The Who’s Won’t Get Fooled Again is a repository of truth and wisdom about political reality in our time. The lyrics: “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” resonate far beyond the time in which they were written. They’re suitably cynical, while upholding a virtue that somehow transcends the cynicism.
Such a perspective is perfectly suited for Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians and the new ceasefire purportedly agreed to by Israel and Hamas under Egyptian auspices. If Israel is to be believed, Hamas has ceded all of its demands. The former also claims this was precisely the same agreement to which Israeli agreed on July 15th and which Hamas rejected. In truth, I don’t recall the earlier proposal including any provision for opening borders or lifting the siege, even partially.
The Guardian portrays the latest agreement slightly differently. The paper says the ceasefire provides for partially lifting the siege to permit humanitarian aid and reconstruction material to enter. The Israeli and Egyptian crossings will be opened. These are almost the same provisions of the 2012 truce that ended Operation Pillar of Cloud.
In actuality, the siege of 2012 wasn’t even partially lifted. The borders remained open for a time and then closed. We know how this song goes: Israel promises under duress. Then after the pressure eases it returns to the usual obduracy.
Israel is delighted with this outcome. It enables it to paint Hamas as defeated. As a national movement that failed its people. That promised victories and gains that never materialized. That sacrificed 2,100 lives with little to show for it. Israel knows that whatever gains Hamas makes can and will be taken away shortly. Bibi may ride these claims to victory in the next elections.
There are Israeli reports that Netanyahu has finally and overtly renounced the two-state solution. Instead he will propose a bi-national state in which a small portion of the West Bank would be independent. The rest would become Israeli. But the way the far-right will finesse the demographic threat question is that they will only allow a small percentage of those absorbed into Israel to become full-fledged citizens (the number 50,000 has been bandied about). The rest would lie in some sort of legal limbo: not quite stateless, not quite citizens). In fact, the majority of those offered citizenship will likely, like East Jerusalem’s Palestinian population, refuse it since it will be offered under Israeli terms.
The world will not accept such a plan. And it goes without saying Palestinians won’t either. But Bibi must feel empowered to ignore the international consensus. He will do what Israeli governments have done since 1967, if not earlier: create facts on the ground which cannot be undone.
On the other side, Hamas has already agreed to join with the PA to file for membership in the International Court. It is doing so in full knowledge that some of its leaders may be swept up in the surge or prosecutions that may result. It would do so knowing that Israeli generals and politicians will be far more likely to be swept up in this net. So any sense of Israeli triumphalism is sorely misplaced.
The BDS movement will only surge in popularity as a result of Israel’s disastrous massacre in Gaza. An Israeli publication today published a story saying that the chugging economic engine otherwise known as the Startup Nation, is beginning to see cracks in the edifice. Further international moves to restrict Israeli economic activity abroad could begin to crimp the export economy on which Israel’s economic success has been built.
Over the past few days, my attitude toward Israel has shifted. Readers will know that I’ve always been critical of Israeli Occupation policy. But I’ve always tried to distinguish my view of these policies from my underlying sense of solidarity with Israel as a nation.
But as my Twitter feed filled with images of a 10th century Gaza mosque leveled to the ground, and six high-rise apartment buildings also toppled by U.S.-made F-16s for no other reason than to persuade Hamas that Israel, like Samson, was willing to topple the walls of the temple and take everyone with it.
One of my Israeli friends told me about a journalist he knows who told him that Hamas reminds him of the Black Knight in Monty Python’s Holy Grail. In the film, he is the character who fights battles for no apparent reason and refuses to give up after losing most of his limbs in combat. Even as his opponent walks over the bridge he was guarding and over which he’d prohibited him from walking, the Knight throws curses and taunts.
Such an Israeli attitude held, in this case, by a well-known journalist, represents the total obtuseness of Israeli society to their Palestinian neighbors. They see steadfastness as self-destruction; self-sacrifice as suicide. This allows them to view Palestinians as psychopaths willing to destroy everything for the sake of a principle only Palestinians can see.
This is an Israel I renounce. It is a nation steeped in willful moral blindness. A nation willing to murder babies for the sake of “quiet.” A nation that gorges on the suffering of its enemies. A nation that cannot see that its fate is bound up with that of another nation sharing the same land. Israel and Palestine are like Siamese twins who somehow believe they are not connected to each other. They each view the other as an enemy. Someone taking up precious space and resources which the other could use. There is no such thing as co-existence. There is only absolute victory, winner take all. When one cries, the other laughs for joy.
It reminds me of the old Jewish midrash (a reader will remind me of the source), which pictures both heaven and Hell as a place in which people may not feed themselves because their arms are locked in place. The difference between heaven and Hell is that in the former place people feed each other and in Hell they think only of themselves and starve.
Today, Israel and Palestine is Hell. Israelis’ arms are locked in place and rather than feed their Palestinian neighbors or accept food from them in return, Israelis would rather starve. And so they will unless the world decides it has had enough and intervenes in this madness.
So as this Israel came into clearer focus my views have subtly changed. Israel is no longer a wayward country, a black sheep of the world community. Instead it has become a wanton criminal among the nations. It destroys for the sake of destruction. It kills out of vengeance. There is no longer strategy to its assaults. They are driven by blood lust.
There are readers opposed to my views who will seize on the above paragraphs to argue that I’ve finally become whatever demon they choose to invoke: anti-Israel, self-hater, etc. But this is not so. I remind them that Judaism’s most cherished prophetic voices cried out alarms about the sins of their countrymen and warned of destruction if Israel didn’t change its path. No one today dares call Jeremiah or Isaiah anti-Israel or self-hating. Even the farthest of right-wing Orthodox Jews accord the prophets respect.
But what these far-right Israelis would never do is admit that prophetic Judaism would accord as much humanity to non-Jews as Jews. But if they were alive today Amos and his peers would rail as much as I against the corruption and evil wrought by Israel as led by its current wanton killers, Bibi Netanyahu and his Likud brethren.
My view, held more strongly then ever, is that Israel as it currently defines itself, is unsustainable. Israel as a brutal tyrant of the region, stalking the land and laying waste to enemies like Sherman in his March to the Sea, cannot last. But there is hope for a different Israel. A country with the same demographic and ethnic composition (so no, the State will not be destroyed and no one thrust into the sea) as currently. But one governed by radically different laws that embrace equal rights for all whether Jewish or Palestinian.
The only way for this Israel to emerge is through outside pressure and intervention. That’s why BDS is so important. That’s why movements to recognize Palestine in UN and other international forums are so important. It’s why the UN Human Rights Council inquiry into Operation Protective Edge is so critical. To create radical change we need radical pressure.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.