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‘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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10 Responses

  1. HPH
    HPH on September 7, 2014, 1:43 pm

    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 the Palestinians. Whatever the cause of the limitations, I think the article is worth reading.

    • piotr
      piotr on September 8, 2014, 1:39 pm

      Interesting, coherent, and strangely incomplete.

      “Lacking clear aims, Israel was dragged, by its own actions, into a confrontation it did not seek and did not control. Israel was merely stumbling along, with no strategy, chasing events instead of dictating them.”

      This is not my interpretation. Israeli cabinet strived to have some kind of controlled mayhem that would satisfy more right wing supporters and keep the centrists, who were grumbling about the fake peace process, from leaving the coalition. Once can be a bit cynical, Livni and Lapid probably would be OK with fake peace process if it were a bit more plausible. Plan A seemed to provoke the violence by letting starving hunger die and killing the protesters, but the kidnapping presented a better opportunity.

      Far from aimless, the attack on Gaza addressed the demands of nationalistic politicians and fanatic clergy: “to go beyond collecting 300 Philistine foreskins”, inflict merciless punishment, restoring the glory of Iron Age forefathers. Carnage was not aimless, it was the aim. Tactics had to show “resolute going after Hamas”, to do better than the previous operations reviled for avoiding the killing of Hamas fighters and leaders. Annihilating Hamas was not really possible, but the government had to make a good show of trying, and so it did.

  2. on September 7, 2014, 2:09 pm

    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 Palestinian. We need more and more important people who speak the truth like you do, and therefore counteract the Zionist lies. However, these people are hard to find because of their fear of the irrational Zionist backlash and hatred that has ruined so many careers.

    In this respect some positive news is that Incoming head of NATO Jens Stoltenberg has criticized Israel over its violations of international law in the Palestinian Territories as well as in international waters, such as the Gaza flotilla raid. In 2006, Stoltenberg stated that “Norway condemns Israel’s actions against Palestinians. Such collective punishment is totally unacceptable.” Stoltenberg has praised doctors Mads Gilbert and Erik Fosse for their humanitarian work in the Gaza Strip during the Gaza War, stating that “all of Norway” was behind them.

  3. seafoid
    seafoid on September 7, 2014, 4:06 pm

    “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.

    Zionism is an asset bubble that’s going to burst.

    As John Authers wrote a while ago about other bubbles

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/32dca746-950d-11e1-ad72-00144feab49a.html
    ” Trends continue in motion long after they should have halted. It can take years for ineffable logic to work itself out in market prices. External shocks take time before they are reflected in inevitable damage to the overall economy.”

    And Zionism is one of those. The trend of unstinting US support should have halted years ago. And ineffable logic is going to cripple the bots.

    • marc b.
      marc b. on September 7, 2014, 5:50 pm

      It is terribly biased, as is the New Yorker, on matters of foreign policy. I forget who it was (remnick maybe) who birthed a real turd of an article recently on ‘Putin’s’ Russia. Just horrible stuff. Although the NYRB article does contain some good analysis, or more accurately some ‘good’ facts, each argument is framed in terms that put Israel’s interests at the fore. I have completely lost interest in Israel’s perceived needs, psychological, military/security. It is such a dishonest actor, the only thing that will cause it to negotiate equitably is the real threat of complete isolation or an impending catastrophe of biblical proportions. Even significant blunders, like ‘Cast Lead’ or the latest atrocity, or 2006, don’t seem to make a dent in its perception of itself, at least at the top. Israel’s military advantage in the region is now completely based on its access to US hardware and intelligence gathering, and it’s alliances with the most brittle, authoritarian regimes.

      • seafoid
        seafoid on September 8, 2014, 12:26 am

        Their attitude to “intellectual insight” on Israel is pathetic. They’d never take the same approach on climate, for example. They’d never print countless articles supporting the Koch view. Or social policy based on the views of Rush Limbaugh. But Israel is different.
        And it’s all a fraud

        http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.612763
        “Netanyahu lives the dual fantasy of helplessness and unlimited power more than any Israeli politician since Menachem Begin. While Begin personally escaped the Holocaust, Netanyahu embodies second-hand trauma. “It’s 1938 and Iran is Germany,” summed up his perception of our enemies, between whom he refuses to make distinctions. His military threats against Iran expressed the hubris that is the opposite pole of the fantasy. Netanyahu’s contradictory tone of perpetual fear and overconfidence has resonated with a large piece of the Israeli public. He speaks what they feel. “

  4. Boomer
    Boomer on September 7, 2014, 4:43 pm

    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 our leaders. For Americans who are disturbed by our government’s policy of supporting this on-going injustice, the cowardice and mendacity of our elected leaders adds insult to injury.

  5. bilal a
    bilal a on September 7, 2014, 5:16 pm

    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 in the NYT cany discussion of these events which since have been cleaned from historical memory:

  6. DICKERSON3870
    DICKERSON3870 on September 8, 2014, 4:29 am

    “GUN ZIONISM” = REVISIONIST ZIONISM WITH ITS “IRON WALL” MENTALITY (AUGMENTED BY THE AMERICAN-FUNDED “IRON DOME”)
    Does U.S. funding of the Iron Dome discourage “Gun Zionism”, or make it even more likely? I would argue Operation Protective Edge established that the American-funded Iron Dome most likely encourages Israei “Gun Zionism”.

  7. jon s
    jon s on September 8, 2014, 10:46 am

    “Left” and “Right ” are confused here.
    Since when does supporting Hamas – or at least apologizing for it- put you on the Left?
    Fundamentalist -religious terrorists are not on the Left.

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