I agree with so much in Jonathan Freedland's latest column on Israel and Palestine, and I have, over the last few days, so much shared the fatigue he describes himself as having felt, that it wouldn't do to discuss the two reservations I have about what he writes without first registering the points on which I agree with him.
So, yes, I agree about 'those who get so much more exercised... by deaths in Gaza' than they do about deaths elsewhere; and with Jonathan's dismissal of the feeble reason given in supposed explanation of this fact.
I agree with him, too, when he notes how some can't seem to help talking about Israel-Palestine without resorting to well-known anti-Jewish tropes.
And I concur in lamenting the existence of 'those who like to pretend that Israel attacked unprovoked'.
I cannot dissent from Jonathan's assertion that the right of resistance to occupation doesn't include 'taking deliberate aim at civilian targets'.
And I think he's right, too, to be weary of an Israeli leadership that believes 'it has a military solution to every problem'.
I agree that the constant expansion of settlements (a policy I have always opposed) puts more and more obstacles in the way of a two-state solution.
I agree that revelling in violence from the Israeli side is obnoxious whenever it happens (though it is no less so on the Palestinian side).
And I agree that the key question is 'how might these two peoples live?' Or, in other words, how might they come to live in peace together? How, after all that has gone before, is a just and durable peace between them to be achieved?
I will just say a little by way of further commentary on the above issues before going on to enter my two major reservations. As regards the earlier points in that list of agreements, it is now clear, if it wasn't already, that Israel has lost the propaganda battle (aka the effort to persuade people that there is a just Israeli cause), and there is nothing that can be done to reverse its defeat. This is not because there is no just Israeli cause. It is because for a wide swathe of left-liberal and 'anti-imperialist' opinion there is now no way Israel can conduct itself from which it will earn moral credit. It is irredeemably tainted in its origin. Conversely, and in the same quarter, there is nothing that Hamas or other representatives of the Palestinian people can do, no wrong or outrage they can commit, which will not be morally 'cleaned up' by the perception that these representatives are supposedly the pure vehicle of a struggle against injustice. Neither the codes of war nor the principles of international law nor the ordinary requirements of humanity count for a tittle or a jot against the volume of hatred that Israel incurs each time a new armed conflict breaks out. The double standards that underwrite all this and the stinking hypocrisy of it are one thing; but another is the rank failure of anyone to find the terms in which it can be rationally and convincingly explained. For want of such explanation, it is impossible to believe that anti-Semitism plays no part in it. Jonathan doesn't say this but I for my part do. I would also want to point out, as he does not, that one of the main conduits for the types of anti-Israel cheerleading of which he is tired is the Guardian.
The first of my major reservations with Jonathan's column concerns the theme of weariness or fatigue. Naturally, anyone is free to be tired of anything they want. But in matters of historical moment, including of conflict, it is as well to remember that the public realm is not obedient to personal timetables. As a young(ish) man I could never understand it when people I knew on the left appeared to confuse the prospects of socialism in Britain with their own commitments and biographical perspectives - and then become dismayed at the idea that utopia might not be just round the corner. Peace in the Middle East, should it prove possible, may not spare you or me or anybody our tiredness of certain themes and arguments, the most odious ones among them. More pertinent than that is whether and when the peoples of Israel and Palestine themselves might come to prefer, in their majorities, peace to further conflict.
Second, Jonathan writes that 'Israel needs to remember that most basic truth: you make peace with your enemies, not your friends.' I have taken issue with him about this once before. It is not a sufficient condition of making peace with someone that they are an enemy. Some enemies you cannot make peace with except by total surrender. Hamas envisions the eventual destruction of Israel, which is not an outcome Israel can be expected to countenance. So there is a strategic calculation to be made. Might the process of making a provisional peace with Hamas either (a) have the effect of 'de-enemifying' them, or (b) set in motion other processes that in due course could lead to a more concessive Palestinian leadership, one willing to conclude a definitive peace with Israel, including recognition of it? I don't know the answer to this question. I don't think it's easy to know the answer, either. But this is the sort of uncertainty that must be grappled with; 'you make peace with your enemies' is not a universally valid truth.