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June 07, 2007

Jewish and Arab Americans Think Alike about the Middle East?
Posted by Jerry Mayer

Well, not exactly. But via Andrew Sullivan, I found this great new poll, in which the authors found remarkable areas of agreement between Jews and Arabs in the US:
The poll is yet another, and this time quite stunning confirmation that both groups want an American administration that is actively engaged in Middle East peacemaking, support a two-state solution, an end to occupation and freeze on settlements, and see a peace agreement as a U.S.strategic interest. A thumping 68 percent of Jewish Americans, and 64 percent of Arab Americans, say they would be more likely to vote for a presidential candidate who promised to take an active role in the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians. While fully 80 percent and 77 percent respectively rate President Bush's handling of the conflict as not effective
In an academic article I wrote a few years back, I showed that Christian fundamentalists were Israel's strongest supporters among the American public. This latest poll contributes to my belief that American Jews are actually more moderate in their support for Israel, compared to fundamentalist Christians. I would argue that they are better friends of Israel, because you don't show your friendship to Israel by encouraging it to hold onto as much of the West Bank as possible. You show your friendship by doing what is necessary to bring peace, which means removing most of the settlements. A lot of American Jews are to the left of Likud, but not so many Christian fundamentalists are.


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Does this really surprise anyone? Christian Fundamentalists only worry about making the Apocalypse come. American Jews have to worry about making Israel a good place to live for ourselves, our relatives, and of course the native Israelis. Endless wars don't advance the Jewish interest, you might say.

What has happened in the past is a good indicator of what will happen in the future. There has never been one concession made to the Palestinian population that has not resulted in continued violence. Giving away land to the Palestinian population and expecting peace, ignores history and the tenet of the Arabs, that Israel has no right to exist, much less continue to "co exist". Meanwhile, any future concession to Arabs will only result in the continuation of the same --- including the early indoctrination by Arabs that Israel is an illegitimate occupier of Palestine. So, please give up the notion that somehow peace will come through a withdrawal of Israel. That is a naive, and unsophisticated position.

Victor: Surely you understand that reasonable, informed people can disagree with you? The idea that Israel should dismantle settlements is not naive; it's just based on a different parsing of the evidence.

And speaking as someone raised Jewish, I went through a bit of early indoctrination myself. I'm not saying it's equivalent to palestinian education or something, just that I had to let go of some of what I was taught -- for example, nobody ever told me that palestinians living in the Territories couldn't vote in Israeli elections, but that Jews living in the Territories could (this was the early 1990s). Small things like that can hugely alter your view of the situation.

You might be surprised to hear/read that - at least according to this particular rationale - most Israelis are firmly in line with the view held by American Jewry as opposed to the more hard-line Fundamentalist Christian view.

Contrary to popular belief, even the more ardently right-wing Israelis tend to acknowledge that a two-state solution (Albeit only after acceptable assurances of security) is the only sustainable solution to the conflict, it is a rather small minority (less than 8 percent by even the most conservative estimates) that advocate a continued occupation of the West Bank ad infinitum.

Right. Didn't Israel completely withdraw from Gaza in 2005? What did the Gazans do? Why, they got right to work on building their peaceful society right?? Oh wait, no, that might come later. First priority is to fire dozens of rockets per day at Israel proper from their newly "liberated" territory. Get real.

If concessions only lead to violence, Victor, have non-concessions led to peace? You say my analysis is unsophisticated but imagining that Palestinian violence is caused only by concessions strikes me as reductionism of a particularly vapid kind.
I think the reaction of Palestinians to the Gaza withdrawal was a tragedy. At the same time, Israel did everything to make that go poorly. I was at a peace conference negotiation in Athens 60 days before the withdrawal. Representatives of Israel refused to tell the Palestinians ANYTHING about the withdrawal. When it would happen. What would be turned over. How it would be turned over. To their eternal discredit, the Palestinian Authority did not accept that Israel would do this badly, and construct an orderly system of land distribution and control the process. Instead, it was a chaotic landgrab ruled by the gun. From that moment of disorder, much like the early looting in Iraq, the current disorder stems.
There was a settler leader there at the negotiation, the only happy guy there. His settlement was in the West Bank, and as he saw the disarray get worse and worse, he smiled more and more. Because as Palestinians mishandle Gaza, Jews living in the West Bank feel more secure in their settlements, no matter how far they are from the 67 line.

But what is encouraging about this poll is that it should give Democrats some courage that if they make an appeal to American Jews on a policy that fully engages for peace, that forces both sides to make difficult choices, they won't lose Jewish support in any significant way.

I understand the legitimacy of the debate, based on different readings of the current situation, over what sorts of Israeli actions would or would not lead to a peaceful settlement of the conflict. But I want to object to the casual use of certain kinds of language. Since the occupied and Israeli-settled lands in the West Bank do not belong to Israel, it is tendentious to describe Israel quitting those territories as either "concessions" or "giving away land". The most straightforward, plain sense reading of international law and binding UN resolutions has it that Israel is bound to quit the occupied territories.

The most important practical consequence of Israel leaving the occupied territories would, I think, be this: Some Palestinians will, no doubt, still choose to make war on Israel. But under those circumstances, it will be manifestly clear that these fighters are rejectionist elements who do not support the post-1967 international two-state consensus, but are opposed to the existence of Israel altogether. Israel's international position will be much improved, and the international legal situation will be enormously clarified. Right now, the rejectionists are mixed in with two-state solutionists in one massive resistance movement. Western publics are divided in their support, because of the sense that Palestinians are, in part, engaged in legitimate resistance to occupation. I suspect this situation would change significantly following a return to the pre-1967 border.

Personally, for example, I have been bitterly resentful of US support for Israel so long as the latter remains in violation of UN 242, and continues to engage in an apparent strategy of creeping annexation of the occupied territories and all of Jerusalem. But I would strongly support a US commitment to Israeli security if that commitment was part of the backbone of a two-state solution based on a Green Line border. I do not support Israel being allowed to keep sizeable portions of the occupied territories as part of a "negotiated settlement" foisted upon the Palestinians, who are by far the weaker negotiating "partner". I believe the international community has to take a stand on international law, and the principle of the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force, and against the principle of might makes right.

Dan--you don't like calling it a concession for Israel to take extremely painful steps that will probably involve Jewish on Jewish violence, and for people to be uprooted from their homes, which their own government encouraged them to move to sometimes 20 and 30 years ago. OK. But it is often seen as a negotiating chip on the other side for the PA to agree to stop the suicide bombing of Israeli citizens. Is that a concession, getting the PA to do what ANY government worth the name does, assert monopoly on violence? Indeed, for many years, the PA was asked over and over again to simply not sponsor terrorism. Evidence emerged over and over that they were doing so. That's a concession?

The truth is, we need both sides to follow international law. And we can do a lot to help the situation, I think.

Jerry, taking a painful step is not always a concession. It was apparently quite painful for Paris Hilton to surrender herself to her jailers, but by doing so she was not making any concessions; she was only obeying the law.

If I grow attached to a work of art I have stolen, then it will be painful for me to part with it. But I am making no concession when the law rightfully takes it from me. The homes from which Jewish settlers in the West Bank will be uprooted are homes they had no right to possess in the first place. I would venture that almost every settler knew that when they took the home, and knew that the encourgagements coming from their own government were almost universally condemned outside Israel, and a clear violation of international law. But they chose to place other considerations above the law, and may have to pay a price for it.

And of course it is no "concession" at all for Palestinians to halt suicide bombings. The intentional killing of non-combattants is a savage crime. It is a clear violation of the laws and rules of armed conflict, as they have been understood for centuries, and is morally condemned by almost everyone outside a few circles of desperados and fanatics. If a person agrees not to engage in barbarous criminality, I don't think we should credit them having made a concession.

We end up in the same place: we should insist on the application of international law. But I would add that we shouldn't pat people on the back for fulfilling their obligations and obeying the law. Along with deploring this flaccid and indulgent language of "concessions" and "giving away", we should reject other commonly heard terms like "generous offer". It is a perversion of language to describe relinquishing what does not belong to one as a mark of generosity.

[Jerry Mayer] "If concessions only lead to violence, Victor, have non-concessions led to peace? You say my analysis is unsophisticated but imagining that Palestinian violence is caused only by concessions strikes me as reductionism of a particularly vapid kind."

Vapidness aside, Jerry, when an enemy takes a position that your destruction is the only road to peace, then any action/effort on your part that fails to provide that outcome is an exercise in futility. And this has been borne out repeatedly as Israel attempts to appease Arab sentiment/hostilities by either following international law, as it were, or offering an olive branches to the opposition to either maintain a peace, or create it. Meantime, the only olive branches that Arabs will accept are those lain on the coffins of every Jew in the "occupied territory" which of course includes all of Israel.

So any touchy-feely sentiment that somehow peace will come if only the Jews would cooperate with the Arabs by lawfully pulling out/away from presently occupied/re-occupied territories, simply does not take into account the fundamental position of radical Arabs that Jews should not just leave, but continue to indoctrinate their children that all Jews should leave dead.

There is no appeasement when the goal of one party is the annihilation of the other. Until that goal is either reached by the Arabs, or abandoned, there will not be peace in Israel --- regardless of what Israel does, or does not do. That is neither reductionist, nor is it a vapid position.

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