Turning to the Young
‘We have to do the peace process under new conditions- not so much between states as generations. Today if you want to do something you must turn to the young.’ Shimon Peres, President of Israel, 17 November 2013
On 1 November the Israeli Military Intelligence chief, Herzel Halevi, noted the extent to which Palestinian ‘despair and frustration’ have contributed, during the past few months, to increased violence throughout Palestine/Israel. This statement of the obvious starkly contradicts Prime Minister Netanyahu who likes to blame the Palestinian leaders’ ‘incitements to hatred’. His lies misled millions in the West where the standard reaction is bewildered horror as people read of a deranged youth stabbing an 80-year-old woman or driving fast into a bus queue, killing father and baby – and so on and bloodily on… In this context crimes gain widespread public attention only when Israelis suffer. The daily- hourly crimes of the occupying forces are so sparsely reported that most outsiders fail to see the link. This was emphasised recently in a BBC interview (HardTalk, 4 November) when Saeb Erekat, long-time Palestinian Authority spokesman, explained that an increasing number of the youngest generation is literally being driven mad by the Occupation. Evidently 48 years of consistent daily humiliations, in tiny taunting ways, have had an even more destabilizing effect on Palestinian communities than physical cruelties and legal injustices.
The Palestinians and their supporters have long sought ‘Justice and Independence’ through the two-state solution, though for some time it’s been obvious that the one-staters need to assert themselves. We need to debate publicly the two unmentionables: the abolition of the state of Israel, as at present constituted, and the abandonment of the Palestinians’ ‘Independence’ dream. As Ali Abunimah has put it in One Country,
By talking of a common future and imagining it, we engage in the act of creating it; we introduce a different prospect to endless war. It is only through shattering taboos and articulating a vision that we can move the idea … from the far margins to the centre of the discussion.’
Since the Six Day War (1967) Israel has been misappropriating Palestinian territory – at first gradually and slyly, avoiding the condemnation that outward annexation would have occurred. By now hundreds of illegal settlements, half a million Israelis, hog 80% of the region’s water supply and are linked by new roads for Israeli use only, while the whole West Bank is grievously chopped up by ‘Military Zones’ and the infamous ‘Separation Barrier’. Thus an independent Palestinian state has been made physically, geographically unworkable. In June 2009 Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered the Palestinians their own state IF … The many ‘Ifs’ included no Palestinian army, no Palestinian control over borders or air space, no independent foreign policy. And of course Israel couldn’t reasonably be expected to curb the ‘natural growth’ of existing settlements. For the Palestinians such limited ‘autonomy’ would be even more humiliating than South Africa’s Bantustan regime. According to Daniel Levy of the New America Foundation, ‘The offer of a “Palestine” that is more Bantustan than sovereign state serves to enhance, by comparison, the attraction of an equal rights, one-state alternative.’
Prolonged ‘Peace Process’ dramas have been staged at intervals while Israel got on with colonizing the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPI). Even today, among the international community, uninformed support for the two-state solution continues to impede new thinking. Yet in 2002 the distinguished Israeli historian, Ilan Pappe, explained: –
The Americans invented the concept of the Peace Process, whereby the process is far more important than the peace. America’s contradictory interests in the Middle East include a commitment to Israel and placating certain other regimes, therefore paying lip service to the Palestinian cause. Thus I is best to have an ongoing process which you ca describe as a genuine American effort to reconcile the two sides … We should be very careful in adopting the discourse about a two-state solution which would not end the Occupation but continue it in a different way with no solution to the refugee problem and complete abandonment of the Palestinian minority (20% of the population) resident in Israel.
In January 2013 the Palestinian Papers, revealing the dirty deeds of the Palestinian Authority (PA) negotiators, provided conclusive evidence of the death of the two-state solution. Think Oslo – those Accords (rightly scorned by Edward Said) made it possible for the US and EU to collaborate in the PA’s administration by subsidising a police state. In it, Multi-disciplinary Industrial Parks, abusing underpaid Palestinian labour, may be able safely to operate and one day be slotted neatly into the Middle East Trade Agreement. Neither a truly independent Palestine nor ‘one-state’ would suit this manoeuvre.
During the past few years, rays of hope have often filtered through the pages of Ha’aretz, Israel’s leftish daily newspaper. In early 2014 Netanyahu’s repeated demand to have Israel recognised as ‘a Jewish state’ suggested to Bradley Burnstone, ‘this may sink the two-state solution’. He quoted the UD pollster, Shiblet Telhami, who reported in Foreign Affairs that when/if the 2013-2014 Kerry negotiations failed, 52% of American Jews would accept a single democratic Israel with equal citizenship for all. Nearly 60% said, ‘I favour Israel’s democracy more than its Jewishness.’
Also in Ha’aretz, Tomer Persico quoted from a 13 April 2015 Vox online magazine in which Max Fisher wrote at length about ‘Israel’s dark future: democracy in the Jewish state is doomed … The approach gaining ground right now, which pits Israel’s democracy against its Judaism, is genuine cause for concern.’ In the same Vox, Naomi Paiss, an Israeli civil rights activist, noted, ‘The status quo is eroding Israel’s autonomy and independence every day it continues’. From his different perspective, Dr Persico (lecturer in religious studies at Tel Aviv University) puts it thus – ‘The demographics between the River Jordan and the Mediterranean will leave two options, and two only, in the future: either Jewish tyranny or binational democracy … If, heaven forbid, Israel truly becomes exclusively “Jewish”, democracy will also suffer … but as with every past tyranny, this one too, will collapse’. (Perhaps the one-staters must wait until then, – an unhappy thought, but realistic?)
Three days later Carolina Landsmann, considering Prime Minister Netanyahu’s recent re-election, judged –
The entire political system in Israel will have eventually to realize that it is on a dead-end road … There is a real world out there and Israel is on a collision course with it. When the Palestinians announce that the status quo is untenable, this has real implications. It means they won’t allow Israel to go on trying to maintain it. The rules of the game have changed. Until Israel internalizes this it will continue to swing between repeated cycles of elections and violence.
Flashback to mid-March 2014. In a New York Times interview Tareq Abbas, son of Mahmoud, She also accused the opined that his dad ‘should dissolve the P.A. [Palestinian Authority]. Thereby forcing Israel to take full financial responsibility for the West Bank.’ Khalil Shikari, Director of the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research, then emailed the paper – ‘My own son will tell you that my generation has failed and should exit the stage and take its mainstream paradigm, the two-state solution, with it.’ Shortly after, when Abbas had obtained observer status for the PA at fifteen UN institutions, Jack Khoury commented – ‘In the end, those who make lofty demands for the recognition of a Jewish state will end up with a binational state.’
On 2 April 2014 Carlo Strennor referred to the US Congress law, passed under Zionist pressure, to cut all funding to the PA if it seeks access to the International Criminal Court. `This move, he observed, would inadvertently ‘force the Israeli government to give the Palestinians (as tax payers) full political rights … so we should all prepare ourselves for the two-state solution’s funeral’.
Four days later a White House press secretary. Josh Earnest, spoke of ‘the difficult steps both sides must take to build some faith, steps that can’t be dictated by the US or any other outside entity’. How does this jell with the Congress vote to withdraw funding if the PA is naughty?
After the inevitable and widely predicted failure of the Kerry talks, Uri Ariel, the Construction Minister, was accused by then Justice Minister, Tzipi Livni, of ‘intentionally sabotaging the negotiations by authorising 700 new housing units in east Jerusalem’ (where any Israeli building is illegal). She also accused the Economy Minister, Naftali Bennett, of encouraging settler violence around Yitzhar, near Nablus, where the IDF had stood by while Palestinian villagers were being attacked and the IDF’s own equipment was being stolen or destroyed. Meanwhile Avigdor Liebermann (then Foreign Minister, formerly a Moldovan night-club bouncer) was deducing, from Catherine Ashton’s threadbare pleading for ‘an immediate cessation of all violence in the Holy Land’, that the EU ‘does not understand what are the world’s real problems’. Reluctant as I am ever to agree with Liebermann, it’s certain this EU High Representative hasn’t a clue about the Holy Land’s problems. Weeks later she was still burbling on about the two-state solution ‘remaining the top priority’ – as her successor continues to say to this day.
Some of my West Bank friends wondered – how many ‘Peace Process’ stars, each with teams of ‘experts’ in the wings, are striving to deceive their constituents? Personally, I wonder – how many are so unaware of the facts that they can deceive themselves? And how many cultivate what moral theologians call culpable ignorance? In fairness, we should remember that group-thinking is a notorious VIP job-risk; confinement to security cages blurs one’s view. Were negotiators able to travel incognito, closely observing daily life in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), the more courageous might become the one-staters.
Let’s go on a short trip to Fantasyland. How would the world react were John Kerry to outgrow group-thinking and proclaim – ‘Forget two states! No more US support for Israel until it accepts the one-state solution’! A secular democracy would be both more secure and more prosperous.’ At once the truth-seeker would lose his job and maybe his life; certain Zionists openly boast of having perfected the art of political assassination and made it internationally acceptable. But what if one person’s escape from the group inspired others, gave them the courage to point out that Israel is not a sovereign state, that the Zionist regime depends on foreign allies. Despite being grossly over-armed, it couldn’t survive without them; in our day the IDF dare not use those arms as an influential minority of settlers might wish it to do. (Example: Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, who has written a book – Torat HaMelekh – encouraging his followers to kill non-Jews per se.) Israel’s dependence on the West (Including Ireland as a member of the EU) explains who so many of us campaign so vigorously for the Palestinians. There are many other even more oppressed peoples but the Zionist state is our creation and the support of our government perpetuates it.
How would binationalism benefit Israel? Its advocates must never dodge this question and most of the Ha’aretz quotes given above suggest answers. For different reasons, the status quo is intolerable for all residents of the Holy Land. In 1982 Nahum Goldman, for long president of the World Jewish Congress, wrote that ‘Israel’s excessive militarism is now endangering no less than the very foundations of the state’. (New York Review of Books, 7 October 1982) Dr Goldmann was the sort of Jew (happily they are numerous) who saw political Zionism as the antithesis of Judaism. To messianic settlers and their supporters (Netanyahu the best-known) all talk of binationalism is an abhorrent sacrilege, a profanation of Abraham’s bequest: even to mention ‘sharing the land of Canaan’ is a sort of blasphemy. These fanatics are heavily armed bullies – but remember, when seriously challenged bullies tend to tremble. The whole territory needs to be freed from a regime that increasingly resembles Nazism, as a brave minority of Israelis admits. In historical terms most Jews are new-comers in the region and there is nothing intrinsically immutable about the UN-partitioned State of Israel/Palestine. The Soviet Union abruptly became many states, Yugoslavia likewise. Pakistan, as established in 1948, quite soon became two states. So why shouldn’t Israel, also born in 1948, expand to the one state envisaged by Sharif S. Elmusa in 2006. This professor of political science at Cairo’s American University argues persuasively for a Greater Palestine – Israel, the OPT and Jordan. He believes that the inclusion of Jordan could, on balance, solve more problems than it created by catering for those millions in al-Shatat – Palestinians who have been forbidden ever to return to their ancestral homeland and who have been shamefully neglected by the Oslo-spawned P.A. which concerns itself only with the West Bank and Gaza.
One-state was discussed in June 2014 during an Al Jazeera Head-to-Head between Norman Finkelstein and Mehdi Hasan. Among the witnesses were Jeff Halper, an elderly Israeli-American anthropologist famous for defending Palestinian rights, and Salma Karmi-Ayyub, an internationally acclaimed criminal barrister and Al Haq consultant. Dr Halper, after a forty-year study of the Holy Land’s dismemberment, now accepts one-state as ‘the only way out’. He deplored the static international consensus on an obsolescent ‘solution’ and emphasised that in the West people – ordinary citizens – can push paralysed politicians into action if they try hard enough for long enough. For instance, by promoting the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement started by Palestinians in 2005. Dr Karmi-Ayyub, who has lived on the West Bank, excoriated Israel’s extreme right for closing the political spaces that allowed blacks and whites in South Africa to struggle jointly against apartheid. In recent years she has noticed increasing numbers of under-40 West Bankers inclining towards one-state. Yet because this goal has never been presented to them by their leaders as a real possibility they hesitate to defy the taboo. Listening to her, I recalled Simon Peres’ words of wisdom. So – let’s turn to the young.