Amira Hass on Israel's dangerous complacency

Amira Hass has just written a brilliant free-association analysis in Haaretz which explains part of what is going on here, now:

    “Thinking America guides Jewish-Israeli society in its policy toward our very own red Indians. Why should we be less successful than the United States, Canada or Australia, which, as they came into being and gained world eminence, wiped out – to differing degrees – the societies and communities that lived there before? When it comes to us, why should people not forget what they have forgotten about those countries, which now present themselves as bastions of enlightenment? Now, when the remnants of the first peoples in those countries dare to demand rights, a share in resources and compensation, they no longer endanger whites and their hegemony. And this could be just as true for us. We will hold out another 20 or 50 years, continue robbing the goat and the hill and grinding down the poor, encouraging emigration, buying off and suppressing the leadership, arming and going to war. Until this nuisance of a national, cultural and political entity that is demanding its rights all but disappears. This train of thought is so logical that most Israelis are not even interested in discourse about solutions”

    “Thinking big makes us forget that, unlike the model we admire and seek to emulate, we are a minority in the region. And the region is evolving and demanding a change in the rules of the game that have been so convenient for the United States and Israel. The real question is not whether the solution is ‘two states’ or ‘one state’. History in any case does not recognize end points – every stage leads to another. Visions are also not lacking. The visions must develop and change during the struggle for equality and justice, otherwise they will become gulags. The question was, and is, how much more bloodshed, suffering and disasters will be needed until the Jewish regime of discrimination and separation, which we have created here over the past 64 years, crumbles…

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The current mood

Yael Sternhell wrote in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz today that “In the Israel of 2011, every manifestation of basic human empathy toward the Palestinian side, every disclosure of understanding for its aspirations and priorities hits a wall of hatred, distrust and the growing siege mentality”.

She compares the situation to that of the U.S. at the start of the civil rights movement in the early 1960s, and draws a parallel to a call for Israeli Jews to march on July 15 in support of the end of Israeli occupation of Palestinian land and lives, and for an independent Palestinian state.

And, she says, “We, the Jews who live in Israel, participate each day, each hour, in the denial of basic rights to Palestinian citizens, in the perpetuation of the settlements and the occupation. We’re in a similar position to that of many whites in the United States in the 1960s. Most of us find it hard to support the Palestinian struggle for independence, whether out of laziness, indifference or a basic loathing of those we’ve been told all our lives are a necessary enemy. Most of us find it hard to stand up to the story told by the government and most of the media that the Palestinian declaration of independence is a disaster for Israel, exactly as most whites in the South saw the granting of voting rights to blacks as the end of civilization. Most of us find it hard to believe that it’s possible to live together in peace, just as those whites in Alabama found it hard to imagine life in a free society in which members of all races have the same rights. Most of us also have more pressing matters to attend to, just as the whites all over the United States found it hard to see why the fact that Southern blacks couldn’t vote should keep them awake at night”. This article is posted here.

In another article also published on the Haaretz website on the same day, this one about the thwarted Freedom Flotilla Two, Amira Hass wrote: “Blocking the flotilla did not discourage the organizers, who are graduates of the anti-apartheid and anti-white supremacy struggles. Rather, it provided ample proof of how white Israel is. As a result, blocking the flotilla only increased their motivation to keep placing the Palestinians’ demand for freedom at the forefront of the international agenda”. This is posted here.

Amira Hass on the violence of The Occupation

“There is no Israeli whose presence in the West Bank is neutral. Civilian or armed, soldier or woman settler, resident of a quality-of-life settlement or a nearby outpost, MahsomWatch activist or guest at a settlement, Bezek worker or client at a Palestinian garage. All of them, all of us, are in this Palestinian territory, in the West Bank, because our state occupied it in 1967. The presence of every Israeli in the West Bank is based on a regime of privilege that developed out of that primary act of occupation. We have the privilege of hiking in Palestinian areas to our heart’s content, of buying subsidized housing for Jews only on the lands of Bethlehem, of raising cherries and grapes in the wadis of Hebron, of quarrying on the mountain slopes, of driving on roads whose land was expropriated from the indigenous inhabitants for public use. The Palestinians, in contrast to us, not only are not allowed to move from Hebron to Tel Aviv, because they like the sea, for example; they are not even allowed to visit the lands and homes their family owned before 1948, nor are they allowed to tour Galilee and visit relatives. The regime of travel permits that has been in place since 1991 deprives all Palestinians of the right to freedom of movement in Israel while the system of roadblocks limits their movement in their own territories. The right to travel the land is a basic human right, and like any right, when it is not universal, it is a mutilated right, that is, it becomes a privilege. That is a fact, even if most Israelis repress or ignore it. Our presence in the Palestinian territories, which is based on military and political superiority, is therefore violent and arrogant by its very nature, even when it is expressed in pleasant ways, like cultivating gardens in settlements or taking a pre-Shabbat hike. How do the Palestinians deal with this violence and arrogance? Some take up arms and hope to kill Israelis. However, most choose other ways, civilian and not military, to deal with our non-neutral presence, with the daily violence that is at the basis of every occupying regime. But let us not fool ourselves: most understand those who take up arms. Therefore when the prime minister of the Ramallah government, Salam Fayyad, expressed his sorrow over the killing of two young armed hikers from Kiryat Arba last Friday, he managed to anger his public. ‘Any death is unnecessary’ he was quoted in Haaretz as saying. These are wise and humane words. If those who are angry at him listened carefully, they would have heard him teaching the Israelis that the death of every Palestinian is also unnecessary. It is not his responsibility that Prime Minster Ehud Olmert did not express sorrow that Israeli soldiers killed Khaldiya Hamdan, a 51-year-old Gaza woman returning from Mecca via the Erez crossing. But Fayyad did not make do with an expression of regret. According to the Palestinian daily Al Quds he said, ‘the military action was carried out on Palestinian land’ and that the authority must ‘meet its security obligations’. Haaretz reported that Fayyad said the authority had already arrested suspects and was cooperating with the Israeli security forces. Now the Shin Bet claims that the two individuals in custody (who gave themselves up) are connected to the Palestinian security services (which the Palestinians deny). Fayyad suited his response to Israeli and American expectations from the Palestinian Authority. Despite the fact that the Israel Defense Forces is the sole sovereign over the West Bank, the PA is expected to protect Israeli citizens; that is, to act as a sub-contractor for the IDF and the Shin Bet. But Fayyad cannot meet these expectations, because they completely contradict the harshness of the basic experience of every Palestinian he is said to represent – which is the violence of our presence”.

This piece by Amira Hass in Haaretz is posted here.