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Build Peace – Not Walls

muftah.org

muftah.org

The “Christians United for Israel” evangelical organization, CUFI, had recently brought an Israeli Colonel, Dan Tirza, to the Sacramento Conservative Jewish Congregation of Mosaic Law, to do some “Hasbara.” The Hebrew word for explaining, and informing in a patriotic way. As the chief architect of the “Security Barrier,” he was to explain to the congregants – who, by the way, needed no explanation or persuasion on the matter – why the “Barrier had to be Built.” Colonel Tirza who, according to himself and to the CUFI local official who introduced him, had participated in previous peace negotiations between Israeli diplomats and Palestinian officials, was bombastically justifying (he actually refused to use the microphone, and spoke loudly, directly to the disciples) the need for building the notorious Separation Wall. Or Separation Fence. Or Separation Barrier. Or the Apartheid Wall, as the Palestinians call it. Call it what you will – indeed, in its short time of existence it has accumulated many names – it most definitely built a notorious, nasty reputation for itself.

To the delight of my fellow congregates, the Colonel first gave a short explanation as to why Israel had to build the fence. (According to him, it is 95% barrier fence, and only 5% barrier wall.) Following the collapse of the Oslo Accords, he proclaimed, and the eruption of the Second Intifada, which caused many civilian casualties, death and injury in Israel, the necessity for the barrier had become a reality. Naturally, he squarely blamed the Palestinians for the collapse of the peace negotiations and the Oslo Accords. Hence the need for the fence/wall. (Let’s settle here on this compromise: fence/wall.) What he clearly forgot to mention, purposely I believe, was that much of the fence/wall “is built outside the 1949 Armistice Line (Green Line), annexing potentially 10 percent of Palestinian land,” (per the UN in Wikipedia). “It cuts far into the West Bank territory at places, and encompasses Israel’s largest settlement blocs containing hundreds of thousands of settlers.” Annexation de facto, I call it. Not less important, to my mind, he forgot to mention that the Oslo Accords had collapsed mainly because one Jewish religious extremist – supported from the back, directly and indirectly by many others, including Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of the opposition then – who took the law into his own hands in the form of a handgun, and assassinated Yitzhak Rabin, the Israeli Prime Minister, who was about to make the peace accords a reality.

Typical oversight, when you do such “Israeli Hasbara” to American Jews. Because you see, the collapse of said peace initiative, and any and all other peace initiatives to follow, is exactly because Israel has refused to make peace following PM Rabin’s assassination. You might call me to order here, and remind me of Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat at Camp David. Correctly so. However, what Ehud Barak had tried to achieve, with a strong helping hand from President Bill Clinton, was destined to failure from the get go. Yes, Yasser Arafat was a fool not to accept this peace proposal. But no, it had no chance of success no matter what. In Israel there were forces, led by strongman Ariel Sharon, who were already taking upon themselves to derail that peace initiative by any means necessary. Result: they brought about the current unending, unresolved conflict. Yes, following the Oslo Accords some of the Palestinians continued to arm themselves, and resist the occupation. (Shame on them, really.) And yes, Israel – systematically and purposely (shame on them, too) – continued to build settlements on the land the Palestinians are supposed to have a state of their own. Under these circumstances, there was no chance for peace. Therefore, the architect of the “No Peace” strategy, the builder of the “Managing the Situation” policy, i.e. PM Netanyahu, had asked the Colonel to be the architect of that fence/wall.

It reminds me, strangely enough, of the nonchalant remark attributed to Marie Antoinette: “Let them eat cake.” Since the French people had no bread, as result of the long natural famine and human corruption, then let them eat cake. In our case, by analogy, if you don’t have peace, you have the fence/wall. That the citizens of France were hungry, and might’ve simply needed better economic policies and distribution of wealth and resources, was not something the queen could comprehend. With King Bibi it’s the same. (Don’t wait for the revolution, though, it may never come.) And so, if we don’t have peace, citizens of Israel, let’s build walls. Because for peace, as is the case with bread, you need to work. And because the fence/wall will prevent the Arabs from attacking the Jews. And, as anybody and his brother will tell you, that’s why the notorious wall was so successful. It prevented all those terrorist attacks. The citizens of Israel are now living peacefully, separated from their enemies.

Well guess what – terribly sorry to break it to you, my friends – last month two Palestinians from the West Bank infiltrated Israel in spite of the “enormously successful” fence/wall, and murdered in cold blood four Israelis enjoying themselves in the bustling center of the beautiful, peace loving city of Tel Aviv. Previous to that, in about six months, numerous terrorist attacks in that same fashion had occurred in Israel, mainly in Jerusalem. (This week an exposé in the NY Times documented very clearly how the Security Barrier isn’t secure at all; Palestinians in the West Bank are crossing, and jumping over this wall at will to work in Israel in large numbers.) So what’s next, maybe a dome. A bubble. Like in Stephen King’s novel Under the Dome. Cover the whole state with a bullet-resistant, bomb-resistant dome, and our brothers and sisters in Israel will live forever in peace and tranquility under that dome. In the absence of peace (i.e. bread), let them have a dome (i.e. cake). Where is this Colonel now, when we need him again? Hopefully, Mr. Donald Trump is yet to hire him to build that wall on the border of America and Mexico.

But let me end, this time, with the words of someone else, much wiser and accomplished than yours truly. At the end of his very successful, deeply researched and absorbing PBS TV Documentary series, “The Story of the Jews,” historian Simon Schama – who explored the story of the Jewish people from ancient times to the present day – is standing and walking slowly in front of the huge Separation Wall. Among other things, stressing a caveat to his right to speak on the matter, he says this: “Today in Israel the distance between dream and reality can be measured in hundreds of miles of barb wires and concrete… The bible is full of encounters between men and god, between men and other men, between even enemy brothers. It’s very difficult for me to stand here and say that that’s kind of Judaism, the Judaism of openness, of encounter, has chance of new life here. This is Judaism, a Jewishness that looks, scurries beneath the shadows of these towns for safety. It’s not ultimately a Judaism of bravery. It’s not ultimately a Judaism of life.”

* The “Leave a Comment” link is the last tag below, in blue.

State of Illusion

youtube.com

youtube.com

Israel has just celebrated its 68 years of existence as an independent state. On the surface, everything – or let’s be fair here, mostly everything – seems to be quite rosy. The economy, startup-generated and agriculturally-sustained, is booming. The population grew, steadily if not spectacularly, to 8.5 million people. And while Israel is not yet “Light into the Goyim” culturally, the Israeli cinema, and to a degree television too, continues to generate interest and admiration internationally. Socially, though there are plenty of ills, people seem to be living their lives contently. Israel, Tel Aviv in particular, continues to rank relatively high globally when it comes to standard of living and happiness of living. Most important of all, the danger of war doesn’t seem imminent anymore. I would venture to say that the danger of existential war is practically nonexistence.

Nonexistence as well is the “danger” of peace. Netanyahu and his various governments have made sure of that. And now, with his latest move – rejecting the international pressure to create a coalition with Herzog and the Labor Party in order to have a more peace-oriented government, ahead of the newest French peace initiative – he basically buried any chances of peace, and with it the chances of resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, deep in the ground. Add to that the fact that instead, Netanyahu is bringing into his government an old friend and foe by the name of Lieberman, appointing him Defense Minister though he has absolutely zero credentials and qualifications for the job. Together with the six added Knesset Members, this will surely solidify a government opposed to peace. And to any acceptable resolution of the conflict.

Even more so. This government will work hard to continue and expand the occupation of the West Bank. Not only that – and you may, or may not have heard this here first – the real move to annex major parts of the Palestinian territory. Area C to be exact. The makeup of the new coalition in power, including a religious zealot (American Jew, no less) rightwing MK in place of the sane, experienced, defender of the moral values of the Israeli army Moshe Ya’alon, the ousting Defense Minister, makes it very likeable that the forces in favor of such a move, such as Naftali Bennett and his party, might prevail. Add to that the turmoil in the Middle East surrounding Israel, and a lame duck President in the white house – with a slight possibility, I do very much want to believe that it’s still just “slight” – of a new president named Trump, a megalomaniac, dangerous con artist of the first degree, and you have a favorable outlook internationally too for Netanyahu and his zealots.

But one has to ask this: If everything looks so good, what’s so wrong with this picture? Well, here’s what’s wrong with it. The continuation of the occupation, which as I’d just pointed out might soon be enhanced (whether officially or not) to annexation, is wrong. And unsustainable. In the long run, I’m talking about. In the short run – and it can be five, ten, even fifty years – it is actually sustainable. Israel’s military might, plus the population shift to the right and the extreme right, will ensure that. But the creation of an Apartheid state de facto, which the countries and forces around Israel in the Middle East, and the International community won’t stand for, is unsustainable in the long run. It spells disaster for Israel and the Jewish People, not to mention its moral implications. But if not an Apartheid State, then what?

Then a binational state. Which, in actual terms, it’s already very much in existence. Again: in the short run, fine and dandy. The management-style of the Israeli policy of governing – i.e. managing the situation, not solving or resolving it — Netanyahu’s contribution to the national and international school of political policy, is working fine. In the long run, it won’t. Because in the long run the Arab, Palestinian, Muslim population between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea will be large enough, maybe even – according to most experts – a majority. And if the people in Israel object to an Apartheid State, and there are disturbing signs that not all of them do, then you have to give the Arab population in the West bank the right to vote, as the Israeli president has indeed suggested. And then you don’t have any longer a Jewish State. Now, if you don’t give them the right to vote, you don’t have a democratic state. In simple terms: you cannot eat the cake and keep it too. The majority of the Palestinians in the West Bank already know this. They don’t have a hope, or even a wish for the Two-State Solution any longer. They rather wait for Israel to implode by itself.

And when talking about imploding, add to that the latest signs in the Israeli society of increase in the elements that resemble fascism. Plain and simple. A zealot soldier shoots and kills, without provocation, and without an order a hapless, disarmed Palestinian man lying on the ground wounded, following a terrorist attack. The army’s Chief of Stuff and the Defense Minister insist to proceed with the rule of law, and according to the moral values, no less important, that Ben Gurion had lain out as the foundation for the Israeli Army. And then all hell breaks loose. And we have others in the Israeli society and government who have come to the defense of that murdering soldier. You don’t believe me, here’s what the commanders of the Israeli army, past and present, are saying about it:

“I fought with all my might against manifestations of extremism, violence and racism in Israeli society, which are threatening its sturdiness and also trickling into the IDF, hurting it already,” said Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon upon his resignation. “Israel Has Been Infected by the Seeds of Fascism,” Says ex-Prime Minister, Defense Minister and IDF Chief of Staff Ehud Barak. He further added: “Life-affirming Zionism and seeds of fascism cannot exit together.” Deputy Chief of Staff Yair Golan had warned this month of “horrifying processes” in today’s Israel that carried echoes of pre-World War II Germany.

Israel, therefore, is living in a state of illusion. An illusion that things can go on forever like that. That misdeeds have no retributions. That crime has no punishment. What will wake and shake it up, and when will that happen, remains to be seen. But the writing is on the wall.

* The “Leave a Comment” link is the last tag below, in blue.

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