The established Israeli “Peace Camp” é Peace Now, Meretz, parts of the Labour Party é is under pressure. The “refuseniks” movement é soldiers who refuse to serve in the occupied territories é is growing steadily, in what seems to be the most important development in Israeli public life for at least a decade. More than 350 soldiers have already joined (only fighters who have recently actually served in the territories are taken in). Around them, a growing number of supporters and sponsors is gathering, with a steady presence in the media.
Though many people in the “Peace Camp” personally support refusal, Meretz and Peace Now keep evading the subject and avoid taking a stand in favour of it. This has always been the function of the Zionist “Peace Camp”: playing the ineffective, tormented national conscience that makes Israel feel morally superior while pursuing its immoral policy. Even Israelis who would love to strangle any member of Peace Now often trump with “There is no Arab Peace Now” (hence: we’re superior). The sterile protest reaffirms what it wishes to stop.
Genocide for Peace
The established “Peace Camp” presently promotes two dangerous attitudes. The first can be named Stalinist, after the dialectic slogan “the worse it is, the better it will be.” This kind of peacenik seems honestly convinced that Israel should hit the Palestinians now as hard as it can é in order to make peace later, for sure. Columnist Rino Zror, writing for the Tel-Aviv weekly Ha’ir (8.3.02), describes the murderous incursions into Palestinian refugee camps as “an inevitable war” and harshly admonishes the Labour Party not to leave the coalition: “the public will never forgive defection in battle”. You think it’s just another war-lover crying “hit the Palestinians, save Israel”? Not at all: Zror considers himself part of the “Peace Camp”, and all this is just a prologue to his great vision of peace: “The end of this road is the end of our rule over the Palestinian people. And that’s where the light is.”
This position é strike as hard as you can and make peace later on é is winning ground within the established “Peace Camp”, to the great satisfaction of Israel’s prime minister. Sharon has always been striking as hard as he can, and he is planning to strike even harder very soon. All he needs is support for striking now, and parts of the “Peace Camp” are giving him just that, selling the illusion that bloodshed leads to peace, not to ever more bloodshed.
A real Nazi version of this rhetoric was recently offered by Prof. Martin van Creveld, a renowned military historian from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The learned scholar suggested to bombard Palestinian cities and carry out a genocide: “Perhaps 5.000 or 10.000 killed won’t be enough, and then we will have to kill more” (Jerusalem regional weekly, 1.3.2002). Though this eccentric, almost insane person can hardly be classified politically, his suggestion shows the very same pattern: he concludes by saying that “it is better that there be one massive crime, after which we will exit and lock the gate behind us”. So this is his real objective: “exit”, leave the occupied territories é like any good peacenik.
Negotiations for Peace
The other slogan gaining popularity on the Israeli left is “resume negotiations”. The “Peace Camp” now demonstrates with signs saying “get out of the territories, return to negotiations.” As for getting out of the territories, I could not agree more. But “return to negotiations”? What’s that?
“Negotiations”, “peace talks”, “Peace Process” and the like are nothing but Newspeak which literally means “occupation goes on; meanwhile, let’s have a chat.” For seven long years (1993-2000), Israel was holding “peace talks” with the Palestinians. At the outset, both Palestinians and Israeli citizens thought the “talks” were about ending the occupation. In fact, during all those years, not a single settlement was dismantled, but dozens of new ones were established. Not a single settler was evacuated: actually, their number was doubled. That’s what “negotiations” mean. The Palestinians cannot be expected to stop the Intifada for this trap they know so well.
The whole concept of “political negotiations” between Israel and the Palestinians is absurd. What “negotiations” can there be between occupier and occupied, between jailer and prisoner? Either the jailer wants to set the prisoner free, or he does not. In both cases, there is no room for “negotiations”.
Especially at these times, shame on those who call for “negotiations”. “Negotiations” imply free exchange between equal partners. You want to sell your car, I want to buy it, let’s negotiate a deal. What kind of “negotiations” is it when Israel is holding Arafat in house-arrest, surrounded by tanks with cannons aimed at his office? I have taken your car, I am holding you handcuffed with a gun at your head, now let’s have negotiations: that’s what Israel wants. Forget about your car, and if you now spit in my face é after all, what else can Palestinians do? é then you’re a terrorist.
If Israel wants to end the occupation, it can do so unilaterally: technical co-operation on the lowest level will do. If, on the other hand, Israel’s true desire is to maintain the occupation, I can understand very well why it (but not why the Peace Camp) wants to “resume negotiations”.
My Peace Plan
So this is what should be done: my Peace Plan, if you like. Forget about “negotiations”. Israel has been claiming all along that it is ready to end the occupation. Barak claimed he was willing to return “almost 100%” of the territories, Sharon says he is ready to make “painful concessions”. One almost feels sorry for Israel’s governments, so terribly eager to dismantle their settlements but in some mysterious manner always forced to expand them ever more.
So go ahead: put pressure on Israel to unilaterally start dismantling settlements. Sharon finds Arafat “irrelevant”? He doesn’t want to shake his hand? No problem. Forget Arafat. If Israel wants out é out of the territories, out of the bloodshed, out of a battle-field in which its soldiers are killing and being killed é let it get out. Dismantle the first settlement, then the second, then the third. Offer generous compensations to any settler willing to leave (many settlers are hostages in their own homes, which they cannot sell because no one would buy). Announce that the compensations will be reduced with every passing week: stay last é get least.
A whole new atmosphere will emerge. The Palestinians will have to decide who gets the houses left: refugees first, I should hope. They will finally regain faith in Israel’s peaceful intentions, after all the killing and destruction. The Israelis é up to 80% of whom support dismantling at least some settlements, as I showed earlier é will also regain faith in their own government. Unemployment (more than 10%, highest in Israeli history) will sink: the building sector will flourish providing houses for well-off returning settlers. The stock market will rise, recession will end.
And what about “terrorism”, that is: resistance to the occupation? Once the Palestinians see the occupation coming to an end, it will stop. The Palestinians themselves will have the best of all reasons to stop it. We have tried everything: destroying, bombing, killing, negotiations, negotiations, negotiations. Obviously, it doesn’t work. Why not try another direction.
PS, or: Not Just My Peace Plan
Having written that, I received the new issue of the popular main-stream Tel-Aviv weekly Ha’Ir (26.3). The front page reads: “GAZA FIRST. The Arabs are the same, the Sea is the same, the Settlers are the same, the Occupation is the same. Isn’t it high time to get out of the Gaza Strip? A special project.” It reminds some basic data on the Strip:
Population: 1.200.000 Palestinians; 7.500 Jewish settlers (0,675%).
Area: 356 square km = 137 square miles (about 8 times smaller than Rhode Island).
Area under Israeli control: 42% (22% settlements, the rest military zones, buffer zones, bypass roads, access roads, beach strip, border fence, checkpoints).
Population density (persons per square km): Palestinians 4.062; Jewish settlers 123.
Annual water consumption (cubic metre per person): Palestinians 127; Jewish settlers 1.000.
Casualties since September 2000: Palestinian 440; Israeli 51.
The Israelis are willing to exit. What about their government?
Ran HaCohen was born in the Netherlands in 1964 and has grown up in Israel. He has B.A. in Computer Science, M.A. in Comparative Literature and he presently works on his PhD thesis. He lives in Tel-Aviv, teaches in the Department of Comparative Literature in Tel-Aviv University. He also works as literary translator (from German, English and Dutch), and as a literary critic for the Israeli daily Yedioth Achronoth. His work has been published widely in Israel. His column appears monthly at Antiwar.com.