Plots and Thoughts

Musings on Israel and Palestine

Posted in Musings by Captain Optimistic on November 30, 2009

I was talking with a friend about Israel, and he did something uncharacteristic.  He tried to shut down the debate.  He did so using a few problematic arguments.  Arguments I would like to take a look at before adding in my own thoughts on Israel and Palestine.

Tax Dollars and Speech

J made the point that since my tax dollars go towards supporting Israel’s violence towards the Palestinians, I couldn’t talk about “opposing violence”.  This is a pretty easy argument to defeat.  J opposes the Iraqi war, yet his tax dollars go towards its support.  Would anyone say he ought to shut up about his opposition?  Of course not.  It is vital we speak our minds, especially when our tax dollars go towards a cause we deem unjust.

Privilege and Violence

J then pointed out that the Palestinians were under attack, and I was speaking from the position of “Extreme Privilege” in condemning their violence.  Ironically, this is the exact same argument the Israeli government uses to justify its attacks on Palestinians!  J is hardly living under threat, from missiles or bombs, Palestinians or Israelis.  We share in this privilege, but it does not bind us to silence.  If anything it compels us to educate ourselves and seek to impact the situation positively.  Privilege is a blindfold, not a perpetual state of being.  We must first realize we are blind, but then we must tear off the blindfold as best we can and see!

Knowledge and Speech

J Finally said he didn’t have time to educate me, and I ought to “go do some critical thinking”.  This reminds me of a professor I had in college, who used to attack students whose viewpoints he disagreed with by lambasting them for “not having done the reading” (even when they had).  It also reminds me of a student of my own.  After establishing she had political viewpoints after all, I asked why she didn’t express them.  She responded that she didn’t feel she knew enough to have a voice.

One must always have a voice.  Knowledge is not a prerequisite for taking part in the discourse of society.  It is a desirable thing of course.  But too often knowledge is transformed into agreeable knowledge.  That is, the right kind of knowledge according to a particular point of view.  So I was told to read books that supported J’s viewpoint (no mention of those that opposed it).

Discussion as Democratic Vitality

Regardless of one’s viewpoints, it is essential to the health of Democratic discourse that we work to increase, not shut down, communication.  The Israel Palestine problem is huge, and one we all have an interest in seeing solved peaceably and sustainably.  We need to be finding ways to open channels of communication.  Especially when it comes to this issue.

OK OK, Where do YOU Stand?

I support a single secular state.  I don’t think two theocratic states prone to violence in close proximity is a recipe for success.  I think Israel-Palestine’s promise is in becoming a force for peace and an advocate for the oppressed.  I consider both the Israeli and Palestinian people to be a part of my heritage, and get excited thinking about the wonderful things they could accomplish together.

When it comes to guilt and responsibility, I find that both sides use violence, both sides kill the innocent, and both sides employ lies and propaganda to further their aims.  Being the state carries with it a higher responsibility, and Israel needs to step up.

I cannot say whether or not I would be moved to commit acts of violence if I were in their shoes.  What I can say is that as long as that violence continues it will make the situation ever worse, and consume the very blood of the innocent those acts of violence were meant to protect or avenge.

What do you think?

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5 Responses

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  1. Bond said, on November 30, 2009 at 11:21 am

    Those arguments are so preposterous — why on earth was he making them?
    Is it because you’re Jewish…? (I’ve had folks say the stupidest shit to me for the reason, when it comes to this issue. Which is, you know, just awesome. Doesn’t matter what my thoughts are, doesn’t matter that I’m usually trying to criticize the Israeli government. I’m “biased.”)

    I’m having trouble imagining what about your eminently reasonable position he even disagreed with, so vehemently that his only recourse was to tell you to shut up.

    • Captain Optimistic said, on November 30, 2009 at 1:23 pm

      I’m not sure, I think he might have just been feeling irritable.
      His views violence as a defensible act for oppressed peoples, and the viewpoints of those who are not living under threat of violence as privileged and thus blind to its justification. Its understandable, it just also applies to those doing the oppressing!

  2. Wizard Smoke said, on November 30, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    Thank goodness for blogs, where we can come up with witty defenses after the fact, eh?

    Good rebuttals. I worry that people who have non-extremist views are ignored by the majority of people who have a stake (or don’t) in this situation. For instance, does your friend have a stake (a tangible social or familial bond) in this situation? Everyone likes to talk all big about the principles of the situation, but the reason that sounds pompous (or like veiled anti-semitism in the case of anti-Israeli sentiment) is because every human being protects their family, disciples and close friends before and regardless of ethical principles. This is why social connections get you jobs over CV applications.

    The Israel-Palestine debate is reflective of most problems in modern American politics. Any compromise is seen as a vicious betrayal by both one’s own supporters and a pathetic exploitable weakness by one’s opponents. And this attitude is slowly tearing the country apart.

    • Captain Optimistic said, on November 30, 2009 at 1:31 pm

      Heh, indeed! Actually this debate took place in a gchat session. I made the first two points and he signed off as I was typing the third.

      Thanks. I don’t know if my friend has a personal stake, other than being attached fully to a particular political viewpoint. Well, not always, but very often family and close friends come before principles. For a twisted counter example, consider hitler youth turning in their parents.

      A very good point. So much that I’d say we often see allies who fail by that standard as worse than our opponents! It doesn’t hold true for all American politics, and sometimes those betrayals are indeed vicious. But whether or not compromise, failure or betrayal has occurred, it is the shutting down of debate that really hurts us. In the absence of communication ugly things grow.

  3. Liberal Moderate in Virginia said, on November 30, 2009 at 5:36 pm

    The world as a whole has caused many, if all of the problems, with the Israelites and Palestinians. In a nutshell, if you put humans behind walls, they are going to rise up against the oppression. If you look through history, every time man segregates another part of the species, conflict arises. Look at slavery and segregation and what that has done to rift society. The same can be said of the gay/lesbian portion of society. The less we are to accept each other, the more we are going to have conflict.

    Now, I know there are greater geopolitical reasons for doing what we did to that portion of the globe, but let’s face it, Jesus and Holy Land stories aside, it’s all about control and greed. The Bill Clinton’s of the world are just as guilty as the Dick Cheney’s. And that Joe the Plumber guy, well, he should just stick to leaching off the social programs in this country and not giving his input on the problems of the middle east.


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