Until a few years ago, it seemed that the narrative of the Israeli-Arab conflict was determined mostly by Israel: there was the miraculous vote in the UN General Assembly recognizing the partition. Then the even more miraculous 1948 War of Independence, which established the State of Israel. Yes, there was the momentary setback of the 1956 Suez War, whose victorious territorial prize of the Sinai was wrenched from Israel’s hands by Pres. Dwight Eisenhower. But the Lord’s miracles continued in 1967 as Israel reunited the nation’s eternal capital, Jerusalem. The sparks of Messianic redemption were also sown by the return to our Biblical ancestral lands in places that came to be called by many in Israel, Judea and Samaria. Israel affirmed its rendez-vous with Jewish destiny by returning its sons and daughters to these Biblical holy places in Shechem and Hebron, where they became latter-day versions of the pioneers of the 1920s who “cleared the land and drained the swamps.”
There wasn’t much room in all this history, destiny, and messianic redemption for the narrative of the “loser.” Israelis, the most humane among them, could afford to acknowledge the sins that enabled the triumphs of Israel. These visionaries bucked the national consensus, but they were swimming upstream and against the prevailing winds. Over time, their voice became thinner and thinner until it was mostly snuffed out in the shouts of triumph from the Israeli nationalist camp.
But over the past decade or more, the tables have turned. With the onset of the Intifadas, Palestinians began to make a claim to a narrative of their own. It wasn’t just a story they proclaimed for themselves. They asked the rest of the world to acknowledge it as well. Slowly, ever so slowly, the world has turned from intense admiration of Israel’s achievements to recognition of the moral cost of those victories.
In the past 11 years, we have gone through two Intifadas, wars in Gaza in (2009) and Lebanon (2006). With each of these new developments in the Palestinian national struggle, Israel’s narrative receded and the Palestinian’s advanced.
Though the term Nakba has existed for decades, few outside the Arab world have been willing to acknowledge either it or the historical event it denotes. Until now. The historical truth of this tragedy can no longer be mitigated or denied as it has been for so long. Israel has tried to stick its finger in the dyke in order to suppress awareness. It was sung the praises of its own national myth attempting to drown out those who paid the price for Israel’s joy. But there is about the Nakba, what James Joyce called an “ineluctable modality of the visible,” something which can no longer be denied, a fundamental truth that has been repressed far too long.
Now, the tender shoots of the Arab Spring have burst forth. On Nakba Day last month, Palestinian supporters overwhelmed four Israeli borders demanding that the injustice of the Nakba be redressed. Tomorrow, many of these same protesters will do it again, this time to commemorate the Palestinian loss represented by the 1967 War. They’re calling it Naksa, the Setback. Perhaps slightly less tragic than Nakba, or Catastrophe. But the aggregation of these terms strengthens the sense of a wrong that cannot be denied.
News stories today indicate that Hezbollah has asked for protests on the Lebanese border be cancelled. So we don’t quite know what the dimensions of the event will be. But there is one thing of which you can be sure. The dimensions of this struggle will grow day by day, protest by protest. And as they do, Israel’s case will grow weaker and weaker.
Later this month, a Turkish flotilla consisting of peace activists from the Arab world along with Israelis and American Jews will set sail for Gaza. This voyage is a follow-up to the Mavi Marmara catastrophe in which Israeli commandos killed nine Turks last year. Turkish media reports that the U.S. has dangled a carrot in front of the Turkish government, promising to host an Israeli-Palestinian peace conference in Turkey if it will call off the flotilla and normalize relations with Israel.
The very notion of such a bribe is insulting both to Turkey and to the Israeli-Arab peace process. Can a nation be bought? Can peace be bought? For a mess of porridge? What does Obama take Turkey for? This is a proud nation that can’t be taken in by charades. Its leader, Pres. Erdogan is no fool. He ought to tell the U.S. and Israel that it knows what the price of peace is and when those two are ready to pay, then they have his phone number, as Secretary of State Baker said during the Bush administration, and should call. Until then, they should stop wasting everyone’s time with makeshift measures and blandishments like peace conferences. What good is such a meeting when Israel isn’t ready to deal?
As I wrote in my latest contribution to Truthout, a September date with destiny is looming for Palestine in the UN General Assembly. This is yet another incremental advance of the cause of Palestine and another nail in the coffin of the Occupation. From my reading of UN processes, the Security Council can delay but not deny Palestinian statehood. It’s only a matter of time. As Meir Dagan has been saying lately, time is not on Israel’s side. The longer it delays the worse the deal it will get.
I should make clear that I’m not talking about erasing the Israeli narrative or expecting Israelis to grovel at the feet of those they’ve injured. The Israeli narrative is still valid. All those achievements are laudable, something Israel and the Jewish people can be proud of. But not at the expense of Palestine. Not if Palestine must be denied. What the world demands is that there be two legitimate narratives neither of which eclipses or demeans the other. Two equal narratives. When Bibi Netanyahu or whoever is the Israeli PM at the time can do that, he knows Mahmoud Abbas’s phone number. He can call.
The right narrative says
What is laudable about the Israeli narrative? That some mythical book promised you land of some magical guy in the sky, which required the massacres and the ethnic cleansing of the original inhabitants of that land? And that with superior equipment, and number superiority (forget the myths you created that you were overnumbered), you managed to disposses peasents and beat rag-tag armies who were colonized. What a joke. There is nothing laudable about Israel, nothing. I don’t care how many Intel processors you invented, or if you made the deserts bloom. The Nazis contributed immensly to modern medecine, but its the Holocaust, which we remeber them by. And like Nazisms, Zionism will go in the bins of history, because history never lets the ends justify the means. Its in avoidable; the arc of history always bends towards justice.
Richard Silverstein says
I had a feeling that some of what I wrote would step on certain toes. You don’t know much about me, my views or my blog. You owe it to yrself (& me) to read a bit more before you make presumptions about how I define the “Israeli narrative,” which isn’t at all the way you claim I do.
The Nazis contributed “immensely” to modern medicine? Says who?
Iron clad logic says
The Nazis had advanced public health laws: banned smoking and food coloring chemicals, for example. This had a lot to do with their own twisted conception of what a healthy Volk requires. Otherwise I disagree with everything else “The right narrative” wrote.
Richard Silverstein says
I don’t quarrel with that. But he said that Nazi medical innovations were a result of the Holocaust or some such, if I recall correctly. That’s diff.
The Nazi War on Cancer”
Yes, Jews came to Israel with the purpose of ethnically cleansing it. It’s not like they were just trying to make lives for themselves after being ethnically cleansed. The Palestinian natives welcomed them with open arms.
Deïr Yassin says
Israel was created in 1948….
And yes, if you read major political Zionist classics from Herzl, Jabotinsky to Ben Gourion – but did you ever bother ? – the ethnic cleansing was part of the Zionist project. The first anti-Zionist revolts started after the Balfour-declaration – more than 30 years after the first ‘olim’ arrived – when the Palestinians realized that the Zionists had come to take over the land. Have you ever read the history of the region or do you think being a ‘leftist’ gives you any special understanding per se ?
In my opinion, the “Iron Wall” ranks way down there with Mein Kampf in the trash bin of SUPREMACIST literature.
Actualy, I just finished reading Ben Gurions book ‘We and our neighbours’. I am copy-pasting (in Hebrew) what he wrote in 1915 (he repeated this notion a few more times in the book)
אין מטרתנו עומדת בניגוד לישוב הערבי בארץ; אין כוונתנו לדחוק את רגלי הערבים, לנשלם מעל אדמתם ולרשת את מקומם. ההתישבות העברית הציגה לה מטרה יותר נעלה יותר קולטורית יותר אנושית – המטרה היא להחיות את הארץ לממש את האפשרויות הישוביות הגדולות, להרחיב את גבולותיה האקונומיים ע”י טיפוח משק יותר פרוגרסיבי וקולטורי (בן גוריון, 1915)
His view was that the land of Israel belongs to all the Jews in the world AND to the arabs residents currently in it. As the country could be vastly developed (e.g. Hachula swamp region turned into fields), these statements were not contradictory.
Deïr Yassin says
That was in 1915 during his ‘idealistic’ period before the Balfour Declaration.
If you google Zionist quotes + transfer + Ben Gourion, or look at Palestineremembered, you’ll find a whole collection of his ‘transferist’ quotes. Ben Gourion became obsessed by the ‘transfer’-option already before the Peel Commission.
Richard Silverstein says
You’re quoting a statement he wrote in 1915, when he approved at least tacitly expulsion in 1948, 33 yrs later?? What is this supposed to prove? Besides a leader can write anything he wants in a book. It’s what he does when in power that counts, & he either directly or tacitly approved the Nakba. He was as responsible as any Zionist leader for this atrocious mess. Liberal Zionists love to demonize Jabotinsky as the root of all evil. But Ben Gurion was much more powerful & almost as evil.
Shai, my “Iron Wall” reply to Deïr Yassin was really meant for YOU.
Here’s some key words for you to ponder: SUPREMACIST ideologies.
Shai, I presume you’re referring to the pogroms of Eastern Europe that helped to fuel the Hibbat Zion movement from 1881 onwards, rather than the Holocaust. While it’s true that persecution did help to boost the popularity of Zionism amongst ordinary people, the ideology itself was not driven solely or even mostly by the need to find a safe haven for an oppressed people. It was colonialist to its core, as is evidenced by Herzl’s thoughts on what to do with ‘the natives’ once Israel had been formed:
“We must expropriate gently, the private property on the estates assigned to us. We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries whilst denying it any employment in our own country…If we move into a region where there are wild animals to which Jews are not accustomed – big snakes etc. – I shall use the natives, prior to giving them employment in the transit countries, for the extermination of these animals. High premiums for snake skins, etc, as well as their spawn.”
Herzl wrote this in his diary on 12th June 1895. There is no mention of ‘Palestine’ or ‘Arabs’ because at this stage no country had been fixed on as the prime location for the Zionist project; Argentina was still under consideration. Had Zionism really been in response to pogroms, and nothing more, Herzl would not have had the luxury of picking and choosing his land (European colonialist style). Nor would he have had the power to talk about dispossessing the indigenous people. He was only able to write like this because the educated and secular Ashkenazim who made up the Zionist leadership, although part of a minority group, still enjoyed sufficient white power and privilege to make a colonial enterprise possible.
If Zionism had simply been about taking refuge, there would have been no need to make plans to dispossess the indigenous people and set up an entirely different nation in their place. And if Zionists had arrived in Palestine as refugees seeking a home rather than people who believed that ‘the natives’ only had a right to stay so long as they proved themselves useful with the local fauna, the story might have had a happier ending.
It’s also worth noting that Shoah survivors received very ambivalent treatment from the State of Israel during its formative years especially, with Ben-Gurion manipulating the Holocaust for blatant political gain. The presentation of Zionism as a rescue mission can’t stand.
Richard Silverstein says
Jews came to Palestine with roughly the same diversity of motives & results as the Pilgrims & later immigrants came to these shores. We can argue whether the Native Americans were at fault for the later wars or the white people. But since we almost wiped them out, stole their native lands, and always had superior firepower (remind you of anything?), I tend to sympathize with the narratives of the victims in both cases.
“…the arc of history always bends towards justice.”
If only that were true, The right narrative. The “arc of history” didn’t save the Aztecs and the Incas in the 1500s, and it very much remains to be seen if it will save the Palestinians from the total dispossession that Israel plans for them.
Deïr Yassin says
The killings have already started in the Golan:
I just saw pictures of the manifestation on French television, first time they’ve covered that kind of events. As Richard wrote: the Palestinian narrative is becoming more visible.
The new Turkish Flotilla is great, and so is the ISM plan of sending hundreds of Palestinian refugees from all over the world on flights to Ben Gourion airport on July 8th, the date in 2004 that the UN’s International Court of Justice stated that the Wall is illegal by international law.
This will be a huge symbolic event.
As for the Palestinian September rendez-vous with history at the UN:
Regarding the UN rendez-vous and Abbas’ comment: Abbas would be making a fatal mistake not to undertake this initiative despite U.S. pressure on every nation to vote against Palestinian statehood. Can Palestinians afford to deny themselves the largest international forum on the planet to plead their case? NO. Only Abbas would be stupid enough to make the mistake of aborting this effort since he has failed Palestinians in many ways before, the Goldstone Report being just one case, and so I wouldn’t put it past him.
First of all, this move represents a public relations nightmare for Israel and a pr bonanza for Palestinians and this is always a good thing. Second, the world needs to see how Israel operates and witness the power that it wields in the U.S. Congress (not that everyone isn’t already aware by now with the spectacle they put on with Netanyahu leading the charge) and the Zionist lobbies (I will refer to them as Zionist, because that’s exactly their goal) exerting influence and pressure in certain EU countries that in turn influence others.
Not only that, but the narrative on the Rights of a Dispossessed People (whose fate was partially imposed on them by this same body, the U.N.) who are being deprived because of power and influence needs to be heard and well as the excuses, nay, the bullshet that will be used to continue to deny these people those rights and the world should witness HYPOCRISY, CORRUPTION AND INJUSTICE take centre stage so that all are aware of exactly WHAT and WHOM are ruling and ruining this planet and enabling what is in my opinion the FIRST LEGAL APARTHEID STATE in the history of mankind.
don’t expect anything pro-Palestinian or pro-Palestine from MahmoudAbbas a.k.a. AbuMazen. he always was and still is a MossadMole. circumstances on the ground beyond his and netanyahu’s control forced AbuMazen to act now as pro-Palestinian. the True Palestinians must beware though and act to impeach the MossadMole and remove him from the political scene. only then will Netanyahu know that he cannot anymore finesse the situation through deception at the highest levels of palestinian politicking. remember EliCohen the israeli spy at the highest levels of the syrian government (http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/biography/Eli_Cohen.html). don’t be surprised then when AbuMazen the MossadMole calls before september on the Palestinians to reconsider their move to take their Palestine case to the UN for that’s exactly the job that netanyahu has assigned to him. it is the same job that netanyahu assigned to him (AbuMazen) with the Goldstone report at the time it was to be submitted to the UN. the job didn’t work then. the job backfired and Netanyahu had to backtrack to save AbuMazen his MossadMole from political extinction. Palestinians must beware lest the new AbuMazen job work as Netanyahu envisioned it to work. i will remind you “I Told You So.”
Bella Center says
‘Deir Yassin’: Even if only half the myths surrounding the Deir Yassin massacre were true, it is still takes rather alot of chutzpah for you to appropriate that name for your comments. Be that as it may, don’t you find it a rather a cruel irony that Assad sent busloads of his lackeys to the Golan border with one hand, while shooting down protesters in Hama with the other? I do.
Who the hell are you to question someone’s moniker and deride a tragic event in Palestinian history?
Richard Silverstein says
Actually, it takes quite a lot of chutzpa for you who’ve never (unless I’m mistaken) commented here to attack someone who has been a loyal reader and commenter here for a long time. You have a lot of friggin’ nerve.
I do NOT like snark. If you have a point to make do so. Don’t try your wit on us. Save it for somewhere else. The only cruel irony I see is that the IDF shot down unarmed civilians killing 22 of them. No one here supports either those murders or those Assad is responsible for inside Syria. In fact, it appears that Bibi & Assad and the IDF and Syrian army have much in common. They enjoy attacking & murdering innocent civilians.
Deïr Yassin says
@ Bella Center
I despise Assad Junior, just as his father, just as all other dictators, whether Arabs or Africans or whatever. Assad is not the topic in this article, and I’m not sure he’s behind the demonstrations. At least according to Hassan Hijazi, the the young Syrian-Palestinian who made it to Jaffa on Nakba-day, the regime was against the demonstrations on May 15th, and only gave in after pressure from abroad. It was organized by Palestinians on Facebook. I think Assad has other things to do, such as killing Syrians elsewhere.
PS. Are you Danish ? Bella Center is a huge exposition center in Copenhagen, and you maybe have a Hasbara-stand there. The quality of their expositions used to better than that, though.
“I should make clear that I’m not talking about erasing the Israeli narrative or expecting Israelis to grovel at the feet of those they’ve injured. The Israeli narrative is still valid. All those achievements are laudable, something Israel and the Jewish people can be proud of.”
I’m baffled by this comment. Let me be honest: it offends me to no end and I hope you don’t take what you’re about to read too personally, I really do, because I feel totally compelled and can’t help myself in writing the following in spite of all the good you do, because this comment is just unbelievable within the context of everything else you do here, and as much as I appreciate what you do here day in and day out; I’m not going to let you off the hook for this one, despite your dismissive reply to “the right narrative” above, and at the risk of your ire towards me. I thought I knew how you define the “Israeli” narrative; but this comment….(sigh)!
Why did you have to state “expecting Israelis to grovel at the feet of those they’ve injured”? Why not just keep it to yourself? Did you actually have to voice this out loud? Have you given thought to, for instance, the children who were slaughtered, maimed and burned by Israeli bombs and phosphorous in Gaza with this comment? I know if I were the sole survivor of a Palestinian family decimated by Israeli aggression I would want those ignorant, Zionist soldiers who smeared “genocidal” graffiti on the walls of my home TO GROVEL at my feet, WOULDN’T YOU, if they did the same to you?? And this is but one example of Israeli injustice. You went on and on about the father who was abducted in the Ukraine, the activist father who was unjustly accused of having ties to Hezbollah and imprisoned and the father who was shot at a checkpoint and left his beautiful children and wife grief-stricken. And what about the Turkish-American who was merely photographing the crimes ocurring on the Mavi Marmara and was executed with multiple shots at close range? Wouldn’t you want someone to “grovel” at the feet of their families to repair these injustices? Of course, there are many ways of making someone grovel, for instance, being dragged before an INTERNATIONAL CRIMINAL COURT. In other words, should some form of HUMILIATION not be part of justice. Also, should Israeli society not pay some humiliating price for their own apathy? And why shouldn’t the oppressor HUMBLE HIMSELF before his victim first and foremost in the process of making amends for the crime he committed?
Your comment here resonates astoundingly insensitive to me. For the first time since I visit this site, I feel like an outsider.
And I won’t even get into all the implications vis a vis the “Israeli narrative”. But in short, the first thing that comes to mind is how can someone ever be proud of an achievement built on the backs and suffering of a nation of people who were driven from their land and forced to live in most cases as impoverished refugees deprived of their rights for decades? Secondly, the Israeli narrative is one of dispossessing people, driving them out of their land, destroying their homes and villages, and killing them off when they dare to resist this crime, and MOST OF ALL pretending that these injustices were worth it and justified because Zionism was intended for a JUST AND HUMANE CAUSE. Puh-leeez, two wrongs don’t make right and this planet had plenty of empty lots of land at the time without having to cause hundreds of thousands and millions thereafter so much pain.
Yes, I agree, there are lots of accomplishments the Jewish people can be proud of and perhaps some not so much, but in my opinion, the Zionist experiment, which is proving to be an abject failure, is the most shameful of all.
That was beautiful Mr. Silverstein.
I just noticed “The Lemon Tree” on the list of the books you love. If I were going to recommend one book to someone on this conflict that would be it. I’m guessing that when you talk about the two narratives you’re thinking in part of that book–Israel as the destination for Holocaust refugees and the founding of Israel as a massive crime against Palestinians.
Richard Silverstein says
Sorry to say I haven’t read the book yet (I have so little time to do such things beyond the research I do for the blog). But so many have repeated what you said, that it’s the single best book on the conflict. I hope others will read it.