Bradley Burston, Haaretz columnist, is a real dragon-slayer when it comes to putting the lie to cherished notions of the anti-Palestinian camp within Israel and the anti-Israel camp within Palestine. He’s written another masterful column, The Lie of Victory, which eviscerates ten sacred principles that right and left lives by regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict:
10. The lie of ‘We Were Here First’
What Palestinians tell themselves: We are the descendants of the Canaanites, we were here before you. We are the heirs of Ishmael…Your claims to be the descendants of the Hebrews are specious. You are Russians, Americans, Khazars. We were here before you. We have been here forever. Nothing can make us leave.
What Israelis tell themselves: We are the direct and genuine heirs of Abraham…whose son took the name Israel. Your claims to be Canaanites are specious. Many of you came from neighboring Arab lands a few generations ago. We were here before you. We have been here forever. Nothing can make us leave.
9. The lie of ‘the State They Don’t Deserve’
Right-wing Israeli version: There is no such entity as a Palestine, and no Palestinian people, as such. They are artificial constructs, to serve the aim of ousting the Jews from their land. Moreover, terror has shown them undeserving of a state.
Militant Palestinian version: The Jews are a foreign growth in the body of Palestine. They came here from Europe and America, expelling Palestinians in the process, and it is time for both to return to their respective homes. The state of the Zionists is illegal, it is build on land that was part of the nation of Islam, and will not endure.
The truth:…The principle of self-determination and the history of national movements, to say nothing of the development of Zionism and the Palestinian statehood movement, suggest that peoples themselves are empowered to decide if they constitute a people, and if that people legitimately aspires to independence.
This lie is close to, but not the same as:
8. ‘We don’t recognize them’ [ed., or “They don’t recognize us”].
But we do, of course. Hamas talks about Israel incessantly. Israel talks about Hamas in nearly every breath. Then sides have an endless array of go-betweens managing every conceivable aspect of indirect contacts.
This lie is, in turn, similar to but not the same as:
7. ‘There is no partner’
The fact is that the lack of a partner serves the needs of both Ehud Olmert and Ismail Haniyeh…Olmert has given indications of a preference for unilateralism, a position made much easier by an internationally shunned Hamas government.
At the same time, the last thing Palestinian Prime Minister Haniyeh needs is to be viewed as a collaborator with Israel. “There is no partner,” may have a different meaning when Hamas says it, but the advantage is mutual.
6. The lie of ‘National Socialism.’
Palestinian version: They are as bad as the Nazis.
Israeli version: They are as bad as the Nazis.
5. The lie of ‘the Only Language’
Both versions: Force is the only language they understand.
4. The lie of ‘will.’
Both versions: Our will is stronger than theirs, our cause more rooted, our stubbornness more pronounced, our endurance more bottomless, our tradition more timeless, our defiance more directed, our rage more justified, our presence more entrenched.
3. The lie of ‘revenge’
Arguably the hardest lie of all to resist. The lie that suggests that we alone have been wronged, that we have a duty – as well as a gut drive – to avenge that wrong, and that in so doing, we will somehow put an end to the injustice. The lie that masks the fact that the need for revenge is the engine of escalation, the breeder fuel of perpetual war.
2. The lie of ‘victim monopoly’
Both versions: WE…are the victims. We kill in self-defense, our enemy kills innocents in cold blood. The moral high ground is clearly ours. The news media are demonstrably biased toward our enemy.
1. The lie of ‘victory’
In the Middle East, there is no such thing as victory. Ask George Bush. Ask the victors of the Six Day War. There is no such thing as Mission Accomplished, clear-cut triumph, a simple win.
We want to believe in victory, because the prospect of no hope for triumph, for some meaning to all the suffering, is beyond unbearable. Nonetheless …
In the Mideast, today’s victory is tomorrow’s nightmare. In a situation pitting Western concepts of defeat and victory against the Islamist view of martyrdom, no one can win.
Next time you hear any of these “old chestnuts” dragged out in an argument, you have only to point your opponent to this post or Burston’s column to put it to rest (not that a right-winger will accept Burston’s as the last word on this).