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January 30, 2009

A conversation about this image—مناقشة عن هذه الصورة

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , , — admin @ 2:09 am

[singlepic id=957 w=320 h=240 float=center]

What follows is a conversation about the above image, which I’ve been using as my profile picture on Facebook.  The other party agreed to have his/her words reproduced here without her/his name attached:

Friend #1:

“Freedom” for the Palestinians doesn’t mean and will never mean the destruction of Israel. There’s probably a more “peaceful” logo for you to choose.


To the extent that Israel denies fundamental rights to even its own citizens of Palestinian Arab descent, and to the extent that it refuses to delineate its national borders while gradually annexing Palestinian lands, and to the extent that Israel doesn’t even have a constitution, it is debatable that Israel exists as a nation-state at all. From its inception until the present, the “state” of Israel has been predicated upon the displacement, subjugation and elimination of the Palestinian people, and so, yes, the freedom of Palestinians does, in fact, ultimately require the destruction of Israel as a racist apartheid institution. This doesn’t mean the displacement, subjugation or elimination of the Jewish people, either (except maybe for the displacement of those settlers who have been at the vanguard of Israeli colonization). Who knows whether such a hypothetical, non-apartheid, inclusive nation would still be called “Israel”.  South Africa, after all, is still South Africa after the end of apartheid. Unfortunately, even the name “Israel” is prejudiced in favor of Jews over Palestinian Arabs.

Friend #1:

The Israelites will always have the land of Israel. My main point to you was that there must be a more “peaceful” logo for you to employ to make your point. The one displayed certainly is a clenched fist and not a request to obtain peaceful negotiations.

Both sides want humanity… I liken the “Boycott Israel” logo to a hamas rocket… The only thing it does is irritate and already sensitive situation. They serve no value. Hence forth, let’s try a different way and let’s implore both sides to embrace a different spirit.


Given that Israel is slaughtering Palestinian civilians at a rate of 100 for every Israeli killed by Qassams (a generous figure), not to speak of the daily humiliations visited upon the Palestinians by Israeli security forces, with the full military, economic and political support of “my” government, I don’t particularly feel myself in any morally-justified position to preach to the Palestinians about the “spirit” of their resistance to that slaughter and humiliation. My concern is the aid and comfort that my government, my fellow Americans and apparently some of my facebook friends give to the brutality of the Israeli regime. “Boycott Israel” is not just a logo, it’s a movement of people calling for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions against Israel (and since Israel bombed a university in the latest offensive, the movement for an academic boycott of Israel has particularly gained momentum). What was good enough for South African apartheid is good enough for the Israeli iteration, which even South Africans have described as worse than it was in their country.

But if we must traffic in such tired biblical tautologies as “The Israelites will always have the land of Israel,” it might be prudent to at least know the scripture. Let’s leave alone for a moment this amorphous identity of “the Israelites” and the equally ill-defined borders of this “land of Israel” (since you seem to have no interest in addressing those problems anyway). Jews believe that God will grant them political independence in “the land of Israel” upon the coming of the Messiah, as per the Three Oaths of the Talmud. The actions of a colonialist (and largely secular) movement like Zionism to conquer lands inhabited by Arabs is therefor tantamount to preempting divine will and is not, we might say, kosher. Personally, I think this is all a bunch of religious bull-pucky, but if you’re going to get all biblical, at least be consistent.

And a final thought: if a boycott isn’t “peaceful” enough for you, I don’t know what is.

Friend #1:

A clenched fist will be met with an iron sword (so be it). That’s the decision of a logo with the Israeli flag being crossed out. I wasn’t here to debate the Middle East paradox with you, I was only trying to convey that the message sent by such a logoi isn’t going to help either side. What your so passionate about is made worse when the first image conveyed includes the destruction of Israel. It’s a cry for more war and not for peace.

Again, this isn’t the platform for such an intricate debate. I just want peace. The word “boycott” is fine in the context of what we’re speaking. Fine, people are definitely allowed to say that. The depiction of an Israeli flag being crossed out is what I think is offering no value to the problem that needs to be solved. It worsens the problem you want to fix.


This sort of “peace, brother” attitude is great when you’re dealing with enmity between more-or-less evenly matched parties. The fact is, however, that Israel is plainly the aggressor (their own admissions and UN resolutions reinforce this fact) and yet somehow the onus is on Palestinians to halt their resistance in the “spirit of peace” and upon those who support the Palestinian cause to turn it down a notch. Peace will not come about through Palestinians and their supporters chilling out. It will come about when Israel ceases its aggression. If Israel wanted peace, it would be a very simple thing: in the short term, open the borders so that Gaza might be a viable community. In the long term, withdraw to pre-’67 borders, offer full citizenship rights to Arab Israeli citizens and guarantee the right of return to displaced Palestinians.

We can’t achieve peace simply by wanting it, nor by “spreading its message”, nor by joining Facebook groups, nor by pulling heart-strings with soft-focus pictures of suffering Palestinian children. This isn’t just a human tragedy. It is a wholesale slaughter committed by a perpetually expansionist institution armed and supported by the US government. You can go on all you want claiming that you want peace while at the same time that “the Israelites will always have the land of Israel,” choosing to ignore the fundamental violence implied in that statement. I disagree. I do believe that Israel, as a racist apartheid institution, does need to be crossed out, cancelled, abrogated for there to be a just and lasting peace.

Friend #1:

Well, I guess you’re signing up to be part of the problem if you can’t even agree to letting the Jewish people have their own land. Don’t hurt the very people you’re trying to help.

Do you have a rationale suggestion for a solution or are you just a clenched fist with no voice?


It is one thing to say that the Jewish people can have their own land. It is quite another to say that the Jewish people can have their own land to the absolute exclusion of all non-Jewish people, including the previous residents of that land. It is yet another thing to say that the Jewish people can have their own land while they steadfastly refuse to delineate the borders of that land and constantly annex lands that were never previously recognized as theirs.

I told you the rational solution, something that both Fatah and Hamas have said they would accept and that UN resolutions dictate: Israel must withdraw to pre-’67 borders, offer full citizenship rights to Arab Israeli citizens and guarantee the right of return to displaced Palestinians.

The alternative for Israel is destruction, not at the hands of any resistance movement, not under a hail of rockets, but simply due to basic demographics. In another 20 years, Arabs are predicted to outnumber Jews in Israel/Palestine. Barring a campaign of ethnic cleansing or forced-sterilization, those people are not just going to go away. I should hope that we can agree that such “final solutions” are not morally acceptable. With an Arab majority, Israel will stop being what most Israelis recognize as “Israel”.

So, Israel can accept a solution with two actual viable states (not the Swiss-cheese that Israel has made of the West Bank through settlements), one for Jews and one for Arabs, or it can face a steady erosion from within over the next 20 years. Thems the breaks.

Friend #1:

Numbers of people mean nothing in our post modern nuclear age and you know that. No one wants that fight. Hence, let’s find out where the Olive Branches are and make it happen in the name of Good and Love.

The thing is that the Palenstian People have been raped by their own leaders for way to long. Yasser Arafat started it years ago by bombing other Arab countries and now Hamas is continuing with these dumb rocket attacks that only provoke a response of People to protect their Families…

Let’s be real Mr. Miess… Hamas launched rockets behind their own women and children… Yet it’s Israel’s fault for attacking and trying to Protect Family? Muslims are attacking other muslims all over the world (can you say DARFUR and/or SOMALIA), yet all everyone wants to talk about is Israel Defending itself from wicked people being violent.

What else?

Oh ya… and by the way… ’67 borders won’t happen exactly as your depicting it in your mind right now. Let’s remember that those countries whom Israel took some land from were about to attack the Jews and they rightly defended themselves.

Friend #2:

the last line above says it all: annexing territory is filed under the heading of defense. starting from this position, apparently even a kill-rate of 100 to 1 gets to count as defense. how dare you slap me after i killed your whole family? and in my own house no less, which i stole from you fair and square. looks like i’ll have to defend myself here…

I’m no fan of Arafat, Fatah or Hamas, but the rocket attacks are not simply irrational tantrums.  They are every bit as rational as Israel’s actions of state terrorism against Gaza, perhaps more so, considering that the rockets at least fulfill their objective, at considerably less cost of human life, civilian or otherwise.  Hamas is absolutely aware of Israel’s “demographic problem” and uses the rockets, just as Hizbullah before them, in an attempt to discourage in-migration to Israel and encourage out-migration.  Traffic accidents in Israel (a nation with one of the lowest traffic fatality rates) kill 107 times more people than the rockets, but thanks to the fragile Israeli psyche, Hamas’s strategy has proven vastly successful.  This may only be part of the motivation, but surely many of the hundreds of thousands of Israelis who have left the country have done so because they didn’t appreciate living in a war zone.

Palestinians on the other hand, and Gazans in particular, have no option.  They couldn’t leave if they wanted to, regardless whether they had urgent medical needs or a Stanford scholarship, and certainly not if they wanted to escape a war zone.  Is it terrorism?  Absolutely.  Is it “dumb”?  Certainly not any more than Israeli terrorism, which kills hundreds of times more innocents than Qassam rockets, and leaves virtually the entire 1.5 million-strong population of Gaza in abject fear, as opposed to the 19,500 (and shrinking) residents of Sderot, all while failing to accomplish its stated objectives:  the tunnels are still open, Hamas still has its military capacity and support of the people, and Israel managed to assassinate only those Hamas leaders who were on a quest for martyrdom in the first place (which is why they were killed in their homes, not in hiding).

And, no, Hamas does not fire rockets “behind their own women and children”.  Even Israel’s propaganda machine doesn’t claim this.  They fire from open fields.  What you meant to say was that they make and store munitions among their own women and children.  This would be virtually impossible  NOT to do in a place as densely populated (with refugees displaced by Israel from other lands, it should be remembered) as Gaza.  And judging from the paucity of secondary explosions from Israel’s attacks, they weren’t exactly exercising due diligence before bombing targets in the midst of civilians.  Perhaps this was because of faulty intelligence fed to the IDF by senior members of Fatah who were bent on punishing Hamas and making Israel out to be the butcher that it is, all in one stroke.

But apologists for Israel’s ongoing expansionist aggression—being unable to support their position based on the merits of the facts or a moral position that doesn’t suggest that Palestinians are less than human—inevitably change the subject to some other massacre somewhere else.  So why am I not focusing on Darfur or Somalia?  For one, none of the combatants in those “hotspots” are nuclear-armed western military powers receiving the largest amount of US foreign aid of any country.  For another, as counter-productive as US foreign policy has been in those areas, it has not generally spoiled relations with such an enormous mass of humanity as that represented by nearly all Arabs and Muslims.

And if that little distraction doesn’t work, one can always resort to the claim “Israel has a right to Defend itself.”  Yes, it does have a right to defend itself, but it doesn’t have a right to defend itself by force.  Did King George have a right to defend Britain against George Washington?  Did Adolf Hitler have the right to defend Deutchland against the French underground?  Sure, they all had a right to defend themselves, and they all had a simple solution to stop the violence being directed against them, without resorting to the use of force: WITHDRAW FROM OCCUPIED TERRITORIES.

As for the six-day war, I would advise a closer reading of the history.  Saying that Israel’s Arab neighbors “were about to attack the Jews” is a distortion of that history.  First of all, Egypt, Jordan and Syria were not targeting “the Jews”.  If it were “the Jews” that they were after, there were quite a number they could have gone after in their own countries.  Secondly, there was an entirely mutual brinkmanship going on between Israel (I assume that’s what you mean by “the Jews”) and its neighbors.  Israel was hardly an innocent party in this.  In fact, there is ample evidence that the Arab countries were much more interested in diplomacy.  Egypt’s President Nasser had sent his Vice-President to Washington to negotiate a settlement with Israel just days before Israel attacked Egypt.  Furthermore, all of Egypt’s formations on the border were defensive.  There is every reason to believe that Arab countries’ belligerent stances were meant to strengthen their position at the negotiating table, not a mobilization for offensive military action.  Israel’s occupation of Gaza, the West Bank, the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula wasn’t just some sort of byproduct of Arab belligerence; on the contrary, it was Israel’s plan from the beginning.  Interestingly, the casus belli that Israel cited as a justification for its first-strike was a very partial blockade of its shipping routes in the Gulf of Aqaba.  And yet Israel expects the residents of Gaza to sit down and shut up as their own community is subject to a total blockade, and Hamas is criticized for not extending the previous cease-fire because it refused Israel’s “offer” of a 90% blockade, which is worse than before the cease-fire was declared in the first place.

But, that little historical detail aside, you’re likely right:  the borders are highly unlikely to “happen” at the pre-’67 line.  That’s because borders don’t just happen.  Somebody draws them, and Israel has already unilaterally decided that it will give Palestinians the Gaza Strip and all of the West Bank, except, of course, for all the reliable sources of water, the arable soil, major roadways and the hilltops—basically, a series of disconnected bantustans, each an open-air prison, just as Gaza has been.  When Netanyahu gets elected, which seems to be the likely case, things will only get worse.  As Bob Simon has indicated in his special on 60 Minutes and his interview with Charlie Rose, Israel has three choices:  1) it can relocate all Arab Palestinians out of Israel (however it chooses to define that), which is something that generally goes by the name “ethnic cleansing”, 2) it can officially absorb Gaza and the West Bank and grant its residents citizenship, something which would spell the end of Israel as a Jewish “state”, or 3) it can carry on with the status quo, which is apartheid.  Under Netanyahu, only ethnic cleansing and apartheid are likely outcomes, and neither one is very acceptable to “the international community” or any person with an ounce of compassion.

Israel can carry on with this charade for another decade, probably, and whichever way it goes, it will result in a lot of pain and suffering and death for the Palestinian people.  But, in the end, I don’t worry so much about the fate of the Palestinians.  They’ve proven themselves almost miraculously risilient, and in the final instance, barring something truly gruesome like extermination or forced sterilization (and I wouldn’t put these past Israel), time and global public opinion is on the side of the Palestinians.  Israel and—more importantly, the Jews—will be on the losing side of this conflict.

Jews will, whether we agree with it or not, be held to account for all the vicious acts of brutality and atrocity and injustice that have been comitted against the Palestinians in their name.  Anti-Semitism is a very real and very ugly tendency in the world, but Zionists have called out “anti-Semitism!” so often, so loudly and so shrilly at times when thoughful people, many of them themselves Jews, expressed outrage at their savagery and mendacity, that the charge will have lost its once-considerable weight.  I worry that genuine anti-Semites will be able to exploit popular disgust with Israel to gain sympathy for their sick ideas and even sicker actions.


  1. Get ’em, tiger!

    Great work here, Fhar.

    Comment by Blaize — January 30, 2009 @ 3:17 am

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