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War and Peace

May 10, 2012 – 10:04 pm132 Comments

In response to a recent discussion on Galus Australis relating to the ethical and moral issues that arise if one chooses to serve in the Israeli military, Larry Stillman has submitted the following article.

The key issue relates to the view that the Israeli Army is an army of occupation in the Occupied Territories and the occupation has little to do with defence imperatives but a huge amount to do with expanding Israeli territory well beyond any strategic necessity.  I am not questioning the fight against terrorism, or the principle of self-defence under fire, but the fact is that ‘defence of Israel’ has been extended to institutionalised maltreatment of civilians under the Occupation of the West Bank in situations that have nothing to do with armed resistance.

These acts often occur to people (including children), not even engaged in acts of violence or minor acts of resistance in which the response has been disproportionate.    The kinds of activity that Israel is engaged in have been well debated in discussions about just and unjust wars under the influence of such writers as Michael Walzer.  Thus, Raymond Kou has written that The Israeli Army considers the situation as an ‘armed conflict short of war’.  However, this imprecise definition also creates a legal and moral hole: the Palestinians are undefined individuals who fall between civilian and combatant categories, but with shifting guidelines on their treatment by the IDF” [“Occupation and the Just War” International Relations 22 (2008), p. 305].

Over the years, it has been revealed that Israeli commanders have been consistently loose with the rules of engagement and many human rights abuses occurred, though these claims encounter predictably strong official opposition. Soldiers are thus in breach of Israel’s own Code of Conduct called The Spirit of the IDF, particularly point 6. “Soldiers must accord dignity and respect to the Palestinian population and those arrested”, as attested in the work of such organizations as Mahsom Watch, which, for example demonstrate the Israeli army does little to protect Palestinians from settler violence.

The result of this undeclared occupation are consistent breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which covers the treatment of civilian populations under occupation, including issues such as harassment, forced transfer of populations, transfer or theft of property (including land for settlements, also known as colonies), restriction of movement, collective punishment, or infringement on the rights of children.  Israel is a signatory to the convention.

However, even if Israel claims that its acquisition of territory is ultimately benign, and leads to increased living standards and so on (as it often claimed in defence of the Israeli presence), there is another question and that is, as Walzer says, “What do the inhabitants want? The land follows the people. The decision as to whose sovereignty was legitimate … belonged by right to the men and women who lived” [In Just and Unjust Wars, p. 55].  Palestinians don’t want an Israeli presence, benign or otherwise, and the longer the Occupation continues, the more difficult a bilaterally acceptable agreement will be to establish.  The Oslo failure is an indication that Israel needs to make much more real concessions in response to the overtures and opportunities made through the Arab (Saudi) Peace Plan and so on.

Because Israel is so linked to many of our lives—and claims to represent our interests—we also have every right to insist that it holds itself true to democratic, legal and ethical principles,  Jewish or universal.

If we cannot question how the force of arms is used, or the ‘justice’ of its occupation then democracy is threatened because the principle of ‘might is right’ prevails.  This is the view taken by many Israel progressives, including for example, Gershom Gorenberg-who considers himself an orthodox Jew and a Zionist—who states that  ‘settlement project’  as part of the occupation has turned occupation territory into a realm where, ultimately, there [is] no law’ [The Unmaking of Israel, p. 88].   The soldiers are there to project the settlement project, not defend Israel. The settlement project has been expanded over the years from a tiny of number of people to 300,000 residents, but these numbers do not excuse Israel from its legal and ethical responsibilities.

One result of this ethical and moral slide from the ideal of ‘tohar ha-neshek’, or purity of arms,  as well as ‘havlagah’ (restraint) was the the ‘Combatants’ Letter in 2002—a statement of refusal to serve in the Occupied Territories was . Significantly, their letter stated:

“ We shall not continue to fight beyond the 1967 borders in order to dominate, expel, starve and humiliate an entire people. We hereby declare that we shall continue serving the Israel Defence Force in any mission that serves Israel’s defence. The missions of occupation and oppression do not serve this purpose – and we shall take no part in them.”

Unfortunately, a response that justifies militarism and occupation appears to come out of two trends in Jewish religious nationalism.  The first, to use the words of the philosopher Emil Fackenheim in his To Mend the World)  , is that we are  commanded to do everything to deny Hitler a posthumous victory.  Harold Schulweiss, making critical remarks about Elie Wiesel, said that the danger with this kind of thinking is that it become a ‘cudgel’ against recognising  others ‘who have their claims of suffering’, and this becomes linked to constant cries of an ‘existential crisis’  in Israel’s existence, to justify almost all and any activity in its defence.

Second, as an extension of the teachings of Rav Abraham Isaac Kook, his son, and others, the sacredness of the land of Israel has become a predominant doctrine in religious nationalist and Zionist haredi thinking. Anyone or thing that stands in the way should be removed or has no rights. The worst case of this kind of thinking is found in a stream of thinking which justifies the killing of Palestinian women and children found in works such as ‘The King’s Doctrine’ written by a settler rabbi. Increasingly, this ideology is having an effect in the Israeli army, where many of those command positions actually live in the Occupied Territories and thus have an interest in preserving Israeli rule, whether or not the Israel government continues to want to hold on to them.

Thus, when we have young people in Australia being indoctrinated about a ‘greater Israel’ in which Palestinians have no place or are a nuisance, and such people join the Israeli military they are in grave danger of becoming ethical and moral abusers or worse.  The excuse cannot be made that we do not know about such matters or they are irrelevant for young people who make aliyah.  Eighteen is legal adulthood, and the law for an adult includes the assumption that one is able to make an informed choice. The fact is that the Occupation has been with us for over 40 years now and I find it hard to believe that any young Jewish person is unaware that the Occupation is not benign.

Choices can be made.  Many Israelis choose not to serve in the Occupied Territories by either refusing service there, or undertaking alternate forms of conscription.  The same choices are available to Australians who commit themselves to a life in Israel.

For more reading, see the following:

Norman Solomon, ‘Judaism and the Ethics of War’  International Review of the Red Cross 87 (June 2005)

Yeshahayhu Leibowitz, ‘Heroism.’ In Cohen and Mende- Flohr (eds),  Contemporary Jewish Thought.

Larry Stillman would like to stress that this article is written from a personal capacity.

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  • frosh says:


    I find your article to be not only misguided, but rather cowardly.

    It would have taken more courage for you to write about the Australian Army participation in the occupation of Afghanistan.

    By any measure, Afghanistan is a very long way from Australia, and Israel doesn’t send forces to occupy lands on the other side of the world.

    And I want to make it clear that my intention is not to criticise the Australian Army or Australian policy.

    I am merely pointing out your hypocrisy.

    It’s no secret why some people find the ‘courage’ to attack the integrity of the Israeli defence forces but never find the same voice when it comes to the defence forces of their own countries (be it Australia, Britain, or the USA etc). After all, unlike criticising Israel (and especially its defence forces), that wouldn’t be a path to popularity.

    You best be reading The Finkler Question!

  • Harry Joachim says:

    Israeli forces are not in the Gaza Strip. They are not in areas under Palestian control in the West Bank. They are only in areas under full or partial Israeli control in the West Bank – the latter is where the PA has day to day control, but Israeli forces have freedom of movement. Hence, we are talking about a relatively small geographic area in which the IDF operates in what can be described as “occupied territory”. The main form of interaction between the army and the Palestinian population is in fact at the border between the West Bank and Israel. Hence, it is simply incorrect to claim that Israel abuses the local populace in pursuit of its expansionist aims. Arguing about the treatment of Palestinians at the border crossings is one thing, but there is simply no basis at all for claiming that Israeli forces are oppressing Palestinians in the West Bank

  • Harry Joachim says:

    It is also misplaced to bring the 2002 Letter as a comment on current IDF activities 10 years on. Israeli forces have not surrounded the PA presidents’ compound. They are not engaging in street battles in Jenin. This is all old news. In fact, one would be hard pressed today to find an Israeli soldier anywhere in the West Bank, except for near Israeli settlements and at border crossings.

  • Ilan says:

    @Harry Joachim

    The Israeli army is in full control of ~61% of the West Bank/Judea and Samaria (i.e. Area C), in which approximately 100,000 Palestinians live, who are certainly disadvantaged and discriminated against, by the Israeli military occupation. Even those Palestinians living in Area B (approximately 21% of the West Bank), are living under Israeli military control. It is therefore a massive geographic area (relative to the entire WB) which is still under Israeli control. Even in Area A, under full PA control, IDF forces are allowed to enter for security purposes (in coordination with the PA). And, even if you live in Area A, you are still, in effect, living under Israeli occupation, with the PA serving, in a sense, as the subcontractors of the IDF and the Israeli civil administration. Abbas remains, in reality, the mayor of Ramallah, rather than the rais of an independent entity.


    We can’t have it both ways. If we’re meant to be an ohr lagoyim, then we are asking/demanding that we be judged according to a different standard than the rest of the world (certainly than Syria, but even than the US or UK). If we’re the most moral army in the world, then we should be judged according to that standard. If we’re the only democracy in the Middle East, then we should be judged according to that standard. If we’re not, that’s fine. Let’s be honest about it. Let’s stop making statements about our high standards, and then get upset when people try to keep us to them.

  • Harry Joachim says:

    “The Israeli army is in full control of ~61% of the West Bank/Judea and Samaria (i.e. Area C),”

    Hmmm. I question this statistic. Do you have a source, such as a map showing areas A, B and C that you can refer me to?

  • Ilan says:

    @Harry Joachim

    See http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4193978,00.html

    “Bennett suggests imposing full Israeli sovereignty over Area C, which constitutes 62% of the territory, unilaterally.”

  • Ari says:

    Israel is entitled to occupy any territory from where it was attacked until the cessation of hostilities. Since hostilities have not ceased and the Palestinians have rejected every offer from Israel – Israel does not need to stop the occupation. Israel can only withdraw when there is a cohesiv goverment that is not hostile to its own existence – this too is a matter of law.
    Just a quick question for Larry and friends –
    What about the members of Hebron, Kfar Etzion and the Jewish Quarter of the old city – where do they fit into as Walzer says, “What do the inhabitants want? The land follows the people. The decision as to whose sovereignty was legitimate … belonged by right to the men and women who lived” [In Just and Unjust Wars, p. 55].?
    I guess if the Arabs massacred Jews who were living on Jewish land in the occupied territories then they get to decide what happens there?
    Even if the land was disputed territory but the Arabs had accepted partition then maybe some of you would have a point but since the Arabs rejected partition (and attacked Israel) the land is still disputed and should be divided once hostilities towards the Jewish State have ended – something we are yet to see.

  • Ilan says:


    “The land is still disputed and should be divided once hostilities towards the Jewish State have ended – something we are yet to see.”

    The settlement enterprise scuttles any chance to end hostilities. You imply that we Israelis are blameless in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is simply not true. Moreover, we are complicit in not ending the hostilities – not only in continued settlement building, but also in failing to respond adequately to Abbas’ letter of April, and in failing to even recognize the existence of the Arab Peace Initiative. We aren’t willing to make concessions or to negotiate in good faith. Diskin said so himself. Bibi is good at making speeches, but policy-making is a different matter altogether.

  • letters in the age says:

    Admire your spunk Larry

    well done!

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Anthony, hypocrisy?

    Given the relationship between the Australian Jewish community and Israel, I considered it more relevant to write about Australian Jews and Israel than Afghanistan, and the relations between diaspora Jews and Israel are something that I have put more thought to than Australian involvement in the latter place. As you know, I also cut back my original article which did deal a bit with Afghanistan, but for reasons of space…

    But in brief (and with respect to the late Greg Sher’s family and others), Australia’s intrusion in Afghanistan is, from all accounts, another episode in the sorry wars, feints, and other episodes have been inflicted on Afghanistan for a long long time. Plenty of other specialists in the region have argued it is a mess, including now retired senior Australian military. I don’t have much to add then. Australia is a client of the US in this regard.

    We are also dealing with professional soldiers in the case of Australia and not willing volunteers, as in the case of Israel. But the same rules of just and unjust wars apply of course to Afghanistan and a case could be made not to serve in Afghanistan–and as you know, professional military (or grieving families) being sent to Iraq began to balk at what they saw as an unjust war and occupation that had little do to with the needs of the people of Iraq, and much more about imperial ambitions and oil.

    As for the view of others that Israel is involved in an occupation that has little to do with defence now, is a well argued point, put by many in Israel. The same applies to the possibilities that lie with the ‘Saudi’ Peace plan. Harry Joachim’s claims about few soldiers in the West Bank are laughable, and even though they may not be visible at times, the control system via all forms of surveillance and entry control to various areas etc. is total. They were even in Ramallah a couple of days ago.

  • frosh says:


    I couldn’t really make head or tail of what you were saying in that comment.

    Are you saying you have more sympathy for volunteery soldiers rather than those completing their compulsory military service?

    Also, it interesting how many people of your (so called ‘leftist’) political persuasion recommend that Israelis put their faith in the plans of the world largest oil conglomerate (The Saudi Arabian govt).

  • frosh says:

    Ok Larry,

    RSD just translated your previous comment into plain English for me (as best she could).

    You wrote: “We are also dealing with professional soldiers in the case of Australia and not willing volunteers, as in the case of Israel.”

    You seem to not to understand that the Israeli army is largely made up of those completing compulsory military service.

    At the same time, you also seem to believe that the Australian army is NOT made up of willing volunteers.

    Larry, are you trying to compete with Antony Loewestein as Australia’s least informed critic of Israel?

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Frosh, I was too short hand. I was referring to Australians who willingly go to Israel as volunteers and serve in the Israeli army, whether or not they become Israeli citizens and are obliged to do so.

    But you have made a good point–in both cases, there are ethical questions about the ‘just war’. However, as I said originally, I chose to focus in this article on the situation in Israel. But we could have looked at the case of Vietnam where there was conscription–there were draft resisters.

    AS for the ‘Saudi Plan’. I don’t think you can dismiss their offer and those of others just because the Saudis are a corrupt theocracy. The plan is viewed well by the Americans and numerous other countries, and various Israeli leaders, including Peres. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arab_Peace_Initiative.

    Dismissing an offer from key Arab countries so lightly as you have is not the way to go.

    But the article here is on the morality of military service in unjust situations.

  • Thanks Larry for your excellent and well-informed article and for your clarifying comments along the way. I couldn’t help but notice that some of the comments to your article come from people who are either ill-informed about what’s really going on in I-P or are in denial of obvious facts.

    It’s a sad thing when otherwise intelligent people allow their knee-jerk emotional reaction to get in the way of their ability to face facts and evidence. I wonder how long these people will hold on to their stubborn rejection of reality. What more would Israel have to do to make them see what is in plain view to everyone? The idea that Israel can be a powerful occupier with full control of the occupied and still present itself as a victim boggles the mind. But I do recognise it because I used to think that way myself. We Jews do have a dreadful victim complex that can cloud people’s judgment.

    What will it take for compassion towards the occupied and marginalised to be shown? Israel has no leg to stand on morally and ethically. I think those of us who come from Israel and who served in its military have a better understanding of the reality there. Therefore quoting from the Combatants Letter was a good idea. Well-done.

  • frosh says:

    Ms Abaranel,

    You wrote: “We Jews do have a dreadful victim complex that can cloud people’s judgment.”

    What would we say if someone said:

    “You Jews do have a dreadful victim complex that can cloud your people’s judgment.”

    We’d say they’re an anti-Semite, and my guess is that’s exactly what you are.

    A quick look at your website (avigailabarbanel.me.uk) reveals you support some fairly radical anti-Israel initiatives, including full BDS against Israel, and the use of ‘blood-libel’ imagery as part of your anti-Israel advocacy.

  • OK, so now we are into the name calling?? Don’t you prefer to discuss things more rationally. It does seem to often that when some people hear or read something they don’t like or that challenges their reaction is to use name-calling against the speaker.

    I take offence at being called an anti-semite, and being accused of all the things you accuse me of. First, you don’t know me, secondly I was born in Israel to a Jewish family, I am a granddaughter of Holocaust survivors and I have served in the Israeli army. I left Israel age 27, not as a baby.

    Be careful what you say about me publicly because a lot of what you say is slander and defamation and it’s illegal at least where I live. If you want to speak in a civilised way, I am happy to discuss things with you. Otherwise, there are courts and lawyers for what you have just said to me. You don’t add much credibility to the pro-Israel lobby with this kind of behaviour.

  • PS – pardon the typos…

  • Mendy says:


    I’m with Frosh on this one.

    Whether or not you served in the Israeli army has no bearing what so ever. Without a doubt, you have no p0ride in Israel and, to me, you’re just another Quisling!

    As far as I am concerned you can stick your threats where “the sun don’t shine”.

    In my books, people who do what you do, are self hating Jews(assuming of course you are Jewish)

    Now sue me!

  • Oh, well. It’s the name-calling and personal attack again: the tactic of those who can’t stomach a challenge to their worldview. Good-luck to you.

    And yes, I am most definitely Jewish.

    It’s really sad you know, you are only showing how much those of us who are critical of Israel are right. We have no need to resort to tactics like personal attacks, whereas you seem to. I wonder why that is… If you are so secure in your positions, why the slander and name calling??

    If you are brave enough to send me your full name and details I will sue you but I am guessing you won’t have the guts. You really do not do your camp any favours with your behaviour and attitude but all the best to you just the same.

    Singing off.

  • Larry still an says:

    Mendy. Please lay off. Quisling is not at all appropriate. You should not get personal and the same to ant frankly. If you continue like this i will ask for you to be banned from this discussion. And Ant you are really casting around the term antisemite too freely. We have been through this too many times before. You should try to set a better tone. There are real Jew haters out there but avigail shoulnd’t be lumped in with such dreck.

    But perhaps the cat is out of the bag, and you have both sabotaged what I thought would be an intelligent discussion

  • Ari says:

    Isn’t it interesting that RB(Ron) and Abigail who write so poorly of Israel in this and other places are yordim. Maybe some underlying issue causes them to hold extreme attitudes towards Israel as a means for compensating for having left?
    Although I was not born in Israel I have served in the IDF in a combat unit and STILL actually live here – in Judea. The next argument which will come my way – a favourite of the left here – is to insinuate that I wouldn’t think this way had I been born in Israel and that many of settlers are Russian and Olim that weren’t born here. That way silencing our position as irrelevant – regardless of the fact that the vast majority of Israelis living in the settlements and the vast majority who support them were actually born in Israel.
    (Just think of a politician saying in Australia that Chinese immigrants would think differently about boat people had they been born in Australia.)

  • Ari, I have no idea what you are talking about to be honest. You have every right to believe and think what you like and I don’t mind where you come from or where you live. I mentioned that I am from Israel and served in the army because I was being attacked as an antisemite… Nothing to do with where you or others come from.

    I have no need to compensate for leaving Israel. I am perfectly OK with my decision to leave Israel back in 1991. Let’s please be clear that I am not criticising Israel because of any unfinished psychological business on my part. I am criticising Israel because of *what Israel is doing*. I recommend that you read Larry’s article above. It says it all.

    I just think it’s so interesting that you and many others would resort to any far-fetched theories for why people like me are critical of Israel except what is so plainly obvious. What we say is what we mean.

  • Marky says:

    Prior to the six day war, the arabs had all the so called “occupied territories”. But they were still far from satisfied, provoking, attacking and threatening war. So what makes anyone think that if israel gives them all back, that the arabs will be happy with their lot.

  • Marky, the 1967 war was started by Israel for the sole purpose of expanding its territories. It surprised me too when I learned about it. I recommend Avi Shlaim’s _The Iron Wall_ for more information and evidence. I am not sure which “Arabs” you are talking about by the way. Do you mean the Palestinians or the Egyptians? The word “Arabs” covers many cultures, languages and histories all across the Middle East. Cheers.

  • Mendy says:

    @ Larry Still AN

    Having read Avigail’s opening comment Marky, the 1967 war was started by Israel for the sole purpose of expanding its territories which has as much sense as insinuating that Israels threat of attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities only because Israel’s real agenda is to expand it’s territory, surely you have to question the real intent of what the heck she’s espousing here.

    Having totally removed Nasser’s belligerency leading up to the 6 day war, there’s really no point in arguing or trying to convince what I would now clearly rate, an anti-semite.

    It’s comments like hers which empowers non-Jewish anti-semites to rally around similar garbage, and quote her drek ad nausium.

    A leaf out of Anthony Lowenstein’s book?

    She’s all yours, vile and all.

  • Marky says:

    Yes, there are always those attempting to rewrite history sometimes after 40 years, but at other ti
    mes only a year or two as is the case by 9/11, conspiracy of the jews and U.S.

    However, that is not the issue here. The point is that the arabs pre 67 were provoking and threatening israel. President Nasser was daily publicly saying that they would get rid of israel and he did many actions of provocation. Syria sent attacks into Israel and the plo and (Ithink) Fatah were doing terrorist attacks. They had all the territories. But that was not enough. So again… Whatever they are given, they will not be satisfied, as history has shown.

  • Joe in Australia says:

    Avigail, let’s suppose that Israel did start the 1967 war, and that it did do so to expand its territories. Why would this have been a bad thing? Surely you don’t think that the colonialist monarchy in Jordan was the legitimate ruler of Jerusalem and the West Bank, or that the military junta in Egypt was the legitimate ruler of Gaza?

  • Larry Stillman says:

    I much prefer if people stuck to the point about the intention of the article.

    The interpretation of the six -day war is now much different to what it was seen years ago, and certainly the nostrums and mythologies we were brought up with. It’s in the same category as the alleged non-existence of the Naqba which Benny Morris conclusively established did occur.

    See Maoz Defending the Holy Land A Critical Analysis of Israel’s Security and Foreign Policy

    Some online reviews —

    (though ones locked up in scholarly journals are overwhelmingly in favour of the book.

    Reviews — http://www.au.af.mil/au/ssq/bookreviews/maoz.pdf


    (against) http://www.meforum.org/2139/defending-the-holy-land

  • R B says:


    Please do not put me and Ms. Abarbanel on the same boat. I do not share her views (not to tell Mr. Stillman’s views) about Israel or about the Six Days War.

    My criticism of Israel – and even more, of the way most Australian Jews think of Israel – comes from a different perspective and for different reasons, which are irrelevant to Mr. Stillman’s article.


  • Sam says:


    On the home page of your website you say:

    “When one day, Israelis stand trial for the occupation and the war crimes against the Palestinian people, I would like to be counted as someone who spoke up.”

    I won’t bother with name calling but let other readers judge whether the label put on you that you dis-like is a good fit. Unfortunately for you, your opinions about the conduct of the IDF and Israeli govt. carry little weight when you are proud of making statements like that.


    In your original piece you said that in the past Israeli commanders have been consistently loose with the “rules of engagement”. Also that Palestinian militants fall somewhere between civilians and armed combatants.
    If the US and Australian armed forces learned anything in Vietnam it was that the strict rules and protocols of warfare in WW1 that altered considerably in WW2 went out the window in Vietnam. This evened the playing field considerably and Viet Cong irregulars inflicted considerable casualties particularly on US ground forces, even though their weapons were inferior than those of any army during WW1.
    The IDF would be stupid and obviously suffer more casualties if the rules were not fluid and quickly adaptable to new situations.

    And also I completely reject your hypothesis that the IDF is any army of “occupation” and not defense. If the IDF was completely disbanded the lives of every civilian in Israel and probably many jews in the diaspora would be at grave risk.

  • Reality Check says:

    Frosh, I just found this one, and I reckon you are losing it. You can’t compare Australian troops in Afganistan to Israel’s occuption of the west bank. People erronously use Israel’s disengagment from Gaza as an example that the Palestinians don’t want peace. No treaties were agreed upon, or nothing. Israel moved out of Gaza because it was too hard for it to stay. Australia isn’t building settlements in Afganistan, or claiming that it belongs to us, like some of our mis-guided friends who call the West Bank by the Biblical names and live 2000 years ago.

    Israel is an occupying force impossing on the locals their laws when the locals don’t even get to vote.

    Israel is currently run by right wing fanatics who have no regard for international law or the rights of the people who they occupy.

    Yes, Israel is still one of the most humane nations in the world, but because of its political system and structure, the extremists have too much control.

  • Pinchas says:

    Since when is Avi Shlaim a recognised historian.? He has never held an accademic post as a historian,let alone in Israeli history.(Feel free to correct me if I am wrong).
    Interestingly you omit Nassers expulsion of the UN peace keepers, marching his divisions to the Israeli border and as an act of war blockading an international waterway to Israel,blocking Israels oil imports.
    He was warned by Levi Eshkol repeatedly to desist.How often was enough?
    Israel has minimal strategic depth,they took Nasser,Assad and the others at their word,their intentions was to destroy Israel and Israel legitimately acted on Nassers act of war.
    Israel is not sorrounded by peace loving angels bent on peaceful coexistence. Their racist incitement and rejectionist propoganda is there for all to see, on MEMRI amongst others.
    Any comments on Christian blood for Matza,the protocolls?

  • Pinchas says:

    Remember NO peace, NO negotiations, NO recognition ofIsrael by the Arab League at Khartoum.?
    There was no “occupation” catch all excuse then.
    The “occupation” did not just happen, they rejected peace and ALL the territories in return for peace.
    As Abba Eban said ,for the first time in history the victor had to sue for peace.

  • Pinchas: “Avi Shlaim is a Professor of International Relations at
    St. Antony’s College, University of Oxford. He is currently holding a British Academy Research Professorship. His books include:
    The Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World
    The Politics of Partition: King Abdullah, the Zionists, and Palestine, 1921-1951
    War and Peace in the Middle East: A Concise History”

    Have a read. I recommend. Shlaim is at the forefront of research in MIddle Eastern politics and a very highly respected academic. You might find that a lot of what we’ve been taught about Israel’s history and its interpretation of international relationship to be at worse false or at best inaccurate. Cheers.

  • Pinchas says:

    Sorry Avigail,
    None of that makes him a recognised accademic historian.Anybody can write a book and call it history.

  • Ari says:

    * Israel took over the West Bank after she was shelled by Jordan. (Egypt and Syria is another matter).
    * I can invisage how Israel may have wanted extra territory as a means of securing herself against Arab nations that called for her destruction and as a means for brokering a peace agreement. Nonetheless Jordan started it on their border during the war (and prior to it by allowing Fedayeen to raid Israel) and Israel has every right to invade and hold onto the territory until hostility ceases – which it has not – since still today the representative of the Palestinians has not ended hostilities. And no, Israel does not have to end hostilities on the Palestinian’s terms, since they were/are the agressor in this case.
    I can imagin Avigail andher ilk criticising the allies during WWII for not negotiating with the Germans let us imagine offered to end hostilities in exchange for France???

  • Pinchas says:

    Israel repeatedly asked King Hussein of Jordan to stay out of the conflict.
    King Hussein chose Arab solidarity and commenced indiscriminately shelling Jerusalem and sorrounding areas.

  • Simple says:

    Larry thanks for the provocative article.I don’t know any of the facts and figures but it has always worried me that Israel has not nominated it’s own borders. I thought when the wall was built that might serve both as a prtection and also a form if border. Does Israel to your knowledge have an articulated position about where the border is? I am very Zionist but it does seem an each way bet.

  • Pinchas says:

    Israel has never claimed the fence as the border.The vast majority is fence,not wall.
    The borders are to supposed to be negotiated by the parties as part of a final peace agreement.Abbas is using every excuse to stay away.
    You can see the official PA or Hamas maps of Palestine. They show no Israel.
    Hamas has just created the worlds largest map as a publicity stunt for the Guiness book of records. Of course their Palestine shows no Israel.
    Abbas in the UN excluded any Jewish connection to Palestine.

  • Interesting to me Pinchas that you simply discredit and dismiss someone who has the ability to challenge your knowledge or your beliefs. I don’t know what you do for a living and what your area of expertise is but I can assure you that Avi Shlaim is a very serious scholar and a very good and ethical man. In particular his scholarly work is meticulous and based on evidence that is listed very clearly in all his books and articles and can be verified by anyone who reads them. Shlaim specialises in international relations. In this field, history and the analysis of foreign policy are interlinked and certainly history is a big part of any international relations scholar. If you don’t like Shlaim, why not look at the works of Ilan Pappé, (ex univserity of Haifa and now Exeter in the UK) or Benny Morris who lives and works in Israel? They both specialise in history.

    Just dismissing people because you think you know better (or perhaps are worried about the challenge the present to your views?) is neither a very rational nor an intellectually rigorous position. You think you know what you know, but how did you learn what you know and what sources have you used? History the way we learned it in Israel was self-serving for a good reason. Israel has a great deal to hide and is avoiding so much. It’s not unique to Israel of course. Many countries tell only a version of history that is flattering and that avoids uncomfortable topics or introspection. Israel has a long way to go before it is mature enough and ethical enough to look at its own history critically. Ilan Pappé had to leave Israel because of the threats he received there and the attempt by Haifa university to get rid of him because of his area of research (He was researching the Nakba – the ethnic cleansing of Palestine in 1948). You can read all about it in his book _Out of the Frame_, which is only one of many books he has published so far. The attitude of Haifa university and of others in Israel towards Ilan is the same as your personal attitude only on a national scale. It is employed when people are not mature enough or courageous enough to face a challenge to their existing views. So a simple solution is to get rid of the one who offers the challenge or discredit him or her. This way you don’t have to listen to anything they say. Fortunately, there are people in Israel (albeit a minority) of people with the right kind of courage and what I call “emotional Resilience”, who aren’t afraid to expose themselves to different ways of looking at things and who can live with the moral and ethical implications. I know I won’t convince you if you can’t see that. But it’s been nice talking to you here and take care.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    A few comments. Israels’ border–Wikipedia does appear to have a good article –http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Borders_of_Israel. Technically, there are no decided borders between Israeli inside the green line and the west bank, but for all intents and purposes, including many maps, Israel regards them as inside Israeli territory, subject to final negotiation (at the heart of the dispute as well). A kind of mirror image to Islamist’s claims.

    But of all the silly arguments put forward above is the one that Shlaim is not an historian. Dear me, you may not agree with his views, but in Israel and elsewhere, he is well known as a history.

    As for the Protocols, I spent part of the last 3 or 3 days countering left racists who take that stuff seriously.

    As for the view that without the West Bank Israel’s security would suffer. This is certainly not the view held by many public commentators/ex-military in Israel who view de-militarization with a peace treaty as taking care of many of those issues.

    Under Sam’s logic, the Palestinian civilians of the West Bank are justifiable targets for military action as potential combatants. That is exactly the same sort of criminal thinking that led to massacres in Vietnam, the Balkans, and to the general culture of repression in Palestine. Given that only a couple of countries including Israel, the US, Micronesia, Palau, Nauru and the Marshall Islands and at times Australia, have abstained from voting for the resolution Peaceful Settlement of the Question of Palestine various UN votes, I don’t think world opinion is on the side of the point of view that this is a benign occupation.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    I just saw Avigail’s post.

    One of the most distressing things about Israeli history is looking at it afresh and particularly, not through a religious or Zionist-determinist lens.

    The political and ideological nostrums we grew up with are often empty propaganda and the historical record is increasingly showing so. There is a huge gulf between the ‘inside’ talk of what the Jewish community says and thinks about Israel and how other reasonable people see Israeli politics and actions–as actions like those of any other state, and they have to be judged accordingly. Thus, if Germany and France came to make peace after a century or more of conflict in the modern era, or the two Irelands have settled down (colonists and natives), or many other examples, it is not irrational to expect the same process can be undertaken with Israel. But what many (religious-nationalist) Jews find so difficult to take is that putting Jews’ claims ahead of that of Palestinians is not seen as rational by other people, particularly when in 48 so many Palestinians fled or were expelled (beyond doubt now, with Morris’ work). No one has exclusive rights on a deity.

    Furthermore, Israel’s doctrine of pre-emption has not in the end resulted in less conflict. If anything, it has resulted in more conflict when the political path over many years has offered many options.

    Saying that Israel has made mistakes and that it is politically at fault when it come to its foreign policy with Palestinians and Arab countries does not mean that one is necessarily anti-Israel, nor does it mean that the PLO gets off scot-free either for stupid actions over the year.

    There are many different viewpoints about this. I don’t know Avigail, but from what I have read from her work, I don’t share the same point of view of her about Israel’s future. I for one, for example, believe that if Israel undergoes fundamental constitutional reform to become a state of all its peoples it has a chance to survive into the future. Otherwise, it is damned to be a foreign aid client of the US and that will not go on for ever. The US and Israeli (at the moment) strategic interests are not the same thing.

  • PINCHAS says:

    WIKIPEDIA” Another of the “new” Israeli historians, Benny Morris, writing about Pappé’s book, A History of Modern Palestine: One Land, Two Peoples,[27] in The New Republic magazine, calls Pappé’s book “truly appalling.” He says it subjugates history to political ideology, and contains “errors of a quantity and a quality that are not found in serious historiography.”[28] Morris has said that there is “a correct, ‘true’ narrative and a distorted, mendacious narrative.”[29]”

  • Ari says:

    Ilan Pappe had to leave Israel because he couldn’t find a job in academia – mainly because he is a poor quality academic. Another one of those Israeli’s who justifies why he left by blaming the country and not his own inadequacies.

  • Come on Ari, this is complete and utter airy fairy nonsense. You obviously don’t know the story at all. There is a complex and well-known story that went on between Pappé and Haifa university and beyond. It is known all around the world (except you evidently) and involved a large number of academics from universities all over the world. I have no idea where you come up with this stuff from. Why don’t you read _Out of the Frame_ before expressing clearly uninformed opinions like this?

    Really, it’s extremely difficult and frustrating to have an intelligent discussion with people who just dismiss things off hand without knowing anything… I think I will just stop because I am wasting my time with most of you guys. I will continue to speak out publicly though.

    Oh, and Larry: Just wanted to say that you might be pleased to know that we actually do agree about the future of Israel completely.

  • Ari says:

    You mean the book “Out of the Frame” written by Pappe himself? I guess that’s one kind of evidence. And I guess you base your claims that Israel caused the six-day war to expand territory based on the book by Nasser, “The Zionist Territorial Expansion in its War of Aggression against peace-loving Egypt”?
    (Oh and by the way, the point of much of psychoanalysis is that the patient is unaware of the underlying issues causing them to act in strange, unhealthy and insane ways)

  • Ari says:

    I suggest you sit down and drink a glass of whiskey before you hurt yourself.

  • Mendy says:

    To All!

    I’m posting an excerpt of an article by Alan Dershowitz which I believe is particularly relevant when dealing with radicals and anti-Israel extremists such as Avigail.

    Use extremism against radicals

    About a year before that incident, I spoke to a full audience of students that included some of the same radicals that tried to shut Oren down. About 100 of them sat to my right. Another 100 or so students, wearing pro-Israel shirts and kipot, sat to my left. Several hundred additional students were in the middle – both literally and ideologically. I know that because I asked for a show of hands before I began my remarks.

    I first asked for students to raise their hands if they generally support Israel. All the students to my left and several in the middle raised their hands. I then asked how many students supported the Palestinian side. All the students to my right and several in the middle raised their hands. I then posed the following question to the pro-Israel group: “How many of you would support a Palestinian state living in peace and without terrorism next to Israel?” Every single pro-Israel hand immediately went up. I then asked how many on the pro-Palestine side would accept a Jewish state within the 1967 borders, with no settlements on territory claimed by the Palestinians. There was some mumbling and brief conversation among the people to my right, but not a single hand was raised.

    The debate was essentially over, as everyone in the middle now recognized that this was not a conflict between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine groups, but rather, a conflict between those who would accept a two-state solution and those who would reject any Jewish state anywhere in the Middle East. The pro-Israel view had prevailed because I was able to use the extremism of the anti-Israel group to demonstrate the ugly truth about Israel’s enemies to the large group of students in the middle with open minds.

  • Mendy says:

    Apologies re fomat of previous post.

    Not sure how to post highlighted link.I have pasted an excerpt however the link to the full article is below.


    About a year before that incident, I spoke to a full audience of students that included some of the same radicals that tried to shut Oren down. About 100 of them sat to my right. Another 100 or so students, wearing pro-Israel shirts and kipot, sat to my left. Several hundred additional students were in the middle – both literally and ideologically. I know that because I asked for a show of hands before I began my remarks.

    I first asked for students to raise their hands if they generally support Israel. All the students to my left and several in the middle raised their hands. I then asked how many students supported the Palestinian side. All the students to my right and several in the middle raised their hands. I then posed the following question to the pro-Israel group: “How many of you would support a Palestinian state living in peace and without terrorism next to Israel?” Every single pro-Israel hand immediately went up. I then asked how many on the pro-Palestine side would accept a Jewish state within the 1967 borders, with no settlements on territory claimed by the Palestinians. There was some mumbling and brief conversation among the people to my right, but not a single hand was raised.

    The debate was essentially over, as everyone in the middle now recognized that this was not a conflict between pro-Israel and pro-Palestine groups, but rather, a conflict between those who would accept a two-state solution and those who would reject any Jewish state anywhere in the Middle East. The pro-Israel view had prevailed because I was able to use the extremism of the anti-Israel group to demonstrate the ugly truth about Israel’s enemies to the large group of students in the middle with open minds.

    I have now used this heuristic repeatedly on college campuses, and with considerable success. The lesson, I believe, is not to try to persuade irrational anti-Israel extremists, but rather, to use their extremism – which often includes anti-American and anti-Western extremism – against them and in favor of a reasonable and centrist pro-Israel position.

  • Joe in Australia says:

    Simple wrote: it has always worried me that Israel has not nominated it’s own borders.

    I think you’re mistaken. Israel has internationally recognised borders between itself and Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

  • Reality Check says:

    Excellent point you make Joe of Australia. Where is the border according to Israel?

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Correct Mr Ms Miss Reality Check.

    I did not know the borders with Syria in particular were defined and they are certainly not internationally recognized. At last check, they were on the edge of the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel in 67. A resolution was almost made with Syria in the 1990s, but fell apart I believe when the first Intifadah broke out. Israel would have given back most of the territory.

    Other comments —
    Ilan Pappe is certainly controversial, but so is a lot of debate about Israeli history between Israeli historians about ‘foundational’ truths. That is why the debate is so bitter.

    But I certainly would not use Alan Dershowitz as a source for historical debate. He has too much form as a propagandist, plagiarizer and other not-very nice things–, despite his past as a civil libertarian.

  • Marky says:

    Abigail writes “if you don’t like Shlaim, why not look at works of Ilan Pappe or Benjamin Morris?”

    So these are who we should look up to for our history? Benny Morris said about Avi Shlaim: Shlaim’s irenic fantasies. Hears what he wants to hear. Intent on pillorying israel. Wrote persistent nonsense. Has lapse of logic. Unbalanced, immoderate and wild. Careless and inflamitory hyperbole.perverting history. Wrote hysterical nonsense.

    This is what Shlaim said of Morris: His writing is betrayal of history. In danger of becoming a genuine charlatan. Has lost his moral compass.

    Morris on Pappe: At best one of the sloppiest historians, at worst one of the most dishonest. Often omits and ignores significant evidence and straightforwardly falsifies evidence. Writes nonsense. Outright lies. Has no problem making up facts about his own history as well.

    Pappeh on Morris: Bigot. Narrow minded. Presumptious posture of a historian. Charlatan. Openly lies.

    The list goes on. It’s all over the internet They sound like a looovely chevra..

  • Ben says:

    Sorry last post from Marky, not Ben, who also uses this computer. Editors please correct if possible

    [Eds: Done, thanks for letting us know]

  • PINCHAS says:

    The case for Israel by Dershowitz is an excellent publication.Could you kindly indicate what is factually incorrect?

  • Larry Stillman says:

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Case_for_Israel for sources of severe criticism as to the quality of the book, as well as praises.

    It is a political argument, and Dershowitz is a lawyer and spinmeister, not a political scientist and historian.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    I also don’t regard Norman Finkelstein as the most profound or delicate of scholars as he goes overboard, but he did pull Dershowitz’s book apart for its sloppiness, something which D. cannot bear to be criticized for. Having seen D. in action in the US many years ago, one is dealing with a profound ego that takes no prisoners in combat.

    One review noted that it is clear that D. did not read parts of his sources or even write parts of his book–that’s called farming out work to research assistants.

    D. functions as an attack dog for a very strong view of Israel which has little to do with reality, even that presented by most historians. His only academic defenders are those on the Israeli right who attack anyone who doubts official ideology. Finkelstein and Dershowitz also mirror-image each other in their vituperation. But at least Finkelstein has also been attacking fools in the Palestinian movement as well–so he cannot be so simply boxed in as an ‘anti-Semite’ or ‘anti-Israel’ [see his latest interviews and book, for example]

    ” Even if Finkelstein’s most serious charges are not true, it is nonetheless a scandal that Dershowitz’s sloppy book was widely and favorably reviewed in many prominent places, including the New York Times, and became a national bestseller. (Its bestseller status probably should include an asterisk because, as Finkelstein notes, some American Jewish organizations and the Israeli government bought bulk orders of the book to use as part of their efforts to advance Israel’s case.) Nothing could be better evidence, in my opinion, of the corrosive influence of the Israel lobby on the intellectual climate of our country than how the nation’s leading university allowed such a book to pollute our national discourse on one of the most important issues facing American foreign policy.

    This is not to say that Finkelstein is always the best advocate for his case. As with his previous books, it is clear that his muse is his spleen. Outrage drips from nearly every page of Beyond Chutzpah when facts alone would have made a more effective case. Indeed, I had a similar reaction when I heard Finkelstein speak at Harvard about the Goldhagen book [Hitler’s Willing Executioners]: the facts were clearly in his corner but his strident presentation undermined his case.” Michael Detch, cited

    See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dershowitz–Finkelstein_affair

    See http://www.normanfinkelstein.com/article.php?pg=11&ar=98

  • PINCHAS says:

    @ Larry,
    It depends on ones prejudices doesn’t it?. Also from WIKIPEDIA
    ” Former Harvard president Derek Bok exonerated Dershowitz of the plagiarism charges”.
    Finklestein a Maoist, in his video on the BDS, where he calls it a cult, says they are ineffectual because they are so fanatical,his issue is nothing to do with their antipathy to Israel,any Israel.
    BTW Let’s call a spade a spade,the largest purveyors of antisemitism,yes antisemitism, to-day are the Moslem world and their selectively sanctimonious fellow travellers who, to their everlasting shame,are complicit by ignoring,apologising,dismissing or even participating.

  • Joe in Australia says:

    I did not know the borders with Syria in particular were defined and they are certainly not internationally recognized. At last check, they were on the edge of the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel in 67.

    I don’t think you understand what defined and internationally-recognised means. Israel frankly agrees that it’s occupying Syrian territory, and says that it has very good reasons for doing so.

  • Pinchas: “Since when is Avi Shlaim a recognised historian?” — and Dershowitz the law professor is?… Mmmm… An international relations professor for whom history is an integral part of his discipline vs a law professor… The credibility comparison on historical knowledge and research is a no-brainer. But what I find interesting is that you haven’t noticed that you contradicted yourself. Shortly after you dismiss Avi Shlaim off hand as a non-historian, you bring up Dershowitz’s book as an “excellent publication”. Applying one principle to one person and not another is simply intellectually dishonest. So which one will it be? You must admit you like Dershowitz better because he validates your pre-existing beliefs and you don’t like Shlaim because he challenges them. It’s nothing to do with who might be a better historian, is it?

    It’s quite clear to me that so much of what you and others say on this forum and elsewhere is motivated by emotions and not reason. As a psychotherapist I would so much like to know what these emotions are though. Emotions do cloud logic and reason. It’s a neurological fact so I don’t blame you. But I would love to know what those of you who are reacting so strongly are actually feeling when you attack so viciously, name-call and label those of us who happen to disagree with your beliefs. This lynch mob mentality is worrying. We don’t do this to you but you do this to us. Where is the threat that people like me represent to you that is so great that you have to try to destroy us (verbrally at least)?

    My book *Beyond Tribal Loyalties* highlights the quality that I think mature and ethical people have. I call it “emotional resilience”. It’s the ability to tolerate the uncomfortable emotions that are triggered in all of us when our belief system is challenged. What so many people in this (quite unsatisfactory I must say) discussion are doing amounts to “shooting the messenger”. Again this is an age-old human psychological defence mechanism. People would rather avoid potentially challenging information than feel the uncomfortable feelings it might trigger.

    What I want to see in you guys is emotional honesty and maturity. I don’t need you to agree with me. You are entitled to have your beliefs and views and while I am sometimes amazed by them I am not feeling threatened by them. But let your views be based on honesty and integrity. I would be grateful if you could tell me and everyone how you *really* feel. What is it that is so threatening to you that you are prepared to attack people you don’t know, dismiss and slander? What are these feelings that cause you to do this? I invite you to engage with this if you like. I am not interested in the way this discussion has been going because I think it completely misses the undercurrents that are there and in so many similar discussions elsewhere. So I am extending an invitation to engage with the real stuff underneath. Any takers?

    Oh, and just thought I’d mention to some of you that my name is Avigail not Abigail. It’s not a typo.

  • PINCHAS says:

    Dershowitz argues Israels case on numerous fronts,not just historical,nor does he,unlike Shlaim call it a history book.I called it a publication,.Funny how you only read & see what you want to see.So who is being intellectually dishonest.?
    An accademic publication on a topic is laughed out of existence when written by somebody outside the field. In this case an international relations professor,claiming a historical work.
    Shlaim by his own admission did not examine primary sources from the Arab world. How can that give a historically accurate picture.?
    BTW You seem to have “missed” the rest of my posting on antisemitism,no not “anti-zionism” pure unadulterated,lying, racist antisemitism from the Moslem world.Or what I posted about the maps from the PA & Hamas. and Abass’ comments in the UN or to the NY times.
    Any” neurological” explanations ?

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Pinhas, it is my understanding that access to many Arabic language archives is regrettably non-existent. That is not Shlaim’s fault.

    “There is also a real difficulty in gaining access to Arab archives to flesh-out Arab policy. However, using interviews, printed primary sources, memoirs and the secondary sources available, Shlaim covers the main points of the Arab side to the conflict. ” http://www.history.ac.uk/reviews/review/153

    This absence of documentation will effect all historians, including those who write more maintream Israeli history without reference or knowledge of Arabic-language documentation.

  • Seraphya says:

    Without rewriting history the way Avigail is I will try to show why while most of what Larry has said has some factual basis, the exaggeration and unreasoned linkage has led to faulty conclusions.
    But first Avigail:

    Avigail – seriously, things that you say are fact haven’t been proven just because a few people with credentials who are very clearly biased towards a certain side say it. I could just as easily say that no Arabs were kicked out of Israel ever and find some academic support. It wouldn’t make it any more true then most of your claims. It is clear that Egypt started the first act of war with the closing of the straits of Tiran. It is just as clear that the militarization of the fronts was started by Egypt and Syria. I am not about to go out and buy a book, but if you can tell me who thinks otherwise and why I could look into it. I know Egypt still thought it won the 1967 war and has museums dedicated to the victory, showing that people will say things that are clearly not true about these conflicts but I think that it is still clear that it is not the case. Larry as well tried to make things seem certain

    As for Ilan Pappé, you claim he had to leave Israel because of the threats he received there and the attempt by Haifa university to get rid of him. He supported the world boycotting his fellow academics, who in turn “boycotted” him. Just because he lost his position at Hafia University doesn’t necessitate his leaving of Israel. There are plenty of people who lose their jobs, but we don’t think that they are refugees. When academics lose their jobs they don’t even become political dissidents and certainly not political asylum seekers. I will agree that you can say that he thought he was taking moral stances, but then you have to realize that there will be consequences. The consequences of his extreme position was the alienation of fellow academics which led to the loss of his position, but in no way was he forced out of the country.
    If this is the standard of what it means to be forced out of the country then I can now better understand your claims that Arabs were forced out in 1948. They lost their economic stability in the war that was going on around them and they were under threat of violence reaching them, so when they fled we will just call it “forced out”

  • Seraphya says:

    What I was referring to above about proof and Larry was “It’s in the same category as the alleged non-existence of the Naqba which Benny Morris conclusively established did occur. ”

    You can assert that he “conclusively established”, but I don’t think he did. He had some interesting arguments about intentionality and effects, but I think it really remains an open question as to what an expulsion is in general and what characteristics 1948 has of that. There are certainly some that are lacking, such as official proclamations such as there were in Spain in 1492. There are certainly some aspects that are there, such as that some large amount of people moved from one place to another. Still details and the meaning of those details aren’t conclusively established in one book by one person.

  • Avigail Abarbanel says:

    You know, I find it extraordinary how similar the lines of argumentation used by Holocaust deniers is to that used by Nakba deniers. My grandparents on my mother’s side were Holocaust survivors. They never recovered from their trauma and died carrying it to the grave with them. Jews knew that something happened to them. They didn’t need documents and evidence to prove to them that what had happened to them/done to them was very real. But the evidence is there nonetheless. It doesn’t stop deniers from saying that the evidence isn’t valid, that people who write Holocaust history are biased or that the survivors have distorted memories and they don’t really know what happened to them.

    I find it staggering that Jews who have this kind of history in their background resort to such similar denial tactics. There is so much evidence for the Nakba, from Palestinians as well as Jews. People who lived then and lived through what the Israeli forces did in 1948. A little respect for the refugees and survivors of the Nakba many of whom still live under Israel’s brutal occupation, would go a long way. Why is it that it’s not OK to deny the Holocaust (it’s even a crime in Germany for example) but everyone is so disrespectful and callous about the Nakba? We did this to the Palestinians and it is really time to own up and apply the same standards to others that we apply to ourselves. Israel was established as a colonial project with no regard for the indigenous people of Palestine. The imperative to create a Jewish safe haven too precedent over respect for the indigenous people and their rights. After the second world war whatever last brakes were in place were completely removed and we are where we are today. Palestinian villages were destroyed deliberately to prevent the refugees from coming back to their homes. Refugees like my grandparents were given a home to live in that was taken away from the Palestinian family who lived in it. Their possessions were still there. They thought they would come back. This was a recurring story all over Palestine.

    A little respect, some reality check. Maybe those of you who have such a hard time coming to terms with this might want to actually go and meet Palestinian people as equals, talk to them, visit them in their homes in Gaza and the West Bank. See for yourselves how they are made to live under Israeli occupation, the losses that generations of their families have suffered as a direct result of the establishment of Israel and the ongoing occupation. Some compassion and respect is due here. It is people’s suffering we are talking about here. Human life, human trauma. Our suffering as Jews is not more privileged than the suffering of others. Where is your compassion?

    By the way, I noticed no one has yet accepted my invitation to share how they really feel and this pointless tennis game about facts and numbers is still going on… Well doesn’t anyone have the courage to say how they really feel?

  • Pinchas says:

    Calling something history while ” access to many Arabic language archives is regrettably non-existent.” is not history it is opinion. Claiming a historical study with partial documentation is an oxymoron and an accademic farce.
    Karsh quite legitimately claims that Shlaim downplays Arab agression.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    On the non-existence of the Naqba —

    Our connections can be personal and emotive.

    1) If you can, watch Amos Gitai’s film Bayit http://www.amosgitai.com/html/film.asp?docid=36&lang=1.”House is the story of a house in West-Jerusalem: abandoned during the 1948 war by its owner, a Palestinian doctor; requisitioned by the Israeli government as “vacant'; rented to Jewish Algerian immigrants in 1956; purchased by a university professor who undertakes its transformation into a patrician villa… The building site is like a theatre in which the former inhabitants, the neighbours, the workers, the builder and the new owner all appear. Israeli television censured the film”

    2) I have a copy of Fowlers’ Modern English Usage I bought in Jerusalem in the 1970s. It has the names of two owners. One, Margalit Anda (in Hebrew, in fountain pen), the other, George Khamis, in English, in copperplate.

    I never put much thought into it until about two years ago.

    Then I decided to see if I could find out who was George Khamis. In fact, he was an English teacher in Jerusalem, and you can see a photo of him here. http://tinyurl.com/6sf56f. Now, it may be complete b/s that I am assuming that this was his book at some point but 1) he was an English teacher 2) this book is from Jerusalem (I assume) 3) it is signed George Khamis.

    He was also part of the Palestinian middle-class who lived in Katamon. You can read about them here http://tinyurl.com/cqbk9hn and on p. 34 his life in particular.

    And George Khamis turns up in an account about books that were seized and stored in the National Library in Jerusalem. http://thedeskset.org/overdue-books-returning-palestines-abandoned-property-of-1948-part-3/.

    We can’t deny that these people existed, or that they disappeared, whether of their own will or otherwise ‘encouraged’. But most signs of their life have been wiped out in the Katamon, except for the term ‘Arab building’. Even some of the inscriptions on some of the buildings now appear to have been removed.

    We are morally obliged to remember and make efforts to reconcile with Palestinians.

    Pinhas, about Shlaim. if the non-availability of certain sources was rigorously applied upon all areas of historical research, nearly everything would be in dispute (remember, it is a favorite technique of holocaust deniers to say where is the evidence?) .

    And Karsh of course, is harsh, a revisionist, and his own work has come in for severe criticism. So it is the pot calling the kettle black in this case. And he has also got stuck into Penny Morris. I’ve dipped into one of his books and found it difficult to take seriously as a work of scholarship.

  • Mendy says:


    I can only assume that Avigail must be related to Sarah Montague and/or the notorious anti-Israel (s)thinker Norman Finkelstein

    Never missing a moment to get stuck into Israel using warped logic.

    Sickening, but one has to ask what turns these people into Israel bashers (Jew haters?

    They remind me of those assimilated Jews who professed their Germanic or whatever nationality they had assimilated into, even as they were being deported to the death camps.

    These ratbags of today are worse. By screaming “we are Jews (not we are Germans) and our Israeli compatriots to whom we are unjustly linked to, are mass murderers and other such idiocies” they somehow think they will be treated as if they were “Honourable Goyim”….somehow as if their demonising our Jewish state will give them the full assimilation status they so badly crave for.

    Quislings I say!

  • Reallity Check says:

    When asked where Israel’s borders are, the answer is TBA

  • Avigail – instead of arguing over whose academic has more credibility, how about dealing with the responses to your nonsense remark that the 1967 war was an Israel expansionist project?

    All those who accuse Israel of ethnic cleansing and attacking non-combatants should take a lesson from what is now happening in Syria. To paraphrase Crocodile Dundee, “that’s not attacking non-combatants, THIS is attacking non-combatants!” If Israel actually wanted to ethnically cleanse the territories, then there would be no Palestinians there.

  • Reality Check says:

    David, So what do you call the forced transfer of Bedouins to the West Bank, and turning a blind eye to the intimidations and violence by settler groups of Palestinians?

    And by saying that Israel isn’t as bad as Syria, you are actually saying Israel is pretty bad, but it’s not shooting its own people.

  • I’m saying that people seem to judge Israel to an unattainable standard of behaviour in this conflict, and use terminology that reflects a fallacious equivalence to other situations.

    People seem to forget that Israel’s primary responsibility is for the safety and welfare of its own citizens. In a situation like this, there is often a conflict between doing that and also looking after everyone else in the region. Suggestions like “if only they just stopped occupying …” are impractical and evidence has shown that they just don’t work.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    Incorrect David

    Israel as an occupying power is responsible for the safety of those it has conquered. It has done a terrible job in doing so, setting up a defacto bantustan situation. If Israelis and you want to keep it going with a system of apartheid then you can. But the US and other countries should not also be paying for it. Israel can become like North Korea, an isolated fossil, something I don’t particularly want it to be.

    “We” were sold a crock of brown stuff about how wonderful and liberal such an occupation was, and that it would bring about peace and so on 40 years ago. It never has and never will. It fuels violence. “We” never believed that the natives were worth bothering about.

    As I have said, given the ‘Saudi Plan’ and other opportunities, Israel has lost credibility as a peace maker. To quote the Plan

    “The Arab League members unanimously endorsed the peace initiative on March 27.[11] It consists of a comprehensive proposal to end the entire Arab–Israeli conflict.[2] It provides in a relevant part:

    (a) Complete withdrawal from the occupied Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan Heights, to the 4 June 1967 line and the territories still occupied in southern Lebanon; (b) Attain a just solution to the problem of Palestinian refugees to be agreed upon in accordance with the UN General Assembly Resolution No 194. (c) Accept the establishment of an independent and sovereign Palestinian state on the Palestinian territories occupied since 4 June 1967 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital. In return the Arab states will do the following: (a) Consider the Arab–Israeli conflict over, sign a peace agreement with Israel, and achieve peace for all states in the region; (b) Establish normal relations with Israel within the framework of this comprehensive peace.[2]”

  • Mendy says:


    Sorry to upset you, but to those of us who subscribe to the Torah and it’s values, Israel is not an occupying power.

    Let’s face it Larry, the only reason your’re here today is that 3-4 possibly 5 generations ago, there were orthodox Jews, your great great great grandparents who followed our line of thinking.

    Others assimilated themselves out of existence as statistically speaking, most likely will occur to your descendants.

    Sure, as always out of the core believers some will drop off, but as long as there is a core, Judaism will continue.

    Torah true Judaism that is.

    The Torah defines the boundaries.

    The UN may not like it.

    The lefties may not like it.

    You certainly don’t.

    As far as I am concerned the Israelis can stay where they are.

    You and no doubt your like-minded Jewish mates wouldn’t have a problem if the Palestinians bred themselves into a majority. You’d gladly give all of them a vote as well, wouldn’t you?

    As long as you could sip latte on Dizingoff, right?

    Better get your life vest ready as they have made it clear what they’d like to do.

    The only concern they would have is whether or not to toss you in the Mediterranean alive or dead.

    Either way you’d be a loser!

    Especially with the lifebelt in one hand and the latte in the other.

  • Avigail Abarbanel says:

    OK, so since no one here is interested in engaging with my invitation to share their feelings, I just have to resort to reading between the lines. The latest entry here from Mendy above reveals very clearly that what we are dealing with is fear. And fear does cloud people’s judgment by blocking access to the more moral and ethical part of the brain. It is a neurological fact. There is no point having a logical discussion when the unacknowledged motivation behind people’s ‘politics’ or ‘views’ is in fact simple good old human existential fear.

    I do not feel fear about being Jewish or what might happen to me. Even if the boogie man comes to get me where I am because I am Jewish I will take my chances and will not run to Israel for protection. I was attacked quite viciously when I said that we Jews have a victim complex but what Mendy says above shows that I was of course right. I have heard all of it before. One can either live in fear and believe that the survival of one’s own group is more important than anything (this is what I Mendy reads in the Torah), or one can join the human race and take one’s chances with everyone else (more in line with the message of the prophets in the Bible).

    I emphatically do not believe that the survival of one’s own people is more important than anything else. I left Israel precisely because I was tired of living with this mentality and feeling as if my entire existence was supposed to be dedicated to the survival of my people. This isn’t the purpose of my life.

    I understand that we really have nothing to talk about and people still continue to accuse me and others of things we are not doing and things we aren’t. This is just simple fanaticism only very thinly disguised and sometimes not disguised at all. Fanaticism in all shapes and forms comes directly from fear. Sadly there can be no dialogue about this and arguing about facts is really pointless.

    What we are really talking about is whether or not we are prepared to live a self-centered fear-based existence, or whether we are prepared to let go of our fear and show compassion to our fellow humans. That’s what the prophets wanted us to do, and that’s my preference rather than the vengeful and genocidal mentality of the Torah. And before you attack me again, what do you call Joshua going into Canaan to massacre every single person there just so that the Hebrews take the land?? Never mind that historically it probably never happened, but if people like Mendy believe this to be OK why wouldn’t they believe that the occupation of Palestine and the Zionist project as a whole aren’t OK? After all they are a modern day repetition of the Joshua story. So we are poles apart and I wish you all well. I don’t attack you though. I understand that people have a right to believe what you wish to believe, so I expect the same courtesy from others.

  • TheSadducee says:

    “Refugees like my grandparents were given a home to live in that was taken away from the Palestinian family who lived in it. Their possessions were still there. They thought they would come back.”

    Avigail – just a question out of interest – come back to what exactly? What did they anticipate happening that would facilitate their return?

  • Sam says:


    When you stated: “I emphatically do not believe that the survival of one’s own people is more important than anything else”, you have tried to obviously tried to asimilate with the greater gentile community.
    Why are you then so interested in the so called by you, “human rights abuses” of Palestinians by the Israeli govt. and IDF? Most gentiles know little about that situation and care even less. Maybe you are not really asimilated but only an aSHAMED jew the same as Finkler. I am sure that you have already read the book.

    Although you say “we really have nothing to talk about”, in your last post, you have written more words on this thread than anyone, except maybe Larry. Then he is a renowned verbose leftist spinmeister and seems to do this sort of thing for a living.

  • Larry Stillman says:

    I request that the editor to close this discussion off since it has descended into nothing but personal invective and little to do with the article that I wrote.

  • Pinchas says:

    @ Reality check
    People attack Israel,claiming to have a human rights agenda. Yet they ignore major human rights abuse everywhere and the Moslem and Arab world behaviour towards Israel. It begs the question. ” What is their real problem” ? Clearly it is not human rights.
    Yes you can criticise Israel,there are major issues to resolve but to criticise only Israel and to do it out of context, makes it clear that human rights is not the issue. It is Israel, the knee jerk bête noir of the left.
    If leftists were in fact concerned with human rights they would be express their outrage at Islamist antisemitism, rejectionist incitement and condemn from the rooftops ” peace lovers” like Galtung and the Sydney peace accademics who have him as an outside lecturer but have not distanced themselves publically and unequivocally.
    There is little difference between the publications of the state controlled Islamic world and that of the Nazis, that” human rightists” ignore, deny and deflect speaks for itself.
    “The occupation” did not just happen, Arabs in Palestine were slaughtering unarmed defenceless Jews centuries ago.

  • Thank Larry. Good idea!

  • TheSadducee says:

    With all due respect I defer from the request to shut this discussion down. I have asked a legitimate question from Avigail, without invective or rudeness and am curious to see (her?) response.

    It is unfortunate that many of the posters here have not complied with civility and/or reasonable discussion on an important topic but I don’t think shutting down a conversation is the best way to conduct discourse!

  • Reallity Check says:

    Pinchas, what can I say? Leftists, etc, you have this thing against leftists regardless of Israel. I would have thought that the principle of not doing to others what you wouldn’t like to have done to yourself, and that includes Arabs and, keep your ghetto head in the sand, Palestinians should apply rather than your misguided political views.

    Now regarding Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza. Stop using that as an excuse. It was never meant to be in search of peace. Israel knew that Hamas and the other terrorists would keep firing rockets into Israel.

    Israel, whether you like it or not is part of the modern international community and it considers the west bank as occupied territory, and for good reason to; there are some 3 millions Palestinians living there who do not even get to vote. How is that being a light onto the nations?

    Irrespective of what Israel’s enemies might be like, Israel still needs to remain civilized.

  • Avigail Abarbanel says:


    I’m not sure I understand what you are asking — But UN 194(11 Dec 1948) may be an answer to your question — Article 11 reads:
    “Resolves that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbors should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible.

    Instructs the Conciliation Commission to facilitate the repatriation, resettlement and economic and social rehabilitation of the refugees and the payment of compensation, and to maintain close relations with the Director of the United Nations Relief for Palestine Refugees and, through him, with the appropriate organs and agencies of the United Nations”…

    There is no point in this discussion. I will say that there was ethnic cleansing in 1948, you would say there wasn’t. What’s the point in this kind of discussion? By the way I am female. You call yourself The Sedducee so surely you should know who the Biblical Avigail was?

    This is my last entry in this discussion.

  • Pinchas says:

    @ Larry,
    Yes war is hell. A declared war of annihilation does not bring out the best in people especially given the very recent experiences of the Jews.An experience facilitated by the Muslim SS,raised by the Mufti of Jerusalem.
    It would also be nice to recognise the million Jews who were expelled from Arab lands, their property confiscated,following pogroms and orchestrated riots against Jews. The reality is the Arab population in Israel has more than quadrupled while the Jewish population in the Arab world has effectively disappeared and naive attempts to go back after the spring in Lybia almost got the Jew lynched.
    We could also play the game of posing with keys, hundreds of thousands of them, from Baghdad, to Tripoli to Cairo and lots of places in between.
    By the time the Arabs invaded in 1948,Arab irregulars had already killed a thousand Jews even before their official war started – Morris.
    Yes peaceful coexistence would be wonderful .It would be nice if Abbas deigned to turn up and negotiated peace, borders and an end to all further claims, including the demand to colonise Israel with millions of Arabs, victims of a deliberate Arab policy of apartheid, keeping them as an “open sore,” the “Arab winning card”.”2 Palestines side by side”.
    I think it’s time we all looked at the whole picture, instead of fashionably pointing at Israel.

  • Pinchas says:

    @ Abigail,
    UN GA resolutions are not binding, including 181.
    Wishing to live in peace?

  • Pinchas says:

    @ Abigail,
    Unlike UN GA 181, UNSCR 242 is binding.
    It does not mention ” right of return” just ” a just solution to the refugee problem”. That includes Jews not only Arabs.

  • Seraphya says:

    Larry, this often happens and isn’t irredeemable. Here let me offer critique to the original article.

    From the top:
    The IDF is an army of occupation in the Occupied Territories. – Agreed, and that isn’t by definition a bad thing. The Allies occupation of Germany post WW-II was a necessary was relatively benign or even positive.

    the occupation has little to do with defence imperatives –
    Here is where I think you are making a mistake. The occupation is an unfortunate necessity that should have ended long ago. A peace plan that all can agree to has for many reasons not been reached. A unilateral withdrawal is not realistic at this time, and would lead to far greater violence for all. Therefore it seems like it is a defense imperative to remain an occupying force.

    but a huge amount to do with expanding Israeli territory well beyond any strategic necessity –
    The occupation itself has nothing to do with expansion of territory. Israel occupied the Sinai for years without ever really intending to expand permanently into it. There are also real strategic concerns about losing some portions of the West Bank, which can be overcome but should not be completely dismissed. It is also worth noting that there are many areas in the West Bank that Jews have lived on for many years and many also feel a cultural and religious connection to areas such as Hebron and Shechem. The settler has taken advantage of that and decided to use the, what was meant to be temporary, occupation as a stepping stone to permanent control. Governments have used and been used by the settler movement, but the goals and outcomes of the settler movement can and should be separated from those of the occupation.

    fact is that ‘defence of Israel’ has been extended to institutionalised maltreatment of civilians – I don’t think that is a fact. I don’t think it is institutionalised. I think we know that positions of power over others lead to maltreatment of others, whether in prisons (Stamford experiment, Abu Graib etc.) or religious institutions (Chabad and Catholic sexual abuse) or in police brutality cases (Blue Code of Silence). It is often the lack of clear protocols that lead to the abuse of power and that it isn’t stopped. The goal of Chabad or the Church wasn’t to abuse children, its just that the rules they had didn’t lead to it being weeded out. Police misconduct is hard to defeat in any context, but when the victims are so clearly “other” it is even harder to counter. Despite the preponderance of cases of maltreatment of the innocent, these cases remain “isolated” cases of misconduct. They may be prevalent but they are not formal or institutionalized. The situation has improved vastly in recent years and still needs much more work, but the fact that things are improving both in terms of investigation/convictions and in what is considered acceptable by peers.

    What has stunned me most on my first tour with Shovrim Shtika was how the lack of clear instructions from above didn’t just allow the abuses to occur but encouraged them. The young soldiers fresh from their training were told to make things happen without being given guidelines about how to implement them. Guidelines have been clear and specific policy and parameters are reducing maltreatment. There were attempts to have reservists who were more mature look after checkpoints. There is now a division in the army that is specially trained to deal with checkpoints rather than have soldiers who have mainly been trained in combat manning the checkpoints. The situation is also improving with the drastic cutbacks in the number of internal checkpoints. This is because the goal is to minimize the mistreatment and general bother to the occupied Palestinians while not compromising on security.

    more coming later

  • TheSadducee says:

    And so we see a little bit of obfuscation on the part of Avigail – after all, how does one leave their home or be driven from it, with the expectation of a return being provided for by a UN resolution which didn’t exist at the time that you left?

    The fact is this question is a very difficult one to answer for people like Avigail who are themselves, in my opinion, either dishonest or ignorant.

    I don’t disagree that ethnic cleansing occured and that occupation occurs today, however I would suggest those who make claims about other’s opinions, themselves face up to the unpleasantness that is contained within the narratives that they choose to adopt.

  • cb says:


    What a brilliant post. I look forward to the rest if you have time to finish it.

    I especially like this part:
    “It is also worth noting that there are many areas in the West Bank that Jews have lived on for many years and many also feel a cultural and religious connection to areas such as Hebron and Shechem”

    The anti-Israel brigade always seem to forget (among many other facts) that Jews have in fact been living there for thousands of years (including my ancestors who never set foot in Europe). There are also ofcourse the Jews who were forced to leave Arab countries where THEY had lived for hundreds or thousands of years, but certain people like to forget about them too, and focus on the European Jewish immigrants to Israel in order to support their pet Colonialist theory (mass influx from Europe to non-European continent = European colonialism, apparently). Not that the European Jews did not also originally come from the Middle East, otherwise why would they have been practising the same religion as the Middle Eastern Jews for so many years before ever reaching Israel?

  • Pinchas says:

    @ Reality check.
    Re “do unto others–“. Does that mean that others can do unto you as they please.?
    Gaza? Where did I mention that?
    Now that you bring it up, what peace is there to be had with Hamas? “No peace ever”.”Islamic Republic of Palestine from the river to the sea”? They keep repeating it and publicly say they will not be bound by any agreement made by Abbas.
    Where has the State of Israel claimed to be a “light unto the nations”. Israel may aspire to it but it has never claimed to be a light– .That is the one of the usual cheap digs from the Arabs can do wrong brigade.It justifies turning a blind eye to what the Arabs say and do.
    The West Bank & Gaza Arabs voted,for a Palestinian parliament,the vast majority are under direct PA or Hamas rule.
    Yes Arabs. The Palestinian covenant states they are part of the Arab race and Palestine,ALL Palestine is Arab land.Getting their peace message yet?
    Ever wonder why Palestinians do not want to “liberate” the vast majority of the former mandate,only the small fraction given to Jews?
    BTW did you miss the outbursts by Abbas in NY ? Some moderate peeace partner.

  • Seraphya says:

    cb, thanks. However I don’t think that alone can justify the annexation or occupation of land.

    Occupation should be as temporary as possible. It is also clear that Israel can not annex the West Bank and remain both Jewish and democratic.

    I think it is important that we keep the religious and cultural ties in mind when understanding the settler movements zeal, just like we try to understand the rage that many Palestinians feel at being under 40 years of occupation. We won’t understand the conflict until we understand the way that the groups and subgroups in this conflict understand themselves.

    More importantly those ties are important for creating a peace where Jews and Israelis have access to the holy and historic sites, including Bethlehem for the Christians and Palestinians and Muslims have access to Jerusalem.

    While the expulsion of Jews from Arab nations might be a nice rhetorical point to counter the fact that many of Israel’s Arab population were relocated, it is just as irrelevant as the grandchildren of refugees holding “keys” to houses. We have to move on beyond the history of this conflict and not get bogged down in narratives of what happened 65 years ago.

    All the more so we should stop looking to racial lines of 2000 years ago as proof for the validity of our claims. Both sides feel like they have some connection to this land and we can’t expect the relative “truthiness” of one side or the others story to matter.

    I also don’t really know what those who were against the policy in 1948 of depopulating hostile villages that were in strategic points would have had the fighters do. They were fighting with very limited resources in the fashion that wars were fought. They weren’t forced out of Israel/Palestine, they were simply forced out of villages that could or were already be used to harass or block access, which lead to things such as the creation of the Burma road for the resupply of Jerusalem around Latrun. Yes, I am being an apologist about this, but when the Jordanian legion slaughters those who surrendered at kfar etzion you have to look at it in perspective. While it was clear that Jews would not be allowed to live in territory captured by the Arab forces, eg the old city of Jerusalem, the fact that hundreds of thousands of Arabs remained in Israel is alone enough to show that no such blanket policy existed on the Israeli side. It is a tragedy of war that people become IDPs and refugees. In this case, wherever the arbitrary ceasefire line of the greenline was, that’s where you were stuck. It would have been great if those who had run with or without some prodding could have come back at the time, but they couldn’t. That just wasn’t the political reality of the relations that the Arab world had with Israel. There could be orderly return of refugees when no one would acknowledge the existence of Israel.

    Why should the Palestinians now suffer for the failures of their grandparents generations failures on both the Palestinian, Arab and Israel sides? They shouldn’t. But that just isn’t the way things work. People get moved and displaced all the time but after 65 years you move on. Sure there should be some sort of reparations or something, but even if you feel justified in the maximal demand of rights, you have to look to compromise. Should we give almost every penny in America to Blacks in compensation for slavery? On some levels, yes. But really, how do we determine who is eligible, just because you have dark skin or what threshold of proof do we need. Even if that was easy it would destabilize the country both those receiving the money and those giving. More relevant, here in Australia, it is quite clear that this wasn’t a terra nullius, but does this mean we all just pick up and leave? No, we have to right historic wrongs, but in some sensible way that will take much planning. It may be helpful to separate this healing step from a peace process between Israel and the Palestinians, but I understand that the Palestinians would feel that they would rather include it while they still have a position of power to force Israel to the table.

    I just think that it it time to compromise and not be so harsh with our rhetoric. It is hard to soften your words because that will be seen as a unilateral disarmament, but it is in everyone’s long-term best interest.

  • Seraphya says:

    I know its not you who wrote this, but I still think I should mention how ridiculous this sounds
    “The Israeli Army considers the situation as an ‘armed conflict short of war’. However, this imprecise definition also creates a legal and moral hole: the Palestinians are undefined individuals who fall between civilian and combatant categories”

    There are Palestinians who are civilians and Palestinians who are combatants regardless of which term used to define a specific incident or the overall situation. In any armed conflict in which one side fights out of uniform and among the civilian population without regard to conventions about the sanctity of medical and religious buildings and vehicles there are moral and legal ambiguities. This is not unique to this situation, Hezbollah too created this difficulty, and the same applies in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Sudan, Vietnam etc. I really do think that Israel has been among the best at dealing with these new forms of warfare (new in the sense that the modern rules of warfare and conventions were not set up with this in mind) both from a legal and moral perspective. Certainly Israel has been trending positively towards better dealing with this issue than the negative trend of “signature” drone strikes that America is now doing. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/drones-yemen_b_1458668.html)
    There is much work that still needs to be done and there is resistance from parts of the military to dealing with these issues publicly as they will make the army look soft and weak or that this criticism is being used as a tool to undermine the army.
    That is why I think it is important for people who very much support the IDF to bring up the issue of humane treatment of the Palestinians as a broader moral issue. Despite how these discussions can lead to politics which is an absolute no-go zone for the army there needs to be better education for enlisted soldiers. There is quite impressive ethical training seminars for higher ranks of officers but abuses in the system don’t get reported because of the code of silence that I mentioned in a previous comment. The punishments can be quite severe for mistreating Palestinians which actually makes soldiers afraid to dob on their mates and certainly a CO because of how a whistle-blower would be treated. It is a complex issue that exists in all military and police forces.

  • Reallity Check says:

    Oh Pinchas. They said this and we said that and on it goes. You’re right. There will never be peace. So let’s just forget about it. Neither the Israeli government nor the PA want peace, it’s just too hard.

  • Pinchas says:

    Israel would have annexed the WB long ago if that was the intention.
    In fact the vast majority of the WB plus land swaps to make up 100% has been on offer repeatedly as part of the peace package.
    What does Abbas bring to the table?
    1. He refuses to come.
    2. He cannot deliver.
    Repeated surveys of the Arabs show they want no Israel.
    Hamas will not accept any peace deal with any Israel.
    The refugee isssue has been deliberately kept festering and the people have been told they will go to Israel. Nothing has been done to disabuse them of this promise.
    The “end the occupation and there will be peace” mantra is naive at best.
    Unilateral seperation is likely the answer,peace is a pipe dream at the moment and the “Israel bad,Arabs good” propogandists will continue to attack Israel no matter what,unfortunately that includes many Jews as we can see from the comments posted here.

  • Pinchas says:

    Contrary to your claims the vast majority of Israelis surveyed
    want peace and a seperate Palestinian state.
    The Palestinians surveyed do not want any Israel and view any deal as an interim agreement. Thats just the “moderate” PA then there is Hamas.
    Forget it? Is that why the Jewish “intelligencia” bashes Israel?
    Do you ever read the apologia,incitement,lies and misleading headlines on Haaretz.?
    One of the lowest was Levi justifying the massacre of the Yeshiva students at Mercaz Horav Kook in Jerusalem but its just one of many.
    Arab terror against Jews in Palestine has been ongoing The Safed massacre 200 years ago was because of the Occupation?,Zionists? or because they were Jews?
    Some people have a lot to answer for.

  • Reality Check says:

    Thanks for that Pinchas, and have a good Shabbos

  • Pinchas says:

    Reality Check,
    Good Shabbos.

  • Simple says:

    Wow, I’ve been trying to follow all this. I love the passion in the debate.

    As far as I can see we all want a safe, peaceful, inspiring and prosperous Israel. We all accept history in the region has been tough and that Israel has needed a strong military response to secure its existence to date. We are all confused about where a workable/peaceful border is in the WB. And therefore we can’t determine if the IDF is attacking or defending right now.

    Whatever all our motivations might be, Israel is a Jewish State that has taken generations of effort and commitment to build, and we want what’s best for it. My left wing friends from my kibbutz days (unhappily, but acceptingly) sent their sons and daughters to defend settlements in the WB becuase that is what the democratically elected government required of them.

    The occupation will not last forever and nor can Israel remove its palastinian population. And TG we should have the confidence that Israel is now sufficiently established that the Palastinians can’t remove Israel. And we hope they will eventually find leadership in their ranks to enable peace. It would be great if these things could be accelerated but you tend to need to wander 40 years in the desert for generational and transformative change. Hopefully our 40 years is almost up… depending on the start date of the WB conflict.

    Irrespective of the Palestinian position or pace of change, I have hope that the Israeli Government knows ultimately where and when settlements will stop in order to self-proclaim Israel’s borders in the WB. And that the current strategy is working ultimately to that goal of initiating a situation where the IDF can withdraw to defending “our country”.

    I don’t really know if the PA has the where-with-all to build a stable State next door. It would be great if they could, but I don’t know. I just hope that a strong clear border will prevent whatever is going on on their side from hurting the lives of those who choose to be peaceful and democratic citizens of the State of Israel (Jew, Muslim, Christian, Bahai, Other). Peace All.

  • Mendy says:


    This woman has more understanding than you ever will.

    And she didn’t clear off when the going got tough….unlike you!


  • troll says:

    who is worse
    Avigail Abominable or Caroline Sick???????

  • Thanks Larry for your article and tireless effort to provide some sense, reason and compassion into the debate. Thanks too Avigail for the insights you provided. I look forward to your tour of Australia.

    To add to Larry’s fine work, not only are there ethical and moral considerations for those who choose to serve in the Israeli Armed Forces – there are also legal considerations, especially for Australian citizens.

    Although as you will see the legal considerations are raised to show a theoretical possibility, but are ineffectual due to domestic policy of governments like Australia or Britain.

    But for what it is worth – here is the law as it stands on Australians who volunteer for military service in foreign armies – be it Israel, Hezbollah or Palestinian.


    People will be well familiar that the ICC does not have jurisdiction to investigate alleged war crimes in Gaza through territorial jurisdiction as Israel is not a signatory and Palestine is denied signatory rights as it a narrow view was taken excluding it as a state.

    However, Article 12(2)(b) of the Rome Statute allows for jurisdiction to be found through nationality. This ‘backdoor’ approach means that Australians, Brits and the like (or for that matter Jordanians) – all countries that are signatories to the Rome Statute may be investigated by the ICC in situations where war crimes are alleged.

    The practical effect of the availability of this legal remedy is perhaps nil – given the present political machinations of Australian and Britain would turn a blind eye to actions of its citizens in the 2008-09 Gaza war. However, at some future point in time, the tide of public opinion may change and governments like Australia and Britain will say enough is enough.

    Public opinion in itself is not the decisive determinant of whether or not to prosecute Australian nationals for allege war crimes in foreign armies – it will also depend on US interests. As Larry is well aware the client state phenomenon is something that Australia is susceptible to.

    The net result of this is with US policy unlikely to change on Israel in the next 20 years or more – despite the legal possibility – there may be no actual prosecutions of Australian nationals who commit war crimes in Gaza or the West Bank in years to come.

    That gets us back to Larry’s original thesis which is the moral and ethical questions about serving. This is something that needs to be asked by our education and religious systems that play such a critical part in shaping people’s moral views.

    For me it just comes back to the Golden rule as articulated by Hillel and so many others: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And when I am for myself, what am ‘I’?” – the do unto others rule. This involves more about acts of compassion and lovingkindness than acts of war. And this is not some pie in the sky utopian ideal – this comes back to the reality – you reap what you sow. Let us have a clean slate – and move forward focusing on our commonalities rather than our differences. This is the foundation for peace-building.

  • Mendy says:

    S Mills:

    I just love it when posters who more than likely do not believe or follow the Talmud, conveniently pluck sayings from various Tanayim/Amorayim as it suits.

    Seeing though Hillel was “chosen” it may assist if one does a read about Hillel, where he lived, (pssst in The Land of Israel)and learn what were the definitions of the land of Israel. It would follow that he too accepted the biblical definitions of the land of Israel. But of course that doesn’t suit your rationale….therefore the only idiom which is plucked is the Golden Rule. Didn’t see him or his compatriots rushing to give anything back to anyone!

    He states about doing anything hateful to your “fellow”.

    Your enemy who is intent on killing you? He subscribed to the Torah law of “Kum V’al Yaharog”!


    Hillel (הלל) (born Babylon traditionally c.110 BCE, died 10 CE[1] in Jerusalem) was a famous Jewish religious leader, one of the most important figures in Jewish history. He is associated with the development of the Mishnah and the Talmud. Renowned within Judaism as a sage and scholar, he was the founder of the House of Hillel school for Tannaïm (Sages of the Mishnah) and the founder of a dynasty of Sages who stood at the head of the Jews living in the land of Israel until roughly the fifth century of the Christian Era.

    He is popularly known as the author of two sayings: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me? And when I am for myself, what am ‘I’?” And “If not now, when?”[2] and the expression of the ethic of reciprocity, or “Golden Rule”: “That which is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow. That is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.”[3]

    “As Hillel the Elder had stated, whosoever destroys a soul, it is considered as if he destroyed an entire world. And whosoever that saves a life, it is considered as if he saved an entire world.” [4] ‘Olam’ can alternatively be translated ‘infinity’ or ‘world’.[5]

    Hillel lived in Jerusalem during the time of King Herod and the Roman Emperor Augustus. In the Midrash compilation Sifre (Deut. 357), the periods of Hillel’s life are made parallel to those in the life of Moses. Both lived 120 years (Deut. 34:7), and at the age of forty Hillel went to the Land of Israel; forty years he spent in study; and the last third of his life he was the spiritual head of the Jewish people. A biographical sketch can be constructed; that Hillel went to Jerusalem in the prime of his life and attained a great age. His activity of forty years likely covered the period of 30 BCE to 10 CE.

    Land of Israel

  • Seraphya,

    Chabad and Catholic sexual abuse“????

    Yet again, you’ve committed an ugly slur. Firstly, you’ve used Chabad as a proxy for all religious institutions (plain wrong), and secondly you’ve drawn an equivalence between the sexual abuse that went on in the Catholic Church to the cases now being exposed within some Orthodox communities purely on the basis that in both situations there are positions of power over others (unreasonable).

    While this is off topic and I don’t want it to divert this particular discussion, I couldn’t let your remark stand uncontested. My previous offer to you to discuss your issues with Chabad offline stands.

  • Pinchas says:

    A graduate of Peace & Conflict studies at Sydney University. With external faculty of the ilk of Galtung,from whom the faculty has yet to publicly distance itself, you need say no more.
    However if you wish,you can enlighten us on the lying racist blood libels in the Palestinian media, “pigs & monkeys”, “the battle of the rocks & the trees”, no Jewish history in Palestine,the maps of Palestine put out by the PA & Hamas, throat cutting babies,shooting captured unarmed Israeli mother and their children,lynching captured IDF and dragging their bodies through the streets,targetting Israeli kindegartens,schools,hospitals with missiles and or sucide bombers.
    Instead of cheap sloganeering, if you actually bothered to look you would have seen Arab patients being treated side by side in Israeli hospitals including Arabs from the WB & Gaza by Arab & Jewish staff, you could have seen Arab parliamentarians freely speaking and inciting in the Israeli parliament or you could have seen Arab judges passing sentences on Jews. Is that what happened in S.A. ?
    Why let facts get in the way of slogans and group think?
    If you want apartheid ask the F.M of the elected govt of Palestine if Jews,no not Israelis,any Jews can live in Palestinian territory?
    He made a public announcement recently saying it would be Judenrein, just like the stated intentions of the invading Arab league armies in 1948.
    You people, for whatever reason, make it sound like Israel is facing a bunch of peace loving humanitarians. Why not check out what Fatah & Hamas do to each other,their brothers, then draw the obvious conclusion as to what they would do to the “klab yahuds” the Jewish dogs, if they could.
    It can’t be blame shifted so its ignored, deflected or denied.
    Some peace and conflict resolution,bashing one side,you have been taught well.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Hooray for David, chabad hero!

    It’s good to know that mentsches like you are out there trying as best you can to clear chabad’s name of any silly equivalency made between it and the catholic church on the rape of children by its “learned elders”.

    I’m really glad that is your top priority, and not helping the actual victims. You simply COULDN’T stand back while chabad was so brazenly insulted! Could you stand back while more children are possibly being raped by those in positions of power? Well, as you’ll obviously agree it’s best not to point a preventive finger. We’ll just wait until they’re victims, shall we?

    Because it would be UTTERLY TERRIBLE if their pain and misery were a little bit overstated rather than hushed away under a rug where shmucks on the internet could decide on the varying levels of severity of child rape in religious communities. It would be UTTERLY TERRIBLE if religious institutions were actually put on notice that the world is watching and that their clergy can kindly stop raping small children.

    You’re so brave, David. So brave. Kol hakavod.

  • Joe in Australia says:

    Stewart, I am astonished that your concern for human rights leads you to call for the prosecution of Israelis and not Palestinian leaders.

  • Pinchas says:

    How many missiles on Israeli civillians is a war crime?
    How many suicide bombers?
    How many times does Hamas have to say no peace ever for a University educated peace expert to get the message.?

  • TheSadducee says:


    To be fair – Stewart does address many of these questions/issues on his various websites. Go have a look and come back and ask some more sensible questions.

  • Pinchas says:

    The discussion is not about his website, it is about what he writes here, innuendoes and all.
    No doubt you have seen the resources of the Sydney Peace Center with the likes of Lowenstein for the annual Israel hatefest .
    As you bring up his website,maybe you can clarify the usual slogans and Stewart effectively ignoring the Arab acts of barbarity during the intifada . The intifada Arafat had prepared a priori and gave the green light to start, as he walked out of the talks without any counter offer . He was hoping to soften up the Jews with terror.Clinton laid the blame for the talk failure squarely on Arafat. I could not find any of that on his ” peace” website .
    I respect absolutely your right to defend his views & motives, this is how I see them .
    I have had a bellyfull of the ” peace lovers”, who are obsessed with Israel alone, who choose to ignore or brush over the circumstances under which Israel has had to fight for generations and tell Israel to “just make peace”.!

  • GG says:

    Only the Isalmic World – and its terror groupie hangers-on – call Israel an Occupying Force. In Islamic law, once Muslims have occupied a land -even for five minutes – it is consecrated as Muslim religious territory.

    No doubt it’s news to Stillman that Andalusia in Spain is also regarded as Occupied Territory by the Muslims. Nobody is suggesting that the Spanish relinquish Andalusia to the Muslims again, but Israel, as always, is fair game.

    No matter how Stillman tries to spin it, he constantly couches issues to do with Israel in Leftist/Islamic terms and it is a complete waste
    of time engaging with his spurious pieces.

    There is nothing immoral about defending the Jewish homeland.

    What should be debated is the immorality of Stillman spinning the “Palestinian” narrative in the Jewish community and giving credence to any of the “Palestinian” talking points.

    Is this midlife crisis or simple boredom? Guess we’ll never know.

  • Pinchas says:

    NSW Green MP Shoebridge,convenor of Friends of Palestine, will be hosting the Abarbanel book launch in Parliament house.
    The usual suspects wrote chapters.The usual one eyed slogans are found in the invitation.

  • Pinchas says:

    Of course Avigail & the invitation mentions she comes from Holocaust survivors,then the hypocrits complain that we “use” the Holocaust.
    Maybe she can get some Holocaust cartoons from Iran or Leunig for the occasion.

  • TheSadducee says:


    You do have some valid objections but I still think it is unfair to assume the worst intentions of an individual based on 1 blog-post and a brief perusal of their webpage.

    Nonetheless, you do have a valid point generally – there certainly seems to be a “Palestine grievance industry” made up of certain individuals who repeatedly push similar particular points of view and consistently appear in like company. One cannot but wonder how open their discourse is to anyone who disagrees with or has an alternative point of view, especially in their publications?

    Now to the crux of it – do you think that what Israel is doing (or has to do) in the West Bank to maintain security/safety is right? Are you comfortable with the actions that the IDF have or choose to take each day?

  • TheSadducee says:


    No need to be personal at Larry’s expense – it is beneath the dignity of an individual to resort to personal attack in discourse.

    To address some of your points – yes, there is some Islamic religious interpretations that argue about land control etc – a case in point concerning Spain would be the late, and unlamented, Bin Laden’s call to liberate that location. It is also completely possible that Hamas etc have taken similar interpretations and that these are antithetical to rational discussion on the conflict.

    There is also, as I have noted above, differing narratives and perspectives pushed by different indviduals in discussion of the conflict – the problem of course is that these differing perspectives often ignore or are wilfully ignorant of other valid and legitimate points of view which dont reinforce their preference.

    Now, as I queried Pinchas – are you comfortable with the actions that the IDF take to ensure security/safety?

    A good example of a moral concern was the killing of Shehadah in Gaza.

    The IDF dropped a bomb on an apartment building and certainly killed Shehadah but also killed 14 other people and injured 50 odd additionally. Was it morally ok for you to kill those additional people (including 8 children) to get Shehadah?

  • Pinchas says:

    I feel as do the vast majority of Israelis surveyed & who have to live with the consequences, that in return for peace and security, there should be 2 viable states side by side…The Arabs surveyed want no Israel in any borders.
    I am not there and its not my life that’s on the line. It is often an 18 year old draftee, who does not know whether an Arab woman with a big stomach in an ambulance is in labor or a shahida with a suicide belt or covering weapons being carried by a Red Crescent ambulance. Something which the Red Cross closed its eyes to for a long time,then were “shocked” to find out.The “occupation” is just the current excuse for Arab terror,it has been ongoing for centuries.An interesting illustration of what it is/was really about was when the Arabs opened fire on defenceless Jews praying at the Temple Wall because it was “insult to Islam”.
    Abbas is doing everything possible to evade final status talks because he knows he cannot deliver,there has been too much Arab hate indoctrination and too many false promises. Hamas AGAIN announced yesterday that they will never recognise Israel.
    As for the Palestine industry or cult,I am at best confused over their motives. They routinely ignore everything the Palestinians say and do. I wonder how much time Stewart and the like have spent in Kurdistan,Sudan,the Horn of Africa?Zimbabwe,etc etc? How many slogans they have for the treatement of Copts,Bhais?Gays,Hazira,”Blashphemers”,”Apostates” etc etc.? How often they have demonstrated for them? How many “freedom ships” they have sailed there?
    I tend to think if you criticise Israel,thats your prerogative,if you criticise only Israel you are an antisemite or charitably, indoctrinated & blinkered beyond reason.
    The Sydney Peace Foundation by any objective measure is ideologically driven,as for some of their faculty,enough said.

    Kind Regards

  • TheSadducee says:


    A couple of thoughts –

    You may not be there, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t make a value-based judgement on particular circumstances. After all, I haven’t been present at a murder, yet I consider them to be wrong.

    Also, I’m not denying the intransigence and rejectionism of the Palestinian (and other Arab/Islamic etc) groups in terms of making a peace deal.

    But this only partially affects the context and one’s judgement on actions undertaken in the WB. After all, I do not think it is reasonable to suggest that it is ok for the IDF to destroy a family’s home because one of its members is a terrorist and/or rejects Israel’s existence etc. Would you agree with this?

    Additionally, I would also note that you are queried about Israel’s actions and the questionable morality associated with these and yet you list Palestinian/Arab/Islamist actions instead of dealing with the question at hand in any meaningful way. Why is this?

    Do you feel that there is an unbalanced presentation by Stewart? Avigail? Larry?

    I’m certainly not one to minimise the problems involved with all parties and am open to frank discussion on the topic. Are you?

  • Seraphya says:

    Pinchas – I tend to think if you criticise Israel,thats your prerogative,if you criticise only Israel you are an antisemite or charitably, indoctrinated & blinkered beyond reason.

    That is ridiculous in the context of Jews! In the context of non-Jewish exclusive criticism of Israel, you may have a point. However, each person has their own pet issues in terms of environmental issues, political issues, or any other issues. So if someone disproportionally talks about an issue whether is be Tibet or the gas pipeline in the US that is perfectly understandable. So to with issues relating to Israel. When Israel is demonized as opposed to constructively criticized then you are probably correct, but even in that case some people are just tired of being told that they can’t criticize so they go over the top.

    In the context of Jews, then of course Jews care about what is being done in their name. In the same way that Chinese people would feel more strongly about Chinese mistreatment of ethnic minorities in China. Similarly an American might have felt more inclined in WWII to protest the interment of the Japanese even though it wasn’t nearly as bad as the Holocaust because it was their “own side” that was doing something wrong.

  • Pinchas says:

    A murder is to be condemned as a murder when it is proven to be a murder.That is not synonymous with a Palestinian claim. Remember the Palestinian claim of 500 civillians killed in Jenin? Or Hamas claims of dead children,including amongst others a deputy police chief as a child,or other Pallywood stunts,a funeral for the media where the corpse jumped off the bier as a drone flew over? etc etc? Care to Google Pallywood?
    The bomb on the Gaza house if it was known by Israel to be full of children is clearly wrong. I do not remember any evidence presented to that effect. Doccumentation to that effect from responsible entities is evidence. Anymous claims, a second or third hand report is not.
    Destroying a home in the WB because someone rejects Israels right to exist is news to me. Please provide examples?
    My understanding is that the demolitions are now almost non existent,except for Jewish settlements. Unfortunately there had to be a disincentive for the terrorist who believes he or she is getting 72 virgins and all his & his families sins will be forgiven. Did I enjoy it? No.Did I dance in the streets and hand out candy.? No.! Do I know a better way? I don’t. Maybe you can enlighten me on how to encourage the families to report any terrorist plots beforehand rather than them having an in your face celebration,after the slaughter. ? Halper by the way is using the demolitions for his own agenda and it has precious little to do with the demolitions.
    Unbalanced presentation by Avigail etc? Sorry with time constraints I will just have to refer you back to the replies above including mine,they are full of criticism for the presentations.

  • Pinchas says:

    I said ONLY Israel,not as Palsas their pet project, I repeat I said exclusively Israel without any consideration of what else is happening or hapenned there.
    Even Finklestein calls them a cult. They do not have any other humanitarian issues,they love Pals so much but do not care how many are executed out of hand or tortured etc by Hamas or Fatah.
    In the context of Jews, note I also said blinkered & indoctrinated. Israel is NOT claiming to act in the name of Jews, Helen Margolis or anybody else. Israel is acting for Israel and its survival.Israel offers a refuge for Jews ,it has never claimed to represent all Jews.Maybe you can quote a statement by the govt of Israel where Israel claims it acts in the name of all Jews.?
    I am surprised you have not heard of Jewish anti semites. The Soviet Union,the Communist party and Stalin had plenty. So did the Church.
    South Africa has its own supply.They only see Israel not their own actions with their neighbour Mugabe,who survives in power,only because of the lifeline offered to him by SA.So what do they do.? They boycott Israel,not Turkey,not the Arabs,not China not Mugabe but Israel.

  • @Mendy
    I chose Hillel because he is a great teacher and he is relevant. His articulation of the ethic of reciprocity is a powerful unifier between various faith communities and cultural systems. For me it is an important ethical guide. Yes, perhaps I would differ with Hillel about his understanding of the chosen people as he understood it 2000 years ago, but if Hillel lived today and had the knowledge of the subsequent 2000 years since he lived we might agree on many more ideas.

    In terms of the Talmud. Yes, I do not have a detailed knowledge of the Talmud, as I would suspect many of us here do not. I do look forward to continuing to spend more time However, I have spent a lifetime learning the Tanakh and I reject an absolutist, literal interpretation of it.

    I reject a literalist view that supports the ethnic cleaning of a people (eg of the inhabitants of Cannan: Deut 7:1; of the Midianites: Nu 31:6, of the Amalekites: Sam 15:3. I reject Levitical rules that state that of homosexuality is a sin (Lev 18:19), or state you must not touch the skin of a dead pig (Lev 11:7-8) (i.e. football made from pig skin cannot be touched), must not wear clothes with two kinds of threads (Lev. 19:19), must not plant two different kinds of crops in the same field (Lev 19:19), must not have short cropped (i.e shaved) hair (Lev 19: 27) or must not have tattoos (Lev 19:28).

    However, I do support Levitical rules that promote virtues like honesty (Lev 19:35), respect for the alien (Lev 19:33), charity, respect and generosity for the poor (Lev 19:9) and the virtue ensuring time for rest (Lev 19:3). I support the vision of the prophets that call for people to do what is just, love mercy and walk humbly with God (Mic 6:8) or to see that justice rolls on like a river and righteousness like a never-failing stream (Am 5:2).

    Each generation faces new challenges and acquires new knowledge and experience which demand reinterpreting religious text, rather than rigidly adhering to rules or beliefs for another period of time.

    I reject the principle that only one people is chosen. I understand the need for that concept at one time in history. However, today I see that all people are chosen people, all people are God’s people and all land is God’s land. I believe that modern international law and the principles of international human rights law marry well with such thinking and can assist in a just resolution of conflicts.

    To bring it back to Larry’s article – on the ethical choices to be made in relation to war and peace:

    ‘Who is the hero?’ Ask the rabbis of the Talmud. Their answer: ‘One who changes an enemy into a [friend].’ Jay Rothman, Resolving Identity-based Conflict, 1997, p. xiii.

  • @Pinchas
    We have some points of agreement and other points of disagreement.

    A. For the points we agree on

    1. Antisemitic imagery of Israel and Jews in the media in the Middle East.

    One of the challenges with discussion about the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is time. Now if I had all the time in the world I would critically respond to the valid issues that you have raised e.g. anti-Semitic statements within various media in Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Iran for example. I do not spend the time on such analysis as I accept at face value the allegations you have made. I have seen enough of such clips on my own and had enough conversations in my personal and professional life to know that such statements do impact people on the ground. It is clear that such actions are detrimental to peace and a source of instability to the region and closer to home.

    2. Positive examples of aspects of liberal democracy within Israel (within the Green Line) being lived out

    There are many positive acts of liberal democracy that are being lived out in Israel. The examples that you gave typify this. However, these in and of itself are only part of a wider social-political-cultural-legal system that need to be considered. It is because of this broader context that we have a different perspective.

    3. Israel has real security fears

    Yes, without a doubt Israel has genuine security fears. How is Israel to deal with rockets, mortars, the threat of suicide attacks the threats of international war? But again there is a wider social-political-cultural-legal system that needs to be considered. Again it is because of our different perspectives on this context that means we have different policy perspectives. Despite what you may think my goal is to ensure the maximum number of human beings Jewish-Israeli, Palestinian-Israeli and Palestinians can find political solutions that respect mutual security, justice and identity needs.

    B. For the points we disagree on

    Before I mention points of disagreement it would be good to hear more of what you are critical of about Israel. I have heard loud and clear your points of concern about Palestinians and ‘Arabs’.

    C. Questions to consider

    1. The mirror question in relation to media

    How are Palestinians presented in the education system in Israel and in Israeli media? For example are Palestinians
    • presented as terrorists,
    • and their leadership reduced to people who instigate violence and ‘never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity’,
    • portrayed as the exclusive rejectors of peace,
    • denied a nationality and lumped into a broad ‘Arab’ group who have no legitimate claim to the land and can go live somewhere else with all the other Arab nations
    • referred to as thieves – who stole land
    • referred to as rapists
    • referred to (or have been referred) to as being like cockroaches (e.g. speech by Raphael Eitan, Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defence Forces)


    2. Do Palestinians have genuine security fears?

    What is it like to be a 12 year old Palestinian living in Bethlehem, Hebron or Nablus? How would a child perceive Israeli soldiers and settlers? What psychological scars are left from seeing a home demolition? Olive trees being uprooted or burned…land being confiscated..people being shot in the chest with live bullets, rubber bullets or tear gas canisters

    What is it like for Palestinians living in Gaza? What is it like to be living in a closed zone?…where there is limited freedom of movement. How would a child have experienced the 2008-2009 attack on Gaza by Israel? [And yes we can ask the question about a child in Sderot – Goldstone raised this in his report – the point is looking for mutual recognition of genuine security fears of both Palestinians and Israelis]

    D. Differences in communication style

    Pinchas we appear to have two different styles of communication. I am feeling from you more of a ‘shoot first…ask questions later’ approach is being used. A more constructive approach to an exchange of ideas could be to slow the pace down a little, rather than jump straight in and assume that everyone who shows a glint of sympathy for the Palestinian narrative is an antisemite.

    E. Criticism, Israel and antisemitism

    For a constructive view of criticism see:

    Noam Sheizaf, “No, criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism” 972 magazine, 21 May 2012

    “In fact, it could be the best thing a Jew can do these days.

    The Jerusalem Post has published an op-ed titled, “Yes, all criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic!” As any philosophy student can recognize, it’s one of those arguments that makes the entire debate meaningless – if something is everything then it’s also nothing – but the piece is worth reading (and responding to) nonetheless. The author captures – unintentionally – the zeitgeist in Israeli politics, and also in large parts of the Jewish world. Both have ceased to differentiate between diplomacy, politics, and anti-Semitism as a special form of racism. In this exercise, evidence is meaningless…

    …I am not a big fan of Israeli romanticism – the longing for the lost democratic and liberal past, which I do not believe ever really existed – but I would say this: Israeli politics in the past had the ability to be relaxed enough, focused enough on consensus-building, for it to hold together a structure with many internal contradictions: Judaism and democracy, socialism and free market, Zionists and anti-Zionists. The new Israeli right would like the center of the political system and the public sphere, the former place of fragile consensus, to be ideologically and ethnically pure, and labeling any challenge as an existential danger is an important part of this process. The idea of across-the-board purity was popular in Europe in the late 19th century and in the first half of the 20th century. I’ll stop here.

    In the face of such a threat, old truths must be repeated: Criticism of the Israeli government is important, and it’s important most of all for Israelis, because power needs always to be criticized.’

    See also


  • @Joe in Australia

    I would support the ICC undertaking war crimes investigations for both Israel and Palestine.

    Goldstone raised this possibility – of the crime of rocket fire on Southern Israel and the disproportionate use of force on Gaza

    Understanding the role of the ICC in Gaza

    Australian citizens (Jewish, Palestinian or otherwise) should be on notice that volunteering for service in armed conflict may lead to investigations for war crimes by the ICC. And yes as I identified this is a theoretical reality as opposed to realistic option as politically, for the next 20 years or so, such an investigation would not be carried out by the ICC. One of the main criticisms of the ICC is it can only practically conduct war crimes investigations for crimes committed in Africa, rather than elsewhere.

  • @TheSadducee
    Thank you for at least raising the possibility with Pinchas that due consideration might be needed to be given before judgment and accusations were made.

    In terms of my own motivations. I grew up in a country town in a religious family with a clear message of social justice. I was aware at an early age of the tension between on one hand the call from religious texts for social justice, however, on the other hand it was religious leaders and politicians who used religion to maintain the staus quo – which often disenfranchised the poor and needy. My dad was on the 1965 freedom ride, and so we had a strong sense of call for activism for indigenous rights. I was a member of a community unity group between indigenous and non-indigenous people.

    As a young adult I was reminded of the profound tragedy of the Holocaust when I visited Yad Vashem, as a twenty six year old. I had specifically travelled to Israel to seek out a community of Palestinians and Jewish-Israelis who were intentionally seeking to live together and I found Neve Shalom/Wahat al-Salam (“Oasis of Peace”). This experience was affirmed when I visited the school of Abuna Elias Chacour who has dedicated his life to teaching Palestinians about the Holocaust and the Jewish-Israelis about the connection of Palestinians to the land as recorded in his autobiography “Blood Brothers”. I left Israel and Palestine a changed person. I could see that despite the violence, peace was indeed possible; but it was crucial for individuals to hear and empathise with the collective stories of pain, fear and hopes, and stand in solidarity with another.

    In the decade since my time in Israel I continue to seek out the possibility for two states. However, the prospect of a two state solution is rapidly diminishing (or has passed) as each day passes as settlements and the separation barrier continue to expand and the prospective Palestinian state is being whittled away.

    I have worked as a teacher and have taught amongst Arabic speaking youth in Sydney. I am aware of the antisemitism and prejudice that exists within certain sectors of our community here in Sydney and the challenges to overcome this. And despite what some on this site may think I actively sought to challenge and admonish all forms of racism.

    My motivation for Palestine and Israel specifically reflects my religious connection, my personal relationships, my sense for justice and my sense of the impact this conflict places on global security. Strategically what happens in Palestine and Israel affects the relationship between Islamic communities and non-Islamic communities from Morocco to Philippines and Indonesia; to relations between communities in Sydney and other parts of Australia. Palestine and Israel is not a local issue only, it has a global ramifications.

    I humanly do not have much more time available to spend on other conflicts or other environmental causes. My family and children miss their father enough because of my commitment to this issue.

    We live but a blink of an eye on this tiny fragile planet. We can only do what we can do. I have chosen this as a life-long cause. Because it will not be going anywhere fast.

    Everyone has to make a choice of what they can do with the limited time they have. Modern consumerist culture entices people to spend their time on pleasure. For those that choose social action this must be balanced with work, family, friends and other commitments.

    I understand why someone would choose to look cynically at someone’s motivations for taking an interest in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. However, concluding that someone is antisemitic or the like because that person focuses their attention on this issue rather than another political-social-environmental speaks more of them than the person they are potentially defaming. I am a glass half-full kind of person. I give a person the benefit of the doubt and will make judgment based on (hopefully) critical reflection not knee-jerk reaction.

  • TheSadducee says:


    Thank you for the reply and your interesting personal remarks and I apologise on behalf of others for some of the rough treatment you have received here.

    I would only like to take up your assertion that the conflict in Israel/Palestine has an impact on Muslim & non-Muslim communities around the world. Why is that?

    Are you suggesting that there is a religious element to the conflict from the Islamic perspective?
    To distort Tertullian – what has Jerusalem to do with Sydney?

    As to other concerns, I personally do not think that an argument can be reasonably made to suggest that the Israel/Palestine conflict is the most important conflict in the world – surely conflicts perpetuated by the super powers have vastly more global influence and impacts than this?

  • Sam says:

    The Sadducee

    You have apologised to Stewart on behalf of others. Why do you assume that those “others” would want any sort of apology given to him? Do it on your own behalf if you wish. The “rough treatment” you allude to is also your opinion only. You do presume too much.

  • TheSadducee says:


    Hardly a reaction due to presumption as opposed to personal embarrassment.

    Here you have a relatively moderate voice, and external to our community, commenting on an open piece and he gets confronted with harsh assertions, innuendoes etc – most likely without commentators actually having reading his views.

    Hardly a shining example of tolerance and informed discourse, and for that, I am sorry, especially for, and on behalf of, those who don’t feel embarrassment themselves.

  • Mendy says:


    For what it’s worth, it may be a good idea for you to read this article by Isi Leibler.

    May assist you to understand why I and I would imagine many, many others would shed any crocodile tears for what goes on in the areas you hold so dear.

    One more point to make…you brought up Hillel the other day.

    Hillel was one of the early codifiers of the Talmud which explains and gives directives and interpretations on what the Torah says.

    The Talmud is very clear about what to do with the Land of Israel and the Torah is very clear about it’s borders.

    Hillel as a Tanna would not have followed your “plucked convenient statement” in the event that Jews were to be threatened or killed.

    The Law of Kum V’al Yaharog is clear and as a Tanna he would have followed if not formulated the principle that one does what one has to do when their life or the Land of Israel is threatened.

    He also said as you “plucked but looked the other way” that he who saves a life is as if he saved the whole world. He wasn’t talking about anyone who was about to be killed, becoming a pacifist, or a dead hero.

    The concept of turn the other cheek is yours, but in fact as we have witnessed through the ages that not only the cheek was turned the other way so too, the eyes were averted as were the good christian morals right throughout the ages.

    Now read on!


    The Nakba Hoax in Retrospect
    May 24, 2012 by Isi Leibler

    No revisionist or post Zionist spin can plausibly deny that the War of Independence was an attempt by a coalition of Arab states to annihilate us. But as Goebbels used to say “Repeat the same lie again and again and ultimately people will believe it”…writes Isi Leibler.

    Recent years have witnessed successful efforts by increasing numbers of radical Israeli-Arabs, in conjunction with their kinsmen beyond Israel, to project into the public discourse a narrative which portrays their antecedents as innocent victims of a conflict which led to their dispossession and expulsion. They mourn the consequences of the War of Independence but suppress the fact it was their fathers who rejected the UN partition plan and embarked on a war of annihilation against Israel. Their approach is akin to Germans mourning the tragedy of their losses during World War ll, implying that it was a byproduct of Allied criminality rather than Nazi aggression.

    It is understandable that Israeli-Arabs lament the fleeing and even expulsion of their kinsmen in the course of war. But in lieu of mourning their losses or commemorating humanitarian tragedies, their leaders are promoting hatred of the people amongst whom they live, garnering support for vengeance and delegitimization of the Jewish state.

    They also seem quite nonchalant about the fact that they are identifying themselves with those in surrounding Arab countries who aspire to annihilate us.

    Although Israeli-Arabs have been described as a social underclass similar to African-Americans or Hispanics in the United States, they undeniably enjoy the highest standard of living, level of literacy, and freedom in stark contrast to the poverty and tyranny under which most of their kinsmen in neighboring Arab countries languish.

    Yet, notwithstanding this, a significant number of Israeli-Arabs continue inciting hatred against the people amongst whom they are domiciled and the Zionist state which provides them with full equality and the ability to benefit from all the services provided by an advanced welfare infrastructure.

    “Your independence is our Nakba”[Catastrophe] is a slogan constantly in use. “Jewish independence is our day of mourning” was chanted by thousands of demonstrating Arab Israelis. Arab-Israeli MK Taleb El Sana proclaimed to Nakba protesters that “the Nakba is equivalent to the destruction of the First and Second Temples”.

    Those directing such venomous campaigns which frequently result in violence, do not appreciate that by promoting such provocative public rallies, they not only outrage the majority of Israelis amongst whom they live, but they are creating tensions which will ultimately make their own lives in Israel intolerable.

    They also fail to take into account that the majority of their neighbors are themselves refugees or descendants of refugees from all over the world who found haven from persecution and violence in Israel.

    In fact, a very large component of them – 850,000 – suffered pogroms and persecution in Arab countries in 1948, and were forcibly expelled and their properties and worldly possessions were confiscated. One can visit virtually every Arab city in the Middle East and witness the remnants of synagogues and cemeteries from former vibrant major Jewish communities which were destroyed because of Arab hatred.

    Yet the descendants of these Jewish refugees were fully integrated and no longer label themselves with refugee status. In contrast, Arab refugees have been deliberately maintained as pawns in the Arab-Israeli conflict and are the only refugee group in the world which continues to be globally funded in order to serve as a vehicle to undermine an existing state.

    Their squalid refugee status has been deliberately sustained for generations with offspring being brainwashed with hatred into believing that the day would come when they would return and repossess properties forfeited in a war of aggression initiated by their antecedents.

    Yet just a few drops of oil from barrels produced by the wealthy Arab states could have provided far in excess of what was required to fund the resettlement and integration of these refugees and their descendants into their own societies.

    The situation is even more outrageous when one realizes that rehabilitation from their refugee status does not even necessitate adaptation to a new cultural environment. When a Russian or European Jew immigrates to Israel, he must adjust to a totally different lifestyle in terms of language, culture and even climate. In contrast, an Arab need only travel a few miles in order to attach himself to an identical cultural and religious community to that to which he was nurtured from birth.

    Of course, the reason why the vast majority of Arab Israelis are adamant about living in Israel is because even as a minority they are better off socially, economically and educationally in a democratic Jewish state than living amongst their own kinsmen.

    There is nothing which precludes people in a democracy from maintaining unconventional or even controversial customs as they deem fit in the context of their private lives. But if Israeli- Arabs publicly indulge in activities which mourn the creation of the state in which they live as a catastrophe and demand the right of return for their refugee brethren and their offspring -– a step which would end the Jewish majority in Israel – they are playing with fire and provoking resentment amongst the majority of Israelis which will inevitably result in making their lives in Israel unbearable.

    Can one visualize elements within a Jewish diaspora community seeking to incite hatred against the host community and undermine cherished national ideals or symbols? In such a case, the bulk of the Jewish community itself would welcome punitive action by the government to deter deviants from within their ranks generating hatred and prejudice against them.

    Thus, the government has a responsibility not only to Jews but equally to decent Israeli-Arabs who seek to peacefully co-exist and prosper in this country, to ensure that any such provocative organizations or groups (which many would consider treasonable), at the very least, are effectively denied government funding.

    Describing such activity as treasonable, shocking though it may sound, is justifiable. The Nakba commemoration operates in complete synchronization with the orchestrated global campaign to demonize and delegitimize Israel. It is part of the new assault which seeks to suppress the reality that Israel fought in 1948 to defend itself against forces seeking its annihilation. It amounts to an attempt to delegitimize Israel by transforming public discourse about the rights and wrongs of the Arab-Israeli conflict to one in which “the injustice caused to the Palestinians” is defined as the source of the problem. If we fail to challenge and repudiate this false narrative, we do so at our peril and expose ourselves to immeasurably horrendous long term negative repercussions.

    Isi Leibler lives in Jerusalem. He is a former president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry.

  • cb says:

    What a fantastic article! Thanks Mendy

  • Pinchas says:

    Amazing how some “peace activists” are able to convince themselves that:-
    1. Islamists beheading Christians or Buddhist monks in Thailand, Nigeria or the Phillipines or starving people to death in the Horn of Africa is somehow related to the Israeli-Palestine conflict.
    2. Millions of Muslims killed by Muslims due to inter Arab rivalry from Algeria to Yemen is also related to the conflict and the M.E would be at peace without Israel
    3.The historical Sunni Shiite rivalry would disappear
    4.Dar Al Islam is not part of Islamic culture.
    5.Minorities would no longer be persecuted in the Moslem World including apostates, Copts,females,homosexuals or Hazara etc etc.
    6.Jews expelled from Arab lands,following persecutions, progroms and property confiscation are not worthy of mention.
    7. Riots with death and destruction and Danish Moslems going around calling for Boycotts of Denmark would no longer occur as occured following the Mohamed cartoons.
    8.Demands to impose Sharia law in non Moslem countries would cease.
    9.Barbarity like public executions, hanging, stonning, beheading amputations would cease.
    10. Peace in our time would be at hand,Islamists would become peaceniks as soon as the Jewish state problem was “solved”.

    Peace lovers like the peace foundation sure are a piece of work.

  • TheSadducee says:


    Hillel most definitely did not codify the Talmud or contribute to that process. He was long dead before the Talmuds or Mishnah were formally compiled. He was a contributor to the material which went into those works but that was it.

  • Levi says:

    “Palestinians don’t want an Israeli presence, benign or otherwise, and the longer the Occupation continues, ”

    Blah, blah, blah….interestingly not one of the comments here has asked Stillman what he thinks the “Palestinians” mean when they say “occupation”…for e.g. is Tel aviv considered occupied territory?

    The rantings and ravings of a pure lunatic and apologist for terrorism

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