Fencing Israel

Map: Mike Reagan

TRAFFIC IS SNARLED throughout Jerusalem. Today is Israel’s Memorial Day, a time of mourning that, at nightfall, will segue into the celebrations of Independence Day. What is a cause for celebration for Israelis, however, is a black day for Palestinians. They call Israel’s birth the Nakba, or Catastrophe, an event marking the loss of their land to the Jews and the transformation of many Palestinians into indigent refugees. Nearly sixty years later, the two people are still at war, with the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea caught in the middle. The land at stake is not large, but it is varied — from the rolling green hills of the Galilee in the north to the majestic, barren wadis of the Negev in the south. Jerusalem lies in the center, and to its southeast is a unique patch of wilderness, the Judean Desert.

A healthy chunk of the desert’s 775 square miles is visible from Mount Hetzron, which is topped by the ruins of a Judean fortress built three thousand years ago. To the east runs a line of low hills that mark the lip of the abyss, where the topography plunges four thousand feet down to the Dead Sea — the lowest point in the long rift valley that stretches from the Red Sea up to the Taurus Mountains in Anatolia. To the south, a series of drab limestone ranges cut through by the canyons of intermittent rivers lead to where the Judean Desert merges into the Negev. A similarly arid, if somewhat flatter plateau stretches to the north, up to Jerusalem.

I have come to Mount Hetzron with Raanan Boral, my guide from the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI). It is the last stop of the day. Earlier this morning, we drove from Jerusalem through fertile lands on the mountain ridge that forces the clouds from the Mediterranean Sea and Europe to give up what rain they have. Unlike the Negev, which is part of the desert belt that stretches from the Sahara to Arabia, the Judean Desert is caused by the rain shadow of highlands pushed up by the tectonic cracking and tilting that formed the Dead Sea rift valley.

Boral tells me that the Israeli army plans to build a base here. The soldiers stationed at the base will patrol a multilayered metal fence furnished with electronic sensors — and flanked on either side by thirteen-foot access roads — that is slated to snake its way through this wilderness in order to separate Arabs from Jews. On the face of it, it seems rather pointless, as there is not an Arab to be seen and the only Jews I know of in the entire expanse are Boral and I. But as Boral explains, the desert, empty as it may seem, is full of political tension.

The SPNI is no newcomer to this sort of conflict. While it devotes most of its resources to encouraging Israelis to hike and enjoy the countryside and creating a constituency for preserving open spaces, it also plays a unique role in political advocacy for environmental causes. As Israel’s oldest and largest environmental group, it is represented on all government zoning and planning commissions, where it has fought many battles to preserve the country’s wilderness areas — among them the Judean Desert.

“This desert is a tough place to live. The ecosystem is very sensitive because the animal and plant populations are very small,” Boral says. “But there’s human history as well, stretching back ten thousand years. Caravans have traversed it, and kings have built fortresses like the one on this mountain. Each one fortified a different line. The Hasmoneans built in the desert. Herod the Great built a line of fortresses along the Dead Sea. The British built a chain of police stations along the line just before the cliffs. But this is the first time that a ruler has had the technology and a political motivation to divide the desert in two.” Even when a border ran through the desert between 1948 and 1967, there was no physical barrier. At that time, the West Bank — a chunk of territory shaped like a backward B with Jerusalem at its central cusp — was ruled by Jordan. The border with Israel was just a line patrolled by soldiers.

Boral has taken a day to show me why he thinks the fence will cause irreparable damage to the Judean Desert. While small, the desert has its own unique ecology. It is a place where European and African species, and highland and lowland flora and fauna, meet and coexist.

THE FENCE THAT IS PLANNED to run through this desert is the southeastern tail of a huge and controversial barrier that Israel has been constructing since 2002 to keep Palestinian terrorists in the West Bank from reaching their targets in Israel. This barrier, largely an electronic fence but in some places a stark wall, will be some 450 miles long when complete. The section Israel wants to build where we now stand will slice through the tenuous habitat of the Judean Desert’s ibexes, deer, leopards, jackals, and coyotes, not to mention that of the two small Bedouin tribes whose haphazard homes and sparse fields dot the landscape of the desert’s marshes.

Construction of the barrier is part of a policy initiated by former prime minister Ariel Sharon to disengage from the greater part of the West Bank, which Israel conquered during the war of 1967. In official Israeli parlance, the West Bank is called Judea and Samaria. It roughly corresponds to the heartland of biblical Israel and contains cities and other sites intimately wound up in the Jewish people’s history and religious tradition. These connections, and the mountainous region’s strategic importance, have impelled successive Israeli governments to establish Jewish settlements in the region.

But when Israel occupied this region, it also acquired the territory’s large Palestinian population, who opposed the existence of the Jewish state and wanted to see it replaced. Their uprising — the Intifada — in 1987 was followed by an attempt to reach an accommodation during the Oslo peace process whereby a Palestinian state, comprising the West Bank and Gaza Strip, would be established alongside Israel. When negotiations collapsed in the summer of 2000, the Palestinians launched a more deadly uprising — the second, or al-Aqsa Intifada. In 2002, Israel re-established control over those parts of the West Bank it had ceded to the autonomous Palestinian Authority during the peace process. The intensity of the uprising, which reached its climax in a series of suicide bombings in Israeli population centers, convinced Sharon that Israel’s security required a physical barrier that could keep the terrorists out.

The fence has been decried and challenged in court by Palestinians and by Israeli peace advocates both because its route in effect incorporates pieces of the West Bank into Israel proper, and because in many places it cuts Palestinian villages and cities off from places of employment, vital services, and roads that lie on the other side of the barrier.

But the population affected by a fence bisecting the section of the Judean Desert visible from Mount Hetzron is tiny. Furthermore, the planned route south runs almost precisely along the Green Line — the virtual border that separates sovereign Israel from the occupied territory of the West Bank. (In comparison, another section of the fence that impinges on the northern part of the Judean Desert, near Jerusalem, has been the subject of great political controversy — not only does it run through wilderness landscape, but it also puts several chunks of the West Bank onto the Israeli side of the fence.) As a result, while debates have raged and courts have convened over issues connected to other parts of the barrier, the possibility of a fence in the southern part of the desert did not register on anyone’s radar screen, including that of the environmentalists, until late 2006.

“We don’t deny that a fence might have to run between two political entities. We did not oppose the construction of a border fence with Lebanon or with the Gaza Strip. We’d be delighted if there were no need for a fence, but a border fence, like a road, is part of the fabric of life,” Boral explains. So as sections of the fence have been planned and built, he and his staff have sought through negotiation, public pressure, and litigation not to prevent its construction, but rather to ensure that it is built along a route and in such a way as to minimize environmental damage.

Boral claims that the Fence Administration — the government body that oversees the construction of the barrier — promised him when the fence’s route was being planned that the southern portion would end at the frontier of the southern Judean Desert, and that the army would use other methods to keep terrorists from crossing into Israel. The canyons here are so deep and the terrain so rough where the plateau plunges into the rift that it cannot be traversed by vehicle. While a determined terrorist could make it on foot, the assumption is that his progress would be so slow that he could be detected and apprehended. Boral considered the matter closed. Then, last November, he received a phone call from Tzviki Bar-Hai, head of the South Mount Hebron Regional Council, the body that oversees the Israeli settlements in the southernmost West Bank.

“They’ve started,” Bar-Hai told him. Bulldozers and other heavy machinery had begun to move earth to create a path for the fence.

TO BAR-HAI AND HIS FELLOW SETTLERS, the West Bank is the heart of the Holy Land, God’s gift to the Jewish people. In their view, the whole of it must be part of the modern state of Israel and inhabited by Jews. They fear that the fence is the first step toward a government decision to abandon the settlements in the West Bank, just as it abandoned those in the Gaza Strip.

But opposition to the fence is not just about religion and politics. The settlers are one of the Israeli subcultures closest to the land. They, as well as the Orthodox-Zionist community of which they (and I) are also a part, are dedicated hikers, campers, and students of the land’s flora and fauna. Whatever one thinks of the settlers’ political positions, their love of the land and their commitment to preserving the environment is fierce and sincere.

You can see that in the foyer of Bar-Hai’s office in the settlement of Otniel, southwest of Mount Hebron, northwest of Mount Hetzron. The room is decorated with posters — one mourning the evacuation of Israel’s settlements in the Gaza Strip, another encouraging the proper disposal of alkaline batteries. Bar-Hai, blond, jovial, sporting a mustache and a blue kipah (the knitted cap that is the badge of Orthodox Zionists in Israel), first wanted to tell me about the field school at Susia, a settlement to the east — built on the site of an ancient Jewish town. “One of the reasons we came here thirty years ago was to open the area to tourists and hikers,” he said. “We founded the field school and an environmental high school. We are the neighbors of the Judean Desert. We hike there. And then we hear that a fence is supposed to go up in the middle of it.”

Like many of his fellow settlers, Bar-Hai is very focused on the practical aspects of building and maintaining the Jewish presence in the West Bank. He is not one to invoke the desert’s tranquility, even if that is one of the area’s attractions for him. “Each one of our settlements is built over a Jewish settlement that existed here two thousand years ago,” Bar-Hai declared. “All we are doing is renewing it. I think that our presence on the land contributes to preserving the landscape and increases the chances of conservation.”

Otniel, with its neat houses, ordered gardens, and well-dressed inhabitants, lies on the highlands above the desert. But eastward and downward, on the semiarid belt of the desert’s margins, the human ecology is quite different. Here Boral and I, on our way to Mount Hetzron, encountered first tents and then scattered, cubicle concrete-and-plaster houses. Barefoot children in worn, drab smocks, schoolbags on their backs, scampered along the side of the narrow road. They belonged to the Hathalin and Dqaiqa tribes, a population of approximately sixteen hundred Bedouin who farm and graze the highlands’ eastern slopes.

According to a position paper prepared by an Israeli organization called Bimkom, or Planners for Planning Rights, the fence will separate the Bedouin from almost thirteen hundred acres of their agricultural and grazing land, as well as from springs that are vital sources of water. “There can be no doubt,” the authors claim, “that the planners of the barrier tended to treat this desert region, in which these rural people live, as an empty area in which the location of the fence is not of great importance. But it is a region rich in natural resources for the Bedouin, who have learned to use them.”

Rabbis for Human Rights, an anti-occupation human rights organization that has gone to court to fight the fence in a number of locations, has submitted Bimkom’s position paper to support its case against building the fence in the Judean Desert. While in other places Rabbis for Human Rights has conducted legal battles against Israeli settlers to protect the rights of Palestinians, here, contrary to stereotype, the organization and the settlers are fighting together with environmentalists to protect the rights of the local Bedouin. While they disagree about the political future of the area, they have joined forces to stop the fence.

Living between the sedentary villagers and the city dwellers of the top of the ridge, the Bedouin are intimately integrated into the local ecology. They face the same challenges as the region’s animal and plant life, and they have adopted survival strategies that are based on freedom of movement and that require large areas for husbanding scarce resources, the most vital of which is water. In any given year, rain might fall in one wadi and not in another, it might fall farther up the slope or farther down, so the Bedouin’s fields are spread over the landscape. The odds are that some will fail, but others will thrive. Thus the Bedouin are few but need a lot of land to keep their community viable. If the fence divides them from fields and springs on the Israeli side, they will face a much larger risk of crop failure.

The animals that live in the desert pursue a similar survival strategy. The largest is the ibex, a mountain goat with graceful, back-curving horns that roams the ridges and canyons, moving with the rains. “The ibexes spend the summer near the springs in the low areas near the Dead Sea. In the winter, when the rains turn the desert margins green, they ascend to the plateau above to graze,” explains Ron Frumkin, an environmentalist and independent ecological consultant who authored a report on the ecological implications of the barrier. The fence would cut off their access to this grazing area, forcing them to remain near the springs and setting off a chain of ecological repercussions. The ibex would overgraze the vegetation in the lowlands, encouraging greater erosion and thus destroying the habitats of smaller herbivores, such as rabbits. Remaining closer to the springs would also make them more vulnerable to predators, in particular the area’s handful of leopards. While the leopards would have full stomachs, they would be entirely cut off from their fellows in the Negev desert. The Judean Desert’s leopard population has been severely depleted in recent decades: some were killed when they attacked livestock, house cats, and occasionally humans in the area’s villages; some were hunted illegally; and others apparently migrated in search of better and less dangerous hunting grounds. Only replenishment of the population from the Negev can ensure its survival.

The plans for the fence, drawn up with the cooperation of the Israel Nature and National Parks Protection Authority, the state body responsible for conservation, call for tunnels to allow small mammals to be able to cross under the fence. That will help to a certain extent, but Frumkin says that foxes, jackals, and other such creatures are too big for the tunnels and that in any case there is no way to know whether the animals will even find and use tunnels built large enough to allow them to pass.

HERODION, a flat-topped mountain southeast of Bethlehem and north of Mount Hetzron, is crowned by the ruins of a palace built by Herod the Great. We hadn’t come for the antiquities, however. What Boral had wanted to show me was the view. The site’s parking lot faces south, forming a balcony above the Teqoa riverbed, still lush and green after the winter rains. If any water was flowing, it was too little for me to see. But the huge pipes that run under the road that crosses the canyon indicated that when it rains torrents rush down the canyon as flash floods that eventually reach the Dead Sea.

The well-ordered, spacious houses of two Israeli settlements lay on either side of the riverbed. Just below the mountain we stood on, right on the main road, was an army base and a clutch of Arab houses that looked faded, small, and run down compared to those in the settlements. Were Israel to want to build a barrier, it would be impossible to find a path that could divide Arab from Jew without blocking the riverbed. Boral had brought me here to demonstrate that there are ways to provide security without building a wall.

He pointed to a pole standing on the other side of the canyon, just below the first houses of the settlement. On top was a small, black box — a surveillance device that detects terrorists who attempt to sneak into the settlement. “It can pick up a crawling person within one hundred to two hundred meters,” he explained. “Anything detected sets off a buzzer at the observation post in the army base. A patrol car from the base can get there within minutes.”

“But don’t animals set it off also?” I recalled my own days in the army, when wild boars and deer triggered the electronic fence my unit patrolled on Mount Hermon, up north.

“The technicians can learn to distinguish between a fox and a human being by the shape they make on the screen,” Boral replied. “Thirty-two of these devices have protected this area of nearly two and a half square miles during the last three years. The same system is used to protect fourteen other settlements. If it works here, why shouldn’t it work in the desert?”

Marc Luria isn’t convinced that it will. “The security effect of the entire fence is only as good as its weakest link,” he maintains.

I met Luria in the offices of his small software-consulting firm in Jerusalem’s Talpiot commercial district, just a two-minute walk from my home. Luria is a founder of the Public Council for a Security Fence for Israel, and currently serves as its liaison to the government and the Knesset, Israel’s parliament. The organization came into being eight years ago when the Intifada was at its height.

“If Mexicans or Canadians were engaging in suicide bombing, everyone would agree that the United States would need a fence to keep them out,” he told me. “Look what people have been willing to put up with in terms of airport security. We’re now sitting a five-minute drive from the Green Line. More than 250 residents of Jerusalem have been killed during the Intifada. I myself have attended eight funerals. That’s just unacceptable.”

According to figures provided by Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, between 2000 and 2003, Palestinian terrorists carried out 73 attacks, killing 293 Israelis and wounding 1,950. From 2003 to 2006, the period in which the fence was gradually erected, there were 12 attacks, killing 64 Israelis and wounding 445.

Luria has little confidence that surveillance devices alone can offer the same level of security as an electronic fence. They require trained personnel and a level of vigilance that he frankly doesn’t believe the army can provide. True, no suicide bombers have yet crossed the Judean Desert, he acknowledged, but if that area remains open when the rest of the fence is built, the terrorists will find the means to overcome the difficult terrain. The environmental problems can be resolved, he said.

Marc Luria is an absolutist when it comes to the fence, but even those political leaders who are genuinely concerned about its environmental consequences don’t want to appear in newspaper headlines as the person whose qualms led to a terrorist getting through to explode himself on a bus or in a mall. That’s the position of the minister of environmental protection, Gidon Ezra.

“First and foremost, human life is more important than anything else,” he said in a telephone interview. “Some of us think that the territory can be controlled without a fence, but so far the military has not been convinced. We would like to find an alternative, but in the end the army will decide.” The army’s official position remains that electronic warning systems cannot provide the same level of protection that a fence can.

Tzviki Bar-Hai, the settlement leader, thinks he knows why the army still insists that the fence is necessary. “The army is a prisoner of its preconceptions,” he maintains. “Our claim is that since we have an awesome natural resource here and a lot of space distant from both Palestinian and Jewish settlements, it’s possible to find alternative means of defense. It can be done in ways that do not wound the landscape.”

“The army,” he said, “only measures defense, but there’s more to life than that.”

For now, the desert is enjoying a temporary reprieve. Late in 2006, the environmentalists and settlers convinced then minister of defense Amir Peretz to halt work on this section of the fence, pending a study of the alternatives. The bulldozers moved out, but last summer Peretz was replaced by former prime minister Ehud Barak. Barak has not yet made any public statement about the issue.

Even anti-fence environmentalists like Ron Frumkin know that opposing the barrier is a nonstarter with both the public and the government. But Frumkin says he hasn’t seen any evidence that convinces him that the fence in the southern Judean Desert is necessary. The most telling point is that since construction was stopped more than a year ago not a single terrorist has crossed into Israel over the fence’s planned route. Still, his report concentrates on offering recommendations for building in the least damaging way. It states, for example, that gaps must be left in the fence to accommodate migration routes used by ibex and deer. Noting that the government and army say the fence is a temporary security measure that will be dismantled when a peace agreement is reached, Frumkin argues that it must be built so that it can be dismantled without causing further damage, and plans must be made to rehabilitate the landscape when that happens.

ATOP MOUNT HEZRON, the shadow of Mount Hebron has overtaken us, but the setting sun still illuminates the peaks that run along the cliff to our east, before its precipitous drop to the Dead Sea. The desert is silent. But from our vantage point Boral points out the plains below where, in ancient times, armies marched and fought battles. War is a constant presence in this landscape. “Sometimes,” he sighs, “I ask myself if we haven’t taken leave of our senses.”

Like Boral (and Bar-Hai and all the other Israelis I quote here), I have fought for this land in wars and conflicts. When a piece of land is part of your history, your religion, your identity, when you’ve defended it and seen people die for it, you want to protect it, preserve it — and possess it. And yet these feelings do not trump the fact that another people live on this land and feel no less powerful an attachment to it. I do not wish to be a part of a society founded on an injustice, so I support the Palestinians’ right to have their own country, even if it means giving up this place to which I am so fiercely attached.

As a former soldier, I know that added security for my country often means misery for the Palestinians. The fence is meant to protect me, but it will scar the land we share. As a lover of and frequent hiker over its mountains and through its canyons, I cannot bear to see the desert also under attack. But I do not want to return to the days of the bus bombings, when I had to fear for the lives of my children when they took public transportation to and from school. There are no ideal solutions here, only risks, and a choice between a set of unattractive options. That is part of our tragedy.

Haim Watzman lives in Jerusalem. He is the author of Company C: An American’s Life as a Citizen-Soldier in Israel and A Crack in the Earth: A Journey Up Israel’s Rift Valley.


  1. It’s great that people in Israel want to save animals and the environment. We here in America want to do the same thing. We will start by voting pro-sprawl and pro-war people out of office. You could start by doing the same.

  2. The situation isn’t quite the same, but the Secure Fence Act (2006)will enable the United States to build a 700 mile double reinforced fence with vehicle fence along the border with Mexico. It will traverse cities & cut across deserts. The goal is to stop not suicide bombers, but drug dealers and illegal immigrants. But, it’s a big, tall, long fence–a wall. Setting aside the important questions about human rights, just as in the Judean Desert, biologists in the US and Mexico are concerned about the impact on regional, transborder wildlife. A species of concern there is the leopard. Here it’s another cat, the jaguar, which has been reported in the border area on both sides, after years of official and unofficial extermination programs. As Jon Piasecki observes in “The Nature of Walls” (Orion Jan-Feb.2008), part of the nature of walls is to eventually fail. Fail physically, fail in their stated purpose, & these two walls will be no different.

  3. The enemy is not the pro-sprawl or the pro-war people. The enemy is the terrorist and his silent compatriot who have no interest in compromise or peace.

  4. I understand the author’s conflict over the safety the wall brings to Israelis on the other side, versus the damage it does to wildlife and the Palestinians.

    If safety were the only question, Israel’s border should be on the 1967 border line – not taking additional land and settlements from the small area left for Palestinians.

    Arafat and now Abbas have agreed to give up the rest of the former Palestine, provided the refugees from what is now Israel can be compensated in some way. As the powerful party of the two (most guns, wealth, technology & strongest allies) Israel could make peace by keeping less land. With a true ceasefire (not reserving the right to execute Palestinians extra-judicially at any time) and a border at the 1967 line, I believe Israel would find peace, and the desert on both sides of the line would be left in a more natural state.

  5. Did anyone ever measure the land size that belongs to the Arabs versus the land size that belongs to Israel? If the brethren of the Palestinians wanted to alleviate their suffering and invited them to share in their wealth, the desert and Israel would be free of unnatural and unlawful incursion.

  6. I’m old enough to remember the jubilation when the Berlin Wall came down. The building of walls along the southern border of the United States, and in Israel, seem so sad, futile, and ironic. “When will we ever learn?”

  7. Iris,
    Do you really think it is fair to kick people out of their homes and tell them they can go live with people who share their ethnicity? The word for that is ethnic cleansing and it is against international law. As long as Israelis don’t acknowledge this, and Americans back them up, there will be no peace in the Middle East.

  8. While fences are never the best solution to any problem, please let me cite a good argument for a security fence along the southern line between Israel and the West Bank territories from Yidiyot Aharonot that appeared shortly after a recent terror killing.
    “New security estimates indicate Monday’s suicide bombing may have originated in West Bank, not Gaza, despite earlier reports to the contrary. PA officials say terrorists’ identity hasn’t been ascertained yet”

  9. Let’s not mince words. The occupation of the West Bank by Israel is illegal – that’s the law. The West Bank came under Israeli occupation when Israel attacked its neighbors in 1967. The Separation Wall is NOT in Israel. Israel built it largely in the West Bank. If it was just about terrorism, Israel would have built it in its own country. It’s about gaining more land for Israel – the slow expropriation of what remains of Palestine into the Israeli state. It is a one-way wall – it keeps Palestinian terrorists (and Palestinians in general) out of Israel, but does not keep Israeli state terrorists in nor its civilian interlopers. Since year 2000 Israel has killed 4600 Palestinians, a figure almost five times that of Israelis killed, something the author ignores – and it should be remembered that the Palestinians are fighting for their very lives, the Israelis are fighting for a bigger Israel. The occasional suicide bombing is the direct result of a 41 year brutal occupation. Israelis cannot pretend to be addressing environmental issues as long as they occupy the land of another people. Illegal occupation and Apartheid rule are entirely antithetical to all notions of ecology.

  10. What should Israel do? What would the US do if Canadians from Toronto were bombing Buffalo?

    The occupation of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967 was stupid and short sighted – which is why Israel withdrew from Gaza and is withdrawing from much of the West Bank. But the refusal of the Palestinians to accept Israel’s right to exist is also stupid.

    What ‘Palspal’ calls ‘the occasional suicide bomb’ and the shelling of Israel from Gaza show that the governing agencies of the Palestinians, Hamas and Fatah, and therefore the Palestinians themselves, are guilty of what might be termed ‘attempted ethnic cleaning’ or ‘attempted genocide’.

    The fact that it is failing doesn’t justify this attempted ethnic cleansing. The fact that the state of Israel is much stronger than the Palestian governmental organizations doesn’t justify suicide bombing or any other bombing by the Palestinians. It just shows the political unsophistication of the Palestinians.

    And while we shouldn’t mince words we should use them correctly. Arab citizens of Israel can vote and serve in Parliment. That’s citizenship not apartheid.

    Personally, I’d rather be a Moslem living in Israel than a Jew, Christian, Bhuddhist, Hindu, atheist, gay Moslem or woman living in an Arab state.

    And if the so-called “Americans” have the right to occupy the area of North America between Mexico and Canada – taken from the people they call Indians – then Israel has the right to occupy Jerusalem, the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan. And if the Americans don’t have the right to what is now called the US, and have to go back from whence came their ancestors – Europe, Asia, Africa; then the Jews all have to go back to the Kingdom of Solomon.

  11. Wise words from Larry.
    while recent history certainly doesn’t shine a favorable light on Israel, the fact is many of the grudges that fuel the violence we see in the region today go back hundreds and even thousands of years. Neither side in this conflict can claim moral high ground. And until letting go and forgiveness emerge, wildlife and human life will continue to suffer. It certainly doesn’t help matters that the U.S. ignores all the violations of international law on one side and not the other.

  12. Larry,
    You raise a very valid point about the legitimacy of U.S. land claims. My ancestors owned slaves, took land from Indians in Virginia, in Kentucky, in Missouri and in Oregon, and probably did other heinous things that I just don’t know about. Our nation took 1/3 of Mexico (and now we complain because all the “foreigners” keep coming in). Because I feel responsibility for the advantages given to me by these actions against others, I do everything I can to help compensate the descendants of those who we have wronged.
    Just as you expect the Palestinians to respect your “facts on the ground” and get on with their lives, you should respect theirs. They are stubborn enough to keep fighting for their rights, so you have a choice. Are you going to brutalize yourselves more by being even more oppressive? Or are you going to accept that they have some grievance and give ground, literally, so that they can also have the good life you seek? If you believe the Palestinians who live in Israel are happy and better off, then give the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza the right to vote in your elections. They have been disenfranchised for over forty years. Wouldn’t that make YOU angry?

  13. Larry – What should Israel do?? Israel should take its troops and settlers and return to the only legal land they can claim – that which is behind pre-June ’67 borders. The question is not what the US would do if Canadians were bombing Buffalo, but what should Americans do if Canada (or whomever) occupied it and in doing so, established an Apartheid regime. As would be obvious to all, American resistance in all its forms would be a RESPONSE to the occupation not a cause of it. The occupation of what remains of Palestine may have been shortsighted and stupid, but it was a genuine act of aggression for which Israel has not atoned by pulling out totally and going home, but instead continues its aggression even as we read this. Israel only withdrew its expensive colonists from Gaza, nothing more – thus clearing the way for its life-annihilating siege. The UN still understands Gaza to be Israeli-occupied.

    A refusal to recognize Israel is irrelevant. Fatah gained not one acre of land in recognizing Israel. Hamas is avowedly open to negotiations with Israel – that is in itself de facto recognition. And the outcome of such negotiations is de jure recognition. It takes quite a bit of chutzpah for Israel to demand recognition in advance when for decades it would not recognize there was a Palestinian people whom they had been removed from their very land. That’s a ruse on Israel’s part to avoid negotiations. It’s time Israel recognized Hamas as the elected representative of the Palestinian people.

    What you call ‘attempted ethnic cleansing’ (how many dead from the ‘shelling’ over the years – 9? 19?) is actually a desperate attempt at resistance from a people steadfastly holding against the loss of the rest of their country to one of the most powerful nations on earth – a state routinely employing that power against an essentially unarmed population. In truth, Israelis ARE carrying out ethnic cleansing, it meets and exceeds the UN definition of that despicable act. Since 09/00 Israel has killed 982 Palestinian children, a figure just short of the total number of Israelis killed – and that includes Israeli soldiers. And the Palestinian children (and adults) are being killed in Palestine. Israeli deaths are largely in…Palestine. And that’s even without getting into the hundreds of race-based roadblocks, checkpoints, the Wall, the South Africa-like Identity cards, the arbitrary arrest sweeps of young men, the house arrests, the village shutdowns, the race-based control over water supplies, the control over ingress and egress of people, money, goods. I can go on. But THAT is your ethnic cleansing. That’s the model Milosevich used in Bosnia.

    Palestinian citizens of Israel can serve in Israel’s Parliament. But of course they should – Israel loudly proclaims itself a democracy. That should not be a big deal. Yet they are underrepresented there and in all positions of importance. Palestinians are 1/5th of Israel’s citizenry. So how many Palestinians have been appointed to cabinet positions in Israel’s entire history? ONE – and what is he – Minister of Arab Sports? Palestinians are grossly shortchanged in social budgets and in all segments of societal advancement. Their schools and clinics are underfunded and they cannot live where ever they choose to. In fact, 93% of Israel is set aside for Jews-only, from anywhere and in perpetuity. Palestinian citizens are restricted to the remaining 7%. Hows that for a democratic ideal? Race-based democracy in action.

    While you may not want to be a gay Hindu in an Arab state – such an argument is just a diversion from the central truth that Palestinians have every right to be free of Israeli occupation and genocide, and have every right to resist same.

    Anyone who believes in human rights knows that what was done to Native-Americans is now being done to the Palestinians. And anyone who knows that the Native-Americans were, and are, right, also know this is also true of the Palestinians. Americans of European descent have now lived here hundreds of years – there is no going back. Similarly, Israelis have now lived in Israel ‘proper’ for several generations – and there is no going back. You just have to take your troops and colonists and go home to that Israel. While you are at it – (in Reagan’s words) ‘Tear down this wall.” After that, the Palestinians and Israelis can jointly discuss regional ecology.

    PS – Jerusalem was 4000 years old when Solomon lived there. It was built by the ancestors of the Palestinians. So perhaps you meant to say that the Jews should go back to Ur.

  14. Ben – The conflict in Palestine/Israel dates to the turn of the last century when Zionists began their colonizing effort in an already inhabited land. It has no tangible connection to any Biblical squabbles.

    The Palestinians are not looking particularly for any high moral ground – merely looking for what remains of their ground as it is expropriated out from under them by their illegal occupiers. And looking to stay alive long enough to enjoy it.

    I agree with you that US financial, logistical and diplomatic support for Israel is the crux of the problem. The world makes it known that Israel is wrong, but then looks the other way while the US vetoes one just resolution after another. Maybe someday soon a change is gonna come.

  15. Please read Joan Peters book “From Time Immemorial” which clearly describes the misconceptions that the so-call Palestinians perpetrate. As far as ethnic cleansing, the only ones, in their own words, who are looking to cleanse an ethnic people are the Palestinians who have stated that they want all of Israel and will do so by pushing the Jews into the sea. On Israel’s part, the Israelis do all that is possible to target only terrorists and their safe havens while the Palestinian terrorists specifically aim to murder innocent civilians.

    Under whose rule would any reasonable person like to live – the Arabs or the Israelis? From my part Israel’s democracy appears the better choice. I believe that all who believe in a civilization of a higher order can only side with Israel because if the Arabs were in Israel’s position they would not only take over all they could in whatever way they could but they would also be looking to convert the rest of humanity in their Dark Ages philosophy. Fences would be just the beginning. In fact, isn’t that exactly what we are seeing the fanatic Moslems attempting at at this very point in history?

  16. Palspal ignores what happened when Israel got out of Gaza; militants took over and now Israel is bombarded daily by rockets and mortar bombs from Gaza. According to Palspal, I guess Israelis should regard each one as a “thank you” note.

    Right now there is a political struggle going on within the Palestinian community between nationalists, who are represented in the Palestinian Authority, and terror organizations who do not want to accept the existence of the State of Israel because they use their religion as an axe to grind and to express their rights in term of an Islamic Waqf or perpetual jurisdiction from the Muslim conquest of Palestine which is also the Biblical Land of Israel and was so prior to both Christian and Muslim occupations.

    But let us keep to the particular issue at hand. Until there is an agreement with the Palestinians, there is no “international border” between Israel and the territories. I hope that one day the fences can be removed and an agreed upon international border established with peace, trade relations and mutual tourism.

    I believe that Israel has to act sooner rather than later in this matter, but none of us are there on the ground, and we are not aware of the particulars that may be preventing action as soon as we would like it.

    But to mouth off with slogans about occupation and other charges against a state that has not known one day of peace since its inception in 1948 is a brainless exercise. I believe we should attempt to keep this discussion as factual as possible and not let opinions and prejudices guide this discussion.

  17. It is very easy to steal someone’s land if you can convince yourself they are sub-human or following a “Dark Ages” philosophy. Indeed, that is the way it is done. Weren’t Native Americans put on reservations because they were nothing but wild savages who needed to give way to civilized, Christian people? What scares me is America and Israel’s hubris with regard to Arabs and Moslems. Tell me, Iris, what could be more “Dark Ages” than the belief by many Jews and Christians that God told them through a book written over 2,000 years ago that a certain piece of land (inconveniently settled by someone else) was meant for only Jews to live on? These holy wars/ethnic wars won’t end until we recognize our own prejudices as well as those of the other side.

  18. Whatever your view of the “Book written over 2,000 years” ago, its claim to the land is the first. Now I do not want to see the Arab inhabitants of Palestine dispersed any more, and I hope for a Palestinians state to which they can return.

    I heard a Palestinian publisher speak last night of the cooperation he gets from Israeli sources, and he is a Palestinian nationalist who is working for a Palestinian state. He seemed to realize that “fences” can be taken down easily after they’re constructed.

    I am not happy with the political class in Israel which seems to have an abundance of politicians but a dearth of statesmen (or “statespeople”). However, whatever conception of the Native Americans was prevalent among the settlers of the U.S., Israelis are well-aware of the richness of Muslim Arab society, and knows it has a face, more hidden these days, that should be honored if not emulated.

  19. Palspal,

    The religions of the book have been at it since long, long before the turn of the century. Let’s face it: When any group of people thinks it has a stranglehold on the truth, this will always be the end result. What now has taken the shape of a conflict for resources cannot be viewed in a vacuum. Let’s not forget that every one of the Old Testament religions has a long history of persecuting even those within its ranks who see the humanity of the other side. Israel is certainly doing most of the killing these days, but that hasn’t always been the case. And the memories of the righteous are long and rigid.

  20. Iris – Put the Peters book down – better yet, throw it out. The book is a hoax, Joan Peters has long been discredited. No serious scholar, or in fact, any scholar of the Middle East, uses Joan Peters. She cooked her numbers. That’s why we have heard virtually nothing from her since. She was exposed. Thus, any argument that sources her is by definition flawed. So if you are going to continue to use her material, don’t mention her name. She’s a kook.

  21. Jerry – As I stated before, Israel has NOT left Gaza – in fact, Israel invades Gaza on a continuous basis – as it does the West Bank. The United Nations OFFICIALLY regards Gaza as Israeli occupied – still – and with good reason. Israel withdrew its settlers so it could have free rein in making sure Gaza is a failed enterprise. You MUST know that Israel and the US (Elliot Abrams – arch-Zionist) agreed to spend whatever they must to insure that there was civil war between Fatah (the old enemy, suddenly now the ‘good Arabs’) and Hamas. Abrams got his civil war, but his side lost. And let’s not forget that Hamas was elected in certified free elections.

    Israel has done nothing that Palestinians should be thankful for. Unless one suffers from Stockholm Syndrome one does not thank ones oppressors. Israel does not belong in Gaza – nor does it belong in the West Bank – so a 40 year occupation is not something to be thanked. Israel’s only duty is to pick up and go home to Israel.

    Hamas is a political party answerable to the Palestinian people. They have no obligation to recognize Israel – certainly no more obligation than Israel has to recognize Hamas. There is no precedent in history for a state requiring advance recognition in order to negotiate. Besides, to recognize Israel is to recognize Palestinian dispossession of their own country.

    There was no Muslim occupation of ‘Israel.’ In fact, there was no such thing as an Israeli until 1948. Before then, it was Palestine, and before that, Canaan. Yes, there was an ancient Israel and Judea in the mix – but that grants no exclusive rights to land – never mind a right to carry out genocide.

    As far as borders go, the international position expressed repeatedly, is an Israel behind pre-67 borders. The balance is Palestine. The position you are taking is to create a Jewish waqf in as much of Palestine as possible. And since that land is held in perpetuity for Jews, you are admitting that your position is precisely the same as that you accuse Hamas of taking. Go figure.

    As far as being there on the ground – I’m there on the ground frequently – I see what is going on. Israelis and their supporters rarely get to see what’s on the ground there, one, because they don’t want to; and two, because they get steered to Jewish-held areas.

    That Israel has not known one day of peace since 1948 is because they did not come in peace – they came to take the land just as all colonizers do – and with absolutely no regard for the native natural people of the land. Israel planned and carried out genocide even before the Brits left. Israel has killed between 30 to 60 thousand Palestinians in over the decades. Some Israelis have died as a consequence. But that is the price that Israelis and their supporters apparently feel must be paid for Erez Israel.

    There are a few basics you have to remember. The Palestinians were there when the Zionists arrived. Israel has been carrying out genocide since it was the Yishuv. And the entire world (maybe not Micronesia or the Marshall Islands?) has stated unequivocally that the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza is illegal. It’s long past time that Israel ended the world’s last Apartheid rule and removed itself from the world’s last certified illegal occupation.

    Those are the facts.

  22. Jerry – Whether Hebrews arrived from Ur or Egypt or even if they emerged out of an existing Canaanite population – they have no first claim to the land. There is no such thing – no Divine Right to the land. The ancestors of the Palestinians were on the land when the Hebrews arrived, when most Jews left, and when the Zionists colonized. In other words, the Palestinians have been on the land all along – at least until their removal via Zionist force. It is this presence as a settled people in this land that gives Palestinians every right to be there.

  23. To Jerry, Iris, Ben, palspal:
    I recommend a truce for now. We have said our pieces. I hope we haven’t alienated whatever dwindling audience we might have for this thread. I hope we can find common ground on this planet soon. Violence is not the answer, no matter who fires the first or last shot. Neither are walls a solution, if they are built to wall in an injustice – not to start the argument all over again…

  24. Ben – This conflict is not about religion. This conflict is about land, about power, about sovereignty. There were a small number of Jews living in Palestine before the Zionists arrived. They lived in relative peace with their Arab neighbors of either religion. It is the introduction of the political entity of Zionism at the turn of the last century that is the genesis of the problem. That the Palestinians and Jews were in some major conflict before that is just mythology. What went down after the Zionists arrived has no connection to the Biblical era. There is no record of Palestinians killing Jews before the current conflict. If you must resort to the Bible, Jews often claim that God commanded the Hebrews to slaughter all the other tribes. That they failed to do so has no bearing on today’s conflict.

  25. Think about Arafat and Castro.

    Both lost their ‘sugar daddies’ when the Soviet Union collapsed. The Palestinians were hit twice – with an influx of Jews from the Soviet Union, Israel found that it didn’t need Palestinian labor. Then they realized that people from E. Europe, Africa, Bangla Desh, et cetera were happy to come in and work, and did not present the special security challenges that the Palestinians present.

    Castro, with no market for his sugar and limited access to markets for his cigars, thanks to our dear old Uncle Sam, built sustainable agriculture in Cuba. The Cubans got thinner – hell – everybody is thinner than Americans – but they survived.

    Arafat turned to the West for aid, got it, and sent his wife to Paris with the money, earmarked for Palestinian development, that made it’s way into his bank accounts. That’s why Hamas won the election – while they hide behind children, and until they send them to kill Jews, they take good care of people. Yep, they take good care of the fodder. (Course that’s more than I can say about my dear old Uncle Sam. We, if you recall, go to war with the army we have.)

    The Palestinians should say to themselves we hate those people. But we can’t kill them all. So we may as well build homes, farms, and schools and try to compete with the Chinese and Indians.

    As the Israelis say – “Ain Breyra!” Ain’t no other choice. And as the kids say, they ought to get a life.

  26. Actually, it was not the Zionists, many of whom were what we would call egalitarian socialists.

    It was the British promising the same land to both the Arabs and the Jews that is the genesis of the problem – the same as it was the British on the Indian sub-continent that triggered much of the problems between the Hindus and the Moslems in India, Pakistan, and Bangla Desh.

  27. Indeed, you can find the nefarious hands of the British virtually everywhere there is conflict around the globe. It was the British who first promised freedom to all of Arab Southwest Asia – and it was the British who betrayed that promise. Instead of guaranteeing Palestinian independence – Britain occupied that country, and as in America and Australia, colonized it with Europeans.

    While in theory some early Zionists might be considered egalitarian socialists, theory fell to the wayside in Palestine. Ahad Haam and his philosophical allies were defeated by those who believed in *socialism in one ethnic group* – the Arabs be damned. Instead the Zionist policy was ‘conquest of land’ and ‘conquest of labor.’ Neither socialist not egalitarian. That’s why in the fabulous institution of the kibbutz, no Arab has ever been asked to be a member.

  28. Larry – Yes, Hamas won the election largely for two reasons – one; they provide social services in a a starved and beaten Israeli-occupied Gaza. And two; Fatah deals with Israel/US have made its leaders into fat cats who make lots of money under the Israeli occupation. (That happened in Vichy (Occupied) France too. It could be called ‘collaboration.’)In the meantime, Fatah had not gained one dunam of land for the Palestinians in 40 years, nor a moment’s respite from Israeli state terrorism. So people voted Hamas. (US encourages ‘democracy’ in the Middle East. But only if they get it right.)

    That Palestinans are fodder is because Israel educates its children to leave their country and shoot them. Generation after generation raised in Israel to shoot Arabs. Israeli high school grads have killed 4600 Palestinians (including 982 children among whom 145 were toddlers)over the last 8 years. And they are killed in their own country – Palestine.

    The Israelis should say to themselves – ‘we hate gentiles, especially Palestinians. But we can’t kill them all – so let’s do the best thing for Israel and pull back to our legal borders instead of shooting them in our effort to take the rest of their country.’

  29. The bottom line is that you cannot crete an ethos of environmental conscience while in the process of annihilating a human population. That the Palestinians were forcibly removed from their country by outsiders is crime enough without continuing to carry out more of same right through to the 21st century. And for the conqueror to entertain the hubris that they can now show environmental concern for Ibexes and Hyaxes is unacceptable while carrying out an ethnic cleansing campaign. As unacceptable as Hitler admiring the German forests from his get-way abode in the Alps. As unacceptable as all the ruins of bulldozed Palestinian villages that lie under the soil of Israel’s national parks. There can be no regard for ‘nature’ that does not also include regard for human life. They are inseparable.

  30. Thanks for your comments. I don’t think there’s any use turning this into a debate over the Israel-Palestine conflict. There are plenty of other places on the web to do that and we’re not going to reach any consensus here. I urge readers who want to see more of my thinking on Israel and other subjects to check out my new blog, http://southjerusalem.com.

  31. This has been a good discussion. It is a shame that the author – Haim Watzman – has attempted to cut it off.

    A people or political movement will turn to terrorism when it is denied any other means to pursue its political objectives. This is quite clear in the historical record. It is also clear that terrorism will be abandoned and denounced once a people or political movement has a real alternative through which to pursue its political objectives.

    When will we – i say “we’ because this can only be accomplished by the USA – provide the Palestinians with a true alternative by which they can pursue their objectives?

    I want to recommend a book by an Israeli which is essential reading for those who want to understand Israel and the P-I conflict: “The Tragedy of Zionism: How Its Revolutionary Past Haunts Israeli Democracy” by Bernard Avishai (http://www.google.com/search?q=The+tragedy+of+zionism&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&aq=t&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a)

    Open discussion of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is precisely what we need in this country (the USA) – including especially the US role in the conflict. This is true because the US is the #1 impediment to peace. The evidence? 1.Our unqualified military and political support of successive Israel governments, 2. Our refusal to criticize the Israeli government when it flaunts international law, humanitarian standards (did anyone mention collective punishment?) and even the conditions we have said the Israeli government should meet (e.g. freezing settlement building), and (especially)3. the censorship of the media in this country engineered by the American Zionists (you can read my analysis of how this censorship operates on-line at Counterpunch (www.counterpunch.org/)

    When US policy changes and the US becomes a true “fair and impartial broker” the conflict will end. that is the key and that is what those of us who are Americans must accomplish.

  32. This discussion has a diminishing amount of light and a accelerating rate of heat. But no, let us not cease going over our favorite points. There are some factoids that can still be regurgitated and composed into sentences. The solution will not come from endless discussions; it will come “on the ground,” where it began. There are two peoples in one land, and they shall remain there regardless of what we write here.

  33. Indeed Jerry, the solution is on the ground and not on the web. It is and will be accomplished largely by the efforts of the Palestinian people themselves. Those of us who support a just solution to Palestine’s Israel problem can only do our best to support them in this endeavor. And discussions here are the least of it. But they are necessary. And as you say, there are two people on one ground and they shall remain there. Or at least they should remain there. Unfortunately, Israel’s plan, decades in formation, is to remove the Palestinians from the land and remove the land from the Palestinians. The effort is to alienate the Palestinian from his native soil. The landless Palestinian can work anywhere and nowhere. And Eretz Israel will be accomplished.

  34. Larry, the first step in peaceful coexistence is for Israel to go home to Israel. All else falls into place after that. Like Iraq in Kuwait, like Indonesia in East Timor, and for that matter, like Serbia in Kosovo, the first step is for the occupier to go home. There is no peace under occupation, there is no ecology under occupation. Really, Israel cannot have it all.

  35. Felice,

    You’ve taken this far afield, but when you say ‘a people or political movement will turn to terrorism when it is denied any other means to pursue its political objectives’ you are saying ‘might makes right.’

    In the historical record, the Indigenous Peoples of what are now the US, Canada, Alaskan, Mexico, and the various nations of South and Central America, and Australia did not turn to terrorism to pursue their political objectives. Nor did the people of the Indian subcontinent turn to terrorism to wrest independence from the British. Nor did Martin Luther King Jr.

    Typical examples of people who have used terror more or less successfully to pursue their objectives are the Soviets, Khmer Rouge, and the Nazis. As a bourgeois Jewish intellectual, I wouldn’t want to live in any of those societies. Nor would I be tolerated. Put another way, I would be treated the way they treated my aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents.

    Do you really believe that American Zionists censor the media in this country? That’s so ridiculous – Warren Buffett owns the Washington Post. Rupert Murdoch owns the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, and a bunch of other media. I know that the Ochs and Schultzbergers owned the NY Times and the Times owns the Boston Globe. And I know, the Jewish Lobby buys politicians, almost as many as the Gun Lobby, Exxon, and the House of Saud – or are they Zionists too? And do you also believe in Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny?

  36. I am attempting to end this circular discussion with some comity. When I said that there are two peoples on that land, palspal, you turned it into an accusation that Israel is attempting to “alienate the Palestinian from his native soil,” and that is not my intent, nor do I believe it is the intention of the Israeli government. Just as Palestinians will have to live with the “knowledge” that the Jews have sovereignty over part of “Palestine,” the Jews will have to live with the “knowledge” that Palestinians have sovereignty of parts of “Eretz Yisrael.” Commonly, that is what is known as the “two-state solution,” and that is what we should be advocating instead of attempting to rehash all the mutual tribulations of the past century.

  37. Yehuda – Might makes right? You would bring up this term knowing that might over right is why there is a ‘Jewish state’ in what had been 98% Arab land? That it is Israeli might – from Merkava and Abrams tanks, F16s, and all manner of arms up to and including nuclear weapons that enables Israel to penetrate and occupy what little remains of Palestine? All this against a virtually unarmed people? What ‘might’ do you speak of – unless you are referring to the ceaseless fortitude of the Palestinians who will “not go gently into that *good* night.”
    The indigenous people of the Americas and Australia were wiped out by the millions, perhaps tens of millions – by state-terror and state-sanctioned terror. And you would have them as noble savages for not violently resisting. The truth is, they did fight back. The popular image of Native Americans until just the most recent decades is that of ‘injuns’ – injuns who scalp and rape and kill white people. Custer was a victim of Indian ‘terrorism.’ In Tasmania, the Europeans exterminated the native people. Completely, 100%. Are you enobling the Tasmanians here for not fighting back? The British slaughtered the people of India as necessary. When the few thousand British civil servants and their quisling Indian partners could no longer hold back the will of 400 million Indians – Britain left. To the extent that lesson needs to be drawn from Gandhi – its that we await one from Israel. As for MLK – the alter egos of the Southern Christian Leadership Movement were SNCC, the Black Panthers, and the Nation of Islam. As Malcolm X said: “By any means necessary.” Your memories of 1960s America are slight and uneven.
    To your list of typical examples of entities that have used terror successfully to pursue their objectives we would have to add Israel. Forty-one years (or some would say, sixty-one, or even a century)of state terror, and Israel is now ever closer to its goal of Eretz Israel in all of mandate Palestine. And the Palestinians will be forced, like Native-Americans and Native-Australians into ever-tightening cells, and then disappeared into a miscellaneous Arab status, or as a final solution, disappeared into obscure history.

    PS – If the House of Saud had a dime’s worth of influence in DC (or the US media)their momentous 2002 offer – still on the table – of full peace and recognition of Israel would be common knowledge. The Saudis have no power – and attempt to exert no influence – other than to collaborate with Washington on oil supplies and prices.

  38. Jerry – Great tribulations must be addressed, not swept under the rug by the winning side. They cannot be dismissed as mutual any more than violence by American slaves could be equated with that of their slavemasters. Creating the landless, stateless Palestinian has always been the Israeli goal – as it is now. From the Yishuv days of Purity of Land and Labor when Palestinians were removed from their very farms to collect in the cities, to the forced exodus of Palestinians by the Zionists beginning in 1947 – and again in 1967, to the Orwellian ‘Present Absentee’ status Palestinians enjoyed, to the housing and water permitted neither granted nor denied, to the passports not recognized, to the transfer of the Jewish population onto Palestinian lands, to the 520 roadblocks and checkpoints in the West Bank, to the life denying wall around the WB, to the closure of WB&G;to ingress and egress of goods, money and people at the whim of the Israelis, What part of alienation of the Palestinians from their land do you not understand? Fatah long ago implicitly and then explicitly recognized Israel in writing in three languages – it netted Palestinians not one dunam of land.
    The two-state solution rules out neither the right of Palestinian citizens of Israel to democratize Israel (that is, work toward making Israel a state of all its citizens), nor the right of refugees to legally return home to their country, since called Israel.

    Israel currently consists of or occupies all of mandate Palestine. There is no reason the native natural people of this land has compromise further on this. So I fully understand why you would not want to rehash history that reveals how Israel came by its 100 to nothing shutout over the Palestinians.

  39. Palspal, (I have a feeling that you are more a “loyal” Palestinian than a pal)You want to address great tribulations? Six million Jews died in the holocaust and there wasn’t anyone willing to take them in as refugees during World War II. Over 50 million Indians became refugees on the Indian subcontinent, but only the Palestinian People have a special commission of the UN dedicated to their “refugee status.”

    Great tribulations? How is it that all the Arab states, among them some of the wealthiest nations in the world could not help their “brethren” if they are in such tribulation?

    No! This is a group that killed civilians for years and introduced terrorism and airplane highjacking and even suicide bombers onto the world scene. Israel would not have spent millions of dollars on a fence if some of the Palestinians didn’t come into Israel and kill its civilians. And all of this terror was “justified” and aimed at getting world attention to their problem while greater tribulations occur with less or transient attention being paid?

    What of the racist genocide currently being carried out by the Arabs in Darfur against native populations? Can you compare the problems of the Palestinians with the Darfurians? Look at what happened in Uganda under Idi Amin, who now lives in a comfortable exile in Saudi Arabia.

    Then you actually come out against the two-state solution, which when taking into consideration the demographics of the situation means the end of Israel, you reveal the cards you are playing.

    That is the only goal you wish to have, the end of Israel, the end of a Jewish state, as though they never lived there before these “native natural” Palestinians came on the scene.

    If you want history, I’ll give you history, but then you’ll have more questions to answer than heretofore. Romans took away Jewish sovereignty by the sword from the native natural Jewish population, and when Rome adopted Christianity, the Christian Rome forbid Jews from living in the country though a few always always managed living there. The Muslims took by force what the Romans had previously taken by force, but that did not make them any more native naturals than the Christians and the Romans, neither of which claim the territory that the Romans renamed as Palestine.

    Many of us have been attempting to draw this situation to a close by establishing — for the first time in history — a Palestinian state where none has ever existed before.

    But that is not good enough for you. The character of the Palestinians, still tribalistic rather than civil, and the Jews, who have established a civil society in Israel are disparate, and their living in one state at this time is not compatible. That is why a two-state solution is the best solution, and Israel should not have to give up its current character and become another Arab state where the Yahud can be tolerated as a dhimmi.

    I think not.

  40. Yes, Jerry when all other moral arguments are like water in a sieve, haul out the Holocaust. An estimated 6 million Jews were executed, so too were a perhaps equal number of gentiles. Also victims of seemingly endless Holocausts, many with numbers greater than that of the Shoah, are the Congolese under the Belgians (and that preceded THE Holocaust), Armenians, Rwandans, Cambodians, Sudanese, West Africans, Native-Americans, Chinese, Soviets, and African victims of the slave trade. But of course, the Palestinians should have concluded early on that a housepainter in Austria was going to write Mein Kampf and engineer Anschluss, and Chamberlain was going to look the other way – and in anticipating what was coming down the pike, the Palestinians should have graciously invited in European Jews – and better yet, vacated their country for the new arrivals. Yes, the anti-Semitic govts did not want to take in many Jews, in that, they had many prominent Zionist allies in America who’d prefer they be sent to Palestine. Ben Gurion himself was uninterested in old Jews and overly-qualified Jews who would be afraid and unwilling to do the scutwork necessary to nation building. For that matter, Ben Gurion decidely cared not a wit for German-Jewish children that were not being sent to Palestine.

    Palestinians have special refugee status probably for the same reason that Israel has been babied all these decades – Western Guilt. Both the US and the UN subsequently ‘changed their minds’ about the correctness of the 1947 UN partition recommendation. And Israel was admitted to the UN only with the understanding that it would readmit those it had cast out. Israel failed miserably in this but somehow retained membership. I daresay that Jews special genocide status has done them much better than Palestinian special refugee status.

    With regard to helping brethren, that’s a mixed bag, Palestinians have done very well in some countries, and are equal citizens in Jordan. As far as the states they live in as refugees, their plight does not undermine their argument for justice any more than did that of Ghettoized Jews in the Pale. And we should not forget the reason for these refugee camps – Israel and the Yishuv ran them out of their own country.

    Actually, the Zionist introduced terrorism to the region – Begin, Shamir, Sharon – that entire cohort lived for terrorism. Unless you consider throwing grenades in homes, blowing up hotels, and car bombs to be mere ‘freedom fighting.’ If I recall correctly, the first skyjacking was by Israelis of a Syrian airliner back in the fifties. But of course, yesterday’s terrorist is today’s statesman.
    Israel’s wall is an osmotic one. It keeps Palestinians in but not Israelis out. While the occasional Palestinian terrorist is hemmed in, Israeli highschool grads are trained to leave their country and pick off Palestinian children (more than 900 since 2000). While Palestinians are forbidden to return to their (now) ancestral villages, Jews from just anywhere are subsidized to live in the WB. In fact, a Jew can occupy the home of a Palestinian if mom and dad happen to be out at the same time. In fact, Palestinians cannot ‘legally’ be said to own anything, because its all confiscatable, all absorbable into Erez Israel for Jews in perpetuity. If the Pals resist, break their bones, and if they strenuously resist, kill as necessary. All so Israel can be bigger. Alright, so maybe 60,000 killed Palestinians over the decades does not constitute a holocaust – but it more than meets any definition of genocide.

    Weight of numbers – You look at who’s killing who over any decade, year, even month and you’d know your argument that the conflict is about Palestinians killing Jews is a specious one. And the problems of the Palestinians and the Darfurians are of a kind – racial hegemony. And by the way, Idi Amin is long dead.

    I am not against a 2-state solution. I’m for what Palestinians have been for – for decades – the two-state solution. Palestinian refugees do not forfeit the right of return because Fatah or Hamas negotiated a two-state solution. The Right of Return is the law! If Jews want to live in Palestine they can apply like people do elsewhere in the world. They can’t just move there because they are Jewish. But that’s because Palestine will be a secular democracy, unlike Israel. Thus Palestinians do not give up the right to peacefully reform Israel, even after a negotiated agreement. That’s the price Israel pays for nation-theft. But no one is suggesting Jews go elsewhere or ‘return’ to countries they are not from.

    As far as ancient history goes (and this has no bearing on the right of Palestinians to their homes and land in what became Israel), the ancestors of the Palestinians predate the ancestors of the Jews in that region. Jerusalem, Jericho and maybe even Bethlehem were maybe 4000 years old when the Hebrews arrived or emerged.

    The Romans evicted the Jews from Jerusalem only. That’s why Jews have always lived in Teverya and elsewhere in the area. If I had my druthers, the Jews would have kicked the Romans out of the entire region. Nonetheless, Jews were not alone then in Palestine, and had never been the majority population, and never since, until the ethnic cleansing of 47 – 49 ‘miraculously’ (the words of Chaim Weizmann) made it so.

    The Muslims took Palestine by force? I don’t know if you can really show that. Sure, there was some coercion, but actually raising the sword as sole measure of conversion, well, that’s likely not what happend by and large. Islam does have its appeal – one, that people were taxed LESS under Muslim rule than Byzantine. But I digress. This is not about Islam. This is about Palestinians – an ethnic group, a people, not a religion. Palestinians can be of any religion – even Jewish. Its the ancestors of the Palestinians who have always lived there- be they Muslim, Christian, or worshippers of Baal.

    With regard to establishing a Palestinian state where none had existed before, don’t make too big a deal out of that notion. There was no US before 1776, no Brazil, Congo, etc before they were established. There WERE however, Palestinians before 1948 – but NO Israelis before that date. Unlike that of the Palestinians, Israeli culture had to be created from whole cloth – after May ’48.

    Funny, you should say its the Palestinians who are tribalistic. There is nothing more tribalistic than a Jew who advocates a state cleansed of non-Jews. Its the Palestinians who have not only been willing, but actually have a long history or accepting outsiders – including Jews. Not perfectly so, but who among us is perfect? Palestinians as auslanders in the only country they know? Where have we seen THAT policy before? And I don’t just mean Avigdor Lieberman.

    Your only obligation is get the Israeli boot off the Palestinian neck. That means, the troops, the settlers, and the refugees. And when that’s done you can go back to dominating them WITHIN the confines of international law. No special dispensation, no special considerations, no caveats, and no milking the Holocaust – please.

  41. Palspal, comment 35, said “the first step in peaceful coexistence is for Israel to go home to Israel. All else falls into place after that”

    When Israel withdrew from Gaza the Palestinians started bombing Israel. So what exactly will fall into place? The citizens of Tel Aviv into the Mediterranean?

    The Palestinians, their pals, and apologists are kind of like Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld; bombing Baghdad in order to fight the war on terror.

  42. Yehuda – Israel has not vacated Gaza. All Israel did was pull their expensive settlers (because THAT was never going to work). As per the UN – Gaza is still occupied by Israel. In fact, it is under siege – a siege that any decent, thinking human being would be embarrassed to admit they supported. Not so, Israelis! Until all of the WB and Gaza are freed of Israeli occupation, it is ALL occupied. What you are saying is that if Dachau is liberated, they should not care that Auschwitz is still under Nazi control.

    As far as Bush and company go, a major reason they bombed Iraq was at Israel’s behest. Israel (not even Kuwait) was the only country polled that favored a US invasion.

    You’d think that a few largely harmless rockets launched by a desperate people under siege would be a small price for Israelis to pay (or actually the US taxpayer)for Israeli expansion deep into the West Bank. I have to give you guys credit for standing the argument entirely on its head – that it is the homemade rockets rather than Israel’s ocupation and genocide that is the problem.

  43. Perhaps, Palspal2, you should get all the facts. The following is an noted excerpt from an historian which should end all the nonsense about “Palestinians”:

    It has never been the name of a nation or state. It is a geographical term, used to designate the region at those times in history when there is no nation or state there.

    The word itself derives from “Peleshet”, a name that appears frequently in the Bible and has come into English as “Philistine”. The Philistines were mediterranean people originating from Asia Minor and Greek localities. They reached the southern coast of Israel in several waves. One group arrived in the pre-patriarchal period and settled south of Beersheba in Gerar where they came into conflict with Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael. Another group, coming from Crete after being repulsed from an attempted invasion of Egypt by Rameses III in 1194 BCE, seized the southern coastal area, where they founded five settlements (Gaza, Ascalon, Ashdod, Ekron and Gat). In the Persian and Greek periods, foreign settlers – chiefly from the Mediterranean islands – overran the Philistine districts. From the time of Herodotus, Greeks called the eastern coast of the Mediterranean “Syria Palaestina”.

    The Philistines were not Arabs nor even Semites, they were most closely related to the Greeks. They did not speak Arabic. They had no connection, ethnic, linguistic or historical with Arabia or Arabs. The name “Falastin” that Arabs today use for “Palestine” is not an Arabic name. It is the Arab pronunciation of the Greco-Roman “Palastina”; which is derived from the Plesheth, (root palash) was a general term meaning rolling or migratory. This referred to the Philistine’s invasion and conquest of the coast from the sea.

    The use of the term “Palestinian” for an Arab ethnic group is a modern political creation which has no basis in fact – and had never had any international or academic credibility before 1967.”
    Joseph E. Katz
    Middle Eastern Political and Religious History Analyst

  44. Joseph – Religious history analyst? I guess that is something short of an historian. Where was your “noted excerpt” drawn from – Wikipedia? But in any case, thanks for noting that Palestinian ancestry has Philistine roots, among others. The Philistines as a distinct people went out of history when they were absorbed into the dominant and pre-existing Canaanite culture. Doesn’t mean their genes disappeared though – so Palestinians can proudly claim them as ancestors – the ancestors who introduced Canaanites and Hebrews to iron-smelting.

    You can call it the Levant, you can call it Canaan, Palestine, or even Palestein. No matter. The Palestinian claim to the land is based in being the natural native population of that country when European colonizers arrived at the turn of the 20th century. You are enough of a ‘history analyst’ to recognize that fact, no? So as far as when modern Palestinians called themselves as such – its not relevant. They LIVED there – they tilled its soil, traded its produce. But just for the record, Palestinians had a newspaper out of Jaffa in the first decade of the 20th century called PALESTINE. Back when the overwhelming majority of Ashkenazis were battening down the hatches during the long cold dark winters of Lithuania and elsewhere in the pale.

  45. Inge – The more basic question is: When will the US change its foreign policies so that there is no longer such retribution? Putting all its eggs in the Israeli basket for more than 40 years is suicidal.

  46. Palspal, I think you should view the film one more time because you did not get its message. The “retribution”, as you are naming it, is targeted at the world (not only the US), and, may I add, that that “retribution” includes other Moslems. The “retribution” is motivated, as the film so graphically documents, by the Quaran.

    Again, fences are a good beginning in containing such irrationality.

  47. Inge – To the extent that the ‘retribution’ is targeted at other than the US, it is because they have supported US policies, participated in the denigration of Islamic cultures, or have looked the other way while US/Western interference went on. And while terrorist acts are reprehensible, so too has been the terrorism carried out by the West in the Islamic World.

    The Quran is a complicated document. I would suggest that you not isolate Quranic text – but rather, as you advise me, – ‘to view it again.’ Like the Old and New Testaments, you can find whatever mode of employ you want in the Koran. Much of the Bible is quite unsavory, yet few quote the parts that put god, Jesus or Jews or Christians in a bad light.

    Related to that, there is no shortage of Islamic scholarship or opinion ‘on the street’ that differ from those of al-Qaeda. Islam, like Christianity and Judaism, is not monolithic.

    Finally, on a more practical note, Palestinians did not participate in the Trade Center Bombings, and few if any of the other attacks. The confiscation of the Palestinian homeland long predates both the Apartheid Wall that is strangling its people and the 9/11 attacks. For Israel and its amen corner to use al-Qaeda as an excuse to eliminate a people is cynical opportunism, at best.

  48. You guys and your pals should really get a life. Stop blaming Israel, the Jews and America for all your problems. Look to the future, build schools, hospitals, factories. Stop killing children.

  49. Cohen is right. How do you justify suicide bombings? And note he says ‘Stop killing children.’ All children: Israeli children, Arab children. We are children before we choose a religion or national identity.

    But this is an article about the ecological ramifications of Israel’s security fence, not who is right and who is wrong, or who is more right or who is more wrong.

  50. Yehuda – The Arab and Muslim nations have a lot to answer for regarding their own governance. An uncertain amount of it is internal, but much of their problem stems from the colonial arrangements made by the European powers and much stems from US policies that prop up dictators and arrange for international economic policies that severely curtail full participation in the global economy. Thus most of the region has a growing population of young men with no political outlets and few economic prospects. Since other -isms have failed them in the last half century it is no wonder many are retreating into Islamism.

    The biggest and most visible wound on that landscape is Israel. Israel was founded by outsiders, and is to this very day supported and encouraged by outsiders so as to not come to terms with its confiscation of Arab land and the forced dispossession of its people. Israel is given an annual stipend to continue its reckless behavior and is protected diplomatically from international sanctions. The first step on the Israeli road to recovery from this addiction is to admit they did what previous colonizers did – conquer a land inhabited by others. Instead, Israel continues to behave in a manner that puts almost all the world at risk. Thus we are confronted with retrograde opinions on this site that STILL posit that there are no Palestinian people – even as they displace them in what remains of Palestine – and even as the Israeli government long ago was forced to recognize them as a people by political exigencies.

    Yes, the problem is Israel. Israel cannot claim it wants peace when the evidence – nay, the proof – is that they want land. It cannot claim it seeks peace while (even as we speak) put more settlers in Palestine. It cannot claim it wants peace as it kills Palestinians wantonly. Palestinians do not kill Israelis, Israelis kill Palestinians – in Palestine. Israel has killed about 4500 Palestinians since 09/2000 – in Palestine. It has killed about 970 children over that span – in Palestine. Of these, 145 have been infants and toddlers. The number of Palestinian children killed approximates the number of ALL Israelis killed, including soldiers(!) – and the bulk of Israeli deaths are in – you guessed it…Palestine. So stop blaming the Palestinians for being in the way of your bulldozers. Stop bombing Palestinian schools, hospitals, factories – and stop killing children. Start coming to terms with the fact that in the 21st century, a race-based Apartheid state cannot last. Israel cannot be a democracy and a Jewish state – not unless it kills them all.

  51. Larry – As I made clear in my opening posts – ecological issues are mere window-dressing when one is in the act of eliminating another people. Ecology and ethnic cleansing are antithetical. And once again, I will remind you of the weight of numbers. Israeli high school grads are trained to leave their country and attack others – that is why the murder by Israelis of Palestinian children (since 2000) is almost equal to the ENTIRE number of Israeli dead including soldiers. Apparently, killing Arab kids doesn’t make it onto the radar screen. (You only have to count deaths that make the US media to realize this is so.)

    And finally, there is right and wrong. The Palestinians were the people of that land – and to this day are an essentially unarmed population up against the most modern and practiced military in the world. You have NO right to banish them from anywhere in Israel, never mind confine them to isolated cell blocks in what remains of Palestine. If you insist on doing so, see that you do it with your own money and ‘fess up that you can do it because might makes right – and not because of some other specious ‘moral’ arguments.

  52. Palspal and others of the opinion that Israel and the Jews are marring the landscape have a lot of nerve. Where did the Palestinians come from, but from the Arabian peninsula in the 7th-8th century. The Jews were there earlier and were forced out by Rome and the Byzantines. In fact, the Arabs who came into “Palestine” recognized the patrimony of the Jews to the land by letting them come and resettle, and although the Romans and Byzantines were never 100 percent successful, Jewish resettlement in Jerusalem began with the Arab conquest.

    Ahistorical claims turn black with rot as soon as they’re uttered, so let us try to stay with the facts, and hope the two peoples find a way of sharing the land. The fence is a reaction to violence, and when that violence stops this fence will stop existing.

  53. No, Jerry, the Palestinians were in Palestine thousands of years before the Hebrew goatherders arrived, they were there when the Jews left (and there is no evidence they were driven out of anywhere but Jerusalem – if that), and they were there when the Europeans shipped in early in the 20th century. So the Palestinians are the native natural people of that land – and the genetic record confirms the archeological record.
    The Palestinians let the Jews settle in Palestine basically because they (unlike Israeli Jews) have a live and let live culture. But the Jews did not come in peace, they came to take the land – and are on the verge of expropriating the final 22% even as I type this. The proof is in the pudding, that would be the settlers. The Wall was put up to pen Palestinians in – but it does not keep Israelis out. Israeli children are raised to leave their country and kill the children of others. There can be no peace, not real peace, until Israel exists no more and is replaced by a secular democratic state of all who live between the Jordan and the Mediterranean.

  54. Suicide bombing, live and let live, am I missing something?

  55. Yes, Yehuda – you are missing just about everything. You are missing the Israeli:Palestine kill ratio which is historically somewhere between 4:1 and 7:1. You are missing that the Palestinians are killed in what remains of Palestine and the Israelis are largely killed in… Palestine. You are missing that Israel attacked and occupied the WB&G;in 67 and for a quarter-century the opposition to the occupation was overwhelmingly non-violent. During that period, Israel began its population transfers, putting Jews in and making life extremely difficult for non-Jews by dividing and sub-dividing the physical spaces in which they were allowed to freely move in. When Palestinians objected, their bones were broken, when they persisted, they were killed. By the late 80s, the Palestinians stepped up their resistance to the collective punishments, the house arrests, the long term curfews, the mass round-ups, the village-league farces, the torture at the Russian Compound and elsewhere, the imprisonment of children, the denial of housing permits (as if Palestinians need apply to Jews in order to live in their own country), the denial of water permits (while Jewish kids swam in subsidized pools). Should I go on about what’s missing from your picture? What’s missing is that Israel has no legitimate business in what remains of Palestine. Take your wall and settlers and go home. The world gifted you with a state – be satisfied with it. And stop raising your kids to leave their country and kill – 972 children since 11/00 – or almost the same number as ALL Israelis killed in that period. That’s what you are missing.

  56. Yehuda – What leaves me almost totally puzzled is how you guys who support Israel sound intelligent, write coherently, and are otherwise sound members of one society or another, can be such total bozos on the Palestine issue. You JUST CANNOT take 78% of someone’s country, then take the remaining 22% WITHOUT Resistance. It does not happen! And to pretend to the world that it is your party that is the aggrieved party is hubris unparalleled. You cannot just go into a country, commit mayhem and murder with one of the world’s most powerful (and practiced!) militaries and then complain about suicide bombings. Its patently disingenuous. Why don’t you just admit that ‘we do this because we CAN do this’? And stop with the moral angst.

  57. It appears that we are bent on an eternal “have the last word contest.” If that is the case, you are likely to win, because I go back as a personal witness to the establishment of the State of Israel, and biology has a tendency to put the younger at an advantage in these situations.

    Speaking of biology, the DNA accounts of the Palestinians I know of do not correspond to those of descendants of those pre-historical entities that no longer have had an identity in the last millenium or so. So here we have a factual disagreement.

    However, that is not the alpha and omega of what we are talking about. It started with a fence, which is always problematic, and which we hope will come down soon as possible, meaning we have conditions which render it unnecessary.

    It is important to separate the incidental from the principle, and the principle we should be seeking is the peaceful and just solution with the establishment of two sovereign and equal nations side-by-side, Israel and Palestine.

    In a struggle that has gone on for so long, it is easy to point out faults and errors of the “other side,” but it does nothing to bring us together to resolve the essential and existential problems.

    Israel is a democracy, and to quote Winston Churchill, “Democracy is the worst system in the world except for the rest of them.” In other words, it is not neat. But nobody in a democracy has the power to lay down fiats to be obeyed without question, but it is better than what has been the powers of governances in most of the surrounding states in the Middle East. (And I am certainly not referring to the “spread of democracy a la George W. Bush.) However, I believe the region has much to learn by living at peace with democracies in their midst. I know that the Palestinians want to live in a democracy where one is free to develop and express oneself without concern of some security apparatus coming and disciplining the individual who crosses those undefined but “understood” lines.

    So I say, work to make peace, and with peaceable relations, Israel, Palestine and the other states in the region can attain their prosperity and freedom for the individual and the group.

  58. Well, if its about biology then I have but small advantage – I was born during the Truman Administration.
    The DNA of Palestinians has shown them to be closely related to other currently extant people of the area – Lebanese and Syrian in particular. The evidence shows that Arabian peninsula input to be something like 8% – this likely more prevalent among Bedouin, less so among city dwellers and fellahin. The region has been continuously inhabited since the Neolithic or earlier, and Jews were never a majority until the ethnic cleansing of 47 – 49. Palestinians are descended from all those who have lived there, whether Canaanite, including Phoenician, Philistine, Jew, Greek, Nabateaen, and later arriving Arabs among others. This history is not the basis for their claim to the land – their claim is based in being the actually existing people on that land when the European colonizers arrived.
    Yes, the conversation started with the fence – and West Bank ecology. But to discuss such in an illegally occupied landscape is like the National Socialists discussing preservation of the forests of the Sudetenland. There’s an elephant in the room.
    I have no problem with two separate entities if that is what Palestinians want. I do know that is what Palestinians on the WB&G;want – but I’m not sure at all about those in exile. They surely want to return home (as guaranteed by the UN) – but under what auspices?
    That Israel is a democracy is not saying much. Turkey is a democracy, so was Apartheid South Africa, so was Jim Crow America. There are maybe 20 laws on the Israeli books that are race-based. And since about 93% of Israel is set aside for Jews, and the theocratic and military sectors of Israel are so strong – Palestinian Israelis are not really in this narrative. So its a democracy, but we know there’s a lot of dirt under the rug in democracies.
    Working to make peace may be fruitless if there is no effort to make justice. Then again, maybe Palestinians can be crushed like so many groups have been crushed before – either made to disappear like the Tasmanians, or made into miscellaneous Arabs, as in the paraphrased words of Golda Meir, “at home anywhere nowhere.” It’s in large measure up to the Israelis how this is going to play out, they can do the right thing, or do the wrong thing and expunge it from the history books.

  59. And I was born during the Coolidge adminstration. What bragging rights! If you think you have an argument to make seven million Israelis disappear you have another think coming. Let us concentrate on the possible and not the impossible.

    Either you and/or the Palestinians find a way for a two-state solution with the Israelis, or the Palestinians will be assimilated in the backwash of history in spite of their strong propaganda efforts. Jews know what it is like to be powerless which is why they always will say “never again” and really mean it.

    We’ve had a number of back-and-forths but we haven’t had any reasonable steps towards agreement. So I believe you have a lot of time on your hands, or do you find this a remunerative pastimes? Personally, I don’t.

  60. Jerry – I’m not bragging about how old I am, to be sure, I didn’t bring it up, I was merely conceding what is apparently of some importance to you – biological age.
    I certainly am not arguing that 7 (or 5 million Israeli Jews) be disappeared – only that they make room in that state for those they evicted. Jews know what it is like to be powerless, so do many peoples on this planet. Jews also know what it is like to exercise power as individuals or collectively, and they know how to usurp power to their own advantage from even larger powers – a strategy they have familiarized themselves with over the centuries. The Jews mistake – or specifically the Zionists (inasmuch as most Jews were not Zionists well past mid-century) was to render another group, in fact, the native people, powerless – well into the era of nationalism, and well on the downside of the era of colonialism. So it is not surprising that the Palestinians were not disappeared despite the Zionist’s best efforts.
    Basically, on this site, with a few exceptions – its been me and Zionist Jews who offer up the usual canards. When I counter the canards with actual facts, they either fold up their tents or repeat the same bad history with no more nuance than they did the first time.
    The solution?? Magnanimity, not niggardliness. It’s not too late.

  61. While I disagree with some of your nomenclature that infers Jews/Zionists are interlopers and the Palestinians are the “natives,” I do agree with the concept of “Magnanimity,” it is a concept for both Palestinians and Jews. The Palestinians want a state that reflects their particular cultural attributes, and the Jews want to preserve their national homeland for exactly the same reason.

    Both deserve it, and after a century of conflict over the homeland of two peoples, at this stage, two states must be created where each can find their own normalities.

    I believe that Jews and Arabs generally are the children of two separate civilizations, and to state that Zionism was not a characteristic of the Jewish civilization is to overlook the fact that the daily prayerbook spoke specifically of the return to Jerusalem; it was the prayer of a people in exile. Zionism is what it came to be called in the 19th century, but it was not a new manifestation.

  62. There are more than 5 million Jews now in what was Palestine because of the Zionist movement beginning with the late 19th century. That’s not much longer than your lifetime. That there were a small and growing number of Jews there before that is unconnected with this political movement – in fact, this religious and generally anti-zionist population was not consulted by the secular Western atheist Jews who initiated political zionism. When the Zionists arrived there was also a population of several hundred thousand people living on the land, cultivating it, buying, selling, trading, producing from it – and had done so for centuries, even millennia. So there is no doubt who the native population was. What exists in the Jewish prayer book stays in the prayer book. Over the many centuries since Jews left the Levant those who wanted to return did so. The vast majority had absolutely no desire to emigrate to this Arab land. When political Zionism came to pass, it did so as a British colony, and the Zionists were only able to get colonists because of anti-Semitism (or perhaps because Western Europe had no desire for a foreign culture in their midst). The vast majority would (as most emigrants did) prefer to have gone to the Americas. The prayer book connection meant little to nothing to the Zionist fathers.

    My guess is you are a more recent arrival at the 2 state solution. From 47 – 49 it was ‘grab all you can’ for the Jews – the Palestinians be damned. And in 67 when Israel grabbed the rest of Palestine, it was still Palestinians be damned. The only reason that some Jews now ‘favor’ a two state solution is because the Palestinians have not gone gently into that good night. Usually, however, the catch for Jews these days is that the Palestinians have still to compromise. Taking 78% of their country was not enough, and now having relegated the Palestinians to compounds on the WB, the Pals are expected to compromise further. They say no thanks, and magnanimously concede all of what the world recognizes as Israel, not a dunam more. But as for the Zionist created refugee problem, well, international law is clear on that too. In fact, Israel was admitted to the UN precisely under the stipulation of the return of the refugees to their very homes. Israel reneged.
    As for there being two separate civilizations, that’s merely a reflection of Israel being a European graft onto the Middle East. To the extent Israel is not so, its because it drafted a large population of Arab-Jews as well as adopting the food, music, and cultural artifacts of the native population. Israel owes the Palestinians Big-Time. If they are not going to repatriate the refugees, its that much more they owe them. Not to worry, Uncle Sam will pay for it. As it (we) always does.

  63. It is true that Jews come in all sizes, shapes, etc., both politically, spiritually, but they do share a common core of civilizational distinction separate from either Europe and Muslim.

    Additionally, at least 500,000 Jews were ejected from Arab countries when the Jewish state was established. Are they basically “European?” You say they were “drafted by the Zionists.” Well, I discussed this with many, many of them over the years, and they said that life was made intolerable. There were pogroms, riots, killings, particularly of the Iraqi Jews who lived there for 2500 years. Some of this diaspora, survivors of the Babylonian exile, incidentally, still live in Iran, but they are not enjoying complete freedom.

    And it’s true that people have been living on the land for millenia, but over these millenia, the identity of these people has changed several times since the Jews were exiled.

    You’re wrong about me and the two-state solution. I am no “Johnny-come-lately” to this idea. Even when the Egyptians were literally tossing bombs on my children’s heads, I was in favor of it. While neither you nor I can intelligently discuss the details of what the actual boundaries should be, I’m certain that the negotiators will be more skillful than Sykes-Picot.

  64. That Jews have a culture distinct from European and Muslim cultures is true – but only more or less. By definition, all cultures are distinct to some degree. Having grown up in the city partially comprised of the largest Jewish population in the world I can safely say the differences between me and secular New York Jews were largely of a class nature. American Jews are a distinct breed from Israelis – and American Jews have a keen eye for their commonalities and differences. Mizrahi Jews certainly have a different history and culture from Ashkenazis that extends all the way to scripture – never mind diet, music and approach to life (are they even Jews the Ashkenazis wondered?). None of this entitles anyone to exclusive rights over a land already inhabited (never mind in perpetuity).

    Regarding the exodus of Jews out of the Muslim countries, that was in some measure a cooperative effort by the Arab states & Israel (whose European population desperately needed those other Jews on the farms and the frontier. As you are no doubt familiar with, the Lavon Affair and the Mossad synagogue bombings in Iraq were part of the Israeli effort to sour relations between Mizrahis and their home countries. Perhaps even more importantly, once European Jews had established an outpost in land that had been part of the larger Arab nation, and had done so violently, it was hardly surprising that their native Jews were looked upon suspiciously inasmuch as Israel was actively urging aliyah.
    Be that as it may, there is no connection to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, other than that many Mizrahis were the beneficiary of that act. In fact, the two issues were divorced by Israel and the PA at Taba.

    As for not enjoying complete freedom in Iran – who does? And if minorities suffer worse, it may not just be Jews who do so.

    Group identities do change over time – the arrival of Islam likely being the most profound for the Palestinians. But such change is true of all groups, including Jews. Among others changes, the creation of a Western atheist Jew (an ethnicity sans faith) is a phenomenon probably thought oxymoronic in the past – or maybe just moronic. And certainly the Diaspora is fundamental to historical Jewish identity (but for the few who stayed)- what a change that was!. So things change – and none of it justifies population removal (exile!) and replacement.
    As for borders, I certainly cannot take a more radical position than the Palestinians themselves. What would be the point! The Palestinian position is a return to the pre-67 borders, and one cannot honestly ask this population to settle for less. But as you admit to a fondness for ethnic purity (where have we seen that before?), perhaps you are willing to throw in the Galili to bring Jewish Israel up to maybe the 90% mark? Would that not be worth it?

  65. Its not really that I think atheism is moronic – I was just playing off the word oxymoronic – its just that to the Orthodox hierarchy in Israel, secular Jews are not really Jews at all.

    But getting to the point of your remark (which as I pointed out earlier is just once more reducing the simplistic to the inane – and repeating it does not make it any more true), that Palestinians don’t love their children, the same can be said of Israelis but more completely so. After all, while very few Palestinians strap on bombs and go into Israel to kill, the vast majority of Israelis have taken up arms and left their country to kill – high school grads, no less. Talk about a culture of death!

    So when Jews talk about ‘never again’ they leave out the part about it applying only to Jews. The message for the Palestinians and other neighbors – repeatedly transacted – is ‘yet again.’ Just do the numbers. How much of Israel do the Palestinians occupy? How much of Palestine does Israel occupy? How many Israelis have been killed and maimed by Palestinians? How many Palestinians have been killed and maimed by Israelis? How many divisions do the Palestinians have, F-16s, helicopter gunships, Abrams tanks, missiles, cluster bombs, phosphorus bombs, atom bombs? And the Israelis?

    Why don’t you just take your settlers and go home. You have a country, enjoy it.

  66. This is Amnesty International’s report on Occupied Palestine for 2007 (Just released)

    The human rights situation in the Israeli Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) remained dire. Israeli forces killed more than 370 Palestinians, destroyed more than 100 Palestinian homes and imposed ever more stringent restrictions on the movement of Palestinians. In June, the Israeli government imposed an unprecedented blockade on the Gaza Strip, virtually imprisoning its entire 1.5 million population, subjecting them to collective punishment and causing the gravest humanitarian crisis to date. Some 40 Palestinians died after being refused passage out of Gaza for urgent medical treatment not available in local hospitals.
    Most Gazans were left dependent on international aid for survival but UN aid agencies complained that the Israeli blockade made it difficult for them to provide the much needed assistance. In the West Bank, the Israeli authorities continued to expand illegal settlements and build a 700-km fence/wall in violation of international law. Impunity remained the norm for Israeli soldiers and Israeli settlers who committed serious abuses against Palestinians, including unlawful killings, physical assaults and attacks on property. Thousands of Palestinians were arrested, most of whom were released without charge. Those charged with security-related offences often received unfair trials before military courts. Some 9,000 Palestinian adults and children remained in Israeli jails, some of whom had been held without charge or trial for years. Attacks by Palestinian armed groups killed 13 Israelis (see Palestinian Authority entry).

  67. If anyone wants to read further on the desert wildlife species of Israel such as the Judean Desert Leopard and the Ibex read: “High Hills and Wild Goats: Life Among the Animals of the Hai-Bar Wildlife Refuge” by Bill Clark. The book also discusses fencing and its effects on desert wildlife. You can read a short book summary at: http://www.melbabooks.com/misc/wildgoats.html

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