Wednesday, May 25, 2016

West of Eden: Fascism may be here.

Image via emaze.

Thomas P. Friedman, better known as Thomas L. Friedman, Mystax Malinconicus, is in a saturnine humor as regards a former favorite country of his:
Israel has recently been under intense criticism on the world stage. Some of it, like the “boycott, divestment, sanctions” (B.D.S.) campaign, is a campus movement to destroy Israel masquerading as a political critique. But a lot of it is also driven by Israel’s desire to destroy itself — thanks to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s steady elimination of any possibility that Israel will separate itself from the Palestinians in the West Bank.
That somewhat comical formulation—"This is no time to be committing suicide, there are people out there trying to kill you!"—points at some kind of truth, but it's not something Tom really wants to hear.

The formula on BDS is a little like one of those Radio Yerevan jokes from the former Soviet Union:
Question to Radio Yerevan: Is it correct that Grigori Grigorievich Grigoriev won a luxury car at the All-Union Championship in Moscow?
Answer: In principle, yes. But first of all it was not Grigori Grigorievich Grigoriev, but Vassili Vassilievich Vassiliev; second, it was not at the All-Union Championship in Moscow, but at a Collective Farm Sports Festival in Smolensk; third, it was not a car, but a bicycle; and fourth he didn't win it, but rather it was stolen from him.
Thus, Question: Is it correct that the BDS campaign is a campus movement to destroy Israel masquerading as a political critique?

And Answer: In principle, yes. But first of all, it isn't exactly a movement posing as a political critique, it's more like a political critique trying to turn into a movement; and second, it isn't a campus movement spreading around American colleges and universities but a worldwide campaign originating with 170 Palestinian NGOs, with international support from various businesses, cultural organizations, trade unions, and all sorts of Jewish and other individuals as well as a bunch of college students and professors; and third, it isn't aimed at destroying Israel but at pressuring it to meet its obligations under international law.

Indeed, the first of the BDS movement's three principal goals is identical to Tom Friedman's demand for what Israel must do to preserve its existence, to "separate itself from the Palestinians in the West Bank": that is, as transmitted by Jewish Voice for Peace, that the movement must continue until the Israeli government
Ends its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantles the Wall; recognizes the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and respects, protects and promotes the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
The second condition certainly shouldn't be a problem, either, in a theoretical sense at least, unless the Israeli government wishes to argue that, no, in the Jewish state (founded in the wake of the Holocaust under the slogan "Never again") there should be a racial group that fundamentally, by definition, doesn't have the same civil and judicial rights as the majority. The third stipulation, though, is a real difficulty, in that if all the five million Palestinians with legitimate property claims in the pre-1967 territory of Israel were to show up to ask for their land back, the Israeli state would not really be able, even with the best of intentions, to give it to them without extraordinary internal upheavals, and it's hard to imagine how they get there.

(In fact if only because of the government's incompetence regarding housing, which has led, as we heard this morning on NPR, to an 80% rise in apartment prices over the last eight years, so that there's no place inside the 1967 borders for the current Israeli population to live, let alone the 800,000 Jews in the West Bank and East Jerusalem who would need to find homes if the occupation ended. Absorbing another five million Arabs under these conditions would be an order of magnitude more difficult.)

Although in point of fact the demand is for an Arab "right of return" to the property in Israel proper of which it was dispossessed in the nakba, or to be fairly compensated for its loss, as Resolution 194 stipulated in 1948:
that the refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return and for loss of or damage to property which, under principles of international law or in equity, should be made good by the Governments or authorities responsible...
"Well, you shouldn't have rejected it back then!" shout the Israelis.

"Well, you rejected it too!" shout the Palestinians.

That was the time when Albert Einstein saw fascism coming to Israel with American help through the ancestor of the Likud party and Menachem Begin himself, 70 years ago.

But the upshot is that if Israel chooses to follow international law as BDS defines it, it must end up admitting some very large number of Arabs, and seeing the majority of Jews gradually decline until it's not a majority any more, and if those Arabs have full civil rights they can take over. The Jewish state will no longer be Jewish. Or if Binyamin Netanyahu carries on as he has been doing, and no Palestinian state ever comes into existence, then Israel will effectively contain some very large number of Arabs with no civil rights, and this situation will be equally unsustainable; the only difference will be that the end, when it comes, may be much more violent.

Friedman cowers in the middle of this dilemma, dreaming of Oslo, but I think the point is really that whatever happens now, Israel will not survive in its present form. That would have required the old two-state solution, which is now dead, murdered by Binyamin Netanyahu and his minions, who starved it to death (he just rejected yet another peace initiative, this one from France, on Tuesday*). The thing Friedman prays for, the separate sovereignties, will not prevent the thing he dreads, the elimination of the Jewish majority. It's not the fault of BDS but of demographic destiny. The debate isn't over how to maintain Israel's existence, but rather how to supervise its death, and with any luck its rebirth as some better thing.

Friedman and so many others are upset about Netanyahu's firing of the "decent" defense minister Moshe Ya'alon and replacing him with the vile Russian agent Avigdor Lieberman, but what's even new about that? Wasn't Lieberman already foreign minister from 2009 to 2012 and 2013 to 2015?

Now conservative and centrist Israelis, Moshe Ya'alon and Ehud Barak, are beginning to see it rising. General Ya'ir Golan, deputy chief of staff of the Israeli Army, says of the current legislative program of the Knesset,
“If there is something that frightens me about the memories of the Holocaust, it is the knowledge of the awful processes which happened in Europe in general, and in Germany in particular, 70, 80, 90 years ago, and finding traces of them here in our midst, today, in 2016.”
As quoted by Uri Avnery, who instantiates:
The rain of racist Bills in the Knesset, those already adopted and those in the works, strongly resembles the laws adopted by the Reichstag in the early days of the Nazi regime. Some rabbis call for a boycott of Arab shops. Like then. The call “Death to the Arabs” (“Judah verrecke”?) is regularly heard at soccer matches.
A member of parliament has called for the separation between Jewish and Arab newborns in hospital. A chief rabbi has declared that Goyim (non-Jews) were created by God to serve the Jews.
Our ministers for education and culture are busy subduing the schools, theatre and arts to the extreme rightist line, something known in German as Gleichschaltung. The supreme court, the pride of Israel, is being relentlessly attacked by the minister of justice. The Gaza Strip is a huge ghetto.
And so on. Even Tom Friedman sees it, or can't help seeing somebody else seeing it:
With [the firing of Ya'alon], said the Hebrew University religious philosopher Moshe Halbertal, we are witnessing “Israel’s ruling party being transformed from a hawkish nationalist party that used to have a humanitarian and democratic base, into an ultranationalist party that is now defined by turning against the ‘enemies’ from within — the courts, the NGOs, the education system, the Arab minority and now, the army — anyone who stands in the way of their project of permanent occupation of the West Bank. Having failed to deliver a solution for the enemies on the outside, so now Likud is focused on the enemies inside. This is a major transformation in Israel and should be looked upon with great concern.” 
And then again... There's something I just learned about South Africa as apartheid was coming to an end that I hadn't understood before. When F.W. de Klerk first became president, in 1989, he worked in secret on two big things: one was the start of dismantling apartheid, the freeing of Nelson Mandela, the relaxing of the racist laws; and the other was the dismantling of the nuclear weapons program, the six actual bombs and the research program behind them. I mean, I knew South Africa had gotten rid of its nukes, but I didn't understand that the timing was so interconnected with the other thing.

South Africa, too, as everybody knows, was attacked by an international BDS program demanding civil rights for a dispossessed native population, and the white ruling class resisted for a long time, suggesting that the native peoples were too violent, and incapable of governing themselves, that white rule had created a shiningly productive prosperity in the blighted land, that the Dutch-speaking Afrikaner culture had experienced near-genocidal violence in the not-so-distant past (which is quite true) and needed to protect itself forever. But BDS wore them down, and fussy old de Klerk rose to meet it. And somehow, in his mind, the curses of nuclear weapons and apartheid were connected, and had to be done away with together. I don't know quite why that feels so important to me at the moment.

Zionists reject any analogy between Israel and South Africa, of course, nuclear weapons and all, and I'm not going to convince them that it's valid. But the times they are undeniably a-changing. They're certainly changing in the US, in the younger generation, as Richard Silverstein notes, in ways our politicians have hardly begun understanding, though Bernie Sanders, amazingly, has understood enough to find himself pushing pro-Palestinian voices onto the Democratic platform committee. (I never believed there would be any significant difference between Sanders and Clinton on this issue, which looks like I was wrong, but I still don't think it's enough to stop me supporting Clinton. It's not anywhere near the most important issue on my list, the situation being as bleak as it is; it's not clear to me the US has any real influence over the Israeli government any more, in spite of our $4 billion a year. But I think one of those platform people, Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota, is my candidate for Clinton's vice president.) And here's old Friedman in a bitter prophetic mood, painfully changing as well.

Things can change in Israel, too, and it's better for everybody if they do, rather than driving things toward a Likud apocalypse where everybody dies.

*Juan Cole reports:
On Monday, Netanyahu urged Valls to “encourage (Palestinian President Mahmoud) Abbas to accept this French initiative: direct negotiations without preconditions, between the Israeli prime minister, the Palestinian president in Paris.”

However, Netanyahu demanded that these hypothetical negotiations be based on the precondition of “two states for two peoples, a demilitarized Palestinian state that recognizes the Jewish state.”
Dear Radio Yerevan, is it correct that Netanyahu demands negotiations toward a Palestinian state, without preconditions? In principle, yes. But first of all, he has a precondition, and second of all, the precondition is that the Palestinian state shouldn't be a state, but an undefended Bantustan.

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