Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Exposing Israel


Exposing Israel


The book shatters several myths that form part of pro-Israeli propaganda.

IT has been a standing argument by Zionist supporters that Palestine never existed before the Israeli colonisation of West Asia. Saul Bellow the novelist, Barbara Tuchman the historian, and Golda Meir the Prime Minister of Israel were all in agreement with this rather parochial view. Illegitimate victimisation of Israel at the hands of Arab nations has been a dominant Zionist theme. Israel continues to terrorise and bomb at will.

The occupation of West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 war had led to the slow process of entrenching a form of colonialism with all its overconfidence and callousness. The ugly scenario is unfolding. And this has irked many who hope to go beyond propaganda to an understanding of the world of social and historical fact. Often at the face of it, many on the Left have been of the view that Zionism is equivalent to democratic principles of equality of rights, but have missed out on the actuality of Jewish racism. Such admiration of Israel's secularism and respect for egalitarianism is rather a delusion.

Norman G. Finkelstein, a leading expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is one rare scholar who has been engaged over more than two decades in a reversionary project that is revelatory of the Zionist ideology which has cast a camouflage on the `reality' of the West Asia conundrum. He remarks in a recent interview with Amy Goodman: "By the 1930s the Zionist movement had reached a consensus that the way to resolve the dilemma is the way of transfer. You throw the Palestinians out. You can't do that anytime, because there are moral problems and international problems. You have to wait for the right moment. And the right moment comes in 1948. Under the cover of war, you have the opportunity to expel the indigenous population."

The key moment comes in the Israel-Palestine conflict, not when the Palestinians are expelled, but when, after the war, Israel refused to allow the Palestinians back.

The remarkably well-researched book, Beyond Chutzpah, which pays meticulous attention to detail, refers at the outset to Joan Peters' From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish conflict over Palestine, an outrageous book obviously leaning towards Israel. That such propaganda attributing the adversarial role of Palestine in the West Asia conflict was in tune with the public is clear from the fact that half the book has had a dozen editions over the years.

Palestinians cross the separation wall from the West Bank village of A-Ram on their way to the Al Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

But such a hoax became anathema to the liberal Left, who refused to swallow the blatant lies. The dexterous task of carrying out the erasure of a biased history has lent Finkelstein the impetus to bring out the accretion of past histories or the traces of earlier inscriptions that stress numerous narratives that are always at war with each other and taking the opposing position of either Zionism or dissent.

The other myth that Finkelstein endeavours to shatter is about the Israeli treatment of Palestinians in the occupied territories. Human rights have been infringed. This has been amply proved by reports and records gathered from various professional agencies such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel. All agree in one breath that Palestinian detainees have been systematically tortured over the years and the world is kept in the dark. Added to this is the consistent propaganda that under Israeli occupation Palestinians have made huge strides economically.

This might have been true at the initial stages but if an analysis of long-term economic policies of Israel is made, it becomes obvious that the `indigenous economy was being methodically and premeditatedly destroyed and is now standing on the verge of total collapse. "The Palestinians have been robbed of land, water and labour with the sly motive of dispossessing the true owners of the land.

In Gaza, the Palestinians have been deprived of the use of water, which has a massively depleting effect on agriculture. Interestingly, the Gaza Strip now contains 0.5 per cent of Jews who own 25 per cent of the land, that is to say that `each Jewish settler has been allotted fully eighty-five times more land than a Palestinian."

Such discriminatory and unfair division of resources is further made obvious when one considers the use of waters from the Jordan basin to which the Palestinians have no right whatsoever. The politics behind the recent construction of the wall further corroborate the mala fide intentions of the Israeli government. The biggest eyesore is this eight-metre-high and two-meter-thick fence, which most Israelis feel gives them a sense of security and personal safety by preventing terrorist infiltration.

But, undeniably, the wall cannot coexist with the road map to peace, as it is firstly not conducive to building confidence on both sides and secondly politically useless although militarily useful. Most unfairly, the wall swallows up large chunks of land belonging to the Palestinians, and in many cases farmers are left on one side of the wall while their land lies on the other.

Finkelstein painstakingly deflates the myth of justice that is often associated with the Supreme Court of Israel. He demolishes the hypocritical account of Alan Dershowitz, the writer of The Case for Israel, where he upholds the Israeli system of justice as `among the best in the world': "The Supreme Court of Israel operates under the rule of law... and although obviously sensitive to the need for security, it has repeatedly enjoined the Israeli government and its military from undertaking actions in violation of the higher standards of the rule of law." But the facts reveal that the court is "a judicial instrument for this justifying of the unjustifiable."

David Kretzmer's insightful study of the workings of the Supreme Court in his excellent book The Occupation of Justice: The Supreme Court of Israel and the Occupied Territories brings out the blatant favouritism shown by the court to all actions of the military in spite of `dubious legal arguments'. Jurisprudence of the court is `blatantly government-minded', and if in some cases it has gone against the state, it is more so in the nature of a rhetoric to support its so-called impartiality in decision-making. Deportation of inhabitants of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank is illegal according to Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, but the Supreme Court has upheld all deportations. Demolitions and the sealing off of buildings in the occupied territories, which are illegal, have never provoked adverse decisions from the Supreme Court.

Palestinians have often been held guilty of "blowing up more people - including hundreds of people of colour - than the Ku Klux Klan managed to kill in its century-long reign of terror". It has been reported by Dershowitz that "273 marines were killed by the Palestinians in Beirut out of which many were black". This misrepresentation is clear as, firstly, there were only 241 who were killed, and secondly, there has never been any proof that the Palestinians were involved in the killings.

Beyond Chutzpah thus rids historical accounts of the `true lies' fashioned by Israel and removes all doubts one may have about the objective role played by Israel in West Asia. Confronting the undistorted record, one can understand the victimisation of Palestinians and the injustices they have suffered over the decades. Finkelstein has provided "impetus for readers to act on the basis of truth so that, together, we can achieve a just and lasting peace in Israel and Palestine." Intellectuals inside the Arab world have been forced into silence and the military regimes have succeeded in ensuring this at the cost of basic human rights.

Finkelstein's writings, notable for their courage and intellectual integrity, have enabled him to have a wider Palestinian audience, which has begun to see his viewpoint of the Palestinian narrative which endeavours to counter Israeli fabrications and distortions. Such writings, it is hoped, will stimulate debates significantly.

The only way out of this tragicomedy is to begin "candid and accurate discussions" on the West Asia peace process. It has to be kept in mind that Zionism itself has often been interpreted as a way of looking at the Israel-Palestine issue not as a conflict but as a means of bringing about coexistence. Many scholars have tried not to allow an equation between Jews and Zionism, arguing that there are dissident Jews who believe that it is wrong to make Zionism the sole state policy that has robbed the area of peace and deprived the Palestinians of their homes and dear ones. Zionism, they say, must never be permitted to be an ideology of belligerence.

Democracy and the right to practise a different religious way of life often come into clash with the extreme practice of Zionism. The need is to reinvent Zionism into a post-Zionist ideology that backs the two-nation theory minus the racial and religious discrimination.


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