Wednesday, April 28, 2010

What the Israelis Have Learned and What the Palestinians Have Not

When it comes to I-P we hear an awful lot about "competing narratives." Narratives in this context have little to do with history and much to do with self-serving propaganda. There is, we are to understand, an Israeli narrative and a Palestinian Arab narrative. The question is not whose narrative is true, or closest to the truth, but whose narrative will prevail in the public imagination.

At the center of these narratives is the '48 war. In the original Israeli narrative the Palestinians fled the fighting at the behest of Arab leaders who assured them that after they drove the Jews into the sea they would be free to return to their homes. In the original Palestinian narrative militaristic Jews ethnically cleansed the Palestinians from their traditional homeland resulting in the Nakba, or "catastrophe," along with the misery, oppression, and poverty of refugee status.

In the never-ending vitriolic I-P debate these two narratives, with all their various permutations and interpretations and historical implications, continue to butt heads. One thing that is often overlooked, however, is that the narratives have not remained static in the last 60 years. In the mid 1980s, Israeli historians such as Benny Morris, among others, the so-called New Historians, began to seriously question the Israeli narrative. In The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem (1988), Morris took aim at the prevailing Israeli narrative and shot it full of holes.

Morris, and the historians that followed him, discovered that the Palestinian refugees did not merely flee the fighting at the behest of Arab leadership, but were often driven from their homes by Jewish military forces, precisely as the Arabs had always claimed. And while some scholars tend to focus more on the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians and others focus more on the Palestinian violence that preceded that ethnic cleansing, the Israeli "narrative" has moderated. Most historians of Israel and the I-P conflict now understand that some Palestinians left at the behest of the leadership, some were pushed out by Israeli troops because they were fighting Israeli troops, and some simply fled out of a rational fear of war... an option that the Jews did not have.

It is not only Israeli scholars who have moderated their views, but the Israeli public, as well. If the 1948 war represents one vital crux of the matter, the 6 Day War and the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza represents another vital crux. Between 1967 and the First Intifada of the late 1980s, the majority of Israelis considered the idea of a two-state solution to be nothing less than a dagger at the heart of the Jewish state. In 1948, Arab governments, with the full backing of their people, sought to destroy the Jewish state and failed. In 1967, Arab governments again sought to destroy the Jewish state and failed. And in 1973, Arab governments yet again sought to destroy the Jewish state and yet again failed. Israelis were, and for good reason, convinced that a Palestinian state cozied up right next to a Jewish state would be nothing less than a terrorist country intent on violence toward Israel. For this reason the Israeli right-wing encouraged Jewish settlement in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria, as they would say) as a buffer between themselves and a hostile Palestinian population.

The intifada of the late 80s, however, represented a major wake-up call for the Israeli public. It was the violence and the suicide bombings and the chaos of those years that taught most Israelis that the occupation was untenable, unsustainable, and counterproductive. Thus by the 1990s the Israeli consensus became pro-two-state solution. Even hard-line right-wing Likudniks like Benjamin Netanyahu and Ariel Sharon eventually came around to the idea. The center of Israeli thinking on the subject had shifted in a significant way and the public came to favor Palestinian autonomy in a Palestinian state.

Thus in at least two major ways the Israeli narrative has shifted and moderated itself. The myth of complete Israeli innocence in '48 was busted and the acceptance of a two-state solution became the consensus. Likewise the Palestinian narrative has also shifted. If the Palestinians believed that the militarist Jews unjustly drove them from their homes in '48, they are now even more convinced of the rightness and truthfulness of this simplistic view. If the Palestinians saw themselves as mere victims of the struggle, they are now even more convinced of their own innocence and the righteousness of their cause. In short, while the Israelis have moderated their views, the Palestinians have, year after year, decade after decade, bolstered their original narrative.

The Palestinians still refuse to accept any responsibility for the events of 1948. Missing from their narrative is the historical fact that they launched a civil war against the Jews of the Yishuv in November of 1947, directly after UN Resolution 181, the partition resolution. Directly after the Holocaust the Arabs of the mandate, who had allied themselves with Hitler and the Nazis, sought to slaughter the Jewish population in the traditional homeland of the Jewish people. Furthermore, if the Israelis came to accept the idea of a two-state solution, with a state of Palestine living in peace next to a Jewish state, the Palestinian leadership has never accepted the idea and apparently still has not.

Hamas, of course, remains a genocidal theocratic organization devoted to the violent overthrow of the Israeli government and the replacement of the Jewish state with an Islamist state grounded in Sharia law. Fatah, for its part, has refused offer after offer for a Palestinian state next to Israel. Just as the Arabs refused partition in 1937 under the British Peel Commission and just as they refused a Palestinian state next to Israel with UN 181 in 1947, so Arafat refused a Palestinian state comprised of 100 percent of Gaza, well over 90 percent of the West Bank in a contiguous area, with the Arab sections of eastern Jerusalem for a Palestinian capital in 2000. As recently as 2008, Mahmoud Abbas turned down Ehud Olmert's offer for state claiming that the offer was not good enough, despite the fact that it was an even better deal than what Ehud Barak offered Arafat when Bill Clinton sought to end the conflict.

The bottom line is that the Israelis have shifted their thinking over the years and have been willing to make painful concessions for the purpose of peace while the Palestinians have remained entirely intransigent and continue to refuse a state of their own. The only way the occupation can possibly end is with Palestinian acceptance of Palestinian statehood next to Israel. Until they are ready for that, and until they give up the dream of destroying the Jewish state, than they will continue to live in poverty and under occupation.

It's no longer up to Israel because the Israelis have long ago accepted the principle of two states.

Only when the Palestinians also accept the principle of two states for two peoples, only when they moderate their own narrative, can there be a resolution. Until they do their misery will continue even as the Jewish state thrives.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Israel 1242 - Tibet 18


Daily Kos is the largest political blog in the world and represents the grassroots / netroots of the Democratic party and the progressive movement. These people claim to be interested in human rights, but they are not. Not really. If Daily Kos, as a group, honestly cared about human rights than they would care about the human rights of all peoples. But they do not. Do they care about human rights in Darfur where in recent years over 300,000 people have died and millions more displaced? Not so much. Do they care about the over 5 MILLION dead in the Congo? So, sorry. Not really.

How about Tibet? Surely these self-righteous activists, so committed to peace and universal principles of human rights would care about Tibet. It's Tibet, for chrissake. China is occupying Tibet and denying the Tibetans basic human rights. Surely left-liberal American activists of the kind that write on Daily Kos would care about them. Well, again, not so much really.

A basic tag search of the Daily Kos blog reveals that between Feb 21, 2009 and today there were a grand total of 18 essays on the topic of Tibet. That is a total of 18 essays over the period of about 13 months on a left political blog with over 200,000 registered users. During that exact same period of time, however, there were 1242 diaries on the subject of Israel.

Tag search Israel.

Tag search Tibet.

Whatever else we might make of such numbers it clearly reveals that the denizens of Kos-Land take an exceedingly selective view on the subject of human rights. They care about some people and hardly at all about others.

In truth, these people do not really care about human rights at all for if they did they would care about the human rights of people who do not happen to live in Ramallah or Gaza City. If they honestly cared about human rights they would care about the Tibetans. They would care about Darfur. They would care about Congo and Chechnya.

They don't.

1242 to 18.

The blatant hypocrisy is astounding.