Israeli-Arab Politics and Rationalist Judaism
The previous post, Clueless in LA, upset many people. One person asked why a website titled "Rationalist Judaism" was dealing with politics. I agree that it's usually a good idea to keep religion and politics separate; during the last Bet Shemesh elections, I was very upset with a local Anglo rabbi who replaced his parashah column in the weekly newspaper with a politic diatribe. However, this website has somewhat of a broader purview. In addition, while "rationalist" is not identical to "rational," there is an overlap between the two, and that's what I'd like to focus upon in this post.
There is a question - actually, two related questions: Should Israel give the Palestinians a state? And if so, under what circumstances? The answer to these questions should involve a rational analysis of the pros and cons of all options. Some of the many factors to consider are: Is it moral to keep land captured in a defensive war? Is it dangerously compromising Israel's security to give it away? Is it moral to rule over people without giving them full political rights? Can Israel withstand international condemnation if it does not give the Palestinians a state? Will there be significantly less international condemnation if Israel does give the Palestinians a state, but is then forced to defend itself against missiles in the same way as happened with Gaza and Lebanon? How much land can Israel withdraw from, without making the security risk too high? Is it fair to agree to "Two States" in which one state comprises Jews and Arabs, and the other is Judenrein? How will any agreement be enforced? There are many, many such questions, and working out the answer is not at all easy.
Now, there are some people for whom the question of whether to give land to the Palestinians is solely a religious question, for which the answer is an automatic "no," because it is forbidden to give away the Holy Land under any circumstances. I'm not going to explain why I believe this position to be wrong; suffice it to say that in such cases, the question has a predetermined answer, and does not involve rational analysis of the pros and cons.
But there are also people at the other end of the religious-political spectrum, for whom the question likewise does not involve a rational analysis of the pros and cons. For them, the answer is an automatic "yes." Not just "yes, the Palestinians ideally should have a state," but "yes, Israel must come to an agreement with them, and is accountable if no agreement is reached." Once you insist that Israel must come to an agreement and is accountable for not doing so, then this means that if an agreement has not yet been reached, Israel must ipso facto concede even more. And if the other side still does not agree, Israel must concede yet more. And so on, and so on. At this point, there is no longer a rational analysis of the pros and cons of the agreement under discussion. If ending the occupation is worth doing even at the cost of grossly undermining national security, then this is a fundamentalist doctrine, not a rational evaluation. Conversely, if one is interested in rationally evaluating the pros and cons of an agreement, then one must be open to the possibility that an agreement is not possible at this time, depending on the other side.
This is one of the points that I was getting at in the previous post, and frankly, I don't see how it can be argued. A rational approach to Israel-Palestinian question recognizes that it is a serious matter that must be weighed carefully, and any potential solutions must be evaluated for their pros and cons, vis-a-vis the current situation. Those who refuse to accept this are either religious fundamentalists or liberal fundamentalists - either way, they are not making a rational evaluation of the issue.
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