an excellent recent
article, leading Palestinian intellectual Edward Said cites
the "astounding result" of a
poll conducted among US citizens by the Arab-American Anti-Discrimination
Committee, according to which less than three or four percent of
the sample had any idea that there was an Israeli occupation. This
seems to confirm a general rule: as far as the Middle East is concerned,
American public consciousness lags decades behind Israel's. Obsolete
propaganda, based on manufactured "facts" that no one
in Israel would use anymore, is recycled by prominent American columnists
(of the subspecies Thomas
Friedman) as uncontroversial truth. "The main narrative
model that dominates American thinking still seems to be Leon
Uris' 1950 novel Exodus,"
says Edward Said: a narrative that collapsed in Israel itself about
two decades ago.
some senses, the Oslo
"peace process" was a huge success for Israeli colonialism.
The "ongoing negotiations" which allow the Palestinians
to choose between either willingly accepting Israel's terms or having
them imposed on them unilaterally enabled Israel to expand its
settlements on Palestinian lands with virtually no resistance. The
Israeli "peace camp" was effectively soothed by false
promises of "peace with settlements," American hegemony
in the world media silenced any international criticism, and the
"process" that was supposed to end Israeli colonialism
broke down violently, with about twice as many Israeli settlers
as seven years earlier.
not all the malicious objectives of the "peace process"
succeeded so well. The attempt to take the Palestinian issue off
the international agenda was not very successful and got crushed
completely when the Intifada broke out. The Israeli attempt to convince
the world that the occupation has ended and that the Palestinians
are now free and thus responsible for their own suffering failed
too. It failed thanks to perhaps the single wise step (not) taken
during these seven years, i.e. his refusal to declare his besieged
enclaves "an independent Palestinian state." Such a declaration
would have been disastrous to the Palestinians because their struggle
against the Occupation would have been supplanted by a standard
border-conflict between Israel and "Palestine" as two
independent states a safe way to bury the conflict altogether.
Even the zealous attempts of pseudo-dovish Israeli intellectuals,
such as writer Amos
Oz, who in 1996 claimed the Palestinians were already free and
independent, failed to obscure the basic fact that the Palestinians
are living under a cruel Israeli occupation.
may surprise 96 percent of Americans, but it is a known and accepted
fact in Israel so much so, that, recently, a "moderate"
settler David Moriah, chairman of the "Efrat settlers' committee"
published an interesting ten-point article (in
Hebrew only) explaining not why the Occupation is not an
occupation but why it is "one of the most justified cases
of occupation in world history." Since his eloquent arguments
concisely comprise almost the entire ideological arsenal of the
non-fundamentalist Israeli hawks (and mainstreamers, and, ludicrously
enough, of many "doves" as well), and since his arguments
have been propagated worldwide, it is worthwhile to consider them
one by one.
The Occupation was an act of self-defence against an aggressor that
rejected the international resolutions to divide the land."
argument and several of the following ones too represent a
universally popular strategy: distracting the discussion from the
present to the past. History contains a myriad of details; you can
always find some detail that will embarrass your opponent. And if
you can't find one, invent one who can check? Moreover, there
are always several competing historical narratives for any set of
events. Israelis (or Palestinians) first endorse the Israeli (or
Palestinian) historical narrative, and then surprise, surprise
they find out that all the Israeli (or Palestinian) claims are
perfectly anchored in history. It is a vicious circle.
shall not fall into this historical trap here. Historical arguments
will be dealt with only en passant; critical Israeli historians
and sociologists have done a great deal of work exposing the myths
and lies of the Zionist historical narrative, but we shall not use
their results here. A short remark concerning Israel's selective
hearing will have to suffice. The celebrated UN resolution on the
establishment of a Jewish state (every Israeli town has a street
called "November 29th," commemorating the day in 1947
when the resolution was adopted) had a second part, calling for
the establishment of a Palestinian (Arab) state too. Israel has
been rejecting this part ever since. Deriving legitimacy for Israel's
own existence from half a resolution is problematic enough; deriving
legitimacy for the Occupation of the Palestinians from the very
resolution that granted them a state, is utterly absurd.
by the way, if "international resolutions" are the ultimate
code of virtuous national conduct, how about several other ones,
like Security Council Resolutions
242 and 338,
calling on Israel to withdraw from the Occupied Territories, or
the idiotic declaration that was canceled, and is being
revived now in Durban, equating Zionism with Racism?
these counter-arguments may be true, but again: the discussion should
concentrate on the present. History is no escape. No matter how
the Occupation was born 34 years ago as self-defence or as aggression
there is no justification whatsoever to deprive millions of Palestinians
living now of their basic human and political rights. Punishing
people for alleged sins of their ancestors contradicts each and
every moral principle. "Everyone shall die," says Jeremiah
(31:30), "for his own iniquity." As with some UN resolutions,
Israel is now implementing only the first part of Jeremiah's verse.
It is obvious that the aggressor was part of a struggle aimed at
destroying the Israeli political entity, and massacre of individual
Jews was also most likely to occur. (Let us not forget that leaders
of that nation were willing to participate in the ‘final solution'
for the Jews on behalf of Nazi Germany.)"
the heart of the argument is historical, and we shall not follow
it back to the past. But what is the function of such an argument
for the present reader? It is clearly meant to supplant the present
power relations by their very opposite. Israel has one of the strongest
armies in the world, on a level with those of superpowers like France
or Britain. It possesses not only the most sophisticated American
weapons for air, sea and land warfare, but also intelligence backup
from outer space as well as atomic, chemical and biological arsenals.
It has some 100,000 regular soldiers and three or four times more
in reserve. Israel's military force has been built so as to defeat
all the Arab armies together. The Palestinians, on the other hand,
have about 30,000 to 40,000 lightly-armed men, defined in the agreements
as "policemen" and equipped accordingly. Their weapons
include pistols, revolvers and hand grenades, not to mention sharp
knives and very big stones. They have no artillery, no helicopters,
no jets, no navy, no tanks, no armoured vehicles and no bulldozers.
They have no heavy weapons of any kind except for homemade mortar
shells and explosives, and probably a limited smuggled stock of
antitank missiles. They have no satellites, no sophisticated communication
systems and no super-computers and, unlike Israel, they do not
receive 3 billion dollars per year of American military aid.
the Israeli Goliath is crushing Palestinian David with such an overwhelming
superiority, an especially strong ideological twist is necessary
in order to turn these power relations upside down. The manipulation
starts with a hypothetical "massacre of Jews" that could
have happened but never did (unlike several actual massacres of
Palestinians, from 1948 to very recently), and ends up, expectedly,
by evoking Nazi Germany.
There was no independent nation in the occupied territories, but
a mixture of inhabitants, and the only country that had any linkage
to the area (Jordan) renounced it publicly."
the past tense is used. Golda Meir made the notorious claim that
"there is no Palestinian people." It is quite ironic that
Jews, whose own nationhood has been denied by many non-Jews and
Jews alike (but emphasised consistently by Zionists and anti-Semites)
doubt the nationhood of others. Indeed, Israel has been doing its
very best to divide the Palestinians into numerous subgroups, following
the ancient Roman wisdom of "divide and rule." There are
Palestinians "within" (inside Israel, further divided
into "Druze," "Bedouins," "Christians,"
"Moslems," etc., divisions strengthened and constantly
manipulated by Israel), Palestinians "without" (refugees
outside historical Palestine) and Palestinians in the occupied territories,
themselves divided by Israel, in contradiction to its obligation
to regard the Territories as a single unit, into scores of disconnected
enclaves ("areas" A, B, C, etc.). In spite of this brutal
policy of division, there seems to be little doubt that there is
a Palestinian people, definitely to a fuller extent than there is
a Jewish one.
all of this is beside the point. Human beings have rights including
political rights even if they are not a nation. Since 1967, Israel
has been vetoing any settlement that might grant political rights
to the Palestinians. Israel offers the Palestinians neither independence
nor annexation. One could only applaud the recent suggestion of
the Libyan Foreign Minister Shalgam at Durban, that "Jews and
Arabs must learn to live together in one democratic and non-racist
state"; but Israel rejects this solution too: for fear of losing
Jewish majority, it never offered to annex the Palestinians. It
is interested only in robbing their land and natural resources,
while depriving them of any rights, both individually and collectively.
will analyze other justifications for the Occupation in the second
part of this article.)