By Hasan Afif El-Hasan
Members of the messianic Jewish settler groups Gush Emunim explain the 1967 Israeli victory as the work of ‘God’. They insist that they were rectifying a world-historical wrong by uniting the two halves of the ‘land of Israel’ which represents the necessary first stage for the redemption of the Jewish people and ultimately, for universal redemption. To give up the ‘land of Israel’, they argue, would be to reject the mandate of ‘God’. They seem to mistake unrestrained Israeli planning to expand, corruption of Arab regimes and inter-Arab quarrels for ‘God’s will’.
To support their plans to expand and annex Arab lands, Israel’s policy has been to maintain a qualitative military edge over all potential adversaries and guaranteed access to US technology. It is highly unlikely that Israel’s influence in Washington will diminish or that the US military and political support would not be provided when needed. In its ‘offensive-minded defense posture’, Israel has demonstrated preparedness to use its military strength and willingness to advance its Zionist obligations and live with the tensions in the wider region that such actions may cause. When considering the declared policies of the Israeli governments since 1967, it is hard not to wonder if Israel today is still fighting the 1948 war. Is Israel planning to hunker down behind walls and live at war with the Palestinians forever?
What have been taking place in the occupied lands after the 1967 war are not actions by pietistic settlers with intimacy to the ‘ancient land’ whom successive governments somewhat naively tolerated. To focus only on the settlers’ post 1967 fanaticism is to evade the implications of Israel’s most enduring consensus of colonizing Palestine, Zionism. Settlers’ ideals and the settlements energy did not grow out of thin air. It emerged inexorably from the Zionist ideology, Zionist financial institutions and the powerful Zionist bureaucracy. The Israelis, young and old, religious and secular have been drawn to the newly occupied lands, roamed freely and planned for settlements, following the footsteps of the first generations of Zionist colonialists. Moshe Dayan, the 1967 secular Israeli minister of defense said among other things, ‘We know that to give life to Jerusalem we must station the soldiers and armor of the IDF [Israel Defense Force] on the Shechem [City of Nablus] mountains, and on the bridges over the Jordan.’
The 1967 occupation provided a new and enlarged geography for the Zionist course that had been set almost a century ago after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire, to redraw a new frontier. The Zionist movement had many sources of power even before Israel was recognized by the United Nations: a land bank (the Jewish National Fund) for settling collective farms; dozens of exclusively union-owned industrial enterprises; competing Zionist parties; the Jewish Agency, a world organization to represent and raise funds for Palestinian Jews; a Jewish defense force; and Labor Zionist schools, newspaper, cultural institutions, and much more.
The settlements have been established so effortlessly after 1967 because the Zionist institutions that built them, and the laws and culture that drove them, had been going full throttle long time before the 1967 war within the Green Line. Zionism created institutions, mechanism, laws and different forms of violence against the Palestinians to implement the projects articulated by the regime. The labor federation (Histadrut) public corporations built and serviced settlements and brought their produce into distribution channels. State-owned banks and other enabling institutions provided credit and tax breaks for settlers. They were flush with money, owing to hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of American Jewish philanthropy especially after the Six-Day War. There are the Law of Return that encourages World-wide Jews to settle in Palestine, the regulations supporting the abiding conception of Jewish national rights and the mechanisms for appropriating and distributing Palestinian lands.
Settlements and Jerusalem take-over are part of a grand premeditated national project. It was due to decisions made in Zionist offices to continue putting families formally defined as Jewish in and around where Arabs lived. Soon after 1967, boundaries simply disappeared and there were new settlements everywhere. The key was to establish facts on the ground, so that, again, a provisional border would harden into an international border. The former president of Israel, Yitzhak Navon, said in a speech: “Territorial compromise means ‘as much land as possible, and as few Arabs as possible’.” Who knew how many more Palestinians would have to be displaced to make room for Jews; and who knows exactly how big Israel would have to be while the Zionist project continues? The Palestinians have been struggling against enormous odds since Zionist settlers came to Palestine at the start of the last century under the auspices of Britain, an imperial power.
The Israeli political scientist Meron Benvenisti asserts that the Arab-Israeli conflict that was a region-wide interstate conflict at one time has shrunk to its original core of Israeli-Palestinian inter-communal strife. Yes! The Palestinians today are on their own. They should give up on the notion of pan-Arab confrontation with Israel in support of their cause. The commitment of the Arab leaders in support of the Palestinians has never been wholehearted anyway. They demonstrated their reluctance to aid the Palestinians during the intifada or the confinement of Arafat in his head-quarters or annexing, Judaization and ethnic cleansing of Jerusalem, or building and expanding settlements in the West Bank or the siege and destruction of Gaza. Arab states have taken low profile on the subject of Israel, attaching higher priority to their dealings with their own problems before and after the ‘Arab Spring’. The Palestinian cause has not upset an increasingly stable equilibrium between Israel and the Arab states. Israel’s military superiority and the abundant political and moral support by the US deter Arab states from attempting to compel Israel to withdraw from the West Bank or Jerusalem. The Israelis are not prepared to compromise on the issues of sovereignty over Jerusalem or the right of return for the Palestinians dispossessed in 1948 and 1967.
Peace is not just the absence of violence; it is the presence of justice. The Palestinian people are unlikely to be reconciled to the prospect of peace within an inherently unjust and unequal relationship with Israel. The imbalance has produced impediments to reach peace with justice. In the absence of justice, Israel will remain an enemy state in Palestinian eyes simply because ‘the moment you take a man out of his home, he doesn’t care about history where Abraham walked or the prophets said. It is his home! He will want to come back to his home!’
– Hasan Afif El-Hasan is a political analyst. His latest book, Is The Two-State Solution Already Dead? (Algora Publishing, New York), now available on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.