‘A Deeply Cynical Argument,’ Yes

Gershom Gorenberg

Several friends who watched my bloggingheads conversation with David Frum last week wrote to me about one particular segment, where Frum insisted that settlements were no obstacle to a peace agreement because…

If people move one way, they can move another way. I just – the idea that these are kind of geologic facts – we’re talking about loading up a moving van. Had there been, had there been a deal, there’s nothing easier. I mean you’ve seen these settlements, they’re ramshackle things, they’re trailer parks…

Even if they’ve built the Emerald City of Oz in one particular place, again, people move, people are incredibly mobile…

When I heard this, I was amused by how strong Frum’s assertions were and how weak his knowledge was of the subject. I was also struck by the act of projection: He imagined settlers as being  suburbanites ready to move at a moment’s notice, for a good job offer, perhaps.

But as Matt Duss wrote to me, Frum isn’t alone in arguing that settlements are essentially conditional statements, retracted more easily than a candidate’s gaffe. Says Matt:

His blithe assertion that all it would take to remove the settlements was a few “moving vans” is an argument that I’ve heard from many “reasonable” conservatives: The settlements are not a big problem because they are not permanent, they can and will be moved in the event of a final agreement.

And he adds,

This seems to me a deeply cynical argument… I’m not a fan of the settlement enterprise, but I do recognize that these are individuals and families and neighborhoods who have built strong ties over the years, and the removal of the settlements would mean the breakup of these communities.

Matt is right. And notice how this discussion overturns stereotyped roles. Frum, and other conservatives who make the same argument, haven’t an inkling of the role of neighborhood, religious congregation, school-based community, or connection to place — in short, old-fashioned small-town values that conservatives supposedly respect — in people’s lives. Matt, the progressive, is intensely aware of those ties. He understands that if settlements were meant as conditional from the outset, the settlers have been cruelly used. (Matt has blogged convincingly on the subject here.) And whether they were originally meant as conditional or not, removing them will be traumatic.

And therefore, since giving them up is a serious option, allowing more people to move there is irresponsible – toward the settlers themselves, along with the rest of the country.

I should add, though: Settlement backers in Israel don’t normally argue that settlement is reversible. I can’t claim to have heard every defense of settlements ever made, but this is a defense I hear almost entirely abroad (with one exception, which I’ll get too).

Perhaps the reversibility argument was an invention of foreign defenders of Israeli policy. More likely, it has been provided to them by Israeli officials – in which case the the officials have treated their foreign supporters as useful idiots.

Settlements, in Israeli debate, have always been regarded as “facts on the ground” – physical statements of policy, of intent to keep a particular piece of land under permanent Israeli rule. The debate on where settlements should be built has been intense precisely because it’s an argument over whether Israel should maintain permanent rule over some or all of the occupied territories.

In official documents, I’ve never seen anything to indicate that a civilian settlement was built with the idea in mind that it was conditional or reversible.

The one exception was the way that the state presented settlement to the Supreme Court. In the 1978 Beit El case, the government justified requisitioning Palestinian-owned land to build a settlement on the grounds that the act of settlement was inherently conditional and temporary, and could come to an end when the military occupation of the area ended as a result of diplomacy. This, however, is only an example of a wider problem: the state misrepresenting its intentions to the Court. (See my post last year on Road 443 for another example.)

And yet, in the back of their minds, in some hidden corner,  everyone involved in building settlements has known that they are conditional: They were and are a political project intended to produce an outcome — permanent Israeli rule of  occupied territory. The possibility has always existed that despite all the attempts at permanence, a government will be elected that will decide to give up land.  The gambit could fail. The officials planning settlement were therefore using the settlers as pawns. To the extent that settlers have understood the gambit, they’ve been partners who accepted the chance that their communities might one day be broken up.

None of this, however, justifies the damage done by leaving the settlements in place or by continuing to build them.  If Israel has to choose between the settlers’  roots in their communities and the democratic future of the country as a whole — and it must choose — a democratic future comes first. Those responsible for the settlement project are also responsible for the pain of evacuation, which will involve much more than pulling up moving vans.

26 thoughts on “‘A Deeply Cynical Argument,’ Yes”

  1. Gershon, reading this I was wondering whether you differentiate between any of the settlements? Is a settlement in the Gush Etzion area
    ley? Zak

  2. “And yet, in the back of their minds, in some hidden corner, everyone involved in building settlements has known that they are conditional…”

    The conclusion I draw here is that the settlers have been played as pawns in a political game. While, the settlements weren’t built to be permanent, the settlers were aware of the possibility that their permanence was tenuous. . Well, if they, the settlers, consented to this heartless (because of the traumatic aspect of uprooting) arrangement then they understood the game and didn’t mind being part of the process. That is, the settlements, at least today, are likely to be part of a political negotiation. As long as they exist and grow they will motivate Palestinians to make peace. As long as the settlements grow, the negotiating position of Israel improves. Isn’t this rational?

  3. To see settlers as light-hearted movable people is to humiliate their dignity. It is our curse to see people as movable marionettes. The very practice to discuss settlements from the point of view of their inhabitants as pawns is vulgar, abusive.
    However, I am afraid the real useful idiots and the pawns are not the settlers but the timid citizens of Israel who live within the Green line. These people (actually: the State of Israel) are held hostages to settler’s and military establishment’s enterprise. The choice for them (i.e. for the local useful idiots) forever will be: either destruction later, or civil war now. Of course, everybody prefers destruction later: this is our mode of existence and this is our identity. Destruction later. And that later destruction is envisioned to be achieved in idiots’ submission to the full union with the settlers, against outer forces (like 2000 years ago).

  4. First of all, I loved that sympathy bit in discussing trauma in moving Jews around. Would that more people had made this point pre-August 2005 and moreso afterwards instead of finding out that the expellees were treated just a little bit better than DPs in some cases. Of course, the trauma of having stones come through your vehicle windows, grenades bounce off the sides of the bus, molotov cocktails igniting on your car, getting shot at (and hit) or being killed is another aspect that seems tohave been, in the main, overcome.

    Secondly, I, too, noticed that differential reasoning about “temporary”, etc. After 28+ years at Shiloh in a personal sense, after 35 years since participating at the first Sebastia (I was in England for the next two years and so, the subsequent 6 attempts I missed out on) and almost 42 years since secular kibbutzniks crossed the former 1967 border to establish Merom HaGolan and religious kibbutzniks reestablsihed Kfar Etzion, this argument is purely theoretical.

    And, since, the plurality (I really don’t have exact stats) of those revenant Jews residing in Judea and Samaria are non-Orthodox/not-quite-observant/less-than-traditional or whatever definition anthropological sociologists use nowadays, their thinking on why they are where they are is a bit more complicated than “God told me to be here”. Does that mean they are more transient when push comes to shove? I don’t know. But, from an ideological perspective, most Jews in Yesha really believe than a) we have a right to be here; b) that a Pal. state is a big no-no – mainly due to its threat to pre-67 Israel; and c) that those opposed, even for “good” reasons, don’t know the reality and serve the forces of evil instead of good. In sum, it’s the most natural thing for a Jew to do: live in his historic national homeland.

  5. Mr. Gorenberg’s post hopelessly conflates at least three separate issues: (1) whether it would be easy, politically, to evacuate the settlements; (2) whether such a move would be traumatic to the settlers; and (3) whether the settlement project was understood and acknowledged to be conditional from the beginning. Frum, as quoted here, was commenting on (1) and had nothing to say about (2) or (3). (In context, I’m reading “mobile” as “easily movable” rather than “migratory.”)

    Frum is correct on (1) and his critics here are correct on the irrelevant issue (2), and I assume on (3) also. There is no contradiction between these positions. That’s because no matter how traumatic an evacuation will be, and no matter how violently a handful of the settlers will oppose it, the vast majority of Israelis will support, in fact demand, an evacuation in the event of a true land-for-peace deal.

    If this hasn’t been obvious from opinion surveys over the last couple of decades, then I’d think that the unilateral Gaza disengagement finally demonstrated it decisively. Mr. Gorenberg’s post is just another example of the settlers-are-in-the-driver’s-seat myth of Israeli politics. The settlers do have disproportionate influence on marginal decisions (illegal outposts, incremental expansion, etc.), but when it comes to important decisions like the security fence (which they vehemently opposed) or the Gaza disengagement, it becomes clear that it’s the Israeli majority which makes the decisions. And just as the settlers have increased in number over the years, their support among the Israeli public has decreased.

  6. Having been raised a Catholic and taught to support Israel as a child, I grew up and started to realize there is question of human rights regarding Palestinians and their right to exist as a people on their ancestral land. I am now a secular person who believes in the values that Christ propagated, but don’t call myself a “Christian” because of the current implications of that identity. I do believe in God, but I believe most, if not all miraculous events were either mythological, exagerrated, or coincidences, like the Divine Winds of Japan (Kamikaze) that saved them from the 11th century invasion of Korea. All cultures have these myths. Although Jews and Christians have most profound and detailed myths, it is just as self-righteous for Christians and Jews to believe they are better than others for having them, as it is for any other culture. Having said that, I have no less respect and admiration for historical figures like Jesus and Moses, as I ever did as a Catholic boy.

    I have read Khalidi, Shlaim, Carter, and now reading Gorenburg, “The Accidental Empire.”

    The Land of Israel is dear to many peoples in many religions, ethnic groups and cultures, not only Jews. As such, I don’t see how geographic Israel can continue to exist, ad infinitum in peace, strictly as a Jewish State, per se. At some point it must become a secular democracy. There is no reason to move the settlers. Just teach them to love and respect their Palestinian neighbors, who should be endowed with citizenship and all the same human rights Israelis have.

    I do believe there should be an area within Israel considered to be a Jewish State, but limited in geographical size. The Vatican within Italy is a good model. Israel has much to offer the Middle East today, like the Romans had much to offer the Ancient world that they conquered, but unlike the Romans, Israel is exclusionary to other religions and cultures in the land that it conquers and retains. One of the main reasons the Romans were so successful is that, unlike other conquerers of the time, they allowed their subjects to continue worshipping their own God/gods and keep their own traditions, except when the Romans perceived such freedoms as direct conflicting with stability.

    We need a United States of Israel in the Middle East, where regions and cultures of those regions will see being part of Israel as a great cultural and economic asset and security, rather than being threatened with ethnic cleansing, as Europeans did to Native Americans, and as annexation by Israel presently implies to others in the region. With a “United States of Israel” such States can have their local laws and regulations. The United States of America is a good ruling model.

    Like Jews, the first Europeans came to North American shores to escape religious and ethnic persecution. That tradition was not lost when the United States of America evolved into a secular entity, anchored in Judeo-Christian values and traditions. The same can be true for the United States of Israel. We have only to fear “fear” itself.

  7. Regarding any trauma suffered by the settlers in their being forcibly relocated away from their ‘roots’ and sundered from their community, I say it’s their own fault. What they are doing in colonizing the occupied territories is manifestly wrong and they should have known better. Just because the government tells you it’s ‘okay’ to do something doesn’t mean you should do it. The settlers knew what they were doing was wrong from the begging and should be prepared to face the consequences.

  8. Fred, I have to admit, I think the idea of a secular, democratic, one-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian problem is the most truly ‘correct’ settlement. Both sides enjoy equal rights to life, liberty, happiness, and self-determination and both sides have a deep historical and ancestral connection to the region. If such a thing were possible, I would be the first to support it. Nor do I think that those in the region who truly believe such a thing might be possible should stop working for it.

    The problem is that I don’t believe it to be possible.

    On both sides of the conflict, many of the ‘people on the street’ have the same view that their historical attachment to the land of their forefathers is genuine and the Other’s is a lie. It is widely popular in Arab propaganda (and many Europeans and Americans have bought into it) to claim that European Jews are Europeans, that their cultural roots are European and not Middle Eastern, that they are white and not brown, and they have no historical or ancestral claim on any part of Palestine.

    There are Israelis who not accept the validity of the very word ‘Palestinian.’ There are Arabs who live in Palestine, they claim, but no ‘Palestinians’. They say the Arabs are the descendants of settlers from the Islamic era who have no true claim whatsoever on the land God meant for the Jews. Regardless of your secular view of the subject, you won’t change their minds.

    It’s true that there are many Israelis who would accept any arrangement at all that recognized their right to their homes and self-determination as a nation: up to an including shared statehood with the Palestinians; but even among these there would be a strong strain of skepticism and distrust. Avigdor Lieberman did not gain so many seats because Israel is currently in a mood of reconciliation with his uncle Ishmael. My dear friend in Israel considered voting for Lieberman herself, based entirely on issues related to the conflict, but finally decided on Kadima (because she was just not comfortable with the Lieberman makes her skin crawl, regardless of her anger at the Palestinians right now), to my immense relief.

    In the only free election they have been allowed, the Palestinians elected Hamas to power. Not precisely a ringing endorsement of familial reconciliation on their side either.

    Sadly, however much the liberal dreamer in me *craves* a real, complete one-state reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians (who have far more in common with the Israelis than with the neighboring Arab nations, who are every bit as much responsible for the plight of the Palestinians as Israel), I don’t see any practical solution but a two-state peace. I see even that as being incredibly difficult and fraught with terrible frustrations.


    Forgot to mention above, that I also read “blood and religion” by Jonathan Cook.

    Thanks for the education. I am neither Jewish, nor Israeli, but just a child of the 1960s who has followed this issue all my life, and seen things get worse instead of better. However, I believe my status as an “outsider looking in” gives me some clearer, more objective perception, having not being so lost in the proverbial forest, to see the trees.

    I understand the obstacles you mention, however, I envision a cultural eclectic country (like the USA) based on traditional ethnic values but not “claimed” by any one culture. The eclectic cultural attachment to this land is spiritual not racial or ethnic. Let’s not forget that for all its cultural and political progression, the USA has struggled with Racial issues and Native American issues and injustices.

    The United States of Israel idea may not be “possible” at present, but what is possible at all these days in this region?

    To your point, the election of Hamas was not any less an expression of hostility (or defense) than is the segregation of roads and “apartheid” elements of the West Bank situation. Hamas was also related to the resistance in Lebanon, and is seen as their own version of implementing an “Iron Wall.”

    I understand the “impossible” status of implementing such a US of I idea, but as you say, it is instinctively the most simple, correct path to the future peace of this region. We need more people discussing such an idea. It is a vision. If enough people can see that vision and have less violence, there may be hope it could happen.

    On the other hand, talking about a “two-State solution” is no more “possible” in my opinion. It is a cliche that sounds nice, but makes no sense in the bigger picture. I respect the settlers who live in their Samaria and Judea, and their spiritual beliefs and feelings for the land. I don’t think they should have to move, but I also don’t respect their belief they can build a proverbial wall around this land or any other part of this region and exclude everyone but Fundamentalists of ethnic and/or religious Judaism.

    The United States of Israel (US of I) idea meets them halfway. Even if removing the settlers were possible, for a two-state solution, I don’t think it would bring peace to the area. Like you say, BOTH sides feel an ownership to ALL the land. It would be the beginning of more terrorism, by both sides. It is not really a solution. It would be the anger over “partition” reborn again on both sides. Also, it would be a strong rationale for a right wing push to expel the Arab citizens out of Israel. This would tear friends and family apart, but it would be something that would seem to be more justified and acceptable than ever. That would not be peaceful or progressive.

    When worried about the demographics of Arab numbers in a “one-state” idea, a lot of Jews and Israelis overlook the fact that a peaceful, democratic US of I would attract Jews and other people, even liberal Americans and Europeans, to immigrate and/or own property in Israel. This would be a strong deterrent against any single group or race “taking over” the country.

    It is an irony of this age that such an advanced intelligent people like Americans, and Jews in the Diaspora, can support such an obsolete form of State as an ethnically pure State of Israel. I am sure it would not be acceptable had not the holocaust damaged our higher consciousness so much to feel such a “Jewish refugee State” were necessary. We need to get over it.

  10. Mr. Gorenberg,
    I agree with your take one hundred percent, and, like the first commenter am curious to know what actual policies/proposals you advocate. What about Gush Etzion? Or Maaleh Adumim?

    I think Chris’s thinking about the settlements represents the kind of thinking that has played into the hands of people with no interest in the peace process, like Yisrael Meidad. It is the kind of thinking that says that the other side only respects sticks, not carrots, and that it is OK to play tactical games on our side but not on the other.

    We are no longer in the pre 1948 era. The State of Israel is established. It is a vibrant country that has accepted millions of immigrants, attracts foreign investment, and whose citizens have gone on to make valuable contributions to the worlds of science, math, music and art.

    Israel does not need bargaining chips in the form of settlements to be dismantled. Israel needs to show that it wants to negotiate with the Palestinians in good faith and come to an agreement that benefits both of them. What kind of a message does it send when Israel plans to dismantle homes in Arab Jerusalem on the grounds when they are built without a permit, while permitting dozens of settlements in the West Bank to grow. Where was their permit?

    I have family in West Bank settlements. I have seen over the last several years how one cousin in a new settlement has gone from living in glorified trailer to living in a house with a swimming pool. In the Judean desert.

    Anyone who has ever experienced a town meeting where a proposal for new construction has been discussed knows how charged these things can be. Well, the Palestinians in the West Bank have no recourse whatsover to protest a settlement that gets built overlooking their neighborhood. This is not a motivator for peace, it is a motivator for enmity and mistrust.

    And as a final note, I find all the discussions about one state – “United States of Israel” versus two states unpersuasive. I mean, can’t you make the same argument that there should be no such thing as a state or country at all? Why shouldn’t the poor citizens of the subsahara be allowed to move to more prosperous countries at will? Why should the people of the US be more entitled to the natural resources in the Arctic than people born elsewhere. Aren’t borders a bummer? Does anybody really own the globe?

    In the current state of the world, Jews want a state in which they are the majority (not racially pure). If true peace reigned, borders could be open, and both Jews and Arabs could enjoy free movement throughout the Middle East. I have no doubt there are plenty of Jews who wouldn’t mind vacationing in Lebanon (for example). It doesn’t mean that Lebanon has to be part of Israel.

  11. Debbie R.

    Thank you for reading my post, but your statement,

    “In the current state of the world, Jews want a state in which they are the majority (not racially pure).”

    This seems a bit abstract.

    The notion of racial purity has a negative connotation, but a homogeneous culture is the direction of Zionist mentality these days in Israel, like it or not. To maintain a majority by force of law means oppression of any minority that exists.

    I’m not so sure Jews in Israel know “what they want,” or if what they think they know “what they want” according to the polls, is driven more by fear and fundamentalism, or spiritual love and inspiration of their cultural roots?

    I am not Jewish, and not even religious, but deep feeling of affection are still in my soul, when I think of childhood Christmas carols invoking the peace of Israel.

    These are universal inspirations not limited to the Jewish soul. The movement in the last thirty years has been more towards taking this land away from others and keeping it for the Zionist people only. Unfortunately this movement is driven by a violent cycle, and a two-State solution will do nothing to change that cycle. It will only reinforce a separation mentality, which feeds the violence, and will create another “crusader” movement by the fundamentalist settlers who have to move out of their holy land. The feelings among Palestinians will be no better than the pre-1967 days.

    This land belongs to all people. Nobody really owns it in God’s eyes. Gorenburg makes an interesting point on p.18 of The Accidental Empire, “…Zionism turned into a secular nationalist symbol as well, again embracing the mythological energy of religion, sans the obligation and God…”

  12. Fabian From Israel:

    Are you aware that Road 1 also goes through “occupied” territory, although much less that 443?

  13. Hey Fred,
    Have you asked any Native Americans what THEY think about the a one state solution in the United States that was thrust on them ? Out here in Denver the Columbus Day celebration is a day of controversy, seen by many Native Americans as the beginning of the invasion that stole their land from them. Lewis and Clark expedition is seen as a scouting mission for eventual conquest of their lands by white Europeans. [And the last time I was on a Reservation, with its high alcoholism, unemployment and suicide rates, I don’t think many would agree with the results of this ONE STATE solution as practiced in this country. Many see these symptoms as just the latest in long line of government genocidal policies bearing fruit.

    In terms of Israel, I happen to see the Jewish People’s returning [from countries in 6 continents so lets throw out the “racist charge”] as the Natives finally coming home and succeeding in re-establishing a homeland.

    That being said,….for now as other contributors to this discussion have stated, a 2- state solution offers the best of the worst scenarios for possibly putting an end to this long running deadly soap opera.

  14. Hi DenverHi,

    Of course, all analogies are flawed by their very nature of being analogies. It is just a question of how flawed, but ananlogies have a good purpose for communication of concepts.

    Native Americans have valid complaints. Manifest Destiny of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants does have some similarities to the continuing “Iron Wall” phase of the Zionist movement. However, what are the alternatives today for Native Americans? Go back to the reservation system? That would probably be analogous to Gaza.

    As far as Jews returning to the land that was once theirs (Israel/Palestine) IMO this is more of an individual choice each Jew must make, not necessarily a something all Jews would want to do. I am all for that individual freedom to choose. As a spiritual home, this area is “home” to many different cultures, not only Jews.

    How do you think Italian-Americans living in America for several generations (regardless of religion) would be received in Italy today, coming back and telling the Italians in Italy, that they are coming back to claim the land as theirs? I don’t think they would be so welcome, not even on an individual basis, much less with mass migration. I have heard that they are not seen as “real” Italians anymore, by Italians in Italy. This is probably true for most immigrants after a generation of two. And yet you hear immigrants often talk of such countries with affection as a spiritual “home.”

    The Native Americans did not have to be treated badly for Europeans to annex North America. There could have be peaceful, respectful integration. The reason it did not happen was because too many powerful Europeans in high places saw an opportunity to get rich and powerful by finding ways to disrespect Native Americans and claim it was God’s will that they be dispossessed and oppressed by Europeans.

  15. So much intelligent commentary tripping over itself. Well guess what-every millimeter of route 1 and route 443 is occupied territory, and there will be no peace until you return Palestine to the Palestinians. The whole world supports us, and even though you call yourself progressives, you are indistinguishable from the settlers on the spectrum of international justice. Just wait until the racism meeting in Geneva-the UN will admit that the creation of Israel was an error, and will rescind your creation

  16. Fred R. you wrote –
    I’m not so sure Jews in Israel know “what they want,” or if what they think they know “what they want” according to the polls, is driven more by fear and fundamentalism, or spiritual love and inspiration of their cultural roots?

    I don’t think either scenario expresses the reality. People want to live in a state that shares it’s values and priorities.

    The United States was formed by people who agreed that they shared common interests and goals. The goal of Zionists was to create a modern state that normalized the Jewish experience, allowing Jews to control their destiny and not be outsiders. I don’t think someone needs to be Jewish to accept the legitimacy of a Jewish state, or to accept the fact that Israel serves as a physical and spiritual haven for Jewish people.

    Why is it so hard for them to accept those things? Isn’t it because they themselves are so bound up in their conviction that they are the only ones entitled to lay claim on the Middle East? How many Muslim/Arab countries are hospitable to outsiders?

    Sure there are problems between Jews and Israeli Arabs, although there are some Arabs who do serve in the army. But some of these issues have to do with cultural/lifestyle differences as much as political ones.

    The fact is that a way of life that had been lived by the Palestinians for hundreds of years was disrupted by the arrival of Jews. The Jews came, and acquired land not by the use of force, but by paying for it. They carved out a life for themselves, which mostly did not involve integrating with the local population (Although my mother-in-law, a seventh generation Jerusalemite recalled good relations with her Arab neighbors.

    The Palestinians connection to the land is straightforward and immediate – that was the land I farmed, that was the house. Losing their land was no doubt traumatic in much the same way as it has been for farmers in the midwest who had to sell farms that had been in their families for generations. But there are millions of Palestinians now, instead of just half a million. The way of life they idealize is no longer viable.

    The idea of creating one state, bringing together people who don’t share common goals and a common naarative is more forced and artificial than the idea of having a border.

  17. Gershom,

    It sounds to me that the State has chosen the well-being of settlers over democracy. A long time ago, too. Haaretz has a very good article retracing the history of the settlements, and the successive governments that supported them.

    Settlements are not temporary. They are meant to be perennial. Both the settlers, and the Government, know that. That people still bring up the Sinai settlements 30 years later is proof enough. The disengagement will haunt every serious discussion of removing settlements for the next decade; the same photos will overshadow any serious arguments in favour of removing a brick – or of a two-states settlements, for that matter.

    And this is why I always maintain that time is on Israel’s side: the settlements metastasize, settlers get increasingly comfortable on confiscated land, the Palestinians lose their land – and get acquainted to it, sadly enough.

    Gush Etsion or otherwise – every settlement is wrong. And must be removed, ASAP.

  18. Debbie R.

    Thanks for your response and input. If all land inhabited by Jews in Israel were purchased, we would not have a Palestinian refugee problem. Even to suggest most of the land was purchased, is false revisionism characteristic of Western Propaganda (no offense) and does little to solve this perrenial conflict, but only serves to aggravate the Palestinian natives of the land by insinuating they are nothing but glorified “bad losers” in real estate investments.

    Purchasing all the land was the original plan of the early Zionists, all good people by all accounts. However, when the Israeli right wing was born with Jabotinsky things began to change with his “Iron Wall” doctrine. It seems The British may have been contributed to the doctrine, long term seeing Israel as a strategic beachead, without having the responsibility of occupation. The “Iron Wall” doctrine was still repulsed by most Jews, until after the holocaust, where it gained popularity.

    Be that as it may. Your folks seems to have been good people, and probably did purchase the land they got. With regard to your statement, “The goal of Zionists was to create a modern state that normalized the Jewish experience, allowing Jews to control their destiny and not be outsiders.” Nothing wrong with that. The problem comes from the fact that what you are saying could happen anywhere, in Alaska or on some unihabitated Pacific Islands. You ignore that fact of where Zionists are doing this. It is not just building a State. It is building a State on ground that it is sacred to at least three religions. And you also deny/ignore (mentioned above) that Natives were forcibly removed) from this holy land. Transferred, ethnically cleansed.

    Restricting such hot property to one ethnic group, claiming “God gave this land to me, and me alone” (‘me’ because I’m at least ¼ Jewish”) is a recipe for disaster in the long run.

    My own belief is that God intended this land for many different people, if not all people, including Jews. The Jewish people can claim stewardship of it, but not “exclusive biblical ownership” in the modern world. If they do claim “ownership,” there will never be peace in the region. Israel will be a secular Democracy someday. The longer we put it off, the more bloodshed there will be, and the more hatred there will be for Jews. Why not find a way to live together now? The promised land is a spiritual place, not real estate.

  19. What Fred said. However, private ownership of land is only viscerally related to stateship: if I bought a piece of land in my (or any other) country, that wouldn’t give me any sovereign rights there.
    While the Spiegel and Sasson reports have rightly put a spotlight on the lawlessness within the settlements enterprise, there’s also some bad faith in the argument. The idea behind the purchase of out-of-state land by Jewish settlers (or the JNF for that matter) is to put the purchased land under Israeli sovereignty, but the focus on the status of land privately owned by Palestinians tends to reduce them to isolated individuals (with property rights) and to deny them a national group identity.

  20. “if I bought a piece of land in my (or any other) country, that wouldn’t give me any sovereign rights there.”

    Except that the Jews did not buy a piece of land in other country. They bought it in the multinational Ottoman Empire, which dissapeared in 1917 leaving in its place many minorities with claims to the land: Greeks, Slavs, Jews, Arabs, Turks, Kurds, etc.
    Eretz Israel is not “Arab land”.

    For Raed: come and take me away from my country if you can. We will drop so many nuclear bombs on you that even your ancestors will get radiated.

  21. Of course it isn’t, Fabian, but to say it is Jewish Land is like saying the USA is Anglo-Saxon-Nordic Christian Land. Even if it was, de facto, at times, it was never declared so, as a de jure matter. This land is spiritually too precious and too important to be claimed by one ethnic culture. Israel need to become a secular democracy. It is sad that the holocaust has made such an intelligent culture act like a banana republic.

  22. Fred, your point might make sense from an American perspective, but when you look at the regional and world stage, it is not Israel that is exceptional for insisting on a state ethnic identity; but rather, it is the United States that is exceptional (admirably so) for steadfastly refusing one. The American model works in the context of America as an immigrant nation, but it does not work in with the solidly defined ethnic identities of the Middle East and Europe.

    As an example, in 1920, Turkey managed to define Istanbul as a Turkish city, while Greece defined Thessaloniki as Greek, and both have managed to live in peace (aside from external threats) since then. In modern times, this (partition) has been the only credible internationally-sponsored solution in places from Kosovo (Serbs and Albanians) to South Sudan (Arabs and Black Africans).

    So when Americans start talking to Jews and/or Palestinians about how this land is “too spiritually precious” for the closure and resolution of partition, I come to one of two conclusions. The first, and more innocent, is that they’re trying to make this part of the world in their own image, not realizing that Hebron is not Portland and Jerusalem not Washington, D.C., and the easy solutions (well, at least they’re pretty easy to ignore after the fact) of America’s history will not work here. The more frustrating possibility – and the one that your language seems to imply – is that for some reason the religious connotations of Hebron and Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Nazareth, outweigh the understanding of national aspirations that have prodded America to its more successful foreign interventions.

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