Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Why Can't Israel Negotiate With Hamas?

What people often forget when they ask this question is the following set of considerations that I found in a great post on a blog by Izgad, a historian and a fellow autistic:
Hamas is an institution devoted to the delegitimization of the Jewish people and ultimately the violent destruction of the State of Israel. As such it is impossible for Israel to ever engage in any form of official dialogue  with Hamas. To do so would be to admit that there is some validity to their claims to the extent that these claims deserve to be placed before the forum of polite society for consideration. If such a discussion were ever to occur Israel would automatically come out the loser simply in terms of the fact that it would mean that Israel, unlike other countries, would be placed in the subservient position of having to defend its own legitimacy. This would be the case even of Israel actually were to win this debate.
Izgad and I have had passionate arguments about a variety of issues, both on my blog and on his. However, I applaud him for his lucidity when he talks about what I consider to be the central problem of our Western civilization:
I do not see either Goldstone or Bollinger as anti-Semites who wish to see Israel destroyed. I see them as simply modern liberals unable to resist granting legitimacy to radical Islam even as this means asking first Israel and eventually the rest of western civilization to write its suicide note. If we in the West, including liberals, are going to survive it will because we understand the difference between those ideas which we can respectfully disagree with and tolerate and those ideas which, by definition, are declarations of war to be fought at all costs. 
Izgad offers the same line of reasoning here as Žižek who insists that our ridiculous belief that we need to tolerate all kinds of intolerance and barbarity will end up destroying our civilization. Unless we recognize that not every opinion needs to be tolerated and not all lifestyle choices deserve equal respect, we are doomed to lose all the advances our civilization has made in terms of human rights to those who are unfettered by such inane beliefs. 

Westerners still follow the colonial model that forces them to interact with non-Westerners as if they were little children in need of paternal guidance and kind condescension on the part of the wise and all-knowing West. The West's incapacity to see representatives of other civilizations as valid human beings in their own right leads it either to drop bombs on them whenever it feels like or to patronize them through fake tolerance. Western Liberals congratulate themselves for being different from Conservatives in their attitude to the non-Westerners. In reality, though, both attitudes stem from the same profound conviction that non-Westerners are not fully human and, as a result, there is no need to hold them to the same standards and treat them in the same way as we do our fellow Westerners.

In the conflict between Israel and Hamas, Western Liberals have demonstrated clearly that, for them, Israelis belong to their own Western civilization, while Palestinians do not.


Pagan Topologist said...

I am skeptickal. It seems to me that countries often take the "You are not legitimate" attitude towards each other. How is Hamas' attitude towards Israel different from that of The U. S. and Russia towards each other for most of the second half of the XX century? Either would have completely destroyed the other if they could have gotten away with it.

Clarissa said...

I don't think that's true. It was never the goal of the USSR to destroy all Americans. The point was to convert them. The existence of the US as a nation was never disputed.

Hitler, for example, wanted to destroy every Slavic person in existence. Which obviously means that entering into a dialogue with him if you were a Slav made little sense.

Pagan Topologist said...

We were certainly taught when I was a child that it would never be possible to negotiate with Russians, and that all we could do was protect ourselves from them, and that furthermore a massive nuclear war with them was inevitable, sooner or later.

el said...

RE cold war: I always watch TV on the evening of the New Year. This year on the main Russian channel (ORT) they invited Sting with the song "Russians" about the cold war. In case you or Clarissa haven't heard, here is the official video:
I heard his name for the 1st time then and was charmed by his voice and beautiful lyrics.

May be both sides were taught the other was horrible, but I don't think average Joe felt such personal hate, as Palestinians feel for us, Israeli Jews.

Clarissa said...

And vice versa. I have heard people who used to be completely normal back in Ukraine say a few years after moving to Israel that "a good Arab is a dead Arab."

Identities are deadly, people.

Steve Hayes said...

Things that people believe are not negotiable before they enter into negotiations often change in the course of negotiations. That certainly happened in the negotiations that led to the end of apartheid in South Africa.

One of the results of it was that we got a liberal democratic constitution neogtiated and drawn up in the absence of liberals.

Anonymous said...

Isn't it also condescending to tolerate and subsidize Israel's human rights abuses? Many liberals and conservatives refuse to hold Israel to the same standard we hold other nations to. Isn't that also a version of patronization? Israel is a valid Nation, a strong one at that. When she uses overwhelming force to continue her empire building, we accept and defend for fear of being labelled anti semite. Western tolerance of Israel's barbarity and intolerance (including the current government's constant diplomatic insults and general disregard for Obama's presidency) is likely to lead to the destruction of the western civilization. It is likely to add fuel to our collective enemies's fire. Israel's human rights abuses legitimizes her enemies claim and gives them a moral standing (that they should not have) on world stage. It brings up the historical immorality that still plagues our country and reduces our moral stand to fight for Israel's legitimacy. We end up looking foolish by supporting Israel as we would if we are to hold Hamas's point of view. Unless we recognize that not every action Israel takes is defensive, and introduce tough sanctions against Israel, we are doomed to lose the very idea of human dignity in that area. The very idea that we heavily subsidize Israeli defense is an obvious sign of not treating that legitimate Nation as an equal.

Also, do you agree that fundamental judaism (which is alive and well in Israel) is just as stifling to women rights as fundamental christianity or Islam? Should we accept that too or is that exempt?

I think in this struggle western conservatives and liberals have demonstrated that neither belongs to their civilization.

Clarissa said...

"Western tolerance of Israel's barbarity and intolerance (including the current government's constant diplomatic insults and general disregard for Obama's presidency) is likely to lead to the destruction of the western civilization."

-It's very difficult for me to take this statement seriously. A diplomatic insult to Obama will lead to the destruction of western civilization? Seriously? I think that Obama is a good guy but you definitely exaggerate his importance. Just as much as you demonize Israel.

As to fundamentalists of all religions, I dislike them all equally. You can't deny, however, that an overwhelming majority of Israeli women lead completely free and unfettered lifestyles. Among the Palestinian women that simply doesn't happen.

el said...

Anonymous, the current wave of revolutions in the Middle East has nothing to do with Israel. Europe & USA military involvement in the past and today have nothing to do with Israel either and everything to do with their own interests (oil). Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq aren't Israel's fault. And I would be extremely surprised to find out that without Israel USA wouldn't experience 9/11. Israel isn't that important and as long as USA citizens believe in foreign intervention, in USA's soldiers fighting in numerous Arab countries, USA will attract all the fuel it "needs" without Israel.

I've been living in Israel since early teens (born in Ukraine) and secular Jewish women are not less free than in USA. Arab women are completely another matter because of their own culture.

Clarissa, those Ukrainian Jews may talk, but in practice Arab citizens are free to live in Tel-Aviv, while I would be killed, had I entered many an Arab village in Israel itself. Just yesterday Arab terrorists from Gaza fired an anti-tank missile at school bus, which usually has ~50 children. Imagine what would've been, had it held all of them, instead of only a driver and the last boy. [A local resident: “The other kids had just gotten off.”] In the morning paper I read the boy was in critical condition. Haven't found any new info yet.

el said...

Clarissa, I wanted to ask what do you think of the following events:

A priest of a Church in Florida of America, according to media reports, burned Muslim holy book Quran recently ... KANDAHAR, Afghanistan, April 2 (Xinhua) -- At least nine people were killed and over 70 others injured as thousands of people staged a protest demonstration...
30 suspects detained over killing 7UN workers in N. Afghan town

Jones said he feels no responsibility for the violence sparked by his church's action... "We wanted to raise awareness of this dangerous religion and dangerous element," Jones said. "I think [today's attack] proves that there is a radical element of Islam."

I don't mean he should be held legally responsible, but shouldn't USA politics have tried to interfere, invite him for a serious talk to prevent the deed? After all, he widely publicized his intentions. What's the point of letting 1 fanatic have such negative influence? Yes, on the other side there are fanatics too, but what good can come from throwing oil in the fire? From helping terrorists recruit (among USA Muslims too)? Shouldn't USA have stopped him out of practical considerations, like not living in the ideal world?

Clarissa said...

No, my friend, no. Criminals don't get provoked to commit their crimes. They commit them because they are criminals.

If we start censoring free speech, we will simply become another Iran, that's all. And the fanatics will remain just as fanatical.

The central idea for the existence of the US is it's protection of the freedoms of religion, free speech, press, and association. In spite of all its faults, this is still the country that is dedicated to upholding these freedoms more than anybody else in the world. If this commitment to upholding them cedes to some practical considerations of the moment (that are likely to change in two minutes), we should all just go home and give up on this project. Because this entire country will lose all sense if that happens.