Saturday, July 28

Israel is slipping into Racism

Many of us had left our countries of origin for Israel imbued with ideology of being part of a country full of challenges. We all felt that we could make our contribution and bring up our families here. Zionism, which is the national liberation movement of the Jewish People sought to bring the Jews back to their historical homeland where they could live in dignity, equality and under democratic rule. This is all very nice, ideological and pure – for whom?

There were all kinds of bodies in the past (and present) which were involved in fund raising for various Jewish projects in Israel in order to improve Jewish quality of life as well as resettlement projects for Jews.

Over the years, the truth of the matter comes out. Israel has an indigenous Arab population as well who are citizens of Israel, are entitled to equality, and have the right to buy homes as well as land within Israel no less than its Jewish citizens.

It is a very sad day indeed when bills are discussed that is racist. A case in point is the bill entitled "the Jewish National Fund Law". This is an extension of what the JNF (Jewish National Fund) really is. No matter which way one views it. The usual self righteous Zionists justify their racism, and it should come as no surprise that lobbying in the Knesset for passing racist bills preventing Arab citizens from buying land reserved for Jews. The clause in the bill stating that "the leasing of JNF lands for the purpose of settling Jews will not be seen as unacceptable discrimination," even though it involves 13 percent of state-controlled lands and allows for further expressions of discrimination. This could mean that eventually cinemas, hospitals and universities could be established for Jews only. Racial discrimination once started can snowball into the lexicon of Israeli legitimacy and there will always be the right wing “herrenvolk” that will justify Jewish purity and settlement expansion at the expense of the indigenous Arab peoples within and beyond the green line. There are plenty right wingers in the Knesset who will support this.

This bill should be rejected by all those who believe in the equality of all Israel’s citizens, irrespective of race, colour and creed. This bill adds grist to the mill of equating Zionism with racism. This would further tarnish Israel’s image in the world. Even though the Jewish National Fund purchased the lands for the Jewish people in the Diaspora, the State of Israel has already been established and these lands must now serve all its citizens.

There would be an outcry of Diaspora Jewry if certain property projects were reserved for non-Jews only. Can one imagine what would happen if Jews were forbidden to buy homes or property in certain areas of France, Britain, the US or any other country for that matter? Why does the JNF justify this discrimination in Israel – a country that arose from the ashes of those who suffered severe discrimination and genocide in Nazi Germany?

“The Jewish National Fund

Behaves as if

The State of Israel

Did not exist.

In a democratic State,

Land is not allotted

According to

Race, Nation, Religion or Gender.

A bill aimed at

Permitting this

Is a disgrace

To all Knesset members

Who vote for it.”

Gush Shalom

27th July 2007-07-28

Saturday, July 21

President Bush’s Speech and its Significance

In the midst of the frustrations and futility between the Palestinians and the Israelis, President Bush gave a speech on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict from the White House on Monday, July 18, 2007– a sort of a sequel since his last major speech on the subject about 5 years ago. This sequel seems to be a desperate attempt on his part to leave some form of his legacy in the Middle-East, much of which he botched. He botched up in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the chances of him being a facilitator in this conflict is close to zero. He has little credibility and the Palestinians do not have much love for him or confidence in him at all. Whenever he talks about the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict, one feels like cringing in shame because of his total naivety and lack of understanding of the problems in this conflict.

He spoke about a new vision between the Palestinians and Israelis which he rehashed from his previous speech in the Rose Garden five years previously. This vision is still far from being attained. Tony Blair, the former British Prime Minister, who is now a special envoy to the Middle East, is also not the ideal choice. The fact that he and Bush were partners in botching up Iraq after the downfall of Saddam Hussein does not add much to Blair’s credentials either. Both leaders are held with suspicion by the Palestinians, especially the extremist Hamas faction that dominates Gaza. Hamas is also a threat to the West Bank under Fatah control. They view President Mahmoud Abbas and P.M. Salam Fayyad as Israeli agents. They refuse to recognize the emergency government. A situation like this has many dangers. Hamas is uncompromising in its stance towards recognizing Israel. It remains to be seen whether Abbas and his emergency government will be able to resist Hamas control of the West Bank. The possibilities of a Hamas take over in the West Bank remains a viable danger. The security forces of Abbas would collapse like a pack of cards as they did in Gaza without Israel’s help in preventing Hamas from seizing power in the West Bank.

It is in this background that Bush made his futile speech. He emphasized Hamas cruelty and violence but he has not offered any solutions. It was an exercise in polemics – saying the obvious but offering nothing. He reiterated the various moves Israel took towards compromise, including the unilateral disengagement from Gaza in August 2005 – an absolute mess which achieved nothing. This proved once again that unilateral actions without a water tight agreement with the Palestinian leadership will only exacerbate the conflict and add unwanted players to the conflict such as Iran, maybe even Al Qaeda (Hamas denies this). Each player has its own agenda and it is not the well being of the Palestinian people. It is a matter of power and exploitation of the Palestinians for the achievement of a form of strong Islamist domination of the Middle East with Iran at the helm.

Bush made another impotent and naïve call for an international meeting in autumn of nations that support a two state solution and give support to the new Hamas-free Palestinian government under Mahmoud Abbas and Salam Fayyad. He also said that Secretary Condoleezza Rice would chair the meeting. A final date for this meeting or summit is still to be set.

The speech does not seem convincing especially coming from a lame duck president nearing the end of his term. P.M. Olmert and President Mahmoud Abbas found the speech agreeable, but the rest of the Arab World has mixed feelings towards the speech and the rejectionists, such as Hamas, found the speech unacceptable.

This speech like so many of Bush’s speeches on the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict will be another speech that will fill the dustbin of history. The Hamas hate for Bush, Blair and Olmert is uncompromising. Hamas is adamant in not recognizing Israel’s right to exist and will continue to be a major obstacle towards any movement towards a settlement of the conflict. One cannot conduct any form of negotiations successfully without Hamas participation. Burying one’s head in the sand and boycotting Hamas, which does have great influence amongst the Palestinians is an error of judgment. The main players, who talk about peace in the Middle East, are very weak whether it is Bush, Blair, Abbas and Olmert. The Iraqi crisis has weakened Bush and Blair’s credibility, adding strength to Hamas. Iraq has become the US’s second Vietnam. Olmert’s credibility is also poor, not only amongst the Palestinians, but also in Israel. He has his own private vendetta against the State Comptroller, Micha Lindenstraus, for his conduct during the Lebanese War of July-August 2006 as well as personal problems of his acquisition of a home in Cremieux St, Jerusalem.

Bush has no understanding of the people’s of the Middle East. His speech illustrated that very well. His vision of future peace is unrealistic and is a total non starter.

According to a report in Haaretz, June 2007–07–20, “U.S. President George W. Bush's vision of two states for two nations, which he repeated during his speech early this week, is a messianic vision. And it is being shattered against the walls of the Islamic resistance he is unfamiliar with, and which even great America under his leadership cannot breach despite its power and wealth. And from the pro-Israeli declarations in his speech we can see how far behind the times he is, even regarding Israel's transparent situation. Israel, he said, has to be a Jewish state "and the national home of the Jewish people." What he doesn't know is that many Israelis, including MK Menahem Ben-Sasson, the chairman of the Knesset's Constitution, Law and Justice Committee - and other Jewish Knesset members - no longer agree with this Zionist conclusion.

Suicide bombers and Qassam rockets, which caused death and destruction in Israel, were the Palestinian responses to Bush's famous speech about the "vision of the Palestinian state," which is five years old this summer. But these things, including the intensification of Qassam terrorism after the destruction of the Jewish settlements in Gush Katif, did not teach a lesson either to the U.S. president or the political leaders in Israel.”

Bush’s vision of a two state solution – Palestinian State alongside Israel seems to have reached the end of the road. What is the alternative? There have been ideas of a binational state. This idea would be unacceptable to Israel and unworkable at this stage. Many would say that we are now at the stage of post-Zionism. This is not an ideology but rather a period after the advent of Zionism. However, discussion of the binational state issue and its pitfalls could be useful if the parties to the conflict are prepared to be objective and fair – a possibility that is remote.

The idea of Israel and the US bolstering Abbas and Fayyad could so easily boomerang. Their open support of Abbas and Fayyad would weaken them even further. This would encourage extremist action on the part of Hamas and its Islamic Jihad allies. It could create mass hysteria in Palestinian street. The Hamas propaganda machine would come out in full force against the emergency Palestinian government. It would not serve the interests of Abbas and Fayyad if they were labeled as stooges or lackeys of Israel and the US. Their response would be further violence in the form of suicide bombings and an acceleration of Qassam rocket fire in the south. The situation is “catch 22”.

Democracy will not be achieved and the vacuum caused by the eventual withdrawal of Israel from the West Bank will be filled rapidly by Islamist Hamas extremists that would pose a great danger to Israel’s security. Iran and Al Qaeda are waiting on the sidelines for this eventuality. The situation in the West Bank and Gaza would slide into lawlessness, bloodshed and suicide terror resembling Iraq. This could threaten the moderate Arab states as well. Even the Saudi Peace Plan will not be accepted by Hamas ruled Palestine as provisions are made for Israel’s recognition.

The Palestinian people will be subjected to a very orthodox, uncompromising sharia (Moslem religious law) which would limit their freedom of choice and personal freedom.

Another problem is who will attend the so-called Bush convened conference apart from Egypt, Jordan, Israel and the Palestinians. Perhaps it would be a good idea to insist on the participation of Hamas in this conference because of their strong support amongst the Palestinian people. Without Hamas participation, there will never be any form of rapprochement between Israel and the Palestinians.

An international conference must address all the issues and obstacles so that peace could be achieved and this could only be achieved by including all the parties involved in the conflict including those parties who are boycotted. All gestures offered by Israel without Palestinian agreement or acknowledgement would create further terror in the West Bank.

Sunday, July 8

Post-Zionism and the Palestinian-Israeli Conflict

Prof. Shlomo Avineri wrote a rather thought provoking article on post–Zionism, equating it with anti-Zionism and non-recognition of Israel. He maintains that post-Zionism does not exist.

According to his article, the idea of post-Zionism “is a radical criticism not just of Israel's policy; at its base is total denial of the Zionist project and of the very legitimacy of the existence of the State of Israel as a Jewish nation-state.

The arguments called "post-Zionist" have various aspects - not only political but also cultural. They view Zionism as a colonial phenomenon, not as a national movement that is contending with another, Palestinian, national movement over its claim to the same territory. Some of those who are called "post-Zionists" go even further in their argument that the very existence of a Jewish people is a "narrative" that was invented in the 19th century, and that the Jews are at base a religious community. The attitude of Zionism, which has most of its roots in Europe, toward Jews from the Muslim countries is also perceived in the context of colonial exploitation.”

Somehow, there seems to be a problem with the term post-Zionism. Post-Zionism is actually the period after Zionism. It is not a theory or philosophy as Prof Avineri states. Zionism is the “national revival movement of the Jewish people. It holds that the Jews have the right to self-determination in their own national home, and the right to develop their national culture. Historically, Zionism strove to create a legally recognized national home for the Jews in their historical homeland. This goal was implemented by the creation of the State of Israel. Today, Zionism supports the existence of the state of Israel and helps to inspire a revival of Jewish national life, culture and language.” (From Zionism – Definition of Zionism).

Zionism played an important historic role in the establishment of Israel. The idea of post-Zionism is the period after Zionism, of which the latter has become irrelevant today. It was a Jewish liberation movement in the Diaspora where Jews had been a persecuted minority for many years because of anti-Semitism.

Now that Israel exists, Zionism has become history. The term non-Zionist is probably more accurate than post-Zionism, which according to Prof. Avineri is a development for delegitimizing Israel. While this may or may not be true, it is a misleading term.

Zionism is a term that is bandied about in Zionist Conferences but has no relevance to Israelis today. Many Zionists, who live in the Diaspora, meet at World Zionist Conferences in Jerusalem in order to salve their consciences by fundraising for causes whose impact on Israel is marginal (they are mostly wealthy people who have no intention of ever living in Israel, or at least, they intend to retire in Israel after achieving financial success in the Diaspora). They also have no clue as to the major problems facing Israel – not least of all, the corruption in government including what was Israel’s first citizen – ex-President Moshe Katzav - who has left office in disgrace after being accused of sexual offences bordering on rape. He has been offered a plea bargain if he admits to his sexual assault offences. This will wipe his slate clean of close to 90% of his sexual offences according to Katzav’s statement in an interview with Israel TV 2nd Channel. The conclusion reached is that with much money for legal defense, one can buy justice. The Diaspora Zionists hobnob with VIPs in the Israeli establishment and indulge in familial backslapping of each other, exuding self praise for their efforts of churning out hot air. Zionism has now been relegated to the wealthy, sitting in armchairs in living rooms, polluted with expensive cigar smoke, where their platitudes of solidarity with Israel is expressed and many conscience-salving financial donations are discussed. The World Zionist Conferences held in Jerusalem are becoming less and less relevant every year. These conferences are not given any prominence in the Israeli Press. Surely this is a barometer of its irrelevance!

Israel’s faults and its treatment of the Arab minorities, not to mention the Palestinians, are not even addressed. This is not their problem. It is the problem of the Arab World according to their thinking.

The greatest contribution that could be made to Israel is also dependent on the contribution made to the wellbeing of the Palestinians. After all the Palestinian People is an integral part of the Middle East, including Israel. They will not disappear. Neglect of the Palestinians will only result in the development of further extremism, hate and terrorism against Israel. Israel had occupied the Palestinian People in the 1967 Six Day War. This makes Israel responsible for Palestinian wellbeing which they neglected. Israel, despite its claims to the contrary, is a “colonial phenomenon” because it occupied another people. It also “colonized” territory by allowing settlers to build their homes in the occupied West Bank. Surely it makes Israel’s claims of not wanting to colonize the Palestinian People a farce. Settlers, amongst them religious Zealots, uproot Palestinian olive plantations, take over Palestinian agricultural lands, and get away with it. Is this Zionism – the usurping of Palestinian lands? The Palestinians view Israelis as the SS (Soldiers and Settlers).

Army check posts, barriers to Palestinian movement as well as army excesses is not going to bring security to Israel. The only solution is an agreement between the two sides to lay down their arms and start negotiating a permanent settlement for the good of both nations.

Zionistic platitudes by rich Diaspora Zionists in conference halls discussing marginal issues to salve their “tortured consciences” will knock the last nail into the Zionist coffin. This will herald the era of post-Zionism or non-Zionism. Zionism is an integral part of Israel’s history but it is irrelevant to Israel’s future and the future of peace between Israel and its Palestinian neighbours.