Friday, October 7, 2016

Thirty-One Opinions on Your Opinions of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

I've written before that I and most other people should probably shut the hell up about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Well..."Two Jews, Three Opinions," they say, to which I'll add "One Jew, 31 Opinions About Your 500 Opinions."

Let me offer the following:

1. Israel's occupation of the West Bank is a human rights catastrophe. It involves the daily humiliation of a group of people who don't deserve to be humiliated. The Israeli state's bombings of Gaza are wrong.

2. There are many greater human rights catastrophes than those born of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Gaza is not, as many activists like to say, the "world's largest open-air prison." North Korea covers a wider geographical area and has a larger population. 

3. If you are an American citizen, it makes sense to focus more on the plight of Palestinians than on the plight of North Koreans, because as an American taxpayer, you are more complicit in the plight of Palestinians, and as an American voter, you might have more ability to influence your government which has more sway over Israeli policy than North Korean policy.

4. If you are a citizen of most countries of the European Union, your focus on the plight of Palestinians over the plight of many other groups doesn't make as much sense. That doesn't mean you are wrong to focus so much on the Palestinian conflict. You may not be complicit in the plight of Palestinians, but you may still have more ability to influence American policy in regards to Israel than Chinese policy in regards to North Korea.

5. If you are more interested in the plight of Palestinians than the plight of other groups, you are not necessarily an anti-Semite.  

6. Many people who spend a lot of time talking about the plight of Palestinians are anti-Semitic.

7. Many people who spend a lot of time talking about the plight of Palestinians care deeply about human rights.

8. Many people who spend a lot of time talking about the plight of Palestinians care deeply about human rights and are also anti-Semitic.

9. Anti-Semitism, like racism, misogyny, and xenophobia, is not always easy to define.

10. If you believe that Israel's treatment of the Palestinians is equivalent to the Nazis' treatment of Jews, you are wrong, but you are not necessarily anti-Semitic. Your belief is ahistorical and it suggests that you believe that every conflict and every form of oppression is exactly the same. If you are not examining your claim in detail, you are intellectually lazy. But let me repeat: You may be wrong, but you are not necessarily anti-Semitic. You're just an idiot.

11. Many people who like to compare the Israeli state to Nazi Germany are motivated by anti-Semitism. They may idiots as well. They may also be horrible, cynical human beings. 

12. You are on firmer ground if you compare the Israeli state to South African apartheid. I think this is an imperfect metaphor. If you make the comparison without any caveats after having read at least 100 books about South African apartheid, alongside at least 100 books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, you are not a good reader. Still, I agree it is effective shorthand, especially as the word "apartheid" has passed into the English language as a metaphor somewhat detached from the specificities of its original meaning.  

13. You should not be indifferent to the treatment of women or gay people in the Palestinian territories, anymore than you should be indifferent to the treatment of women or gay people in any part of the world. You should also be able to acknowledge that defenders of oppression like to point to instances of human rights abuses among the oppressed in order to defend their own indefensible behavior. (See "Taliban-ruled Afghanistan, American invasion of"). 

14. Many great Palestinian and Israeli writers have written thoughtful, humane books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Some of these books are histories. Others are essays or works of political science. Some are memoirs. Others are novels. If you want to learn more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or talk about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, you should read some of these books. 

15. You don't need to read anything written by Judith Butler in regards to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

16. The word "Holocaust" is not a magical incantation that legitimizes your argument.

17. If you don't understand why the Holocaust may inform the way many Jews feel about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, in one way or another, and why there are good reasons why it would inform their views, than you have an underdeveloped moral imagination.

18. If you want to fight for Palestinian rights, I am all for you doing so. I also believe you need to figure out what a decent solution to the conflict might be. A binational state? A two-state solution? What does it mean to be a "Jewish" democracy? How will the resources be shared? How will your solution ensure human rights for all? These are hard questions. They make your head hurt. Still, you should try to answer them.

19. I'm not sure if the most urgent need at this moment is to answer all the questions posed in number 18.

20. Hamas is evil. If you don't acknowledge that Hamas is evil, you are either ignorant or actively lying.

21. If you want to fight for Palestinian rights, I support you, but unfortunately, you may end up having to make common cause with people you might not like. (I call these people "anti-Semites.") If you are at a meeting and someone says something terribly anti-Semitic, or something that is not necessarily anti-Semitic, but still deeply toxic to the debate (i.e. "Israeli state = Nazi Germany"), and you disagree with this person because you are not an idiot...Then you are either a coward or making a tragic compromise in the interest of winning a cause. I'm not saying you should act differently. I am telling you to be honest with yourself and admit that you are either a coward or making a tragic compromise.

22. There are worse things in the world than being a coward at a political meeting. You may be less of a coward in other aspects of your life. 

23. Freddie DeBoer is my favorite writer on the Internet. Much of what I've written on this list would piss him off. But he's a lefty who likes to tell other lefties, "Doing good is more important than being good." Did you hear that? Doing good is more important than being good.

24. Steven Salaita is an anti-Semite.

25. Donald Trump is awakening an anti-Semitic movement. He's also an anti-Semite.

26. A human rights catastrophe may not be a "genocide." You can still fight a non-genocidal human rights catastrophe with every fiber of your being.

27. There are far greater horrors in the world than a sign on a college campus that compares the Israeli state to Nazi Germany.

28. If you don't find the current rise in anti-Semitism alarming, you are actively ignoring at least the last 150 years of European history. That's a conservative estimate and I don't really know enough to say that you are ignoring the last 2000 years of European history.  

29. I take that back. You are ignoring at least the last 50,000 years of human history. You know, around the time human beings started separating into groups and picking on people different from themselves.

30. There is a child whose name I don't know and you don't know, who once lived in Gaza who was killed by an Israeli bomb. That this bomb killed this child is an absolute atrocity. If are indifferent to the murder of children in the service of any political philosophy created by adults, I honestly don't understand who you are as a human being...Actually I do understand. I don't have a high opinion of human beings. If you care more about your feelings than the death of an Israeli civilian killed by a Palestinian terrorist...well, I guess I understand you too.

31. I have at least 31 more opinions on the matter, but frankly, I'm just sick of you. I hate you. I hate myself. I hate anyone who cares more about his personal feelings than a girl killed by a bomb in Gaza.

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