's 60th anniversary is a time to take stock. Alon Ben Meir
notes that Israeli security problems have not ended, despite our achievements. He blames the occupation. If only Israel ended the "torment" of the occupation, we could live in peace and security and consolidate our considerable gains, writes Ben-Meir. Bashar al Assad will show himself as a true democrat and friend of peace. The Hamas
will sing Hatikva
Ben Meir's quest for peace is laudable. We should not prolong the occupation one minute longer than is needed for the security of Israel, and we must always be open to the possibility of peace. We should work toward the day when there is peace in the Middle East, and every people is secure and prosperous in their own state, every man under his vine and his fig tree. Nonetheless, I am not at all certain of the wisdom of Ben-Meir's pronouncement. Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies. He is an authority, and he passes on his views of the Middle East
to his students and to other authorities. I am just me, an Israeli citizen. I am getting on in years, and perhaps my memory is not what it ought to be, so who am I to contradict Professor Ben Meir? I remember a time when there was no occupation. In that period, I spent many months in Israel, though I did not live here. Notably, I visited Israel during its tenth anniversary celebrations, 50 years ago, and again in 1964. Israel did not occupy the West Bank or Gaza or any Syrian or Egyptian land then. I do not remember that the Saut el Arab
(voice of the Arabs) from Cairo broadcast greetings to the Zionist state, or that Radio Amman or Radio Damascus sent friendly greetings to their Jewish neighbors on the occasion of our independence celebrations. On the contrary, I seem to remember some not very polite invective about the "Zionist entity." In the run-up to the 1967 Six Day War
I remember Ahmad Shukhairy, head of the neighborly Palestine Liberation Organization at the time, promising that any Zionists left alive would be expelled from Israel.
Not long ago I got a circular e-mail from a Palestinian Arab acquaintance who is engaged in "reconciliation." My acquaintance, at one time a friend and collaborator, or so I thought, is not a Hamas extremist, but a professed "moderate" and believer in non-violence.
The e-mail asked that we listen to radio programs about the Palestine Nakba
and "60 years of occupation." Sixty years, not 40. I am sure that the significance of this does not escape Professor Ben -Meir! Indeed, "ending the occupation" at the present juncture, will put an end to the violence. But the "occupation" that must be ended in order to satisfy even fairly moderate Palestinian Arabs is the 60 year occupation - the "occupation" of Tel Aviv and Haifa, of Rehovot, Rishon Le-Zion, Jaffo, Gedera, Tiberias, Safed and Eilat, all of which, in their view, are part of "occupied Palestine." These Palestinian moderates never accepted the UN Partition Resolution. Even the most moderate and reasonable of Arab Palestinians, Dr. Ziad Assali
, looks forward to a peace that entirely denies any Jewish rights in the Old City of Jerusalem. He takes it for granted that it is part of "justice" to re-institute the brutal ethnic cleansing of the Jews of Jerusalem
that took place in 1948. Dr Assali, MD, has a prescription for peace: Jerusalem must be Judenrein. We must never give up the hope of peace, but though I am no professor of International relations, it seems to me unrealistic to expect that ending the 1967 occupation is going to bring peace any time soon. The danger in fact, is that it will whet the appetites of those who want to end the 1948 "occupation." We thought that ending the occupation of Gaza would be a move in the right direction. Unfortunately we were wrong. No doubt, Professor Ben-Meir may insist that had we only ended the occupation of Gaza with an agreement with the Palestinian Authority, it would have been different. No doubt, if the Hamas establishes a state in the West Bank after Israeli withdrawal, it would be possible to find some fault with Israeli behavior that was responsible for that as well. No doubt, if the Hezbollah are established in the Golan Heights after Israeli withdrawal, the learned professors will be able to find something amiss with Israeli actions as well. In the social sciences, it is always possible to support a thesis regardless of the facts.
Anyone who has any doubts about the benefits of the proffered "peace" should consider the situation of Israel and our Egyptian and Jordanian neighbors. Israel returned all of Sinai, a vast territory, to obtain "peace" with Egypt, and Israel likewise made peace with Jordan. This "peace" manifests itself chiefly in the neighborly, not to mention brotherly, sentiments, that issue forth continuously from the Jordanian and Egyptian media in an endless stream. According to them, Israel
is a colonialist imperialist illegitimate state, a foreign body in the Middle East
that need to be eradicated. Peace has effected a major improvement. Our enemies no longer talk of "the Zionist entity." They can actually write "Israel." But the content is the same. Our friendly and peaceful neighbors send us a shower of greetings on the occasion of our Sixtieth anniversary. Here is Jonathan Power writing in the moderate, neighborly and peaceful Jordan Times in the ever so peaceful Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan:
Looking at the end of Israel?
....There are few rewards in this life for being farsighted on political questions. The Zionists still have the bit between their teeth on the creation of a permanent Jewish state, even as they face self-destruction....
For the Zionists, this would be a terrible end. But need it be for rank and file Jews who just want to bring up their families and live in an atmosphere emptied of violence? (Read Israeli novelist Shifra Hornís book ďOde to JoyĒ if you want to smell the cordite and sense deep in the soul their everyday fear of being blown up.)
But unmistakably this is the direction events and demographics are moving and arguably the best thing that outsiders can now do for Israel is to stop trying to help organise the creation of two states and let the Israelis themselves look the Palestinians in the eye as the demographics bite.
Smell the cordite, folks? Or do you smell something else? While Israel is an unviable state of course, and an artificial creation, it is clear that Transjordan was mentioned from the most ancient times, and has a thriving economy based on export of sand and barchash flies, and import of foreign aid.
And here is another of our nice neighbors to the south, from the land of the pyramids, a regime that is propped up with huge doses of American aid. US tax dollars helped pay to print this encomium to Israel in al Ahram, one of many. This one is by Ayman El-Amir:
Immigration to Israel has become a matter of economic opportunity, not the claimed pseudo-religious Zionist ideology of "return to the Promised Land". The population of Israel is 5.2 million out of a world Jewry population of 13 million, with about five million living in the US. Immigration to Israel is declining; the fertility rate among the Jewish population is 0.5 per cent, far below the population replacement value, while the Palestinian fertility rate is nearly three per cent. Israeli politicians regard this as a bomb ready to explode. Israeli concerns have prompted rising calls to declare Israel an exclusively Jewish state where only Jews are eligible for citizenship. The rest -- that is, the Palestinians who have lived on that land since the time of the Canaanites -- are regarded as a nuisance to be evicted when circumstances are favourable.
Israel's main problem, however, is that unlike the American Indians or indigenous populations in other colonised lands, the Palestinians refuse to disappear or melt away. Despite the brutal occupation, genocide, mass detentions, numberless checkpoints, the economic blockade, daily humiliation and starvation, and the powerful support afforded to Israel by the US administration, Palestinians refuse to be amassed together in a reservation under the title of a Palestinian state. Palestinian elders keep the keys to their original houses, the deeds to their property, and teach their children about the horrors they had to endure at the hands of those they once embraced as neighbours in the historic land of Palestine.
Sixty years after its "independence", Israel has lost its moral compass. Aggression, occupation and expansion have become its most vaunted practices. Hence it has no sense of security. It seeks regional recognition and cooperation but enforces a system of apartheid against the Palestinians. It forces a stop at Yad Vashim on the schedule of every visiting dignitary but kills Palestinian men, women and children, bulldozes their houses and orchards, confiscates their land, pumps out their water, arrests and detains thousands of them indefinitely, violates every human dignity under the sun, and denies the nation it subsumed its legitimate rights. Israel is not planning on any just and lasting settlement with the Palestinians. Like its master, the US, it only believes in the force of arms -- the ability to subjugate by destruction. That is what the Nazis did to the Jews and other minorities in Europe; and that is what the Jews of Israel are doing to the Palestinians. What Israel and the Western alliance call "acts of terrorism" by fundamentalists are the same acts they cheered as heroic by the resistance to Nazi occupation in Europe.
According to our Egyptian friends, we Israelis are just like the Nazis, and the French resistance was in the habit of blowing up pizza parlors and discotheques full of German kids. And the US, our "masters" who pay Mr. El-Amir's salary are just as bad.
As much as we may be for peace, we must recognize that sixty years after the foundation of the state of Israel, even our "peaceful" neighbors are still bent on the obliteration of Israel. Al-Ahram, a moderate journal in a moderate Arab state, insists that we are just as bad as the Nazis, no matter how many Palestinian Arab children are treated in Israeli hospitals and no matter that we returned Sinai and gave up the Gaza strip. We are just like Nazis for our friendly neighbors, and the terrorists who murder our children are precisely like resistance heroes of World War II. Those are the moderates, representing the government views. At least, Mr. El-Amir agrees that Nazis were bad. The opposition media in Egypt insist that it is too bad Hitler didn't finish his work. Not so long ago, the Egyptian television ran the "Knight without a horse" docudrama, that presented the mythical "Elders of Zion" as fact.
Professor Ben-Meir, there are more things in the Middle East then are dreamt of in your philosophy. In NYU, you can afford to create a virtual Middle East and people it with peace loving folks. Cairo is not across the East River, Amman is not in Long Island. The Hezbollah are not in Westchester, and Mr. Hanniyeh is not a Brooklyn gangster. Ending the occupation is an important and desired goal, but neither you, nor your students, should have the illusion that ending the occupation in itself is going to end the violence and hatred of Israel.
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