Saturday, August 15, 2009

Illegitimate Israel

I was captivated by Madeleine Albright's descriptions of various diplomatic encounters, and her writing in Madam Secretary was quite persuasive about Bosnia, Kosovo, and other 1990s crises to which she responded. But she lost me with a few of her statements about "Israel"/Occupied Palestine.

"He acknowledged Israel's existence but not its moral legitimacy."
During the Clinton Administration's last-minute summit push for an Israeli-Palestinian peace, Albright was frustrated by Yasser Arafat, whom she had met frequently and got along with well. She felt he wasn't doing enough to make concessions in spite of political consequences compared to the concessions Ehud Barak would make despite his political consequences. The above statement refers to Arafat, but it could also refer to me. Why "moral legitimacy"? First of all, why go around demanding that any country's "moral" legitimacy be acknowledged? That just tells me their "moral" legitimacy is up for debate. Secondly, I do not think Israel as we know it has moral legitimacy. As far as I can see, after enough Jews had moved to Palestine, they kicked out the Palestinians. I'm not sure what makes that "morally legitimate."

"If Israel accepted legal and moral responsibility for the refugees' fate, the very legitimacy of the country's creation would be undermined."
Well, perhaps it is time that "legitimacy" was undermined. What a disingenuous argument: we took these Palestinian lands, so we can't be responsible for the refugees because that would mean we should not have taken their land. Here is Albright's full paragraph about the issue of refugees:

"According to the UN's registry there were about four million Palestinians who had been or were descended from those made homeless by the 1948 and 1967 wars. The Palestinians asserted the right under international law to return to their homes. This quest had been the core objective of the PLO throughout its history. But if this right were exercised, Israel would lose its status as a predominantly Jewish state. And if Israel accepted legal and moral responsibility for the refugees' fate, the very legitimacy of the country's creation would be undermined in the eyes of its enemies. Such concessions were obviously not acceptable."

Ridiculous, again. She wants Arafat to stop saying any concession is unacceptable, but she takes a stand that Israel can't "admit" something that is a known fact: the birth of the state of Israel created Palestinian refugees.

Additionally, so what if Israel lost its status as a predominantly Jewish state? Where does it get off excluding other ethnic and religious groups??? Hello, isn't excluding other ethnic groups exactly what Hitler was all about -- and isn't that allegedly the point of their so-called moral legitimacy? What hypocrisy!

"Even the most open-minded Israelis have misgivings about a Palestinian state."
Like so many before her, Albright starts with a base assumption that Israel is somehow "right." The thinking goes, it is "right" for Israel to exist, it is "right" for Israel to exist where it does, and, worst of all, sometimes, this "right" has something to do with holiness and entitlement. I am routinely stunned by how many people -- not to mention biased U.S. foreign policy and gazillions in military aid -- take these claims seriously. But the people who were in Israel's way? Well, they don't seem to matter. Listen, I am happy to condemn the Palestinians' violent tactics, but unlike many, I also condemn the violent tactics of Israelis. Of which there are many. I think there needs to be a peaceful resolution and a halt to all the violence. So Israelis have "misgivings" about the Palestinians having official power? Maybe Israelis are afraid what they have done will now be done to them.

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