[Marxism] Dispossession is not noble cause

Barry Brooks durable at earthlink.net
Sun Nov 19 07:14:27 MST 2006


A project of dispossession can never be a 
noble cause

Israel's liberal intellectuals lament the 
malaise that grips their country - but 
refuse to face up to the ethnicide at the 
heart of it

Ahdaf Soueif Friday November 17, 2006 The 

Before Donald Rumsfeld departed from the 
Pentagon, the "Transformation Group" he 
headed worked with an Israeli army team to 
develop ideas for controlling the 
Palestinians after Israel withdraws from the 
occupied territories. Eyal Weizman, an 
Israeli academic who has written about this 
cooperation, tells us that they decided to 
do this through an invisible occupation: 
Israel would "seal the hard envelopes" 
around Palestinian towns and generate 
"effects" directed against the "human 
elements of resistance". We saw this concept 
being implemented in Beit Hanoun last week 
when the Israeli army killed 19 sleeping 
people with a missile attack.

The world can look forward to more of the 
same. According to Weizman, the chief of 
staff of the Israeli armed forces, Dan 
Halutz, confirms that the Israeli army sees 
the conflict as "unresolvable". It has 
"geared itself to operate within an 
environment saturated with conflict and 
within a future of permanent violence ... it 
sees itself acting just under the threshold 
of international sanctions ... keeping the 
conflict on a flame low enough for Israeli 
society to be able to live and prosper 
within it." So here's another function for 
the separation wall Israel is building: to 
shield Israeli society from too close a 
knowledge of the brutal acts their army 
carries out in their name.

And yet Israeli intellectuals wonder at the 
malaise that grips their country. Two Nobel 
prize laureates, Yisrael Aumann and Aaron 
Ciechanover, were recently quoted bemoaning 
the "fatal disease: the depletion of spirit 
... [the] cancer that has spread through 
Israeli society". They attribute it to a 
kind of generalised "selfishness" which, 
oddly, they think may be OK in Switzerland 
but not in Israel. It's nothing to do with 
"the enemy" they say, because they can 
handle the enemy with their "wisdom and 
technology". Again, as we saw in Beit 

Einstein, their distinguished predecessor, 
expressed grave doubts about political 
Zionism. A letter he signed, published in 
the New York Times in December 1948, warned 
against the emergence in Israel of (the 
future prime minister) Menachem Begin's 
"Freedom party". It cited Deir Yassin, where 
Begin and friends, eight months earlier, had 
killed 240 men, women and children and "were 
proud of this massacre". "This," the letter 
goes on, "is the unmistakable stamp of a 
fascist party for whom terrorism ... and 
misrepresentation are means, and a 'leader 
state' is the goal." Professors Aumann and 
Ciechanover might consider what Einstein 
would have made of the scenes in Beit Hanoun 
and Beit Lahiye over the last several weeks.
David Grossman seemed to many commentators 
to be evoking Hamlet in his Rabin memorial 
address on November 4, published in the 
Guardian. But when Grossman in effect argued 
that something was rotten in the state of 
Denmark he was merely referring to the lack 
of a "king" in Israel - a leader "to appeal 
to the Palestinians over the heads of Hamas" 
to start another peace process. But the 
peace processes the Palestinians have been 
subjected to have only led to their further 
dispossession. The Palestinians elected 
Hamas last January because two decades of 
interacting with a variety of Israeli 
governments has bankrupted the secular 
Palestinian leadership politically and 
morally. So the wish to engage in yet more 
talks, to get the "peace process" back on 
track, is either catastrophically blind or 
expresses ill faith. It always comes with 
lamentations over a "noble" project that has 
somehow gone wrong.

The secret rotting at the core of the state 
of Israel is its refusal to admit that the 
Zionist project in Palestine - to create a 
state based on the dispossession of the 
non-Jewish inhabitants of the land - was 
never noble: the land it coveted was the 
home of another people, and the fathers of 
the Israeli nation killed, terrorised and 
displaced them to turn the project into 
actuality. But the Palestinian nation lives 
on - visibly and noisily and everywhere. To 
make its own denial stick, Israel has to 
deny and suppress Palestinian history. To 
impose its design on Palestine, it has to 
somehow make the Palestinians disappear. 
"Things bad begun make strong themselves by 
ill"; and so the ethnicide continues. The 
new deputy prime minister, Avigdor 
Lieberman, plots against the Palestinians 
within Israel. The Israeli army kills and 
terrorises the Palestinians in the West Bank 
and Gaza. Zionists and their friends are 
desperate to silence the voices of and for 
Palestine. Meanwhile, Israel insists it is 
civilised, decent, peaceable - a light unto 
nations. How can a society caught in such 
delusion thrive? And how can people living 
within the Zionist project as privileged 
Jewish citizens bewail their embattled lot 
or be puzzled by it? Liberal Israelis of the 
left should heed another couple of lines 
from the bard: "Glamis hath murder'd sleep, 
and therefore Cawdor shall sleep no more; 
Macbeth shall sleep no more."

Israel will not be well until it 
acknowledges its past and makes amends for 
it. The process has a name: truth and 
reconciliation. Israelis cannot remain 
within the Zionist framework and profit from 
it and think of themselves as good citizens 
of the world. Many thoughtful and brave 
Israelis have made a choice. Some have left 
Israel, others remain. Practically all have 
made it their life's mission to expose how 
Zionism really works - and what it costs.

Since 1988, initiatives, peace talks and 
road maps have aimed to establish a 
Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza 
with its capital in Jerusalem, and to do 
justly by the Palestinian refugees. For 12 
years none of this happened, and first-hand 
accounts of the Camp David talks in 2000 
show that Israel did not have the political 
will then to make the necessary minimum 
offer. Presumably it still doesn't; hence 
the "sealed envelopes". But, perhaps because 
the stakes are now so high, people are once 
again speaking of the visionary solution: 
the secular democratic state, a homeland for 
both Israelis and Palestinians.

The Palestinian social scientist Ali 
Abunimah and the Israeli historian Ilan 
Pappé's recent books are the latest to make 
the case for this. They find hope, as Pappé 
puts it, in "those sections of Jewish 
society in Israel that have chosen to let 
themselves be shaped by human considerations 
rather than Zionist social engineering" and 
in "the majority of the Palestinians who 
have refused to let themselves be 
dehumanised by decades of brutal Israeli 
occupation and who, despite years of 
expulsion and oppression, still hope for 

· Ahdaf Soueif's latest book is Mezzaterra: 
Fragments from the Common Ground 
ahdaf at hotmail.com

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