The Anguish of Progressive Israelis

June 2nd, 2010 at 8:47 am David Frum | 118 Comments |

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On display here in this op-ed in today’s New York Times by Amos Oz.

His big idea:

Thus, the only way for Israel to edge out Hamas would be to quickly reach an agreement with the Palestinians on the establishment of an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as defined by the 1967 borders, with its capital in East Jerusalem. Israel has to sign a peace agreement with President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah government in the West Bank — and by doing so, reduce the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a conflict between Israel and the Gaza Strip. That latter conflict, in turn, can be resolved only by negotiating with Hamas or, more reasonably, by the integration of Fatah with Hamas.

To edit even tighter: Step 1 – do a peace deal with Fatah. Step 2 – build on that deal by persuading (“more reasonably”!) Hamas to merge with Fatah.

How is it that Times editors — even Oz himself  – fail to notice the utter non-feasibility of this program? What’s Step 3? Build the Emerald City of Oz in Jerusalem?

This kind of talk reminds me of an old shtetl joke.

Shlomo the carpenter has an unmarriageable son. The village matchmaker arrives to suggest a bride: the daughter of the millionaire Rothschild in Vienna. Shlomo is skeptical. Don’t the Rothschilds live very far away? No worry, answers the matchmaker, they are rich, they can afford train tickets. Aren’t the Rothschilds very assimilated? No, you are thinking of the London Rothschilds, the Viennese Rothschilds keep a very strict kosher. And so on. At last the carpenter assents: “Very well, proceed with my blessing.”

The matchmaker exults: “That’s half the job done.”

So congratulations NYT: Half your job is done. Amos Oz is ready for Israel to live in peace alongside a Palestinian neighbor. Now all you have to do is find someone in Hamas to write an equivalent op-ed on the other side.

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118 Comments so far ↓

  • easton

    I can give you many very harsh statements by Hamas in Arabic in the Arab news media. Now unless you are saying that they are being misquoted in the Arab media, you really don’t have much of a leg to stand on.

    I lived in China as well and read and write Mandarin, I am well acquainted with the Chinese media saying one thing to American and another to Chinese, the Arabs do the same thing. Do you really want me to bombard you with links and videos proving this. As I have said, I have spent the past 15 years living in the third world. One reason I do this is to learn the languages and the people. Hamas is simply not a viable partner for peace, Abu Mazen and Fatah OTOH are about as good as Israel can get.

    And as I said, Netanyahu is a reactive hack and a joke, the sooner he is gone the better. Hopefully this fiasco will be the end of him.

  • tommybones

    What you are missing is that your position is a guarantee that we will never have a peace plan. If you insist that Hamas will never relent until Israel is destroyed, then you are basically saying we are in a fight to the death and the very idea of a peace plan is pointless. Again, neither side has earned the other side’s trust, but it needs to begin with agreement on a base level framework, like the 2002 plan. Netanyahu has flatly rejected that framework. So why would Hamas agree to Israeli demands if they know the current administration has no interest in even discussing Hamas’s demands?

  • tommybones

    Look, we can trade “harsh statements” for hours, but that won’t accomplish anything. There are enough despicable statements to go around. I’ve posted numerous despicable and inhumane admissions from Israeli spokesman on this thread already.

  • tommybones

    Neither side does themselves any favors with extreme rhetoric, but we must also understand the posturing involved on both sides. It seems our biggest disagreement isn’t with the parameters of the agreement, which has us in the ballpark, it’s with how to start the process. You demand that Hamas essentially agree to Israel’s demands prior to even sitting at the negotiating table. I don’t see why Hamas would ever do such a thing. They both need to make an effort. That’s been my point all along.

  • easton

    “My point is it is impossible to rely on random translations.” These are not random translations. This is in Arabic itself, I can not help it if you don’t know Arabic. What can I say but learn it. Now maybe my Arabic is rusty (and it is, it has been many years since I lived with my Moroccan family) but I am not stupid. I have lived in these societies, I understand how the propaganda works. You manifestly don’t. I am sorry that is so, but it is so.

    And my position is not one that guarantees there will never be a peace plan. Israel should negotiate with Fatah on the West Bank, and let Fatah declare independence, and then fund the hell out of them, turn the West Bank into a Capitalist Mecca. Hamas will eventually crumble, and if not, then so be it. 3/4 peace is better than no peace.

  • tommybones

    The most detailed polling of Palestinians, by the University of Maryland, found that 72 percent want a two-state solution on the 1967 borders, while fewer than 20 percent want to reclaim the whole of historic Palestine. So, partly in response to this pressure, Hamas offered Israel a long ceasefire and a de facto acceptance of two states, if only Israel would return to its legal borders. That is a HUGE majority opinion, which cannot be discounted. It’s a clear signal that the Palestinian people are firmly behind a Saudi-style plan.

    Rather than seize this opportunity and test their sincerity, the Israeli government reacted by punishing the entire civilian population. They announced they were blockading the Gaza Strip in order to “pressure” its people to reverse the democratic process. They surrounded the Strip and refused to let anyone or anything out. They let in a small trickle of food, fuel and medicine – but not enough for survival.

    It’s moves like that which exacerbate the problem.

  • tommybones

    lol. Believe me, I read Frum Forum every day, so I am fully aware of how propaganda works.

  • easton

    “You demand that Hamas essentially agree to Israel’s demands prior to even sitting at the negotiating table.” No, I don’t. I demand Hamas recognize Israel’s right to exist (and sorry, but a hudna هدنة doesn’t cut it.) Maybe temporarily, but international law and the UN doesn’t recognize this. A Hudna is only temporary and allows Hamas to rip up any previous agreement at any time. Nothing is permanent. Look, read the Arabic history. According to Umdat as-Salik, a medieval summary of Shafi’i jurisprudence, hudnas with a non-Muslim enemy should be limited to 10 years: “if Muslims are weak, a truce may be made for ten years if necessary, for the Prophet made a truce with the Quraysh for that long, as is related by Abu Dawud”

    You simply lack the framework of understanding Muslim culture. You view the world through Western eyes.

  • tommybones

    Stop condescending to me based on your allegedly spending a few months in Morocco. Anyway, you already posted the SF Gate article where the spokesman said Hamas would agree to the Saudi plan based on a two state solution. That means they respect Israel’s Right To Exist (TM). What exactly do you want?

  • tommybones

    Truce’s are always inherently finite. The goal is a truce, leading to a peace plan.

  • tommybones

    I think we’re going in circles at this point. I’ve got to finish packing for my trip. Have a nice night and I’m sure we’ll meet again on the boards.


  • easton

    And what you call extreme rhetoric is not rhetoric to these people, it is based on Islamic law. You simply do not understand the accurate description of the term hudna, in its religious, historical and modern contexts.

    Hamas is nothing like Fatah (not that Fatah doesn’t have its own extreme elements). Hamas is driven by Islamic ideology of the most extreme sort. You simply can not trust what they say to westerners because it is not Haram حرام to lie to Westerners. (forbidden) in order to achieve ones aims. From the Hadith: Bukhari (49:857) – “He who makes peace between the people by inventing good information or saying good things, is not a liar.” Lying is permitted when the end justifies the means.

  • easton

    Yes, I should be ashamed of understanding Arabic culture and the Koran and to then use the truth, you are right, it is condescending to tell someone something that they don’t know, better to let them dwell in ignorance. But keep clinging to the straw of what they said in the SF Gate article as being the real truth.

  • easton

    Muslims are allowed to lie to unbelievers in order to defeat them. The two forms are:

    Taqiyya تقية – Saying something that isn’t true, ie lying.

    Kitman كتمان – Lying by omission. An example would be when apologists quote only a fragment of verse 5:32 (that if anyone kills “it shall be as if he had killed all mankind”) while neglecting to mention that the rest of the verse (and the next) that mandate murder

    Oh wait, I am sorry, I am condescendingly using facts based on the actual wording of the Koran.

    But you are right, what they are saying in Arabic to Arabs are all lies, but what they say to Westerners is the absolute truth because secretly they are not Muslims but Buddhists.

  • Landseer

    Help me out, Easton
    When you suggest that you can at least read Arabic (although you admit it’s a little “rusty”) is that Taqiyya or Kitman?

  • Slide

    What is that old saying easton, “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing”?

  • easton

    Landseer, that is pretty funny. I stayed with a Moroccan family back in the 80′s, renting a room and teaching English. For most of my adult life I have lived abroad, what I originally considered my 7 year plans, living in a country for 7 years and then moving on, but it hasn’t exactly been that. I lived with my Moroccan family for a few years, stayed in China for 6 1/2 years and have been in Mexico for 5. As far as reading goes, Chinese was the most difficult by far and even after all that time I never mastered more than a few thousand characters. In Comparison, learning the Arabic alphabet is easy. The problem with living in Morocco is the prevalence of French everywhere which makes things pretty lazy, I don’t speak French but most of us can guess the words meaning on street signs, etc. and the Moroccan family I stayed at had 3 kids, a baby and two kids, Zohair and Sarah. Zohair insisted on being called Mike after Michael Jordon. Unfortunately Zohair’s English improved far, far more quickly than my Arabic and I could never speak it for shit so I relied on him for translation, but Reading is different. Now if you want I can go into long disquisitions about the respective languages. Obviously, reading is easiest in Spanish, but it might interest you to know that Chinese grammar is much easier than Spanish or Arabic, it doesn’t conjugate verbs beyond le and guo as in as in ni chi guo le ma?
    Where I lived though most people spoke Wu and said nong qi qu le va? But they are both written the same.

    Look, I am not going to hide my life experiences. It doesn’t make me an expert but it makes me more of an expert than people who say “Hamas accepted the Saudi peace plan.” and when I show them the English translation that they reject it, they claim, I don’t trust the translation, and when I then show it to to them in Arabic in Arabic media they say they don’t speak Arabic so don’t trust that either.

  • easton

    I also want to add Wu is pretty much incomprehensible, it is a really fast spoken language and when my wife calls home to speak to her family I am at a complete loss. I must admit I like Mandarin more (and it is more useful) and the words don’t blend together, it is similar with Arabic in that the words are more distinct than Wu which I gave up trying to learn even though it was the language everyone spoke on the streets. If you want to truly learn Mandarin, only move to Beijing or Harbin (their mandarin is melliflous, without the guttaral R’s prevalent in Beijing)

    And slide, what do you mean? You move abroad and live in another society for years and learn the language and culture and customs as best as you can and afterwards tell me that you only learned a little, and that little knowledge is somehow dangerous. Do you prefer to remain in utter ignorance? Didn’t we have 8 years of that with Bush?