aprile 8, 2024

Pubblicato In: Giornali

di Pat604Johnson

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

– Albert Einstein

If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing again and again while anticipating a different result, our approach to Israel and Palestine is crazy.

Since 1967, at least, the world has behaved as though finding a resolution to the statelessness of Palestinians, and therefore ending the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, demands constant and increasing pressure on Israel.

This approach has been enthusiastically adopted by the United Nations and European foreign ministers, by nongovernmental organizations like Amnesty International, by leftist and centrist political parties across Europe and North America, by trade unions and progressive activists, by writers and thinkers, and by the majority of individuals who make up the diffuse entity we call the left.

Critics insist this near-unanimity is itself proof of Israeli iniquity, as if mob mentality has never made a mistake, particularly in its approach to Jews.

The repeated failure of this strategy has done nothing but convince us that we should do more of the same.

When condemnations, vilification and demonization of Israel failed to free Palestine, the movement decided that the answer must be to double down. Therefore, we have gone from denouncing Israeli government policies to boycotting Israeli products and people, forbidding Israelis from participating in sporting events, academic forums and all range of international activities.

While the BDS movement, which seeks to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel, has succeeded in ways that other actions by the Palestinian movement haven’t — some products have been boycotted, some performers have been brow-beaten into cancelling concerts in Israel — it has had no impact whatsoever where it actually counts. Palestine is no more free now than before all this global passion and activism was poured into the cause.


Because the problem is: Israel is not the problem.

We do not need to put pressure on Israel, because Israel has offered up everything it can — and, indeed, everything that Western observers and activists believe the Palestinians want.

A revolving door of Israeli prime ministers has yet to throw up an individual who can make peace with the Palestinians. Hawk or dove, Likud, Labor or Kadima, good-cop Yitzhak Rabin or bad-cop Benjamin Netanyahu, peaceable Shimon Peres or hothead Ariel Sharon: each has failed to come close to a lasting peace. No matter what Israel does — or how much more the world demands it does — nothing brings self-determination to Palestinians.

The problem is that we have subscribed to a flawed narrative that portrays Israel as the lynchpin to peace, which is almost precisely the opposite of reality. There is only one side that can make peace, because there is only one side making war: The Palestinians and their Arab allies.

It is a simplistic formulation but it is also true: if the Arabs put down their weapons, there would be no war; If the Israelis put down their weapons, there would be no Israel.

It is easy to believe that Israel is the barrier to peace. Certainly the death and destruction we see right now in Gaza, the belligerence of some Israeli politicians, and the apparent power differential between the parties — routinely and falsely illustrated as little rock-throwing David facing off against the region’s military Goliath — all make a simplistic tableau that suggests Israel holds the cards.

The reality is more complex and far more difficult to believe. The truth sounds like a conspiracy theory, so it is easier to dismiss it and accept simplistic falsehoods than confront the moral and human disaster that is at the actual heart of the situation.

It is true: One side seeks to prolong Palestinian statelessness and the conflict around it. But it’s not the Israelis.

There is a conspiracy, and it is not a theory. The problem was created and is perpetuated by the Arab world, not to resolve Palestinian statelessness but to prolong it.

The very idea is so counterintuitive to people who genuinely seek peace and justice that it is, for many, literally impossible to believe. It involves an abuse of millions of Palestinians so venal, including institutionalized child abuse in the form of self-destructive and genocidal incitement, on a scale so enormous that, even if we chose to believe it, we might still turn our faces in horror and pretend we hadn’t seen it.

This is, in fact, precisely what we have chosen to do: Accept a false but somehow reassuring idea that Israel is seeking to oppress Palestinians for no reason but pure spite, rather than face the reality of how this conflict began and how it could possibly be resolved.

Since 1947 at the latest, up until today, Palestinian leaders and the broader Arab world have been intractably opposed to the existence of a Jewish state. The Arab League unanimously rejected the idea of Israel and attempted to destroy it at the moment of its creation. Since then, every Arab country (until the recent Abraham Accords) and much of the world, pretends that Israel does not exist or, slightly less ridiculously, accepts that it exists but argues that it shouldn’t.

Note that there is no similar question around the legitimacy or the right to exist of countries like Lebanon, Syria, Jordan or Iraq, all of which were carved largely out of whole cloth from the remnants of the Ottoman Empire in roughly the same era that Israel was founded.

The one intolerable fact about Israel that has led to nearly eight decades of unrelenting opposition is the fact that it is a Jewish state. All the fancy justifications trotted out against Israeli actions — the occupation and fabrications like “apartheid” and “genocide” — distract from this core reality.

The idea that “the occupation” is the reason for the conflict is effortlessly debunked by the fact that the conflict started in 1948 (at the latest); the occupation began in 1967. These are basic facts we need to keep in mind as we consider the history and contemporary nature of this conflict.

When the Arab world’s attempt to annihilate Israel failed in 1948-’49, and then failed again in 1967 and 1973, and as the conflict expanded across decades, Arab dictators learned that there was an irreplaceable bonus for them in this fight.

“Palestine” became a symbol, an avatar, a parable of Arab and (especially after 1967) Muslim subjugation and humiliation. Not so much a people, a country or a cause itself, the idea of “Palestine” became a political tool in the hands of the most despotic leaders in the Middle East, North Africa and Muslim Asia.

As these authoritarian tyrants sporadically tightened the screws on their own peoples, simmering discontent was projected outward. Anger over every injury or oppression rained down by repressive leaders on their Arab and Muslim citizens was deflected with a quasi-religious fervor that prioritized “Palestine” and all it represented as the foremost Arab and Muslim distraction. If victims of the Assad regime in Syria or the theocrats of Iran thought they had it bad, well, just look at the poor Palestinians, under the boot heel of those most despised of people, the Jews.

Edward Said explained how Zionism was used to construct “a dogmatic, almost theological brand of Arabism.

“Israel has seemed essential to be a rhetorical tool provided by the West to harass the Arabs. What this perception entailed in the Arab states has been a policy of repression and a kind of thought control. For years it was forbidden even to refer to Israel in print; this sort of censorship led quite naturally to the consolidation of police states, the absence of freedom of expression, and a whole set of human rights abuses, all supposedly justified in the name of ‘fighting Zionist aggression,’ which meant that any form of oppression at home was acceptable because it served the ‘sacred cause’ of ‘national security.’”

It is possible for overseas activists to make Palestine our foreign policy preoccupation because Palestinians are suffering. But our narrative misallocates the primary cause of this suffering and, as a result, helps perpetuate it.

Any fair reading of history shows that Israel and much of the world, including the United Nations, the EU, the United States and others have made successive efforts to ameliorate Palestinian suffering and bring about their self-determination.

In every case, the proposals have been stymied not by Israel, but by Palestinian and Arab leaders. The painfully obvious lesson from these endless failures is one we stubbornly refuse to acknowledge. Against all evidence, we manage to manipulate the history to lay blame at the feet of Israel.

The conflict’s current era, which began on September 28, 2000, is a prime illustration. After seven years of the Oslo peace process, Palestine was as close as it had ever been to becoming a full-fledged independent state. There were details to iron out — this is one of the world’s most intractable conflicts so there were bound to be a few snags — but most of the world believed that the arc of history was bending toward justice for Palestine.

Then Yasser Arafat ended the peace process in an orgy of violence. The Second Intifada was not, as it was portrayed at first, a popular uprising. It was planned and stage-managed by Arafat and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

“Whoever thinks that the Intifada broke out because of the despised [Israeli leader Ariel] Sharon’s visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, is wrong, even if this visit was the straw that broke the back of the Palestinian people,” admitted Imad Al-Faluji, the PA Communications Minister. “This Intifada was planned in advance, ever since President Arafat’s return from the Camp David negotiations, where he turned the table upside down on President Clinton. [Arafat] remained steadfast and challenged [Clinton]. He rejected the American terms and he did it in the heart of the U.S.”

The tone of the minister’s remarks implies that Arafat’s refusal to negotiate peacefully is a point of weird chauvinistic pride. He stuck it to the coexistence crowd right in the heart of America.

If we want to move forward and make life better for Palestinians, we need to recognize the reality of the situation and reverse the course we are on. With practically the entire diplomatic world on their side, Palestinians have repeatedly refused to take yes for an answer.

Three days before Clinton left office, Arafat phoned him to say goodbye.

“You are a great man,” Arafat said.

“The hell I am,” Clinton responded. “I’m a colossal failure, and you made me one.”

“I killed myself to give the Palestinians a state,” Clinton said years later.

According to former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, Bill Clinton told him:

“The true story of Camp David was that for the first time in the history of the conflict the American president put on the table a proposal, based on UN Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, very close to the Palestinian demands, and Arafat refused even to accept it as a basis for negotiations, walked out of the room, and deliberately turned to terrorism. That’s the real story — all the rest is gossip.”

Dennis Ross, the chief U.S. negotiator, concluded that Arafat was never truly open to a two-state solution. Rather, Arafat and the Palestinians had clung to their desire for “a one-state solution. Not independent, adjacent Israeli and Palestinian states, but a single Arab state encompassing all of historic Palestine.”

It’s not that negotiations weren’t progressing constructively to the birth of Palestine — they were. Arafat reverted to violence because negotiations weren’t leading to the elimination of Israel.

Until we acknowledge the fact that this entire conflict is premised on the Palestinian and Arab rejection of Jewish self-determination, we will never get to the root of the conflict and therefore never reach a resolution.

Yet still we manage to obfuscate the reality even as the evidence piles upon itself. The Arab world unanimously rejected the idea of a Palestinian Arab state in 1947 because, under the U.N. Partition Resolution, such a country would be born alongside a Jewish state. This is the nut of almost 80 years of conflict. To deny this is insanity.

There has been endless nattering in the decades since about assorted details from that time — that the borders of the potential Arab state were unfair, for example, though the same can be said of the borders laid out for the Jewish state — but these are red herrings.

The Arab world’s unanimous rejection of the United Nations Partition Plan in 1947 was motivated by the uncompromising refusal of Arab and Muslim leaders to accept the concept of Jewish self-determination in the homeland of the Jewish people.

Coexistence of two peoples in a small area was never the problem. Two peoples sharing a land would be feasible if they both concurred to do so in peace; it happens all over the world. The conflict exists because of a grievance-driven Arab intolerance and nurturing of festering Palestinian resentments.

At that very same time, the partition of India caused a cataclysm exponentially more momentous to anything occurring in the Levant, yet seven decades later the descendants of that upheaval have largely accepted their realities and gotten on with their lives.

But the statelessness of Palestinians and the symbolic and tangible benefits that status affords Arab dictators have been too valuable to abandon. Keeping the “Palestinian question” festering is so crucial to the domestic stability of the Arab world that any resolution would cause a vacuum in the body politic across two continents.

So the conflict has thrived for more than 75 years because it does irreplaceable double duty for dictators. If that means generations of Palestinians are stateless and oppressed, not only is that no skin off the noses of Arab leaders, it’s just what the doctor ordered.

The repetitious nature of the conflict — and our reactions to it — is the definition of repeating the same thing and anticipating a different outcome.

At midnight on May 15, 1948, the British Mandate in Palestine ended and Israel became a country. Palestine would also have become a country at that moment. But rather than creating, as had the Jews of the region, the structures of statehood, the Palestinian Arabs began their eight-decade campaign of rejectionism.

The theme of expecting a different outcome from repetitive behavior recurred in 1967. After Israel’s Arab neighbors united for a second time to attempt the destruction of the Jewish state, Israel managed to not only survive but to expand its territory into what had been the Egyptian-occupied Gaza Strip and the Jordanian-occupied West Bank, roughly the areas that had been intended, in 1947, for the Palestinian Arab state. (Note that in the intervening two decades, the Arab states occupying those territories did nothing to create an independent Arab Palestine. Hmmm.)

Israel’s leaders recognized immediately the challenges presented by being an occupying power in these Arab-majority places and almost instantaneously offered to return those lands to the countries they vanquished in exchange for nothing but a promise of peace.

The Arab League’s response, at the Khartoum conference in September 1967, was no, no, no. The Arab world declared: no peace with Israel, no recognition of Israel, no negotiations with Israel.

Israel’s simple request — stop making war with us and agree to just let us live in peace, with the corollary that the land we call Palestine would cease to be under Israel’s authority — was too much for the Arab world to accept.

In 1967, as in 1947-’48, Israel was prepared to live in peace next to an independent Palestinian Arab state. The Palestinian Arabs refused to live next to an independent Jewish state. This is the core of the entire conflict. All the rest is commentary.

There could have been, should have been, a Palestinian state in 1948, in 1967, in the early 2000s.

In every instance, it was stymied, not by Israelis but by Arabs, including the Palestinians themselves. If you do not understand this history, you should not be engaged in this discussion until you do. If you have not asked yourself why the Arab world prefers a festering, enraged, hopeless and stateless Palestinians people rather than a peaceful, self-determined Palestinian people, you have not thought deeply enough on this topic.

The unanimous goal of the Arab world was, and largely remains, the elimination of Israel. If that rejectionism meant two or 10 generations of Palestinian statelessness, this was again no concern for the heads of state gathered in Khartoum. Handed an olive branch — and the chance to end Palestinian statelessness — the Arab League slapped it away. That is why Palestinians remain stateless today.

The Arab world has always been upfront about their goal of eradicating Israel, yet credulous Western observers refuse to believe them. We steadfastly turn our gaze from the source of the conflict. We overcomplicate things. We argue about borders and settlements and details.

We can’t make sense of the continued conflict because we absolutely refuse to recognize the reason the conflict began and the reason it continues.

There would have been an independent Palestine at the end of the Oslo process, when the Palestinians were offered 97% of the West Bank and Gaza — essentially everything that Western observers insist on believing the Palestinians want.

Obviously, this was not because 97% wasn’t enough. One hundred percent would not have been enough. What Arafat sought — and what both Hamas and Fatah explicitly demand — is 200%. As anti-Israel protesters across the Middle East, as well as in Europe and North America, chant, they want a Palestine “from the river to the sea.” It’s not like anyone’s keeping it a secret.

Two years into the Oslo process, Arafat himself unabashedly told a Jordanian TV interviewer:

“Since we cannot defeat Israel in war, we do this in stages. We take any and every territory that we can of Palestine, and establish sovereignty there, and we use it as a springboard to take more. When the time comes, we can get the Arab nations to join us for the final blow against Israel.”

Arafat’s minister responsible for Jerusalem, Faisal Husseini, affirmed Arafat’s strategy:

“When we are asking all the Palestinian forces and factions to look at the Oslo Agreement and at other agreements as ‘temporary’ procedures, or phased goals, this means that we are ambushing the Israelis and cheating them … the truth is that we are doing exactly what they are doing,” he said. “Our ultimate goal is [still] the liberation of all historical Palestine from the Jordan [River] to the [Mediterranean] sea, even if it means that the conflict will last for another 1,000 years or for many generations.”

In 1994, Arafat was secretly recorded in a South African mosque and much of the world learned a new word, hudna. Literally, it means “ceasefire” or “calm.” In context, it reflects the strategy that Arafat outlined above. The Oslo Process was, for him, not a path to lasting peace, but a steppingstone to lull Israel and the world into complacency before rising up again in the final battle of annihilation. That was what the old man was attempting in 2000, when he started the Second Intifada. All his talk of peace was a sham, a hudna, to buy time until he launched the push for his real goal.

Today, as we hear Hamas and their overseas mouthpieces calling for a ceasefire, we would do well to remember the term hudna.

In spite of what Arafat explicitly said was his intention, leftists — and much of the world — chose to view him as a legitimate partner for peace while giving Israel a suspicious side eye.

Why do we refuse to acknowledge the root of this conflict? Why do we take positions that perpetuate, rather than ameliorate Palestinian statelessness? Maybe because, like the Arab tyrants, we have our own selfish reasons for perpetuating the Palestinian problem?

Foreign ministers, activists, NGOs and others in the West demonstrate enormous determination to ignore these facts. That requires some dogged obliviousness.

We can continue to censure Israel at the United Nations General Assembly. We can boycott Israel, divest from it, sanction it. We can ban Israeli wrestlers and chess players from international competitions, keep Israeli papers out of our academic journals and even forbid Israelis from entering countries based solely on their nationality. We can bring to bear every conceivable pressure, inducement and threat. But it will be to no avail — not because the Israelis don’t want peace, but because the Arab world doesn’t want Israel.

If we want, as we claim, Palestinian human rights and a free Palestine, we need to do the opposite of what we’re doing now.

Putting pressure on the Palestinians is the only way to bring peace and self-determination. The fact that leftists around the world refuse to acknowledge this and instead continue to pummel Israel is the definition of insanity.

The ball is in the Palestinians’ court. (Hamas could take the first step in this regard by surrendering.)

Progressive people in the West need to stop rewarding and encouraging the Palestinians’ destructive behavior.

Instead, we need to encourage Palestinian people and their leaders to lay a foundation for a feasible, thriving state. We need to pressure Palestinians to work toward peace, coexistence and statecraft and shut them down when they chant “River to the sea” or demand an end to the occupation while refusing to take the steps that would make an end to the occupation possible.

Leftists need to accept this fact: Demonizing and boycotting Israel will not make Israel more flexible. If anything it will entrench its most reactionary elements — and, more importantly, it will not bring Palestinian self-determination any closer.

If we genuinely seek a resolution to this conflict, we need to understand its causes. We have to accept the core truth of history and current events. If we want something to change, we have to stop repeating the same mistakes. We need to recognize that what we’ve been doing is not only morally and historically wrong, but strategically wrong.

We need to stop the cycle of doing the same things again and again and anticipating a different result.

Until activists and other forces around the world reject the Palestinian movement’s core modus operandi — endless war until Israel disappears — there will be no peace and no Palestine.

That won’t be Israel’s fault. It will be ours.

Invia questo articolo:
  • email
  • LinkedIn

Stampa questo articolo: