What are Democrats getting wrong about Palestine and Israel?

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Get almost any group of long-active Democrats together and someone will eventually point out that there are no young people (or maybe one young person) in the room, and that we need to reach out to young people. Let the conversation go on a little longer and perhaps someone will bring up Vice President Harris, and how she’s just not so great. Meanwhile:

So maybe if we want more youth involvement, we should consider not dissing a leader respected by young folks.

Get almost any group of long-active Democrats together and bring up Israel-Palestine. Any mention of that current conflict that also gives credit to the Palestinian plight MUST begin with a statement of how bad the Hamas attack was, even if that attack, and an acknowledgement of how bad it was, has already happened in the conversation. Any mention of deadly pressure on the population of Gaza, or of things blowing up in Gaza and killing Gazans, must be tempered with a clear pro-Israel statement. Even a criticisn of the absolutely awful Netanyahu government, which is essentially a MAGA-Levant franchise, needs to include something jingoistic about Isreal. This is like saying, under the Trump Era I, “Trump is a complete ass. God bless America” and if you leave off the “God bless America” part, your comment about Trump being an ass is somehow invalidated.

Polls show that the Americaucasoidsuburban world view is unabashedly pro-Israel, and acknowledgement of repression of Palestinians must always be tempered with a near-Zionistic spoon-full-of-sugar interjection among those over, say, 50. But as you get younger and younger, Americans are far more even in their treatment of the players in old Palestine, and may even be, simply, anti-Israel (while not necessarily antisemitic). (I quickly add that there is a fine line between anti-Zionist and antisemetic, and that those prone towards Zionism are the quickest to barrel past that line.) Maybe those rooms full of older Democrats should consider the fact that the way we look at the middle east of 30 years ago should be revised to keep up with the way at least half of Americans (median age in the US is 38 years old) think.

On the other hand, well, “kids these days, amiright??!!” There is a saying that you know: “Never forget.” Back when I was on the faculty at UMN, I had the privilege of co-teaching a class with Holocaust scholar Misha Penn, on race and racism, in which I handled most of the American and “scientific” racism bits, and Mischa handled most of the antisemitism and the wiping out of American Native tribes bits. Even though I had been something of an amateur scholar of Jewish History, having been married into a Jewish culture at one point, and for other reasons linked to my work in historic archaeology, I learned a lot of new stuff, from that experience, about the Holocaust. The main point: This was not a nutty idea by some Nazis that somehow came to fruition. The Nazi Holocaust was a logical next step in a centuries-long program of repression, exploitation, and eventual extermination, of Jews.

Of course, after this, the Jews of the world should get Israel, and it is incumbent on our species, in its entirety, to support that. But at the same time, the Jewish refugees and survivors in the 1940s did in fact take their new country’s land from the Palestinians, and didn’t actually pay for it. That failure to make for a fair deal is the main reason we are in this situation today. But I digress somewhat. The point is, “kids these days” seem to have lost a decade or two of “Never Forget,” and the historical plight of the Jews is sliding down the memory hole. Ignorance of the history and status of Palestine and Palestinians is run of the mill in America, and history and status of Jews is unexpectedly faded among our youth. This, in combination with the conflation of the Jewish plight with the Jewish State (currently a state that makes MAGA look normal), all twisted up in the politics of accusation and shame we are so good at in America, causes — well, a lot of bad shit on Facebook.

So how do we solve this problem? If the problem we are trying to solve is the smaller one, but an important one, of learning to have a conversation that is not self defeating and that may actually get us (us = Homo sapiens) somewhere, consider this paraphrase of Jon Lovett (who once again says smart things) on (Pod Save America): Israel will not be free unless Palestine is free; Palestine will not be free unless Israel is secure; and Israel will not be secure unless Palestinian people have hope for a better future. (He might have been paraphrasing someone else.)

Old Democrats: Start paying more attention to what the youth are saying. Mostly they are speaking a future truth that we ignore at our peril. Sometimes they are following a great time honored American tradition of forgetting the past (sometimes the very recent past, always the more ancient past) and that is partly our fault, letting that happen. And while we are at it, please stop saying that 16 year olds don’t have the maturity and knowledge to vote rationally. Voters of 18 years and over did in fact put Donald Trump in office. So just shut-TF-up old guys.

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11 thoughts on “What are Democrats getting wrong about Palestine and Israel?

  1. It is a truism that if some in society are oppressed, or perceive themselves to be oppressed, they are ripe for exploitation. This has been happening in the Gaza Strip, where Israel controls the basic necessities of life (clean water, etc.) Hamas has been able to exploit Gazans’ discontent to carve out a refuge from which they carry out attacks furthering their long-term goal of derailing the Palestinian peace process.

    Two days ago, former diplomat Richard Haass made a proposal which has a reasonable chance of success — provided current leaders back it. In a nutshell, it is that Israel and western nations work with the government of the West Bank to establish a region where Palestinians can live as free people. If this can be achieved, and it won’t be easy, it will give the Palestinians of Gaza reason to throw off the yoke of Hamas. That will only be one step toward Middle-East peace, but it will be a necessary step.

  2. “Israel will not be free unless Palestine is free; Palestine will not be free unless Israel is secure; and Israel will not be secure unless Palestinian people have hope for a better future. ”

    The Palestinians in the West Bank already have a better future. They live at a higher standard of living than most other Arab and Muslim states. Their standard of living is equivalent to Israelis. Even a fair amount of Gazans have a high standard of living. Gaza would not have luxury hotels, shopping centers, riding academies, water parks, restaurants galore, and Porsche dealerships otherwise.

    They do not want a new separate independent state. They have rejected such a state at least half a dozen different times; they have rejected peace plans over twenty times.

    They want all of Israel. They say it very plainly, over and over and over in public in Arabic. MEMRI has documented hundreds of such speeches. Perhaps we should listen to them.

    1. The strange distortion of fact with respect to the West Bank and Gaza, contrary to the information I have here in a slew of books raised red flags. The West bank, originally a part of the territory allotted to Palestine by a 1947 UN Resolution has since been encroached upon by Israel promoting settlements dotted about the territory and since split up by walls and arterial roads for use by Israeli peoples and military, only by Palestinians under duress and for limited access.

      They want all of Israel. They say it very plainly, over and over and over in public in Arabic. MEMRI has documented hundreds of such speeches. Perhaps we should listen to them.

      I decided to have a look at MEMRI and discovered that this is a basically a propaganda organisation to promote the reputation of the Israeli state and gloss over the war crimes of the Israeli state. War crimes such as repeated breaking of ceasefires to provoke Hamas in making limited responses which gives Israel the excuse for another round of ‘mowing the lawn’ [Finkelstein, Levy], IOW carpet bombing using thousands of tons of bombs, tank shells, shelling from warships etc. All in response to a few enhanced fireworks (bottle rockets0 that Hamas may use in desperation given the disparity in the capability between the protagonists.
      On MEMRI:

      The second thing that makes me uneasy is that the stories selected by Memri for translation follow a familiar pattern: either they reflect badly on the character of Arabs or they in some way further the political agenda of Israel. I am not alone in this unease.

      Selective Memri

      This explains the bias evident in both of your posts.

      For comprehensive understanding of this issue described as complex but very simple at its base this selection of books will be useful. I have not stopped with these having obtained others since creation but inclusion would make the bookmark unwieldy.


      Not sure if the above will work.

  3. “the Jewish refugees and survivors in the 1940s did in fact take their new country’s land from the Palestinians, and didn’t actually pay for it. That failure to make for a fair deal is the main reason we are in this situation today.”

    That is false. Jews paid for every square inch of private land that was for sale. Verified by two commission reports. Arabs who didn’t want to sell did not have to sell. Even the brutally antisemitic Nazi-collaborating Mufti of Jerusalem testified twice that the Jews paid for their land.

    Of course, most of the land in Mandate Palestine was state land, and the Ottoman Empire ceded it to the League of Nations. => Who then promptly gave 78% of it to Palestinian and Levantine Arabs – for free – as their homeland in Palestine. It is now called “Jordan”. And they gave (by unanimous vote, btw) 22% of it to Jewish Palestine, now Israel, whose May 14th, 1948 borders are still valid under International law and remain from river to sea.

    The Israel/Palestine problem has absolutely nothing to do with not paying for land, or taking Palestinian land. That land belonged to Ottomans for hundreds of years. The only Arabs there were Bedouins and a few tenant farmers. The major Arab landowners lived in other countries. I will grant you that today’s Palestinians have convinced themselves and half of the world that Jews stole their land, but it simply is not true.

    1. OK so there’s some details I glossed over…

      Thanks, though, for the much needed perspective.

  4. “The West bank, originally a part of the territory allotted to Palestine by a 1947 UN Resolution has since been encroached upon by Israel… “

    You need better books.

    The UN did not “allot” any territory to the Palestinians. It can not allot territory, or make a nation, or make a border because it does not have the power to do so. Which is exactly the opposite of the League of Nations, which could, and did, do all three. And the borders which the LON gave to Israel, which were on public display for 20-odd years waiting for Israel to declare its Independence, were exactly how I described them. They were from the Jordan River on the east, to the Mediterranean Sea on the west. They included all of the so-called West Bank, Gaza, and part of the Golan Heights.

    What the UN did do was make a General Assembly Resolution, which proposed a partition as part of a peace treaty. The Arabs rejected the proposal and attacked Israel in an illegal war of aggression, and seized Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) and held it until 1967 when Israel repatriated its own sovereign territory. There is no entity on the planet – including the United Nations – which recognizes the validity of the sovereignty of territory taken by a war of aggression. Jordan had no legitimate claim to that land then, and certainly does not now.

    While this territory is in dispute, nobody besides Israel has anything approaching a valid claim to it. The LON’s Mandate for Palestine (and seven treaties) are still valid International law. There was never a Palestinian state there from 1948 – 1967. And Jordan ceded all claims to it in 1995.

    MEMRI is not supposed to be a unbiased source – its mission is to accurately translate Arabic speeches, communications, and official statements into English for the Western world. “Propaganda outfit” ?!?

    All you have done here is show us your own biases and misperceptions.

  5. You need better books.

    You need more flexible thinking. Have you read those books?

    I was simplifying and concatenating in the interests of brevity as I suffer from disabilities in sight and hand mobility.

    In 1967, Israel captured the West Bank from Jordan in the Six-Day War. UN Security Council Resolution 242 followed, calling for withdrawal (return to the 1949 armistice lines) from territories occupied in the conflict in exchange for peace and mutual recognition. Since 1979, the United Nations Security Council,[54] the United Nations General Assembly,[33] the United States,[55] the EU,[56] the International Court of Justice,[57] and the International Committee of the Red Cross[34] refer to the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as occupied Palestinian territory or the occupied territories. General Assembly resolution 58/292 (17 May 2004) affirmed that the Palestinian people have the right to sovereignty over the area.

    West Bank

    Sorry for citing Wiki but ploughing again through my books finding apposite quotes that you will only mischaracterise would take time I don’t have with a cancer sick wife.

    As for Gaza see: “Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom”: Norman Finkelstein on the Many Lies Perpetuated About Gaza

    Isreal is a rogue state terrorising the hell out of Gaza’s population all because a democratically elected entity was used as a cause for the Israeli terrorism in the early years of this century. We hear much about Israel’s right to defend itself but the Palestinians are demonised for attempting, in their own feeble way, same.

  6. We’ve seen that both sides are nominally led by men who are, to be kind, horrible people. The view by the militant folks in Gaza and the militant folks in Israel that everyone on the other side is guilty of something needs to be defeated [collective responsibility needs to be removed from the mix]. Will it happen? Not until Hama stops being viewed as representing everyone in Gaza [better? being representative of everyone there] and Israel stops imposing an apartheid system that old-time south african leaders would be proud of .

  7. Israel stops imposing an apartheid system that old-time south african leaders would be proud of .

    Indeed, this is a point explored by Chomsky and Pappé in the books covers of which can be seen in my illustration ‘Bookmark’linked earlier.

    Finkelstein, another Jew BTW like the two already mentioned, also touches on this aspect and also the fact that Israel is conducting a policy of incremental or creeping genocide. That the land now disputed was empty of inhabitants and barren when the Jews began their influx (Joan Peters et. al.) has been exposed as a myth and thus can not be used as an excuse to prise Palestinians away from the lands in which they were allowed to settle after the Nakba.

    Ahron Bregman in his book depicted in Bookmark wrote, pp307-308:

    I believe that the verdict of history will regard the four decades of occupation described in this book as a black mark [and spreading wider as if from an upturned ink pot] in Israel and indeed, Jewish history. This was a period in which Israel, helped by the Jewish diaspora, particularly in America, proved that even nations which have suffered unspeakable tragedies of their own can act in similarly cruel ways when in power themselves. Back in 1967, the defence minister, Moshe Dayan, observed that if he had to choose to be occupied by any force among the nations of the world, he doubted he would choose Israel.

    My comment in parenthesis, square brackets.

    1. You can quote Finkelstein, Pappe, Morris, Chomsky all you want. They are held in high disregard by people who value facts, accuracy and history. I could link to dozens of refutations of their mistakes and deliberate mischaracterizations. You need to find them yourself.

      You have trotted out a veritable Gish Gallop of Palestinian propaganda points – it would take a week to respond fully. Meanwhile, let me say this: You have done an excellent job of laying out the Palestinian narrative. But, do you even know what the Israeli side of the story is? It’s not too easy to find. I know.

      About three years ago, I realized that I knew very little about the conflict and decided to learn the truth of the matter. I looked at BOTH sides. I read the source documents. I learned about actual International law. Google is decidedly not your friend on this – the Palestinian narrative overwhelms. The question is, is it correct?

      I can tell you that the Palestinian narrative time after time after time – is not correct. The United Nations position actually contradicts their own policy. The entire narrative that Jews stole land, are occupiers, expelled Arabs, have illegal settlements, that Israel is an apartheid state – all of these are either completely untrue, or have very little truth to them.

      I urge you to start your own quest for the truth. I took me several hundred hours of study. I asked myself one simple question which demanded an answer: Whose land is it?

      You might want to start by reading the Mandate for Palestine itself – it is still valid International law. And then, you might want to read this, as it addresses what are the legal borders of Israel according to actual International law:


  8. You can quote Finkelstein, Pappe, Morris, Chomsky all you want.

    Thank you I might just do that also others that have contributed to opening the discussion in ways that the mainstream media and the likes of AIPAC membership try to suppress.

    Try reading Gideon Levy’s ‘The Punishment of Gaza’ which exposes the sheer violent international lawbreaking of Cast Lead. Finkelstein also describes this in his book ‘Gaza: An Inquest into its Martyrdom’ an essential read. In the book Finkelstein also describes the venom (from such Dershowitz) which greeted the Goldstone report on that massacre of the innocents and rebuts their bull with aplomb. I expect that you will try rebuttal using later criticism of the Goldstone report, don’t bother the horse is already bolted and reports from later Israeli attacks on Gaza only serve to underline the findings of that report. You accuse me of bias, that is pot kettle black. Also I have been studying this issue for much longer than three years and fully understand some facts on the ground.

    That not everybody finds Finkelstein unreliable is brought out by comments on the dust jacket of the hardback:

    “Norman Finkelstein, probably the most serious scholar on the conflict in the Middle East, has written an excellent book on Israel’s invasions of Gaza. Its comprehensive examination of both the facts and the law of these assaults provides the most authoritative account of this brutal history.”—John Dugard, Emeritus Professor of Public International Law, Leiden University, and former Special Rapporteur to the UN Human Rights Council on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, 2001-2008

    “No scholar has done more to shed light on Israel’s ruthless treatment of the Palestinians than Norman Finkelstein. In Gaza, he meticulously details Israel’s massacres of the Palestinians in that tiny enclave during Operations Cast Lead and Protective Edge, while demolishing the myths Israel and its supporters have invented to disguise these shocking events.”—John J. Mearsheimer, R. Wendell Harrison Distinguished Service Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago

    “As a modern-day Sisyphus, rolling the heavy boulder up the hill of disinformation, Norman Finkelstein does not waver in his determination to take it to the crest. Although a non-lawyer, he masters the legal issues, the Geneva Conventions, ICJ advisory opinions, UN resolutions, and commission reports, weaving them into a compelling narrative, an articulate appeal for justice, a protest against the moral cop-out of the international community. Finkelstein refutes the Big Lie and many arcane little lies about Gaza and Palestine. A scholarly manual for every politician and every person concerned with human rights.”—Alfred de Zayas, Professor of Law, Geneva School of Diplomacy, and UN Independent Expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order

    See more here:

    Gaza: An Inquest into its Martyrdom

    Now, I have only scratched the surface here on Gaza will likely follow up with demonstrating the duplicity of the Israeli governments when engaging in ‘peace talks’ in bad faith to allow a halt in any formation of a Palestinian state whilst they themselves prepare for the next big assault on the Gaza strip goading Hamas, by picking off people with sniper fire or by taking prisoners, this to provoke Hamas into a response which can be used to cover an Israel need to ‘defend’ itself. It is never acknowledged that the Palestinians need to defend themselves also.

    I have also yet to describe fully the manner in which Palestinians in the West bank have been forced off their lands and walled in to a disjointed existence where basic rights of self determination and freedom of expression are denied them. The vandalism of Palestinian land, destroying crops and buildings further impoverishing those much put upon people, also being picked off by snipers or bored settlers, settlers who often use extreme violence to force Palestinians out of their homes destroying everything left behind, is a marked feature. Their lives are most certainly not rosy as reading any of the books that I have depicted will show.

    The war crimes and crimes against humanity of such as Sharon and Netanyahu are legion and ugly.

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