Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Decades of Concessions and Withdrawals - Why Palestinians Reject Peace by Jonathan Tobin

...After two decades of concessions and withdrawals on Israel’s part, Palestinians now routinely speak of all of Israel—including liberal, cosmopolitan Tel Aviv, where terrorists struck last week—as “occupied” territory. So, despite the emphasis on settlements and Netanyahu’s supposedly hardline personality, Israel’s willingness to do what Shipler and peace activists advised had the opposite effect on the Palestinians than they thought.

Jonathan S. Tobin..
Commentary Magazine..
14 June '16..
Link: https://www.commentarymagazine.com/foreign-policy/middle-east/palestinians-reject-peace/

As the New York Times’ Jerusalem bureau chief from 1979 to 1994, David Shipler was was the focus of a great deal of justified criticism about the paper’s bias against Israel. He wrote a 1987 book titled Arab and Jew, which was the recipient both of a Pulitzer and full-throated and passionate criticism for its pure moral equivalence. But an interview with Shipler in the Times of Israel reveals a change in his thinking that tells us something about the way the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians has changed since his reporting days.

The conventional wisdom about Israeli society in most of the mainstream international media holds that the Jewish population has become more intractable and opposed to peace. Shipler provides a far more nuanced view, derived from conversations with young people conducted for a new edition of his book. They display a diversity of thought that is surprising to him. Whereas as late as 1993, the time of the signing of the Oslo Accords, almost all Israelis saw themselves as the sole victims of the long war for their independence, now they provide a variety of answers—with many recognizing the Palestinian narrative of suffering or seeing “everybody” in the region as victims of the conflict.

The contrast with Palestinians attitudes is what’s so striking. At the time of the publication of his book, Palestinians merely wanted to “turn back the clock to 1967” with an Israeli withdrawal from the territories. Today, Shipler says, things are very different.

But in speaking to people now, I understood that the time frame has become 1948 for the Palestinians. … Now Israelis are seen only as colonialists. There is no recognition of Jewish history in the Land of Israel, of the Holocaust, and the real reasons for the creation of history.

Just as important is that he says that, whereas there was a wide gap between what Palestinian leaders and their people were saying in the 1980s, now there is no daylight between the sort of incitement that is spewed by Hamas and Fatah and the conversations he had with ordinary Arabs.

When Shipler was actively reporting on the conflict, he was an exponent of the idea that peace could only come when both sides would be able to see the justice in the claims of the other side. By that definition, it’s clear that one side has moved toward peace, the other has not.

Shipler’s assertion that most Israelis no longer view themselves as the sole victims in this conflict is unquestionable. It is also unquestionable that Palestinian attitudes have gone in the other direction. Indeed, Shipler’s impressions reinforce research conducted by Daniel Polisar demonstrating that support for terror and opposition to peace was mainstream Palestinian opinion and not merely the views of a small group of violent extremists.


After two decades of concessions and withdrawals on Israel’s part, Palestinians now routinely speak of all of Israel—including liberal, cosmopolitan Tel Aviv, where terrorists struck last week—as “occupied” territory. So, despite the emphasis on settlements and Netanyahu’s supposedly hardline personality, Israel’s willingness to do what Shipler and peace activists advised had the opposite effect on the Palestinians than they thought.

By granting legitimacy to Palestinian concerns, Israelis haven’t inspired reciprocity but have encouraged their foes to double down on their narrative in which the Jews are interlopers without rights or history. It has convinced them that the Israelis are thieves who must be forced to disgorge all of their stolen goods (i.e. all of Israel) rather than fellow humans with whom they must share land if there is to be peace. Shipler seems to have caught onto the basic conundrum of the peace process that has eluded many of his successors at the Times and elsewhere in the media.

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1 comment:

  1. Though the United States (my country, which I dearly love) was the first to recognize Israel, no country—the US included—has given Israel the full support she deserved. Back in 1948 when the Arab armies attacked and Israel won its first war, Israel was not treated like the usual victor in a military conflict. If Germany had again attack France at the time and if France (for the first time ever) had beat them back and won, France would have demanded and gotten reparations, including territory won. And any refugees would have been Germany’s responsibility to resettle. But when Israel won, the world—including the US—considered Israel's hold on the territory it won to be temporary and provisional. And somehow Israel was saddled (at least in a practical sense) with the responsibility for the refugees. If the world had wanted it, the UN (or the Arabs themselves with their vast resources) could have resettled the refugees with a year or even less. Instead they were allowed to remain, to grow more numerous, and eventually to develop and flesh out the myth that they were a separate people who had previously rule a never-existent state called Palestine.
    I think it would be a stretch to give the Arabs credit for actually planning what happened. But once the world accepted the idea that the Arabs could just go about their business without taking any responsibility for what they had done, the primary conditions were set up for giving legitimacy to the myth of a Palestinian state. This did not happen just yesterday; this has been in development for a long, long time. But such a thing virtually always happens if one leaves a problem unresolved. The unresolved aspects gain a constituency and a legitimacy that they would not have if the problem had been solved in the first place. It will, for example, happen by common law in the United States if—out of kindness—you leave trespassers on your property. Ultimately they will actually have a legal right to be there in some jurisdictions. But even beyond law, it happens in people’s minds.
    At this point, barring some completely unforeseen occurrence, there are certain points that cannot be reversed. The world recognizes the existence of a Palestinian people. It matters not that before 1948 most of the world would have said “the Palestinian people” was a synonym for “the Jews” (if they recognized the term at all). Nowadays, “the Palestinian people” are the group represented by Hamas and to a lesser extent by the Palestinian authority. Also, the world recognizes that the Palestinian people have a right to a “homeland”, some homeland. Currently the exact nature of that homeland is not fixed. Many or even most Palestinians think that the homeland means everything they occupy now plus all the rest of Israel. We know that. But it is not YET the world view. And it is not the view of the United States (yet).
    Israel cannot reverse the past. But Israel ought to be able to get a resolution in which the United States, Europe, and most—if not all—of the rest of the world recognizes some permanent, final status boundaries. That is what is needed. Further delay will enlarge the constituency of the “Palestinians” and strengthen the myth that their homeland is all of Israel.
    The last part of this note should be the formula for how to accomplish the above. But that’s the part I have not worked out yet. I think someone else is going to have to come up with that part. But, I seriously believe that it can be done and once it is done the Palestinian myths will stop enlarging.

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