Mea Culpa: Israel and Palestine

So, I let myself be captured by Irfan’s cultured, bright, well-spoken, and fact-studded critique. He is right, on the main. My short essay is loose on many facts. I did not know what I did not know. And where it’s not completely wrong, it’s often sloppy. So, for example, I shouldn’t have said that Jews were not allowed on the mosque’s esplanade. I should have said (and the damned thing is that I knew it) that they were not allowed to pray there – but then, what if a Jew takes a walk on the esplanade and prays inside his head, and what if, unbeknownst to him, his lips move a little? As they say in French: “Irfan m’a mené en bateau.” At any rate, I will simply confess that nearly all my facts are wrong so I can recover my purpose, at last. Don’t worry, I won’t take much of your time. Here are a handful of real real facts and their obvious implications:

  • Palestinian Muslims (or a single one) assassinated two Israeli police officers a few weeks ago on the mosques esplanade or near it.
  • The assassin or assassins used a gun or guns.
  • Israeli authorities – that exercise de facto control over the area- responded by setting up metal detectors on entrances to the mosque’s esplanade.
  • Metal detectors are useful to alert to the presence of most firearms and of some bombs.
  • Palestinian Muslims protested this measure in several ways, including with riots.
  • The people whose safety could have been improved by the existence of the metal detectors were both Israeli security forces in the area and the great many Palestinian Muslims who constitute the bulk of the visitors to the same area.
  • Thus, Palestinian Muslims protested -including with rioting – security measures that were likely to benefit them most (in terms of numbers).*

That is collective irrationality.

I suppose that Irfan, or another subtle defender of irrationality, will argue that the installation of metal detectors at those sites is another step in Palestinians’ loss of sovereignty over the Holy Places, and thus the violent reaction. Sure thing! This defense implies that Palestinian Muslims have to be ready to be assassinated by other Palestinian Muslims in order to enforce a shred of Palestinian Muslim sovereignty over that small area.

That is insane.


*I ignore, of course, the idiotic view that Muslim terrorists could not possibly kill other Muslims at a sacred site of Islam. Muslims have been killing tens of thousands of Muslims, specifically, for the past twenty years. Some terrorists, who called themselves Muslims, chose to engage precisely in mass killing at Muslim religious sites such as mosques. And then, there are Jewish terrorists, and even the occasional dangerous illuminated Christian.

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3 thoughts on “Mea Culpa: Israel and Palestine

  1. Thanks, Jacques, for your comments. They strike me as a gigantic step in the right direction. They do, however, leave two large issues undiscussed that I specifically raised. You say this:

    “Israeli authorities – that exercise de facto control over the area- responded by setting up metal detectors on entrances to the mosque’s esplanade.”

    “The people whose safety could have been improved by the existence of the metal detectors were both Israeli security forces in the area and the great many Palestinian Muslims who constitute the bulk of the visitors to the same area.”

    The “area” in question is the Old City. To repeat my previous question: If metal detectors keep visitors to “the area” safe, why not install them at the gates to the Old City? The July 14 shooting took place outside the mosque, not inside it. The guns it involved had to be brought into the Old City from outside the Old City; they didn’t originate in the mosque. If metal detectors are such a good idea, why have they been deployed in so selective a fashion?

    Imagine that gunmen penetrate Madison Square Garden, shoot three people in section 100, then flee to section 101, and are shot there by the police. The police then decide to put metal detectors in front of all of the odd-numbered sections of Madison Square Garden on the grounds that doing so is “common sense,” leaving the even-numbered sections unguarded. Observers from afar hear about this, and conclude, “Well, that makes perfect sense.” But people who have been to the place wonder how it does. Wouldn’t it make yet better sense to protect the whole of Madison Square Garden by putting metal detectors at its entrances? By parity of reasoning, wouldn’t it make better sense to protect the Old City from attack by putting metal detectors at *its* entrances?

    I also mentioned that the pretext of “common sense security procedures” was used 20+ years ago by the Israelis in Hebron with promises of “security for all.” The actual result was not security for Palestinians, but insecurity for them: the systematic depopulation of the city, the expropriation of its inhabitants, and its gradual conversion into an open-air prison. The result guarantees insecurity and death for Palestinians while giving Israeli Jews the freedom to murder and steal from those Palestinians.

    To give you a sense of these “common sense procedures”: I know a family in Hebron that is required to keep the doors of its home unlocked at all times so that Israeli soldiers may come in and out at will (and they do). What is the rationale? “Common sense security.” Apparently, we are all made safer when the authorities are allowed to march in and out of our homes at will. Things didn’t get to that pass overnight. They got there by incremental moves, each with its apparently plausible rationale in security. What was the first step? Metal detectors. The link I provided to B’Tselem offers many more details along the same lines.

    Irrational people are fooled over and over by the same deceptions. Rational people are not. Rational people have long since grasped the fact you have yet to grasp: the Israelis lie a lot; they do so in the name of security; and they do so to the detriment of the Palestinians, while claiming always to be the victims of Palestinian violence. To treat liars with suspicion is not collective irrationality but just the reverse. The Israelis have earned the right to be treated with suspicion, above all when they invoke “security.”

    As I said, your comment is a step in the right direction. But one small step for Jacques turns out not to be a very large step in the direction of reality, all things considered. I’d suggest taking a few more.

    • Excellent comment. As an aside, My wife and I lived in Jerusalem when I was on sabbatical and a research fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies. There were 2 things I found hard to get accustomed to…corn on pizza and metal detectors/searches everywhere. And I mean everywhere.

      “If metal detectors are such a good idea, why have they been deployed in so selective a fashion?”

      You know the answer as well as I do….it’s not about ‘security’ it’s about being dicks to the Palestinians. If it were truly about security it would be as hard to get into the Old City as it is to get into the Jerusalem Mall.

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