My blog, lately, has hosted a really interesting discussion about both Israel’s legal rights in the disputed territories and the Palestinians’ lack of legal rights. Those two statements (Israel’s rights vs. Palestinian non-rights) are not mirror-like redundancies. It’s entirely possible to argue (although I wouldn’t), that while Israel has no right to the disputed territories, neither do the Palestinians. That is, for Israel’s sake, advancing one argument is just as important as advancing the other.
The problem with the argument about rights to the disputed territories is that these arguments often boil down to something like the lawsuit from Hell. The various disputants point to events in 3,000 B.C., 2,000 B.C., 1,000 B.C., the 19th Century, the 1910s, the 1920s, the 1930s, the 1940s, and so on, ad nauseum, right up until events taking place yesterday. Throw in the sagging Ottoman Empire, the British Empire, the British Mandate, the League of Nations, the United Nations, five wars, the fact that Arabs routinely lost on the battlefield but were rescued at the UN, endless border battles, strategic missteps by the Israelis, and the rhetorical hijacking of purely legal, territorial arguments by Islamists and radical Leftists — face it, you’re not going to create any easily comprehensible arguments.
Then, layer over this whole factual and rhetorical swirl of words the fact that Israel, in her endless quest for some sort of meaningful ceasefire from the Palestinians, has soft pedaled her own indisputable rights. Israel’s tentative approach, from the 1940s onward, to asserting her legal and post-war rights creates a situation where, to either the uninformed eye or the eye looking for Israel’s faults and failures, it appears that Israel doesn’t believe in her indisputable rights. Then, consider that Israel is a truly pluralist country hampered by a coalition style government imported from Europe. This last point explains why Israeli policy wobbles from strong to weak, and why Israel is exceptionally bad at setting out a coherent statement of her case before a hostile world.
These problems, where fact and law intersect, where arguments became muddy, and where Israel sometimes appears terrified of asserting her own case, are also easily exploited by those who have Israel and Jews in their cross hairs. Indeed, a point of exploitation, right now, is the publication of a revamped Walt and Mearshimer book, which AFP is pushing hard as the ultimate truth regarding Israel’s alleged evil control over world debate and American foreign policy.
At times like this, it sometimes helps to pull back and look at larger issues. Throwing around legal arguments dating back either 4,000 years or 1 day can be fun, just as playing an endless game of Monopoly can be fun. Still, there’s no doubt that these arguments, while satisfying their makers, don’t necessarily shine light on the situation.
For me, the larger issue is the nature of the two cultures currently at war, and my own moral decision about the culture I believe deserves my support.
On the one hand (that would be the Israel hand), we have a representative Democracy that gives equal legal and political rights to women, gays, Arabs, Christians, Hindus — hey, to all citizens within its borders. It is so desperate for peace that it routinely compromises its own security in the hope of obtaining that peace. Recently, rather than mowing down entirely a neighboring community devoted to killing its citizens, Israel built a wall, immuring its own people to help prevent their deaths. It’s also a country with free speech and a thriving marketplace of ideas, one that adds quality to the day-to-day life of people around the world.
On the other hand (that would be the Palestinian hand), you have two lawless communities that subjugate and brutalize women, murder and harass gays, murder and expel Christians, and refuse to allow anyone else within their territories (including, of late, even grovelingly friend journalists). For generations, these people’s sole goal, and the value they’ve passed to their children, is to murder the Israelis — every last one of them — that live next door. While Israel tries to prevent its own citizens from dying, these people put their children in the front line of battle, not even because they actually aid fighting, but because their inevitable deaths help this culture look pathetic, giving it a leg up in international opinion.
Given these two different cultures, I say law is useful, but not determinative. I have no truck with moral relativism, and I’m therefore able, with a clear conscience, to place my support behind Israel, the country of (sometimes flawed) Western humanism, and not behind Hamas or Fatah, territories of animalistic immorality and violence.
UPDATE: A little more on the perverted lessons taught to Palestinian children.
UPDATE II: Today’s example of free speech (NOT) amongst the Palestinians.
UPDATE III: And this is where the UN falls on the moral question of backing either a free Democracy or a nihilistic, murderous, semi-theocracy.
UPDATE IV: Yet another recent story about Israeli innovation that makes a difference — this time for American soldiers.