Wednesday, September 29, 2010

One State --> Two State?

Robert Wright puts forward the argument that strong, non-violent Palestinian agitation for one-state could actually pave the path to two-states by shaking Israeli moderates out of their apathy and breaking the hold that the Israeli far-right has over Israeli peace initiatives. In the post-script, he acknowledges some of the reasons why it won't work -- chief among them that the Palestinian Authority has no interest in a one-state solution where it will likely lose significant amounts of power. But I think even in his "best-case" layout -- where Palestinians do manage to create a massive grassroots non-violent protest for simple voting rights, and Hamas is somehow deterred from participating -- I'm highly doubtful that it will end up leading to two states rather than one.

The core observation Wright makes -- that it will be incredibly difficult for either Israel or the international community to resist a non-violent Palestinian campaign for voting rights in the polity that currently controls their lands, and that such a campaign poses the most serious and immediate existential threat to Israel's existence as a Jewish state -- is one I already agree with. I also agree that it may well shake Israeli moderates out of their torpor and put them in control over their more right-wing fellows.

But so what? It's not a given that, in a world where there is widespread international popular support for Palestinian demands, that the Palestinians would have any reason to accept two-states, or that the international community would suddenly withdraw their support if Palestinians did hold out for one state in the face of even a credible Israeli offer for a two-state solution. After all, many still believe (though I disagree, strongly) that a one-state solution is the first-best outcome -- they oppose the state of Israel on principle, not merely instrumentally insofar as it is a putative block to the existence of Palestinian nationhood. When the dream is in sight, why settle for the compromise?

Of course, this simply reinforces the fact that, regardless of whether it leads to a fair and just outcome for all parties, Wright's proposal is rather obviously the best practice for the Palestinians. It is virtually guaranteed to give them the minimum of what they want, and stands a good chance of giving them absolutely everything. Of course, groups often do not take the wisest of paths (witness the end of the settlement freeze), but there is a limit to how long Israel can count on the Palestinians being idiots. More than Iran, more than Hamas, this is the most dire threat to Israel's existence in the world today.


N. Friedman said...

The Wright article is BS because there is a sufficiently large group on the Palestinian side - and not just the Hamas group - which opposes any permanent settlement which allows for Jews to have any say in government. And, that groups is not so much ordinary Palestinian Arabs but, rather, the elite, both secular and religious.

To read Wright, one might think that Israel has it in its power to settle the dispute. It does not. And, those who claim otherwise have to, as Wright has done, basically elide all political thought from the Palestinian Arab side of the dispute. It misses the recent Fatah convention, where the majority opposed any settlement with Israel. It ignores the Hamas viewpoint, which holds that even negotiating with Israel, much less reaching a settlement, violates Islamic law.

Which is to say, this is the typical BS that those who do not care to learn what Palestinian Arabs think assert. It is ignorant, dangerous nonsense.

joe said...

David, what dream is in sight for the Palestinians? Israel holds all the cards. It is the party with the power in that relationship, the structure is clear. This is 101 stuff. Mere sympathy from the rest of the world means jack and squat.

Which, not incidentally, you yourself often point out in your campaign against various internet leftists who suggest Jews are mistaken for--how do you put it?--depending on tanks for protection instead of the world's goodwill. I'm not at all sure I have much in the way of policy disagreement with you, but this narrative where the Palestinians really have all the power but they just "never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity" is troubling in the extreme.

David Schraub said...

You misunderstand -- I mean the dream would be in site if we were in a situation where a non-violent Palestinian demand for full voting rights was in full swing and the global community had entirely lined up behind it -- where they did, in fact, enjoy all the momentum. That's not where we're at now, obviously. Though I do think the outcome of this conflict will largely rest on which party decides to stop being utter idiots first.

Read for comprehension, not for bitchiness.

N. Friedman said...


You would do well to reconsider your analysis. The main reason the dispute does not resolve is Islam. That is not something made up by Hamas. I would recommend that you read this passage from No God But God, Egypt and the Triumph of Islam, by Islam apologist Geneive Abdo. She writes (with me supplying emphasis):

The Grand Sheikh's battle with his conservative critics boiled over in December 1997, when Tantawi hosted an unprecedented meeting at al-Azhar with chief rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, leader of Israel's Ashkenazi Jews. Held just before the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, and amid growing outrage in the Arab world toward Israeli intransigence in the stalled Oslo peace process, Tantawi's meeting was nothing short of explosive. Ordinary Egyptians had never accepted the Camp David peace accords, or for that matter any attempt to normalize relations with Israel. Must Muslims saw the invitation of the chief rabbi into the very citadel of Sunni Islam as a complete betrayal of the fifty-year effort against the Jewish state.

Egypt's most respected Islamic thinker, Seleeem al-Awa, spoke for many when he bitterly denounced the visit on the front page of the Islamist daily al-Shaab and wrote a letter of protest to the Research Academy. "I did not believe my eyes when I read that the Grand Sheikh met the Zionist rabbi in Cairo.... It is as if the Zionists want to declare before the whole world that they have achieved normalization with the symbol of Sunni Islam and the entire Islamic world, and with the Sheikh of al-Azhar himself."

"Why did you headquarters become the site of normalization with the Zionists? How are we going to welcome Ramadan with the biggest spiritual defeat of the modern age?" al-Awa asked.

Tantawi was filled with consternation. He had never expected that such a meeting would outrage the Muslim world. Shaken and tense, he defended himself in a long interview with a Qatari satellite television channel that was broadcast in Egypt and across the Middle East. The interviewer asked Tantawi why he had decided to meet the rabbi, when his predecessor, Gad al-Haq, had refused.

"I followed in the footsteps of our Prophet, peace be upon him. He met Jews and had a dialogue with them.... Was I supposed to refuse to meet him, so he'll go to his country and say the Sheikh of al-Azhar was unable to meet me?"

"What is you answer to Dr. Seleem al-Awa who said this meeting is more dangerous than any form of normalization?" the interviewer asked.

"This is the logic of cowards and pacifists," Tantawi replied. "Can Dr. al-Awa deny that the Prophet and his companion Abu Bakr met with the Jews? And after that, they say 'normalization.' What normalization?"

Tantawi's response did little to pacify his critics with al-Azhar. In fact, the controversy handed the traditionalists the evidence they needed to challenge his suitability to hold Sunni Islam's highest position. "What we read about the meeting between the Sheikh of al-Azhar and the Israeli rabbi shocked us all," commented Yahya Ismail, the general-secretary of the Azhar's Scholars' Front. "We must abide by fatwas issued by senior scholars since 1936, which are official fatwas that forbid dealing with the occupying Jews with any weapon other than jihad (holy struggle) until they evacuate from our lands."

That, frankly, is how religious Muslims view the matter and BS'ing the dispute into something else does not change the underlying reality.

joe said...

David, "read for comprehension" is a common response from you, and in my case sometimes warranted. But in this case I understand very well: seems like the only thing under this model keeping the Palestinians from getting "the minimum of what they want" is their own collective inability to play Gandhi. "The dream would be in sight, if only they do XYZ to gain all the momentum" sounds a lot like "The dream is in sight, and they just need to do XYZ to see it realized." In any case it seems like putting the onus on, yes, the oppressed party. And that's a narrative that the US has internalized to a dangerous extent.

So though I am perhaps the second most argumentative reader of this blog, it's not bitchiness. It is a real critique based on what I understand to be your own critical terms, offered with respect.

N. Friedman said...


The issue here is to know what the minimal terms of the Palestinian Arabs are. My contention is that they cannot be met with Israel remaining a country governed by Jews. And that is, in my view, because Israel offends basic precepts of Islam, precepts accepted by nearly, if not all, Middle Eastern Muslims.

joe said...

That's certainly not the definition I'm going by, and I highly doubt it's David's, though he can speak for himself.

But I'm well aware of your reasoning for thinking the way you do, N., and I'm not gonna argue with you about it. Not this week.

N. Friedman said...


What you could say, if you want to make a serious, not a mindless, point, is that the religious barrier can be overcome, notwithstanding the attachment of a very large segment of Muslims who adhere to tradition. And, so that we are clear about the precept involved, I quote the world's leading expert on the subject, Bernard Lewis, from his famous book, The Muslim Discovery of Europe, where he writes:

In the Muslim world view the basic division of mankind is into the House of Islam (Dār al-Islām) and the House of War (Dar al-Harb). The one consists of all those countries where the law of Islam prevails, that is to say, broadly, the Muslim Empire; the latter is the rest of the world. Just as there is only one God in heaven, so there can be only one sovereign and one law on earth. Ideally, the House of Islam is conceived as a single community, governed by a single state, headed by a single sovereign. This state must tolerate and protect those unbelievers who are brought by conquest under its rule, provided, of course, that they are not polytheists but followers of one of the permitted religions. The logic of Islamic law, however, does not recognized the permanent existence of any other polity outside Islam. In time, in the Muslim view, all mankind will accept Islam or submit to Islamic rule. In the meantime, it is a religious duty of Muslims to struggle until this end is accomplished.

The name given by the Muslim jurists to this struggle is jihād, an Arabic word meaning effort or striving. One who performs this duty is called mujāhid. The word occurs several times in the Qur'ān in the sense of making war against the unbelievers. In the early centuries of Islamic expansion, this was its normal meaning. Between the House of Islam and the House of War there was, according to the sharī‘a, the Holy Law as formulated by the classical jurists, a state of war religiously and legally obligatory, which could end only with the conversion or subjugation of all mankind. A treaty of peace between the Muslim state and a non-Muslim state was thus in theory juridically impossible. The war, which would end only with the universal triumph of Islam, could not be terminated; it could only be interrupted for reasons of necessity or of expediency by a truce. Such a truce, according to the jurists, could only be provisional. It should not exceed ten years and could, at any time, be repudiated unilaterally by the Muslims who, however, were obliged by Muslim law to give the other side due notice before resuming hostilities.

As I see it, if you do not recognize the above described doctrine as creating an abyss for settlement - with the Hamas group pledging its allegiance to the doctrine repeatedly -, you are talking BS.

David Schraub said...

Why yes, Joe, I will put the onus on the "oppressed party" to cease a politics based on overt advocacy of genocidal destruction, on both moral and tactical grounds. I iz bad progreziv like that.

N. Friedman said...

Why David, your most recent comment is the first thing you have said, on this page, with which I can say I wholeheartedly agree.

What you, however, still need to recognize is why, in fact, what you would want to happen will not happen, at least not in the foreseeable future. The answer, I am afraid, is stated in the Hamas covenant, which makes Israel's destruction the will of the Almighty. And, frankly, those who built a political party based on a religious doctrine, as Hamas has done, would be committing suicide to walk away from their sacred pledge. Putting it in terms that make sense to Americans, the Hamas view of your proposal amounts to Hamas all hanging separately (as in the famed saying in our country's history, we can all hang together or we shall surely hang separately).

N. Friedman said...

Reading the most recent article by the famed Israeli historian, Benny Morris, I am always happy to see my thinking corresponds with that of an expert on the dispute. He writes, with reference to Christopher Hitchens and his view of the dispute:

In "Hitch-22" this is somehow omitted. Rather, the often-enlightened Hitchens (who provided a roof and haven for his friend Salman Rushdie when he was under an Islamist death sentence, and who speaks quite forthrightly about "Islamist murderers" and cowardly, naive or deluded Western liberals bent on appeasing these "murderers"), fails to note the continuous, powerful religious impulse underlying the Palestinian national struggle since its inception in the 1920s. (What other national liberation movement in modern times, with the exception of that of the Greek Cypriots, was led by a cleric?). Who, if not the Islamists, won the Palestinian general elections in 2006?

(Emphasis added).

That is the problem with the joe and David's discussion. They simply do not understand this part of the dispute. So, they discuss things that are not as if they were.

joe said...

David, I don't know what's with the scare quotes unless you seriously believe that forty years of occupation can be anything but a form of oppression. But that's tangential.

The real issue here is two-fold. (1) The wrongness of claiming that the Palestinians have been allowed much agency in this situation given the power dynamics. It is simply not accurate (though we in the U.S. love to blame the Palestinians for the acts of other groups of Arabs--or "Arabs," in the case of Iran--who do have the benefit of self-determination and whose leaders have shown they don't give a shit about Palestinians except as geopolitical pawns).

And (2) Please forgive the lolspeak, which you brought into this, but you're not just placing a negative requirement of "don't genocide me bro, for realz" (in and of itself that's a reasonable request, but in this context there's an assumption Palestinians are so stereotypically rabid and suicidal that they would clutch onto the offending charters and fatwas rather than take an actual fair deal* as a way out). Whether intentional or not, you're blaming the problem on a failure of the side without the power to affirmatively organize itself in such a way politically as to conduct protests that would create the maximum amount of outside sympathy. That's all kinds of fucked up even without remembering how Israeli policy undermines that kind of thing (and since you tacitly admit in your original post that there's a zero-sum-game going on under the status quo, and playing Gandhi is like a magic bullet, it stands to reason that the undermining is intentional because, hey, otherwise the Palestinians might totally force the dissolution of Israel as a Jewish state by simply playing on the heartstrings of their occupiers).

* And no, they've never had a chance to accept a fair deal because there has never been one on the table. There's a very simple way to test this: Do you imagine Israel would ever accept a deal where it gets to be demilitarized for all intents and purposes and dependent on the benevolence of a neighbor who makes painfully clear that it holds the value of Israeli lives several orders of magnitude below those of its own? Where that's just one among many features of statehood that would be denied under such a deal?

joe said...

David, I don't know what's with the scare quotes unless you seriously believe that forty years of occupation can be anything but a form of oppression. But that's tangential.

The real issue here is two-fold. (1) The wrongness of claiming that the Palestinians have been allowed much agency in this situation given the power dynamics. That's just not accurate (though we in the U.S. love to blame the Palestinians for the acts of other groups of Arabs--or "Arabs," in the case of Iran--who do have the benefit of self-determination and whose leaders have shown they don't give a shit about Palestinians except as geopolitical pawns).

And (2) You're not just placing a negative requirement of "don't genocide me bro, for realz" (which is reasonable enough if we just look on its face, but in this context there's an assumption that Palestinians are so stereotypically rabid and suicidal that they would clutch onto the offending charters and fatwas rather than take an actual fair deal* as a way out). Whether intentional or not, you're blaming the problem on a failure of the side without the power to affirmatively organize itself in such a way politically as to conduct protests that would create the maximum amount of outside sympathy. That's all kinds of fucked up even without remembering how Israeli undermines that kind of thing (and since you tacitly admit in your original post that there's a zero-sum game going on under the status quo and that playing Gandhi is like a magic bullet, it stands to reason that the undermining is intentional because, hey, Palestinians might totally get their act together and force the dissolution of Israel as a Jewish state by simply appealing to the kindly nature of their occupiers).

* And no, Israel has never offered a "fair deal." There's a very simple way to test this: Do you imagine Israel would ever accept a deal where it gets to be demilitarized for all intents and purposes and dependent on the benevolence of a neighbor who makes painfully clear that it holds the value of Israeli lives several orders of magnitude below those of its own? Among many other features of statehood that would be denied under such a deal? Of course not, and if it's nothing Israel would ever agree to for itself, it is in now way fair.

N. Friedman said...


What BS. A more accurate explanation, which does not treat Palestinian Arabs like infants, comes from Benny Morris, who writes, in the same article previously quoted:

In "Hitch-22" Hitchens approvingly cites (and expands) a metaphor coined (I think) by Jeffrey Goldberg, a correspondent for The Atlantic: A man (the Zionist Jew), to save himself, leaps from a burning building (anti-Semitic and Holocaust Europe) and lands on an innocent bystander (a Palestinian), crushing him. To which Hitchens adds - and the falling man lands on the Palestinian again and again (the conquest of the West Bank and Gaza, the suppression of the intifadas, the construction of settlements in the territories, etc.).

But the metaphor is disingenuous, and it requires amplification to conform to the facts of history. In fact, as the leaping man nears the ground he offers the bystander a compromise - let's share the pavement, some for you, some for me. The bystander responds with a firm "no," and tries, again and again (1920, 1921, 1929, the Arab Revolt of 1936-39 and the 1947-48 War of Independence), to stab the falling man as he descends to the pavement. So the leaping man lands on the bystander, crushing him. Later, again and again, the leaping man, now firmly ensconced on the pavement, offers the crushed bystander a compromise ("autonomy" in 1978, a "two-state solution" in 2000 and in 2008), and again and again the bystander says "no."

Which is to say, your occupation theory does not confirm to reality. It is a fantasy theory based on a distortion of what has occurred. It soothes the emotions, seemingly siding with the weaker party. But it is, frankly, the result of believing the Big Lie - nonsense repeated over and over again until smart people like you cannot tell fact from fantasy.

joe said...

"Compromises" under which Israel gives up some settlements that were cynically encouraged in the first place so it could later use them as a bargaining chip to keep other settlements it cares about. "Compromises" whereby Palestinians give up territory (and the right to say "no" to letting a foreign stste have right-of-way through the territory it does keep) for the "security needs" of a military power that is vastly superior by every measure (and that's just in conventional terms, before we even get to the nuclear arsenal and the alliance with US). "Compromises" whereby Israel demands the meeting of preconditions before even talking about doing the plainly right thing and respecting another people's self-determination.

As for the rest, N., read up on some feminist theory or something to see how power structures work.

N. Friedman said...


Again, you are reading BIG LIES. Real compromises were offered, which would have provided Palestinian Arabs with what they, by their own leaders' published words, asserted to be acceptable.

The December 2000 compromise, as explained by Dennis Ross (Foreign Policy (Foreign Policy July-August 2002, "Think Again: Yasir Arafat"):

To this day, Arafat has never honestly admitted what was offered to the Palestinians—a deal that would have resulted in a Palestinian state, with territory in over 97 percent of the West Bank, Gaza, and Jerusalem; with Arab East Jerusalem as the capital of that state (including the holy place of the Haram al-Sharif, the Noble Sanctuary); with an international presence in place of the Israeli Defense Force in the Jordan Valley; and with the unlimited right of return for Palestinian refugees to their state but not to Israel. Nonetheless, Arafat continues to hide behind the canard that he was offered Bantustans—a reference to the geographically isolated black homelands created by the apartheid-era South African government. Yet with 97 percent of the territory in Palestinian hands, there would have been no cantons. Palestinian areas would not have been isolated or surrounded. There would have been territorial integrity and contiguity in both the West Bank and Gaza, and there would have been independent borders with Egypt and Jordan.

“The offer was never written” is a refrain uttered time and again by apologists for Chairman Arafat as a way of suggesting that no real offer existed and that therefore Arafat did not miss a historic opportunity. Nothing could be more ridiculous or misleading. President Clinton himself presented both sides with his proposal word by word. I stayed behind to be certain both sides had recorded each word accurately. Given Arafat’s negotiating style, Clinton was not about to formalize the proposal, making it easier for Arafat to use the final offer as just a jumping-off point for more ceaseless bargaining in the future.

The compromise can be confirmed by reading the explanation found on the Embassy of Saudi Arabia to the US website, where Prince Bandar describes the same event and calls Arafat a liar.

N. Friedman said...


I should have provided you with a link. Here it is.

Of interest from the article:

Clinton, who continued to apply his considerable energy to finding a Middle East solution, came to believe, in December of 2000, that he had finally found a formula for peace; he asked once more for Bandar's help. Bandar's first reaction was not to get involved; the Syrian summit had failed, and talks between Barak and Arafat at Camp David, in July, had collapsed. But when Dennis Ross showed Bandar the President's talking papers Bandar recognized that in its newest iteration the peace plan was a remarkable development. It gave Arafat almost everything he wanted, including the return of about ninety-seven per cent of the land of the occupied territories; all of Jerusalem except the Jewish and Armenian quarters, with Jews preserving the right to worship at the Temple Mount; and a thirty-billion-dollar compensation fund.

Arafat told Crown Prince Abdullah that he wanted Bandar's help with the negotiations. "There's not much I can do unless Arafat is willing to understand that this is it," Bandar told the Crown Prince.

On January 2, 2001, Bandar picked up Arafat at Andrews Air Force Base and reviewed the plan with him. Did he think he could get a better deal? Bandar asked. Did he prefer Sharon to Barak? he continued, referring to the upcoming election in Israel. Of course not, Arafat replied. Barak's negotiators were doves, Bandar went on, and said, "Since 1948, every time we've had something on the table we say no. Then we say yes. When we say yes, it's not on the table anymore. Then we have to deal with something less. Isn't it about time we say yes?" Bandar added, "We've always said to the Americans, 'Our red line is Jerusalem. You get us a deal that's O.K. on Jerusalem and we're going, too.' "


N. Friedman said...


Arafat said that he understood, but still Bandar issued something of an ultimatum: "Let me tell you one more time. You have only two choices. Either you take this deal or we go to war. If you take this deal, we will all throw our weight behind you. If you don't take this deal, do you think anybody will go to war for you?" Arafat was silent. Bandar continued, "Let's start with the big country, Egypt. You think Egypt will go to war with you?" Arafat had had his problems with Egypt, too. No, he said. "I'll prove it to you, just to confirm," Bandar went on. Bandar called the Egyptian Ambassador. Bandar reported that the Egyptian Ambassador, who was to join them shortly, was willing to support the peace process. "Is Jordan going to go to war? Syria go to war? So, Mr. Arafat, what are you losing?"

When Nabil Fahmy, the Egyptian Ambassador, joined them, at the Ritz-Carlton, Bandar repeated much of his advice. Arafat said that he would accept Clinton's proposal, with one condition: he wanted Saudi Arabia and Egypt to give him political cover and support. Bandar and Fahmy assured him that they would, and Arafat left for the White House.

Arafat was supposed to return to Bandar's house after his meeting with Clinton and, with the Egyptian Ambassador present, call the Crown Prince and President Mubarak. After three hours, when Arafat still hadn't shown up, the Egyptian Ambassador told Bandar that something must have gone wrong. Bandar, too, was worried and called Arafat's security detail. Arafat had left the White House twenty minutes earlier, he was told, and was back at the Ritz. When Bandar called, Arafat said that he needed to talk to him at once. George Tenet, the C.I.A. director, was on his way to the hotel to discuss the plan, and Arafat was then supposed to return to the White House. Bandar, accompanied by the Egyptian Ambassador, hurried to the Ritz.


N. Friedman said...


Arafat said that the meeting with Clinton had been "excellent," but Bandar did not believe him; he thought that Arafat's staff looked as if they had just come from a funeral. The Egyptian Ambassador later privately remarked that Arafat looked dead. Bandar asked Arafat if he wanted to talk to the Crown Prince or President Mubarak. No, Arafat replied. He said that he'd had a great time with the President, but the meeting had turned sour when Dennis Ross joined them. Yet, he went on, he and Clinton were in agreement. Bandar, concealing his disbelief, said that was good news. Soon after this exchange, Bandar got a note from a security officer, which said, "Urgent. Call the President." In the corridor, Bandar called the White House and reached Berger.

"Congratulations," Bandar said, loudly and sarcastically, for he knew by then that the talks had failed. On what? Berger asked. "Arafat is telling me you guys have a deal." Not true, Berger said, adding that he and Clinton had made it clear to Arafat that this was his last chance. Please, Berger said, tell Arafat that this is it. "It's too late," Bandar recalls saying. "That should have happened with the White House, not with me." (A spokesman for Clinton recalled, "At one point, Clinton said, 'It's five minutes to twelve, Mr. Chairman, and you are going to lose the best and maybe the only opportunity that your people will have to solve this problem on satisfactory grounds by not being able to make a decision.' . . . The Israelis accepted. They said they had reservations and Arafat never accepted.")

Bandar believed that the White House had hurt its cause by not pressing an ultimatum. Arafat, though, was committing a crime against the Palestinians-in fact, against the entire region. If it weren't so serious, Bandar thought, it would be a comedy. He returned to Arafat's room and sat down, trying to remember: "Make your words soft and sweet." Bandar began, "Mr. President, I want to be sure now. You're telling me you struck a deal?" When Arafat said it was so, Bandar, still hiding his fury, offered his congratulations. His wife and children were waiting for him in Aspen, he said, and he wanted to go. Bandar could see the life draining out of Arafat. He started to leave, then turned around. "I hope you remember, sir, what I told you. If we lose this opportunity, it is not going to be a tragedy. This is going to be a crime." When Bandar looked at Arafat's staff, their faces showed incredulity.


N. Friedman said...


The next evening, a White House spokesman said that Arafat had agreed to accept Clinton's proposals, with reservations, only as the basis for new talks. Arafat said later that he had not been offered as much as had been described. When Bandar told all this to the Crown Prince, Abdullah was surprised, particularly about the offer on Jerusalem. A few months later, Abdullah asked Clinton, who was visiting Saudi Arabia, whether Bandar's description of the offer was correct. Clinton confirmed Bandar's details, and said that the failure of these last negotiations had broken his heart. Later still, the Crown Prince told Bandar he was shocked that Arafat had wasted such an opportunity, and that he had lied to him about the American offer. Bandar told associates that it was an open secret within the Arab world that Arafat was not truthful. But Arafat had them trapped: they couldn't separate the cause from the man, because if you attacked the man you attacked the cause. "Clinton, the bastard, really tried his best," Bandar told me last week when we met at his house in McLean. "And Barak's position was so avant-garde that it was equal to Prime Minister Rabin"-Yitzhak Rabin, who was assassinated in November, 1995. "It broke my heart that Arafat did not take that offer."


But as violence in the Middle East intensified and Barak blamed Arafat for the failure of the peace talks, Bandar began to worry. The Arab world was watching Al Jazeera, the satellite television network, which was constantly showing images of Israeli soldiers and suffering Palestinians. Bandar understood as well as anyone why Bush did not want to get involved. It was a mess, and Bush made it clear that he had no prestige to waste. Bandar was particularly angry with Arafat because if he publicly defended Barak's account it would make him sound like an apologist for Barak and Israel. "I was there. I was a witness. I cannot lie," he said privately.

Again, joe, you are believing the BIG LIE.

David Schraub said...

I think that when perhaps the most popular political faction of a given group is openly allied with a regional power that has made at least semi-serious threats to irradiate another group out of existence, and has specifically endorsed the mass murder of that other group, and has taken every step in its power to try and effectuate those murders, our discussion of "oppression" has to have a little more nuance than otherwise might be the case. You want some feminism? Try looking up kyriarchy.

I'm not sure why important segments of Palestinian civil society are seemingly so attached to ethnic cleansing and genocide as an explicit end goal (some Israelis are explicitly wedded to that end as well, but it is a considerably smaller portion. We can also argue that larger segments of each group are sub silentio wedded to this desire, but, as explained below, these discussions are hard enough without assuming that anyone we dislike is a pathological liar). There isn't any clear story why relative Palestinian powerlessness should act as a bar to disclaiming genocidal ambitions -- loads of groups with considerably less power than the Palestinians have managed to do it in tandem with effective struggles for freedom, and indeed, plenty of Palestinians have managed to do it as well (and one notes that it is these groups that have secured nearly all of the tangible gains towards Palestinian statehood). NF is quite right that Jor id infantalizing them -- "powerlessness" isn't some mantra you can chant to excuse any retrograde brutality, and it is a grave disservice to feminism to cite it for that repulsive principle. That's how feminism is caricatured, not what it argues.

The simplest explanation for why Hamas and other likeminded groups maintain a belief in vitriolic anti-Semitism is that the stance is important to them. It's an idiotic stance to take from a perspective of attaining an independent state for Palestinians, but it is unclear (to say the least) that goal is Hamas' top priority. Ideas matter, and Hamas has an idea regarding what the future of Israel and Palestine should look like.

Contra NF, that doesn't mean we simply wave off the legitimate Palestinian demands for statehood, or omit their suffering from the equation. Contra Joe, we also don't assume that the leadership of Hamas is made up of pathological liars (contra NF, we don't assume that of the PA either -- or all Muslims, as he loves to do with his circular "Islamist" arguments).

Any solution has to involve taking both Israelis and Palestinians seriously -- both as full humans with rights, and as full humans who can be trusted to state their desires. It is rather amazing that neither of you take Palestinians seriously (or, really, Israelis that seriously), which is part of the reason I can't take either of you seriously. NF doesn't seriously consider their legitimate rights claims as anything but convenient fiction, and Joe considers them to be so politically disabled as to be incapable of expressing coherent thought.

Both of you are supremely non-unique and uninteresting cells in the festering cancer that is the discourse around this conflict. So please, both of you, do me a favor and cease conversing about the issue (at least here -- though I think the world would be better off if it were anywhere). I've had feedback from folks whose opinions I actually do think are worthwhile that they're not partaking in my comment section because they find it sophomoric and repetitious, and I can't say I disagree. So let's clean house.

N. Friedman said...


I do consider Palestinian Arabs to have legitimate claims. What I do not agree to is that such are the claims actually asserted by Palestinian Arabs. And, I do not think that Fatah is agreeable to legitimate demands. Rather, they have largely reverted to the line they held back in the 1960's. And, Fatah is the more moderate of the two major parties. So, I think we are going nowhere and that the end result of the current round of negotiations is that a lot more people will get killed.

And, it is a distraction from dealing with Iran, a country which openly espouses its intentions to commit genocide.

joe said...

David, I too pretty much find everyone else (and it's funny because I mean, really, just everyone from all corners even if they almost see it my way) pisses me off in discussing that conflict and holds some reprehensible view or other. I never thought in terms of cancer, but it's an interesting analogy. Unfortunately, in situations like that, dialogue--including the confrontation of ideas--is still frequently required.

And since you ask nicely, I won't comment on the issue again, beyond this post. But I won't let you just misstate my views and skip away with the last word like that. (NF, who I've mostly not been engaging with lately, can and probably will have the last word if he wants.) So, no problem with cleaning of house, but I'm clearing the air first.

First, whether you recognize it or not, I'm not one of your leftist punching bags who's all "Israel lobby" this, "boycott" that. What I do believe is that if we can't even take an accurate, no bull assessment of the I/P conflict, reaching a solution becomes that much harder. So that's why I'm unsympathetic to obsessing over the Hamas charter or deflecting to Iran. There's a lot of terrible shit out there, but at the end of the day there is still an occupation going on, occupations are prima facie oppressive, the occupier is the main actor and bears the primary degree of responsibility.

(Continued for character limit...)

joe said...

Indeed, it's that responsibility that does impose a major outside influence on the actions of the occupied. I believe Hamas, genocidal platform and all, has had a great partnership with Israel in its rise to power because Israel had a long time since '67 to set things right before Hamas even formed. And I absolutely believe if there is a Palestinian Gandhi, Israel would do its utmost to undermine him (if it hasn't already). The fact is, Israel has shown it can live pretty comfortably with the status quo, at least in the present, so (democratic political leadership being a shortsighted creature) why make a real effort? To see where the power in the relationship lies, we can get a pretty good idea from looking at who has suffered the greatest harm over the course of that relationship. Cf Cast Lead. Hamas could disappear tomorrow and I do not believe for one second that Netanyahu would strike a fair deal given the disparities in power. That's the ultimate problem of agency, whether actions affect the larger course of events. If being good nets the same result as being evil, there's still a moral duty but that's not the same having power.

(I also admit I'm confused why you'd even mourn the lack of a Palestinian Gandhi, David, when Wright correctly notes he'd undoubtedly be in bed with the BDS movement you despise so much... if even the peaceful alternative ends up branded beyond the pale, looks like relative helplessness to me!)

Finally, I'm pretty sure no serious discussion of kyriarchy holds "Oh we have these intersectionalities--that means it all evens out and we apportion blame equally." (Which, in any event, we in the US don't do with our good-and-plucky-little-Israel-versus-big-bad-Hamas-and-all-Arabs-everywhere-and-also-Iran narratives.) That's a dodge. Power relationships are not equal just because they end up victimizing everyone in some way. In this relationship the occupation is an ongoing injustice. Palestinians have not had more than a limited vote in how they have been ruled for decades. And you can blame Arafat and others for it getting this bad, and as a utilitarian I do too because of the human toll taken to date. But just because the Palestinians have not made the best of a bad hand doesn't justify stacking the deck in perpetuity.

So yeah, that's my comprehensive last post on the issue, respond if you want and I assure you I'll still leave it alone. But I make no apologies for standing up to what the Fresh Prince might call flipped turned upside-down narratives... or to falsely-equivalent characterizations of my comments with NF's ridiculous views.

N. Friedman said...


The problem I have with your presentations is that you do not even consider facts. You just dismiss them, even when, as here, the world's leading scholar on the subject seems to agree with me.

So, what you are saying is that you know so much more than Benny Morris that he, too, is ridiculous. After all, he shares my ridiculous view. And, he has written a rather brilliant book (One State, Two States), which if you ever read books you might consider reading, showing the folly of your viewpoint; that it is contradicted by the known facts.

In other words, you are full of it. At least David, with whom I disagree but whom I respect, goes to the trouble, at least occasionally, to read facts. You, by contrast, make it up as you go along.

So, on your view, the Israelis offered nothing, even though, in fact, they offered what the Palestinian Arabs, by multiple sources, claim to have sought. You have no explanation for any of that. So, you dismiss it as ridiculous. In other words, you are unwilling to even engage in a fact driven discussion. You merely know that the Israelis are oppressors. You know that Hamas, notwithstanding its covenant, can't really mean what it says. You know better than us all.

In other words, you do not care about evidence. You only care about what you think. Pathetic.

joe said...

More like I find your posting style very irritating and your arguments entirely repetitive and longwinded. So I try not to engage with you too much anymore because the most interesting part of it is seeing if I can get you to post five maxed-out entries in a row. My earnest advice is you'd probably succeed at getting more people to play with you for extended periods if you tightened things up a bit and didn't always insist on taking the last word. I don't always achieve perfect self-awareness myself on these things, but I do try, and you might benefit from doing the same.

As for your the substance of your assertions, I gave my word not to argue the point anymore, so I won't. But this being the Debate Link, here's a tip on debate technique in general: A gifted and accomplished historian or academic can hold very wrongheaded, even reprehensible political views. Don't argue from authority.

N. Friedman said...


Consider: you asserted that the Israeli were merely oppressors and had offered nothing. I cited to Professor Morris, an authority on the subject, to show that such view cannot be maintained with a straight face. You responded that what was offered was nothing. I then showed, with evidence, that the Israelis offered what, to any rational mind, that a rather generous offer was refused by Arafat, one that met exactly what Arafat had publicly demanded.

You chose not to deal with those facts. Then, you called my position, which follows from those facts, ridiculous. How, other than to note that my view aligns with the leading historian on the entire dispute, can I respond?

Consider: so far as can be discerned, you have never even picked up a book on the dispute. So, we are having a discussion, where I have read literally dozens of books on the dispute and you, so far as I know, have read none. You do not know the facts. You do not know anything about Arabs, about Islam or about the history. Yet, you call my view ridiculous.

When I do not know something, I pick up a book. Once upon a time, I knew nothing about Islam. I decided, however, that such is not acceptable. So, I went to the library and took out, over the course of a few years, some hundred books and immersed myself in Islamic texts, theology, law and history. So, I actually know something. I am not an expert, to be sure, but at least when I write about the matter, what I write is consistent with not only what major scholars write but what the texts themselves contain.

So, perhaps, when I state something ridiculous, you might perhaps consider the possibility that my view is, in fact, not ridiculous, even if I am ultimately wrong. And, perhaps, you might too pick up a book.

N. Friedman said...


Strike: "I then showed, with evidence, that the Israelis offered what, to any rational mind, that a rather generous offer was refused by Arafat, one that met exactly what Arafat had publicly demanded."

Substitute: "I then showed, with evidence, that the Israelis offered what, to any rational mind, was a rather generous offer but it was refused by Arafat - the offering being one that met exactly what Arafat had publicly demanded."

joe said...

You'd be surprised to learn, then, that I've read my share of Morris, and respect him as a historian because though he has a definite point of view, he writes serious history instead of ideological claptrap.

So. Lesson number 3: Don't pull a lot of assumptions about others out of thin air. You don't know me, I don't know you. Don't be a dick. And don't namedrop everything you've ever read related to the general topic--you may impress people who really know nothing about it, but to the rest of us it comes across as pretentious and insecure.

And while we're at it, here's number 4: Don't whine about someone not responding to you on a given topic when the host asks everyone to drop it.

Lessons over, now here's the test: I'm out, done with the entire conversation in addition to the particular topic I've already dropped, per David's request. Will you go with the urge to get the last word in and say the same thing you said last post? (I think David, PG, and Rebecca have all bothered arguing with you more than I have in recent weeks, so maybe you'll get lucky and snag someone else.) For half credit, will you actually say something new or at least not pointlessly argumentative? Or for full credit, can you entirely restrain yourself from adding to the now-defunct conversation?

Guess we'll find out!

N. Friedman said...


I did not notice that you wanted us to stop on this topic. While I bristle at your comment that my views are cancerous or prevent others from posting (and it is easy for anyone to post here, no matter what anyone else says), it is your blog and for you to decide whether you want debate - which implies allowing expression of differing views (about which all involved - you too - have predictable views) - or merely to have people who agree with you post.

Either way, I apologize for continuing when you requested otherwise.