August 18, 2013 | 6:50 am
Posted by Orit Arfa
My dialogue with Michael, an American pro-Palestinian activist from Ramallah, is heating up. He rejects many of the arguments I made in my last letter to him. Here he expresses sympathy for Palestinian terror and is more strident in his categorization of Israel as a state founded on "war crimes." Stay tuned for my refutation.
Regarding Machsom Watch, glad we can agree.
On the issue of the signs on Areas A and B. I do agree with your latter part about if god forbid a civilian is killed or captured, the IDF does not want to be responsible, but I think that is secondary, which I think you also agree on.
The blood on the map refers to Palestinian suffering and loss of their homeland, not a desire to see Jews bleed or anything of the sort. So I don't know where the "hate" aspect comes from. I don't buy this "there was a war, you lose, get over it." You know how I know you don't believe that, at least universally? Because I know that in 72AD and 135AD during the expulsions of Jews by the Romans you would not have told the Jews to suck it up and build their lives somewhere else. Now I know your next point will be "it was different," and I answer, "to you, yes there is a difference, to Palestinians, there is not." To them, an army of relatively new immigrants (or returnees if you prefer) forcefully expelled large numbers of their people. It is a common Palestinian expression to say "Jews waited 2,000 years to return, and they expect us to forget everything after X amount of years?" Do you seriously expect Palestinians in 1948 to just sit ideally by a war was pushed on them? We can go back and forth about who started what, but the fact of the matter is 1948 was not a random war that came out of nowhere and you CANNOT claim some sort of benevolence or innocence from the Israeli side. They committed mass war crimes in the war, regardless of who started what. You can name all the 12 Jewish communities who were eliminated in 1948, including the synagogues in the Old City and that does NOT begin to justify 750,000+ Palestinians becoming refugees and over 500 village being eliminated off the map, nor the gross restrictions on EVERY aspect of Palestinian life for those who remained in what became Israel in 1948.
The books in question, I would still argue (do to my huge exposure to Palestinian textbooks) they are a tiny minority. Yes, that tiny minority is disgusting and Israel does share a burden in this, but at the same time, do you not see the utility in allowing a minority of books to have disgusting things? It gives bullet points to people to bring up in debates like this, with most people not even knowing Israel has control over the Palestinian curriculum. Would Palestinians resent having a Zionist or Israeli education, under the current power imbalance and disproportion or strength and malice coming from Israel, yes. Hard to argue otherwise. But in general that comes most things, that is why I discussed with you in details ways to move forward to install a better situation, including that of education. So short term, yes of course that would be stupid. But as we both agree, for there to be one state here, many things would have to change, including a complete overhaul of the State of Israel into a state that accepts all people equally.
It is not an excusing of Palestinian violence, it is a desire to understand it instead of just using my Western rosy tinted glasses and revert to labels. Do I see Palestinian violence as counterproductive, as a pacifist absolutely, but being a pacifist is white Western privilege. Very few states or peoples have achieved rights peacefully. Behind every rosy example you can think of, is a huge undercurrent of violence. Israel was created through violence, as was every state in the world. It is hard to sit here and seriously expect Palestinians to passively wait for Israeli benevolence for a better life. Although I condemn on a personal level, one cannot play the "when a Palestinian Mandela or Gandhi appears there will be peace." That is ridiculous. Mandela supported violence for many decades until its utility ended. Gandhi was also in favor of utilizing strategic violence in order to achieve political goals because he knew that human beings in power react more to violence than peaceful gestures. Now as I said, on a personal level I deplore it, but that does not mean I am blind enough to think that peaceful tactics alone will actually achieve a realization of rights. It would be great if it did, but I have yet to see this actually play out in any context.
I can divorce Islam from the equation because in my experience it is not a driving factor of Palestinian animosity. If Islam did not exist, Palestinians would still be rightfully antagonistic towards Israel. You could take this conflict and put it anywhere in the world, and you will find the same end result, regardless of religion or ethnicity. This conflict is not unique in any possible way. Your blanket statements about "if there is a mosque it is preaching anti-Zionism," are both unfounded and unwarranted. First, you don't speak Arabic, nor have you studied Islam. Hence you rely on organizations like MEMRI and Palestine Media Watch, who like Machsom Watch have a political agenda that is very obvious and real. Are some Imams anti-Zionist, sure, as am I, does that equate into anti-Semitism? As you stated, no it does not. Muslims who accept Israel are an apostate is inherently wrong. The Quran states clearly the legitimacy of a State for Jews and many use this as a justification for their support of the existence of the State of Israel. You can check all the transcripts about the debates in the Organization of Islamic States as to how and why they would support a two state solution (Yes I know we both find this deplorable, but regardless), and the Imams who spoke, quoted openly the Quran as to the legitimacy. So this excuse has no water to me. Now you can make arguments, citing the Quran as to their reasons for supporting the existence of Israel, as their duplicity in their support and that is a valid argument on face value, but it does not differ one iota from the Evangelical CHristians who support Israel, so unless you start treating them as equally repugnant (which I do), I do not buy the scapegoating of Islam in and of itself.
The equivalence of Haredim and Palestinians is actually not a bad one, but I think we differ on the outcome. There are many in Israel that support withdrawing funding from Haredi because many, not all, are anti-Zionist. Yet, if you look at how the debate, even within the Haredi community, it is completely different than it was 10, 20, or 30 years ago. You could never have talked about Haredi army force (or Haredi settlements) in the 1980s, it was crazy, and I would say then, you had upwards of 90-95% of Haredim being anti-Zionist, yet the state, through the army, settlements, and other methods is trying to "Israelize" the Haredim population and I would argue in the long term will "Israeli" a huge proportion of that population. This is something they have not done with the Palestinian population in Israel, and especially not in the West Bank and Gaza. If they were to incentivize funding for Palestinian development and give bigger incentives for Palestinians to be Israelized, I think over time it would have a fantastic impact. Now, is this a popular sentiment in Israel, no, but if it were, I would argue you would find a very receptive audience. Things like building more and better hospitals, offering the same services Israeli Jews receive, allowing freedom of movement and access, and many other things are the ways to minimize Palestinian antagonism towards Israel. Is it a risk, sure, but the reward is huge and is the only way to move out of this paradigm we are stuck in, as I discussed with you in Nablus.
Volunteerism is a huge issue in the territories, no argument. Most Palestinians say the exact same thing. After Oslo (not blaming it) many Palestinians became more individualistic. The fact still remains that Palestinian companies wishing to dispose of trash face a plethora of obstacles in doing so. Most of the dumpsites in the West Bank are Israeli and they charge a higher price to Palestinians and in many cases, flat out refuse to accept Palestinian waste, i.e. in the Jordan Valley. So if Palestinians in the Jordan Valley want to dispose their trash, they must hire a private company from Jericho, Ramallah, or Nablus to collect it and then dump it (for a higher price) in Abu Dis or the Ariel/Salfit region. While at the same time, settlers living right next to them get this service done through their taxes. Palestinians get to pay out of pocket upwards of 3-5 times as much for a basic service. Now you may ask, well why doesn't the PA do it. Well first, the PA's budget is completely tied according to funding. The Americans and EU pay for PA salaries and infrastructure projects in Area A and B, which is the majority of the PA budget. Trash collection is incredibly expensive as a civil service, which is why the countries that have it (mostly Western) are still relatively new to it (the United States and Great Britain only started this after the second world war), so to expect Palestinians to devote huge sums of money to Israel to dump their own trash is ridiculous. As an Israeli, why don't you lobby your government to remove this discriminatory procedure? Better yet, why don't you lobby to have the State of Israel collect trash in the Palestinian areas it has annexed? The trash problem is just as bad in East Jerusalem, yet where is your outcry for that? Instead you expect Palestinians to go above and beyond, which I find ridiculous. As an American citizen, you could also lobby your state to tie funding to the PA for trash collection, until you fulfill your part, I feel it is obscene to expect Palestinians to sacrifice ever so much.
Regarding creating an equilibrium between Israeli leaders and Palestinian leaders, that is simply your own inherent bias. Your inability to view an alternative perspective makes the comparison obscene to you. To Palestinians, Ben Gurion, Sharon, Begin, etc are war criminals who have committed gross crimes against the Palestinian people. Nothing, and I repeat, nothing you can say will refute this fact. Just like nothing you can say can make Palestinians view Israeli leaders any differently as long as they persist in policies that disproportionately target Palestinians. You see Israeli leaders as protecting Israelis just like Palestinians will see their leaders as protecting them. Making any pie in the sky arguments will go nowhere and just puts us back into the nationalist based narrative framework we have been in for decades. These leaders fought for a goal that you agree with, while Palestinian leaders fought for a goal you disagree with and as a non-Palestinian, cannot relate to. That does not equal that they were inherently good or bad. It is all subjective on YOUR preconceived notions of good and bad, end of story. Mahmoud Abbas said "no Israeli civilian or soldier will live in Palestine under Israeli law," check the translation, this is simple propaganda. Now you know I find Abbas deplorable, so if I am willing to say he didn't say it, it must have some legitimacy to it. Again you rely on politically motivated organizations for your translations, you cannot seriously expect an honest appraisal with that. We can go back and forth for weeks quoting Ben Gurion about his vision for Palestinians, but let us not fall into the narrative about he wanted them as citizens and as equal citizens at that. That is a ridiculous proposition that has no basis in reality. Considering the countless years I have studied Ben Gurion, 1948, and the refugee issue, I could prove your any and all of your points wrong rather quickly, so let us move beyond narrative.
When we have the day of Israelis and Palestinians both viewing their terrible leaders as terrible will be a fine day indeed but don't expect Palestinians to be the leader in this is all I ask, holding them to a higher standard is ridiculous, which I want to believe you acknowledge.
I am happy you enjoyed your time here, even if it is in the worse of the two cities
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