Warning – a completely off-topic and slightly politically charged post. That said, read on.
A friend, knowing that I’m Jewish (admittedly an entirely a-religious Jew) sent me a link to this article about Israel and the Palestinians. I don’t usually response to these sorts of articles – it tends to be an invitation for argument and criticism by armchair pundits who have never visited the Middle East and don’t really understand the issues in the complex region.
In this case, ad for whatever reason, I decided to take the bait and jotted some responses to the Author’s specific assertions. Here follows Michel Collon’s “10 Big Lies” and my viewpoint on his perspective.
1. The first lie is that Israel was established in reaction to the massacre of Jews during the World War II. This notion is completely wrong. Israel is in fact a domineering project which was approved in the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland, in 1897, when nationalist Jews decided to occupy Palestine.
This is a little disingenuous. True the Zionist congress did call for the creation of the state of Israel (not to dominate but simply as protection from the centuries of persecution in Russia, Spain etc). But the 1948 creation of the State was a reaction to British promises and global concern post-Holocaust.
2. The second justification for establishing and legitimizing Israel is that the Jews are returning to their forefathers’ land, from where they had been driven away in 70 A.D. This is a tale. I have spoken to the famous Israeli historian Shlomo Sand and other historians and they all believe that there has been no “exodus,” so “return” is meaningless. The people living in Palestine have not left their land in the ancient era. In fact the descendents of Jews residing in Palestine are the people who are currently living in Palestine. Those who claim they want to return to their lands originate for Western and Eastern Europe and Northern Africa. Sand says there is no Jewish nation. The Jews do not have common history, language or culture. The only common thing between them is their religion, and religion does not make a nation.
Religion makes a people. Those people (the Jews) share a common language (of prayer anyway), Hebrew. They share common cultural traits and at Passover for a couple of millennia have been praying for a return to Jerusalem. If this doesn’t equate to a “nation” then I don’t know what does. As a Jew (and one whose parents, grandparents nor ancestors going back hundreds of years haven’t physically “lived” in Israel) I believe the ancient history of Israel is my personal history. Mount Sinai is where MY ancestor Moses received the Ten Commandments, Masada is where my ancestors made the ultimate sacrifice rather than fall into the hands of the Romans, Israel is where I can dig and find a Judea Capta, the coin minted to celebrate the fall of Judea. As such, and despite the fact that I’m not an Israeli and am unlikely to ever be one, Israel does feel like my “home” in some way.
3. The third lie is that when Jewish immigrants occupied Palestine, it was an empty and uninhibited country.
However, there are documents and evidences that prove that in the 19th century the agricultural products of Palestine were exported to different countries, including France.
Ever visited the Huleh Valley? 60 years ago it was malarial swamp, it’s now bustling agricultural and horticultural land. Seen the amount of technology that Israel produces? A century ago it produced very little. Ever seen how much culture and art comes from the State of Israel? Only a few generations ago it was largely a country filled with inter tribal battles.
4. Fourth, some people say Palestinians left their country on their own free will. This is another lie, which lots of people believed, including myself. Until Israeli historians like Benny Morris and Ilan Pappe said that Palestinians were driven away and banished from their lands by using force and terror.
There is some truth to this – the mass-exodus of Palestinians in 1948 was partially the fault of the over-zealous Jewish settlers but also partly the fault of the surrounding Arab countries who arrogantly told the Palestinians to move out temporarily to await the quick slaughter of the Jewish settlers – history has shown that this slaughter never occurred and the Palestinians were left in no-mans land – forgotten by their own brethren and unwilling to move back to Israel and to live under Jewish rule.
5. It is said that today Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East and it should be protected; it is the “government of law.” But in my opinion not only it is not the government of law; it is the only regime that no law defines its territory and boundaries. All the countries of the world have a constitution which defines their boundaries, but no such thing applies to Israel. Israel is an expansionist project which knows no boundary, and its law is completely racist; according to this law Israel is the country for Jews, and its non-Jew citizens are not considered human. Such law is a contradiction to democracy.
Firstly – try telling a Saudi woman who wants to drive her own car that Israel isn’t a democracy but that other Middle Eastern countries are. That aside however, it is important not to confuse the expansion of borders in a wartime situation (and to protect security) with lawlessness. History has shown (think giving back the Sinai) that Israel is happy to return captured territory in return for a cessation of hostilities. I personally think that Israel could/should do more to solve the Palestinian issues once and for all but in its defense, it is very hard to do so with Hamas and Hizbollah continually trying to undermine any semblance of a peace process
6. It is said that the US tries to protect democracy in the Middle East by protecting Israel. And we know that the US annual financial aid to Israel amounts to 3 billion dollars. This money is used for bombarding Israel’s neighbor countries. But America is not after establishing democracy in the Middle East; it wants the undisturbed flow of oil.
US foreign policy is a little out of scope of this conversation but, yes, US foreign aid does prop up the Israeli economy, although to say that this is all used for bombing neighbor countries is simplistic and plain wrong.
7. They pretend that the US seeks an agreement between Israel and Palestine. This is also completely wrong and a lie. EU former Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana told the Israel that “you are the 21st country of the European Union.” The European weapons industries cooperate with the Israeli military industries and support them financially. But when Palestinians elected their government, Europe did not recognize it and gave the green light to Israel to attack the Gaza Strip.
Not sure if the author here is talking the US or Europe – but either way I’ve visited Palestinian refugee camps (that see significant foreign aid from Europe and elsewhere). Travelled extensively in Israel and real the press outside of Israel. My perception is that the European governments in particular are at least as sympathetic to the Palestinian demands as they are to those of Israel.
8. When one talks about these facts and the history of Israel and Palestine, when one reveals the US interests in this situation, they call you anti-Semite to keep you silent. But we should say that when we criticize Israel, it is not racism or anti-Semitism. We criticize a government that does not believe in the equality of Jews, Christians and Muslims, and so destroys the peace between followers of different religions.
Firstly – I agree that anti-Semitism does not equate to anti-Israel feelings. Israel, while a Jewish nation, is populated by more than just Jews. Similarly there are millions of Jews who are not Israel. There fore anti-Zionist and anti-Semitic are tow very distinct things. As for the second paragraph of the authors text – this is hyper-emotive – having seen running battles between different Christian sects in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, and after seeing the violence between different Arab groups, it’s hard to apportion the blame for destruction of inter-religious peace entirely at the feet of Israel
9. The mass media say that Palestinians cause violence and terrorism. We say Israel army’s occupation is violence, the policy that has stolen land and home from Palestinians is violence.
I’d agree that Israeli troops have made mistakes dealing with Palestinians, but this does not equate to Israel’s army being a terrorist group. In the same way that despite Hizbullah being a (self declared) terrorist group, I’d not say that all Palestinians are terrorists (they clearly aren’t)
10. An issue which is often raised is that there is no way for resolving this situation, and there is no solution for the hatred and the grudge caused by Israel and its accomplices. But there is a solution. The only thing that can stop this process is the public pressure on the accomplices of Israel in the US and Europe and other parts of the world; public pressure on the mass media which refrain from telling the truth about Israel; and using the Internet or any other media out let to publish real news about Palestine.
Will Jews and Arabs ever find peace? Well considering the distinct lack of any proof that Arabs themselves can get along without conflict, it’s hard to see how this would happen. As for the assertions about cover-ups and the mas media being some kind of front for Israel – my distinct impression is that, if anything, the mass media, especially in Australasia and Europe, is, if anything, harder on Israel for it’s mistakes than it is on the Palestinian groups.