Israel/Palestine: The Politics of a Two-State Solution

  • Israel/Palestine and the Politics of a Two-State Solution
  • When Peace Fails: Lessons from Belfast for the Middle East

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Blog Introduction: Who am I and what this blog is about

This is a blog devoted to discussing foreign affairs and in particular foreign affairs and politics dealing with the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Middle East.

The immediate impetus for this blog is that it is a requirement for a journalism degree that I'm pursuing. But I've been considering it for some time as for the last five years I've been a regular contributor to a number of blogs on this subject (APN's The Conversation by Leonard Fein; Dan Fleshler's Realistic Dove; the MeretzUSA blogspot; Michael Lame's Rethink the Middle East; and the Promised Land). I've written several guest blogs at both the Realistic Dove and MeretzUSA.  Although I'm quite aware that one doesn't need qualifications in the blogosphere, I think that I should lay out mine for my readers so that they can judge them for themselves. I have a doctorate and masters degree in International Relations from the University of Southern California and a bachelor's degree in the same subject from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. I have had five books published: three dealing with comparative politics comparing and contrasting Israel, Northern Ireland and South Africa; and two with antebellum American politics. Over the last dozen years I've focused on researching conflicts and societies that I believe can cast light on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and on Israeli politics.  I've focused on looking at settler societies--and I'll explain my rationale for doing so in detail in my next post--not in order to delegitimize or stigmatize Israel but rather in order to learn from other conflicts that have already reached a stage that Israel or the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have not, and thus learn from them. As a student of history, I believe that it is possible to learn from the past, but that few people rarely do because most people see history as an exercise in self-validation and legitimation rather than as a means of learning. This is because this is the way it is normally taught in school and in popular works.  It is also because much of what we learn from the past is not really very flattering.

The name of my blog comes from a combination of the two reflexive "insults" that the Israeli and Jewish nationalist right use to shutdown any discussion that is outside of their box. The terms are: self-hating Jew and anti-semite. Thus one can either agree with them or be dismissed as either an anti-semite or someone who hates one's own cultural background or ethnicity. Over the years I've been labeled both based on whether the name-callers thought that I was a Jew or a Gentile. Some thirty years ago I was labeled a self-hating Jew by Midge Decter after I wrote a letter in to Commentary magazine disagreeing with an article that attacked Shalom Akshav/Peace Now. More recently I've been called a Jew hater for asserting that Israeli Jews can be most objectively seen as BOTH returned natives and settlers. I'm a Hebrew-speaking gentile who admires Jews for their cultural achievements and learning over the centuries. Also in Italian gentile means nice and kind, and I like to think that that meaning also fits me.

Most of my comparative work has involved comparing Israel to four different societies: South Africa, Northern Ireland, antebellum America and the French Fourth Republic. I wrote my doctoral dissertation on internal settlements in Southern Africa (Namibia, Rhodesia, South Africa) and I conducted doctoral and post-doctoral research in Natal, South Africa in 1988 and 1990. I also served as a volunteer in the Rhodesian Guard Force and Rhodesian Ministry of Internal Affairs leading African troops in the bush war in 1978-79 because I believed then that no good could come from a self-proclaimed Maoist ruling the country. I believe that Robert Mugabe's performance over the last thirty years has more than proven my instincts correct. I conducted research in Belfast, Northern Ireland on The Troubles and on the Northern Ireland peace process during the summer of 1998 and the summer of 1991. I availed myself of the opportunity to collect a small library of books on the sectarian conflict there. When the Northern Ireland peace process collapsed between 2002 and 2006 I took advantage of the opportunity to research Indian-fighter politicians in American history and then anti-slavery parties in antebellum America. Incidentally, the term antebellum America refers to the North as well as the South, and it was mainly the former that I compared Israel to. I have also read about the party system during the French Fourth Republic, but have not published anything on the subject.  During 2010 I researched the process by which Dublin renounced its constitutional claim to Northern Ireland, but I have yet to publish on the subject.

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