There will be no Israeli-Palestinian spring. At the United Nations, Israel’s closest, most reliable allies are once again assuring the nation a future of isolation, insecurity, irreconcilable internal division, international condemnation and endless conflict. For the people of Israel, a life of perpetual anxiety is assured. As my family used to put it, is this good for the Jews?
The Palestinian initiative to seek recognition by the UN offered a people without hope a few precious days of pride and dignity. But I fear their life of constant humiliation will return. Now, if there is any chance at all for Palestinians to end this degrading status, their only realistic alternative is to escalate peaceful civil disobedience. (A remarkable look at the use of non-violent resistance by Palestinians in the West Bank, and Israel’s response, can be found in the New York Review of Books, Feb. 24, 2011, “ Israel and Palestine: Breaking the Silence,” by David Shulman of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
For outsiders who demand natural justice for Palestinians, the only practical strategy must be an escalation of efforts to expose and embarrass Israel’s reactionary government. What other choices are there? It is an insult to common sense to consider the United States an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians.
It is ludicrous to demand negotiations with the Netanyahu government, which will never ever agree to a viable Palestinian state. And it requires willful blindness to expect the Israeli government to stop building more illegal settlements, as was demonstrated again just this week. The very raison d’etre of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank is to steal the Palestinians’ land. In any event, it is far too late. There are already half a million Jews living illegally in the West Bank and Jerusalem and many, perhaps most, will never leave peacefully.
This was not the Zionist ideal of Eretz Yisrael as a light unto the nations that was bred into my soul as I was growing up. Nor is an Israel controlled by ultra-nationalist politicians, Arab baiters, ethnic cleansers, violent settlers, and Taliban-like religious fundamentalists. Nor is an Israeli army that increasingly reflects these hate-filled extremists.
Nor is the unholy alliance that supports Israel the kind of allies we hoped a just and humane Israel would attract. To be adopted by American Christian evangelicals whose ultimate goal is either the conversion or annihilation of all Jews; by far-right European political parties of Muslim-haters who only yesterday demonized Jews; by American Republicans who want to roll back the modern world; by Conservatives in Canada who flagrantly exploit and exaggerate anti-Semitism for their own political purposes; by bogus friends everywhere who insist that criticism of Israel equals anti-Semitism; by the violence-prone Jewish Defence League in Canada, who befriended the English Defence League, a violently anti-Muslim group embraced by Norwegian mass murderer Anders Breivik; by politicians too craven and opportunistic to stand up for the real well-being of Israel, led by the man who used to be Barack Obama. Can such friends really help assure Israel of a secure future?
With champions like these, who else does beleaguered Israel need? Who needs the Arab League’s peace initiative, offering a potentially genuine route to peace and regional normalization that Benjamin Netanyahu and his gang dismiss with contempt? Who needs the world’s moderate Muslims? Who needs Egypt or Turkey, the latter recklessly lost as an ally by Mr. Netanyahu? Who needs the overwhelming majority of UN members that enthusiastically back Palestine? Who needs the majority of American Jews who do not share the Jewish establishment’s blind support for everything Israeli.
Who needs virtually all progressive Jews in the world who want justice for Palestinians as well as security for Israel? Who needs that multitude of non-Jewish Western liberals who once were ardent supporters of another Israel, an Israel committed, or so it appeared, to justice for all, an Israel that might not quite have existed but that certainly has now disappeared, apparently forever.
Who needs all those Israelis who bitterly repudiate Mr. Netanyahu and his government and demand serious peace efforts leading to statehood for the Palestinians? We’re not talking here about that well-known invention, the self-hating Jew. The vociferous critics include the newly-retired head of Israel’s fabled spy agency, the Mossad; the outspoken Israeli generals and soldiers; the 17 winners of the coveted Israel Prize (the nation’s highest honor); hundreds of Israeli intellectuals; Israeli Holocaust scholars; Israeli human-rights activists; and moderate right-wing Israeli opposition members of parliament. All Jews. All Israelis.
Who needs the 70 per cent of Israelis who would accept a UN vote in favour of a Palestinian state? Who needs distinguished Holocaust historian and Yad Vashem advisor, Yehuda Bauer, who like so many others fears the violence of the orthodox and the settlers more than he fears Palestinians? Who needs Israelis who want Israel to live up to its own ideals of equality and justice for all, ideals sabotaged by some 130,000 fanatical settlers who are prepared to kill as many Palestinians as might be necessary to maintain their illegal settlements. (See Patrick Martin’s August 6, 2011 Globe and Mail feature on this chilling phenomenon.)
Earlier this year a book appeared documenting life in the occupied West Bank by over 100 Israeli soldiers who served there. Here’s a very brief summary of what Occupation of the Territories: 2000-2010 reveals to those who demand the truth, a category that excludes such heedless friends of Israel as Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his Immigration Minister, Jason Kenney:
“The routine use of terror against the Palestinian population as a principle of control; the beatings and shootings and arbitrary arrests; the inventive and pervasive forms of humiliation inflicted on innocents; the expulsions from homes and grazing grounds and fields; the occasional acts of pure sadism on the part of senior officers as well as ordinary soldiers and in particular by settlers; the violent suppression of nearly all forms of protest, including especially nonviolent civil disobedience and peaceful demonstrations.”
All this from Israeli soldiers. Jewish soldiers.
This is not good for the Palestinians. Can it possibly be good for Israelis, or for Jews anywhere?