'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The international community is directly guilty for this latest massacre 

A compelling, essential article by journalist Nir Rosen on the catastrophe in Gaza:

Once again, the Israelis bomb the starving and imprisoned population of Gaza. The world watches the plight of 1.5 million Gazans live on TV and online; the western media largely justify the Israeli action. Even some Arab outlets try to equate the Palestinian resistance with the might of the Israeli military machine. And none of this is a surprise. The Israelis just concluded a round-the-world public relations campaign to gather support for their assault, even gaining the collaboration of Arab states like Egypt.

The international community is directly guilty for this latest massacre. Will it remain immune from the wrath of a desperate people? So far, there have been large demonstrations in Lebanon, Yemen, Jordan, Egypt, Syria and Iraq. The people of the Arab world will not forget. The Palestinians will not forget. "All that you have done to our people is registered in our notebooks," as the poet Mahmoud Darwish said.

I have often been asked by policy analysts, policy-makers and those stuck with implementing those policies for my advice on what I think America should do to promote peace or win hearts and minds in the Muslim world. It too often feels futile, because such a revolution in American policy would be required that only a true revolution in the American government could bring about the needed changes. An American journal once asked me to contribute an essay to a discussion on whether terrorism or attacks against civilians could ever be justified. My answer was that an American journal should not be asking whether attacks on civilians can ever be justified. This is a question for the weak, for the Native Americans in the past, for the Jews in Nazi Germany, for the Palestinians today, to ask themselves.

Please consider clicking on the link and reading the article in its entirety.

There is a desperation associated with these attacks, attacks that are deliberately launched by Israel at times to ensure the loss of large numbers of civilian casualties:

This isn't the time to speak of ethics, but of precise intelligence. Whoever gave the instructions to send 100 of our planes, piloted by the best of our boys, to bomb and strafe enemy targets in Gaza is familiar with the many schools adjacent to those targets - especially police stations. He also knew that at exactly 11:30 A.M. on Saturday, during the surprise assault on the enemy, all the children of the Strip would be in the streets - half just having finished the morning shift at school, the others en route to the afternoon shift.

This is not the time to speak of proportional responses, not even of the polls that promise a greater share of Knesset seats to the mission's architects. This is, however, the time to speak of the voters' belief the operation will succeed, that the strikes are precise and the targets justified.

Take, for example, Imad Aqel Mosque in Jabalya refugee camp, bombed and strafed shortly before midnight on Sunday. These are the names of the glorious military victory we achieved there - Jawaher, age 4; Dina, age 8; Sahar, age 12; Ikram, age 14; and Tahrir, age 17, all sisters of the Ba'lousha family, all killed in a "precise" strike on the mosque. Another three sisters, a 2-year-old brother and their parents were injured. Twenty-four neighbors were wounded and five homes and three stores destroyed. This part of the military victory did not open our television or radio news broadcasts yesterday morning, nor did they appear on many Israeli news Web sites.

This is the time to speak about the detailed maps in the hands of IDF commanders, and about the Shin Bet advisers who know the exact distance between the mosque and nearby homes. This is the time to discuss the drone planes and the hot air balloons fitted with advanced cameras floating over the Strip day and night, filming everything.

As I first posted in a 2006 entry, Zionism, whatever collective aspirations one believes were initially attributable to it, has been reduced to nothing more than a social enterprise of perpetual militarism and occupation. Having failed to starve the Palestinians in Gaza into submission, an effort that began in 2006 (!) with the complicity of the US and Europe, Israel now finds itself left only with the use of indiscriminate military violence to maintain control over the Palestinians. Rosen correctly observes that the effort will eventually fail, and that the Israeli state, like the USSR and Ottoman Empire, will recede into the mists of history. The opportunity for a two state solution, which was, in any event, a construct of the US and Israel designed to preserve as much of their imperial dominance as possible, has passed.

But how and when will it happen? Rosen has an insight:

A Zionist Israel is not a viable long-term project and Israeli settlements, land expropriation and separation barriers have long since made a two state solution impossible. There can be only one state in historic Palestine. In coming decades, Israelis will be confronted with two options. Will they peacefully transition towards an equal society, where Palestinians are given the same rights, à la post-apartheid South Africa? Or will they continue to view democracy as a threat? If so, one of the peoples will be forced to leave. Colonialism has only worked when most of the natives have been exterminated. But often, as in occupied Algeria, it is the settlers who flee. Eventually, the Palestinians will not be willing to compromise and seek one state for both people. Does the world want to further radicalise them?

Sadly, for now, the answer is yes. But it does not have to be that way. Daniel Gavron has an alternative:

Having made the paradigm shift, Gavron now reads history - biblical and Zionist - in a way that gels with the one-state vision he offers. Ancient history, he contends, is far more supportive of the idea of a multiethnic society than an ethnocentric Jewish one. "King David, if the Bible is to be believed, conquered Jerusalem from the Jebusites and then shared the city with them," Gavron writes. "He made use of Canaanite officials, had a Hittite general, enjoyed good relations with the Phoenicians, and (after some bloody conflicts with them) deployed Philistine units in his army, the Cherethites and Pelethites."

Judea, during the Second Temple period, also had a mixed population. "One can argue, then, that the establishment of a multicultural nation, rather than a specifically Jewish state, is a true expression of Zionism in that it is reconstructing a model similar to the historical entities of ancient Israel and Judea," he posits.

Gavron even enlists the father of modern Zionism in explaining his shift to binationalism. In "Altneuland," he says, Herzl describes a political entity with a Jewish president and Arab vice president.

Having established the historical underpinnings of his new, multiethnic state, he lays out the steps needed to create it: Israel's annexation of the territories, accompanied by a pledge of full equality for all residents of the new, enlarged state, and democratic elections within three months. These, he estimates, will produce some 40 Arab members in a 120-seat parliament. Drafting a constitution will be one of its first tasks.

As for the vexing problems that have frustrated all attempts so far to unlock the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - borders, Jerusalem, settlements, the Temple Mount - they all melt away once sovereignty over the land no longer needs to be split.

On the issue of citizenship, Gavron offers Jews and Palestinians a trade-off: Jews will agree to annul the Law of Return and Palestinians will forgo their insistence on the right of return. Anyone who wants to become a citizen of the new state will have to undergo a naturalization process akin to that in other Western countries.

Hebrew, Arabic and English - "the language in which most Israeli-Palestinian dialogues are held," writes Gavron - can all be official languages. Since Israel and Palestine will both be mutually unacceptable names for the new country, he proposes the "state of Jerusalem," "Yerushalayim" in Hebrew, "Ursalim al-Kuds" in Arabic.

Finally, Gavron suggests a governing structure that would allow maximum ethnic, religious, cultural and educational autonomy for the communities that will comprise the state of Jerusalem. "Apart from the Muslim Arabs and the secular Jews, this autonomy can be granted to communities, such as the ultra-Orthodox Jews with their special requirements. It will also solve the problems of the various Christian communities in the country. These include the Arab Christians, the significant number of Christians who have arrived from the former Soviet Union in the past decade, and the large community of foreign workers who have come in the same period.

Perhaps, Gavron is too romantic, too idealistic. Even so, he has given serious thought to the type of social order that will replace Zionism in Palestine. It is an important project, one that provides a slight chance of avoiding the horrors of the deterministic outcome of displacement described by Rosen. Yes, a slight chance, but, if it is abandoned, there is no chance at all.

Labels: , , , ,

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?