War and Peace in Israel

War and Peace in Israel

As I write, I am sitting on the balcony of the Castle in Karem Maharal, a few miles north of Caesarea and a few miles south of Haifa. I look out over my balcony at the vineyards drinking Tishbi wine, which has been grown here in Zichron Yaakov for decades. To my left the sun is setting over the Mediterranean Sea. The family cat is asleep on the patio and the neighborhood dog is asleep on the picnic table. A partridge slowly walks the lawn. Dogs are barking in the distance. Horse hoofs on pavement echo quietly below. One can hear a shepherd leading his flock home from pasture. Children are playing in the local playground. The stores in the village are quickly closing, as the Sabbath is fast approaching.

My accommodations could be highlighted in Architectural Digest. The rooms feature stones, high ceilings, exquisite tilework, and the art work of Udi Stuler, owner and operator of the castle. He has owned the place for almost three decades, and we talked about how the price of real estate in this region has gone through the roof in the past decade. In a word, it is peaceful here, as peaceful as one would expect from a weekend visit to the countryside in Italy or Switzerland.

From where I sit, I am looking north. Fifty kilometers (30 miles) to the north is the Israeli border with Lebanon. Hezbollah controls the southern part of Lebanon. During the Lebanese war in 2006, missiles landed a few kilometers from here. This is the other face of Israel, the face that you read in the papers. It is the face of Israel not at peace but at war. There is evidence of Israel at war as well. I have seen more guns in the past three weeks than I have in my entire lifetime. But even still, the Israelis appear casual, almost nonchalant, about the fact that they are in a permanent state of war. Swimming at the pool two weeks ago at the Ein Gedi kibbutz on the shores of the Dead Sea, I saw a fat man wearing nothing but a bathing suit and a semiautomatic rifle. I alone appeared to notice the incongruity. At the checkpoint on the road to Eilat the guard had me convinced I was lost and was about to cross the border into Jordan. Just as I was about to turn around, he laughed and said, “Just kidding, my friend, have a great weekend in Eilat!” On the bus to Jerusalem soldiers were everywhere, but they were asleep or listening to their Ipods, rifle held limply in hand. On several occasions I thought that the young female soldiers I saw at the local mall looked like they could be at any mall in the United States, but for the uniforms, and the security, and the checkpoints.

In short, Israelis appear to be yearning for normalcy. But the good news is they appear to have it in large doses. In fact, I would say this country feels normal, but for the ubiquity of guns and soldiers and checkpoints. They get on with their lives as well as one could hope, striving and achieving a remarkable degree of normalcy. As I sit here on the eve of another Sabbath, I have an overwhelming sense that Israel is at peace, even though I know it is at war.

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Benjamin Davis
Benjamin Davis

And of course try to imagine how all that would have been if you looked like a Palestinian.  The problem you see is that the space is one fought over by two groups.  Your picture reminds me of the bucolic beauty of the South during segregation – as long as you were not black.
Best,
Ben

Vlad Perju

Ben,

I don’t think you have your facts straight.  While there are territorial regions of Israel that are disputed, this area is not one of them.  Even if there eventually is a Palestinian state, I have never heard of any discussion or demands for turnover of the region northwest of Jerusalem.  You probably are thinking of other areas, such as Gaza, parts of the West Bank, or the Golan Heights.

Roger

Ed
Ed

Response…Roger, I don’t think you got the gist of Ben’s message. To people like him, all of Israel is disputed. And of course it is, because Hamas, Hezbollah and most of the arab world think that Israel in its entirety is illegitimate. It is a truly apartheid atittude, which allows for 24 arab countries, but not a single Jewish one.

His analogy with the American south is mistaken. Even in the old segregated south, the black slaves did not want to destroy the US and kill all its inhabitants. That’s what Israel has been up against for more than 60 years.

Benjamin Davis
Benjamin Davis

Neither of you get my point.  My point is that I really question whether a Palestinian going through those same spaces would have the same reaction.  It is the same thing as from the South when a black walked through segregated space and whites did not see the parallel universe. If you are the dominant group – you do not see that reaction to the space.   Roger, you are clearly in the dominant group in that setting and my hope was to sensitize you and others to the parallel universe in the same space. I am encouraging all who read this to think about walking through those spaces as a Palestinian because we are not taught to think like that. To think in terms of the non-dominant group. I am not going to rehash the arguments about who is right in this struggle or whose version of history is the truth.  I will repeat my philosophy on all this.  I have friends on the different sides of this battle and have an approach that says “even if you are right, you have to find a way to get along since none of you are going to leave that space.” If… Read more »

Guy
Guy

Ben, comparing the atmosphere in Israel to that of segregation shows you have no idea what’s going on there. Please say what you base your claims on.
Other than the Law of Return, which gives Jews an automatic citizenship (much because of the Holocaust), Arabs have equal rights. So once you are a citizen of Israel, you are given the same rights as any other citizen.

passer-by
passer-by

“Other than the Law of Return, which gives Jews an automatic citizenship (much because of the Holocaust), Arabs have equal rights”

Rrrright. That is probably why in 1992 Knesset removed one line from Israeli Basic Law on Human Dignity and Liberty draft which says: ‘All are equal before the law, and there shall be no discrimination on the grounds of gender, religion, nationality, race, ethnic group, country of origin or any other irrelevant factor’. Attempts to introduce such a clause were rejected numerous times.

Arabs in Israel are second class citizens at best. There are numerous laws which aim to put Arabs in disadvantage, i.e. Israeli laws do not permit Palestinians who marry Israeli citizens to become citizens themselves and does not give these spouses a right to live in Israel. B’Tselem called such a legislation ‘a racist law who determines who can live here according to racist criteria.’

Everything in Israel refers to ‘Jewish State’, and ‘Jewish’ does not include ‘Arab’.

Guy
Guy

Firstly, the line which was removed by the Knesset is irrelevant, because the Israeli Supreme Court said the right to equality is part of every person’s dignity. Secondly, it’s not very fair to trim what I said and attack it. The following sentence was: “So once you are a citizen of Israel, you are given the same rights as any other citizen.” The legislation you’re referring to prevents, in most cases, residents of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank from getting Israeli citizensip – for security reasons. There have been numerous cases where Israeli citizens, mostly Arab (but also Jewish), married Palestinians, and those Palestinians moved around the country freely and engaged in terror activities. The law tries to prevent that. Indeed, this law, among other things, keeps Arab citizens of Israel from marrying Palestinians. But before we say rights were deprived, we need to ask if family reunification is even a right. It seems the answer is not so clear: 6 Justices of the Israeli Supreme Court concluded that there is no such right; 5 thought there is. The Israeli atmosphere Roger depicts in this post, an atmosphere of security, is enabled only because of laws like this. The last two terrorist attacks in Israel – both… Read more »

Patrick S. O'Donnell
Patrick S. O'Donnell

Response… Presumably, those with a genuine interest in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict seek also to familiarize themselves with the best scholarship in this area. Toward that end, I’ve pasted below a manageable (i.e., not exhaustive) bibliography with titles that could serve as a necessary condition for a basic knowledge of the conflict. I’ve also listed some helpful Internet sources to keep abreast of the latest developments and issues. *Aruri, Naseer H. The Obstruction of Peace: The United States, Israel and the Palestinians. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1995. *Aruri, Naseer H. Dishonest Broker: The Role of the United States in Palestine and Israel. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2003. *Asali, Kamil J., ed. Jerusalem in History. New York: Olive Branch Press/Interlink, 2000.  *Baroud, Ramzy. Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle. London: Pluto Press, 2006. *Beinin, Joel and Rebecca L. Stein, eds. The Struggle for Sovereignty: Palestine and Israel,   1993-2005. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, with the Middle East Research and Information Project, 2006. *Bowen, Stephen, ed. Human Rights, Self-Determination, and Political Change in the Occupied Territories. The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1997. *Boyle, Francis A. Palestine, Palestinians, and International Law. Atlanta, GA: Clarity Press, 2003. *Cheshin, Amir S., Bill Hutman, and Avi Melamed. Separate and… Read more »

Benjamin Davis
Benjamin Davis

I see that the analogy to segregation has hit a nerve.  Again whenever a person of a dominant group says everything is OK, the argument the other way comes in.  When whites use to say blacks had it so good in the States, the question was asked would you be willing to trade places with a black person. Among Israeli citizens, would a Jew be willing to trade places with an Arab?  Outside of Israeli citizens, would an Israeli Jew be willing to trade places with a Palestinian? Obviously there are many complications to such a trading places idea.  But, I think the answer to both of these is a definite no from everything I have seen and read.  And the point I continue to make is walk through these spaces as a Palestinian.  Walk through that checkpoint as a Palestinian.  If  you are in Israel, dress like an Arab and walk through those spaces (like Gunter Wallraff did in Germany dressing and acting like a Turkish immigrant). The argument will be that the security apparatus is essential.  That security apparatus focuses on security threats and the security threats for the most part are seen as Arabs and Palestinians.  (I… Read more »

Guy
Guy

Ben, once again, saying the situation in Israel resembles segeragation perhaps matches what you see on CNN or what B’Tselem writes, but it definitely does not match reality. I’m not saying what you see or read is false – I’m just saying it’s not the whole picture. And there’s something even wronger with comparing the Palesitinians & Israel with the Holocaust survivors & Nazi Germany. As to your question: an Israeli Jew would not switch places with a Palestinian, but not because of lesser rights, but because of feelings: Palestinians feel stateless, and Jews know how terrible it feels to be stateless, so they wouldn’t be happy to be in their place. There’s no doubt Arabs suffer from strict security checks. But when you balance the right to live and the right to dignity, one of them always prevails. When you prefer the right to live, you save lives; when you prefer the right to dignity, you save someone from embarassment and discouragement. I don’t think any preference is more moral or more legal than the other. If you decide to prefer the right to dignity, it’s your choice, and it’s moral and legal just as much as the other option. Family reunification is tough issue. Perhaps the method… Read more »

Patrick S. O'Donnell
Patrick S. O'Donnell

Response… Presumably those with an ardent interest in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict are diligently striving to keep themselves informed of the basic scholarship on this subject. Toward that end I’ve pasted below a manageable (i.e., not exhaustive) bibliograpy that can serve as a basic primer on the conflict, as well as Internet sites to keep informed of the latest news. events, and analyses. *Aruri, Naseer H. The Obstruction of Peace: The United States, Israel and the Palestinians. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1995. *Aruri, Naseer H. Dishonest Broker: The Role of the United States in Palestine and Israel. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2003. *Asali, Kamil J., ed. Jerusalem in History. New York: Olive Branch Press/Interlink, 2000.  *Baroud, Ramzy. Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle. London: Pluto Press, 2006. *Beinin, Joel and Rebecca L. Stein, eds. The Struggle for Sovereignty: Palestine and Israel, 1993-2005. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, with the Middle East Research and Information Project, 2006. *Bowen, Stephen, ed. Human Rights, Self-Determination, and Political Change in the Occupied Territories. The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1997. *Boyle, Francis A. Palestine, Palestinians, and International Law. Atlanta, GA: Clarity Press, 2003. *Cheshin, Amir S., Bill Hutman, and Avi Melamed. Separate and Unequal: The Inside Story… Read more »

Patrick S. O'Donnell
Patrick S. O'Donnell

Response… Presumably those with an ardent interest in the Israeli/Palestinian conflict are diligently striving to keep themselves informed of the basic scholarship on this subject. Toward that end I’ve pasted below a manageable (i.e., not exhaustive) bibliography that can serve as a basic primer on the conflict. *Aruri, Naseer H. The Obstruction of Peace: The United States, Israel and the Palestinians. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press, 1995. *Aruri, Naseer H. Dishonest Broker: The Role of the United States in Palestine and Israel. Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 2003. *Asali, Kamil J., ed. Jerusalem in History. New York: Olive Branch Press/Interlink, 2000.  *Baroud, Ramzy. Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People’s Struggle. London: Pluto Press, 2006. *Beinin, Joel and Rebecca L. Stein, eds. The Struggle for Sovereignty: Palestine and Israel, 1993-2005. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, with the Middle East Research and Information Project, 2006. *Bowen, Stephen, ed. Human Rights, Self-Determination, and Political Change in the Occupied Territories. The Hague: Kluwer Law International, 1997. *Boyle, Francis A. Palestine, Palestinians, and International Law. Atlanta, GA: Clarity Press, 2003. *Cheshin, Amir S., Bill Hutman, and Avi Melamed. Separate and Unequal: The Inside Story of Israeli Rule in East Jerusalem. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999. *Chomsky, Noam. The… Read more »

Guy
Guy

Patrick, while I respect your effort, the list you’ve posted is quite biased.

Patrick S. O'Donnell
Patrick S. O'Donnell

Response…

And what bias might that be?

And your judgment of bias is owing to your longstanding expertise in this area? Of course your anonymity does not allow us to assess the credibility of your assessment.

The list is in fact representative of standard scholarship and has scholars from inside and outside Israel (Israelis and non-Israelis) and the Occupied Territories. I have been following this conflict for close to 30 years now, carefully reading the literature. Many of these works are today cited again and again in the respected academic research on the topic.

Feel free to post your own non-biased bibliography.

Guy
Guy

Including both Israeli and non-Israeli names doesn’t mean the list is not biased. An Israeli scholar can be Pro-Palestinian, and Ilan Pappe is a good example. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but I feel the weight given to Pro-Palestinian authors in your list is too great, while you said nothing about that. And as I said, your effort is appreciated – there’s no need to attack.

As I’m not a scholar, I believe that my full name is not relevant to the discussion and that my personal name will suffice. I also think there shouldn’t be a duty to reveal one’s name on the internet.

Vlad Perju

It’s pretty interesting to me that no one is engaging my post and the discussion has devolved into exactly what one would predict.  I tried to paint a picture of peaceful life in Israel.  It’s there if you are willing to look and listen.  I was staying at Karem Maharal, a Jewish village.  A mere 3 kilometers away is the Muslim village of Fureidis.  Another one kilometer south is the Jewish village of Zihron Yaakov.  All of these are situated in the beautiful rolling hills just south of Haifa.  My point is that there are many examples of people living in peace, Jews and Arabs alike.  Of course there is tension, too, but why must we be so insistent on ignoring the peace?

Roger Alford

Benjamin Davis
Benjamin Davis

The reason I do focus on the peace is on the simple question of what kind of peace? When I use to be at Harvard College I would go over to Harvard Business School library to read because it was so peaceful compared to the undergraduate.  It was bucolic. When I went to Harvard Business School, that first year was a hell like nothing I could have experienced.  The teaching program had not changed at Harvard Business School – it was just that I was in the program instead of being outside the program.  The bucolic place of my undergrad years was a living hell as a business school student. That is all I am trying to say.  I agree with Guy about survival and dignity and the battles between the two of them.  I see those points on both sides. I have not tried to have this devolve into the usual thing.  Rather what I have just tried to do is have us see (in a way that I think is clearer) the common humanity that is the lot of all the protagonists to this terrible struggle. This kind of duality of thinking is I believe a common ability… Read more »

Patrick S. O'Donnell
Patrick S. O'Donnell

Response…

Roger,

The appearance of peace may be illusory, it may be symptomatic of individual and collective states of denial, it may mask structural and societal violence just beneath the surface or not far away. Things are not always as they appear or we would like them to be. I suspect one reason no one engaged your post in the manner that you would have preferred is because it struck some of us as naive, simplistic, what have you. Of course there’s nothing wrong with sharing your impressions, but from not a few other perspectives they might seem rather unduly idiosyncratic or superficial. No one would deny that many Arabs and Israelis go about their day-to-day lives as best they can, wanting and hoping that things will be relatively “normal” and peaceful, indeed, carrying on their lives as if that is indeed the case. But are Arabs living in Israel fully equal to Israeli citizens? Do the Palestinians have a viable, functional state? Are the Palestinians allowed some decent measure of collective self-determination and economic opportunity?  Do Israelis believe Palestinian lives are of equal worth to theirs? Etc., Etc.

Patrick S. O'Donnell
Patrick S. O'Donnell

Response…

Guy,

One can be both “Pro-Palestinian” and “Pro-Israeli.” I care about the truth, about the centrality and urgency of ethics and moral principles, about human rights, about respect for domestic and international law, about the importance of reason and rationality, about the need to be objective as possible, about the quest for global justice, and so forth and so on. Those are among the ideas, values and principles that motivate me–on the order of a regulative ideal–when assembling my bibliographies, the above included.

Incidentally, there was no “attack” whatsoever from me.

And I did not claim there was a duty, or that there should be a duty, to reveal one’s name on the internet. It’s just that it’s a bit easier to say irresponsible things, to make ridiculous or grandiose claims or remarks under the guise of anonymity (or so experience in the legal blogosphere over the last several years has taught me).

Guy
Guy

Roger, you talk about peace when there isn’t one. True, there’s some beautiful scenery in Israel, but scenery can’t speak; hills don’t say “Battles were once fought here”. Humans reflect reality: the soldiers and guns you see are everyday reminders of the conflict.

Ben, that’s an inspiring story. Thanks for sharing.

Patrick, I’m not sure there’s a definite truth in national conflicts. Also, I think one can write sensible things even without being identified by name.

Vlad Perju

Guy, No you missed it. The peace I speak of is not beautiful hills, it is humans happily living out their normal lives.  It is not about the vineyards, it is about the winemakers, and the artist, and the shopkeeper, and the waiter.  They have it here in large measure, which was the point of my post.  But there is the constant threat that looms on the horizon, the threat that war may interrupt their peace.    

Patrick S. O'Donnell
Patrick S. O'Donnell

Response…

Guy,

I wholeheartedly agree, “one can write sensible things even without being identified by name.” It’s just that, as I said, “it’s a bit easier to say irresponsible things, to make ridiculous or grandiose claims or remarks under the guise of anonymity (or so experience in the legal blogosphere over the last several years has taught me).”

Truth is worth seeking in conflicts of any sort. That it will be partial, perspectival, in some measure relative, and so on, should go without saying, indeed, any of the parties could be said to have at least some truth on their side as it were, certainly Gandhi believed this and I think he’s a reliable guide on such matters. That said, in any instance or occasion, or on any issue, one party may have law, justice, right, etc. on its side, and they properly seek to have it recognized and realized.

Benjamin Davis
Benjamin Davis

Guy,
You are welcome.  Thanks to you and all for sharing.
Best,
Ben

Guy
Guy

Roger, Israelis don’t live in constant fear, of course. Still, that doesn’t mean they live a normal life. They simply try to live a normal life. Or as you put it: “I have an overwhelming sense that Israel is at peace, even though I know it is at war.”
Also, touring the northern part of Israel is quite misleading. There’s no fighting there currently, and therefore no reason for constant fear. Sderot is a whole different story, and “mixed” cities (such as Jerusalem) are very different too.

Patrick, now that I understand your point better, I agree.