Israel And Palestine – It’s The Myopic, Monocausal Narrative That’s The Real Obstacle To Peace

“Since the truce began, militants have launched some 40 rockets and mortars into southern Israel. Though the makeshift Qassam rockets are seldom lethal, and have caused few injuries, they enrage the Israelis. But Israel has so far refrained from firing back, so the truce is more or less holding.”  http://www.economist.com/node/12010165

In a conflict like the one between Israel and Palestine, there are no easy answers, and monocausal narratives casting one side as villains and the others as saints, are beyond merely counterproductive.  I’ve argued before, and I’d argue again, that the US should demand a hard freeze on Israeli settlement growth, measured in square nanometers of geographic expansion. The penalty for refusal would be the immediate cessation of any and all aid, and immediately calling in any and all outstanding loans. I’ve argued that Israel should use a ‘carrot and stick’ approach and help to make the West Bank prosperous and attractive in order to show those people ruled over by Hamas that peace is possible… if they slit a few Hamas throats along the way. Because in the end, the solution must come from both the Israeli and the Palestinian people.

In this situation, the history lesson is essential for the debate, and is indeed part of it. Being ignorant of the fundamental history and current events  is a bit like seeing a man with a gun standing over another man cowering on the ground, and without finding out whether or not he’d just disarmed the guy on the ground or if he was mugging the guy on the ground, you throw him in prison.
The point of the history lesson, if you will, is to add essential information to the debate about how an effective peace plan can be reached.

I support a negotiated peace settlement with equitable agricultural, water, fishing, airspace, and territorial rights.
Please keep that in mind through the following.


History

Many of today’s current problems can be directly traced back to the Ottoman Land Code of 1858. They codified land ownership into four general categories. Miri land that was state owned but could be ‘rented’ in perpetuity provided that the tenants continued to farm the land. The vast majority of the region was miri land. Mulk land could be privately owned, but only the wealthy and powerful could afford to own property like that. The third category, waqf land, was public territory available for the use of everybody. The fourth category was mawat land, waste land, which was nominally reserved for grazing and which, in practice, was often fought over by local clans. As a result of the Code, the supermajority of Palestinians never actually owned the land they were living on. This created a permanent class of dispossessed citizens. What’s more, the absentee Palestinian landlords often sold their land to emigree Jews, further exacerbating tensions.

In the late 1800’s, Zionism became a compelling nationalist movement. Rather than what we see as an ‘ethnic based’ movement, Zionism rode the rising tide of nationalistic philosophy in Europe at the time. The view was that Jews were “a nation” unto themselves had been held by most of the civilized world for millennia, and was the most common justification for viewing Jews as “the Other”. The Pogroms in Russia, the Dryfus Affair, and similar events also helped cement the idea that in order to be safe, the Jewish nation would need a home.

When the Ottoman Empire fell in WWI, the European powers divided up the territory into the Mandates. With the Balfour Declaration, the British made clear that they intended their Mandate territory to be open to “close settlement” by the Jews and that it would become the “national home for the Jewish people”. This was seen as a threat by a great many Arabs, and Arab pressure eventually led the British to drastically restrict Jewish immigration while allowing unlimited Arab immigration.

At the same time, the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was busy seizing power of the Palestinian leadership and murdering clan leaders who opposed him. The Grand Mufti fomented the Arab Riots in the 1920’s and 30’s, and later went on to ally with Adolph Hitler and the Nazis, going on to recruit Muslims for the SS. The Nazis of the time reached an agreement with the Arab powers that, should they win, the Nazis would conquer the Jewish communities, but their extermination could be left to the Arabs.

Amin al Husseini und Adolf Hitler

During this time the Haganah was formed as a self-defense organization, and more violent groups like Lehi and Irgun were formed in response, as well. Where the Palestinian leadership had been virtually exterminated by the Grand Mufti, the Jews had a functioning civil society under the aegis of the Yishuv. However, this also meant that formal negotiations were difficult if not impossible after the Mufti’s removal from politics, as there was no functional Palestinian government. let alone a leader who could speak with the voice of the people. In contrast, the Yishuv largely policed its own. When Irgun and Lehi’s actions became unconscionable, the Yishuv collaborated with British police in what is known as la saison, and helped round up and disarm their members.

In 1936 the Peel Commission recommended a two state solution with Jewish territory that would have been smaller than 1948 territory. The Jews accepted, but Arab leadership at the time rejected it. By 1948 after the UN Partition Plan, the Yishuv agreed, while Arab leadership again refused.  The myth-narrative of a nation created by UN fiat is an absurdity; contrary to popular belief, the UN actually had virtually nothing to do with the creation of Israel other than recognizing it. The under-the-table agreement between the Yishuv and the member states of the UN was that they were exhausted after WWII, and would not commit any troops. And, more to the point, that they would support a nascent Israeli state if and only if it could provide for its own defense.

The 1948 war was explicitly a war of extermination, with Arab leadership declaring that they would drive the Jews into the sea. General Glub Pasha, a former British officer, took much of his officer corps and led the Arab Legion in the war. Nazi officers worked with the Syrian military (and later helped set up the Assad dynasty). During the fighting, the Yishuv put Plan D into action, a plan for securing territorial borders and driving out any villages which were seen to be hostile. The goal was security instead of ethnic cleansing, however, as non-hostile villages (or villages which were seen as non-hostile) were left.

A Palestinian State

What is often forgotten is that the reason there isn’t a Palestinian state is that in 1948, Egypt captured and annexed the western Palestinian claims, while Jordan captured and annexed the eastern claims. Egypt and Jordan had the opportunity, then and there, to create a Palestinian state which would have been far larger than it is today. They did no such thing. Further, the Jordanian occupation was particularly brutal and aimed at anti-Jewish, rather than anti-Israel, action. Ancient Jewish tombstones were knocked down and used to pave Arab Legion latrines, for example, and Jews were prevented from entering Jerusalem.

In 1967, before the Six Day War, the PLO was formed with the destruction of the state of Israel as its goal. The Six Day War was, in turn, started by an Egyptian blockade of Israeli shipping and Egypt’s withdrawal of UN troops from the border. Taken together, these served as a clear casus belli. Through the course of the war, Israel vastly expanded its territorial holdings. And, immediately after, offered all of them back to the Arab states in exchange for peace. They were met with the Three Noes at the Khartoum conference; no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiation with Israel.

At the same time, most of the Arab governments enacted apartheid policies preventing Palestinians from living outside of their refugee camps, legally being able to work in the country, or gain citizenship. The Hashemite rulers of Jordan, installed by the British, were ruling over a nation that largely considered itself Palestinian, not Jordanian. (Well, Transjordanian since the country was originally Transjordan, but, yeah…) This led to Black September in 1970 when the government fought a war with Palestinian militants for control of the country. As Arafat’s Fatah party was hopelessly corrupt, Hamas arose in the 1980’s as a viable alternative with its cohesiveness, ideological fervor, and dedication to social services. The Mossad funded Hamas in the hope that it would destabilize Arafat’s rule, but instead spawned a massive terror organization, one whose charter explicitly states that their goal is the genocide of the Jewish people. (I’m not even going to get into the fall of the Lebanese government and the creation of Hezbollah by Iran.)

Now, has Israel and does Israel do awful things? Yes. This isn’t meant to minimize that. But there’s also the fact that these events are placed in a very, very interesting context by the media.

Narratives and Progress

There are yearly memorials for Deir Yassin. But, of course, in 1982, the Assad dynasty was being threatened by the Muslim Brotherhood. To make a show of the price of rebellion, the Syrian army encircled the MB’s stronghold in the city of Hama. They then indiscriminately shelled the city to the ground, herding men, women, and children back into the city. After the battle was over, Assad had the rubble paved over and bused people in from all over the nation, to view what would happen to them if they defied him. The estimated death toll ranges between 20,000 and 40,000. Virtually no one knows about it. It is not commemorated. Roughly a month after Israel’s most recent war with Hamas/Hezbollah, which was front and center in the media for quite some time and cause for UN action, Lebanon was having trouble with Palestinian militants in one of their refugee camps, and indiscriminately shelled the camp. Virtually no one reported on it at the time, fewer noticed it, and nobody commemorates it today.

The issue, on that facet, is that the media has a narrative. “Arab inhumanity towards other Arabs” doesn’t fit with the narrative quite so well (observe the amount of coverage we have of all the post Arab Spring nations, once all the flashy explosions stopped). “Jewish inhumanity towards Arabs”, however,  fits the narrative.  That isn’t a tu quoque, but it does point out part of why the discussion is diverted from the primary actors in the region like Iran, who trains, supplies, and equips Hamas and Hezbollah and which collaborated with Al Quaeda.  This is the same narrative which gives us claims like “Israel is keeping the Palestinians trapped in a giant open-air prison”. The West bank borders Jordan. Gaza borders Egypt. Both countries can, and have, opened their borders in the past, but only temporarily. Egyptian and Jordanian troops enforce the border.

Everybody always asks “Why doesn’t Israel let them out?”
But nobody ever asks, “Why won’t Egypt and Jordan let them out?”

The solution is, simply, utterly non-simple. The situation is absurdly complex, and both sides have more than enough blood on their hands. A new Palestinian state needs resources, capital, and land. And if Israel owes reparations and land, then so do Egypt and Jordan. Rather than asking all of the nations to work together and find a solution, the entire world focuses exclusively on Israel. Any peace deal should, ideally, include both Egypt and Jordan, and include territorial swaps and cash payments from both of those nations.  Further, the situation is more than muddled when we talk about “Palestinian territories”. Some of those claimed territories include Jewish villages which were depopulated in ’48. Are those “Palestinian land”, “Jewish land”, or something else entirely?

More to the point, a roughly equal number of Jews were expelled from Arab countries in ’48 as Palestinians were dispossessed. Most of them were absorbed by Israel, at great expense. They were never compensated for their losses. There was never any great global outcry. The UNRWA grants unique status to Palestinans such that they are refugees in perpetuity; children born today are classified as refugees, even if they’re born in another country entirely and never set foot in Palestine. Under the same system, I would be a Russian refugee and a German refugee by descent. That seems… odd.  Meanwhile, is there a UN agency dedicated to the Jews who were dispossessed? Is there any global outcry for them? Is there a global movement to see them compensated for the injuries they sustained?

Do I even need to ask?

Speaking of the UN, the UN Commission on Human Rights, consisting of such human rights luminaries as Saudi Arabia and China, focused on Israel to such a massive extent with the supermajority of their resolutions dealing with Israel, that they utterly lost credibility and were replaced by the Human Rights Council (which is, in turn, ardently working on getting rid of its legitimacy). So while a local peace settlement requires Israel, Palestine, Egypt, and Jordan, a true regional peace settlement must also address Iran, Iraq, Morocco, etc… as the region reaches an equitable solution that allows us to achieve redressal of grievances and finally fucking move forward.

And yes, there are a lot of displaced people who are ‘stuck’ in the West Bank and Gaza. What never gets mentioned after that, of course, is that if Egypt and Jordan opened the borders, they wouldn’t be stuck.  Why aren’t Egypt and Jordan included in the discussion, ever? If Egypt opened the Gaza border crossing, the Gazans would no longer be in a “prison”, they just wouldn’t be able to get into Israel?

Indoctrination And A Deliberately Perpetual Conflict

The unfortunate reality is that if the Palestinians all put down their guns today and came to the peace table in good faith, we would have peace. If the Israelis all put down their guns today, we would have a nation of corpses. This is not an exaggeration. Mein Kampf is perennially a best seller in Palestine, landing in the top 10 regularly. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a classroom textbook in Palestinian classes. Nor is it anywhere near as simple as to talk only about leadership. The Palestinians have Jihadii summer camps for kids   Palestinian education and governmental/cultural systems are deliberately set up to make peace impossible as they train children to be martyrs.  I repeat, this indoctrination is deliberately, directed at Palestinian children. Deliberately, methodically, calculatingly directed at children.

Ignoring the fact that, for instance, there are wildly popular children’s songs promoting martyrdom, does not promote clarity in our discussions.

Pal 4
Pal 5
Pal 1
Pal 2
Pal 3
palestinian_children_guns
When Israel unilaterally pulled out of Gaza and left millions of dollars of cutting edge greenhouses, the Palestinians tore out the metal to make rockets and destroyed the greenhouses or used them as locations to tunnel into Israel. Which is to say, as one Israeli politician once put it: the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. Meanwhile, Hamas’ charter explicitly calls for the genocide of the Jewish people and the Palestinian National Charter calls for the annihilation of the state of Israel explicitly and entirely rejects negotiations and peace, explicitly endorsing only violence.

greenhouse before

Greenhouse After

Greenhouse tunnel

Look at the PLO’s charter.

Article 9: Armed struggle is the only way to liberate Palestine. This it is the overall strategy, not merely a tactical phase. The Palestinian Arab people assert their absolute determination and firm resolution to continue their armed struggle and to work for an armed popular revolution for the liberation of their country and their return to it
[…]
Article 10:
Commando action constitutes the nucleus of the Palestinian popular liberation war. This requires its escalation, comprehensiveness, and the mobilization of all the Palestinian popular and educational efforts and their organization and involvement in the armed Palestinian revolution. It also requires the achieving of unity for the national (watani) struggle among the different groupings of the Palestinian people, and between the Palestinian people and the Arab masses, so as to secure the continuation of the revolution, its escalation, and victory.

And who, exactly, could Israel negotiate with? One of the requirements for sovereignty under customary international law is the ability to maintain the monopolization of military force under a government, and to control its territory as well as providing administrative and social services. Palestinian society currently has no government that could speak with a unified voice. If Israel simply walked away from Gaza and the West Bank tomorrow, Hamas, funded and armed by Iran, would slaughter Fatah and go on to wage war with Israel. And then the response would be all out war, rather than occupation. To say nothing of that fact that, should Hamas be given free rein, Hezbollah will initiate simultaneous attacks and Israel will have a war on three fronts. That war would, very quickly, turn regional. Unless we want the Middle East to be the world’s largest glow in the dark glass parking lot, that’s a scenario that we need to avoid. Especially since both Hamas and Hezbollah deliberately use their own populations are human shields.
Are the Israelis blameless? Fuck no.

But the media narrative is fucking bent. Take the case of Tuvia Grossman, a Jew dragged out of a taxi and nearly beaten to death by a Palestinian mob, before an Israeli policeman saved him.Tuvia had his bloody face used in Palestinian propaganda, as a Palestinian being attacked by an Israeli policeman. The media went along with it and had to be dragged back into the light.

tuvia

Endgame

Without truth, without getting at the objective facts behind the media narratives, we are, perforce, getting distorted data. And we are not just talking about governments, here. This is a cultural/societal war, too. Cardboard heroes and villains don’t work here. Both sides are treading water in a sea of blood, and peace will not be unilateral. Gaza taught us that.

Any truly successful, long lasting peace process will almost certainly entail a nuanced analysis that considers all the issues, attempts to arrive at a negotiated compromise that is least-distasteful to both sides, and involves all of the Arab states who’ve been involved in the conflict, as well as Iran. The monocausal narrative that the global media sells is a proximal cause of the stalled peace process. And the memesphere does matter – by making the discussion about Israel only and Israel’s sins, we utterly ignore the vastly more complicated dynamic at work.

This is a phenomena known as ‘attention blindness’. If you focus on something intently enough, you could have a gorilla walk through the room and you won’t even notice. So, now, the entire world is intently focused on one thing intently enough, and a gorilla is busy dancing and wearing neon lights. The problem is, while there are certainly abuses in Israel’s conduct, the only truly legitimate function of a government is to protect its people. If Israel simply withdrew to the Green Line today, there would be war tomorrow. This situation cannot end until both sides know that they’re not going to be shot in the back as soon as the negotiations end. And as long as the Palestinian state is pledged to the annihilation of Israel, no Israeli government will be able to make peace, they’d immediately be struck down by a No Confidence vote.

I agree, the Palestinians should have a life free of occupation. But, by the same token, Israel cannot do that while there are thousands of heavily armed Palestinian militants who’d simply use that opportunity to launch heavier attacks. The problem is intractable until the Palestinians decide they value peace enough to stop indoctrinating children to be killers. Does Israel need to do a hell of a lot too? Yep.

But, by definition,while there can be peace if there are disputes about land ownership, there can not be peace while one side is launching attacks.  We can have peace if we’re arguing, we cannot have peace if we’re at war. This is basic, despite the “Israel is being shelled but not responding, so the ceasefire is holding” sort of narrative I started this post with. We must have all parties involved make a clear  renunciation of violence as a political tool – that is a mandatory prerequisite for peace.

Or as Golda Meir once said, “Peace will come when the Arabs will love their children more than they hate us. ”

There is a small contingent in the Palestinian community that wants peace. Or, perhaps there is a larger one that we don’t know about, because Palestinians murder other Palestinians who are suspected of being Israeli collaborators The fact that a peace movement is hampered by Hamas and Fatah murdering suspected collaborators, isn’t a trivial detail. It’s an absolutely vital consideration that would need to be taken into account in the peace process. We need peace movements on both sides. It is a material and relevant fact that, on one side, they teach their children that martyrdom is really quite a lovely goal and murder people who they think are sympathetic to their enemy nation. Any solution we find will have to take that fact into account. Ignoring it and calling it blame gaming, won’t help.

There’s also the fact that Gaza is ruled by Hamas, a theocratic, terroristic, genocidal organization. And Fatah is ruled by a kleptocracy of dunces. If the entire IDF was pulled back to the Green Line, they’d butcher each other. And Hamas would most likely win. At which point, they’d be in control of the West Bank, and thereby able to receive direct land shipments of men, munitions, and vehicles from Iran via Syria. Hezbollah has been armed with tens of thousands of rockets; anti-tank, anti-ship, anti-aircraft man portable guided missile launchers; armored personnel carriers.

During the 2006 Hezbollah-Israel war, Israeli Merkava tanks, some of the most heavily armored vehicles on the planet, were smashed by Hezbollah firepower; Hezbollah soldiers were transported in APC’s, and equipped with standard commando kit. With Hamas and Hezbollah both supplied and funded directly by Iran via land, with virtually no international interdiction possible, every Israeli civilian would be within range of incoming Palestinian ordinance. Brand spankin’ new, fully modern Iranian ordinance, to be precise.

I’m sure you can agree, this would be a bad thing.

So the question then becomes, how do we get to peace from where we are? That is the real question. It’s not about blame. I don’t care who is bad or who is worse. I don’t believe in good or evil, and the morality argument bores me. I want a realpolitik solution to the situation because, quite frankly, I don’t see anything else working. The US leans on Israel, hard, while making it clear to the Palestinian leadership that although they’d keep Israeli expansion constrained, this would be the last, best hope for peace without having access to Vorlons.

Ahem.

There needs to be an absolute and immediate cessation of violence and a functional Palestinian interim government in order for any transition to succeed. The Arab League would, ideally, commit troops to police the Palestinians through the disarmament process as any militia members who would be willing to renounce violence could be reintegrated into the nascent state’s military structure. There would need to be Arab/ troops instead of UN troops, not so much for its efficacy (although I believe that would be high) but for its symbolic power – the Arab (and one Persian) nations working together to fix the Israeli-Palestinian problem and come to a final and lasting peace.

Global Interrelations, The UN, And The Media

In Israel’s recent war with Hezbollah, a UN post was hit by a strike, killing the UN personnel inside. The UN maintained, publicly and clearly, that there was no Hezbollah activity near the post (implying if not outright stating that, therefore, it was a deliberate and targeted killing of unarmed UN peacekeepers).  Of course, it turned out that they were lying.  This sort of stuff is a bit of why I don’t have any use for the UN in this situation.

The words of a Canadian United Nations observer written just days before he was killed in an Israeli bombing of a UN post in Lebanon are evidence Hezbollah was using the post as a “shield” to fire rockets into Israel, says a former UN commander in Bosnia.

Those words, written in an e-mail dated just nine days ago, offer a possible explanation as to why the post — which according to UN officials was clearly marked and known to Israeli forces — was hit by Israel on Tuesday night, said retired Maj.-Gen. Lewis MacKenzie yesterday.

The strike hit the UN observation post in the southern Lebanese village of El Khiam, killing Canadian Maj. Paeta Hess-von Kruedener and three others serving as unarmed UN military observers in the area.

Just last week, Maj. Hess-von Kruedener wrote an e-mail about his experiences after nine months in the area, words Maj.-Gen. MacKenzie said are an obvious allusion to Hezbollah tactics.

“What I can tell you is this,” he wrote in an e-mail to CTV dated July 18. “We have on a daily basis had numerous occasions where our position has come under direct or indirect fire from both (Israeli) artillery and aerial bombing.

“The closest artillery has landed within 2 meters (sic) of our position and the closest 1000 lb aerial bomb has landed 100 meters (sic) from our patrol base. This has not been deliberate targeting, but rather due to tactical necessity.”

Those words, particularly the last sentence, are not-so-veiled language indicating Israeli strikes were aimed at Hezbollah targets near the post, said Maj.-Gen. MacKenzie.

“What that means is, in plain English, ‘We’ve got Hezbollah fighters running around in our positions, taking our positions here and then using us for shields and then engaging the (Israeli Defence Forces),” he said.

That would mean Hezbollah was purposely setting up near the UN post, he added. It’s a tactic Maj.-Gen. MacKenzie, who was the first UN commander in Sarajevo during the Bosnia civil war, said he’s seen in past international missions: Aside from UN posts, fighters would set up near hospitals, mosques and orphanages.

A Canadian Forces infantry officer with the Edmonton-based Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry and the only Canadian serving as a UN military observer in Lebanon, Maj. Hess-von Kruedener was no stranger to fighting nearby.

The UN post, he wrote in the e-mail, afforded a view of the “Hezbollah static positions in and around our patrol Base.”

“It appears that the lion’s share of fighting between the IDF and Hezbollah has taken place in our area,” he wrote, noting later it was too dangerous to venture out on patrols.

The e-mail appears to contradict the UN’s claim there had been no Hezbollah activity in the vicinity of the strike.

The standard narrative is no better.  Ceasefire is defined as Israel ceases while its enemies fire. Israel’s only suffered a few dozen mortar attacks recently, isn’t it remarkable how well the truce is holding? It’d be a shame if Israel responded, that would break the truce.
We get  quotes like:

Israeli-Hamas cease-fire may be in jeopardy
[…]
JERUSALEM – A cease-fire between Israel and Hamas threatened to unravel Wednesday after rockets fired from the Palestinian territory of Gaza crashed into southern Israel.

The media narrative is based on faked photospervasive in the media, some so obvious that they are insulting to our intelligence, carried out through the complicity of, or simply by being condoned by, groups like the AP and BBC.  It’s a situation in which allegations of exhumed graves are not far fetched.  So no, the solution is not simple. The solution will, and must, deal with making all nations in the region ready for peace. And it must involve acknowledging and addressing barriers to peace, while we still have the chance in our generation.

Of course, there’s always the standard media narrative – y’all should pick an army to root for, kick back in your Lay-Z-Boy, and put a nice cold six pack on your belly as you lay back and enjoy the fireworks and reality war tv.

Just sayin’, is all.

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