FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Rethinking Israel After 60 Years

Israeli Independence Day 2008, marking the sixtieth anniversary of the rise of the Jewish State, should be cause for sober reflection and reevaluation as well as celebration. Indeed, we Israeli Jews have much to celebrate. But something, it appears, is amiss. Israel’s 60 Year gala appeared exaggerated, the joy expressed through the blaring loudspeakers somewhat artificial and forced. The celebrations were certainly more militaristic and triumphalist than usual. Neither the Palestinians nor the Occupation were allowed to penetrate the close narrative encasing Independence Day, of course, but military themes and displays, plus  the presence of thousands of soldiers and police in every public place, conveyed an underlying disquiet. Something else was present, an unsettling but unspoken element. I call it the Palestinian poltergeist.

Perhaps our loud triumphalism had to do less with celebration than with the disturbing realization that the two-state solution, which even Olmert claims is Israel‘s only hope of remaining a Jewish state, is disappearing before our eyes. Anyone familiar with Israel’s massive settlements blocs, its fragmentation of the Palestinian territories and their irreversible incorporation into Israel proper through a maze of Israeli-only highways and other “facts on the ground,” anyone who has spent an hour in the West Bank, can plainly see that this is the case. The expansion of Israel’s Matrix of Control throughout the Occupied Territories, coupled with American protection from any international pressures for meaningfully withdrawal, have rendered a viable Palestinian state, and thus a genuine two-state solution, unattainable.

The transformation of the Occupation into a permanent political fact now shifts the question of co-existence, peace and reconciliation from the West Bank and Gaza to the entire country, to an indivisible Israel/Palestine. This is the true significance of the 60 Years. For if a viable Palestinian state cannot be detached from Israel, then the conflict becomes one which encompasses the entire country from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River. The focus on 1948 raises issues we’d rather leave untouched, events and policies we have suppressed these past six decades.

Did the Palestinians really flee or did we Israeli Jews drive them out? If almost half the inhabitants of that part of Palestine apportioned by the UN to the Jews in 1947 were Arabs, how could we have turned even that small bit of land into a “Jewish state”? Is Zionism, then, truly free of war crimes or did we in fact conduct a deliberate and cruel campaign of ethnic cleansing that went far beyond the borders of partition? In that context, was the occupation of the entire land of Palestine the result of Jordanian miscalculation or, from a perspective of forty years later, was in actually an inevitable “completion” of 1948, as Rabin and many others have said? How can we reconcile our professed desire for peace with a steady annexation of the Occupied Territories, including almost 250 settlements? Can we really expect to “win,” to frustrate Palestinian aspirations for freedom in their homeland forever, and if we do, what kind of society will we have, what will our children inherit? Indeed, while we presume to speak in the name of world Jewry, can we expect our Diaspora – fundamentally liberal and not tribal as is Judaism in Israel – to support war crimes that only undermine the moral basis of their community, convictions and faith?

And then comes the hardest question of all: If it was we who eliminated a viable two-state solution – the creation of a truncated Palestinian prison-state on 15% of historic Palestine a la South Africa’s Bantustans will not solve the conflict – then how will we end our century-old conflict? How will we deal with the bi-national entity that is Israel/Palestine, largely our own creation?

In order to avoid these questions, we have developed a number of mechanisms, delaying forever a political solution being only one of them. It is enough for us to merely assert our support for a two-state solution in order that we be considered peace-minded and reasonable. Two-state supporters require only the notion of a Palestinian state, a never-ending process towards it, to escape confronting the reality we created. As long as a Palestinian state can be held out as a possibility, the pressure’s off. Thus many Israelis, Diaspora Jews and others – including such searching and otherwise radical figures as Noam Chomsky and Uri Avnery, together with the Peace Now, Brit Tzedek, Rabbis Michael Lerner and Arthur Waskow and members of Rabbis for Human Rights – cling tenaciously to the two-state solution, all refusing to admit it is no longer viable.

The 40th anniversary of 1967 had to do with occupation. Had we dealt with that issue wisely and justly, Israel today could have been a Jewish state living at peace with its neighbors on 78% of the Land of Israel, a true cause for celebration. This year’s focus on 60 Years, on 1948, is a different matter entirely. If we want to salvage a national Jewish presence in Palestine/Israel, nothing remains but to courageously confront what we did in 1948 and the bi-national reality we have fostered since 1967.  No longer can we blame the Palestinians for our dilemmas; they accepted the two-state solution way back in 1988. No, it is us, the triumphant, those who believed (and still believe) that military power combined with Jewish victimhood can defeat a people’s will to freedom, who carry the burden of responsibility for this most anti-Zionist, yet wholly predicable, situation.

Only a reconciling of our celebration with Palestinian loss will we finally begin to deal with the presence “in our country” of another people with equal claims and rights, paving the way to a just peace, reconciliation and the securing of a Jewish national presence in the Land of Israel – whatever political form that might take. Difficult as it may be, such a reassessment may in fact allow us to achieve Zionism’s original and ultimate aspiration: a genuine homecoming of the Jewish nation to the hearth of its civilization. Our dybbuks and the Palestinian poltergeist will be finally put to rest. Now that will be cause for genuine, unfettered celebration.

JEFF HALPER is the Coordinator of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD). He can be reached at jeff@icahd.org.

More articles by:
August 21, 2018
Anthony DiMaggio
Fascist Nation: The “Alt-Right” Menace Persists, Despite Setbacks
Chris Floyd
Dial “N” for Mayhem: Wording Our Way to a New Level of Hell
Creston Davis
The Education Impasse in the USA
Jonathan Cook
In Detaining Peter Beinart, Israel Has Declared it No Longer Represents Millions of Jews Overseas
Kshama Sawant
UPS Teamsters, We Have Your Back in this Fight
Kenneth Culton
Trump Supporters: the Joyous Cult Bound by Shared Story and Ritual
Andy Thayer
Why the Chicago ‘68 Convention Matters Today
Simone Chun
Sea of Tears: The Tragedy of Families Split by the Korean War
William Blum
The Russians Did It (cont.)
Manuel E. Yepe
How Capitalism Erodes Mental Health
Doug Noble
“Abolish ICE”? Then Why Not Abolish All US Militarism?
Thomas Mountain
Djibouti Faces Dark Days to Come; Eritrean Ports, Pipeline Threaten Ethiopian Trade Lifeline
Binoy Kampmark
Finding Fault and Faulty Infrastructure: Genoa’s Morandi Bridge Disaster
Kary Love
“Suffer Not the Little Children….”
Thomas Knapp
Omarosa Manigault Newman, Public Servant
August 20, 2018
Carl Boggs
The Road to Disaster?
James Munson
“Not With a Bomb, But a Whimper” … Then More Bombs.
Jonathan Cook
Corbyn’s Labour Party is Being Made to Fail –By Design
Robert Fisk
A US Trade War With Turkey Over a Pastor? Don’t Believe It
Howard Lisnoff
The Mass Media’s Outrage at Trump: Why the Surprise?
Faisal Khan
A British Muslim’s Perspective on the Burkha Debate
Andrew Kahn
Inhumanity Above the Clouds
Dan Glazebrook
Trump’s New Financial War on the Global South
George Wuerthner
Why the Gallatin Range Deserves Protection
Ted Rall
Is Trump a Brand-New Weird Existential Threat? No.
Sheldon Richman
For the Love of Reason
Susie Day
Why Pundits Scare Me
Dean Baker
Does France’s Economy Need to Be Renewed?
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Mighty Voice for Peace Has Gone Silent: Uri Avnery, 1923-2018
Weekend Edition
August 17, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Daniel Wolff
The Aretha Dialogue
Nick Pemberton
Donald Trump and the Rise of Patriotism 
Joseph Natoli
First Amendment Rights and the Court of Popular Opinion
Andrew Levine
Midterms 2018: What’s There to Hope For?
Robert Hunziker
Hothouse Earth
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Running Out of Fools
Ajamu Baraka
Opposing Bipartisan Warmongering is Defending Human Rights of the Poor and Working Class
Paul Street
Corporate Media: the Enemy of the People
David Macaray
Trump and the Sex Tape
CJ Hopkins
Where Have All the Nazis Gone?
Daniel Falcone
The Future of NATO: an Interview With Richard Falk
Cesar Chelala
The Historic Responsibility of the Catholic Church
Ron Jacobs
The Barbarism of US Immigration Policy
Kenneth Surin
In Shanghai
William Camacaro - Frederick B. Mills
The Military Option Against Venezuela in the “Year of the Americas”
Nancy Kurshan
The Whole World Was Watching: Chicago ’68, Revisited
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail