Centuries of European colonialism have provided the world with certain basic lessons about subjugating colonized peoples: The longer any colonial occupation endures, the greater the settlers’ racism and extremism tends to grow. This is especially true if the occupiers encounter resistance; at that point, the occupied population becomes an obstacle that must either be forced to submit or removed through expulsion or murder.
In the eyes of an occupying power, the humanity of those under its thumb depends on the degree of their submission to, or collaboration with, the occupation. If the occupied population chooses to stand in the way of the occupier’s goals, then they are demonized, which allows the occupier the supposed moral excuse of confronting them with all possible means, no matter how harsh.
The Israeli occupation of Palestine is one of the only remaining settler-colonial occupations in the world today.
And it is not limited to East Jerusalem and the West Bank: Although Israel withdrew its settlers and army from Gaza in 2005, it is still recognized by the United Nations as an occupying power, due to its complete control of Gaza’s airspace, sea access and of almost all of its land borders.
Over the years, Israel has used all forms of pressure to prevent the Palestinians from achieving their national rights and gaining independence. It hasn’t been enough for Israelis to believe their own claims about Palestinians; they have sought incessantly to impose this narrative on the world and to have it adopted by their Western allies.
Unsurprisingly, all of this has led to complete shamelessness in mainstream Israeli rhetoric about Palestinians. After all, if one is not held accountable, then one has the freedom to think — and do — what one wants. With no internal or external checks, one can act with impunity.
The Israeli left is a relic, all but extinct, and the extremist right is entrenched in the Israeli political establishment. Attacking the Palestinians has become officially sanctioned policy, embedded in Israeli public consciousness and politely ignored in Western political circles.
There is now an extremist, racist ideological current in Israel that not only justifies the recent onslaught on the Gaza Strip, but actually encourages the use of enormous and disproportionate violence against civilians, which has led to the extermination of entire families.
Moshe Feiglin, deputy speaker of the Knesset, recently called on the Israeli army to attack and occupy Gaza, paying no heed to anything but the safety of Israeli soldiers. He then demanded that Gaza be annexed to Israel, and asked the army to use all means at its disposal to “conquer” Gaza, by which he meant that obedient Palestinians would be allowed to stay, while the rest — the majority — should be exiled to the Sinai Peninsula. This cannot be understood as anything less than a call for ethnic cleansing.
Ayelet Shaked, a Knesset member for the Jewish Home Party, a member of the governing coalition, called on the Israeli army to destroy the homes of terrorist “snakes,” and to murder their mothers as well, so that they would not be able to bring “little snakes” into the world.
And Mordechai Kedar, a professor at Bar Ilan University, publicly suggested that raping the mothers and sisters of “terrorists” might deter further terrorism. The university did not take any measures against him.
Such statements are no longer isolated incidents, but reflective of the general sentiment within a country where chants of “Kill the Arabs” are increasingly common. It is no longer an aberration to hear these opinions expressed in public, or by politicians and academics. What is unexpected — and unacceptable — is that such statements are not met with any sort of condemnation in official Western circles that claim to oppose racism and extremism.
The rise in Israeli racism and extremism against Palestinians would not have happened without the unconditional support that Israel receives from its allies, most significantly the United States.
Israel cannot continue to be the exception to the rule of international law and human rights. The international community must hold it accountable for its rhetoric and its actions, and begin to treat it like all other countries. It should not be allowed to continue to enjoy its state of exceptionalism and to use this to wreak destruction on the Palestinian people.
After 47 years of occupation, two decades of stalled peace talks and almost eight years of a strangulating siege of the Gaza Strip, the international community must demand that Israel clearly state what it intends to do with its occupation of the Palestinian people. Since the Palestinians are not the occupiers, but rather those living under occupation, this question cannot be asked of them.
If Israel wants to continue its occupation and hinder Palestinians’ path to freedom and independence, then it should be aware that the Palestinian people will continue to resist with all the means at their disposal. If Israel intends to end the occupation, then it will find that the Palestinians are more than ready for an agreement.
What the Palestinians are enduring today in Gaza should be a clarion call for the entire world to end the bloodshed. But it will take more than a cease-fire. It will take peace. And peace cannot happen without an end to the occupation.
Ali Jarbawi is a political scientist at Birzeit University and a former minister of the Palestinian Authority. This article was translated by Ghenwa Hayek from the Arabic.
Israel’s Fair-Weather Fans
By SHMUEL ROSNERAUG. 7, 2014
TEL AVIV — The Israeli song “Ein Li Eretz Acheret” is a curious tune. “I have no other country,” go the lyrics, “even if my land is on fire.”
It’s hard to find a Jewish Israeli who doesn’t identify with it. Lefty Israelis interpret it as a protest song. It was sung at demonstrations against the 1982 Lebanon War and vigils following the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Israelis on the right interpret it as a patriotic song about attachment to the land; they sang it after terrorist attacks and during the 2005 withdrawal from the Gaza Strip.
I was reminded of the song in recent days as I read a string of articles by smart, savvy, knowledgeable, non-Israeli Jews, who say that the brutal war in Gaza has made them question their Zionism.
What unites these writers, of course, is that all of them do have another country. And that’s why, when push comes to shove, the Israeli government doesn’t — and shouldn’t — listen to them.
These writers aren’t all cut from the same cloth, but their arguments are similar. There’s a heart-warming side to their articles; they are all clearly concerned about Israel. “I care about Israel personally, rather than abstractly,” the American journalist Ezra Klein wrote in Vox. On the other hand, they are disappointed, sometimes horrified, by an Israel for which they still care, but not as much as they used to. Roger Cohen, writing in these pages, argued that current Israeli policies are a “betrayal of the Zionism in which I still believe.” Their conclusions are also similar: They are “less sympathetic” to Israel than before, as Jonathan Chait put it in New York magazine.
As a group, they are a shining example of a phenomenon that Atlantic Monthly and Haaretz columnist Peter Beinart has popularized: the distancing of liberal Jews from Israel, especially in the United States.
The core of Mr. Beinart’s argument is that “particularly in the younger generations, fewer and fewer American Jewish liberals are Zionists” because of Israel’s hawkish policies. It’s a shaky theory, and experts still argue about the scope of the trend. But there’s no doubt that many liberal Jews feel uncomfortable with Israel. Mr. Beinart, citing the criticisms of the wildly popular Jewish comedian Jon Stewart, argued last week that if “Israel continues to elect governments hostile to a viable Palestinian state — the American mood will incrementally shift.”
This is a bleak prediction, because support from America is a cornerstone of Israel’s security. If Jewish liberals aim to erode that support, they should remember that Israel has managed in the past to make do, even with weakened American support. But I assume their motivation is different. Sometimes it feels as if liberal Zionist critics are trying to ensure that Israel’s deeds do not rub off on them. At other times, it feels as if they’re trying to clear their conscience of something for which they feel partially responsible.
They seem to believe that the implied threat that Israel might lose Jewish supporters abroad will somehow convince the government to alter its policies. This is a self-aggrandizing fantasy and reveals a poor grasp of the way Israel operates. To put it bluntly: These Jews are very important, but not nearly important enough to make Israelis pursue policies that put Israeli lives at risk.
Let me be clear: I believe Israel’s relations with Jews around the world are crucially important. Indeed, I’ve devoted a great deal of my career to thinking and writing about this topic. I often find myself preaching to Israelis about the need to be more considerate of more liberal Jewish views on issues ranging from religious conversion to women’s prayer at Jerusalem’s Western Wall. But I would never expect Israelis to gamble on our security and our lives for the sake of accommodating the political sensitivities of people who live far away.
Of course, not all Israeli policies are smart, and it’s not imperative that all Jews agree with them. Israelis are susceptible to persuasion. But using the threat of eroding Jewish support as a scare tactic stands in the way of effective persuasion.
Israelis, like most people, prefer to take advice from those they believe have their best interests at heart. But is that really the case here?
If all Jews are a family, it would be natural for Israelis to expect the unconditional love of their non-Israeli Jewish kin. If Jews aren’t a family, and their support can be withdrawn, then Israelis have no reason to pay special attention to the complaints of non-Israeli Jews.
Moreover, the threat of liberal Jews distancing themselves from Israel is a hollow one. Jews of other nationalities are the proud and patriotic citizens of other countries, and they are free to make the decision to detach themselves from the greatest Jewish enterprise of the last two millenniums.
But they aren’t like baseball fans who move from New York to Boston and, with great difficulty, stop rooting for the Yankees and learn to cheer for the Red Sox. If they still want to root for a Jewish state, there’s no substitute for Israel. If they believe there is a need for Jewish sovereignty, Israel is the only option available to them. Like in that song, there is no other country even if the land is on fire.
Clearly, these critics of Israel’s behavior believe that Israelis themselves would be safer if the country adopted their prescribed liberal policies. That might be true, but it makes no difference.
On matters of life and death, war and peace, Israelis are going to make their own decisions. If they lose the support of some liberal Jews over it, that would be regrettable, but so be it.
Israel will have to learn to survive without that support, and I’m certain it will.
Shmuel Rosner is the political editor at The Jewish Journal and a fellow at The Jewish People Policy Institute.