Monday, January 12, 2009

Israel's Right to Exist

It seems so simple, doesn’t it? All Hamas has to do is recognize Israel’s right to exist. After all, Israel is here and is not going anywhere. Why not accept it?

But it is not quite so simple. John V. Whitbeck, writing for the Christian Science Monitor explains:

“There is an enormous difference between ‘recognizing Israel’s existence’ and ‘recognizing Israel’s right to exist.’ The difference is in the same league as the difference between asking a Jew to acknowledge that the Holocaust happened and asking him to concede that the Holocaust was morally justified.”[1]

Sounds simple, but for a people who have been treated as subhuman contaminators of God’s holy land, it’s like saying that they have no right to exist, that the 750,000 Palestinians forcefully driven out of their homes had no moral right to have been there, that the destruction of approximately 450 Palestinian villages and the massacre of many of its citizens was the moral thing to do, that Golda Meir was right when she said, “It was not as though there was a Palestinian people and we came in and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.”[2]

Even so, back in 1988, Yasser Arafat in a famous and very public statement in Stockholm accepted “Israel’s right to exist in peace and security.” But that was not good enough for the Zionist. This simply acknowledged the conditions of Israel’s existence, not its moral righteousness. So the expansions into West Bank and Gaza intensified.

Another question left unaddressed is: Which Israel? Israel has never declared its borders, so are we talking about the Israel given to the Jews by the United Nations in 1947, which took 55 percent of historical Palestine, or the 78 percent controlled by Israel after the “War of Independence” in 1948? That is quite a difference. Or are we talking about the 100 percent occupied and controlled by Israel since 1967?

The Zionist goals have been clear from the beginning:

In 1940, Joseph Weitz, head of Jewish Agency’s Colonization Department said:

Between ourselves, it must be clear that there is no room for both people together in this country. We shall not achieve our goal if the Arabs are in this small country. There is no other way than to transfer the Arabs from here to neighboring countries --- all of them. Not one village, not one tribe should be left.”[3]

The Koenig Report of 1976 sounds like the playbook for Israel’s current policies toward the occupied territories.

We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population.[4]

David Ben Gurion, who became Israel’s first Prime Minister, announced Israel’s strategy in uncertain terms. “After we become strong as the results of the state, we shall abolish partition and expand to the whole of Palestine.”[5]

Immediately following the Six Day War, Israel’s Prime Minister, Manachem Begin referred to the West Bank only by its ancient Biblical names, Samaria and Judaea, giving a “God endorsement” to Israel’s goal of expansion.

Hamas has declared that it will recognize Israel within its 67 borders, but as long as Israel refuses to define borders, given Israel’s stated goals and track record, undefined recognition would leave nothing for the Palestinians. No people have ever been morally required to commit suicide.

Of course, our government says that if Hamas would just be like Mahmoud Abbas and cooperate with Israel, everything would be better for all Palestinians. But, under Abbas’s U.S. supported leadership, Israel has increased the building of settlements and the construction of a wall which separates Palestinians from their fields, schools, hospitals and water. Life in the West Bank has not improved by cooperating with Israel’s demands.

It seems that Israel’s right to exist means Israel’s right to sovereignty over the lives of all Palestinians. The one thing Israel has never acknowledged is the Palestinian’s sovereign right to exist in peace and security.

Thomas Are
January 12, 2009
[1] John V. Whitbeck, What Israel’s ‘Right to exist’ Means for Palestinians, Christian Science Monitor, February 2, 2007.
[2] David Hirst, The Gun and the Olive Branch: the Roots of Violence in the Middle East. (Thunders Mouth Press/Nations Books, New York, 2003) p.39.
[3] Ralph Schoenman, The Hidden History of Zionism, (Veritas Press, Santa Barbara, California, 1988) p.31.
[4] Yisrael Koenig, The Koenig Report, a 1976 confidential and internal government document outlining strategies for reducing the number of Arab citizens in the Galilee. Cited in Schoenman, p.35.
[5] Ben Gurion in a 1938 speech . Cited in Ralph Schoenman, The Hidden History of Zionism, (Veritas Press, Santa Barbara, California, 1988) p.33.

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