Water and oppression

Would any supporter of the occupation of the West Bank like to explain to me why this is ok?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

42 thoughts on “Water and oppression”

  1. This almost makes me weep.

    My father, born in early 20th century Poland, was an enthusiastic Zionist his whole life. I do not think things turned out as he hoped.

    1. It’s not over yet. I still think things can take a turn for the better. I agree with those who think maybe the Arab Spring will end up bringing peace, even if people don’t become BFFs. People can see with their own eyes that you can make change without (much) violence, sometimes.

  2. The Zionist Dream died quite a few years ago. What we have in the Middle East now are Boers with yarmulkes

  3. It’s a very emotional piece. And Levy is a controversial observer, to say the least.

    That said, I’m not going to defend what he describes. Context is scant; I’d like to know more.

    As for defending Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, I don’t think it’s a good thing. But Levy thinks Israel should just decamp. Perhaps you believe that as well. My view is, you don’t give something for nothing. The quid pro quo for Israeli withdrawal from the occupied territories, and the establishment of a Palestinian Arab state, is and always has been, the end of the conflict, and the clear and explicit acknowledgment that all claims are settled. Abbas just said today that he refuses to meet with Netanyahu. I’m afraid we’re very far from that point, even now.

    1. “My view is, you don’t give something for nothing.”

      The problem with that is, I remember when an intifada just meant throwing rocks. It’s 20 years later and things don’t seem to be getting better. So whatever the strategy is, it doesn’t seem to be working.

      I say the US gives both sides a few more years and then sends in NATO. Enough already. Or, if people think that’s too harsh, couldn’t we at least threaten it? I support Israel but I’m not willing to die here in the US so that my friends the Israelis can have bigger houses in the burbs.

      1. I should clarify, before I get beat up! I just mean that Nato should separate the two sides. that’s all. Not conquer anybody.

    2. Larry, please tell me what you think the end game is for Israel. How does their present policy lead to any sort of solution? Is it your view that they should maintain the occupation forever if the Palestinians do not agree to the conditions the current Israeli government sets forth for negotiation?

      I ask, because there is plenty of evidence that Netanyahu is every bit as much an untrustworthy snake as anyone that has negotiated for the Palestinians over the decades. Israel consistently refuses to enforce its own laws with regards to the occupation. It enforces ridiculous conditions upon the Palestinians such as within the city of Hebron. Why would the Palestinians have any greater belief that the Israelis are honest than the other way around?

      Do you think that the country of Israel can enforce the occupation in perpetuity and retain any character as a liberal democracy at the same time?

      1. The current Israeli government sets forth no conditions for negotiation as far as I know.

        Certainly I was much more optimistic that a peaceful resolution of this conflict was achievable 15 or 20 years ago. Now, I haven’t a clue.

        On the other hand, a lot is changing in that region. The political changes are inspiring although whether the outcome is progressive and peaceful governments actually concerned with the well-being of their citizens remains up in the air. Palestinian Arab political leadership too is bound to change. Abbas is quite old. Hamas clearly has been strengthened by developments in Egypt yet at the same time seems somewhat directionless, not terribly popular, chastened by Cast Lead, has lost its base in Syria. The Syrian regime seems bound to fall, and while we don’t know what will emerge, this will remove an intransigently hostile power on Israel’s border and hurt Iran’s ability to project power into Lebanon. One way or another Iran’s drive towards nuclear weapons and its confrontation with us over this issue will be resolved.

        So I don’t have much hope that any progress is going to be made in resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict until the outcomes of all these changes become clearer.

          1. What is this, truth or dare? Gotcha? I tried to answer you by telling you what I believe. Namely, nothing’s going to happen until the larger situation in the Middle East has been clarified, and a new generation of leaders has emerged in the Arab world (including among the Palestinian Arabs). At that point, serious negotiations might have a chance. Or not.

            If it makes you feel better, I don’t believe that Israel can permanently control the West Bank and retain its democratic and Jewish character. On the other hand, between now and permanently, there can be plenty of misery to go around, for everybody. There, does that improve the situation?

          2. Not really. The problem is that you don’t seem to realize that current Israeli policy pretty much guarantees that there won’t ever be a resolution to the problems. Acting tough won’t bring the Palestinians to the table. It’s extremely unusual for a continued occupation to moderate the the demands of either party. The few counter examples I can think of all involve a much milder occupation than the Israelis have imposed.

            Therefore, you need to have an end game that involves the Palestinians never meeting your definition of moderation unless you are prepared to argue for Israel to radically change its policies without having already achieved peace. Simply saying that they can’t give anything away and that you don’t see a resolution means you’re in denial. Given this set of policies, what you see now *is* the end state. You’d better come up with a way for Israel to survive as a liberal democracy while at the same time engaging in a permanent occupation, because that’s what you’re going to be stuck with.

          3. I, of course, don’t need a plan; I assume what you mean is, Israel needs a plan.

            I think the parameters of a resolution to this conflict have been clear for a long time. Land for peace. To reiterate the obvious: A Palestinian Arab state in the West Bank and Gaza, recognized by Israel, on borders not too far from the 1949 Armistice line, with some adjustments, substantially demilitarized for some period of time, with verification and enforcement mechanisms, Jerusalem cut up into tiny pieces, financial restitution for Palestinian Arab refugees from 1948 and their descendants, in exchange for a full peace treaty that ends the conflict and the explicitly disavows any further claims, including specifically of Palestinian Arab refugees from 1948 or their descendants to live in Israel.

            I really don’t see how any Israeli government can accept any less than this. The question always has been, can the Arabs accept it? I don’t know the answer to that question. If, with the right details, they can, then there’ll be a deal. If they can’t, then there won’t.

            So I guess your question is, what should Israel do if, eventually, they conclude that the Arabs won’t agree to this kind of deal? First of all, of course, right now they shouldn’t do anything, they should wait to see how the current situation plays out. Second of all, they certainly shouldn’t say what they think they might do if they conclude that no such deal is possible.

            As to what they actually might do upon reaching such a pessimistic conclusion, I can only speculate. If I were them, I’d probably unilaterally recognize a Palestinian Arab state on borders advantageous to them, pull out of most of the West Bank, offer a peace treaty, and declare that until that treaty is signed a state of conflict (or some other weaselly locution short of war) exists, and Israel will patrol the borders of said state to ensure that heavy weapons are not imported. Something like that.

    3. “You don’t give something for nothing” is about ego and face-saving, which are terrible excuses for bad behavior. If you’ve dug yourself into a hole and can escape by your own actions, do you stay there simply because the other people stuck in the hole with you refuse to pay you to leave?

  4. You don’t give something for nothing? If you’re a thief, or an extortionist, seems to me you have a moral duty to do just that, by way of restitution. The settlers have had no business being there for years, and they’d best get out.

    1. Thief, extortionist, or war criminal. Settling occupied territory is a war crime under the Geneva Conventions. It makes no sense to talk about what we will give the Israelis in return for obeying the international law to which everybody else is accountable.

  5. It’s not okay. Period.

    Having said that, the question “What’s the solution?” probably doesn’t have an answer at this point, either. History teaches us quite clearly that when Israel treats the Palestinians humanely, it gets rockets in its face and a lot of dead civilians. There’s no reason to expect that a humane occupation, or an Israeli withdrawal, would lead to any other result. And that’s not the fault of the people who get their water containers confiscated – their suffering is sickening, and whoever’s doing the confiscated is a monster. This guy Avi ought to confiscate the Palestinian leadership’s water instead.

    1. The problem with this argument as that it punishes those who have done nothing but live in the “wrong” place for the actions of others. There’s simply no way to frame collective punishment as justice.

      Israeli government policy has been a form of apartheid for 45 years now. Child that I am of an Israeli mother (wounded in ’48 at that), it makes me sick.

  6. I’m not a Zionist by any stretch. To me, a “Jewish state” makes no more sense than an “Episcopalian state,” and if one was going to be set up in a place where other people were currently living, it should have been carved out of Germany. The Palestinian Arabs who, in 1948, were living in what is now Israel, _did not_ kill six million Jews, yet they have been made to suffer because someone else (the Germans) did.

    But if you are a Zionist, and particularly if you’re a Zionist absolutist who believes that all of the land mentioned in the Old Testament belongs to the Jews by divine decree, since the dawn of time and forevermore, what’s a little genocide? Of course, if you are a Zionist absolutist but opposed in principle to driving every Arab into the sea, feel free to correct me.

    Ethically, if the survival of your nation hinges on perpetrating genocide, it’s better for humanity that your nation not survive. I don’t believe that the survival of Israel as a nation state does depend on perpetrating genocide, but the way demographics are going, the survival of Israel as a Jewish state (rather than a pluralist democracy) very well might.

    1. People who hate Israel have been bringing up some hypothetical genocide of the Palestinian Arabs for some time.

      Meanwhile, of course, in a nearby country, mass killings of civilians is actually underway. But never mind.

    2. Andrew,
      I am a very weak Zionist, but I suppose strong enough to take issue with a few of your points.

      1. One can make an excellent argument that it was wrong to create a Zionist state in Palestine. By the same token, it was also wrong to create a European colony in America. It was also wrong to create an Anglo-Saxon polity in Celtic lands, or a Turkish polity in Byzantium. The argument is valid, but what conclusions can be drawn from it?
      2. The UK (or at least England) is an Episcopalian state, and a reasonably tolerant one. Although admittedly, religious tolerance is much lower in Israel than in most of Europe.
      3. I’m not sure what you mean by “genocide.”

      On the other hand, I do agree what I think is your main argument: that Israel can have only two out of three: a Jewish character, territorial expansion, and an acceptable concept of human rights.

      1. @Ebenezer Scrooge: I’ll do my best to answer your points:
        1. You’re exactly right. But when people do things that are wrong, they shouldn’t be surprised, and they definitely shouldn’t take the moral high ground, when others fight back. Right or wrong, it escapes me how anyone could think, at the time Israel was created, that it was likely to succeed. Of course, I wasn’t alive then, so I only formed my opinion after the fact.
        2. The UK is an Episcopalian state like my house is an AAA-belonging house. True, but incidental and mostly irrelevant. For most English people, the effect of the state religion is precisely nil. The Anglican church is nothing more than the church they’re not going to when they don’t go to church. I wouldn’t be surprised if the number of Anglican bishops who believe in a supreme being is smaller than the number of Americans who do.
        3. I mean exactly what everyone else means. The deliberate elimination, or attempted elimination, of an entire race, religion or nationality of people based solely on the aforementioned characteristic, possibly coupled with where the victim lives. In this case, being a Palestinian Arab, particularly a Muslim Palestinian Arab, living in the ancient Old Testament land of Israel.

      2. 1. One can make an excellent argument that it was wrong to create a Zionist state in Palestine. By the same token, it was also wrong to create a European colony in America. It was also wrong to create an Anglo-Saxon polity in Celtic lands, or a Turkish polity in Byzantium. The argument is valid, but what conclusions can be drawn from it?

        The fairly obvious conclusion is that “giving something for nothing” is not an appropriate stance to take here. It is a position that has an implicit assumption that the Palestinians have no legitimate grievances and that their intransigence is entirely unreasonable. That may be the Israeli position, but it doesn’t withstand a lot of scrutiny.

        A colonial power allowed significant immigration of what was, at the time, a distinct minority ethnic group and then assisted in allowing that ethnic group to set up a state on that territory without gaining consent of the rest of the population. The ensuing history never allowed for the grievances that this created to be settled. What Larry lays out probably is the only basis under which a settlement can ever be reached, but if he doesn’t understand why that creates a great deal of resentment on the part of the Palestinians, he is ignoring just about everything we know about human nature.

        Even if we assume that the occupation is necessary, the Israeli government’s inability to conduct it in a humane or just fashion makes me entirely unsympathetic to desires not to give up something for nothing. It is the elevation of negotiating tactics over basic morality and decency. That the understanding of negotiation that underlies the sentiment is deeply flawed aggravates the immorality, but it does not create it.

        1. J.,

          First, if you ever get into a scrape, any lawyer representing you who negotiated on your behalf in the manner that you seem to expect the elected government of Israel to operate here, would be guilty of malpractice.

          Second, of course the Palestinians have legitimate grievances, and yet, of course at the same time their intransigence is entirely unreasonable. You seem to think that the one fact excuses the other. It doesn’t.

          Which is to say, I’m sure I’d feel resentful if I were a Palestinian Arab. I understand that, I even sympathize with that, and I don’t think it’s illegitimate. What I don’t understand, what I don’t sympathize with, what is illegitimate, is the existence of a politics and leadership entirely dominated by that kind of resentment.

          But that may be changing. Which would be a very good thing.

          1. The government of Israel would be guilty of malpractice if it stopped seizing more land? It would be guilty of malpractice if it stopped holding tens of thousands of residents of Hebron hostage for the benefit of a few hundred Jews in the city? It would be guilty of malpractice to enforce its own laws on the settlers when they abuse Palestinians?

            I’m sorry, Larry, but defending the actions of the occupation, full stop, betrays a moral obtuseness that is sickening. So long as these sorts of practices continue, as I said, I have no sympathy at all for someone saying that you can’t just give away any concessions. What you define as a concession I define as meeting the minimum standards of human decency. The gulf between us is vast.

          2. Responding to this would take a long, long time. As I’ve said many times I’m not a fan of the settler mentality. However the Palestinian Arabs have a means at their disposal to bring the occupation, and specifically any further Israeli settlement of their territory, to a complete stop: a peace deal. Right now, of course, they’re not negotiating at all. This doesn’t seem to bother you however. I wonder why.

          3. Maybe because I’m not talking to a partisan of the Palestinians and so my feelings about their leadership aren’t of much import. Go ahead and assume whatever you’d like, but I’m willing to bet that you are in error when you do so. To be brief, my opinion of their leadership doesn’t seem to be much different than yours is.

            What I do not do is to use that as an excuse for the Israeli side to engage in reprehensible behavior. You, on the other hand, seem to make the exercise of morality conditional upon other people’s behavior.

          4. @larry: Legal ethics and actual ethics are very different things. Lawyers must zealously advocate on behalf of their clients’ interests. A defendant’s only interest is avoiding a conviction or, failing that, obtaining a light sentence. So it would be wrong for the rules of court to require the defense to turn over damning evidence to the prosecution. On the other hand, the prosecutor’s client is society as a whole, which has a compelling interest in putting away the guilty AND in NOT putting away the innocent. So it makes sense that the rules of court require the prosecution to turn over exculpatory evidence to the defense. Both sides must follow these rules regardless of whether they sympathize with their client and even if it would lead to a guilty person being set free, because we rightly prioritize non-punishment of the innocent over punishment of the guilty.

            In normal ethics, people should act with respect for basic human rights. Denying someone water does not show that respect, no matter how much an advantage it may confer your side. Some things are just not fair play. I remember a news report that mentioned the supporters of Baruch Goldstein saying something or another, and the first thing that popped into my mind is, “Someone who gunned down 27 innocent people while they were praying has SUPPORTERS?” There’s something deeply screwed up about that. I love my wife tremendously, but in the (vanishingly unlikely, barring severe and traumatic brain injury) event she murdered 27 people, I’d be on society’s side, not hers. I’d still want her treated humanely, but I’d want her locked up to protect society, and I doubt I’d stay married to her.

          5. We’re way at the end of this thread. To be brief. 1. Occupations of one people by another are grotesque. 2. The occupation of the West Bank by Israel is necessary, both practically and morally, until and unless the Palestinian Arabs agree to a peace deal. 3. That’s a long way off. 4. Anything that shortens that period of time is practically and morally good. 5. Settlement brings pressure on the Palestinian Arabs to reach a peace deal sooner rather than later. 6. The occupiers have an obligation to make the occupation as humane as possible given all other practical and moral considerations. 7. Sometimes the Israelis fail at this. 8. However compared to what Arabs seem prepared to do to other Arabs, right now, the occupation is not particularly horrific, notwithstanding these lapses. 9. Settlement, in and of itself, as compared with mass murder of civilians, for example, isn’t such a lapse.

            Which is to say, not to use the same yardstick to measure everyone’s moral responsibility, or “reprehensibility,” is discrimination. Which usually, and certainly in this instance, can only lead to practically and morally wrong conclusions.

            Which is to say, finally, that the situation stinks, but if you were actually responsible — legally responsible, which for some reason Andrew Laurence views as a lesser form of moral responsibility — you’d be carrying out policies that people like you, from the outside, and without responsibility, would be whining about pretty much as you’re doing right now. Which is gigantically unhelpful, both practically and morally, in getting where we need to get, which is, that the Palestinian Arabs come to understand that there is no alternative, none at all, to making peace with Israel, that will lead to anything that they claim to want.

        2. J. Michael,
          I think you are conflating two things: the legitimacy of Israel, and the legitimacy of the Occupation. I don’t think that the legitimacy of Israel has a damned thing to do with the events of 1947 or the Balfour Declaration, just as the legitimacy of the United States doesn’t have much to do with our historical treatment of our aborigines (which, fwiw, was far worse). Time legitimates all heels–if said heels allow time to work. Otherwise, the whole world becomes the Balkans, nursing historic grievances, generally to benefit some demagogue.

          The Occupation is different, because the wrongs are occurring today. I do believe in giving something for nothing, because the Occupation is a moral blight on Israel, and ending or even easing it is far more than “nothing.” To make Larry happy, I will cheerfully admit that no nation could occupy another for 40 years, and do better than Israel has done. On the other hand, no nation could occupy another for 40 years, and not look awful in doing so.

          1. I agree with most of what you say, but (and I know you understand this) it’s not a question of making me happy.

            What is the ethically correct thing to do, what has the highest chance of leading to a good outcome, if you are an elected leader of Israel? As I believe events in Gaza have proven, notwithstanding the moral blight that occupation entails — and I agree with you that it is a moral blight — I don’t believe that unilaterally withdrawing would lead to the best outcome. Which is to say, I don’t believe it would be an ethical policy. I don’t see any scenario under which this doesn’t lead to more death and destruction on all sides.

            Again, of course, people who hate Israel and wish to see it destroyed don’t find this problematic. I suppose that were the Jewish population of Israel to be subjected to what is happening in Syria right now — and of course it’s likely that the we’d be confronted with something far worse than that — these same humanitarians would be wringing their hands. Zionism means, among other things, that the Jews don’t have to depend upon such moral geniuses.

          2. Amen. I don’t think withdrawing would end all of the crazy on the other side, but I do think it would cut down on it a lot, it would shut up most of the Europeans – a not inconsiderable side benefit — and as you say, it’s the right thing to do, mostly for practical reasons (sitting as I am in stolen California).

            And I agree with your historical points too, mostly. I’m reading a really great book on WWI, that all of you here probably read years ago, by David Fromkin. Wasn’t I surprised to learn that Jordan was originally considered part of Palestine? Yes I was, since no one remembers it now. So the lion’s share of that land already got given to an Arab country, which doesn’t let in (permanently) the “Palestinians,” who didn’t exist then but do now, unquestionably.

            Anyhoo, lots of b.s. arguments everywhere you look. Which I as an American take to mean, as you say, that after a certain amount of time, you just have to let things go. Get on with your life. It is too late to make things perfectly fair.

          3. I’m not addressing the legitimacy of Israel at all. In some ways, I think “legitimacy” is almost an irrelevant concept when it comes to countries that actually exist. It’s there. Hopefully it will contrinue to be there.

            What I am saying is that the Palestinians not only have legitimate grievances now, they have had legitimate grievances since the very beginning of this process a century ago. They have never had the opportunity to discharge those grievances. So it should come as no surprise to anyone that they behave in ways that strike outsiders as completely unreasonable. Until they have a chance to feel vindicated, they will continue to do so.

            Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing is, again, irrelevant. That’s the way human beings behave. If you do not build your expectations around that fact, you will be disappointed forever. Time will not heal these wounds if you don’t keep that in mind.

          4. J.,

            “Hopefully [Israel] will continue to be there.”

            This pretty much sums up why, while I believe your moral outrage is real, I don’t think it’s serious.

  7. Deprivation of water as described here meets most people’s test for justifiable rebellion, irrespective of the (strong) prior claims of the Palestinians.

  8. Someday, even Israelis will see the irony of lecturing Americans how one shouldn’t be expected to ‘give something for nothing.’

    1. Well if we are doing “someday” I’d like to take a shot too:


      If some official body in the future…
      Were to seek justice for the crimes committed here by Avi…
      A massive get-out-of-jail-free card lies near at hand…
      A card similar to other cards played in various other places…
      Including after-the-fact Nazi Germany.
      All Avi has to say with a “flourish” is:
      I’m not to blame. I was just following orders.

      And so it goes…

      1. The facts are disgusting enough. But your comments here add that extra grotesque element of faux irony. I’m sure it feels wonderful to have your moral clarity.

  9. I feel for Israel, for it has no good choices. We’ll only give something if we get what we want was what the English tried in Ireland for 100 years (for 300 before that they tried just plain brute force). In the end they gave it away and got peace – after another 60 years of shooting. The short-run is ok for Israel. The long run is another thing – Arab democracies are going to be just as hostile, and stronger, Iran is not going to go away, the sympathy of the rest of the world is waning, the US is weakening relative to other, less supportive, powers, the demographic tide is running against the Jewish state. Better, I would have thought, to settle for what you can when strong. But that does not seem to be the majority Israeli mindset.

    1. Settle for what? The Arab states and the Palestinian factions still have a policy of exterminating Israel. Are you suggesting Israeli’s should settle for that?

      The deal Israel offered Arafat met all of his legitimate demands. He refused it because it did not include the illegitimate ones. Until Israel’s right to exist is confirmed, there will be no deal, and the Arabs won’t do that. So there will be no deal, and the misery will simply continue. At times it may be very harsh for one side or the other. This is not a job for NATO. It will only be solved when wiser heads prevail – probably not in our lifetimes or in the lifetime of any one alive today.

      1. That attitude might have been okay before the fundamentalist Islamist types started blowing up Americans. Now, I’m much less willing to wait for the Israelis and Palestinians to get their act together.

        Regardless of anything that Palestinians’ cr*p leaders do, it does not excuse stealing water from regular Joe Palestinians. Which is what we’re discussing. My hope is, sooner or later those regular Joes will realize there is no such thing as “the Arabs,” no one is coming to “save” them, and they will make a decent choice for their own lives. That choice being of course to make peace, which I actually think would solve most of their problems. Maybe I’m a pollyanna, but I think Israel would be a pretty good neighbor if it weren’t for all the violence. No doubt much better than some others we could name, who don’t seem to do much. And actually, we in the US could do more too. You can’t expect good decisionmaking from hungry people.

      2. The Camp David deal did not offer Arafat all his legitimate demands. The Taba deal arguably did, but that failed because Barak was about to get ousted from office and because George W. Bush had just taken office in the US, not because Arafat rejected anything.

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