in Israel may have never been worse. Economically, the country is
in the worst recession since 1953. Two major economic sectors
hi-tech and tourism have suffered fatal blows, the one from the
global collapse of the "new economy," the other from the
Intifada boosted by the September attacks.
living here calls to mind the first years of the Third Reich. Day
after day you witness a society rapidly losing its human face. The
safe haven for persecuted Jews has turned into a safe haven for
sadistic war criminals, where nobodyís life, be he Arab or Jew,
is secure. As part of an overall campaign to de-legitimize the Arab-Israeli
population, this week the Israeli Parliament lifted the immunity
of its (Arab) member Azmi Bishara: not for corruption or criminal
deeds (a commonplace in Israeli politics), but, for the first time,
for things he had said. And even this decision, a dangerous blow
to Israeli democracy, threatening the freedom of speech of an elected
Parliament member, has
been editorially applauded by Israelís "liberal" newspaper
Haaretz, which cynically blamed the victim: "If anyone is responsible
for the situation having reached this point, it is MK Bishara himself."
the same time, Israeli state terrorism in the Occupied Territories
is reaching unprecedented peaks. Israeli death-squads now kill a
Palestinian freedom fighter almost every day. On the other hand,
police claim to have "no clue" as to the identity of a
Jewish terrorist group that has murdered at least six Palestinians
during the past months. Prime Minister Sharon has not yet reached
the death toll of his murderous predecessor Ehud Barak during
whose term, in October and November 2000, more than 110 Palestinians
were killed every month but he is making a good progress: October
2001 was the bloodiest month this year, with more than 90 Palestinian
casualties. Sharon, however, is more innovative in abusing the Palestinian
population: to annihilate Palestinian freedom of movement altogether,
the Israeli army now not only destroys (by ditches) the miserable
roads still open to Palestinians, but, to disable Palestinian traffic
completely (be it to work, to get water and food, or to hospital),
it even confiscates the keys to Palestinian private cars.
all of a sudden, in the middle of all these atrocities, there seems
to be a ray of light. The term "Palestinian state" is
being de-tabooed. Sharon now wants to give the Palestinians a state,
President Bush even claims that a Palestinian state has "always
been part of the American vision" (why didnít they tell us
Abdallah of Jordan says the Arab world should integrate Israel
in return for a Palestinian state, and even Chairman Arafat himself
airs his threats to declare a state. What a harmony, what a consensus!
One almost wonders what the Middle East conflict was all about,
if it can be solved by such a simple declaration.
What Do They
Mean by 'State'?
follows the Israeli press would have no difficulty imagining the
Palestinian state offered by Israel. Foreign Minister Shimon Peres,
a hard-line hawk with a misleading dovish image, one of the founders
of Israelís illegal settlements project, says it openly: the Palestinian
state will comprise just the areas currently controlled by the Palestinian
Authority. His initial hesitant words about dismantling some settlements
in the Gaza Strip were immediately withdrawn: no settlements will
Palestinian Authority is holding or was holding, up to the recent
Israeli incursions something like 10% of the West Bank and about
two-thirds of the Gaza Strip: separate "autonomous" enclaves
in half a dozen Palestinian cities, cut off and hermetically besieged
by Israeli forces. This will be the "Palestinian state."
Prime Minister Netanyahu was much more honest. I recall a speech
he held in the Knesset a few years ago. In his notorious eloquence
he asked rhetorically: Is there a state without contiguity? Is there
a state without an army? Is there a state that does not control
its own borders? Is there a state that does not control its own
water resources and airspace? I am telling you, said Netanyahu:
there is no such state.
was right. There is no such state as what Israel means by a "Palestinian
state." Sharon stresses it over and over again: the "state"
will have no borders with Jordan or Egypt, it will be surrounded
by Israel from all sides, it will be demilitarize, Israel will control
its water and its air space; and the Israeli settlements, consuming
about 50% of the West Bank and a third of Gaza and still growing,
will all remain intact, and with them the entire network of checkpoints,
military bases and roads open for Israelis only, that turn the Occupied
Territories into a block of Swiss cheese (as Arafat once put it),
with the holes left to the Palestinians. This Palestinian state
will be no more a state than the South African Bantustans in the
darkest days of Apartheid. It will be the ultimate camouflage for
the ongoing occupation.
printable version of this article
was born in the Netherlands in 1964 and has grown up in Israel.
He has B.A. in Computer Science, M.A. in Comparative Literature
and he presently works on his PhD thesis. He lives in Tel-Aviv,
teaches in the Department of Comparative Literature in Tel-Aviv
University. He also works as literary translator (from German, English
and Dutch), and as a literary critic for the Israeli daily Yedioth
Achronoth. His work has been published widely in Israel. His
column appears occasionally at Antiwar.com.
No to a Palestinian 'State'
Cares About the Palestinians?
in the Streets
Ideology of Occupation
War Ė Really Imminent?
State of the Army, Part Two
Settlements, Killing Peace
State of the Army, Part 1
Left Sells Out Peace
a Palestinian Bantustan?
Palestinian people do not need such a state. They need land, which
was and is being dragged away by Israeli settlements. It needs its
own water, 80% of which is being stolen by Israel. It needs freedom
of movement, not just to walk to the nearest checkpoint and face
an Israeli gunman. It needs an open border to pick up at least some
of the refugees spread all over the Arab world.
envisioned Palestinian "state" will not give any of that.
On the contrary: it will serve as a surrogate and as a new justification
for the ongoing occupation, which will not be called occupation
anymore. It will take the question of Palestine off the international
agenda by turning it from a juicy and photogenic resistance to occupation
into a simple border-dispute, one of so many around the world. If
this was the case, fair enough; but it is not: a Palestinian state
alongside Israelís occupation is an outright abuse of the term "state."
Palestinians are fed up with empty tokens and symbols of sovereignty.
This was the logic of Oslo: give Arafat a title ("Chairman,"
"President"), give him a license to issue postage stamps,
police uniforms and pseudo-official travel documents, and the Palestinian
problem will be solved by his well-trained gunmen. Most of the Palestinians
were ready to live with that temporarily for seven years, expecting
it to be the swallow that makes summer; it did not. Even Arafat
himself, who for years cooperated with this fabrication of illusions,
understood a year ago that the game was over: faced with the choice
between joining the furious tiger of the Intifada and being its
prey, he chose to jump on its back and ride it. If he changes sides
now, he is finished.
for the United States
it will take much more than the well-meant
words of Scott McConnell "there is a great deal more
conversation among Americans than used to be about foreign affairs
in general and about wrongs committed against the Arabs in particular.
You have seen some evidence of this in President Bush's own words
about Palestine" to convince Palestinians of Americaís intentions.
It will take much more than nice and harmless promises of a Palestinian
state from President Bush. Having sold the Palestinians empty illusions
for years, if the US now wants to regain its credibility among Palestinians
and Arabs, and Moslems it will have to put the horse before
the cart, not behind it. First get Israel out of the occupied territories.
A Palestinian state may follow, but not precede the end of Israelís
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