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Subject: Damn the rhetoric on both sides. rss

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Moshe Callen
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I just read yet another piece about current life here in Israel. What the piece was doesn't matter. My problem with it was that it takes for granted the rhetoric of one of two equally unrealistic "sides" about the history and situation of the modern state of Israel. The reality is complicated of course.

1. The mythology of the international media

The popular anti-Israel mythology pretends that Jews are foreigners here and that the UN imposed the state as some sort of compensation for the Shoa and that therefore there exists here a colonialist Occupation by evil Zionists whose beliefs (rarely specified) are racist. This view imagines that all Jews left or converted in the time of the Romans.

On the other side is the equally absurd notion that because this land is the Land of the Jews that therefore no other people have a right to be here. This view makes no distinction among the various peoples here, treats them all as just Arabs and somehow therefore an enemy to be expelled. It leads to a horribly racist portrayal of African refugees as infiltrators.

An anecdote of another instance of how the attitude is counter-productive relates to the ulpan I attended. When I went, I was the only Israeli in my class. For new citizens of Israel, ulpan is free and when I went that was largely financed due to the fact that "Palestinians" paid for ulpan typically to qualify to work or study in Israel. I wholly supported this because people whose livelihood depends on peaceful interaction with Israelis are more likely to support peace with Israel. Unfortunately by the time a number of years later that my wife took ulpan in the same facility, a separate facility had been set up for "Palestinians" without the mixing of Israelis and "Palestinians" for unstated reasons. Not only is that racist but it actively works against peace and cooperation here.

2. The nature of Zionism

In the proper sense of the word, as Israelis use the term, I am not a Zionist. I am not an ideological follower of Herzl whose secular Zionism advocated a form of communism that inspired the kibbutzim and sought to change the nature of Jewish identity. Instead of being a nation and a people defined by the laws of Torah, secular Zionism sought to replace Torah as the foundation of Jewish identity with citizenship of a secular state, Israel. I am also not a religious Zionist, a follower of R' Kook who did not live to see the foundation of the modern state but who saw in the movement for such a state the beginnings of a prophesied redemption of the Jewish people. Frankly, the state has far too much history of being antagonistic to religious Jews, especially sfardim (like myself) for me to believe the state is a fulfillment of ancient prophecy.

3. Jewish claim to the Land and the analogy of the Lakota claim to the Black Hills

Nevertheless the idea that Jews are foreigners here or that the state should not exist is simply absurd. This place is the ancient and holy Land of the Jews. The best analogy is to the Black Hills and to the Lakota. Many of the Lakota have been driven elsewhere and yet they maintain that the Black Hills is their Land and insist on their rights to it. They cite treaties broken and and number of claims to establish why the Land is theirs, and they are absolutely right. On the other hand, the descendants of Europeans or other foreigners living in the Black Hills are not all going to magically vanish. If a large contingent of Lakota born and raised outside the Black Hills came back to the Black Hills and joining those Lakota still there gained the region's independence, kicking out all the non-Lakota or taking away their rights would not be a viable option. Likewise, one would in such a scenario almost certainly get those opposed fundamentally to the Lakota re-taking control of their ancestral lands; they might even take up arms to fight against it.

Israel is our ancestral land as Jews. Our presence throughout history has indelibly left its mark. The culture of this place is our people's culture in so many ways. We are not Occupiers or foreigners and we are not going anywhere. At the same time, while it might be true that the Arabs' ancestors came here as conquerors roughly a millennium and a half ago, they have lived here now for all that time. As a religious Jew, I regard them as gerim tshovim, namely non-Jewish residents with all the same rights under Torah Law as Jews. That is why as a religious Jew, I absolutely support the existence of the modern state of Israel. While the country is not perfect, its government does visibly strive to be what it purports to be, what was promised by the victorious fighters in the war of independence of 1948: a secular multi-ethnic, multi-religious state formed as a Western style democracy.

Before the state was declared, the British ruled for 20 years with an openly pro-Arab and anti-Jewish policy. They largely continued de facto the policies of the Turkish in which Jews could not own land or property here and in which Jewish populations were systematically and purposely underestimated in any census in order to justify the abrogation of rights. The practice grew up under the Turks of key-money in which the names on deeds never changed but owners in practical terms changed with handing over money in exchange for keys. So the idea that we stole land from the Arabs is largely either an outright fabrication or at best a distortion of facts.

4. Democracy and demographics

A fashion has grown up in recent years of calling all Arabs here "Palestinians", a term historically denoting Jews born in this land. The term is objectionable to most Israeli Arabs because it was taken, well after the fact, by those Arabs who rejected a secular Western-style democracy. Traditionally Israeli Arabs see "Palestinians" as traitors to the cause of Arabs here because, had all Arabs taken citizenship in 1948 when it was offered instead of only part of them doing so, Israel would have been from the beginning an Arab-majority state. Jews would have been a recognized minority with full rights amidst an Arab majority. Instead the roles are reversed.

Arabs have full rights under law here. They serve in all aspects of public and private life; they are even represented increasingly in government and the military. The notion of an "apartheid state" is patently absurd and simply insulting to everyone. That is not to say that discrimination does not exist. Arabs are a minority, a minority which the ubiquitous international media portrays as enemies of Israel. Many immigrants come here with that poisonous mind-set. Yet the discrimination is on the level of black people in present-day America, not in 1960's or 1970's South Africa.

The "Palestinians" meanwhile aren't Israelis. As per the armistice of 1948, they were formerly Jordanians. Jordan unilaterally revoked their citizenship citing an attempt by some to overthrow the government. They are therefore a large group of stateless persons living here, in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. Saudi Arabia kicked them all out. They have no rights whatsoever in any state but Israel. The problem is that their leaders have until very recently insisted on no peace with Israel on any terms. They have repeatedly rejected offers of a state and insisted on absurd demands before even starting negotiations. Frankly they've increasingly felt that their media campaign vilifying Israel begun in the 1970's with the help of Libya, Cuba and Russia is working.

5. The Present conflict

This is why the nature of the present conflict here leads to so much optimism in the area. Egypt and the PA (Palestinians Authority) are openly allied with Israel against Hamas. The PA recently tried to bring Hamas in line via a unity government; that effort failed. With the cooperation of the PA therefore, Israel systematically rounded up members of Hamas in the area of the Shomron etc (Yesha or what the press calls the West Bank). The conflict is about eliminating Hamas and putting the PA in power in Aza.

The implications of this should be clear to anyone. Abbas, the head and let's face it dictator of the PA has arranged with Israel to eliminate his chief rivals. For this assistance, Israel demands that Abbas actually negotiate in good faith. Implicit also is that "If we put you into power, we can take you out again."

6. What is needed

People both here and abroad need to recognize that neither Jews nor Arabs are going anywhere. The "Palestinians" and their supporters therefore need to give up their dreams of an Arab-only state "from the River to the Sea" as the saying goes. There is no Occupation. The idea of expansionist Settlements peopled by wild-eyed nationalists dreaming of a Greater Israel is a bogey-man of the international press and "Palestinian" mythology.

Secular democracy is the key. We need to deal with the genuine social problems of both Jews and non-Jews here in Israel. Counter-intuitive as it sounds, ignore the "Palestinians" for now; let the PA rule them, even as a separate state so long as Israel's security needs are taken care of. Within Israel, the most natural allies are the charedim (what the press styles "ultra-Orthodox" but are just the largest segment of religious Jewish society) and the Arabs. Both communities face social issues of poverty, lack of education and discrimination, especially in the workplace.

Peace may or may not come. I suspect it will soon with the PA but Hizb'alla, Islamic Jihad, etc., remain. We need to strengthen Israeli society from within. We need to unify our society by fixing the problems that separate us and by bridging gaps of understanding. For example, by law, all street signs are in Hebrew, Arabic and English; we need to promote Arabic among the non-Arab population as something more than a subject studied as little as possible in school. We need to support those charedim and Arabs who wish to serve in the army without forcing either. We need the army and universities to reasonably accommodate the religious sensibilities of both communities. We need to support the myriad social, economic and academic efforts of cooperation among Jews and Arabs and also between Israelis and "Palestinians" in our society. We also need to remember that while Jews and Arabs form the majority, there are plenty of other people here who are neither. We need to stop listening to well-meaning foreigners who base their media and foreign policies on mythology and stereotypes.
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Jasper
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One of those posts that makes RSP worth it. Deserves a thread bumb, methinks.
 
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Paul DeStefano
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Moshe, how far are you from the outbreaks and have you been in fear for your safety?
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Moshe Callen
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Geosphere wrote:
Moshe, how far are you from the outbreaks and have you been in fear for your safety?

Well, the missiles have come here of course. Nowhere in the country hasn't been hit. They've even had missiles from Aza hit the Golan and overshoot into the PA region of Yesha. We're okay though.

EDIT:
I didn't answer about fear. Sure we've been in the safe-room while the siren has gone off a few times here, although that's been over a week now. That's just luck of the draw. Friends in the suburbs like Beit Shemesh are getting them more regularly.

I found out a long time ago that the way I deal with emergencies is to do whatever I have to do to be as safe and prepared as possible and then just keep doing whatever needs doing. My reaction to fear is sort of ignoring it until the situation goes away. Then I get weak in the knees and shake all over. So am I afraid? I don't know. I'll tell you when it's all over.

EDIT 2:
I am probably more short-tempered of late though.
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Bojan Ramadanovic
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Firstly: Glad to hear you are doing well Moshe and all my best wishes to you and all of yours
Secondly: Excellent post with which I very much agree.
I just have a few clarifying questions

- You said that the citizenship was offered in 1948 that would have created Arab (or Arab speaking) majority Israel. It is very difficult to imagine this turning in any way well form Jews - particularly considering frankly appalling levels of antisemitism among the influential Muslims at the time.

Between sheer danger of handing the political control in this way and the fact that the stated goal of the Zionist movement was the creation of the nation-state of the Jews it seems utterly unbelievable to me that the offer of citizenship would have been followed through to the conclusion you are presenting - for the same (mostly good) reasons that the Isreali negotiators of all stripes today outright reject the full exercise of the so called "right of return".

- My second comment has to do with the concept of "Palestinians" which I agree is an unfortunate (though I am pressed to think of a different one that would fit) label for the arab-speaking non Jewish inhabitants of the former British "mandate" of Palestine.
Bundling them on the linguistic (and partially religious) grounds as "Arabs" is un-helpful, as it creates the false sense of unity despite political and cultural distinctions.
Ukraine is only the latest reminder that linguistically and religiously similar peoples can have very different political aspirations and historical views. "Jordanian" and "Palestinian" arab speakers see themselves as sufficiently different people that their common language does not make them natural members of the same polity.

Incidental to this is the notion of present day arab-speakers being descendants of Arabs who have "arrived" to Palestine in 6th and 7th centuries. Much more likely is that both arab-speakers and jews of the region are descendants of the indigenous populations who have underwent different cultural assimilation processes.
This is a topic of some interest to me as the majority of Balkan Slavic language speakers (such as myself) have next to no ethno-genetic similarity to the main body of the Slavs (Russians, Poles etc...) from which the original Slavic invaders of the Balkans (in 6th century etc...) came. "We" simply partially adopted the language and (some) cultural trappings of the small but politically important (at the time) minority.

- Which leads to my final point.
If there is in fact substantial number of arab-speakers native to the Palestine/Greater Israel (such that they are equal in number or perhaps even outnumber Jews) and the common country for everyone with equal political rights is undesirable at the present time (out of fear of political revanchism in the style of Zimbabwe) does it not make sense to perform a partition of the territory in question in a way that roughly corresponds in size and quality of the land to the size of populations in question? (While obviously taking into account security needs of Israel).

While I agree entirely with your notion that the inwards-facing Israeli policy would be ideal and that the multi-ethnic unified state for all the very best long-term goal, I very much doubt that a meaningful disengagement from PA can be accomplished without some level of agreement on the present territorial dispute.
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Moshe Callen
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As I said, let the PA deal with the "Palestinians" since they are not Israelis. If that means separate territory or not is a matter to be negotiated. So long as Israel remains secure, I really don't care. I do nonetheless think due weight should be given to the fact that whereas Israel accepts people of all ethnicities, the PA-- let alone Hamas-- does not. The PA has repeatedly stated that no Jews will be allowed in any future state. In other words, they have an avowed policy of ethnic cleansing. Notice the reaction given when Netanyahu suggested that the PA might have authority over Jewish communities in the area of Yesha (what the press calls the West Bank), the oldest area of continuous Jewish habitation.

This is why your Balkan analogy falls flat, Bojan. This is not Arabs vs. Jews vs. whoever. This is one faction within one ethnic group refusing to accept the presence of anyone else in the area at all while the rest are building and have been building a multi-ethnic multi-religious state.

EDIT:
There is evidence however that the PA is opening to the idea of peace with Israel. Whether this will men a PA state or something else remains to be seen.
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Bojan;

I also ignored the issue of genetic descent. Frankly this is a red herring. Genetic heritage is highly ambiguous but Jewish or Arab Christian or Muslim identity really is not. It's entirely about cultural identity. So whether the people who invaded intermarried with the native population is beside the point. Again, the invaders came 1500 years ago or so. No one reasonably expects them to go anywhere. The Jewish claim to this area as ancestral land remains, and again that doesn't mean non-Jews have no rights here Ch"V.
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Bojan Ramadanovic
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whac3 wrote:
As I said, let the PA deal with the "Palestinians" since they are not Israelis. If that means separate territory or not is a matter to be negotiated. So long as Israel remains secure, I really don't care. I do nonetheless think due weight should be given to the fact that whereas Israel accepts people of all ethnicities, the PA-- let alone Hamas-- does not. The PA has repeatedly stated that no Jews will be allowed in any future state. In other words, they have an avowed policy of ethnic cleansing. Notice the reaction given when Netanyahu suggested that the PA might have authority over Jewish communities in the area of Yesha (what the press calls the West Bank), the oldest area of continuous Jewish habitation.

This is why your Balkan analogy falls flat, Bojan. This is not Arabs vs. Jews vs. whoever. This is one faction within one ethnic group refusing to accept the presence of anyone else in the area at all while the rest are building and have been building a multi-ethnic multi-religious state.

EDIT:
There is evidence however that the PA is opening to the idea of peace with Israel. Whether this will men a PA state or something else remains to be seen.


Hello again Moshe, sorry for late response I was a bit busy of lately.

I very much agree with you that Israel is way further ahead on acceptance of minorities then any supposed Palestinian government would be at this point. It is a most unfortunate failure of the other side and one that needs to change in medium to long run if any such Palestinian state were to be viable and prosperous.

On the other hand, I think you are quite prone to turn other conflicts into black-white pictures so as to maintain the notion of unique situation in Israel.

In Bosnian conflict for example, starting position of the Bosnian government (which was in majority supported by Bosnian Muslims or as they call them now "Bosniaks") was that calling for a multi-ethnic, multi-religious state with demographic fact of Bosniak majority but all sorts of cultural and other protections given to minority groups.
Some (but by no means all) Serbs rejected that on the basis of wanting to belong to a nation-state homeland of Serbian people.
Even during (and after) the radicalization of war the stated policy of the (increasingly single-ethnic) Bosnian government was the implementation of multi-ethnic state.
This is not to say that this government did and does not have its own hard-liners who are much more interested in the creation and possible expansion of the Bosniak nation-state.

From where I stand - and I am perfectly willing to accept there is information bias in what I get to read - Palestinain radicals are ofcourse substantially more radical but that does not mean that there are not substantial and politically influential groups in Israel who are pushing for Jews-fist-on-as-large-territory-as-possible sort of outcome.
 
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Bojan;

You're insisting "There must exist just people is Israel" and you're not entirely wrong but they have been systematically excluded from politics. You'll notice for example that the political party Kach founded by the late R' Meir Kahane is illegal here.
 
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whac3 wrote:
Bojan;

You're insisting "There must exist just people is Israel" and you're not entirely wrong but they have been systematically excluded from politics. You'll notice for example that the political party Kach founded by the late R' Meir Kahane is illegal here.


Here are some cursory examples I can come up with of statements of Israeli politicians who are aiming at creation (or maintenance) of mono-ethnic (or ethnically dominant) Jewish state:
[as ever - it is possible that deliberate mis-translation is taking place but there is only so far one can go in that direction without ending up in the land of conspiracy theories]

Avigdor Lieberman:

“The only way to solve the problem (between Jews and Arabs) is to lower the friction between the two peoples. There can't be peaceful coexistence in one national state, we can't live together in the same apartment. So there should be a separate Jewish state and Arab state.”

"The vision I would like to see here is the entrenching of the Jewish and the Zionist state. I very much favor democracy, but when there is a contradiction between democratic and Jewish values, the Jewish and Zionist values are more important."

(To an Israeli Arab fellow member of parliament "You are an ally in the Knesset of terrorists. I hope that Hamas will take care of you and all the rest once and for all. Don't worry, your day will come."

Naftali Bennett:

"The idea of Jewish settlements under Palestinian sovereignty, as was suggested by someone in the Prime Minister’s office, is very dangerous and reflects an irrationality of values."

Benjamin Netanyahu:

"The purpose of the Jewish state is to secure the Jewish future."

"We want Israel as a democratic and Jewish state. So you have to maintain a Jewish majority"

or going a bit back historically:

David Ben-Gurion:

"Everybody sees a difficulty in the question of relations between Arabs and Jews. But not everybody sees that there is no solution to this question. No solution! There is a gulf, and nothing can bridge it… We, as a nation, want this country to be ours; the Arabs, as a nation, want this country to be theirs."

"Under no circumstances must we touch land belonging to fellahs or worked by them. Only if a fellah leaves his place of settlement, should we offer to buy his land, at an appropriate price."

Referring to Palestinian refugees: "We must do everything in our power to ensure that they never return."

"The assets of the Jewish National Home must be created exclusively through our own work, for only the product of the Hebrew labor can serve as the national estate."

"Regarding the Galilee, Mr. [Moshe] Sharett already told you that about 100,000 Arabs still now live in the pocket of Galilee. Let us assume that a war breaks out. Then we will be able to cleanse the entire area of Central Galilee, including all its refugees, in one stroke. In this context let me mention some mediators who offered to give us the Galilee without war. What they meant was the populated Galilee. They didn’t offer us the empty Galilee, which we could have only by means of a war. Therefore if a war is extended to cover the whole of Palestine, our greatest gain will be the Galilee. It is because without any special military effort which might imperil other fronts, only by using the troops already assigned for the task, we could accomplish our aim of cleansing the Galilee."

etc...


Saying that tendency towards ethnic supremacy is not a strong component of Zionism or substantial (if not always dominant) element in Israeli politics seems to me as if it can only be a product of great deal of self-delusion. (None of which is to say that there are not much worse things being said and done by the extremists on the other side).
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Oh. you're listening to media stereotypes. Then I can't help you.
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whac3 wrote:
Oh. you're listening to media stereotypes. Then I can't help you.


I have no interest in stereotypes.
I do read and listen to news from sources I find mostly reliable in other areas and none of which, to my knowledge, has reputation for anti-Israeli bias - The Economist, FT, Globe and Mail...

The quotes above are from wiki-quotes and other seemingly neutral sources (and were selected from a bunch of quotes not all of which were necessarily negative)

Finally, I am very much not anti-Israeli biased myself. To a large extent I entirely understand and sympathize with security issues it is facing and totally see Palestinian political leadership as vastly inadequate and toxic since the very begging.

That said, I think it is very important for the reasonable people on all sides to accept that their side has its share of extremists and nationalists (of various degree).
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Nojan;

Except you are misrepresenting the quotes. For example, the idea that Netanyahu, who has done more than any PM to make peace with the PA is somehow opposed to peace is simply absurd. The idea that the founder of the state was opposed to peace is ludicrous.
 
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pwn3d wrote:
It is immoral and unethical that the US sends Israel ~$3B yearly in aid so Israel can buy weapons from US defense contractors. The only aid sent to Israel and the PA should be humanitarian: food, water, medical supplies and doctors. If the US has any ability to use diplomacy to help the situation then we should try to help. I don't think anyone would be able to sway my opinion on this.


I agree that we should cut off all foreign aid as its proven that it does not help the USA in most cases. In this case if we cut off aid to Israel then we should also support them when they wipe out their enemies surrounding them. If we unchain Israel , I am fairly certain this "conflict" would be over by the end of the year.
 
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whac3 wrote:
Nojan;

Except you are misrepresenting the quotes. For example, the idea that Netanyahu, who has done more than any PM to make peace with the PA is somehow opposed to peace is simply absurd. The idea that the founder of the state was opposed to peace is ludicrous.
He did not present these quotes as belonging to people who are against peace. He said they represented opinions that Israel should be a mono-ethnic / mono-religious state. That is clearly not the same.
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Hey Moshe. I am all about the Jewish people laying dominion on what they consider the holy land.

I say do what you have to do.

My only beef is trying to convince the world to help them out when they have to fight to keep it. If Israel wants to fight tooth and nail to for a piece of ancient occupied holy dirt then that is something they should do alone.
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Venga2 wrote:
whac3 wrote:
Nojan;

Except you are misrepresenting the quotes. For example, the idea that Netanyahu, who has done more than any PM to make peace with the PA is somehow opposed to peace is simply absurd. The idea that the founder of the state was opposed to peace is ludicrous.
He did not present these quotes as belonging to people who are against peace. He said they represented opinions that Israel should be a mono-ethnic / mono-religious state. That is clearly not the same.

It is because one cannot have peace here with ethnic cleansing and there are Jews and Arabs and minority populations throughout this area and always have been. I have no bothered tracking down the context of the quotes or verifying them because I know the great efforts of the people cited to do the very opposite of what it is claimed they are promoting.

Ben-Gurion for example MADE the offer of citizenship to non-Jews and tried to persuade them to take it. Arabs are and always have been a vital part of the state. So again I don't know where you're getting your supposed "facts" but they're crap.
 
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MWChapel wrote:
Hey Moshe. I am all about the Jewish people laying dominion on what they consider the holy land.

I say do what you have to do.

My only beef is trying to convince the world to help them out when they have to fight to keep it. If Israel wants to fight tooth and nail to for a piece of ancient occupied holy dirt then that is something they should do alone.

Well, gosh, we'd better tell all those US troops to get out of Aza. Oh, wait...
 
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whac3 wrote:
MWChapel wrote:
Hey Moshe. I am all about the Jewish people laying dominion on what they consider the holy land.

I say do what you have to do.

My only beef is trying to convince the world to help them out when they have to fight to keep it. If Israel wants to fight tooth and nail to for a piece of ancient occupied holy dirt then that is something they should do alone.

Well, gosh, we'd better tell all those US troops to get out of Aza. Oh, wait...


Yeah, your preaching to the choir. If it were up to me, I would pull every American citizen out of that whole area, and let you all duke it out to the end.
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MWChapel wrote:
whac3 wrote:
MWChapel wrote:
Hey Moshe. I am all about the Jewish people laying dominion on what they consider the holy land.

I say do what you have to do.

My only beef is trying to convince the world to help them out when they have to fight to keep it. If Israel wants to fight tooth and nail to for a piece of ancient occupied holy dirt then that is something they should do alone.

Well, gosh, we'd better tell all those US troops to get out of Aza. Oh, wait...


Yeah, your preaching to the choir. If it were up to me, I would pull every American citizen out of that whole area, and let you all duke it out to the end.

NEWSFLASH:
There are no US troops here, genius.
 
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whac3 wrote:

NEWSFLASH:
There are no US troops here, genius.


NEWSFLASH: The middle east isn't just Israel, genius.

It isn't about the boots on the ground. It's about the perceived threat that we would put boots on the ground to "save" Israel. What do you think keeps the middle east at bay? Your single sure shot? pffft.
 
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MWChapel wrote:
whac3 wrote:

NEWSFLASH:
There are no US troops here, genius.


NEWSFLASH: The middle east isn't just Israel, genius.

It isn't about the boots on the ground. It's about the perceived threat that we would put boots on the ground to "save" Israel. What do you think keeps the middle east at bay? Your single sure shot? pffft.

Actually all the US does in the Middle East is parade about like a bull in a china shop and no it doesn't help a bit-- quite the contrary.

EDIT:
As for being somehow on Israel's behalf, we told you people not to come.
 
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whac3 wrote:
EDIT:
As for being somehow on Israel's behalf, we told you people not to come.

Do you feel the same regarding financial assistance?
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Israle uses the US, and the US backs Israel as a regional ally. At first (and up until the '56 war) the US backed the Arabs, they choose to back a winner instead (a purely pragmatic, not moral choice).

Now support of Israel has become such a mantra the the US finds it impossible (domestically) to sever ties.
 
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jmilum wrote:
whac3 wrote:
EDIT:
As for being somehow on Israel's behalf, we told you people not to come.

Do you feel the same regarding financial assistance?

What Israle receives has strings attached to all of it. We get for example US$1M to spend on US defense industyr products if me spend at least US$2M. We don't get straight money to do what we want with, although most other countries in the region do.
 
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