Israel "has become an an apartheid regime"
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sat Nov 30 23:46:27 MST 2002
This conclusion becomes particularly interesting because it comes from an
Israeli who presents her conclusion as that of the "Israeli left." It cast
some light on the self-interested claims of university presidents, for
example, that comparisons between Israel and South Africa are anti-Semitic.
December 9, 2002 issue
Israel's Choice by NEVE GORDON
Returning to Israel after an extended absence can be a disturbing
experience. On the way back from the airport to my Jerusalem apartment, I
noticed new posters tacked onto utility poles and bridges along the
They read: Transfer= Peace and Security. The meaning was unambiguous:
must expel the 3 million Palestinians living in the occupied
territories--and perhaps even its own Palestinian citizens--in order to
achieve peace and security.
While racist slogans have become pervasive in Israel, it was this particular
message--the notion of expulsion as a political solution--that unhinged me.
One does not need to be a Holocaust survivor to recognize the phrase's
lethal implications. The slogan, however, does not merely underscore the
moral bankruptcy of certain elements in Israeli society; it also helps
uncover some of the inherent contradictions underlying Israel's policies in
the occupied territories.
>From the extreme right (those behind the posters) to the radical left,
Israelis agree on at least two points: The current crisis must be dealt
with, and land is the major issue around which the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict revolves. After more than two years of armed conflict, which has
left close to 2,500 people dead--including 300 Palestinian and eighty
Israeli children--most Israelis see the situation as hopeless, a view that
is, ironically, shared by many Palestinians.
Israeli hopelessness does not stem merely from the Sharon government's
preference for military action over diplomacy (which despite its
ruthlessness has not stabilized the situation), but also from the fact that
public discourse has been colonized by military calculations, which
the possibility of even envisioning a positive change. The current absence
of a political horizon helps explain why no one greeted the government's
announcement of early elections with any enthusiasm.
Most Israelis appear to understand that the doctrine advanced by former
Prime Minister Menachem Begin and adopted by Sharon is no longer tenable,
namely that the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem would remain under
Israeli sovereignty while the Palestinian population would be given some
form of autonomy without receiving full citizenship. The Israeli left has
rejected this solution for pragmatic and ethical reasons, recognizing that
in Israel's effort to maintain control over the territories it has become
Israel has introduced a segregated road system in the territories,
transforming all major arteries into roads for Jews only. Palestinian
villages and towns have consequently been turned into islands, hindering
population's access to medical facilities, work and education. (According
UNICEF, close to a quarter-million Palestinian children cannot reach
schools.) Not surprisingly, the Palestinian economy has also collapsed--a
recent Israeli military report states that between 60 and 80 percent of the
population lives on less than $2 a day.
Israelis on the left and right now realize that the conflict cannot be
resolved under the current conditions, regardless of the amount of military
force Israel employs. A new government will be expected to come up with new
ideas. Although the situation is complex, there will be only three options
from which to choose if we are to break the current impasse.
The first is the two-state solution. Even if the Labor Party's new leader,
former Gen. Amram Mitzna, ends up forming the next government, which is
highly unlikely, it is not clear that he will have the courage to radically
alter the Oslo format. This option, however, will be viable only if Israel
implements a full withdrawal to the 1967 borders and dismantles all Jewish
settlements, which now contain almost 400,000 people. While this may appear
to be an impossible endeavor, one should keep in mind that when France
finally ceded control of Algeria, it managed to evacuate a much larger
number of French citizens.
The second option is the one proffered by the extreme right: the expulsion
of all the Palestinians from their lands, forcefully transferring them to
Jordan, Lebanon, Syria or Egypt. This idea, which until recently had been
marginalized, is gaining broader support among the powers that be. Polls
indicate that the National Union, a right-wing party advocating expulsion,
is expected to receive 10 percent of the vote in the upcoming elections,
its members are not the only ones who are promoting this solution.
The third option is for Israel to annex the West Bank and Gaza Strip,
bestowing full citizenship on the Palestinian population, and thus turning
itself into a binational state rather than a Jewish one. This solution,
which had been perceived by Palestinians as a betrayal of the struggle for
self-determination, has recently gained legitimacy within the Palestinian
establishment. While the binational option is, in a sense, the most
democratic of the three, within Israel it is still considered an
not only by the right but also by Labor and the liberal Meretz.
If Israel's next leader is to overcome the current crisis, he will have to
decide whether to abandon the notion of a Jewish state, employ a policy
by the darkest regimes (not least the Third Reich) or dismantle the
settlements and bring the Jewish settlers back home. Each of these options
negates certain elements of the Zionist project, suggesting that the
settlements constitute a contradiction; they are now destroying the very
project that initiated and upheld them. They have come back to turn the
Zionist dream into a nightmare.
Neve Gordon teaches politics at Ben-Gurion University and can be reached at
ngordon at bgumail.bgu.ac.il.
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