African Notes: Animal Activism, Instinctive Apathy

Gershom Gorenberg

Above us, two eagles fought: One swooped ahead, the other caught up and dove, the two of the them locked together, plunged, let go, and flew again. “They’re fighting about territory,” said Brad, our guide. “One has entered the other’s territory, and is being warned to leave.”

Elephants emerged from the trees into open grassland near the river bank, a line of dark beasts, moving silently in the late afternoon light. We sat, awed, in the small open truck on a dirt road through the Hluhluwe Game Reserve. Brad explained the cushioning of their feet, which allows them to move like apparitions through the bush. He pointed out at a small elephant and said it was a young male. “They reach sexual maturity when they’re 12-13, like humans,” he said. “Then his mother will force him out of the herd, which will be quite traumatic for him.” For the next 10 years, Brad said, the young bull will live on its own. Then it will start fighting the older bulls for breeding rights.

Elephants, Brad said, are very emotional creatures. “They don’t like death at all. When one dies, the others try to lift her up.” The elephant population in the reserve is rising, he said, and eventually will have to be “culled.” The experts say that whole families have to be “culled.” They’ve learned experience: When only adults were “culled,” the young ones were traumatized. They were much more aggressive, attacking humans more willingly. Some mature bulls had to be brought in from elsewhere, and after a very long time were able to impose order.

At dusk, three rhinoceroses – mother, father and little half-ton child – ambled onto the dirt road in front of us. They like the heat rising from the packed dirt of the road, Brad said. The mother’s long lower horn and shorter upper horn were both curved and sharp. The father’s upper horn was short and dull, apparently broken off in a fight with another male. The females’ horns stay complete, Brad said, because they don’t fight each other. No, said someone in our party of four, they just gossip viciously about each other for many years. Eventually, as Brad moved our truck inch by inch closer, the rhinos rambled back into the trees.

We didn’t see any lions or leopards. Brad had warned us not to expect any. The big predatory cats are elusive. If I heard him right, he also said that they are not bothered by seeing death. They see it all the time. They create it.

The big beasts remind you of the beauty of creation and of its cruelty. They fight over territory, and expel intruders. The males fight over females. The females choose the winners of battle, the powerful and overbearing, who will mate and wander back into the bush. There is a reason we call certain behavior “beastly.”

Yet elephants mourn. They teach their young, who will turn criminal if they lack parenting. Wolves nurse the pups of other wolves. Closer to home, I’ve watched one street cat adopt and nurse a kitten abandoned by another. Male cats are reputedly utterly uninterested in their offspring. But I once saw an adolescent male alley cat adopt an abandoned kitten, lick it like a mother licking its child, lead it to look for food. He cared for it until it was grown and then the two stayed together.

Say this is all instinct. Say that the elephants’ empathy for the dead is instinct. Then compassion and xenophobia are both part of the wiring of the animal brain. The war between those inclinations may also be part of the hard wiring of the beast – despite the old belief that such choices are the sole province of human beings. Perhaps people choose empathy more often. Perhaps the only difference is that humans are capable of symbolic thinking and abstract language, and have created beliefs and texts to explain compassion and pass it on and sharpen it and sometimes give it a slightly better chance against evil. Or maybe we will only be able to believe in that absolute distinction until we decipher the language of giraffes – who, as Brad told us, communicate with each other infrasonically, in voices that fall below the range of human hearing. The bush is humbling: How much more is there that we don’t hear?

History here is also humbling. I came to South Africa for Limmud, a festival of Jewish learning, organized by volunteers. It’s a bottom-up, volunteer effort, and I’m told that many of the people who came to study together in Cape Town and Jo’burg have never been seen before at Jewish community events. In Jo’burg, I attended a discussion on Jews in human rights activism and another on South African Jewish history. At the discussion, the names of many Jews who’d fought apartheid were mentioned. Some went to jail or into exile. A participant in the discussion said, “Let’s face it: Most Jews were fascists.” There was rustling in the audience. He corrected himself. “Well, most Jews were willing to live with fascism.” With that, nearly everyoe could agree.

There were Jews who risked everything. And there were those who lived with the reality, or who at most voted for an opposition party. In between were people who opposed the system, even said so publicly, but continued with their lives. I understand them. They did not want to endanger themselves or their community. And life was comfortable – as life based on other’s labor and poverty can be. Self-interest won out. Call it an instinct for apathy. Yet those who fought seems always to be reaching beyond words, beyond ideology, to explain why they made their choice. They looked (this is critical, they looked) at pass laws, at people being consigned to the shacks of the townships, at a society built from cruelty, and responded with feral empathy.

It is terribly impolitic to write from South Africa with any comparisons to home. It is even more impolitic to think of apartheid and occupation in the same hour while in Durban, where I now am, because the city has become a name for unjust comparisons, for dehumanizing Israel in the name of faux humanism. If I dare mention apartheid and occupation while in Durban, NGO Monitor may issue a special report against me.

All right, the occupation and apartheid aren’t at all the same. We can list all the differences at another time, including the real threats to Israel and the errors of sundry Palestinian leaders.

Occupation and apartheid aren’t the same, except in this: The occupation is dehumanizing. It is built on the presumption that some people, on the basis of their ancestry, can be caged so that other people will live comfortably. And the great majority of Israelis can lead their lives without ever seeing it. Even the teachers who teach in Jerusalem religious schools and truly believe that they are teaching their pupils to be good people can drive past the checkpoints without thinking about them or about the people who live beyond them.

I listened to stories of South African activists and wondered why we let it continue – rather, why I can live next to it. How much is enough opposition? How does one reach past the instinct of apathy to the instinct of empathy?

12 thoughts on “African Notes: Animal Activism, Instinctive Apathy”

  1. And the cause of the occupation is dehumanizing as well. I don’t pretend that two wrongs make a right, yet you can’t talk about the occupation out of context as if its something we all think is just kef, like I really want my 18-year-old boy to man an army checkpoint. The rejectionism, racism and genocidal intentions of our neighbors have played a pivotal role in bringing about the occupation and the need for it to continue. Pretending that pulling back to the Green Line and allowing complete freedom in the West Bank will bring peace is, IMHO, delusional.

    If I had a better answer, I’d be Prime Minister. I don’t–I dislike the occupation but I dislike mass murder of my children and other Jewish children even more–and that is the agenda of the people being occupied. Until that changes, we’re stuck: the choice is occupy or be killed.

  2. “The occupation is dehumanizing. It is built on the presumption that some people, on the basis of their ancestry, can be caged so that other people will live comfortably.”

    “Live comfortably”? Don’t you mean just plain “live”? THAT is why there is still an occupation. Because without it, there would be indiscriminate murder of innocent Israelis. I’m with aliyah06. Do we like the fact of the occupation? No. But it’s better than the unthinkable alternative: the horrible danger every Israeli citizen would be placed in.

    And I’m offended by your assertion that it’s because of “the basis of their ancestry.” It’s not because of who they are, but what they DO. If their attempts to wipe us out would stop, the occupation would stop. Do I sound paranoid and extreme? Take a look at the Hamas charter. Read a few Palestinian newspapers and blogs. Watch their TV shows.

  3. “dehumanizing Israel in the name of faux humanism”: this is so true.

    ‘Aliyah06’ your way of talking about the Palestinians is evidence of this very dehumanisation. Can you not turn it around and see that the Palestinians have different but complimentary grievances. Denying the humanity of the people you are demonising is the essence of dehumanising.

    An excellent post, as usual. Are not the issues you are circling now not totally dissimilar to the kind of debate that Carter was trying to have. He may have not been adept (or maybe he was); I don’t know. I would be interested to know where you disagreed with him.

  4. I beg to differ. Being realistic about the intent, history, and stated goals of my neighbors in no way dehumanizes them. I submit that you romanticize them, which is a form of western racism in itself.

  5. aliyah06: “rejectionism, racism and genocidal intentions of our neighbors”, mass murder of children “is the agenda of the people being occupied”, pot, kettle, black. Perhaps you can explain how these statements are not rejectionist and racist. Is it that you honestly believe these are true, like many European colonists just about anywhere, and Europeans at home, too, honestly believed they were morally superior to the native savages, Jews, Gypsies? Or is it that for you the history of the Middle East stopped in 135CE, to be resumed only in 1948, when the Jews in the otherwise empty Palestine were suddenly and for no reason set upon by vicious hordes from the east?
    Of course you can’t talk about the occupation out of context, but to arbitrarily reduce that context to Palestinian violence alone is just as bad as no context at all. I fully agree that pulling back to the Green Line (or rather the Wall) won’t bring peace, it will just create more Gazas – more prison cells in which the inmates can move around “freely”. Peace will never come without both sides taking a step back from their respective sense of entitlement, and I’m afraid for you Israel, as long as it remains the vastly more powerful party, will always have the ball in its court. So far I’m seeing only “peace processes” that serve no other purpose than putting peace on hold and in the meantime grab ever more land, aka “facts on the ground”. Unsurprisingly the Palestinians get a sense of being had, sometimes they’ll react violently, including sometimes inexcusably so, which Israel then happily seizes as pretext for more of the same.
    If you now say, that description also resembles its mirror image, you’d be right, but the crux is, in a vicious circle like that, pointing a finger at the other can only propagate, never break the circle. Via the opponent, you’ll inevitably point back at yourself.

  6. Suppose we assume every bad thing we can about the Palestinians. Does this make the occupation right?

    If I remember my reading of Gershom’s Accidental Empire correctly, even officers of the IDF have admitted that the settlements serve no defense function, just the opposite – they make defense more difficult.

    The occupation is illegal and wrong and doesn’t provide defense. It is deliberate salt in the wounds of the many that the Palestinians carry.

    Suppose I hold down a dog with my foot on its neck. The dog goes into a frenzy trying to break free and attempts to bite me. Once in a while it succeeds in scratching my leg or getting in a nip and I respond not by withdrawing my foot from its neck but by beating it with a stick in addition while everyone around repeatedly tells me to let the dog go. But I say to them, “Look at how vicious he is! I must press his neck even harder”.

    American hypocrisy is at work as well…look at all the threats and actions short of military that have been made against the Russian move into Georgia. GET OUT NOW! was the U.S. response. How many decades has the U.S. done little or nothing about the Israeli occupation?

  7. Although I disagree with Aliyah06 on other matters, he or she is right on in this matter. All the rest of you who are endlessly moaning about “the occupation” completely ignore what the Palestinians are doing and saying, especially to their own people. When Arafat was brought to Judea/Samaria/Gaza and imposed his regime there, what did he and his FATAH gang do to establish a normal civil society and fledgling government? NOTHING. Why do you think gung-ho Palestinian nationalist/poet and other idealists who came from the supposed “Palestinian exile” left Ramallah after a short time? Because of the lawlessness and corruption. Arafat never was interested in building a state, he wanted to build an infrastructure for an ongoing war to the death with Israel, which he unleashed in full in the year 2000, just when Barak was trying to reach an agreement with him. Now I will hear the complaints “Barak didn’t offer enough and insulted Arafat when he spent dinner chatting with Chelsea Clinton instead of him”. Shlomo Ben-Ami (a “progressive post-Zionist if there ever was one”) said Arafat NEVER made counter proposals, he simply rejected every offer. He even turned down getting full control of the Jews most holy place, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, because Barak (who, again, was willing to give him total control of it) was requesting that he agree to a clause in the agreement acknowledging the place is holy to Jews as well as to Muslims.
    When the war broke out, endless bloodchilling propaganda was broadcast in the official state-run Palestinian media say it was the religious duty of every Muslim to kill as many Jews as possible (the imam in the mosque in Gaza said this in Arafat’s presence and it was recorded on film and broadcast on the 60 Minutes program) , Jews are scum, Jews are “descendents of monkeys and pigs”, etc, etc. For all the breatbeating “progressive” Jews and Israelis who are tormented by guilty conciences because the “Palestinians don’t have self-determination”, you will never hear of Palestinians who say “you know, the Jews have rights in the country as well”, those who advocate an agreement with Israel present it as a partial, temporary cease-fire which is necessary to further the struggle. Even “moderate” Darwish wrote about how the Jews would eventually be forced out.
    Whether you “progressives” like it or not, the large majority of Israeli now realize that the Arabs WILL NOT make peace with Israel on any acceptable terms. The argument now is what to do about it.

  8. Correction of mistake-the “gung-ho Palestinian nationalist/poet” I referred to was Darwish who died recently. He like other “Palestinian nationalists” like Edward Said who love Palestine so much carry out their struggle for the cause from their comfortable living rooms in London, Paris and New York. Actually living in their SELF-IMPOSED disfunctional society is too difficult. (I say “self-imposed” because I know some of you will say “the Palestinans can’t create a goverment or civil society because of the ‘occupation’, which, of course, is nonsense because the Jews did just that during the British Mandate period.

  9. Despite the rhetorical flourishes and sarcasm, I will attempt briefly to address a couple of your issues:

    (1) rejectionism: the word itself was invented in the late 1970s to describe the Arab and Palestinian rejection of any negotiation or compromise with Israel. That rejectionism has continued post-Oslo. Palestinian polls taken in the post-Oslo era found that the vast majority of Palestinians in the West Bank felt that the Second Intifada’s goal should be NOT the end of Israeli occupation but the destruction of Israel itself. That rejectionism manifested itself most recently in two things: Abbas’s refusal to consider Olmert’s offer of a contiguous state, including land transfers and a corridor to connect to Gaza (to which even the Arab press said, “at least tell Olmert it’s a good starting point and don’t say “No”); the insistence of the “Right of Return” of Palestinian descendants to Israel, not to Palestine, thus flooding my country with people dedicated to its destruction; and Saeb Erekat’s refusal to acknowledge that Israel is a Jewish state, as set forth in the UN charter originally: two states for two peoples, one Jewish and one Arab. The latter is closely related to the former—the Palestinian goal is to return diaspora Palestinians to Israel and make it an Arab state.

    For the record, the majority of Israelis do not reject the idea of a Palestinian state as a neighbor. The majority of Israelis would like to end the occupation of the West Bank but see the results of that in Gaza, and those results, combined with the history of terror, incitement and rejectionism, make many of us think that any further concessions are suicidal.

    (2) racism: I’ll pass on the cheap shot about “European colonizers” and point out that you should visit Israel, where the Jewish majority group is from Arab/Muslim-lands, look Arab and oftentimes speak fluent Arabic, Turkish and Farsi.

    That said, Jews aren’t a race. Neither are Arabs. People in both groups, I’m sure, think themselves better than anyone else in the world, however, that is not what is taught either in Judaism or Israel’s schools. It is also not taught in my home. My greengrocer is Arab; my pharmacist is Arab; one of the bank officers I deal with is Arab. Racism is simply an ugly word used by polemicists like you to smear people who disagree with you. If you find an Israeli who isn’t a fan of the Palestinians, it’s generally because they’ve been killing us for almost a century in the name of “Pan Arab Nationalism” or “Islamic Jihad” both of which are themselves racist ideologies. It has nothing to do with alleged “Israeli racism” – I think most human beings are less than fond of people trying to murder them.

    (3) (paraphrased for brevity): “Do you honestly believe that you are morally superior to the native savages?” NOW who’s the racist? You are equating the Palestinians with “savages”? Nothing I’ve written, nothing I’ve ever said, and nothing I’ve ever taught my children would ever denigrate the Palestinians as savages. Whatever they consider me, I consider them cousins and neighbors.

    (4) history – go read something besides whatever you’re reading now. Your world view is entirely too narrow and your grasp of the history of this region is abysmal. Jews have always lived here, but not as a majority. Arabs have lived here for centuries as well. However, this land was always a part of someone else’s empires, and people migrated in and out. Spanish Jews found refuge here after 1492; the Sultan arbitrarily moved Moroccan Jews to Safed to kick-start an industry there; Lithuanian Jews made aliyah in the 1600s; Jews from within the Mameluk and Ottoman Empires moved freely in and out of what is today Israel and Palestine (and Jordan and Syria and Lebanon). Likewise, this land isn’t populated by “native Palestinians” which is another myth. Bosnian Moslems (Europeans!!) settled near Caesaria in the 1800s; Algerian Moslems found refuge from the French near what is today Kibbutz Lavi; Syrian Moslems settled in the same area; Circassian Moslems (Abkhazians—there’s some more European colonialism for you!) settled in the Galilee and Abu Gosh; 3 disparate Bedouin clans from what today is Saudi Arabia settled in the basin around Jerusalem, creating Arab es-Sawahra and marrying into Beit Hanina’s families. The British under the Mandate actively recruited English speaking colonials from Iraq and Egypt to settle here and work for them…..this isn’t “native Palestinians aboriginal people versus Jewish European colonialists” as the Left and Uninformed like to imagine. It is a land filled with immigrants from all over, and the struggle is over whether or not Jews have self-determination in a state of their own, or once again live and die as a discriminated minority at the hands of a hostile majority ruling population.

    (5) balance of power – “Israel, as long as it remains the vastly more powerful party, will always have the ball in its court” + “Unsurprisingly the Palestinians get a sense of being had, sometimes they’ll react violently, including sometimes inexcusably so, which Israel then happily seizes as pretext for more of the same”

    So you excuse Palestinian violence because Israel is allegedly engaging in a land grab? So, what was their excuse for riotous mass murder in the 1920s and 1930s when there was no Israeli state? Then it was pure Jew-hatred fostered by the Islamic Wakf, which wanted to make sure Jews were excluded from Palestine, and those already here would be forced to live under Islamic Arab rule. This is okay with you? Not with me.

    Israel’s “land grab” in 1948 was the result of Palestinians and other Arabs invading and trying to “drive the Jews into the sea.” The West Bank would be Jordanian still had the Jordanians not jumped on the Nasserite bandwagon and opened fire on the Jewish population in Jerusalem.

    Palestinian violence has always begotten more entrenchment by Israel—you want to characterize it as a “land grab” because that’s the alleged cassus belli today (please not that Oslo never addressed settlements at all, and we didn’t need a security fence back then) but IMHO, it’s not about borders. It never has been, and an honest review of Arab leaders’ statements over the last century will make it perfectly plain that this dispute is not about land and borders but about Arab domination of the minorities in their midst—of which, we, the Jews, are the only ones to have achieved independence from the Arab yoke.

  10. Sorry, Clif–I didn’t see your post when I wrote my response above. Didn’t mean to ignore you.

    “Suppose we assume every bad thing we can about the Palestinians. Does this make the occupation right?”

    Nothing makes the occupation “right” but until the Palestinians give up terrorism, rejectionism, incitement, and their insistence on a “Palestine from the River to the Sea”, the military occupation is an act of self-defense by Israelis.

    The settlements are another issue. After the Khartoum Conference, the Arab refusal to negotiate land-for-peace resulted in Jewish settlers, at that time mostly religious, moving into land that was neither Israeli, nor Palestinian, and no longer Jordanian. (Which is why the correct term is “disputed territories). A number of these “settlements” are simply lands that were previously Jewish but ethnically cleansed by the invading Arab armies–the best known of those is the Etzion region. Now many of the settlements are also home to secular Israelis as well, because the prices are lower and its an easier commute toJerusalem, Haifa or Tel Aviv, and the communities aren’t as crowded or expensive as the center.

    BTW, one proposal floated was that the Jews in the West Bank stay there as citizens of the Palestinian state, just as Arabs in Israel are citizens here. It was flatly rejected by the PA–No Jews Allowed. Who are the racists now, huh?

    “If I remember my reading of Gershom’s Accidental Empire correctly, even officers of the IDF have admitted that the settlements serve no defense function, just the opposite – they make defense more difficult.”

    It depends on who you interview. Many other officers will point out that when Gaza was occupied, the violence was less and the intelligence on terror attacks much better.

    “The occupation is illegal and wrong and doesn’t provide defense. It is deliberate salt in the wounds of the many that the Palestinians carry.”

    It is not illegal. This isn’t the place to debate the applicability of the Geneva Convention, the Hague Convention, etc. but under international law, it is not illegal. The morality of it is questionable, but that issue has to balance the morality of occupation versus the results of non-occupation (Gaza, for example; Nablus prior to Operation Defensive Shield, etc.)and any nation’s duty to defend it’s citizenry from attack.

    Check online for the daily statistics of how many suicide bombers try to get across the security fence, how many Palestinians try to kill Israelis by gun or knife (and some succeed); how many Kassam factories and suicide belt factories are found in the West Bank—their war goes on, and an honest review of history shows that this war has been raging in the name of Arab Nationalism long before there was a State of Israel. The majority of Palestinian Arabs have never reconciled themselves to the partition, and show no signs of doing so now.

  11. aliyah06:
    What a mess. I’ll try at least to address some points.

    I don’t care who invented the word “rejectionism” and for what (propaganda) purpose. I tend to use words as I find them.
    Coming up with “offers” the other side has no choice but to reject may be more clever in the PR dept, but it’s still a form of rejectionism. That goes for the original Allon plan of 1967 as well as its numerous variations, Netanyahu and Oslo II (1995), Barak (2000), Sharon (2003), Olmert (2006), and now Olmert’s newest Most Generous Offer. It’s not about the seemingly petty amount of 6-8% that Israel wants to annex in all these plans – that is, after subtracting the entire Jordan valley and Greater Jerusalem (which is apparently defined as whatever Israel wants it to be) from the West Bank. Have a look at the maps where these 6-8% are – the “fingers” of the three largest settlements cutting deep into the WB, Jews-only connecting roads, settlements strategically placed to seize the WB aquifer and arable land. What remains is neither contiguous nor viable in any meaningful way.

    The Right of Return for Palestinians is being interpreted in a variety of ways. Hardly anyone assumes that all diaspora Palestinians would actually return if it was implemented, just like the vast majority of Jews worldwide chose *not* to live in Israel (a “flood” – your word – that Israel could hardly take).
    By “UN charter” I assume you mean the 1947 partition plan. If that’s the basis of Israel being a Jewish state, I’d like to see you trying to convince your gov’t to implement that plan.

    I did not mean to make a sweeping claim that “Jewish Israelis are European colonizers”, I’m aware that many are Sephardim – though there’s no denying that the founding elite was Ashkenazi, and political Zionism originated in Europe. Colonial attitudes are certainly not the exclusive domain of Europeans.
    Jews aren’t a race – I thought the notion of different human “races” had been interred for good decades ago. That said, the halakhic standard of being born to a Jewish mother, and also the Nuremberg standard that Israel uses today are certainly genealogical in nature. Nothing wrong with that, I’m only sayin’
    You say you are on good terms with Arab clerks in your neighbourhood, OTOH you speak of the “Return of Palestinian descendants to Israel, (…) thus flooding my country with people dedicated to its destruction”, an alleged dedication you associate exclusively with genealogy. Same in your earlier post about the “agenda of the people being occupied” to mass murder of Jewish children, as justification of the occupation. Perhaps by chance you’ll one day get to know some of these Israel-destroyers half as well as you know your Arab neighbours – take Gershom’s and Haim’s example.

    When I wrote “native savages” I was mocking colonial supremacism. It’s called “sarcasm”, and I honestly don’t know how you couldn’t get that.

    Surprise, surprise, I was sarcastic too re history. I am aware there were always Jews in the area – as you note, a minority for most of the past two millenia. My point was that in order to create a Jewish state in an area with a vastly majority non-Jewish resident population you cannot but resort to violence, and it takes quite some chutzpah to pretend that 1) the violence originated with them and 2) they weren’t even there to begin with.

    I do not excuse all violence (which part of the word “inexcusably” do you need explained?).
    This is getting too long already, so just a word or two about the fence/wall. 1) If it was being erected solely for security reasons there would be no need to include Palestinian land on its western side, in fact this is counterproductive. 2) I recall reports in the Israeli press last autumn (sorry, no link at hand) about Israeli police each month apprehending thousands of undocumented Palestinian workers from the WB. They had for example negotiated gaps in the unfinished wall or even used ladders to climb over. At the same time, there hadn’t been a single suicide attack in Israel for many months. Given that a prospective suicide bomber would enter Israel in precisely the same clandestine way as undocumented workers do, the only possible conclusion is that Israel is selling us this inanimate concrete-and-barbed-wire object as miraculously capable of differentiating between those climbing it, according to intent. I’m not buying an inch of that.

  12. “Coming up with “offers” the other side has no choice but to reject may be more clever in the PR dept, but it’s still a form of rejectionism. “–You mean, like the ‘Right of Return’? and the demand that Jerusalem be ‘all Arab, all Islamic and all Palestinian?’ Yes, I agree that’s rejectionism.

    The Jerusalem Post periodically runs a short news brief on another suicide bomber apprehended at the checkpoints on the way to Jerusalem to blow up–I don’t have a link handy, but these intercepts happen often enough that no one in Israel can assume that the Palestinians have given up on this tactic. The fence has certainly slowed it down, however–and the reason its on Palestinian land is both to protect some settlements and to use the ridge line. It’s geography. Do we have to lose 50 civilians in a bus bombing before you admit there is a need for this kind of security?

    “Hardly anyone assumes that all diaspora Palestinians would actually return if it was implemented…” Nonsense. The Palestinian descendants are given a choice: move to a modern, westernized nation with jobs, health care, child allowances, etc. or continue to rot in camps where the host population hates you, denies you civil rights, jobs, citizenship etc.–are you nuts? You bet they’d move here! Over 10,000 residents of the West Bank have moved to East Jerusalem in the last year because they’re trying to get OUT of the PA due to its lack of infrastructure, its corruption and violence.

    “Jews-only connecting roads” — you fail to mention why. There are both Jews-only and Arabs-only roads to keep the fanatics on both sides from ambushing the opposite populations in drive-by shootings.

    “OTOH you speak of the “Return of Palestinian descendants to Israel, (…) thus flooding my country with people dedicated to its destruction”, an alleged dedication you associate exclusively with genealogy. ” It has nothing to do with genealogy, in my mind–you’re making an assumption here that I’m treating this as a matter of genetics. I don’t. It has everything to do with the radicalization of the education in the refugee camps. A generation of parents and children incited through their educational system to despise Jews and to believe that G-d desires them to kill Jews is hardly conducive to neighborly relations.

    As for the location of the land under discussion, who knows? It’s a secret. Neither side is letting out the parameters, other than the total land area…but to get an idea of what almost succeeded last time, read Dennis Ross’s book—it did NOT contemplate “cantons” or deep incursions into Palestinian territory.

    There is room to negotiate here–I just don’t see the Palestinians offering anything except non-starters, like “the Right of Return.”

    Gotta run–this is too long anyway. We’ll simply have to disagree and see what happens.

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