Israel "has become an an apartheid regime"

Fred Feldman 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.
Fred Feldman

 The Nation
 December 9, 2002 issue

Israel's Choice by NEVE GORDON

Jerusalem
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
highway.
 They read: Transfer= Peace and Security. The meaning was unambiguous:
Israel
 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
undercut
 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
an
 apartheid regime.

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
the
 population's access to medical facilities, work and education. (According
to
 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,
and
 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
abomination
 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
used
 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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