we accomplished. Have we made anything whole?

Jewish life is both a credo and an association. We have a purpose on the planet, of to serve as “a nation of priests”. Our association, our community, is not an end in itself, but a means to the end of serving as a nation of priests.

Some interpret that purpose as only or primarily the literal instructions for priestly service articulated by Moses for the tabernacle, then elaborated further in the Jerusalem temple worship.

Others interpret the phrase more broadly, meaning to “make things whole” where we stand, not just through sacrifice, or even prayer, but through the composite of our action, our life, our sensitivity.

The term “brit” (society), is in fact a conspiracy of wholeness, a community of people entrusted to make things whole, healthy, to aid in God’s work of creating a coherent, balanced, healthy world, during the period that God rests, now.

This is what I teach my children.”

All my relations.

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“All My Complaints” – Conspiracy of Entropy

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As If

My sources of information are limited. Of newspapers, I read New York Times, Washington Post, Haaretz daily. I don’t have a television hookup, so never see any commercial TV. Of blogs, I read 972, Open Zion, and Mondoweiss (even though I was banned from posting)  to gain a sense of the tenor of the dissenting community.

Among the dissenting community, many consider the prospect of a two-state solution comprised of a healthy and accepted Israel and  Palestine, as practically dead. The left authors that conclude that the two-state is dead don’t often distinguish their reasons. I wish they would clarify whether they regard it as undesirable in its own right, whether they conclude that the physical extent of the settlements prohibit the feasibility of a viable Palestine, or that they believe that the two-state is politically infeasible, that no ratifiable agreement is forthcoming.

Some of the prominent dissenting authors privately convey that they originally hoped for a two-state solution, that it was the most rational solution optimizing self-governance, but that they fear (more than fear, observe) that the likelihood of two states is growing difficult, remote, impossible.

So, if the two-state approach is stressed, potentially failing, dead even, what is the best response?

Absent a two-state solution there are really only two other political options. One option is the current status quo of Israeli control over a marginally independent Palestinian Authority, Palestinian community and West Bank land. The second is some form of federated or bi-national single state.

Internationally, both flavors abandoning the two-state solution, is a repudiation of dozens of UN resolutions, dozens of international court decisions, an utter revolution in the relations between Israel (and the PA) and all individual states that recognize them, rendering also dozens of bi-lateral agreements void. It does imply a comprehensive reinvention of every wheel, with inevitably odd bedfellows.

In the few polls conducted in Israel and in the West Bank on the question of the status quo vs two-state vs single state, the majorities all describe a preference for two separate self-governing states. (I haven’t read of published polls originating from either Gaza, or the Palestinian refugee/diaspora communities.)

I can’t then conclude that the two-state solution is “dead”, but that it is definitely ill, and worse, prohibited by a road-block from getting medicine in a timely manner.

I won’t bury a breathing child, however sick.

My instincts are to attempt to save the child, to work hard to if I can muster the energy and support.

So my next question is two-fold

1. How can change occur? What methods of action can I take that will facilitate the realization of two healthy, accepted self-governing states? What is likely to be effective?

2. What methods of action can I participate in without fundamental moral ambiguity or hypocrisy?

So, I look at the possible actions that I can do myself, enc0urage with words, and/or can facilitate with money and/or time.

1. Communication on behalf of community organizations and direct communication to Congress, and/or President. It seems insignificant, but it remains a good idea to support the efforts of J Street and other similar organizations to convey that there are in fact people that consider Palestinians in formation of US policy, will vote and contribute partially on that basis. But, as Israeli policy is so independent of US influence currently, that is unlikely to change much.

2. BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions efforts) – As much as the South African BDS campaign is promoted as a model of non-violent path to write the wrong of discrimination and suppression, I don’t find BDS likely to be  successful, nor benign. (It’s not non-harming, nor non-punitive. It’s just not harming through guns.)

Given that the Israeli populace lives in a state of low-level trauma, it is more likely that BDS will be perceived as an ethnically defined shunning, reminiscent of the law and “non-violent” support accompanying pogroms, holocaust, terror campaigns. The likely response to a “successful” BDS campaign will be for Israel to hunker down, accompanied by expanded efforts at suppression of Palestinians that won’t break under pressure. The darkness before the dawn, will really be the darkness before the deeper darkness. The slogans of “power can only be transformed by resistance” is a falsehood.

In contrast to the appearance of unanimous and unequivocal support for anti-South Africa apartheid BDS, I regard BDS as ultimately a wrong. It is an action of harming, a punishment, a shunning.

Sometimes wrongs are temporarily necessary to achieve a greater good, so long as the criteria for ending the wrong is clear and there is a path to end the wrong. BDS though is not constructed of clear demands, clear criteria, but instead comprise a set of principles deliberately left vague enough to attract a coalition of Palestinian solidarity support, a coalition of resistance, not of peace.

Inherent in any vehement social movement there is vanity of knowledge, the presumption that I/we know, supported by an effort to discipline to conforming political stances, and also underlying political attitudes.

The determination on the part of BDS proponents is a combination of real compassion, combined with false vanity of knowledge, self-censorship in books to quote for example, and a willingness to trash sanctioned trashable people. (It frankly sickens me to hear abusive generalizations about settlers, or ultra-orthodox, by people that have never heard, read, or met one, made by ideologs pretending to be acting for universal justice.)

Criticism makes sense. But there is a difference between criticism and prejudice.

What does that leave? Milquetoast? Wishing only? Unintentionally supporting the status quo, by my silence?

To my mind, it leaves only one option, that is genuinely non-violent in all respects, and affirms and furthers the prospect of two democratic healthy good neighbor states with much interaction.

That is the “as if” option.

The “as if” option has two themes that on the surface seem to contradict each other.

1. To act “as if” there is a separate sovereign Palestine. Absent an actual treaty, the only internationally consented even temporary border, is the green line.

But, on the ground, noone knows exactly where it is. The fence is not at the green line, except in a few areas. The areas that Israel has annexed are undifferentiated, even in some locales buildings straddling the green line.

So long as the green line is not marked, it disappears. Its not just memory. Its just gone.

The primary political “as if” action then is to physically mark the green line. I recommend that it be done with a symbolic green thread, designating its frailty, its human construction requiring reminder. Jewish Israelis, Palestinian Israelis, ambassadors, activists, can each mark a section, step by step. I recommend that it be conducted entirely silently, no t-shirt messages even. If done entirely calmly, deliberately, it need not provoke, but nevertheless makes its statement of the continued relevance of the green line, assertively.

Accompanying that knowledge of the green line, the second political “as if” action is to treat the land east of the green line as Palestinian territory, requiring formal permission in some form to enter. I would request then that the PA, or designated NGO (even a sympathetic Israeli NGO) process the voluntary equivalent of visa requests to cross from west of the green line to east of the green line.

The third political “as if” action, also requiring the PA or designated NGO to administer, is to collect voluntary taxes on all sales, income, property, meals for all activity east of the green line. So, if an Israeli or European tourist buys a meal east of the green line, they should then voluntarily pay the PA the simulated sales tax. If an Israeli business doing business east of the green line did so, that would be a stronger statement. If an Israeli export business (say Ahava) did so, that would be a stronger statement still.

The second major theme of “as if” is social. That is to enhance the integration/acceptance of Palestinians to Israeli and of Israelis to Palestinians, humanizing the other.

It takes a change in consciousness on the part of both communities to make substantive change. There are intentional respectful actions that each can do that do not imply any fundamental compromise, instead a fundamental affirmation of the respect of all living beings as the primary religious and philosophical value.

For Israelis, the most effective consciousness changing action that I can imagine is to actively affirm the memory of the Palestinian communities that resided on the land prior to Israeli dominance.  They should be remembered, honored, appreciated, not erased even if there is no physical prospect of return to them.

Other actions that can make fundamental change are cooperative efforts in areas of mutual concern. Those that claim to love the land, can only do so by working together to minimally harm it and to restore it where possible. Those that claim to care about public health, must affirm the health of their neighbors. Those that claim to love justice, must evolve means to resolve conflicts inter-personally, and if not resolvable inter-personally, by authoritative inter-communal courts that operate under consented principles, even if solely voluntarily subscribed to.

Cultural interaction should be enhanced, not boycotted. Intellectual and scientific discussion should be enhanced, not boycotted.

They are all doable. I think that these actions will make real change, and quickly.

Leaders will create the paths to. Individuals committed to doing good, will use the paths created to get to know their neighbors, and to honor their neighbors, including by the empowerment to self-determination.

“As if”. Build it and they will come.

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Palestinians Lives and Human Rights

I’ve been watching a number of debates between Peter Beinart and others and more conservative supporters of Israel.

There are two general themes expressed (both Zionist).

The conservative theme is that the status quo is just fine. The presumption is that Palestinians are not unduly burdened, and even if they are a bit, so what? There is a common reference to the need for a Jewish homeland, for that to be a safe homeland, that Israel is threatened (stated in present tense). Many site the vulnerability of Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, other large Israeli cities from the presence of any Palestinian sovereign state. Some conservative commentators disregard religious motivations for the status quo. Others invoke the religious motivations.

The reasoning though of desire for Israeli safety preserved by forceful (dominating) military and police relationship with Palestinians is shared by all the conservative commentators, as is a distrust of even negotiated agreement with the PA, even if ratified by Palestinian legislature and plebiscite.

Most have not seen the West Bank or Gaza, nor remaining Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and Syria. Most approve of the PA effort of institution building, but desire that it proceed to preserve the status quo, rather than as proof that the status should and can change.

In contrast, Jeremy Ben Ami of J Street, and Peter Beinart argue that the peaceful status quo is a deception of quiet, inevitably devolving if Israel annexes an iota more of land, and if the demographics in the region as a whole continue on current trends.

They describe that the world is coming to see the conflict through Palestinian eyes, that the theme of “we are under attack and therefore must enact martial law” is thinner and thinner, given Israel’s military dominance. When that incredulity becomes widespread, the world will demand that Israel offer Palestinians equal voting and other civil rights in the jurisdiction under Israeli control (Israel, West Bank, Gaza from a distance – blockade). That is the prospect of a single democratic state. (Some on the Israeli right propose a single federated state even, but limited to Israel and the West Bank, excluding Gaza, and definitely excluding Palestinian refugees.)

Beinart, Ben Ami, others pose the question in two phrases. If Israel chooses to be Jewish AND democratic, then it will actively pursue the proposal for two healthy states. In contrast, if Israel doesn’t choose the #AND# construction, then an #OR# construction of Jewish OR democratic will (d)evolve into apartheid-like (or worse) relations, international condemnation and isolation reminiscent of its first thirty years, civil war in some form .

The further left is jumping on this tension. There is a slowly growing boycott and divestment movement (at about the same speed as settlement expansion). The more idealistic are adopting equal human rights as the theme of their efforts. To the extent that those that approach dissent in those terms hold to the discipline of only speaking and consistently acting for human rights (and universally), they will gain a great deal of credibility and succeed in major improvements.

But, they don’t often. They flirt with proposals that functionally eliminate Israel as Israel (single-state accompanied by unlimited right of return to all descendents of former residents), and don’t think so far enough ahead even to consider the likelihood or actual necessary conditions of such a state remaining “#AND# democratic.

I personally have not been to the West Bank in 26 years, nor to Israel. I don’t know what life is like for Palestinians with the wall, checkpoints, limited right to travel outside of the area. I don’t know Israeli norms and current public opinion. I understand from a wide variety of Israelis and Palestinians that it is not genocidal, more like inconvenient plus, inconvenient about two steps beyond any irritating bureaucracy, but not to the level of active direct harming. Suppressive is the word, glaringly unfair certainly.

Gaza in 2008 was a continental divide in perception. Those that tended to think of Operation Cast Lead as necessary, settled on the view that Israeli policy towards Palestinians was just an irritating bureaucracy, that relative to Gaza, “they had it coming, and when it was over we stopped”. They accept the status quo.

Those that thought of Cast Lead as a sadistic assault on a captive civilian population concluded that Israel is a willingly murderous state (leaders and populace), intent on racial supremacy, annexation and dominance only. Some in the west have concluded to dedicate their lives to resistance of Israel, of which non-violent methods may be a merely a tactic.

Those that thought of Cast Lead as excessive beyond a limited engagement are in a quandry. We are asked by representatives of BOTH of our primary values (Jewish AND democratic) to pick which side we are on.

It is not getting simpler there.

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Homelessness vs Home(FULL)ness

Elaborating on a blog post at my other blog “Loving Home in Practice”


“Home(full)ness” is the concept of living fully in place. Its the basis of indigenous societies (including nomadic), and of ecological social views. It implies a loving relation to home (however defined), loved and loving.

The question certainly applies to Jews and other communities, including Palestinian.

Different similar themes reflect the social justice issues around Israel and Palestine.

For Jews in the early to mid-twentieth century, we realized that we needed a home. We were a coherent people, but without a home place. The former social (rather than geo-social) sentiment of “our family is our home”, or “our community is our home”, no longer sufficed, neither subjectively nor objectively. Cosmopolitan enlightened individualism compelled doubt towards the comfort of family or community as home. MANY Jews throughout the world were not safe. The coherence of continued Jewish community (our home) was not confident.

Between the Balfour Declaration, and the incremental improvement in sympathy towards the Jewish community following pogroms, Dreyfus debacle, holocaust; and the chaos in the Levantine colonized Arab world in the late 19th to mid-20th century, the sentimental dreamed land of Israel was first an ultimately God-promised, then Great Britain promised, then after the San Remo agreements a European promised, possibility of home and state. Israel and Israelis have not yet made the shift to home(full)ness. They are still on home(maybe)ness, some determined by external parties and events, some by the internal adoption of a commercial rather than ecological model of a mature society.

Homelessness to home-maybe-ness. Home(ful)ness comes only after peace and living well and lovingly in place.

For Palestinians, the assertion by solidarity is that the land was always home, always lived home(fully), at least as far as person-person story can convey. The land was home, and the communities were home. (Palestinian and all traditional societies relate to their family and community as home, in similar ways to the Jewish sense of family and community – but with very differing specific characteristics).

Within Palestinian culture, there was confusion as to political degree of pan-Arabic identification and/or pan-Islamic, versus distinctly Palestinian identity. (The identification with Palestine is more prominently an integration of social home with geographic home, whereas pan-Arab identification is of a people more than a place, and pan-Islamic is a human identification – for those that subscribe to the Islamic credo.)

It actually took the emergence, and then victory of Israel and the suppression of Palestinians to convey the more prominent specifically Palestinian national identification over the pan-Arab and pan-Islamic. Palestinians currently identify as Palestinians prominently, socially and politically in affirmation for self-governance, including West Bank refugee and indigenous, Israeli Palestinian, Gazan refugee and indigenous, middle eastern diaspora refugee, and western diaspora.

In some respects, the presence of Zionism is a zero-sum for Palestinian home(ful)ness. So long as Zionists remain, and more importantly, dominate and expand, Palestinians cannot establish the geographic relationship of towns and villages that would constitute coherence as a society.

In other respects, in a setting in which peace is possible, and “enough Israel” is possible and adopted by Zionists, then both communities may have the prospect of feeling that they live in a home space. Home(full)ness – objectively, individually subjectively and as communities.

For Israel, the evolution is internal and fundamental. From “wandering Jew” to living in place.

The transition is psychological, individual and collective. It comes from a weaving of neighbors, from a welcomed web of mutually dependent, mutually enhancing relations. In contrast, the commercial Jewish norm is alienating of person from neighbor, person from deep self, person from place.

Its as if Israelis have not yet decided if they truly intend to live there, themselves indefinitely, in place that is coherent and safe for their children, grand-children, ad infinitum.

I consider the effort to transform from home(less)ness to home(full)ness, to be an important, a progressive effort (in the real meaning of the term progressive – social well-being).

That moderate Israeli home-full-ness seems that it could be compatible with Palestinian home-full-ness is reassuring to me, in similar ways to the hope that Israelis that worship the ONE can acknowledge that Muslims similarly commitedly worship the ONE and that in doing so, the religions should be more kindred than adversarial.

The trick to accomplishing that, is for Israelis to undertake efforts that are home-full, in forms that don’t undermine Palestinian home-full-ness.

Israelis haven’t decided yet though whether they feel that they can co-exist with Palestinians or not. And, in a conspiracy of mutual distrust, many Palestinian solidarity regard Israelis firming up their home-full-ness in even “enough Israel”, even in ways that are independent or reject the occupation of the West Bank and isolation of Gaza, as by definition a destruction of Palestinian home-full-ness.

Better that we are all comfortable, accepted.

For my mind, the fundamental primary divide is not between Israel and Palestine, but between those that conclude that peace is impossible (Israeli, Palestinian and radical solidarity right – even when they call themselves left), and the willing (Israeli and Palestinian moderate and idealists).

It constructs a goal of home(full)ness for both communities, that what is moving forward is what makes each and either community more healthy, more safe, more well-integrated, more lovingly living in place.

No more zero-sum.

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Israeli Settlements in Palestine – Why They Matter

This post is stimulated by a New York Times op-ed authored by Peter Beinart, advocating for the boycott of Israeli settlement products and cultural interaction.

Peter (forgive my first name familiarity) takes a few important stands that make sense to me.

His primary assertion is that the two-state approach based on the last long applied consented functional Israeli/Arab(Palestinian) border – the green line, remains possible, is a desirable goal, and optimizes social justice.

In contrast to the multiple right and the left-wing versions of single state proposals, the two state approach leaves an Israel that has the potential of remaining a Jewish-majority state, resulting in haven and site of self-governance for the world Jewish community. It also has the potential to affirm the democratic values of its founders, citizens, world’s supporters, and international legal and social institutions.

That combination of national and democratic is a healthy tension, requiring persistent reference to ethical ideals to comprise a real Jewish state, an ideal in practice. It’s intimate, of the logic of families, constructed of emotional intelligence, caring as a verb.

To state the obvious, there is a Jewish majority on the west of the green line that desires to self-govern as a coherent Jewish community. And, there is a Palestinian majority on the east of the green line that desires to self-govern as a coherent Palestinian community.

If that is true, then a two-state approach optimizes self-determination, optimizes consent of the governed.

If the confident majority of the population from river to sea prefer a single state, feel that they do not self-govern in a two-state format, then a single state makes sense. To accomplish tangibly, it would require consent of a super-super majority, to the extent that civil values comprise an undeniable social norm.

If on the other hand, more than an insignificant minority in either community(s) felt that a single state format did not represent them, then internal civil strife or war would ensue, which would comprise a MUCH larger tension than the inherent tension/balance of a democratic nation, “liberal Zionism”.

A viable two-state requires two healthy communities that have the capacity to live as good neighbor to good neighbor. That requires universally vibrant economies, genuine democracy in each community, a sense of national pride in governing and social institutions, and respect and appreciation of the other.

Those are tangible constructions, that with imaginative and well-intended collaborative design, can be reconciled.

The monkey wrench is the settlements.

The settlements function as an Israeli state-expansion strategem. The settlers themselves are human beings/civilians, but the settlement enterprise at nut is a state-sponsored expansion effort. The physical pattern of “fingers” extending into desired territory is the chosen strategy for land settlement that began with the efforts of the yishuv in the 20’s. Its no coincidence that that strategy is continued. (The strategy didn’t originate with Zionists, and is nowhere near unique to Zionists.)

The application of the settlement expansion effort betrays the ethical balance of “enough”. If one does not have enough, then one must struggle to not starve or suffer. When one has enough, but continues to expand, and at others’ expense, then that is of a different moral character. And, much more than just an ethical question, suppressed individuals and communities’ natural state is rage, acted.

The settlement boundaries enacted is an old design. They were designed by Begin and Sharon in the late 70’s and early 80’s. The only new settlements designated since that time have been of renegades, the hilltop youth and religiously motivated.

The significance of the current discussion is of the imprinting of the permanence of the settlements as exclusively Jewish, and nationally as part of Israel.

An annexed West Bank is a rectangle and is “easy” to defend (in the language of likud). The green line is a waist and is defensible only with good background relations between the two states, even with clear borders and accountability of states. The wall is a maze, and is defendable only with the suppression of the Palestinians.

The options are:

  • Single Zionist state from river to sea, requiring a maximum of 25% Palestinian population in the jurisdiction at all, and no legal reconciliation of asserted title, sovereignty, and residency rights of Palestinian refugees. That is the path of slow forced ethnic removal, world denunciation, and continued resentment by Palestinians (and continued excuses by Israelis for suppression)
  • Maze two-states at the wall as boundary, requiring odd forms of Israeli military “defense” of the civilians in the settlements, permanently non-peer Palestinian governance, with no prospect of coherent economy. (As the path to the Mediterranean economy is blocked, the only potential economic growth is through Jordan.)
  • Two-states at or near the green line as consented boundary, allowing the settlers to remain in their homes on the east of the green line, as Palestinian citizens, participating in and obeying Palestinian law, without the protections of Jewish exclusivity, and with likely obligation to fund compensation of Palestinian community to perfect title.
  • Single democratic state with unlimited right of Palestinian return of refugees (soon a majority Palestinian state), hopefully permanently guaranteeing full civil rights to all individuals. America in the Middle East.

In a world without historical trauma, the single state might be possible and desirable. But, both the Jewish Israelis and Palestinians exist as coherent communities because of gross trauma. Healing of trauma doesn’t occur readily in a condition of threat or animosity.

“Boycott the settlements” to accomplish a two-state at the green line? I prefer another path.

And, that is also in the use of language and practice. That is to start acting as if the area east of the green line is Palestine.

Examples would include first marking the border, perhaps with a green thread so it is not forgotten, speaking of the land as Palestine (not as Samaria, not as West Bank, not of non-democratic Israel), seeking a visa from the Palestinian Authority to travel across the green line (even in Jerusalem), voluntarily paying a tax to the Palestinian Authority on all meals consumed in East Jerusalem for example.

Other examples of assertive efforts that a liberal Zionist can pursue are to honor the past residents. Rather than erase prior Palestinian villages (in Israel and in Palestine), liberal Zionists should organize learning, honoring and if sincerely felt, apologizing tours (not as shame, but as self-assertive statements of respect of the other).

And, without question, funding the restoration of now new Palestinian life.

Earning sovereignty, earning friendship.

And, conducted until it is completed, not only until the PR war quiets.

Making peace, not talking so much.

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Banned from Mondoweiss

I thought it was absurd, but, after posting at length there for three years,  a couple weeks ago I was banned from posting at Mondoweiss.

The process was dictatorial, made by an anonymous committee with no communication either from them or to them possible.

A number of others were apparently banned at the same time, left and right.

There didn’t appear to be any logical criteria of the banning except the political popularity of commentators. I am an unpopular commenter there because I remain a supporter of Zionism, although a critic of the application.

It was strange is all I can say. Too reminiscent of the new left “democracy of the room” process.

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Bernard Avishai Talk

Bernard Avishai is Obama, a mediator, who is exposed on his flanks.

I saw him speak yesterday at the Jewish Community of Amherst, a combination reconstructionist synagogue and community center, in one of the most liberal towns in the country, Amherst, MA.

The audience was mostly older. I, at 57, was one of the younger in the audience. There were many in the audience that were utterly distrusting of literally any Palestinian assertion, had deaf ears to Avishai’s efforts at reporting first hand of a constructive, mutually respectful discussion (including Abbas, Hamas officials, Olmert, Mossad officials), and had relatively live ears to an oddly chosen “no-nik”. (My new word for the risk-aversion/fetish strategy of likud and even kadima).

Its common. There is a lot to distrust all around.

There was conspicuously virtually none of the more radical pro-Palestinian cadre that have centered around Hampshire College (also in Amherst), in support of the anti-Israel boycott/divestment/sanctions movement.

My expectation is that they would have taken pot-shots at some of Mr. Avishai’s comments that he didn’t believe that there was intentionally strategized ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in the 1948 war.

He, like I, have emphasized the more significant event of the prohibition from return, as codified in three knesset laws in 1949-1951, that prohibited immediate return, prohibited court hearings on contested land, then expropriated “abandoned” land to the state and then to exclusively Jewish semi-governmental agencies.

In his presentation, he attempted to keep the content on the constructive efforts to identify obstacles to a real peace, and particularly the obstacle of the right of return which he considered reconciliable rather than irreconcilable as is often assumed. (The language employed seems irreconcilable.)

My impression of his presentation was of hope, actual prospect, but also some naivete, extending even to gullibility in some respects. (I acknowledge that that is a presumptious word to use for a man that has spoken to many of the primary participants in peace discussions first hand and at length and candidly).

I describe his talk in that sense largely because of his de-emphasis (actually ignoring) of his flanks, their fears, and their willingness to fetishize their fears into ideology that come to fit a self-talking coherence. (It makes sense to the converted. This applies to both the right and to the left.)

The right-leaning flank was present at the talk, in a point-counterpoint format, in which a liberal must be countered by a more conservative Zionist. The counter-point was articulated by a litigator, who exzagerated doubt into the appearance of a certainty. (From that sentiment of distrust, the “responsible” likud position is to maintain the status quo indefinitely and only humane gesture is to continue to exert restraint so as not to disturb the status quo, but not to make any change in relations that would result in the end of the suppression of Palestinians. There is also the “irresponsible” conclusion from the same set of values, which is to employ intimate deterrent and pre-emptive attempts to hasten the removal of Palestinians from their prior home-land.)

The hilltop youth neo-religious zealots often think of themselves as following the model of Joshua or David, asked of God to take the land confidently knowing that God is on our side, and that disobedience to that zeal is the primary sin (to be called and reject the call).

Somehow Solomon is not a model, nor the elder reticent David, the ethical commandments ignored.

The flanks are the majority right now. The street is the majority, and that is one of the examples of Mr. Avishai’s naivete.

The pro-Israeli right thinks of all Palestinians as monolithic, that Fayyad and Abbas are just the same-thinking tip of the iceberg of Hamas, Popular Resistance Committees, Islamic Jihad, Al Quaida. So, when Mr. Avishai speaks of his conversations with Abbas and Erekat or even Hamas PR officials, the pro-Israeli crowd doesn’t get it. They don’t distinguish that the people he is talking about are the willing, the respectful and accepting. (I don’t think Hamas is the willing, they are willing lite, very lite, very conditional.)

His confidence is that among the willing, the mechanics of even difficult issues are reconcilable.

I imagine that he knows that the unwilling are currently in the majority in Israel, and even among Palestinian solidarity. The numbers and backbone of the potentially or conditionally willing are unknown.

And, sadly, as it is always psychologically easier to distrust than it is to construct trust, that is often the road taken.

I think of that process, of it being easier to distrust than construct, as an animal trait. When a dog for example confronts another dog, their pallette of responses is limited to play together, fight, or move away. Once growling starts (a warning), the palette shrinks to only fight or move away.

The response of distrust is a preliminary psychological strategem towards the conclusion of moving away.

The reality however is that the Jewish Israeli and the Palestinians are bound to each other, sharing a breadth of populable land the size of Massachusetts. The option to move away and entirely avoid each other isn’t on the palette.

The ONLY real option is the play/make-up option.

I’ve seen dogs that had fought previously stop fighting and befriend each other. Most often it doesn’t happen. Most often, the sight of the other dog stimulates their defensiveness, expressed as warning, then threat, then crisis, then move away again.

It does happen when conditions allow it, when they have room to move away, but find something common to interact about and forget that they are enemies. In the political world, a common enemy is often a stimulus to reallignment.

In the modern world that finding a common enemy won’t result in improvement, but prospective larger scale war, as a distraction from  intimate war.

The areas that I see common cause that distracts from animosity, are things like the J14 movement themes of asserting for economic rights to an affordable decent life, and better yet working together for common needs (not even common political opponents).

Ecology is common. Those that claim to love the land, but willingly despoil it in war or neglect, have some severe internalized cognitive dissonance.

I want to thank Mr. Avishai for his dedication to constructive effort, and I want to remind Mr. Avishai that distractions from his emphasis on constructive effort weakens his thesis. (At the talk, he felt compelled to defend himself from some “indirect” personal insults, and more distractingly to “correct” his critic’s assertions of history and prejudices.)

I feel that the constructive emphasis is astoundingly more effective. In argument, the constructive emphasis is a more winning one if constructed conscientiously. Specifically, the identification of risks is a primary positive component of the constructive process. The criticism, “you have not addressed the risks, the dangers” is a falsehood. In that sense, the risk-aversion orientation (whether articulated by pro-Israeli distrusting or pro-Palestinian distrusting) is a smaller set, a LESS mature response, a renunciation of responsibility rather than a realistic affirmation of responsibility.

Specifically, in the current situation of the Palestinian petition being presented to the UN General Assembly next week, and the animosity towards Israel expressed on its flanks, that the plane is already in the air.

To attempt to stop the plane mid-air, and not maintain sufficient speed to keep aloft, will result in a crash. It is a childish response at this point. Hear that likud. And, if the plane is going to have to land eventually, that it is better that it land confidently safely for all passengers.

So, to Mr. Avishai, “Please keep your eye on the prize. Don’t get distracted. Don’t give up. Don’t wait. You have only one life. Better that you go all out during it.”

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