Sunday, April 19, 2009

Palestine: We All Need a Compromise

To understand today’s events, you must know yesterday’s history.

on a cold Wednesday afternoon, 10 March 1948, a group of eleven men, veteran Zionist leaders together with young military Jewish officers, put the final touches on a plan for the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. That same evening, military orders were dispatched to the units on the ground to prepare for the systematic expulsion of the Palestinians from vast areas of the country.--Ilan Pappe, The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine (One World: Oxford, 2006), p. xii

“When it created its nation-state, the Zionist movement did not wage a war that ‘tragically but inevitably’ led to the expulsion of ‘parts of’ the indigenous population, but the other way round: the main goal was the ethnic cleansing of all of Palestine, which the movement coveted for its new state.” (Pappe, p. xvi)

That is the critical history that must be understood in order to explain Israel’s December onslaught on Gaza, its promotion of Jewish settlement of the Palestinian West Bank, and its refusal to countenance the creation of a viable, independent Palestinian state.

Pappe’s description of the mechanics of ethnic cleansing could have been written this winter by a woman or child of Gaza:

the political leadership ceases to take an active part as the machinery of expulsion comes into action and rolls on, like a huge bulldozer propelled by its own inertia, only to come to a halt when it has completed its task. The people it crushes underneath and kills are of no concern to the politicians who set it in motion.--(Pappe, p. 3)

Since ethnic cleansing has in recent years become somewhat politically incorrect, Israeli leaders have substituted the tripartite goal of destroying the integrity of Palestinian society, subjugating Palestinians to Israeli will, and dismembering their land into disjointed slums that can never constitute a viable state. But the basic thrust of early 20th century Zionist policy still forms the foundation of Israeli state policy today.

Analyzing the Lieberman phenomenon, Uri Avnery— historian of the Nazi regime in Germany under which he was born and Israeli socio-political commentator--recalls Yeshayahu Leibowitz’s term “Judeo-Nazis” and writes:

Israeli-born youngsters, many of whom had recently taken part in the Gaza War. They voted for him because they believed that he would kick the Arab citizens out of Israel, and the Palestinians out of the entire historical country.

These are not marginal people, fanatical or underprivileged, but normal youngsters who finished high-school and served in the army, who dance in the discotheques and intend to found families. If such people are voting en masse for a declared racist with a pungent fascist odor, the phenomenon cannot be ignored.

If Zionism means simply finding a homeland for Jews, that is one thing. But consider Avnery’s description of fascism in light of Israeli attitudes and behavior (both state behavior and the behavior of illegal Israeli settlers in the West Bank):

fascism is a special phenomenon, unlike any other. It is not an “extreme Right”, an extension of “nationalist” or “conservative” attitudes. Fascism is the opposite of conservatism in many ways, even though it may appear in a conservative disguise. Also, it is not a radicalization of ordinary, normal nationalism, which exists in every nation.

Fascism is a unique phenomenon and has unique traits: the notion of being a “superior nation”, the denial of the humanity of other nations and national minorities, a cult of the leader, a cult of violence, disdain for democracy, an adoration of war, contempt for accepted morality.

The sense of superiority, denial of the humanity of others, cult of violence, and contempt for accepted morality sum up with near perfection Israeli treatment of Palestinians. Indeed, Avnery’s description seems more clearly reflected in Israeli behavior with every passing year.

However, the major difference today is that this behavior does not just victimize Palestinians, it acts as a magnet drawing in whatever outside forces that may either feel sympathy or be looking for a cause. Thus, at the moment the Mideast is being split into two hostile camps, Israel and a handful of Arab dictators on one side facing indignant self-appointed champion of Palestinian justice Iran and its allies on the other. Sprinkle over the surface neo-con concepts like putting nuclear options on the table against non-nuclear powers and preventive war, and you have an incendiary mix the world can no longer afford to tolerate. It is, in other words, not just about Palestinian justice any more. If, by some Talmudic magic, Zionists were to eliminate Iran, that would just open the door to al Qua’ida or some other self-promoting or sincere champion.

Whether your goal is justice for Palestinians, survival for Israelis, or security for the whole world, the Israeli drive to destroy Palestine has become a menace too dangerous to continue tolerating. We all need a compromise.

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