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Professor Yakov M. Rabkin of Montreal University has recently written a very interesting article entitled, “Religious Roots of a Political Ideology: Judaism and Christianity at the Cradle of Zionism” which appeared in the MEDITERRANEAN REVIEW journal in June of this year. With his kind permission I will be posting his article over the next few weeks. This is a must read for anyone interested in the historical roots of Zionism and its relationship to both Jewish and Christian religious doctrines.
MEDITERRANEAN REVIEW | Vol. 5, No. 1 [June 2012] : 75~100
Religious Roots of a Political Ideology: Judaism and Christianity at the Cradle of Zionism
Yakov M. Rabkin
PART ONE: Abstract
Albeit overtly secular, Zionist ideology was inspired by religious thought. While traditional religions often supported the nationalist cause, the relationship of Judaism and Zionism is vastly different. Adepts of traditional Judaism immediately rejected Zionism, and this rejectionist attitude has not vanished to this day. On the other hand, Christian, mainly Protestant theologians had developed the idea of the ingathering of the Jews in the Holy Land several centuries prior to the first Zionist congress in 1897. This explains why the initially socialist oriented secular project of social transformation has undergone sacralisation, becoming a focal point of Evangelical Christian Zionists. These Evangelical contributions to Zionism and the Zionist state must be taken into account in analyses of the State of Israel, its position in the modern Middle East and the policy-making of those countries where such Evangelical circles wield significant influence. Keywords : Zionism, Christian Zionism, Israel, Judaism, Evangelical
Professor of History, University of Montreal, POB 6128, Centre-ville station, Montréal, Qc,
Canada H3C 3J7, firstname.lastname@example.org
76 | MEDITERRANEAN REVIEW | Vol. 5, No. 1 [June 2012]
Zionism is one of the more recent ideologies that set out to transform society. Zionists, and the State of Israel they created, represent a revolution in Jewish history, a revolution that began with the emancipation and the secularization of the Jews of Europe. Like all revolutions, Zionism was inspired by earlier ideas, and this paper explores Judaic and Christian sources of that inspiration. Secularization of Jewish life in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries revolutionized Jewish identity, turning a once normative concept, Jewishness, into a purely descriptive one. Traditional Jews can be distinguished by what they do or should do; the new Jews by what they are. This split of identity, which has continued for almost two centuries, obliges us today to distinguish the adjective “Jewish” from “Judaic”. The term “Judaic” as used in this article refers to a normative meaning of Judaism, i.e. a religion with its spiritual and ritual aspects, making a claim on continuity rather than rupture. Conversely, the much broader term “Jewish” relates to Jews, their actions and ideas, regardless of their connection with Judaism. While some scholars maintain that Judaism became a religion in the Christian sense of the word only when Jews met modernity in Western Europe (Barnitzky 2011), it is beyond doubt that Judaic belief and practice had been fundamental to what it meant to be a Jew well before then.
Zionism has so drastically transformed Jewish life that the very word “Israel” has changed its meaning. According to Jacob Neusner, a rabbi, Zionist activist and one of the most prolific American academic interpreters of Judaism: The word “Israel” today generally refers to the overseas political nation, the State of Israel. When people say, “I am going to Israel,” they mean a trip to Tel Aviv or Jerusalem…. But the word “Israel” in Scripture and in the canonical writings of the religion, Judaism, speaks of the holy community that God has called forth through Abraham and Sarah, to which God has given the Torah (“teaching”) at Mount Sinai…. The Psalmists and the Prophets, the sages of Judaism in all ages, the prayers that Judaism teaches, all use the word “Israel” to mean “the holy community.” Among most Judaism’s, to be “Israel” means to model life in the image, after the likeness, of God, who is made manifest in the Torah. Today “Israel” in synagogue worship speaks of that holy community, but “Israel” in Jewish community affairs means “the State of Israel.” (Neusner 2002: 3-4) Religious Roots of a Political Ideology: | Yakov M. Rabkin | Judaism and Christianity at the Cradle of Zionism | 77 Neusner goes on to conclude that “the state has become more important than the Jews,” (p. 4) and to underscore the identity shift that many Jews have experienced over the last century, as they moved from being a community of faith toward forming a community of fate. Among the many tendencies within Zionism, the one that has become dominant set out to reach four principal objectives: 1) to transform the transnational Jewish identity centred on the Torah into a national identity proper to ethnic nationalisms then common in Central and Eastern Europe; 2) to develop a new national vernacular based on biblical and rabbinic Hebrew; 3) to transfer the Jews from their countries of origin to Palestine; and 4) to establish political and economic control over the “new old land,” if need be by force. While other nationalists needed only to wrest control of their countries from imperial powers to become “masters in their own houses,” Zionists faced the far greater challenge of trying to achieve all these objectives simultaneously.
About Professor Rabkin
Professor Rabkin has taught Jewish and Russian history, and the history of science at the University of Montreal since 1973. He is the author of Science between the Superpowers, a study of Soviet-American relations in science and technology (Priority Press, 1988), co-editor of The Interaction of Scientific and Jewish Cultures in Modern Times (The Edwin Mellen Press, 1995) and editor of Diffusion of New Technologies in Post-Communist Europe (Kluwer, 1997). His book A Threat from Within: A Century of Jewish Opposition to Zionism (Fernwood/Zedbooks) has been translated into twelve languages. It was nominated for Canada’s Governor-General Award and for the Hecht Prize for studies in Zionism in Israel. The Asahi Shimbun in Japan listed it among three Best Non-Fiction Books of the Year in 2010. His most recent book is What is Israel? published in Tokyo (Heibonsha) in June 2012. His list of professional publications consists of over two hundred titles. It includes studies of science in Russian and Soviet cultures, studies of non-western research cultures, of relations between science, cultures and traditions as well as contemporary Jewish history and relations between Zionism and religion. He received over twenty research awards, scholarships and fellowships.
His comments on the Middle East and international relations frequently appear on major TV and radio networks, including BBC, NHK, Radio-Canada and Radio-France as well as in printed media, including International Herald Tribune, Baltimore Sun, El Milenio, Newsweek, La Presse, and Jerusalem Post. He has been an expert witness for the Standing Committee on External Affairs and International Trade of the Parliament of Canada and has consulted for various international organizations, including the World Bank and NATO. He has also served as expert witness at legal proceedings in Britain, Canada and Israel.
Martin Luther once said, “If I knew that the world were to end tomorrow, I would plant a tree.” Luther’s attitude to end times prophecy sums up the proper response to the reality of God’s final plan for creation in both the Christian and Jewish traditions. In these traditions human responsibility toward others is not to be abrogated by falling in to the trap of fatalistic indifference. Unambiguous portents of the imminent judgement of God, if indeed they exist, are not meant to be greeted by the faithful with cries of self righteous, pitiless joy over the fate of those deemed to be on the “wrong” side. Scripture tells us that we must not rejoice in the destruction of our foes no matter how much we feel they deserve it.
I would rephrase Luther’s statement to become: “Even if I knew that the current Zionist state of Israel was an unambiguous portent of Christ’s return, I would still fight for the rights of Palestinians to live in Israel-Palestine with full equality and seek justice for the wrongs done to them by the Zionist state. I would still resist the apartheid policies of the Zionist state and pray for the end of Zionist rule in Israel.”
Christian responsibility is always about trying to make today’s world a better place than it was yesterday. We are to work to make the world better, not just try an save some out of the world while we sit and wait for the end to come. Christian Zionist doctrines that teach that the world must necessarily come to a hideous end before Christ’s final return have inspired many to fatalism, indifference and even outright war mongering. If the world must come to a divinely ordained cataclysm, why should we care about doing anything to help the environment or ending the arms race? The most we can expect from the advocates of such doomsday prophecies is endless threats of judgment intended to win us over to their fatalistic ideologies in order for us to be saved out of this world as it goes into oblivion.
Three thousand years of Jewish religious tradition reveal that Jewish identity is centered on ones acceptance of the ethical and religious traditions of the Torah. Traditions that demand equal treatment between Jew and gentile. Traditions that transcend the place of ones birth. Judaism’s essential nature is God centered, not nation centered. A Jew can be faithful to the revelation of Torah regardless of whether one was born or lives in Israel or not. The end game is about what is in one’s heart, not about what nation you live in.
The nature of prophecy in the Bible has always been far more about God’s desire to see justice prevail in today’s world rather than some type of soothsaying concerning future events. Jewish tradition is replete with stories of conflict between those who think that being Jewish is about nationalism and those who think Jewishness is about living with God’s law in your heart. The Jewish quest for nationhood outside of God’s commandments is a sure way to disaster for the Jewish people. Just as God resists salvation by works in the Christian tradition, so in the Jewish tradition does God resist the Jewish people in the land of Israel outside the ethical and religious traditions of the Torah.
God’s plan for the current Zionist state of Israel is His business. Our responsibility is to live up to the divinely ordained mandate for us to do justice for all peoples and walk humbly with our God. In this venture I have come across numerous secular activists that have been far more in line with God’s heart for the oppressed in Israel-Palestine than any number of devout Christian Zionists.
Only the other day a work colleague of mine, who had visited Israel, told me that she thought it must be dreadful for Palestinian Christians, due to persecution by Muslims in Gaza and the West Bank. The real story, that it is the Zionist government of Israel that is considered by the vast majority of Palestinian Christians to be the real cause of oppression for them, is unheard of in the west. The real narrative of Christian persecution by the Zionist state of Israel is unwanted by our western media. It doesn’t fit with the dearly loved narratives of those such as Michael Oren and the former Australian Foreign Minister, Andrew Downer, that Muslims are the real cause of conflict and oppression in the Middle East and that Israel is the protector of human rights and democracy. The following article appeared on Stephen Sizer’s blog e on 31st March 2012, and can be taken as the voice of Palestinian Christians to a very large degree.
Church Leaders Open letter to Michael Oren ahead of Easter
Posted: 31 Mar 2012 12:52 AM PDT
As has been stated in our Kairos document, we Palestinian Christians declare that “the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land is a sin against God and humanity because it deprives Palestinians of their basic human rights, bestowed by God.”
The Israeli occupation is the primary reason why so many members of the oldest Christian communities in the world have left the holy land, Palestine.
Since the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights began in 1967, the Israeli government has confiscated thousands of acres of land owned by Christian Palestinians to build settlements Israel now calls “neighborhoods.” These settlements have divided Bethlehem and Jerusalem for the first time in the two millennia since Jesus walked between these holy cities.
Palestinian Christians in Jerusalem have been hardest hit by this land grab policy.
The Israeli government has demolished the homes of hundreds of Palestinians in the occupied city and revoked the residency rights of thousands more, while promoting foreign immigration to the ever-expanding illegal settlements throughout our occupied homeland.
Your claim, Mr Oren, that the Christian population in Israel has grown is disingenuous.
In fact, the percentage of Christians in the area began to decrease in 1948 when the creation of Israel caused a large portion of the Palestinian Christian population to become refugees.
The exaggerated growth of the Christian population in Israel that you claim is due primarily to the immigration of Russian Christians whom Israel was unable to distinguish from the Jewish immigrants pouring into the country after the fall of the Soviet Union. It is not due to any accommodation for the indigenous Palestinian Christian population, which is victim to an ongoing displacement policy implemented by your government.
It is also misleading to suggest that the occupation does not dramatically affect the day-to-day lives of Palestinians in the occupied territories. Palestinian use of airspace, telecommunications, and critical resources like water are all ultimately subject to Israeli control. We cannot move between our cities or travel abroad without crossing an Israeli checkpoint.
Israel’s matrix of control has cost our economy dearly and it dramatically limits the opportunities available to our youth. In 2010 alone, the cost of the occupation to the Palestinian economy was almost $7 billion, 85 percent of our GDP.
Our Holy Bible says, “‘Peace, peace’ when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14). We seek a just and lasting peace. But to achieve peace, Mr Oren, your government must recognize the reality your occupation has created.
Our reality is one of occupation, oppression and loss. We endure your government’s assault on our natural and basic right to worship and its policy of exile and division between our communities.
Contrary to your erroneous claims, we assert that Palestinians are one people enduring Israel’s relentless occupation and suffering, together, from its oppressive practices.
We are united in our conviction that we deserve to enjoy the rights to which all people are entitled. Christian and Muslim Palestinians have struggled for freedom together for over 60 years. We intend to continue that tradition.
Ending Israeli occupation is the only way for Palestinians — Christians and Muslims — to enjoy a life of prosperity and progress. It is also the surest way to secure a continued Christian presence in this, our holy land.
Adv. Nabil Mushahwar, Chairman of the Palestinian Bar Association
Fr. Faysal Hijazeen, Director-general of the Latin Patriarchate Schools in Palestine and parish priest of Ramallah
Archbishop Atallah Hanna, Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, Jerusalem
Fr. Farah Bader, Assistant priest, Ramallah Roman Catholic Church
Fr. Johnny Abu Khalil, Roman Catholic priest of Nablus
Fr. Firas Aredah, Roman Catholic priest of Jifna
Fr. Ibrahim Shomali, Roman Catholic Parish Priest of Beit Jala
Rev. Saliba Rishmawi, Lutheran Church, Ramallah
Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, Member of the Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee
Fayez Saqqa, Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Bethlehem
Fouad Kokali, Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, Beit Sahour
Hind Khoury, Ambassador, Jerusalem. Former PLO representative in Paris
Bassem Khoury, Architect, Jerusalem
Dr. Charlie Abu Saada, Director of Juthoruna Forum
Yusef Daher, Inter Church Center, Jerusalem
Lucy Thalgieh, Project coordinator, Wi’am Center, Bethlehem
George Saliba Rishmawi, Coordinator, Siraj Center for Holy Land Studies
Professor Gabi Baramki, Former President of Bir Zeit University, Ramallah
Issa Kassasieh, Deputy Head – PLO Negotiations Affairs Department, Jerusalem
Dr. Elias Iseed, Secretariat of the Orthodox organizations in Palestine, Beit Sahour
Khader Abu Abara, President of the Beit Jala Orthodox Club, Beit Jala
Marwan Toubasi, Governor of Tubas, Chairman of the Orthodox organizations in Palestine, Ramallah
Fr. Jamal Khader, Dean of the Faculty of Arts, Bethlehem University
Salim Hodali, Head of the Diaspora Unit, Bank of Palestine
Nader Abuamsha, Beit Sahour YMCA
Dr. Jad Isaac, Head of the Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem
Yousef Hallaq, Electrical Engineer, Jerusalem
Dr. Varsen Aghabekian, Management Consultant, Ramallah
Rania Elias, Director, Yabous Cultural Center, occupied Jerusalem
Wassef Daher, President of YMCA
Nader Muaddi, Palestinian Christian activist, occupied Jerusalem
Raji Zeidan, Mayor of Beit Jala
Dr. Bernard Sabella, Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, occupied Jerusalem
Peter Abu Shanab, Chairperson of Holylanders, occupied Jerusalem
Dr. Kholoud Daibes, Palestinian Authority Minister of Tourism and Antiquities
Rif’at Kassis, General Coordinator of Kairos – Palestine
Andre Batarseh, YMCA, occupied Jerusalem
Rami Saleh, Treasurer of the Palestinian Counseling Center, and Deputy Director of Jerusalem Legal Aid Center
Dr. Manuel Hassassian, Ambassador, PLO representative in London
Shawki Armali, Ambassador, PLO representative to the Holy See
Dr. Linda Tabar, Professor, Bir Zeit University
Rateb Rabie, President of Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation
Anthony Habash, Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation, Bethlehem
Ibrahim Mourad, Fashion Designer
Maggie Mourad, Former instructor, Bethlehem University
Maha Saca, Director – Palestinian Heritage Center, Bethlehem
Elham Salameh, Director, social and cultural department – YMCA, occupied Jerusalem
Ibrahim Matar, President, National Christian Association, occupied Jerusalem
Dr. Nabeel Kassis, Former president, Bir Zeit University
Ziad Bandak, Minister, Presidential Adviser for Christian Affairs
Hanna Amira, Member of the PLO Executive Committee
Janet Michael, Mayor of Ramallah
Dr. Rita Giacaman, Director of the Institute of Community and Public Health, Bir Zeit University
Mary Sabella, occupied Jerusalem
Dr. Jacqueline Sfeir, Director of MaDad, Bethlehem
Eileen Kuttab, Director Women Studies Institute, Bir Zeit University
Zahi Khoury, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of the Palestinian National Beverage Company, Coca-Cola
Rev. Mitri Raheb, Senior Pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Christmas Church in Bethlehem, president of Diyar Consortium
Dr. Nuha Khoury, Dean of Dar al-Kalima College, Bethlehem
Khalil Nijim, Consultant, secretary of Diyar Board, Bethlehem
Rev. Imad Haddad, Pastor of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Beit Sahour
Layla Sayeh, Director of PenMedia
Michael Asfour, YMCA, occupied Jerusalem
Afif Safieh, Ambassador, former PLO representative to the Hague, London, Washington, Moscow and the Holy See
Nora Kort, President Arab Orthodox Society, Jerusalem
Anton Salman, President Anthonian Charitable Society, Bethlehem
George Saade, Bethlehem Deputy Mayor, on behalf of the Bethlehem Municipal Council
Hani Hayek, Mayor of Beit Sahour
Maher Sahlieh, Head of the Arab Orthodox Scouts, occupied Jerusalem
Fr. Hanna Salem, Latin Seminary priest, Beit Jala
Dr. Muna Mushahwar, Arab Orthodox Club, occupied Jerusalem
Fr. Raed Abusahlia, Roman Catholic parish priest of Taybeh
Fr. Aziz Halawa, Roman Catholic parish priest of Beit Sahour
Omar Harami, Palestinian Christian activist, occupied Jerusalem
Elie Shehadeh, Palestinian National Initiative, Beit Jala
Iyad Aburdeneh, Environmental expert, Bethlehem
Claudette Habash , Palestinian Christian refugee, occupied Jerusalem
Yacoub Al Yousef, Arab Orthodox Club, occupied Jerusalem
Usama Salman, Director, San Vincent Association, occupied Jerusalem
Rami Zeidan, General manager, Traveller Experience Tours, occupied Jerusalem
The following article was published by Australians for Palestine
A powerful piece written by the influential Canberra-based Catholic Bishop Pat Power was published in the Canberra Times today. It should have been published in all major Australian newspapers. We are so used to hearing Christians here tread very carefully around the Palestinian struggle for rights in their homeland, acknowledging them, yes, but rarely coming straight out to say that the root cause is Israel’s denial of them and that Israel is “a major aggressor scorning any effort to find peace based on justice”. This is a courageous statement by a courageous man who simply speaks the plain truth. Isn’t it time that more of our religious and political leaders speak up to defend the Palestinians who have surely endured more than any people ought when the cruelty and oppression committed against them is so egregious and is escalating so rapidly? A few words of thanks to Bishop Power <email@example.com> will also show him that he is not a lone voice here in Australia.
A call for peace and justice in the Holy Land
by Bishop Pat Power
The Canberra Times
27 March 2012
Israel must stop abusing Palestinians so trust and respect can prevail,
Hardly a day passes without me being appalled by the plight of the Palestinian people and the apparent indifference of much of the Western world to the injustices suffered by these beleaguered people. I have to admit that before visits to the Holy Land in 1973 and 1988, my sympathies were with Israel whom I saw as a fledgling nation surrounded by hostile Arab neighbours.
The scales fell from my eyes on those visits where I saw a heavy military presence in Jerusalem and other towns, armoured vehicles rumbling up and down the streets, threatening war planes flying overhead and on one occasion just escaping from a tear-gas assault in a busy alleyway in Jerusalem.
In the years since then, successive Israeli governments, with the seeming complicity of the United States, have become more and more emboldened in their violence towards the Palestinian people.
The destruction of Palestinian homes, tearing down beautiful olive groves, building a dreadful wall which isolates Palestinians from one another and makes already difficult movement almost impossible, not to mention the barbarism committed against the people of Gaza in recent years are all examples of a major aggressor scorning any effort to find peace based on justice. Why else would Israel be so consistently in breach on United Nations resolutions?
At the end of February, I accompanied Ali Kazak, former Palestinian representative to Australia, to an International Conference on Jerusalem, held in Doha, Qatar. The conference was convened by the United Arab League and hosted by the Emir of Qatar and attended by over 350 people from all over the world.
I was surprised to find among the participants a number of Jewish rabbis who belong to a group called Jews United Against Zionism. I was able to tell them of the number of Jewish people here in Canberra who have spoken out against atrocities perpetrated against the Palestinian people. I was proud to stand beside Bishop Michael Sabbah, the former Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and the first Palestinian to be appointed to that role. He unsurprisingly spoke strongly in defence of the rights of his people and of the violence to which they are being subjected.
The Doha Declaration at the end of the two-day conference made a wide-ranging appeal for the protection of Palestinian people in Jerusalem and the upholding of their rights.
”We reiterate that the forced eviction of the Jerusalem population by means of the Judaization plans, denying the rights, obliterating the history and heritage, usurping land, and confiscating properties are violations of International Law.
Therefore we are calling on the International powers that are silent about Israeli violations to assume their responsibilities and oblige Israel to implement all international resolutions relevant to Jerusalem. Additionally, we are calling on all relevant agencies of the UN to assume their responsibility towards Jerusalem and its population, ensuring their enjoyment of their city, complete civic, economic and social rights, preserving its sanctities, historical landmarks and human heritage.”
Australia’s new Foreign Minister, Senator Bob Carr, in his maiden speech gave some moving historical examples of religious tolerance. It is my hope that he will raise the awareness of our federal parliamentarians of the need for greater understanding of the injustices being suffered by the Palestinian people. Dialogue which is so urgently needed at the political, racial and religious level will never succeed while there is denial of the ”facts on the ground”.
I tire of seeing our parliamentarians of all political persuasions unquestioningly supporting Israel’s usurping of fundamental Palestinian rights. Much of the tension with Iran would be lessened if that country were to see the Palestinian people being justly treated by Israel and the rest of the international community.
In a paper submitted to the Conference, I concluded: ”The 64 years of pain and suffering the Palestinians have endured are enough. The Catholic Church and other Christians have consistently cried out for peace and justice in the Holy Land. The Arab League has rightly demanded that Israel end the occupation and withdraw to the 1967 borders. Jerusalem needs to be secured as a city for all faiths with Muslims and Christians from outside Jerusalem being given the opportunity to pray in the Holy City. Provision needs to be
made for the millions of Palestinian refugees by providing right of return and just compensation in accordance with UN Resolution 194.
”I plead for patience and restraint on the part of the Palestinian people, for good will, a sense of justice and practical peace-making actions on the part of Israel and a firm resolve on the part of the international community to broker a peace which is based on justice and respects the dignity and rights of all the people involved. I pray for the climate of trust called for by Pope Benedict and I pray that the God of Abraham will bless these steps towards a peaceful solution in the Holy Land.”
Pat Power is the Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn and
long-time supporter of the rights of the Palestinian people.
The Mondoweiss website has published some interesting articles on the way the Zionist state of Israel discriminates against Palestinians. Anyone reading the Old Testament will see that among the many things that God has forbidden the Jewish people to do in Israel, is hold another people captive and persecute them just as the ancient Hebrews had been held captive and persecuted by the Egyptian nation in the time of Moses. God continually reminds the Children of Israel to be merciful to non-Jews in the promised land and treat them as if they were one of their own as a matter of justice. The following excerpts from Mondoweiss by Ilan Pappe and the Institute for Middle East Understanding are extremely illuminating and sound a warning to those who teach others that the Zionist State of Israel should be unconditionally supported as mandated by God (so they say).
- There are more than 30 laws that discriminate against Palestinian citizens of Israel. directly or indirectly, based solely on their ethnicity, rendering them second or third class citizens in their own homeland.
- 93% of the land in Israel is owned either by the state or by quasi-governmental agencies, such as the Jewish National Fund, that discriminate against non-Jews. Palestinian citizens of Israel face significant legal obstacles in gaining access to this land for agriculture, residence, or commercial development.
- More than seventy Palestinian villages and communities in Israel, some of which pre-date the establishment of the state, are unrecognized by the government, receive no services, and are not even listed on official maps. Many other towns with a majority Palestinian population lack basic services and receive significantly less government funding than do majority-Jewish towns.
- Since Israel’s founding in 1948, more than 600 Jewish municipalities have been established, while not a single new Arab town or community has been recognized by the state.
- Israeli government resources are disproportionately directed to Jews and not to Arabs, one factor in causing the Palestinians of Israel to suffer the lowest living standards in Israeli society by all socio-economic indicators.
- Government funding for Arab schools is far below that of Jewish schools. According to data published in 2004, the government provides three times as much funding to Jewish students than it does to Arab students.
- According to the 2009 US State Department International Religious Freedom Report, “Many of the national and municipal policies in Jerusalem were designed to limit or diminish the non-Jewish population of Jerusalem.”
- In October 2010, the Knesset approved a bill allowing smaller Israeli towns to reject residents who do not suit “the community’s fundamental outlook”, based on sex, religion, and socioeconomic status. Critics slammed the move as an attempt to allow Jewish towns to keep Arabs and other non-Jews out.
- The so-called “Nakba Bill” bans state funding for groups that commemorate the tragedy that befell Palestinians during Israel’s creation in 1948, when approx. 725,000 Palestinian Arabs were ethnically cleansed to make way for a Jewish majority state.
Ilan Pappe talks about why Palestinians are second class citizens of Israel at best:
“MY BOOK The Forgotten Palestinians: A History of the Palestinians in Israel examines this at length, but there are three levels of discrimination.
First, there’s the legal level. And in Israel, this is carried out by separating the community into two kinds–those who serve in the army and those who don’t serve in the army. By law, those who don’t serve in the army don’t have the same property rights, the same rights in terms of national security, insurance, welfare benefits, accommodation in universities and so forth.
Now, you can say it’s not racist because it’s not based on national identity, but Jews who do not serve in the army are not affected by this law. So in practice, these laws only apply to the Arab citizens of Israel–who, by a tacit agreement with the government, don’t serve in the army. So that’s a very legal basis, very clear legislation.
Then there is the semi-legalistic, more-gray area of regulations. Israel still has intact a set of mandatory emergency regulations that can be enacted at any given moment. These regulations are enacted every now and then, and then only against the Palestinian community, which gives a military government absolute control over the lives of people.
You can be arrested without trial, you can be distanced by force from your home, you can be expelled, your home can be demolished, the area in which you live can be cordoned off and declared a “militarily closed area” without any outside world intervention. And there, the military government can do whatever it wants.
The last time Israelis used these emergency regulations was when they implemented a newly passed law that Palestinians from Israel who married Palestinians from the West Bank could not live in Israel, they had to live in the West Bank. So they expelled these couples by force by declaring certain Arab villages in the center of Israel literally closed areas. And they used that to remove them.
The third level is the one that regulates daily contact between Palestinian citizens and Israeli authorities–the tax collector, the policeman, the judge. I will just give you one example, but there are many others. Even Israeli research shows that when Palestinians and Jews are brought before a court, Palestinian defendants who committed the same offense as a Jewish defendant will always get a stiffer sentence.
There are hardly any Jews who have ever been shot by the police as petty criminals, but quite a few Palestinians. When it comes to Palestinians, there is a very different posture taken by those who represent the establishment and the government. The most notable circumstance has to do with the airport, public transportation, railways and so on, where Palestinians are subjected to very humiliating searches, and sometimes are not allowed even to board a train or a domestic flight, let alone an international flight, just because they are Palestinian.”
Gilad Shalit’s father says, ‘If I were Palestinian I’d kidnap soldiers’
Mar 15, 2012 02:22 pm | Annie Robbins
Noam Shalit, father of former prisoner Gilad Shalit announced on Israel’s Channel 10 he would kidnap an Israeli soldier in his quest for freedom, if he were a Palestinian.
The father of an Israeli soldier held in captivity for more than five years by Hamas has said he would kidnap Israeli soldiers if he were a Palestinian.
Noam Shalit, who announced earlier this year that he would be standing for the opposition Labour party in the next Israeli elections, has provoked outrage among the Israeli right with the comments. His son, Gilad, was released in a prisoner swap in October 2011.
Shalit added that the kidnapping of Israeli soldiers by Hamas militants was comparable to the techniques used by Israeli paramilitary fighters the Haganah against the British, arguing “we also kidnapped British soldiers when we were fighting for our freedom”.
Speaking to a television interviewer in the kitchen of the Shalit family home, a familiar backdrop for the Israeli public from the family’s five-year campaign for their son’s release, Shalit was subject to repeated questioning attempting to pin him down on his political policies.
The former engineer eventually summarised his key campaign issues as “mutual responsibility. And not leaving soldiers behind or any Israeli who is in any trouble.” He also said he would be prepared to negotiate with Hamas if he were an MP, something the Israeli government, along with Britain and the US, refuses to do.
Supporters of the Zionist State of Israel continually affirm that Israel is a state of democracy and tolerance, surrounded by barbarian hordes. An enlightened “western” nation that is forced , on a daily basis, to fight for its very survival against not only the Jihadist terrorists from the Muslim world, but the anti-Semitic protestations of liberals and phony progressives in the west. The following article, by a Palestinian Christian, paints a somewhat different picture. The article was first published on the Mondoweiss website.
Mar 15, 2012 06:45 am | Fida Jiryis
Amb. Michael Oren’s article, ‘Israel and the Plight of Mideast Christians,’ presents Israel as a tolerant, dove-like, and peaceful democracy. This is belied by the facts.
I am one of those Palestinian Christians living inside Israel to whom Oren refers. At no time in my life have I ever felt the ‘respect and appreciation’ by the Jewish state, which Oren so glowingly references. Israel’s Christian minority is marginalized in much the same manner as its Muslim one or, at best, quietly tolerated. We suffer the same discrimination when we try to find a job, when we go to hospitals, when we apply for bank loans, and when we get on the bus — in the same way as Palestinian Muslims.
Israel’s fundamental basis is as a racist state built for Jews only, and the majority of the Jewish population doesn’t really care what religion we are if we’re not Jewish. In my daily dealings with the State, all I have felt is rudeness and overt contempt.
Oren’s statement that ‘The extinction of the Middle East’s Christian communities is an injustice of historic magnitude’ is outright shocking to anyone familiar with even the basic history of how Israel was founded. I would like to remind him and others that this founding expelled thousands of Palestinian Christians from their homes in 1948 and displaced them, either forcing them to flee across the border or making them internal refugees. The ethnic cleansing of Palestinians that comprised the founding of Israel is, too, an injustice of historic magnitude. A man living in a glass home — or a home stolen from Palestinians — should think very carefully before tossing stones.
My cousin’s husband, Maher, is from Iqrith, a village a few miles from mine in the Galilee. His family, and all of Iqrith’s inhabitants, were expelled from their village in 1948 and Iqrith was razed to the ground by Israeli forces on Christmas eve, 1950, in a special ‘Christmas gift’ to its people. The timing of this destruction leaves one to wonder at the intended message. Maher was born years after his family took shelter in Rama, a village nearby in the Galilee. Today, he struggles with finding a place to build a house to live in with his wife and children. Israeli policies that severely restrict the building zones in Arab towns and villages result in land shortages impeding the population’s natural expansion. Limiting land to residents of the same town or village means that internal Palestinian refugees face severe housing discrimination.
The return of people like Maher has been made impossible by Israel, which refuses to negotiate on the right of refugees to return to their homeland. If Oren is so concerned for Palestinian Christians, would he kindly give the green light for the return of Christian refugees from Iqrith, Bir’im, Tarshiha, Suhmata, Haifa, Jaffa, and tens of other Palestinian towns and villages that they were expelled from in 1948? The answer, I assure you, is no. Many of these refugees are living in refugee camps in nearby countries, where Israel and Oren are happy to leave them.
The terrorists referred to in Oren’s statement that ‘Israel, in spite of its need to safeguard its borders from terrorists, allows holiday access to Jerusalem’s churches to Christians from both the West Bank and Gaza,’ are in fact Palestinian Christians living on the land that Israel has occupied — in flagrant opposition to all human rights charters — and from which it is refusing to withdraw its soldiers and illegal settlers. To applaud Israel for giving people permits to travel across what by law is their own country is the height of hubris.
His claim that ‘In Jerusalem, the number of Arabs–among them Christians–has tripled since the city’s reunification by Israel in 1967’ fails to mention Israel’s relentless policies of cracking down on Jerusalem: building unending settlements; building a Separation Wall that slices right through the city, severing its families, neighborhoods and businesses and hitting hard at its Arab economy; seizing Arab lands and expelling families that have lived on them for generations; and revoking the citizenship of any Palestinian resident who travels abroad for too long. Imagine the outcry if an American citizen traveled abroad for two years and upon return discovered that his citizenship was revoked and that he had lost his American ID and passport.
Israeli officials don’t care whether the Palestinians they discriminate against are Christian or Muslim. It is true that inter-religious strife is on the rise in a region long tormented by poor living conditions, for which the West bears significant responsibility having aided the region’s many dictators.
Oren’s faux tolerance and crocodile tears over the plight of Christians fool no one. Were he serious, I would urge him to have a close look at Israel’s policies of occupation and racial discrimination.
As Jesus said, ‘Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?‘ (Matthew 7:3)
All Created Equal…but some more equal than others.
My understanding of what drives Christian Zionism has changed somewhat over the past few years. Initially I thought it could be traced back to errors in Biblical exegesis concerning the place of modern Zionist Israel in Biblical Eschatology as well as fear of other faiths, like Islam, which are seen by many Christians as competitors to Christianity in the market place of religious ideas.
But recently I have come to see that Christian Zionism is ultimately held together by the same threads as all western support for Zionist Israel. And those threads can be traced back to a basic concept of European supremacist racism, the type of which Edward Said described in his book, Orientalism.
Said has been vigorously attacked for this work, mostly by Europeans, but I think his work is extremely illuminating all the same. I very much remember how I, as a right wing Christian believer, convinced of the basic superiority of the west because of the greater impact experienced by it from the Christian faith, detested any attempt to paint western “Christian” colonialism in a negative light in an attempt to justify the struggle for the rights of indigenous peoples or peoples not grouped within the “Christianized” world. I saw all attempts to unveil the suffering of indigenous peoples at the hands of western colonialism as thinly veiled attempts by the Godless Left to attack the real enemy of those duped into the struggle of the so called “marginalised” :…that is, ”white, western Christian males and the faith they are custodians of.” I recognised the whole point of the movement to support the rights of minorities throughout the world was to make me feel “white guilt”! I wasn’t having a bar of it!
To justify western colonialism, I reminded myself that it was not only the “Christianized” west that was guilty of colonialism. And hey…if you have to suffer under colonialism, western colonialism was surely better than non-Christianized eastern colonialism! Even if you can show that the Christianized west was guilty of crimes against the rights of the vulnerable, the idea that at least we gave them the Bible and ultimately democracy, will always help you to feel superior to the east in the end when you go to bed at night. If western colonialism can be shown to have destroyed the lives of millions, fear not, eastern colonialism destroyed the lives of tens of millions if not more!
Better to be violated by a “Christianized” westerner than a Godless oriental! When I was finally confronted with the atrocities suffered by the indigenous of my country, Australia, I comforted myself with the thought that if Australia had been colonised by anyone but the British, or some other civilised western nation influenced by the Bible, there would be no indigenous people left anywhere in Australia.
I used this line of reasoning to defend the whole idea of the west forcing their ideas and interests on others whom I considered to be less Christianized, and therefore less civilised than us. Sure…in general it is best to let people be free and decide for themselves what they should do and think, but hey…we are westerners and they aren’t! If anyone has to have nuclear weapons, then just thank God it’s us who has them and not them (i.e. Iran)! We are more trustworthy than them. If only the non-western world would just see their basic inferiority and realise they have to become more like us, then the world would be better off. But hey, since they are inferior, they will never have the brains to work this out and so we will have to keep them in check anyway! Or perhaps if they aren’t inferior then if we could just stop them listening to the real enemy, the liberal supporters of freedom!
What broke me out of this delusion was that I came to understand my role as a Christian to be that of one who promotes peace, justice, equality and reconciliation. As a right wing believer, who strangely didn’t have the foggiest understanding of the love and grace of God in Jesus, I saw my ultimate role in the church as that of a sales rep for Jesus. I had to do all I could to present “brand Christianity” in the best light possible, shining over all its competitors, so as to convince everyone that buying into the Christian faith was the best deal available.
And since the west was so much more influenced by the Christian faith than the east, then being an apologist for the Christian faith became synonymous with being an apologist for western colonialism. Since the U.S. was supposedly founded as a “Christian nation”, then being an apologist for the U.S. was the next most obvious step followed by becoming an apologist for Capitalism and neo-liberalism. The process seemed obvious, inevitable and God ordained.
The price for this process was to become more and more indifferent to the suffering of those on the wrong end of the western world’s strategic and economic self interests, which the west felt they were entitled to since they had been proven to be the guardians of what was really worth preserving in the world: themselves and their ideas. And it was obvious to me that being indifferent to the plight of any of my fellow humans was not God’s will for me. I then started to notice that while conservatives continually criticised those who stood up for the poor, citing their reasons for doing so as “left wing economics and politics don’t work, they only make things worse for the poor”, their real motivation seemed to be much more like what I had been doing in standing up for western colonialism in order to protect the preferred place my own religious ideology enjoyed as I saw it. Just as I was not primarily concerned with the suffering of those who had been under the rule of colonialism, whether it be eastern or western, but rather just wanted to promote my own beliefs in order to make me feel superior to those who disagreed with me and fulfil what I thought was my God given ministry, so these conservative critics didn’t seem to care for the poor and marginalised whether they lived under a right or left wing system, they just wanted to show the world how superior they and their ideology were to “lefties”.
The atrocious, moral and ethical bankruptcy of this behaviour has since become apparent to me. The Gospel of reconciliation is not about trying to justify belief systems over one another at the expense of the rights of anyone, be they western, Palestinian or whatever other label we wish to place on them.
While it is obvious that the cause of the Palestinian people has been used as an excuse to murder and kill, I still believe in the basic justness of their cause since it is bound up with the cause of justice and equality for all. The cause I support is one that demands that any solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict must be one that promotes justice and equality for all in the best manner possible.
Equality and justice will never be the catch cry of those who support Israel as it exists today any more than it was the slogan of the apartheid regime of South Africa that all should live in equality and freedom in that country. Martin Luther King Jnr. (a figure secretly detested by the religious right as is Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela) had a dream inspired by the vision that those now living apart, divided by hatred and suspicion, could one day live together hand in hand in peace, equality and justice. Apartheid South Arica and today’s Israel have shared the same basic creed. They claim to be countries of superior peoples surrounded by barbarians that cannot be trusted with true democracy, equality and justice. Sure…all people are created equal…but some are more equal than others.
Our sense of western entitlement, whether it comes from misguided religious belief or otherwise, is an affront to the Gospel of Jesus. And a rejection of western entitlement does not secretly hide a sense of eastern entitlement either, but openly proclaims the truth of scripture that God’s has created all as equals.
You can’t get there from here: the need for ‘collapse with agency’ in Palestine
Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
18 February 2012
Even as I write this, the bulldozers have been busy throughout that one indivisible country known by the bifurcated term Israel/Palestine. Palestinian homes, community centers, livestock pens and other “structures” (as the Israel authorities dispassionately call them) have been demolished in the Old City, Silwan and various parts of “Area C” in the West Bank, as well among the Bedouin – Israeli citizens – in the Negev/Nakab. This is merely mopping up, herding the last of the Arabs into their prison cells where, forever, they will cease to be heard or heard from, a non-issue in Israel and, eventually, in the wider world distracted from bigger, more pressing matters.
An as-yet confidential report submitted by the European consuls in Jerusalem and Ramallah raises urgent concerns over the “forced expulsion” of Palestinians – a particularly strong term for European diplomats to use –from Area C of the West Bank (the 60% of the West Bank under full Israeli control but which today contains less than 5% of the Palestinian population). Focusing particularly on the rise in house demolitions by the Israeli authorities and the growing economic distress of the Palestinians living in Area C, the report mentions the fertile and strategic Jordan Valley (where the Palestinian population has declined from 250,000 to 50,000 since the start of the Occupation), plans to relocate 3000 Jahalin Bedouins to a barren hilltop above the Jerusalem garbage dump and the ongoing but accelerated demolition of Palestinian homes (500 in 2011).
At the same time the “judaization” of Jerusalem continues apace, a “greater” Israeli Jerusalem steadily isolating the Palestinian parts of the city from the rest of Palestinian society while ghettoizing their inhabitants, more than 100,000 of which now live beyond the Wall. Some 120 homes were demolished in East Jerusalem in 2011; over the same period the Israeli government announced the construction of close to 7000 housing units for Jews in East and “Greater” Jerusalem. “If current trends are not stopped and reversed,” said a previous EU report, “the establishment of a viable Palestinian state within the pre-1967 borders seems more remote than ever. The window for a two-state solution is rapidly closing….”
In fact, it closed long ago. In terms of settlers and Palestinians, the Israeli government treats the whole country as one. Last year it demolished three times more homes of Israeli citizens (Arabs, of course) than it did in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The demolition of Bedouin homes in the Negev/Nakab is part of a plan approved by the government to remove 30,000 citizens from their homes and confine them to townships.
None of this concerns “typical” Israelis even if they have heard of it (little appears in the news). For them, the Israeli-Arab conflict was won and forgotten years ago, somewhere around 2004 when Bush informed Sharon that the US does not expect Israel to withdraw to the 1967 borders, thus effectively ending the “two-state solution,” and Arafat “mysteriously” died.
Since then, despite occasional protests from Europe, the “situation” has been normalized. Israelis enjoy peace and quiet, personal security and a booming economy (with the usual neoliberal problems of fair allocation). The unshakable, bi-partisan support of the American government and Congress effectively shields it from any kind of international sanctions. Above all, Israeli Jews have faith that those pesky Arabs living somewhere “over there” beyond the Walls and barbed-wire barriers have been pacified and brought under control by the IDF. A recent poll found that “security,” the term Israelis use instead of “occupation” or “peace,” was ranked eleventh among the concerns of the Israeli public, trailing well behind employment, crime, corruption, religious-secular differences, housing and other more pressing issues.
As for the international community, the “Quartet” representing the US, the EU, Russia and the UN in the non-existent “peace process” has gone completely silent. (Israel refused to table its position on borders and other key negotiating issues by the January 26th “deadline” laid down by the Quartet, and no new meetings are scheduled). The US has abandoned any pretense of an “honest broker.” Months ago, when the US entered its interminable election “season,” Israel received a green light from both the Democrats and Republicans to do whatever it sees fit in the Occupied Territory. Last May the Republicans invited Netanyahu to address Congress and send a clear message to Obama: hands off Israel. That same week, Obama, not to be out-done, addressed an AIPAC convention and reaffirmed Bush’s promise that Israel will not have to return to the 1967 borders or relinquish its major settlement blocs in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. He also took the occasion to promise an American veto should the Palestinians request membership in the UN – though that would merely amount to an official acceptance of the two-state treaty that the US claims it has been fostering all these years. No, as far as Israel and Israeli Jews are concerned, the conflict and even the need for pretense is over. The only thing remaining is to divert attention to more “urgent” global matters so that the Palestinian issue completely disappears. Voila Iran.
Oh, but what about the “demographic threat,” that “war of the womb” that will eventually force a solution? Well, as long as Israel has the Palestinian Authority to self-segregate its people, it has nothing to worry about. While the Palestinian Authority plays the “two-state solution” game, Israel can simply herd the Palestinians into the 70 tiny islands of Areas A and B, lock the gates and let the international community feed them – and go about placidly building a Greater Land of Israel with American and European complicity. Indeed, nothing demonstrates self-segregation more than Prime Minister Salem Fayyad’s neoliberal scheme of building a Palestinian …something… “from the ground up.” By building for the well-to-do in new private-sector cities like Rawabi, located safely in Area A, by building new highways (with Japanese and USAID assistance) that respect Israeli “Greater” Jerusalem and channel Palestinian traffic from Ramallah to Bethlehem through far-away Jericho, by expressing a willingness to accept Israeli territorial expansion in exchange for the ability to “do business,” Fayyad has invented yet a new form of neoliberal oppression-by-consent: viable apartheid (viable, at least, for the Palestinian business class). And as in the Bantustans of apartheid South Africa, the Palestinian Authority maintains a repressive internal order through its own American-trained/Israeli-approved militia, a second layer of occupation. (During the 2008 assault on Gaza, one of the few places in the world in which there were no demonstrations was the West Bank, where they were forbidden by the Palestinian Authority. Then-Prime Minister Olmert crowed that this was evidence of how effectively the Palestinians had been pacified.)
Indeed, by clinging to the two-state solution and continuing to participate in “negotiations” years after they have proven themselves a trap, the Palestinian leadership plays a central role in its own people’s warehousing. The reality – even the fact – of occupation gets buried under the diversions set up by the fraudulent yet unending “peace process.” This only enables Israel to imprison the Palestinians in tiny cells; witness today’s mini-ethnic cleansing, just one of thousands of micro-events that have the cumulative effect of displacement, expulsion, segregation and incarceration. It also enables Israel to then blame the victims for causing their own oppression! When a Palestinian leadership assumes the prerogative to negotiate a political resolution yet lacks any genuine authority or leverage to do so, and when, in addition, it fails to abandon negotiations even after they have been exposed as a trap, it comes dangerously close to being collaborationist. For its part, Israel is off the hook. Instead of going through the motions of establishing an apartheid regime, it simply exploits the willingness of the Palestinian Authority to perpetuate the illusion of negotiations as a smokescreen covering its virtual imprisonment of the Palestinian “inmates.” Once the current mopping up operations are completed, the process of incarceration will be complete.
Today the only alternative agency to the Palestinian Authority is segments of the international civil society. The Arab and Muslims peoples for whom Palestinian liberation is an integral part of the Arab Spring, stand alongside thousands of political and human rights groups, critical activists, churches, trade unions and intellectuals throughout the world. Crucial as it is for keeping the issue alive and building grassroots support for the Palestinian cause that will steadily “trickle up” and affect governments’ policies, however, civil society advocacy is a stop-gap form of agency, ultimately unable to achieve a just peace by itself. We, too, are trapped in the dead-end personified by the two-state solution, reference to a “peace process” and their attendant “negotiations.” There is no way forward in the current paradigm. We must break out into a world of new possibilities foreclosed by the present options: a “two-state” apartheid regime or warehousing.
In my view, while advocacy and grassroots mobilization remain relevant, several tasks stand before us. First, we must endeavour to hasten the collapse of the present situation and subsequently, when new paradigms of genuine justice emerge from the chaos, be primed to push forward an entirely different solution that is currently impossible or inconceivable, be that a single democratic state over the entire country, a bi-national state, a regional confederation or some other alternative yet to be formulated. The Palestinians themselves must create a genuine, inclusive agency of their own that, following the collapse, can effectively seize the moment. Formulating a clear program and strategy, they will then be equipped to lead their people to liberation and a just peace, with the support of activists and others the world over.
A necessary and urgent first step towards collapsing the otherwise permanent regime of oppression in Israel/Palestine is that we stop talking about a two-state solution. It’s dead and gone as a political option – if, indeed, it ever really existed. It should be banned from the discourse because reference to an irrelevant “solution” only serves to confuse the discussion. Granted, this will be hard for liberals to do; everyone else, however, has given up on it. Most Palestinians, having once supported it, now realize that Israel will simply not withdraw to a point where a truly viable and sovereign state can emerge. The Israeli government, backed by the Bush-Obama policies on the settlement blocs, doesn’t even make pretence of pursuing it anymore, and the Israeli public is fine with the status quo. Nor does the permanent warehousing of the Palestinians seem to faze the American or European governments, or the Arab League. Even AIPAC has moved on to the “Iranian threat.”
Behind the insistence of the liberal Zionists of J Street, Peace Now, the Peace NGOs Forum run out of the Peres Center for Peace and others to hang on to a two-state solution at any cost is a not-so-hidden agenda. They seek to preserve Israel as a Jewish state even at the cost of enforcing institutional discrimination against Israel’s own Palestinian citizens. The real meaning of a “Jewish democracy” is living with apartheid and warehousing while protesting them. No, the liberals will be the hardest to wean away from the two-state snare. Yet if they don’t abandon it, they run the risk of promoting de facto their own worst nightmare of warehousing while providing the fig-leaf of legitimacy to cover the policies of Israel’s extreme right – all in the name of “peace.” This is what happens when one’s ideology places restrictions on one’s ability to perceive evil or to draw necessary if difficult conclusions. When wishful thinking becomes policy, it not only destroys your effectiveness as a political actor but leads you into positions, policies and alliances that, in the end, are inimical to your own goals and values. Jettisoning all talk of a “two-state solution” removes the major obstacle to clear analysis and the ability to move forward.
The obfuscation created by the “two-state solution” now out of the way, what emerges as clear as day is naked occupation, an apartheid regime extending across all of historic Palestine/Israel and the spectre of warehousing. Since none of these forms of oppression can ever be legitimized or transformed into something just, the task before us becomes clear: to cause their collapse by any means necessary. There are many ways to do this, just as the ANC did. Already Palestinian, Israel and international activists engage in internal resistance, together with international challenges to occupation represented by the Gaza flotillas and attempts to “crash” Israeli borders. Many civil society actors the world over have mobilized, some around campaigns such as Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS), others around direct actions, still others engaged in lobbying the UN and governments through such instruments as the Human Rights Council, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and international courts. There have been campaigns to reconvene the Tribunal that, under the Fourth Geneva Convention, has the authority and duty to sanction Israel for its gross violations. Dozens of groups and individuals alike engage in public speaking, mounting Israel Apartheid Weeks on university campuses and working through the media. And much more.
And here is where Palestinian civil society plays a crucial role, a role that cannot be played by non-Palestinians. If it is agreed that the Palestinian Authority must go if we are to get beyond the two-state trap – indeed, the dismantling of the PA being a major part of the collapse of the present system – then this call must originate from within the Palestinian community. Non-Palestinians must join in, of course, but the issue of who represents the Palestinians is their call exclusively. Non-Palestinians can also suggest various end-games. I’ve written, for example, about a Middle East economic confederation, believing that a regional approach is necessary to address the core issues. The Palestinian organization PASSIA published a collection of twelve possible outcomes. It is obvious, though, that it is the sole prerogative of the Palestinian people to decide what solution, or range of solutions, is acceptable. For this, and to organize effectively so as to bring about a desired outcome, the Palestinians need a new truly representative agency, one that replaces the PA and gives leadership and direction to broad-based civil society agency, one that has the authority to negotiate a settlement and actually move on to the implementation of a just peace.
As of now, it appears there is only one agency that possesses that legitimacy and mandate: the Palestinian National Council of the PLO (although Hamas and the other Islamic parties are not (yet) part of the PLO). Reconstituting the PNC through new elections would seem the most urgent item on the Palestinian agenda today – without which, in the absence of effective agency, we are all stuck in rearguard protest actions and Israel prevails. Our current situation, caught in the limbo between seeking the collapse of the oppressive system we have, and having a Palestinian agency that can effectively lead us towards a just resolution, is one of the most perilous we’ve faced. One person’s limbo is another person’s window of opportunity. Say what you will about Israel, it knows how to hustle and exploit even the smallest of opportunities to nail down its control permanently.
“Collapse with agency,” I suggest, could be a title of our refocused efforts to weather the limbo in the political process. Until a reinvigorated PNC or other representative agency can be constituted, a daunting but truly urgent task, Palestinian civil society might coalesce enough to create a kind of interim leadership bureau. This itself might be a daunting task. Most Palestinian leaders have either been killed by Israel or are languishing in Israeli prisons, while Palestinian civil society has been shattered into tiny disconnected and often antagonistic pieces. At home major divisions have been sown between “’48” and “’67” Palestinians; Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank have been effectively severed; and within the West Bank restrictions on movement among a bewildering array of “areas” – A, B, C, C-Restricted, H-1, H-2, nature reserves, closed military areas – have resulted in virtual, largely disconnected Palestinian mini-societies. Political divisions, especially among secular/traditional and Islamic factions, have been nurtured, not least by Israel. Overall, the Palestinian population, exhausted by years of sacrifice and resistance, impoverished and preoccupied with mere survival, has been left largely rudderless as many of its most educated and skilled potential leaders have left or are forbidden by Israel to return.
For its part, the Palestinian leadership has done little to bridge the wider divisions amongst those falling under PA rule, Palestinian citizens of Israel, residents of the refugee camps and the world-wide Diaspora, divisions that have grown even wider since the PLO and the PNC fell moribund. Indeed, major portions of the Palestinian Diaspora (and one may single out especially but not exclusively the large and prosperous communities of Latin America), have disconnected from the national struggle completely. The Palestinian possess some extremely articulate spokespeople and activists, but they tend to be either a collection of individual voices only tenuously tied to grassroots organizations, or grassroots resistance groups such as the Popular Committees that enjoy little political backing or strategic direction.
Ever aware that the struggle for liberation must be led by Palestinians, our collective task at the moment, in my view, is to bring about the collapse of the present situation in Palestine in order to exploit its fundamental unsustainably. The elimination of the Palestinian Authority is one way to precipitate that collapse. It would likely require Israel to physically reoccupy the Palestinian cities and probably Gaza as well (as if they have ever been de-occupied), bringing the reality of raw occupation back to the centre of attention. Such a development would likely inflame Arab and Muslim public opinion, not to mention that of much of the rest of the world, and would create an untenable situation, forcing the hand of the international community. Israel would be put in an indefensible position, thus paving the way for new post-collapse possibilities – this time with an effective and representative Palestinian agency in place and a global movement primed to follow its lead.
But given the underlying unsustainability of the Occupation and the repressive system existing throughout historic Palestine – the massive violations of human rights and international law, the disruptive role the conflict plays in the international system and its overt brutality – collapse could come from a variety of places, some of them unsuspected and unrelated to Israel/Palestine. An attack on Iran could reshuffle the cards in the Middle East, and the Arab Spring is still a work in progress. Major disruptions in the flow of oil to the West due an attack on Iran, internal changes in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, instability in Russia and even the fact that China has no oil of its own could cause major financial crises worldwide. Sino-American tensions, environmental disasters or Pakistan’s nuclear weapons falling into the hands of the Taliban with unpredictable Indian reactions may all play an indirect yet forceful role. Who knows? Ron Paul, President Gingrich’s newly appointed Secretary of State, might end all military, economic and political support for Israel, in which case the Occupation (and more) would fall within a month.
Whatever the cause of the collapse – and we must play an active role in bring it about – it is incumbent upon us to be ready, mobilized and organized if we are to seize that historic moment, which might be coming sooner than we expect. Effective and broadly representative Palestinian agency will be critical. Collapse with agency is the only way to get “there” from “here.”
Jeff Halper is the Director of the Israeli Committee Against House
AFP LINK: http://www.australiansforpalestine.net/58869#more-58869
Original Link: http://www.icahd.org/?p=8171