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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Muddled thinking about Israel, "Leftists" and Gaza

I generally like Bradley Burston's analyses, even if I do not always agree with them. They evince an intelligent, unhysterical, undogmatic and pragmatic humanism, reminiscent of the intellectual posture of Mark Twain.

Sometimes, though he is way wide of the mark. For example, here is a "legitimate" reason for hating Israel according to him:

"4. Because Israel, even in withdrawing from Gaza, has left it to die"

Perhaps Bradley has inadvertantly stumbled upon the root causes of anti-Semitism here. He is really on to something. For 2,000 years the Jews neglected the Holy Land, and left all those poor folk to fend for themselves. Palestinian Arabs lived here in peace and harmony, enjoing the benefits of illiteracy, trachoma, malaria and typhus. With no Jewish doctors and hospitals around, many of the poor Arabs lived lives that were short, nasty and brutish. There was no work other than agriculture, because there were no Jewish investors either. There were no Zionist irrigation works either, so there was no water. No wonder everyone hates those cruel Jews.

Consider the facts, friend Bradley. Palestine was traditionally the armpit (or an unmentionable part) of the Turkish Empire. The Jews of Jerusalem were the poorest among all those who dwelt in the land, and their main industry was begging. Even in 1920 the Jews of Palestine were so poor that they were leaving in droves. By 1936, greedy evil colonialist imperialist Zionist investment had made the Jewish community richer than the Arab Palestinian community, but the Arab community by then was also among the richest in the Middle East. Wages of Arabs in Palestine were higher than in most neighboring countries.

When the Peel plan proposed to give 25% of the land to the approximately 450,000 Jewish inhabitants, it was proposed seriously that the much larger and more populous Arab state would not be economically self-sufficient, and that therefore the tiny Jewish state with its small community, that was also expected to absorb millions of immigrants, would need to subsidize the Arab state in perpetuity! All this was due to Zionist investment, since except for a bit of money spent on the port of Haifa, the British did not invest anything in Palestine. All the wealth had to come from taxes. By the year 1948, the Arabs of Palestine had improved their status quite a bit more, thanks also to British investment during WW II. However, the Jews of Palestine now produced four times as much as the Arabs, and paid four times as much taxes, even though the Arabs were twice as numerous!

The Zionists built the national water carrier. British experts insisted that it would never be economically feasible to pump irrigation water from the Sea of Galilee. "Never" was about 30 years in coming. In onde day, the national water carrier pumps more water than was used in all of Palestine in the entire year of 1948. Without that water, it would not be possible to maintain 7 million people in Israel at a near-Western European standard of living.

Consider the next crime of the evil Zionists. In 1967, the per capita income of the West Bank and Gaza was in the neighborhood of $360. By 1993, it was over $2,400. Then the evil Zionists gave the Palestinians self rule. By 2000, the per capita income of the West Bank and Gaza was only $2,000. Still, it is a fact that Palestinian Arabs were crossing the border illegally from Jordan in order to live in the oppressive and evil Zionist occupation and work in Israel. I met some of those Arabs. Then the Intifada started. The evil Jews did not permit the Palestinians to import suicide bombers into Israel, and the Palestinian GDP plumetted.

Now the evil Zionists committed the crime of withdrawing from Gaza. Jewish philanthropists paid so that Palestinians could own the green houses that the greedy evil Zionists left behind. The Palestinian Arabs trashed the green houses or used them as termini for arms smuggling tunnels. Then the Palestinians voted for the nice progressive Hamas, which wants to make a nice progressive Islamic state in all of "Palestine." According to Bradley Burston, the Zionists have an obligation to encourage subsidy programs for purchase of Qassam rockets and pay the salaries of the people who launch them. As Bradley wrote:

It is not lost on leftists that many Israelis reap a distinct satisfaction from the Palestinians' inability to help themselves, govern themselves, save themselves.

I don't know many such Israelis. There are a few. Maybe Bradley moves in different circles. Mostly I found that the misuse of the green houses, the internecine fighting, the lost opportunities for peace and development, are all causes for alarm and concern. It may mean we can never have peace with our neighbors, and that would be really terrible.
Bradley continues:

Leftists may note that Israel has done everything in its power to convince the world to deny much-needed aid to a democratically elected government, and that Israel has not acted as a neighbor whose primary concern is an eventual peace.

According to Burston's logic, the Palestinian Arabs democratically chose genocide for the Jews, so the Jews must encourage subsidies for this program, because it is a democratic choice. Presumably, in World War II, the Jews should have encouraged Roosevelt to send railway cars to Eichmann to expedite the transport of Jews to Auschwitz.
How could subsidizing the Hamas bring eventual peace? Didn't the allies blockade Germany in World War II? Does that mean that they were not interested in eventual peace? Right now, the primary concern is immediate survival. If you are dead, eventual peace doesn't matter. Therefore, stopping the suicide bombers and the rockets is the first order of business.
The implications are clear. The assumptions of Bradley Burston and the unnamed "leftists," which are racist assumptions, are that if the Jews leave, the economy of Palestine will inevitably degenerate into something like that of Syria. The fate of the glass and steel towers in Herzliya Pituach and Ramat Gan will be as the fate of the green houses in Gaza, or as the fate of the farm buildings of Gush Etzion in 1948 or the Ruttenberg electric plant and the potash works in the north of the Dead Sea. The national water carrier will cease to function. It will all rot in the sun and be ravaged by vandalism, like the grandeur of Rome after the invasion of the Goths and the Vandals.

Under Arab rule, in the present state of development of Palestinian society, and under the racist assumption of Arab Palestinian helplessness that is built in to the viewpoint of the so-called "leftists," it is questionable whether this land could support more than one or two million Palestinian Arabs, just as the British experts predicted in the 1930s. Therefore, the course of action is clear. The evil greedy Jewish sons of apes and dogs will not be allowed to leave the Islamic Paradise. We will have to stay here and create wealth for our Islamist masters.

An alternative to consider is that left to their own devices, the Palestinians will in time become a people like any other. They will learn to stand on their feet. They will stop making suicide bomber belts and Qassam rockets, and start manufacturing goods and services that the world, including Israel, want. With freedom and democracy, come responsibility.

Here are two other reasons why "Leftists" are right to hate Israel, according to Burston:

1. Because Israel's policies are frequently marked by gratuitous
humiliation of and disdain for the Palestinians.
2. Because Israelis can live with this.

I have to dispute both assumptions. A great part of the humiliation suffered by Palestinians at checkpoints, or at the hands of settlers, is due to individual loutishness or to incompetence of IDF and border police officials. It is not policy. And many Israelis cannot live with it. That is why there is Peace Now, and Gush Shalom, and the Machsomwatch movement that reports on doings at checkpoints, and that is why there is the "Breaking the Silence" group, soldiers protesting against the occupation, and that is why there is Betselem, that is why there are refuseniks, that is why Zionist Kibbutz members go out to protect Palestinians harvesting olives from settlers, and that is why there is a very long list of other groups protesting the occupationn. What is peculiar, and what Bradley doesn't mention, is that no "leftists" are upset by the fact that Palestinian policies are often marked by gratuitous murder of Israeli citizens and by the fact that many Palestinians cannot only live with it, but rather celebrate the death of every suicide bomber who kills Israelis. There is no Palestinian "Shahid watch" that reports when a suicide bomber kills innocent children in a supermarket "gratuitously." There is no Palestinian Peace Now movement to protest against Palestinian incitement. How do we explain the fact that this does not upset any of these so-called leftists?

Ami Isseroff

Copyright 2007. All rights reserved. Please link to this article and cite it. Do not copy it to your Web site without express permision.

Ten reasons the left hates Israel - five good, five bad
By Bradley Burston

A few thoughts engendered by the controversy over Alvin H. Rosenfeld's article "'Progressive'" Jewish Thought and the New Anti-Semitism."

Five of the following are reasonable. Five are not.


Why does the left hate Israel? Here are five good reasons:

1. Because Israel's policies are frequently marked by gratuitous humiliation of and disdain for the Palestinians.

2. Because Israelis can live with this.

If the policies hinted at in 1. above are associated with a status quo which Israelis find tolerably calm and Palestinians find unbearable, even lethal, Israel's leaders often view this as a viable and even optimal outcome.

3. Because Israel, in practice, values settlements more than it values social justice.

The right will tell you that there is [Bradley meant to write "no" here A.I. ] contradiction between settlements and social justice. Which would be true if there were no Palestinians, and if the Palestinians did not view the land occupied by settlements as theirs, historically, legally, and morally. And which would be true if the same consideration offered settlers in fixing the route of the West Bank fence were applied to Palestinians, that is, were farmers not cut off from their fields, pupils from their schools, and close relatives from one another.

The right will tell you that the settlements are no obstacle to peace. But that same right will also argue that the settlements are the only real bulwark between the Palestinians and an independent Palestine.

4. Because Israel, even in withdrawing from Gaza, has left it to die.

It is not lost on leftists that many Israelis reap a distinct satisfaction from the Palestinians' inability to help themselves, govern themselves, save themselves. Leftists may note that Israel has done everything in its power to convince the world to deny much-needed aid to a democratically elected government, and that Israel has not acted as a neighbor whose primary concern is an eventual peace.

5. Because of the propensity of Israel's leaders to demonstrate arrogance, claim a monopoly on the moral high ground, set non-negotiable demands to which Palestinian politicians cannot agree, then condemn Palestinians for intransigence.


Here, then, are five bad reasons:

1. The Palestinian cause is inherently progressive.

As currently constituted, Palestinian governance is marked by institutional graft, widespread human rights violations, curbs on press freedoms, tribalism, blood feuds, murders of women on the basis of contentions of preservation of family honor, and celebration of the targeting and killing of non-combatants as a legitimate form of resistance to occupation.

2. Israel remains the sole root cause of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and the reason it remains unresolved.

As root causes go, both sides have demonstrated profound intransigence, both sides have violated agreements with abandon, both sides suffer from extremists whose power to destroy a peace process far outweighs their proportion of the population.

In addition, the contention that Israel is solely responsible suggests that the solution of the Mideast conflict is the dissolution of Israel. This brings us to:

3. Israel is a Jewish state.

For a vocal minority of leftists, this fact alone - coupled with the following two arguments - is enough to call into serious question Israel's right to exist. This argument, which holds that the formally Jewish nature of the state enshrines an unconscionable level of racism, dovetails with:

4. Israel is an apartheid state.

Occupation: It's horrid, but it's not apartheid

5. Israel's actions are comparable to those of Nazi Germany.

This contention may be the genuine litmus test for anti-Semitism on the left.

In the end, the compulsion to accuse Israel of genocide, while turning a blind eye to wholesale slaughter in Darfur and elsewhere, tends to say a great deal more about the accuser than the accused.

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