No 1809 Posted by fw, October 25, 2016
Even the torture of Palestinians begins right after the occupation begins. It reaches a peak during the First Intifada (from Dec 1987 to 1993) when Human Rights Watch estimated that tens of thousands of Palestinian detainees were tortured. Leaving aside the torture and demolition of homes, the point is a large part of Israeli society had to be brutalized and inured to the brutality they inflicted on the Palestinians. If you don’t understand that, and you detach Israeli society from what goes on at the leadership level, then you don’t understand what’s going on. It’s the whole society that’s just gone over the cliff. —Norman Finkelstein
That Palestinian state that they dreamed of – even on the 1967 frontiers – is not going to happen because the occupation settlements have just encroached too far into Palestinian territory. There is no Israeli government which is going to remove them because it won’t have the support of its own population to do so. The United States is indifferent. It always has been indifferent to the fate of the Palestinians, and more so after the ’67 war. There’s going to be no help from the so-called international community, which is just a code word for referring to the US. There’s no such thing as an “international community.” In this situation, it’s far better that the Palestinians acknowledge their situation and then see how to proceed. The situation is grim. It’s pointless prettifying it or finding hope in tiny things – not that these tiny things are not important. The BDS campaign is important. —Tariq Ali
Consider this question as you watch the video and read the notes: What implications, if any, do Finkelstein’s and Ali’s informed observations have for Canada’s Israel-Palestine foreign policy?
Below is an embedded video of a 97-minute talk and Q&A by Norman Finkelstein and Tariq Ali which challenges common misunderstandings about the Israel-Palestine situation. Below the video are my abridged paraphrased notes for the opening 38:23-minutes of the talk. A chronological index accompanies the notes to facilitate selective viewing of the video.
Paul Jay moderates Ali and Finelstein in conversation about the fascisization of Israel and need to build a broad movement in support of the Palestinian people
00:00-03:16 — Paul Jay (PJ) – On Netanyahu’s appointment of Avigdor Lieberman as defense minister. No need for Netanyahu to be concerned about how this might affect American public opinion because the American media will continue the narrative that Israel is the victim. Expect Clinton or Trump to continue support for Israel. This is an “extremely dangerous” time for the Palestinian people. The need for a South African style broad front solidarity movement against the occupation is more urgent. The question before us today is how to develop that broad front so we leave here with something we can do about it. But first some background from our two guests.
Asks Tariq Ali to talk about a serving Israeli general who compared the Israeli political climate to that of Nazi Germany.
03:17-06:45 —Tariq Ali (TA) – If anybody else had said this we would be accused of being anti-Semitic, or self-hating Jews, or whatever the names they use to criticize those who criticize Israel. The general’s remarks did create a propaganda crisis for Israel. People began to realize that the situation in Israel is getting worse and worse, given other recent events. What is worrying people inside the Likud party itself is that the majority of Israelis don’t think the Palestinians are worth bothering about. It’s not just that the occupation of Palestine has been horrific for the Palestinian people, but is proving to be bad for Israelis as well even though they don’t seem to recognize this themselves. Some of the more intelligent factions inside the Israeli establishment do recognize it and feel that unless stopped it will end badly.
06:46-07:19 — PJ – Lieberman actually proposed ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Israel. Why do you think Netanyahu is so confident of his position that the appointment of Lieberman isn’t going to affect the arms deal and affect the positioning right now in terms of the election?
07:20-14:18 — Norman Finkelstein (NF) – Next year will be the 50th anniversary of the occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza. Israel is a small place. Its population is about 8.3 million people. The population under occupation is about 4 million people. To occupy so many people, even with the help of the Palestinian authority, it requires almost every single Israeli to participate in a brutal occupation.
Even the torture of Palestinians begins right after the occupation begins. It reaches a peak during the First Intifada (from Dec 1987 to 1993) when Human Rights Watch estimated that tens of thousands of Palestinian detainees were tortured. Leaving aside the torture and demolition of homes, the point is a large part of Israeli society had to be brutalize and inured to the brutality they inflicted on the Palestinians. If you don’t understand that and you detach Israeli society from what goes on at the leadership level, then you don’t understand what’s going on. It’s the whole society that’s just gone over the cliff.
To understand Israeli society, look at the documentary of the US Civil Rights Movement and look at the whites in the American South. It’s that kind of brutalization that has occurred across Israeli society. And that’s unusual. It’s no doubt true that the US government engages in mass atrocities and brutalities across the planet. But it’s a relatively small number of Americans who participate in those acts. That’s not true in Israel. Even American Jews who went to Israel brutalized Palestinians and then became inured to that brutality. For Israelis, it doesn’t make much difference what maniac happens to be in power. If you look at all Israeli assaults on Gaza and elsewhere, and look at the public opinion polls, in every single case 92% to 95% of Israelis supported those assaults. Basically, they were just massacres. There was no war to speak of.
14:20-21:57 — NF – Norman names the people who are today sounding the warning about the potential fascisization of Israeli society. They are the same people who not so long ago were committing atrocities against Palestinians. And he reviews these atrocities.
21:58-23:06 — PJ – Tells the anecdote of being in Beirut in 2012 and talking to a girl, 14 or15, in a Palestinian refugee camp. He asked her what she would say to Israeli kids her age. She said she would like to strangle them with my bare hands because she saw on Israeli mainstream television, when they were bombing Gaza, kids writing their names on the bombs. The anger in these kids for what they have experienced does not have a way to express itself in a way that’s going to be liberating for the Palestinian people. So, where are we in terms of the response of Palestinians right now?
23:08-36:25 — TA – If we’re brutally honest we must say that the Palestinian organizations, especially the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO), which negotiated the Oslo Accords, has participated in collaborating in the defeat that has been inflicted on the Palestinian people. This collaboration was vital for the Israelis to do what they’re now doing. The debate and discussions that has now opened up, even within the PLO, is an indication that everyone now knows, there’s no secret that this is the way we’re going. And for a long time, it was difficult to say. But Palestinians themselves must say in public what is going on, because saying it will be helpful and will not allow the people to get too demoralized. If no one opens their mouths from within the leadership or lower echelons, we’re sunk.
The scale of the collaboration was huge. Of the money given to the so-called Palestinian Authority (PA) — which was Palestinian but had no authority at all; the real authority was the IDF and behind it the Israeli government and behind it the White House and State Department. What the PA had was a budget. Billions came in. Most of it was spent of security. What is meant by security? Defending the Palestinian people against the onslaughts of the IDF? No! The security was to keep their own people under control and to deal with rival factions of the Palestinians in Gaza.
Where else did the money go? It went to enriching members of the PA – political leaders, lower level people who were bought off and told “We’ve struggled enough. Let’s enjoy life for a bit.” It’s okay to enjoy life for a bit if your own people aren’t living in such dire and desperate conditions. And this was completely ignored. This money, which could have been used to aid every Palestinian family, to build schools, to build clinics, etc. was frittered away. And the Israelis knew what they [the Israelis] were doing — they were buying off the top layers of Palestinian society with the PLO. We have now reached a situation where there is no open denial of the misuse of money. It’s a tragedy that the leaders of a movement could be bought off so easily.
The Palestinian leaders must say to the world there is no Palestinian Authority. We’re going to dump it. It doesn’t exist. We are just Palestinians in this region, which is occupied by Israel. That’s what we are. Are you going to help us? Please do. If not, we will struggle on and live together and share each other’s goods and money as long as we can. Because that is what is needed. This awakening by the leadership, if it exists, has come too bloody late for the Palestinian people. They know what you [the leadership] has done. The Israelis do horrific things, but being defeated by your own leadership is psychologically and politically very damaging. That is more difficult to get over, because you then say, “What alternative do we have?”
If this is recognized – and they are beginning to recognize it – that they have lost the battle for a Palestinian state. That Palestinian state that they dreamed of – even on the 1967 frontiers – is not going the happen because the occupation settlements have just encroached too far into Palestinian territory. There is no Israeli government which is going to remove them because it won’t have the support of its own population to do so. The United States is indifferent. It always has been indifferent to the fate of the Palestinians, and more so after the ’67 war.
There’s going to be no help from the so-called international community, which is just a code word for referring to the US. There’s no such thing as an “international community.”
In this situation, it’s far better that the Palestinians acknowledge their situation and then see how to proceed. The situation is grim. It’s pointless prettifying it or finding hope in tiny things – not that these tiny things are not important. The BDS campaign is important. It’s important not because it will bring down the Israeli government – that is an illusion. The South African government was not brought down by sanctions! It was brought down by the defeat inflicted by the Cuban army on South Africa! (Applause)
Sanctions on their own are never decisive. In nonetheless support them because it is an important way to project what is going on in the world of Israel and Palestine and in the world at large. And on that front it has been effective. The reasons the Israeli government is so hostile to it is not that they feel threatened by the sanctions but because it disgraces them. It shames them. They have to answer questions about it.
When campuses in the United States or parts of Europe stand up and say we demand a boycott of Israel, it shames even the American government which finds this horrifying. And European governments which have done nothing to aid the Palestinians. These movements, societal movements from below are extremely important from that particular vantage point. That’s why I’m a signatory to them from the beginning without any illusions, but understanding its importance. This is why now there’s a huge campaign – they’ve outlawed BDS in France, which is the most pro-Israeli country in Europe today.
And the appointment of Mark Negev, formerly Netanyahu’s press officer, who you have probably seen on television defending the indefensible, is now the ambassador in London to see if he can persuade the conservative government to do what the French have done and make BDS activities illegal. And allied to this, comes a new campaign, which is not new in the US but is new in large parts of Europe, whereby the chief Rabbi in Britain said that there is no such thing as anti-Zionism that is not also anti-Semitism. Liberal Jews and the Jewish voices for peace came out very strongly denouncing this. So there is a debate going on. And you ask yourself why is it that suddenly this campaign of anti-Semitism got sparked off in Britain. That’s because the Labour party, to its own horror and shock, the membership has elected a leader [Jeremy Corbyn] who is very well known for being a defender of the Palestinian cause, and the Palestinian movement. (Applause). And it is this that has panicked them. So they are denouncing people in his circle.
[Tariq Ali tells the story Finkelstein’s piece of satire, which depicted a map of the United States with Israel superimposed, suggesting the way to resolve the Israel-Palestine conflict is to relocate Israelis into Brooklyn. It is inconceivable that any US politician would be called anti-Semitic for posting such a map. But that’s what happened in the UK when the map was forwarded to a Labour party member. Word got out, the MP was labelled as anti-Semitic, she panicked, apologized for the incident, and was suspended from the Labour party].
The worst thing to do in these kinds of situations is not to fight back. If you don’t fight back, they carry on, and on, and on.
36:26-37:38 — Talks about Islamophobia in Europe
37:38-38:23 — What the Palestinians must understand is that the state they visualized is impossible. The only hope – I can’t see any other way out – the only viable, long-term solution is a single Israeli-Palestinian state with equal rights for all.
END OF PART 1
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