By Hasan Afif El-Hasan
On the first day of the Palestinian-Israeli direct negotiations, I was reading a book by Avraham Burg on Israel. Avraham Burg, a man who once was at the heart of the Israeli establishment as the speaker of the Knesset, asked the same question which I spent years trying to answer. Why the Jewish people, the yesterday’s victims of Hitler and the survivors of the Holocaust do not view the indigenous Palestinians as people with possibly legitimate needs? Burg wants his fellow Jews, the victims of anti-Semitism, to establish a just and compassionate society that lives according to the principles of its Bible including: “What is hateful to thee, do not do unto thy fellow.” He reminds the Jews that their “existence has not been just to the Father, the King, up in heaven, but up toward the great human calling.” The moral issue of the Israeli Jews was put eloquently by one of their intellectuals, David Grossman, “I could not understand how an entire nation like mine, an enlightened nation by all accounts, is able to train itself to live as a conqueror without making its own life wretched.”
Before political Zionism became a religion and hordes of East European militant Zionists started colonizing Palestine, Jews and the Arabs lived for centuries in harmony and peace everywhere they existed together including Palestine. According to the Jewish historian Jane Gerber, Sephardic Jews civilization that enriched the human race with knowledge in the fields of science, medicine, philosophy and theology emerged under the Islamic rule in Spain; and later on Jews who escaped the inquisition in Spain found safety and freedom of work and worship among the Arabs in North Africa and other Middle East countries. Avraham Burg invites Israeli Jews to visit Spain cities: “Argon, Castile and Andalucia. There they will become familiar with the golden age, when Islam and Judaism had mutually beneficial relationships.”
Avraham Burg feels deep sadness because of similarity between the 1930s Germans’ actions against the Jews and Israel’s actions against the Palestinians today. He argues that the “Arabs out” and “Transfer Now” from Israel as a part of the Israeli government agenda the same as “Jews out” (Juden Raus) from Germany under the Nazis. Burg concluded that in many respects, “the Palestinians life under Israel rule is like life of the German Jews of the Second Reich.” Germans in the 1930s and the Zionists in Israel practiced nationalism based on “mythology of race exceptionalism and blood-earth relationship.” The Israeli Jews do not follow the Torah revelations as interpreted by the Jewish Midrash that commands the Jews to treat the non-Jews among them with fairness and respect. “And you shall not harass the resident stranger nor pressure him as you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
The Israeli Jews mimic the Nazi’s intolerant rule over differing peoples, rule that failed the test of man and God, rather than practicing fairness and toleration as demanded by their Bible. The Israeli Jews refuse to follow the example of Cyrus the Great of Persia who had been enshrined by the Hebrew Bible and Jewish mythology as a “liberator and tolerator of the Jewish religion.” In their treatment of the Palestinians, the Israeli Jews of Israel opted to emulate the final acts of the “Reconquist” in Spain which ordered the expulsion of the Jews rather than emulate the Muslims’ treatment of Jews in Medieval Spain that history books referred to as “the golden age of Jewish culture”.
Burg questions the ethics of the Israeli military rules of engagement that allow killing Palestinians and other Arabs who pose no immediate threat and calling it “targeting prevention.” He writes, “targeted prevention sounds much better than ‘extermination,’ ‘assassination,’ or ‘liquidation’.” In the 1956 war, the Israeli military rounded up young Palestinians in Gaza from a prepared list and shot them on the spot. The German Nazis killed 60 percent of Russia’s WWII prisoners of war (POW) and the Israeli military executed majority of Egyptian POWs in the 1967 war in the Sinai Desert. With such mentality, is there a chance for just peace?
President Barack Obama launched the first direct Palestinian-Israeli talk in two years. Like George W. Bush and Bill Clinton before him, he renewed his commitment to the two-state solution. And like Condoleezza Rice before her, Hillary Clinton said “The US cannot and will not impose a solution to the conflict.” But Mrs. Clinton imposed her own conditions on the Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas in a formal letter two weeks before the Washington meeting was convened. She instructed him to accept direct talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and threatened to cut the financial aid to the Palestinians if he set any conditions, or rejected direct talks, or if he becomes disillusioned with the peace process and decides to go to the UN in pursuit of justice based on international laws.
So, the US will not exert any pressure on Israel nor it will allow the UN to consider settling the conflict according to international laws and previous UN resolutions should the negotiations failed. The US wants the vulnerable Palestinian leadership that is not even supported by all the Palestinians to negotiate their national cause with their oppressor, the Middle East predominant hegemonic power, with no help from the World’s Super-power sponsor and no other recourse to seek justice. It is up to the Israelis to solve the conflict
Hegemonic nations do not negotiate; they dictate. The 1938 negotiated Munich Agreement that allowed Nazi Germany to annex the Czech Sudetenland lands is a case in point. So as the Oslo agreements and the US sponsored Palestinian-Israeli Camp David Conference of 2000.
President Clinton called for the2000 Camp David conference to end the conflict once and for all. Clinton and Prime Minister Ehud Barak offered Arafat an agreement to take-it-or-leave-it that would have consolidated apartheid and legitimized annexation of considerable area of the occupied lands including Jerusalem to Israel. Arafat, or any Palestinian for that matter, had to reject it.
The offer gives the Palestinians Gaza and no more than 76% of the West Bank divided into three or two cantons, separated by Israeli territory and a token presence in East Jerusalem. The media claimed Arafat was offered 95% of the West bank; but their figures do not take into account the 5.4% of the West Bank that had been annexed to Jerusalem or the territory taken for roads joining settlements and wide arterial swaths providing water, sewage services, electricity and communication. The agreement would have allowed Israel to keep control of the Jordan River valley that constitutes 10% of the West Bank for between 6 and 21 years according to different accounts of the offer. The offer would have given Israel full control over the borders, security, underground water resources and airspace of the promised state.
Israeli ministers act like thugs where expulsion, demolition, property expropriation, “death to the Palestinians”, starvation, mass detention centers and persecution are not rhetoric but the main political dialogue at the government highest level toward the Palestinians in Gaza, “Judea”, “Samaria” and Jerusalem.
Israeli leaders ordered assassination of Palestinian political and intellectual leaders, inside and outside their country, in cold blood, using guns, poison and guided missiles. It is sad and depressing that more than 80% of the Israeli public supported with no reservations the 2008 war against Gaza that took the lives of 440 children and 300 mothers and left 600 children wounded.
Israel fired US-supplied cluster bombs against the Lebanese farmers and their children in its 2006 war against Lebanon. The cluster bombs killed scores of Lebanese civilians and injured hundreds including children after the end of hostilities. Using the cluster bombs is considered a war crime by human rights organizations.
Germany had its concentration camps in the 1930s-40s and Israel today has the world biggest concentration camp, the 139 sq miles Gaza Strip with its one and a half million Palestinians. The gas chambers were the product of German democracy after World War I; the Gaza big jail is the creation of the Israeli democracy after the 1967 war. Israel does not have gas chambers like Auschwitz, Birkenau or Treblinka, but it has Gaza and checkpoints and roadblocks in the West Bank where sick Palestinians die daily in ambulances waiting for the teen-age Israeli soldiers to give them the nod to proceed.
Burg says of the Israeli Jews, they are the judges and the masters of the land, but their judgment is “harsh, unjust and merciless.” The diplomatic road to peace is gloomy because the Israeli leaders lost their moral compass and “have nothing to offer but the sword and the messiah.”
– Hasan Afif El-Hasan, Ph.D. is a political analyst. His latest book, Is the Two-State Solution Already Dead? (Algora Publishing, New York), now available on Amazon.com. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.