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Jerome Slater began the discussion with this discussion of the just war philosophy and the invasion of Gaza, in which he boldly argues that Israel does not in fact have the right to defend itself until it retreats to the pre-1967 borders.

Doug Lieb then submitted a rebuttal, in which he dismisses the idea that Hamas represents “resistance” and basically characterizes Slater’s argument as a moral justification for killing civilians.

Slater then responds by accusing Lieb of employing a straw man instead of his actual arguments, and responds to a number of Lieb’s points.

If Lieb responds further, I’ll post the response.

A demonstration a few days ago, 10,000 in Tel Aviv protesting the bombing of Gaza.

A little bit of a contrast with half a century ago.

Addendum: These Israeli kids are going to jail for refusal to serve in the military.  Yes, military service is mandatory for women as well.

They are known as the Shministim and you can sign a petition on their behalf at this site, which also contains profiles of each of the conscientious objectors including their sentences.  Can’t find a translation of Shministim there (the boy in the video makes the translation, but I can’t make out what he says), but maybe someone here can help.

Second addendum: Meanwhile, here is a clip of one very brave young American woman, using her national status and the presence of a Korean news camera to at least calm the situation in one corner of the conflict.  It seems like they were ready to manhandle her until she started speaking English.  Whatever satisfaction she feels about the brief moment of restraint is undone as she looks at the violence across the way, wishing she can be everywhere at once.  Her conduct earned her some praise from a prominent conservative blogger.

Third addendum: The y0ung woman is Hawaida Arraf, co-f0under of the International Solidarity Movement.   Her father is Israeli-Arab.  Her mother is Palestinian.  She is Christian and an American, raised in Detroit.  She co-founded the group with her husband Adam Shapiro.

I just got finished deleting a post which attacked generically “the Jews” as opposed to “Israel” or “Zionism.” We’ve had this discussion in the past about distinguishing between the concepts and whether the conflation is proof positive by some Anti-Defamation League types that the latter two words are often code for the former, much as “affirmative action” is often code for more racist concepts.

Then I checked my email. Here’s a video of a Ft. Lauderdale demonstration and a referencing L.A. Times Column.

I know, I know. They’re oppressed. They can’t help themselves. They have a right to say those things.

Addendum: Yes, I know they’re angry.  And these photographs justify the anger.  It’s not the anger I object to.  It’s the hate.

Here’s a brief editorial entitled “the Ignored Choices in Gaza.”  It lays out some missed opportunities by both sides of the conflict.  Unfortunately, hundreds of Palestinians and a handful of Israelis pay the price.  And the outcomes for either side look bleak:

Now, inside war, the options look even more limited. Hamas wants some accomplishment to show for the conflict. It is desperate enough to consider Egypt as a diplomatic intermediary, though Egypt has no interest in the Islamic movement claiming a victory. When they decided to use force to stop the rocket fire, Israel’s leaders did not seem to have defined a way to end the war. The exit strategy was outside the narrow frame.

Reconquering the Strip would be a tactical victory and strategic disaster, turning the Israeli army into a daily target for guerrilla warfare. Shattering the Hamas regime would leave Gaza in chaos. According to the annual report of Israel’s Shin Bet security service (Hebrew report here), there’s been an increase in activity in Gaza by groups that identify with al-Qaeda and other forms of world jihad. Israel could find itself nostalgic for Hamas exercising a monopoly on force.

Reportedly, Israel seeks an international agreement to crack down on arms smuggling to Gaza, with foreign forces deployed on the Egyptian-Gaza border. But will foreign troops really engage in gun battles with Palestinians? The experience with international forces in Lebanon doesn’t lead one to think so. Yet to avoid conquering all of Gaza, Israel may have to accept a ceasefire that contains only the façade of a solution.

Second Addendum: People keep sending me depressing material. I’ll post this one, but enough already.  For some reason the embed function isn’t working, but it’s a horrific video ostensibly of Hamas soldiers using a child as a shield.  There’s no way to verify that’s what we’re looking at, but there it is.

And this one: “My father was no militant, but Israel’s bombs reduced him to a pile of flesh.”

The statement comes from their website, and it pretty much reflects my views.

December 28, 2008

Jewish Voice for Peace joins millions around the world, including the 1,000 Israelis who protested in the streets of Tel Aviv this weekend, in condemning ongoing Israeli attacks on Gaza. We call for an immediate end to attacks on all civilians, whether Palestinian or Israeli.

Israel’s slow strangulation of Gaza through blockade has caused widespread suffering to the 1.5 million people of Gaza due to lack of food, electricity, water treatment supplies and medical equipment. It is a violation of humanitarian law and has been widely condemned around the world.

In resisting this strangulation, Hamas resumed launching rockets and mortars from Gaza into southern Israel, directly targeting civilians, which is also a war crime. Over the years, these poorly made rockets have been responsible for the deaths of 15 Israelis since 2004.

Every country, Israel included, has the right and obligation to protect its citizens. The recent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza shows that diplomatic agreements are the best protection for civilian life.

Moreover, massive Israeli air strikes have proven an indiscriminate and brutal weapon. In just two days, the known death toll is close to 300, and the attacks are continuing. By targeting the infrastructure of a poor and densely populated area, Israel has ensured widespread civilian casualties among this already suffering and vulnerable population.

This massive destruction of Palestinian life will not protect the citizens of Israel. It is illegal and immoral and should be condemned in the strongest possible terms. And it threatens to ignite the West Bank and add flames to the other fires burning in the Middle East and beyond for years to come.

The timing of this attack, during the waning days of a US administration that has undertaken a catastrophic policy toward the Middle East and during the run-up to an Israeli election, suggests an opportunistic agenda for short-term political gain at an immense cost in Palestinian lives. In the long run this policy will benefit no-one except those who always profit from war and exploitation. Only a just and lasting peace, achieved through a negotiated agreement, can provide both Palestinians and Israelis the security they want and deserve.

Addendum:  Somebody linked me to this video entitled If the IDF made Hamas-style videos.  It comes with the following explanation.

Here is how I imagine an IDF video would look like if it was made like those cheesy Hamas jihadist videos that glorify terror, with bad music, poor sound effects and repetitive explosions.

I haven’t seen any Hamas videos so I can’t judge, but I guess the real point is to prove that the IDF was targeting paramilitary operations.  I don’t think there’s any serious doubt about that.  But it also misleads, much like the first Gulf War footage, to suggest that these are “surgical strikes” and not an the overkill being suggested by a number experts.

Here is a comment on the Youtube page (you can get there by clicking twice on the video).

Good vid…& to extend the metaphor, imagine what would happen if the Palestinians had a wing of F-18 fighters. Would they just use them responsibly like the Israeli’s do and just protect their own land or limit their incursions to 40 miles into Israel like they are doing with their rockets? No, they would try to wipe out Israel as fast as they could.
Who knows what they would do?  They wouldn’t be fighting asymmetrical warfare, so they might actually act a bit differently.  Then again, they might act like Franco with Guernica.  Who knows?  I’m not an expert.

The views expressed are not mine – not all of them anyway. If anybody would like to type up a thoughtful response, I’ll give it front page billing – EVK.


By Andrew Stunich

The battle for the land we call Israel rarely disappears from the news. The dispute is often referred to as the Arab-Israeli conflict, but as shown below that label is under-inclusive. The dispute garners so much media attention for several reasons, most of important of which is the obvious conclusion that it is a conflict that has the potential to ignite a regional war that could further erupt into a larger, more global conflagration. Such a global confrontation could result in an associated economic depression.

An understanding of the roots of the Arab-Israeli conflict is crucial if we are to have any chance of ending or containing the conflict. An accurate understanding is also essential to a deeper appreciation of the complex forces causing war, famine, terrorism and refugee problems in diverse places.

Many people believe that the conflict between the Jews and Arabs dates back to the well known story of Isaac, Abraham and Ishmael. Arabs trace their lineage to Ishmael and Jews trace their lineage to Isaac. Both Isaac and Ishmael were the sons of Abraham – Ishmael from his wife Sarah’s maid and Isaac from his wife Sarah. Belief in the story of Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael is widespread, but Arabs believe in a different version of the story than is taught in the Bible. The Arab version of the story is taught in the Koran. Both groups find their version of the story to be favorable and, therefore, the widespread belief that Isaac and Ishmael descend from Abraham is not a significant factor that drives animosity between Jews and Arabs.

The Arab-Israeli conflict has its real genesis in seventh century Arabia and the advent of Islam as a world religion.

The Jewish people were conquered by the Romans and ceased to exist as an independent Jewish state several hundred years before the advent of Islam and the Arab conquest of the Middle East in the late seventh century and early eighth century. The Jewish people were scattered throughout the Middle East and beyond. As a result, vibrant Jewish communities existed on the Arabian Peninsula during Muhammad’s time and they became a prime target of Islamic aggression soon after Muhammad gained political and military power in Medina.

Arab Muslims, led by Muhammad himself, attacked and ruthlessly subdued Jews located on the Arabian Peninsula. Entire Jewish tribes were destroyed by some combination of slaughter, slavery, or forced expulsion from the Arabian Peninsula. The nexus between that early conflict and the present Arab-Israeli conflict is indirect, but nonetheless existent and extremely important to an understanding of the modern Arab-Israeli conflict.

Because of their long-term familiarity and sometimes close association with one another, both groups have some common cultural ties. As noted above, both Jews and Arabs tend to believe that they are descendants of Abraham. They are both monotheistic people. Many Arabs presently live comfortably as citizens of the State of Israel with few restrictions. At least on the surface, it is part of what the two sides have in common that has become the focus of the conflict.

Both sides have long-term, historical ties to the disputed Holy Land that neither side is willing to relinquish. The present outward manifestation of the conflict between the two groups revolves around a claimed right to the Holy Land and control of Jerusalem. The conflict has a deeper root cause as explained below, but the territorial dispute exacerbates the conflict. While both groups claim rights to the Holy Land and consider control of Jerusalem as paramount to their claims to the Holy Land, it is a mistake to view the conflict as nothing more than a territorial dispute. The dispute excites Islamic fervor in millions of Muslims that were not born in, have never visited, and have never owned property in the Holy Land. Yassir Arafat, for example, was born in Egypt, but nonetheless became the most famous, iconic leader of Arab Palestinians and champion of their claims to the Holy Land and Jerusalem.

While both sides have long-term ties to the Holy Land, some of the Arab sentiments are more manufactured than the result of actual historical reverence. The Jewish reverence for Jerusalem is based on undisputably ancient historical and religious claims to the city. The Islamic claim to Jerusalem is far more manufactured by modern Islamic leaders than it is rooted in legitimate religious or historical claims to the city. In the late seventh or early eighth century Arabs built sacred sites on top of the ruins of the most sacred Jewish site in Jerusalem despite knowledge of the fact that both the city and the sacred site were perceived as profoundly holy and revered by Jews.

The destruction of and expropriation of other religion’s holy sites was a common Islamic practice for centuries. Even in modern times, the Taliban resurrected the ancient Islamic practice by destroying magnificent statues of Buddha in Afghanistan. Muslims destroyed countless Hindu Shrines in India. The Hindu Shrines were seen as an especially moral affront to Islam because of the incorporation of art and statues depicting nudity and sexual acts into the temple designs.

Under the original United Nations mandate seeking to peacefully partition the Holy Land, Jerusalem was declared an international city to be administered by the United Nations. That partition attempt by the United Nations was rejected by several Arab states and they attacked the nascent Jewish state of Israel in an expressly stated attempt to destroy it. Israel prevailed in what many describe as a David versus Goliath type confrontation, but Israel’s existence has been vehemently opposed by most of the Arab and Islamic World with the result that several subsequent wars, violent skirmishes, and repeated acts of terrorism have ensued.

These continued conflicts further deepened the dispute and in 1967 added additional territories to the land dispute aspect of the conflict. The 1967 Six-Day War also exacerbated the Palestinian refugee problem, as well as the dispute over Jerusalem. Israel gained full control of the city from Jordan during the 1967 war.

The underlying root cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict, like so many issues related to the conflict, is highly contested. There are many theories as to the root cause and little consensus. The most strident anti-Israel view of the conflict is that it is the direct result of Imperialism. The ultra extremist view that the Jews themselves were Imperialists is not addressed herein as it is patently untenable. There must be an empire before any people can potentially engage in empire building.

Adherents to the more mainstream view that British Imperialism caused the conflict have a more realistic, albeit ultimately inaccurate assessment as to the roots of the conflict. Adherents to the view that British Imperialism caused the conflict argue that after the British took control of Palestine following a mandate from the League of Nations to administer the land, they mismanaged the competing claims to the land and made inconsistent promises to both the Arabs and the Jews. It is claimed that the British used a small force to garrison the Holy Land without working to create a national government to administer the region or to transfer any political power to either the Arabs or the Jews. It is further claimed that without strong central authority and a viable plan to transfer power or control to the local inhabitants and to peacefully resolve their differences, it was inevitable that factions emerged to advance the interests of the competing Jewish and Arab communities. There is a great deal of truth in some of the premises that underlay the argument that the conflict is a result of British Imperialism. Both the Jews and Arabs wanted, at a minimum, autonomy and were displeased with British governance.

Both sides claimed that the British were biased against them and had broken promises to give them control of the land. Arabs complained to the British about Jewish immigration and sought to curtail that immigration as much as possible. Jews legitimately complained to the British about the limits placed on Jewish immigration and that the British were not only not defending them from Arab violence, but were hindering their ability to protect themselves from Arab aggression. British indifference, hostility, or shifting allegiance to the Arabs resulted in the Nazi slaughter of countless Jews trapped in Europe. Many Arabs applauded the slaughter and hoped to expand it to the Holy Land.

Despite a host of errors made by the British in the Holy Land, it is unfair to blame the British for the Arab-Israeli conflict. At best the British are guilty of failing to manage the conflict in the best possible manner. The reality is that the Arab-Jewish conflict was an impossible problem for the British or anyone else to resolve. There had been a continuous Jewish presence in the land for thousands of years, much longer than the Arab presence, but the Arabs were the majority population and they were violently opposed to the increasing Jewish presence. Arabs also could not accept the refusal by the Jews to adopt a traditional role of subservience to Islamic culture in the Middle East. Neither the Jewish desire to develop a home in the Holy Land nor the Arab opposition to Zionism resulted from British malfeasance or nonfeasance. At worst, Britain added fuel to a fire that was destined to burn. The reality is that it is the norm rather than the exception for there to be conflict wherever the Islamic world comes in contact with the non-Islamic world. Consider the situation in Kashmir, Nigeria, and Sudan.

No one disputes that Palestine, the Roman name for the Holy Land after the Romans were angered by a Jewish revolt, is also the Promised Land, but to whom was it promised? “The Jew, who came first? Or the Arab, who was there last?” (see fn. 1) Both Britain and the United Nations proved incapable of achieving a peaceful solution to such a difficult problem.

Both Jews and Arabs were willing to fight for the Holy Land and eventually the situation deteriorated to the point that members of both sides attacked British soldiers or each other. It is, however, undisputed that Arabs initiated the violence by attacking and slaughtering Jews in Hebron, one of the four most holy cities in Judaism. The violence spread to other parts of Palestine. Britain eventually came to understandably realize that it could not resolve the conflict and decided to withdraw from its mandate.

The United Nations attempted to resolve the problem and legitimately tried to do so. The eventual two-state solution was not a mediated solution between the Jews and Arabs; however, it was decided by the United Nations after considerable study, analysis and debate and a mediated resolution was impossible to obtain. The Palestinian Arabs were well represented at the United Nations by a host of Arab nations and the Arab League that vehemently opposed the United Nations Partition Plan.

The Arab nations were flatly unwilling to recognize the legitimacy of an independent Jewish presence in Palestine under any terms and, even after the United Nations voted to partition Palestine and Israel declared its independence, sought to supplant Israel with some type of Arab state or to divide the area among Egypt, Syria and Jordan. The following September 16, 1947, quote from Arab League secretary Abd al-Rahman Azzam Pasha reveals both the negotiating intransigence of the Arabs and the Arab view that the fight over Palestine was simply a front in the larger historic battle between Islam and the West:

“The Arab world is not at all in a compromising mood. The proposed plan may be logical, but the fate of nations is not decided by rational reasoning . . . . You will achieve nothing with talk of compromise or peace. You may perhaps achieve something by force of your arms. We will try to rout you . . . We succeeded in expelling the Crusaders, but lost Spain and Persia, and may lose Palestine. But it is too late for a peaceful solution.” (see fn. 2)

The belief that the root of the Arab-Israeli conflict arises from Imperialism or is simply a land dispute is nothing more than the result of Western ignorance about Islam and Islamic culture. After the increased study of Islam and resulting better understanding of Islam that followed the horrific events of September 11, 2001, the roots of the Arab-Israeli conflict can be more accurately assessed and disclosed.

The real root cause of the Arab-Israeli conflict lies within Islamic doctrine and history and the resulting Islamic anti-Semitism with its origins dating back to the rise of Islam in the seventh century. Several verses from the Koran assign negative attributes to Jews. (see fn. 3) The Koran and hadiths contain a few favorable verses about Jews, but overall Islamic doctrine and Islamic history and culture results in fervent anti-Semitism by fundamentalist Muslims. This fervent anti-Semitism is described in “Islam and the Jews” written by Mark Gabriel. Dr. Gabriel was born in Egypt and once taught at the prestigious Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt. His story of how difficult it was for him to shed the anti-Semitism bred into him during his upbringing in Egypt brings to life just how deeply ingrained and fervent anti-Semitism is in the Islamic world.

Palestinian religious leaders such as Haj Amin Hussein, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem and uncle of Yassir Arafat, were virulently anti-Semitic and played a major role in fomenting Arab violence against and hatred of Jews. The fanatical hatred of Jews by Haj Amin Hussein and his position of leadership virtually assured that Palestinian Arabs would reject any and all compromises and assured that peace would be a transitory concept in the Holy Land for the foreseeable future.

Haj Amin Hussein’s fanatical anti-Semitism fell on fertile ground. The type of institutionalized discrimination mandated by the Pact of Omar applied to Jews throughout the Islamic world to one degree or the other over the centuries inevitably led to deeply ingrained feelings of a natural right to Muslim authority over any Jews living in the Middle East or North Africa. Muslims also developed an abiding belief in the supremacy of Islam as a result of its early conquests and centuries-long status as a dominant religious and political force in the Middle East and beyond. Muslims, as the quote above reveals, perceived the fight over Palestine as a continuation of the conflict between Islam and the West that began when the early Muslim community attacked the Byzantine Empire. From the Islamic perspective, the conflict had simply simmered for approximately three hundred years. From the Western perspective, few outside of academia even realized that an epic historical fight had occurred between East and West.

The relative decline of Islam as a dominant military and political force has ultimately engendered in the Islamic world a deep-seated desire to regain Islam’s past glory. It follows that the presence of Israel, a Jewish state anddemocracy, in the heart of the Islamic world is very difficult for Muslims to accept. It is very difficult for Muslims to reconcile Israel’s presence and its regional military supremacy with the prevalent Muslim view that, as alleged recipients of Allah’s final revelation, that no Muslim should be subject to the political supremacy of a Jewish state. It followed that, regardless of the small size of Israel and the vastly larger land mass of the surrounding Arab lands, from the Muslim perspective, Israel’s existence was a cancer in the heart of the Islamic world that needed to be excised.

An additional important factor in the inability to resolve the Arab-Israeli
conflict over-looked by most Middle East analysts is the tribal roots of Arab culture and Islam. The Christian concept of forgiveness and “turning the other cheek” is just that – a Christian concept that has influenced most Western belief systems, including secular ideologies, but has made little inroads into Islamic culture in the Middle East. Islam has its origins in Arab tribal culture with its blood feuds. Islam simply traded sanguinity for belief in Muhammad as Allah’s Messenger as the basis for primary tribal affiliation. In fundamentalist Islam and Arab culture, there is no concept of forgiveness for forgiveness sake. Perceived honor is paramount and any suspected slight in a family’s honor can lead to violence. It is for this reason that an Arab family can and often does kill female family members who are suspected of violating the family honor. In Arab culture, blood feuds are infused with issues of honor and any settlement or resolution must restore any perceived loss of honor. Blood feuds are settled by paying the appropriate price and disputes are not settled on the basis of forgiveness along with a negotiated solution that is acceptable to both sides with no admission as to who is at fault.

It is not that honor is completely ignored in Western culture, many of us will
recall Richard Nixon’s need for “peace with honor” during the Vietnam War, it is simply that the concept is restrained, tempered by, and competes with other,often stronger cultural influences that are either non-existent or not as strong in the Islamic World.

Israel is a Western culture and it has in large part adopted the Western concept of forgiveness and willingness to reach a fair negotiated solution. While this cultural difference may at first blush seem insignificant, it is not. It makes peace difficult to obtain on reasonable terms because Arabs feel wronged and have a perceived sense of a humiliating loss of honor. Arabs expect peace to come in the form of a bargained capitulation to end the blood feud that essentially pays a premium price for perceived loss of honor. Israel is unwilling to pay such a steep price for peace as it believes Arab demands would leave it defenseless or Arab demands for all or part of Jerusalem are too steep of a price to pay emotionally and culturally. It is this cultural difference that results, at least in part, in Arab refusals to accept settlement offers that, at least to Westerners, appear very favorable to Arabs in light their relative military weakness and apparent inability to achieve anything more favorable by continuing the conflict.

Islam also instills in its adherents the belief that everything that happens is
Allah’s will. This concept is known as predestination. Muslims tend to believe that it is Allah’s will that they ultimately triumph and, therefore, there is no need to negotiate a solution. The news media and entertainment industry in the Middle East plays to an already pervasive anti-Semitism that adds to the intractability of the conflict. Even children’s cartoon characters such as Farfur the mouse advance Islamic anti-Semitism and Jihadist ideology.

Because the strongest source of the Arab-Israeli conflict is deeply ingrained in the centuries’ old religious and political experience of the Islamic World, resolution of the Arab-Israeli conflict has defied resolution. Many analysts, including Henry Kissinger, have accurately concluded that the Arab-Israeli conflict is incapable of any foreseeable, permanent resolution and that all that can be achieved is some degree of crisis management.

Only complete domination and control of Islamic society by Western culture and the slow dampening and reduction of the influence of Islam over time could ever result in a real, lasting peace in the Middle East. That process would require control of the media, entertainment industry, education system, and Mosques in Islamic countries until decades of education eliminated pervasive Islamic control over the beliefs and cultural values of the region. Such an approach is beyond the parameters of what is acceptable in Western democracies so we are left with attempts to manage the crisis and the unrealistic hope that Islamic culture will miraculously change from within.

The attribution of Imperialism as the alleged source of the Israeli-Arab conflict also fails to account for the fact that the United Nations thoroughly investigated the conflict prior to voting to recognize Israel and partition that portion of Palestine not already assigned to Jordan, an Arab state and monarchy, into separate Jewish and Palestinian homelands. Such diverse countries as the United States and U.S.S.R., bitter cold war opponents at the time with divergent interests, both voted for the partition and to recognize Israel as a nation which suggests that the partition was as objectively fair as learned minds could determine.

Proponents of the view that the root cause of the conflict stems from deep-seated animosities point out that, at the time hostilities commenced, the Holy Land was far from its historic high population levels and the existing high population level today. There was, therefore, no legitimate reason for such fervent Arab opposition to continued Jewish immigration. Local Arabs did not register similar complaints about Arab immigration from surrounding Arab countries revealing that racial and religious bigotry was a driving force in Arab opposition to Jewish immigration.

It is also noteworthy that Jewish immigrants toiled hard to reclaim lost agricultural land and develop the Holy Land and their efforts raised the standard of living of both Jews and Muslims, as well as health standards and life expectancies. Jewish efforts benefitted all of Palestine’s inhabitants. Moreover, Jewish land purchases resulted in a higher percentage of ownership of land in the hands of local inhabitants and away from absentee Arab landowners.

Israel’s fair treatment of its Arab citizens also proves that Arabs had no reason to fear Jewish immigration and statehood. Arabs are treated by the Israeli government far better than most Arabs are treated by their own Islamic governments and Israeli Arabs have far greater free speech rights and other freedoms than most other Arabs in the Middle East.

Whatever the original origins of the conflict may be, it is clear that the conflict seems to be gaining in intensity for many reasons. There are Palestinians who were displaced during the conflict and their desire to return to their former homes within the borders of modern day Israel has been an open wound and certainly contributes to the ongoing nature of the conflict. The plight of these Palestinians has been manipulated and intentionally left unresolved by the Islamic world. In Saudi Arabia, for example, Palestinian Arabs are expressly excluded from the right to become citizens of Saudi Arabia for the admitted purpose of not diluting Arab claims to Israel.

The conflict has also resulted in the voluntary and involuntary expulsion of Jews throughout the Islamic World and the ingathering of many of them to Israel. That population infusion of displaced Jews into Israel and the Arab states’ refusal to reciprocate and accept large numbers of Palestinians as welcome fellow Arabs and citizens have contributed to the ongoing nature and exacerbation of the dispute. Even if Israel had wanted to, its need to accommodate, house, and feed hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees would have rendered it incapable of successfully absorbing the return of Palestinians whose high birth rates caused their ranks to swell during their exile.

Some analysts claim that Israel’s demand that any right of return granted to
Palestinians must involve a comprehensive, permanent peace, has also contributed to the ongoing nature and exacerbation of the dispute. I disagree and believe that allowing more Arabs to live within the borders of Israel would simply destabilize the country and threaten its ability to remain a viable democracy. Any Israeli instability would translate into a perception in the Islamic world that Israel is vulnerable and would increase the likelihood of armed aggression and increase the likelihood of a new Holocaust.

A fundamentalist Islamic awakening or revival has added additional fervor to the conflict. The Islamic world has experimented with many Western ideologies, none of which have led to parity between the Islamic world and the Western world. As the Islamic world falls further behind the West and Muslims feel increasingly inferior, there is a natural reaction or tendency to turn to Islam under the belief that Islam and Islam alone made the Muslim world great and only Islam can make it great once again. There is also some understandable revulsion, from a Muslim perspective, at the decaying moral values of Western civilization. The increasing ease of communication means more exposure to Western culture at its worst as represented by Hollywood movies.

Some Jews and Christians also believe that God promised the Holy Land to the Jews and that Israel’s borders should be expanded to its ancient boundaries further adding to the conflict. The Bible promises all of the land between the Nile River and Euphrates River to the Jews and many Jews and Christians believe that the Jews are obligated to accept God’s gift. Palestinians become enraged when Jewish settlers take up residence in Judea and Samaria, known more popularly as the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Now that population levels in the region are high, it is anticipated that further rising population density in the region will add further demands to the relatively limited land space and already strained water supplies and potentially deeply exacerbate the conflict. The increasing sophistication and intensity of international terrorism and the response to that terrorism are both adding further instability to the region. Knowledge and education are increasing with the associated sophistication of the type of weaponry sure to be used in future battles.

The threat of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction increases with each passing year with the concurrent increase in the danger to the region’s inhabitants and the very real possibility that Israel will undertake preemptive strikes against Iran, Hamas, Hezbollah or some combination thereof.

Iran’s support of terrorism since its 1979 Islamic Revolution and the express
desire by some of its political and religious leaders to exterminate Israel and fund terrorism against Israel has greatly intensified the conflict. Iran’s funding and support of Hezbollah has already caused one war and will probably lead to future wars. Prior to the 1979 Islamic Revolution, the Shah of Iran had good relations with Israel and kept Iran out of the confict.

Given Iran’s increasing involvement in the conflict and the likelihood that it will play a major role in the future of the conflict, it may be more accurate in the future to describe the conflict as the Islamic-Israeli conflict.

Such a designation would more accurately describe the participation in the conflict by Muslims throughout the World who are not Arabs, as well as help identify the root cause of the conflict.

Up until now, there really has been no legitimate reason for the conflict. There was plenty of room for the area to comfortably accommodate Twentieth Century population levels. But water resources available to the region are becoming increasingly taxed and there may well be very legitimate disputes in the future over limited water supplies that could raise the stakes of the conflict even further. Israel and Syria have already squared off in the past over disputed water supplies. Israel is obtaining water from Turkey which will make it vulnerable to an interdiction of some of its water supply. The globalization of water resources will also allow an unnatural population increase in the Middle East that will eventually add to regional instability.

My best prediction for the future of the Middle East is not optimistic, although I hope and pray that I am wrong. I believe that Iran will obtain nuclear weapons. Western culture has become too unsure of its own moral right to exist to take the hard steps and to maintain the long-term resolve needed to stop Iranian nuclear development. How can those who do not respect their culture ever decide to sacrifice themselves or even their comfort to preserve that culture? Increasing oil prices will raise the amount of money the Mullahs of Iran can spend preparing for war and decrease the relative power of Western economies. Increasing European political and economic power, as well as shifting domestic politics within the United States, will lessen military aid to Israel from the United States. Israel will become increasingly isolated and may well find itself facing the Islamic World alone.

Iran and several other Islamic states will eventually attack Israel after a decline in Israel’s relative regional military supremacy. The conflict will eventually result in the exchange of nuclear weapons or some other type of weapons of mass destruction.


1. Quoted from Lightning Out of Israel an old and out of print book written by the
Associated Press about the Six-Day War.

2. Quoted from Middle East Conflict by Mitchell G. Bard.

3. See chapter 2, verses 61, 65; chapter 3, verse 71; chapter 4, verse 46; chapter 5, verses 60-65, 78-82; and chapter 7, verse 166.

You ought to be. From the Washington Post:

Gaza seen as Palestinian shame, banana republic

By Bernd Debusmann, Special Correspondent
Sunday, April 1, 2007; 1:21 PM

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Factional fighting, political bickering and a failure to establish law and order have turned Gaza into a symbol of Palestinian shame and are pushing the Palestinian national movement toward collapse, according to prominent Palestinian intellectuals.

“What has come to pass in Gaza is embarrassing and shameful,” said Rashid Khalidi, director of Columbia University’s Middle East Institute and a widely respected author of books on Palestinian history.

“You may be seeing the collapse of the Palestinian national movement. It might take us back an entire generation,” he said in an interview.

“There has been a failure of leadership and it is time that Palestinian leaders looked at their own weaknesses instead of blaming everything on Zionism, imperialism and other outside forces.”

The article cites several Palestinian activists. Let’s get the obligatory “it’s all Israel’s fault” posts out the way and then address the question of why groups like ANSWER are silent about the abuses of a banana republic.

Steven Lewis and Jewishperson, both frequent posters and mutual antagonists, seem to agree on one thing. They both equate Zionism with Judaism. Therefor, any attack on Steven’s anti-semitism is a defense of Zionism. And any criticism of Zionism is in the eyes of some individuals JP has cited (including Martin Luther King, Jr.) is in actuality an attack on Judaism (though Jewishperson herself has not said so herself). This consensus is particularly disconcerting for those of us who embrace Judaism as a positive force in history with thousands of years of traditions of justice (and enormous contributions to left wing philosophy and organizing), but are critical of much of Israeli policy and the Zionist ideology.

I’m going to dedicate a few postings to people who have been caught in the crossfire due to this consensus, starting with Joel Beinin who wrote a compelling article that appears in today’s San Francisco Chronicle. And while the silencing of his voice appears to have been the result of a gun shy school administrator rather than actual pressure put on by the pro-Israel group in particular, Beining’s testimony is invaluable.

I encourage you to take the above link and read the whole article, but here are some highlights.

Last Sunday in San Francisco, the Anti-Defamation League sponsored “Finding Our Voice,” a conference designed to help Jews recognize and confront the “new anti-Semitism.” For me, it was ironic. Ten days before, my own voice was silenced by fellow Jews.


I was raised a Zionist. I went to Israel after high school for six months to live on a kibbutz. I met my wife there. We returned four years later thinking we’d spend our lives on a kibbutz, working the land and living the Zionist dream. Why did the council feel the need to silence me?

In fact, this was not our first run-in. I have long advocated equal rights for the Palestinians, as I do for all people. I criticize Israeli policies. I seem to have crossed the council’s line of acceptable discourse. Because I am a Jew, it is not so easy to smear me as guilty of this “new anti-Semitism.” Instead, hosts like the Harker School, and others, are intimidated, and open dialogue on Israel is censored.


I tended livestock on Kibbutz Lahav, which was established on the ruins of three Palestinian villages. The Palestinian inhabitants had been expelled and, because they are not Jewish, were unable to return. One day, we needed extra workers to help clean manure from the turkey cages. The head of the turkey branch said we should not ask for kibbutz members to do the work because, “This isn’t work for Jews. This is work for Arabushim.” “Arabushim” is an extremely derogatory racial term.

I had participated in the civil rights movement in America, picketing Woolworth’s stores that wouldn’t serve African Americans. Yet in Israel I discovered the same, stark racism. How could this bring peace between Palestinians and Israelis? While still living in Israel, I began to speak out for equal rights for Palestinians, as I had done for blacks in America.


Organizations claiming to represent American Jews engage in a systematic campaign of defamation, censorship and hate-mongering to silence criticism of Israeli policies. They hollow the ethical core out of the Jewish tradition, acting instead as if the highest purpose of being Jewish is to defend Israel, right or wrong.

Now, this is pretty bitter. And some of the comments I left out are even more so. But we’re all pretty much the product of our experiences, and I imagine he’s heard the phrase “self-hating Jew” more than a few times. It’s not conducive to intelligent discussion.

Next I’m going to dig up an NPR story about a Palestinian attorney who is ostracized on the one hand because he’s dedicated his office in the West Bank to memorializing the Holocaust, while criticizing the occupation of Palestinian lands.

Photo of Beinin from the SF Chronicle.

This comic strip is being circulated, by “Zionists” as the word is so casually thrown around here. And I do believe it grossly oversimplifies the situation, and fails to take into account the very nature of asymmetric warfare. When you have less power in a military confrontation, you tend to be limited to guerrilla tactics, sometimes nasty.

However, it does underscore a key point in the discussion. You can’t explain the willingness to strap bombs to children as a tactic of terror by telling us how oppressed the resisting group is. The blacks in South Africa took harsh action, but they never sent their children on suicide missions. Nor even the Afghan resistance to Soviet occupation. I haven’t even heard of it happening in Iraq. It seems to be uniquely applied against Israelis, and all of the sudden Golda Meir’s quote about Israel’s Arab opponents hating them more than they love their own children makes sense.

It is a very provocative comic strip to be sure, and it’s already causing quite a stir on other forums. I expect no less here.


June 2020