�I do not encourage such phenomena . . . but I wonder if we can
stop it from growing if the whole world is going to continue turning its back
on the Palestinians.� --Kamal Nasser, April 1973, discussing the Munich Olympic
massacre in the previous year.
In early February of this year, a group of British Jews,
some quite Influential, penned an open letter to London�s Guardian newspaper.
Entitled �A Time to Speak Out,� the authors made an official break with the
country�s Jewish establishment arguing that it�s leadership, by putting support
for Israel over the fundamental rights of the Palestinians, was no longer in a
position to speak for a majority of British Jews.
Around the same time the three top British universities;
Oxford, Cambridge and London were host to Israeli apartheid week. A series of
workshops, panel discussions and seminars with academics, intellectuals and
politicians from around the globe discussing Israel�s policies of ethnic
inequality. These events were mirrored in several Canadian Universities;
Concordia, York, Ottawa and McMaster.
The relation between Nasser�s comments and these more recent
events could well be overlooked. Separated by over two decades, the connection
might easily be lost in the tragic tedium of the unrelenting Palestinian saga.
However, there is a unifying strand in these happenings which brings, perhaps,
a vein of hope to the catalogue of woe which has come to characterize the
recent history of the Palestinian Arabs. The link to which I am alluding is the
fact that wherever people are, regardless of their ethnicity, despite the
biases of their governments and the complicity of their media they are able to
strip away the rhetoric and arrive at the truth behind the middle east
How could all this be taking so long? After all the fact is
(and this has always been the case) that wherever the facts are made known, the
feeling of indignation that accompanies the unveiling of as shameful a truth as
Palestine is followed with the deepest and most steadfast feeling of
solidarity. People able to repudiate these feelings seem to be the most
irrational -- those who embrace the tyrannical, anti-humanist nonsense that
various fundamentalisms, religious, racial or nationalist, tend to encourage.
It is the solidarity of which I speak that is now being
unveiled in pockets across Britain, in universities, unions and most importantly
in various Jewish associations. The significance of this reality cannot be over
stated. As the status-quo trembles at the shattering of it�s tranquility by
those it had claimed as its own even they are aware that any decisive change in
Israeli policy will come from within Israel. This development though, has the
effect of exfoliating the most powerful of the Israeli government�s protective
veneers, the claim, having always given it an aura of moral invulnerability
that they and their sponsors abroad speak for Jews everywhere. Such a mass of
falsehood and arrogance has come to surround the state of Israel that even the
most obvious truths, when they are stated, sound like the greatest of
revelations. Here is one that should now be apparent; it is not the state of
Israel that makes the Jews, but the Jews that make the state of Israel . . . though
even that is but part of the story.
For the people of Palestine, the recognition of their
humanity is long overdue. They were never, in spite of their dispossession,
just parasites on the history of world and they knew that the vicious rule to
which they were subject and the callous representation that had come to justify
it were fallacy. Their eyes had always been wide open, because unlike the great
men of Europe and of America and of Israel, they were neither blinded nor
burdened by the cant inescapable hypocrisy that lingers when much of ones
history reads as an anthology of domination over the other.
Throughout the life of the modern state of Israel, the penchant
for discrediting the notion, undisputed elsewhere, that Israel was built upon
the ruins of another nation of people has been a mantle of every sitting
government. Whether by deportation, imprisonment or assassination the removal
of anyone of serious social, political or intellectual consequence was carried
out with ruthless efficiency. Kamal Nasser was a prime example of this.
Naturally, Israel quaked at a living contest to her most fundamental myth, that
she was conceived on a land devoid of people.
A journalist and poet by profession, Nasser was, at the time
of his murder, the most eloquent spokesman for the Palestinian cause. The hit
squad charged with his assassination, led by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud
Barak, had come, allegedly, to settle the score of the 11 Israeli athletes
murdered the year before at the Munich Olympics. Like many of the dozens of
people killed on that night Nasser had nothing to do with the Munich massacre
but has was killed just the same. Because of his eloquence as both an orator
and a writer he was shot twice, once in the centre of his penning hand and then
in his mouth.
In 1978, a few years
after Nasser�s assassination, the Israelis introduced the village leagues
program in a renewed attempt to stifle the Palestinian nation and stamp out the
ground swell of support for nationalist movements such as Nasser�s Palestine
Liberation Organization (PLO). Hopeful that national fervour might be sedated
by religious zeal, the Israeli government approved an application for license
from a 42-year old quadriplegic Sheik in the Gaza Strip, Ahmad Yassin. It was
thought that his organization, the Islamic Association and others like it would
�counterbalance� the popularity of the PLO. The passage of the years and the
metamorphosis of the Islamic association into HAMAS have revealed a lesson too
often ignored by those occupying the seats of power; even at their most astute,
bureaucrats, politicians and their parliaments are only narrators of the annals
of resistance. Not its authors.
The discourse of denial in Israel and the character
assassination of anyone that mustered the courage to speak out had been unable
to stifle Israel�s Peace movement, which had always enjoyed varying degrees of
popularity and success. In America, however, a majority of Jews seemed always
to have assisted or at least been complicit in Israel�s rejectionism by
refusing any discussion on the methods and practices of the state of Israel.
American billionaire fancier George Soros alludes to this in his April 12 article
in the New York Review of Books. Remarkable both for it�s candidness and
insight, Soros�s denounces the lobby group AIPAC (the American Israeli Public
Affairs Committee) for suppressing criticism of Israel and argues that people
in America, non-Jews and Jews alike fear publicly criticizing Israel because
anybody who dares dissent from the AIPAC line may �be subjected to a campaign
of personal vilification.�
The problem of peace
If it were just that the political reality of the
Palestinian people were being ignored, side-stepped or denied by Israel and its
representatives abroad that would be bad enough, but there is an even more
widespread denial of the existence of other human beings in her midst. In
Israel itself the refusal -- nothing short of visceral -- to allow even an iota
of Arab Palestinian culture into the school curriculum highlights this denial.
More surprisingly, though, is the fashion in which a majority of the worlds
governments confidently support the bizarre, though now completely acceptable
discourse of the �peace process.� A quagmire of prose, Kafkaesque in it�s
concern for establishing if, when and how the Palestinian Arabs will be allowed
to exist . . . as though pieces of paper and handshakes bear greatly on whether
While challenges by prominent Jews to the doctrine of Jewish
supremacy in Palestine are nothing new*, by acknowledging the inseparability of
the Palestinian tragedy from the founding of the state of Israel these
challenges constitute an offer of peace. An offer which, if we bare in mind the
fact that all previous agreements required varying degrees of Palestinian
self-negation, we realize, contrary to the post-Oslo oratory, has never
actually been made.
The powerful, lacking in both knowledge and interest of the
people over whom they rule, reduce issues of peace to moral questions. For the
powerful, peace, like destiny and freedom, are seen as either help or hindrance
to their own hollow aspirations. A perilous equilibrium is reached; the weak,
demanding justice but oblivious to the excruciating bravery it requires of the
other, the strong stubbornly blind to the rewards that acting justly might
bring. Unable to reconcile, ruler and ruled, strong and weak, occupier and
occupied, find in the recesses of their passions a consummate homicidal
violence which they visit and revisit, perpetually, one upon the other.
All the while there are the subjugated for whom the most
cursed aspect of oppression, that which brings most anguish, is seeing the
truth when others refuse to do so. They are under no illusions, �arrest� is
kidnapping, �administrative detention� is hostage taking and �targeted
assassination� is murder. They know they are not a nation of �terrorists� or �anti-Semites�
and they cannot understand why they are the only ones for whom all this is so
clear . . . the only ones who think that they do not deserve to be treated like
this. It was Sartre who best articulated this incongruence between the myopia
of the ruler and the panorama of the ruled when he commented of a different
situation that in the midst of oppression one can find the truth standing naked
but the oppressor prefers it with clothes on.
The solidarity of non-Israeli Jews with the Palestinians,
while it will not bring an end to the immediate material damage that is wrought
upon the daily lives of Palestinians, can help alleviate this particular facet
of their suffering. But more generally it underscores the fact that the common
adversary in the Middle East, the adversary of our common human values, is the
unrelenting repression and the daily, wanton use of Israeli-American might
against an indigenous people who have no means of defending themselves.
While there might be little hope of swaying those
conservative communities who have allied themselves with the fanatics of
America�s Christian right, it is the various Jewish communities, which have
throughout America�s history represented some of her more progressive forces,
that will take most interest in the display of nuanced opinion of the Jewish
communities in Great Britain.
As people, Jew and non-Jew alike, find both the courage and
common ground to speak with one voice on Palestine, it will become clear that,
in the long term, Israel can be secured only by an open recognition that the
country was built on the ravaged home and subsequent expulsion of another
people and everything that follows that. That the dispossessed nation still
exists and has infinitesimally more courage and consequence than its crude,
vulgar portrayal as a few wretched dessert Bedouin allows for. That ultimately
when this chapter, one of the indelible horrors of our age, comes to a close,
they are due restitution for the decades of destruction, maiming and death
imposed upon them.
Einstein among others was scathingly critical in his condemnation of Menachim
Begin, arguing that the record and perspectives of both himself and his Herut
party, the progenitors to Israel�s governing Likud, were closely akin to those
of the Nazi and Fascist parties.
J.W.F Small is a British - West Indian writer. He resides in the Scottish capital, Edinburgh. Email him at email@example.com.