Monday, November 10, 2014

“It is time to honestly admit that Israel is sick, and it is our duty to treat this illness.”

If you follow the Palestine/Israel situation closely and see the daily reports of settlers burning Palestinians' olive orchards and fields and killing their sheep or beating Palestinian women and children, if you've seen videos of young Jews roaming the streets of Israel's cities chanting "death to the Arabs," which is what most Israelis call Palestinians so they don't have to concede there's a Palestine, if you know about the thousands of young Palestinians locked in Israeli prisons where they are tortured and beaten, or about the humiliations Palestinians go through at the many checkpoints Israel has set up in Palestinian towns that restrict their movements, if you know about the ongoing confiscations of Palestinian land and the thousands of home demolitions, if you know about the Knesset, Israel's legislative body, the apartheid laws it passes, the vulgarity with which its members openly and publicly spew their hatred of "the Arabs," if you the read the Israeli press and the comments one after another about the sub human Arabs who must be exterminated, you have for some time realized that Israel as a whole is in the grip of a kind of pathology.

Israeli nationalists attacking Israeli peace protesters
This pathology, which excuses the occupation, the periodic massacres in Gaza, and all the rest of it, has been discussed in articles and papers. Various causes have been put forth; that Israel is surrounded by hostile neighbors, that any colonial project like Israel ends up that way, that the unconditional support the US has given to Israel can only have led to it.

This pathology, however, isn't part of the official discourse about Israel. No US president has talked about it nor have the members of congress who routinely voice their unanimous, unconditional support for Israel and its occupation and it massacres.

But now, Israel's recently elected president, Ruven Rivlin, is talking about it openly. The title of this post is a quote from him.
Ruven Rivlin
Rivlin is no flaming liberal peacenick. He's a member of the conservative Likud Party, former Knesset speaker, and a stanch Zionist who firmly believes in settlement building and the goal of Greater Israel -- that Israel should have all of ancient Palestine. He just thinks that Palestinians are people and have rights like Jews do.

It's with Rivlin's thoughts about Israel's mental illness that The New Yorker's editor David Remnick begins one of the most honest and straightforward assessments of the situation in Israel you'll find in the American mainstream media, or anywhere else for that matter.

Remnick's piece is really part of a discussion now being taken up by some influential Israelis about whether the "two-state solution" is dead, and what a one-state solution might look like. It's almost all from an Israeli perspective, which in some ways makes it more convincing and in some ways reveals an ulterior motive to discussions like this.

Remnick talks to well connected Israelis, some of whom have given up on the two state solution and some who have not, and some of whom, significantly, are honest about the importance played in this discussion by Zionism's original fatal flaw, which is that despite the holocaust and the discrimination and mistreatment Jews have suffered in many places and times, Zionism, starting a Jewish only state in Palestine, wasn't the remedy for that. Because the Palestinians were already there, it wasn't right to take their land, and they would never stop trying to get it back.

I recommend the article for anyone wanting a better understanding of the current situation and of the prospects for a just settlement to the problem. Remnick isn't optimistic. He ends the piece by drawing a parallel between what finally did South African apartheid in and what Israel is facing -- which is the effect isolation, disrespect, and being shunned eventually has on a country's elites. They eventually want it to end.

Here's he's referring to the growing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in support of Palestine and the beginning of the fraying of support for Israel in high places and more widely among the general public worldwide. Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions, or BDS, really has some Israelis and Israel supporters worried. Some in Israel's leadership have called it the most serious threat to Israel's existence there is. It's possible that people like Remnick, and like Noam Chomsky and Amy Goodman, who I consider to be "soft Zionists," are being honest about Israel and having this discussion more from a desire to save Zionism from itself than a desire for justice for the Palestinians.

If that's the case, so much the better if it prompts them to be more honest about Israel. People like that, however, who want to decide on a solution and impose it on the Palestinians, instead of letting Palestinians say what justice means to them, know in the back of the minds that although there seems to be no way out of the current situation, there's always the "status quo," that is, plugging along for another generation or more as things are, and just dealing with the problems it creates.

Even at that, the more honest these people are about Israel the better. But better still is that because world opinion might be getting away from opinionators like them, Israel's future may not be determined by them, or by the US congress, or Israel.


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