The New York Times is willing occasionally to publish letters to the editor that speak about the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza. But editors meticulously screen out any discussion of the refugees, Israel’s apartheid laws, Israel’s racist laws such as land ownership laws, or the so-called “Jewish law of return.” If occasionally mentioned, these core issues are briefly glossed at using the unique art of “doublspeak.” Thus we hear that Israel (and Dr. Sari Nusseibah) want Palestinian refugees not to be repatriated because they form a “demographic threat.” The NY Times thus refuses to even acknowledge the 4th Geneva Convention or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights but may be willing to discuss “excessive use of force”. This strategy is common in the corporate owned media in the US but has also now infected some people who otherwise advocate human rights in places as diverse as Rwanda, China, and Southern USA. .The strategy is a clever approach designed to shift the dialogue and to obfuscate reality to make it possible to relegate Palestinians to Bantustans/Ghettos with the main purpose of Palestinian government being to guarratee the colonizer’s security and “resettle” Palestinian refugees outside their lands and homes. Basically it is a strategy to legitimize a theft of people’s lands and properties.
Max Frankel, an editor with the New York Times for over 20 years, described how his own columns sometimes raffled many Zionists for his criticism of Israel’s occupation (again no mention of the real issues). But then we find this revealing quote from his book:
“Fortified by my knowledge of Israel and my friendships there, I myself wrote most of our Middle East commentaries. As more Arab than Jewish readers recognized, I wrote them from a pro-Israel perspective. And I wrote in confidence that The Times no longer suffered from any secret desire to deny or overcome its ethnic roots.” (“The Times of My Life: And my Life with The Times,” Random House, New York, 1999 p. 403)
But notice the classic Zionist language of “Arab versus Jew” as if people who speak Arabic are analogous to people of a particular religions (what about Arab Christians and Arab Jews? Where do they fit?). It is understandable why Zionists, including Max Frankel and other labor Zionists of the “PeaceNow” crowd, are willing to talk about “the occupation” while not willing to discuss why any one who is Jewish (or a convert to Judaism) is entitled to expel natives and occupy their lands. The partnership of Labor and Likud was believed a win-win strategy for Zionism that started with the massacre at Deir Yassin (perpetuated by one of the groups while the other provided cover). In today’s twilight zone, Labor Zionists bemoan the occupation while Likud Zionists correctly point out that ending “the occupation” will not bring peace. People get bogged down explaining that even the 80% of the West Bank and Gaza in Clinton/Barak “generous offer” is merely 17% of Palestine and explaining about sovereignty, borders, settlements, and control of air space. In this confusion, not only does the occupation and oppression remain empowered but the violence is changed from being a symptom of the disease of colonization and ethnic cleansing to a reason de etre of its maintenance (which has long lost all other support mechanisms). After all, Zionists from Ben Gurion forward realized that ethnically cleansing 70% of the native Palestinians to make way for the “ingathering of the Jews” would not be a recipe for peace. They realize that people whose lands were stolen and who were dumped in refugee camps for 54 years watching their land and villages slowly being turned into suburban Jewish neighborhoods and parks will not forget and will not go away. Hence the need for a fortress Israel with big walls and fences and billions in US tax money.
Israeli historians with access to declassified Israeli archives have already dispensed of most of the remaining Zionist myths starting from a “land without a people for a people without a land” through “making the desert bloom” and to incredulous myth that the Palestinians “left on their own” or “were told to leave” by the Arab Armies (see http://PalestineRemembered.com for clear documentation). But this reality was known even among the most dovish of Zionists very early. Martin Buber, Jewish philosopher and leader of cultural Zionism, addressing Prime Minister Ben Gurion in March 1949 wrote:
“We will have to face the reality that Israel is neither innocent, nor redemptive. And that in its creation, and expansion, we as Jews have caused what we historically have suffered; a refugee population in Diaspora.”
And David Ben Gurion (the first Israeli Prime Minister) wrote: ” If I were an Arab leader, I would never sign an agreement with Israel. It is normal; we have taken their country. It is true God promised it to us, but how could that interest them? Our God is not theirs. There has been Anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their fault? They see but one thing: we have come and we have stolen their country. Why would they accept that?” (Quoted by Nahum Goldmann in Le Paraddoxe Juif “The Jewish Paradox”, pp. 121-122).
Thus, Zionists already knew and have fully internalized that absent basic justice and complying with International law, there can never be peace. The Zionist thus movement adopted a strategy based on power accompanied by a strategy which in its essence boils down to the model of the good cop and the bad cop. In this case it is, however, a “good criminal” and a bad criminal playing the game of obfuscation and distortion and perpetuate a state of war and instability (“The first casualty of war is truth.” Rudyard Kipling). All this not for the benefit of “the Jews” as both Zionist types claimed but to keep Zionism alive at the expense of Judaism, Jews, and most of all the native Palestinians (Christians and Muslims and non-Zionist or anti-Zionist Jewish Palestinians). The inevitable outcome is seen clearly in the model of the collapse of the Apartheid regime in South Africa. Of course Israel and the Zionist movement are not exactly like South Africa and the Boers white Apartheid system. For one thing, there was no organized Boer movement in the US spending millions of dollars to ensure a massive US aid (billions per year). There was no Max Frankel or an “ethnic root” pushing the New York Times to not talk about Apartheid but limit discussions to ending South African rule of Swaziland.
But I do not wish to say more about Zionists because they have their misguided tribal agenda. Such group loyalties and lack of individual and independent thought process really inhibits ability to be fair, to change, or even to adapt to evolving humanity. What concerns me most is that some activists (even a small minority of Palestinians) have INTERNALIZED Zionist philosophy, and thus have internalized defeat. As best evidence for this, we find many in the “anti-occupation camp” among non-Zionist (different than anti-Zionist) some who do not advocate the inalienable right of return for the Palestinian refugees and the internally displaced (as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights). When asked about the right of return, some will start with yes but then add some if’s and but’s.
An African-American saying popular in the 1960s during the civil rights movement was “Free your mind and your ass will follow.” It is time for all activists to stop dancing around the issues, and stop playing into the hands of racism and apartheid and start calling for basic justice and human rights. Israel must be pressured (by boycotts and divestments) to abolish all its racist laws (including the ill-gotten land laws giving Palestinian lands for the “Jewish nation”, the illegal laws that allow any Jew to have automatic citizenship in the state while denying it to native non-Jews, etc.) That Zionism will not succeed is obvious from trends in the world (dissolving borders, intermarriage, communication revolution etc.). Its demise will be hastened only if more people shed the fraud of avoiding any discussion of Zionist colonization and ethnic cleansing. Internalizing defeat and accepting dictates of power politics will simply not be tolerated much into the 21st century.
It is time for refugees to return, it is time to bring democracy to ALL the countries in the Arab world (yes, including Israel). It is time to cure not only the symptoms but the disease causing all these symptoms. It is time to restore a healthy and growing Holy Land. Let us start by clearing the fog of Labor Zionism and the poison gas of other brands of Zionism. From the ashes of war and destruction will come a new Land of Canaan populated by people who will look back at ideas of apartheid and separation with the same incredulous look we now look at the 50 year “success” of Apartheid South Africa.
(Dr. Mazin B. Qumsiyeh is Chair of the Media Committee, The Palestine Right to Return Coalition.)