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About the recent events and possible outcomes in Israel and Palestine

Several friends, from different groups and backgrounds and with different points of view regarding the current war in Israel (and regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict in general) have asked me for an explanation on what is happening there, what is (my view of) the real conflict, its causes… and any possible answers. And yet I am quite far from being an authority, I do want to write something about it. Be prepared, as this post is quite long. And yet, after writing frankly a lot more than what I expected… It is by far not enough. I have still much more to add, but I have to say “stop” at some point. So, here you have it: My points of view, as well as some explanation on why are we standing where we currently are. I am writing this based just on my personal experiencie and, of course, my personal point of view. Furthermore, I wrote a good part of this text while riding a bus, with no network access, so I am offering very few references - In any case, it will allow me to make much more progress. References always take as much time as the text itself!

About me

Why am I writing this? Why do people ask for my opinion? I must start by explaining who I am, so the rest of this makes sense. I am a Mexican Jew. That means, I was born in a Jewish (albeit secular) family, and grew up in an environment with general Jewish culture. My direct family (say, my parents and brother, and to a lesser degree my closest cousins) are not at all religious, I’d even venture to say most of us are complete atheists. Yet, besides the cultural belonging (which is a mixture of a Eastern European culture with lots of Idish words and dishes and general humor), my family has a strong national identification - In other words, I grew up in a fully Zionist environment, which traces back to Poland. My grandmother was member of Hashomer Hatzair in Poland, since the early years of its existence, late 1910s and early 1920s. What is it? To make it short, a Zionist Socialist, Kibbutzian youth movement. It has many similarities (and somewhat stems indirectly from) the Scouts many of you will be familiar with, but -obviously- has a way lengthier agenda. And, yes, nowadays I feel it is somewhat out of reach with the current state of the world - It was founded in 1913, and only slightly adjusted its principles since then. I will talk more about Hashomer later on. My grandmother arrived in the late 1920s to Mexico, for familiar and economic reasons, but still dreamt about living in Israel for a long time. As they grew up, first my uncle joined Hashomer in Mexico in the late 1940s, when it still pursued a very much Soviet-style ideals for Israel (one of the core points that changed during the 1950s); both my father and my mother joined in the late 1950s (in fact, that’s where they met). My cousins and myself were very active in the 1980s and 1990s. The Iszaevich family has something very unusual, I’d say, engraved in our genes. We live very deeply our ideologies. That’s the only explanation I can find to the way we all have led our lives. I won’t go into the other family members’ details, but just into mine: I was fully convinced of all we taught to our younger members and what we discussed among ourselves. I am among the very few people who really learnt Hebrew at my school, and that was only because I really cared - I know some people that just after 12 years of pseudo-learning could maybe utter a few phrases. After finishing high school I went with my Hashomer group, together with people my age from other similar-minded Mexican Zionist youth groups, to live and learn for a year in Israel, on what is usually known as shnat hajshará - A year to get ready. To get ready to what? But of course, to come and give back go the younger groups of the movement, and finally go back to Israel and settle there definitively. I came back to Mexico, and after one year I did the only thing that was logical: I became an Israeli and went to live to a kibutz - Zikim, a beautiful place just between Ashkelon and Gaza, very near the sea shore. It was a beautiful period in my life, and I really enjoyed it - But it didn’t last for very long - I quickly grew to hate the Israeli society at large. A society full of rage, of hatred. Not just between Arabs and Israelis, as many would think from the outside, but between religious and seculars. And between immigrants and locals. And between leftists and rightists (in several dimensions, as it is one of the countries where you can most easily be a economic leftist while being a political rightist - a complex society it is). A society full of disrespect and intolerance. A very hypocritical society. And one of the things that most shocked me: I wanted to live in a society of proud of its existence, that’s what I had learnt Israel was - But Israelis aspire and dream of being anything else (and mostly US-Americans) in a way that made me sick, more than anything I had previously seen in Mexico. I loved the life at the Kibutz, and I loved being an agricultor, doing hard work every day and literally getting the fruit of it. However, I cannot live isolated to a 300-people universe - At least once a week you have to go to the city if you don’t want to become insane. And I could not stand the sick Israeli society. Anyway, to make things short: After six months as an Israeli, I came back to Mexico. I went through a long period of finding myself, as I could not uphold anymore my Hashomer ideology (if I am not going to live by it, how can I continue teaching it?). Many people do anyway, but for the first months, where my Hashomer work was basically all of my life, I felt really uncomfortable. So, in short, I severed all of my relations to the Jewish community, and even denied for a long time my Jewishness until I found a (I think) better balance. Today I am at peace. But anyway, I wanted to talk about myself in the critical period that marked me in this regard: The 1990s. Enough, lets get down to business.

Zionism 1870-1920

Many people argue that the Jews invaded the Palestinians homeland - And yes, nowadays I cannot counter this. But we cannot judge what happened then based on what we see now. Modern Zionism started around the 1870s. The Jewish history is full of pogroms and persecution, in different countries all over Europe - And a group of young people decided the only solution was to build a place to call their own. And yes, this was full of idealism and in no small part the foolishness of youth. For several centuries and up to 1920, all of current Middle East were provinces of the Ottoman Empire. Before Zionism began, the population of today-Israel was very sparse, not more than 400,000 people - up to 5% of them Jewish, around 10% Christian Arabs, and the remainder, Muslim Arabs. Of course, the low population was mostly because the country was mostly hostile - A desert in the South, mostly swamps in the North, and some minor towns mostly in the hills. It was a mostly forgotten province, away from the central Turkish rule, and there had been no frictions with the local population. It was a nice place to go, thinking -again- as a fool youngster, or as an idealist. They said, lets take a folk without a land to a land without a folk. The number of accomplishing Zionists (this is, people who actually went to Israel instead of just talking about doing so) was not high during the first decades. But towards the 1890s, it gained critical mass. The political Zionist movement was born, with Theodor Herzl as a leader, and they started pushing -politically- for different governments to concede a territory to Jews. They went to the Turks, and didn’t really get much echo. Went to other colonial powers of the time, and got unfeasible promises with no real backing (i.e. Birobidjan in Eastern Russia, Uganda in Africa)… And, as it happens in strongly ideologized movements, the movement started splitting into different groups with slightly different positions. And no, I am not talking about the People Front for the Liberation of Judea and the People Judean Liberation Front, but I very well could. Sometimes the differences are as ridiculous as that. But hey, I take that most of my readers are acquinted with the Free Software issues, right? Think BSD vs. GPL vs. OpenSource. To give a broad idea - Only in Mexico City, with a very small Jewish community (~30,000 people), in the mid-1990s we had over 10 such movements, with 50-150 youngsters attending each. And even though some were local, and even though some very important ideologies are not represented in this country, they are all different enough to exist as separate entities.

British Mandate

The Ottoman empire was divided after the first World War. Its possesions in Europe became independent states, while in Asia (and Africa, if you take the semi-independent Egypt and part of Sudan into account) they were taken over as colonies or protectorates by France and the UK - Evidently, attempting to secure a long-term dominion over the area. In some aspects, they failed. In some aspects, they were (and still are) tremendously successful. The division of people by setting arbitrary boundaries has led to countries sustainable only by force and a harsh rule (such as Iraq, Lebanon and Syria), or doomed to poverty (and thus submission) due to lack of natural resources (as Jordan). Focusing on Israel/Palestine, the UK entered the area by making mutually incompatible promises to arabs and Jews - i.e. the Hussein-McMahon letters and the Balfour declaration, both ambiguous enough to lead to… Well, today. The UK rule was disastrous to the region, both in giving (and taking away) power from all sorts of puppet regimes, and swiftly going away as soon as things started looking too complicated. Yes, typical colonialism. So, while up to the 1920s there was no real animosity between Arabs and Jews (as i.e. the Faisal-Weizmann agreement shows), during the next decades the seeds of hatred started growing, from both sides. Many people still quote the 1947 partition plan as the direct antecedent towards Israel’s real existence - That was not the first partition plan that existed. Ten years earlier, the Peel commision suggested a similar partition involving forceful population transfer. And many people see the separation of Transjordan (now Jordan) from Palestine in 1922 as a first partition. It is understandable that both partition plans (much more the 1947 than the 1937 one) were accepted by Zionists: Going from having nothing to having something (and against all odds in the environment they lived) is acceptable. From the Zionist side, two main groups rejected the partitions: The right-wing and religious groups, insisting that the whole of the Mandate should become Israel, and the left-wing groups, which advocated for a single, bi-national state, with equal rights for all of its population. Go over and read this last link, as it was quite interesting (to me at least) to see how this solution has kept existing and regarded by (relatively) many people, and has many interesting links.

1948 onwards: Where did the refugees come from?

The November 1947 partition didn’t exactly translate to a planned, smooth Israeli independence - It led to six months of revolts (basically, a civil war). By mid May, the UK government and troops abandoned the territory, and one day later, Israel declared its independence. And, of course, all neighbouring countries (and Iraq) sent their troops to invade Israel. The war lasted for over six months (cease-fire was signed in January 1949). There was an intense Arab campaign indicating the armies would enter Israel and devastate it, leaving no stone in place, indicating Arab population to temporarily leave the Jewish-destined areas. The war, they said, would not take more than a couple of months, and they would be able to go back home. Only that… When the war ended, the results were far from what the Arab governments expected. Not only Israel continued to exist, but it conquered important territories. Of course, the Israelis were not innocent from said exodus: During the 1947-1948 civil war, and the independence war, some of the existing so-called self-defense forces (some of them were really defensive, while some were quite aggressive, even terrorist) attacked Arab villages in strategic or predominantly Jewish areas to prompt them to leave - yes, what we today call ethnic cleansing. I had (in my head) the number of 650,000 Arabs (from a total of slightly over a million) fleeing to neighbouring countries. Wikipedia states that it is somewhere between 367,000 and 950,000. A similar number of Jews were expelled from Arab countries, many of which arrived to settle at Israel (and many others went elsewhere - For instance, a good part of the Mexican Jewish community is from Syrian origins - Many of them fleed in those years). Israel didn’t accept back the (relatively few) Arabs that requested to resettle, as they were seen as hostile population - but neither did the countries that “temporarily” accepted the Palestinians accepted them as citizens. The Palestinian refugee camps today, mainly in in Lebanon, Syria, and the occupied territories held by Israel have terrible living conditions, and its population -despite living there for over 60 years- have no civil rights at all. Note that I’m omitting Jordan here, although it has several camps as well, as their situation is way better. The Arab population that didn’t leave did receive full Israeli citizenship. No, their living standards are not up to level with the average Israeli. The country and the society do have a sensible degree of racism and segregation. But the situation is nowhere as terrible as it is in the camps. The areas which were originally to become Palestinian and were not conquered by Israel -this is, current-day West Bank and Gaza- bacame respectively Jordan and Egyptian territory. While Jordan did fully extend its soverignty covering the West Bank, Egypt didn’t - Gaza is, since 1949, occupied military territory. Gaza, among the most densely populated areas in the world, has had their inhabitants under military rule ever since. When Israel returned the Sinai after signing the peace treaty with President Sadat, Egypt didn’t accept Gaza back - And that’s where today’s greatest problem is born. Now, Israel conquered those territories in 1967, along with the very sparsely populated Sinai and Golan. For the first ten years, the territories were basically only administered (yes, under a military rule). In 1977, with the first right-wing Israeli government, an extensive settlement policy began (and led partly to today’s seemingly unsolvable situation). In 1980-1982, Israel withdrew from the Sinai. In 1981, Israel claimed full soverignty over the whole of Jerusalem and the Golan. In 1993, the “Oslo Agreement” was signed between Israel and the PLO, and it seemed we were heading towards a bright future. I lived in Israel between 1994 and 1996 - Yes, the most hope-filled period in the country’s life. Since 1996, I have tried to keep up to date with the country’s evolution. All in all, even if I won’t live there again, it is a country I learnt to love, a society I have long studied (even if in the end I did include many references, I wrote most of this text just off the top of my head, with the data I remember - so it might have several big errata). And yes, I keep the political stand I had 12 years ago: The only solution is to dialogue, to treat the current enemies -and not only their governments- with respect, recognizing their dignity and right to life, to self-determination. Only then we will change the status quo.

How not to fight hatred

Since 1993, the dream of peaceful coexistence seems to have faded. What we saw during the past three weeks, along to what we saw in Lebanon in 2006, is plainly a gross mistake if the goal is to achieve good, lasting peace. Try to imagine how could life in Gaza be, even in the total absence of Israeli attacks. Just to set some numbers first: The Gaza strip hosts almost 1.5 million people on 360 km². When I lived in Israel, I was constantly surprised at how small a country it is - Israel tops at 550Km North to South, 150Km east to West (it is amazing, almost wherever you stand, except in the middle of the Negev, you can see the country’s borders. Yes, I recognize as the border the so-called Green Line); over half of the territory is a desert, and it hosts seven million inhabitants. And it is hard to imagine how that country can be economically viable. I do not find it feasible to imagine Gaza and the West Bank integrating a single country, and not only because they are separated by ~40Km, but because they are so sociologically different. People in the West Bank, yes, live opressed under military rule and subject to a much more constant, more visible apartheid-like state (as the territory is truly sprinkled with Jewish outposts which many Israelis refuse to recognize as their own, but still, which have incredibly higher living standards). The best land has been taken away from them, yes, but they have some space between cities to have some farming, to communicate, to… Breathe. Besides, West Bank inhabitants -even those in refugee camps- have much better living standards than anybody in Gaza. It is still an overpopulated area, but not nearly as much as Gaza. Gazan population have been driven towards extremism. And yes, there was a civil war between Palestinian factions, as the world views between both populations are completely different - However hostile a Jenin inhabitant can be towards Israel, he does not lead the life -if it can so be called- you see at Khan Yunis. But back to Gaza… What Israel is doing (and not only during this military operation terror campaign is wrong, from any rational point of view. Israel wants Hamas to become weaker? Then don’t drive the population into supporting them! Palestinians started giving over 50% of their support to Fatah (ex-PLO), and under 20% to Hamas. That was less than 15 years ago. However, Fatah has shown to be corrupt and inefficient at building infrastructure and improving life conditions, ineffective at negotiating a permanent agreement which secures dignity and sustainability to their people. Hamas stands as a religious, righteous organization. There are no serious corruption charges against any Hamas leaders. Hamas is clearly still at war - They didn’t subscribe any peace agreement so far, and their stated #1 goal is to build a Muslim State in the whole of Israel. And the Hamas movement -like Hizbollah in Lebanon- has built quite a bit of infrastructure in the areas they control - Mainly housing. Yes, housing where they mix their own offices, many will accuse, getting human shields for free. But still, they are benefactors to a dehumanized, pauperized population. I find it obvious that, if living conditions were at a basic level in the region, support of Hamas would decrease. Even more, of course, if they improved due to Israeli support. Israel controls this territory, so it is responsible for the well-being of its population, like it or not. And Gaza is simply too small and low on resources to survive by itself. I was a bit surprised to find mention -although very brief- of a three state solution - And yes, this is close to what I would expect as a viable outcome. It is clear that Israel will not ever grant full citizenship to the Palestinians, as they would -euphemistically speaking- challenge the Jewish character of the State. Dropping the euphemism, Israel relies on apartheid in order not to become an Arab majority country. I might have some numbers wrong, but AFAIK, there are ~7 million Israelis, 20% of which are Arab citizens (which means, 1.4 million Arabs and probably 5 million Jews, with many other minor denominations for the difference), and ~4 million Palestinians live in the territories. Today, the country is already predominantly Arab, or at least is close to being so. So, Israel should permanently, formally disengage from all of the occupied territories. And in order to ensure violence stops, start a comprehensive, unconditional, long-term aid program. Start with giving them autonomy to regain their sea, as the Gaza port has long been closed. Allow the airport to operate again. Instead of bombing tunnels in the Egypt-Gaza borders, allow Gaza to trade with Egypt - Perhaps even to integrate territorialy, if the conditions are met. Treat their people with respect, and help them ease the terrible situation they have lived for so many decades - and then, undoubtely, terror will stop. The West Bank? Possibly it could become a Palestinian state by itself. Possibly, it could integrate back to Jordan. That would be up to Jordans and Palestinians to decide. Of course, Jordan has already a large segment of its population defining itself as Palestinians, which counts both for and against. So, I won’t venture into this supposition. But anyway - Back to what prompted me to write this text -yes, a very or maybe even too long text - I hope somebody even takes the time to read it!- is to explain what is my point of view on the current situation, and why. Today, a cease-fire was announced, after 23 days of murder and destruction. I sadly do not hold very high hopes for it to be lasting, much the less to be enough, to lead to what they call a de-escalation of the conflict. The most I can currently do is to voice my opinion, and hope that mine is just one more voice pointing to a sane solution, to a permanent, dignifying way out, for all people involved. Every people has the right for survival and for safety. We cannot deny this to any others. And certainly, we cannot expect anybody not to fight for their right to live.


Anonymous 2009-01-19 16:22:46

Next year in peace in Jerusalem

Thank you. From a deeply agnostic person, with Jewish and Christian roots, thank you.

It was usual to say, on a specific Jewish holiday, “next year in Jerusalem”. It is, I think, time to start saying “next year, in peace with all, in Jerusalem”.

Hatred begets hatred, and hatred escalates. If you mix hatred with religion, then hated escalates exponentially. Perhaps a grass-roots movement will change this, but I am afraid of the fundamentalists on both sides. Please note I do not know much history on the Muslim side, but I now the Jewish one. In fact, perhaps we should include all sides, all religions.

One can hope. As a people, this is what kept us during all these years.

p.s. A pretty good summary of the religious history of medieval Europe – which one can say brought most of what we have today – can be found on “The Story of Civilisation”, Vol 4 “The Age of Faith”, by Will and Ariel Durant.

Anonymous 2009-01-20 07:55:00

> … and then, undoubtedly,

… and then, undoubtedly, terror will stop …

Could you better address the reasonable doubt that appears to exist about this hypothesis?

Anonymous 2009-01-21 04:20:00

> Palestinians have nothing

Palestinians have nothing to offer …

One wishes they offered fewer acts of terrorism.

Anonymous 2009-01-22 13:04:00

talking about hypocrisy…

This comment just disgusts me. There is no argument that justifies the attrocities this country has commited. And the request for partnership is and always has been at the choice of the same overbearing, capitalist and occupying country that you want to defend, and what is it doing?

Anonymous 2009-01-22 13:11:00

your illiterate amazement

people behave correctly? human nature? and you measure that up to the bible (new testament)? I fear your comment is of no value here as it is imbued with as much antisemitic feelings as religious craze.

Anonymous 2009-03-16 08:03:00

And in order to ensure

And in order to ensure violence stops, start a comprehensive, unconditional, long-term aid program. Start with giving them autonomy to regain their sea, as the Gaza port has long been closed. Allow the airport to operate again. Instead of bombing tunnels in the Egypt-Gaza borders, allow Gaza to trade with Egypt - Perhaps even to integrate territorialy, if the conditions are met. Treat their people with respect, and help them ease the terrible situation they have lived for so many decades - and then, undoubtely, terror will stop.

Putting aside the fact that Israel already provides electricity, petrol, food, and other services…

Isn’t this precisely what Israel tried with the Oslo accord? The PA and Hamas promptly used those resources over the subsequent years to build weapons and infrastructure to attack Israeli citizens with?

This will surely be tried again, but not until palestinian leaders who can establish even a token level of trust that they’re interested in the good of the palestinian people and not just killing jews arise. And it will probably fail again but hope springs eternal and one day perhaps they’ll be sincere and this can all end.

Anonymous 2010-09-29 10:13:00

I do not typically comment on

I do not typically comment on blogs such as this but in this instance and in keeping with the comments above I would take this opportunity to say how much I enjoyed your post. Really informative and well written - thanks for sharing it with us!

Barcelona 2009-02-13 07:25:00

Un poco de sentido comun

Gracias por este texto, que me ha devuelto un poco de esperanza en los judíos (puesto que los israelís estan provocando un odio antisemita que acabaran pagando el resto de judíos)

Despues del genocidio que hemos visto estas semanas, siempre es importante ver estas reflexiones, para poder enfriarse y separar a los judíos de los israelís.

Cassiano Leal 2009-01-31 11:00:00

That’s absolutely true…

…but as much as one wishes they offered fewer acts of terrorism, many wish that both sides did so.

Christer Stenbrenden 2009-01-20 00:36:09


This was a great read! Thank you for taking the time to write this.

David Moreno 2009-01-19 19:12:23

Thank you Gunny. But thank

Thank you Gunny. But thank you for opening up and letting us know about your background and personal past and life. I personally appreciate you doing so. And I also regret a little bit for not knowing it, but you know, one doesn’t wander around asking people about their heritage and past :-)

Keep up the good lines.

garaged 2009-01-19 15:46:10


I just find amazing that, even after centuries long gone, people from that region keeps fighting, there are a lot of biblic stories about their fighting nature, and the condition stands to this days.

In the other hand, most regions could be “labeled” with some kind of war anyway, so, maybe is not the nature of the middle eastern people, it’s just the human nature.

If only jews could accept what the new testament says, not because I’m christian myself, but because it teaches to be a better person, it hasn’t worked quite well for most of the people that actually professes christinity, but it tries hard to make people behave correctly.

Garth 2009-01-19 14:08:05

I’d like to thank you hugely

I’d like to thank you hugely for this summing up of events. It is wonderful to find out that not all people of jewish and palistinian origins are blinded by hatred.

gwolf 2009-01-20 09:58:39

Of course not…

But I can prove you that many years of following the opposite strategy have spectacularly failed. This is nothing but my personal opinion. Hatred and destruction brings hatred and destruction. Respect and understanding brings respect and understanding. Somebody must break the “You hurt me, I hurt you” circle - And in this case, Israel is much better positioned to do the change. Palestinians have nothing to offer, nothing to lose. Israel is the dominant power in the region - It is the only one that can make a change in the status.

gwolf 2009-01-20 11:22:00

Good text, thanks

There are many -myriads, I’d say- examples of Jews and Arabs living in peace throughout history, just as there are many examples of Arabs and Christians, and Jews and Christians. Spain had its Golden Age during the Córdoba caliphat rule, where the three religions were allowed and prospered together (even if there was one clear ruler). A Hebrew teacher of mine held it in great pride that she had the genealogy of her family up to 15 generations, and all of them were born in Jerusalem. It is ridiculous to believe the world’s history is based only on hatred. But yes, history tilts towards the more “interesting” points, where we have wars and persecutions… and tends to forget the rest.

gwolf 2009-01-24 06:07:06

Agree with the other comment to yours

All religions can teach beautiful ways upon one reading, and dreadful ways upon others. The Coran is one of the most beautiful books I have read. Christianty is so peaceful and beautiful that it was practically the sole cause for most wars and torture for over a thousand years (and I don’t only mean Catolicism - Same thing happens with Greek Orthodoxy and with all kinds of protestantism). Jews will tell you that the Jewish religion is the only one preaching of tolerance, not only not trying to convert others but explicitly forbidding it. IMHO, religions are no way out of anything. Conflicts must be solved by reason.

gwolf 2009-01-24 06:39:01

What a welcome surprise!

Thanks for stopping by, Rubén! It is a very nice surprise to read you. As you would expect, though, I disagree with your points of view. Lets see:

 I would try to tone down my critique of a society in which I am immersed in, struggling with the daily perils that people leave within.For instance, I don’t think I am entitled to criticize the Mexican society or call it broken, ”sick” or “hypocritical” despite the violence, social gaps, rapes, hijacking, etc, while enjoying the life of a society with less social uncertainty.

That's true - I cannot talk about the Israeli  society today. But I can definitively (and that's what I tried to do here) talk about what Ilived in 1994-1996. I went to Israel with a deep love and very high expectations for the country and its society. A period where not only I lived there, but I really studied with all of my dedication the country and its society. And although it has been a very long time, I think my points are more than just an outsider's opinion.

I am concerned that you don’t recognize that every society has many injustices and that there is no panacea or paradise.

Of course there is no such thing.

I feel however compelled to point out that the “sick” Israeli society that you encountered, suffers equally the social maladies of discrimination, segregation and injustices as seen in other countries (...) I agree with you that being a Jewish society, we should hold Israel to a much higher standard than the rest of the World.

I never expected Israel to be problem-free. In fact, I would answer to your asseveration with, in my opinion, one of H. N. Bialik's most beautiful quotes:  We will be a normal state when we have the first Hebrew prostitute, the first Hebrew thief and the first Hebrew policeman. I would not dream of holding Israel to a higher level just because it is a Jewish State. Jews are, in my opinion, not better (or worse) than any other people. But yes, Israel has to live together with other people - which today are regarded as enemies. That treatment needs to change.

 Examples are multiple, but doubt you can call very sick a society with the highest percentage in the world of home computers per capita, the highest ratio of university degrees to the population in the world. How sick can this society be when it produces more scientific papers per capita than any other nation. When 24% of Israel's workforce holds university degrees.

Interesting thing you point this out. I was amazed at this point: Although there are many Israelis with very high cultural levels, and even with such impressive numbers, the cultural level for people I had most contact with in the cities is abysmally low. Let me equate this asseveration with what other groups say (and not because I am defending either, just showing this is as an incomplete comparison). Is the Cuban government the right way out because it has led to even higher superior education numbers, and  zero illiteracy among its population, for several decades already?

 but how hypocritical is a society that is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, where Israeli arabs hold citizen rights while no Arab country will reciprocate this to any Jew.

It is way better, yes, than most of its neighbours. Still, I hold as a myth this last asseveration. Some Arabs are entitled to equal rights. Most are not. If all Arabs were to have equal rights, Israel would be an Arab country by today. And, as it is today, I don't think a binational country would survive.

Still... I hope not to give the impression I am just attacking Israel. All in all, I am still a Zionist, I am still a Jew, I still recognize and back the need for Israel's continued existence and security. But I do deeply criticize the (quite shortsighted) way they are trying to secure it.

Kunderemp 2009-01-20 10:31:00

I give you a link from

I give you a link from PBS:

Most of muslim did not know that one. They also ignore the policy of Bayezid II of Ottoman Dynasty while they know what Ferdinand from Aragon and Isabel from Castille did.

I’m an Indonesian Muslim and I believe, whatever the peace route is offered, it will rendered useless while each of parties had myth of hatred. I acknowledge the fact some muslim believe the war against Jews will always happened until the end of the worlds. Of course, when I met them, I show them the fact. There was a peace between Jews and Muslim in the region before and I believe there is no reason the peace can’t be built again.


Levi Aho 2009-02-20 23:04:00

An Interesting Read

I wandered overhere from TTso’s blog (where I was reading about FS internals and such), so this was quite unexpected, but a very solid post, I must say.

As a complete outsider, I have a much less informed view of the Israel-Palestine situation than you have, however, I generally agree with what you have to say. I do not hold much hope for the future, but I do agree that Israel is one in a position to solve the conflict and appears to have no interest in doing so.

This post is the first I’ve ever heard of the three state solution, although, I’ve often wondered how viable the Palestinian state would be with it’s territory all spread out. It’s also fairly apparent from recent events that the West Bank and Gaza are very different politically.

Re: Primo Ruben

Israel is not a democracy. That is an outright lie that’s been quoted time and time again, but it’s not true. The Palestinian territories are under de facto Israeli control, and yet, their populus has no civil rights. It’s no more a democracy than any other apartide state.

Mark 2009-01-20 03:53:44


Hi Gunnar, thanks for this article. I’ve read it with great interest.

Morten Kjeldgaard 2009-01-19 14:37:47

Thank you!

Thank you for taking the time to write this very interesting and enlightening article!

Prashant 2009-01-20 09:05:00


Thanks for this comprehensive post. -prashant

Primo Ruben 2009-01-21 08:40:44

Fantastic work. Let me say

Fantastic work. Let me say first that we are all entitled to an opinion, but I would try to tone down my critique of a society in which I am immersed in, struggling with the daily perils that people leave within. For instance, I don’t think I am entitled to criticize the Mexican society or call it broken, ”sick” or “hypocritical” despite the violence, social gaps, rapes, hijacking, etc, while enjoying the life of a society with less social uncertainty. Similarly, I am concerned that you don’t recognize that every society has many injustices and that there is no panacea or paradise. I feel however compelled to point out that the “sick” Israeli society that you encountered, suffers equally the social maladies of discrimination, segregation and injustices as seen in other countries such as Spain, Germany, France and the US. You insist that the “sick” Israeli society is “hypocritical” given the dichotomies caused by religious and secular, leftist and rightist, rich and poor, etc. I agree with you that being a Jewish society, we should hold Israel to a much higher standard than the rest of the World. But I would argue that out of the conflicts between these groups germinates perhaps one of the most vibrant, politically active and diverse society in the world. Examples are multiple, but doubt you can call very sick a society with the highest percentage in the world of home computers per capita, the highest ratio of university degrees to the population in the world. How sick can this society be when it produces more scientific papers per capita than any other nation. When 24% of Israel’s workforce holds university degrees. Hypocrisy is a common malady of all societies, communist and capitalist alike, but how hypocritical is a society that is the only liberal democracy in the Middle East, where Israeli arabs hold citizen rights while no Arab country will reciprocate this to any Jew. Hypocritical will not be a country that is the largest immigrant-absorbing nation on earth. Of course much work needs to be done within and your proposals are good and fine. Much to suffering and little hope are certainly no recipes for success. Israel needs a partner to negotiate and reach an agreement. Rightist and leftist, religious and seculars all agreed democratically for partitions several times and not such partner was ever met. Such understanding will not occur when one seeks the destruction of the other.

Quique’s wrong 2009-01-28 17:10:00

Quique says “Scholars who

Quique says “Scholars who have tried to find evidences to substantiate it have that there was not a single order, or appeal, or suggestion about evacuation from Palestine from any Arab radio station, inside or outside Palestine, in 1948”

first of all, Gunnar never says radio.

two, I spent 5 minutes finding a british police report from Haifa that says he’s wrong about the arab leaderships not organizing fleeing (unless he wants to limit it to radio, but that doesn’t seem to be his point)

three, there was an intense arab campaign to cause panic amongst the arabs, which would seemingly indicate to cause them to flee, as can be seen from their referal to many jewish massacres, and spreading lies about massacres that didn’t happen and exagerating events that did happen.

I’m actually interested to see what references significant number of arab pleas for them to stay put.

Quique 2009-01-21 14:10:41

Arabs didn’t tell Palestinians to leave their homes

Great article, Gunnar. There is something I have to correct, though.

The claim that `There was an intense Arab campaign indicating Arab population to temporarily leave the Jewish-destined areas’ is just a lie forged by Israel.

Scholars who have tried to find evidences to substantiate it have that there was not a single order, or appeal, or suggestion about evacuation from Palestine from any Arab radio station, inside or outside Palestine, in 1948. There is however repeated monitored record of Arab appeals, even flat orders, to the civilians of Palestine to stay put.

Please visit these pages for more info: Blaming the victims 1948: The Myth of the Voluntary Exodus

Shalom / Salaam / Peace / Paz

rjc 2009-01-20 04:59:00

!תודה רבה

Thank you for taking the time to write this.

שלום מפולין

tshirtman 2009-01-19 15:00:26


(just a french ubuntu user who happen to read planet debian rss)

First, I’m relieved that, despite the firm zionist background you come from, you were able to stand out of the “normal” opinion of an Israeli. This give me a little hope, even in those times.

This is indeed a very long text, but I learned more than a few thing on zionism history, even if the causes for zionism are self evident (lots of persecutions from middle age to current time), I did not know a lot about early zionism and first colonizations. It appear there was a lot of mistakes in the process, from every parts (English colonialists, surrounding Arab countries, and Jews coming “back” to Israel). The fact that the Israel society, despite being based on very democratic principles, is full of hatred and fear, is apparent, and that the life of Palestinians seems to be of few value, from the view of most Israel citizens, is depressing. Lot’s of people even compare this hatred to the hatred that Jews severely suffered in XX” in Europe, with the sadly known holocaust.

The fact is that even here in France most Jew associations call antisemitism, every critics of zionism, literally saying that “antizionism is only a mask for antisemitism”, theses peoples would most likely make me antisemitic, if I hadn’t some example of Jews, in France, in Mexico like you, or even in Israel, that are able to see the damages done by this violent ideology, and who refuses caution Israel.

Finally, even if I dislike every idea of a religious government, even if I was raised christian, I feel Hamas is most certainly more right than Fatha, and most certainly more right than Likoud.

May theses horrible war stops, may the peace come to all those people.

Tu ma 2009-01-20 17:11:11

Mijito, gracias por ser como

Mijito, gracias por ser como eres. Lo dejo ahi. Con todo mi cariño Tu ma