The tragedy of Israel and the Palestinians
Great piece, Ross. It's difficult to consider (and put voice to) the possibility that there truly are no good answers here, but it certainly seems to be true. This really resonated with me.
One angle that hasn’t been analyzed is the effect of demographic change in the US and EU on the current “blank check” support these entities provide Israel.
I wouldn’t be so quick to say the US and Western Europe will blindly support Israel forever.
Demographic trends as currently on pace suggests by 2100 there will be a very different electorate that will affect policy across a whole host of domains.
>Israel is a contradiction. At some point, you can no longer be an ethno-state and a democracy.
Except for all the Arabs who serve in Parliament, and the non-Jews throughout Israel who have full legal and voting rights, you might be on to something here.
> Like George W. Bush after 9/11, Benjamin Netanyahu will be bathed in the glow of a new holy war, one that will slaughter many more civilians on the other side. ... When he loses power or dies, there will be no Golda Meir presiding over this land of the Jews. It will be the muscular Jews, the ultrareligious and bloodthirsty, who will get all that they want.
Except for the part where Netanyahu is already being pilloried for letting this happen, and the fact that Likud is at an all-time low in the polls, and the party that's surged as its replacement is the centrist, competency-based coalition of Gantz and Sa'ar, you might be on to something here.
>Two-state solution, one-state solution, no solution. Israel possesses, thanks to the United States, one of the world’s great militaries.
Except for the part about how Israel began its existence by defending against an invasion from six different Arab countries, you might be on to something here.
>The most idealistic solution, the one most popular with American leftists, is the single, multinational state, a democracy where everyone has an equal vote, an equal say. This, in a just world, would be one outcome, but it will not happen. Not now, not tomorrow, not ever.
Except for the part where Gaza is ruled by an international terrorist organization dedicated only to the slaughter of Jews, and the West Bank is ruled by a purported "moderate" who maintains a "Martyrs Fund" for the families of dead Palestinians who die killing a Jew (and where the payouts scale with the number of Jews they kill), you might be on to something here.
> A multinational state is not a Jewish state, just as it’s not written into the Constitution that America is for the white Protestants and no one else. The Jews might get outvoted, just like Catholics (and even a Black man) became president here. Bibi and his allies won’t allow that to happen. Nor will the United States. The bombardment of Gaza makes that clear.
Yes, the Jewish Homeland should not come to be ruled by Arabs who would ethnically cleanse all Jews from it if given the opportunity, just like they've done in every other Arab country.
You really thought you were saying something here, weren't you? Just because you're Jewish doesn't make you any less of a traitor to your people.
The amazing thing to me about the Israel-Palestinian conflict is that, contra Ross, "the answer" is actually obvious:
- Israel pulls back from the West Bank except for a few settlements close to the border and swaps other lands in exchange for the settlement lands they are keeping.
- Palestine gains recognition as a country and full self-government but agrees to full demilitarization (perhaps indefinitely or maybe for a set period of years) and gives up all claims on lands within Israel.
- Demilitarization is enforced by a huge international military presence in the West Bank and Gaza.
- Big fences for the foreseeable future.
The tragedy, of course, is that neither side today is willing to agree to this obvious answer (which, I get, is what Ross really means when he writes there is “no answer”). But I'm more optimistic than he is that an American led international effort could still force this answer into existence. It will likely require the U.S threatening to cut off aid and even the threat of sanctions against Israel; but in the end the Israelis will agree. The reality is that the crazy settlers committed to making “Judea and Samaria” part of Israel are still a significant minority and most Israelis would trade land for a credible peace.
So it’s ultimately a question of whether the Palestinians will accept this, and I think they ultimately do so, if only because they would have no real options otherwise.
But I also think that the right messaging would help. And for that messaging,I would amend Ross’ “no answer” formulation slightly to instead be “no justice.”
Because we should acknowledge that the answer above means there will ultimately be no justice for the Palestinian families that lost land to an influx of Jewish immigrants fleeing from Europe and other Middle Eastern countries. We should acknowledge that these Palestinian families have legitimate grievances about how they have been treated by history.
At the same time, we should also acknowledge that there was also no justice for the Jewish families who fled to Israel from the lands of their birthplaces, in most cases leaving everything they had ever known behind.
And while one could perhaps argue that it’s all Europe’s fault because of the anti-semitism that led to Zionism, and that they should ultimately fund reparations to both Israelis and Palestinians to make things right, that would hardly be just to the Europeans of today, who were neither the perpetrators of the sins of their ancestors and whose ancestors themselves suffered horribly because of World Wars I and II.
The reality is that expecting justice from history is a false hope that is almost always a practical impossibility. Whether one is Jewish, Palestinian, Cherokee, African American, Rwandan, Ukrainian, Indonesian, Cuban, etc. holding out for “justice” is a mistake if it prevents you from making the most of the present.
So the message to the Palestinians should be to acknowledge their past suffering and to admit that the solution being offered above is not justice. But it also should be to make clear that it’s the best solution they are likely to get and that it’s time to move forward, even though it means moving forward without justice.
I'm still waiting for American Zionists to explain to me why they haven't given their land back to the Native Americans.
Seems to me there's a little inconsistency there.
I'd say instead, There Is No "Good" Answer
I'll share what I wrote on Wednesday, which is not political but is how I, a Reform Jew living in NYC, feel. A sense of tribal identity and gratitude that there exists a Jewish homeland.
Thank you for this. I have never gone there and I never will, even though I have relatives there. I’d rather go to Canarsie.