Posted by: sean | June 8, 2011

Kevin Drum’s history problem

I like Kevin Drum’s writing, and The Political Animal was one of the first blogs that I started reading on a daily basis, but reading over some of his recent comments on the Middle East, I’ve been more than a little troubled.

Drum was annoyed with the Israeli and American reaction (singular) to Obama’s speech and the manufactured controversy over Obama’s 1967-lines-with-swaps comment. He was also troubled with the sycophantic reaction Netanyahu received during his speech to Congress. I share both sentiments, but if Drum is looking for a reason as to why Congress (Democrats and Republicans) so often resorts to a Pavlovian defense of anything Israel says or does, he might want to take  look at his own writing.

For example, Drum gives this summary of the 1967 war: “Israel won a war started by the other side, it occupied some of their territory, and then it decided to take some of that territory forever.” For starters, that’s just patently false, and claims of “preemptive warfare” aside, any history of 1967 clearly shows that Israel fired the first shots of that war, thus the surprise attack that decimated Egypt’s air force.

Then he says, the Arabs have “started and lost three wars against Israel.” Aside from repeating his misunderstanding of 1967, here he’s repeating a simplistic (and incidentally false) narrative of 1948, that would have it that Israel declared independence and then was attacked by its Arab neighbors. This, of course, leaves out the inconvenient fact that Arab intervention in what was essentially a civil war that had begun in November 1947 came after Jewish militias had already made refugees of some 300,000-400,000 Palestinians. The massacre at Deir Yassin, for example, was on April 9, whereas the declaration of Israel’s independence wasn’t until May 14.  Furthermore, Arab intervention came not at the declaration of Israel’s independence as many would have it but at the expiration of the British mandate. This is a common trope that rewrite history to make Arabs look like violent aggressors against a peaceful, defenseless newborn Israel, when in fact the war of 1948 is much more complicated.

So of the three wars Drum claims Arabs started, 1 was a civil war in which Arab armies intervened (1947-48), another was begun by Israel (1967), and the third (1973) was a surprise attack initiated by Egypt and Syria to regain land that was occupied in the previous war.

This is without mentioning that “the Arabs” are not a monolith, and  even if Drum’s description were accurate (which it’s not), that still wouldn’t justify the dispossession of Palestinians under his explanation that Israel has only a “minority share” of the blame for a lack of peace.

But what does all this have to do with the current kerfuffle? Drum can’t understand why Republicans are engaging in “historical revisionism” as concerns Obama’s speech, all while simultaneously mouthing official Israeli nationalist historiography. Why should contemporary history be any different from modern history?

As Eugene Rogan and Avi Shlaim put it:

Simha Flapan set the agenda when he reduced the historiography on the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948 to seven myths: That the Zionists accepted the UN partition resolution and planned for peace; that the Arabs rejected the partition and launched the war; that the Palestinians fled voluntarily intending reconquest; that the Arab states had united to expel the Jews from Palestine; that the Arab invasion made war inevitable; that a defenseless Israel faced destruction by the Arab Goliath; and that Israel subsequently sought peace but no Arab leader responded.

These nationalist myths have been debunked by the archival work of Israeli historians, such as Benny Morris, Ilan Pappé, Avi Shlaim, Tom Segev and others.

Part of the problem in the US is that Americans have ironically clung even more tightly to Israeli nationalist historiography than many Israelis have. The result is a vague notion that Arabs are mostly to blame for the disposession of Palestinians and the continuing Israeli occupation and that Israel is and always has been a plucky David to the Arab Goliath. So if that’s the historical framework Americans are working from (added to which there is of course the diligent work of the pro-Israel lobby), is it any wonder that the US Congress would wear its palms out applauding Netanyahu as he spoon feeds them a narrative that fits perfectly with the regional history they’ve been taught?

So while Kevin Drum is obviously more critical of real-time history (that is to say, the news), he clearly subscribes  to official Israeli mythmaking  when it comes to 1948 and 1967.

Note: It should go without saying that Arab nationalist historiography clearly has its own myths that could use shattering, but no one in the American media or government that I’m aware of could be fairly accused of succumbing to, say, Syrian or Egyptian historical myths.



  1. Perfect blog with very interesting content! Thank you!

  2. It’s amazing that someone who seems intelligent, has such a raging hatred for Israel that it creates an irrational blindspot and a complete inability to take the other side into account. To start with 1967, acts of war are not necessarily about who fires the first shot. The Straits of Tiran were closed by military force and the international community recognized this as an act of war as did Nasser himself. Add to that the Arab armies massing at the border, and anybody with an understanding of the pertinent laws realizes that “firing the first shot” is not the exclusive definition of an act of war. I suppose, of course, that if someone were pointing a gun at your family and said that they would kill every last member, you wouldn’t consider it self-defense to shoot them first… or is this self-defense something that’s denied only to Israel, since it allows you to paint them as the aggressor despite all evidence to the contrary? Furthermore, Israel certainly did not fire the first shot with Jordan and made efforts to keep them out of it. It was only after Jordan’s repeated shelling of civilian centers (a common feature of the Arabs’ genocidal aims) did Israel finally respond. Had that not been the case, of course, the West Bank would never have become occupied. As for 1948, It’s a little disturbing that you think it legitimate for several armies to intervene in a civil war with the stated aim (and proven action) of killing every last individual on one side. I would say this certainly constitutes the starting of a war in 1948 on the Arab side. And you offer no proof that the Jews started the first half of that war. In fact, the first refugees were the Jews of Jaffa in 1947 (of course there had been plenty of massacres before, such as the one in Hebron in 1929. The Jews of Hebron and Jaffa, I guess, don’t constitute actual refugees for some reason… like that they’re Jews), so you’ve in no way shown that the Jews started the 1948 war, and have only proven that they started the 1967 war through very selective definitions and empty logic (using that term loosely here). In fact you’d be hard pressed to find a Jewish rationale for starting a civil war wen they were on record as supporting the partition with full rights for all, while only the Arabs found the idea of a Jewish state in their midst so unconscionable that they would have to massacre the subject of their hatred (as Arabs had by that point done in repeated progroms in various other countries), And despite the explicitly stated aims of the Arab leadership to destroy Israel and massacre as many civilians as possible in both 1948 and 1967, you choose to paint the 1973 war (where the aims were the same) as simply a matter of trying to get back what was there’s rather than completing their stated objective. So desperate are you to white-wash their acts that THEIR OWN WORDS AND MOTIVES DON’T EVEN FACTOR INTO YOUR HATEFUL AND DISTORTED EQUATION. I suppose, of course, that every one else got it wrong… duped, I suppose, by the Jews with their control of the media and the purse strings. How bout Palestinian terrorist groups shooting demonstrating Palestinian refugees who were angry that their children were encourage to stand in the line of fire? You’d think that might draw a bit of a response.. Oops, did I say terrorist?

  3. Oh, and here’s a little trivia question. If Jordan and Egypt were simply trying to get back what was there’s (despite have 0 legal claim to Gaza or the West Bank… therefore it wasn’t what was there’s), at what point did that land become “Palestinian”?

  4. nate

    rest – breath deep – sean spends hours producing this posts.. and he wont stop now.. he loves it..

  5. and as you see.. and prefers to respond with irrelevant bs on mine rather than answer yours.. :)

  6. Historical analysis shows that Nasser played a foolhardy game of brinkmanship in 67. Though he amassed troops at the border, it is clear that a third of the army was in Yemen and the rest in Egypt was highly unorganized. There was no attack coming. He then proceeded to give the Israelis a chance to walk it back. Israel saw the opportunity, fired the first shot, and took the Sinai along with Egypt’s oilfields. Bravo for them, if that’s your view. But, in this context, firing the first shot is very important.

    Moreover, I hardly think Sean is white-washing anything. Americans in general have no sense of balance in the ME or history. They have been force fed the narrative that they receive.

  7. Sean,

    I think this is one of your best posts. It is true that as Arabs we get pissed off at America for not acting, while we forget that their understanding of what happened in the region skewed. However, I still can’t get it into my head how can the American congress and government be able to risk losing the whole Middle East for the sake of Israel which if anything stands against everything America is (Israel is an ethnocracy that subscribes to a religious state- at the other opposite of the pluralist liberal democracy of United States). United States is currently losing everywhere in the region and it can’t keep its power if the people hate it so much and partly is because of their unjust stance against the Palestinian and the Arab cause. That’s another intriguing thing about the American system, people underestimate how short sighted it is. It actually seems irrational.

  8. It would seem irrational if we all agreed that we can’t say that the US media is controlled by Jewish Americans. This is fine – there is no anti-Semitism in this statement – but it is the truth. 80-90% of NY Times articles written about the ME are written by Jewish Americans. In fact, the whole thing is so ridiculously cancerous that only a major shock will change it. Until American Jews realize the cancer that is growing in Israel and the cancer that they continue to sustain by their complacency and adherence to the seven myths, then the cancer will continue to matastasize. God help us all when it’s gone into remission.

  9. John,
    Nasser said “We knew the closing of the Gulf of Aqaba meant war with Israel… The objective will be Israel’s destruction.” These are the man’s own words. That’s not brinksmanship, but a calculated move to lead to war. The idea that there was “no attack coming” or that the closing of the straits is inconsequential (since you didn’t address it), is simply a matter of your personal opinion. And since I have yet to read a single word on this blog about Arab atrocities (most recently the Itamar massacre which is supported by a third of Palestinians, but beginning with massacres that he ignores in his retelling of history), you’d be hard-pressed to assert that Sean’s words are not a white-wash. Not once does he even mention the Arab leaderships’ (beginnig with Husseini the Nazi) popular goals of genocide and annihilation, and of course the Farhud commemoration last week didn’t register. Arab atrocities are given a pass… perhaps because their preponderance no longer qualifies them as news. As for the matter of antisemitism, I regret to tell you that your comment actually does fit that description. Sure, mentioning how many Jews are on a news staff is not anti-Semitic, but saying that that fact is a problem, implying that Jews conspire together and have an inherent bias, seems to ignore the vast spectrum of Jewish opinion on this subject, and implies a monolith of opinion based on religion. I’m not sure what major shock would change this cancerous Jewish presence (perhaps a final solution of some sort?), but everything about this statement is anti-semetic. Furthermore, you ignore the heavy lean against Israel in much of the New York Times’ reporting. They ran Abbas’s op-ed without scrutiny to historical accuracy, denied Goldstone room for his back-pedal, and continuously bash Israeli policy while leaving out context. Ignoring what they actually write and instead assuming that it must be pro-Israel because they have so many Jews on staff is… say it with me… anti-semetic. I’m glad you’ve all found each other.

    What country do you think shares more American values in the middle-east than Israel? It’s the only country where despite your descriptions of ethnocracy and theocracy, every one of every religion has equal rights under the law, including the right to practice that religion freely. I suppose this problem doesn’t come up much in the rest of the middle east, since your America-like tolerance has led to the complete ethnic cleansing of your millenia old Jewish populations, and continues to degrade your Christian populations (Israel is the only country where the Christian population has actually been increasing… what theocracy?) We’ll ignore for a moment the whole Sunni-Shia conflict, and treatment of Bahais (who are based in intolerant Israel), and Kurds, and gays (also, full rights in Israel). You tell me how any of these countries can then compete with Israel on the basis of civil rights and religious freedom. In fact, even Arabs who make up the majority of most middle-eastern states have more rights in Israel than anywhere else. We don’t conduct virginity tests and kill our Christians like in Egypt. We don’t deny our women the most basic of rights as in Saudi Arabia. We don’t kill “different kinds” of Jews en masse like in Iraq, we don’t arrest mass amounts of journalists like in Turkey, we don’t kill our own citizens who are demonstrating like in Syria, or steal elections like in Iran (that’s a theocracy, right?), and we certainly don’t keep people in refugee camps with minimal human rights from generation to generation like Lebanon, and we certainly don’t celebrate martyrdom or the killing of civilians as in all of the above. So… yeah, I’d say America is definitely siding with the country that is most in line with its values.

    Hey man, how’s it going?

    Steve the Anti-Semite,
    Steve the Anti-Semite? You around buddy? I miss you. Maybe you could tell us what the protocols say about all this.

  10. @Nate: It’s funny to me how you’d like to have it both ways, but I’m afraid you can’t have both a surprise attack and be the defender. In your universe (one where Israel can do no wrong) preemptive war is defensive, because of an Egyptian blockade, but an Israeli blockade of Gaza could never justify a rocket attack from Hamas. That’s because Israel is right and just and pure, and Arabs are genocidal and evil. Likewise, daily overflights into Lebanese territory could never warrant a response by Hezbollah, because even when Israel is acting offensively, it’s really just having a good defense. The funny thing about guys like you is that often your ignorance of the Arab world is nearly matched by your ignorance of Israel, which exists for you as some sort of Platonic ideal instead of being just another grubby Middle Eastern country run by crooks.

    And as for the idea of “sharing America’s values,” I’d say that all Middle Eastern states are far from the concept of American civic nationalism — countries like Egypt and Syria in practice, and countries like Israel, Saudi Arabia and Iran by design. I think what Nizar means is not that Syria or Egypt or Lebanon are bastions of American values deserving of unconditional support, but rather that neither is Israel, and the US should act as an honest broker, or at the very least, act in its national interests, which don’t include unconditional, indefinite support of Israel, a friend without benefits.

    @John: You’re right about Egypt’s saber rattling intentions, as most serious accounts have found.

    On the other point: Today there are articles in the Times on the Middle East by Neil MacFarquhar, Mark Mazetti, Bobby Worth, Sebnem Arsu, Katherine Zoepf, Steven Erlanger, Liam Stack, Dan Bilefsky, David Sanger, William Broad, Fares Akram, Anthony Shadid and Susanne Güsten. I think it’s clear that the contention that “80-90% of NY Times articles written about the ME are written by Jewish Americans” just doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. If there were one place where this might be true, it would be the Jerusalem bureau, where the fact that Ethan Bronner’s son is in the IDF makes me a little uncomfortable. But I think bias is a more complex thing than that, and I think Bronner’s request to be “judged by my work, not by my biography” is very reasonable. His work, however, often seems to slant towards the Israeli narrative. I’d imagine this has as much to do with things like living in West and not East Jerusalem, speaking Hebrew but not Arabic, running in Israeli circles and not Palestinian ones. All of these things lead to bias, and likely more so than any religious or tribal affiliation.

  11. Sean and Nate, thank you for your comments and for pointing out that my NY Times claim was not only inaccurate but also how it can be characterized as antisemtic. I don’t think there is one Jewish view, and I’ve read countless Jewish American reporters and writers whom I admire for their honesty and clarity. My claim was glib, but I’m glad you corrected it.

    However, in terms of the cancer analogy, I think it is no different than the decay one, a description that is applicable to countless nations and empires both contemporary and non. When applying it to Israel, I get the antisemitic label. If I had applied it to America and perhaps the myopic foreign policy makers in Bush’s war cabinet, maybe it would have been better received.

    Nonetheless, I appreciate the forum here because it is simply impossible in America to discuss such things without getting the label. Arabs have committed countless atrocities, yes, but when you take a fair assessment of history and power in this situation, I’m sorry, the platitudes don’t hold up. As much as you may imagine I want a “final solution,” I have no interests in such things. I’m simply tired of the discursive imbalance on this issue, as I think all of us who believe in the empirical method are.

  12. As usual you completely ignore my explanation, the words of the Arab leadership themselves and international norms in your simplistic attempt to paint Israel as the universal aggressor, and you don’t even address that the first casualties and refugees of the “civil war” were Jews. Furthermore since an attack is not the only possible act of war, it is actually possible to have it both ways, but I won’t repeat what you clearly can’t find an explanation for. As for the Gaza blockade, unfortunately your comparison relies on time travel technology. As is often the case, chronology doesn’t even enter into your equation, so you can’t recognize that the rocket attacks preceded the blockade, and therefore cannot be justified by the blockade. As for overflights, I understand why you’d love for only Israel to hold up its end of the ceasefire agreement, as it would weaken it considerably, but that’s not really how things work. If the Lebanese people are happy to revert to Syrian control and have their government held hostage by a terrorist organization who even assassinates their leaders, while continuing to endanger the citizens by embedding its infrastructure in civilian areas in violation of a ceasefire that ended a war that this group started, that’s certainly their choice. There are, however, consequences. In your universe (one where Israel can do no right) Israel is not just another grubby Middle Eastern country run by crooks, but the one that, while holding closer to liberal ideals than any of its neighbors and being the only true democracy in the region and the only one threatened with destruction since inception, cannot be presumed innocent under any circumstance whatsoever. As for the genocidal claim, Israel has never elected by a landslide a party who claims genocidal goals outright. Furthermore, when rabbis in Israel suggest not renting to Arabs they are roundly condemned by the citizens and the Prime Minister (as they should be), while in your country, your boy Fadlallah can celebrate the killing of innocent civilians and still be revered as a religious beacon. And through out the Arab world the media incites hatred and anti-semetism without being met with revulsion and condemnation, while in Israel (as in America) such a phenomenon would be simply unimaginable. So genocidal actually makes sense when you dehumanize a people and teach children to hate entire groups from birth. More importantly, however, I don’t simply “claim” that Arabs are genocidal (and I certainly wouldn’t say that ALL Arabs are). I am simply referring to the facts, where the more genocidal a leader is in his rhetoric, the more popular he tends to be. Progroms were the norm through out the Arab world before Israel was created. Husseini was at his peak of popularity during his Nazi years, Hamas won by a landslide, and in the intervening years, Arab leaders rallied the people to war with calls for no less than full-scale annihilation of army and civilians alike. If you can find a parallel in Israel, I’d be glad to see it, but as a liberal democracy that nurtures tolerance (this isn’t some ideal that I hold Israel to, but is rather the norm for civilized countries), the citizens would never be roused by such vile calls. I spent my childhood in Israel, have been back numerous times, and have been surrounded by Israelis all my life. Your suggestion that I’m ignorant about Israel doesn’t seem to be based on anything but a desperate attempt at a cheap swipe where the facts have proven inconvenient.

  13. Furthermore, Israel is certainly not just another grubby Middle Eastern country. It’s freedoms make it vastly different as does its culture, one that has produced technology, art, academic work, and scientific, medical, and humanitarian contributions that quite literally put its giant neighborhood to shame. Add to that the wide popularity of Sharia law in its most vile manifestations in various countries, the accepted intimidation of minorities of all kinds, and – in some countries – a rate of inbreeding that is truly appalling, and it’s clear that while Israel certainly has its own “grub” – as does any other country – the Arab middle east is certainly in a league of its own, in which Israel certainly doesn’t fit, and that, I assure you, is a point of pride. Since Israel has never had to let its guard down against attacks, it can’t be directly compared to America (though the general framework implies many similarities that would emerge in the event of peace). The Arab countries, however, without living under such threats, have already proven themselves to be anathema to everything America stands for.

  14. More from pre-war ’67:
    “We shall destroy Israel and its inhabitants,” – Palestine Liberation Organization leader Ahmad al-Shuqayri.
    Iraqi President Abdul Rahman Arif said the Arab goal was to wipe Israel off the map: “We shall, God willing, meet in Tel Aviv and Haifa.”

  15. Nate: Israel might be a democracy if we think of democracy as elections, rule of law, and a system of governance that supports peaceful transition of power. However, in the modern world democracy is attached to liberal democracy. Israel is not a liberal democracy because it does not respect human rights or international law and still discriminates according to religion and ethnic group. The fact that Israel continues occupying a land and settling it is in gross violation of Geneva declaration and all the international laws that specifically state that you can’t transfer people, change the demography of the land a state has occupied. This was a response to Hitler’s invasion of Poland and the brutal population transfers that occurred. Hence, it is striking that the west which lectures the world about liberal democracy supports a state that is violating that and in fact continues a project of colonial settlement. When a Jew born in Brooklyn and has never been to Palestine for all of his life can claim a birth right to dwell, kick out arabs and serve in an occupation army, there is something disturbing about that. Don’t you think? Hence, my point is: Israel is not from this century and it’s a shame that the west supports that. When I say this, many Israelis answer: what you think Syria is better? or the Arab world? Well, I would say this, we are not better when it comes to individual rights or gay rights or minority rights, however, we are not indulging in a colonial project that actually slowly cleanses the population systemically based on their race or culture. In all cases, one can stand against two things at the same time. I am a liberal and I stand with minority rights and individual freedoms everywhere.

    Anti-Israeli or Pro-Palestinian: I refuse to even say I am anti-Israeli or pro-palestinian. I think that you can’t be pro or against people for what they are. I in fact don’t care, I would like to drink beer in Tel Aviv, but I have a problem with the state of Israel and its dispossession of Palestinians, in the same way I have a problem with Turkey’s brutal suppression of Kurds. (although at least in Turkey if you say you’re Turkish you probably can be treated equally, Palestinians are targeted for their racial and religious affiliation so they don’t even have the chance of joining the state- they just want them to die in a hole) So, I don’t see Israel as evil per se, but the continuation of the policies of settlement, segregation and occupation is unacceptable if we want to move this region towards the 21st century. I don’t think that just because the Jews suffered in the Holocaust that this gives them the right to bully another people and dispossess them. Injustice is injustice everywhere.

    John: I think you are right when it comes to the Jewish lobby here. People are afraid to express their opinions. Especially if you want to have a career in public life, then you need to toe the line. I think this is changing a bit; however, it is really depressing I agree. It makes you think about the kind of democracy that exists in USA.

    I am very optimistic. I think the state of Israel will continue to exist but not in the same way. It cannot exist as a Jewish majority state and time will show. I read somewhere that Israel’s security is like being a in a toilet with an unlocked door, you have to keep holding the door. The reality is that Israel was a product of the colonial age and it cannot exist in its current ideology with the global changes. The Jews on the other hand have always been here and they will continue to be and thrive. We just have to have patience. وان الغد لناظره قريب

  16. First of all, here’s an article on 1967 from the evil, Zionist, Turkish press:–2011-06-02
    If a Jew chooses to move from Brooklyn that is his right according to a sovereign state’s immigration laws. To suggest that in doing so “kicks out Arabs” is simply baseless, unless you can show an example. Furthermore, you dispute your own point by making reference to the reasoning behind the Geneva convention in question. This was written in response to forcible and “brutal” population transfers, which the settlements are not, therefore there is no contravention of the Geneva convention. The writers of the convention have actually found the notion of it applying to voluntary settlement to be ridiculous and contrary to the spirit of the convention. Furthermore, the San Remo convention put into law that Jews would be able to settle anywhere in Palestine, a law which has never been rescinded.. Next, the rights afforded to Israeli Arabs show that Israel does not segregate according to religion or ethnicity. Once again, if you can prove otherwise while keeping this in mind, I’m ready to listen. As for slow ethnic cleansing, it is certainly an emotive trigger term, but flies contrary to the facts. The Palestinian population has nearly quadrupled since 1967… in what way is this a slow ethnic cleansing? It is simply an accusation used to back up your accusations of colonialism (which you should look up, as this in no way applies to the situation in Israel), but it is a foundation made of sand. Can you actually back up this accusation of slow ethnic cleansing? The rising population in the territories. The drastically improved standard of living, infant mortality rate and life expectancy since 1967? Any of this jive with your accusation? How bout that more Israeli Arabs would prefer to remain in Israel, or for their village to remain in Israel in the event of a peace treaty (including those of East Jerusalem)? Are these people simply suicidal?
    Furthermore, the occupation is the least of this region’s problems in its attempts to enter the 21st century. As noted above, the Arab world has much to contend with if it wants to move forward, and one of those things is tollerance and renunciation of violence — two things which if brought to bear, would make the occupation completely unnecessary. But again, history is lost and you point to the occupation without any considerations for how and why it came to be, or the many offers (1967, 2000 2008) to end it, that the Arabs – given a lack of tolerance or compromise – have consistently rejected.
    As for your comments to John, are you saying that rather than it being an “Israeli Lobby” – one of many national lobbies in America – it is instead a “Jewish Lobby”? Whereby Jews control American policy and undermine its democracy (although the vast majority of Americans support Israel, so I’d say that’s in keeping with democracy)? And what retribution do people “fear”? I can name many famous Americans (Carter, Chomsky, etc.) who are anti-Israel, and your insinuation that Jewish power somehow censors them or eats away at American democracy is – say it with me – Anti-Semetic.
    Finally, I’d love to know why Israel cannot continue to be a Jewish majority? If the Palestinians get their own state, what would stop Israel from being a Jewish majority nation? Your insinuation that Jews will continue to “be here and thrive” ignores, once more the proven lack of tolerance in the Arab world, today and in the past. The massacre of Hebron and the Farhud of Iraq as well as progroms that only really abated under colonialism shows that Jews should have no trust whatsoever that they will be given full rights and protection under Arab sovereignty… in fact even Arabs can’t be afforded these freedoms and protection under Arab sovereignty. No, if your only solution to the conflict is that one side commits suicide, then I assure you you are not on the side of peace and compromise, but rather on the side of maximalist Arab intolerance that keeps the region out of the 21st century and accounts for the disparity in contributions to the world between Israel and its Arab neighbors.

  17. Wait, wait, I just realized this little hilarious gem. “however, we are not indulging in a colonial project that actually slowly cleanses the population systemically based on their race or culture.” Please tell me that’s intended as a joke. Not only have I shown how Israel does not engage in such actions, the complete cleansing of Jews from the Arab world, along with continued intimidation and emigration of Christians and Bahais shows that you are AMAZINGLY blind to the issues in Arab countries. This is exactly what the Arabs have and continue to indulge in and that’s entirely irrefutable. So even in that regard, Israel wins on the basis of human rights and freedoms.

  18. Nate:

    1- Ethnic cleansing is a policy designed by one ethnic or cultural or religious group to remove another group from a geographic area. Israel’s policies of ethnic cleansing in fact started in 1947-8. You shoudl probably read the Neo-historians in Israel such as Segeve and Benny morris. Hence, we have established that what occured in 1948 was a form of ethnic cleansing. At that time called “operation broom”. If we look at settlements right now, under Israeli law you can get tax cuts if you live in a settlement in an official policy to increase the settlements and hence take more land and penetrate more into the west bank. If this is the case, then Israel is conducting an “official” policy of changing the “facts on the ground”. This policy of changing demographic facts on the ground is considered illegal. Ethnic cleansing does not necesseraliy mean decreased population but rather purifying a geographic region of its inhabitants. Settlements are not voluntary jewish enterprises, they are supported by a military establishment and huge funds and in general if some thugs in America go and settle into a hill that is not their’s then the state has the responsibility of taking them down. This does not occur in Israel, the state supports land grabing. Israel then is responsible under international law for these “changes on the ground” and the Palestinians should not be negotiating for their right to their land.

    2- It is true that christians and even jews had problems in the Arab world. I stand against this. To correct my statement, Saddam actually conducted “ethnic cleansing” in the North of Iraq and the Sudanese in South Sudan. I stand firmly against this. These were practices similar to what the Israelis have been doing. I also stand against this and so does the world. Now, there is a difference with teh status fo christians in Iraq and the Jews in the rest of the world. There was no official policy against these populations. This does not mean that there was no hatred or hate crimes. In all cases, hate crimes in another Arab country -say Iraq- does not explain or justify in no shape or form the policies of Israel against Palestinians. Two wrongs do not make a right.

    3- Yes, I think all the population in Palestine and Israel should be one state. The continued segregation of Israel between Arabs and Jews are evident. Since Israel both refuses to give Palestinians their state and at the same time, refuses to treate them as equal citizens (Except few) makes it a defacto apartheid state. You can’t have your cake and eat it too, can you? Either you are an occupation force or one state with an apartheid system. In both cases, Israel is engaging in gross human rights violation.

  19. sorry for the bad english.

  20. Where to even begin.
    1-Refugees are the result of most wars and do not in and of themselves entail ethnic cleansing. While people on both sides were clearly displaced, it is only one side that continues to propegate displacement by making it hereditary in a way that most refugee populations of the world refuse to do. That said, the Arabs who started the war that created refugees are therefore responsible for the refugee crisis, and while some were forced out out of military imperative, an actual policy of ethnic cleansing would not have left 20% of Israel’s population as Arab. Furthermore. government incentives do not make settlement any less of a voluntary decision. Add to that the fact that the settlement boundaries have not moved an inch in decades, I don’t see how further building within those settlements (which take up under 2% of the west bank, is actually taking more land. As for changing the facts on the ground, unless you can show me how the Palestinians have any more right to the public land of the West Bank than the Israelis do, you’d have to admit that Jewish building is no more a change of facts on the ground than Arab building, which you clearly don’t believe needs to be frozen. Given the San Remo convention allowing close Jewish settlement, and combined with the lack of a sovereign state on the land, what makes these people thugs? And are their 3 month old babies thugs as well? Deserving of having their throats slit while supported by a third of the Palestinian population.
    As for the idea that “Palestinians should not be negotiating for their right to their land” I’ll ask again what makes it their land. In 1964 when the PLO was formed they specifically stated that the West Bank and Gaza were not their land and there was certainly no effort to make an independent state on that land. So what is it that makes land that was Ottoman then British, then Jordanian and Egyptian “Palestinian land”, that must be fought for with suicide bombings and rocket attacks rather than negotiated for?

    2- Christians and EVEN Jews had PROBLEMS? It’s called ethnic cleansing. How many are left. They were massacred and expelled in a way that you could never point to the Israeli as having treated the Palestinians. So not only are you treating lightly the Arab crimes of intolerance, but you compare Israel to mass murderers who kill based on race while targeting civilians and entire population. Unless you can point to how Israel is doing anything of the sort, your statement is nothing short of a despicable lie. Furthermore to say that there was no official policy against Jews is also a lie, given the many dhimmi laws that were enacted and the government laws that required the Jews to leave all of their possessions behind. Once again, show me a parallel. The fact that you seem to think that Iraq was the only such country and that the rest of the Arab world’s Jews left simply out of free choice is apallingly ignorant. And while it would not justify Israel having such policies, you still haven’t shown how Israel does. Furthermore, I only brought it up because you said in a glaring affront to history that at least the Arab world doesn’t indulge in such things. In fact, such acts meet with very little popular resistence in the Arab world.

    3- More lies. Israel is not segregated between Arabs and Jews. There are no policies of segregation and Israeli Arabs have full rights. You continue to ignore this fact while trying to make your baseless argument. Furthermore, you’ve failed to address that Israel hasn’t refused to give the Palestinians a state, having accepted it in 1947, 1967, 2000, and 2008. If the Arabs refuse to take these offers and insist on destroying Israel, under what grounds should that rejectionism be met with a full appeasement that dissolves Israel into another Arab state, where we’ve seen the populations have no hesitation in oppressing non-Muslims? Furthermore, apartheid doesn’t apply since all rights are afforded to Israel’s Arab citizens. and that these citizens (unlike the black of South Africa) a minority with said rights. There is no reason why Israel should be expected to make all Palestinians into citizens when it hasn’t annexed the land that they live on. But there is also no reason why Israel should immediately withdraw from disputed territory when any land it leaves is used for further attack. If Israel can be promised peace upon withdrawal, the occupation could end immediately, but to call it a human rights violation and therefore expect – as always – Israel to commit suicide by appeasing those who couldn’t care less about equality and human rights, is to make a mockery of the very concept of human rights. You can’t complain about occupation if you refuse to end hostilities in the event of the end of such occupation, and you can’t complain about apartheid when it quite simply doesn’t exist. Apartheid, like human rights and ethnic cleansing are buzz words used by people with extremist views who see no room for compromise and prefer instead to have their enemy destroyed and subjugated in the false name of freedom and equality..

  21. And Sean, are all those seven “myths” actual myths? Perhaps you can explain, cuz that right there… well, that’s just crazy.

  22. 1- Great Nate… since you “offer’ the Palestinians a state all the time. i think you will be supporting Palestine’s declaration of independence this September in front of the UN? and I think you will be demanding like all of us an end to the occupation? or what’s your deal? What do you want from the Palestinians other than to die?
    2- refugees have the right to return -under international law- in case of war. This is regardless who started it (and for God’s sake read what sean was saying)

  23. 1-I have no desire for the Palestinians to die. Are you denying, though, that they were offered a state? Of course I wouldn’t support the declaration in September or the end of “occupation” until Israel was offered peace in return… that’s what was offered and that is a very small thing to demand. Furthermore, the Palestinians have no legal grounds on which to claim what their borders will be without negotiation, which is another reason that I wouldn’t support unilateral moves. If that’s all they want they could have had it, but they insist on a right of return that would destroy Israel which brings us to
    2-There is no such right. Not in international law. Not anywhere. Compensation can be negotiated, but an insistence on return is quite clearly an insistence on keeping the conflict going and people dying rather than choosing compromise. And, more importantly, in other circumstances the descendants of refugees don’t qualify as refugees themselves, so why the special treatment for Palestinians? If the actual refugees want to return, they are welcome to, but their descendants would not be “returning” anywhere. . As for what Sean was saying, I wrote very clearly how his argument has no basis in fact. He hasn’t been able to dispute my arguments (he rarely does) and you haven’t been able to dispute the ones I made to you about apartheid, ethnic cleansing, and occupation.

  24. More apartheid:,7340,L-4082248,00.html

  25. It’s like being back in South Africa:,7340,L-4082782,00.html

  26. Here’s Benny Morris this week talking about how the Arabs started the “civil” war of ’47 AND the actual war of ’48 (which probably wouldn’t have waited for the declaration of independence if the only aim was to save the Palestinians). So not only do the facts not support your claims, but nor do some of the sources that you cite.


  28. Nate,
    dude..the palestinians have already accepted the 1967 borders and are asking Israelis to take the 1948 and leave them alone. Why does Israel keep taking land and making more settlements? that is the problem. the problem is not the refugees. the Palestinians have already compromised. Although again under international law refugees can go back to their homes.

    As for refugees giving the status of refugees to their children. The palestinians have the right for compensation in the same way Jews in Europe still demand -and rightfully- compensation for loosing property and so forth. As in regards to the status of refugees under international law, I am not really sure as I am not a specialist. Sean, do you have any information about that? What does a refugee under international law mean? and does it fit the descendents of refugees?

  29. Dude, where is it that you have seen the Palestinians accept the 1967 borders? In Hamas’s talk of using it as a first step to taking everything? In Arafat’s referral to the same strategy? In popular polls referring to the same strategy? Or in Abbas and co.’s refusing to bend on the “right of return”? Where is this “acceptance” of which you speak? And where are these “borders” of which you speak? There is absolutely no denying that there was never a border on the green line – that’s not a matter of narrative, but historical fact. Add to that the security requirements created by the 1967 war as well as UN 242’s specifically denying that all of said land needs to be returned, I would say that even if the Palestinians were to magically accept such lines, they would have no legal basis for demanding them. I would love to see one example of the Palestinians “asking Israelis to take the 1948 and leave them alone,” since it is the Israelis who continue to insist that a settlement mean the end of the conflict. This may be your position, but it has never been the Palestinian position in history. If it were, they would agree to Israel as a Jewish state and to dropping the “right of return” demand. Compensation is certainly a possibility (I would suggest it come from the Arab countries as payment for the Jewish refugees), but “return” is a clear non-starter and is far from the concept of “take it and leave us alone”. As for taking more land, I’ve already pointed out that that is simply not the reality. The borders of the settlements are not expanding and no new settlements are being built…. so another falsehood.
    Finally, for refugees. Show me another population from that time period when there were literally tens of millions of refugees that insisted on staying refugees from generation to generation. Literally. One other example that holds on to victimhood and hatred while being oppressed by their own brothers rather than ensuring a better future for their children. Certainly not the Jews of that time, or Sudeten Germans, or any of the other populations that have moved and been moved through out history and specifically the 40’s. This is why the Palestinians have their very own UN refugee agency while all others in the world are served by a single agency collectively. And while this other agency makes it a point to settle their refugees, UNRWA, due to cynical Arab politics and neglect for Palestinian human rights, makes no move for settlement and naturalization, instead allowing the problem to fester and grow as a political asset. And so, if you look at the definitions of refugees and the the goals of refugee agencies, you’ll clearly find that the Palestinians have created a definition of their own. In fact, while the main agency’s definition leaves room for descendants (which, as I’ve pointed out almost never comes up), the UNRWA refers to descendants in the very definition. And while the main agency gives clear criteria by which the status is lost, UNRWA has no such clause, meaning that if you’re a Palestinian refugee, every generation after you will be as well. If you’d like to see a recent precedent regarding a “right of return”, there was one just a year ago in which the ECHR decided that the place from where Greek Cypriots migrated is no longer their home since they lived almost their life elsewhere and they don’t have concrete and persisting links with the property concerned, and rejected their right of return. That is, unlike the Palestinian descendants who have lived their entire lives elsewhere, here the European commission decided that simply having lived away from Cyprus for too long, means that these refugees are entitled to some compensation, but not to return to their ancestral homes.
    Furthermore, having another citizenship means that you are no longer a refugee (my father was kicked out of Iraq, but I am not a refugee). Therefore, while the “brothers” in Lebanon deny citizenship and basic rights to their cause celebre, the fact that some 80% are either citizens of the PA or of Jordan means that by any preceding definition of the word, they can no longer be considered refugees… that is, unless they prefer to harm their children and grandchildren in order to destroy Israel. The fact that even within the PA territories people are still kept in camps, and that even refugees from the Gaza area are kept in Jordanian camps instead of being returned to Gaza, shows how cynical and cruel a ploy this really is. So much for simply asking to be left alone.

  30. A paramilitary terrorist organization has been implicated in the murder of a democratically elected Prime Minister. Perhaps, had there been Jews involved – perhaps a neo-Irgun of some sort – we’d be hearing some condemnation on this blog. But alas, it is merely an anti-semitic group of thugs that represent foreign interests, drag Lebanon into wars, and celebrate the deaths of civilians while building a military infrastructure through out civilian centers. Silence on this and many other crimes of the Arab world robs all of your Israel criticism of any credibility, as it becomes clear that your venom is not directed in the interest of principle or values or consistency, but purely out of a hatred that is nurtured in the Arab world where looking inward is far less comfortable. Had Jews been implicated by the STL, can you honestly say there would have been no harsh, self-righteous blog posting by this point? Had western countries rather than Arab countries failed so completely to meet their aid pledges to the PA, would we not have heard about it by now? Had the Israeli government been killing their own people as is happening in Syria and Libya… man, you’d be chomping at the bit!

  31. Just in case you have no access to news where you are, Arab governments continue to deny aid to the Palestinians and more importantly to Somalia… no protests though. Assad continues to kill his own people… no one storming the borders though (could it be they no what border is safer to protest at?). And Lebanese soldiers have once again opened fire across an internationally recognized border, risking war while receiving praise from their president… no blog postings of righteous indignation. I could give you a lot more news of what non-Jews in the Levant have been up to and how nobody in the Levant seems to care… but there’s simply too much to write. Ooh, it’s sooo dark in this human province of ours. I fear I might have to put these words down as they seem to weigh double. That’s the news kids.

  32. very dark

  33. im still waiting for the syria post.. twiddling my zionist thumbs.. waiting.. yawn.. oh look its almost over..

    how surprising that nothing has been written.. no passion lost on arabs slaughtering arabs by the hundreds.. oh no.. sean doesnt care about them..

    but us jews.. we patented evil.. didnt we..

    as my italian friend would say..


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