The situation in Israel is not particularly important to South Africa. Our concerns should be with Africa, especially with Africa south of the Sahara. We should not waste our energies elsewhere — particularly because the situation in Israel is largely determined by the resolute involvement of powerful countries which South Africa has no capacity to influence.
However, it might be interesting to debate the issues with an informed attitude. To further debate, the Creator offers some facts and speculations.
Why is there a crisis in Israel?
a) Because Israelis, refusing to accept the limits placed on them by the United Nations at the time of partition, launched a land grab and ethnic cleansing operation which by 1949 had pinned most of the Arab inhabitants of Palestine into a much smaller area than they had been granted by the U.N.; the Arab Palestinians resented being dispossessed and displaced.
b) Because Israelis successfully militarised their state and fought a series of aggressive wars against their neighbours, which aroused the support of the United States (which felt that it needed allies to help dominate the oil reserves of the region) and thus Israel became a proxy of American imperialism, which it remains.
c) Because as a result of the 1967 war the Israelis annexed the whole of Palestine and part of Syria; some Palestinians (and all Syrians) were ethnically cleansed but many remained under harsh military occupation, deprived of the second-class citizenship granted by Israel to those Arabs who remained within the pre-1967 boundaries.
d) Because Israelis adopted the policy that they were entitled to commit any crime in furtherance of the policy of their state, including murder, detention without trial, torture and collective punishment, committing these crimes increasingly as time went on.
e) Because Israelis proceeded to take large chunks (always the best-watered and most arable) of the occupied territories of Palestine seized in 1967, arousing increasing hostility from Palestinians who saw their land stolen from them by people whom they justifiably hated as a result of history and of contemporary oppression, and settled the most racist and brutal elements of their population on this stolen land, establishing settlements which deliberately provoked conflict with the local inhabitants, with the active support of the Israeli armed forces.
f) Because Israelis were provided with the means to make nuclear weapons by France (with the support of the United States) and, eventually, with the means to make long-range nuclear missiles (initially using U.S. technology, but later actually supplied with U.S. missiles).
g) Because Israeli law discriminates against non-Jews in Israel, a factor which particularly affects Palestinians who are under Israeli occupation and dominance and who see themselves as stripped of their rights.
h) Because Israelis undertook to cooperate with the Palestinians under the terms of the negotiations between the P.L.O. and the Israeli government between 1988 and 1993, but the Israelis negotiated in bad faith and broke all their agreements, giving the Palestinians, who had ended their resistance to Israeli occupation in anticipation of successful negotiations, strong grounds for complaint and renewed resistance.
i) Because Israelis supported the 2006 election for a Palestinian National Authority, but refused to accept the outcome of the election because it was won by a party which supported resistance to Israeli occupation; that is, Israelis do not support democracy among Palestinians and do not accept that Palestinians are entitled to resist oppression (although Israelis are always quick to complain when Jews anywhere are being oppressed, and are happy to appeal to universal human rights when this benefits their ethnic group).
To sum up, Israel is a brutally repressive colonial state which does not respect human rights in or out of its boundaries. It does not respect international law. It discriminates against people on ethnic grounds. It negotiates in bad faith and its word cannot be trusted. It launches aggressive war against its neighbours on flimsy grounds, knowing that it commands the support of more powerful states elsewhere and that it ultimately possesses nuclear weapons which its opponents do not — in short, it is a regional bully without accountability for its actions. Its past and present behaviour makes Israel detested and despised among the inhabitants of the region; it is also disliked on political grounds by most left-wingers in the world, and on religious grounds, because of its behaviour, by most Moslems.
This is all pretty bad. Israel has been able to do these things, in part, because of the support of powerful states elsewhere, but also because of the complete incompetence of its political opponents among the Palestinians. It would be difficult to find greater incompetence than the political-military conduct of the PLO between 1963 and 1987, but the PLO’s conduct of negotiations with Israel between 1988 and 2000 showed that the PLO had reserves of incompetence which nobody had ever dreamed existed. However, even this incompetence was dwarfed by the incompetence of the PLO in its reincarnation as a sort of askari for the Israeli state after the death of Yassir Arafat, who for all his enormous faults did actually support his people. Now that the PLO has seized “power” in the West Bank enclave (which is surrounded by the Separation Wall and totally controlled by Israel) but failed to overthrow the Hamas movement in Gaza (who proved to be better shots, despite the PLO’s being covertly supplied with arms by Israel and the United States) the Palestinians are without any unified leadership; nothing can be expected from the PLO (more commonly called Fatah) and little can be expected from Hamas which is penned into the Gaza enclave.
So: unlike the situation in apartheid South Africa, we cannot expect any leadership from the victims of the crisis. The Palestinians have not produced a Mandela, a Mbeki or a Tambo; to be precise, if they have produced them, the Israelis have murdered or jailed them and refuse to negotiate with any survivors at large, and in any case the Palestinian political situation is such that the best leader in the world could accomplish little. If we want to see a solution to this terrible situation, it will have to come from elsewhere.
This is problematic. The solutions to the South African crisis which came from outside South Africa (indeed, from outside the South African resistance) were uniformly absurd and horrible. It is likely that outsiders will make terrible mistakes. However, let us try.
The present situation is untenable. Under present conditions, the Israelis will not only continue to oppress the Palestinians, they will oppress them more as time goes on. Eventually they will want to steal more of the land within the Separation Wall (building the wall was already an act of land theft) and no doubt they continue to covet southern Lebanon. They will continue to occupy Syrian territory against that country’s will and in defiance of international law. Their laws and values and ethos will continue to be a stench in the nostrils of humane civilisation. It is quite clear that there must be a change.
The official “two-state solution” which is implicit in Western diplomacy in the region (but never made explicit, because the West does not actually support a two-state solution any more than Israel does) is that Israel should ultimately withdraw from occupied Palestine and that the Palestinians should establish a state there. The trouble with this is that this means that the Palestinians are confined to a tiny fraction of Palestine, even though they are the majority of its inhabitants. Granted, parts of the West Bank are good arable land, or potentially so, but the Gaza Strip is essentially a saline desert. Thus this official solution represents a deep injustice against the Palestinians which will resolve few of the problems noted above. More importantly, this solution does not solve any of the actual problems with Israel’s policies which make it hostile to Arabs and make Arabs hostile to it. Therefore, the official two-state solution does not solve the problem. Other solutions must be found.
A more realistic two-state solution would be to partition Palestine according to population, ensuring that both sides received a fair share of the nation’s land (rather than handing Palestinians the desert and giving Israelis the fertile parts). The Israelis would have to give up their nuclear weapons and most of their other weapons, so as not to pose a threat to their neighbours. They would also have to abandon discrimination against Arabs (equally, of course, the Palestinian state would not be allowed to discriminate against Jews) and renounce terrorism, oppression and armed aggression. Both states would have to draft extensive and specific non-aggression and mutual cooperation agreements with their neighbouring countries. The whole package would be guaranteed by the major global powers (particularly the U.S., the EU and China) with UN supervision. In effect, this is very much like what happened in South Africa after 1994.
However, this would entail the destruction of Israel as a Zionist entity. Once Israel renounced its claim to the whole of Palestine, once it abandoned racial discrimination against Arabs and once it rejected terrorism and aggression, it would have lost almost everything which makes it attractive to its current supporters. Such a state would not be altogether unacceptable to the original Zionists of the era of Herzl — but then, today’s Israel would probably have horrified most of them. In practice, one suspects that such an Israel would quickly implode as the thugs, fascists, mafiosi and buffoons currently infesting Israel’s body politic fled elsewhere.
So in practice a one-state solution seems more sensible. Keep Palestine a single country, but make it a secular, democratic state. Strip it of weapons (except a modest amount for defense), give it a constitution granting full and equal human rights to all and place it within the same peaceful negotiated framework outlined for the realistic two-state solution. Some sort of structures of affirmative action would have to be established to transfer wealth from the former Israelis to the former Palestinians — the latter having been denied their rights for so long, exactly like blacks in South Africa. Again, a great-power guarantee with UN support. This seems the wisest solution to the problem. Nobody (except the Israeli ruling class and a few corrupt Fatah politicians) would be the long-term loser.
The only obstacles in the way, apart from the entire Zionist apparatus and the Israeli state, are the United States, Europe and the Arab states, who would not welcome a solution to the crisis. But these are bagatelles in the Creator’s eyes. History is on the side of the transformation of Zionist Israel into democratic Palestine. Or into a desert of radioactive glass.