August 21st, 2014
As a friend of Israel, I regret to conclude that the Liberal secular Israel I admired has ceased to exist.
One would have hoped that over time both Israelis and Palestinian would have reached an understanding, reconciling the different views while respecting international law and human rights. It would have led to greater prosperity for the greater Middle East region.
The Israeli/Palestine conflict reminds of what Albert Camus wrote in 1956 about that “infernal dialectic,” when he described the conflict between France and Algeria.
“that infernal dialectic”, according to which “whatever kills one side kills the other too, each blaming the other and justifying his violence by the opponent’s violence. The eternal question as to who was first responsible loses all meaning then. And because they could not manage to live together, two populations, similar and different at the same time but equally worthy of respect, are condemned to die together, with rage in their hearts”.
Today the question is how these issues can be solved, given the increasing spiral of violence, polarization and the lack of moral leadership. But obviously the answer is not to be found in a State in which only Jews have full right and non-Jews are second and third rate citizen, not recognizing Palestinian rights, human rights, territorial and settlement expansion with the strategy for a greater biblical Israel.
The solution can only be found in talking to and negotiating with each other.
As I grew up in the Netherlands with lessons of History, we understand Europe owns a collective debt to the Jewish people, a debt which never can be repaid.
At the time, during the 1960’s and 1970’s we regarded the State of Israel as a neighbour, a friend, as an example and supported Israel during the 1960’s and 1970’s and which country I later visited with great pleasure on numerous occasions.
In high school and college during the 1960’s and the first Arab-Israeli conflicts of 1967 and 1973 it must be said our views were rather one sided at the time, on ever the one hand supporting and applauding Israel strongly, and on the other hand ignoring the plight of the Palestinians and the atrocities by Irgun and Stern militias such as” Deir Yassin” which triggered the exodus of 800,000 Palestinians, created the refugee camps and emptied Israel of 80% of its population.
Today these atrocities are viewed as “war crimes and crimes against humanity” which took place on a reciprocal basis between the warring parties. But the resistance of the Palestinians cannot be viewed as surprising.
My views and understanding have changed over time, first after my first visits in the early 1980’s and because of the massacre at “Sabra and Shatila” on 16-18 September 1982. After a four months investigation the Kahan report said, “the mission turned out to be the indiscriminate massacre of about 700-800 children, women and elderly innocent Palestinians who inhibited the camps.”
Defence minister Ariel Sharon was indirectly held responsible for failing prevent the massacre and was forced to resign and became later Prime Minister testifying to the fact that Israel has corrupted itself morally.
Obviously this change in my attitude is not surprising given Israel’s disrespect for human rights and international law. In time I have become more critical and disturbed by the fact how unjust the Palestinians have been treated during the last 60 years and the inability of the Palestinian leadership to use the many different opportunities offered for a two-state solution.
Being convinced people everywhere are identical, human rights are universal and international law should be respected, it should be clear that a ”just” solution to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict can only be based on international law and the policy of exclusion is ill advised and can only lead to more bloodshed.
It must be concluded that under influence of the election of first Ariel Sharon and later Benjamin Netanyahu Israell today is fundamentally different from the liberal Zionist state as envisioned by Davis Ben-Gurion, Abba Eban, Golda Meir and Yitzhak Rabin and respected by the world.
With the demographic changes in the 1980’s under influence of the arrival of Sephardic Jews gradually the influence of the Ashkenazi Jews was decreased. The Menachem Begin Government increased the expansion of the settlements and helped increase the influence of the ultra-Orthodox, with it came a high fertility rate of on average 6,5 children and who rely heavenly on subsidies to survive which is unsustainable. Israel has changed from a sparely populated country to one of the most densely countries in the world, which population is expected to grow by 2050 to 23-36 million people.
With the arrival the Begin, Sharon and Netanyahu Governments the moderate and secular direction of Israel has been even more replaced by a hardliner and religious one which will do not nothing to solve Israel – Palestinian conflict; the disconnection with the Palestinians get only worse while the conflict gets worse every year, mostly for the children of the region.
The same can be said about Yasser Arafat, the immoral leader of the Palestinians who never could make the step from revolutionary to leader, who failed in his responsibilities to his people although the internal divisions made his task rather difficult. But it must be said the last 60 years have been full of lost opportunities in creating a two-state solution. Historians will be unkind to Arafat, revolutionary, terrorist, war criminal and President.
The Palestinians would have needed a Nelson Mandela who said, “We owe our children, the most vulnerable citizens in our society, a life free of violence and fear.”
Like previous US governments which always have supported Israel, it should not be forgotten how previous Israeli government have supported Hamas, since they saw it in their wisdom as counter weight to the PLO. In short, Hamas is a beast of their own making, testifying to their moral blindness.
Looking from a distance at the occupation and the Palestinian/ Israeli conflict in general it can only be concluded that over the past years, the Israeli Governments are inheriting the wind of their immoral policies. This despite the fact there is a moral opposition against the Israeli policies inside of Israel and abroad. There are boycotts against Israel by the EU which are fully justified.
We have seen the same with Ariel Sharon “he made it a desert and called it peace”, and just like Sharon in the past the Israeli Government under Netanyahu who and his followers created a culture of hate in Israel.
Netanyahu’s ugly rhetoric brings back memories to the climate during which Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated.
Yitzhak Rabin was in 1995 the best hope for lasting peace in the Middle East, but was assassinated by Yigal Amir a right wing activist, in a climate of incitement and hate created by Likud. People like Social Affair Minister Ora Namir of Likud, who walked into a cabinet meeting on October 31 1994 with a sign “Rabin must be killed”, created this climate and are responsible.
Netanyahu, a morally corrupt individual with a mask of moderate has been on a stampede with dominating, expelling, starving, killing and humiliating Palestinians and has left a path of destruction without a battle plan, or exit strategy.
The vile nature of Hamas cannot justify the total disregard of civilian lives by Israel. Israel empowered Hamas and as the oppressor has lost the moral high ground for some time by its treatment of Palestinian human rights.
Israel has the right of self-defence, but within the obligations that international law imposes on Israel. Just like Hamas has violated international humanitarian law by firing rockets indiscriminately into Israel. But the crimes of Hamas, the suicide attacks do not justify Israel’s crimes.
It is an illusion to think that like before, by turning to massive violence the Israeli army can stop the resistance against occupation. The slogan “to root out terror” has always been a vain illusion as is the so called victory elusive, only diplomatic negotiations can bring a solution.
I can only conclude that the 45-year occupation of the Palestine territories has corrupted Israel morally, which is dominating, expelling, starving, killing, and humiliating and prosecuting the Palestinians, inviting the destructive attacks, resulting in the terrible waist of young lives.
During the latest Palestinian uprising and there will be other uprisings, we have seen once again attacks against houses, school, hospitals, the snipers; the executions remind me of the dark times of European history.
We have witnessed war crimes, crimes against humanity, a spiral of violence and Israel should have been held accountable for violations against Geneva Convention of 1907 and the Fourth Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War of 1949.
As a friend of Israel this makes it impossible to keep silent since Israel has been and is purposely defying international law in its latest military offensive in Gaza, the world largest open prison with 1,8 million people, whereby one in four of dead victims is a child.
There can be only one conclusion, Israel has the right to exist within its own borders, defend itself, but the spiral of violence needs to be broken at the negotiation table, the Palestinian people have suffered long enough under Israeli occupation and they also deserve their own Palestinian state and not an “Apartheid“ regime of Slaves and Masters in which they are second and third rate citizen.