So powerful has been the Israeli story of its own creation and acquisition of Palestinian land that testimony from Palestinians has had little effect. But formal documents in the state archive provided evidence for the ‘new historians’ to convince many Israelis of the untruth of the official story. Since then the archive has been closed – except for one file accidentally left out. This has now been been found to show the pressure young academics felt to ‘prove’ that Palestinians left on the advice of their own leaders, and how aware Ben-Gurion was of the role of Jewish militias in seizing the land.
If Jews are defined as a separate ‘race’ there is little to choose between antisemitists and zionists in their desire to get Jews out of Europe, argues Joseph Massad in a patchy survey of beliefs about race and Jews. (He ignores the distinctive zionist fanaticism for state-building). He mourns the defeat of the Jewish ‘Haskalah’ (enlightenment’) which sought to integrate Jews in European modernity and, in the cold war, as ‘white’ people – news to the Rosenbergs’ family. Mira Sucharov takes issue with the omission of Liberal Zionism which defines the Daily Beast for which she writes.
Since 1967, the approach to Israel/Palestine taken by the USA and EU has rested on the notion that Israeli governments would be happy to negotiate a stable peace agreement but Arab and Palestinian leaders will not. Evidence that this belief is a fallacy has existed since the release of ‘The Palestine Papers’ by Al Jazeera in 2011 and, says Jonathan Cook, by Wikileaks’ disclosure last month of US diplomatic cables, which speak of Israeli self-destruction. At every stage, leaders of Arab states and the West Bank have been flexible and leaders of Israel (and Hamas), wholly obdurate.
Most Israelis are not as extreme as Im Tirtzu who protest against any commemoration of the nakba. The preferred position is of studied indifference. Anything more means either openly deciding for or against Im Tirtzu’s totalitarian zionism, or openly acknowledging that a great wrong continues to be done, in the name of Israel. Here, one member struggles with the one thing he thinks he knows about Palestinians – their holocaust denial. Perhaps he should know out about the refusal of the Yishuv (Jewish community in Palestine) to make saving European Jews their priority.
Almost half of all Palestinians are refugees (some estimates are higher). Continuing seizures of Palestinian land and demolition of their homes consolidate their exclusion from their own homeland. Nakba day, May 15th, links them all in memory of why they are where they are.
Aki Orr is remembered and honoured by many people in Israel and the UK. As the founder of Matzpen, a socialist party, he was resolute in seeing libertarian socialist politics as the way to live and the way to take part in Israeli politics – for which he founded Matzpen. He came to Britain to study in 1964 and remained as a disputatious and always engaged person until his death earlier this year. As an emblem of Nazi persecution and an Israeli revolutionary his legacy is alive in Jadaliyya.
This is a harsh judgment on the Palestinian leadership, while acknowledging the power of the occupation. Roger Cohen describes the PA’s paralysis and Fatah as ‘a revolutionary party that has exhausted itself; ossified and murky’ with an appetite only for ‘sweet deals’; Salam Fayyad, whom Cohen is interviewing, describes Fatah’s leaders as casual, lacking seriousness or strategy, hostage to their own rhetoric. That rhetoric is all that engages the Palestinian people.
Israel has shown the way, says the NY Times – Syrian air defences can be easily penetrated, so now the West (the USA, with France and the UK) can intervene. Obama is reluctant – who would be helped? Robert Fisk argues that by stopping a weapons supply to President `Assad, the Israelis are directly helping the rebels – which the West has been dithering about doing. All agree on one thing: Israel’s airstrike spreads the conflict beyond any national boundaries.
What exactly the British government assumed, wanted and expected when its foreign secretary, Lord Balfour, wrote the letter now known as the Balfour Declaration is mired in competing myths of the UK’s relationship to Jews, Arabs and Palestine. James Renton, an expert on the history of those relations, here argues that Lloyd George’s government was under the antisemitic delusion that all Jews were influential and would swing support for the UK in the war. They set up a ‘Jewish Section’ in the Foreign Office to further this narrow and short-term aim.
The Church of Scotland played a leading role in designating Palestine as the Biblical land of Israel to which Jews must return for prophecies to be realised. It was one of its ministers who made the claim that Palestine was ‘a land without people for a people without land’ . Over 180 years after that kickstart to Christian Zionism, the Church of Scotland publishes a report – The Inheritance of Abraham? – throwing out the literal reading of ‘the land of Israel’ and putting forward its view of how Christians should regard the treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli state. UPDATE: Rebuke from Scottish Council of Jewish Communities.
The Oslo accords entrenched the occupation, established an international complacency about 2-state negotiations, and created a new Palestinian elite whose status depends on the false independence of the Palestinian Authority. In his class analysis of the Oslo agreement, Adam Hanieh argues that only if the Palestinians continue to challenge their supine governing class can they regain the vigour of an independence movement.
This week, several articles in which Palestinians examine what they see as the weakness of civil society following the Oslo accords. Tariq Dana on how popular involvement has fallen away as NGOs take over the space, divesting groups of their activists and of their social care functions as they follow the neo-liberal agendas of their donors (and a mention for the pioneering work of Islah Jad on the NGOisation of the Palestinian women’s movement. Aitemad Muhannah, once in the PFLP, on the left’s failure to engage the poor, and the appeal of Hamas. Plus Adam Hanieh above.
Alan Hart is a controversial figure in Israel/Palestine politics, not for his consistent support for Palestinian rights and critique of Zionist practice and myth-making or his anger about the failure of wealthy Arab states to fund an effective Palestinian public relations operation, but for his endorsement of the attention-seeking Gilad Atzmon. He has, however, withdrawn from the battle to establish the historical and contemporary truth, feeling – wrongly we think – that the money and influence of Israeli propagandists will always triumph.
Official documents made public this week confirm the accounts of the ‘new historians’ – that British protection was withdrawn from the Palestinians by 1948 allowing militant Zionists – feared to have great influence in the US – to seize Palestinian land and force the Nakba. New fact: British officials were preoccupied with which high-status car they could transport back to London.
As Israel’s Remembrance Day and Independence Day roll past again some reflection is in order. Combatants for Peace and the Forum of Israeli and Palestinian Bereaved Parents organise a joint meeting on the eve of Remembrance Day, Uri Avnery reports. And Tony Karon writes about 65 years of Israeli independence – only it was 60 years when he wrote it, but who’s counting? Karon: “without justice for the Palestinians, Israel is no closer now than it was 60 years ago to being able to live in a genuine peace with its neighbors…”
A sobering discussion by Adam Horowitz on what it is to be Jewish and who still counts as family, what transgressions are acceptable and what unpardonable.
Anyone who sees Eli Valley’s cartoons and his brilliant creations such as Bucky Shvitz, Sociologist for Hire or Stuart, the Jewish Turtle is unlikely to forget them in a hurry. But Valley, like other bitingly satirical cartoonists you can name, does not have an easy ride. Here the anonymous blogger of the Philosophy and Law website defends Valley against the charge leveled against him in Commentary magazine of being – you guessed it – self-hating. And we link back to earlier postings about Eli Valley on this website.
Ahead of President Shimon Peres’s visit to France to discuss the Middle East peace process instructions were issued that there be “no blacks or Arabs” among the baggage-handling staff, because “no Muslim employees should greet the Israeli head of state”. It follows on the heels of Air France being fined for taking a student nurse off a plane to Ben Gurion on the grounds that she was “not Jewish”…
Zvi Bar’el writes: “The nakba terrifies Israel. We cannot forgive the Arabs for exiling themselves from Palestine, for destroying their own villages, for becoming refugees and for causing the cleansing of the War of Independence. Neither can we forgive them for the fact that many of them remained in Israel, destroying its aspiration to be a pure Jewish state, not only a state for Jews… We may one day have “peaceful coexistence” with the Arabs of the West Bank and Gaza. With the Arabs of Israel, it will take much more. We need sincere reconciliation.”
Dissatisfaction with a two-state approach to resolving the Israel-Palestine conflict is tempered by the fact that the difficulties with a one-state approach appear at least as great, with neither Israelis nor Palestinians willing to give up their legitimate claims to self-determination. And in international diplomacy the two-state approach is the only game in town. Many discussions are currently taking place in Israel-Palestine about this dilemma and a search for other approaches:
1.Oren Yifachel, author of Ethnocracy: Land and Identity Politics in Israel/Palestine, elaborates on his idea for a confederation as a possible solution to the colonial deadlock he diagnoses; and
2. Jeff Halper of Icahd reflects on the deafening silence which greeted Icahd’s move to endorsing one state last year, provides an overview of who holds what position, and rethinks the options. He also provides an extensive reading list!