December 14, 2019

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On the Arab-Israeli conflict and left-wing Jewish groups (Kamel Amin Thaabet)

This is from a Twitter thread by “Kamel Amin Thaabet.


Not something I usually do, but here’s a thread with some thoughts on the Arab-Israeli conflict and the myopia of groups like IfNotNow, and J Street 1.

Over simple, I know, but I posit that there are 3 principal dimensions to the conflict.

First, the conflict over lands captured by Israel in 1967.

Second, the conflict over the creation of the State of Israel in 1948.

Third, the conflict between open societies and the retrograde forces of radical Islam.

The first conflict is essentially solvable by trading land for peace. Although the peace with Egypt is cold, Israel traded the Sinai for peace some 40 years ago and it has held. Although it didn’t involve much land, the peace deal with Jordan has also endured since 1994.

The second conflict is not solvable by trading land for peace. The objective is to unwind the creation of the state of Israel, whether by force or creation of a binational state which would functionally be the death knell of self-determination for the Jewish people.

The third conflict is also not solvable by trading land for peace. The likes of Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hezbollah view Israel as a cancerous tumor, and would excise it if they had the means. They subscribe to the maxim of thinking globally, but acting locally – Dar-al-Harb.

Basically, this is a three level game. If Israel yields every dunam captured in 1967, the move would end the conflict over those lands, but it would be a blunder in conflicts 2 and 3, strengthening the forces arrayed against Israel (which would not be liberal and democratic).

And the conflicts are also asymmetric in that Israel is being asked to yield something tangible– land – for something intangible – peace. This against the backdrop of a region in utter turmoil, where the Arab nation state as a concept isn’t working out all that well.

So even assuming that the likes of IfNotNow and J Street have good intentions (which is questionable), the mistake they make is discussing the conflict solely in terms of the “occupation” – i.e., the conflict over 1967. While I agree that Israel’s presence in the West Bank is inflammatory to the Palestinians (even though most live under full Palestinian control in “Area A”), that presence is not the cause of the conflict. The existence of sovereign Israel itself is the bone in the throat.

IfNotNow / J Street and their ilk ignore that Israel’s withdrawal from every inch of Gaza in 2005 did not pacify Gaza in any respect. This proved empirically, to all those who called for Israel to take “risks for peace,” that the conflict is not really about 1967.

These strident critics of Israel ignore that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is not the cause of Gaza’s bellicosity, but the result of it. The Gazans destroyed greenhouses and built attack tunnels.

These critics ignore that the PLO was founded in 1964 and that the Fatah logo still includes a map of the entire land of Israel and crossed rifles.

They ignore the “3 nos” of the Arab League at Khartoum in 1967: No peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiation with Israel.

They ignore that until the end of the cold war, the Arab-Israeli conflict was an active front of that war. The Palestinians were aligned with the Soviet Union. It is no accident that the Madrid process began in 1991.

So essentially, since the end of the Cold War (during the course of which creating a Soviet-aligned state would have been utter folly), Israel earnestly sought to end the conflict over 1967. Oslo was based on the assumption that the conflict was about 1967.

Israel yielded much. They allowed Arafat (despite the ocean of Jewish blood on his hands) into the land with trappings of a head of state. They allowed Palestinians to police themselves. Palestinians gained something they *never* had in history – territory over which they had control.

But this was not enough. The Palestinians recognize only their rights, not their responsibilities. And they recognize only Israeli responsibilities, not Israeli rights. The failure of Oslo, empirically, should have made the other dimensions to the conflict manifestly clear.

Simply put, by fetishizing Israel’s presence in the West Bank as the cause of the conflict, the likes of IfNotNow and J Street strengthen the hands of those who seek to unwind 1948 and the hands of those who would like to raise the flag of militant Islam over the land.

This is not to say that Israel should not, in its own interests, try to reach a better accommodation with Palestinian residents of the West Bank, improve conditions in Gaza, and to do its part to provide carrots and not only sticks. Israel could do better. But myopic focus on the “Occupation”, ignoring difficult truths, and taking back up the boycott strategies propounded by the Arab League since 1945, does not serve the cause of peace.

To the contrary, it provides air cover for abject enemies of Israel to make gains in the conflicts over 1948 and over the rights of non-Muslims to enjoy sovereignty in the Middle East, all while cloaking themselves in the language of progressivism and human rights.

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