Monday, August 25, 2014

You be the judge, The borders of Israel

According to Taonga, the two Anglican and one Roman Catholic bishops of Auckland have issued a joint statement about the situation in Israel/Palestine/Gaza. Much of it is unobjectionable but it includes this:

"we, Bishop Patrick Dunn and Bishop Ross Bay, on behalf of the Catholic and Anglican communities in Auckland, call on Israel to return to its pre-1967 borders as a pre-requisite for dialogue to establish a lasting and just settlement in the Holy Land."

Now, I might be a bit too hazy about these borders, but I think that such a call, if acted upon, would be tantamount to a suicide note by Israel as a nation. Hence, understandably, Israel has not heeded this call for nearly fifty years.

Now, perhaps we do not think that Israel should exist. Perhaps we now regret the establishment of Israel by the UN (not least since, let's face it, the establishment contributed to the fundamental distortion of justice these past sixty or so years viewed from a Palestinian perspective). But if that is the case, then let's say that.

But if that is not our view. If we think that Israel has the right to exist as a nation then we should - when going public in this way - acknowledge what will contribute to continuing existence rather than its opposite. Further, if Israel should exist as a nation then we should ask the whole world, including Palestine to formally recognise the existence of the State of Israel. (No such call is made in the bishops' statement). Surely that is as much a 'pre-requisite for dialogue to establish a lasting and just settlement in the Holy Land' as any other pre-requisite?

But maybe my thinking is up the gumtree. What do you think?


Father Ron Smith said...

Peter. I entirely agree with your thoughts on this. Israel has a right to exist. One thing it must do, is be prepared to co-exist with its Arab neighbours. But then, it takes two to tango.

Hamas will need to stop its seemingly insistent desire to provoke its larger neighbour before any meaningful talks for co-existence can continue.

The ball is in both their courts.

Paul Powers said...

Perhaps it would have been fairer to force W and E Germany to cede territory for a Jewish state after WW2, but that's not what happened, and it's too late to un-ring the bell now. The bishops are probably right that the Israelis will eventually have to withdraw from most of the West Bank (perhaps not all since UN Security Council Resolution 242 states that every state in the region has the right to secure and recognized borders, and it's debatable whether the pre-1967 border would be secure). Where the bishops are wrong, in my opinion, is their insistence that it be done as a prerequisite to negotiations. Instead, it should be part of an overall peace treaty between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

People seem to forget that from 1948-1967, the Palestinians and their Arab brothers and sisters were unwilling to tolerate a Jewish state on one square centimeter of the Holy Land. What has changed since then to make the Israelis believe they are willing to tolerate it now?

carl jacobs said...

The '67 borders are strategically unsustainable. No Israeli gov't could ever agree to return within them. That train left the station 50 years ago. There are just some givens on this situation that must be accepted.

1. The Israelis will not surrender control of the border at the Jordan River.

2. The Israelis will not surrender control of the resources - especially water.

3. The Israelis will not surrender control of the air space.

4. The Israelis will never allow a credible potentially hostile military force on the West Bank.

That's where you must begin. It means the Palestinians are not ever going to get a state in the conventional sense of the word. What that means is that there is no fair and equitable outcome to this problem. In terms of national aspiration, the Palestinians are pretty much devoid of any viable options west of the Jordan river. The Israelis don't want it, they have the power to stop it, and there is no force on Earth that will make them change their mind.

And let's run through a little thought experiment. Suppose the Israelis were to give the Palestinians everything they want, and then prove themselves false. The Israelis would be faced with fighting yet another bloody war of conquest just to restore the status quo ante they had previously surrendered. What possible reason do they have to take such a risk?

This problem is intractable. The fundamental difficulty is that Muslim culture rejects non-Muslim sovereignty over what it considers Muslim land. The root of the issue is Muslim rejectionism, and that won't be solved this mythical two-state solution. It will only be exacerbated.

So what then? If I'm the Israelis, I keep my boot firmly on the Palestinian throat until they accept the reality of the situation. I would not let my people be killed at some low level burn rate simply to assuage Palestinian feelings of humiliation. That's where in fact where things are, and that is where things will stay - bishops letters not withstanding.


MIchael Reddell said...

Entirely agree with you Peter. I would do beyond that tho: if the pre 1967 borders are sacrosanct (and if so, why the original 1940s UN-approved borders?) it is important to remember that Gaza and the West Bank were then part of Egypt and Jordan respectively. I'm sure I've not heard anyone suggesting that those two states - both somewhat more stable entities than the Palestinian Authority or Hamas - resume full effective svoereignty of their territories.

The bishops also appear to be ruling out any sort of "just war", in any circumstances, ever. A reasonable personal view perhaps, but hardly one that has commanded universal assent in the Church.

Finally, they observe that "the Israeli bombing and missiles and the Hamas rockets targeted at civilian populations is a grave moral evil." Had such "targeting" happened it might well be a grave moral evil, but I'm not sure evidence has yet emerged of such deliberate targeting of civilian populations. Had Israel done so then, morality aside, it would also have been foolhardy in terms of maintaining any international sympathy for its position.

MIchael Godfrey said...

I was always pleasantly entertained by the Australian solution:

Anonymous said...

We are appalled and angered by the bishops’ joint statement. It is arrogant, ignorant and smacks of antisemitism.

It is arrogant: the bishops have issued a joint statement on a highly controversial issue; they do not speak on behalf of us all and their statement should have reflected this.

It is ignorant: the ‘1967 Green Line’ is in fact the '1949 armistice line'. It is the place at which Jordan and the fledgling State of Israel ceased hostilities concluding an aggressive war launched by Arab armies in defiance of the expressed will of the international community. In 1949, Israel signed a series of armistice agreements with all four bordering Arab states, the bishops mistakenly refer to these as the ‘1967 borders’. These ceasefire lines did not demarcate political borders; they were simply the points at which Israel had been able to beat back the pan-Arab army. This distinction was explicitly stated in all the armistice agreements – in the Jordan-Israel agreement this was at the specific request of Jordan. It is beyond belief that the bishops would ask Israel to withdraw to indefensible, insecure borders while they are under attack from a terror organisation whose founding document calls for the ethnic cleansing of every Jew from the Jordan to the Sea and while the PA equivocates and obfuscates.

It smacks of antisemitism: which other nation have the bishops insisted redraw its borders in such a way that the nation becomes entirely indefensible? Can the bishops give evidence of similar action they have taken in regards to a border dispute? Why have they chosen Israel? Why now? Around the world there are several egregious breaches of sovereignty (which the Israel/West Bank dispute is clearly not) that they could have become indignant about (Turkey/Cyprus springs to mind) … so our questions remain, why Israel? Why now?

The Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs has a very interesting book (free and downloadable) called, ‘Israel’s rights as a nation-state in international diplomacy’. It is an edited book with chapters by highly qualified and internationally recognised experts in their fields; it is well worth reading.

Rev Arthur and Sue Comery. Orewa

Janice said...

I think bishops should shut up about politics, particularly world politics.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the Pope and Archbishop of Canterbury can properly have something meaningful to contribute; but three antipodean bishops? They should keep their croziers to themselves.


Andrew Reid said...

Living in Egypt, I'm a bit closer to the action than New Zealand bishops and other commentators and the outcomes of any actions affect us directly. Ongoing conflict next door with the potential to spill over the border focuses the mind more sharply than from half a world away.

Firstly, to inject some theology into the debate, we worship and serve a just God who calls us, and especially those entrusted with leadership, to be just. You can't pretend to be just and then state that some people deserve to exist more than others. You have to search for a solution where both groups are able to exist with peace and security.

The other theological point to keep in mind is God's particular concern for the oppressed (eg Pslam 10). Just as he heard Israel's cry when they were slaves in Egypt, today he hears the cry of those who are oppressed and crushed. I invite us all to reflect on who is the oppressed and who is the oppressor in this situation.

On a more strategic point, Israel has always said they are ready to negotiate a deal if they can be guaranteed peace and security. There is already an offer on the table (Arab Peace Initiative) for peace, security and recognition by all Arab states in return for a return to '67 borders with mutual land swaps for those areas they can't leave. Israel's continued refusal to conclude a deal shows that they want to pursue the path of dispossession and elimination of Palestinians rather than peaceful co-existence.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrew
Thank you for injecting the reality of life as a neighbour to the situation, to say nothing of a theological perspective.

My first question is whether Hamas is a party to the Peace Initiative (and whether, if ISIS establishes itself, ISIS would be a party to it)? [I trust Egypt and Jordan to be faithful parties to any treaty which was concluded along the Peace Initiative lines].

An second point, an observation, is that while it seems inherently unjust to talk about the right of one people to exist in a place more than another people, isn't that precisely the situation which occurred when the UN agreed to the establishment of Israel in land which Jews had no intrinsic right to possess (save for some kind of amalgam of theology and ancient history)?

That is, until and unless every Arab leader and especially Palestinian leaders acknowledge and recognise the fundamental asymmetry in the very existence of Israel as a state, relative to the intrinsic right of Palestinians to have what they already possessed, is there not a continuing sense in which the ongoing preference for existence of Israel over Palestine is a stumbling block to peace and justice?

I am at one with you, the bishops in Auckland, and people of goodwill everywhere in wanting what God wants: peace and justice for Jews and Arabs, for Israelis and Palestinians. Perhaps one day we will get there by reversion to the pre 1967 borders. But that,in my view, is not possible in the foreseeable future as long as Hamas fires rockets at its neighbour.

Father Ron Smith said...

Michael Godfrey said...
"I was always pleasantly entertained by the Australian solution: "

The Aussie solution would sound fine, Michael - except that the Jews do have a particular attachment to their ancestral homeland. Having been granted possession by an international authority, they are, naturally, reluctant to be moved again.

The real problem, though, is that the Palestinians had also - before the Jewish resettlement - had a legitimate claim to live in Palestine.

What can any international court now do to ensure peace & justice for both families of people?

Andrew W said...

Remember that the post WWI "British Mandate" partition of the Ottoman Empire allocated a large area of land east of the Jordan (Transjordan) for an Arab state and a smaller area west of the Jordan as Palestine. Prior to this, there had already been significant clashes between the Arab majority (~ 600k people) and Jewish minority (~80k people). Post 1920, the Jewish population increased through immigration as Jews left (sometimes voluntarily, sometimes not) neighbouring middle-eastern states and resettled in Palestine.

Meanwhile, the various Arab allotments became nations and showed little interest in accepting Arab immigrants from Palestine.

Talking pre 1940, two things are clearly true:
- the Arabs living in what came to be known as "Palestine" / "Israel" weren't pleased to have their land designated as a homeland for a local minority.
- none of the neighbouring nations made significant efforts to accommodate Palestinian Arabs unhappy with the proposals within their (larger?) allotments, though many expelled Jews from their own lands. They were, however, happy to annex parts of the "Jewish" allotment as part of their own areas.

carl jacobs said...

Andrew Reid

You can't pretend to be just and then state that some people deserve to exist more than others

No one is denying the Palestinians the ability to exist. There is no necessary correlation between existence of a group and that group possessing a piece of land over which it is sovereign. The world is full of ethnic groups who have long demanded their own state (the Kurds, the Basques) and bishops are not writing pretentious letters about their sad oppression. A group does not get a nation simply because it stomps its foot and demands one. But one group does seem to get an inordinate amount of attention in the Western world for doing just that.

You can agitate all you want about "peace" and "security" and "mutual recognition." Land is a tangible asset. Words on a page are not. This isn't a situation like de-militarizing Sinai. Losing control of the West Bank would compromise the viability of Israel, and that isn't going to be fixed by some minor border adjustments. You are asking the Israelis to expose themselves to grievous risk on the basis of an Arab promise. If the Arabs choose to renege on that promise, the Israelis would have to deal a severely compromised security environment. You may say "The Israelis are the stronger. They can afford the risk for peace." Easy for you to say. I think it's a fool's bet. I would never so expose my own citizens.

If the Palestinians want peace, then the Palestinians have to prove it by submitting to Israeli sovereignty. Otherwise, they can live behind the wall.


Andrew Reid said...

Thank you Carl and Peter for your comments. Just briefly in response:
- At the most recent restatement of this peace initiative a few years ago, Hamas and the PA had agreed to a unity govt and this unified group were a party to the initiative. Of course, they then fell to their usual infighting and the unity govt fell apart which left the initiative somewhat meaningless. A unified Palestinian authority is a pre-requisite to any peace deal, rather than a roadblock.
- The original UN partition plan, even though it dispossessed Palestinians, at least envisaged Palestinian territories where they be self-governing and independent (under Egyptian and Jordanian sovereignty). It did not envisage Israel occupying and or laying siege to the territories.
- The Palestinians are different from the Kurds or Basques in that they had a recognised territory from which they were dispossessed. There were also numerous internationally agreed settlements setting out the borders of these territories, which have been ignored because Israel (with foreign backing) does not accept them.
- Losing the West Bank would not compromise Israel's viability, just like withdrawing from Gaza didn't affect its viability. The Palestinians have already volunteered concessions regarding limits on arming themselves and controlling borders, which I am sure Israel and the international community will enthusiastically enforce.
- The Palestinians submit every day to Israeli sovereignty at those ghastly checkpoints, at their mistreatment by security forces and as they watch civilians die in Israeli shelling and air strikes. The issue isn't whether Palestinians want peace, it's whether Israel wants it. Their actions to date show that they want to eliminate Palestine and the Palestinians.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Andrew
I have thought, rightly or wrongly, that Israel's negativity towards Palestine/Palestinians is part of a vicious circle: continued suicide bombs and such have led Israel to try to prise Palestinians and Israelis apart (walls,checkpoints); continued exertion of Israel's sovereignty has led Palestinians to feel more and more frustrated and thus to continuing violent responses including tunnelling to get under walls; such responses have led to (e.g.) the present conflict.

If we try to describe the circle before the suicide bombings we eventually get back to 1947 and partition ...

Or, am I wrong?

Andrew W said...

Jew-Arab violence with Palestine had been going on for at over half a century before 1947, perhaps more, instigated by both sides. The Balfour plan divided the land Britain inherited from the Ottoman Empire into Israel (west of the Jordan) as Jew-controlled and Transjordan (east of the Jordan) as Arab-controlled. The Palestinian Arabs (understandably) didn't want to move, and the Transjordan and other Arabs didn't want to accommodate them.

1947 was when some powerful Jews said "you've been promising us land for two and a half decades and done nothing except reduce the size of the promises while supplying the local Arabs; we're going to do it unilaterally". The Jewish claim was accurate; whether it was reasonable is much harder to judge.

It's also worth noting that there are many Arabs living peacefully in Israel (there are many Arabs in Israeli parliament), while the near universal experience of non-Muslims in Muslim nations from Pakistan to Nigeria ranges from treatment as 2nd class citizens to persecution (and has for centuries). This doesn't make the Jews in the right, but does explain why they might not consider it neutral to live in an Arab-controlled state.

carl jacobs said...

Andrew Reid

The Israelis didn't dispossess anyone. In 1947, Palestine was a undeveloped backwater of the dissolved Ottoman Empire. One of the principle arguments made by those who opposed the establishment if Israel (among them the US State Dept and the US Dept of Defense) was that Palestine couldn't support the additional population. The Jewish leadership went to great trouble to develop plans to counter this argument. They bought land from absentee landlords and developed it. The Arabs were not afraid of dispossession. They were afraid of losing cultural dominance over the land. There was more than enough space. But there was no way the land would remain culturally Muslim if the Jews came in numbers. The Muslim Arabs couldn't compete. That was the source of the conflict.

Palestine was under the legal control of the Mandate. The establishment of Israel has the same legitimacy as the establishment of every other nation in the Middle East. The Arabs reacted to that establishment by declaring war - a war which they promptly lost. Don't complain to me after the fact about the consequences of starting a war and losing it. If the Arabs had won that war, there wouldn't have been any Jews in Palestine by 1949. Most of them would have been dead. So don't ask me to shed tears for the consequences that accrued to the vanquished because of a war they started.

As far as the West Bank is concerned, we seem to agree. The Israelis aren't going to give up sovereignty. That was the very first point I made. If the Palestinians don't control their borders and can't develop a military and can't make treaties with other nations, they they don't have a sovereign state. The best they can get is some form of limited autonomy under Israeli rule. That means Israel keeps the West Bank in every essential detail.

Otherwise, your post illustrates the intractable nature of the argument. I say the Palestinians are committed to the destruction of Israel and do not desire peace. You say the Israelis are committed to eradicating the Palestinians and do not desire peace. There is nowhere to go with that stand-off. So it will be resolved by force. Unless the Palestinians submit - by which I mean acknowledge there will never be a Palestinian state west of the Jordan.


Kurt said...

Israel should get out of the West Bank and Gaza now, period/full stop.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Anonymous said...

I'm joining this conversation a bit late, sadly. All power to the Comerys!! It's nice to see clergy who are prepared to make a stand like this.

I found their full response to the bishops' letter on ... it's really worth reading. They take several of the bishops' claims apart in a very informed, logical way. They finish by saying something which I think is really important:

"We hope that the bishops’ joint statement does not empower the strident, resurgent Jew-hatred dressed up as 21st Century moralising that is sweeping the Western world; we hope, but without a lot of confidence."

Lucy Eban

Andrew W said...

Carl: I agree. If the Palestinians want a negotiated settlement, they are going to need to take that "No Israel at all" clause from Hamas' charter and bury it so deep it never sees the light of day. I really don't understand why it's not bleedingly obvious to everyone why Israel doesn't want to make concessions to a group whose publicly and officially stated purpose is to wipe them out.

I'm not saying Israel is innocent, but why give any ground to a group who says "the end game is to wipe you out; let's come to a temporary arrangement"?

(Yes, I'm sure Israel would like exclusive control of the land. But then I'm sure Egypt, Syria or Jordan wouldn't mind it either if the opportunity arose (see history). But none of those has total conquest of the area as it's primary, public, explicit goal.)

Anonymous said...

"Israel should get out of the West Bank and Gaza now, period/full stop". Kurt.

Kurt, I'm not sure where you've been since 2005, but Israel is out of Gaza.

In regards to the West Bank, do you have a general disregard for international agreements, accords, treaties and the like ... or only when they underpin Israel's legitimacy?

Are you equally enthusiastic about throwing the Hashemites out of Jordan?

Lucy Eban

Paul Powers said...

Those who advocate an unilateral Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the West Bank seem to have forgotten what it was like in the region before June 1967. From 1948 to 1967, Gaza and the West Bank were occupied territories, except that Gaza was occupied by Egypt and the West Bank by Jordan.Jordan also occupied East Jerusalem. The entire Jewish population in Gaza, the West Bank, and Jerusalem was expelled in 1948, and until June 1967, Jews (not just Israelis, all Jews were forbidden from entering those territories, which of course means that all Jews were barred from visiting the Western Wall, and other places of tremendous religious and cultural importance to the Jewish people.

Of course, during that time, the Arab world was unwilling to accept the idea of a Jewish state on one square millimeter of "Palestine." No wonder the Israelis are suspicious of the Arabs' supposed willingness to accept it now.

Then in the Spring on 1967, Egypt, under Nasser, deployed 100,000 troops in Sinai, expelled the UN Peacekeeping troops stationed along the Sinai-Israel border, closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, and entered into an alliance with Syria and Jordan (three countries that had been bitterly feuding among themselves for years.

There is some debate about whether Nasser's saber-rattling meant he really wanted a war, or that he was just playing a game of chicken. The Israelis weren't willing to take any chances, so they made a preemptive strike against Egypt.The Israelis promised the Jordanians that they would be left alone if they stayed out of the conflict, but King Hussein felt obliged to honor his alliance with Nasser, so Jordan attacked Israel.The outcome, as we all now is that Israel ended up in control of Sinai, Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights. Of course, Sinai (which is actually larger than Israel proper) has since been returned to Egypt as part of a comprehensive peace treaty between the two countries.

Does this mean Israel is beyond approach? Absolutely not. The settlements in the occupied territories have been extremely unhelpful. And it is completely appropriate for churches and human righs groups to call Israel on the carpet for its treatment of Arabs in Gaza and the West Bank, and even its treatment of Arab citizens of Israel. Where I think they are on weaker ground is when they advocate for a particular geopolitical solution. I'm not quite as negative as Carl towards the idea of a two-state solution, but that's ultimately a decision for the people in the region.

Kurt said...

“I'm not quite as negative as Carl towards the idea of a two-state solution, but that's ultimately a decision for the people in the region.”—Paul Powers

Quite true, Paul. The alternative, of course, is a one-state solution—Israel—as a multi-ethnic, multi-religious state that does not discriminate against anyone on the basis of race, creed, national origin, religion, etc.

Today’s exclusively Jewish Israel, based upon expelling Palestinians, or forcing them into tiny Bantustans is, ultimately, not an option for Jewish survival in the region. Such an apartheid-type society would not be viable—anymore than South Africa was viable in sub-Saharan Africa. Even today voices are growing internationally—including here in the USA—for people to boycott, divest, and sanction Israel (BDS). If the Israelis keep turning the screws as outlined above, such sentiments will likely spiral around the world.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

carl jacobs said...


The alternative, of course, is a one-state solution—Israel—as a multi-ethnic, multi-religious state that does not discriminate against anyone on the basis of race, creed, national origin, religion, etc

Yeah. The Islamic world is just overflowing with those states. I can't imagine why any Jew living in Israel wouldn't jump at the chance of a one-state solution. I mean ... Look at ISIS. They are pretty tolerant. Look at all those thriving Jewish and Christian communities in Muslim lands. Who could resist the prospect?

What you have done is make your own expectations normative. You have constructed a little fantasy world of harmony on nothing more than wishful thinking and said "If we build it, they will come." They will come alright - to slaughter and kill.

I never cease to be amazed at the capacity of people to see CareBears and Rainbow Ponies simply because they want to see CareBears and Rainbow Ponies.

It's a mirage.



Peter Carrell said...

Kurt makes a point, Carl: Israel can only move so far before it will lose the global support, the USA's support in particular which enables it to maintain military strength.

carl jacobs said...


The Israelis aren't anywhere close to that point. In fact, they have been incredibly restrained. Most other countries on the world would have responded to Palestinian provocation in a much more harsh and lethal manner. It is a truism to say that the Palestinian cause requires Israeli restraint to survive. Try it with the Turks. See what happens.

Leftists like Kurt are ideologically committed to the idea that power imbalance causes conflict, and what they really want the Israelis to do is voluntarily surrender their position of relative strength. Then the Palestinians won't feel threatened (and the Israelis won't have the power to oppress) and all the externals that drive the conflict will be removed. Peace can then break forth like 100 flowers blooming. It's part and parcel of the Left Wing presupposition that evil results from externals, and the way to fix evil is to fix the externals. The Israeli gov't is consciously arranging those externals precisely to spit in the face of that left wing presupposition, and that is why the left is so exercised against them. They are employing security through strength instead of 'taking a risk for peace' through deliberate weakness. To the Left that means the Israelis are deliberately prolonging the conflict for their own benefit.

The analogy to SA collapses almost immediately once you realize that attitudes about SA in the West had nothing to do with black So Africans and everything to do with white western guilt over racism in the West. Western liberals wanted to atone for racism and SA provided the perfect vicarious opportunity. All of the righteousness. None of the cost. Plus a convenient group of unpopular people to present as a sacrificial burnt offering. All of it done with one purpose - to say "See, I am not a racist like those people. I have expunged the guilt from myself." There is no such dynamic with Israel, and no sympathetic local population to proclaim propitiation for racial sins. You think I'm wrong? Remember Zimbabwe? Yes, nobody else remembers it either. Once majority rule was established, the fate of the country became irrelevant. The crusaders didn't actually care what happened afterwards. They only wanted to perform their sacrament of racial atonement. Mugabe butchering Africans was incidental to that outcome.

If the Europeans are becoming less supportive if Israel, it is not because of Israeli action but because they are scared you-know-what-less by the large and growing Muslim population in Europe. It is a measure of European weakness to see them try to appease Islam and its naked Jew hatred at Jewish expense. And it isn't going to have a good ending


Father Ron Smith said...

"If the Europeans are becoming less supportive if Israel, it is not because of Israeli action but because they are scared you-know-what-less by the large and growing Muslim population in Europe."
- carl -

This, again, could be pure supposition!

Believe it or not, carl, even some of us Jewish sympathisers have been known to be concerned about the measure of force being used by Israel against civilians in Gaza - notwithstanding the fact that Hamas is a dangerous, provocative and subversive force in the area.

Religious fundamentalism is the basic ingredient on both sides.

carl jacobs said...


Religious fundamentalism is the basic ingredient on both sides.

That's hilarious. Israel is one of the most secular places on Earth. There is essentially no religious motivation in the Israeli actions other than to avoid being dominated by Islamic culture.

If you are concerned about the measure of force being used then offer up an alternative that can actually be realized in this universe. There is no two-state solution - unless Jordan is the other state. A unitary state is sheer fantasy. Even Kurt must realize that. There is way too much of "Let's just negotiate a settlement" and way to little of "Should we pay attention to what the Palestinians say when they think Westerners aren't listening."

The Israelis aren't going to expose their people to low levels of terrorism just to convince the Palestinians the Israelis are serious about peace. And the Israelis aren't going to risk their national integrity. So tell them what to do about continuing Palestinian asymmetrical warfare. Because if you have nothing better to offer than "Take a risk for peace" or "negotiate in good faith" the Israelis are going to keep applying that level of force.


Anonymous said...

‘Today’s exclusively Jewish Israel, based upon expelling Palestinians….’ Kurt.
Like Lucy Eban, we're left wondering if you dislike history in general … or you simply rewrite it to suit your own bigotry.

‘Bantustans’: we are guessing this translates to ‘security barrier’. If this is so, perhaps you have forgotten that the security barrier was begun in 2002 at a time when terrorism had reached unprecedented levels. This terrorism followed the 2000 Camp David Agreements in which Israel offered 95% of a contiguous West Bank; 100% of Gaza; a capital in East Jerusalem; the removal of Jewish communities in these areas; $30billion to help resettle Palestinian refugees. The Palestinians walked away. Arafat launched an intifada.

Prior to the construction of the barrier, hundreds of Israeli civilians were murdered in suicide bombings during 2001-2004. The security barrier was erected because of Palestinian terror attacks. It can be dismantled when that threat ceases.

However, if ‘bantustans’ refers to inequality of outcomes, then we would suggest that a man who lives in a very fragile glasshouse shouldn't even look sideways at a pebble… let alone think about chucking it at Israel.

‘BDS’: The demand to divest is unworkable. If a comprehensive divestment regime were in place, a huge number of international companies would be off limits for investment. Are you really suggesting that we should really boycott Hewlett Packard products, Amazon Kindles, smart phone companies, the ‘waze’ app, or Facebook simply because they have components made by Jewish companies located in the ‘wrong’ place?

Would the world’s largest manufacturer of generic pharmaceuticals likewise be banned? Would the next logical step be a refusal to allow us to take or prescribe the countless medicines produced by this company … or benefit from the hundreds of medical innovations developed in Israel by Jews?

The demand to divest harms Palestinians. Without well-financed, Israeli Jewish companies working within the 1949 Armistice Line, thousands of Arabs would be thrown out of work. These men and women, together with Israeli Jews, are building real bridges of peace and forging a sustainable future. Arab employees receive exactly the same wages and working conditions as Jews.

The BDS campaign is racist: it targets only Jews.
• Do you demand that sanctions and boycotts be applied to Turkey because of their occupation of Cyprus; do you oppose the Pakistanis for invading Kashmir; or the Chinese for obliterating Tibet?
• Why do you ignore the real war crimes and tyrannical repression of civilians by Middle Eastern nations and terrorist organizations?
• When Hamas deliberately targets thousands of rockets at Israeli civilian populations in violation of international law, BDS advocates utter not a word of criticism, let alone a call for action.
• When Iran’s government violently crushes peaceful protests and funds Assad’s genocidal campaign in Syria, when Egypt stifles its press and political opposition with a dictatorial hand, our divestment advocates are silent.
• When Qatar is shown to be financing the Islamic State, the dissenters are nowhere to be seen.
• Where is the outrage over the oppression of Saudi women and the widespread mutilation of little girls and women right throughout the Islamic world?

Why are you proposing boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel? Why?

Arthur and Sue Comery

Jean said...

Hi All

This might be out of left field but it is worth comparing the situation in Israel/palestinian territories with that which was in Northern Ireland. The smilarities such as claims for the same piece of land, desire for independence, a minority versus majority population, terrorist type warfare and a checkered longstanding history. Both sides had claims, both sides used violence, both sides were right to some degree.

By looking at how peace was acheived in Northern Ireland, and not easily, with independent mediators, concessions on both sides, trusting when trust was tenuous and ignoring the actions of extremists on both sides who attempted to derail the talks (even ones where people were killed). One has to admire their courage but also the result. After so many years the majority of people just wanted to live freely.

Interestingly although mediation from England was necessary it was the actions of an independent local body politication English by origin but catholic by faith man who campaigned in his local area against prejudice and unjust actions on both sides who was instrumental in 'winning the heart of the people' to support the agreement. Then when Sinn Fein were allowed in to talks despite their link with the IRA and their minority status these very factors leant credibility to the representative nature of negaotiations.

The man has since been voted the greatest person who was ever born in Ireland.

Anonymous said...

Hello Kurt – no we’re not closet purveyors of Israeli propaganda who have inadvertently blown their own cover … we read.

If Tutu’s chanting had included,
‘We are opposed to Hamas’ use of human shields. We are opposed to Hamas’ indiscriminate attacks on civilians. We are opposed to Hamas’ murder of Gazan dissidents. We are opposed to Hamas’s use of child slaves to dig tunnels. But we are not opposed to Muslims’ … we might have given him the time of day.

Your own charge of Israeli apartheid has been refuted over and over again by notable human/civil rights activists … including Professor Alan Dershowitz, who in fact defended Nelson Mandela. ‘Israel is an apartheid state’ fits nicely onto a banner, it can be screamed or chanted more or less in one breath … but it doesn’t have a lot of substance. Is Israel a perfect democracy? Of course not. Do Israeli Arabs have equal life outcomes? No they don’t … but that is a ridiculous standard to hold any nation to, and it is not one that either the US or NZ could stand comfortably alongside. The US’s struggles with race-based inequality has been displayed to the whole world over recent days. In NZ ‘the gap’ is one of the defining issues of our imminent elections.

Since the Oslo Accords were signed, the majority of Palestinian Arabs have been under PA or Hamas rule. They are not Israeli citizens and they say they don’t want to be … so why do you charge Israel with apartheid?

‘The end of the Jewish state’. If the 2-state solution is ever put aside and Israel were to have sovereignty over the West Bank, there is no solid evidence that Israel’s Jews would be subsumed by a wave of new Muslim citizens. The demographics argument is contested, at least. The founder and director of the PCBS said, in regards to census data, ‘it is a civil intifada’. Many agree. The 1997 Palestinian census has been used to try to coerce Israel to bend to the will of the PLO and latterly the PA. The data show that if Israel does not quit the West Bank and Gaza, by 2015 the Palestinians could destroy the Jewish identity of Israel simply by asking to be incorporated into Israel and demanding the right to vote. Arabs would outnumber Jews. Everyone involved accepted the veracity of the data and the forecasts.

Since then a comprehensive audit of the census has been undertaken … the audit was itself audited by the American Enterprise Institute who supported the methodology and findings.
In short: the population was grossly exaggerated. This was achieved by including Palestinians who lived abroad; Arab residents who lived in Jerusalem and had already been counted by Israel; and 113,000 people who simply did not exist.
Building on this false base projections for future growth were massively inflated – birth rates and immigration rates have come nowhere near those predicted and the projections ignored the large numbers of Palestinians who emigrate. In addition, there is a falling Arab birth rate and a rising Jewish birth rate, including among secular women in particular.

What other country do you attack in this way? Do you speak out against the abuse of American women and children within the Muslim community? Do mutilations, murders and subjugation bother you when they are committed by Muslims in the US? Do you propose boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Iran, Qatar, Turkey or Saudi Arabia for their multiple and manifest brutalities and abuses?

Why Israel? Please answer these questions, they are not rhetorical.

Arthur and Sue Comery

Kurt said...

“Hello Kurt – no we’re not closet purveyors of Israeli propaganda who have inadvertently blown their own cover …”--Arthur and Sue Comery

Really? You certainly had me fooled! You sound just like those “little helpers” of Israeli propaganda! And you certainly have many of the same talking points. Yes, indeed, you sure sound like them to me.

Look, Arthur and Sue (and some others here), this may be Israel’s last chance to avoid being saddled with international pariah status—like the South Africa of the 1980s. Do not underestimate the uncomforting potential of such international blacklisting and shunning. It would have real economic, consumer, financial, military and psychological impacts on the Israeli state and its population. Coupled with an internal domestic opposition, these actions would have a cumulative influence.

As Archbishop Tutu reminds us, it is helpful to reflect on the South African experience, particularly the role of international boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS), united with the struggles of the internal, domestic oppositions. Even my own country was forced by American public opinion and international opposition to finally break with the South African regime—regardless of how anti-communist they were. And South Africa was, in many respects, far more formidable, with far more resources at its disposal, than has present-day Israel.

The avoidance of international pariah-hood would mean removing, by stages with deadlines, those 550,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank. A viable two-state solution would also mean constructing, by stages, tens of thousands of new homes for these settlers within Israel’s pre-1967 borders. It would mean refurbishing former settler homes in the West Bank as a prelude to turning them over to Palestinian refugees as part of a general peace settlement.

Another part of any realistic peace process would be ending the blockade of Gaza (which even the USA regards as being occupied by Israel). Rebuilding could then begin there, too.

It’s not rocket science, Arthur and Sue. Either Israel accepts a viable two-state solution and gives up land for peace or there will NEVER be peace for Israel. Even the physical expulsion of the remaining Palestinian population WOULD NOT make Israel secure. Indeed, such actions would further enflame world opinion against Israel. And it would sow the seeds of hatred in Palestinian breasts for generations. It would also likely cancel out any psychological “debt” that Europeans and Americans feel they owe Israelis. Israel would be on its own in a hostile world.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Father Ron Smith said...

Sue Commery's comments seem to be from a purely political-science point of view. What has emerged over the years since the division of Palestine, has been the fact that Jews have taken care to consolidate and make strenuous efforts to extend their political hegemony on the area - without wanting to allow other (native) Palestinians the sort of state-hood security they want for themselves.

From a theological view-point, we have some 'Christian' pro-Israeli advocates who seem to be confused with the odd belief that God is going to restore the geographical Jerusalem - complete with Temple - as a rallying point for Christians at some future date in time.

However, the inter-Testamental (and theological) view backs the 'Heavenly Jerusalem' expectation, that is not directly related to the present state if Israel.

One needs to understand the fact that Israel is not a religious hegemony. It is a purely political entity. Christians, at least, are looking forward to the 'New Israel of God' which has no geographical significance.

We are all, at least potentially, New Israelites, committed to peaceful co-existence with all humanity in the fullness of God's Kingdom.

Anonymous said...

hello Father Ron, my name's Robbie. I've just heard about the bishops' statement this afternoon at a meeting up north. I was really puzzled by their opposition to Israel and now by your words too. I thought you guys were really committed to watching out for gay people and here you are slamming the only country in the Middle East that doesn't practice lethal homophobia. In Israel gay people are safe and celebrated. If Israel goes down, where will gay people find a safe place?


Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
I am not publishing another comment made here by you because it involves speculation abut the state of mind of commenters. Let talk about what is written down here and not about what we think might be an unpublished thought in a mind we cannot see into.

Peter Carrell said...

Thank you Robbie for pointing out something I have been pondering. Why do those who so passionately support gay rights give time to passionately supporting Palestine over Israel!

Anonymous said...

Ok Kurt .. we're new here and it's taken us time to learn how things work.

We think that this is how the story goes (although we might well be wrong): people ask questions - you don't answer them. People quote facts they believe to be true and reasonable - you don't engage, you just sneer. That's perfectly ok with us, it's your life and we hope you're happy in it.

Arthur and Sue

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Arthur and Sue
I really appreciate you commenting here, and on this particular issue bringing a much needed perspective to bear.

But I also appreciate Kurt's comments (but not any sneering within them) because they remind us that beyond the rights and wrongs of the situation, there is a PR perception issue for Israel: if it loses support in the wider world there will only be som many years before it runs out of the means to defend itself. There is, in my view, a risk being run by Israel that it does not understand mood changes in the Western world.

carl jacobs said...


Yes, Kurt makes the point. He just doesn't defend it. Look at his last response.

His first paragraph is summarized thusly:

You sound just like those “little helpers” of Israeli propaganda!

The entire purpose of that paragraph is to de-legitimize his opponents so he doesn't have to deal with their arguments. Not uncoincidentally, that is as close as his post comes to dealing with their arguments.

He then spends two paragraphs reliving the glory days of South Africa without ever attempting to explain why the experience of South Africa is relevant to Israel. He doesn't establish any domestic political base that would serve to pressure local politicians to act. He doesn't establish any economic parallels. He asserts Apartheid and declares the argument won. (And his apartheid argument is of necessity arm-waiving.) Throw in a quote from a secularized saint, leaven with dark hints about 'last chances' and that pretty much sums up paragraphs 2 & 3. Look, that may play well among people who think Noam Chomsky is a credible historian, but outside of Kurt's Pacifica Radio group, it won't have any purchase at all. There is no significant counterveiling force to the Israelis in American politics.

We then get on to what Kurt really wants to talk about - "What the Israelis must do!" You know, lest they become international pariahs. You might ask Kurt why China isn't an international pariah. The mouthpieces of Israeli propaganda ... uh ... Arthur and Sue Comery asked that question and got no response. Anyways, Kurt proceeds to expound upon Israeli withdrawal from the West bank (which ain't gonna happen) or a unitary state (which really ain't gonna happen) and concludes with a declaration that peace through dominant strength isn't really peace. Because ... well ... Left wing ideology doesn't like that outcome very much. It's nice that he thinks so. But Kurt's use of caps can't cover the fact that he subtlety changed the definition of peace in the last paragraph. Sure, you can't purchase love with weapons and secure borders.

But you can sure as hell keep your people from getting killed.

Who thinks the state of Israel has no eschatological significance whatsoever

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Kurt
Prior to my redaction I judge the following, now redacted comment to stray too far in the ad hominem direction. Please try to talk about issues not people, one clue to which is to drop the address 'you' from comments.

"[It is important] to confront the real-life choices that Israel must make to obtain lasting peace. [I think what I am seeing here is] the “hasbara” playbook by attempting to change the topic--- remember, it’s supposed to be: “You be the judge, The borders of Israel”—by attacking those who are critical of the current right-wing Israeli regime. Changing the subject in an attempt to put others on the defensive does nothing to resolve real-world problems faced by both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples. It simply is verbal ack-ack to shoot down any ideas for possible resolution of the conflict that are based in the real world, and not on some [] fantasy of a “Greater Israel.”

Each of the scenarios I have outlined is possible. Unfortunately, the least satisfactory of these outcomes—Israel as mono-ethnic pariah state—is precisely the one which the current Israeli government’s actions facilitate. That is regrettable. That course is based on certain amount of wishful thinking on the part of the Israeli government and people.

Father Carrell is quite right: Israeli’s don’t realize the temper of the times internationally. They are making a number of presumptions which they should not. They believe, for example, that the USA will always support them and everything they do. They should realize that American diplomacy has never guaranteed permanent alliances with any country; it guarantees only permanent American interests—which are increasingly the interests of our plutocrats only. And their interests are not necessarily the interests of Israel. Now, if Israel were to discover a prodigious amount of oil off Tel Aviv…

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY"

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Commenters
Please be the judge of what Israel is doing, not the strategy and tactics in debate of what commenters are doing (or we think they are doing) as we contribute here.

Above I have redacted one comment I am not happy with re focus on commenter and not comment. But Carl's comment above all but received redaction too.

I realise these matters are matters we care passionately about but in our passion let's comment on the borders etc, not on the people who 'defend' or 'attack' the borders.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Peter – we agree that the PR war is important and probably handled quite badly by Israel. However, it is also important to insist that legitimacy is tied to actual facts … to events, treaties, legal principles and the like. It is not sufficient to construct a narrative and argue legitimacy, or lack thereof, on the basis of that narrative.

It is because perception is such an important issue that we find the bishops’ joint statement to be an unacceptable action for Christian and community leaders to have taken. They demanded that Israel return to 'pre-1967 borders as a prerequisite to negotiations'. They did this while Israel was under attack by one of the two members of the Palestinian unity government. Not only is it completely wrong headed to ask Israel to give up land as a prerequisite to negotiations whilst under fire from one of their potential peace partners, the bishops’ understanding of the ‘Green Line’ is completely incorrect … and this is extremely significant. We contend that the bishops’ use of ‘pre-67 borders’ is an empty set of words BUT that the narrative that is built on this baseless assertion is a major contributor to Israel’s delegitimisation, to the racist calls for boycotts, divestments and sanctions, and to cries of ‘Apartheid’, ‘Occupation’ ‘Holocaust’. It also fuels the fires of the violent antisemitism we witness in many parts of Europe … and frighteningly also in Australia.

The bishops are irresponsible to participate in a narrative that is based on and underpinned by non-history. The ‘Green Line / 1967 Line’ has never been any kind of border and has no legal weight as such. It has always been an armistice line and was specifically stated to be just that in the armistice agreements.

We think the statement below makes this clear. It is from a paper written by Professor Talia Einhorn, not a wild-eyed Christian Zionist, so Ron will be pleased … however, it is possible that she is channeling hasbara – we understand that is quite common.

“The Armistice Agreements, which were signed in 1949 between Israel and its neighboring countries, expressly stipulated that “the Armistice Demarcation Line is not to be construed in any sense as a political or territorial boundary, and is delineated without prejudice to rights, claims and positions of either Party to the Armistice as regards ultimate settlement of the Palestine question” (Art. V(2) of the agreement with Egypt), and that “no provision of this Agreement shall in any way prejudice the rights, claims and positions of either Party hereto in the ultimate peaceful settlement of the Palestine question, the provisions of this Agreement being dictated exclusively by military considerations” (Article II(2) of the agreement with Jordan, and an identical provision in the agreement with Lebanon). Indeed, the element of “defined territory” as a condition for statehood has remained unclear in the case of Israel.”

It concerns us that the bishops, and others here, single out Israel for censure from all the countries in the world. For heaven’s sake – where is the outrage over the nearly 3,000 deaths reported in the Ukraine conflict? Do the bishops write joint statements concerning Russia? No. Is there a BDS movement against Russian scientists, farmers, dancers, poets and businessmen? No, only against Jews.

Of interest is the article linked below. The author argues that the legal principle explaining why Russia’s actions in Crimea are illegal – and thus strongly condemned by the EU and others - is the very principle which validates Israel’s presence in the West Bank – perversely also strongly condemned by the EU and others.

Arthur and Sue Comery

carl jacobs said...


Israel has constantly acted in contravention of international law and UN resolutions.

There is no such thing as "International Law." There are mutually beneficial customs and compacts between nations. There are words in documents that purport to be international law. There are scads of academics who believe in the concept. But there is no law. There exists no terrestrial sovereign who sits over the nations with both the power and the authority to enforce "international law." Without enforcement, there is no law. And so there is no necessity to obey that which possesses no intrinsic authority. Israel is a sovereign state. Its freedom of action is limited by itself and by the willingness of other states to act against it. There is no "law" that binds its actions. This is in fact true of every state in the world.

"But the UN!" comes the sputtering response. The UN is not and never has been a supranational authority. It was conceived as a military hegemony of the victorious powers of WWII. That vision collapsed almost immediately under the weight of the Cold War. What remains is an impotent bureaucracy with delusions of grandeur. In fact it is what it has always been - a foreign policy tool of the nations. So why should the Israelis submit to UN resolutions that threaten Israeli vital interests when the UN is nothing more than one more field upon which is played out the competition of nations?

In October, 1973, nothing but a handful of Israeli tanks in the Golan stood between two Syrian Armored divisions and the undefended interior. It was a moment when the existence of Israel literally hung in the balance. At that moment, could the Israelis have appealed to the power of International Law to save them? Could they have waived a UN resolution in front of the advancing Syrians and said "But you can't do this!" Those most devoted to international law are those most resistant to the employment of military power. Indeed they typically desire to use international law to displace military power - which is a nice fantasy for European intellectuals who have been kept in an artificial bubble of security for 70 years. Not so much for those who live under threat. The Israelis can't afford to fantasize about such things.

One thing the Israelis will not set aside. They will be in charge of their own destiny. They will not trust their survival to a collection of diplomats in NYC who have neither the power nor the authority nor the will to do anything beyond issuing a collection of worthless resolutions. They will be responsible for their own survival - international "law" and UN resolutions notwithstanding.


Simon said...

Carl, that may well be your perspective on the efficacy and legitimacy or otherwise of the United Nations, but responding as Christians, I would imagine we would agree that actions such as those that the Israel government agreed just 2 days ago, is morally wrong. You and your friends and neighbours in the USA would not tolerate someone seizing land that is not theirs.
Israeli commentators have warned again and again that occupation corrupts and warps a nation's moral compass and the life of its people, never mind the 'PR' issues and cost in $ and lives. There must be a better way, and as a friend of mine from that land always challenges Christians, our perspective should embrace both 'justice and Jesus'.

Father Ron Smith said...

"Are you trading support for gays for support for Palestine?" - P.C.

No, Peter. Just looking for justice in all areas of God's domain. Jesus seemed to prioritise the rejectecd and the poor in his loving ministry. That's good enough for me!

Father Ron Smith said...

It might be enlightening for some bloggers to read the post by Steve Bell, linked here by Peter, entitled:

"The awkward truth – Evangelicals & Gaza (Part 1)"