Saturday 11 June 2016

The Ideal & The Real: The BDS Movement And Palestine's Future.

Idealists Or Realists? Sadly, the BDS Movement is a work of idealism, not realism. Its demand that the Israelis concede the Palestinians’ so called “Right of Return” is particularly unrealistic. Only an idealist could make such a demand. Because only an idealist could believe that Israel would ever accede to its own dissolution.
THE GREATEST ENEMY of the peoples of the Middle East is idealism. It was the idealism of the Zionists that led them to Palestine. Likewise, the idealism of the American Neo-Conservatives that led them to Iraq. The young idealists who gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir Square wished for a democratic Egypt – only to reject it in favour of military intervention when their wish came true. Idealism is hard to please. It does not compromise. Neither does it surrender. Idealists cry – “Let justice be done, though the heavens fall!” – though very few of them are to be found living in the ruins. That’s because idealists are very good at lighting fires, and notoriously bad at putting them out. Why else does Syria continue to burn?
As their starting point, those who call themselves “realists” do not judge the world according to how it should be, but as it is. Unlike the idealists, they are always willing to compromise. In the ears of the realist, “surrender” is not a dirty word. They understand that to secure peace, it is sometimes necessary for one side to give up the fight. Realists understand that the cry for perfect justice is all-too-often a cry for perpetual war.
Peace in Northern Ireland was not negotiated by idealists, but by realists. Peace in Palestine will, likewise, be the achievement of those who begin with the situation as it is, not as it should be, or, as it was.
The Zionists have been in Palestine since the end of the nineteenth century. For more than 100 years, they have waged an unceasing – and largely successful – struggle to transform Palestine into Israel. Since November 1917, their staunchest allies in this endeavour have been the world’s pre-eminent powers: first Great Britain and then the United States.
In these circumstances the restoration of the status quo ante is simply not a realistic option. Nor is a recourse to force majeure. Three times that has been attempted (1948, 1967, 1973) and three times it has failed. What’s more, if threatened with imminent destruction, the State of Israel now possesses sufficient nuclear firepower to turn the entire Middle East into a radioactive wasteland. No one would be found living in those ruins.
All of which raises the question: Is the current Palestinian-initiated campaign to boycott, divest, and impose sanctions on Israel (the BDS Movement) the work of idealists or realists?
Sadly, the BDS Movement is a work of idealism, not realism. While it is not inconceivable that the Golan Heights may one day be returned to Syria (or whatever entities succeed that tragic state) as part of a comprehensive peace treaty with Israel, it is very difficult to conceive of a situation in which the Israeli Government would agree to empty the Jewish settlements on the West Bank. Any attempt to do so would be politically suicidal.
The BDS Movement’s final demand: that the Israelis concede the Palestinians’ so called “Right of Return” is even less likely to be met. Only an idealist could make such a demand. Because only an idealist could believe that Israel would ever accede to its own dissolution.
The “Right of Return” is the supreme example of the Palestinians’ belief that a return to the status quo ante (i.e. the legal situation that prevailed before the outbreak of full-scale war between Israelis and Arabs in 1948) is possible.
Elderly Palestinians who fled their farms and villages in 1948 speak openly of reclaiming their property from its Israeli possessors. Many still keep the keys to the houses they abandoned at the outbreak of the war. Even though the vast majority of Palestinians living today were not born in 1948, the “Right of Return” remains non-negotiable. Palestine is their home – and they will settle for nothing less.
From the perspective of the Israelis, however, the “Right of Return” is regarded as code for the destruction of the State of Israel. Not all Palestinians were driven from their homes in 1948, say the Zionists, many left voluntarily – confident of reclaiming their property the moment the invading armies of Israel’s Arab neighbours had driven the Jews into the sea. Fortunately for the Jews, say the Zionists, the Palestinians lost their bet. Israel won the war and Palestine ceased to exist as anything other than a geographical/historical expression.
The Palestinians reject this description utterly. In their eyes, the geographical/historical entity known as Israel has erected a racist state comparable to Apartheid South Africa, which must be given no legitimacy while the territory’s original, Palestinian, inhabitants remain dispossessed of both their land and their rights.
While the “Right of Return” remains non-negotiable, the Realists’ “Two State Solution” (in which an independent Palestinian State is erected on the West Bank of the Jordan River and in the Gaza Strip) remains dead in the water. While the Palestinians refuse to accept that the status quo prevailing within the British Mandate of Palestine’s 1948 borders can never be restored, the Israeli settlers on the West Bank will never be persuaded to dismantle their communities.
Which also means that while the BDS Movement continues to demand the Palestinians’ “Right of Return” its chances of success remain slim. Already Israel’s allies in the USA, the UK and the EU are mobilising their considerable political and media resources to thwart its divestment campaign and to brand its leading activists and supporters anti-Semites.
Within Israel itself, the sense of being isolated and “persecuted” by individuals, organisations and nation states hell-bent on its destruction has already driven its domestic politics sharply to the right. Far from weakening the power of Zionism over Israeli society, the BDS Movement is strengthening its grip.
How ironic it would be if the actions of the BDS Movement, and other like-minded NGOs, succeeded in transforming the 93-year-old proposal of Zionism’s most extreme advocate, Vladimir Jabotinsky, into the only “realistic” alternative.
In 1923, Jabotinsky wrote:
Thus we conclude that we cannot promise anything to the Arabs of the Land of Israel or the Arab countries. Their voluntary agreement is out of the question. Hence those who hold that an agreement with the natives is an essential condition for Zionism can now say “no” and depart from Zionism. Zionist colonization, even the most restricted, must either be terminated or carried out in defiance of the will of the native population. This colonization can, therefore, continue and develop only under the protection of a force independent of the local population – an iron wall which the native population cannot break through. This is, in toto, our policy towards the Arabs. To formulate it any other way would only be hypocrisy.
The Israeli Government has already constructed a concrete wall to both contain and constrain the lives of the Palestinians within the territory it occupies. How long can it be before an unrepentent Zionism pushes every last member of Palestine’s “native population” beyond an all-encompassing “iron wall” that cannot be broken through?
This essay was posted on The Daily Blog and Bowalley Road of Saturday, 11 June 2016.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

Actually Palestinians have put forward compromises on the right of return. So it's not necessarily set in stone. It also depends heavily on definitions, as so much of the Middle East does.

And the Likud party is equally as intransigent, if not more so. Read the Likud Charter. It claims "from the river to the sea". BDS is about forcing Israel to confront the reality that something must be done about the Palestinians. Its demands may be idealistic, but I'm pretty sure they know that any peace would be a result of negotiation and compromise.

And of course, you never put forward your irrevocable line in the sand when you first start to negotiate.

greywarbler said...

Hi Chris I have just read your first paragraph and concur completely with your statements. We need to see truth and say it these days, while there is hope of not having everything in ruins. Hope is essential, but it must be channeled into aiming for achievable goals for betterment only.
Going forward in vain hope, holding out for a utopian result, expending most of one's energy in what is a hopelessly impractical project, will be throwing away our possible betterment and leaving a void that the somnolent or self-interested won't fill.

The name of the game is practical, pragmatic idealism. What can be achieved to make things better? Envisaging the process as a series of steps on a ladder which commands a better view of the environment is a good 'step' and from that base the next step up can be planned with risks assessed, understood and also planned for before starting.

Also with the understanding that what is being done should try to build on the past, turn the negative things around to serving the future, and not to demolish or maim unless in self defence and then minimise the effects.

Crusades with every action given divine approbration through some human demi-god or interpretation of some special message, are not going to serve humans at all. An understanding of the craziness that enters people's minds when they feel vulnerable or angry and are encouraged to attack, and the desire for revenge as a result of the resulting injuries and deaths; they kill people's souls. In demanding justice and revenge for one, they will lay repeat the wrong magnified a hundredfold, and that human fault so often revealed in our history, must be acknowledged and contained.

Anonymous said...

Chris your article is a factual and intelligent piece of writing and viewpoint.

1. Who are the Palestinian political leaders?, I believe most Palestinians would say Hamas.
2. What are Hamas demands on Israel?, that Israel cease to exist as a State and that the lands and buildings of Israel be turned over to the Palestinians.
3.The Israelis reject these demands and with full Israeli government support purposely procure more land for Israeli settlements. The intention is to make the Israeli land mass and their population larger.

The result is that there will never be peace between Palestine and Israel, the World has accepted that situation, have moved on and learned to live with it.

I do not know of any country which welcomes Palestinians as migrants.

The attacks and killings of each other will continue, the World is indifferent.

Anonymous said...

"The Palestinians reject this description utterly."

So do the elite of Israeli historians, such as Benny Morris (no peacenik himself).

Chris, if BDS is so ineffective, then why are the Israeli government and its allies having kittens over it?

Anonymous said...

Chris, anon @ 11/6 13.48 beat me to it. Why do the Israelis trouble themselves with even giving the BDS any oxygen? If it holds no threat, and empowers them, why not ignore or dismiss it? Isn't their reaction telling? - that BDS matters? Israel is a non viable state anyway, completely reliant on American subsidies, the majority of the population government employees (last time I checked, 54%) - it can't actually stand on its own feet economically. Even its lauded innovation system is completely dependent on the most concentrated and wealthiest diaspora in the world, in the form of the Jewish population in the US, for markets, and investment. It's not at all obvious that a snowballing BDS taking out a significant proportion of what little private sector % of the economy there is, mightn't have quite profound effects - forcing more overt subsidies from allies (with the attendant domestic pressures that would bring), increasing poverty in Israel - after all, they wouldn't be nearly as powerful if significantly poorer ... and not least, it seems unlikely they would use nuclear force in their own neighbourhood - they seem to be hell bent on staying alive themselves not dying of cancer en mass. Conventional warfare is the only kind they will ever wage, and that is costly.

Anonymous said...

Nation states have always arisen from the ashes of human war and conflict.

The history of the Middle East is no different.

Who are the 'legitimate' owners of the Holy Land?

- Descendants of the Canaanites? (If they can be found)
- Descendants of the Hebrews/Israelites?
- Descendants of the Egyptians?
- Descendants of the Babylonians?
- Descendants of the Persians?
- Descendants of the Greeks?
- Descendants of the Romans?
- Descendants of the Muslims?
- Descendants of the Crusaders?
- Descendants of the Ottomans?
- Descendants of the English?
- Descendants of the Bedouin?

All of the above have had possession of the Holy Land at various times of History.

In every instant that I am aware of they have gained possession by force of arms.

The Israelis are no different.

In 1947, influenced by the moral imperative of the aftermath of the Holocaust, the UN voted to partition 'Palestine' into two states - Jewish and Arab.

This plan was accepted by the Jews and rejected by the Arabs who vowed to push the Jews into the sea. Unfortunately for them they lost the war in 1948 resulting in the permanent establishment of the state of Israel and all the associated consequences.

War has always been the ultimate means of resolving human conflict and probably always will.

Antisemitism is still (mostly) frowned upon however by substituting 'Israel' for 'Jew's this allows the same attitudes to prevail with some semblance of 'legitimacy'.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

1.Hamas has said that they would recognize Israel as a state based on the 1967 borders.
2. Israel refuses to define its borders.
3. Well over 1 million Palestinians have migrated, mostly admittedly to other Middle East countries, and mostly the better educated and qualified. Admittedly they have not necessarily been treated very well in the Middle East. But some have gone as far as Honduras, and the rest of South America – where one presumes they are welcome.
4. The Israeli government for some reason makes this as difficult as possible.

The rest I might well agree with.

Max Ritchie said...

Hamas has said that it would agree to 1967 only in the short term. Its aim remains the eradication of Israel. Israel and its Likud government in particular will never accept that. The only solution is for Hamas to accept the existence of Israel ie change its charter, and that will not happen. Of course Israelis would also have to compromise, by changing their government.

manfred said...

Chris, you had me up until you threw out the idea of removing the settlers from the West Bank. Doing that is absolutely essential.

Otherwise your article strikes a good balance between the sophistic Zionist manipulators who take us for idiots with their shitty arguments and the pretty much open antisemites in Arab Nationalist, leftist and Islamist circles.

greywarbler said...

The main theme of your argument is a familiar one to us in NZ from conscienceless political parties 'They did it first/too/worse/different'.

Israel and the supportive Jews all over the world always ready to argue righteousness to their excesses and constant harrassment of those in Palestine want to fill the dialogue space with their own point of view.
In the background is the Holocaust. That can not be revenged or repaired by pretending that Palestinians don't exist, haven't been there for enough centuries etc.

The Palestinians know, and the Arabs know, the might of Israel, and it is time for Israel to make peace and enable a lasting peace by not starting new offensives every time a Palestinian infringement is committed. Both sides have to work at peace, it won't come suddenly and completely and needs negotiation in good faith. Both sides have to work at that too.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Hamas has said it could change its charter. Which is more than the Likud party has said. There charter is just as bad as Hamas'. And they are in charge of nuclear weapons.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Antisemitism is still (mostly) frowned upon however by substituting 'Israel' for 'Jew's this allows the same attitudes to prevail with some semblance of 'legitimacy'."
Perhaps in some cases, but anti-Semitism is also used by Hasbara trolls to shut down the debate. People who are merely anti-Zionist are accused of it in the hopes that they will shut up.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"In 1947, influenced by the moral imperative of the aftermath of the Holocaust, the UN voted to partition 'Palestine' into two states - Jewish and Arab."

The plan was on the surface and accepted by the Jews, but if you read history books, you will find that they had absolutely no intention of sticking to the 1948 UN decision. They fully intended to force out as many Arabs as they could. And the methods they used were up to and including massacres.

Anonymous said...

Millions of dollars are pouring into this area.
Many men and their families are getting rich on the present situation between the Israeli's and the Palestinians, particularly Palestinians, the Israeli side is also throwing up rich families.
Whilst there's money and power to be had, there will never be peace, never

Anonymous said...

Only when the British were successful in getting American money supply to the IRA massively curbed did the IRA start seeing their situation differently.
To much money flowing to both sides in this situation, peace is the loser and always will be unless money is massively curbed or stopped. END.

Anonymous said...

A Realist would realise that the Two State solution is no longer viable, because the Israeli settlements have long since destroyed the proposed borders. A Realist would also realise that the same overarching demographic change that brought peace to Northern Ireland places limits on Israel - unless it compromises, it can be democratic or Jewish, but not both.

(I'd also suggest that a Realist would scoff at the likes of Martin Luther King. Sometimes the Idealists win).

Nick J said...

Labelling such as "anti-semitism" does indeed shut down debates. The lingua franca across the Left is full of this damaging phenomenon that stultifies debate with preset positions from which deviation is unnacceptable. It enables shotgun absolutism rather than precision and openess to such wonders as empirical evidence. To give you GS an empirical example of this you have on this column previously made leaps of faith to label me racist. I am not the only recipient of this ill informed ad hominem positioning.

What I think is required is some precision with terms. For example in this case anti-semitism refers to anti-Zionism. Many Jews are anti Zionist. And we might equally examine subjects such as immigration without attendant labels and preconceptions.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"The lingua franca across the Left is full of this damaging phenomenon that stultifies debate with preset positions from which deviation is unnacceptable. It enables shotgun absolutism rather than precision and openess to such wonders as empirical evidence."
No idea what this psychobabble means. The second sentence in particular. Perhaps if you could give us a few examples, particularly an example of when I called you a racist and context. And if you look at a few new sites that let people discuss the situation in Palestine, you will find that it doesn't shut down the debate, because we don't let it.

Nick J said...

If I could go back to the older stories on this site GS I would give you the example you ask for: as it stands should I suspect your lack of memory disingenuous?

As to the language "psycho babble" is a good example of what I refer to. I plainly state that the language of parts of the Left is designed to shut down say psycho babble to shut it down. Or perhaps you remember jh in the debate on Auckland housing raised an empirical fact: massive immigration numbers. You attempted to paint him as anti immigrant with ad hominem attacks for which you were cautioned. At another point you said to me "you are not allowed to say that"..which is a truly absolutist stance. Above you say "we dont let it"...semantics?

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Okay, let's assume I have been modded. I will try to rephrase it, though I don't see a great deal of difference between what I said and "disingenuous."

Nick, you can easily go back to older stories on this site. There is an archive on the left, and a button at the bottom that says "older columns" or some such. It's so obvious that I wonder if you're not being a little disingenuous yourself.

As to your plain statement, I did not find it so. I did not say psychobabble to shut it down, but to seek clarification. I have never heard the phrase "shot gun absolutism" for instance. I feel you could have put it a little more plainly than that. And to be frank, I can't be arsed googling every obscure reference on this site, because it would take for ever. It took me some minutes to find out what the hell JH's 'Masaki' was for instance.

As to "you are not allowed to say that", as I remember it I said "you are not allowed to make shit up." There are numerous people on this site who have opinions that are not based in facts. If someone gives me one of these opinions, I will call them on it. A hypothetical example might be something like "90% of the people in New Zealand are against immigration." This cannot be said without some of your "empirical evidence". If it is absolutist to tell someone this, then tough. If Chris allows it I will say it. Provide me with the empirical evidence or I will tell you it's rubbish. If you believe I really mean you can't say that, then you are also being disingenuous, because you know damn fine that I cannot stop you saying whatever you like in your posts on this site. It is I believe, called "exaggeration for effect".
You might also remember that when I was cautioned for ad hominem attacks, I mentioned that I had also received ad hominem attacks – to which Chris agreed. I can't remember if one of them was you, and I don't care. As far as I'm concerned, people can usually see this sort of thing for what it is and it does nothing for your argument. To the extent that I am guilty of this I'm sorry that I allowed myself to descend to that level. On the whole I try to attack people's opinions – though occasionally their character as expressed by their opinions – and try to leave it at that. Some people can't perceive the difference.
I'm not quite sure what you mean by your last sentence. We were discussing the idea that accusations of anti-Semitism were used by some people to try to shut down the debate about Zionism. When I said "we don't let it" I meant that I, among others, flag comments who accuse people of anti-Semitism without cause. And if that doesn't work I, among others, ignore the accusation and continue with the argument. Perhaps I wasn't clear. I thought I certainly was but as someone who values clarity I do have an obligation to be clear myself. On the other hand " 'we don't let it'.... Semantics?" I find meaningless. Perhaps you could clarify that for me?

charles e said...

Chris your piece is the best I have read on this subject from any source for as long as I can remember. You are particularly well informed. I know about this subject intimately so I suspect you have wise Jewish or Israeli friends as well as wide reading. No matter and not relevant.

I am in Israel at the moment visiting a daughter, here for a year.
To a couple of commenters: Israel is not significantly supported financially by the US any more than many countries who get some military aid or by anyone else although of course many people around the world support it by buying it's significant exports. It has thriving industry and technology, not just military. It exports to the whole region too, through agencies. Medical, electronics and IT are huge. World leading. It has significant immigration & tourism too. Like NZ it has a growing population & economy. A lot of young bright people. Like NZ. So of course it will oppose ideological boycotts. We would too.
Many people would be surprised at how cosmopolitan it is. There are people here from everywhere. Only about half the population are Jewish if everyone within the borders controlled are counted. And as citizens about a quarter are not Jewish. Many Arabs are citizens. There are Druze, an Arab tribe in the IDF and many are in security which there is a lot of, of course.

It is a safe place too, except on the roads as they drive even worse than we do.
What is not safe of course is to pull out a knife or gun or bomb or missile and try and kill Israelis or tourists. Funny that. They react ferociously to that and so you are right Chris, attacking Israeli or Israelis will only strengthen the hard right here. It is a tragedy that the Palestinians are so badly led and have such terrible so called friends and supporters. They will never get anywhere with them.
I believe the best solution to this absolute impasse would be a formal federation between Jordan & Israel. Two states, as independent as possible (democratic or not) within one border with one defence force and one Federal government appointed by the states. The West Bank would be part of Jordan or even a third state. In some ways this already exists. I was in Haifa and friends there say it is not only Israel's main port it is Jordan's port too. they trade with all countries here. Business is business after all.
And think about it. Where in the ME is life relatively, and I mean relatively quiet, peaceful, civil and safe, particularly for women? Israel & Jordan. The rest appear well on the path to self destruction. These two could be the model for the future, after Islam has had enough of it's ecclesiastical war and had a reformation, learned to separate religion from state. That may take another 100 years. Meanwhile ordinary people all over the ME just want a civil, ordered, safe & moderately prosperous life like here in Israel. They can have it. It is possible.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Er..."To a couple of commenters: Israel is not significantly supported financially by the US any more than many countries who get some military aid or by anyone else although of course many people around the world support it by buying it's significant exports.

And yet, American aid to Israel equals approximately a third of its foreign aid budget. Although it's difficult to arrive at a figure, and do we count private aid, or loans that were forgiven (in fact I think all loans have been forgiven.) So yes, it is significantly supported.