Thursday, 29 April 2010

Israel's enablers

Dawg's Blawg: Israel's enablers
We enthusiastically chose to become a colonial society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the occupied territories, engaging in theft and finding justification for all these activities… We developed two judicial systems: one — progressive, liberal in Israel. The other — cruel, injurious in the occupied territories. In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture. --former Attorney-General of Israel Michael Ben-Yair

Link to main article:
Canadian journalist Jeet Heer opens a discussion of Israel and her enablers in today's National Post, of all places. A strong supporter of the two-state solution (a sovereign Palestine coexisting with a sovereign Israel), Heer takes issue with those who have encouraged--and continue to encourage-- Israel in its cruel and reckless treatment of the Palestinians.

And, in case the story is taken down, here it is, from the National Post, April 29, 2010:

Jeet Heer: The Jewish state and its enablers
Posted: April 29, 2010, 10:30 AM by NP Editor
Jeet Heer, What's your peace plan?

This month, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak declared that Israel must withdraw from Palestinian territories. “The world isn’t willing to accept — and we won’t change that in 2010 — the expectation that Israel will rule another people for decades more,” he said. “It’s something that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world.”

Is he right? Is peace even possible? And if so, what form should a final agreement take? Those are the questions we asked National Post writers in our series What’s Your Peace Plan?


Belligerent, self-destructive men aren’t always loners. Think of Ernest Hemingway. He abused his body with drink, constantly picked unnecessary fights and alienated those he loved. In short, he wrecked his life and his final act of self-slaughter was merely the last in a long string of self-inflicted wounds. But despite his shoddy antics, Hemingway was rarely alone in his folly. He was surrounded by cronies who egged on his terrible deeds, celebrating misbehaviour as a form of manly defiance. These cronies were enablers who encouraged the worst excesses in their hero making any possibility of self-correction much more remote.

Israel is the Hemingway of nations. Like the great writer, Israel is admired by many for its courage and fighting prowess and indulgently allowed to go on pursuing those elements of its behaviour that can only end in disaster. And just as Hemingway had his bar-room buddies who cheered on his alcoholism, Israel has its enablers, foreigners who encourage the Jewish state to follow the self-destructive path of keeping the Palestinians permanently immiserated.

When we talk about the barriers to peace in the Middle East, we have to realize that there are more than two parties involved. Aside from the Israelis and the Palestinians, there are also the vicarious warriors who sit in comfort in North America and encourage a reckless policy of intransigence. Peace requires not just a change in course for the people in the region, but a confrontation with the enablers who make diplomacy virtually impossible.

What does it mean to say that Israel is self-destructive? If we look at the simple demographics of the region and add up all the Palestinians who are inside of Israel proper, plus Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, plus those who are under occupation, we find a population nearly as large as the number of Jews living in the same territory. The luckiest of these Palestinians live as second-class citizens in Israel, with formal rights but little access to political and social power. The unluckiest are caught in a stateless limbo, under the tender mercies of an occupying army. This state of affairs has lasted more than four decades. If it continues indefinitely, then Israel will truly become the contemporary incarnation of apartheid-era South Africa. The logic of the situation was spelled out by former Israeli prime minister and current Defence Minister Ehud Barak. “If, and as long as between the Jordan and the sea, there is only one political entity, named Israel, it will end up being either non-Jewish or non-democratic,” Barak noted. “If the Palestinians vote in elections, it is a binational state, and if they don’t, it is an apartheid state.”

For Israel to survive as a Jewish democracy, a two-state solution is absolutely necessary. What is the major stumbling block? Ever since the late 1940s, the Palestinians have been squeezed into smaller and smaller bits of land. The original UN partition plan of 1947 would have given Palestinians 45% of the disputed land and Israel 55%, but after Israel’s War of Independence it was in control of 78% of the land, and since 1967 it has occupied all 100% of Mandatory Palestine. The Palestinian leadership since 1988 has accepted the 78-22 divide as the basis for the two-state solution, yet Israel’s leaders have been unwilling to consent to even that — to the creation of a genuinely independent Palestinian state on that remaining 22%, or the equivalent thereof, with secure borders, contiguous territory and internal autonomy. It is true that certain Israeli negotiators offered land swaps and came close to the 78-22 formula but none have ever accepted a clear 1:1 territorial exchange.

The one Israeli leader who was willing to break with the longstanding policy of permanent domination over the Palestinians was the late Yitzhak Rabin, and for his trouble he earned an assassin’s bullet from a fanatical Israeli nationalist. Since Rabin’s assassination, Israel has continued building settlements so that now more than 60% of the West Bank is out of bounds for the Palestinians. The logic of the settlement policy is to make any viable Palestinian state impossible, leaving only a few isolated islands of self-government amid a hostile sea of setters. In effect, the Israeli elite has worked to create the equivalent of the Bantustan system that apartheid South Africa tried, with a Palestinian puppet government assigned the job of keeping a restive population subservient.

Israel’s recalcitrance can be seen not just in its treatment of the Palestinians, but also its high-handed scorn for its own allies. The most famous recent example is the announcement of yet more settlements during the visit of U.S. Vice- President Joe Biden. The Netanyahu government has insulted other allies recently, including Turkey and Germany. Even Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government was offended by the continued building of settlements.

Why does Israel continue to indulge in behaviour that will lead to its own isolation? Here is where the enablers come in. The Israeli elite feels it can get away with this course of action because there is a strong contingent of Western public opinion that will defend them no matter what they do.

Who are the enablers? Some are Jews in the Diaspora who feel, either out of tribal loyalty or guilt at their comfort, that Israel deserves unconditional support. Others are Christian millennialists who view the Middle East as a playground for their own apocalyptic fantasies. Still others are regular conservatives nostalgic for the imperialist days of yore when Westerns nations could impose their will on the unruly masses of the Third World. Some of the enablers have genuinely good motives. After the Holocaust, concern for the survival of the Jewish state is a strong moral imperative. What the enablers don’t realize is that the policies they defend will doom Israel as a Jewish democracy.  

Whatever their motivations, the enablers, and the Israeli intransigence they support, are a stumbling block to peace. The so-called “peace process” of the 1990s failed because the Clinton administration allowed Israel to continue building settlements, undermining any faith the Palestinians had in the honesty of either the United States or Israel. The current attempt to restart the peace process is also likely to fail because every time the Obama administration criticizes Israel it is attacked by Israel’s enablers.

A successful peace process requires a strong American government that is willing to pressure both the Israelis and the Palestinians to make the sacrifices necessary for a genuine two-state solution. Which means a successful peace process requires challenging and refuting Israel’s enablers. The road to Jerusalem lies not through Baghdad but through Washington, and perhaps through Ottawa.

National Post

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