Equality for All or Genocide, that is Israel’s Choice

The big problem today is anti-Palestinianism not antisemitism.

Amidst death, destruction, human suffering and horror these are words many people will not want to hear, but they are true, nonetheless.

Most of the world has long seen the solution to the problem of Israeli-Palestinian conflict as two states or, more recently, one secular state for all the people who live on the land that Israel now controls. Most of the world recognizes that the lack of national rights and unfair, unequal treatment of Palestinians motivates resistance to Israel. But rather than progress to some such solution, the past decades have seen the exact opposite. Why?

Deeply embedded racism against Palestinians is one obvious answer. For supporters of a “Jewish state” Palestinians are an obstacle, the “other” preventing the fulfillment of a Zionist dream of “greater Israel”.

Supporters of Israel say: “Those Palestinians resist a Jewish state so they must be antisemites.” As if that is the only possible motivating factor for someone to disagree with the creation and existence of an ethno-religious state.

But history provides example after example of people trying to achieve their own state, of people facing inequality and unjust laws acting in similar fashion to Palestinians. From Americans to Haitians to Mexicans to Malaysians to Kenyans to Algerians to South Africans to Indigenous people around the world and many more. Most people who fought for their freedom and independence committed gross acts of violence and were accused of terrorism. Stating this truth is not “cheering on” violence but rather the first step in honestly trying to find a way of ending the cycle of killing.

There’s a ridiculous meme travelling around Facebook with a quote from former Israel prime minister Golda Meir to the effect that you can’t negotiate with people who come to murder you. If that were true, no wars would ever have negotiated ends. The fact people who support Israel post this meme demonstrates the depth of their anti-Palestinian racism.

“There’s no such thing as Palestinians. Those people are nothing but murderers. Those people don’t love their children because they use them as shields against our air force’s bombs. Those people are ‘human animals’. Those people are nothing but antisemites because they kill Jews.” Ever read or hear such words?

I repeat, is antisemitism the only possible motivating factor for someone to disagree with the creation and existence of an ethno-religious state? How about someone who lives in an open-air prison such as Gaza? Someone who has had dozens of family and friends, including babies, killed by Israel’s rockets and bombs? Or faces West Bank checkpoints to travel to school or work? Or has family and friends killed by IDF incursions into Palestinian neighbourhoods? Whose 12-year-old son has been arrested and jailed because he threw rocks at Israeli troops? Whose olive groves have been destroyed by settlers? Whose favourite journalist has been shot and killed by an Israeli sniper while doing her job?

The truth is both Israelis and Palestinians have plenty of “good” reasons to hate each other. And those “good” reasons continue to mount. But this is asymmetrical hatred. One side has 95 percent of the power. Ninety-nine percent if you include the power of accusations of antisemitism. Historical and current day antisemitism and the widespread desire to end it have been weaponized to defend Israel, deflect criticism of that country and to enable anti-Palestinian racism. Accusations of antisemitism have been used to shut down all peaceful means of struggle, such as BDS, for Palestinian liberation. Both Christian and Jewish “people of the Book” use various interpretations of religious texts to justify their racism toward Palestinians.

But anyone who truly wants a just peace, a lasting peace in the “Holy Land” must find ways to acknowledge and overcome this anti-Palestinian racism. You might not like to hear that. It might make you angry. But it is the truth.

Equality for all or genocide. Those are the choices.

Gary Engler is a Canadian journalist, novelist (The Year We Became Us) and co-author of the recently released New Commune-ist Manifesto — Workers of the World It Really is Time to Unite (www.newcommuneist.com).  He is currently working on the first great hockey novel tentatively titled Puck Hog.