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More on Supporting Israel
I have no theoretical problem with making a distinction between the militants and the innocent, but I disagree on where the line is to be drawn. The "radical" elements of the Palestinian population are not a small minority. According to a poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research in October 2003:
The majority support terrorist attacks and believe that they help them achieve their political goals. One in five Palestinians is committed to the utter destruction of Israel and rejects peaceful coexistence.
My understanding of the region's history is also very poor. A friend loaned me a copy of The Case for Israel which includes some history, but I haven't read it yet. (Maybe I'd procrastinate less if it was about pirates or economics or something…)
I will say that a culture permeated by religion is inherently less rational than one that isn't. But this clearly cuts both ways, and it's important to look at how effectively the resulting cultures respect individual rights.
I've heard many of the "settlements" are little more than trailers or small buildings put there simply to have a tangible claim to the land. Those kinds of settlements are ridiculous and should be ignored — they scarcely exist at all. Some of the more significant settlements, where communities have been built, are indeed an extravagant defense subsidy to the people living there. I think it's important and valuable that the current Israeli plan is to unilaterally withdraw from several settlements while building the security wall. But I don't know how many of those settlements are the inhabited type vs. the trailer variety, or how many people will be moved as a result.
I believe one of the arguments in the aforementioned book is that the land that became Israel was very sparsely populated at the time. But I haven't read it yet, so I'll have to readdress this later. It's also my understanding that the land that became Israel was primarily purchased, not stolen, but that the sellers had second thoughts after the deal was inked. Again, I'll have to go read about the history.
Given my relative historical ignorance, my position on the Israeli/Palestinian issue is grounded in the current policies of the groups. And by that standard, Israel unmistakably occupies the moral high ground.
Planned followups: Discuss the historical acquisition of the land within the original borders of Israel. Discuss the theoretical basis why reparations for past injustice should decline and ultimately vanish with time. (Or: Why 1970 matters more than 1270.)