Posted by: Lister | January 28, 2008

Palestinians Are Nobody’s Negroes

I just found a Lawrence of Cyberia blog, via JSF.

Years ago I read some words of Edward Said that seemed at the time rather innocuous but which I think, in retrospect, really lie at the heart of the I/P conflict and help to explain why it has remained unresolved so long: “Until the time comes when Israel assumes moral responsibility for what it has done to the Palestinian people, there can be no end to the conflict”.

[…] The I/P conflict is, at base, about what it means to create a state for Jewish people in a land with a preexisting population that is overwhelmingly not Jewish. It might have saved a lot of blood and treasure if the subject had been honestly debated a century ago, instead of being hidden behind silly lies like “a land without a people for a people without a land”, but it wasn’t. So, better late than never, I guess.

[…] There is dissent even among Jewish Israelis over whether it is appropriate to describe an allegedly modern, democratic state in confessional, sectarian terms. Israeli novelist Amos Oz has written that the concept is absurd, for “A state cannot be Jewish, just as a chair or a bus cannot be Jewish”.

[…] Third, it would be useful to clarify at the outset what exactly the PLO is rejecting when it refuses to say Israel is a “Jewish state”. Let’s at least know what the PLO refuses to recognize before we get upset that they reject it.

[…] If you really don’t want those misgivings to be aired, because they raise questions that are difficult for you to answer, you can simply pretend that in rejecting a “Jewish state” the PLO is actually rejecting “a state populated by Jews”. Once you have managed to misrepresent the Palestinian position as simply wanting to “drive the Jews into the sea”, a position which has no legitimate defenses, then you have again preempted the danger of rational debate.

But the PLO’s position on recognition is nothing to do with getting rid of the Jewish people in Israel. The PLO recognizes the state of Israel in its 1967 borders; it recognizes the right of Israel to exist in security within those borders; it acknowledges that the composition of Israel’s population is overwhelmingly Jewish (about 80 per cent); and, through its acceptance of the Arab peace initiative which gives Israel an effective veto over the implementation of the Right of Return, it is offering — within the context of a comprehensive settlement — a final status agreement that allows Israel to retain that demographic make-up.

[…] Not unexpectedly, the PLO does not accept that Israel had the right to gerrymander its Jewish majority by forcing out three-quarters of its non-Jewish residents in 1948. Nevertheless, by recognizing Israel in its 1967 borders, and agreeing that the right for refugees to return there can be implemented only in agreement with the Israeli government, the PLO is offering the Israelis a peace agreement that preserves the outcome of that ethnic cleansing. Without saying it was all right to expel the Palestinians in 1948, the PLO is offering to make a peace deal on the basis of where the parties stand now, in 2008.

[…] What the PLO is offering is a real painful concession, in which people who were not squatters in illegal settlements in belligerently occupied territory, but indigenous residents living in their own homes in their own land, offer to implement their legitimate legal right to go home in a way that preserves the way of life of those who forcibly evicted them in the first place.

[quote of Yasir Abed Rabbo]

[…] This is a generous offer whose proportions the Israelis – who apparently think that Barak’s attempt (below, left) to give back disjointed parts of something that didn’t belong to him in the first place, actually constitutes a “generous offer” – cannot begin to imagine.

He also mentions the misrepresentation of Ahmadinejad’s speech, somehting I’ve blogged about. But this says it well:

…Mahmoud Ahmedinejad said that the occupation regime over Jerusalem would disappear from the pages of time. He’s not a Zionist. He doesn’t think the pre-existing people and culture of Arab Palestine should be destroyed to make way for a Zionist state populated by an overwhelmingly immigrant population of Jewish people from all over the world. To him, the creation of a minority, sectarian regime in the Muslim-dominated land of Palestine raises all sorts of questions, like: What is the justification for it, and how do you expect the disenfranchised majority population will react to it? Why should Jewish people anywhere in the world have greater rights to Palestine than native Palestinian Christians and Muslims? Is a regime like that sustainable, or will it go the same way as the Soviet regime in the USSR, the rule of the Shah in Iran, and Saddam’s regime in Iraq? But once you translate his original words as “wiping Israel off the map”, and hammer it into people’s heads that he was threatening to nuke Israel and “kill the Jews”, you don’t have to answer any of those questions.

Then he talks about what he thinks a “Jewish State” implies for the rights of non-Jewish citizens. He quotes some of the worst Israeli politicians in order to make his point. I think that there would be riots in Israel if Lieberman tried to do even half of the things he’s talked about. There certianly would be a change in attitude in America.

Here are the reference LOC makes to support his point:

The Israeli former Minister for Strategic threats, Avigdor Lieberman, declared: “They are not wanted here. They can take the bundles and go to Hell!”, and called for the expulsion of the “Arabs of Israel” on Army Radio in May 2004.

Former and perhaps future Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, warned at the influential Herzliya Conference in December 2003 that if the percentage of Arab citizens rises above its current level of about 20 percent, Israel will not be able to remain both Jewish and democratic, saying: “If there is a demographic problem, and there is, it is with the Israeli Arabs who will remain Israeli citizens…” (Lapid lambastes ‘barbaric’ settlers; Ha’aretz, 19 Dec 2003).

At the same conference, Dr. Yitzhak Ravid, a senior researcher at Rafael, Israel’s Armament Development Authority, proposed that Israel should prevent such an outcome by implementing a stringent policy of family planning, targeted specifically at its Muslim citizens, because “the delivery rooms in Soroka Hospital in Be’er Sheva have turned into a factory for the production of a backward population.”


If the PLO position on 1948 is a pragmatic one which amounts to “once, but never again”, the Israeli position is an ideological one that amounts to “once in 1948, and again should we need to”. Israel assumes it can make peace with the Palestinians not by agreeing with them on practical solutions to practical problems, but by using the imbalance of power between the two parties to force the Palestinians to adopt the ideological world-view through which most Jewish Israelis see the conflict, i.e. Zionism. “If only everyone will think like us, then the problem will be solved”, as it were.


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