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Social Darwinism, Might and Right, Israel

by on March 15, 2010

Let me wade into the deep end of foreign policy disagreement; Israel. Some will criticize whatever I write here as biased, for I am Jewish; that maybe true, but we are all biased, are we not? What I write here is opinion, based on evidence gathered, using the writings of others to attempt to make a point. The map (I am having trouble inserting it – follow the link) clearly shows that no region of Israel, as drawn there, is plurality-Jewish. Every area is in fact plurality-Palestinian (except Beersheba), some strikingly so.

The map is from Andrew Sullivan, which responded to a map, a post, and long series of threads. To all of this, a reader of Andrew’s responded,

Maybe people are so mad about your posting these maps because, well, the picture isn’t very pretty and when you see it as a picture, it’s hard to miss seeing something. When I was young I thought Israel was a fact, a friend to the US, a bulwark against Communism, & the Holocaust justified its existence. Looking at those maps makes clear the original problem in the American/European support of Israel’s creation — in your supposedly more Israel-friendly map, there is not a single region that you show where a plurality of the inhabits were Jewish — by what right did any Jewish state rise up to kick this many people out of their homes & claim this land?

European war crimes don’t justify this level of displacement of people who had nothing to do with the crimes. The older I get, the more I see the Palestinian point of view, even though the means by which the Palestinians push their point of view has grown more hateful & violent. Is there any intellectually honest map you could show that would not excite hostility? If not, then why would maps showing something that’s true make people mad?

By the way, where are the “no apologies,” never-bow-to-foreign-heads-of-state folks when Israel treats us poorly? Why isn’t it weak of Obama not to stand up to Israel?

before which, Andrew wrote:

Like America’s founding, [Israel’s] was not immaculate, and its survival has been a brutal struggle in which Israel has not been as innocent as some want to believe, but whose enemies’ anti-Semitism and hatred is tangible and omnipresent and despicable.

But that was scarcely the point of the post, and we can go on for ever on the subject. But some specific charges:

The intent of this propaganda map is to suggest that an Arab country called “Palestine” existed in 1946 and was driven from existence by Jewish imperialists. Not only was there no such country as “Palestine” in 1946, there has never been a country called Palestine.

Of course not. But there was a place called Palestine (among other things) under mostly Ottoman or British rule for a very long time before Israel came into existence. Wikipedia tells us that in 1850, for example, the population of the area comprised roughly 85% Muslims, 11% Christians and 4% Jews. In 1920, the League of Nations reported that

Four-fifths of the whole population are Moslems. A small proportion of these are Bedouin Arabs; the remainder, although they speak Arabic and are termed Arabs, are largely of mixed race. Some 77,000 of the population are Christians, in large majority belonging to the Orthodox Church, and speaking Arabic. The Jewish element of the population numbers 76,000.

By the end of the British mandate, and an influx of Jewish refugees and Zionists, the proportions were roughly 70 percent Muslims and 30 percent Jews. Jews were concentrated in urban areas along the coast but, as the first map shows, some were indeed in the West Bank, although as a tiny minority.

This isn’t propaganda; it’s fact.

The maps show what has happened since – in sixty years in terms of growing sovereignty and accelerating Israeli control. The Muslim population is expanding as the geographic extent of their political self-government keeps diminishing. While Jerusalem was once in the center of Palestinian territory – and the Israelis agreed to this, while the Arabs refused – it is now not only in Israel but all of it will soon be under sole Israeli control, as Netanyahu continues, despite pleas from his American benefactors and allies, merely to freeze them.

The point of the illustration was to provide some background to the now-unavoidable fact that Israel has every intention of expanding its sovereignty to the Jordan river for ever, to segregate Palestinians into walled enclaves within, and to station large numbers of Israeli troops on the Eastern border. I notice that Goldberg has time to splutter against this blog but, until yesterday, no time to refer to the Israeli government’s contemptuous treatment of the US vice-president in his visit, a subject that has dominated the Israeli press but contradicts Goldberg’s view that my notion that the new Israeli that I have worried about this past year is real and is dangerous – to itself, the region, the world and, above all, the United States.

You can go to the original article for all the extra links and conversation that this topic generated. But let me use what Andrew wrote to get to my point (which is, again, an opinion). … The founding of Israel was not immaculate. True; that rarely happens. Even the best examples that come to mind, the unification of Italy or Germany, involved some degradation in standard of living and some military dominance. (See, for the case of Israel, Nakbah, which is all that needs to be said to show that the creation of the state was nothing glorious. And true, there was no, and has never been any, country called Palestine. It was an arbitrarily created region while the British held the land as a protectorate, although the name dates to Roman times. But Palestinians exist. Does Israel (the state) have a right to control – dictate – the fate of the Palestinians (including those who live in land surrounded by Israel that Israel has not yet claimed)? … I. Don’t. Know.

Does [the United States of] America have a right to exist; should the U.S. exist? It is interesting to entertain the notion that no state has a right to exist, because the land that they claim was taken by force. That’s a very interesting argument. … But, if the United States, England, Germany, Japan, France, Italy, China, and other countries have a right to exist, doesn’t Israel?  They all (almost every country, with a few variations on the theme) claim that they exist and have a right to exist, although they took the land they claim by force.

The response to Andrew recounts the memory of a single older American, which is the memory thousands of them have. That memory says that Israel is a friend to the U.S., our ally against Communism, and justified by the Holocaust. And that mind is realizing that Israeli war crimes cannot be justified by the Holocaust.

Does Israel have a right to exist?  By international norms, which accept that countries conquer other countries, it does. At the same time, Palestine (and the Palestinians) have a right to exist, too.  To what social law is all of this conflict beholden to?

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