by Philip Greenspan
(Swans - February 13, 2006) Words, words, and more words have been written and spoken about the Palestinian election; still more will shortly follow as the three-sided Israeli election campaign approaches and ultimately even more will spout forth to assess the election's results. Those major media pundits who never run out of steam will then predict what can be expected from that new government.
The media barons have provided those hired hands not only with popular forums but excellent PR to enhance their undeserved renowned reputations. Even if they wished to give an honest assessment they would likely be wrong, for no one can predict the future. Their opinions, however, are skewed by their need to satisfy the bosses who in turn seek favors of the ruling elites. That is why their judgments on the war in Iraq were dispensable while knowledgeable experts who were often featured in the alternate media were quite perceptive.
I am no pundit and cannot predict what the future will hold for Israelis and Palestinians. But I honestly believe that a more reasonable presumption can be envisioned than what will emanate from the mass media. How? By an intelligent analysis of Israeli-Palestinian history!
Historically, the policies of Israeli governments vis-à-vis the Palestinians have been consistent. Even before the Israeli state was created and down to the present day, the political Zionists -- who have always run the governments -- have been continually striving to build an ever expanding state and to expel the indigenous non-Jewish inhabitants.
In 1895, Theodore Herzl, the founder of political Zionism, wrote in his diary: "We must expropriate gently the private property on the state assigned to us. We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it employment in our country."
After atrocities experienced during the war of independence induced at least 700,000 fearful Palestinians to flee their homeland, David Ben-Gurion, the country's first prime minister, stated, "We must do everything to insure they never do return." Another of his quotes was, "The present map of Palestine was drawn by the British mandate. The Jewish people have another map which our youth and adults should strive to fulfill -- From the Nile to the Euphrates."
Over the years, whichever party and leader was in power, the government invariably followed a similar course. Whatever the names, from Ben-Gurion, to Meir, Begin, Shamir, Rabin, and most recently Sharon and all the names in between, the policy was similar though the style may have varied. The Israelis were intent on expanding the borders and driving the Palestinians out. And over time the lives of the Palestinians became more and more onerous.
HOLD ON NOW! Didn't Begin give back the Sinai to Egypt? Didn't Yitzhak Rabin work out a peace agreement with Yasser Arafat? Didn't Sharon just pull out of Gaza? Yes, but each of those actions were tactics in an ongoing struggle where the ultimate goal never changed. Generals must retreat at times to regroup their forces, await reinforcements, modify their strategy, or for other tactical reasons, but after the situation improves they resume their offensive. The Israelis in each instance have done the same.
Amazingly, they were able to create and sustain through all the years a unique illusory reality -- something the Bush war hawks hoped to but were unable to realize. That reality transformed the aggressive and cruel militaristic Israelis who terrorized the unarmed captive Palestinians into helpless victims of Palestinian terror. The public relations during all that time have been superb. That preposterous reality was actually believed by most of the peoples of the world.
However, the truth has been slipping through to tarnish the illusory picture. Open minded-people around the world are eroding the almost unanimous support that Israel formerly enjoyed. Within Israel itself, opposition to the occupation is slowly emerging, reflected even in the military by the "refuseniks" who will not serve in the Occupied Territories.
With such a consistent pattern, isn't it likely -- irrespective of which party wins -- that there will be a continuation of those long-term policies?
A quite different picture appears on the Palestinian side. Unlike the Israelis, who may phlegmatically string along with government policies, the Palestinians demand alleviation of the harsh unendurable existence that has become more oppressive with the passing of time.
Both of the Intifadas were spontaneously-driven rebellions. Palestinian leadership, i.e., Arafat, did not have any control over them. Conditions had become too unbearable to be tolerated any longer. Even Rabin's excruciating directive to "break bones" could not stop or even slow the insurrection. He had to violate a long-term taboo to negotiate with the Palestinians to effect a halt.
At long last, the opportunity for peace was at hand. But a lasting peace can only exist if justice and honor prevail. Actually, peace was available long before this historic event. But as the Israelis continually claimed, and rightly so, there is no partner for peace; that intransigent partner, however, is Israel itself!
Unfortunately, Oslo was a con job. Arafat sold out to Israel and the U.S. He maintained order in the territories while the Israelis continued building more settlements and otherwise encroached on Palestinian resources.
Sharon's deliberate provocation, his visit to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, fueled the pent up rancor for the second Intifada. Sadistic Sharon has employed measures far more brutal and unbearable than Rabin. Imagine, if possible, what life for those in the Occupied Territories has been like? They became inmates of giant prisons locked within an infamous wall that encroached into the Occupied Territories. Young Israeli soldiers with unlimited discretion monitored the occasional checkpoints and capriciously limited movement in or out. Ambulances were arbitrarily prevented from crossing through the checkpoints, resulting at times in the deaths of patients and newly born babies. Unemployment soared when men were unable to get out to work. Houses were demolished. Olive trees were uprooted. Water was limited while settlers were filling their swimming pools. Provocative actions enraged and produced violence during calm periods. Retaliatory killings left more than three times as many deaths among Palestinians as Israelis. These and other atrocities did not restrain the rebellion. And so, mass murderer Sharon employed a tactic that worked. He pulled out of Gaza.
Hamas is now on the spot. It will have to alleviate those unbearable conditions without undo delay to remain in power. If not, the historical lessons will be repeated with intifada number three.
Unanticipated developments will most assuredly crop up to alter the historical trends. The seeds of such developments may already exist. The ill-considered but possible war with Iran should top the list. Its consequences will likely have a most significant impact.
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