Dismantling the Israeli state is key
Arabs reveal their true intentions: No more Jewish State
Reports of Israel’s death — to paraphrase Mark Twain — are much exaggerated, though in the current climate of opinion it might be tempting to think otherwise. There is no doubt that Israel’s standing has taken a severe battering in the last 18 months, compounded by the events at the end of May. Israel’s savage assault on Gaza between the end of 2008 and early 2009, with its devastating results for Gazans, who still suffer the consequences today, had a powerful impact on international public opinion. Israel’s latest assault, on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla on 31 May, killing at least nine Turkish humanitarian activists, has been a dramatic escalation. The international climate of opinion has never been so hostile towards Israel. If anyone doubts this, they need only observe the frantic propaganda effort that Israel mounted in the wake of the attack in order to undo the damage. Its announcement this week of a partial ease of the blockade on Gaza is an admission of its failure to stem the tide of criticism.
Indeed, the speed of Israel’s changing status is impressive. Just this week Turkey announced it would be suspending all military cooperation and agreements with Israel, worth $7.5 billion. Fear of reprisals has kept Israeli tourists out of Turkey, and Israeli army officers have been instructed not to visit there. The UN has insisted on an independent inquiry into events around the Gaza flotilla, and not the one Israel proposes. Israel’s hitherto unfettered control over Gaza is further under threat by the European Union’s call for an end to the Gaza blockade and its intention to set up a monitoring mechanism of Gaza’s land and sea crossings so that more humanitarian aid can enter the Strip unimpeded. Even Israel’s staunchest ally, the US, has called the Gaza siege “unacceptable”, and its automatic veto of any criticism of Israel, so routine in the past, can no longer be relied on.
Relations between Israel and several Western states, already strained by the January killing in Dubai of the Hamas leader, Mahmoud Al-Mabhouh, and the associated stealing and use of a number of passports of these states, worsened. In January, Britain expelled an Israeli diplomat in reaction to the illegal use by Mossad agents of British passports. Australia did the same in May, and Ireland is about to follow suit. In Poland, authorities arrested a Mossad agent accused of involvement in the Al-Mabhouh killing. Britain, France, Spain and Italy have demanded firm action over the flotilla attack. On 14 June, Israel’s defence minister, Ehud Barak, cancelled a trip to the Paris Arms Show, warned that pro-Palestinian groups would seek his arrest.
Meanwhile, the boycott movement against Israel, already active, has gained momentum. Israeli officials are now frequently targeted at universities in Europe and America, forcing them to cancel lectures. A number of artists and musicians, like The Pixies, Klaxons and Gorillaz, have called off concerts in Israel, and prominent writers Alice Walker and Iain Banks are also boycotting Israel; Banks has refused to have his books translated into Hebrew. Dockworkers in Sweden, Norway and South Africa are refusing to handle Israeli ships. Britain’s Unite union has resolved to boycott Israeli companies.
Things look bad for Israel, but far from terminal. A string of past outrages — the 1982 Lebanon invasion, the 2006 Lebanon War, the continuous brutality against the Palestinians, the interminable occupation of Arab land, even the 2008-09 war on Gaza that should have been decisive, never stopped Israel from committing further violations. Despite strong international condemnation each time, Israel always recovered. There is no reason to suppose this time will be different. Just last month Israel gained membership of the OECD, and an upgrade of relations with Europe is still on the cards. The fuss over the Gaza flotilla will die down, and Israel will go on to commit other outrages, and the whole cycle will repeat itself. This is not to belittle the admirable efforts of many people to bring Israel to heel, but to understand the reality of Israel’s global entrenchment.
Even if this prediction is wrong and Israel is forced to modify its behaviour, the basic equation will remain: an over-powerful Israel and a collective of cowardly states, Arab, Islamic and Western, impotent to deal with it. By coincidence, I was in Haifa at the time of the flotilla assault, attending a remarkable conference on the one-state solution. It was the second of two organised by Abnaa Al-Balad, a secular Arab Israeli organisation open to Jewish membership and dedicated to the right of refugee return. It brought together Israelis, Palestinians and others to discuss a shared future for the people of historic Palestine, Jewish Israelis and Palestinians, including refugees, exiles and their descendants. This represents a growing movement amongst members of these two communities seeking a better future than the one offered now. A follow up conference is planned for October in Houston, with every expectation that the one-state movement will grow.
The flotilla assaults and the one-state solution conference were no mere coincidence. They are linked. For the key to ending Israel’s recurrent transgressions is to alter its fundamental nature from an exclusivist, intolerant entity for Jews dedicated to maintaining its hegemony by violence, to a pluralist, inclusive society for all. This vision, derided by those too weary or unimaginative to change course, or who have vested interests in the status quo, is no pipedream. But it will not happen through the action of governments which have let the Palestinians down repeatedly, but when enough people of goodwill and conscience join together to build that new state. And it has already started. What’s better: a hegemonic Israel, rampaging out of control in a volatile region, or a peaceful state built on cooperation and coexistence in one, un-partitioned land between former enemies?
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