Tuesday, June 17, 2003

The NYRB has some good stuff this week. The second part of Clifford Geertz' two part article on post 9-11 guides to political Islam includes his openly contemptuous response to pretty much every idea that either Paul Berman or Daniel Pipes has had recently. Last week he was a little more respecful of Bernard Lewis. But what I want to quote here is from Edward Sheehan's piece "The Map and the Fence", a sad assessment of the situation in the West Bank. I'll quote a bit of it since in a week you'll have to pay to read it on line
"In late April, in the north of the Gaza Strip, near the Mediterranean Sea, I visited the town of Beit Hanoun, which has been devastated by the Israeli army, and the surrounding countryside. Following several suicide bombings and other violent episodes, the army, according to the mayor of Beit Hanoun, destroyed twenty-five water wells and the sewage system, which resulted in drinking water being mixed with raw sewage. Standing near a blasted bridge I could see jagged, broken sewage pipes emptying into a pool of fetid water. 'When we repair the bridges and the pipes,' the mayor said, 'the Israelis bomb them again.'

In the northern Gaza Strip many houses had been destroyed or badly damaged. Paved roads were broken up by Israeli bulldozers; great tracts of farmland—citrus groves, olive trees, greenhouses as well—were uprooted to create no man's lands around the Israeli settlements of Alai Sinai, Nevets Sala, and Nisanit. Wooden watchtowers near the settlements protruded from the barren earth; I saw Israeli soldiers watching us through binoculars from the crests of sandy hills. Among the shanties of tin and plaster in the refugee camp of Jabaliya, I met an elderly gentleman beside the rubble of his house, which had recently been destroyed by an Israeli tank. 'Do you hate the Israelis?' I asked him. 'No,' he answered, 'I hate what they've done.' "
And this, on the building of the 'separation fence':
"Jonathan Cook, an American journalist living in Israel, wrote recently in the International Herald Tribune that 'the security wall will cage in more than two million Palestinians.' Sharon, he writes, admitted in a recent interview with the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth that the wall will be at least 625 miles in length, whereas the green line is only 224 miles. The fence is creating a 'tiny de facto Palestinian state before the road map forces a bigger one on him.' Palestinian research based on land expropriation orders projects a map showing a wall winding its way 'deep into the heart of the Palestinian state, twisting and turning in an elaborate route designed to keep a large number of the settlers on 'Israel's side' of the wall and minimize the amount of territory left to the Palestinians.' After the wall is finished, at a cost of more than $2 billion, the Palestinians, Cook writes, will live behind concrete and electrified fencing, restricted to their main population centers."
Finally, this
"Most Palestinians yearn for peace, quiet, and jobs; they regard the road map as another check that is likely to bounce until they see evidence to the contrary. They have despaired of political solutions in the near term and many look to the next quarter-century when Arabs living between the Mediterranean and the River Jordan will outnumber Jews and they will be able (or so they think) to demand equal rights as citizens of a unitary state including both Israel and Palestine. Yet even many liberal Israelis recoil from such a prospect, and also, like Yossi Sarid of the leftist Meretz party, reject Palestinian insistence on 'the right of return' to Israel of the Palestinian diaspora.

'The right of return question is one on which all Israelis agree,' Sarid told me in Tel Aviv. 'It will never take place, and the Palestinians know this well. It's possible that we could take in a limited number of refugees to reunite them in Israel with their families, but in the tens of thousands, not hundreds of thousands. This is the most difficult problem between us and the Palestinians.' Indeed it is a problem that goes to the heart of sustaining the predominantly Jewish character of Israel."
Replace the word 'Jewish' with the word 'German,' and gauge your own response. I'm still waiting for someone to make a real defense of the argument that Zionism is not racism. Every discussion I've had has ended up with my opponent throwing up his arms and declaring: "But they had nowhere else to go!" a sentiment that marks the beginning of an actual discussion. But the next time I end up in a conversation, it's back to square one. What angers me about liberal Zionists is their refusal to face the anti-modern nationalism that is the basis of their chosen ideology. The argument that there is or should be a "Jewish anomaly" after the Holocaust, that there is a moral right for israel to exist out of time, is both bankrupt and absurd. And the settlers' call for "Lebensraum" is merely a logical, if extreme, extension of that idea.

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