‘The Hill’ is to the left of the ‘New York Review of Books’

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The latest New York Review of Books has a piece on Gaza by the Israeli Assaf Sharon (with whom I toured occupied Walaja some years ago) that can be justly described as conservative. It states that there are three ouctomes available in Israel and Palestine: managed conflict (Netanyahu); annexation and further occupation (the extreme right); and the two-state solution– the “only reasonable strategy.” 

Whatever you think of Sharon’s view, it must be pointed out that this piece utterly ignores the leftwing discourse, the international campaign led by the Boycott/Divestment and Sanctions movement to isolate Israel and delegitimize the idea of a Jewish state and those who favor democracy in Israel and Palestine, including leftwing Israelis Jeff Halper and Noam Sheizaf  (“I support equal rights for all people living in this land, between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. Theoretically this can happen as part of a two-state solution, a single-state solution and in various hybrids of the two.”)

That’s why this piece is conservative. Those options simply don’t exist. Sharon operates out of the Israeli liberal establishment, at the thinktank Molad, and of course he says that Israel can only work with Mahmoud Abbas:

So long as Hamas is willing to use terror against innocent Israeli civilians and so long as it refuses to recognize the State of Israel, it will not be a “partner” for peace. But it could be partner to interest-based agreements requiring it to modify its behavior, as many academic and security experts claim. In fact, despite Netanyahu’s being the most vocal opponent of dialogue with Gazan terror organizations, it was he who reached two agreements with Hamas: the 2011 Shalit deal and the 2012 agreement that ended Operation Pillar of Defense. The only question is whether the latest agreement between the two sides, reached on August 26, will be limited, fragile, and short-lived, or a stable arrangement that will improve Israel’s strategic standing for a considerable period of time.

A long-term resolution with respect to Gaza requires changing its political predicament. The only sensible way of doing this is to establish a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, a state whose existence would be negotiated with the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) under Abbas’s leadership. As part of a comprehensive political agreement, Hamas is very likely to agree to a long-term truce, as its representatives have repeatedly said.

That is a conservative argument, too, because it ignores the fact that Hamas has surged in popularity in the Palestinian community because of its violent resistance to Israel. You may not like that truth, but it’s the truth all the same, and a reflection of the polarized, envenomed, and intractable nature of the conflict: The popularity of Hamas in one ethnic community and the popularity of rightwing Zionists in the other one. (I believe that Hamas will only disappear when Zionism crumbles. It’s a response to Zionism. And the only way to isolate the wings is to fully enfranchise Palestinians and foster new political combinations across ethnic lines).

But this is a post about the discourse, and I’d note that the Washington publication, The Hill, affords readers a truer reflection of Palestinian public opinion than the New York Review of Books, in a piece lately posted by Ussama Makdisi, titled “Gun Zionism,” at the Capitol Blog, “for lawmakers and policy professionals.” A professor of History at Rice University, Makdisi explains that Hamas grew in the context of neo-colonialist violence unleashed by a settler population, Zionists, and the denial of this violence by Zionism’s western supporters:

The point is not simply that colonial Zionism in Palestine was morally and politically outrageous to the Palestinians. Nor is it simply that Europe and the United States were directly responsible for the protection of this colonial enterprise that led ultimately to the creation of the state of Israel built on the ruins of Palestinian villages and towns. Nor that a war occurred in 1948 or that a population was displaced. Nor that Arabs were made to pay the price for European anti-Semitism and an exclusionary Jewish nationalism.

The point is that this basic, fundamental history of the violence of colonial Zionism remains until now not only unacknowledged by Western nations, but violently rejected. The self-righteousness with which Israel pursued its most recent assault on Palestinian civilians is based on far more than the crude propaganda generated during the current conflict. It is rooted in a continuing denial of Palestinian history. …

It matters, of course, that Hamas indiscriminately fires rockets on Israel. But the root cause of this current crisis is neither Hamas nor its rockets. The root cause is, rather, what David Hirst once referred to as “gun Zionism” and its enablers in the West. They commenced an ever-escalating spiral of violence that can only have one of two final outcomes: the extirpation of the Palestinian people or the redefinition of Israel.

You simply cannot begin to address a strategy for resolving the conflict without acknowledging this Palestinian history, and the fact that Zionism is “outrageous” to Palestinians. Our politics are broken because our media are broken. The New York Review of Books under Robert Silvers is part of the denial of this history in the west. It is way to the right of The Hill on this matter. In fact, I cannot think of the last time I saw a Palestinian writer in the New York Review of Books. Tons of Israeli writers. Margalit, Sharon, and the great David Shulman. And plenty of Zionists, Peter Beinart, Michael Walzer. But Palestinians?

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Despite Phil’s concerns about the Sharon article, I think it is a very interesting and coherent account of the attack on Gaza. I wonder if the author limited his scope to be more effective in making the US supporters of Israel revise their reasoning about Israel and its relation with… Read more »

Great article. Thank you for pointing out the piece in The Hill. Absolutely correct. This is the problem. The total denial of history and reality is dishonest and irrational to say the least. This is strengthened by a MSM in the USA that is slavishly pro-Israel and dismissive of everything… Read more »

“In fact, I cannot think of the last time I saw a Palestinian writer in the New York Review of Books” There was Hussein Agha who used to write with Robert Malley – was he Palestinian ? The Review is too cowardly to give space to a Palestinian truth teller.… Read more »

Excellent piece in The Hill: thanks for pointing it out. Most people who work on the Hill and elsewhere in official Washington understand very well the reality that Prof. Makdisi describes. They just won’t talk about it in public. Which is a sad commentary on the courage and morality of… Read more »

The concept of historical denial here is important to consciousness and discourse on resolution of the problem. But besides denial, there is historical affirmation of a truth that may not be truth at all, or merely omission , and the cleaning of evidence , I wonder if someone could find… Read more »