The Narrative and the Objective

Argumentum ad consequentiam – Concluding that an idea or proposition is true or false because the consequences of it being true or false are desirable or undesirable.

Micah Goodman believes that there is, at least today, no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But he has a plan:

The concept of shrinking the conflict means pursuing any policy that significantly boosts Palestinian self-government without jeopardizing Israeli security. At the heart of shrinking the conflict is an effort to create territorial contiguity between Palestinian autonomous islands in the West Bank, connect this Palestinian autonomy to the wider world, and promote Palestinian economic prosperity and independence. The purpose of this strategy is to transform the West Bank’s fragmented and fragile network of autonomous islands into a contiguous and prosperous polity. Shrinking the conflict would give the Palestinians what they currently lack: a critical mass of self-governance.

Importantly, this would not be in the context of a peace treaty and the Palestinians would not be expected to forgo their claims for a “right of return” or to recognize Israel. This is about shrinking the conflict, not ending it. …

Shrinking the conflict wouldn’t bury the dream of a full peace accord. It would do exactly the opposite. After the Palestinians’ self-governing autonomy is stabilized, it might eventually be upgraded into a fully independent state in the context of a peace treaty. But this would not be the only option. It might also become part of a confederation with Israel, or the option of political union with Jordan might return to the table.

So what is the problem here? There are two. One is that he does not listen to Palestinians, or he doesn’t take what he hears from them seriously. Like us, the Palestinians have a story, a historical Narrative that explains who they are and how they are a people. Like us, they teach it in their schools, and it informs their literature, art, their religion and their politics. When they say “I am a Palestinian,” they are referring to this Narrative and their place in it.

And also like us, along with the Narrative, there comes a collective Objective that is supported by it. Part of being a Palestinian, along with finding one’s place in the narrative, is yearning for the achievement of the Objective.

The Palestinian Narrative tells that they are a people that developed over hundreds or thousands of years in the land that we call Eretz Yisrael and they call Filastin, and that the Jews violently stole it from them, expelled them, took away their land, possessions, and honor: the Nakba. According to this story, the land and everything in it belongs to them. We are not even related to the biblical Jews or even a people; we are a motley group of Europeans or Khazars, or whatever.

Everything about this story, including what it says about who they are and who we are, is wrong. But although most Palestinians are Muslims, they are also Palestinists, to whom this narrative is holy. It doesn’t matter if a Palestinian is a barely literate shepherd or a university professor, doctor, or engineer. It is irrelevant if the Palestinian is Muslim, Christian, or an atheist. It doesn’t matter if he lives in Ramallah, Umm al-Fahm, or Tel Aviv. The Narrative is holy and it represents a higher truth than anything found in Western history books, archaeology, or genetics. Criticizing the narrative to a Palestinian is like telling a religious Christian or observant Jew that science has determined that the humans are descended from apes. It doesn’t contradict his belief; at most, it exists alongside it in a realm of lower truth.

The Narrative supports and justifies the Objective, and fuels the Palestinian passion to attain it. The objective, of course, is the elimination of the Jewish presence in all of Filastin, and the return of their land, possessions, and honor to the Palestinian people from whom it was stolen.

Understanding this makes it possible to understand otherwise inexplicable aspects of their behavior. Why did they reject the Covid vaccines that Israel has now sent to South Korea, which is pleased to receive them? Why, over and over, do they resist initiatives designed to be mutually beneficial to Israelis and Palestinians? Why is “normalization” a dirty word? Why did both Arafat and Abbas find it impossible to accept a sovereign state in the territories on the condition that they would recognize that Israel is the state of the Jewish people? Why did they loot and burn the greenhouses in Gaza?

It is undeniable that Palestinians, like anybody else, want economic prosperity and independence. But no Palestinian will agree to give up his dream for those things. You might as well set up a Golden Calf in Mea Shearim and try to pay the residents to bow down to it.

We gave the Palestinians the territorial contiguity that they wanted in Gaza, but it didn’t “shrink” the conflict. It just made it easier to move rocket launchers around, in pursuit of the Objective. And similar actions will not reduce conflict in Judea and Samaria. The Palestinians pocket concessions that are consistent with their Objective, and reject those that weaken it. They will not give it up. And therefore, the “shrinking” program will not reduce conflict, it will only strengthen the enemy.

I said there were two problems with Micah Goodman’s program. The other one is not exactly a defect in it, but a psychological explanation of how it came into being. And that is that Goodman has fallen into the trap of argumentum ad consequentiam. He believes, as do many on the Left and Center, that there is no alternative to Jewish-Arab coexistence. The thought that it might be impossible leaves him at sea. In his book, “Catch-67: The Left, the Right, and the Legacy of the Six-Day War,” Goodman explains very persuasively why abandoning Judea and Samaria would be disastrous to Israel’s security, while at the same time, taking control of and responsibility for its hostile population is also untenable.

Faced with this dilemma, he argues for bypassing the problem, choosing not to try to solve it, but rather to ameliorate it as much as possible, in the hopes that someday the desire for “peace and prosperity” will cause the Palestinians to forget their Narrative and abandon their Objective.

But that won’t happen either. The Palestinians will not let go of their Objective and they will not forget why. Implementing Goodman’s program will only give them more leverage.

And now we come to the ad consequentiam part. Goodman is no dummy. He must understand that there is only one option open to the Jewish people if they are to obtain their own Objective, which is to live in peace in Eretz Yisrael. And that is to persuade or encourage the Palestinians to leave (here are some ideas) – or, failing that, to expel them by any means necessary.

This existential situation – that we cannot coexist with them, that they are an implacable enemy, and that either they go or we do – is too painful for many to bear. It is cognitively dissonant, and it places our humanitarian values in direct conflict with our drive to preserve ourselves as a people. So we do not admit that it is true.

But the real world doesn’t work that way. What’s true is true. And the quickest way to become extinct, either as an individual or as a people, is to ignore reality.

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6 Responses to The Narrative and the Objective

  1. nudnikJR says:

    I have been a follower of Martin Sherman’s writings for almost 20 years. In my opinion he and Caroline Glick, (although I know he has some issues with Caroline) are my favorite columnists, together with yourself.
    The likes of Micah Goodman are living on another planet. As you say, they cannot face up to the truth of the Arab narrative so they obfuscate it. The problem is that too many Israelis qualify as Tennyson’s Lotus Eaters and feel they do not have to deal with the existential problem posed by the Arabs.

  2. NormanF says:

    I don’t see what Israel can do except manage the conflict and reduce friction points as much as possible.

    Getting rid of the Arabs is a utopian proposition. If it could be done, it would have been done already.

    There is no easy way of dealing with the fact they want to eliminate the Jews.

    As it stands, there is no way to make peace with them and there is no way to defeat them.

    Nothing exists that allows Israel to cut the Gordian Knot – which the Jewish State will have to live with for the foreseeable future.

    • There is an asymmetry in moral thinking between the Jews and the Arabs in this regard. We believe that causing the Arabs to leave, violently or not, would a terrible crime against humanity that we must never commit. They believe that our very existence is a crime against humanity and Allah, and are prepared to go to any lengths to extirpate us.
      We can continue to defend ourselves within very circumscribed limits — until they finally come up with a winning combination, or just get lucky. Or we can try to understand that the asymmetry in our thinking is what is preventing us from defeating them.

    • sabashimon says:

      “Getting rid of the Arabs is a utopian proposition. If it could be done, it would have been done already.”

      Of course it could have been done, but we were and are too worried about fulfilling half of Ben Gurion’s hope/vision for us……the part about being a light unto the nations, and we neglect the other part… be a nation like all others. If we are to survive as a Jewish sovereignty we will have some very difficult decisions to make. If those decisions are left unmade we can kiss it goodbye.
      America has not completely dissimilar issues, only instead of Arabs they have to deal with the communists that have taken hold of the reins. Don’t think so? Listen to press secretary Psaki for a minute. Of course America as opposed to Israel is a massive country, subsequently their takeover will just take longer.
      The Left is the bane of both countries.

  3. shalom-hillel says:

    I believe the option you suggest as a solution can become viable depending on circumstances and assuming Israeli leadership is realistic enough to grasp the opportunity. The geopolitical pieces, in the form of what Trump started, exist to bring such a plan to fruition. If there is a second Trump presidency it could certainly happen.

    You have to wonder about the motives of those who would fight a voluntary plan of relocation to make people’s lives better and call it ethnic cleansing.

  4. Shalom Freedman says:

    I do not know that all the Arabs living in the whole of the land of Israel wholly reject the story of the Jews life in and return to the land of Israel. Is it possible that there are some, or even many who understand that the Jews of Israel have a story of their own in relation to the Holy Land.
    I also do not know that the way to security in the future for a Jewish state is by establishing a state without Arabs.
    I do not know the ‘answer’ and do not know of anyone who does.
    It seems to me that it is in some way correct to try and reduce the conflict but I do not know if this is possible.
    I suggest that we cannot seek perfection but must try to strengthen Israel and work for a kind of state which will be powerful in every way, including in its moral as possible relation to the strangers in its midst.

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