Friday, December 11, 2009

Netanyahu's Peace?

Please don't read this if you are unwilling to engage in respectful and rational political debate. 

Saying anything about Israel is, of course, by the very nature of the situation, controversial. But I for one am very tired of the fact that if one is at all critical of Israeli policy you are slapped with the epithet of anti-Semitism. This is simply not right and not conducive to rational political discourse.

I was thinking about this because of Mr. Netanyahu’s recent proposal to stop issuing new building permits for the occupied territories with the notable exception of East Jerusalem. First of all it must be said that the exception of East Jerusalem is designed to thwart progress from the very beginning. It is like swearing to a judge that if he sets you free you will swear to stop committing crimes with the exception of shoplifting. Then you have to ask the question; why is the Israeli state issuing building permits for the occupied territories in the first place? This like the municipal government in Ottawa issuing building permits for contractors in Toronto. Listening to reports about the issue the other day on the radio I was once again appalled  at interviews with Israeli citizens who were criticizing Netanyahu for restricting any building since, in their words, ‘the Torah gives them the divine right to build anything they want anywhere in the occupied territories.’ Frankly, you cannot have a real political discussion with this as the post basic assumption.

And all of this reminds me of one of the most basic principles of politics; use your advisories to your advantage. The fact is that nothing generates as much anti-Semitism as the various expansionist acts of the Israeli government. But in a seemingly paradoxical but classic move of political strategy these attitudes are the very thing that keep the State of Israel firmly on its expansionist path. The very last thing that a man like Benjamin Netanyahu really wants is a real decline in anti-Semitism, let alone a cessation of such sentiments. Without these feelings the Israelis would have no serious excuse for continuing their gradual effort to take the entire occupied territories for themselves. This is the way in which the Palestinians are playing right into the hands of right-wing Israelis.  But being on the losing end of the stick, so to speak, it is very difficult to do anything else. If you were, say, a twenty-five year old Palestinian you will have never know anything other than occupation. And you will have grown watching your people live in squalor, poverty, and powerlessness in the face of one of the largest, best equipped military forces in the world. All this would be happening against the backdrop of the foreign occupier gradually taking more and more of your people’s land and you are helpless to stop it. It wouldn’t really matter what your politics are in such a case, in most instances the situation would decide for you. And this is the very thing that keeps politicians like Netanyahu going; as long as there are young Palestinians who are seething with resentment at Israeli expansion, and as long as there are people all over the world who sympathize with this resentment, Netanyahu will have the excuse he needs to keep up the policies of building. Under pressure from the Obama administration Netanyahu has temporarily halted the West Bank building. But he knows with all the building that is already going on as well has his exception of East Jerusalem real peace will be impossible – and that is just the way he wants it. 

Now, I understand that there are many Israelis who, also having lived in what they feel is a constant state of siege and that they assume that they cannot achieve peace. I think the better of these folks have simply been duped by men like Netanyahu who are willing to take advantage of anti-Semitism (much of which has been generated by such policies in the first place) to see their political goal move forward. 

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