Land for Peace Will Work When—and Only When—Arabs Realize That Israel Is Here to Stay

March 16 2017

Since the Israeli-Arab conflict began, argues Einat Wilf, the key point of contention has not been how to divide a small territory between two peoples but the Arab refusal to accept a Jewish state as a permanent feature in the Middle East. She writes:

[The Western understanding of the conflict] fails to take account of . . . the Arab and Muslim countdown until the end of Zionism and the state of Israel. That countdown reflects the prevailing Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian view that Zionism is a historical aberration that will not—and must not—last. Any Israeli effort to [withdraw from the West Bank] in a manner that would bring it peace and security thus clashes with the Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian view that no place for compromise and agreement exists that would grant legitimacy to Zionism and the state of Israel and that would accept its permanence. . . .

The humiliating defeat of five Arab armies in 1967, and the loss of the Golan Heights, the West Bank, the Gaza Strip, and the Sinai Peninsula in a short span of six days did nothing to change the basic Arab mythology of the temporary nature of Israel. While the Western world was establishing the formula of “land for peace,” the Arab world clarified its rejection of it. What appeared to make sense to much of the West—that land acquired by Israel in the Six-Day War was a valuable asset that could be traded for the long-desired peace with the Arab world—made no sense to those who still considered the state of Israel temporary.

Even when the “land for peace” formula was employed, as in the peace agreement with Egypt, . . . subsequent decades demonstrated that [such agreements] were closer to “we-will-no-longer-attack-one-another” agreements than to peace. The Arab world remained unable to treat the Jewish state as a genuine legitimate presence in its midst. . . .

It is [therefore] necessary to demonstrate to the Muslim-Arab world that its view of history is wrong, and that rather than constituting a second crusader state, Israel is the sovereign state of an indigenous people who have come home. This can only be achieved through Jewish power and persistence over time. And given the vast numerical imbalance between Jews and Arabs, it can only be achieved if those who truly seek peace support the Jewish people in sending the message to the Arab world that the Jewish people are here to stay.

Read more at Fathom

More about: Anti-Semitism, Israel & Zionism, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Peace Process

Famous Novelists “Confront the Occupation” in the West Bank—and Celebrate Themselves

June 27 2017

To produce the collection Kingdom of Olives and Ash, the writers Michael Chabon and Ayelet Waldman gathered a group of novelists, arranged for them to be shown around Israel for a few days by anti-Israel activists, and had each of them write an essay about the experience. Matti Friedman surveys the results:

Chabon and Waldman tell us on the very first page of a visit to Israel in 1992, which they remember vividly as a time of optimism, when the “Oslo Accords were fresh and untested.” But their memory must be playing tricks, because the Oslo Accords happened in the fall of 1993. Chabon and Waldman, who live in Berkeley, CA, are accomplished writers, but the reader needs a few words about what they’re up to here. Do they have special expertise to offer? Israel is probably the biggest international news story over the past 50 years, so is there a reason they decided the world needs to know more about it and not, say, Kandahar, Guantanamo, Congo, or Baltimore?

The essays vary in tone and quality, but experienced journalists covering the Israel/Palestine story will recognize the usual impressions of reporters fresh from the airport. Cute Palestinian kids touched my hair! Beautiful tea glasses! I saw a gun! I lost my luggage, and that seems symbolic! Arabs do hip-hop! The soldiers are so young and rude!

The writers interview the same people who are always interviewed in the West Bank, thinking it’s all new, and believe what they’re told. . . . Everything is described with a gravitas suggesting that the writers haven’t spent much time outside the world’s safer corners. [Dave] Eggers devotes two whole pages to an incident on the Gaza border, where one Israeli guard said he couldn’t pass and then a different one came and let him through. Dave, if you’re reading this, I hope you’re okay. . . .

What [this book is] really about is the writers. Most of the essays aren’t journalism but a kind of selfie in which the author poses in front of the symbolic moral issue of the time: here I am at an Israeli checkpoint! Here I am with a shepherd! That’s why the very first page of the book finds Chabon and Waldman talking not about the occupation, but about Chabon and Waldman. After a while I felt trapped in a wordy kind of Kardashian Instagram feed, without the self-awareness.

Read more at Washington Post

More about: Anti-Zionism, Idiocy, Israel & Zionism, Journalism, West Bank