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What Social Animals Owe to Each Other

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

In Defense of John Kerry, Sort of

I hate being in the position of having to defend Secretary of State John Kerry, but defend him I must. Sort of.

Israel's supporters are running around with their hair on fire because of this statement by Kerry:
A two-state solution will be clearly underscored as the only real alternative. Because a unitary state winds up either being an apartheid state with second-class citizens—or it ends up being a state that destroys the capacity of Israel to be a Jewish state. Once you put that frame in your mind, that reality, which is the bottom line, you understand how imperative it is to get to the two-state solution, which both leaders, even yesterday, said they remain deeply committed to.
The first thing to note is that no one would be shocked by such a statement in Israel. This view is expressed often, even by some staunch Israeli chauvinists, who don't want to live with Palestinian Arabs. Only in America do people act as though the sky were falling whenever a bad word is uttered about Israel, even if the word is framed within a hypothetical. Kerry said that if Israel maintains control of the occupied territories, it has two alternatives: a fully secular democratic country with a majority Arab population -- but then how can it remain a "Jewish State"? -- or a state in which a minority defined in ethnic or (pseudo-)racial terms rules a majority of people who don't and can't qualify as members of the in-group. Kerry could be faulted for not including in his list of alternatives Bill Kristol's preferred choice: the status quo. But many reasonably doubt that the status quo -- military rule of the West Bank and outdoor-prison status for the Gaza Strip -- is sustainable.

What do Kerry's pro-Israel critics think will happen if the Palestinians are not set free? Do they want them set free under any circumstances? Maybe Sens. Ted Cruz and Barbara Boxer favor the Kristol option of continued occupation and subjugation. If so, they should say so.

Aside from the status quo and an independent Palestinian state, logic seems to dictate that the only other choices, as Kerry says, are a secular democracy -- which means no Jewish State -- and something resembling apartheid. I favor secularism, liberalism, decentralization, real federalism, and local autonomy -- if I can't have market anarchism.

The only correction I'd make for Kerry is that "apartheid" is not the quite right word for what Israel would become, and actually is now: let's not forget that the Arab minority in Israel are treated like second-class citizens and always have been. Israel differs from a South African-style apartheid, as Gilad Atzmon points out, for the following reason: in South Africa, the ruling white minority wanted the majority black population to remain in the country to do the menial and dirty work. The ruling Israeli Jewish view is that Israel would be better off if the Arabs just left. Many Israeli Jews would love to see the Palestinian Arabs expelled (to Jordan), if that could be pulled off without international outrage.

Kerry is hardly a sympathetic character. His so-called peace process was a sham from the start, as we can see in his appointment of former AIPAC figure Martin Indyk as his chief negotiator. No doubt Kerry would like a "peace agreement" for legacy purposes, but if he got his way, it would have nothing to do with justice for the Palestinians.

Nevertheless, he had no reason to apologize for his remarks.


August said...

I think the ruling Israeli view is that the current state of affairs benefits them- those actually in power. The political class uses a constant crises to manipulate their people.
In many ways, the current state of affairs benefits many of our own politicians as well. Should the issue go away, much of the lobbying would too, and money would dry up.
The people need a solution. The politicians, however, see continued threats to the populace, however ineffectual, as convenient propaganda.

DissidentRight said...

Pardon my ignorance, but is there a logical reason, other than Abraham Lincoln-style jackassery, why the Jews oppose the "two-state solution"?

They still need to "man the walls", as it were, in any case. And I can't imagine they steal very much money from the Palestinians. It's not like the two groups aren't already strictly segregated. What do they lose, except for some pride?

And it's an interesting question, since a lot of Western nations are going to face pretty much the same problem in the coming decades. In England, for example, we are getting a slow-motion explanation of why it would be totally insane for the Jewish Israelis to adopt a standard secular democracy.

The main reason it's interesting, of course, is that the only people with any legitimate claim to the land of Europe are the various ethnic Europeans. After they've had their fill of state-sponsored diversity, does de-colonization get to work the other way? If not, we're going to be looking at apartheid and quasi-apartheid states all over Europe in the not-to-distant future.