The Dialectic of the Disillusioned


Please, all of you Israelis out there – listen to the dean of the Israeli peace movement, and tell others. Do not sit idly by as the last hope for peace vanishes. Everyone else, pray for peace, as there is nothing else left to do.

Ami Isseroff, contributing editor of MidEast Web News

The Israeli peace camp is stumbling about in a stupor of betrayal. The hero warriors of peace Rabin and Peres and Barak had vowed to lead them to the promised land. Eight years of wandering since Oslo, however, resulted in nothing more than an entertaining magic act which conjured an ever distant mirage of two shimmering states. The cohorts of Peace Now were mesmerized en masse to believe that Separation meant final victory. The Al Aqsa Intifada has punctured those dreams, however, and revealed the unpleasant truth: Separation actually means Apartheid.

The scent of copious amounts of blood has always served to revive the conscience of the Israeli left. During the past months a small band of the righteous have launched a nascent anti-apartheid movement, which espouses the simplest and most effective solution to the conflict, the doctrine of One State. The intrepid proclaim like unwanted Cassandras that the Zionist project has been a colonial and racist misadventure, that the responsibility for the ethnic terrorism which caused the Palestinian Diaspora can only be atoned by the unthinkable: implementing the ideals enshrined in the Israeli Declaration of Independence.

The State of Israelé will promote the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; will be based on the precepts of liberty, justice and peace taught by the Hebrew Prophets; will uphold the full social and political equality of all its citizens, without distinction of race, creed or sex; will guarantee full freedom of conscience, worship, education and culture; will safeguard the sanctity and inviolability of the shrines and Holy Places of all religions; and will dedicate itself to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

Meanwhile the generals continue their unhindered progress toward an imminent unilateral declaration of separation. As the harvest of facts sown on the stony ground is being reaped, the subtext of the apartheid system secretly crafted during the Oslo process is being revealed. In stunned disbelief, the only protest that most peaceniks have permitted themselves is a furtive blank ballot of rebuke.

The gruesome scenes of the Intifadah serve the useful purpose of justifying to the recalcitrant on both sides of the ethnic fault line the impending final solution which the generals have devised. Some voices of protest coo in the wilderness, but most embittered Israeli doves have not extended their process of deduction about the land they have lovingly appropriated to the logical destination where the anti-apartheid movement has already arrived.

A call to action published on January 29th provides an example. Gila Svirsky of the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace issued an emotional appeal summoning the faithful to a protest demonstration (as well as mandating the dress code of fashionable black).

END THE SIEGE!!! The closure of the Palestinian population in the territories over the past 3 months is a flagrant violation of human rights. It constitutes collective punishment and virtually imprisons an entire community without due process. Closure has brought economic distress, hunger, and the death of the sick and injured who are detained at checkpoints. Closure increases outrage, frustration and hatred, and diminishes hopes of peace.

The Coalition has organized an impressive variety of women's organizations under its umbrella: Bat Shalom, Mothers and Women for Peace, New Profile: Movement for the Civilization of Society in Israel, Neled, TANDI, Women Engendering Peace, Women in Black, and the Israeli chapter of the WILPF. Most, if not all of their membership unashamedly endorse Zionism, but declare themselves unwilling to have injustice enforced in their name. Their frustration with the betrayal of liberal ideals by the Labour leadership seeps between the cracks of their fractured hopes for peace. One or two, or perhaps even more, are almost ready to realize that it was those very same liberal ideals which blinkered their eyes while the apartheid structure was being built around them.

To examine the agenda of the Coalition of Israeli mums and wives and sisters is to observe a reluctant process of radicalization, many thanks to the generals. Surprisingly, little distance actually separates their statement of principles from that of the anti-apartheid movement (whose hypothesized commentary below is bracketed).

The PRINCIPLES of the Coalition of Women for a Just Peace:

An end to the occupation.

(And as the death squads withdraw, give full rights of citizenship to the oppressed.)

The full involvement of women in negotiations for peace.

(Surely they would do better than testosterone-charged ex-soldiers.)

Recognition of Jerusalem as the shared capital of two states.

(Jerusalem is the shared capital of all the Children of Abraham.)

Israel must recognize its responsibility for the results of the 1948 war, and find a just solution to the Palestinian refugee problem.

(Not only responsibility for the results of ethnic cleansing, but also for provoking it. The only way to atone for ethnic terrorism is allow the victims to return home.)

Equality, inclusion and justice for Palestinian citizens of Israel.

(An admirable sentiment, but think about the implications of 'equality, inclusion and justice'.)

Opposition to the militarism that permeates Israeli society.

(Who wants their sons being tutored by war criminals?)

Equal rights for women and for all residents of Israel.

(We hold these truths to be self-evident...)

Social and economic justice for Israel's citizens, and integration into the region.

(The only way for Israel to be integrated into the region is when it becomes One State for all its peoples. When justice reigns, the democratic and prosperous Israel/Palestine will be welcomed and envied by its neighbors.)

Establishment of the state of Palestine side by side with the state of Israel based on the 1967 borders.

(Aha! This then is the fateful delusion that has prevented the peace brigade from realizing that partition will only be allowed by the generals if and when the bantustans being created are under their ultimate control.)

At the moment of Sharon’s victory and while the finishing touches to the apartheid system are being implemented, the Israeli left is still riven by internecine squabbling and finger-pointing. The impetus of events, however, and the shame of being hoodwinked by the Labour leadership will sooner or later motivate the peace camp to fundamentally revise its policy agenda. As Arik triumphantly enters the gates of Jerusalem, the old dogma of partition, of separate but not equal, has been exposed as a more obnoxious violation of human rights than even Afrikaner racist ideology.

The venerable dean of the Israeli peace movement himself seems to be teetering on the brink of a deductive epiphany. After dithering with the rest of his cohorts as to whether to vote for Barak or not, Uri Avnery dramatically announced several days before the election that he would, after all, offer his ballot to his deflated hero. In a cyberspace missive, Uri listed the thorny facts which he had suddenly noticed sprouting up from the ground around him. His litany was a tragic lament of betrayal which has been synopsized below in order to emphasize its lyrical qualities.

Uri Avnery is an old style liberal Zionist still nursing the scars of the Holocaust, still dreaming of a Jewish state. After reciting his damning 33 counts of indictment, he pronounced judgement by sadly concluding that Sharon is such a monster that the danger of his election justified a vote for the lesser monster. Old habits die hard. As an Israeli satirist said, “Such a deal! You vote for the lesser evil, you get the bigger evil for free.”

Uri’s heart is in the right place, but his conclusion was wrong. His analysis is an example of the sclerotic thinking that has caused the drooping fortunes of Peace Now. But don’t despair, stalwarts of the left, Sharon’s victory will force-feed some potency into your tired blood. Instead of agonizing whether to vote for a covert war criminal, the brave and foresighted should be joining the chorus of hosannas for the unrepentant victor of Sabra and Shatilla.

And as regards the disdain of the anti-apartheid fellowship for Avnery et al, the small coterie of the righteous should instead be planning how to encourage such potential allies to take that one extra fateful step in their reluctant deductive process. Those proud idealists aren’t too far from the painful but inevitable realization that the Rabin Peres Barak plan for partition was actually the final solution to end the Palestinian problem once and for all. In one word, apartheid.

The Israeli One State movement may indeed be in the vanguard of its fellow travelers, but its proponents lack a coherent strategy as to how to persuade the fearful majority at the center of the Israeli body politic, who after all else is said and done, aspire for nothing more than normalcy. The baton of power passes from one general to the next and the anti-apartheid movement is suddenly confronted with an unexpected opportunity to mobilize the disenfranchised peace camp. The brutal suppression of the Intifadah has been shocking enough, but the imminent imposition of the separation plan of the generals will prove to be an even more convincing recruitment incentive.

One sure consequence of the political and military process now unfolding will be the radicalization of those Israelis who still possess some remnant shreds of conscience. The stalwarts of Peace Now are already expressing themselves in a markedly more radical manner than they were capable of doing even in the recent past. They are in a state of shock as they examine the stark contours of the new political landscape in which they find themselves. They hunger for inspiration, for some ideal which offers salvation.

The One State movement possesses the spark of truth which can illuminate the way ahead for the peace camp. There are many in the ranks of the disillusioned who are ready to be nudged in the right direction. Only one or two more steps forward is all that is required to arrive at the same conclusion deduced by the white elite of South Africa. Apartheid oppresses worst those who implement it.

It’s time to face facts. Israel is Palestine and Palestine is Israel. Those who believe the message of the Hebrew prophets, or at least in secular jurisprudence, cannot allow the Holy Land to be partitioned into cantons of shame. (Oh, by the way, those same prophets also share their favors with Muslims and Christians, which is another common denominator that cannot be partitioned.)

Dear Uri, Gila, Ari and the many other well-intentioned souls in Israel now reeling in disbelief, don’t try to glue the shattered pieces of illusion back together again. It’s time to help your countrymen remove their blinders of fear. The land of milk and honey will enjoy peace, justice and prosperity only when both oppressor and oppressed share equally the benefits promised by the prophets and Israel’s own Declaration of Independence.

And to the zealots of the anti-apartheid movement, prepare your small house for visitors. When Uri and his pals trudge wearily by, be ready to welcome them and make them feel at home. They may soon be singing louder than the rest of you the sweet refrain: No to partition, no to apartheid. Yes to unity, yes to equal rights for all.

As Uri always says in his wistful missives, Salamaat, Shalom…

Mr. Vincent White is a strategic development consultant and writer from the United States who has been resident for several decades in the Middle East.He can be contacted at: [email protected]