There is always too much to read about in the news, and too much I want to write about, that I never am quite sure what topic to take the time for, as time is a premium for me these days.
I hate to beat the bush on topics so many others cover so well here at FDL. I’ve been a diligent reader, but not such a good commenter these past 2 or 3 months. Today, I read a pretty interesting set of articles about the healthcare laws and the state of healthcare in the US, and I was very tempted to write about that. But, alas, some other news has jettisoned itself into the national debate. The statements made by Obama last week about the Israeli Palestinian issues drew international commentary. Amy Goodman on Democracy Now had a very interesting roundtable about it, with Norman Finkelstein and Jeremy Ben-Ami, President of J-Street, having a pretty go at each other. Both are good men, and they each believe passionately in a safe and secure Israel. But they disagree on the details of how to get there. They both agree that they are far to the LEFT of Netanyahu, which is where I think many American Jews find themselves. But even folks on the left don’t always see eye-to-eye (I think we at FDL already knew that one!).
I wanted to write this post to mainly just address a few topics in this massive dialogue about Middle East Peace that I think gets too easily glossed over by the Corporate Media, and too easily does the garbage get digested by a rather uneducated public.
I have to thank Alamode for reminding me of the kind of misinformation and garbage that is out there.
Here’s the link to Alamode’s comment and here’s the comment:
There is no such thing as a Palestinian, nor historically, has there ever been anything or any place called Palestine. These people are Arabs. So called Palestine is nothing more than the region between the southern Mediterranean coastal plains and the Syrian interior. The region has been controlled by numerous different peoples, including Ancient Egyptians, Canaanites, Ancient Israelites, Assyrians, Babylonians, Ancient Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, the Sunni Arab Caliphate, the Shia Fatimid Caliphate, Crusaders, Ayyubids, Mameluks, Ottomans, the British and modern Israelis. IMHO, the way to peace is to relocate these Arabs to existing Arab States. To demand that Israel revert to the 1967 borders is just ludicrous. The Arabs started the war, not Israel, and the Arabs lost.
This is a very common argument, and its one that Netanyahu made himself in his book, “A Durable Peace: Israel and its Place Among the Nations.” I own this book, I have read it from cover to cover, and it is quite a read. I actually recommend it. Despite the fact that I disagree with some of it, I still think it has some very good primary sources in it. (See, I can recommend the book of someone I politically disagree with, and I can even agree with some of what he says, and still disagree with his solutions!!! What a NOVEL and UNKNOWN CONCEPT in the American Corporate Media and Political discourse!!!!!).
Yes, I diasgree with Netanyahu and the Likud approach. But I can respect the man and tell you that some of his ideas have a genesis in reality, but that they come to conclusions that I find foolish and unworkable.
Was there or is there such a thing as a “Palestinian?”
Why is that question even important? Its a straw-man argument, with a limited set of parameters allowed in how one is supposed to answer it, so its useful when trying to convince hard-right wing religious zealouts of the rightness of a cause they already have sworn themselves to. But it is somewhat useless when you look at it with a wider angle lens.
Is there such a thing as an “American?” Was there an “America” in 1750? What about in 1776? When George Washington was seeking recruits for a war against the British Monarch. Were they “Americans?” OR were they “Colonists?” There was no United States of America. Not yet. Not for another decade. There was no concept of “American.” These were all Europeans who had aggregated together, sometimes agreeing, sometimes not. The only true “Americans” were people who didn’t call themselves that – the NATIVE FIRST PEOPLES of this continent. They called themselves Iroquois, or Cree. Or whatever other tribal distinction they had.
America was FOUNDED as an IDEA and then a NATION was built up around that idea.
We are Americans today, but we are not genetically any different from the rest of humanity. There is nothing INFERIOR or SUPERIOR about us. We have no genetic difference from other HUMANS.
But we have a shared experience. Even Democrats and Republicans have those shared experiences. We have our differences. But we have a certain shared range of accents, gastronomical tendencies, shared love of certain ideals (freedom of religion, freedom of speech, Representative government, anti-Monarchial dispositions, a shared experience with the Revolution, the Civil War, the Civil Rights movement, the Space Race, the Cold War, etc). We shared 9/11. We have shared in the rise of a new kind of America post-9/11. Do we all agree? No. We have different perspectives about those shared experiences (some call it the War of Northern Aggression, and others call it the War to Free the Slaves), but we still SHARE those experiences.
Are those the same shared experiences as those shared by the Germans and French and Dutch and English? No. They share the Napoleonic wars, the Great War, the up close and personal destruction of Europe during WWII in ways that we Americans NEVER will truly share in. We didn’t see vast swaths of the Continental US carpet-bombed or blitzed. Our Civil War was the traumatic moment of our shared history. They had the First and Second World Wars. Germany and Italy were not even nation-states in their present form prior to the end of the 19th century. The Europeans also share a much longer heritage of Nobility, Aristocracy, Monarchy. They have parliaments and landed nobles. They have a different sense of space and time. They view history the way we Americans view distance. And vice versa. 300 miles is not a big deal to most Americans, just as 300 years is a blink of the eye to most Europeans. But 300 years is the approximate age of our Nation, whereas 300 miles is the approximate WIDTH of most of their nations. To many Europeans, drinking wine every day, throughout the day, is normal. To Americans, it is considered drunkness. Europeans are okay with topless beaches, while Americans will likely brand the topless beach goer as a sex-offender.
What is my point?
The Caucasian American is genetically no different than the Caucuasian European. The Asian-American is genetically no differen than the Asian-Asian. The Black American is no different, genetically, than the Black African. But culturally – the difference is NIGHT AND DAY.
The ARAB Tunisian is genetically similar to the ARAB Bahraini. But, culturally – they are night and day.
This is what we MUST NEVER FORGET. The attempt to frame the Middle East peace process in terms of GENETICS is ridiculous. And foolish. It is no different than what the Third Reich did with the German people, in attempting to create GENETIC divisions between the “Purer” Race and the “Inferior” Races.
Palestinians may or may not be of “Arab” lineage or genetics. Since all humans are 99.xxx% identical, genetically, then I think the point is moot.
The reality is this. There are people who live in the West Bank and Gaza who have a certain set of shared experiences, traditions, and culture. Those shared experiences PREDATE the current troubles. They were the people who lived in the Levant under Ottoman Empire rule. They grew olive trees, herded sheep and goats, and sang songs while making pottery for tourists or missionaries. They lived simple lives. They weren’t engineers or industrialists who sought to tame the desert and irrigate it to build a new western-style civilization upon it. The British did seek to do that after 1917 (the British also sought to build a pipeline from Mosul to the Mediterranean and the infrastructure that went with it). The people living in the area known as Palestine had a long 1000-year history (or longer) of living there. These were Christians, Jews, and Muslims. They were of various sects of each. Some were more traditional than others. But they shared that land, and learned to live with one another, despite their differences.
The Palestinian Arabs and the Arabian Peninsula Arabs and the Arabs living in the ancient Tigris and Euphrates River Valleys all had similiar genetics. Just like the Caucuasians of England, Germany, Italy and Ireland. But when those English, German, Irish and Italians came to the North American Continent, fought the wars of Independence, engaged in Ethnic Cleansing of the First Nations, and proceeded to erect a society based upon materialism and greed, then they began to enter into a new shared experience. The American Experience.
In fact, the moment those various groups of people decided to put down plow and take up musket under General George Washington was the moment they became AMERICANS. They risked their lives for FREEDOM and LIBERTY.
The people of brownish skin living under Israeli occupation in the West Bank have had almost 50 years of SHARED EXPERIENCES by now. They are entitled to call themselves WHATEVER THEY WANT. They can call themselves GOOGOOs if they like. And they can have the right to self-determination and dignity that the other people living in the region already have.
Does this have to be about Religion, GENETICS, or whose grand-daddy dug which hole first to find the water?!?!
The Human Species will either evolve past those trivial and divise topics, or it will suffer species extinction. I hope we stop hearing the use of Alamode-style arguments to justifyaggression or occupation.
There are a few other points I want to quickly make based on Netanyahu’s book/arguments:
1. He argues for “Strategic Depth” and therefore claims that Israel needs to control the high ground of the hills of Judea and Samaria (in the West Bank). He also makes arguments about Israel’s geographic size (and how quickly the Jordanian military could overrun Israel to the sea if it was able to start at the Green Line vs. if it had to start at the Jordan River).
(A) This is the 21st century, not the 15th century. Assymetrial warfare means that NO COUNTRY has “strategic depth” any longer. America’s “strategic depth” and “buffer zone” of the ATLANTIC OCEAN didn’t seem to stop Al Quaeda. Should we annex and occupy the United Kingdom on the off-chance that Norway might try something?
(B) Israel has a PEACE TREATY with Jordan, and right now, Jordan looks like a pretty tame place during this Arab Spring. People there have far fewer grievances than they do with Bahrain, Yemen, Syria, or Iran. I don’t think Jordan is about to be toppled, nor do I see a risk of Jordanian forces crossing the Green Line. Or the Jordan River.
(C) Israel is still pretty small, even with the West Bank under occupation. The Jordan River may have stopped the Elamites 4000 years ago. I don’t think the Jordan River, or the Judean Hills, will stop a Scud missile, an Iranian missile, or a terrorist.
(D) England and Scotland only have Hadrian’s Wall separating them. The Scots and English are as different as Bombay Gin and Glenlivet Single Malt Scotch. Do either of them need any more “strategic depth?” Northern Ireland is just across a small sliver of water from England. Did that water stop IRA bombers? No. A PEACE TREATY stopped the Troubles. Has Europe seen its share of wars? Yes. Does Holland have more or less “Strategic Depth” than Israel behind 1967 borders? Trick Question. Strategic Depth is not just defined by GEOGRAPHY. It can also be defined through TREATIES, INTELLIGENCE, and TECHNOLOGY. The Dutch now have ECONOMIC strength, PEACE TREATIES, and are at the heart of the EUROPEAN UNION. France no longer needs its heavy artillery, the Maginot Line, to stop German aggression. Instead, the two are ALLIES and part of a regional cooperation treaty. Israel’s STRATEGIC DEPTH will NEVER be GEOGRAPHICALLY comparable to the American STRATEGIC DEPTH, which didn’t make enough difference on 9/11 anyway, so Israel might as well scrap the idea of a land grab that reaches to Tehran from the Mediterranean (which will still be smaller than American territory). Israel would do better to learn from Europe. MAKE PEACE. To have PEACE with its neighbors will be a FAR GREATER Strategic Depth than any land grab or occupation. America had to deal with the First Nations. We chose GENOCIDE to deal with the Native population. I expect and demand that Israel not choose that option. If it does, then it will have failed the test of history, and it will have failed itself and all of humanity. I suppose it will have failed its god, but lets keep religion out of this.
2. He argues that 1967 borders are out of the question now that “facts have dramatically changed over the past 44 years.”
(A) No kidding. Facts have indeed CHANGED over time. Israel has built settlements upon settlements during those 44 years, while the Palestinians living in the West Bank have been further and further contained in smaller and smaller areas. Here’s an INTERACTIVE MAP that shows just how a high percentage of the West Bank Israel has built upon. Click on the layers that show the RESIDENTIAL ZONES for PAlestinians, and then activate the ISraeli-occupied zones. Well over 90% of the land is off limits to Palestinians to live upon, restricting them to just 10% of that land. And about 75% of the land is built upon or occupied by Israel. The remaining 15% is in the control of the PA, but it is not allowed for residential use (meaning the PA can patrol that land, but Palestinians cannot live or travel upon that land).
(B) Those “Facts on the Ground” are continuing to change, as the process stalls. When one party has the ability to change those “Facts on the Ground” while the other party is completely powerless to do so, and then that party doing the “fact-changing” then trumpets that all future deals must ACCEPT and be BOUND BY those “Facts on the Ground” then what you have is the classic American Manifest Destiny situation. America changed the facts on the ground each year with respect to its westward expansion. Then, one day, the Native peoples’ were shipped off to reservations and told to live there. Facts on the Ground. Northern Ireland is a case of “facts on the ground” being changed too. In fact, Germany’s political landscape changed after WWII also. Remember that? West Germany and East Germany? Facts on the ground. And those facts lasted for a bit over 40 years too. 40 Years of DRAMATIC CHANGES IN FACTS ON THE GROUND!!!! Why didn’t we just keep East Gemany and West Germany? According to Netanyahu, if “Facts on the Ground” change, then oh well darn – we can’t do a darn single thing about it, right? Right?
No. Facts on the ground are the expansion of settlements that should never have been built in the first place. The Berlin Wall should never have been built. The Native Americans should never have been ethnically cleansed and removed from their homes. The West Bank should never have been so heavily colonized and built up by Israeli settlers. If we want to get into who was where first, I think the Palestinians living in the West Bank in 1966 were living there before the Israeli settlers who built their towns in the 1980s and 1990s and 2000s and 2010s.
Lets follow the “facts on the ground” scenario to its logical conclusion — if the Palestinians don’t accept the current 15 discontinugous parcels of land that are separated by Israeli military roadblocks and settlements, then in 10 years, there will be only 10 discontinguous parcels of land. And in 20 years, there will only be 5 parcels of land. And then one day, the entire West Bank will be “SETTLED” and the only plot of land left for the Palestinian State to exist will be the City-State of Ramallah. And that will be the extent of any Palestine. A city-state. Surrounded on all sides by Israeli Settlements. And of course, Israel can’t withdraw to the 1967 borders then, because “FACTS ON THE GROUND” obviously changed!!! And we wonder why some radical elements of Palestinian society decide to also change some “facts on the ground?” I don’t condone violence. But I also don’t condone ethnic cleansing, whether it occurs in one day or in one century.
Okay, that is enough for now. Whatever happens between the Palestinians and Israelis, lets not cloud the issue with myths and stupid arguments. The Palestinians are as different from Jordanians as the Scots are from the Irish. And the Israelis and Palestinians have as much in common, and as much difference, as the English and Scots. If England and Scotland can co-exist ON THE SAME DAMN ISLAND, then I think the Palestinians and Israelis can learn to coexist too. Difference and Similarities, warts and all. This isn’t the 13th century. This is the 21st century. Israel cannot acheive security and peace for itself if it continues to treat the world as if its the 13th century. I know American Conservatives like to think the Crusades are still a noble and valid cause, but I think humanity must move past that dead-end mindset. Or the END may truly come when that guy in California keeps claiming it will come!!!