Everybody needs to just shut up

The Hebrew word yishuv refers to the Zionist residents in Palestine before Israel’s establishment. The word means “to settle,” and to me it conjures a pioneering picture. It seems to imply that beforehand, the land was unsettled.

When I think settlement, I think a farm in Transvaal, a depot in Siberia, a pioneer gold-boom town in Nevada, taming a wild land. Or, settling a Promised Land.

Take a drive through Gush Etzion. If you can’t, I’ll describe it: dusty roads snake through pasty grey Arab villages with stone-faced inhabitants, and the tremendous amount of livestock on the road brings Africa to mind. Traffic is split about equally, and Palestinian and Israeli police patrol the roads jointly but don’t cooperate. Jews don’t leave secure areas on foot.

Before I visited friends in Tekoa last week, I hadn’t crossed the Green Line in a decade. For what? And places like Migron and Ulpana always seemed like terrible ideas – what, exactly, ever made sense about planting our population squarely among 4 million hostile Arabs?

It seemed a bit, for lack of a better word, colonial. Too forced, unnatural, unsustainable.

Unnatural? In 1922, the Jews numbered 11% of people between the Jordan and Mediterranean. In the 1940s, Jews were still no more than 30%, about comparable to the white population of South Africa during the same time. Today, travelling from fenced-in Tekoa to fenced-in Efrat (especially at night) feels like trying to reach second base without being tagged out, so to speak. But not long ago, traveling between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv carried a risk of hitting a land mine.

Bedouin whose families had been here for generations used to stone Jewish cars outside Tel Aviv, in 1947. Sound familiar? Colonial, you say?

I picked up a hitchhiker on the way to Allon Shvut, a young man born and raised in Yesha. After narrowly avoiding death by a swerving taxi, we agreed that the police should crack down on risky driving in the territories. He added that Arabs shouldn’t be allowed to use Israeli roads at all, and I let it slide. The sheer number of Palestinian taxis driving in the oncoming traffic lane – for no apparent reason – somehow made the statement less offensive.

In solidarity with the Palestinian cause, the Israeli left paints settlers as the source of all our problems. I’ve done it many times. Why do they have to live there, we ask. But Zionists settled this land, tamed it, made it what it is. And I’ll be first to admit my own hypocrisy – they have to live there because, and for the same reason, that we have to live here.

For better or worse, we are still the yishuv, the settlers, and none of this is new. We may disagree about the next step to take, but to forget our team allegiance is to desert our  heritage in self-righteous self-pity. I, for one, am still a Zionist.

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I’m so sick and tired of this

One of the best quotes ever comes from the tv series Californication. It goes “there is no right or wrong; there are only the consequences of your actions.” Sometimes, I suspect David Duchovney figured out how to channel Ayn Rand’s ghost, but that’s off topic.

A more apt political statement would go something like “there is no moral supremacy. There are only the facts on the ground.”  And of course, many conflicts never see resolution because each side is too busy chasing a nonexistent moral high ground, playing the victim, and selectively revising history to support its premeditated narrative. In the troubled chunk of land between the Jordan and Mediterranean – I don’t even know what to call it anymore without offending some zealot – revision of history and name-calling are a way of life. Israelis and Palestinians spend 99% of their energy seeing who can deligitimize the other side more.

And most of what they come up with is damn childish. For example, Israelis complain that Palestinians don’t “recognize Israel’s right to exist,” but in the same breath laud a certain Newt Gingrich for calling the Palestinians an “invented people.” (Note to Mr. Gingrich: all peoples are invented. The Americans possibly most clearly so of all). And Palestinians, of course, loudly trumpet their right to self-determination, but at the same time don’t recognize Israel’s self-determined Jewish character. It’s absurd and hypocritical, and I think our kids deserve better intellectual role models. Call me a tree-hugging fairyman.

Were people here truly willing to pay the price for future progress, an excellent starting spot would be integrated education (busing kids to different districts like in 1960s America) or at least inclusion of both narratives in school curricula. But, of course the zealots on both sides would sweat blood at the mere suggestion. They already have.

So instead, regarding (for example) the refugee issue, Israeli sixth graders learn that in 1948, surrounding Arab leaders ordered the local Arabs to leave Palestine to that the Jews could be driven into the sea (a contention unsupported by any historical document). They don’t learn how Irgun forces massacred and in some cases raped 200 noncombatant villagers at Deir Yassin in 1947 (really, its been whitewashed from the Israeli curriculum, even though it happened). On the other side of town, Arab schoolchildren get an equally myopic perspective: American-backed Jewish crusaders massacred peaceful native Arabs on “disaster (nakba) day” and violently drove them all out, creating millions of refugees.

It is true many Arabs were displaced; some of them violently, some left of their own volition. And some of them were violent, fighting what is known as a “war.” Wars displace people. The Tajikistan civil war created collateral damage of 1.2 million displaced persons. They don’t have their own committee at the UN, like the Palestinians. Finally, the 1948 war also displaced a number of Jews; but you never hear about that.

There are many such examples. So, why again are we surprised that this conflict has been going on for the better part of a century? By participating in this endless circle of half truths and willful ignorance of the other side, people become the problem, not the solution.

Compare the approach described above to South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee of the 1990s. For the dull among you, it was a “committee” with the stated dual goal of “truth” and “reconciliation.” It featured (I kid you not) an Afrikaner former jail warden voluntarily washing the feet of someone he had mistreated in the past. Jeez.

I’m not saying Israel and South Africa face the same circumstances, or that the new South Africa is a paragon of racial coexistence. Considering what happened there just two decades ago, though, they’re not doing too bad. When people truly desire progress, they usually get it. When they don’t, they get endless conflict.

Just ask this guy. He knows (everything).

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How about this Arab, Khader Adnan…

who has been starving himself for the past 64 days or something in an Israeli prison? Israel arrested him a while back; for no reason,he says. Israel hasn’t charged him with any crime since his arrest, but Israeli military intelligence apparently thinks he is a member of the group Islamic Jihad.

It seems Mr. Adnan’s 64-day hunger hunger strike has affected his health. He’s literally on his death bead. His lawyers got him a last-minute (and rather morbid, if he dies beforehand)  bagatz hearing this week. This guy’s situation can summarized from three different angles: legally speaking (Israeli law),  legally speaking (international law), and the third category: “what would actually be the best thing to do in this situation.”

First, according to current Israeli law, the military should not have to release this man. It is within Israel’s rights to hold him without a trial because he is a designated enemy combatant, captured in a war zone, which is governed by military law. Bagatz has upheld this view (which is the official Israeli government position) numerous times.

Second, the International Court of Justice (although it deemed the occupation illegal in a 2005 non-binding advisory opinion) has never ruled on administrative detention. Also, Israel isn’t a signatory to the ICJ treaty, so the ICJ has no jurisdiction here, which is why the 2005 opinion was advisory.

And realistically, if Israel believes he is a member of a terrorist organization, she should charge him and convict him. Alternatively, if the evidence of his terrorist activities is not strong enough even to bring before a judge, he should be released.

Mustafa Barghoutti makes an good comparison in an op-ed in yesterday’s New York Times:

Britain’s practices in Northern Ireland during the 1970s and 1980s were not so different from Israel’s today — and they elicited a similarly rebellious spirit from the subjugated population. In 1981, Bobby Sands, an imprisoned member of the Irish Republican Army, died 66 days after beginning a hunger strike to protest Britain’s treatment of political prisoners. Mr. Sands was elected to Parliament during his strike; nine other hunger strikers died before the end of 1981; and their cases drew worldwide attention to the plight of Roman Catholics in Northern Ireland.

Just as Margaret Thatcher, then the British prime minister, unsympathetically dismissed Mr. Sands as a “convicted criminal,” Israeli officials have accused Mr. Adnan of being an active member of Islamic Jihad. But if this is the case, Israel should prove it in court.

All truth. Also, I can’t wait til a catch a zealot settler and put him in administrative detention. Now that will be fun to watch.

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Here are some black shirted religious zealots…

Pretty funny. These folks are mad about some third graders wearing some immodest clothes like short sleeves. Bet Shemesh is a pretty brilliant a microcosm of Israel’s self-conflicted society… but that’s way too long of a lecture for right now.

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Israelis are mad Turkey doesn’t want them in NATO military drill

Yeah, what the headline said. Also, a bunch of Israeli zealots that I know seem to think NATO should kick Turkey out and let Israel in. What they don’t realize is that the Turks are in NATO because they are an important geopolitical ally against Russia. Let’s remember that NATO’s original purpose from the start was to counter the USSR’s Warsaw pact.

Turkey controls the passage from the Mediterranean into the Black Sea upon which lies Russia’s only warm water port. That is why they are in NATO, and that why they are more valuable to NATO than Israel is. Meanwhile, Israel’s Foreign Minister is cozying up to Putin, saying last fall’s elections were perfectly executed, yadda yadda. That’s exactly what NATO is not looking for in a new member.

The truth is that Israel would do well to attempt to mend relations with Turkey, for the good of the entire world. Turkey has been shatten on by the European Union for the past decade or so, which has driven it closer to the Islamists to the East. In that context, some leaders in Turkey have been using the Israel issue to pander to Islamists and unfortunately, Israel has simply played right into the Islamist plan by trying to humiliate Turkey.

Losing Turkey (the only real Muslim democracy) to radicalism would be a terrible thing for the West.

In a broader sense, what a lot of zealots need to realize is that although Israel makes a lot of headlines, it is really a minor player when it comes to global alliance politics. The world is not divided in terms or “pro-Israel” or “anti-Israel.” Nations work according to their interests, and the only nations that really care about Israel (a few Arabs) only matter when they actually matter (oil). From the perspective of the West, there are much bigger fish to fry (Russia and China).

This is what a Turkey looks like.

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Why Israeli zealots are intellectual clowns

Everyone knows zealots are a terrible source of information. Political zealots are among the worst out there, and Israeli political zealots are among the worst of political zealots.

First, I should mention that blind devotion to any cause is a terrible thing because by definition, you’re blind to the other side. It’s the opposite of progress, and nobody wins in the long run. When religion is thrown into the mix, blind support becomes all the more problematic because of the passionate emotions religion brings out in people. The worst case is probably when religion actually inspires fanatical activism.

That’s where we get shahids. And those kinds of folks are a part of the problem, not the solution.

Even I, Muhammed Whinestein, have friends who are Israeli zealots. They are intolerably stupid, and every time someone crticises Israel, their retorts fall into three broad categories: (1) (by far the most common) you’re antisemitic. (2) (If the person is not Israeli) your Western country is worse, and  (3) Israel’s enemies hate her.

The first point doesn’t even make sense, unless the person in question is antisemitic. In which case, it still doesn’t make sense as an argument because it’s a fact, and not an argument. It doesn’t refer back to what the accuser accused.

The second point is invalid because the argument that “someone else is worse” is completely irrelevant to the point in question. A zealot to whom I once talked seemed to think that because “warmongering” America kicked the Indians off their land, the US has no right to try to get Israel to do anything about the OPT situation.   I said, by calling America “warmonger” in your defense, aren’t you conceding at least partly that Israel does bad things (although not as bad as America did)? A logically-sound inference, no?

The third point is more valid because it is at least partially true. However, it doesn’t logically negate the statement that Israel is wrong. What – because my opponent is wrong, I’m right? Doesn’t make any sense.

See? Israeli zealots are dumb because none of the points they make actually relate to the points made against them. In a broader sense, the bottom line (and something idiot zealots never comprehend), is that both sides are screwed up here. Neither is right and neither is completely wrong, but each side has its own narrative about why the other side is wrong. They’re just a part of the puzzle.

To be followed by a post about idiot Palestinian activist zealots.

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Sounds about right…

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