Is terror an option for the occupied and oppressed Palestinians?
by Alan Hart
My answer is “No” but I think the question needs to be asked. It was provoked in my mind by a recent Ynet op-ed article by Ziv Lenchner, described as a left-leaning, Jewish Israeli artist. The headline over his piece was Israelis to Obama – we don’t care, don’t bother us.
Lenchner’s article, published on 28 March, took the discussion about what most Israeli Jews really want – disengagement from the occupied West Bank or annexation – beyond the answer given by Noam Sheizaf writing in Maariv on 4 December last year. The headline over his piece was We have become addicted to the status quo.
“A well-known cliché in Israeli political discourse refers to a high rate of support among the Jewish public for a two-state solution. As the claim goes, despite the Second Intifada and the rounds of fighting against Hamas in Gaza, most Jews still prefer this solution to the annexation of the Palestinian territories. Political scientists and journalists are thus consistently surprised as to why Israelis turn their backs on parties that espouse dividing the land and evacuating settlements, and choose to vote for those whose actions push a peace agreement further and further away. In a conference held at Tel Aviv University, a well-known researcher announced, ‘The Israeli public is simply not rational.’”
Sheizaf challenged that researcher’s judgement. His main point was that there is a third option which pollsters rarely ask about but which the Israeli public understands very well – the option of maintaining the current situation. He went on: “In the few cases in which this option is offered to respondents, it turns out that a growing number of Israelis prefer it to disengagement or annexation. Sometimes it even gets a majority.”
That fact, Sheizaf noted, discomforts many commentators and causes them to wonder if what most Israeli Jews really want is occupation and an apartheid state.
Sheizaf doesn’t believe that to be the case. In his analysis most Israelis simply believe that maintaining the status quo is better than the other options. He put it this way:
“Annexation of the territories will significantly alter the demographic balance and the character of the country while evacuating settlements and establishing a Palestinian state entails security risks and disputes that could lead to civil war. It’s not that the Jewish public is happy with the present situation or particularly wants to rule over the Palestinians – it just prefers this situation to the alternatives.”
There is, Sheizaf added, no one who understands the Israeli preference for maintaining the status quo better than Prime Minister Netanyahu “and therein lies his attraction.”
On the prospects for change in Israel, Sheizaf concluded with these thoughts:
They say that global climate change takes place at a pace slow enough for politicians to ignore it. The same can be said today for the occupation, and for the destructive processes it has brought upon the state of Israel. The deepening racism, rising corruption, militarism and loss of international legitimacy – all of these are happening slowly. At any given moment, the alternatives look worse and the desire for change lessens. Thus there is a growing sense that the state of Israel won’t be able to bring about the end of the occupation on its own, and will require serious pressure from outside in order to wean the public and the political establishment from its addiction to the status quo.”
Lenchner took the discussion forward with these words:
“We, as opposed to the distinguished guest (President Obama), know our people – ourselves – very well. And the bitter truth is that for years – perhaps since the days of the protest against the first Lebanon War – we have neither been leading political moves nor forcing our leaders to carry them out… Scolding from our good uncle in America is not the thing that will convince us to change our outlook, our way, our reality. This is not what may move us towards the end of the occupation, the evacuation of settlements and an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement… Let’s admit it: Until things go up in flames and we bleed and hurt – we won’t budge. That’s the way we are.”
Given that since Sheizaf offered his thoughts we have learned that there is not going to be any serious pressure from outside on Israel while Obama is president (because he is not going to confront the Zionist lobby in America and Netanyahu’s government), Lenchner’s contribution suggests to me that the following question should be asked. And answered.
What could cause Israeli Jews to “bleed and hurt” to the point where they WOULD budge and insist that their government abandon the annexation option and go for disengagement, to end the occupation of the West Bank?
Things would go up in flames, and Israeli Jews would bleed and hurt, if the frontline Arab leaders did a Sadat and launched a limited war for peace. But we can be absolutely certain that will never, ever, happen. (It can also be taken as read that Iran will never, ever, start a war with Israel. And nor will Hezbollah. These two parties will only respond if attacked by Israel or by Israel-and-America in the case of Iran).
In theory it is only the occupied and oppressed Palestinians who could cause Israel to bleed and hurt by resorting to a well planned and sustained campaign of terror.
Given that Zionist terrorists forced the withdrawal of the occupying British as a prelude to the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, it has to be said that Israel’s existence is proof of what can be achieved by terrorism.
But more to the point is what Israeli Jews would have done after the 1967 war if the boot had been on the other foot – if they had been the Palestinian Arabs. As it was put to me in 1980 by the best and the brightest of Israel’s Directors of Military Intelligence, then retired Major General Shlomo Gazit, “If we had been the Palestinians, we would have had our mini state a long time ago.” He meant that they would have mounted a sustained campaign of terror against the Israel of the pre-1967 borders, in the knowledge that there are limits to the amount of death and destruction the soft underbelly of any public opinion will tolerate before saying to government: “Enough. Do a deal with the terrorists.”
Also to be noted in passing is that Ehud Barak, the former Israeli prime minister and defense minister, once said in an American television interview, “If I were a Palestinian at the right age I would have joined one of the terrorist organizations at a certain stage.”
In my analysis which is, of course, informed by the benefit of hindsight, a well planned and sustained campaign of terror against the Israel of the pre-1967 borders is the option the PLO ought to have taken in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. But in answer to my headline question, I say it’s too late for that today. Israel’s security apparatus in all its manifestations is in more or less complete control.
I think it’s probably not an exaggeration to say that the Palestinians of the occupied West Bank and the besieged Gaza Strip cannot have an electronic conversation or communication of any kind without being monitored. That’s in addition to the fact that the Palestinian communities of both territories are riddled with informers, Palestinians who have been turned into assets or spies for Israel’s security services, usually by threats of one kind or another. One threat often made to Palestinians wanted as informers by Israel’s security services is that their sisters or daughters or wives or mothers will be raped if they don’t do Zionism’s bidding.
Simply stated, the occupied and oppressed Palestinians no longer have the freedom necessary to plan, organize and execute a sustained campaign of terror. And that is a large part of the reason why most Israeli Jews are content with the status quo.
In my view the occupied and oppressed Palestinians have only one option – to continue with their incredible, almost super-human steadfastness, staying put and refusing to be de-humanized by their Israeli oppressors while not surrendering to Zionism’s will.
But to continue their sticks-and-stones struggle with nuclear-armed Greater Israel, the occupied and oppressed Palestinians need a reason to hope that they will one day obtain an acceptable amount of justice.
The only reason for hope that I can see is that a day will come when, because of the policies and actions of its self-righteous and deluded leaders, Israel will be a pariah state loathed, despised and perhaps even hated by just about the whole world.
If that day comes, it’s reasonable to assume that whoever is occupying the White House would have to say to Zionism’s in-Israel leaders and their lobby in America, “Enough is enough,” and then back his (or her) words with action, globally co-ordinated, to cause Israel, in exchange for real peace, to end its occupation of the West Bank, lift its siege of the Gaza Strip and complete its withdrawal from all Arab territory grabbed in 1967.
Is that too much for the Palestinians to hope for?
There is, of course, a case for saying that a viable two-state solution (even if it could be achieved) is not enough for the Palestinians to hope for because it would require them to accept that their right of return would be severely limited in terms of numbers. Behind closed doors Arafat and his senior leadership colleagues calculated that probably not more than 100,000 refugees would be able to return to the limited land space of a Palestinian mini state. The rest would have to settle for compensation. But that would not necessarily close the door to a greater measure of justice for the Palestinians.
The hope of Arafat the pragmatist was that a generation or two of peace based on a two-state solution would lead to the creation of one state by mutual consent, in which case the right of return, still on the agenda, would be more manageable.
Is that too much for all of us who want complete and full justice for the Palestinians to hope for?
In an article just posted on Redress Information and Analysis, Blake Alcott has argued that the two-state solution is a “Zionist solution” and is to be rejected because it leaves Zionism in being in one of them. To Blake and all those who think like him I say this. While I agree that peace based on one state with equal rights and security for all of its citizens is the only outcome that can provide the Palestinians with full justice, insistence on it for starters will most likely mean that the Palestinians get nothing, and that those of them who are occupied and oppressed will be the victims of a final Zionist ethnic cleansing.
Alan Hart is a former ITN and BBC Panorama foreign correspondent who has covered wars and conflicts wherever they were taking place in the world and specialized in the Middle East. His Latest book Zionism: The Real Enemy of the Jews, Vol. 1: The False Messiah, is a three-volume epic in its American edition. He blogs on AlanHart.com.