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Once More, by Popular Demand, Israel’s Grand Illusion

dailysabah.com

The Film ‘The Grand Illusion’ by Jean Renoir, which I’ve been returning to occasionally throughout the years (and wrote about here before), 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 wrote about it a year ago, almost, during the latest Israeli-Palestinian flare-up with Hamas in Gaza. And what strikes me the most now—following the latest terrorist attacks, stabbing and shooting by ‘lone-wolf’ Palestinians, which caused the death of fourteen civilians on the Israeli side (and I believe some 28 dead on the Palestinian side, as Israel always about double the number of casualties it inflicts on the Palestinians)—as it did then, is not only the futility of war (it was the 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 twelve years of Netanyahu’s rule, but also during this first year of the current government—the Palestinian political struggle for independence and a state of their own is practically all but over. It has been put to rest. Israel has succeeded, the motion goes, in squashing their national aspirations down. They will agree, the Palestinian people—as long as their economy is in good shape, Israel so believes—and get used to living as second, or third-class citizens under Israeli occupation for good. Problem and conflict, solved. Let’s continue with being the start-up nation. Light to the goyim.

Not so, obviously, as not only the latest Palestinian terrorist attacks in Israel so tragically prove, but Israel’s police brutality in Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Israeli army in the West Bank during Ramadan as well. This notion, this ‘grand illusion’ that (as Gershom Gorenberg wrote in the Washington Post, April 8), “… ignoring settler attacks on Palestinians, or treating the deaths of Palestinians at soldiers’ hands in the West Bank as noise from distant galaxies, bring us any closer to peace.” Indeed, until it reaches closer, until it blows violently in your face inside Israel ‘proper,’ you drink your ‘upside-down’ coffee peacefully in a Dizengoff café and treat what’s happening in the occupied territories as “noise from distant galaxies.”

It won’t do. It’s not going to work. Deal with it. The ‘it’ being the Palestinians’ right to exist in peace and 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 last time, and will end this time—and to end the occupation once and for all. To borrow and paraphrase Bill Clinton’s campaign slogan, it’s “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—flying in the face of reality once more—almost behind repair. The two-state solution is dead. It was declared so by yours truly here, and elsewhere, before. At best, it’s on its deathbed. Even with Biden in charge in Washington; even with a new Prime Minister in Israel (hard to believe that it’s almost a year to this unusual government); even if Israelis would realize their mistake (the minority 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. For the first time in Israel’s history an Israeli-Arab Muslim party and its leader, Ra’am and Abbas (respectively), are part of the coalition and its ruling government. And despite all predictions to the contrary, it stayed in it and practically held it together these last ten months. But now, as a result of the eruption of violence in the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem during the Muslims Holy month of Ramadan, their participation is on shaky ground. Wisely, so far, Abbas declared that they would just freeze their participation in the government until the storm is over. ‘Freeze,’ that is, not participate and not withdraw. Let’s see how things progress. As it is, this government has only 60 MKs supporting it out of 120 members in the Knesset. How it will survive for long is anybody’s guess.

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

The Silence of The Jews

savethecat.com

Be warned: This is a horror story, a Halloween story. And since Halloween is my birthday (thank you very much), and I’m going away for a week to celebrate a milestone, I’m writing ahead of schedule and attempting something a bit different for the occasion. I don’t know where I’m going with it (usually I have a pretty good idea before I sit down to write), so we’ll find out together where it leads me. Hopefully—if it’s not scary enough, forbidding enough—you will forgive me.

First though, a bit of background. Some of you may know already that I’m the son of Holocaust survivors. My father, who died in the kibbutz he helped build, escaped from three labor camps in Hungary and Czechoslovakia during five years of horrors, spending his last year as a hungry rat in the streets and sewage tunnels of Budapest while the allies rained bombs. MY mother, still alive and residing in Tel Aviv, survived Auschwitz, seeing her parents and older sister—who refused to be separated from her crying baby—taken away into the gas chambers. I grew up without grandparents, therefore, in a place without grandparents.

And yet, I never liked the saying that the Jews of Europe were led to their death like “lambs to the slaughter.” I didn’t like it because it implied that these six million Jews had other options. As if they could fight. As if, unlike lambs, they could rebel. And yes, I know, a few—the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the Jewish Partisans, others here and there—tried to fight. But by and large, the Jews of Europe were minding their own business. They exercised their religion and culture, they worked hard and prospered well, they were educated and successful in the arts and sciences. And then the most sophisticated, the most brutal, the most inhumane killing machine ever known to man had hit them suddenly. Just as most of them, when being loaded into the trains—like my mother and her family—didn’t know where they were heading.

They couldn’t fight even if they wanted to. They didn’t know how to fight. They didn’t have any weapons. That’s why the state of Israel was envisioned, established, and built. That never again such a calamity would befall us Jews. That’s why, also, many other survivors and refugees immigrated to America. And what I’m afraid of is that now—here comes the horror—when they have power, and weapons, and army, and money, and political strength, they are not only using it wrongly, but they inflict—even if on a different scale—shame, death, and injustice on other people: The Palestinians.

What the Israeli government and people since the Six-Day War of 1967 are doing, led by the settlers zealots—lately with increased violence, cruelty, and freehand—is not only unbecoming of the people of the book, of the people who survived the Holocaust, but of any decent human being. The continuation of the occupation, colonization, and abuse of basic human rights of the Palestinian people in the West bank might lead to the destruction of the Zionist dream. As an idea, for sure, if not in reality too. The security and prosperity of a safe home, a democratic home for the Jewish people is in grave danger.

Some Jews, not many, do speak out. Lately, Ben & Jerry decided to take a stand and not sell their ice cream to settlers in the West Bank. And yes, American Jews who support J Street and its call for the Two-State solution—dead or comatose, floating in shallow water—do speak out. Americans for Peace Now, New Israel Fund, and Jewish Voice for Peace all speak out. Even yours truly, here in this blog, shout out from time to time. Representative Andy Levin introduced in September the ‘Two-State Solution Act’ in congress. Well done. But mostly, the greater Jewish organizations and religious congregations not only maintain their silence, but enable Israel to continue its occupation and colonization.

There is a debate going on, naturally, whether Israel’s rule over Palestine is de facto an Apartheid already. I believe it is. And the scholars, historians, thinkers I trust most believe it is. But even if it’s not already there, it’s heading there fast. The hottest (not due to her looks) writer in the English language these days, Sally Rooney, had refused her latest book to be translated to Hebrew as a protest against Israel’s occupation and mistreatment of Palestinians. Others are sure to follow. Netflix, the biggest streamer of visual content on the planet, starts streaming some thirty short films, ‘Palestinian Stories,’ by filmmakers living under the occupation. If you’re on Twitter and you try to hashtag Apartheid, the first and most used term that pops out is #IsraeliApartheid.

But Prime Minister Bennett didn’t even mention the Palestinian people or conflict in his first speech in the UN. His right hand in his party, Interior Minister Ayelet Shaked, said we want to “manage” the conflict, not “solve” it. Netanyahu before them, likewise, had no intention of solving it. Other experts want to “shrink” the conflict. Anything but solving it. There is no—and won’t be any longer—political power in Israel, supported by the people, that can affect a change on this disastrous trajectory.

There are only two powers that, if united, might be able to force Israel’s hand into reversing course. First, the American President and administration. Second, a united American Jewry front standing together with the president. President Biden, sympathetic as he is to the Palestinian cause, won’t be able to do it alone under the current political climate. Just reopening the Palestinian Consulate in Jerusalem, which he’d promised he’d do, he is now hesitating to go ahead with under pressure from Israel. Only a united, strong front of Jewish America and the American President might be able to accomplish it.

But I don’t see it coming any time soon. My horror story ends with it; with the thundering silence of the Jews continuing unabated. Enabling Israel, therefore, to continue with the creation of a One-State Solution, undemocratic, with a ruling class, Jewish, and a plebeian class, Arab.

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

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