Monday, November 26, 2007

The Jewish question?
The Jewish question??
The Jewish question???

Bernard Lewis has an article entitled "The Jewish question".

I thought "The Jewish question" was an antiquated, obsolete, term, no longer in use, since there is no longer a "Jewish question". The Jewish question was answered, by Zionism, modernity, enlightenment, emancipation, democracy and freedom for all.

But apparently, the Jewish question is alive and well, and is an issue, for those who refuse to accept that there is a Jewish nation

What Shakespeare intrinsically understood in the seventeen century*, is still an unsolved mystery for the likes of Nadia Abu el-Haj, Joseph Massad, and the Saudi King, to name but a few that come to mind.

Bernard Lewis is trying to clarify the knots, which everyone agrees will not be unraveled at Annapolis. Here are a few excerpts, but I recommend reading the entire article. It's not long:

If, on the other hand, the issue is the existence of Israel, then clearly it is insoluble by negotiation. There is no compromise position between existing and not existing, and no conceivable government of Israel is going to negotiate on whether that country should or should not exist.

PLO and other Palestinian spokesmen have, from time to time, given formal indications of recognition of Israel in their diplomatic discourse in foreign languages. But that's not the message delivered at home in Arabic, in everything from primary school textbooks to political speeches and religious sermons. Here the terms used in Arabic denote, not the end of hostilities, but an armistice or truce, until such time that the war against Israel can be resumed with better prospects for success. Without genuine acceptance of Israel's right to exist as a Jewish State, as the more than 20 members of the Arab League exist as Arab States, or the much larger number of members of the Organization of the Islamic Conference exist as Islamic states, peace cannot be negotiated.

A good example of how this problem affects negotiation is the much-discussed refugee question. During the fighting in 1947-1948, about three-fourths of a million Arabs fled or were driven (both are true in different places) from Israel and found refuge in the neighboring Arab countries. In the same period and after, a slightly greater number of Jews fled or were driven from Arab countries, first from the Arab-controlled part of mandatory Palestine (where not a single Jew was permitted to remain), then from the Arab countries where they and their ancestors had lived for centuries, or in some places for millennia. Most Jewish refugees found their way to Israel.

What happened was thus, in effect, an exchange of populations not unlike that which took place in the Indian subcontinent in the previous year, when British India was split into India and Pakistan. Millions of refugees fled or were driven both ways -- Hindus and others from Pakistan to India, Muslims from India to Pakistan. Another example was Eastern Europe at the end of World War II, when the Soviets annexed a large piece of eastern Poland and compensated the Poles with a slice of eastern Germany. This too led to a massive refugee movement -- Poles fled or were driven from the Soviet Union into Poland, Germans fled or were driven from Poland into Germany.

The Poles and the Germans, the Hindus and the Muslims, the Jewish refugees from Arab lands, all were resettled in their new homes and accorded the normal rights of citizenship. More remarkably, this was done without international aid. The one exception was the Palestinian Arabs in neighboring Arab countries.

The government of Jordan granted Palestinian Arabs a form of citizenship, but kept them in refugee camps. In the other Arab countries, they were and remained stateless aliens without rights or opportunities, maintained by U.N. funding. ...

The reason for this ... is the need to preserve the Palestinians as a separate entity until the time when they will return and reclaim the whole of Palestine; that is to say, all of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and Israel. The demand for the "return" of the refugees, in other words, means the destruction of Israel. This is highly unlikely to be approved by any Israeli government.

There are signs of change in some Arab circles ... only furtively expressed. Sometimes, those who dare to express them are jailed or worse. These opinions have as yet little or no impact on the leadership.

Which brings us back to the Annapolis summit. If the issue is not the size of Israel, but its existence, negotiations are foredoomed. And in light of the past record, it is clear that is and will remain the issue, until the Arab leadership either achieves or renounces its purpose -- to destroy Israel. Both seem equally unlikely for the time being.

(Via: Solomonia)

Here are two other perspectives:

Amos Oz believes success would mean "defeating the extremists". And a rebuttal by Martin Sherman

Eric Lee has a solution, and a mighty good one, though implausible for reasons which cannot be explained . . .

(Via: Normblog)

Didn't I say, an un-tangle-able web?

All these opinions are actually expressions of hope in the face of looming disaster. I thought in the past about the concept of "hope". And I tend towards Poe's philosophy, that hope does not propel us forward at times of great crisis, but rather hinders solution, by acting like a sort of red herring, diverting us from looking and thinking and doing what can actually save us. I find myself very reluctant these days to use the verb "I hope" or the noun "hope" when I think about Israel's problems. Hope seems such a useless option when you are standing on a beach and you perceive a tsunami wave towering over the horizon . . .


* He hath disgraced me, and hindered me half a million, laughed at my losses, mocked at my gains, scorned my nation, thwarted my bargains, cooled my friends, heated mine enemies; and what's his reason? I am a Jew.


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