Peace can only be reached if we acknowledge the elephant in the room
Bravo. This is, by far, the best and most lucid suggestion on how peace could be attained between both parties. I had imagined the best case scenario to be a kind of North Korea, with a demilitarized zone strictly administered by a multinational coalition force rather than an Israeli occupying force, and then foreign aid to prop up Fatah and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
But this, this is much better for it understands that the true issue at stake is not land. Land is just land. It has no feelings, no history, no culture. No, the true issue at stake is the mindsets and mentalities of the people living on the land. Unless that is reformed somewhat, the hostilities will continue. For example, Israel withdrew entirely from Gaza in 2005. If this were an issue of land for peace, Gaza should have been pacified. Instead, merely four months later, they put a genocidal terrorist group in power. It's unlikely that if Israel withdrew from the West Bank, an even more difficult proposition, the outcomes would be dissimilar.
However, a few caveats to this cautious optimism. The first of course is the issue of religion. Religion is a curiously under-discussed aspect of this conflict but it's absolutely central. Religion means border disputes are recast as a theatre for total war, it means the actions of a few bad eggs on both sides inspire monomaniacal speeches. The Jews won't stop being Jews. The Arabs won't stop being Muslims. As such, my hope for a permanent solution is diminished. Children who are taught a fairer, more dispassionate history in school will then listen to imams and rabbis who whip up religious sentiment.
Western civilization is a secular civilization. As such, we look today with amusement at the barbarous conflicts between Huguenots and Catholics of medieval France or the epileptic convulsions of violence between Catholics and protestants in medieval England.
But in the rest of the world, religion is alive and well. Indeed, every major international event or conflict that has happened this year is animated by religious principle: Azerbaijan, a majorly Muslim nation, recently ethnically cleansed Armenian christians, the ongoing conflict in Burma between the native Buddhists and the Rohingya Muslims, India and Canada's diplomatic spat over the extrajudicial murder of a prominent Sikh( Sikhism itself is a separatist religion), ongoing herder-farmer conflicts in the Sahel between the farming christians and the Muslim rebels ( one of the several features of the Niger coup) and the proposed war by coastal, often christian African countries and the Muslim desert countries of the Sahel.
And finally, of course, Israel and Palestine, endlessly locked in the newest iteration of who are the rightful heirs to the holy city of Jerusalem.
In Japan and Germany, these dimensions did not exist. These were wars fought for ideologies. Ideologies may summon all of the vehemence of religions but their lifespans are short: the Soviet Union was a flicker of candlelight in Russian history for all of 74 years. Religions, in contrast, seem to keep going a lot longer. So I don't see this proposed future materializing especially as the demographics of Israel( ultraright judaists have the highest reproductive rates) and those of Palestine( birth rates may be falling but half Gaza's population are children growing up in an environment of radical islamism) do not provide much respite.
But if any well-intentioned attempts are to be made at bridging this divide, then this excellent proposal certainly ranks as the very best of them. It's not perfect. But it might be enough. In the affairs of men, that's something of a disappointment. In the affairs of men and their gods, it is nothing short of superb.
Tomas, congratulations on a wonderful series of articles on this most complex topic. I follow this subject but have learned much from your detailed review of the history. I agree with your hopeful suggestions for moving both Israel and Palestine beyond endless conflict, but I am not optimistic that there is adequate motivation to pursue such an agenda on either side. As you so clearly and depressingly showed, there are powerful elements on both sides that benefit from a continual state of violence and conflict. The examples of post-war Germany and Japan moving beyond their destructive ideologies are possible models for Israel and Palestine, but those two countries were only open to mass re-education because of the catastrophic defeat and destruction that the Allies inflicted on them. To extend your analogy, Israel and Palestine might each have to face total collapse before they became amenable to the type of re-education that you propose. Even if such mutual collapse would result in a better future for both people, it is difficult to contemplate life becoming even more difficult in the interim. After reading your entire series, and learning so much, I have little hope for, and no alternative suggestions on how to achieve, a peaceful future in that region. So sad to say this. Thank you for all the effort you invested in educating us all.
Hi Tomas, great article as always! After 9 articles and a month of research, I’m curious about your perspective on the phenomenon of antisemitism. Is it related to the disproportionate attention and criticism that Israel gets all over the world? The outrage and attention directed towards Israel seems very selective, compared to lack of outrage over almost 400,000 war deaths in Yemen or the humanitarian disaster in Darfur. The AP has more journalists in Israel than the entire continent of Africa and there is a strong media bias against Israel, the only majority Jewish state in the world, despite Israel being the only free and democratic country in the region (one of the only places in the region where you won’t be thrown off a building for homosexuality, for instance). It is unthinkable that this horrific terrorist attack has inspired a rise in antisemitism around the world. In my home country of Canada, there are calls to boycott Jewish businesses, vandals have thrown Molotov cocktails at synagogues, academics and even a few politicians have publicly cheered Hamas for resisting a colonial oppressor, and anti-Israel protestors have flooded the streets of major Canadian cities calling for the destruction of Israel, beginning while the terrorist attack was still underway! If the government of Cuba carried out a proportionate terrorist attack on the United States, it would be a smoking ruin today. All sovereign states prioritize their basic need for security, and it is hard to imagine any state responding differently than Israel. Yet, across university campuses and in the streets of western cities, people protest the Gaza war and there are regular calls for the annihilation of the state of Israel. There are accusations against Israel of genocide, war crimes, and even the UN is calling for Israel to stop its campaign against Hamas. In another context, we might expect calls for the return of hostages and sympathy for the Jewish people. Instead, we have swastikas at rallies, muzuzah mapping, and vandalism of Jewish houses, businesses, synagogues, and community centres. The German Vice-Chancelor has stated that the condemnation of Israel is rooted in antisemitism – the phenomenon that even the holocaust did not eradicate. Is he right?
Mandatory Palestine (1948) was much smaller than in 1923:
You may want to put the year you refer to in brackets.
I recommended your 9 articles to www.hotlineforip.com: https://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2023/11/03/israel-palestine-hotline-harvard
In the West, we do need education on this conflict, too!
Though provoking article as always.. But for all these reforms to begin, a truly devastating war that hurts both sides tremendously is required. Both Germany and Japan were devastated due to WW2, it had led to countless death and immeasurable suffering which made it possible for majority section of society to accept above mentioned reforms. October 7 violence and ongoing Palestinian casualties although numerous are simply not enough for a paradigm change in thinking of the establishment in both societies.
Unfortunately, this “both sides are guilty to an extent and so they both need to change” approach is what westerners have been promoting for decades and it doesn’t lead to any progress.
Yes, people are imperfect and mistakes are always made even if you’re the “good guys”.
For example, you can look back at WWII and find bad things or bad choices that the allies made. You could even make a reasonable claim that Hitler got into power because of the harsh post-war terms that were imposed on Germany after Versailles.
None of that can take away from the fact that the Nazis were wrong and morally evil, while the Allies were on the right side.
You can’t put on the same level the indoctrination of children in Palestinian schools, teaching them to literally murder Jews, how to build bombs, etc, and the fact that Israelis don’t study the “nakba” (it’s not hard to see why; Israelis in those days were too busy fighting for their own survival to be concerned about refugees on the other side).
Palestinians should accept that a) the Jews aren’t going anywhere, b) violence against the Jews will always come back to bite them and make chances of a “free Palestine” ever more remote, and c) they (and their Arab allies) have fought war after war against Israel and -without exception- have always lost.
Every Country in the history of the world that has lost a war has had to make concessions.
That the Palestinians would like a peace deal on their own terms, despite having lost all the conflicts and despite the shocking support for violence from the general population, is simply not acceptable.
Israelis are not stupid. They don’t vote the way they do because they lack the education or are somehow tricked into being fearful.
They are rightly fearful because they take what the Palestinians say at face value. They know that if they lower their guard or make any concessions, they are putting themselves at grave risk of being wiped out as a people.
Very good Tomas, but there are some weaknesses:
The excellent aspect is the general conclusion about needing to change minds, and then specifically, the detail drawing on what the US/allies did in Japan and Germany after WWII (which I didn't know about).
The weaknesses are:
1. You advocate "eliminating" Hamas, which implies (though not explicit) supporting what the US & Israel are currently doing in Gaza — blatant crimes against humanity of ethnic cleansing & genocide through indiscriminate bombing of civilians. That is totally contrary to the rest of your work, which rightly says that this sort of approach simply supports the vicious circle of ever-more hatred and violence. Hamas, or its replacement, will not be eliminated by bombs. It can only be rendered ineffective by refusing to play their game of violence.
2. You are also silent on the implications of what you propose for democracy in Israel. The reality is it essentially means suspending democracy and having a UN body govern Israel & Palestine for many years (and I think that is indeed necessary). As you note, the control of media and education will have to be forced on Israel, and you cannot do that in a democracy. There's also no point doing that if you still have Israelis electing governments who run the police, military & justice systems to persecute Palestinians (with even "justice" now controlled by the Government, thanks to Netanyahu — it really is a fascist state: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2023/09/defending-the-rule-of-law-enforcing-apartheid-the-double-life-of-israels-judiciary/ ). Even the health system is run by doctors who support the bombing of hospitals and civilians in Gaza: https://www.commondreams.org/news/gaza-doctors-letter
Remember, Hitler was elected. Sometimes the results of "democracy" are unacceptable.
3. You have a blind spot that overlooks the devastatingly negative influence of the US. Nothing will improve until the US ends its current and longstanding strategy of supporting & enabling violence across the Middle East (for its own benefit) — refer my comment here:
I'm also not sure how to interpret your comment, "When somebody denies that information is true—like whether Hamas beheaded babies". Do you have evidence for it? As I've said before, I see no reason to believe this and every reason not to. That doesn't mean I'm defending Hamas; only that I see Israeli and US propaganda for what it is — a tactic for dehumanising Palestinians and justifying their mass murder.
A key takeaway I got from this article is no amount of redrawing borders will solve a situation where violence is encouraged by the leaders of both entities. Always look at the incentives.
I don't know if the ideas about education and media, and social media will work but teaching each group to understand and respect each other feels like a step in the right direction if it can be done.
Always find your posts engaging and helpful - but is it really accurate to refer to Israel 'giving' Palestine land in return for peace, as depicted in your initial diagrams and argument? Isn't that assumption of Israel's ownership of the land in question the root problem? What does the argument look like if we replace 'give land' with 'agree to retreat from illegal settlements'?
Dear fellow readers: we might debate points in this and Tomas’s prior articles but we owe him our deepest respect and gratitude for what he’s done here. Nuance and non-binary thinking is necessary when it comes to solving this mess, but paradoxically it can’t come at the cost of ignoring certain truths that should be self-evident. Kudos to Tomas!
Tomas came very close to identifying the elephant in the room but I don’t think he quite nailed it, or at least wasn’t explicit enough: it’s that Wetikos/bad apples/sociopaths/ideological extremists have seized control of the steering wheel and unfortunately they’re driving us off the cliff. Even if they are in the minority, they hold the power because they’re the ones driving the agenda.
Thus, the exchange between Tomas Pueyo and Marco Troisi (in the comment thread) is illuminating and worth reading. I think Marco makes an excellent point so please read it before proceeding further.
Unfortunately, all the calls for “cease fire”, “2-state solution NOW”, and villainization of Israel will paradoxically just make things worse in the Mideast. It will make Israelis feel even less secure and more embattled (reinforcing the Nationalist block). It will reinforce Palestinians’ beliefs that violence gets them results and the world is on their side, because after all, see how quickly the world pivoted from condemning Hamas to condemning Israel?!! So why not double down?
I can’t blame any Israeli or Jew who absolutely bristles at all the moral equivalence BS - or worse! - being tossed around.
When it comes down to the nitty gritty, education only worked for Japan/Germany after they were utterly defeated and when their populace was forced to look into the mirror and see their own inhumane brutality. And only after Japan experienced two atomic bombs and Germany experienced similar devastation from bombing - where yes, children and women were unfortunate casualties.
Hamas is the product of a set of ideologies and its similar hateful, genocidal mindset is unfortunately widespread in Gaza, West Bank and throughout Muslim countries so I certainly can understand how alarming it is for Israelis and Jews to hear the world reacting with either appeasement or even worse, condemnation of Israel.
Unfortunately it is just strengthening the wetikos/bad apples/extremists on both sides and will end up making things worse. The true elephant in the room? Wetikos/bad apples/extremists are in the driver’s seat when it comes to the Mideast and they are a malignant cancer. Likewise in much of the world. How do we deal with them?
Personally, as someone who founded two nonprofits that are all about putting more light into the world (The Illumignossi Project; OrLanu) I am truly confounded by the “bad apple” (Wetiko) problem. World-wide. Throughout history. 😥
A very interesting challenge in how germany and Japan was 'moved' to what today is successfull and peace loving societies.. I did not know how it was done.
If you look at how radicalization happens - f.ex. Russia has companies that employ people to work on SoMe bots etc. - to spread disinformation and enrage as much as they can..
We as a society I think, NEED a counter to this.. SoME like facbook, twitter, tiktok etc. MUST be worked towards removing those trying to wreak havoc and we need to invest in ways to ensure that people are correctly informed.. Not just getting "one side of the story" etc.
Many don't want to read much (this seems to be getting worse with the raise of apps, movies etc. - everyone wants to just 'be fed') - so we'll have to have a place that produces content on SoMe to battle this - and also probably legislation to ensure SoMe sites - work with the public here - in an open manner - so everyone can see whats taking place and why..
It would be interesting to see a piece of how we could take use SoMe to improve our world, instead of letting the radicals roam free, radicalizing even more
Thank you for a fair intent, Tomas, but the comparison with Germany and Japan misses two fundamental points:
1) Germany and Japan had been military beaten and occupied, and they knew it.
2) Germany and Japan had an authoritarian tradition of obedience to their rulers, and their new rulers were the occupying allies.
So, the first requisite for your peace plan to work would be to forcefully occupy both Israel and Palestine. However, that’s when you notice the absence of the second point. Both Iraq and Afghanistan were occupied by the US, and it failed miserably. Also, Jews have a millennial tradition of forming their own nuclea of resistance to the empire they live in.
I fully agree with the diagnosis -- especially as it's what I've concluded myself over the years, as being from a family of peace-loving ex-kibbutzniks yet living far away to have the critical distancing. However, only at the end you hit the only lever for peace that really makes or breaks it: incentives. As always, cui bono?
The problem is when political and economic elites are shielded from the bad outcomes of their decisions; they socialize the damage while pocketing the gains. (Case in point: Hamas's leader lives safely away from the carnage, in Qatar.) This used to be less the case in Israel, which prided itself on being a place where the PM would take the train and shop for groceries like everyone else. But corruption and nepotism are quickly eroding that.
This lack of skin in the game blunts the most powerful weapon in the diplomacy arsenal, which is economic diplomacy. (Not to be confused with the joke that is "international aid".) The measures you discuss for Germany and Japan could only be deployed effectively in the context of the Marshall Plan and other sources of great financial upside for - and only for - businesspeople willing to align with the US. This is how we still have ex-Nazi businesses like BASF, Bayer, Allianz, all the German motor companies... (And East Germany's denazification, which might have been even more radical, obviously took place in a context of radically reshaped incentives, i.e., nationalization of the ~whole economy under communism.)
How to do this? It seems a bit more plausible in war-wrecked Gaza, where the promise of prosperity for the destitute, and of filthy wealth for the elites, might get both to soften up on the genocide talk. Sure, they'll continue believing something else in private, but next generation it will already be "the weird uncles who hoard Hamas memorabilia in the basement".
In Israel, a prosperous country where the elites are already somewhere between well off and filthy rich with Russian oligarch money, this simple approach seems implausible. Perhaps the US and EU could make business harder for companies owned or associated with the extremist right wing, as they already try to do for terrorism. If this doesn't make the crooked elites fall in line (all that Russian money...), it could at least generate enough pressure to keep their radical wings in check. IDK, it's all iffy...
Very good article - I'm interested to know why you don't mention Iran/the rise of Islamism and the control it has over the Islamist ideologies of Hamas/Hezbollah in the Israel context. We know that fundamental to Iran's ideology is the eradication is Israel and Jews.
Very interesting! However, you missed one critical point. Israel is a democracy, while Palestine is not. Moreover, not only is it not a democracy, but it is also governed by a terrorist organization—Hamas in Gaza—and a highly corrupted leadership in the West Bank.
The people there seem uninterested in peace, and they don't seem motivated by the same morals and incentives as you and the Western world. Complaining about the "occupation" is debatable, but in the meantime, what have they done? Nothing! Israel has developed a robust army, a strong economy, and become a liberal, Western country. On the other hand, Palestinians repeatedly chose terror.
Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2006, an opportunity for it to thrive as the "diamond of the Middle East." However, they chose Hamas, turning the region into a terror base. While not all Palestinians are terrorists, it's challenging to find anyone condemning Hamas or trying to bring about change.
Israel is not innocent, having made mistakes and dealing with radicals contributing to the conflict. However, blaming Israel for "control" on one side and "violence" on the other oversimplifies the issue. Israel can't take risks due to potential escalations, as seen recently. But if Palestine will try not to be violent then Israel can reduce control.
Consider viewing this conflict beyond Western eyes and common sense. Welcome to the Middle East, where power plays a significant role. Israel, unfortunately, learned this lesson the hard way and now knows how to navigate the game to protect its citizens. As radical Islam spreads in Europe and US now, perhaps a broader understanding will finally emerge in the Western world.
I recently became aware that Saudi Arabia wants to build a natural gas pipeline through Israel to Europe. If true, that is a major threat to Russia and Iran. This may explain why Biden was promoting peace talks between the Saudis and Israel at this time, and why Hamas chose this time to undermine these efforts with the horrific terrorist attack on Israel on October 7. Regarding the post war plan for the open air prison for 2 million people called Gaza, there will likely not be a better time for a 2 state solution than now. The Arab States and the US and EU will have to act very forcefully with both the Palestinians and Israel to make it happen. My sense is that a constitution for Palestine needs to be written that can help assure (reassure) the Israelis that it will result in more stability and security for Israel than the current occupation. That constitution must include a clear statement that both the State of Israel and the new State of Palestine have a right to exist in peace and security within their internationally agreed upon borders. It also needs to disavow the "right of return" that so many Palestinians have held onto for 70 years. That ain't gonna happen and is no different than the slogan that the Palestinians have a right to the whole of Palestine from the River to the Sea. Both imply that Israel should not exist. Disruptive right wing settlers in the West Bank and other non-Palestinian residents who cannot agree to the terms of the new constitution need to be evicted from the new Palestinian State (voluntarily or forcefully). Palestinian political organizations and Palestinian individuals who cannot agree to the terms of the new constitution must be viewed as a threat to the existence of both states and be barred from government and military service in the new state. Since neither side to date has apparently wanted peace and the 2 state solution that might bring peace, coming to this agreement will require international pressure, leadership and guarantees to both sides. However, continued occupation, spread of right wing fundamentalist settlements and the ongoing subjugation of millions of Palestinians is clearly untenable. Even if Israel were able to totally eliminate every Hamas fighter in Gaza, there are others who would take their place among the millions of traumatized Palestinians if left without hope, dignity, resources and freedom to travel and get an education and create a better life for themselves and their families.
We cannot allow the tragic violence Hamas perpetrated on innocent Israeli civilians on October 7 to not result in a more hopeful and secure situation for both the Israelis and the Palestinians going forward.