Kurtzer’s misleading parallel: refugees and colonists

on 17 Comments

Yesterday I mentioned a panel on Israel/Palestine at the Middle East Institute that was on CSPAN. Former ambassador Daniel Kurtzer spoke last, a smart guy, and his talk was interesting as a reflection of the Reconstructed Israel Lobby’s views. Here’s what I heard Kurtzer say:

–We peace-processors believe in Partition. For 80 years we have known that Partition is the only answer in Israel/Palestine. The idea of one state is having a vogue, in fact I heard some praise for it on this panel, but it "has been proved not to work in the past" in Palestine.

–There is no threat to the region from the Israel/Palestine conflict. There is regional fear about Iran.

–There are two competing paradigms for solving Israel/Palestine. Undoing 1948 is the one-state paradigm. Undoing 1967 is the two-state paradigm. Because we believe in Partition, we believe that we can undo 1967–i.e., return to the ’49 Armistice borders. There are two competing human claims in each paradigm: settlers and refugees. Undoing 1967 means destroying the colonists’ dreams. Undoing 1948 means restoring the refugees’ dreams. Well, the Palestinians have to tell the refugees that the keys they still have to houses in Israel–very few if any will get to return. And as for the colonists– well, not every one of them will get to stay in their houses.

I am not a one-stater; I don’t know what I think. After all, partition has proved to be the realistic answer in many ethnic-religious conflicts. That said, I’m not sure why Kurtzer is exalting proofs (presumably the failure of Judah Magnes’s efforts to work with Palestinians on one-state back in the Mandate period) from such a distant historical era. Hasn’t consciousness/leadership changed since then? 

Also, the reason people talk about Undoing 1948 is that Undoing 1967 has proved to be such an illusion, and what kind of fools do you take us for? Oslo produced more colonies, more chopped down olive trees. The Israelis have done a very good job of Undoing 1948/Partition on their own.

I find Kurtzer’s parallel of the colonists and the refugees unsettling. He is saying in essence: Here’s the deal, very few if any (miserable, terrorized, dispossessed) refugees will return. But a lot of you (greedy, land-stealing, tax-subsidized) colonists will get to stay. Is that fair? And by the way, while we hold our panels on the unending peace process in Washington, nothing will be done to remove any colonist, including the one who moved there from Brooklyn yesterday. And meantime, 62 years after the fact, not one refugee claim will even be acknowledged, let alone property restored. It doesn’t seem very fair to me.

17 Responses

  1. Richard Witty
    November 12, 2009, 5:22 pm

    We are all colonists.

    The best that we can do is to help. Restoring a status from the past is impossible, irrational, hopeless, inhumane, undemocratic in the present.

    • Chaos4700
      November 12, 2009, 9:48 pm

      That’s your justification for ethnic cleansing, Witty? Everybody does it? I don’t. My family actually came over to the US significantly after the ethnic cleansing had been done to the Native Americans, and spent at least two generations clawing its way up to middle class status.

      Isn’t restoring a a status from the past exactly what Zionism is about, you goddamn hypocrite?

    • MRW
      November 12, 2009, 10:17 pm

      “Restoring a status from the past is impossible, irrational, hopeless, inhumane, undemocratic in the present.”

      Which is precisely what Israel did in 1948, Witty.

      • Richard Witty
        November 13, 2009, 9:15 am

        1948 is LONG past. And, in 1948 the reason for Zionism included the sentiment that Israel was the permanently homeland, the returning womb, of the Jewish people, but more importantly objectively was the destruction of all other basis of residence and identity anywhere else in the world. Europe was impossible to reside in (survival in many places, identity in all), and all of Europe and the west had severely restricted immigration policies.

        Currently, the reason for Zionism is that it already exists. It IS the nation of Jewish majority, of Jewish character, and democratic (requiring reform certainly to realize that much more fully).

        To oppose Zionism today (not in 1948. I wasn’t alive, unless you are over 67 years old, you weren’t either, and unless over 85 were not a polentially politically conscious adult yet).

      • Chaos4700
        November 13, 2009, 9:17 am

        The Holocaust is LONG past and Jews are still calling for blood when nonagenarian Nazi soldiers are located. You are such a a hypocrite and a racist, Witty — you constantly demonstrate in your eyes, Jews are privileged over everyone else in the world.

      • Richard Witty
        November 13, 2009, 9:18 am

        To elaborate, YOU have the choice of whether you prefer a construction of 1948 democracy or CURRENT democracy.

        One is the definition of a reactionary. One is the definition of a progressive.

        The rule of law compels restitution or other healing of prior wrongs through legal due process, but NOT a political definition based on some past status.

      • Chaos4700
        November 13, 2009, 9:21 am

        That last statement sounded an awful lot like a ringing endorsement of the one state solution, actually. I’m sure it wasn’t — just another day in Witty’s complicated weaving a tapestry of hypocrisy and statements that are only superficially profound.

      • Mooser
        November 13, 2009, 12:29 pm

        “Restoring a status from the past is impossible, irrational, hopeless, inhumane, undemocratic in the present.”

        Exactly Richard, and that’s why you are an enthisiast for the system in which Jews oppress Israel in the service of a 19th century British Public School Biblical geography!

        I mean, if you’re gonna restore a “status” (telling word, Richard) from the past, it might as well be a fantasy past, especially when that fantasy is embraced by those in a position to do something for you (British in Palestine, Weizman, Balfour).

  2. Nolan
    November 12, 2009, 6:47 pm

    It’s too bad that many mental health conditions go unreported, especially in the case of the delusional guy from post #1.

    And here I thought this was the 21st century where international law sets the tone for all nations seeking legitimacy, but it seems Israel and its supporters – see #1 – keep thinking they’re in the 1st century and that the world operates on a first-come, first-served, might-makes-right system. If that’s the case, then surely they should have no objection should a more powerful entity drive Israel into the sea. After all, the delusional still think we are all colonists.

    • Chaos4700
      November 12, 2009, 9:56 pm

      If Witty can believe everyone is as morally bankrupt as he is, it makes it easier for him to sleep at night, one supposes.

  3. Richard Witty
    November 13, 2009, 7:34 am

    I liked Kurtzer’s comments. You should see the actual presentation, rather than only Phil’s summary of it.

    I was actually impressed with elements of Phil’s reporting on this, that he is trying to attempt to keep up with the present political changes, whereas most of us don’t see or undertstand the content of panels like this one that describe some of the very recent changes in political landscape.

    The first presenter on the panel described the Abbas announcement that he would not run, as a choice to almost give up on a stabilization strategy (even after very significant accomplishments), in favor of renouncing that, largely in response to Netanyahu.

    Daniel Levy insightfully described some of the political paralysis of the Israeli state with such close and permanently close parliamentary parity, that resulted in a “securocrat” orientation as the only area of consent, that gets exagerated and contorted. Leading to a condition in which only the IDF can undertake long-term planning and policy formation, but the civilian state is impotent to.

    • Chaos4700
      November 13, 2009, 9:19 am

      You are so disgusting Witty. EVERYTHING that goes on in the conflict is framed by you as some strategy by Palestinians to thwart peace. EVERYTHING. This is why I really despise you more than people like carnas or Michael LeFavour. You’re probably smart enough to know better… but you don’t care.

      • Richard Witty
        November 13, 2009, 1:03 pm

        A VERY odd response to my post.

      • Chaos4700
        November 13, 2009, 4:33 pm

        You remind me, Witty, of Golda Meir (Meyerson, actually, but that’s another issue) when she said, “We cannot forgive them for forcing us to kill their children.” So now, not only was Hamas’ adherence to the cease fire an elaborate plan to trick the Israelis into bombing their children (so you’re logic goes), Abbas’ resignation is an elaborate plan to destroy “stabilization” efforts that is anything but, if you’re Palestinian.

        You blame the Palestinians for everything, Witty. Everything. You’re like an Israeli Lou Dobbs.

    • Colin Murray
      November 13, 2009, 4:25 pm

      Leading to a condition in which only the IDF can undertake long-term planning and policy formation, but the civilian state is impotent to.

      Ah, so its the IDF that undertakes “long-term planning and policy formation” in Israel, a bureaucracy almost absolutely unaccountable to Israeli citizens with a vested institutional interest in prolonging conflict? Where is the democracy in the oft, and incorrectly, hyped ‘only democracy in the Middle East’? Who exactly is the mythical ‘partner for peace’ on the Israeli side? Is the present state of affairs the fault of Palestinians because they have been foolish enough not to have sought to directly negotiate with the IDF, bypassing all those impotent silly politicians?

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