Saturday, October 17, 2015

Slaves of History - Israelis and Palestinians

Like other Americans I support the right of Israel to exist.  Why? Because they are there.  And I support the right of the Palestinians to a state.  Because they are there.  Of course my view is colored by the experience of the Holocaust.  But that was a European crime which does not justify the expropriation of Arab land.  I know that Jews for two thousand years have ritually recited the prayer "next year in Jerusalem".   But that has no moral claim on the Arabs whose ancestors lived there all that time.

So what to do?  Co-exist! - gwc

Slaves of History
by Josh Marshall
As Amos Oz has explained perhaps more eloquently than anyone else, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not based on any misunderstanding. Lack of contact, and the corrosive force of mutual violence inflame the issue. But there's no misunderstanding at the root of it. You have two peoples, two national movements that have equally profound and entirely different claims to the same piece of land. From the vantage point of today, these histories and historical arguments are, I would argue, should be ignored as much as possible. Why Israel proper is populated mainly by Jewish Israelis is a fascinating historical point. But they're there. Same with the Palestinians in the territories. Again, this is why I support a two-state solution. But nationhood and identity is intrinsically connected to the past. And the simple reality is that these two claims, two historical narratives are totally irreconcilable.

For the Palestinians, it's their land. Period. A foreign people started settling it a century ago, with critical help from various foreign powers. But the whole thing is theft. They've been expelled from their own country. Overlay this with the history and ideology of Islam which views itself as the superseder of both Judaism and Christianity. Jerusalem is Muslim, the Temple Mount is Muslim, all of Palestine is Muslim. And the fact that it is currently controlled by Jews - members of a superseded religious group (critically, there is no recognition of Jews as a national group) which is meant to be a protected group under Muslim rule is a complete perversion of the logic of history.

Critically, for Muslims and Arab nationalists, Zionism can't be distinguished from and is actually simply a subgenre of European colonialism. And just as colonialism was reviled and ultimately turned out of the region, so will Zionism.

For Jews, Israel - ironically even more the West Bank - is the cradle of their history, where they became a people and lived for about a millennium (depends where you want to disentangle history and legend). They were partly expelled once and returned. They rebelled against the Romans twice in the late first and early second century, the result of which was the destruction of almost all of Jewish society, mass killing on a genocidal scale and much of the rest of the population sold into slavery. Jerusalem and what in Hebrew is the "Land of Israel" has been an object of aspiration and devotion ever since. After countless expulsions and oppressions over the course of roughly 2000 years a political movement formed which had at its base the idea that Jews could never be safe or complete as sojourners of whatever duration in other countries. They needed to return to their original homeland. Here the resurgence of a new and yet very old form of anti-Semitism in Europe (pre-dating but culminating in the Holocaust) played a critical assist in making this argument compelling and for many inescapable. Jews never stopped believing they would inevitably return to the land we now call Israel and Palestine. The key was moving that expectation from the eschatological future to the present day.

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