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Boiled down, the Arabs - Palestinians included - went all in on a military victory. And lost. They left no wiggle room for real compromise with Israel. When even Arab countries gave up on the idea of attacking Israel yet again (and losing), the Palestinians went all in on terror (bus bombings, etc.). Then the Israelis took that card out of their hands by building a wall. They have no more cards to play against Israel, yet are still clinging to this fantasy of a military victory, driving Jews out of Jerusalem, etc. It's frankly nuts.

The Arabs simply lost the decades long war, and lost it without ever coming up with a real plan to negotiate peace, or figure out what's next. There could be a Marshall plan type peace arrangement, if they wanted it, but they don't. Not yet, anyway.

This does not, of course, make sympathy for people in the West Bank or Gaza Strip antisemitic - far from it. But rather, the onus is also on the Palestinian leadership to surrender, like any other party that has clearly lost a war, and has to move on to a real peace plan. The revanchist fantasy of "liberating Al Quds" has long since been proven impossible. Israel would love nothing more to get rid of this problem, but ironically, it is the Palestinian leadership clinging to the existence of the problem itself as their best, and only, card to play.

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On March 4, 1996, a suicide bomber blew himself up, along with 13 others—12 civilians, 1 soldier—outside Dizengoff Center, the largest shopping mall in Tel Aviv, located on one of the busiest streets in the country. A former partner of mine was about 6, and headed to a birthday party at the mall’s arcade. He was there, and while he remained physically unscathed, he did not walk away unharmed. Do you know what it looks like after a bombing? Do you know what it looks like to a child? This person is a good Tel Avivi lefty—votes Meretz, refers to “the occupation,” not “the territories,” not “Israel-proper” or “Judea and Sumeria” (in Israel, the words you use to describe “the situation” are designators of your politics, and the only issue with political salience is “the situation.”) But does this good leftist go to the protests? No. He cannot be in crowds. He is traumatized. He is not a wall. A bomb is not an egg.

I have another friend, a Palestinian woman a few years younger than my ex. Technically, she is an “Israeli Arab,” but she would never call herself that, least of all to her parents in Jerusalem who have suffered violence and theft and hate, who cannot visit their parents in Gaza, whose parents in Gaza are poor and stuck and have never known safety. My friend will never know her grandparents because Gaza is 5 billion miles away from everywhere. Gaza in on the moon. Though she doesn’t, her family hates Jews because the boot on the neck of all Palestinians is a Jewish boot.

So how exactly does a one-state solution work? The Jews will be pushed to the sea. The Palestinians will be slaughtered. There will be no successful power-sharing arrangement. Most of the Palestinians living under brutal occupation do not want to live in a secular democracy alongside Jews, and the Israelis do not want to live in a secular democracy alongside Arabs. A one-state solution in a Western fairytale that the people in the region are untied in rejecting.

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Freddie, you're killing it on Substack. I've got lots of disagreements with this article, and am still blown away by your prose, your arguments and your convictions. I'll be thinking about what you've written here forever. That's got to be high praise, no?

Thanks for it, and thanks for being at the forefront of a small but expanding group of writers who can do more than sing to the choir. We're climbing out of a dark pit.

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This is what kills me about this "The mythmaking about all of the opportunities they squandered does not make a lick of moral difference. I don’t think, for a second, that the PLO was offered some amazing deal at Taba. This mythical amazing deal that, for some reason, the Palestinians declined and that the Israelis offered once and then decided they could never offer again, despite the fact that it has so often been represented as mutually beneficial."

It's blatantly, historically erroneous. It implies Israel offering 1 deal, 1 time, which is not remotely accurate. I'd love to hear more about this supposed "mythmaking" - why is it a myth that Palestinians were offered a (more favorable to them) partition in the 40s, an *immediate* return of the land captured in 67 (from Jordan, Egypt, and Syria - not Palestine) - were the Three No's a myth?

And the offers in 99, 00, 07 - again, why exactly are they not considered real or legitimate? (Also, when you have the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia in disbelief at Arafat not accepting this deal... there is a reason countries decreased the pressure on Israel after this, they realize there was no offer, none, that the Palestinians would ever accept after rejecting these offers - and were they perfect? No - find me a perfect compromise between two warring peoples, I'll wait).

"The moral obligation falls on the dominant party, and Israel is beyond dominant." - I only agree with this fundamentalist view to a point. When I look at the record of that dominant party making concessions, only to be spurned time and time again, at some point agency and responsibility has to be asked of the other party.

A simple, imperfect (they often are) analogy to bipartisanship in the US - republicans accuse democrats of not legislating on a bipartisan basis while withholding their cooperation, thereby confirming a partisan process. There is a similar dynamic here - all Palestinians have to do is continue to never negotiate, and because of your fundamentalist position, you will simply always blame Israel for lack of progress.

It's obvious we disagree on this, I'm just trying to point out where I don't believe what you wrote holds up to historical or practical scrutiny.

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My one huge point of disagreement is on the possibility of a one-state solution. Given both the radical bigotry of groups on both sides and the structure of Israeli government I see literally no situation where it doesn't instantly become literally Weimar Germany. Large minority parties founded explicitly on the oppression of the other side will come into power and block all legislation and essentially shut down the government until they are put in power. Once in power they have the ability to oppress and will use the full force of that ability freely. With Arabs being the majority and (in my eyes) more unified on the concept of outright oppression I would imagine the most likely outcome would be what the return home for Jews was explicitly done to prevent - the crushing oppression of Jewish identity. But that doesn't really matter because it's pretty damn likely one side will do it and it's totally not acceptable regardless. I think you have to be a kumbaya liberal to look at a group who raided Al-Aqsa Mosque and a group that banned Jews from the Temple Mount and say "they will live in peace and harmony and there will not be a perpetual state of terror and dysfunction".

You can say "well ethno-states are bad" but literally every major religious group has either an autonomous territory (Punjab is a weird situation as of now, but for most of Indian independence this was the state of the region) or a state in which they are the VAST majority. You don't need an explicitly Buddhist state when you have Bhutan - a Buddhist monarchy where 3/4ths of the population is Buddhist. Jews are the only people that, without a two-state solution, have literally nowhere to go if another group decides to get their religious oppression on.

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May 11, 2021Liked by Freddie deBoer

I am an Israeli Jew (living in NYC) and that was perfect. Thank you.

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Excellent post, and I agree with all of it - barring the notion that the accusations against Jeremy Corbyn were 'weak tea' and stuck simply because he was an easy far left target. You are clear at the start of this piece that there is a rancid antisemitism in left-wing spaces, and, observing this, it's very difficult to understand how this wouldn't include Corbyn as such an example.

His supporters and the man himself are still insisting that the many examples of his antisemitism are simply smears by 'Rothschilds', 'Zionists', 'The Israeli Lobby' etc. who, ahem, control the media.

He described Hamas as a force for social justice and peace in the Middle East; Hamas whose charter is explicitly antisemitic and calls for the death of all Jews. This incident alone should have ended his career outside of the crank zone, let alone the debate as to whether he is antisemitic or not.

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Wow. You went there. Kudos. Not sure if this is related to the email I wrote over the weekend talking about my dad's conflict between Marxism and Zionism. Loved this post. Drove to work this morning, tearing up and wishing I could discuss it with my dad. Sent it to my sister and my best friend from HS. Agreed with most of it. But, more than that, I'm really impressed with the respectful and brilliant comments below -- on both sides of the argument. No nastiness, no name-calling. Thank you everyone. There's a rueful joke in my family that there's no place for Jews on the left or right these days. I agree that a lot of legitimate criticism of Israel is unfairly labeled anti-semitism. That accusation is often lazy and means the person doesn't want to address what may be valid criticism. But there is also a strain of nastiness on the left that is certainly anti-semitic and I appreciate the discussion in good faith here.

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Near the end you say that Israel could end the conflict if they wanted to. Can you expand on that? I don't see how. (Might be more full entry sized than comment sized, but if you were emperor of Israel, what would you do?)

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I'm glad you wrote this, I think you really *get it* without getting swept up in the politicking. A big issue with this whole clusterfuck is that people seem to only see both Palestinians and Israelis as like... abstract groups; a bit of a tangent but have you seen people who say they hate men and when confronted they say they're referring to "men as a class"? It seems to me people try to do the same thing with this conflict, thinking of the groups as classes rather than actual human beings. To me, that's just viscerally wrong and horrifying. I know it's not a particularly logical or "objective" view, but I think it doesn't have to be. The idea that gunning down civilians in a place of worship is an immoral act is trivially true.

Here's my personal perspective on the oppression of Jews constantly being brought up: I come from the Balkans (won't specify which specific country bc it's bad infosec and they're all the same anyway) and I can see a clear parallel between pro-Israeli-aggression arguments and people's attitude here. You see, between the 14th and early 20th centuries, the whole region was under the rule of the Ottoman empire. Various atrocities were committed at that time but the most relevant point is that people were oppressed on a religious basis. Christians and Jews were not afforded the same rights as Muslims and any other religion was right out. Let me reiterate, this took place for *6 centuries*. It's understandably stayed in the minds of many and it fuels much animosity against Muslims in present day.

So, if we follow the logic of pro-aggression arguments, is it then acceptable for paramilitary groups to seek out Syrian refugees and the like at the boarders and threaten them with violence? They're Muslim invaders, after all, can't have that. Would it be fine for the descendants of Ottoman Muslims to be attacked and cast out of the country for the misdeeds of their ancestors? Does it justify the Bosnian genocide? What if we consider the Armenian genocide? If one is of a strong Islamophobic and/or nationalist disposition, they might enthusiastically say yes to all of these questions, but somehow, I doubt a lot of progressive pro-Isreal folks would be comfortable associating with such individuals.

I will say, one might argue that Jews have suffered for longer therefore, they have "more" of a right to aggression, but that's such a cynical worldview I don't even want to consider it, frankly.

To bring it back to the main issue, I think the common online narratives about this conflict are colored by the fact that a significant amount of people come from nations which were historical oppressors, rather than historically oppressed like the Balkan nations. So American aggression is obviously seen as wrong in the progressive sphere, but some people justify Israeli aggression because of the history of oppression. But as someone who doesn't have that white guilt-esque feeling about it, such logic seems wrong to me since I would for one would never justify violence against Muslims in my country or any other country in the region.

I have more thoughts on all of this, but my comment is long enough and I already expressed a lack of desire to prove my anti-violence stance by using the term "trivially true" (for context, it's a math term you'd use for a statement you don't feel the need is necessary to prove because whoever is reading your proof csn figure it out themselves). So I dunno, people can take it or leave I guess.

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"There is and has always been only one conclusion that could bring this tilted world into balance: a shared state in the land between the river and the sea..."

Nothing has happened in recent history to suggest that the Arabs see the conflict as anything but zero sum. They don't want a balanced conclusion. Isn't it kind of dishonest then to hold Israel accountable unilaterally for achieving that conclusion?

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As you'll probably see a lot of today, I'm going to preface this with the fact that I'm Jewish, was raised in a religious school and am more attached to it as a religion, culture, group identity than even many Zionists are.

Your drunk dad metaphor is very apt.

I have a nonscientific theory that what Zionism means to most Jewish men is this: I may be a nice and non-abusive guy, but it's great to know that if I were one, it would not only be OK, but would be me living up to my identity as a Jew.

A Jewish man can spend 70 years never setting foot on Israel or facing an iota of anti-semitism outside of deciding to take offense at being called cheap (I was one of those guys - I once got into a message board debate in 2007 regarding a Jew joke in a Kinks song), without having the courage or true sociopathy to walk into someone's backyard and say "If I wasn't going to steal your house, someone else would," but he can know that if he did want to be a total asshole, not only would it be OK, but he would actually be the victim.

"I'm not a drunk, I'm something better. I'm a guy who could be one if he wanted, and it would be good."

I'm convinced that if most Zionists confronted that belief pattern in therapy (they won't) they wouldn't be Zionists anymore.

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Thank you for this. Another reminder of why I subscribe.

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I'm sorry, Freddie, but I can't agree with you on much here. Yes, Israel, as the "dominant" party, has a moral obligation with regard to the Palestinians. It doesn't end there, though. The Israelis are not the drunken dad or the bully. Such metaphors, like all metaphors, evoke thoughts meant to lead to a logical conclusion, but eventually they all fail to capture the entire situation.

Israelis are a citizens of a country has been recognized by us and virtually all of our allies. The Palestinians are citizens of a territory which has been recognized to a certain extent by us and our allies as well. The people running both are all adults and have agency. They have obligations to their citizens to act responsibly. We could argue whether Israel has so acted. I suggest that the Palestinian authorities have not. My point is that obligations are not entirely on the side of Israel.

It's seductive to think that authorities and citizens of both Israel and Palestine should unite in one country and, I guess, try to work this out with legal guarantees to each. I fail to see how a democracy so constructed would not ultimately be used by a majority to restrict the rights of the minority. You could point to the Bill of Rights in the US Constitution as evidence that it's possible. That only works here, though, because there is wide, resilient support and respect for such rights. These rights are neither commonplace nor widely respected even in our democratic allies. If it's not a democracy, the next generation(s) of leaders would ultimately get you to the same place.

I thank you for your thoughts, though. Like some, I won't be cancelling my subscription. I really do enjoy reading what you have to say. It makes me think.

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Great post. At the time, I was one of the people who opposed talking about Israel at the Iraq war protests, simply because we were already failing at our primary purpose -- and bringing up Israel turned a lot of people off.

We already had such a huge problem with coherent messaging. I went to DC protest in September 2005 (organized by ANSWER) and it was chaos. Every damn group in the world that wanted attention showed up. Iraq, Israel, IMF, racism in general, legalize pot, abortion, gay rights, free the Idaho Eight or whatever -- or no cause at all, just signs with various jokes and slogans about how Bush was stupid.

But the Israel messaging probably turned the most people off because it was so prominent (from the podium, not just the crowd) and controversial. People on the ground around me were complaining about it. Someone on the Metro told me she would have gone, but she refused to support anything hostile to Israel.

But I agree with you about Israel. In this situation, they're the powerful one. Nothing in history could justify what they're doing to the Palestinian people. I also agree that there should be one state with equality for all citizens. I always liked what Edward Said wrote, and it still makes a lot of sense to me today.

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Every reference in these comments to "the Arabs" is telling. It's the Palestinians and the Israelis. Those are the relevant parties here. Anyways, I didn't want to engage the comments, and I regret reading them. It does make me wonder about the makeup of your readership's political commitments these days, though. A survey could be interesting?

To me, the most salient part of your article (though I agree with a lot of it) is the moral fact: "You are the bully and it falls on you alone to stop. That is how the moral universe works. I’m sorry if you find it uncomfortable to be in that position." That's what matters most to me when it comes to this topic and I don't like to be distracted by other quibbles, particularly because when the person whose arguing with me seems to deep down believe that its best the status quo just continue on.

A question on ANSWER--I agree that ANSWER was loony left. Is it correct that they were controlled mostly by WWP and then later PSL folks?

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