Cutting through the bullshit.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Return to Tel Aviv

Today is the fortieth anniversary of the launch of Israel’s ‘preemptive’ war of conquest. I hasten to add that respected Israeli historian and Ha’aretz columnist, Tom Segev, writes in today’s NY Times,

Leading Israeli policy planners had determined six months before the Six-Day War that capturing the West Bank would be bad for the country. Recently declassified Israeli government documents show that according to these policy planners, taking over the West Bank would weaken the relative strength of Israel’s Jewish majority, encourage Palestinian nationalism and ultimately lead to violent resistance.

These comprehensive political and strategic discussions began in November 1966 and concluded in January 1967. The participants were representatives of the Mossad, the Israel Defense Forces’ intelligence branch and the Foreign Ministry. The documents they prepared were approved by Prime Minister Levi Eshkol and the army’s chief of staff, Yitzhak Rabin, and therefore reflect Israel’s strategic thinking six months before the war.

[Jordan’s King] Hussein was also endeavoring to unify the West Bank with the East Bank and was encouraging West Bank Palestinians to migrate to the east. Over the preceding 15 years, the number of Palestinians who had left the West Bank for the east had reached 200,000. Moreover, approximately 100,000 Palestinians had left Jordan altogether. Hussein’s effort to integrate Palestinians was “a positive phenomenon from Israel’s point of view,” concluded the final position paper that emerged from that winter’s discussions. Hussein was acting to eradicate the Palestinian question, and this was an excellent reason not to take the West Bank away from him.

But when Jordan attacked the Israeli part of Jerusalem on the first day of the conflict, all reason was forgotten. Jordan’s attack obviously called for some kind of retaliation — but striking back at the Jordanian Army did not require the conquest of the West Bank or East Jerusalem.

Records of the Israeli cabinet meeting where the scope of the retaliation was determined are now available. Amazingly they show that not one of the cabinet ministers ever asked why it was in the interest of Israel to control the Arab parts of Jerusalem. Israel was about to take over some of the holiest places in the Christian and the Muslim world, but no analysts were called in to offer the cabinet alternative ideas. No experts on international law were asked to brief the ministers on the legal implications of their pending decision.

The ministers obviously felt there was no need to raise these questions: the answer was as clear as only fantasy can be. Acting under the influence of the age-old dream of return to Zion as well as Israel’s spectacular victory over Egypt’s forces a few hours previously, the ministers decided with their hearts, not their heads, to take East Jerusalem.

So his argument is that territorial conquest was not really part of Israel’s orginal plan for the June 1967 war. And that’s as may be. But as he points out, they wanted it. And badly. Segev’s central point seems to be that it was a matter of timing. Cooler heads in cabinet would have deferred taking the West Bank until King Hussein had completed the job of transferring all the Palestinians out. Or at least taken the process a lot further. And now, poor Israel is saddled with this terrible demographic burden.

Eli Stephens of Left I on the news linked to, ‘Occupation’, a 2003 song by David Rovics that I’d never heard before. The audio is available from that link, along with the lyrics. I couldn’t help noticing some transcription errors, so I’ve taken the liberty of amending the transcript to correspond to the audio and reprinting them here.

(David Rovics)

You ask me how it is
That I dare to take a side
You say I loathe myself
For pointing out that you have lied
You say it's tribal warfare
But I disagree
For the dynamics of the situation
Are not difficult to see
On the one side is the fighter jet
On the other is the stone
On the one side is the slave
On the other is the throne
For the many there are checkpoints
While foreign soldiers rule the street
For the one side there is victory
But the people don't accept defeat

The word you need to know is occupation
The very definition of a land without a nation
And if peace is what you're after then let us not deceive
It will come on the day the tanks return to Tel Aviv

On one side there is hunger
And bulldozed olive trees
On the other is the Army
Ruling by decrees
Caterpillars maul the streets
Destroy entire city blocks
While children swallow shrapnel
For the crime of throwing rocks
Fences are erected
Around the towns they flatten
And Herzl's own fanatics
Sleep on sheets of satin
And they water their plantations
Drilling ever-deeper wells
While the displaced children of the hopeless
Are filled with bullet shells

...It will come on the day the settlers return to Tel Aviv

On one side there’s the Mossad
Rounding up the men
Thrown in jail with no trial
Being tortured once again
On the other there is rage
Helplessness and fear
And a growing realization
That another holocaust is near
On the outside there are prisons
Inside detainees
Being stripped of their humanity
Beaten naked to their knees
Outside the ghetto walls
Stormtroopers all around
While inside the hungry people
Yearn for liberated ground

...It will come on the day the jailguards return to Tel Aviv

All across the world
You can hear the people say
The children of Jerusalem
Will be free one day
In overcrowded camps
Amidst the stench of death and flies
To the suburbs of Detroit
You can hear the anguished cries
While in the land of Israel
With God ever on their side
Walls and fences are constructed
Papers are denied
People fight for their existence
While we turn a blinded eye
And those who should know better
Insist on asking why

...It will come on the day the refugees return to Tel Aviv

Created February, 2003
Copyright David Rovics 2003, all rights reserved

Pedantic nitpicking bastard that I am, I feel compelled to point out that Tel Aviv was established in the 1880s specifically as a Jewish town. It didn’t grow to engulf the neighbouring Arab town of Jaffa until 1950. So there are unlikely to be very many refugees from the ethnic cleansing operations of 1948-49 who could, strictly speaking, ‘return to Tel Aviv’. Still, the sentiment is welcome.

1 comment:

  1. A self described 'worse nit picking bastard' emailed to point out

    'I don’t care what the English Wikipedia says, I agree with Hebrew edition that says that the town of my conception was founded in 1909. (I read the sign on that house myself.)

    'I also have a problem with the incorporation of Jaffa into Tel-Aviv. The Hebrew Wikipedia says October 1949. I don’t believe either English or Hebrew. I distinctly remember being there for the ceremony. I started school in 1956 so even if were my parents rather than school that took me there it couldn’t have been before 1955.'

    If correct, as I'm sure it must be, it makes it even less likely that 1948 refugess would have originally come from Tel Aviv, per se.