Martin Van Creveld: Give Up West Bank or ‘Tell Your Children to Leave Israel’
Hebrew University Professor Martin Van Creveld is one of the world’s foremost military historians. He’s what I’d call a non-ideological, highly pragmatic observer of the Israel-Arab conflict. Because of his academic expertise and reputation as an independent, I feature his work here his as a breath of fresh air compared to the tendentious commentary one reads about the conflict in the Israeli and world media.
Van Creveld’s just published a new op ed in The Forward propounding the non-earth-shattering idea that maintaining Israel’s hold on the West Bank serves no military or strategic role in protecting Israel’s security. That’s nothing new. But I think this passage is important for as many to read as possible. Not just does he use the ‘A’ word explicitly, he also suggests the possibility (already happening in some circles) that young Israelis will be forced to leave their increasingly unstable, self-destructive homeland in the event the Occupation doesn’t end:
…Provided that Israel maintains its military strength…it is crystal-clear that Israel can easily afford to give up the West Bank. Strategically speaking, the risk of doing so is negligible. What is not negligible is the demographic, social, cultural and political challenge that ruling over 2.5 million — nobody knows exactly how many — occupied Palestinians in the West Bank poses. Should Israeli rule over them continue, then the country will definitely turn into what it is already fast becoming: namely, an apartheid state that can only maintain its control by means of repressive secret police actions.
To save itself from such a fate, Israel should rid itself of the West Bank, most of Arab Jerusalem specifically included. If possible, it should do so by agreement with the Palestinian Authority; if not, then it should proceed unilaterally, as the — in my view, very successful — withdrawal from Gaza suggests. Or else I would strongly advise my children and grandson to seek some other, less purblind and less stiff-necked, country to live in.
We can say these things till the cows come home and the Israeli right and even middle (including their Diaspora supporters) can dismiss it with their usual derogatory terms. But as a patriotic Israeli and loyal Zionist, not to mention expert in military doctrine, Van Creveld’s stark terms here are noteworthy. People like him don’t usually speak of such dire consequences for Israel, as they like to retain as much hope as possible. To do otherwise, would mean betraying their dreams and those of their family and ancestors who brought them to Israel.
Now, there are a considerable number of Israelis who believe that THEIR Israel might be better off without the Van Crevelds of the Jewish world, the whiny, secular eggheads. In the view of the Israeli far-right, currently in power, an Israel without as many of these types would be better. Then Israel could get on unmolested in its campaign to create a proud religious-nationalist nation ruled by Torah-true Judaism. But such an Israel would be a cramped, narrow perversion of the Israel I’ve always envisioned. In fact, since Bibi & Friends are so prone to using misbegotten slogans like Hamastan, perhaps we’ll call this versiion of Israel, Judeastan; because it will have more in common with the Islamist extremists of the Taliban, Iran, and Osama bin Laden than it will with the democratic Jewish (Zionist) vision of Ahad HaAm or Martin Buber.
Let’s be clear that Van Creveld is less interested in questions of morality or justice so you won’t read much of that in this analysis. For example, he argues for the Separation Wall, while I don’t. But those on the other side of this argument are most concerned about issues of security and preserving the Zionist dream. These are entirely pragmatic, non-moral considerations, which is why it’s helpful to have a figure like Van Creveld speaking their language.
45 thoughts on “Martin Van Creveld: Give Up West Bank or ‘Tell Your Children to Leave Israel’ – Tikun Olam תיקון עולם إصلاح العالم”
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the only problem with his argument is that the majority of residents of southern israel would disagree that the withdrawal from gaza was “successful”
When they know as much about military history & strategy as Van Creveld then they’ll have something worth listening to. Van Creveld is seeing the big picture. If I had a choice bet. a resident of Sderot railing at Hamas or Van Creveld I know whose vision I’d prefer to trust.
Withdrawal from Gaza may have been successful from a military point of view, but hardly from a just point of view, especially for the Gazans.
Those dreams which brought those early families to Israel have already been betrayed, by those who would have all of eretz Israel, Arab free. Van Creveld is right about one thing; I can’t imagine anyone wanting to inhabit such a place under current and future conditions.
Oh, did someone say “Gaza Withdrawal”? Now accessing Hasbara auto-form replies…tick tick tick tick….:
“In an October 6, 2004, interview with Haaretz, Dov Weissglas, Sharon’s chief of staff, declared: “The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process… When you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Disengagement supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians”
2nd Source: “Israel: Sharon the blessed”. Le Monde Diplomatique. February 2006. http://mondediplo.com/2006/02/03sharon“
As noted by others here – the disengagement was a tragic tragic error. So tragic in my opinion, that continued occupation almost seems better.
The disengagement plan strengthened Hamas at the expense of more moderate Palestinian factions, and traumatized the Israeli public at large which doesn’t see what good it brought.
There are those in Israel who go as far as to say the it was Sharon’s final nail in preserving Israel’s occupation in the West Bank.
In short – the disengagement reduced the chances of peace at least as much as the current Israeli nut-job government.
Israel’s continued occupation under the falsehood of disengagement strengthened Hamas’ leftish stance.
Hamas leftish? A bunch of religious fundermentalists you call leftist?
That just about makes Meir Kahane a communist!
Strengthened Hamas – agreed, but you got your vectors wrong.
“Hamas’ leftish stance”
Une fois n’est pas coutume [just this once won’t hurt]:
I do agree with Shmuel. You just can’t put Hamas anywhere in a Western conception of the political sphere. Most European analysers tend to consider them right-wing which is just as flawed.
Hamas also provides schools, hospitals and more to the Gazans. I would call them progressives as opposed to the conservative PA that is literally toeing an agenda with Israel.
You’re right, we can’t look at this under the Western Sphere because Bush et. al. have taken the conservative stance and shot it to sh*t with their war forays.
Shas and other Haredim in Israel also provide schools etc., don’t think that is the best way to define “progressive”
What you really mean to say is that you support Hamas, but can’t really think of a good name for this – or maybe for your own ideology.
“Progressive” ?? You’re kidding.
Providing schools etc is based on the concept of Islamic solidarity, and that’s fine with me, but progressive ??
Do you know anything about Hamas’ world view ??
Women have been forbidden to go to a male hairdresser, summer camps for children are not mixed in the name of I don’t know what religious concept , and musical events have been cancelled.
That’s not the Palestine that I want to live in. You might have a theoretical stance, but hardly any knowledge of what going on in the real world in Palestine.
I can’t begin to describe how completely off-kilter this comment is. The disengagement was only faulty in its unilaterial nature which did nothing to engage the Palestinians in implementation & coordination. Had there been Palestinian buy in, it could’ve worked much better.
I completely agree. The unilateral nature of the disengagement caused it to reduce the chances of peace.
Obviously, Israeli soldiers leaving Gaza through an agreement with the PLO could have been a wonderful thing.
RE: “Or else I would strongly advise my children and grandson to seek some other, less purblind and less stiff-necked, country to live in.” – Creveld
TAKE IT AWAY, WAYLON & WILLIE: “Mamas, don’t let your babies grow up to be Israelis…”
Clearly Van Creveld is talking about the military, and about the military only. So Israel still needs this viewpoint expressed as ground breaking (18 months after Netanyahu said the same in Bar Ilan). His political frame of mind is Zionism (while he writes “Israel”), of which he does not challenge a single aspect. He has not (ever) taken a look from the outside. So far for being “non-ideological” and “an independent”.
Clearly, Van Creveld is proposing another Gaza, this time on the West Bank. Expect the same “success” as Gaza I is today.
I disagree with van Crevald that the withdrawal from Gaza was successful, because I disagree that a withdrawal ever happened. Settlers may not live there any more, but Israel retains control over borders and airspace, and consequently it has control over Gazan daily life. You can’t determine where somebody is able to go to university, deny their relatives abroad permission to come and live in Gaza (and in many cases permission even to visit), decide which goods should be available to buy in the shops, severely punish the population for its election results, and not call yourself an occupier. If the Gaza withdrawal is to be the template for West Bank withdrawal, I pity the poor West Bank.
“Should Israeli rule over them continue, then the country will definitely turn into what it is already fast becoming: namely, an apartheid state that can only maintain its control by means of repressive secret police actions.”
This kind of statement is frustrating. He talks as though ‘apartheid’ and ‘repressive secret police actions’ are regrettable and relatively new features of the occupation/dispossession. These have been going on for well over sixty years, so what does he mean by ‘fast becoming’? I often wonder what is passing through the mind of people who talk like this. Do they think that prior to 1967, the Israeli military was in the habit of picnicking with the Palestinians and everybody shared pink-iced cupcakes and it was all sweet and lovely?
1. Ehad Ha’am was more close to “a proud religious-nationalist nation ruled by Torah-true Judaism” then to democratic Jewish (Zionist) vision”. he wasn’t big on democracy, he wanted to build in Palestine a jewish global spiritual center. before a nation arises.
2. ” I disagree that a withdrawal ever happened… and not call yourself an occupier”
Israel does not occupy Gaza, it besiegs it.
3. “residents of southern israel would disagree that the withdrawal from gaza was successful”
why? the rate of rockets stayed the same before and after, it reached a climax before cast lead and since then we’re back to sforadic occurances. the southerns are not big on Fatah either.
the hitnatkut was succesful because the masive military power that was needed to guard katif is now safeguadig a borderline, a internationally recognised even, because the massive money the settelments cost is save. because the 1.7 milion Gazans don’t live under (indirect) Israeli military occupation.
i co-sign what the Professor said about the disengagement . soon coming to a West Bank near me.
“the rate of rockets stayed the same before and after, it reached a climax before cast lead…”
The rate of rockets reached nearly zero for months until Israel broke the ceasefire with a series of extremely deadly attacks, which all but demanded a response.
Israel is like a serial abuser who simply cannot stand it for long when things are quiet and therefore must periodically create an excuse for another round of abuse.
Oh, did someone say “rockets”? Now accessing Hasbara auto-form replies…tick tick tick tick….:
*One can even Google Image search for the term “Gaza” and count MORE UNIQUE pictures of DEAD PALESTINIAN BABIES than there were EVER Israeli deaths from rocket fire. Not women, not men, not boys or girls, but infants — just babies.
*One medium sized forest fire killed ~42 people, which is roughly 4x the amount of Israelis EVER killed by 10,000 or more supposed “rockets”.
*Rocket fire was a prevailing reason for invading Gaza and initiating Operation Cast Lead. Indeed, this is the reason the government of Israel maintains today for their incursion.
BT’Selem’s Casualty Figures for those interested: http://www.btselem.org/Download/20090909_Cast_Lead_Fatalities_Eng.pdf
As Desi Arnaz would say, “Lucy, youuu’ve got some ‘splainin to dooo!”
Under international law a siege constitutes “occupation.” Israel occupies Gaza.
If you want to comment at this blog I strongly suggest you have someone edit your comments for meaning & syntax. I have no idea what this meant.
Please vote here on King 5 News to uphold Metro’s decision to run an anti-occupation ad campaign on their buses:
Please vote and circulate widely. The hasbaristas are all over this trying to shoot this initiative down as “hate speech”.
I am surprised to see van Creveld quoted here as any kind of authority. He is known in Israel and elsewhere as an antifeminist misogynist who says accepting women into the military has led to the ‘feminisation’ of armies – a terrible thing that has caused the decline of military abilities worldwide. At the Hebrew U when I was studying there his classes on gender and war were always empty because of his reputation as a meshuggene on this particular topic. His colleagues have expressed dismay that such an otherwise prominent war historian should have turned to such ravings in recent years. I went to listen to a lecture he gave, out of curiosity, and heard him say women are to blame for most wars anyway ever since Helen of Troy, and now that they also join in as fighters they are destroying the military – and culture itself – from within. Another thesis: the female-driven decline of the regular army has engendered the need for the atom bomb – making us women culpable for nuclear war too… There are other, more personal rumours about van C and the women in his life, which I will not repeat.
His most recent antifeminist book is ‘The Privileged Sex’ (Das bevorzugte Geschlecht (2003)) – for German speakers only because English and Hebrew language publishers rejected it…
In short – honestly – please find some other militarist to quote!
see also http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/31/books/31book.html?pagewanted=print
Even if his views on women are as stupidly odious as you present, that does not negate his knowledge on other topics.
Shirin, it is not about his views on women. It is about his views on women & the military. And exactly that military is the topic he is praised for. Also, “views” are not corresponding with your distraction to “knowledge”.
The fact that someone is a troglodite when it comes to women in the military does not disqualify him as a military historian, or even as a military strategist.
First, Vera (nor I) was writing about Van Creveld as such. We were writing about him being praised.
Second, here is a list of pairs, in which you, Shirin, choose the odd way out instedad of staying on Vera’s thread:
1. V: “He is known” — S: “… as you present”
2. V: “[his] view” — S: “[his] knowledge”
3. V: “see also [link NYT]” — S: “… as you present” (have you read the NYT-link, S?)
4. V: “His colleagues have expressed dismay that such an otherwise prominent war historian should have turned to such ravings in recent years” — S: “[…] when it comes to women in the military […] does not disqualify him as a military historian”
Altogether, Shirin, you have chosen to distract from Vera’s post (by confusion) on every single occasion to get to your distracting path. You could help us all by explaining, from Vera’s post, what you think is wrong with Vera’s view or Van Creveld’s view.
You have entirely too much time on yr hands.
I don’t want you or Shirin or anyone to expostulate on anything related to this subject. You & Vera have said quite enough (too much in fact already).
You have utterly missed the point, which is that the information Vera presented, while interesting, has zero relevance to Van Creveld’s credibility as an authority on military history and strategy, or to the validity of his views on the occupation. It is clear from Vera’s opening sentence that s/he was introducing the topic of Van Creveld’s misogynist beliefs about women in the military in an attempt to discredit his views on the occupation. Her argument is not relevant to his views on the occupation, and is therefore a red herring.
Your attempt at an argument based on “pairs” is horribly flawed in addition to being pointless. I’d love to show you in what way it is flawed, but don’t have the time now.
And finally, I did not “choose to distract from Vera’s post”, I chose to dismiss it for what it was – a red herring that distracted from the topic of this discussion.
While I do agree with you on this point Shirin, I must say it is one of your double standards. I have seen you more than once discredit otherwise credible Israeli/US sources for various red herrings similar to the one presented here.
@Shirin: Vera’s post is to the point. That point is: Van Creveld is not OK (This time: women & military. Next time: x and military). Van Creveld only knows about being a superpower, not about strategics. Which I can think of too. He is overpraised.
Oh please. I wish people would use their brain before commenting.
Interesting, Shai, that you could not manage to come up with a single example of my employing such a double standard. Kind of strips your assertion of any credibility.
I had suspected you would ask me to do something I can’t. I can’t search the blog for your comments. They are buried there and I can’t be arsed to manually search for them, as I have better things to do.
Whenever there’s a scandal around Israeli policymakers, whether it be about sexual offenses, laundering, and other charges against them you somehow think it appropriate and not a red herring at all. In those cases one can conclude much about the character and her credibility or authority over a large number of topics, you would say.
Well, at least when it is someone whose opinion you agree with, you (rightfully) accuse such claims to be red herrings; one that comes up to mind is Assange’s alleged sexual offenses.
Ah yes, how unreasonable of me to expect you to back up your allegation of a double standard with just a single example. Of COURSE you can’t.
“Whenever there’s a scandal around Israeli policymakers, whether it be about sexual offenses, laundering, and other charges against them you somehow think it appropriate and not a red herring at all. ”
LOL! You are making this up out of thin air. How pathetic. The fact is that I have never used Israeli policy makers’ personal scandals and crimes in any argument. Such things are irrelevant to matters I care about, and interest me not in the least. Therefore I pay zero attention to them, and likely remain unaware of most of them.
“Well, at least when it is someone whose opinion you agree with, you (rightfully) accuse such claims to be red herrings; one that comes up to mind is Assange’s alleged sexual offenses.”
More complete nonsense and a non sequitur. Nice try, but you strike out again.
A “military historian” is not the same as a “militarist.” As far as his alleged misogyny, I can’t say whether this is true or not. But I respect his opinions not on women or even women in the military, but on the Occupation & Israel’s ability to sustain it. It is quite possible that someone might have valuable views on one important subject & execrable views on others. That’s the case with Van Creveld.
I propose we conclude that Vera, Richard, and I agree that Van Creveld is useless in the subject of Women and military.
Van Creveld’s views on women in the military might be an interesting addition to a discussion on that topic, mainly if not solely as an example of trogloditic thinking that has no relationship to reality today or for that matter at any time in history.
PS I am opposed to women in the military simply because I am opposed to women being involved in any organization whose sole purpose is to kill and maim and destroy in the name of conquest misrepresented as defense. I am also opposed to gays in the military, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Hindus or Buddhists in the military, bisexuals, transexuals, and straights in the military, poor and middle class people in the military, whites in the military, and anyone under the age of 60 in the military. Let the rich old men go out and kill each other if that turns them on. Leave the rest of humanity out of it.
I prefer the Costa Rica model–no military at all…as long as the world’s other major powers would do the same. I’d feel a little uncomfortable having China, Iran & No. Korea as the only nations w. militaries left in the world.
Hmm. I think that van Creveld’s views on women in military are partially relevant to his views on the occupation. The occupation is a largely military exercise, so it’s impossible for van Creveld to pass judgment on the condition of Israel’s military without including the occupation in his assessment – after all, the occupation is a forty-year showcase for Israeli military prowess. If van Creveld is to be believed, its prowess has been diluted by the presence of women in the forces – which leads you to wonder exactly what sort of army (and occupation) he is envisaging. To be successful from a military perspective, should it be more aggressive? More brutal? If you look at his statements on the occupation, he isn’t objecting to aggression because it is morally wrong and it damages the lives of its victims; he is objecting to it because he thinks it sabotages Israel’s long-term interests. This callous and demeaning approach is all of a piece with misogyny – although, as I mentioned, the relationship between the two isn’t central. But it’s definitely present.
Say what? I’m getting tired of this inane line of commentary. Enough. If you want to prosecute Martin Van Creveld for some offense against women you’ll do it elsehwere.
I mean this so respect it.
The relationship bet. Occupation & women not only isn’t central, it doesn’t exist. If you want to see things that don’t exist this isn’t the right place for it.
I daresay, Richard, that China, Iran, and North Korea (just for starters) feel more than a little bit uncomfortable being in the crosshairs of the militaries of the two most brazenly aggressive states in the world. They might tell you that they would not feel such a need to have a military if the U.S.A and Israel did not have them.
When I wrote that comment I had a particular Breaking the Silence report in mind, which touches on misogyny in the IDF and how this affects the occupation. New Profile has also done some work around this subject. I presume you’ve come across it. Misogyny is one of many poisonous components at work here, and my point was that van Creveld’s opposition to occupation can’t be based on a belief in justice if he himself endorses ideas that strengthen/sustain the very thing that he is criticising.
Of course, you could argue that its irrelevant what his motivations and intentions are, providing that Israeli leaders come to agree with him and withdraw from the West Bank. I’m just not sure that it’s possible to do the right thing for the wrong reason. Ending occupation is about more than removing soldiers from a particular place; it’s about changing attitudes, and I see the attitudes of people who glorify military life as an expression of so-called ‘masculinity’ as diametrically opposed to that process.
Perhaps I just expect too much of van Creveld.
Van Creveld wants to do the right thing for the right reason. These reasons have nothing to do w. whatever views he may or may not have about women. That’s a connection you’re imputing which both Shirin & I reject.
Ending Occupation is about removing Israel’s presence & control of Palestine. The attitudes needing changing on this particular issue have little to do w. oppression of women. This is an entirely separate issue which DOES need to be addressed within Israeli society. But on its own terms.
I’m trying to be nice. But pls. stop commenting on this subject.