In the Name of Security

by AMIRA HASS

Gaza.

Six Palestinian churches in the West Bank and Gaza Strip suffered damage and arson attempts in reaction to the words of Pope Benedict XVI. Palestinian spokesmen of all stripes condemned these attacks and said that the Palestinian nation – Christians and Muslims alike – is one, and is united in its struggle against the occupation. Reports on the attacks in the Palestinian media described the perpetrators as "unknown." In the Palestinian subtext, "unknown" implies "of suspicious identity," a phrase that borders on a half-concealed accusation that Israel’s Shin Bet security services sent agents provocateurs.

In Tubas, where an attempt to set fire to a church failed thanks to the residents’ alertness, people said openly that the thrower of the Molotov cocktail might be connected to the Israeli occupation. But the mayor of Tubas, Oqab Darghmeh, who raised this possibility, also proposed another option: Perhaps the perpetrator acted out of ignorance.

Most of the critics, however, did not point an accusatory finger at the Shin Bet. They cannot deny the ills that have become so widespread in Palestinian society: criminal behavior and hooliganism masked by the images and jargon of a national struggle, and the growing use of weapons in personal and public conflicts, with the encouragement of Palestinian political actors, who are in need of the atmosphere of chaos in order to be seen as "strong."

But is it possible to separate these ills completely from the Israeli occupation?

The latest book by historian Hillel Cohen, Aravim Tovim ("Good Arabs"), offers several historical proofs of the validity of Palestinian "paranoia" about the political motives behind security control. Although the subject of the book is the activity of Israeli security and intelligence agencies among Israeli Arabs immediately after 1948, a consistent policy of action and thought that stretches from the Mandate years until the present allows us to draw conclusions that also apply to Israeli control over the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza.

Cohen’s research relies mainly on police documents from the period, which have recently been opened for public perusal (the Shin Bet documents are still classified). They relate, for example, that the provision of weapons to collaborators by the local authorities was a way of rewarding them. However, the security forces’ liaison committee mentioned in 1949 that "the distribution of weapons to an element or members of one group is likely to be useful to us; it will create the desired tension among the various parts of the population and enable us to control the situation." The security agencies, Cohen reveals on the basis of written documents, occasionally even initiated internal conflicts.

Moreover, the regional committee for Arab affairs in the Triangle (the body that coordinated among the various security agencies in this region) "does not approve of providing the residents of the region with higher education," according to the minutes of a 1954 meeting, and the committee worked to prevent Arabs from being accepted to institutes of higher education. Cohen allows himself to speculate that the motive was its desire to prevent the creation of an educated class that would succeed in organizing and making demands of the state.

In other words, the security services – even if they acted on their own initiative in various places – operated in the context of an official paradigm: continued theft of lands, continued fragmentation and weakening of Arab society, and undermining the possibility of the Arabs developing an independent leadership. Critics of the Military Administration’s policies – Israeli Arabs and the main opposition party, Maki (the Israel Communist Party) – were described as "paranoid." But Cohen, in the many examples he brings in his book, retroactively proves that they were right.

Indirectly, this book by a former journalist says that one does not have to rely on written documents – which will be made public in another 50 years – in order to believe a political analysis that differs from that of the rulers. Hence, it was not simply shortsightedness and neglect that caused the Palestinian territories to be flooded with weapons during the 1990s. It was not "security" that led to the creation of a class of new mukhtars from Fatah, who received special privileges that were denied to other Palestinians and that deepened internal tensions. It was not "shortsightedness" that led to the weakening and political trivialization of Mahmoud Abbas (Abu Mazen) as chairman of the Palestinian Authority, just as it was not simple naivete that omitted the main point from the Oslo Accords: the goal of a Palestinian state within the 1967 borders.

It is not local decisions by regional military commanders that are fragmenting the West Bank into isolated "territorial cells." It is not security considerations alone that prevent Gazan students from studying in the West Bank and American academicians from teaching in Palestinian educational institutions. In the name of security – but not for its sake – Israel is exacerbating ignorance and economic deterioration in the occupied territories.

According to this analysis, for which there is no shortage of evidence, the Israeli security services are careful to act within the framework of a clear political paradigm: maximum weakening, in every possible way, of the Palestinian national collective, so that it will not be able to realize its goal and establish a state worthy of the name, in accordance with international resolutions.

AMIRA HASS writes for Ha’aretz. She is the author of Drinking the Sea at Gaza.






 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 01, 2015
Mike Whitney
Return to Crisis: Things Keep Getting Worse
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
Jesse Jackson
Season of the Insurgents: From Trump to Sanders
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”