All the debates are exhausted. I’ve made up my mind long ago. Why do people still throw the same ancient arguments in speeches and opinion pieces? It tires me. Are they not? … So I thought.
Yet sometimes, occasionally, just “poco poco poco“, I would venture beyond skimming the headlines and into the realm of actually reading it. To see if the world has changed since last time I engaged with it? To be, um, informed (not without an eye roll)? Or mere yak shaving?
This time it was that old old UN’s obsession with Israel, that old old settlement obstacle, and oh a new new number 2334. I despise important people’s speeches and I do not appreciate the significance of their subtle wording. That being said, I started this excursion by reading the state secretary’s full text from yesterday’s newsletter. Well, to my delight it proved a waste of time because I agreed with 99% of what he said. Il n’y a de nouveau que ce qui est oublié.
I held on to my view that it’s logical to claim that settlement expansion on the land which is subject to negotiation is harmful to the negotiation, thus an obstacle to peace, though I do not claim it is the only one or even the major one. And that is just a statement derived from logic. What really agonizes me is how the check posts can deprive the other side of human dignity and potentially brutalize the soldiers – more of the latter.
I am not unaware of their incitement problem. Following that line of thought, I may mention the well-known double standard that always subject Israel to harsh criticism and does not hold them accountable for horrifying deeds they did. I was once very indignant about it, too. It harms the peace process, true. But now I’m part of it. I can now somewhat relate to why some friends of Israel would do that to Israel. Because it is Israel with whom I fall in love with (sadly on my own), not the other side. As the internalization process goes, I naturally see myself whole-heartedly desire for her all the good, peace being that most precious jewel for her eternal grace. So in my eyes all I see is her, every motion she does, every word she utters, every glance she casts, every expression she shows, so much so that I don’t have any attention to spare for what the other side is doing. When she takes the course I deem leads her to danger, I cry; when they do whatever, I simply don’t care. That’s my perverted double standard.
As I just woke up from my foolish serenade, let me also put my double standard in a more comprehensible way. It’s reasonable to hold oneself to the standard of doing what one thinks is right to do, regardless of how badly the other party might behave. Since Israel is mentally internalized by me, I naturally hold her to a higher standard, because she is supposed to be that positive, progressive force.
The main objective of this post is not to document my long held belief regarding the two-state solution, though it’s worth documenting for my future reference. The point is, as my blog name indicates, a surprising revelation of how my belief is not essentially different from the school of greater Israel, of annexation, or from the school of status-quo that is vehemently attacked by both two-state and annexation advocates, despite the unseemly quarrels between these groups. The new perspective was gained following clicking into another headline in today’s newsletter. It is written by a settler.
The title “a settler”, the word “annexation”, themselves already carry 1000 associated images that cause me to raise my eyebrows. What did I write about Avraham Yoffe in that environmental piece? A general coming out of countless battles, launched a warfare for wildlife in the land of Israel, with apparently colorful personalities, who from a different account is found to believe in a greater Israel. I definitely raised my eyebrows when I found out. What a pity. Almost a stain! But this, is rightly called prejudice, as the settler author points out.
Among the irrelevant information about who she voted for in the US election or that she accuses us to be the real racists, I read the message of why she believes in annexation. She lives in West Bank and deals with real Palestinians day in day out. She witnesses and hears first hand account of ordinary people’s hardship. With her good will, she wants to help them by incorporating them into Israel, so that terrorists can be effectively punished, and the rest who only wish to live peacefully can earn their rights in a democracy, instead of in a Palestinian state that is likely to follow other Arab models.
In contrast to her empathetic narrative, the Palestinian plight exists in my mind mostly as a variable in an equation, void of physical meaning. They are referred to as they, them, or the other side without flesh and blood. This attitude probably doesn’t make me a racist, but seems to put the settler author on a higher moral ground. On the other hand, the author’s distrust in Arab people’s ability to develop a modern democratic country, so that they must not be left alone with the hopeless Arab leadership but be put under the benign Israeli protection, also smells of racial arrogance.
The overly refined psychological analysis has made the whole picture much more complicated. But when I zoom out I discover that, an annexationist like her is not fundamentally different from a two-stater like me. We both would like to eventually see an ideal situation where two peoples live among each other – more than just side by side. The settler author believes it’s possible to do it now if we help the ordinary people get rid of the extremists currently ruining them, with added benefits of clinging to the historical sites of worshipping. Whereas I feel the level of trust needed for the ideal situation has not been reached. To meet their urgent need of statehood and dignity, I’d rather for the time being separate the two parties who have been in conflict since time immemorial. It’s nice in that I will be able to finally drop a moral burden and also conveniently leave their social economical problems to themselves.
And notice that my arguments have a similar pattern with those of the prime minister’s – a representative of status-quo perpetuators. Concerned about another Gaza ballooning out of the West Bank, he thinks our peace partner is not only not mature enough to live in a Jewish state, but also not mature enough to have their own state. So he prefers to walk the wire of the current delicate condition and he is admittedly skillful. He is popularly accused of promoting the miserable status-quo. Yet the two-state proposal is merely another “status-quo”, an interim stage before the ideal coexistence but decidedly not it.
In summary, all three schools can be compatible with the same world view of coexistence. The difference lies in implementation plans, which rise out of our various mind models** that assess current situation and interpolate future development. In some light, the “land-grabbing” settlers are seen even more liberal and progressive than a typical two-state supporter traditionally associated with such adjectives. But again, our ideals are equally liberal and uninteresting because they are really the same, just the approaches take conservative or progressive stands.
* It’s not the first instance that I pretend to care about the transition of years more than that of seconds, c.f. Last Year’s Harvest.
** I use the term “mind model” in reference to Forrester’s observation of how we are running our world system at the moment.