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Thursday, October 06, 2011

Why there will never be peace between Israel and the 'Palestinians'

Elliott Abrams fisks an al-Jazeera English article by Sari Nusseibeh, whom Abrams rightfully calls 'the most moderate of all Palestinian moderates.' Nusseibeh's article proves - according to Abrams - Israel's difficulties in making peace. I believe that Nusseibeh's article - entitled Why Israel can't be a Jewish state - shows why there can never be peace between Israel and the 'Palestinians,' or at least not for the foreseeable future (Hat Tip: Dan F).
Let us suggest also that having a modern nation-state being defined by one ethnicity or one religion is problematic in itself – if not inherently self-contradictory – because the modern nation-state as such is a temporal and civic institution, and because no state in the world is – or can be in practice – ethnically or religiously homogenous.
This is a classic ‘straw man’ argument, because Israel as a Jewish State would of course not be homogeneous any more than Egypt is homogeneous (it is in fact about 15 percent Christian) while its constitution today states that “Islam is the religion of the state….The principles of Islamic law are the chief source of legislation.” As I have written here previously, there are plenty of states that say flatly “Islam is the religion of the state” and that civil law is based on sharia. Denmark, Norway, and England also have state religions and of course have complete freedom of religion. Nusseibeh argues that this is all fine: it is OK to say “Islam is the religion of the state” but not for Israel to be a “Jewish state” because the latter term suggests “ethnic cleansing.” Given that Israeli Arabs have always been free to speak, vote, and hold office while most of their Arab brethren have been living in dictatorships, this argument is more than a bit of a stretch. Israeli law is mostly British in origin, and Nusseibeh simply ignores the fact that so many Islamic countries state that they base their own laws on sharia. So what he is doing here is simple: applying a double-standard.
Recognition of Israel as a “Jewish state” implies that Israel is, or should be, either a theocracy (if we take the word “Jewish” to apply to the religion of Judaism) or an apartheid state (if we take the word “Jewish” to apply to the ethnicity of Jews), or both…
This is not analysis but polemic, for the reasons just stated. Nowhere does Nusseibeh state or imply that for a Muslim majority country to say “Islam is the religion of the state” and “Sharia is the basis of our laws” might lead to theocracy or apartheid. There are four states whose very name contains a religious reference: the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. Do all of them uniformly practice apartheid and theocracy, in Nusseibeh’s view?
Recognizing a ‘Jewish State’….means, before final status negotiations have even started, that Palestinians would have then given up the rights of about 7 million Palestinians in the diaspora to repatriation or compensation; 7 million Palestinians descended from the Palestinians who in 1900 lived in historical Palestine (i.e. what is now Israel, the West Bank including Jerusalem, and Gaza)…
It’s worth noting that Nusseibeh wants compensation not only for Palestinians he believes were forced out of Israel in 1948, nor even for those people and their descendants. Now the figure of those entitled to “return” rises to 7 million and includes anyone whose ancestors lived in what is now Israel in 1900. This is preposterous; what possible right could someone have, for example, whose ancestors moved to Damascus or Cairo in 1940, before Israel came into existence?

Nusseibeh then proceeds to an argument so extraordinary that one blushes to see this “deeply admirable” and “humane” man write it down. If Israel is recognized as a Jewish State, he says, it follows that Israelis will kill all the Arabs who live there. He cites a number of Biblical passages and then delivers this key passage:
it remains true that, in the Old Testament, God commands the Jewish state in the land of Israel to come into being through warfare and violent dispossession of the original inhabitants. Moreover, this command has its roots in the very Covenant of God with Abraham (or rather “Abram” at that time) in the Bible and it thus forms one of the core tenets of Judaism as such, at least as we understand it. No one then can blame Palestinians and descendants of the ancient Canaanites, Jebusites and others who inhabited the land before the Ancient Israelites (as seen in the Bible itself) for a little trepidation as regards what recognising Israel as a “Jewish State” means for them, particularly to certain Orthodox and Ultra Orthodox Jews. No one then can blame Palestinians for asking if recognising Israel as a “Jewish State” means recognising the legitimacy of offensive warfare or violence against them by Israel to take what remains of Palestine from them.
That phrase “what remains of Palestine” is part of another argument: “every day the Israeli settler movement is grabbing more land in the West Bank and Jerusalem.” Nowhere does Nusseibeh support that claim, which would require him to prove that the land area of settlements grows literally every day—or if we allow him poetic license every month or even every year. No doubt he thinks the claim so obvious as to beyond the need for proof, but it is not.

Nusseibeh, the man of “humane understanding,” a philosopher by training, ends by saying that calling Israel a “Jewish State” would necessarily “arouse fears among Palestinians and Arabs about being ethnically cleansed in Palestine.” One may assume that in that phrase he refers to Israeli Arabs as well as those of the West Bank and Gaza, so he is not only warning of “ethnic cleansing” but engaging in some linguistic ethnic cleaning of his own here: he is referring to Israel as part of “Palestine.”
For years I have argued, on this blog and elsewhere, that there is no difference between the ultimate goals of Fatah and Hamas. Both wish to extirpate the Jewish state and they differ only on tactics. That the supposed moderate Sari Nussseibeh could write an article that sounds like it was written by Khaled Meshaal (as Abrams correctly categorizes it) proves that I was right all along.

While Abrams' sympathies have always been with Israel, he was also a peace processor under the Bush administration and has always - at least to this point - believed that the creation of a 'Palestinian state' would resolve our dispute with the Arab world. I wonder whether he still believes that, and if so, for how much longer he will be able to continue to believe it. The bottom line is that we have no partner for peace and it is time to stop the charade.

Read the whole thing.

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At 2:32 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"No one then can blame Palestinians and descendants of the ancient Canaanites, Jebusites and others who inhabited the land before the Ancient Israelites.."

The Palestinians take their names from the British and backwards from there to the Roman appropriation of the moniker of a non-Semitic Aegean sea-faring people. They inhabited no part of Israel before the Ancient Israelites and present day Israel owes them nothing except contempt and self-defense against their lies, their pretentions, their corruption, their dishonesty, their hubris, and their defining mediocrity.

At 5:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

btw--while Nussi can dish syllogistic mellifluous pseudo-rational anti-Zionist flim flam with the best of them, for outright chutzpah the hacks of Fatah still get the golden ring and set the standard for "Palestinian" gobbledygook.

After weeks of belittling Congress and American aid with stalwart cries that they will get the welfare checks required to get their malt liquor from the makolet--from the Europeans or the Saudiis or the Aleuts or the birds in the air and the lillies of the field--from anywhere, the tune has changed.

Ahhh, via Michael Rubin of Commentary, now America owes x million bucks a year for sponsoring the Zionist "nekbah" in 1948.


If memory serves after the UN votes the United States followed the policymaking advice of the Arabist contingent in Foggy Bottom and imposed an arms embargo, leaving Israel to face invasion and seige, relieved through Czech shipments of arms in the brief window befoe Stalin ginned up the anti-cosmopolitan campaigns, began dragging off the Jewish goats from the slavic sheep, and started plans for the national Soviet pogrom that never took place.

Of course, the Palestinian determination to annul the Zionist state is what led to their catastrophic defeat in the first place but these are guys who forget nothing, learn nothing, and fill in the abyss between with self-pity and magical thinking.

In the game of Levantine confabulation, Nussi is still a relative piker.

At 9:45 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Even moderate Arabs still cannot cross the Rubicon. There has no psychological revolution in Arab thinking. And until the Arabs change, peace between them and the Jews is impossible!

At 9:03 PM, Blogger judith_blocker said...

I find the nonsensical statements (in the Al Jezeera original)about "ultra-Orthodox" Jews (a bit prejorative, by the way) amusing. I guess he knows how to appeal to the religious bigotry of the Left.


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