No exit: security and peace

| Disqus Comments

I am given to understand that Donald Trump — or, at least, his inner, ever-shifting coterie — actually expected their announcement of the official move of the US embassy to Jerusalem would kick-start the peace process, which is precisely the opposite of what everyone predicted. Why anyone would think that implicit negation of a core Palestinian claim would contribute to some kind of “peace deal” is beyond me. No, that’s not true: I have strong suspicions about the sort of theorizing on which it is based, the claim that it is right to crush the weaker party in order to achieve “peace”, that the people who object to their fate only understand “the language of force”, etc. It is nothing other than the banal belief that might makes right.

In my previous post on the topic, I raised the point that the sine qua non of Zionism is that there be, at the end of any agreements, actions, processes, treaties, settlements, etc., a viable state in the conventional sense of the late 20th century that is intended to be specifically and primarily Jewish in some material sense. This is a more nuanced position than the view that the Palestinians must simply be crushed — many well-intentioned people believe that it is so and struggle with the moral dilemmas that it presents.

There are a number of reasons why it is a defensible position, and I went into that in that post. But I hope that the people who hold the Zionist position also acknowledge that it is “morally legitimate” also to believe that the Palestinians have a moral right to reject that the cost of realizing the Zionist imperative must come at their expense, i.e., that there’s no obligation on the part of Palestinians to care that the Jews have a state or to yield any of their claims to Zionist purpose. Of course, that both of these may be true is just the nature of moral impasses.

I used that previous post also to point out that if the Zionist goal is to preserve a Jewish majority, then its settlement enterprise is simply incompatible with that, unless it is willing to go beyond its more well-founded moral remit. However, even if Israel puts a (wise, but internally political impossible) halt to further settlement expansion, there remains the dilemma that has reared its head in the past few days: the dilemma of Gaza. And the dilemma of Gaza represents an unexpected moral outcome of the underlying imperative of Jewish state-building in the real existing Middle East.

Let us consider for a moment that because Israel has created “facts on the ground”, the end result is going to favour the Zionist claim: the Palestinians are not going to be able to enforce their own moral claims and return to their lands. That is not an unknown situation. The same is true for the descendants of Sudeten Germans and many other groups in the 20th century. The difference is that Israel remains in control of refugee populations, particularly in Gaza, where Israel and its effective ally, Egypt, hold the space.

It is a source of frustration to partisans of Israel that this problem has not yet disappeared on its own. But there is no reason for it to do so. Arabs populations are not fully fungible; despite the deepest wishes of the more reactionary part of right-wing Israeli politics, Palestinians are not Jordanians or Egyptians, no matter what labels were used at particular times. It might have been nice if someone had “made the problem go away”, but no one did and no one had to: Israel continues to “hold the bag” for whatever happens in the West Bank and especially Gaza. Even if it were true that “Palestinian” is a recently constructed identity, it is even more on the account of Israel for being the principal factor that constructed it.

It is still a while yet to see if the Gaza march really turns into a mass march of unarmed Palestinians trying to cross the border, and yet it’s already clear that the very thought of that being attempted, however futile, is deeply alarming to the Israeli state and pro-Israeli media. Indeed, Israel’s supporters attempt to point out that Hamas should have used the money given to it instead for economic development rather than the actions that Israel says forced it to put a blockade on Gaza. And therein lies the other, fundamental and practical dilemma to the imperative of a Jewish majority: any move that could conceivably also reduce the incentive for Palestinian uprisings (of whatever form), necessarily also strengthens Hamas’ military capacity. On the other hand, any attempt to restrict resources to choke Hamas increases its political support and monopoly over government in Gaza in particular.

In other words, the under real, existing circumstances, the Zionist moral imperative towards a Jewish state becomes incompatible with an approach that places the security of Israeli citizens over the individual rights of Palestinians. This has been the approach followed for a long time, and it has not improved the inner parameters of the conflict. The situation in Gaza is not sustainable — but if you believe that development in Gaza will reduce the prospect of an existential threat from Gaza, and you are not prepared for an even more generalized aggression against Palestinians in pursuit of a conclusion to the conflict, then you must paradoxically accept that letting Hamas have increased power (and capacity to attack) in the near term is necessary for peace in the long term.

And that is a (long-known) lesson that could probably be applied the world over: giving security priority over rights is rarely a sustainable policy.

Return to the home page

blog comments powered by Disqus

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Mandos published on April 1, 2018 8:10 PM.

The no-limit franchise was the previous entry in this blog.

Free expression, journalists, and the CJFE is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Powered by Movable Type 6.3.6