Hezbollah, Israel, Lebanon

Master and Pupil

At some point in 2006, I recall asking a friend of mine what he thought of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had recently been elected President of Iran. This friend (known to readers of this blog as “Abbas“) is a Lebanese Shiite living in Beirut, and a devoted partisan of Hizbullah. The conversation went something like this:

QN: So what do you think of this new Iranian president? Ahmadinejad?

Abbas: Fantastic. I love him.

QN: You like him better than Khatami?

Abbas: Definitely.

QN: How do you think Hizbullah feels about him? Will he serve the party’s interests?

Abbas: Of course he will. Who do you think brought him to power?

That’s right. Such is the mystique of Hizbullah in Lebanon that it wouldn’t be completely outlandish for someone to claim that the Iranian president’s rise was facilitated by the influence of his Lebanese allies. Nasrallah, after all, was a regional rock star while Ahmadinejad was revoking parking tickets as mayor of Tehran. (This was the gist of the discussion that followed, between me and Abbas).

Obviously, Abbas’s point was just another silly conspiracy theory (which we absolutely never tolerate on this blog), but it raises an interesting question. For the past few years, Iran’s reputation in Lebanon seems to have been tied to the fortunes of Hizbullah. Nasrallah was the public face of Iranian ambitions in the Levant, enjoying a 10% lead in popularity across the region over Ahmadinejad (according to the University of Maryland and Zogby International’s Arab Public Opinion Poll). This meant that more Arabs admired Nasrallah than they did Ahmadinejad, and anecdotally this struck one as true: Nasrallah’s popularity across the region was untouchable from the end of the July War through at least March 2008, and both Ahmadinejad and Bashar al-Assad seemed to be riding on Nasrallah’s coattails.

In 2009, something happened. Nasrallah and Ahmadinejad took a major beating in the regional popularity polls (conducted in April-May 2009), while Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez shot from 9th place to 1st. How to explain this reversal of fortunes? Here’s my highly unscientific hypothesis:

  1. After the May 2008 events in Lebanon (which occurred after the 2008 poll was conducted), Hizbullah’s reputation among Sunnis across the region was (temporarily) tarnished.
  2. In early 2009, the region watched Israel attack Gaza as Hizbullah sat on its hands, unwilling to provoke another confrontation in Lebanon.
  3. Meanwhile, Hugo Chavez accused Israel of committing genocide and expelled the Israeli ambassador from Caracas. Presto: instant celebrity.

Now, Chavez’s resistance credentials in the Arab-Israeli conflict are nothing compared to Hizbullah’s and Iran’s. But the fact of his turnaround seemed to count for something. Iran couldn’t dismiss its Israeli ambassador because it doesn’t have one. And if Ahmadinejad blamed Israel for committing genocide, no one would notice because he does this on his way to work each day. Meanwhile, the Chavez effect repeated itself this year. Who was the most admired leader in the Arab world  in 2010? Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Where was he in the polls in 2008 and 2009? Last place and second-to-last, respectively. While he also criticized the Gaza assault, his real surge in popularity was almost certainly tied to the flotilla incident.

This is a very circuitous way of saying that I found myself wondering today, as I listened to Nasrallah’s speech welcoming Ahmadinejad to Beirut, whether Iran is trying to step out of Hizbullah’s shadow in Lebanon. That sounds odd to hear, given the nature of their relationship. But I think that it’s not that far-fetched to imagine that Iran’s ambitions include winning over non-Shi’a Lebanese through a mixture of investment projects, military aid, assistance in energy exploration and infrastructure development.

After all, as we’ve seen, even Hizbullah’s popularity can take a hit. The party cannot keep Lebanon in Iran’s orbit all by itself. Thoughts?
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528 thoughts on “Master and Pupil

  1. Oh I forgot to mention how much we love Syrians, especially Syrian workers and all other Sri Lankan Sudanese and Filipino workers and maids. Our Lebanese “Madames” our ambassadors of Human Rights and Compassion, their love causes maids to fly from balconies.

    Posted by V | October 17, 2010, 2:50 am
  2. HP,

    I’ll try to keep my comments on the topic, but naturally from my perspective, I’ll also try to add the “Israeli side” of each equation.

    Benefitting from my “newbie” status on this blog, I’ll ask a question that you may have debated here before, but is very important for me, regarding those 400,000 Palestinians living in Lebanon. Do you see a realistic chance they’ll be naturalized? From “my side” of the equation, I can tell you the chances any of them will be allowed into Israel in the near future is nil. I’m not talking about Right-of-Return into a future Palestine, but merely into Israel. A few thousands, maybe a bit more, could be. But certainly not hundreds of thousands. So what will be of those refugees?

    As for a possible attack on Iran, the best answer any Israeli can give you (and that probably includes Benjamin Netanyahu himself) is… “Who Knows”. I don’t think any Israeli thinks we’re going to stop Iran’s nuclear program, or nuclear ambitions. Some Israelis, that are trigger-happy in general, have been calling for an attack for a long time now. God-knows what kind of all-out war could develop, if we were ever foolish enough to attack. I don’t think anyone half-serious could disregard scenarios involving HA, Hamas, and of course Syria. It could easily develop into all-out regional war, that will be, by all accounts, catastrophic.

    Posted by Shai | October 17, 2010, 3:34 am
  3. Shai, thanks for addressing the question on Iran; I appreciate your opinion, as always.

    On the Palestinians question, I have to start with the disclaimer that, not living in Lebanon, although having relatives there, my answer will not necessarily be the prevalent opinion. Having said that, it is my personal opinion that these Palestinians will need to be predominantly absorbed into Lebanese citizenship. This would have to be coupled with fair and reasonable reforms in the Lebanese political system, including the eventual elimination of the confessional system. At the same time, there has to be (not sure how easy) and definitive migration towards a single authority in the country in the hands of the central government, democratically elected through a process of one person, one vote. That may be utopia, however, at least in the short term.

    The official pronouncements from EVERYONE in Lebanon is that they will never allow the settlement of the Palestinians in Lebanon. I think this is hogwash but who knows. I believe it is quite understood by anyone with any sense of reason that the majority of the Lebanese Palestinians will never go back to Israel proper, and it is doubtful whether any significant fraction will go back to a new Palestinian state. In the context of an overall peace between all the ME countries, it is not unreasonable to see the settlement working, but a key ingredient will be appropriate economic compensation and a primordial ingredient will be the fair distribution of this compensation with no thieves padding their pockets in the process.

    Maybe the wiser political thinkers on this blog, with QN in the lead, might chime in on your question with a deeper, more in-the-know perspective.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 17, 2010, 4:01 am
  4. “Just like Rani I thought that I will not comment on this thread again but here I am.”

    Well also Rani is back, in short

    “Sorry to bud in on this topic, being neither Jewish nor Lebanese, but….”

    You came here to make war? or make peace or at least understanding?. Why not to learn?There are too many war mongers already. The blood shed will not be your blood. Think about it if you can. And you, lurkers think about people like that.

    “Really, AIG. Is it that hard to believe that Lebanese Jews left because Israel was richer, more stable and more westernized? And they shared bonds of religious kinship? And that Israel was practically begging Arab Jews to emigrate?”

    MOST OF THEM WENT TO THE USA & CANADA !!!!!. They wanted to get away from the mad cursed Levant for ever. In the USA & Canada they were helped also by Israelies and Zionists. You dont know what you are talking about.

    “Plus, Wadi El jamil was very near to the Green Line (I knew the area pretty well, my friends went to the french lycee in that neighborbood). It was ground zero for sniper activity, indiscriminate mortar/rpg night shelling, road blocks (hawajeez) you name it. It was insanity on steroid.”
    BUT THE JEWS WERE NOT SHOOTING AT ANY BODY NEVER!!! EVER !!! on no acount. BY YOUR DEFINITION THEY WERE THE ONLY SANE PEOPLE THERE !!! what you are saying is that because Christians were (are) killing Muslims and Muslims were (are) killing Christians every body is allowed to kill Jews, or terrorize them, or burn their property.

    “At any rate, as I and others have mentioned before, nothing is stopping Lebanese Jews from returning to their homes. It’s hard to call it ethnic cleansing if they can go back whenever they want.”
    JEW CAN NOW GO TO GERMANY AND THEY DO !!! so what?. People with Jewish names are stopped at Beirut air port, TODAY !! Jews who returened to Egypt were terrorized by the police. A Jew that went to Libya was jailed. Lebanon is flooded by antisemitic propaganda. Are you joking? Any body who can is NOW leaving Lebanon. What will happen to them in Lebanon, even now Lebanese can not go anywhere in their own country. Can any body promis such returning Jews that their life and property will be safe? Dont you have any shame.

    “many of this Jewish immigration came after the mossad committed terrorist acts in these countries against the Jews to convince them to leave”.
    YHA sure and then the mossad killed Junbelat, Hariri, and hundred of pepole in Lebanon. Jews were killing Jews so that other Jews will move to Israel and then they killed Christian children to make Maza.

    “It is hard to claim ethnic cleansing when the alleged victims can return anytime they want”.
    They can retured, but then what will happened starting at the air port?

    “Here’s a good one for you. The synagogue in Beirut is being restored right now (btw it was an IDF shell that crashed its roof)”

    It is not a “good one”. Shame on the writer. The Jews are gone. If you put a Mammoth in a museum to attract visitors and tourists that will not make it alive. That synagogue will be a monument to a nation, to a people, that lived in Lebanon since the start of written Lebanese history, before Christianity and Islam and 100% “vanished” “cleaned ” for ever. And as I wrote before if I could I would have placed there a big question mark with the word why? and an old Levatine saying: “After Saturday Came Sunday”
    As for the shameful joke about the “Israeli Shell” 1)Who checked the shell? 2)From the look of it synagogue was not destroyed and desecrated and every thing stealable stolen by one shell.

    In Short: I will accept some points said about my use of ethnic cleaning. Realy I just wanted some Lebanese people to think about their own history before they throw stones and or demonize my country, Israel. But I represent MY point of view and I am not retracting my say. I returned to write here againt my desire to quit because some things that were written makes one`s soul sick especially the know nothing war mongers from abroad spreading lies and setting people against each other.

    Posted by Rani | October 17, 2010, 6:00 am
  5. Oh Yes RAIN
    No rain in Palestine, Israel and Lebanon. The Jews are now having a special prying in which the whole community Men, Women, Children, Infants, every body is praying for rain. It is Sunday, if any Christian here will go the Church, any church any place in the world, pray from rain in the Levant. Even if you are not a believer such a prayer can not do any harm.

    Posted by Rani | October 17, 2010, 6:08 am
  6. HP, Shai,

    The status of the Palestinians will be solved as part of a total settlement , The loans that Lebanon has will be used to pressure Lebanon , in addition to more financial aid , Lebanon and Syria will be asking for a preferential immigration status for the Palestinians to Canada , Australia, the US and other countries , most Palestinians would prefer financial assistance and the young will leave to other countries for a better life , for God sakes , the Lebanese and the Syrians are leaving themselves , so why not the Palestinians ,

    Posted by Norman | October 17, 2010, 7:18 am
  7. “MOST OF THEM WENT TO THE USA & CANADA !!!!!. They wanted to get away from the mad cursed Levant for ever. In the USA & Canada they were helped also by Israelies and Zionists. You dont know what you are talking about.”

    They went to the US and Canada? You mean during their “ethnic cleansing” they had several months to a year to go through the world’s strictest immigration process?? Wow, that must have been some harsh intimidation by their neighbors.


    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!! YES!! Lebanon is Nazi Germany now! Why didn’t I see it before?

    SO what we have so far are people who during their ethnic cleansing,

    1) Had several months to a year(s) to apply for immigration to the world’s wealthiest countries. And actually be approved! And…

    2) Can return from whence they were ethnically cleansed anytime they want.

    Those are two very unique characteristics in the history of ethnic cleansing.

    Posted by Lysander | October 17, 2010, 8:52 am
  8. Rani, you still haven’t shared with us (or I missed it), what your or your family’s experience has been. Why did you (they) leave Lebanon?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 17, 2010, 9:12 am
  9. Norman @206, this makes sense.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 17, 2010, 9:33 am
  10. Rani,

    I understand you’re emotional about this subject. And us on the other side of this debate are giving you our historical perspective of what happened during that period.

    You seem to dismiss that IDF shell hit the synagogue. This event is not being made up. It occured in August 1982. Look it up on Wiki.

    There were indiscriminate shelling all over the green line areas during the civil war. People fled for safety.

    Posted by Ras Beirut | October 17, 2010, 9:59 am
  11. Lysander,

    Most of the Jews had arranged for themselves tourist visas to the US over the years, and that is what they used to get out quickly. In the US they changed their status. I am sure many other Lebanese went through the same process.

    As Rani said you are shameless, coming from a country where nobody is ever indicted for shooting a Copt. Yes, the Jews of Egypt should be lining up to return to an anstisemitic country in which bloggers are beaten senseless and in which the Muslim Brotherhood is the most likely alternative to the kleptocarcy in place.

    Posted by AIG | October 17, 2010, 10:30 am
  12. Norman,

    On Syria Comment you always preach for war and admire the great Asad II. I was wondering, did you or any of your kids serve in the Syrian army? If not why not?

    And by the way, if Asad II is such a find, why do Syrians want to leave Syria?

    Posted by AIG | October 17, 2010, 10:33 am
  13. Ras Beirut,

    Rani was not denying that an Israeli shell hit the synagogue. He was simply asking how the one shell caused everything inside the building to disappear and he concludes that the synagogue was probably looted, like for example in the manner we saw in Iraq.

    Posted by AIG | October 17, 2010, 10:36 am
  14. About me.
    In the past my family name, on my mother side, was Hasbani. My family started to leave Lebanon in about 1860. The Durzi and the Christian were fighting and Jews were in the middle. At that time they went to Safed and then to Tiberia where there were large Jewish communities. Other people from the area went to Beirut, so I was told. Later they lived in a place called Rosh Pina and worked there in a silk factory. Other Jewish people came from Lebanon and worked there and they were intermarried. All that time till 1914 some of my family were also small traders with donkeys selling trinkets in the villages in what is now south Syria and Lebanon. Some carried the name Hasabani and some were Mizrahi. They also made Jewish Cheese in the villages and sold it to Jews in Safed and Tiberia. All spoke Arabic and intermaried with Jews from Palestine and Lebanon. I think some people lived in Sur but I am not sure. In about 1918-1920 connections with Lebanon were cut. However some were simple workers and they worked at times on Lebanese land that belonged to Palestinian Jews. They use to call MargeAyun Gudaida and were used to bring very colorfull jars from a place called Rashaia Fuhar, I used to have a jar like that which broke. I visited them one or twice in Metulla and Halsa (now kiriat Shmona )as a very small child. Some far relatives of the Mizrahi branch lived for a while on the Gaulan as farmers but it was not safe so they moved to Palestine. At about that time about 1920 or so my grand parents named Hasbani left Rosh Pina to live and work in Haifa, simply it was easy to make a living there. There they died in about 1930. My mother was about 5 when they moved to Haifa. Later in about 1932-1933 she married my father who came from Russia. He did not know Arabic and she knew very little, at home we spoke Hebrew only. Later I was born.

    Posted by Rani | October 17, 2010, 10:49 am
  15. Ras Beirut says:

    “There were indiscriminate shelling all over the green line areas during the civil war. People fled for safety.”

    And hiow would you explain that the only community that d3ecided to uproot itself totally (100%) was the Jewish community. The Protestants did not leave, The Melkite didn’t leave, the Kurds didn’t leave, the Armenians didn’t leave….I believe that you equate ethnic cleansing with butchery. This does not have to be the case. Lebanon did not make its Jewish population feel welcome. We offered no protection whatsoever and we did not try to stop the exodus.
    And many say that they can come back. Are you kidding? Come back to what? The daily attacks on everything Jewish from corporations to Jewish sounding names. Even the 50 Jews that are left in Lebanon do not dare say they are Jewish? Give me a break.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | October 17, 2010, 10:53 am
  16. Here comes the presumptuous and all knowing Ghassan Karam who is always so full of himself and all encompassing, utterly boring and shallow to say the least….
    Lebanese Jews had a leg up on everyone else prior to Lebanon’s war in the seventies because they were forewarned by MOSSAD who were masterminding the Lebanese/Palestinian civil wars after Black September in Jordan, together with CIA…Hence they left hastily in droves knowing full well that the war was going to be very long and very bloody…Many Lebanese Jews long for life in Lebanon and regret leaving and have great attachments with Lebanese and very fond memories. With time passing, hopefully some of them will chose to come back and will be welcome….

    Posted by Jim | October 17, 2010, 11:09 am
  17. I made a mistake previously. I think Gudaida is now Bint Gebail but I am not sure.

    As for Lysander.
    Counting times for immigrant visa is a joke. Jews left Lebanon in any way possible. With all kinds of visa. In million ways. to all kind of countries aiming eventually at the USA or Canada. Ask some of the Lebanese people here, they can tell you what pople will do to get away from hell.
    I did not say, I will never say, I will never think, that Lebanon is Nazi Germany. That equality is in a sick mind and comes from a sick mind. I said that a single Jew as a Jew is safe in Germany and that does not affect history.
    A legal permit for the Jews to come to Lebanon is =0 . No body can assure their safety in that country now, we all, even those how hate everything and all things Israeli will agree on that.

    You are using evil comparisons aimed to spite and irritate.

    Posted by Rani | October 17, 2010, 11:12 am
  18. “As Rani said you are shameless, coming from a country where nobody is ever indicted for shooting a Copt. Yes, the Jews of Egypt should be lining up to return to an anstisemitic country in which bloggers are beaten senseless and in which the Muslim Brotherhood is the most likely alternative to the kleptocarcy in place.”

    “Shamless” Ah yes. The personal attack as soon as the argument doesn’t go your way.

    Egypt has many MANY **MANY** problems and I don’t expect anybody to go out of their way to live there. But CHOOSING to leave because Egypt (or Lebanon) are not nice places to live is not the same thing as being FORCED to leave.

    Which was the issue under discussion. Were Jews forced to leave Lebanon (Or Egypt, Tunisia, Etc)

    Pointing out all of Egypt’s (or Lebanon’s) problems only explains why those with options choose to go elsewhere.

    If you are arguing “yes, they were forcibly expelled” I would expect to see evidence more substantial than “There are no longer many Jews in Lebanon, therefore…”

    Long story short, trying to rationalize away Israel’s responsibility for ethnic cleansing of Palestinians by equating it to the treatment of Arab Jews just wont fly.

    Posted by Lysander | October 17, 2010, 11:14 am
  19. Personal attacks represent a cop out and an emotional outburst that carries absolutely no debate value, that reflects negatively on the accuser, not on the accused, and which, in my opinion, should have no place in this blog.

    The exact same point a commentator wants to make would be made much more effectively without the use of the attack.

    In this world of idea exchange, the majority of folks are simply commentators and not engaged in any actual activism. Personal accusations of individuals ring completely hollow.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 17, 2010, 11:28 am
  20. Apologies if this has already been quoted up thread.

    “The temple is now in tatters and the old Jewish quarter of Wadi Abu Jamil is practically a ghost town amid the rising skyscrapers of the central city. While Lebanon’s Jewish population actually rose after the creation of Israel in 1948, Jews began leaving when the Civil War divided the country along sectarian lines in 1975. EXODUS BEGAN IN EARNEST AFTER 1982, when ISRAEL INVADED LEBANON. Estimates of Lebanon’s Jewish population vary from between 50 to 1,000. No one is certain because those who are left often keep their religious identity secret and the country itself hasn’t had a census since 1936.”

    So, Israel invades Lebanon under the pretext of an assassination attempt that had nothing to do with Lebanon. Thousands of Lebanese die, Hundreds of thousands wounded/left homeless.

    But the REAL VICTIMS are…

    …Lebanese Jews who left a war zone (I could hardly blame them, I would too) started by Israel.

    Posted by Lysander | October 17, 2010, 11:32 am
  21. I think this whole discussion in this forum about Lebanese Jews is extremely weak. Without actual Lebanese Jews giving us at least anecdotal reports, everyone is just guessing. The closest of the commentators here (and even those are not close enough to be the determining opinion) are the Lebanese or former Lebanese who lived through these times. Unanimously they (including me) give one specific interpretation. No one else has cited any actual experience.
    And, before the argument is turned towards our argumentation about Palestinians of 1948, the fact is many of us know many of these people first hand and heard their stories, so when we report about it we speak of stories heard first hand. Not a single commentator arguing for “ethnic cleansing” has cited any such experience.
    I rested my case before, so apology for coming back, but this point came to me and seemed important to make. Mind you, I’m leaving all interpretations open, but I’m saying that we don’t have the right “witnesses” here, and the assertions from folks who have absolutely no experience about this doesn’t have any merit.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 17, 2010, 11:34 am
  22. Lysander,

    When the government or the society around you will not guarantee your safety and lets a minority intimidate you and harass you into leaving, that is ethnic cleansing, like it or not, and that is what happened to the Lebanese Jews. Your suggestion that the Jews can return is shameless. You know perfectly well that neither in Egypt nor in Lebanon can the Jews live safely.

    Posted by AIG | October 17, 2010, 11:46 am
  23. HP,

    The way we really know what happened is by hearing people who were there and corroborating what they say using documents in archives. That is how Benny Morris wrote his books and came to his conclusions. Relying just on memory will not give you a picture of what happened. As I said, how convenient that there are no mandated archives in Lebanon from that period that enable historians to get a good picture. This allows you to keep denying that there was ethnic cleansing and keep saying that it was the “situation” responsible. But I repeat again. The circumstantial evidence is overwhelming since the WHOLE COMMUNITY DISAPPEARED. There is no way to explain this unless there was ethnic cleansing.

    Posted by AIG | October 17, 2010, 11:52 am
  24. Anyone noticed the kids (scouts?) that participated in Nejad’s welcome? They were bored and tired to an extent they couldn’t wave the tiny flags they were carrying.
    Why kids are dragged into these political events? There should be a law against it.

    Posted by IHTDA | October 17, 2010, 11:54 am
  25. HP,

    Nobody is blaming Lebanon of Nazism or anything close to it. The Lebanese civil war was one of the bloodiest in history. According to wikipedia:
    An estimated 130,000–250,000 people killed (some report the number much higher),
    1,000,000 wounded (half of whom were left with lifetime disability)

    That is a staggering percentage of the population. Why do you find it so improbable that as part of this carnage the Jews underwent ethnic cleansing? It certainly wasn’t one of the worst crimes of the civil war and luckily very few Jews were murdered. But given the atrocities going around, it is very very likely that the Jews were intimidated into leaving.

    Posted by AIG | October 17, 2010, 12:02 pm
  26. AIG, during the civil war and particularly in ’82 and after, NOBODOY in Lebanon had a guarantee of safety. And that was not entirely the fault of Lebanon. We are not talking about a pogrom where the czarist troops stood idly by.

    “Your suggestion that the Jews can return is shameless. You know perfectly well that neither in Egypt nor in Lebanon can the Jews live safely.”

    Thank you for referring no my statement rather than me. However, no I don’t know that. Jews can return to Egypt and Lebanon and have protection of the law. Further, despite Egypt’s numerous issues, neighbors are not going to ravenously attack you.

    Now as you’ve mentioned, Egypt isn’t a wealthy or democratic country, so I don’t expect Jews to rush back home anytime soon. But trying to equate their position to Palestinians who left with guns at their backs…

    I must say that such a suggestion would be shameless.

    Posted by Lysander | October 17, 2010, 12:06 pm
  27. AIG

    There still are a few Jews living in Lebanon. They were actually interviewed a few months ago.

    The Jews left Lebanon not because they were persecuted. They left because they did not think there was a future for them in the region and did not feel safe with rising anti-zionism.

    I am traveling to San Francisco after tomorrow to check out if I might like to settle there.

    I am not debating leaving Lebanon because I am being persecuted. I am debating leaving Lebanon because I foresee two things. Either a new more complex war … or Syria completely dominating internal and external policy again.

    I lived under Syrian tutelage once and left to Dubai for 10 years. I came back over 2 years, voted for the time in my life in this country and had optimistic hopes for the future.

    Posted by PeterinDubai | October 17, 2010, 12:18 pm
  28. Lysander,

    The Jews cannot live as a community in Egypt and be safe. Sure, a Jew that keeps his identity secret can survive, but a community of practicing Jews would be targeted or would have to live under constant guard just as the Israeli embassy staff in Cairo do. And the situation in Lebanon is worse.

    I am not trying to equate anything. I do not deny what happened to the Palestinians. The evidence is clear that in Lod (Lyddia) the Arabs were evicted by force. In many other villages, the Arabs left because they were fearful of what would happen if the Jews arrived or because they were advised to do so by Arab leaders.

    Take the case of Haifa, which is interesting. I think something very similar happened to the Jews of Beirut and Lebanon (from wikipedia):
    Contemporaneous sources emphasized the Jewish leadership’s attempt to stop the Arab exodus from the city and the Arab leadership as a motivating factor in the refugees’ flight. According to the British district superintendent of police, “Every effort is being made by the Jews to persude the Arab populace to stay and carry on with their normal lives, to get their shops and business open and to be assured that their lives and interests will be safe.”[42] Time Magazine wrote on May 3, 1948: “The mass evacuation, prompted partly by fear, partly by orders of Arab leaders, left the Arab quarter of Haifa a ghost city … By withdrawing Arab workers their leaders hoped to paralyze Haifa.”
    Benny Morris and other scholars have said Haifa’s Arabs left due to of a combination of Zionist threats and encouragement to do so by Arab leaders. Ilan Pappé writes that the shelling culminated in an attack on a Palestinian crowd in the old marketplace using three-inch mortars on April 22, 1948.[43][44][45] Shabtai Levy, the Mayor of the city, and some other Jewish leaders urged Arabs not to leave. According to Ilan Pappé, Jewish loudspeakers could be heard in the city ordering Arab residents to leave “before it’s too late.”[46][47]

    Would you call what happened in Haifa ethnic cleansing? Mind you, the Arabs got on the boats to Lebanon without any gun pointing at them.

    Posted by AIG | October 17, 2010, 12:22 pm
  29. AIG

    The synagogue in Beirut was renovated for Jews to worship their God within. A ceremony will eventually be held there.

    Lebanese, at heart, don’t have a problem with you or I or what anyone believes in religiously. But, they do, for the most part have a problem when weapons are raised in the name of any religion.

    Posted by PeterinDubai | October 17, 2010, 12:32 pm
  30. HP, Lysander,

    Although I never lived through antisemitism, I have heard stories firsthand from family and friends of mine that have. Such stories came not only from Poland, but also from Morocco.

    I don’t need to hear that there was an official program to “force Jews out”. It also suffices to hear that for many Jews living in certain villages and towns life became dangerous or unbearable. After 1948, I think it’s difficult to claim Arab countries were “safe” for all Jews living therein.

    If in enough towns in Illinois antisemitism suddenly appeared, even if unofficially, sporadically, but enough that Jews felt it, and passed the word around, I would not be surprised if most or all of them moved to another state.

    I am not trying to “compete” with the Palestinian people in any way whatsoever – they have suffered and continue to suffer in ways most Jews haven’t and aren’t – but in this sense AIG is correct, a Comprehensive Solution that included a “just solution” to the Palestinian Refugees, should also include some “just solution” to the Jewish Refugees, who also felt unsafe and had to leave. By the way, there are AMAZING similarities between the Palestinian refugees that entered Arab states around Israel, and the Jewish refugees that entered Israel. Both were NOT WANTED! Ask Rani here, how Mizrahim were viewed by the rulers of Israel, the Ashkenazi Jews that came from Germany and Poland, who looked down on the Mizrahim, almost as useless as the Holocaust survivors that came here after 1945.

    But they WERE naturalized in Israel, and were given a chance, slowly slowly, to be integrated into Israeli society. Moshe Katzav (the man now standing trial for a variety of charges, including rape) was the first Mizrahi President of the State of Israel. Imagine how many years passed, until “such accomplishment” was reached by the Mizrahim. Inside Israel, we’ve had, and still have, our very own form of internal-racism, practiced by Jews against other Jews. It is not unlike other countries, where an unofficial “cast system” exists.

    One cannot argue with Rani, his experience, or that of his family, in Arab countries, be they Lebanon or elsewhere. Jews did not leave Arab states just because of the “opportunity” that lay elsewhere. That’s a myth some have undoubtedly adopted, probably also out of convenience.

    Posted by Shai | October 17, 2010, 12:35 pm
  31. Peter,

    If half the Jewish population would have left, that would have given credence to your hypothesis that they left for greener pastures. But when 100% leave, one has to be blind to deny that intimidation was involved. In every population there is a large percentage of people who are either older, set in their ways, afraid of change, love their settings and do not leave to pursue economic opportunities. The assumption that 100% of the Jews left for economic reasons is absurd. They were intimidated, that is why they left.

    Posted by AIG | October 17, 2010, 12:40 pm
  32. AIG,
    Let me make it clear that i do not want war , but i see no reason and you agree , i think , for any Israeli leader to commit to peace as the current status is costing Israel nothing , they think they are in peace and that is where you get your slogan , (( Peace For Peace )) , am i wrong ,

    I left Syria for the same reason you did probably , Economic ,

    Posted by norman | October 17, 2010, 12:46 pm
  33. Shai,

    The Jews were not liked because of how they conducted business as a community.

    The way they would drive a competitor into finding an alternative means of living was to support themselves as a family and sell merchandise at cost to establish volume, then make a profit from demanding a discount from the supplier based on that volume … and eventually drive the competitor out of business.

    Posted by PeterinDubai | October 17, 2010, 12:47 pm
  34. This I scratch your back you scratch mine mentality was the backbone of man’s survival for thousands of years.

    What has changed in the last 50 years is that a lot of mankind has woken up to realizing that we are actually one big global family that cannot sustain life on this planet through these mutually exclusive deals.

    Posted by PeterinDubai | October 17, 2010, 1:00 pm
  35. Jim says:

    “…Many Lebanese Jews long for life in Lebanon and regret leaving and have great attachments with Lebanese and very fond memories.”

    What is the above based on? If many regretted leaving then why didn’t they come back? Talk is cheap.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | October 17, 2010, 1:13 pm
  36. Shai, very good points.

    Arabs are hardly blameless. There is plenty of discrimination today, so I have no doubt there was plenty back then. I have no doubt Jews in Egypt had reason to be frightened and that the state didn’t do anything to help.

    That Egypt lost an ancient community is a loss for Egypt.

    Having just reviewed this topic via a quick internet search, Egypt’s actions towards it’s Jewish citizens were worse than most other Arab nations.

    That being said, the worst that was done really doesn’t compare to what happened in Palestine.

    And while it sounds very hollow to you, they CAN come back.

    Anyone who lost property through intimidation should certainly be compensated.

    Posted by Lysander | October 17, 2010, 1:29 pm
  37. As for shai. He is right but during old times in the Ottoman Empire all Jews were Dahimi, that story about Christian lower street in Dimask-Sham was true for Jews too. BUT some Arabic speaking Jews were powerfull and had connections with other, non Jewish Zaims, and could protect you. The Junbalat family were at times such protectors and also the Shia zaims. Christians and Suni were not in general. The Ashkenazim, from Europe, did not have that protection so the Arabic speaking Jews were on top. Later, after 1918, things were turned over, upside down.

    Posted by Rani | October 17, 2010, 1:46 pm
  38. To understand Lebanon you need to understand where world religions are at today.

    The Lebanese Christians are looking for a working class hero which they believed Aoun represented (a la Chavez) and which Baroud seems to be sexily fulfilling.

    The Sunnis think of themselves as aristocrats and therefore have to hire a plethora of foreign servants to deal with the unpleasantries of day to day life.

    Jumblatt will sell out your mother and sister to remain the Zaim of the druze.

    The Jews have been able to sucker the world into owing them insane amounts of money they have no clue what to rationally do with or how to maintain that water tap.

    The Persians are pissed how their glory as a culture was short dealt by the Americans who tanked their country the minute the Shah wanted the Persians a modern nuclear might.

    Posted by PeterinDubai | October 17, 2010, 1:58 pm
  39. Then there is the supposed secularist mafia that runs Syria but relies on cozy family ties, absolute ruthlessness in maintaining their grip on power and who know their days are obviously numbered in light of the fact that people who adhere to Sunni faith populate the country they have been pretending to represent for decades.

    Posted by PeterinDubai | October 17, 2010, 2:25 pm
  40. Lysander,

    I won’t go into it now (I’ll wait for the proper thread to do so), but in my own vision of a peaceful region, Israel and the rest of the Arab States join into something of a U.S./E.U. model, which on Syria Comment I call a U.M.E. (United Middle East). In such a fantasy-UME, there is de facto Right-of-Return to all citizens of the region, as they can all live and work wherever they choose (can find a job, etc.)

    In that future, a Jewish resident of Israel (one state within UME) can move to Riyadh, commute to Mecca for work, and drive to see his in-laws in Eilat on the weekends. A Palestinian living in Canada, can move back to Jaffa, as a UME citizen. The State of Israel might still have majority-Jews, just as Utah might have majority Mormons. But Israelis will not feel threatened by an influx of 25,000 Muslim or Christian Palestinians on a given year (let’s say), just as Georgia or New Jersey wouldn’t.

    Until this happens, of course financial compensation must occur.

    Posted by Shai | October 17, 2010, 2:37 pm
  41. PeterinDubai,

    I can’t quite tell whether you find Jews tough and seasoned businesspeople, or conniving little shysters.

    I wouldn’t take credit away from the trade abilities of the Muslims, who for more than a thousand years ran and controlled all business activity that passed through our region, between East and West.

    Posted by Shai | October 17, 2010, 2:45 pm
  42. (Correction Lysander: I meant of course Jeddah, not Riyadh… Commuting from Riyadh to Mecca is kind of silly… 🙂 )

    Posted by Shai | October 17, 2010, 2:47 pm
  43. As for the majority of Shi’ites in Lebanon. They’ll gladly help you pimp up your ride, drown a bottle of Vodka with you debating the meaning of life and support Germans for their excellence in product delivery and Brazil for their football skills.

    Posted by PeterinDubai | October 17, 2010, 2:50 pm
  44. I’m sorry but I can’t help but feeling that this blog has been infiltrated by some really weird people whose agenda is really pretty questionable.

    Posted by PeterinDubai | October 17, 2010, 3:35 pm
  45. PeterinDubai,

    If you’re referring to me, then I must admit, you’re right. I’ve never felt overly comfortable amongst the majority, therefore you might call me “weird”. And since Peace in our region is viewed by most as a ridiculous impossibility, I would also agree that my agenda is questionable.

    However, you cannot charge me with “infiltration”. If you’ll recall, one of the first questions I posed to QN and HP was to what extent has this blog been hijacked by us Israelis. If you’d like this particular Israeli to cease from commenting, you’ll need to bring it up with management…

    Posted by Shai | October 17, 2010, 4:06 pm
  46. Shai,

    You are always welcome at Syria comments ,

    Posted by Norman | October 17, 2010, 4:52 pm
  47. Shai, I don’t think you were included in Peter’s comment. Your contributions are always welcome and gratefully acknowledged.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 17, 2010, 4:57 pm
  48. Wow. This conversation took a turn for the worst. Didn’t it?

    What’s really sad, imo, is that we all seem hellbent on sticking to our “story”, no matter what it may be.
    No one is willing to look at the bigger picture, apparently.
    Civil war is hell. Innocents die. Civilians get massacred.
    We sit around basically saying “it’s your fault, cause if you hadn’t started it, none of this would have happened.”
    We’re all to blame.
    The Israelis insist that none of this would have happened had the Arabs not done this or that. The Arabs, meanwhile, insist none of this would have happened had the Israelis not started this or that.
    How far back do we go? It’s a circular blame argument that can go on forever.
    We blame the Israelis for forcing the Palestinians on us. The Israelis blame the Arabs for causing the naqba in the first place by not accepting the two-state mandate of 1948. The Arabs blame the Jews for immigrating to Palestine, thus causing the 2-state mandate. The Jews blame the Arabs and Europeans for causing them to need a home there in the first place. The Arabs then blame the Jews for wanting to have their own home and being “different’ enough to be treated badly by the Europeans. Etc.
    I think, the real blame lay on the Pharaoh of Egypt, who caused the Jews to leave Egypt for Palestine in the first place. I guess it’s all his fault. Really.

    Who gives a **** anymore. We can keep on laying blame on who started it till the cows come home. This is PRECISELY why there hasn’t been a solution to the problem in 60 years.

    The only true path to a solution is to let bygones be bygones and deal with what we have today. I don’t care what happened in 1948, or 1982, or 2006 anymore. I really don’t.
    I wish more people from both sides accepted the facts on the ground today (and no, you can’t keep changing the facts on the ground to your advantage, ala settlements or you simply invite the other side to also change facts on the ground, and we continue on in this guise forever).

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 17, 2010, 5:15 pm
  49. Bad Vilbel, I agree with you.

    Norman, HP, Thank you. I feel very welcomed in both SC and here.

    Posted by Shai | October 17, 2010, 5:37 pm
  50. BV,
    It seems that the occupational hazard of many blogs is that readers respond to the posted thread for a day or so and then they go their merry old way discussing everything under the sun.
    That is fine. Blogs have become the new “coffee shops” where one goes to meet friends and exchange ideas. But the difficulty arises in keeping track of what is being said.
    Keeping in mind the above introduction about the ambiguities of who has said what to whom and about which topic , I beg to disagree with your too general description of what has transpired over the past 48 hours or so on this thread. I do not see it as people trying to blame each other for what has happened as much as a different way of looking or maybe an inability to look at the real cause of a phenomenon. I look at the recent part of this thread as being essentially devoted to whether the Lebanese Jews left on their own seeking better pastures or whether life was made very uncomfortable for them in Lebanon and so they had nio choice but to leave.
    I do not believe that we should sugar coat it. The Lebanese Jews were pushed out of the country, they were not butchered but they were indirectly asked to leave. And yes we are responsible for that.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | October 17, 2010, 6:58 pm
  51. Bv, Let me give you an example of why legal discrimination is just as bad as overt one. Let us assume that community A discriminates overtly against minorities by refusing to sell them property and community B who will never think of adopting such overt practices. Instead community B insists on keeping a septic tank system and their engineering consultants determine that such a syatem requires 5 acre zoning. Five acres in that neighborhood cost $1.5 million. Please don’t tell me that B does not discriminate.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | October 17, 2010, 7:43 pm
  52. Ghassan, if we agree with your assessment, the question remains as to who the “we” are. Regrettably, there is (not yet) no unified “we” representing Lebanon.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 17, 2010, 7:43 pm
  53. HP ,
    This is easy. The “we” is us, it is our communal identity, it is our culture. It is every Lebanese and every resident of Lebanon who acquiesced. It is me, it is you , it is our neighbours, friends and relatives.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | October 17, 2010, 8:15 pm
  54. HP,
    You asked earlier for an account from someone that left. Well here is one . (I decided to delete the name since it is the name of a celebrity of sorts and since the message was addressed to me personally).


    Posted by Ghassan Karam | October 17, 2010, 9:49 pm
  55. Ghassan, well, this was a terrible experience and I have to believe that a majority of Lebanese would be repulsed and outraged at the perpetrators of the situation you cite. The reality is, however, that the Lebanese government could not protect anyone else either, that many other Christians, Muslims, Druze, etc., were subjected to terror and torture just because of their religion, depending on where in the country they resided. This is the point that a number of us have been trying to make, in that the chaos and the horror and the terror was all around and targeted everybody.

    We all do recognize the fact that, as a result of this chaos, this one community of Lebanese Jews became virtually non-existent. It is a deplorable fact and anything that can be done to remedy it, to the extent this is even possible, should clearly be done. The extrapolation from this to the kind of characterization of the events that is being insinuated is however not applicable, in my opinion. This is particularly because no one was in a position to provide the protection needed at a time where most of us where equally victims of intimidation, fear, terror, and being driven out. When I left it was not because I really wanted out of my community, it was because I felt that there was no one who could protect me as I went about my daily commute to my work as a teacher. I felt that if I stayed longer I was going to be yet another victim, another statistic. I am certain this was the experience of numerous others, the grand majority of which were not Jews.

    In the final analysis, I think the facts of what happened are not under dispute here. This is good. What seems to be in contention is their interpretation and labeling. I’m afraid we may not arrive at a consensus. Your interest in this subject is clearly laudable and, with time, this history will be written and a fair assessment, helped by the perspective of time, will emerge.

    To Rani:

    I just would like to point out that our discussion and debate here is not always a transparent reflection of our relationships and behavior. Anectdotally I will tell you that the greatest majority of my closest esteemed colleagues in my field, my doctors, etc., are all Jewish and we are closer than any other acquaintances I have ever had. I mention this to mention in particular an extremely competent specialist MD, of Lebanese origin, by the last name Hasbani, Jewish of course. He may well be a distant relative of yours.

    When I speak of normalization and friendship here, I typically raise the ire of the segment of commentators who believe in the necessity of eliminating Israel as a Jewish state. I don’t. If you look past the knee-jerk reactions and irritations of various subjects, the final settlement that will eventually and hopefully arrive seems quite common to many folks here, including me. It is something akin to what Defense Minister Ehud Barak has often described. — Shalom!

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 17, 2010, 10:08 pm
  56. It is laughable to suggest that the Jews are welcome to go back to Lebanon. Who is going to protect them? The Lebanese Army that watched HA and Amal thugs violently take over Beirut in 08?
    Soon we the Lebanese who disagree with HA won’t be able to go back.

    Posted by V | October 17, 2010, 10:31 pm
  57. Ghassan,

    In case you missed it, I changed my mind about the ethnic cleansing charge. Upon this discussion, I do in fact think that the Jewish community of Lebanon was “cleansed” out.

    My later comment was more to the various opinions and explanations that ensue.

    I am willing to admit that Lebanon drove out its Jews. But I still continue to read how Israel did not drive out any Palestinians, and how building a few apartment buildings in East Jerusalem does not constitute and equally abhorrent practice, and all that.
    And on the other side of the spectrum, I keep hearing how the Arabs blame Israel for all the atrocities committed against civilians during 2006 and 82, and so on.

    The point I am making is that it’s ALL horrible. Dropping cluster bombs on civilians is no different or better, in its overall outcome and intent as “intimidating the Jews of Lebanon into leaving”, is it?

    And the cycle of blame continues all around until no one wants to move forward on anything.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 17, 2010, 11:02 pm
  58. HP
    With your indulgence, allow me to point out one major/huge difference between the fear that led you to leave and that of the Lebanese Jews. You could have retreated to your village or community and felt relatively safe. You had a few militias fighting in your name and a number of politicians and institutions that were speaking for you. The same was true of the Sunnis and also the Druze. No one cared about the Lebanese Jews and had they armed themselves then they could have been butchered. They had no choice but to flee. That is the societal failure. Take care and good night.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | October 17, 2010, 11:26 pm
  59. Excellent point, Gus.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 18, 2010, 1:28 am
  60. What do you guys make of this?

    “The Palestinians are ready to end all historic claims against Israel once they establish their state in the lands Israel occupied in the 1967 Mideast War, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday, addressing a long-standing Israeli demand.”

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 18, 2010, 1:33 am
  61. BV,

    Abbas represents himself and another 3 Palestinians maybe. He is not capable of carrying on with such promises; he will be “taken care of” easily. The Palestinians are divided now just like the Lebanese are and no solutions can be implemented until Iran and Syria are either pacified or defeated.

    Posted by V | October 18, 2010, 2:18 am
  62. I think this is extremely significant, BV. And here’s a reliable link to the report:
    I see in it an implicit concession on the right of return to Israel proper, a huge concession to be made ahead of the negotiations, as it had been one of the most sticking points in the past.

    It is now up to Netanyahu to show that he really means it when he says he wants peace.

    Let us not deride Abbas.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 18, 2010, 3:50 am
  63. The question you pose, BV, is a good one to be answered by the Israelis on this blog. Do they see the interpretation as I see it?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 18, 2010, 3:52 am
  64. As I said in #262, I believe it is time for Netanyahu to show the degree of his courage and conviction. It is time for him to be the Sadat of the Palestinian-Israeli peace. Will he do it? He now needs to speak to the Palestinian people directly, not the generally sympathetic American public as he so often does, with his impeccable accent-free English. Courage. Does he have it?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 18, 2010, 3:59 am
  65. GK,
    I dont know what civil war you are describing but it isn’t Lebanon. The militias didn’t speak for and defend any community but themselves. By your argument there should have been few if any Christians living in West Beirut since they had no militia fighting for them and in fact the local militias were fighting representatives of their own communities. And yet, West Beirut was as full of Christians as it is today.

    The Jewish population mostly left because:

    a. The area they inhabited was right on the green line. The comment somewhere far above that they shouldn’t have been in danger as they were not involved in the fighting displays the lack of knowledge of the situation. The snipers on the green line would shoot anything that moved. They didnt give a damn if who or what they killed was Muslim, Christian or Jew or for that matter whether it was a person or animal.

    b. The argument here seems to be between they left because they could versus they were forced to leave. The actual reason if you actually ask man of the Lebanese Jews that left in the late 70’s and early 80’s is not intimidation but the fear of any backlash against Israel. So it was pre-emptive to any actual intimidation and the fact they left generally is a good argument that they could.

    But for all the Israelis crying “ethnic cleansing”, heres an offer for you. The Arabs take back all the Arab Jews, give them back or compensate them for property lost and allow them to live freely.

    And in return, the Israelis only need to allow the same for the Palestinians.


    Thought not.

    Posted by usedtopost | October 18, 2010, 7:46 am
  66. UTP, I think AIG was hinting exactly to your proposal but for the compensation part not for the right to return part. Norman mentioned that there is a movement in Israel to push this issue in order to have better economic equity in any eventual peace agreement.

    In the end, the only fact that leads to the different value judgment and interpretation in regards the Jews of Lebanon is that the community virtually disappeared whereas the same did not happen to any other community. As I mentioned earlier, there is hardly any dispute on the facts and, clearly, anything that affected the Jews affected equally segments of the Christians, Muslim, Druze, and any other religion or ethnicity depending on where in Lebanon they lived. The majority of Jews lived in Wadi-Boujmeel, just near the Green Line, and, as you say, this witnessed the worse indiscriminate fighting. The individual cases of crime are abhorrent but no different than what befell all the other communities. The question of the virtually complete exodus is the only one that history will analyze and put in context of all the other regional developments.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 18, 2010, 8:17 am
  67. HP,
    My proposal is the exact opposite. I will exchange right of return and compensation for those whose property cannot be be given back for any reason.

    The virtually complete exodus can be explained quite easily.

    The population, be it Jewish or otherwise living in and around the Green Line was practically forced to move. While the non-Jewish population could move to other neighborhoods where they felt “safe”, the Jewish population did not feel like it could. Furthermore, and I see the irony here, the Jews of Lebanon are very much like the Shia, in that emmigration isn’t the big deal it is to others.

    And of course, the IDF shelling of their neighnorhood didn’t help.

    So a combination of psychological, physical and material caused the mass exodus.

    And for all the compaints, they can go back unmolested (and any complaints otherwise will need to explain how it is that the Jews that do live in Lebanon are able to live unmolested).

    How many Palestinians can do that?

    Israeli moral subjectivity and hypocrisy is one of the joyful constants we can enjoy in the world today.

    Posted by usedtopost | October 18, 2010, 9:19 am
  68. HP,

    All that is needed in Lebanon for peace is a Sadat like figure. Hariri has to show empathy and talk from the heart to the Shia and Christians. If he does, they will surely all support the STL and will quickly reconcile into one happy democratic country. We are so close! Why doesn’t Hariri follow Sadat and prove that he really wants reconciliation?

    I can make the same argument also with Nasrallah as the Sadat figure.

    Do I sound silly with these arguments to you? I will leave it to you to figure out the analogy.

    Posted by AIG | October 18, 2010, 9:50 am
  69. AIG

    Sadat??? What Lebanese need is a strong government with true rule of law. No sub-states (HA ) and lots of civic education. The alternative for many Lebanese would be a different passport.
    We had enough of “Leaders” we need real institutions.

    Posted by IHTDA | October 18, 2010, 10:23 am
  70. IHTDA,

    I totally agree.

    Sadat??? What the Palestinians need is a strong government with true rule of law. No sub-states (Hamas ) and lots of civic education.

    Or more precisely, Israelis like me need to be sure that this is what the Palestinian state will turn out to be. Otherwise 10 Sadats will not help.

    Posted by AIG | October 18, 2010, 10:28 am
  71. AIG
    Since you are in the “agreeing” mood, as isreal has already strong government with true rule of law and real institutions, maybe all you need is a Sadat:)

    Posted by IHTDA | October 18, 2010, 10:40 am
  72. IHTDA,

    You make a good point but you fail to follow it to its conclusion. When Sadat came to Israel there were strong governments and real institutions on both sides (I am not sure about the rule of law in Egypt). Most importantly, both governments clearly controlled all armed forces in both countries and could be counted on to stand behind their obligations.

    Imagine that Hariri was suicidal enough to sign a peace treaty with Israeli tomorrow. Would this peace treaty mean anything? No, because Hariri has no way to implement it or make Lebanese respect it. Abbas is in the same situation. Therefore, we need an agreement in which Israel’s security position does not deteriorate even if (or when) Palestine becomes like Lebanon. Unfortunately, this kind of agreement will limit the sovereignty of the Palestinian state, but there is no other alternative.

    Posted by AIG | October 18, 2010, 10:58 am
  73. Just one problem of thousands for your consideration, after 9/11, would you grant Palestinians control over their air space?

    Posted by AIG | October 18, 2010, 11:06 am
  74. Would you have done it before 9/11? The answer is no.
    Security is a result of mutual belief in the value of the life of human beings, deterrence is always a temporary measure (rarely successful)

    Posted by IHTDA | October 18, 2010, 11:25 am
  75. HP, BV,

    I agree it seems the declaration concedes the Right of Return to territory inside Israel proper. It is a significant step, and should not be discounted.

    However, I also agree with those who say that Abbas may not be able to deliver. The problem, as I see it, is that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be solved merely in the West Bank (assuming Abbas can today control the entire WB). The conflict spans also the 1.5 million living in Gaza, another 1.4 million Israeli Palestinians, and another couple million living in the Diaspora. We cannot reach an agreement, certainly not one that ends all historical claims, that is not acceptable to all Palestinians (or the majority, as in a democracy).

    I agree with AIG (everyone seems to be in “agreement mood”), that it is doubtful that Hariri, or Abbas, can deliver now. And that’s precisely why I’m urging people in Israel to go talk to Assad. He, unlike the others, CAN deliver!

    Posted by Shai | October 18, 2010, 11:34 am
  76. IHTDA,

    Platitudes will get you nowhere. The only thing that works is deterrence, open your eyes and read a little history.

    In any case, if you want to make me a believer, show me that what you propose works in Lebanon (you know, reaching agreements based on mutual beliefs something or other). Why should I believe what you say if you can’t implement it in your own back yard?

    Posted by AIG | October 18, 2010, 11:36 am
  77. Shai,

    Unlike in Syria Comment people here will be a little less enthused about selling out Lebanon to Syria which will be the result of any Israeli-Syrian agreement today. But I may be wrong. 🙂

    Posted by AIG | October 18, 2010, 11:39 am
  78. AIG
    Good point. Our failure goes back to my earlier post about what we need.. Institutions and all.
    As for me, I have chosen the easier alternative

    Posted by IHTDA | October 18, 2010, 11:44 am
  79. AIG,

    I heartily agree that it’s not about getting a “Sadat”, but rather about getting solid state institutions (be it Lebanon or the Palestinians) capable of delivering on any peace treaty.

    Where I diverge with your view, is where you say that YOU have to impose/enforce that on the Palestinians/Lebanese.

    Israel has tried “imposing” this sort of order before. In fact, it’s been the Israeli MO, for times immemorial. IT DOES NOT WORK.

    I wish I had a better solution for you, but short of the Lebanese and the Palestinians getting their heads out of their collective asses, you really won’t be able to force them to see the light. This view applies both to countless historical conflicts, as well as it applies to relationships between a man and his wife, for that matter.

    I get WHY you feel that way. And I sympathize. I wish I could FORCE the Lebanese to stop being idiots. But the truth is, this kind of thing has to come from within or its unsustainable.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 18, 2010, 12:44 pm
  80. BV,

    I do not think that Israel has to enforce anything on the Palestinians. I totally agree with you that history has shown that this is not possible and I wouldn’t want to repeat Israel’s past mistakes. That only thing I demand of my representatives in government is that they sign an agreement that is immune to scenarios in which Palestinians or Lebanese cannot create the required institutions or collective agreements to deliver peace.

    So my demands are for my own government not the Lebanese or Palestinian. I think it is unlikely that Palestinians can deliver a working state and ask my government to make sure that my security does not deteriorate in that case.

    Posted by AIG | October 18, 2010, 1:14 pm
  81. Dear Qifa, talk about a “new Taef” is starting to be heard in town. The bottom line is that this actual crisis is in reality a crisis of Shia under-representation in Lebanese institutions (following a soi-disant rearrangement of the same kind in Iraq). Do you think a “new Taef” is in the horizon, and what do you think the demands of the Christians in the opposition would be in such a case? (And, BTW, what happened to your beloved Senate? Just kidding)

    Posted by mj | October 18, 2010, 1:18 pm
  82. Understood, AIG.

    Maybe I misread your previous statements then.

    Here’s another question that your latest statement brought to my mind just now.

    Following your statement to its logical conclusion. You say you can’t force the Palestinians to do anything. Ok. Agreed.
    You can ask your representatives to sign an agreement that doesn’t hinder the Palestinians from building their institutions. Agreed. (I hope I understood that statement correctly).

    How do you reconcile that last statement with current policy of your representatives vis a vis the settlements, the Gaza blockade (military naval blockade aside, as I can understand that one), and realistic self-rule in the West Bank (airspace control, full sovereignty, etc.)

    And before you come back with the “security” standard reply. You’ve already given me that one. So I know it. And I understand it. But, let’s take this discussion a bit further down that road, and past the security argument.

    And again, I understand this is not an overnight matter. Neither Palestinian nor Lebanese institutions can be built overnight. Nor is it Israeli’s job to help build them. But you’re saying Israel shouldn’t hinder them either. Yet it does appear to do so at every turn (specially with the Palestinians).

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 18, 2010, 1:24 pm
  83. BV,

    I’m not sure I understand what you are saying. Let me clarify, my demand (and currently most Israelis) from our government is that any agreement will not make the security situation worse in the likely case that Palestine is a failed state. That for me is a deal breaker. Anything else, I am willing to listen. What this means for Palestinian institutions is for the Palestinians to figure out. As you said, we have no way of forcing these things on them. I don’t think I answered your question, so please clarify it a little more.

    Posted by AIG | October 18, 2010, 1:43 pm
  84. To
    can you please show good Dr. Hasbani what I wrote and ask him to tell his kids about his family history, tape it and keep it? Some time in the future they will thank him.
    Some where some place in the back of this Blog there is a growing project. “Jewish Families in Lebanon, a history”. Will the Hariri foundation support such project? Pehaps Shimon Peres can find a supporter?

    Posted by Rani | October 18, 2010, 2:03 pm
  85. I think I’m wondering (and this is not specifically addressed at you, but rather the Israeli public and what it asks its government to do) is this:

    1) Ok. I completely understand your request for any agreement to preserve the security of Israel. Let’s put this aside for a moment and look beyond it.

    2) If the Israeli public, at large, understands that (security aside), it cannot force the Palestinians to build institutions, and so on, and thus must hope for the Palestinians to do so themselves, why is this same Israeli public and its representatives not clamoring for settlement construction to stop? You say you’re willing to listen to anything else, assuming security needs are met. Ok. Building new apartment complexes in East Jerusalem has nothing to do with security.

    I guess what I’m saying is that I have trouble reconciling your view, which you like to claim is fairly prevalent in Israel vs. the actions of your representatives, which, as best as i can tell are NOT following what I think your view is on these things.

    At least, that’s how it appears to me, from the outside, looking in.

    I see a government that’s moved far right, for various reasons, and that seems to insist on sabotaging the peace process, under various pretexts (some valid, some not) for fear of alienating its base (which apparently, isn’t you). Judging by the actions of your govt. I’d guess that you’re not a majority, but rather, the current popular base is not really thinking “as long as my security needs are met. I’m open to discussion”. or “As long as our security needs are met, we should stop trying to force the Palestinians to build things our way, but rather get out of the way and let them build things their way.”

    Sorry for the long windedness again. I guess I’m just seeing a disconnect somewhere in between what Israelis seem to “agree on” and their actions as reflected by their elected representatives.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 18, 2010, 2:10 pm
  86. MJ

    A new Ta’if? What was wrong with the old one? 🙂

    If only the current crisis were really a crisis about instiutional reform. Alas, I think it’s actually what it looks like.

    But to answer your question, the Christian opposition has already voiced its strong disapproval of deconfessionalism. They prefer the current arrangment, with all of its inequalities for Shiites and Sunnis. At the same time, they have the gall to complain when Christian MPs are elected by Sunni voters.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | October 18, 2010, 2:13 pm
  87. The day the Christians of Lebanon understand that their best safeguard IS actually deconfessionalisation will be the day Lebanon will start to turn the corner.
    I cannot believe that after all these years, not one of their leaders has understood that. Rather, quite the opposite. They continue to act in the very manner that precipitates their demise.
    Nowhere have I ever seen such communal suicidal tendencies.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 18, 2010, 2:19 pm
  88. BV,

    What is the relation between settlement building by Israel and the fact that Palestinians do not have good institutions?

    Historically, the Jews in Palestine during the British Mandate built institutions and so did the Palestinians. By and large, the Palestinian ones were not democratic. That is a historic fact. Did the fact that the Jews suffer from the prosecution in Europe lead them to adopt non-democratic institutions? I just don’t see the connection between settlements and the state of Palestinian institutions. There are no settlements in Gaza and I do not see the democratic institutions thriving.

    If certain Arab parties want to use Israel and its actions as an excuse not to democratize or build institutions, it is an Arab problem, not an Israeli one.

    Posted by AIG | October 18, 2010, 2:34 pm
  89. Don’t be so quick to get defensive, man. I wasn’t making a connection. Nor was I using Israel’s actions as an excuse to justify not building institutions.

    I’m just asking a question.

    I go back to the original statement: “You can ask your representatives to sign an agreement that doesn’t hinder the Palestinians from building their institutions. Agreed. (I hope I understood that statement correctly).”

    How does building settlements accomplish the above? Don’t you see it hindering the signing of any agreement, not to mention the hindering of the sovereignty of any future state in Palestine? It’s kind of hard for them to build a state and proper institutions when their land is being built on, their airspace restricted, the Jordan valley controlled by the IDF, etc.

    Again, I’m honestly not trying to pick a fight. I’m trying to UNDERSTAND. You say you want one thing (a Palestinian state that’s capable of controlling itself, etc). but all these current policies, in one way or another, undermine that very principle.
    I know there are official (some valid and some not) reasons for all of the above: You have to protect from arab armies so you need to Jordan Valley. You have to protect against terrorism, so you need to control the airspace. You have to…well…i’m not sure why you need to build in the west bank.
    But all have excuses. But in the end, they directly or indirectly, undermine the ability of the PA to build any kind of “institutions”.
    I mean, how seriously do you expect a governmental institution to be taken that allows foreigners to build on its land, place troops on its land and forbid it from controlling its own airspace.
    You say agreed with me that you can’t FORCE the Palestinians. But yet, the actions of the Israeli govt, pretty much force the hand (or rather the impotence) of any PA institution.

    So I’m trying to understand how you reconcile the two.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 18, 2010, 2:56 pm
  90. I understand Israeli settlement building to be part of the meta-negotiation process. As long as the parties have not reached an agreement conveying sovereignty over the West Bank to the Palestinians, then Israel will act as though it is in control of the area, settling it as it chooses. If the Palestinians don’t want Jewish settlements in the West Bank, then they will have to obtain sovereignty, which at the moment, means via peace settlement, but if they wait, there will be more settlements. In other words, it is an attempt to create a downside to the Palestinians to not negotiating. It is also an attempt to create negotiating positions and assets that can then be given away at the table (or, in the case of building in Jerusalem or other contiguous Jewish areas, not given away).

    But that is just from my perspective. The Israelis seem to be taking a more simplistic but more principled position.

    Posted by dontgetit | October 18, 2010, 3:05 pm
  91. BV,

    I am not defensive, just trying to understand your question.

    I disagree with your assertion that settlements “directly or indirectly, undermine the ability of the PA to build any kind of “institutions”.” It seems like an excuse to me. Zionists in Europe built institutions before they even had any land. I just don’t get the logic at all. Why should Palestinians become less democratic or anti-democratic because Israel builds settlements? If Israel would have built a settlement in South-Lebanon would you have become less democratic???

    Israeli policies are Israeli policies, but Arab policies are Arab policies. I am not going to decide what my institutions are just because of what Arabs do or do not. The nature of my institutions will not be determined by Arabs; whatever they do, I will not agree to non-democratic institutions in Israel. So I really do not understand it when Israeli actions are used as an excuse for Palestinian institutions. Really why should the Palestinians give a s**t about what Israelis do and let Israeli actions define them?

    Posted by AIG | October 18, 2010, 3:14 pm
  92. BV,

    As a practical matter, since it is clear that most areas of East Jerusalem will be part of Israel when an agreement is reached, I am not against building there. I would be against building in the Hebron area.

    I think many in the US congress would agree with me. Here is one example:

    Posted by AIG | October 18, 2010, 3:20 pm
  93. Rani @284, happy to do it. Not sure the new generation in the U.S. is romantically sensitized to seek their origins, etc., as I have examples of such in my children and nephews/nieces, but maybe it’s different in different families and it will be a pleasure to share the information.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 18, 2010, 3:55 pm
  94. AIG,

    While I understand your position. I also wonder how you would answer if the situations were reversed, hypothetically.

    “If Israel would have built a settlement in South-Lebanon would you have become less democratic???”

    My answer: I personally would not become undemocratic. But I certainly can see how this would cause my compatriots to turn to militancy.

    Now answer me this: “If Lebanese/HA/Palestinans” would have occupied and built a settlement in North-Israel would you have become less democratic???”

    Let’s say, by some fortune of events, Kiryat Shmona was invaded, and Arab settlements started springing up all around it. What would the Israeli reaction be? “We don’t care what the Arabs do?” I doubt it. More likely it would be “We will not rest, no matter the cost, until every illegal Arab settlement was dismantled and the invaders thrown out.” Right?

    As for the other sentence in your reply that stands out: “Really why should the Palestinians give a s**t about what Israelis do and let Israeli actions define them?”

    If we were talking about Israeli actions in Tel Aviv or some other Israeli sovereign territory, I’d agree. But OF COURSE Palestinians care what Israeli actions are when these actions are IN PALESTINIAN territory.

    Again. Would you not care if Lebanon’s “actions” were in Kiryat Shmona?

    We can’t really operate in such an abstract environment where we do not care what others do. In the real world, other’s actions impact us. In fact, that is the very logic YOU use to explain why you need certain security assurances in the Jordan Valley and restricted airspace. THEIR actions matter to you. Even when in their own lands. You gotta accept that the same can be said for the other side: YOUR actions matter. YOUR actions have consequences for them. Settlements have consequences. Just like Bibi can use the excuse of “If I stop building settlements, my govt will fall” (Why is that the Palestinian’s problem? It’s your own government. Doesn’t concern us, etc.), Abbas and company have the same excuse “If Israel can’t even stop settlements, I can’t sell a peace treaty to my people.”

    In reality, both sides have a vested interest in caring about what the other does domestically. That is the ONLY way forward. Bibi has to understand what Abbas can or can’t get away with. And vice versa, Abbas has to understand what Bibi can or can’t get away with.

    I get the impression that Bibi doesn’t give a crap, and that’s why I feel like he doesn’t really want these negotiations to work.

    Let me put it this way. Israel said it wouldn’t negotiate as long as there were rocket attacks, etc. Fair request.
    Why should the Palestinians care?
    Why is that no different than Abbas’s request to halt settlment activity?

    (I apologize in advance if this rant ended up going on a bit of a tangent).

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 18, 2010, 4:26 pm
  95. BV,

    You are mixing up two different things. Of course actions matter. If you punch me in the fact, my face hurts and that matters to me.

    If the Arabs take Kiryat Shemona, I would want to expel them, no doubt. But why would I want to become less democratic?

    The point is that other’s actions cause us to react, but we react based on principles that the other’s action cannot and should not change. For example, I would not think that Israel needs a strongman because the Arabs take over Kiryat-Shemona. I would think that I will continue to follow my democratic principles and elect another government that can better handle the situation.

    In other words, other people’s actions change how societies react, but not the basic values on which they are built. Naturally, Palestinians would react to settlements, but why would they espouse less democratic or more democratic principles because of them?

    If Israel stops building in East Jerusalem it will not make the Palestinian state more likely to succeed one bit. It will also not bring peace closer one bit because Abbas cannot deliver. It will just stop the natural development of Israel.

    Posted by AIG | October 18, 2010, 4:48 pm
  96. AIG, as smart as you are, do you really believe that the majority of the populace studies in details the division of land and where some construction occurs in relation to the probable final settlement? Maybe this is the case in Israel, I can’t really say because I simply don’t know, but the reality is that this is not the case with the majority of the Palestinian people nor the majority of the Arab populace. The emotional involvement is all overwhelming and so the “concept” of continued building of settlements is translated as an act of bad faith encroaching on part of Palestine. I am not talking about what the reality is here but what the perception is. Really, with violence in check, a final settlement possibly less than a year away, is it that important to keep building when it jeopardizes the chances and inflames the feelings? Isn’t this akin to Ariel Sharon insisting on barging through the Temple Mount, thus triggering the violence (regardless of whether it was the fundamental cause or not). This is where the test of empathy lies. The perception of many of us in this forum is that it doesn’t exist. And this is sad. Rather, we read cold-hearted calculations and reasoning.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 18, 2010, 6:46 pm
  97. Neither the Republicans nor the Saudis, clerical Iran or the Orthodox Jews want Darwinism to be taught as the evolutionary form of human life in schools.

    Yet, they are the strongest advocates of human survival of the fittest.

    Posted by PeterinDubai | October 18, 2010, 7:34 pm
  98. AIG: “It will also not bring peace closer one bit because Abbas cannot deliver.”

    In other words, why bother with peace? If Israel doesn’t think Abbas can deliver peace, it’s wasting time negotiating with him and should be talking to those who can deliver peace (Hamas?)
    Or it should stop pretending and paying lip service to peace.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 18, 2010, 7:49 pm
  99. Taking a break… for the Lebanese and (one time?) Lebanon lovers among us:

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 18, 2010, 8:29 pm
  100. 300 comments, geez.

    Maybe I should start charging you guys admission.


    Posted by Qifa Nabki | October 18, 2010, 9:31 pm
  101. Maybe you should post a new topic 🙂

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 18, 2010, 11:33 pm
  102. BV and HP,

    The Arabs are tough capable negotiators while Israelis are “cold hearted”. It will take generations for Lebanese do start accepting peace with Israel but a few years after the barbaric second intifada you expect empathy from Israelis. Why don’t we hold each other to the same standards? I haven’t seen yet any Lebanese negotiation solved with “empathy”. Perhaps I missed it. Could you point me to relevant examples from our region where “empathy” was employed? Perhaps you were referring to the Quntar festival that showed great empathy to Israelis.

    I want a government that will negotiate tough with the PA and maximally deter Hamas. I have zero trust in the governing capabilities of the Palestinians and their ability to be peaceful partners for Israel. Since it helps the US that there are negotiations, let’s have them by all means. Maybe we will get lucky and the Palestinians will agree to Israeli proposals. But the chances are very slim.

    It will take decades in my opinion before we can reach a stable agreement. Until then, low intensity warfare with a major war every 10-20 years or so is what we should expect. I hope things turn out differently, but we need to be realistic. The Islamist fervor in the middle east needs to take its course, and it will take a long time.

    Posted by AIG | October 18, 2010, 11:45 pm
  103. Same standards? You make it sounds like I’m a big defender of Arab negotiators or them being tough. I have never said that. In fact, I have most often criticized the Lebanese leaders completely. I don’t think there’s a single one among them capable of negotiating anything.

    And I have also agreed with you that Islamist fervor needs to run its course.

    This doesn’t mean that I can’t theorize about what i WISH could happen.
    And this doesn’t mean I can’t also comment on what I see, which in this case seems to be, imo, an Israeli govt who’s not really all that interested in the current negotiations. And why should they be? Israel doesn’t stand to lose much in the current status quo while it contains to change the facts on the ground with more settlements. There isn’t much the Arabs can offer at this point. So I get it. I really do. That doesn’t mean I think it’s right or fair. But I get it.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 19, 2010, 3:05 am
  104. AIG, you really continue to confuse us with folks who are actually negotiating and/or deciding or representing the whole “other side.” The minute a specific characterization, opinion, or comment not to your liking is made about a specific action, rather than addressing that point, you go onto the grand general context.

    The fact is that Netanyahu – whom I think you admire and whose positions you advocate if I’m not mistaken – cannot have it both ways. He cannot declare his intentions for peace and deep negotiations with Abbas while undermining the negotiations with the positions he takes and then having his supporters say that Abbas can’t deliver anyway. This is not only cold hearted; it is hypocritical. Answering this by referring to distasteful actions or terrorist acts committed by some Arabs — actions that neither BV nor I support and which we both have vehemently condemned — is simply diverting attention from the point being made.

    I understand your prognostics about what will likely happen “low intensity warfare with a major war every 10-20 years or so,” and hope you are wrong, as I’m sure you do, but sadly recognize that you may be right. If indeed this is what happens, it will be because both sides have failed miserably and having leaders capable of true leadership, the way the Egyptians once had in Sadat – assassinated – and the way Israel once had in Rabin – assassinated. It appears that the forces of evil re-emerge and prevail for a time. It is sad for the region as I’m sure the casualties that result from warfare and war are cause for suffering at the human level no matter who endures them.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 19, 2010, 4:34 am
  105. AIG said :”It will just stop the natural development of Israel.

    Sorry to do the following, may be I should change my nik to HP. I agree with 99.9% of what AIG is presenting here, but!

    Stopping, for 20 weeks, the building in east Jerusalem with a lot of noise and pictures and unemployed cranes and idel workers and such + a lot of building in other places in Jerusalem with a lot of noise and pictures and such will not stop the natural development of Israel. I am a proud Zionist and after 60 years of impressive economic growth + the latest gas fields I am happy to declare that such stoppage will not affect the growth of Israel at all.

    On the other hand it could help the USA; Improve Israel position in the International arena and could induce no more than five Lebanese, 3 of them in this blog and most abroad to say good things about Israel. Even if that will be all, I think it is a good deal, even if the rest of the ME will stay exactly the same. I do not know why the present Israeli government can not do it. In my opinion in the old days it may have done so.

    To make my position clear. It was also said:

    “Again. Would you not care if Lebanon’s “actions” were in Kiryat Shmona?”

    It is not about caring. If Lebanese forces, under any name, will invade KS or bring serious, Dahahia like, destruction to KS many people in Israel will do their best to turn certain parts of Lebanon into one big parking lot. And under certain conditions it will be a very big very flat parking lot. Even the HA got the idea, but care should be taken that it is not forgotten. I dont think, talk or write like that. I hate that kind of talk and people near me know it, but as I said many of us fall under the HP nik and I belong to these who will fight for Israel as any honest patriot will when it comes to his “patria”.

    Posted by Rani | October 19, 2010, 5:51 am
  106. Amen, Rani. You’re a good person.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 19, 2010, 6:05 am
  107. Rani,
    But “Patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels”, it is pure demagoguery.

    Posted by ghassan karam | October 19, 2010, 9:17 am
  108. “leaders capable of true leadership, the way the Egyptians once had in Sadat”

    Oh that made me laugh! (of course I assume you are joking about a dictator, who sold his farmers and people down the river in order to get rich)

    Posted by usedtopost | October 19, 2010, 9:28 am
  109. Rani,

    I agree with you that delaying the building in Easy Jerusalem for a few weeks will not hurt Israel. But I expect Netanyahu get the most out of this concession and at least to make a point that negotiations should continue no matter what.


    Netanyahu has clearly stated that he is for direct negotiations. Why don’t the Palestinians negotiate and call his bluff if they really think he is against peace?

    Really, can Netanyahu control the fact that most people in Israel (supporters of Likud and others) are pessimistic about the talks and the ability of Abbas to deliver? There is nothing hypocritical about this. It is clear to all involved that they are taking part in an effort that is most likely not to succeed.

    Posted by AIG | October 19, 2010, 10:14 am
  110. g k you are a very hard and strict judge. Hopefully those who judge you will be more considerate and mercifull.

    So now, according to you, all or most patriots are hidden scroundels, hiding behind demagougery, or is it only me?. and how do you seperate out the true ones? I hope it is not me only, so perhaps there are here two demagogues and/or scrcoundels one is a Lebanese patriot, HP the other is me, so as long as I am not alone, suit me just fine. And if alone? so be it.

    And to be on the wise guy place. For some people here, and many others, the USA is kind of a last refuge and after the green card they swore a very patriotic oath to it. Are they demagogues and or scroundels, perhaps yes perhaps not. I know I am playing with word and concepts and turning over a old proverb, but still after all the preaching in this blog about personal attacks and manners and such, here I am, a demagogue scroundel hiding behind pariotism. Well, so be it.
    In the next blog on the next subject I will tell a not so relevant story about Judgment.

    Posted by Rani | October 19, 2010, 11:35 am
  111. It’s a bit ironic. If Israel wanted to negotiate with someone who can really deliver peace, they would stop propping up Abbas and begin negotiating with Hamas.

    Posted by Mehdi2 | October 19, 2010, 11:40 am
  112. AIG, I do think (and it’s just an opinion) that Netanyahu is seen by his Arab negotiating partners as the leader who can deliver the hard decisions needed for a peace settlement, more so than perhaps anyone else in Israel. The problem they have is that what they view as a simple extension of the moratorium on building in East Jerusalem, without which they will be accused of having lost any and all cards needed to establish a viable Palestinian state is not something Netanyahu is willing to take internal risk in providing. The extrapolation is for them to wonder how in the world the more difficult decisions will be handled. Also, as I tried to explain earlier, it is not the actual objective facts of where the new buildings are placed, etc., but the emotional perception from all the Palestinians on this front, a deeply felt and primal emotion which can be eliminated by an extension and which extension would then strongly boost Abbas’ standing and so make him better able to deliver his side of the bargain.

    Maybe you’ll agree to the above or maybe not. If you do, that’s great, if not, then it’s regrettable that these intangibles which mean so much for the Arabs are not appreciated.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 19, 2010, 12:01 pm
  113. AIG, any comment on the CBS 60-minutes video clip I posted above? Just curious. Certainly no one can accuse CBS of being biased towards the settlers in that clip!

    I’m actually (pleasantly) surprised to see such reporting. I do think more critical reporting of this nature is needed for all the countries in the Middle East, exposing where the true fanaticism lays. I’m not sure how easy it will be in some Arab countries but it would be good to see it everywhere.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 19, 2010, 12:29 pm
  114. QN, BV is right. Maybe you should have a new post so that everyone will re-post their same convictions on a fresh slate. Scrolling down on am iPhone through 300 comments is finger numbing 🙂

    Posted by IHTDA | October 19, 2010, 12:30 pm
  115. HP,

    I agree with your point about how many Palestinians feel. Yet, I think your view of this is very one sided. Did you ever stop to think how Jews feel about Jerusalem? The “primal emotions” are 10 times greater. Zion is just another name for Jerusalem and it was no coincidence that the Israeli national movement is called Zionism. For thousands of year the Jews have said during the Seder (Passover meal) “next year in Jerusalem”. After Yom Kippur, the most somber Jewish “holiday” is the fast of 9 of Av (the day according to tradition Jerusalem was sacked). Jerusalem is mentioned 600+ times in the Old Testament, zero times in the Koran.

    In short, bringing “primal emotions” into the argument is going to get you nowhere fast. If you think about it, it is really ridiculous. Does it make sense for any side to be held hostage by the “primal emotions” of the other?

    The Israeli-Arab conflict is not a slight disagreement that can be solved using empathy. It is a fundamental disagreement that involves the very identity and self image of both sides. It is a disagreement about land, holy places, history and the place of people in it.

    Posted by AIG | October 19, 2010, 12:45 pm
  116. HP,

    When you say that the CBS program exposes “where true fanaticism lays” what do you mean?

    Does that mean that the Hamas charter and ideology is not fanatic? Does it mean that the Hezballah ideology is not fanatic? Does it mean that the Quntar festival was not fanatic?

    Let’s explore, what idea expressed in the CBS piece did you find fanatic?

    Your problem I think is that deep down you cannot accept the fact that the Jews are sovereign over Jerusalem. You really need to practice your empathy to Jews and their primal emotions about Jerusalem.

    Posted by AIG | October 19, 2010, 12:52 pm
  117. @Rani 306:

    Well said Rani. I completely agree with what you’re saying there, and I completely understand where that is coming from. I think that was the point I was trying to make at AIG earlier.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 19, 2010, 1:01 pm
  118. @Mehdi 312:

    I am of the same opinion. Distasteful as it may be, it’s Hamas that can bring peace and with who Israel should be negotiating.

    Now before you all jump me with “We don’t negotiate with terrorists” and all that, please understand that by its very virtue, negotiations for peace take place with an ENEMY. If he were your friend, there wouldn’t be anything to negotiate. And usually, an ENEMY is something who has done foul things to you (as have you to him).
    If you refuse to negotiate with someone who has your blood on their hands, on principle, you get nowhere. And by the same logic, Lebanon would never negotiate with Israel either, given that, Israel has a lot of Lebanese blood on its hands.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 19, 2010, 1:06 pm
  119. AIG says “The Israeli-Arab conflict is not a slight disagreement that can be solved using empathy. It is a fundamental disagreement that involves the very identity and self image of both sides. It is a disagreement about land, holy places, history and the place of people in it.”

    This is very true.

    And I think as long as we confine ourselves to the box of “religion, nationality, identity” and all those other ills of man, it will be impossible to find a compromise.

    Which is why, in my mind, the solution is actually a fairly simple one. But it’s one that requires complete detachment from those emotional issues.

    Each side gets his state. Each side gets half of Jerusalem (or it’s internationally administered). The refugees do not return to Israel proper, but can settle in the new Palestine. Each state gets complete sovereignty of its borders, lands, airspace and waters.

    It’s really NOT complicated when you put it like that. But it requires doing away with the “old” emotions. The emotions and symbols that have to do with 1948, or 1967, or Arab Palestine, or Jewish Israel of the antiquity. Or the religious symbols.

    If one remains attached to “right of return” or “undivided Jerusalem”, there simply is no compromise there.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 19, 2010, 1:13 pm
  120. BV,

    Just to understand your point, did you think it was a mistake to for the US to drop nuclear weapons on Japan instead of negotiating with them? Was it a mistake for the US to demand unconditional surrender from the Japanese?

    Also, I don’t understand; Lebanon is in fact not negotiating with Israel. So apparently your position is not very popular in Lebanon.

    Posted by AIG | October 19, 2010, 1:15 pm
  121. BV,

    I understand what you are saying but let me explain why I don’t agree with you. If one has been raised on the ethos of the right of return, and it forms an important part of your identity and it also is an important aspect of your relations with your parents who have immersed you in this ethos, how can you put your “emotions” aside without committing “suicide”. Those emotions are an integral part of who you are. You cannot put them aside without stopping being you. If at all, you can undergo a long process that changes your world view. But for these changes to prevail in a large population will take ages.

    In addition, your solution is not “simple” because it will not work. All you need is 10% of the population to reject it and cause mayhem as happened in Lebanon.

    Posted by AIG | October 19, 2010, 1:25 pm
  122. AIG,there is fanaticism on both sides, a tremendous amount of it on the Arab side. At the same time, this program addresses the motivations of certain settlers that result in the kind of pressure and displacement being pushed on Arab residents of East Jerusalem. It’s actually pretty sad to hear the statement: “we’re going to give them a better life but away from their current home; we’re going to bring tourism and so the economic growth will help them.” Then there is the claim to restore the City of David which itself was conquered from whatever was before it, etc. So, how far does one go. The fanaticism is in driving to a repopulation or redistribution of the population based on old historical situations, regardless of what the current inhabitant situation is.

    I am not making any absolution or comment about the fanaticism on the other side. I’ve written enough about it so that your hinting that I agree with that kind of fanaticism is misguided at best, likely a diversionary tactic, or done with an evil intention at worst.

    The reality is that I’d very much like programs like these exposing those who hold extremist views on both sides. This is how the public learns best to judge for themselves.

    You have not answered my question about the program itself. We keep an open mind here, for the most part, and would gladly listen and consider any objective persuasive arguments. Just please don’t retort with assuming that I condone the other party’s fanaticism. I don’t.

    As I used to say, way back in the past, here on QN as well as on SC, two wrongs don’t make a right.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 19, 2010, 1:30 pm
  123. To be fair, AIG, maybe I should have just asked your opinion without making any comments, since I am in a learning mode. So forget my comments and share with us your views of that CBS programs (and remember that I’d love to see similar programs probing Hamas for example).

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 19, 2010, 1:31 pm
  124. AIG @316, I understand. I’m not personally involved in all this but I appreciate the strong feelings on both sides, both from an intellectual understanding as well as from human contact on both side. I don’t have further points of contention with you on this. I do have one disagreement in that I am not an atheist and I pray that this situation gets resolved sooner rather than later without further bloodshed. Peace.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 19, 2010, 1:39 pm
  125. AIG,

    You are absolutely correct. I already conceded that what I “wish” would happen is probably never gonna happen. Call it an idealistic fantasy.

    In the real world that “ethos” you speak of is very real on both sides. The Jerusalem question, the right of return, the nature of the “Jewish state”, Promised Land, and so on.

    As for your other question: Yes. I think it’s a mistake to drop a nuke on anyone. But that’s just the idealist human being in me.
    Having put that extreme aside. It goes to prove my point, in an indirect way. The USA, nuke or not, had to eventually sit down with the Japanese face to face. Even if it’s to impose an unconditional surrender. EVENTUALLY, at some point, for hostilities to end you HAVE to sit down with your enemy. Whether it’s to “negotiate” or to “impose surrender” depends on the facts on the ground, obviously. But you do have to face the enemy at a table for the conflict to end. At SOME point, Israel will have to sit down with Hamas.
    The question is: Will Israel sit down with a Hamas that’s been “nuked” into surrender (This appears to be the policy of current and previous governments) or will you sit down with a Hamas where you’re negotiating about some kind of compromise (not in the cards, at the moment).

    There is no easy answer there.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 19, 2010, 1:55 pm
  126. HP,

    There are many Jews that feel that Jerusalem should not be divided. It is a strong emotional attachment that one can find even among secular Jews. Myself, I care more about people, rather than places, but I completely understand and know where the emotional attachment comes from. The loss and destruction of Jerusalem (twice) is an historic catastrophe for the Jews. It will take me too long to explain but Judaism barely survived without Jerusalem and the temple. It had to completely change from a religion connected to a place (the Temple in Jerusalem) to a religion that is decentralized and revolves around texts. Try to think what Muslims would have to do if Mecca fell into non-Muslim hands and the haj became impossible. Do you think they would ever compromise and agree to make Mecca an international city for all the religions, or a partitioned city?

    So my view is that even though in principle I would not mind dividing Jerusalem, I am certainly not going to stand in the way of any Jew that feels that is the wrong thing to do and wants to cement Jewish presence there. What El-Ad does is perfectly legal. I am sure the CBS program will help them raise even more money. And as for Barkat (who I have met several times and is a great guy) and his proposal for the King’s Garden, how is this much different than what Solidere did in Beirut?

    Posted by AIG | October 19, 2010, 2:15 pm
  127. Rani #311
    I do not try to hide the fact that I am not patriotic . I think that most of the problems of the world are due to patriotism. I will never understand the logic behind “my country, right or wrong”. These political subdivisions are artificial and you can rest assured that I wasn’t targeting you as a person:-) I was merely making a statement about a sad state of affairs in the world.

    Posted by ghassan karam | October 19, 2010, 2:33 pm
  128. Thanks, AIG. I was looking for such comments as in #327. I’m learning. I hope we all are.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 19, 2010, 3:06 pm
  129. HP. “I’m learning. Hope we all are.”
    Yes, I hope too we all learn about Zionist propaganda.

    AIG’s parallel between Jerusalem and Mecca is pointless. Jerusalem – Al Quds – was the first place towards Muslims turn in prayer. From a spiritual point of view, this city is as important as Mecca – and it is also a holy city Christianity.
    The “strong emotional attachment” to this place is not reserved to one people, it is common to all Abrahamic faiths. If you can’t understand/admit that point, you simply don’t deserve being in that place.

    It is rather ironic to see Zionists using now the “spiritual” card – while the most substantial part of their nationalist/colonial ideology has nothing to do with spirituality.

    AIG’s thought in #327 about al Quds is so confused. I know you’re not Christian but you should read Augustine’s City of God before intending to tell us something coherent about your “emotional attachment” to Jerusalem – if by “emotional” you mean “spiritual”.

    “Judaism barely survived without Jerusalem and the temple”

    !!! HOPEFULLY for judaism, judaism survived without Jerusalem and the temple. – writing the contrary is factually a lie and theoretically mere Zionist propaganda.

    In conclusion, the spiritual attachment to Al Quds is not that exceptional : it is common to ALL Abrahamic traditions.
    But Zionists – even/especially when they know nothing about the rich traditions of Jewish spirituality – use the “strong emotional attachment” argument when they need to justify both judaization and illegal settlements (comme d’habitude).

    Jews who have a “strong emotional attachment” and genuine commitment with Jewish spirituality don’t support the colonial project and the racist idea that Jerusalem should be reserved to only one people.

    Posted by quelqu'une | October 19, 2010, 4:57 pm
  130. Quelqu’une, collecting data. Not at the analysis level yet. I find it instructive to read the arguments, volunteered or provided in reaction to certain arguments. You are correct about the Abrahamic faiths and the link to Jerusalem. In the CBS segment, the reporter points that out and the interviewee replies that for the Jews this is the ONLY place (vs. Mecca for the Muslims). I’m not sure about the Christians since those sites in Jerusalem don’t seem in dispute in terms of maintaining worship and monuments there.

    I find the religious link (which AIG is likely to call the tribal link, implying that for the Jews it is not religion, or at least not just religion) to a trigger for so much conflict. Religion should really be a personal and private spiritual condition and activity and, if communal, then separate from state and politics. Alas, this is not the case in many a country.

    You see, by reading AIG’s opinion, and then your opinion, I think a good picture is painted of the spectra of opinions. We really learn from these. The extent to which this contributes to a solution is probably minuscule but certainly talking and writing and reading sure beats fighting and may well advance the level of mutual understanding even if a tiny bit.

    In the end, as you know, life goes on, since “cela est vrai dit Candide, mais il faut cultiver notre jardin.”

    Salutations amicales.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 19, 2010, 5:10 pm
  131. Quelqu’une, did you view the CBS segment linked above? What is your opinion, to the extent that you would have something to add to the above?

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 19, 2010, 5:13 pm
  132. My point above was exactly to this argument. “Emotional attachments” (or whatever you wanna call them) should be taken out of the equation to arrive at a just solution.
    As long as either side is driven by those, each side will insist that their “emotional attachment” is more important, or supersedes the other’s.

    The right of return is an “emotional and spiritual attachment” too for the Palestinians. Yet I don’t see AIG “empathizing” with that, but he asks we empathize with the Jews attachment to Jerusalem. And I’m willing to wager that the reverse is true too. Someone from the other camp probably doesn’t care that Jerusalem is important to the Jews, but wants the Israelis to accept the right of return.

    And so the vicious cycle continues.

    Where is King Solomon when we need him? If anytime there was a case of “split this baby in half”, it’s this matter.
    Which is exactly why I maintain that the solution IS that simple (yet impossible to attain).

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 19, 2010, 5:27 pm
  133. HP
    Since you are French educated you now better than I do that Voltaire had no respect whatsoever for organized religion be it Jewish, Moslem, Christian …”ecrasons l’infame” as he put it.

    Posted by Ghassan Karam | October 19, 2010, 5:31 pm
  134. To him in whom love dwells, the whole world is but one family. ~Buddha

    Nationalism is an infantile disease. It is the measles of mankind. ~Albert Einstein

    Patriotism, the virtue of the vicious. ~Oscar Wilde

    Posted by V | October 19, 2010, 5:34 pm
  135. GK, yeah, and I have no problem with that. He’d probably be OK with those who chose to follow a religion in the privacy of their life and thought. I can’t say I know that for a fact but I think the sarcasm he used against those who were religious or overly optimistic in their thoughts (like Leibniz) was for the part of these thoughts that extrapolated to social order, etc. Maybe I’m wrong on that. As you know, my nerdiness is of the techie flavor not the humanities flavor 😉

    I just have flashback of romantic euphoria from the French literature I learned in school. Maybe it was poetic enchantment.


    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 19, 2010, 5:37 pm
  136. Buddha + Einstein + Wilde = Abolish all borders and let’s all live like one big happy world family 😉

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 19, 2010, 5:38 pm
  137. Bonsoir HP, I haven’t viewed the CBS segment – but I will.
    Même si je ne suis pas d’accord avec vous la plupart du temps, j’ai du respect pour votre capacité à prendre du recul – surtout qu’il y a des commentaires par ici qui écorchent les yeux et inspirent des pensées moins bucoliques que le jardinage.
    Sorry it’s late and I can’t speak/write in English after a certain hour 😉

    Posted by quelqu'une | October 19, 2010, 5:39 pm
  138. BV,

    Please review what I wrote in #316. My whole point is that we either leave emotions out or we take account of everyones emotions. I prefer the former.

    Posted by AIG | October 19, 2010, 6:03 pm
  139. QQ,

    You are typical of many Arabs that call inconvenient information “propaganda”. Your ignorance of Judaism and arrogance of your presumed knowledge is amusing. I always enjoy it when Arabs know better than Jews what we are and what we “really” believe.

    Posted by AIG | October 19, 2010, 6:17 pm
  140. AIG 339:

    Yup. Agreed 100%. Either leave out emotions entirely. Or take everyone’s into account.
    I prefer the former too.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 19, 2010, 6:34 pm
  141. “you are typical of many Arabs”.. haha 😉
    .. and that’s by the way a typical sentence of many racists.

    At least, my ignorance of judaism did not make me write such a stupid & propagandist sentence as :

    “Judaism barely survived without Jerusalem and the temple”

    This is arrogance and this is factually wrong. Hopefully, judaism never waited for zionism to either survive or getting a raison d’être.

    Bonne nuit tout le monde

    Posted by quelqu'une | October 19, 2010, 6:41 pm
  142. QQ,

    You are clueless. For anyone interested please read the section below from the wikipedia article about the Pharisees. It is called “From Pharisees to Rabbis”:

    It describes the existential dilemma Judaism faced after the Temple was destroyed and how only one sect of many in Judaism was able to produce a theology that survived this catastrophe.

    Posted by AIG | October 19, 2010, 6:59 pm
  143. AIG, interesting article. A completely objectively informative story. Our pastor many years ago was talking about the Sadducees (as discussed in the Bible – King James Version). To help us remember what their belief was – in particular their belief that there was no after life – he said that we can look at their name as “Sad, you see” with the implication that without hope of an afterlife one is sad. It was a good mnemonic and of course I still remember it till now.

    In the article there is a link to “Midrash.” I didn’t know this word before but think it has the same root as the Arabic “Madrassa” which of course means simply “School.” It is a bit annoying how in the popular media in the U.S. they equate the name “Maddrassa” with Islamic schools in Pakistan and similar countries. It is interesting that the Jewish term is so phonetically close, and in fact also relates to studying.

    Folks, please don’t read any messages or opinions in the above, just simple linguistic observations and anecdotes, no more, no less.

    Finally, a question. The word “Pharisees.” Does anyone know its roots and is it in any way related to the Arabic word “Faris” which means “Knight?”

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 19, 2010, 8:15 pm
  144. AIG,

    I thought you stated many times that you’re an atheist, yet you seem to argue your physical claim to Jerusalem based on judaism.

    What gives? By your standard argument, christians have an even bigger claim to Jerusalem than the jews if the standard is how holy that city is to their religion.

    Now in light of this you might shift your argument to one that the jews were there first before the christians. Which one can easily rebutal that when the jews left egypt and eventually landed in that geographical location, there were people living there already. Maybe these people are the true owners of this land. I wonder who they are? Do you know who they are?

    Posted by Ras Beirut | October 19, 2010, 10:57 pm
  145. HP,

    The Saduccees were called so because they followed teachings of the High Priest Tsadok. The meaning of the name is similar to Tsadik, which means “righteous person”.

    The Pharisees in Hebrew were called Perushim, which means “set apart”.

    Posted by AIG | October 20, 2010, 12:44 am
  146. Ras Beirut,

    My physical claim to Jerusalem is because we hold it. If you don’t like this, you are welcome to negotiate with us or try taking it by force. Nobody in the world cared about the Jews attachment to Jerusalem before 1967 and the fact that Jews couldn’t visit their holiest places. That is fine, but please do not complain now.

    How do you figure that Christians have a bigger claim to Jerusalem based on its holiness for them??? I’d really like to hear that argument. Jerusalem was never central to the Christians that they had to visit it a few times a year like the Jews had to visit the Temple. For hundreds of years the Temple was center of all Jewish rituals. To this day the Jews on weekdays pray the “amidah” (standing) prayer which includes:
    “And to Jerusalem, Your city, may You return in compassion, and may You rest within it, as You have spoke. May You rebuild it soon in our days as an eternal structure, and may You speedily establish the throne of King David within it. Blessed are You, God, the builder of Jerusalem…May our eyes behold Your return to Zion in compassion. Blessed are you God, who restores His presence to Zion.”

    And that is the tip of the iceberg.
    Check out:

    Posted by AIG | October 20, 2010, 1:03 am
  147. AIG,

    It seems hard for you to understand that the City a spiritual tradition refers to is not exactly a material/historical one on which you have to practice ethnic cleansing, deportations and other aggressions.

    Give us a break with your Zionist arguments using Judaism only to justify an ethnocratic policy and the ongoing judaization of Jerusalem.

    You can check your favorite source by the way : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Judaization_of_Jerusalem

    “Judaization” in territorial terms is characterized by Oren Yiftachel as a form of “ethnicization”, which he argues is “the main force in shaping ethnocratic regimes”. Yiftachel identifies Judaization as a state strategy and project in Israel, not confined to Jerusalem alone. He also characterizes the goals of those pursuing a “Greater Israel” or “Greater Palestine” as being driven by “ethnicization”, in this case by “Judaization” and “Arabization” respectively.
    Valerie Zink writes that much was accomplished towards the Judaization of Jerusalem with the expulsion of Arab residents in 1948 and 1967, noting that the process has also relied in “peacetime” on “the strategic extension of Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries, bureaucratic and legal restrictions on Palestinian land use, disenfranchisement of Jerusalem residents, the expansion of settlements in ‘Greater Jerusalem’, and the construction of the separation wall.” The attempts to Judaize Jerusalem, in the words of Jeremy Salt, “to obliterate its Palestinian identity” and thicken ‘Greater Jerusalem’ to encompass much of the West Bank, have continued under successive Israeli governments.
    Cheryl Rubenberg writes that since 1967, Israel has employed processes of “Judaization and Israelization so as to transform Jerusalem into a Jewish metropolis,” while simultaneously pursuing “a program of de-Arabization” so as to facilitate “its objective of permanent, unified, sovereign control over the city.” These policies, which aim to change Jerusalem demographically, socially, culturally and politically, are said by Rubenberg to have intensified after the initiation of the Oslo peace process in 1993.
    Drawing on the scholarship of Ian Lustick, Cecilia Alban writes of how the Israeli government has succeeded in establishing “new powerful, concepts, images, and icons” to explain and legitimise its policies in Jerusalem. The government’s use of the term “reunification” to describe its occupation of East Jerusalem in 1967 is cited as one such example, which in Alban’s view, falsely implies that this area belonged to Israel in the past. Noting the reality of the fear among Israelis that Jerusalem would become redivided under dual sovereignty or internationalization proposals, Alban’s writes that such fears were “exploited politically to justify the forced retention and Judaization of East Jerusalem.”
    In a 2008 report, John Dugard, independent investigator for the United Nations Human Rights Council, cites the Judaization of Jerusalem among many examples of Israeli policies “of colonialism, apartheid or occupation”, that create a context in which Palestinian terrorism is “an inevitable consequence”.

    Posted by quelqu'une | October 20, 2010, 4:53 am
  148. Interesting to read Party of God’s role in facilitating the new coalition government of Iraq.

    One legacy of 2003 invasion of Iraq is that Hizbuallah is now formally part of the Iraqi government, the leader of the Iraqi branch of the party who appears to these days reside most of his time in Iran.

    On another matter, gotta smile when reading about “we” and “us” controlling Jerusalem.

    Jerusalem, founded around 2600 BCE by a people that pre-date the idea of Jews, Christians or Muslims, has for long periods of past 2500 years been controlled by people whose ancestors are today’s Palestinians, Lebanese, Syrians, Jordanians and Jews.

    The “built-up place of Shalem” long-predates the arrival of monolithic religions and while the civil war between the Abrahamic tribes is entertaining, it is a side-show to the real action in human development – the action is in east Asia, south and central Asia and increasingly Latin America and parts of Africa and the interrelationships across those rapidly expanding economies.

    What is most interesting about south west Asia to me is not so much the temporary civil conflict between cousins over a pre-Abrahamic city – which is we all suspect a small town that will eventually end up sharing but just haven’t settled yet on a modus operandi for that sharing, which is a trifling matter – but more what will the role be for Turkey in particular – will be succeed in manoeuvering itself as a centre of commerce and trade in central Asia – and how Turkey’s relationships are developing with other emerging economic powers – that is an interesting subject.

    I would love to see this blog look at a bit more from a Lebanese point of view – what are the commercial, cultural and other opportunities for Lebanon to leverage more out of emerging Turkey.

    Posted by S al-Riachy | October 20, 2010, 4:55 am
  149. For those who think AIG’s arguments are honest, objective and based upon rational facts, please read Schlomo Sand’s classic book : The Invention of Jewish People.
    “A historical tour de force, The Invention of the Jewish People offers a groundbreaking account of Jewish and Israeli history. Exploding the myth that there was a forced Jewish exile in the first century at the hands of the Romans, Israeli historian Shlomo Sand argues that most modern Jews descend from converts, whose native lands were scattered across the Middle East and Eastern Europe.”

    Posted by quelqu'une | October 20, 2010, 5:06 am
  150. I believe Jerusalem is important to the three main monotheistic religions of the world. But it is completely under Israeli jurisdiction (not Jewish, but Israeli). It is important, I think, to differentiate between “Jerusalem”, “East Jerusalem”, and “The Old City”.

    In any future settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, I believe E. Jerusalem, which is overwhelmingly Arab, should become part of Palestine, and under Palestinian control and jurisdiction. Chances are, it will most likely become the capital of the future Palestine, and that’s fine by me.

    The Old City, however, must have a completely different status. It must be “shared” amongst the three religions. It will, most likely, remain in Israel forever (or for a very long time). But jurisdiction, and decisions over what’s to take place inside the Old City, can be at the hands of a governing body made of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. It can have a Vatican-like status, which is for all practical purposes an independent State (even has its own currency), and yet it is physically inside Italy. Yet Italian authorities cannot intervene in decisions taken inside the Vatican.

    I think that’s a possible solution, which might be acceptable to all sides. Maybe not yet, but soon.

    Posted by Shai | October 20, 2010, 7:46 am
  151. As I said many times before, it is self determination that makes a nation, nothing else.

    But for those who favor genes and just to show that most of what Sand says is BS:

    Posted by AIG | October 20, 2010, 9:52 am
  152. And for those that deny the Jews were a nation that were subdued and exiled by the Romans, I suggest visiting Titus’ Arch in the Forum in Rome:

    Did we go in the middle of the night and build it for propaganda purposes?

    Posted by AIG | October 20, 2010, 9:58 am
  153. AIG
    Impressive stemina! Word for word, you have said more than all the others combined on this thread 🙂

    Posted by IHTDA | October 20, 2010, 11:07 am
  154. Schlomo Sand’s essay is about history, not genetics.

    After “religion” and “spirituality”, AIG is referring to “archeology” – all through Wikipedia : “impressive stamina” ! – to justify his sick arguments in favor of the Zionist mythology .. What’s next after religion and archeology ? Philately and knitting ?


    “Swearing an oath to a Jewish state will decide its fate. It is liable to turn the country into a theocracy like Saudi Arabia.
    Remember this day. It’s the day Israel changes its character. As a result, it can also change its name to the Jewish Republic of Israel, like the Islamic Republic of Iran. Granted, the loyalty oath bill that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seeking to have passed purportedly only deals with new citizens who are not Jewish, but it affects the fate of all of us.
    From now on, we will be living in a new, officially approved, ethnocratic, theocratic, nationalistic and racist country. Anyone who thinks it doesn’t affect him is mistaken.”

    “From now on” from an Israeli perspective, of course. I think the Palestinians forced to leave their houses already knew that Israel was an ethnocratic, theocratic, nationalistic and racist country.

    Posted by quelqu'une | October 20, 2010, 12:05 pm
  155. I love it when Israel haters prove my point. Israel is a democratic country with a vibrant press and freedom of speech. You love to quote Haaretz which reflects the views of maybe 2-3% of the population. It would be like someone quoting couterpunch.org to prove the US is a fascist country. For example:

    Posted by AIG | October 20, 2010, 12:34 pm
  156. “Now in light of this you might shift your argument to one that the jews were there first before the christians. Which one can easily rebutal that when the jews left egypt and eventually landed in that geographical location, there were people living there already. Maybe these people are the true owners of this land. I wonder who they are? Do you know who they are?”

    This is precisely why these so-called claims based on the past can keep going on forever and do not resolve anything. The Arabs were here first! The Jews were here before! The Ottomans were here before that! The Arabs were here before them! The crusaders! The Romans! ad infinitum. Time to look FORWARD!

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 20, 2010, 1:05 pm
  157. Shai said “In any future settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, I believe E. Jerusalem, which is overwhelmingly Arab, should become part of Palestine, and under Palestinian control and jurisdiction. Chances are, it will most likely become the capital of the future Palestine, and that’s fine by me.

    The Old City, however, must have a completely different status. It must be “shared” amongst the three religions. It will, most likely, remain in Israel forever (or for a very long time). But jurisdiction, and decisions over what’s to take place inside the Old City, can be at the hands of a governing body made of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. It can have a Vatican-like status…”

    Agreed 100%

    Careful not to have AIG call you some kind of inhuman animal for conceding some fair points though. 🙂 (I gest!)

    This here is how we arrive to solutions, people. It’s really NOT that complicated once you’re willing to shed away the preconceived notions and immovable targets.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 20, 2010, 1:11 pm
  158. I love it when Israel haters prove my point.


    I love it when Israel haters self-destruct due to their odd obsession (e.g. Helen Thomas, Rick Sanchez, Norman Finkelstein).

    Anyway, another good article from Jeff Jacoby…


    Posted by Akbar Palace | October 20, 2010, 1:13 pm
  159. Akbar,

    Just read the Jacoby article.

    Can you or AIG explain something for me?

    You have both stated time and again that (and I’m gonna quote AIG here): “As I said many times before, it is self determination that makes a nation, nothing else.”

    YOU define your nation. Right?

    So why is it SO important for you that the Palestinians recognize Israel as “The Jewish State”? Isn’t Abbas correct in saying “You can call it whatever you want, I don’t care.”?

    All other arguments aside (please, let’s not go on tangents), I really want to understand how you reconcile these 2 things.
    – On one side, you insist that what makes you The Jewish State is SELF-determined and defined (and by inference, it’s not religion, or genes, or whatever).
    – On the other hand, you insist on being so “defined” by others.

    Am I misunderstanding something?

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 20, 2010, 1:51 pm
  160. BV,

    It is very simple. Peace is based on trust. In the case a peace agreement is signed, we are giving tangible things to the Palestinians in exchange for promises that the feud is over. If the Palestinians don’t recognize us as a Jewish state, it just raises the suspicion that they are not interested in peace, but in getting things from a peace agreement and then continuing pursuing their grievances from there.

    Posted by AIG | October 20, 2010, 2:30 pm
  161. Fair enough.

    Let’s push this to its logical conclusion.

    Why the insistance on “The Jewish State”?

    If you’re looking for that trust in the Palestinians recognition, wouldn’t the standard applied by most states be something more along the lines of “recognizing Israel in its borders (whatever borders are agreed on) and sovereignty, and all that.”

    The same way any 2 nations would recognize each other. I would imagine the recognition of your borders and sovereignty would carry the same guarantees that you mention above about the feud being over, and no grievances to be pursued. What does the NATURE of your state matter to the Palestinians (or anyone else for that matter).

    I mean. Most countries recognize each other as sovereign. Recognize their common borders. And agree to stop feuding based on that. They don’t presume to recognize each other’s “jewish nature” or system of government for that matter.

    So again, while your logic is fair, I fail to see the specific insistence on “Jewish State” in there.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 20, 2010, 2:37 pm
  162. BV,

    I also don’t understand the insistence of Israel to be “recognized” as The Jewish State. What if Abu Mazen said “Sure, we recognize you as The Jewish State…”? Now what? Is Israel satisfied? What is it about the “recognition” that will satisfy me, or any of my fellow Israeli citizens? Obviously, we want to feel that the Arabs around us have accepted that Jews have come back (to stay), and that they have historical rights and claims to the land currently and over the past 62 years called The State of Israel. Fine, I need that recognition too. It will make me feel somewhat “safer”, though purely on the emotional realm, and not beyond that. Because I doubt AIG means for Abu Mazen to also sign some paper that says Israel, as The Jewish State, has a right to be a Racist state, favoring Jews over non-Jews, right?

    But to be honest with you, what I truly fail to understand, is why Abu Mazen, or any other Arab leader, isn’t just saying “Fine! You’re The Jewish State!” He said it, in a different way as mentioned above, but meant it sarcastically (“… you can call yourself The Jewish Empire”) But why not just say it, and finished?

    For us Jews living in Israel, part of our ethos is that our very existence is always at question. That we’ve never really felt safe anywhere. That only here, in Israel, can we somehow ensure our existence as Jews. You can understand why (according to foreign sources) Israel quickly developed nuclear capabilities. No matter how many times you try to explain to fellow Israelis that the Palestinians hate us because of what we as Israelis have done to them, they still think the Arabs hate us because we’re Jewish. And don’t accept us here, as Jews first, and as Zionists second.

    So what is the big deal? Let the entire Arab World accept this emotional demand of ours, which WILL make 99% of Israelis feel better, and move on. How will any Arab nation be giving something away, giving up on any right, by recognizing Israel as a Jewish State? Is Italy not a Christian State? Is India not a Hindu State? Is Iran not an Islamic State? So Israel wants to call itself The Jewish State. Fine.

    Posted by Shai | October 20, 2010, 2:50 pm
  163. BV,

    The nature of the state very much matters for relations. Take the case of the US. If you guys do not like the nature of certain countries, you reserve the right to attack them, boycott them or sanction them.

    Posted by AIG | October 20, 2010, 2:52 pm
  164. AIG,

    You can boycott or sanction all you want. That doesn’t change the fact of a state and its boundaries as legally recognized by the UN.
    The USA does not deny Iran’s existence. We may not like its regime, and refuse to do business with it. But nobody questions its borders or sovereignty. And we certainly don’t get in the business of saying “Iran is a Muslim state” or “Iran is a secular state. We refuse to recognize it as a muslim state”.
    Iran defines ITSELF as an islamic republic. The US has no say in the matter.

    Your analogy was poor. Sorry.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 20, 2010, 2:59 pm
  165. Shai,

    You make very valid points. I’m with you. The Arabs and Abbas should say “Fine. Israel is whatever you guys want it to be. Jewish state is fine. Now can we have our state already?”

    I think on both sides, you have a lot of these somewhat irrational “fears”.
    I think the biggest problem for Abbas in accepting this “Jewish state” business is simply a question of negotiations. He holds very few cards at the moment. Recognizing Israel as “Jewish” is pretty much tantamount in giving up the “Right of return” card. So he’s going to hold off on that until he can get something for it in return.

    Negotiation tactics aside. At the end of the day, the “obvious” solution will have to be indeed that The right of return is given up to a large extent (and Abbas has hinted at that already) and I wouldn’t be surprised if when that happens, he won’t have any more problems in calling Israel whatever it wants to be called.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 20, 2010, 3:04 pm
  166. Shai,

    You make very valid points. I’m with you. The Arabs and Abbas should say “Fine. Israel is whatever you guys want it to be. Jewish state is fine. Now can we have our state already?”

    I think on both sides, you have a lot of these somewhat irrational “fears”.
    I think the biggest problem for Abbas in accepting this “Jewish state” business is simply a question of negotiations. He holds very few cards at the moment. Recognizing Israel as “Jewish” is pretty much tantamount in giving up the “Right of return” card. So he’s going to hold off on that until he can get something for it in return.

    Negotiation tactics aside. At the end of the day, the “obvious” solution will have to be indeed that The right of return is given up to a large extent (and Abbas has hinted at that already) and I wouldn’t be surprised if when that happens, he won’t have any more problems in calling Israel whatever it wants to be called. He truly won’t have to care at that point.

    The issue today is that all these things Israel is asking for amount to concessions out of the already VERY few cards the Palestinians hold. And let’s be honest, Israel is in a position of strength, negotiation wise, and hasn’t been giving ANYTHING so far. Why should Abbas be the first to give up one of the 2 or 3 cards he holds, while settlements are still being built, the West Bank is still occupied, Gaza under siege, and Israel refuses to budge on East Jerusalem and other matters?

    If I’m Abbas, I’d ask for the settlements to stop completely, and then you can call Israel “Jewish” or anything else you like.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 20, 2010, 3:07 pm
  167. BV,

    It’s a pleasure talking with you (and a pleasure coming back to QN). Allow me to offer two disagreements with you:

    1. You said: “Recognizing Israel as “Jewish” is pretty much tantamount in giving up the “Right of return” card…”

    But why? If you recognize the U.S. as The Christian State, are you in any way dismissing the indigenous Indian population’s rights? Although it did take America some 200 years to do so, but eventually it did start to “recognize” Indian rights. From what I understand, about 1/3 of the territory of Maine is in Indian control. I know it’s not the same, but you understand what I mean. I don’t see how recognizing Israel as the homeland for the Jews in any way must come at the expense of the Palestinians that were forced out. The full Right-of-Return will not occur, not because it is a state only for Jews, but because it is not feasible today to bring back millions of people into a state of 7 million. And of course because to us Israelis, having a majority non-Jewish population still scares us today. I am sure that’ll change in the future.

    2. I disagree that Abu Mazen has few cards. He has one hugely powerful card that Israel hasn’t – Time! If he was courageous enough, he could simply say to Israel “You know what, we’re not interested in any solution you’re offering. We’ll wait…” And believe me, if he ever said that, not only will quite a few Right-wing mouths drop (and minds go “now what?”), but soon enough the Lieberman’s out there will be lining up en route to Ramallah, to “beg” the Palestinian leadership to accept even Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim, just to please separate, form their own state, and leave us whatever’s left, which will have majority Jewish population. Because as Time passes, our own settlement activity in the WB is closing the doors on a feasible two-state solution, and bringing us that much closer to a forced single-state, which today would look like an Apartheid. Time is very much in Abu Mazen’s hands. And that’s the biggest card in the game, I think.

    Posted by Shai | October 20, 2010, 3:23 pm
  168. Shai,

    Interesting discussion. Let me reply to each of your turns.

    1- Hard to compare Israel to the USA or most other countries as non of them define themselves based on a religion/ethnicity (or whatever you wanna call Judaism). In today’s narratives, and today’s “ethos”, admitting that Israel is a Jewish state gives Israel the ability to say “We won’t discriminate against our existing Arab population, but we cannot accept any refugees returning.” This is a simple step down the logical path because of demographic. The moment the Palestinians say “Ok, Israel is a Jewish state”, Israel will say “Then we cannot accept a million or so non-Jews”. This, in a sense, is very similar to the tawteen phobia in Lebanon, upsetting the sectarian balance, etc.
    As I said, ultimately, the solution WILL have to involve recognizing a Jewish state and giving up on the right of return, but for the moment, those are both cards. I’d argue they’re one and the same card, really. They are intrinsically tied.

    2- I waffle back and forth on who’s side “time” is really working at the moment. On one hand, I do think some times that the Palestinians have time on their hands due to demographics. But this is only relevant if the final goal is a single state. If you look at the more plausible and realistic solution that faces us today, the two-state solution, then I would argue time is on Israel’s side. Over time, Israel has gotten stronger, militarily, economically, and territorially. We went from the 1948 boundaries to the 67 boundaries. And now even those aren’t enough for Israel, due to the fait accompli of settlements, where now Israel has to also incorporate parts of the West Bank and East Jerusalem into a viable state. And since Israel refuses to stop settlements, time actually works against Abbas and co. The longer they delay, the less land they will have. It’s really that simple. And when you account for the fact that Israel has “friends in high places” (The USA) which, from an Arab standpoint, enforces double standards, there is no way the Palestinians can hope to go back to 1967 for their state. They know those boundaries are constantly being eroded, and no international “justice” has hope of being applied (after all, there are technically UN resolutions asking Israel to withdraw to the green line, right? But the Palestinians do not have the weight to enforce that, whereas Israel generally has a very sympathetic UN/US/West, willing to ignore such resolutions and deal with facts on the grounds instead). So from that standpoint, again, if I’m in Abbas’ shoes, I don’t think time is on my side. I think the longer we delay, the more territory Israel takes and accumulates as yet more cards to bargain with. Already the “cards” in Bibi’s hands are:
    – We gotta keep Jerusalem.
    – We gotta keep parts of the WB.
    – You gotta recognize us as Jewish (and forego the right of return).
    – We cannot take in refugees.
    – You cannot have air or maritime space.
    – You gotta allow the IDF in the Jordan Valley.
    – We gotta keep our settlements (and this card grows daily, with each new building constructed).

    On the other side, Abbas has:
    – We want the 67 borders (not gonna happen), but we are willing exchange some land instead.
    – We want E. Jerusalem.
    – We want our own airpsace/seaspace.
    – We won’t say you’re “Jewish” yet.

    Some of the cards are clearly “tradeable”:
    – 67 borders vs. exchange land and you get to keep some of the WB. Ok. That’s one issue solved.

    – Security arrangements vs. Airspace and sovereignty. Ok. That can be solved.

    That leaves us with “Right of Return”, Jerusalem, and “Jewish state”.

    I can’t see Abbas giving those for free. There’s gotta be SOMETHING he can ask for there. Possibly, imo, give up the right of return and accept Israel as a Jewish state, in return for E. Jerusalem as a capital.

    Makes sense when you tally it up.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 20, 2010, 4:04 pm
  169. BV,

    The analogy is apt. You say:
    You can boycott or sanction all you want. That doesn’t change the fact of a state and its boundaries as legally recognized by the UN.

    True, but how does this help us? Hizballah does not recognize Israel in the 67 borders because it denies the very raison d’etre of a Jewish state. We want there to be no excuse after the peace treaty to attack, boycott, sanction etc. Israel after the peace treaty and that means recognizing its Jewish nature.

    Here is a concrete example. Many Arabs believe the Israeli Law of Return is racist. But of course once they accept that Israel is a Jewish state, they would have to change their way of thinking.

    Posted by AIG | October 20, 2010, 4:05 pm
  170. Let me add, upon re-reading your (2) point.

    There is no way in hell I see Liberman and company begging Abbas to take Ariel and Adumim. No way.

    Your perspective is quite different than mine. Interesting though.

    The way most Arabs see it, Israel has bidden its time for 60 years now, slowly eroding the Arab position while re-inforcing its own position. There is absolutely NO RUSH for peace on the Israeli side (and it shows in their actions). Truth is, Israel is prosperous. And its military might ensures that it can keep waiting, and won’t lose any territory or suffer any economic ill-effects. The Palestinians, on the other side, are mired in poverty (Gaza specially) and choking. And the choke keeps getting tighter.
    The way I see it, Israel can keep on playing the waiting game. It doesn’t NEED Arab recognition or formal peace. It has peace on most of its borders (by virtue of its military might) and its people are prospering. What’s that peace of paper gonna give you that you don’t already have? A vague sense of “recognition”? Why do you care?

    The Palestinians, on the other hand, have MUCH to gain right now from a formal peace. They get to eat again, work again, travel on their own lands without roadblocks and humiliation. Much more direct and tangible impact. And they are willing to give up their claims to a bigger piece of the pie, so they can have these simple mundane things you take for granted in Tel Aviv.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 20, 2010, 4:10 pm
  171. Obviously, we want to feel that the Arabs around us have accepted that Jews have come back (to stay), and that they have historical rights …

    There is a difference between accepting the existence of the state of Israel, and recognizing the claimed historical rights to exist. Even with successful peace treaties, I doubt that many Arabs would be willing to change their historical beliefs.

    Posted by Badr | October 20, 2010, 4:14 pm
  172. AIG,

    We’re talking about Abbas and the Palestinians accepting and recognizing the Jewish state for being Jewish.

    That’s not the same thing as a militant organization recognizing Israel as a state period. Two different things entirely.

    I am sure there are some obscure movements in Israel who do not “recognize” the PA, or who still think Israel should occupy Greater Israel, or whatever. That has nothing to do with UN recognized borders.

    The UN recognizes Israel. Most countries in the world recognize Israel.
    Part of a peace treaty with the Arabs would cause them to recognize Israel.
    That will be that.

    Neither the UN, nor the Arab states, nor Norway or Sweden, for that matter, has any business recognizing Israel as being “Jewish”, “Muslim” or anything else.

    As for Abbas, as Shai and I discussed, I don’t think it means anything whether he recognizes Israel as Jewish or not. The only reason it matters today is as a negotiation card.

    Hizbullah is an entirely different matter. HA, or any organization who refuses to recognize THE STATE of Israel (notice, i’m not talking about “Jewishness here”) is a different matter. The STATE is recognized by all (minus the Arabs). I would like to hope that the day the Arabs sign peace treaties with Israel, and recognize the STATE, they would bind HA legally by those recognitions and would enforce it legally on anyone attempting to cause trouble. No different than I would expect the US government to enforce its laws and rules on any wacko militias in Texas who insist that Texas is its own country. They can clamor that all they want, as long as they don’t fire guns or rockets at anyone.
    But if the Texan militia were to fire rockets at the FBI, or at Mexico, the US government would deal with them, as they would have no legal right to do what they did. The same would apply to Lebanese citizens, Palestinian citizens, or Israeli citizens.
    I would hope, in the future Palestinian state, anyone attempting to fire a rocket at Israel would be treated as a criminal and terrorist.
    Ditto, any Israeli fanatic firing at Palestine, or Lebanon, would be treated the same way by Israeli law.
    The same goes for HA.

    We’re obviously talking theory here. Right now, none of this is practical. But with peace signed and on paper, then there is a legal framework in place for all this stuff.

    And yes, even nations who recognize each other still go to war sometimes (Iran-Iraq, India-Pakistan, etc.) But that’s a different discussion and has nothing to do with whether we recognize Israel as a state, or as a Jewish state.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 20, 2010, 4:21 pm
  173. Palestinians Consider Shift in Strategy on Statehood
    Published: October 20, 2010

    RAMALLAH, West Bank — The Palestinian leadership, near despair about attaining a negotiated agreement with Israel on a two-state solution, is increasingly focusing on how to get international bodies and courts to declare a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.

    The idea, being discussed in both formal and informal forums across the West Bank, is to appeal to the United Nations, the International Court of Justice and the signatories of the Geneva Conventions for opposition to Israeli settlements and occupation and ultimately a kind of global assertion of Palestinian statehood that will tie Israel’s hands.

    The approach has taken on more weight as the stall in American-brokered peace talks lengthens over the issue of continued settlement building.

    “We cannot go on this way,” said Hanan Ashrawi, a former peace negotiator who is a part of the inner ruling circle of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which oversees the Palestinian Authority. “The two-state solution is disappearing. If we cannot stop the settlements through the peace process, we have to go to the Security Council, the Human Rights Council and every international legal body.”

    In an interview, she said that the P.L.O. was holding high-level discussions on these options this week.

    Israeli officials reject the move as unacceptable and a violation of the 1993 Oslo accords that govern Israeli-Palestinian relations. It would also pre-empt any efforts by Israel to keep some settlements and negotiate modified borders. But the Israelis are worried. No government in the world supports their settlement policy, and they fear that a majority of countries, including some in Europe, would back the Palestinians.

    The Israelis say that what is really going on is a Palestinian effort to secure a state without having to make the difficult decisions on the borders and settlements that negotiations would entail. They are pressing the Obama administration to take a firmer public stand against the new approach, but Washington has made no move to do so.

    “A lot of members of the international community believe that since the Palestinians are the weaker party, if they get more support it will help them in the direct talks with us,” a senior Israeli official said. “But it works in the opposite direction. This would kill a negotiated settlement.”

    Abraham H. Foxman, the American national director of the Anti-Defamation League, has been in Israel this week talking to its leaders. He said in an interview that all agreed on the importance of a robust American position against the Palestinian effort.

    “This is part of the delegitimization campaign against Israel,” he said. “The Obama administration needs to have the same public moxie on the declaration of a pre-emptive state as it has had on Israeli settlements. All the exit doors have to be closed for the Palestinians so they have no choice but to negotiate.”

    Israel and the Palestinians began the direct talks at the start of September. But a freeze on West Bank settlement construction by Israel ended four weeks later, and the Palestinians said they would not return to the table without an extension. The Arab League, whose backing is crucial to the talks, agreed on Oct. 8 to give the Americans and Israelis a month to come up with a way to stop settlement construction.

    The Israelis say settlement construction should be part of the mix of issues in the talks, not a precondition. Nonetheless, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is working on a second shorter building stoppage in exchange for American guarantees. One that has been discussed is an American promise to work vigorously against an external declaration of Palestinian statehood.

    The Palestinians’ approach is often referred to as a unilateral declaration of statehood. But they declared their state more than 20 years ago and realize that simply restating the declaration will have little effect. Instead, they are pursuing what might better be called a multilateral declaration.

    “We don’t have strong cards but we want to convince the world to take a position and gain recognition of a Palestinian state,” noted Hanna Amireh, another member of the P.L.O.’s ruling circle, in an interview in his Ramallah office. “We feel we need to go beyond the United States to the world.”

    One effort under way is at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. On Wednesday, the court’s prosecutor, Luis Moreno-Ocampo, heard arguments from eight people — four on each side — on whether the Palestinian Authority could be recognized by the court in its charges against Israel’s conduct in the 2008-9 Gaza war. The court permits states only to bring cases.

    Al-Haq, a Palestinian legal group, repeated its standing argument that for the purposes of the court, Palestine should be considered a state because it engages in international relations and tries its own people in a legal system, and because the international legal system bears a special responsibility for Palestinians.

    Arguing against was Dore Gold, a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations, who said granting the Palestinians statehood even for the criminal court violated their treaties with Israel. He said in a telephone interview from The Hague that the underlying purpose of the Palestinians was to strengthen their case for statehood recognition.

    “If they win here, the big story that will come out of this is that one of the main legal bodies in the international community, the International Criminal Court, acknowledges that the Palestinian Authority already constitutes a state,” he said.

    The Palestinians want the world to declare their state on the territories that Israel conquered in the 1967 war — the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. Half a million Israelis now live in those areas, and Israel could find itself, in effect, in daily violation of another member state.

    Certain countries sympathetic to the Palestinians, however, might not agree to a declaration of their statehood. For instance, China, Russia and Spain are all facing independence movements within their borders. When Kosovo declared its independence two years ago, many states declined to recognize it because of the potential for setting a precedent of legitimizing secession.

    If the Palestinians were to go to the United Nations Security Council, they might well face an American veto. Therefore they might start in the General Assembly, where there is no veto and where dozens of countries would be likely to support them.

    While that would be less binding, it would also provide a kind of symmetry — dark or poetic, depending on one’s perspective — with Israel. It was in the General Assembly in November 1947 that the Zionist movement achieved success through a resolution calling for the division of this land into two states, one Jewish and the other Arab. Israel has long viewed that vote as the source of its international legitimacy.

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | October 20, 2010, 5:14 pm
  174. Interesting, QN…

    I think that kinda lends support to my side of the argument above…

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 20, 2010, 5:21 pm
  175. BV and AIG

    Do either of you guys have a job?


    You have an amazing amount of time to devote to each other. Not that I’m complaining… I enjoy dropping in on your conversation. But man… who’s bringing home the (soy) bacon?

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | October 20, 2010, 5:26 pm
  176. “We cannot go on this way,” said Hanan Ashrawi, a former peace negotiator who is a part of the inner ruling circle of the Palestine Liberation Organization, which oversees the Palestinian Authority. “The two-state solution is disappearing. If we cannot stop the settlements through the peace process, we have to go to the Security Council, the Human Rights Council and every international legal body.”

    I don’t understand this. Presumably, the Palestinians can stop settlement growth through the peace process. In a peace deal, settlements stop (and most would likely be dismantled). But they have to conclude the process with an agreement in order to get that. It seems she wants to halt settlements now but without a peace deal. Why would she expect that the outcome be implemented before an agreement is reached?

    Posted by dontgetit | October 20, 2010, 5:28 pm
  177. dontgetit

    The reason is because no one recognizes the legitimacy of the settlements. Building settlements is illegitimate, in the eyes of the world. Didn’t the Israelis say that they would not negotiate with the PLO until it ended violent resistance? Based on your logic, you would have said to the Israelis:

    “Presumably, you can stop the PLO’s resistance through the peace process… Why would you expect that the outcome be implemented before an agreement is reached?”

    Posted by Qifa Nabki | October 20, 2010, 5:35 pm
  178. I do have a job, QN.
    It allows me the time to peruse QN and multitask though. Can’t complain.

    @378: Good answer.

    This whole notion of pre-conditions vs. no-preconditions is ridiculous. Just like Israel can impose preconditions (stop shooting rockets at us before we talk), so can the Palestinians, specially since, as noted above ALL settlements are technically illegal, being on occupied land, governed by a pair of UN resolutions (Israel to withdraw from all post 67 lands).

    Someone needs to draw a line in the sand about where negotiations should start. Ideally, that’s where the impartial arbiter comes in. Sadly, there has been no such IMPARTIAL arbiter. So the 2 sides are left floundering and holding to their untenable demands.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 20, 2010, 5:49 pm
  179. Whether anyone recognizes the legitimacy of the settlements is irrelevant. The whole world (bar a few Arab and Muslim states) recognizes the legitimacy of Israel but no one is demanding that Abbas do so now. Those issues are precisely what the conflict is about and what the negotiations are to resolve.

    I don’t recall whether or not Israel demanded that the PLO renounce violence as a pre-condition to negotiation but if they did, I would agree with you that it was inappropriate – the only violence to be renounced should be violence at the table (meaning neither Arafat or Rabin could kill each other). Of course, Arafat would have found it hard to get very far if, during the talks, a school bus full of kids were blown up just as Rabin would not have found a receptive audience if the IDF demolished a block of homes while the negotiators were at lunch. But that has nothing to do with pre-conditions.

    By the same token, I really don’t understand Israel’s position vis-a-vis negotiating with Hamas just because they are a terrorist organization. If it is because Hamas has no interest in negotiations along the lines of a permanent mutually acceptable solution, that is another matter and it may be why Israel does not bother.

    Posted by dontgetit | October 20, 2010, 5:54 pm
  180. BV,

    Thank you for the very detailed explanation of your points. I understand better how you see the connection between Jewish State and Right-of-Return, but I hope no Israeli PM will ever utter the words “We cannot accept so many non-Jews”, as that could well seal the Racist State stigma that hovers over us in recent years.

    As for the Time-cards, I agree that IF the Palestinians’ goal is a two-state solution, then indeed with each day that passes, they are left with less territory. However, personally I doubt very much that two-states is the solution sought by most Palestinians. And who, or where, ARE most Palestinians? There are more Palestinians living inside Israel and in the Diaspora, than there are in the WB and Gaza. Do you think their dream is of a Return to Nablus, but not to Jaffa or Haifa? It is clear to me, that those Palestinians who are ready for a two-state solution are doing so merely as a compromise because, as you say, they care more about bread and basic freedoms, than they do about territory.

    But IF the Palestinian leadership was to ever declare (either genuinely or as a bluff) that they are no longer interested in a two-state solution, I do think that would cause tremendous pressure inside Israel and, yes, also amongst our “Liebermans” out there. The Settlers themselves have no problem with a one-state solution. Ironically, more and more MK’s on the Right are starting to raise it as a possibility that isn’t so bad for us (people like Moshe Arens!) And of course, as usual, The Left is vehemently against it… Still fighting for two-states. It is supposedly “for peace”, yet it wants to separate… How ironic, isn’t it?

    I don’t think Abu Mazen can play games and gamble over his people’s future, so I’m not suggesting he’ll try things to see how they go. But I do believe that he CAN completely reverse the pressure, by simply delaying. Or, by emotionally declaring “We have time!” We, as Israelis, cannot afford to call his bluff. Because we DO know, that with each new settlement, a Palestinian state becomes less likely to happen. We also know, as Israelis, that most settlements will be returned, no matter how much we build. That only the 3 large blocks might be added to Israel, at the expense of equal amount of territory elsewhere. So from our point of view, today, we’re not really gaining territory with time. But our reporters and journalists are starting to use terms such as “viable state”, “one-state vs. two-states”, etc.

    Sometimes, the weakest party can find a tiny little parameter, and turn it completely upside down, to its favor. If most Israelis are starting to be concerned at the Settlers’ seemingly endless goals, then having no partner suddenly on the Palestinian side, will only make their concern grow.

    Posted by Shai | October 20, 2010, 6:01 pm
  181. Shai says “I hope no Israeli PM will ever utter the words “We cannot accept so many non-Jews”, as that could well seal the Racist State stigma that hovers over us in recent years.”

    I got news for you. That’s exactly what Israeli politicians have been saying in some way or another for quite some time now. Or else “right of return” would never be an issue. Come on. You know it as well as I do. It might be said using euphemism such as “compromise the Jewish character of Israel” or the like. But we all know what this means.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 20, 2010, 6:26 pm
  182. Shai,

    Thanks for your detailed response too. I think we’ll agree to disagree a bit on the card/time thing. But I certainly get what you’re saying.


    Israel did demand that the PLO renounce violence and recognize Israel before it would sit down with it. That’s exactly what happened at Oslo.

    And Israel DID demolish homes or carry strikes “while the negotiators were at lunch”. This has lead to previous walkouts and interruptions of talks.
    Similarly, the Palestinians have blown up buses or whatever during negotiations before, causing Israel to walk out.

    All these things you listed have happened. Repeatedly.

    I completely agree (and stated this yesterday) that you HAVE to talk to your enemy. If he wasn’t attacking you, he wouldn’t be your enemy. Right? Israel has to talk to Hamas at some point. That’s the whole point.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 20, 2010, 6:31 pm
  183. BV: I won’t say I researched this carefully but a quick glance at wikipedia indicates that recognition of Israel and renunciation of terrorism were the breakthrough RESULTS of the Oslo accord and NOT the pre-conditions as you say. In other words, the parties first negotiated and then agreed to those things.

    Posted by dontgetit | October 20, 2010, 6:40 pm
  184. Sorry. I meant “Israel”

    Posted by dontgetit | October 20, 2010, 6:40 pm
  185. I may be wrong, but it’s a bit of yes and no on this one.

    Oslo was the START of negotiating peace. (or was supposed to be). The starting points were that the PLO renounce violence and recognize Israel. And then the 2 sides would sit down and work out a path to formal and lasting peace.

    I could be wrong though.

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 20, 2010, 6:45 pm
  186. Who needs official negotiations? Put AIG, Shai, dontgetit, and BV in one room, provide some hummus and falafel, wait a day or so, and out comes THE solution. Alternatively, send a copy of this comment thread to the negotiators and they will all be singing Kumbaya.
    … and then, determinedly, quelqu’une will suprise everyone with an unexpected revelation…



    (I still say Voltaire was right in that we all need to take care of daily life)

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 20, 2010, 8:49 pm
  187. It would be my pleasure 🙂

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 20, 2010, 10:08 pm
  188. On a more serious note, AIG, Shai, dontgetit, the video linked below is the kind of narrative that generates hatred of Israel and Zionism. The question is, disregarding the subjective and opinion portions of the commentary, what facts are incorrect, incomplete, etc., and is there an equivalent counter-video that provides “the other side’s story?”

    The video is rather long, a bit over an hour and the quality is so-so but you’ll probably get the jist of it by sampling if you don’t want to go through the whole thing.

    I bet this is the kind of narrative that drives commentators like quelqu’une, for example.

    Curious to know what your (objective) response might be.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 20, 2010, 10:12 pm
  189. YOU define your nation. Right?


    Yes. People define a nation.

    So why is it SO important for you that the Palestinians recognize Israel as “The Jewish State”?

    It is important so there isn’t a continuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict. The ’48 war was about “partition” of Palestine into an “Arab State” and a “Jewish State”. It is time to settle that.

    Isn’t Abbas correct in saying “You can call it whatever you want, I don’t care.”?

    Yes, the nation is called “Israel”, and it is defined as a Jewish State, a homeland for the Jewish People. Palestine is the “Arab State” for the “Palestinian People”.

    Also, Palestine (the PA), refuses to accept and/or guarantee the safety of Jewish Palestinians. The PA is less tolerant than Israel. So it is also about the creation of 2 states for 2 peoples.

    All other arguments aside (please, let’s not go on tangents), I really want to understand how you reconcile these 2 things.
    – On one side, you insist that what makes you The Jewish State is SELF-determined and defined (and by inference, it’s not religion, or genes, or whatever).
    – On the other hand, you insist on being so “defined” by others.

    Not “defined” by others, “accepted” by others.

    Am I misunderstanding something?


    Posted by Akbar Palace | October 20, 2010, 10:40 pm
  190. Yes Akbar, I think you misunderstood a bit.
    Read the rest of my discussion with Shai and AIG. I think it becomes a bit clearer.
    I see no issue with “accepting” Israel’s right to exist. And I think the PA/PLO has already done that.
    Defining the character of Israel is not up to them but up to you. Just as defining the character of Palestine is up to them.

    None of this has anything to do with making peace. There are plenty of countries who accept each other as entities, but who still make war (Iran-Iraq, India-Pakistan, etc).
    Making peace is the key here. And for that to be negotiated, as I said, it is my belief that Abbas et al. cannot throw away the card of “Israel is a Jewish state” because it means also throwing away their right of return card. That is a card they will eventually trade with Israel for something. Simple as that.

    But none of that should have any relevance to how Israel defines its own self as a Jewish state any more than a country defining itself as socialist, communist, islamic, or whathaveyou. Iran is an islamic state because they define themselves as so. Even though Israel and Iran are essentially at war, you don’t see anyone asking you to recognize Iran as an “Islamic state”. It is what it is, based on what the IRANIAN government calls itself.

    Did that make sense?

    Posted by Bad Vilbel | October 20, 2010, 10:52 pm
  191. … and … Thomas Friedman, who no one can accuse of being an Israel hater nor a Palestinian hater, in Thursday’s NY Times.

    Just Knock It Off

    Some of Israel’s worst critics are fond of saying that Israel behaves like America’s spoiled child. I’ve always found that analogy excessive. Say what you want about Israel’s obstinacy at times, it remains the only country in the United Nations that another U.N. member, Iran, has openly expressed the hope that it be wiped off the map. And that same country, Iran, is trying to build a nuclear weapon. Israel is the only country I know of in the Middle East that has unilaterally withdrawn from territory conquered in war — in Lebanon and Gaza — only to be greeted with unprovoked rocket attacks in return. Indeed, if you want to talk about spoiled children, there is no group more spoiled by Iran and Syria than Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia. Hezbollah started a war against Israel in 2006 that brought death, injury and destruction to thousands of Lebanese — and Hezbollah’s punishment was to be rewarded with thousands more missiles and millions more dollars to do it again. These are stubborn facts.

    Given what Obama has done, and is trying to do, it is hardly an act of hostility for him to ask Israel to continue its now-expired 10-month partial moratorium on settlement-building in the West Bank in order to take away any excuse from the Palestinians to avoid peace talks. Israel’s prime minister, Bibi Netanyahu, has been either resisting this request or demanding a payoff from the U.S. for a brief continuation of the freeze. He is wrong on two counts.

    First — I know this is a crazy, radical idea — when America asks Israel to do something that in no way touches on its vital security but would actually enhance it, there is only one right answer: “Yes.” It is a measure of how spoiled Israel has become that after billions and billions of dollars in U.S. aid and 300,000 settlers already ensconced in the West Bank, Israel feels no compunction about spurning an American request for a longer settlement freeze — the only purpose of which is to help the United States help Israel reach a secure peace with the Palestinians. Just one time you would like Israel to say, “You know, Mr. President, we’re dubious that a continued settlement freeze will have an impact. But you think it will, so, let’s test it. This one’s for you.”

    Yes, I know, Netanyahu says that if he did that then the far right-wingers in his cabinet would walk out. He knows he can’t make peace with some of the lunatics in his cabinet, but he tells the U.S. that he only wants to blow up his cabinet once — for a deal. But we will never get to that stage if he doesn’t blow it up now and construct a centrist coalition that can negotiate a deal.

    Second, I have no idea whether the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, has the will and the guts to make peace with Israel. In fact, when you go back and look at what Ehud Olmert, Netanyahu’s predecessor, offered Abbas — a real two-state compromise, including a deal on Jerusalem — and you think that Abbas spurned that offer, and you think that Netanyahu already gave Abbas a 10-month settlement freeze and Abbas only entered serious talks in the ninth month, you have to wonder how committed he is.

    But the fact is that the team of Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad have built a government that is the best the Palestinians have ever had, and, more importantly, a Palestinian security apparatus that the Israeli military respects and is acting as a real partner. Given this, Israel has an overwhelming interest to really test — that is all we can ask — whether this Palestinian leadership is ready for a fair and mutually secure two-state solution.

    That test is something the U.S. should not have to beg or bribe Israel to generate. This moment is not about Obama. He’s doing his job. It is about whether the Israeli and Palestinian leaders are up to theirs. Abbas is weak and acts weaker. Netanyahu is strong and acts weak. It is time for both to step it up. And it is time for all the outsiders who spoil them to find another hobby.

    And here’s another stubborn fact: Israel today really is behaving like a spoiled child.

    Please spare me the nonsense that President Obama is anti-Israel. At a time when the president has made it one of his top priorities to build a global coalition to stop Iran from making a nuclear weapon, he took the very logical view that if he could advance the peace process in the Middle East it would give him much greater leverage to get the Europeans and U.N. behind tougher sanctions on Iran. At the same time, Obama believed — what a majority of Israelis believe — that Israel can’t remain a Jewish democracy in the long run if it continues to control 2.5 million Palestinians in the West Bank.

    On top of it all, while pressing Israel to stop expanding settlements for as little as 60 days, Obama ordered his vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. James E. “Hoss” Cartwright of the Marines, to lead a U.S. team to work with Israel’s military on an unprecedented package of security assistance to enable Israel to maintain its “qualitative edge” over its neighbors. And, for all this, Obama is decried as anti-Israel. What utter nonsense.

    A version of this op-ed appeared in print on October 20, 2010, on page A29 of the New York edition.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 21, 2010, 2:53 am
  192. I think BV is absolutely right about the Israeli request that the Palestinian acknowledge the State of Israel as “Jewish” (or whatever the exact characterization phrase is). He has provided extremely solid arguments and none has been refuted. The arguments for the other position have all been based on, and derived from, in my opinion, a level of paranoia due to past history, and a desire to see a Palestinian declaration that in fact has no impact whatsoever on what future behavior might be. What matters are actions not words. This is a mantra that was repeated so often in the past. All of sudden, what matters are now words?

    Acknowledging a state and its borders and its sovereignty is one thing. Acknowledging a particular characterization of a state (call it religious, or tribal, or what have you) is another. Israel is free to call itself the Jewish Republic of Israel or any other variation that it pleases. The fact that other countries call themselves the Islamic Republic of X (fill in the blank, there is more than one: Pakistan, Iran, Afghanistan, Mauritania, …) does not require any other country to “acknowledge” the nature of those states.

    Furthermore, and importantly, what does it really mean? Does it mean that should the natural evolution of the demographics in Israel evolve in such a manner that a majority starts to emerge that does not identify itself as Jewish (hypothetically, at some point in the far future), then such “acknowledgment” will allow the government to institute apartheid-like rules and other undemocratic measures to ensure the preservation of such character? Well, the government may well do that, regardless of what other countries acknowledge or don’t acknowledge. Is Israel going to insist that every other country in the world, and the UN, acknowledge the characterization of Israel as it wishes it to be? There is no legal, nor common sense, no other basis for this.

    At best, it is an emotional request that really has no practical nor legal bearing. At worst, it is a tactic to derail the talks.

    And, when the whole world is clear in its opposition to the continued building of settlements during the peace talks, the insistence on their continuation is unwise at best, and evil at worst.

    Just like the French papers declared “today, we are all Americans” right after the 9/11 attacks, many of us will declare “today, we are all Israelis” right after a bus with innocent people is blown up in Tel-Aviv, and “today, we are all Palestinians” right after a “targeted” assassination blows up and kills innocent Palestinians as “collateral damage.”

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 21, 2010, 3:14 am
  193. And so, in the words of Thomas Friedman, to both sides: “Just Knock it Off!”

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 21, 2010, 3:17 am
  194. Out of real curiosity I wonder if the Lebanese on here could clarify for me what their support for Israel is based on.

    Is it that you accept that Israel is going nowhere and that the Arabs should sign peace with it so we can all get on


    Is it that you recognise that the Jews have right to a homeland


    Is it something other?

    Posted by usedtopost | October 21, 2010, 6:00 am
  195. AHA! UTP, good questions which some of us answered at various times, but as GK says, the nature of these blogs is that one will need to reiterate.

    I can’t speak for anyone else but me, and as I mentioned before I’m neither a politician, nor an activist, nor a politically erudite fella. Just interested and pondering…

    I believe that regardless of the arguments, merit, and dispute about the legality, humanity, and appropriateness, etc., of the founding of the state of Israel and how it came about, it is now, and has been for a long time, a fact on the ground. Looking at military strength, looking at seemingly overwhelming support worldwide for its validity, and most importantly, the fact that essentially the USA, the only remaining superpower, is the guarantor of its existence and viability and future, and looking simply at the practicality of going on with life, one would want to let bygones be bygones, let history judge in the future the merits and morality of the whole situation, and find an accommodation for peace and prosperity for everyone involved. If for no one else, then for the next generation, people born with no prejudice at birth and deserving a decent life without warfare. I respect Anwar Sadat and consider him a remarkable historical figure because he not only achieved that understanding but also acted on it.

    Voila. One person’s opinion, who happens to have been born and raised in Lebanon but admittedly has spent more than half of his life in the U.S. now.

    Posted by Honest Patriot | October 21, 2010, 6:16 am
  196. BV,

    Thanks, I understand your POV. TO me, the Israel/Palestine issue is a special case and can’t really compare to countries whose is existence isn’t questioned within her neighborhood or include have nacent states whose borders and sovereignty are not yet defined.

    The Israelis and Palestinians are closely tied to each other economically, politically, and physically. They have a special difficulties in arriving at a comprehensive peace. I hope they will reach an agreement, because the peoples deserve it.

    Of course, I think a lot of Jews believe that there are very strong forces working in the background (Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, Iran, al-Queda, etc) that are working to thwart any peace agreement.

    The question is, what will an Israeli/Palestinian peace agreement do to change the Middle East. IMO, it will take the “air” of the rejectionist cause, and destabilize the rejectionist states and organizations. At least that’s what the West believes.

    Posted by Akbar Palace | October 21, 2010, 7:25 am
  197. HP,

    Anwar Sadat is only one such “remarkable historical figure”. Most, are people like yourself.

    Thank you for who YOU are!

    Posted by Shai | October 21, 2010, 9:29 am

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