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It's an admirable piece, Shadi, expressive of basic decency: both sides have rights but it's possible that some of those rights conflict, so people on both sides may have to renounce some of their rights, which is a painful prospect.

I think it's important, though, while sympathizing with the actual humans (as opposed to the fanatics) on both sides, to acknowledge how asymmetrical the conflict is, morally speaking. In 1948, 750,000 Palestinians fled their homes, mostly forced out by Israelis, and in flagrant violation of international law, were not allowed to return. This was not because of Israeli security concerns, but because Israel had always hoped, and now was determined to take the opportunity, to evacuate the Palestinians and annex their land, which they did. In 1967, when Israel occupied the West Bank, another 150,000 Palestinians fled, whom Israel has once again, illegally, never allowed to return. Since 1967, Israel has settled 700,000 Jews in the West Bank and confiscated much of the area's water and arable land. Sporadic Palestinian terrorism -- unjustifiable, of course -- has been met with overwhelming Israeli reprisals -- mostly against civilians -- in proportions varying from 20 to 1 to 50 to 1. Israel's security has never been at risk: it has always been the most powerful state in the region by a large margin, as well as the region's only nuclear power. On top of this, it enjoys the unreserved support of the world's richest and most powerful country and of a rich and politically articulate diaspora.

Both sides deserve our sympathy, certainly, but one side deserves much more of the blame.

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Your point that Israel is backed by the United States inescapably makes all of us Americans complicit to some degree, and therefore requires us to take a side. As I understand the last 100 years or so of the history of Palestine, it is unequivocally true that the present status quo could never have happened without the cynical agenda first of Great Britain, then by the signatories to the UN declaration of 1947, followed by 75 years of blatant disregard by the US, and many other countries, for Israel’s unapologetic oppression of its Palestinian citizens. Most of us inherited this situation, just as all living Americans inherited our legacy of slavery. We Americans are close, as a people, to full acknowledgement of the injustice of that part of our own social and political history. Racism exists, but episodes of mass racist violence are very probably behind us. With no external superpower aiding our domestic oppressors, it’s taken 160 years, since the end of our Civil War, for relative equity, and sanity, to become the norm. It took a lot of “taking sides” to get here.

It will require of Americans a similarly tortuous process to free us, as a country, from the entrenched entitlement, the necessary revisionist history, and the violent subjugation of a population, that was/is required to justify establishing and maintaining an Israeli state in its present form. May we be able as a people, to be honest about OUR deep complicity in perpetuating the extreme violence that always follows sustained oppression.

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Wait....Is this statement serious?? You think this country is sane right now?? Your conclusions about who takes ownership of what are your own. Don’t speak for everyone in America. I find a lot of the bogus things being said and happening in the US right now to be a big part of the problem in our very divided country.

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I agree it often seems that the “United States” are more like intermingled tribes. But we all pay taxes to the same behemoth, which is sustained in no small way by our “defense” establishment. I’m all for defense, and I think it’s reasonable to maintain foreign bases and project power when/as necessary. Whatever your politics, “we” all are responsible for the actions taken by “our” country, especially abroad, IMO.

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Yeah. It’s a reasonable thought.. but I don’t feel responsible for slavery when most of my ancestors came after slavery was even legal here. And we can reconcile things without making each other into villains

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Add to that, that MOST whites in America were on the side of the North, fighting to END slavery. MY wife's and my great great grandfathers fought for the North. Hers waws killed at Antietam. It is an insult to their memories that ANYONE suggests that all whites were ever supporters of slavery. BTW, it is the democratic party that is the one, the only party of institutional racism. Slavery, the KKK, Jim Crow, segregation and today's black ghettos--All democrat, all the time.

And, yes, 'America' is an amalgam of cultures, not a monolithic mass. That much should be self-evident, when we look at the divisive issues playing today.

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Sure. Until Nixon's Southern Strategy and the Dixiecrats turned Republican. But, except for that quibble, sure.

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I’m intrigued by the question of how complicit American people are in the way the government shows up in global affairs. Especially with a 2 party system that has supported Israel in the same way regardless of party. What would you like to see American citizens do differently? I think with social media we have robust challenges to skewed narratives about the conflict, protest, confronting authority figures in various spaces (hearings, interviews). Curious what else you think could be done.

I also think your assessment of where we are with race relations is more optimistic than the reality. Where do you see equity? Black American history is being criminalized and removed from curriculum throughout the nation. I’m not sure we are seeing the acknowledgment required to really change things. It just reinforces your point about how long these kinds of societal changes take.

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Two good questions, thank you.

As to what American citizens can do to influence US foreign policy, I agree that getting leverage is difficult. The fact that a majority of the public eventually rejected continuing the Vietnam War, finally ending it, is one example from my own experience. I personally joined large demonstrations and resisted the draft then, and consequently I believe in the power of mass resistance, and personal commitment. The draft was discarded thereafter (in favor of an all volunteer military) because doing so largely removed citizens’ sentiments, and insulated them from the direct impact, of business as usual foreign policy. But we still have mass demonstrations, the ballot, and now digital media, as tools, they still work, and we should use them.

As to the state of racism in America, of course it stills exists. I’m a Maine Yankee who emigrated to North Carolina 53 years ago. I’ve seen a huge change in attitudes in the direction of tolerance, at least where I live, and that is my basis for optimism.

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George, your facts aren't accurate, and your sympathies are clear. It's easy, as you concluded, that the non-Israeli Palestinians do deserve much more of the blame for rejecting Israel's existence and committing random and horrible atrocities on a regular basis. Not sure why you didn't exemplify Black Sabbath to prove your point that most of them identify with the sub-human Hamas tactics and leadership. I don't know why we don't see Israelis leading their bloody, bound, captives around Dizengoff Square, as captured animals, do you?

Yes, there are two sides of the story but the fact is that the non-Israeli Palestinians simply won't recognize the right of Jews to live in the Jewish homeland, side by side with them, in peace whereas 90% of Israelis would manage (after October 7, sadly due to Hamas rape, murder, dismemberment, burning and mutilating their neighbors, we'll have to change that to "would have managed") that scenario passably well under terror-free circumstances.

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Michael, we differ on the facts:

1) Until October 7, the pattern of violence has always been small-scale (that's all they were capable of) Palestinian violence, followed by massive, outsized Israeli retaliation. For example, between 2014 and October 7, around 70 Israelis were killed. In return, 3400 Gazans were killed, mostly civilians (as always). You may say, "But it's always the Palestinians who begin the violence." But consider: Israel is quite content with the status quo -- which the entire world except for the United States regards as illegal and immoral. It would ignore the Palestinians entirely if it could. The Palestinians are desperate. Of course they ought to use nonviolent means -- and many of them have and still do, while getting nowhere. The Palestinians are to blame for resorting to violence. But the Israelis are to blame for creating the situation to which the Palestinians are responding.

2) As for who's rejecting peace: I suggest you look at Tanya Reinhart's "Israel/Palestine", Avi Shlaim's "The Iron Wall" and "Israel and Palestine" and Noam Chomsky's "Fateful Triangle." Israel has never made a serious peace offer, because it has never been willing to give up the dream of "Greater Israel."

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And I suggest YOU read Susie Linfield's 'The Lion's Den' on how self-supporting and stubbornly fraudulent Chomsky's repeated stance is on this topic, then follow it up with Shlomo Ben-Ami's 'Prophets Without Honor' for a firsthand account of exactly what went on in some of those 'unserious' peace offers.

I will investigate those writings you mention with which I am unfamiliar. And I concede we are not far apart on many of your points -- though farther apart than I apparently am with Shadi and I dispute the last point (see Golda Meir laughing out of her office the first group of Jewish zealots who tried to convince a prime minister of the necessity to settle what they termed Judea and Samaria as the point from which a vocal extremist minority eventually - and perhaps predictably - came to dominate the agenda...something we have no familiarity with in the West).

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See also a lengthy exchange between Linfield and the reviewer in a subsequent issue of the Nation.

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Your responses in this thread are a joy.

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I suppose if you like combat rather than nuance and plausible solutions.

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Thank you.

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Thanks, Noah, but I've read a fair amount of Susie Linfield and am not impressed. FYI, there was a review of that book in the Nation by someone who clearly knew more about Middle Eastern history and politics than Linfield. He demolished the book, with particular attention to the chapter on Chomsky.

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While some Palestinians were forceablly displaced or ethnically cleansed during the Nakba, the Nakba overall was simply a massive population transfer as a result of the internationally recognized partition of Palestine. Now the partition of Palestine and resulting population transfer were originally supposed to be peaceful. Unfortunately, Arab leaders in Palestine and elsewhere refused to recognize the UN Partition Plan for Palestine. So a war broke out between the Jews of Palestine, which soon became the independent nation of Israel, and the Arabs.

Also, the contemporaneous partition of India led to an even more massive population transfer and hundreds of thousands of deaths. And there was a major population transfer between Greece and Turkey after WWI that had been viewed by the British as a possible model for a potential population transfer in Palestine. Now, both the British and the UN eventually decided that the population transfer in Palestine would be totally voluntary. Unfortunately, the Arab rejection of the UN Partition Plan for Palestine and the resulting war between the Jews of Palestine/Israel and the Arabs caused many Palestinian Arabs to flee primarily because of the war rather than because they really wanted to leave.

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Jan 30·edited Jan 30

The activism around me reminds me of reading about Americans and terrorism in Ireland: that the peace movements there were undermined by Americans who had strong ideas of what justice looked like, and were willing to stand behind (and fund) violence and terrorism of the ugliest sort while most human beings actually in the region, whatever they thought "justice" looked like, mostly wanted to find a way out of violence.

To me Netanyahu and Hamas clearly had the same step #1 in their policies: they both want to control the whole region, and so step #1 is to fight it out. As outsiders, none of us really plan to go to the front lines. Hamas and Netanyahu don't diverge until after the shooting starts. I witness a lot of people around me, safe on lands stolen in a genocide, lands which we certainly won't return, on the same team with Netanyahu and Hamas, on team "fight it out." Maybe the activists don't like how 1948 turned out and want a re-do, and are willing to have Palestinians as well as Israelis continue to suffer until they find time machines.

Meanwhile we have been undermining the peace advocates in the region. When people in the region want to get the hostages back without a war — the West undermined them, the Westerners flying Palestinian flags made it clear that a return of hostages or trials/ even mere repudiation and a promise not to repeat/ of rape was going to require a war, flew the colors of terrorists and rapists instead of peace-builders. Around me it shocks me how many people have such strong opinions but can't tell Hebron from Deir Yassin, or tell the grandkids of refugees from Yemin to go back to Europe and have no idea which demographics voted for Netanyahu.

In the region, parents who lost their kids work together across divides, groups like "Standing Together" work together across divides, they talk to each other — out here we seem to want the refugees from antisemitism to have been slaughtered in 1948 since they were from Europe, to be racists who can't see Jews of color from the region even if they are Netanyahu's base and the group you have to influence more than others if you want to change Israel's current right-wing tack, and Westerners around me don't really care what happens to Palestinians enough to think through and look for ways for people to stop killing each other. We're not really, yet, on the side of peace, we are in the gladiator stands cheering on one side in the continued fighting but the real effect of that is that we cheer the fighting — Hamas gains fame and fortune with rape and terrorism, fifteen year old boys there saw videos of Westerners waving the Hamas flag on October 7 and did not see Westerners saying that rape degrades their cause; people whose friends were raped on October 7 trying to decide if there is a path that besides war saw a West that is silent when their people are raped — how do you think that influences their decision to join the military or protest? Our cheers from the gladiator stands don't really *help* the people we cheer for, we're not going to the front lines ourselves, and the people we claim to cheer for most wish the fighting would stop. There needs to be a side for peace; for truth and reconciliation not unending war — and the left in the West is not yet on that side.

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Really hard not to just nod along while reading this. Of course, there's more complexity at work so I'll just say, "Yes, and..."

But blatant cheering of Hamas, while ugly, is different to me than well-meaning but (to your point) ill-informed Western rhetoric. To those voices I've taken to saying, "Welcome to the conversation, it's great that you're taking an interest. Some of us have been here a long time so please have some humility while we discuss."

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A pox on both their houses. Hamas won’t acknowledge the right of Israel to exist and Israel continues to invade the West Bank with settlements. Humans seem to be their own worst enemy.

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I’m having trouble understanding the upshot of this piece Shadi. Are you saying that it is no longer possible to be pro-both-sides, so you’re picking one, and it’s the Palestinians?

If so that’s fine, but you don’t explain why or what you think it means to be “pro-Palestinians.” What makes this a zero-sum game now, when you didn’t think it was before? And what, in your mind, does the label “pro-Palestinians” mean you are “for” and “against?”

I find this essay ambiguous and confused, especially the last paragraph. I’m sympathetic - the whole situation lends itself to ambiguity and confusion. But the essay promised clarity and didn’t deliver.

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I think one huge part of the confusion is that people on both sides are reluctant to define the end state they find acceptable. I have very pro-Israel friends who simply refuse to discuss that topic, and the pro-Palestinian friends I have seem incapable of settling on one, sort of like an optical illusion where the focus keeps changing. River-to-Sea? 2-State Solution?

Here's mine. Israel decides its own borders unilaterally, something close to the 67 borders, pulls all "settlements" back, and removes all personnel from Gaza and the WB. I would love it if Palestinians would declare glorious victory and start living as citizens in their new nation, between Jordan and Israel and in Gaza... or maybe Gaza would be an independent entity or whatever. Start exporting olive oil and grow rich. Enjoy the beautiful sunsets.

I would love it, but I'm skeptical it would happen. I suspect many who said they opposed the settlements in the West Bank would retcon themselves and say they *meant* that Israel proper was the "settlement" they had always been talking about. Maybe I'm just a cynical old curmudgeon, who knows.

As for anyone who could show some evidence that they lived in the Israel I describe above and left (never mind why they left), they should be compensated. Perhaps at the same time, the Arab countries who expelled their Jewish populations could compensate them. (Maybe I could get my grandparents' house in Berlin back! If it still exists.)

I heard Shadi Hamid in an interview with Zack Beauchamp say that he wished protestors with "From the River to the Sea" pickets would not do that because they couldn't present a "long explainer" on why that didn't mean the elimination of Israel. I'd like to read that long explainer, myself. Links, please?

To sum up, if you're on the Israel side and want to frankly annex the West Bank but not grant citizenship to non-Jews, give them some kind of 2nd class citizenship (the Smotrich plan), say so, and say it unambiguously. Likewise, if you're on the Palestinian side and accept Israel's existence and all you want is the Israeli presence in the West Bank to go away, say that unambiguously. And contrariwise, obviously.

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I'm no historian, but I think it's worth mentioning that in 1948 and 1967, Israel was attacked by an Arab coalition. If they had not attacked, who knows how history would have turned out, but those Palestinians who fled what is now Israel (for whatever reason, on their own steam, hoping to return to a fully Palestinian-led country once the Arab victory was assured, or forced out by Israelis) might well be living there. Same for 1967. To ignore that is pretty willful ignorance.

Note too, that what you call "sporadic Palestinian terrorism" was pretty frequent (what was it, 140 suicide bombings in the 2nd Intifada? "Sporadic" doesn't really describe it.), and committed by civilians. Whose families were (by the way) then handsomely rewarded. Against whom should reprisals have been aimed?

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Jan 31·edited Jan 31

You are misreading the situation Shadi. A lot of Israelis still see themselves as pro-Palestinian. I just came back from Israel and spoke with numerous people who showed legitimate empathy to Palestinians in Gaza and wondered if we could have done anything different to avoid this as well. Wondered if there is more we can do.

Yes Israelis are supportive of the war, but it is because of the fact you and much of the Western media keeps glossing over, probably because it evades any familiar narrative, that Israel is doing everything it can to reduce civillian casualties, and overall it is succeeding.

It is well-documented that Hamas are doing everything in their power to ensure as many civillians will die and become "martyrs" of the cause (Hamas' words, not mine). Gaza is a dense urban landscape and Hamas had 17 years and hundreds of millions in funding to barricade themselves. This is the reason Israel let a terrorist organization intent on killing all its people sit on its border for so long. They didn't want to get to this. Yet even if Hamas' numbers are right, this conflict has the lowest combatant to civillian casualties than any other urban warfare.

The average global conflict, put aside urban warfare, has a 1:9 ratio. This conflict has 1:1.5. Take into account 10% of rockets launched in Israel fall in the strip, and many Hamas officials, consistent with their nihilistic beliefs, choose to wait at their homes with their extended families for Israel to drop the bomb on them believing it will elevate all of them to heaven.

Hamas did make it clear this it is us or them (Israel or Hamas). That they will do everything in their power to kill as many Israelis as they can as long as they exist. Since the 80's, Hamas has killed thousands of Israelis. Should they have waited for more Jews to be killed as to make this war seem more justified?

I talked to numerous people in different positions in the IDF who all told me to what great lengths they go to avoid civillian casualties. Tech dev, humans hours, international law expertise, a lot goes into this. No one wants blood on their hands. Even pilots in Israel are notoriously left-wing.

Your continued attempt to depict Israelis as bloodthirsty, certainly more bloodthirsty than they actually are, to me seems much more reminiscent of old antisemitic tropes than representative of reality. I hope you reflect on that, and do your research.

P.S. I will continue being pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian, because if you believe in universal values, it is simply a moral right.

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You write:

“It might make more sense for me to be “pro-Ukraine” or “pro-Taiwan,” but that’s only because both peoples and nations have, today, a clear adversary against which to define themselves”

Shadi, Israel does have a clear adversary against which to define itself. That adversary is Iran and its Jihadi proxies who have expressly stated their goal of eliminating the state of Israel.

In the great clash of civilizations, Israel is ultimately on the side of democracy and justice. Its adversaries are on the side of barbarism and authoritarianism.

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It is certainly possible to be pro-certain-elements-in-Palestine and pro-certain-elements-in-Israel. I do that every day!

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This is a very strange article. For those who believe in the two-state solution, the conflict is certainly not a zero-sum game. On the contrary.

For those who believe in absolute justice - in

the right of the Jews to all their biblical land or in the right of the Palestinians to reverse their loss in the 1948 war and to return to the uncompromising agenda of the Mufti, as if 75 years have not passed - it is indeed a zero-sum game. Nothing in your writing and in your personality indicates that you belong to the second group. So why a zero-sum game?

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Stop the killing!!!? Simply return the hostages, alive and well, and come out of your cursed tunnels with your arms laid down and hands up. The Israelis will go home quickly to tend to their own. Don't know why you're gnashing your teeth on this as if the problem's unsolvable, Shadi.

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You have brought up the question of whether or not Trump can be influenced by the ideas of others. I don’t believe he is influenced by ideas based on principles. But I do believe he is influenced by other’s ideas if they sync with his goals of promoting his own self interest. Personally I think that Bannon and Steven Miller are quite influential in guiding Trump down the path to disruption and dominance that appeals to him.

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I do not understand one thing here. If you belive that Israel has the right to exist as a "Jewish state" , that means that you support ethnocracy and ethno-statism. Which is opposite to democracy. Because, does it matter if a state is "Jewish" when the state is corrupted, racist, undemocratic etc? https://www.liberalcurrents.com/why-israeli-democracy-is-unstable-and-corrupt/

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There are over 30 Muslim ethno-states. You may want to ask yourself why the Jewish people are the only ones who you want to deny self-determination.

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I am not sure what you mean so you should provide evidence for your claim. But does it matter if an ethno-state i Muslim, Christian or Jewish? An ethnocracy is bad regardless of religion, simply because it is based on that an ethnicity is more important than one's opinions and values.

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A great piece Shadi. I think this is a dilemma increasing amounts of people who are interested in the region's politics are finding.

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