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June 21, 2008

West Bank Story

By: Bernard Chazelle

I visited the West Bank a few months ago and wrote about it. It's got too many photos for me to cut & paste the whole thing in this post, so click here, read, and weep.

I've also written an essay about the two-state solution, which I'll post in full later.

— Bernard Chazelle

Posted at June 21, 2008 11:24 AM

I like to think I should go there, to the Dead Sea, and live by a resort, watch the beautiful people in the sunshine, and write the great AMERICAN novel titled, "How to Conquer The World and Get in on The Big Money". I'm torn between titling the first chapter, "That's How My Money Goes" or "Checkpoint Charley".

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 21, 2008 12:51 PM

Bravo, Bernard.

I have a damn hard time writing about experiences that cut so close to the bone. Your essay serves as a reminder of why doing so is worth the effort.

Posted by: Arvin Hill at June 22, 2008 01:21 AM

Agreed, bravo. I passed through the same set of checkpoints a few years back and, yeah, nasty place. Most especially, the part in the article on the two-state solution where you listed disincentives for incremental Israeli handovers was very sharp. Strikes me as the right way to think about this conflict, yet I haven't seen it put quite that clearly elsewhere. Keep up the good work.

Posted by: alle at June 22, 2008 08:42 AM

Much good stuff in your piece.
Yet, when one Palestinian tells you "It was never about the Jews," you don't question this at all.
Have you read "Jew-Hatred and Jihad" by the German scholar Matthias Kuentzel, tracing Judeophobia in the ME to periods and people pre-1947?
Do you read articles such as "'Wipe Out the Jews.' Anti-Semitic Hate Speech in the Name of Islam" in DER SPIEGEL?

Posted by: donescobar at June 22, 2008 08:56 AM

Usually Der Spiegel is so hilariously inaccurate and transparently neo-liberal (just gotta read their articles about Evo Morales and particularly, Hugo Chavez) that I don't think I would take their articles at face value. Just like The Economist, which is impressive in its ability to get almost everything wrong in a consistent basis.

A magazine whose reporters are careless enough to repeat already debunked versions of a story without even checking the facts (their interview to Ahmadinejad is a typical example, in which they repeated to his face that false "wipe Israel off the map" statement) is not exactly the place I would get my news from, that's all.

Posted by: Pepito at June 22, 2008 10:53 AM

donescobar: you're confusing causation and correlation.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at June 22, 2008 12:15 PM

Well, not all "Zionist Jews" wanted or plotted ethnic cleansing. I've posted examples of some who hoped to live in harmony and peace with their non-Jewish neighbors. However you interpret the
"Zionist dream" (plot or conspiracy to quite a few on the Left), all I can say is:
1. The goals of Zionism were not the same in the minds of a 1927 socialist labor immigrant from Russia as it was from a camp survivor who arrived in 1947.
2. If you think neither, or any Jews, should have a place in Israel/Palestine, I can understand that, but history (in Europe, to be sure) changed the agenda and outcome. The Palestinians should not have had to pay the price for the crimes of Europeans. History ain't justice.
3. And then came the combined desire of Arabs to destroy Israel in 1967 ("a war of extinction," or "the roads to Tel Aviv will be lined with Jewish skulls..." see Oren, "Six Days of War") and changed the map.
4. There's much criticism of Israel that can and should be made. Some of it is anti-Zionism indeed. Some contains a virulent seed of Judeophobia. Example from the Daily Kos:
"as an American I don't condone...this apartheid system that exists in Israel where people live separate and unequal lives." Right, so unlike Chicago, where Af-Am and white Americans enjoy common and equal lives, as anyone walking around that city will experience very soon. The hypocrisy is mind-bobbling.
5. Some articles in DER SPIEGEL are better and more accurate than others. I haven't seen the quotes in the one I cited challenged, nor the facts in the Kuentzel book.
All of which does not diminish my desire for seeing the Israelis and Palestinians living in peace.
Neither AIPAC nor Counterpunch even try to understand the history and psychology of the peoples they despise. The piece here is better.
But in most cases, discussions on this topic are ruled by the mindsets dominant at the lobby or with the wannabe Leninists. Schade.

Posted by: donescobar at June 22, 2008 12:23 PM

Anti-Semitism is a Christian invention which reached its violent climax under German rule. Therefore it's only natural that a German scholar should be the one lecturing Palestinians about anti-Semitism. If Kuentzel's point was innocuous, the only value of my mentioning it would be irony. But to hold Palestinians hostage to the denunciation of anti-Semitism as practiced by some of their compatriots would be like requiring that Blacks in US prisons pledge to renounce anti-White bigotry before being released.

I condemn without reservation the anti-Semitic antics coming from Hamas, Hezbollah, or the MB.

But I condemn with equal vigor anyone who attempts to justify the imprisonment of millions because he's disturbed by the racist behavior of a dozen people whose necks are under his boot.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at June 22, 2008 03:08 PM

No matter who was there first, or why the other moved in, or how, fact is, today, on the ground, BOTH are there. YESTERDAY'S SOLUTIONS are not working, and tomorrow's dreams are just an unhappy arguement. What is the SOLUTION FOR TODAY? What would work TODAY? What is blocking TODAY'S SOLUTION, TODAY? IS not AIPAC money part of the problem? What does YOUR foreign aid buy Israel? What does it buy Palestine? What of Sec. of State, Ms. Rice? Is that REALLY good, reliable, informed, unbiased advice she's giving both sides? OR is it just more pandering? Wouldn't things go better with just SILENCE from OUR government's perspective?

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 22, 2008 03:38 PM

Kuentzel doesn't even attemp to "hold the Palestinians hostage" for any reason. He chronicles the history of Anti-Semitism among some countries, groups and individuals in the Islamic world.
Now when you write about the "racism of a dozen people..." you were practicing some of that wry Ivy humor, I hope. Is it possible, honest or fair to write about this issue without looking at the history and attitudes of the supposed friends of the Palestinians in the ME?
Racism of a dozen reminds me of the defense industry excuse when one of the big contractors was caught cheating the taxpayer out of a few hundred million: just a few rotten apples in the barrel. Yeah, right.

Posted by: donescobar at June 22, 2008 03:38 PM

donescobar: Anti-Semitism in the Arab world has nothing to do whatsoever with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Presumably you bring up the topic because of its relevance. What is its relevance? None of Israel's policy decisions in the last 40 years of occupation have had anything to do whatsoever with anti-Semitism.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at June 22, 2008 04:24 PM

Donescobar: "Neither AIPAC nor Counterpunch even try to understand the history and psychology of the peoples they despise." About AIPAC I can't say, but it seems to me you're overlooking something, which is that not only are many Counterpunch contributors on this topic Israelis and diaspora Jews, many of them are Zionists. (Noam Chomsky is a prominent example.) You're misrepresenting Counterpunch in the interest of your own agenda.

As far as anti-Semitism goes, you should take a look at Michael Neumann's article on anti-Semitism here:

Posted by: Duncan at June 22, 2008 04:52 PM

There are things beyond policy decisions.
The relevance is in the minds of those Jews who came to Israel since Zionism's birthday in 1896 until today. It is not a pleasant or easy sliver, or boulder, lodged in the heads of many Jews.
It is composed of images and memories, such as the refusal of the US Senate and the White House in 1939 to let in the miserable 900 Jews on the S. S. St. Louis. It is the order of the Swiss government to its cantonal police forces to turn Jewish refugees at their border over to the Germans. (Read the fate of the chief of the Canton of St. Gallen who refused to follow and saved the lives of 300 Austrian Jews.)
It was living with hundreds or thousands of pictures like that and 1000 times worse burnt in your mind or actual memory.
Now, what's the relevance to the Palestinian issue? Just that that's what's there, and when the five Arab armies moved against the new state, it was reborn and was then turned into one of the cornerstones of the national psyche, to be reinforced one more time in 1967.
So, why should the Palestinians suffer in 2008 for that, to which they contributed so little in the beginning? They should not. But as the poet pointed out, those to whom evil is done do evil to others in return.
And none of that is of any comfort to the Palestinian children who suffer, I know.
Some pieces of history contain elements of the tragic. This may be one of them.

Posted by: donescobar at June 22, 2008 05:12 PM

Historically, the Arab world has been incomparably more open to and tolerant of other religions, in particular Jews, than Christians have (notwithstanding Saudi Arabia and such places).

It's a mistake to interpret the war of '48 as a religious conflict. WWII had just ended and the Arab world was beginning to coalesce around the idea of nationalism built around decolonization.
(As did South and South-East Asia by the way.) It took 15 years for that to come true, but the birth of Israel was viewed in the Arab world as the continuation of western imperialism by other means. Since the demographic influx came primarily from Europe, as did the military training and the equipment, it's hard to see how they could have felt otherwise.

Hamas uses religion in the service of nationalism, not the other way around, which is why it has no patience for bin Laden's messianic views.

Posted by: Bernard Chazelle at June 22, 2008 07:01 PM

WE don't live there, how can WE, as AMERICANS, rationally expect to have any kind of a SOLUTION to THEIR LIVES, THEIR PROBLEMS. The Israelis and Palestinians should draw up their own road map to peace and the rest of the world follow it. Instead its like the Iraqis, I guess WE just love to pay to fuck with these people's lives. If they ask for sometning, both sides, by all means, help them, but this ain't it. WE DON'T LIVE THERE.

Posted by: Mike Meyer at June 22, 2008 07:33 PM

"it's hard to see how they could have felt otherwise..." Then, yes. But remember, the Jews then were refugees from the European imperialists who wanted to kill, not colonize them, not their fifth column in Arabia.
If Israel fills that function for America today, failure and blindness among many parties led to the bloodshed.
Israelis I've talked to understand this much better than most Americans. We aren't good at history and sorting things out intellectually. The French and new Germans do it much better.
Even DER SPIEGEL towers above most American magazines, with the exception of the NYRB.

Posted by: donescobar at June 22, 2008 07:48 PM