State of Israel’s ‘fears’

State of Israel’s ‘fears’

While Daniel Levy, writing on “Israel at 60” at The American Prospect website, is correct that Israel’s fears are an impediment to peace, so are the enemies who create those fears. The agents of fear – Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran– are external. Daniel Levy is a valuable and gifted advocate of our pro-Israel/pro-peace perspective, but like many progressive Israelis, he has trouble adjusting to the fact that our camp in the Diaspora must also respond to an anti-Israel left which often demonizes Israel and/or Jews.

It’s a problem that so much of the left hates Israel, completely negating its legitimate security concerns. It’s an even greater problem that more mainstream liberals or moderate leftists like Tony Judt and even centrist figures like Jimmy Carter, Mearsheimer and Walt now see Israel (or even the idea of a “Jewish state”) as of dubious moral worth. It’s true that we want to see more forward looking, hopeful and pacific policies emanating from Jerusalem, but I think we play into one-sided anti-Israel forces when we downplay the reality of Israel’s enemies. We also lose the possibility of influencing mainstream American-Jewish opinion with such an approach.

Too much of the world accepts the narrative of Israel as a kind of superpower (e.g., the “fourth major world military power” and other such exaggerations). Israel may well have the fourth most powerful air force in the world, but a country as small in both population and area as Israel is, that could lose nearly 1,000 civilians killed (in the recent Intifada) by people who don’t even have an army, is highly vulnerable.

That’s one reason that it’s so desperately important for Israel to pursue policies that are more pro-peace. But the fact that Hamas has emerged as a major contender for power among the Palestinians is a major complicating factor; this makes concessions in the form of withdrawals and the lifting of roadblocks more difficult to sell to an electorate that feels itself increasingly threatened. It’s Israel’s vulnerability that makes peace so vital, even as it makes its obtainment harder politically.

Contrast this with Russia in Chechnya; Russia’s survival does not at all depend upon it making peace with the Chechens. Nor does China absolutely need to make a final peace with the Tibetans, the Uighars or Taiwan.

By | 2008-05-22T05:26:00-04:00 May 22nd, 2008|Blog|15 Comments


  1. Anonymous May 22, 2008 at 3:38 pm - Reply

    Dear Ralph,

    Unfortunately, many elements of this argument do not do you or Meretz-USA much credit. It would seem a bit of an embarrassment that you’ve misrepresented key facts and used smoke and mirrors to obscure some causes for Israel’s fears.

    This is a blatant factual misrepresentation – “a country as small in both population and area as Israel is, that could lose nearly 1,000 civilians killed (in the recent Intifada) by people who don’t even have an army, is highly vulnerable.” Israel has not had “nearly 1000 civilians killed,” unless you somehow count 719 Israeli civilians killed over the last 7 1/2 years according to B’Tselem as “nearly 1000.” ( B’Tselem figures show that a total of 1053 Israeli civilians and military personnel have been killed during that 7 1/2 year period. Interestingly, 480 of those civilians and military, close to half of the total, were killed within territories that Israel occupies, another important factual nuance that you did not touch on.

    Your implication that somehow Israel is not a military superpower is also patently absurd.

    It would also seem that some elements of your argument for Israel’s distinctive vulnerability relative to other countries – that “a country as small in both population and area as Israel is, that could lose nearly 1,000 civilians killed (in the recent Intifada) by people who don’t even have an army, is highly vulnerable” – could be used to describe the US after September 11, and we all know where those arguments have led the US. Israel after all has lost 719 civilians (again note your misrepresentation) during 7 1/2 years (albeit with around 2% of the US’ population), while the US lost 2800 or so civilians to a people who don’t have an army in a single day.

    Moreover, the following sentence is also a wonderful example of obfuscation – “But the fact that Hamas has emerged as a major contender for power among the Palestinians is a major complicating factor; this makes concessions in the form of withdrawals and the lifting of roadblocks more difficult to sell to an electorate that feels itself increasingly threatened.” You write as if Hamas “emerged” in a vaccuum, as if Hamas’ emergence had nothing to do with Israel’s policies (not to mention US policy) of failing to make what you prefer to call “concessions”, and what others call granting Palestinians basic human rights. As you know, in the 80s Israel actually supported the “emergence” of Hamas as a counterweight to the PLO. And as I think you will also probably acknowledge when forced to confront facts, one important reason for Hamas’ steadily growing power since it “emergence” in the 80s has been Israel’s continued repression, settlement construction and failure to conclude a peace deal with Fateh or to grant Palestinians basic rights.

    Writing, as you have, a piece emphasizing Israel’s “fears” without ever acknowledging the significant role of Israel’s own policies in strengthening its enemies is highly disingenuous.

    Ralph, the problem is not that “most of the left hates Israel in the way it does, completely negating its legitimate security concerns,” but that you choose to make use of false information, faulty logic, and seemingly deliberate obfuscation to willfully overstate “Israel’s legitimate security concerns.”

    I sincerely hope that some other members of Meretz-USA will be honest enough and brave enough to publically object to this truly bad essay.


  2. Anonymous May 22, 2008 at 9:17 pm - Reply

    Since 1943, when the term was invented,there have been only three superpowers: the UK, the US, and the USSR. Soon after WWII ended the UK ceased to be a superpower. The USSR ceased to be a superpower as of December 1991 when it collapsed. Leaving the US as the only superpower.

    A superpower is a power that is easily able to project its power outside of its own region and that has the power to deter any other military power. Militarily the only time Israel projected its power outside of its region was in July 1976 during the Entebbe rescue mission. In a confrontation with the Soviet Union without American backing Israel would have been forced to back down.

    Israel is a regional military power as is Iran and as was Iraq before the 1991 war.

    Tom Mitchell, PhD in International Relations

  3. Ralph Seliger May 23, 2008 at 11:32 pm - Reply

    Ted happily ignores that I argue that Israel’s minuscule size and population is “one reason that it’s so desperately important for Israel to pursue policies that are more pro-peace.”

    Some elements in Likud (but certainly not from our camp) supported a social movement of Islamic fundamentalists as a possible alternative to the secular PLO. This movement morphed into Hamas. To say that “Israel” supported or created Hamas is a gross over-simplification.

  4. Anonymous May 24, 2008 at 12:08 am - Reply

    Hi Ralph,

    I will comment on the other points later, but to respond on this one quickly, it is pretty well accepted that the Israeli government (hence “Israel”) supported Hamas and its precursors. To pretend otherwise is just more smoke and mirrors on your part.


    Hamas history tied to Israel

    By Richard Sale
    UPI Terrorism Correspondent

    06/18/02 “UPI” — — In the wake of a suicide bomb attack Tuesday on a crowded Jerusalem city bus that killed 19 people and wounded at least 70 more, the Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, took credit for the blast.

    Israeli officials called it the deadliest attack in Jerusalem in six years.

    Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon immediately vowed to fight “Palestinian terror” and summoned his cabinet to decide on a military response to the organization that Sharon had once described as “the deadliest terrorist group that we have ever had to face.”

    Active in Gaza and the West Bank, Hamas wants to liberate all of Palestine and establish a radical Islamic state in place of Israel. It is has gained notoriety with its assassinations, car bombs and other acts of terrorism.

    But Sharon left something out.

    Israel and Hamas may currently be locked in deadly combat, but, according to several current and former U.S. intelligence officials, beginning in the late 1970s, Tel Aviv gave direct and indirect financial aid to Hamas over a period of years.

    Israel “aided Hamas directly — the Israelis wanted to use it as a counterbalance to the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization),” said Tony Cordesman, Middle East analyst for the Center for Strategic Studies.

    Israel’s support for Hamas “was a direct attempt to divide and dilute support for a strong, secular PLO by using a competing religious alternative,” said a former senior CIA official.

    According to documents United Press International obtained from the Israel-based Institute for Counter Terrorism, Hamas evolved from cells of the Muslim Brotherhood, founded in Egypt in 1928. Islamic movements in Israel and Palestine were “weak and dormant” until after the 1967 Six Day War in which Israel scored a stunning victory over its Arab enemies.

    After 1967, a great part of the success of the Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood was due to their activities among the refugees of the Gaza Strip. The cornerstone of the Islamic movements success was an impressive social, religious, educational and cultural infrastructure, called Da’wah, that worked to ease the hardship of large numbers of Palestinian refugees, confined to camps, and many who were living on the edge.

    “Social influence grew into political influence,” first in the Gaza Strip, then on the West Bank, said an administration official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

    According to ICT papers, Hamas was legally registered in Israel in 1978 by Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the movement’s spiritual leader, as an Islamic Association by the name Al-Mujamma al Islami, which widened its base of supporters and sympathizers by religious propaganda and social work.

    According to U.S. administration officials, funds for the movement came from the oil-producing states and directly and indirectly from Israel. The PLO was secular and leftist and promoted Palestinian nationalism. Hamas wanted to set up a transnational state under the rule of Islam, much like Khomeini’s Iran.

    What took Israeli leaders by surprise was the way the Islamic movements began to surge after the Iranian revolution, after armed resistance to Israel sprang up in southern Lebanon vis-�-vis the Hezbollah, backed by Iran, these sources said.

    “Nothing provides the energy for imitation as much as success,” commented one administration expert.

    A further factor of Hamas’ growth was the fact the PLO moved its base of operations to Beirut in the ’80s, leaving the Islamic organization to grow in influence in the Occupied Territories “as the court of last resort,” he said.

    When the intifada began, Israeli leadership was surprised when Islamic groups began to surge in membership and strength. Hamas immediately grew in numbers and violence. The group had always embraced the doctrine of armed struggle, but the doctrine had not been practiced and Islamic groups had not been subjected to suppression the way groups like Fatah had been, according to U.S. government officials.

    But with the triumph of the Khomeini revolution in Iran, with the birth of Iranian-backed Hezbollah terrorism in Lebanon, Hamas began to gain in strength in Gaza and then in the West Bank, relying on terror to resist the Israeli occupation.

    Israel was certainly funding the group at that time. One U.S. intelligence source who asked not to be named said that not only was Hamas being funded as a “counterweight” to the PLO, Israeli aid had another purpose: “To help identify and channel towards Israeli agents Hamas members who were dangerous terrorists.”

    In addition, by infiltrating Hamas, Israeli informers could only listen to debates on policy and identify Hamas members who “were dangerous hard-liners,” the official said.

    In the end, as Hamas set up a very comprehensive counterintelligence system, many collaborators with Israel were weeded out and shot. Violent acts of terrorism became the central tenet, and Hamas, unlike the PLO, was unwilling to compromise in any way with Israel, refusing to acquiesce in its very existence.

    But even then, some in Israel saw some benefits to be had in trying to continue to give Hamas support: “The thinking on the part of some of the right-wing Israeli establishment was that Hamas and the others, if they gained control, would refuse to have any part of the peace process and would torpedo any agreements put in place,” said a U.S. government official who asked not to be named.

    “Israel would still be the only democracy in the region for the United States to deal with,” he said.

    All of which disgusts some former U.S. intelligence officials.

    “The thing wrong with so many Israeli operations is that they try to be too sexy,” said former CIA official Vincent Cannestraro.

    According to former State Department counter-terrorism official Larry Johnson, “the Israelis are their own worst enemies when it comes to fighting terrorism.”

    “The Israelis are like a guy who sets fire to his hair and then tries to put it out by hitting it with a hammer.”

    “They do more to incite and sustain terrorism than curb it,” he said.

    Aid to Hamas may have looked clever, “but it was hardly designed to help smooth the waters,” he said. “An operation like that gives weight to President George Bush’s remark about there being a crisis in education.”

    Cordesman said that a similar attempt by Egyptian intelligence to fund Egypt’s fundamentalists had also come to grief because of “misreading of the complexities.”

    An Israeli defense official was asked if Israel had given aid to Hamas said, “I am not able to answer that question. I was in Lebanon commanding a unit at the time, besides it is not my field of interest.”

    Asked to confirm a report by U.S. officials that Brig. Gen. Yithaq Segev, the military governor of Gaza, had told U.S. officials he had helped fund “Islamic movements as a counterweight to the PLO and communists,” the official said he could confirm only that he believed Segev had served back in 1986.

    The Israeli Embassy press office referred UPI to its Web site when asked to comment.

    Copyright © 2001-2004 United Press International

  5. Ralph Seliger May 25, 2008 at 12:35 pm - Reply

    This article is typical of the half-digested “facts” suggesting that everything in the conflict comes down to the fault of Israel, Zionism or Jews. Hamas did not exist in the 1970s as claimed by this writer. From Wikipedia:
    “Sheikh Ahmed Yassin founded Hamas in 1987 as an offshoot of Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood.” Its notoriously antisemitic covenant was adopted in 1988.

    It is true as I indicated that Likud-led government(s) attempted to cultivate Islamic fundamentalists active in social welfare as an alternative to the PLO. This boomeranged when this movement later morphed into Hamas, but it’s inaccurate to argue that Israel founded or supported Hamas as a terrorist group.

  6. Anonymous May 25, 2008 at 5:04 pm - Reply

    Hi All,

    In response to a few points raised here:

    1) It seems that in Ralph’s world wikipedia is a reliable source of information that is worth citing ( while a report by UPI’s terrorism correspondent is “typical of the half-digested “facts” suggesting that everything in the conflict comes down to the fault of Israel, Zionism or Jews.” Yes, Ralph, UPI is known for it’s bias against Israel, according to CAMERA at least.

    2) Ralph says, “it’s inaccurate to argue that Israel founded or supported Hamas as a terrorist group.” Of course, I never even vaguely argued that. What I wrote is this, “As you know, in the 80s Israel actually supported the “emergence” of Hamas as a counterweight to the PLO.”

    Seemingly, the only point of real difference, if one looks at what I actually said and what Ralph actually said, is over whether Israel (as per convention, short for the Israeli government, not short for every single individual Israeli citizen, as Ralph seems to understand it) supported Hamas after it was actually named “Hamas.” Personally, I have heard, beginning in the early 90s when I first started following the issue, from many, many reliable on the ground sources in Gaza, both Palestinian and foreign, who lived there in the 80s that Israel did provide some support to Hamas instituions after Hamas was actually named Hamas. But I think this is not even the major point. As I wrote, Israel supported the emergence of Hamas as a conterweight to Fateh and the PLO. This is beyond dispute.

    Again, to imply that Hamas’ “emergence” was somehow a phenomenon divorced from both, a) active early Israeli support, and b) Israeli actions over a 20 year period that have served to greatly increased support for Hamas, was both inaccurate and irresponsible on Ralph’s part.

    3) Tom Mitchell informs us that Israel does not fit the definition of a superpower. Since he also informs us in the same post that he is a “PhD in International Relations” I guess we are supposed to take his comments as unassailable (I believe he also informed us another time that he had written a book, again proving the authoritative nature of his observations). Tom provided no sources to back his assertion, perhaps because his PhD is supposed to be enough to show he is an undisputed authority on these issues.

    However, Tom’s assertion does seem to fit the definition of a superpower provided by Ralph’s preferred source, wikipedia! Tom believes only the US, UK and the USSR have ever been superpowers, seemingly exempting even China and India from being considered a superpower now (perhaps reflecting the time period when Tom did his PhD).

    Tom argues that Israel has not projected its military power beyond the region, except for Entebbe, and therefore cannot be considered a superpower under his and wikipedia’s definition. Yet Tom avoids that Israel certainly has the “capacity” to project its military power, particularly air and nuclear power, beyond the region should it need to.

    Furthermore, Tom weakens his argument by implying that Israel’s military power is actually comparable to Iran and Iraq before the 1991 war. I don’t think there are any serious people who would suggest there was or is anything close to military parity between Israel and Iran, and Iraq before the 1991 war. Without question, Israel is an unparalleled “regional military superpower”, should Tom permit the use of a term that does not correspond with wikipedia’s definition.

    Note also that Ralph himself wrote that, “Too much of the world accepts the narrative of Israel as a kind of superpower (e.g., the “fourth major world military power” and other such exaggerations). Israel may well have the fourth most powerful air force in the world…” Thus Ralph in his original piece, when he first used the term superpower, seems not to have accepted Tom’s definition of what is required to be considered superpower. My response was in part to Ralph’s initial use of the term. In any case, Tom’s effort to impose such a simple definition of the term is clearly wanting.

    All this rather minor wikipedia sniping by Ralph and Tom, however, should not distract us from the reality that, as I wrote initially, Ralph’s essay was an embarassingly weak one even by his standards, and included incorrect facts, and serious omissions, none of which Ralph or Tom have effectively challenged. Ralph’s resulting overstatement of the justifications for “Israel’s Fears” should not be allowed to stand.


  7. Anonymous May 28, 2008 at 5:38 am - Reply

    Here is the Wikipedia citation:
    A superpower is a state with a leading position in the international system and the ability to influence events and project power on a worldwide scale; it is traditionally considered to be one step higher than a great power. Alice Lyman Miller (Professor of National Security Affairs at the Naval Postgraduate School), defines a superpower as “a country that has the capacity to project dominating power and influence anywhere in the world, and sometimes, in more than one region of the globe at a time, and so may plausibly attain the status of global hegemon.”[1] It was a term first applied in 1944 to the United States, the Soviet Union, and the British Empire. Following World War II, the British Empire ceased to exist as its territories became independent, and the Soviet Union and the United States were regarded as the only two superpowers, who then engaged in the Cold War.

    After the Cold War, the most common belief held is that only the United States fulfills the criteria to be considered a superpower…

    You fail to cite any authority for your own use of the term superpower. Note, I did not consult Wikipedia before I wrote my previous comment, possibly the fact that they agree with me on what I wrote demonstrates that I do know something about what I’m talking about.

    Superpower is a technical term with a specific meaning separate from that used commonly by advertisers and many journalists.

    As to my expertise, if I were to dispute the expertise of an MD on a medical matter I would want to actually have some authority for doing so, as I lack it in myself. But maybe your level of genius allows you the freedom to dispense with such conventions.
    Tom Mitchell,

  8. Seth May 31, 2008 at 10:43 am - Reply

    Hello all,

    I would like to make two points.

    First, regarding Hamas. This is
    strange discussion. Ted said that
    “in the 80s Israel actually supported the “emergence” of Hamas as a counterweight to the PLO.” Ralph responded that it “is a
    gross simplification” to say that
    Israel “supported or created Hamas”. I don’t really understand
    exactly what Ralph is objecting to here. Sticking to what Ted
    actually said, it seems pretty
    uncontroversial. Leaving aside
    the Richard Sale article,
    Ze’ev Schiff and Ehud Ya’ari
    wrote in their 1990 book Intifida:
    In large part this scourge was
    self-inflicted, for the Civil
    Administration had contributed considerably to the development of
    the Muslim groups that came to the
    fore soon after the start of the intifada.
    Just as President Sadat had encouraged the growth of the Islamic Association to offset the
    leftist elements in Egypt, many
    Israeli staff officers
    believed that the rise of fundamentalism in Gaza could be exploited to weaken the power of
    the PLO. Sadat’s fate was to die at the hands of the same pious
    zealots he had allowed to flourish. The upshot in Gaza was similar:
    the Muslim movement turned on the very people who had believed
    themselves so clever in fostering it.
    Is this another example of how
    for some
    “everything in the conflict comes down to the fault of Israel, Zionism or Jews.”?

    Second, I think Ted’s passing
    Israel’s policies (not to mention US policy) of failing to make what you prefer to call “concessions”, and what others call granting Palestinians basic human rights
    makes exactly the right point.
    One of the problems with basing
    Israeli policy on its fears and
    security concerns, rather than
    international law and basic human
    rights, is that it works the other
    way too, from the p.o.v. of other
    countries. For example, I just
    recently finished reading the
    Human Rights Watch report on
    Israel’s use of cluster bombs
    in the 2006 war.
    I don’t think it’s unlikely that
    people in South Lebanon have as
    much fear from Israel as residents
    in Israel have of Hezbollah.

    Yes, there is the “reality of
    Israel’s enemies”, as Ralph
    says. Israel has real security
    fears. And so do other countries
    have real security fears of Israel,
    as do Palestinians.

    Incidentally, I first read that
    Richard Sale piece that Ted posted
    on the old Progressive Jewish
    Mailing List, when it was posted
    by Yigal Arens, and he preceded
    it with this comment:
    Underlying this and countless other Israeli stupidities is their
    total blindness to the fact that their adversaries actually have
    legitimate grievances against them. As the Israelis saw it, the
    PLO’s struggle against Israel was some kind of ego trip that Yasser
    Arafat engaged in — not an attempt by Palestinians to right real
    wrongs and gain compensation for valid suffering. So they figure, if
    they just create a rival group, these “imaginary” causes will be
    forgotten in the internecine struggle.

    Indeed. This total blindness to
    “the fact that their adversaries
    actually have legitimate
    grievances against them” continues
    until today, as can be seen in
    Ralph’s columns, in which it’s
    all about what concessions Israel
    can make due to its fears.

  9. Ralph Seliger May 31, 2008 at 4:51 pm - Reply

    My point about Hamas is that what Shamir and other Likudniks supported was not yet Hamas; it was their mistake, but they did not believe that they were supporting what became a violent anti-Israel movement.

    As for the rest of this, I do not support a politics of fear and I understand Daniel Levy’s point. We are in the same left-Zionist camp. But some of the fears of average Israelis are understandable and warranted. We have to be able to address their legitimate concerns with compassion in order to facilitate more constructive peace-oriented policies by Israel and its antagonists. This is not a one-sided process; it has a dialectical dimension.

  10. Anonymous May 31, 2008 at 8:09 pm - Reply

    Hi Ralph,

    I think the point must be reiterated that your post was all about the politics of fear, whether you are conscious of it or not, exaggerating a number of realities, including overstating by a good amount the number of Israeli civilans killed this intifada (per my first comment above). This is a concrete error that I assume you were unaware of, but which seems nonetheless to exemplify your perspective throughout. Though your other exaggerations are less easily “provable” in a kind of a strictly numerical sense, they are nonetheless highly debateable.


  11. Ralph Seliger June 2, 2008 at 5:16 am - Reply

    Ted, I wasn’t thinking of a specific number, but the 719 Israeli civilians that you acknowledge as being killed during these past 7.5 years does round up to nearly a thousand. When the US, a genuine superpower in anybody’s book, suffered 3,000 deaths on 9/11/2001, it reacted by overthrowing two governments and occupying both countries to this day. In proportional population terms, 719 Israeli dead is the equivalent of 50 times that number of Americans.

    Israel has reacted harshly to ongoing Palestinian attacks, but it has not overthrown the Palestinian Authority and it even evacuated all settlements and military posts in the Gaza Strip. This doesn’t mean that Israel has done all that we want to engender peace– far from it. But hundreds of random murders (and thousands of wounded) in Israel’s buses, streets, shopping malls, coffee houses, restaurants, etc., are terrible crimes that have not helped the Palestinian cause one bit. Instead, they’ve undermined the Israeli peace camp (of which our Meretz comrades are a central component) and caused great suffering to average Palestinians by way of response.

  12. Anonymous June 2, 2008 at 3:09 pm - Reply

    Hi Ralph,

    Yours is a hopelessly muddled comment on many levels. You’d be a lot better off quitting while you are behind than digging yourself further into a ditch, and revealing embarrassing gaps in both logic and morality.

    1) After 9/11 the US THEN occupied two countries. Israel, on the other hand, was already occupying the West Bank and Gaza before the current intifada, Ralph. Therefore, your effort to draw a parallel with the US and 9/11 is extremely disingenuous.

    As Meretz would probably argue, Israel’s on-going occupation and oppression was one of the causes of the Palestinian uprising that resulted in so many Israeli civilian deaths.

    Israel doesn’t get brownies points either, as you seem to suggest, for not actually overthrowing the PA (which was never a sovereign government anyway, and contolled only pockets within the West Bank and Gaza), but only beseiging it and decimating it, while demanding that the PA act like a sovereign governement.

    Suggesting that Israel’s behavior may be more acceptable by comparing it to the actions of the Bush administration is unacceptable. The US mounted two criminal and failed military attacks after 9/11, and this somehow justifies Israel’s failed, criminal military assault?

    Should we and Israel sleep easier knowing that the Bush administration is also employing torture, detaining people without due process, violating international law on mutiple levels, etc., etc.? Or should we all be outraged by both? Ralph, you have failed yet another litmus test for actually defending issues like human rights, civil liberties, international norms, on-violent conflict resolution, etc.. I again hope that Meretz is more progressive than you are.

    I agree that hundreds of murders of Israeli civilians have not helped Palestinians one bit. But your seeming inability to place them in the balance with the random killing by Israeli settlers and soldiers of far more Palestinian civilians, Israel’s 40 years of occupation of Palestinians which has meant daily violence against almost every Palestinian civilian, Israel’s on-going and daily seizure of Palestinian land, Israel’s arrest, torture, imprisonement without due process, 18,000 home demolitions, 60 years of denial of basic human rights to Palestinians in the Occupied Territories, in Israel and in the diaspora, etc. etc.. There is no real comparison. Israel is very clearly the oppressor.

    It is absurd to suggest that because we are not happy with how a people has struggled for self-rule that they somehow are less justified in realizing that most basic of rights (Algeria, as just one example). You seemingly would have counseled Native Americans to be “more reasonable” in their dealings with the people who colonized the US and succeeded in pushing them into reservations.

    Your greatest concern seems to be that Meretz has been weakened. Maybe you should consider that Meretz is weak, not as you seem to think because of what Palestinians have done, but because of what Israel, the stronger power, has done, and because you do not propose a clear, moral alternative. Many of your arguments throughout this thread have been only slightly watered down variations of those made by Labor, Kadima and even Likud.


  13. Ralph Seliger June 2, 2008 at 6:10 pm - Reply

    Ted, the conflict is a two-way street. Israel reoccupied the West Bank in April 2002 after a particularly bloody month of terror attacks in Israel which killed about 130 people. Meretz was critical of that operation, as it generally has been of all policies that rely exclusively on force.

  14. LenMajzlin June 3, 2008 at 9:37 pm - Reply

    Dear Ted and Ralph:
    The intellectual acumen of both your minds is formidable. Would that it were applied to convincing key Israelis that progress will only be made when Israelis assume unilateral responsibility for moral laxity. The more both of you attempt to win the kinds of arguments you are seemingly swept up in, the more you push all intelligent parties, on both sides, further away from one another. Hamas need not be intent on eradicating Jews, when our creative energies continue to be occupied in bickering over 719 Vs. 1,000 deaths or whether or not Israel is a superpower. In my humble opinion, there is nothing more delicious to a militant than to be confronted by constricted thinkers bogged down in their own mini-battles. And there is nothing more confounding to a militant than to be confronted by honorable passive resistance and a nation of people who voluntarily assume responsibility amd choose to occupy the moral highground. Israel has continually been caught up in letting the world know that it is strong, and does not operate out of fear — certainly a post WWII compensation for prior passivity. Unfortunately this stance has become a cultural albatross which has created a complete inability on the part of Israelis to step outside the box and define a new paradigm for a path to peace. Immersing onself in your clever tit for tat dialogue continually avoids the real issue and promulgates a state of denial. Israel’s vulnerability is not the issue; it’s the fear of vulnerability that has stymied progressive thinking. Your cleverness exemplifies that. You are winning the nuances and losing the war.

  15. Anonymous June 4, 2008 at 4:14 am - Reply

    Hi Len,

    Though its possible that we may disagree on what “the war” is (and I prefer to avoid military terminology), I certainly agree that I should spend time on weightier issues than arguing with Ralph. And indeed I do so. Pointing our Ralph’s exaggerations doesn’t take a lot of work.



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