Israel’s Grand Illusion Collapses in Gaza’s Ruins

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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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Truth, Lies & the Peace Plan

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Allow me to reverse the order of the title and start with the Peace Plan. Yes, that Peace Plan: “The Deal of the Century!” It’s not a Peace Plan, let’s get this out of the way first: it’s an Annexation Plan. It’s a real estate deal meant to subdue the Palestinian People once and for all into submission, and solidify the Biblical inspiration of the zealotry, messianic settlers movement—pushed from behind by Netanyahu, Kushner, Friedman and Greenblatt—for eternity. There isn’t a lot of peace to be found in this plan; a plan which demands two sides; a plan which demands consultations ahead of time; a plan which demands compromise; a plan which demands an understanding of the complex situation and an agreement of principles. There is none of it in this Peace Plan. It’s one big lie.

Which brings me to the ‘lies.’ First lie: this Peace Plan will bring about a Two-State solution. Complete nonsense. It’s a plan which has one state, Israel, controlling and humiliating the other nation and its people, the Palestinians. It is, for all intents and purposes, a continuation of the occupation by other names. Therefore, the second lie to come out of it, that the Palestinians will have a state to call their own, is also complete nonsense. Again, calling something a state doesn’t make it so. That entity will be surrounded and controlled by Israel, with no borders with any other nation, and with no outlet to the sea or river—yes, my friends, the conqueror has taken away even the Jordan River from the Palestinians. It’s an enclave, at best. A ghetto, a… well, as a son of Holocaust survivors I won’t say more. You get the message though, I’m sure.

Lie number three: East Jerusalem will be the Palestinian capital. That’s a good one, really, for a skit on Saturday Night Live. There is no longer East Jerusalem, since it’s already unified into one big Jerusalem: The capital of Israel. Again, if you throw people out of the city walls, and tell them to call that wadi, that hill, that remote neighborhood outside the city wall a Capital, and call it East Jerusalem, doesn’t make it so. It probably makes it worse than your current situation. Live with it or die, the Palestinians are being told. Well, it seems clear from their collective reaction that they prefer to die, rather than live with it and the humiliation that comes along.

Lie number four: Land swap. So instead of all the land Israel is taken by force away from the Palestinians in the West bank, it will give them two small—separate, albeit—pieces of barn land in the western Negev Desert, where nobody lives, with no connection to either the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. This is not a land swap; it’s a land grab. I take your prime real estate—most valuable for its historical, cultural, economic, heritage reasons—away from you, and give you in return two small pieces of land of no value to you whatsoever. Which, nonetheless, some Israeli citizens are already claiming is important to them for agricultural purposes.

Lie number five: Some 250,000 Arab residents of Israel, citizens since birth, will become Palestinian citizens, including their cities and villages. Nobody had asked them about it, consulted with them about it, and upon learning of it they immediately voiced strong objections to relinquish their current citizenship. Jews too, are already objecting to it, including Netanyahu—the mastermind behind the Peace Plan—who just announced in a per-election campaign (trying in vain to bribe some Arab voters to vote for him) that he’s going to nix this part of the deal. I can go on. But in short: the whole ‘deal’ is one big lie.

Now to the truth: The Israeli settlers movement has won the day. And not from today. It pains me to say so (though I’ve said this before), but there is no going back. There is no peace, and there is no plan. What we have is a continuation of the occupation by a different name. There is no Two-State solution. It’s dead too (at best, it’s in a coma.) There is one state: The greater Israel. That state has two terrible options to make as result of its occupation and colonization of the West Bank. One: grant all the Arab, Palestinian People under Israel’s control Israeli citizenship and equal rights under the law (as president Rivlin has suggested, for instance), including voting rights. Sooner rather than later that would mean the end of Israel as predominantly a Jewish state.

Second: Don’t grant them citizenship and equal rights, as basically Israel is doing now, and solidify what already, and for some years, is in plain sight: An Apartheid State. (50 former European leaders just signed an open letter expressing “grave concern” over President Trump’s Peace Plan, criticizing the plan for allowing Israeli annexation… creating a situation tantamount to “apartheid.”) So the Jews, refugees of European Pogroms and the Holocaust, and refugees of Arab countries mistreatment, would then, in less than a century to the end of World War Two, will create an Apartheid State of their own. Making the Palestinians segregated, second class citizens. Behind a wall, barbed wire, and army guns. There is no escape from it. And there is no escape from the outlook that the free, democratic world—if such world will exist for long—will not live with it. And I don’t believe the majority of American Jews will live with it either. There will be a war. And another one. And so it goes.

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