Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Hamas, Reason, and Justice

A Hamas leader, when asked if they would renounce violence and accept the right of Israel to exist now that they were in power, said, "Let Israel retreat to their 1967 borders, and then we will discuss that." This is a reasonable position and one that has justice on its side. The usual assumption of most discussions of this question in this country assumes that the Palestinians should be strict pacifists and accept whatever they can get at the bargaining table. This conveniently forgets that Israel is an intruder, an occupying power, an oppressor.

Let the United States demand that the Israelis live within their 1967 borders, and then we can demand that Hamas renounce violence and accept the right of Israel to exist.

Will this happen? No, of course not, because the political situation in this country will not allow it. Right wing Christians and the Jewish lobby will not allow it. So the tragedy will continue.

By the way, could we please get past two other obstacles? Let us hear no more that Yassir Arafat was offered the best deal the Palestinians could hope for when Clinton was president and turned it down. The situation was much more complicated than that.

Let us hear no more that God gave Israel all this land centuries ago and therefore it is theirs forever. Anybody who argues that should also argue that we should give the Indians back all the land we took from them since 1492.

"Short of forcibly expunging the Arab presence from every inch of soil currently controlled by Israel, the dilemma facing Israel today is the same as it was in June 1967, when the aging David Ben-Gurion advised his fellow
countrymen against remaining in the conquered territories. A historic victory can wreak almost as much havoc as a historic defeat. In Abba Eban's words, "The exercise of permanent rule over a foreign nation can only be defended by an ideology and rhetoric of self-worship and exclusiveness that are incompatible with the ethical legacy of prophetic Judaism and classical Zionism." The risk that Israel runs today is that for many of its most vocal defenders, Zionism has become such an "ideology and rhetoric of self-worship
and exclusiveness" and not much more. In that case, Israel's brilliant victory of June 1967, already a classic in the annals of pre-emptive fefensive warfare, will have borne bitter fruits for the losers and the
winners alike."
Tony Judt, "After Victory," The New Republic (June 29, 2002)