You can’t understand the Palestinian perspective without understanding the issue of settlements in the West Bank. It’s their biggest source of irritation, it makes many Palestinians’ lives insufferable, and it’s probably Israel’s most contentious policy. So let’s understand why Israel is there in the first place, why it’s building settlements there, and what will happen to them.
Thanks so much for these articles-- lots of great information. However, you state near the beginning that "To this day, neither Hamas nor Fatah—in power in Gaza and the West Bank respectively—publicly accept Israel’s right to exist..." But you must know this is not true of Fatah? In the 1990s, the PLO, led by Fatah, renounced armed struggle and supported UNSC 242, which called for a two-state solution back in 1967, and the PLO engaged in and signed the Oslo Accords (also in the 1990s) which recognize Israel. This fact is very important, and distinguishes Fatah from Hamas. Fatah has been a negotiating partner with Israel (perhaps to its detriment politically). To say they don't accept Israel's right to exist is just not true. I am surprised you wrote that. Please modify that sentence.
I am not an Israeli but have been visiting Israel for about 20 years +
Your article was a very fair and well researched piece, the notes too; the negative aspects of Israel in the “occupied” territories are clear.
However, the right of Israel to exist as an independent Jewish state after x thousand years of persecution of the Jews, drives everything the Israelis do and this culminates in their decision now to “eliminate” their main adversary, Hamas.
Israel considers Hamas (and of course Iran) as an existentialist threat to their very existence and I have much sympathy for that view.
Peace requires two parties, at least, and both sides are divided.
I look forward very much to your next piece.
Israel is a politically vibrant state - contentious disagreement and heated debate along several fault lines. That’s awesome! But nothing unifies like an existential threat.
That being said, the areas in the south, the kibbutz hardest hit by 10/7, are also some of the most reliably left-leaning voting areas in the country. In other words, most critical of the nationalist agenda and most sympathetic to the Gazan situation. These were the people they chose to massacre.
It would be like BLM or Antifa attacking the heart of San Francisco or Seattle...so the political calculus from Hamas seems a bit more “gas the Jews!” than 3-dimensional chess in hindsight.
It's not a civilizational conflict. It's mostly a tribal conflict between 2 people with origin in the same place (thousands of years ago) with similar religions. Even if you look at modern US politics it's kind of a tribal warfare. Lot of Psychological research shows that if teams of boys are assigned different colors (red vs blue team) they build up empathy only for their team but start treating the other team as sub-human & commit lot of evil. Humans are hard-wired with a tribal mindset although have been expanding circle of compassion to 8 billion people.
I have a quick question: how does topography factor into the placement of Israeli settlements in the "piercing the West Bank" strategy? Are those settlements / corridors of outposts located along the places of higher elevation? Or do the contours of the hills etc. have little to do with the corridor locations?
"There are two kinds of problems, real and imaginary, out of which imaginary problems are more real."
I find above statement extremely relevant in state relations especially when viewed through security lens. Israelis can't let off boot on Palestinians out of fears of attack which is a valid reason but this continuous military presence is making a militarised society in both Palestine and Israel giving rise to "terrorists/ freedom fighters" in Palestine and ultra nationalist policies including heightened military presence in Israel.
I think there would remain a status quo with Israel continuously nibbling at the territories of West bank and no peace for foreseeable future.
Phenomenal article. It’s was a long read and I had to digest it in chunks but I appreciate the thorough, honest and unbiased information. Of course, a complex issue such as this should require the time investment when trying to see both perspectives. I don’t know how I found you on twitter, Tomas but I’m glad I did. Very grateful for your wisdom. ♥️
These posts have been fantastic. I really appreciate your perspective!
Excellent discussion of the complexities of the West Bank. Tomas, your balanced perspective is appreciated as a contrast to the heated rhetoric and misinformation that is so prevalent. The history of the conflict between Israel and Palestine is complex and full of shades of grey, not amenable to simple slogans and polemics. Those who don't take the time to understand this history, as laid out so clearly by Tomas and other authors, should avoid loud declarations, one way or the other. It is difficult to convey to those who aren't Jewish the mindset that we have from millenia of persecution, diaspora, and genocide. We live with the sense that we could be attacked and displaced at any time and should never let our guard down completely. The Holocaust taught us that our entire "nation" (in Old Testament sense) was in danger of being eliminated. It is this mindset that led to the desire for a homeland after WWII. Israel was, and continues to be, an "essential" country for Jews, the place where all Jews could go in utter need and defend ourselves. This is the mindset that underlies the response of Israelis to the violent assault by Hamas on Oct 7. These terrorists (not freedom fighters) violated Israelis' deepest sense of security and ignited fears of elimination. That was Hamas' intention - they knew that their war crimes would trigger a violent response by the IDF which would in turn lead to more war crimes which they have cynically exploited for propaganda. I don't say all this to justify the IDF's actions against civilians in Gaza, but there is no way forward for either people without understanding the deep seated imperative among Jews that we will never again be victims of genocide. Pair this with Hamas' position that Israel must be wiped from the face of the earth and we end up with the current tragedy. Watching the pro-Palestinian protests leads me to ask where were these protesters when Assad killed at least 306,000 civilians in Syria, Russia commityed war crimes against civilians in Ukraine, and China continues its ethnic cleansing of Uyghurs? Why were those assaults on civilians less worthy of protest than those in Gaza? Why does the conflict between Israel and Palestine command so much attention from the world when other tragedies are ignored?
If you follow (as I do Prof John Mearsheimer...negative on Israel for years) please listen to a 53 minute interview he has just given with the Centre for Independent Studies in Brisbane....just on YouTube now.
He also covers the Ukranian situation where he has been 100% correct for nearly 20 years...
Tomas - it would be interesting for you perhaps to also speak to Epyptians, Jordanians, Lebanese (Muslims and Christians), as well as Palestinians and Israelis. My husband is from the region and noted that it is a very nuanced issue when people from neighbouring states talk about it vs far flung Muslims and Jews commenting from abroad. Best always and thank you again for your articles
Well written and so informative thank you
regarding blocking settler violence
Israel certainty isn't doing enough. but some cases can illustrate that it does do quite some.
3 Palestinians murdered in their home . Israel security services use torture to extract confessions from there defendant, and eventually he got imprisoned for life.
now interesting is how he was caught. according to Roy Sharon, the secret services were constantly monitoring hundreds of those extremists. when investigating the murder, they weren't through the whole list and *did know* where everyone has been/doing. the few who couldn't be accounted for, were understood via elimination to have been the murderers
Roy Sharon's book VeInakma ואינקמה (https://he.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D7%95%D7%90%D7%A0%D7%A7%D7%9E%D7%94) tells the story of those extremists. and various terror cases where he "knows" who did what. but - like in mafia reporting - knowing isn't "can be convicted"
Tomas, thank you for your effort on trying to provide an unbiased, balanced view, which is what I’m really seeking for in this whole conflict.
One question though: noticing how you describe those biased media channels, it makes me wonder how do you think of yourself. Do you consider yourself biased against Palestine and in favor of Israel?
Great series Tomas. I've learned a great deal. You're strength is in analysis using geography to understand. I think, though, that you very much underappreciate the theological implications of Islam vis-a-vis Israel and the Jews.
When people say “Israel is an apartheid state”, they are usually confused."
Then, was Nelson Mandela, awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace confused?
Or is it not that simple? Here's an interview that should illicit some empathy, curiosity, and further reflection on such a difficult and unfortunate situation. I agree that the reasons are not the same, yet similarities in conditions exist. Power over an underprivileged people, power over legal structures, access to the ballet/ suffrage, to have a say in one's government policies in the land of one's birth is a human right? And forced movement out of or off that land is a Human Rights violation. Human Rights are universal. How can they not be? This 1990 Nelson Mandela interview is extraordinary.
It seems more to reason that the similarities to apartheid are greater than most will acknowledge. The defense of the Jewish people is morally warranted and justifiable. But not at the expense of violence, oppression, & forced removal of other human beings who were not guilty of atrocities. Should every state be based on an ethnocentric mono theocracy? No one has a monopoly on human suffering. Civic life should revolve around the protection of human rights of every citizen. These are the guiding principles of all of western societies. These should be the guiding organizing principles today as they were in the times of the Greeks and Persians. Where is there room for peacemakers in the process?