Let’s Talk about the State of Israel

When I was 14 c. 1990, my teachers’ quorum instructor was giving a lesson (hard to remember what the particular topic was) when he went into a diatribe about what a horrible injustice the creation of the state of Israel was. I’d never heard anybody say that before, but I’ve come to agree whole heartedly with that adviser.

In 1947, the UN under pressure from the US and Soviet Union, passed Resolution 181, giving Israelis 56% of the land of Palestine even though Israelis only owned 7% of Palestine [this number is apparently overly simplistic; see DSC’s maps below] prior to that. There’s no other word for such an act than theft. Religiously motivated theft is even worse, I’d argue.

No doubt imperialism and colonization have been major parts of human history, but getting into the 20th century, attempts were made for an international rules-based order that was more than simply “might is right.” World powers created institutions like the League of Nations and United Nations to curb such acts. In other words, just because such conquests have been so common, for such theft to be mandated by the UN, which claims it’s been on a “path of decolonization since 1945,” was a terrible injustice. Israel is clearly of colonizing effort set up BY the UN, the very body claiming to stop such actions.

The fact that Resolution 181 was passed over the strenuous denunciations of the Palestinians, and all Arab and Muslim countries highlights even further what an unjust act it was. The theft was shoved down the throats of the victims.

Not surprisingly Arab nations declared war, which the Israelis used to enact the Nakba, driving any where from 750,000 to over a million Palestinians from their homes and turning many into permanent refugees. If the theft wasn’t clear by Resolution 181, the Nakba made the theft extremely clear.

To add insult to injury with Israelis took over Gaza and the West Bank in the Six-Day War, and Palestinians in those areas have lived under apartheid or blockade in their areas ever since. Israel stole their land, herded them into refugee camps, conquered those camps, and refuses to give them basic rights, while they take more and more land in the hope of pushing Palestinians out of “greater Israel.” That’s colonial oppression plain and simple.

And yes this does bring up US colonization and the very bad treatment of Native Americans, but Natives get to vote and live wherever they want in the US. Occupied Palestinians do not. Israel was created by the very system that was supposed to end such colonization.

And let’s review the Nazi’s agenda. “The Final Solution”—the extermination of the Jews—was the “final,” not the original plan. Originally, the Nazi’s wanted to “ethnically cleanse” the Jews or compel them to leave Germany. They heaped such persecution on the Jews to compel the Jews to leave.

When Hitler conquered Poland, he sent Stalin a letter asking if he could send him 2 million Jews. Stalin said no. The Nazi’s even considered shipping the Jews to Madagascar.

It wasn’t until the Nazi’s decided they could not ethnically cleanse the Jews that they decided on the Final Solution starting with Operation Barbarossa beginning in June 1841.

The Israelis have made no secret that they would like the Palestinians to leave and they are making things horrific in Gaza and the West Bank to compel them to do so. There really are parallels to other acts of ethnic cleansing that turned into genocide.

So I’ll reiterate what my teachers’ quorum adviser said: the creation of the state of Israel was an evil act leading to many more evil acts. Israeli oppression of the Palestinians is completely contrary to the teachings of Jesus and turning back to problematic notions of God (lacking historical basis) to justify such immoral acts is a problematic religious world view.

This is not to say there aren’t problems with radical Islam, but the Israelis’ terrible oppression of the Palestinians only exacerbates those problems.

Solutions aren’t easy, but the support of the continued oppression needs to stop.

And problematic actions of the oppressed are not justifications for making the oppression worse. Oppressed peoples—the Irish, Native American, slaves, South Africans—often targeted “civilians” in their resistance. Such violence did not and does not justify the oppression of such people.

During the Revolution, George Washington’s aid, John Laurens, “developed a plan to recruit and eventually free a regiment of slaves in his home state of South Carolina. Washington approved of the idea, but the state legislature rejected it, fearing it could lead to a slave rebellion.” Slave holders felt they had to keep oppressing the slaves to ensure the slave-holders’ safety. Oppressing people to avoid retribution isn’t a good justification for oppression.

I understand I’m saying something controversial and am happy to engage. But if you want to claim that God DOES back the State of Israel’s actions, please cite specific verses, not just “conventional wisdom.”  I know the Jews were prophesied to return to Palestine, but I think they could have done so without treating the Palestinians the way the Israelis did so after 1947.

And, please, let’s avoid simple name-calling as an argument. Pointing out the state of Israel’s injustices ins’t antisemitism!

Back in that 1990 lesson, a friend pointed out such prophecies to the adviser who simply said, “that doesn’t make it right what the State of Israel has done.” I agree.

86 comments for “Let’s Talk about the State of Israel

  1. Stephen,

    Well, that’s one perspective. My travels in that part of the world make me think there may be other perspectives.

    What is your proposed solution? To me, the path forward is more important than the past.

  2. JI, I’d argue that understanding the past is vital to understanding steps forward. The fact that this land was stolen from the Palestinians is central to understanding what should be done going forward: give land back. My understanding is that Hamas has said they will accept the 1967 borders. https://apnews.com/article/hamas-khalil-alhayya-qatar-ceasefire-1967-borders-4912532b11a9cec29464eab234045438

    That seems more than fair for Hamas to be willing to let Israel have over 78% of the territory when Israel only had 7% before Resolution 181.

    Based on the theft and the attempted genocide, I’d hope the US would cut all aid to Israel. I agree with congressman Jamaal Bowman of New York: “Not another bomb, not another dime.”

    I know these proposals will not happen any time soon, but I do think we’ll get there eventually. I’m very much opposed to Israel’s current solution of ethnic cleansing and genocide.

  3. So, understanding history doesn’t seem all that helpful here, since all it does is reinforce the idea that the other side is utterly in the wrong. The question is what does a reasonable solution look like now. Like it or not, Israel was founded and trying to undo that would involve a ghastly range of possibilities that should be unthinkable but unfortunately aren’t in some quarters.

    And it doesn’t seem useful to talk about what Hamas would accept, since Hamas is a pack of terrorists, murderers and rapists who think nothing of harming Palestinians if it keeps them in power. Palestinians need a solution, but Hamas can go to hell. Joined by Netanyahu, if it were up to me. But murdering civilians is not resistance.

    Cutting aid is a possibility, but once you’ve done that, that’s the end of your leverage over a process that involves two sides making concessions, and will take years. The real problem is that the two sides want vastly different things, and until that changes there are real limits on what anyone else can do.

  4. There’s lots to quibble with in this post (for one thing, it could use some editing) and it’s definitely one-sided, but it’s not fundamentally wrong. The tragedy is that any nation that peacefully took in the survivors of the Holocaust, including either Palestine or the United States, would have been greatly enriched by the addition of such a well-educated and hard-working people to their population. But it’s not hard to understand why the Jews wanted their own sovereign state after what they’d experienced.

    But I’m with ji: now what?

    There clearly won’t be peace until there are governments on both sides that want it. Netanyahu and his extremist allies probably would try to expel the Palestinians if they thought they could get away with it. Fortunately, Israel is a democracy and it seems likely that eventually there will be an election that votes them out. Meanwhile, Hamas’s stated objective is the extermination of the Jews. How will they be removed from power? Even Israel’s war doesn’t seem to be accomplishing that.

    And what will peace look like? I suspect the horrifyingly up-close and personal nature of the October 7th attacks makes it just about impossible for Israelis and Palestinians to live peacefully and equitably side-by-side in a single state for at least a generation. (There’s a big difference between “If we were at war, that man might be willing to drop a bomb on my house and kill my family if he thought Hamas fighters might possibly be there” and “That man might want to murder me and my family after raping my wife and daughters.”) But the alternatives are a two-state solution that in a sense ratifies the Nakba and requires Palestinians to give up the right to return, or a reverse Nakba where millions of Jews are turned into refugees because of something their grandparents and great-grandparents did (“from the river to the sea…”). So I’m not sure focusing on 1948 advances the cause of peace.

  5. Steve, have you attempted a Steel Man (opposite of Straw Man) analysis of the passage of Resolution 181? Regardless of how it has apparently gone of the rails since then, what was the mindset and motivation of the UN countries that supported it? What were the BEST arguments for it at the time?

    I can’t speak to the theology of any of this, but strategically it behooves the USA to have an allied democracy in the region that produces so many terrorists that mean us harm. Israel is a valuable source of intelligence in the region. So I believe it’s in our best interest for Israel survive and thrive.

    It is easy to say (from our leather sofas in air conditioned living rooms) that the ongoing violence halfway around the world is an overreaction. I’d argue that the months-long battle is testament to Israel’s restraint. Israel could have carpet bombed Gaza pretty quickly if they wanted genocide. The fact that they are committing boots to the ground tells me they are trying to discriminate between civilians and soldiers.

    Anyhow, back to your main point about Resolution 181: It is a thing that happened. Hindsight is 20/20 but everyone knows that governments don’t simply roll back mistakes. Right or wrong, the Jews were awarded this land and I think it’s a bit too late to be talking about 1948. Generations have passed since then. What is to be done about all the infrastructure improvements Israel has made? This is a bell that can’t be unrung.

    I echo JI: What is YOUR solution to the Middle East problem?

  6. Should the United States give New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and so forth back to Mexico? Should Poland give its western half back to Germany, and Belarus its western half back to Poland? Should white Americans go back to Europe? It seems to me that Israel’s win in the 1967 War was fair and square. Wars have consequences. If Israel had lost that war, well, that would have been very unpleasant (“a ghastly range of possibilities that should be unthinkable,” someone once said).

    Once Hamas and other Palestinians make a commitment to peace, and show honesty and sincerity for a period of time, then there will be progressive ways to integrate Gaza and the West Bank into the rest of Israel or whatever other arrangement they agree upon. Maybe everyone can be happy.

  7. The history is extremely important! It’s an Israeli smoke screen to try to get everyone to forget/ignore what they did. Why should we forget a past that is pretty recent?

    What’s my solution? I’d say that since Israel had 7% of the land than going back to 7% would be fair. I know that won’t happen, but can anyone explain to me why Israel going back to 78% isn’t overwhelmingly fair to the Israelis?

    Nat Tuner killed 60 men, women, and children. That didn’t mean that slavery was okay.

    Over the history of this occupation, the Israelis have killed SO MANY MORE CIVILIANS than the Palestinians have. Why do we constantly say that Israelis killing civilians is totally justified, but Hamas doing so is unforgivable? In this conflict: 36,000 to 1000.

    Not another bomb, not another dime. 78% is so much more than fair!

  8. JI, the “rules based order” established by the UN says that we do not recognize annexed territories. The world will not recognize Russias “fair and square” victory in Ukraine.

    All the examples you list were BEFORE the establishment of that “rules based order.” The creation of the state of Israel happened after and was a violation of those rules.

  9. Stephen, I agree that a return to the pre-1967 borders is a fair solution for Israel. Maybe a new Israeli government under heavy pressure from the US would even accept it. Would Hamas? The interview with Hamas leadership you cite lists “the return of Palestinian refugees” as a pre-condition, meaning Palestinians return to the land they lost in 1948, so it’s really the 7% solution, not 78%. And in the same interview he denies the October 7th attacks targeted civilians, so it’s unclear anything he says can be believed.

  10. Stephen, I think your view of the past in that region is very one sided. Israel hasn’t been perfect in its handling of the situation–but there’s a whole other narrative that is just as extreme from a pro-Israel point of view. And my guess is that the truth if found some where between those extremes. Sadly the problem has become intractable–and I’m afraid that the only solution might be the appearance of the Lord himself in that region.

    Even so, in my uneducated opinion the biggest problem is that the Palestinians are stuck in an old paradigm. The world changed in the early 20th century. Nation building was the name of the game in those days–and you can’t just say well I’m not going to play that game when your previous landlords were aggressors in a war that they lost. Going to war and losing typically has severe consequences–not least of which may be getting a new landlord. And that’s what happened in that region at the end of WWI. The European powers carved up the Ottoman Empire into nation states–and there’s plenty of room for criticism on they way all of that was handled. Even so, the reality is that Israel was given the greenlight by the British to set up shop.

    And so, even though there’s plenty of blame to go around, I don’t think we can get around the fact that Israel has a valid *political* right to exist. And playing an endless tit-for-tat blame-game isn’t going to change that fact.

  11. To quote the article, “He said Hamas would accept ‘a fully sovereign Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip and the return of Palestinian refugees in accordance with the international resolutions,’ along Israel’s pre-1967 borders.”

    I know it’s not the simple, RLD. But I agree that a good starting place is “not another bomb, not another dime.”

  12. The question for that list is whether the refugees would return to land inside Israel’s 1967 borders or outside. Given that a fully sovereign Palestinian state could obviously accept whatever refugees it wanted outside the 1967 borders without Israel’s approval, and the long emphasis on “the right to return,” I think it pretty clearly means inside. That’s what makes it the 7% solution. Not that that offer is credible anyway.

    “Not another bomb, not another dime” gives up all our ability to influence Israel’s behavior. So if your goal is to pressure Israel to accept a two-state solution, that’s not the way to go. I suspect the main result would be to prompt Israel to find new allies, perhaps Russia but more likely China, who would have no objection to their current treatment of the Palestinians or worse. The likely outcome is more misery for the Palestinians and less hope for peace. But it does increase the probability, though I think it remains low, of an Israeli military collapse that enables a reverse Nakba, if you consider that a desirable outcome.

    I do think we should be putting a lot more pressure on Israel, including at least a pause on the transfer of offensive weapons.

  13. Agreed, I meant that more as a bargaining chip. I think our current policy of the blank check is completely absurd.

    And I’m not sure what the strategic interest Israel would be to the Russians or Chinese. We support it largely on religious ideology which I don’t think would mean as much to those other countries.

  14. Stephen, one thing your historical account leaves out is that >50% of current Israeli Jews are themselves or are descendants of Middle Eastern Jews who were expelled by countries from Iran to Yemen to Tunisia. So the regional Muslim-majority states themselves have de facto endorsed Israel as the place for Jews to go. 7% is no longer a sensible number to talk about, if it ever was.

    Hamas had everything it had any legitimate right to last October 6. It controlled all of Gaza. It had access to an international border with Egypt. But what it wanted even more was the chance to kill Jews. You really shouldn’t treat Hamas as the representative of Palestinian interests in the West Bank. It’s not the Palestinian Authority.

    One of the basic problems is that the proposed solution – going back to the 1967 borders, more or less – has been on the table several times over the years, and the Palestinian leadership rejected it. I hate what the Israeli army is doing in Gaza now, and I hate what’s going on in the West Bank. And I hate what Hamas did on October 7, and what they’re still doing to Israeli hostages.

  15. Stephen, Russia and China are already very interested in cultivating clients in the Middle East. They’re happy to prop up some of the worst genocidal dictators in the world as long as they get ports and air bases and resources out of the deal, and they don’t come to promote democracy and free trade. Plus they would get access to the advanced weaponry that the Israeli defense industry manufacturers (and whose usefulness has been amply demonstrated in the Azerbaijan-Armenian conflicts). The problem with the United States pulling back from some region is that there are always some truly awful actors with regional or international ambitions happy to step in.

  16. The Israeli people have to care about their own security. Personally, I think a return to the 1967 boundaries is foolish — doing so will simply be a step to the eradication of Israel as a state, and from the river to the sea, Israel will be Jew-free. The 1967 borders are indefensible from enemies.

    Besides, in early 1967, Gaza belonged to Egypt and the West Bank belonged to Jordan. As part of their peace treaties, both of those countries renounced their claims to the land — so there is no basis for a return of the land.

    The Israeli people have to live there. They have to make hard decisions. I have visited more than most Americans, but I really believe the Israeli people need to decide this matter at the appropriate time; after all, they have to live with the outcome. I am impressed with the professionalism (and the restraint) of the IDF during this Gaza operation.

  17. Stephen, I concede to being no expert in the field of Israeli history (I assume you don’t either.) But it seems you’re stepping in at one particular point in history, focused exclusively on ethnic demographics to the level-set the terms of the debate. Why no discussion of the fact that the area that became Israel was under British mandate? That it was subjugated as part of the Ottoman Empire? That Palestine as a self-governing nation has never existed at any point in time?

  18. Hamas has accepted the present offer. Netenau will not. As has been said America has to stop supporting netanau and instead support a 2 state solution. Netenau does not lead a majority government, and he does not represent the view of the majority of Israelis. Israel does not have a free press, they are not being shown the plight of the palestinians. They are being shown propaganda on how terrible hamas are. Hamas equal Palestinian to netinau, so when he says hamas has to be eliminated he means all palestinians. It will be poetic justice if the present atrocity brings about a better future.

    The UN has to go in and restore the borders, rebuild infrastructure, replace the present leadership on both sides
    and then hold elections for both Palestine and Israel.

    Many Isralies live in settlements built on palistinian land by netinau to make a two state solution more difficult, they will not be happy. The UN has found some israies and some hamas guilty of war crimes these people can not stand for election.

  19. Not a huge Bill Maher fan, but he had made some of the most sane commentary on the realities of the Israel/Hamas situation I’ve come across. Highly recommend watching his take on it:

  20. The terrible mess created by Zionism isn’t something that any of us will be called on to fix. Furthermore, I find the insistence of not talking about the past to be a deflection from the purpose of this post. My focus here is my agreement with my teachers’ adviser that the creation of the state of Israel was a horribly unjust act.

    I’m certainly not an expert on world politics and thus turn to those who are. I find Professor Mearsheimer, who I linked to, quite convincing: two-state solution is the way to go, but Israel is adamantly opposed to that. So expect a whole lot of misery in the region.

    But just because no one has a simple answer to any of this isn’t a reason to continue with the status quo of Israel’s ethnic cleansing/genocide.

    Jonathan, the migration of Middle Eastern Jews does indeed complicate things. All the more reason not to have created the state of Israel.

    A-Non, it seems to be that “ethnic demographics” are the most important issue. The Ottomans and British didn’t drive out the Palestinians like the Israelis did.

  21. Observer, Maher is so offensively ignorant on these issues. Again, we have an international rules based order after the World Wars that works to ameliorate these behaviors. In this case the US and UN caused it.

  22. Before true negotiations for a 2 state solution can be achieved you need an honest broker in both sides and with Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar and Benjamin Netanyahu you have neither. Sinwar will burn Palestine to the ground if it gains him the opportunity to eliminate Israel. Under the Muslim Brotherhood ideology Israel has no right to even the 7% you so graciously seek to grant them.

    Netanyahu has made a career of stoking problems with Palestine at moments critical to his political survival. He only cares about his own skin at this point.

    Under Clinton with Arafat and Rabin and eventually Peres and Arafat an opening was in place to achieve the outcome of a two state solution with the Oslo Accords. But Bibi who defeated Peres in Israel and the right wing felt it too much a risk and accelerated settlement building and other triggering efforts while Hamas cratered the opportunity on the Palestinian side.

    Your naive approach of encouraging Israel to give up territory at the amount you recommend ignores the fact that Israel is surrounded by countries whose reactionaries accept only one solution: the eradication of Israel.

    In the realm realpolitik there is only one path and that is to find a way to bring honest brokers to the table for both people. Until that happens everything you want to encourage is fabulism and fantasy.

  23. And for the record I am an expert on world politics, have studied the history and strategy of the Israeli Palestinian conflict thoroughly, and delved deeply into the leaders and figures involved throughout that history. Most of the amateur discussion on the matter of Israel and Palestine amounts to laying out a Risk board and toying with the ideas of how to effectively divide the territory to the satisfaction of both parties without considering all of the variables and stakeholders involved.

    A 2 state solution will make most of the people of Israel and Palestine happy. Finding leaders who will honestly make the sacrifices to achieve that with the best interests of the people as the first priority is the great wish. A fair assessment would say that you cannot achieve a DMZ between the two people as long as Iran and Qatar see funding terrorism to try to keep Israel off balance as a core objective for their statecraft.

    I wouldn’t expect to see resolution until Christ comes to be honest.

  24. “Two-state solution is the way to go, but Israel is adamantly opposed to that. So expect a whole lot of misery in the region.”

    Israel has always been in favor of a two state solution–and the Palestinians have always rejected it. But it’s only now–when Hamas is on the verge of destruction–that they’re calling for a two state solution (as a means of survival and preserving some degree of autonomy.) But the problem is that it would be wholly impractical for Israel to jump into that kind of a solution right on the heels of the war. They have to first be assured that the terrorist elements are eradicated or at least subdued to the point where they will not take over a fledgling state. And that’s bound to take some time–enough time (IMO) that it would be imprudent at this point for them to nail down a timetable for transitioning into a two-state scenario.

  25. This is an good discussion. I’d be interested to know if anyone commenting has read something that has changed their mind, or gave them reason to reconsider their views on the subject? Too often discussions about Israel/Palestine turns into two sides talking past each other. It’d be nice to know that isn’t happening here.

  26. Stephen, there’s no other way to say this: I what you have written is ahistorical nonsense pushed to advance propaganda. There was never an independent state of Palestine, so to say the land was stolen from “Palestinians” is tripe. Before 1947, lands occupied by Jewish settlers were purchased. The UN partition plan drew lines around areas where Jews had already settled on purchased land. There was no “Palestinian” ethnic group. There were Palestinian Jews and Palestinian Arabs (and a handful of smaller ethnic groups). The 7% number is ridiculous. That appears to refer to the smallest amount of settled land, and dishonestly implies that Arabs had settled the other 93%, which of course they hadn’t.

    This blog normally has a much higher standard for content. This falls far short of the standard. And it’s disappointing, because it’s an important topic, and we deserve a viewpoint that is sympathetic to modern day Palestinians but that doesn’t repeat bogus propaganda.

  27. Not true, DSC. Our standards are pretty low sometimes! While I disagree with Stephen on some important things here (like I don’t think debating Israel’s historical right to exist is a good starting point for finding a solution), I appreciate how he’s taken a position and made his case. So if you think his argument is flawed, you’ll have to show your work (so please keep going, because I also think it’s flawed, but we might learn something new or distill some basic point of disagreement along the way).

  28. Thanks for sharing your expertise, Alain. Like I said in later comments, I understand that the various plans we put forward won’t actually be implemented. Again, the point of this post wasn’t to make any claim that I had resolutions, but instead putting forth my assertion that Zionism is ideologically problematic. Your pessimism seems to match Professor Mearsheimer, who I also assume is correct.

    M, I did try to do some research recently which did lead to some new viewpoints for me.

    DSC, I did cite the sources for my claims. I find yours highly ideological.

  29. Stephen,

    You don’t cite anything for the 7% claim. And the anachronistic language is pervasive. There were no “Israelis” before the creation of Israel, and “Palestinian” didn’t mean what it does now (it just indicated someone who lived in the area).

    This is a low-quality post, and the rest of the bloggers here should reconsider whether you should have access to the blog. It’s a disgrace.

  30. The truth is that without being an expert on war issues and even more so one of the most convoluted conflicts in the world, in practice what we have seen is that if a country has nuclear weapons and feels that it has a historical claim or of any nature over another and you have the means to wage war, then there is not much you can do to stop the killing until either you run out of money, you run out of bullets, or the people of your own country ask you to stop. For example, Russia and Israel have no issue with not having international support… even if China or India wanted to take over a neighboring region, there is no way to influence them. What is fair? I believe that we are not in a position to negotiate what is fair, but rather to accept a reality that is very sad and put the pieces together. Palestine faces extermination. Will this end the influence of Hamas? I don’t think so. Two countries would be a nice solution and thus rebuild a country, a society and have families and traditions again. We are far from it.

  31. Stephen, you’re citing to Wikipedia. That’s the first problem. The second problem is that the source for the Wikipedia article is a dead link. The third problem is that, as I mentioned earlier, in order to make these numbers even remotely plausible, you have to count the entire Negev, which is absurd, as it is almost entirely uninhabitable.

  32. So how much of Palestine did the Jews own, DSC? My understanding is that it was 7%. What’s your understanding?

    And the “dead link” is a published book. Published books are legit to cite.

  33. It is irresponsible to complain about “the terrible mess created by Zionism” without talking about the reasons Zionism came into being. Zionism was created in the 19th century as a Jewish response to murderous antisemitism that was happening on a large scale. For Zionists, the Holocaust was horrific, absolute confirmation that a Jewish state was needed. Untold millions of Gentiles and Jews around the world agreed on that point.

    It is irresponsible to elide the Holocaust in this discussion, Stephen. This is the kind of irresponsibility that would cause some people to say your argument is antisemitic. My point is not to accuse you of being an antisemite. (I do not read your post as antisemitic.) Instead, I’m pointing out how devilishly hard it is to talk about this conflict in a way that respects its enormous moral, historical, emotional and political complexity. It’s really hard work that can’t be just dashed off on a tide of outrage, understandable though the outrage may be.

    If you want to criticize Zionism, I have no issue with that. There is no doubt that Zionism is problematic. But if you go there, your critique must at least try to make sense of history. What you are writing here expresses some of the moral and emotional stakes, especially as experienced by Palestinians. You fall very far short of appreciating the situation’s historical, moral and political complexity. It is disturbing that you seem either unaware or unconcerned about the need to be more thoughtful and more careful. So much is at stake for so many people.

  34. Stephen,

    Is it a book that you have read? If not, then it’s not valid for you to cite it, and I do not trust Wikipedia on controversial topics (and you shouldn’t either).

    Here’s a map showing land ownership in Mandatory Palestine between 1945 and 1946. The blue shows lands owned or occupied by Palestinian Jews in blue, by Palestinian Arabs in green, and unoccupied/public land in white.


    This map was created from multiple sources, but the main source was the British survey from those years.


  35. Also note that claiming that Israel obtained 56% of anything is somewhat arbitrary. The administrative borders of Palestine are somewhat arbitrary. If you consider the entire British Mandate, which somewhat arbitrarily divided Palestine and Trans Jordan, the math looks very different.

  36. Indeed, the Holocaust played a big role in all this, Loursat. I figured that was pretty well know. But I’d say that giving the Israelis the Palestinians’ land as a measure to try to alleviate that terrible genocide was a terrible and unjust action. The Nazis’ not the Palestinians were guilty of the Holocaust. And I’d say that the idea that the state of Israel has made Jews safer is clearly false.

    Thanks you DSC. I don’t see that map as justification for giving the Jews/Israelis 56% of Palestine. Nor do I see it as justifying the Nakba or the US’s major financial commitment.

  37. But, yes, I will amend my 7% statement, DSC.

    Yet, at this point, I still hold the the central point of my post. An unjustified, colonial act that was a great injustice to the Palestinians. I don’t believe that it fits with the ethics of what Jesus taught.

    No, I can’t fix it!

  38. Stephen,

    I don’t have the source in front of me, but as I recall (and as is supported by eyeballing the map I cited to) in terms of land area, Palestinian Jews owned or legally controlled about 8% of Mandatory Palestine. Palestinian Arabs owned or legally controlled about 9%. The UN partition plan drew boundaries based on that ownership and control. The reason for the slightly disproportionate allocation to the Jewish state mostly comes down to giving the Negev to the Jewish state, which was done to allow the Jewish state access to the Gulf of Aqaba and the Red Sea. Had the Arabs honored the partition plan, the Arab state would have been presumed to have access to trade through the Red Sea via its allies in Jordan and Egypt. That was not a realistic option for the Jewish state.

  39. Stephen, creating a state with economically and politically viable borders for a group constituting a third of the population who are historically liable to persecution sounds like a pretty reasonable thing to do, not like a crime of historical proportions. Was it an act of colonialism? Of course, but everything Britain could have done was by definition an act of colonialism, including not creating a separate state – ask the Kurds how well that worked out as a solution.

  40. Frank says, “Palestine faces extermination.”

    I disagree.

    Stephen F says, “An unjustified, colonial act that was a great injustice to the Palestinians. I don’t believe that it fits with the ethics of what Jesus taught.”

    I disagree with bringing Jesus into the discussion. The statement seems unsupported, unfair, and uncharitable, but this tactic is all too common from people who are desperate to prevail with weak arguments.

  41. Having only a third of the population but getting the majority of the land does seem pretty unfair to me. And big portions of that Jewish population moved in, usually under British encouragement, after the Balfour declaration. Thus colonial settlers at a time when the West was seeking to curb such actions. The Kurds were an indigenous population; the vast majority of Israeli Jews were colonists.

    No doubt lots of people meant well, but I think there were a ton of warning signs and a clear disregard for Arab concerns.

    And telling an oppressed people they have to accept their oppression (the very unjust 1947 resolution) or they will have an even worse one inflicted on them (all the happened since) doesn’t strike me as particularly morally justified.

  42. ji, you’re accusing others of being uncharitable and of having “weak arguments” while the IDF is actively bombing hospitals, massacring tens of thousands, killing children, stealing land for 74 straight years, and forcing millions into ghettos without vote or representation or even consistent basic services–all of which you seem intent on either downplaying or defending. It is very easy to tut-tut others when you are sitting comfortably at home and not being bombed to starvation.

    I am a community college instructor in the greater NYC area, and I have Arab students every semester, including from Palestine. Last Spring one student from Gaza Strip wrote her final paper about her time living in Gaza as a child, when her family lived in daily anxiety about when their water and electricity would get cut, about chronic foot shortages, about when the IDF might kidnap, beat, or kill one of them without provocation or warning. She took my class again for a different course in the Fall, but missed over a month of class once the latest war began; I sent her a wellness-check email, and sure enough, she was too depressed to come to school because she personally knew relatives who had been killed in the bombings, and felt immense survivor’s guilt.

    I had another student from West Bank just this last Spring semester; he opened his final paper by detailing the time he flew to visit extended family there as a teenager, only to be randomly selected by Israeli border security for interrogation and a beating so severe, he spent most the visit in a haze confined to a bed at his relative’s house, wondering if he would survive, let alone make it back to America. He emailed me privately towards the end of the semester, respectfully requesting that I never share his essay with anyone, even anonymously; he observed how the various non-violent student-protestors were being violently beaten by police nationwide for supporting Palestine, and was understandably wary of being beaten near-to-death again himself.

    This topic is especially apropos for an LDS blog, because so many members tend to give the state of Israel carte blanche due to Orson Hyde’s dedicatory prayer. But as the OP’s quorum advisor aptly put it, “that doesn’t make it right what the State of Israel has done.” For that matter, our own Book of Mormon details an ancient civilization who insisted that they were the aggrieved ones and the righteous ones, who did “swear before the heavens that they would avenge themselves of the blood of their brethren who had been slain by their enemies. And they did swear by the heavens, and also the throne of God, that they would go to battle against their enemies, and cut them off from the face of the land.” General Mormon’s response in that moment is that he “did utterly refuse from this time forth to be a commander and a leader of this people, because of their wickedness and abominations.” It didn’t matter how just the Nephites thought their cause was: the moment they began to commit war crimes, the Lord ceased to support them. We keep claiming that the Book of Mormon was written for our day, yet we so consistently refuse to learn its lessons for ourselves.

  43. Stephen,

    Is legal immigration through purchase of land now “colonialism”? Your entire position presumes that the Arabs had a right to Palestine and the Jews did not. I don’t think anyone here is saying that present-day Palestinians don’t face injustices, but the creation of the state of Israel was not itself unjust. It doesn’t seem like you’d accept a state of Israel that was given one third of Mandatory Palestine (again, the presumption that that is the appropriate denominator is itself problematic), but maybe I’m wrong.

    The identification of Arabs as indigenous to Palestine is also a huge problem with your analysis. As I noted earlier, there was no “Palestinian” ethnic identity before the creation of Israel. Sure, there were Arabs who came from a long line of people who had occupied the region, but that’s also true of Jews, Samaritans, Druze, and other ethnic groups. But before 1947, the Arab with ancestors in Palestine wouldn’t be viewed much differently than a recent Arab immigrant from Egypt or Syria.

  44. Stephen, let me suggest a couple of reasons why dwelling on the 1947 partition is not at all helpful if your goal is peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians:

    First, a more complete reckoning of the years of tit-for-tat violence that led up to the partition does not lend itself to identifying “good guys” and “bad guys” or provide the kind of moral clarity that would allow us to say “this is clearly the just solution” 77 years later. It was a tragic mess and both sides had blood on their hands.

    Second, “Israel stole the Palestinian’s land” is not an argument for a two-state solution or any kind of peaceful coexistence. It’s an argument for the destruction of the state of Israel. If that’s not what you want, then stop making arguments for it. (Your persistence is starting to make me wonder what you really do want.) October 7 showed what it would look like if the Palestinians actually succeeded in reversing the injustices of 1947. But they almost certainly won’t, and everything that has happened in Gaza since October 7 shows the consequences of continuing to try and continuing to fail. Both are horrifying. You’re not doing the Palestinians any favors by egging them on.

    Both sides have grievances against the other. Both sides will need to forgive and let go if there’s ever to be peace.

  45. JB, thanks for your post. It’s hard for people my age and up to accept that Israel under Netanyahu, and especially with his current coalition partners, no longer shares our values. But they frequently don’t.

    It’s tempting to wash our hands of the matter. But right now we have significant influence over Israel, and I think we owe it to both the Israeli and Palestinian peoples to use it for one last effort to make peace. The best I can come up with is to push the Israelis to agree to a two-state solution that really will allow the Palestinians to live decent lives. That will probably require the election of a new Israeli government, but I suspect the prospect of losing our support would make that happen. No doubt the current Palestinian leadership will reject it, but it will give the Palestinian people something to hope for and an alternative to Hamas and the other terrorists. Over time that could lead to regime change among the Palestinians too, and then the plan can become reality.

    I’m not even trying to work out details here–for example, Israel dismantling some checkpoints and settlements in the West Bank as a gesture of good will seems important. Perhaps the whole thing is naive. But it’s similar to what some smart people are saying.

  46. Stephen Fleming,
    You want to bring the ethics “of what Jesus taught” into a discussion about a Jewish state? Seriously?! Many Jewish readers would be alarmed by that historically and culturally insensitive remark alone. What have Christian ethics ever got the Jews? Jews would NOT have longed for a Jewish state (Zionism) if Christians had lived in accord with anything remotely close to what Jesus taught. Jews learned from long experience that Christians (Europeans and Americans) can not be trusted.

  47. DSC, when an imperial power brings in outside settlers, it is indeed colonialism. That was common in the ancient world (I just read how the Assyrians liked to do it) and modern: the English did this brutally to the Irish. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Ireland#History

    The English displacing the Irish in Ulster and giving their land to Protestants was “legal” since the English were in charge, but still brutal colonialism.

    This imperial resettlement is totally different than a democratic country setting their own immigration policies. Arabs complained bitterly that Jewish immigration would lead to their displacement which it did. Immigration facilitated by an outside imperial power (the British) similar to what the English did in Ireland, lead to centuries and brutal resistance and oppression. (That’s why I find Maher citing the Irish as an example of “learning to get along” that the Palestinians have failed at totally absurd. It took over 400 years you moron! [I’m directed that comment at Maher, not anyone here!] Israel has only been around for 80!) There’s a reason why the Irish are highly sympathetic to the Palestinians.

    And, DSC, I’d see the “one state solution” (where everyone in greater Israel has the same rights) as the best solution. Let ALL the people vote (that whole list you gave) and end the apartheid state.

    RLD, I’m pretty sure that all Palestinians know that their people were completely screwed in 1947 and that me pointing out the basic facts does nothing to undermine peace efforts. And I’m pretty sure that Israel’s current bombardment of Gaza is more than enough to “egg on” the Palestinian without my very obscure blog post. Both sides need to forgive, but our government only arms one side. I’d like our blank check to Israel to stop.

    Old Man, you seem to highlight my point when you said that Christians were not following Christian principles when they persecuted they Jews. I agree. So how about we work toward following the teachings of Jesus in working to treat everyone fairly including the Palestinians? Christian mistreatment of Jews isn’t justification for Israeli mistreatment of Palestinians. Let’s all work to improve.

  48. Just happened to be watching Rashid Khalidi pointing out the similarities between the Irish and Palestinian experiences:

  49. Stephen,

    This post is a real tragedy because I have liked your posts, but you have beclowned yourself so badly here that I don’t think I can take you seriously in the future. It’s not the taking of a position that I disagree with that is bothersome—it’s the sophomoric arrogance with which it is delivered. You continue to speak in anachronistic terms, even after this has been pointed out to you. You claim your position is somehow based on the example of Jesus, but you ignore that the “colonialism” that you decry was in response to persecution of the Jews. The Irish analogy fails on so many levels that I won’t even attempt to go through step by step. I will say that Jewish migration to Palestine generally complied with both Ottoman and British law, so I don’t know what else you would expect in terms of compliance with the law. The assertion that it was a colonial effort on the part of the British denies agency to the Jewish people. And I don’t think a self-governing democracy that denies immigration to people with a historical connection to the land based on xenophobic concerns of the immigrants taking over would be something you would applaud in any other circumstance.

  50. DSC, you’ve fallen back on name calling and not facts quite frequently here. I’m very curious to hear why the Irish analogy is problematic, but refusing to give any evidence isn’t much of an argument. The imperial British did encourage Jewish immigration over Arabic objections and the Arabs were pushed off their land like the Irish. So if you want to give me facts, I’m happy to make adjustments like I did above. But name calling without facts doesn’t speak very well to your claims.

    And, no, I don’t think that Jesus would want the Jews to persecute the Palestinians because the Jews were persecuted.

  51. Stephen,

    I can’t spend my time squashing every new fallacious argument and unsupported ahistorical claim that you make. You have made multiple assertions without facts, including the one that you just made that “Arabs were pushed off their lands just like the Irish.” The fact is that the two have little in common. The colonists in Ireland weren’t themselves refugees. The conquest and colonization of Ireland was an attempt to increase political and economic control, while Jewish migration to Mandatory Palestine was in the midst of Britain’s process of relinquishing control. Colonists in Ireland didn’t obtain their lands almost exclusively by purchase as did the Jews in Palestine.

    You keep claiming that Arabs were pushed off their land, as though this occurred by some massive injustice, but in reality, few Arabs were forced off any land before the Arab nations attacked Israel after independence, and those that were were tenants without a realistic expectation of staying on the land. Massive displacements were the result of a war that started by Israel’s Arab neighbors.

    This motte and bailey thing where you boldly claim that the creation of the state of Israel is a great injustice only to retreats to the bailey of “I don’t think Jesus would want the Jews to persecute the Palestinians” is getting real old, real fast. No one is saying that it’s ok for Israel to persecute Palestinians. One can recognize Israel as a legitimately created state without approving everything it does. Israel’s tolerance and support of illegal settlements in the West Bank is awful, and it will need to relinquish any claims there if Israel truly wants peace. While the invasion of Gaza was on the whole justified in response to the terrorist attacks of October 7, the interference with humanitarian aid to Gaza is totally unjustified, and bombings have shown a callous disregard for civilian lives. So you can stop fighting that particular straw man.

  52. Stephen,

    I’d like to think that a single state solution could be viable–but I’m doubtful. If it were to function like a real democracy with protections in place for the practice of religion and so forth–well that’d be cool. But the Jews have such a horrific history of persecution that I don’t believe they’ll be able to relinquish majority rule for the foreseeable future.

    And as matter of fairness–I think it’s worth considering how many Arab states would be willing to allow the possibility of a competing religious culture to gain a majority vote in their own country? For my part, I can’t imagine that any of them would be willing to consider the real possibility of losing Muslim rule.

    And so, while the difficulties that Palestinians have faced should not be trivialized, I think it’s worth considering the situation from a Jewish perspective. Many of them, no doubt, view their country as a tiny sliver of land in the midst of a gigantic Arab world–and an even larger Muslim world. And my guess is that they find it rather perplexing that there should be so much resistance from such an enormous world religion and culture to the idea of a tiny Jewish state–especially when they were given permission by the “powers that be” to set up shop.

    Of course, that doesn’t answer all of the moral questions that might be brought to the table. There’s an endless tit-for-tat argument that might be made from both sides–though that’s not to say that none of the arguments are legitimate. Both sides (IMO) have legitimate concerns and claims. And so–what to do?

    And this is where the crux of the issue is in the present: The the Palestinians have got to recognize Israel as a viable state. If that doesn’t happen then there’s no way to move forward–because Israel simply isn’t going anywhere. It’s a tough pill to swallow–but that’s the reality of the situation.

    It’s my hope that the Abraham Accords can continue to gain momentum and build a large enough consensus among Arab nations vis-a-vis the legitimacy of a Jewish state that the Palestinians will be led to capitulate to Israel’s claim to sovereignty. And if so (IMO) some lasting work could be done in setting up a viable Palestinian state–though it might be decades in the making.

  53. Stephen, You’ve started from the assumption that Israel should never have been created because there were more Arabs than Jews in Mandatory Palestine. I don’t see anything more complex to the argument than that. But the argument persistently dodges the many problems underlying its assumption.

    The argument consistently fails to discuss that, post WWII, there was an anticipated emigration of Jewish refugees that was expected to surge the Jewish population in the coming years (Jewish state or not). It doesn’t grapple with the fact that neither Arabs nor Jews in Mandatory Palestine had control over the region and thus decisions over land distribution were not within either party’s choice. The argument seems overly concerned about the percentage of land distribution, but doesn’t grapple with the realities of what type of land was allocated, relying instead simply on a percentage allocation. The argument doesn’t face the fact that if you eliminate the Negev desert, the balance of land distribution tilts massively in favor of Arabs. It ignores the fact that after the land was distributed, Israel was immediately attacked – literally the next day – by foreign powers who wanted to take land for themselves and that most displacement that occurred happened within that context of war. And it hasn’t acknowledged that there was never before and has never been since a nation called Palestine that had self-determination.

    There is a real discussion to be had about the problems with UN Resolution 181. But you aren’t having that discussion. You are repeating the same type of arguments that are great imbuing contrarians (in a largely pro-Israel culture) with feelings of sophistication, of really understanding what others are missing. In reality, those contrarian arguments have the same level of sophistication that “Well the Bible says Israel should have it” brings from the other side.

  54. Put yourself in the Jewish psyche. People want to eradicate you. They’ve tried before and they’re still trying.
    It’s us against them. We have to survive at any cost. You grow up living with the reality that there are people you encounter on any given day who do not not like you for no good reason. Imagine living like this. Israel, surrounded by countries with enemies trying to eradicate them. This is a psychological wound so traumatic that it will take Christ doing a miracle in order to heal them when He comes. I expect the enmity on both sides will never go away with any peace accord. Only with the Second Coming.

  55. Anon, my argument is that Zionism as a project to create a Jewish ethno-colony in Palestine at the expense of the local population was unjust, starting with the Balfour Declaration that declared Palestine as a “national home for the Jews.” Giving the Israelis the majority of the land with only a third of the population was just one of many many injustices.

    DSC, see the video I posted on the Irish/Palestinian similarities from an expert on the topic.

    Jack, yes, I’m pretty confident that none of our suggestions here will actually be implemented.

  56. Stephen,

    Posting biased documentaries from activist historians doesn’t help. It’s clear that you have a worldview, and you fit the facts to your world view. There’s not much productive conversation to be had here. Just know that you have squandered a considerable amount of respect that had built up over multiple posts. Again, not because you have a differing viewpoint, but because you don’t seem to even want to see the other side.

  57. DSC, I understand that my OP was combative, but I’d argue that the more pro-Israeli side gets plenty of promotion and did so by most of the commenters on this post. I’ve spent my whole life getting the Israel side.

    It seemed cowardly to me not to share this Palestinian side of things even if that has ruffled some feathers.

  58. Stephen, your argument has decidedly not been about Balfour. You’ve mentioned Balfour in passing once in a comment. Maybe that’s what you’re thinking about or motivating you – the idea that Jewish immigration to the Middle East is itself repugnant and was unjust – but that isn’t what your OP was about and it hasn’t been what any of your arguments have been about.

    This is what I mean when I say a you are persistently dodging. People are identifying the many problems with your argument and rather than address them, you’re mostly just gliding to some other thing in the moment. I just gave you a litany of the issues with your framing. Rather than grapple with them, you say, “No, what I’m really arguing is something I have mentioned only once to this point in passing.”

    I am totally open to hearing pro-Palestinian history or critiques of Zionism. But, again, you aren’t putting forward anything resembling balanced history or neutral, effective critique.

  59. Anon, let’s just be clear here. Cutting off parts of the relevant history is a continual tool of Israeli propaganda, so we won’t be following those methods on this post. Balfour is highly relevant. You don’t get to come into my post and demand that I ignore this history. Understand? DSC have been talking about British attitudes toward colonization for some time. Stop it with the silly games!

    So let’s go through your points: “The argument consistently fails to discuss that, post WWII, there was an anticipated emigration of Jewish refugees that was expected to surge the Jewish population in the coming years (Jewish state or not).”

    The British should not have made Palestine the Jewish homeland. It clearly led to the displacement of the Palestinians. Palestinians continually pointed that out, but this was shoved their their throats starting with Balfour (more or less).

    “It doesn’t grapple with the fact that neither Arabs nor Jews in Mandatory Palestine had control over the region and thus decisions over land distribution were not within either party’s choice.”

    That because the British were favoring the Jews. Again, see the Irish example.

    “The argument seems overly concerned about the percentage of land distribution, but doesn’t grapple with the realities of what type of land was allocated, relying instead simply on a percentage allocation. The argument doesn’t face the fact that if you eliminate the Negev desert, the balance of land distribution tilts massively in favor of Arabs.”

    Palestine should not have been partitioned in a way that clearly favored the colonizers. The just act would have been the one state like the Arabs asked for rather than giving a disproportionate amount to the colonizers.

    “It ignores the fact that after the land was distributed, Israel was immediately attacked – literally the next day – by foreign powers who wanted to take land for themselves and that most displacement that occurred happened within that context of war.”

    Again, the one state solution was the correct one rather than giving special privileges to the colonizers.

    “And it hasn’t acknowledged that there was never before and has never been since a nation called Palestine that had self-determination.”

    The British handed over self-determination to the other Ottoman provinces. Palestine was one such province. They should have do so as one state rather than giving special privileges to the colonizers. Privileges that started with Balfour (more or less).

    I have no intention of convincing you Anon. If you have justification for what I listed out in the OP, let me know.

  60. ###”Cutting off parts of the relevant history is a continual tool of Israeli propaganda, so we won’t be following those methods on this post. Balfour is highly relevant. You don’t get to come into my post and demand that I ignore this history. Understand?”###

    This is bluster. No one said to cut off parts of the relevant history. I pointed out that your argument has never focused on Balfour. Any “cutting off parts of the relevant history” has been the result of how you framed the argument has been framed.

    ###”The British should not have made Palestine the Jewish homeland. It clearly led to the displacement of the Palestinians. Palestinians continually pointed that out, but this was shoved their their throats starting with Balfour (more or less).”###

    Again, you’re misleading and not grappling with history. The British did not make Palestine the Jewish homeland. Balfour said it supported creating a home for Jews in Palestine without abridging the rights of any others in the region. The objections non-Jews in the region had to Jewish immigration are similar in kind to the objections to immigrants today. “They’re not our kind.” “We don’t want them here.” “They’re going to replace us.” Do you support those same objections to immigrants to the U.S. today?

    Your point in response to the fact that neither Arabs nor Jews in the region had self-determination doesn’t do anything to engage with the point. It just dodges it and says “well the British favored Jews.”

    ###”Palestine should not have been partitioned in a way that clearly favored the colonizers. The just act would have been the one state like the Arabs asked for rather than giving a disproportionate amount to the colonizers.”###

    First, the way you frame the alternatives continues to ignore the facts. You keep saying Israel received a “disproportionate amount” without actually grappling with whether Israel received a disproportionate amount. Second, let’s be clear. Your argument is not that the formation of Israel as it occurred was unjust. It was that Israel should not have been created in any way so long as an Arab majority disapproved of it.

    You’ve got a fairly startling position. Jews living outside the Levant before 1917 should have been allowed or encouraged to go there. And the minority within the Levant should be subject to majority Arab rule indefinitely.

    ###”The British handed over self-determination to the other Ottoman provinces. Palestine was one such province. They should have do so as one state rather than giving special privileges to the colonizers. Privileges that started with Balfour (more or less).”###

    You’re just misstating the facts. There was no province of Palestine. The land now called Palestine was cobbled together from different administrative districts, some of which were majority Jew, some of which were majority Arab. The “special privileges to the colonizers” you speak of were facilitation of immigration for a group that had been historically and was at the time oppressed and in danger of violence in their various homelands. One doesn’t have to look much further in history to see what Jews living in Europe faced at the hands of repressive governments. The Jews who emigrated from Germany to Mandatory Palestine were beyond fortunate.

    Was the creation of Israel (going back to the Balfour Declaration or the earlier Zionist movement of the late 19th Century) an unmitigated good? No, there are people who suffered as a result. But, again, you aren’t grappling with the offsetting pros and cons, you aren’t describing the history accurately, and you are coming to conclusions with the force and certainty of an ideologue instead of someone earnestly trying to understand the complicated history that led to the creation of Israel.

  61. Anon, you attack my “misstatement of facts” without giving facts. You did say I was not allow to bring up Balfour, which is ridiculous. One state was the right solution along with majority rule. It’s unfair to bring up the European example as representative for Jewish experience in the Middle East prior to the creation of the state of Israel.

    Like I said before, it’s a completely different question for a sovereign nation to set their own immigration policies than for an imperial power to bring in outside peoples to displace the local population like the British did with the Irish. And if you feel that countries should let in people who want to come in, that sounds like an endorsement for the Palestinian request for the right of return and the one state solution, which I’m all for (maybe you are too!)

    This post has been a process of me trying to share what I’ve learned from experts like Dr. Khalidi, Illan Pappe, Mearsheimer, Finkelstein, etc. If you don’t like my acknowledged lack of expertise, then take a look at what they have to say. Here’s a couple of good videos from two Israeli experts.

  62. I think this video focusses on several themes discussed here: 1) what in incredible anti-Muslim bigot Bill Maher is.

    2) I think her clip of Mearsheimer starting at minute 11 is really important. Here’s a transcription of the most important part:

    ““But once you start talking about the root cause [of the you end up talking about how Israel was created, and that means telling a story that is not pretty about how the Zionists conquered Palestine. And number two, it means talking about the occupation. It’s not like Hamas attacked on October 7th because they were just a bunch of anti-Semites who hated Jews, and wanted to kill Jews. This is not Nazi Germany. This is directly related to the occupation, and to what was going on inside of Gaza, and it’s not in Israel’s interest or the lobby’s interest to have an open discourse about what the Israelis have been doing to the Palestinians, to, I would say, roughly 1903 since the second Aliyah came to what was then Palestine. They don’t want to talk about that.”

    3) Then the comments from Ali Abunimah (13:30) on the similarities to South Africa, and how much whites there opposed “one person, one vote,” just like the Israelis do now and did at the creation of the state of Israel. And the South African example as the way forward.

    4) And I’ll refer back to the video I posted from Israeli Raz Segal, who talks about how colonizer will dehumanize the colonized. They are subhuman violent people (how dare they resist!) who must be brutally subjugated for “peace.”

  63. Hamas did, in fact, attack Israel on October 7 because they’re anti-Semites who wanted to kill Jews. It’s part of their motto! On October 6, there wasn’t a state of war and there were no occupiers or colonists in Gaza. Hamas was in control of its destiny, but what it chose was to murder a bunch of civilians in an unprovoked attack. It was repulsive and indefensible, and trying to represent it as anything else weakens your argument.

  64. Sorry to post so much, but Anon said I haven’t explained things enough, so I thought it may be helpful to explain the bigger scope of my thoughts on the topic.

    Again, I’m not an expert on the topic, but do have a PhD and so believe that it’s good to listen to experts (I listed some above). I decided to try to dive into some of this after October 7. Like Mearsheimer says in the above interview, terrible tragedies like October 7 bring up the question of why did it happen. And I think Mearsheimer points to very important roots, and as Mearsheirmer notes, Zionists have indeed worked very hard to cover up what happened. Israeli genocide professor Segal talks about the concerted effort by the Israelis to hide the Nakba for decades.

    So I do agree with the Israeli professor Segal and the Palestinian America professor Khalidi that Zionism is a colonial project (at a time when the international order said they wanted to stop such things) with many of the similar outcomes including the dehumanizing of the colonized. Any resistance by the colonized is an inhuman outrage.

    I found this passage from John Dunn Hunter, an American colonist who was taken captive by Natives as a child, rejoined the whites as an adult, and wrote a memoir, interesting.

    “Inheriting certain districts of country from their ancestors, the limits to which are prescribed either by treaties with the several tribes, or are traditionary and mutually respected, the Indians are accustomed to roam with unrestrained freedom through their forests in search of game, or to cultivate so much of the soil as they may deem necessary to supply their wants and comforts. Every encroachment made upon their territory, whether with or without their consent, is sooner or later, regarded as an infringement of their natural rights, and has frequently given rise to long, cruel, and exterminating wars, not only between different tribes, but between the Indians and the whites. They regard the latter with much the most scrupulous jealousy; because experience has taught them that every settlement on their part, within their boundaries, is a precursor to their farther recess, which they most sensibly feel, will only terminate with their final expulsion, extermination, or incorporation with those they esteem their natural and most bitter enemies.” John Dunn Hunter, MEMOIRS OF CAPTIVITY AMONG THE INDIANS OF NORTH AMERICA, FROM CHILDHOOD TO THE AGE OF NINETEEN (London: Longman, 1824), 8.

    And of course, the Natives were right that encroachment on their land by colonizers did “terminate with their final expulsion, extermination, or incorporation with those they esteem their natural and most bitter enemies.” So they fought back, just like the Arabs did, especially after 1947.

    Anon, the bottom line over the supposed “fairness” of the partition, I’d say, is that the Israelis celebrated it and the Arabs bitterly rejected it. I’d say that a “compromise” that the colonists love and the colonized hate, is not a “compromise” but instead a brutal colonial imposition and land grab. The Arabs tried to resist the land grad just like colonized people usually do including Native Americans, Irish, etc.

    Using such resistance as an excuse to further dehumanize the colonized and to take more of their land is extremely common for colonizers. And Israel keeps doing this. This is ongoing.

  65. Jonathan, Mearsheimer argues that October 7 is better categorized as a “prison break” and I agree. It’s not unusual for prison breaks to be violent. Your characterization is much less well informed than Mearsheimer’s. I prefer to listen to the experts.

  66. Did the fact that the Natives hated the whites more than they hated other Native tribes mean that the Natives were just inexplicably bigoted toward white people, or was it because of the colonial oppression towards the Natives by whites? Seems pretty obvious that Mearsheimer is right.

  67. And just to be clear, I would not want to live under a Hamas government or any other Islamic theocracy. There are many things to criticize about such regimes. But I still think one can empathize with Palestinians being upset at Israelis, just like John Dunn Hunter said that Natives were really upset at whites.

  68. “Jonathan, Mearsheimer argues that October 7 is better categorized as a “prison break” and I agree.”

    You just lost me Stephen. If you agree that someone is unjustly imprisoned, you may be okay with them killing some guards on their way out of the prison. So that might justifying killing IDF soldiers. But Hamas wasn’t trying to escape, and they weren’t just killing IDF soldiers who got in their way. They were deliberately seeking out and murdering civilians. The elderly. Children. Raping women and girls. Nothing justifies that. Nothing.

    That doesn’t make what Israel is doing okay. It doesn’t mean Palestinians who didn’t commit such atrocities should be punished for Hamas’s actions. But October 7 was deeply, deeply evil, and if you can’t recognize that you’ve seriously lost your perspective.

  69. First, the claim of mass rape on October 7th have been debunked along with claims of 40 beheaded babies. https://thegrayzone.com/2024/01/10/questions-nyt-hamas-rape-report/

    If nothing justifies “murdering civilians. The elderly. Children” then why doesn’t 38,000 dead Gazans v. 1000 dead Israelis demonstrate who the perpetrators are hear. Again, listen to the Dr. Khalidi video I posted. I think it’s best to learn from the experts and not simply repeat Israeli talking points.

    Again, why is it that people insist that the violence the Hamas commits seems to justify just about EVERYTHING that Israel does, but Israel’s violence justifies NOTHING that Hamas does? I’m no fan of radical Islam, but I can understand why the Palestinians are mad.

    Again, pleas watch Israeli professor Raz Segal’s discussion of colonizer methods: declare the colonized subhuman savages as justification to take their land, when they fight back, point to those efforsts as “proof” that the colonized are indeed subhuman savages, kill more of the colonized and take more of their land.

    Native Americans almost always attacked civilians. John Dunn Hunter was a child captive. Natives almost never stood a chance against American soldiers. That didn’t mean that it was right for them to lose all their land (again, this was before the creation of the UN and international institution against colonization. The UN passing resolution 181 in 1947 was a great injustice).

    Nat Turner killed all civilians. Men, women, and children. That didn’t make slavery right. Slave owners were TERRIFIED of slave revolts and took brutal measures to stop them. As I quoted above, South Carolina literally refused John Lauren’s plan for slave freedom for fear of slave revolts. The fact that slaves were indeed very angry did not justify slavery.

    Hamas is certainly a problem. But their actions don’t justify Israeli ethnic cleansing/genocide.

    I know this whole thing is a real mess without any (easy or otherwise) solution. But the US support for Israel’s colonial oppression needs to stop. Again, listening to the experts seems best to me.

  70. A similar situation that’s a little closer to home is the saints trying to establish a community in Missouri. We might say that the analogue doesn’t work because the two groups were of the same nationality–but hear me out. The Missourians were there first–and along comes a group of people with their own sort of religious manifest destiny. They kept coming–and increasing in numbers. But the Missourians were afraid that the saints would begin to dominate the region thereby altering their sociopolitical and even religious way of life–and even perhaps displacing them. And so clashes between the two groups were inevitable.

    That said, this is where the analogue breaks down–because the Missourians successfully drove out the Latter-saints. So lets say that the same sort of thing occurred in Palestine–that the Arabs were able to drive out the Jews before 1948. How would the modern world look on that bit of recent alternate history? My guess is that there would be some division like there is today as to the facts and the morality of it all–with one important difference: the Jews would get a little more sympathy than they do in real time by dint of having been the victims of expulsion.

  71. That is a useful analogy. Thank for sharing, Jack. As you point out there are some differences. Mormons were coming from the same country (this was before big English immigration; yes there were a few Canadians, but Americans tend not to get too bent out of shape over Canadian immigration) with laws that said that people had the right of free movement in that country.

    As lots of have been pointing out, the local Palestine residents were not sovereign but under the Ottomans then the British. The Missourians were full citizens of the US with voting rights, but in a country with laws that does not allow the stopping of free movement across state lines. Again, I think the Irish example work pretty well for Palestine

    Another difference is that none of the non-Mormon Missourians were “native.” They all got there not long before the Mormons did. Arabs had been in Palestine for generations. Not the Missourians.

    But it is useful to point out that there is a useful “Missourian” point of view to consider in the conflict. A whole lot of persecutors were not nice guys, but big numbers of Mormons (which seemed like a strange religion and maybe even abolitionists) made a lot of the old settlers uneasy. And the old settlers would point to passages like 3 Nephi 21 that sounded like the Mormons wanted to unite the the Natives and wipe out the “Gentiles” (non-Mormons). That made the Missourians uneasy too.

    So lots of bad persecution in an era where states had pretty much all control over law and order.

    Again, I think the Irish example works better for Palestine like Dr. Khalidi notes.

  72. Stephen, At the point where you are engaging in rape denialism by citing The Grayzone, I am officially done trying to persuade or engage with you.

    To everyone else, Stephen is pretty far down the rabbit hole. The UN – an entity not at all supportive of modern Israel – concluded there were reasonable grounds to believe rape was used as a tool of the October 7th attack. See https://apnews.com/article/israel-palestinians-un-rape-oct7-hamas-gaza-fe1a35767a63666fe4dc1c97e397177e. The NYT similarly concluded. https://thegrayzone.com/2024/01/10/questions-nyt-hamas-rape-report/

    To compare October 7th to a jailbreak – where the prisoners, in the end, return to their cells, I guess – is atrocious. The point of October 7th was to terrorize and kill civilians. It was not a coordinated act intended to retaliate agains the government of Israel. It was murder and rape and evil.

    It seems clear that Stephen’s position and post are not about discrete wrongs done as part of the formation of Israel. It is a full-throated defense of Hamas’s modern day, in this moment terror.

    One can absolutely criticize Israel – indeed, think that Israel should end its wars now – without ceding the ground that Hamas’ attack on October 7th was unjustified, immoral, despicable. But look for where that line ought to be drawn somewhere other than where Stephen is currently point.

  73. Right, it was the NYT article that was unsubstantiated. I believe this is a discussion of the UN report as well.

  74. Here’s the UN statement on sexual violence on October 7, Stephen: https://press.un.org/en/2024/sc15621.doc.htm. Yes, there have been many exaggerations. But it happened. I’m not going to argue about it.

    Intent matters. Dropping a bomb on a house that you think has Hamas fighters in it even though it might also have children in it is bad. It might even be a war crime. But it’s very different from deliberately pointing a gun at a child and pulling the trigger. Some Israelis, including high officials in government probably do intend to kill Palestinian civilians, and are just as evil as Hamas. But I doubt you could get an Israeli regiment to do what Hamas did on October 7.

    There are no excuses for the evil done by either side.

  75. Agreed, but the US only gives arms to one side. I would like that to stop.

  76. Sexual violence doesn’t justify Israeli genocide (or sexual violence). Again, that has been a standard colonist trope.

  77. Anon, Dr. Khalidi questions the distinction you’ve made about modes of killing.

  78. And my apologies if I asserted the Gray Zone’s claims too strongly. I’d heard reports on problems of the NYT’s reporting and wanted to pass that along. Again, I don’t see such reports and justification of Israel’s actions. Nor do I see a whole lot of engagement with the additional context and expert videos I’ve posted here.

  79. Thank you all for your engagement. I know this is an inflammatory post, but I appreciate the bloggers and commenters letting me share a topic that’s been important to be the last several months. I’ve put up a few controversial topics here and I admit that each time I think, “I wonder when my co-bloggers will have had enough.” Not that I’m TRYING to tick people off, but I know that a number of posts have been controversial. I’ve certainly been aware that this one is.

    So thank you all again. Perhaps we’re getting to the point that it’s best to close this down, but I don’t want to do that too quickly in case commenters have other points they want to make.

  80. But just to conclude (maybe?) with an overview of my views on this topic (some seemed to wonder).

    I totally understand that Zionism has been important to many Jews. I totally understand the importance of one’s religion.

    I see the Balfour Declaration as quite problematic, but also understandable.

    I suppose the creation of the state of Israel is understandable from that point of view as well, but I do think it would have been more just to have kept Mandatory Palestine as one state. Maybe things would have turned out similarly, but I still think that would have been the most fair.

    I’d say the results have been not good and feel that I agree with my teachers’ quorum adviser.

    It’s a very sad situation, and I do think that advocating for more sympathy for the Palestinians and thinking about things from their point of view is a good thing. I strongly belief that the US is overly focussed on the Zionist point of view.

    Again, I’m not an expert, but in my dabblings, it looks to me like Rashid Khalidi’s THE HUNDRED YEARS WAR ON PALESTINE: A HISTORY OF SETTLER COLONIALISM AND RESISTANCE, 1917-2017 (Metropolitan Books, 2020) is probably the best overview of a Palestinian point of view.

    I’ve not read it but would like to. Maybe I’ll come back and do a book review when I do, so that we can all fight some more!

    Again, thanks for the discussion!

  81. You may have heard that the Columbia Law Review’s Board of Directors (faculty and alumni) shut down the website after an article was published there the other day which they apparently didn’t approve of even though it went through all the normal editing procedures for any Law Review article. Of course what they didn’t want to be seen is still available: https://static.al2.in/toward-nakba-as-a-legal-concept.pdf?fbclid=PAZXh0bgNhZW0CMTEAAabVIkmcDsYDZ9yWCq3wiovXmmbmwhLZT9iF80FAbo0PxV2_7BzB7GbdOFc_aem_ATF64ci50xinrASX8D7QVlwzV6TPyP1oFmJIQNuo5mBph0nwLiNt2hJfwPS3uYhxfXTL0JiEMMudt1cdPmlqUs-x

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