January 09, 2012

Clichés are usually wrong

There's quite an interesting blog called the Muddle East run by a chap called Matt Hill.  Matt supports the two-state solution in that he sees the maintaining of a state for Jews as essential, desirable and inevitable.  See this from his latest post:
It's become almost a cliche: everyone knows, roughly, the likely shape of a future peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians. And it's true that on issues like borders, settlements, even refugees, the chasm separating the two sides in 2000 has narrowed - even amid all the violence and overheated rhetoric. 
Matt describes himself "moderately pro-Palestinian" but this is relative to the fact that he often cross-posts at Harry's Place where his support for the two state solution and criticism of the State of Israel sends most of the commentators and those of the hosts who can bothered to comment into a feed frenzy.

Anyway, he recently stopped by the Magnes Zionist blog and Jerry Haber, the blogger there, returned his visit with a comment of his own as follows:
Thanks for stopping by my place. I think my email is there. Anyway, it's 


You wrote:

It's become almost a cliche: everyone knows, roughly, the likely shape of a future peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians. 

You are right -- it is almost a cliche, and like so many almost cliches it is a comforting one.

Fortunately, I stopped believing in it a long time ago. 

You see, the proposed peace solution that "everybody knows" (to quote Leonard Cohen) is what the Israeli philosopher Avishai Margalit calls a "rotten compromise". It allows certain groups in Israeli and Palestinian society maintain their current life styles, at the expense of other groups in both societies who will suffer. On my blog, I have been most sensitive to the suffering of the Palestinians who are the victims in this conflict, and that compromise will condemn them to years of subalternation. But I cannot deny the suffering of some of the perpetrators, the brainwashed settlers, should they have to evacuate their homes for several generations. (I can't deny it; I also can't get as upset about it.)

Faith in the peace process allows the liberal Zionist to sleep at night. She sees the daily injustices and inequities (and iniquities) committed by her side against the Palestinians, and longs for some relief, some way out. So she lives under the illusion that things will get better if only the messiah comes, sorry, if only the right formula is figured out. So she will talk about confidence-building measures, state-building, reducing tension, people-to-people initiatives, joint summer camps. In the meantime, more settlements are built, more settlers enter the high ranks of the judiciary, military, and government, more Palestinians are arrested, and most Israelis don't give a damn. 

I have been observing this conflict for forty years. The sides are further apart today then they ever have been. And generations of Israeli Jews and Palestinians are growing up with almost no contact whatever -- much different from when I was here as a young man.

My advice to you is to come to Israel, and take Breaking the Silence's trips to Hebron and Ramallah. You won't be able to read the Atlantic again.

And how's this for another cliche: Things will have to get a lot worse before they get better.

I am betting on the truth of that one. And when things do get better -- and they will -- the final settlement won't look anything like your cliche says it does.

Let's keep the dialogue open. Unlike some of my cohorts, I believe in kiruv, engagement.


So in this case the Magnes Zionist appears to be not as enamoured of zionism as generally understood as the "moderate... pro-Palestinian" is.  Should Jerry Haber change the name of his blog? Should Matt Hill change his self-description? Of course both could do either but I'm guessing neither will do either.  I do think Matt Hill's blog is worth a look at but I needed the excuse that Jerry Haber's comment has given me.

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