Cutting through the bullshit.

Monday 5 November 2007

No successor of Rabin

Yesterday, I received Adam Keller’s translation of an op ed piece in last Thursday’s Israel HaYomIsrael today’. Moriah Shlomot, former Secretary General of Peace Now, writes,

Year after year, I return to the Rabin Square with devotion and determination. On years of near-despair as on better years, I feel obliged to share in the collective memory. This is the annual moment when the Peace Camp stands up to be counted, and in my view those who dig into details miss the main point.

That would doubtless be the peace camp as manifest in Peace Now, the organisation that spawned Amir Peretz, who served as Defense Minister during last year’s merciless bombing of Lebanon. The very Peace Now whose incumbent Secretary General, Yariv Oppenheimer, was recently observed harassing Palestinians at a Jordan Valley checkpoint and explained that among his three reasons for participating in the very occupation he purports to oppose,

The second reason derives from the will to maintain the democratic character of this country. As a citizen, it is my right to protest and act against decisions made on political and military levels. As a soldier, I must fulfill my duty and cannot pick and choose operations I wish to undertake. (Except for obviously illegal acts, for example the killing of innocents, undue violent behavior, humiliation, torture).

Not to mention ‘obviously illegal acts’ like occupying territory acquired by force of arms and restricting the movement of the occupied population.

This year, Shlomot hesitates, because

…Defence Minister Ehud Barak is due to speak at this year’s Rabin Memorial Rally. This is good enough a reason to doubt and hesitate, to think twice about attending. Barak is the worst of the leaders staffing the government ministries and taking charge of the people’s hopes.

Barak is no successor of Rabin - because Oslo, with all its faults and deficiencies, was based on mutual confidence. Barak has severely damaged the confidence between us and the Palestinians, as well as between Jews and Arabs inside Israel.

The beatification of Rabin as some kind of peacemaker is naïve in the extreme. Oslo had nothing to do with confidence. It was always a transparent stratagem to enlist a Palestinian elite in sharing the responsibility for social control and other administrative tasks in the occupied territories. I appreciate that honeyed phraseology confected with ‘peace’, ‘negotiations’, and ‘diplomacy’ can win the heart of any liberal, even while the confectioner’s boot is planted squarely on the neck of some untermensch.

The confidence she writes of exists only in the imagination of people who believe that dividing a Palestinian state, comprising 22% of historical Palestine in two separate enclaves, from a Jewish state in the other 78%, is the best approach to reconciling the two peoples. The principal difference between Rabin’s approach and Barak’s is the proportion of land they wanted to keep for themselves and the number of enclaves to divide the Palestinian state into.

What interested me about this paragraph was Shlomot’s apparent wish to distinguish ‘the Palestinians’ and ‘Arabs inside Israel’. As Jonathan Cook has pointed out, there is a long tradition of dividing people who identify as Palestinians into three groups: the refugees, ‘the Israeli Arabs’, and ‘the Palestinians’, that is, the subjects of the Palestinian Authority in the occupied territories. The division is real. Under the Oslo regime, only ‘the Palestinians’, as defined, are to be represented in any interaction with the Israeli state. With the dissolution of the PLO into the PA, the refugees lost any semblance of representation. And the Israeli Arabs are of course amply represented by their state – the Jewish state. They are no less occupied than their relatives in the territories, but it usually impacts less dramatically on their quotidian existence. So the only Palestinians Israel would have to negotiate with were the ones they could reduce to desperation by checkpoints, house demolitions, extrajudicial executions, etc.

At the same time, the distinction aims to deprive Palestinians of ‘peoplehood’ or ‘nationhood’. One of the populations achieved some recognition as a separate people precisely when Oslo saddled them with the PA. As Golda Meir famously quipped,

There were no such thing as Palestinians. When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian state? It was either southern Syria before the First World War, and then it was a Palestine including Jordan. It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.

Sunday Times, 1969-06-15; The Washington Post, 1969-06-16

Presumably, had there been no ‘Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people’, it would be ok to take their land. It’s another one of those bizarre arguments that the Hasbara establishment has cultivated for decades and has gained the status of common sense. Like the argument that the refugees have no right to return because they are alleged to have left of their own accord. As if that deprived them of their right. What gives the refugees the right to return to their homes in ‘Israel proper’ is not that they were forced and stampeded out at gunpoint, although they were, it’s that they come from there. The reason I oppose the appropriation of any part of Palestine is not that the Palestinians did or did not conceive of themselves as a national group or a people at some point in time. Nor is it that their ancestors have been living in Palestine for hundreds, if not thousands of years, although they have. It’s that they were living there when the Zionist movement decided that it wanted their land to colonise with European Jews. The displacement of people from their homes is a very severe attack. All the more so when it is permanent, and especially when the motivation is the convenience of a settler population intent on ethnic cleansing.

It’s not for nothing that ‘The International Community’ has belatedly recognised ethnic cleansing as a crime against humanity. Ilan Pappe has demonstrated conclusively that the Jewish majority in part of Palestine that made the formation of the state of Israel a possibility was achieved through a quite deliberate and orchestrated campaign of precisely what is today known as ethnic cleansing.

Neither Israel, constituted as an ethnocracy, nor The International Community, with its well earned Holocaust guilt, is ever likely to take on the ramifications of the historic crime that gave rise to Israel. But I harbour some hope that at least the peace camp can someday jettison these downright puerile arguments that the Palestinians somehow deserved their dispossession.

[Hat tip to Sol Salbe.]


  1. No troll here, but this is definitely going to be a flame. Delete it if you like.

    You people are really pathetic. Get off your high horse. Your view is so one-sided, so streamlined and blind, that it really causes me to see how the sane section of the right wing can claim that leftist are idealists and unreasonable. You give a bad name to leftism. You disgust me.

    Go on all you want about how evil everyone is, and about how unjust the world is. Yes, the Jewish state divides the Arabs, and that causes "otherness" and "segregation" and is really unkind. Boo hoo.

    Instead of concentrating on speaking to the public, on trying to moderate, you give your ridiculous extreme opinions, and feel morally superior.

    You disgust me.

  2. It’s very gracious of you to grant me permission to delete your comment from my blog, but I’m experimenting with unmoderated comments and will tolerate trolls for the time being. Provided you refrain from trying to advertise anything here, I may let your comments stand. In your next comment, perhaps you’d care to elucidate what distinguishes you from a troll?

    Although you don’t even make a pretense of offering an argument or even making a point, I am the one who’s supposed to be pathetic? It is, however, quite clear from your ‘Boo hoo’ over all the unkindness, that you have adopted a position along the lines of whatever the Hasbara establishment decrees good for the Jews, or good for Israel, which amounts too the same thing in their little anti-Semitic minds, is not to be assessed in accordance with the norms of human or class solidarity. In other words, tribalism trumps humanism and the struggle for human liberation. May your crocodile tears short out your cpu!

    Under the circumstances, coming from a position so far out to the right that only the tenuous grip of one fingernail prevents you from falling off the political spectrum, you’re in a precarious position to offer opinions on who or what does or does not give leftism a bad name. But then, these comical pretensions are one of the things Zionists are famous for.

    Anyway, it’s a real pleasure to disgust you, Elad. May you spew your guts all over your keyboard.

    Y’all come back now.

  3. I love the complaint that "your view is one-sided." Another one of those "common-sense" things that, on closer inspection, turn out to be completely meaningless - based on the absurd axiom that the rulers are not a "side" at all, but somehow above it all. And we are the ones getting accused of employing slogans.

  4. Now I forgot to actually comment on the post itself, which is a very good and well-thought out one as usual. I have to admit that growing up in Germany, I used to be broadly supportive of Israel, admired Rabin, and had high hopes for that wretched Oslo process.

    Shows you that we never stop learning...

  5. Welcome back, christian, and thanks for the stroke. I really value compliments from people like you, who think things through.

    On a trivial level, I’m sure it’s the case that everybody keeps learning new things throughout their life, barring some illness that affects our memory. But I assure you I know people who go to some lengths to avoid taking in any new information, especially when it comes to Israel and cherished Zionist myths.