THE SHVIL, ISRAEL

The Shvil: Dirt path, iron walls

If I told you that the lessons gleaned along the Shvil were clear and concise, set out like discussion topics in a neat, bulleted lecture itinerary, I’d be blatantly lying.  I highly doubt anything in life is actually like that, all tidily packaged for easy consumption.  Rather, my discussion and conclusions about Israel and its people are as diverse and complex as Israeli’s themselves are.  But, perhaps that is the first lesson one should take to heart—much to the chagrin of those realists in our midst, Israel is not a collective unit to be characterized en masse, much less a homogenous society.  This is not a history book, and I do not intend to tell you the general feelings and aspirations of an entire population.  Why?  Because there is no universal Israeli narrative, much less an all-encompassing Israeli identity.  Hell, some Israeli’s wouldn’t even consider themselves Israelis; some Jews wouldn’t consider themselves Jews; some Palestinians wouldn’t consider themselves Palestinians.  Above all else, my time on the trail made this fact painfully clear, especially when I, in poor scientific fashion, set out in search of the opposite conclusion.

My remaining days on the trail followed in the character of the first two (as described in part one of this series).  Today, from a firmly settled position in Be’er Sheva, my time on the trail has begun to take on a rosy haze.  The adventure was a slurry of pure adrenaline, awe, fear, sweat, blood, cow sh*t, more cow sh*t, and haphazard, enduring friendships.  Much is to be said for the power of observation in gleaning information, but one can never understate the value of immersion.  It was, after all, from my friends, hosts, and random acquaintances—the human component of the trail—that I learned the most.  That is doubly true for the Israelis in their midst.

From the three girls that saved me on the way to Ramot Naftali to the old man who housed me in Dishon; from the four guys I came to know as my “achim” (brothers), who taught me almost all the Hebrew curses I know today, to the Orthodox Jew whose mosquito hive I slept in near Sofat, every individual I came into contact with gave me a greater insight into the Israeli identity, or lack thereof.

At every turn, when circumstances and my confidence permitted, I asked Israelis what they thought was the greatest threat to Israel today.  Granted, it is quite the leading question.  It is notable, however, that in all of my provocative interrogations, not one person stopped to say, “Well that’s rather presumptuous of you.”  Or, “What an odd way of breaking the ice.”

No one admonished my poor journalistic skills, no one refused a reply, and no one questioned the inherent assumption that Israel always has a threat facing it.  Perhaps, in the end, that is the true commonality uniting Israelis.

In 1932, Ze’ev Jabotinsky—a major figure in the Zionist movement and Israel’s early pre-history—wrote an essay in the Russian journal Rasviet titled, The Iron Wall.  In it, he argues for a strong-handed approach to the problems facing Jewish aspirations in the Palestine Mandate.  He opens by noting that Jewish immigration to the holy land, with the guiding vision of an eventual Jewish state, constitutes a form of colonization.  Throughout history, he argues, indigenous populations have resisted colonization.  As he puts it, “…There has never been an indigenous inhabitant anywhere or at any time who has ever accepted the settlement of others in his country.”  In summary, he writes, “Colonization can have only one goal. For the Palestinian Arabs this goal is inadmissible. This is in the nature of things. To change that nature is impossible.”

Before I continue, let me note that this man is the arguable philosophical idol of current Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, whose own father served as Jabotinsky’s personal secretary.

Ultimately, Jabotinsky concludes, the Zionist movement has two options before it when faced with this inescapable, historically-consistent truth: 1) it can abandon the quest for a Jewish homeland in Palestine, or 2) it can continue to press forward with its colonization efforts without hesitancy or leniency.  Considering the former option to be abhorrent and defeatist, Ze’ev (the “Wolf” in Hebrew)— founder of the Zion Mule Corps and Jewish Legion that served the British Empire in World War One, infantry officer under General Allenby during the Sinai and Palestine campaign of that war, director of the Haganah paramilitary group in the Mandate of Palestine, leader of the extremist, break-away Irgun faction that eventually splintered off of that group, and general forefather of the various Jewish resistance groups that followed— presses home with his sadly prescient conclusion:

All this does not mean that any kind of agreement is impossible, only a voluntary agreement is impossible. As long as there is a spark of hope that they [the Palestinian Arabs] can get rid of us, they will not sell these hopes, not for any kind of sweet words or tasty morsels… Only when not a single breach is visible in the iron wall, only then do extreme groups lose their sway… In other words, for us the only path to an agreement in the future is an absolute refusal of any attempts at an agreement now.

In my opinion, many Israelis evince, and suffer from, this “Iron Wall” mentality.  I saw it in the three girls who, at a young age, “understood” the extreme danger of the Arabs becoming a majority in Israel.  I saw it in the man who asked me if I was Jewish before providing me a bed for the night.  I saw it in my four achim, who warned me so strongly against the dangers posed by Arabs in Nazareth. I saw it in one of my hippy hosts in Rosh Pinna who, being leftist enough to escape military service, still viewed the Jewish people as the “chosen” sect of human society, and the Jewish state as an essential, god-given right of the Jewish people.

I see it to this day.  I see it in the gentleman who hosted me on Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year), who told me that it was Obama that killed Ambassador Stevens by being too soft on the Muslims.  I see it in the girl who, that same night, after singing of the beauty of Jerusalem, turned to me abruptly and said, “We will never giver her up.”

It is this mentality which manifests itself in the “Security Fence” around East Jerusalem, the blockade of Gaza, and the continued occupation of the Golan.  It is the driving force behind Israel’s incessant settlement construction; it’s the misery of the Bedouin in the Negev, living in dozens of unrecognized villages without water, electricity, or sanitation; it’s the symbolic food consumed in Rosh Hashanah traditions as we implore god to smite our enemies; it’s the umbrella of the aptly name “Iron Dome” missile defense system, under which so many Israelis live, work, and play.

It’s the security dilemma in the flesh and blood.  Do not yield an inch; do not twitch, blink, bat an eye.  Do not show even one sign of weakness, lest we be overrun.

I could regal you with tales of the soldier I spoke with on a train to Haifa who, having just directed the airstrike on an abducted Egyptian armored personnel carrier in Israeli territory, frankly told me that Israel’s greatest threat is now Egypt.  I could speak in hushed tones of the girl I met on the way to Kibbutz Dan who, having scored high enough on her IDF vocation tests to now stare at real-time security feed of the Lebanese border every day, told me that the coming storm will be from a rearmed Hizbullah in the north.  I can speak to you of the many who said Syria’s violence is already lapping the border and will eventually crash over the breakers, or the many more that argued that outright war with Iran looms ever larger before us.  I, however, will talk of the one girl in Nazareth who took my question, paused, look me in the eye and said, “Our mind.  I think the biggest threat is our mind.”

Out of all the people I questioned, this one girl stands out.  She didn’t get to elaborate—her bus made an oddly punctual arrival to whisk her off to the next destination—but she didn’t need any elaboration.  Israel today undoubtedly has its enemies.  It goes without saying that current conditions in the region offers many potential threats for the Jewish State.  I, however, believe we often make our own enemies, and produce our own threatening conditions.

Perhaps I’m a liberal apologist, but I think that Iran is seeking a nuclear weapon because Israel maintains a couple hundred illegal ones of its own (and is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty); I think that Assad’s Syria was and will remain a threat because Israel still occupies some of the most water-rich and arable land in the country; I think that Hizbullah was born out of, and lives on because of, Israel’s violent role in Lebanon, such as enabling the Sabra and Shatilla massacres (whose anniversary just passed).  I think that Israelis are always looking for the next threat, and, thus, sadly, inevitably find it.

Now, let me be clear. I could not be more thankful for the men who stand on distant and not-so-distant walls with guns (or the young women who spend hours staring at computer screens) so that I can sleep safely in my provided apartment with full amenities.  I could not be happier to have the Iron Dome system in place, having just experienced my first-and-a-half (the second being a false alarm) rocket attack.  I could not be more understanding of the threats perceived by Israeli Jews from a fiery Iranian regime, and a rising, Islamic populism across a region previously characterized by the relative safety of secular authoritarianism.  I could not think more highly of the friends I made on the trail, nor the lessons they imparted.

I do, however, think that the Iron Wall inherently corrodes itself; that its presence and imposition undermine the very objective it was meant to meet.  For too long we have said that peace isn’t possible.  For too long we have shrugged off responsibility onto the scapegoat of past occurrences.  There will always be intricacies, and it will always be difficult to extricate ourselves from them.  The key will be ingenuity and a willingness to accept some risks.  Jabotinsky’s resoluteness, however, does not allow deviation; the Iron Wall does not entertain risk.  In the end, it is as much a prison as a guard.  In his own words, “We hold that Zionism is moral and just. And since it is moral and just, justice must be done, no matter whether Joseph or Simon or Ivan or Achmet agree with it or not.  There is no other morality.”

As we look to the New Year (our 5773rd since Adam and Eve’s little binge), we are supposed to reflect on the one which has passed, and consider how we may incept a better future.  I’d like to propose, in the spirit of my acquaintance in Nazareth, that we revise our outlook on the world; that we adopt a new morality.  Let us consider alternative solutions to the bayonet.  Let us seek out the truth wherever it can be found.  Let us tear down our walls.  In the end, there may not be as many enemies beyond them as we think, and there may be more within than we’d care to acknowledge.

All of these are lessons from the Shvil– simple gems picked up along the trail.  They won’t be applied easily, nor taken to harvest quickly.  No.  Rather, their tale will be a slurry of adrenaline, awe, fear, sweat, blood, cow sh*t, more cow sh*t, and, hopefully, one day, a world of many, haphazard, enduring friendships, and hardly any walls.

Shana Tova, Everyone.

This article is part two in a series in the Tales of the Nomad section. See part one, “The Shvil: Learning Israel by foot.”

Associated Media, Content, and References

Jabotinsky, Ze’ev.  The Iron Wall. http://www.marxists.de/middleast/ironwall/ironwall.htm

*Please note, there are various translations of Jabotinsky’s Iron Wall.   I hope the reader will forgive any disparities in the semantics of this version and others.

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Alex Green

Alex Green

Co-Founder & Contributor at LE GLOBALSITE

13 Responses to "The Shvil: Dirt path, iron walls"

  1. [...] This article is part one in a series in the Tales of the Nomad section. See part two, “The Shvil: Dirt path, iron walls.” [...]

  2. Sharon Kedik
    Sharon Kedik 2 years ago .Reply

    Comment on Facebook: Thought provoking, well written, and absolutely fascinating. Thank you for sharing. I’m going to share with my Mom since we have discussions quite often recently about your very topic, perception and reality

  3. Renee Street
    Renee Street 2 years ago .Reply

    Comment on Facebook: So well written, Alex! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Ana Paula Del Pretti

    Comment on Facebook: Dear Alex, your article is simply fantastic!!! You could describe your perception very well and this experience starting with us at Galilee (and I’m very proud to stay with you at the course)will be very valuable criticism for its formation on this subject so complex…

  5. Haggai Cohen Klonymus

    Comment on Facebook: Alex, I can tell you it is interesting to see your outer view of Israel, but like you said, many things are missing. maybe we can talk about it next time we will meet.
    The concept of “Iron wall” is far from being so common in the Israeli society or leading the way people think, it is more the right view in Israel which holds some closer notion, but far from being so strong.
    Many of the concepts you argued as options were common in the days of the Oslo agreement and the “Israel’s unilateral disengagement plan”, but were neglected by wide parts of the population when the terror only became worst and Arab leaders started to speak bluntly about their wishes to destroy Israel, kill the Jews etc…
    It is nice to want peace and think things will just “be alright” once you will have it, but reality showed it is not so simple to make peace with undemocratic leaders and population who actually just want you dead and wait for the right opportunity. Things are far from being so symmetrical when dealing with undemocratic societies, especially the kind which don’t care much for their own people lives and include radical religious ideas and actions as basic concepts accepted in their morality.
    This “just work for peace” theory did not prove itself and actually showed the problem of working on keeping the peace after the first “happy day” of signing the agreement. Peace is held by strong understanding of the two sides that braking it won’t bring any benefit to either side. Egypt is still holding the peace agreement because they can’t beat Israel in the battlefield and without it they will loose the American support.
    Unlike it, the Palestinian Authority can continue give high salaries to Terrorist who killed dozens of innocent people and in the meanwhile not having enough money for its own population, because despite it the EU and the US never stopped founding them- once the world will demand these undemocratic societies to act with higher moral standards, we will be much closer to peace- it is not an “Iron Wall”, as much as it is the understanding spread widely in the Israeli population, given by 20 years of peace efforts under Terror, that to achieve peace you need first to have more symmetrical understanding of what peace is and of morality, before you just run into “peace” and giving it all out without thinking of the day after the agreement.

  6. Shiri Salant
    Shiri Salant 2 years ago .Reply

    Comment on Facebook: Very interesting Alex. I can agree with most of the article.

  7. Alex Green
    Alex Green 2 years ago .Reply

    Comment on Facebook: Haggai, I would love to discuss these items further with you. I’m sure I have much to learn yet, and I would love to join you on the next adventure regardless.

    However, I do wish to address a few of your comments. First, I believe we both can agree that unilateral disengagement is not a valid strategy for securing greater security or establishing a viable peace. The 2005 withdrawal from Gaza certainly proves that. But, I would argue that Israel implemented that policy because it saw it as a win-win scenario– should everything go well, Israel would be praised for its actions; should Hamas rise to power in the subsequent vacuum, there would be no unified front for the Palestinians to present in negotiations, giving Israel a good reason for forgoing any discussion of concessions. I was rather sad to see Barak propose the idea of a similar, unilateral disengagement in the WB this week. I hope it does not come to fruition, and was merely a political ploy.

    I do find some contention with your arguments that peace failed in the 90′s, folowing Oslo, because of negligence or outright belligerence. Mearshimer and Walt make some great points in their book “The Israel Lobby” (one of my new favorites). As they note, between ’93 and 2000, Israel did not adhere to its Oslo. More than 40,000 acres of Palestinian land was confiscated, 30 new settlements were built, the total settler population effectively doubled to 100,000, promises to transfer territory were broken, and the borders were tightened even further, causing damage to the Palestinian economy. The Oslo process had many good aspects, and much of the cooperation seen today is due to the framework established after Camp David. However, to say that its failure was due to the work of one side seems unfair. Hell, the Second Intifada, marking the clear breakdown of the Accords, was sparked by Sharon’s own belligerent and provocative visit to the Temple Mount.

    Belligerence is on both sides. Ben Gurion himself called the Arabs “beasts on two legs” and said that reprisals should be taken on Arab families “without mercy, women and children included.” We could go into a list of other such comments. In fact, Mearshimer and Walt do a great bit of work with public opinion polls from the Israel Democracy Institute, Haifa University’s Center for the Study of National Security, and the Palestinian Center for Israel Studies among others. The findings are very upsetting.

    The lack of a viable peace is not the fault of the Arabs or Palestinians alone. Let us not forget that Israel broke from the Wye Agreement in 1998. Israel broke from the talks at Taba. And, Israel continues to control the water supply, taxation system, land permit and transfer system, and the import/export routes of the West Bank, and maintains an extremely strict lockdown on the Gaza strip, which certainly is not indicative of a complete transfer of power. We should also not forget that the U.S. has not stopped its funding of Israel, even when Israel illegally used cluster munitions on civilian populations in the 1982 Lebanon war (or enabled the massacres that took place in that war); even when Israel built its illegal nuclear weapons arsenal in the 1960′s; even when Israel fired over 1 million bullets in the first few days of the Second Intifada and killed over 3,300 Palestinians (half of whom were found to be bystanders and 676 were children). There numerous cases when the U.S. could have upped the pressure (and I believe should have), but didn’t. U.S funding to Israel is unconditional. It’s funding of the PA is not, as the U.S. reaction to Abbas’ recent UN bid clearly demonstrates.

    This is not to say that the Palestinians and their leadership are free of blame. Far from it. I just don’t believe we can so quickly dismiss Israel’s responsibility in this matter as well. Peace, after all, takes the commitment of both sides. Each has been found wanting over the years

  8. Haggai Cohen Klonymus

    Comment on Facebook: Alex, There are several basic gaps in your claims. First- the Oslo agreement never held Israel from continues use of the Judea and Samaria area, the area was divided to 3 main territories: A- under full Palestinian control, B- under Palestinian administration and Israeli military control, C- totally Israeli control. Only in much later parts of agreement, suppose to develop out of the Oslo agreement, was Israel suppose to cease all building activity in the negotiated territories.
    Second- Sharon supposedly “provocative” visit to the Temple Mount did not start the second Intifada, as was later also admitted by Imad el-faloji which was a minister in the Palestinian government, but was already planed after the breaking of Kemp David negotiations. The first action of the second Intifada actually took place a day before Sharon’s visit. Having that said, even if it was due to such a reason- can you accept reckless, wild violence activities aimed directly to civilian population under this excuse? Does a visit of a leader to a holy place for the two religions, which should be opened freely for believers, as believed by every man in the western world, can be a reason for suicide bombers? do you really think a man get up one day and decide he will kill himself with 30 innocent people in a bus, finds so easily the equipment and knows where to go without a proper planning and without leaders who sent him there?
    Third and most important- saying so firmly that belligerence is on both sides, like both side have the same level of actions, same ideology and same motives is even far away from being politically correct or naive. There is a great difference between a side which tries to avoid in all cause from hurting civilians, does investigation committees if something like this happened and deals with soldiers who did wrong to a side which deliberately send people as suicide bombers into civilian population, fires rockets into cities and shoots people on the roads, then celebrate the killing of Israeli women and children and makes the killers national heroes, calling after them schools and street names, founding their families and if captured by the Israeli army for these horrible actions, the Palestinian authority gives them salary for life.
    Do you still think things are symmetrical? that you can judge both sides by actions you know just from the American news? Do you know that Palestinian that will sell his land to any Jew is sentence to death by the Palestinian authority? (needles to say that any Israeli can sell his land to whoever he choose without any danger to him or his family). Do you know that Palestinian schools still teach that Jews are worms and should all be extinct? Did you know that in those schools Israel does not exist? That it never existed? That they teach that Temple Mount was never built by the Jews and that there was never a Jewish kingdom? Do you know that every week there are at least 5 known terrorist actions against Israelis, but non appears in the regular news?

  9. Haggai Cohen Klonymus

    Comment from Facebook: Moreover. I don’t know where the Ben Gorion quote in taken from, so I can’t replay to it without context which was probably after the killing of some Israeli civilians. But I do know how Ben Gorion treated Arabs with much respect and how still Arabs in Israel hold the highest civil rights, more then any Arab in the middle east- including the most basic right of freedom of speech. You should talk with Arabs in the Palestinian authority and you’ll be surprise to see how many of them prefer to be under the Israeli rule ant not under Arab rule. Of course they won’t speak of it freely, because they will be killed immediately by the Palestinians…
    Speaking in numbers, I don’t know if you have noticed but Israel holds and still develop the best precise equipment, so it can shoot down the terrorist without hurting people next to them. But, since always, the Palestinians terrorist operated from within their own population, what makes it very hard to act against them without hurting few civilians. Before claiming anything against it- remember that Israel acts against daily terror right on its borders and in its civilian population. Now ask yourself how were the actions of the American and British army in Iraq and Afghanistan, very far away from home and without any immediate danger to American or British civilians. Now check Israel in clear perspective and proportions and you’ll find out it is amazing that so few civilians were hurt during fighting against terrorist who operate within the population. Again, having that said, I would have check again the numbers. In many cases it was already proved to be wrong (like in Jennin and like in the war with Gaza, in which the civilian causalities are less then the proved terrorists killed- caution that no army ever succeed before).
    Last thing about transfer of power to the Palestinians and the Gaza situation: The Palestinians don’t have the administration to control their own area, that’s even said lately by the American government. They don’t have the means to collect taxes or produce electricity. for water reserve they have control and it is a disaster- they’ve ruined half of the water reserves in the Judea and Samaria region and are so dependent on Israel to supply also water. Israeli authorities are cleaning the sewage of Palestinian cities, otherwise the entire region will not have clear water supply. The Palestinians government is not functioning and half of the money transferred by the US or EU disappear into Ministers pockets and their relatives. The Gaza situation is even less appealing. Israel is holding any import/export activity because they use it mainly for getting weapons. Food is sent daily by Israel and so is electricity which is still supplied without charging money (even though food is taken by Hamas and instead of giving it to the people they keep it or sell it and electricity helps them to continue making more weapons, such as the Grad missiles).
    You can stand and talk all day long against Israel in this conflict, but if you want to help solving it- you need to make Hammas and the Palestinian Authority they won’t get any help as long as they act as terrorist or in such undemocratic ways against their own population. Israel is acting better then any other western country that ever was in such situation, but you still look for more and forgetting to check how the other side is playing the game. So you can choose be more the advocate of the undemocratic or more the advocate of a democratic country, in the end don’t forget that the undemocratic are not acting by the same rules and won’t really act as you think when they will get what they asked for.

  10. Alex Green
    Alex Green 2 years ago .Reply

    Comment From Facebook: 1. It’s true that there weren’t settlement limitations imposed in the Oslo Accords. Article V of the accords, however, explicitly states that the status of said settlements will be part of the ‘final status’ negotiations, which were to be made with the intention of eventually providing full sovereignty, as set out in Article #1 of the principles (which notes that there will be full implementation of the UN Security Council Resolutions 242 and 383). As such, settlement builiding (as being in direct conflict with the implementation of past UNSC resolutions) represents and clear and fundamental violation of the Oslo Accords. In addition, if that weren’t enough, settlement building is a clear violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. There is no reason it should have continued, much less started in the first place.

    2.It is also true that Sharon’s visit did not start the Second Intifada. I agree fully. It was an outpouring of violence (that I do not condone) that likely resulted from many factors: immense corruption in the PA, little visible results despite the promises presented by the Oslo Accords, and general discontent with living conditions. That being said, Sharon visiting the Temple Mount with 200 Israeli police, fully knowing that a situation was brewing, and having been warned and pleaded with (along with the American officials) by the Palestinian Authority to not go ahead with it, was a clearly provocative act.

    3. I don’t agree with the practice of validating actions based on comparison. The U.S. did awful things in Iraq as well as Afghanistan– nothing pissed me off more than seeing those who committed mass murder in Haditha (for one) get off the hook, not to mention the immense pile of other war crimes and bad mistakes made during OIF and under the oversight of the CPA. That does not mean that Israel should be let off the hook for its atrocities. The Arab countries that surround Israel are hardly democratic. That does not mean that Israel has the right to implement undemocratic practices as well (which there are a fair number of, and we can go into). Israel is a young democracy, it is not perfect. The U.S. was hardly a democracy when it was founded, and still has its notable flaws. That does not mean that either should be free of criticism for what it does wrong. I will admonish the Palestinians for the awful things they have done, just as I do the Israelis. But, right now, I’m talking to an Israeli, and I wish to make the point that neither side is without blame. People can try to quantify it if they want, but it will always be subjective. Each is equally responsible for the situation today, and each for the situation tomorrow as well.

    Continued from Facebook: 4. Outside of some good ole National Public Radio, I do not listen to American news. It is sh*t :) (which goes twice for the TV news). I rely on Foreign Policy, The Economist, the BBC, Ha’aretz, the Jerusalem Post, Al Jazeera, Reuters, The New York Times, and a few others that I definitely missed. Please do not assume that all Americans watch crappy news, or study this conflict only in the news. I try my best not to fit that stereotype :)

  11. Haggai Cohen Klonymus

    Hey again Alex, its shame twice we could not find the time to meet yet, much easier and faster to talk these things then to write so much.
    I think that more then some disagreements on fact, we mostly have different basic point of view in several things, but I’ll write on both things:
    1. It is important to note that your first saying on this subject is only interpretation, not a real part of the agreement itself and was also never interpreted this way until the very last few years. As interpretation only it is not enough for saying Israel violated the agreement. Unlike it- clear actions of terror are a very clear violation of the agreement. Your second note of Geneva convention is true only for occupied territories taken from other country. But, due to the fact that Jordan was never supposed to hold the territory (and as such, Jordan also never implied its rule on the “west bank” area), and the fact that Palestinians never held anything similar to a country, actually Israel holds a “no man land”, and therefore there is no rule holding it from building in this area.
    I’ll throw you even more interesting notion- Everybody is speaking on the “green line”. Do you know what this line is? when Israel and Jordan declared truce at the end of the Israeli Independence War each side drew the line of its posts- Israeli line was in green and the Jordanian line in red. The area between the lines was just an unsupervised area, not belonging to any of the sides. How come the green line was chosen as the agreements supposed line and not the red line?

    2. Sorry, but not convincing. half of the things a leader will do somebody else can see as provocative. If some radical group will decide Mitt Romney can’t visit in ground zero because a mosque was just built there- does it makes sense to stop him? does they have any right to declare so and after send their people to violent riots and terror? I think you are missing who is the aggressor in the story and instead of talking against him load and clear, you choose to go to the easy path and talk with the side that you can actually talk to and which is actually listening.

    3. You took this notion far from what I meant- I don’t talk about few soldiers who misbehaved- I’m talking about governmental and military official decisions of attacks into civilian population. I also don’t talk against the US or Britain in this part, but only giving you a clear reference that there are no clean wars. But also look at another part of the story- Terror activities are almost daily and Israel south is being bombarded for over 8 years from Gaza. Think what would have happened if only one missile from Cuba would have exploded on a US territory- This is another perspective of the case: Did Israel choose to go to war or act too easily? After getting into war- did Israel took lightly the civilian population? The answer on these two question, looking at the clear facts and the comparison to any other country is a very big NO. Israel showed much more tolerance then any other country and much more care for civilian population in the other side then ever done in war zone, while Hamas was deliberately using the civilians as shields and using people homes, schools, mosques and hospitals as storage places for its weapons and bombs and sometime deliberately firing from within these places while civilians were kept inside by force by the Hamas terrorists, so they will be killed and it will cause bad public relationship to Israel.
    Again, you do the easy way, you bark on the wrong side instead of standing against the real aggressor.
    Is Israel perfect? clearly not. Is the situation is just symmetrical as “neither side is without blame”? far from it. You don’t need to “quantify”, it is standing clear out there- To level down the discussion to “Each is equally responsible for the situation today” is to run away from really dealing with the problem. Reality does not wait for people who try to be politically correct with everybody and hide the real fact from themselves by using “nice equality sentences”. What happens by this way is that you give very good “back wind” to the aggressor, in this case the Palestinian Authority and Hamas, which understand that they can just continue in their own ways while Israel will be the side to take all the blame (or “equal blame”). Meanwhile you push Israel to unrealistic situation in which it should behave much better then the best countries ever existed, which is actually pushing Israel to not defending itself from terror and from any aggression. Sorry, but this part is subjective only if you are blind by being politically correct. There are also the Arabs leaders who lie bluntly and use the democratic speech although they themselves are very far from it. If you could read the Arab news you could understand how many lies are bluntly sold so easily daily to the level of mind wash- and Muslims societies are far from having self criticism (while the Israeli society is democratic and very criticizing- ask yourself how much criticizing on the Israeli-Palestinian situation you have found in Arab news. don’t it bother you they speak in so clear one voice? or did you see it as so obvious that you don’t even expect the Arab society to be more pluralist?).

    Continued from Facebook: 4. Sorry, but most of the news that you noted (except probably the Jerusalem Post), are almost talking in one voice. Ha’aretz (especially the one in English) was proven to be very wrong and to many times even misleading badly the readers, with also too many times of clear difference between the Hebrew and the English more radical publication of the same article. The NY times and other mostly relay on Ha’aretz (in English) itself without checking the facts (as was also proven much more then once). moreover, many of the real things happening in Israel concerning the conflict do not get into the news and you need to find it in different places. I guess with your Hebrew getting much better I’ll show you some more sources for news and knowledge of the situation.

    bottom line- I don’t agree with the “equality” and other such sayings. You have a democratic county defending legally its own civilians from a clear aggressor which say out clearly it want Israel to be wiped off the earth (also the Palestinian Authority leaders, if you could look for their speech to Arab audiences) and act in this direction by terror or by undermining the legitimacy of Israel in the world by lies and misleading. You have an undemocratic side using cynically the democratic way of speech and notions to undermine the democratic countries although itself is very far from being democratic in any way.
    That politically correct speaking, that way of “not taking side” and doing nothing to hold down the aggressor, that choosing of the easiest way of talking against the democratic side instead of really confronting the undemocratic aggressor, all those are letting the undemocratic side continue in its way, understanding that the weakening of the democratic side will just continue- Those are the things that only make peace unreachable. If the aggressor will understand it first have to fix its own ways, you will later have a stable peace, and not just another truce holding until the next opportunity of wiping of Israel will fall into the hands of the aggressor.
    You are talking to an Israeli, and believe me we have much more inner criticizers then the world can provide, but this discussion started from your internet post, which is far from addressing only Israelis- and there you just talked much against Israel, choosing the easy way. I think you can choose to be just another journalist that talk against Israel in the same voice repeating the same ideas like every other, or you can really investigate and have more information then what given by the “regular” sources- with your (soon) advantage of understanding Hebrew- and give some really new information to your readers, letting them understand the complexity so far hidden from them.

  12. Alex Green
    Alex Green 2 years ago .Reply

    Comment from Facebook: I’m very much looking forward to the in-person discussion :) I do, however, wish to address a few more points. It may be safe to say that I may have gotten the topic of my next article from this.

    1. It is very interesting that you consider a critical analysis of Israeli to be the “easy” path, or can so casually say that I “bark on the wrong side.” In the U.S., and thus far during my time in Israel, critics of Israeli policy (as regards the A-I conflict) have by no means been in the majority. In the U.S. in particular, a number of accepted ‘truths’ prevent effective, objective considerations of Israeli policy. To name a few, Israel is considered to be a common Western democracy (it is not); Israel is believed to occupy the clear moral high ground in the A-I conflict (as you know, I would argue it certainly does not); Israel is framed as the constant victim (it is not); and Israel is assumed to be an ever-faithful ally,and the most valuable regional asset available to the U.S. (it definitely is not). These unquestioned ‘truths’ paired with the influence of religious beliefs, generally create an atmosphere where critics of Israel are highly marginalized. This is my opinion, of course. I would, however, say that the U.S. domestic affairs and international/regional policies validate this. You noted that my article and post were meant for a larger audience than just Israelis. You are certainly right. One of the reasons is so that Americans and others who fall into the ‘black and white,’ ‘good and bad,’ ‘victim v. terrorist’ perspective, can consider a different outlook on the A-I conflict, and broader region.

    2. As regards the applicability of the Geneva Convention. Though there is arguably a degree of ambiguity as regards Gaza (as Egypt never officially annexed the territory), the West Bank was clearly a de facto and de jure part of Jordanian territory after its annexation in 1950, and the Golan Heights were clearly Syrian territory, just as the Sinai was Egyptian. It is the task of the international community to determine the applicability of international law. In addition to the UNSC, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the International Court of Justice, 122 nations at the Conference of High Contrating Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention on Measures to Enforce the Convention in the Occupied Palestinian Territory have approved the application of the G.C. to the Israeli occupation. The Supreme Court of Israel itself even considers Israeli administration over Gaza, Judea, and Samaria to constitute that of an Occupying Power, granting those under that administration the rights they are guaranteed.

    3. I am not being politically correct. I am being objective. Both sides have committed atrocities. Both sides have shown belligerence. And both sides will have to do better if there is to be a solution to this conflict. One should not so casually wave off any side’s belligerence. I will take your advice to heart. I hope you do the same.

  13. Haggai Cohen Klonymus

    1. Well, I do not know how it is in the US, I can say that every american I spoke with said different things on the general opinions in his area (for example in NYC things are quite different from how you describe it). But, US is huge, so any generalization won’t be true (as is even in small Israel). We do not agree on the notes you’ve added, but I guess we will leave it for face to face discussion (just for the reason, for example, that in the way you argue for it, there are actually no real “common Western democracies”, so saying it on Israel don’t really holds). I do find it bad that in the US, as it is in many cases in Israel, things are left as “black and white”, and therefore I think that any discussion born from the real will to understand more, know more and check your own opinions with and against other’s is very good and important- and not enough discussions like this are taking place in the media, which became very “black and white” oriented.

    2. Actually you are not right, but I guess you don’t have the right data. Sinai and the Golan heights was/is truly occupied territory, because both were taken from countries, but this is a hole different story with different arguments inside Israel. Gaza was negotiated by Egypt in the peace agreement, and therefore have different status. The west bank was never part of Jordan, the Hashemite kingdom never put its full authority on it and the UN never saw it as part of Jordan. Also, when Israel concurred the area from Jordan, it never considered it as real part of Israel (therefore the Supreme Court had to see those territories as occupied, because the Israeli parliament never decided otherwise, unlike the Golan heights and Jerusalem which both were legislated by the parliament as fully Israeli territories, and therefore have different status in the Israeli law). I do think that you lack much information on this matter, and you are fed almost solely by one side view in the matter. This side mostly don’t take the legal point of view, but only the public opinion point of view (or to say, one public opinion point of view). Also, the UN never declared these territories as Palestinian territories, although many countries may think so and vote for different things for the Palestinians in the UN, for 2 reasons- first, it is the public opinion, but that does not make it true by international law; Second, there is no Palestinian country to be recognized for now, and therefore they can’t occupy a territory in the international law. There is a reason the UN so far did not take clear stand in this matter, and that is because all the previews decisions already cleared that it will be as part of agreements and not by decision from above (also because it was proved the UN can’t decide in problems which clearly demand an agreement). Still, not that the area was never ‘Palestinian’ and that the “green line” is nothing close to a border line, but only a truce line, as also noted many times by Jordan.

    3. Sorry, I do not buy this. Being objective is not to put both sides actions in similar weight on the scales- Being objective is to see things as they are and understand which side is more dangerous, more fanatic, care less for human lives, take more deliberate actions against civilian population, and talk in governmental supported hatred. For simple example, you say the bully that hit 10 times and the one being hit by him which hit back as defense 1 time share the same belligerence? even objectively this is not true. And that even without addressing that you can’t be really objective while you have clear opinion and lack much of the information on both sides actions.
    Both sides show belligerence- this is war, and I guess we agree there are no clean wars and that you will always have some terrible examples even in the best western armies. But the question of how much belligerence, where, in which situations, when and especially for what cause makes all the difference.
    Again, I guess you lack much of the information and you really don’t understand terror, how it works and how much time it hits. Also you do not know how many terror actions are being repelled or avoided each day in Israel and what it takes to do keep the general population free of daily terror attacks. To think that if Israel will sit and do nothing terror will not rise extremely is to really not understand the situation here in the middle east. But the main difference is that Israel have to do its actions to avoid terror and still act against terrorists with maximum care for the innocents whie investigating every mistake. meanwhile the other side don’t have to kill civilians as it does, and don’t need to act mainly and deliberately against innocent, and for any case, they don’t have to be so happy for killing civilians. Sorry, I do not buy this, saying “Both sides have shown belligerence” is to run far away from the problem, not to deal with the main issues.

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