Just Another Ant
Saturday, 4. January 2003
Avishai Margalit

...faßt in der neuen "New York Review of Books" einige Erkenntnisse über palästinensische Selbstmordattentäter zusammen [The Suicide Bombers]. Wie Amos Elon in der letzten Ausgabe [Israelis & Palestinians: What Went Wrong], folgt Margalit der nachahmenswerten Intellektuellen-Tradition, vor allem die "eigene Seite" mit deutlichen Worten zu kritisieren. Hinter dem Vorgehen der islamistischen Organisationen sieht er allerdings Ambitionen, die über die Rückgewinnung der besetzten Gebiete hinausgehen.

Hier* noch die wenig elegante Übersicht von Margalits letzten NYRB-Arbeiten, die ich für meinen kurzlebigen Versuch eines englischsprachigen Blogs geschrieben habe. Vielleicht ist sie trotzdem für manche(n) nützlich, schließlich ist die Mehrzahl der Artikel mittlerweile kostenpflichtig. Im Camp Catatonia gibt es eine Kritik von Margalits gemeinsam mit Ian Buruma geschriebenen Essay "Occidentalism" [NYRB 1-2002/Camp Catatonia Eintrag].

A short overview of his last four articles:

In Issue 13/1999 (August 12th) he covers Ehud Barak's almost perfectly executed campaign for prime minister, winning over the highly favoured Benjamin Netanyahu, whose portrait by Margalit is hardly flattering ("embarrassingly incompetent", "solitary", "nasty" and "brutish"). "The Odds Against Barak" shows Jerusalem as central issue at the failed Camp David negotiations in July 2000. As in his essay from 1991 ("The Myth of Jerusalem"), Margalit points to the arbitrariness of religious symbols and their instrumentalization, which he comments with an ironic sidenote:

Jews in Israel, both religious and secular, are addicted to simple, emotional metaphors for Jerusalem. Not only is it said to be the "heart" of the Jewish people, it is the "seat" of the nation's soul. But it must be a sort of heavenly Jerusalem they have in mind here, because most Israelis live outside Jerusalem and do not really know - and when they are there they can hardly stand - the earthly, squalid Jerusalem that I, a Jerusalemite all my life, passionately love.

Another quote qualifies as nice aphorism:

There are many things that people are willing to put up with as long as they are not asked to put them in writing.

"Snakes and Ladders" tries to explain the reasons for Intifada II. Margalit thinks that Ariel Sharon's now-infamous visit to the Temple Mount has to be seen as desperate attempt to "out-right" his political competitors Barak and Netanyahu. On the other hand Margalit doesn't believe in the spontaneousness of the following Palestinian uprising:

For example, al-Ayam, the semi-official daily of the Palestinian Authority, reported on December 6, 2000, that Imad al-Falouji, the Palestinian minister of communications, said that the Palestinian Authority began preparing to launch a new intifada from the moment the negotiations at Camp David broke down. The instructions to get ready for conflict, he says, came from Arafat himself.


If the Palestinians were to stop the violence tomorrow, there is no question that Israel would stop its violence at once. But if Israel stops the violence tomorrow, there is no chance the Palestinians will stop theirs. This I believe is largely true. But the argument neglects the basic asymmetry between the Israelis and the Palestinians. As things stand, a cease-fire would greatly favor Israel; it would leave the Israelis with their heavily patrolled West Bank and Gaza settlements and their punitive border controls; and it would leave the Palestinians without a state. So as defenders of the status quo ante, the Israelis would be more willing to stop the feud than the Palestinians.

Finally, "Settling Scores" focuses on the history and demographic structure of Jewish settlements in West Bank and Gaza.
Margalit still believes in the proposals made at Taba (Egypt): Israel would give up Gaza Strip and all but 3% of West Bank. While this means "solving more than half of the problem", it will also create massive resettlement calamities:

Traveling recently in the West Bank, I met two settlers on the road to Yakir. One of them said: "You guys should stop blaming us. We are here because every Israeli government told us that here is where we should be. We are obedient citizens, and if we are told to leave, we'll leave. All we ask is to be offered a respectable solution." I believe most of the settlers—who are driven neither by nostalgia nor ideology—would agree with them. A "respectable" solution can and should be offered to all the settlers. As for the settlers who reject such a solution, many will fiercely resist and threaten a civil war.

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