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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

London photo: Gaza supporter


There was a big proGaza rally in central London today. I met the woman carrying this sign on the tube this evening.

I confess that I do not understand where Israel’s right to exist becomes Israel’s right to keep Palestinians in concentration camps. FYI: I’m not anti-Semitic, just anti treating people like shit.

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  • Dan Irving

    Unlike the Jews in actual concentration camps (nice false moral equivelancy there btw) the Palestinians can have this all stop when they choose to not elect leaders that want to exterminate Jews. They democratically elected Hamas – now they reap what they sow.

    You say you are anti-treating people like crap but you don’t seem to hold Palestinians to the same standards. Are they mearly barbaric children and shouldn’t be held to the same standards as western adult states?

  • Arthur

    I admire Ms. Johanson for even stepping into this mine field. I think that trying to choose which side has the moral high ground is a fool’s game: both sides are in the position where the extremists are in control, deliberately prolonging or escalating the conflict. Both sides are at fault. Yes, the Palestinian government might neutralize the extremists with the missiles. Would that then mean that Israel would accept a two-state solution, or stop building settlements on Palestinian land? Not to be a pessimist, but I think the only thing that will change things will be future demographics, when the Palestinian Israelis outnumber the Jews. Hopefully then the Israeli government will have a better relationship with Palestinians — the alternative being expulsion or apartheid.

  • David

    Look there are extremists on both sides: The Arab extremists who would
    like to exterminate the Jews and the Jewish extremists who feel that sometimes military force is necessary to protect your people.

  • David

    Since everybody else is giving their opinion on this I might as well give mine.

    We have to look at the situation clearly. Israel can’t maintain the status quo of controlling a large Arab population ruled by a terrorist organization. Israel can’t annex the West Bank and absorb the large Arab population without threatening its existence or turning into another Lebanon. Finally, Israel can’t withdraw without leaving its major population centers open to rocket attack. There is only one logical solution: Israel should offer a generous financial compensation package for Arabs to leave the West Bank while simultaneously cutting the revenue to the PA and forcing its collapse. Israel should also work to get them travel documents to Asia, South America, and Europe. It’s the best of several bad options. It’s also the most humanitarian option. If anybody has a better idea, fine, but please don’t respond to this comment unless you do.

  • Israel (and Egypt) utterly controls access to Gaza: movement of people and stuff is not under Palestinian control. Gaza is under siege. People cannot move freely. Israelis would not tolerate living under such conditions. Why should anyone else?

  • Do you think Israelis would accept any amount of financial compensation to move to another continent? Seems unlikely. So I’m not sure this is a fair or humanitarian solution.

  • Bluejay

    As long as there are people on both sides who feel this way, I think sane solutions will be difficult to come by.

  • Damian Barajas

    At this point, I look at anybody who claims to know “The solution®” as completely out of touch. (Other than the proposed two state solution, which they won’t accept anyway)

    So I look at this and wonder, Is there anything that can be done? If things continue this way, will Palestine eventually admit defeat? Can anyone stand by and whatch the consequences of that?

    I know that the religious components of the conflict only complicate an already politically complex situation, But i despair that it winds up meaning life and death for so many innocent people.

  • Danielm80

    At least once a year, someone writes an article or a petition suggesting a sane, practical way to resolve the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Almost all of the solutions sound just and humane and sensible. None of them are ever adopted.

    It’s worth noting that hardly any of these proposals are written by people who live in the Middle East.

    The real solution is for large numbers of Israelis and Palestinians to say: We’ve been living in a war zone for close to 70 years, and we don’t want to live that way anymore.

    If they really commit to finding a way to live with each other, and giving up their hostility, then even a deeply flawed peace plan has a chance of working. If they’d rather hold to their principles and keep blaming each other for the bloodshed, then even the most brilliant and honorable proposal won’t lead to a lasting solution.

    I don’t expect the conflict to end any time soon, but I would have said the same thing about Ireland a few decades ago. Sometimes hope arrives in the most unlikely places.

  • Thomas Scott Estes

    Look, I am no friend to the Israeli state but come on.
    The entire premise of guerrilla warfare, and terrorism is that you blend in to the civilian population.
    This creates an operational atmosphere where every civilian is a possible enemies. Leaving the traditional power the option of oppression or annihilation. The oppression leads to resentment of the traditional power which helps recruiting and propaganda. The inevitable casualties created by this tactic become martyrs, more evidence of the traditional power’s evil. Any civilian deaths that are clearly the guerrilla fighters fault are labeled as collaborators- and so deserving of their fate.
    Hamas tactics are eliciting exactly the response they want them to.

  • LaSargenta

    I know it has already been making the rounds on the web, but this does seem appropriate to add here… https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGagebPaoYE

  • LaSargenta

    Side note, not trying to derail.

    A note on terminology: Because of the vividness of the horrors of the holocaust, in current common discussion ‘concentration camps’ is associated with the Nazis and the Jews (mostly leaving out the Roma and Gays who made up an additional 6 million dead); however, the Japanese Internment Camps in the US — although not created with the intent of death — were also called ‘concentration camps’. So were other ‘camps’ around the world where some arbitrarily chosen ‘undesirables’ were gathered to isolate them from the rest of the ‘desirable’ population, whichever it might be.

  • LaSargenta

    This situation is far more complicated than just one or two countries or peoples.

    Israel is actually a multi-cultural society with a very complex and conflicted relationship to its history and its society.

    Here’s something that was published recently in several places (including this link to the Washington Post) that might help flesh out the complexity. (I hesitate to start referencing various things on my bookshelves, I’ll never get back to work. That goes double for referencing friends from Israel, most Jewish, some Christian (Druze), some Muslim.) If you haven’t already seen it, I found it an interesting statement of the perspective of the undersigned of the place of the IDF in the country: http://www.washingtonpost.com/posteverything/wp/2014/07/23/we-are-israeli-reservists-we-refuse-to-serve/

    It is also important to know this isn’t recent. It isn’t something that came out of thin air with David Ben-Gurion. All the borders in western Asia are directly related to the commercial-colonial division of land by the British, the French and the Russians (the Tsarist government, it was just prior to the Revolution). The Balfour Declaration made it very clear that the Zionists were being used as tools to advance an agenda that didn’t particularly care about the Zionists’s concerns of seeking a haven. There was much cynicism.

    The only sweeping statement I can make about my perspective on this conflict is that because there became a ‘homeland’ for the Jews…a Some Where Else…that the Some One Else had to fight for…the many other countries around the world, including especially the European ones and several in the Americas, especially the United States, didn’t have to address their own anti-Semitism and their governments’ records of failure to prevent the horrors or shelter the refugees. The existence of Israel is very convenient for those countries, isn’t it?

  • David

    Ahh, come on you could make a video like this for tons of places around the world.

  • David

    I will answer your question in three parts: first, I will discuss why it makes sense to offer the Arabs in Judea a relocation package rather than the Jews of Israel; second, I will discuss the practical aspects of such a proposal; Third, I will justify the proposal on moral grounds.

    First off, I want to make it clear that I do not intend for a majority of Arabs to go to Europe or South America, rather that Israel should assist them to make the whole process easier. Israel has a population of six million Jews (and 1.7 million Arabs) while Judea has a population of two million Arabs. Also, the standard of living in Israel is almost as high as the countries in Western Europe while the standard of living in the territories are significantly lower; simply put, it’s much cheaper to pay the Arabs to leave then to pay the Jews. Also, there are already 21 Arab countries while there’s only one Jewish country. Therefore, it makes more sense to inhibit the creation of a 22nd Arab country that it does the existence of the only Jewish country. Also, given the rising tide of anti-Semitism, the existence of a Jewish State is necessary for the physical security of hundreds of thousands of Jews around the world.

    Looking at it from a practical standpoint it’s important to understand a few things. About 10 to 30,000 Arabs leave Judea every year for other parts of the Middle East. At the same time, About 10 to 20,000 Jews emigrate into Israel. Numerous opinion polls have also shown that upwards of 30% of the Arabs in Judea would be willing to emigrate out of the area if they had the opportunity to do so. Furthermore, the Jewish birthrate now exceeds the Arab birth rate in the territories. Currently Israel has an 80% Jewish majority that is slowly growing. It needs to maintain about a minimum of 75% in order to avoid a breakdown of societal cohesion. This means that not every Arab in Judea has to leave. It should also be noted that the Palestinian economy is based primarily on foreign donations to the Palestinian
    Authority. If Israel were to block financing of the Palestinian Authority and force its collapse that would lead to a significant downgrade in the Arabs standard of living that would greatly encourage them to seek greener pastures elsewhere are. Furthermore, if Israel were to completely eliminate the Palestinian Authority and take care of physical security in the area that would prevent Arab terrorists from murdering people for “collaborating” with the Jews in taking the deal.

    The moral argument for this policy is even more compelling. From the
    Arabs standpoint this would mean no more checkpoints, no more roadblocks, no more living in a conflict zone (Most of the Arabs would likely go to the gulf in search of greater economic opportunity). Without being in close proximity to
    Israel they would no longer feel the need to engage in constant conflict with the Israelis, conflict that inhibits their ability to prosper. From the Israeli perspective, this would mean no longer ruling over a large hostile Arab population. This would mean defensible borders. The green line is completely arbitrary and does not take into account Topographical features. By contrast, the Jordan Valley would be a far more natural border because it would act as a natural barrier to terrorist attacks, infiltration, and aggression. Lastly, given the fact that the Arabs have been trying to exterminate/ethnically cleanse the Jews for the last hundred years, given the fact that Arab Muslims are currently ethnically cleansing the region’s Christians, And given the PLO’s role in ethnically cleansing hundreds of thousands of Lebanese Christians they would hardly be in a position to claim the strategy as beyond the pale.

    This solution is not perfect but I believe the problems are policy
    challenges rather than conceptual issues, unlike the Two-State Solution (really a 23 state solution) that has been an unmitigated failure for nearly 80 years.

  • David

    The British were the first ones to create concentration camps in South Africa during the Boer War. A fact that German diplomats repeatedly reminded the world of to deflect criticism.

  • David

    For those of us who support Israel we can be very sensitive to criticism because so much of it is designed to undermine Israel’s existence. I react very differently to criticism depending on whether it’s designed to correct a current policy or whether it’s designed to claim that Israel is uniquely evil and should be destroyed. It should be remembered that Israel is the single most hated and despised country in the world. No other country faces such an array of threats from terrorism, conventional war, WMDs, economic boycotts, diplomatic hostility, and ideological undermining. For many of us it’s impossible not to see parallels to the 1930s.

  • Danielm80

    And your point is?

    The problem isn’t any less serious if it isn’t unique. In fact, if war and hostility are commonplace, that makes them worse. If we were discussing crime in New York or hunger in Africa, would you say, “Ahh, come on, there’s crime and hunger in tons of places around the world”?

    Bluejay’s point is that, even if you come up with a creative solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (say, inventing a shuttle that will take all the Palestinians to a nice, new home), that solution has to be accepted by the people involved. And so far, the people involved are more interested in defending their claim to the land than they are in reaching a compromise.

  • David

    I was referring to what I see as this perception that there is something about this region that inherently leads to conflict. A common refrain that I have heard is some variation of, “they’ve been killing each other for thousands of years why should today be different?” The point I was trying to make is that the same could have been said about most places on Earth. One hundred years ago who would have thought that Western Europe would go 70 years without fighting a war. If you want to talk about long running conflicts: Britain and France were in a near constant state of war for almost 700 years but they eventually made peace. There’s no reason the same couldn’t hold true for the Middle East, provided we approach it realistically and not base policy on fantasy.

  • David

    One of the most interesting developments of recent years has been the dramatic integration of Israel’s Arab community. This has been most pronounced among Christians but even Israeli Muslims are looking around at the region and realizing that things are actually pretty good in Israel. Christian Arabs have begun joining the IDF in significantly larger numbers (300% increase in the last two years) and Muslims now support some form of national service in large majorities. It really is a very positive development, one of the few in recent years.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    You forgot to include any kind of means test. Someone is going to have to pony up the cash for this plan. Does Israel have that kind of money, even as a top 50 nation in GDP? Do you even know what it would cost?

    Also, given that your “practicality” argument relies on essentially starving out the PA (and thus the population under its authority), and then insinuating some kind of benevolent occupation force (and we know how well that tends to work out), I’m not sure your plan can claim quite the moral high ground you’d like it to.

  • David

    Let’s say $10,000 per Arab, with 2 million Arabs that comes to $20 billion. Pricey, yes; but possible. Also, my plan doesn’t require all the Arabs to relocate. Next point, nobody would starve under my plan. Basic necessities like food and water can be distributed via NGOs. There would be no mass starvation or humanitarian crisis. But yes, the standard of living would significantly go down and they would lack electricity and many other services. If you’ve got a better idea I’d love to hear it.

  • Beowulf

    Was it KENTUCKY FRIED MOVIE, where the Israelis traded their country for a state like Arizona? “Now we can have heat but not humidity.”

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Well, Dave, I’ll give you this: you are delightfully naive.

    First your population estimate is way low. There are ~2M Arabs (I’ll let you just conflate Arab and Palestinian) living in Israel. Twice that number are living in Gaza and the West Bank. In order to maintain your magic number of 75% Jewish population (again conflating Jewish and Israeli), then whatever regions Israel takes control of will either have to be emptied of Arabs, or you’ll have to add relocating Israeli Arabs into the mix. So, just to retake the West Bank, you’re talking nearly 3 million people. Every last one of them. And that still leaves the problem of Gaza. A similar solution adds almost 2M more people.

    Next, you’re talking about a humanitarian package 3 times larger than the sum total of humanitarian aid Palestinians received over the entire first decade of the 21st century. All at once. Unless this is Israel’s $20B (in which case, why bother us with it), that will be a feat of historic proportions. And of course, the actual population you want to move is at least half-again more than your estimate.

    And all this is assuming your per capita cost isn’t hilariously lowballed. You’ve budgeted $10k a head to: pack these people’s lives up; feed, clothe, shelter, and care for their medical needs during transition (which starts as soon as you attempt to starve out the PA/Hamas); transport them, en masse (you really don’t want this process to drag out over years or decades); build them new homes (yes, you’re on the hook for that); provide them assistance with establishing new livelihoods (yes, that too); oh, and pay off the governments and populations of the country or countries you send them to (because that’s how this world works). It would not surprise me if your estimate was off by at least an order of magnitude, possibly 2.

    I really don’t see why I have to explain to you that starving a government (and causing its collapse) results in its people starving. The functioning Palestinian governments are struggling to feed their people. NGOs can’t work magic. Part of me suspects that you just don’t care.

    No, I’m not going to play that game with you. Partly because I don’t have the hubris to think I can even scratch the surface of solving a decades-old political Gordian knot on an internet thread.

  • Tonio Kruger

    As much as I would like to blame the British, they were not necessarily the first. The Spaniards used concentration camps in Cuba during the Cuban War for Independence (1895-1898) and even the U.S. (?!) used concentration camps during the Philippine–American War (1899–1902). One historian has even suggested that concentration camps were used by the Russians in Poland in the eighteenth century during one of Poland’s many rebellions against Russian control. (Yes, I know. That must be a real shocker to anyone who knows something about Russian history.)

    The British did popularize the use of the term “concentration camp” during the Second Boer War (1899–1902), but ironically, their use was so downplayed by later generations that it was not until the release of the 1980 Australian movie Breaker Morant that such a development was actively acknowledged by Anglo-American pop culture. And even now I suspect there are a lot of anglophiles who would like to believe that part of the movie was a complete fiction.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Fair or humanitarian compared to what?

    The current status quo?

    The fair and humanitarian solution we gave South Vietnamese refugees after the Fall of Saigon?

    Or Cuban refugees after the ascension of Castro?

    Or East European and Russian refugees after World War II?

    Or the one we are currently giving to Iraqi Christians trying to escape a political situation that has been ironically worsened by the American occupation of Iraq? (I must admit that I was a bit surprised to see the French being more pro-active in that situation than my fellow Americans but then given the current American administration’s reaction to recent events on the Mexican border…)

  • Bluejay

    And please don’t get me started on how ironic it is that we seem to worry more about the lives of would-be terrorists than we do about would-be allies…

    Well, let’s see. To date, the death toll for our would-be allies in this current spate of violence stands at 56 soldiers and 3 civilians.

    The death toll for the “would-be terrorists” stands at 1,363, plus 7,680 injured. According to a recent UN report, the dead consist of 73% civilians — including 100+ women and 200+ children — and only 14% official, armed, actual terrorists.

    All the deaths on both sides are horrible, of course. But in terms of casualties, Tonio, which side do you think we should be more concerned about at the moment?

    Of course, by labeling an entire civilian population “would-be terrorists,” we can persuade ourselves we don’t need to worry about their casualties all that much. Good strategy!

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Tonio, you’re a smart guy, which I assume is why you’re marking the kind of dumb rhetorical statements with ellipses.

  • Danielm80


    It’s horrifying to see Israelis attack a school. Any reasonable person would be disgusted by it. It’s also horrifying to realize that Hamas supporters are deliberately storing weapons in and around schools and mosques and other civilian areas.

    The Israeli military could say, “We’re taking the moral high ground. We will never attack a school or a mosque or a home.” And if it does, rockets will be fired at Israeli civilians. They may be fired directly out of those schools and mosques and homes.

    Israelis could say, “We’re going to allow that to happen. Most of those rockets probably won’t actually harm anyone.” But then, when some of those rockets did hit their targets, they would have to explain to families why their loved ones were killed when the deaths could have been prevented.

    I don’t defend all of the actions of Israelis in this war, or in the war before that, or in the conflicts that began before the existence of the state. But in this instance, it’s very easy for me to sympathize with Israelis making difficult moral decisions, and it’s very easy for me to call the members of Hamas terrorists.

  • Bluejay

    It seems to me the Israelis could also say, “We’ll uncover these weapons caches through UN inspections” [which is how they were discovered, according to the WaPo article you linked to] “rather than conduct a military strike on a school with 3,000 refugees.”

    I have no problem, either, with calling the members of Hamas terrorists. I just have a problem with it bleeding over into contempt or disregard for the civilian population.

    What a mess.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Touché. I think…

  • Tonio Kruger

    First of all, I am not necessarily talking about Israelis when I refer to would-be allies. There are a lot of people around the world who could use our help as much as the Palestinians and I don’t consider it particularly kind or humane to ignore that fact.

    Even if I were solely talking about the Israelis, this is hardly the first round in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. I’m sure there have been numerous Israelis who have lost friends and kinfolk to the activities of Palestinian terrorists but for some reason, we’re not supposed to count those casualties even though they are very likely influencing Israel strategy in the current conflict. I find this especially odd when I consider the fact that most than a few British folk who post on this forum have expressed negative opinions about the IRA that are similar to feelings that most Israelis must have about the Palestinians.

    Second of all, if an enemy chooses to repeatedly use people in civilian dress to take out civilians on the other side of the conflict, would it really be smart to ignore that strategy? If you deliberately choose a military strategy that encourages the enemy to see every man, woman and child as a potential threat, isn’t it stupid to pretend such people will not be labeled “would-be terrorists”?

    Personally, I would like to see a peaceful end to the current conflict as well. But I’m not convinced that we’re heading in the proper direction to achieve that goal. We seem to have this odd notion that convincing Israelis to trust their lives to the kindness of strangers is a good idea — and yet recent Jewish history would seem to suggest that that is the last thing they should be doing.

    The only concession that the Israelis have made in the last half-century that has not come back to haunt them has been the Camp David Accords and a lot of that is due to the fact that not even the most militant Egyptian nationalist sees an upside to another war between Egypt and Israel. The Palestinians, needless to say, seem to have no such problems with another conflict between them and Israel. Or at least none that I know of.

    But then I’m stupid…

  • Tonio Kruger

    As author Harry Turtledove would say, no peace plan survives contact with the enemy.

    And since I’m one of the people who gave Danielm80’s post an up-vote, I hope you all don’t hold that against him. I suspect his views on the current conflict are a lot wiser than mine.

  • Tonio Kruger

    Or worse yet, the Crusader States.

    (I know, Doctor Rocketscience. I should just shut up now. Far better to stay silent and risk being thought a fool… But, alas, that ship has sailed, that bird has flown, that rocketship has launched…)

  • Bluejay

    I don’t have easy answers, Tonio. I’m just looking at the numbers: as of Day 24, there are 1,472 dead. 64 of those, or 4%, are Israelis. 1,408 of those, or 96%, are Palestinians: hundreds of them women and children, and three-quarters of whom were NOT trying to kill anybody.

    If I know that my enemy’s strategy is to encourage me to kill thousands of innocent men, women and children, I’m not so sure I should oblige.

    Okay, yeah, I know: it’s not that simple, there are lots of murky and morally gray issues, there are rockets being fired my way, I have to defend myself. But even so, with a casualty ratio of 4% to 96%, I’d say I’m doing a comparatively good job of defending myself. Maybe I have a little leeway to try to figure out how to make it so that the vast majority of that 96% aren’t innocent civilians. At least if I want to claim the moral high ground in this conflict.

    And how would I go about it? Hell if I know. As I said, I don’t have easy answers. Just extreme moral discomfort, I suppose.

  • Danielm80

    Reportedly, UN inspectors have found weapons and then handed them over to the “Gazan authorities” who were responsible for hiding them in the first place.

  • Tonio Kruger

    I don’t have any easy answers, either, Bluejay, and it seems that you have done your homework on this issue far more than most of the people who have been commenting on this issue — including myself, I suspect, and certain celebrities I could mention.

    As I write this post, the whole issue seems to becoming academic since the Israelis seem to be withdrawing right now. Then again we had a ceasefire over there just a few days ago and we all saw how that went.

    Wiser people than I have tried to solve the Palestinian problem and failed. Since I suspect I have both Arab and Jewish ancestors in my family tree — not to mention the fact that I have half-Jewish relatives who are still alive and well — I would like to see an end to that conflict in my lifetime. However, I suspect my late sister’s children are more likely to see a resolution to the conflict than I am.

    Then again there was a time four decades ago when peace between Egypt and Israel seemed unlikely…

  • Bluejay

    it seems that you have done your homework on this issue far more than most of the people who have been commenting on this issue

    My homework consisted of reading some articles on the NY Times and NPR websites. I”m sure there are plenty of commenters here with more in-depth knowledge of this sad affair than I.

    My thoughts are with my Jewish friends and my daughter’s Muslim friends who are in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv right now. I wish them all safety, from all the killing machines and from hatred and from fear.

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