The Arrogance of Occupation
Original Article By Lev Grinberg
Comments on Article By Nizar Sakhnini
Lev Grinberg is a political sociologist, and the Director of the Humphrey Institute for Social Research at the Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Israel.
Nizar Sakhnini is a Palestinian who had first hand experience of the 1948 Nakba. Having retired about 10 years ago, he is now a devoted activist struggling for a restoration of Palestinian rights and lands.
By Lev Grinberg
This last month has been marked by a dramatic change in the US and European attitudes towards the Israeli occupation. The US first, and
subsequently the EU, have adopted the Israeli view that the core of the problem is Yasir Arafat. Bombing Arafat helicopters, confining him to the
besieged city of Ramalla, and the recent occupation of parts of the city, have nothing to do with Israeli security or " the struggle against terror". The
Israeli Government targeted Arafat, and succeeded to convince first the Israeli public and now the international community that this policy is
By Nizar Sakhnini
The brilliant and well-articulated article published by Lev Grinberg clearly depicts the reality of the situation prevailing within the borders of British Mandate Palestine. Grinberg concluded, "Unless we, the Israelis, cast off our arrogant mode of thinking, and our position as an occupying power, the present cycle of bloodshed can only intensify, with Arafat and even more so, in his absence. Europe, that has witnessed the arrogance of colonialism as a dominant power, should not return now to adopt similar attitudes even when their source is the Jewish State. International intervention to stop Sharon is urgently needed for the sake of the Palestinians and the Israelis as well."
This warning against arrogant thinking and position as an occupying power is not something new in the history of the Zionist-Arab conflict. It is reminiscent of the warnings that many Jewish intellectuals and leaders have issued from time to time, unfortunately, to no avail so far.
Ahad Ha'am, who himself was a Zionist leader, did not believe that Palestine could accommodate all of Jewry, a Jewish state there, in his estimation, would not solve the problem of the Jews' social and economic status, in reference to Herzl's claim in Judenstaat that the creation of an exclusive Jewish State would solve the Jewish Question.
Following a visit to Palestine in 1891, Ahad Ha'am warned, �We think that the Arabs are all savages who live like animals and do not understand what is happening around. This is, however, a great error�. This error unfortunately has persisted ever since. Ahad Ha�am did not cease to warn against it, not only for the sake of the Arabs but also for the sake of Judaism and of Zion.
Ahad Ha'am returned to the Arab problem in a letter to Moshe Smilansky, written in February 1914. Smilansky had been bitterly attacked by Palestinian Zionists because he had drawn attention to the Arab problem. Ahad Ha'am tried to comfort him by pointing out that the Zionists had not yet awakened to reality. �Therefore, they wax angry towards those who remind them that there is still another people in Eretz Israel that has been living there and does not intend at all to leave its place. In the future, when this illusion will have been torn from their hearts and they will look with open eyes upon the reality as it is, they will certainly understand how important this question is and how great is our duty to work for its solution."
Hugo Bergmann, a philosopher in Prague who was soon thereafter to settle in Palestine, wrote in a book in 1919 called Yavne and Jerusalem that Palestine might become a Jewish state and yet be an entirely un-Jewish land. "The trial by fire of the truly Jewish character of our settlement in Palestine will be our relationship to the Arabs. An agreement with the inhabitants of the land is much more important for us than declarations of all the Governments in the world could be [in a clear reference to the Balfour Declaration]. Unfortunately, Zionist public opinion has not yet become conscious of it. What happened in Palestine before the [First World] War was almost totally of a kind to turn the Arabs into our enemies. A peaceful confrontation and understanding with them, however, is for us the question of life."
In the same year Martin Buber demanded that the Zionists should abstain from all political activities, "except those measures which are necessary to create and to maintain an enduring and solid agreement with the Arabs in all fields of public life, an encompassing brotherly solidarity."
Reb Binyomin wrote the following in 1953: "After the State of Israel was established I began receiving news about the terrible things perpetrated both during and after the Israeli-Arab war.... I had never imagined that such could be the spiritual and moral countenance of Israel.... What separates us from the mass of our people? It is our attitude toward the Arabs. They consider the Arab as an enemy some even say eternal enemies� The less candid speak supposedly about peace, but these are only words. They want a peace of submission, which the Arabs cannot possibly, accept.... We, however, do not see the Arab as an enemy, not in the past and not today. It is a mistake to think that we are dreamers and do not understand reality. No� we are realists with the Ten Commandments, and they are the wise men, the realists without the Ten Commandments.... War gave us a state, and war gave the Arabs, besides military defeat and the loss of territory, the problem of refugees. At the same time it also gave them the concern that, when the State of Israel feels strengthened economically and population-wise through immigration, it will attempt sooner or later to invade the neighboring Arab countries.... The Jewish State is dear to us because it could turn into a treasure for its inhabitants and for Jews all over the world.... But the first condition for its continued existence is a true peace with the Arab states. What we failed to do before the war we must do now...". (For more details see: (Hans Kohn, Zion and the Jewish National Idea reproduced in Walid Khalidi, From Haven to Conquest, pp. 807-840)
A major factor that has so far contributed to this unabated and dangerous arrogance is the unconditional political, diplomatic, military and financial support that Israel gets from the U.S. who stubbornly rejects any punishment against Israel's violations of international law by vetoing any resolution at the Security Council to this effect.
The question that many be put forward in this respect, why does the U.S. grants Israel such a card blanch to do whatever she wants to do? Will this support continue forever?
spite of all the misleading indicators to the contrary, it does not sound
logical that the U.S. will continue with such support no matter what.
And that may explain what prompted George F. Will on 17 August 2001
to publish a column in The Washington Post under the caption "A War
and then a Wall" in which he proposed, "A
short war -- a few days; over before European and American diplomats'
appeasement reflexes kick in -- should have four objectives:
to kill or capture those terrorists (and those who direct them) whom
Arafat has permitted to remain at large, in violation of his Oslo
undertaking and of his promise to CIA Director George Tenet after the
to destroy the Palestinian Authority's military infrastructure built up in
violation of detailed Oslo restrictions.
to destroy other physical infrastructure useful to the Palestinian
Authority, including all newspaper and broadcasting facilities.
Fourth, and most important, to define, with finality, Israel's borders, around which a wall should be built. All of Jerusalem should be within the wall. Israel's seizure of the Palestinian Authority's East Jerusalem headquarters, Orient House, which has been constantly used for political activities forbidden by Oslo, should signal the end of all talk about the indivisibility of Jerusalem.
It seems that Sharon is taking advantage of the tragedy that took place on September 11 to go ahead with the short war proposed by George F. Will. Is this possible?
Only God knows what is in Sharon's mind. How things will develop from this point on? Too many scenarios are being presented. However, no matter what will happen, there is one reality that had been proven time and again: in spite of all the odds working against them, the will of the majority of the Palestinian people, the grassroots, and their attachment to their lands and rights was never broken. Accordingly, Lev Grinberg's conclusion and recommendations point out to the proper way to go.
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