Thursday, January 15, 2009

WaPo: The Tijuana Analogy - Gaza

Washington Post.

KUHN: When Israel expelled Palestinians:

What if it was San Diego and Tijuana instead?

Randall Kuhn

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

In the wake of Israel's invasion of Gaza, Israel's Defense Minister Ehud Barak made this analogy: "Think about what would happen if for seven years rockets had been fired at San Diego, California from Tijuana, Mexico."

Within hours scores of American pundits and politicians had mimicked Barak's comparisons almost verbatim. In fact, in this very paper on January 9 House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and House Minority Whip Eric Cantor ended an opinion piece by saying "America would never sit still if terrorists were lobbing missiles across our border into Texas or Montana." But let's see if our political and pundit class can parrot this analogy.

Think about what would happen if San Diego expelled most of its Hispanic, African American, Asian American, and Native American population, about 48 percent of the total, and forcibly relocated them to Tijuana? Not just immigrants, but even those who have lived in this country for many generations. Not just the unemployed or the criminals or the America haters, but the school teachers, the small business owners, the soldiers, even the baseball players.

What if we established government and faith-based agencies to help move white people into their former homes? And what if we razed hundreds of their homes in rural areas and, with the aid of charitable donations from people in the United States and abroad, planted forests on their former towns, creating nature preserves for whites to enjoy? Sounds pretty awful, huh? I may be called anti-Semitic for speaking this truth. Well, I'm Jewish and the scenario above is what many prominent Israeli scholars say happened when Israel expelled Palestinians from southern Israel and forced them into Gaza. But this analogy is just getting started.

What if the United Nations kept San Diego's discarded minorities in crowded, festering camps in Tijuana for 19 years? Then, the United States invaded Mexico, occupied Tijuana and began to build large housing developments in Tijuana where only whites could live.

And what if the United States built a network of highways connecting American citizens of Tijuana to the United States? And checkpoints, not just between Mexico and the United States but also around every neighborhood of Tijuana? What if we required every Tijuana resident, refugee or native, to show an ID card to the U.S. military on demand? What if thousands of Tijuana residents lost their homes, their jobs, their businesses, their children, their sense of self worth to this occupation? Would you be surprised to hear of a protest movement in Tijuana that sometimes became violent and hateful? Okay, now for the unbelievable part.

Think about what would happen if, after expelling all of the minorities from San Diego to Tijuana and subjecting them to 40 years of brutal military occupation, we just left Tijuana, removing all the white settlers and the soldiers? Only instead of giving them their freedom, we built a 20-foot tall electrified wall around Tijuana? Not just on the sides bordering San Diego, but on all the Mexico crossings as well. What if we set up 50-foot high watchtowers with machine gun batteries, and told them that if they stood within 100 yards of this wall we would shoot them dead on sight? And four out of every five days we kept every single one of those border crossings closed, not even allowing food, clothing, or medicine to arrive. And we patrolled their air space with our state-of-the-art fighter jets but didn't allow them so much as a crop duster. And we patrolled their waters with destroyers and submarines, but didn't even allow them to fish.

Would you be at all surprised to hear that these resistance groups in Tijuana, even after having been "freed" from their occupation but starved half to death, kept on firing rockets at the United States? Probably not. But you may be surprised to learn that the majority of people in Tijuana never picked up a rocket, or a gun, or a weapon of any kind.

The majority, instead, supported against all hope negotiations toward a peaceful solution that would provide security, freedom and equal rights to both people in two independent states living side by side as neighbors. This is the sound analogy to Israel's military onslaught in Gaza today. Maybe some day soon, common sense will prevail and no corpus of misleading analogies abut Tijuana or the crazy guy across the hall who wants to murder your daughter will be able to obscure the truth. And at that moment, in a country whose people shouted We Shall Overcome, Ich bin ein Berliner, End Apartheid, Free Tibet and Save Darfur, we will all join together and shout "Free Gaza. Free Palestine." And because we are Americans, the world will take notice and they will be free, and perhaps peace will prevail for all the residents of the Holy Land.

Randall Kuhn is an assistant professor and Director of the Global Health Affairs Program at the University of Denver Josef Korbel School of International Studies. He just returned from a trip to Israel and the West Bank.


At 11:14 PM, Blogger Emmanuel said...

That's from the Washington Times, not the Washington Post. Huge difference.

Kuhn forgot that the United States took the areas near the Mexican border by force, yet Mexico now lives peacefully with the United States.

I won't answer every point of the analogy, since that would require a discussion of just about every important event in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I'd just like to remind Mr. Kuhn that in this analogy, while most of the residents of Tijuana want peace and never touched a weapon, the group controlling Tijuana wants to destroy the United States and turn it all into a country where church law is the only one that matters and the pope is king (since I assume Mexican terrorists would be Roman Catholic and not Muslim).

At 9:50 AM, Blogger Gert said...


Oooops! Times, not Post, my bad!

Other than that, you're rather splendidly making my point for me: that really there is no 'moderate Israeli fraction', that even the 'Zionist Left' (to which I presume you belong), firmly refuse to accept any responsibility for Palestinian grievances and that you only have one, long, tired sounding mantra: 'Hamas, Hamas, Hamas, Hamas, Hamas, etc etc ad infinitum'

There will be no Israeli 'concessions': only force or pressure will make Israel retreat. In the absence of both, de facto Apartheid will slowly give way for de jure Apartheid. Right under your very noses...

At 2:18 PM, Blogger Emmanuel said...

I'm having trouble understanding your interpretation of my comment, especially in light of previous comments I've made. You're reading whatever you want to read into it, instead of reading what I actually wrote.

Israel is responsible for much of the Palestinians' suffering and they have legitimate grievances. That doesn't mean Israel has no right to defend itself from the rockets of Hamas, which still wishes to impose Sharia law on "Greater Palestine" (which was my point in my previous comment).

We'll give concessions to the moderates who have accepted our existence, not the radicals still bent on our destruction.

At 5:30 PM, Blogger Gert said...


Even when you (as most Israelis) talk about 'concessions' you manage to sound condescending. The 'concessions' of which you speak are comparable to a thief giving back part or all of the loot, claiming that that is a 'concession', yet all the while imposing conditions on the victim for the return of said loot.

The 'moderates' and 'extremists' in Israel form a continuum, with only mildly different motives for rejecting making 'concessions'. 'Moderate' becomes a misnomer if you find yourself parroting the same conditional rejectionism as your 'extremist' brethren, albeit for slightly different reasons. Over at JSF they put it much better than I ever could:

"First, the distinction between those who believe God granted all of Palestine to Jews and those who seek to keep all of Palestine for security reasons is a distinction with very little difference. Ben Gurion was the leading promoter of using the Bible to buttress the so-called Jewish claim to the land. The religious settlers' movement was groomed by secular security hawks like Alon and Dayan. And the epochal "movement for the whole land of Israel" was dominated by secular voices such as Israel Eldad. The two justifications, security and divine right, go hand in hand and the same people cite them both. Second, there is no "end the occupation" camp in Israeli politics. Not only it isn't the dominant camp. it doesn't exist. The most dovish document published by Israeli Zionists was the Geneva Initiative. In that document, Yossi Beilin refused to recognize Palestinian water rights and insisted on the right of the Israeli air force to train in the supposedly Palestinian air space. Yossi Beilin is a radical peacenik next to supporters of the "two state solution" with any clout, such as Olmert and Livni. The Israeli debate is strictly over whether the benefits of creating small reservations for Palestinians in terms of lower costs of control and international legitimacy outweigh the risks. Describing this debate as between a pro-occupation camp and an anti-occupation camp is disingineous to the extreme. finally, the hard core settlers issue is overblown for rhetorical effect, as the settlers allow a false definition of the problem in terms of "there are extremists on both sides". There are slightly over half a million Israeli settlers in the OPT. That is less than 7% of the population of Israel (and not 20%!). In comparison, that is less than half the number of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship. Among these settlers, those 80,000 who live far out and away from the Green Line are the most "hard core" and ideological, and among those, 40% told polsters they would evacuate if the government paid them. There are at best a few thousand radical settler activists, and Israel could jail them all in half the space it uses for jailing Palestinian activists. Support for settlements increases with religious identification, which (as common) is linked with lower income and social status. If settlers were calling the shots as Walt implies, Israel would be the Utopian country that is ruled from the bottom of the social ladder rather than from the top. Blaming the occupation on the 20% of Israelis who identify as religious is like blaming the Iraq war on churchgoers. The "hard core" settlers are a force to be reckoned with, but their ugly power doesn't come from their numbers. It comes from their position within Israel's political map, which is almost wall to wall solidly opposed to Palestinian self-determination in any meaningful form. This dominant consensus is well reflected in Israeli Jewish public opinion. While a thin majority is willing to remove a few settlements, less than one in four Jewish Israelis supports relinquishing the Jordan Valley to a future Palestinian state. "Extremism" is the least of our problems."

As regards your views on Hamas, they are very one-sided and self-serving. People like Sir Jeremy Greenstock (fmr. UK Ambassador to Iraq) who have had direct dealings with Hamas people largely discredit the US/Israeli line. It's very convenient for Hasbara to try and tie Hamas to 'Global Jihad' for instance because some parallels exists superficially and so, those with a vested interest in believing this stuff will, no matter what.

In essence, Hamas is a resistance movement, very similar to numerous others in the past. Early Zionists would today also be classed 'terrorists'. Ben Gurion, although strictly secular, also understood how to tap into the religious aspect and the biblical connection to Israel very well.

As secularists we may have difficulty understanding that but let's face it: most of the world is religious.

At 10:36 PM, Blogger Emmanuel said...

I agree that the debate within Israel about the occupied territories centers around Israel's best interests rather than the rights of Palestinians. I myself support the two state solution not only because I believe it is the morally right thing to do, but mostly because I think it will be better for Israel, for my family and my unborn children and grandchildren, to live in peace. Yes, it is self-centered, but I don't think it's wrong.

If we'll end up signing a peace treaty and leaving the territories, does it really matter why we did it?

As for Hamas, expert opinions on their policies are conflicted. Who knows, maybe now that Israel killed their more radical leaders, the chances have increased that the pragmatic ones will give up the armed resistance in favor of peace...

At 3:14 PM, Blogger Gert said...


"If we'll end up signing a peace treaty and leaving the territories, does it really matter why we did it?"

Put so nicely, no. But it's obvious that those who have the gravest 'security' concerns will also be inclined to make the smallest possible of concessions. A few 'reservations' (as the author I quote above put it) may also be seen as sufficient concessions by many, especially if the IC feels placated by them. Outsiders (non-Palestinians), who haven't shared their experience will by and large be inclined to accept minimal concessions on their behalf that they would not necessarily accept if the current mess was their mess.

I think, understandably perhaps, you're seeing this too much from the perspective of what you would do. Unfortunately the final status depends on an entire range of opposing forces, much like a set of Laws of Physics, and not just on what you and your fraction would like to see happen.


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