Tuesday, August 6, 2013

"Talks" Resume. 4th Report from the Ground

Dear Friend,

With the next step in "talks" upcoming, I want to give you my latest "Report from the Ground", my visit to I/P from June 15-30, 2013. JRK

4th Report “from the ground”

Talks between Palestinian and Israeli “negotiators” will resume again soon, this time in Israel. The assumption is that the “Two State” solution is still possible. Within nine months we should begin to see whether a viable, autonomous, identifiable Palestinian State can be carved from the land Israel has gobbled up for itself, with borders and “land swaps” to everyone’s satisfaction.

A friend “on the ground” sent me this op-ed that appeared in Haaretz, a leading newspaper in Israel on August 4, 2013. Below is the main gist of it.

We can’t lose a democracy we never had (by Tsafi Saar)

The illusion of democracy in Israel is just one of the many illusions that we Israelis have been educated to believe.

For Israel's entire 65-year existence it has not been a democratic state. From its founding until 1966 Israel imposed martial law on the Arab communities in its territory. Since the occupation of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in 1967 until today, Israel has ruled over millions of Palestinian inhabitants in these territories – an occupied population with its basic freedoms and rights abrogated.

There has been an illusion of democracy here, or alternatively, a democracy for Jews only. . . .

These are bothersome thoughts. Is it possible that everything we were raised on, or at least most of it, is mistaken? What is the significance of this? And does asking these questions undermine the fact of our existence of here? If our existence here must be based on a strong fist, on pushing out others, on nationalism, chauvinism and militarism, then the answer is yes. But is this really the case?

In the history of Zionism there were other options besides that of Ben-Gurion-style force. For example, the path shown by professors Zvi Ben-Dor Benite and Moshe Behar in their recently published book "Modern Middle Eastern Jewish Thought: Writings on Identity, Politics, and Culture." Jewish intellectuals of Middle Eastern origin at the beginning of the 20th century warned against adopting a European arrogance to the land's inhabitants and called for respectful dialogue with them. But their words fell on deaf ears. The Brit Shalom faction of Hugo Bergmann and Gershom Scholem also proposed another way in the 1930s that was not accepted. [One could add that General Peled argued that the “victory” of 1967 would be a good opportunity for Israel to grant Palestinians their own State. That idea too, was rejected ---JRK]

The state established here was not, despite its pretensions, "the sole democracy in the Middle East." It appears that the first condition for really fixing this situation, if that is still possible, is the recognition that we did not lose democracy now. It never resided here.

Source: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.539584

The Zionism practiced by founder Ben Gurion and his successors was based on dispossessing the native people of the land, trampling on their rights and human dignity. This is the reality that must be addressed by Israelis before any substantive changes can take place.

I finally met a long-time email correspondent, Deb Reich (No More Enemies, Amazon, 2011). She met four of us in the Study Tour group in a Tel Aviv restaurant, just before we returned to the US on June 28, 2013. As an American-born Israeli Jew, she openly wonders whether the father of Zionism Theodore Herzl ever foresaw the transformation of large Arab population centers into open air prisons where upwards of 3.5 million ordinary men, women and children are warehoused indefinitely in a precarious parody of normal life, while too many jailers—ordinary Israeli Jews—carry on, expressing themselves as eternal victims.

Herzl surely never foresaw that the eventual price to be paid, for transforming Jews from downtrodden residents of ghettoes surrounded by hostile gentiles, would include creating ghettoes for gentiles-surrounded by hostile Jews (ibid, p. 117).

When she is repeatedly asked why she is not willing to point out “sins on the Palestinian side”, she responds, I say that, as an Israeli Jew, I am not responsible for their sins, only for ours (Ibid, p. 119).

Then, on p. 126 she expresses her sincere hope: I would hope that Jewish Israelis and Jews around the world will be able to see that they are making the same kind of mistake about the current meaning and future potential of the Zionist movement. Because it grew from an unsustainable premise (A land without people for a people without a land), the Zionist enterprise was destined to face a hard choice somewhere down the line: reinvent itself, or crash and burn. I am one of those who would like to see it reinvent itself and, necessarily, rename itself as well, in some generous and creative way that brings the cousins back into the family.

It appears as though Prime Minister Netanyahu is beginning to see the “handwriting on the wall” (to borrow a phrase from the Hebrew bible, the book of Daniel, chapter 5. The reality of the EU (European Union) withholding aid to the settlements in Palestinians territory has gotten his attention. (Israel is retaliating by withholding EU aid to Gaza, already being strangled with and Israeli blockade). Whether he (and his Likud party and the present ruling coalition) can confess to grievous offenses done to the native people is another matter. The Palestinians want the facts to speak for themselves. Kerry and Obama are aware of what needs to be done. The Israelis have been paying lip service to the Two State solution, but with no heart, head, hands or feet. Do we dare to hope that the US will be determined to hold both parties’ feet to the fire? What “pressure” the US might bring to bear during these “talks” remains to be seen.

Israel is caught between a rock and a hard place. Absent a viable Palestinian State, the only alternative is a bi-national State with Palestinians gaining more citizenship rights (which will threaten the Jewish character of the present Israeli State). Bibi surely doesn’t want that. What will he (and Israel) do?

Especially since 1967, we have written them a blank check to be filled in as they see fit. Will that ever change? We will learn soon enough. Faithfully yours, John Kleinheksel, FPI, (Friends of Palestinians and Israelis) www.friendsofPalestiniansandIsraelis.blogspot.com.

There is no PEACE without JUSTICE; there is no justice without LOVE.