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In Search of a Method

A few weeks ago, Obama gave a speech where he advocated a certain view of Middle-East peace (or a path in that direction). The speech was controversial, but I think it was worthwhile.

The speech advocated use of the 1967 borders as a basis for lasting peace in Israel, noting that a state of Palestine must be viable to be worth achieving. This has long been US policy, but a quiet/understated one that is not accepted in the mainstream. By saying this publicly, Obama has brought the topic into the spotlight, receiving grumbles from his party as well as large lobbyist groups (like the Christian Coalition). Obama had to walk back his assertions a bit in a speech to AIPAC not long after issuing it. Some groups have suggested that Israel is betraying a friend, although I think when it comes to Israel, what we have is a nuisance that's been giving carte blanche, and we're moving closer to policies that meet our values. Israel is not serious about peace, and Netanyahu's foot-dragging during this time of change is not a sign of a mistake as a sign that Netanyahu should be marginalised; fortunately Netanyahu is suffering broad criticism, and with luck his party Likud will lose in the next elections.

Why are the 1967 borders more suitable than the status quo as a basis for negotiations? Israel has been playing population games, funding continued growth of settlements and encroaching on Palestinian territory; starting from 1967 marks that ugly tactic as illegitimate, and blocks the "facts on the ground" that Israel continues to shift from being considered as a basis. Why is this unpopular?

  • AIPAC and J-Street continue to lobby Washington and push pro-Israeli positions in the US Media.
  • The American right wing considers Israel a friend (partly Islamophobia, partly one of the interpretations of Christian mythology). Supporting Israel is seen as more important than brokering peace by this side
  • Large parts of the American public correctly note that Israel's government is more western/democratic than its neighbours (despite the racist policies). This is a fair point.
  • The Gaza experiment has proven not to be very succesful; handing over the land led to it being taken over by Hamas, and has led to missles and other armed struggle
  • Is the current leadership of Palestine ready to deal towards a final peace? If the answer is "not now", any movement towards a solution is premature
Difficulties aside, I believe the time to strive for peace is always "now". I consider the settlements to be fundamentally illegitimate, that AIPAC and J-Street lobbying towards Israel-friendly foreign policy is also illegitimate, and that if we cannot achieve peace soon, we should draw down our ties with Israel. The 1967 borders as basis are a good start because it refuses to grant the legitimacy of an ugly tactic, and the current borders for a Palestine are not viable and will leave the Palestinians hungry for more. We must be willing to pressure Israel, either for a one-state non-racist solution (my preference), or the unfortunate two-state consensus that permits the continued racism of Israeli policy.

The United States should not look to correct the historical injustice of the founding of Israel; that time is gone. It should not continue to be a quiet supporter of modern forms of this injustice, no matter how much Israel might be a friend. A just solution would benefit Israelis, Palestinians, and the United States. Further, it might force regional powers to stop using 「The Zionist Regime」 as a scapegoat, and allow for normal relationships between the US and them.


  • Dorothy Parvaz, journalist with Al Jazeera, was freed from detention in Syrian prisons.
  • Hans Rosling notes that Cuba is healthiest of the poor and poorest of the healthy
  • It's inspiring that V'Ger is still functioning that far from Terra.
  • Some specifics of what's beneath the surface of Io
  • Portal 2's Soundtrack is free and arriving in 3 parts, the first available now.
  • Ratko Mladic, a General from Yugoslavia who managed ethnic cleansing, was recently captured and put on trial.
  • I get grumpy when UI folk describe interface elements in my browser as debris. I've been less-than-thrilled when people take my interface-elements away in successive versions of software I like. Gnome3 is pretty awful, and Firefox has grown successfully less friendly with its defaults. I would not mind worse defaults so much, but there's a game developers play where they initially promise that whatever redesign they're doing will never affect me because it's "just an option"; sooner or later I find myself on a deprecated configuration that will be removed in some future "cleanup/rewrite". Not cool. In my opinion, this is a good reason to usually reject any suggestions that promise future diversity in configurations, because we can't trust vendors/projects to preserve our preferences in the long run.


Could you justify why you mention J-Street in the same breath as AIPAC? It appears to me to be a pro-peace, anti-racist organization.
J-Street has historically been more of a mixed bag than AIPAC, but more often than not they have been pushing from a pro-Israel bias. More importantly, I don't think lobbyists pushing any particular foreign policy stance are legitimate, whatever the stance. The American public by-and-large doesn't care about foreign policy (unless they see Americans dying), and the power of lobbyists is disproportionately strong; at least with domestic policy, politicians must weigh any lobbyist's demands against a theoretical backlash from the general public.
...Or unless you scare them. Think Commies and Russkies, back in the day.

"I don't think lobbyists pushing any particular foreign policy stance"

Would antiwar lobbyists fall into that category?
Antiwar is a sufficiently broad stance that it's not so clearly harmful; when I was talking about particular stances I was thinking mostly about those relevant to handling specific challenges or regions. I still would prefer lobbyists stay away from foreign policy though, even in the case of antiwar lobbyists, because relatively small groups can wear the gloves of the US Government with relatively little counterbalancing from the American voter.

I worry that I might be fighting the tide though; perhaps lobbyists are part and parcel of a representative democracy and unless we can make them abhorrent enough to the American public, removing them from the system would be impossible.