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The Endlessly Circular Argument of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict



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The WSJ has a great op-ed today by Khaled Abu Toameh. It describes the agreement reached by Fatah and Hamas in forming their unity government–and how Hamas has managed to avoid making any concessions for peace.

People are angry that Israel and the US. refuse to recognize the new “democratically elected” unity government. Israel’s supporters angrily demand to know why Israel should recognize a government that refuses to recognize it. To which the other side responds by justifying all of their positions as inescapable results of Israeli policies. To which Israel’s supporters respond by pointing out that terrorism causes repressive security measures; nonrecognition causes nonrecognition; the rejection of peaceful coexistence leads to perpetual conflict, etc., etc., etc….

And so the argument goes, round and round, just as it did fifty years ago, in a perfectly absurd Gordian’s Knot.

A few months ago, I was reading Rashid Khalidi’s latest book (The Iron Cage, on the struggle for Palestinian statehood) and I was struck by his evident mission, which was not to relate the history of what happened in Palestine, but rather to explain how everything that happened in Palestine was the fault of the Zionists and their allies. The major premise of this argument is really very odd: namely, that everyone in the story has moral agency except the Palestinians, who (by virtue of their status as victims) cannot commit any crimes for which the Zionists are not ultimately responsible. This struck me as a particularly dehumanizing way to defend the Palestinians.

The recognition of Israel’s right to exist is primordial, because as a matter of fact Hamas has a choice between war and peaceful coexistence — and it will be responsible for the consequences of its choice. And those in the international community who humor Hamas in its effort to shirk that responsibility should not delude themselves that they are helping the Palestinians in any way. They are only reinforcing the endlessly circular cycle of violence.



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