Gershon Baskin, who has been working tirelessly for peace with the Palestinians, and in the post-2000 Middle East still seems to live in the hopes of Oslo, has written a defense of his position in response to the many nasty talkbacks he gets for his efforts at the Jerusalem Post. Fisking below.
Answering my critics
Gershon Baskin, THE JERUSALEM POST
May. 21, 2007
Since February 2005, I have been writing this column in the Jerusalem Post every other week. The talkbacks to my articles which also appear on jpost.com are consistently angry, aggressive, and opposed to almost everything I write. The responses to my repeated calls for taking steps toward peace with our neighbors have been complete rejection.
The basis of opposition comes from those who question the very existence of the Palestinian people. Others, who might be willing to recognize that Palestinians do exist, are not wiling to accept the reality of their presence on any part of the Land of Israel. Others who might be willing to accept the presence of Palestinians in some part of Eretz Israel are not willing to accept the possibility of equal rights for them within the State of Israel or even in areas that are under the control of the State of Israel.
This conveniently overlooks the key criticism: the Palestinian leadership — which has tentacles deep into Palestinian society as a result of the dominion of patriarchal alpha males — does not accept the presence of Israel. All the “objectors” you talk postulate, as well as you, live in a fantasy world where Israeli agency is critical. You seem to think that if Israelis change their ways — basically in being nicer and make more concessions — then they can resolve these matters.
The lesson of 2000 was a painful one, repeated after the evacuation from Gaza in 2005: concessions are invitations to further aggression. This means that the solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict by peaceful means is not in the hands of the Israelis. It is in the hands of those Palestinians and Arabs who, no matter how insane, self-destructive, and morally revolting the path might be, consistently chose war with Israel over peace.
I have been called everything from a self-hating Jew to a post-Zionist. I am neither. I am and have always been very Jewish and very Zionist. The main motivations behind all of what I believe are in fact both my Jewish identity and my Zionist one. For me the existence of State of Israel as the state of the Jewish people is the ultimate expression of the national strategic interests of the Jewish people. It is an expression of our liberation and our determination to be a free people in our land. But Israel cannot fulfill the national strategic interests of the Jewish people if it is a state built on oppression, persecution and denial of the national rights of another people.
I’m wouldn’t call you that, but at least you should be able to understand why some people might, rather than hiding behind your aggrieved status. Jews are calling you that because they see your well-intentioned, relentless and aggressive naïveté as a serious threat to the Jewish people. You may disagree, but have the integrity to acknowledge that there’s a serious indictment out, rather than pretend that because you consider yourself “very Jewish and very Zionist” that’s the end of the story. You have no problem accusing people who also describe themselves in that way to be arrogant, hateful and extremist. Suck it up and deal with criticism.
As for the persecuting and denying national rights to another people, true. That is not a good option. But when the national aspirations one you’re being asked to grant are malignant, and predicated on the annihilation of your own, it’s something of a no-brainer to say no. Your position it’s like saying, “we can’t be young if we keep growing older.” It’s better than the alternative, which in Israel’s case, is to get destroyed by a death cult that considers the tender moral concerns of a nation that does not wish to dominate its neighbors as either a deception (à la Protocols of the Elders of Zion), or a sign of weakeness and invitation to aggression. Moral narcissism — the concern for being moral by one’s own standards without any awareness of whom you’re interacting with — is not a recipe for a long life, especially in our world of waxing global Jihad.
Like or not, recognize it or not, there is another people living with us on this land. It does not matter when that people defined itself in national terms. It does not matter if they did not declare independence before 1967. It does not matter if they (and we) failed to bring about their independence through the Oslo process. The reality of their existence and our failure to remove ourselves from ruling over them is the gravest danger to the continuation of the Zionist enterprise since the very establishment of the State of Israel.
This is the standard, honorable, progressive position, which Palestinians insistently hammer away at with their demopathic discourse. See, for example, the aggressive lament by Georges Bisharat, soon to be fisked here. It’s true there is an “other.” It’s also true that this “other” a) has a fluid identity that connects to both 300 million Arabs and 1.x billion Muslims, whose dominant cultural trope about Israel is that she must be destroyed for the honor’s and Allah’s sake; and b) has been colonized by one of the most vicious death cults in the history of mankind. So like it or not, Israel cannot deal with this “other” as one normally deals with a neighbor in which both have done each other wrong and recognize that it’s time to get on with life.
Many of my critics are celebrating the bloodshed in Gaza caused by Palestinians fighting other Palestinians. What those in celebration fail to realize is that the destruction of Palestinian governance in Gaza and perhaps later in the West Bank is a disastrous situation for Israel. Whether they realize it or not, we need a Palestinian partner.
You’ll never get me to approve of Schadenfreude, even when I feel it. But the behavior of the Palestinians does illustrate a great deal of what people who don’t view the world with rose-colored glasses have been saying for quite some time, and it would be nice to see you at least analyze what this all means, rather than dismissing these less than noble reactions as a “failure to realize…” Indeed, your inability to perceive the deeper meaning of this tragedy represents a massive failure to realize.
As for our needing a Palestinian partner, granted. But knowing we need a partner, and realizing that we don’t have one, are two key elements to understanding and thinking constructively about the problem that faces us… and more broadly, the West. You ignore the second part of that realization… to everyone’s peril.
FROM ALL of my critics I have yet to understand in practical terms what they propose as an alternative to serve the interests of Israel and the Jewish people. I don’t believe that there are real Jews who could even think of the possibility of removing the Palestinians from here by force. There is the notion of “transfer by choice” – a ridiculous idea based on the suggestion that if we make their lives so intolerable, they will chose to pick up and leave on their own.
Could that be done in the name of Judaism? Let’s not forget the genius of those who see the separation walls as the ultimate solution. Let’s build walls high enough and electronic fences sophisticated enough that we can close the gates, lock the doors, throw away the keys and make believe that what exists on the other side is not our concern. Those brilliant planners only forgot that we have hundreds of thousands of settlers on the other side of walls and fences. They also forgot that those settlements are completely in contravention of international law.
Oh yes, I forgot, we don’t have to observe international law because we already know that they entire world is against us and we are a people “will always dwell alone.” “It doesn’t matter what the goyim think or do, it only matters what we do.”
It would help, Gershon, if you paid as much attention to what your fellow Jews say, and gave as much sympathy to their struggles, as you do to what the Palestinians say. This crude, reductive, and sarcastic summary of the alternatives is hardly what I would call a shining illustration of your ability to listen and empathize. But that aside, let me suggest something: stop thinking in terms of “solutions” (particularly ones that won’t work) and start thinking in terms of the problems.
All you’re doing right now is fantasizing a solution that has extremely low chances of succeeding, extremely high chances of — like Oslo — blowing up in your face and making things worse, and then turning to everyone who disagrees with you and saying: “I’m moral (i.e., a real Jew, you’re not. So my solution is the best.”
If we — and here I speak of everyone, Israelis, Jews, Palestinians, Arabs, Muslims, and interested Westerners — find a moral solution to this, it will not come from this kind of procedure. It will come from the hard meditation that comes from grappling with the depth of the problem — the religious and cultural sources of the hatred of Israel that dominates so much of Arab and Muslim culture — something your approach seems determined to ignore.
It is doubtful if those Palestinians, and there are hundreds of thousands of them, who truly want to make peace with us, will be able to survive and prevail against the hatred, anger and extremism of Islamic fundamentalism which is on the rise as a result of continuing despair.
Here’s the nub of the problem. You claim “hundreds of thousands,” who “truly” want to make peace with Israel. How you arrive at that extravagant figure, what you mean by “truly…”? These are all matters for discussion rather than assertion. What your Palestinian interlocutors say to you and what they say to others, what contradictory discourses they hold in their heads, and what are the most profound emotions that govern where they will “land” in a crunch… these are all matters that (especially if we’re talking about hundreds of thousands) escape your ability to gauge conclusively. At least you should admit a certain intellectual modesty here — “I think…” or “I hope…” or “My Palestinian sources tell me that…”
The astounding credulity that underlines this assertion, the simplistic contrast between your peace-loving moderates and the hate-filled religious extremists, without any attention to the role that honor and shame play in a wide range of Palestinian and Arab attitudes towards Israel suggest that you are still living in the world of the Oslo “Peace Process.” What do you have to say about that indeterminately large grey zone of Palestinians who may not be Jihadis, and may be ready to tell eager outsiders that they are for democracy and peace, but for reasons of honor and shame, admire Bin Laden and dream of revenging themselves for the shame of Israel’s victories. If they are willing to kill their daughters for shaming their families, what would they do if they could to Israel for shaming their people and their religion?
What did you learn from the outbreak of the war in October 2000? Do you still think, as one astute commentator recently wrote, that Barak was within a hair’s breadth of an agreement at Camp David? Do you even know what the Palestinian Authority was feeding its public in that summer of 2000?
I must honestly confess, I don’t know if we as a state of the Jewish people will be able to survive either. Our hatred, our fears, our extremism and our arrogance have helped us to arrive at a place and a time when the possibility of liberating ourselves from the occupation of the Palestinian people may be too late. I, for one, am at a total loss of what happens then. Once the possibility of creating a Palestinian state next to Israel is no longer real, it seems to me that the dream of a democratic state of the Jewish people comes to an end. Israel can and will continue to exist but it will no longer be able to claim its commitment to democracy or to prophetic values of our Biblical teachings.
You reveal here new dimensions to your moral narcissism. The world is a difficult place, and nations that call themselves democracies — indeed you would call democracies — have far worse karma than what you predict will be the immoral condition of Israel if a Palestinian state is not created. Your notion of Israel’s commitment to democracy or prophetic values is linear and shallow. If you gave Israel the same kind treatment that you give to the Palestinians in your statement of how hundreds of thousands of them truly want peace, if you were slightly less quick in the blame game to point the finger for these failures at Israeli hatred, fear, extremism and arrogance, not only might you think more clearly, but you also might get people to take you more seriously. As it is, this paragraph is classic masochistic omnipotence syndrome replete with the requisite reference to prophetic values.
Once there is no longer a two-state option, Palestinians will divert their and the world’s attention to the demand for full democracy within a singular state. They will not talk about a bi-national state; that is not what their struggle will be predicated on. Their demand will be for one man one vote. They will demand to de-Zionize and de-Judaize Israel.
We in response will dig in deeper. Israel will fight off the international onslaught which will remove the very legitimacy that the international community granted the Jewish people’s right to a state of their own in November 29, 1947 when the UN Resolution calling for the establishment of two states in Palestine was first passed.
Although there’s a great deal of evidence from the past to show just how stupid the world community in these matters, especially in giving credence to the profoundly dishonest claims of Palestinians to their “legitimate rights,” the evidence suggests that as the world slowly awakens to the depths of the problems with Islam and the dishonesty of the democratic claims, this kind of suicidal moral crusade against Israel will not have the strength it has in the past. I see Israel’s job as not giving into these kind of pressures. Israel should not pursue her moral perfectionism to the point of committing suicide in order to placate the moral indignation of European and “leftist” moral dishonesty and cowardice.
IN THE end, if we fail to bring an end to the occupation and if we fail to make peace with our Palestinian neighbors, we will be bringing about our own downfall. Whatever my critics may think, I am not a prophet of doom – for prophecy, as they say, has been given to the fools.
I am no fool. It is not possible to simply ignore the problem. It is not possible for us to simply use our military might to wipe out the problem either. The Israeli- Palestinian conflict is not a military problem and there are no military solutions to it. This is a political conflict between two peoples fighting for national self-determination. There are ways for mutual accommodation, but they require changing “the disk,” because the old logic of mutual destruction is working too well. We as Jews and as Israelis can not afford to lose anymore.
After 40 years of occupation, it is time for all of us to be liberated.
Well, I don’t want to burst your bubble, but you sure make a good go at being a fool.
The evidence suggests overwhelmingly that this is most decidedly not a political conflict of two peoples fighting for national self-determination (PCP). If that were so, it would have been over long ago. This is a religious war, and has been from the start. (Go back to the language of the Arabs in 1947-48. They were declaring a Jihad.) To imagine that this is about national self-determination this long after Oslo, is to be a determined dupe of demopaths, and, I’d say, a candidate for the status of fool.
You still think that the “changing of the disk” is the Israelis’ responsibility; that the Palestinians are the passive (and responsive) objects of Israeli deeds, rather than autonomous agents who, by and large, laugh at your folly. For them this is military problem — their problem is they can’t win yet — and it has a military solution — weaken Israel sufficiently by delegitimizing her in world opinion so they can win.
I respect your moral passion and your engaged energy. I think you would do everyone — including your Palestinian friends — an enormous favor, by rethinking your premises. This particular piece is so full of old and long-disproved clichés that it cannot contribute to a solution… just to your self-justification, your (arrogant?) sense that you know what’s right and moral and what the Bible counsels and the prophets would have wanted, and that as far as you are concerned your fellow Israelis — for whom you show remarkable (prophetic?) disdain — are the real source of the problem. I would have thought that, after 2000, anyone repeating the logic of Oslo would at least address the problem of what it means to share one’s lunch with a polar bear.
Alas, if you want to look at one of the tragic sources of Palestinian irredentism and suffering, your well-intentioned folly is high on the list.