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Israel’s Grand Illusion Collapses in Gaza’s Ruins


The Film ‘The Grand Illusion’ by Jean Renoir, which I’ve been returning to occasionally through the years, is a 1937 B&W masterpiece that suggests, among other things, that “war is futile, and that mankind’s common experiences should prevail above political division, and its extension: war.” (Wikipedia.) “Renoir’s critique of contemporary politics and ideology celebrates the universal humanity that transcends national and racial boundaries and radical nationalism.”

I was thinking often about this film during the latest Israeli-Palestinian flare-up of semi-war with Hamas in Gaza. And what strikes me the most is not only the futility of war (it’s the fourth or fifth such round-of-hostility since Hamas took over power in Gaza in 2007), but the complete collapse of Israel’s belief that the Palestinian issue and conflict has been put to rest. The notion that—especially during the last twelve years of Netanyahu’s rule—the Palestinian political struggle for independence and a state of their own is practically all but over. That Israel has succeeded in squashing their national aspirations down. That they will agree, and get used to living as second, or third-class citizens under Israel’s occupation for good.

Maybe the biggest prize that Trump has given Netanyahu—more even than moving the American Embassy to Jerusalem, and declaring the disputed Golan Heights an Israeli territory—was the ‘Abraham Accords.’ The so-called ‘peace deal’ with the United Emirates and Bahrain, far away oil-rich Sheikdoms, and then Morocco and Sudan, all bribed and blackmailed to a degree by the Trump/Kushner administration with ‘huge’ presents to sign in on it. Of course, Israel was never at war with any of these outlier countries, and the agreement was at best a ‘normalization of relations.’ “We are witnessing the last vestiges of what has been known as the Arab-Israeli conflict,” Jared Kushner wrote in the Wall Street Journal two months ago.

Unfortunately, many fell into the fallacy of these agreements, including some experience, astute observers. For Netanyahu, the biggest prize was that by diverting the conflict away from the Palestinian issue—here we go, ‘The Grand Illusion’—that conflict would go away. So much so that he and others in the Israeli government were living under the delusion that the Palestinian issue is done and cooked on low heat forever, never to be irrupted again. “The deadly fiction that the Palestinians were so abject and defeated that Israel could simply ignore their demands,” wrote Michelle Goldberg in the NY Times recently.

Oh man, how wrong one can be—Netanyahu that is—when one’s sole purpose is to remain in power. And to use that power as means not for justice and humanity, but for victory at all costs. And make no mistake, the latest war was not about Gaza, nor was it about “Israel’s right to defend itself.” It was not even about the Palestinian elections and their inner power struggle, or Israel’s politicians attempting to form a governing coalition (as some have suggested). No: It was about the Palestinians right to exist in dignity. To have a state of their own. To be treated as human beings with equal rights under the sun. Not to be evicted at will from their homes in Jerusalem—where it all had started, this time and also many years ago—and to end the occupation once and for all. To borrow and paraphrase Bill Clinton’s campaign slogan, it was “The occupation, stupid.”

Israel’s refusal since the end of the Six-Day War of 1967 to realize that, to accept the consequences, and mostly its failure to stop the expansion of the settlement endeavor, is very costly and now almost behind repair. The two-state solution is dead, declared so here before, or at best is on death bed. Even with Biden in charge in Washington; even with a new Prime Minister in Israel (hard to believe it would ever happen); even if Israelis would realize their mistake (some do, the majority don’t), I don’t see how it can be reversed. I hope it can, but the facts on the ground, and the political challenges against it, are too immense. It is now a one-state solution. And how it would survive and thrive is anybody’s guess.

Case in point: Arab Israelis. Or Palestinian Israelis. For the first time in a long time they irrupted too. On the streets of Israeli cities with mixed populations—Lod, Accra, Haifa, Jerusalem, and Jaffa—they revolted and took to the streets, causing death, injuries, and havoc. They fought against extremist Jewish right-wingers who fought against them with the police mostly on their side. (Black Lives Matter, anybody?) It was ugly. It was violent. But it proved one point rather clearly: Put aside the political overture of some Israeli politicians and one Arab moderate politician to form a united governing coalition, the Arab Israeli people are not with them. They see themselves as Palestinians. That is how and where their hearts beat.

So deal with it, Israel, before it’s too late. If it’s not already so.

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Annexation: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly


As I write this, it’s not clear at all whether Israel’s new government—despite the date of July 1st set for it in its coalition agreement—will indeed go ahead with the annexation plan of some thirty percent of the West Bank, including all settlements blocks and the Jordan Valley. Contrary to common belief and perception, Netanyahu himself might not be so keen on executing this plan, without a clear mandate from Trump. Also, now that the most ardent political rightwing party supporting such a move isn’t in his government, but in the opposition, he may hesitate to take all the blame himself on such a problematic, historical step. And he will, therefore, possibly, continue to maintain the status quo, ‘managing the situation,’ in which he’s so good at and have done so for so long. It worked well for him until now, so why change it? Let’s examine.

The Good: As someone who not only has opposed to the annexation throughout his life, following the Six-Day War, but also has protested and detested vehemently the settlement endeavor, how can I now find any good in it? Well, let me tell you. Simply because this said annexation, for all intends and purposes, is a fait accompli. It’s a done deal, for quite some years now. There’s no conceivable Palestinian state to be found, unfortunately, and no two-state solution either. It is dead. And not from today. In actuality, there’s only a ‘One-State’ solution. Only Israel and Netanyahu are keeping it under wrap and disguise. There’s no going back. It’s much better for the Palestinian leadership to understand and accept this—which I believe most Palestinian people know and accept—and go from there. They should insist on sharing responsibility to the old/new Israel-Palestine State, with equal rights to all its citizens.

The Bad: There’s no way that Israel, and Israel’s citizens, will accept the above solution. As it will mean—sooner or later—the end of Israel as a Jewish state. Alternately therefore, it will mean Israel will continue to control the West Bank in its entirety, will continue to harass and terrorize the Palestinian people, and mostly but clearly: It means an Apartheid-like state. Which is not only bad but disastrous internationally for Israel. A state, a country that was established and built on the ashes of the Holocaust, and generation and centuries of pogroms, persecutions, and denial of basic human rights to Jews not only in Europe, but throughout the world. To do so, inflict the same on another people, on the Palestinians presently, will mean not only the end of Israel as a democratic nation, not only would open a wide chasm with Jews in America and Europe, but will pull the rug from under the entire Zionist dream and endeavor.

The Ugly: As detailed here in a previous blogpost – ‘The Battle That Never Ended” (March 25, 2018), and was published also in Moment Magazine online – before the short and decisive Six-Day War was over, a group of respected Palestinian leaders and elders (and remember, the Palestinian people didn’t initiate, nor participated in that war), wrote a letter to the Israeli government proposing basically the principles of a Two-State solution, with full recognition of Israel by the Palestinians. To this day, they’re still waiting for a response. The reason they didn’t receive a response yet, and the reason why—despite numerous attempts, by some leaders in Israel and abroad—there was never a chance they would get a response, is because Israel never really intended on pulling back from the West Bank. The settlement movement enjoyed the support of all Israeli governments, and except President Bush the father, the support of all American administrations. And the support, until lately (now that it’s too late), of the vast majority of American Jews. Some European countries, who had read correctly the sign on the wall, never really did anything meaningful except shouting “wolf!”

But now that the “wolf” is here, these countries are shouting it yet again. It won’t help. The ugly reality is that Israel has brought upon itself the conundrum it finds itself in. It never meant to withdraw. The occupation—and therefore the annexation—started the day after the Six-day War, and never ceased to exist and prosper. Nothing can change that situation now. The last chance, the last leader who had the power to reverse course—and apparently realized his own and Israel’s grave mistakes in their obsession with “facts on the ground”—was Ariel Sharon. But like Sadat, Rabin, and Arafat (though unlike them he wasn’t assassinated) he paid for it with his life, though in somewhat different circumstances. We, Israelis and Jews, are now stuck with it.

One Final Word: We live in a time of grave global pandemic, the coronavirus. In Israeli hospitals, Palestinian and Israeli Arab doctors and nurses played a significant role in taking care, regardless of their race, ethnicity or religion, of the sick and the dying. Their contribution, and ability to work side by side with Israeli doctors and nurses, might signal the way to go. The future of coexistence, under one state to come, might be here to stay.

* The ‘Leave a Comment’ link is the last tag below, in blue.

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