Monday, July 28, 2008

Love or Tough Love, Both Worthless Without Understanding; Nicholas Kristof Actually Understands Nothing About Israel ... or the Palestinians - The Spine

From my posting on the New Republic blog, in response to Marty Peretz:

I think Kristof's two recent columns on Israel/Palestine were among his worst ever. While my preference is for more judicious and less incendiary rhetoric than typical in this space, I would term them obtuse.

That said, the repeated invocations of Palestinian and Arab attitudes toward the 1949 cease fire lines seems to me tedious and, at this point, unpersuasive. Attitudes change over time, and the experience of the past 40 years, not to speak of changing geopolitical realities, allow for realism to sink in, despite the residual presence of more grandiose expectations. This has happened on the Israeli side: relatively few Israelis outside the minority of messianic types realistically aspire to a restoration of the Davidic boundaries, and most accept the presence of a Palestinian people (now, despite continuing arguments about the past), and the ultimate likelihood of some kind of Palestinian state. I have little doubt that many Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims wish that Israel never existed, or would go away; still, there is substantial evidence that many (including the leadership elites) have concluded, however reluctantly, that Israel is a fixture in the contemporary Middle East, and that some form of acceptance of that reality is a practical necessity for the foreseeable future.

If Israel is to flourish as more than a fortress state, and to pursue aspirations beyond survival (and that survival is, for me, of ultimate importance as a committed Jew and lover of both Israel and Judaism), it must accept that the pursuit of a practicable peace will entail certain risks (as does continuing the status quo). Certain risks, while unpleasant and sometimes tragic, are not incompatible with the secure existance and survival of the Israeli State as a Jewish and democratic state. Projections based on a tendentious reading of pre-Six Days War realities ("After all, the Six Days War was initiated by Egypt, Syria and Jordan..." ) into the 21st century seem more about polemics than problem solving in our current, importantly changed reality.

It is perhaps worth adding that genuine moves toward a tolerable peace are the best, and perhaps the sole, method of changing attitudes of the coming generation in a more positive direction. There are, of course, no guarantees in this world, but continuing the current course bears risks of its own.

It is time to move past the willful stupidities of the Kristof column and the associated polemics, and toward a more constructive dialogue.

Alan J. Weisbard (blogging as The Wise Bard)

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