Israel, Justice, Politics

Ami Eden's "pro-Israel" related editorial analysis

We are all pro-Israel.
By the same token, everyone thinks they’re for peace. JTA cheif Ami Eden’s blog post today picks up on where The New Republic and the Jewish media has begun fighting over the labels of “pro-Israel” and “pro-peace”. And this could be a pretty elementary conversation about labels meaning different things to different people, but I think a simple fact remains:
The nature of “pro-Israel” is changing. But though I’ve seen “pro-peace” hijacked by the pro-bombing rallies of the New York JCRC, for example, it has yet to take hold among Israel advocates that pursuing immediate peace policies and not just having peace inclinations is what defines a dove voice from a hawkish voice.
Ami notes “hawks” and “doves” beg further definition. His example is when Ariel Sharon moved right-wing and left-wing simultaneously by not negotiating with the Palestinians but withdrawing from territory regardless. But this was not a dove maneuver because it was a classic example of avoiding-the-real-problem Israeli diplomatic ju jitsu which sidesteps the issue as a whole. (Unilateral ceasefires anyone? Ju jitsu indeed, this kung fu Jew would know.) No progress towards establishing a Palestinian state was made and Israeli security concerns went unaddressed — akin to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. (Worse, in this case as the credit for Israeli withdrawal was not handed to Fatah’s openness to negotiations but taken implicitly by Hamas’ violence.)
The status quo is what remains defined as “pro-Israel” — separate legal systems for Jewish settlers and Palestinians which resemble apartheid, the continued expansion of settlements, the limitation of economic viability by closed borders, and the humilitation of checkpoints and lack of self-determination. Only the pursuit now of policies which actively make progress towards Palestinian demands can be considered pro-peace. They will not receive all their demands, and neither will Israel. But the active prevention in Congress by AIPAC or ZOA or JCRCs of pushing compromise by Israel is in effect pro-conflict, pro-violence and pro-onesidedness.
A backtrack is also not pro-peace, which is Gaza case in point. The Gaza mission accomplished nothing and it cost so much — in terms of Israel’s international standing, its prevention of the rockets, its dismantling of Hamas, and ultimately its ability to end ongoing strife. A pyrric victory. The pro-Israel rallies embedded the feeling among Jews of moderate stripes that while they supported Israel’s right to defense, “pro-Israel” meant something bloodthirsty.
Ami Eden is very good to bring this up — that pro-Israel isn’t owned by any Jewish political sector and we’re all ostensibly looking for safety and stability in the Mideast. But there is a distinct measure of being pro-peace. And it will continue to be needed as a modifier “pro-Israel, pro-peace” until the Israeli government and the lockstep American Jewish defense orgs make pursuit of an end compromise their active work. Until then AIPAC, ADL, AJC, the JCRCs, the Conference of Presidents, et al are not pro-peace, they’re pro-status quo. And the status quo is not peace.

18 thoughts on “Ami Eden's "pro-Israel" related editorial analysis

  1. “Only the pursuit now of policies which actively make progress towards Palestinian demands can be considered pro-peace.”
    Just for the sake of understanding, which Palestinian demands are you referring to specifically? Hamas’ demands, or Islamic Jihad’s? Or are you referring to removing checkpoints with/without a proper security mechanism for Israel to prevent suicide bombings and weapons transfers (I’m guessing – and correct me if I’m wrong – that you’re against the separation barrier)? Or perhaps that Israel should release additional prisoners? Or, are you simply calling for the peace making final decision of freezing settlements and removing outposts?
    Also, do you consider Meretz “bloodthirsty”?
    My problem is that calling for immediate steps to “ease Palestinian suffering” or for those that “show Israel is interested in peace” usually are irresponsible. Only serious negotiation offer the long haul are what any responsible Israeli government should do. You’re absolutely correct – removing all the settlements in Gaza didn’t work for Israel’s security, because it wasn’t conducted with anyone on the other side. Only by working together responsibly, over many years, will POSSIBLY bring lasting peace. Not making any rash decisions that could affect security, which is Israel’s first responsibility. Freeze settlements? Yes. Remove outposts? Yes. Recognize Israel’s role in Palestinian suffering? Yes. Take decisions that could even MAYBE lead to Israel deaths? No thank you.

  2. Meretz didn’t do itself (or liberal Zionism) any favors in the minds of moderate Jews that the most left party also enthusiastically endorsed the bombing. Personally, it raised skepticism that Meretz is dogpaddling to save it’s own face. But you’d have to ask those American Jews what they think about Meretz now.
    I think bloodthirsty is an adjective that is unfortunately raised in the minds of the American public by the statistic that 90% of Israelis supported the bombing and incursion, but the same number ALSO thought that the campaign would not end the rockets. What’s the possible motivation then? Revenge is one of the first answers that comes to people’s minds. That may or may not be the answer. But I think it’s probably one factor among many.
    As to confidence-building measures that do not compromise Israeli security:
    – Cease all settlment expansion, especially in and around Jerusalem and freeze all demolition orders of Palestinian homes.
    – Remove settlements. Any and all. The caravans are the easiest, start with those.
    – Prosecute settler violence. Yesh Din publishes an annual report of Jewish violence cases in the West Bank that go unprosecuted by upwards of 80%.
    – Remove the checkpoints between Palestinian villages, the ones that do not secure traffic between Jewish settlements and Palestinian villages. (Of course, removing settlements makes this more and more easy.)
    – Publicly announce the reopening of negotations.
    – Revise the path of the security barrier on all sections as yet unbuilt to minimize impact on Palestinian economy, life, property, etc.
    – Release Palestinian detainees held in administrative detention without charges, particularly those under the age of 18. B’Tselem has statistics about the number of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons without due process for months (in some rare cases, years) for offenses as small as traffic violations, throwing rocks, etc.
    Those are just starters which have only immediate positive impacts on trust between sides, do not compromise Israeli security, and meets Palestinian (no matter who) demands.

  3. “enthusiastically endorsed the bombing”
    did they throw street parties celebrating the war?
    Not everyone who supports military action is doing so “enthusiastically”. There is a large gap between pacifism and warmongers. And, unfortunate as it is, as horrible as it is, sometimes (though it is turned to far too often) military action is responsible, and needed. It’s not shocking that Meretz, even as a left-wing liberal party, would realize that.
    With regard to your suggestions on steps that Israel can take, a few questions:
    1. Are these unilateral steps by Israel?
    2. Which measures should Palestinians take during that same time period? If the answer is none, how is this different from the Gaza disengagement exactly?
    3. In prosecuting settler violence, which I totally agree with, do you also favor prosecution of all crimes within Israeli territory that are not currently enforced? And that they should be enforced to the letter of the law? (I know it’s a right-wing talking point, but does that include illegal construction?) In other words, the full utilization of the rule of law?
    4. I’m surprised that you support the “security barrier”…I thought that was one of the major Palestinian demands that it be taken down.
    Otherwise, cool ideas, but I’m interested in what practical specific steps Palestinians would make during that same period. While Israel is freezing and possibly dismantling settlements, before a peace agreement, do you expect Palestinians to announce publicly that they recognize Israel’s existence as a Jewish state? Do you expect them to arrest every single person with a gun other than policemen? Do you expect them to publically announce that they relinquish the right of return?

  4. It is so sad that the moniker “lover and pursuer of peace” has been so twisted in the last few decades into dovish philosophy.
    None other than Pinchas received the brit shalom from god. And yet, here is a man who would be called, by the doves of today, a murderer and a radical. He would be shunned by the peace-lovers of today. People have forgotten what it takes to pursue peace. It is not about protest, and placards and words. Have we forgotten what kind of world we live in? Peace is so precious because it is so elusive. It takes courage and bravery to take action towards peace; to fight for it; to defend values worth living for. War is a tragedy. It is a reality. But the tragedy of war is no crime. Not when the cause is just and the goal is true, lasting peace and not a temporary prop up.
    People should heed the words of tehillim: “bakeish shalom v’radfeihu,” seek peace and pursue it. Of course at first you seek it, you try to find common ground, ‘negotiate.’ But there is more that must be done when this fails, especially when the enemy knows no peace, and in truth, does not want peace. A ‘rodeif shalom’ is willing to do what is takes for true peace. In today’s world of graphic images and reverberating cries, we can see these actions are not pretty. But pursuing peace is not easy, nor is it “peaceful.” I find it utterly incomprehensible that purported “peace-lovers,” people who in reality know nothing of what it takes to achieve peace, have hijacked what it means to truly love peace.

  5. Noah, Pinehas killed precisely two people in order to save an entire nation from spiritual doom. And it seems to have worked. The Israeli military has killed a thousand Gazans and three of its own… for yet another “temporary prop up”, as you put it?
    When one is genuinely interested in peace, and yet ignores the myriad ways to pursue it, it is as if he was never interested in peace in the first place. What else explains the common view in the Arab world? (Besides anti-Semitism, which is just such a cop-out)

  6. The essence of the Pinchas illustration is that the true man of peace must be able to understand that peace never comes easy, and that ultimately, killing may be involved.
    Do you think that if Israel had the choice, had there not been the mounting external pressure, the operation would not continue? If Israel was left to determine its own fate, the IDF would have laid waste to Gaza.
    You say Israel has “ignored the myriad ways to pursue” peace. But you know this is not true. How many deals, agreements and cease-fires have there been? How many appeasements? And what has come of it all? Israel’s foes have too often taken these actions as small victories toward Israel’s destruction, not as steps towards peace. You truly believe Hamas wants peace? Look how much they were given in Gaza: productive greenhouses and agriculture. What was the first thing they did? They destroyed it all. What do their leaders do with all the millions of dollars of aid? Build businesses and infrastructure? No, they buy arms. Look at their 1988 Covenant, their foundational document: it explicitly lays out the destruction of Israel as a goal. In this battle, there is no place for the fluffy, idealist, “peace.” That’s a sad pipe-dream.
    Again, in what world do you live where this peace exists? I wish I could live there with you.
    One other point. I think that to a certain extent, this fluffy peace that is bandied about is the creation of the last few decades. Ironically, technological advances, while making the instruments of war more terrible, have also allowed the world to see exactly what war brings. The images that are shoved in our faces of dead women and children, or crying parents and orphaned children, have changed everything decisively. This, in turn, makes countries more reticent to engage in brutal warfare. Of course, it is important for countries and people to question warfare and its consequences. But it is more important that this not stifle what must be done. Again, war is a tragedy. But tragedy is not a crime.

  7. Meretz, I believe, wanted to cash in on the upward bump in polls that are always associated with the first few days of supporting military retaliation around elections time. I met some of the Meretz leadership about a year ago and their desperation to reclaim their importance was palpable. I’m very skeptical of this move of theirs.
    1. Are these unilateral steps by Israel?
    No, Israel’s already agreed to these obligations with the Palestinians under the Road Map.
    2. Which measures should Palestinians take during that same time period? If the answer is none, how is this different from the Gaza disengagement exactly?
    The PA has already been making progress on it’s obligations to curb vigilantism in the West Bank and PA police forces already deployed to Jenin, Nablus and now even Hebron. Israel is behind in it’s commitments.
    3. In prosecuting settler violence, which I totally agree with, do you also favor prosecution of all crimes within Israeli territory that are not currently enforced?
    No, specifically, settler violence. Settler violence is violence against innocents and deliberate provocations which undermine support for progress on the Palestinian side. Israel already demolishes hundreds of houses per year. I mentioned a freeze on all demolitions in the territories, also for the same reasons. Let the PA handle zoning violations when the land becomes their jurisdiction. That should be Israel’s last concern.
    4. I’m surprised that you support the “security barrier”…I thought that was one of the major Palestinian demands that it be taken down.
    You’ll find discussing the matter with Palestinians that the problem of the wall is it’s interferance on health/education/employment/etc. and appropriation of land, not it’s existance. The parts of the wall that cause protest run through Arab neighborhoods, not between Jewish and Arab neighborhoods. That’s easy to fix and actually IMPROVES security. Israeli military officials have testified before the Supreme Court on this matter before.
    Personally, I support the barrier because of the significance of tearing it down later. I think the wall is unfortunate, but that Israel has a right to it.

  8. KFJ, you have a few factual inaccuracies that weaken your case. First, removing roadblocks (which regularly catch weapons smuggling and fugitives) CAN negatively impact israeli security, as can uprooting settlements (see, for example, Gaza). As can revising the path of the security fence, which is simply that, a TACTIC designed to minimize the number of Jews dying. ( I hate the security fence and am one of the few people who’s successfully torn down some of it, but that’s another matter; I do recognize that it’s helped, temporarily, make life here safer.)
    simply presuming that all WB land is automatically “Palestinian” is inaccurate historically and legally, and delegitimizes and dehumanizes the Jews who live there, which is very un-left-wing of you. Presuming all ‘settler’ ‘violence’ is prima facie wrong is unwarranted, as is assuming that it’s all directed against innocents. You don’t know that. Every case on its own merits.
    Last, your idea of how to get to peace (as Jason asked, work towards WHICH Palestinian demands?) isn’t the only vision, and may not work; attaching messianic idealism to “peace” and demonizing anyone who’s not following your plan makes you just as much of a religious nut as any Hebron settler.

  9. Matthew, those are not factual inaccuracies, you’re positing opinions. The cause and effect of Gaza’s deterioration are under debate. I would say that Gaza deteriorated because Israel rewarded Hamas by pulling out without working with Fatah, and Israel is dealing with its own failed policies of non-engagement. But that is my opinion, not a fact.
    Fact one: Israeli military leaders have explained that inter-village checkpoints have a negative impact on security. Whether it IS a fact that those checkpoints DO have no impact on security between the West Bank and Gaza is under debate. But it’s a fact that military voices have testified so.
    Fact two: The Israeli Supreme Court has ruled in 2005 that sections of the wall were not made with security in mind, but took into account growth regions of settlements, which inappropriately took Palestinian land. This ruling was on a small section near Jerusalem and the whole length of the wall needs similar reconsideration. Whether the totality of the wall should be moved is under debate. Again, it’s a fact that sections of the planning were overruled by the court.
    Fact three: We don’t KNOW if actions of settler violence are legitimate or not until they’ve been tried in court and found guilty or innocent, do we? The Yesh Din documentation is very clear that settler violence goes uninvestigated and unprosecuted. The exact statistics are on their web site.
    Personally, I think it is permissable to delegitimize ALL settlers in the territories because it is against the Geneva Convention to take land by military force and import non-residents from a neighboring nation. The land was promised in a UN Resolution to a future Palestinian state. But I do not dehumanize their humanity — I only delegitimize their claims to live there.

  10. I want to know why there isn’t more talk of a three-state solution involving Jordan (West Bank) and Egypt (Gaza)? The only major voice I’ve seen who promotes this is John Bolton, former US Ambassador to the UN. The popular two-state solution is untenable in reality–when in history have you ever had a state made up of two non-contiguous portions of land? And furthermore, the two-state solution would cause many more problems and place too heavy a burden on Israel, both politically and economically.
    If two other states would step in, it would dramatically increase the chances of an economically viable Gaza and West Bank, as opposed to a veritable black hole of international aid.
    I understand that the sacrifice in this case is the notion of Palestinian “nationalism,” but it’s one that seems worth it (and I don’t want to get into the artificiality of it anyway).
    Of course, the three-state solution is not talked about because the Arab world doesn’t want to take in the Palestinians. Why the connection between Jordan and the Palestinians doesn’t get more attention I have no idea.
    I just really want to know what people think of a possible three-state solution.

  11. Noah,
    Why would that “three-state solution” be in Jordan’s or Egypt’s interest?
    I’m confused. Are you calling for Israel to dismantle settlements in an earlier post irrespective of any final status negotations, and in a later post you write, “Let the PA handle zoning violations when the land becomes their jurisdiction.? Please explain.
    Additionally, you wrote, “The PA has already been making progress on it’s obligations to curb vigilantism in the West Bank and PA police forces already deployed to Jenin, Nablus and now even Hebron. ”
    True, and a promising start. However, you didn’t really at all answer my question, “Which measures should Palestinians take during that same time period? If the answer is none, how is this different from the Gaza disengagement exactly?” The Palestinians have an obligation, according to the Oslo accords, to make sure that not a single gun is in the hands of someone other than PA police. I believe, if you’re going to compare what has or has not been done by either side thus far since Oslo, Israel dismantling all the settlements in Gaza is a lot more compared to Palestinians beginning to enforce law and order in 3 cities in their terroritory – far on both sides of their ultimate responsibilities.
    So I repeat my question – you call for a series of steps by Israel before any final status agreement is agreed upon – especially with the dismantling of all settlements in the west bank, what GIANT steps do you demand of the Palestinians with the same committment during that time? And I’ll repeat these questions: “While Israel is freezing and possibly dismantling settlements, before a peace agreement, do you expect Palestinians to announce publicly that they recognize Israel’s existence as a Jewish state? Do you expect them to arrest every single person with a gun other than policemen? Do you expect them to publically announce that they relinquish the right of return?”

  12. Jason, I’ll try to clear up the confusion:
    Cease expansion of settlements is easy, Israel loses nothing. Removal of illegal hilltop settlements is fulfilling Israeli internal law, Israel gains improved security. Draining smaller settlements (a few hundred families) is a task that Israel can make easier by economic incentives, as is presently awaiting in a Knesset bill. Removal of Maale Adumim will never happen, those settlements are slated for keeping by Israel anyway.
    Israel demolishes Palestinian homes built on Palestinian-owned land for a myriad of reasons: zoning violations, settlement construction, unpaid building fees, etc. That’s not Israel’s concern and it is a constant request from the PA.
    In case you’re not aware, the PLO has already recognized Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, condemned terrorism, and (as I mentioned) has successfully started policing themselves (the onus of their obligations under the agreements), at least in the West Bank.
    Perhaps you’re not familiar with the structure of negotiations to date: the Road Map and Oslo process both set out short, medium and long-term measures which would enable immediate improvements in living quality and mutual confidence to be made until “final status” negotiations could complete.
    But you must know just as well as I do that sharing Jerusalem, the right of return, reparations for property lost on both sides, water rights, etc. are “final status” issues. No formal proposals on those were ever agreed to, whereas everything I have mentioned above is an on-paper, previously-signed criterion for progressing towards the final status issues.
    I feel you’re baiting me for an admission of supporting conditional unilateralness, which you’re not going to find.
    I believe that answers all of your questions.

  13. KFJ,
    Thanks for your response.
    A few things.
    1) In the letter you quoted from Arafat, it never mentions recognizing Israel as a Jewish State, but rather, just recognizing Israel. The reason why it is important is for 2 reasons. First, to counter the interpretation of many Islamic radicals who refuse to recognize the legitimacy of a Jewish state within what they see as the Muslim world. Second, to counter the hope that even after a division of land and the creation of a Palestinian state, Israel’s Arab population will still eventually win the demographic battle over the country’s Jewish population, and hence it would eventually become a Muslim and Christian majority run Arab state anyway.
    2) You neglect to mention borders as a final status issue, which is why I think the dismantling of any settlements that Israel realistically plans to keep (you give Ma’ale Adumim as one example) is against Israel’s interest before a final status agreement. Because Israel has never formally defined what it considers the “settlement blocs” that it plans to never give up, than it becomes a tricky issue of which ones to dismantle and which not.
    3) I’m not trying yo “bait” you to do anything. This is not anything personal, I don’t (think I) know you, or anything like that. And forgive me for perhaps shifiting away the original focus of the post.
    But there does seem to be an inconsistency in what you have written. You do critisize unilateral steps such as settlement building and expansion, as well as settlement removal (the Gaza example). But then seemingly you appear to be saying that Israel should take a series of unilateral steps before any final status agreement. On most of these steps, I agree with you, because they do not affect Israeli security, nor affect final status issues. But not on dismantling settlements ahead of time, because as I said, borders are a final status issue. If you want to claim that “well everyone knows that in the end that (I’m using examples) Beit El, Eli, and Bracha will have to be dismantled under any realistic deal anyway, so it would be good just to do that now”, then why not call on the Palestinian to do the same thing regarding refugees now as well? 90% of moderate people that I’ve spoken to and read statements from, including on the Palestinian side who support a 2-state solution, say that it would be the end of the Jewish state if Israel would allow a significant number of Palestinian refugees to return to Israel proper, and therefore it is completely unrealistic. So I think that if we claim that Israel should prepare it’s own people for an eventual 2-state solution by both announcing which settlements the eventual final borders will definitely not include, and perhaps even unilaterally dismantling them ahead of any such agrement, we can also expect a reciprocal Palestinian step – in the form of public statements and written papers and educational campaigns – to publically prepare their people for the fact the all or the high majority of Palestinian refugees will never return to pre-67 Israel.

  14. Jason, to be fair:
    1) I think this is splitting hairs. But also recognizing Israel as an explicitly Jewish state means no right of return, which is a final status issue. But interesting work by Palestinian pollsters has revealed that only 1% of Palestinians would actually take up Israeli citizenship. This is a symbollic issue only, suitable for rallying the Palestinian troops and scaring the shit out of Jews.
    2) Final borders are an open questions, yes, but Hebron for example will never be kept, nor the Jordan Valley, etc. It’s also perfectly permissable to roll back the clock to circa 1995 when Israel rapidly accelerated the pace of settlement construction, prejudicing the determination of those borders by increasing the settler population by thousands. Israel has been actively changing the border possibilities in her favor for the past 14 years, and rolling it back is good faith. Pulling them down retroactively agrees with the original agreements’ premises that settlement construction be halted in the ’90s!
    3) I’ve already explained that none of these recommendations come outside existing agreements, which is a repeated Israeli demand of Hamas, I might add. Concluding (though note not beginning) final status negotiations aren’t feasible until these intermediate steps are successful.

  15. ok KFJ. Thanks for the give and take…I agree with you more than i disagree on the majority of your points, but I do disagree on some.

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