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Parallel

By Matthew Yglesias on January 2, 2009 at 6:20 pm

"Parallel"

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Michael Cohen writes:

If Israel dismantled all its settlements tomorrow, Hamas would not turn around and renounce violence; but if Hamas were to recognize Israel the path to reconciliation would be far easier to achieve.

This is totally true. But consider this proposition:

If Hamas were to recognize Israel tomorrow tomorrow, Israel would not turn around and renounce settlements; but if Israel were to dismantle all settlements the path to reconciliation would be far easier to achieve.

That’s also true. But by arbitrarily shifting the standard, so that Israeli actions are judged according to whether or not they would magically cause the other side to become reasonable, whereas Palestinians are merely asked whether or not making unilateral concessions would in some sense make reconciliation easier to achieve, Cohen has managed to put a heavily pro-Israel spin on the banal observation that both sides could do more to improve the situation but that achieving real peace requires steps on both sides.

Meanwhile, of course, there’s still such a thing as ethics and so forth. Vaguely pointing rockets at civilian areas and hoping they kill as many people as possible is wrong, completely independently of whether or not Israel is also doing things that are wrong. I think that’s a point that’s pretty well-appreciated in the American conversation on this. But by the same token, Israeli actions that are wrong are wrong independent of whether or not Hamas is launching rockets.

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