Violence and oppression is not a formula for security, Israel

A few days ago, someone asked my opinion of the latest Israel mess, a subject I hate discussing because it’s so depressing. (It’s depressing not because the situation is insoluble but because reactionary politics lets radicals on both sides repeatedly kill efforts toward peace.) Israel’s security situation would improve much faster if it would stop antagonizing Palestinians and blockading Gaza and instead cultivate soft power and the moral high ground by helping develop Palestinian economies and shutting some of the new settlements deep in Palestinian territory. So I replied:

I’m sick of Israeli right wingers. And I think they’re hurting their own cause through their embrace of violence and finger-in-your-eye settlements and oppressive subjugation of the occupied territories. I’m angry.

They have the wealth and the power. They need to make the first concessions toward a serious solution. Instead, they keep infuriating the rest of the world.

As long as Americans are knee-jerk supporters of Israel, right or wrong, the situation seems hopeless.

About five years ago, I ate at the home of Jewish friends who lived across the street from me as a boy. They’re great people, and we had a nice time talking. But when I suggested I didn’t like the new settlements, the conversation got strained. And when I told my dad a year or two ago that Israel’s attacks on Palestinians bothered me, he got angry. And when I worked for Ned Lamont, in the days before the election, I canvassed a neighborhood and met quite a few Jewish people who should have been supporting Ned but were supporting Lieberman because of Israel (even though Ned had taken a very strong “pro-Israel” stand). And, of course, AIPAC owns Congress. I’ve heard it said American Jews are more pro-Israel than Israeli Jews.

When I was a teen, “US News & World Report” published a letter to the editor I sent saying Israel ought to be negotiating with Arafat because he spoke for the Palestinians. A quarter century later, Israel seems no closer to seeking a win-win solution than it did in those days it was refusing to even talk with Arafat.

Nicholas Kristof shares similar sentiments in his piece today:

Israel under Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems locked in a self- defeating dynamic in which it feels misunderstood and gives up on international opinion. It lashes out with force in ways that undermine its own interests. It is on a path that could eventually be catastrophic….

Israel could freeze all settlements and take other steps that would make a deal more likely. We already know what the final deal would look like — a two-state solution and terms resembling the “Clinton parameters” that Bill Clinton proposed in 2000.

Israel could also cultivate Turkey, a central player in the effort to press Iran. Instead, Israel’s storming of a Turkish-flagged vessel in international waters was a huge setback to efforts to win new sanctions on Iran. One big winner in this week’s fiasco was the Iranian regime….

When you visit Gaza, you see that the siege has accomplished nothing — except to devastate the lives of 1.5 million ordinary Gazans. Gisha, an Israeli human rights organization, has compiled a list of goods that Israel typically blocks from Gaza: notebooks, blank paper, writing utensils, coriander, chocolate, fishing rods, and countless more. That’s not security; that’s a travesty.

Posted by James on Thursday, June 03, 2010