Israel’s Grand Illusion Collapses in Gaza’s Ruins

news.yahoo.com

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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Who is a Terrorist?

thebrokenelbow.com

A week ago or so, in Jerusalem, an Israeli Border-Police office was stabbed to death by three Palestinian assailants in broad day light. She was a young woman of 23, her whole life ahead of her, whom relatives described as a “real-life Wonder Woman.” In my book, she is most certainly worthier of that title than the Israeli woman playing that Comic Book hero in cinema theaters, with all the fakery and shield-deflecting bullets. May she rest in peace, Hadas Malka, and may the memory of her bravery and dedication to defending her country be of blessing.

The Palestinians who killed her were shot and killed too by Israeli forces. They were declared by the Israeli Government and Media as terrorists. Indeed, Netanyahu demanded of Abbas to declare and denounce them as such, which Abba refused to do. The reason he refused to do so, whether stated or not, is that for the Palestinians these were not terrorists, but rather freedom fighters. They were part of the resistance, from Hamas and the ‘Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.’ Which, together with other such forces, had been fighting and resisting—though without much success—what they consider to be the occupation and colonialization of their land for the last 50 years.

This difference of view regarding the assailants’ motives and actions, reflects a larger issue of disagreement as to the nature of not only the Palestinian struggle for independence, but also of terrorism at large. Since Israel and its army control their territory, control their every-day life, and keep building settlements on what they regard as their future-state; and yes, sometimes terrorizing them too—think Israeli settlers uprooting their olive trees and slaughtering their sheep—what are they to do? Peace, you say? But Israel’s interest in peace comes second to solidify their control over the occupied territories. It is why, when Netanyahu had demand that Abbas would stop the financial support for the families of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli, who are confined there on charges of murder and terrorism, Abbas had refused to do so. He reacted likewise even when President Trump and Secretary of State Tillerson had demand the same of him. You see: Abbas would lose whatever little credit and respect he still has with his people, who regard those prisoners as martyrs and freedom fighters.

Just a week prior to that, it so happened that four Arab Gulf States severed diplomatic ties, and boycotted a fifth state, Qatar, for supporting terrorist organizations such as Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, including objections to Qatar’s close ties with Turkey and Iran. Qatar reputed these accusations, pointing to its constant fight against terrorism. This effort and boycott is being led by Saudi Arabia, which just received a most generous promise of American weaponry from President Trump, in return for many sacks of gold. Yes, that Saudi Arabia, from where Bin Laden came, and most of the other terrorists who blew up the planes and the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center in New York on September 11, 2001, murdering close to 3000 innocent people. Killing citizens—and citizens only!—indiscriminately in the streets of peace-loving cities, that’s terrorism.

You might be surprised to learn that Nelson Mandela, one of the most revered politicians ever, whose funereal was the largest gathering of international diplomats, including the then American President Barack Obama, was labeled and regarded as a terrorist. First by the British, second by the racist South African white regime, and third by the Americans. As far as 2008, after he’d been already the liberator and president of South Africa—yes, after receiving the Nobel prize for peace, too—he was still on the American terror list. Imagine that!

And imagine also this: Both Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir—who later would become Israel’s Prime Ministers—were labeled and regraded as terrorists. Not only for blowing up the King David Hotel (see picture above) in Jerusalem, killing scores of innocent people from different nationalities, including Jewish victims, together with British Army personnel, but for other acts of murder and atrocities. Even Ben-Gurion, and his Haganah military commanders, who fought so hard for Israel’s independence, had called them, and regarded them as terrorists. And so did the Zionist Congress and Jewish Agency. You can try to justify it by saying that they also fought for Israel’s independence, only sometimes using terrorism means. Just as the Palestinians are doing now. And anyhow, that’s always the case, isn’t it, when fighting for liberation and independence?

And so it goes. One way of looking at it is to say—and principally believe—that terrorism is when you attack and kill indiscriminately innocent people. Young and old, male and female, of all gender and races, who did you no wrong whatsoever, and who are not fighting against you (even if their governments are doing so). They are not occupying your land, your home, your people. Of course, does it really make a difference for this categorization, when your government, on the other hand, indiscriminately blowing up buildings, bombing civilians, ripping them to pieces, killing scores of them, as the Americans still do in Syria and Afghanistan, and as Israel did in Lebanon and Gaza?

Go figure. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines terrorism as “the systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion.” And ‘terror’ as “a state of intense fear;” and also as “violence (as bombing) committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands.” Reign of terror is defined as “a state or a period of time marked by violence often committed by those in power that produces widespread terror.” So there you have it, my friends, no need to spell it out for you. At the end of the day, and argument, it seems clear that ‘who is a terrorist,’ may well be just in the eye of the beholder.

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