Saturday, July 12, 2014

Response to a Jewish Critic

Dear KUSA - Holland Community, and FPI List-serve,

Friends, thank you for tracking with me in the light of the ferocious assault on Gaza (and Hamas' determination to fight fire with fire). In June, 2013, when I went with Paul Parker's group to I/P, I met many Israelis and Palestinians. Sheldon Schorer was one of them, a Jewish constitutional lawyer.

A few days after I forwarded the JVP (Jewish Voice for Peace) request to you for action, he sent me (and JVP) a strongly worded (but respectful) objection to the assertion that "the Occupation" was the source of the violence going on there right now. What follows is my response to his objection:

Dear Sheldon (copy JVP), Thank you for taking the time to respond to JVP's (and my) request for action.

You strongly object to the assertion that the "Occupation" is the root cause of violence in I/P. Sheldon, the occupation is a code word for what the Israeli State intended to do and has been doing to the people living on the land from the time the (mostly secular) European Jews arrived: Displace/remove them as though they never existed, had no rights and were a bothersome irritation. The Declaration of Independence (1947/8) says it wanted equality with the Arab population, but actions trumped any follow-through on this laudable ideal.

Let's take a look at your comments with comments from me (in red):

Sheldon: In a recent email, you [Jewish Voice for Peace] suggest that the root cause of violence in the Middle East is the occupation. This is utter nonsense.

JRK: The Occupation is indeed the issue when you consider that the express intent of "Zionism" from the beginning was the displacement of the native population. Here is a memoir from Nahum Goldmann who recalls what David Ben-Gurion said in the sunset years of his life:
One day, or rather night, in 1956 I sat up at his [Ben-Gurion's] house till three in the morning. That night, a beautiful summer night, we had a forthright discussion on the Arab problem. "I don't understand your optimism," Ben-Gurion declared. "Why should the Arabs make peace? If I were an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country. Sure, God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, it's true, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that? They may perhaps forget in one or two generations' time, [sorry, this has not happened!] but for the moment there is no chance. So it's simple: we have to stay strong and maintain a powerful army. Our whole policy is there. Otherwise the Arabs will wipe us out. . . .[Goldmann]:That was Ben-Gurion all over: he had told me that so as to show me how well he knew in his heart that Israel could not exist without peace with the Arabs, but his stubborn, aggressive unbending character prevented him from following what his own intelligence told him. . . .
Nahum Goldmann, in The Jewish Paradox : A Personal Memoir of Historic Encounters that Shaped the Drama of Modern Jewry (1978), as translated from the French by Steve Cox, pp 99-100 ISBN 0-448-15166-9 . One quote appearing here has sometimes been given erroneously as "That is natural: they think we have taken their country." The original "C'est normal; nous avons pris leur pays." is properly translated as "That is natural: we have taken their country" (taken from Wikipedia, Quotes, David Ben-Gurion)

Sheldon: There was no occupation in 1948, when 5 Arab countries attacked to destroy the fledgling state. [JRK: Zionist actions from 1934-1939, 1947-48, and 1967 especially, made it clear that Jews were coming to displace the natives, not live side by side in peace and equality with them. A Jewish State was to be formed on that land. There would be nothing left for the natives, who after all, didn't really exist as a people group anyway. So how can you say there was "no occupation"?].

Sheldon: Nor was there an occupation that inspired fellahin violence preparatory to the Suez Campaign of 1956. Nor was there an occupation prior to the Six-Day War of 1967, yet it [violence] happened anyway.[JRK: How can you say this? The whole post-1947 era has been to occupy all of the land!]

Sheldon: And there is no occupation in Gaza, Israel having fully withdrawn from there, [JRK: Come on, Sheldon, you know who really controls Gaza! It is now a prison run by the Israelis with Hamas as the warden]

Sheldon: and yet Gazans have kidnapped Jewish teenagers [JRK: Where is the evidence that [Hamas] Gazans were responsible for the reprehensible death of the three Jewish teens?]

Sheldon: and have sent thousands of rockets into civilian population centers in Israel. [Yes, huge mistake by "militants" in Gaza. It plays right into the hand of the Likud-led government, looking for any excuse to annihilate the enemy entities militarily, which is so futile, only contributing to more and more violence].

Sheldon: Of course, if you extend the word "occupation" to imply Jewish settlement in any part of Israel, and not just the West Bank or Gaza, then I stand corrected. [JRK: You imply it has been OK for "Jews" to "occupy" any part of Israel, but not the West Bank or Gaza. From meeting you, I know the settlement actions by the religious-inspired settlers is troublesome to many especially secular Israelis]

Sheldon: Since the root cause of violence is the steadfast refusal of the Palestinians and some other Arab countries to accept the existence of the state of Israel, in any form. [JRK: Sheldon, "to accept the existence of the state of Israel" is a code phrase for accepting the One State status quo. It implies no compensation for confiscating stolen land, no equal treatment as citizens of the State of Israel for Arab Palestinians, no right of return for those forcibly evicted. Why not admit it? Arab Palestinians are pests and should disappear. They are a nuisance, standing in the way of majority rule by a Jewish (theocratic) State, who has the God of Sarah and Isaac as "God" and makes no room for the God of Hagar and Ishmael.

Sheldon: Read the PLO and the Hamas charters, and you will learn the true root cause of violence in this region.
[JRK: I am aware that the HAMAS Charter states its goal is to end the Zionist monopoly of all the land and aspires to an Islamic State with all of the land under Islamic rule. This is surely a huge problem. But, as a constitutional lawyer, you know, Sheldon, that the Likud "charter" clearly states it is the goal of the party to colonize ALL of the land of Israel, including the Galilee, Judea and Samaria (the "West Bank"). This is "In-Your-Face occupation of ALL the land. The extremes seem to be driving the agenda now, Sheldon, with NO accommodation to moderates who want to make room for each other. I know Israelis feel that if they give an inch, Hamas will take a mile. The Arab Palestinians have gotten the unmistakable and correct notion that it is not and has never been the intention of the Israeli State to SHARE the land, especially under a Likud-led administration.

Sheldon: Take away the guns and ammunition from Israelis, and there would be a massacre of Jewish residents throughout the country. Take away the guns and ammunition from Palestinians and Arab countries, and there would be peace. [JRK: Trust-building exercises have failed to happen. Each side accuses the "other" of wanting the whole pie, and not wanting to share the pieces. Palestinians have pledged a non-militarized regime (which is disbelieved by Israel, who continues to hold all the earthly power). I remind you, Israel cannot extinguish the flame of self-determination, freedom from the Occupation, and equal treatment under one set of laws (which is set forth as the command in Deuteronomy 1:16).

With respect, and a deep desire for reconciliation and resolution of long-standing disputes. JRK

JRK: I and many others subscribe to the views of Jeff Halper (ICAHD founder, an American Jew, now living and working in I/P), whose comments follow:

Jeff Halper: The Kerry initiative may have ended with a whimper instead of a bang, but its impact on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was significant and fundamental nonetheless. The end of the political process, futile as it may have been, triggered the collapse of the status quo as we have known it for the past 47 years. It set in motion a series of events that will confront us with two stark alternatives regarding Israel and Palestine: either the permanent warehousing of an entire population or the emergence of a single democratic state.
Both the blatantly disproportionate response to the kidnapping and killing of the three Israeli boys and, as I write, the all-out air strikes on Gaza, have been cast by Israel as military operations: Operations Brothers’ Keeper and Operation Protective Edge. Neither had anything to do with the operations’ purported triggers, the search for the boys or rocket fire from Gaza. Palestinian cities supposedly enjoying extra-territorial status were invaded in Operation Brothers’ Keeper, more than 2000 homes were ransacked, some 700 people arrested. Who knows as yet the devastation wrought on Gaza – 100 dead in more than 1,100 air attacks so far, mostly civilians according to reports; deafening around-the-clock bombing of communities by American-supplied F-15 and artillery from the ground and sea that amounts to collective torture; Israel’s Foreign Minister calling for cutting off all electricity and water amidst threats to completely obliterate Gaza’s infrastructure; and the prospect of almost two million people being permanently imprisoned, reduced to bare existence just this side of starvation.

What is clear is that the military operations had a purpose of their own, that they would have been launched regardless, that they were merely waiting on a pretext. They had to come because the vacuum left by Kerry had to be filled. “Closure” was necessary – and it was clear that the Palestinian Authority, which had several months to take an initiative that would have bolstered the Palestinians’ position, would not do so, even though Martin Indyk, the American’s chief negotiator and former AIPAC leader, placed the blame squarely on Israel for talks’ failure.

In fact, the end of the Kerry initiative marked the culmination of a decades-old campaign, systematic and deliberate, of eliminating the two-state solution. From the start, in 1967, successive Israeli governments officially denied that there even was an occupation, claiming that since the Palestinians had never had a state of their own they had no national claim to the land. The Labor Party denied the very applicability of the Fourth Geneva Convention that protects civilian populations finding themselves under hostile rule with no means of self-defense – and which had been formulated specifically with the intent of providing the protection denied to Jews during the Holocaust. It therefore embarked on a project of establishing settlements, now numbering some 200, in clear violation of international law that prohibits an Occupying Power from moving its civilian population into an occupied territory.

Indeed, Labor (the “Zionist left”) bears more responsibility for eliminating the two-state solution than does the Likud of Begin, Sharon and Netanyahu. It was Labor who ruled during almost all seven years of the Oslo peace process, and it was Labor that chose to double Israel’s settler population during that period. Labor fragmented the Palestinian territories into tiny and impoverished enclaves, Labor imposed the economic closure and impediments to Palestinian movement these last 21 years, and Labor – not Likud, which actually opposed the project – initiated the construction of the Separation Barrier, the Apartheid Wall.

The Likud, of course, was a willing partner, as were all the secular and religious parties from the center to the extreme right, but it has fallen to Netanyahu to kill the two-state solution for once and for all. The first step was to decisively end Kerry’s initiative and any that might follow it. This Netanyahu did by raising his demands to intolerable levels. He declared that the Palestinians must relinquish their own national narrative and civil rights by recognizing Israel as a Jewish state, and he held to the position that Israel would retain permanently East Jerusalem, the Jordan Valley and Israel’s main settlement blocs (about a third of the West Bank), as well as the water and natural gas resources, the country’s electro-magnetic sphere (communications) and all of its airspace.

He left the Palestinians with less than a Bantustan, non-viable and non-sovereign, a prison comprised of the 70 islands of Areas A and B of the West Bank, ghettos in “east” Jerusalem, tightly contained enclaves within Israel, and he cage which is Gaza – half the population of the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River confined to dozens of islands on 15% of historic Palestine.

Operations Brothers’ Keeper and Protective Edge represent the imposition of a regime of warehousing, of outright imprisonment of an entire people. The seemingly blind and atavistic destruction and hatred unleashed on the Palestinians over the past few weeks is not merely yet another “round of violence” in an interminable struggle. It is the declaration of a new political reality. The message is clear, unilateral and final: This country has been Judaized: it is now the Land of Israel in the process of being incorporated into the state of Israel. You Arabs (or “Palestinians” as you call yourselves) are not a people and have no national rights, certainly to our exclusively Jewish country. You are not a “side” to a “conflict.” Once and for all we must disabuse you of the notion that we are actually negotiating with you. We never have and never will. You are nothing but inmates in prison cells, and we hereby declare through our military and political actions that you have three options before you: (1) You can submit as inmates are required to you, in which case we will allow you to remain in your enclave-cells. (2) You can leave, as hundreds of thousands have done before you. Or, (3) if you choose to resist, you will die. . . .

Friends: As I wrote to another friend recently, [The Ben-Gurion quote and Jeff Halper] lay out the implacable chasm between the two narratives. I really don't know what will bridge it, except showing humility, being willing to be vulnerable, realizing what is just, repenting (saying, "I'm sorry"), and finding new ways of living side by side with each other, which can only come about if we care enough to bridge the chasm [and tear down The Wall]. Faithfully yours, JRK for KUSA - Holland Community