FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

History on a Billboard

by LAWRENCE DAVIDSON

For the past few weeks, those taking local trains from New York City’s wealthier suburbs into Manhattan have encountered a succinct billboard history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The lesson comes in the form of four aligned maps showing the absorption of Palestinian land by Israel from 1946 to the present, along with a declaration that “4.7 million Palestinians are classified by the U.N. as refugees.” In all respects, the ad is historically correct.

This was made possible thanks to the efforts of Mr. Henry Clifford, chairman of the area’s local Committee for Peace in Israel/Palestine, who purchased the billboard space so as to educate readers to what really is happening under the Israeli regime of occupation so generously supported by U.S. dollars.

Immediately the ads were labeled “anti-Semitic” by area rabbis and Jewish community leaders. Here is the reasoning of Dovid Efune, “editor of the Manhattan-based Jewish newspaper, The Algemeiner.” “This is anti-Semitic because when people think of the Jews they think of the Jewish state. Jews have seen this happen many times. It always starts with messaging that says Jews are committing a crime.”

Three things are to be said about Mr. Efune’s reaction: 1) On one hand, he seems not to care that the map display and UN statistic are accurate and what that means for the lives of millions of people. 2) On the other, and no doubt quite inadvertently, he does infer that what the ad reveals is criminal behavior. 3) Finally, if there is any truth to the assertion that “when people think of the Jews they think of the Jewish state” it is because Zionist propagandists have, for over 64 years, incessantly insisted on that identification. Those Jews who have publically denied the connection have been abused and libeled. So, to the extent that Jews in general are identified with Israel’s “committing a crime,” you can thank the Zionists for that.

Rabbi Joshua Davidson (no relation to this blogger), senior Rabbi of Temple Beth El in northern Westchester, N.Y., says the map ad presents “a distorted and skewed view of a complicated conflict.” Actually, that is untrue. The ad simply puts forth historical truth. In addition, the conflict really is not as complex as Zionists say it is. It is the consequence of a rather straightforward, post-World War I, imperialist land grab that, in the case of Palestine, is on-going even now. It was and continues to be justified by religious mythology on the one hand and the history of anti-Semitic persecution on the other. The land grab was originally abetted by the British imperial politicians, some of whom imagined that they were helping to fulfill biblical prophecy, and others who saw a Jewish homeland in Palestine as a way of solving the “Jewish problem” in Europe. The Palestinians, being seen as inferior natives, were then and are now, still pushed aside.

Fanaticism On The Ground

Rabbi Davidson might object to such simplicity, but Dani Dayan would not. Dayan is the leader of the “Yesha Council of Jewish Communities,” a leading organization espousing Israeli settlement of the West Bank. Unlike Rabbi Davidson, Dayan does not seek refuge in historical complexity. He lays it on the line in a recent New York Times Op-ed“Arabs called for Israel’s annihilation in 1967, and Israel legitimately seized the disputed territories, and the right of Israelis to call them home today, is therefore unassailable.”

Unfortunately, the days when conquest automatically resulted in a transfer of sovereignty ended with World War II. The primary rationale for the creation of the United Nations and the expansion of international law was to prevent just the sort of behavior Dayan describes.

Also, like the statement of Dovid Efune, Dayan’s argument is logically confused. He is claiming that the hyperbolic rhetoric of Arab leaders in the run-up to the 1967 war somehow frees Israel from its obligations as a signatory to such international treaties as the 4th Geneva Convention. Article 49(3) of that treaty prohibits an occupying power from “transferring parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” Successive Israeli governments, both of the left and the right, have energetically violated that law by transferring civilians into these conquered lands. Dani Dayan now proudly points out there are some 350,000 of these illegal squatters (the number goes up by 200,000 if we include the Israeli transfers into Jerusalem). And, because this now constitutes the new “status quo,” Mr. Dayan proclaims that Israelis have the “right…to call” such territories “home.”  Where did he get that right? From his god? From very ancient history? From the fact he walks about the area with an Uzi submachine gun strapped over his shoulder? There is certainly no basis for it in international law.

Dayan presents these illegally accomplished facts on the ground as “irreversible” and the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as “unattainable.” He challenges his readers to understand the “realpolitik” truth of his position. And, according to Richard Falk, United Nations Special Rapporteur for Palestinian Human Rights, it is hard to “doubt the force of Dayan’s reasoning on this central issue.” Well, if not settler leader’s reasoning, which is faulty, then certainly one cannot doubt Israel’s physical possession of increasing amounts of Palestinian land. Apparently, the governments of the world have capitulated to Dani Dayan and vigilante squatters. Hamas, which would gladly defy them, is confined, also with international blessings, to Gaza, the world’s largest outdoor prison. Thus, there is no military presence on the ground that can gainsay Mr. Dayan. So what does this imply, that might makes right? Is that Mr. Dayan’s version of Israel acting as a “light unto the nations”? Apparently so.

The  Need for Outside Pressure

However, Dani Dayan and his settler movement have not written the final act in this tragedy. Even if we take note of his present position in the West Bank, and also admit that the “peace process” is a pitiful fraud, it is premature for Dayan to proclaim that he has won the struggle and we must all accept his “status quo.” Colonialist ventures can be defeated in more than one way. The “usual” way is through prolonged and bloody armed struggle. Thanks to the world-class military machine the United States has helped Israel create and maintain, this is not a likely path to success. But such regimes have also been forced to transform themselves into more equitable, more democratic, and less repressive ones through concerted outside pressure. And such pressure is now as real and growing as Dayan’s squatter movement.

A major effort at outside pressure is the worldwide BDS (boycott, divestment and sanctions) campaign against Israel. Ilan Pappe, an Israeli born professor at Exeter University in England, notes that this “campaign’s elasticity has made it into a broad process powerful enough to produce a new public mood and atmosphere….” As someone who has spent the last 35 years espousing the Palestinian cause, I can testify to the truth of that statement, even here in the United States.

It might very well be that Israel is here to stay. But that does not mean that it will always be the racist, oppressive society it is now. Consistently applied outside pressure, growing in scope and strength, can wear down support for ideologues such as Dani Dayan and his backers both in and outside of today’s Israel. It can, slowly but surely, convince ordinary Israelis that they have a choice: go along with their expansionist leaders and face increasing international isolation or, as Pappe puts it, cooperate willingly in “finding a formula for joint living” – that is, creating a better society that is tolerant and mindful of the need for justice, first and foremost for Israel’s victims, the Palestinian people. Also a nation that can be trusted to honor their obligations under international law.

It should be clearly understood that it is not just Israel’s future or that of the Palestinians that is at stake here. All of us have to ask what value we place on international law.  What value do we place on a world that recognizes the primacy of law born sane human reason, rather than religious mythology, apocalyptic fantasies, and tribal nationalism? It is all wrapped up together; as goes the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, so goes the viability of international law.

It is ironic in the aftermath of the Holocaust that international law was strengthened and now, as the history so simply displayed on Mr. Clifford’s billboards tells us, it is the Israelis who choose to cast it aside. If we allow this to happen, the world becomes more dangerous for all of us.

Lawrence Davidson is professor of history at West Chester University in West Chester PA.

 

More articles by:

Lawrence Davidson is professor of history at West Chester University in West Chester, PA.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

July 26, 2017
John W. Whitehead
Policing for Profit: Jeff Sessions & Co.’s Thinly Veiled Plot to Rob Us Blind
Pete Dolack
Trump’s Re-Negotiation Proposal Will Make NAFTA Worse
George Capaccio
“Beauty of Our Weapons” in the War on Yemen
Ramzy Baroud
Fear and Trepidation in Tel Aviv: Is Israel Losing the Syrian War?
John McMurtry
Brexit Counter-Revolution Still in Motion
Ted Rall
The Democrats Are A Lost Cause
Tom Gill
Is Macron Already Faltering?
Ed Kemmick
Empty Charges Erode Trust in Montana Elections
Rev. William Alberts
Fake News? Or Fake Faith?
James Heddle
The Ethics and Politics of Nuclear Waste are Being Tested in Southern California
Binoy Kampmark
Slaying in Minneapolis: Justine Damond, Shooting Cultures and Race
Jeff Berg
Jonesing for Real Change
Jesse Jackson
The ‘Voter Fraud’ Commission Itself is Fraudulent
July 25, 2017
Paul Street
A Suggestion for Bernie: On Crimes Detectable and Not
David W. Pear
Venezuela on the Edge of Civil War
John Grant
Uruguay Tells US Drug War to Take a Hike
Charles Pierson
Like Climate Change? You’ll Love the Langevin Amendment
Linda Ford
Feminism Co-opted
Andrew Stewart
Any Regrets About Not Supporting Clinton Last Summer?
Aidan O'Brien
Painting the Irish Titanic Pink
Rob Seimetz
Attitudes Towards Pets vs Attitudes Towards the Natural World
Medea Benjamin
A Global Movement to Confront Drone Warfare
Norman Solomon
When Barbara Lee Doesn’t Speak for Me
William Hawes
What Divides America From the World (and Each Other)
Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity
Was the “Russian Hack” an Inside Job?
Chandra Muzaffar
The Bilateral Relationship that Matters
Binoy Kampmark
John McCain: Cancer as Combatant
July 24, 2017
Patrick Cockburn
A Shameful Silence: Where is the Outrage Over the Slaughter of Civilians in Mosul?
Robert Hunziker
Extremely Nasty Climate Wake-Up
Ron Jacobs
Dylan and Woody: Goin’ Down the Road Feelin’ Bad
Dan Glazebrook
Quantitative Easing: the Most Opaque Transfer of Wealth in History
Ellen Brown
Saving Illinois: Getting More Bang for the State’s Bucks
Richard Hardigan
The Media is Misleading the Public on the Al-Asqa Mosque Situation
Matthew Stevenson
Travels in Trump’s America: Memphis, Little Rock, Fayetteville and Bentonville
Ruth Fowler
Fire at Grenfell
Ezra Kronfeld
The Rights of Sex Workers: Where is the Movement to Legalize Prostitution
Mark Weisbrot
What Venezuela Needs: Negotiation Not Regime Change
Binoy Kampmark
From Spicy to the Mooch: A Farewell to Sean Spicer
Wim Laven
Progress Report, Donald Trump: Failing
Weekend Edition
July 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Kevin Zeese
Green Party Growing Pains; Our Own Crisis of Democracy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Red State, Blue State; Green State, Deep State
Paul Street
“Inclusive Capitalism,” Nancy Pelosi, and the Dying Planet
Anthony DiMaggio
Higher Education Fallacies: What’s Behind Rising Conservative Distrust of Learning?
Andrew Levine
Why Republicans Won’t Dump Trump Anytime Soon
Michael Colby
Ben & Jerry’s Has No Clothes
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail