Like my good friend Steve Saideman, I don’t write much about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This is academically odd, given that most of my stuff has been on ethnic conflict, secessionism, and irredentism, and the whole Israel/Palestine thing falls smack in the middle of that category. It was certainly included in the data set I compiled for my dissertation, but I’ve largely avoided it since then for reasons well-known to most people in the international relations field. Israel-Palestine is the ultimate Third Rail – a viper’s nest of highly-charged, overly-emotional, moralistic arguments that are deadlocked into an endless shouting match. In that arena there is no winning, and rarely even surviving. From a rational choice perspective, staying away from this argument is a pretty obvious choice – the costs FAR outweigh the benefits.
So why am I stepping into it now? Because I wrote a review last week of Andreas Wimmer’s latest book, Waves of War: Nationalism, State Formation, and Ethnic Exclusion in the Modern World. And even though Wimmer manages to write the entire book without mentioning Israel or Palestine even once, I think the picture he puts together may hold not the solution to the problem, but the answer to why there is endless fighting and no progress towards peace.
Last Week Israel announced more construction in the settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The new measure included publishing bids for the construction of nearly 1,500 housing units and the revival of plans for 1,800 more housing units.
For over a decade now I’ve been grappling to understand the logic behind Israel’s settlement policies. At first it was simply the puzzlement of one who still maintains some ties to the country he left and who loves to follow its fascinating (though often depressing) politics. In recent years, as I expended my study of religious radicalism to look beyond the jihadi universe, the “crazies” (?) of my tribe seemed a fascinating subject to explore.
On the Wednesday of Israel Apartheid Week, the daily email announcements from the University included the following:
Palestinian Solidarity, Anti-Zionism, and BDS
Join us for our first event of Israeli Apartheid Week at Hopkins. We will be having members from Jewish Voice for Peace and Hopkins Students for Justice in Palestine speak about anti-Zionism, Palestinian solidarity, and BDS (JHU “Today’s Announcements,” via email, 2/25/2014; italics in original).
In the space of these fifty words, I was struck by the divisiveness and violence of the use of “Anti-Zionism;” conflicted about the invocation of apartheid; strongly opposed to but not at all offended by the advocacy of boycotts of, divestment from, and sanctions on Israel and Israelis (BDS); and, if Palestinian solidarity means caring about the lives and futures of the Palestinian people, then broadly supportive.