Israel’s endless enemies — the dangerous myth in Ari Shavit’s book

Israel/Palestine
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Ari Shavit. (Photo: Spiegel & Grau/NPR)

Ari Shavit. (Photo: Spiegel & Grau/NPR)

It is hard to think of another long-standing conflict in which the irrefutable facts, long well-known to anyone who has seriously studied the issue, seem to matter less than in the Arab-Israeli conflict. The latest, and in a number of ways the most frustrating, example of this phenomenon is the rapturous reception in the American media being accorded to the new book by Haaretz columnist Ari Shavit, My Promised Land (hereafter: MPL). For example, shortly before the publication of MPL, the New Yorker featured a long essay by Shavit based on one chapter of his book, and the New York Times ran an oped by Shavit that was based on another chapter. Then, after it was published there were two long laudatory and prominently featured reviews in the Times. At about the same time, Thomas Friedman of the Times effused over the “must-read” book and described Shavit as “one of the handful of experts whom I’ve relied upon to understand Israel ever since I reported there in the 1980s.” And in the last few weeks, Shavit has been interviewed on radio by NPR’s Terry Gross, on television by Charlie Rose, and in New York’s famed 92 St Y by David Remnick. As a result, within a few weeks of its publication, MPL was already #9 on the Sunday Book Review’s Best Seller List.

As uncritical as the reception has been, it is true that there are some good things in MPL, including a discussion of the concept of “transfer”– more commonly known today as “ethnic cleansing” –in Zionist ideology: the honest and graphically detailed accounts of Zionist violence and outright terrorism in the pre-state period and the immediate aftermath of the creation of the state of Israel in 1948; the unsparing condemnation of the Jewish settlements, of the occupation, and of Israel’s “systematic and determined use of oppressive force” in crushing Palestinian uprisings and resistance; and the growing threats to Israeli democracy and liberal values, including racism, xenophobia, and even “semi-fascism.”

As all of these things have been widely discussed and justly praised in the reviews and commentaries on MPL, I will focus on the serious problems of the book that have been ignored in the reviews—and which to my mind far outweigh its undoubted virtues and strengths. In fact, for reasons I will argue, what is right about the book makes what is wrong even worse—not merely wrong, but dangerously wrong.

The gravest failing in MP, however, is Shavit’s blatant disregard of the history and major facts concerning the Israeli conflict with the Arab world as a whole and with the Palestinians in particular. The central theme, running throughout MPL, is that a peaceful settlement of these conflicts is impossible because the undying and immutable hatred of Israel in the Arab world—in Shavit’s view far transcending Israel’s own policies and behavior–poses an “existential” threat to its survival. Here are a few examples of this theme:

*“There is always the fear that one day daily life will freeze like Pompeii’s. My beloved homeland will crumble as enormous Arab masses or mighty Islamic forces overcome its defenses and eradicate its existence.” (location 73, Kindle edition. As Kindle uses “locations” rather than page numbers, all future citations in this article are to locations)

* “Israel is the only nation in the West that is existentially threatened” (96)

* “Given our history and our geography, peace is hardly likely.” (3970)

*“The history of the conflict and the geostrategy of the region implied that peace was not feasible…..Why did the Left cling to this empirically incorrect assumption?” (4110)

*Writing about the 2006 Lebanon war (discussed below), Shavit writes: “This time we survived. It was only a preview of what might happen in coming years….. What will happen… when some of our really powerful rivals decide to strike?” (5373)

*“There is no great Arab-Israel war on the horizon, but stability is fragile….Israel is being surrounded by failed states or extremist nations.” (6395) Elsewhere, he elaborates: “the new danger is Arab chaos. The troubling scenarios are of Arab discontent and Islamic fanaticism knocking on Israel’s iron gates.” (6592)

*“Moderate Palestinians are in retreat and radical Palestinians are on the rise….As Islamic fundamentalism and Arab extremism become dominant throughout the region, Palestinian pragmatism is besieged. Thus, if Israel weakens for a moment, the suppressed Palestinian wish [to restore pre-Israeli Palestine] will erupt forcefully.” (6398)

* “There is no hope for peace: no moderate Arab leader has the legitimacy needed to sign a new conflict-ending agreement with the Zionist entity.” (6542)

Shavit sums up his central argument:

Concentric circles of threat [are] closing in on the Jewish state. The external circle is the Islamic circle. Israel is a Jewish state that arouses religious animosity among many Muslims. The occupation of Jerusalem and the West Bank amplified this animosity, but it is Israel’s very existence as sovereign non-Islamic entity in a land sacred to Islam and surrounded by Islam that creates the inherent tension between the tiny Jewish nation and the vast Islamic world….A giant circle of a billion and a half Muslims surrounds the Jewish state and threatens its future. The Arab national movement tried to prevent the founding of Israel—and failed. The Arab nations tried to destroy Israel and failed.

The gap between Shavitism and reality is unbridgeable….

Insofar as Shavit is writing what purports to be history, his argument is either unaware of, or deceitful about, the clear facts concerning the long history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Despite occasional lip service to the contrary, his underlying premise is that the behavior of the Arab and Islamic world towards Israel is a given and is immutable, having little to do with Israel’s behavior towards the Arabs, especially the Palestinians. This unsupportable argument is actually dangerous, because it plays into and reinforces the woeful ignorance in Israel and the United States of the true history of the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts and of Israel’s repeated spurning or sabotaging of numerous opportunities to end them, from 1948 through today and, it would appear, into the indefinite future.

So far as I’ve seen, not a single review in the general media—certainly not the ones I’ve cited– has so much as mentioned the unbridgeable discrepancy between Shavit’s opinions and the long-established historical facts about the war-and-peace issues. There is a vast body of scholarship on these issues (including my own); here I can only provide a brief summary of it.

1948 and Afterward

Despite the blood-curdling rhetoric of a few fanatics—“we must throw the Jews into the sea”— according to most of the scholarship about the 1948 war, the Arab state invasion that followed the creation of the state of Israel in May, primarily from Egypt, Syria, and Iraq–was relatively small (about 13,000 troops) and poorly coordinated, reflecting the fact that there was no general Arab determination to destroy Israel but rather a mix of motives, which may have included sympathy for the Palestinians but also was motivated by inter-Arab monarchical and territorial rivalries, especially the fears of other Arab monarchs that King Abdullah of Transjordan would seize the West Bank and then use it as a springboard for his long dream of creating a Hashemite Kingdom extending over parts of Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, and Iraq.

To be sure, such relatively limited objectives or mixed motives were far from clear at the time to the Israelis, who thought of themselves as fighting for their very survival. And possibly they were, for who can tell whether the intentions of the invading armies would have continued to be limited to territorial gain (or the prevention of territorial grabs by Arab rivals) had Jewish resistance collapsed?

Nonetheless, the first opportunity for peace occurred in the immediate aftermath of the 1948 war. By March, 1949, bilateral armistice agreements had been signed between Israel and Egypt, Jordan and Syria, and in the summer of 1949 representatives of all the leading Arab states except Iraq agreed to meet with Israel at Lausanne, Switzerland to discuss a general settlement with Israel.

The Arab states were willing to agree to a compromise peace settlement with Israel, provided that Israel withdrew from the territories it conquered in the 1948 war and returned to the boundaries established in the 1947 UN partition plan and accepted the repatriation of the Palestinian refugees. The United States, acting as a mediator at Lausanne, proposed that Israel take back 250,000 refugees and promised US financial aid in resettling the remainder in the Arab world; there were many indications that the Arab states would accept such a compromise.

But not Israel: there would be no Israeli territorial withdrawals and no significant return of the Palestinian refugees, for whom it accepted no responsibility on the grounds they had voluntarily “fled.” Of course, long before Shavit, the Israeli claim had repeatedly been shown to be false and accepted by no serious historians, today including almost all Israeli historians of that period.

There is no mention in MPL of the Lausanne conference, the Arab and American offers, and of Israel’s refusal to negotiate.

Even if the Israeli position on borders and refugees precluded a general settlement with the Arab world, there were a number of opportunities for the new Jewish state to negotiate separate peace agreements with the neighboring Arab states. Just before and even during the 1948 war, King Farouk of Egypt made several efforts to explore the possibility of a peace settlement with Israel, provided it would cede part of Gaza and a narrow strip of the Negev desert

Fearing, and hardly without reason, further Israeli expansionism, Egypt wanted a territorial buffer one. Not only did Israel ignore the Egyptian proposals—which were essentially reiterated after the war–it deliberately provoked further military clashes with Egypt in order to seize all of the Negev, Gaza, and large parts of the Sinai.

Similarly, in 1949 the Syrian regime of Husni Zaim proposed a settlement with Israel: if Syria was granted permanent access to the waters of the Jordan River and Lake Tiberias, the Zaim government would not only sign a peace agreement but would permanently resettle 300,000 of the Palestinian refugees in its own territory. Despite urgings from U.S., UN, and even some leading Israeli officials, David Ben-Gurion refused even to discuss the offer. Zaim was succeeded by a military government headed by Adib Shishakli, who renewed the Syrian proposal on even more favorable terms, offering to resettle most of the Palestinian refugees (500,000) in Syria. Again Ben-Gurion refused to negotiate.

There is no discussion of any of this in MPL.

The Conflict with Jordan

Israeli scholarship has meticulously demonstrated that Jordan has almost always sought to avoid military confrontations and, indeed, has secretly collaborated with Israel on many issues since 1947, especially concerning the Palestinians. Until 1988, Jordan’s Hashemite monarchs Abdullah and his son Hussein were no less opposed than Israel to the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank, since they claimed Jordanian sovereignty over the area. Thus, if Israel had agreed to allow permanent Jordanian control over the West Bank and East Jerusalem the Palestinian “problem” either would not have existed or would have become a Jordanian rather that an Israeli one, and there would have been no Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The reason Israel refused such a deal with Jordan, of course, is that it wanted the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza for itself, even though it did not act on these aspirations until after those areas fell into their hands in the course of the 1967 war.

In 1994 the de facto Israeli-Jordanian peace was formalized in the Israel-Jordan peace treaty, which was made possible by Hussein’s renunciation of any claims on the Palestinian territories. With the sole exception of a passing remark that “by the end of 1988, Jordan’s King Hussein no longer wanted anything to do with the West Bank,” this history goes unmentioned in MPL.

The Conflict with Egypt

During the early 1950s, Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser consistently restrained Palestinian guerrilla raids on Israel from Egyptian territory, and there were unofficial exploratory peace negotiations between the Nasser government and envoys from Moshe Sharett, Israel’s foreign minister and leading dovish opponent of David Ben-Gurion. There is considerable evidence that Nasser was seriously considering at least a de facto peace with Israel, but Ben-Gurion and Moshe Dayan arranged a series of provocations that effectively sabotaged the incipient negotiations with the Nasser government. Only then did Nasser begin active support of the Palestinian guerillas and turn to the Soviet bloc for arms. The deteriorating spiral led to the avoidable wars of 1956 and 1967.

Today no serious scholar believes that Nasser intended to provoke war with Israel in 1967. Rather, his primary motive was to put pressure on Israel to refrain from attacking Syria—Nasser had received misleading intelligence from the Soviet Union that such an attack was imminent. Whatever his motive, however, there is no doubt that Nasser’s inflammatory rhetoric, his closing of the Suez Canal to Israeli shipping, and the deployment of Egyptian troops to the Sinai were major provocations to Israel. Even so, most of the scholarship today holds that Nasser was in no position to start a war with Israel and that therefore the preemptive military strike by Israel was unnecessary. No less an authority than Menachem Begin, never one to minimize Arab threats to Israel, agreed: defending his own decision to start a “war of choice” with Lebanon in 1982, Begin publicly stated the following: “In June 1967, we had a choice. The Egyptian Army concentrations in the Sinai approaches do not prove that Nasser was really about to attack us….We decided to attack him.”

In any case, by the end of 1969, as a result of the Egyptian defeat in 1967 and Nasser’s correct belief that Israel had developed nuclear weapons, the Egyptian leader had concluded that Egypt no longer had a rational military option against Israel and should therefore reach a bilateral peace settlement, on the condition that Israel withdraw its forces from the Sinai and Gaza and return them to Egypt. By 1971 Nasser had publicly announced his acceptance of various UN and US peace proposals that were based on an Israeli withdrawal in return for peace, various security guarantees, and permanent free navigation for Israeli ships through the Suez Canal.

Israel continued to prefer the territorial status quo to peace, however, refusing even to discuss these potential settlements and ignoring all overtures from Nasser and his successor, Anwar Sadat. Moshe Dayan put it this way: “I would rather have Sharm al-Sheikh [the port at the southern tip of the Sinai] and no peace than peace without Sharm al-Sheikh.” As a result, Sadat concluded that Egypt had no choice but to break the deadlock with the limited war in October, 1973. Though Egypt lost the war, it did have the effect sought by Sadat, for it was a major scare for Israel—as well as for the United States, which feared being drawn into a confrontation with the Soviet Union–and therefore set in motion a chain of events that culminated in the 1979 Egyptian-Israeli peace settlement. The settlement has held firm ever since, even under the short lived Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohamed Morsi.

Today, there is no serious challenge, even by most Israelis, to the argument that but for Israeli intransigence, a peace between Israel and Egypt could have been negotiated almost a decade before 1979—and maybe even before the 1967 war, let alone that of 1973. Other than a few passing references to the 1979 Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty, Shavit says nothing about the history of lost opportunities before 1979. Nor does he acknowledge that this history requires a rather important qualification to his argument that the Arab world refuses to make peace with Israel.

The Conflict with Syria

In the 1967 war, Syria lost large sections of the Golan Heights to Israel. It tried to regain these border areas in the 1973 war, but lost again. Since then, Syria under both Assads, father and son, has had no interest in any further military conflict with Israel, and in fact exercised tight control of what remained of the Syrian parts of the Golan in order to ensure that Palestinian guerrilla forces could not use the area to attack Israel. Since the Assads have ruled out war but want “every inch” of the Golan to be restored to Syria—mainly for purely symbolic or psychological reasons—their only option has been diplomacy.

As early as the 1970s, Hafez Assad privately told Henry Kissinger, and later Jimmy Carter, that he wanted a diplomatic settlement with Israel. Nothing came of these signals, in part because Assad at that point was still paying lip-service to the Palestinian cause—though he also said he would consider that issue settled if Jordan regained control over the West Bank. By the early 1990s Assad dropped the Palestinian issue altogether, and proposed a “total peace” with Israel, including full diplomatic and economic relations, in return for full Israeli withdrawal from Arab lands occupied in 1967. Evidently Assad was much more interested in a full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights than with the other Arab areas conquered and occupied in the 1967 and 1973 wars, for after two years of secret negotiations, a peace treaty was at hand. However Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin suddenly suspended the negotiations, fearing that Israeli public opinion would not accept a withdrawal from the Golan.

Following the assassination of Rabin in November 1995, the new Israeli prime minister Shimon Peres initially decided to focus on a peace settlement with Syria rather than with the Palestinians, but then pulled back before the 1996 elections; like Rabin, he feared the domestic consequences. Then, in 1999 prime minister Ehud Barak resumed negotiations with Syria with close U.S. mediation, and in 2000 the Clinton administration drew up a draft peace treaty which narrowed the differences between Israel and Syria to essentially symbolic ones. The principles of the treaty that both sides had agreed to were essentially a full Israeli withdrawal from the Golan in return for the Syrian agreement to demilitarize the area and the full normalization of diplomatic and economic relations.

Yet again, Israel abruptly ended the negotiations. Facing continued domestic resistance to Israeli withdrawal from the Golan and contemplating a possible agreement with the Palestinians that would require extensive withdrawal from the West Bank and Gaza, Barak backed away from a peace treaty with Syria. Among most Israeli security experts, including many of its leading generals at the time and since, there is a consensus that the agreement that Assad was prepared to conclude served Israel’s security and other national interests and that it was Israel, not Syria, that was responsible for the breakdown of the negotiations.

There things stand today—and given the civil war in Syria, there things will undoubtedly remain in the foreseeable future. Another opportunity for Israel to reach a political settlement with a neighboring Arab state—and on remarkably favorable terms– was lost because of Israeli intransigence. What this history conclusively demonstrates is that at least since the 1973 war—and very probably earlier than that—in no sense has Syria posed an existential threat to Israel.

There is no mention of any of this history in MPL.

The Conflict with Lebanon and the Hezbollah

From the late 1960s until 1982, the PLO under Yasser Arafat was based primarily in southern Lebanon, from which it carried out attacks against Israel. Following a major PLO attack on an Israeli bus that killed 38 civilians in 1978 Israel invaded southern Lebanon. In the course of its attack it killed an estimated 1000-2000 civilians, most of whom had nothing to do with the PLO. Four years later, Israel struck again, in a far larger attack that succeeded in driving Arafat and the PLO out of Lebanon—but which killed at least 10,000 civilians and devastated the Lebanese civilian infrastructure.

It was this attack that led to the formation of Hezbollah in Lebanon, a Muslim fundamentalist organization whose ideology called for the destruction of Israel but whose military actions in practice were primarily confined to resisting the Israeli military incursions and extended occupations of southern Lebanon. To be sure, Hezbollah did sometimes retaliate for Israeli actions by raiding or shelling northern Israeli towns and villages; one such attack in 1993 led to another major Israeli ground invasion and air attack in Lebanon, again killing hundreds of civilians and devastating civilian infrastructures.

In 2000, Israel withdrew its remaining ground troops in the “security zone” it had established in southern Lebanon, and this action led to a dramatic drop in the long cycle of Hezbollah attacks/Israeli retaliation—or the other way around, no one can tell which. However, apparently motivated by the desire to show solidarity with its Hamas counterparts in Gaza who were under heavy Israeli attack, as well as to force a prisoner exchange with Israel, in July 2006 Hezbollah carried out a cross- border attack that captured two Israeli soldiers and killed three others. Israel then responded with another massive attack on Lebanon, whose purpose was partly to destroy Hezbollah weaponry but primarily to deliberately cause great civilian casualties and destruction among the Lebanese civilian population, so as to punish and deter future Hezbollah attacks. As was widely reported during the attack, and subsequently confirmed in investigations by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, the Israeli attack killed some 1200 civilians, wounded another 4000, and caused massive damage to Lebanese roads, bridges, power stations, water pumping stations, sewage plants, businesses, and civilian apartment houses.

None of this history seems to have any impact on Shavit’s insistence that Israel—through no fault of its own—faces an “existential threat” from Hezbollah. It does not seem to occur to him that if there had been no Israeli expulsion of the Palestinians, there would have been no PLO, that if there had been no PLO there would have no reason for Israel to have attacked Lebanon in 1978 and 1982, that if these attacks had not occurred, there probably would have been no Hezbollah, and that even after the creation of Hezbollah it probably would not have attacked Israel if not for the Israeli occupation of southern Lebanon and further massive attacks on that country.

Nor does Shavit notice or at least acknowledge that none of the Hezbollah attacks, whatever their explanation, have been on a scale that remotely posed “existential” threats to Israel. Since 2006, there have been only a few shooting incidents involving soldiers and a handful of Hezbollah rocket attacks into Israel, and none of the latter have caused any significant damage, let alone killed anyone—in short, in the last seven years there has not been even a non-existentialist threat to Israel from Lebanon or Hezbollah. That is not to say that a serious renewed conflict could not break out again because of recent Israeli actions, including a number of air attacks on weapons convoys on their way from Syria to Lebanon, and at least two major assassinations of high Hezbollah officials.

This history of the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict goes mostly undiscussed in MPL, save for one of its oddest chapters, entitled “Reality Shock, 2006”, in which Shavit argues—amazingly, in light of the history of Israel’s many attacks on Lebanon, including in 2006–that in recent years Israel has become “alarmingly impotent” and prone to a “political correctness” that prevents it from recognizing the need for greater military power!

It is worth quoting from that chapter at some length:

Israel’s inability [in 2006] to stop Hezbollah from launching rockets at its northern towns was shocking. Its vulnerability and its impotence were shocking. For over a month, more than a million Israelis lived under fire. Approximately half a million Israelis fled their homes. The nation was helpless and humiliated. Then came a moment of reckoning. The question that echoed throughout the country was what had happened to us. Had we lost it? (5294)

To answer this question, after the war Shavit went on “a depressing tour in the half-deserted towns of the Galilee” and then wrote a Haaretz column—and one that he obviously considers to be just as apropos today, since he reprints it in MPL:

         “What has happened to us?….The politically correct discourse that reigned supreme over the last decade was disconnected from reality. It focused on the issue of occupation but did not address the fact that Israel is caught in an existential conflict….It paid too much attention to Israel’s wrongdoing, and too little to the historical and geopolitical context within which Israel has to survive. …Anything military or national or Zionist was regarded with contempt….Power was synonymous with fascism. Old-fashioned Israeli masculinity was castrated….”

“Israel is not a normal nation. It is a Jewish state in an Arab world, and a Western state in an Islamic world, and a democracy in a region of tyranny….In the Middle East, a nation whose youngsters are not willing to kill and get killed for it is a nation on borrowed time. It will not last for long.” (5294-5326)

Notwithstanding the near-complete end of Hezbollah attacks on Israel, Shavit repeats his apocalyptic warnings today:

Sadly, wars are a testament of Israel’s national strength….Israel’s alarming impotence in 2006 revealed how disoriented and dysfunctional [we have become]…It is not a choice between peace and war. The immediate challenge is the challenge of regaining national potency. An impotent Israel cannot make peace or wage war— or end occupation…. Faced with renewed existential danger, Israel has no relevant national strategy. It is confused and paralyzed. (5326ff)

We are now in cloud-cuckoo land. In light of the long history of destructive Israeli attacks on Lebanon and the relatively inconsequential nature of Hezbollah attacks on Israel, especially since 2006, as well as Hezbollah’s clear reluctance to risk another war that Israeli generals have repeatedly said would inflict even more massive civilian damage on Lebanon, Shavit’s treatment of the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict is nothing less than bizarre.

Saudi Arabia and the Arab League.

For over thirty years, Saudi Arabia has taken the lead in seeking an overall settlement of the overall Arab-Israeli conflict. In 1981 the monarchy proposed an agreement (“the Fahd Plan”) that essentially offered an overall Arab peace with Israel if it dismantled the settlements, withdrew from all Arab territory, allowed the creation of an independent Palestinian state and recognized the right of the Palestinian refugees to return to Israel, if they so chose.

In 2002 King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia convinced the Arab League to unanimously agree to a new proposal which went much further in meeting Israel’s legitimate needs: it called for a formal peace treaty based on an Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories, the establishment of a Palestinian state in those territories—not, that is, in all of the historic land of Palestine, now including Israel itself–and a settlement of the Palestinian refugee problem . If Israel agreed to these terms, the plan explicitly said, “In return the Arab states will do the following: (a) Consider the Arab–Israeli conflict over, sign a peace agreement with Israel, and achieve peace for all states in the region; (b) Establish normal relations with Israel within the framework of this comprehensive peace.”

Significantly, the Arab League proposal markedly softened its position on the Palestinian refugee issue: it called for “a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem to be agreed upon in accordance with U.N. General Assembly Resolution 194,” which called on Israel to allow the refugees “wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors” to do so. There is no mention of a “right of return,” and the carefully chosen language, “to be agreed upon,” effectively grants Israel a veto on the issue

A number of prominent Israelis called upon the government of Ariel Sharon to accept the Arab League initiative as a basis for negotiations to end the conflict—but Sharon refused, calling the proposal “a non-starter.” Nonetheless, the proposal was officially and unanimously reiterated in 2007, following a summit conference in Saudi Arabia of the heads of state of the twenty-two states of the Arab League as well as Mahmoud Abbas in his capacity as president of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas prime minister in Gaza; Abbas voted in favor, and Haniyeh abstained, lending credence to Hamas’s position (discussed in more detail below) that it would not oppose any agreement that was supported by the Arab League.

In 2012 the Arab League again unanimously reaffirmed its peace offer, and in 2013 Secretary of State John Kerry called upon Israel to accept the offer as the basis for negotiations. Needless to say, the Netanyahu government has not done so and, given its obvious intentions to maintain the occupation, there is no chance that it will.

What does Shavit have to say about this history? Disregarding the inconvenient facts, he ignores it, writing: “Now there is no hope for peace: no moderate Arab leader has the legitimacy needed to sign a new conflict-ending agreement with the Zionist entity.” (6541)

Iran

Despite his insistence that the Arab world as a whole poses existential threats to Israel, Shavit’s main concern today clearly is Iran: “Iran is not a Netanyahu bogeyman; it is a real existential threat.” (6054) He elaborates: “If Iran went nuclear, the Middle East would go nuclear, the world order would collapse, and Israel’s existence would be in jeopardy.” (5810) And not just Israel’s existence: “All Western leaders knew that Iran might endanger the future of the United States, Europe, and the world.” (5829)

While Shavit does not quite explicitly call for an Israeli attack on Iran right now, that is the obvious implication of his rhetoric—for example, in his Nov. 20 oped in the New York Times (“How Bush Let Iran Go Nuclear”), he castigates the “Munich mindset” of those opposing an attack and in MPL he favorably quotes one Israeli hardliner: “If Israel shied away from taking action just because it was deterred by a few hundred Iranian missiles and a few thousand Hezbollah rockets, it had no right and no way to survive.” (5971)

Actually, Shavit has been issuing the same despairing predictions for a number of years now, as recently pointed out in the brilliantly-titled “Apocalypse Now, Apocalypse Forever,” by +972, an Israeli dissident group:

*In May 2007 Shavit wrote that “If Iran is not stopped this year, then in the summer of 2008 it will be on its way to nuclear hegemony…..Israel confronts the most important decision in its history. The decision of its life.”

*In April 2008 Shavit wrote that “Israel is facing unprecedented challenges. Iran is on the verge of nuclearization, Syria and Hezbollah are growing stronger, Hamas is heading toward conflagration….Israeli society must muster all its inner strength both to prevent war and to endure a war.”

*In September 2008 Shavit wrote that “there is a high probability that in 2009 or 2010, Israel will face a national test.”

*In November 2011, Shavit wrote that “our time is up,” for 2012 would be “the decisive year;” and in February 2012 he wrote that if Obama doesn’t “stop Iran in any way necessary and at any price…he will obligate Netanyahu to act before the 2012 elections.” Then, in March he warned “we are getting closer to the moment of truth….it’s totally clear that for Israel, it’s either now or never.

Needless to say, then, Shavit is not deterred from issuing renewed apocalyptic predictions even though he has been repeatedly proven wrong in the past, nor is he impressed by the fact that most military and civilian experts on the Iranian nuclear issue, including in Israel, take strong issue with his “arguments,” if we can call them such. The consensus view in these groups is that the primary purpose of the Iranian nuclear program is deterrence, not aggression–as has been the case for every other nuclear state.   There is not the slightest evidence to support the Netanyahu-Shavit fear that, out of pure hatred for a Jewish state and out of the blue, Iran would launch a nuclear strike against Israel, despite its full knowledge that the entire country would be literally annihilated by Israeli nuclear retaliation.

The supposedly more worrisome problem is that Iran might covertly give nuclear weapons to terrorists, who might believe they could use them against Israel—or the U.S.– and escape retaliation, in the hope that it might not be clear who originated the attack and where it came from.   However, that possibility also is remote: even if Iran was motivated to give nuclear weapons to fanatical groups like al-Qaeda—which for several reasons is highly unlikely–it would have to assume that it would be blamed for any nuclear attack on Israel and would be destroyed in retaliation, even if it hadn’t been the source, the inspiration, or the supporter of such an attack.  No doubt in part for similar reasons, there is no evidence that any nuclear state has ever given such weapons to terrorist groups–not even the most extremist or supposedly the least rational states, like North Korea and Pakistan.

Moreover, most military experts, including most of Israel’s own top intelligence and military officials, opposed a military attack on Iran, at least under the present conditions. Shavit actually acknowledges this, admitting that the recent IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi “adamantly opposed the actual use of the military option” (5971), and that he is joined in this view by most other army generals, by Meir Dagan, the head of Mossad from 2002, and by Yuval Disken, the head of the Shin Bet national security agency from 2005 through 2011. Undaunted, Shavit offers no counteranalyses to their arguments.

The overall anti-war argument favored by the majority of informed observers is that an Israeli or even a joint U.S-Israeli military attack would have little chance of meaningful success over the longer run, since Iran would have an even greater reason to reconstitute and protect its weapons facilities in order to deter other attacks. At the same time, such an illegal, unnecessary, and futile “preventive war” would be highly dangerous, likely to result in a series of Iranian retaliatory actions that could destabilize the Middle East, undermine US and other Western interests, and possible precipitate a much wider war.

Moreover, the current negotiations between the U.S. and Iran might yet result in an agreement to allow Iran to continue its nuclear program but agree not to weaponize it. In this respect it is important to remember that in 2003 the moderate Khatami government in Iran strongly signaled that it wanted to negotiate a political settlement, based on a “grand bargain” in which in return for the end of economic sanctions and the U.S.-Israeli military threats, it would not develop nuclear weapons, would end its military support for Hamas and Hezbollah, and would accept a two-state solution for the Israeli-Palestinian. Astonishingly, the Bush administration spurned this opening, which might have met both US and Israeli concerns and interests.

It is not yet clear whether the current negotiations can produce such a remarkably favorable settlement. If not, the overwhelmingly favored course among Western and Israeli military and security leaders is for a continuation of economic sanctions until Iran is ready to agree not to develop nuclear weapons—and even if that outcome can’t be attained, the fall-back position of Israel, the U.S., and the West should be not a military attack but the same strategy that prevented major war during the Cold war: deterrence and a “balance of terror.”…

            The Damage

No matter for how long, how often, and how thoroughly the mythologies that continue to pass for the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict have been discredited, nothing seems to penetrate the psychological walls that most Israelis and American supporters of Israel have erected in order to protect themselves from having to confront the irrefutable truths about the conflict. The latest proof of this frustrating, even maddening, reality is the acclaim– even or maybe especially in the elite US media– that is being accorded to Shavit’s book. Whatever its strengths–and there are many—it can only worsen the dismal discourse about the conflict that still prevails in Israel and the United States.

The central theme of MPL is that real peace between Israel and the Arabs is impossible. There are two crucial problems with this argument. The first is the unspoken but clear underlying premise that the enmity between Israel and the Arabs has been a function of some immutable Arab hatred or anti-Semitism that transcends Israel’s behavior towards the Arabs. The second problem is that whatever the cause of the enmity, Israel has repeatedly ignored or sabotaged many opportunities to end the conflict, which could have been done if Israel had been willing to accept reasonable compromises on the four crucial issues: the return of most of the Arab territories captured by Israel in the various wars, a permanent partition of the historical land of Palestine, Palestinian independence and sovereignty in their allotted land, including East Jerusalem, and a small-scale symbolic “return” to Israel of some 10-50,000 descendants of the Palestinian refugees of 1948. Had these steps been taken—and perhaps it is not too late, although the Netanyahu government is doing its best to make sure it is— in all probability the dangers to Israel, “existential” or not, would have come to an end.

You would not know any of this from reading Ari Shavit’s My Promised Land—worse, you might even be more inclined to dismiss Arab-Israeli peace possibilities, precisely because so much of the book is highly critical of Israel but yet argues, essentially, that the conflict is not Israel’s fault.

When propagandists or obvious ideologues not known for their fidelity to truth argue that a Jewish state can never live at peace in the Middle East, sensible people, even when they are not themselves expert in the matter, are likely to consider the source and be inclined to be skeptical. For example, no sensible person would say “Even Abraham Foxman and Alan Dershowitz think that Israel is now and always has been in permanent danger because of Arab anti-Semitism.”

Ari Shavit is another matter, however, for he is a leading journalist in Israel’s most liberal newspaper who has written a book that on the one hand with ruthless honesty describes and decries the history of Zionist terrorism, the expulsion of the Palestinians, the occupation, the settlements, the brutal Israeli repression of Palestinian resistance, the alarming dangers to Israeli democracy and basic Western moral values–but on the other hand essentially argues that no matter what Israel does, it has no chance to be accepted and live in peace in the Arab world.

Thus, Shavit’s apparent—but unearned—credibility may have a considerable influence, because moderate but non-expert Americans might well conclude that “Even Ari Shavit thinks that the Arabs will never make peace with Israel. “ Thus, in the final analysis, despite its almost universal acclaim—or, perhaps, because of that acclaim– what is wrong about My Promised Land is far more important than what is right, and for that reason it is a dangerous and, indeed, unforgivable book.

A version of this post first appeared on Slater’s site. It includes an extensive section on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

About Jerome Slater

Jerome Slater is a professor (emeritus) of political science and now a University Research Scholar at the State University of New York at Buffalo. He has taught and written about U.S. foreign policy and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict for nearly 50 years, both for professional journals (such as International Security, Security Studies, and Political Science Quarterly) and for many general periodicals. He writes foreign policy columns for the Sunday Viewpoints section of the Buffalo News. And his website it www.jeromeslater.com.

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60 Responses

  1. Steven Salaita
    December 20, 2013, 11:15 am

    Sharp analysis. Thanks for writing it.

    • Citizen
      December 21, 2013, 1:00 pm

      Yes, it is, and thanks, Mr Slater, for reminding us of the history of Arab attempts to make peace with Israel–we sure won’t get this data from the mainstream US pundits trotted out to inform the American masses in the interests of informed consent in our democracy. In America, freedom of the press is for those who own one.

      • RoHa
        December 21, 2013, 9:02 pm

        A very useful article, Mr. Slater.
        We do need this history set out in a single essay. Unless one is permanently ensconced in an academic library, it is hard to track down and easy to forget some of it.
        Thank you.

  2. dbroncos
    December 20, 2013, 11:58 am

    Excellent critique, Mr. Slater. It’s my understanding that in the ’48 war the Arab state participants were more concerned with the territorial ambitions of their Arab neighbors than they were with fighting the Zionist armies. Iraqi, Syrain and Egyption forces were mostly parked in rearguard positions to protect their territories, committing only a small number of troops to the fight against Israel. Jordan had the most at stake in ’48 war, resulting in the fiercest fighting which took place in and around Jerusalem. Jordan fought effectively and was able to maintain its hold on Trans Jordan and East Jerusalem.

    • Jerome Slater
      December 20, 2013, 1:18 pm

      dbroncos: I agree with most of your understanding, except perhaps your characterization of the Israeli-Jordanian conflict at the time. While I don’t remember the details off the top of my head, the leading authority on this period is Avi Shlaim, especially in his book (the title of which tells you the argument), “Collusion across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement and the Partition of Palestine.” There was some limited fighting, as you say, near Jerusalem, but for the most part there was a secret deal between Ben-Gurion and Abdullah, which mostly prevented fighting between their armies. Other scholars have essentially confirmed this, and to my knowledge no one has successfully challenged Shlaim’s evidence.

      • dbroncos
        December 20, 2013, 7:58 pm

        Mr. Slater,

        I owe my understanding of the ’48 war to The War For Palestine by Eugene L. Rogan. I read it more than 10 years ago so memory of what he says played out between Israel and Jordan is fuzzy. I could be wrong, but I seem to remember Rogan’s emphasis on the biggest battles happening near Jerusalem between Jordanian and Israeli fighters.

        Anyhow, I hope you send your excellent critique to Ari Shavit’s “in box” and, more importantly, to the publishers who are singing the praises of his “wisdom”. Your critique should be widely read, it needs to be widely read.
        It’s a clear, concise and powerful piece of writing.

  3. pabelmont
    December 20, 2013, 12:17 pm

    Slater is masterful. full marks.

    There may be some slight danger to Israel from its Arab neighbors: Palestinians have been known to throw stones, after all, and there have been a few small rocket attacks and suicide bombers over the years. But this was never “existential”. Shavit says Israel managed to survive the 2006 Lebanon war? A war that it started!

    As Slater made clear.

    Existential threats by war? Pfui. Anyway, the real (and only) threat to Israel today, such as it is, comes from the EU and BDS and we’ve seen its small start.

    And this threat is so slow-moving that Israel will have years to decide how to respond. Any day Israel can decide to defang EU by (itself) prohibiting export (to EU) from the Israeli companies operating in OPTs. Or by ending the occupation (which includes not only removing all settlers, wall, settlements, and siege of Gaza, but also removing the army from OPTs — and from the Golan, I should think).

    I am not convinced that EU will use massive economic power against Israel (to compel Palestinian Right of Return) (PRoR) if Israel has earlier ended the occupation and allowed a Palestinian state to come into actual existence. Thus, in reality (as I see it), Israel is not now threatened EVEN in its ever-so-precious “Jewishness” (meaning being essentially Palestinian-rein, meaning internal apartheid).

    But if Israel waits too long to make easy corrections, the passions of the people in the democracies (especially EU) may drive their (reluctant) governments to such anti-Israeli frenzy that it will be too late for Israel to survive without PRoR, without ending apartheid throughout Greater Israel. One may hope for Israeli reluctance to cut its losses.

  4. pabelmont
    December 20, 2013, 12:27 pm

    Slater, a bone to pick with you: “To be sure, such relatively limited objectives or mixed motives were far from clear at the time to the Israelis, who thought of themselves as fighting for their very survival. And possibly they were, for who can tell whether the intentions of the invading armies would have continued to be limited to territorial gain (or the prevention of territorial grabs by Arab rivals) had Jewish resistance collapsed?”

    The war of 1945-51 was begun by Jews. Jewish terrorists, if you will, but picked up by 1947 by Haganah and Jewish Agency and the entire Jewish population in Palestine. It was an unnecessary war, for the Jews could have elected to live in Palestine and make a democratic state with the Palestinians, wh wanted that (and therefore refused partition).

    So there was no Jewish “resistence” to collapse. Say, rather, if the Jewish war of aggression failed. And remember that Ben Gurion was confident when he started the war that Israel would prevail — even if that was not the story being bruited to the Jewish people there.

  5. James North
    December 20, 2013, 12:46 pm

    I have been following Israel/Palestine for many years, and this is the best single essay I have read on the subject in a long time.

    • Philip Weiss
      December 20, 2013, 1:08 pm

      Thanks James. There’s more at Slater link.

    • Donald
      December 20, 2013, 5:03 pm

      I agree with this and also want to echo Phil’s recommendation to read the rest at Jerry’s website.

      The most important point is at the very end–

      “Thus, Shavit’s apparent—but unearned—credibility may have a considerable influence, because moderate but non-expert Americans might well conclude that “Even Ari Shavit thinks that the Arabs will never make peace with Israel. “ Thus, in the final analysis, despite its almost universal acclaim—or, perhaps, because of that acclaim– what is wrong about My Promised Land is far more important than what is right, and for that reason it is a dangerous and, indeed, unforgivable book.”

      Shavit is just the latest in a tradition of half-truth-tellers peddling their partial honesty as a way of gaining unearned credibility. Tom Friedman is the same–he earned his credibility as an allegedly unbiased observer by criticizing Israel’s 1982 Lebanon War, and he is still critical of the settlements, but when push comes to shove, he will never give Israel more than half the blame even when it is mostly at fault. I think of it as the 50/90 rule–you earn credibility by giving Israel 50 percent of the blame when it deserves 90 percent. And if the Palestinians reject an obviously unfair proposal by the Americans, it just means they are unreasonable and we can go back to supporting Israel with a good conscience. I think that Friedman and Shavit and Brooks are all just setting the stage for that scenario. They may not like the settlements, and would be thrilled if Abbas takes whatever scraps Kerry is prepared to throw, but if the Palestinians reject the US proposal that’ll be the last we’ll be hearing about the Nakba for another ten years.
      It’ll be back to “the Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity.”

      • Shingo
        December 24, 2013, 10:13 pm

        I agree James,

        And I say that as someone who has been critical of Mr Slater in the past.

    • Ellen
      December 22, 2013, 5:06 am

      Agreed! And would hope to see this, or versions of Mr. Slater’s work published elsewhere in broader media. It is honest, factual and most worthy!

  6. piotr
    December 20, 2013, 1:35 pm

    Short summary of the Zionist case: Israel is the only place where Jews are safe. Israel is in the most dangerous place on Earth.

    • JeffB
      December 20, 2013, 2:33 pm

      @piotr —

      Try this. Israel is the one place where Jews if they are die get to die with honor rather than meekly walking to the gas chamber. Read the description above. That’s about Jews doing rather than meekly having done to them. Jews make their choices, Jews live with the consequences. When they win they get to enjoy the spoils of victory. Before they suffer the agony of defeat they have to lose first.

      For the first time in two millennia when the Jews face their enemies they don’t have quiver in the dark. Rather, they can say to their enemies this time, to quote King Leonidas, “Go now, run along and tell your Xerxes that he faces free men here, not slaves”. That’s a notion of safety that takes into account the distinction that a slave is never really safe.

      • Sumud
        December 21, 2013, 9:34 am

        Israel is the one place where Jews if they are die get to die with honor rather than meekly walking to the gas chamber.

        What an impoverished idea of honour.

        The IDF mostly just pushes around defenceless civilians under occupation and shoots some occasionally. And then there’s the heroes operating the ‘shoot and spot’ remote control machine guns that kill farmers and children in Gaza – and the drone operators.

        Honour!

        We saw what happens when they meet real soldiers in Lebanon in 2006.

      • JeffB
        December 21, 2013, 4:45 pm

        @Sumud

        We saw what happens when they meet real soldiers in Lebanon in 2006.

        Well first off the laws of war require soldiers to wear uniforms to distinguish them from the civilian population. Funny how the law isn’t so important when it applies to your side. But let’s ignore the legal issues and just get to the practical ones.

        What happened? Even using Hezbollah’s own estimates the IDF has about 6::1 to10::1 kill ratio and the equipment damage ratio was even higher. On top of that damage to the Lebanese economy was about $5b. Politically there was a huge shift away from Hezbollah which was seen as having dragged Lebanon into an offensive war. Which led to political changes not to Hezbollah’s liking within 2 years. To figure out which country was winning, what country was begging the UN and international community for a ceasefire and which one wanted to keep playing?

        The only possible sense the 2006 conflict can that be seen as anything other than a huge victory was that the high kill ratio was lower than than Israel is used to. Other than that its a huge victory.

        Please dear God let the USA have some “defeats” like that in Afghanistan or where ever we fight next.

      • Inanna
        December 21, 2013, 8:10 pm

        Your ideas of what happened is either incomplete or wrong. What happened is that a resistance group prevented a superior military force from entering their country for 33 days. The Israelis failed to achieve their objective (destroying Hezbollah and retrieving its two soldiers) so it’s difficult to construe that as a ‘huge victory’. I remember that the Winograd commission said that this was a war Israel ‘failed to win’.

        As for kill ratios, we know just how talented Israel is at killing civilians, but this time the military losses were far more even than in previous confrontations. It’s difficult to be accurate here since Hezbollah and various agencies give different death tolls for Hezbollah losses.

        Lastly, while you give a reasonable account of the damage to the Lebanese economy (although my understanding is that the figure is below $4billion according to the Lebanese govt) you don’t tally damage to the Israeli economy. Israel spent over $5 billion in prosecuting the war and then suffered approx $1.5 billion in economic losses, mostly to businesses in the north. In addition, the Israeli govt paid compensation claims of over $300 million to its citizens.

      • JeffB
        December 21, 2013, 9:30 pm

        @Ianna —

        Sumud’s claim was that IDF were bad at military stuff and when confronted by a real army like Hezbollah that was evident. That’s the claim I’m refuting. You are making a somewhat different claim that Israel did or didn’t achieve its objectives.

        Hezbollah is a well developed army with civilian support designed specifically for Israel and knowledgeable about Israeli tactics. 33 days is completely unrealistic for them to be rooted out. 3300 days would be good minimum for an even plausible attempt to accomplish an aim like that. I will say that in 33 days Israel managed to do an impressive amount of political damage to Hezbollah.

        As far as Hezbollah keeping Israel out. Last I checked the IDF did cross the border. More importantly they were degrading Lebanon: link to upload.wikimedia.org

        Kill ratios I was talking combatants only not civilians. Include civilians the numbers become much further unbalanced in Israel’s favor.

        As far as the cost.. I’d say the 1.5% of GDP which at that point was about $180b so $3.5b sounds right. I think you are double counting some places. For example payments from the Israeli government to civilians are just an accounting issue.. There is no loss to the society when the government moves tax revenue to civilians just as there is no loss when the government taxes.

        Now I’m going to throw this in. Given the light damage Hezbollah bombing actually did the shutdown may have been propagandistic rather than military. I think Israel could have continued to operate normally with very little additional loss of life. I’m not sure how much to count that damage, while counting the damage for stuff destroyed by bombs is more clear cut. Israel likes to portray attempts to Finlandize their neighbors as defensive both to the international community and to their own population (which is a weird dynamic). It wouldn’t shock me if this number was played up and mostly a result of the right wanting to terrify the northern voters.

        A good analogy would be the massive additional damage to the USA economy George Bush did for years after 9/11.

      • tree
        December 21, 2013, 10:19 pm

        The only possible sense the 2006 conflict can that be seen as anything other than a huge victory was that the high kill ratio was lower than than Israel is used to. Other than that its a huge victory.

        There’s fantasy and then there is reality: (An excerpt from the official English language Summary of the Israeli Winograd Commission Report on the 2006 Israel/Lebanon War)

        Overall, we regard the 2nd Lebanon war as a serious missed opportunity. Israel initiated a long war, which ended without its clear military victory. A semi-military organization of a few thousand men resisted, for a few weeks, the strongest army in the Middle East, which enjoyed full air superiority and size and technology advantages. The barrage of rockets aimed at Israel’s civilian population lasted throughout the war, and the IDF did not provide an effective response to it. The fabric of life under fire was seriously disrupted, and many civilians either left their home temporarily or spent their time in shelters. After a long period of using only standoff fire power and limited ground activities, Israel initiated a large scale ground offensive, very close to the Security Council resolution imposing a cease fire. This offensive did not result in military gains and was not completed. These facts had far-reaching implications for us, as well as for our enemies, our neighbors, and our friends in the region and around the world.

        link to cfr.org

      • Shingo
        December 24, 2013, 10:32 pm

        Funny how the law isn’t so important when it applies to your side.

        You mean like Israel waving around a UN resolution like it is God’s word when it applies to Simone else?

        BTW. Hezbollah do wear uniforms.

        Even using Hezbollah’s own estimates the IDF has about 6::1 to10::1 kill ratio and the equipment damage ratio was even higher.

        False. Using Hezbolla’s own estimates. The kill ratio was less than 2::1.

        On top of that damage to the Lebanese economy was about $5b.

        Israel went crying to Washington to foot the bill for the war alone, which was about 2 billion. That doesn’t include he damage to Israel’s economy, which would have been roughly the same amount again.

        Politically there was a huge shift away from Hezbollah

        False again. Politically, Hezbollah won big time with Israel’s stupidity driving the Christians to the north straight into Hezbollah’s arms for the first time – not to mention the fact that Hezbollah won a famous victory.

        Not only did Hezbollah become the most popular figure in the Arab world (among Shiite and Sunni), but Hezbollah political status exploded.

        Hezbollah are now a member of the ruling coalition. Meanwhile, Olmert was humiliated and forced to appoint the Winograd Commission and then lost the election.

        To figure out which country was winning, what country was begging the UN and international community for a ceasefire and which one wanted to keep playing?

        The side calling for a ceasefire was the Sinora government, not Hezbollah, who were more than happy to keep playing.

        There is no question that the 2006 was a huge victory for Hezbollah. Even Israelis agreed. It was such a victory in fact that after Cast Lead, Israel claimed it had regained it’s deterrence capability – which it clearly believed it had lost in 2006.

      • Shingo
        December 24, 2013, 11:03 pm

        33 days is completely unrealistic for them to be rooted out. 3300 days would be good minimum for an even plausible attempt to accomplish an aim like that

        On the contrary. The reason Israel agreed to a crease fire after 33 days is because things were looking increasingly worse for them and that they had no chance of winning.

        In fact, Israeli military experts believe Israel have no way to defeat Hezbollah.

        link to reuters.com

        Israel ran out if bombs after the first two weeks of bombing – they had to call for emergency supplies from the US.

        Israel failed to do damage to Hezbollah, materially it physically. They couldn’t even knock out Hezbollah’s television station.

        Politically, Hezbollah’s star rose dramatically as a result of defeating Israel.

        Last I checked the IDF did cross the border. More importantly they were degrading Lebanon:

        Hezbollah barely managed to cross the border and relied on helicopters to lift small teams beyond the enemy lines and when they landed, they were routed.

        Israel kept threatening to reach the Litani and never got close to it

        Kill ratios I was talking combatants only not civilians.

        Those ratios were less than 2:1 and were set to tip in Hezbollah’s favor with the ground fighting. 20 Merkava tanks were destroyed.

        I think Israel could have continued to operate normally with very little additional loss of life.

        No they could not. Hezbollah only fired light rockets into Israel. Had they upped the ante and began launching larger missiles into Israel, Israel ‘a economy could have been damaged massively.

        Israel were defeated in every sense if the word – politically, militarily and in terms of intelligence prowess.

      • ritzl
        December 22, 2013, 2:12 am

        @Sumud- Truly impoverished.

        And “only place”??? What about Jews who died defending this country, or any other country for that matter. No honor in that?

        Cringingly bizarre thinking. Cynical me says it’s probably the CW in Israel.

      • JeffB
        December 24, 2013, 8:26 pm

        @tree —

        Missed your earlier comment. You are giving a strategic analysis of Lebanon 2006. I don’t agree with the analysis and I think later events proved it wrong. But regardless the debate here was tactical not strategic. The claim was that the IDF lost in terms of being outfought not lost politically. That’s what I was primarily arguing against.

      • Shingo
        December 24, 2013, 11:08 pm

        Idon’t agree with the analysis and I think later events proved it wrong.

        On the contrary. Later events proved that Hezbollah shot up the charts politically and that Olmert’s tenure will always be stained as the PM who lost the war.

        But regardless the debate here was tactical not strategic.

        It’s both. The IDF lost in terms of being outfought and lost politically. So much so that Israel cited the one sided massacre in Gaza as proud they had regained their deterrence capability. That ‘a truly pathetic. It’s analogous to a street gang being beaten up by a rival and the mugging an invalid to prove they had regained their street cred.

        Israel were utterly humiliated.

  7. Krauss
    December 20, 2013, 2:21 pm

    Brilliant essay from his perspective, but as usual for Slater, the viewpoint is ultimately what’s good for the Israeli Jew which is then translated into what will become good for the Palestinian as a natural occurance, there is never any doubt which side he ultimately favors. And that’s okay! So long as the conclusion becomes democratic. But it is still noteworthy as this kind of thinking has often become the oasis for libral Zionist intellectuals for then to discard Palestinian concerns by dressing their arguments in humanitarianism, and by using logic which implies that whatever’s good for the liberal Zionists – especially if it comes from a genuinely humanistic perspective – must automatically be good for Palestinians. Sometimes it is. Sometimes it is not.

  8. Mike_Konrad
    December 20, 2013, 2:40 pm

    The Arab states were willing to agree to a compromise peace settlement with Israel, provided that Israel withdrew from the territories it conquered in the 1948 war and returned to the boundaries established in the 1947 UN partition plan and accepted the repatriation of the Palestinian refugees.

    That would have ended Israel.

    • David Samel
      December 20, 2013, 5:20 pm

      You’re absolutely right, Mike, but you don’t seem to comprehend the consequences of your conclusion. If Israel had withdrawn to the 1947 UN partition lines, and accepted the return of Palestinian refugees, the effect would have been the same as if there had been full acceptance of the partition plan and no hostilities. And as you correctly point out, Israel would not have been able to exist. Why? Because the partition plan proposed a Jewish State in an area in which only half the inhabitants were Jewish. From its inception, this would have been a doomed state.

      It is a mainstay of hasbara that the Jewish side accepted the partition resolution and the Arab side did not, but actually, as you point out, the partition resolution, if fully honored from the beginning by all parties, would not have resulted in a viable Jewish State. That is why the Jewish side actually rejected the proposed boundaries and requirement of respect for the rights of residents; the only thing the Zionists mostly accepted was the notion of the creation of a Jewish State. The Zionists needed the war, not as self-defense, but to drive out hundreds of thousands of “ethnically challenged” inhabitants, and acquire much more land than that proposed by the UN. The Israelis also rejected the UN refugee return resolution of Dec 1948, and murdered the UN mediator Bernadotte. Indeed, while I have not read this book, this seems to be one thing Shavit mostly got right.

      So it is not like the Zionists accepted the right of the UN to determine the future of the area. They accepted the only part that was good for them and forcefully rejected the rest.

    • thankgodimatheist
      December 20, 2013, 7:06 pm

      “That would have ended Israel.”
      But…but.. but I thought Israel accepted the partition while Arabs rejected it!!
      It’s always nice to see far right Zionists debunk the very myths they created.

    • Shingo
      December 24, 2013, 11:18 pm

      That would have ended Israel.

      Another frank admission that Jewish leaders had no intention of sticking to the partition plan and always intended to expel the Arabs.

  9. JeffB
    December 20, 2013, 2:51 pm

    @Slater —

    Excellent review. No one really knows how history plays out differently. Obviously there are peace gestures that Israel doesn’t jump on, and there are Israeli peace gestures that various Arab powers don’t jump on. Israel and its neighbors are making slow halting progress towards peace coming to accept a reasonable possible resolution.

    But at the end of the day peace gestures made by Israel are sometimes reciprocated but often not. Peace gestures made by Arabs are often reciprocated but often not. That’s the way most conflicts work. On the other hand once both sides show clear evidence of not wanting war and being satisfied with peace, like Egypt and Israel today both sides do live in peace. Which shows a more nuanced picture than I think you are presenting.

    Some of your “irrefutable facts” I have to take exception to. For example Nasser. When a country moves its military into an attacking position, declares its intent to attack and then engages in provocative actions I think it is reasonable to say their intent is to attack. You cannot simultaneously argue that Nasser was such a liar that he would do and say all that without meaning it, while at the same time arguing that a peace treaty with such a man would be worth a bucket of spit.

    The official stated policy of Egypt was:
    Our aim is the full restoration of the rights of the Palestinian people. In other words, we aim at the destruction of the State of Israel. The immediate aim: perfection of Arab military might. The national aim: the eradication of Israel. – President Nasser of Egypt, November 18, 1965

    I don’t know how the guy could be any more clear about his objectives. Or for exampel the head of the Egyptian military:
    As of today, there no longer exists an international emergency force to protect Israel. We shall exercise patience no more. We shall not complain any more to the UN about Israel. The sole method we shall apply against Israel is total war, which will result in the extermination of Zionist existence.

    It is possible that Nasser and his staff were lying. It is possible that they didn’t mean it. But that rhetoric is not consistent with a desire for peace. I happen to think to take a reverse example that Netanyahu is lying about his intention to strike Iran. But given Netanyahu statements were Israel to put a large number of planes in the air traveling east I think Iran would be acting defensively if they shot them down. They don’t have to not take Netanyahu at his word, and similarly Israel acted reasonably to take Nasser at his word.

    Israel has almost never refused countries diplomatic relations when offered. Israel has been refused diplomatic relations over a chunk of the planet. Is there any doubt that Saudi Arabia could have an embassy in Israel tomorrow if they wanted one without any changes to Saudi policy? Is there any doubt that Israel can’t have an embassy in Saudi Arabia tomorrow without changes to their policy. One side is imposing conditions the other is turning them down.

    • Sumud
      December 21, 2013, 9:50 am

      But at the end of the day peace gestures made by Israel are sometimes reciprocated but often not.

      Maybe you’re the ONE JeffB!

      I’ve been asking zionists for years to name one genuine concession Israel has offered to the Palestinian side from the beginning of Oslo.

      I keep hearing about these ‘generous’ offers but they only ever seem to involve Palestinians giving up what they’re legally entitled to, with no reciprocation from Israel EVER.

      Yet somehow the Palestinians are supposed to be the obstacle to peace.

      Enlighten me, please.

      • JeffB
        December 21, 2013, 4:33 pm

        @Sumed —

        OK you want something that was a real post-Oslo concession Israel offered some villages in Israel proper: link to aljazeera.com

        But I’d really question your premise. Being “legally entitled” to stuff from an agency with no army on the ground doesn’t mean much. My family has a factory and a commission in Czarist Russia. Ain’t worth much. If “legally entitled” by which you mean League of Nations / UN proposals meant much the Palestinians would be doing better than the Jews. People often trade hard to collect debts for $.30 on the dollar. That doesn’t mean they are making a bad deal or the people offering to buy the debt for a fraction are cheating them. The Palestinians lost what they were legally entitled to in wars.

      • talknic
        December 22, 2013, 6:10 am

        JeffB “OK you want something that was a real post-Oslo concession Israel offered some villages in Israel proper:

        A concession??? Getting rid of Israelis. What kind of sick ^&%$ed up country gets rid of its own citizens? Lemme see now. Oh yeh … NAZI ^&^% Germany!

        “The Palestinians lost what they were legally entitled to in wars”

        Uh huh. Problem with your pathetic Hasbara bullsh*t. It has been illegal to acquire territory by war since at least 1933 under the Montevideo Convention on the Rights and Duties of States link to pages.citebite.com

        By your criteria, Nazi f&*%ing Germany should have been allowed to keep France

        ” If “legally entitled” by which you mean League of Nations / UN proposals meant much the Palestinians would be doing better than the Jews.”

        Problem with your idiotic theory is .. Israel hasn’t adhered to any LoN or UN proposals. Israel has ALWAYS been in territory it has never legally acquired, territory according to the ISRAELI GOVERMENT “outside the State of Israel” ..”in Palestine” link to pages.citebite.com

        Israel was occupying non-Israeli territory from the moment Israel was proclaimed as”an independent republic within frontiers approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations in its Resolution of November 29, 1947, and that a provisional government has been charged to assume the rights and duties of government for preserving law and order within the boundaries of Israel, for defending the state against external aggression, and for discharging the obligations of Israel to the other nations of the world in accordance with international law. The Act of Independence will become effective at one minute after six o’clock on the evening of 14 May 1948, Washington time” link to trumanlibrary.org

        At 00:01 May 15th 1948 (ME time), Jewish forces under Plan Dalet were already outside the frontiers approved for the Jewish state by the General Assembly of the United Nations in its Resolution of November 29, 1947.

      • Sumud
        December 22, 2013, 8:20 am

        Oh well JeffB – nice try but i see you’re not the ONE.

        You present well but trying to pass off more ethnic cleansing of Palestinians as an Israeli concession, limp.

        PS. Can you please post your address I’d like to come over to collect some of that property to which you are “legally entitled”.

  10. Jerome Slater
    December 20, 2013, 2:56 pm

    “Short summary of the Zionist case: Israel is the only place where Jews are safe. Israel is in the most dangerous place on Earth.”

    Pretty good! Not quite fair, but witty. The way “we” Zionists would put it–I barely qualify today–is that there was once a good reason to believe that the safety of the Jews couldn’t be certain (given history, past and recent) to be safe except in a Jewish state. To which I would add that Israel’s own behavior has played a major role–perhaps THE major role–in making that a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    • piotr
      December 20, 2013, 3:12 pm

      Of course you a short summary is not the full story. Does English have a saying equivalent to “verbum sat sapienti est”?

      If you appreciate such summaries, I developed another: “For security is a jealous God.”

    • thankgodimatheist
      December 20, 2013, 7:23 pm

      “Chavez made the center of his 2008 campaign classic anti-Semitism that Judaism is a racial disease that baptism can’t cure and thus the people shouldn’t vote for Henrique Caprilesis. ”
      Would be nice if you could back up your assertions. Something tells me you make things up. Like every “self-respecting” Zionist.

      • JeffB
        December 20, 2013, 10:53 pm

        @thankgodimatheist

        Wow are you rude! How about just googling?

        link to adl.org

        link to worldnews.nbcnews.com

        link to adl.org

      • Ecru
        December 22, 2013, 6:06 am

        @ JeffB

        Well I read the ADL stuff until I just couldn’t read any more of their tired old misrepresentations, and it does the usual thing of conflating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism. Yawn. They REALLY need to get some new material.

        The attacks on Capriles (although there do seem to be some that are definitely anti-semitic and as such should be condemned out of hand) concentrate more on his Zionism than his possible Jewishness. And of course there is a question – is he a Jew? Well religiously he’s a Catholic but since Zionism permits Atheists to be Jewish obviously religious belief has nothing to do with it, so….yeah according to Zionism he is. His ethnicity shouldn’t be important though, and frankly bringing it up is out of order – is he a good person and does he serve his electorate or other interests? – That’s important

        Getting back to that Zionism for a moment though – Latin Americans have very good reason to be wary of Israel involvement in their affairs after Israel, amongst many other crimes, helped the Military dictatorship of Guatemala with its genocidal campaign against the indigenous population.

        As to your other charge,

        Venezuela in the last decade kicked out about 2/3rds of their Jewish population.

        Well maybe I missed that bit in the ADL’s hypocritical guff. Could you provide a quote and source please?

        By the way – it’s REALLY difficult to take an organisation like the ADL seriously. It condemns Chavez for prejudice against people based on ethnicity but continues to support the state of Israel that has enshrined such discrimination as a core virtue.

      • talknic
        December 22, 2013, 6:26 am

        @JeffB ” Chavez made the center of his 2008 campaign classic anti-Semitism that Judaism is a racial disease that baptism can’t cure”

        Not here link to worldnews.nbcnews.com

        Not here link to adl.org

        And not here link to adl.org

        You made it up…. how cute

      • Shingo
        December 22, 2013, 7:41 am

        How about just googling?

        Wow, what liar you are!! How about you stop lying?

        Not a single one of your links cites any statements or quotes from the Chavez campaign attacking Jews. They all make baseless accusations, but provide no evidence.

        Not a single one of your links provides any evidence that Venezuela kicked out 2/3rds of their Jewish population.

        Epic hasbara fail!

      • Sibiriak
        December 22, 2013, 8:58 am

        talknic:

        @JeffB ” Chavez made the center of his 2008 campaign classic anti-Semitism that Judaism is a racial disease that baptism can’t cure”

        Not here link to worldnews.nbcnews.com
        Not here link to adl.org
        And not here link to adl.org

        Yeah, I just glanced over some 60 pages of ADL allegations and couldn’t find anything to support JeffB’s claims.

        In fact, the ADL reports directly contradict JeffB’s speculation that:

        [JeffB:]… evidently a majority of the population agrees [with classic anti-Semitism that Judaism is a racial disease etc.] or at the very least is indifferent.

        Just the opposite, the ADL tells us:

        <ADL:] ….following the synagogue desecration there has been an outpouring of support from non-Jewish Venezuelan citizens condemning the attack on the synagogue and anti-Semitism in Venezuela. A group of neighbors and grass-roots community organizers went to the synagogue to help the congregation paint over the anti-Semitic graffiti. Hundreds of non-
        Jewish students participated in a march organized by local Jewish students to denounce anti-Semitism in Venezuela.

        However, what really stands out in the JDL is their complete conflation of anti-Zionist/anti-Israeli-policy views with antisemitism. , which drowns out the incidents of real antisemitism which they do document. I really recommend MW readers to check out those ADL links in that regard.

        For example, here are some quotes from Chavez that the ADL singles out for condemnation:

        [Chavez:]There are sectors that justify the assassin government of Israel. The president of Israel should be taken to the International Criminal Court together with the U.S. President, if there would be shame in this world but they accuse us instead. From the bottom of my heart, for the love of life, how many innocent Palestinian children are suffering this instant? And what if it would be your child? Under bombs during the day and night? They are cowards, bombing innocent people. What great soldiers they are! What valor the Israel army has!

        I hope that the Jewish community in Venezuela pronounces itself against these barbaric acts. Do it! Don t you reject forcefully any act of persecution? Don’t the Jews reject the Holocaust? And what are we living now? Do it! Put your hands in your heart. Be fair. We should all be fair!

        Among us lives a Palestinian community, that we adore, that we like, as do of all the people of this world. We also like the Jews.

        Unfortunately Israel has become the assassin arm of the U.S. The Israelis are not acting alone, they are an executing arm of a genocidal policy We can do what we can by expelling the ambassador, as a sign of dignity, a message to the world that we can take action. Imagine if half the world would break relations with Israel, you would hear a different rooster crowing. But we are far from the world s liberation of North American imperialism and for this to end, the Empire has to end.

        ——————
        “Classical antisemitism” that has “nothing to do with Israel”? You decide.

    • Shingo
      December 22, 2013, 7:33 am
      Venezuela in the last decade kicked out about 2/3rds of their Jewish population. What role did Venezuelan Jews play in in your mind that justified this behavior?

      Where is the evidence that Venezuela kicked out about 2/3rds of their Jewish population?

      Chavez made the center of his 2008 campaign classic anti-Semitism that Judaism is a racial disease that baptism can’t cure and thus the people shouldn’t vote for Henrique Caprilesis.

      According to what source?

    • JeffB
      December 22, 2013, 8:10 am

      @talknic —

      Not here…

      The guy is a baptized Catholic who openly talks about his allegiance to Catholicism. The only reason not to consider Capriles a Catholic is classic anti-Semtism that Judaism is a genetic disease incurable by baptism. That’s as anti-Semtitic as it gets.

      Now I find it odd that given how much strident hatred you have for Israel not liking their Palestinians citizens that you approve of Venezuela doing the same to their Jewish citizens. So let’s cut the nonsense that your objection to Israel has anything to do with Palestinians.

      • talknic
        December 22, 2013, 12:21 pm

        @JeffB Your claim ” Chavez made the center of his 2008 campaign classic anti-Semitism that Judaism is a racial disease that baptism can’t cure” is not supported by your links.

        “Now I find it odd that given how much strident hatred you have for Israel not liking their Palestinians citizens that you approve of Venezuela doing the same to their Jewish citizens”

        I find it odd, that after you’re shown to be liar, you’re now making an unsupportable false accusation. Behaviour quite typical it’s sad to say, of a serial abuser. Furthermore, false accusations are against the basic tenets of Judaism. Rather odd that you do on behalf of the ‘Jewish’ state.

        ” So let’s cut the nonsense that your objection to Israel has anything to do with Palestinians.”

        Making an accusation based on a false accusation = one big heap of straw Pajero

      • Ecru
        December 22, 2013, 1:34 pm

        @ JeffB

        …classic anti-Semtism that Judaism is a genetic disease incurable by baptism. That’s as anti-Semtitic as it gets.

        Hold on there a second Jeffy Baby. Isn’t it Zionism that states the Jews are a nation of people, that being Jewish is not just a matter of religion. Haven’t you yourself said that Judaism=Zionism? Isn’t it Israel that has poured money into genetic research to find a “Jewish gene?” So aren’t all Zionists classically anti-semitic then?

      • JeffB
        December 22, 2013, 6:08 pm

        @Ecru —

        Israel argued that Jews are a nation, not a race. They also believe nation to be part of humanity. Israel recognizes conversion out: link to en.wikipedia.org

        As for a Jewish gene, that’s rather silly. Maybe someone in the Israeli government did fund genetics research but I’m not reading much into it.

  11. Walker
    December 20, 2013, 3:02 pm

    No matter for how long, how often, and how thoroughly the mythologies that continue to pass for the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict have been discredited, nothing seems to penetrate the psychological walls that most Israelis and American supporters of Israel have erected

    The bigger problem is that the pro-Israeli bias in the media has helped induce the American public to erect those same psychological walls. There are other reasons, but in my view that’s the biggest.

  12. GJB
    December 20, 2013, 4:08 pm

    Besides the missed opportunities of peace with the Arab states that Prof. Slater relates, another thing left out by Shavit was discussed in Miko Peled’s book, “The General’s Son”: the missed opportunities of peace directly with the Palestinians. I don’t have the book handy at the moment, but as I remember it, Miko talks about how his father, General Matti Peled, had suggested (I think it was at a cabinet or other high level meeting), after the 1967 conquest, that with Israel finally face to face with the Palestinians, with no states in between, now was the time to make peace with them. This proposal was summarily rejected by the Israelis. Had that happened, the future conflicts with Egypt and Syria might not have occurred, nor would Hamas, Hezbollah, et al. have even existed.

    • RoHa
      December 20, 2013, 8:03 pm

      “General Matti Peled, had suggested (I think it was at a cabinet or other high level meeting), after the 1967 conquest, that with Israel finally face to face with the Palestinians, with no states in between, now was the time to make peace with them.”

      I think Uri Avnery made a similar suggestion.

  13. Bandolero
    December 20, 2013, 5:43 pm

    In general I find the account of history in thsi article well done and useful. However, I found one point where this article – I find – still puts a sugarcoated hasbara spin on the nature of Zionism and Israel. Here:

    … the unsparing condemnation of the Jewish settlements, of the occupation, and of Israel’s “systematic and determined use of oppressive force” in crushing Palestinian uprisings and resistance; and the growing threats to Israeli democracy and liberal values, including racism, xenophobia, and even “semi-fascism.”

    As all of these things have been widely discussed and justly praised in the reviews and commentaries on MPL …

    That makes it look like as if the account that Zioism and Israel are based on “democracy and liberal values” and now these inherent democratic and liberal nature of Israel is threatened by some fringe streams of racism, xenophobia, and even “semi-fascism” coming up in the Zionist state.

    In reality however, I think there is ample evidence to the contrary. The nature and character of the zionist movement were already more than a hundered years ago mainly based on racism, xenophobia, and “semi-fascism.” Zionism was one of the brainchilds of the European zeitgeist in the 2nd half of the 19th century, which considered racism as valuable science, xenophobia as healthy and later, powerful people considered fascism as good modern answer to the challenges of the time, eg communism. Zionism never changed really much in that regard, just it put itself over a PR sugarcoat of liberal values as racism became unmodern in Europe and in the US in the 2nd half of the 20th century, and now that sugarcoat becomes rifts, and the blatant racism inherent in Zionism is visible in plain view again.

  14. Donald
    December 20, 2013, 6:13 pm

    I was just thinking that this Shavit character would probably be on the PBS Newshour sooner or later–and a minute later (about five minutes ago), the announcer said he’d be on this evening.

    That’s American political culture for you–the herd of independent minds all stampeding together.

  15. Walid
    December 20, 2013, 6:20 pm

    For what it’s worth, both Shavit’s and Slater’s takes on the Lebanon/Hizbullah conflict with Israel are rudimentary and turns the Palestinians’ involvement in it as incidental in spite of the fact that it served a catalyst for the civil war that lasted almost 20 years and cost the lives of 200,000 Lebanese. But most of the “light” description of the other players’ situation in regards to Israel appear to be the same.

  16. thankgodimatheist
    December 20, 2013, 7:33 pm

    Uri Avnery said nothing different: Israel’s missed opportunities:
    “The number of the opportunities rejected and the consistent way they were trampled upon by all Israeli governments may lead to the conclusion that they did not want peace at all. There has always been a tendency in Israel to prefer expansion and settlement to compromise and peace. According to this outlook, there always is “no one to talk with”, there is “no solution”, we shall “forever live by the sword”. “Unilateral” steps, whose real aim is to annex more land, are consistent with this tendency.”
    link to ilarge.listal.com

  17. traintosiberia
    December 20, 2013, 7:40 pm

    This is from 2009,Feb 29 th counterpunch.com

    “The Achilles’ heel of the Arab coalition is Lebanon. “Muslim supremacy in this country is artificial and can easily be overthrown. A Christian State ought to be set up there, with its southern frontier on the river Litani. We should sign a treaty of alliance with this State. Then, when we have broken the strength of the Arab Legion and bombed Amman, we could wipe out Transjordan; after that Syria would fall. And if Egypt dared to make war on us, we would bomb Port Said, Alexandria and Cairo. We should thus end the war, and would have settled the account with Egypt, Assyria and Chaldea on behalf of our ancestors.”

    David Ben-Gurion, 1948

    There was no epiphany to Guiron on that day. This was in the plans from 1917 ,articulated at different times by the Zionist leaders from Herzl Jabotinsky to the current crops of the Israeli leaders of different stripes.
    The anger,the hatred,the religious zeals pervade the last sentence of this person . He was butchering people and expelling the rest with plans of doing same to the rest of Arab countries . Where was he getting the inspiration ? Where he was getting the facts ?
    Shavit is following the same time tested obfuscation of the realities to frame his position to the post 1947 history.

    Syria in 1967 was attacked after Israel had agreed to the cease fire – truce arranged by UN to grab Golan . Syrian involvement in this war was insignificant
    ( page 110, The Palestine-Israeli Conflict, A Basic Introduction 3 rd edition by Harms and Ferry ) on the very day Israel destroyed Liberty .

    The Syrian front was quiet until 5 th day of 1967 war.The Haaretz prodded Israel to plan and execute Syrian front and M Dyan relented .
    Back then Eugene Rostow did what Feith would be doing through his OSP in 2003 concealing and re shaping informations to WhitecHouse ( 282 page, in Quicksand by Geoffrey Wawro)

  18. traintosiberia
    December 21, 2013, 1:03 am

    From Haaretz

    ” Revealed from archive: Israel’s secret plan to resettle Arab refugees
    Plans drawn up during the 1950s and ’60s had one overriding goal: to preserve the demographic status quo by resettling the 1948 Arab refugees far away from the country.
    By Arik Ariel | 16:30 19.12.13 | 7

  19. traintosiberia
    December 21, 2013, 2:09 am

    Israel has always been at the forefront fighting for the West even when it was not asked to shoulder that onerous ,arduous,painful responsibility. It went headlong gathering the tribes to stand firm as Asiatic Belgium against the barbarians. Apparently the barbarians were standing pat between the civilizing west and Africa,between the same west and India,between the west and the monster yet to be discovered. So it gathered its pogrom-victims ,victimized by same west ,to safeguard the values of the west to protect the mission of the civilization ,to spread to the rest despite the da ger from these Arab barbarians .But Arab barbarians are beyond the pale,they can’t be understood,civilized,and approached by the west with same hope. Arabs are the secular version of the devil in 20 th century . They need to be confronted,kept in cage,spoken by language of power and coercion. The other barbarians can be taught,approached ,befriended,directly interacted . But not the Arabs. Israel would guard the frontier for the safe conduct of the western business
    The western civilizing missions that Israel appreciated included not only Anglo-American,but Soviet communism, Italian fascism,even Nazism Israel promised to all of them how it would emulate the respective teachings spread them,and be a bulwark against obscurantist Arab.
    The game changed when Soviet could no longer understand Israeli behaviors. So Arabs were lumped now with an hyphen- Arab- Soviet- Islamic- Communist threat to the West . 1991 could no longer support that configuration. Israel figured it out . Communism is dead. But threat to US and UK can’t be allowed to die. The conflicts had been too good to let go like that . So the terror has to be brought In. The clash has to be reformulated. It is now Islamic terror where every Muslim country is party to ,starting with big one- Iran, Iraq – but other would not be spared any relief. Islam is the problem. Radicalism is in its DNA. From Phillipnes to Niger,from Southern US border to Russian southern border- the terrorism of Islam would tear apart. The enlightened world . Israel is at the forefront .
    Now the Islamist is alone standing against the west. Israel again is at the forefront ,shouldering this burden doing its job,doing the heavy lifting.
    This time Islamofascism is not standing with no other party and not preventing the west reaching any corners for all corners have been reached. But it is everywhere trying to destroy from within and from without. The unwashed smelly immigrants with power to vote and intention to imposeSharia are worse threat than communism or nazism . So the vigilance can’t be lowered.
    And the war has to be kept going. The new ideas have to be discovered and invented. Israel finds it handy on the symbolic allegorical ideas of jihad and 72 virgins. Israel unearths the deep yearnings for Dhmnitude and Darul Al Harm ,Darul al harb among the Muslims threatening the west. Israel again is at the forefront.

    This idea also will give way to new theories to keep the war machine churning dead
    bodies and profits. ,
    Israel also knows that it has successfully embraced and rejected depending on its needs various political movements ideas,and organizations without any untoward effects. It can safely embrace something that it has rejected outwardly like religious extremism. It can reach too political Islam if that suits its needs to kill the last Muslim standing between it and the west.

  20. German Lefty
    December 21, 2013, 6:55 am

    the growing threats to Israeli democracy and liberal values

    This phrasing is inaccurate because it implies that Israel currently is a democracy (or has ever been a democracy).

    “Given our history and our geography, peace is hardly likely.”
    “The history of the conflict and the geostrategy of the region implied that peace was not feasible…..Why did the Left cling to this empirically incorrect assumption?”
    “There is no hope for peace: no moderate Arab leader has the legitimacy needed to sign a new conflict-ending agreement with the Zionist entity.”

    Well, I agree with these statements made by Shavit.

  21. iResistDe4iAm
    December 23, 2013, 6:07 am

    “Israel is the only nation in the West that is existentially threatened” ~ Ari Shavit

    According to Israel…

    – Terrorism is an existential threat to Israel.
    – Al Qaeda is an existential threat to Israel.
    – The Muslim Brotherhood is an existential threat to Israel.
    – Arab anti-Semitism is an existential threat to Israel.
    – The Arab Spring is an existential threat to Israel.

    – Iran is an existential threat to Israel.
    – Syria is an existential threat to Israel.
    – Hamas is an existential threat to Israel.
    – The PLO is an existential threat to Israel.
    – Hizbullah is an existential threat to Israel.

    – IHH is an existential threat to Israel.
    – The Free Gaza Flotilla is an existential threat to Israel.
    – The non-violent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign is an existential threat to Israel.
    – The international human rights movement is an existential threat to Israel.
    – African refugees are an existential threat to Israel.
    – Assimilation is an existential threat to Israel.

    – The free movement of Palestinians in their ancestral homeland is an existential threat to Israel.
    – Chocolate, biscuits & sweets, fresh meat, vinegar, toys, writing implements, notebooks, heaters, musical instruments, cement, etc in Gaza are an existential threat to Israel.
    – Fishing beyond 3 nautical miles from the Gaza shore is an existential threat to Israel.
    – The export of Gaza agricultural produce is an existential threat to Israel.
    – The 1967 borders are an existential threat to Israel.
    – Palestinian babies are a demographic and existential threat to Israel.

    To a man with only a hammer, says the proverb, every problem looks like a nail.

    Never before has a belligerent nuclear-armed regional power,
    which is financially, militarily and diplomatically backed by the world’s most powerful nuclear-armed superpower,
    and that has invaded all five of its neighbours (and still occupies territory from three),
    been threatened by so many perceived internal and external “existential threats”
    (threats which it chooses to confront using more military aggression).

    The last time a belligerent nuclear-armed regional power felt threatened by so many perceived “existential threats”,
    it bowed to internal resistance, international boycotts and diplomatic pressure,
    released the leader of the “terrorist” organisation (considered its biggest threat) from jail,
    abandoned its supremacist laws and segregated bantustans,
    and learned to co-exist in a one-state solution with the very same indigenous inhabitants it had dispossessed, oppressed and routinely massacred.

    The last time a belligerent conventionally-armed regional power felt threatened by so many perceived “existential threats”,
    it allied itself with two other like-minded belligerent powers,
    and started a worldwide war.

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