Are Democracy and Despotic Racism Compatible

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Are Democracy and Despotic Racism Compatible? An Analysis (12 April 2019) by Lawrence Davidson

Part I—The Israeli Model and Its American Supporters

On 25 February 2019, the Jewish American publication Forward, printed a remarkable opinion piece by Joshua Leifer. Leifer, who had worked in Israel for the anti-establishment +972 Magazine, is currently an associate editor ofDissent. His piece in the Forward was entitled “Wake Up, American Jews: You’ve Enabled Israel’s Racism for Years.”

Leifer begins by saying that the Israeli rightwing political parties have always been racist, though there was a time, back in the 1980s, when they objected to being too upfront about this. Thus, for the sake of public relations, they held their violent and despotic fringe—the Kahanists—at arm’s length. As Leifer puts it, what was frowned upon was the style rather than the substance of “explicit, violent racism.” That objection is now gone. The goal of a “Jewish supremacist state” is out in the open—an explicit political goal. And the Palestinians, including those who are Israeli citizens, are to be condemned to “forever live subjugated under military occupation, confined to isolated Bantustans, or … expelled.” Those Jews, both Israelis and diaspora Jews, who object to this process will be labeled as “traitors.”

Having established these facts on the ground, Leifer asks “how has the American Jewish establishment responded?” His answer is, they have either been silent or, more often, have actively sought to enable the power of Israel’s despotic racism. They have cooperated with, lobbied for, and raised money to underpin Israel’s racist policies. Of course, a Zionist is sure to assert that the lobbying and money are pursued for the sake of Israeli security. Yet, today’s Israeli leaders don’t define security, with the possible exceptions of Gaza and the Lebanese frontier, in terms of borders. Instead security is defined in terms of achieving and maintaining Jewish supremacy in all territory under Zionist control. This is why all of Israel’s Zionist parties have pledged never to include the token number of Arabs in the Knesset in a governing coalition.

In their effort to support Zionist Israel, America’s establishment Jewish leaders have proven themselves willing to undermine the constitutional freedoms of their own native country, as has been the case with their relentless attacks on the right of free speech as practiced in the boycott Israel movement—BDS. In the end, there can be no more convincing proof that these organizations serve as de facto agents of a foreign power, than to see how their leadership willingly discards the modern principles of civil and human rights found in the U.S. Constitution—to say nothing of international law—in order to support a state that openly pursues apartheid ends.

Leifer offers two possible reasons for why establishment Jewish organizations in the U.S. have chosen this path. The first possibility is “willful ignorance,” that is, a psychological inability to face the truth about a state that they, as American Jewish leaders, have always seen as an ultimate haven if a new Holocaust threat arises. The second possibility is that the leadership of the American Jewish organizations are themselves conscious racists when it comes to a Jewish supremacist state. According to Leifer, “No one exemplifies this better than Ambassador David Friedman, whose rhetoric—calling JStreet “worse than kapos”—mirrors the kind of rhetoric popular on the Israeli right.”

Part II—Racism Beyond the Israeli Right

This is a strong, and quite searing, condemnation of Israeli society and its American Jewish allies. Still, things can and do get worse. On 4 April 2019 the British anti-Zionist Jewish writer Tony Greenstein posted an essay entitled “There Is Nothing That Netanyahu Has Done That Labour Zionism Didn’t Do Before Him.” Greenstein begins by citing an 11 March 2019 piecein Haaretz written by Amira Haas, one of the few prominent non-Zionist Jewish journalists still working in Israel. Haas draws attention to the fact that “when Israeli governments in the 1960s and 1970s worked hard to steal Palestinian land while quoting God’s promises to atheists, they paved the way for parties promoting Jewish supremacy.” Thus, as Greenstein puts it: “It is often forgotten that it wasn’t Likud but the Israeli Labour Alignment which helped to launch the settler movement.” The remorseless absorption of Palestinian land and the oppressive treatment of its native population is not the work solely of the Israeli right wing. From the beginning, all of the major Zionist political parties, left and right, supported these policies as a way of fulfilling Zionist destiny.

Haas is unflinching in her characterization of their actions. For her, this “racist messianism” smacks of the policy of “Lebensraum” or “the urge to create living space.” Haas goes on to lament the fact that “we thought that in the end, the heads of the Labour movement would learn from the expansionist impulses of other nations. After all, they were the sons and brothers of the victims of Lebensraum.” In other words, at least in this policy of expansion and expulsion, all Israeli governing coalitions have adopted behaviors toward the Palestinians reminiscent of those practiced by the persecutors of Europe’s Jews.

Part III—The Question Answered

Considering that Israel and its supporters often proclaim that it is a Western-style democracy, and given the bit of history laid out above, we can ask if democracy and racist despotism can in fact be compatible. And, while the example of Israel serves as our backdrop for this query, we can consider the question generically. Can any democracy prove compatible with racist despotism?

Historically, the answer is an obvious yes. All that needs to happen is that a powerful group within the nation identifies itself as a privileged elite and reserves democratic procedures and privileges for itself, while condemning others to discrimination, segregation, or worse. Again, this posture has nothing to do with Jewishness. Any ethnicity or self-identified group can adopt it—based on color, religion, gender, or something else. The much-idealized ancient democracy of Athens did it based on gender and citizenship linked to birth.The United States ran as a selective democracy/racist despotism that practiced slavery until the middle of the 19th century while statutory discrimination persisted until the 1960s. Recent events indicate a revival of virulent white supremacism.

If there is a remedy to this it is in the rule of law functioning as an enforced regulatory process—one linked to a tenets of human rights. The U.S. Bill of Rights and the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights are good, if incomplete models. Politics, including democratic politics, has to be constitutionally regulated to assure equity (much like economies), and the regulations have to be applied consistently until they become ingrained as natural expectations within the consciousness of the citizenry. This probably requires generations of equalitarian practice. And, even then, what you achieve is the minimizing of the infiltration of corruptive bias, and other such variants corrosive of genuine democracy, into the system. The truth is that you probably cannot eliminate the threat altogether.

Getting back to Israel: under the present circumstances, there is no reason to believe that the outcome of the recent 9 April 2019 Israeli elections would have changed the fate of either the the country’s Jews or the Palestinians. And, now that we know that Benjamin Netanyahu and his rightwing Likud Party will lead the next coalition government, it is certain that the illegal Zionist colonization of the West Bank, and its accompanying oppression, will continue apace. This, by the way, is simply the maintenance of a long-standing status quo—a conscious policy in its own right. And, it is a policy that reflects the fact that “for years, most Israelis have passively or actively allowed values of equality, justice, and yes, peace, to go by the wayside.”

So what is the legacy of Zionism? Is it the establishment of a genuine democracy in the Middle East? Is it even the realization of a haven for the world’s Jews against the next Holocaust? No, it is neither of these. It is rather the melding of an elitist pseudo-democracy with racist despotism—the realization of an elitist fortress from which Israel maintains distinctly undemocratic control of a hinterland full of conquered people. To paraphrase the odious Israeli Minister of Justice Ayelet Shaked, this whole setup smells nothing like democracy. It smells to me like fascism.

About Lawrence Davidson

Lawrence Davidson is professor of history emeritus at West Chester University in Pennsylvania. He has been publishing his analyses of topics in U.S. domestic and foreign policy, international and humanitarian law and Israel/Zionist practices and policies since 2010.

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israel’s (apartheid state) ‘Psychological Obstacles to Peace’

Israel’s ‘Psychological Obstacles to Peace’

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Understanding is Not Excusing

There is a difference between understanding and excusing. I might understand the arguments of Donald Trump and John Bolton, but by virtue of that very understanding I find their arguments inexcusable. The same goes for the arguments of the Israeli leadership and their diaspora allies. I hear their words and find that they can never excuse their actions.

Given this difference between understanding and excusing, it’s hard to know what to do with efforts to have us understand the “psychological obstacles” that supposedly prevent Israelis from making peace. A good example of this effort is found in a reprinted essay by Carlo Strenger, an Israeli psychologist and public intellectual who is a strong opponent of the Occupation. It appears in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz and is entitled “Psychological Obstacles to Peace in Israel.”

Though Strenger is an Israeli peace activist, his essay is really an effort to move the reader to take more seriously— to better understand—Israeli feelings of “existential” fear when it comes to prospects for peace with the Palestinians. Such understanding will, allegedly, bring us to “acknowledge that moving toward peace entails genuine security risks [for Israeli Jews], and to address these risks unflinchingly.” One suspects that this line has long been fed to the U.S. Congress, among other governments. In any case, for Strenger, this is the sine qua non for peace.

Professor Strenger’s Obstacles

Strenger describes three Israeli “psychological obstacles to peace” that can only be overcome by such an “unflinching” effort based on sympathetic understanding. I do not think he means to offer these obstacles as excuses for over fifty years of Israeli wars and occupation, but unfortunately, in the end it comes through that way. Perhaps that is an expression of the dilemma faced by most Israeli “moderates.” Here are Strenger’s obstacles:

(1) The concept of “loss-aversion”—the assertion that people “are far more guided by fear of loss than by the prospect of gain.” Strenger tells us that average Israelis are afraid to risk the loss of territorial “assets,” which they identify with both national security and religious tradition, for the gains that might come with peace. It is an alleged natural bias for the status quo. Strenger goes on to say that the Palestinians are responsible for this Israeli fear of peace due to their violence during the second Intifada and the rocket attacks from Gaza. That Israel itself created the historical conditions for these Palestinian acts of resistance is not considered by Strenger.

Strenger describes three Israeli “psychological obstacles to peace” that can only be overcome by such an “unflinching” effort based on sympathetic understanding.

There are problems with the loss-aversion thesis. One is that individual assessments of the loss/gain risk are subjective. In other words, in the case of Israeli fears, there have been decades of government propaganda downplaying prospects for peace and Palestinian as well as Arab efforts at compromise—for instance, the outright lie that the Israelis have no one to negotiate with on the Palestinian side. This has been paralleled by a continuous playing up of the alleged security risks of withdrawal from occupied territories.

The result is a psychological context that magnifies a national aversion to the loss of security that may come from peace. Put another way, Israeli leaders have produced an artificial political and psychological environment that identifies national security with the avoidance of peace. All Israeli governments have played this propaganda game because all of them have been and still are more interested in land than peace.

(2) Strenger’s second psychological obstacle is Israel’s “inability to let go of Zionism as a revolutionary movement.” The surprising point here is that he confines “the revolutionary movement” aspect of Zionism to the post-1967 war period.  Thus, he tells us “the history of Israel’s occupation and gradual colonization of the West Bank cannot be understood without the religious-Zionist movement that emerged from the 1967 war.” However, just like the notion of loss aversion, this assertion is misleading. Limiting Zionism’s aggressive expansion, and its accompanying notion of territorial destiny, only to fanatic settlers is just wrong. It was secular Labor Party leaders and military officers who started the Occupation after the 1967 war, and they were (and many probably still are) as reluctant to let go of that territory as any wild-eyed Israeli religious fundamentalist.

(3) Finally, the third psychological obstacle put forth by Strenger is “a need to justify the occupation.” Didn’t we just go through this with loss aversion? Yes. But he wants us to understand that justifying the Occupation also means justifying the guilt that he knows must go along with it. He explains, “almost every Israeli in the last 47 years has done military service in the territories. Almost all of them have had to do things [italics added] that go against human decency and morality—often not for the sake of Israel’s security at large, but to protect some isolated outpost of settlers.” Giving up the territories for peace would be like an admission that it was all for naught and according to Strenger, “this idea is too difficult to bear, and the regret would be unendurable.” This need for denial then underpins the need to see the Occupation as “necessary for Israel’s survival.”

While phrases like “too difficult to bear” and “the regret would be unbearable” are exaggerations, I can understand this argument. It is the same as the argument that the Vietnam War was fought to keep the United States free. Many Americans still cling to this myth. As Strenger notes, it makes both sacrifices and sins appear justified. Yet, in the long run, not facing one’s guilt only poisons both individual and national lives. We can already see this happening within Israeli society.

There are other problems with Strenger’s understanding of Israeli psychological obstacles. He approaches them in a one-dimensional fashion, as if there is not another relevant party to these traumas. Yet Israeli fears about peace are indelibly tied to the Palestinian demand for justice. Indeed, the more we “understand” Israeli fears and accommodate them, the more we are forced to ignore the Palestinians’ psychological and material need for justice. And, justice for the Palestinians is yet another sine qua non for peace.

Finally, Strenger fails to realize that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not just about the Occupation. His own endgame is tied to the maintenance of Israel as a “Jewish democratic state” within the 1967 borders. Yet the concept of a Jewish democratic state is actually a contradiction in terms. You cannot have a democracy for just one select group put down amidst a large population of “others.” That road leads to apartheid. Whether Strenger likes it or not we are now well past the time for a “two-state solution.”

The Need for Coercion

It is not just the prospect of two states that is gone. The “peace process” itself is also long dead. Thus, reason has been displaced and we are thrown back on the need for coercion—just as was the case when confronting apartheid South Africa.

At this stage the aim of coercion is not the withdrawal of Israel from the Occupied Territories. Rather, it is forcing Israeli adherence to international law through the abandonment of the racist ideology of Zionism and the corresponding restrictive notion of rights. If Professor Strenger is in any way typical, most Israeli peace activists will not be able to push the issue this far. However, those few who do have come to the conclusion, as have most Palestinians that they will need a lot of outside help to accomplish this task.

This is made clear in a recent interview (22 September 2018) with the Israeli peace activist Miko Peled. Peled, the son of an Israeli general, argues that we are at a point in the conflict when “only a focused and well-coordinated strategy to delegitimize and bring down the Zionist regime can bring justice to Palestine.” Peled’s aim is the creation of “a single democracy with equal rights on all of historic Palestine.

” This is the same goal of most Palestinians. Currently the best strategy to move in this direction entails an international effort to isolate Israel and stigmatize its racist ideology. Right now this is embodied in the BDS movement—Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions. Peled believes that “BDS is the perfect form of resistance available.” He calls its supporters to “embrace it fully, work hard, and demand the expulsion of all Israeli diplomats and total isolation of Israel.” He also recognizes that this will be a “slow process.”

There seems to be no other choice. And it really does not matter that part of the reason we are at this point are those “existentialist” fears of many Israelis. Those fears are certainly no excuse for the destruction of Palestine, its people and culture, and international law as well. However, if they are sufficient to preclude the use of reason to end to the conflict, then it will have to be coercion—administered worldwide for as long as it takes.

 

 

Reality and its Enemies – An Analysis (28 May 2017) by Lawrence Davidson

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 Part I – Reality

There is an ongoing reality that is destroying hundreds of thousands of lives in the Middle East. And though most Americans are ignorant of the fact, and many of those who should be in the know would deny it, the suffering flows directly from decisions taken by Washington over the last 27 years. Some of the facts of the matter have just been presented by the first Global Conflict Medicine Congress held at the American University of Beirut (AUB) earlier this month (11-14 May 2017). It has drawn attention to two dire consequences of the war policies Americans have carried on in the region: cancer-causing munition matierial and drug-resistant bacteria.

— Cancer-causing munition material: Materials such as tungsten and mercury are found in the casing of penetrating bombs used in the first and second Gulf wars. These have had long-term effects on survivors, especially those who have been wounded by these munitions. Iraqi-trained and Harvard-educated Dr. Omar Dewachi, a medical anthropologist at AUB fears that “the base line of cancers [appearing in those exposed to these materials] has become very aggressive. … When a young woman of 30, with no family history of cancer, has two different primary cancers – in the breast and in the oesophagus – you have to ask what is happening.” To this can be added that doctors are now “overwhelmed by the sheer number of [war] wounded patients in the Middle East.”

— Drug-resistant bacteria: According to Glasgow-trained Professor Ghassan Abu-Sittah, head of plastic and reconstructive surgery at AUB Medical Center, drug resistance was not a problem during the Iran-Iraq War of 1980-1988. However, after the fiasco of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, things began to change. In the period after 1990, Iraq suffered under a vicious sanctions regime imposed by the United Nations at U.S. insistence. During the next 12 years “Iraqis were allowed to use only three antibiotics” and bacterial resistance quickly evolved. Those resistant bacteria spread throughout the region, particularly after the American invasion of the country in 2003. Today, according to a Medecins Sans Frontieres analysis, “multidrug resistant [MDR] bacteria now accounts for most war wound infections across the Middle East, yet most medical facilities in the region do not even have the laboratory capacity to diagnose MDR, leading to significant delays and clinical mismanagement of festering wounds.”

Insofar as these developments go, it is not that there aren’t contributing factors stemming from local causes such as factual fighting. However, the major triggers for these horrors were set in motion in Washington. As far as I know, no American holding a senior official post has ever accepted any responsibility for this ongoing suffering.

 

Part II – Hiding Reality

As the cancers and untreatable infections grow in number in the Middle East, there is here in the United States a distressing effort to rehabilitate George W. Bush – the American president whose decisions and policies contributed mightily to this ongoing disaster. It is this Bush who launched the unjustified 2003 invasion of Iraq and thereby – to use the words of the Arab League – “opened the gates of hell.” His rehabilitation effort began in ernest in April 2013, and coincided with the opening of his presidential library. In an interview given at that time, Bush set the stage for his second coming with an act of self-exoneration. He said he remained “comfortable with the decision making process” that led to the invasion of Iraq – the one that saw him fudging the intelligence when it did not tell him what he wanted to hear – and so also “comfortable” with the ultimate determination to launch the invasion. “There’s no need to defend myself. I did what I did and ultimately history will judge.”

The frivolous assertion that “history will judge” is often used by people of suspect character. “History” stands for a vague future time. Its alleged inevitable coming allows the protagonist to fantasize about achieving personal glory unchallenged by present, usually significant, ethical concerns.

Those seeking George W. Bush’s rehabilitation now like to contrast him to Donald Trump. One imagines they thereby hope to present him as a “moderate” Republican. They claim that Bush was and is really a very smart and analytical fellow rather than the simpleton most of us suspect him to be. In other words, despite launching an unnecessary and subsequently catastrophic war, he was never as ignorant and dangerous as Trump. He and his supporters also depict him as a great defender of a free press, again in contrast to Donald Trump. However, when he was president, Bush described the media as an aider and abettor of the nation’s enemies. This certainly can be read as a position that parallels Trump’s description of the media as the “enemy of the American people.”

But all of this is part of a public relations campaign and speaks to the power of reputation remodeling – the creation of a facade that hides reality. In order to do this you have to “control the evidence” – in this case by ignoring it. In this endeavor George W. Bush and his boosters have the cooperation of much of the mainstream media. No sweat here: the press has done this before. Except for the odd editorial the mainstream media also contributed to Richard Nixon’s rehabilitation back in the mid 1980s. These sorts of sleights-of-hand are only possible against the background of pervasive public ignorance.

 

Part III – Closed Information Environments

Local happenings are open to relatively close investigation. We usually have a more or less accurate understanding of the local context in which events play out, and this allows for the possibility of making a critical judgment. As we move further away, both in space and time, information becomes less reliable, if for no other reason than it comes to us through the auspices of others who may or may not know what they are talking about. As a society, we have little or no knowledge of the context for foreign events, and thus it is easy for those reporting on them to apply filters according to any number of criteria. What we are left with is news that is customized – stories designed to fit preexisting political or ideological biases. In this way millions upon millions of minds are restricted to closed information environments on subjects which often touch on, among other important topics, war and its consequences.

So what is likely to be more influential with the locally oriented American public: George W. Bush’s rehabilitated image reported on repeatedly in the nation’s mainstream media, or the foreign-based, horror-strewn consequences of his deeds reported upon infrequently?

This dilemma is not uniquely American, nor is it original to our time. However, its dangerous consequences are a very good argument against the ubiquitous ignorance that allows political criminals to be rehabilitated even as their crimes condemn others to continuing suffering. If reputation remodelers can do this for George W. Bush, then there is little doubt that someday it will be done for Donald Trump. Life, so full of suffering, is also full of such absurdities.

Getting Past The Issue Of Being Jewish – An Analysis

by Lawrence Davidson

(12 March 2015)

Part I – Is Being Jewish the Real Issue?

 

On 5 March 2015 the New York Times (NYT) carried a front page story about a second-year student at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) named Rachel Beyda. Ms. Beyda, who is Jewish, was seeking appointment as a member on the university’s Judicial Board – a student committee that considers judicial questions in reference to the activities of student government.

 

As the story goes, Ms. Beyda’s application was originally rejected because a majority of the board felt that her association with organizations such as Hillel, a group that uncritically supports Israel’s apartheid-style culture and maintains anti-democratic rules and procedures of its own, would represent a conflict of interest and result in possible bias on her part. Given the tension on many campuses, including UCLA, between those who support and oppose Israeli policies and behavior – tensions which occasionally result in student organizations being disciplined – it was not an unreasonable assumption. Unfortunately, the student board members who questioned Ms. Beyda’s affiliations made it appear that their concerns flowed from her religion and ethnicity.

 

Then “at the prodding of a faculty adviser … who pointed out that belonging to Jewish organizations was not a conflict of interest, the students [on the board] revisited the issue and unanimously put her [Beyda] on the board.”

 

Of course, the story does not end there. According to the NYT, the episode has “set off an anguished discussion of how Jews are treated” and served to “spotlight what appears to be a surge of hostile sentiment directed against Jews on many campuses in the country, often a byproduct of animosity toward the policies of Israel.”

 

The Los Angeles-area Zionists have had a field day blowing the incident out of all proportions. For instance, Rabbi Aaron Lerner, “the incoming executive director of the Hillel chapter at U.C.L.A.” told the NYT, “we don’t like to wave the flag of anti-Semitism, but this is different. This is bigotry. This is discriminating against someone because of their identity.” At least on one point Lerner is wrong. Hillel does “wave the flag of anti-Semitism.” After all, Hillel maintains that “Israel is a core element of Jewish life and the gateway to Jewish identity.” The organization follows the Zionist line that those who strongly oppose Israel, oppose the Jews and Judaism per se.

 

Lerner’s charge of “bigotry” is harder to evaluate without seeing the recorded video of the board meeting (which has been removed from YouTube.) However, in a letter to the campus newspaper, the students who originally voted against Ms. Beyda apologized for the tack they had taken in their questioning of her.

 

The NYT goes on to air the opinions of Rabbi John L. Rosove, senior rabbi of Temple Israel of Hollywood, who called the board incident “insidious”; Avinoam Baral, the president of student council, who said the board was unfairly suggesting Beyda might have “divided loyalties”; and Natalie Charney, student president of the UCLA chapter of Hillel who complained that this was all the result of an “overall climate of targeting Israel” that has led to the “targeting of Jewish students.” Well, no one can accuse the New York Times of putting forth a balanced interpretation of events.

 

Part II – What is the Real Issue?

 

There is certainly something upsetting about this incident. It might very well be that the recent acrimonious struggle that resulted in the UCLA student government endorsing the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel set the scene for a less than sensitive approach to Ms. Beyda’s application to the Judicial Board. Nonetheless, the incident and its repercussions tell us that those who oppose Israeli behavior have to be careful not to fall into the Zionist trap of assuming, or even inferring, that Israel is identical with the Jewish people and that individual Jews cannot do other than support the Zionist state. This is simply not true.

 

It seems to me that the mistake the board members made was to focus on Ms. Beyda’s membership in “Jewish” organizations. We can infer that from the faculty adviser’s intervention as described above. If those objecting to her application had thought the issue through, they would have realized that the real problem is not membership in organizations that are Jewish, but rather membership in organizations that support institutional racism and oppression. Focusing on the latter points allows one to get past the issue of being Jewish. After all, there should be a problem if an applicant belonged to any such organization, be it Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, communist, or even pseudo-democratic.

 

In the United States we may be approaching a tipping point in the struggle against Zionist racism and Israeli oppression. As such it is extremely important that those involved in this struggle express their feelings in a way that clearly maintains a separation between what is objected to and Jews generally. The struggle is against racism, discrimination, oppression, occupation and illegal colonization because they are evils no matter who perpetrates them. The Israeli case has to be prioritized because Israel and its Zionist allies have bought and bullied our own government and political parties in a corrupting manner.

 

Expressed in this way, anyone who applied for the UCLA Judicial Board, regardless of religion or ethnicity, might properly be asked about their attitude toward such issues.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

The Peace Process Hustle – An Analysis

7 November 2014

by Lawrence Davidson
Part I – Intractable Process
An intractable process, one that never seems to resolve itself, is either no process at all or a fraudulent one contrived to hide an ulterior motive. The so-called Israeli-Palestinian (at one time the Israeli-Arab) “peace process,” now in its sixth decade (counting from 1948) or fourth decade (counting from 1967) is, and probably always has been, just such a fraud.
One might object and say that the Oslo Accords (1993) were part of this process and they were not fraudulent. In my opinion that is a doubtful assumption. The talks were carried on in secret by officials who, at least on the Israeli side, never had an equitable peace in mind. Their goal was a political modification of the occupied territories that would free Israel from its legal obligations as occupiers of Palestinian territory and facilitate the pacification of the Palestinians and their resistance organizations. The Israeli side seemed to have believed that negotiating the return of Yasser Arafat and Fatah to the West Bank would provide them a partner in this process – not a peace process, but a pacification process.


It did not take long for the Palestinians to see through this gambit, and relations with the Israelis soon returned to the tense and sometimes violent status quo ante.

It was only after Arafat’s suspicious death in 2004 that the Israelis finally got a Palestinian “leader,” in the person of Mahmoud Abbas, who would cooperate with them in this process of pacification. Organized resistance then became the pursuit of those in Gaza who persist in calling the “peace process” a fraud. They are correct.

 
Part II – “Detached from Reality”

The present Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and some of his ministers have, of late, hinted at the truth. Netanyahu recently told the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, that criticism of his government’s expansion of Jewish settlements in East Jerusalem (which are illegal under international law), whether it comes from the U.S. government or Jewish groups such as J Street and Peace Now, are “words detached from reality” and “foster false statements [of hope] from the Palestinians,” therefore delaying the coming of “peace.”

 Likewise, Israel’s ambassador in Washington, Ron Dermer, has accused Palestinian “president” Abbas, the very man who helps Israel pacify the West Bank population, of “promoting hatred of Jews.” 

Why?

Because Abbas has complained at the United Nations and other world forums of Israel’s unwillingness to bring the “peace process” to a conclusion that he and his Palestine National Council could accept. Abbas, who lost the last Palestinian free election (held in 2006) to Hamas, but with U.S. and Israeli support has usurped the office of Palestinian president, is actually a nearly perfect “peace partner” for the Israelis. The amount of compromise he asks for from the Israeli side in exchange for coming to terms is embarrassingly minimal. However, Netanyahu’s government refuses the Palestinians any compromise at all because, for these Zionists, the “peace process” is a facade whose only value lies in its very fraudulence. Its only value is as a cover for the process of territorial absorption.
Thus, it is probably justified to conclude that a good number of Israelis (and certainly a vast majority of their leadership) are not interested in peace, and probably have never been, unless you define peace as total Palestinian surrender. More accurately, they are interested in expansion and control of all of Palestine from the Jordan to the Mediterranean Sea. After six decades of a “peace process” going nowhere, anyone who does not understand this is deluding themselves.


Part III – Self-Delusion

Just who are those deluding themselves? Many of them are diaspora Jews who are, whether they understand it or not, caught in a contradiction: they are at once committed to Zionism’s ideological goal of a secure Jewish state in Palestine, but nonetheless are, at this moment of maximum Israeli power, calling for ideological compromise. Some of these people are members of Zionist groups in the U.S. such as Peace Now and J Street. Both organizations want continuing peace negotiations with the Palestinians looking toward achieving some variation of the two-state solution. J Street is apparently upset with Netanyahu’s determination to continue the colonization process “in every part of Judea and Samaria” (the West Bank) as well as East Jerusalem because to do so “erects one obstacle to peace after another.”
Unfortunately, the history of official Zionist behavior is on the side of Netanyahu. All the evidence indicates that Zionism and its leaders have been committed to the conquest of all of historic Palestine at least since 1918. In that year Chaim Weizmann submitted a map of the proposed Jewish national home to the Peace Conference that settled matters after World War I. It represented a maximalist program that has been incrementally realized first in 1948 and then 1967. Nowhere in the Zionist program has there ever been room for voluntary retreat. That is why Prime Minister Netanyahu describes those who criticize his colonization efforts as “detached from reality.”

 
Part IV – Conclusion
Netanyahu and his ilk, however, tend to ignore the fact that there are multiple realities operating here. Certainly, one should not forget the Palestinian reality, particularly that of Gaza, and Israeli culpability in its creation and maintenance. On the Zionist side there now exists at least two realities. One is certainly that of Prime Minister Netanyahu – the reality of the Zionist ideologue with Israeli power backing it up. But then there is the other Zionist reality – that of Israel’s increasing isolation, not only diplomatic and cultural, but also, over time, economic. The latter reality scares many diaspora Jews to the point where they are willing to compromise maximalist ideological goals.
The Zionists in power are as yet impervious to this fear. However, if the reality of economic and cultural isolation ever overtakes that of Israeli power, then the number of compromisers will rapidly grow, and the zealots such as Netanyahu will find themselves alone in a Masada-like fortress of their own making.

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian   

The views expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the Blog!

The New York Times Declares the Peace Process Futile

 (27 April 2014)

Part I

 

In 1988 Yasser Arafat declared independence for Palestine based upon the notion of two states living in peace in historic Palestine. The border between those two states was to be set roughly at the armistice line established at the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. The Palestinian state’s capital was to be located in East Jerusalem.

 

That was 26 years ago. Then on14 April 2014, the editorial board of the New York Times (NYT) decided that Arafat was correct and the “principles” that “must undergird a two-state solution” are those he had proposed. Of course the board did so without ever referencing the great Palestinian leader.

 

Not only does the NYT declare the pre-1967 border and a shared capital at Jerusalem necessary and valid, but it calls on the U.S. government to do the same: “It is time for the administration to lay down the principles … should the Israelis and the Palestinians ever decide to make peace.”

 

Part II

 

Before anyone gets too excited over this seeming miracle on Eighth Avenue (where the paper is headquartered), it should be noted that the NYT editorial board made this pronouncement at a point when its fulfillment was impossible. And the editorial board knew this was the case. “The pointless arguing over who brought the Israeli-Palestinian peace talks to the brink of collapse is in full swing. The United States is still working to salvage the negotiations, but there is scant sign

of serious purpose. … President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry should move on and devote their attention to other major international challenges like Ukraine.”

 

Having reached this point in the editorial board’s text one starts to suspect that the board is being disingenuous. First of all, why is it “pointless” to discuss the reason these talks are collapsing? Secretary of State Kerry’s explanation (the famous “poof” heard around the world), made before Congress, lays blame right where it has always belonged – with Israeli acts of sabotage of those very principles the NYT now espouses. Why does the NYT say that stating this increasingly obvious fact is “pointless”?

 

It is also interesting that the editorial board suggests in what direction the subject should be changed – toward the “major international challenge” of Ukraine. I am not sure the board thought this suggestion through. After all, what is the core Western complaint about happenings in Ukraine? It is the Russian land grab in the Crimea as well as the alleged threat of more such moves in eastern Ukraine. Yet just how different is Russian behavior in this regard from that of Israel in the West Bank and Golan Heights? Obviously the NYT editors do not think it is “pointless” to to discuss land grabs when the Russians do it. It is only pointless when the Israelis do it.

 

The editorial board also surrounds its declaration of principles with an archaic effort to present Israel and the Palestinians as equally at fault. It is not only the Israelis who have decided against making peace, it is both the “Israelis and Palestinians.” It is not just “the obstinacy of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu” that is a problem. That “obstinacy” has to be coupled with “resistance from the Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas.” It is not just Israel which is unwilling to “move on to core issues,” it is “the two sides” that are unwilling. This insistence on dualism is an illusion hiding the fact that the two sides are not at all equal and, with the exception of the red-herring issue of Palestinian recognition of Israel as a Jewish state, ninety-nine percent of the obstinacy and all the resistance has been on one side – the Israeli side.

 

Part III

 

The NYT editorial board has the same problem as the Obama administration: they both know the truth but are unwilling to do something about it. They both know the problem is that the Israeli government is not interested in genuine peace (actually, has never been interested in it). Israel is only interested in continuing its conquest of Palestinian land. And thanks to the West, most particularly the United States, Israel has the military wherewithal to ignore not only the Palestinian protests but also those of the rest of the world.

 

Both the U.S. government and the U.S. “newspaper of record” refuse to act on their knowledge of Israel’s history of sabotage and call for punitive action against a nation that is hurting U.S. national interests in an important part of the world. Their main concern is to avoid a confrontation with Zionist lobbyists and NYT advertisers whose devotion to Israel is wholly uncritical. This appears to still be the most favored position even though standing firm over negotiations with Iran has proved the Zionists are not omnipotent.

 

It’s that old two steps forward, one step backward shuffle: heading in the right direction while ensuring we never reach the proper destination.

Israel’s catalogue of savagery

Lawrence Davidson views Israel’s litany of savage behaviour, from the ethnic cleansing that started in earnest in 1948 and is ongoing to the starvation war waged on Gaza and numerous acts of wanton, petty cruelty.

Savagery ongoing

In my article “America’s billboard wars: Zionists vs. the truth, I noted that a Zionist organization run by the Islamophobe Pamela Geller is posting messages on buses and subways calling for support for Israel. The messages claim that Israel represents the “civilized man” in a struggle against jihadist “savagery”. I questioned Israel’s qualifications for civilized status in the earlier piece, but am drawn back to the subject by the almost daily revelations of the Zionist state’s questionable behaviour. It is not that the jihadist cannot be a savage at times; it is that the Israeli government seems quite incapable of being civilized. For instance:

Ethnic cleansing

On 16 October 2012 the Israeli organization Yazkern hosted dozens of veterans of Israel’s 1948 “War of Independence” for a look at what that struggle really entailed. The veterans testified to what can only be called a conscious effort at ethnic cleansing – the systematic destruction of entire Palestinian villages and numerous massacres. A documentary film by Israeli-Russian journalist Lia Tarachansky, dealing with this same subject, the Palestinian Nakba or catastrophe, is nearing completion. It too has the testimony of Israeli soldiers of the 1948 war. These latest revelations lend credence to the claims of Israel’s “new historians”, such as Ilan Pappe, who have written books based on evidence gleamed from government archives showing that, even before the outbreak of hostilities leading to the creation of the state of Israel, the Zionist authorities planned to ethnically cleanse as much of Palestine as possible of non-Jews. The aim of Yazkern’s effort at truth-telling is to break through the sanitized “mainstream nationalistic narrative” of 1948 and the accompanying denial of any legitimate Palestinian counter-narrative.”

OK. The Israelis were savages in 1948 and only a small minority will admit it. What about after “the War of Independence”? As it turns out the ethnic cleansing never stopped. Conveniently, the long-standing denial that it ever started has helped to hide the fact of its ongoing nature. Yet just this week we received the news that Defence Minister Ehud Barak has given the order to demolish eight Palestinian villages with some 1,500 residents in the south Hebron hills. The excuse offered by Barack is that the land is needed for military training exercises. According to the “new historians”, this is a standard Israeli government cover for ethnic cleansing. Sure, for a couple of years the Israeli army will use the land that held the demolished villages. Then, almost inevitably, the area becomes the site of a new Israeli Jewish settlement.

Starvation

On 20 October 2012 Al-Jazeera reported on Israeli documents showing that between 2008 and 2010 the Israeli army allowed food supplies into the Gaza Strip based on a daily calorie count that held the basic diet of a million and half people to a point just short of malnutrition. According to the Israeli human rights organization Gisha, “the official goal of the policy was to wage economic warfare which would paralyze Gaza’s economy and, according to the Defence Ministry, create pressure on the Hamas government”. Actually, this bit of savagery predates 2008. Back in 2006 Dov Weissglass, then an advisor to Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, stated that “the idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger”. Of course, precedents for this can be found in the treatment of European Jews in the 1930s and 1940s. One assumes that Mr Weissglass was aware of this.

However, just as with the barbarism practiced in the “War of Independence”, in this case too there is a well practised capacity for national denial. According to Gideon Levy writing in Haaretz, “the country has plenty of ways … of burying skeletons deep in the closet so that Israelis shouldn’t be overly disturbed”. The military authors of the document that turned Weissglass’s hideous “idea” into savage practice, operated in “a country afflicted with blindness”. So, the present Israeli government does not have to worry about public unease over the fact that it is slowly but surely destroying the Gaza sewage system and rendering its water supply undrinkable.

Wanton cruelty

Then there are the petty acts of cruelty that can be considered tell-tale signs of savagery. For instance, the fact that Israeli customs officials held back the exam sheets for the October 2012 College Board tests bound for the West Bank graduating high school seniors. AMIDEAST, the organization that serves as the testing agency for the Palestinian territories, had made sure the Israeli authorities had the tests in their hands weeks in advance. Nonetheless, in an apparent act of petty vindictiveness, the customs officials held on to them until AMIDEAST had to cancel the exam. One observer has asked the question: “What has the SAT [tests] have to do with Israeli security?” Well, it might be that, in the mind of a savage customs official, the more college-bound Palestinians from the occupied territories, the more articulate witnesses to Israeli oppression. On the Gaza side of the equation, the US was forced to cancel a small scholarship programme for Gaza college students because the Israelis refused to let the students leave their open air prison, even if only to go to a West Bank school.

For anyone who might want to follow the grim procession of Israeli oppressive and barbaric acts on a day to day basis, I recommend the web site “Today in Palestine“, provided by the International Middle East Centre.

Challenge and denial

In the face of this persistent savage behaviour on the part of Israel, that country’s public support has finally begun to slip in the United States. Most recently, 15 prominent church leaders, representing major Christian denominations, wrote an open letter to Congress calling for

an immediate investigation into possible violations by Israel of the US Foreign Assistance Act and the US Arms Export Control Act which respectively prohibit assistance to any country that engages in a consistent pattern of human rights violations….We urge Congress to hold hearings to examine Israel’s compliance, and we request regular reporting on compliance and the withholding of military aid for non-compliance.

So far, the Congress has turned a deaf-ear to this request, but the Zionist reaction was loud and clear. Leading the way in this effort was the head of the misnamed “Anti-Defamation League” (ADL), Abraham Foxman. Charging the Christian leaders with a “blatant lack of sensitivity” (one might ask just how sensitive one is supposed to be to an oppressor?) Foxman decided to punish the offending clergy by refusing to engage in ongoing “interfaith dialogue”. The Zionist reaction to being called out for their own savage behaviour is a classic example of denial.

Conclusion

Having “big brains” is a two edge sword for human beings. It means we can think all manner of creative thoughts and even exercise some self-control over our own inappropriate impulses if we care to try. However, it also means that we can be manipulated into thinking that we need not try – that we are the victims even as we are oppressing others and that any criticism of our actions is just another example of our victimization. Israeli culture, and indeed the culture of Zionism generally, is one ongoing project of self-manipulation to achieve just such a state of mind. And, to a great extent, it has succeeded. A recent poll taken in Israel shows that “a majority of the [Israeli Jewish] public wants the state to discriminate against Palestinians … revealing a deeply rooted racism in Israeli society”.

The Zionists are not the only experts in denial. The United States, Israel’s chief ally, has always been good at this gambit as well. After the 9/11 attacks any consideration of the possibility that United States foreign policy in the Middle East might have helped motivate the terrorism was anathema, and it still is over a decade later. Instead of taking a hard look at our own behaviour we are simply expanding our capacity to kill outright anyone who would challenge our policies in a violent fashion. Our answer is targeted killings by drones or otherwise – a bit of savagery we learned from the Israelis.

Machiavelli, who can always be relied upon to see the darker side of things, once said:

Whoever wishes to foresee the future must consult the past; for human events resemble those of preceding times. This arises from the fact that they are produced by men who ever have been, and ever shall be, animated by the same passions, and thus they necessarily have the same results.

But yet, is it really inevitable?

River to Sea Uprooted Palestinian  

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